"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 25, 2013
A few nights ago, Jon and I were sitting at a stoplight and saw a flash of brilliant blue across the sky. This happened randomly three or four times. My comment was, "Wouldn't it be cool if Jesus were getting ready to return and that's the flash we're seeing?!" Jon agreed and said that he had better put the car in park so if that happened, our unattended car wouldn't roll off and hit someone.... which he proceeded to do. As far as I know, there is nothing biblical about a brilliant flash of light in the sky when the rapture occurs -- but the unusual occurrence caught our attention and made us stop and consider the reality of it happening.
We never saw where the blue flash was coming from, but it may have been a transformer that blew. It doesn't really matter where it came from. The point is, it made us think about the fact that Jesus is coming again, and it could be at any moment.
It is easy to get sidetracked and distracted and lose sight of the fact that Jesus promised to return again. Life gets difficult, we get busy, and as we deal with the stress of day to day living we lose focus; and sometimes even lose hope. As we see the situation of our world and hear news stories, it feels overwhelming at times.
I was raised in church and know what the Bible says and believe that it is true. I know that Jesus promised to return for those who have accepted Him as their Savior. I know that it will happen in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, as the Word of God declares. I know that no one knows the day nor hour, and that it could happen at anytime during my lifetime. I know and believe that with all my heart. Yet there are times when my priorities get misaligned and I lose focus on those facts. The busyness of my days and the things that daily life brings take precedence and that is what captures my attention and thoughts. It is even easy to get into a spiritual rut and become spiritually discouraged.
The blue flash of light in the sky was a vivid reminder to both Jon and me that the coming of Christ is a reality and could happen at any moment. We may be sitting at a stoplight, driving down the highway, asleep in our bed, at a family gathering, or Jon may be at work and me at home. Suddenly, the trumpet of God will sound and we will be caught away to meet the Lord in the sky. We need to be ever watchful and keep the truth of it in the forefront of our mind; keeping our heart ready to meet God when it does occur.
The reality of the second coming of Christ reminds me of what it must have been like over 2,000 years ago before God sent His Son to earth as the promised Messiah. The coming of a Savior had been prophesied and promised since the days of Adam and Eve after they disobeyed God and sinned. David wrote in the Psalm 22 about the death of Jesus. Isaiah prophesied about it: "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel." The following verses speak of him being rejected and about his death.
Hundreds and even thousands of years had happened between the time of those promises and the actual occurrence of the birth of Jesus. Generation after generation heard it read from the scrolls in temple and were taught about it from the priest and their parents. Yet they waited and waited and nothing happened. I'm sure that there were those who would look at their generation and think, "The world can't possibly get any worse than it is now! Surely God has forgotten His promise to us." Many must have felt discouragement in their hearts and may have even lost hope. Why didn't God fulfill His Word and send the promised Messiah? How much longer could they wait until something happened? Was it truly a fact or was it only a myth or fairy tale?
Then suddenly God said, "Okay! Now is the time for My Word to be fulfilled!" Luke chapter 2 says, "And it came to pass!!!" All the waiting was over. God sent His only Son to this earth as a baby. This baby grew up and began His ministry at the age of thirty. And three years later, the culmination of the reason for Jesus coming happened. Jesus was crucified and hung on a cross to die. He took all our sins upon Him. Our Savior, our Messiah came and took our place so that we didn't have to die in our sin.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. That whosever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
That wasn't the end of the story. After three days, Jesus rose from the grave; and He rose, no longer a mortal man, but as our resurrected Lord! He had fulfilled all those prophecies and promises.
All the waiting, all the longing, all the watching was over. Yet there were many who rejected Jesus as the Messiah. Many refused to listen to His message of redemption and hope.
It is the same today. There are many who refuse to believe the message of redemption, forgiveness, and hope. Many refuse to believe that the day will come when Jesus will return for those who believe, even though He made that promise before ascending back to heaven; and those who refuse to accept the gift of salvation will be left behind. When it occurs, there will be speculation and doubt, and those who will try to explain the truth of what really happened to be of no significance. But that won't change the truth of what took place.
So this Christmas season, don't lose faith! Don't lose hope! Don't lose focus! Jesus promised to come again and take those who believe to heaven, where we will spend all eternity. Just as it was fulfilled when He came the first time as a baby in a manger, this promise will also be fulfilled. We can be assured that this too will "come to pass"!!!
The Jewish church of the time refused to acknowledge that Jesus was the same Messiah that they had been waiting for. They even fought against him and persecuted those who had followed him. He didn't fit exactly what they were expecting. He met the prophecies, but the prophecies sounded like the Messiah would rescue the Jews from the bondage of Rome, not rescue them from the bondage of sin.
The prophecies of Jesus's return sound like there will also be many who refuse to believe He has really returned, even among those who have been taught about Him. It seems hard to imagine now, that anyone could see Christ return, but not realize it is truly Him.
I don't know how Jesus will return. Acts says that He will return in the way he left. But since I didn't see, hear, or feel how He left, I couldn't hope to explain how He will return. But please be open to the possibility, and be ready. Just because it doesn't fit exactly what you've been told to expect or how someone has imagined, doesn't mean it isn't real.
Million Dollar Fudge
(This was a fudge recipe that my mom made -- and it is really delicious!!)
4 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups nuts, chopped (pecans or black walnuts are both good)
1 can evaporated milk
2 large ( 4 1/2 oz.) Hershey bars
1 stick butter
2 packages chocolate chips
1 jar marshmallow cream
Mix sugar, milk, and butter in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and boil for 8-10 minutes, stirring constantly. Place candy bars and chocolate chips in a large bowl and pour the boiling mixture over the top. Beat well. Add marshmallow cream and nuts. Beat until cool. Pour into buttered pans.
I know that by the time most of you read this, Christmas for 2013 will be over and you will be looking forward to a new year. But here is a party idea for future use:
Jon and I attended a Christmas party at my sister's church. They have various people from their church who performs (mostly using sign language since this is a deaf church) songs; and people of all ages participate from the youngest to the adults. One of the ladies did the song "The Twelve Days of Christmas", and handed out a paper to each table, having one of the twelve days written on it. Everyone at the table decided how they would all act out the day they were representing beforehand. During the song, whenever it came to each tables day, they stood up and acted out whatever was on their paper. It was a lot of fun seeing the creativity of how each table decided to perform whichever of the twelve days they were representing.
Without Christ, there would be no Christmas.
Imagine that it's your birthday. You know that your family is planning a huge party and inviting everyone whom you love. They are bringing all your favorite foods to eat and have made your favorite cake. Elaborate decorations have been hung to make the place look beautiful. Gifts have been bought. You see everyone laughing, hugging, and thoroughly enjoying themselves as they enter the home where the party is being held. Although no one "officially" invited you, you prepare yourself to make an appearance; after all, it's your birthday, so surely this party is being held in your honor. But as you walk up to the door, you find that you have been locked out. You knock, but no one pays any attention or answers. No matter how hard you try, you cannot gain entrance into the home. All you can do is stand outside and look through the window and watch the merriment going on inside. Sadness feels your heart and tears roll down your cheeks as you watch, what you thought was a party in your honor, taking place and no one seems to miss your presence. All you can do is watch as those inside eat and visit and unwrap presents and enjoy themselves.
That scenario may seem a little far fetched, yet that is how many of us celebrate the birth of Jesus. We know it's His birthday, we know that's why we have Christmas, yet we go about our celebration without acknowledging Him or inviting Him into our midst. May we all take a moment to stop our activities and thank Jesus for coming as our Savior and Redeemer! Let's acknowledge the One whose birthday we are celebrating!!
We love you!
Loretta & Jon