The Four Gardens of God – V

I Corinthians 15:13-20

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

Above is a painting of the empty tomb by Joseph Juvenal. I chose this representation because it shows not just that the tomb of Jesus is empty, but also in the distance the three crosses on the hill of Calvary (see Luke 23:33). But there is another represen- tation that I like, of what it says in John 20:6 and 6: “Then Simon Peter…saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself.” A small detail, perhaps. But this depiction was the only one of more than a hundred others brought up on my computer that showed this truth.

Our featured Scripture is rather long. But in I Corinthians 15:13 through 20, the apostle Paul makes a persuasive argument from a negative perspective concerning the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ:

     ...if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is 
     not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching 
     is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are 
     found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of 
     God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if  
     in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, 
     then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your 
     faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those 
     who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this 
     life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most 
     pitiable. But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has be-
     come the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

The Corinthian church was founded and built up by Paul who stayed for a year and a half in the city of Corinth (located on the Achaian penninsula of southern Greece). But the Achaian way of thinking was most likely quite progressive! Athens was only 40 miles away to the east, and it is said in Acts 17:21 of that city’s residents and visitors, “…all the Athenians and foreigners who where there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing.” It is reasonable then to assume the same fascination with…some new thing…also was evident in Corinth! And this could be why the Corinthian church members had difficulty being grounded in the basic teachings of Christianity!

One of the problem areas concerned the resurrection! Paul writes in I Corinthians 15:12, “Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” Let’s examine the apostle’s argument in the next eight verses of I Corinthians 15, and see if we can also be persuaded of the importance of the resurrection:

I Corinthians 15:13 – “…if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen.

  • First of all, the resurrection of the Messiah is prophesied in the Old Testament!
     ✡   Psalm 16:9 through 11 – “...My flesh also will rest 
          in hope. For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, 
          nor allow Your Holy One to see corruption. You will 
          show me the path of life...” (see Acts 2:29-32 where 
          Peter applies this prophesy to Jesus).

     ✡   Psalm 49:15 – “...God will redeem my soul from the 
          power of the grave, for He shall receive me.”

     ✡   Psalm 71:20 – “You, who have shown me great and se-
          vere troubles, shall revive me again, and bring me 
          up from the depths of the earth.”

     ✡   Isaiah 53:10 – “...it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; 
          He has put Him to grief; when You make His soul an 
          offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall pro-
          long His days....”

     ✡   See also I Kings 17:17-24; II Kings 4:18–20, 32–37; 
          Job 19:25-27; Isaiah 26:19, 20; Daniel 12:2, 3; 
          Hosea 6:1, 2.
  • Jesus prophesied numerous times of His resurrection!
     Matthew 12:40 – “...as Jonah was three days and three 
         nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son 
         of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of 
         the earth.Matthew 16:21 – “...Jesus began to show His disciples 
         that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things...
         and be killed, and be raised again the third day.” 
         (see also Mark 8:31; 10:33, 34).

     Matthew 17:22, 23 – “The Son of Man is about to be 
         betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill 
         Him, and the third day He will be raised up.” (see 
         also Mark 9:31).

     John 10:17 and 18 – “Therefore My Father loves Me, 
         because I lay down My life that I may take it again. 
         No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. 
         I have power to lay it down, and...power to take it 
         again.Matthew 27:63 and 64 – So well-known was Jesus’ own 
         prophesy of His resurrection, that the chief priests 
         and Pharisees went to Pilate with this request: “...
         we remember...how that deceiver said, ‘After three 
         days, I will rise.’ Therefore command that the tomb 
         be made secure...lest His disciples...steal Him away, 
         and say...‘He has risen from the dead.’
  • The apostles, and other disciples of Jesus, certainly believed in, and preached forth the fact of the resurrection! It was because they themselves had experienced the risen Jesus! In I Corinthians 3 through 8, Paul gave this summation of the appearances of the resurrected Christ:
     Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and
     ...He was buried, and that He rose again the third day ac-
     cording to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, 
     then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five 
     hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain 
     to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He 
     was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of 
     all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.
  • Although there are several New Testament passages that imply the preaching of the resurrection, here is what is recorded in the book of Acts concerning the testimony that directly emphasizes the rising again of Jessus Christ from the dead:
     Acts 2:22 through 36 – In Peter’s Pentecost sermon, 
         he emphasizes that Jesus rose from the dead by the 
         power of God!

     Acts 3:26 – Peter, after healing the lame man in 
         the name of Jesus, said this in his second sermon: 
         “To you [Israelites] first, God, having raised up 
         His servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turn-
         ing away every one of you from your iniquities.Acts 4:10 – Having been arrested by the Sanhedrin, 
         Peter testified about the lame man’s healing: “...
         let it be known to you all...that by the name of 
         Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom 
         God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands 
         here before you whole.Acts 10:38 through 40 – When the Lord sent Peter 
         to open the gospel to the Gentiles, this is what 
         he emphasized in to Cornelius and his family and 
         guests: “...Jesus of Nazareth...they killed by 
         hanging on a tree. Him God raised up on the third 
         day, and showed Him openly....Acts 13:27 through 30 – Paul and Barnabas, on their 
         first missionary journey, preached in Antioch of 
         Pisidia (in Asia Minor): “...those in Jerusalem, 
         and their rulers...asked Pilate that He [Jesus] 
         should be put to death. [After He was crucified] 
         they took Him down from the tree and laid Him in a 
         tomb. But God raised Him from the dead.Acts 17:18 – In Athens, Paul encountered “...cer-
         tain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers...[who] said, 
         ‘He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods,’ be-
         cause he preached to them Jesus and the resurrec-
         tion.” (see also Acts 17:31, 32).

     Acts 23:6 – Paul made his defense before the Sanhe-
         drin after he had been arrested in the temple the 
         day before: “Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the 
         son of a Pharisee; concerning the hope and resurrec-
         tion of the dead I am being judged.Acts 24:15 – At Caesarea, in his defense before the 
         Roman governor Felix and his Jewish accusers, Paul 
         again emphasized the resurrection: “I have hope in 
         God, which they themselves also accept, that there 
         will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just 
         and the unjust.” (see also Acts 24:21).

     Acts 25:19 – Felix, who followed Festus as governor 
         of Judea, was visited by King Agrippa. The governor 
         rehearsed Paul’s case before the king, mentioning 
         this point of a previous hearing: “When [Paul’s] ac-
         cusers stood up, they brought no accusation against 
         him ...as I supposed, but had some questions against 
         him...about one, Jesus, who had died, whom Paul af-
         firmed to be alive.Acts 26:22 and 23 – Paul was granted a hearing before 
         Governor Felix and King Agrippa: “...to this day I 
         stand, witnessing both to small and great, saying...
         that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the 
         first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light 
         to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.

If the resurrection was so prominent
in the preaching and witnessing
of the apostles and the early believers,
should we not be emphasizing this truth also,
that Jesus Christ is the living Savior
and Lord of all!

The Four Gardens of God – IV John 19:41, 42

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

The photo above is of the Garden Tomb of Jesus. There is another location within the sixteenth century Turkish wall of Jerusalem, and just outside an earlier city wall built around 30 BC. This tomb is housed within the Church of the Holy Sepulcre (yes, that is the correct Catholic spelling!). But I believe (as well as many other archeologists and Bible scholars) that the Garden Tomb is where Jesus was interred after the crucifixion. I will give some reasons for this claim a bit later.

The featured Scripture is John 19:41 and 42:

     Now in the place where He [Jesus] was crucified there was a 
     garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet 
     been laid. So there they [Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus] 
     laid Jesus, because of the Jew’s Preparation Day, for the 
     tomb was nearby. 

I have been to Israel twice, in 1993 and 1996. Both times I have had the privilege of visiting the Garden Tomb. The second time the touring group was rather large, and our guide instructed us to enter into the tomb six at a time and stay for only a couple of minutes, so everyone could have the experience of seeing the tomb’s interior. I was part of the first group of six, and I found a spot out of the way beside the open wooden door which protected the tomb after hours. I stood there for about half an hour, not in the way of anyone as the small groups of six came and went, contemplating on what happened almost two thousand years before! It was a moving spiritual experience! As I stood against the wall at the open door’s edge, I ran my hand behind the door and discovered some loose sandstone bits that had dislodged and settled on the ledges of the tomb’s irregular walls. I picked up a few grains and later sealed them in a small plastic bag which I still have. To think that these sandstone grains were just four feet away from the greatest miracle ever – Jesus’ resurrection! And I wonder what amount of energy the surrounding sandstone walls (including these bits) absorbed in that momentous instant!

What are some of the evidences that this Garden Tomb is indeed the place where Jesus was buried, and where the resurrection occurred three days later?

  • Our featured Scripture tells us it was “…a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid.” It was Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb. What do we know about Joseph of Arimathea?
     Matthew 27:57 through 60:

           Now when evening had come, there came a rich man 
           from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also 
           become a disciple of Jesus. This man went to Pilate 
           and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate com-
           manded the body to be given to him. When Joseph had 
           taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 
           and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of 
           the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the 
           door of the tomb, and departed.Joseph was rich, and he was a disciple of 
               Jesus.He asked governor Pontius Pilate for Jesus’ 
               body, and was granted possession. 

          ➔   Although, like the rock tombs of the day, 
               Joseph’s tomb had a large circular rock doorof one to two tons weight, that 
               rolled in a groove to close the tomb. But 
               there are no known photographs of the Gar-
               den Tomb in the last century and a half of 
               modern photography with such a giant rock 
               in place!

     Mark 15:43 through 46:

           Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent council member, who 
           was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, coming 
           and taking courage, went in to Pilate and asked for 
           the body of Jesus. Pilate marveled that He was al-
           ready dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him 
           if He had been dead for some time. So when he found 
           out from the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph. 
           Then he bought fine linen, took Him down, and wrapped 
           Him in the linen. And he laid Him in a tomb which had 
           been hewn out of the rock, and rolled a stone against 
           the door of the tomb.Joseph of Arimathea was a prominent and re-
               spected member of the Sanhedrin, the seventy 
               member ruling body of the Jews.

          ➔   Apparently Joseph was very cautious of the                
               Sanhedrin’s threat of excommunication (see 
               John 18:38-42 below). So he took courage 
               when he openly approached Pilate and asked 
               for Jesus’ body!He was also waiting for the full manifesta-
               tion of the kingdom of God. (see Isaiah 
               chapters 11, 60, and 61 to catch a glimpse 
               of the future kingdom).

     Luke 23:50 through 54:

           Now behold, there was a man named Joseph, a council 
           member, a good and just man. He had not consented 
           to their decision and deed. He was from Arimathea, 
           a city of the Jews, who himself was also waiting for 
           the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked 
           for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down, wrapped 
           it in linen, and laid it in a tomb that was hewn out 
           of the rock, where no one had ever lain before. That 
           day was the Preparation, and the Sabbath drew near.Joseph of Arimathea was a good and just man 
               who had not consented to the Sanhedrin’s de-
               cision and deed – that of falsely condemning 
               Jesus to torture and crucifixion! 

          ➔   He was from Arimathea, located about 20 miles 
               northwest of Jerusalem.

     John 19:38 through 42:

           After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of 
           Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pi-
           late that he might take away the body of Jesus; and 
           Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the 
           body of Jesus. And Nicodemus, who at first came to 
           Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh 
           and aloes, about a hundred pounds. Then they took the 
           body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with 
           the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury. Now 
           in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, 
           and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet 
           been laid. So there they laid Jesus, because of the 
           Jews' Preparation Day, for the tomb was nearby.Although Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, he 
               kept it a secret for fear of the Jews! The 
               fear was...that if anyone confessed that 
               He [Jesus] was Christ, he would be put out 
               of the synagogue [excommunicated from the 
               center of Jewish life].” (John 9:22). 

          ➔   John is the only gospel that tells us Joseph 
               was joined by Nicodemus, another member of 
               the Sanhedrin! (see John 3:1-10; 7:50-52). 

          ➔   They hastily prepared Jesus’ body for burial 
               by wrapping it in linen cloth with a large 
               amount of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred 
               pounds! The worth of that large amount of 
               myrrh and aloes would be in the range of a 
               quarter of a million dollars!Why the haste? The Preparation Day for the 
               Jewish Passover was about to begin at sun-
               down! Jesus died at three in the afternoon! 
               (see Mark 15:34-37).
  • If indeed the Garden Tomb was Joseph’s, he would have been a much shorter man than Jesus! How do we know? The foot-end of the burial platform was hastily dug out and extended by about twelve inches to accommodate a taller body! You can readily see the rough excavation at the foot of the body platform, obviously rougher and more hastily dug compared with a much finer quarrying in the rest of the tomb! Joseph probably told a servant to quickly go and dig out that space so the taller body of Jesus could be laid out properly!
  • There is archeological evidence that a church or chapel was built adjoining the tomb!
     Notice in the photo above there is a hole excavated 
         into the rock a few feet above the tomb door and a bit 
         to the left. It is thought that this is evidence of a 
         support for a roof beam for a church (chapel) that was 
         built honoring the burial and resurrection place of 
         Jesus the Christ!

        Not seen in the photo is a depression in the stone in 
         front of the tomb that could have been used to hold 
         water for foot washing! Some say it is the base of a 
         baptismal font, but it does not seem large enough for 
         that use.

     Also, one can plainly see the stonework blocking up 
         part of the tomb wall. Why was that wall broken down? 
         Perhaps it was so that worshipers could see directly 
         into the tomb.........the empty tomb!

We will stop here. In the next Gem we will explore the significance of the empty tomb!

The Four Gardens of God – III Matthew 26:36-39

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

The second garden of the four gardens of God is called Gethsemane (see Matthew 26:36 and Mark 14:32). In the gospel of John it is simply identified as a garden (see John 18:1 and 26). Matthew’s description of what happened in Gethsemane runs from verse 36 to verse 57 – too long to quote here. So I will relate only the first four verses, 36 to 39, upon which I feel we should concentrate:

     Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, 
     and said to the disciples, “Sit here while I go and pray 
     over there.” And He took with Him Peter and the two sons 
     of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply dis-
     tressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly 
     sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.” 
     He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, 
     saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass 
     from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”

I believe the battle that Jesus Christ fought for the souls of mankind was not won on the cross as much as it was in Gethsemane! For it was there that…

  • …the humanity of Jesus (yes, He was fully human as well as fully divine) recoiled from the horrible suffering and mistreatment He was about to endure over the next 24 hours! He also was repulsed by being made sin for all mankind!
  • …the battle was won! For it is recorded in verse 39 of our featured Scripture, He… prayed, saying, ‘O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.’”
     I contend that this is the most important prayer a 
         Christian can pray!

         ➔   Some would say that the most important prayer 
              would be what the tax collector prayed in the 
              temple complex, recorded in Luke 18:13, “God 
              be merciful to me a sinner.This (or some form 
              of such a prayer) is the most important prayer 
              that a non-Christian can pray.......to accept 
              Jesus as Savior!

         ➔   But the most important prayer a Christian can 
              pray is, “...my Father...not as I will, but as 
              you will.” Now it can be in other words, such 
              as, “God, whatever You want I will do it, even 
              if I don’t want to!But we must pray this kind 
              of prayer in every situation we face!

     But here is an amazing truth I have learned, and it is 
         found in Philippians 2:13: “...for it is God who works 
         in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”

         ➔   He not only gives us the strength to ‘do’ what-
              ever it is He calls us to do! But......God also gives us the ‘will’ to do whatever 
              it is He calls us to do! And I have learned that 
              when I have the will (the want to’), then the 
              ‘do it’ becomes a lot easier, because I want to 
              do what God is directing me to do!

But let’s get back to the garden of Gethsemane. Although it is called a garden in John 18:1, Bible scholars and archeologists agree that Gethsemane was a place where olives were processed, pressing them to release the precious olive oil that was so necessary to everyday life. The very name Gethsemane means oil press.

How was olive oil produced? Olives where picked from the surrounding trees and dumped into a large round stone base. Another heavy stone was rolled over the olives to make a paste. Any oil then released was collected and saved. Then the paste was put in a low basket, and up to twelve baskets were piled on top of one another and pressed with heavy rock weights to release more oil. There were usually three pressings to extract all the available oil.

  • The first pressing produced the finest oil, for temple use and anointing.
  • The second pressing produced oil for cooking and cosmetics.
  • The third was the least pure and was used for lamp oil and soap.

Jesus waspressedto such an extreme in Gethsemane that we are told in Luke 22:44, “And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. And His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground.” It is a rare medical condition called hematidrosis, where capillaries may rupture and blood oozes from sweat glands. This can happen under extreme stress (it has been manifested in prisoners awaiting execution), and is the probable cause of Jesus sweating blood.

It says in Deuteronomy 33:25, “As your days, so shall your strength be.” It was true in Jesus’ case! For we are told in Lule 22:43, “Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him.We have the same assurance in I Corinthians 10:13: “…God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted [tried, tested] beyond what you are able, but with the temptation [trial, testing] will also make the way to escape, that you may be able to bear it.

The garden of Gethsemane was also the place of further happenings beyond the limited scope of our featured Scripture:

  • In Matthew 26:40 through 45 we are told that three times Jesus prayed…saying the same words.” (Matthew 26:45). And before He prayed, He told the three disciples with Him, Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, James and John, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” (Luke 22:40). But each time the Lord prayed, He then came back to where the three were, and three times He found them sleeping! When the moment of testing came, when the mob arrived to arrest Jesus, “Then all the disciples forsook Him and fled.” (Matthew 26:56).
  • Matthew 26:47 through 50 describe the arrival of the mob, composed of “…a detachment of troops, and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, came with lanterns, torches, and weapons…” (see John 18:3). Mark 14:43 describes it thus: “…a great multitude with swords and clubs, came from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders.
  • It was all led by Judas, the disciple (one of the twelve) who agreed to betray Jesus for …thirty pieces of silver.” (Matthew 26:15). In Exodus 21:32 we are told that thirty shekels (pieces) of silver was the price to be paid for the life of a slave!
Judas...was a thief...” (John 12:6).

     ➔   He is called ...the son of perdition...” (John 
          17:12).

     ➔   It is said in Luke 22:3 that “...Satan entered 
          Judas....”

     ➔   The sign of betrayal with which Judas agreed to 
          identify Jesus in the darkness of the Gethsemane 
          night was “Whomever I kiss, He is the One; take 
          Him and lead Him away....” (Mark 14:44).

     ➔   Although Judas did repent (of sorts), saying to 
          “...the chief priests and elders, ‘I have sinned 
          by betraying innocent blood...’” – when the chief 
          priests and elders rejected his remorse, “...he 
          threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and 
          departed, and went and hanged himself.” (Matthew 
          27:4, 5).
  • Impulsive Peter, who had one of the two swords with which the twelve were armed (see Luke 22:28), swung his weapon, and succeeded only to cut off the ear of Malchus, the servant of the high priest (see John 18:10), which Jesus then healed! (see Luke 22:51).
  • One of the more impressive things that happened in the garden of Gethsemane is recorded in John 18:4 through 6 (International Standard Version):
     Then Jesus, knowing everything that was going to happen, 
     went forward and asked them, “Who are you looking for?” 
     They answered him, “Jesus from Nazareth.” Jesus told them, 
     “I AM.” Judas, the man who betrayed him, was standing with 
     them. When Jesus told them, “I AM,” they backed away and 
     fell to the ground.

I quoted the International Standard Version because I believe this version has the translation right! When the mob stated that they were seeking “Jesus from Nazareth,Jesus powerfully answered with the personal name of God that He revealed for Himself in Exodus 3:14 and 15, “…I AM….This is My name forever….The mob, upon hearing that divine name, “…backed away and fell to the ground…! Just speaking the mighty name of God by the Son of God knocked them flat!

  • Yes, Jesus could have called for …more than twelve legions of angels…” (Matthew 26:53 – more than 72,000 angels!) but He didn’t need them!
  • His word was (and is) so powerful, that all creation came into existence just by the spoken Word! (see John 1:3; Colossians 1:16, 17).

This second garden of God is a powerful place! Yes, in a sense it is also a tragic place.

But Gethsemane is a place of great victory!
And we share in that victory!

…thanks be to God, who gives us the victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ.

(I Corinthians 15:57)

The Four Gardens of God – II Genesis 2:15-17

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

We are still in the garden of Eden:

     And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and 
     breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man be-
     came a living being. And the LORD God planted a garden east-
     ward in Eden, and there he put the man whom He had formed. 
     And out of the ground the LORD God made every tree grow that 
     is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life 
     was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the 
     knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 2:15 through 17)

It was a place of perfection! For when God finished His creative work, we are told in Genesis 1:31, “…God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good.” Four words or phrases stand out (referenced in Brown, Driver, Brigg’s Hebrew Definitions):

  • everything – Hebrew, כּוֹל (pronounced kole) meaning “…all, the whole…totality, everything….
  • He had made – Hebrew, עָשָׂה (pronounced aw-saw’) meaning “…to do, work, make produce…act with effect…put in order….
  • very – Hebrew, מְאֹד (pronounced meh-ode’) meaning “…exceedingly, much….
  • good – Hebrew, טוֹב (pronounced tobe) meaning “…good, pleasant, agreeable…excellent (of its kind)….

The idea being conveyed is, what God had created could not have been better! It was perfect for its intended purpose – to testify to the goodness, power, and glory of its Creator!

It says in Genesis 2:8 and 15 that within that perfect creation,, “The LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden….Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.

  • According to Genesis 2:16, “…the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat.
The emphasis here is on food because that was the 
          chief need of man.

     ✡   There was no need for clothes in that controlled 
          environment (see Genesis 2:25).

     ✡   There was total peace among all created beings, 
          shown by the reinstatement of such peace in the 
          description of God’s future kingdom in Isaiah 
          11:6 through 9.

     ✡   Death and sickness were not yet experienced be-
          cause sin, with its deadly results, were not yet 
          introduced into the creation! (see Isaiah 1L4-6).
  • The LORD God had supplied in that garden everything that was needed for life and living! It was the perfect environment for humankind (man being God’s highest creation).

But Eden was also a place of testing human beings’ free will to choose – choosing between the LORD God and self! And there was only one prohibition given to Adam, in Genesis 2:17: “…but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.

  • Adam disobeyed and ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil!
         ...when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, 
         that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable 
         to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She 
         also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.   
         (Genesis 3:6)

     ✡   Why is Adam blamed for messing up humanity with 
          sin and not Eve? As Paul said in I Corinthians 
          15:22, “...in Adam all die....” 

         ➔   Genesis 3:6 says that when Eve ate, Adam 
              was with her! He saw the serpent tempt his 
              wife. He saw that Eve gave in and ate the 
              fruit. He did not stop her or intercede for 
              her. He willingly ate the fruit of the tree 
              of knowledge of good and evil when Eve of-
              fered it to him!

         ➔   As it says in I Timothy 2:14, “...Adam was 
              not deceived, but the woman...[was] deceived
              ....Adam sinned with his eyes wide open!Eden was the place where sin and death were first 
          manifested! But according to Genesis 5:3 through 
          5 Adam did not die for many hundreds of years! (I 
          wrote concerning this in the Gem of August 23, 
          called Getting High – II): When Adam, tempted by 
          his wife, Eve (see Genesis 3:6) ate of that for-
          bidden tree, he died – spiritually!

         ➔   He didn’t die physically for many more years 
              (see Genesis 5:5).

         ➔   But He died in spirit immediately upon dis-
              obeying God! That death is shown in Genesis 
              3:8, when, “...they heard the sound of the 
              LORD God walking in the garden...[they] hid 
              themselves from the presence of the LORD God
              ....”  

         ➔   Spiritual death is separation from the LORD 
              God!
  • Adam, being the federal head of the human race, passed that rebellious sin nature and the death that it caused (both spiritual and physical) to every son and daughter born since then! (see Romans 5:12). And if that dilemma is not rectified in this life…
...by the individual placing his or her faith in 
          Jesus Christ as the only Savior......that one will be eternally separated from God 
          in hell!

Eden is where the LORD God made momentous announcements!

  • First to Satan (incarnate in the serpent) in Genesis 3:14: “Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life.
     ✡   Apparently the serpent was originally an upright 
          creature (or at least was mobile upon legs). 

     ✡   The serpent was also an intelligent creature and 
          could talk. For Eve was not surprised by its con-
          versing with her.
  • Genesis 3:15 (also said to Satan): “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” (This verse is referred to (in Latin) as the protoevangelium or the first mention of the gospel.)
The seed of the serpent are those who are the 
          offspring of Satan (every unsaved person – see 
          John 8:44; I John 3:8-10)! That “...seed...shall 
          bruise His [Christ’s] heel....,not a blow unto 
          permanent death, for Jesus rose from the dead!The seed of the woman is ultimately the Lord Jesus, 
          who has victory over the devil! (see Hebrews 2:14; 
          I John 3:8).
  • Then God told Adam in Genesis 3:17 through 19:
         Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall 
         eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and 
         thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall 
         eat the herb of the field, in the sweat of your face 
         you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for 
         out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust 
         you shall return.Mankind has toiled for the necessities of life ever 
          since! And...

     ✡   ...death has continued to plague all of the LORD God’s 
          creation!
  • Finally, the LORD God made this announcement to the other two Persons of the Godhead:
Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good 
         and evil [but incapable of doing the good]. And now, lest 
         he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and 
         eat, and live forever...” (Genesis 2:22).

Genesis 2:23 and 24:

     ...therefore the LORD God sent him out of the garden of Eden 
     to till the ground from which he was taken. So He drove out 
     the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of 
     Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard 
     the way to the tree of life.
  • Being banished from the garden of Eden (and from the tree of eternal life) is actually a manifestation of God’s grace! God forbid that human beings, now capable of the most atrocious sins, should live eternally (think of Hitler or Bin Laden)!
  • Spiritually weaponized angels guarded the way back into Eden so that any human being who might try to make it back to the tree of life would immediately die!

The garden of Eden was likely destroyed by the Genesis flood (see Genesis chapters 6 -9).

We will not again experience an Edenic environment
until we are in God’s fully manifested kingdom!

The Four Gardens of God – I Genesis 2:7-9

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

More than 25 years ago, I performed a wedding for my daughter Ann and her betrothed Dan in The Soldiers Memorial Chapel at Fort Carson, Colorado Springs, Colorado. Both were in the army, and I received special permission to officiate their ceremony in the chapel. My wife Hope and I were in Colorado Springs for several days, and we took the opportunity to tour the area. One of the most impressive sites we explored was The Garden of The Gods! The red sandstone features of this national park are amazing, set in a panorama with snow-capped Pike’s Peak in the background! Above is pictured the famous formation known as The Three Graces.

But I don’t want to focus on The Garden of The Gods, but on The Four Gardens of God, as presented in the Bible: the garden of Eden, the garden of Gethsemane, the garden of the tomb, and the garden of paradise!

We will start with the garden of Eden, as mentioned in Genesis 2:7 through 9:

     And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and 
     breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became 
     a living being. And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in 
     Eden, and there he put the man whom He had formed. And out of 
     the ground the LORD God made every tree grow that is pleasant 
     to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in 
     the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good 
     and evil.

It was in that garden of Eden that much of earth’s life began. Here is the Biblical description of the beginning of creature life:

  • Genesis 2:19 – “Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name.” By the way, the Hebrew rendering of this verse implies that Adam named the creatures scientifically, just by observing their characteristics (according to kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genera, and species Taxonomic Ranks of Life).
  • Genesis 2:20 – “But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him.
     ✡   God had before said in Genesis 2:18, “It is not good 
          that man should be alone; I will make him a helper 
          comparable to him.” 

     ✡   But why did He then bring all the animals and birds to 
          Adam to be named? Why didn’t the LORD just create Eve 
          before the naming of the animals?God wanted Adam to realize his need for someone like 
          himself to be his helper/partner/mate!
  • Genesis 2:21 through 23:
         And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, 
         and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed 
         up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the Lord 
         God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He 
         brought her to the man. And Adam said: “This is now 
         bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be 
         called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”

     ✡   Adam’s exclamation upon seeing Eve for the first time – 
          “...bone of my bones... flesh of my flesh; she shall be 
          called Woman, because she was taken out of Man...,” can 
          be loosely translated by the English word, “WOW!

Genesis 2:25 – “And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

  • There was no need for clothes in the LORD’s perfect environment.
  • The man and his wife were perfectly comfortable with one another….and with God!
     ✡   This is implied in Genesis 3:8 when “...they heard the 
          sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the 
          cool of the day.” The implication is that this was a 
          regular daily occurrence – human beings interacting 
          with their Creator!!

I would like to ‘camp out’ for a moment on two words that appear together for the first time in Genesis 2:4, and often (twenty times) in this chapter and the next: “…LORD God….

  • LORD” – The Hebrew word is יְהֹוָה (pronounced yeh-ho-vaw’ – from which we get the name “Jehovah”). According to Strong’s Hebrew Dictionary it means, “(the) self-Existent or eternal; Jehovah, Jewish national name of God.” Brown, Driver, Briggs’ Hebrew Definitions says this: “the existing One”… “unpronounced by Orthodox Jews except with the vowel points of אדני (pronounced ad-o-noy’) meaning “the Lord (used as a proper name of God).”
  • God” – The Hebrew word is אֱלֹהִים (pronounced el-o-heem’). Strong gives the definition as “…gods in the ordinary sense; but specifically (in the plural thus, especially with the article) of the supreme God….”

He is yeh-ho-vah’ – the eternal Being whose existence is in Himself, and who gives existence to all things!

  • As it is said of Jesus in Colossians 1:16 and 17, who is the Word of God (see Revelation 19:13): “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on the earth, visible and invisible….All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.
  • When Moses encountered God in the burning bush on Mount Sinai (see Exodus 3:1-6), God introduced Himself by using the word out of which came His self-existent name yeh-ho-vah’. That word is הָיָה, (pronounced haw-yah’) and meaning, according to Strong, “…to exist, that is, be or become, come to pass….” God gave Moses the interpretation of His name, “I AM WHO I AM….I AM….This is My name forever….” (Exodus 3:14, 15). This is a good Biblical meaning of yeh-ho-vah’ also.
He is always in thenow! The past, present, and 
          future are ever present before Him! He is constant, and He gives constancy to all things! 
          And His constancy is centered in the redemption of 
          mankind – even before man fell into sin! For it says 
          in Revelation 13:8 that Jesus Christ, who is...the 
          Lamb [, was] slain from the foundation of the world.”

     ✡   God is always the same; He never changes! (see Malachi 
          3:6; Hebrews 13:8). So He is totally dependable in His 
          plan and promises!

He is el-o-heem’ – This is the first name by which we are introduced to God in the very first verse of the Bible! In the beginning God [el-o-heem’] created the heaven and the earth.

  • It is interesting that this is a plural noun in form but singular in meaning. Hence, it points to the one God who is Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!
  • El-o-heem gives forth the idea “…of strength or power of effect. Elohim is the infinite, all-powerful God who shows by His works that He is the creator, sustainer, and supreme judge of the world.” (www.gotquestions.org/meaning-of-Elohim.html).

So if God has declared that His mission is to redeem all creation unto Himself (see Romans 8:19-23; II Corinthians 5:19; Colossians 1:20), He is able to accomplish whatever He has decreed!

Back to the Garden of Eden:

  • It was a place of perfection!
  • It was created to be a perfect environment for humankind – God’s highest creation!
  • It was a place of testing mankind’s free will to choose!
  • It was a place where sin in human beings was first manifested (which was then passed on to all humanity – see Romans 8:12).

We will have to stop here. In the next Gem we will explore the nature of sin, how it is manifested, and what are its results!

Getting High – II

Ephesians 2:4-7

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

In the last Gem we explored Getting High, not with drugs, but with God! It was based on Isaiah 40:31 in which we are told “…those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” But Paul, in Ephesians 2:4 through 6 tells us we can get even higher than an eagle can fly:

     ...God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with 
     which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made 
     us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 
     and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the 
     heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He 
     might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness 
     toward us in Christ Jesus.

Do you see the height we can possess in Christ? “…God…made us alive together with Christ… and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus….” In this sense, we are already in heaven, seated with our Savior! Is it possible to get any higher? I don’t think so. But, if we are to mount up with wings like eagles, there are conditions that have to be met! And these conditions, which have made us alive together with Christ, are spelled out in Ephesians 2:1 through 3:

     And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 
     in which you once walked according to the course of this world, 
     according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who 
     now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all 
     once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling 
     the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature 
     children of wrath, just as the others.

Ephesians 2:1 – We must be made alive!But,” you might say, “I am already alive! I am a living, breathing human being!” True, you do have physical life. But do you have spiritual life?

  • Paul tells us, we “…were dead in trespasses and sins….” The human spirit, which was part of the design of God for human beings in His own image (see Genesis 1:26, 27), and which by design dynamically connected us to our Creator, was cut off by disobedience, and being cut off from God, that human spirit died and remained dead!
     ✡    The LORD, in Genesis 2:16 and 17, gave Adam this pro-
           hibition: “Of every tree of the garden you may freely 
           eat; but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil 
           you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it 
           you shall surely die.” 

     ✡   When Adam, tempted by his wife, Eve (see Genesis 3:6) 
          ate of that forbidden tree, he died – spiritually!

         ➔   He didn’t die physically for many more years 
             (see Genesis 5:5).

         ➔   But He died in spirit immediately upon dis-
              obeying God! That death is shown in Genesis 
              3:8, when, “...they heard the sound of the 
              LORD God walking in the garden...[they] hid 
              themselves from the presence of the LORD God
              ....
  • And Adam, being the federal head of the human race, passed that rebellious sin nature, and the death that it caused (both spiritual and physical) to every son and daughter born since then! (see Romans 5:12).

Ephesians 2:2

  • We were walking (living) according to the course of this world!Well,” you might say, “what is wrong with that? After all, most of the world’s population by far is doing just that!However…
  • We were walking (living) according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience! It is the same prince that in the gospel of John is referred to as “…the prince of this world…” three times (see John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). Of the 17 Bible translations on my computer Bible study application called e-Sword, 11 of them translate prince as ruler! (Strong’s Greek Dictionary and Thayer’s Greek Definitions both agree). How is it that Satan became the ruler of this world?
     According to Genesis 1:28, God said to Adam and Eve, Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue 
         it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the 
         birds of the air, and over every living thing that 
         moves on the earth.” But when Adam disobeyed the LORD 
         and bowed to Satan, he gave that dominion, that ruler-
         ship over the earth to the devil! 

     ✞   How else, in his tempting of the Lord Jesus in Luke 
         4:5 6, and 7, could it have been written...

             ...the devil...showed Him all the kingdoms of 
             the world in a moment of time. And the devil 
             said..., “All this authority I will give You, 
             and their glory; for this has been delivered 
             to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. There-
             fore, if You will worship before me, all will 
             be Yours.”

     ✞   But Jesus, through His death on the cross and His 
         resurrection, reclaimed the deed to all the earth 
         and its people! As it was announced in heaven in 
         Revelation 11:15, “The kingdoms of this world have 
         become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, 
         and He shall reign forever and ever!

Ephesians 2:3

  • …we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind….
     What do “...the lusts of our flesh...the desires of 
         the flesh...” look like? Paul describes them by another 
         title, “...the works of the flesh...” in Galatians 5:19 
         through 21. He lists 17 characteristics – and he doesn’t 
         even exhaust the descriptives with these 17!

              Now the works of the flesh are evident, which 
              are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewd-
              ness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, 
              jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambi-
              tions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, 
              drunkenness, revelries, and the like....

     ✞   It is a wicked and sinful list! And those characteris-
         tics manifested in every mother’s child (in one way or 
         another) will keep us out of heaven and send us to hell! 
         For Paul ends the list of the lusts of the flesh with 
         these words: “I tell you...that those who practice such 
         things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
  • …we all once conducted ourselves…fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind….” The Greek idea of the mind is close in its meaning to the Hebrew term the heart. And this is what is said of the human heart in Jeremiah 17:9: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?
  • …we all were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.

Now if I stop here, and unless you go back and read the first part of this Gem, it would leave us with no hope of redemption. But I encourage you to go back and read the first part, for it’s the good news from Ephesians 2:4 through 7, which I reproduce here once more:

But God, who is rich in mercy,
because of His great love with which He loved us,
even when we were dead in trespasses,
made us alive together with Christ
(by grace you have been saved),
and raised us up together
in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
That in the ages to come
He might show the exceeding riches of His grace
in His kindness toward us
in Christ Jesus.

Getting High – I

Isaiah 40:28-31

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

There are a lot of ways to get high, and most of them have negative side-effects! American Addiction Centers did a study of drug use by race. Their results are based on “…the percentages of 12-years-old or older…Americans who used these substances in the past year:” It was found across all races:

  • Alcohol had by far the highest use! Close to 60% of the U.S. population had imbibed alcohol.
  • Illicit drug use (including marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamines, prescription misuse, benzodiazepines, opioids, and others) was about 20%.

There are dangers in seeking to get high with alcohol and drugs:

  • Addiction.
  • Physical, mental, emotional, relational, financial harm.
  • Death. CBS News reported the total number of drug overdose deaths for 2021 stands at 107,622! And Fentanyl (a synthetic opioid up to 100 times stronger than morphine) was behind about 66% of those deaths!

Obviously, seeking to get high can cause problems!

Personally, I like getting high…but not on drugs! Here is our featured Scripture, Isaiah 40:28 through 31, and in it, the LORD is showing us a way to get high with no bad effects, just good ones:

     Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, 
     the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints 
     nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives 
     power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases 
     strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the 
     young men shall utterly fall, but those who wait on the LORD 
     shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like 
     eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not 
     faint.

Isaiah 40:28 – Such renewed strength depends on the everlasting God, the LORD!

  • He has power and strength to overcome our weakness! And He proved that power when by just His word, He created the ends of the earth and all else! (see Genesis 1:1).
  • His power and strength is constant! God never faints nor is weary!
  • His understanding is unsearchable! He knows us completely (see John 2:24, 25; Hebrews 4:13), and He knows what we need and when we need it!

Isaiah 40:29 – What God gives matches exactly to what we need!

  • He gives power to the weak….” When the trials of life come one after another, who has not felt weak?
  • …to those who have no might He increases strength.” The word for might in the Hebrew is אוֹן (pronounced “one”), and it means “…ability, power, (successful) effort…(figuratively) wealth.Strong’s Hebrew Dictionary. Whatever is needed to face the trial and get the job done, God can give it!

Isaiah 40:30 – Humankind has its limitations:

  • Even the youths shall faint and be weary….”I grew up on a 208 acre dairy farm in Connecticut. Haying season was mainly in June, July, and August. We baled the hay in rectangular bales of about forty pounds each. The bailer would drop them in the field and we would have to use the flatbed farm truck to pick them up and take them back to the barn. I was a big kid at 8, 9, and 10 years old. And I could drag two bales over to the truck, one in each hand, and then throw the bales up on the bed of the truck where my father would stack them. Those summer days in the hayfield could get hot and sticky! There were times when I thought I could not lift another bale! That’s when my father would tell me to go sit down in the shade and drink some water. I know what it is to be a youth and be faint and weary!
  • …and the young men shall utterly fall….” I was in the Track Club in high school. No, I didn’t run – from the 100-yard dash to the two-mile run, I did not participate, for I was not a fast runner! My specialty was throwing the shot-put and goofing around (I didn’t take things too seriously back then). But I remember fellow students who were dedicated athletes, especially long-distance runners, who, on a hot day had trouble completing a mile or two-mile run. And I remember a classmate passing out on the track after about a mile and a half of running hard on a hot and humid day!
  • Marathon runners are aware of ‘hitting the wall’ on a long run. It’s like you just can’t go any further! But one can ‘hit the wall’ on just about any challenging undertaking, physically, mentally, or emotionally! It is all part of being a limited human being!

Isaiah 40:31 – “…but those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. With God’s help, we can do anything! But there are some conditions, which all come under the heading of waiting on the LORD! For to wait on the LORD implies discerning God’s will and then aligning oneself to be in God’s will!

  • First and foremost, to discern God’s will, we must be His son or daughter! John, in the first chapter of his gospel, introduces Jesus this way (verses 1, 14, and 12 and 13 in that order):
        In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and 
        the Word was God....And the Word became flesh and dwelt among 
        us....as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to 
        become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who 
        were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of 
        the will of man, but of God.


     Born of God? Jesus Himself expounded on this idea in 
          His encounter with Nicodemus in John 3:3-7:

	       Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, 
               I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot 
               see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to Him, 
               “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he en-
               ter a second time into his mother's womb and be 
               born?” Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to 
               you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, 
               he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is 
               born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born 
               of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said 
               to you, ‘You must be born again.’”

       It is by the Holy Spirit! He enters into your heart and 
          life when you realize you are the sinner and Jesus is the 
          Savior! Then you invite Him in to save you! Paul, in 
          Romans 8:9 says, “Now if anyone does not have the Spirit 
          of Christ, he is not His.
  • We also must realize God has revealed His will for His children in His Word, the Bible! Here is what it says in I Corinthians 2:9, 10, and 16 (God’s Word to the nations):
        ...the things that God has prepared for those who love him
        ....God has revealed those things to us by his Spirit. The 
        Spirit searches everything, especially the deep things of 
        God....we have the mind of Christ.
  • The LORD then fine-tunes His will for us in different ways:
      He will work out the details in our intimate prayer 
          time with Him. Remember, prayer is not just us tel-
          ling God our needs, but we also must be listening to 
          His voice! 

      And it can be “...a still small voice....” (I Kings 
          19:12).

      Sometimes He directs us in the details of His will 
          by what we call circumstance. The saying goes, “If 
          He closes one door, He opens a window!We can push 
          on doors and look for open windows of circumstance 
          to help determine His will!

      A third way to help discern God’s will is to seek 
          the counsel of mature believers! When I was consid-
          ering the pastoral ministry for my calling, I talked 
          with my respected pastor, John Eseppi, and what he 
          said shocked me!If you can do anything other than 
          being a minister, do it!What?! But after a moment 
          or two of silence, he said, “Now listen to me. “If 
          you can do anything other than being a minister, do 
          it! But if you can’t do anything else, then the min-
          istry is for you!It is counsel from a mature be-
          liever I will never forget!

What are the results of discerning and then following the will of God as His child? According to Isaiah 40:31:

  • …but those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength…. The LORD will give you the strength to complete His will, facing whatever challenges that may entail!
  • …they shall mount up with wings like eagles….” There are some advantages that come with flying high like an eagle:
         You get a different perspective on all you are going 
          through!

      The problems and trials don’t look so huge from an 
          eagle-eye height!

      You can see alternative solutions you could not see 
          from below!

     Lastly, have you noticed how eagles fly? You don’t 
          see a lot of wings flapping. They effortlessly soar 
          on wind currents up high. God wants you to effort-
          lessly soar and not struggle to fly high!
  • …they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
      Some things the LORD calls you to do involves ‘run-
          ning,moving quickly to get the job done!

     Some things He has you move at a slower pace, ‘walking!

Whatever He calls you to do,
He will supply the strength and stamina to succeed
………if you wait on the Lord!

Donkey Bites

James 4:13-15

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

It happened at a church outing. The farmer had invited fathers and sons for a day of fishing in the large stocked pond. The event included a picnic lunch under a rustic pavilion, and lots of good fellowship among the attendees. One who seemed interested in what was happening was a pet donkey who, from its vantage point of a nearby field with head over the fence, was looking at all the goings on. A few of the more adventurous folks ambled over to the donkey to give it a scratch on its head. Four-year-old Noah couldn’t stay away. He climbed the wooden fence, the better to give the friendly critter a love pat. But apparently the donkey thought Noah’s extended finger looked lik a small carrot………and chomp! Noah let out a scream, and dad came running! Fortunately, Noah was more scared than injured, but the bite hurt, and the tears streamed for the next ten or so minutes!

Our featured Scripture is from James 4:13 through 15:

     Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such 
     and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make 
     a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. 
     For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a 
     little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, 
     “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” 

What does this Scripture have to do with Donkey Bites?!! Well, the donkey sampling Noah’s finger was entirely unexpected in the boy’s mind. Perhaps someone with more ‘donkey’ experience could have warned Noah that donkeys will bite! So let’s apply this to James’ warning to those making big plans!

Living in Georgia for the last three years, I will use Georgia topography in my illustration.

  • Someone comes up with a big money-making idea! Hey,” he says to his buddy…
     Have you heard what is going on in Atlanta? According to my 
     sources (and you know my sources are reliable), there’s an 
     opportunity to make a bundle! It may take a few months to 
     have it all come together, but we don’t have anything else 
     going on right now, so let’s do it! Are you in? 
  • So plans are made, and everything is set……EXCEPT for one thing! You don’t know when the donkey might bite!

It reminds me of the story Jesus told in Luke 12:16 through 20 – The Parable of the Rich Fool!

     The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And 
     he thought within himself, saying, “What shall I do, since 
     I have no room to store my crops?” So he said, “I will do 
     this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and 
     there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will 
     say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many 
     years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.’” But God 
     said to him, “Fool! This night your soul will be required 
     of you; then whose will those things be which you have pro-
     vided?”

The man did not take into consideration that the donkey just might bite – and the donkey bit in a big way! Remember what James said in his exhortation? “…you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” What does James mean when he said life is so tenuous – even as a vapor? After all, Moses wrote in Psalm 90:10 (Easy-to-Read Version), “We live about 70 years or, if we are strong, 80 years.” That seems like a long time, especially to someone in their early decades of life. But reaching the age of 70 or 80 is not guaranteed!

Hal had just graduated high school and, although I didn’t know his life’s plans, he had a bright future of many more adventurous years! A bright future…….that is, until he hit a tree head on and died – the first one of my graduating class of 1964! As James said in verse 14 of our featured Scripture, …you do not know what will happen tomorrow.

And even if we do complete eight decades, Moses continues: “…suddenly, the years are gone, and we fly away.Life is vaporous!

So what wisdom does James give for those who make such bold plans, disregarding donkey bites?…you do not know what will happen tomorrow….Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.’

When Noah wandered off in the direction of the donkey, there were a lot of people milling around, talking, laughing, and generally enjoying themselves. I don’t think anyone took much notice of a four-year-old wandering twenty feet away and climbing a rail fence to pet a friendly donkey. But when a little boy screams and cries out in pain, people take notice, especially his daddy, who rushed to pick him up in loving arms, examined his finger (seeing that no real damage had been done), and comforted his son until Noah calmed down!

We don’t know when donkey bites may come! And those bites may be a painful nibble or a serious chomp! But, as Christians, we know we have a heavenly Father who not only comforts us when we are bitten, but will steer us away from serious dangers if we seek His will!

And so, I leave you with one of my favorite Scriptures, Psalm 25:4 and 5:

     Show me Your ways, O LORD; teach me Your paths. Lead me in 
     Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; 
     on You I wait all the day.

Heeding such truth will save us from manydonkey bites!

Camping Out…

John 1:1-4; 14 (Modern King James Version)

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

We were on a family vacation, myself, my wife Hope, and Danny, our thirteen-year-old grandson. We tented for eight days – for the first time in forty years! My wife and I, both in our 70’s, hadn’t been tent camping since we were in our thirties! And I am not planning to do it again for another forty years! In the midst of our experience, my dear wife said to me, “If I suggest that we go tent camping again………JUST SHOOT ME!” Well, Hope, I won’t have to do that because both of us are never planning on tent camping again!

However, we survived!

And it reminds me of another camping experience, one that took place over sixty years ago, when I was 15. I, and two of my buddies, Roddy and Bill, decided to go camping one weekend on the Appalachian Trail that ran through northwestern Connecticut within a couple of miles where I grew up in the Berkshire Mountains. The only caveat was, it was in December! It wasn’t all that cold that Friday when we hiked into a spot on the trail where there was a three-walled shelter, three picnic tables, and a stone fire pit. We unpacked our sleeping bags, food, and cooking gear that Friday afternoon, and as darkness fell, we began to settle down “for a long winter’s nap”! That night a snow storm moved in and the temperature dropped about 20 degrees below normal, down to almost zero! We were so cold we burned every scrap of dry wood we could find, plus one of the picnic tables! The next morning there was a foot of new snow on the ground, and we cut our camping trip short, slogged through the snow, and made it back to our homes and our warm beds!

I have never since found tent (or shelter) camping very comfortable!

Consider our featured Scripture, John 1:1 through 4, and verse 14:

     In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and 
     the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things 
     came into being through Him, and without Him not even one thing 
     came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and 
     the life was the light of men....And the Word became flesh, and 
     tabernacled among us. And we beheld His glory, the glory as of 
     the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and of truth. 

I chose the Modern King James Version because of one word in verse 14, tabernacled! And the
Word became flesh, and tabernacled among us.
” According to Thayer’s Greek Definitions, the word σκηνόω (pronounced skay-no’-o) means, “…to fix one’s tabernacle, have one’s tabernacle, abide (or live) in a tabernacle (or tent), tabernacle…to dwell….” Obviously, “the Word” in our featured Scripture, who “was God” and “became flesh, and tabernacled among usis Jesus Christ!

  • He left the comfortable glories of heaven where He enjoyed being One with the Father and the Holy Spirit, being adored by all the holy angels, residing in perfect glory for all previous eternity!
  • He came to earth totent-dwell’ – to tabernacle with sinful human beings, who didn’t even want to receive Him!

Talk about roughing it (or maybe we could even say, ‘slumming it!), Jesus came to die for our sins so we could live eternally with Him in heaven, and experience full life here on earth! (see John 3:16; 10:10). Why did He do it?

  • The highlight (or maybe I should say the ‘low-light’) of the Appalachian Trail tabernacle experience was suffering through that freezing night as a foot of new snow fell!
  • The most challenging event in the tabernacle experience of Christ was the cross!
     For as He faced the cross (He being loaded with all 
         our sins on His sinless self) and the brutal events 
         immediately leading up to that cross, He cried out 
         to the Father as He sweat blood, “O My Father, if it 
         is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, 
         not as I will, but as You will.” (Matthew 26:39).

     ✞   But He persisted on the Divine course, accomplishing 
         that ultimate sacrifice, so we could be reconciled to 
         God!

We are told in Hebrews 12:2. “…for the joy that was set before Him, [He] endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. What was the joy that was set before Him? It was you and me being reconciled to the Father by means of the Son’s sacrifice! That’s how Jesus endured the humiliation (the final days) of being…tabernacled among us…!

That doesn’t make our recent tabernaclingexperience seem so bad! And maybe it just gives me a bit of a new appreciation of what my Savior and Lord did for me!

Bible Streakers!

Ephesians 6:10-17

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

Back in the mid-seventies I was asked to preach the baccalaureate service for the high school graduating class. I wanted to catch the attention of the hundred-plus graduates with my presentation, so I called it “Streaking, Spiritually Speaking!” That fad of streaking (running naked in public) was gaining popularity at the time, so I thought it was a catchy title! When I announced the subject of my talk, the audience broke out in laughter! It seems that the night before one of the senior classmates was arrested for streaking down Main Street!

Did you know there are several examples of people being naked in public in the Bible? Here are a few example:

  • Adam and Eve, we are told in Genesis 2:25, “…were both naked…and not ashamed.” Of course, there wasn’t muchpublicwhen they were in such a state!
  • In Exodus 32:25 (King James Version) it describes a riotous and idolatrous celebration into which the Israelites got themselves with the incident involving the golden calf: “…Moses saw that the people were naked; (for Aaron had made them naked unto their shame among their enemies)…

Saul, the first king of Israel, is compromisingly featured in I Samuel 19:24:

     Then the Spirit of God was upon him also, and he went on and 
     prophesied until he came to Naioth in Ramah. And he also strip-
     ped off his clothes and prophesied before Samuel in like manner, 
     and lay down naked all that day and all that night.
  • In Isaiah 20:2, God instructed Isaiah to be a stark illustration of what would happen to the Jews when they were taken captive: “‘Go, and remove the sackcloth from your body, and take the sandals off your feet.’ And he did so, walking naked and barefoot.
  • The prophet Micah, in Micah 1:8, mourned for his people, the Israelites: “Therefore I will wail and howl, I will go stripped and naked; I will make a wailing like the jackals and a mourning like the ostriches.”
  • Jesus is often depicted on the cross wearing a loincloth. But He was crucified totally naked to maximize the shame of it!

But the very term, streaker, implies the act of running naked! And there is only one Biblical example of a true streaker, in Mark 14:51 and 52, most likely John Mark himself, the author of the gospel: “Now a certain young man followed Him, having a linen cloth thrown around his naked body. And the young men laid hold of him, and he left the linen cloth and fled from them naked.

I have never streaked! If I did at my age, someone might say, “I don’t know what he was wearing, but it sure needed ironing!” However, in a spiritual sense, we all streak at times, and some do it constantly! What do I mean? It is a long passage for a Gem, but it is well worth the space – Ephesians 6:10-17:

     Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power 
     of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be 
     able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not 
     wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, 
     against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this 
     age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly 
     places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you 
     may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, 
     to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, 
     having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod 
     your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above 
     all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to 
     quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the hel-
     met of salvation....

Paul was writing this letter to the Ephesian Christians from a Roman prison. And he was guarded by at least one Roman soldier. He simply glanced at the soldier’s uniform, and in a spiritual sense described what he saw!

In verse 12 of Ephesians 6, the apostle lays out who is the enemy (this is from the Good News Bible): “For we are not fighting against human beings but against the wicked spiritual forces in the heavenly world, the rulers, authorities, and cosmic powers of this dark age.” Also, in II Corinthians 10:2 through 5 (Easy-to-Read Version):

     We live in this world, but we don't fight our battles in the 
     same way the world does. The weapons we use are not human ones. 
     Our weapons have power from God and can destroy the enemy's 
     strong places. We destroy people's arguments, and we tear down 
     every proud idea that raises itself against the knowledge of 
     God. We also capture every thought and make it give up and obey 
     Christ.

Not included in this description of Spiritual armor are the two offensive weapons the Lord has provided named in Ephesians 6:17 and 18: “And take….the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit….

  • The Word of God, the Bible! Between August 2 and August 16, 2013, I wrote a seven-part series on “What The Word of God Can Do.It is amazing what the Bible, God’s Word will do in your life if you take it in your mind, and get it down into your heart! As Paul wrote in Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…” (see also Deuteronomy 11:18-21).
  • Prayer is also…being watchful…with all perseverance and supplication…” (Ephesians 6:18).
     ...being watchful...” – Jesus told Peter, James, and 
         John to pray with Him in the Garden of Gethsemane just 
         before He was arrested. After He had spent some time in 
         earnest prayer, Jesus came back to the three and found 
         them sleeping. “Then He said to them, ‘What, could you 
         not watch with Me one hour?’ Prayer involves watching 
         and understanding what is going on around you, in your 
         life, the lives of others, and around the world! 

     ...with all prayer....Do you know there are several 
         parts to prayer.....and all are important?ConfessionStart with confessing your sins to 
              the LORD! Here is how King David understood it: 

                 When I kept silent, my bones grew old through 
                 my groaning all the day long....I acknowledged 
                 my sin to You, And my iniquity I have not hid-
                 den. I said, “I will confess my transgressions 
                 to the Lord,” And You forgave the iniquity of 
                 my sin. (Psalm 32:3-5).

         ➔   Praise There are so many examples of people 
              praising God in the Bible! Here again is a sample 
              from David:

                 I will extol You, my God, O King; And I will 
                 bless Your name forever and ever. Every day 
                 I will bless You, And I will praise Your name 
                 forever and ever. Great is the Lord, and great-
                 ly to be praised; And His greatness is unsearch-
                 able. (Psalm 145:1-3).

         ➔   Thanksgiving We have so much to thank Him for! Paul 
              tells us this in I Thessalonians 5:18, “In everything 
              give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ 
              Jesus concerning you.”

         ➔   IntercessionPraying for others! Paul wrote to the 
              Thessalonian Christians:

                 We give thanks to God always for you all, 
                 making mention of you in our prayers, re-
                 membering without ceasing your work of 
                 faith, labor of love, and patience of hope 
                 in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of 
                 our God and Father. (I Thessalonians 1:2, 3).

         ➔   Supplication This is praying for our own needs! 
              Didn’t Jesus, in what we call the Lord’s prayer, 
              tell us in Matthew 6:11 to say, “Give us this day 
              our daily bread...? It’s more than just bread! 
              It involves all our needs!

        And do all this...with all perseverance...” (Ephesians 
         6:18). Keep at it!

It is a spiritual battle, and we must armor and arm ourselves for such a battle!

I am not going to fully describe whom and how we are to battle. I wrote 21 Gems, dating from May 6 to June 21, 2013 on the subject of “Know Your Enemy!” – a good starter course to learn about spiritual warfare! Check it out!

But the point of this Gem is: If we are not donning the spiritual armor, which God has provided for us, and directed us how to use that armor and our accompanying weapons, then we are…

…Streaking, Spiritually Speaking!
And we don’t want to run around naked, do we!