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...

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....

What about differences?

The political and social upheaval that is going on in the United States can give great insights into what each of us, as followers of Jesus, are clinging to for significance and hope. Paul wrote something to the Galatian church that applies to our context: There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. – Galatians 3:28 The ways that the world uses to judge significance and valued are meaningless in the Kingdom that Jesus founded. So using race to justify power, entitlement, or worth is not part of the way a follower of Jesus should be living their life. Using economic status (see James 2) or nationality or education level or gender to ascribe worth, meaning, or purpose is contrary to the gospel that Jesus left us. This gospel is one of repentance and forgiveness for those in Christ. Segregation, self-justification, and unforgiveness are hallmarks of the world’s political, economic, and social systems. For, if someone from the other party has political power, that makes them an impediment to something you need and thus the enemy. Their actions are unforgiveable or have no rationalization. The same can be said with any identity based outside of Christ. Sadly, as I check twitter and facebook, more and more what I see of both left and right leaning Christians is the adoption of the narratives of the world. If you are spending more time checking for and outraged by the sliver in your brother or sister’s eye, then you likely have adopted a political or economic...

Gain Perspective. Live Well.

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