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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Have We Lost Our Vision?

I am fairly insulated from the rest of the world in my office. It is a Christian environment. The staff is kind and careful to follow Christian principles. It is easy to forget what lies outside my doors. There is world that lacks the Shepherd to lead the sheep.

Jesus saw the crowds and their emptiness. They didn't know what to do with their lives. They were pursuing their own goals without any great return. They were like hamsters running on wheels that went nowhere. They were tired and dispirited with no direction or real hope. They were lost without admitting it. He had compassion on them for they were like sheep without a Shepherd.

Sheep need a shepherd to give them direction. Sheep have a tendency to follow the next blade of grass which can lead them off a cliff. They look down without noticing what is around them. They fail to see danger or where they are in relation to the other sheep. It is easy for them to get lost pursuing that next blade of grass.

Sheep are often in need of a shepherd to mend their wounds. Sheep pursue the next blade of grass so miopically that they can be cut when they slip on rocks. Sheep can be hurt by dogs or other predatory animals even if they escape or are rescued by the Shepherd. They need the Shepherd to put salve on their wounds and care for them.

Sheep have no idea how to find water. They know where it is if they remain in the same pasture but roaming sheep are led to water. They are afraid to get a drink from fast moving water. They need still water to quench their thirsts. Thus, they need the Shepherd to lead them to this water.

Sheep have no defense against predators. They need the Shepherd to protect the sheep. Wolves will try to take young sheep even with a Shepherd but the Shepherd fights them off with His staff. He puts Himself between the wolves and the sheep.

The shepherd may build a small stone wall to corale the sheep at night. He lays down as the door (gate) of this corale so that the sheep will have to cross over Him to get into trouble.

Sheep have no purpose without a shepherd. The Shepherd shears the sheep in season to provide clothing for others. It cools the sheep in the hot summer months and gives the sheep purpose.

Does this sound like those in the world today? Do they pursue the next item in front of them and get themselves in trouble? Do they get in debt or ruin their relationships because of these pursuits? Are they often wounded without anyone to heal them? Do they know how to find Living Water which will spring up from inside of themselves and quench their own spiritual thirst? Are they in need of protection? Do they need a purpose in life? Of course, people need all of these things.

People need the Great Shepherd. I need Him; you need Him. Yet, we also have the responsibility of seeing these "crowds" so that we can share the gospel. The need is for workers for the harvest is plentiful. The need is for Sunday School teachers who will spend the time to share the gospel with classes. The need is for greeters for those who will make the church an inviting place. The need is for getting outside the church to share with our neighbors and co-workers the good news of this Great Shepherd.

Have we lost our vision? Do we believe that our only ministry is to feed the poor or entice the rich? Do we think that we can merely sit in our padded pews and let the world go to hell?

We must not for someday the Great Shepherd will ask us to show us the sheep we have brought to Him. We must go and pray that others will join us. We must "see" the crowds too.

Matthew 9:36-38 (NIV) 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field."


Anthony Chia said...

Couple of days ago, to continue to encourage a sister (in Christ) in Malaysia, to continue with her Christian blog, I commented on her entry of her using the Parable of the Talents on her children, when her children failed her, in not doing their assignments, which she left them with, before she went out-station. The sister mentioned there are various ways to apply the Parable, and below is part of what I wrote in that comment against her entry, relevant to this entry of Ps Prentis:

"Indeed, there are ways to apply this Parable {Parable of the Talents}. This came to me, not that I like it, for I am perhaps lacking in it, and it is this: You and I, each is given 1 eternal life potential, and we are being placed in settings where other lives can be saved. And so, for the Parable, one was given 5 eternal life potentials, including his own; and he doubled it. Another was given 2, and he too, doubled it. The lazy one, and he was said to be wicked (perhaps, for taking the grace of God for granted), he did “nothing” with the life given him. What did the Master do? The lazy one was called a worthless servant; we can also say he is a worthless soldier. And so, there is such thing as a worthless believer, if he bears no fruit. What will happen to him? Where is this “outside” place he will be thrown to, a place of darkness, where weeping and gnashing of teeth will take place?

If the “talent” is substituted with “eternal life potential”, what did the Master take away from the lazy one. This Parable points to the need for us to serve the Lord or work for Him or bear fruit for Him in some way. The Parable of the Goats and the Sheep points to the same. Jesus cursed the fig tree that bore no fruit, and Bible has the story of how a barren tree, given sufficient time to bear fruit, but would not, would be chopped down. There is indeed a need for believers to bear fruit for the Lord, especially, in contributing to the Great Commission. I am not necessarily saying that you must do a one-to-one witnessing, although that would be good, it is that we have to contribute in some way (not necessarily in money) to the salvation of others. May I encourage you to serve the Lord in some way, even as you understand that the Word of God is to transform lives, both of your loved ones and yourself.

I have recently commented that I have had a change in leadership in my church. The incoming Senior Pastor was commenting that the church had NOT been growing in the last few years, and that did NOT seem alright for him. Although I will defend my outgoing Senior Pastor, concerning this issue, for the church had indeed grown from a 100+ members to more than 4,000, and not only that, the church had contributed to the birthing of at least 27 churches overseas through the church's mission emphasis (and so the church did work on the Great Commission; where the growth is, is NOT necessarily in the local church's own congregation, although we do need a minimum number to sustain work), the incoming Senior Pastor got a point - the church exists, in a large part, to reach out to the lost, and she MUST do that. Every church and believer must have this as an important part of his/her vision, if NOT the core vision. As a side point, many churches in my country are “greying out”, and that include my church (but our need is less urgent, because of our size), and they (the churches) have to address this issue without delay, in order that the local churches could continue and the work of the Lord NOT hampered; and the solution is to reach out to the lost in the community.

Anonymous said...

I lived on a farm growing up. We had a sheep farmer near by. One day when coming home from getting groceries we saw his barn on fire. The men jumped out of our vehicle and told us ladies to stay put. We stepped out of the vehicle gathered to pray and watch at a safe distance. To our horror, one ram ran into the fire and several followed him. We were so in shock we watched as the sheep cried in the fire but would not come out at their shepherd’s calling. It was so horrible to witness this. Yet, it was a great lesson on what happens when we follow another sheep instead of the Shepherd.

Ezekiel chapter 34 speaks of wicked shepherds (clergy) who scatter the sheep (laity). The Apostle Paul tells us that the Old Testament is for an example of what was and the principles that if not learned will not permeate the leadership (clergy) or the followers (laity). Over the history of humanity, this has been repeated so often.

We have been in so many “churches” that scattered the sheep by the same reasons, as did those in Ezekiel. When I became ill in 1985 due to a fire and it caused “the boy in the bubble” condition. Not one local church would come to see our needs, not one single minister. Over the 25 years that I have been isolated from the world due to illness, the only pastors (that did not try to do something unrighteous) never came back to help but always, wanted things from us.

My husband fixes things, so many of the pastor come for him to fix things for free, they never ask if we need food or some other thing taken care of. When we were part of one church or another, they used our talents for many things spreading us so thin, we did not have time together as a family, until I became too ill to help. It seems like I had a plague because not one of them came without trying to find some hidden sin for my constant illness.

We live in a fallen world, illness is a part of it, so is death. As far as I know statistic show one out of one people die, not all will be taken like Elijah, except in the rapture. Both my son and husband for the longest time turned from God because of how His “people” behaved. One place in scriptures I believe it speaks of God’s people acting so wicked they were a stench in the nose of God’s enemies.

Human shepherds need accountability just as well as laity, but often this does not happen. They get surrounded by “yes” people with itchy ears, if a Berean dears show up, unlike Paul they are condemned, not encouraged. Far too many have lost the vision and the purpose to this life. I must run but I am thankful for your blog and intend to come back for more, like the Bereans, I am still checking things out.
Mrs. J.

Anthony Chia said...

Mrs J,

It is so good of you to share the story of the ram heading into the fire with several others following. Indeed, this metaphor is so real, over all of time, even currently all round the world. Just because someone decides that he shall lead, ignorant others follow with dire consequence. May it be a reminder to all, even unto myself, since I, too, in some way, is projecting myself to lead in some way. May all who intend to lead, be highly diligent in the study of the Word of God, subscribe to the ways of God, and be sensitive to leading of the Holy Spirit. And may all believers be like the Bereans, check out the Word for themselves to see if what has been preached to them is indeed correct. In fact, everyone, clergy and laity, alike, should study the Word, for it is the Maker's handbook for us, His Creation, for living.

It is so sad to hear of your past experiences with your local churches. Your experiences showed us that many of us, and the local churches, as a group, understand NOT, and practise NOT the love that God and His Son, Jesus, referred to. Although I am in no way near you, and NOT part of the local churches you had before, as I read of your account, I feel apologetic towards you, for the way the body of believers have treated you. I ask for your forgiveness in behalf of the Church. May you find the grace and strength to forgive those who have disappointed you.

In my little way, and in the sphere God has placed me, I pray and minister to the sick. I have prayed for people with cancers, and they died on me, so to speak. At times, I asked what could I do, for these people; I mean I prayed but they are NOT healed by God (there have been healings in my little ministry, but NOT all are healed). I did NOT make the effort to visit one with lung cancer in another country, and currently I am still having one with the same lung cancer, hospitalised for the end stage, back in my country. Of late I have been really, really busy, but I still visited a few times, the one hospitalised locally; each time I wonder how I was to face the sick person, then when the person has gone into semi-coma stage, and unable to recognise me, I wonder how I was to face the spouse and the children, and what I was to say and do, when I was at the hospital in those visits. I asked the Lord, but I did NOT hear any still small voice, but I proceeded, nevertheless. Despite my helplessness, I still prayed with them, talked with them. I went, on the Christmas morning that has just past, to visit them at the hospital; I made it a point to visit on that Christmas morning, leaving my children to go home by themselves after Christmas service in church, to visit, letting no other members of the church know. I visited, not because I could do or accomplish anything, but it is because I believe God loves and cares, and I, as His minister for the sick and the afflicted (for whom He has brought to me), have to be similarly postured, to show love and care, even if it is just to be with them in their time of affliction. Mrs J, your comment entry has encouraged me to continue to go and be with, the people I could NOT help, because our simple presence and gestures, can warm the hearts of the afflicted. Again, Mrs J, I am so sorry, no one came by, in your case, and the believers' lack of love had abandoned your heart to the cold.

I ask God in this:
God, may you continue to honor Mrs J and her loved ones, for their perseverance to trust you, despite men failing and disappointing them. I pray especially that you would care for them, look after their health, and provide for them, even as they etch out a living working from home. May you bless the works of their hands, that their cups would run over.

Anthony Chia