The Beautiful Garden of Eden that Will Make You Sad

It's probably not where you think it is.

Do you like snakes? Me, not so much. Whether it’s a “good snake” or a bad snake, I tend to err on the side of caution (especially with ladies in the house). After all, even the Garden of Eden had snakes.

Searching for the Garden of Eden

(Photo: Euphrates River. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Have you thought about Eve, standing there in paradise, conversing with a forked-tongued reptile with no eyelids? Ew! 

But it’s essential we remember even Eden had snakes. Why should we think of that? Because many of us live our lives on a quest for the the Garden of Eden.

Eden had snakes. Here’s what to look for instead.

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When God Finally Gives You Want You’ve Begged For

Remember that some of the Lord's most gracious answers are nos.

Got any unanswered prayers? That may be a good thing. Sometimes the only thing worse than God refusing to give us what we want occurs when He gives us want we want. 

When God Gives You Want You've Begged For

(Photo by Photodune)

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.

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Eilat Reminds You of the One Question You Must Always Ask

A Word of Warning When Your Ship Comes In

Sometimes a decision looks so good it can’t be bad. Or what we stand to gain overshadows any thought of what we might lose. But at the southern end of Israel sits a seaport with an ancient example that applies to your choices this afternoon.

Eilat Gives a Word of Warning When Your Ship Has Come In

(Photo: Boats at modern Eilat. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

The biblical city of Ezion-geber, near modern Eilat, served as Israel’s occasional port on the Red Sea. On one occasion, the gulf offered a tremendous opportunity for a lucrative shipping industry for King Jehoshaphat.

As with Jehoshaphat, Eilat parallels many opportunities you have today when your ship has come in:

  • The financial deal promises a sure return on your investment.
  • The kind, attentive gentleman asks for your hand in marriage.
  • The promotion comes with the salary you’ve waited for a long time.
  • The new church you’re attending is just around the block.

But in making these decisions, have you forgotten to ask the most important question?

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How to Get Your Roots to Reach Deep

The silent, unseen essentials of what makes life really matter.

After my grandfather died years ago, I planted an oak tree in his memory in our front yard. The skinny stem stood only 6 feet tall (like Granddad did). I planted it on a windy day.

How to Get Your Roots to Reach Deep

(By Almonroth. Own work. CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

A few hours later, my neighbor hollered: “Hey, Wayne, your tree was really leaning over in the wind!” I grabbed the trunk and slightly bent the tree over. The whole base moved, because it had no root system yet. So I staked it down.

Two years later when I bent the tree, the base didn’t move. But you know what? The tree looked the same. No visible change. Its goal for its first two years was its roots, not its limbs and leaves.

That little sprig offers a contrast (and a lesson) to you and me.

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How to Keep Your Spiritual Horse from Racing to the Barn

Our greatest motivation to obey comes from a better place than fear.

Have you ever ridden a horse that wanted to run for the barn? You have to keep constant tension on the reins, and never for one moment relax your grip. Actually, you’re riding that horse right now. 

How to Keep Your Spiritual Horse from Racing to the Barn

(Photo courtesy of Unsplash)

I remember once as a boy riding a horse on my grandfather’s farm. The horse figured out he could go to the barn whether I wanted him to or not. So, off he (not we) started running! After about 60-seconds of a full-on run, the saddle loosened and I fell off sideways— spinning and flipping in prairie dust and brambles.

My only consolation was the hope that the saddled chaffed the horse as he wore it upside down.

For some real horses, you have to keep them from even seeing the barn. If you neglect to control your mount, and that animal begins to trot barn-ward, you will find yourself riding an animal out of control. There’s no stopping it.

I can’t think of a better illustration for the struggle in your spiritual life.

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Can You Tell the Difference between a Test and a Temptation?

Either way, our reaction should be the same.

Sometimes it’s tough to tell whether we’re facing a test or a temptation. Situations of struggle don’t always come with a label to clue us in on the source. They key is to know the different purposes of each. 

Can You Tell the Difference between a Test and a Temptation?

(Photo courtesy of Ben White at Unsplash)

A great example is the road tests automakers perform on one another. As objective as the tests claim to be, the goals remain clear. GM tests Ford to show Ford’s weaknesses. GM tests GM to show its strengths. When Ford does the testing, however, they test GM to show its weakness. 

This type of testing is biblical. Both God and Satan perform tests on you and me. These road tests reveal how the rubber meets the road in our Christian lives.

But the two tests have two completely different goals. Can you tell the difference?

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Living Life in the Balance with God

The Promised Land was a good land for a reason.

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.

Living Life in the Balance with God

(Photo: Grapes left on vine after harvest in Israel. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

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.

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Rephidim—How to Win the Battle You Face Today

Our struggles are not new, and neither is the secret to victory.

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.

Rephidim—How to Win the Battle You Face Today

(Photo by Photodune)

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.

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How to Cope When God Conceals His Progress Bar of Time

As much as we’d rather know when, God has determined we only need to know what.

I recently upgraded my iPhone and had a problem transferring the data from my old backup to the new iPhone. So I called Apple.

Why God Doesn’t Show His Progress Bar

(Photo: Zach Vega. CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

As I talked to the tech during the data transfer, he really wanted to screen-share so he could see what was happening on my computer, but the connection wouldn’t work.

Because he couldn’t see my screen, he continued to ask me every minute or so what the status was on the progress bar. Finally, I said something like, “Look, asking me about it isn’t going to speed up the process. Feel free to work on something else, and I’ll let you know when it’s done.”

Did he think when it was done I would say nothing?

Then it struck me. We do the same with God.

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Do You Understand the 2 Kinds of Forgiveness?

A simple example serves to illustrate which of the two applies to you today.

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.

Do You Understand the 2 Kinds of Forgiveness?

(Photo By Todd Quackenbush. Courtesy of Unsplash.com)

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?

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