Tag Archives: creation

No Options

Grace 101

According to Baskin-Robbins’ website, the company has created over 1000 flavors of ice cream.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with the company, it generally features 31 flavors at a time.  People, especially children, are intrigued by the variety and sometimes stymied.  They just can’t seem to choose.  They walk back and forth looking, reading the descriptions, thinking about what they might like, and then someone with them or behind them says, “Just choose already!”  That might explain the fact that the most popular flavor sold by Baskin-Robbins is (drumroll please) . . . vanilla.  That’s right!

Sometimes in our country and our culture, we simply have too many options.  We move more slowly because we have so much to decide and much of the “decision-making power” of our lives is spent choosing between options that really are not that much different.  An argument could be made that our affluence actually hinders our progress at a certain point.

But what if you didn’t have any options?  In many countries around the world, no one asks what will be for supper.  They are simply grateful to have rice or bread or potatoes again.  No one wonders what to wear because they only have one set of clothes.  The lack of options almost defines poverty in the minds and hearts of Americans.

Adam and Eve found themselves without options in dealing with the most important part of their lives.  How were they to restore a relationship with God?  How could they find their way back to Paradise?  There was no option.  They were stuck where they were, in the life they had chosen.  The way back was closed.  They were not only spiritually poor, they were spiritually hopeless.

Of course they had other problems also.  Creation itself had changed.  The communion they had with God allowed them to walk among the creatures of the world in peace and harmony.  Nature was tied to humanity, made for humanity, and it fell with humanity.  The ground no longer brought forth crops joyfully.  The animals no longer enjoyed fellowship with humans.  Now there would be work and fighting and death.  And pain.  There would be pain.

But there were no options.  Adam and Eve and their children had nowhere else to go.  Eventually, they turned their backs on Eden and began a new life.

Truly, when people seem to have no options, they become very creative.  In years past I remember many meals of macaroni and cheese from the box.  The box was enough to feed the two of us and cost only 15 cents.  When it got monotonous, we chopped up wieners to add to it or, if we had a little, some sliced ham (my wife drew the line at Spam, but I liked it).  God made us amazingly creative.  We will pretend to have options, even if it appears we have none.

And two paths began to develop.  Now that the hearts of God and man were separate, their ideas of how to handle this new life became very different.  God’s path and man’s path.  After the Fall and before the Cross.

 

Grace 101 is a simple attempt to explain what has happened to us and what God has done for us.  So much of what we have learned has been confused by sectarian doctrines and theological jargon.  It is sometimes difficult to see the message the Lord wants us to understand as we read the Bible or worship together.  The series of posts will be found in the category called Grace 101 and begins here.  Enjoy!

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What Happened?

Grace 101

If God made us to live in relationship with Him through the very life He placed in us, what happened?  How could that have changed?

The subject of sin is broad and deep and complicated, I suppose.  So let’s just assume the fact of sin, the action and attitude that Adam and Eve had when they stepped outside the will of God.  Remember that it was their choice to move into a territory or state of being apart from God.  God had told them something and they chose to disobey.  In fact, He told them very clearly that they would die.

But did they die?  They didn’t fall down and stop moving.  They didn’t stop breathing.  They don’t seem to have died at all.  So we reinterpret the simple words of God.  What He meant, we say, was that they would die eventually.  It took Adam 900 years to die, according to the Scriptures.  900 years later, the words of God happened just as He said.  Really?

No.  God told them something very specific.  He said, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”  In the day.  What day?  A day lasting 900 years?  I don’t think so.  I think it was in the same day, at the same time, the very moment.  When Adam ate of the forbidden fruit, the spiritual life of God that connected Adam with the Lord died.  The light went out.

Since both Adam and Eve ate of the fruit, stepped outside the will of God, they both lost communion with Him.  The life died in both of them.  And they were no longer able to pass that spiritual life on to their children.  What was supposed to be a wonderful uniting of all people to the heart of God didn’t happen.

The physical life continued, of course.  What we see after the Garden is a testimony to the love and mercy of God.  He did not destroy the people.  He did not end humanity as a failed attempt at love.  He had a wonderful plan in place that would welcome people back to a real and lasting relationship with Him.  And He would use that plan to show us what love was all about.

But in the meantime, the only relationship any human could have with God was as two separate beings seeking to relate through the walls of sin and unbelief.  We were the “walking dead.”  The heart of God was something foreign and the love of God was so difficult to see.  All we knew, apart from Him, was that something was seriously wrong.  And many of us simply forgot even that.

So the life that was supposed to be in us, supposed to define us, was lost and we were lost.  Adam and Eve, our ancestors, entered into that realm called, “Apart from God,” and humanity has been there ever since.  The purpose of our existence, the reason for humanity, was lost on that day.

But God had a plan.

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The Purpose

Grace 101

One of the saddest parts of the teaching of human evolution has to be the idea that there is no purpose to human life.  If we simply evolved from lower life forms—with no guiding hand, no wise counsel, no good Creator—then we are nothing special.  We are simply a step in a process to something better . . . if we last long enough.  There is no hope, no promise, no future that is ours.  Seems very sad to me.

Now, I am not debating evolution here, just making a point about some good news.  The truth, as presented in the Scriptures, is that you and I were made by a loving God for a purpose.  Humanity had that purpose from the beginning and every individual who has ever lived has had the same purpose.  We were made to live in relationship with the Almighty God!

We were made to walk with Him, talk with Him, and to live in His love.  But more than that, we were made to draw our life from Him.  Remember when Adam was perfectly made, complete in every way, ready to go, and only lacked life?  Where did that life come from?  It was not the same as the animals or the plants.  Adam’s life drew from the Lord Himself.  Adam was made to be filled with the life of God.  Later, that life passed through Adam to another as Eve was created.

It is very clear that Adam was filled with something different from what the animals had.  Yes, in many ways, human life seems the same as animal life.  But human life has a depth of meaning, a value, a purpose that is very different from all other life.  There is, in fact, a spiritual aspect that makes human life different.

When God breathed life into Adam, He gave Him spiritual life.  Spiritual life was nothing more or less than a direct communion with God.  It included a physical life, but it was so much more.  And that which was more was derived from God.  God Himself was part of man.  Human life is only derived from God.  And it was supposed to pass on from Adam and Eve to their children forever.

Humans were never meant to live apart from God.  Everything we are has been made with a purpose, to live connected to God.  We were supposed to live in love with Him forever.

Supposed to—those can be ominous words.  Something happened to change what was meant to be.  It didn’t take God by surprise, but it did change so much.

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Because He Loved Them

“The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image.  Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.”  Thomas Merton   No Man is an Island
 
“If you love something, set it free. If it comes back, it was, and always will be yours. If it never returns, it was never yours to begin with.”  Sherrilyn Kenyon, Unleash the Night

 

Many of us were brought up with the idea that God controls all things.  We talk about His plan and His sovereignty and His will and we just know that He gets everything He wants.  So when God says that He wants all people to be saved, to come to knowledge of the joy and peace found in Jesus, He must get what He wants.  Right?

But when we open our eyes to the real world, it is plain to see that God doesn’t always get what He wants.  He doesn’t want us to sin, but we do.  He wants us to love one another, and that is rare.  He wanted Israel to follow the Law and to stay close to Him, but they didn’t.  This is the Almighty God!  Why doesn’t He get what He wants?

Because of love.

Listen to God’s own description of love:

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.   

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NKJV)

Love “does not seek its own.”  That means it does not demand its own way.  Love allows the other person to be a real person.  Love recognizes that the other person is a separate identity and love values that identity.  Love does not demand others to simply be reflections or toys.  Love lets others be who they are.

And God loves us.  He loves all people.

So God doesn’t force anyone.  From the very beginning, God set Adam and Eve in a beautiful garden where all their needs would be provided forever.  They walked with Him and lived in a wonderful relationship with Him.  But they were free.  They were intelligent and able to make moral choices.  He allowed them to grow and create and live.

And, when the time came, they chose.  They chose something God did not want.  He knew it would happen, but we never say that He wanted it.  We like to say that they turned their backs on Him, but the truth is that they simply chose to do something He warned them against.

They did it their way.

Because they were free.

Because He loved them.

He let them go because they wanted to go.  He warned them.  He grieved when they did it.  But He knew they would.  Because they were free.

And they lost so much.  He knew they would and He told them they would.  But He didn’t stop them.  He already had a plan in place.  Because He loved them.

God made every person to live in relationship with Him because He loved each one.  Yet, because of that love, He let each one go his or her own way.  They would suffer apart from Him because He never made them to be alone.  He would call to them, long for them, and always be ready to welcome them; but they would have to choose Him.

So He set in motion an amazing plan.

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