Tag Archives: Sacrifice of praise

Do you love me? Is it really true?

Tevye, the colorful character from Fiddler on the Roof, leans over quietly and asks his wife, “Do you love me?” She screams in reply, “Do I WHAT?!” “Do you love me?” he asks again with genuine concern. She goes into an indignant tirade of how she bore his children, cooked his meals, washed his clothes, and so many other chores she’s done in 25 years. Acknowledging her many expressions of love, he gently repeated, “But do you love me?” Quietly she admitted, “I guess I do love you.” Teasingly, he replied, “Then I guess I love you too.” Together they sigh saying, “After 25 years. it’s nice to know.”

How do you know love is true? Is it by the repetition of those three little words, “I love you?” (Or perhaps those other three: “I was wrong!”) Or is it in the consistent demonstration of loving acts? We could say “both” and be closest to the truth. But neither words alone nor actions by themselves are the true test of live, are they? We can, and sometimes do, speak idle words and perform repeated acts of service more in response to duty than true love.

But somehow, our hearts are able to confirm what eyes have seen and lips have spoken. Here comes a time when the heart knows for sure what the mind has only acknowledged to be true.

“In sickness and in health” has a way of testing true love. Marcia and I have experienced this to be true through this long and unexpected journey brought cancer. In face of adversity, true love finds both gentleness and strength. It learns the value in f commitment and persevering and also humble surrender. Whatever we knew as star struck lovers 44 years ago has been positively confirmed to be true in a much deeper sense than we ever could have imagined.

The same is true about God’s Word which is his love letter to you and me. At some point we come to acknowledge that God IS God and his Word is inherently true. we know it in our minds, confirm it with our lips, and believe it in our heart. And yet there is a deeper sense of knowing God’s true love that comes only by experiencing it through difficult trials. I’ve commented before that I would t have chosen this journey through cancer, BUT I’ve discovered along its path blessings I would never have discovered on a more comfortable road. Whereas once I “knew” God’s live and Word to be true in my mind and heart, now I know it to be true through the experience of his grace, his power to persevere, the comfort of his promise and the real hope in his faithful promises. That he loves me – and you – is undeniably evidenced both in times of rejoicing and times of sorrow and pain. Even if I had none of this, the price his Son Jesus paid for the forgiveness of my sins was evidence enough of his great love. Our God is a good God. His banner over me is mercy and love.

But is the “flip side” also true? How should we reply when Jesus asks us what he asked his disciple Peter, “Do you love me?” Is it sufficient to go about dutiful good deeds like Tevye’s wife Golde? Or is it sufficient to say the words in prayer and song? Deep down we know true love is expressed not only by simple words or sacrificial deeds. It’s known by all that flows from a humble heart that gives a sacrifice of praise and a life yielded completely to him, no holds barred, no distractions.

He’s asking, “Do you really love me? Is it really true?” How will you respond today?

When God doesn’t want your gift


Do you like to give gifts? Most of us do. We give gifts to commemorate special days and sometimes for “no special reason” at all. We love to see the expressions of appreciation when people open our gifts.  They become part of the gift experience. They make the gift complete.


But what about when your gift isn’t accepted? When it’s not up to par? Author Gary Chapman proposes that we are each wired to receive and express love according to our “love languages”: physical gifts, acts of service, spending quality time, physical touch, and words of affirmation. You may give physical gifts but it doesn’t hit the spot because what the recipient really wants is quality time with you. You work hard to express your love through acts of service but they really long to hear words of affirmation and respect. Sometimes our gifts aren’t accepted because they don’t speak their “love language.”


For some people the size of the gift matters. But if the gift is sincere and the recipient really values the giver, size doesn’t matter. The poor widow put a tiny coin in the offering, yet Jesus said she gave more than the others who were rich. She gave out of her poverty while they gave from their excess.


We give from what we have. But have you ever wondered why didn’t God accept Cain’s offering? Why was Abel’s offering considered “more excellent?” Was it the quality of Cain’s gift or the condition of his heart that made the gift unpleasing?


If the heart gives out of obligation instead of joy, the gift may remain unaccepted.  Imagine your loved one showing up on your anniversary and throwing a bouquet of flowers in your lap saying, “Here is your anniversary gift. It’s my obligation to give you this.” (Yikes!)  Now imagine one who stands before you with an offering of flowers saying, “Happy anniversary. It makes me happy to bring you things. In fact, I think it brings me more delight to spend this night with you than anyone I might. I cannot think of any way I’d rather celebrate this day than satisfying my desire with one that I so much admire.” (John Piper speaking to his wife; excerpt from Desiring God)


Wow. What a difference! In one scene the focus is on the gift. In the other, the focus is on the relationship between the giver and the recipient. In fact, the gift becomes completely incidental to what is happening between the two lovers.


Don’t you suppose that’s how God sees our gifts and “sacrifices?”

“I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps.” Amos 5:21-23

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” Psalm 51:17

“For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.” Hosea 6:6

“Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” Hebrews 13:15-16


You can offer your talents. You can offer your time. You can build magnificent church buildings and write endless books attributed to his greatness. You can speak God’s name continually and fill your agenda with good deeds. You can offer to serve him in foreign lands or in the streets of your home town. You can offer him your very life, your health, and your next breath. But is it what God most wants?


Gifts and deeds are important, but not always the greatest expression of our love. What if what God really desires is your complete joy in spending time with him? In delighting in his presence? In meditating on His Word which is his love letter to you?


Our love is not reflected just in a gift. It is reflected in the eyes of the one who receives the gift, the eyes that behold the heart of the giver. Ah, may THIS be the gift we bring today!


Stop grumbling – Give thanks instead!



The new year is filled with resolutions of things to START doing. Start to exercise more, eat healthier, read the bible, pray more…you get the idea. But the secret to starting something new is often found in STOPPING something you are presently doing that is working against your better behalf. The reverse is also true: stopping a negative behavior requires replacing it with a new appropriate one. The secret to keeping your resolutions is to pay attention to incompatible behaviors.


Let’s say you want to stop grumbling and complaining. That’s a worthy goal for a year lived well! You can resolve to not complain. You can write notes to yourself to prompt you to be more positive. You can wear a rubber band on your wrist and give it a painful snap whenever you catch yourself grumbling. But I guarantee you will be pushing a very heavy stone uphill all year, only to have it come crashing back down on you.


Instead of vowing to stop complaining, choose to replace it with something that is incompatible with grumbling. GIVE THANKS. As long as you are cultivating a thankful heart, your grumbling withers away.


Consider the story of a young mother whose young daughter loved to wear frilly things decorated with sequins. Every day the little girl would play all around the house in her sequined clothes. And everywhere the girl romped, sequins would leave a messy trail. Every day the young mother would have to stop what she was doing in order to pick up yet another lost sequin. “Why can’t she be more careful when she plays?” grumbled the frustrated mother. Then while picking up another sequin, she realized how thankful she was to have a delightful and happy girl. At once, she resolved that every time she picked up a sequin, she would give thanks to God for the gift of her precious little girl.


See how it works? Replace grumbling and complaining with an incompatible behavior: giving thanks. Instead of grumbling about that person who always rubs you the wrong way, you can thank God that they help to knock off your own rough edges. Instead of complaining about the weather, the economy, or the way you look, think instead of what you are thankful for and let your speech and behavior reflect that.


How important is this? Consider this. For thousands of years God’s people grumbled and complained. They were never happy. They rebelled against God and sought after other false gods. I wonder if God was even more upset at their grumbling than their sinful deeds. A complaining heart is an ugly thing.


Let your story of 2015 be one of giving thanks, not grumbling and complaining!


“He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me.”  Psalm 50:23


“Through Him, therefore, let us constantly and at all times offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, which is the fruit of lips that thankfully acknowledge and confess and glorify His name.”  Hebrews 13:15



How then should I live?



Hebrews 13 offers good counsel for our daily living. Lest we get carried away by all sorts of distractions, and in view of such mercy we continue to receive, let’s ask. “How then should I live?

  • Hebrews 13:1 Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters.
  • Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers
  • Continue to remember those in prison 
  • 4 Honor marriage keep the marriage bed pure
  • Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because (God will never leave or forsake you)
  • 6  Say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
  • Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Imitate their faith. 
  • Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Believe it and live it!)
  • Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. 
  • 15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise. 
  • 16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
  • 17 Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority,.
  • 18 Pray
  • 20 (Remember): The God of peace will equip you with everything good for doing his will, and will work in us what is pleasing to him,through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. 
  • 25 Grace be with you all.

There are so many things on your to-do list today. But none so vital as doing them in the manner God intended. Enjoy Him fully today and live well.



Living sacrifice



The concept of sacrifice is common to all religions of the world. Some make offerings of food before lifeless images and altars. Others strive to live by higher personal standards that might bid them well in the next life. Still others lend themselves to an endless list of good-deed-doing in vain attempt to shift the balance between the good and the bad they have done.  Even apologies serve as a form of sacrifice. It appears to be a universal truth that man needs to make amends for wrongs. Despite the claim of the 1970 movie “Love Story,” apparently, love means you ALWAYS need to say you’re sorry.


In Old Testament times, sacrifices were commonly made through the offering of animals. Only the high priests were allowed to enter the inner room of the tabernacle to bring the blood sacrifice for himself and the sins of the people, even those committed in ignorance. (Hebrews 9:7)  The Holy Spirit had not yet been revealed, leaving the people to try to clear their consciences before God by bringing gifts and sacrifices of food and drink and ceremonial behaviors.   (v 9-10)


We all can understand the need to clear our consciences before God, but no sacrifice was sufficient. A perfect sacrifice, which we could never offer, was required. Christ, the perfect sacrifice, had to become the mediator of the new covenant for us. (v 15) And unlike the sacrifices of old which had to be made over and over, Jesus made one perfect sacrifice for us.  “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” (v 27-28)


Today we make sacrifices of money, time, self-denial, and service. But they are not what God most desires. Speaking of His Father God, Jesus said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them”—though they were offered in accordance with the law. Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” (Hebrews 10:8-9) 


And how do we best accomplish His will? What kind of sacrifice would demonstrate our desire to do His will? “I will sacrifice a thank offering and call upon the name of the Lord.” (Psalm 116:17, )  “Let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.” (Hebrews 13:15) THIS is the sacrifice that God most desires and that satisfies both Him and us: a LIVING sacrifice of thankful and praising hearts. Certainly, the motives of a thankful and praising heart yields its will to good works, self-denial, and the service of others. But these are the outcomes of true sacrifice, not the sacrifice itself.


How many times can you discover today to offer God your thanks and your praise? Be a living sacrifice of thanks and praise!

Enduring hope



“Why are you in despair, O my soul?
And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence.” Psalm 42:5 NASV


Do you ever talk to yourself? It can be a healthy thing to do, especially when you find your feelings are at odds with what you know to be truth. You feel like giving up but you know better to press on. You feel all alone but you know that God will never leave you. You feel unloved and yet you know the lover of your soul is always faithful.


David talked with himself to convince his turbulent and noisy soul to listen to his spirit which was aligned with God. You see, we are made of three parts: body, soul, and spirit. And these three components don’t always concur with one another. They have to be coaxed along to get in line with the truth. The body wants junk food; the emotional soul agrees saying, “You deserve it.” The spirit speaks truth. The body complains about being always tired or hurting. The spirit says to put your eyes on God, press on. The soul questions whether it is worth it. The soul says, “I’m depressed, discouraged, downcast.” The body quickly agrees. The spirit says, “Remember your God and put your hope in Him. He is always faithful. Even when it seems He has abandoned you, He is still with you. His love never ever fails. Praise Him, not just for the relief from despair. Praise Him for the help of His presence. He will guide you through the paths you have not traveled before; He knows the way. (Psalm 73:24)


Our part is to choose to endure with hope and with thanks, in trouble, hardship, and distress, in sorrow and poverty. Though we have nothing, yet we possess everything. (2 Cor. 6:4,10)


Put your enduring hope in who God is, not just in what He can do. Live a life marked by his great faithfulness.


“Through Jesus therefore let us continue to offer to God a sacrifice of praise.” Hebrews 13:15



Beyond Discouragement

Are you discouraged today? It is a common feeling even in the midst of the Christmas season. In fact, with so many unmet desires, it may be that more people feel down about life during the holiday season than any other time of year. Having just finished my first year on this long road with Leukemia, I’ve found more discouraging turns in the path than I had expected or hoped. But where there isn’t a cure (yet) to AML, there IS a cure to discouragement:

1. See how many people you can encourage today and you will find your own discouragement fade. It is a simple enough task. Simply pay attention to those around you. Show them recognition and value. Make a phone call or write a note to show concern. Scrape someone’s car windows without them knowing.

2. Make a list of the things for which you are thankful. With the temps below zero in Iowa, I am thankful for a warm house. I am thankful for my loving wife. I am thankful for those true friends who stayed close through this cancer journey so I wouldn’t have to go it alone. I am thankful to again find God’s Word always true and dependable, his grace indeed sufficient for my need, and his strength perfect in my weakness. My list goes on. How about your list?

As you speak your list of thanks out loud, if they are from the heart, you will find your discouragement dwindle. God inhabits praise and in his presence you cannot be overly discouraged for long.

“Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise.” Hebrews 13:1-2,15

Code Blue

image Is it just me or does this Mercy House Supervisor look very young for having worked here 103 years? 🙂

Platelets are at a new low of 9 (normal = 150-450) so I am thankful to those who volunteered their blood and platelets so I could get another needed transfusion today (which thanfully went very UNeventfully!). I also set a new personal record today by walking 1/2 mile (about 6 blocks) at one time. Yes, it wore me out but walking is really good therapy and hopefully will help get my digestive back in order one day. During the walk we heard yet another “code blue” announcement. It seems everyday someone is struggling to hold onto life here. In my 50 days at the hospital, I have had only three medical struggles I would deem significant, and none of them requiring a ‘code blue.’

Giving thanks for this, I recalled an older gentleman who years ago would often share a word of testimony. One evening he told of how, whenever he heard an ambulance siren, he would always say a quick prayer, “Lord have mercy on the person needing help.” I remember being humbled because at that time it would seldom have occurred to me to have prayed when I heard an ambulance. Honestly, I remember times stalled on the interstate because of some accident ahead; instead of giving thanks or praying for the persons involved, I would be focused on the inconvenience to my schedule.

Living thanks is a daily, moment by moment choice we make. Sometimes I do better than others. But God is patient to offer us new opportunities each day to focus on Him and on others, even if He needs to use an ambulance siren or ‘code blue’ to get our attention.

“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer up to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that confess His name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices, God is pleased.” Hebrews 13:15-16
(Thanks Cindy, for sharing this verse.)