"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!'"
February 3, 2010
I was raised in a Christian home, and church was a vital part of our lives. People didn't have to wonder if the Horton family were going to be in church, but they knew that every time the doors were open that we would be there; unless we were sick. So church is ingrained in me. I know all the churchy phrases and sayings. I know almost every old Pentecost church song there is. I've heard the hell, fire and damnation sermons. I know how a "good" Christian is supposed to talk and dress and act. I've sung in church almost ever since I was able to talk. I started by standing up on the piano bench so everyone could see and hear me. I played piano in church for probably 25 years. I've taught Sunday School, been church secretary, been a door greeter, on prayer teams, etc.
So with all my experience and knowledge, you would think that I would be a perfect woman who was super-spiritual and full of faith. You might think that I'd be so much like Jesus that I'd never sin and all my prayers would be answered. You could also think that I'd always say the right thing, have a positive attitude, act and live perfectly, never make a mistake, never have a bad thought, and pretty much be a saint.
But sadly, that's not the case. I fail, I sin, I continually mess up, I give in to temptations and have to repent over and over again. Too often, I judge, say things I shouldn't, have bad attitudes, struggle with my thoughts, gossip, and am critical. There are days when I don't read my Bible and pray, even though I know I should. There are Sunday's when I don't want to go to church, and would rather stay at home. Occasionally, I get angry at God because He doesn't answer my prayers like I want Him too; times when God seems far away and I feel like He doesn't really care; and days when I feel like giving up and think, "What's the use?" I sometimes get angry, and have even had four-letter words come to mind occasionally, when it seems like no other word is bad enough to express what I'm thinking or feeling. Surprised?!
Thankfully, God is forgiving and never runs out of mercy. Thankfully, He never gives up on us. When we sin, we can repent and God will always forgive. When we mess up our lives or have a bad day or feel weak, we can be filled with hope when we remember the compassion that God has toward us.
A favorite passage of scripture is Lamentations 3:21-23. "This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. Through the Lord's mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness."
Isn't it wonderful that God doesn't always give us the punishment that we deserve? Even when we disappoint Him or fail to obey, God will still love us and never fail to extend His mercy towards us.
We can excuse our behavior and sin by thinking that the days when we're good and do right out-number our bad days. It's easy to sometimes think that we're overall a pretty good person and as long as we do our best, that's good enough. But it's when we ignore our sin and justify it, that we often fail to feel sorry for it and allow it to remain in our lives without repenting of it. That's what can get us into big eternal trouble!
Even though I had godly parents, and have sisters involved in ministry, there came a day when I realized that I had to decide for myself whether or not I was going to believe in God for myself. I had to choose whether or not I was going to put my faith and trust in God. It wasn't enough that I came from a good Christian family, I had to make that decision for myself; no one could make it for me. I went to the altar during a revival when I was five years old and asked Jesus into my heart. I didn't have a vast understanding of God at that time, but understood enough to know that I wanted to live my life for Him.
But as I grew older, things happened that made me question my faith and I had to decide, as an adult, whether or not I truly believed in God and whether or not I believed that His Word was true. I had to choose whether or not I believed that God was real. It wasn't enough to know all the church lingo and toe-tapping church songs. It wasn't enough to just know about God, but I had to choose whether or not I wanted to know God and allow Him into my heart. There's a difference.
You can know all about a person, without really knowing them. For example, when Jon and I first started dating he told me about his brother and sister. He told me stories of them growing up together. He told me different facts about them, things about their likes and dislikes, things about their personalities, etc. After a while, I felt like I knew them, from listening to Jon talk about them. But I really didn't "know" them, I just knew about them. I didn't truly get to know them until I met them, spent time with them, talked to them and found out what they were really like for myself. When that occurred, I didn't just have to take Jon's word for it any longer, but I had knowledge of what they were like personally. I no longer knew about them, but I actually knew them.
That's how it is with God. We can hear others talk about Him, attend church occasionally, own a Bible, and believe in His existence. But we're not ever really going to get to know Him personally until we spend time reading His Word and communicating with Him through prayer. It's not enough to only believe that God exists, but we each need to know Him personally.
So how can we get to know God when we can't see or hear Him? How do we know that He really hears us when we pray? How can we know that our sins are forgiven, when we pray and repent for the wrong that we've done? After all, we're not the disciples who walked and talked and spent time with Jesus while He was here on earth. The one and only way we can truly believe and know God is by faith. Seems so simples, yet at times, it can be so hard.
Thomas was a disciple of Jesus, had heard Jesus teach, and had spent approximately three years ministering alongside Him. After Jesus was crucified and rose from the grave, He appeared to His disciples. Yet for some reason, Thomas was not present at that time. When the others told him that they had seen Jesus, He wasn't quite sure whether or not to believe them. He is referred to as "Doubting Thomas", which I think is somewhat unfair. People fail to acknowledge all the times he did what was right, but focus on this one time when he questioned. How many of us would immediately take the word of others if they told us that someone who had been crucified was now living? Yes, they were talking about the Messiah; but Thomas had seen Jesus beaten and crucified, and knew that His body had been placed in a tomb with a huge stone rolled over the door. I think I would probably be like Thomas; show me and then I'll believe, too.
In John 20:25 says, "The other disciples therefore said to him, "We have seen the Lord." So he [Thomas] said to them, "Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe."
Eight days later, the disciples were once again gathered, when Jesus appeared to them. The first words He spoke were to Thomas. "Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing."
I think that Jesus understood how difficult it was for Thomas to believe without seeing. He didn't rebuke Thomas for his lack of faith; and it wasn't Jesus who called him "Doubting Thomas". But Jesus allowed Thomas to touch the nail prints in His hands and to put his hand into His side, where He had been pierced with a sword. Jesus took the time to prove to Thomas that He wasn't an imposter, but was indeed the One and Only Christ.
I also believe that Jesus had an even greater understanding of how difficult it would be for those who wouldn't see Him to have faith and believe in Him.
John 20:29 says, "Jesus said to him, 'Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.'"
When we put our faith in Jesus and believe in Him, even though we've never seen Him, then Jesus said that we would be blessed.
I encourage you to not just believe in the existence of God, but to truly believe IN God. It will require faith, but it will be the best decision you've ever made.
And during those days when you sin and fail, get back up and continue forward in building a relationship with God. Repent, and move on. Always remember that the Lord's mercies are new every morning. He will never run out, but gives us a fresh supply every day.
I recently noticed something about a famous 'Reverend'. He mentioned God or Jesus once in awhile. But even after listening to him several times, no one would have much idea who Jesus is.
I'm afraid I don't do much better. Do people around me get any more idea of who Jesus is from knowing me? Do I introduce Him well?
Chocolate Chip Cream Cheese Bars
2 cups chocolate chip cookie dough
1 pkg. Cream Cheese
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
In a 9x9 pan use 1/2 of the dough and flatten in the bottom of the pan to form a crust. (You can use either the chocolate chip dough from either the tub or one large roll.) In a bowl mix cream cheese, sugar, egg and vanilla until smooth. Spread the cream cheese mixture over crust. Crumble the rest of the cookie dough over the top. Bake on 350 for 35-40 minutes.
We recently got about 5-6 inches of snow. Some of my family and friends in Missouri and Arkansas also got anywhere from 6-12 inches of snow during that same period of time. After the initial snowfall, I read several comments on Facebook about different people making snow ice cream. Mama would make snow ice cream when I was growing up, but I didn't know that it was something that a lot of folks still do. It brought back a lot of memories of snowy days when I was a kid in Missouri.
Mama would never let us make snow ice cream out of the first snow. I think the first snow was supposed to be dirtier or something; I'm not really sure of the why behind this. I'm sure that was something she heard from her mom, who was told that by her mom, and on back. I've also heard people mention that you weren't supposed to get the top layer of snow. You were supposed to brush away that top layer and scoop up your bowl of snow underneath. I don't think we usually waited long enough after a snow for it to get dirty on top! I haven't eaten snow ice cream in years, so I'm not sure if I would still think it the special treat that I did when I was a kid. I used to think it was the best stuff ever, when Mama made it. I know that she would add sugar, vanilla, and fresh cream or milk from our own milk cow to the snow. Of course, there's nothing quite like the memories of my Mama's cooking!
Look back and thank God. Look forward and trust God
Look around and serve God. Look within and find God. - (unknown)
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We love you!
Loretta & Jon