Morning Has Broken




Satan didn’t mind the darkness that fell over Jerusalem when Jesus breathed His last breath. He preferred the darkness. He had used it to hide his schemes and scams in the unholy alliance with the sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve. He may have chuckled to himself as he thought about how easily it still worked.


He had seen Him die. He had watched when Joseph of Arimathea offered his own tomb and when Jesus was taken down from the cross and carried to the tomb. He had watched as the disciples Jesus counted on scattered and the women at the foot of the cross wept.


When morning broke on the third day, everything was reordered, transformed. The prophecies were true! Jesus was raised from the dead! He was alive and with that, salvation was accomplished.


Satan could not have understood. He was an angel after all, albeit a fallen one to the highest degree. Angels could not comprehend salvation. 1 Peter 1:12 makes note of that.


The reality of the mystery of God’s plan would be discussed and debated for years by those who would become the church fathers. The debate of the full humanity and full divinity in the one person of Jesus would be crucial to the establishment of the church.


Among those in the debate, one named Cyril and others, would be used by God to bring unity to the church. Those decisions and understandings are key to our understanding of salvation and the possibility of re-union through the centuries to this very day.


The debate was centered on what was meant by the whole spectrum of God’s redemption through Jesus. Was the cross of Jesus Christ “the” act needed? Was it only part? It was central, but what about the resurrection, ascension, Christ’s glorification, the role of the church, and Christ’s return?


The centrality of salvation was (and is) that ALL were a part of God’s work in human history.


Like other aspects of our spiritual lives, too often we speak of aspects of the divine work as “it”. One common place is when we speak of the Holy Spirit. When we do so, we objectify a part of the Trinity.


It can happen as well when we think or speak about our salvation as something we do. Not true.


Salvation is a person, “the”  person of Jesus Christ. HE is salvation, justification, sanctification, and the source of all spiritual blessing.


In Closer Than Close Dave Hickman quotes John Calvin from his writing in Institutes of the Christian Religion as Calvin affirms this:


“For we await salvation from him (Christ) not because he appears to us afar off, but because he makes us, ingrafted into his body, participants not only in all his benefits but also in himself.”


Hickman uses Cyril to point out that “union with the person of Jesus Christ is possible and necessary for salvation. Instead of believers simply having a ‘close relationship’ with Jesus or ‘appearing to be one with him, the Incarnation proves that humanity is capable of being united (made one) with divinity—and that divinity is capable of being (and willing to be) united to humanity.”


Re-union accomplished…except for one thing.


We must make a choice to undo the unholy alliance we made with Satan back in the Garden.


We must choose to receive, believe, and reunite with the One who has been reaching out for reunion since the spiritual adultery Adam and Eve committed in the Garden that has affected each and all of us.


When Christ called out from the cross, “It is finished!” we need to understand the work was finished of salvation for our reunification. No efforts, no work, no striving, no pleading or praying could accomplish it. Only He alone could offer us Oneness again!


Does it look or feel that way?


Is it perfect in its work?


If I am a believer in Christ, then salvation has been fully established and accomplished, but the completion of that work has not yet been consummated. When Jesus returns, we will have perfect union with Him because His Word teaches we will be transformed into his likeness and image.


As Dave Hickman so eloquently states in Closer Than Close:


“Instead of being restored to the image of the first Adam, we will be transformed into the image of the perfect Image himself—the firstborn of the new creation to come. Jesus Christ. Perfection.”


Until then, what is critical for us to hold fast to?








How could we ever undo the choice in the Garden of Eden and escape the reality of spiritual death?


There was only one answer and there was only One who could provide it.




“Instead of believers simply having a ‘close relationship’ with Jesus or ‘appearing’ to be one with him, the Incarnation proves that humanity is capable of being united (made one) with divinity—and that divinity is capable of being (and willing to be) united to humanity.” (Dave Hickman in Closer Than Close)


In Union with Christ: In Scripture, History, and Theology, Robert Letham states it this way:


“The Trinity created us with a capacity to live in him (Christ), as creatures in and with our Creator. The incarnation proves it. If it were not so and could not be so, then Jesus Christ—God and man—could not be one person, for the difference between Creator and creature would be so great that the incarnation would not be possible.”


 Satan knows that this reality, this mystery, will ultimately destroy his kingdom and the unholy alliance will be broken. He does what he does well and has practiced for thousands of years. He whispers in our ear endless lies trying to convince us not to make the choice to choose Jesus. But he doesn’t stop!


He continues to whisper when we are busy, tired, or preoccupied and tries to convince us we must do something to persuade the Lord to come closer to us. His spin comes in many forms, but its theme never changes. He wants to convince us that our unholy alliance with him is unbreakable. He wants us to focus on striving and efforts to gain what is already ours if we have chosen Him who is One.


Having achieved the only status he could accomplish—god of this world—he wants us to believe God does not care all that much about our lives or this earth that was marred by his devices.


To that, Dutch theologian, Abraham Kuyper, says, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, ‘Mine!’”


And so it happens. God sends Himself, Jesus, into this domain that is His! He chooses a IMG_1415woman to carry “the fruit” of His life and love for mankind. He demonstrates in 3-D that He is sovereign over the universe and humanity and the “god of this world”.


For a time, Satan must have believed Jesus was not much of a threat. He was a boy growing up in Nazareth working with his father in a carpenter shop. Sure, there had been that business in the temple when He was younger, but nothing really seemed to come from that. Even so, he would be keeping an eye on things.


Does he miss the significance of “the voice crying in the wilderness” when John, the Baptist, begins his ministry? Did he miss when John had leapt in his mother’s womb when Mary (with Jesus in her womb) showed up on her doorstep? Scripture doesn’t say, but digging into the considerations reminds me that I need to be sure I recognize not only who Satan is but also who he is not!


Surely Satan must see the risks to his kingdom when Jesus abruptly shows up at the Jordan River where John is baptizing people and steps into the water to be baptized as well. There was the dove and the voice of God. Satan knew that voice and had enjoyed it once, but his rebellion meant he would know no reunion with the One whom it came from.


Things start happening quickly. Satan sees an opportunity when Jesus goes into the wilderness. He considers the humanity of Jesus and plans his temptations carefully, hoping his devices will succeed. Never does he comprehend that Jesus is fully man and fully God! How can that be?


Never does he understand that God’s love and pursuit of man, His commitment to the covenant with Him, has been relentlessly pursuing His love, His bride, ever since that death in the Garden despite the effects of the Fall.


Miracles start happening and of all things, Jesus has not set up His kingdom in the temple in Jerusalem. He spends His time among the ordinary people of that day (actually some of the worst of the lot). How puzzling this must have been to Satan!


For Satan, it was always about power and the show of power. He wanted to flaunt it, highlight himself. Jesus exhibited a sharp contrast. He had power, but used it for the good of others and always to highlight His Father, not Himself. Many times He even admonished those who were healed to tell no one.


Thousands were flocking to see Jesus. Some wanted Him to set up His kingdom on earth right then, but He knew the big picture and the bigger plan. He would lay it all down and choose to die, a perfect sacrifice to atone for the spiritual death of man in the Garden.


And Satan would believe he had won! He would believe there was a reunion of sorts, but no true re-union, no return to oneness.


But then…..



***This is the third of a six part series.






No Longer Paradise



In one moment, with one decision, shadowy death came into paradise and what had been the perfect Garden of Eden. It wasn’t supposed to be that way, but the scheme of the serpent to award him a kingdom in this world was granted when Adam and Eve ate the fruit of a tree forbidden to them.


The result?


Paul expresses it in Colossians 1:21 when he speaks of alienation from God. That wording means Adam and Eve (and also we) were objectively banished from God (not simply the Garden) through the barrier that God’s justice had set against the sin of disunion with Him. This is what caused spiritual death.


God had breathed into Adam and Eve “the breath of life” that united them to Him in oneness. The choice they made when they succumbed to the serpent’s guile caused the Spirit to be divorced from the body, the very definition of death.


Their one momentary lapse affects every person born on the earth since then. Satan stalks the earth, possessive of his union with man, and determined to assure his kingdom is not diminished. In his arrogance he believed he could seduce the Son of Man, Jesus, when He came to earth. Jesus, one in the Trinity, had left heaven, would He not want the power on the earth Satan believed he could offer Him?


But he never understood love, that perfect love of God that he abandoned in a bid for power that resulted in what sent him to earth seeking a kingdom of his own.


Even when Adam and Eve broke covenant with God on their part for the false promises of Satan, God still loved them.


As Dave Hickman writes in Closer Than Close:

“…while disunion spreads across the whole earth, God continues to chase after that which He lost at the Fall—union with His bride. Although humans divorced themselves from God, God remained faithful, committed to the union they once shared.”


Few passages of scripture describe this so well as the book of Hosea. The story illustrates His faithfulness as He instructs Hosea to marry a prostitute and who then returns to her adulterous lifestyle after the wedding. Hosea, God’s prophet, is instructed to go after her and bring her back to himself.


And so God has done with each of us.


His mission? To once again be in union with man.


His plan was one Satan could not have imagined or begun to understand. Satan would even believe despite what he saw with Abraham, Isaac, Moses, David, and the rest of the patriarchs that union (re-union) was not possible. If God loved them and gave them laws to follow and sacrifices to make, fine! But what He had hoped for in the beginning when He breathed the breath of Life into Adam could not be undone. Of that, Satan was certain.


Satan’s pride forever caused him to miss the vibrant living truth of God and the power of His love for His creation.


When he did discover the plan, he was determined to upend it. What a preposterous idea! Jesus in perfect union in the Trinity would leave heaven and be planted by the Spirit in the womb of a woman as an infant? Certainly not likely and yet, Satan knew if God pulled it off it would change everything.


Jesus would have all power and be carried by a woman just like the one who had betrayed the union and covenant with God in the first place. He could not let anything to chance.


Max Lucado depicts the struggle in the heavenlies over the story of the Spirit hovering over the woman, Mary, chosen by God to bear His Son, in exciting images in Cosmic Christmas (later reprinted as The Angel’s Story).


 Of course we know the devices of the enemy do not succeed. Jesus is born and all the efforts of Satan through Herod fail completely. But Satan is determined and waits for another chance. He could not comprehend salvation and how it could be possible.


I wonder if we truly understand it. In Closer Than Close Dave Hickman states it clearly:


“But for salvation to be possible by faith, Jesus had to unite the fullness of humanity with the fullness of divinity within his own person. In order for human sin to be forgiven, an actual human had to die. God’s justice demanded this since it was humans who sinned and not God himself.


And yet, only one who was absolutely God could atone for sin! Therefore, Christ had to serve as an atonement (at-one-ment) uniting divinity and humanity within his person. If not, then humanity’s sin could not be divinely forgiven.”


Without this, there could be no re-union and there could be no hope for man.


What a paradox for us to long to be close or closer to the Lord when He has done everything to be as close as He can possibly be and restore us to Himself.


Is it possible Satan has sought to seduce us once again into believing He is not close, even after salvation?





Another Look at What Happened in the Garden


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I think I know the story so well and you likely do as well. The story of creation and the Garden of Eden where it all began seems to echo in our memories. And yet, have we paused to take in the details and truth of the significance of those beginning scriptural passages and their impact on us even now?


It is a stunning story!!


It is truly so epic in size and scope that even IMAX would not be able to capture it all. Imagination at its best cannot begin to fathom what it was like when God spoke everything into existence. And it wasn’t just God, the Father. Other passages make clear that Jesus was there with Him and surely the Spirit as well.


The Trinity, in union, One, was present as the pulsating canvas we read about is unfurled across nothingness. What we know for sure is that He looked it all over when He was done and called it “good”!


We also know the Word says He “planted” a garden in Eden. In the ESV, this word jumps out at me. He didn’t just speak the garden into existence, He “planted” it. My mind starts to whirl and consider the plants He chose, the design, and what the size of the garden might have been. What a landscape genius He was!


But He wasn’t finished yet. He stooped down in the dust of the ground and “formed” (I read that handcrafted.) man. We can be tempted to skip over the next few words that say “and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature,” but wait a minute. Look and consider.


In that life-giving moment, man became “one” with “THE” One, the Trinity.  Absolutely nothing separated them.


This first man, Adam, is given authority over what the One has created. A few verses later, Eve is created when it is clear there is no suitable helper for him. Nothing separated these two from each other or God. Their union was perfect.


When the scene changes and the crafty serpent appears, do we fully understand what is happening here? In Closer Than Close, Dave Hickman reminds the reader that Adam and Eve have authority over the serpent. Their union with the Father has not been compromised yet.


What a scheme Satan needed to concoct! He had already failed in His attempt to usurp God’s power in heaven and of all things, power was exceedingly important to him. In order to have a ‘kingdom’, he would need to seduce these two, Adam and Eve, into giving it to him. If he succeeded, their union with the Father, God, would be broken, and their union would then be with him. How he must have drooled as he considered that possibility!


And we know his scheme worked for eternity (or he was convinced it had)! He created doubt and seduced them to commit what was truly spiritual adultery. Adam and Eve had been in union, one, with the very Godhead, but in one split moment in time, they gave away that perfect union and authority when they entered into an unholy alliance with Satan. Their decision established what he longed for, a kingdom, as he became the “god of this world” as Paul writes about in 2 Corinthians 4:4.


Dave Hickman describes it this way:

“In reaching up, picking, and consciously biting, chewing, and internalizing the meal, the man and woman broke their union with God and abdicated their authority and power to Satan.”


Meredith Kline has written in Kingdom Prologue:

“Their eating of the fruit was the solemn ceremony of the covenantal relationship they had just entered into with Satan.”


As John Milton describes, truly it is “paradise lost”.


Adam and Eve are separated, divorced from God, after committing spiritual adultery with Satan. As Dave Hickman writes in Closer Than Close, “Divorced from Life himself, Adam and Eve ‘died’, just as God said they would.”


Do we see that? They have suffered a spiritual death, a death they pass on to every son or daughter of Adam.


Are they heart broken? The passage doesn’t say. We do know they hid and were ashamed.


As I linger over the scene after reading it hundreds of times before, the hopelessness of what has transpired pierces my heart in high definition as I recognize what was given and lost and why Satan has the power to be “the god of this world”.


In this short series, I want to take a closer look at another part of this story that changes everything. Please join me over the next several posts as we take another look at what happened in the garden so long ago.


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Closer Than Close




Have you had a longing to be close to the Lord or at least closer than you are now? Have you tried a long list of things to try to get closer to Him and ended up feeling none of them really accomplished the goal?


Many of us have been there at one time or another or perhaps more than once or twice in our Christian walk.


That was true for Dave Hickman, author of the newly released book, Closer Than Close. For years he described himself as striving to be close to Jesus until (in his words) “I stumbled upon the shocking reality that Jesus was already as close to me as He could possibly get.”


“It was then that I discovered, in the words of Philip Yancey, ‘the Jesus I knew.’ Striving was replaced with abiding. Guilt gave way to joy. Fear was consumed with perfect love.”


If you have walked a similar walk, striving to be close to Jesus, wishing you could have a more connected relationship with Him, or glimpsed it in the life of someone else and wondered what you had missed, Closer Than Close, is a book you won’t want to miss reading.


Perhaps you have missed or misunderstood that the central message of the gospel is union with Christ.


Dave Hickman not only shares his journey to that discovery, but also leads the reader to an understanding that “becoming conscious of our union with Christ is imperative for a full understanding of God, self, salvation, and the depths of God’s eternal love and acceptance.”


If you have struggled with feeling closer to the Lord, that statement might seem like an impossible experience to attain. Dave Hickman felt that way too until the Lord revealed the truth to him that he had been missing all along as he experienced the birth of his first son.


In those first moments of his son’s life, as Dave held him in his arms, he had never sensed such a depth of love or desire to somehow be closer than close as he did in those moments of first holding him. He describes his reaction of wanting to even breathe his son’s breath and share in that connection of the same breath.


In those precious few moments of breathing in and out with his new son, he sensed the Lord speaking to him, “That’s it, Dave. You got it.”


Dave goes on to describe how the Lord reveals to him the truth he had been missing. “What if Jesus never wanted to have a ‘close relationship’ with me? What if he always wanted to be ‘one’ with me instead? What if Jesus desired the same thing that he desired with this beautiful baby son he held in his arms? Could it possibly be true?


The reader is led page by page in the author’s nurturing beautiful words to the unfolding of the reality of our union with Christ, a divine mystery. He shares that “when the Bible uses the word mystery, it is most often referring not to something unknown but rather to something that has now been fully revealed.”


We know things in this world are not what they should be and that we are not what we should be or were created to be. We enjoyed perfect union with God in the Garden, but then man broke that union when he yielded to temptation.


Despite that choice by man, God remained faithful, however, and “God continues to chase after that which he lost at the Fall—union with his bride.”


Closer Than Close looks at the path to “reunion” to the discovery of our personal identity as “the most loved” to discover something more intimate than a relationship between two individuals.


Closer Than Close (Awakening to the Freedom of Your Union with Christ) will open the eyes of your heart, mind, and spirit to the discovery that changes everything.


In exchange for my review, Tyndale through the Blog Network, provided this book, published by Tyndale House.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”