Christianity 201

May 21, 2022

A Part of the Genesis Story I’d Missed

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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The early chapters of Genesis are so foundational, it’s hard for me to believe that as early as chapter four, there’s a scene I had skipped over; that is, until today when our guest writer brought it to my attention.

NLT.Gen.4.14 You have banished me from the land and from your presence; you have made me a homeless wanderer. Anyone who finds me will kill me!”

15 The Lord replied, “No, for I will give a sevenfold punishment to anyone who kills you.” Then the Lord put a mark on Cain to warn anyone who might try to kill him.

NLT.Gen.4.23 One day Lamech said to his wives,

“Adah and Zillah, hear my voice;
listen to me, you wives of Lamech.
I have killed a man who attacked me,
a young man who wounded me.

24 If someone who kills Cain is punished seven times,
then the one who kills me will be punished seventy-seven times!”

Today we’re introducing you to a writer who goes by Swaying Leaf who blogs at Reflections: Life, Death, Living and Dying. Clicking the header which follows will take you to where this devotional first appeared.

Revenge and Hurt in Genesis

I am reading in Genesis 4:23-24. Then Lamech (who is the great great great great grandson) of Cain said to his wives: “Adam and Zillow (he had 2 wives), hear my voice; wives of Lamech, listens to my speech! (he really wants to be heard).
For I have killed a man for wounding me, even a young man for hurting me. If Cain shall be avenged seven fold, then Lamech seventy-seven fold.

This is interesting because when we look at the origin of the seven fold, it started in Genesis 4:14-15. Cain was being cast out as a fugitive, and he was afraid that people will kill him and he told the Lord about it. The Lord, despite Cain’s murder of his brother promised him it will not happen in verse 15: And the Lord said to him (Cain), Therefore, whoever kills Cain, Vengeance shall be taken on him seven fold. And the Lord set a mark on Cain lest anyone finding him shall kill him.

There are many things in this chapter which I don’t fully understand. As far as I knew, there was only Cain and Abel at that time. Why then did Cain fear people wound kill him. Also, how did he build a city with so little people. These thoughts aside, something stood out clearly. The beginning of vengeance and hurt, and the difference between Man and God.

Remember that Cain murdered Abel and God punished Cain by casting him out. But God in his mercy and kindness and love (this was before the 10 commandments), did not kill Cain. Not only did he not kill Cain, he protected Cain with a mark to prevent others from Killing him.

Cain then dwelled (I assume without the presences of the Lord) and this went on for 5 generations till it reaches Lamech. And what happens after five generations without the Lord. Lamech took the one promise of protection from the Lord, and made it into a vengeful practice of pay back. Lamech admitted to killing someone who wounded him and killing a young man who hurt him. I would assume that hurt is less severe than wounded, or may be non physical). But either way, he killed the people who hurt him. This is how the world have developed: Kill the one who hurt you. Not only that, he took upon God’s word and added it into his own commandment that he shall be avenged seventy-seven fold.

In both Cain and Lamech, they both feared for their lives. Cain killed his brother out of fear of losing favor with God and begged God to protect him. Lamech killed the others for hurting him and commandment his wife’s to avenge him if he is killed. Cain didn’t want to die, Lamech wasn’t as concern about dying as he is about revenge.

This reminds us that when we start losing intimacy with the love and kindness of God, we can turn into very harsh people looking to ‘kill anyone who hurts’. This does not have to be actual physical killing. This includes killing people by demanding that they be perfect, punishing them with words or deeds, not in order to love them to change, but in order that they learn thru pain.

Be careful too because all these can be done using God’s words as well. As you can tell from Lamech, it is easy to take parts of God’s words and justify our harshness on others (and ourselves). But God is not such a God, God is a God who loves, who yearns to be close and who changes people thru Grace. There will be natural laws of consequences when we do wrong, but God is not one who is vengeful and hurt you more and kill you if hurt.

Let us remind ourselves the next time someone hurts us, hold back the fleshy desire to kill them or hurt them more. Let God instead heal your wound, soothe your hurt and protect you. He loves you. You are wanted. You are loved, even when you are hurt, even if you have hurt others. I am wanted, I am loved, Even when I am hurt, even when I have hurt others.

 

 

May 1, 2022

Sin is Waiting for You

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Rebecca Brand is from New Zealand and has blogged for years at RebeccaBrand.org, in addition to speaking nationally and internationally and writing the book, Life’s Greatest Battles. Last year when we shared her writing here, we presented two different blog posts. The one today is connected to three different ones from Genesis (and a larger series from Genesis) which I’m going to link first this time. To read today’s click the large header which follows below.

Preceding articles:

Is Sin Crouching?

Watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. – Gen. 4:7

Our Motives

Yesterday, we talked through how Cain and Abel knew how they were to worship the Father and that ultimately, in our fallen state, God still wants a relationship with us

I also mentioned that the Bible does not say why God rejected Cain’s sacrifice, but perhaps it was Cain’s attitude or perhaps his offering wasn’t what God desired from him

If we think of Proverbs 21:27, it says:

The sacrifice of the wicked is detestable / how much more so when brought with evil intent

God always sees our motives and why we offer what we do to Him. This is because He sees our hearts behind everything, and when we give to God and others, we should not worry about how much we need to give up, but instead, joyfully give to God our best in things like time, money, possessions, and talents

How Do We React?

When someone suggests that we have done something wrong, how do we react?

Do we correct the mistake or deny that we need to correct anything?

After Cain’s sacrifice was rejected, God gave Him the chance to right His wrong and try again – God even went one step further and encouraged him to do this! Yet, Cain refused, and the rest of his life is a startling example of what happens to those of us who refuse to admit their mistakes

Friends, the next time someone suggests that we are wrong (especially when it is God) take an honest look at yourself and choose God’s way instead of what Cain did!

Giving Up Footholds

How incredible was it that God tried to make Cain see sense before he not only became the first human to be born but then the one to commit murder?

For Cain to master the sin that was lurking, he would have to give up his jealous anger so that sin would not have had a foothold in his life

Just like Cain, sin is lurking, and we become victims of it if we do not master it. Of course, sin cannot be conquered by our own strength, and therefore, let us turn to God to receive faith for not only ourselves but the faith and strength from others to help support us

Sin is a lifelong battle, but by walking with the Holy Spirit daily, this daily battle will not be over until Christ returns, and so, even though we might not win every battle in our lives, when we are face-to-face with Christ, He will show us exactly how He won the victory

“Abel also brought a gift—the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected. “Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”

Genesis 4:4-7


Second Helping:

This is unrelated, but something I heard in a sermon this morning that seems timely.

“When God wants to sort out the world, as the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount make clear, he doesn’t send in the tanks. He sends in the meek, the broken, the justice hungry, the peacemakers, the pure-hearted and so on.”
~ NT Wright

March 10, 2022

Your Greatest Temptation?

Thinking Through Luke 4:1-13

What is your greatest temptation? Perhaps you are thinking of things like speeding, shopping, snacking, or something to do with sex, but I imagine no one has thought of turning a stone into a loaf of bread, or one of the other two temptations Jesus faced in the wilderness. While the temptations Jesus faced may seem far removed from the temptations we face, when we dig in we discover that there is really one temptation here, one very subtle and dangerous temptation, one that we all face yet never think about. The fact that we never think of it makes it all the more dangerous.

So what is that one temptation that Jesus faced? What do the temptations of turning stones into bread, gaining all the kingdoms of the world, and expecting rescue from harm have in common? Each of these would take Jesus off the path of suffering, away from his calling. If Satan had said just one thing it would be “If you are the Son of God, then you don’t need to suffer.”

This is the same temptation Jesus faced later:

Then Jesus began to tell them that the Son of Man must suffer many terrible things and be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but three days later he would rise from the dead. As he talked about this openly with his disciples, Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things.
Jesus turned around and looked at his disciples, then reprimanded Peter. “Get away from me, Satan!” he said. “You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”

Mark 8:31-33 (NLT)

Jesus called Peter “Satan,” for he was saying the same thing Satan had said earlier. You don’t need to suffer, Jesus.

Jesus faced this same temptation in the Garden of Gethsemane on the morning of his execution:

He went on a little farther and fell to the ground. He prayed that, if it were possible, the awful hour awaiting him might pass him by. “Abba, Father,” he cried out, “everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

Mark 14:35-36 (NLT)

Everything was possible, including the avoidance of suffering and death. Jesus could have called ten thousand angels in a rescue operation and so avoid execution. He could have turned that stone into bread, he could have become the king of all the world by brute force, he could have avoided all harm. Jesus was tempted to exploit the fact he was God the Son, God with us. He did the exact opposite:

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,

but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.

Philippians 2:5-8 (NRSV emphasis added)

The greatest temptation Jesus faced was to not offer forgiveness, to not take the way of the cross, to not take the path of suffering for the sake of love. It all comes back to the temptation to not love.

Love is often at the root of other temptations.

We can think of Adam and Eve when they were tempted to eat the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. Did they fall because the fruit was so tempting, or because the promise of knowledge was so tempting, or was it because their love relationship with God was not that great? They were tempted by Satan, not just to eat fruit, but to stop loving God.

We can think of Cain and Abel when Cain succumbed to the temptation to kill his brother. Did Cain kill his brother because that was oh so tempting, or because there was a failure in their love relationship? Cain didn’t just kill his brother. Cain failed to love his brother.

Though the ten commandments had not yet been given, Cain ought not to have committed violence against his brother because Abel was created in the image of God. Just as important, Cain ought not to have committed violence against his brother because Cain was created in the image of God. Cain’s failure was not the breaking of a rule so much as it was a failure to live up to what it means to be created in the image of God. Being created in the image of God means many things, like being creative for example. But since God is love, it also means being created with the capacity, and the impulse to love. Cain fell short of living up to that image.

Humanity sunk to its worst failure in living up to the image of God when God came to us, in Jesus, and we killed him. Our failure was not just in breaking the commandment, “thou shalt not murder.” We failed to love God, miserably so. God loved us anyway and offers forgiveness, reconciliation, and relationship. God is love indeed!

We see a failure of love being played in our day. Shouldn’t “love your neighbour” also apply to nations? Where is Russia’s love for Ukraine? Where is Vladimir’s Putin’s love even for his own troops, his own people? How many Russians are losing their lives? How many Russians are losing their loved ones? Given the worldwide repercussions, how many people are now being impacted negatively by the failure of a few, to love? Before there was a temptation to pick up the sword against the Ukrainians, there was the temptation to not pick up the cross and follow Jesus.

“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.

Mark 8:34 (NRSV)

The greatest temptation we face is to not love, to not pick up the cross and follow Jesus in the way of the cross, the way of love.

Temptations often begin with the temptation to not love. The temptation to drink too much or eat too much can begin with a lack of self-love. Adultery begins, not with attraction, but with a failure of love. Gossip begins, not with words, but with a failure to love. Murder begins, not with the pulling of a trigger or the picking up of a sword, but with a failure to pick up one’s cross and follow Jesus in the way of love.

One definition of sin is “missing the mark.” If we were to have a confessional and I were to ask how you missed the mark this week, you might give me a list of rules you have broken. Yet we miss the mark most when we miss reflecting the image of God. We miss reflecting the image of God most when we fail to love. You can keep all the rules really well yet completely miss the mark, miss reflecting the image of God. The religious leaders did this when, though being such sticklers for the rules, they missed the mark and engineered the execution of Jesus.

Jesus did not miss the mark. Jesus chose the cross when the temptation was to pick up a sword instead. We are loved. We are helped in growing into the image of God. The first fruit listed in the fruit of the Spirit is love. That is no accident!

You will be tempted this week, to not love someone, to stop loving someone. Let us seek God’s help in loving others, especially if the person we are to love has treated us like dirt. God is an expert on how to do that! Jesus is an expert in picking up the cross. Jesus is an expert in not succumbing to the greatest temptation we could ever face, the temptation to not love.


They’re still a “shrunken” version of weekly sermons, but Clarke Dixon’s blog — articles from which appear here most Thursdays — is now called Thinking Through Scripture.

August 2, 2021

Marked as a Child of God

Genesis.4.1b.NLT When [Eve] gave birth to Cain, she said, “With the Lord’s help, I have produced a man!” Later she gave birth to his brother and named him Abel.

When they grew up, Abel became a shepherd, while Cain cultivated the ground. When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. Abel also brought a gift—the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected.

“Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”

One day Cain suggested to his brother, “Let’s go out into the fields.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother, Abel, and killed him.

Afterward the Lord asked Cain, “Where is your brother? Where is Abel?”

“I don’t know,” Cain responded. “Am I my brother’s guardian?”

10 But the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground! 11 Now you are cursed and banished from the ground, which has swallowed your brother’s blood. 12 No longer will the ground yield good crops for you, no matter how hard you work! From now on you will be a homeless wanderer on the earth.”

13 Cain replied to the Lord, “My punishment is too great for me to bear! 14 You have banished me from the land and from your presence; you have made me a homeless wanderer. Anyone who finds me will kill me!”

15 The Lord replied, “No, for I will give a sevenfold punishment to anyone who kills you.” Then the Lord put a mark on Cain to warn anyone who might try to kill him. 16 So Cain left the Lord’s presence and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

A year ago we introduced you to Chuck Griffin who is the LifeTalk editor and one of the writers of Methodist Life a devotional.

This introduces an idea that was new to me, that as a child of God, we also have a mark of protection, as did Cain, though for different reasons. Read the devotional here or through the link in the header which follows, and see what you think!

Marked for Life

Today’s text: Matthew 28:19-20 (NRSV): “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

In the story…, God sentences Cain to the life of a homeless wanderer for killing his brother, Abel.

“Anyone who finds me will kill me!” Cain declares. By some mysterious method, God marks Cain in response to this expression of fear.

In the English language, saying a person has “the mark of Cain” is pejorative, and the story has been used foolishly to justify all sorts of ill treatment of people, including race-based slavery. Cain’s mark was really a blessing, shielding him from violence by others.

Whatever it was that made Cain stand out to those who would do him harm, the mark amounted to undeserved protection from God. We certainly should classify the mark as God’s mercy, and in a way, perhaps it even represents grace, an act of love offered by God to one who has grievously sinned.

We are all sinners, meaning we all deserve death. We all should hope to be similarly marked so we can be protected from what we deserve.

And in fact, it is easy to receive a protective mark, one far better than Cain could have imagined. When we accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, God marks us as his. We can think of baptism and confirmation as opportunities to formally accept the mark, which reads “Child of God.”

It also is easier than we might initially think to show our mark to others. As the Holy Spirit works within us, our lives should become signs of the presence of God’s kingdom.

Any time you show love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness or self-control to others, your mark is showing.

Lord, make us wholly yours, and may your Holy Spirit continue to seal us and keep us from the works of the evil one. Amen.

 

August 29, 2020

The Perplexing Problem of Cain’s Sacrfice

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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There are several views on today’s subject, but this one does a great job of presenting what I would call the “blood” argument with respect to Cain’s agricultural sacrifice.

Today’s thoughts are from Josh Spaulding who writes most of the articles at EternalAnswers.org an online ministry which serves to provide sound, Biblical answers to many of life’s biggest questions. Josh is pastor of Bible Baptist Mission in Washington, Indiana. and author of, “The Reality of Saving Faith.” Their objective at Eternal Answers is that the gospel message is embedded in each article they write.

Josh chose today’s article to share with you, and remember you can click the header which follows to read this — and then browse other articles — at his site.

Alternatively, today’s thoughts in much greater detail are also available as a six-minute video.

Why Wasn’t God Happy with Cain’s Offering?

In the book of Genesis we read the story of Cain and Abel (two of Adam and Eve’s sons). The first thing that we read about them is in regard to their offerings to the LORD.

Genesis 4:3 “And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect.”

So there is clearly something about Abel’s offering that pleased God, and something about Cain’s offering that did not please God. In order to figure this out, we must turn to God’s Word. There are four very important things we must understand in order to interpret this passage correctly.

1: We must understand that all descendants of Adam are sinners (Psalm 51:5, Romans 3:23, Romans 5:12). And since Cain and Abel (just like you and me) were descendants of Adam, they fell into that group.

2: We must understand that God is Righteous (Psalm 7:9, Psalm 145:17). He is also Loving and Forgiving (1 John 1:9), but He never lays one attribute aside as He picks up another. He is always righteous. He is never unrighteous.

3: We must understand that the punishment for our sin is death (Romans 6:23). This “death” is defined as separation from God. Yes, eventually physical death is also a result, but the eternal separation from God is the worst part of it. This is why the LORD said to Abel in Genesis 4:7 “…and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door.”

4: We must understand that “without shedding of blood is no remission [forgiveness of sin]” (Hebrews 9:22).

Once we understand the four points above, we see why God has put such an emphasis on blood and sacrifice throughout the entire Bible. In order to have fellowship with our Holy God … in order to approach Him … in order to enjoy His favor … in order to be justified … in order to LIVE there must be blood sacrificed.

Although the blood of animals did not take away the sin of men, they pointed to the One who could (and did), the Lord Jesus Christ! And they stood as a reminder for the absolute necessity of a Perfect Substitute (Hebrews 10:1-4).

God has required blood from the beginning. In the story of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21) we read how God shed the first blood for Adam and Eve, when he made coats of skins and clothed them. Those coats of skins were the first picture of how the Lord Jesus, as the Lamb of God, should die for sin, that we might be clothed with the righteousness of God in Him (Isaiah 64:6, Psalm 132:9, 2 Corinthians 5:21).

Throughout the history of man, we read of God’s people shedding blood to temporarily atone for their sin. But without the eternal atonement that the Lord Jesus accomplished on the cross, those animal sacrifices would have been meaningless. His blood ETERNALLY atoned for the sins of all who put their faith in Him!

Hebrews 9:12Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.

So why was the LORD pleased with Abel’s offering, but not Cain’s?

Because blood was shed with Abel’s. But no blood was shed with Cain’s. And on top of that, Cain’s offering came from the cursed ground (Genesis 3:17)!

This passage is a clear message that our own works, done as an attempt to justify ourselves, are worthless to our Holy God. Cain worked HARD to prepare his offering. He prepared the seeds. He tilled the ground. He sowed the seeds. He nurtured the plants. He pulled weeds. Finally, he harvested the fruit. Then he gathered it all and brought it to the LORD. SURELY, God would be pleased with his good work. He worked HARD!

But it didn’t please God at all. Cain was relying on his own good works to please God, without the shedding of blood.

Abel realized that there was nothing he could do in order to please God. He understood that there must be blood.

There is, however, one very important thing to understand. The blood of the Perfect Lamb, the Lord Jesus, only justifies (counts righteous) those who have put their faith in Him.

Faith involves taking God at His Word (which always involves repentance of sin) and trusting alone in the finished work (the blood shed by the Perfect Lamb) that HE (not you by your works) accomplished at Calvary, on the cross (Romans 4:5, Romans 11:6, Romans 3:24-25).

Just as the blood of the paschal lamb had to be applied to the lintel and the side posts of the doors (Exodus 12:21-23), the blood of the Lord Jesus must be applied to your heart. And that can only happen by taking God at His Word and trusting alone in Jesus Christ as your Savior. (Click this link to read more about what saving faith is.)

October 4, 2018

Genesis 4: How Not to Celebrate Thanksgiving

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Clarke Dixon took a break from writing this week, but we found this 2012 article which had never been published here. This week is Thanksgiving Weekend in Canada and it’s not that many weeks away in the U.S…

by Clarke Dixon

Thanksgiving is often thought of as a time to focus on family but it is especially also thought of as a time to come before God with special gratitude for the fall harvest. Being a big fan of family and food this is something I am keen on doing. I was a bit concerned, however, that Thanksgiving would interrupt the flow of our sermon series on Genesis. Not to worry, turns out that Genesis chapter 4 brings together the themes of family and a harvest offering quite nicely. However, Cain kinda threw a spanner into the works with a murder on this first ever Thanksgiving, so I decided I had better entitle this “How Not to Celebrate Thanksgiving.”

So where did it all go wrong? Two brothers take the time to celebrate God’s goodness with offerings from their work; grain from Cain and a lamb from Abel. How does a seemingly good thing turn so sour? Some might blame God voicing his favor and disfavor toward the brothers. Had God just kept his thoughts to himself perhaps Abel would have lived to see a second Thanksgiving and beyond. But God didn’t keep his remarks to himself, there must have been something remarkable.

So the question becomes what is so remarkable about Cain’s offering that God had to express his displeasure? Was it that God prefers animal sacrifice to grain offerings? Was it that blood needed to be spilled for it to be a true offering? Was Cain’s offering not up to snuff in being of lesser value, being either not of sufficient amount or of quality? Each of these possibilities have been suggested, but I think the passage speaks to the what the problem is, it lets us in on what God found remarkable.

Let’s look at the passage and I’ll ask you to focus in on the character of Cain for a moment;

3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD.  4 But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering,  5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.  6 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast?  7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”

8 Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.  9 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”  10 The LORD said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.  11 Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.  12 When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.”  13 Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is more than I can bear.  14 Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” (Genesis 4:3-14 NIV)

So what can we say about Cain? He has anger issues (verse 4), he does not listen or heed instruction (as given in verse 7), He is deceitful (verse 8), He is violent to the point of murder (verse 8), he is apathetic to the concerns of another, especially one he should take responsibility for (verse 9), he is snarky towards One who commands respect (verse 9), and finally he is self-centered in showing no remorse but only concern for his own future (verse 13). In short, his character is just plain pathetic. We might be tempted to assume that the brothers were alike until Cain’s anger was aroused, but we should think rather of Cain’s actions as being rooted in the kind of man he had become.

The problem is not with Cain’s offering, the problem is with Cain. Notice that God does not just look at the offering the brothers are bringing, he looks at the brothers also: “The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor” (Genesis 4:4b-5a NIV my italics). If Adam and Eve sinned by trying too hard to be like God, then Cain sinned by not trying hard enough. God is love, Cain is filled with hatred. God is gracious, Cain is selfish. God serves, Cain is self-serving. God is honest, Cain is a liar. Though created in the image of the Creator, Cain fails to live up to that image in any way.

What a contrast Cain is to Jesus. The offering at the cross goes far beyond what any other offering ever could. “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift” (2 Corinthians 9:15 NIV). But more than the perfect and supreme offering, Jesus is the one who bears the image of God like no one else. “This is my Son . . . with Him I am well pleased” (2 Peter 1:17 NIV and elsewhere). We might say that God looked upon Jesus and his offering with favor.

How does God look upon you and your offering this Thanksgiving? We’ve already seen how not to celebrate Thanksgiving; as one with a character that displeases God, a character that will lead to all kinds of behaviors that displease God and make life miserable for others at the same time. Of course we are grateful for the grace of God, and the gift of forgiveness in Christ. But that grace does not stop us from taking a good solid look at our character.

Wherever we may be in our character formation, are we moving in the right direction? Are we becoming more and more like Jesus, or more and more like Cain? I trust that you and I are moving in the right direction with the power of the Holy Spirit. And for that opportunity there can be much thanksgiving.

To be forgiven, and to be growing in Christian maturity, now that’s a great way to celebrate Thanksgiving.


Clarke Dixon is a pastor in Cobourg, Ontario, Canada.

Read Clarke Dixon’s blog, Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon.

September 3, 2017

Sunday Worship

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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The first reference to worship in the Bible does not end well. I’m willing to bet the worship wars your church may have experienced never ended quite like this.

Gen 4 (NLT) : 3 When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. 4 Abel also brought a gift—the best of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, 5 but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected.

6 “Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? 7 You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”

8 One day Cain suggested to his brother, “Let’s go out into the fields.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother, Abel, and killed him.


Hebrews 11 (ESV) : 4 By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.

A few years ago our pastor referenced Genesis chapter 4, and as I considered the story of Cain and Abel, I thought it interesting that the first recorded act of worship in scripture ends in murder. It is easy to get caught up in tertiary interpretations of the text, and I don’t for a minute want to suggest that this ‘meat versus vegetables’ distinction is in any way related to our modern ‘hymns versus choruses’ worship wars; I only want to note in passing that the one of mankind’s darkest moments — that murder should enter the story so early on — was preceded by an act of worship.

I thought it best to bring in the heavy artillery here to look at what this passage does say, so I consulted several of my print commentaries.

The Evangelical Commentary on the Bible observes: “Abel is a shepherd and Cain is a farmer. Both brothers bring offerings to the Lord suitable to their vocations. There is no indication in the text that one offering is inferior to the other.” (p. 15)

The Wycliffe Bible Commentary notes: “No reason is given here for the rejection [by the Lord]. And the scripture does not tell us how God indicated his disapproval. It may be that fire fell from heaven and consumed the accepted offering but left the other untouched. Some have thought that Can’s offering was rejected because Cain failed to perform the proper ritual. Others have advanced the idea that the nature of the gifts made the difference — the one being flesh and involving death and bloodshed. (See Heb 9:22) …Because Abel was a man of faith, he came in the right spirit and presented worship that pleased God. We have reason to believe that Abel had some realization of his need for substitutionary atonement. To all appearances both offerings expressed gratitude, thanksgiving and devotion to God. But the man who lacked genuine faith in his heart could not please God even though the material gift was spotless. God did not look upon Cain because He had already looked at him and seen what was in his heart. Abel came to God in the right attitude of heart for worship and in the only way sinful men can approach a Holy God. Cain did not.” (p..9)

The International Bible Commentary states: “We are now introduced to a series of events showing us how quickly the results of The Fall were revealed. As was said in [chapter] 3 [verse] 7, the first effects of sin were seen in the family and it is entirely consistent with this that the first murder is fratricide… No suggestion of previous tension between the brothers is mentioned… [Both sacrifices] were the recognition of Yahweh’s lordship. Both gave of what they had, and so Leupold is certainly correct in saying, ‘Those who see the merit of Abel’s sacrifice in the fact that it was bloody certain do so without the least warrant from the text.'” (pp. 118-119)

The Evangelical Commentary on the Bible continues: “Cain is very angry and his face is downcast. Cain is the first angry and depressed man in the Bible. He should be able, however, to overcome those feelings before they overcome him…” Cain kills Abel in the field… First man fell out of relationship with God. Now he falls out of relationship with his brother. How can Cain love god whom he cannot see, when he cannot love Abel whom he can see?” (p. 15)

Again, I don’t want to get lost in secondary interpretations, but I hope the worship wars in your church never proceed to this level. I hope that what we bring and have to offer to God is brought with right attitudes, right motivation, and according to the standards God has set.

Remember, “Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.


Ps. 19 (CEB) : 14 Let the words of my mouth
and the meditations of my heart
be pleasing to you,
Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

 

October 14, 2016

Searching for the Better Life

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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Now Adam had sexual relations with his wife, Eve, and she became pregnant. When she gave birth to Cain, she said, “With the Lord’s help, I have produced a man!” Later she gave birth to his brother and named him Abel.

When they grew up, Abel became a shepherd, while Cain cultivated the ground. When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. Abel also brought a gift—the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected

…continue reading the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4

Today we pay a return visit to Neal Pollard who is in pastoral ministry in Colorado. Click the title below to read at Preacher Pollard’s Blog.

Better Living 

We find ourselves often bobbing in a sea of religious confusion. Many groups claim to be the best religion and point to their ingredients as reasons for such claims. Several years ago, our boys played basketball in a league hosted by a huge community church in the Denver area.  Their church’s campus includes a K-12 school, two restaurants, a gymnasium half the size of our church building, a coffee shop, and a hundred social program. Other groups would make their claim as “better” or “best” based on their numeric size, the number of programs they have, or how socially active they are.

Our religious attitude ought to be one of humility, which does not boast of our achievements or compare ourselves with others (cf. 2 Cor. 10:12).  Genesis 4 is not just about two kinds of worship, but also about two ways of living life. Cain is mentioned by three Bible writers after Moses introduces him in Genesis. The writer of Hebrews calls Abel’s offering more excellent than his (Heb. 11:4). John calls Cain’s works evil and his allegiance “of the wicked one” (1 Jo. 3:12). Jude implies that the way of Cain is the wrong way to go (11). Let’s make a few brief observations from Genesis four and see if we can find the elements which make for a better way of living today.

  • BETTER LIVING IS NOT DETERMINED BY AGE (1-2).  By birth order, Cain came first. He was the first person to be born in the natural order of childbirth. He was the very first newborn to be held in his mama’s arms. She didn’t realize that her cooing, sweet infant was a future murderer, and she was proud of him. She called him “a man child with the help of the Lord.” This depicts such a bright, optimistic future, and by contrast Scripture says, “Again, she gave birth to his brother, Abel” (2). Abel began in his brother’s shadow, first known to us as “his (Cain’s) brother.”
  • BETTER LIVING IS NOT DETERMINED BY OCCUPATION (2). When we look at these brothers, what they did for a living was not the determiner of the quality of their lives. While what they did had an indirect bearing on the events of this account, the fact of their occupation was spiritually neutral—Cain farmed and Abel tended sheep. One can reap blessings from tilling the ground (Heb. 6:7), but they may have to fight thorns, thistles, and weeds doing it (Gen. 3:18-19). Tending sheep may be done by slaves (Luke 17:17), kings (1 Sam. 17:34), or apostles (John 21:17). God’s pleasure or displeasure was not connected to either’s occupation.
  • BETTER LIVING IS DETERMINED BY WORSHIP (3-4). Moses says both brought an offering to the Lord. He also says God responded to bother offerings, accepting one and rejecting the other. That very notion is foreign to many people in our society today, even those in religion. Many make worship nothing more than taste, preference, and personal inclination. But, Moses shows us (1) Not all worship is equal: God had regard for Abel’s, but not Cain’s. The words “had respect to” signify in Hebrew to look at something with a very serious glance. God tells us how He wants worship done, in attitude and action; (2) The worshipper and the worship rise and fall together: God had regard for Abel AND his offering and did not for Cain AND his offering. That’s a sober reminder for me that my personal relationship with God is hindered or helped based on the way I worship God. Can I offer God vain and ignorant worship, and have God reject it but accept me? We are not earning God’s favor by getting worship right. At the same time, are we tempting God and hoping we stay in His favor while disobeying His commands for worship? People have tried to make this an “either-or” proposition, that Cain and Abel’s offering was either about getting the worship right or was about the nature of the person offering the worship. In other words, is it sincerity or obedience, our both sincerity and obedience? To thoughtfully ask the question is to answer it!
  • BETTER LIVING IS DETERMINED BY ATTITUDE (5-7). Cain reacts to having himself and his worship rejected by God by burning with anger and his face taking on an ugly look. He sounds like a small child in the throes of a tantrum or a teenager huffing and sulking in anger. God warns Cain of the recipe for disaster he was making through his attitude. He told Cain that his tempestuous attitude was an invitation for sin to pounce on him, but He told him he could master it! You can have a positive attitude without prosperity, education, or earthly success, but you cannot have a positive attitude without mastering self.
  • BETTER LIVING IS DETERMINED BY ACTION (8-16). Improper worship and attitude preceded and precipitated improper action. The first time “sin” is used (Gen. 4:7), God was looking ahead with perfect foresight to what Cain would do to his brother. He does the unthinkable, killing his own brother (cf. 1 Jo. 3:11-15). His deeds and ways were a recipe for disaster: He is rebuked by God, punished by God, and separated from God. Sin promises a good time and fulfillment, but it’s not true.

It’s been said that the lineage of Cain gave us murder, cities, polygamy, musicians, metal workers and poetry, but not one who walked with God! Thanks to his legacy, a descendant repeats his violent ways (Gen. 4:23). Abel seems to leave no physical lineage, but he still speaks after death. His was a life of faith, generosity, good works, righteousness, and obedience. We get to choose the kind of life we want to pursue. If we choose well, we will be satisfied, others will be blessed, and God will be pleased.

 

 

 

December 9, 2012

The First Worship Wars, Sort Of…

Gen 4 (NLT) : 3 When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. Abel also brought a gift—the best of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected.

“Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”

One day Cain suggested to his brother, “Let’s go out into the fields.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother, Abel, and killed him.


Hebrews 11 (ESV) : 4 By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.

This morning our pastor referenced Genesis chapter 4, and as I considered the story of Cain and Abel, I thought it interesting that the first recorded act of worship in scripture ends in murder. It is easy to get caught up in tertiary interpretations of the text, and I don’t for a minute want to suggest that this ‘meat versus vegetables’ distinction is in any way related to our modern ‘hymns versus choruses’ worship wars; I only want to note in passing that the one of mankind’s darkest moments — that murder should enter the story so early on — was preceded by an act of worship.

I thought it best to bring in the heavy artillery here to look at what this passage does say, so I consulted several of my print commentaries.

The Evangelical Commentary on the Bible observes: “Abel is a shepherd and Cain is a farmer. Both brothers bring offerings to the Lord suitable to their vocations. There is no indication in the text that one offering is inferior to the other.” (p. 15)

The Wycliffe Bible Commentary notes: “No reason is given here for the rejection [by the Lord]. And the scripture does not tell us how God indicated his disapproval. It may be that fire fell from heaven and consumed the accepted offering but left the other untouched. Some have thought that Can’s offering was rejected because Cain failed to perform the proper ritual. Others have advanced the idea that the nature of the gifts made the difference — the one being flesh and involving death and bloodshed. (See Heb 9:22) …Because Abel was a man of faith, he came in the right spirit and presented worship that pleased God. We have reason to believe that Abel had some realization of his need for substitutionary atonement. To all appearances both offerings expressed gratitude, thanksgiving and devotion to God. But the man who lacked genuine faith in his heart could not please God even though the material gift was spotless. God did not look upon Cain because He had already looked at him and seen what was in his heart. Abel came to God in the right attitude of heart for worship and in the only way sinful men can approach a Holy God. Cain did not.” (p..9)

The International Bible Commentary states: “We are now introduced to a series of events showing us how quickly the results of The Fall were revealed. As was said in [chapter] 3 [verse] 7, the first effects of sin were seen in the family and it is entirely consistent with this that the first murder is fratricide… No suggestion of previous tension between the brothers is mentioned… [Both sacrifices] were the recognition of Yahweh’s lordship. Both gave of what they had, and so Leupold is certainly correct in saying, ‘Those who see the merit of Abel’s sacrifice in the fact that it was bloody certain do so without the least warrant from the text.'” (pp. 118-119)

The Evangelical Commentary on the Bible continues: “Cain is very angry and his face is downcast. Cain is the first angry and depressed man in the Bible. He should be able, however, to overcome those feelings before they overcome him…” Cain kills Abel in the field… First man fell out of relationship with God. Now he falls out of relationship with his brother. How can Cain love god whom he cannot see, when he cannot love Abel whom he can see?” (p. 15)

Again, I don’t want to get lost in secondary interpretations, but I hope the worship wars in your church never proceed to this level. I hope that what we bring and have to offer to God is brought with right attitudes, right motivation, and according to the standards God has set. Remember, “Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”


Ps. 19 (CEB) : 14 Let the words of my mouth
and the meditations of my heart
be pleasing to you,
Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

~ pw