Raising Cain

(This was my post today on another blog I do with some of my accountability brothers – I wanted to share it)

I’ve spent this week in Genesis 4 in my BSF study.  I knew early last week I’d be writing about  Cain, but didn’t quite know what… not exactly sure how this post will shape up but let’s see where it goes.

Genesis 4:1-5 Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, “I have acquired a man from the LORD.” 2 Then she bore again, this time his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. 3 And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the LORD. 4 Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the LORD respected Abel and his offering, 5 but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.

The New King James Version. 1982 (Ge 4:1–5). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

We all know Abel raised livestock and Cain tilled the ground.

One question not answered here is this.  “How did Cain and Abel know to bring an offering to the LORD?”  Is this something the LORD taught Adam and Eve during or after the process of killing an animal to clothe them (cover their sin)?  Or did the LORD sometime before this recorded episode instruct Cain and Abel on what a proper offering was and how to bring it before Him?  The details don’t really matter because what is implied is that Cain and Abel were versed, or at least instructed  on a proper offering to God.

For years I’ve tied the acceptance of Abel’s offering to the fact that Moses calls out that it was Abel’s first fruit (v4). That implies (as I’ve heard taught for years) the tithe – the first part of what God brings – even without knowing if there will be anymore to come – which requires faith.  Hebrews 11:4 “By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.”  The first fruit offering requires faith.  I still believe that to be a powerful truth.

However, something I read in my notes really caught my attention.

“If Cain already knew God’s will concerning sacrifices, then he may have been too proud to trade with his brother for a lamb.  He would have asserted his independence by choosing to worship God in his own way”  BSF Lesson 6, Series 1, Genesis, p.3

God says something similar to Moses in Deut 9:12 when the Israelites made a golden image against God’s explicit command.

12 “Then the LORD said to me, ‘Arise, go down quickly from here, for your people whom you brought out of Egypt have acted corruptly; they have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them; they have made themselves a molded image.’

I wonder if I have a little Cain in me.  It’s certainly a thread woven through the pages of the Bible – mankind worshiping God in their own way.  Is it any wonder that there are now (reportedly) over 41,000 Christian faiths in the world today?  Not to mention all the various non-Christian faiths… each starting with someone worshiping God in his or her “own way.”

Isaiah 53 says:

6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

Not at all where I thought this post would go… but glad it got here.

God, help me to worship you exactly as you command me to – nothing more – nothing less – nothing to do with me.  Amen.

Walking with God

What does it take to walk with God?

Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV

‎5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
‎And lean not on your own understanding;
‎6 In all your ways acknowledge Him,
‎And He shall direct your paths.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart” – this could be the most difficult thing to do on a consistent, day-in, day-out basis – and it’s more than it appears on the surface. This requires trusting that the LORD’s will and His glory are the ultimate end-game, motivated by love and his desire for us to become more like Christ. This motiviation, this desire for our Christlikeness, is only part of the equation for His directing – making straight, leading, making smooth – our path – our way of life, way of living.

The equally important half of the equation is that we are to acknowledge Him in all our ways – our path, direction, manners, way of living, and moral character. Acknowleging Him is more than giving lip service. This word means to know by experience, to percieve, to recognize. Our life (“way”) should be such that other people can percieve, experience, and know God by experiencing Him – his characteristics, his attributes – in our lives.

The marriage of these two parts of the equation put us in a place to walk in the paths God has directed – made straight and smooth. Our failure is engaging our own minds and our own understanding when

1) things are going well – thinking we had anything to do with it.. It might be intentional, it might be subconsiously, but we begin to tell God, “thanks, but I’ve got this…” and lean on our own understanding.It also

2) thing aren’t going well. We start trying to understand why. Instead we need to “Trust in the LORD with all your heart…” God has a plan. God loves us enough to allow circumstances that aren’t pleasant. Think of Jonah. God had to get through to Jonah and he was willing put all the other men on the same boat as Jonah in jeopardy as he brought the storms on Jonah.

Walking with God doesn’t mean level paths and flowers. Somtimes it can be a difficult and seemingly dangerous journey – but as we learn to trust him with ALL our heart, we aren’t moved or intimidated by our surrounding circumstances.

One mindset inherits the Kingdom – James 2:5

Question: Why are the poor so rich in faith? Is it because they are poor? Answer: I think so.

Does that mean I need to be financially without to be rich in faith? Answer: Maybe… Maybe not…

Question: Why are the poor so rich in faith?  Is it because they are poor?   Answer: I think so.

Does that mean I need to be financially without to be rich in faith?  Answer: Maybe… Maybe not…

James 2:5 (NLT) – “Listen to me, dear brothers and sisters.  Hasn’t God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith?  Aren’t they the ones who will inherit the Kingdom he promised to those who love him?

Why?

When I close my eyes and imagine the preceding verses (James 2:1-4), I imagine the poor to look a lot like what I see when I see homeless people.  I know that’s not always what the poor look like in this day and age.  Perhaps that’s a bit of prejudice I need to work through, but that’s not the point I’m making here.  I imagine the scene James describes in verses 1-4 with a well-dressed and known to be successful business person and a homeless person.  That homeless person is dirty, disheveled, wearing ratty and mismatched and ill-fitting clothes.  The homeless person also has the stench that comes along with living in the streets and not having the ability to bathe every day.

That’s the picture from which I write and from which God spoke to me in this verse.

Why are the poor rich in faith?  I believe their situation in life has left them with no alternative but to completely trust in God for every single thing we take for granted.  A legitimately poor person doesn’t know from where his or her next meal will come.  A poor person doesn’t know how they will feed their family.  A poor person doesn’t know what the next hour, much less what the next day, will hold.  They simply exist now and trust in God to make the way for whatever their next step is.

They literally trust in God for everything.

Isn’t that exactly how the Lord Jesus has called us to live?  Aren’t we supposed to die to ourselves (Gal 2:20)?  Aren’t we in essence – no, in reality – supposed to depend on God for every next step? That implies that we take on the mindset of dependence as if we are poor… as if we are homeless…

Matthew 5:3 (NLT)God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

 

Discussion: Leave your comment below and share how this practically works in your life….

 

Running After Papa…

 

Are you fluent?

I was on a flight today from Denver to DFW and was blessed enough to get an upgrade. I sat in 4a (the window seat) when a gentleman got on the flight behind me with his two girls, I later figured out were his daughters.I’d guess these girls were 6 and 10 years old or so. Not adults by any means.

He sat next to me and the two girls sat across the isle from their father. As they spoke to each other I was amazed at how easily and effortlessly they flowed in and out of English and Spanish, back and forth, with no hesitation or pause. One or two sentences would be in one language and then – while continuing the same thought – the next one or three sentences would be the other language. It was as if their life just “carried on” as the conversation with their father would change from one language to another.

It was a really beautiful thing.

As I walked up the jet way after we landed, I began to wonder how fluent I was in the language of my Heavenly Father.

Am I able to carry on my life – do what I need to do – be that taking my son to Lacrosse practice, or making a phone call for work, or washing the dishes after dinner – and fluently and carelessly go back and forth between the language of my life adn the language of my Heavenly Father?

John 10:27 “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.

After Jesus was transfigured (Matt 17, Mark 9, Luke 9) God himself said of Jesus – “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!”

Do I hear?

Do I follow?

How fluent am I? How fluent are you? Let’s discuss.

Running After Papa…

Amos Observations

I found myself in Amos today… and was floored by what I read….

A few verses jumped out at me this morning in my reading/journal time.  I found myself in the book of Amos.  Honestly, that’s not a book I find myself in unless I’m doing one of the “read through the bible” reading plans.  But today, a few verses jumped out that I found myself writing and commenting on.

Amos 3:3 “Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction?”

What a simple, yet powerful thought.  If I am going to walk with Christ – I must first agree to walk in His direction – meaning I have to walk in the direction He is walking, not walk in a direction toward Him.  What direction am I walking?    Did I agree on the Lord’s direction or did I just start “walking” without even checking.  I am very prone to just start walking… perhaps that’s why I find myself not where I thought I’d be in my relationship with Him sometimes.

Additionally, the Lord will only walk in one direction – His direction… the direction of truth and righteousness… the right (correct) way.  He will never vary or divert off that direction.  All other directions are wrongthat just hit me…  all other directions are wrong!

Lord – I choose to agree with you and your direction today… Where do you want me to walk?

Amos 3:7 “Indeed the Sovereign LORD never does anything until he reveals his plans to his servants the prophets.”

Amos 4:13 “For the LORD is the one who shaped the mountains, stirs up the winds, and reveals his thoughts to mankind.  He turns the light of dawn to darkness and treads on the heights of the earth.  The LORD God of Heaven’s Armies is his name.”

God is POWERFUL and mighty!  He does not need my permission to move or act.  Yet, he reveals his thoughts to man before he moves.  If I can’t see God moving in my life, could it be he has no one to reveal it to?  Am I available to hear Him – to be revealed to –  or is my life too cluttered with less important things?  Am I able to hear Him?  Am I prepared to hear his plans?

Amos 3:10 ” ‘My people have forgotten how to do right,’ says the LORD.”

What a sobering verse.  What a horrible place to be.  I never want to be identified by the LORD as that kind of person.

Amos 5:12 “For I know the vast number of your sins and the depth of your rebellion.”

Another sobering verse.  I am of vast sins and deep rebellion…. and God knows it and knows all of it.

Even with God’s love and redemptive plan of salvation through Jesus Christ, he still requires obedience – not as a way to earn salvation – not as an entry requirements – not as anything we could do that would require he “owe” us.  God requires obedience as a bi-product of a changed life, a redeemed heart – a transformation of a dead in my sins being to a forgiven being and new creation- to save us from the calamity and consequences that follow a life of poor choices, vast sins, and deep rebellion.

Amos 5:14 “Do what is good and run from evil so that you may live!”

 

… Running After Papa

Choices

“Choices, Choices, Choices…” They have costs. What really happened when Aaron made the golden calf?

Exodus 32:25-26 (NKJV)

25 Now when Moses saw that the people were unrestrained (for Aaron had not restrained them, to their shame among their enemies), 26 then Moses stood in the entrance of the camp, and said, “Whoever is on the Lord’s side—come to me!” And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together to him.

The scene is that while Moses is up on the mountain getting the 10 commandments from the Lord, the people of Israel begin to fall back on what they knew, instead of waiting on the Lord.

Remember, these people had spent 400 years in Egypt where there were gods-o-plenty and all in graven form. We’re pretty quick to judge the Israelites in how quickly they worshiped a golden calf, but reading the text, they wanted a graven image of the Lord so they could worship it.

Think about it, they’ve been summoned to this mountain and told not to touch it lest they die (Ex 19:12) and Moses has been up there for who knows how long. Moses had been their leader and their visible picture or pointer to the Lord. Verse 1 says that the people did not know what had become of Moses, so naturally, they want and are looking for that visible pointer, that image, so they can worship the Lord.

I’m not justifying what happened, I’m just believing that I’m not that different. When I’m in a dry place, I go back to what I know – back to what’s worked before – back to what’s familiar.

The word translated as “unrestrained” in the NKJV (v25) is the Hebrew word ‘para‘ (pay-rah). While it is clearly defined as “be out of control, i.e. have a mob or group have no restraint in activities, implying open defiance of a known standard or authority,” another one of its definitions means “ignore, disregard, i.e. pay no attention or give no serious thought to proper actions or response.

OK. That second definition got me. I’m not normally an “out of control” kind of guy, but I certainly have been guilty of paying no attention or given no serious thought to proper actions or response… and much more frequently that I probably can remember…

God clearly said “make no graven images of me.” (Ex 20:4) The mob clearly chose to disregard that command when they asked Aaron to make them an image of the Lord. Aaron clearly chose to ignore that command when he fed and enabled the mob’s mentality. That was a bad choice – in both cases. These were costly choices. They caused all of Israel to sin against the Lord. Ultimately it caused great sorrow to the Lord and Israel; as well as death of over 3000 men; and a plague on the entire nation of Israel.

Moses, after interceding for their very existence with the Lord, then goes down to straighten out the matter. He asks a simple question. “Who is on the Lord’s side?” From that nation, only one tribe comes forward – the tribe of Levi. Each was faced with a choice.

At this point, the Levites have not been named as the priests or keepers of the Tabernacle. That doesn’t come until Numbers 1. These are just a group of men who chose to stand against the crowd and stand with the Lord. It was a costly choice. They were then called on to kill their own brothers and relatives in judgment and upholding of God’s commands.

I wonder if this is why the Levitical tribe was chosen to be the priests in Israel?

I guess in summary,

  1. I cannot be so quick to fault the Israelites. I too have been guilty of going back to what I know. God wants and is taking me continually to new places; new places of trusting Him, new places of waiting on Him, new places of seeking Him. I have to choose to keep moving forward – into the fresh – into the new – into the unknown.
  2. I have been too often guilty of reacting and not giving serious consideration to what the proper and Godly response to a given situation should be. I have to choose to respond with proper, Godly responses and not react in the midst of the moment.
  3. Sometimes choosing to be on the Lord’s side is lonely, gut-wrenching, and bloody. “Choose you this day whom you will serve. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord,” (Josh 24:15) begins to carry a little more weight. I choose to serve Him… whatever the cost.

Daddy, help me to make good choices – even when they are hard and result of the choice could mean standing alone, or getting bloody. Give me strength each moment to choose to be on Your side. Help me to walk in being the son you have created me and adopted me to be – standing for everything that represents You and Your goodness and character. Help me to choose to respond. Give me the fortitude to consider how You want me to respond and not how I want to respond. Give me strength today to choose the fresh, the new, the unknown in my relationship with You today.

Running After Papa…

Prayer:Backwards

If this is the order in which Jesus ranked them, then shouldn’t the items at the top of my list be the most important and garner the bulk of my time, attention and energy? Why do we have it all backwards?

Luke 11:1-4 (NKJV)
1 Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.” 2 So He said to them, “When you pray, say:
Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
3 Give us day by day our daily bread.
4 And forgive us our sins,
For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.”

A thought hit me the other night as Dawn and I were reading this passage.  We were reading it from the New Living Translation and it appears a little differently:

Luke 11:1-4 (NLT)
1 Once Jesus was in a certain place praying. As he finished, one of his disciples came to him and said, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”
2 Jesus said, “This is how you should pray:
“Father, may your name be kept holy.
May your Kingdom come soon.
3  Give us each day the food we need,
4  and forgive us our sins,
as we forgive those who sin against us.
And don’t let us yield to temptation.”

It appeared to me that Jesus’ prayer was a sort of stack rank on the things he felt were the most important.

  1. The Holiness of God
  2. God’s Kingdom on earth
  3. God’s provision on earth
  4. Forgiveness – both our own forgiveness and our forgiving others
  5. Steering clear of temptation

If this is the order in which Jesus ranked them, then shouldn’t the items at the top of my list be the most important and garner the bulk of my time, attention and energy?  Why do we have it all backwards?

How much more time do I spend focused on the bottom of this list that I do on the top of the list?  In another study I did last week, I ran across the same Greek word translated as “temptation” in this verse and was interested in one of its definitions.  The Greek word is peirasmos and it referenced being of the temptation the devil used to divert Jesus from his divine errand.

Romans 7:15 (NKJV)15 For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.

When I spend my time and energy in NOT giving in to temptation, then ultimately I am focused on the temptation!  I believe our enemy wants us to be so focused on the temptation and worrying about staying away from it, that it diverts us from our divine errand of being about God’s holiness and His Kingdom on earth.  He wants us so consumed with the temptation that even if we don’t ultimately fall into the very sin that we are trying to avoid, we at least never spend any time or energy on the top of the list that Jesus enumerated in is prayer!

What if, instead, we spent the majority of our time focused on the Holiness of God and what part we play in His Kingdom here on earth?  If I am focused on God’s holiness and busy about my role in God’s kingdom on Earth, how much time do I have to fall into temptation?  How much time do I have to worry about it?  How much more effective would I be in what He has for me to do?

This is a mind shift for me.

Stay tuned because tomorrow I’m writing about the next few verses in Luke 11, continuing Jesus’ teaching on prayer…

Running After Papa…

Be Different

I would say we’ve come full circle, but my real guess is that left to our own devices, we’ve never really changed.

Exodus 21:12-22:31

In reading the last half of Ex 21 and all of Ex 22, its apparent that God’s way of doing things is so much different than what we’ve morphed into over the last few thousand years since Moses first gave the law.  It’s fairly simple to boil down… take responsibility…. period.  Take responsibility for yourself, your family, your actions, your animals, whatever.  If your ox kills someone, make restitution, if you accidentally break something of your neighbors, fix it or replace it.  An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life. If you know your Ox gores people and you don’t restrain it, you are more responsible and restore the infraction with more.  If you steal it, restore it with more.

Why don’t we live that way now?  Every day we see people finagling their way out of promises, commitments, contractual obligations, etc.  People get in and out of marriages like they get in and out of their cars.  Employment contracts mean nothing, sports players “hold out” of their contracts because they want a better deal all the time.  People abandon their kids, abandon their debts, abandon their families with no second thoughts.  Our prisons are full of people on vacation for committing some crime and not really having any real consequences for their actions – unless watching TV, getting college degrees, writing books, etc. is considered “consequences”…  No one is accountable for anything anymore and while it would be easy to digress into a social or political statement, that’s not my intent.

What captures my mind here is “Why did Moses have to be so explicit in these commands?”  Answer?  Because society was very likely exactly the way it is today.  I would say we’ve come full circle, but my real guess is that left to our own devices, we’ve never really changed.

In the context of the Law (the 10 commandments) having JUST been delivered, God is saying, “Look!  I have rescued you as a people and you are now going to be My people.  Because you’re going to be called My people, we’re going to do things differently. You are going to be different.  When others see you, I want them to know you are Mine.”

That’s the call.  Be different.

When people see me living life, what will they immediately know about me?

Will my life today scream that I am God’s son?

Be different.

Running After Papa…

Through His Eyes…

James 2:1-13 (NLT)

For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. 3 If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, “You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor”—well, 4 doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives? (James 2:2-4 NLT)

When I read this passage today, I got two pictures. The first picture is this: How often have I stopped at an intersection because of a red light and seen a panhandler working the intersection looking for “donations” to his/her cause and gone into “lockdown” mode – locking the car doors and looking straight ahead daring NOT to look them in the eyes? It has happened often. The second picture I got – immediately behind the first – is the same intersection but Firemen working the intersection looking for a donation to his/her cause. In this scenario, I react totally opposite. If I have loose change, I give it to them. I always smile and wave at the fireman, even if I don’t have anything to give.

Why? Exactly this verse. I am judging the person by their exterior. Yes, our culture today and often the intersections have something to do with how “safe” I feel for me and my family, but if I’m honest, it is no different than James 2:2-4. I am showing discrimination that is guided by evil motives.

It’s not just with such drastic differences either. I know myself. It is just as easy for me to show favoritism (a really nice way of saying ‘being prejudice’ or judging) to those ‘of significance.’ For example, given the opportunity to meet Stephen Curtis Chapman (a personal and long time hero of mine) or the dude on the 3rd row of the 2nd service at church, guess where my attention is going to be?

Is the fireman any different than the beggar in the eyes of God? Is Stephen Curtis Chapman any better than the guy at church in the eyes of God? Am I any different or any better than any of them in the eyes of God?

The answer is a resounding ‘NO!’

It goes on an on. It could just as easily be about to those with whom we have a common interest versus those we don’t; those who are easy to get along with versus those it is a struggle to have conversation with; those who are obnoxious versus those who are fun; boring versus exciting; pretty versus ugly; it really doesn’t matter in God’s eyes.

His eyes – His vision – His perspective is the only one that counts. It’s the only thing that matters. James 2:5-14 go on to make that exact point. We are all sinners. We have all broken His law. We have all fallen short of His glory (Romans 3:23).

James 2:14-26

Originally, I thought this was unrelated, but it is not. My actions (my deeds) define my faith. If I have no deeds, I have no faith because it is dead. A dead faith is not a faith at all. Faith – true, living, vibrant faith in God – produces actions/deeds that are driven by my faith. I don’t choose the action, I just choose to be obedient to God’s directive. This is the example of Abraham placing Issac on the altar. God directed his actions and because of his faith, he obeyed.

I know people who let their actions drive their faith. It a natural extension of their ‘religion’. Actions do not create faith. Faith isn’t motivated by actions. Faith isn’t driven or created by actions / deeds / “do and don’t” commands. This kind of faith is a Works-Based faith, which the Lord clearly speaks about in Romans 4:1-5 (The Message):

So how do we fit what we know of Abraham, our first father in the faith, into this new way of looking at things? If Abraham, by what he did for God, got God to approve him, he could certainly have taken credit for it. But the story we’re given is a God-story, not an Abraham-story. What we read in Scripture is, “Abraham entered into what God was doing for him, and that was the turning point. He trusted God to set him right instead of trying to be right on his own. If you’re a hard worker and do a good job, you deserve your pay; we don’t call your wages a gift. But if you see that the job is too big for you, that it’s something only God can do, and you trust him to do it—you could never do it for yourself no matter how hard and long you worked—well, that trusting-him-to-do-it is what gets you set right with God, by God. Sheer gift.

The deception in that kind of thinking – that kind of ‘religion’ – is that instead of actions being directed BY God, they are directed AT God. Minor words… MAJOR difference!

How I view others is just one “deed” that needs to change in my life.

Dad, today let me see others through Your eyes, Your perspective today. Destroy the preconceived ideas I have about people that color my vision and skew my attitudes towards them. Replace them with your perfect love today. In that perfect love, drive my actions to those things that bring you Glory. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.

Running After Papa…

A long way to go…

Romans 5:6-8 (NLT)

6 When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. 7 Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. 8 But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

A simple thought. It’s would be easy (ok… maybe not easy, but easier) to sacrifice myself for someone we deem or see as significant… a pastor, a family member, a friend. It would even be mentally justifiable to sacrifice myself for a “regular” person. Some man or woman on the street; a child in the neighborhood… you get the idea.

But as I read this passage, the Lord gave me a vision of sacrificing myself for what we call the “scum” of society. Would I sacrifice myself and forever impact the future of my family, for a child molester? for a doctor who performs abortions? for a genocidal maniac like Saddam Huessien or Osama Bin Laden?

If I’m honest with myself, and honest with God, I could not do it. Even if God himself stood in front of me and in an audible voice commanded me to… I’m not sure I could do it.

But He needs me to be in that kind of place spiritually. He needs me to be that broken, obedient and loving. That’s exactly the place Jesus was at. That’s exactly the place he was when he crawled onto the cross. That’s exactly the place Stephen was as they were hurling stones at him.

I am not there.

I have a very long way to go…

Running After Papa…