Feeling sheepish.

Ten years ago, a dear friend of mine was in a very bad place in life. Addiction, anger, depression, trouble with the law, and ashamed. I love this man like a brother. I know that when one of the flock wanders off, we struggle to know how to reach out, how to put our personal feelings of hurt aside, and how to welcome them back in when they make that treck back. I’ve spoken to several people I love, who have left and come back. The common denominator was fear of humiliation. From my own personal experience in being lost in my teenage years, I will tell you that is absolutely truth. It was hard enough to know people knew I’d gotten off track, but the worst was feeling their doubt when I returned. I could feel their expectations of me, were now very low and there was a hesitancy to trust that I would make it long term. That is a bitter pill to swallow. What made it possible to endure, was the faithful friendships that hadn’t let go of the hope for my success. It was those who told me they believed I could be alright and that God would help and so would they. It was those who entrusted me with Bible school teaching opportunities, and involvement in church camp. It was the opportunities to grow spiritually through serving others, that really drove me to do better. It made me want to be strong and a good example. If that hadn’t been extended to me, I don’t think I would have been successful long term. It called me higher in my faith, because responsibility was put on my shoulders. It forced me to start leading in faith. 

In the last 10 years, I’ve watched as my dear friend went from the lowest place in his life, to fighting his way to an absolutely miraculous place in life. He was carried back on the shoulders of Jesus when he cried out in desperation. It is astonishing to see the change within him. I hear him pray in church, and I see him sing, and hug his beautiful wife, and it makes me cry every time. I’m reminded of the middle of the night phone calls and thousands and thousands of desperate prayers for him, and my heart is completely overjoyed to see the healing that has taken place. It makes me remember when I was the lost sheep. My problems may have been different ones, but they stemmed from the very same place as his. Feelings of inadequacy, sadness, a crisis in faith, and a struggle with my natural man. I’m sure he would tell you himself that God is the only reason this healing has been possible. When I say that, I mean God in every beautiful way that He works on and through us. He changed the heart of my friend, and He has changed my heart as well. He worked within the hearts of those who loved him, to reach out and encourage Him. When we turn to God, His healing methods are not ones of shame and punishment. We do not serve a God of honor killings, shunning, or revenge.  Our Father in Heaven is a God of healing, charity, forgiveness, and reconciliation. He wants us to be one with His flock again, and He wants the flock to be of support, encouragement, and love. After all, we are all sheep, none of us higher than the other, and all prone to wander. What separates us from goats, are our tendencies. Goats are full of self will and destruction. Goats refuse to be led. Sheep are peaceful and they look to a shepherd for the way. 

Luke 15:4
What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?

I was listening to a sermon the other day and the minister was talking about how this parable of a lost sheep being sought after by Jesus; raises the value of all of the sheep in the flock. He was explaining that if one lost sheep is viewed as expendable, it translates to the reality that all of the sheep are expendable. The fact that Jesus will leave the ninety and nine, to go after the one lost sheep, shows us that He views each sheep as priceless. He isn’t willing to lose any if He can help it. The value of a sheep is determined by the shepherd it belongs to.

Luke 15:11-32

11. And he said, A certain man had two sons:

12. And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them hisliving.

13. And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.

14. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.

15. And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.

16. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.

17. And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!

18. I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,

19. And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.

20. And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.

21. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.

22. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:

23. And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:

24. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.

25. Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing.

26. And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant.

27. And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound.

28. And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him.

29. And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends:

30. But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.

31. And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.

32. It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.

I’ve observed all of these different players within a church body. My heart has been broken by the sheep who’ve wandered too far and been devoured by the devil; death prevailing before repentance could redeem. I’ve rejoiced over the prodigals who’ve left, but responded to the call of their Shepherd and come back. I’ve seen the brother of the prodigal, grow jealous, self righteous, and entitled. I’ve seen him attempt to board up the fence so the lost ones would have more pain and difficulty at returning. I’ve also witnessed the joy of the Father at the reunion with his lost child. I’ve seen those who carry the Holy Spirit within them, fight tooth and nail to encourage a lost sheep back, I’ve even watched them tear down where someone else may have tried to board up the fence, and I’ve seen the pure joy in their face at the redemption of one they love. I myself have been both the lost sheep trying to return, and a sheep of the flock hoping for the return of another sheep. We as a church, embody the flock. No matter which sheep we are or have been, our shepherd will run after us and do everything He can to lead us back.

Luke 15:7 – 10

7. I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.

8. Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it?

9. And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and herneighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost.

10. Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.

Our shepherd demonstrated in parables and example, that each of his sheep are priceless and desired by Him. It got me thinking about how we respond to lost sheep. How do I want my child to be treated if they should find themselves lost? It very well could be them at a point in their lives. My deepest desire, is that the flock of God would all have His manner in loving the lost one and encouraging and leading them back to where they are safe once again. I hope that those who are close enough to reach out,  do so humbly, without implementation of shame, personal vindication or acting as an ignorant arm of justice. I pray my child is approached with the manner and love of Jesus. As the bride of Christ, can you imagine Him carrying a beautiful priceless sheep home to His wife? What might Jesus hope His bride’s reception of the sheep might look like? I imagine He would hope her response was an embodiment of the joy the angels in heaven have when a sinner repenteth. That must be how God feels when He views all of His children. We as sheep, are never higher than another. I have been the lost sheep. Until my death, I could find myself there again. But for the grace of God go I.  If you ever should find yourself lost, my Shepherd, is calling for you, and He wants you safely back home.  If you are lost, the flock is praying for your return. If you need a sheep to lean on when you get here…I’m your girl…er sheep. I have a bleating heart, for those who are lost, and where I once was. There is no shame in being a lamb. Jesus was the lamb of God, and He did so willingly. 

I love you each my friends. It’s a joy to be in a herd with you. Huge hugs! 

Image result for God's sheep Pinterest

 


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