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Tag Archives: Church

Our Exceeding Great Reward

“After these things the word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward. (Genesis 15:1)

After Abraham’s meetings with Melchizedek and the King of Sodom, the Lord speaks to him in a vision and says, “Don’t be afraid, Abram. I am your Shield and your exceeding great Reward.” What comforting words these must have been! I am your Shield, the Lord tells him, I will protect you. As we saw before, Abraham had defeated a much larger army under the leadership of Chedorlaomer and chased them all the way to Hobah, near Damascus. The possibility must have entered his mind that this army could very well regroup and return for retribution against him and his small militia. But the Lord confirms to Abraham that He Himself is a Shield for him and will protect him.

God also reinforces to Abraham that He is his “exceeding great Reward.” Abraham has been offered vast wealth and riches from the hand of the King of Sodom and he has declined to accept even a shoestring from him (Genesis 14:23). I wonder how many who witnessed Abraham’s refusal of this offer that day thought to themselves, “How foolish!” Those who went with him into battle accepted payment for their part (v. 24), what did they think about Abraham telling the king, “No.” Along with the murmuring within the camp that must have been going on, Abraham’s own flesh must certainly have put some doubt in his mind as to whether or not he had made the right decision. We know that he had to be having some anxiety about the possibility of being attacked and about whether he had made the right choice in turning down the King of Sodom. When God tells someone Fear not, you can be sure that this is not merely a formality! That person is feeling fear.

If I may paraphrase what God is saying to Abraham here, He tells him: “I know that you’re worried and afraid, Abram, but you do not need to be. When you were fighting in battle, I was right there with you, protecting you. I will do it again if necessary. You did the right thing by turning down the King of Sodom’s offer, it was not what I wanted for you. But you haven’t lost anything: I am your Reward, a Reward that is far greater than all the riches of this world!” What Abraham is literally being told is that God Himself is his payment, his compensation. Not that God will provide the reward, He is the Reward! And His worth is “greatly multiplied” beyond that which the King of Sodom had offered.

God’s words to Abraham at this time are the most intimate that we have seen thus far. The Word of the Lord came unto Abram, as surely as it does to all who love Him. The Lord calls him by name here saying, “Fear not, Abram…” What a comforting reassurance that we belong to Him when He calls each of us by name (John 10:3). And what God declares that Abraham now has is of greater worth than anything else He will ever give him: Himself. Beyond all of the manifold blessings that God will give unto him throughout his life, this is the greatest. God Himself is His Reward.

“As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?” (Psalm 42:1-2)

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is so often being presented today as something that will enhance a person’s life. Serving God is portrayed as a means to an end with the Christian’s focus being on the gifts he hopes to receive from the Lord rather than on the Lord Himself. Seeking to know what is in the heart of God has been replaced with a desire to receive what He holds in His hand. Our only purpose for fellowship with the Lord is that we might make known to Him our needs and requests; our prayer and communion with Him being no more than the vehicles and instruments whereby we seek to procure the material. But the day will come when we step from this life into the next and all of the material blessings are gone, no more of the worldly wealth remains, and all of our possessions are left behind. Our most precious possession that we will have in that day will be being in the presence of our dear Savior… just as it should be now.

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published December 14, 2009]

**All Scripture quotations in this post are taken from the King James Version (KJV) Bible

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

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A Strife Between Abraham And Lot

“And there was a strife between the herdmen of Abram’s cattle and the herdmen of Lot’s cattle: and the Canaanite and the Perizzite dwelled then in the land.” (Genesis 13:7)

I was reading a Question and Answer forum on the Internet a while back and came across a “question” posed about why adherents of a certain Christian denomination did something one particular way when the Bible clearly stated to do it another. Well, first of all, the practice in question was what would be considered a debatable or questionable “gray area” (not something clearly prohibited by Scripture) and second of all, the “question” was being posed by someone claiming to represent a denomination that does things very differently. In other words, the “question” was nothing more than a direct attack against this other denomination.

Naturally, it wasn’t long before a member of the denomination under attack came to the defense of his church’s practices and proceeded to set the questioner straight about why his denomination was in fact the one that was correct in this matter. As the two went back and forth and became more and more hostile, a third party interjected the snide comment, “I just love it when Christians fight amongst themselves.”

So often we as Christians get wrapped up in bickering between ourselves over issues of no importance that we forget that we are being observed by those outside the Body of Christ. We might be disputing something that we see as vitally important, but all the unbeliever sees is disunity and rabid sectarianism. Most unbelievers do not really know the difference between Methodists and Episcopalians, Lutherans and Presbyterians, or Calvinism and Arminianism. Furthermore, they don’t really care. What they are looking at is how we live out our Christian walk,  how we treat them, and how we treat other Christians. The Lord said that people would know that we are His disciples by our love for one another (John 13:35).

Genesis 13:7 points out that the Canaanite and the Perizzite dwelled in the land when the herdsmen of Lot and the herdsmen of Abraham disputed over that land. What did they think about these strange foreigners who served One God as they argued and bickered over whose cattle would drink from which stream? Did they shake their heads in wonder as these strangers in their land pushed and shoved one another over something so trivial?

“And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren.” (Genesis 13:8)

Finally, Abraham himself  intervened and appealed to his nephew, Lot, reminding him that they were brethren. Obviously, there are doctrines of the Faith that absolutely cannot be compromised. We can no more have fellowship with the heretical cults who misuse and abuse the precious name of our Lord and Savior than light can fellowship with darkness. But those who do believe the fundamental tenets of the Faith are our brethren. They may call themselves by a different denominational title, they may choose to worship in a different style, they may do things a little bit differently, but if they are servants of the Lord Jesus Christ and they worship God in Spirit and in truth, then they are our brethren.

We gain nothing in quarreling with our brethren over inconsequential matters. All we accomplish in doing so is to further distance the unbelieving Canaanites and Perizzites in our own lands from coming to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published December 1, 2009]

**All Scripture quotations in this post are taken from the King James Version (KJV) Bible

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

 

And Lot Went With Him

“So Abram went forth as the Lord had spoken to him; and Lot went with him. Now Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.” (Genesis 12:4)

“And Lot went with him…”

These words are almost a footnote in Genesis 12:4. Abraham did exactly as the Lord had commanded him and, oh by the way, he also decided to bring Lot with him. So what was the problem with this? Well, we saw in verse 1 that God had told him to get out of his homeland AND away from his kindred. He was to leave his father’s house and all of his relatives and set out for the place where God was taking him. As far as I can tell, it seems that he and his wife Sarah should have really been the only ones to make the journey.

The first leg of the trip that Abraham makes out of Ur of the Chaldees brings him to the city of Haran. Genesis 11:31 tells us that it was Abraham’s father, Terah, who brought the family to this place after Abraham’s brother, also named Haran, died. Perhaps Terah was grief-stricken at the loss of his son and wanted to find a new beginning in a new place. Maybe he even founded this new city himself and named it in honor of his memory. Whether or not Abraham should have even joined his father in going to Haran is uncertain from what we are told in Scripture. In Stephen’s testimony before the Sanhedrin recorded in the Book of Acts, we are told :

“…“Hear me, brethren and fathers! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran,  and said to him, ‘Leave your country and your relatives, and come into the land that I will show you.’ Then he left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. From there, after his father died, God had him move to this country in which you are now living.” (Acts 7:2-4)

So God had instructed Abraham even before he went to Haran that he was to depart from his father’s house and go to the land that He would show him. Whether God had led Abraham to first go to Haran with his father and then later go to the land of Canaan or whether this was entirely Abraham’s decision cannot, in my opinion, be concluded from the what we are told. But it is at least curious that after Abraham is told to leave his father’s house that he actually follows his father to another place. Many have referred to this time in Abraham’s life as the “wasted years at Haran”, and perhaps they were. We do know for certain that God’s plans for Abraham’s life were put on hold as he waited in Haran for his father to die.

But what about Lot? Well, with Lot we can be certain that it was not God’s intention for him to accompany Abraham to Canaan. We need only to look at the next few chapters and see the enormous amount of grief and trouble that he caused his Uncle Abraham for many years to come! In Genesis 13:6 we will see that the land that God had provided for Abraham was simply not big enough to hold Abraham and Lot. It was never God’s plan for Lot to live there. What God’s plan was for Lot I do not pretend to know. He obviously provided for Lot’s safety in spite of his being “out of place” when He enabled his Uncle Abraham to rescue him from the captivity of the kings who warred against Sodom and Gomorrah (14:16), and later sent angels to lead Lot and his family out of Sodom (19:15). So, we can surmise that the Lord would certainly have provided for Lot had he not joined Abraham in Canaan, and the lives of both of them would have went a lot smoother, we can be sure.

Taking On Unintended Responsibilities

At first glance, it really doesn’t seem like Abraham did anything wrong. In fact, we might even consider his actions rather commendable. Poor Lot had lost his father in Ur of the Chaldees. Then, his grandfather, Terah, died in Haran. Wouldn’t it be the right thing for Abraham to now take this young man under his own wing? Except for the commandment and calling he had received from God, it probably would have been. Let us first understand that Lot was not a small child in need of a caretaker. He was a grown man. Second, we should understand that the callings of God are never to be used as a guise for self-centeredness. It is wrong to shirk our God-given responsibilities under the premise that we are doing so in order to honor and follow the Lord (see Matthew 15:4-6). Had Abraham abandoned a responsibility to look after Lot so that he would be free to  go off on his own journey, that would have been a different matter. No, he voluntarily took Lot with him with the idea that he was doing what was in his nephew’s best interest, even though the Lord had told him to go without his kindred.

How often do we do the same type of thing? We take on responsibilities in our walk with the Lord that He never intended for us to take. We do not follow exactly what God tells us to do because we try to go beyond what He wants us to do. He tells us to teach a Sunday School class, we apply to Pastor the church; He tells us to witness for Him to our next door neighbors, we volunteer to go on a mission to Asia. Aren’t these things in fact better than what He has called us to do? We might think so, but when we do this we are bringing “Lot” along with us on the journey and it is going to cause us trouble.

Bringing Too Much Baggage

Abraham’s bringing of his nephew Lot with him is also a picture of failing to make a “clean break” from where we were so that we can go to where God wants to take us. God has called us out of the place where we were before we knew Him to go somewhere entirely new. We cannot bring the things of our old life with us on this journey. When He says to us: “Follow Me”, we must walk away from where we are, forsake our old lives apart from Him, and follow. Peter and Andrew left their fishing nets behind (Mathew 4:20), Matthew walked away from his tax collecting office (Matthew 9:9), and Paul “resigned” his position as a Jewish leader (Philippians 3:4-8).

When the Lord calls us to follow Him and we bring along our extra baggage, when we fail to lay down our fishing nets, or walk away from the position that we held before we knew Him, we are not listening to His call. When we retain the same habits, when we keep all of the same friends and acquaintances, when we do not completely depart from out of our own country and from our own “kindred”, we are bringing along Lot with us and we can be sure that he will cause us a great deal of trouble.

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published November 22, 2009]

**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

 

Why Did Cain Kill Abel?

"And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him." (Genesis 4:8)

“And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.” (Genesis 4:8)

Last time, we saw that Genesis 4:7 left Cain with a decision to make: to obey God or to disobey God. In verse 8, we see which decision he made. It would seem that Cain’s problem was really with God; after all, it was God Who had rejected him. Why did he turn his anger, then, toward Abel?

“If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” (1 John 4:20)

There is a definite correlation between how a person views God and how they treat those around them. One simply cannot revere God while abhorring the people whom God has created. When we truly love and extol the Lord, we will be compelled to love our brethren. As is exhibited by Cain, we see that the opposite of this is also true.

People with disdain for God have always hated those who love Him. Wherever there is repudiation of God’s righteousness, there is invariably contempt toward those who honor it. The arrogant despise the humble. For what great crime did the religious authorities in the Lord Jesus’ day desire that He be put to death? No crime that He committed, but because their own deeds were wicked (John 3:19). Those who walk in darkness yearn to extinguish any light that illuminates their own sinfulness.

“Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous.” (1 John 3:12)

Genesis 4:8 is quite remarkable, not only for what it says, but what it does not say. Cain talked with Abel. He had already decided in his heart what he was going to do after God had so graciously reached out to him. He had already rejected God’s offer of reconciliation. But there is no outburst toward Abel after God meets with Cain, no assault on him at the time. No, he talked with him. I am of the opinion Cain never even mentioned his conversation with God to Abel. Cain went on as if nothing was wrong and pretended that he harbored no ill will.

“And it came to pass…”

There was no immediate reprisal made against Abel. Instead, Cain bode his time, waiting for the perfect opportunity. They were in the field together, away from others. Cain wanted no witnesses to his horrific act. Abel trusted him, he went with Cain into that field, never suspecting the fate that would befall him that day.

Isn’t this the way that it so often happens in our lives today? Our greatest harm comes not from those who stand in declared opposition against us, but from those who claim that they stand by our side. It is usually our “friends” and “brothers” who give the greater cause for concern than those who assert that they are our enemies. The most insidious attacks made against the children of God have not come from those who never set foot inside a church; they come from those who sit in the pew beside them.

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published September 16, 2009]

**All Scripture quotations in this post are taken from the King James Version (KJV) Bible

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

What Was Wrong With Cain’s Offering? (Part 2)

"But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell." (Genesis 4:5)

“But for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. And Cain became very angry, and his countenance fell.” (Genesis 4:5)

We considered last time some of the problems with Cain’s offering. Cain had tried to make himself acceptable to God on his own terms based on who he thought that he was and by offering his own works.

Abel made his offering according to what God had revealed, but Cain did not. Cain’s “bloodless” offering was not made in recognition of his sin and need for atonement, but out of pride and an utter denial that he was guilty of any sin. Cain created mankind’s very first false religion, born out of humanity’s innate desire to decide for themselves how they will come to God. This is what Jude is referring to when he warns of those who “go the way of Cain” (Jude 11); they, too, ignore the way that God has revealed that we must come to Him and attempt to earn God’s favor by their own merits.

God Rejected The Offerer

“But unto Cain and for his offering He had no regard.” It wasn’t just the offering that Cain brought that caused God to reject him, it was what was in his heart. Cain himself was not accepted by God, not just his offering. This is important to see. No amount of ritual will make us right with God if our hearts are not right toward Him. It is not the motions that we go through that bring cleansing, but a contrite and repentant heart.

“Samuel said, Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.” (1 Samuel 15:22)

The prophet Samuel told Israel’s first king, Saul, that rituals do not please the Lord, obedience does. We cannot please God when we disobey Him, regardless of what we offer instead. Cain’s offering from the harvest of his fields was not a “second-rate” offering. In his eyes, it must have seemed a lot more impressive than the little lamb that Abel was bringing to God. But it wasn’t what God was asking for.

What We Must Bring

For us, there is but one acceptable Sacrifice that we can “bring” to the Lord in order to be accepted by Him: the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. We cannot substitute the works of our hands or the harvest of our fields. We cannot be accepted because of who we are or who we think we are. He’s asking us for a Lamb and nothing else will do.

How many people still “go the way of Cain” and bring to God offerings for Salvation that He will not accept? Maybe it isn’t fruits and grains, but money to the Church. Or they are volunteering their time, or even serving in a ministry. Until we first bring the Lamb, we will not be accepted.

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published September 9, 2009]

**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

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