"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!'"
August 13, 2008
Have you ever had something happen where the outcome either didn't make sense or wasn't what you expected? It may be an event that was planned or something that just randomly occurred.
A few days ago, I was planning on baking fish for supper. I was going to make rice to go with it. I had thawed the fish and was getting it prepared to put into the oven. I got a really heavy, thick, glass Pyrex pan and laid the fish in it. I had it on the counter top and decided to get the rice started before seasoning the fish and putting it in to bake. I was reaching up into the cabinet, when I accidentally bumped into a 1-cup glass measuring cup, which fell and hit the Pyrex dish. Upon contact, the glass dish immediately broke and shattered into a thousand small chunks of glass, or so it seemed. The glass went everywhere: all over the counter top, into the sink, onto the floor, and all over the fish. Glass went underneath the toaster oven, flew across the floor next to the refrigerator and stove, and was all over the whole counter. Jon heard the noise and came running downstairs to see what had happened.
I was aggravated because I had to throw the fish away and had the big mess to clean up (which my husband was very good to help me with). Plus it would be a whole lot cheaper to replace a measuring cup than the Pyrex dish. But I was also amazed that the measuring cup was left without a crack, scratch or knick. The glass was probably about a third of the thickness and it's size was approximately ten times smaller than the Pyrex dish. It would have made more sense to me if the measuring cup had broke and the pan had been left unscathed. Or if the pan had been knocked onto the floor and then broke, I would have understood a little better. But it shattered instantly upon the contact with the measuring cup. I still don't understand it, and probably never will.
This is just a simple example. But there are many things in life that goes differently than we anticipate or think it should. You may plan a vacation or special event and have in your mind how it's going to turn out, only to encounter totally different results; both good and bad.
Several years ago, I had bought an airline ticket to fly to Austin for a week to visit one of my sisters and her family. I had scheduled the time off work and had everything planned. I was so excited and looking forward to my vacation. My last week of work before I was to leave, the radiator in my car tore up and had to be replaced. They had to order the new one, and my car ended up being in the shop almost that entire week. I was completely without a car, and had to depend on someone to pick me up for work and take me home. I had planned on driving to Tulsa as soon as I got off work on Friday, then was flying out early on Saturday morning. I had also planned on leaving work early that afternoon. No such luck! The mechanic didn't finish with my car until 5:00 on Friday afternoon. So not only did I have to work later than I had planned, I didn't have any money to take on vacation with me after paying for the new radiator. The whole week had been stressful. I was feeling pretty sorry for myself and wanted to just stay home and forget vacation, only I already had the airline ticket paid for. I didn't have a credit card at that time, or a savings account. One of my best friends ended up loaning me some money so that I wouldn't be completely broke and could enjoy myself. Even though my week didn't go as planned and I had encountered some obstacles and disappointments, I ended up enjoying my vacation after arriving in Austin.
But I've also been on the flip side of that. There have been times when I've dreaded something and just knew that it was going to turn out bad. Then to my pleasant surprise, it turned out to be enjoyable and a lot of fun. Or even if it may not have been my favorite thing to do, it ended up not being nearly as bad as I had anticipated.
Then there have been things that I've planned or things that have happened, and it was pretty much exactly like I had thought it would be.
My point is, whether it's something unexpected and insignificant like a dish breaking, or some major occurrence, or something in between; we can never know for sure what the outcome will be, until it actually happens. We never know when something unexpected or unexplained will occur. We aren't promised that everything we do in life is going to be smooth sailing with no storms or unexpected delays. We don't even know what the result of our requests to God will be, until He answers. The only sure promise we have is that God will be with us.
There are many things that occurred in the Bible with unexpected and unexplainable results. One thing that we need to remember when reading about the different people in the Bible is that these were very real people, just like you and me. These aren't fictional characters or their lives haven't been edited for the sake of a good story. These were living, breathing men and women with feelings and emotions and downfalls and human natures just like us.
Three of my favorite people in the Bible are Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These boys were Israelites who had been taken captive when King Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem. God blessed the three boys and they found favor with the king, and eventually ended up being placed in the position of overseeing the affairs of the province of Babylon.
King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, and set it up in the province of Babylon. He then sent out word that all the administrators, governors, counselors, treasurers, judges, magistrates, and officials of the provinces, were to come to the dedication of the image. When you received word from the king, it wasn't a suggestion, but was a direct order.
At the dedication, it was declared that when they heard the sound of the musical instruments, they were to all fall down and worship this gold image. Whoever didn't fall down and worship, would be immediately cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.
What a choice! You can either bow to the golden image or be thrown into the fire. I wonder if there were others there besides Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who didn't want to bow, but the threat of certain death as they were tossed into the furnace, was enough to make them waver and go ahead and bow. Possibly they thought, I'll bow on the outside but God knows my heart, that I'm not truly worshiping this idol. Maybe they thought they could repent and ask for God's forgiveness afterwards.
The people weren't just told that they would be thrown into a fiery furnace that was in a different location elsewhere, but the reality of the furnace, with the fire burning in it, was already set up right there for them to see. When they could actually see that being thrown into the furnace was not an idle threat, but the promise of it was there right before their eyes, it made the consequences of their choice very clear.
It's easy at times to say how we would react in certain situations that we've never encountered, but then when we're put to the test, our reaction and response is not what we thought it would be. It's easy to judge other people and their choices when they're facing difficulties and their own personal fiery furnace, if we've never been in their shoes. But things look completely different when we're the ones who are being tested.
If I ever had to endure the sickness and suffering that some individuals do, I'm not sure what my response would be. If my family went through the heartache and tragedy that some have to endure, I'm not sure how I would handle it. If I were ever put in a position where I faced a choice regarding my faith, I would like to think that I would be strong in my faith in God and be unwilling to compromise. If I were put in the position that these three Jewish men had to face, I would hope that my faith in God would be strong enough that I would refuse to bow to an idol. And I believe that it would be. But if I had the fiery furnace right there before my eyes and knew the consequences, it would be hard. If I have to die, I want it to be painless and go quickly in my sleep. I don't like the thought or possibility of suffering, sickness, pain, or a tragic death.
But Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego stood firm in their faith in God and refused to bow. They refused to waver in their belief in the true God.
The Chaldeans went to the King and reminded him of his decree, and told him there were three Jews who had failed to bow.
Nebuchadnezzar was angry that these three men would refuse his command. Daniel 3:13 says, "Then Nebuchadnezzar, in rage and fury, gave the command to bring Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. So they brought these men before the king."
He asked them if it was true that they did not serve his gods or worship the gold image which he had set up. He gave them one more chance and told them at the sound of the music if they would bow down then it would be good. But if not, they would immediately be cast into the fiery furnace.
His last statement to them (verse 15) was, "and who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?"
The three men bravely and boldly answered, "Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. BUT IF NOT, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve the gold image which you have set up."
I love those three words, "but if not", in the context in which these three men spoke them. They very well knew that God was able to deliver them from the fire. They didn't question or doubt the abilities of God, or ask if possibly this situation was too difficult for Him. They knew the power of the true, living God whom they served. But they also didn't know the outcome of what was going to happen next. They knew that God could deliver them, but they didn't know if He would choose to do so. Therefore, they added the words "but if not" and let the king know that even if God didn't deliver them from the fire, that they still did not serve the gold image.
Wow, what a proclamation! Yes, God can do this, but even if He chooses not to or has a reason why He doesn't; He is still the one and only true God, and the only One that they would serve.
The king demanded that the furnace be heated seven times hotter than it was usually heated. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were all three bound. I think that's a little ironic. Why did the king have them tied up? They were being thrown into a furnace! How did he think they were going to get away, or where did he think they were going to go?
The furnace was heated seven times hotter than normal, and when the men threw Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego into the flames, the flame of the fire killed those men who threw them in.
King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished! He rose in haste and asked, "Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?" The others replied that yes, that was true. He said, "Look! I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God."
It's interesting that this king who had the audacity to build this gold image and make a decree that it was to be bowed down to and worshiped, recognize who the Son of God was. I think it goes to show that the day will come when "every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord." Jesus won't have to introduce Himself to those who are wicked and evil and had nothing to do with Him. They will know who He is! Though none of us have ever seen Him, we will know who God is. There will be something in each of our spirits that will allow us to recognize and know Him.
The king then went near the mouth of the furnace and called Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to come out. When they did so, all those gathered saw these three men on whose bodies the fire had no power; the hair of their head was not singed nor were their clothes affected, and the smell of fire was not on them.
Nebuchadnezzar said, "Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who sent His Angel and delivered His servants who trusted in Him, and they have frustrated the king's word, and yielded their bodies, that they should not serve nor worship any god except their own God!"
When these three men refused to bow and worship the gold idol, they had no promise or assurance of what their outcome would be. They knew that the king had promised the fiery furnace. They knew the threat of death was the consequence for not obeying the king's decree. And they knew the possibility that they would indeed die that very day. But they knew that God was in control of their destinies, and regardless if they lived or died; God was the only One to whom they would ever worship or bow down.
It's easier for us to have faith when we're not being tested. It's easy for us to say that we have complete trust in God when things are going well. But what happens when we're faced with our own personal "fiery furnace" experience? Are we willing to stand firm in our faith and trust in God, and accept His will as sovereign; or will our faith be shaken and we begin to compromise our beliefs?
One thing I will never understand or be able to comprehend is how God works. I don't know why some are miraculously delivered from horrendous situations, while others endure suffering or torture. I don't know why some people are healed from sickness and disease while others suffer and die. I don't know why some are blessed financially while others barely eke out a living or suffer great loss. I don't know why some die of old age and enjoy health their entire life while others die from car accidents, murder, disease, fires or drownings. I don't know why some live their full life while babies, youth and young adults are taken prematurely. I don't understand why some have to endure cancer, handicaps, deformities, amputations, tumors, mental illness, etc. while others are perfectly healthy and whole.
I don't understand why all of Jesus' disciples, with the exception of John, died as martyrs. They were all tortured and died horrible deaths. I don't know why Paul was imprisoned so many times for his ministry. I don't understand why most times, Paul had to serve his sentence, then on another occasion God caused an earthquake to take place, and the prison doors were opened and he was freed. I don't know why Peter was imprisoned, then God sent an Angel to come and release him. I don't understand why so many of the early Christians were killed in the Roman arenas. I don't understand why so many of the Jewish people were murdered and tortured during the Holocaust.
What I do know is that I don't have to understand everything. I do know that God has a purpose for doing the things that He does or allowing certain events to happen, whether or not I understand. I know that because of the sin and wickedness of man, both believers and non-believers alike suffer the consequences. I do know that the main purpose for God intervening and performing miracles is to bring people to Him.
God delivered Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego so that Nebuchadnezzar and all the other people who were there that day would see that He was the only true God. He walked in the fire with the three men and revealed Himself in human form so that the king and all those present would see and recognize who He was.
Whenever we encounter the unexpected or things don't go as we plan, may we each keep our eyes and focus on God. I heard a statement once that whatever we focus on is what is going to be magnified in our life. If we focus on God, then God will be magnified. But if we focus on our problems or obstacles, then they will become enlarged, and will soon look bigger in our eyes than God is. It's like using a magnifying glass. You can have several objects in a room to look at, but whatever you focus on when you look through the magnifying glass is going to look bigger than everything else. May we each keep our focus on God and keep Him magnified at all times in our life. May our faith in God be strong and steadfast, regardless of our circumstances and the outcome.
I've often wondered why, if God was willing to prove Himself to so many people in the past, why doesn't he reveal Himself that obviously now? Of course, He does give miracles all the time, but people can find a way to dispute them.
I recently read a story that Jesus told the crowds. He told about a rich, hateful man and a good, poor man who each died. The poor man went to heaven while the rich man didn't. The rich man begged for the poor man to go back to the world and warn his brothers to change their lives. But he was told that the poor man wouldn't be sent back. If his brothers didn't learn from all the prophets and all the miracles in the past, why would they learn now?
1 large angel food cake
One 8-oz. Pkg. cream cheese, softened
One 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups whipping cream
2 tbsp. sugar
Two 10-oz. Pkg. frozen strawberries, halved strawberries, thawed
Cut the angel food cake into cubes about the size of a walnut. In a small mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese and sweetened condensed milk, mixing until smooth and completely blended. In a separate bowl, mix the whipping cream with the sugar until stiff.
To assemble: In a large bowl, layer half the angel food cake cubes, cream cheese mixture, whipped cream, then strawberries. Repeat, layering the remaining ingredients, ending with whipped cream and strawberries.
My Grandma Horton made me a quilt top when I was a little girl, that I had put away for many years. I recently had it machine quilted. Knowing very little about sewing, I thought when I got it back that it would be completely finished. Not so! The edges needed to be trimmed up and have binding sewn around it.
My step-mother had taken the top to be quilted for me, and when she gave it back, told me how to sew the binding on. Her way was to sew strips of material to the front, then hand stitch it down on the back side. As I've mentioned many times, I do not sew!! Her comment to me was that she thought I would really enjoy sitting around in the evenings stitching the quilt binding down. I thought, "And you've known me how long?!" I was telling one of my sisters about it and she laughed and said my reply could have said, "Yes, and I might enjoy being tortured too." Having to hand stitch the binding down around the edges of the whole big quilt would pretty much be in the same category for me. Plus even if I attempted to do it, it would probably take me ten years to ever get it done -- at least.
So I bribed my sister, and she agreed that she would sew it for me. I did trim the edges and we're going to do it the easy way and buy packaged quilt binding and just sew it on -- no hand stitching. I told her that I would pay for her to get a pedicure before she started back to work at the school, if she would sew the binding on my quilt for me. This was pretty much a win-win situation for me. I will get my quilt finished, plus I couldn't send her to get a pedicure without me going with her and getting one too!
We were sitting side by side as we were getting our pedicures a few days ago. The lady was scrubbing the bottoms of my sister's feet. For some reason it started tickling and my sister was trying not to laugh. The more she tried not to laugh, the more it tickled. The lady kept a tight hold on my sisters foot and kept right on scrubbing, even after my sister told her that it tickled. It was all she could do to stay in her chair. I tried to start a conversation to get her mind off from the tickling sensation... but didn't try too hard because it was pretty funny.
Light the candles, sleep on the nice sheets, use your china and fancy dishes. Don't save it for a special occasion. Today is special!
We love you!
Thank you so much for taking the time to read our newsletter. We appreciate you very much.
Loretta & Jon