"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 27, 2010
Too often, we feel discontent or turmoil in our heart and instead of going directly to Jesus and asking Him to give us peace and restore our joy, we'll try every other measure available to try and fill that emptiness ourselves. Some of the things we use may bring a short-term moment of happiness, but soon we find that we're once again lacking something in our lives.
I wish I could say that I am always the Christian woman that I know I should be; always doing the right things, saying the right words, reading my Bible and praying, and growing in my faith. But sometimes I let things interfere, and before long I find that I'm focusing on other things more than God. And some of the things I spend my time doing are really stupid, time-consuming, mundane activities.
Normally I will have my daily devotions after Jon leaves for work, but there are mornings when I think, "I'll just send a couple emails, then I'll read my Bible and pray." I get on the computer and send the emails, then decide to check facebook. There are a couple of games that I play on facebook, and after I read the updated statuses of my friends, I'll decide to play the games for just a few minutes -- then I'll pray and read my Bible. Before I know it, I've killed an hour or so emailing and being on facebook. I'll think, "I need to shower and get dressed, then I'll have my devotions." But after I do that, I'll decide that I should first run to Walmart and get groceries before the store gets busy and crowded, or decide to begin doing laundry or cleaning. I'll start doing other things, and before I've found time to sit down and spend time with God, Jon calls to say he's on his way home from work. I'll begin supper preparations, then spend the evening with Jon, and the whole day is soon gone and I've yet to open my Bible or pray.
I never intended to leave God out of my day, but I allowed other activities to fill my time and pushed God to the side. Before long it's easy to get into a routine of pursuing other interest and leaving God behind. Eventually I'll get to the point where I feel empty and discontented inside, and if I'm not careful I'll try to fill that void with food, books, a new pair of shoes, or some other material thing.
I also notice when I've grown slack in giving attention to my relationship with God that I'll tend to become more critical, judgmental and negative. When I am spiritually unfulfilled, it will effect other aspects of my life.
Recently I had been feeling discontented within and realized I hadn't been giving God time in my life. Jon and I went to bed and I fell asleep fairly quickly, only to awake about an hour later. My stomach was upset and I couldn't fall back to sleep. I didn't want to wake Jon up, so ended up coming downstairs. I began walking around the living room and was praying, only it felt as if my prayers were bouncing off the ceiling and were of no effect. I knew that God could hear me, but it felt as if He was far away and I was talking to empty air. Jon came downstairs to check on me, and I told him I wasn't feeling well and was spending some time praying. He went back upstairs and I continued to pray. I desperately wanted mend my relationship with God and hated the emptiness I felt inside. I knew I couldn't give up but had to press on and continue to pray until I broke through the barrier I felt between myself and God. It took some time, but that moment finally happened and I felt the closeness of God once again.
I wish I could say this was the only time this has happened, but that's not so. Often in my life I've found myself in the position of pushing God to the back corner and not giving Him time in my day. It's not that I stopped loving Him or no longer wanted to have a relationship with Him. More than likely, I begin taking God for granted, knowing that He'll always be there. After all, He's God and knows that I love Him! But when I begin putting TV and the computer in a higher place of importance in my day than spending time with God, a problem eventually will occur. And it may be God waking me up from sleep so I'll get up and spend some time with Him.
My sister, Janie, was babysitting her grandson, Jax, a while back. She had cooked sausage gravy and biscuits for supper. That was the first time Jax had ever eaten that, and he loved it. Janie, Jimmy and Devin were sitting at the kitchen table eating and Jax was in a high chair. He would take a bite and say, "Mmm". When he first did that, they thought it was cute and would look at him and comment. "Jax, do you like that gravy and biscuit." "Does that taste good?" But after a while they began eating their own food and stopped paying close attention to him. After every bite he would do the "Mmm" thing, expecting them to respond. When they didn't, he'd lean forward in his chair and louder say, "Mmm" again. It was as if he were letting them know, "If you didn't hear me the first time, then I'll say it again louder so you will look at me."
God doesn't force His attention upon us. But sometimes He may allow things to happen so that we will turn our eyes and focus back upon Him. Why? Because He knows that we need Him. He wants to be a vital part of our lives and wants to spend time with us. God loves us so much that He wants to be involved of every aspect of our life. The truth is, He deserves more than just a few leftover moments we may have from time to time. He doesn't want to be left out and pushed aside. And sometimes when we don't listen to God speak, He may lean forward and say it again a little louder, trying to get our attention.
I don't like how it feels when God is not a central part of my life. And I generally know when that occurs by how I feel inside. There will be a lack of peace and I will sense a growing discontent. I may find myself becoming critical of others or judgmental. I will become more negative in my comments and opinions. Instead of being filled with joy and contentment, I will be restless in my spirit. I will begin worrying about things and allow that worry to gnaw at me.
But I also know how to feel fulfilled and get rid of the anxiety and emptiness. I have to put everything else aside and spend time with God. I have to repent of putting other things before God and for the neglect of feeding my spirit. Instead of wasting time in front of the TV and computer I have to take time each day to devote to prayer and reading the Bible. If I don't feed myself spiritually, then that part of me will begin to shrivel up and wilt, which could eventually result in spiritual death. I never want to risk there being an eternal separation between myself and God.
We all battle issues of the flesh, and at times it seems as if the pull of the flesh is much stronger than our spirit. And in many ways, it is. That's why we must recognize the importance of feeding our spirit with the Word of God and prayer, in order to mature and strengthen it.
This is a battle that we'll face all of our lives, until we die; the battle between the flesh and spirit. We must recognize this, and pay attention to the signs when we begin to neglect spiritual matters in our life. When things don't feel "right" in our heart and mind, it's very likely due to the lack of us feeding our spirit with those things that will keep us strong and healthy.
Don't despair, don't give up, and don't feel like a failure. If most of us were honest, we'd admit that we struggle with our flesh. I daresay that we all have had those periods in our lives where we neglect spiritual matters. We all go through days where we get busy with other things or allow ourselves to become side-tracked and we don't spend time reading the Word and praying. But there is hope! When that happens, we can always do something about it. And when we do, we'll find that God has been waiting there for us to come back to Him.
Jesus told a parable about sowing seeds. I expect everyone reading this has heard it at least once, and I think we've written about it before. Some of the seeds were thrown among thorns, and the thorns choked out the newly growing grain. Those seeds represented people who had heard about Jesus, but were overwhelmed by cares of the world, and didn't grow spiritually. That's very easy in our world. We have work. We have houses to maintain. We have trips to take, yards to keep up, and cars to keep running. And then there are good TV shows to watch, friends and family to visit with, books to read, and games to play. We are a very busy people.
When those times come when we feel disconnected with God, it becomes easier to quit going to church, quit praying, and quit reading the Bible so we can get all those things done that we need to do. And that just makes the "problem" worse. Sometimes I have to take a day off work, just so I can go back refreshed and better able to focus and get the work done. God told us to observe the sabbath for a reason--not just so we would attend a service once a week, but so we could recharge in that service, and remember Him. Then we can go into the next week refreshed and able to focus on Him.
Next Day Mashed Potatoes
10 large potatoes
1 (8 oz.) cream cheese -- softened
1 stick butter
1 cup milk - scalded
Salt and Pepper
Boil the potatoes after peeling. When cooked, drain very well and mash. Add cream cheese and butter; salt and pepper to taste. Add scalded milk gradually -- you may need a little more depending on size of potatoes. Mix well until light and fluffy. Put into buttered casserole dish, about 2 quarts. Cover and refrigerate. Next day sprinkle with paprika; bake uncovered for 45 minutes in a 350 oven.
(Another Jax story!) I was babysitting Jax a few days ago and he was sitting on my lap while I was in front of the computer. He really likes computer things! We have a wireless mouse that no longer works, so I put it on the mousepad and was letting Jax play with it. Without thinking, I reached up and put my hand on it. He leaned over and grabbed it and looked at me and said, "No, no!" Later he was playing with it again and the mouse started sliding over to the side so I put my hand on the side of the mousepad to keep it from sliding to the floor. Once again, Jax moved my hand and told me "No, no." I'm thinking he's probably heard that a time or two!
When you feel dog-tired at night, it may be because you growled all day. (taken from Amish Mennonite cookbook)
We love you!
Loretta & Jon