† In Jesus Name †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be heard in every part of you and transform your heart, your soul, your mind and your strength.
Raising Cain – What if….
As you look at this title and think back on the words from Genesis we heard read a few moments ago, I wonder what you are thinking.
I mean if I gave your “permission” to think about raising Cain, would you think I was encouraging you to do something evil? To cause great trouble, to be rebellious, to behave ( as one person said) like loud protestors at some protest rally?
Or is there another option to raising Cain?
And what you do you think about Cain? Is he another like Judas that is beyond redemption, that is condemned because of the evil he committed? Do we write him off like Pharaoh, or like King Saul or Ahaz and that rotten women Jezebel?
Aren’t we glad that we certainly aren’t a sinner like that Cain…?
Or like that tax collector,
Are we more like that Pharisee than we want to admit, thanking God that we aren’t sinners like everyone else, picking our sins we are proud we didn’t commit and proud of the things we do that “prove we are righteous?”
Could it be that instead of encouraging riotous living, the idea of Raising Cain is about trying to see how God called Cain to repentance and offered him hope, and life?
When we can see God working in Cain’s life, it will give us hope, as we struggle in our brokenness, in the midst of this broken world?
Look at the chances!
One of the things I see in this passage is that God doesn’t easily give up on Cain. Nor will he give up easily on us, and we need to know that.
But consider a few of these things.
As Cain is upset about the offerings, God comes to him and says,
6 “Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? 7 You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”
And like Cain, God comes to us, as we are struggling and says similar things. He tells us we are His, which we are accepted. But Jesus also warned Peter about potential sin, and then Peter would describe Satan this way…
6 So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. 7 Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. 8 Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. 9 Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith.. 1 Peter 5:6-9 (NLT)
Does that sound familiar?
God knows his heart, knows that Cain is being eaten up by the sin, by the jealousy, by the nature he inherited from his folks and made his own.
And as God prophesied – sin caught him, his anger and jealousy and attempted to devour him,
He killed his brother. He did something only God has the right to do, to take a life.
What happened next, he could never have foreseen.
Instead of God taking his life, he comes back to Cain, and calls him to repentance,
9 Afterward, the Lord asked Cain, “Where is your brother? Where is Abel?”
“I don’t know,” Cain responded. “Am I my brother’s guardian?”
10 But the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground!
As I read this, I had to ask, why does God ask where Abel is? God is omniscient, isn’t He? God asked the same question of Adam and Eve, where are you? What have you done?
And of Peter on the beach, as Peter couldn’t get over denying Jesus three times, and three times Jesus asked, Simon Peter, “do you love me?”
We have to realize this; God didn’t give up on Cain. He didn’t just take his life, as He should have. If God were only merciful and not just, he would have just taken Cain’s life.
But God cares for him, and for you and I when we fall into sin when we are trapped and in bondage.
Even when we realize we deserve to be punished for our sin and utter those words Cain did…
13 Cain replied to the Lord, “My punishment is too great for me to bear! 14 You have banished me from the land and from your presence; you have made me a homeless wanderer. Anyone who finds me will kill me!”
If we didn’t have a pharisaical bias towards Cain, would we hear this any differently? Would we notice that Cain added in something God didn’t say?
14 You have banished me from the land and from your presence;
God didn’t – he is still with Cain. God is talking to Him. God is with him, there, and Cain is in the very presence of God.
Whether we hear those words of Cain as complaining, or fear, or pleading for mercy, they are said to a God who is there, who is listening, who is both just and merciful…
Just as He heard us a few moments ago, when we confessed our sin, when we pleaded for God to show us grace…
Even as He did to Cain.
Look at the grace – and what it pictures
We don’t see it if we just skim the passage, but it is there,
15 The Lord replied, “No, for I will give a sevenfold punishment to anyone who kills you.” Then the Lord put a mark on Cain to warn anyone who might try to kill him.
I think we usually see that mark as one of punishment – a stay away from this evil person.
But it is there to protect Cain, to let people know that he was under God’s protection, that (gulp) God was with him. That no one had the right to condemn him, no one had the right to punish him. Just like the woman caught in adultery.
Just like the mark of our baptism,
3 Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other. 4 But—“When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, 5 he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. 6 He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior.
Titus 3:3-6 (NLT)
You and I, we were no different than Cain, we were rebellious and sinned, despite God’s warning it devoured us. God came to us again, and called on us it, showed us what we deserved, and then reminded us we are marked….. in our baptism, and no one has the ability to condemn us. Nor will we ever be banished from His presence.
You are forgiven, just like the tax collector, and Peter, Paul, David, and me.
So go, and live in God’s peace, for Christ will guard your heart and mind in that incredible peace. AMEN!
Treasuring God’s Gifts
Means We Value Deep Relationships,
Enough to Turn to Christ for Healing…
(rather than hurt others…or resent them )
Ex. 20:14, Eph 2:10, Luke 10:25-28, Mt, 5:21-24
In Jesus Name
May the Grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ bring you mercy, peace, and the healing that comes as sin is forgiven
If you desire bad for someone…gulp
Part of the gospel reading tonight seems a bit extreme.
Consider it again, just because you get angry at someone, you are to be judged by God?
If you call someone an idiot, or anything else negative, you are to be brought before God’s court to be found unrighteous?
Or if you wish or desire something bad to happen to someone, you find yourselves in danger of hell?
Part of me wants to think that is a bit extreme, more than a bit challenging. Considering growing up near Boston, those things were how you treated your friends. (you don’t want to know how we treated our enemies)
Hearing this passage, where Jesus takes the 5th commandment and explains it, doesn’t sound like good news. He raises the bar higher it seems, He puts even more on the table than simply not murdering someone.
But it is the gospel, for as we begin to hear these words, not as a list of do’s and do not’s, but as how God’s work in our lives looks, we understand how this is gospel.
The secret to not hurting others, whether in body or soul, is about trusting in God and treasuring His work in our lives; so much so that we desire to turn over to God that which needs healing, that which is broken. Whether someone else broke it, or we did.
Killing off Life
When I hear this command, it’s often in a deep bass voice, like James Earl Jones, or Darth Vader,
THOU SHALL NOT MURDER!!!!!!
When I hear Jesus, as He is delivering the Sermon on the Mount, it is more of a pastor, a mentor type of voice. He’s explaining that the heart of the matter is not just shooting or plunging a sword into someone’s heart. It is thinking about, saying or doing anything which harms the neighbor/family member/co-worker that Jesus taught us to love, to treasure. The people that He died to save, to heal, to bring to the fullness of life.
It is that fullness of life, that masterpiece of God’s design, that He creates and perfects in us, that the “you must not murder”, is all about. For as we damage others, whether physically, emotionally or spiritually, we wreck our view of God’s design for us, and also the person we hurts view. We obscure the treasure, we stop it from being seen, and instead it is seen damaged, broken, less than God promises.
It is hard not to look at the damage, just like most of slow down when we see an accident on a freeway – we just have to know why the fire trucks and police cars are there. So when we our words do damage, when our anger divides us, it will attract our attention, our focus, just like the accident,
That distracts us from God’s love, from the peace He brings into our lives, as we are united with Christ’s death. It stops us from seeing the masterpiece, as our lives are consumed by damage…
They Are Dead to Me?
But it is not just because of our initial actions that hurt that we have to be aware of the blessing in this commandment.
It is the hurt we cause when we have been offended, when others have killed off part of us. Our desire for revenge or retribution, our inability to forgive is also a violation of this plan of God to make our lives a masterpiece.
For in striking back, in refusing to forgive, in wishing “they get what they deserve”, we are sinning as well, we are letting our anger get the best of us, we are saying unkind things toward them, and yes, we are cursing them. We let resentment wreck out lives, letting sins 3-5-20 years ago have power over us, shielding us from God’s love.
Ultimately, it boils down to faith, not in their ability to keep a promise to not hurt us again, nor in our promising not to hurt others, but trusting in the God who created us, who promises to take even what is evil, and use it for good, who promised that all things work out for good, for those who love Him, who are called into His life.
Time for Reconciliation & Healing
That is why Jesus sends people, coming to bless God with their offerings, who are struggling with others to drop their gifts, and go and seek reconciliation. To God, that is the kind of gift that He truly desires, to see people reconcile to Him, to see people reconcile to each other. TO see in those around us the value God has placed on their lives.
Which is where this becomes gospel.
For to find healing, either in the damage we have done to others, or in the damage others have done to us, we have to turn to Christ. We have to have confidence in His mercy, we have to trust in the promise of forgiveness, in His work bringing us to Himself in His death on the cross.
He’s here… ready to heal, ready to be the strength required to drop all the pain of broken relationships, to help us drop the pain caused by words, or by others cursing us.
We sang about this, just before I came up here….
Just as I am poor, wretched, blind
Sight, riches, healing of the mind
Yea, all I need, in Thee I’ll find
O Lamb of God I come I come
O I come to the Son who can heal with His wounds
O I come to the thief who has robbed ev’ry tomb
O I come to the Victor
my life and my love
O Lamb of God I come
And so, as we come to pray at this altar, it’s time to leave behind the brokenness that comes from our not treasuring our neighbor, from the pains we have caused, from the resentment we have held onto,
For Christ has promised to be our healer, our strength, our glory, and to make our lives a masterpiece… a place of peace… AMEN?
Devotional Thought of the Day:
28 Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done. 29 Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip. 30 They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning, and they disobey their parents. 31 They refuse to understand, break their promises, are heartless, and have no mercy. 32 They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too. Romans 1:28-32 (NLT)
10 Whoever breaks one commandment is guilty of breaking them all. James 2:10 (TEV)
800 This is the prayer of a soul who wanted to belong wholly to God, and, for his sake, to all mankind: “Lord, I beg you to work on this sinner, to rectify and purify my intentions, to pass them through the crucible.” (1)
In the church at large, there is a very unhealthy tension that I am noticing grows more and more each day. On one side of it, there is a tendency to overlook sin, to justify it, to claim that it cannot be overcome, that it is even natural. On the other side is the reaction to sin (espcially the sin of others) that wants to immediately condemn and execute the sinner, and purify our church and our communities of those who do “those” things. The first are like those in the days of Noah, or the churches in The Revelation who need to be called to face their sin, not to hear words of condemnation, but to know mercy, and the transformation and healing that God would bring to them. The second, well, like the men gathered around the adultress, with stones in their hands, our condemnaiton of others seems little more than hollow words.
In the former case, a treatment which would bring about healing is found in simply asking the question, where do we find the authority to overturn scripture here? Some will fight it, but again our efforts need to be, not to condemn, but to provide the way yo be free from condemnaiton, to know grace, to say – yeah that’s sin, I own it is as mine, and Lord, have mercy on me a sinner. Then having confessed it, to walk away rejoicing in its absolution. No more hiding, no more justifying, no more denying what we know to be true, and try to deceive ourselves. Quickly, let us confess our sins, confident that He will forgive them and cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness.
I often frin the other case, more frequent. We would condemn others, for a sin, and for their lack of mercy towards our sin. A rule I often use in the latter case, when one sin is being singled out, is to ask whether gossips deserve the same treatment, the same attitude as those who repeat other sins. Most of us know gossips – some quite intimately, even perhaps caught a glimpse of them this morning, as we looked in a mirror to comb our hair. Do we want to treat the gossip like the murderer, the abortionist, the adulterer, those who have sex outside of marriage between husband and wife, those who hate based on race and ethnicity, those who lie, those who disrespect authorities, those who schedme to take what is others, those who commit very public sins, those who commit them very privately, etc etc,
Do we want the gossip to hear the same words as “those” people? Do we want to treat them the exact same way, with the same words?
The more I see people, entrapped by sin, enslaved to it, no matter the sin, the more I want us to hear the same words…
Your sins ARE forgiven, Go in peace, and sin no more….
That’s the Father’s desire. That is why Jesus came and lived and died, and was raised from the dead. It is the mission that God has given us, the church, for it is saving them, delivering them from sin and the fear of death, into the presence of God, our Creator, the One-in-Three who calls us, the beloved….
Lord have mercy on us, the sinners. AMEN.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2854-2856). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Question/Discussion point of the Day…. Do we…. do I take sin seriously?
It seems to be a trend in my life, and even more visible in society, that we take sin less seriously. Thankfully, it is beginning to bother me again, and maybe I haven’t been as lulled to sleep, or maybe I am beginning to wake up some.
There is a way in which we shouldn’t take sin seriously, because of the cross – it has already been dealt with – the sin, the shame, the little nagging feeling that “this is wrong”. Sin, no matter whether it is on the scope of someone being sentenced to serve their life in jail, or a junior high prank/theft, we shouldn’t take it so seriously that we can’t bring it to God, confess our sins and know, absolutely and without doubt that we are forgiven. That God would heal us, not only of the specific sin, but indeed the disease.
It is exactly because we aren’t healed in our eyes until we get to heaven, that we need to hear of that forgiveness often. Otherwise we lose heart, we think that it’s no big deal – and we begin to take being restored from that sin less than seriously.
And that is where we need to take it seriously – realizing that it cannot separate us from God, yet also realizing we need to deal with it, so it doesn’t. For the believer, this is a matter of realizing God is responsible for cleaning it up, has promised He would, and not letting our pride get in the way of it. Not easy! And I believe, that the more we do confess our sins, the more we ask God to comfort us and assure us of the forgiveness of them, the more we realize how wonderful He is….
And sin begins to break our hearts as it does His, the idea of people living in bondage to sin breaks our Hearts as it does His…. and we desires that they be freed, we desire that we are freed…. and healed.
Sin has little power, only the power we give it, only the mastery of us that we allow. We do need to take it seriously enough to take the cure of it seriously enough to realize that the forgiveness and healing is something wonderful something incredible, something so important that we adore the One who cares for us…
And realizing that… Paul’s words from Romans 6 come to mind…
6:1 What should we say then? Should we remain in sin so that grace may be given the more fully? 2 Out of the question! We have died to sin; how could we go on living in it?
Romans 6:1-2 (NJB)
This day, Lord Jesus, help us to realize the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, cleansing our lives, setting them apart to serve You, guiding us and strengthening us. Help us be so aware of your presence and work in our lives, that we adoringly join You in that work in others. AMEN.