"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!'"
November 30, 2011
Our pastor shared this story in his sermon a while back: A few years ago, he and his wife had just moved to a new community to begin a new pastorate and were settling in. He was in the church office one morning, looked out the window and saw one of his deacons, who was 75-years old, wheeling a trash can across the drive out to the street. The church had 4 trash cans that set about one tenth of a mile from the end of the drive. The older gentleman would wheel one of the trash cans out, walk back and get another one, wheel it out, and so forth until he had all four setting out for trash pickup at the end of the drive. Then after pickup he would do the same thing, taking them all back to where they set behind the church. Pastor watched him do this for a few weeks and started thinking, "He's the oldest deacon I have, why doesn't one of those younger guys come and do this?" A couple of the church board members were in their thirties, and he wondered why one of the younger guys didn't take on trash can duty instead of making the oldest man on the board do this each week. He felt God speak to his heart and say, "Why don't you do it for him?" So he started going early that one day a week so he could wheel those four trash cans out before the older man arrived. This went on for several weeks and no one mentioned a word about this. No one said anything about him taking over this duty, no one said thanks, and no one volunteered to help out. He was a little irritated (yes, pastors are human and get irritated just like the rest of us) and was praying one day and complaining, "God, I've been doing this for several weeks now and no one has offered to help or said anything. Why aren't some of those younger guys pitching in and helping......." Pastor again felt the quiet voice of God speak to his heart and ask, "Why did you start doing this in the first place?" Pastor answered, "Well, because I love this man and wanted to help him out!" God asked, "How long are you going to love him?"
This reminded me of another story found in scripture. Jesus had been crucified and had risen from the grave, and afterwards had appeared unto His disciples a couple times. Peter and some of the others went fishing when Jesus appeared the third time. They had fished all night but caught nothing. Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize it was Jesus. He called out to them and asked if they had any fish, then told them to throw their net on the right side of the boat and they would find some. When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. John then said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" As soon as Peter heard that it was Jesus, he jumped into the water. They were only about a hundred yards from shore, and the other men followed Peter in the boat, towing the net full of fish. Jesus already had a fire built, fish cooking, and had some bread. The men brought their net of fish to shore, then joined Jesus in eating breakfast.
After the meal Jesus asked Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John (not the disciple John), do you truly love me more than these?"
"Yes, Lord," he said, "You know that I love You."
Jesus said, "Feed my lambs." Again Jesus said, "Simon, son of John, do you truly love Me?"
He answered, "Yes, Lord, You know that I love You."
Jesus said, "Take care of My sheep." The third time He said to Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love Me?"
Peter was hurt and grieved because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love Me?" He said, "Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You."
Jesus answer was probably not what Peter wanted to hear. "I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go." Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Peter turned and saw that the disciple that Jesus loved (John) was following them. When Peter saw him, he asked, "Lord, what about him?"
Jesus answered, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow Me." Because of this, the rumor spread among the brothers that John would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; He only said, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?"
The scripture does not give details of Peter or John's deaths. But history and tradition say that John died a natural death of old age. Peter was crucified upside down by Nero in Rome. Peter did not feel that he was worthy to die in the same manner as Jesus, so requested to be hung on an inverted cross upside down. But Jesus's words were fulfilled regarding Peter's death that he would "stretch out his hands and someone else would dress him and lead him where he did not want to go."
The sentiments of the young seem to be that love is easy. Many teens and young adults fall in and out of love with their changing moods. I have a nephew that fell in love with every girl he dated and would comment each and every time, "This one is different! She's the one." Than a few months later they'd be broken up and he'd soon be dating someone else. Thankfully, he finally did meet that special lady and has been married for several years and has two children. Perhaps many are more in love with the idea of love than they actually love the person they're with at the time.
But it's not only marriage and spousal relationships where love is involved. Lasting friendships takes cooperation and tending by both people, and can't be one-sided. I've heard my sisters comment, when their kids were teenagers, that they love their kids but sometimes they are really hard to like. The bottom line is, love is work.
The word love is thrown around too easily these days. "I love chocolate." "I love my new shoes." "I'd love to have a new car." "I love spending time in the country." "I love to read." "I love playing games on the Wii." "I love getting pedicures." "I love having money in the bank." "I love taking vacations and traveling." "I love this new shampoo." "I love my new haircut." "I love my new purse." "I love taking naps." Sometimes it's so much simpler to love things and places and activities more than it is to love people. It's easier and takes less work. But I think we tend to misuse the word love where it has lost it's true meaning. We may like or enjoy something, but use the word love instead.
My sister and I were talking about the pastor's illustration about God asking him how long he was going to continue taking the trash cans out each week and love his deacon. We were joking around and said we would have asked God, "When is someone going to start loving me enough to take over this job?" Too often we're quick to volunteer to do something to help someone out because we do care for them and love them and want to make their life easier. But if they never tell us thanks, if no one ever notices or says a word about what we're doing, or if we feel like we're not being appreciated then we tend to start feeling sorry for ourselves and feel taken advantage of and want to quit. We like getting pats on the backs and having others notice what we do; even if we're not doing it for that particular person. We just want someone to pay attention and see what we're doing. We like having our egos stroked and although we may say we don't, we like it when someone makes over us and says, "Oh, that's so nice what you're doing for so and so. You don't have to do that, yet your going above and beyond the call of duty to help out. That is so thoughtful and kind of you." And if nothing is said, we will often bring it up to someone ourselves just to make sure that someone knows what we've done or are doing. Shame on us! I'm as guilty as anyone else!!
I have to say that honestly, had I been in Peter's shoes and Jesus asked me three times right in a row if I loved Him, I would have felt just as Peter did; hurt and grieved. A few days earlier, during the arrest and trial of Jesus, Peter had denied knowing Jesus and being with Him. He watched the crucifixion and death of Jesus, without having an opportunity to make restitution and ask for forgiveness and reconciliation. He saw Jesus being put in the tomb, knowing that Jesus knew about his denial. Peter had wept bitterly when he heard that rooster crow, remembering what had occurred just a few hours beforehand. Jesus told the disciples, "This very night you will all fall away on account of me." Peter answered, "Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will." Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times." Peter declared, "Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you." Yet that very thing had happened.
Peter had already seen Jesus twice before that third time when he and the others were fishing, and I'm sure he knew that Jesus had forgiven him. But then when Jesus keeps asking him, "Peter do you love me" he must have began thinking perhaps Jesus didn't really think he loved Him. He may have been thinking, "I've already told Jesus twice that I love Him, yet He asked me again. Has Jesus really not forgiven me; or does He not believe me; or do I seem insincere? What else can I say or do to make Him believe me?" Perhaps since Peter had denied Jesus three times, Jesus asked if he really loved Him three times as a way for Peter to know that he was forgiven for each of those three times he disowned Jesus. Jesus wanted Peter to know that he had a job to do, after Jesus ascended back to heaven. Peter was to preach the gospel, for Jesus told him to "Feed My sheep." But Peter also had to be prepared for persecution and eventual crucifixion. Jesus knew that Peter had to be strong in his faith and not waver. He would face prison and many hardships because of his choice to preach the truth, and only a real love for Jesus would give him the needed strength to face what was ahead.
The words, "I love you," are often quickly spoken without thinking about what they really mean. 1 Corinthians 13 gives us the true meaning of what love means. "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails."
When reading the scripture's definition of love, it makes us realize that love sometimes requires a lot of hard work. When we love someone we have to be patient and kind to them. When we love someone we can't keep record of wrong-doings; and boy, do we like to do that sometimes! If we follow the biblical definition of love, we can't be wishy-washy in our feelings toward others and how we treat them. The golden rule is not "Do unto others as they do unto you" but is "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you". In other words, we are to treat others the way we want them to treat us; not how they may choose to treat us. That's hard to do if someone is being disrespectful or not treating us in a kindly manner. It's hard to love when we feel that someone doesn't really deserve it. Sometimes love doesn't come naturally with some people, but has to be a choice.
As important as it is for us to love others, the most important choice we will make in life is whether or not we love God. If Jesus were to ask you, "Do you love me?" Most of us would quickly reply, "Yes!" But what if Jesus were to ask us again; and again? Would we be so adamant and strong in our response? Love for Jesus is a choice that each of us must make. And if we choose to love Him, then we need to show that love in our words and actions and in our life.
As we enter the Christmas season, we see nativity scenes and hear carols about the birth of Jesus. We all know why we celebrate Christmas, but often we may forget the real reason during the hustle and bustle of shopping and preparing for the holiday and thinking of things that need to be accomplished before year-end. In the midst of all the chaos if we were to stop for a moment perhaps we would hear the voice of Jesus speaking softly to our heart and asking, "Do you love Me?" As we respond with a yes we may hear Him again ask, "How long are you going to love Me?" Are we going to love Jesus through the Christmas season as we're reminded of His birth, or will our love for Him last for a few weeks, or will it last a lifetime? That's a question that we all must answer for ourselves.
Sometimes it is fun to do something for someone without their knowledge. Or even just to participate. Recently, someone let us help donate a sum of money to a relative anonymously. It's fun to be a part of something like that. It's much funner when someone knows about it. In this case, it wasn't reasonable to give the money without someone knowing. It's fun to help others secretly, but it seems easier to do some big gesture for someone without their thanks as long as someone else knows, and is proud of us for it.
But nothing we do is ever really anonymous. Sure, no people may know what we do sometimes, but God always knows. And who better to be proud of us?
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup melted butter
1 cup pecan halves or pieces
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 (9-inch) unbaked pie shell
1 teaspoon vanilla
Beat eggs slightly. Add sugar, corn syrup, butter, vanilla and pecans; stir well. Pour into pie shell and bake at 375 for 45 minutes.
My sister started having problems with losing hair and itchy scalp. She asked her hairdresser about it, and was given this solution: Buy a cheap squirt bottle (I got mine for $.98 in the travel-size section of the Health and Beauty Department at Walmart) and a cheap brand of apple cider vinegar. The vinegar can be the cheaper off-brand; don't go to a health food store and buy the expensive stuff. Fill the squirt bottle with the apple cider vinegar and put it in your shower. After shampooing your hair, squirt vinegar on your scalp and massage in, then rinse out. The pores of your scalp get clogged, which can cause hair to fall out or your scalp to itch, and the vinegar helps keep those pores open and healthy. I wasn't losing hair, but during cold weather when the heat is on, my scalp gets dry and itchy. I've started rinsing my hair with the vinegar and it has really helped with the itching. Just make sure you don't squirt vinegar in your eyes!! This is a cheap and easy solution that really does seem to work well.
Admitting mistakes is not a fault; failing to correct them is.
We love you!
Loretta & Jon