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User-friendly devotionals with audio

  • Doing Our Best

    By John Lincoln Brandt

    Audio length: 10:51
    Download Audio (9.9MB)

    “She hath done what she could.”1

    Jesus spoke these words in defense of Mary, who had anointed him with the oil of nard. He had spent the day in Jerusalem in the heat of political discussion but would not entrust his safety to the great metropolis at night. He withdrew from the city to Bethany, where he could spend the evening in peaceful conversation.

    The incident to which the text refers took place in the house of Simon, probably the man whom Jesus had healed of the leprosy. There were also present Lazarus, whom Jesus had raised from the dead; Martha, the busy, bustling housekeeper; and Mary, who loved to sit at the feet of Jesus and hear his words; and those whom Jesus had called to be apostles.

    Jesus was reclining at the table and Mary came in quietly, opened the flask, and poured the ointment on his head, and the odor filled all the house in which the little company had gathered. Judas criticized her, saying, “Why was this waste of ointment? It might have been sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” But Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why trouble ye her? She has wrought a good work upon me. The poor ye have with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good. She hath done what she could. She has come aforehand to anoint my body unto the burial.”2

    This was a timely act of Mary’s: She came aforehand to anoint his body. She did not wait until after his death. It is customary to strew flowers upon the coffin of the dead. How much better to give expression to our love and to manifest it by words and deeds of kindness before the cold hand of death removes the objects of affection to where it is impossible for them to appreciate gratitude and love!

    It was a generous act: The oil was of great value. … It was a public act: She was not ashamed to confess Christ publicly. The act was not done in a corner, but before her friends and the apostles of Jesus. She cared not who saw her. She loved the Lord and was outspoken in her expression of that love. Happy the Christian who is not ashamed to confess Jesus before men! Such he will confess before his Father in heaven.

    It was an act of love: There must have been many mingled feelings that prompted this beautiful offering. Gratitude for the raising of Lazarus; adoration of the character of Jesus; recognition of him as the Way, the Truth, and the Life; the worship of him as the Lord of Life and Death. But the foremost motive must have been an expression of her love and desire to honor One about to die. …

    Every Christian who thus loves Jesus and has a passion to serve him can find no gift that will fully express his deep sense of worship and love. The official, carping Judas viewed everything in a financial light. Many people of today are like him—always ready to criticize and say, “Why this waste; a useless expenditure of money—no good will come of it.” … To withhold the best in the service of our Master is waste. Whoever serves should serve to the highest capacity; whoever gives should give to the largest liberality.

    When the call of duty comes, there should be a ready and willing response regardless of what people may say. The world’s greatest heroes have been sharply criticized. Engage with all your heart in the work of saving souls; break your alabaster box of ointment in honor of Jesus, and if people criticize you, remember the example of Mary; remember the commendation of Jesus; remember that the Lord said, “Blessed are ye when men shall say all manner of evil against you.”

    Some disciples ask to be excused from active service in the Master’s vineyard because they can do so little. Their plea is, “My station restricts me. My weakness disables me. My obscurity embarrasses me. My timidity unnerves me, and my talents are so limited. If I could convert the Scribes and Pharisees; if I could turn a city to the Lord; if I could plant a church, endow a college, support an orphanage, then it would be worthwhile and I would engage in the service with a commendable zeal and enthusiasm.”

    But we learn from this scripture that there is no station in life, however obscure, no condition, however humble, but something may be done for the Lord.

    Mary was not to be judged by any showy enterprise, by public charities or literary fame, or by any performance that might be marked out for its pre-eminence; but on the ground that she had done what she could. … One penny’s worth, if it is the limit of self-denial, is as good as ten thousand pounds. Jesus recognized it as such in what he said of the two mites the widow cast into the treasury, which was more than they which gave of all their abundance, because she gave all that she had; and yet of another woman, poorer and frailer still, who gave only tears and caresses for his feet.

    Jesus recognized the disposition and ability of the giver. He made no distinction as to weights and measures, tables of value, public achievement and standards of honor as acknowledged by men. Christ is the judge. His declaration is, “Not everyone that saith unto me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ but he that doeth the will of my Father in heaven.”

    Mary could not write like the beloved Apostle John. She could not tear down the strongholds of Satan, like the Apostle Peter; she could not plant churches, like Paul; but in her humble station, she did her best, and that is what shut-in invalids, poverty-stricken and humble men and women may do the world over.

    Mary did her best. Everyone can do this. God is present in small opportunities and activities, as well as where power is great, talents many, and opportunities unlimited.

    Mary gave no consideration to how her act would affect her social position, but followed the example of Christ, whose glory blazed through every social barrier and who made in him one new man, insomuch that he recognized neither rich nor poor, high nor low. He is no respecter of persons.

    “He that doeth the will of my Father is my brother”; the sinner is my friend; the publican is my patient; the lost one found is of my sheepfold; and he that was dead is my son.” We should imitate the example of Mary as she imitated the example of Jesus. We must manifest a deeper interest in the less favored in the Kingdom of heaven.

    We must seek the honor and happiness of all. We must plan and invent methods to make the discouraged man and woman and child recognize that Christ is working amongst them. We must make all artificial and man-made classifications disappear. We must make the Lord the center of a heavenly circle, whose circumference surrounds all those who do his will ...

    To all who have been sitting at the feet of Jesus and drinking in his spirit, have you broken the alabaster box of the best of your life on his head, for the salvation of souls and the glory of your God? Have you been taxing your resources and ransacking your coffers, as did Mary, that you might bring the highest and best offering to the Master?

    If you have not been able to do great things, have you been doing the little acts of kindness, and performing the little deeds of devotion for your Master? God promises to help us to do more as soon as we are willing to do something.

    John Lincoln Brandt (1860–1946) was the father of Virginia Brandt Berg. Excerpted from Soul Saving Revival Sermons. Read by John Laurence.


    1 Mark 14:8.

    2 Mark 14:3–8; John 12:3–8.

  • May 17 The Mindset of Christ
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  • May 9 What Being Image Bearers Means
  • May 6 Our Thankfulness Is a Light to a Suffering World
  • May 3 Of Inestimable Worth
  • May 2 Trust Jesus in Troublous Times
  • Apr 29 What to Do When You’re Not OK
  • Apr 28 Tender Mercies
   

Directors’ Corner

News, writings and thoughts from TFI Directors

  • Life Essentials—Communication

    Besides Jesus, who makes everything better when He is a part of our daily lives, there is a very important element that permeates pretty much everything we do—communication. This essential medium comes in many forms, and sometimes we even use it without being aware of it. Everyone communicates with others in some way, and yet it is one of our greatest challenges to understand what others are communicating to us and how to help others understand what we are trying to convey to them.

    We communicate through virtually everything we do. We use “body language,” which includes such things as a wink, a nod, our facial expressions, and the positioning of our bodies. There’s also speech, reading, writing, sign language, and many different kinds of signs that encourage, instruct, or warn people. We communicate through the tone of our voice, our choice of words, or even our lack of speech. We also communicate our intentions through our actions.

    While our communications with God don’t usually involve many of the more visible forms of communication, He does speak to us through His Word, coupled with the Holy Spirit, or through His still small voice in our hearts. He also communicates with us through His creation and many other touches of His love through others that can help us to comprehend His love for us. So, God communicates with us as well.

    Science has found that we communicate in ways that our conscious mind may not recognize. This type of communication is beginning to be more recognized as real because equipment exists that is so sensitive that it can detect it. Our brains are wired to both project and receive such communications, but our conscious minds may only vaguely sense them or may not pick them up at all, especially when we are preoccupied with other things.

    Many people have experienced what some call premonitions or intuition or gut feelings that communicate messages to us or seem to nudge us to do things that we can’t give a logical reason for doing. They just feel right. We also communicate through prayer or hearing the Lord’s voice whispering in our hearts.

    We use these many forms of communication in our interactions with others, from the simplest business transactions at a store or an office, to simple greetings to strangers on the street, to acts of politeness that communicate respect and acknowledgment of the value of another human being, to friendships, casual and more long-term; to deep, lifelong relationships with a spouse or other relatives that grow and develop, sometimes over many decades. When we fail to remain engaged and committed to meaningful communication in our relationships with others, those relationships begin to falter, become confusing, grow familiar, or can even fade away.

    Words are one of our most common forms of communication, but we cannot always rely on words alone to understand what is being communicated. In today’s world, communication has become increasingly complex, and much of it is much less likely to be done in person.

    We use many different mediums for communication, such as email, social media, phone, text, chat, or online meetings where we see people on screens, etc. Often, we can find ourselves attempting to decipher the meaning of the other person’s quick email or text, or wondering if there is a deeper meaning when we can’t see the person’s face or body language or look in their eyes to fully understand their intent. Such communications don’t provide the opportunity to see the other person on a fuller level that includes their interactions with others.

    We often have little more than glimpses of the full person, and this can sometimes lead to us reading things into what others say that may be inaccurate or completely wrong. We assume that we understand what someone’s intent or motives are, but sadly, the limited personal interactions can cause us to misunderstand what they are trying to express.

    Someone recently told me that they believe one of the most wonderful things about heaven will be to be able to fully understand each other’s thoughts and feelings. The Bible indicates that nothing will be hid in heaven, and we will fully understand others and be fully understood by them.

    Understanding and being understood is a powerful manifestation of the Lord’s love for us. In hard times, it can be tremendously comforting to remember that Jesus really does understand us completely. He knows us and loves us as we are. He reaches out to communicate His love for us, and that creates within us a desire to grow and develop. We sometimes get things backwards; we think Jesus is going to love us more because we’re changing or doing all the right things. The truth is that He loves us just as we are. As we grow in our confidence in His tremendous love, it motivates us to do what we can to please Him.

    Learning to communicate with one another effectively is crucial to relationships, and it’s not something we learn quickly. It can take a lifetime of practice and trial and error. And we all need to learn to have patience with each other as we grow in our sincere, heartfelt desire to understand and support one another.

    Years ago, I had a secretary who had an especially difficult time communicating things in a way that others understood clearly. Later, this person said that what had really clicked for them and helped them to improve in their communication skills was something the Lord had inspired me to tell them. I’d said, “If you want to truly communicate with others, it’s not enough that you use words that express to you what you want to communicate. You have to think in terms of the other person’s perspective. You need to strive to find the words that will enable those you are communicating with to clearly grasp what you want to communicate.”

    That may sound pretty obvious, but it can be a genuine challenge to enact because it requires understanding the other person, which takes time, effort, and the humility to ask questions and listen. What a word or concept might mean to one person, based on their personality, past experiences, culture, relationship with Jesus, etc., can be very different from what it means to you.

    We all have a variety of relationships with people—relatives, friends, business associates, and so on—where we need to develop our skill in the art of communication. I think marriage provides a very clear example of how important communication is. We can read books and articles on the internet that explain in general terms that your spouse is like this or that because he or she is a male or a female.

    Based on that, there is further explanation about how they may generally think and feel, and therefore it’s advisable to treat them in this way or that way. But we know there is no standard or rule that fits every man or woman. There are some tendencies that may be more prominent among men or among women, but we know that every human being needs to be loved and valued, and the innate need for connection with God’s Spirit is present in all people.

    We can only get to know others well when we take the time to see beneath the surface. To do that, we have to develop trust and openness between ourselves and them. A big part of that is learning to have mutual respect for one another. To have effective communication, we need to see others without preconceived opinions.

    There is no substitute for investing the time to listen to and learn more about anyone with whom you want to build a meaningful connection. Good communication takes time, and in many cases the process is speeded up when you’re going through difficulties and challenges together.

    The communication principles that make a good marriage relationship are fundamentally the same as those that build lasting friendships, effective working relationships, and even forge new relationships. Connection with others shapes our lives and theirs. Lack of connection with others, on the other hand, is often a major factor in mental illness, anger issues, violent behavior, depression, substance abuse, and so many ills that seem to be happening in epidemic proportions today.

    Communication takes time, and we need to be patient and persevere. Our human nature so often wants everything over and done with, so that we can enjoy the benefits as quickly as possible. Yet, so many times, especially with communication, there aren’t quick fixes. We have to persevere.

    I believe Jesus made relationships to be this way to help us avoid familiarity, and to help us see that any relationship requires regular attention. It may at times take a concerted effort to remember the value that open and honest communication can bring to our lives. With the Lord’s help, we can regain the joy and richness that a relationship was built on.

    Sometimes I find myself frustrated with some of these long-term growth processes, like communication. I’m tempted to think, “Why couldn’t I just get the hang of it from the beginning? Why can’t I just do the right actions and get the point and move on to other important things?”

    However, like so many things in this life, it’s a process that takes time to develop. Learning to provide that for others is part of how we can love them, respect them, and in turn, be much more effective in our work and relationships.

    This life is an adventure of learning. We have to mature, and that takes thinking more about others than ourselves, in order to discover the great joy, satisfaction, and contentment that comes from loving others.

    The basic mechanics of persuasion may come more naturally to some than to others. The core skills of communicating can be developed through experience or through other methods, such as books, classes, and mentoring, as is true with virtually any skill in this life. But it’s important to remember that even the most skilled person in this or any other area still has to consider what 1 Corinthians 13 so aptly expresses. Without the Lord’s love being the motivation for their use, all those skills fall far short of their most important potential to exemplify the love of God to a world in need of hope, and to provide a reminder of what will continue on long after this temporal world has fallen into dust. Communicating effectively is a very valuable tool to have. Let’s all use it to the full to benefit as many as we can.

     

  • May 10 Jesus—His Life and Message: The Death of Jesus (Part 4)
  • Apr 26 Jesus—His Life and Message: The Death of Jesus (Part 3)
  • Apr 19 Jesus—His Life and Message: The Death of Jesus (Part 2)
  • Apr 12 The Glory of Easter!—Part 2
  • Apr 5 The Glory of Easter!—Part 1
  • Mar 29 Jesus—His Life and Message: The Death of Jesus (Part 1)
  • Mar 15 Jesus—His Life and Message: Jesus Before Herod
  • Mar 1 Jesus—His Life and Message: The Trial Before Pilate
  • Feb 15 Jesus—His Life and Message: Gethsemane (Part 3)
   

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  • Our fundamental beliefs are generally in accordance with those held by Christians the world over; we also embrace some untraditional doctrines. Our application of the foundation principle of God’s Law of Love that Jesus taught—to love God, and to love our neighbor as ourselves, which He said fulfills “all the law and the prophets”—is a defining feature of our lives and our faith.

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  • The primary goal of the Family International is to improve the quality of life of others by sharing the life-giving message of love, hope, and salvation found in God’s Word. We believe that God's love—applied on a practical level to our daily lives—is the key to resolving many of society's problems, even in the complex and fast-paced world of today. Through imparting the hope and guidance found in the Bible’s teachings, we believe that we can work toward building a better world—changing the world, one heart at a time.

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    We believe that our faith is meant to be lived in community and camaraderie with others. We seek to cultivate a spirit of unity, love, and brotherhood. Together we can do more.

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