A More Excellent Sacrifice

By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks to us today (Hebrews 11:4).

Like parents today, Adam and Eve shared everything they knew with their children. Certainly they re-told the story of God’s creation, the beauties of the Garden of Eden, their fellowship with God, their act of rebellion against Him, the consequences of their sin, and God’s provision of forgiveness through the sacrifice of an innocent substitute. Surely Cain and Abel knew from their parents that approaching God was possible by only one means.

We learn in Genesis 4:2-7 that Cain offered a sacrifice to God from the ground, something he planted, labored over, and cultivated with his own effort. He went through the motions of a ritual, bringing his self-produced offering to the Lord, full of his own work, absent of any faith in God’s provision alone.

Abel, however, brought the blood sacrifice of an innocent animal, his faith leaping across the centuries to touch the cross, the only sacrifice God would accept. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering (Genesis 4:4).

Cain trusted in himself; Abel trusted in God. Cain’s sacrifice was bloodless; Abel’s was the life of an innocent substitute. Cain gave of his own labor; Abel, by faith, accepted the death of another in his place. Angry that God did not respect Cain and his offering, Cain killed Abel (Genesis 4:5, 8).

These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name (John 20:31).


God Was Lonely

god-was-lonelyGod was lonely, so He created man. He needed someone to love, and to be loved in return. At least that’s what I grew up thinking. The Bible tells a different story.

The Bible doesn’t say that Adam was lonely in the Garden of Eden, just alone (Genesis 2:18, 20) in that there was not yet another creature among all of the animals comparable with Adam. On the 6th day, God also created Eve so humanity could fulfill God’s command to be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it (Genesis 1:28).

Likewise, the Bible doesn’t say that God felt all alone and created man to fill His purposeless days and soothe His empty nights.

In His prayer the night He was arrested by the Jewish mob, Jesus prayed,

You have sent Me, and have loved them [the disciples] as You have loved Me. Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world (John 17:23, 24).

God is love and before the Earth was formed or Adam walked in the Garden, the Father loved His Son (1 John 4:8). Perfect love existed in eternity!

We weren’t created as a balm for a very needy God with an empty heart. The truth is, we have done everything but love Him, yet He has still made us the recipients of His great love. Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called the children of God (1 John 3:1).

The Lord’s Day

the-lords-dayI was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet (Revelation 1:10).

Cult groups harp on the idea that the Roman Catholic Church changed the day of Christian worship from Saturday to Sunday; but the accusation is neither historical nor Biblical.

God gave the Jews the 7th day of the week for rest. Saturday, the Sabbath Day, commemorates God’s completion of Creation (Genesis 2:1-3) and God commanded Israel to observe Saturday as a time of rest from their labors (Exodus 20:8-11).

Christians, however, held Sunday as our day of worship from the very beginning of the Church (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2). The Church began on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1), which always falls on a Sunday, exactly 50 days after the Passover Sabbath.

Jews found the rest from their physical labors in a day on the calendar, Christians find their spiritual rest in the Lord of the Sabbath, Jesus  (Matthew 12:8; Hebrews 4:9-11). He called everyone tired of struggling to keep the Law of Moses to Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28).

Sunday is the first day of the week. It was the day God began His creation of the universe (Genesis 1:5). Sunday, the day of new beginnings, was the day He created light (Genesis 1:5) and the day Jesus, the Light of the World, was raised from the dead (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:1-2; Luke 24:1; John 20:1).

As Christians, we worship God every day of the week, but Sunday is our primary day for corporate worship through teaching the Word, prayer, taking the Lord’s Supper, and giving thanks.


A God of Gobbledygook?

We have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God (1 Corinthians 2:12).

In 1948, US President Harry Truman accused his opponents of following the motto, If you can’t convince them, confuse them. Some people claim this is God’s modus operandi.

God talks like a man whose mouth is full of marbles and mush in his mind; His Word can be understood in many different ways. For them, He’s a mysterious being of eternal gobbledygook. The Bible is nothing but a fairy-story full of cryptic babble left for the listener to decipher.

Christianity has always posited that God’s desire is to clearly reveal Himself to His creation. He created the universe to point man to Himself (Romans 1:20); however sin deafens man (Romans 1:21).

The Apostle Peter wrote that the Bible came via holy men of God who spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit and is not of any private interpretation (2 Peter 1:20, 21). A Bible of many different meanings suggests an addle-minded Holy Spirit incapable of rational thought, when the problem is a sinful man with a “private interpretation” who has never undertaken to study the absolute reliability nor documented historicity of the Scriptures.

When we receive the Bible for what it says of itself, that every word has been inspired, directed, and preserved by the Holy Spirit to give His people an unmistakable statement of His will, then it is easy to comprehend. Simply stated: God says what He means.

Scripture is only hard to grasp when we desire to find ways to get around what He’s clearly and specifically said; that’s when it becomes a fairy-tale with a thousand different secret meanings.

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Truly, does this sound like God is a con-man, playing a shell game with the way to knowing Him and His will?


More Boring than a Wheel

Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day (Exodus 20:9, 10, 11).

A CBS News story reported in May that Jews and Christians made up the idea of the 7-day week as a form of time slavery. The “week is man-made, arbitrary, a substance not found in nature.”

Instead of time being a continual revolving cycle of renewal, “Judeo-Christians decided that time was actually linear, beginning at creation and moving toward end times. This idea stuck—and it’s way more boring than a wheel.” To improve the conquest of time, the author of the report said we must elevate the weekend, which she claims was invented by socialist-minded politicians.

If you think that socialism is compatible with Christianity, here’s more proof you’re wrong.

God has a different idea about time than communists. The Bible says that He created the idea of a 7-day week when He created the heavens and the earth in six days and then rested on the seventh. It’s not man-made, it is inherent in His creation.

Instead of conquering time, we must be living circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:15-16).


The Beginning and End

beginning-and-endIn the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1).

Such simple words, but so very controversial to so many people.

These words indicate, among other things, there there is a beginning to everything … but God. He alone was in the beginning.

If there is a beginning to everything but God, then there must also be an end to everything but God.

The United States had a beginning. The banana you ate at lunch had a beginning. This blog post has a beginning. You had a beginning. This is very scientific!

Are you prepared for the ending?

God shall judge the righteous and the wicked, for there shall be a time therefore every purpose and for every work (Ecclesiastes 3:17).


First Sung

Like most people, I love music. Martin Luther wrote that Beautiful music is the art of the prophets that can calm the agitations of the soul; it is one of the most magnificent and delightful presents God has given us. Music is powerful. It can cause a range of emotions from rage to joy to sorrow. It can energize, stir laughter, make us sleepy, and draw tears.

In the Bible, God described His creation of the world and then asked a man named Job a serious question: Where were you . . . when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy (Job 38:7). The creation of the universe was celebrated with a song. The song first sung was one of joy, praising the God of power and glory.

All too often we use music for our own purposes and pleasures, but why not join with the universe and make some music, sing a song, or hum a tune to the God who started it all.


Groundhog Day All Over Again

The other day I saw an advertisement for the 1993 Bill Murray movie, “Groundhog Day.”  You may remember, Murray plays a tv weatherman who gets caught in some unexplained phenomena whereby he relives the events of Groundhog Day over and over again.  He eventually takes each “re-day” as an opportunity to evaluate his priorities and goals and change his life.

In a sense, the child of God experiences a perpetual “Groundhog Day” without beginning or end.   Consider this:

(1)  The very first action of God in this universe was the choosing or election of those to be His own people.  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ … just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world  (Ephesians 1:3-4).  Before the Holy Spirit began setting the stars in space, shaping the earth, or creating the human race, God the Father was busy choosing His people.  If you have come to faith in Jesus, your salvation has its beginning beforethe beginning” of Genesis 1:1!

(2)  The last action of God in this universe shall be the future glorification in eternity of those He’s chosen.  This means that He will not only resurrect these frail earthly bodies into immortality (Romans 6:5) and fill us with His exceedingly great glory (Romans 8:17), God will so change us that in eternity we will not only be with Him, but we will be like Him (First John 3:2).

As children of God, life is not as we usually think.  Our perspective is far too small, confined to time and space, while eternity is beyond both.  Your election has no beginning and your glorification has no end.  Without a personal faith in Christ Jesus, a person is stuck in Groundhog Day with a future of emptiness, dread, and “end.”  But in Jesus, this life is transformed and filled with purpose;  experiencing eternity is when real life begins.


Are You Not of More Value

of-more-value-than-theyLook at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? (Matthew 6:26).

Years ago I worked for a computer assembly company. Most of my fellow employees respected the fact that I was a pastor and they controlled their language when I was around. One man played it different. He made a habit of saying every nasty comment, filthy word, and ridiculing jibe he could think of when he saw me.

One day on lunch break he noticed that I was eating a hard boiled egg.

You Christians are such hypocrites,” he said in front of everyone. “You’re against aborting babies yet you’ll eat the unborn baby of a chicken.

The guy wasn’t up on his farming or his biology. He was ignorant of the scientific difference between a fertilized and unfertilized chicken egg. He also didn’t know anything about the differences between a chicken and a human. He believed the evolutionary theory that animals and people are equals.

The Bible tells us that God created Man special, in His own likeness and image (Genesis 1:26). Of all the living creatures of earth, only into Man did God breathe and give life (Genesis 2:7). Of all the works of His hand, only for Man did God give His Son as a sacrifice for sin (John 3:16).

God Himself established the value of human life – born and unborn.


The Broken Branch

brokenOutside my home stands a tree I planted many years ago. I watered it, trimmed it back, and it brought me much joy.

In the Pacific Northwest, our winters are usually mild with an average of 3 inches of snow all season long. A few weeks ago our “usual” was interrupted by two weeks of wild. A thick coat of ice coated everything until we were hit with 9 inches of snow overnight. Once tall and straight, under the load of ice and snow, my tree bowed to the ground and one of its branches bent and broke.

No amount of discussion and counsel has mended the broken branch. My commands, declarations, pleadings, and even prayers have failed to repair the effects of nature. What nature has destroyed, only the Creator can make straight, and in this instance, He has willed not done so.

When God created all things, He made them as only a perfect God can do. When sin entered the universe, it laid a weight upon His work that has left every creature bent, broken, and destroyed. The sin nature adds the only thing it has to offer: more sin; and the weight and destruction grows.

I am so often prone to attempt things only God can do. In my own well-meaning but stubborn strength, I seek to fix what sin destroys. I end up a frustrated, irritated, defiant, drained and failed wanna-be saviour. Then am I reminded that He is God and I am not.

Before Me there was no God formed, nor shall there be after Me. I, even I, am the Lord, and besides Me there is no saviour. Indeed before the day was, I am He; and there is no one who can deliver out of My hand; I work, and who will reverse it? (Isaiah 43:10, 11, 13).