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THE LUKEWARM SHEEP
Now, for the sake of my illustration, I want to break a flock of sheep down into 3 groups.
1. The first group of sheep had DECIDED to look to Shepherd & follow Him wherever He leads.
These are the "Good sheep" who follow the "Good Shepherd. Jesus said: "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." John 10:27 KJV
2. The 2nd group wants nothing to do with the Shepherd. They want to run their lives their own way and they deliberately DECIDE to walk away from Him. These are the pagans and atheists of society. They don't want to hear Jesus' voice... they don't want to follow.
3. But the 3rd group DECIDES that they like the Shepherd. They want to hang out with Him... but they don't want to get TOO close to Him. They still want to keep their options open. They want to look for their own grass once in a while. They want to nibble at a little of this and a little of that....
George Orwell once observed: "On the whole human beings want to be good, but not too good, and not quite all the time."
That's the problem with this 3rd group of sheep.
They like being close to Jesus... just not too much, and not just all the time. And because they have this "loose" connection to the shepherd they're the ones who end up wandering off. They're the ones that end up getting lost. They're just close enough to the Shepherd to feel secure. And just far enough away to not hear His voice.
"My sheep hear my voice... and they follow me." says Jesus. John 10:27
And so, they wander off into their own little world, and they end up getting hurt and making bad decisions. And those bad decisions cause them pain and heartache.
As Proverbs 13:15 says, "...the way of transgressors is hard." (KJV)
Because they've chosen NOT to listen to the Good Shepherd and to follow Him closely, they are without the protection of that Shepherd and open to the attacks of Satan and this world.
Sermon Central Staff
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)
Sermon Central Staff
MY SHEEP KNOW MY VOICE
Do you all know much about Emperor Penguins? I was not very familiar with these birds until a few years ago when the documentary, March of the Penguins, came out. And as I watched this documentary, I learned many intriguing facts about this largest of the penguin family.
For one thing, Emperors are monogamous; a relatively unique feature in the world of animals; they have one mate for life. Perhaps even more interesting than that, though, is the fact that it is the male Emperors who care for the egg until it hatches. That’s right, every year, when mating season is over, the female Emperors take off for the ocean; all of them together in one huge flock traveling hundreds of miles so that they can fish and get plenty to eat to sustain them and their new chick for a year. Meanwhile, back at their home, the male penguins are caring for the eggs. Each male tucks his egg between his feet to keep it from breaking and to keep it warm in the cold, harsh, winter winds.
But here’s the thing that is perhaps most interesting. When all those females return from the ocean, hundreds, perhaps even thousands of them, how do you think they find their mate in the equally large crowd of males? It’s not that they can just walk up to the doorstep of their nest and step inside. No, there are no nests. The Emperor penguins always find their mate and their children by the sound of their call, their voice. It seems impossible for a flock of thousands of penguins to sort themselves out by the sounds of their voices, but they do it. In our view, it’s nothing short of a miracle!
I suppose such a feat shouldn’t surprise us too much. Perhaps all human voices sound alike to birds, just as bird calls (especially within a single species) all sound the same to humans. Yet, we humans do have some selective hearing; a father or mother will recognize their child’s voice in a crowded room and vice versa. But those of us who don’t have much to do with the bird and animal kingdoms on a daily basis are often startled at just how much animals can distinguish between different people as well as between others members of their own species. To this day, in the Middle East, a shepherd will go into a crowded sheepfold and call out his own sheep one by one, naming them. They will recognize his voice and come to him.
An Anglican priest toured the Holy Land many years ago. One day on his travels, he saw several different groups of sheep converging together on a watering hole. As he watched the meeting, he thought to himself, "Now, there will be trouble. They’ll all get mixed up. The shepherds won’t like this." But the sheep continued to come together, until they formed one big flock of sheep. They all looked alike--a big mass of white wool. "What will they do now?" the priest thought. "How will the shepherds ever separate them out?"
The priest was intrigued enough to stay for a while. And when the sheep had finished drinking, he was amazed at what he saw. Each shepherd gave out a cry. Each let go his unique call, and almost by magic, the sheep divided back into their original herds.
(From a sermon by Clair Sauer, A Call in the Cacophony, 5/11/2011)
LOOKING FOR THE LOST
The boss of a big company needed to call one of his employees about an urgent problem with one of the main computers. He dialed the employee’s home telephone number and was greeted with a child’s whispered, "Hello?"
Feeling put out at the inconvenience of having to talk to a youngster, the boss asked, "Is your Daddy home?" "Yes," whispered the small voice.
"May I talk with him?" the man asked. To the surprise of the boss, the small voice whispered, "No."
Wanting to talk with an adult, the boss asked, "Is your Mommy there?"
"Yes," came the answer.
"May I talk with her?" Again, the small voice whispered, "No."
Knowing that it was not likely that a young child would be left home alone, the boss decided he would just leave a message with the person who should be there watching over the child. "Is there anyone there besides you?" the boss asked the child.
"Yes," whispered the child, "a policeman."
Wondering what a cop would be doing at his employee’s home, the boss asked,
"May I speak with the policeman?"
"No, he is busy," whispered the child.
"Busy doing what?" asked the boss.
"Talking to Daddy and Mommy and the Fireman," came the whispered answer.
Growing concerned and even worried as he heard what sounded like a helicopter through the ear piece on the phone, the boss asked, "What is tha...
Lieutenant Andrew Moffatt
MOTLEY, CROSS-BREED, HALF-BAKED SHEEP
Before I went off to train for ministry, I used to live in an old house in Oamaru with an acre and a half of land. I had the usual garden and lawn, but I also had about an acre and a quarter of pretty rough hillside that was planted in a variety of trees and grass. The best way I found to keep the grass down and the leaves cleaned up was to have a few sheep.
When I first moved there I had no sheep and I’d never had sheep, but one of my neighbours had too many; so off I went to her house and offered to buy three. I thought I was "home and hosed" as I walked these sheep over to my place.
These sheep were easy to control; actually these sheep were starving. I carried one lamb under each arm and the old ewe that I’d brought. On seeing some grass they made a bit of a bolt for my place and straight through the gate. Yep, shepherding was a breeze and I didn’t even need a dog.
My adventure with sheep had begun. My breed of sheep, as it turned out, were motley, cross breed, half baked, deviously cunning animals, and it was only the fact that two of them were ewes and were useful for producing more sheep that they didn’t become roasts and chops along with the wether.
Once these sheep had put on condition and gained what was a normal weight and a little energy, they were off; at the slightest chance they would push through a gap under the fences, open gates and attempt to sneak out while I was sneaking into their paddock. I had procured the Houdinis of the sheep world.
Often their previous owner would phone me and inform me that they had returned. Sometimes they disappeared like a vapor only to be found hiding in flax bushes (a bit Jacobean like) at the sewage pumping station a kilometer away down the hill. Each time I would trudge off possibly with one or both sons in tow on the great sheep roundup. I always blocked the holes closed the gates and returned the errant sheep to the paddock, bless their little wooly hearts and their empty heads.
THE WANDERING SHEEP
Dr. Andrew Bonar tells of how in the Highlands of Scotland, a sheep would often wander off into the rocks and get into places that they can't get out of.
The grass on these mountains is very sweet and the sheep like it, and they will jump down ten or twelve feet, and then they can't jump back again, and the shepherd hears them bleating in distress. They may be there for days, until they have eaten all the grass. The shepherd will wait until they are so faint they cannot stand, and then they will put a rope around him, and he will go over and pull that sheep up out of the jaws of death.
"Why don't they go down there when the sheep first gets there?" I asked.
"Ah!" He said, "they are so very foolish they would dash right over the precipice and be killed if they did!"
And that is the way with men; they won't go back to God till they have no friends and have lost everything. If you are a wanderer I tell you that the Good Shepherd will bring you back the moment you have given up trying to save yourself and are willing to let Him save you His own way.
A few years ago I was reading a book by Stephen Gaukroger. He tells the story of a New York Methodist minister who saw the need to bring his ‘ninety nine righteous’ sheep back into the fold. He put an advert in the local paper:
“Lost, stolen or strayed; a large flock of Methodist sheep. They have been gone for some time. When last seen they were browsing along the road of indifference. Anyone finding these sheep please bring them home, if possible, and you will receive ample reward. If they refuse to come home drive them to the nearest fold, lock the door, and report to the undersigned. Plenty of fodder will be provided on Sunday.”
THE LOST SHEEP- COMMUNION MEDITATION
Have you heard the story of Shrek, the merino sheep that had evaded capture and shearing for 6 years? When he was finally discovered in his high mountain cave of New Zealand by musterer Ann Scanlan, he was almost unrecognizable as a sheep. The first thing his rescuer did was pin back his wool so he could see to walk.
There was such an interest in Shrek’s return that the owner kept him in a pen for weeks so reporters and television stations could broadcast the amazing return of the lost sheep. And then, on live television, world champion shearer Peter Casserly shaved off 6 years of matted wool. As the shearer worked, he laid Shrek on his side with a foot of wool as his bed.
How much is Shrek’s story like our story, for "we all like sheep have gone astray." But Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross removes all of our sin and guilt that makes us unrecognizable as children of God.
This is what we remember at communion-- that the Good Shepherd "bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we mi...
Phillip Keller writes of his experience of shepherding:
"This reminds me of my encounter with cougars. On several occasions these cunning creatures came in among sheep, creating great havoc in the flock. Some were killed, their blood drained and livers eaten. Others were torn open and badly clawed. In these cases the great cats seemed to chase and play with them in their panic like a house cat would chase a mouse. Some had huge patches of wool torn from it. In their frightened stampede, some had fallen and broken bones or rushed over rough ground injuring legs and bodies. The amazing thing is that in every such attack, I never saw the cougar."
Sermon Central Staff
THE "BROKEN" SHEEPDOG AND THE SHEPHERD
Philip Keller tells a story in his book, Lessons from a Sheep Dog, about how a bedraggled collie named Lassie came into his possession. One day he happened to notice an ad in the paper that simply said: "Border collie to good owner. Currently uncontrollable and chases children and cars." So he found the address in the city and discovered a horrible situation.
He founded a collie penned up in the backyard of a home and it was obvious the dog had been neglected. Its coat was a tangled mass full of burrs, thorns, and dirt. Additionally, it was clear that there were several generations of ticks and fleas burrowed down under this dog's fur. But the real clincher was the chain about its neck and another chain attached to its back leg.
Keller writes that he went up to the dog and it began to bark and growl and snap at him with a menace that raged in its soul. The owner informed him that the dog was two years old and had "gone wrong and was totally useless." He was told that this dog was beyond hope and help. Keller also knew that at two years of age this dog had probably learned all it could and would never be reformed. But despite that fact, he decided to take a chance on it.
He finally managed to get the dog in the back seat of his car for the long ride into the country. Periodically he would reach around and attempt to touch the dog and she would growl and snap at him. Upon arriving home, he finally managed to get the dog out and put her into the place he had fixed for her. He had built a fine kennel with clean bedding. He had a large bowl of water and a dish that had food heaped on it. But this dog ignored it all. She refused to eat, to drink, or to enter the kennel. Any attempts to pet her or to touch her were rejected. Any attempts to speak kindly to her were met with low growls and bared fangs.
Finally at a loss, since she was not eating or drinking, Keller decided that to keep her from wasting away, he turned her loose. Off she darted like a deer to the woods behind the house and Keller wondered if he would ever see her again. In fact several months went by before Keller saw her again. He had almost given up on her and then one evening as he was moving some sheep from one pasture to another he looked up and saw her crouched down on rock above the pasture. She was watching intently every move of the shepherd and his flock. Her instincts were starting to kick back in and she was being drawn in by the shepherd and the sheep.
He noticed as time passed that she would come nearer to him in the evenings as he sat in the edges of the pasture watching the sheep. When he would see her, he would flip small bits of food from his pack to her and she would slip up, take them and then run back a safe distance away. But during her trek to get the food, Keller would speak clearly and softly to her in an attempt to win her over. Finally as it turned out, the collie finally lost all of her fear and through the kindness of Keller became one of the best sheep dogs he ever had.
The times are too many to count that I have seen broken folks come into the Church, pressed by their problems. They had chains on their necks and chains about their feet that so constricted them they could hardly walk and function.
I have also noticed that in time as they kept coming, the grace of God gently worked on their spirit. Whether it was the praying they heard, the singing they heard, the gentle moving of the Spirit, the power of the Word, or the fellowship of the Church, all of it working together turned their lives around.
That is what takes place when the voice of the Shepherd reaches through to those who are willing to heed that voice.
(From a sermon by Philip Harrelson, The Voice of the Shepherd, 8/6/2010)