"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!'"
March 6, 2019
This Sunday morning our church is dismissed due to some ice and snow we got overnight. I'm sure that I am in the minority, but honestly, I love seeing the beauty of the snow outside my window. I have prayed and hoped for snow all winter long! I love the pristine pureness as it falls from the sky and blankets the ground. It covers all of the barrenness of winter. The brown grass and leafless trees are dress up and beautified with the unblemished whiteness of the snow. There is something very peaceful and calming about snow; whether I'm watching it falling or admiring it afterwards. So this morning I am in a very relaxed state of contentment as I view the outside scenery through my windows.
As I am relaxing and admiring the snow, a scripture found in Isaiah 1:18 comes to mind: "'Come now, and let us reason together,' says the Lord: 'though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be as wool.'"
In Psalm 51:7, David wrote, "Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow."
Most of us are familiar with the story of David and Bathsheba. He was king and had spied her bathing on the rooftop, and had one of his men to go get her and bring her to him. He seduced her and she became pregnant. Upon hearing of her pregnancy, he called her husband, Uriah, off the battlefield thinking that he would make love to his wife and then think that the baby was his. But that didn't happen, so David had Uriah killed on the battlefield in order to cover up his own sin. God sent the prophet Nathan to David to confront him with his sin, and David whole-heartedly confessed and repented of his sin. The above Psalm was afterwards written by him.
David had experienced what it was to be forgiven of a great sin. He understood God's love, compassion, and mercy. He also recognized that only God can forgive sin; that when we repent and confess our sin, then God cleanses us from that sin and we are made whiter than snow. Snow is brilliantly white and pure; but after the cleansing of God, we are even purer and whiter than the snow. In Psalm 103:12, David wrote, "As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions (our sins) from us."
God spoke to Isaiah and said, "Come now, let us reason together (or let us settle this). Though your sins are like scarlet and red as crimson, they shall be white as snow and and white as wool."
In the book 'The Scarlet Letter', a young woman was sent ahead to a Puritan settlement in America by her husband; but he never arrived and was thought to have been lost at sea. She had an affair and became pregnant. After the birth of her child, she was led from the town prison holding her infant daughter in her arms; with the scarlet letter "A" on her chest, attached to her clothing. A man in the crowd tells an onlooker that she is being punished for adultery. She refused to reveal the identity of her child's father, therefore, the scarlet letter, along with her public shaming, was her punishment for her sin and her secrecy. There was an elderly gentleman who witnessed her public shaming, and it turned out to be none other than her missing husband; and he was intent on revenge. He had changed his name and occupation, and revealed his identity to only his wife, and she had been sworn to secrecy. This woman lived, shunned by the community, on the outskirts of town in a small cottage. Several years later, mother and daughter left Boston and no one knew what had happened to them. Many years later, the mother returns alone, still wearing the scarlet letter; which she wore until her death.
I understand that this book is a work of fiction. But this woman's response to her sin was totally opposite from David's. She never experienced the love and forgiveness of God, never knew what it was to be washed white as snow and to be made clean. Instead, she spent her life as an outcast, wearing a scarlet red "A" attached to her. She openly carried her shame with her, wearing her scarlet letter for all to see from the moment that piece of cloth was attached to her until her death. Perhaps what began as a public shaming and punishment, turned into self-condemnation and a feeling of not being worthy to take the letter off.
This is a picture of what God spoke through Isaiah. Your sins are red as scarlet.... standing out and obvious.... pointed out by others and talked about.... publicized and ridiculed.... shunned and belittled.... talked about and discussed by others. But the truth is, that doesn't define who we are and we don't have to walk around the rest of our life with a scarlet letter attached for all to see. God made a way for those sins to be purified and cleansed and washed white as snow. He sent His Son to die for all sin, therefore, we can all repent and be forgiven and be given a brand new life. The old sinful man dies, and is given a new birth. This means that anyone who belongs to Christ becomes a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! (2 Corinthians 5:17)
When a person sins, they don't have to go around wearing a scarlet letter attached them them for the rest of their life; causing them to be shunned and shamed and punished by those around them. Neither do they have to do so as a form of self-condemnation and shame. Oh, they may not literally wear a scarlet letter for all to see, but mentally there is one attached to that person.
The truth is, even though God forgives and washes white as snow, and removes sins as far as the east is from the west and remembers them no more; many have a hard time forgiving ourselves. Furthermore, people have a hard time forgetting and tend to bring it up time and time again throughout the years. Oh, they may not bring it up to the one who committed the sin, but will talk about it to others. People have a hard time forgetting the transgressions of others and to never bring it up again. When doing so, are they still mentally attaching a scarlet letter to that person? Something to think about! If only we could see ourself and others as Jesus sees: purified and holy and righteous; white as snow; no longer having those sins, that have been repented of and forgiven by God, attached to us.
Perhaps it is time to stop remembering our past sins and transgressions, and leave them under the blood of Jesus. Perhaps we need to stop remembering and bringing up and talking about the past sins of others; leaving them under the blood of Jesus. We move forward, leaving the past behind.
In Acts chapter 22, Paul tells of his past life before coming to know Christ. "I worked hard and killed men and women who believed as I believe today. I put them in chains and sent them to prison. The head religious leader and the leaders of the people can tell you this is true. I got letters from them to take our Jewish brothers in this city of Damascus. I was going there to put the Christians in chains and bring them to Jerusalem where they would be beaten." On his way to Damascus, he had an encounter with God that changed his life!
In Galatians 2:20, Paul writes, "My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me." He became a new person in Christ. The old man was gone, dead and buried, and a new man was birthed and was given a new life.
Paul was no longer a murderer. The man who committed all of those crimes and who lived in sin, died when he became a christian. He no longer lived and that old man was gone. But he experienced a new birth, and became a new man in Christ. He wasn't "Paul the ex-murderer", but was "Paul the apostle of Jesus Christ". The sins of that old man were forgiven and forgotten by the Father and that was no longer who He saw when He looked at Paul! But God saw Paul, a godly, upright, righteous man who had been washed white as snow. God didn't think of Paul as "the man who used to kill christians" or the "man who stoned Stephen"; but all of those things had been forgotten by Him when Paul repented and became a believer. He saw, "Paul, my beloved son; a minister of the gospel."
We often justify our repeating of stories of someone's past sin or transgression as, "Oh, I'm not holding it against them; I'm just repeating what happened, because that is part of their life." But really, how many of us want our sins and mistakes recounted and remembered by others? Just as we want to be remembered for our goodness and kindness and godliness, instead of a past sin, we need to show that same type of grace and mercy to others. Bringing up the past causes embarrassment and shame. And bringing up the past to those who may not know about that persons disgrace and sin, only spreads the story, instead of putting a stop to it.
I read a quote that says, "Don't be so quick to expose everybody else's sins, when God has been so merciful to cover yours." Wow! I know that I have been guilty of talking about other people's sins and bringing up their past, when I really shouldn't have. Just as God has been so merciful in covering my sins, I need to show that same mercy to others; not exposing their past and bringing up their wrong-doings, but extending compassion and seeing them as they are today.
To be like Jesus, which should be the goal of us all, means that we see others as He sees them. Not as someone wearing a scarlet letter attached to them for the rest of their life due to a sinful and ungodly choice they may have made in their past; but as a new person who has been washed white as snow. That is how I want others to view me, and how I want to see each of my brothers and sisters in Christ. I want to guard my words and thoughts regarding other people, and allow their old "man" to remain crucified and buried with Jesus, and not resurrecting that old person by speaking of their misdeeds.
This is my prayer: "Give me your eyes, Lord, that I will see others as you do! Help me to truly love them, not ever causing them shame or embarrassment, by recounting past misconduct and sins. Give me a mind that forgives and forgets their sins, just as You have. Nudge me if I start to recount their story to someone, bringing up their past misdeeds and bad choices. Let me see them as You do today. I don't want to justify sharing the sins of someone by excusing my words as 'only sharing the truth of their past and what they did, which is a part of their history'. Remind me of our words in Philippians 4:8 that says, 'Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.' For when those are the thoughts that fill my mind, then I won't have room for thoughts of the my past sins, nor the past sins of anyone else. My greatest desire is to be like you, Jesus, and that You will seen in and through my life!"
It feels pretty bad to know someone won't forgive us for something, especially if we have repented, and intend to never repeat it. I'm sure it would feel even worse if our fathers wouldn't forgive us. And worst of all, if God, our Heavenly Father, wouldn't forgive us.
Matthew 6:12 teaches us to pray, in part, "forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors". And verses 14 and 15, "For if you forgive others their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." There are several other verses that repeat this.
Yes, God's mercy is new every morning, and endlessly patient. But we must be repentant, and share forgiveness.
(Mexican Slow Cooker Pulled Pork)
4 pound pork shoulder or pork butt roast
2-1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 onion, chopped
1 jalapeno, deseeded & chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup juice from orange (2 oranges)
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon olive oil
Rinse and dry the pork roast; rub all over with salt and pepper.
Combine the rub ingredients, then rub all over the pork.
Place the pork in a slow cooker (fat cap up). Top with the chopped onion, chopped jalapeno, minced garlic (don't worry about spreading it); squeeze the juice of the oranges over the top.
Slow cook on low for 10 hours or on high for 6 hours.
Pork should be tender enough to shred. Remove from slow cooker and let cool slightly. Then shred with two forks.
If you have more than 2 cups of juice in the slow cooker, then reduce it down to about 2 cups. The liquid will be salty, it is the seasoning for the pork. Set liquid aside -- don't bother straining onion, etc. because it will be really soft.
To crisp: Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large non-stick pan or well seasoned skilled over high heat. Spread some of the pork in the pan (don't crowd the pan), drizzle some juice over the top. Wait until the juices evaporate and the bottom side is golden brown and crusty. Turn and just briefly sear the other side -- you don't want to make it brown all over because then it's too crispy and you need tender juicy bits.
Remove pork from skillet. Repeat in batches (could take up to 3-4 batches).
Just before serving, drizzle more juice over the top and serve hot.
Meat can be used for tacos, burritos, quesadillas, enchiladas, sliders, etc.
Taco toppings in addition to the pork: diced avocado, diced tomatoes, grated cheese, sour cream.
Last week I wrote about laughter being a God-given natural medication. Jon and I have continued our journey on finding the joy in every day and learning to laugh more. We are continuing to listen to Christian comediennes each night before going to sleep, and laughing our way to a restful night. I went this past Sunday evening to a comedy play with my sister and her son; and we all three laughed almost continuously for over two hours.
But I'm also learning how to smile more throughout my day. I have been babysitting my 7 month old great-niece and have noticed just how often she smiles. I talk to her and she smiles, I feed her and she smiles, I tickle her and she smiles, I sing to her and she smiles, I give her toys to play with and she kicks and plays and smiles. I have been consciously smiling back at her each time she smiles at me; and it is amazing how often that baby girl smiles. I find myself humming and smiling when she's not looking at me! I want smiling and laughter to become so ingrained in me, that it is a natural part of my day and not something that I have to work at.
I challenge you to begin to take note of yourself and keep track of how often you smile or laugh throughout the day. It may surprise you how little you do so! If so, then join me in restoring joy back to your life; consciously making an effort to make laughter and smiling a natural part of yourself, without having to work at it.
Don't be so quick to expose everybody else's sins,
when God has been so merciful to cover yours. - Toby Mac
We love you!
Loretta & Jon