Back To The Garden

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"Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month.  The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.  No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His servants will worship Him.  They will see His face, and His Name will be on their foreheads.  And night will be no more.  They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever" (Revelation 22:1-5).
John, in the book of John, begins his gospel record in identical fashion to Genesis: "In the beginning...."  Furthermore, John's final revelation of Heaven sounds very similar to the first book of Genesis: a garden similar to Eden is described in the final chapter of the book of Revelation, where there is found the Tree of Life, a River of Life, Light, and God Himself, living with and reigning over His people.

But what is the connection between the two?


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"... [T]he Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28). 
"I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.... I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word" (John 17:9, 20).
Most of us are familiar with the term ransom.  It is seen in popular movies and provides a thrilling plot: So-and-so is threatening to destroy such-and-such a place unless certain demands are met in time.  Will the ransom be paid?  Will the ransom be received in time?  Will the one demanding the ransom actually keep their word?  These questions and more keep the viewer on the edge of their seat.

You Are Known

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"But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us" (1 John 1:7-10). 
"But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires" (Romans 13:14).
Each of us is naturally concerned with self.  This is the very definition of pride: self-concern.  I can be self-concerned in an arrogant way and also in a pitiful way.  These are two ends of the spectrum, but each is a form of hubris.

We Gather Together

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"We gather together to ask the Lord's blessing;
He chastens and hastens His will to make known;
the wicked oppressing now cease from distressing;
sing praises to His Name, He forgets not His own. 
Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining,
ordaining, maintaining His kingdom divine;
so from the beginning the fight we were winning:
Thou, Lord wast at our side--the glory be Thine! 
We all do extol Thee, Thou leader in battle,
and pray that Thou still our defender wilt be.
Let Thy congregation escape tribulation;
Thy name be ever praised; O Lord, make us free!" (We Gather Together, Anonymous).
Thanksgiving is rapidly approaching - faster this year than years prior, it seems.

The Bible tells us to "be joyful always" and "give thanks continually in all circumstances" (1 Thessalonians 5:16, 18).  But why?

First of all, it is important to remember that thankfulness isn't found in an object; thankfulness, instead, is an attitude; a disposition of the heart.

War of the Worlds: God's Definitions of Femininity and Sexuality

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This is the last of a two-part series on femininity and sexuality.  Our current cultural beliefs are in direct opposition to the truths determined by our Creator.  These articles will explore the common cultural beliefs and Biblical truths regarding these two topics.

Our culture has hijacked femininity.  Biological and natural traits separate the sexes in many ways.  Contrary to popular belief, females are distinct from males.

For instance, a couple weeks ago my wife and I were to go on a date.  We had to find a babysitter and choose a place to go.  The days leading up to our date, however, revealed many differences.  Lauren had been looking forward to a date night all week.  I was busy with work and other things, keeping the date night in the back of my mind, but doing little to prepare for it.  When Friday night finally came, our differing expectations became apparent.

War of the Worlds: Our Culture's Definitions of Femininity and Sexuality

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This is the first of a two-part series on femininity and sexuality.  Our current cultural beliefs are in direct opposition to the truths determined by our Creator.  These articles will explore the common cultural beliefs and Biblical truths regarding these two topics.

"Feminism is so deeply ingrained in our culture that we are all affected by it.  So, what exactly is feminism... and has [its] effect been good or bad -- or both?" ("Biblical Femininity in a Feminist World", Cindy Garland, Bob Jones University).


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The Puritans left us with many wise writings, meaningful meditations, and powerful prayers.  Below is a Puritan prayer entitled "Self-Depreciation" - "Self-Disapproval".  Indeed, it is good for the Christian to disapprove of himself.

Peace with God

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 "Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:1).
When you think of peace, what do you think of?  I picture two children striving against one another over a toy.  Both are upset.  Faces are tight with fear and anxiety.  Anger begins to fill their eyes and beads of sweat line their foreheads.  Neither one is willing to give in to the other's wishes.  There is no peace between them, only a rift of bitterness.  Finally, mom and dad see what is happening and begin to mediate between the two parties.  Little by little, their anger and hatred toward one another subsides and they are reconciled in a few minutes - thanks to the mediation by mom and dad.

A Mighty Fortress

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"The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
He utters His voice, the earth melts.
The LORD of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our fortress.  Selah
Come, behold the works of the LORD,
How He has brought desoloations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
He burns the chariots with fire.
'Be still and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!;
The LORD of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our fortress.  Selah" (Psalm 46:6-11).
I had wanted to write about the role of God's creation in relation to our Creator, but recent political events - specifically the bizarre obstructions of a Senate meeting - have changed my course today.

Marriage: How We Are Fighting Against Nature - and Losing

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"And God blessed [Adam and Eve].  And God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth...'" (Genesis 1:28).
My family recently received a puppy from my grandparents.  We were initially excited... and then we remembered how much time and attention a puppy demands.  Add two young children to the mix and the puppy, which we called Rosie, became too much for us.

There were several times Rosie was found digging in the flower garden.  Typical, right?  No matter how much time I spent training her, she simply couldn't be trusted out of my sight for more than two minutes.  She always found herself back in the flower garden, trampling our fragile plants into the dirt.

Christian Hedonsists, Not Christian Humanists (featuring guest author J. Aaron White)

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I always know when I've struck literary gold.  While reading a book, if I come across a sentence or a concept that moves me greatly, I frantically reach for my trusty highlighters and begin painting the page an obnoxious corn yellow or Pepto Bismol pink.  I know many of you can relate, so stop laughing at me.

... [M]y pickaxe recently made contact with a treasure trove of thought-provoking sentences in John Piper's classic work on world missions, Let the Nations be Glad!  To set the scene, let me share one of the nuggets that made my mental gears turn:

"... they worship the created rather than the Creator..."

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As many of you know, our son Asher Richard was born in February of this year.  He was diagnosed almost immediately as having a heart murmur, which led to the discovery of a "medium to large" hole in his heart - a VSD for those of you who are medically literate.

Both he and our family have endured many trips to the hospital in Madison for tests, consultations, and check-ups.  A couple months ago, a doctor confirmed a good report to us: Asher's hole was not getting larger; in fact, it was getting relatively smaller as he grew!

What does it mean to glorify God?

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The first answer to the first question in the Westminster Shorter Catechism, a historical document that is theologically timeless, states: "The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever."  But what does that mean?  How does one attain to this commonly repeated Christian summation of life, "glorify God"?

First, we would do well to look at the second answer to the second question in the Catechism to find the answer: "The Scriptures contained in the Old and New Testaments is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy Him."  This helps us get closer to answering the question.  We know that we must find the answer to how we may glorify God in God Himself.

A Piece in the Puzzle

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"And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him" (Acts 8:38).
The conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts chapter eight is one of my favorite stories, for it reveals the reality of evangelism, a duty every Christian should engage.

Yet, evangelism is not the purpose of the church.

On the contrary, worship of God is the sole purpose of the church - the collective, universal people of God.

Tired and Crying for Help!

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"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in Heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith - more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire - may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  Though you have not seen Him, you love Him.  Through you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls" (1 Peter 1:3-9).
My prayers lately have consisted of, largely, three words: "Lord, help me."  I have not stamina or energy to continue to meet the demands of life, it seems.  I am doing all that I can just to stay afloat at work, at home, and at church.  Life seems like it is going one-hundred miles per hour and I am swirling in the middle of the vortex, gasping for air and grasping for help.  "Lord, help me" is about all I can utter at this moment.

However, it doesn't need to be that way.

Remembering Our Deliverance

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"Then the LORD said to Moses, 'Go in to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may show these signs of mine among them, and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I have dealt harshly with the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them, that you may know that I am the LORD'" (Exodus 10:1-2).
Just before the eighth plague, God tells Moses the purpose of Pharaoh's hardened heart, the plagues, Israel's captivity, and their future deliverance: "that you may know that I am the LORD."  God's purpose in delivering His people was so that they would know He is the LORD.

Are you a good steward?

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"Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body" (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus..." (Romans 8:1). 
In Tolkien's The Return of the King, the reader finds Denethor on the throne in Gondor.  This character on the throne, however, is not the king; he is a steward.  The true king was Aragorn, heir to the throne by lineage and right.  Had Denethor survived to the end of the book, King Aragorn would have certainly held him accountable for his evil stewardship.

Stewardship is taking care of something that isn't yours.  Just as Denethor was given the responsibility to take care of the kingdom until the king arrived, so each one of us has been given responsibility to take care of our own bodies; we are required to steward them until the King arrives.  When He does arrive, He will judge us according to our level of stewardship.

Submitting to God's Will in Marriage

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"'Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior....  Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her....'" (Ephesians 5:22-23, 25).
 "'Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you'" (Genesis 3:16b).
I remember a few weeks before my wife and I were married thinking to myself, "I have no idea what being a godly husband looks like."  I was scared of what awaited me.  I knew that I was stepping into big shoes, yet I had no idea how to fill them, much less walk in them.

What is God's Will for My Life?

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"[A]nd may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.  Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more.  For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.  For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you.  For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.  Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives His Holy Spirit to you" (1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:8).
The question is often asked: "What is God's will for my life?"  We ask this question as if there was some magical, golden path we must watch out for, and if we miss it, we are doomed.  God's will for my life, however, is not magical at all.

This is the will of God, that you be made holy.  "Be holy because I am holy" (1 Peter 1:16).

Be Ready In Season and Out of Season

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"I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry" (2 Timothy 4:1-5).
This morning I went for a run.  The air was crisp and the new sun was casting its beautiful, colorful rays upon the horizon.  When I came to the end of my run, I walked a little bit to catch my breath.  I literally thought I was going to die.  My eyes were growing cloudy, my chest felt like an elephant was pushing down on me, and my mouth and lungs burned.  The worst part about it was that I had run only one city block.

Keeping the Sabbath Holy

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"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.  Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God..." (Exodus 20:8-10).
"Do not think I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them" (Matthew 5:17).
Recently, our church began to study the Puritans, a group of early Protestants in England who were not satisfied with merely reforming the order of the church, but were chiefly concerned with inward holiness of her members.  Many Puritans were later to move to the New World and begin their religious advancement of a pious society in New England (not for freedom of religion, which is more commonly stated).

Jesus Paid It All

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There is something innate in the human spirit that demands justice and acquittal.  We need to be made right.  Most often we try to be made right through our actions.  Actions that condemn us require, instinctively, actions that acquit us.  That's why the common religion of today is, "I'm a pretty good person."  In their minds, they have been acquitted because their actions aren't as bad as the guy next to them.

Growing up, I was always very hard on myself.  I was very critical and even self-abusive, of no fault to my parents.  I knew that what I did was never good enough and that drove me to self-loathing.  I hated myself because I could never remove the guilt my wrong actions brought with them.  A spanking was justly given - and many did I rightly receive - but my spirit knew better: I was guilty.  So, I tried harder.  But when continual failure met even my best efforts, I became even more self-loathsome.

When I began to trust Jesus at the age of six, I became indebted to Him.  At times I loved Him, but usually I feared Him.  I was unsure of His love for me, though everywhere I turned I heard that "God loves you."  I had a lot for which to pay Him back; how could God love me when I still did wrong?

What Does God Require of Man?

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"Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before My eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause.  Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.  If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be eaten by the sword; for the mouth f the LORD has spoken" (Isaiah 1:16-20). 
"Whoever has My commandments and keeps them, He it is who loves Me.  And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him" (John 14:21). 
"Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.  For this, 'You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not covet,' and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'  Love does no wrong to a neighbor; love therefore is the fulfillment of the law" (Romans 13:8-10).

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