What Is your Best?

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

II Tim, 2:15, ESV

 

One of the things I like the most about God is how fair He is. By that I mean that He has the same set of rules for everyone, yet He does not have unreasonable expectations for us. Take the passage above: God reveals that He expects us all to put the work necessary into handling His Word in the right way. Having said that, He realizes far better than do we what our limitations are. In other words, not all of us will grasp every nuance about the Bible as readily as some, but He does want us to do our best. Well, what exactly do we mean by that? Maybe a practical example will help.

 

I know a lot of people who can work on their own vehicles. They can change their oil, replace the battery, make sure that their tires have the proper air, and so on. Then there are people who perform more complicated tasks such as replacing a starter or water pump, or even installing a head gasket. Then there are the guys on a whole different level. These are the ones who seem to be able to do anything. It has something to do with their training and experience, but they also just have that mechanical aptitude that allows them to diagnose problems that others just can't see. It's not that they are smarter than everybody else in every area of knowledge, but when it comes to all things mechanical, they are indeed at the genius level.

 

So, if Heaven were to be based on repairing a leaking radiator hose, it would at first appear that some of us would be in trouble. But, if the standard were to be that we do our best to fix that leak, we would immediately be placed on the same level because my best would be better than some but inferior to most others. This being the case, I could then set out to read the repair manuals I was capable of understanding, talk to others with more experience, watch YouTube videos or whatever else I could think of to do my best. Then, even if it took me longer and I didn't get it just right, I would still be meeting the standard of doing my best. A car genius, on the other hand, might breeze through the repair and complete the repair perfectly, yet if Heaven were to be on the line, he would still do all that was in his power to make sure he had done it right. Still another, say a 98 year old lady with poor eyesight, would not be expected to do as well, but she would still be expected to give her best effort. 

 

The point is that while the desired outcome of getting the leak fixed is the same, it would be unreasonable to think that all would be as effective and as quick in doing so. So if the standard is to do our best, then we are all placed on an equal footing. This, I believe, is the way to look at the passage above.

 

Not everyone starts out on the same level with the same opportunity. A young mother with two small children to take care of will obviously have more challenges and obstacles to correctly handing God's Word than would a paid Bible professor at a religious institution. At first this may seem to give the professor an unfair advantage of correctly handling the truths contained within Scripture, but when you combine the command with the instruction to do our best, then we once again have the same chance to please God in fulfilling the intent of His commandments.

 

To sum it up, we all have exactly the same responsibility to do our best to correctly handle the Bible. While we all have different aptitudes, experience levels, and situations in life, we can still all do our best. Those who do not do their best, regardless of how well they may appear to be doing in comparison to others, will in the end be looked upon as lazy workers who should be ashamed of themselves. But, those who do their best with the tools they have available will do well. 

 

That being the case, the only question that remains to be answered is this: Are you doing your best? 

The Magnificent Seven

The mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and His righteousness to children's children,

to such as keep His covenant, and to those who remember His commandments to do them.

Psalms 103:17-18, NKJV

 

Among Carolyn's and my greatest blessings are our seven grandchildren. They truly are the magnificent seven! The older I get, the more I realize that grandchildren are the reward for those who resisted the impulse to sell their own children to the gypsies. I must confess that there were times when our kids were young that we would have considered any offer, even if it had not seemed like a fair price at the time. I'm glad now that we didn't!

 

Our first grandchild came into this world a dozen years ago, Though due the fourth week in March, he just couldn't wait so he came 6 & 1/2 weeks sooner, early in February. I can remember visiting him in the prenatal unit at the hospital in Lubbock. He was so tiny that I was afraid to hold him. All connected to wires and small enough to hold in one hand with room to spare, this little one was destined for greatness! Since then we have had six more - seven in all - and each one more beautiful than the rest!

 

I used to think that those grandparents who thought their grandchild to be the prettiest baby ever were delusional. Now, I have evidence to prove it - mine are the most beautiful and theirs are but a distant second place.

 

As I write this article, I am in recovery. Carolyn and I spent the day with two of these little beauties, aged two and three, for six hours yesterday! We had a wonderful time and the hours passed as if they were only a few days, but we were still grateful to hear their parent's car pulling into the driveway. Though we love our grandkids more than you could imagine, we were reminded once again that there is a reason that God gives children to us when we are young and have the energy.

 

Grandchildren bring an important perspective to those who are so blessed as to have them. They remind us of the cycle of life that God has designed for this world. In the middle of these seven gifts being delivered, Carolyn and I lost all four of our parents. Someday, hopefully after we have enjoyed seeing a few of our own great-grandchildren born, we too will finish with our turn. But before that time, we both want to do our part to help their parents (We refer to them as "those people who keep our grandkids") get these beautiful children ready for service of their own.

 

And the way things are going, this old word needs all the help it can get! If you have grandchildren of your own, then you will understand. We have an obligation to do our part to leave behind a better world. It's a daunting task, but God will help us. And, along with this great gift He has given us in the form of our grandchildren, He has also given us the great responsibility of preparing them for what lies ahead. It is a great responsibility indeed, but I can think of none more pleasant than helping the Magnificent Seven prepare for the challenges that await them!  

 

 

The Solution is Simpler than We Think: But Are We Willing?

For thus said the LORD God, the Holy One of Israel,

"In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and trust is your strength.

But you were unwilling."

Isaiah 30:15, ESV

 

If I write too often on this subject, I hope you will forgive me. Perhaps it's because I am older now and can see the end of my physical days more clearly than when I was younger. Perhaps it is because I have seven grandchildren and I want to leave them a better world than the one they seem to be destined to inherit if something drastic does not change. More than anything, I believe it's because I have been so blessed and realize that we all have an obligation to God to do our part to pass the opportunity to be as blessed on to the next generation.

 

So, here goes.

 

The world we are living in is becoming more and more wicked by the day. Places that were safe and clean just a few years ago are now overcome with crime and filth. It has literally gotten so bad that we have at least one major city that has an app for your phone that tells you where the highest levels of human waste are so that you can walk somewhere else to avoid them. Our political climate has never been so filled with poison. In recent years we have had movies from both ends of this political spectrum with themes of a modern day civil war. It's almost as if they are eager for such a conflict. 

 

There has to be an end to this destructive direction we have been traversing, but what is it? What is the solution to what so clearly ails modern day society? The answer to our current problems is as old as mankind itself, and that answer lies in repentance.

 

We read of it from the passage above penned over 2,700 years ago during Isaiah's time. If you haven't read this book of prophesy recently, I would encourage you to do so. There are parts of Isaiah that are so close to our times that one might think they were reading an article from today's news. They, too, were a society of people who had enjoyed God's blessings for so long that they began to take them for granted. They, too, had begun to sin so greatly that it was affecting every aspect of their lives. And they, too, recognized that they had problems, but were quick to blame the source of these problems on everybody but themselves. 

 

Maybe the only difference between sinful Israel and sinful America is that they had no "apps" to warn them where they shouldn't be stepping.

 

I know, I know, "thanks for the pep talk" you might be thinking, but I do want to point out the solution, and it is the same as it was when God had Isaiah write the warning you read above: It is in returning to God!

 

But God did not have Isaiah stop with that instruction. He also said the people needed to rest! By that, He did not mean that they needed a good night's sleep, but that they needed to cease and desist from their sinful activities that had brought them to that point. They needed to be quiet at least long enough to hear God's warnings, and then trust in Him enough to do what they could and then let God handle the rest.

 

We need that today, don't we? If we would cease from our sin, return to God, be quiet and listen to His words so that we might be guided by His perfect solutions, and then trust Him to keep us safe while we were doing our part, then we would have a chance. We would have a chance to turn this evil world around and get it back on the right track. By doing so, we will then have a chance to leave a world that is worth living in for our children and grandchildren. 

 

But we have to realize that this will not be easy. Just as in Isaiah's time, most will be unwilling to do these things and we need to be wise enough to accept that fact and be determined that we will proceed without them if we have to. Our part has never been to force people to do the right thing, but we are expected to at least say something when we have the opportunity. And since I have the opportunity right now, I will just go ahead and say it:

 

We need to repent!

 

We need to get back to the basics of starting our days with prayer and the reading of God's Word. We need to take the message from His Word and let it guide our actions throughout the day, praying at the same time for the help and wisdom that we need. We need to train up our children to do the same, and after that we need to encourage as many of those who are in our circle of influence to also do the same. The fact is that it is never too soon to return to God and His way, but history has proven that it can be too late. So, let's get started before it really is too late.

 

It will be hard, but the future generation is worth it and we owe it to them to at least try. More importantly, we owe it to God and to Christ. By God's grace we have been given an opportunity to repent and return to His service. We have been justified y the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, so we have also been given the right. Since we have this opportunity and right, why not take it? It begins with returning to God. The only question now is are we willing?

 

 

 

 

 

The Hill

Life is either an exciting adventure, or it is nothing at all.

Helen Keller

 

We lived in a modest house at the edge of the woods in Kirkland, Washington. The house was on a cul-de-sac where the pavement ended and the woods began, and there was a hill leading up to those woods from that street. The hill probably wasn't more than 30 feet long, but it was about 10 foot high from bottom to top so it was pretty steep. For a seven year old boy, it was a mountain!

 

I used to run up that hill to get to the woods. I could have gotten to them by the level path on the back of our lot, but that wouldn't have been much of a challenge, would it? One Christmas shortly after we moved into that house, I got a brand new bike. It was a stingray! And... we had a hill.

 

I can't tell you why I felt so compelled to ride down that hill on my brand new bike, but I did. The hill was not only steep, but it was deeply rutted from the frequent rains we received, and there were more than a few potholes and bumps besides, so it really made no sense to take my bike down that hill. And the going down was not the only problem because I had to somehow get my bike up that hill in the first place. Riding it up was out of the question, for the gravity would have pulled me backwards and caused a fall that would have likely broken my neck and I wasn't that stupid. No, really!

 

The solution was rather ingenious if I do say so myself. I would run beside the bike, all the time maintaining a firm grip on the handle bars, and then throw myself and my bike down when I ran out of speed. If I didn't slide back down to the bottom, it was a relatively easy drag and crawl to the top as long as I didn't lose my one-handed grip on the handle bars.

 

I have to admit that I nearly lost my nerve on the ride back down. Sitting there at the top of the hill, I knew exactly how Evel Knievel felt just before his motorcycle jump over the Snake River Canyon. But, swallowing my fear, I let 'er go and I did make it to the bottom. It probably took less than 3 seconds, but only a bull rider who has made the full eight second mark could understand the sense of accomplishment that I felt. 

 

From time to time, I would have to go back up that hill and do it again, just to see if I could. As I already said, I cannot tell you why I felt so drawn to ride down that hill. It wasn't to show off, because I sure didn't want anyone around to witness the event. If I fell off, my friends would have laughed, and if mom or dad had seen me, well...

 

Maybe the best way to explain that compulsion was that the hill just seemed to be something of an affront to me that could not be ignored. It was a challenge! Like a gauntlet thrown down that had to be picked up if I was ever going to be able to keep my self respect. Part of it was the thrill of the ride, and just as big a part was the mere anticipation of doing so. Part of it was the sense of accomplishment that always seems to come when we overcome our fears and do something that we are scared to death to even think about doing. And the biggest part, still, was the joy!

 

I suppose we all have our hills in life that must be conquered. And I don't necessarily mean that from a bigger perspective of having to handle the really serious things in life, either. I just mean that sometimes we need to step out of our comfort zones to "conquer the mountains" that stand in our way. Such adventures, I'm sure Ms. Keller would agree, give life the zest and flavor that God intended for us to enjoy as we go through this life for Him. 

The Pleasant Effects of Discipline

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Hebrews 12:11, ESV

 

When I was a kid I was not a big fan of discipline. I did not like having to get up early and get cleaned up to go to school. I did not like having homework after school. I didn't like having to clean my room and make my bed. I wasn't particularly fond of having to be told what I had to do before I could go out and play either. And I really didn't like getting in trouble when I did something that was against somebody else's rules. In other words, I was pretty much the typical kid.

 

This is one of the reason that God gives us parents. 

 

God knew that we would be worthless slugs without discipline, so he gave us someone who would provide it. And we have to have discipline if we are ever going to amount to anything. Just imagine what the schools would look like without discipline. Kids would show up late, if they showed up at all. They would do whatever they pleased and they would probably harm more than a few innocent bystanders. They certainly wouldn't get any work done, so they wouldn't learn anything.

 

It would be the same with athletics. Kids would show up for practice sometimes, but they would goof around too much to really practice. They would show up for games, but wouldn't  be very good without having acquired the skills they missed at practice, and they wouldn't be too happy with the refs and umpires. They sure wouldn't win many games and they wouldn't be much fun to watch.

 

And we know what work would be like. People would come in late if they came in at all, and they would go home early. They would spend a lot of time for smoking breaks because people without discipline tend to smoke a lot, and they would drink most of the coffee in the breakroom to boot. They would give only passing attention to their bosses and they wouldn't get much accomplished. Then they would go home and complain about their day.

 

The sad thing is that the words written above describe pretty accurately some of our schools, teams, and workplaces today. Without discipline everything just seems to fall apart. This is why we need it, and this is especially why we need God. Consider the following:

My son, keep your father's commands and do not forsake your mother's teaching. Bind them upon your heart forever; fasten them around your neck. When you walk, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; when you awake, they will speak to you. For these commandments are a lamp, this teaching is a light,

and the corrections of discipline are the way to life.

Proverbs 6:20-23, NIV

 

The fact is that it is the fool who despises discipline, but it is the wise man or woman who loves it. Discipline is one of the main factors to success in life. It makes us a better child of our parents, a better student, a better teammate on the field and in the office, and it especially makes us a better child of God. Those who embrace God's discipline will be more productive in every wholesome aspect of life, and it will make us a whole lot more fun to be around.

 

It will give us peace and joy and hope and every other blessing that flows to those who love God enough to walk in His ways. And someday, by God's grace, it will give us heaven.

 

When I was a kid, I wasn't very fond of discipline. But as I look back on it now, I am thankful to God for those wonderful people who instilled it in me so that I could have the happy life that I have had.