My Best?

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“And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? and if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? saith the LORD of hosts.”   Malachi 1:8 

I’ve been reading through the Bible this year, and yesterday I read Malachi.  I don’t know about you, but I often think that I won’t find anything pertinent in some of the Old Testament books.  Boy, was I wrong!  The whole Word of God is full of messages from our heavenly Father, and the Holy Spirit knows exactly what we need to hear.

The verse above is a good example.  Written to the Israelites who had returned to Jerusalem with Ezra to rebuild the temple, the verse shows their lacks of commitment to the Mosaic Law.  It was not a matter of not knowing what to do; they just were not doing it.  When we compare their worship to that of the Israelites who first brought gifts for the tabernacle, we see quite a difference. Four times in chapter thirty-five we read of their willingness, and then in chapter thirty-six we read:

“And they spake unto Moses, saying, The people bring much more than enough for the service of the work, which the LORD commanded to make.”  (Sounds like some of our covered-dish dinners!)

So who do we resemble?  Does God get the best or the left-overs?  When we dress for church, do we put on our best?  I know some will say it doesn’t matter – that God sees the heart, but I wonder.

Matthew Henry put it this way:

If we worship God ignorantly, and without understanding, we bring the blind for sacrifice; if we do it carelessly, if we are cold, dull, and dead in it, we bring the sick; if we rest in the bodily exercise, and do not make heart-work of it, we bring the lame; and if we suffer vain thoughts and distractions to lodge within us, we bring the torn. And is not this evil? Is it not a great affront to God, and a great wrong and injury to our own souls? In order to the acceptance of our actions with God, it is not enough to do that which, for the matter of it, is good; but we must do it from a right principle, in a right manner, and for a right end. Our constant mercies from God, make worse our slothfulness and niggardliness (not generous, small or inadequate), in our returns of duty to God.

It’s a bit wordy (I had to read it a couple of times!), but I think he hits the nail on the head.  God deserves our best, we all know that; however, we are such good liars to ourselves!  We say we don’t have the time, but if we take a careful look at our schedules, we will see what the “god” of our lives really is.  I hear excuses for not coming out on Sunday night and Wednesday night.  I mean, who thought that up anyway.  It doesn’t say in the Bible that we have to have Sunday night church or Wednesday night!  Correct: seven times in the book of Acts, it mentions that the people DAILY came to worship!

Our constant mercies from God, make worse our slothfulness and niggardliness (not generous, small or inadequate), in our returns of duty to God.”  How sad that we take advantage of God’s mercy.

Last week, in the teen’s Sunday school class, I asked the students why they obeyed an authority in their lives.  They came up with about seven very good reasons, but the one that I was looking for was missing: love.  Love is the greatest motivator.  It causes burly men to put on an apron and do the dishes; it makes women smile when he walks across the newly washed floor in muddy boots; it drives the young man to do really crazy things and the young woman to melt…and it kept Jesus on the cross.

I wonder, have I done my best for Jesus,
Who died upon the cruel tree?
To think of His great sacrifice at Calv’ry!
I know my Lord expects the best from me.

I wonder, have I cared enough for others,
Or have I let them die alone?
I might have helped a wand’rer to the Saviour,
The seed of precious Life I might have sown.

The refrain heaps question upon question:

How many are the lost that I have lifted?
How many are the chained I’ve helped to free?
I wonder, have I done my best for Jesus,
When He has done so much for me?

The following is from Wordwise Hymns:

What exactly is a hero? Certainly Edward Spencer would qualify. He was a student at Northwestern University in 1860, when a steamer called Lady Elgin was wrecked off the shores of Lake Michigan. Despite numerous injuries from floating wreckage, he repeatedly dashed into the raging surf to rescue passengers in mortal peril. Seeing his deteriorating condition, others tried to stop him, but on he went. He is credited with saving 18 people, one by one, finally collapsing in utter exhaustion. It is reported that, as he lay all night in the infirmary, he repeated over and over, “Did I do my best, fellows? Have I done my best?”

Spencer is honoured by a plaque in the gymnasium of Northwestern University. But there are a couple of sad footnotes to his story. He was so badly injured that apparently he spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair. And when visited in later years he said with tears, “Not one [of those rescued] ever came back and even said thank you.” Though he undoubtedly did not rescue them in order to earn their gratitude, it is a sad commentary on our frequent failure in this area.

In 1924 Ensign Edwin Young (1895-?) heard Spencer’s story and published a song that draws a spiritual lesson from the incident. (Ensign was not a title of rank, but was Young’s first name.) Young served as Dean of the School of Music at Hardin-Simmons University, in Texas 1934-1956. I have been unable to find the dates of his birth and death. His song raises the penetrating question, Have I Done My Best for Jesus?

Trusting His Keeping

Picture1“If we trust for ourselves, we must trust for our loved ones also, especially for our children.  God is more their Father than their earthly fathers are, and if they are dear to us they are far dearer to Him.  We cannot, therefore, do anything better for them than to trust them in God’s care, or do hardly anything worse for them than to try to keep them in our own care.

I knew a Christian mother who trusted peacefully for her own salvation but was racked with anxiety about her sons, who seemed entirely indifferent to all religious subjects.  One evening she heard about putting those we love into the fortress of God by faith and leaving them there.  Like a flash of heavenly light, she saw the inconsistency of hiding herself in God’s fortress and leaving her beloved sons outside.  At once her faith took them into the fortress with her, and she abandoned them to the care of God.

She did this so fully that all her anxiety vanished and perfect peace dawned on her soul.  She told me she felt somehow that her sons were God’s sons now and no longer hers.  He loved them far better than she could and would care for them far more wisely and effectually.  She held herself in readiness to do for them whatever the Lord might suggest, but she felt that He was the One who would know what was best, and she was content to leave the matter in His hands.”   God is Enough – Hannah Whithall Smith p. 246

Quite the challenge: only trust Him – the One who fills the universe and knows every second our our future!  Why is it so hard to do so when it comes to our children?  🙂

It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man. (especially ourselves!)  Psalm 118:8

When Life is Over…LIVE!!!

ID-100186249I can’t help wondering what my mom is thinking tonight – after fifty-five years in one house, this is her last night there.  This is the place where she brought up her two little girls, the place where Dad farmed, where life was lived. It’s over; another chapter has closed in her book of life.

I wonder if she feels like life is over?  I know Tom and I felt a bit that way when Nathan left for college this year.  The chicks have flown, the nest is now empty.  Is life over?  Only if you want it to be!

Next door to my mother’s beautiful new home, another James will grow – our grandson.   Perhaps someday, like my father, he will have cows just like his Pappy!  Maybe he will love the fields and woods too.  He is a new generation, having the rare privilege of growing up in the same room as his grandmother did!  My room is now his room!  What an awesome thought and blessing!

Growing old gracefully – it’s harder than you think!  It seems like we spend so many years changing diapers, feeding hungry teens, training our children to have character – preparing them to receive the passed baton; and then suddenly, they’ve snatched it from our grasp and are running, running, running!  (And we can’t keep up! 🙂 )  We sigh a little, remembering all those wonderful years – wondering where they went; and we can feel as though life is over.

It is a new chapter, and that can be a bit scary; but if we dwell too much on the past, we miss all the wonderful blessing that God has for us today!  And isn’t that just like Old Scratch!  In much the same way, he tempts young people to dwell on the future, missing today’s blessings !

One of my favorite sayings (I believe of Ken Hay’s of at the WILDS) is: “Keep your mind where your body is!”  Grant it, there are times when we enjoy looking forward to a special occasion: but if we spend too much time in the past or future, our lives become nothing more the skips and jumps with a whole lot of emptiness in between!  Cherish the past; prepare for the future, but most of all, relish today – you will never be able to live it again!

So here’s to tomorrow: moving day!  May this new chapter add many wonderful memories to an already full life!

“He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” Micah 6:8

 “But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?”             Luke 12:20

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Bear Attack!

ID-1008340So… it’s a beautiful morning and I’m doing the usual 2000 video cutting-edge aerobics when I look out the window and decide to take Pepper for a walk instead.  Good choice, because I not only get good exercise, I also fill my lungs with fresh crisp twenty-four degree country air!  AND I get to talk to God – it’s always better out there in His creation.

I’m on my way back, jogging a bit, when I think I hear something behind me.  My worst possible nightmare is now a reality.  Loping in my path just thirty feet back is a black bear!  I hurry my pace, but there’s no way I can outrun it!  How often have I played this scenario in my mind before?  What will Pepper do?  Will Tom find my mangled body?

My legs are jelly, when I stop, plant my feet. Turn around, and scream at the top of my lungs (much like the father on “The Croods”J) I wave my arms and act crazy; and to my amazement, the beast stops, looks, and turns off the road into the woods.  Now I’m really ready to fall apart, but thankfully I’m only a hundred yards from the house.  I’m going to make it!!

Yes, this is a made up scenario; but ever since I read about a man walking his dog our west somewhere and getting attacked by a black bear, I’ve been wary of walking our dirt road.  It’s very deserted: only the two other neighbors’ houses in eye-view from ours, and then one other house at the dead end and a hunting cabin – not much civilization.  We often see bears around our house, although we’ve only seen them once when walking this road.  It COULD happen, but it didn’t.

So where’s the connection?  I had been praying about several “impossible” situations that are in our church, reminding God that He is the God of the impossible, when HE reminded me of some impossible situations in my own life.  Would I prove God and work to change those impossible life habits?  Doing so would be a good thing! It stopped me short, and I thought of the bear.

What is stalking you, ready to attack and destroy you if it could?  Right away we think of something awful like drugs or an extramarital affair; however, most of us aren’t stalked by big Papa bears.  Maybe you’re laying out of church for whatever the reason.  Perhaps you’ve dropped the habit of daily Bible reading, or you never find the time to pray.  Is it the TV programs you watch or the books you read or the internet sights you frequent that are stalking you?  Let me tell you – those yearling bears can take the life out of you just as quickly as a full-grown male!  They are deadly, and so are the habits I’ve just mentioned.  They are not only stalking us, but they are sapping us of our strength, lulling us to sleep.

Can you imagine talking to someone who has a bear chewing on his arm?  You say, “What’s that bear doing?”

“Oh, I know.  I really need to get rid of him.  I’ll get around to it someday.”

But someday never comes because you are dead!  Our bad habits are keeping us from the Spirit-filled life that God has planned for each of His dear children.

Years ago, my husband-pastor said this after a counseling session: “I wish I could take that person, who is making wrong choices, and have him talk to the guy I talked to last week that’s just twenty years down the road, reaping the consequences of the same bad choices!”

Make a choice.  Plant your feet squarely on God’s Word and determine to change!  You don’t have to scream and act crazy, but you do need to storm the Throne of God and ask for help!  And watch the bears run!!!

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live;

yet not I, but Christ liveth in me:

and the life which I now live in the flesh

I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” 

Galatians 2:20

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The Heavens Declare the Glory of God

ID-10085094The stars were beautiful last night even though the clouds rolled in this morning.  As I looked out the bedroom window during the night, I couldn’t help thinking of Psalm 19: 1

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.”

Truly, the heavens teach us so much about our wonderful God.

  1. The universe is beyond our comprehension.  We look up and see those beautiful pinpricks of light, which at times look to be so close we could touch them!  We get a two-dimensional view: as though they are all on the same plane, like tiny white spots on a chalkboard.  However, the distance between the stars themselves, and the distance between the stars and us, AND the depth of the universe is beyond our understanding – so much like our God!
  2. Space is so incredibly big and empty!  We look at the little pricks of light, completely ignoring the emptiness of space.  It’s the light that draws our attention; and once again, the same is true of our loving Savior.  He drew us with His light for “in him is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5)  Even though this dark world seems to be swallowing up what little light is left of the Gospel, there will ALWAYS be light as long as our God lives!
  3. We see the stars through our atmosphere which often dims our view.  How true of our God!  When this life gets so busy and we run around like ants, our focus on God becomes clouded by all “the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things.”  (Mark 4:19) None of us want to admit that we are the plants that are choked by weeds in this parable.  We all want to believe that we are the good plants bearing fruit for the Master; however, how quickly the old devil distracts us!
  4. Unless you have been in a spacecraft outside of this world’s atmosphere, we have no idea how bright and wonderful those stars really are!  Oh, dear born-again believer!  What a joy will be ours when we get to leave this old sin-sick world and see our dear Savior face to face!  There truly will be nothing between us and our Savior!

You and I are those tiny pinpricks of light!  As the world gets darker, it only serves to brighten our light!

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine!

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“Eating” Sorrow” ?

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Psalm 127:2

 “It is vain for you … to eat the bread of sorrows…”

Just a quick nugget from my devotions: This verse says it is vain to “eat the bread of sorrows.”  At first glance, we might just skip over this, saying, “Yea, yea, whatever,” especially if we are not sorrowing. At a second glance, we might come up with this: it is useless to be sorrowful; but then, what do you do with Ecclesiastes 7:2?

“It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting:

for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart.”

Don’t we gain something from our times of sorrow?  We go to the house of mourning or the house of death or the funeral home, and we sorrow.  We also see what “is the end of all men” and we are sobered and thoughtful about life.

The key in both verses is the verbs: to eat and to go.  Eating is an everyday occurrence.  We must eat or we become weak and die!  The picture here is of a constant sorrowing.  There are certainly seasons of sorrow, and they may last for a long time; however, if our sorrow turns into a live-long habit, then our lives become vain.  Eating “sorrow” as a daily continual habit will change our focus off of living and onto whatever it is that has gained our focus.  THAT sorrowful focus becomes our source of “nutrition,” but instead of nourishing our bodies it destroys the soul!

Dear reader, if you are in the “house of mourning,” do go there, but don’t stay there.  Notice how Psalm 127:2 ends: “for so he giveth his beloved sleep.”  Blessed rest!  Blessed quietness!  Peace in the midst of our storms of life!  It’s also interesting that he finishes the psalm talking about children – life in the future!  It would benefit us all to remember the rebuke of our Savior: Mark 12:27 “He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living…”  Please don’t think me callous.  Sorrow is real.  Grief truly is a process, and its length differs from person to person; just don’t forget to start living again!

Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,  Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen”. Hebrews 13:20,21