Poor Harry…… part deux.

Poor Harry…… part deux.  Alas, it wasn’t enough to have to write about Harry last week after it was reported that he was cavorting with members of the opposite sex by the pool. Then he goes and loses all of his clothes in  a strip billiard game and his friends post the pictures they took.  Harry, what are we going to do with you?  Of course, some of the news reports on that same day were “Celine Dion poses topless”, “Kidman shows backside in pic” and “Lady Gaga bares breasts in video clip” and nobody really seemed to care about that, but maybe that’s what is expected.  Well maybe not from Celine but from the rest of them. 
It appears the Royal Family is not amused. But Harry is not the first Royal to act badly, Mummy and Daddy weren’t saints, nor will he be the last. 
If you follow the stories there are all kinds of opinions about what the Prince needs to do. Some people think he needs to grow up, others suggest that he needs to act more responsible and remember who he is, while others think he’s doing a fine job. 
But what Harry needs more than anything is Jesus, then maybe billiard lessons and better friends.  Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

I am the Gate

I am.  That’s what
Jesus said. “I am.”  Since June we have
been looking at the various times that Jesus used the phrase “I am” to
metaphorically describe himself.  “I am
the Way”, “I am the truth”, “I am the resurrection”, “I am the life”, “I am the
bread of life”, “I am the light of the world”, “I am the Good Shepherd.”   And on one occasion he simply stated “I AM’,
a statement of existence that goes clear back to the Old Testament when God
declared to Moses Exodus 3:14 God
replied to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. Say this to the people of Israel: I AM has
sent me to you.”
It is interesting that only
John records these words of Jesus.  It’s
not that Jesus doesn’t use the words “I am” anywhere else in the Gospels, he
does.  As a friend of mine from Australia
used to say “He’s not backwards about coming forward” at least not in sense of
defining who he was and what he was like Matthew 11:29 “Take
my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.”
When the high priest demanded
that Jesus answer their question in Mark 14:61 Then
the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”   He answered and said Mark
14:62
Jesus said, “I AM.”
And on different occasions
Jesus said very clearly “I am the Messiah”. 
But it is only in the book of John that Jesus’ uses these metaphors to
describe himself.  Now Jesus didn’t use
similes because as you are all aware a simile uses the word “like” make that
comparison.  Jesus didn’t say “I am like
a gate”  or “I am like a shepherd”  he said “I am the gate” and “I am the
shepherd.”  A metaphor is much more
forceful than a simile. But you knew that already.
But maybe you are wondering why
John mentions these words but Matthew, Mark and Luke don’t?  After giving it much thought my answer would
be:  “just because they didn’t”. 
If four of you chose to follow
me around for the next three years, from now until August 2015 and then each of
you wrote an account of what I did and what I said each of you would attribute
importance to different parts of the story. 
In the gospels we have concise accounts of Jesus’ ministry, if we had
every word and every action that he did written down it would literally take up
volumes of space.  Which John echoes in John
21:25
Jesus also did many other things. If they
were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books
that would be written.
And so the fact that only John
recorded the times that Jesus used these metaphors probably isn’t all that
surprising. Perhaps they struck a chord with John; maybe he was the only one who
noticed the pattern. 
When we moved back from
Australia we noticed how many people were using the word “Paradigm”.  Or for those of you who are hooked on
Phoneics “Par-a-dig-m” I’m sure the word was used in Oz but just not in the
circles that we ran in. And so we moved back and here was this new word being
bandied around willy nilly and I had no idea what it meant.  All I knew was that if I was going to
accomplish anything in this new church it would only happen after I strategically
analysed and shifted my paradigm while maximizing and leveraging our synergy.  If you aren’t sure what a Paradigm is, don’t
feel bad I’m not sure that the dictionary does either. 

par·a·digm  [par-uh-dahym, -dim] noun

1. a set of forms all of which contain a particular
element, especially the set of all inflected forms based on a single stem or
theme.

It wasn’t long after we were
back that Angela and I were at a conference and one of the key-note speakers seemed
to have fallen in love with word.  But
when I mentioned it to another pastor he said he hadn’t noticed.  In a half an hour the speaker used the word
“Paradigm” almost a dozen times, I know because every time he used the word we
made a tic in our notes, until he caught us.
So perhaps it was only John who
attached particular importance to these words that Jesus spoke, that he was the
one who saw the pattern.  
Last week we looked at the
second part of this chapter and the phrase “I am the Good Shepherd”  this morning we are looking back to the
beginning of his teaching here.  We had
commented at how often Jesus used the everyday to illustrate the eternal.  The everyday activities of farmers, fishermen
and house wives because opportunities for Jesus to illustrate the Kingdom of
God.  .
In this case it was the village
sheepfold that caught the attention of Jesus. 
Historically we while the sheep would be led into the hills surrounding
the villages to graze during the day at night they would be brought back to the
village and would be housed in a sheepfold. 
These were just pens, or corrals to contain and protect the sheep at
night.  Sometimes they were more
permanent structures made out of stone and sometimes they were just temporary
ones made out of brush.  But the concept
was the same, they were a sheep high enclosure with an opening for the sheep to
go in and go out through. 
So maybe Jesus and the apostles
had come across a sheepfold and Jesus says John 10:1 “I
tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than
going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber!  And then he says John
10:7
so Jesus explained it to them: “I tell
you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep.” And then he reiterates that
thought in John 10:9 Yes,
I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and
go freely and will find good pastures.
Those of you who were here last
week might be thinking, “I thought Jesus was the shepherd.  How can he be the shepherd and the gate
both?” 
A couple of thoughts here, some
scholars tell us that some folds, in particular the temporary ones didn’t
actually have a gate that closed the opening in the fold.  And so once the sheep were inside the
shepherd would lay across the opening to keep the sheep in place.  Anyone who has ever chaperoned a youth lock
in or sleep over understand the concept, at least in separating the rams and
the ewes. 
And so those scholars would
tell us that Jesus was trying to convey that he was both the gate and the
shepherd.  Sometimes I think we over
analysis things.  I don’t think this was
a mixed metaphor as much as it was two separate metaphors.   You know what a mixed metaphor is right?  When you jumble up different concepts in one
thought. 
Once in Futurama
Zapp Brannigan stated “If we can hit that bull’s-eye then the rest of the
dominoes will fall like a house of cards… Checkmate.”   I have a friend who used to do that
all the time, once while he was preaching he challenged the congregation to
“Grab life by the teeth”. 
Let’s not try and twist our head around how Jesus can be
both the shepherd and the gate, instead let’s just assume that they were two
different thoughts.  We don’t wonder how
Jesus could be the vine and the bread, or the Shepherd and the light.  Jesus was using different metaphors to
illustrate his different characteristics so let’s not mix them up. 
Last week we looked at Jesus’ words “I am the Good
Shepherd.”  That was last week.  New thought for this week John
10:9
Jesus said “Yes,
I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be
saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures.”
So there are three thoughts here.  1) There
is One Gate
We don’t see a lot of gates around the HRM, but 2000 years ago
in the middle east gates were everywhere. 
You protected your sheep with gates, you protected your towns with
gates, you protected your family with gates. 
The people who heard Jesus that day knew exactly what he meant when he
talked about Gates. In Jesus’ day there were ten different gates placed in the
walls of Jerusalem.  There were big gates
and little gates, fancy gates and plain gates.  And there were all opened during the day and
they were all closed at night.
During the day the elders gathered at the gates and it was
there they held court.  The city and
village gates acted as meeting spots and gathering places  Actually in the original language the word
translated gate can also be translated “Tim Hortons”
On my first teaching trip to Africa I marveled at the number
of gates there were.  Our hotel had a
wall and a gate.  All the homes we
visited had walls and gates.  To get to
some of the restaurants we ate at you had to go through gates and even the church
properties were gated. Some neighbourhoods were gated and often on main roads
there would be gates set up with armed troops checking people’s IDs.  I commented to the folks who were hosting us
and asked if crime was really that serious of a problem and they said no but
what if you left your property open and someone came and stole your clothes
while they were hanging out to dry? 
There seemed to be a culture of fear. 
Which might explain all the gated communities you see in places like
Florida.  
But the main purpose of a gate
was that it provided an entrance and exit. 
And those who had legitimate business there entered via the gate, which
is why Jesus said John 10:1 “I
tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than
going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber!”
And there are times that we
want to think that there are several different gates that people can go through
on their way to God.  But that isn’t the
reality of what Jesus taught.  In the
same way that Jesus said John 14:6 Jesus
told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father
except through me.”  And not “I am
one way and I am one truth”  Jesus said John
10:9
Jesus said “Yes,
I am the gate.” Not “I am one gate” but “I am the gate”.  And he is the gate not because he was a good
teacher and not because he was a great prophet and not because he was a
righteous man.  He is the gate to God because
He is God.
And while that might seem a
little narrow and a little limiting that is the reality of the Kingdom.  Jesus himself said in the book of Matthew
7:13
“You can enter God’s Kingdom only through
the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the
many who choose that way.”
So what is on the other side of the Gate?  John 10:9 Jesus said “Yes, I am the gate.
Those who come in through me will be saved. They
will come and go freely and will find good pastures.”
2. It is a Gate to
the There and Then 
Those
who come in through me will be saved.  When
I was in Bible College we had a drama group called “Redemption Road” and they
travelled to churches to represent the college. 
And in one of the sketches they had a young man trying to talk to his
friend about Jesus but he kept using Christian phrases and Christian clichés
that his friend wasn’t familiar with. 
One of those was “Are you saved?” 
To which his friend replied “What?” And so his friend asked again  “Are you saved?”  “Once I was in a canoe in the middle of the
river that flipped over, so yeah I guess I was.” 
And we need to be careful that
when we use words and concepts like “being saved” with people who aren’t
familiar with “Christianise” but that doesn’t negate the value or the truth of
those particular words.  It seems that
most people are familiar with the phrase “Born again” especially during a US
election year.  But only once do we find
that phrase in Bible.  And it is an
important reference in John 3:3 Jesus
replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the
Kingdom of God.” But it is only one statement.  The New Testament is rife with the word and
the concept of being saved. 
Jesus uses the word, Paul uses
the word, Peter uses the word, James uses the word.  Even angels used the word.
Listen to how the story of
Jesus begins, Mary has broken the news to Joseph that she is pregnant, and he
knows he’s not the father.  He decides he
must break of the engagement but that night as he struggles to find peace in
sleep we read Matthew 1:20-21 As
he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph,
son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For
the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son,
and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
When Jesus
was explaining why he had come he tells his Apostles in Luke
19:10 “
For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”
And after Jesus had died on the cross and had rose from the dead, in one
of his last conversation with his followers he told them Mark
16:16
Anyone who believes and is baptized will
be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned.
The bible is very clear that we
are all sinners, as much as we try to not sin we do sin. Romans 3:23 For
everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.
And the bible is equally clear
that the consequences of that sin is spiritual death.  That is what the Bible calls Hell, or Hades
or Sheol.  And through the years it has
been described with flames and fire and torment.  And we don’t know what hell will look like or
what hell will feel like but we do know this, it will be a separation from God
and from all that is good.  From love,
from peace from joy.  It won’t be a party
to get reacquainted with old friends, it will be hell.  Hebrews 10:39 But
we are not like those who turn away from God to their own destruction. We are
the faithful ones, whose souls will be saved.
And the Bible clear that is why
Jesus came and offered himself as a sacrifice, to do what we could not do on
our own.  To save us from the
consequences of our sins.  Paul writes
and tells us in Titus 3:5 He
saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his
mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the
Holy Spirit.
 But there has to be
more than being saved from tomorrow.
John 10:9 Jesus said “Yes, I am the gate.
Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go
freely and will find good pastures.” 
3. It is a Gate to the Here and Now Jesus wasn’t promising his
followers good grazing.  The phrase “They
will come and go freely and will find good pastures.”  is a Hebraic Euphemism, you know what
a Hebraic Euphemism is right?  Yes that’s
right a Euphemism in Hebrew. William Barclay tells us “To describe something of what that
entrance to God means, Jesus uses a well-known Hebrew phrase. He says that
through him we can go in and come out. To be able to come and go unmolested was
the Jewish way of describing a life that is absolutely secure and safe.”
 Do you remember the opening lines of the 23rd
Psalm?  Psalm 23:1-2 The
LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green
pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.
In the 23rd Psalm
David was saying that God would provide all he needed.  Let’s be careful to understand that all we
need and all we want may be two very different things.  For the sheep they needed food for today,
they didn’t need to own the pasture. 
The other day on the news they
were talking about the need to have emergency savings, equal to 3 months of
what we needed to survive.  And they
talked about our mortgage payments, and car payments and groceries and . .
.internet access. 
The pastures that Jesus brings
us to are the fulfilment of our physical needs, and our emotional needs and our
spiritual needs.  And it’s not simply him
waving a magical wand.  It is when we
follow his teaching and his example.  His
death and resurrection saves us from our sin and his teaching and his example
lead us into our new life. 
Not very much further along in
John 10 we read John 10:10 . . . My
purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. In some of the older
versions we read John 10:10 .
. . I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more
abundantly.  Sometimes Christians
live like they don’t deserve much in life, that they have to live on the fringe
but that wasn’t the promise of Jesus.  He
promised us a life that would be rich and satisfying, an abundant life, a full
life and a new life.
2
Corinthians 5:17
This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person.
The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
 And
what that means for you and how that works out in your life is up to you and
God, what is a full and satisfying life for you might not do anything for me at
all.  If you are going to enter into the
life that God has for you and wants for you, in the here and now and in the
there and then there is only one entrance, only one gate.  And the only person who can decide whether or
not you will go through that gate is you. 
Not even God can force you through the gate, but he will hold it open
for you.

Remember who you are

Poor Harry.  The headline said it all “British royal Prince Harry has put his grandfather’s ill health to one side to go on a wild holiday.”  But did it really say it all?  Granted Harry’s grandfather, Prince Phillip, was in the hospital and Harry was in Las Vegas, but so what?  Phillip wasn’t dying, he was being treated for a bladder infection.  And Harry was on leave before returning to his military duties in Afghanistan.  The article went on to accuse the young Prince of being seen in a pair of Bermuda shorts, shades and a hat…. gasp!  And was also seen, and I quote,  “laughing and playing with a beach ball, before chatting to a bevy of beautiful, bikini-clad girls.”  Sounds like normal behaviour for a healthy 28-year-old heterosexual male. 
The problem is this, the world and the media expect more from the man who is third in line for the throne, fairly or not.  That’s the price of being royalty. 
In the same way the world and the media will always hold Christ followers to a higher standard than others.  And that’s ok, because God does as well.  A perk of following Jesus is that you are a child of the King, the price is that you are expected to act like it.  
 Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

I am the Good Shepherd

“I am”.  Over the past eight weeks we have been
looking at the various times that Jesus describes himself using the phrase “I
am”.  And so we have examined Jesus words
and meaning when he said “I am the way”, “I am the truth”, “I am the life”, “I
am the resurrection”, “I am the bread of life”, “I am the vine” and “I am the
light of the world”.  And these all lead
back to the message we began with in John 8:58 where in a debate with the
Jewish religious leaders Jesus simply identifies himself simply as “I AM”.   And while for us that may seem a little
vague the Jews knew exactly what he was saying, which explains their reaction
in John 8:59 At that point they picked up stones to
throw at him.
Why? Why would they want to
throw rocks at Jesus? Because of his superior debating skills?  No. Because he was claiming to be over 1500
years old?  No.   It wasn’t about when Jesus claimed to be but
instead it was all about who Jesus claimed to be.
From childhood every Jew had
been taught the story of how Moses had been called of God to deliver the
children of Abraham from the slavery of Egypt. 
They all knew the details and they knew that when God called Moses while
he was in the wilderness that he didn’t want to go, and when Moses finally gave
in he had one final question for God and that question is found in Exodus
3:13
But Moses protested, “If I go to the
people of Israel and tell them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’
they will ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what should I tell them?”   And that is a good question?  It’s something that I would want to know.
“Why should the people believe me?  Whose
authority am I coming in?”  And God’s
response is found in the next verse Exodus 3:14 God
replied to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. Say this to the people of Israel: I AM has
sent me to you.”   
And so when Jesus told the people
who had gathered that day John 8:58 Jesus
answered, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I AM!” They
knew exactly what he was saying and exactly who he was claiming to be.  And when someone claimed to be God, for the
Jews that was blasphemy and the penalty for blasphemy was stoning.  You might be thinking “Well how did Jesus
escape?”  Well . . . we don’t really have
all the details.  What the bible tells us
in John 8:59 At that point they picked up stones to
throw at him. But Jesus was hidden from them and left the Temple.   And we don’t know if Jesus simply disappeared
or if his disciples crowded around him and snuck him out or what.  All we know is that the plans of the people
to kill Jesus didn’t come to fruition that day. 
In the book of John there are
several instances where Jesus uses the phrase “I am”  times in the book of John that Jesus said “I am”.  And for those who care there are 22 separate instances
where Jesus is recorded as saying “I am” in the gospel of John.  In John 8:58 we see Jesus use “I AM” as a
statement of existence.  The statement
lacks an object after the verb.  In the
other twenty one instances when Jesus says “I am” he means he is something, a predicate
nominative
follows the verb.  Not in
this case, he isn’t saying he is something, he is simply stating that he is.
Another ten of those
instances are self-identification, times when Jesus said “I am” to identify
himself.  An example of that is found in John
18:4-5
when Jesus is arrested in the garden,  Jesus fully realized
all that was going to happen to him, so he stepped forward to meet them. “Who
are you looking for?” he asked. “Jesus the Nazarene,” they replied. “I AM he,”
Jesus said. (Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them.)
In another 11 instances the
statements are metaphorical, that is that Jesus describes himself by comparing
himself to something else.  And that is
where we’ve parked this summer. 
In the scripture that was read
for us this morning we hear Jesus say not once but twice “I am the Good
Shepherd.” So the question has to be: Why a Shepherd?  Probably a couple of different reasons.  If you read through the gospels you discover
that Jesus was a genius at taking the everyday and using it to illustrate the
eternal.  The Kingdom of God is like:  a man working in a field, a woman making
bread, a fisherman casting his net into the water.  So perhaps on this day as Jesus and his
followers were making their way along the roads of Palestine they were
interrupted by a shepherd and his flock of sheep crossing the road.  Or maybe it wasn’t a spontaneous teaching but
something he had planned and crafted.  We
don’t think of Jesus’ teaching in that light do we?  We don’t think of him writing a sermon or
preparing his thoughts in advance but we just assume that it was a natural
outflow of who he was.  I can’t speak for
other preachers but I spend hours writing and molding what you hear on Sunday
mornings, sometimes that may be hard to believe but it is the truth. 
So maybe Jesus had stayed up
late the night before wondering how he would convey these specific thoughts to
those who followed him and decided on the analogy of a shepherd and sheep.  After all 2000 years ago in Israel everyone
knew what a shepherd looked like and what a shepherd did.   Their greatest king had been a
shepherd.  When the birth of Jesus was
announced it was to shepherds.  When
David was looking for a description for God that everyone would understand he
said “The Lord is my shepherd’ and that was just one of a number of times that
David would refer to God as a shepherd over the people of Israel. 
And that fact that the bible
sometimes uses sheep as an analogy for God’s people isn’t always a
compliment.  People who don’t know sheep
think they are soft, fluffy docile animals but that isn’t always the truth.
2000 years ago the Roman poet Sextus Propertius wrote “The seaman tells stories of winds,
the ploughman of bulls; the soldier details his wounds, the shepherd his
sheep.”
But what does it mean to us
today, August 19 2012?  Sheep and shepherds
are not a common sight along our roads. 
The other day when we were driving back from NB we saw sheep but they
were penned in a field and there wasn’t a shepherd anywhere to be seen.  Very few if any of us know a shepherd or have
even met a shepherd.  It would be like
speaking to someone in Australia and using a snowplough operator as an
illustration. 
It is interesting to note that
this is one of only two times where Jesus using an analogy to describe himself
and then expects others to emulate that analogy.  Last week Pastor Ben spoke on Jesus’ words
from John 8:12 “I am the light of the world. If you follow
me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that
leads to life.” And perhaps you will recall Jesus’ words from the Sermon
on the Mount when he told his followers Matthew 5:14 “You
are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be
hidden.”  But nowhere do you see
Jesus commanding those who would follow him to be a vine, or a gate or bread or
the Way.
And so in John 10 Jesus says “I
am the good Shepherd”  and in one of
Jesus’ last interactions with his disciples we read this account in John
21:15-17
After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter,
“Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter
replied, “you know I love you.” “Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him. Jesus
repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter
said, “you know I love you.” “Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said. A third
time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt that
Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You
know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.
When Paul was giving direction
to the elders of the church in Ephesus he tells them Acts 20:28 “So
guard yourselves and God’s people. Feed and shepherd God’s flock—his church,
purchased with his own blood—over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as
elders.”
And when we read in Ephesians
4:11
Now these are the gifts Christ gave to
the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and
teachers.  The word that is used
for Pastor is the Greek word ποιμήν
(poimēn) which is
used 18 times in the New Testament and the other 17 times is translated
shepherd.
And so I don’t think I’m being
presumptuous when I say that the characteristics that apply to Jesus as the
“Good Shepherd” should also apply to those to whom  he entrusts his flock  today.
 So what are those characteristics?  I would suspect when Jesus said “I am your
Shepherd”  that many of those listening
would have immediately thought of David’s psalm, which we now call the 23rd
Psalm and would have thought about how the Great Shepherd was described there.
So firstly this morning let’s
look at what a Shepherd is supposed to do.
Psalm
23:1-2
The LORD is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in
green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.  A
Shepherd Leads the Sheep to Food
In the arid Palestinian country side good
grazing was a moving target, if sheep were allowed to graze too long at one
spot they would destroy the grass and so the shepherd had to move them from
area to area, firstly so they would have enough to eat and secondly so they
wouldn’t overgraze and render that spot barren. 
If you grew up watching westerns or reading Louise Lamour novels you are
probably familiar with the term Cattle drive and you can almost picture in your
minds the whooping cowboys driving the herd of cattle from point “A” to point
“B”.  But here it says the shepherd leads
the sheep.  Take a look at this (video of
sheep following shepherd)
From all I’ve read sheep aren’t
the brightest of animals but they do trust their shepherd.  Jesus tells us in John 10:3-4 The sheep recognize the
shepherd’s voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them
out. After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they
follow him because they know his voice.
The sheep know the shepherd’s
voice because they hear it all the time, they understand that if they follow
that voice that good things will happen, they will be led to food and water.
In our daily life as Christ
followers we are supposed to follow Christ. That should be a no-brainer.  The Sheep trust that the shepherd is concerned
about their well-being and that he will take them to where they can find both
food and water.  If we follow Christ, his
words, his teaching and his example then we will be provided for spiritually.  And like sheep if we are familiar with his
voice we will find it easier to follow his voice.  That’s why we read the gospels, to become
familiar with Jesus so we will know his voice. In the same way Jesus continues
on in  John 10:5 “They won’t follow a
stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.”   So when you are familiar with the
voice of Jesus when you hear something that just doesn’t jive with that voice
you know better.  Even if that voice
comes from a pulpit.
  It’s
when we decide that as sheep we know better than the shepherd and we go our own
way that we get into trouble. 
At different times in the
gospels Jesus talks about sheep that get lost, those are sheep who came to the
conclusion that they knew more than the shepherd and stopped following the one
who was leading them and decided to go their own way.  The scriptures warn us, Proverbs
14:12
There is a path before each person that
seems right, but it ends in death.
As your Pastor, your shepherd,
my responsibility is to lead you where God would have you to go, to direct you
to where you can be fed spiritually. 
Psalm 23:4 Even
when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close
beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. Some
scriptures are just best in the King James version Psalm 23:4 Yea,
though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil:
for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
The Shepherd Protects the Sheep  How many people here are fans of the Bugs
Bunny show?  Truly the cream of the
intellectual crop aren’t we.  Out of all
my favourites the one cartoon I enjoy most is the one with the Ralph the wolf
and Sam the sheep dog.  You remember,
they clock into work together each morning, “Morning Ralph, morning Sam”, spend
the day doing what they do best.  The wolf
trying his hardest to steal a sheep and the sheepdog preventing him from
stealing said sheep. 
Remember sheep weren’t raised
in town, they were roamed the hills where the wild animals also roamed.  And there were times as they were looking for
something to eat that predators in the same area were looking for something to
eat as well. And although sheep had a number of natural enemies they had no
natural defences.  They can’t run that
fast, they are herbivores so their teeth really aren’t designed to bite in
defence, although most pastors have discovered that sheep can bite.  Sheep really are helpless.  And it is up to the shepherd to defend them
against wild animals.
Do you remember the story, from
the Old Testament, of David the shepherd boy and the giant Goliath?  David volunteers to go up against Goliath and
the King says “Don’t be ridiculous, you are just a boy”  and David counters with these words 1
Samuel 17:34-35
But David persisted. “I have been taking
care of my father’s sheep and goats,” he said. “When a lion or a bear comes to
steal a lamb from the flock, I go after it with a club and rescue the lamb from
its mouth. If the animal turns on me, I catch it by the jaw and club it to
death.
If we follow Jesus’ voice he
not only leads us but he protects us. 
Time and time again in the New Testament false teachers are portrayed as
wolves that want to prey on God’s sheep. 
Part of my responsibility as your pastor, your shepherd is to protect
you from those false teachings.  To
counter them and point people in the right direction.  And remember the best way to be know what is
false teaching is to be immersed in the truth.
The third thing a Shepherd does may sound a little
strange and perhaps cruel Ecclesiastes 12:11 The words of the wise are like cattle prods—painful but
helpful. Their collected sayings are like a nail-studded stick with which a
shepherd drives the sheep. When
Necessary The Shepherd Disciplines The Sheep  
Apparently there were times that sheep
just wouldn’t do what they were supposed to do, they would wander away and not
stay with the flock.  So there were three
options, you could let them be eaten by something, you could eat them yourself
or you could discipline them. 
I have read accounts that purport to be true although I
can’t vouch for it myself.  The story
goes that sometimes a shepherd would find himself with a particular young
headstrong sheep who seemed to have natural leadership abilities, apparently
sheep must be like people in that account, those two characteristics often go
together along with youth. 
When the Atlantic district and I were in the courtship phase
about starting Cornerstone I had to take a personality profile test, I forget
which one it was.  But the report came
back and they told me, “We like the fact that you think outside the box but
have some concerns that you might be a bit of a loose cannon.”   No really? 
Anyway, back to the story. 
We are told that sometimes this individualistic sheep would lead the
other sheep away from where they were supposed to be and into danger.  If the shepherd couldn’t stop this behaviour
he would resort to drastic measures.  He
would break one of the sheep’s legs and then set it.  He would then carry the sheep with him and
the sheep would become dependent on the shepherd for his food and water and
would get used to being around the shepherd so when the leg finally healed he
would no longer be a danger to himself or to the other sheep.  You ever wonder about the paintings with
Jesus and lamb around his neck?  Of
course if that didn’t work the shepherd would eat the sheep, but they don’t
tell you that.
Now I have a confession to
make.   I don’t like discipline.  Didn’t like it as a child, didn’t like it  as teen don’t like it as an adult.  But it is part of life and part of
accountability.  But listen to the words
of Bible in Hebrews 12:5-7 And
have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children? He
said, “My child, don’t make light of the LORD’s discipline, and don’t give up
when he corrects you. For the LORD disciplines those he loves, and he punishes
each one he accepts as his child.” As you endure this divine discipline,
remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a
child who is never disciplined by its father?
Angela and I came across an
interesting scripture the other day in 1 Corinthians.  It was about a man in the church who was
involved in sinful behaviour.  And I know
in 2012 we are told not to judge, to accept people as they are and love them
where they are at. But this is what Paul tells the Shepherds of the Corinthian
Church to do with this individual.  1 Corinthians 5:5 Then you
must throw this man out and hand him over to Satan and that
sounds really harsh, but let’s keep reading to find the result.  so that his sinful
nature will be destroyed and he himself will be saved on the day the Lord
returns.
At some point there needs to be
discipline and a clear statement of: this is right and this is wrong and often
times the discipline on this side of eternity will make a difference on the
other side of eternity.  
Finally there are a couple things
that a shepherd can’t do.
A Shepherd Can’t Have Baby Sheep. 
This might sound silly but often times in the church if there
is no growth and the flock isn’t growing the sheep blame the shepherd.  But the reality is that the shepherd is to
provide a safe healthy place for the sheep and in that environment they are
supposed to reproduce.
A Shepherd Can’t Eat For His Sheep 
I’m sure that you have all heard the old adage “You can lead
a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.” 
Well you can lead the sheep to food but you can’t make them eat. 
If the sheep are going to grow
and stay healthy then they have to eat but the shepherd can’t force them to
eat.  If Christ Followers are going to
grow and stay healthy then they have to eat but the shepherd can’t force them
to eat.  And if you aren’t feeding on the
word of God through the week and you are weak spiritually don’t blame me.  Too many people blame the pastor saying “Well
I’m just not being fed on Sunday” What would happen if you only ate food on
Sunday? You’d starve to death, eventually, some of us it would take a while. My
prayer when someone tells me that is “Lord teach them to eat.” 
Let me close
with the words of Peter, remember this is the Peter that Jesus commanded to feed
his sheep.  1 Peter 2:25 Once
you were like sheep who wandered away. But now you have turned to your
Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls.

Cheaters never win. . . well maybe sometimes

He cheated! So What?  At least that seems to be the consensus.   During the Olympics, South African swimmer Cameron van der Burgh, broke the world record on his way to winning Gold in the 100M breaststroke last week.  However, video footage shows that van der Burgh took three “dolphin kicks” at the beginning of the race instead of the permitted one “dolphin kick”.  The swimmer didn’t deny what he did, instead, he justified and rationalized it.  In one interview the South African is quoted as saying: “If you’re not doing it, you’re falling behind. It’s not obviously — shall we say — the moral thing to do, but I’m not willing to sacrifice my personal performance and four years of hard work for someone that is willing to do it and get away with it,”  
If it’s not the “shall we say —moral thing to do” then it must be the “shall we say—immoral thing to do.” 
The hope of the world is that more people will chose to do what is right than what is easy. And so, our responsibility as Christ Followers will always be to live to a higher standard as an example of what can be instead of what is.
Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

De-evolving

Sometimes I suspect that if Darwin was alive today he would amend his theory to state that human beings are actually de-evolving. I read an article a while ago about the pitcher on a high school baseball team who was hit in the head by a line drive. Which actually might explain the rest of the story, Daniel Hannant has filed a lawsuit against the makers of Louisville Sluggers, claiming that the company’s aluminium bats are “unreasonably dangerous” to pitchers because they are designed to hit baseballs very, very hard. Hello, earth to Daniel. Give your head a shake and see what that ball rattled loose. The point of baseball is to hit the baseball very, very hard. While baseball shouldn’t be as dangerous as, say bungee jumping, there are some dangers involved, like getting hit in the head with the ball.

 We want to live a life that is consequence free, but that is impossible. Everything we do has consequences, a consequence of being human is that we sin, and a consequence of sin is hell. However the great news is that God was willing to take the consequences of our actions on Himself and forgive our sins; however it only works if you ask Him.

  Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.