Month: November 2013

Of Mice and Men

Years ago, we lived in Missouri and our neighbor, Trudy, had a cat that liked to regularly deposit a dead mouse at her back door. Typically Trudy tossed the mouse in the trash before anyone else saw it, but one morning I stopped by early, and there it was! Yuck!

Not being a cat-person, and revealing my ignorance of cat behavior, I asked Trudy what that was all about and Trudy explained, “She thinks she’s giving me a present. It’s what cats do.”

Right! Just what every woman wants: a dead, somewhat bloody, mangled mouse dropped on the doorstep first thing in the morning. Clearly the cat didn’t understand Trudy. And, I didn’t understand the cat.

But think about it, that cat worked hard for that mouse. This was a house cat for the most part, so to get to the field, she had to get out of the house. Then she had to cross a storm run-off ditch to get to the field. Then, she had to find the mouse in a very large field. And, she had to catch him. Her gift shopping had to be done quickly. Even with all the hard work and effort, her gift went straight to the trash.

I think that is exactly how God sees our efforts to please him if we are not saved.  No matter how hard we work to please God, no matter how many gifts of generosity, service, philanthropy, and kindness to others we do, each one is like laying a dead mouse at God’s feet and saying, “Here’s another present!”

It’s just all dead mice.

God is not impressed with any work that we do to earn his favor, or our salvation. He doesn’t find it pleasing. He tells us this in Romans 8:8 “Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.”

To please God, we must belong to God. We must have faith in the God who saves and in the instrument of that salvation: God’s one and only Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 11:6 “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

Sometimes I think we get the cart before the horse, and we try to show God that we are worthy of salvation, so we bring him gifts… dead mice. Instead, we need to come to him for salvation, believe what He says, and receive the salvation that he offers.

Then, we do have to get to work! He has ordained works for us to do, works that prove our faith, not earn our faith. It must be in that order. When we work for God because of our faith, he not only finds our gifts acceptable, but he rewards them.

One day, we will have the privilege of giving gifts to Jesus. We will not give him dead mice; we will lay our crowns at his feet.

Doors, Drawers and Disrespect

kitchen 045a

There are 37 cabinet doors, and 24 drawers in my kitchen. You need to know this.

You see, a while back as I was taking my vitamins Brian walked into the kitchen, closed the cabinet door where we keep the vitamins and said, “You always leave the cabinet doors open.” Then he walked out.

What?!?! Are you kidding me?! I never leave the cabinet doors open! And I was going to close this one as soon as I swallowed that vitamin!! How could he say that?

Well, on that Sunday morning things changed! I opened every door and drawer as far as possible, then I walked out of the house, got in the car with Brian and left to go to church. Angry.

On the way to church, I realized it was the first Sunday of the month. We would be celebrating communion. And I was angry. Almost immediately, the Lord brought to mind 1 Corinthians 11:27-28 “So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup.”

Drat. My heart was not clean. It was full of anger. I prayed, silently, “Lord, I’m sorry I got angry.”

There, now my heart was right. I confessed my anger. I was ‘good to go’. I could participate in the Lord’s Supper with a clean heart. Wrong. In my heart I knew I needed to apologize to Brian.

Instead, I argued with God, “Lord, he said something that made me mad. I shouldn’t have to apologize to him for getting angry. Besides, he doesn’t even know I’m angry!”

The Lord didn’t buy my defense. Maybe my initial ‘prayer of confession’ wasn’t quite genuine. Or maybe if I didn’t ‘come clean’ with Brian, I would secretly nurse the anger, and let a root of bitterness get started.

So, I apologized to Brian, who had no idea what I was talking about, and he said everything was OK.

Whew! Now, all was good, I could take communion with a clean conscience.

We walked into church, we sang, I was worshiping my Precious God, and then he brought to mind Matthew 5:23-24 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”

What??? Did I have to tell Brian about the doors and drawers? Nope. No way. Not gonna happen. Besides, I thought, he was wrong! I don’t leave the doors open. I always close them. And, it’s not a sin to leave them open, even if I did… which I did that morning.

The pastor prayed and passed the elements. My heart was not clean. I had deliberately opened those drawers and doors just so that Brian would be angry when he got home and saw them.

I jotted on the bulletin, “I opened every cabinet door and drawer in the kitchen and left them open. I’m sorry,” and handed it to Brian. Did he just stifle a laugh????

When the bread and cup were handed to me I received both, and thanked my precious Savior for shedding his blood on the cross so that my sins were forgiven. All of them. Anger. Self-righteousness. Disrespecting Brian. Disrespecting the Lord. Bitterness. You name it.

As soon as we got home, I closed every drawer and door in the kitchen before Brian saw them… because, after all, I never leave them open!

Beyond the Dash

Wednesday was my dad’s birthday. October 30, 1934 – June 14, 2013

His arrival date – dash – his departure date.

It is said we live our lives in the dash. Dad lived almost 80 years worth of life in the dash. There was joy and happiness, pain and sorrow, frustration and fear, love and laughter. Lots of laughter. There was misunderstanding and error, sin and forgiveness.

The Bible says a man’s life is like a breath of air – that puff that lingers on a cold morning – and then it’s gone. I think God tells us this, not so much that we will make all we can of this short time, but so that we will understand and grasp the reality of eternity.

This life is short; but only in light of eternity. We will all live for eternity. The choice we have is: where? Heaven or hell.

There is only one way to heaven: You must accept the sacrifice of Jesus Christ who is, was, and always will be God. Jesus left heaven, as God, and came to earth in obedience, to die on a cross (as God, he is immortal- he was/is eternal, always existing) for the forgiveness of sin. When he died, he carried your sin on his shoulders.

It’s sort of like a ‘balance sheet’. On one side is your sin. On the other is Christ’s righteousness. The books must balance. You cannot pay off your sin. Jesus paid it all. All. Every bit. He died in your place. He paid your penalty. And, therefore, God transfers Christ’s perfect righteousness to your column, and your sin to Christ’s column,

When you accept Jesus’ sacrifice on your behalf you receive his righteousness. You stand before God, justified. God is judge and he, in that moment, judges you fit for his perfect heaven. Then, nothing can separate you from his love. Nothing. Not even your own self, and your sinful actions. Your sin has been removed. And your sinful actions have been forgiven.

When Jesus is your Savior, He must also be your Lord. You commit, in gratitude, to get out of the driver’s seat of your life and let him take over.

One of the last things dad said to me the Saturday before he left was, “If I survive this, my house will be a beacon of light for Jesus!” He meant it! Dad was, and is, saved. He bore spiritual fruit. He reconciled with God and with people.

There were a lot of things ‘in the dash’ that may be hard to understand, or even reconcile — but God knew dad’s true heart. And, in dad’s true heart, he loved Jesus. He had the Holy Spirit living in him. Dad told me once that he pushed the Spirit down for a lot of years — and one can only do that if one knows what he is doing. But, in the end, dad let the Holy Spirit have free reign.

Dad is living beyond the dash. Dad is alive. Dad is singing praises. He is free. He is able to be the child he never could be in this life… he is God’s adopted son. He is co-heirs with Jesus. He is alive.