I don’t know about you, but I get a little sad every time I read the opening of Genesis. As a middle child, I’ve never been a fan of conflict. Knowing the impending doom of Adam and Eve’s decision makes me want to fast-forward to the end of the script, when Jesus swoops in to make all things right again.
However, I believe it’s important that we pause here because we can all learn an important lesson. In chapter three we meet the enemy of our souls, Satan. If there’s one thing I know to be true about him it’s that thousands of years later he’s still using the same tactics. When we know our enemy, we can know how to fight him.
Let’s jump in at verse one.
One day [the serpent] asked the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?”
“Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,” the woman replied. “It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.’”
“You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”
The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it..." (Genesis 3:1-6 NLT)
Let’s rewind and walk through what just happened. The first time Satan questions Eve, she responds by repeating God’s words back to Him.
But Satan counters back a second time, and plants a seed of distrust. Is God really looking out for your best interest, or is He holding out? He appeals to Eve’s thoughts, desires, and feelings. This time we see a vast difference in Eve’s response— she becomes convinced.
Oh, how often I’ve seen this play out in my own life. Here’s just one example:
“Did God really say you have to go to church every Sunday?”
“Not exactly. He did say not to neglect meeting together.” (Heb. 10:25)
“You read your Bible every day and listen to online sermons. Times have changed since that verse was written. God doesn’t understand how busy you are.”
Satan’s calling card has always been deception. He knows better than to feed us blatant lies, so He takes the truth and taints it. Then he serves it up with a side of distrust. Naively, we fall for his off-color bait.
Friend, is there an off-white lie you’ve accepted as truth? To our own eyes, everything looks “right white” (good).
In the same way I had to hold up my “white” samples next to Ultra Pure White to see that they weren’t true, so we must hold up every thought that enters our minds to the purity of God’s Character and Word. When we fix our minds on Who God is and what He says, we will become quicker to recognize anything contrary.
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It has been a heavy week, hasn’t it friend?
The past several days I have found myself fighting tears of grief and frustration.
A few months ago I wrote an article called, “What does following Christ look like during a pandemic.” In light of this week’s events, I’ve been asking a different question: What does following Christ look like NOW, in the wake of George Floyd’s senseless death? What should a Christian do or say in the midst of nationwide upheaval and protests?
If you’re following along with us in our Gospel study, this week we read about Jesus’ final days on earth. If I’m honest, these aren’t passages I look at or think on as often as I should. I always knew Jesus prayed in the garden, right before He was arrested and crucified. (I’ve always related all too well to the sleepy disciples in that story.)
But did you know, right before His death, Jesus prayed specifically for you and me?
The disciple John recounts His prayer, “I pray not only for these [disciples], but also for those who believe in me through their word…” Believers. Friends, that’s us.
What did He pray?
It’s easy to feel helpless in the scheme of what’s going on in our nation. But what if we, as Christians, simply did these two things?
To live in Christ is to be fully devoted to following Him. Jesus was our perfect example. He was both fully God and fully man (Colossians 2:9). We can glean a lot from studying His life when it comes to how we should respond in every situation.
Here are some things we know--
The apostle James describes the Word of God as a mirror. And John 1:1 tells us Jesus is the Word. When we hold our lives up to His, we will see where we need some adjustment. A quick look at this list makes it clear there are areas of my life still not fully surrendered to Him. This revelation shouldn’t create condemnation, rather it drives me to His throne of mercy and grace to change.
To be one with one another is to walk in unity. This is the more difficult of the two directives. It’s easy to live at peace with yourself (well, easier at least). But what about living at peace with other believers with different opinions, values, lifestyles, and ideas?
Paul describes the church as “one body, many parts” (1 Corinthians 12). In order to function properly, we must all be led by THE Head (Christ), not our own heads.
There are a lot of great verses on unity in the Bible, but I especially love 1 Peter 3:8-9:
“Finally, all of you be like-minded and sympathetic, love one another, and be compassionate and humble, not paying back evil for evil or insult for insult but, on the contrary, giving a blessing, since you were called for this, so that you may inherit a blessing.”
The Apostle Peter may have written this to the church nearly 2,000 years ago, but it is still a relevant word for us today. Compassion and humility are the grease that keep the wheels of unity churning.
What does being a Christ-follower look like in light of this season?
The world is looking for an answer, and Jesus is it.
Let us be one, and be in Christ, “so that the world may believe.”
I reclined in a chair at the edge of the water, eyes locked on my 6-year-old daughter. I wasn’t the only mom on high alert. Our children splashed about innocently, while the red-flag warnings haunted us, relentlessly.
A day earlier I had attempted to rest under the shade of our family’s umbrella. But every five minutes I was down at the water, motioning to my children to return to the area in front of me. The current was strong. My children needed constant reminders to fight the drift.
If you’re following along with us, reading through the Gospels in 7 weeks, you probably noticed this week contained a LOT of Jesus giving his disciples the inside scoop about the “end of the age.” I don’t know about you, but sometimes these scriptures can make me feel uneasy, at best, and anxious, at worst. A couple weeks ago, I pointed out that Jesus doesn’t mince words. He’s never one to shy away from the full truth.
So when it comes to these verses, what should be our takeaway... other than feeling utterly helpless, and filled with anxiety?
I don’t believe Jesus shared these insights to incite fear in his disciples. I believe His purpose was similar to the reason why I moved my chair down to the water's edge: to remind my children that they must continuously fight the drift.
Jesus knew that we’re prone to drift.
We’re prone to drift away from faithfulness, and be carried away by distraction.
We’re prone to drift away from loving others, and toward discord and hatred.
We’re prone to drift away from peace, and toward worry.
We’re prone to drift away from holiness, and toward sin.
We’re prone to drift away from fighting the good fight, and toward apathy.
That’s why He tells us--
“Be on your guard.”
I don’t have to tell you that our world is getting crazier and crazier. These are red-flag waters we’re dealing with. Like my kids, I need the continual reminder.
As the current of culture grows stronger and stronger, we can look to our unmoving Father. Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Luke 21:33). In a world of changing opinions, ideas, and “truths”— God’s Words and Ways never have, nor will they ever change.
We must go to His Word daily and allow Him to point out areas where we’ve drifted. But it’s not enough to recognize it, we must return also. Otherwise, we will wake up one day and find ourselves far from home.
As a mom, I find myself drifting from time with God, pulled by the waves of busyness. I find my confident trust carried off by the winds of “what if?” I find my motivation for doing things influenced by comparison, rather than love.
Friend, have you drifted away from love? Peace? Holiness?
Do you find yourself distracted? Cynical? Worried? Bent toward sin?
Now is the moment to stop and recognize the drift. Put your eyes back on Jesus, and allow Him to bring correction. Pull your wave-whipped body back onto the shoreline, and return to where you started. Our God is slow to anger, and abounding in love (Psalm 103:8).
One of the (many) things I love most about God is He’s always game for a fresh start. Tomorrow is a new day, no matter how greatly we’ve messed up.
The truth is, as time goes on, the current will become even stronger. But as we learn to continually fix our eyes on Him, He will motion to us when we are getting off course. I leave you with this simple, yet strong, reminder from the Apostle Paul:
“Be on guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.” (1 Corinthians 16:13-14)
Fight the drift.
It was a Saturday morning, and the coffee shop was crowded.
Servers scurried about, delivering hot plates of hash, avocado toast, and other delights. Patrons chatted, cupping warm mugs of coffee in their hands.
I sat across from a friend, whom I hadn’t seen in quite a long time. I drove three hours the night before to spend the weekend at her place, as sort of a mini “mom escape.” She listened intently as I shared what God had been showing and speaking. I was at a major crossroads and experiencing somewhat of a crisis of faith.
At some point in our conversation, she began to wave excitedly to someone behind me. “You need to meet someone!” she said, and got up hurriedly.
I stood and watched as my friend swooped in and hugged a middle-aged woman. “This is my friend, Katie,” she introduced me.
The stranger pulled me in for a hug before I could even squeak out the words, “Nice to meet you.” When she let go, I noticed her piercing eyes that seemed to stare straight into my soul. She wasted no time with small talk and, despite the crowds all around us, I could tell I had every ounce of her full attention.
I don’t exactly remember the words we spoke that day— I only remember feelings. In the following moments God used her to breathe life and healing into me again. As my friend and I returned to our table, I blinked away tears. For the first time in a long time I truly felt seen.
Have you ever had an encounter that was life changing in ways you can’t explain? That’s what I experienced that day. It’s also the kind of encounter we read about, at the end of Matthew 20.
The disciple Matthew shares about an event that took place as Jesus’ days of ministry were coming to an end. He says “they were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him.”
The crowd approaches two blind men who are begging on the side of the road. When the blind men hear the crowd coming they inquire and learn that it is none other than Jesus, the healer they’ve heard about.
“Lord, have mercy on us!” they waste no time crying out. The crowd, largely uncaring about the beggars’ condition, attempts to hush them so they can carry on. But the men continue to call out, desperate for Jesus’ attention. Maybe, just maybe, the Healer can help them.
There are five words in this story that grip my heart. The first two are, “Jesus stopped.” Just consider that for a second. Jesus, a man with a lengthy and arguably important to-do list stops for these two men whom everyone else walked by. He doesn’t assume they want his money, like everyone else. He asks them what they need.
Acknowledging them, alone, probably spoke volumes to their spirits. But Jesus goes beyond that. The next three words that stick out in this story are that Jesus was “moved with compassion…” Moved with compassion. He didn’t stop at sympathy. He was moved to touch their eyes. Moved to impart healing.
This entire encounter likely cost Jesus less than five minutes of his day. Those five minutes meant everything to the men who were blind, but now could see. They didn’t just receive physical sight— because Jesus stopped and was moved with compassion they received spiritual sight too, and it forever altered their lives.
If you’ve been reading through the gospels with us, you know this isn’t the first time Jesus stopped and was moved with compassion. This man on a mission understood that people weren’t a distraction— they were the very reason why He came.
As a Christ-follower, I’ll admit I too often fall short in this area. I become consumed by my desires, my crowd (a.k.a. children), and my to-do list. In the peripheral of my mind I know I’m supposed to be helping others like Jesus did. There are times I feel almost a literal tug on my spirit…
To text a particular friend
To visit a neighbor
To attend a funeral
To invite someone over for coffee
As moms, our lives are busy. The crowds are loud. The to-do list is demanding. But if we’re paying attention, God will point out people He wants us to stop for along the journey.
It’s not enough to hear God’s voice— we must have pliable hearts to obey. It will cost us our time, talents, and treasures, yes. But our God is faithful to make much out of what’s left (1 Kings 17). Someone’s value, healing, freedom, and possibly very life is dependent on not only our awareness, but our action— to stop and be moved with compassion, like Jesus did.
The truth is, Jesus still stops for us. He stops to find us when we wander. He stops to speak life into us. He stops to sit with us in our joy, confusion, and grief. When I think about this and all the times other people who have stopped for me, I am filled with immense gratitude.
Take a moment to think back over the times someone stopped for you. Thank God for his mercy, and their obedience. Then, pray that He will help you to stop and do the same. Make your plans, but hold them loosely, yielding to ways He wants to work through you today.
When I was just 15 years old, I had the privilege of going on a mission trip to Kenya. I had never once been in an airplane even once before, let alone experienced so many layovers.
Twenty years later, there are still things I remember vividly about that trip--
Bumpy van rides
Dancing with the village church children
Oohing and ahhing over the Sahara desert out my airplane window
Eating goat. Or should I say, chewing it.
When we first arrived at our host house, it was completely dark. After drinking customary tea and a small meal, we settled in for the night. I awoke early the next morning to the sounds of roosters crowing. I climbed onto my knees to peer out the window. The radiant sunrise was breathtaking.
Down below, the yard was surrounded by a large stone wall. It contained a small garden, and also a goat. I was enamored by what I deemed the “house pet.” That is, until a couple days into our trip.
That was when I realized my goat friend was gone. Later that evening we ate mystery meat.
Well, not so much a mystery. They explained what it was in Swahili. When I bravely asked, “What’s that?” they answered in plain English: “Goat!”
From what I remember, the meal actually tasted great (forgive me Mr. Goat). The problem was the texture was more like bubblegum and less like, well, meat.
Chew, chew, chew, chew, chew, chew, chew.
I’m a talkative gal, but I think I hardly got in a couple dozen words that evening. I knew the meal was a generous gift for us guests. So I chewed, and I smiled, and I complemented the chef.
I was reminded of this distant memory as I read through the Gospels this week. That’s because, at times, Jesus’ words are just as hard to swallow as that not-so-mystery meat.
When I was a child, growing up in church, I innocently accepted them as normal. Now, as an adult, I understand why Jesus was— and is— so controversial.
“Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will find it.” (Matthew 16:25)
What Jesus is saying here is that true, fulfilling, and eternal life can only be found in Him. If that statement wasn’t clear enough, later on He declares, “I am the Way and the truth and the Life.”
Chew, chew, chew, chew, chew.
Let’s be completely honest: this idea goes against our very human nature. More is more. Protecting what I have is good. The more I keep to myself, the more I have. Right?
Every earthly advertisement and self-help blog, and convey--
You can do it!
You are enough.
Believe in yourself.
Meanwhile Jesus says, in John 15:5, “...apart from me you can do nothing.”
As harsh as these words may sound, and as hard as they may be to swallow, Jesus doesn’t mince words because He knows only the whole truth sets us free.
The truth is we weren’t designed to live our lives independent from God. It has been His desire since the beginning of time that we would be rooted in an intimate relationship with Him.
I love what David Guzik says about Matthew 16:25-27, in his Enduring Word commentary: “You don’t lose a seed when you plant it, though it seems dead and buried. Instead, you set the seed free to be what it was always intended to be.”
Contrary to what the world says, we will never “find ourselves” outside of Christ. True, eternal, abundant life can only be found in Him. He wants all of us— our identity, our dreams, our purpose— to be buried in Him. This is why He told His disciples to “make disciples and baptize them,” as a sign that new believers were “all in.”
I know, for me, I’ve come a long way from where my journey started. But if I’m honest, there are still areas of my life that I hold behind my back. Jesus isn’t asking for anything He didn’t already give— He gave His whole self for us, and now He wants us to be completely surrendered to Him.
Friend, what part of your life are you still holding back from God? Do you find yourself struggling to stay rooted? Do you find yourself running to other sources for joy, purpose, peace, and fulfillment?
Jesus’ words can sometimes be hard to swallow but, like my goat, they are served out of love and compassion. He wants to free us from striving, and teach us how to lean on Him.
Acknowledge today that His way is the only way to life and freedom. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you be wholeheartedly all in.