Another Path

The Bible tells us that Cain made offerings to the Lord, but the Lord did not look with favor on them.  Cain grew angry.  So angry that he killed his brother Abel.  The killing was not by accident.  It was not a momentary fit of rage, but a planned, ruthless act committed after inviting Abel into the fields and away from watchful eyes.

When the deed was done the Lord asked Cain about his brother.  Cain answered with a question that lives on in infamy:  “Am I my brother’s keeper?”  Perhaps this question has compelled the preparation of more sermons than any other.  Who is my brother?  Who is my neighbor?  What duty do I owe my brethren?  What duty do I owe my neighbor?

The brothers John and Charles Wesley were at the heart of the Methodist movement during the 18th century.  They responded to the question of being their brother’s keeper very differently than Cain had.  Although they had times of disagreement and estrangement, each focused on serving the Lord.  That focus and that service always brought them back to a better relationship with God and with each other.

A Charge to Keep I Have was written by Charles Wesley after reading a Bible commentary by Matthew Henry on Leviticus chapter 8.  In that passage, God gave the Levites a charge to watch over the tabernacle.  Henry extended that charge to each of us today.  “We shall every one of us have a charge to keep, an eternal God to glorify, an immortal soul to provide for, one generation to serve.”

Neither Wesley nor Henry had Cain in mind when they wrote their words, but the words strike the very message that Cain needed to hear.  It is the same message that we need to hear today.  Read the words of Wesley’s first stanza:

A charge to keep I have,
a God to glorify,
a never-dying soul to save,
and fit it for the sky.

Cain did not keep his charge.  He chose a path of death and destruction.  Will we choose another path?  A better path?  God has given us our charge.  May we keep that charge today and every day!

Follow the Path!

[Use with Honoring God in Our Way, day 14 of A Labyrinth Pilgrimage]

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The Path Which Honors

Abel was a simple shepherd, tending his flocks in the fields.  He made offerings to God regularly from the first and best of his animals.  God honored Abel’s offerings.  Cain became angry and killed him.

We really don’t know much more than that about Abel.  He his never mentioned again in the Old Testament, and his name reappears only a handful of times in the New Testament.  Even so, his example and his fate were well known to Jesus, and the righteousness of his offerings still teaches us lessons today.  Honoring God with the first and best of your gifts is the only way to truly honor God.

Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow is a “doxology,” which means an expression of praise to God.  The words most often sung in English speaking churches were written by Thomas Ken, a Bishop in the Church of England.  Ken had a gift for writing verse and a passion for honoring God.  The Doxology that we sing today was actually used as the closing verse for two other hymns that Ken wrote.

Most hymns until Ken’s time had been sung directly from scriptures, usually the Psalms.  When he shared his new hymns with students at Winchester College, Ken instructed them to use them only in their rooms.  The succinct statement of praise in the Doxology could not be held in those rooms, though.  Today it is sung in thousands of churches by millions of Christians whenever they come together, usually at the time that offerings are joyfully given, just the way that Abel did.

Rejoice in the greatness of God as you read the words:

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
praise Him, all creatures here below;
praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

God is great!  Remember this as you walk the path to the foot of the cross.

Follow the Path!

[Use with Honoring God in His Way, day 13 of A Labyrinth Pilgrimage]

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