"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 26, 2011
Once in a while I will begin writing the weekly devotional, then as I begin thinking about the topic and reading scripture, it evolves into something bigger than I ever thought. That is what happened this week. The longer I wrote, the more scriptures came to mind, and the more I became convicted. Many times, I will write about the things that God is speaking into my heart that week. What started out as a story from my sister and a couple sermons from my pastor stirred within me the need for change and repentance. Perhaps these devotionals will not convict you as they have me, but I pray that something within them will touch your heart and give you a longing to become more and more like Jesus; allowing Him to truly live within you. This week's devotional will be part one of two parts; concluding next week (at least that's the current plan).
Recently, my sister, Janie, was putting Devin to bed and noticed that the clock was missing from his wall. She asked him where it was and he started looking in all the hall closets. She opened his bedroom closet and found it inside; and it had been broken. Janie asked Devin how it got broken and he said he thought maybe Jared did it. Jared is 22 years old and doesn't even live at home anymore, but has his own house. Janie told Devin not to lie and he finally said he that his hands accidentally broke it. Janie had him take the broken clock down and show Jimmy and tell him what happened. Jimmy talked to him about being honest, even when we mess up. He told Devin that the devil likes us to lie but God likes us to be honest. He said, "Devin, do you want to be like God or the devil?" Devin, very emphatically, answered, "THE DEVIL!"
I admit that when Janie told me this story, I laughed. I doubt that he really gave his answer much thought before giving it. He was in trouble and just wanted to get it over with so he could go back up to his room. But perhaps he was thinking that he might want to lie again sometime if he got into trouble.
It's easy to read that and think, "Oh my!" As mature, responsible, holy christians we'd NEVER think of saying that we'd rather be like the devil than be like God. But do our actions betray our words?
A chorus we sang, especially during altar services, when I was growing up was "To Be Like Jesus". Many times the pastor or worship leader would say something to the effect, "Make these words your prayer as we sing." And at the time, everyone very likely were thinking that they wanted to be like Jesus. After all, if you choose to be like the devil then you can't go to heaven. But is it so much that we want to be like Jesus, or that we don't want to go to hell? Too often, we just do enough to satisfy our conscience and to assure us of our eternal destination. We don't particularly want to have the responsibility of being a true biblical christian.
Jesus prayed for people and miracles happened. We want to be like Him in that respect. Jesus ministered and taught truth and lives were transformed and changed. We also are okay with that and want to be like Him. Jesus knew the right words to speak when tempted and ridiculed. We would like to be like that too.
But what about other aspects of His life? He was not accepted in His home town and amongst the people He grew up with. He spent His life traveling and spent a lot of time away from His mom and family. There were always a group of people who were constantly trying to fault every word He spoke and were trying to find a way to destroy Him. Jesus wasn't loved, or even liked, by a whole lot of people. Before ascending back into heaven to His Father, He had to endure being mocked, beaten, having a crown of thorns slammed down into His skull, denied by His own disciple, stripped of His garments in front of a multitude of people, put on trial, hearing the multitudes crying for a thief to be released and Him to be crucified, having to carry His own cross, being crucified, and having a sword pierced through His side. Now do you really want to be like Jesus? Would you be willing to endure even one of those things for the sake of Christ?
We get bent out of shape if someone disagrees with something we say or doesn't agree with our opinion. If we think someone doesn't like us, we'll stew about that for days. If we do something and then have others criticize it, our feelings get hurt and we pout and feel sorry for ourselves. If we spend hours working on a project then it doesn't get the rave reviews we're hoping for, we'll cry and get upset. We want everyone to love and respect us and consider us as a good friend. We want everything we do or say to be accepted and appreciated by others. We don't like it when someone rocks our boat.
How would we react of someone intentionally went after us, intending to persecute and destroy us? If someone were to deliberately beat us or shoot us or burn our house down, would we look at them and say, "Father forgive them" as we ourselves forgave them in our own hearts? Furthermore, if someone were to intentionally harm our spouse, sibling, parent, child, grandchild or great-grandchild would we be able to forgive and forget, without holding a grudge or wanting revenge?
We often carry those same attitudes into our spiritual life. We may at times not completely agree with a sermon point that a pastor makes, or may not fully agree with something a Sunday School teacher says; but heaven forbid if anyone ever disagrees with a comment that we should make regarding a scripture or lesson topic. Why is it that we always seem to feel as if everyone should always agree with our "insight", but we fail to always agree with what others say? Is it because our pride gets a little dented if someone has a different perspective or point of view from ours?
There are so many areas in our lives that we can struggle with when striving to be like Jesus. Some can even be a little humorous. Admittedly, every time our phone rings I'll check the caller ID to see whether or not I want to answer the phone and talk to whoever is on the other end. Would Jesus do that? There are certain individuals that I may not want to keep in touch with or want to have a relationship or friendship with, for a variety of reasons. Would Jesus do that? There may be those who when I see them or they call or email I think, "They're so needy and just sap the energy right out of me! I wish they'd find someone else to talk to and leave me alone!" Would Jesus feel that way about people? I sincerely doubt it.
If so, what if I were the one that when I "called" (prayed) Jesus checked His caller ID and thought, "I really don't want to talk to her today. I think I'll just shut the phone off and ignore her call." What if I were the one that when Jesus thought about He'd think, "She sins, repents, sins, repents..... I'm getting tired of this and wish she'd either get her act together or leave me alone! Here God, you make her your "project" for a while and give me a break. Gabriel..... any takers on this one?" I'm sure there are hundreds of thousands of other christians who are stronger and more spiritual than I am, so what if Jesus decided that I wasn't worth His time or took too much effort?
I'm so thankful that I don't have to worry about that. I know that Jesus will love me unceasingly and will forgive me as many times as needed. He'll always be available, no matter what time of the day or night, to listen to me.
Our pastor preached a couple sermons entitled "Prepared to live and to live is Christ" taken from Philippians 1:21. "For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain."
Another scripture that he used was Galatians 2:20. "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me." I have heard that scripture all my life, but for some reason when I heard it this time it hit me between the eyes and I was greatly convicted.
"I (Loretta) no longer live, but Christ lives in me."
If Christ lives in me, than I have a responsibility to live my life in a manner that reflects Christ and allows others to see Him through me. I can't live like the devil one day, and God the next. I can't hold to God with one hand and to the devil with the other. I've often heard it said that Jesus must be Lord of all, or He's not Lord at all.
Is Jesus Lord of everything in your life? Are you choosing to be like Jesus every minute of every day; or do you keep enough of the devil in your life so when you get into trouble or fail or sin you can blame it on him? "The devil made me do it." That excuse is not going to wash with God. We each have to choose whether we desire Christ to live in us and we become like Jesus; or if we want to be like the devil and have the characteristics of the world in our life. Whatever you choose, be honest. Our actions have to coincide with our words. Do you want to be like Jesus or like the devil?
John describes a very bleak future for Christians during the tribulation. I've wondered often how I would handle it. It sounds as bad or worse than the early church in the Roman empire. It's really hard to imagine living under that much persecution and fear of being caught. But Paul pointed out, "to die is gain," so there isn't really any reason to fear.
If Paul and the other early Christians didn't need to fear being killed, why should we fear? But we usually do. We fear what other people will think. We fear church members who might look down on us. We fear what our family might think. We fear how our careers might suffer. We don't necessarily fear telling others we put our faith in Jesus. But sometimes we keep quiet when someone pushes a false doctrine, or professes some odd belief.
12 oz. Chocolate chips
2 sticks butter (or margarine)
1 1/2 c. flour
1 c. sugar
1 c. nuts
Melt chocolate chips and butter in double broiler or microwave. Mix eggs, sugar and flour together; add in melted chocolate mixture. Add nuts. Pour in a 9x13 pan. Bake at 350 about 30 minutes.
1/2 stick butter
4 Tbsp. Milk
2 Tbsp. Cocoa
1 lb. Powdered sugar
Mix butter, cocoa and milk in saucepan and cook over low heat until hot. Add powdered sugar. If too dry, add a little more milk. Frost brownies while hot. Cool, then cut into squares.
This morning I received the very sad news that a beloved uncle has passed away. Bill has always been a very special person in my life. He and my aunt Ruth lived close by, so my family visited with them often. When I was a young girl, I would spend the night with them. I lived behind them for almost 10 years. For numerous years, Bill was a deacon in the church I grew up in. When I was church secretary for many years Bill served on the board, so we worked together those years. Bill had a sense of humor and was always teasing and joking. Even after getting dementia he would laugh and joke where we often didn't know if he was joking for real or joking to cover up not remembering. Probably 20 years ago, he told me that when he died he wanted me to sing "Ain't No Grave Gonna Hold My Body Down" at his funeral; which I will be doing on Saturday. Bill was well loved by all who knew him and will greatly be missed.
One of the highlights I remember about Bill was hearing him pray in church. I have heard him pray many times, and have seen him receive great blessing around the altar. But there is one particular service that stands out to me. It was a Wednesday evening service and there weren't many present. The pastor was out of town and I had spoken that night. The Holy Spirit was greatly moving towards the end of the service and God was blessing. I was church pianist for many years and had observed Bill singing with the congregation, but singing alone was not something he did. During this service, people were worshipping and praying and suddenly Bill took off singing an old hymn by himself. "Once a sinner far from Jesus I was perishing with cold; but the blessed Savior heard me when I cried. Then He threw His robe around me, and He led me to His fold; and I'm living on the hallelujah side." Hearing Bill sing that blessed my socks off! It was so out of character for him and I remember weeping as I listened to him sing. Now Bill is truly living on the hallelujah side!
Preach the gospel; if necessary, use words!
We love you!
Loretta & Jon