"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!'"
January 5, 2011
We are in amazement! This week is our 200th weekly newsletter. Who knew when we first started our website that we'd have continuous readers for this long? Certainly not us! It confirms that this was definitely God's will for a ministry for me and Jon, and we are so grateful. And we thank all of you who have been faithful to read our devotional each week. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!
Unless Jon is going to be out of town or we're going on vacation, we generally focus on one newsletter at a time. We can put our time and attention into each week's devotional, which makes it much easier. But for the month of December, that wasn't the case. Jon had to make a couple trips out of town to work, so we had to make sure we had things written and edited ahead of time so Jon could have it ready to publish on our website. He does all the technical work that I have no idea how to do. One week, we had the newsletter ready but Jon was busy and failed to get it published on time. He was having cell phone problems so I couldn't get in touch with him to remind him. So whenever he's going to be gone, Jon has devised a way to "cheat" so all I have to do is click on an icon and ta-dah, the new edition is published online.
Lately, I've had to write 2-3 newsletters at a time to make sure we weren't late and had them ready on time. When Jon travels his schedule is always very wishy-washy and we're never certain when he'll return. What is scheduled for a three day trip could turn into a week (or longer), or Jon could return a day or two early (which is a rarity). It makes things a little frustrating, but we have learned that there is the need to prepare in advance in case he's unable to return when he's supposed to.
In addition to the newsletter, it also makes it hard to know how to pack when Jon travels. Most times he stays at a hotel and can use their laundry service, which helps in those situations when he's unprepared for a longer stay. But the unexpected can also occur.
I have mentioned before that one of Jon's ongoing jobs for the past year and a half has been outfitting a ship that will be used as an oil pumping station. This had been a major undertaking, and the company Jon works for has only a tiny piece of the whole job. Last fall, Jon made two trips to Singapore where the ship was originally being worked on. This year that same ship is several miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, and Jon has made two trips to do testing and installations. He's also had to make numerous trips to Houston for related testing and training. Next year he'll more than likely have to make a few more trips to Houston and the Gulf, then hopefully it will be finished by late spring/early summer.
On Jon's last trip, he and some of the temporary workers were being flown by helicopter back and forth each day between shore and ship. There are regulations that state only so many are allowed to stay on board at night, so they were staying at a hotel. That was nice because they each had their own room, comfortable bed (that didn't rock with the waves), and a hot shower. But on the downside, they had five hours of traveling time each day. It was an hour drive from the hotel to the heliport, then an hour wait (which was required) before take-off, then an hour flight. In the evenings they had the hour flight and hour drive back to the hotel.
But one evening the weather got stormy and the helicopter couldn't come pick Jon and the others up due to the wind and rain. Plus there was also a fuel issue. They had to be transported off ship to another smaller boat where they slept and ate. The downside was, their suitcases with clean clothes and personal belongings were all on shore back in the hotel. This was totally unexpected and unplanned for. But Jon and the others had no choice in the matter. It didn't matter that they weren't prepared for an overnight stay, the decision was out of their hands. They weren't ask beforehand if this would work for them or if they agreed to these arrangements. Out of all the guys involved, Jon was the only one who had carried a clean pair of socks and underwear in his laptop case, so he wasn't caught as off-guard as the others were.
There is a passage of scripture that speaks of the need of ongoing and constant preparedness. Matthew 25 tells the parable of the ten virgins. Five were wise and prepared. They didn't know when the bridegroom would come, but they had oil in their lamps so they'd be ready when he showed up. The foolish took their lamps, but no oil. While waiting for the bridegroom they all slumbered and slept. In other words, they went ahead with their daily lives and task while waiting for him to come. At midnight they heard the cry, "Behold the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!"
All ten virgins trimmed their lamps, but the foolish wanted the wise to give them their oil because their lamps were going out. But the wise told them no, because there would not be enough for them all. The foolish left to try to find someone who sold oil, and while they were gone the bridegroom came. Those who were ready went in to meet him, and the door was shut. When the foolish five showed up and knocked at the door and begged to be let in, the bridegroom replied, "Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you."
Jesus was telling this parable to warn the people to be ready for His appearing. In the Bible Jesus is called the Bridegroom, while the christians are referred to as the bride of Christ.
In those days when a girl was betrothed to a man, she had no idea when he would come to get her to take her to his home as his wife. Tradition was that she would have ten virgins who were ready to be part of the ceremony whenever the bridegroom appeared; so they had to be alert and ready at all times for when he came to claim his bride. The family of the bride also had to have food prepared for the wedding feast. There was a lot of preparation that went into the ceremony, and the bride had to be ready at all times, not knowing when her betrothed would come after her.
Matthew 25:13 says, " Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming."
Just as a bridegroom would come to claim his bride and take her to his home, Jesus will someday come to take all those who are watching and waiting for His appearing home to heaven to be with Him forever. We don't know when that's going to happen. We don't know if it will be in our lifetime. But we do have the warning in scripture that it will happen! And we have to be ready at all times so we aren't left behind.
We can't be like the foolish virgins who thought they could either borrow from those who came prepared, or had time to go out and get oil when the bridegroom was announced. The door was shut and they were not able to enter into the wedding celebration. In fact the bridegroom said he didn't know who they were.
When Jesus appears, there will be no time for repenting and preparing out hearts. There will be no time to ask for forgiveness for our sins. There will be no time for salvation. Jesus is giving us this opportunity right now to prepare ourselves for His coming. But we can either choose to be like the wise virgins who were prepared at all times; or like the foolish who try to prepare after it's already too late.
Unexpected events happen to us all. Jon being left unexpectedly 160 miles from shore was a big deal for some of the men at the time, but in the scheme of things really wasn't that important. Jon could deal with the inconvenience for one night. It wasn't like he was stranded for a long period of time. And he was able to get back onshore to collect his baggage the following day.
But Jesus coming back and the "bride" being prepared for His appearing is an eternal decision. This is the most important life-changing decision that anyone will ever make, because the choice will result in either spending eternity in heaven or in hell. There is no in between. And being a good person who tries to do their best and does nice things for people is not enough. The one and only way to get to heaven is repenting of our sins and asking Jesus for forgiveness.
I don't write about this often, but I have mentioned it in various newsletters. No one who reads this newsletter and refuses God's gift of salvation can someday point their finger at me and say, "I didn't know! Why didn't you tell me? Why didn't you warn me so I could prepare my heart and be ready?!"
But it's also not merely being ready for the return of Jesus, but also ready to face death should that occur before the rapture. None of us knows when either moment will take place. Some have time to repent on their death bed, while others are suddenly and unexpectedly gone. My mom battled cancer for 7 years. But I recently had an aunt who was diagnosed with cancer one day and was gone the next. There have been many who have survived car accidents unscathed. But Jon and I have a former pastor whose wife was killed immediately in a car wreck. Her husband and the small boy they were raising were completely unharmed, but she died instantly. They had been to visit their daughter and were on their way home. None of us know when our moment will come. And we don't know if we will face God when the rapture occurs or in death.
We all have to make the decision at some point in our lives, whether or not to accept or reject God into our hearts. I beg of you, if you have not yet made this decision, please do so before it's too late. Nothing will have a greater impact on your life. Eternity is not a game, but will be a reality we all must face. Whether I go by the rapture (when Jesus returns as the bridegroom and those who believe are caught away to heaven with Him), or whether I die and go to the grave, I know that I'm ready to meet Jesus. I know that I've made that choice to serve God and accept forgiveness of my sins. I know that I've acknowledged my need for God and repented of all the sins in my life. And not only once, but I've had to repent over and over again when I transgress against God and sin. But I want to be like the wise virgins who had their lamps ready and were ready when the bridegroom appeared. What about you?
I've often felt uncomfortable with the analogy of us as the bride and Jesus as the groom. I don't want to be a wife. But I think Ephesians 5 clarifies the analogy wonderfully.
Verse 22 describes our relationship to Christ: "for wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord." We are (men and women) to submit to the Lord. I'm sure we all know that. But that's what we do as the role of the bride.
Verse 25-26 has the other half: "for husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up His life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God's word." Jesus has already done His part by giving His own life for us, just as any husband would give his life for his wife.
Creamy Chicken and Bacon
4-5 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1/4 cup milk
8 oz. Sour Cream
6 slices bacon
1 can cream of mushroom soup
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 350. Boil chicken breasts until done, but leave whole. Layer chicken breasts in bottom of 9x13 pan. Fry the bacon and crumble. Mix the bacon, sour cream, cream of mushroom soup and milk; cover the chicken with this mixture. Bake for 30 minutes. Cover with shredded cheese and put back into oven until melted.
Only one life, it soon will pass; only what's done for Christ will last.
We love you!
Loretta & Jon