Back to Eden

Back to Eden.jpg

“For the Lord shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody.” Isaiah 51:3

Déjà vu,  is a French expression meaning “already seen” is used to describe a phenomenon that happens when we have a feeling of re-experiencing an event from the past, without any tangible reference points, other than the present moment. There’s no consensus among scientists as to why and how this phenomenon occurs. Some researchers suggest it’s a glitch in the operations of the short term and long term memory, while others in the field of parapsychology, believe it’s related to a past life experience.

Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden, as a result, we have inherited his sin nature. However that’s not all there is to know about Adam’s life. The Bible says that after God created Adam, He placed him in the garden in Eden; Eden meaning delight or pleasure. Genesis 2 describes the garden where Adam was put as a place of beauty, and abundance. I believe besides his fallen nature, God allowed the descendants of Adam to carry a remembrance of Eden. Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells us that God has ”put eternity into man’s heart”. A child is born with the capacity and the propensity for evil, but he or she also innately seeks out and responds to pleasurable sights, sounds and sensations. Human’s heart’s pursuit of beauty, tells me we remember Eden.

The reference to Eden is not just about its physical form, but as it applies to us, it’s mainly about its spiritual meaning. Eden is symbolic of:

  • Purpose

God created Adam to work the ground in Eden (Genesis 2:5,15), not for God’s gain, for He is not served by Human hands (Acts 17:25) but it was for Adam’s benefit (Genesis 2:16). The root of all earthly pursuits is the search for meaning; until we find it in God, we remain restless.

  • Intimacy with God.

In Eden, God talked and walked with Adam. This quote by Blaise Pascal, often paraphrased, very  well expresses this truth: we are made to be in a personal relationship with God.

What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him,… though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable…God himself”

  • Privilege

God gave Adam dominion over His creation (Genesis 1:28-30). Everything was given to Adam to exert his authority over, to possess and to enjoy. The riches of God’s glory in Christ Jesus, are reserved for those who have redemption through His blood, and the forgiveness of their sins. Privilege comes with position.

  • Bountiful blessings

God made provision so Eden would be a prosperous place for Adam, that he would take pleasure in the beautiful sights, enjoy the soothing sounds of the flowing rivers, and be satisfied by the abundance of food.  It has always been, and it is still God’s plan to bless His children. “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

Sin casts us out of Eden; out of fellowship with God, stripped of our authority, lost in search of meaning, and toiling to gain what cannot satisfy. But the Good News according to the Bible, is that “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself…” (2 Corinthians 5:19). While Christ has gone to prepare a place for us,  we don’t have to live in a state of melancholy waiting for the “sweet by and by”. We can experience intimacy with God, find our purpose in Him, operate in the power and authority of Jesus Christ and enjoy the riches of His glory. As Rabbi Pesach Wolicki puts it:

“The earth [God] gave to humanity…it is man’s job to reveal Godliness. To create a second heaven here on earth. Our task on this earth is to…transform the physical realm into a spiritual place. This is the kingdom of God.”

 

In Him,

Aline

Incomplete victory

“…Very much of the land remains to be possessed.”- Joshua 13:1

flag

Moses is dead. God raises up Joshua, who had been Moses servant since his youth, as successor to Moses, to lead the Israelites into the promise land. Joshua is given the charge to possess the land which the Lord had promised to give to the children of Israel as their inheritance.  God assures Joshua of the success of his mission, but also instructs him to be ready to battle against the occupants of the land. With courage and obedience to the Lord, Joshua leads the children of Israel in the conquest of the land: So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the Lord said unto Moses; and Joshua gave it for an inheritance unto Israel according to their divisions by their tribes. And the land rested from war.” Joshua 11:23

Joshua and the children of Israel can finally relax. They drove out their enemies, and now they can settle in the land. But that’s the problem; they had settled for an incomplete victory. God had more in store for His people so He says to Joshua: “You are old and advanced in years, and very much of the land remains to be possessed.” In other words, “You can’t stop here, there’s still much to be done.”

Some us believers are like Joshua; we receive our commission from God: “…Occupy till I come.” (Luke 19:13). We set out with fervor and zeal to carry the work of the Kingdom. And when God blesses our endeavors and we’re seeing the fruit of our labor, we think to ourselves, “Things are good; it’s time to enjoy the success.” This is how we find many believers who have stopped short of the great victories God still had ahead for them.

But we’re not always swayed by success; sometimes it’s lack of progress, discouragement, and/or failure that keeps us from finishing the course and completing the work God instructed us to accomplish. If this is where you find yourself, don’t stop. The secret to moving forward is to not look back. Your tomorrow is greater than your yesterday, as long as you don’t give up.

Half obedience to God’s will is not only about missing the ‘bigger and better things’. It can have some dire consequences on our lives. Some of us have become complacent when it comes to dealing with sin in our lives. We conquer most of what we used to struggle with, but then neglect to address the ‘small’ sins that remain. Scripture records that because Saul spared Agag, king of the Amalekites (contrary to God’s instructions to utterly destroy them), Haman, a descendant of Amalek later came on the scene, plotting the destruction of the Jews (Esther 3:6,8-9). When the Israelites failed to completely drive out the Canaanites from the land, God’s children who were called to be set apart, allowed these idolatrous people to live among them (Joshua 16:10; Judges 1:29).

God has given His children the power of the Holy Spirit to fight and to conquer our enemies. But in order to experience total victory, we cannot become complacent, quit or half way obey the will of God. There’s still much to be done, many battles to be fought, and many victories to be won to the glory of God.

 “I’m pressing on the upward way. New heights I’m gaining every day. Still praying as I’m onward bound. Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.” –Johnson Oatman Jr

In Him,

Aline

 

Take the limits off.

LIMITS OFF

“When the vessels were full…the oil stopped flowing.” 2 Kings 4:6

If the question was asked “How big is God?”  You would most likely reply: “God cannot be measured.”  But I say, “show me the size of your expectation, and I will show you the size of your God.” We have the theological understanding that God is infinite;  1 Kings 8:27 says “Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you;”. The expression of the glory of Almighty God is on full display in nature (Psalm 19:1; Romans 1:20), but when it comes to humans, God has limited himself to the extent of our faith. We mistakenly think what matters is the size of our faith, when in effect the determinant is the object in which we place our faith. In other words, it’s not about your great faith, it’s about faith in a great God.

The conflict lies at the intersection between the Divine and the Natural. Our definition of what’s possible or impossible is largely driven by our natural (physical and mental) experience of the world we live in. Rabbi Pesach Wolicki describes how faith challenges that order:

“The Divine law does not exist in the context of the laws of nature. God’s law does not respond to the earth…when the divine law enters the world the natural order must bow to it. Nature is weak in the power of God’s law.”  This is demonstrated in Joshua 10:13, when Joshua asked God to cause the sun and the moon to stand still, so he could destroy his enemies.

We must ask ourselves: “is my faith creating an environment conducive for the power of God to manifest?” God fullness is not going to display at 100% in a 10% environment. The Bible says Jesus could not perform miracles in Nazareth except lay hands on a few people and heal them because he was limited by the people’s unbelief (Mark 6:5). Filling up a one gallon bottle to be brim with sea water does not reflect the vastness of the ocean. It’s not about what we take; it’s about what is left.

God desires and is able to bless us, but just as the prophet Elisha told the widow not to get just a few vessels (2 Kings 4:3), we must take limits off what God can do. If we desire to experience the fullness of God, we must expand our capacity for more of Him. If our goal is to maximize our potential, then our aspiration is limited; natural abilities won’t go far. Rather, we are to constantly cultivate and exhibit faith that will provide the conduit for the manifestation of the Almighty God’s power in and through us.

 

In Him,

Aline

His resurrection, our reason

“And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.” -1Corinthians 15:14   

cross

When the multitude began to encounter Jesus in his earthly ministry, they described him as a teacher, and a man with great abilities (John 3:2), while some said a prophet (Matthew 16:14; Matthew 21:11), and others believed him to be the Christ (John 7:40-41).

Jesus however, made the truth plain to his disciples, about his person (John 1:1-3, 14; 6:48,51; 14:6),  his purpose (John 3:16-17; 6:40, 10:10), and his plan (Matthew 16:21; Mark 9:31; Luke 9:22).  Despite these revelations, the disciples still found themselves despondent and doubtful after the death of Jesus. The validity of Jesus’ claim as the Christ hinged on his resurrection.  The conversation between Jesus and some of His disciples on the road of Emmaus shows that without the evidence of his resurrection, their hope of Jesus being the messiah was quickly fading; “But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened.” (Luke 24:21).

The disciples despaired not simply of the death of Jesus, but of the hope of their redemption that seemed lost. Paul writes “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. (1 Corinthians 15:19). Without the resurrection, Jesus is just “a prophet mighty in deed and word…” (Luke 24:19) and Christianity is just another empty religion among thousands of others in the world. But praise God, because our faith isn’t futile, it is the substance of things hoped for, according to Hebrews 11:1. That substance is this: “we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection… if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him,” (Romans 6: 5,8).

The Early Church grew by leaps and bounds, first three thousand souls where added after Peter’s sermon in Acts 2: 14-40), then that number grew to about five thousand believers, not counting women and children in Acts 4:4. The central message of the apostolic preaching was the resurrection. If you want to learn how to be successful in life, there are life coaches for that. If you’re looking for love, there are marriage and relationship experts for that. If you desire to become wealthy, there are financial classes for that. But only Christianity proclaims that Jesus died and was raised from the dead, that “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4: 12)

This is our faith, and this is the reason for our hope:  Jesus has conquered sin and death, and He lives victoriously!

 

In Him,

Aline

 

 

The unopened gift

“…But the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23

unopened giftjpg

My 9 year old son loves cinnamon roll. Earlier this week, I bought some Cinnabon Bites, got up on time to warm it the oven, packed it in his lunchbox to surprise him. I was excited at the idea of him opening his lunchbox at school and discovering his favorite snack. I pictured him enjoying his treat with a smile on his face. Imagine my disappointment when I found out after he returned home from school, that  he had thrown away the package —unopened.

There is a significant spiritual parallel to this story.  God our Father loves us. That love is anchored in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”  Max Lucado wrote: “The Maker of the stars would rather die for you than live without you..”. Jesus birth, life, death, burial and resurrection was God’s ultimate gift to fallen humanity. I imagine the depth of the love of God, poured even in the preparation process of his plan of redemption. Perhaps having a conversation with the angels, saying “Look and see how they will be overwhelmed with joy and forever changed by my gift!”. Yet many have kept the gift sitting outside the door of their hearts, unopened.

Jesus came that we may have life, and have it more abundantly, yet many will be found guilty of having denied his gift of salvation. Others have opened and received his gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ, but still go through life, leaving his gifts of joy, peace, comfort, deliverance, love etc unopened. God delights in blessing His children, as it says in Luke 12:32: “…it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom”. In order to enjoy the benefits of a gift, it must first be opened. Our failure to open the gifts God presents to us, keeps us from experiencing the fullness of what He has in store for us.

After talking to my son, I showed him other things I had purchased for his enjoyment, that he would have to wait to have access to, because of his actions. Heaven’s storehouse will be full of unopened gifts, unless we choose to receive with gratitude and joy, everything that God out of his bounty, so lovingly, and so freely gives us.

 

In Him,

Aline

From Start to Finish

start to finish

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.” Hebrews 12:2

All things find their origin in God:   “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1); “through Him all things were made.” (John 1:3); “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible…” (Colossians 1:16). God is an initiator, and we are the participants and respondents of His plan.

  • Relationship

Man (kind) is God’s idea. He created him in his image, both male and female, and started a relationship where he talked and walked with them (Genesis 1:26-27; Genesis 3:8).  God wanted us; therefore He predetermined to adopt us as his children through Christ, out of His good pleasure (Ephesians 1:5). If we love God, it’s because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).

  • Redemption

After man yields to the serpent, God goes out seeking after him: “But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9). In the same way, Christ came to “seek and to save that which was lost.” To repair the broken relationship between Him and man, God initiates the plan of redemption, by announcing the coming of the Messiah, who will defeat the enemy (Genesis 3:15).

  • Restoration

God never intended for us to be whole apart from Him. God does not only seek to redeem us, but also to restore us into relationship with Him on the basis of the new covenant Christ established through His death on the cross. God initiated the restoration of Mankind, when He clothed Adam and Eve with the skins of animals (Genesis 3:21), symbolizing that we can be saved and restored into right relation with him by putting on the righteousness of Christ.

  • Reunion and rewards

The Bible tells us that “The Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels, and then he shall reward every man according to his works.” (Matthew 16: 27). We have this hope, the evidence of which is our faith, that after we have ran with endurance our race, we will receive the prize. Jesus is coming back, and His reward is with Him (Revelation 22:12).

Nothing in us would desire God if God had not first sought after us. He is not only the author, but also the Finisher of our faith. Whatever God has initiated in your life, He is faithful to complete it.  He is Alpha and Omega; all things find their beginning and their end in Him.

 

In Him,

Aline

 

Stay the course

 Hiker 3

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

According to an article by the Business Insider, approximately 80% of resolutions fail by the second week of February. The most popular resolutions in 2017 and 2018 were to: eat healthier, lose weight, exercise more and improve finances. However, research shows that in 2017, only 9.2% of those who set resolutions reported being successful at reaching their goal.

Failure to achieve our resolutions can be attributed to a variety of factors, depending on our individual circumstances, but mostly, the reason we end up recycling the same goals every year, is because we do not see them through. Our motivation and resolve is at a peak at the beginning of the year but as we get back in the routine of life, our zeal steadily dwindles with each passing week. We find ourselves sandwiched between what we envisioned and reality. And when we find ourselves struggling to reconcile the two, discouragement sets in and we give up.

How and why we set our goals will determine our success. As His children, God is committed to our highest good but first we must:

  • Align our goals and desires with God’s will. Jeremiah waited to see what the Lord would speak to him, before writing the vision (Lamentations 2:1-2).
  • Commit our plans in his hands, and rely on His power to bring them to pass (Psalm 37:5). It’s often said; if it’s God’s will, it’s God’s bill.
  • Anticipate the opposition, the trials and tribulations that await us on the journey, but not get deterred from the mission. God is our shield; He delivers us from all troubles (Psalm 34:19).
  • Focus on the finish line. There’s a requirement to endure till the end, if we are to receive a reward. Paul writes “Run in such a way as to get the prize… a crown that will last forever.” 1 Corinthians 9:24-25

Life will throw things at you to get you off course; you might get weary, and even burdened beyond what you can bear. Lean on the mighty arm of God, and remember the words of Paul: “… this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” -2 Corinthians 1:9

It’s not about how you start; the real test is to finish, so finish strong!

 

In Him,

Aline