The Set Up

Photo 12127829 / Eve © Bstefanov | Dreamstime.com

“Ahhh!” The fruit hit the ground with a juicy thud as Eve scrambled to cover up. 

Adam stared at her and then at himself. “We’re naked!”

“Hurry! Get the biggest leaves you can find.” Eve huddled behind the nearest myrrh bush as Adam darted through the trees of Eden. She winced as she backed into a sharp thorn. “Ouch!”

The luscious fruit lay on the ground, bruised by the fall from her hand. Its sweet aroma, so appealing before, turned her stomach. She spat the flesh, now bitter, toward the serpent. 

The serpent nudged the fallen fruit toward her. “What’s wrong, Eve? Aren’t you hungry?” He laughed as he slithered around her bare ankles. 

 “You tricked me!” Eve glared at the serpent. 

“Did I? Aren’t you wiser? Don’t you have knowledge you didn’t have before?” His words taunted her. “Aren’t you more like God?” 

God! Oh no! She’d forgotten about Him. Eve shuddered.

“I know about evil all right—and you’re it!” She sank to the ground. Tears soaked the fallen fruit, watering the little myrrh bush, but they didn’t help. The myrrh’s pungent fragrance encircled her. What have I done?

Soon Adam reappeared carrying fig leaves. Eve sighed. Perfect. The big leaves covered them well—until. 

Until they began to burn.

A blood red sunset streaked the sky above the garden. The day’s heat lifted. A cool breeze danced among the trees, swishing through the leafy branches. Adam gave Eve a quick squeeze. He smiled, “It’s going to be okay,” but his head turned abruptly at the sound of footsteps and his expression changed to one of horror.             

“It’s God. Hide!”

Here’s the first part of the biblical passage for the fictionalized story above:

Genesis 3:1-8 (NIV):

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.” Genesis 3:1-5 (NIV)

The serpent set God up as Someone who withheld. 

Who kept something back. 

Who didn’t give Adam and Eve everything He could. 

But what does the Word say about God?

1 John 3:1a says, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” 

Lavish doesn’t skimp and it certainly doesn’t withhold. Lavish looks like an banana split with five kinds of ice cream, chocolate sauce, caramel, strawberries, pineapple, whipped cream, nuts and cherries. 

James 1:16-17 says, “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 writes “every.” “Every good and perfect gift” means all of them

The serpent set Eve up as well:

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.

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 [emphasis mine].

1 John 2:16-17 says, “For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever [emphasis mine].”

Do you see the match up between Eve’s temptation and what comes from the world?

Temptations always look good. If they didn’t, we wouldn’t be tempted. But truly good things only come from God. The list John gives? It comes from the world and its system. And guess who designed that? The enemy. And the enemy dangled Eve’s choice before her. Who knows how many days he tempted her before she bit?

Eve was forced to choose. And you will too. To believe God or to believe the serpent. To trust God’s word or go with feelings. Eve could have asked Adam for help. She could have asked God. Instead, she trusted her instincts—with terrible consequences that affect us today. 

Will we see the set up the enemy has for us?

Not without God’s help.

We need discernment and a desire to obey, both of which God promises to provide (James 1:5, Philippians 2:12-13). And if we still find ourselves in a trap, God says this, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13). 

Watch for the set up.

Activities:

1. God’s goodness surrounded Eve in Eden. How did she miss it and get hung up on the one thing she couldn’t have? Take inventory of God’s goodness that surrounds you. Make a list. What temptation is calling your name? How does it look in light of God’s goodness?

2. When you gift shop for someone special, what do you think about? How do you make your choice? Write down some good and perfect gifts you’ve received from God. What do you think God thought about in choosing a gift for you?

3. How can peer pressure help you in the face of temptation? How can you as a family help each other?

(This post is an excerpt from a girls’ preteen Bible study I’m writing that shows the battles Old Testament women fought. It complements the preteen boys’ study on OT battles.)

P. S. Please check out Everyday Wonder on my social media sites. It has fun info like this: Did you know the leaves and the sap from fig trees cause a terrible rash when in contact with skin and exposed to light?

Lesser Gods

ID 122607859 © Voyata | Dreamstime.com

Recently, a friend invited me to her home to dedicate some space to her new faith—the Warrior Goddess movement. Though the invitation was thoughtful, it made me sad, because my friend is chasing a lesser god. I won’t spend time on the belief system of the Warrior Goddess movement, but when the focus turns toward created things and away from the Creator Himself—it’s taken a wrong turn. 

Lesser gods surround us. Mankind has been drawn to them since Adam’s fall. Paul stated, “Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles . . . They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen (Romans 1:22-23, 25).”

Did you catch the part about the lie? Guess who’s behind that one.

Why do we chase lesser gods? For me, a sense of control plays heavily into my choices. Sin factors in too, as it distorts my ability to see truth. Pride contributes as well. To be completely dependent on God for my salvation requires me to admit need. I’d rather be self-sufficient. Yet, Paul reminds us, a trade for a lesser god trades down, not up.

God offers so much more.

1. Purpose: God has crafted a destiny specific to you. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10

2. Presence: The Holy Spirit sets up permanent residency within every believer. “God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?’” Hebrews 13:5-6

3. Peace: Peace. The heavenly kind. The kind that’s beyond understanding. “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.” Romans 5:1-2

Lesser gods sell a lie:

  • There are many ways to Christ.
  • You can earn your way to heaven.
  • Trying hard is enough.
  • God is just another dominating male who has no place in His kingdom for daughters. 
  • Sin is no big deal.
  • There is no standard. Just do what’s right for you. 
  • As long as your good deeds outweigh your bad ones, you’re good to go. 
  • Hell? You’re kidding, right?

Lies. Every one. 

As you prepare for the new year, ask God to show you where you have traded down.

Commit to seeking Him in 2020. Why settle for anything less?

Workout for the Week: Lesser Gods

Memory Verse: “They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.” Romans 1:25

Meditation Passage: Romans 1

Do It: Trade up.

Christian Karma: Part 1

Christian Karma Part 1

Karma. The law of cause and effect. Hinduism and Buddhism claim it determines your destiny. In essence, you determine your destiny. Good choices lead to good things. Bad choices lead to . . . well, good luck with that.

Sadly, the church has bought into karma. Does the Bible speak of consequences? Of course, it does (Galatians 6:7). But natural consequences do not determine my destiny. Natural consequences can make my life smoother or a whole lot harder, but determine my destiny? Not a chance.

Here’s the issue with karma:

  1. Karma’s influence on the church creates a mindset of works. If I (go to church, give, volunteer, read my Bible, try to be good), God will (help me, protect me, heal me, bless me, prosper me). But what does Scripture say? Isaiah 64:6 reads, “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” Matthew 7:11 says, “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” He’s a good Father who loves His kids.
  2. Karma’s influence causes the church to stagger when life deals a tough blow. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Jesus told us bad stuff would happen. We’re shocked because we think it won’t, or shouldn’t, happen to us—but it does.
  3. Karma’s influence also creates an expectation of cutting a deal with God, a special arrangement just for me. I did _____, so I deserve _________. We see the same thing with the Jews in the New Testament. Paul touches on it in Romans 9:14-16, “What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.” God is sovereign. Period. End of discussion.

Mercy. Grace. Forgiveness. These determine my destiny. Truth gets shouted down in the culture clamor. We see karma everywhere. Serves you right. You get what you deserve. We can’t wait for the bad guy to get it in the end.

The problem is: We’re all bad guys.

God, in His grace, sent His Son to change that. To die for our sin and to make us holy.

Workout for the Week: Christian Karma, Part 1

Memory Verse: “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” Matthew 7:11

Meditation Passage: Romans 8:28-39

Just Do It: Kick karma to the curb.

Staying Out of the Rough Starts on the Tee

Staying Out of the Rough Starts on the Tee

A slight change in trajectory brings a major change down range.

I’ve spent some time in Romans 1 lately and the last half of the chapter is sobering. You might know that section as the homosexuality passage, but that’s not its true focus. Romans 1:18-32 tracks what happens when a shift from true center occurs.

Romans 1:18-32 gives a snapshot of our culture. Many things in the rough are par for the course in our society.

But this course is skewed.

Paul describes the rough and sets up a series of causes and effects:

Verses

Off the Tee Hooks and Slices In the Rough
Romans 1:18-20 Clear knowledge of God revealed by creation: God’s eternal power and divine nature Godlessness, wickedness, suppression of the truth God’s wrath; men are without excuse
Romans 1:21-23 Knowledge of God They neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him; they exchanged God’s glory for images of man, birds, animals, and reptiles Their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened; they claimed to be wise but became fools
Romans 1:24-25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie; they worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator God gave them over to the sinful desires of their hearts: sexual impurity, the degrading of their bodies
Romans 1:26-27 God gave them over to shameful lusts: homosexuality/lesbianism
Romans 1:28-32 God’s decree that those who do such things deserve death They did not retain the knowledge of God because it wasn’t worthwhile to do so; they continued to do wrong and approved those who did likewise

God gave them over to a depraved mind; they became filled with: wickedness, evil, greed, depravity, envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice, gossip, slander, God-hating, insolence, arrogance, boasting, invention of new evils, disobedience to parents. They lost the ability to understand, to love, to offer mercy, and to give loyalty.

 

These guys are not just in the rough—they’re in the water hazard. The one with the alligators.

But it started by not acknowledging God, His truth, and His glory.

So, where are your shots landing? Is your spiritual thinking muddled? Let’s get back to the fundamentals:

Training Tip 1: See Him. Ask God to help you see clearly—to see His eternal power, His divine nature, His work in the world around you.

Training Tip 2: Worship Him. Sing it. Speak it. Read it from His word. Give Him the glory He deserves.

Training Tip 3: Thank Him. We’re surrounded by terrific things. Hot showers. Air conditioning. Sweet tea. Pick a few of your favorites, stop, and say thanks.

Point to the true flag and show the world how to make the putt.

Nail your spiritual workouts this week and change your corner of the gym.

Workout of the Week: Be True Off the Tee

Memory Verse: Romans 1:21 “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

Meditation Passage: Romans 1:18-32

Just Do It: Line up your shot.

Tweetables:

Point to the true flag and show the world how to make the putt. Click to tweet.

 

Deception, Discernment, and Direction

Deception, Discernment, and Direction

Deception. We don’t know it’s got us until it’s too late. We’re left feeling duped, shamed, and a little foolish. Deception ambushes us from all angles. From within and from without.

Within:                                                            Without:

Heart (Jer. 17:9)                                              Wealth (Mark 4:18-19)

Pride (1 Cor. 3:18)                                           Divisiveness (Rom. 16:17-18)

Reap/sow (Gal. 6:7)                                        Empty words (Eph. 5:6)

Desires (Eph. 4:22)                                         Fine-sounding arguments (Col. 2:4)

Inaction (Jas. 1:22)                                         Demons (1 Tim. 4:1)

Claiming to be without sin (1 John 1:8)     Sin (Heb. 3:13)

Discernment gives us a heads-up. It’s our night-vision goggles for the traps hidden in the dark. Three things bring discernment and keep us out of trouble.

A Relationship with God

A personal relationship with God puts solid rock under our feet to stand against deceit. Salvation gives us a new heart and the gift of God’s presence. 2 Cor. 5:17 (NIV) says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”

New heart.

New eyes.

Discernment.

Think of life as a field of landmines. Before salvation, we haven’t a clue where to step and where not to. After salvation, we’re equipped with a detailed map and a Guide who knows every inch of ground.

God’s Word

It’s a no brainer. God’s Word speaks truth. If something doesn’t match up with Scripture, throw it out. So much is already down in black and white. Our part is to act on it. Remember James 1:22, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

The Holy Spirit

For the gray areas, the individual day-to-day decisions, we have the Holy Spirit. He discerns all things and imparts His knowledge to us. Our part? To obey what He says and to be attentive to what He reveals.

If you don’t know Him personally, start here:

A: Admit your choices have fallen short of God’s perfection.

B: Believe that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross covers those choices—past, present, and future. He suffered your judgment and your punishment for you.

C: Come into relationship with Him by accepting His sacrifice in your place and give Him control of your life.

If you have a personal relationship with God, study his Word. A one-page devotional won’t do it. Read your Bible. Small chunks are fine. Consistency is what matters.

Next, cultivate a sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. He tends to whisper, so slow down and settle in. Ask for His guidance and listen to His still, small voice.

God equips us to navigate deception. But like any GPS, we have to follow His directions. No alternate routes. No shortcuts. By ourselves, we wander helplessly through the landmines of the enemy, our flesh, and the culture. Yet God can expose the deceit, and He always provides a way of obedience and righteousness.

Questions:

When have you been burned by deception?

Did it come from within or without?

Where are you most vulnerable?

How have you avoided deception in the past?

What’s your most recent victory?

Tweetables:

Deception. We don’t know it’s got us until it’s too late. Click to tweet.

Discernment. It’s our night-vision goggles for deceit. Click to tweet.

God equips us to navigate deception, but like any GPS, we have to follow directions. Click to tweet.