"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!'"
March 4, 2009
During my devotions a few days ago, I randomly opened my Bible to Psalm. I began reading chapter 111, and starting with verse 2 it says: "The works of the Lord are great, studied by all who have pleasure in them. His work is honorable and glorious, and His righteousness endures forever." Then verse 4 caught my attention. It says, "He has made His wonderful works to be remembered."
From the beginning of time, God's work has been written down for mankind to read and study. It starts with the creation of the world, and then the creation of man and woman. The Bible records events that occurred from the beginning moment of the earth and mankind; historical happenings and various events from that time on for hundreds of years; to things that took place during the birth and life of Jesus, then after His death and resurrection; to the prophecy of things to come which is written in Revelation. The good and bad; the obedience and disobedience; sin, evil and failure of mankind; and God's grace, mercy and forgiveness have all been recorded. Why? So that we can read and study the scriptures, and that "God's wonderful works will be remembered." Even in the direst of situations, we can read where God was present and would intervene whenever He was called upon. We can read where circumstances looked utterly hopeless to man, but God would do the absolute impossible and bring about a miracle. Studying His Word reminds us that God's work is honorable and glorious; and that His righteousness endures forever. It can give us hope in our every situation.
If you read about the Israelites during their journey from Egypt to to Canaan, there are times when God spoke through Moses to remind the people where they came from, and how He has been taking care of and providing for them. If you continue reading in Judges and Kings, you will see where generations would worship God, then the next generation would sin and rebel and forget about God. Some years later, out of desperation, they would cry out to God and repent. This cycle continued on and on. But numerous times, God would speak through someone reminding the people of their forefathers' journey, and how God lead them out of bondage. Even today, every year during the Jewish Seder passover meal, the Jews go through the ritual feast that is based on the book of Exodus. They remember how their firstborn sons were spared when the angel of death passed through Egypt, they remember how their people were living as slaves in bondage to the Egyptians, and they remember how they were delivered from that bondage and they give thanks to God. This is a time not only of remembering, but of celebrating and thanksgiving.
Why is it so important that they be reminded of that year after year? Because as the scripture in Psalm says, "God has made His wonderful works to be remembered."
There are some things that we know for fact because we were there when it happened. Other things we know because others have recounted the events to us over and over.
For instance, my uncle Jay was a great story teller. He could make the most mundane event sound exciting. Something would happen to him, and when he told others about it, he would admittedly embellish the story to make it sound more exciting or humorous. He and my aunt Chloe would come down to our house after church almost every Sunday night for a cup of coffee, and you could always count on Jay's story telling. I know this for fact because I was present. I can remember Jay because I personally knew him and have knowledge of what he was like.
On the other hand, Poppy, who was my maternal grandfather, was also a notorious story teller. Family would gather and sit around for hours listening to him tell story after story. I don't know this for fact, because I didn't have the honor of knowing Poppy. He passed away when I was about one year old. But growing up, I have often heard my family talk about how much they loved going to his house and listening to him. I would state for a fact to anyone who asked that yes, my Grandpa Parton told the best stories ever; even though I have never heard them for myself. My knowledge has been passed down from those who were there and did know him. The generation of individuals who personally knew Poppy and spent time with him, passed down their remembrances to their children and grandchildren so that they will have insight on who he was and what he was like. By doing so, it keeps his memory alive and helps those of us who didn't know him to know what our family roots were like.
None of us were present when events from the Bible took place. I doubt that any of us have personal family connections with anyone in the Bible, where the stories of the individuals have been passed down to us from one generation to another. But the works of God were written down so that all the world would have the truth written down so that we could read and study and know. We can learn from past generations. We don't have to rely on "word of mouth" or past generations relaying all those events accurately. But God inspired and ordained that His Word be written down for all mankind to read and know the truth.
I have heard this statement made by individuals: "God has never done anything for me." That's usually in response to someone telling them about God, or trying to encouraging them during a difficult time. The bottom line is, God is always doing great things for us. Sometimes it's just a matter of us recognizing it. But let's say that we truly believe that God never does anything for you. Does that make Him any less real or any less present? Absolutely not! At times it may just be a matter of us admitting our need for God and asking for His help. God is always present, whether or not we acknowledge Him. He is always ready to help when we call upon Him, but He will not force Himself upon us. God is waiting for us to recognize our need for Him, and ask for Him to intervene on our behalf.
Over and over again in the Old Testament the Israelites would sin and worship foreign idols. They would seemingly completely forget about God, and would partake in the vilest of sins. Many times in order to get their attention, God would allow calamity to befall them. When that happened, they would once again begin to call upon God and repent of their sins. We can read over and over again that when that occurred, a priest or prophet would gather the people and read from the scrolls or tell them how God had delivered their forefathers from bondage in Egypt, and about the journey they embarked upon to get to Canaan. They were being reminded of God's intervention and deliverance. They were being reminded of the power and awesomeness of God. The mighty works of God was being expounded upon so that they would recognize that the same God who delivered their ancestors, was the same God who could forgive and deliver them.
One of my favorite songs that I have often sang at church is entitled, "He'll Do It Again." The words of the chorus are:
"He'll do it again. He'll do it again. If you'll just take a look at where you are now, and where you've been. Hasn't He always come through for you; He's the same God as then. You may not know how; you may not know when; but He'll do it again."
The message of the song is that God knows the things that we go through. He knows every hurt, every broken heart, every pain. But He is also the same God who created the sun, moon, and the seas; and He can calm storms. He is the same yesterday, today and forever, and cannot and will not change. The same God who delivered Daniel from being hurt when he was thrown into the lions' den, is the same God who will be with us in difficult situations. He is the same God who was with Moses when he led the children of Israel out of Egypt; the same God who walked with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednigo in the fiery furnace; and the very same God who raised Jesus from the dead. And this same God is the one who is walking beside every single one of us each day.
But there are times when we forget the power and majesty of God, and we need to be reminded. We begin looking at our circumstances and they seem overwhelming, and we forget that God is bigger than our problems. At times we may feel discouraged, or that God has forgotten us or no longer cares. That's when we need to remember God's wonderful works. We need to go to the scriptures and study God's word and be reminded once again of what God has done in the past, and be encouraged that He can do those same things for us today. We can look back at how He has blessed and protected us, and remember God's wonderful works; knowing that He is with us right now. There is a purpose for "God making His works to be remembered." We can take pleasure in them, learn from them, and remember them. And we can pass the truth down to future generations.
Psalm 78:1-4 says, "O my people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter hidden things, things from of old -- what we have heard and known, what our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord."
Once again, I've been reading in and about Revelation. I read through most of it once, then I started again, but reading commentaries and following scripture references. It's a much more informative way to read it. And I'm getting a much better understanding. I really recommend it to anyone else. But I also recommend taking breaks frequently. It can get to be a depressing and negative study.
But God has wisdom which is far above our own. We can't hope to really understand why He prescribes the judgments on the world the way He does in Revelation. We can only catch a glimpse, and make feeble guesses. The end times are, ultimately for the good, even if we can't understand it.
I've been becoming more and more convinced that the Rapture will take place before the Tribulation. For those who haven't grown up with the terms, the Rapture is the modern name for what Jesus refers to when He says that those who believe in Him will be taken up into heaven in the twinkling of an eye, without warning. And the Tribulation is the judgement God brings on the world at the end of time. There is some disagreement whether the Tribulation will be seven or fourteen years, or some other period. But at the end of the Tribulation, Jesus will return to reign as King.
Now, if we assume that the Rapture does indeed come near the beginning of the Tribulation, then the only people who will be left behind for the Tribulation will be those who hadn't accepted Jesus as the Christ and as their Savior. But there is still hope for them. Instead of God giving up on them, He gives them one last chance to recognize the signs around them, and turn to Jesus. All too often, it takes desperation for people to turn to Jesus. And they will have desperation in the Tribulation.
But please don't be left behind.
Sausage Stuffed Jalapenos
1 lb. Pork sausage
1 (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
large jalapeno peppers, halved lengthwise and seeded (remove any white ribs)
Ranch Dressing (for dipping) -- optional
This is usually the place where I write more humorous stories or memories. But today I'd like to veer away from that somewhat.
My niece, Janee', and her husband are expecting their first baby. Her due date is May 4th, but it seems as if the baby is going to be here much sooner; like any day now. Last week she began having contractions and going into early labor. She has been hospitalized, and is not sure how long she will have to be there. Each day that she can go without giving birth is just that much better for the baby. The doctor told her that each day she can carry the baby, will equal about three days less that he will have to stay in ICU after his arrival. She has passed the first milestone of 30 weeks, and is now hoping to make the next one of 32 weeks; and the doctor said that 34 would be even better. We ask for you all to keep Janee' and the baby in your prayers, as well as Jeremy. Jeremy has been quite a trooper throughout all this. We are praying and believing that baby Jax Isaiah McCrate will be healthy and strong, and will gain weight quickly and be able to come home without too long of a hospital stay, upon his arrival.
Taking "one day at a time" is advice more easily spoken than lived.
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Loretta & Jon