One of our greatest challenges is finding balance in the Christian life. Think of a person on a tightrope. There’s never a point where they just stroll across effortlessly. Balance requires continual effort.
Have you ever noticed that somehow Jesus balanced it all? The demands of His work and ministry left Him exhausted at times, of course—yet somehow He found time to get it all done.
Jesus perfectly balanced the demands of life—with the same 24 hours we have.
Trying to find the location of the Garden of Eden has given Bible students and scholars an unending quest. The Bible describes Eden as “in the east” and in proximity to a river that became four rivers.
Only two of the four rivers we know the locations of today (Gen. 2:8, 10-14). The Tigris and Euphrates rivers flowed through biblical Mesopotamia (modern Iraq).
But just because the location of the garden remains indefinite, it doesn’t mean we can put it anywhere we want. The best and most honest scholars put a question mark in the atlas beside the location of the Garden of Eden.
Searching for the Garden of Eden doesn’t end with its location. Many people live their lives on a quest for the delights of Eden—for an ideal life.
Here’s why that quest is just as futile as finding its location.
Everybody likes to be an exception to the rule. No exceptions. This paradox seems especially true for individuals who are exceptional. Like Solomon. (And like you and me.)
“I have given you a wise and discerning heart,” God told Solomon, “so that there has been no one like you before you, nor shall one like you arise after you” (1 Kings 3:12). Talk about exceptional!
And yet Solomon became the exception to the wisdom of Solomon. How?
It started with two small compromises that we can avoid.
Sometimes the only thing worse than God refusing to give us what we want occurs when He gives us want we want. Many years ago, our young daughter had only one thing on her mind.
She knew we planned an Easter egg hunt, and she asked if she could eat lots of candy on Easter. We told her no, but she kept after us, day after day. Easter came and she continued to plead. So we decided to let her learn by experience what she refused to learn by instruction. We let her eat as many little chocolate eggs as she wanted.
That night was pitiful.
“Oooooh, mommy, my tummy hurts!” She had learned by experience what she refused to learn by instruction. My toddler’s lesson gets repeated in the life of most of us adults.
But it doesn’t have to.
The songs play it. The movies portray it. Even our church services have their part to play. “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” Yeah, well what if it isn’t? For many people, holidays bring up painful memories.
Sore spots from childhood or the loss of loved ones hit hard during this sentimental season. While many people celebrate the joys of Christmastime, others suffer lonely holidays.
During one of the most desperate times of King David’s life, the anointed future king of Israel found himself running from two separate enemies—hardly a time to celebrate. With the Philistines to the west and King Saul to the east, a distressed David sought refuge in the cave of Adullam (1 Samuel 22:1–2).
David felt very alone.
His situation offers encouragement to us during lonely holidays.
I got my first suicide-threat phone call during my first year when I served as a pastor. I drove to the neighborhood and found the address in a row of massive homes with fine-trimmed lawns.
I rang the doorbell and a woman with a severe look cracked the door and eyed me without saying a word.
I began the brief conversation. “Hello, uh, I received a call about . . .”
“He’s around back,” she interrupted. The door slammed. I made my way to the back of the mansion and saw one of the several garage doors open. Inside, I found a man sitting on an upside-down bucket.
His bloodshot eyes looked up at me.
To hear Moses describe the Promised Land, it sounded as if it offered vast natural resources—a land where food was plentiful and lacked for nothing (Deut. 8:9). Well, true and not true.
The land had streams, pools, springs, wheat, barley, grapevines, figs, pomegranates, olives, and honey. Sounds pretty nice. Sign me up.
But this good land existed in a delicate balance of nature—and God tipped the scales. The Hebrews would learn that God alone made the good land “good” in direct proportion to the gratitude, praise, and obedience of His people.
The same is true of our lives.
The Bible’s teaching on forgiveness can seem confusing. Even contradictory. In fact, over the years I’ve heard one question more than any other.
On one hand we have the marvelous promise that once we believe the gospel message—that Jesus died for our sins and rose again—we have forgiveness of all our sins.
All of them.
But that begs a question: If Jesus has already paid for our sins, why then does the Bible tell us to confess our sins for forgiveness?
It’s because the Bible teaches two kinds of forgiveness.
Do you understand the difference?
You wake up to it each morning. It follows you as you go through your day. It’s waiting for you in every room and conversation. Your battle cleverly disguises itself in many forms.
Your battle appears as a person, or as money, or as a tense situation at the office.
But the reality is that the battle you face each day has another source. The fight that God’s people faced at Rephidim proved that point.
The battle is spiritual—and there’s only one way to win.
Before I went to the Holy Land, the kosher laws of Leviticus seemed mere words on a page. For example, Exodus 34:26 says not to boil a goat in its mother’s milk. When have you last applied that?
The verse has been misunderstood to mean people shouldn’t eat meat and milk during the same meal. Yet, even if that meaning was true, the truth isn’t timeless. Abraham himself had no qualms in serving both together—even to God (take a peek at Gen. 18:8)!
Although all of the Bible’s commands for dietary laws aren’t represented in modern Israel, the fact that any are observed serves as a powerful illustration of what God first intended the diet code to accomplish.
Even in the Garden of Eden, with the first dietary law given to eat from any tree except one (Gen. 2:16-17), God’s command centered around one question.
Would they obey?
But food also had another purpose.