Banished from Eden

Genesis 3:23 (NLT)

“So the Lord God banished them from the Garden of Eden, and he sent Adam out to cultivate the ground from which he had been made.”

I remember one time when I was younger some friends and I had a sleepover, which was a pretty regular occurrence at that stage of life. Our usual thing was to stay up late, chips and soda in hand and watch funny movies or play video games. But this time we had a different idea. We decided it would be more fun to take a couple gallons of gasoline and play with fire. We found some plastic swords and had flaming sword fights, we lit a tennis ball and a football on fire and played catch, I even made a flamethrower using a super soaker. It wasn’t until later that I realized the stupidity of having a gas-filled plastic tank on my shoulder while holding a flame to the nozzle. It was only by a miracle I walked away from that night with my ridiculously good looks intact.

The strange thing was, it was invigorating. I wanted to do it again.

The next day I went home and hung out with my family like it was a normal day. However, it wasn’t a normal day. I had done something wrong and I knew it. I didn’t realize at the time, because I was pretty sure that I was as smooth as they come, but mom and dad knew I was guilty too. They didn’t know what I did exactly, but they knew I was guilty nonetheless. Our relationship felt different, there was suddenly a barrier between us that wasn’t normal. They confronted me about why I was avoiding eye contact and why I seemed distant. I cracked immediately, and after a long conversation about how dangerous that was and how I could have been hurt, I found myself grounded for a month with a long list of chores to keep myself busy. 

I felt like my freedom was taken away. I felt like the punishment was far greater than the crime. I should be able to do whatever I want to do. Right? 

After my disappointment subsided, I began to see a bigger picture. I remembered all of the other times I had been grounded. I could see a pattern that part of me always knew was there.

Punishment and consequence serve as ditches on either side of the road of life. This is true all throughout life, but when you are a kid your parents deliver these judgements. When you grow up, the world does. The main difference is this: your parents love you, the world doesn’t. Not only had my parents been alive a lot longer than I had, they also knew me better than I knew myself. They could see my blind spots and my tendencies to move too fast into them. They could see how my choices would play out over time, I had no such insight. 

There are three elements to this story. My choices, the consequences for my choices, and my parents deep love for me.

I made a choice that night to play with fire.

The consequences of that choice involved being grounded, a long list a chores and the feeling that I disappointed my parents. Now what if they had just decided that there was nothing wrong with what I did? I wouldn’t have been grounded, my list of chores and my relationship with my parents would have remained in the ‘normal’ category, and everything would have been ok… At least for a while. At some point though, my misunderstanding of what appropriate behavior was would have gotten me into a world of trouble, and the people deciding the punishment would not be so kind as to simply ground me for a month. Although punishment and consequence from parents might seem like an affront to our freedom, it is actually a great mercy.

The third element to this story is my parent’s deep love for me. No good parent enjoys punishing their children, but deep love cares more about securing a future than avoiding occasional temporary pain. 

Why do I tell you this story? Because it is not much different from the story of Adam and Eve being banished from Eden. Their story has the same three elements. Their choices, the consequences of their choices, and their Father’s deep love for them. Many people see God as a deliverer of judgement for judgement’s sake. You might hear a story like Adam and Eve’s and see only his anger. Maybe your perception of God has been mis-shaped by your parents, your friends or someone else. But if you can put everything on the table and recognize the human tendency is to lean more towards judgement than mercy, you might allow yourself to see God in a whole new light. Let’s look at the context around Adam and Eve’s punishment.

Genesis 3:21-22 (AMP) 

21 The Lord God made tunics of [animal] skins for Adam and his wife and clothed them. 22 And the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us (Father, Son, Holy Spirit), knowing [how to distinguish between] good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take from the tree of life as well, and eat [its fruit], and live [in this fallen, sinful condition] forever”

Looking at the context, God wasn’t delivering judgment because he was angry. He was only thinking of his children’s future. They made a choice, and the consequence of that choice was deep shame and guilt and distance from God. I’m not sure why God placed two trees in the Garden that Adam and Eve were not allowed to eat from. Maybe God intended to share the fruit with them someday. But the truth is He gave them far more than He withheld. But instead of gratitude, they chose selfishness and pride. God recognized the new fallen nature of his children and had to act to secure a future for them. Had they also eaten from the Tree of life, they would have essentially been in what we know as ‘hell’; Living forever in their sin. God would not make their decisions for them, but He would certainly go to great lengths to protect them from this fate. 

Genesis 3:24 (NLT)

After sending them out, the Lord God stationed mighty cherubim to the east of the Garden of Eden. And he placed a flaming sword that flashed back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.”

In blessing, trial and consequence, God is always looking out for your future. His love is deeper and more real than anything you have ever known. I hope this example encourages you to dig into His word yourself and look for examples of His love. If you do, I promise you will be blown away as you see God for who He truly is; A loving father who is generous in blessing, faithful in trial, and merciful in consequence.

-Luke Larson

There Is Always Tomorrow

Right when I clocked out at 5pm, I left the house and headed to Aldi. Even though Luke was picking up a Walmart order for us, a few items were apparently out of stock. So off I went to grocery stop number one.

It was a mad house. In the parking lot, everyone was driving fast. Even in the store there was this feeling of “rushing”. There was an abnormal amount of people in line to get to the cash register. To be honest it felt like the start of the Covid pandemic all over again. As I walked around the store I wondered if I had missed some important news headline.

Target was no different. People rushing here, rushing there. Long lines. I didn’t know if it was me or everyone, but I couldn’t get myself to relax.

On my way home I tried breathing slowly in order to calm myself down…but was almost cut off by a semi truck cruising through the roundabout ahead of me without even tapping the breaks. A semi.

What on earth? It was like the world had gone crazy. And maybe it was just me. I don’t know. Maybe it was the fact that I went out right at 5pm.

I’ll try not to do that again.

All the while I just kept feeling like the day was a waste. Work was just average. I was tired and irritable. I really just wanted to go to bed. I kept thinking, what’s the point of today anyway?

But the whole time a conversation I had with a friend a few days prior was on my mind. We talked about how God loves us on an individual level, and how sometimes that’s hard to really come to grips with. But just as I told her then, I still believe and know that he does. And I want everyone to believe it as I do – even if I’ve only just begun to grasp that incredible reality.

So if God loves me, how was that to affect the weird situation of having a dumb day and a rushy rushy grocery shopping experience?

I guess I don’t know. But it did bring me comfort knowing that he makes insignificant days more significant, simply because he sees me and is with me. Maybe the day didn’t amount to a whole lot, but he saw it all. That makes it feel a little more purposeful. And maybe if I would have slowed down a little bit longer, I could have learned something meaningful while I ate my green olives straight out of the jar before heading to the next stop.

But tomorrow is another day. And another opportunity to take it a little slower and not get caught up in the chaos around me.

Tomorrow will be another opportunity to start my day off on the right foot.

Tomorrow will be another opportunity to strive a little less, and depend on Him a little more.

– Kristen Larson

A poor widow. A rich man.

A few mornings ago I took to my journal and began writing out my prayers.

Lord, thank you for your mercies that are new every morning. Please forgive me for my selfish heart, going to social media and the news before you. I still get anxious about what you might say to me if I open up and pray, so I push it off. But you are what I need. The other things suck me dry and fog my head and make me sad and grouchy. That’s how I feel now.

But then I stopped. I realized that while everything I wrote was true, I was trying to put on my best face. Trying to put a good spin on it. So I continued…

I need to be honest with you.

Honestly, I’m tired and hungry. I wish I were back in bed. My expectations for this time with you are low in a bad way, and I’m mad at myself for going to electronics before you. I can never seem to get it right. I tried to pray, but it was a flop. No power. No idea what I’m doing. I don’t see the power in prayer.

But, this is why I need to spend time with you. You, Lord, are the safest place to process all this. With you, I’m free to fail and grow. And I need you to develop me. You’re the one with the answers. But… you’re not just some guru…you’re where I belong.

At this point, I decided to start digging into the bible. My bible study group is reading through the gospel of Luke, and the next section read,

While Jesus was in the Temple, he watched the rich people dropping their gifts in the collection box. Then a poor widow came by and dropped in two small coins. “I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “this poor widow has given more than all the rest of them. For they have given a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has.”

Luke 21: 1-4 NLT

I stopped here because it showed me something. We’re all bound by our own circumstances.

This showed me that we can’t all offer God the same things. But there’s also not a specific standard he’s holding us to. In my Americanized understanding of this passage, the widow had two pennies. On their own, two pennies are worthless. Compared to the rich who gave, say, hundreds or thousands, the two pennies are shameful. Embarrassing. Pointless.

In his commentary on Luke, titled BE Courageous, Dr. Warren Weirsbe said, “God sees more than the portion; he also sees the proportion.”

This is why I can find no help in comparing myself to another. This is why, when I spend time with the Lord, it is not helpful thinking about how much better someone else is at it than me. Or how much better someone is at prayer or why it seems like someone else has something figured out better than I do. When I do this, I get frustrated and discouraged and I feel like I’m never enough. Never even close.

The widow is also talked about in Mark 12:43. In this telling, Jesus called is disciples to him when he saw what the widow was giving. They weren’t watching the people like Jesus was. They were doing something else, I suppose. But it was so important to Jesus, that he called them to him.

Digging in further, I noticed that the rich people “gave a tiny part of their surplus.” This implies that they had an abundance. They had more than they needed. And, they also kept as much of it as they could.

But the widow, she had “given everything she had to live on.” That tells me volumes about her heart. She didn’t have a surplus. All her needs weren’t being met.

In 2 Corinthians it says,

“For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have.”

2 Corinthians 8:12 ESV

We aren’t judged by what we don’t have. So, what someone else does bears no weight on my own value, purpose or calling. I am judged by what I have and what I do with it.

God looks at my heart, my experiences, my choices, my resources, and my capabilities ….independently of others.

The rich man could have pleased Jesus by giving everything he had.

The widow could have given nothing at all.

Again, it’s not’s not about how much or little I have. It’s what I do with it.

I think that’s why comparison, or envy, is so dangerous and why “do not envy” is one of the ten commandments. Instead of focusing on what we have available before us, we get trapped into how it compares to others.

But God isn’t looking at everyone else when he’s looking at me. He looks at me. And only me. And wonders what I’ll do with what I have. He wonders about the state of my heart. He wonders about my motives. How will I respond? How will I react?

I guess to sum it up, I don’t know how to pray, be generous, or live my life well. But, I know who does. And he’s willing teach me everything I need to know. So, without looking to the left or to the right, I’ll set my heart on him and follow where he leads.

I hope you’ll do the same.