This is the gist of my talk which I gave as part of the 9.30 am service last Sunday at Kirkcudbright Parish Church
A number of years ago I and a couple of friends ran a hiking club. Lynn did the tea shop walks as we called them, I did the mid range walks and Bill the more extreme up to around 28 miles. Depending on the walk we used to get anything up to 30 people. It was November and Bill had organised a walk which he had called the Cheviot horse shoe. These are a range of hills in North Northumberland. It took around 8 hours and due to the lack of daylight at that time of year we had to walk it in reverse order. A really steep gruelling couple of hours climbing to start with to get to the first peak, then a few miles going up and down going round the horseshoe and ending up at the Cheviot summit and a relative 3 mile gentle descent back to the car. Well maybe because it was a 6.30am departure from Newcastle or it was a howling gale with sleet but there was only two of us doing the walk. We got to the base of the steep section around 8.30am nominally as it was just getting light but with the horizontal rain come sleet it was hard to tell. It was the toughest climb I think I have ever done. 50 steps up rest and count 25 then 50 steps up and so on for nearly 2 hours. I did eventually get to the top and we did do the round, and got to the summit of the Cheviot just as it was getting dark. Sometimes we have to do hard things to achieve our goals and we do ask why are we doing this. Well I am sure Paul and Barnabas wondered why things were happening to them, as we learnt about in our reading this morning. So lets try and unpack this a bit.
I have divided this into four points and the first I have called.
How do we respond if we are sitting watching TV and someone says it is your turn to go and make the hot drink. Probably not that favourably. In one office where I worked we installed a small program that kept a record of whose is turn it was to go and make the drink. A little reminder came up on the screen which I seem to remember was a hot cup of drink icon.
In Matthew 28 Jesus gives his great Commission V19-20 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” NLT
This message cannot be hidden in Matthew 5 v14 it says about Jesus You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden
And we learnt in Act 13 last week, that Paul & Barnabas were in the church at Antioch when The Holy Spirit told the church that they should go out on a missionary journey to full fill this commission. Having had a mixed reception in Antioch they have to finally flee the city as the mob ran them out of town. They are now in the town of Iconium, which is in modern day Turkey. I don't know if you can make out the map on the screen but Cyprus is the Island on the bottom and Iconium is in the middle
Now what amazes me here is what does not happen:-
A response leads to an action -
When going round a zoo I find it fascinating if they have chameleons – For those of you who don't know them they are lizard-like creature that has a skin capable of changing colour to blend in with its surroundings. If it’s on the ground or rocks it turns a brownish colour, but when it moves over leaves or plants its skins takes a yellow tint. It is possible to take on several different colours at the same time. It has really good camouflage.
As Christians, we shouldn’t follow the chameleons example. We should know what we believe and have standards that we keep whatever other people around us do or think. We mustn’t be different on Monday to what we are on Sunday. When a challenge comes to speak the truth or resist a temptation, it’s so easy to fade into the scenery and be like the crowd - to do what the chameleon does and change the colour of our opinion
In Joshua 24 v15 we read of Moses’ successor, Joshua, telling the Israelites, "Choose you this day whom you will serve" What he was saying is this, "Don’t go with the flow. Be prepared by God’s strength to stand out for the right, even if everyone else goes along with what you know is not God’s standard."
In one of Paul’s letters to the Corinthians, which was written after the events we are looking at this morning. Paul talks about being an Ambassador for Christ in 2 Corinthians 5 (v20). With modern communications the role of an Ambassador has been largely diminished, but they represent their own country in a foreign land by what they do and say.
In Iconium Paul and Barnabas immediately get into action by preaching at the synagogue. v1 tells us that they preached with such power that a great number of both Jews and Greeks became believers.
And amazingly God works wonders and we learn v3 the apostles stayed there a long time, preaching boldly about the grace of the Lord. And the Lord proved their message was true by giving them power to do miraculous signs and wonders . But again the opposition stirs up the mob, so much so that they have to leave town before they are attacked.
The next town they came to on their journey was Lystra about 25 miles south west of Iconium. Again Paul and Barnabas get into action immediately. It seems as if Lystra did not have a Jewish Synagogue so they could not preach in its vicinity but they were preaching somewhere in the open. Crowds begun to form listening to what they were saying. In v8 we learn
8-10 There was a man in Lystra who couldn’t walk. He sat there, crippled since the day of his birth. He heard Paul talking, and Paul, looking him in the eye, saw that he was ripe for God’s work, ready to believe. So he said, loud enough for everyone to hear, “Up on your feet!” The man was up in a flash—jumped up and walked around as if he’d been walking all his life. (The message)
Paul prompted by the Holy Spirit acted on the inspiration and healed the man. - How do we act when prompted to do His work?
Actions tend to have consequences -
Lystra was famous for it's temple to Zeus, and Zeus was the patron god of the town. This worship of Zeus provided money for the town, so as soon as the crowd saw the miraculous healing they associated Paul and Barnabas with Zeus. The native people of the city thought that they were being treated to a divine visitation.
We read from v11-13 When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they went wild, calling out in their Lyconian dialect, “The gods have come down! These men are gods!” They called Barnabas “Zeus” and Paul “Hermes” (since Paul did most of the speaking). The priest of the local Zeus shrine got up a parade—bulls and banners and people lined right up to the gates, ready for the ritual of sacrifice.
Evidently there was some form of communication problem here with the locals speaking in their own dialect. Finally it dawns upon Paul and Barnabas what is happening
v14-15 Waving their arms, they interrupted the parade, calling out, “What do you think you’re doing! We’re not gods! We are men just like you, and we’re here to bring you the Message, to persuade you to abandon these silly god-superstitions and embrace God himself, the living God. We don’t make God; he makes us, and all of this—sky, earth, sea, and everything in them.
Paul and Barnabus continue to try and explain who God is and manage on to halt the parade and sacrifice. The crowd now get angry spurred on by the Jews who have come from Antioch and Iconium. They seem to have completely forgotten about the healed man v19 tells us that The crowd stoned Paul and dragged him out of town, thinking he was dead.
Are we more concerned about what the neighbours/ work colleagues/ family think? Rather than thinking about what God will think. How does worrying about the consequences stop us from doing Gods work?
This leads us to the End Game
The final section of this chapter is in my view the most remarkable. Firstly in v20 we read But as the believers gathered around Paul, he got up and went back into the town. (NLT) Paul is left for dead by the crowd and is then miraculously healed by God so he can get up and go back into town..
Then even more amazingly they go off to the town of Derbe a further 30 miles away, and start preaching there. I know I would probably say If that’s how we are going to be treated I Can't be bothered to carry on - Oh just let them get on with it. But we learn in v21 that Paul & Barbabus have a really positive experience there making many disciples.
Then Paul and Barnabas do an incredible thing. Instead of catching the boat home and avoiding all the trouble spots they have come through, they go back over the journey they have come from. Going back to the towns that they have had to leave due to opposition.
It says in V22 they strengthened the believers. They encouraged them to continue in the faith, reminding them that we must suffer many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.
In a later letter to Timothy Paul goes on to mention what happened during these events he says in 2 Timothy3 v11-12 You know how much persecution and suffering I have endured. You know all about how I was persecuted in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra—but the Lord rescued me from all of it. Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil people and impostors will flourish. They will deceive others and will themselves be deceived.
But then perhaps the most important words in the whole chapter in v27 Paul reported everything God had done through them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles, too. If that had not been the case then ultimately we would not be here this morning.
So what is this passage saying to us today
Some of you are probably ahead of me and have worked out where I am going, but firstly we need to ask a few simple questions –
Yes there will be consequences – and these can be from inaction as much as action. But God does give us adequate support in providing the Armour of God Ephesians 6 10-13 Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armour so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armour so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil.
According to the old adage, one should not lose sight of the forest for the trees or a modern version from Ken Dickson on Twitter We often miss the big picture because we are too busy looking through a microscope.
Are we too busy worrying about the inconsequential day to day life and miss the important message God has for us.
As the writer of Hebrews put it so well - we need to keep on going to the end of the Race in Hebrews 12 1-2 we read - Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.
Ask anyone who does any form of distance sport, running, cycling or swimming there are times when they want to give up but if you do that you will never get to the end. Even though things sometimes seem really difficult, if we persevere we can overcome these difficulties and achieve seemingly impossible goals, with God's help.
If God has been speaking to you through what I have said can I encourage you to share it with someone, if you want to pray with anyone then I am sure any one who is helping with the service would be happy to pray with you.
I will end with Paul's words in Ephesians 3 v16-19
I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
This is a sneak preview of the draft of my talk for the 9.30am service tomorrow morning on 1 Samuel 24.
Over the past few weeks I have been helping with the Alpha meetings and during the discussions as part of one of these, we were talking about the nature of church. We then got talking about sermons. It is interesting that in the New Testament, teaching as a sermon is very rare. The teaching given, is normally in response to a situation, event or a question. We might think of the Sermon on the Mount but that probably took place over the course of several hours. The one place where a sermon type talk is mentioned is in Acts 20 v8-9 Here Paul is doing the teaching and the passage says - there were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered together. And there was a young man named Eutychus sitting on the window sill, sinking into a deep sleep; and as Paul kept on talking, he was overcome by sleep and fell down from the third floor and was picked up dead.
Fortunately in v10 it says that Paul goes on to heal him .. Now I hope I am not too boring and don't send you into a deep sleep. In reality it is not what I say but how you react to what I say, that is important.
James 1 v22 says “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like”
Poor David – He is still on the run from Saul. He has gone from being the peoples favourite, Saul’s musician, anointed as the next king by Samuel, to now being chased by Saul and 3000 troops. They have ended up in the area called En Gedi by the Dead Sea. This is where there were plenty of hiding places and food and water. V3 mentions sheep. It is suggested that the shepherds used the cave complex in the area to house their sheep when needed – when the weather was bad or overnight. So the floor of the caves were probably pretty mucky.
We can now join the dots. Saul wanted a bit of privacy whilst he went to the loo. He was wearing the royal robe that marked him out as king. Though we do not actually know what the robe was like it was probably pretty smart. He would not have wanted to get it dirty so he could well have taken it off and laid it on a dry bit of stone before getting down to the business of relieving himself.
David and his fellow men were hiding at the back of the cave. They had probably gone further and further into the cave complex as Saul got closer and it became obvious as to what Saul was going to do. Saul has been chasing them around for a long time. Could this be the opportunity that they have been waiting for. A chance to remove Saul once and for all. Certainly some of David’s men seem to think so as it says in v4 The men said, “This is the day the Lord spoke of when he said to you, ‘I will give your enemy into your hands for you to deal with as you wish.’
David then has to make a split second choice as to what he is going to do. Does he kill Saul or not.
Ok lets leave the story here and spend a little time thinking how it might apply to us. In all probability we are not about to make the choice of whether or not we are going to kill someone but we do have to make quick decisions in our everyday lives. They may be about money, relationships, affairs of the heart or perhaps more mundanely how we react to things happening to us or what we say and do. As we don't have too much time we will only consider the last couple that I have listed.
Imagine you are hammering in a nail and bang your thumb with the hammer. Or as I did the other day trying to walking through a door and don't see the glass and crash into it. Besides the cry of pain what else comes out your mouth..
Luke 6:v45 says A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. NIV
Ok maybe that is not really fair... What about what we say and do we do it. Are we truthful and honest. If needing to say something in a hurry does a little white lie just pop out. I have a Christian friend who has been in sales and marketing for long time and he is very good at it. Sadly he says he assumes that people are lying to him until they prove otherwise then he is not hurt..
Leviticus 19 v11 "'Do not steal. "'Do not lie. "'Do not deceive one another.
Proverbs 19 v9 A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will perish.
The Open bible info website provided me with 100 verses from the bible about lying. http://www.openbible.info/topics/liar I will not list any more but it evidently an important subject.
Yes but a lie or a falsehood can be both carried out by omission just as much by commission. So if you say you are going to do something and don't make any effort to do it then surely that is also a lie. For example you say you are going to tidy the house, it takes roughly 3 -4 hours to do it but only give yourself 15 minutes to do the task just before it needs to be completed, it won't get done however quick you try. Or you are going to meet someone at say 10am in the morning. It takes 15 minutes to get there and 5 mins to get ready. So if you are not ready to leave by 9.40 then you are going to be late. If it is an unavoidable delay say you have a flat tyre on the car then that is ok, but if it is because you were chatting till 10am to someone else then you probably had no real intention of getting there for 10am. So why say you are going to be there for 10am.
Ahh but does it really matter you may be thinking. When I left one of my past jobs, the people I worked with said a few words about me at a fair-well get together, you may have had something similar yourself. I thought they would say a few things about some of the things I had done as part of the job, but no part of what was said was that they had never heard me swear and I was a person of my word both of which were rare qualities in that organisation. People do notice the little things. I am not saying this to boast but to say that something which was my normal day to day behaviour all be it a little OCD, was more memorable to others than the bigger projects that I had done.
If we go back to the Luke 6 passage the Message translation gives us this You don’t get wormy apples off a healthy tree, nor good apples off a diseased tree. The health of the apple tells the health of the tree. It goes on to say. Your true being brims over into true words and deeds.
And Matthew 15 v8 says But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart
So our split second decisions reflect on our true being. There is not time to cover them up. We are fortunate as we have the bible as our handbook to life. If we now go back to David. He did not have the Bible, but he did have the some of the books of the Old Testament as his guide.
If we briefly look at a couple of these that he probably knew.
Deuteronomy 6 v1 These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing. This section goes on and if we jump to v5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.
So David would have been brought up knowing Gods laws. In Exodus 20 we have the Ten Commandments. One of these listed in v13 states that one should not kill
David also knows that Saul was anointed King by Samuel on God's instructions We read this in 1 Samuel chapter 10 where Samuel anoints Saul and proclaims him as the Lords Chosen King. So when David is given advice by his followers 1 Samuel 24 v4 The men said, “This is the day the Lord spoke of when he said to you, ‘I will give your enemy into your hands for you to deal with as you wish.’”
David now has a dilemma - Does he follow the advice that he has just been given or does he do what he has been told all through his life.
You may have noticed that I have been helping with doing the overheads for the songs recently. Some of the songs have the words in a different order to how we sing them here in Kirkcudbright. In these cases I have to make a decision as to what comes next. Is it as the song says on the computer or something different. In each case I have to make a split decision as to what words come next. Do I rely on my past memories or do I use what someone else is telling me via the computer screen?
We read in 1 Samuel 13:v14 that David was “a man after God’s own heart”
David has to make a split second decision Does he kill Saul or not? This would stop all the chasing and hiding, and surely he could justify it by saying that it is really self defence as Saul is trying to kill him.
But no David's love for the God and his respect for God commands win. He does not kill Saul. We then get a lovely human touch, which is one of the reasons why David is my Old Testament heroes. I assume out of shear frustration at the situation, though it does not say this in the text David chops off the corner of Saul’s cloak, as we read in v4. If you recall this is the royal robe that marked him out as king.
We go on to read in v5 that Even that causes David grief after the event as he feels as if he has challenged God. David decided to spare Saul because he knew that he has God's promise for him which said, "You will inherit the throne of Israel." which we read about in 1 Samuel 16
David knew that Saul was in the way of that promise. But he also knew it was disobedient of him to kill Saul, because God put Saul in a position of authority and it was God's job to take care of Saul not David's. David wanted the promise to be fulfilled but he refused to try and fulfill God's promise by breaking God's laws and killing Saul
Sometimes when we have a promise from God we think we might be justified in sinning to pursue that promise. This is always wrong. God will fulfill His promises, but He does it it His way. Think of Abraham, who obeyed God even when it seemed to be at the expense of God's promise, willing to sacrifice his promised son, which we read about in Genesis 22. Or Satan's temptation of Jesus to "win back the world" at the expense of obedience which we read about in Luke 4:v5-8.
Ok so what is this saying to us today..You may have heard of the phrase Corporate DNA It is a metaphor for an "organization's culture and strategy" It provides a set of ground rules for one to work to. Another way of thinking about it is if you have ever been go-karting the track is normally lined with old tyres so you can't go too far off track you just hit the tyres and bounce back again.
The same should apply to us as Christians – The bible is our set of guidelines and how we respond in our day to day life should be defined by that. This can only happen if we apply it.
Fortunately we have The Holy Spirit as the helper keeping us on track as Jesus promised as recorded in John 14 v26 However, the helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything. He will remind you of everything that I have ever told you.
In Matthew 5 Jesus compares us to Salt 2000 years ago salt was used to stop food going bad. Matthew 5 V13 -You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. The question for us today is are we still salty?
So in conclusion being a Christian is not just for Sunday mornings but something we should aim to show it in our lives every day as the saying goes a 24/7 activity. You may feel that I have used a lot of bible quotes in this talk but I believe we have the bible as our guide book to life, so I think it right that I refer to it. We are not just given a book to follow but we have The Holy Spirit as our helper.
As it says in Isaiah 40 v31 - but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
As I said at the start of my talk with the quote from James we don't just have to listen to Gods word we need to respond to it in our lives by how we live, and that includes our split second decisions.
Matthew 5 v14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
I will end with part of the quote from this Sundays inspiring text collection – This is how God works. He does not make spare parts. You are not a spare part. You have a purpose, a design that is central to God's dream for the human race. What you do matters immensely.
This morning the "Tuesday Group" lead the 9.30 service in Kirkcudbright Parish Church, and I had the privilege of giving the teaching. The text following is the draft of what I said
Luke 15 1-7 The parable of the Lost Sheep
A few years ago I was given an old mini car for my 21st birthday. The first thing I did was go out and buy the Haynes Manual for a mini. I then read it largely cover to cover – something that Pauline will know is quite strange as I normally don't read instructions. Then much to my family’s amazement proceeded to take the engine out and put it back together again. They found it hard to understand why I would do that to a perfectly good car that was working fine, but it helped me understood how it worked. So I could look after it and service it in the future.
God has given us a manual to life the Bible, drawing together thousands of years of experience for us here and now. Our story that we are looking at this morning is another parable – an earthly story with heavenly meaning. Rather than considering the deep theological meaning behind this story we are going to look at some of the practical implications. Especially what it is saying to us as we live our lives here today. We will not just look at the specific passage but at others that hopefully help us to understand it.
Upon reflecting on the passage four things struck me:-
We shall look at each one briefly in turn:-
Firstly why did the shepherd go after the sheep?
We need to know who is the lost sheep Jesus is talking about? Our initial thoughts are probably that the sheep represents the poor and marginalized - what the bible calls the widows & orphans – There are lots of passages about this. One is in Deuteronomy 10 18-19 18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing.19 And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.
There are numerous caring charities doing this work, But surely the idea of the lost sheep here goes further than this:
As I said at the start this story is a parable, an earthly story with a heavenly meaning, and it would be good to remind ourselves as to why Jesus was telling this story. In V 1 of Luke 15 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. Luke specifically mentions tax collectors. And in v2 Luke goes on to say But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
The tax collectors were notoriously corrupt, but they were not poor, in fact they were probably very wealthy. They are mentioned along with the description of sinners. So maybe a modern day equivalent could be corrupt bankers and drug barons.
In Middle Eastern Hospitality in biblical times the sharing of food together was seen as a token of friendship. This really grated against the Pharisees self righteous hard heartedness, prompting the parable.
The lost Sheep now has an additional meaning. - not just talking about the here and now, but in response to the comments on sinners was talking about all of eternity.
I know Mark had a quote form Revelation last week I will have another one now. In Revelation John records his Vision on Patmos. In ch 1 v17-18 When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying, "Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forever more, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.
and it also says in the Gospel of John 11:25 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die;
Jesus is emphasising that He controls who goes to Heaven and who goes to Hell. So the sheep is not just physically lost it is also spiritually lost. This now gives us a fresh understanding of why the shepherd went after it. The shepherd loves his sheep and does not want to loose any of them
We read in John 3 from v 16-18 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
God loves us (You & me) so much that he sent his Son Jesus to the earth so we did not have to go to Hell, but could spend eternity with Him in Heaven.
Paul writes in 1 Timothy 1 v15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. In the old testament it is recorded in Isaiah 53 v6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way;
So why did the shepherd go after the lost sheep – to offer it the opportunity of eternal life.
Moving on to my second point – How does the shepherd use his resources.
In several past jobs I have been a budget holder – this means that I looked after a pot of money and decided how it was spent. In relative terms looking back on it, it was quite a big pot.
I usually had some sort of guidelines to work to often approved in a public forum. Once the guidelines were set we would know where we were going that year and people would come to me saying that it would be a good idea to spend some of the money on this or that. To help assess if an idea was a good one or not we would look at the cost effectiveness and return on investment.
If I had been responsible for the Shepherding team and they came to me saying that they would like to mount an expedition to go and rescue the lost sheep. I would ask them how cost effective this was going to be. In v4 the parable tells us that the shepherd had 100 sheep and just one was lost. That’s 1%. I would have had to decline the request on the grounds of cost effectiveness and just suffer the loss. In fact in a lot of areas a 1% loss would be seen as very low.
So often we fall into the mistake of thinking about spiritual things in an earthly context. We bring them down to what we can do rather than lift them up in prayer to what God can do. We put our human limits on God. The Bible is full of examples where God has worked miraculously. I like the story of God along with Gideon defeating the Midianites Gideon starts off with 32,000 men and God whittles it down to just 300 – You can read the full story in Judges 7. Battle of Jericho Joshua 6. Feeding of 5000 Mark 6. All of these are examples where God seemingly does the impossible and I am sure we can think of lots more but we don't have time to go into them. It could be called the upside down kingdom. Things happen that show that God is in control not man.
Ok so moving back to our parable in v4 Have we noticed that the shepherd is leaving the 99 remaining in the wilderness/ open country. It doesn't say he first builds a shelter for them to protect them. No he leaves them behind. It doesn't say he employees someone to look after the 99 while he goes off looking for the lost sheep. No he leaves them all alone.
The shepherd puts all his resources and energy in going out and finding the lost sheep. I will say that again - he puts all his resources and energy in going out from where he is, leaving the rest of the flock behind to find the lost sheep. So as this is a story with a meaning let us just think about how it applies to us today.
How do we use our resources in finding lost sheep lets not call them lost sheep any more lets call them what they really are – people like you and me who do not know Jesus as their Lord and Saviour.
So often the church's primary use of resources, time & money is spent on looking after what we have – (the 99 sheep left behind in the story) The secondary use of resources, is spent on trying to attract the lost back to the rest of the herd. Trying to attract people to church. Then what is left is used to support missionaries who actually go out to find the lost.
It's all to easy to want to build a kingdom to us – be it structures, buildings, organisations, committees, sales of work, rather than build a kingdom to God. This is not what Jesus is saying –He says Go out and find the lost. In Matthew 28 19-20 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
Ok so moving back to our story, our the next thing we have to look at is the outcome
Luke 15 from v5 When the shepherd finds the lost sheep, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
We all like a party and Jesus is telling us that we should celebrate when someone comes to know Him for themselves. They rejoice in heaven so we should rejoice here on earth. We should celebrate and encourage new Christians. Yes they may question why we do things, but what we need to do is to nurture help them grow not squash and stifle them. I used to go to a church that had adult baptism and often after the ceremony there was a celebratory meal for everyone, which was almost part of the service. It recognised the celebration. I have met other Christians who celebrate a second birthday – remembering the day when they gave their lives to Jesus. It is certainly something worth celebrating.
So moving to my final point. What is this story saying to us today?
I don't particularly enjoy shopping, especially queuing at the checkout. I have been known to move from one queue to another if that is moving faster. But eventually I cannot proceed any further and have to make a choice.
The same happens to us in life. The Bible tells us that there is more to this life than just the here and now. There is another life and our souls will go either to heaven or hell.
Every person sins as it says in Romans 3:10 There is no one righteous, not even one; and Romans 3:23 adds that all have sinned and have fallen short of God's glory or perfect standard.
No one is good enough to achieve entrance into God's perfect presence in heaven by works or human goodness.
The only way to heaven is through Jesus. Romans 10:9-10 says, "if you declare with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved."
Our salvation comes specifically from Jesus. Acts 4:12 says "And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."
After this life, there will not be another opportunity to choose to believe in Jesus or to change one's eternal destiny. Further, there will be death and then a judgement regarding our eternity Hebrews 9:27 “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgement.”
So all of us here fall into two categories, either saved and going to heaven or not. If we do know and love the Lord Jesus, then surely we want to share this with those who do not. Ahh but hang on Tim I can here you thinking I can't go around sharing my beliefs like this.
If we had time and a flip chart I am sure we could fill it with reasons why we should not do this and someone else should. Don't worry I'm with you there – I can think of loads of reasons why I should not be doing this besides being just scared stiff.
A few weeks ago Pauline and I were giving out shortbread medals and Penny Gospels at the Kirkcudbright fair. Now I am sure Pauline won't mind me telling you this but she was so frightened that she felt physically sick. But that did not matter as fortunately it was not Pauline or I doing the talking but the Holy Spirit guiding us telling us what to say.
Having the opportunity to invite someone along to something does help to break the ice. A number of years ago when I was a teenager I was invited to something similar to Alpha. I went along not really because I wanted to know more about God, but rather because I thought there was going to be a girl there who I was rather keen on at the time. The girl was not there but I did find God instead.
I knew a lady who was a chief and she used to run Alpha courses in her house around a lovely meal that she cooked for her guests. People used to come come along for the food and did not hide the fact. By the end of the course a large number of them had given their lives to Jesus.
There are a couple of events coming up that have been organised to help share our faith. On Friday 29th August there is a Christians in Sports Quiz in the Church Hall. - You can invite your non Christian friends along. It should be a good fun evening and there will be a short talk on John 10v10 It is called “I have come to give you life to the full”. There is a charge for a ticket. The second is an Alpha course is starting on September 17th in the Town Hall. This will run for 10 weeks and consist of a meal followed by a DVD and then a discussion. This is a free meal and should be an enjoyable evening.
For those of you who don't know about Alpha these are a series of talks covering all aspects of Christian belief, and the discussion that follows encourages questions. Nothing is off limits. Also it is not just for people who don't go to church. If you do come to church but are not sure about anything then do come along. It is open to anyone.
So I have a challenge for us all to invite someone who may not know Jesus as their Lord and saviour along to either Alpha or the quiz. If you are very brave you could of course next time you are shopping at the supermarket chat about your belief rather than the weather or sport or whatever. Just a thought?
So in conclusion who do you identify yourself with?
Dyslexic doodles on photography, food (growing, cooking & of course eating), faith and other fascinating things. This is a personal blog expressing my views.