"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
November 12, 2008
For several days now, I have had a particular subject matter rest heavily upon my heart. It's not a happy, feel good topic; but rather is one that people would prefer to disregard and ignore. But there has been such an urgency within me, that I would be remiss in my responsibility as a Christian if I disobeyed and refused to write about this. It's difficult at times to be bold about certain scriptures, for I don't want to offend anyone. But it would be far worse to have someone point their finger at me when we're standing before the judgment seat of God, and question why I never told them. I will use scripture to back up what I write, for this is not a church doctrine but it's the truth of God's Word.
I grew up in a Pentecostal church where the pastor preached about heaven on a regular basis. But he would also preach about the reality of hell. I remember times when I'd be scared to go to sleep at night, because of a fear of dying or Jesus coming back again to rapture the believers. I was afraid that there was some sin in my life that would prevent me from going to heaven. Practically every night before I went to sleep I would repent of any sins, both those known and possible unknown, that I might have committed during that day.
As I matured as a Christian, I learned that I can have confidence about my relationship with God. By faith, I can know that I am saved, and instead of living in fear, I can have peace. But that doesn't mean that I can live anyway that I choose and please God. I have to be steadfast in my relationship with God, and daily try to obey Him in all things. I know that there are times when I do things that are unpleasing to God, and that I slip and make mistakes more often than I should. But each time that I do, I don't push it aside as being small and insignificant, but repent of my sins and accept God's forgiveness. I don't want there to be any separation between myself and God. But I no longer live in fear that I'm unknowingly going to sin and fail to repent of it, which in turn will cause me to miss eternity with God.
Over the past few years, I've seen a trend in preaching and teaching where no one wants to mention the word hell, or the reality of each of us one day standing before the judgment seat of God. Instead, they want everyone to feel happy, loved, accepted and contented, so they only use those scriptures which are encouraging and uplifting. It has reached a point where people feel that as long as they live a reasonably good, clean life, then God will accept them into heaven. They don't feel that they need to repent of their sins and accept Jesus' gift of salvation, but just be a good individual. They think that it's enough to believe that God exists, but they don't have to believe in God and put their faith in Him.
There are even ministers and churches who are preaching an all inclusive doctrine; where people can live anyway they want and do whatever they want, and that God will smile upon them and welcome everybody into heaven. It's growing more prevalent every day, and as time goes on, more and more false doctrines, which sound pleasing to the ears and make people feel good, will be "preached".
But God's Word is either all true and to be follow and believed, or it's all made up lies and fiction. It cannot be both. Therefore, we cannot accept only those scriptures that sound good and appeal to us, and not the others. It's either all or nothing.
The Bible very clearly states that the only way to heaven is through repenting of our sins and accepting the forgiveness of Christ. There is no other way -- period. I can be the most upright, good person and give to the poor and volunteer to help the needy and do all kinds of truly awesome deeds. But if I have not asked Jesus into my heart, repented of my sins and accepted His salvation, then all those upstanding acts of kindnesses and clean living is all for nothing. When we each individually stand before God, which the Bible says that we will do, He will not say, "You tried your best to be a good person and did good things for others, so I'll let you into heaven." But rather He'll say, "Depart from me; I never knew you."
Hebrews 9:27, "And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment."
2 Corinthians 5:10, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether it be good or bad."
In Matthew chapter 7, Jesus is warning the people about false prophets who come dressed in sheep's clothing, but inside are ravenous wolves. He said that we would know them by their fruits. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, neither can a bad tree bear good fruit. He then issues a warning in verses 21-23.
"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord," shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, "Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.'"
So we see here that each of us will stand before God, and will have to answer for the things that we did in the body while upon earth, both the good and the bad. No one is exempt from this judgment. And no one can stand and answer for us. We must all stand alone when the time comes.
If goodness alone doesn't guarantee that you get to spend eternity in heaven, then what does?
Romans 3:23 tells us that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We are all sinners, regardless of how good or bad we may be. None of us can measure up to the glory of God. But we don't have to remain in our sin. Jesus died on the cross and shed His blood so that we could be forgiven. He took the punishment that we each deserve, so that we wouldn't have to endure it. But there is only one condition to this: we have to confess our sins and believe in Jesus.
Romans 10:9 says, "If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved."
Some do not like the term "being saved", but that's what the scriptures say that we become. We're all guilty of sin and wrongdoing, but when we repent of our sins and receive forgiveness, we are "saved" from the deserved punishment of hell.
Romans 6:23 tells us that, "The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life, in Christ Jesus our Lord."
The penalty of sin is death, which is eternal separation from God. But God is offering each one of us the gift of salvation; and if we accept that gift, then we are assured of eternal life with Jesus Christ.
You can believe this or not, it's your choice. But if you continue on as you are, trying to get through life in your own strength and goodness, refusing to confess your sins and accept Jesus' gift of forgiveness, then you will spend eternity separated from God and those who do believe.
Revelations speaks about the "Book of Life". When you repent of your sins and become a child of God, your name is written in this Book of Life. In chapter 20, it speaks of individuals being judged of their works, according to what was written in this book. Verse 15 says, "And anyone not found written in the Book of Life were cast into the lake of fire."
Hell was not created as a place for mankind, but was made for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41). But with the creation of man and woman in the garden of Eden, entered sin into the world. God created them as being perfect, with no sin. But He also gave them one commandment and told them what the punishment would be, if they chose to break that command. They were not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. But Satan came and tempted Eve, convincing her that God didn't mean what He had said, and that she wouldn't be punished for her disobedience. Eve listened to Satan and gave into temptation, and Adam did likewise. Because of man's sin and separation from God, sacrifices had to be made to atone for those sins. In the Old Testament, people would offer the sacrifice of an animal (most generally a sheep) as a sign of their repentance. But God then sent Jesus to earth, to die on the cross, as the ultimate sacrifice for the sins of all mankind. No longer did man have to offer animals upon altars, but the blood of Jesus now covered all of our sins.
But just as God made a stipulation to Adam and Eve in the garden, He makes only stipulation to us today. All we have to do to be forgiven of our sins is to believe on Jesus Christ. It's not enough to just believe that there's a God. But we have to confess our sins and put our faith in Jesus Christ. If we will do so, then we are assured eternity in heaven. But if we refuse to do so, then we are doomed to spend eternity in hell; that place that was originally made for the devil and his angels.
John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."
If you have never made that commitment to Christ, and have never truly confessed your sins and accepted His forgiveness, then you can do so this very minute. With everything within me, I beg of you to not wait another moment. Don't debate or question whether you should or shouldn't, because you may end up putting it off until it's too late. Don't try to convince yourself that you're good enough to go to heaven, without receiving salvation. You are only deceiving and lying to yourself, if you do so. None of us are good or perfect enough to deserve to spend eternity in heaven. But because of the grace and mercy of God, He made a way for us to do so. But you have to accept God's gift and take action to receive it. You have to pray and admit that you are a sinner, and ask for forgiveness of your sin. That's the one and only way to heaven.
God is real. Jesus is real. Heaven is a real place; as well as hell. Too many people have stubbornly waited too late to accept Jesus into their lives; not wanting to be pressured into making a decision, or feeling that they have no real need of God. But none of us know what will happen tomorrow. We aren't promised that each time we get into our car, that we will arrive at our destination safely. We don't know when health issues could attack our bodies. We don't know when God will decide to send His Son the second time to catch away (rapture) those who believe and whose hearts are prepared to meet Him. Last week, I wrote about our "blessed hope". We are told that not everyone will die, but there will be those who will be caught up together in the clouds to meet the Lord. In a moment, in the blink of an eye, the trumpet will sound and those who are ready to meet God will suddenly be taken to heaven to be with our Lord. We don't know when that could happen. I truly believe that it very well could happen in my lifetime; and it could happen any second, of any day.
I'm not prepared to take the chance of missing the rapture, for the Bible speaks of the perilous times and hardship that will be upon those who are left behind. If you think times are hard now, it is nothing compared to what is to come. Men will live in constant fear, and there will be torment for anyone who chooses to believe in God during that time.
We don't have to live in fear of missing heaven. But I do believe, that it wouldn't hurt for us to have a little more Godly fear within us; knowing that God's Word is true, and that there are consequences for those who refuse to commit their lives to God. There could also be consequences for those who try to walk the line between living for God and holding onto the world at the same time. That is a real danger zone.
I believe that it's time for God's people to take a stand for holiness and truth. We can't play games with God, and try to appease others by only speaking those things that they want to hear. And we need to quit playing around with our faith, trying to straddle the line between the world and God at the same time. It's time to get serious about our relationship with God, and be an example to those around us. It's time for us to speak out against sin, and stop teetering back and forth about right and wrong.
Today is the day to get your heart right with God and repent of sin. Today is the day to be bold about your faith; stand up for God and speak out for truth and righteousness. I don't want anyone to spend eternity in hell, because I was scared that I was going to offend them or hurt their feelings. I can't force people to accept the message of God's Word. But I can speak the truth, and whether or not they choose to receive it and believe is then up to them. When we stand before God, I don't want loved ones and friends to look at me and say, "Loretta you never told me the truth. You never warned me about the consequences of not accepting Christ. You were negligent in your witness."
You may argue that I am wrong in my beliefs; and if I am, then what do I have to lose in the end? But if I'm right, then are you willing to take that risk for all eternity?
I've made mistakes in the past about being quiet and not speaking up about my faith. I've had individuals close to me die, and not being assured of their salvation, have questioned if I said enough or what I could have done differently. I have regrets. I can't go back and redo the past; but today I can make a fresh start, and because of my love for my family and friends, I can begin boldly speaking the truth.
Today is the day of salvation for you, if you've never made that commitment to Christ. If you have prayed and asked for forgiveness of your sins at some point in the past, but you're relationship with God is not as it should be right now, then today is the day you can re-dedicate your life to Him. If you have been quiet in your witness and been ashamed to stand up for truth, then make a commitment to God right now that as He gives you opportunities, you will stand up for what's right. May we never be ashamed of the gospel, but boldly proclaim it's truth.
I wasted $0.75 today. I stopped for gas, and remembered that I had a low tire. I checked for an air pump, and sure enough, there it was. But they wanted 75 cents! Some gas stations have air pumps for free. And I have an air compressor and tire chuck at home. I could have put it off for awhile longer, and gotten the air for free. But, I know my nature. If I had put it off till tonight, I probably would have forgotten. And who knows when I would have remembered and taken the time to air up the low tire. I might have waited too long. A blown tire is trivial compared to a lost soul. But putting things off can seem just as easy. Too many people seem to think they have to be perfect before they can get to know Jesus. But, as a Christian comedian (Mike Warnke, I think it was) once said, "You don't get cleaned up to take a bath." By getting close to (and staying close to) Jesus, we don't want to sin against Him. So, why wait? You can start getting to know Jesus by reading His Word. I recommend starting with John.
Cheesy Spinach and Artichoke Dip
1 can (14 oz.) artichoke hearts -- drained and finely chopped
1 pkg. (10 oz.) frozen chopped spinach -- thawed and drained
¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¾ cup Mayo or Miracle Whip
½ cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
½ tsp. Garlic powder
Heat oven to 350. Mix all ingredients; spoon into 9-inch baking dish. Bake 20 minutes or until heated thoroughly. Serve with Ritz crackers, veggies, or tortilla chips.
You ever have those days where you should have just gone back to bed and started all over again? It may not be that it's anything bad that's going on, but just that one little thing after another. I had such a day this past Saturday. By the end of the day, I felt like I'd ruined everyone's day and that nothing had gone right. Well, maybe I'm being just a little dramatic.... but it wasn't the best day of my life.
We rent from Jon's parents, and they are in the process of replacing the shed in our backyard. They had come on Thursday to begin tearing down and hauling away the old shed, and came back on Saturday to finish the job. Well, I didn't sit in the house and watch them work; I helped, too. Jon was going to help us finish up on Saturday morning, and use his muscles for the heavier stuff. We were glad to help get the old shed demolished and cleared away. We knew that it shouldn't take long, and then we'd have the rest of the day to relax.
But let me back up a little. Jon had to work really long hours all week last week, and by the end of Friday had in 50-plus hours. He was looking forward to a relaxing weekend. On his way home on Thursday, the service engine light came on in our "good" car. So Friday morning, I followed him to drop it off for repairs, then he brought me back home before heading in to work. The mechanic didn't finish up until after closing hours, so we told them that we would pick the car up early Saturday morning. Jon was going to attend the monthly men's breakfast at church on Saturday morning, and our plans were to get up and pick the car up beforehand. We didn't set the alarm, and ended up sleeping later than we intended. We rushed around, and hurried to get the car. When we got ready to pay, the cost ended up being a whole lost closer to $800 (like $5 less) than the approximately $700 that we had expected. I think I was caught more off guard than Jon was. So that didn't start my day off on a real positive note.
Jon hurried to the men's breakfast, and I came on home. Leaves had piled up high in front of our garage doors, so I worked on bagging them up while Jon was gone. I also swept, vacuumed, and straightened up the downstairs of our house. As soon as Jon got home, we went outside to begin working on the shed. His parents arrived shortly thereafter, and we actually got things done fairly quickly. We filled the back of Jon's dad's truck, and decided to follow them to Lowe's to get the new shed ordered. Long story, but we were going to use the Lowe's where my nephew works. We drove there, and Jon and I looked around for him but couldn't find him. I called his cell phone and he was at lunch and said he'd be back in 5-10 minutes. We all were waiting for him, when he called my cell phone back to say that he had forgot his wallet so didn't have his employee discount card with him. So we all went our separate ways and decided that we'd take care of it later in the week.
Jon's parents went to dump the old lumber and shingles and Jon and I came home and ate lunch. They called and said that they decided to go ahead and come back to load up the rest of the stuff that was left, instead of waiting until later the next week. So Jon went out to finish carrying the rest of the lumber around to the front to make it easier and faster to load up. I decided to run to pick up my nephew's wallet and take it to him so that we could get the new shed on order, to save Jon's parents another trip into Tulsa. So after getting the remainder of the old shed loaded and cleaned up, we all made a second trip to Lowe's.
After waiting around for 15-20 minutes, I finally discovered that we were at the wrong Lowe's store! Either my nephew or sister had told me that he worked at the store on 71st street, so I thought I knew the exact store where he worked. I had no idea that there was another Lowe's at the end of 71st in Broken Arrow. I knew that there was a store there, but didn't even consider that it was also on 71st street. So I had led my husband and in-laws on a wild goose chase twice that day, and wasted a lot of our time. They ended up ordering the shed later at another Lowe's, without their goofy daughter-in-law around.
Since I had my nephew's wallet, Jon and I had to then take it to him. We got to the right Lowe's right when he was supposed to get off work. So we found his car and waited beside it for 10 minutes, thinking that he would show up anytime. We were afraid if we went into the store that we would end up missing him. So finally I went inside to look for him, and Jon waited by the car. Come to find out, his supervisor was making him work late so he was still inside.
Because of me, what should have been a half day project, ended up taking all day. My husband didn't say much, but wasn't too happy with me. He had been looking forward to napping and working on his competition project most of the afternoon, which he would have had plenty of time to do if it hadn't been for me. Needless to say, on Sunday after church, I didn't ask him to do anything at all and let him spend the day how he wanted.
I think next time, I will just go back to bed and start the day over!
Frame every so-called disaster with these words: "In five years, will this matter?" It will help put things in perspective.
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We hope everyone is enjoying this fall season.
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Loretta & Jon