Archive for October, 2014
“Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Where is Abel your brother?’ And he said, ‘I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?’” (Genesis 4:9).
The fratricidal saga of Cain and Abel is but a backdrop to the larger story of Cain’s skewed relationship with God; skewed because a brother has been violated. It’s one of scriptures strongest reminders that the life of faith can never be reduced to only a vertical dimension between you and God, but has symbiotic implications for all horizontal relationships. It is this knowledge that makes us our brother’s keeper.
“If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it” (Genesis 4:7).
Anger, jealousy, frustration, and disappointment at the inequities of life are debilitating emotions that give evil the opportunity to pounce and consume us, if we do not respond in appropriate ways. God’s challenge to Cain, to do well and master his negative emotions, is the challenge we face each day. We are not hapless victims. While Genesis 1-3 describes the fall of man, these words in chapter 4 remind us that we do not have to live as a fallen people. We are to make choices and decisions based upon our faith and trust in God, not the emotions of the moment.
“And the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard” (Genesis 4:4-5).
In the attempt to defend God, much speculation has been offered as to why he had no regard for Cain’s offering–Cain’s heart wasn’t right; blood offerings are superior to grain; God prefers shepherds to farmers. The problem with these, or any other such vain attempts, is that they have no biblical basis. Instead of allowing the capricious freedom of God to be part of the story, we feel the need to explain it away. The bottom line is life’s unfair; life east of Eden is a broken, imperfect existence that continually disappoints. Even so, God’s grace is the thread that continues to be woven through the redeeming of all creation.
“Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near” (Revelation 1:3).
Some miss the intent of the book of Revelation with their insistence that it is best interpreted by events depicted in the morning paper or the evening news. If such were the case, then no generation until our own could have understood or obeyed the book ( a contradiction to the assumption of 1:3). While originally penned to a literal seven churches in literal Asia Minor, the message is no less clear to us today. He is coming again. Be ready!
“However, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained” (Philippians 3:16).
While the teachings of the apostles would serve as the theological foundation for the early church, it is the compilation of their inspired writings that would become the canonical standard for the church today. To deem the bible as canonical—the standard and measuring stick for all matters of faith and practice—is to ascribe authority to the sacred text. If it is truly authoritative then it becomes for us the touchstone and the lens through which we understand and view everything else. It establishes a standard for living that does not change with “new moralities” or the latest trends of culture.
“In the day of prosperity be happy, but in the day of adversity consider God has made the one as well as the other so that man will not discover anything that will be after him” (Ecclesiastes 7:14).
How often we are guilty of measuring the quality of our faith by present circumstances—if things are favorable then God must be happy with us; if things are unfavorable then God must not be pleased and has withdrawn his blessing. It reflects a very Americanized and self-absorbed perspective. The redemptive work that God is accomplishing in his created order is more than our finite minds could ever understand and, certainly, cannot be understood nor measured by whether or not you are having a good day. Such judgments and determinations must be checked by a more patient spirit of “wait and see.”
“Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong” (1 Corinthians 15:13).
Considering the issues that Paul has addressed within the life of this young congregation—sexual immorality, lawsuits, intimacy in marriage, matters of conscience, and theological error regarding corporate worship, and the exercising of spiritual gifts—it’s little wonder that his final admonition is to embrace a more intentional and watchful approach in living the faith. We must “keep our heads on a swivel” if we are to anticipate and see those things that would seek to knock us off balance and lead us astray.