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.)

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The Spiritual Journey of Mary Magdalene

June 5, 2014 § Leave a comment

Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.” (Matthew 26:13 NKJV)
Mary Magdalene is an interesting character. In every gospel, she is mentioned by name in some way, shape, or form relating to Christ. Her spiritual journey is chronicled in the Gospels, from when she is caught in sin to when she receives redemption. Her journey is one that is shared by many, whether exactly or generally, and through her journey, we see the steps of our own spiritual journey.

The verse quoted above is from Jesus speaking while at Simon’s, who was a Pharisee, house. Mary had just anointed Jesus’s feet; many were in dissension with her act, but Jesus, seeing her love and worship defends her. But this is not where we first see Mary. We first see her being dragged against her will to Jesus, for she had been caught in the act of adultery and the Pharisees wanted to know what Christ would do with her. They said, “’Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?’ This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him.” (John 8:4-6 NKJV). The Pharisees had no love for Mary. They didn’t want to see her redeemed and quitting her life of sin. They only sought to condemn her in order to magnify themselves and attempt to accuse Jesus. The trick was this: if Christ said to stone her, they would have questioned reputation of being forgiving and loving. Had he told them to spare her, they would have accused Him of going against Moses’s law and that would be punishable. But Christ did something remarkable; “But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear. So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” (John 8:6, 7 NKJV). Although the Bible is silent on what Christ was writing, tradition says that Christ was writing the sins of the Pharisees in the dirt. In this encounter Christ exercised mercy to one who should have been stoned, and He exposed the hypocrisy and self-righteousness of the Pharisees.

Mary is introduced to Jesus and her first experience with Him is mercy. Isn’t that usually how we first meet Him right before we accept Him? Think for a second on how you first realized just who Jesus is and what He did for you. That moment could have been during a Bible study or when someone gave you a tract. And it need not be a first time introduction. For example. I’ve been Seventh-day Adventist for nearly all my life, and I feel like I didn’t realize who Christ is until I came to college. Regardless of how we meet Him, we see how sinful our lives are in comparison with His righteousness. But in spite of our sins, He shows us mercy, and our awe of him begins to grow.

Of course, Mary did not become perfect in that initial meeting of Christ. She still had her faults. In Matthew 26 and Luke 7, we see the accounts of the anointing at Bethany. Mary desired to worship and show her love to the One who had forgiven her of her sins, therefore, she bought the most expensive fragrant oil she could buy to anoint Jesus with. After anointing Him by pouring the oil on His head, she bowed at His feet and was so overcome with emotion that she wept. With her tears she wet His feet, and with her hair she dried them. This was Mary’s act of worship, her manifestation of her love for Christ. Yet those around her smirked and scolded her for buying such a costly item when she could have given the money to the poor. But Jesus saw her love and said, “Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me.” (Matthew 26:10 KJV). Again, when everyone around Mary was condemning her, she found love and mercy in Jesus. He extended forgiveness to her and she went on her away with strength and reassurance.

Notice that this is the second time that Jesus forgives Mary of her sins. In the next chapter, Luke 8, the Bible says, “And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils.” (Luke 8:2 KJV). To give further explanation on the importance of this fact, turn to Matthew 12; “When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation.” (Matthew 12:43-45 KJV). Mary fell back into sin multiple times, some times may have been worse than others. But she came back to Christ each time and He healed and forgave her. Such an action is a lesson for us; the best thing for us to do when we are ensnared by sin is run towards Jesus, not to run from Him. She and other women continued to minister to Him (Luke 8:1-2), and whenever He visited Bethany, Mary made sure to sit at His feet, regardless of her sister Martha’s scoldings (Luke 10:38-42). In this stage, Mary is growing her relationship with Christ. She is in His presence as much as she can be, she listens to Him, and drinks His every word; she has found “that good part, which will not be taken away from her”. When we run towards Jesus and experience His love for us, we desire to be with Him more and more. We want to keep listening to Him even though others mock us. We long for the Sabbath hours to be a little bit longer so we can bask in His presence. Such is our growth in Christ when we keeping running to Him, seeking forgiveness and love.

The last time we see Mary Magdalene is at Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. In every single Gospel, there is some mention of Mary, whether specifically or generally, at the scene of the crucifixion; the scriptures are Matt. 27:55-56, Mark 15:40-41, Luke 23:49, and John 19:25. She was with Christ from the time she met Him until He rose from the dead. In fact, in her sadness at His death, she was the first one at the tomb on Sunday morning. After resting on the Sabbath the day before, she hurried to His tomb to perform the last burial preparations. But, of course, the stone was rolled away, the tomb was empty, and Christ revealed Himself to Mary. Thinking that someone had stolen His body, she was distressed and mistook the resurrected Jesus for a gardener. But not until He had said her name did Mary recognize who it was, for who else had could say her name with such love and compassion? Jesus first revealed Himself to a once broken woman who was still getting to know Him. Not to His disciples or to the religious leaders or the Roman guards. But to one whom society deemed unworthy to touch Him, to one who truly worshipped Him with mockers all around her. Seeing Christ’s love for her is beautiful, and to know that He loves us the same way is more beautiful still. This may be the last time we see Mary, but it is by no means the end of her spiritual journey. She is human, and I’m sure she continued to fall and continued to run towards Christ for all her life. But that’s what a spiritual journey is, it’s one that never ends. We constantly learn more about Christ and keep getting ever closer to Him. And when Christ comes again to take us to our heavenly home, we will have eternity to continue our never-ending journeys and to get know God. Personally, I can’t wait to continue getting to know Him face-to-face.

 

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