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...

Wholeness and Expectations of God

We live in a world that view wholeness as circumstantial. In place of the word wholeness, we have learned to substitute happiness or comfort. So, being complete is not a state of being, but rather an emotional state. When we bring this view into our relationship with Jesus who is the source of our wholeness, we then place the mantle of responsibility for our circumstances upon his shoulders. In our minds the shift may be subtle or not so subtle. If Jesus loves me, then the things in my life should be ok; everything should work out fine. Whether we apply to mindset to parenting, our jobs, healing, addiction, the state of our relational life, the growth of our church or ministry, etc., we have made our devotion completely conditional. In return for our faithfulness, we expect God to restore our circumstances so that we can be happy. Instead of conforming to the image of Christ, we would rather add Jesus to who we already are. Just enough Jesus sprinkled in to make things work out. But, what happens when things don’t ‘work out’? How do we respond when Jesus does not enable our false sense of identity? Frustration with God. Accusing God of withholding what we know is best for us. This may lead to an epic wrestling match with God for control. Questioning God’s presence. We pray for band-aids. God does not enable our false self. Many times what we deem unanswered prayer is God leading us to a deeper awareness. Living in anxiety. If my circumstances are not changing or something bad does happen, does that mean...

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...

Hating this Life

Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. – John 12:25 As Jesus is preparing his disciples for his upcoming sacrifice and resurrection, he describes what a follower of his looks like. Like a grain of wheat, that must fall to the ground and die in order to bear fruit. A follower of the Christ must be willing do die to the false self in order to begin to experience the blessing of new life. We must all be willing to go through the same Paschal transformation in this life that Jesus stepped into through the cross. But within this passage, Jesus also uses a contrast between one who loves his life and one who hates his life in this world. He likens the grain of wheat that dies to one who hates his life in this world. What does it mean to hate this life? Is it a sin to enjoy a sunset? To delight in a good meal? Look forward to sexual intimacy with our spouse? Does this teaching mean we are to avoid things that are pleasurable? Must the one who follows Christ become an ascetic – abstaining from all forms of pleasure or enjoyment? Historically, this is just what some have done. Practicing asceticism, moving to the wilderness, living in isolation and in intentionally hard circumstances to avoid enjoyment. Yet, we see a lot of this in our churches too. Not that it would be called asceticism, but those whose mindset is that to experience happiness is spiritual weakness. But Judaism is filled with...

Creating a Mindset of Gratitude

It is December. It is the Christmas season. As the song says, it is the most wonderful time of the year! But, it is also the busiest. It can be the most stressful. The most expensive. And the most disappointing. If this is indeed the most wonderful time of the year, should we be feeling more gratitude? At Christmas we celebrate the Gift that God gave to the world. Out of His love, God gave everything He had. That seems to be cause for thankfulness. Busyness, debt,  disappointment, and much of our stress comes from trying to gain a sense of worth from things apart from God: Saying yes to all the commitments. Buying impressive presents. Portraying the happy image. (For the church leader, having more people at this year’s church service than last year’s.) Gratitude takes discipline. One of the ways our brains have be designed to function is the more you look for something, the more you will find it. For example, if you believe people will ultimately disappoint you, then you will process everything though that lens. Another example, if you perceive that people disrespect you, then you will see your interactions through that lens. Thus, the more your mind is set on being grateful, the more things to be grateful for you will see. Growing in your identity in Christ enables more gratitude. When you are not dependent upon roles, relationships, or results for a sense of self, you can be grateful for what God has placed in your life – not what you feel is missing. When your lens is no longer clouded by...

I’ll Be Happy When…

I will admit to you that for a long time I had a problem being present in my life. What I mean is that I was always looking to the next thing, feeling like I would be fully satisfied at the next milestone. For example, when I knew I wanted to pursue vocational ministry, my mindset became “I’ll be happy when I work in a church.” Then I worked part-time, so the mindset became “I’ll be happy when I can work in the church full time.” When that happened, the mindset changed to “I’ll be satisfied when I’m a top tier leader.” On and on it goes. Always hoping for the next thing. Not celebrating, not being grateful, but continually longing. I see this all around me: The church leader that will feel settled when their church crosses that elusive attendance barrier. The woman who will feel content when she has her first (or another child). The person who claims satisfaction will be found in earning just a few thousand dollars more per year. Continually looking to the horizon for a sense of significance and identity will cause you to stray from the narrow path. When you are not present, you will… suffer from insecurity (what if the next milestone never happens?) live in scarcity (what happens if I lose what I do have?) create division (why did someone else get what I deserve?) After I burned out and subsequently began to develop my identity in Christ, I began to understand that the inability to be present – to be always longing for something else – was a symptom...

Gain Perspective. Live Well.

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