Chapter 1: Adam and Eve

I think we take for granted just how beautiful the first chapters of the Bible are. The very first sentence in Oursler’s book says, “Adam opened his eyes and looked into the face of his Maker.” Can you imagine what that would have been like? Obviously this is a fictional work, and we don’t really know what it was like, but just imagine it! One moment, you don’t even exist, and the next, you’re a living being. God created Adam’s body, and with a gentle blow from His lungs, Adam breathed. Oursler is doing an excellent job at painting the picture of how absolutely breathtaking (pun intended) those first days in the garden must have been.

Back then, Adam could talk right to God. He had His presence in the garden with him in a way we can’t even begin to imagine ~ but we can look forward to one day sharing that feeling in heaven. Adam looked at God and, as Oursler puts it, saw “a countenance all wisdom and compassion and hope.” The love that God felt for Adam was so blindingly obvious because he could see it right in His face. How humbling that would be!

The only thing I have against Oursler’s take so far is that he mentioned Adam’s hair as being “reddish.” I personally believe Adam was a man of dark complexion, just from a genetic standpoint. But I can overlook it because Oursler was a white man, and white people (myself included) tend to automatically envision everyone in books to be white.

In this book, when God tells Adam about the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, Adam looks at the tree and considers it a small condition considering all of the world he had to explore. And it would be, wouldn’t it? If you had the entirety of a perfect world in all its beauty and majesty, being told you can’t eat fruit from one tree would seem tiny.

Oursler describes Adam’s first desire to be “that someone else were beside him, so that they could look together.” A companion. This desire was the first indication of his free will. If God had made him without free will, then he’d have no desires at all. And God saw his desire and can you imagine He thought it good? Can you imagine an instance when God would think one of our thoughts and desires is good?

I love what Oursler says about God making Eve. It says, “Strange and wise, the ways of God, then as always. He could have clapped His hands like some enchanter in a fairy tale and made a new being appear. Or He could merely have thought His command and it would have been instantly performed by infinite and obedient forces. Instead, God’s hands gently touched Adam’s body with a deep and beautiful purpose.” God made Eve from Adam’s flesh for a very distinct reason ~ and He knew what He was doing.

When Adam first saw Eve, Oursler says he “leaped up, joy in his shouts.” And why wouldn’t he? Eve was probably perfect by everyone’s standards. They had the perfect marriage, the perfect world, the perfect life. They had no fear because there was nothing to be afraid of.

During satan’s confrontation with Eve, I’ve found another small thing to question. Oursler says, “Eve’s eyes, turning to the sky, seemed to be trying to find the answer in the white, fleecy clouds that rode invisible winds.”  Genesis 2:5-6 says that the earth was watered by a mist that rose from the ground, but of course, that was when the earth was first created. We don’t know how long it lasted. But I was under the impression that it didn’t rain at all until the time of the flood. So that’s something to think about.

Here’s something interesting. “There comes a time when evil has to leave us alone; the tempter is not allowed to stay at our elbow when we make up our mind.” Satan planted the idea in Eve’s head that God was trying to keep her and Adam under Him, when in fact, they could be equal with Him. But like Oursler points out, “Her reasoning was perfect too; she was equipped to defend herself against him.” And she was. She was perfect. Her thoughts were perfect. She could have decided to obey God’s laws and ignore satan’s enticements. But he gave her an idea, and then left her alone to think about it, and that’s when her free will and her curiosity got the best of her.

And then it suggests that Adam’s downfall was in jealousy. I had wondered why Adam would also eat the fruit when he knew full well what she had done. But here, she had done something he had never dared to do. She had tasted something he had never tasted.

And in his newfound shame and awareness, his first reaction to the question of his Father was to blame somebody else for what he’d done wrong. And then when God turned to ask Eve for her perspective, she did the same thing. So God punished the serpent first, because it was ultimately his fault, and then he punished Eve for listening to him, and then he punished Adam for joining her, because they were all wrong.

And at the end of His punishments, God told the humans that “to the ground you shall return.” Their immortality  was stripped from them, and death entered into the world. God left the garden, and Adam and Eve were doomed to walk the desolate world and only glimpse the beauty and perfection of their past from afar.

How terrifying that must have been!

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Life Lessons From Volleyball

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It’s been a fair while since I’ve posted, hasn’t it? Okay, fine, a little more than a fair while. It’s been a very long while. I don’t know exactly when my last post was, but I’m sure something in my life must have changed since then. But one thing that hasn’t changed is volleyball.

I’ve been playing volleyball for years now, and I’ve gotten to the point where I’m one of the best intermediate players I know (and I know a lot of volleyball players). Do you have a sport or activity that it seems like everyone does in your area? Well, volleyball is that for me. It seems like everyone I know plays or has played at some point. I have been playing for probably six or seven years, and fortunately, I’ve learned a few things besides just good technique. Since volleyball was, is, and probably will be a part of my life for a long time, I thought I’d share the lessons I’ve learned from it.

1. You can’t do everything on your own.

This first lesson is a pretty obvious find when you think about volleyball. You can’t play volleyball very well on your own, and you can be dead sure that I’ve tried! You need a team in order to do well and win. And while you can win a few volleys and score a few points by yourself if the ball keeps coming to you, ultimately you need teammates in order to win the game.

It’s the same with life, and that’s another thing I’ve been learning lately. Sure, you can get through life by yourself, not connecting with other people or going out of your way for anyone but yourself. But it’s a pretty dull life. (Trust me on this.) As frustrating as they are, human beings do make life interesting, and you will have a lot more fun if you have them around. Plus, you kinda need them. God made us to be social creatures, to have a need to be around others of our own species (though, granted, some a bit less than others). Criminals are put into solitary confinement as a form of torture, and it’s because we truly, biologically, psychologically need other people. Depriving yourself of meaningful connections may seem like the safe route, but it takes a major toll on you in the long run.

2. Know your teammates’ skills so you can work together in the best way for the team.

If you want to win a volleyball game, you need to be on a team that works well together. Part of this is knowing the abilities and skills of yourself and those on your team. That way, you know that if you mess up, so-and-so will cover you; you know which person to hit it to for a bone-shattering spike; and you know who the weakest link is so you can back them up.

It’s helpful also to know the talents and abilities of your friends and family so they can help you when you need it and so you can help them when they need it. You know who to go to when you need advice, comfort, or a jolly good time. (Or help hiding the body.) It’s also a great help for a leader, especially, to know what his people can do so he can get things done quickly and efficiently.

3. If you’re going to teach something, teach it according to how the student learns, not how you like to teach.

When I first started going to volleyball, I was not good. I was still growing, for one thing, and I had very little muscle tone and zero precision. I was obviously unskilled, as I am with all sports when I first start, and everyone took it upon themselves to teach me how properly to do it. At first, it was fine, because I didn’t actually know how to hold my hands or where to stand or how to keep score. But four years in, it got a little old.

Yes, that’s right: four years. They kept trying to tell me how to play the game even though I’d been playing for that long. I don’t know if they thought I was really that slow of a learner, or what. But they continued to tell me the same things over and over again because I just couldn’t get it right. But the issue wasn’t that I didn’t know what I was doing. I knew very well how to play (I was, in fact, the only one who seemed capable of remembering the score); I just couldn’t seem to make my body do it correctly.

This carried on until one day I was practicing setting and spiking on the floor in my room a couple of hours before volleyball was going to start. I had taken some kenpo classes at my college and had decided to continue studying it privately after I quit. I had been experimenting with a few hand positions, whether I wanted to keep my hands in fists like most people do or whether I’d choose a different, more original positioning. I had decided upon a half-fist, half-open position, where my pinky and ring fingers touched my palm and my three remaining fingers were open in a talon-like pose. While I was practicing setting with my volleyball, I curled my hands into this position and set with only three fingers, and my setting almost immediately improved. When I tried spiking, I made the connection that the desired arm movement for a good spike was very much like throwing a baseball, which is my favorite sport. Instantly, my game improved, and that night I played better than I ever had.

The point I’m trying to make here is that everyone had been trying to teach me exactly the right way to do things according to how they played. But when I implemented bits of muscle techniques that I was already familiar with, I learned and improved much faster. So that’s what I mean by teaching people according to things that they know, and not just the ways that work for you.

4. Be ready for anything.

Sometimes the ball gets to moving so fast, you can’t react quick enough, and you get hit in the face or the stomach or wherever else. Most of the time you get hit because you weren’t paying close enough attention, or you didn’t expect it. This is where you learn to always be ready. You may think you know where the ball is going to come from, but sometimes it can take an unexpected trajectory and you miss.

I’ve learned that you have to be ready for anything in life too. You never know when the economy will do something funky and you end up rich or bankrupt. You never know when the weather’s going to whip up a nasty storm that cuts your power or takes your roof off. (Less likely nowadays, I suppose.) You never know when you’re driving and a deer appears out of nowhere and you swerve and end up hitting a mailbox or a ditch. And maybe some other examples that are a bit less life-threatening. Just…be ready, okay? Be ready.

5. Have your teammates’ backs.

I mentioned this earlier a little bit in knowing your teammates’ skills. If you know who the weakest link on your team is (though most people would be nice enough not to call them the weakest link), you know to cover them. But the weakest link isn’t the only person on the team who makes mistakes. Like I also said before, sometimes the ball takes a crazy trajectory. You expected it to be going forward, so you went forward, but in fact it ends up flying back behind you and you have to pivot and run and pretty much always miss it. That’s where your team is supposed to cover your back, and you them.

In life, you’ve got to do the same for your friends and family. You’ve got to be there when they need you, and pick up the slack when they’re not able to do something they usually take care of. Because life is all about surviving until you die, right? And we’re all in it together.

6. The team is only as strong as the weakest link, so build each other up.

I know what you’re thinking. Again with the weakest link. Look, I’ve never been a nice person, okay? But there’s nice underneath the mean if you calm down enough to see it. So quit getting offended and pay attention.

It’s true that the chain is only as strong as the weakest link, and it’s also true that the team is only as good as the worst player. Everyone will make mistakes, but the worst player will make the most, and you know it. So if you want a strong team, help them get better. And if you want a strong posse or a strong family, build each other up.

7. Practice doesn’t make perfect, but it helps.

You can’t be perfect. Nobody’s perfect. Hannah Montana taught us that in 2006. But the more you practice, the better you’ll be, and that will make you less likely to make mistakes and more likely to fix them if you do. The more experience you have, in volleyball and in life, the more able you will be to handle whatever comes your way.

8. Have fun–you’re not in it to win it.

This is probably the most important lesson I’ve learned from volleyball, which is why it’s last, because people are scientifically proven most likely to remember the last point that is mentioned. Depending on what kind of volleyball you’re playing, it might be important to win. But the most important thing is to have fun, make jokes, smile, and laugh – because the bond you’re creating with the people you’re playing with is more important than the game you’re playing. People are the only investment worth making in this world, so make the most of every moment you have with the ones you love. You can’t win at life, so just enjoy the ride.

1 Timothy 6:6-10 ~ the Love of Money

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“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”

Christianity is the worst career, but the best calling in the world. Being a Christian doesn’t pay the big bucks, but the gain is greater than anything the world has to offer. The Christians who have achieved the highest contentment with their godliness are the happiness, because wherever there is true godliness, there is contentment. I don’t think at all that this means you can’t have dreams and goals of your own–but I DO think it means you should learn to be content with what God gives you, and know that it’s best for you. He sees a bigger piece of the canvas than you do, remember.

If you think about it a little, it’ll dawn on you that trying to become a big shot on earth is kind of a stupid goal anyway, because eventually you’ll die and you won’t be so much of a big shot then, will you? Whatever we receive in this world is from God, because He allowed us to have it, and on the flipside, He can take back whatever He wants. If we were born with just ourselves and our lives, shouldn’t we be content to live with just ourselves and our lives? We can’t be poorer than we were when we were born, and yet God provided for us. Ecclesiastes is a rather depressing book to read, but it does put things in perspective, and verse 5:15 says, “Naked a man comes from his mother’s womb, and as he comes, so he departs. He takes nothing from his labor that he can carry in his hand.” Like that old saying goes, you can’t take it with you, and the fact that you have it now is purely by God’s grace. If that’s not a call to humility and gratefulness, I don’t know what is.

If God gave us what we need for life, we should be content, even if we don’t have all the pleasures available to us. Matthew Henry’s Commentary says, “If nature should be content with little, grace should be content with less.” Back in Proverbs, a few special dudes get their own chapters to share a little bit of their wisdom (don’t ask me how they wheedled that little privilege out of King Solomon). One of them, a guy named Agur, prayed, “Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.” (Proverbs 30:8) He not only didn’t ask for blessings, but he asked for no more blessing than the bare minimum! He could have asked for something from each section of the food pyramid so he would have an almost impossibly well-balanced diet, but instead, he asked only for bread, just enough to keep him alive. Job was pretty darn humble, but I think Agur is a pretty good humility role model too.

What happens when people die and lose all the worldly possessions they have worked so hard to achieve? Let’s take a happy little hop to another section of the Old Testament, Judges 18. Israel didn’t have a king at the time, and the tribe of Dan was trying to find somewhere to settle. They sent five warriors out to explore, and they spent a night with a guy named Micah. Then they went and found a place called Laish, and they saw that the people there were safe and prosperous. They returned to their tribe and encouraged them to attack, which the Danites did. Or, at least, they were planning to. When they reached Micah’s house, the five warriors went inside and stole all of Micah’s valuable possessions while the whole of their army was standing outside. They even convinced Micah’s priest to leave with them. But Micah gathered all of his neighbors and went after the Danites. When he caught up with them, they asked him why he was so ready to fight them. In verse 24, Micah said, “You took the gods I made, and my priest, and went away. What else do I have?”

See, when Micah got home, he found all of his possessions gone, as well as his priest, who had clearly put up no fight to stop the intruders. He felt so lost without all the things he’d gained and created over the years that he gathered an army and went after an army of 600 Danites. It didn’t do him any good in the end; he realized that his army wasn’t all that big and he went home, and the Danites went on to ransack Laish and pillage and plunder and so on and so forth. But you see what I’m getting at with this story, right? Micah didn’t know what to do when his things were taken from him. It drove him to ALMOST do something that would have been really stupid and it probably would have killed him. But as for us, we don’t need to concern ourselves with worldly riches, because we’ve got infinitely better ones coming when we die. And BOY, is it a relief when you stop worrying so much about where your money is coming from! When you just give your finances to God, you’re able to live a much happier life.

Notice that the verse in 1 Timothy doesn’t say “those who ARE rich fall into temptation,” but rather, “those who WANT to be rich.” You can have money and not love it, but people who crave worldly wealth are eager and violent while trying to achieve it, and when the devil sees where their focus is, he will bait his hook accordingly. Some people are determined to be rich and will be satisfied with nothing left, and therefore put themselves in danger of being ruined forever. But worldly desires are foolish and hurtful, and we should be both ashamed and afraid of them because of what they can do to us. Many Christians have been drawn away from the faith because they coveted money, such as Demas, who is mentioned in 2 Timothy 2:10, and those who depart from God only rack up sorrows for themselves.

Believe (2014)

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“We have to believe that we are exceptional.”

Believe is a show with only one season, which is one of the reasons I watched it. (Don’t you hate having shows that are 12 or 14 seasons long and you just don’t have time to finish them?) It’s about a little girl who is a very powerful psychic, powerful enough that everyone wants to capture her and use her powers to rule the world. Of course.

The guy who took care of little Bo, Martin Winter, broke her father, William Tate, out of jail, where he was on death row for a murder he didn’t commit. Of course, neither Tate or Bo knew that he was her father until later in the series. Winter charged Tate with looking after Bo, which is an interesting choice because he’s a fugitive and he’s rather on the run himself. But anywho.

It’s a pretty interesting show for its length, and entertaining enough to at least finish. It’s more like a long movie than a show. The cool thing about it is that along the way, Bo pretty much forces Tate to help people. Tate has a little bit of the cool sidekick vybe, but he’s also a good father figure. So they’re not just running from bad guys, they’re taking the time to be good guys. And that’s a really good thing to see, because there isn’t a lot of goodwilling happening in shows anymore, at least not the innocent kind.

I thought that the girl who played Bo was pretty good considering her age. I liked the fact that they added her turtle Stanley, because it reminds us that Bo might be a psychic with awesome superpowers, but she’s also a ten-year-old girl, and, like many ten-year-old girls, she has a stuffed animal that she treasures. It’s really cool that they worked that in. (Also, let’s appreciate the name Stanley for a moment. Just say it once or twice. Slow. Let the letters roll of your tongue.)

Anyway, I don’t want to say too much about the show because I don’t want to spoil it. But it’s a good show. And well worth the 13 episodes.

Everyone deserves a second chance.”

1 Timothy 6:3-5 ~ the Result of Believing False Doctrines

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“If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.”

Paul thought it was important to warn Timothy about people who believed in things other than Jesus, and it’s a warning we should all take to heart. It might sound a little bit narrow-minded or stuck-up, but we shouldn’t consider any instruction wholesome except that of Jesus, and we should give complete consent to His instruction. I’ve read all sorts of books, and they’ve been bogged down with stories about Christians, some of them nameless, changing the world and turning people’s hearts completely around by refusing to stop believing in Jesus Christ. Those stories make me excited to meet them in heaven one day, and they inspire me to live my own faith undeniably. Jesus’ doctrine, as Matthew Henry’s Commentary well says, “has a direct tendency to make people godly.” Following Him simply makes you better in every way–a better friend, a better spouse, a better sibling or parent…a better person.

Now check out what happens otherwise.

People who believe and teach doctrines other than Jesus’ are, as Paul rather bluntly puts, “conceited and understand nothing.” It’s interesting how those who are proudest tend to know the least. Just look at the Pharisees during Jesus’ lifetime–for all their knowledge, they didn’t understand truly how God wanted them to live, and they couldn’t even see their own pride and deceit. They were so busy debating and displaying their superiority that they didn’t even realize that they were actually DISobeying what God had told them to do. They added all these rules and regulations to law, twisting it so much that it hardly even looked like the same thing God had written on those stone tablets and handed down to Moses all those generations ago.

Debating was one of the Pharisees’ and chief priests’ favorite things to do, by what I’ve seen. But instead of doing good, their controversies only served to eat the life and power out of the religion that they were supposedly trying to follow. The same sort of thing was happening when Paul wrote this letter to Timothy. People must not have really understood what Jesus had been trying to tell them, and whenever that happens, they make up their own ideas and plant them in the minds of others, and because these ideas aren’t rooted firmly in God’s Word, they turn into mischief and essentially break the church by turning people against each other–people who SHOULD be loving and helping each other. These “men of corrupt mind” are destitute of truth; the reason their minds are corrupted is that they don’t stick to the truth in Jesus. It has never gone well for the church when people started imposing their own ideas.

The words of Jesus are wholesome and healing, and bring great contentment, as we will see later in the next post of this section, and as we can see in Isaiah 50:4 (in case you want to look that up). The words of Christ prevent ruptures in the church, because no one with faith in Him will deny the truth of His words. When people leave the faith, they won’t agree with others, and will constantly question them. They become jealous and suspicious, and envious when they see that someone else’s (Jesus’) ideas are preferred to their own adopted maelstrom of beliefs. And, of course, they start thinking more and more about money, that all-too-common faith-killer that has stolen many people’s souls through their concern for it. But let me leave you with this thought, as a precursor to the next few verses: gain is not godliness, while godliness is great gain.