THE NEW EWE

"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!'"

Luke 15:4-6

February 25, 2015

LIFE IN THE FOLD:

When we think about the twelve disciples of Jesus, there are certain men that most of us can name. Peter, and the two brothers, James and John, stand out as being particularly close to Jesus. They were the three that He took on the mountain of transfiguration with him (Matthew 17:1) and then later whom Jesus took in the Garden of Gethsemane with Him prior to His crucifixion (Matthew 26:37). Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all wrote down their accounts of the life of Jesus and those things that they heard and witnessed while ministering alongside Him; and those writings are included in the Bible. Judas is known as the one who betrayed Jesus. Thomas is the one many refer to as "doubting Thomas" because he wanted to see the wound in the hands and side of Jesus to verify that He truly was the risen Lord.

But what about those other men who were called by Jesus to follow Him and be His disciple? We really don't know anything about them, other than their name. No other facts or stories are written about them. Were they of lesser importance in the ministry of Christ? Did their contributions not matter?

Who is Thaddeus.... James, the son of Alphaeus, who is known as James the Less..... Simon the Zealot..... Bartholomew.... Philip? The scriptures really doesn't tell us anything about them.

In fact, Paul is the man whom we read the most about; and he wasn't even one of the twelve disciples. The story of his conversion is found in the book of Acts, and the numerous letters, which he penned to various churches and individuals, are included as books of the Bible. Prior to his conversion, Paul persecuted christians and was a low-down, rotten, evil man. He called himself the "chief of sinners". Yet, he is the one whose life and ministry is chronicled throughout the New Testament.

Does it seem fair that Paul would receive more recognition than those men who were specifically called to follow Jesus and spent three years of their lives in ministry alongside the Messiah? Did Paul have more converts or have a bigger ministry or more conversions under his preaching than those men did? Was he better known or a more charismatic individual?

I don't know the answers. Perhaps some of the disciples moved to further away regions to serve as missionaries, and news of their ministry successes didn't reach Jerusalem, so was never written about. Perhaps they were faithful in following the call that the Lord had placed on their life, but never had a big ministry or a lot of converts. Perhaps some of them went back to their families and home towns and ministered to the local congregations. Some may have been illiterate, so were unable to write down the details of the years they spent ministering with Jesus. And some may not have been as boisterous and outspoken as Peter, and were content to be in the background, quietly serving and not wanting any recognition. I suppose we really won't ever know; unless we think to ask them when we get to heaven.

Whatever the reason, it doesn't mean that some were more important or more significant or of more value than others; but each one did what Jesus called them to do; to follow Him. It really doesn't matter that we don't know anything about their lives or ministry, because ultimately, their obedience and service to God was between them and Him.

Human nature often places value on how important someone is, in the kingdom of God, based on how big their ministry is or how many people know their name. But honestly, none of that really matters. God does place men and women in prominent positions; but as a whole, there a lot more people whose service is going to be lesser known.

There's an older song that says, "The ground is level at the foot of the cross; no one stands higher than I"; meaning that no one is elevated above another or is of more importance or more loved. In the eyes of Jesus, we are all on level ground.

Not everyone is going to have the ministry that God called Billy Graham to; nor will we have the opportunities to reach the hundreds of thousands of people that he has had during his lifetime. But that doesn't let us off the hook and allow us to sit still and do nothing. We're to be faithful to do the work that God does call us to; and that's going to look different for each and every person.

Some are called to be preachers and teachers and deacons and worship leaders and children/youth workers in the local church. Some are called to be evangelist. Some are called to be missionaries. And all of those are much needed ministries. But if God calls you to do something that is small and not recognized by others, are you willing to do it?

When Jesus says, "Come follow Me," it often takes us outside of the church. It may not always look like ministry in our eyes, or in the eyes of others; and that's okay.

For many years I was very active in church ministry. I played piano, sang, taught Sunday School, and was church secretary. Those are all good things and needed ministries in the church. But over the past several years, my life and my circumstances have changed and it's been a learning process discovering where God has been leading me. I've discovered that God's calling on our lives often looks much different than what we think it should. Following God is a daily walk; not just something we do inside of the church. God has also opened my eyes to the fact that when we respond to "Follow Me", He may take us down paths that we never anticipated. During those times, we may question if we're truly doing what we're supposed to be doing, because it looks so different than what we think following Jesus should look like.

Over the past few years, I have been made aware of how God has orchestrated my life and put me on a journey that I never could have anticipated. He has used me in ways that I never imagined and has chosen me to do things that I would never have considered a "God calling" in the past; after all, it was so different than what I had done all those years ago when I was so active in the church.

Right now, I know that I'm doing exactly what God has purposed for me, for this time in my life. I'm a stay-at-home wife. I take care of all the household duties, yard work, errands, finances, etc... so my husband doesn't have to do any of those things after working all day; which means we can spend more time relaxing together in the evenings and on weekends. I babysit my niece's little girl three mornings a week. My niece can go to work knowing that her baby girl is being well taken care of and loved. I give support to my in-laws, who have entered a new phase in their lives and are trying to find their new "normal". My father-in-law is in a nursing home with Alzheimer's and my mother-in-law is adjusting to living alone for the first time in her life. I know that all of these are things that God has purposed me to do for this time in my life, and I'm following exactly where He's leading me.

Wherever Jesus is leading you during this time of your life, be faithful to follow Him. It really doesn't matter if others understand, or think what you're doing is right or important, or advise you to do something else, or don't see what you're doing as being significant; although it does make life easier when we have the love and support of family and friends. If you're following Jesus and are on the path He's taken you down, then find contentment and peace in your journey. You may be a homemaker, you may homeschool you kids, you may pastor, you may teach a class, you may be a janitor, you may babysit, you may be an engineer, you may be a farmer, you may be a support to family during a difficult situation, you may be a full-time mother, you may be a carpenter....... Wherever God has placed you and whatever He has led you to do, just do it; and do it with a godly attitude.

Most of us are going to be a Thaddeus or Bartholomew; not a Peter or Paul. We're going to be an ordinary person doing ordinary things; and not be a Billy Graham. But in God's eyes, when we are fulfilling our purpose and obeying the plan He has laid out for us, then He sees us as His special treasures. I'd like to think that occasionally God looks down and gives us a thumbs up as He says, "Good job!"

JON'S PERSPECTIVE:

I've gotten into a bit of a habit of backing into parking spaces. Loretta knows I do it, so she usually isn't that surprised when I swing close to the space I want instead of driving out, and then turning toward it. But sometimes she comments that while I'm backing in, it looks like I'm backing in completely crooked. If she could read my mind, and see in all the mirrors from the driver's seat, she would probably see that I'm getting the back of the car centered in the space, then in the last foot or so, I turn so the front is centered, too. It leaves the car almost perfectly centered in the space. That's why I can park much better backing in than going forward.

Sometimes, God may lead us down some path that looks completely crooked from our vantage. It might seem like we're headed for a brick wall. But then, at the last minute, things turn, and we discover we were being driven into just the right direction to be in the right position at the right time.

ON THE MENEWE:

Banana Bread

1/2 cup butter

3 mashed ripe bananas

1 cup sugar

2 cups flour

2 eggs

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 Tablespoons buttermilk

1/2 cup chopped pecans

Cream butter and sugar together; add eggs and beat well. Stir soda into buttermilk and add into the mixture with the mashed bananas. Sift together flour and salt and stir into the creamed mixture. Blend in vanilla and nuts. Bake in loaf pan (9-3/4 x 5-3/4 inch) at 350 for 1 hour or until done.

THIS, THAT AND THE OTHER:

When I was a little girl, we would often attend revival services that were being held at area churches. There is one particular revival that stands out in my mind. I honestly don't know where in the world the pastor of the church found this evangelist; but he was unlike anything any of us had ever seen in all of our lives. He was a little bitty man and had these wild stories that he told each night that just had us all spell-bound. They were stories about him living in the jungle among the pygmies; the first time he slept in a real bed and his toenails were so long that they shredded the sheets; he called everything a computer (this was in the 1970's and I doubt that any of us in that little country town even knew what a computer was!); and just one adventure after another. He drove this big car and played the guitar and sang; in fact, he called his guitar a computer. I'm not sure exactly how much spiritual value came out of those services, but for that week, we couldn't wait to go to church each night to hear about his wild jungle adventures!!

THOUGHT TO PONDER:

FAITH -- it makes things possible, not easy. - unknown

"Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged.

For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." - Joshua 1:9

OUR HEARTFELT THANKS TO YOU:

We love you!

Loretta & Jon

http://www.graysheep.org