May 12 – Defining Moments – Jacob

Read Genesis 32:22-32

Have you ever been touched by God?  I was recently in a bizarre car accident that could’ve killed me. But God protected me. The accident resulted in two hip replacements and my kneecap that was broken in 8 places. I find it difficult to actually know if God touched me or if this is just something that happened by chance (see Ecclesiastes 9:11).

I do not think it was chance. I can’t prove it. But I have recovered from all of that and have been blessed by God.

Your two hips are pretty durable. You probably know somebody who has arthritis of the hip. They can’t walk very well and they limp. They need a walker or a cane or a wheelchair to get around and can’t run around. Arthritis is one of the most common causes of pain in the hip today.

Jacob was a man who probably did not have arthritis. But he was touched by God. But not in a way that we may think that God touches someone. Jacob was touched and he never walked the same again. He limped but he also thrived. To thrive today means to lose yourself and follow the upside down kingdom of Jesus Christ. You have the opportunity to thrive every day by following Jesus Christ, despite pain such as arthritis and other events that can knock you down.

Jacob was a man who wrestled with God, who took the form of an angel. Jacob must have been a strong wrestler because this angel could not overpower him. So, God, in the form of an angel, disabled his hip.

Perhaps the angel was able to defeat Jacob, but his goal was not to defeat him but to bless him.

Have you been blessed in a similar way?

We wrestle against the desires of the flesh, against sin and the influences of the world, so this passage of scripture (v 22-32) is something that we can all relate to. God wrestled with Jacob in order to transform him, to bring him to a place of submission so that Jacob could no longer run from his problems.

What challenges are you walking through currently? Do you believe that God can use it for His glory? Maybe when you get knocked down – that is an opportunity that God has given you to thrive and change perspective. You get knocked down. Get up. You’re still standing! (Psalm 40:2).

Tom Weckesser

May 11 – Defining Moments – Abraham

Read Genesis 12:1-20

Here is a man, who is well in his years and probably established in his hometown with his wife and an occupation. Seemingly, out of nowhere, He is asked by the Lord to move somewhere that the Lord is going to wait to tell him where.

“The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.”

Here is Abram, a follower of God Almighty who has this trust relationship and he is asked to leave all he knows behind him, all he has claimed to be and is.

How would you respond?

Do you think you would freak out? Go? Stay calm? Ask a ton of questions?

Being completely transparent, I would freak out and ask a ton of questions. That’s my MO. I am a high communicator and a Type A planner. So, my flesh does not do well with “the unknown”.

Does anyone do well with the unknown?

There is a defining moment in this story. It’s not when the Lord commands Abram to get up and go and explains the promises to Abram and his family. The defining moment is in verse 4;

“So, Abram went, as the Lord had told him…”

I remember so many times in my walk with the Lord where He asked me to trust Him without seeing the “where” or the “why” and the “how”.

I am living in that moment now.

As I am writing this, I am sitting in the hospital with Jake, my husband. Some medical things have taken place that need all the attention, monitoring and answers. Just this morning, a close friend asked me how I was doing. My reply was that I feel like my faith is being tested and that I am in a constant state of striving for surrender and trusting that the Lord sees it all.

James 1 continues to replay in my heart and mind:

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.”

“Consider it all joy” … joy, the testing of our faith. Do you know why God would want me to consider this joy? Well, my definition of joy is “God not only knows about our problems but cares about them”. So, in this, speaking of considering this testing to be joyous is knowing that I can trust in the God who sees my unknown.

He sees it, allows it and has much bigger plans for it than I could ever imagine.

Abram’s defining moment was trusting in the Lord to know what was to come and walk in a trust exchange. This wouldn’t be the first time the Lord tests Abram’s faith, it wouldn’t be the last time Abraham had to walk in complete surrender, knowing that the Lord sees what is to come and just lean on Him.

Where would you say your faith is in these defining moments? Do you cling to the Lord? Do you question the happenings?

Do you surrender, joyously?

Kelly Lawson

May 10 – Defining Moments – Enoch & Noah

Read Genesis 5:1-32

“LeBron, Tebow, Adel, Brady”.

Just say the name and everyone knows who you are talking about. Their talents have made them household names. That is great for the here and now, but what about eternity?

In the Bible, there are 2 names of men whose fame isn’t because of anything they could do but who they listened to.

Enoch was a man in the direct ancestral line from Adam to Jesus.   His name is hidden in a long list of “begats.”  So and so begat so and so; he lived “x” number of years AND THEN HE DIED! Over and over the same thing is said of generation after generation of men.    

Then there is Enoch.  

“Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.

What?  He didn’t die?  God took him away?   In Hebrews 11:5-6 we read:

“By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: He could not be found, because God had taken him away.”

So, out of all of the people on Earth at the time, Enoch was chosen by God to not die but to be taken away. 

What did he do?  Did he have some hidden talent?

No! He walked faithfully with God.  He spent quality time with God…. he heard God’s still small voice and did what God wanted him to do.

Enoch’s great grandson, Noah, was a friend of God’s also. Even though Enoch wasn’t around when Noah was born, surely Noah had been told about his great-grandfather and how he had “walked with God”.

What a legacy Noah was given!  We can only guess how much harassment Noah faced as he set about building a huge boat for years! But Noah’s mind wasn’t focused on what was going on around him, he was focused on God and what HE commanded Noah to do. 

You may not ever be able to shoot 3-pointers in a basketball game or stand center stage before an adoring crowd, but you can be like Enoch and Noah by walking and talking WITH God, not ignoring and talking AT God.

The refrain of an old hymn goes like this:

He walks with me, and He talks with me,

And He tells me I am His own,

And the joy we share as we tarry there,

None other has ever known.

Do you walk with God?  Are your thoughts His thoughts?

Are the words that come out of your mouth His words?

Are your actions for His glory instead of yours?

What example are you setting for your children and grandchildren?  Is God only on your mind and lips when you are in trouble or at church?  Do you walk with Him daily, delighting in His company and He in yours?

There is no time like the present to be in His presence. 

Pat Arnold

May 9 – Defining Moments – Cain & Abel

Read Genesis 4:1-26

When Cain killed Abel in Genesis 4, the story was captured for all of history to see the depressed spirit of Cain’s behavior as he responded in comparison to his brother starting with their offerings to God.  The comparison struggle is real for many people, and I once heard Pastor Nick say (when talking about social media), that “comparison is the thief of joy”.  The human element of the tension felt from comparison can lead to dark places and, unfortunately for Cain, one could say that his defining moment was when he killed his brother.  However, I think it is something different that can be described as “prominence vs. significance” (something I once heard a guy named Doug say).

He described it like this: Prominence does not equal significance, but, for many people, they think it does.  Discovering what is significant for God is often confused by our desire to do something for Him that is prominent.  This can be especially damaging, if we fall for this trap, when we consider our relationship with God.

When you consider Genesis 4, Cain’s offering to God is indeed significant. For starters, Cain gave an offering to God (4:3), and it can be inferred that what he brought was part of the “first” from his crop (4:4).  That fact alone bears much significance in that, for followers of God, to give is to sacrifice, and to give from the “first fruits” (Prov 3:9) is honoring to God.  However, as the Bible describes, God had “no regard” (4:4 NASV) for Cain’s offering in comparison to the kind of offering that Abel brought forth. Was Abel’s offering more pleasing to God due to the cost of meat instead of the cost of vegetables? One could think, “Hey, lamb chops are more expensive than carrots so I can see why God is unimpressed by Cain’s offering.”  We see what is prominent, the monetary value. 

However, the significance is a matter of the heart.

To better understand this idea, don’t miss the “and” in Gen 4:5:

“Abel, on his part, also brought the firstlings of his flock and their fat portions”.

Abel’s offering was an offering of significance that was pleasing to God as it reflected the heart (indicated by bringing the extra fat as an offering too). It reminds me of when Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees (Mat 9:13) and tells them, “Go and learn the meaning of this, ‘I desire mercy not sacrifice’ (NIV).

A defining moment for me personally, was when I discovered God’s desire for my significance to be deeply connected as the result of His work in my heart.  It was only then, when I began to realize that what I bring to Him (whether offering, worship, or work) is not valued by the prominence measured by people, but by significance defined by Him.

What about you? What does your struggle with comparison look like? In what way do you need to zero into the work God is doing in your life and allow that to be enough?

What do you need to release to Him in this moment?

Joe Rubino 

December 23 – Christmas: The Promise Fulfilled – Fulfilled Prophecy

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Christmas:
The Promise Fulfilled

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Read Genesis 3:15, Habakkuk 3:13, Isaiah 7:14, 9:6-7, 11:1 and Micah 5:2

Fulfilled Prophecy 

A promise was made long ago, revealed through the prophets and dating back to the fall of mankind in the Garden of Eden. 

A Savior would be born. He’d be born to repair the damage that mankind inflicted on himself because of the sin that entered into the world through Adam and Eve. He’d be born to be the only way of salvation!

The Prophets foretold that His name would be Emanuel “God With Us”, and He’d be born in a small almost obscure town named Bethlehem. The Messiah of the world was to come to us born of a virgin to save mankind from its sin and separation from God. The Messiah was God’s own Son. Long before all these things would take place God said they would happen; revealed to us and all creation that our God would be with us. God always shows Himself faithful as His Word is true and comes to life in a very real fashion. Just as He spoke light into the darkness and it happened, He spoke to the hearts of the prophets through His Holy Word to begin to reveal the plan He had in place. 

We know that roughly two thousand years ago God’s One and Only Son was sent to us fulfilling the promises that the prophecy of the Old Testament stated would take place. He was born in Bethlehem of a virgin named Mary. 

Our God is with us!

As we enter the Christmas season we should have a sense of awe and reverence in how God fulfilled everything according to His Word. He keeps His Word!

My Prayer is that we’ll continue to be in awe of these incredible truths and that we’ll instill the truths of God’s revelation to our family, friends, or whomever God so chooses to place in our path. Especially during Christmas time!

When we celebrate His birth may we all share the true meaning behind what the world considers as just another holiday. May the truth revealed in prophecy be communicated and known through us.

Praise God for revealing Himself and that we can have the true honor and privilege of worshiping Jesus and celebrate His entrance into the world during Christmas. Let us all have a true “Birthday” celebration for our Savior this year and every year for the Lord our God fulfilled His promise through His Son Jesus Christ. 

Questions To Get Started With: 

  • What do the scriptures I just read teach me regarding how Christ’s birth fulfilled the Old Testament Prophecies? 
  • How do God’s Fulfilled Promises build my faith in the trustworthiness of scripture?
  • How do these truths change my understanding and perspective on celebrating Christmas?
  • What can I do the share the true meaning of Christmas this year?

December 16 – Family Christmas – Family Feud

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Family Feud 

By Danny Saavedra

“Now then, please let your servant remain here as my lord’s slave in place of the boy . . .” – Genesis 44:33 (NIV)

The Bible is full of stories of authentic people. God didn’t shy away from showing our “heroes” of faith in their darkest hours. Why? So we can see people with real shortcomings and struggles; people like us.

One great example is found in Israel’s family. In this story, we see Joseph—loved by his father and hated by his brothers—sold into slavery. That’s right, because his brothers were so jealous and filled with malice, they lied about Joseph’s death after selling him as a slave. 

But what happened? Joseph prospered! He went from son to slave to prisoner to steward to ultimately the prime minister of Egypt. Why? Because he honored and served the Lord. 

Joseph became top dog in Egypt, helping people through a prolonged famine. Eventually, he gets a visit from his brothers—except for Benjamin, the youngest. They came because the famine had reached them, and they heard about the surplus in Egypt. Though Joseph recognized his brothers, they didn’t recognize him, so he pretended to be a stranger. Testing them so he could see if they had changed, he tells his brothers they can’t leave Egypt unless they bring their youngest brother there. So, he kept one of his brothers and sent the rest to get Benjamin. 

They went back to their father, but Israel refused to let Benjamin go. Knowing his family’s need and repentant from what they’d done to Joseph, Judah said, “Send the boy along with me and we will go at once, so that we and you and our children may live and not die. I myself will guarantee his safety; you can hold me personally responsible for him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him here before you, I will bear the blame before you all my life.” (Genesis 43:8–9 NIV). With that, Israel finally agrees.

They brought him to Joseph. Before they left, Joseph had his steward put a silver cup into Benjamin’s bag to make it seem as though he’d stolen it. This was their final test. When he decreed that only Benjamin would have to stay as his servant, Judah offered to take his brother’s place in prison. Judah’s actions paint a picture of what was to come through his descendant, Jesus, who came to pay a debt He didn’t owe because we owed a debt we couldn’t pay! 

This selfless act also had a major impact on Joseph. Hearing Judah’s compassion and willingness to take his brother’s place, Joseph could no longer contain himself and reveals himself to his brothers. In Genesis 45:5 (NIV), he says, “Do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.” At last, after several years, we see a family reunited. 

The Christmas season marks the perfect time for reconciliation. You see, Jesus came to reconcile us to God, to bring forgiveness and restoration. And the story of Israel’s children shows us that it’s never too late for reconciliation and forgiveness, for healing in our lives and in our families. Are there broken relationships in your life? Maybe old friends, siblings, or a parent? Just like he did for Joseph and his brothers, God can do the same for you. All you have to do is take the first step!

December 15 – Family Christmas – The Runner & the Wrestler

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Read Genesis 32:24-25

The Runner and the Wrestler 

By Danny Saavedra

“Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him . . . He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint . . .” – Genesis 32:24–25 (NKJV)

It would be an understatement to say that there are some interesting and eccentric characters in the Bible, particularly in the Old Testament. And among this amazingly diverse group, Jacob definitely sticks out. 

From his heel-catching birth to getting his brother’s inheritance for some stew; from the hair-brained scheme he hatched to trick his almost-blind father into blessing him to his soap opera-style romantic saga over Rachel, Jacob had some stories to tell. If ever there were a person in Jesus’ family tree with some wild stories—the kind of stories so insane they’d have to be true—it would be Jacob.

Now, one of the things you’ll notice as you read through the many exploits of Jacob is that he was a runner. After stealing his brother Esau’s inheritance, he ran. When he wanted to get out from under his uncle Laban’s control, he ran. His default in difficult times was to run, because at heart, Jacob leaned on his own abilities in life. Even though he knew God, believed in Him, and listened when He spoke, he relied more on himself than on God.

After running away from Laban and being commanded by God to return to the land of his fathers, he sent a messenger with gifts to his brother Esau. Genesis 32:6–7 (NLT) says, “After delivering the message, the messengers returned to Jacob and reported, ‘We met your brother, Esau, and he is already on his way to meet you—with an army of 400 men!’ Jacob was terrified at the news.” 

So, what do you think he did? You guessed it. He got ready to run again. While his brother Esau was on the verge of tracking him down, Jacob ended up alone in his camp wrestling with a man—only it wasn’t a man, it was actually God! He wrestled with Jacob in order to transform him, to bring him to a place of submission, and so God knocked his hip out of its socket. 

Why in the world would God do a thing like that? Remember what Jacob did when things got tough? He ran because he leaned on himself. But now, with a hip out of joint, Jacob could no longer run or lean on his own power. From this point forward, he would have to lean on God. His hip was a constant reminder of that!

And to drive the point home even further, the Lord gives Jacob a new name, Israel, which means “governed by God.” The days of running and relying on himself were over. For Israel, the time for standing in faith had finally come, just as it had for his fathers before him.

Like Israel, God also wants us to be governed by Him. When the Prince of Peace left His heavenly throne and became a man, He gave us the perfect example of how to live governed by God. We need to lean into Him and allow Him to lead and direct us (John 5:30; 8:27–28; Luke 22:43–44). 

Today, as believers, we can rejoice because we have the Holy Spirit of God within us to convict us and wrestle us back into a place of submission when we try to revert back to our Jacob-like ways. Spend some time today praying, asking the Lord to reveal any areas where you need to submit.

December 14 – Family Christmas – The Sacrificial Son

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Read Genesis 22:8

The Sacrificial Son

By Danny Saavedra

“God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” – Genesis 22:8 (NIV)

Have you ever been asked to do something completely out of the ordinary; something seemingly insane . . . something you never thought you’d have to do? If you have, you’re not alone. In Genesis 22, God gave a strange command to Abraham. 

God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son. Wait, what? You mean the son of promise? The son of his old age? The one from whom a great nation would be built? Yes, that one. God said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering.” (Genesis 22:2 NIV). 

There is no doubt that this must have been a heart-wrenching, indescribably painful thing for Abraham. Can you imagine being asked to sacrifice what you hold nearest and dearest? Would you be obedient like Noah or run in the opposite direction like Jonah? Think about how unreasonable and insane God’s request sounded. Isaac was Abraham’s beloved son; the future of God’s covenant rested on him. Isaac was a miracle, God’s gift in response to the faith of Abraham and Sarah. 

But Abraham heard God and immediately obeyed Him in faith. Sometimes in our lives, we’ll be faced with having to make what seems to be an impossible, difficult choice—a choice we may not understand. But when we understand the character of God and His desire to bless and fill us, we can faithfully obey Him. 

You see, Abraham knew that God’s will would never contradict His promise, so this faithful father held on to the promise, which said, “In Isaac your seed shall be called” (Genesis 21:12 NKJV). Abraham believed that even if God allowed him to sacrifice his son, that He could raise Isaac from the dead. In this we see the true nature of faith. It doesn’t demand explanations; it rests on promises. That’s why Abraham was able to say to his servants, “We will worship and then we will come back to you,” and why he was able to tell his son, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering.” (Genesis 22:5, 8 NIV).

Now, something that often gets lost in this story is Isaac’s faith and obedience. So often, when we picture this story, we imagine Isaac as a young child. But most biblical scholars believe he was between 18 and 33 years old—after all, he had to be big and strong enough to carry all the wood for the burnt offering. 

Isaac’s story gives us an amazing parallel to God’s plan for redemption through Jesus. It’s widely accepted that Isaac knew what was happening. He carried the wood of his own sacrifice and remained silent as he was being placed on the altar. He didn’t protest when Abraham raised the knife. Instead, he willingly gave himself up to his father . . . just like Jesus! Clement of Alexandria wrote, “He (Jesus) is Isaac . . . for he was the son of Abraham as Christ the Son of God and a sacrifice as the Lord.” 

In the end, God stopped Abraham’s hand and provided another sacrifice. So Abraham named that mountain “The Lord Will Provide.” Through the birth of Jesus, Christmas signifies the epic moment where God provided for all mankind. Today, as we get closer to Christmas, find time to reflect on all those moments in life when you didn’t have the answers, but God provided.

December 12 – Family Christmas -The Ark of Our Salvation

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Read Genesis 7:1

The Ark of Our Salvation

By Danny Saavedra

Something significant tends to get overlooked when it comes to Noah’s narrative. Usually, the focus is on the great flood that engulfed the entire planet or on the wickedness of humanity that led to it. But the thing that should stick out above those is the thing that kept Noah and his family safe from the waters: obedience. 

In Genesis 6:9 (NIV), it says, “Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God.” Amongst a wicked generation, Noah was righteous. But what was it that made him righteous? His works? His behavior? To borrow from the apostle Paul, certainly not! Hebrews 11:7 (NIV) tells us that Noah was a man of faith! In fact, we’re told that Noah “became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.” His faith in God was his righteousness and it was also what allowed him to be a man of obedience.

Today’s verse tells us: “Then the Lord said to Noah, ‘Come into the ark, you and all your household, because I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation.’” Just a few verses later (verses 4-5) it says, “’For after seven more days I will cause it to rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and I will destroy from the face of the earth all living things that I have made.’ And Noah did according to all that the Lord commanded him.”

When God spoke, Noah listened. He didn’t waver. He didn’t question God. He didn’t doubt. He believed, trusted, and obeyed God. Noah built the ark as he was commanded. He filled it with the animals and got in before it even started to rain. Mind you, the ark had no wheel or rudder to steer it, only one overhead “window” to provide light, and only one door, which was sealed by God Himself. What does that tell you? It says that God was in complete control and that Noah and his family had no control over their destinies. That’s faith, folks!

Now, let’s talk about that door for a minute. Noah and his family walked in through the door of the ark and they were saved from God’s righteous judgment and wrath. In John 10:9 (NASB), Jesus said, “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved . . .” Just like the door of the ark, Jesus Christ is the only door to salvation, the only path to peace, and the only road to heaven.

Believe it or not, the story of Christmas is a lot like the story of Noah and the ark. When God sent Jesus—the Ark of our salvation—into the world, He opened the door to eternal life. And as we enter the Ark (Matthew 11:28), we are spared from His righteous judgment (Romans 5:9). 

In one of the most amazing sermons ever preached about Jesus, the apostle Peter said, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12 NIV). Have you heard His call and entered into the Ark of salvation? If not, it’s never too late! The door is open. All you need to do is walk through it. And when you do, you’ll see that a whole new world is waiting for you on the other side.

December 11 – Family Christmas – The First Family

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Read Genesis 1:27

The First Family

By Danny Saavedra

The first two people on earth, Adam and Eve, were the crowning jewel of God’s “good” creation, made in His image. They were the first family. But why did God create Adam, and by extension, all of us? What was the purpose for the creation of mankind? It’s a question we have all, at one time or another, wrestled with. “Why am I here?” 

The Bible provides some answers to this all-important question! Isaiah 43:7 tells us the first reason we were created is to glorify God. C.S. Lewis wrote, “In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him.” And that’s the second reason why we were created—so we can enjoy God forever. Psalm 16:11 says that in the presence of God there is fullness of joy. Think of it like filling up on your favorite meal, the kind that truly satisfies. 

Before Jesus came, no one had ever experienced the purpose they were created for more than Adam and Eve! Think about it: They walked with God, talked with God, and enjoyed His presence. They got to live their calling and enjoy the fruits of the Garden (Genesis 2:15–16). 

And then came the fall—the first and worst family crisis. Adam and Eve allowed their pride and selfish impulses—their desire to be “like God”—to cloud their judgment. And because they allowed themselves to be deceived by the serpent, they, and all of us, fell from grace. The worst part is that the very thing they were seeking, to be like God, they already had. They bore His image and likeness and His imprint was on their heart and soul. 

And it was in this, the most tragic moment of human history, where we see the first step of God’s masterful plan of salvation revealed. Although they sinned and were judged, God promised that this wouldn’t be the end of the line. With the coming of death, there came the promise of life. In Genesis 3, God explains how it will all go down: Women will experience pain and labor as they bring new life into the world . . . but new life will come. Men will have toil and sweat in order to live, but they will live.

And then, in Genesis 3:21 (NLT), God gives us a preview of how He is going to fulfill this promise. It says, “And the Lord God made clothing from animal skins for Adam and his wife.” You see, in order for God to clothe Adam and Eve and take away their shame, He had to kill an animal, to shed its blood. Why did He need to do that? Because the cost of our sin and shame is death “and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22 NIV). 

The story of Christmas is the moment when God’s promise of life became reality. How? “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 NIV).

Jesus came to take away our sins, to restore us to the purpose for which we were created. Because of Jesus, we can glorify and enjoy God even more intimately than Adam and Eve ever could. We not only get to walk with God, but we have the Spirit of God within us!