The Tree?

I love the Bible. It's the greatest news I've ever heard or been exposed to. Everything I read in it further makes me stand in awe of God and all that he is. Unfortunately though, sometimes the "huge" God that we serve blows my mind a little too much and I just can't understand his ways. Usually, these times that I "just can't understand" are not simple questions that I can ask someone or that I believe others truly have an answer to, in fact most of these questions I come up with tend to make me a little upset with God, so we begin a wrestling match.

This morning I met with a few pastors from our church for a weekly discipleship group. Our study today revolved around the nature of a man as compared to Adam. As we read through Genesis, I couldn't help but worry about something I haven't ever worried about before. Let me sum up the story...

Genesis 2:8-9 (NASB)
8The LORD God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed.

9Out of the ground the LORD God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Genesis 2:15-17 (NASB)
15Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.

16The LORD God commanded the man, saying, "From any tree of the garden you may eat freely;

17but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die."

Genesis 3:6 (NASB)
6When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.

Genesis 3:16-19 (NASB)
16To the woman He said,
"I will greatly multiply
Your pain in childbirth,
In pain you will bring forth children;
Yet your desire will be for your husband,
And he will rule over you."

17Then to Adam He said, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, 'You shall not eat from it';
Cursed is the ground because of you;
In toil you will eat of it
All the days of your life.
18"Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you;
And you will eat the plants of the field;
19By the sweat of your face
You will eat bread,
Till you return to the ground,
Because from it you were taken;
For you are dust,
And to dust you shall return."

Did you see it too? This really gets to me! Why does God even put the tree in the middle of the garden so that the man and woman are able to access it? Would they have sinned if the tree wasn't there? If the tree is necessary why not locate it somewhere else? Why not locate it somewhere that it is not accessible? Why even create that tree? What does the creation and placement of this tree suggest about the nature of God?

I have so many questions that do not make sense to me right now. Have any of you ever wrestled with this same idea? Have any of you ever come to any conclusions on this matter?


Justice in the Parking Lot

There's this dream I have. I see the church, not just a church but the church, as a place and people that has no more need for programs, presentations, or events. A people that see their lives as mission. A people that carry out the will of God in their cities and beyond when needs arise. A people that are so sensitive and obedient to the spirit of God that they see and feel the needs and in-justice around them. This is the dream and it sounds great, until the rubber hits the road.

I was on my weekly grocery store run at a major store near where I live. I finished up my shopping and was heading back out to my car pushing my full cart. Soon after leaving the front doors, I was approached by a young man with a coffee can in his hand that had a small slot cut into the lid. He approched me with an urgency that told me whether or not I chose to acknowledge him, he was going to tell me what he needed to tell me. He said to me, in a very sobering voice, "sir, my neice recently was hit by a drunk driver while she was walking along the street, we can't afford to bury her, can you help?" I hate to say this, but at that time, I didn't really care. I let him know that I didn't have any cash on hand (which was a lie). He graciously said "thanks" and walked away. About 20 seconds later, while I was loading up my car, 2 teenage girls came up to me with the same story. I let them know that the other guy had already hit me up, so they left. I finished loading my car and was now getting into the driver seat.

At this time, thoughts and feelings of guilt began to run through my head. I realized what they were really asking for was justice, the ability to bury their 7 year old neice who was taken much too early by a man who had made a few bad choices 3 evenings earlier. This was not something I could walk away from and truly call myself and follower of Jesus.

What was even more ironic was that the night before, I had sat down with the volunteer staff from our junior high ministry at our church and talked about the topic of justice and junior high students. We talked about how we can help move them from a life of selfisheness to a life that helps them participate with others in justice initiatives. Which would hopfully lead them into liberally throwing out justice when they see injustice in their everyday lives. This was my chance to lead by example, and I was about to fail.

I sat there in my car knowing that I could give them what was in my wallet, but that wouldn't actually bring about real justice, I needed to go beyond that. Just as I was running through my head, another man approached me with the story of his neice. I got out and said I had noticed everybody in the parking lot. I told him that I was a pastor at a church that was down the road and that I wanted to help so asked him what their plans for the funeral were. He said they were waiting on a quote from a local funeral home but knew it was going to be un-affordable. At that moment I knew what I had to do.

Unfortunatly I didn't have any information cards in my wallet so I began writing my office phone number and address down for him. While doing this I asked him to tell me about his neice. He began to desicribe her in ways that made me realize how much the world was missing out by her not being around any more, and how much I had missed out by not knowing her.

I handed him the information and told him that we had a building and could make a lot of things happen if they would be helpful. He said "thanks" and I reinforced the fact that I would be waiting for his call.

God never ceases to amaze me. I have felt my heart and passions moving toward the area of God's justice in the world over the last few months. I prayed that God would begin to open my eyes to the in-justices that were in front of me so that I could be a part of his holistic mission in the world.

Where do you see in-justice? Where is God looking for you to speak for those who cannot speak? Stand for those who cannot stand? Help those that cannot help themselves?