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It¡¦s so easy to criticize what others are doing. If you look diligently enough you can find something wrong with everything. A farmer¡¦s neighbor was so negative, criticizing everything and anything. The farmer bought a new plow, the neighbor said it would rust soon. The farmer remarked how it was good to have more rain this year, and the neighbor lamented that his crops would rot at the root with all this rain. It went on ad nauseam.
The farmer determined he would find something to cheer up this bottomless pit of despair. He went out and purchased the finest hunting dog, and secretly trained him to fetch by walking on the water, instead of swimming.
When hunting season came the farmer invited his sour neighbor to go with him. When the first flock passed by, the farmer and his friend shot several ducks each. The farmer yelled to the dog, Fetch! The hound darted, his feet barely skimming the surface of the lake. He scooped up four ducks from the water and was back in an instant, dry as a bone. How ¡¦bout THAT? questioned the farmer. Remarked ol¡¦ sourpuss, Cain¡¦t swim, can he?
Blessed Are The Persecuted
Matthew 5:10-12 says, "Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."
We are not to be surprised if people in the world hate Christians. (1 John 3: 13) Matthew Henry wrote, "Whom Christ blesses the world curses. The heirs of heaven have never been the darlings of this world, since the old enmity was put between the seed of woman (Eve) and of the serpent (Devil). Why did Cain hate Abel? Because Abel's works were righteous."
Persecution is a great paradox and a part of Christianity. Therefore it is put last of the eight Beatitudes. Jesus gives mention of it twice in His opening statements in the Sermon on the Mount because persecution is certain. In fact, "...everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted..." (2 Timothy 3: 12)
Righteousness, proper living before God, is an offense to people who live for the flesh, the world and the Devil. True holy living by the children of God convicts those who live for themselves.
Persecution, which is seen by an all-knowing God, comes in many forms and is found in every nation. Christians have been fined, imprisoned, banished, stripped of their estates, scourged, tortured, falsely accused and killed. There is no evil so black and horrid as false accusations and the persecution of Christians who truly walk uprightly before God.
Today's text does not encourage Christians to seek persecution. But, neither does it permit retreating from it, sulking or retaliation.
Christians who are persecuted because of righteousness will have a great reward in heaven. They may not understand the purposes nor see the benefits of it down here on earth, but there will be a great reward in the future life. Persecuted Christians who are fully surrendered to the Holy Spirit, can be like Peter and the other apostles when they left the Sanhedrin "...rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name [of Christ]." (Acts 5: 14)
Dayna Curry and Heather Mercer were the two American Christian aide workers being held by the Taliban under threat of death during the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on America and the resulting U.S. attack on Afghanistan. They open their book, "Prisoners of Hope" with these words, "To the Afghan people whom we so dearly love." These words reflect the heart of Christians who are willing to risk persecution and perhaps death for the sake of taking the gospel to the lost, those who are without Christ as personal Savior and Lord. They also wrote; "To our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Your everlasting love healed our hearts and set us free. May we honor and love you with all that we are for all of our days."
Having the "Righteousness" of God is to have a surrendered heart to His will, regardless of the cost. Blessed are those who will undergo persecution for the sake of the righteousness of Christ.
The law has a purpose. In the case of Cain’s wife, there was no need for this law at the beginning. There are over 130,000 genes that we inherit from our parents (Explain genes to the ancient world). Genes are formed in pairs. At the moment of conception, we inherit one gene of each pair from each parent. In order to contract a genetic disease, both genes will be defective. Therefore, if two people come from the same parent, the likelihood that they both have the same defect is much greater. But if we marry outside of our family, the risk of genetic defects is greatly reduced. Man was not created with defective genes. Our defects are a result of the curse of sin. Cain was only one generation from the original creation and therefore there was no need for this law. However, after 4,000 years the defects were very real and there was a need to protect the people from the harm they could not see. That is what the law does. It directs and protects us from the dangers sin produced in this fallen world.
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"Peter replied, 'Repent and be baptized, everyone of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’" (Acts 2:38).
Pat Summerall spent 50 years with the national Football League. He was drafted by the Detroit Lions in 1952 and played with the Chicago Cardinals and New York Giants until 1961. After his retirement from the game, he joined CBS as a broadcaster, and in 1993 switched to Fox. During his CBS years he and a fellow broadcaster partied hard off the field. "We raised Cain. I was the first guy at the bar and the last to leave." Summerall was told that if he kept on drinking he was going to die.
After checking himself into the Betty Ford Clinic, his counselor urged him to seek a better life through faith. At age 66, Pat Summerall was baptized. In USA Today he told a reporter that when the minister "leaned me back in the water, I never felt so helpless." Summerall testified, "I knew I just became a Christian. I can’t tell you how great life has been since then."
Baptism is a faith response to the gospel of Christ. In baptism we are indeed helpless. We are sinners in t...
"American life is builded ... upon that fundamental philosophy announced by the Savior nineteen centuries ago ... [It] can not survive with the defense of Cain, Am I my brothers keeper?"
Faith’s Hall of Fame: Abel
Cooperstown, NY. Those of you who are baseball fans know that it is the home of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Ten years ago, back in July of 1998, my son Joel and I visited Cooperstown. We had tickets to the Hall of Fame game at Doubleday Field. The Baltimore Orioles played the Toronto Blue Jays and beat them 7 to 1 in an exhibition game. The Orioles are my son’s favorite team so it was a special treat to see them play. Before the game, we visited the Hall of Fame. We had a great time looking at all the exhibits. The Hall of Fame includes …
· 35,000 bats, balls, uniforms, and gloves
· 130,000 baseball cards
· 500,000 photographs
At the Hall of Fame, you can view such treasures as …
· Jackie Robinson’s 1956 Brooklyn Dodgers jersey
· The bat Babe Ruth used to hit his record setting 60th home run back in 1927
· The most valuable baseball card in the world—the T206 Honus Wagner card—worth 2.8 million dollars
By the way, if you come across some old baseball cards in a trunk in your attic, you might want to find out what they’re worth before you sell them at a yard sale for 50 cents!
Well, the Hall of Fame contains many baseball treasures. But the centerpiece of the museum is a room called The Plaque Gallery. There the plaques of all 278 members of the Hall of Fame line the oak walls—including such Yankee greats at Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Yogi Berra, and Mickey Mantle.
In Hebrews chapter 11, we walk into a gallery. But it’s not lined with the plaques of baseball’s greats. Rather, it’s lined with the plaques of Old Testament greats—men and women of faith.
In Cooperstown, we have Baseball’s Hall of Fame. In Hebrews 11, we have Faith’s Hall of Fame. And the first plaque that we come to bears the name of an Old Testament All-Star—a man by the name of Abel.
His plaque is engraved with these words in Hebrews 11:4: “By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead.”
K. Edward "Ed" Skidmore
Listen to these facts about a few Bible heroes:
· Adam blamed his wife for his problems.
· Cain killed his brother, Able
· After surviving the flood, Noah despaired and got drunk. (Now, think about it. After spending a year closed up in a floating barn, then finally getting out to see nothing but mud and destruction --- you just might feel the same way.)
· Jacob was a liar and a schemer (Besides having that dream about a ladder, he lied to his father and tricked his brother out of an inheritance)
· Joseph was an abused by his jealous brothers --- who sold him into slavery.
· Long after David killed Goliath, he had an affair and ended up committing murder to hide the evidence.
· The famous prophet Elijah became so depressed at one point that he was suicidal
· The devoted apostle Peter denied Christ when he needed him the most
The Bible includes accounts of just about any ugly, unmentionable sin known to mankind … from murder to rape to incest to infanticide. The Bible may be written about ancient times, but it is completely IN TOUCH with the human condition today. You will not see anything in REAL LIFE that’s any worse than the reality found in the Bible.
My wife and I recently saw a television show on The History Channel titled, “The Man Who Predicted 911.” We were both moved by this hour presentation and its focus on one man by the name of Rick Rescorla. Long before September 11th, Rick Rescorla, the 62-year-old head of security at the Morgan Stanley Bank, developed an evacuation plan for the bank. The bank’s offices were situated high up in the South Tower at the World Trade Center. Rescorla was convinced that Osama Bin Laden would use jet planes to try and destroy the World Trade Center. The plan and its preparation were hugely unpopular with the Morgan Stanley staff, many of whom thought Rescorla was mad.
On September 11, 2001, American Airlines Flight 11 hit World Trade Center Tower 1 at 8:46 am. Rick Rescorla ignored building officials’ advice to stay put and began the orderly evacuation of Morgan Stanley’s 2,800 employees on 20 floors of World Trade Center Tower 2, and 1,000 employees in WTC 5. Rescorla reminded everyone to "be proud to be an American ... everyone will be talking about you tomorrow", and sang God Bless America and other songs over his bullhorn to help evacuees stay calm as they left the building. Rescorla had most of Morgan Stanley’s 2800 employees as well as people working on other floors of WTC 2 safely out of the buildings by the time United Airlines Flight 175 hit WTC 2 at 9:07 a.m.
After having reached safety, Rescorla returned to the building to rescue others still inside. He was last seen heading up the stairs of the tenth floor of the collapsing WTC 2. His remains were not recovered. As a result of Rescorla’s actions, only 6 of Morgan Stanley’s 2800 WTC employees were killed on September 11th, 2001, including Rick and three of his deputies who followed him back into the building.
The remainder of this very moving broadcast focused on Morgan Stanley Bank employees who now in tears were praising and acknowledging Rick Rescorla for saving their lives from total destruction that day. Many felt so guilty and apologetic they had thought Rick foolish to keep preaching and standing for what he believed would happen if they were not ready. Those interviewed said they would never forget Rick Rescorla. He was their hero.
Mr. Rescorla left behind a widow, Susan Rescorla, and two children that day. Since 911, a memorial stone was erected in Rick’s hometown of Hayle, Cornwall, to commemorate his life and the sacrifice he made to save others.
James 5:19-20 says, “My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” As sinners saved by grace, we must have a “Rick Rescorla Attitude.” He was convinced people entrusted to his care would perish if his plan of escape were ignored. Rick Rescorla stayed the course even when unpopular and ridiculed because he believed what he was doing would save lives.
Sadly, many Christians today have a “Cain Attitude” when it comes to rescuing the perishing and having a consistent witness. Unlike Rick Rescorla, they say by their actions: “I am not my brother’s keeper.” How this must grieve the heart of Almighty God who has left us here as His Beloved Children to sh...
There is a professor at Howard University Divinity School, a teacher and scholar, with an unusual name. A name that tells this very story. The distinguished professor of New Testament, the author of the book Troubling Biblical Waters, is named Cain Hope Felder.
Dr. Felder tells his own story: a young man who never knew his father, who grew up on the seamy side of the street, a young man whose family has been shattered by violence and devastated by crime. How could such a young man enter the Christian ministry and teach New Testament in a seminary? How else except that, though he bears the mark and the name of Cain, the curse, he also is claimed by Christ and therefore shot through and through with hope? His name utters the promise: Cain--hope. Cain, yes, but hope too. Grace. Possibility, even for marked men.
(From a sermon by Joseph Smith, "Marked Men" 1/22/2009)
Cain is displaying an attitude that many non-Christians have about Christians. There is often indignation from those who don’t believe they deserve to be in God’s favor, derogatory statements like, "Christians are a bunch of do-gooders, hypocrites etc." Often this reflects their deep wish to be reconciled and accepted by God, but instead they have anger toward those who are.
So often we exhibit anger instead of repentance when we are accused of doing something wrong. Very often after a time has passed, the anger subsides and guilt and sorrow take its place. Once again there is a lesson here to just confess and repent when we are caught, so that we can avoid long-term inner turmoil, though we may still have to deal with the consequences of our actions.