Why hate family?


According to Jesus, discipleship begins with complete allegiance to Him as Lord. Even the bond of familial love must yield to the eternal relationship of divine love accomplished for us in Christ!

Shockingly, Jesus said, If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and

persecution love hate uganda

Creative commons

wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”

There’s no record of Jesus possessing any particular animus against fathers, mothers, sisters, or brothers. On the contrary, his statement here is not against families as much as it is for disciples. Why would Jesus issue such an ultimatum to his would-be disciples? Because he loves them!  His gospel really is the only means of escaping a perishing world under God’s sentence of death. If one wishes to escape sin and death, he or she must flee to Jesus Christ alone. It’s all or nothing. Life or death.

And Jesus is life.

This past May, Kuluseni Iguru Tenywa found life. He was so glad to be rid of his demons! For years, Tenywa had been tormented by demons. He says he was oppressed by them until he received Christ at a local gathering of Christians. While all of heaven surely rejoiced at this one sinner becoming a follower of Christ, those living in his village in Uganda were enraged against him. Before his conversion, 53 year-old Kuluseni Tenywa had served as the Imam of his Muslim village.

After his conversion, everyone in the village turned against him—everyone, including his wife and his four children. According to Morning Star News, his wife berated him, calling him an infidel and refusing to offer him food. By late June, a mob—led by Tenywa’s brother-in-law—had come for him. They destroyed portions of his farm and his store and intended to take decisive action against him. Desperate, Tenywa felt he had to flee for his life. He ran from his village, from his home, from his family on June 27. He has not seen them since.

Kuluseni Iguru Tenywa has thus far proved himself a faithful disciple of Christ. His life reflects the sober reality Jesus himself unfolded for his followers: “And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household” (Matt 10:36). Sadly, the world has turned against this brother, but if God be for Him, who can stand against him!

Would you please take a moment to pray for this brother in Christ? His wife and children need our prayers, too. You can read more of his story here.

Chen Ups and Downs


UPDATE:

Poor Chen Guangchen. His case is reportedly moving along, but the answers are not coming to some serious questions about Chen’s future. Will there be retribution for those who helped Chen escape? Will he actually be permitted to leave the country? How is his health? Apparently, the U.S. Embassy has abandoned Chen. It is difficult to get information, and many folks, apparently, have lost interest in Chen’s case. Thankfully, Jennifer Rubin is still on the case and files this report for the Washington Post.  There is one bit of ominous news in her story–a journalist trying to cover the story has been expelled from China.

There are more ups and downs to Chen Guangchen’s life right now than you’d find on a Coney Island roller coaster.  It seems that Chen’s fate is all or nothing now. Supposedly, he is going to be allowed to leave China. The latest report says that Chen may be allowed to leave with his family and attend New York University as a fellow.  That would definitely be the up-side to this dilemma.

Realistically, though, Chen may never leave China. His closest friends and counselors admit that Chen is afraid, even while more popular news accounts see light dawning which points toward his freedom from China.  Honestly, there are three aspects of this case which cause me to fear a down-side to Chen’s future.

First, the U.S. and human rights groups on the side of Chen’s release have given away much of their original bargaining power.  As this New York Times article points out, the Obama administration made some mistakes early in the process out of the hope of a quick resolution.  The initial mistake was allowing Chen to be taken to the hospital (out of the embassy control) without ensuring that U.S. officials would be given access to him.  Since Chen has been in the hospital, U.S. officials have been denied access.  A second mistake was made when the Obama administration turned Chen over to Chinese authorities without securing guarantees of safety for him, his family, and his close friends who aided in his escape.

As a result of a weakened position, the U.S. cannot realistically demand freedom for Chen’s colleagues. So, the second aspect of this case which I believe does not bode well for Chen is the fact that his extended family, friends, and colleagues are now in serious danger.  Even as it was reported that Chen originally agreed to leave the embassy because his wife was being threatened, so, now, Chen may again succumb to threats against those whom he cares for and loves. They remain in serious danger (as this article details).  There are reports that officials from Shandong province are in Beijing, following Chen’s family and waiting to take them back into custody as well. Consider this short paragraph from China Aid:

Chen’s frail mother remains detained, his brother Chen Guangfu and nephew Chen Kegui will be sentenced, and the netizens who helped Chen escape, like He “Pearl” Pierong, still face charges.  Also, famed human rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong was beaten on Friday morning for trying to visit Chen.  He reportedly has lost hearing after the beating.”

Third, thus far, the so-called agreement involves Chen being allowed to submit an application for study abroad.  Submitting an application for study abroad is a FAR cry from actually studying abroad. If this is all the promise that Chen is given by the Communist leaders in China, then Chen is not guaranteed anything.  Indeed, how awkward it would be for Chen to appeal to the very same authorities who have allegedly tortured and beaten him for the past two years in order to gain his release! Hopefully, the incident has been so public and so damaging to the Chinese government that they will decide their best option is to let Chen and his family leave China. (Side note here: For the last two years Chen has been unable to be with his son. His reunion with his son came only after he was taken to the hospital upon leaving the U.S. Embassy.

A hearing was held in the U.S. Congress today. C-SPAN has the video if you would like to watch.  Chen actually is telephoned during the hearing and speaks to the congressional committee about his case.

C-SPAN Chen Guangchen

Clarity on Honor Killings


I have posted several times about the troubling rise of so-called “Honor Killings” in North America. I am happy to report that Canada has stepped up to the plate and and taken a mighty swing against the heinous Muslim practice of killing your children in order to protect your honor.  One wonders how indeed it could be possible that honor might be upheld by murdering your offspring.  Nevertheless, Canada has called it like it is.  The Judge had this to say:

“It is difficult to conceive of a more heinous, more despicable, more honorless crime,” Maranger said. “The apparent reason behind these cold-blooded, shameful murders was that the four completely innocent victims offended your completely twisted concept of honor … that has absolutely no place in any civilized society.”

To which, Canadian Justice Minister Rob Nicholson added that honor killings are “barbaric and unacceptable in Canada.”

Good job, Canada.  Let’s hope many more juries and courts will follow suit in Canada and the U.S.

Sadly, there is growing evidence that the problem is both misunderstood (in Western countries) and intentionally unrecorded (in Muslim countries).  The Middle East Quarterly tracks honor killings worldwide and reports that the often-reported figure of 5,000 per year is woefully deficient.  The number is much higher, although given the present circumstances that assertion is difficult to prove.  For political purposes, many end up distorting the figures and mischaracterizing the crimes as something other than what they are. As always, defenders of evil tend to obfuscate reality with more fake fog than a bad magician.  For once, a judge and jury have blown away the smoke and have made the matter clear.  Honor killings are barbaric and have no place in civilized society.

Path to True Blessing?


How do you know when you are blessed?  On first blush, you might respond that you know you are blessed when you have peace with God and peace with your wife and family.  Many of us would think we are blessed when we have plenty of money.  We think that NFL players who get paid 6 million bucks a year to catch passes are the ones who are blessed.

But what about Abera Ongeremu, is he blessed?  Ongeremu—a traveling evangelist—was visiting at a church in Olenkomi, Ethiopia, when members of the Orthodox Church there stormed the evangelical church building in which he was staying. They ordered him to burn his Bible.  He replied that he would not burn the word of life. So, they decided to burn him.  They tied his hands, poured diesel all over the room, started the fire, and locked the doors.  Ongeremu was certain this was his day to die, but his persecutors weren’t satisfied that their diabolical scheme was a sufficient outpouring of torture.  Thus, they dragged him back out of the burning church and beat him until he fell unconscious on the ground.  He did not die that day (you can read his story here).

Would we call Ongeremu blessed, or cursed.  According to the Scriptures, Jesus calls this man blessed:

Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:10).

I doubt that we mean for anything like this to happen to others when we say to them, “God bless you.”  Indeed, when we seek the Lord’s favor and ask for His blessing, we are not at all hoping to be treated by the world the way Ongeremu was treated.  Quite the opposite, in fact, we are usually hoping that the blessing will cause the world to look on us with favor (thus giving us the job, the award, the contract, the admission to the school, etc.).

In the New Testament, however, persecution is a blessing.  “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me” (Matthew 5:11).  As we contemplate persecution (and the persecuted) we realize that blessedness is something more than (and something strangely different from) what we had imagined.  Blessedness is directly related to relationship to Christ—not to material prosperity.  The Lord does not say “rejoice and be glad” when you become rich.  Instead, He warns that it is hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven (cf. Matthew 19:24).  But Jesus does tell us when we are persecuted that we should “rejoice and be glad” for our reward in heaven is great.  This is, in fact, the way it has always been for the people of faith (Matthew 5:12).

To be blessed means to be in the presence of Christ.  Or, more specifically, it means that Christ is present with you (Matthew 28:20).  Such divine presence tends to make one invincible.  It means to be in right relationship to the Living God.   When we are made alive in Christ, no death will be a final threat to us. We cannot be threatened with death or any of death’s allies because death only promises to bring us nearer into the presence of Christ.  To be absent in the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Cor 5:8).  In Christ, we, too, are blessed like Ongeremu and will never be defeated.

 

What the Blind Man Sees


Blind human rights activist Chen has reportedly died from the torture and beatings he has endured at the hands of the Communist Chinese.  However, as this story notes,  no one can be sure of whether Chen is alive or dead, given the fact that the Communist government has sealed off access to Chen and has even shot at those trying to get a closer look at whether he is still alive.

Chen Guangcheng has been very active in the past, calling the world’s attention to the barbaric enforcement of the Chinese one-child policy. Whether he is alive or dead, the truth is certain that this blind man could see so much better than most what the value of human life actually is.  The video below is an excellent (and short) overview of Chen’s life.

 

Islam Run Amok


UPDATE: 

Thanks to Nina Shea, we now have word that Pastor Yousef did not waiver in his faith. He stood firm and once again refused to deny Christ.  From the court proceeding:

The Washington Post’s blog Religion Right Now posted a piece by Jordan Sekulow that included the following excerpt from court proceedings this week: “When asked to ‘repent’ by the judges, Youcef stated, ‘Repent means to return. What should I return to? To the blasphemy that I had before my faith in Christ?’ The judges replied , ‘To the religion of your ancestors, Islam.’ To which he replied, ‘I cannot.’”

We should continue to pray, as his fate will be determined soon.

ORIGINAL POST BELOW:

As this news article from Baptist Press details, Islam in Iran is once again displaying its blood-thirsty side.  Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, a house church leader for 400 Christians in Iran, is subject to the death penalty because he will not renounce his faith in Jesus Christ.  Earlier this year, Nadarkhani’s execution was delayed so that he might be given the opportunity to recant.  According to the law, Nadarkhani must refuse 4 times before being put to death. He has already refused 3 times.  Today could mark the end of his life if he refuses for a 4th time to deny Christ.

The blood-thirsty nature of Islamic clerics in Iran is particularly on display in this case, given the fact that Nadarkhani was never a practicing Muslim. The fact that he is descended from Muslims is enough to warrant a charge of apostasy culminating in death.  The article

Pray for this man.

points out that he remains guilty of apostasy because he has Muslim relatives.  Even more, there is no law in Iran specifically calling for the death penalty for those who leave Islam.  Thus, even though Nadarkhani never left Islam, and even though there is no law against leaving Islam in Iran, this pastor may well be put to death for leaving Islam.

In short, Pastor Nadarkhani may be put to death for his faith in Jesus Christ. If so, his death will be a great injustice. Of course, it wouldn’t be the first time (or the last) that the body of Christ were treated unfairly and killed untimely.  May the Lord strengthen this brother with grace and peace and faith–and reward him with the crown of life if she should die.  To be absent in the body is to be present with the Lord.  It may well be the will of our God for him to be delivered as Peter and Paul and others often were. We should (as they did in Acts 12) pray to that end.

Some Relief for Sudanese Christians?


Sudan has been a nation at war for years.  The Muslims of the north have waged an all out war against the non-Muslims of the south, who are mostly Christians and animists.  As of today, South Sudan is a country of its own.  Let’s hope this move brings peace.  Indeed, let’s pray for peace.  The track record in Sudan has not lately been laced with peace.

For now, congratulations, South Sudan.  You are the world’s newest nation.

Maybe Some Good News from Iran


According to the Jubilee Campaign, there is good news from Iran.  Pastor Youcef will not be executed for being a Christian in Iran.  The report makes it unclear exactly what will happen next. It almost sounds as though he will be asked to deny Christ and return to Islam in order to have the charges dropped. I hope that is not the case.  We prayed for Youcef this past Sunday, and I am very glad to hear this report.  We should continue to pray.  Here is the update from Jubilee Campaign:

Iran annuls death term for Christian pastor: lawyer

TEHRAN (AFP): Iran’s supreme court has overturned a death sentence handed down to Yusef Nadarkhani, a Christian pastor accused of apostasy for having converted from Islam, his lawyer told AFP on Sunday.

“The supreme court has annulled the death sentence and sent the case back to the court in Rasht (his hometown), asking the accused to repent,” Mohammad Ali Dadkhah said.

Nadarkhani, now 32, converted from Islam to Christianity at the age of 19 and became a pastor of a small evangelical community called the Church of Iran.

He was arrested in October 2009 and condemned to death for apostasy under Iran’s Islamic Sharia laws, which however allow for such verdicts to be overturned if the convicted person “repents” and renounces his conversion.

After his conviction was upheld by an appeal court in Gilan province in September 2010, Nadarkhani turned to the supreme court. His wife, who was initially sentenced to life imprisonment, was released on appeal.

The lawyer said the verdict had been read out to him on the telephone and that he needed to travel to Rasht, where Nadarkhani is being held, to see the ruling for himself.

Dadkhah said he himself was sentenced on Sunday by a Tehran court to nine years in jail and a 10-year ban on practicing law or teaching at university for “actions and propaganda against the Islamic regime”.

The lawyer said he had been criticised for having cooperated with the Centre for the Defence of Human Rights, an organisation founded by Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi, as well as for giving interviews to foreign radio stations.

“I have 20 days to lodge an appeal,” he said.

Good News for Freedom


I just read that Geert Wilders has been acquitted of his hate speech charges for voicing his opinions about Islam.  This is good news for the whole world.  If you haven’t followed the story, or you are not aware of its importance, see here or here or even here.

Remember


We are commanded in Hebrews 13:3 to remember those Christians who are suffering in prison on account of Christ.  Here is an opportunity for us to remember one.


From www.prisoneralert.com

Location: Iran (Islamic Republic of)
Arrested: October 2009
Days Imprisoned: 611

Recently, Pastor Youcef Nardarkhani was reportedly sentenced to death for apostasy. VOM contacts confirm that the pastor’s trial was held in recent weeks in the 11th Chamber of The Assize Court of the province of Gilan.

Pastor Youcef is one of several members of his church who have been imprisoned. In the past, the Iranian government has also imprisoned and released his wife. Pastor Youcef was arrested in October 2009 after protesting a decision by the government requiring that his son study the Quran.

Media reports suggest that Pastor Youcef was transferred to Lakan prison, which is supervised by the Political Police of the Islamic Republic. If a death sentence is officially handed down by the court and Pastor Youcef is executed, his would be the first judicial execution of a Christian in Iran in two decades.

Pastor Youcef is a leader in the Full Gospel “Church of Iran” network, a group that stands apart from most house church groups in Iran.

Still Facing the Death Penalty
VOM contacts received word that Youcef Nadarkhani remains in prison in Lakan province in northern Iran. He continues to face the death sentence for apostasy. Last week our contacts were informed that a decision had been reached in his case. However, no one was informed as to what that decision was. Please pray for him and his family. Pray that his faith would stand firm regardless of circumstances.

Still Waiting
Pastor Youcef remains in the custody of the Islamic government of Iran under a death sentence at Lakan prison in Gilan province in northern Iran. He is being held in the main part of the prison with drug dealers and murderers. He is waiting for the Supreme Court to review his case and render a judgment on whether or not the death sentence will be carried out.

The situation is very difficult for his wife and children.

A Painfully Good Question


Persecution in the Philippines

I will be out of the country for a few weeks, but I wanted to leave you with a painfully good question that comes to us from a Jew:

“Why don’t Christians help Christians?”

The question was asked by Dennis Prager with reverent concern for the health of American Christianity.  His article (read it here) asks why Christians are not more vocal about the plight of their brothers and sisters in the Middle East.

Prager recounts how he has long been an activist on behalf of suffering Jews in Russia, and he acknowledges that Christians have been staunch allies along the way.  However, Christians never have seemed too active on behalf of other Christians.  And now, Christians are largely silent in the face of brutal oppression throughout the Middle East.  So, Prager asks, “Why don’t Christians help other Christians?”

I wish I knew the answer.  The cynic in me wants to respond hastily with severe condemnation: Christians don’t help because they don’t care about anything beyond their own personal peace and affluence (to borrow a phrase from Francis Schaeffer).  Christians are more intent on tapping into some secret prayer of power and clout which guarantees them money and fun than they are intent on understanding the global body of Christ.

Cynicism–though sometimes true–is almost always too simplistic and overly abrasive.  While some Christians may not care, the truth is many Christians do not even know.  When they find out, they respond with concern and generosity.  Ignorance, I believe, is a bigger factor than unconcern.

Yet, even ignorance can be malicious, as is indicated by Jesus’s teaching in Matthew 25.  At the end of time when Christ returns, he will judge all men, putting the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.  To this judgment, men will cry, “When did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of you?”  Obviously, they are ignorant of having neglected Jesus, but Jesus does not excuse their ignorance; instead, he assigns them to a place of eternal punishment.  Ignorance is no excuse.

By and large, Christians are ignorant of the plight of their persecuted brothers and sisters.  The picture, as Prager paints it, is not an encouraging one:

In the Muslim world, Christians are being murdered, churches are being torched, entire ancient Christian communities — the Iraqi and Palestinian, for example — are disappearing. And, again, 2 billion Christians react with silence. There are some Christian groups active on behalf of persecuted Christians around the world. They do important work, and are often the primary source of information on persecuted Christians. But they would be the first to acknowledge that the Christian world is overwhelmingly silent when it comes to the persecution of Christians in the Muslim world.

Christians are not doing enough for other Christians.  Why are Christians silent? Again, I don’t know. I am thinking about this and other questions as I embark on a three-week adventure that will take me close (but not into) Muslim dominated areas, where Christians are facing persecution (see map above).  I want to understand why American Christians are concerned for the environment, the White House, and the latest book by the nearest evangelical heretic, but we remain largely unaffected by the body of Christ still suffering.

“Remember the [persecuted Christian] prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves are in the body” (Hebrews 13:3).

[May the Lord bless us to obey Hebrews 13:3]

Arab Spring More Like Kentucky Spring


Spring is supposed to be the time of blossoming life. Flower buds burst forth with petals gleaming white against the grassy green canvas of trees and lawns.  Purple, pink, and yellow splash

Spring Flowers

throughout the portrait we call spring.  It is springtime.  But in Kentucky, spring has brought violent storms, tornadoes, and rain.  Lots of rain. Historic deluges of rain rarely seen in these parts since the days of Noah.  Spring is supposed to be colorful and sunny, but it has proved, instead, to be dull and rainy.

Such is the way this spring has gone in Kentucky.  But we have no reason to complain.  As bad as the weather has been around here lately, the problems we have are nothing compared to those of Christians suffering through the so-called “Arab spring.”  If we think the storm clouds are hanging low over our horizon right now, we ought to think about what is happening to our brothers and sisters throughout Arab lands.

In Egypt, where many in America were celebrating the rise of “democracy” and demanding that Mubarak resign, Christians now face a bleak future indeed.  The Muslim Brotherhood is wielding political clout like a Saif al Din, seeking to enforce Shariah law on all Egyptians, including Christians.  If you want to know how destructive Shariah law is for non-Muslims, read this Andrew McCarthy piece.  The “progress” of the Islamic direction of the “New Egypt” has Christians Coptic Christian Persecutionbegging  to leave Egypt, even though there were Christian churches in the country before Islam ever existed.  One Coptic Christian leader says that he is already receiving hundreds of calls each week from Christians trying to flee from Egypt.

Egypt isn’t alone. In Iraq, the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Baghdad was bombed on Easter Sunday.  In India, more than 15,000 Christians took to the streets of Mumbai on Good Friday to protest the continuing persecution of the saints in India.  Christians in Orissa, Karnataka, Maharashtra, and other provinces have endured hundreds of violent attacks since 2008.

For a rundown of the persecution of Christians in Palestine and the Middle East, see here.  There is no shortage of persecution for Christians around the world this spring.  Even as the rain continues to fall in Kentucky, we should recall that the real storm is falling on our fellow believers in Muslim areas of the world.  The “Arab Spring” which was supposed to bring greater freedoms through the spread of democracy is turning out to be more of a Kentucky spring, where one violent storm is followed by another.

Out of the New Egypt


In his mid-twenties, Mikail Nabil has determined to make his life count. Like many Americans of the same age, Mr. Nabil spends his days keeping his friends and followers up to date through his blog posts and social networks.  And, also like many Americans, Mr. Nabil is not afraid to share his political views.  Unlike Americans his age, Mr. Nabil is now in prison for three years because of his activities.

Mikail Nabil is a Christian living in Egypt.  He has used the internet to voice his concerns about the direction of the “New Egypt.” Of particular concern for him is the manner in which the Army in Egypt appears to be violating human rights, especially the rights of other Christians. The violations include excessive violence against protesters, torture of prisoners being detained, and forced pelvic exams for all the young woman.  (These are not medical exams but “virginity tests” conducted by the soldiers).

In being arrested for telling the truth to the world, Mikail Nabil is being called “the first prisoner of conscience in Egypt after the revolution.” Undoubtedly, he is, considering that he is the first Egyptian arrested for his internet speech. Yet, he won’t be the last.  He is only the latest Christian to be arrested in Muslim Egypt. Many have gone before him, and, apparently, many will follow after in the not-so “new Egypt.”

Why the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil?


Recently, a friend and brother in Christ bombarded me with a dozen or so questions pertaining to aspects of the Christian faith which have recently been puzzling him.  I asked and received permission from him to post my responses here on this blog, thinking that if he has these questions, then others may have them also. So, I will be posting his questions and my responses in the coming days, hoping to help and encourage him and you. Feel free to add your responses and to send in your questions as well.

QUESTION 1

Why Did God Choose to Put the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden?

Interesting question. The smart aleck in me wants to answer, “Where else would you want Him to put them?”  But I know better than to mock an honest question!  Besides, we will see in just a moment that the two trees had to be at the center of the Garden.

If I understand the question rightly, then you are asking something like, “Why tempt Adam and Eve like this?”  Why is there both a tree of life and a tree of knowledge of good and evil?

I think the answer is simply profound. God takes ordinary elements and speaks profound life lessons through them (think of Jesus with bread and wine).  The two trees are named.  Notice the difference in the names.  The one is the tree of life, but the other is not the tree of death.  These two trees do not represent two ways to life; they only represent one way to live.  In other words, the two trees are not opposites.  Adam and Eve could not be tempted with death.  They had no desire for death, no appetite for death.  So, the second tree in the Garden is not the tree of death; it is the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Why is this important? It underscores the nature of God, the nature of Adam and Eve, and the nature of the Fall.  Adam, Eve, and all of creation were created by God and declared “very good” (Gn 1:31).  Adam and Eve were not stuck in neutral, deciding whether to live or die. They weren’t caught in the balance between sinning and not sinning.  They were, in fact, good.  They were walking in fellowship with God.  They would not have been tempted to murder each other like their offspring were.  That would have been contrary to their natures.

However, it would not have been contrary to their natures to become more god-like.  They had a right desire for fellowship with God.  Therefore, becoming more god-like suited them like breast milk suits the nursing infant.  The tree of the knowledge of good and evil represented an increase in knowledge, an increase in wisdom, and an increase in understanding more of what God understood.  Surely, God Himself possessed infinite knowledge of good and evil.  So, for Adam and Eve to learn more of the knowledge God possessed would have been “natural” to them.

By nature, Adam and Eve would have been drawn to pursuing knowledge which would make them know more of what God knows.  And yet, this increase in knowledge was not good for them.  They knew that because God told them that it was not good for them.  He spoke a command against their partaking of the fruit from this tree.  So, in effect, Adam and Eve’s temptation came disguised in the form of two different good choices, each of which was according to their nature: Obeying God or seeking knowledge.

Adam and Eve had been given the responsibility of ruling over creation.  They needed knowledge suitable for the task.  They needed to understand animals and agriculture.  They needed to understand water, nutrients, harvests, and horticulture.  They needed to stay hungry for knowledge.  So, they were obviously able to be tempted through this otherwise good aspect of their nature as lords over creation.

They did not need the knowledge of evil in order to accomplish the work God had given them.  They could have had a very fruitful life (literally!) by tending the Garden and enjoying fellowship with God.  They needed knowledge, for sure, but they did not need the knowledge of evil. Instead, what they needed more than anything else was to depend upon the living God.  So, the first tree God gave them was the Tree of Life (Gn 2:9).  If they had eaten of that tree, continuing to rely upon God for their very lives, they would have lived.

Instead, they ate of the forbidden tree which instantly gave them the knowledge of evil (namely, their own!).  They immediately learned of their nakedness.  They were immediately ashamed.  And they immediately had the sentence of death hanging upon them.  Instantly, they went from being alive to needing salvation.  The instant one forgets his dependence upon his creator, he stands in desperate need of a redeemer.

So, the answer to your question is that God put the two trees in the center of the Garden of Eden to proclaim the central truth to Adam and Eve (and to all humankind) that He alone is the creator and sustainer of life.  In addition, the Lord used the two trees further to display His unspeakable mercy.  Even after Adam and Eve rebelled against Him and unleashed on themselves the curse of death, still, God acted mercifully toward them, sending them out of the Garden and sealing it off before they could eat of the Tree of Life.  If they had eaten of the Tree of Life after they partook of the forbidden tree, they would likely have sealed the death sentence on humankind forever.  God’s purpose was not to allow that; instead, God had purposed from the beginning to provide salvation.  So, he removed them from the Garden.

On a final note, God planted both trees in the center of the Garden to make known His glory to all humankind.  He did not need to “wait and see” what would happen with Adam and Eve.  He knew before they were created how it would all turn out.  Thus, his choice of the trees was not coincidental.  He ordered all of it so that His glory would be revealed—even through the sinfulness of Adam and Eve.

God put the two trees in the middle of the Garden—the central focal point of all creation.  The two trees stood at the center of the universe.  Life flowed forth throughout the rest of creation from this very central point (see Gn 2:10-14).  At the center of creation was the single question, “Who is God?”  A very close question, related to the first, was, “Who is man?”  These two questions were hanging in the air like ripened fruit on two different trees in the midst of the Garden of Eden.  Both questions were quickly answered in the Fall.  As it turns out, God is holy, just, and merciful.  Man is sinful, under a curse, and in need of redemption.  That, I believe, is why God put the two trees in the midst of Eden. To answer the two most basic questions of life.

The Pastor’s Wife


The position of “pastor’s wife” is a difficult one at any time in any place, but this recently released video of Sabina Wurmbrand puts it in a whole new light.  Sabina’s husband, Richard, was the founder of Voice of the Martyrs.  Her story is almost as dramatic as his.  This new video tells her story and is worth taking a few minutes to watch it. It gives some insight into Christian persecution and what the ministry is all about.