"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

February 9, 2011

Don't forget Valentines Day next Monday, February 14th!


"When we all get to heaven; what a day of rejoicing that will be. When we all see Jesus; we'll sing and shout the victory." Once again, as I began writing about heaven this week, thoughts and words kept flowing until it was much too long for one week; so this devotional will be continued next week.

We all love to sing and talk about heaven, but sometimes the "how" we'll get there can be daunting and worrisome. We all want to live a blessed, healthy live, then die quietly in our sleep. The thought of being in pain, having to suffer or our body being ravaged by a disease is very unpleasant. I've heard the saying, "Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die."

Our pastor preached the best sermon on dying and heaven a few weeks ago that Jon and I have ever heard. His text was taken from the second half of Paul's statement in Philippians 1:21: "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." Paul penned these words while in prison and facing possible execution. As we read further we see that he is torn between two desires. "If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body."

Paul is torn between two desires: 1) to depart (die) and be with Jesus; 2) to live and keep preaching and ministering so others will come to know Christ. But regardless of the outcome, his greatest desire was to honor Jesus.

Last week I wrote about the first part of the verse "For to me, to live is Christ." I mentioned that often we struggle with this. It's hard to live our life in such a way that consistently brings honor and glory to Jesus. We allow things to come into our hearts and minds that distract us from being a clean dwelling place for Christ to reside in. But I daresay that the majority of people would rather struggle with those issues, than to consider death as gain.

I've often heard a comment regarding death, from the mouths of christian individuals, that really confuses and astounds me. Someone will say something to a person about growing older and their response will be, "Well, it's better than the alternative." I really don't understand how a child of God can make that comment and mean it. When I hear it I always think to myself, "Really?!? Growing old, paying bills, dealing with various health issues as the body ages, having to juggle finances so we can try to have a comfortable retirement, worrying about family, listening to politics, being constantly surrounded by evil and sin...... is better than dying and being in heaven with Jesus and loved ones who are already there? Facing times of sorrow, grief, heartache, sickness and disease is a better alternative than being in heaven, where we never again have to deal with or feel those negative emotions again?" I honestly can't understand how someone can say that aging and growing old is better than the alternative of dying and beginning eternity in heaven with Jesus.

It's not that I have a death wish, but I look forward to going to heaven. Now there are times when I wonder how I will get there, and I pray it's not through disease or suffering. But I desire to be with Jesus and be reunited with my parents and loves ones once again. Jon and I have talked that neither of us dreads death; but we hate the thought of the other person being left behind to grieve and face life alone as a widower. Our greatest desire would be to die together. The thought of death doesn't scare or intimidate us. In fact, we have our burial plot already bought. We have been talking about purchasing the headstone and getting that in place so our family will not have to worry about that if something happens to us; or it will already be in place and taken care of if one of us should die. We are getting ready to make out a will and put our funeral wishes down in writing. It doesn't "freak us out" or make us feel odd by discussing our death and preparing for it. If we both live to an old age, that's fine. If Jesus returns and we go up in the rapture, that's even better. If we need a burial plot and will, then it's ready. If not, that it's no loss to us having it either.

We truly see dying as gain. That doesn't mean that if one of us is left behind that we won't grieve for the other person. It doesn't mean that we won't shed any tears and feel sorrow. Death separates us from those we dearly love, and we do feel the loss and the pain of no longer having them share in our daily life. But as christians, we have that "blessed hope". We have the assurance that the day will come when we will also go to heaven and be joined with those who have gone on before us. We really have no great wish to live to a ripe old age; possibly because we see so many older people who begin to have various health issues and we would rather not have to deal with that or one of us have to be the caregiver to the other. We try to make the most of each moment together in order to make wonderful memories. But our ultimate goal is to be together in heaven.

Let me preface what I'm about to write with this: I am not against surgery, medication, treatments and doctors. I believe that God has given doctors and the medical field many resources in which to treat many sicknesses and diseases. So please understand that when I say this: We value physical life so much that we will do almost anything to extend it. We will hook ourselves up to various kinds of machines, take all kinds of drugs, and subject ourselves to all kinds of surgeries and procedures in an attempt to extend our life and live as long as possible. We fear death and run from it as fast and furiously as possible, trying to postpone it in every way possible. I think, perhaps, if we had just an inkling of what awaited us we wouldn't try so hard to hang onto this life on earth. We would look towards heaven with expectancy, and rejoice for those who finally make it to their eternal home.

(Taken from Pastor Phil's sermon) "Even in the church, among christians, it is hard for us to consider death as gain. We would testify that, 'I know we are going to heaven....', but even at that, when the doctor says there is nothing else they can do, we ask for a miracle of healing for our 94 year old uncle who has cancer. No offense, but what happened to 'for me to live is Christ and to die is gain?' What happened to the view expressed in Psalms 116:15 'Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.' Or the view expressed by the prophet that, '...the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death.' (Isaiah 57:1-2)"

(Other excerpts from Pastor Phil's sermon): "We aren't fearing death because we already died. When I asked Jesus to come into my heart and save my soul, I died to my old self and was given a new life in Christ. I'm a new creation with Christ living in me. I'm not fearing death because death is behind me and life is before me. That's why Paul can say 'for me to die is gain'. Death isn't the end of something, it's the beginning of something for the child of God. Death isn't waiting for me; heaven and all its glory is waiting on me. Jesus in all His glory is waiting on me. For me to live is Christ and to die is gain. For us, dying has always been a journey towards gain and glory rather than loss. Living and dying, it's always about honoring Christ and advancing His kingdom. That's why Paul says he is torn between two choices. It's not the lesser of two evils, it is the joyful choices of a servant wanting to find the best way to honor and serve his beloved Master. Paul's words aren't the words of someone trying to escape life. He isn't escaping, but he is longing for more of Jesus and he acknowledges that physical death would put him finally at home with Jesus, where he belongs. Death can't separate us from God's love. Death can't convince us that God has stopped loving us. Death can't frighten us anymore; it is simply a doorway that leads us into His holy presence. We stare death in the face without fear because we know Jesus, who is the resurrection and the life. He said if we believe in Him, even if we die, yet shall we live. There is no fear of death for those who know Christ, the giver of life."

"To live is Christ and to die.... that's gain! That's home. That's being done with evil and sin and strife. That's having all the tears and the source of every sorrow wiped from our eyes. That is being complete in every sense of the word. It is the realization of every plan and purpose of God. That is peace and rest. For me to live is Christ and to die is gain. And with that knowledge, we are freed to live and to risk and to run and to expend every ounce of our life and energy and effort and time for Jesus. We cannot lose. You could waste your life on a thousand different things, but a life lived for Jesus is never wasted. With Christ, life is full and death is gain."


Once again, I plan to go off on a completely different topic. I've been dealing with stress a lot lately. I get a sore neck and back. And I have a tic in my eye that comes and goes, especially when I'm most stressed.

I'd pray hard to be relieved from the stress. But the biggest stress in my life is from work. So I know the quickest way I could be relieved of all my stress. And I don't want to trade in the stress of a job for the stress of not having a job.

But I have other sources of stress. I play quite a few games, some of them fast-paced, and stressful. And I tend to get impatient driving, and generally waiting on other people. Those are stresses I dump on myself. I'm trying to learn to have more patience driving, but I'm a slow learner. And I'm trying to play more relaxed games, and less often.

For most of last week, and probably tomorrow, Tulsa has been snowed in. I wasn't able to work well, so I took the time off instead. I had three days at home to relax. Oh, I did do some work. I just don't feel right goofing off all day. But I got some good time to de-stress. We didn't go anywhere--we couldn't. We didn't work. I enjoyed it, and if it wasn't for the work I was leaving undone, I would have loved it.

One of the ten commandments is to observe the Sabbath and to keep it holy. It is so important to God that we take a break, and to take it often that he set one of the most basic ten laws to take that break one day each week.


Beefy Jalapeno Cornbread

1 cup yellow cornmeal

1 can cream-style-corn

1 cup milk

1 1/2 lb. Hamburger

2 eggs

Onion, chopped

3/4 tsp. Salt

8 oz. Cheddar cheese, shredded

1/2 tsp. Baking soda

4 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped

1/2 cup baking drippings

Combine meal, milk, eggs, salt, baking soda, bacon drippings and corn in a bowl; mix and set aside. Brown ground beef; drain. Grease cast iron skillet; sprinkle with meal. Pour half of batter into pan. Sprinkle with beef, top with onions, then cheese. Add peppers evenly on top. Pour remaining batter on top. Bake at 350 for 50 minutes.


My uncle and aunt (Kenneth and Nina Jean) celebrated their 66th wedding anniversary this past Saturday. It was also my aunt's 84th birthday. Her mom wouldn't sign for her to get married, so they waited and got married on Nina Jean's 18th birthday when she legally came of age. Both her mom and my grandma went with them to get their marriage license. They stopped at a preacher's house afterwards to get married. Grandma Parton got out with them and stood in as a witness, but Nina Jean's mom wasn't happy about the marriage so sat in the car. When Kenneth and Nina Jean got back to my grandparents house, they had a cake baked and had a small reception for them. It really made Nina Jean feel special that they would do that, and made her feel welcomed to the family. They spent their wedding night with my grandparents. Kenneth's brothers (my uncles) had tied a cow bell to the wire bed springs. I'm sure they were all standing close by giggling! The night before, Kenneth's brothers had kept him up half the night boxing. What an accomplishment, to be married for 66 years! Nina Jean's mind is not quite as clear as it once was (she has Alzheimer's), and she requires Kenneth or a family member to be at home with her constantly. But Kenneth is 86 and still very spry, still drives, and looks 15 years younger than his age -- he has very few wrinkles. He's mostly bald on top, but what hair he has left has more dark than gray. Kenneth is a quiet spoken man with a great sense of humor. Congratulations to Kenneth and Nina Jean on reaching a landmark that's reached by very few couples. I'm proud to call them family!


God understands our prayers, even when we can't find the words to say them.


We love you!

Loretta & Jon