The Lost One

“If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it?  And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders.”

Luke 15:4-5, NLT

These things will happen from time-to-time.  Good shepherds keep a mental tally of every sheep in the flock.  The absence of just one is a matter of intense concern.  The parable rolls out and the shepherd takes off, leaving 99% of the sheep. Now, over the years I always thought that was very foolish.  You just can’t leave your flock “in the wilderness” (the NIV says, “open country.”)

If it was me, I wouldn’t play blackjack with my flock like this.  I would of just cut my losses, and move on.  It’s bad luck for sure, but why risk more? Could it be that this shepherd is a lousy one, and unable to handle his responsibilities?  Leaving behind 99% to rescue a single sheep doesn’t seem wise.

But yet it is a core thought of Jesus’: losing–searching–finding–rejoicing.  Finding this sheep is imperative. When he does find it, the text tells us that the shepherd lifted it up, and carried on his shoulders. He does not drive the poor, weary sheep home. This is not the way the Eastern shepherd does it.

He stoops down and lifts it up, and lays it on his own shoulder and carries it back.  Some others  will often use their staff, and beat the sheep out frustration. Perhaps that want to teach the wandering one a lesson.  But that didn’t happen.

 “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep.”

John 10:14-15, NLT

There is a desperate need today for insightful shepherds to work in God’s flock.  People who watch and feed and protect.  We must advance to this point–Jesus carried us, our burdens, illnesses, sins and perversity.  He picked me up, and lifted me back into the flock.  The heart of a shepherd cares for every single sheep, even one lost sheep…and maybe even especially the one lost sheep. Does the Church today reflect this parable? What do you think?

Your brother in Christ,

Bryan

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Wolves at the Door

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Be very careful!

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” 

 Matthew  7:15, NIV

I use my channel changer and I flip through the enormous darkness that exists in the world.  Jesus clearly warns His flock of the cold, hard realities of deception and deceitfulness they face.  Trickery abounds and things simply are not what they seem to be.

Darkness has an dark grasp on so many. The devil’s cunning is his ability to adapt to each person’s weakness. Deception has worked well for him for thousands of years. But understand: Lucifer is alive and well and he is prowling planet Earth.

There should be an alertness for the reality of deception. Sometimes, some sheep will not really be sheep. Our senses are not always trained to look for counterfeit Christians.  We get confused by the outside (it looks like wool to me).  But it’s a lie.  The wolf has deliberately taken on the attire of a believer.

What better place for him to ‘minister’ his evil than through a cold and lazy institutional church?

Jesus alerts us to what is really taking place. (Oh, how He wants us to discern!)  I think every believer should have a holy skepticism of outward displays of faith.  This is not cynicism or negativity; but rather it is a cautious faith– one in which we can discern the realities of a world that routinely destroys people. The first generation Church understood the reality of evil and what it would do when it’s unleashed.

“The first step on the way to victory is to recognize the enemy.” 

Corrie Ten Boom

“…they are ferocious wolves,” (v. 15). 

Ferocious” in verse 15 is a sobering word.  When I read it, I think of my home in Alaska with its wilderness and its wolves and brown bears; or maybe the grasslands of the ‘Serengeti’ with its lions or leopards.   A dangerous carnivore is often hidden by its camouflage.  Ferocity is a ‘predator’ word, a word that intensifies the danger. Satan can patiently stalk for days, and maybe months, and then he springs his trap and ambushes its victims.

wolf-sheeps-clothingWe can become accustomed to an ideal of love and peace in our walks, we are often disturbed and perhaps pulled off-balance by this disturbing revelation of evil.  Jesus tells us that we must possess an understanding of two things: 1) Deception is quite possible for the real believer, that in 2000 years the darkness is still potent. 2) The world is still contested but Jesus is Victor! Living in close proximity to Jesus will protect us in the dark.

We shouldn’t be anxious but trust Him in the matter of the safety of our very souls.

“Now go, and remember that I am sending you out as lambs among wolves.”

Luke 10:3, NLT

Do you know what wolves do to lambs? But yet Jesus still sends them. They might surround us, but we are His own.

“How comfortable it is to have One, day and night, before the throne to control the charge of our enemy, and the despondencies of our souls”

–Samuel Charnock

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Praying for ‘Sophisticated’ Sheep

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 “When he saw the vast crowds of people, Jesus’ heart was deeply moved with compassion, because they seemed weary and helpless, like wandering sheep without a shepherd. He turned to his disciples and said, “The harvest is huge and ripe! But there are not enough harvesters to bring it all in. As you go, plead with the Owner of the Harvest to thrust out many more reapers to harvest his grain!

Matthew 9:36-38, TPT 

Jesus, as Lord and Savior obviously has a perspective that we don’t have.  He perceives to the very heart of people, drills right through and into the confusion and helplessness.  He is disturbed by what he sees, and is emotionally touched by the people who pass by him.  (We don’t have this perceptive, unfortunately. But hopefully we’re now learning its power.) Love sees no cost.

 Jesus responds by commanding his disciples.  “Look at them!  Pray for them!” We live in a world that is plumb full of brokenness.  No one goes unscathed.  We all have scars, everyone of us, and prayer is how we are healed.  This dynamic needs to work in us and through us.

sheep (1)But the verdict is in, we have a great soul Shepherd! There is such a great harvest, that prayer is our only hope of reaching these.  Now, there is a lot of things we rather do then pray.  We can have conferences and special meetings.  We can make videos and create TV shows on the harvest.  Most of these things are good,  they’re purposeful and probably God directed. But if we choose not to pray, then we completely ‘miss the mark.’

But the real, deep-down core is the need people have is to be shepherded by their Creator and Savior.  That is the most profound need we have.  It is the basic requirement of this moment. It can not be minimized.

Love sees no cost.

Like a shepherd, he will care for his flock,
gathering the lambs in his arms,
Hugging them as he carries them,
leading the nursing ewes to good pasture.

Isa. 40:11

This is a messianic prophecy that describes the Messiah’s work.  We believe that it continues to tell of his work among those who are disoriented and who need to escape distorted views.  Only a Shepherd could fully understand the needs of his flock.  We must share in this vision, and carry this burden.

“And Satan trembles when he sees The weakest saint upon his knees.”

– William Cowper

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Sheepy Wolves

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“Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves.”

Matthew 7:15, NLT

The old King James Version says, “which come to you in sheep’s clothing.”  There is something to be said about both translations.

Being aware.  Jesus commands this awareness, this discernment that our world is a dangerous place and dark things come out of it.  Deception is always working, the true believer must keep learning.  We must identify sheep, who are not really sheep after all.  They look like sheep, unless you get close.  They smell like sheep.  They appear gentle and kind.

But inside they are malignant and treacherous.  Jesus chose the word, “dangerous.”  We pretty much avoid anything dangerous. If there is a sign on the beach, and if it says “Dangerous Undertow,”  most of us will comply and our time in the water is alert and quite aware.

There are people in the world who should have that sign, as they are treacherous and deceitful.  They say many things, and there is enough there to seem authentic.  As simple believers, we feel we should trust without questions. We avert our eyes to anything unseemly or aberrant.  Isn’t this what a loving Christian is supposed to do?

Jesus never told us to be tolerant, at least not like this.  He understands that wolves will tear apart sheep, ripping them into ribbons, if given half the chance.  He commands us to exercise caution.  But already there has been way too much “sheep dismemberment” in our generation.  The flock has been chased and separated, many have already been devoured.

Jesus is encouraging us to become discerning  and aware,  and teach it to our children and friends.  We shouldn’t be paranoid, or frightened by the world that swirls around us.  And there will always be people with mixed motives and confusing thoughts.  If we are honest, we ourselves have these same things, as we are His work in process.

Exteriors are always a big question mark.  The main issue is the delicate art of observation.  The more we get to know Jesus, the more we will identify what is a lie, a trick or a deception.  The Secret Service of our country, in learning to understand counterfeiters will study at length the real currency.  It’s interesting, they don’t study the false bills, but the real ones.

Be encouraged.  He is standing right in front, making intercession for you before the Father.  The Word is ours also, and there are pastors and teachers, who are shepherding the flock.  You are targeted, but never forsaken.  Our enemy is defeated.  Do not fear, never ever fear.  We have angels in high places who are our friends.

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