It’s a relationship

This is my first Old Testament delivery. I don’t know why it scares me, but it does. But I guess whenever, it’s my turn to speak up here in the pulpit, I get scared.  And I can tell you it’s not because I don’t like talking, I can talk with the best of them and would happily talk all day. 

It’s because I don’t feel like I’m good enough. Not educated enough. It is the reason I don’t like calling my talks sermons and instead prefer to call them deliveries.

Now I’m not saying this to get your sympathy or encouragement or your over the top praise. I’m saying it as like all of us at times, I too doubt my ability and question if I am good enough. But I am lucky, as you all are, that we have a faith in a God who loves us and is with us, working inside us for his glory. He provides us strength, patience, perseverance and wisdom.

You see our God from the beginning of creation, had a plan for us because he wants a relationship with us in his kingdom. It is true, God has a plan for all of us and he wants your life with him, no matter the past or current condition of your life.

Recently I was required to study the themes of Genesis. Talk about overwhelming.

However, I kept being drawn back to the story of Adam and Eve in the garden. With so many questions, why a garden, Why 2 trees, Was their anger in Gods reaction to Adam and Eve, eating the forbidden fruit.

And as I explored the more, I begun to see God.

The God Who king David in Psalm 63 praises in the desert, on the run and in hiding, King David was not perfect either, just like Adam and Eve were not perfect, just like me. And Adam and Eve lived with and spoke to God in his home on Earth, The Garden of Eden. Just like you and me, they have choices which is also part of Gods plan.

You see, God gave his blessing to Adam and Eve to eat from any tree in the Garden, including the Tree of life, all except the Tree of Knowledge, which he commanded them not to eat from or touch. Why? It was important that God commanded this as it turned Adam and Eve from controlled beings, into beings with the gift of free will. Able to choose and think for themselves. Freely able to decide for themselves.

This gift of free will is important and is special. Think of a dog or cat for that matter, think about when you come home, and it comes to you happy joyfully wagging its tail. It chooses to come to you, it makes you feel special and loved. That’s what God wants, He want a relationship with us. One built of trust and love.

Now imagine that dog or cat, coming to you in fear because it has to. Its not the same. That’s not love or joy. Imagine life and love without free will. Imagine discipleship. No thanks.

A quote from G,K Chesterton an English philosopher writer and lay theologian, portrays the line of thought I am going for by stating, “The way to love anything is to realize that it may be lost.”

It well known we don’t appreciate something or someone until its no longer with us. I wonder if this also was part of Gods plan.

As I read about the tree of Life and the tree of Knowledge of good and evil, I appreciate this free will that God presented and the requirement for the commandment or test of their will. I saw Adam and Eve go from innocence to Imperfection in an instant. But the bigger light bulb moment I had was that, this moment apart from bringing sin into the world and starting the fall of man, was the first moment that mankind, Gods creation, turned its back on Christ. As don’t forget this is a common theme of the bible, which from start to finish points to our savior Jesus Christ as a result.

Why would the bible not start with this.

I viewed Christ as the tree of life and immediately searched up the words of Christ in John 14:6 I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.

The very next chapter of John, 15:5 we read, I am the vine, you are the branches, if you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit.

Exploring further, I begun to entertain the idea of Christ represented as the tree of Life in Genesis and I discover in Revelations also in chapter 2, like Genesis, It is written, Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

Armed with this knowledge, we discover that our wants, desires and fears are able to drown out our ability to hear the word of God, which allows us to fall into the fruit of temptation, disobedience and in turn sin. We find out that as humans we are not good enough to defeat sin and our fears without the help of our God.

In the Screw tape letters, C.S Lewis is quoted in a letter to a devil in training, “It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: In reality, our best work is done by keeping things out.”

Like me and I dare say a few of others here today, our fear of not being good enough and in particular on this occasion for me in preaching, could easily if we allow it, drown out our desire to be the best we can. And not for our own Glory, But for his glory.

With God by our side and the word of God strong in our  hearts, with Jesus Christ as our focus, we can rest assured we are good enough.

How do we know this. Let’s continue to read the scripture.

Straight after Adam and Eve succumbed to temptation and sinned, we read God walking in the Garden. Seeking Adam and Eve. Even in their moment of fall, feeling Guilty and ashamed. Hiding with embarrassment and fear. We see they are still good enough for God.

Stop and appreciate that.

Can you appreciate that, They failed the test. Quite miserably as well, yet God didn’t care, he stood by them in the Garden, and actively pursued and found them. Why do you find something? Because you want it. Why do you search for something, Because you care about it. Why did God search and call out to them. Because he wanted to save them. Because he still loves them and wanted to keep his relationship with them. Just like he loves us and wants us to be in a relationship with him.

Picking up, Gen 3:9, God calls out, “where are you?” and even though Adam is afraid and feels guilty, he responds and answers God.

We read God questions them about their knowing of their nakedness and if they had eaten from the tree, he had told them not too.

This is God wanting an honest relationship with man (us). What does Adam do, Blames his wife. Attempts to justify a sinful action by blaming something/someone else. Dare I say, he hinted at it being Gods fault.

Have you done this before? Why do we attempt to justify ourselves to people in our lives? Have you ever been late and could not find your car keys and spoken out in anger, “Why God? As if it was clearly Gods fault you put the car keys on the bench beside the coffee machine several hours earlier, instead of the key hook, which now have consequently been pushed up out of sight by dinner plates, cups and a box of tissues.

All gods doing of course. I don’t think so. We did it, through our actions and current mindset. Although, if I was god, it is a great opportunity to continue teach the gift of patience and perseverance.  

Why do we need to shift blame, or justify our actions or lack their of? Is it because of Self Pride! Is it because of a fear of not being good enough in the eyes of others.

When God asks Eve, we again see a response, “The serpent deceived me and I ate it” Although she replies with honesty, she opens with an attempt to justify herself, as a result of her fear that she is not good enough.  

Let’s now look at the actions of God. And I’m glad we are looking at God and not my own. God doesn’t chastise them, yell or scream, no smacking or time outs. He does not storm off and he doesn’t even lecture them.

We see God act out of love for us. He effectively defends da and Eve as he turns and curses the serpent and foreshadows the serpents death at the hands of the woman’s offspring as we now know to be Jesus.

We then read the judgement handed down by God to Woman and to man. Although it sounds scary, it is GOD preparing Adam and Eve and us for that matter, with wise words to help us in the days and years to come, letting us know that it will be tough now that sin is present in the world and that we will be required to work hard and bare the pains of life and suffer death. This I see as a caring gesture to effectively give Adam and Eve and all of us a heads up. Life will be tough, but I am here, and I will help you through it.

But the best thing I see is that God maintains his desire for a relationship between him and man and even though we failed the test and are sinners by nature, We are good, we are all good enough in the eyes of God to do his will and live out his plans.

How do we know we are good enough. Through our faith and trust in him.

Adam and Eve did not reply to God or attempt to change his mind. Not like Abbie, when she is caught doing something wrong, I swear she must have a book hidden in her room, 1001 excuses when in trouble by your parents with a bonus section, how to get the punishment you want.

No, Adam and Eve accepted Gods and, amazingly, saw the positive in Gods judgement as this is where Adam, re named his wife, from Woman to he called her Eve, because she would become the mother of the living.    

These verses of Scripture in Adam and Eve, tell us so much about the character of Man and God. 

We see a patient and compassionate God. An understanding and accepting God of who we are. A God who is slow to anger and a God who knows us and seeks our honesty.

We see that God knows we are sinners and are not perfect, yet still wants to have a relationship with us as he is knows and believes we are good enough.

He is forgiving.

What an easy word to say, yet Forgiveness, is one of the hardest things to do for some of us. Thank god for his grace that he forgives!

What a different world we would live in if we all acted with these characteristics of God… I guess that’s a bit of an insight to heaven.

In scripture we see that God has a plan to destroy sin and redeem us so that we can once again live with him in Paradise and part of his plan is Judgement.

I must add as well before I finish that, importantly we read about Adam and eve being banished from the Garden, we see a God prevent their return to Eden and the tree of life. This is Gods will in place for our benefit and his Gods Glory. Not ours.

Imagine if sin full man ate from the tree of life after eating the apple, Sin would exist for ever. In the proceeding chapters we see sin affect the hearts of man, starting with Cain killing Abel and ending with Lamech the most vile and sinful man gloating about his sinfulness. 

I feel that sometimes we, forget that God works for his glory and not for our own individual self-glory. We confuse our hopes and dreams as being the same hopes and dreams of God and what he wants for the world. 

But it is okay, as this is our character as witnessed in this biblical event. A character easily influenced by human concern for self.

If we take away one thing from Adam and Eve, it is that God simply wants our faith.

This is exemplified at the end of chapter 3. where he sent out Adam and Eve, clothed in sacrificed skin into the desert, with nothing else except their faith. Their faith to provide for them in a world of free will and sin.

Like us in todays world of free will and sin, God sends us out clothed in the sacrifice of Jesus, and nothing else except our faith, like Adam and Eve… And that is enough!

So don’t be surprised when trouble comes.

God doesn’t expect us to live a perfect life for him. He just wants our life to be with him and he is always seeking a conversation with you. Answer him, he wants to listen and engage with you.

Don’t let a situation you find yourself in take over your faith and appear greater than God. Give your burdens to God. If I am honest, todays sermon nearly did for me.

I had prepared a whole different one. I read it to leesh and we weren’t feeling it, it was like the Old testament itself, busy, stuff happening everywhere and I had lost the message and had several instead.

 I messaged Richard last night telling him I have 12 pages of nothing. His reply hit me and I am extremely thankful. It set in motion the personal and honest opening and the rest just followed.

God works through all of us and his ways are mysterious. He is an awesome God

I’ll leave you with a quote I heard through the week by an American Christian teacher, on a podcast, Mike Mazaalongo,

Remember God is always training us to believe and trust in him, as our faith is the only way to access what he has promised.

Dear lord,

give us all the confidence we need to do your will. Help us with our burdens, with our difficulties and our doubts. Guide us in our own learning and understanding of you lord, through your words.

Help us to realize that no matter who we are and what we have, we are good enough in your eyes.

Give us the confidence to shine like a light in our homes, communities and places of work. Knowing life is not always smiles and laughter, and in so, helping our light to display the recognizable traits of Christ, being compassion, humility, love, kindness, patience, perseverance and wisdom.

We thank you Lord for your love and your grace in our lives as well as the comfort you bring to our hearts in all circumstances.

Guide us lord, Always in your will.

Amen.

Why a garden, of all the things God could have provided as a home for us, he chose a garden. Why do you think he chose that? Because of its beauty… because of its practicality in providing for us?

It’s interesting, when you think on it. There is an inbuilt attraction of comfort and peace we all find in a garden whether looking at it, or working in it. And all gardens need a creative mind behind it that reflect the creator’s vision they have for it.

This includes Flowers and how captivating they are. They are used in today’s world to convey love and joy as they were back in the biblical world for the same reasons.

A brief example is seen Solomon’s Song, referencing flowers numerous times in a love story between a man and woman.

You’ll be comforted to know that even educated psychologists share this same opinion. A recent psychology today article, discusses the importance of Gardens to our mental health.  

It states that a garden is a place where you can be yourself. A place you can slow down, a place allowing you to be open to connections to others, including the spiritual. A place you can receive love, through of the Gardens creator and where you can find a comfort in life and death.

I know a lot here, are keen gardeners and have the flowers to show it. Think on how you feel about your garden and the blossoming flowers and trees as well as the memories now apart of it.

It’s no wonder God chose to give man a garden as their home with him. A Constant reminder of his awesomeness and love and a place to easily be one with God, to praise God and thank him. The perfect place to worship.

This shows us from the beginning God knew us and what is good for us. I wonder, is our personal faith our garden and home to the holy spirit, dwelling in us. Maybe in Spring and summer we should start to have the odd outdoor garden service, I know the last outdoor service we had, in gloomy times, warning us of the coming pandemic and not to be afraid, was actually one of the most comforting, encouraging and joyful services I have experienced. I wonder if being out side in Gods garden rather than inside a timber room had anything to do with it?