Shadowlands – What If…

What if things had happened differently in Eden?


Eve stood in clearing, waiting for Adam.  She was mesmerized by the two Trees in front of her.  Why had they waited so long to come here – to just look at these two majestic Trees?  She told herself again that there was no harm in looking, in enjoying the beauty.

“They ARE majestic, aren’t they?”

Eve jumped at the silky voice.  She turned to see a beautiful creature, a serpent, standing there beside her, gazing up at the Trees.  How had he come up beside her so suddenly without her hearing him?  She was distracted from the Trees for a moment by his beauty.  Variegated fur ruffled in the wind, patterns swirling across his body.

“Yes, they are,” she answered.  “What is your name?  I don’t think we’ve met, and I thought I knew all the serpents that lived in the Garden.”

“My name?” he asked.  “My name isn’t really important.  But you!  You and Adam are the crowning achievements of Creation!  And here you are, admiring these majestic fruit trees in your Garden.  Tell me,” and he put a paw on her shoulder, “how does the fruit from that Tree taste?”

“I don’t know,” she replied.

“You don’t know?  You don’t know how the fruit of one of your own trees tastes?  How can that be?” he asked.

Eve suddenly felt very foolish.  It WAS her Tree, after all…hers and Adam’s.  She looked up at it again, taking in the lush fruit that hung, ripe and ready to be plucked.

The serpent spoke again.  “Let me guess,” he said.  “Did Elyon tell you not to eat that fruit?  Did he really place you in this beautiful Garden, tell you it was a gift for you, and then tell you that couldn’t eat any fruit from any of these beautiful trees?  What a shame.”  He shook in his head at the thought.

“No, that’s not right,” Eve said, glancing at him for an instant.  But her eyes were drawn back to that fruit.  It hung so low to the ground.  She took a step towards the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, then stopped.  “No, that’s not right at all.  The Three-in-One didn’t tell us we couldn’t eat from any tree in the Garden.  He gave us all of this, but He warned us not to eat from that tree because if we did, our spirits would die.”

The serpent laughed.  “You will NOT die.  That is ridiculous!  Your Three-in-One is holding out on you.  He knows that if you eat that fruit, you will become just like Him.  And He doesn’t want that.”

Eve considered this for a moment, then responded, “I don’t think that’s true.”

“What’s not true?” Adam asked, startling her as he walked up behind her.  “And who are you?” he asked the serpent.

“Who I am doesn’t matter.  Your Three-in-One isn’t who you think he is.  He’s deceiving you,” the serpent hissed.

“Well, let’s talk to Him about that right now,” Adam said.  He looked at Eve and she nodded back at him.  Together, they called out, “Elyon!  Logos!  Ruach!  Please help us!”  In an instant, the Three-in-One were with them, standing around them.

“How can we help you?” He asked.

“This serpent…he told me you were lying to us about the Tree,” Eve said.  “But You have provided so much for us, given us such a beautiful Garden in which to live.  We don’t believe You are deceiving us.”

“What should we do?” Adam asked.  “Help us know what to do.”

“You must choose,” Logos responded for the Three-in-One.  “Do you trust Me?  Or will you listen to the serpent?”

Adam and Eve looked at one another.  The Three-in-One had always cared for them, always provided for them.  The serpent…they didn’t even know who the serpent was.”

Adam spoke for them.  “We trust You.  Always.”

“Then tell the serpent to be gone, and he must leave,” Logos replied.

Adam looked at the serpent.  “You are not wanted here,” he said.  “Be gone.”

The serpent snarled in protest, started to speak.  But Logos raised a hand, pointing at him, and in a flash of light, the serpent was gone.

Now Elyon spoke.  “He has been banished from the Garden, by your choice.  He will never return unless you invite him.  But beware – never invite him.  His true name is Accuser and Deceiver, the Father of Lies.  He crouches like a predator, seeking to steal all that you have, to kill, to destroy all that you enjoy.  However – the choice will always lie before you.” 

And then the Three-in-One looked at one another and smiled.  Then spoke.  “Come, let us take our customary walk together in the cool of the evening.”

When Does It End?

In the last couple of weeks…

  • Two family members have undergone surgery.
  • A couple of close friends have learned that they are facing medical tests which could lead to life-changing or life-threatening diagnoses.
  • A family member has been harassed to the point of requiring police involvement.
  • Another family member has been defrauded by someone close to them and is facing difficult decisions about how to handle it.
  • Another family member is dealing with physical pain that cannot be helped medically.
  • A couple of close friends are dealing with adult children who are making unhealthy and unsafe relationship choices.
  • A couple of friends are dealing with the possibility of imploding marriages.

And those are just the tip of the iceberg.  Those are just some of the issues in my immediate circles of family and friends.  There are a ton more.  And that doesn’t even touch on things like the deepening divisions in our nation, the threat of war with North Korea, and a hundred other disturbing news items that I could highlight.

Where does it all end?  When does it end?  It feels like one one thing right after another, like one thing gets dealt with and before it’s even completely dealt with, another thing is popping up.  It’s like life has become a giant, losing game of Whack-A-Mole.

How do you deal with all of that without becoming cynical, fearful, anxious, depressed – without just throwing up your hands and giving up?

Hope.  We have to have hope, despite all that is happening around us.

And what reason could there be for hope?

Jesus.  And…Jesus’ promise:

Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.  And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.”  Matthew 19:28-29 (NIV)

Did you catch that?  At the renewal of all things.

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The way things are now is NOT the way that they will always be.

The way your life is now is NOT the way that it will always be.

One day, all things will be renewed.  Re-made.  Re-created, as some Bible translations put it.

All things restored, put back as they were originally created and intended.

I know, it sounds too good to be true.

And there’s so much more there – so much deeper that we could dig into this.  But that’s beyond the scope of one short blog entry.

For today, it is enough to remember that there is hope.  That a day is coming – a day that Jesus called the “renewal of all things.”  On that day, He will fulfill what God promised in Revelation 21:3-5 (NIV):  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”  Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Prologue Part 10 – The Shadowlands

Days turned into weeks, weeks into months, months into years.

All around Adam and Eve, Creation continued to change. It was still good and still beautiful; still an expression of the Three-in-One’s creativity.

But it was broken.

The effects of Adam and Eve’s disobedience was spreading across the entire earth. Death had entered the world, and now it was a plague that was infecting everyone and everything. Plants; animals; fish; birds. Adam and Eve had seen animals that once loved one another fighting and killing and even eating one another. They themselves had found that they often disagreed and argued. Conflict seemed to be the state of the world now.

So much had changed. Not only did all the animals now fight and prey upon one another, they were also no longer friends to Adam and Eve. Some were threatening to Adam and Eve – they found that some of the animals could no longer be trusted, and some even attempted to prey upon them. The very animals that they had known intimately now feared, hated, or even desired to kill them.

Living in the wild was so different, too. They no longer enjoyed the protection and the blessings that Eden had provided for them. And where they had never had to work for their food – it simply grew, and fell into their hands when it was ripe – now Adam had to tend the land and work the ground, battling weeds and weather and even animals for the food that they needed to survive. Adam and Eve both missed Eden – it was a never-ending ache that nagged at both of them, a sense of loss that colored everything that they saw and did.

And the world looked different. Everything was different. The sun still shone, but even on the most glorious day, it wasn’t as bright or as colorful as it had been before…before the serpent and the Tree. The clouds seemed darker. The sky was blue, but somehow not as blue. It seemed as though some colors no longer existed. There was a vague memory of them…but Adam and Eve couldn’t quite bring them to mind or imagine what they had looked like.

The plants and trees…they died too. At times they would change – the plants would change colors or wither; the trees would shed their leaves and their bareness against the sky seemed to cry out for what once had been.

What Elyon had prophesied had come to pass. Creation had been corrupted, and as Adam and Eve watched, helpless to change it, the corruption grew.

Creation had been transformed. The Earth had become the Shadowlands. It now lay under the sway of the wicked serpent.

But Adam and Eve remembered. Elyon had promised that one day…one day, Logos would crush the serpent’s head. One day, they thought…perhaps all things would be restored.

Wednesday Book Review – Noah Primeval

Chronicles of the Nephilim Series

Noah Primeval is the first book in an 8-book fiction series called “Chronicles of the Nephilim.”  The series spans several millennia, from the days of Noah through the time of Christ.

Brian Godawa, the author, has written a number of books and is also a screenwriter whose credits include Frank Peretti’s The Visitation and To End All Wars, which starred Kiefer Sutherland.  He has won numerous awards for his screenwriting and is active in the arts as well as in teaching the importance of Christians being involved in the arts.  He is also a member of the Studio Task Force at Biola University.

The Chronicles of the Nephilim is historical Christian fiction with a Frank Peretti This Present Darkness feel to it.  Drawing heavily from the extra-biblical Book of Enoch, Godawa posits that a group of fallen angels, The Watchers, are actively involved in human affairs, posing as pagan gods and working to corrupt humanity and thus disrupt God’s prophetic plan to redeem mankind through the Chosen Seed, Noah’s descendant – Jesus Christ, who will one day be born.

Godawa’s series is, in his own words, probably a PG-13 read, not intended for young children.  There are at times graphic violence and other material that some may find objectionable, but which is in many ways an accurate portrayal of the horrific results of the enemy and his allies at work in our world.

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For those who enjoy history and fiction, I would recommend the series.  It’s an interesting and entertaining creative take on the history of redemption.  But be warned – this is no Christian Bookseller’s Association Christian romance type of book.  It’s a gritty, sometimes disturbing but epic story of God’s enemies at work in this world, God’s people responding to God’s call, and the angels of God working to help God’s people fulfill their destiny against the twisted plans of the enemy.

If you’re curious, you can read the first book, Noah Primeval, for free as an ebook by clicking through here.  If you enjoy speculative fiction, historical and Biblical fiction, and light horror, you may find this series is an excellent read.  However, be warned that if you don’t like any of those, you would hate this series and you really should probably look elsewhere for a good fiction read.  (Jan Karon’s Mitford series is a great series for those who love more positive, less earthy fiction.  I’ll do a review on that series soon.)

Rather than try to summarize the whole series, here is Godawa’s own book-by-book summary from his website:

Chronicles of the Nephilim is a saga that charts the rise and fall of the Nephilim and just what their place is in the evil plans of the fallen Sons of God called, “The Watchers.” These rogue members of God’s divine council will stop at nothing to win their war as the Seed of the Serpent against the Seed of Eve.

  • Book 1, Noah Primeval, reveals the hero’s journey of Noah that leads to God’s second act of judgment against this diabolical plan of the Watchers: The Deluge.
  • The Lost Book 2, Enoch Primordial, is a prequel to Noah Primeval that tells the forgotten story of the original descent of the Watchers on Mount Hermon and their introduction of the Nephilim into the created order. Enoch, is God’s man to call down judgment on the Watchers and their giant progeny, the Nephilim.
  • Book 3, Gilgamesh Immortal, is about the giant king Gilgamesh of Uruk in Mesopotamia after the Flood. Two thirds god and one third man, this mighty warrior embarks on an epic journey to find immortality with his friend and Right Hand, Enkidu, the “wild-born” of the steppe. His quest leads him to Noah in a faraway land, but what he discovers will change history forever.
  • Book 4, Abraham Allegiant, tells the story of the Watchers inheriting the nations and the rebirth of the Nephilim and their next battle in the war of the seed of the Serpent against the seed of Eve. Be on the lookout for Nimrod, the builder of the Tower of Babel and his diabolical minions. Sodom and Gomorrah will burn.
  • Books 5 & 6, Joshua Valiant, and Caleb Vigiliant are the tales of Joshua’s campaign to eradicate the Nephilim from their infestation of ancient Canaan. Can the mighty Og of Bashan, the last of the giant Rephaim, be defeated? What about the Anakim giants who fill the land, and their goal to destroy the Seedline of Abraham?
  • Book 7, David Ascendant, tells the story of how David and his Mighty Men overcame the last of the Rephaim giants left in Gaza, Ashdod, and Gath, home of the monstrous Goliath and the elite squad of giant assassins, the Sons of Rapha, who are now hunting David.
  • Book 8, Jesus Triumphant is about Christ’s victory over the principalities and powers of darkness that rule the earth. But he has to go into the bowels of hell and kick some demon butt. Suffice it to say, when it comes to spiritual warfare, Jesus was no pacifist.

If you’re looking for a Ted Dekker-like epic series, this is the one for you.  If Ted Dekker’s kind of fiction isn’t your thing…best to skip this series.

Expendable Relationships?

I recently finished reading the latest book by Erwin Raphael McManus, The Last Arrow. (I wrote a book review on it last week.) The following quote from the book was one of the most thought-provoking for me:

“In fact, if the Scriptures are to be taken seriously, there is no journey toward God that does not bring us to each other. You might begin the journey alone, but the place where God is taking you is a land called Together…It’s odd how we prioritize the things that matter to us. We choose a career or job; we choose a city or place to live. We make so many things important to us, but in all the things we factor in as we craft our futures, we make the people in our lives a commodity of, at best, secondary importance. We would take a job and give up our people rather than choose a tribe and give up the job. We don’t say it like this, but many of us have been mentored by a culture that makes money more important than relationships. You can always meet new people; you can always make new friends; you can always find a new church. In our way of thinking, these are expendable, replaceable aspects of our lives. When it comes to relationships, many of us have chosen to be mercenaries.” [McManus, Erwin Raphael. The Last Arrow: Save Nothing for the Next Life (p. 148). Kindle Edition.]

Wow. My thinking was stimulated and challenged on this. It was a perspective I had never heard expressed, nor considered – choosing a tribe, choosing people, and staying with them rather than going wherever a career or job or favorable climate lead us to live.

The truth is that many of us live as though people and our relationships are expendable. As a pastor, I see people change churches often. They don’t like the music, or they don’t like the pastor, or they get offended in one way or another, someone lets them down or disappoints them, or they just get bored and want something new. Sometimes the issues run much deeper than that and are much more complex, but that is often not the case.

And it’s not just an issue of churches and lay people. I’ve done the same thing as a pastor, and I know a lot of pastors who do the same thing. Yes, God sometimes calls us to a new ministry in a new town. Sometimes He brings us into a new season and a new location. But sometimes, to be honest, we run from our problems and seek a new ministry location rather than face the hard issues or work through our problems and problematic relationships and issues. Sometimes it’s easier to uproot ourselves and our families than it is to face conflict, try to deal with it, and grow through it.

Please don’t read this as me saying none of us should ever leave, none of us should ever end a relationship, none of us should ever move, change jobs, or make transitions in our lives. God absolutely leads us to different places and relationships at different seasons in our lives. I am simply pointing out that sometimes in our transitions, we look more at personal gain rather than listen to God – or consider the cost in relationships. How different our lives – and our society – might be if relationships became a primary consideration in our life choices.

We are all part of the same Body. We are called to represent the Body, to live as the Body, and to love as the Body.

How fortunate for us that God never considers a single one of us as expendable. May we continue to learn to love and honor one another as He loves and honors us!

Friday Fiction – Eviction

Shadowlands Prologue Part 9

“You must leave Eden.  You cannot be here, and you cannot come here ever again.”

Adam and Eve gasped.  But Elyon was not finished.

“First, you must be covered.  And without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sin.”

Logos stepped forward and turned towards the meadow.  As Adam and Eve watched, He walked off.  Several moments passed, and then He returned, shepherding along several lambs.  Adam and Eve called out to them, as they always had.  But this time, the lambs did not speak.  They opened their mouths, but no words came – only bleating.  Unsure of what this meant, Adam and Eve looked at one another, then looked at Elyon. 

“It began the moment you sinned,” he said.  “Creation is beginning to experience the effects of your choice.  The animals have lost their voices.  But this is the least of all that will follow.”

Logos approached with the lambs, and then knelt.  He looked up at Adam and Eve, tears streaming down His face.  “The blood price must be paid,” He said.  “You will be spared, but these lambs will shed their blood and give their hides to cover your nakedness and shame.  This will be the way of atonement for sins…”  At this, He paused and looked up at Elyon.  A shadow crossed Elyon’s face, and Ruach shimmered a dark, crimson color.  Elyon finished Logos’ sentence:  “Until the day that the prophecy is fulfilled.  Until Eve’s seed crushes the serpent’s head.”

Adam and Eve watched, broken-hearted, as the lambs were slaughtered and then coverings were fashioned for them out of the lifeless bodies.

And then it was time to leave Eden.

*                                   *                                    *

The Three-in-One walked with Adam and Eve as they followed the course of one of the rivers through the Garden and to the hills that rose up, separating the Garden from the outside world.  When they reached the hillside, the Three-in-One hugged Eve and then Adam, reminding them that they were His beloved.  A few more instructions, and a promise:  “I will not leave you, nor forsake you.  Look for me.”

Adam took Eve’s hand and they walked along the river’s edge, out through the entrance to the Garden.  When they reached the other side of the hill, they looked back.  As they watched, a Seraph – a Fiery One, an ancient warrior – stepped into the gap and drew its sword.  The Seraph towered above the top of the hill, standing guard at the entrance to the Garden. Behind it, the sides of the hill began to close in, and the ground beneath swelled up, until a solid wall of earth was behind the Seraph.  Adam and Eve could no longer see the Garden.

Adam-Eve-From-Garden

They stopped to survey the wilderness around them.  They had been here many times before, but it looked much different now.  Some of the trees had begun to die.  Others had dropped fruit, which was now rotting on the ground.  New plants appeared – but they looked strange, uninviting.  Some were covered with spikes or other kinds of growths which were completely unfamiliar to Adam and Eve.

As they stood there, trying to understand the changes that were taking place, a zebra trotted into the clearing.  Adam called out to it, but as soon as it heard the sound of his voice, it looked towards him, and then ran off, terrified.  What was this?  The animals, who had been such close friends of Adam and Eve, now no longer spoke and were frightened of Adam and Eve.

Adam recalled something that the Three-in-One had told them as they had walked along on their way out of the Garden.  “Darkness will descend and reign over Creation.  A new age has begun.  This good and beautiful Earth will become more corrupt – will become the Shadowlands.  And it will remain the Shadowlands until the day of Kingdom Come.”

The Shadowlands.  Adam and Eve’s new home.

Wednesday Book Review – The Last Arrow

So far, I’ve posted only positive books reviews.  That’s partly because if a book doesn’t quickly capture my attention, I drop it.  There are just too many books to read, so why waste my time on something that doesn’t hold my interest, and why tell you about a book in which I’m not interested????

Once in a very great while, though, among all the great books I read, I come across a book that stands head and shoulders above the rest – a book that is just life-changing.  The Last Arrow by Erwin Raphael McManus is one of those books.

Erwin Raphael McManus describes himself as an author, futurist, filmmaker, and designer.  His author profile says that he is known as “an iconoclast, artist, and cultural thought leader who is recognized for his integration of creativity and spirituality.  He is the founder and Lead Pastor of Mosaic, a Los Angeles based church of faith recognized as one of America’s most influential and innovative churches.”

And he is an amazing inspirational author.

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The Last Arrow begins with a scene that unfolded in McManus’ life in December 2016 – sitting in a doctor’s office and hearing the dreaded words, “You have cancer.”  From there, the book touches on McManus’s journey, different events that are part of his life’s journey, and the testimonies of friends and acquaintances who have encountered Jesus and gone “all in” for the Kingdom of God.

The concept for the book comes from a story about Elisha near the end of his life.  King Jehoash of Israel wants Elisha’s blessing and direction.  He visits Elisha, who is on his deathbed.  Elisha orders him to shoot an arrow out of the window of the room, and then prophesies victory over the Arameans.  Next, Elisha commands him to strike the ground with the remaining arrows.  Jehoash complies, striking the ground three times, but Elisha becomes angry and tells him that he should have struck the ground five or six times – because then he would have completely defeated his enemies.  Instead, Elisha tells him, because he only struck the ground three times, he would only defeat his enemies three times.

What a bizarre story!  The king apparently didn’t know any better; but something in his actions showed a lack of faith and perseverance that were necessary to complete victory.

McManus uses this story, and others from the life of Elisha, to demonstrate the power of living our lives full-out for God – of spending every arrow we have in this life, leaving nothing for the next life.  Because, after all, we will not need arrows in heaven.  The victory will be won.

McManus focuses on some important themes in living our lives in such a way that we hold nothing back – his chapter titles demonstrate this.  They include:  Save Nothing for the Next Life; Choose the Future; Set Your Past on Fire; Act Like Your Life Depends on It; Stand Your Ground; Find Your People; and Know What You Want, among others.

The book is chock full of stories, testimonies, and challenges to get out of our comfort zones and to fully engage with both Jesus and our culture so that we can leave a legacy with our lives.  You’ll read, for example:

  • Erwin’s spur-of-the-moment trip to Brazil for the World Cup Final that resulted in him having an opportunity to share his faith with a Brazilian family;
  • How God was able to us 9/11 to increase Erwin’s opportunities to serve Him because Erwin chose to live in faith rather than in fear;
  • How God used Erwin’s wife and daughter to minister to a family who is helping free women from human trafficking; and
  • How God used a trip to Beirut to challenge Erwin out of his comfort zone.

But of everything he writes in the book, perhaps the dedication challenged me the most:

“Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. – Psalm 127:4

To my arrows: Aaron Christopher McManus, who has never backed down from a fight, and to Mariah McManus Goss, who is as fearless as she is fierce.

Long after I rest my bow and have struck my last arrow, there will still be arrows flying true: their names are Aaron and Mariah. The trajectories of their lives will take them far beyond the ground I have taken. If they were once my arrows, they are now my archers. I dedicate this book to them and the future they represent.

Aaron and Mariah: You are the tip of the spear. You are the future. This is your fight. I pulled the bow back as far as I could and gave you all the strength I had to send you into flight. Fly far and true. Cross enemy lines. Hit the mark. Set captives free. Keep striking until the battle’s won. —Dad”

I want to live my life like that.  I want to be a Dad like that.  If that stirs your passion, stop reading whatever you are reading now and pick up a copy of The Last Arrow by Erwin Raphael McManus.