My Heart’s Desire

My Heart’s Desire

I decided to let God into my life when I was 22. I could see that the activities I was engaging in, and the activities of the people I hung out with, could very possibly one day cause my death or incarceration…a sobering thought. Nothing answered this quest in my life for relevance. Why was I here? What was the ultimate use of my life? Was the pursuit of good times a reason for life?

My own up-bringing included Catholic grade school and high school. Somehow, I reasoned that the God of the Bible was irrelevant to the 20th century world. It didn’t look like the people who made the trek to Mass on Sunday, lived any differently than I did. It seemed more productive to spend Sundays doing laundry and recovering from Saturday nights. And, I wasn’t at all sure the trade-off was worthwhile…following rules and suffering through religious services would produce what exactly?

I visited Mormon church services, I read Eastern religious books, I even let myself be picked up by some Hari-Krishnas for transport to their meeting place. (I bolted before we arrived. They discussed their philosophy with me in the car. It was so denigrating to me as a woman, it was easy to eject that research project.)

When I finally tested everything (including hallucinogenic mushrooms), I thought I would give the God of my youth another chance. By now I was 4 years past high school and mandatory church attendance. My reasoning: maybe I missed something before, that my inexperienced mind didn’t grasp. (Because now I was really experienced…and knew what I didn’t want.) I just knew I hadn’t found peace, or satisfaction in relationships, religion, work, or drugs.

Even though I had been trained in faith-based schools, my prayer was pretty simple. “God, help me, I am a mess. You can’t do any worse with my life than I am doing right now.” Maybe it sounds corny, but right then I had a picture in my mind of one of those “zippy slates” we had as kids. You know the type. It has a waxy surface with a piece of heavy gray plastic over it. When you write on the plastic, and then pull up on it everything disappears. It seemed like an answer to my prayer–new start Vicki! With this picture came another startling idea. What if God created us, and His rules would help us live in harmony? After all, if He created us, He would know the best way for us to live…right?

My life was radically changed. It wasn’t overnight. My vocabulary gradually cleared, so that I didn’t have to manually filter the words I spoke in public. I had peace in my life without drugs. Reading the Bible helped me realize the standards God required were easy. Jesus himself said it “Love God with your whole heart and soul and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39 NLT) Not easy if you hang on to your selfishness, but attainable if you abandon yourself to Him. The cool thing about God, it wasn’t a race to fix me, just one small thing at a time. The “fixes” are all about truth, wisdom, patience, kindness, self-control. They’re not repulsive.

Now, finally, the punchline. What is keeping you from looking for the God of the Bible? He’s real. He cares. He’s gotten a bad rap from some. Those of us that follow Him are pretty lousy followers sometimes. Take some courage from that though, He doesn’t hold grudges, He’s always willing to accept an apology or a wayward child. The Bible is full of stories of normal people with normal struggles, and they are still called friends of God.

John 3:16-17 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

The Hound of Heaven

I fled Him, down the nights and down the days; francis-thompson-254x300

I fled Him, down the arches of the years;

I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways

Of my own mind…

Francis Thompson, The Hound of Heaven

Francis Thompson was a young man in search of himself. His family wanted him to be successful. (Who doesn’t want that for our kids?) He himself wanted the same. More than that, he wanted to earn a look of pride from his father, his mother. But steady work, a wife and family were not in his cards.

I heard a woman speak once. She said, “no one sets out to be a drug addict.” No one chooses a life of waking up in the morning only to be met with that gnawing hunger, every single day. One thing leads to another and it just happens. Francis was addicted to laudunum. Prescribed in 19th century medicine for a variety of ills, no one really knew the devastation it’s deceptive claims would bring.

I set out to read The Hound of Heaven, because it was one of those things I have heard about for years. I didn’t realize I would find a man so broken, so devastated, that he sold matches to passersby on the streets of London to keep from starving. However, his passion for writing didn’t succumb to the same fate his body suffered. He carried his manuscripts with him. He had no full suit of clothes, but he had his papers, pen and ink. When he dropped a package off at the printer’s shop one day, a note of introduction accompanied the manuscript. In it, he apologized for the condition of the offering. He noted the pages had been his constant companion and therefore also bore the ravages of his life.

Sometimes I am struck by the similarities of our cultures. Across continents, cultures and races, we bear the same passions and hurts, the same needs and desires, the same, the same. We are more alike than not. And, it seems, we have the same problems over time! Shouldn’t we have drug addiction licked by now? How about slavery, and the enlightened 21st century version called human trafficking? How about racism? I thought we had that one put away for good. After the peace marches of the 60’s, I thought that baby had grown out of its diapers. One thing I have seen for myself, we each have to learn the truth. No one can beat it into you. It is a common theme at my workplace to have diversity training. Really. That seems like a no-brainer to me. If I want to hang on to my prejudices and biases, is training going to change that? And, if I have already dealt with the reality that people are different from one another and I respect and uphold their right to express themselves differently, how is training going to help me? Sorry, I’ve been holding that one in too long…

So, maybe you’ve guessed, the “Hound of Heaven” is Jesus. Thompson realized everything he has sought, that would bring him love, peace, acceptance, only brought emptiness, chaos, and rejection. The fear of losing himself (to God) was replaced with love so intense and full, it could accept him exactly as he was. The Hound of Heaven pursued him in all his squalor. He need not clean up first.

The “wise”men, were complaining that Jesus spent his time with notorious sinners, even eating with them!

“So Jesus told them this story: ‘If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’” (Luke 15:4-6 NLT)

Jesus doesn’t have a problem with us…we have a problem with Him…we keep running away.

 

 

 

Stop the World I Want to Get Off

Sooooooo…I’m a Baby Boomer. Our kids are Millenials. None of us fit the stereotypes perfectly, but there you have it.

I admire the younger generations. For the most part, the ones I know are more concerned with being healthy, doing things outdoors, and not collecting as much “stuff” as we have. The downside is they can’t go anywhere without their phones, which they don’t use to talk on, and their penmanship is nonexistent.

My generation has spent the first half of our lives collecting stuff, and now in the second half, trying to figure out what to do with all of it. I never wanted a big house…growing up I loved my great-grandma’s house. By the time I knew her, great-grandpa was gone, and she lived in an old farm-house alone. The rooms had high ceilings, and heavy old drapes that made the rooms seem dark and musty. She had a creaky iron bed with a fluffy down comforter. I got to sleep with her in her bed when we visited.

She had hurt her ankle years before in a streetcar accident and still kept it wrapped in a bandage. I don’t remember anything she said to me, but I remember her warmth. By anyone’s standards, she was poor. Nothing lavish in any part of the house, in any meal she fixed, only in her love for us. I suspect that was why my mom took us to visit her. It wasn’t for us, or even for great-grandma, it was for my mom. My mom hurt, a lot. She still hurts. Growing up with pain, living pain, running from pain…that’s my mom’s life.

I realize now that each woman had pain. One woman chose to ignore her pain, and love. The other chose to bury herself in it, and suffer.

Great-grandma had the greatest screen door from her kitchen to the outside yard. screendoorThat sucker had a spring on it that made it slam with the greatest bang you ever heard. The door had seen better days, part of the screen was detached from the frame, the paint had worn off, and even some of the wood was splintered. But that spring! I want one of those doors someday. That’s my dream. I want to hear that sound again, on a hot summer day, banging away, with kids running in and out.

That screen door reminds me to be tough when the pain of life tries to take over. NOPE! Not my heart! Get out! Let the fresh air in. Let my kids, and anyone else run through with laughter, with surprise, with a fond memory.

No reason to stop the world…I have my screen door.

Stop the World I Want to Get Off is a play written in the 1960s

Why can we hope to be healed by God?

Peter saw his opportunity and addressed the crowd. ‘People of Israel,’ he said, ‘what is so surprising about this? And why stare at us as though we had made this man walk by our own power or godliness? For it is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—the God of all our ancestors—who has brought glory to his servant Jesus by doing this.'” Acts of the Apostles 3:12-13 (NIV)

There was a woman who went to Africa in 2013 with a group of missionaries called Mission S.O.S. Their goal was to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. The word ‘gospel’ can be translated ‘good news’. The Good News is what we have talked about in this book, that Jesus, the Son of God, was sent to be a perfect sacrifice for the rebellion (sin) of Mankind. While on the festival grounds one evening, this woman prayed for a young teenage boy who was deaf. Listen to her relate what happened:

“I was 60 years old at the time I first went to Africa to help preach the gospel of Jesus. To say I was inexperienced is an understatement. The other missionaries I was with believed that Jesus was really who He said He was. They also believed Jesus was ready to prove it by healing people who called out to Him for help! Their faith was so infectious, it bolstered our confidence when we prayed. The first person that came up to me for prayer was a young man who had lost his hearing about 8 years prior to this night. We had been told to pray simple prayers because Jesus is the One doing the healing…it is not the eloquence or length of our prayers. I placed my hands over his ears and said, ‘be healed in the Name of Jesus’. He said, instantly he felt a ‘pop’ and he could hear! I have to say, I was just as shocked as he was. It certainly was nothing special I had done. Jesus had healed this young man of his deafness!”1

Stories like this make us wonder. What is the formula for healing? Does it depend on who is praying? Does it depend on the expectations of the sick person or their family? Is healing related to a specific religious group or denomination? Or even more basic, why does God allow illness anyway?

When Adam turned away from his relationship with God and accepted the terms the ‘snake’ (Satan) offered him, he received the benefits of that new relationship with Satan. Satan was evil and had only evil to offer Adam. Adam had been given dominion over the earth and sky and all the wildlife and vegetation in them. Now with this agreement came an exchange. Satan had everything which was in opposition to God: hatred, lies, sickness, pain, depression, death and every other disease and plague. For his part, Adam now shared what he had been given by God: dominion over the earth and sky. Adam entered into a covenant with Satan by partaking of food under this condition that Satan presented:

“‘You will not certainly die,’ the serpent said to the woman. ‘For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked;” Genesis 3:4-5 (NIV)

Mankind must now be redeemed from this meal covenant, by the only thing stronger, a perfect blood covenant. A holy sinless sacrifice must be offered to erase the cost of the rebellion (sin) of all Mankind.

Until the necessary time for this perfect sacrifice, God established the law for the Israelites. He gave them a list of guidelines in order to live a life within the bounds of righteousness. This law was necessary to set them apart from other people groups in the surrounding territories who practiced behaviors deemed immoral and unholy by God. In Deuteronomy chapter 27-28, the conditions of the established covenant between God and the Israelites are stated. The blessings for upholding the law of God are to be read each year on Mount Gerizim. The curses for disobedience and breaking the covenant of God will be read on Mount Ebal each year. These lists encompass anything good and anything bad we experience.

The lists of curses ends on this note:

The Lord will also bring on you every kind of sickness and disaster not recorded in this Book of the Law, until you are destroyed.” Deuteronomy 28:61 (NIV)

God looks like a cruel despot by outlining the horrible conditions that will befall anyone who doesn’t follow His law. This view is a human one. From God’s vantage point, He is establishing the law for protection for His beloved Israel. He understands, better than they, the repercussions of breaking the law. God is describing in starkly naked terms the wages of sin. But…hundreds of years later, these curses of sin will be broken. And just as sin was brought into the world by one man, so the power of sin will be broken by another man, Jesus.

For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ. And the result of God’s gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man’s sin. For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins. For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:15-17 (NLT)

…”for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ” This is the formula for healing. Belief in Jesus Christ as the One sent by God heals our hearts, our spirits. The wording in this passage is interesting to note. Another translation, the NIV says “how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!” Not only are our spiritual lives restored to a relationship with Holy God, but we also have triumph in our physical lives. Remember, we know the death of Jesus secured our eternal life. 

Jesus said in John 6: 47-51 “Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (NIV)

The teaching of Jesus in this passage, was confusing to His audience. Jesus was talking metaphorically about eating His flesh. He was making the point that belief is more than mental knowledge. Belief means to agree wholeheartedly that He was sent from heaven. Believe and agree. Dedicate yourself to this belief so intensely that it is as if you are eating ‘my flesh’! This is the point Jesus is making. Also called faith, this belief restores our part of the covenant with God.

Also restored is the life Mankind had before relationship with God was broken. But how can physical healing take place? Because Jesus also redeemed us from the curse of sin.

Galatians 3:13 says: “But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.'” (NIV)

In addition to restoring spiritual life to mankind by the forgiveness of sin, the power of evil was also broken. What is this curse pronounced by the law? The curse pronounced by the law are the physical curses pronounced every year from Mount Ebal. What do we have instead? As covenant partners, believing in the Messiah Jesus, we have been given all of the promises announced on Mount Gerazim!

2 Corinthians 1: 20-22 “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” (NIV)

As God’s covenant partner, any promise you find in the Bible, because of what Jesus did through His life, death and resurrection, is yours. It is like a wealthy relative who dies and leaves you the keys to his series of high-end collector automobiles. You own the keys to the cars. And just as it takes a key to start a car, so it takes prayer of faith to release the healing power of God. Prayer is such a gift. Anyone can pray. It demands no special outfit, no particular place, not even specific words, only a believing heart poured out to God.

Unfortunately, Satan has not given up entirely. He is still the prince of this world as well as ruler of the kingdom of the air. (Read Ephesians 2:2 and John 16:11) He still lies and discredits God and the Word of God. He wants you to believe that your prayers are futile. He knows that prayer unleashes the power of God in our lives.

In Genesis 15:10-11 Abraham takes an active role protecting the animals sacrificed for the blood covenant with God.

So Abram presented all these to him and killed them. Then he cut each animal down the middle and laid the halves side by side; he did not, however, cut the birds in half. Some vultures swooped down to eat the carcasses, but Abram chased them away.” (NLT)

Sometimes praying for healing is similar to beating back vultures. When Jesus prayed and taught the disciples how to pray in Matthew 6:10, He prayed that the Father’s will would be done…on earth…as it is in heaven. In the book of Genesis we see God’s will when He created Adam and Eve; they lived in perfect harmony with Him. Mankind had perfect peace, a perfect spiritual and physical existence in a perfect world. With the entry of sin into the world, this perfect harmony was lost. As believers in Jesus we intercede for each other in prayer for this perfection to be realized again here on earth…as it is in heaven. We have the position as covenant partners to request healing from God. Because of this, we should exercise our rights by diligently reading the Word of God (Bible) so we understand what God’s perfect will is and by releasing His healing power over one another.

What do we do when we have done all there is to do…and the healing does not occur?

“Once my husband was diagnosed with an aneurysm in his brain. We were certain that God was going to heal him. He was in a perfect position to tell many people about the healing when it happened. And, we were sure that our plan was the best plan for him. Well, God had other plans. He is God after all, and we should let Him have that position. However, I went through a crisis. I imagined that maybe God wasn’t good after all. I reasoned that when the Bible relates Job’s struggles, that God and Satan were just playing with him. God would give up control and Satan would inflict another terrible evil on poor Job. However with this trail of thought I felt myself falling deeper and deeper into hopelessness. Finally, I realized I had a choice: either stay on the path I was, or believe that God is a loving God. It took an act of my will when I could not see a positive outcome, to trust in God. My husband was eventually ‘healed’ by a wonderful surgeon.”2

The Bible is explicit in its teachings about healing. It speaks about Jesus redeeming us from sin and the curse of sin. And we have very concrete evidence in Scripture that healing is part of God’s promise to His people. The obvious example is Jesus Himself. He NEVER told a deaf, blind, leper, or crippled person that it was good for him to endure his illness–NEVER. What it does say is He had compassion. He wept. He was exhausted because of the crowds. (Matt 14:14, 20:34, Mark 6:34, John 8:31, Luke 8:34-37) Jesus also told us we would do mightier works than even He did.

But, people still have illness and most don’t live to see 100 years. So what course should we take? We pray. We encourage. We pray again. We encourage again. The battle is fought in the mind as well as the body…it is work to think positively and courageously. Ephesians tells us to put on the armour of God: then stand firm and pray!

Eph 6:10-18 “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devilʼs schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lordʼs people.” (NIV)
  • Belt of truth: God wants our well-being, not sickness and death
  • Breastplate of righteousness: we are righteous only because of Christ’s death
  • Some versions say ‘Boots of Peace’, the Gospel is the ‘Good News’ that Jesus died for us so that we can be reconciled with the Father
  • Shield of faith: believe in what you cannot see–believe God is on our side
  • Helmet of Salvation: when you have believed in your mind Jesus is Lord
  • Sword of the Spirit: the word of God–even Jesus, when tempted in the desert by Satan, rebuked him with Scripture!

If these things are true, how do we have enough faith? Sometimes we don’t, plain and simple, that’s why we keep trying. But, not everyone in the Bible had great faith, either. (I’m so glad the Bible includes stories about normal humans!)

Mark 9:23-25 “What do you mean, “If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.” The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” When Jesus saw that the crowd of onlookers was growing, he rebuked the evil spirit. “Listen, you spirit that makes this boy unable to hear and speak,” he said. “I command you to come out of this child and never enter him again!”
Jesus tries to explain faith in the following Scripture: notice FAITH IN GOD, not our prayers, not our strength, not our good deeds, just faith in Him. Believe that He is who He says He is, that He loves us, that He is faithful. Pray with faith. The old-timers used to say pray until you know heaven heard you; they called it ‘praying through’. I would say pray until you have peace. Peace is from God, when you are confident HE has heard, you can rest.
Mark 11:22-24 “Then Jesus said to the disciples, “Have faith in God. I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, “May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart. I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours.”

Believe God is good. The alternative to faith in God leads to hopelessness.

In summary:

The rebellion of Adam in the Garden of Eden brought sin, sickness and death into the perfect world God had established. The covenant relationship between God and Mankind was now broken. The only way to erase the power of sin was a perfect sinless blood sacrifice offered to God. To be ratified, each person who wants to restore covenant with God must believe in the sacrifice of Jesus. With the restoration of spiritual wholeness Jesus also secured the restoration of physical wholeness. He rescued us from the ‘curse of the law’.

And this is true, not just in our own lives; we have also been given the power and authority to heal the sick by Jesus.

Luke 10:9 “Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.'”

Mark 16:15-18 “And then he told them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone. Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned. These miraculous signs will accompany those who believe: They will cast out demons in my name, and they will speak in new languages. They will be able to handle snakes with safety, and if they drink anything poisonous, it won’t hurt them. They will be able to place their hands on the sick, and they will be healed.'”

John 14:12-14 “‘I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!'”

When we understand that the blood sacrifice of Jesus has made us covenant partners with God, we can be comfortable bringing our requests to God and expect that He will answer us.

Prayer:

Jesus, you delivered us from sin and the curse of sin! Because of our covenant relationship with you we are able to rebuke sickness and evil spirits in your Name, Jesus. May we walk in the path you have given us. May we point to the work you have done to restore Mankind to the Father. And may your Name be glorified by signs and wonders of healings and deliverance from evil spirits. Amen.

Footnotes: 1 and 2 taken from my own experiences, just told here in narrative voice.

This piece taken from a book that should be published by this fall. Thanks for reading…please don’t hesitate to be very honest with questions/critique. Thanks! Vicki

Broken Covenant

In another blog, I talked about the first covenant with Adam. A covenant at its base is an agreement with a condition. This could be enough, when both parties consent, to form the covenant. However ‘covenant’ also has the idea that it is not casual consent. Each party pledges themselves and all they are, their honor, their name, and their possessions to one another.

The partaking of a meal, the exchanging of gifts or names can further signify a covenant. It is an agreement full of honor. However honorable a covenant may be though, it can still be broken.

Sometimes when we read a familiar writing or hear a familiar song we know so well, we no longer hear what is being said. Take the children’s nursery rhyme ‘Ring Around the Rosie’. As a young person growing up, I know I recited this poem, dancing around in a circle of friends, to see who would be the last to ‘fall down’. It wasn’t until I was an adult and heard there was another meaning to this rhyme, did I really examine the words and realize the macabre reality behind it.

With this in mind, I would suggest we take a look at the first part of the Book of Genesis from a new vantage point. For some of you, it will be to get behind each word and imagine the scenery, the awesomeness of Adam’s position and the incredible relationship he had with the Creator of the universe. For others, you will need to lay aside the skeptical view you have fostered, maybe for many years, and imagine (for just a moment) it could all be written exactly as it happened. Imagine that a loving awesome all-powerful God decided to create a world where He could interact and have a deep friendship with His creation. Imagine.

We know from the Bible that God gave the earth and all living creatures to Adam to rule over. (Genesis 1:26-28) Then in Genesis 2:16-17 God draws a line. God has created Adam in His own image. God has been in relationship with Adam. He has given him the position of authority over all creation with one caveat: Adam must respect God’s boundary. All creation depends on this fact: Adam must remain in harmony with God. This harmony rests on one condition. Adam must not eat of this one single tree in the garden.

But, without this condition, Adam is just a slave. He has no free will. A true friendship, a love relationship, is not free if it is forced. If I say “YOU MUST LOVE ME!” there is no love.

And, at just the right moment, if God jumped in to beat back Satan, He would be in violation of His covenant with Adam. He can’t say, (not Bible–my thoughts) “Well Adam, I am sorry, I take it back, you cannot be the ruler of the Garden. I can see you are not capable. Sorry, I made a mistake.” If He does this He is not true to His nature as God. He would be faithless. The garden was a gift to Adam. Your life is a gift to you. He had to allow Adam to choose.

And choose Adam does. (me again) “Sorry God, not this time. I know you said I would die, that’s why I let Eve eat first. And really, ‘Good’ is so ‘yesterday’. Been there, done that.”

Is your heart breaking? Mine is. Do you have children? Do you know a loved one or friend who is making/has made bad choices? Did you warn them? Did you watch and realize the choice was not yours?

I wonder what God felt? He knew. And yet, He made us with free will. He wanted a real relationship: a real love relationship. Genesis 3:8 says “And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?’”

God, all-knowing, all-loving, all-merciful, is searching for Adam. Maybe He is searching Adam. Maybe He is ready to forgive. But, Adam and Eve are not ready to repent. He did, she did, it did, not me! Mercy cannot be received without acknowledgement of the transgression.

So God starts the process. The way of salvation is begun. How can a holy, perfect, sinless Being commune with rebellion? Only sacred life-blood can cover sin. God sheds the blood of an animal, one He has lovingly created, and takes its skin as a sign that the shame of Adam and Eve’s nakedness (rebellion) is covered. With the covering comes a partial restoration of their relationship. It is just an ‘atonement’. The Hebrew word atonement means covering. It can only cover their transgression. God teaches them to continue this tradition to remain in relationship to Him. (We know this because later in Genesis, Abel offers an animal sacrifice to God. Genesis 4:3)

Many years later, after Mankind is ready to ask for forgiveness, a true offering will be made. When Mankind becomes weary of sacrifices and traditions.

Then and only then, an offering that is a perfect representation of Man will be offered as a sacrifice for sin. Once this perfect sacrifice is offered…it will be finished. The atonement will not be a covering; it will be a propitiation…a perfect substitution for the sin of every man. This perfect sacrifice—Jesus—will once and for all shed His blood so that Man can be forgiven.

I woke up this morning with the words to an old Isaac Watts hymn on my mind:

Were the whole realm of nature mine,

That were an offering far too small;

Love so amazing so divine,

Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Jesus, the NAME above all NAMES, thank you. What can I say? How do I express my thanks for what you were willing to do? And WHY? I know there are times when the ‘apple’ still looks good to me. Even though, like Adam and Eve, I have known you. It could have been me instead of Eve, or Judas, or Peter; I could just as easily have betrayed you. But, you always hang in there with me. You continually extend your hand of friendship towards me. You don’t turn your back on me. Your name is Faithful and True. All I can offer is a humble thank you.

Who cares about God’s Blood Covenant?

Well, HE does for one. He sacrificed His Son for it. We take that pretty lightly. My husband and I have 2 daughters. Would I give their lives up willingly for ISIS to be saved from eternal damnation? I would like to say ‘yes’, if our daughters would go to heaven, if the recipient would appreciate it. But, I don’t believe I would do it even if it were a wonderful human being that was being saved and the girls were dying of cancer.

So God must care a LOT about this covenant He has made with earthlings.

Who else cares? Most of the Christians I know, understand the covenant as: God is good, I am bad, but if I believe Jesus died for me and paid for my sins, I can go to heaven when I die.

Then, like a diet gone bad, when we make more mistakes than we think Jesus has taken care of on the cross, we give up. Maybe we don’t consciously give up, we just quit thinking about it. That’s easy to do because life is filled with things to do. Work, kids, school, holidays, entertainment, household duties, eating, stuff to keep our minds, bodies and credit cards busy.

I have been a Christian for a long time. I heard about the Blood Covenant, what it means, who it affects, what it cost, last year in ministry school. I was shocked. To tell you the truth, I can’t think of anything else. I want to tell everyone I meet. I want to bore people with all the details. I want to tell it as simply or as complex as you want to hear and my level of intellect will allow.

It has affected my life. That peace Jesus said He would give us: the peace that is above understanding? I now know what that is! I know it is real. I KNOW! And I KNOW THAT I KNOW! I thought I knew it before last year, now I know it as well as I know my name and date of birth. (Have I said ‘I know’ enough? Maybe not, here is one more.) I know it is for everyone, even the cruel men and women of ISIS. It redeems bad cops and bad priests. It protects the weak. It gives all men and women purpose in their lives. It gave me a new understanding of evil, of good, of prayer, of healing. It’s crazy!

And, the biggest shock; the WHOLE BIBLE is covenant-minded. It is covenant-centered. Sure, there are lots of topics in the Bible, lots of stories. But there is only ONE main theme, with TWO parts. The Old Testament and the New Testament. You know, ‘Testament’ means ‘Covenant’? Who left that one out of my training as a Christian? I mean come ON! I have been in faith-based grade school, high school, Sunday school, Bible studies for a good many years. How did I miss THAT ONE?

A Blood Covenant with God means He has chosen to bind His Almighty Person to an agreement that He cannot break. Think about that for a minute. He can’t break it. He is God. He cannot go back on His word. We may, but He can’t. He wouldn’t be God. And, guess what? The Bible is LOADED with covenant promises. You don’t have to guess which ones are for you. THEY ARE ALL FOR YOU, if you join in the covenant with God, ALL of them.

There is a ‘covenant’ verse in Revelations I will end with. If you have covenant glasses on when you read it, you will see much more. Actually, it probably won’t make much sense without them.

Revelations 3:20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

Jesus is speaking here metaphorically. He is saying “Hello! I am standing here outside every person’s door. Open up! I will come in. And we will eat together.”

Look how emphatic, how direct, how unwavering are His words.

Here I am! (That was not my emphasis, the Bible was written with that exclamation point.)

If anyone (anyone? ISIS, bad cops, bad priests?)

Opens the door

I will come in and eat with that person and they with me.

Are you excited yet??????

This is just one verse in the Bible. A meal here is not just food. Jesus doesn’t want to eat a hamburger with you. A meal is used in a covenant relationship to validate, to solidify the relationship. Sitting down sharing a meal is still a very special part of customs and celebrations in every culture today. Jesus is saying (have your covenant glasses on?) “Open up the door to you heart, your mind, your intuition, your spirit, let me come in. I am a gentleman; I will not come in unless you invite me. But, if you invite me in, we will share life together (bread). I will give you my love; you will understand and love me.”

His peace–out of this world!

FEAR

2 Timothy 1: NKJV

6Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

There was persecution in the church when Paul wrote this. It appears that he is writing to Timothy to strengthen his faith. Fear can be a crippling emotion. When you are in the middle of it, you need reminding—to pray, to read your Bible. It doesn’t always come naturally. We have a GOD who is mighty, who has given us the tools, to fight any battle. My dad is in a nursing home right now, fighting pneumonia. Whether it is the medications, the illness, or some other factor, he is experiencing crazy frightening dreams and hallucinations. Even though he is strong in his faith, he is overwhelmed with these thoughts.

My own battle with cancer would have me waking up, frozen with fear. What would I find out today? Would I need surgery?

Sometimes we are too engrossed in our situation to pray for ourselves. The words will hardly come. These are times for our friends and loved ones to bring our needs to our loving Father. Our family has friends all over the country because we have moved several times. It gave me hope (and strength), when I was down, to call friends and ask for prayer. It was awesome, thinking there were people in all sorts of places offering up prayers for me!

Other times, we need to take whatever steps we can to pursue God. Begin reading your Bible, increase your time alone with God. It helped me to write in a journal, everything I was worried about—and give it to God to handle. That was an awesome exercise! I could see how He answered each issue over time.

Joshua 1:9 NKJV

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.

Isaiah 43: 1-3 TLB

But now the Lord who created you, O Israel, says, “Don’t be afraid, for I have ransomed you; I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up—the flames will not consume you, for I am the Lord your God, your Savior, the Holy One of Israel.

Lord, you are so faithful; to remind us you are always near. Strengthen us, help us. Turmoil is all around us. You are the Almighty God who created heaven and earth—and yet we forget, and rely on our own strength. Our hearts are overwhelmed with your love, your unshakeable and unchangeable, love. Let anyone who reads this be drawn closer to you Lord.