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New Life, Lost Life, Troubled Life September 12, 2010

Posted by Michelle Knoll in Uncategorized.
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Now let us turn the page, and peer into…

Life After the Garden.

Adam and Eve had a son and named him Cain.  And Eve acknowledged the Lord was still with her, even though she had messed up so badly, when she said, “I’ve given birth to a son, with the help of the Lord.”

That says a lot, you know?

Well, guess what!  Adam and Eve had another baby!  And they named him Abel.

But babies, as you know, grow up to become adults.  Cain and Able grew up, each learning their own trades:  Cain, a farmer, and Abel, a herdsman.

Well, the time came for an offering to be made to the Lord.  So Cain brought produce from his garden, and Abel brought the “firstlings” from his flock.  The Lord liked the offering that Abel brought, but He didn’t like the offering that Cain brought.

Hmm. Why didn’t He?

Well, there are two possible reasons why this was so.  One reason could be that Cain’s offering was not an animal, while Abel’s offering was, and God expected the offering to be an animal.  But another reason can be seen in the way their offerings were… well, offered.

It says that Abel brought the “firstlings” of his flock, but it doesn’t say that Cain brought the “first fruits” of his garden.  Is it possible that Abel brought what was asked of him, the first and best of his animals, while Cain just brought whatever he wanted to bring?  If this is the case, then it’s pretty easy to see why God wasn’t impressed with what Cain had brought.  There was an attitude involved in Cain’s offering that wasn’t pleasing to God.

Let’s be honest with ourselves: what matters more? What we do?  Or the attitude with which we do it?

And you know, since the Lord had sacrificed an animal (or more than one) to make the coverings for Adam and Eve, this reason for God’s dislike of Cain’s offering could be a combination of both these reasons.  Perhaps, Cain didn’t make his offering the way the Lord requested it to be made, and he didn’t think it mattered how he did it.

When the Lord didn’t like his offering, did Cain humble himself before the Lord, and say, “I’m sorry.  You’re right.  I didn’t do what You requested.”

No, Cain got so upset that he killed his brother Abel.  Cain expected to be treated better because he was the first-born, so he got jealous of Abel when Abel was treated better by the Lord.

Once again, the Lord asked Cain the same thing He asked Adam and Eve in the garden:  “What have you done?”  Once again, the heart of the Creator of all living things had been broken.  For once again, one of His children had not followed His rules, and now He was going to have to do as any good parent would do: deal with the situation.

So the Lord had to lay out the consequences for not following the rules:

“Now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you cultivate the ground, it will no longer yield its strength to you; you will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth.”

Was Cain repentant even then, after the Lord said these words?  No.  Cain complained;  he told the Lord that this was too much to bear.  “Someone will find me and kill me, now that I am cursed from the ground and also driven from Your sight!”

Yet… because of His Love, the Lord provided for Cain.  He somehow created a warning so whoever found him would know:  Do not harm this man.

Isn’t that amazing!  Even in his troubled state of being a vagrant and wanderer, Cain was still protected by the Lord.

Children, even when you disobey your parents, they still love you.  They still do things to make sure you’re safe.

And when God’s children disobey, break His rules, do things to cause Him pain, He still, still, still… loves His children, and works to protect them.

All because of Love.

Think on His Love as you rest tonight.  Sleep well.

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A Heart Broken September 8, 2010

Posted by Michelle Knoll in Devotionals.
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And now, our bedtime story continues…

It was early in the evening, and two people shrank back in the shadows of the trees around them.  They were cold, they were scared, and they were up to their necks in a problem way bigger than they ever imagined.

“Adam, where are you?”  The Voice they knew so well suddenly sounded very, very concerned.

Did they dare answer?

“Adam?  Where are you?

Slowly they emerged from the shadows, to face the One who loved them more than life itself.

His face registered not anger, but pain.

“What’s… this??”  He pointed to the hastily completed coverings of fig leaves donning the bodies of the two frightened humans.

“I… heard Your Voice, and I hid myself… we hid… because we were afraid.”

Adam didn’t dare look the Lord in the eye.  He knew all too well what he had done, and he knew the Lord was not going to be happy about it.

“You were afraid?  Of Me?  Why??”  The Voice was not cold, not indignant, not full of anger.  Just… hurt.

The man blurted out his embarrassment.

“I knew I was naked!  So… I hid myself!”

“You knew you… were…”  His eyes grew wide.  “Who told you this?

The pain in the Voice grew in intensity.  Who told you, you were naked??”

Silence.

“Did you eat from the tree in the middle of the garden?  The one I told you not to eat from?”

The tone of His Voice told the real story.  Adam and Eve had broken His one simple rule: don’t eat from this one tree.  He had given them boundaries to keep them safe, and they had not stayed within the boundaries.

Children, when God gives us rules, they are for our good, to keep us safe. You know this.

And when we break these rules…

…it breaks God’s heart.

Think about it.  God has a heart.  God has feelings.  God can be hurt.  It’s not an easy thing to grasp, because we see Him as big and strong and mighty.  Remember the song from years ago? “My God is so big, so strong and so mighty…”  Well, just because there’s nothing that He cannot do, it doesn’t mean that He’s made of steel, or that His heart is made of steel.

His heart can be broken.  His feelings can be hurt.

God risked pain when he created man, because He created man with the power to choose his own direction.  So out of His Love for man, He gave man the power to be his own person.  This meant that God risked losing man, risked man walking away from Him.

When you open your heart and risk loving someone, you risk being hurt by that same someone.  Love is risky business.

Is it worth it?

God obviously felt like it was, because of what He did next.  Which is what we will cover, in our next bedtime story.  So stay tuned.

And as you go to bed tonight, think on this:  God dared to create an opportunity where He could love and be loved in return.  He opened His heart, and poured out His love on mankind.

Will you hurt Him?  or will you love Him in return?  The choice is yours.

Good night.

A Heart Deceived and A Choice Decided September 4, 2010

Posted by Michelle Knoll in Devotionals.
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Time to turn the page, and begin the next chapter in our story of God’s Love for His children.

Well…. every good story has a Hero, a Villain, and Innocent People that get attacked in some way by the Villain.

And so it is, in this story.

Enter… the Villain. His name was… Serpent.

He was very sneaky, and cunning, and plotted his crime in the most wicked of ways.

He didn’t attack out in the open.  He didn’t punch anyone in the face.

He didn’t set a physical trap for the Innocent People, Adam and Eve, to fall into.  So there were no broken bones.

He didn’t come up from behind, and hit them over the head with a hammer, or a stick, or anything like that.

He attacked with words, very carefully chosen words.  That was his very sneaky plan.

But he didn’t talk to the leader first.  That would have been too easy for the Innocent People, Adam and Eve, to recognize as an attack.  Instead, he talked to the second person first.  He knew that if he could affect Eve, the biggest influence in Adam’s life, he could then influence Adam, who was the leader.

And so, he did.

Have you ever been tricked by someone?  Did the person tell you one thing, that sounded like the truth, and then you found out it wasn’t?  If you’ve ever been through that, then you know exactly what happened to our two Innocent People, Adam and Eve.

Serpent, sneaky and mean as he was, tricked Eve by using words that sounded like they were the truth.

First, he asked her a question, to see if there was a way to convince her of a lie:

“Hey… did God tell you to not eat from any tree in this beautiful garden?”

Do you know what Eve’s answer was?

“Well,” she said, “we can eat from any tree we want, except for one.  And THAT one we’re not even supposed to touch!”

But she didn’t have the story right.

God didn’t tell Adam they couldn’t touch that one tree.  All He said was, “Don’t eat anything from that tree.”

So… Eve didn’t understand the rules.  Or… maybe she didn’t know the rules — the boundaries — correctly.  See… Adam was told about that tree before Eve was created.  (Did Adam forget to tell her?)

Eve got confused.

And so, Serpent was able to lie to her, and tell her things that sounded really good, but what he told her got her into very deep trouble.

Now, Eve didn’t check out Serpent’s story.  She didn’t go to God and ask Him about it.  If she had, she would have found out that Serpent had lied to her.  She also didn’t go to Adam and ask him about it.  Instead, she gave Adam the fruit from the tree, the fruit they weren’t supposed to eat.

Well, Adam knew the rules, and he should have stopped Eve.  But… sadly… he didn’t.

Let’s think about those kickball teams we talked about the other night.  What happens when a team makes a mistake on the field?  Someone gets upset, and they start pointing the finger at someone else, saying it was their fault.  Or perhaps the mistake really was the fault of more than one person.  And then a whole bunch of team members get upset.

You know what?  Most of the time, it doesn’t matter whose fault it was.  The point is, a mistake was made, or a rule was broken.  And now, someone has to answer for it.

But one thing needs to be remembered here:  there were rules in the garden of Eden, rules that God had told to Adam (who then told them to Eve).  They were rules that He set in place to protect Adam and Eve, so they could enjoy all the wonder and the beauty He had created just for them.

Rules were created because God LOVED Adam and Eve.  They weren’t created out of meanness, but out of Love.

Are there rules in your life, that you know are there to protect you, to help you stay safe, but you’ve been breaking those rules anyway?  Has someone or something been telling you it’s okay to break the rules?

Maybe you need to rethink your response to those rules.

Has someone been telling you things that sound like the truth, but you’re not quite sure what the truth is?

Then maybe you need to talk to someone who can help you know what the truth is.

One thing’s for sure:  God doesn’t keep the truth from His children, because He loves them and wants them to be safe.

Think on this as you lay your head on your pillow.

Good night.

And the Story Continues September 3, 2010

Posted by Michelle Knoll in Devotionals.
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Out of His Love for mankind, God created the most beautiful place in which to live.  Think about it: the greenest of trees, and most colorful flowers, and the most fantastic animals.

And man had it all to live with, and to live in.

AND….

God came to visit with man, with Adam and Eve, every evening.

Can you imagine?  Walking with the Creator of the entire universe?? in a garden?? every single day of your life??

A plush, lush garden full of every imaginable beautiful thing…

Wow.  How could man want anything more?

And God cared enough about Adam and Eve, to explain to them the guidelines — rules, if you will — that would keep them safe and away from harm.

He’s… the Ultimate Parent… doing whatever He can, to make sure His “kids” are safe and well taken care of.

See, God cares so much about mankind, about the people He created, that He set up very specific guidelines for them to follow.

Wouldn’t you do the same for your kids?  Wouldn’t you tell them how to live, and teach them how to follow what is right, and turn away from what is wrong?

And if you’re a kid reading this, don’t your parents make sure that you know right from wrong, and don’t they try to make sure you obey the guidelines, even when you don’t like it?

So when God said, “There’s this tree, in the garden, that I don’t want you to eat from…” He wasn’t trying to be mean.  Or uncaring.  Or hateful, or spiteful, or anything like that.  He was merely telling them the rules. Giving them boundaries, just like any good parent would do with their own children.

See, that’s what love is all about.  Providing the very best for the ones you love, and giving them the boundaries that are necessary.

So tonight, as you sleep, rest in the fact that you are being watched over by the One that cares about you more than anyone else in the world.

Peaceful dreams to all, and to all a good night.