The Morning After

At that same time the leading priests and elders were meeting at the residence of Caiaphas, the high priest, plotting how to capture Jesus secretly and kill him.  – Matthew 26:3

Last week, I was struggling with people talking about me in a negative way.  I feel kind of stupid for making a big deal out of it now.  However, it worked itself out in just the most wonderful of ways.  I only bring it back up because of what happened the very next morning.  The very next section of Bible reading that I had on deck was Matthew 25-28.  I read of all that they did to Jesus and couldn’t believe that I complained.

Matthew 26:3 brought back to mind once when I was on a church leadership team (I’ve been on 3).  It was late one evening and something just wasn’t sitting well in my spirit.  I longed to just go and lie down on my favorite spot at the altar and just be with God.  I didn’t really want to leave my house and drive out there, but I knew God was saying, “Go.”  So, I drove to the church thinking I was going to hang out with the Lord.  When I arrived, I found the team meeting without me.  Immediately, I thought of Matthew 26 and realized that I was about to no longer be welcome on that team anymore.  I think God revealed it to me early so I could prepare my heart.  In hindsight, at least they weren’t plotting to kill me.

The point is, no matter what I go through.  No matter what happens to me.  No matter what people do or say about you or me, Jesus had it so much worse.  I am a flawed human who gets it wrong a little too often.  I pretty much deserve what comes to me.  But Jesus . . . He was perfect.  How do you meet and make plans to destroy the guy whose only crime was making you look bad?  He healed so many.  He helped so many.  Yet, in their hearts and minds, they said, “that guy has got to go,” and by go . . . they meant “die.”      

There I was reading the rest of Matthew.  My Lord was mocked, beaten, spit upon, crucified, and placed in a tomb for dead.  Never once did He complain.  Never once did He call out or seek revenge on His accusers.  He just took it.  He knew what He was doing.  He knew He was giving His life as a ransom for any and all who would receive the mercy and grace that is the Gospel.  

He took it for me. 

Maybe, just maybe, before I draw my last breath, I will be able to take it for Him.

Lord, grow me into what You would have me be.  If all things really do work together for my good, I can rejoice on every mountaintop and in every valley I’ve ever visited.  Help me not complain.  Help me not seek revenge on my accusers.  Where would I be had You never entered my life?  How much could you complain about me if You wanted to?  What if You were vengeful towards me?  I’d have no chance.  Help me to honor You with my entire being.  Help me to keep the greatest commandment and love You will all my heart, soul, mind, and strength.  You are still and always will be the greatest thing this planet offers.  Amen.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

It Doesn’t Feel Blessed

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. – Matthew 5:11

People are hard to deal with.  It doesn’t matter if they say they follow God or not . . . friction just seems inevitable.  I have dealt with nothing to the degree my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, has dealt with.  Once, when He drove out an evil spirit, some people said, “He drives out demons by the prince of demons.”  (Matthew 9:34) Another time a woman with a sinful past was just adoring Him and worshipping at His feet.  People just couldn’t help themselves, “If He were a prophet, He would know what kind of woman was touching Him.” (Luke 7:39) I imagine they loved going off and badmouthing Him, completely unaware that He was the very one who loved them the most and wanted the best for them.  

With all my heart and every fiber of my being, I’m trying to be like my Lord.  I want to work for Him.  I want to preach for Him.  I want to sing praise songs to Him.  I take every reasonable opportunity to tell people about Him.  I wish I was better at it, but I take as many opportunities as I can to pray for people.  Yet, there always seems to be someone talking.  Nine out of ten times, I can let it go.  I feel like I let it go to the degree that I don’t even think about it or remember it.  But still, there is that one time out of ten that it just will not leave.  I can say “I forgive” or “Take this from me, Lord” a zillion times, but it just lingers.  

Unfortunately, I know this is rooted in the ultimate sin . . . pride.  I know I’m loaded down with it.  “How dare they say that about me?” or “How dare they throw shade at me?”  Sometimes I don’t even know who I think I am.  What makes me think I’m so special that I would be above reproach?  I’m sitting here asking God “How do I deal with this once and for all?  How can I pass this test so that I quit having to take it?”  

Matthew 5:11 is all that keeps coming to my mind. 

Blessed.  I’m blessed.  But, how?

I guess for one, if people talking about me is my biggest problem, then I probably live in some first world country where my basic needs are more than met.  Two, how else can I grow in the Lord?  If they talked about Him, they are probably going to talk about me.  The question is, can I take it?  Can I keep focusing on the mission and commands He gave me and just keep looking straight ahead?  Man . . . I’m trying.  Lastly, in the grand scheme of things, what is being said isn’t that big of a deal at all.  I have no clue what I would do under real persecution, though I like to think God will give me the strength precisely when I need it.  

What worries me the most is that I see people who think they are being unfairly insulted and persecuted . . . yet, they bring all that activity upon themselves.  They either treat people horribly, they are lazy, or they are just constantly looking to tear down others with their words to feel better about themselves.  They are playing the dangerous game of comparison.   I must examine my heart and ask the question, “Am I being the same way?”  I am trying so hard to make sure I’m not being any of those three things.  There have been times when I have deserved it . . . other times I haven’t.  I’m begging God to fill me with His Spirit so that I may simply do what is right.  If I can honestly say that I am living as simply as I can for the Lord and focusing on Him and His Word as much as I possibly can, then I can only come to one conclusion . . . 

I’m blessed.

Lord, help me get this so I don’t have to keep taking this test.  If I’m focused on You and the mission, I don’t have time to worry about those who speak evil of me.  I’m more than aware of the pride that lives in me.  It is the same pride that lived in Lucifer when he said, “I will be like the most High.”  I want to be like You, too, but not by force . . . not because I’m anything special.  I want to be like You because You have worked in my heart, mind, and life.  I want to be more like You because I have been like a seed planted in the ground and I have grown to be more like You.  Help me realize that I am blessed . . . even when it doesn’t feel blessed.  Amen.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

This Kind (Part 2)

However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting. – Matthew 17:21

Last week I wrote about prayer requests being at what I felt like was an all-time high.  I vaguely mentioned a few, but I sure had one specifically for myself and my family.  It was one of those where my faith was kind of lacking.  I wasn’t really sure that God could do what I needed Him to do.  Maybe I knew He could . . . I just wasn’t sure if He would.  

Well, show up for me He did.  It was one of those mouth left open in awe kind of moments.  I had fasted and prayed all day.  There was a time at about 1:00 p.m. that everything in me wanted to quit and eat.  I happened to open Facebook and someone said they were joining me in the fast.  There was no way I was going to let that person just take my place.  It was exactly the motivation I needed to finish strong.

The next morning before I got on the bus to drive, I called my wife.  When my wife and I pray, it is usually for monstrous sized things.  I told her, “You know, we ask God for things together and He comes through for us.  Let’s not ask Him for anything . . . let’s just thank Him for what He did for us.”  We said maybe the simplest and shortest prayer ever giving thanks to God.

I write all of this just to say what happened next.  The flood of emotion that came over me and the tears I began to cry were nothing short of spectacular.  God filled me to overflow.  I could not pour out enough praise.  I could not stop saying “Thank You, God.”  My mind was flooded with “I don’t deserve it . . . How could You possibly come through like that for me?”  I just soaked in that presence as long as I could.  

When we read the Bible, it is easy to think that God showed up mightily for His followers all the time.  The truth is, most just had a handful of moments that they always remembered.  This is definitely one of a handful of moments that I will always remember.  I think over time I might forget the prayer He answered for me, but I will never forget the presence that flooded me after saying “Thanks.”   

Lord, I don’t even want to think of my ratio of answered prayers to “thanks” for those answered prayers.  I imagine it is pretty pitiful.  But, Lord, I want to say thank You right now for being the awesome God that You are.  Thank You for really and truly caring about me.  I so want my life to be pleasing to You.  Amen. 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

This Kind

However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting. – Matthew 17:21

The context of this verse is a boy in need of healing.  His father is pleading with the disciples for healing.  When Jesus enters the picture, the boy is easily healed.  The disciples are left wondering why they couldn’t do it.  Jesus simply states the verse I have used for today’s WMD.

There is a little bit of controversy surrounding this verse.  You will find that the verse is in the KJV and not in some of the more modern translations.  The reason is that the verse appears in some manuscripts, but not in some of the manuscripts that many scholars believe to be older and more reliable.  They believe this verse was added as time went on.

Personally, I’m glad the verse is included.  The fact is, there are times when I say short simple prayers and they are gloriously answered.  Then, there are other times that I feel a simple prayer is not sufficient.  When these moments happen, I think of Matthew 17:21.

Right now, prayer requests are at what I would consider an all-time high.  I have friends fighting cancer.  I have friends praying for lost loved ones.  I have a friend fighting for her life in the aftermath of having coronavirus.  I have one person that I have been trying so hard to draw nearer to the Lord.  The more I try, the more it seems that hell’s fury gets unleashed in this person’s life.  I have prayed, but things just seem to escalate.

I say all that to say this:  I am going to fast from sunup to sundown today.  I believe part of the reason fasting works is because you get uncomfortable really quickly.  The discomfort serves as a constant reminder to pray.  If you have urgent prayer needs right now, I ask for you to join me.  One friend in particular, her name is Donna, is fighting for her life as I type this.  I don’t mind mentioning her name because her family has made it public.  Please remember her in your prayers.  Also, feel free to comment any prayer requests and those who participate will cover them in prayer and fasting.  After all, if this verse does in fact belong in the Bible, some things only happen by prayer and fasting.

Lord, I praise You.  Lord, I magnify Your great name.  There are so many needs this morning.  I ask that You meet those needs.  Not so we can go on with our lives as normal, but so we may give You praise, glory, and honor.  So those who do not know You can see that there is a mighty God who heals and saves.  I so quickly forget the great, mighty, and wonderful things You have done for me in my own life.  I even more quickly forget to really lift up the needs of others.  I ask that You bring to my mind, and the minds of whoever takes the time to read this, anyone who really needs a touch from God.  Heal, Lord, for only You can.  Save, Lord, for only You can.  There is no one like You.  Show Yourself mighty this day.  Amen.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Stories of Obedience

We know that we have come to know Him if we keep His commands.  Whoever says, “I know Him,” but does not keep His commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys His work, love for God is truly made complete in them.  This is how we know we are in Him.   – 1 John 2

How can we know for sure that we are saved and that we know God?  I don’t know about you, but it was a long time before I was certain.  I was constantly answering altar calls to be saved for years.  I just wanted to know that I knew Him.  I’m guessing that John wrote 1 John after he had been a follower of Jesus for quite a few years.  He had a lot of experience.  I imagine when he wrote these verses that he had a lot of experiences under his belt where he obeyed God.  I believe it is these experiences that give us confidence in our salvation.  If you or I never do anything hard for God, how can we know without a doubt that He is in us?  I’m not saying at all that these experiences save us, but I am saying that these experiences provide the confidence and assurance that we are truly in Him.

When I look back, my mind always goes to this t-shirt that I saw.  On the front, it said “If you died today, where would you go?”  On the back, it said, “It is the burning question,” with flames all around this verse:  

But the fearful, the unbelieving, the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.  – Revelation 21:8

I went straight home and looked up Revelation 21:8 to make sure that was in there.  The word “liars” really scared me because that is what I was.  I immediately knelt next to my bed and repented.  The next morning, I had to work, so I prayed and told God that I would not lie today and asked Him to help me.  All was fine until I wrecked a golf cart being stupid.  The front end was caved in, and I had to take the walk up the pro shop to tell my boss.  Absolutely everything in me wanted to tell a lie.  I had plenty of good ones.  Just before I walked in, God reminded me of my promise.  I took a deep breath, said “Ok God, here goes,” and told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  My boss ended up respecting me for being honest.  I thought I’d have to pay for the damages and that I would lose my job.  I did neither.  On the drive home, I could not thank God enough.  I knew in that moment that He could be trusted with my life.  It is one of many stories that provides that assurance that I know Him.  I would never have told the truth if I hadn’t been saved and been learning from His Word just how He wants me to be.

What I’d like for you to do is think back over the course of your Christian life.  Is there a story of obedience that gives you confidence today that you know Him?  Is there a hard decision that you have made simply because you knew it was what God wanted you to do and not at all what you wanted to do?  Take the time to write it in the comments. If you write it here on WordPress, I may cut and paste it onto my Facebook thread.

Lord, thank You for working in my life and giving me stories I can look back on to strengthen my faith and my obedience.  I pray that You prompt many to write and through their stories You will inspire others to simple obedience.  Help us who say we are Your followers to truly be the light that shines before men.  Amen

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

In My Weakness

And he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”  — 2 Corinthians 12:

I’m always amazed at how God teaches me things.  I knew this verse as far as memorizing it, but until now it has never really meant anything to me.  You see, this past week, I had some things happen.  For one, I knew all week that I was going to be filling in for one of my friends and preaching at his church.  Every time I know I’m going to preach; I do my best to spend as much time with God and in His Word as I can.  The picture I have in my head is of Moses going up on the mountain to be with God.  In a similar way, I want my face shining.  I want God’s power to rub off onto me as much as possible so that His people might really experience Him in power.  

Well, it didn’t work out like that this past week.  Every time I went to be alone with God, I found anything and everything else to do.  I had my Bibles, I had my Bible software and study materials, but I didn’t really open them.  Time would zip by and before I knew it, it was time to head off to work . . . and I had done nothing to strengthen me for the day, and I had nothing to preach.

Late in the week, God used me in my piddling.  While I was on social media (when I was supposedly going to spend time with God) I felt guilty for being so weak minded all week.  Right before I was about to click off, I saw this post from this boastful guy.  I struck up a conversation with him . . . to make a long story short, God ended up using me to witness to Him, and to others. 

As soon as that conversation was over, I hit my knees and immediately connected with God.  This verse was the only thing that came to my mind over and over.  “Wow, God!  You used me in my weakness!” was all I could think to say.  One more time, He allowed that sweet, sweet presence to surround me.  One more time, I just poured myself out telling Him just how awesome of a God He is. 

Even after that, I did almost no Bible study to prepare for Sunday.  When I thought about how I needed to go and study, I simply said, “When I am weak, He is strong.”  I did think of some things to say.  I thought of how Peter denied the Lord.  I thought of how that needed to happen.  He had just boasted that “I will never forsake You, Lord!  Even if all these others do.”  Not exactly words of weakness.  Once he realized that he couldn’t back those words up, Peter became quite useful to God’s kingdom.  I also thought of how David needed to go through all that with Bathsheba.  He had regressed so far from being the boy who trusted God so much that he wasn’t afraid of the giant.  God used David’s weakness to bring him to a place where he would say, “Lord, will you create in me a clean heart again?”  

Lord, You are amazing!  Thank You for bringing me down so many notches this past week.  Thank You for teaching me concepts in Your Word in ways that I will never forget.  In my mind, I have thought that I was so necessary for Your kingdom.  The truth is, You simply allow me to be a part of it.  Help me to learn to rely upon You more.  Help me to learn that when I am weak, Your strength is truly made perfect in me.  Forgive me, Lord.  Make me more like You and create in me a clean heart.  Amen.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Heart Check

For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him. – 2 Chronicles 16:9

Every once in a while, before I study the Word, I like to say in my mind as much scripture as I know.  I like to think that if I didn’t have a copy of God’s Word, that I would still be able to sustain my spirit by the Word that is written on my heart and mind.  Even though I had this verse memorized, I didn’t know where it was.  I also had no clue what the context was, so I studied it this morning.

King Asa was the king of Judah.  Baasha was the king of Israel.  Baasha decided to build a fortified city in between them so he could stop people from coming or going into Judah.  Instead of going to God and asking for His help, Asa took money from the temple treasury and paid an enemy king to protect Judah.  Temporarily, the plan worked.   

A preacher by the name of Hanani went to see king Asa.  He told him that he was very foolish to rely on enemy help.  He reminded him that two other times enemies invaded, Asa trusted God and the Lord protected them both times.  Because the king refused to trust God this time, Hanani told him that war would never depart from him during his reign.  This infuriated Asa.  He threw Hanani into prison and began to brutally oppress some of his own people. 

After reigning as king for 39 years, Asa was struck with a foot disease.  Even then, he refused to ask for God’s help.  Instead, he chose to pay physicians who ultimately didn’t help him.  He died two years later.  

Just two chapters before, the Bible says that Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord.  I wonder what happened in that 36th year of his reign that made him decide to ask an enemy king for help when he had complete and perfect access to the help of Almighty God.  More importantly, I wonder if this could happen to me. 

Lord, please help my heart stay fully committed to You.  When Your eyes range throughout this earth, I really hope that you see my heart and strengthen it.  Help me stay on track.  Help me stay in love with You.  Help me to only do the things that You would have me do.  May I never rely on my enemies for help.  May I always seek You first and Your guidance for whatever comes my way.  Help me soak in Your Presence that I feel so mightily right now for as long as I can.  I love You.  Amen.  

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Incredible Blessing of His Presence

Then Moses said to Him, “If your presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.”  — Exodus 33:15

By American standards, Moses had it made.  To protect him from being murdered, his mother placed him in a basket and put him in the Nile River when he was just a baby.  He literally got found by the richest household on the planet.  He had access to the nicest and best of everything that the world had to offer.  One would think that he would have taken full advantage of his wealth and simply ate, drank, and just been merry.

By faith, Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. – Hebrews 11:24

Moses rejected what most Americans wish for.  He rejected financial security.  He rejected the safe life.  He rejected the comfortable life.  Had he not done this, we would not even know who he is.  As it stands, over 3,000 years after his death, almost everyone on the planet knows his name.  

I have been thinking about the life of Moses so much lately.  He fled Egypt and ran off to Midian where he settled down and got married.  I imagine it was a nice, comfortable simple life.  One day, Moses ran into the presence of the Lord in the form of a burning bush.  From that point on, Moses would follow the instructions of the Lord.  The Lord would place Moses on a path that seems on the surface to be a rip off.  He went back to Egypt and lived among the slaves.  When God’s plan didn’t produce instant gratification, the people rejected Moses and despised him and his leadership.  When God led them to the Red Sea, Moses looked like the biggest idiot and the worst leader ever.  The Israelites and the Egyptians thought he was so foolish, but when that Red Sea parted, they knew Moses led them to the exact right place at the exact right time.  

Here is where this gets crazy:  God had Moses lead them to a desert.  Moses could have lived in Egypt simply requesting the best food and drink money could buy.  Now, he does not know how in the world God will supply the basic needs of a multitude of people out in the wilderness.  This is the life he willingly chose.  Who in their right mind forsakes a life of ease for a life of difficulty?

Answer:  Someone who has experienced the authentic presence of The Lord.  

I remember my first real taste of the Presence of God.  It only lasted for a few seconds.  I literally asked Him to turn it off because I couldn’t take it.  Ever since that moment, I have chased Him.  There is nothing like His Presence.  There is nothing like following Him where He leads.  I speak to young people who can’t believe that I’ve been married for almost 20 years.  They think that is the most boring existence to be with the same person for that long.  They don’t know that God’s Presence is all over my marriage.  When I became a teacher, people told me it was the dumbest profession I could have gone into, but that is where I feel that He is with me.  I would hate to do any other job without Him.  When God led me to pastor for 6 years, I may not have received the approval of man, but I did have His Presence and I learned things I could have never learned otherwise.  Even now, who in their right mind volunteers to preach services in the wilderness where there is no guarantee that anyone will come at all?  I did . . . simply because I believed that He was asking me to.  There is no way that I would understand just how faithful He is if I had rejected that invitation.  He is absolutely the best thing that this planet offers.  He is always on time.  He is always faithful.

At this very moment, I have so many difficult decisions to make about the days ahead that could certainly affect the rest of my life and the life of my family.  But also at this moment, I am typing this at 4:39 a.m. just soaking in the Presence of the Lord.  When He is right here and I’m ever so aware of it, those decisions don’t seem so hard.  They don’t seem hard because I just know that He will lead me to a place where I will find more of His Presence.  He will go before me.  

Lord, with all my heart I want to follow You.  I just want to be where You are.  I love these moments of just knowing You are right here with me.  Who am I that you are the least bit mindful of me?  I love You, and even saying those words I know that You gave me that love.  Every good and perfect thing in my life has come from You.  When I’m on the mountaintop, You are there with me.  When I’m in the lowest valley, You are there with me.  At every place in between, You have been there with me.  Thank You so much for being the God that you are.  Let my feet never wander where You do not lead.  Amen

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

How Else Could I Become Like Him

The disciples were first called Christens at Antioch. – Acts 11:26

In America, a lot of people call themselves “Christian.”  In the Bible, people who did not care a thing about following Christ, called those who did follow Him “Christians.”  Read Acts 11:26 once more.  It was not a term of endearment.  It was a derogatory term meant to convey that they thought Jesus was dead, but not there are these “little Christs,” these “Christians” popping up everywhere and they act an awful lot like He did.  They don’t mind giving up everything they own.  They love like He did.  They pray like He did.  They forgive like He did.  They are willing to be crucified . . . just like He was.

I am just a few weeks from ending what I call my “wilderness season.”  I was so hurt by and so disillusioned with what I thought was supposed to be “church,” that I just couldn’t go back into one for a while.  In a weird way, this pandemic kind of made it mandatory for me to follow through with this wilderness season.  I have learned so much about who I am, who I want to be, and the process that God uses to make me more like Him.

I remember one time that just a few of us were meeting outside.  It was so cold and rainy.  I thought about how we would be much more comfortable studying the Word inside.  For some reason though, it just felt good to be uncomfortable on the outside of my body, and for God’s Word to be warming me up on the inside.  How else would I have ever experienced that?

There have been two moments in the wilderness that I was hopeless that nobody was going to come.  I said to myself that I was okay with it.  I resolved that even if it was just Tonya and me, we would read the Word, discuss it, pray, and that would be just fine with me.  Even though I was resolved, I was kind of inwardly testing God without saying it out loud, “God, how could You possibly lead someone else to join us?  Nobody really knows about it.” Once, I wanted to join my daughter when she said, “nobody else is coming.”  Both of those times and every single other time someone came.  How else would I have seen Him work like that?

Jesus Himself was not immune to scrutiny.  Pharisees constantly accused Him of breaking the third commandment because He would heal someone on the Sabbath.  They would complain about the most ridiculous stuff.  Ever since I chose to follow Christ, there has not been a single non-believer I can remember who has ever scrutinized me.  Not once have they cared about the details of what I believe about the Bible and God.  Yet, there have been quite a few Christians who have completely discredited me due to me engaging in some behavior they don’t, or not engaging in some behavior that they do.  When I entered the wilderness season, it was a little too easy to say, “they are just a bunch of religious snakes.”  But now, I can see times where I wasn’t any different.  I can now honestly pray for them, or at least say “forgive them.”  I want the best for them.  I want them to know Christ fully.  I want the entire Christian community to come together and truly be unified and be one.  This is how this lost and dying world will come to believe in Christ.  This is the recipe for revival.  This is how our world will be transformed.  How else would I have learned that?

Lord, I look for so much comfort in this world.  I look for everyone to like me.  I sometimes can’t stand my enemies.  I wonder why You allow things.  Help me to truly realize that Romans 8:28 is true in all my circumstances.  You are working it all for my good.  Why shouldn’t I be wronged?  You were.  Why shouldn’t I be rejected?  You were.  Help me to learn to be thankful for these things.  How else could I become more like You?  I love You, Lord.  Lead me and guide me wherever You are going . . . for that is where I want to be.  Amen

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Consequences of a Religious Spirit

And in the process of time, it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord. – Genesis 4:3

When I read the Bible from start to finish, every time I get to these words in Genesis 4, I think “right here was the birth of religion.”  As far as I can tell, God never asked for any kind of offering to be made.  It appears that Cain and Abel, maybe with some help from dad, came up with a religious system.  They felt it would be a good thing if they made an offering to God.

Abel chose wisely.  He chose the very thing that God used to cover up his mom and dad’s sin.  Genesis 3:21 says, “Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins and clothed them.”  Most speculators believe that it was the skin of a lamb, especially considering Jesus would go on to give His own skin as “The Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.”  It makes sense that Abel would choose the same animal as an offering to God.  I imagine his thought process, “You covered mom and dad with the life of a lamb, now cover mine.”  How could God resist blessing such an offering?

Cain offered up some sort of plant.  We know that Adam and Eve tried to use plant life to cover their own sin.  Genesis 3:7 says, “And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons.”  We know for a fact that this was not sufficient to cover sins.  We know even today that it is not by our own efforts that the Lord saves and restores us, it is by the blood of Christ, and Christ alone who saves us from sin.  

Why do Christians still get it so wrong?  Why do churches get it so wrong?  Why do I still get it so wrong?  I would swear that when I’m studying the Word, doing right, praying regularly, and figuratively sewing those fig leaves that He is so pleased with me.  Then, on the other hand, when I just feel tired and slack, and I get away from my devotion to Him, I think the Lord is displeased with me.  After all this time, I can still think it is by my might and my strength that God is pleased.  Abel is still teaching me, “The lamb is enough, and the lamb is sufficient.”  

A couple of weeks ago I went back to some old habits.  I was thinking about the lukewarm church of Laodicea and how God asked them to go back and do the things they did when they loved Him . . . the things they did “at first.”  (See Revelation 2:5).  I was thinking of this on my couch in the living room.  I thought about how for the past few months, I had spent time with the Lord in a different room and it hadn’t been as powerful as when I used to spend my mornings with Him on the couch in the computer room.  To make a long story short, the glory of the Lord fell immediately when I went back to where I’ve always considered my “prayer closet.”  

Here is where the religion aspect comes in.  I was thinking that God would make me spend a few weeks doing things “the right way.”  In my mind, if I did well, then He would know I was serious and maybe we could get back to being really close.  Believe me, writing this down right now, I know how stupid it sounds.  But, in the moment, it was just the way my mind was working.  Well, on the third day, God just opened heaven and filled me up.  He filled me up with forgiveness, with mercy, with grace, with presence . . . it was so much more than I could stand at one time.  I was crying so hard, and the thought entered my mind, “You would do this for me Lord after only three days?”  He didn’t even have to say anything.  I knew instantly that every good and perfect thing in my entire existence had been a gift from Him all along.  I didn’t earn a thing.  He just freely gave His presence simply because I did what His Word said from a heart that simply wanted more of Him.  

I have no idea if this makes any sense to you guys or not.  But I want to plead with you for a moment.  If you think God’s favor is upon you because you help people, attend church regularly, give an offering, read a devotion every day, or are simply a good person, think again.  He flat out says, “There is no one good.” (Mark 10:18). I’m not saying those things are bad, they can be good if done from a heart of love for Him.  I often wonder how many times I’ve traded a God thing for a good thing . . . that is a lousy trade.  Today, tell Him today that you love Him, or at least want to love Him.  Tell Him you just want to be close to Him.  Tell Him you want to feel His presence and all the fullness of His goodness.  Is there anything you don’t do now that you did at any other time in the past simply because you loved Him?  Is there a place you used to meet?  Is there a song you used to sing?  If the answer is yes and you aren’t as close to Him as you were before, go back to the things You did “at first.”  You just might find presence like you’ve never known.

Lord, thank you for having Moses write about Abel.  He simply offered up the same sacrifice you made for His mom and dad.  Once again, I receive the same sacrifice that You made for me and countless others on the cross at Calvary.  I want to live for You.  I want to serve You.  I want to want You above everything else this planet offers.  I want to work for You out of a heart of love, not out of a sense of earning anything.  Fill me with Your Holy Spirit and help me to walk by that same Spirit.  There is nothing like being close to You . . . the Good Shepherd.  Amen.  

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment