What Are You Offering?

Genesis four says that God accepted Abel’s offering and rejected Cain’s. And much has been made about the fact that no real reason seems to be given for this rejection. Abel attended flocks while Cain worked the soil. Some have tried to read into this a reason for God’s preference. Among those that I have read: Abel offered the first portions and Cain did not give his best. God clearly wants an animal sacrifice. God is not capricious or random, he makes his ways known when we are to obey. We are not told any stipulations God placed on the offering, so that conclusion seems uncalled for. God prefers shepherds to farmers. The idea that God has the ability to choose whom he wants to choose. Using this situation as a basis for election seems without basis. We long so much for cause and effect. If I do this one thing or this series of steps, then God will accept us. This is simply a way to manipulate God and get what we want. God offers his love and grace before any of us obey. The same is true with Cain and Abel. Although expelled from the garden, they were living under God‘s grace. Maybe the truth is that we’re not told what is wrong with the offering because there wasn’t anything wrong with it. Both of the offering brought by Abel and Cain are described by the same word (minha) with no apparent difference. The key to this issue of the offering is found in Cain’s response. “Why are you angry?” God asks Cain. God’s disapproval becomes a...

Making Time

One obstacle that I experience (and that I hear described to me frequently) in developing a disciplined discipleship relationship with Jesus is the factor of time. How does one “make time?” This is the corollary to the statement “I would pray more (or read the Bible more or serve more) if I just had more time.” The answer to the question “how does one make time?” is pretty simple: you don’t. None of us is able to fabricate more hours in a day. All of us get the same 24. What we really mean by this question is “I’m already involved in things I like or I find necessary, how do I add time with Jesus?” Examples abound. We like to binge watch Netflix. We might like to get in a round of golf with friends after work. We may like the money working overtime brings. We may like the new car we are driving so must work more to support that. Right away you might be throwing up resistance. “I can’t have fun?” “I can’t have leisure?” “I can’t earn income?” Resistance means that this is hitting the target. I’m not saying those aren’t things worth liking or that we shouldn’t engage in recreation. (Ours is the problem of gorging on recreation and entertainment.) But, do you like Jesus more? This is the very real question that Jesus asked Peter. One thing about Jesus that cannot be denied is that He asked for preeminence in our lives. He has earned it. Being a disciple means to be shaped by his presence. We must sit in his presence. All...

Going Away Sad

Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. – Mark 10:21-22 Our souls crave wholeness. Within us, at the core of our desires we know there is something more. That is why a man described as having “great wealth” was found running up to Jesus, falling at his feet, and begging to know what was the “something more” he needed. Knowing what is within all of us, Jesus does tell the man what the one thing is. As you can read in the passage above, Jesus focused on the misalignment of the man’s heart. This person at the feet of Jesus had his identity and dignity rooted in his wealth. Unwilling to release his grip on his financials, the man went away sad. All of us sense there is more. This hunger expresses itself as loneliness, anxiety, exhaustion, stress, inadequacy, etc. These are the symptoms that we attempt to relieve. The attitude that this man had is within all of us. Growing as disciples requires us to develop an ever deepening awareness of what we are clinging to besides Jesus. Jesus treats us in the same way. He shines the mirror on us and says “you want _______________ more than you want me.” And you may be going away sad saying “why can’t I have both?” We can fill in that blank with almost anything: relationships, sex, money, work, raising kids, leisure, power, church...

Making Preparations

Last weekend, I had the privilege of speaking at a church in the Daytona Beach area. At the front of the meeting room they had the four candles of advent. Advent means “coming” and each week reflects on and builds anticipation for the one those who follow Jesus are waiting for. Together we lit the candle for the second week – the week that focuses on preparation. Christmas is the perfect season for evaluating our lives in Christ. As the world bustles along putting their hope in external things such as gifts and family and parties, we can gauge if we are hoping in anything different or not. So in this week of preparation, here are some questions to consider… For whom are you preparing? Isaiah 9:6 gives all of us a picture of the One we are preparing for… For to us a child is born,     to us a son is given,     and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called     Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,     Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Our tendency is to focus on the child being born. Baby Jesus in the manger. This is important, of course, and is the physical sign of God’s love for us and the vulnerability and humility He demonstrated in the great lengths gone to in order to come to us. But that is not where Jesus remained. This child is also a son – a term tapping into his royalty. This baby is meant to be king. The clear picture of this son is given by his throne names: Wonderful Counselor – this king is going to be a...

Our Forgetful Self

We have been created in the image of God. We are also to live in that image, keeping our eyes turned toward HIm for renewal and reminder of what our true identity is. But, we are forgetful creatures. Our identity leaks, and so often we are lead astray by a world that focuses on “what have you done for me lately” as proof of loyalty. As a result, our eyes look elsewhere for our sense of identity to be filled; looking to roles, results, and relationships to define who we are and why we matter. God knows about our propensity toward pride; it is not a mystery to Him. That is why in the Bible, there are repeated commands to ‘remember’. If we are going to take captive our thoughts and create a narrative of truth about who God is and who we are, we must commit to remembrance. This is an intentional discipline and requires repeated practice. In order to deny our self, we have to affirm God. Here are some suggestions to practice the discipline of remembrance: Recall what God has done. Take time to reflect. Maybe this becomes a daily occurrence of examen, noting how you noticed God working in that day. Or maybe it is a time of quiet meditation on your history. God is at work in all our lives. You are following Jesus for a reason, put yourself back in that time and remember why. On those days when your circumstances are trying to drive a wedge between you and God, remember Jesus. His life was given for you. It all starts there....

Do You Sabbath?

Do you take the time to enjoy a Sabbath? I am going to guess that you don’t. Even among those who follow Christ, taking the time to rest, be still, and be quiet is approached with a stigma. Those who do not keep busy are seen as: Lazy Wasting time Letting the world get ahead Not being productive Old fashioned Legalistic If I truly believe that my identity is not tied to the things I accomplish, then I’d be willing to stop accomplishing for Sabbath. When identity is confused with productivity, it is difficult to trust that God is pleased with you when you rest. Through this lens, Sabbath is seen as an inconvenience. Here are Jesus’ words on intentionally pausing: Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” – Mark 2:27-28 In order to justify our busy lifestyles, the tendency in looking at these verses is to focus on “not man for the Sabbath.” These are Jesus’ words to the religious leaders about finding one’s worth in legalistically following rules rather than the good things of God. Let’s not overlook the beginning of that statement – “The Sabbath was made for man.” Our ability to intentionally stop is a gift. It is necessary for us to function as we were designed. Slaves don’t get a chance to rest. Sabbath is an expression of our freedom. Sabbath is not a time of nothingness, but a time of connection. It is a time for us to be reminded that God’s love is not based on the world’s...

Gain Perspective. Live Well.

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