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Who is CAIN? A Biblical Character Profile

Cain is possibly one of the most well-known baddies of the Bible. Yet his entire life is summed up in only two and a half paragraphs of biblical text (Genesis 4:1-17). His legacy of jealousy, violence, and inappropriate worship sent shockwaves throughout all of history. Who was this man who had such a profound impact on the world?

CAIN: A Brief History

Cain was the first boy ever born to human parents. He was born just like every other person—as an innocent, impressionable infant. His parents, Adam and Eve, were the first man and woman to walk the earth, and were uniquely crafted by the hands and breath of God himself.

When Cain was born, Eve said, “With the Lord’s help, I have gotten a man.” Many commentators have pointed out the peculiar wording in the original Hebrew as being a reference to the prophecy that God gave in Eden after Adam and Eve sinned (Genesis 3:15). That prophecy (the first prophecy in the Bible!) is nearly universally claimed as a direct promise of the Christ who would come to bear Adam’s sins, thereby removing the curse Adam placed on humanity (the fancy word for it is “proto-evangelium”—or “the first Gospel”). Continue Reading

The Forgotten Way

My journey has been a slow one, learning to walk the Christian walk. For most of my life I’ve been embedded within the church (by that I mean both the corporate institution and the relational network of self-identified Christians), yet struggled to take hold of the power of the Gospel that the apostles and early converts seemed to have.

One look at the way the church spread and influenced society and changed human lives and sent rippling shockwaves through all of history tells us that what the early Christians had was profound, real, and powerful. One look at the flaccid counterpart to that church now blowing in the winds of post-modernism tells us that none (or very little) of that profundity, reality, or power exists in their souls.

I don’t mean to say that real Christianity doesn’t exist today, nor that there aren’t considerable gatherings of the Church—the real Church—that are changing the lives of those near them. In fact, what I’m saying is, “Let’s take a look at the mindset of the real Church then and now, and compare it to that of the lifeless clones claiming to be the real Church yet lacking true power.”

By all signs, many of us in America have forgotten (or forsaken) the way of Christ for perceived personal gain. In the end, we have attempted to grasp the world and lost our souls in the process. Sound familiar?

All over America, and much of the Western world, we hear a gospel of personal gain claiming the authority of the gospel of martyrdom, but these two are opposites. Selfishness will never be selflessness, and the sooner we recognize this and renounce selfishness, the sooner we can move into living the true Christian life.

The problem with lies is that they have a way of multiplying and morphing like a virulent strain of influenza, making them difficult to pin down and suppress. We inoculate ourselves to one strain of nonsense only to be infected by another the next day. For the sake of brevity, we will only examine two of these lies, and use them to point out the profundity of the immovable truth.

Lie #1: Jesus died and rose again so you could be saved from hell.

Truth #1: Jesus died and rose again to make holy worshippers out of dirty rebels.

Of course, Jesus did die to save us from damnation, so calling it a lie may be misleading, but saving us from damnation is only the very beginning, not the end goal! He did not save us just to save us. He saved us TO something (himself!). This may seem an unimportant distinction, but in my experience, it’s all-important. Lie #1 either frightens or entices people to ask for forgiveness based on selfish motivations, whereas Truth #1 inspires us to ask for forgiveness for God’s sake. This marks a total departure of intentions from the very beginnings of our walk.

I was brought into the Christian fold under the fear of damnation, not the fear of God. These two things are completely different, the first being moored in selfishness, the latter being moored in self-forgetfulness. When we are awed by the mystery of God’s majesty, we forget ourselves, longing only to throw all we have at his feet. When we are blinded by the light of Hell’s flames, we see nothing of God, and think of only saving our own skin. If we offer ourselves to God for selfish motivation, we are doing nothing more than offering a sacrifice for our own worship instead of God’s, like Cain in Genesis 4.

Don’t get me wrong, we must all repent and mourn our mistakes. There are times when the fear of damnation can inspire in us the type of repentance God accepts. But most often, it has been abused, and has misled many (me included) into a false idea of what Christianity is about. It’s not about us going to heaven. It’s about us being purified so that we can worship God with everything.

Lie #2: Jesus died and rose again so you could be happy.

Truth #2: Jesus died and rose again so that we would know to expect suffering as we throw our lives at his feet.

This one’s tricky because Jesus did die to fulfill our purpose for existing, and in fulfilling our purpose he gives us immense joy. However, once again, if we come to Jesus purely for the hope of personal gain, we destroy the calling.

To embrace the Christian life is to embrace pain and purpose. We do it for God’s sake, not our own, because he is the one who gives us the ability to choose it. It should always be clear in our minds that we cannot choose the Christian life in our own power. This is because everything about the Christian way goes directly against our nature. We are told to die to ourselves when all our nature screams for self-preservation. We are told to hate sin when all our nature is burning with lust for sin. We cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, for any moment of time, choose Christ without Christ choosing us and giving us the strength to choose him.

It is by God’s grace we are forgiven and offered the power to live for him. Not our own abilities, so that no one can boast about how great they are, but so that through him we would boast in how great God is, thereby fulfilling our purpose to worship him in holiness. These truths are simple, yet profound, like everything we learned in kindergarten (“share,” “be nice to each other,” “if you have nothing kind to say—do not say it!”).

For most of us, our reasons for coming to Jesus will be inevitably mixed because we are fallen. But we must recognize this as an incongruity and proclaim, “I believe! Help my unbelief!” Selfishness is the factual state of fallen man, but no state to remain in. How much worse to mistake the good news of the freedom Christ purchase for us with the fulfillment of our fallenness.

When I think about my own selfishness, I often think of myself as the thief on the cross. A thief is one who sins for personal gain. “I take this from you and better my position by doing so.” The soul of the thief is the soul of every person who comes to Christ for selfish purposes.

The men who crucified Jesus mocked him, calling him the king of the Jews, not realizing he was the King of the universe. Not realizing that the crown of thorns they smashed into his skull was the punishment that bought them forgiveness. Not realizing that the sign they hung above his head was a proclamation of the truth instead of a satire for a pathetic, failed political leader. But the thief saw it all and said, “This man is true!”

We come to Christ as the crucified thief—stripped of all physical possessions, able only to offer him our lives. How lucky we are that it is all he asks from us.

Like the thief, we must expect to die beside him, arms stretched wide to embrace the God-Man mirrored beside us, body wracked with pain, soul crying for relief.

This is the calling. This is the true power of the Christian life. That we must deny ourselves for his sake, to be filled with the real and profound power of a transformed life. Expecting pain, yet believing in his promises. Enduring suffering, yet looking forward to the hope we have in Jesus—the hope of fulfillment, joy, and immutable life here and into the halls of timelessness; the promise of redemption and holiness to replace our guilt and depravity; the promise of a real, practical reversal of our desires and actions.

The call is a daily pursuit of the person of Christ, a moment-by-moment renouncement of selfishness—and more than the renouncement of selfishness, it is self-forgetfulness in the awe of the presence of the living God, of true worship in a holiness bought with his blood and offered to us as a free, undeserved gift.

In return, we are asked to walk in his footsteps, mirroring his personhood, following him toward skull-hill to pour out our blood as a drink offering to the God of the universe, trusting that to die is to live. This call, this “good news,” bears no resemblance to the gospels of selfish gain. It is no path for the faint of heart, for those afraid of violence.

Jesus, let us never believe that we exist to please ourselves, but only to please you. Please, in your mercy, offer us the ultimate joy you promise in giving you honor and glory. Like little children, let us make you proud. Likewise, give us patience in suffering. Let us be like Abel who offered his work to glorify you, instead of like Cain who offered his work to glorify himself. Empower us to live for you. Direct our focus toward you. And may every action and thought and word we perform be like incense rising to your throne! We love you, Jesus. Help our un-love!

1 Peter 4:1-2 “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.”

If this encouraged you, please share it with someone!

What is the Imagination?

What is the imagination? What does it do? How does it work? Is it an organ? A particular part of the human soul?

We talk day in and day out about imagination—“Oh, Miss Writer has SUCH a huge imagination to write such amazing stories,” or, “Joe Bob Billy Bob has such a small imagination that he can’t even see animal shapes in clouds”—but what is the imagination?

A while back, a man posed that question to me, and I opened my mouth (ready to let fly some philosophical sounding answer) but couldn’t think of a single word to describe it. My mind was as blank as a wasteland, and I realized for the first time that I had never really understood what the imagination was.

So, after a whole heck of a lot of thinking, I came to the conclusion that, in short: The imagination is the portion of our minds that allows us to connect our intellect and emotions to the process of worship. It is the human capacity to wonder. Our built-in desire for something greater than ourselves that manifests in millions, maybe even billions or trillions of ways, though its end goal is always the same. Continue Reading

My Faith Journey: “WHY DID NO ONE TELL ME THIS EARLIER?!”

I’ve gone to church my entire life.

Practically grew up in a church pew.

Went on Sunday mornings, sometimes Saturday evenings, and never missed Wednesday nights.

If you asked me, “What is Christianity?” I’d have said, “It’s about serving God and being saved (aka ‘go to heaven when I die’).”

However, a few years ago, as I sat on my couch mulling over a simple, thin book by a man I’d never heard of before, I came to the realization that I had never truly understood Christianity. In just a few pages, the text of that book illuminated the true meaning of Christianity, and the true reason for why human beings exist in the first place. Continue Reading

Why, “Live, Laugh, Love” Isn’t Helping You Actually Live, Laugh, Love

We hang plaques on our walls to inspire ourselves to be what we aren’t, or to conjure traits we wish we had. But if it truly worked, the current popularity of “Live, Laugh, Love,” should have resulted in more people Living, Laughing, and Loving. Instead, we see an epidemic increase in suicide, depression, and divorce papers filed with the US government.

Why isn’t it working? Continue Reading

Why is the Story of Cain and Abel in the Bible?

The story of Cain and Abel was taught to me in Sunday school as a moral tale: “Cain was rejected by God because he was a bad boy, so he became jealous of his brother Abel and killed him. Don’t get jealous, boys and girls! Because God is disappointed with us when we want to hurt our brothers and sisters.”

But after years of studying the story and meditating on its meaning, I’ve come believe it’s not a moral tale at all.

The story of Cain and Abel is Continue Reading

The Importance of Identity

One danger in living the artistic lifestyle is the lure of living through your art. It is easy to begin to believe that the art you create is, in fact, more important than the life you live.

Whether it’s the thought that our art will still be around when we are not, or that our art’s impact on people’s lives is so much easier to tabulate than the sum of kindness offered to strangers. It’s a tempting lie to believe.

But why?

Many of us begin making art after we find that Continue Reading

I’m a dad.

My wife and I just had our first baby, so I’m taking a few weeks off to be with them.

Given that last week’s blog was on proper time management, I figured it would be appropriate for me to take some of my own advice. And due to the fact that I haven’t yet attained the discipline necessary to write my blog posts several weeks in advance, I’m taking a break from blogging for this extremely special time.

Truth is, I just want to be with my precious little daughter and my amazing wife and not worry about anything else.

So, in the meantime, here’s some older posts you might enjoy:

Why I Love Being Really Really Bored

Is a Story Better if it’s Based on a True Story?

Art and Religion, or Art vs. Religion?

5 Tips for Effective Time Management

tips for effective time management

Without effective time management, life becomes a circus. But effective time management is extremely difficult to maintain.

Many of us have to balance providing for our families physically, emotionally, and spiritually, while working a job, tackling passion projects, keeping God the center of our lives, and resting enough to avoid total burn out. If we struggle to maintain balance with everything on our plate, either we have to remove one of the items on our plate, or Continue Reading

Pray for an ENTIRE HOUR? WITHOUT STOPPING?

This week is a bit different than others. Rather than ramble about something you likely don’t care about, I thought it would be good for me (for all of us) to take the next hour to pray intentionally.

A while ago I was introduced to something called a “1-hour prayer wheel.” Don’t worry, it’s not some newfangled spiritually themed amusement park attraction. It’s actually an extremely easy way to guide yourself through one straight hour of prayer time.

*GASP* A straight hour of prayer time? I know, I still wince at how intense that sounds. Maybe you’ve never spent a full hour in prayer. Maybe your attention span has only rarely allowed you to focus on something for fifteen minutes at a time.

But have no fear, because if I can do it, so can you. In fact, all you need is a timer (or a clock), a 5-minute attention span, and 1 whole hour (bit of a “duh” here, I suppose).

So here’s the magic demystified: Continue Reading