Two Gardens

July 31, 2015 § Leave a comment

Not only am I super behind on the Sabbath School lessons (I’m just finishing last quarterly’s), but I haven’t posted on this blog in a long while. There are a few reasons for this, one is because I’ve been doing so many things and have been busy (which is probably the lamest excuse of all time since I had time to go on Pinterest all day among other things) and the other is, probably most importantly, I’ve had a bit of a dip in my spiritual life, mainly not studying the Bible or focusing my energy during my devotions. It’s also been tough to put my full trust in Him, tougher than it’s been in the past to be honest.

My last post was in October of last year, and since then, I’ve finished my Junior fall semester, studied abroad in Spain, traveled quite a bit around Europe, and started an internship in Texas. I’ve been moving around a lot, most often by myself. Studying abroad was the first time I’d ever been away from my parents for a long period of time with no way to immediately go back home. I was away from my family, friends, and spiritual community (not necessarily mutually exclusive) in a country where I was speaking a second language and largely by myself. I remember thinking before leaving that going somewhere where there aren’t any distractions and where I’m forced to be introspective would be good for both my spiritual and mental growth. I could have a lot of time to spend time with God and essentially get to know Him better than I did before.

Unfortunately, I was distracted. I had thoughts that I wanted to study more and post, but I only half-finished them. I was also rather lonely. Of course I made friends, in fact my host family and roommate knew about my “church crew” and how I would eat lunch with them every Sabbath or travel with them on random weekends. And don’t get me wrong, they were wonderful, but I still felt spiritually malnourished. During the week since I largely only went on campus for class and then came back home to read, eat, or blog. Loneliness dominated a lot of my time abroad, and I drew back from others, myself, and God. I felt farther and farther away from Him and I didn’t know how to get back.

Even now, I’m still not sure. Thankfully here in Texas, He lead me to an awesome young adult group that meets each week for prayer and generally lifts each other up spiritually. It was honestly a breath of fresh air after essentially walking on my spiritual journey alone and with very little support in Spain. And I’m praying I can keep dedicating each day to learning a little more about Him and taking out things that distract me from that spiritual growth.

But on to the study that I wanted to write about. This was from last lesson from the last quarterly during the week of June 20-27. The whole quarter focused on the book of Luke as well as drawing some clarifications from other Gospels and Christian writers. I actually really enjoyed that quarter, the author asked questions that gave me pause where the reasonings weren’t exactly obvious.

So, two gardens. Both are important in our history; where the inhabitants of the first failed, the occupant of the second triumphed. One witnessed the birth of sin in our world, and the other witnessed the beginnings of the victory over sin. Both occupants were presented the choice to go against God’s will. In the case of Adam and Eve, they were tempted to become like God, to uplift themselves, and they selfishly tried to do so. They were blinded by pride and saw that “the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise”; first Eve was deceived, and then Adam, who was also blinded by his selfish desires (Genesis 3:6). They disobeyed God and sinned, and as we know both from Genesis 2:16-17 and Romans 6:23, sin’s result is death. When Eve ate the fruit, it was Adam’s duty to sacrifice himself for the life of his wife. Instead, he joined her in disobeying God’s word and ate the fruit as well. They both deviated from God’s will and doubted His word and as a result, were separated from Him completely.

Fast forward to the second garden, the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus is praying right before His betrayer comes. He knows that what’s coming next is going to be the most difficult ordeal of His life; hours of suffering, mocking, and even further, separation from the Father that He’s walked with His entire life. So He uses these last few moments to connect with His Father, and ask if there is another way to save the human race. With the next few hours on His mind, He seeks the comfort of His friends, but even they have abandoned Him for sleep. So He goes through His agony alone, continuing to connect with and plead with His Father. In the end, He says, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done”; He submits to God’s will, and goes forward with the plan of salvation (Luke 22:42).

There was one main thing I got from this. We need to stay connected to God to resist temptation. And not just in the moment of temptation or trial, but well before. Christ spent those 30+ years before the Garden of Gethsemane communing with God and submitting to His will. It’s not like He lived a life of indifference or rebellion before flipping a switch when it mattered most and then suddenly started paying attention to God’s will. I’m sure if Adam and Eve left that tree completely, remembered God’s words, and didn’t even entertain the serpent, they would have resisted temptation, and who knows where our world would be now. That constant connection is crucial for maintaining and improving our relationship with God, even when we’re alone, away from family, friends, and spiritual community. If we feel spiritually dead at some point in our lives, we should of course look at our current circumstances, but don’t forget what came right before, because that most likely has a greater bearing on where we are spiritually. So as Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you“. These little things combined with regular study and regular time with God can keep us connected with Him in those little moments, and those little moments can prepare us for those bigger, tougher moments when we most need it.

I’ll end with one of my favorite hymns, In the Garden. It’s very much a song that’s a prayer and a hope. It’s one that regularly gives me comfort, knowing that I can spend time with God and that He wants to spend time with me.

I come to the garden alone,
While the dew is still on the roses,
And the voice I hear, falling on my ear,
The Son of God discloses.
And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own,
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

He speaks, and the sound of His voice,
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
And the melody that He gave to me,
Within my heart is ringing.
And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own,
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

I’d stay in the garden with Him,
Tho’ the night around me be falling,
But He bids me go, thro’ the voice of woe,
His voice to me is calling.
And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own,
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

(Apologies for the super long post. I just needed to get this off my chest, and I wasn’t going to be able to go to sleep without finishing and posting this first.)

Being Like Christ

October 23, 2014 § Leave a comment

Abigail is one of my favorite female Bible characters. She has a wonderful character, is kind, is gracious, and is the complete opposite of her foolish husband. We see her godly nature in her brief record in 1 Samuel 25:2-42.

The story unfolds as follows: David has come to Nabal’s house on a feast day, and because of the kindness his servants bestowed on Nabal’s servants (as well as, I assume, because of a culture of hospitality), David expects to dine with Nabal on this feast day. According to verse 2, Nabal is “was very rich. He had three thousand sheep and a thousand goats.” (I Samuel 25:2 NKJV). He certainly had enough food to feed his household and David’s entourage. Yet, he is described as “harsh and evil in his doings” and even his name means fool (I Samuel 25:3 NKJV). Therefore, he answers David’s kind request with a harsh answer; “Then Nabal answered David’s servants, and said,

“Who is David, and who is the son of Jesse? There are many servants nowadays who break away each one from his master. Shall I then take my bread and my water and my meat that I have killed for my shearers, and give it to men when I do not know where they are from?” (I Samuel 25:10, 11 NKJV).

His selfishness almost brings about his ruin and his death, for David became so angry that he rallied his men to get ready for war against Nabal.

Thankfully, the story does not end with massive amounts of bloodshed. A young servant, perhaps knowing of Abigail’s godly character, tells her of David’s intentions due to Nabal’s foolishness. He defends David’s request because David’s servants had shown kindness to him and his fellow servants; he says,

“Look, David sent messengers from the wilderness to greet our master; and he reviled them. But the men were very good to us, and we were not hurt, nor did we miss anything as long as we accompanied them, when we were in the fields. They were a wall to us both by night and day, all the time we were with them keeping the sheep. Now therefore, know and consider what you will do, for harm is determined against our master and against all his household. For he is such a scoundrel that one cannot speak to him.” (I Samuel 25:14-17 NKJV).

Abigail, in her wisdom and kindness, hastily set up a feast as a peace offering to David and rode to where he was. And she arrived right on time, for David had said that because Nabal repaid him evil for good, he would not leave one man alive in the household. But here comes Abigail who, once she sees the king, falls prostrate before him and asks him for his pardon.

Now, she does something interesting in asking for David’s forgiveness; she asks him to place her husband’s iniquity on herself. She knows that Nabal is his namesake, a fool, and she wishes that she had met David first. I wanted to focus on this first part of her address to David because it reminds me so much of the plan of salvation. Are we humans not fools? Full of sin? Often repaying evil for good? Just as Nabal thinks that he can slight David although he has provided protection to his house, we think that we can slight God and ignore the blessings that He has given us. In our sin, we deserve to die. Note that God is not looking to punish us for our sins, but He is a God of justice. According to Romans 6:23, the result of sin is death. But the verse doesn’t end there; it continues to say that “the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Jesus says to God, “Let their iniquities fall on Me. I’ll die the death that they should that may live eternally with you.” It is through Jesus that we can have eternal life. Abigail took on this role of intercessor and gave Nabal the opportunity to humble himself and live. David accepted her request for pardon and rescinded his previous statement on killing all the males in Nabal’s house.

With this good news, Abigail went back home tell Nabal of how David decided to spare his life. What does she find? Nabal feasting like a king and drinking to excess. Because of his drunkenness, Abigail didn’t tell him the news until the next morning. When she told him, “his heart died within him, and he became like a stone. Then it happened, after about ten days, that the LORD struck Nabal, and he died.” (‭I Samuel‬ ‭25‬:‭37-38‬ NKJV). Nabal was feasting perhaps because he thought he was safe from David’s wrath. It was only when Abigail told him how close he and every male in his house was to death, his pride took a fall and his heart failed him. The consequences of his previous actions had caught up to him, and because of his foolishness, he died within ten days.

Abigail embodies the character of Christ in how she humbles herself before David and intercedes for her husband. Nabal elevated himself to his ruin while Abigail humbled herself to her exaltation (she later became David’s wife). Didn’t Christ humble Himself as well when He died for our sins? He thought nothing of Himself while on the cross, but He only thought of saving us.

Lastly I’d like to leave you with this quote from Daughters of God by Ellen White:

“In the character of Abigail, the wife of Nabal, we have an illustration of womanhood after the order of Christ, while her husband illustrates what a man may become who yields himself to the control of Satan.”

When we have a character like Christ’s, God will lift us up. And I pray that we can all live a Christ-like life.

Our Only Savior

July 13, 2013 § Leave a comment

We need a Savior. In our sin-cursed state, we need a Savior to save us from the power and presence of sin; “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23 NIV). Because we are sinners, we deserve to die. Sin can’t live in the presence of a sinless God and sin brings death to us. If we didn’t have a Savior, we would be forever separated from God our Creator. But in His love for us (remember, that’s the main point in everything), Christ died the death that we were supposed to die, thereby giving us access to God’s kingdom.

This plan was set from the very beginning, for “the Lamb…was slain from the creation of the world.” (Revelation 13:8 NIV). Because the plan of redemption was known even during the creation of the world, we have some insight into our eternal God. To Him, all times are present and He can see the end and the beginning. So He knew what to do to save us. We couldn’t save ourselves; how could we overcome the power of sin and death? We had already succumbed to sin and believed Satan’s lies, therefore, we are powerless against sin. The angels couldn’t save us, even though they are higher in intellect and righteousness. It is true that they are not tainted with sin, but they are not our creator and they have no power to save us. Only our Creator has the power to save us and only through His death could we be reconciled to our God.

That’s pretty powerful don’t you think? That Someone could love us so much that He would die to give us access to being eternally with Him. How many people would you be willing to die for? Or if not die, suffer immensely? Would be for your family? Your spouse? A close friend? These people we love and we know they love us. But Christ died for those He loves knowing that many don’t love Him. That’s the ultimate sacrifice to save us from sin. Sin separates. The weight of the world’s sins separated Christ from His Father when He died on the cross and sin separates us from being in God’s presence.

When Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden, they were not left without hope. God gave them this promise, “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:15). The seed from the woman that God was hinting at was Jesus, and He in bruising the serpent’s head would reign supreme and conquer evil. This promise served as a reminder to Adam and Eve about their Savior and that there is hope for them. This promise was repeated and refined throughout history through the sanctuary, through the sacrificial offerings, through the prophets, and ultimately, through Christ’s first advent.

When Christ died on the cross, He showed the Earth, heaven, and all other inhabited worlds that Satan seeks to destroy and God’s aim is to love. No other sacrifice could have done that and no other person on Earth has the power to save us from sin.

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