2. Abel: A Better Offering

Hebrews 11:4–By faith, a better offering Abel offered to God than Cain, through which he gained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks.

Image result for cain and abel
Photo credit: ancient-hebrew.org

Two sons were born to our first parents: Cain the firstborn, and Abel the second. We are told that they gave offerings to the Lord of which the Lord liked Abel’s better than Cain, but we are not told why God liked Abel’s offering better than Cain’s. I do believe the limited detail of Genesis 4 does offer a clue as to why God regarded Abel’s offering.

Genesis 4:3 It happened at the end of days, that Cain brought to God from the fruit of the ground his offering, but Abel brought to God from the first born of his flocks and their fat portions.

Some principles from this text is that Abel’s offering was better because he gave God the best of the best, because he believed God was the best of the best. Cain offered from the fruit of the ground, a common gift, an earthy gift. But Abel sought to give the best of what he had, and the best part of that thing.

This particular offering communicated something about God. What did Abel communicate about God through his offering that Cain did NOT communicate in his? Simply this: God is the best of the best, and deserves the best of the best.

A gift that a man gives God is a visible description of the invisible God. And when a man gives a gift that worthy of God, then God is able to attest to all witnesses that his gift is a right gift. If he had regarded Cain’s offering, he would have accepted a low rank of a common soldier from the gift of a man who did not master the corruption that was within him, but He regarded Abel’s offering and thereby he attested to all witnesses that Abel was righteous.

What does this look like today? Many treat God as a common household trophy: a glorious symbol of somebody to depend on when you need to reference the supernatural, but never more important than yourself, or your family, or everything in your own life. Such a view of God, such a treatment of God like drivel is like unto Cain’s offering.

However, there are others who see that the very best of their lives is the only thing that is close to worthy of God. To give it to themselves or to another would be simply ludicrous, because God is the One who deserves it. And while God has given us all things to enjoy, it is not the truest good for us to enjoy the best, because we are merely images of God, rather than the one who is truly good.

This offering of what is truly Good to God, is the better offering: and it is only possible by faith. Faith recognizes:

God alone is worthy of our greatest gifts, and the life of faith is lived where God truly is the most important person in the relationship.

This is what the blood of Abel still speaks, and also what moves Cain to jealousy today. Those who live spiritually mediocre lives envy the favor of God upon the ones who are regarded by Him as righteous. And all the while the answer is found in what God says to Cain, “If you do what is good, will not your face be lifted up, but if not, sin seeks to have you, but you must master it.

O the glory of having God Himself attest to your righteousness– that you actually serve Him rightly. Such a testimony is only the acquisition of faith which sees God for who he really is before it actually lays eyes on Him.

Application:

  1. Today, take stock of the most important things in your life: requirements, and enjoyments, and find a way to give God the best of each simply because He is worthy of it. Example: If TV is your greatest enjoyment, converse with God about a way you can use your TV time to please him: whether by spending time doing something else, or by watching a particular TV show He lead you to, or by moving something else up in the value chain.
  2. Repent of the areas where you have given God the crumbs instead of the main course. Areas where your love of God grows cold in comparison to what it once was. Example: You go to church, and while you’re there, you are thinking about what else you could be doing right now.
  3. Spend time earnestly trying to figure out what is actually pleasing to him: Is He pleased when you sing? Is he pleased when you work with your hands? Is he pleased when you are still and silent? Is he pleased when you read the Bible? What do you do that makes you feel his pleasure?
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“To a Mature Man”: Stage 7– Justice

Dear brother,

– – Recently, I saw someone post on facebook that they didn’t believe the Church should be a platform for social justice. I can agree with this on one point as was discussed in the previous post: the Christian must avoid using God’s power to fight battles that are not God’s Kingdom battles. On another point, I disagree. The church should be the example of real justice under the One True Judge of all humanity. This idea of justice being the next stage beyond Spirit-empowered Service, has much that needs to be said about it:

  • The Biblical concept of Justice
  • The Activeness of Injustice
  • Jesus’ example
  • The Church’s Pattern
  • Application

BIBLICAL JUSTICE

It is rather unfortunate in many modern congregations at which I have attended, in popular musicals, and even popular music on the Radio, that Justice is derogated while Mercy is praised. It seems that Justice has come to mean, “rigid adherence to rules at the expense of people’s true benefit.” I am appalled at the misunderstanding, and find it rooted in a misapprehension of the Biblical meaning of Justice.

In the Bible Justice, as the Bible Project explains in their video on Justice, is “Retributive and Restorative.” That means that the purpose of Justice is to restore people’s dignity and right standing before God and man. This idea of Justice continues into the New Testament as a people of God are constantly identifying with the poor, weak, and oppressed and treating them as people made in God’s image. This idea has been lost in many Christian circles, but as anyone who has been wronged will tell you, it is vital to the Church’s mission.

Because of what happened in the Garden, we now have two forms of Justice: God’s Justice, and Man’s Justice. These two are split because of sin, and that split is the cause of all the conflicts we see in the world today. To stand for Justice means to stand for the Kingdom of God systemically and diametrically and fundamentally contrary to the system of sinful man’s justice. It is calling humanity to submit to God’s justice and do that justice to their fellow man.

It was this Justice which Israel was neglecting when they got away from the Torah after David and Solomon’s reign. They entered into greater, and greater injustice though the prophet cried out to them, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Preserve justice and do righteousness, For My salvation is about to come And My righteousness to be revealed.” Isaiah 56:1

THE ACTIVENESS OF INJUSTICE

And Man’s justice is riddled with injustice in the world today. This isn’t simply because of a lack of good, but it is due to evil people using their power for themselves, to build their own kingdoms on the back of those who lose much in the process. This is a justice taken out of God’s hands and placed into the hands of sinful men.

The reason why this stage comes later than Service, is because Service is an advance of God’s kingdom in smaller ways, which accomplishes a pillaging of the Kingdom of Darkness. A domination of the Kingdom of Darkness will require a more thorough dealing with the roots of the problems and binding the strong men that caused people to be spiritually and physically bound in the first place.

This justice can only be achieved by taking a stand directly against the ones who are causing the injustice. God’s justice vs. man’s justice.

JESUS’ EXAMPLE

Jesus faced the ones who had usurped their power and authority to leave people physically and spiritually impoverished: The religious leaders. Just read the woes against them in Matthew 23.

  • They keep people out of God’s Kingdom.
  • They have gotten people’s eyes on things of man rather than things of God.
  • They neglected the weightier provisions of the Law, Justice, Mercy, and Faithfulness.
  • They outwardly looked good while inwardly were greedy and wicked.
  • They claim allegiance to God, but put his servants to death.

They have changed God’s justice for a system of man’s justice. And when Jesus spoke these things, the Pharisees tried their own subtle tactics of power-bending. “Let us try to catch him in something he might say.” We see this episode unfold in Matthew 22.

Just as Jesus was in the wilderness and tested in three ways, so now, once again he is tested in three different areas. Indeed it was the three tests he had already faced and conquered that prepared him for this one.

  1. Political. Should we pay taxes to Ceasar or not? Here Jesus is given the question of whether or not he will submit to the rule of a fallen man, and council others to do the same. Jesus masterfully handled this by reminding the people and the Pharisees that they were to recognize the high authority of Ceasar, and the HIGHEST Authority of God who had stamped his image and name on his people. God’s Justice supreme to man’s justice.
  2. Theological. Misunderstandings about God cause debates. The debate in Luke 20 was about Resurrection and Marriage, and Jesus corrected their thinking in both instances by going back to the character of the One, and how he made what he made. Who is the God and what is His Character? You must submit all theology to the One who truly is God, and include Him in the conversation.
  3. Scriptural. Then the Lawyer asked him what the greatest commandment was, and quite interestingly, he combines the love for God and the love for neighbor, which is the fulfillment of the whole Torah. This is the Justice of God: to Love your neighbor. A far cry from man’s justice. This is the Kingdom of God coming in relationship with each other.

Jesus counselled the people listening to him in this way in Luke 20,

46 “Beware of these teachers of religious law! For they like to parade around in flowing robes and love to receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces. And how they love the seats of honor in the synagogues and the head table at banquets. 47 Yet they shamelessly cheat widows out of their property and then pretend to be pious by making long prayers in public. Because of this, they will be severely punished.”

THE CHURCH’S PATTERN

And so, we have people who submit to God’s rule and God’s Justice–the Church, and we have those who operate according to Man’s Rule and man’s justice. The church does not deny that there is a rule of humanity under God. It’s that the rule is under God that is so important. In stage 7, a believer must operate according to the rule of God, and oppose, and speak against the rule of man which hinder’s God’s justice from being done.

This will mean not just pillaging the villages of the conquest of man’s injustice by healing, preaching, casting out demons, and serving, but also going to the Capital City of the Authorities who are not submitted to the rule of God. As Jesus opposed the religious leaders’ rebellion against God politically, theologically, and judicially, so Paul the Apostle went the whole way to the highest authority in the land, the Emperor. Paul is an example of one who went all the way to stage 7, by seeking to right the Kingdom of Darkness back under the rule of the King of Light.

The Church also must operate under this same directive, but not without the Spirit’s power. The pitfall to avoid in this stage is Appeasement. This means submitting to the Kingdom of Man in a way that prevents a supernatural spread of the Spirit’s work in the world.

One example of this in the secular arena can be seen in Tom Clancy’s Clear and Present Danger, when Jack Ryan goes all the way to the President of the United States and shows the president how crooked he is. How does the ruler respond? With submission to what is truly right and just? No, but with flattery, threats, and attempts at appeasement. First he says, “You’re not going to tell on me. You’ve got a chip in the big game now, You’re gonna tuck that away for a day when your a– is on the line, and I’m going to cash it in for you.” This tactic does not succeed, and in the second attack he basically says, “You can’t do this to America. America can’t afford another scandal right now. They’ll more readily blame you than they will blame me.” And Jack does not bite. Third, “And the rest of the blame will fall on [your honored friend] Greer.” Personal, Self-interest, National interest . . . it is the way of the powers of the world to threaten, manipulate, obligate, and enslave: all to keep the system of man’s rule in tact, without submitting to God’s rule, justice, and authority. As the President in the story called it, “The Potomac Two-Step.” But the Christian who would seek to grow up to full maturity, and the church who would fully live out their calling, must say, just as the protagonist Jack Ryan said, “Sorry, Mr. President. I don’t dance.”

APPLICATION

  1. Disentangle oneself. If the Christian is to be effective for the Kingdom, he must be humble, taught, filled, proved, commissioned, accomplished, and finally disentangled from the boundaries of the Justice of Man, which even find pigeon-holes for “church.” While many churches enjoy the small territory the government of man gives them, the government continues to perpetuate problems of injustice in society. If, however, God’s people, empowered by the Holy Spirit can function without the support of protection of the government, the government will have no control over it.
  2. Submit to the governing authorities. This may seem contradictory to the first application, but it is necessary to maintain the order God ordains. (Romans 13:1-7) The rulers of man, may be disobedient to their master, but we must obey them, so long as we can through obeying them obey our master in Heaven. Justice is not about doing away with man’s rule, but rather re-establishing man’s rule in submission to God’s rule.
  3. As rulers and authorities come against the Christian, they must avoid the pitfall of appeasement by not heeding their threats. Here indeed, Jesus’ words to his disciples whom he sends out are key. “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” This is the Christian’s call to Stand for Justice.
  4. Call forth the leaders of the rulers of men to submit to God’s rule, but do so in this way. Jesus continued in Matthew 10:18-20.

You will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles[Nations]. But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.

Thus shall the people of God do, who earnestly pray that God’s rule come as it is in Heaven so also upon the earth.

The Sun of God’s Love

How bright the Sun is shining always!
It keeps the earth alive, renewed.
That even when the storms are raging,
And thunder rolls like hammers crude,

Still constant burns life-giving love
To sift the seasons of our souls,
And storms that rage against our surface,
Cannot deny this central truth:

He is mighty in the open sky
The heavens round him circle,
That when it’s gone, small evidence’s fly
And dazzle the eye with new emotion.

The weight of glory bends all time
To circle us around his globe
That we being pulled in the vortex of God’s love
May sustainably run across the empty universe.

The planets wobble and shatter to asteroids,
Still the Sun remains.
Though the world fall to pieces and all life crash down,
Still God’s love will keep us in orbit.

The darkness of night, and the shadows of storms
Beat against the surface with its bitter cold,
Still there is a love beyond our own making
Which holds the life for a thousand worlds.

How majestic and radiant the love of God!
It changes the very nature of the heavens,
It casts its generous heat all around,
And only a fraction reaches this planet.

Eclipses cannot Eclipse the weight of his glory,
And the Sun is but a shape.
In contrast God’s love takes all shapes
And makes them good according to his purpose.

O love of God, all life is in you,
How can I but rejoice in your light.
Apart from you I die,
I cannot see, nor can I feel.

But all this I rejoice that You, O God,
Have given me many ways to see it.
Forgive my stubbornness to be blind
And my fear which does not trust how good You are.

I’ve Glimpsed Him. (Scoffer’s Response)

If you have seen Him, please tell me about Him.

You already know about Him. You have already heard much about Him. You do not need me to tell you about Him. What you need is to see Him for yourself. I can describe the effect of seeing Him, on my heart what’s left of it. I can point to the scars on my body where I have been branded for the Lord’s service. I can point out to you the truths and glimpses of Him that you can see if only you had the heart, but as it stands now, your heart is like heavy lidded eyes. And you would not see Him, even if He stood before you. It is not those who see who have the heart, it is those who have the heart who see.

Fine, so describe him.

Holy.
Related, dissimilar.
More familiar than anyone or anything.
Utterly overpoweringly enormous.
In his presence, all life within me surges to my breaking point.
I die, and come back only if He brings me, but remolded in fire.
Words are like clumsy children.
Trying to grasp with hands what’s too big.
He is good and kind.
Terrifying.

Is that all?

It is an honest and true drop from the ocean for you.

How about another “drop”?

There will be not even one drop for the tongue to cool you where you are going.

Come now, if this God should wish to reveal Himself to me, He should come and show Himself. 

Your judgments are like the reasoning of a small child telling his parent why he should get a bigger allowance. What have you done with the little of what God has given you? You do not value one drop, why should you be given more? You aim only to cast off and ridicule your Maker and your King because your proud heart has not submitted to His rule.

You claim to know a lot about me. Did “God” tell you this, or are you just speculating?

The fool has said in his heart “There is no God.” I do address you, as I address myself, because I too in my folly wish to say there is no God. I do not claim power or understanding, only acquaintance with the One who is more worthy than I to wield the power.

You’re stalling. I want you to show me God right now.

Do you not see?

No, I don’t see Him.

*silence*

Well?

*silence*

See? You can’t show me God. You claim to have seen God, but you can’t even prove that he’s real.

For whose judgment?

What do you mean?

You want me to show God so that God can be subject to your scrutiny. God does not submit to human scrutiny when the heart is proud. He is the one sitting in the judgment seat. You are being warned by one who has seen Him. HE is judge. He is going to condemn all sinners, except those who turn back to serve Him.

You are claiming a reality that has no basis in our reality. All you say is conjecture.

You can judge whatever you wish, but your judgment will be confined to a temporary life and a limited consciousness. There is a Judge who rules over all, and will repay everyone according to their deeds.

Thanks for the warning. I’ll believe it when I see it.

The sight of God will do one of two things to people: It will either utterly consume them so that they perish if there is only wickedness in their heart, or it will shatter them and all that will remain is what belongs to Him.

Interesting thoughts. I don’t care to live my life any differently.

By your own judgment, you either approve or condemn your own life. I could resort to the ways of the world to show you have fallacious your judgment is, but that will only point out the error in your logic, and the fruitlessness of your reasoning. Remember then this final thing, “God stands against the proud, but he shows favor to the humble.” May God save you from your own pride, or there will be no one to save you when He comes to requisition you.

Vision: God and the Scientist

I saw a man in a grey room typing at his keyboard. He was sitting in front of a computer, but his head I couldn’t see, except for a black square to mark out one whose face I could not see. He was a scientist. He was doing research on something.

I realized that he is being fed misinformation by those who do not acknowledge God, and who become foolish in their dark hearts.

And suddenly I knew. The answer is not better teaching.

The answer is God Himself intervening in the life of this scientist to bring Him to the knowledge of the Truth of Himself, in which all science is appropriated.

And as the Kingdom of Heaven latches onto him and lays hold. He passionately shares his findings and his way of thinking winsomely to the people in the scientific community.

Slowly the teaching in Science is changed back to a wisdom that advances the causes of science far into the reaches of unknown space. The galaxies were explored at greater depth. The human genome. The arch-robin and finches of the Galapagos are not classified separately anymore. A piece of flesh is sold in the marketplace for more tissue cells than ever before.

The Lord spoke to the scientist and he heard Him. He spoke and began to work wonders in his midst. A Christian who knew God but man knew not healed a nurse in a hospital.

How did you do that? “You ask because you will not believe. Ask and you will believe.” said the old man.

The scientist read his Bible and began to pray, and God found in his heart a pure passionate fire to live for him. The seed of rebirth was born in his heart, and flowered in living salvation. He began to speak to others about the revelation he found which was a light bulb to all his scientific teachings in darkness.

This is all I saw.

Interpretation: I believe it is the only answer to true salvation of the scientific community. God has to personally intervene. You who complain that the teaching must be better, and groan under the weight of misinformation called fact, and limited perspective called exhaustive, just take heart. All it takes is God intervening, and He will intervene in answer to the cry of His people, and He will remember His new Covenant in Jesus Christ. He is the Savior. Science is not the answer. Jesus truly is the answer, because only when God Himself intervenes to save, do we see the lasting powerful change and know in our hearts the goodness of God.

 

The Parable of the Dandelion: The Gospel in the Old and New Testaments

Old and New Testament

The Bible Gospel is like the dandelion.
In the Old Covenant the Gospel blossomed showing God’s goodness in His people
Whose radiance and scent were meant to draw all nations to God’s good salvation.
In the Gospels He shows His glory and Beloved He was questing for in Jesus Christ
Whose pedals stripped, and  whose seed came forth unto eternal life for the many
In the New Covenant the Gospel seeded, for the Holy Spirit to blow to all people
So that the whole world may be filled with the knowledge of the Glory of God.
It’s the same God, the same Gospel, and the same seeding, flowering plant.
This is merely a pot to help locate, cherish and nurture its growth.


Two Woodcarvers: A Fairy Tale

Once there were two woodcarvers who lived in a magical forest. In this magical forest, the trees were of a very special kind of wood: when they were crafted correctly, they came to life, with the exact characteristics of the woodcarver who made them. Now, one woodcarver was a very careless woodcarver, and he found a patch of many trees, and he chopped them all down, and he dragged the tallest one away through the bushes, thorns, and briars; and by the time he had gotten his timber to his house, the log had been scratched, battered, and bruised. He split the logs, and set about to make his carving: a little puppet designed after himself. He cut out the torso, the limbs, the head, and he sanded out all the rough places, and set it up in his shop on a stage. The doll came to life, and stood on its feet. But the dummy did not take long before he too had an ax in his wooden hand, and started hacking away carelessly at every wooden thing in sight like the table and then the chair! The woodcarver grew very angry and hated his creation the more he destroyed everything he made. Finally, this woodcarver took his creation, and thrust him into the fire, where the doll shriveled up and became embers. He looked around and saw nothing but destruction and he was very unhappy.

The other woodcarver was not like this one. He walked through the forest eye-ing each tree. He took his time, and picked not the tallest, nor the stoutest, but the one that would be the most suitable. He finally found it, and took great care as his ax struck the tree near the ground—being very careful not to harm any of the other living things around him. Once he had felled the tree, he looked at it with eyes full of care, and lay down a blanket, and wrapped the wood around in it, so it wouldn’t be harmed by the bushes, thorns, and briars. Carefully, and painstakingly, he brought it back to his shop, where he set it up, and began his carving: a doll designed after himself. He split the logs, he cut out the torso, the limbs, the head, and he sanded out all the rough places, and set up his creation on the stage. Just as before, the doll came to life and stood on its feet. But did this dummy take an ax and start destroying everything in sight? No. Instead, he stared at his maker with wooden eyes full of care, and he took the blanket his master had wrapped him in, and wrapped it around his maker’s shoulders. And the woodcarver loved his creation, and they worked together to make more of them. And the maker was very happy.