Thursday, October 20, 2011

Trees ~ Part 3

Sin separates us from God. But God in His great love and mercy sent His only Son to redeem us. In the book of Romans chapter 6 verse 23, it says, "The wages (or payment) for sin is death, but the gift of God (Jesus) is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord".
What does the Tree of Life represent? I think it represents Jesus, the source of forgiveness and restoration to God our Father. In John 14:16 Jesus says, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no one comes to the Father but through me."
This leads me to the next tree that changed my life. The Cross of Christ.
I was born a sinner. Yes, innocent, baby me. I was born a sinner because of the nature of our human existence. Adam and Eve got the sin ball rolling for the rest of us. I knew at an early age what was right and what was wrong. I knew when I disobeyed my parents. I knew when I lied, cheated, was selfish, hurtful...
I needed forgiveness, atonement, and restoration. I needed a savior; a way back to God.
I am the youngest of five children and born a distance of 18 years from my oldest brother and 10 years from my closest sister. I enjoyed a safe and happy childhood. I played alone a lot. My favorite thinking spot was our big rubber tree in our side yard. I would climb up to my favorite spot where the tree branches had created a little chair and sit and think my childish thoughts. One thought that kept creeping back was about a sermon I had heard about "the rapture of the Church". It was preached by an old minister in the church our family attended. I remember him telling us about how God would carry away all the believers from the earth.
One day, while I was rollerskating on our driveway, I fell and scraped up my knee. I went into our house calling for my Mother. She did not answer so, I called for my oldest sister Teresa. She didn't answer either. Then I realized that everything was quiet. I couldn't hear the birds singing or the traffic on the nearby busy street. I began to wonder if the Rapture had occurred and I was left behind. I went to our medicine cabinet above the bathroom sink and got a band-aid. I sat down on the edge of the bathtub and put the band-aid on my scrapped knee.

 I called out for my Mother again. I called out for my sister again. All was quiet. I began to worry. What if the rapture had really happened? I had not called out to God to save me. I knew I really wanted to be with Him. I knew all my family had prayed to Him but, I hadn't. I began to pray a simple prayer. "Dear God, I love you. I want to be with you. Please, can I be with you too?" I imagined His strong hand reaching down from the sky and picking me up. Of course I could be with Him. It was that simple. All I had to do was have the desire and ask.
At that moment, I heard the normal sounds of our household, my Mother's voice, the birds chirping, the busy street, and I knew I was different. I had been transformed from sinner to forgiven.
When I was a young teenager, I was in Texas with family friends. It was nighttime and I was sitting in the very back of their station wagon on the rumble seat next to my best friend Caroline and it dawned on me that I had not said the typical "sinners prayer". I worried a little and then in my mind made sure that God knew that I knew what He had done for me. I wanted to make sure I had dotted the "i's" and crossed the "t's". I sat back and watched the telephone polls drift by and the road we'd been on sail under us and I told Him that I knew I was a sinner and that I needed a Savior and that He had sent His only Son Jesus to die on a cross for my sin. That Jesus took my sin on Himself; that He took my place and that I accepted Him as my Savor. I asked God to forgive me of my sins and to come into my life.
I knew in my heart that I was already saved but, it was good to verify it.
Why did Jesus have to be crucified? Why did there have to be a sacrifice? It goes back to the Garden and the Curse. Galatians 3:13 says, "Christ redeemed us from the curse by becoming a curse for us, for it is written 'cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree'". In the book of First John 4:10 it says, "God sent His son to be the atonement for our sins" and I Peter 2:24 says "He himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness".
Crucifixion was one of the most horrible forms of death ever devised. It was designed to be a lingering death. The guilty was first beaten with a whip of braided leather with bones and metal at the tips. Jesus was stripped naked, secured with ropes and beaten. A crown of thorns was smashed upon his head as a symbol of the curse ("you shall have thorns"). He was forced to carry the cross beam to the site of execution and became too weak; another man had to carry it some of the way for him. Jesus was nailed to a tree for us. He was cut and opened before all. Holy Scriptures tell us that he was so badly disfigured that his face didn't even look like that of a man. Jesus took our punishment on that cross. He was the perfect sacrifice because he was God in the flesh. He was holy and pure and blameless.
How do we obtain God's righteousness to be in right standing with Him? How do we become forgiven? When we accept this gift of salvation, of forgiveness, through faith in Jesus. We are no longer condemned. We now can eat from the Tree of Life. Jesus is our Tree of Life.
After Jesus rose from the dead on the third day after he was crucified, the apostle Peter said, "There is no other name under Heaven, given to men, whereby you must be saved."
In my next post I will write about faith.
What is faith? What does faith mean to you?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Trees ~ Part 2

The name Eden means voluptuous, delight, luxury or finery. 
In our Genesis story, God formed man from the earth and breathed into him the breath of life. God placed this man He called Adam in this beautiful garden called Eden. There were all kinds of trees "that were pleasing to look at and good for food".  Here in Eden, Adam and his companion Eve enjoyed talking with God. They experienced peace, perfection, plenty and pleasure on a perfect planet.

In this perfect garden of God were two distinct trees. These two trees were named the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and the other tree was called The Tree of Life. These two trees play a role in our destiny.
In Genesis chapter 2, God tells Adam (and Eve) that they can eat from any tree in Eden except from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. God allows them to have a choice and a free will. They could trust Him and have Faith in Him to be truthful or they could chose to do as they pleased. He told them of the consequences of eating from the Tree if they disobeyed. 
Genesis chapter 2 verse 17 says, "...for when you eat of it, you will surely die". Unfortunately, we know what happens next. 

The prophet Ezekiel tells us that Satan was in Eden, the Garden of God, and was beautiful to look at. The apostle Paul writes in Second Corinthians chapter 11 verse 14, that "Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light". It would be natural to think that a spirit being so evil would also look ugly but, this is not the case with the fallen angel Satan. Genesis chapter 3 tells us the story of how sin entered our world. The serpent (Satan) said to the woman, "Has God said you shouldn't eat of every tree in the garden?" Eve said, "We may eat of the trees but of the fruit of the Tree in the middle of the garden, God told us we shouldn't eat of it or even touch it or we will die." Satan replied, "Oh, you won't surely die! God knows in the day you eat of it, your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods knowing good and evil." Eve saw that the Tree was good for food, nice to look at and a tree to be desired to make one wise so, she took a fruit, took a bite and handed it to Adam and he ate it too. Their minds were opened and they knew they were naked and sewed fig leaves together to make aprons and hid among the trees from God when they heard his voice in the garden. God called to Adam, "Where are you?"  Adam replied, "I heard your voice and I was afraid because I was naked and I hid."  God asked, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the Tree I told you not to eat of?" Adam says, "That woman you gave me, she gave me the fruit of the Tree and I did eat it". God says to Eve, "What have you done?" Eve says, "The Serpent deceived me and I did eat." God made garments of skin (the first sacrifice) for Adam and Eve and clothed them. Then He 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 from the Tree of Life and eat and live forever." So God banished them from the Garden of Eden and placed a cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the Tree of Life.

The Devil didn't tempt Adam and Eve to eat from the Tree of Life because it wasn't prohibited. They would not have sinned if they had eaten from it. The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was truly a tree of death. The death was a spiritual death. Their disobedience came with a cost and separated them from their creator God. They listened to the voice of the Tempter and began to doubt the goodness of God. God then immediately removed the Tree of Life because He was not going to allow them to eat of it and live forever in sin. This was an act of mercy. If they had eaten from the Tree of Life, earth would have become a living hell; they would have lived forever in sin without a way out. Adam and Eve disobeyed God's only rule. They acted on their own will, their own desire, instead of trusting in God's perfect will for them. Because of this, sin entered the world.
The book of Romans says in chapter 5 verse 12, "Just as sin entered the world through one man, (Adam and Eve) and death through sin, in this way death came to all men (humankind), because all sin."

Because of sin our planet and people suffer from a curse. Sin has separated us from God our Creator. We are encumbered with the cares of life. We contend with thorns and weeds; we have pain in childbirth; we work hard and face temptations and sin each day. We suffer from sadness, illness, loneliness, loss, grief, pain, and death. The punishment for sin is death. God was right.
I think Eve was hopeful that the birth of a son would help restore her relationship with God. She named her first son Cain which means 'to create'. In Genesis chapter 4 Eve says, "With the help of the Lord, I have brought forth a man". But, by the time Able was born, I think the realization of her disobedience had sunk in. The name Able means, 'to act emptily' or 'all is vanity'.
Sin separates us from God but, God in His great love and mercy has created a way back to Him.
In my next post, I will write about how God reached out to me and showed me The Way back to Him.
In the meantime, feel free to comment. Whether positive or negative, I would love to hear what you think.
Until then, blessings in the journey.