Scripture: John 10:11-18
What is the real work of a pastor? Some would call them the shepherd of the church, but I do not fully agree. As a pastor I do not really want to be the shepherd. I do have a role to play as does everyone else in the church. But to be honest all of us are just the help. I cannot save anyone, I cannot forgive anyone, to be honest I can only pray for other and direct them to deepen their own relationship with Christ.
Some may say that I am wrong and that’s ok. Just think it through for a moment. Who is the one we follow? If we are followers of Christ we cannot follow anyone else but Christ. If a pastor takes the role of Christ then we do not follow Christ but that person. The pastor may be a really go person, but Christ is greater.
I love being a pastor. I love to encourage people, I love to teach about Christ, I love to assist people in their times of need. I love to tend the “sheep” but I as a pastor must remember that they are not my sheep, I am the help. If trouble comes to the Meeting that I am a pastor of, I can leave, and where would all the people be? I could go across the country enter into ministry in another Meeting but the people of the current Meeting I am at will remain where they are. I am the help, I can only encourage people to listen to the Shepherd.
I need to remember this as a pastor and a follower of Christ because it is important to be honest. Honesty is important to the Christian faith. It is important to realize that we are sheep in need of help. Wolves will come into our lives and we will be left vulnerable, unless we trust the shepherd.
As we pray today interact with Jesus. Imagine the scene that He is setting up. Imagine yourself as a sheep wondering around the wide medow. Who are you hearing? Is He calling to you to follow? As you wonder farther away in the medow you hear a noise and smell something different something sinister. What will you do, where do you turn? Who is there to help you?
The people around us can help to a point, but only to a point. Even the best pastor in the world can only do so much, because they too are sheep needing help. Prayer is where we interact with Christ, hear his voice, and can respond.
Scripture: Psalm 23
The Lord is my shepherd…this passage brings comfort to many including myself. It has been quoted at countless funerals, and a paraphrase of it is on my little sister’s memoral maker. It is a passage that I have often read when I am feeling depressed. Even though I have rarey thought about it deeply.
When one considers what it means to be under the care of a shepherd it means that there is a limit to our freedom. I have watched herd animals I know that they go where their mouth takes them. They gather in a group and wonder around, they end up slowly spreading out from the center. If not watched or controled in some way they will get lost and continue to wander away from the center wherever their mouth may lead, as they look for the tastey green grass.
Spiritually we wander away from center, we see something that looks a bit tastey just over there so we move. Then we get a glimps of something else and continue to move away from the center. Eventually we look up from our wandering and find we are do not even know where we are anymore so we put our heads down and continue to wander. We wander looking to fill our stomaches but we do not have a clue as to where we need to be.
The shepherd leads the sheep. This person watches where the are wandering and if they are moving too far away they will encourage the sheep to change directions. This encouragement comes in many forms: a vocal word keeping them near the one who leads, physical force, or today the use of service animals. God is calling us to the good feeding grounds, the pure water to refesh us, and he will also be there to protect us.
The rod and staff are used for both disipline as well as comfort. The rod can brush away the wool so the keeper can look for signs of injury. And the staff can be used to ward off a preditor. The Spirit of God is the rod and staff exaining our lives and warding off the dangers that we face.
Animals are intresting they can be complient or rebelious. They do not want to mind the boundries set up for them and yet they want to know that there is a limit. Spiritual growth is pushing the boundries and falling back into the herd. It is a flowing cyclical motion. As we get close to the boundries of our spiritual lives we can become fearful, in these times it is good to remember our shepherd and return to the things we know. Remind ourselves that yes we are in the right place. If we are not then we should move back into the area we know God has lead us.
Take some time to just slowly read this passage as you pray. I actually read it several times throughout my day and slept with it on my mind. Reflect on where Christ your shepherd has lead you, the times He showed you where you were wrong, and where He actually swung the staff to protect you. Also remember that a sheep can get tangled in many things when they wander, and can cause themselves harm be mindful of the voice of God and listen for His calls.
May the goodness and mercy of God follow you all the days of your life.
Scripture: 1 John 3:1-7
There is something mystically inspireing about the church. For those that have been injured by it, they are wounded because their peseption of what it should be and what it is is skewed. There is a great ideal as to what the church, the assembly of the one true God, should be. Many hear about the ideal, but often the practice leaves much to be desired.
There is still something about it. People around the world read the scriptures devoted to this, some under great threat to their very life and family. Still the idea, the hope found in this assembly is too much to disreguard. Young adult across our nation sit at coffee shops sipping their capichinos, reading about the ideals and hope of the church. Yet many of these people will never enter into a meeting house devoted to the practice of the faith they read about on their ipads and kindles.
Does this bother you? Does it worry you that so many wander around the perimeter of the gathering, yet will not make the effort to cross that imaginary line into a life of faith in God through Jesus? Is there a reason this happens, and is there a way to bridge the divide?
The greatest thing about the writtings of John is that his message is filled with hope. The gospel attributed to John speaks of a God that loves mankind so much that he came to live among them and to redeem them out of a life of bondage through his own death. The Revelation of Jesus, commonly known as Revelations, is a cryptic message of hope and glory through the darkest of situations. The letters are like letters of love written by a parent to a child as they traverse the journey of life.
Today we meet here in this place and we read this letter, penned by the last apostle of Christ, penned to the assembly of believers he watched grow from infanthood to adulthood. He is no longer the son of thunder, but known as the elder. John the Elder, a title that should not be taken lightly. In many cultures age is respected and with age comes wisdom. These are the ones that faught the battles and lived, but are no longer able to continue in an active role. The battles are different but the elder can usually encourage the younger generation in their own quests.
John says you are children of God. This is the greatest status of all humanity. Even in Greek culture the claim of being a child of a god came with great status as well as great responsibility. These people were to be the leaders, the ones to inspire the masses. The same is true in the Christian tradition. We as God’s children are to lead and inspire those around us. The church is the signal, the beacon that brings hope and a haven of saftey to restore the strength of those out in the turmoils of the world.
John goes on to say we are this great group, the children of God but they don’t know who we are. Every generation has to have God revealed to them. Every generation must experience God for themselves. At times the generation gap is not that large because the conditions are similar. Other times the gap has grown so large that it as if the entire church has a total reset.
The world has to see God at work for them to believe. For the apostolic generation they spoke to the people that walked with Jesus. It was eyewitness testimony that revealed God to them. As the apostles began to die for their faith they began to see a need to reveal the gosple in a different way. They wrote letters and sent trusted people to read and carry these letters to the dispersed church acroos the empire. After a while the church was reguarded the official religion. Yet still God had to be revealed. Everyone was technically Christian but the faith was dry. men and women began to go out into the desert to seek God in a new way. These monastic groups served the communities in a different way and allowed God to be revealed as they sought to do His work. And copied the letters written by the apostles to share with the next generation.
As technology increased the letters written by the first generation merged with it and the Bible was then mass produced in so that anyone could then read the scripture for themselves. From this God was revealed to another generation in a different way. The church grew in many ways and God was experienced.
Cultures progress along with this brings many new opportunities and challenges. There are new vices that bleed the life out of the church. The desert monks saw the vice of comfort. There was no longer persicution and people were no longer challenged to live out their faith in daily life all that was required was to attend the services. So the monks sold everything and went out to the most uncomfortable place they could find to experience life with God. They purged out the sin in the assembly raising a new awareness of what is keeping them from a relationship with God.
We have new challenges and new opportunities in our current era. We have a generation of people around us that has not experienced the relationship with God that we find so iimportant. This is exciting because God will reveal Himself to them if his children are willing to be obedient to his will.
What is the sin of our day that needs purged so that our culture can see. Our own nation has been shaken by a scandel in probably the most vital law enforcement agency. England is going into the fourth generation of people who have never held a job. Lust and sloth threaten the future of two great nations. But these are not the only sins. Greed and selfishness have entered the assembly, every sin we see in the world is right in the church. We ask why don’t people come, the answer is why should they? We need to take an honest look at ourselves. The world does not need another group of people that can quote chapter and verse into every situation of life. They do not need to be entertained by the greatest bands. They do not need a golden lipped preacher speaking to itching ears. What the world needs is God to be revealed to them. They need to see Him at work in the world around them.
We as God’s children need to see what is keeping people from God and invest our lives in it. If we see greed as an issue then we become the opposite of greed to provide a platform to speak. If lust or sloth bothers us we should actively pursue a life where we can purify our culture of that sin. I know that sounds idealistic but throughout history it has worked. This is how revivals happen. When the children of God look at how they can actively live out their faith it causes people to ask questions.
When I went to Ukraine I was asked one question all the time. Why did you come? Why did I go? Why would an American care to go teach in the land of a former enemy? I opposed the Soviet ideas of God and man I went to befriend them and to reveal the truth.
Sin, lawlessness, and enemies will always pursist unless someone takes a different route. Jesus did this. God and mankind were at odds. Man could not know God let alone have a relationship with him. To them God was this angry being that caused drought, famine, and excile if you did not submit. That is not the full truth, they did not know because they could not see. But Jesus came to reveal God. He taught, forgave, and healed to show the world the true charactor of God. But they did not know. Those that did see believed. those that beleived then lived as he lived revealing God to other. Some could not see but others did and they too joined in the life with God through Jesus.
The cylce continues. Each generation and each person must choose for themselves the life to lead. What do we choose a radicle life devoted to reveal God’s love or would we rather not to cause a stir. I want to live a life that makes people ask question what about you?