“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” Genesis 3:15
When God spoke the earth into existence, it was formless and void—a lump of clay, so to speak, ready for the Hands of the Craftsman to begin the creative work of fashioning a garden teeming with flourishing delights: birds and fish, animals and plants, things that flew and swam, wriggled and ran, or simply stuck their roots into the perfect soil and brought forth fruit and vegetables, nuts and berries, nectar and flowers and shade and…well, all kinds of beautiful and life-enhancing stuff. But more than all of this, each of these living things was given the privilege and responsibility to recreate themselves. Birds laid eggs that brought forth baby birds that would grow up to lay their own eggs; animals gave birth to baby animals that would grow up to give birth to their own babies; plants produced seed that would fall onto the soil and grow into mature plants that would, in turn, produce their own seeds.
This was the grand plan of God.
But, something happened…something bad, something evil. Now, the garden produced weeds and thistles and thorns. Rather than delight in life, the Evil delighted in death; rather than beauty, it loved the vile; rather than fruit, it bore poison. It is hard to imagine how instantly a garden filled with light could become so cold and so dark so very, very quickly. And it appeared as if there were no remedy, no fix, no hope to get it back to the way it was before the darkness descended…descended upon everything…everything.
That’s when God told us about the Christmas Seed.
I have an awesome idea!
How about if we swapped out Thanksgiving for Gripes-giving? This would be a day where we sat around the table and asked everyone to share their gripes and complaints. Get ‘em all out on that day. You couldn’t gripe the rest of the year, just on Gripes-giving.
Just the opposite of what we have now.
Have you ever noticed that thankfulness is pretty much missing the rest of the year? Of course! That’s because we used them all up at the Thanksgiving table where everyone, in labored fashion, had to dig really deep to share something they were thankful for. You know how it goes: “well, I’m thankful for…ummm…well, for my dog…and…ummmm…for my iPhone…and, uh…next!”
Now, on the flip side, look at the rest of the year. You never hear someone at the water cooler pop out with a “you know, guys, I would like to just share something that I’m really thankful for…”.
That would be a weird moment, wouldn’t it?
No, the daily conversations that I usually hear are filled with gripes and complaints. It isn’t quite like the protests going on all over our country, where it’s 100-proof griping, but we have to admit that complaining is a major part of our daily conversations.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
There are times in our lives when the Lord reaches down and, like pulling a carrot out of the ground, uproots us without little advance notice. The first time that happened to me, I wasn’t too happy about it and, unfortunately, played the role of the arrogant radish, complaining and fuming as if I knew a whole lot more than the Gardener.
But, eventually, He plants us in another spot and if we can stop complaining long enough to take an honest look around, we realize that He had a very good reason for rudely interrupting “our story”.
I count nine major “uprootings” or “replantings” in my life.
So far, I haven’t handled them in a perfect way. I keep hoping that I will get to the point that I’m a happy carrot when the unexpected happens. Sometimes I think I’m getting better—but then I experience a small, minor interruption and I find that I still have a tendency to say “Hey! What’s the deal?” “Can’t You see that I have my own plans here?”
In anthropomorphic terms, I suspect God just shakes His head at me and maybe even mumbles a “When is this kid ever going to learn?”
“And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he was stating the matter plainly.” Mark 8:31
Jesus told them it would happen. He taught them…plainly.
But, they didn’t get it.
There was a lot of “unbelief” going on that day.
After He had risen, Mary Magdala wasn’t thinking “resurrection”. She thought someone had taken His body somewhere. She was weeping at the empty tomb when Jesus spoke to her.
When she ran and told the disciples, “they did not believe it” either. Mark 16:11.
Peter and John hustled to the tomb to check it out and saw that it was indeed empty, but the next verse says that they “still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.” John 20:9
Jesus appeared to a couple of them while they were walking in the country, yet when they reported it to the others, they “did not believe them”. Mark 16:13.
When Jesus appeared to the Eleven, He rebuked them for their lack of faith and “their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen Him after He had risen.” Mark 16:14
After the disciples told Thomas that Jesus had appeared to them, he said, “…I will not believe it”.
There was alot of dis-belief going around on Resurrection Day…even though there was a flock of resurrected people running around giving witness to all of this. Matthew 27:52-53 records: “The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.”
That would have been an awesome sight!
But, I guess even that wasn’t enough.
However, the most telling comment on what was really going on is found in Luke 24:11.
It’s February 28, 2011 and I’m in Nashville, Tennessee at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel for the National Religious Broadcasters annual conference. This hotel was swamped in the May 2010 flood and I am amazed that it is open for business at all. We were told that they employed clean-up and restoration crews 24/7 for over 6 months to get it back into operation.
Many of the employees at the hotel were put on furlough and, no doubt, had to suffer through a lean time waiting for the Opryland to become productive again.
But none of that compares to the road that Joni Eareckson Tada has endured since her dive into shallow water as a teenager—a dive that broke her neck. She has suffered for years with the severe physical limitations that come with being quadriplegic.
Her story is well known and I was delighted to receive her latest book: “A Place of Healing: Wrestling With the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain and God’s Sovereignty”.Autographed beautifully, by the way, with a pen in her mouth.
I had the privilege to interview Joni for a later Cross Examine show but I really had only one question that I wanted to ask. She was gracious to first let me walk her through a dialogue that she has, no doubt, traveled a thousand times—a lot of typical questions. I was almost embarrassed to make her respond to them.
But she was kind.
At one point, as the film crew was making some adjustments to the equipment, she began to sing.
I probably should have been smart enough to just listen, for she has an angelic voice (although I’ve never heard an angel sing…but if I ever do, I’ll say “Hey, sounds just like Joni!”)