Refreshing Hearts One Sentence At A Time
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.” So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 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. (Genesis 3:22-24)
Have you ever started a project, and what you end up with is entirely different from what you started out intending to do?
This often happens to me when I’m writing. I start off thinking I know where I’m going, but then God shows me a better answer than I thought I had.
A lot of people are asking, “Why?”
A lot of people are running to blogs, senators, lobbyists, family, hugs, and books to find answers for the intricate intimacies of the human mind and soul.
A lot of people are looking for hope, for light, for positive vibrations rattling across the carpet, for a shiny answer, for a nod that affirms what they believe to be the right answer.
The answer is simple; and then the real answer is even less complicated.
Why do bad things happen? Sin is in the world. Long ago, far away from this chair in which I am sitting, a serpent convinced a man and woman to make a terrible decision.
From here, I intended to go one direction, but then I began really searching. The simple answer is: sin.
But what is sin, really? You’ve heard this word, I’ve heard this word. Kind of churchy. Thou sinner! Thine hands smiteth thee!
Ha! Can I insert a LOL here? It’s my blog, so yes I can.
It’s that terminology that, while true, can be nondescript and annoying. When I get annoyed with a word, I usually look into why I get annoyed with it. Is it because I don’t really know what it means? Other people don’t know what it means? The word is old-fashioned, outdated, or just plain misused? Or overused? Some fabulous words in the English language are malnourished, but this “sin” word is one that, in the Bible-belt anyway, is sitting as pretty as a stuffed pig on a roasting spit.
Sin is the act of defying God. Sin is disobedience. Dictionary.com provides: transgression of divine law; any reprehensible or regrettable action, behavior; any act regarded as such a transgression, especially a willful or deliberate violation of some religious or moral principle.
Thank you, Dictionary, for providing an answer in which the user must also define the meaning of the answer. Sin is also the 22nd letter of the Hebrew alphabet, the 12th letter of the Arabic alphabet, the Akkadian god of the moon, and a symbol used in trigonometry. Since we’re still discussing what Dictionary.com has to offer, a transgression is violation of a law or command, just to clarify so that we’re all on the same page. Therefore, if you sped in your car today, you have transgressed. If you have acted without love toward a neighbor, let’s face it, you have violated moral code. For the record, I am included in this unfortunate category. Not a day goes by in which I continually love my Creator with my entire heart, soul, mind, and strength; and not a day goes by in which I persistently love my neighbors as myself. I didn’t steal anything today, though, that I know of, anyway, so maybe we get some kind of star sticker? A pink one?
In our society, we HAVE to have the best answer, the right answer, RIGHT NOW, right here!! We have to be the best, the smartest, the fastest, the owner of the newest idea or device, the one with the answers, the one with the best words, the one with the best ideas, best attitude, best weight loss, and best abilities to craft.
Or else we are no one, nobody.
While the world whirls by, with laughter, fruit flies, and shiny coins.
And what do we have, then?
Once the whirlwind is over, when the deep, piercing ache rattles your stomach and grabs at your throat, what then?
Do your prayers hit the ceiling? Do questions bounce around your head, or is the silence so large it fills the longing in your heart?
You see, I’ve known loss.
I’ve loved people who have known great loss.
I’ve tripped, I’ve forgotten, I’ve ached; they have wailed at funerals, closed their eyes in sorrow, breathed deeply.
And each time, God was there. How do I know?
How do I KNOW?
I asked myself this last night, and the night before. How do we know that God is here, that God is with us? I can see my daughter or husband and know they are there at the table with me, and I can sense their presence when they are in a separate room because I KNOW they are there, even when I can’t see them or hear their video games playing in the background.
How do I know that God is with me, even when that wrenching ache clutches my spine?
Because the Bible tells me so. The very truth I search for answers my every question.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
Sometimes I think I would really like to see an angel or get stopped in my tracks by blinding light and hear that good old-fashioned, “Fear not!”
But then again that could be totally creepy.
God is here, God is there, with you. Acknowledge his name, give credit to his omnipresence. Proclaim his omnipotence and his omniscience. He is the I Am. He works through hugs, warm fires, and the sunrise. He guides us with that small voice, with that good idea, with that waking inspiration.
“Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:16b-17).
The better answer to some questions is this: We won’t know on this planet, but God is good, and his love is everlasting.
His love is full, his presence real. He is in whispers of joy, golden rays of sunlight dipping below the horizon, the laughter of a little blond baby, the soft petals of dewy flowers, and a deep, long hug from someone who cares. He is in every good and perfect gift.
“When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:13-15). You see, we choose our shadowed paths. We choose to look down and stumble, insisting our way is correct, negating the simple options, and demanding that we are strong enough. We will never be strong enough on this planet. Not in this earth-suit.
And here’s the good part.
“An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins’” (Matthew 1:20-21).
He traveled through time, through space, through darkness, to rescue us from our own plaguing doubt. Jesus gently unpacked our regrettable actions before we even hurtled them at each other. Each reprehensible violation of his law, every willful wrong, the plight of all humans, was swept into a corrected category, coated in a love and commitment so deep, we should only feel his presence with each blink, every heartbeat, and all whispered prayers. And to receive his good companionship we must trust his Word, walk toward his authority, and forgo our own ideal scenarios. Know he is real and act with that knowledge, seeking his truth, learning his wisdom, and imparting his enlightenment.
Sometimes those dark passages become very difficult to traverse. We feel our dignities, our convictions, character, dreams, hopes, and haves slip knee-deep into murky questions and muddled waters of insecurity. I can’t claim to always have my head on straight, or my shield of faith strapped on tight, but I do know that the Lord, the Lord, is the rock eternal (Isaiah 26:4). He’s available when your head is buried in the pillow or when you’re gasping for air.
“And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people. When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, ‘Surely he was the Son of God!’…The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. ‘Sir,’ they said, ‘we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.’ ‘Take a guard,” Pilate answered. ‘Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.’ So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard” (Matthew 27:50-54; 63-66).
When you think of those two images of guards, at the Garden of Eden and the tomb of Jesus, what do you see? While angels with flaming swords towered above sprawling hills, soldiers draped in metal also readied their sharp spears. What were they guarding? Are the angels still there, obscuring our view? Were the guards able to withstand Jesus' mighty exit from the tomb?
What do we guard? Are we at-the-ready, swords sharpened and unsheathed? Do we seek the tree of life? Do we guard the path of those who also seek truth?
“Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written” (John 21:25).
“Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31).
Fury, pressing desire, loss, hostility and burnt out passion tread swiftly upon this planet’s time and space. And yet we are here, in this time and space, to seek Him and guard the way of those who seek the healer, the giver of life, the one who beat death, the Lord of Hosts, the only God Almighty. The cherubim, the Roman soldiers, were there to prevent life. I say we break open those chains, tear into the crusted earth, and make way for those heavy hearts. Where there is darkness, bring light; where there is loss, offer hope; where there is a lacking, extend God's provision and a warm meal.
“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ After [Jesus] said this [to the disciples], he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven’” (Acts 1:8-11).
And so we continue to look up, squinting into the sunlight, hoping to see a glimpse of unfurling clouds. Then we look down, and around at our fellow man, soaking in the colors and sounds of this strange land that we call home. It is not our home, just a landing place. Our rescuer awaits, holding out his steady hand.
But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. (1 Corinthians 1:9)
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