"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!'"
October 26, 2016
This morning I was going through some old papers from my single days and found a couple of papers with sermon notes. I believe they were from the late-1990's.
In one, I found a story that I had apparently used when speaking. I had a lady who had worked under my supervision sometime prior to that. (No, I didn't use her name when using this as an example.) She had divorced her first husband, before I became acquainted with her, and she and her current husband had been married for a few years. I honestly don't remember the entire story and what all was going on -- but we were a very tight-knit group that worked together, and often I felt like the "mother hen"; even though I was single and younger than some of those whom I supervised. Apparently, she and her husband were having financial difficulties, and it was starting to really wear on her. She would come to work and complain about her husband and the problems that they were having. I asked her if she had talked to her spouse about how she was feeling; and she said no. So instead of going to the source -- the person that was upset with -- she would come to me and complain. She one day made the comment, "I wish that I was still married to my ex.... at least with him, we didn't have financial problems!" Apparently, she and her current husband were able to get through that time and work things out, because almost 20 years later, they are still married.
Often when we have issues, problems, or hurts with someone in particular, we fail to go to the source of our problem to talk it out and try and work through it; but instead, we will complain to others. Other times, we may focus on other things in order to try and ignore what's going on. But until it is dealt with, it's never going to be resolved.
That is not only the case for personal issues, but for pretty much everything that happens in our society and nation, and even in our churches. We turn a blind eye, until we finally wake up and realize that things have fallen apart, then we complain and gripe; still not dealing with the "elephant in the closet".
This isn't anything new! I have recently been drawn to reading the Old Testament books in the Bible, written by some of the prophets. Temples would be in disrepair.... nations would be at war..... idol worship would be prevalent.... every type of evil and sin imaginable would be taking place; God would send a prophet to warn the people and tell them that they either needed to truly repent and change their ways, or else they were going to face destruction and devastation. Their choice!
The attitudes of many of the people and what was happening sounds a whole lot like the world we live in today. People seem to think that the world has never been in as bad of shape as it is today, but that's just not true. Go back and read through the Old Testament! Read about Sodom and Gomorrah...read about the days of Noah (God was sorry that He had ever created man, because of the horrible sins taking place!).... read about Nineveh.... read the books written by the prophets and see how horrible the evil and sinning was.... read about the persecution of the New Testament church, when Christians were imprisoned, stoned, and suffered in various other ways. Research history where believers in the early church were taken to the arenas and killed for entertainment and sport, while people cheered. The point is, it has always been people's tendency to sin, turn to evil, and allow their flesh to overrule their spirit. It doesn't happen overnight! Little by little, people allow sin to creep in until they become desensitized to the sin and evil around them, accepting it as part of the world they live in and how society is. God gets fed up, sends warnings, and people choose to either pay attention and repent -- or they turn a deaf ear and blind eye, choosing to continue on in satisfying their flesh and doing what they want to do, regardless of the consequences.
The truth is, the world seems to be in the worst shape that it's ever been in to us, because it's the worst that it's been during our lifetime; which is all we personally know. We look around and wonder how sin and evil and fighting and chaos could get worse. But it has in the past; and it can happen again.
Jon and I have been reading a book, written by his mother, about WWII and the story of a German boy who was raised in Yugoslavia. What they had to deal with is nothing like what we've ever had to go through. I'm sure that there were people all over the world during that time who thought, "Surely, Jesus is coming back again any day now!! Things can't possibly get any worse!! This world has never seen the cruelty, war and fightings and murders, the starvation, the blatant evil, the horrible sins of mankind! Surely, Jesus will come and deliver us from this!! Surely, the end is near!!"
I'm sure that there have been generation after generation who has felt those same sentiments; who had hope and the belief that surely this is the time when Jesus will return!! Perhaps during the persecution of the early church... or when Indians were forced to leave their homes and land and were displaced, walking the Trail of Tears.... or during the Civil War..... or during the Great Depression.... or WWII....etc.
For hundreds of years, the hope was for the Messiah to come and be the Deliverer of mankind. After He came that first time, fulfilling that prophecy and promise, the hope now is, for Jesus to return again and take all believers to Heaven to be with Him, for all eternity.
The truth is, now is not the time for christians to become lax and weary and think, "Well, He hasn't returned yet, so why look for Him? It may be another 100 years before Jesus returns, fulfilling scripture!"
Isaiah, in the Old Testament, prophesied about the coming Messiah. People waited and hoped and watched for Him for approximately 700 years. I'm sure that many generations thought, "Surely, this will be the time that the Messiah will come and deliver us from all this evil and wickedness and sin!!" Yet, time passed.... and passed.... and people waited.... and the next generation waited..... on and on and on..... But the day came, when God said, "NOW, it's time!!" I don't know why God chose the time period that He did. I just know that there came that moment, when an angel appeared to a young girl, named Mary, and told her that the Holy Spirit would come upon her and she would conceive and give birth to the long-awaited Messiah.
The story of the birth of Jesus begins, "And it came to pass...." It came to pass!! Scripture was fulfilled.... the promise had come.... God fulfilled His Word!!!
The same will happen, regarding the second coming of Jesus. He isn't coming as a baby in a manger, that prophecy has already been fulfilled. He is coming as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is coming to rapture His Church!! Scripture says that no one knows the day nor hour when this will occur... we just know that it will happen. Could it possibly take place in our generations? Absolutely! Even though no one can possibly know when the fulfillment of this promise of Jesus to return again will happen, we need to live each day as if expecting it at any moment. If we grow lax and lose faith, thinking that it's not going to occur, we could miss out on experiencing being raptured, should Jesus return. If it doesn't happen during our lifetime, then the next generation needs to be alert and aware and live with expectation. Because one day, "It will come to pass!!" Today could be that day!
Jesus compared the relationship between God and the church to the relationship between a husband and wife. And just like Loretta pointed out that her friend needed to talk with her husband about her stress and anxiety, we each need to talk with God about our stress and anxiety, too. Not that we should neglect talking to our spouses, also.
God knows our hearts already. But it is good for us to share, and tell Him what we think and feel. He will never argue or judge us for it, and will never tell us we don't really think or feel like we say. He will let us vent and complain without punishment.
Venting to God isn't for His benefit, exactly. It helps us. We need to acknowledge and face how we feel from time to time. And there is no-one better to talk to than someone who formed us before we were even born. Tell Him your heart's desire, and your heart's ache. He made your heart, and will understand.
Meal ideas using chicken:
I recently baked a whole chicken in the oven until tender and fully cooked. After cooling, I deboned the entire chicken, took two forks to (somewhat) shred the meat, then put it in a covered container. Here are some of the meals I've made when I've done this in the past:
chicken salad sandwiches
sour cream chicken enchiladas
chicken and dumplings/noodles
white chicken chili
chicken burritos (you can add salsa and taco seasoning to the meat before heating it to add flavor)
chicken tortilla soup
chicken caesar salad/chef salad
chicken taco salad
I was reading the book of Hosea this past week and a scripture stood out to me:
Hosea 10:12 "I [God] said, 'Plant the good seeds of righteousness, and you will harvest a crop of love. Plow up the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the Lord, that He may come and shower righteousness upon you.' BUT you have cultivated wickedness and harvested a thriving crop of sins. You have eaten the fruit of lies -- trusting in your military might, believing that great armies could make your nations safe."
I believe that God could speak these same words to America today. It's time for Christians to pray like never before. It's time that we plant good seeds of righteousness; regardless of what society says or what everyone else is doing. We can't place our trust in our military, believing that they can keep our nation safe. NOW is the time for us to seek the Lord. We need to pray for our country, pray for this upcoming election, then pray for whichever candidate is voted in as our next president. Pray that God will work in the heart of our next president and bring about a spiritual change that will cause them to rise up and be a godly leader. That is not too hard or impossible for God to do! We need to be careful that we're not caught up in believing everything that we hear, that we aren't adding to the division that our country is experiencing by speaking words of negativity. We need to keep our focus on God, believing that He is still God, He is still in control, and that whatever happens, He has not -- nor will He ever -- change.
Always pray to have eyes that see the best,
a heart that forgives the worst,
a mind that forgets the bad,
and a soul that never loses faith. - unknown
We love you!
Loretta & Jon