Sacrifice: a surrender of something of value as a means of gaining something more desirable or of preventing some evil
We were studying Cain and Able this week. Genesis 4 is a short and powerful chapter. Two brothers born of the same family, but distinctly different. We marveled at how little detail is included in the account leading to debates and conjecture over what made Cain's sacrifice unacceptable. Some say it should have been a blood sacrifice, but others suggest the blood sacrifice was being made by Able for his family. He after all kept watch over the flocks and would have been the one to identify the firstborn. We see in Exodus blood offerings were shared even between neighbors, so it is not unlikely that Able's sacrifice was acceptable for the whole family. Exodus 12:3-4 Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor... that being said, this theory is plausible. We also know the Bible tells us that God Judges the heart (1 Samuel 16:7) and others think this was strictly a heart issue. Maybe he was grumbly in his heart not understanding why he would take his best produce to set it on fire and so instead gave to God what we would consider seconds at the market. We really don't know as the account in Genesis is brief. Perhaps there is a blessing in the brevity. It is discussed again in other places in the Bible such as Matthew 23:35 where Christ himself refers to Able as "righteous Able" and Hebrews 11:4 states "by faith Able offered a better sacrifice than Cain," but what made that distinction is a bit mum. Perhaps the brevity of the passage is an encouragement by God not to get lost in the weeds? If we focus on what we do know, we see in Gen 4:6 The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” The fact that God tells him to do what is right, means he knew what God wanted him to do and he chose not to do it. Grey areas don't exist with God. He lovingly reasons with this man. He gives him a speech that has, please choose right capped off with you can do this. You are bigger than this temptation. It is a talk that many fathers have had with their boys that frequently ends with a hug and/or a slap on the back. It is also one of those places in the Word that you see God's heart as He lovingly and patiently reasons with him. Sadly Cain does not rise to the occasion. Rather than improving, he killed Able and removed the light that shone on his darkness . (John 3:20-21) He ends up being driven by God from the presence of his family and God Himself. I find it particularly interesting that he acknowledges that he will be a "restless wanderer." A life lived without God is purposeless and restless. A popular slogan is, Know God, know peace. No God, no peace. There is much truth in that. People pontificate about where he went and who he married. I don't expend a lot of energy on this in that that it is irrelevant. They all died in the flood. So what is the critical take away? God is not the hippie anything goes God that is peddled as opiate of the masses these days as a means of filling coffers. The "Burger King God" theoretically standing to the side saying "have it your way." That God doesn't exist in reality. The God that does exist, is a loving father that has expectations of His children. He is very clear about them. You find them reading the Bible. I love the assigned acronym Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. It is so much more, but yes, that too. It is all in there. Exodus 20 is a great place to start. Sacrifice is throughout the Bible. It is there right from the start when Adam sacrificed his rib for Eve and is further seen in the story of Abraham and Isaac which is being highlighted in the movies now. Esther sacrificed her safety. Ruth sacrificed being with her family. Moses sacrificed position and power. Joseph sacrificed comfort when he spurned Potiphar's wife. Noah sacrificed his time and reputation when he took God at His word and built the ark and most notably, Christ sacrificed everything. He is who we follow. As a follower of Christ, sacrifice can take many forms. Maybe it is the job you really want that conflicts with church, so you don't take it. Or it could be a wrong relationship. That friend who is steeped in sin and encourages you to come along for the ride, but you instead hold them at a safe distance while praying for them to find the Lord. For some it is not eating, drinking or smoking something. It is guarding your eye gate and ear gate by choosing to not watch or listen to things that don't honor God. It is giving to others as there is need. It is also taking the time to share God's Word with those God puts in your path. There are so many ways that we can set aside self for God, but one thing is certain, the life of a believer will always be marked by heartfelt sacrifice. A huge blessing is that a life lived this way requires no Jesus Loves Me t-shirts, baseball caps or fish on your bumper to identify you as a child of God. The light you shine will require no introduction. It will permeate everything you do making your life pleasing to God and a beacon to those seeking Him.1 Thess 4
All good things. Have a blessed week!
A Living Sacrifice
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land: the prophets prophesy falsely and the priests rule at their direction;
my people love to have it so, but what will you do when the end comes? ~ Jeremiah 5:30-31
Roman Catholic Church. The definition of Catholic is universal. So, Roman Universal Church. In 325 AD in a conference hall in Nicea approximately 300 Christian leaders assembled under the order and direction of Constantine. He had come to embrace God on some level. Whether it was spiritual or political is unknown. What is known is that he said the "division in the church was worse than war." He had united the Roman Empire physically in 324 AD becoming the sole Emperor. Now he wanted it united in faith and practices. He called the leaders together in an effort to essentially end all doctrinal differences. Of those gathered, it is said that some bore scars from imperial lashes, one pastor from Egypt was missing an eye and another mans hands were crippled by the use of red hot irons on them. This was a brutal time for Christians. Only about two decades earlier in 303 AD, the Roman Emperor Diocletion had issued an edict to destroy Christians and their Bibles. Over a burnt Bible he built a monument that stated "Extincto Nomene Christianorum." Meaning, the name Christian is extinguished. He also fashioned a medal that read "The Christian Religion is destroyed and the worship of the gods restored." It was not. The persecution officially ended in April of 311 when Galerius issued an edict of toleration. Christians now had the right to gather and practice their religion. Now able to openly worship and share their beliefs, it was clear there were some differences and disagreements between the churches. Rome liked uniformity in worship. This meeting was to bring a little.The hope was to unite the many cell churches in their beliefs. You no longer had to worship Roman gods, but you were called to be a Christian according to Constantine and other people in positions of authority. He stated he wanted "no single point in common with the perjury of the Jews." Yeshua is a Jew. His parents were Jews. Many of his disciples were Jews. He came first for the Jews and then for the gentiles (Romans 1:16) and said salvation is from the Jews. (John 4:22) Constantine must have missed all that or didn't care.... Constantine also punished by death people converting from Christianity to Judaism, which swung wide a door for persecuting those who remained faithful to Biblical teachings. Because it was the state religion, most everyone wanted to join and few were declined. Paganism crept in. Heathen feasts became church festivals. Of them was Eostre. Along with turning their backs on Christian Jews, they stopped allowing Jewish input and rooted out much of the influence of Judaism. On that note they pulled out Passover. It is a feast that God's people were commanded to keep in the Bible which unbeknownst to Jews prior to Christ, has many elements that clearly were a foreshadowing of our Messiah. Most importantly, Christ at the last supper, which was a Passover meal, (Matthew 26:17-20, Mark 14:12-17) told His disciples when you do this remember me. The Passover is a reminder of when God rescued His children from the bondage of slavery to the Egyptians. During Passover they sacrificed a lamb. In 1 Corinthians 5:7 the disciples acknowledge that Christ is our Passover lamb. The shank bone on the Seder Plate reminds us that the lamb had to be without blemish and without a broken bone. That is prophetic. (John 19 31-37) Matzoh is placed in a bag called an echad. The bag has three chambers. In Judaism it is reminiscent of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but as a disciple of Christ it is hard not to see a correlation to our Lord. There are three chambers in the bag. You put matzoh in the first and seal it. No one sees it or touches it during the Passover feast. This is symbolic of God who no man has seen. The second pouch gets matzoh broken in half. They keep one half in and the other is wrapped in a cloth for later. The three matzohs are thought by many to symbolize the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and the wrapped piece that is hidden is later searched for by the children present. This is reminiscent of Christ in the tomb. When it is found they usually celebrate with sweets, etc. Also of note, is that the matzoh used must be prepared without leavening. Leavening is often equated to sin in the Bible. It has to have stripes and has to be pierced. We know Christ bore stripes and was pierced for our iniquity. (Isaiah 53:5) There is more, but I believe the point is made. The Passover feast is filled with such powerful symbolism. It is no wonder that Christ as He approached His time to leave this world chose it as a time to remember Him. Not to cast the story of Exodus aside by any means, but to use this time to reflect on the awesomeness of God, His miracles and the precious gift of our Messiah. Conversely, Constantine did away with this in favor of adopting Eoster/Ostara. This was a festival that was essentially celebrating the Spring Equinox. It predates Christianity and is still kept by many pagan cultures. You can likely find one local to you. It is marked by coloring eggs, rabbits, feasting, etc. Constantine hijacked it and ousted Passover in favor of it. It was made an official church holiday at the Council of Nicea in 325 AD in the spirit of "having nothing in common with the murderers of our Lord." This is crazy, racist and sad. This is one of many things they did to ostracize Jewish people from the church. It is an inconvenient historical fact. They stopped keeping Passover that Christ himself prescribed as a fitting way to remember Him and His sacrifice and opted out for egg hunts, six foot tall bunnies, and other assorted pageantry. Now on a personal note, what started us on this journey? Easter Eve of 2021 we tucked our girls into bed. "Bunny is coming better get to sleep" type conversations were happening. It was late and we needed to get those baskets out. As final touches were applied and we set to sleep there was a cough. I went in the bedroom and felt Margaret's head. She was burning up. As I touched her she startled a bit. I picked her up to bring her in my bed and evaluate her. As I picked her up I could feel her little body was trembling all over. Instinctively, I knew this was covid. As I held her in my arms my eyes caught sight of the baskets as she started vomiting over my shoulder and down my back. It is like the world converged in that moment. I thought of Christ on the cross. I thought of what He suffered for me. He sweat blood as He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane at just the thought of what awaited Him. (Luke 22:39-44) This is medically known as hematohidrosis. It happens very rarely when people are under extreme stress. I also thought of how His loving and Holy Father had to watch Him suffer on that cross and stand aside to save me. I thought of how Christ cried out to His Father, "My God, My God why have you forsaken me?" Matthew 27:46 Laden with our sins He was calling out to His Father in a way that seems to be saying please, I have had enough. Take me home. Soon after He left that cross, but not before He made arrangements for His mother, pardoned a thief, and prayed for the soldiers casting lots for his garments. They took something sacred and treated it with irreverence. In Christ's own words, "they knew not what they were doing." I no longer have that excuse, praise God. If you made it this far, neither do you. As a point of interest, it was the same governing body that changed the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday. Remember, "nothing in common with the murderers of our Lord." They really meant it. So, who do you follow? Much of what happens in today's Christian Churches is by Constantine and the Roman Catholic Church's design from the day people attend to the holidays they celebrate. That was our last Easter. Last year we researched a bit for alternatives that were Christ honoring. Passover was the obvious winner. Especially when we discovered the pagan roots of Easter and hatred behind it, but how would little girls steeped in Easter bunnies and jelly beans take to it? They loved it. As I swept and cleaned up after the dinner Elizabeth said, "that had so much more to do with Christ than Easter ever did." She was right. We are excitedly waiting for Passover 2023. This article is scratching the surface. Be a Berean. Search the scriptures. Where the scriptures are silent, look to history. People have made a mess of God's Church either for greed, power or influence. Many people are ignorantly following doctrine made by men. They have exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped created things rather than the creator. Romans 1:25 We were in that number. The great news? You can decide in this moment to be different. His mercies are new every morning. This can be Day 1 of the rest of your life. Personally, we are glad to have escaped the hamster wheel. It is definitely a rabbit hole. What began with discovering that the Catholic Church/Constantine changed the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday, has taken us down a windy road that has been enlightening and liberating. Most importantly we are closer to our Lord and closer as a family. If you would like to join us on our journey, you are welcome to contact us. We weekly have coffee, tea, juice and treats as we dig into God's Holy Word together. We are not a denomination. We are just God's people doing our very best to follow him and love Him well. You can look for updates and announcements for special events on our FB page ~ God's Church.
If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. ~ 2 Chronicles 7:14