"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!'"
December 19, 2012
My niece-in-law (if there is such a title -- she is my nephew's wife), Nicole, recently wrote this and I would like to share it:
"It occurred to me, when I was reading a devotional about the birth of Christ, that God took His time in the redemption story. Jesus didn't just come and offer the sacrifice of His own blood in a couple of hours, or days. Jesus grew up just like any child grows. He went through adolescence and early adulthood. This process of offering redemption lasted about 33 years.
"I get so busy and rushed. I want answers quickly and I tend to see little reason to 'waste time'. If I'm not 'productive' then I interpret that as being wasteful. It is easy for me to think that Jesus could have done so much more if He had used every precious moment to its fullest. He could have begun His ministry at 14 or something! But He was allowed the time to grow, experience, observe, hurt, struggle, and find joy. He lived at a very different pace than we do. The time spent in preparation was not a waste, even though it might have looked uneventful to my eyes, if I were observing a month of His 20th year of life.
"God's style may not fit with our pace -- but I don't think God has changed. In sharp contrast to our pace of life, God still takes decades to complete a good work. I think He does this all the time and I still haven't caught on. He takes our whole lives. Nothing rushed. If Jesus had come and died in the same day or week, that might have seemed cheap to us and we may not love Him so deeply or have the assurance that He can relate to our experience. Once again, my conclusion is: God takes the long road. We need to stop rushing, embrace waiting, and watch with expectation." Good word, Nicole!!
This says it so well that there's not a lot I can add without taking away from the message.
I believe that many times we read stories in the Bible about men and women who accomplished great things, and we tend to think that every single day of their life was filled with miracles and excitement. In contrast, our lives seem very boring and uneventful. Therefore, we have the opinion that we must not be fulfilling our purpose in this life that God has given us. We feel like failures, and spend our days feeling discouraged. We think our lives are uneventful and unexciting.
But if we were able to look back at the daily life of Mary, I'm sure we'd see that most days she felt as if her life were boring and uninspiring: cooking, cleaning, taking care of Jesus and His earthly siblings, picking up after Joseph, sewing, doing laundry, etc. I wonder if those nights when Jesus was up all night teething and crying, or was feverish and cranky, or was learning to walk and getting into everything, or was wrestling with His brothers, if Mary had the fleeting thought, "I know this Child is the Messiah because the Holy Spirit planted His seed inside me when I was a virgin -- BUT, I really thought the Son of God would be better behaved and less mischievous and wouldn't be fussy and cranky!"
If you really read and study the scriptures, you find that most times our "heroes" of the Bible may have had one or two big highlights in their life. Others may have had various things occur, but if you look at the span of their life, there were lots of unexplained years where they likely were working and taking care of their family and taking care of day to day things. And if you really read the stories, you'll see that most of them had to go through hardships and struggles and/or persecutions in order to experience the miraculous. I'm sure that most of them felt as we often do -- that their lives were boring and that they were spending the majority of their time working to provide for their families and just trying to get by.
Honestly, would you personally want to be thrown into a den of lions and spend the night like Daniel? Would you want to have men throw you into a hot fiery furnace like they did Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego? Would you want to run onto a battlefield with only a slingshot and a few stones as your weapon to face an enormous giant who was yelling at you, while two armies watched? Would you really want to leave your homeland as Sarah did, and follow your husband to an unknown destination, not having any idea where you were going or what the conditions would be or how long it would take you to get there?
The point being, we like to talk about the victories and miraculous, but often forget what individuals had to endure first, without knowing what God was going to do for them. God didn't give them a glimpse of the ending of their situation, saying, "If you'll endure this, then this is what I'm going to do for you." And they had no idea that their stories were going to be recorded for millions of people to read. If so, most probably would have acted differently and tried to conduct themselves in a more godly manner. But they were men and women, just as we are, and had the same fears and emotions and worries. They didn't know if they were going to die or how long they'd have to suffer or if they'd be persecuted or if they would experience famine or what to expect; but they did choose to trust God and put their faith and hope in Him.
When Jesus came to earth as a baby, He didn't miraculously slide through His life here protected from pain and the hardships of day to day life. Jesus cried when He teethed; He got cuts and scrapes on His knees when He fell down; He got acne when He went through puberty and His teenage years; He had to work with Joseph doing carpentry; He had to carry in firewood for Mary; He argued with His brothers and sisters; He laughed and played and sang and pulled pranks and ran races with the neighborhood boys, and was the typical child of that day and time.
Perhaps Mary and Joseph expected Him to be more holy and begin His ministry as a child. He did teach in the temple when He was 12 on a trip to Jerusalem with His parents, but that is the only time scripture mentions Him as a child. I'm sure Jesus did have more wisdom and insight than other boys His age, but I also think that He endured the same day to day life as His family and friends and neighbors. Why? So that He could completely understand us and know what we go through on a day to day basis.
The next time you are frustrated and feel that you are wasting time and not being productive, stop and remember that God is at work in our lives even during those times. He is allowing us time to grow, experience, observe, hurt, struggle, and find joy.
In conclusion, reiterating what Nicole wrote: "If Jesus had come and died in the same day or week, that might have seemed cheap to us and we many not love Him so deeply or have the assurance that He can relate to our experience." But Jesus didn't just make a short drop-in visit to earth, in order to put in an appearance and say that He came. But He spent 33 years here, living and working among the people. He ultimately had to suffer severe persecution and was crucified -- and yes, He felt the pain of that. God didn't take away the suffering that Jesus had to endure. Jesus came and willingly gave His life, and He did so for our benefit. He knew that only through doing so, could we have forgiveness of our sin and eternal life. Jesus gave His life for us.
This Christmas take a few moments and thank Jesus for coming and giving His life. Had He not come, then there would be no Christmas, so don't take Jesus out of the reason why we celebrate and have a holiday!
I've been reading Jeremiah lately. It's a mix of depressing and hopeful. He kept prophesying to the Israelites and Judeans that if they didn't repent, they would be destroyed. They kept ignoring him. It's also a confusing book. My Bible has a commentary that says that portions of it were out of order, which explains a lot.
At one point, Jeremiah says that Babylon will attack, and carry away many as captives. And they are the lucky ones. The ones who are left will be killed by pestilence, famine, and war. And they will be the enemy of everyone.
Jeremiah 25:11 says, "And this whole land shall be a desolation and an astonishment, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years." Most of the people carried away would die there. It would be their grandchildren who would be brought back. They would only know about the promised land through stories. They were also told to marry, give their kids in marriage, work hard, be a blessing to others, and be blessed, etc. They couldn't really carry on life as usual after being taken to a foreign land as slaves. But they had to do their best, and wait till the 70 years was up.
I have a hard time waiting 7 years for anything. I can hardly imagine waiting till the generation after next before receiving freedom. But God's blessed people had to. As sad as that is, they could have avoided the whole thing by repenting and praising God.
Oven Caramel Corn
2 cups brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 sticks butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup corn syrup
6 quarts popped popcorn
1 teaspoon salt
Boil brown sugar, butter, corn syrup, and salt for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add baking soda and vanilla. Stir well over popped popcorn and spread in broiler pan. Place in 200-degree oven for 1 hour, stirring at each 15 minute interval. Store in tight container.
"It came to pass" is more than just the beginning of the Christmas story; those are words of promise and fulfillment.
We love you!
Loretta & Jon