Chapter OneJanuary 1
The Crowning Touch
The week between Christmas and New Year's Day had passed too quickly.
We had enjoyed a wonderful time of visiting our families, filled with gift
giving, good food, movies, laughter, and games. Still, there was something
missing. Everyone cheered as my nephew positioned the last piece of the
new six-hundred-piece jigsaw puzzle we had worked on so hard all week. We
all admired the beautiful picture of a spring garden, copied from a painting
by Monet, until someone noticed the tiny empty space near the center.
When God created the first man and placed him in the Garden to live,
there was something missing there, too. Even after God had spent six days
fashioning a world full of beautiful plants and a dizzying array of animals,
his creation was not complete until he made the first woman. Eve was the
crowning touch to God's perfect creation. Designed and shaped by God's
hand, her femininity perfectly complemented everything else he had made.
Adam took one look at Eve and exclaimed, "At last!" God surveyed his finished
work and could now say that it was "very good" (Genesis 1:31).
God designed women to bring a special kind of beauty to the world.
We are created in God's image, and we testify to his glory in a unique way
as we embrace feminine traits of nurturing, sensitivity, compassion, and creativity.
We are also fashioned to have a close relationship with our Creator.
Until we know him personally, we are missing the vital piece that completes
us, no matter how full our lives may seem. Even if we look as beautiful as a
Monet painting, without a relationship with our Creator we have an empty
space near the center of our being, right where our heart is.
You will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that
comes from God.
Putting a Spin on God's Word
Marlene threw the newspaper down in disgust and started pacing back and
forth. As a first-time candidate for mayor, she had jumped at the chance to
share her views. The reporter, apparently, had his own agenda-changing a
word here and there and leaving out some comments. Next time, Marlene
would ask to see the article before publication, and she would go over it
word for word.
When Satan wanted Eve to disobey God, his first step was to distort
God's words. The serpent asked, "Did God really say you must not eat the
fruit from any of the trees in the garden?" Eve corrected his misquote, and
then added a phrase that was not in God's original command (see Genesis
2:16-17), saying that they must not "even touch" the tree in the middle of
the Garden. Eve's careless misrepresentation of God's command encouraged
Satan. He denied that disobedience would lead to death, and he questioned
Today we have the awesome privilege of access to the entire Word of
God in written form, yet it's easier than ever for Satan to make us question
what God has said. Many people add to, water down, twist, or reinterpret
the Bible to suit their personal opinions or desires. Did God really say .
that sex outside of the marriage relationship is wrong . that hell is an actual
place . that Jesus is the only way to God? Some people listen to speakers or
read books about the Bible without ever studying it for themselves.
When Satan tried to get Jesus to distort God's Word, Jesus repelled his
efforts by quoting appropriate Scripture back to him (see Matthew 4:1-11).
If we want to live in a way that's pleasing to God, we need to have his Spirit
living in us and we need to study his Word continually. When Satan comes
to trick us, we can be ready to quote Scripture-preferably word for word.
I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
Genesis 2:16-17; 3:4
In Eve's innocence, she didn't know that her conversation with the serpent
was a decisive turning point in her life. Either Adam or God had told Eve
about the commandment against eating fruit from the tree in the middle
of the Garden. She had no reason to question God's word or his intentions,
having known only her Creator's kindness and concern for her well-being.
However, the serpent sounded wise too. The fruit on the beautiful tree
looked delicious; how could it be harmful? What could be wrong about
gaining more wisdom? As Eve decided whose advice she would follow, the
fate of the world hung in the balance.
Similar scenes play out in countless lives every day. A teenager taught
to abstain from premarital sex hears from his health teacher that it's perfectly
natural and safe, as long as he uses protection. A college student has
to listen as her professor daily promotes "the enlightened path to spirituality"
while ridiculing the "old-fashioned" beliefs of Christianity. A woman
struggles to hold her marriage and family together as her coworkers pressure
her to consider her own needs first.
We all have defining moments in our lives when we have choices to
make. Will we base our actions on the unchanging Word of God, or will
we listen to other sources that sound reasonable or wise? Our decisions will
determine the direction of our lives to some degree, and sometimes of the
lives of others. It may not be a life-or-death situation, but the outcome can
affect our health, a relationship, or our character. Whenever we have to
choose between listening to God or some other voice, something precious
hangs in the balance.
Whose voice will you listen to today?
My younger brother's first job was as a caseworker for the Department of
Human Services in a small town. One day, a coworker's client reported that
she had lost her food stamps. Since the woman wouldn't receive any more
stamps for two weeks, the employees pooled what little money they could
spare and bought groceries for her. The next day, the woman's caseworker
brought back her response-she complained because the groceries didn't
include enough meat.
This woman had a problem attitude that was first exhibited by Eve in
the Garden of Eden. God had provided the perfect environment for meeting
all of Eve's physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. She was surrounded
by beauty and bounty, but when Satan drew her attention to the forbidden
tree, Eve experienced discontent for the first time. Her focus shifted from all
that she enjoyed to the one thing that God had withheld from her. Her happiness
and well-being suddenly seemed to depend on eating fruit from the
tree in the middle of the Garden. Nothing else would satisfy her.
We have all inherited the tendency to want more than what we have.
When our eyes are drawn toward something that we don't have, suddenly
our houses, furniture, marriages, or families don't seem to be quite enough.
It's hard to stay focused on our blessings when something else is tempting
us. This attitude insults God and inevitably leads us into sin. We can cultivate
contentment by asking God to remove our desires for something more
and then by trusting him to provide what is best for us. With his help, we
will learn to be satisfied-even when we don't have as much meat or fruit in
our diet as we might like.
I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.
Philippians 4:11 (NASB)
The First Designer Dress
Genesis 3:7-11, 21
"What am I going to wear today?" That's one of the first questions we ask
each morning-unless it's "What can I still fit into?" Clothing is a big part
of a woman's life. We want to wear something that's comfortable, stylish,
and flattering. Several times a year, clothing manufacturers introduce their
new lines, and the stores' new merchandise can make us dissatisfied with
our wardrobes. Many women rack up credit-card debt from spending more
on clothing than their budgets allow. The billions spent on advertising make
us forget that the purpose of clothing is basically to cover our naked bodies.
When Adam and Eve disobeyed God and felt shame for the first time,
they made the first clothing-not Tommy Hilfiger, but fig leaves. God had
something better in mind. Although their sin forced them to leave their
perfect home and suffer painful consequences, God did not abandon them.
He fashioned clothing for Adam and Eve from animal skins-garments that
were more durable, protective, and less scratchy than leaves.
God's sacrifice of animals to cover Adam's and Eve's nakedness fore-shadowed
the day when Jesus would sacrifice his life to permanently cover
our sin. We may try to make ourselves spiritually presentable by following
rules or rituals or by being a good person, but that will leave us spiritually
Only the robe of forgiveness provided by Jesus' sinless life, death, and
resurrection is adequate to cover the shame of our sinful condition. Once we
accept this incredible gift, our sin no longer separates us from the holy God
who created us. We can draw near to him without thinking, I don't have a
thing to wear.
Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ.
Romans 13:14 (NIV)
Hide and Seek
Eve's attempt to hide from God shows that she didn't get the results that
Satan had promised her when she ate the forbidden fruit. She wanted to
gain knowledge and wisdom but then was foolish enough to think that she
could hide from an all-seeing God. Instead of joyfully running to meet him
when he came to walk with them, Adam and Eve tried to avoid him. Their
guilty consciences isolated them from the One who had created them, pro-
vided for their needs, and loved them.
We can't fully appreciate the loss that Adam and Eve experienced. We
have never lived in a perfect environment or had God physically walk and
talk with us in a garden, but we all suffer from the effects of their fall into
sin. And people have been trying to hide from God ever since. Some hide
behind philosophy, a false religion, or a destructive lifestyle. Christians play
a more subtle game of hide-and-seek. We sometimes use church activities or
spiritual busyness to avoid total openness and honesty with the Lord we are
God knows us much more intimately than we know ourselves. He is
fully aware of our actions, thoughts, feelings, and motives. No matter what
we've done or how badly we've messed up, he seeks us and desires fellowship
with us. His call of "Where are you?" is not a demand but an invitation to
come clean and experience the joy of being unconditionally loved and fully
accepted by our Creator.
God sent a Savior to take the penalty for our sin so that we could
stand before him unashamed and free of fear. Once our guilty consciences
are cleansed by Christ's blood, we never need to hide from God. We can
come out from our hiding places and run to meet him.
Search me, O God, and know my heart.
The Blame Game
Adrienne eased out of bed and gently closed the door behind her. I thought
he'd never go to sleep tonight. She frowned as she turned on the computer.
Her heart raced as she saw his screen name. These late-night sessions were
getting longer, but it was so nice to talk with someone who really under-
stood her. Adrienne blushed as she wondered where the relationship would
lead. It's not my fault, she sniffed. If Jim weren't so wrapped up in other things,
I wouldn't be looking for a soul mate.
The blame game started in the Garden of Eden when God confronted
Adam and Eve with their sin. Filled with fear over what they had done, each
of them tried to pass the buck.
"It was the woman you gave me," responded Adam.
"The serpent tricked me," insisted Eve.
Did they really believe that God would fall for their excuses and not
hold them accountable for their disobedience?
It's human nature to rationalize our behavior. As our own criminal
defense attorneys, we look for ways to excuse our sinful choices rather than
admit our fault. Society may encourage us to blame the environment or
genetics, but that doesn't work with God. He accepts no plea bargains, and
claims of temporary insanity get us nowhere.
Although we are influenced by many forces, the simple truth is that
each of us answers to God for our attitudes, actions, and lifestyles. When we
disobey God's laws, we have no one to blame but ourselves. We can't find
forgiveness and release from guilt until we admit that we have done wrong.
We can't be in a close relationship with God unless we are open and honest
with him. That's when we will find our true Soul Mate.
I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt.