THE NEW EWE

"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!'"

Luke 15:4-6

April 28, 2010

LIFE IN THE FOLD:

This past weekend, Jon and I were doing some yard work together. I have flowerbeds in both the front and back of my house, and we had bought mulch for both places. When we had gone to purchase the mulch, Jon had asked if a couple bags would be enough, and I told him we needed at least 4 bags. He acted surprised that we'd need that much, but in my mind I was thinking that we actually needed twice that amount, if not more. But when it came time to put it down, I realized that our mulching techniques were very different.

The bags are too heavy for me to carry around; so when I do it, I generally pour a bunch out in piles, then spread it with a rake or by hand. But Jon was able to lift the bag and pour it directly into the flowerbeds; which was much faster and easier. We were preparing for a family get-together the next day and were in a bit of a hurry to get things finished up, so he went ahead and spread the mulch for me.

While watching him do this, it didn't take long to figure out that there was a vast difference in the amount of mulch that we use. He was using it very sparingly, and you could still randomly see dirt all throughout the flowerbeds. And four bags were plenty for him to get the job done. It looked fine, but wasn't how I was accustomed to doing it.

When I mulch, I spread a thick layer on the whole flowerbed, and make sure all the dirt is covered. I go up underneath the branches of the bushes and plants. I try to make sure it's fairly even, and that there are no bare spots. Therefore, I probably would have used at least 3-4 bags on the front, and that much on the back.

Even though our approaches aren't the same for mulching, either way, the job gets accomplished. Maybe the flowerbeds would look a little differently if I had done it instead of Jon; but the bottom line is, the goal of getting mulch put down was achieved.

I didn't say anything to Jon about how he was mulching, because I was happy to have his help and didn't want him to think that I didn't appreciate his efforts. But I was thinking about how the two of us did the job differently. Jon was a lot more conservative in his efforts than I would have been. Does that mean that one of us one of us is right and the other wrong? No, not necessarily. It just means that we have different perspectives on how much is needed to reach the end result.

I was busying myself with other jobs while Jon was adding the mulch to our flowerbeds. While watching him work, I had this random thought go through my mind: "How Jon mulches is kind of like being baptized by sprinkling, and how I do it is like baptizing by dunking (immersion)." Both get the job done, but through different methods.

There are many different church denominations, and many vary on certain beliefs. Some do baptize by sprinkling, and others by immersion. Some have communion every Sunday, while others only randomly serve communion. Some have the little plastic cups of grape juice and the little wafer crackers, while others may drink out of the same cup of wine and pinch off a piece of bread. Some churches have musicians and very joyful singing, while others have no instruments playing at all. Some enjoy singing hymns, while others sing praise and worship songs. Some have a very strict way of dressing and wearing their hair, while others encourage you to come as you are and be comfortable. Some churches believe in speaking in tongues and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, while others don't. The list could go on and on.

Sometimes it becomes so easy to become focused on the differences between churches, that we neglect to recognize the ways in which we're the same. We forget to focus on the real issues of importance. The bottom line is, do we believe that the Bible is the Word of God and is truth? Do we believe what the scriptures say about the need of salvation and repentance? If so, then that's what's really important.

Let me interject that there are religions that are cults and should be avoided at all cost! If a "church" or group of people are teaching doctrine that is not from the Bible, then it is a lie and should not be something you should join yourself to or listen to. The Word of God is the final authority on whether or not what is being preached or taught is truth. If any salvation other than through Jesus is preached, then it needs to be avoided. The one and only way to God is through believing in the death and resurrection of His Son, and repenting of your sins.

Having said that, when individuals become so rigid and hard-nosed in their religious opinions and beliefs that they are fanatical and obnoxious, they turn unbelievers off from wanting to have anything to do with church or God. It's not a contest on who attends the biggest church, which church has the most programs, or how popular your pastor is. It's okay to love your pastor and church family, but don't look down your nose at others like you think that you're better than they are, if they choose to attend another church. Christians need to learn to love other people, and show that love each and every day.

I was raised Pentecostal, I'm spirit-filled, I love the old hymns and also the more traditional praise and worship songs, I like to clap or raise my hands in worship when I sing, and I believe in healing and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. That's how I've always believed, and how I'll always believe until my dying day. I've experienced these things for myself, this is what ministers to me, and this is what works for me.

But I also have friends who attend churches of other denominations who believe somewhat differently than I do. But I know without a doubt that they love Jesus and are saved. We may not agree on all points of religious beliefs, but we also don't argue over them. They know the truth of salvation, and have accepted Jesus into their hearts and are saved. I know that beyond a doubt, and that's what's important.

The bottom line is, although we may differ on our way to get to the end goal [of reaching Heaven], we are on the same path and are getting the job done.

In the New Testament we read where some of the churches had differing views and opinions on various things such such as circumcision, who they could and couldn't eat with, what foods they could and couldn't eat, what could and couldn't be done on the Sabbath, etc. In fact, Peter and Paul didn't always agree on everything, and Paul once rebuked Peter. Yet they had the same goal of preaching and telling others about Jesus.

There are non-church goers who are confused on which church to attend. How do they know which denomination is right? The answer is not to just stay home and not attend church at all. If the Word of God is preached as truth, then go where you feel comfortable and find which church is a fit for you.

In the summer I wear flip-flops all the time. But a couple years ago, I went to get a pedicure with my mother-in-law and two of my sisters-in-law. We stopped by a shoe store and my mother-in-law and sister-in law were looking for a pair of sandals. They were trying on different styles, but were uncomfortable in flip-flops or sandals that didn't have a strap around the back of the foot. They felt like the shoes were flopping around on their feet and that it was hard to keep them on. But I've worn flip-flops all my life, and think nothing of those things. I find them comfortable and easy to slip on. I wear flip flops as soon as it warms up enough in the spring, until it gets too cool in the fall. I'm much more comfortable wearing flip flops or sandals, than I am wearing closed in shoes.

My mother-in-law, sister-in-law and I all wear shoes in the summer, but what each of us find to be the most comfortable varies. Does that make one of us right and the others wrong? Should I be offended or think myself to be better than them because I wear different shoes than they do; or vise versa? No, absolutely not! We all have to find the fit and shoe that works best for us.

That's the same way with finding what works for each of us in a church. What some find to be a comfortable fit for them, may not work for the next person. We each have to find the place that is right for us. We have different taste in styles of music and preaching. Different churches offer different programs and areas of ministry that some find more appealing than others.

But once you find that place that's a fit for you, you know it's right. You may not always agree with everything single thing that's said or done, but it's okay because that's where you belong. That's your church family and the people you care about. You support one another; both spiritually in in life issues.

All believers make up the body of Christ. We each have a purpose and place. Let's not get so caught up in religion that we overlook the importance of our relationship with Jesus. Our end goal should be to one day see Jesus face to face, and spend eternity in Heaven.

Like I said earlier, when Jon and I mulch the flowerbeds,we're doing the exact same job, but we just have a different perspective on how to get the job done. Let that be a lesson that we all can learn from!

JON'S PERSPECTIVE:

We skipped church Sunday.

If I told a dozen people, I'd probably get quite a range of responses. I remember when I was young, we went to one church that believed someone who skipped church on Sunday might not really be saved. After we were gone for a vacation, they usually told us how they missed us the previous Sunday, and would ask which church we went to in the mountains of Colorado. Of course, if it wasn't the right kind of church, it wouldn't have helped.

Church is great, and I'm glad we can attend often. But the simple fact is, Jesus is responsible for my salvation, and it's up to me to keep my relationship with Him. It isn't my churches responsibility. And it isn't my preacher's responsibility. It isn't Loretta's responsibility, either. I don't attend church to pass off my walk with Jesus to someone else; I attend church because I want to learn, to grown, to worship, and to spend time with others who want the same.

ON THE MENEWE:

French Vanilla Strawberry Cake

1 French Vanilla Cake Mix

1 Can Buttercream Frosting

Strawberry Jam (seedless)

Fresh Strawberries (optional)

Bake cake according to package directions in two round cake pans; cool. To assemble: put one cake on a serving plate. Put approximately 2 heaping tablespoons of frosting in a resealable bag (like a small ziplock bag); snip one corner of the bag. Pipe the frosting around the outer edge around the top of the cake. Fill in the remaining top of the cake with strawberry jam (the jam will spread easier if it's room temperature). Put the second cake on top. Frost the top and sides of cake with the buttercream frosting. Slice strawberries, and place (point sides up) around the bottom edge of the cake for decoration, by slightly pressing them into the frosting. Can also garnish the top of the cake with strawberries (3-4 whole strawberries dipped in chocolate look pretty on top).

LAMB TALES:

When Jon's niece was about 1 1/2 years old, her grandparents took her to the park. She was walking around picking flowers, when suddenly Jon's mom looked down and realized she had a handful of poison ivy. Quickly having her to let go, the grandmother wiped her hands off. Later, Jon's dad put the granddaughter up on his shoulders and she was hanging onto his neck. The next morning, he had red streaks running down the sides of his neck. Uh-oh!! He had poison ivy where his granddaughter's little hands had been hanging onto his neck! But being the good granddad that he is, I'm sure he would much rather have had the poison ivy himself, than for his little granddaughter to have it!!

THOUGHT TO PONDER:

We each have dreams; but the hard part is discerning which ones are from God and which are desires of our flesh.

The ones from God will come to pass, if we pray and walk in obedience; but that may mean giving up our wants.

God given dreams are so much better than anything we could come up with on our own!

OUR HEARTFELT THANKS TO YOU:

We hope you all are being blessed by our weekly newsletter and find encouragement from the devotionals we write.

We love you!

Loretta & Jon

E-Mail: shepherd@grayengineers.com

http://www.graysheep.org