"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!'"
June 12, 2019
In our society, it seems as if longevity is not honored as it once was. And honestly, in some circumstances, I get it.
In the political realm, those who have become career politicians have often forgotten the reason why the people elected them and why they were placed in their position. They abuse their powers, and often vote contrary to what is best for the people in order to adhere to their particular political party or because they have an agenda.
On occasion there are people who are only putting in their time on a job in order to earn a pension or become old enough to retire. They don't pull their weight and are pig-headed; stubbornly refusing to learn and grow with the changing times and technology. The older I get, the more I understand that, because there are times when I'm tired of learning new things and wish things could stay the same for a while. But in a work situation, that can cause hardship for others and make for a tense working environment.
Some people thrive on change and don't understand why others don't feel as they do, while others dig in their heels and absolutely hate it. But honestly, there needs to be a bit of give and take on both sides; while being willing to listen and understand the other person's viewpoint. That doesn't mean you have to necessarily agree, but you do need to openly hear where the other person is coming from so you can have a clearer understanding of their viewpoint. The truth is, we can all learn something from one another.
For this particular devotional, I would like to focus on the positives of longevity and how that can have a positive affect.
I have been in church since birth. My parents took my sisters and me to church and it has always been a vital part of our lives. I loved my church and the biblical teachings that we received; and I loved the fact that I got to worship with many extended family members. Until I was in my mid-thirties, I had only regularly attended two churches.
After Jon and I got married, we tried some different churches for a while to see where we felt like we belonged and where we needed to be. But overall, I really haven't ever been a church-hopper.
Having said that, in my 53 years of life, I have had almost twenty pastors. That averages around two-and-a-half years per pastor.... more or less. That is a lot of different pastors!
The truth is, a church can't really grow and mature and thrive when they cycle through that many pastors. You may get one that is great and the church begins growing and new people start coming and everything is great. Then that pastor leaves, and the ones who came only because they liked the pastor, will leave, too. The church never really grows spiritually beyond a certain point.
It's like being stuck in a large rut. You may get to the very edge where you are almost ready to get out, then something happens and you are pushed back down to the deepest part. And you do that over and over again for years.
This past Sunday our church honored our pastor's family for their 25 years of service. My brother-in-law pastored the church until his death almost seven years ago, then my sister has been pastor since that time. There is something to be said about longevity! The church has experienced both times of difficulty and times of blessings, times of hardship and times of fruitfulness; but through it all, the body has been bound together in unity and God has been faithful.
The last few months of my brother-in-law's life, he was unable to pastor and was homebound. My sister stayed by his side the entire time. But due to their longevity and their faithful teaching and training of the congregation, they could trust the church to carry on and succeed without them being there. The people had reached a place of spiritual maturity where they could take up leadership roles and the church faithfully kept moving forward. My sister could stay with her husband and be a wife, without worrying about whether or not the church was going to fall apart without her there to lead the people and give support. My brother-in-law, although he missed ministering and being in church, was able to rest and have peace that the church was going to be okay.
Had they not had the years of knowing their congregation and teaching them and had the history together, that would not have been possible. Having that longevity as pastors and parishioners working as a body was a blessing.
Even of greater importance than longevity is how we live our life. If we experience longevity, but don't live our lives as God desires, then really it has little meaning. Do we spend our days glorifying God and walking in obedience to His plan for us; or do we gripe and complain and feel sorry for ourself and make excuses? Regardless of how long or short our life is, our one goal should be to give reverence and honor to God by walking in obedience and living the life that He created for each of us.
David was thirty years old when he became the king of Israel, and he reigned for forty years; which means he would have died around the age of seventy. During that time he walked in obedience to God and honored God with his life. When he did sin, he was quick to repent. God calls David, "A man after my own heart." David was a great warrior and spent most of his kingship fighting enemies and trying to bring peace to Israel. He was greatly honored and respected by the people whom he reigned over.
But then in 2 Kings chapter 22, we read the story of Josiah who was only eight years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem for thirty-one years; making him a young man of thirty-nine years old when he died. Scripture says that Josiah, "did what was pleasing in the Lord's sight and followed the example of his ancestor David. He did not turn away from doing what was right."
During his eighteenth year of reign, King Josiah commanded that the temple be repaired. During this time, the high priest found the Book of the Law in the Lord's Temple. He gave it to the court secretary, who took it to Josiah and read it to him. When the king heard the words, he tore his clothes in despair for he realized that they had not been doing everything that the Book of the Law had commanded.
So Josiah summoned all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem, along with the priests and the prophets -- all the people from the least to the greatest. He read to them the entire Book of the Covenant that had been found in the Lord's Temple. He pledged to obey the Lord by keeping all His commands, laws, and decrees with all his heart and soul. He then instructed that everything be removed from the Temple that were articles for idol worship, and had them burned. He did away with the idolatrous priests. He tore down the living quarters for the male and female shrine prostitutes that were inside the temple. He had all of the pagan shrines destroyed.
He issued an order to all of the people: "You must celebrate the Passover to the Lord your God, as required in this Book of the Covenant." There had not been a Passover celebration like that since the time when the judges ruled in Israel, nor throughout all the years of the kings of Israel and Judah. But in his eighteenth year as king, the Passover was celebrated to the Lord in Jerusalem.
Scripture says, "Never before had there been a king like Josiah, who turned to the Lord with all his heart and soul and strength, obeying all the laws of Moses. And never has there been a king like him since."
Two different kings, who both spent their lives honoring and obeying God. Yet David lived until he was seventy, and Josiah only until he was thirty-nine. David died a natural death, and Josiah was killed by the Pharaoh of Egypt.
At times we tend to have the mindset that if people are obedient to God, then they will live a long life and everything will be smooth and easy for them. But that's not true. We all deal with hardships and have pain and sorrow; yet in the midst of everything, God gives us His peace and fills our heart with His joy.
Only God knows the number of our days. But it's not necessarily how many of days and years we spend upon earth, it's how we honor God and use that time. It's being faithful to what God calls us to do and walking in obedience to Him each day.
It doesn't matter if someone is king, a pastor, an engineer, a babysitter, a housewife, teacher, or retired; if we are breathing, we have a purpose. Perhaps we need to stop jumping from one thing to another, trying to find something to bring contentment; but finding contentment regardless of what is going on in our life.
Philippians 4:11, Paul writes and says, "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances."
Jon and I were recently watching a video where the speaker asked, "What is God's will for my life in circumstances over which I have no control?"
We all have things happen that are unexpected and unplanned for; things which we have no control over. Perhaps it's the death of a spouse or child, a lost job and financial security, a car accident, heath issues and diagnosis, etc. When those things happen, what does God want you to do? What is His will for your life during those times? Furthermore, what does God want us to learn during those times?
Can we come to terms with those things and honestly say as Paul did, "Whatever the circumstances, I've learned to be content"? Can we trust God's plan and continue walking in obedience?
One of the greatest blessings we will ever experience is having longevity in our relationship with Jesus! When we can keep our focus on Him, love Him, obey Him, trust Him, stay firm in our faith, and mature and grow in our relationship with Him, regardless of the circumstances; that's really all that matters in life!
There are a lot of people out there who think, "Oh, I'm sure I'll live a few more years. I can wait till I'm closer before I accept Jesus and get saved." I'm thankful that actually worked for my grandfather. But it doesn't work for most.
But honestly, I hate the tactic of trying to get someone saved before they die so they can escape hell. Yes, I hope everyone gets saved before they die, but there's a lot more than that. Getting adopted into God's family is more than just a ticket into heaven. It is about knowing God is with you through anything. It is about feeling His presence with you in all circumstances. It is about bringing honor to the One who gave His Son to save us, and to the Son who died for us.
God loves each and every one of us, whether we are saved or not. But those who are open to feeling His love and His grace are able to feel that love in ways others can't imagine. So, please be eager to accept that love, and to introduce that love to others.
Crescent Sausage Bites
1 pound pork sausage, browned and drained
1 package cream cheese
1 packages crescent rolls
Brown sausage; drain. Blend in cream cheese and mix well.
Unroll one package of crescent rolls and place in a baking pan. Gently press the seams together to seal them. Spread the sausage mixture over the dough. Unroll the second package of crescent rolls and place on top of the sausage mixture. Gently press the seams together.
Bake at 375 for about 20 minutes, or until crescent roll dough is golden brown.
Cut into squares and serve. This makes a good breakfast meal, or could be used for finger food at a party.
My niece, Janee', shared some stories regarding her family moving from Washington to Tulsa twenty-five years ago. She was age ten at the time, and was so sad to be leaving her friends; but the time came when Oklahoma felt like home. Here is one of the stories that she shared:
"I remember babysitting the Deaf Church kids during prayer meetings. To all those kids, I apologize -- I'm pretty sure I was an awful babysitter. JoAnn Morton wrote out a check for me each month (for babysitting). I talked Jordan (her brother) into babysitting a few times instead of me. I charged him a 'finders fee' for 'letting' him babysit. I was so mad when my parents found out and wouldn't let me keep the fee."
Don't measure your progress using someone else's ruler. - TobyMac
We love you!
Loretta & Jon