And Then There Was That Tree

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A few days ago I wrote about Extravagant Dad.  In it I remembered what it’s like to walk in nature and explore God’s amazing creation.  There is just so much to savor when you are outside.  Today I took a walk with my dog, taking advantage of a bit of warmer weather here in the northwest.  The dog ran forward and back, dashing among the standing tumbleweeds and brush, attempting to stick her nose under the neighbor’s electric fence so she could get a better look at those confounded cows.  Curious of each others presence a yearling came running close to the fence as well and they had a good long look at each other.  Had I not called Sophie back, I’m sure she would have wriggled under the wire and joined in the yearling’s frolics out there in the dairy fields.

Walking made me remember I had mentioned that our extravagant Dad gave us access to all He gave Adam and Eve.  He created us for relationship and so, in giving us our adoption papers upon salvation, we are redeemed into the inheritance of God’s wonder and grace, and Papa God wants nothing more than to spend some time with us.

I allowed my mind to take a walk in what I imagine the garden may have looked like.  I see something a bit like the photograph above.  Wandering through lush vegetation I could almost see God strolling along through masses of green, chatting with His beloved children.  Perhaps they decided to name certain bushes and trees along their walk, asking Papa what he thought of it all.  Do you suppose God, Adam and Eve might have played hide and seek together?  Now that thought makes me giggle at the fun of it.

I imagine that one evening though when, as they strolled along, they came upon a site.  There, as the brush fell away and the sun began to set on the day, they rounded a curve in the path, and came upon it.  The tree.  The tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The Lord spoke to them., “Of this tree, you shall not eat.”  Have you ever spent much time thinking about why the Lord would give such instruction in this lush place?  I didn’t, I just knew what Adam and Eve were told.  “You can eat everything here, all the fruit of the trees and bushes, but of this particular tree you cannot eat.”
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I’m no Bible scholar but I’ll tell you what I think.  I believe that the children of God were told not to eat of this tree, so that there might be a choice.  This was the defining moment between God and His creation, these two new children of His that He loved so dearly.  If He simply placed them in the garden and told them they could eat anything there, then there was no choice involved.  They would simply be His little darlings, kept in a wonderful place, provided with everything they needed to exist.

No, I believe this was the choosing point.  This was the difference between having children who would come to Him, purposefully to have a relationship with Him and those who only lived off His provision.  We, as children of God, have to make a choice in order to make this relationship work.  It must be our heart’s desire to follow after Him.  Anything else results in a dictatorship.  No, God knew He had to turn His children free in the garden and see what they would do with this freedom they possessed.  The results are self-evident.

I’ve pondered that one a few times.  While I wished in the earlier days of my life the choice were not so, so final, I have come to understand the great wisdom in His act.  I didn’t really want to come to Christ in my early twenties because I saw this relationship as one I would be required to give up a lot of things I quite frankly didn’t want to give up.  By the time I reached my late twenties, all had changed.  I had lived according to my desires, learning that I wasn’t a very good steward of my life and I cried out to Him to come and be my Lord.  As the days rolled into years, and the years into decades, I’ve come to understand the value in choosing between what I want and what He wants.  There is value in His precepts because oh my, He’s God!  What I wanted was plain and simply the lusts of my flesh.

I am so grateful to my Lord for giving me a choice.  Have you considered the results of your choices lately?  Is there something you’ve continued to choose but the results are a bit confounding?  Or perhaps you simply don’t want to budge on a certain point in your life.  All I can ask is, “how is that working out for you?”  Are you getting the results you want?  If not, it might be time to either choose or to change.  Either way, the Lord is waiting for you.  He loves you no less than He loved His original children, Adam and Eve.  He simply had to leave you to choose.

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If you’ve reached that point in your life where you are unhappy with the results of your own choosing and you want to come into relationship with God, you can make that decision here and now.  All you need do is ask Him into your life by saying this prayer:

Lord, I want to make a change today.  I realize I’m a sinner and I’ve made wrong choices.  I don’t want to walk the rest of my days without you.  I know now that you, Jesus, are my Savior.  I know you went to the cross to pay the price of my sins and you were raised again — all for me.  Lord, I ask you to come to me today, come live in my heart.  I believe in you and I need you to be the Lord of my life.  I ask this in the mighty name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Welcome friend!  I encourage you now to seek out another believer and tell them about your decision.  Don’t keep this a secret!  It’s wonderful news.  I also encourage you to find a strong, Bible-based church and join in.  It might be difficult at first, but you’ll catch on.  I pray the peace of God, which passes all understanding, to enfold you now so that you know you have made the right choice.  It’s a glorious choice you’ve made!

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Extravagant Dad

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We are told a story in Genesis, chapter two. God made Adam and then the Garden and finally He made Eve. When Adam and Eve were formed, they were given the Garden to live in, to tend and care for. They were given responsibility by God about this place. God told them to name every animal, bird and all the creatures. What the Lord did was give Adam and Eve the authority they needed to take care of everything in this place of beauty. Then God would come every day in the cool of the evening to spend time with His two favorite caretakers.  Can you imagine what this might have looked like?

The Lord, the God of the entire universe, came each evening and spent it with Adam and Eve. When you read the biblical account, it doesn’t go into much detail because well, I imagine that God knew He had a lot of territory to cover in this book for the ages, and He knew He couldn’t tarry with details. But it is in our pondering that I believe we receive clues as to what the heart of God is for you and I concerning our lives. I don’t believe He meant for us to read the Bible straight through like one reading a novel. Yes, it is full of fascinating stories and accounts of many different people’s lives but it is in the pauses that we learn about God’s intent for us from this most important book we call the Bible.

Adam and Eve were given the most productive, beautiful and flourishing place on earth. It was full of life and vegetation of all kinds. Therein we are told were rivers, four of them to be exact. Rivers bring water and water brings life. So I can make the leap to the fact that there were probably waterfalls as well as ponds and/or lakes.

Think back on the last time you were at a lake, perhaps taking a walk in the evening. Birds sing, talk and dart daringly through the trees. Fish leap out of the water. If you’re lucky you might see a deer walk down to water’s edge and take a deep drink. My last time at a lake was this past fall and while my husband and I were not the only people out there, it was a most peaceful place. It’s not a place we get to savor all that often and so when we go camping there, it is in these evening walks that I am propelled into the presence of my King.

Walking at water’s edge, I am almost instantly aware of God’s amazing creation. I love everything about being there. As we walk, we are mostly quiet. I often talk to the Lord as I go. I love hearing from Him in this place, His place, much unchanged from how it might have been so long ago. It is there that I realize how generous God was for our forebears. He gave them the very best of His creation. He didn’t give it with strings attached, save for instructions about one particular tree (I’ll tell you more about this in a later post). The rest of the Garden was Adam and Eve’s, to enjoy and oversee.

Our God is an extravagant God. He gave to mankind everything He’d created. This translates to the fact that He gives us individually everything as well. At the exact moment we accept His Son, Jesus Christ, into our lives, we are instantaneously brought into the family of God. We are adopted into the family of God, not as an outsider, but one with all the privilege of belonging to this wonderful family. In Ephesians we are told,

4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,
5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:4-7 (NKJV)

Do you hear this great and wonderful news? Although we were dead in our sins, when we accepted Christ, we were raised up and made to sit in heavenly places with Christ! In this passage is deep, deep mystery; we are given the same authority and responsibility of God as He gave Adam and Eve. When we say yes to Christ, we are brought into the family, given authority and responsibility now to carry on with the family business.

I’ve spent a fair amount of time in God’s creation because this is where I hear God most often, and where I receive understanding of His ways. I believe you and I, once saved, receive the authority of God from our heavenly post to disperse His love and ways back here on earth. I’m just getting my head wrapped around this but I believe it is truth, His truth. As I understand more about His intent, my walk gets stronger and stronger and I begin to see evidence of God at work in and through me more and more.

During my childhood my faith was one of fear. I read OT accounts of God’s anger toward His people and somehow that translated into a fear I had of God Himself. In my 60’s now, I understand that God is to be feared yes, out of reverence for who He is, but not fear for my life. No, He’s my dad in heaven and He has nothing but good for me. Does He get frustrated with me? Of course. Does He discipline me? Oh yes He does. But I finally learned that God is for me, not against me and He has so much good waiting for me.  God is extravagant to me and to you.  He willingly gives because we are His kids and He gives good gifts to His children.

This is a truth that we must all learn. I pray my words today will help thrust you right into the lap of Papa God. When He adopted you on the day you said yes to Christ, He gave you the Kingdom, much like He gave the Garden to Adam and Eve. He gave you authority to walk in His ways, but it is up to you to find the path through the Kingdom. The path will be difficult at times because of our own decisions, not His intention. But every time we make a course correction and come running back, He will be waiting there, ready to swoop you up into His loving arms. We are the prodigals come home and our extravagant Dad put his ring on our finger, a robe over our dirty clothes, and new sandals on our feet. He loves me and He loves you.  He wants to walk with you in the cool of the evening and talk all about your day!