Category Archives: The Fall

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 530 – The Creation Story – The Fall

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups

07/23/16 – 530 – The Story of the Fall

Ps 8:3-9

3 When I consider your heavens,

the work of your fingers,

the moon and the stars,

which you have set in place,

4 what is man that you are mindful of him,

the son of man that you care for him?

5 You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings

and crowned him with glory and honor.

 6 You made him ruler over the works of your hands;

you put everything under his feet:

7 all flocks and herds,

and the beasts of the field,

8 the birds of the air,

and the fish of the sea,

all that swim the paths of the seas.

 9 O Lord, our Lord,

how majestic is your name in all the earth! NIV

 

What was that question again?

4 what is man that you are mindful of him,

the son of man that you care for him?” (verse 4).

Have you got the answer yet? Probably not, neither do I. Or, at least I wouldn’t presume to know. I can make guesses, of course. I think that God made us not because He needed, but because He wanted a relationship that was different than what He already had with existing beings, which as far as we know were the 3 parts of Himself and the angels.

On the other hand, do we really need to know? Can’t we just be grateful, and trust that His purposes were righteous?

 

Jer 29:11-12

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. NIV

We (human beings) have used the lack of an obvious given reason as justification for disobedience & unbelief for centuries. But is it a valid argument? Do we really think God has to justify Himself to us? I mean, what happens if we don’t like His reason for creating us? I think a lot of people feel that gives them a freedom to walk away from Him. What they don’t realize (or accept) is that they already have this freedom – it’s called free will. What they cannot choose is to walk away without consequences.

I’m not even talking about punishment per se. I’m talking about consequences as the natural result of an action or inaction. If I step off the roof, I will fall. That’s the consequence, whether or not I believe in gravity. It’s not your punishment for stepping off. If you choose to reject God while in this life on earth, and die with your relationship in that state, it’s forever. That’s the consequence – and we have been given every possible warning I can think of that this will happen.

Still, the very people that reject Him cry out ‘Unfair!” They use that very consequence as a rationalization. “If that’s your ‘loving’ God that would send people to hell for eternity”, they say, “I just can’t accept Him.” As though that would suddenly pop Him out of existence. But that’s another argument discussion for another day.

I’d like us to end this study of our creation and fall into sin with some serious prayer. Don’t just say a quick prayer before running off to work this morning. Get down on your knees, and meet the God who created and loves you even today. Even in spite of our questioning that sometimes borders on arrogance. It’s time for a prayer of true repentance, and acceptance of the life he has given us, and the relationship and the covenant He has offered to us. Pray until you can almost see His hand extended out to you. Take it, then just let Him lead and love you from that moment on.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 529 – The Creation Story – The Fall

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups

07/22/16 – 529 – The Story of the Fall

Yesterday we ended by saying this:

After all, being banished forever was part of their punishment, right? Or was it?

Banished – yes. Forever? No! Let’s take one last look at those last few verses of Gen 3.

Gen 3:22-24

20 Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.

21 The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. 22 And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” 23 So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

We already know that the cherub was put there to protect us from ever going back and finding the tree of Life again, because if we ate from that tree in our sinful state, we would stay this wretched way forever. So, with all our modern technology and exploration techniques, satellite imagery and all that, why don’t we know where the garden was? Well, we have the general are, we think. We’re never going to find the tree, because they are no longer there. Gog, our great gardener, moved them to a safer place. To a place where we will be able to eat their wonderful fruit as much as we want. The Bible tells us where they have been moved to:

Rev 22:1-5

Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever.

Notice the tree will have multiplied, yielding different kinds of fruit. I’m guessing each one sweeter and better than the one before! How could they not be, being fed by the waters of the River of Life itself – Jesus Christ.

Back to the question. Did we have to be banished from the garden? Yes. Do you understand why? I hope so. It’s not because God is vindictive or angry. It’s because in order for things to work the way He created them to work (the biggest thing being our relationship with Him and one another), we can’t all think we have the power and knowledge that He has. We have to know who we are within His creation and out covenant, and fulfill our own role – not try to take over his.

Now be honest – can you see us ever having learned that while still living in the Garden under the original conditions that He set up for Adam & Eve? It would be like trying to teach a spoiled rich kid humility while keeping him at home with all the servants and staff.

But – because of His GREAT love for us, which knows no limits, our exile is not permanent either! We have been redeemed. He has – quite literally- paid the price of a slave for each of us, to buy us back from the auction block just as we had sold ourselves into eternal bondage! Once the price was paid, he set us free. We can join Him in the Garden once again, or we can walk away and leave Him with a broken heart – again. But remember this – the Tree is waiting for you, and so much more.

As you pray today, call on Him. Call His name. Close your eyes and call his name. See if He doesn’t show up with arms wide open, a smile on His face, welcoming you home.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 528 – The Creation Story – The Fall

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups

07/21/16 – 528 – The Story of the Fall

Gen 3:20-24

20 Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.

21 The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. 22 And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” 23 So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

 Since I’ve been using the names ‘Adam’ and ‘Eve’ rather indiscriminately in this story, you may not have noticed that the Bible does not. In fact, this is the first time that one of those names appears in the text.

Done checking now? Aren’t you ashamed you didn’t believe me?

The name Adam didn’t show up all that long ago either, it first appeared in Gen 2:20. But the original carries an article the within its meaning, so rather than being a proper name as we think of it, it really means ‘the man’ or in general ‘mankind’. Eve, on the other hand, got a real name! Her husband (a professional animal namer, by the way) gave her the name because it meant ‘live’. The phrase ‘mother of all the living translates to something like ‘big grandmother’ in some languages referring to a remote female ancestor.

This is really a good name if you think about it. God had just sentenced the serpent to death for tempting the man and the woman. But although they were to be punished, they were going to live! Their curse was temporary, and there would come a redeemer one day. So, Adam was a pretty insightful guy, if you think about it.

Verse 21 gives us a little more insight. I think it was Wiersbe who noted that although Adam & Eve tried to cover their shame by sewing together garments of fig leaves (good works), their own efforts weren’t acceptable to God. He was the only One who could make things right, and then not without the sacrifice of innocent blood.

Finally, we get to the final scene of this sad, sad story. Adam and Eve are walking down a dirt path away from the garden as night falls, bringing with it the first chill they have ever experienced. Adam stubs his toe on a stone, while Eve brushes up against some thistles – a couple more dark hints of the trouble to come. As the credits roll, a very scary angel appears with a flaming sword, blocking the path back into the garden in case they should get any ideas of sneaking back in during the night – or ever. After all, being banished forever was part of their punishment, right? Or was it? Let’s read that again.

Wait a minute! The reason the angel guard was placed was for their own protection ­– so that they couldn’t get back to that second tree (the Tree of Life) and eat from it, and be stuck forever in the wretched sinful state they (we) were (are) in!

We’ll finish this up tomorrow. In the meantime think about the implications of this if God hadn’t blocked the way back in. Or do you think mankind would have been wise enough to stay away? Let’s pray another prayer of gratitude today for a Father Who loves us so much that He will not willingly allow us to separate ourselves permanently from Him – not without a fight!

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 527 – The Creation Story – The Fall

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups

07/20/16 – 527 – The Story of the Fall

Gen 3:16                                                                                                                                                                                  

 To the woman he said,

“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;

    with painful labor you will give birth to children.

Your desire will be for your husband,

    and he will rule over you.”

This is simply a continuation of God’s pronouncement of the curse (punishment) that He is putting upon Adam and Eve. We obviously don’t know what childbirth would have felt like to a woman before the fall, but we know that it hurts like anything now! I like to tease women who say that no man can truly understand pain because they’ve never given birth, because that’s the worst pain on earth.

“I beg to differ”, I say. They are, of course, very insulted and demand proof. Usually at least one immediately starts arguing the point. Usually the argument is along the lines of comedian Jeff Foxworthy’s analogy that giving birth is “like trying to push a watermelon through a garden hose.” My argument starts like this…”First, drive into the back of a truck at about 70 miles an hour, then tell me what hurts more. And for how long.”

The real point is – pain is pain. By all appearances, Eve didn’t have to suffer it for such a natural thing as birthing a child before the fall. By the way, she wasn’t the only one who was condemned to suffer pain for at least a part of her life while here on earth.

Gen 3:17-19

17 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’

“Cursed is the ground because of you;

    through painful toil you will eat food from it

    all the days of your life.

18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,

    and you will eat the plants of the field.

19 By the sweat of your brow

    you will eat your food

until you return to the ground,

    since from it you were taken;

for dust you are

    and to dust you will return.”

 Hey, I just had an epiphany! Re-reading this passage, I noticed that Adam was not punished for disobeying God, but for listening to his wife!!! What about it, guys?

No, I’m not seriously interpreting scripture that way, but it does make a good side lesson in how we can twist the Word to make it appear to say what we want it to say. And, at the same time, give us a great opportunity to sleep on the sofa for a week or two during these hot summer nights!

To be clear, Adam was punished for the same reason as was Eve – disobedience. His punishment was similar to hers – that although he couldn’t give birth, his work would now produce pain. Up until now his work had been a strictly a labor of love. I think a lot more of us would be gardeners if we never had to worry about weeds or animals getting into it, or thorns and thistles needing to be pulled. Now his work became not only necessary for survival but also painful to carry out.

I think the overall point to remember today is simply this – we did this to ourselves. No matter how bad it is, no matter how painful, we chose this path. You can cry foul all you want, but the truth is that God made it pretty clear. He also gave every one of us a chance to be redeemed through the sacrifice of His Son on the cross. So, tell Him it’s not fair. Tell Him you want more time, more choices. Especially when He didn’t have to give you a choice in the first place!

Instead of arguing and/or complaining, why not make our prayer today a prayer of thanksgiving – gratefulness that He loved us enough to provide for us as much as He did, and for the forgiveness and grace that He gave us through Jesus Christ.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 526 – The Creation Story – The Fall

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups

07/19/16 – 526 – The Creation Story – The Fall

Gen 3:14-15

14 So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,

“Cursed are you above all livestock

    and all wild animals!

You will crawl on your belly

    and you will eat dust

    all the days of your life.

15 And I will put enmity

    between you and the woman,

    and between your offspring and hers;

he will crush your head,

    and you will strike his heel.”

 

I don’t remember who it was that told me this, but cross my heart it’s true – when I was a child, someone taught me that this explains why women are afraid of snakes, and men aren’t! Whoever it was must not have met the same men and women I’ve met. Just sayin’.

And that, my friends, illustrates why we do ‘Bible stories For Grownups’!

Besides, Can you see this being such an important issue that God would take time to have Moses record it while in the desert? “I know there’s a papyrus shortage, Moses, but this is something future generations will have to know!”

So what then, is important? Well, the first thing is that the serpent, in becoming cursed, became the only animal that lost its place of special relationship with man. The animals had all been created for man and were special to him, were to be cared for by him. Not so the serpent any longer. He had sunk so low, in fact, that he couldn’t get any lower without actually going underground!

We also haven’t missed the irony of his crime being to trick the nan and the woman into eating the forbidden food, and his punishment being to “eat dust all the days of your life” (v14). Verse 15 is a completely different story according to most commentators. It is considered to be the first prophetic passage in scripture – the very first place that foretells the coming of Jesus Christ!

From this point on the descendants of the woman would be at war with the descendants of the serpent. For those who think of Satan as a confirmed bachelor with no children, Wiersbe asks us to read the parable of the Tares in Matt 13 and says in 1 John 3:12 that Cain would also be a child of the devil.

Matt 13:3-9

“A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop — a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 He who has ears, let him hear.” NIV

1 John 3:12

Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. NIV

I guess our take-away is that we don’t have to be physical descendants of Satan to be considered his children any more than we have to be physically descended from Abraham to be saved. And why not? If we claim salvation (we gentiles) based on being spiritual descendants of Abraham, should we accept that in the same way some of us might become spiritual descendants of the devil?

This is all well and good when we’re talking about terrorists or murderers and such. But what if it one of your own children? Or your mother? Or spouse? This is the reason, don’t you see, that we must become Great Commission Christians. Not tomorrow, not as soon as we’re comfortable, but now. Some will still reject it. Move on to the next one. Try again later. Trust God. He’ll help you find the right words.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 525 – The Creation Story – The Fall

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups

07/18/16 – 525 – The Creation Story – The Fall

Gen 3:8-13

 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”

12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”

The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

 Well, I’m sure you all remember Saturday’s devotion. Paul and Barnabus had just had a run-in with the Romans again, and….

Just wanted to make sure you were paying attention. We were actually talking about being naked and ashamed, fig leaves and chafing. Adam & Eve apparently did manage to cover themselves somehow. Still, they knew that they couldn’t hide their guilt from God. When He came to spend some time with them (which, after all, was the reason for which he created them), He called out a rather rhetorical question – “Where are you?” I mean – as if He didn’t know, right?

And then it begins – the very first ‘blame game’, with Adam throwing out the first pitch, as it were. Sticking with the baseball analogies, did you notice that Adam covered all his bases? He blamed Eve for giving him the fruit, and he blamed God for giving him Eve! “The woman you put here with me…”

Eve didn’t do much better. Although there is some measure of truth in what she says, hasn’t it been said that the best lies always carry some truth within them? The only thing that surprised me was that she seemed to be able to pick up the skill so quickly! Until I remembered the power of our sinful nature unleashed.

 

Maybe you’ve seen it in a loved one. Maybe in an acquaintance. Maybe just in someone on the news. But we’ve all seen it, I think. Someone who has allowed their sin nature to take control of them and run wild. Now that I think about that, I guess it’s really no surprise that someone as innocent and inexperienced as Eve would have problems controlling it. After all, we can’t do it without God’s help, and we know what it is!

The essence of the sinful nature is self-centeredness. We want to make sure that we come first, that we look good at any cost, that we take no responsibility for wrongdoing etc. And we will do or say just about anything to fulfill those goals. There’s one thing we don’t know about this part of the story, though, and I wish we did.

I wish we knew how long Adam and Eve had fellowship with God before they fell into sin. It may be just academic, but I have to think that all this didn’t happen overnight, which I believe is how we usually think of it. In fact, I think that they may have had a close relationship with God for quite a while before Satan wormed his way into the garden. Why? Because that’s often how it is with us.

I know that there are many who never allow God to get close, but that’s on them. But I think we all know of someone – or have been that someone – who have walked closely with God for a while, sometimes years, and then turned away. Yes, I understand the Calvinist view of eternal security or, in layman’s terms, ‘once saved, always saved’.

This view would explain such a case by saying that the person was never really saved in the first place. We don’t have the space to argue it all here, suffice it to say that we’ll have to agree to disagree for now. The important thing is that Calvinist or Wesleyan, we’re all Christians. We all love and strive to follow the teachings of Jesus as best we can so that we can.

Let’s pray today that no matter where they are, or what gets through, something will get through to all those who will be saved – and that something will be nothing less than God’s Holy Spirit.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 523 – The Creation Story – The Fall

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups

07/16/16 – 523 – The Creation Story – The Fall

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

 Tell me if I’m wrong – if it’s just me. I’ve always had this picture that Eve first ate the fruit, then brought it to Adam and talked him into eating it also, making him sort of an accessory after the fact. He was guilty, but drawn into it by her pretty face. (I’d say a pretty face, but hers was pretty much the only one there.) But this says she gave it to her husband who was with her”! In other words, he heard everything she did, right out of the serpent’s mouth.

In reading these verses again, it would seem that both of them realized at the same time what they had done (their eyes were opened) and felt shame for the first time in their lives. It was then that they tried to cover that shame by sewing fig leaves together.

Here’s a question – why would they have had to feel shame at being unclothed in front of each other? After all, they were husband and wife – married, right? Nothing wrong with that within the context of marriage – right? The answer, I believe, comes from the context of the phrase rather than the literal meaning of the word ‘naked’.

Adam and Eve were never perfect. They had always been human – which means they had flaws. However, they were always perfectly innocent, just as a small child is innocent and can’t be held accountable for his/her flaws. In fact, there was only one thing that they knew was wrong, and that was to be disobedient to God. That wasn’t too difficult either – He had only given them one rule.

At the same time, just as with us, He knew them intimately. He knew their deepest desires and emotions, their very thoughts. I believe that when the text says that they realized they were ‘naked’, the true meaning is that they realized that they were completely exposed before God – ‘warts & all’. They were suddenly and painfully aware that He knew – and there was no place to hide. But they tried. I imagine the 2 of them trying desperately to weave together the biggest leaves they could find to fashion some kind of covering, not realizing that their efforts were in vain because the shame they were feeling had nothing to do with their physical bodies.

Think about it. Why would thy feel a need to hide from God the bodies that He Himself had formed with His own hands? The irony is that in their rush to cover their shame, they chose the biggest leaves they could find – which were also just about the coarsest, most irritating leaves around. I guess for their sake, we can only be thankful that poison ivy doesn’t have big leaves!

Another irony is this – a lot of us are still trying to do the same thing! We somehow think that we can trick God into overlooking our deep-seated sin by making it look good superficially. What’s that? You want an example?

How about the person who comes to church every Sunday and testifies that Jesus is the most important thing in his/her life, but outside of that never cracks open a Bible or prays? How about the person who makes a great speech to everyone who has a problem that goes something like this: “Well, you, just gotta have faith…”, and then only gives $5 a week to church, because “if I tithe I won’t be able to pay my bills”?

I could go on, but you get the drift. And the worst part is – we aren’t fooling anyone. OK, maybe ourselves. Maybe a few people. But none of that matters, because they aren’t the ones who will sit in judgment over us. There is only One… and He’s not fooled for a second.

So let’s make our prayer today that instead of trying to hide any part of our lives from Him, that His Spirit would fill us and guide us so that we would never feel like we have to. Doesn’t that sound like a much easier way to live?

And so much less chafing!

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 522 – The Creation Story – The Fall

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups

07/15/16 – 522 – The Creation Story – The Fall

Gen 3:1-4

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

 OK, What’s the first thing that jumps out at you – besides the snake? The answer is – the lies! Or, if you want to be a little nicer, the embellishments, or the exaggerations, or whatever… by both the serpent and then by Eve! Anyway, let’s go back for a minute. What did God really say to Adam about the tree?

Gen 2:16-17

“And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

 So immediately, Satan was trying to make God sound like some kind of deranged TV villain, surrounding them with great looking, tempting fruit but no allowing them to eat any of it. But what was He really saying? It wasn’t a threat. It was a warning! And what’s more, God didn’t mean it to be taken at face value.

We seem to have this picture in our heads of a big old lightning bolt zapping Adam as He bit the apple – why I don’t know. That’s obviously not what God meant, as it’s not what happened. So what did? Adam did die – spiritually when he disobeyed God.

When he made the decision – and then took the action – to separate himself from God by being intentionally disobedient what happened to him was the equivalent of dying spiritually – eternal separation from his Creator. The only thing that could now return him to life is the redemptive power of the perfect sacrifice – the blood of Christ. But Eve didn’t know that. I’m pretty sure she wasn’t even thinking along those lines. She probably hadn’t even taken that class in seminary yet.

So how could God hold her accountable for things she didn’t even know? The answer is – He didn’t. Her accountability was simple, like that of a small child to his/her parents. She may not have known all about good and evil – but she knew enough. She knew that she had to be obedient to God. She knew that was the right thing to do.

But all it took was a little prodding from the serpent.

 Gen 3:4-5

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

 We believe what we want to believe, don’t we? This serpent comes along and calls God a liar. Instead of asking herself if H has ever given her cause to think that or distrust Him, she doubts Him immediately accepts what he says, including the next claim – “you will be like God”. Wow.

We believe what we want to believe. Let’s pray today for th gift of discretion, so that we might be able to tell when someone is trying to trick us into doing something that I ungodly or displeasing to Him.

That His Spirit would help us to remember that although we strive to be like Him, we are not Him. He is on the throne – not us. Amen?

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 521 – The Creation Story – The Fall

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups

07/14/16 – 521 – The Creation Story – The Fall

Gen 2:23-25

23 The man said,

 “This is now bone of my bones

and flesh of my flesh;

she shall be called ‘woman,’for she was taken out of man.”

 24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.

25 The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. NIV

 

Yesterday I said that if we are to really understand God’s design and intent for marriage, we need to understand 2 main things. The first was this: why did He create the woman from the rib of the man instead of simply scooping up another handful of dust? What was His point? Hopefully we already answered that one for you.

 

The second question was a comment/question. We must never forget the imagery that’s used throughout the scriptures – those word pictures that we are given so that we can more fully know God. They are always significant, always important. In this case, what pictures apply and what do they mean?

In this case, there are a couple of things that are extremely important. Again, we’ve talked many times about the covenant, about the bond between two parties, right? It’s as though the two become one in many ways. In marriage (as shown by this first marriage, the 2 actually were one flesh.

Why must we be so careful when selecting our lifelong mate? Because it represents a re-joining, if you will, of this separation.   Why does divorce hurt so very much? Because it is a second separation of the flesh from the flesh – only this time with the mercy of complete pain control and a deep sleep until healing is complete! One more thing – the part about a man leaving his parents and being “united to” his wife – in the original language meant ‘to stick like glue’.

More imagery – the whole idea of a bride and groom having this kind of bond is particularly striking when you consider that later on we the church are called the bride of Christ Himself!!! Think about that for a minute or 2.

We were created to have the same kind of spiritual bond with Jesus Christ as Eve did with Adam! Once again we can use the analogy of the physical to the spiritual to get a better image. Just as Adam’s flesh became the very substance of Eve’s physical body, Jesus’ Spirit fills us and lives within us to form the very substance of our own spiritual bodies when we are born again.

Read that paragraph again. Our relationship with Him is to be the same kind of spiritual bond as that of a true biblical marriage! One more little thought. It occurs to me that God didn’t make Eve half Adam, half dust. Or ¼ Adam, ¾ other things. If this is our model for the Lord and His bride, then Eve was 100% the bride – period.

Now, the last image here is that of being naked. This carries much more meaning than the physical, although that’s certainly a part of it. After all, who needs clothes when the weather is always perfect and you never have to worry about splinters? Anyway, the deeper meaning is that sense of being totally open and exposed before God.

They had never sinned, so there was no reason to be ashamed, right? It was only after the fall that they opened themselves up to a brand new emotion – shame. That shame was so deep and so bad that innocent blood had to be spilled to cover that shame and guilt (the first clothing – and another image/preview of what was to come).

We’ve all felt shame. For some of us it’s been so debilitating that it’s destroyed our lives. For others, it’s moved us to make things right as possible with the person we’ve wronged or hurt. Shame is just one of the negative emotions that Satan uses against us, to wear us down and convince us that we’re not even worthy of salvation. And the bad news is – he’s right.

None of us is worthy – not one of us deserves – to be saved. Especially by the shedding of Jesus Christ’s innocent blood. Yet, He though we were. The good news is that it’s not up to Satan. It was only up to Jesus – and He already paid the price! Now it’s up to us – will you accept, or not?

Salvation is not free, or even cheap. It requires your whole life of you. On the other hand, you get it back, cleaned up, polished and in better shape than you ever imagined it could be! But make no mistake. Salvation is not free, or even cheap. It requires your whole life of you. And why shouldn’t it? After all, isn’t that what it cost Jesus?

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 520 – The Creation Story – The Fall

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups

07/13/16 – 520 – The Creation Story – The Fall

Gen 2:23-25

The man said,

 “This is now bone of my bones

and flesh of my flesh;

she shall be called ‘woman,’for she was taken out of man.”

 24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.

 25 The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. NIV

If we are to really understand God’s design (and I believe, His intent) for marriage, we need to understand 2 main things. The first is this: why did He create the woman from the rib of the man instead of simply scooping up another handful of dust? What was His point?

The second is that we must never forget the imagery that is used throughout the scriptures – those word pictures that we are given so that we can more fully know God. In this case, what pictures apply? Hint… think wedding, bride, one flesh. Starting to get it yet? No? OK then. Grab your coffee and let’s dig in.

If you’ve been around any old church, or maybe even your grandparent’s house you may recall a set of old dusty Bible commentaries written by an old dusty guy named Matthew Henry. Rev. Henry lived in England in the 1600s. He was a bit of a bad guy, teaching what was then known as a ‘nonconformist’ church. In other words, it didn’t go along with everything prescribed by the state Church of England in its Book of Common Prayer.

Anyway, he wrote one of the most respected and well-known commentaries on the Bible ever, so much so that it’s still being used today, hard-to-read old style English and all! I love what he wrote about Gen 2:18-22, about the woman: “She was not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved.”

That pretty much sets the tone for today’s passage, don’t you think? The woman was not formed from the rib of the man to be subservient to him. It was done that way so that they would always have a special bond, one higher and closer than he could ever have with any of the animals.

They were to have dominion over the world together. Side by side! One flesh. We’ve talked enough about the covenant that you should be able to put 2 and 2 together on that, I hope. In a biblical covenant, 2 become 1, as in marriage. In the beginning, 1 became 2 so they could be twice as effective, twice as supportive, twice as strong. They could show twice the love. But wait, aren’t we forgetting something – or someone?

Any Cub Scout knows that if you want something to stand up strong, you need more than 2 legs. You need 3 – a tripod. If you doubt me, try cooking a kettle of soup over a campfire by hanging it on something with only 2 legs. It would be a pretty delicate balancing act, wouldn’t it? But a 3-legged tripod – that can hold a big old kettle!

Here’s another way to see it thanks to Solomon, who wrote this:

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Two are better than one,

    because they have a good return for their labor:

10 

If either of them falls down,

    one can help the other up.

But pity anyone who falls

    and has no one to help them up.

11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.

    But how can one keep warm alone?

12 Though one may be overpowered,

    two can defend themselves.

A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

So, the answer to our first question is clear, I hope. By forming Eve from Adam’s rib, God afforded them a level of intimacy and connection that is literally impossible with any other created being. Tomorrow we’ll look at Question #2.

For today, let’s pray that in our relationships, in our marriages and even in our friendships with other people that we can recognize and honor that special connection that God gave us.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 519 – The Creation Story – The Fall

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups

07/12/16 – 519 – The Creation Story – The Fall

Gen 2:18-22

18 The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

 19 Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field.

 But for Adam no suitable helper was found. 21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

 We read a few days ago that at the end of the sixth day, after everything had been created, God called it “very good”. However, at this point in our look back, there was one thing still lacking – woman. And this was the only place in which we hear God use the words “not good”.

Think of what an honor it was, though, for Adam (mankind) to have been given this place of dominion over everything that God had created. He even got to name all the animals! But as always, with great honor comes great responsibility. And even so, after every living thing had been examined, not one was found to be a suitable companion for the man. (Sorry, dog lovers.)

So, God took a rib from the man and formed a woman, which raises a few questions. Like, how do you get a whole woman from just a little rib? Well, this was the God who got the entire universe from nothing, right? The next one, debated for centuries, is this – does this mean that the woman is somehow less than the man – subservient to him?

It sure doesn’t appear that way, considering that in a very few verses she’ll get him to take a bite of the apple with no trouble! There have been cultural differences in gender equality, that’s for sure, including in our own. There are passages in the Bible recommending that women not be allowed to teach men and such things.

 

The best we can figure this out is that in order to communicate the message of the gospel in the best way possible, these are the guidelines we’ve been given over the years. Could we have been wrong? Of course. But we can’t change the past, we can only learn from it. At least now we recognize that women can perform as well as men, think as well, teach as well etc. Most denominations accept women as clergy as long as they meet the same requirements as do men.

Equality in marriage is a story in itself, and we’ll look at that tomorrow when we take a look at the first marriage. For today, let’s pray a prayer of thanks that God has opened our eyes, and allowed us to open the doors to so many more people as spiritual leaders that would have been held back just a few short years ago. Let’s also ask him to continue to help and guide us until His church is all He ever wanted it to be

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 518 – The Creation Story – The Fall

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups

07/11/16 – 518 – The Creation Story – The Fall

Happy Monday, everyone! How was your worship yesterday? Now where were we? These weekend jumps always throw me a bit. Oh yes, rivers. We were talking about rivers, and the symbolism of that flowing water of life, along with the rough location of the Garden of Eden. Since we don’t know where 2 of the named rivers were anymore, we can only guess that it was somewhere near modern-day Baghdad, Iraq.

Significance? I’m not sure, other than that it coincides with the scriptural account of the rise of the Hebrew nation descending to the south from there towards Egypt. Which, if you think about it, is pretty significant, I guess. I mean, If it said that the Garden was in Hawaii, we’d have a bit of a problem, right?

Anyway, on with the story:

Genesis 2:15-17

15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” NIV

As usual, there are a couple of things to notice here. One is that man had a purpose in the garden. He wasn’t made just to lounge around and work on his tan. The garden would provide everything he needed for life and comfort, but in turn he would “work it and care for it”. How many times have you heard that man never had to work until after the fall? Wrong!

Work is on of the things for which we were created. The trick is to find out what kind of work God created you for as an individual. You can only do that through relationship with Him, and through examination of your own spiritual gifts.

The second point of import is in verse 17. Although there were 2 important trees noted earlier, notice that there was only a prohibition against eating from one of them! This means that they could eat freely from the Tree of Life – all they wanted!

This wonderful fruit that carries the power of eternal life was theirs for the taking. They could have had what they had – forever! That sounds like some pretty sweet fruit. Yet, what’s that saying – forbidden fruit always looks sweeter? Right next to that tree is the other. The only one. And every time they decided to pluck from the Tree of Life, they had to look at the forbidden fruit tree, and make a decision to pass it up.

This isn’t so different from us, really. We always have in front of us the opportunity to choose to follow Christ. True, some haven’t heard the gospel yet, some don’t know how, etc. but for the most part, we do. Especially here in the US. If we choose the other tree, it’s a willful decision to walk around the Tree of Life and grab the fruit that looks sweeter at the time. And it’s a decision we make every time we eat.

Our ‘Tree of Life’ – for now, is Jesus Christ. He is always there, always before us. We have to actively reject Him to choose the wrong path. Sin is not accidental. Sin is not a mistake. It is intentional. There go a LOT of excuses, no?

What are you going to do today? Let’s pray that Christ would always stay before us, but also that He would help those of us that are still making those decisions to go around, to eat from that other tree, to stop and realize what they are doing. It has to start with us.

 

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 517 – The Creation Story – The Fall

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups

07/10/16 – 517 – The Creation Story – The Fall

Yesterday I talked about the imagery of the river and flowing water in scripture, and that part of that was what Jesus said in John.

John 7:38-39

Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified. NIV

I said that if the Spirit is flowing from you, the Fruit of the Spirit will be evident in your life.

This morning, in the context of worship, I thought it might be appropriate to explore that a bit further, and maybe take a look at the familiar ‘Fruit of the Spirit’ from a little different slant. If you disagree, too bad. I have the keyboard! Skip this part.

Gal 5:22-24

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. NASB

If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, you’ve heard this passage. You may have also heard what I did most of my life – that these are all wonderful things – but they are not quantifiable. They aren’t measureable. Only God sees the heart, you know. What? That’s great news!

That means we need not worry about a thing. Right? If anyone tries, we can raise the battle cry “You can’t judge me!” Except…James.

James 2:18

But someone may well say, “You have faith, and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” NASB

In other words, just maybe our faith – our relationship with Christ (which I will maintain is directly related to our spiritual growth) is measureable. If it’s related to acts of love, service, self-control etc., then differences in those areas should be evident as we grow, right? So even if we’ve sat in the same pew for the last 50 years, but we give the same, serve the same, and act the same as we did when we started, where are we spiritually?

It’s not that you can’t have a difference of opinion, even with your pastor. It’s how you handle and voice that difference that will show itself as streams of living water, or a pile of sludge.

We have models to follow, given to us in scripture. Jesus had a few disciples as I recall. Sometimes they were good examples, sometimes bad. We can learn from both. Sometimes they agreed with Him, sometimes they disagreed, or didn’t understand. When things got really tough, they abandoned Him.

Later, though, they came back. They took care of His mother. They picked up where He left off and followed His Great Commission. All but 1 died as martyrs for Him because of it, but they changed the world. And it’s still changing.

So the question for today is – when you don’t understand, or have a difference of opinion with your spiritual leader, how do you handle it? In light of the passages we just read, are you handling it any differently than you would have 10 years ago, or 20, or 50?

As you pray this morning, ask the Holy Spirit to convict you of wherever you need to grow, wherever your ‘streams’ are dammed up! Then go and truly worship, and see what joy will flow.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 516 – The Creation Story – The Fall

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups

07/09/16 – 516 – The Creation Story – The Fall

Here we start to get a much more detailed picture of this beautiful garden that God had prepared for man to live in. First a teaser – just enough information to let us guess about where Eden was located – but not exactly.

Genesis 2:10-14

10 A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters. 11 The name of the first is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold. 12 (The gold of that land is good; aromatic resin and onyx are also there.) 13 The name of the second river is the Gihon; it winds through the entire land of Cush. 14 The name of the third river is the Tigris; it runs along the east side of Asshur. And the fourth river is the Euphrates. NIV

I have to wonder, though, what good would it do us if we did know, if we could pinpoint the exact spot where Adam and Eve were created? What would we expect to find, fossil evidence of God’s handprint where he scooped up the clay? I don’t know. My guess? People would love to find all that gold in the land of Havilah.

Anyway, We know where the Tigris and Euphrates rivers are – they still flow today. The Pishon and Gihon have been lost to history. The significance here is in the rivers themselves. Throughout scripture, from here in the beginning to Revelation.

Rev 22:1-2

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. NIV

Oops, sorry, I put an extra verse in there. Or did I?

We’ll come back to that, I promise. For now, think about the imagery of a pure sweet river, flowing with abundant water, especially to people in a desert land like Israel or modern-day Iraq or Iran. A river meant life itself.

When this river split into 4 that flowed into the world, the image would be that this would be God’s gift of life coming from that garden into the entire world. It all stems from there. But – it didn’t stop there.

It’s no accident that this same imagery is used in many places in the Bible to describe the life that God provides – including these words of Jesus Himself:

John 7:38-39

Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified. NIV

So here’s the question of the day – is that a description – of you? It’s not hard to tell, really. If the Spirit is flowing from you, the Fruit of the Spirit will be evident in your life (Gal 5:22). If it is, thank God this morning and ask Him to strengthen and grow it in you. If not, it’s time to commit. Don’t you think?

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 515 – The Creation Story – The Fall

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups

07/08/16 – 515 – The Creation Story – The Fall

Gen 2:8-9

Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. 9 And the Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground — trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

 I wish I could say that I’ve always been amazed at the way people have sped by the content in these verses, because there is so much importance in understanding the significance of these two trees. Unfortunately, l did the same until about 10 years or so ago when I heard a sermon about them.

Until then, I was like most people, remembering only the ‘big’ one – the one that got Adam and Eve (and us) in all that trouble. But it’s extremely important to understand both.

Now, the purpose of the Tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil is fairly apparent. It was the test. The BIG test. The obvious question then is, why was such a test even necessary? Why not let well enough alone? I mean, things were great, right?

Adam and Eve would walk around with the animals, not having to worry about getting eaten. The weather was obviously perfect as they didn’t need clothes. God would come around and they’d take long walks and have long talks. I wonder what they talked about though. I mean, no sports. No philosophy. No politics. No religious differences. Hmmm. Probably gardening, I’m guessing.

Anyway, the purpose of the test was simply to give man a choice. It was up to us whether or not to choose to be obedient to the God who created and sustained us, or to be independent – to take that power for ourselves. Again you may ask – why was such a test needed?

Again a simple answer. To give meaning to our relationship with God. Think about it. If we had no choice but to be with Him, to obey Him and serve Him, we would be no more than pieces on a chessboard. Not allowing us to freely choose Him would undermine the reason for which He created us in the first place – to have a closest friend, an intimate companion, a child.

Now tree #2 – the Tree of Life. Notice that although both of these trees are highlighted in the text, only the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was forbidden. So what makes this one so special? Because it’s fruit carries the attribute of nothing less than eternal life!

Just think – if they had chosen to eat from Tree #2 instead of Tree #1, where might mankind be today? Maybe we wouldn’t be here, at least not yet. Maybe we’d all still be living 8-900 years, without sickness or troubles. In the garden. On the other hand, maybe someone else would have come along and messed things up.

We’ll see this tree again, twice, in fact. Once more in Genesis, and again much later. I’ll save that for now, but ask you to remember what we studied today. I notice one big difference between then and now. (I know, just one?) While Adam & Eve had only one choice, we are faced with many choices every day.

But essentially they all boil down to the same thing. Will you choose God, or not?

Will you choose Christ, or not? Notice it’s a Yes/No question. There are no other choices. No middle ground – no averaging points for how many yes answers versus how many ‘no’s’.

So there’s your prayer for today, I think. Will you choose Him today, or not? (Pssst. Please don’t make promises you don’t intend to keep. Better to just ask Him to help you make the right choices.)

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 514 – The Creation Story – The Fall

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups

07/07/16 – 514 – The Creation Story – The Fall

What we are about to read has been somewhat controversial, then again, what in the Bible hasn’t? The controversy has been based on claims that these verses (Gen 4-24) constitute a second creation story that conflicts with the one we just studied. I tend to agree with those who say that it is simply a more detailed account of the sixth day, mostly, with a more general, overall look back.

The controversy begins with verse 4:

Gen 2:4

4 This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created.

 Does this verse end the prior creation story, or begin a new one? To me, this is one of those times in which it is very hard to tell, since there was no punctuation in the original Hebrew. But the scholars would know better than me, and most seem to take it as a heading for the next section.

However, they clearly agree that the next section is an expanded, more detailed account of creation and the ‘generations’ of man as his role in the world changed.

 Gen 2:5-7

When the Lord God made the earth and the heavens — 5 and no shrub of the field had yet appeared on the earth and no plant of the field had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no man to work the ground, 6 but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground — 7 the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

NIV

There are a couple of very cool things to learn here. First, the word for ‘formed’ comes from the Hebrew ‘yasar’, and it is used to describe the work of a sculptor. So the picture is literally God forming Adam out of clay as a sculptor would form a statue. The Hebrew word for man, ‘adam’, is related to the word for ground.

The next is the phrase ‘living being’. It literally means ‘living soul” When God breathed the breath of life into us, He gave us a soul, and that made us different than all the other animals of His creation. The Bible Knowledge Commentary points out that it’s no wonder that we need regeneration – the inbreathing of the Holy Spirit to regain our fellowship with God.

But thank God that capacity is still there, within us.

Animal lovers aside, think seriously about this. Mankind is the only species that was given this precious gift. This is the gift of eternal life. The gift that cannot be thrown away. And therein lies the problem, for some of us.

I know there are some that believe there is nothing after this – that when they die it will be like turning off a light bulb. I also know that there are people that think that if they don’t accept Christ as Savior and Lord, they may not get to heaven but the same thing will happen.

But the Bible doesn’t say that. It gives us only 2 choices. Eternal joy and contentment with Him (heaven), or eternal torment without Him (hell). Nothing else. You don’t even get to commit suicide to get out of it. You don’t get to choose the light switch.

So, decide what you will believe. Decide how you will live. Jesus as Savior is a great start, but by itself isn’t enough. You must let Him be Lord as well, and that means living your life for Him. Every moment, every day. Your choice.

I’d make that my prayer today. Make the choice. Change what needs to change in your life. Live for Him. Start now.