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THE VOICE OF THE SHEPHERD
There once was a shepherd that lived in the Scottish highlands. This shepherd had a daughter and he would take her with him when he went out on the moors to take care of the sheep. The thing that the little girl liked best was to hear the call of shepherd. His voice sounded so free and beautiful as carried across the valleys of the moors.
As the years passed the little girl became a beautiful young woman and went off to one of Scotland's great cities--Edinburgh or Glasgow. It was there that she was determined to build a life. On her arrival, she would write back home to her parents every week. But as life began to take her by the hand, her letters soon dropped off in their frequency and soon there were none.
Rumors begin to filter back home to that shepherd and his wife that their daughter had started hanging out with some unsavory characters and they were having a very negative influence on her life. One day one of the boys from back home ran into her in the city streets and she acted as if she did not even know him. When the old shepherd heard this, he gathered a few things together and dressed in his rough shepherd’s clothes went to the city to find his daughter.
For days on end he looked for her. He looked everywhere; the slums, the rows of houses, the markets, the taverns, and everywhere in between to no avail. So after all of this searching he became very discouraged with the thought that he had lost his daughter to the evil city.
As he started the long trek back home, just as he was on the outskirts of the city, he remembered that his daughter had always loved to hear the voice of the shepherd calling out to the sheep.
So he turned around and on this quest motivated by his sorrow and his love, he began to stalk the streets. His voice rang out the shepherds call. The citizens of the city all looked at him as if he had lost his wits. It wasn’t too long as he walked the streets of one of the degraded neighborhoods that inside of one of those houses, his daughter sitting among the vermin who had led her astray, heard his voice. With great astonishment on her face, she heard that call of the voice of the shepherd, the voice of her father calling out to her. She leaped up and rushed out to the street and ran into the arms of that old shepherd, her father. It was then that he took her back home to the highlands of Scotland and brought her back to God and to decency and modesty.
This is a moving example of what happens to those who can hear the voice of a shepherd.
(From a sermon by Philip Harrelson, The Voice of the Shepherd, 8/6/2010)
For me, my belief in God was reaffirmed recently by something I would not have expected. While I was in England I visited St. Paul’s Cathedral. Worshiping in that great cathedral your eyes are drawn to the great dome. It is actually three domes, one on top of the other, with the highest and smallest dome having windows, making you think they are the very windows of heaven. I stood there in that great place, surrounded by exquisite art and architecture, and said to my friend: “This building makes me believe in God.” I think he was somewhat taken back by my statement that a physical, man-made building could make me believe in God. But I said, “What else could inspire such a sense of transcendence and create a feeling of otherworldliness — a world of unspeakable beauty and holy purpose?” These glorious monuments to God are all over England and Europe — countries which were strongly influenced by the Christian faith. “Name me one monument to the devil which has been built in his honor,” I said to my friend. “I can’t think of one.”
But then I began to think. Actually, I have seen a monument to the devil. It exists in a country I visited a few years before, whose national religion is Voodoo, or devil worship — the country of Haiti. We drove by it on our way to the mission station in Cape Haitian. It is the center for Voodoo worship — a large mud hole where chickens are strangled and their blood poured into the pool. Rumors are that there are even secret rites where human sacrifices are offered to the devil, and their blood becomes a part of the mud as well. There are unspeakable acts of evil performed there. Worshipers come to cover themselves with the mud of that cursed place. So there I stood thinking about one country whose religion worships Jesus Christ, and another country whose religion is devil worship. The monument to Jesus Christ was an exquisite cathedral, and the monument to the devil was a mud hole. One was transcendent in its themes and beauty, and the other was vile and ugly. One inspired noble thoughts and holy lives, the other aroused perverse thoughts and evil acts. One was elevating and the other degrading. One made you look up and the other made you look down.
Theologian Charles Hodge explained the relationship between divine grace and the human heart. “The doctrines of grace humble a man without degrading him and exalt him without inflating him.”
"War is an ugly thing but not the ugliest of things; the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feelings which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creatur...
To say that Jesus died, or just that he was executed, misses the barbarism of the way in which he died. The full sadism of human nature was brought to bear on him. It was a shameful and degrading death.
Alister E. McGrath, I Believe: Understanding the Apostles’ Creed, p. 80
Samuel Johnson “How guilt, once harbored in the conscious breast, intimidates the brave and degrades the rest. “
WORDS LEAVE A LASTING IMPRESSION
As bad as it is to hear foul words, it is worse to speak them.
A nobleman went to see how Josiah Wedgwood made his SUPERB POTTERY. A young apprentice was told to give the guest a tour of the factory. As they walked through the plant, the visitor began to use foul language, ridicule the Bible, and make light of sacred things. At first the young man was shocked, but after a while he began to laugh at the man's remarks. Wedgwood, who had joined them, was greatly disturbed by what he saw happening to his apprentice.
At the end of the tour, the nobleman asked if he could purchase a particular vase that he admired. Wedgwood told him that it had taken many hours to produce its exquisite shape and color. As he handed the beautiful vase to his visitor, he deliberately let it crash to the floor.
Cursing angrily, the nobleman said, "That's the one I really wanted, and now it's shattered because of your carelessness."
"Sir," said Wedgwood, "there are things more precious than any vase. I can make another vase, but you can never give back to my helper the innocent heart you've degraded by your profanity!"
Even though God can cleanse and restore, evil influences may leave a lasting impression. Therefore let's stay alert to the subtle and destructive influences all around us.
“What Are Christians For?”
A Christian woman who was engaged in work for the poor and degraded was once spoken to by one who was well acquainted with both the worker and those whom she sought to reach.
“It does seem wonderful to me that you can do such work,” her friend said. “You sit beside these people, and talk with them in a way that I do not think you would if you knew about them, just what they are, and from what places they come.”
Her answer was, “Well, I suppose they are dreadful people. But, if the Lord Jesus were now on earth, are they not the very people He would strive to teach? Would He feel Himself too good to go among them? And am I better than my Master?”
A poor, illiterate person, who stood lis...
To hate, or degrade, or demean, or ignore the suffering of another person is to spit in the face of God.
HONOR OF DEATH
I have had the privilege to be with several people and their families when they have breathed their last breath. It is an incredible privilege to be present for those who make the transition into God’s kingdom.
I also count it a privilege and honor to visit with people and their families during these last times. Maybe I’m not there are the passing but when a saint passes during these times, it is truly an honor. Even when they are suffering physically from disease, to be present even for moment when people transcend from one degree of glory to another is something incredibly special. To hear from their own lips that they are completely ready to meet the Lord, fills me with such joy that I can’t describe.
Do we honor those who have gone before us by continuing the legacy faith? Or do we degrade by taking our freedoms for granted or not living up to the responsibility that we have been given?