"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!'"
September 14, 2011
Recently, I was babysitting Jax and he wanted me to read to him. We were in his room and I was sitting on the floor. He would go to the bookshelf and get one of his books, hand it to me and sit on my lap while I read it to him. He would only let me read 2-3 pages, reach out and take the book, say, "The end!", close it and get up to go get another book. There are times when he'll sit still and listen to the entire story, sometimes over and over again, but this particular day he was more interested in getting up and down and bringing new books to me. He really wasn't listening to the story, but was more interested in playing.
That's how we can be sometimes when it comes to reading the Bible or listening to a sermon or reading a devotional; we pay attention for the first little bit, our minds think, "The end!", then we stop listening and our thoughts move on to something else. We're more interested in other activities than we are in really "hearing" what the Lord may have to say to us that day. By doing so, we often miss out on gleaning a blessing from God that could be very beneficial for us.
On the homepage of our website "The Gray Sheep" we use a scripture that is taken from one of our favorite parables that Jesus taught. Anyone know what it is?!? It's the story of the lost sheep found in Luke 15:3-7.
Then Jesus told them this parable: "Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.' I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent."
I like watching old westerns; Gunsmoke, Bonanza, Wagon Train, The Virginian. I also enjoy reading historical fictional books where the story line takes place in the old west. One common occurrence that will happen anytime there is a cattle drive scene is when one of the cows or calves head away from the herd into the brush, one of the cowboys will go after it. Every single head of cattle had value, and they couldn't afford to let one go off and lose it. If there were rustlers stealing cows, they tried to find out who was responsible so they could get their cattle back or at least stop the stealing. In real life, that's how it was for farmers and ranchers back then, and how it still is today. Each and every animal is valuable to the owner. If they can't find one, they don't just blow it off as being unimportant and think, "Oh well, I've got other cattle," but they go and look for the one that is lost.
Last summer, Jon and I went on vacation to Yellowstone. While driving through Wyoming, we saw a few flock of sheep. There was one particular flock that we pulled over to the side of the road to take pictures of. They were on a steep hillside, and as we got out of the car and began looking we could hear and see a few baby lambs mixed in with the adults, which was fun to see. It looked like the sheep would have been uncomfortable, but they seemed contented to be eating and living on the side of that hill. We couldn't see any houses or people around, but there was an owner somewhere who knew exactly how many sheep he had in that location, because the sheep were marked. Whenever the owner went to check on them, I'm sure he probably did a count and if one was missing, he would look until he found it.
My point is, to a farmer or rancher, every single animal they own is important to them and are accounted for. We don't see or hear about shepherds so much in America, so perhaps it's easier for us to relate to their duties and responsibilities if we correlate it to that of a cowboy. Perhaps we could say that in our country, the cowboy is the modern day shepherd.
When an animal comes up missing, the owner goes searching for it. If he finds that a wild animal has attacked and killed it, he then tracks and hunts down that animal so it can't harm anymore of his herd or flock. He does everything possible to protect what belongs to him. But if he finds that the animal has wandered off and got lost and is unharmed, there is a sense of relief as he returns it back to the fold.
Jesus compares the salvation of a lost soul to a found sheep. When someone wanders away from the fold, or who has yet to repent for their sins and is living away from God, God will go searching for them and will consistently look after them until they surrender their heart to Him. God's greatest desire is that all repent and that none perish. As John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son; that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." There is great rejoicing in heaven anytime a sinner repents of their sins; for another lost sheep (soul) has been found.
Some wander away from the flock, and are attacked and lose their life before being returned safely to the fold. Their lives end without them knowing the joy of being returned to safety by the Good Shepherd (Jesus). But wandering away and living outside the borders of salvation is a choice and a huge risk with potential eternal consequences. Perhaps many think they'll have time before the end of their life to repent and be returned to the flock, but that's not a risk worth taking. I'm so thankful that I know the peace that comes from living inside the safety of the fold, knowing the Jesus is always with me and watching over me.
In John 10:1-15 Jesus tells the parable of the Good Shepherd. "'I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and robber. The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger's voice.' Jesus used this figure of speech, but they did not understand what He was telling them. Therefore Jesus said again, 'I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me -- just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father -- and I lay down my life for the sheep.'"
Through this parable, Jesus is telling us that the only way to receive salvation is through Him. He is the one and only gate through which an individual can go through and be saved. You can't be saved through your good works or by being a good person. You cannot enter into heaven any other way other than through Jesus. He laid down His life for us (the sheep) by dying on the cross. No one else has done that for us. If anyone tries to tell you that there is another way to salvation or to heaven other than through Christ, then they are nothing but a thief and robber. And when tough times come or when the end of your life comes, they're not going to be there to protect and care for you, but will be running away because they care nothing for you. Jesus loves each of us so much that He was willing to die for us so that we could have eternal life. But the only way to receive that gift is through entering in the gate and asking Him to forgive us of our sins. Nothing else will work. Period!
There are those who may think, "Well, you can believe what you want, but I just don't believe that way!" And sometimes it may be a hang-up on a specific word that prevents people from accepting salvation; and other times it's a control issue; other times it may be pure stubbornness; or it may be fear of what it will mean to submit their heart to God and what they may have to give up. I don't believe this way because of what a church or denomination or pastor or even my parents have told me; although this is the way I was raised to believe. I'm not making this up because it sounds good. Or I haven't been guilted into believing this way, or trying to guilt you into submission. But the Word of God clearly states that the only way to be saved, the only way to heaven, the only way to God is through repenting of your sins and believing in God. And I would be remiss in my responsibilities as a Christian and as a writer of this newsletter if I sugar-coated it and led others to believe that there was any other way. The bottom line that sums it all up is this: I was a sinner but Jesus died for my sins and His blood is the only way to have my sins washed away. If I confess my sins and repent, Jesus will forgive me and remove my sins as far as the east is from the west, and remember them no more. Once we repent of our sins, Jesus doesn't bring them up to us ever again to remind us of what all we did wrong in the past, but they are forgiven and forgotten by Him. The second we pray and ask for forgiveness, then we are assured of spending eternity in heaven. But should we choose not to repent of our sins and accept the salvation that Jesus offers, then our only other option is eternal separation from God in hell. I'm so glad that I've chose salvation and Jesus! In the midst of all the problems and turmoil life often brings, I have the peace and assurance of knowing that whatever happens, I have eternal hope of one day spending eternity in heaven with God. Life can be wonderful at times, and then there are times when it just downright stinks. But at the end of it, we can have assurance that something much better is in store for us.
I'm so glad that I know the Good Shepherd, and know that He is always watching out for me. Life is tough and we have to face difficult situations; some seemingly more than others. But I know that regardless what happens to me or my family or my friends, God is always with me. He is always there to hold me and protect me and care for me and love me. And I have the blessed assurance and peace of mind of knowing that whatever happens, the Lord is my Shepherd. I don't know what the future holds for me. I don't know if I'll live to be 90 or if I'll die tomorrow. But I don't live in fear because I know whenever my life on earth ends, I will hear the voice of the Good Shepherd calling my name and I'll know His voice as He calls me home to heaven.
I've often wondered about the other 99 sheep. What must they have thought when the shepherd wandered off?
They lost their protector. He might have left some hirelings, but they tend to run off when a wolf shows up. Oh, he comes back after he finds the other sheep. And he throws a party for the disobedient sheep that ran off.
Sometimes in the life of a Christian, it feels like we've been abandoned. Christians get sick, loose jobs, are hurt by those they trust, and suffer like anyone else. And then, someone else gets the honor at the party. But we know the Shepherd will come back. When He does, He'll take all of His fold to heaven.
(And Jon will read this recipe and think, "Yuck!" because he is not a fan of broccoli -- or any other green veggie.)
2 (10 ounce) packages frozen broccoli, chopped
1 can cream of mushroom soup
2 eggs, beaten
1 medium onion, chopped (can use less, if desired)
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup mayonnaise
1 (14 ounce) package herb seasoned dressing or stuffing
3 tablespoons butter
Preheat oven to 350. Grease 2-quart casserole dish. In a large saucepan, cook broccoli according to package directions. In a bowl, combine cream of mushroom soup, beaten eggs, onion, cheese and mayonnaise; mix well. Put broccoli in baking dish and pour egg mixture over the top. Top casserole with dressing or stuffing. Add pats of butter to the top. Bake for 35 minutes or until bubbly.
When my dad married June, she still had two sons living at home. That was an interesting challenge for my dad, because he had only raised 5 daughters. Joey, the youngest, was 13 at the time of their marriage and had never known his father, who passed away before Joey's birth, so having a "dad" around the house was something new for him. One night, shortly after Daddy and June got married, Joey put a little radio/walkie talkie thing underneath Daddy and June's bed so he could hear what they said after going to bed. I can't remember if Daddy and June found it, or if Joey confessed, or if they heard him laughing. When Joey started driving, he and one of his friends went through this stage of having the drivers seat tilted way back so they were reclining as much as they possibly could and still see over the steering wheel. Daddy told the two boys one time that they looked like a couple of smart alecks! When Daddy passed away, the friend was laughingly telling me about it at the visitation, and said, "You know, your dad was right! We really were a couple of smart alecks!!" I'm sure it's something both boys will remember when their own kids start driving. Joey was a good kid and often kept Daddy and June entertained, but also kept my dad on his toes, having to deal with things he never had to with his girls.
Even when it's cloudy or stormy and we can't see it , the sun is still shining.
We love you!
Loretta & Jon