OUR “OFFERINGS”: The “Why’s” and “How’s” of Our Giving

4_cain-abel-sacrifices

Genesis 4:1-5  (N.L.T):

“[1] Now Adam had sexual relations with his wife, Eve, and she became pregnant.  When she gave birth to CAIN, she said “With the Lord’s help I have produced a man.”  [2] Later she gave birth to his brother and named him ABEL.

When they grew up, ABEL became a shepherd, while CAIN cultivated the ground.  [3] When it was time for the harvest, CAIN presented some of his crop as a gift to the Lord.  [4] ABEL also brought a gift–the best of the firstborn lambs from his flock.  The Lord accepted ABEL and his gift,  [5] but he did not accept CAIN and his gift.  This made CAIN very angry, and he looked dejected.” 

THE DIFFERENCES: Revealing the “habitude” of Giving:

Approaching and knowing God eventually determines our destiny in eternity.  In willingly accepting Him solely, the basis of FAITH in God’s provision through the shedding of blood by our Redeemer, God’s Lamb, we are spiritually of the heaven-born “seed of the woman” and restored to God’s presence in fellowship.

All that said, if a person continues down the path distorting and rejecting the Word of God–The Scripture–and relying on their own merits to earn salvation, they are interposing their own will in place of His, presuming to be as “gods”, knowing good and evil, consequently becoming the “serpents seed.”

TWO BROTHERS ATTITUDES ON DISPLAY:

I am an older brother by seven years.  Seven years is a big difference.  I remember how excited I was when my parents told me at 7, that I, was no longer going to be an “only child.”

There wasn’t graphic sonograms in the late 40’s, so the anticipation of a brother or sister didn’t come into play.  Although, I think I really wanted a baby sister (Sorry, Larry).  On ‘boy-child’ in the family would certainly enough for my parents to handle.

In growing up as “the older brother,”  and looking back on those formative years, there were FOUR THINGS that stood out in our relationship:

1.   We had very little in common.

2.  My parents let him get away with everything!

3.  We had very little in common.

4.  My parents let him get away with everything!

Okay, maybe I’m just a bit repugnant–but I think you get the point.

After I got married, had children and seemed to be struggling  with staying employed…at the same time, my brother was graduating from Seminary with a Master’s Degree, then later, a PhD.   Me, I was a college dropout, trying support s family and was “Mad as hell and wasn’t going to take it anymore” -[ii] kind of attitude.

Although I’ve always been proud of what my brother has accomplished in life… I was always jealous, envious of the opportunities I thought was made accessible from mom and dad.  I felt somewhat cheated and wanted to scream out to everyone that would listen,  “Mom and dad always loved you best!.”

Cain and Abel–Biblical Names Had Meaning! 

Giving names to the newborns  today is much different from Biblical days.  NAMES in the Bible were significant in a variety of functions.

—  A Record of some aspects of a person’s birth.

—  Sometimes expressed the parents’ reaction to the birth of their child.

Biblical names could be also used to communicate God’s message.

Here’s a really interesting part I discovered while researching BIBLICAL NAMES GIVEN:  Names were often used to express the NATURE, FUNCTION of a person, to indicate a person’s PURPOSE in the world.  Now, that’s a lot of pressure put on a child; trying to live up to your parents expectations.

The greatest example of this type of naming is JESUS (Matthew 1:20-21)–the Savior of the world!

Adam and Eve Become Parents of Two Boys:

The name “Cain” means “gotten”, derived from Eve’s exclamation of joyful birth, even though the suffering associated with the childbirth was there…she also had seen God’s faithfulness in giving her a son.

The Younger Brother–

Perhaps Eve hoped her firstborn might be the promised Deliverer (Genesis 3:13), even though he was not in a specific biological sense, a “seed of the woman.”  In fact, he “was of that wicked one (1 John 3:12)–first in the long line of the Serpents seed.

“Abel” on the other hand, was in the household of faith and the very first mentioned in the long line of men of faith recorded in Hebrews 11, (see verse 4).  He is called “righteous” and a prophet (Matthew 23:35; Luke 11:50, 51).  

The name “ABEL” means “vapor” or “vanity”, and suggests that, by the time of Abel’s birth, his mother had become thoroughly impressed with the impact of God’s curse on the word.  God had indeed made creation “subject to vanity”  (Romans 8:20).  I don’t recommend naming a child today, “Abel.”  You might just get what you ask for!

We also know from God’s word, the younger brother Abel, became a rancher.

Just a side-note before going on:  Man was not authorized until after the Flood to use animals for food (Genesis 1:29; 2:16; 3:19; 9:3).  Animal Skins, were used for a covering (Genesis 3:21) and not the “blood”.

God’s Choosing of What Is An Acceptable Offering:

God has but one standard.  He values everything based on His excellence.

When we think of the story of CAIN and ABEL, sometimes we picture the scene set forth like this:

*  Two men – brothers – Cain and Abel…

Cain's Offering
Cain’s Offering

*  Cain is a farmer;

*  Abel is a rancher;

*  Cain goes out to harvest his crops.

*  As he does, he puts together an offering to God.  Being the older brother, Cain had been giving offerings to the Lord for sometime.  It might have even become a “habit”.

*  Abel also puts together an offering to God

*  He picks out an animal and offers it to God

*  God looks at both offerings–Cain’s on the left, Abel’s on the right

*  After considering them both, He chooses Abel’s over Cain’s

*  It’s as if God is saying,  I’ll take “lamb” chops over “brussels sprouts and carrots.”

Abel's Offering
Abel’s Offering

THIS IS NOT THE SCENARIO HERE!

First, we are never told that the offerings were made together.  Each offering is made independently of the other.

In verse 3, we are told that Cain brought an “offering of the fruit of the ground.”

In verse 4, Abel also made an offering: “the firstborn of his flock and of the fat portions”.  

Nowhere are we told in Scripture these offerings were made together–as if they are in “brotherly competition”.  We are simply told, they each made an offering.

God on His part considered each offering–

He didn’t make a comparison to each other–He considered each offering based on its own merit.

We see Jesus teaching His followers about giving offerings, “casting money into the treasury…throwing in large sums.”

ATTITUDE OF THE HEART in versus the ABUNDANCE of the wallet–

“And a widow who was poverty-stricken came and put in two copper mites [the smallest of coins], which together make half of a cent.

And He called His disciples and said to them,  Truly and surely I tell you, this widow poverty-stricken, has put in more than all those contributing to the treasury.

For they all threw in out of their abundance; but she, out of her deep poverty, has put in everything that she had–[even] all she had on which to live” (Mark 12:41-44 AMP).

CHOOSING WHAT IS ACCEPTABLE:

As God made His choice in accepting the OFFERING OF ABEL, and not the OFFERING OF CAIN in Genesis 4:4, 5, we see His conclusion:

[4]  Abel also brought a gift–the best of the firstborn lambs from his flock.  The Lord accepted Abel and his gift  [5] but He did not accept Cain and his gift.  This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected.

In studying this passage, I came to the understanding that God didn’t reject Cain’s offering because Abels’ was better, and He didn’t accept Abel’s offering because Cain’s was inferior.

Our “OFFERINGS” Viewed from God’s Perspective–

Maybe we can make some conclusions here–conclusions that certainly helped my investigation into God’s Word in how to offer better sacrifices  on Sundays or anytime–giving financially and in giving our worship!

Consider Cain’s Offering…

I think as parents, Adam and Eve might have been hoping God’s Word would be fulfilled with and in their “first-born son”:

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her Offspring…

There was hope and optimism towards the “light at the end of the tunnel.”  They no doubt were certain that their first-born son would eventually crush Satan’s head.

It wasn’t long, however, that hope and optimism began to dwindle.

Disillusionment revealed..

By the time their 2nd son was born, calling him “Abel”–“Abel” by the way means; “emptiness”–life in the family began to change.  In my study, I found all this detail given, a great importance:  It tells us an awful lot about the person “Cain”.

What a disappointment he must have been to mom and dad in choosing the given names.  So much so, that when his little brother was born, they would say with regret,  OK no, not another worthless child.

Think about it for a minute:  They had hoped that their first child, be the “deliverer.”  Instead, their joy–their hope–in their first-born son would fulfill God’s promise–would be a person who became selfish, prideful and egocentric.  Cain’s every thought seemed to focus on his wants, his needs, his fulfillment.  Do you see the irony in the boy’s names they received?

CAIN, which means “of God,” turns out to be worthless.

ABEL, which means “worthless,” turns out to be the righteous one.

THE BROTHERS OFFERINGS:

It was never the CONTENT of the OFFERING at all that God rejected.  It was the person making the offering.

Notice the wording in Genesis 4:5:

“But He did not accept Cain and his gift…”

It wasn’t just the “offering” God rejected, but Cain himself.  It seems to me that Cain’s sacrifice was more of an attempt to appease God, than an act of FAITH & WORSHIP.

Christianity can sometimes be practiced today…

On Sunday mornings between 10:00 to noon.  A person goes to church every Sunday, hoping that this “sacrificial giving” appeases God…or their church.

Then, from noon of Sunday till 10:00 the next Sunday, live their lives the way they want.  No regard to a holy and just God.  Practicing all kinds of selfishness.

We are FILLED with ego and pride; live day-to-day filling our lives with things that offend our Lord.

We give bo regard to our neighbor, to the hurting, to the needy.

We have little time for devotions, prayer, and Bible study; about the only time we even remember God is when we specifically want something.

God spoke to me a few years ago on a Sunday morning, right before the musicians headed up to the stage-platform:  “Mel, what you do within these 4 walls every Sunday morning beginning at 10:30, is NOT CHRISTIANITY!” 

“IT’S WORSHIP…it’s our OFFERING TO GOD!”

God can only accept our WORSHIP on Sunday morning IF….

Our lives demonstrate our FAITH the rest of the week.

That’s where CAIN FAILED–and when he discovered his worship wasn’t acceptable to God, he became angry.

He comes to God with the OFFERING…God seeing that his HEART isn’t right…can’t accept it.  Cain, instead of repenting and changing his life, storms off angry, bitter, and jealous of his brother’s acceptance…”God always loved you best Abel” attitude.

Wrong Thinking Developed from an Unrighteous Heart Condition–

Cain says to himself:  If I get rid of my brother, no one else will know and God will have to accept me.  And his heart remains cold and unresponsive to God’s leading.

Looking at Abel’s Offering…why was God willing to accept the sacrifice?

I found the main reason, probably the only reason in Hebrews 11:4:  “By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith…”

If there is but one word that makes a difference between these two offerings, this it:  FAITH.

By faith, Abel offered to God…he knew he couldn’t appease God.  Abel knew and understood that he needed God’s grace–it was God’s mercy, so he made an “OFFERING” that represented his hearts desire.  A DESIRE to follow the Lord with a broken and contrite heart.  ABEL, had sacrificed the “first-born” of his flock.

“But for CAIN and for his OFFERING He [God] had no regard”–

God regarded the person over the offering.  WHY?  Because of the brother’s hearts–not because of their offering.  I’ve grown to understand, WORSHIP is a matter of my HEART–not the matter of form.

Cain’s form was fine–nothing wrong with a “grain offering.”  He could make all of the sacrifices that he wanted to, but until his HEART CONDITION was right…he would never have a relationship with God.

CHURCH MEMBERSHIP TODAY:

Millions of people think GOD LOVES CHURCH ATTENDANCE.  They are leaders in their church and in their communities.  Teaching Sunday School, Nursery Workers, Singers on the church stage…hoping and praying all of this will make them acceptable to God.  That their GIFTS, GOOD DEEDS, TITHING REGULARLY…will “punch their ticket” to heaven.

That fact is, God has already been appeased…

Jesus Christ bought and paid for our SALVATION on the Cross of Calvary.

Our Response?  It must be the same as Abel’s.  The only way we can have RELATIONSHIP with God is through FAITH.  

What is FAITH?  

Most of us understand FAITH to mean–“trust” or “believe” and these are good definitions.  In fact, if you think about it, EVERYBODY has some kind of faith in their lives:

—  Some trust in their own deeds – believing like Cain;  “I can do the right things”

—  Some believe there is no God – a stupid kind of faith, but “faith” never the less.

—  Some trust and believe in Jesus!

They are the ones, the believers in Jesus, who have a relationship with God.

Why was God pleased with Abe’s offering and not Cain’s?  Because God was pleased with Abel and not Cain.

So it doesn’t matter what you SACRIFICE for God, if your heart is not right with Him,  He cannot and will not accept your offerings.  God doesn’t need your money put in the offering basket every Sunday…He wants your HEART first of all!

An Acceptable Offering
An Acceptable Offering

However, if you have received JESUS CHRIST as your Lord and Savior, your OFFERING…your SACRIFICE OF WORSHIP will be a pleasing aroma before the Lord.

 

Footnote:  [1]  Line from the movie “Network”.

Photos: by Photo Pin

 

 

 

“Where is the PREEMINENCE of Christ in Most of Our Churches?”

In my last blog-post, JESUS Is More Than An Image, I intentionally skipped over Colossians 1:18 to address the importance of who JESUS is and His headship of the body, the Church.

“He [JESUS] is the head of  [His] body, the Church, seeing He is the Beginning, the Firstborn from among the dead, so that He alone in everything and in every respect might occupy the chief place [stand first and be preeminent]”  (Colossians 1:18 AMP).

Church in the Wildwood

A Song of Old – “The Church in the Wildwood?”

I’m probably dating myself with this song, but here are but a few of the lyrics:

There’s a church in the valley by the wildwood.

No lovelier spot in the dale.  No place is so

dear to my childhood.

As the little brown church in the vale.

I enjoy the song, but being perfectly honest here, what a sappy and sentimental picture this is of the Church.  The words might bring back some memorable images, but not a true picture of the Church.

The Church is…

The Church is the body of Jesus Christ Himself.

The Churchthe one we might be attending–is the body of Immanuel, God with us.

Before we start the detective journey together, let me give you understanding of why I chose the word PREEMINENCE in the title of today’s blog.

PREEMINENCE simply means “to be first” (Grk. protos) and is used of Christ in relationship to the church in verse 18.  So now perhaps you understand a little better and I’ll continue on with the importance of Christ being Pre-eminent; in everything that we do personally and the effect of our responsibility in the church.

How dare we ever take that for granted.  How dare we abuse the body of Christ with gossip and backbiting.  How dare we neglect the body of Christ with messed up priorities and apathy.  Notice who the apostle Paul is talking to here–the local church and not some unseen universal church.  He is writing to a specific group of believers who gathered together on a regular basis; the local church in Colosse.  Paul tells them they are JESUS’ body!

The Church Is the Body of Christ Jesus–

The word “church” comes from ekklesia (ek-klay-see’-ah), meaning a congregation or assembly made up of people who have been “called out.”  Being “called out” by the gospel (“born-again”) means being part of the local church as Jesus’ body.  This is the only way that we can truly give Him the preeminence in verse 18 of Colossians 1 refers to.

Don’t misunderstand me here, the preeminence is already His:

“Therefore  [because He stooped so low] God has highly exalted Him and has freely bestowed on Him [JESUS] the name that is above every name” ~ Philippians 2:9.

JESUS willingly obeyed the will of the Father, and the FATHER highly exalted Him–lifted Him up.

JESUS SAVES–

When JESUS saves a person, He saves them to be baptized into the local church, to be united with other believers into His body.  If you think that you are saved and not part of a local church, you might want to check your heart.  The Bible doesn’t talk about JESUS’ body parts floating around by themselves.

Jesus’ Relationship to His Church and its Importance–

His relationship to His church is His body on earth.  Paul speaks of the many parts of the body; the body does not consist of one limb or organ but of many (1 Corinthians 12:12-24).  So when you hear of a friend in the local church who is in the hospital sick, don’t ask and expect the Pastor of your church to go–you’ve got feet…you go!

JESUS in-dwells those who trust Him as Lord and Savior and because He in-dwells us, we become part of His body.  As a part of His body, we should desire to unite with the rest of His body.

But Only In The Context Of Worship and The Work In The Local Church–

I am probably sounding redundant to you at this point, about PREEMINENCE, but the emphasis is critical to the church.  This is where the body gathers, where we can truly show JESUS the preeminence He already has.  Our worship, our work (James 1:22-27; 2:26), is the only thing that truly shows who JESUS really is to a lost and dying world.  Don’t judge your own past relationships with people in a church you once attended by what God has to offer.  It’s not all about you, it’s about JESUS–His preeminence.

JESUS HAS A RELATIONSHIP TO HIS CREATION:

In 1985, being without employment, I decided to take an opportunity of a new job and location in the United States–Honolulu, Hawaii:

I lived with a young couple who also worked at the same job in a small cute home.  They were parents of a three-year old little girl and were having difficulties with their finances.  Contrary to belief, Hawaii isn’t the Paradise you might think.  So here I was, in Paradise (not really), living in a small but full house, with people I barely knew.  Three months later, I left the island of Oahu after sharing the Gospel and seeing a young man saved by JESUS.  This would have never happened if a relationship hadn’t been developed and nurtured.  It’s called Life Style Evangelism and I had become like a member of their family.

Living in someone else s family, in their home, made it impossible not to have a relationship.  JESUS has a developing and nurturing relationship with us–His church.

Biblical Examples of Christ’s Relationships–

“Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her,    So that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word.    That He might present the church to Himself in glorious splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such things [that she might be holy and faultless.    Even so husbands should love their wives…”  (Ephesians 5:25-28).

SALVATION and BAPTISM ARE ALWAYS IN THE CONTEXT OF THE LOCAL CHURCH:

When JESUS SAVES a person, He saves them to be baptized to the local church; to be united with other believers into His body.  If you think that you are saved and not part of a local church, you might want to check your heart and the hardening of an artery or two.  The Bible doesn’t talk about JESUS’ body parts floating around by their selves.

Washing away our sins in Baptism–

The context here in these verses pertains to the RELATIONSHIP between husbands and wives.  Something I’ve learned in over 48-years of being married to the same woman is,  “LOVE can only be known by the action it prompts.”  Christ uses His relationship with His bride, the church as an example for us to follow.

The definition of the word “washing” as found in Strong’s Concordance Greek Dictionary #3067, indicates that water baptism is used by Christ to achieve cleansing and sanctification of the bride–the church.

“And now, why do you delay?  Rise and be baptized, and by calling upon His name, wash away your sins”  (Acts 22:16).

I was saved and baptized at the age of 30.  Although I understood the meaning of the act–and in obedience to His Word–I somehow had lost the preeminence of JESUS over the years and I know my worship had suffered.

THE REAL JESUS IN OUR CHURCHES:

God almighty cannot be known, worshiped, served in any way, to any decree, except as He is known, worshiped and served by faith in and through the merits of Christ Jesus our Mediator.

Our Savior declares, “No man comes to the Father but by Me.”  Our faith, prayers, church services, and sacrifices of praise are acceptable to God only through the person and work of JESUS our Mediator (1 Peter 2:5).

In the Preaching of the Word Christ is Pre-eminent.

The most important aspect of public worship is reading and preaching of the Word of God.  But this fact must be understood–it is not enough to just preach the Bible.  We are “called to preach” the message of the Gospel!  And the message is JESUS CHRIST AND HIM CRUCIFIED.

There is not a page in our Bible that doesn’t speak of Christ, not a page!  And there is no preaching of the Word of God unless Christ, who is the Gospel, is preached (1 Peter 1:25).

The Book of Acts–

The Book of Acts demonstrates that our Lord JESUS was the  singular subject of preaching in the earliest days of Christianity.  The words preach, preached, and preaching is used 37 times in the Book of Acts.  Every time they are used the subject preached is JESUS Christ the resurrection!  So if the Book of Acts is then our standard, it must be concluded, unless Christ has been preached…no preaching has been done.

That man who pretends to be a “preacher”  and doesn’t preach JESUS Him crucified, mocks the people who hear him.  Rather than serving their souls, he destroys them.

In all our songs of praise Christ must be Pre-eminent–

It’s insignificant–what musical instruments are used.

It’s insignificant–whether the tempo of the music is modern/contemporary or conservative.

But it is the utmost importance that the Word of and message contained in our songs of praise be both doctrinally accurate and Christ exalting.

Going Back to the Question I Started With–“Who is Jesus to you?”

Is He just a baby in the manger taken out of a boxed stored in the garage, then dusted off once a year?

Is He some “get out of jail free” card to you?

Is He some type of Fire Insurance that lets you live any way that you want to and still escape the fires of Hell?

Do you know the real JESUS or have you settled for a cheap imitation?

What the Real JESUS Demands in His Preeminence–

Preeminence in yours and my church! 

He doesn’t just SAVE you to keep you out of Hell!

He doesn’t just SAVE you to make you healthy, wealthy and prosperous!

1.  THE REAL JESUS SAVES YOU FOR A PURPOSE–To die to flesh and live for Him!

2.  HE SAVES YOU TO GROW IN HIS CHURCH–

3.  HE SAVES YOU TO REACH THE LOST– (even going to Hawaii if needed)!

That’s the REAL JESUS!  It is your decision if you haven’t already, to make Christ Pre-eminent in your life–in your church.  What then are you going to do?  I’ll be looking forward to you answers in the comment section of this blog.