What the Foolish Lost Lamb Didn't Know
Thinking about the Cross with Elizabeth Rice Handford
All the silly little lamb wanted was a tuft of grass across the gully. She had no intention of getting lost. But another bit of grass just beyond teased her, and then she
got tangled in thorn bushes. She was hurt and scared and began to run. But she fell into a ravine and lay helpless and vulnerable. Night fell, and she could hear the stealthy movements of wild beasts nearby.
She didn't know how much it would cost her Shepherd to scour the hills, clamber through the thorn bushes, toil through the night, fight off ravenous wolves, and at last work His way down the cliff to rescue her. All she knew, all she cared about, was that she was safe again in the Shepherd's arms. Her contented half-smile shows how very pleased she was.
But notice how the Shepherd feels as He holds so closely that sweet litle foolish thing in His arms. He'd suffered awful pain to save her, but all He could think about was how precious she was to Him, how glad He was that she was safe in His arms again.
That's how the Lord Jesus feels about you. Isaiah 40:11 tells us that Jesus, like a shepherd, will carry the lambs in His arms, holding them close to His heart. He holds you close to His heart, forgetting all the pain He suffered for you.
Since Easter is coming soon, I've been thinking about the things the Lord Jesus cried out as He hung on the cross to make it so He could bring us home. If we didn't know anything at all about God, if we had no Bible, if all we had is what Jesus cried out in His agony on the cross, we would know all we need to know about how much God loves us, how He yearns to hold us close to His heart.
Jesus was hung on a Roman cross, the most tortured way a man could die. He was hung between two thieves. And the passers-by all mocked Him and jeered at Him. "If you were really the Messiah, the Christ, you could tear yourself off the cross," they taunted. And they were right. He really could have. Jesus said, in Matthew 26:53, "Don't you realize that I could ask my Father for thousands of angels to protect us, and He would send them instantly? But if I did, how would the Scriptures be fulfilled that describe what must happen now?" If He'd called for those angels, they'd have answered immediately-but then you and I would still be lost in the wilderness. So He endured the cross, with all its pain and shame. With us on His heart, Jesus cried out,
"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do"
Imagine! Jesus, suffering for our sins, begged God to forgive us because we didn't understand how much His love for us cost Him! It's astonishing-that Jesus thought we were well worth that terrible sacrifice! We would not think a man's life worth giving for a lost lamb. But there's a greater chasm between the Almighty God and human beings than between a man and a lamb. Yet Jesus thought we were worth it, and gave His life to save us.
Jesus said, in Luke 12:32, "So don't be afraid, little flock, for it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom."
So, dear sweet foolish lamb, rest in the safety and joy of your Father's loving, protecting arms.
Pushing the Envelope
A Wry Reminder from Elizabeth Rice Handford
My son's tee shirt read, "Deal's Gap; seven miles; 318 curves." "Wow, John," I said, "tell me more."
"Bikers like the challenge of curves, " he answered, "and at Deal's Gap you get 318 of them in a seven-mile stretch. The trouble is, riding
with other bikers, you tend to ‘push the envelope,' to see if you can't do it faster than everybody else."
I learned all about "pushing the envelope" when I was learning to fly. My instructor often said solemnly, as if my life depended on it (because it did), "Libby, fly within the envelope. Know and respect the numbers, runway length, weights and balance, miles per gallon of fuel-it's all in the book. Know them. If you push against the envelope, if you try to make the plane do something it wasn't designed to do, you'll crash and burn, and that could ruin your whole day!"
Navigating a sharp curve on a motorcycle is difficult, John told me, because centrifugal force throws the weight of the bike to the outside of the curve. You counteract it by leaning in the opposite direction. But if you're too fast, and if the curve is too sharp, your knee slider will scrape the road surface. That's pushing the envelope. The foot peg is another protection. When it scrapes the road, you're outside the envelope.
This happens in human relationships.
Isaiah 28:13 describes the process of yielding to the temptation, to "push the envelope," in moral matters. It happens with such small increments, you're scarcely aware of it. "Precept upon precept, line upon line, here a little, there a little, that they might go and fall backward, and be broken And snared and caught."
A woman stole money from her employer, and didn't get caught, so she stole a little more, each time promising herself she would pay it back. When she was caught, she told me, "I'm not a thief; I was going to pay it back." But she didn't even know how much money she'd stolen. She had pushed the envelope and it destroyed her and her family.
A man's wife caught him with anothr woman. He said to me, "I don't understand it. I'm not that kind of man." But he had become "that kind of man" because he pushed the envelope.
A teenager slipped from out under his parents' rules, tried the drugs his friends were using, but just a little. He didn't intend to get addicted. But Proverbs 5:11-14 proved true for him: "Afterward you will groan in anguish when disease consumes your body, and you will say, ‘How I hated discipline! If only I had not demanded my own way! Oh, why didn't I listen to my teachers? Why didn't I pay attention to those who gave me instruction? I have come to the brink of utter ruin.'"
So how can you build good habits that will protect you from testing the limits? The same way as bad habits are formed. Isaiah 28:9,10 says, "For precept must be upon precept, line upon line, here a little, there a little. This is the rest with which You may cause the weary to rest, amd this is the refreshing."
The prophet Isaiah ends his warning with this wonderful promise of God's help:
Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying,
"This is the way, walk in it,"
Whenever you turn to the right hand
Or whenever you turn to the left. Isaiah 30:21
Ride safely on Deal's Gap, dear John.
Walk safely, dear friend, as you hear, and heed, the voice of God showing you the right way.
"Don't Count Your Hens Before They Hitch!"
A Gentle Reminder from Elizabeth Rice Handford
Five-year-old son John came home from kindergarten one day, excited as usual about all the new things he was learning. "You know what I learned today, Mother?
You're not supposed to count your hens before they hitch!"
I thought, That's a new slant on Aesop's not counting your chickens before they hatch. I asked, "So why shouldn't I count my hens before they hitch?"
"Some girl with a can of milk on her head-why, I don't know-but she was thinking how she could sell the milk and buy some chickens and she'd sell them and buy a new dress and toss her head at the boys, but thinking about it she forgot about the milk pail on her head, and she tossed her head and spilled the milk and her mother said, ‘Don't count your hens before they hitch.'"
That's the essence of Aesop's fable, and it's good biblical advice, it seems to me.
We Americans certainly experienced this truth in 2020. Last spring, at the end of a session with my ladies' Bible class, I casually said, "See you next week." But I didn't see them "next week," nor the next, nor the next. Covid insideously sneaked in amongst us and changed all our reckoning. I may never again see in this life some of those dear women I said goodbye to so casually last spring.
James 5:13-16 says,
Look here, you people who say,
"Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town
and will stay there a year.
We will do business there and make a profit."
How do you know what will happen tomorrow?
For your life is like the morning fog-
it's here a little while, then it's gone.
What you ought to say is,
"If the Lord wants us to,
we will live and do this or that."
Otherwise you will be boasting about your own plans,
and all such boasting is evil.
Is it right to make thoughtful plans? Of course! Isaiah 17:8 says that "The noble man makes noble plans, and by noble deeds he stands." But making a noble plan requires listening to God's voice, seeking His will, and committing our will to His.
Proverbs 16:9 says, "We can make our plans, but God determines our steps." How very glad I am that is true! Some of the schemes I planned when I was young would have been disastrous if they'd materialized. But God took a hand, and chose a different path for me. My Heavenly Father can be trusted to give us His very loving best when we put our lives in His hands.
So listen up, everybody! Don't count your hens before they hitch!
If Your Boss Is Angry
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford
"I think my boss is going to fire me," my visitor said. "Why?"
"Maybe because I can't do the job."
"But they hired you because they thought you could do the job."
"Well, I can do it, but not in the time they want it done."
"Maybe because I sometimes talk to the people I work with about their relationship with God."
"Do you do that on company time?"
"Well, yes, but you know how important it is for people to know about Jesus."
"Yes. I do. It's more important than anything else in the world. But you also made a contract with your company that you would give them forty honest hours a week. If you don't do that, you're breaking your contract with them. You are actually stealing money from them if you don't give them a full day's work."
"That sounds harsh."
"Maybe so, but it's true."
"But when can I talk to people about Jesus? Lots of times, they're the ones who bring up their problems."
"Great! When it comes up, why not suggest you meet for lunch, or maybe on your coffee break? You can be an encouragement to people and still keep your promise to your employer. God cares about people knowing Him even more than you, so He'll help you. He promised that in Romans 14:4: ‘To his own master a servant stands or falls, and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.' So yes, talk to people about Jesus, but be an honest employee, too."
Her eyes filled with tears. "So I deserve to be fired?"
"There's another possibility," I said, reaching for my Bible. I turned to Ecclesiastes 10:4:
If your boss is angry with you, don't quit!
A quiet spirit can overcome even great mistakes.
"So maybe you should have a quiet talk with your boss and apologize. Then set out to keep your contract. Give a full day's work every day. And when the opportunity arises to talk about Jesus, be purposeful about it, but on your own time."
"I see what you mean. I can do it," she said, with hope.
And she did it, with joy!