Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Useful To God

if a man is looking for a girder for a bridge, he realizes that it is not last year’s growth that is going to make the girder. It is the formation of several years’ growth. Anyone that runs the cross-cut saw through a tree will see a lot of rings where the cut has been made. The distance between one ring and another shows the year’s growth. The distance between some of the rings will show that one year’s growth has been very good. There is quite a space between one ring and another. 
In other cases there is just a small space between the rings showing that the tree has had a hard year, has stood the drought, has passed through the difficult times. If we are going to achieve anything in being a help to God’s work, we should be willing to take the bright and dark days; the sunny days, cloudy, hard, soft days, because it will all be known.

Saul of Tarsus preached the Gospel in such a way that religious people did not like him. Some of the people saw that he was a valuable and useful man and very necessary for the family and fold of God. It is good to be a people like that. There are several words used in the Scripture about people: ‘loved’, ‘beloved’ and ‘dearly beloved’. Would not you like to be the last mentioned? It was not only ‘loved’. For some it was ‘beloved’. Let us aim at being the best that God would have us to be, not slack, but seeking to be a help in the family of God, like Peter.

The Lord did not ask Peter to do something hard or difficult in the beginning. Christ was standing by the Sea of Galilee. He was pressed upon by the crowd and He felt He would like a vantage point from which to speak and see how it was affecting those who were listening. He got into Simon Peter’s boat. Then He asked Peter to thrust out a little from the land. Peter willingly did that, and then Jesus sat down and spoke to the people.

Then after He had finished speaking He wished to reward Peter. He said, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a draught.” Peter may have thought, “My Master is a carpenter. He knows straight from crooked grained wood, but He has never been a fisherman.” At least Peter thought so. He had pushed out a little from the land and then he launched out. “Nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.” “Although it seems that you do not know about fishing I will do as you say.” And when they had done this they enclosed a great multitude of fishes and their net broke. When Peter saw it he fell down at Jesus’ knees and he said, “Depart from me for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”

He had put his own ideas before the Lord’s but he came to the place where he said, “I am a sinful man...” That was the kind of beginning Peter had. We know how helpful he became, a man that was one God could depend upon to bring the Gospel to the Gentiles, the one that Cornelius heard. There is the beginning of a useful life.

Then you might think of the beginning of Paul’s life. Paul in writing to Philemon says, “Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ...” Paul speaks of himself as a prisoner. You can read in the paper about a prisoner being arrested and sometimes you will see the word ‘apprehended’. Paul apprehended the truth. He did not see how much he was hemmed in naturally, but he found that being a prisoner brought him to know God in a way he could not otherwise get to know Him. Jesus said to His disciples, “Ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake.” Paul was brought into contact with men such as Felix and King Agrippa, and he was able to preach the Gospel to them.

If we want to be a prisoner who will be brought before governors and kings, then let us take the steps that Paul took. Paul was a hard-working man as far as the Gospel was concerned. He labored more abundantly than them all. He was a true laborer in the things of God. God saw that he needed a little rest and he gave it in this way, by sending him to gaol [jail ?]. In that gaol he had time to think and he got the paper and ink and he wrote letters. I think he wrote thirteen epistles. Some of them would never have been written if God had not given him the quiet time in gaol. He made the most of his opportunity. I am speaking to myself as well as to others when I say that sometimes you might get to the place where you would think, “There is no hope of doing anything here.” There is always the hope of doing something where you are found. Try to do the right thing.

Paul wrote these epistles in quietness. He was a man that was on the lookout for opportunities. A servant of Philemon’s had run away from him and it is nice to think of what he did. He searched to see if he could get in touch with Paul. Onesimus came to see Paul and talked to him and Paul said, “Well, here I am hemmed in in many ways, hindered in many ways, but here is a chance for me to preach the Gospel. Onesimus heard it and God set His seal and he became a child of God and was useful in taking the epistle back to Philemon.

It speaks in the beginning of this epistle, “Grace to you and peace...,” It is nice to think of the little group of people that were here. A man and his wife had the church in their home, seeking to do what they could. It is nice to think of grace. Paul gave God the chance of giving him grace and help. He was given grace to help in time of need. Because God saw him willing  to do what he could, He helped him.

I remember once when I was a boy I had a desire to do a little paving, and I got the stones together and sand and I smoothed off where I was going to place these stones. I put the stones down on this prepared part and began to put the sand between them. I did not know that my father was looking over my shoulder and he was pleased at the attempt I was making and said, “Tom, I will show you how to do it better.” Wouldn’t it be good for God to look on and see us making an attempt, then He would come and help us along the way. We would want to have it in our hearts to be an attempter to carry out the will and mind of God. God will give grace and help to the attempters. “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

A very sweet thought came to me many years ago in the city of Dublin. It was “our Father”.  It appealed to me in this way, that “our Father” means a father of a large family, and some of those in that family are Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Samuel, Joseph, Peter, James and John. I felt what God has been to Paul and Abraham, He will be to me. When Lydia heard Paul, her heart was touched and she attended to those things that were spoken by Paul. She asked Paul to come to her home. She was useful in giving her home to the servants of God and in helping the Gospel that way.

You can think of many places in the Scriptures where it says, “Our Father”. Peter’s God is my God and your God too. Lydia’s and Aquila’s and Priscilla’s Father is your Father. This should feed your heart and encourage you to think, “Well, I belong to a real family. I belong to a great family and I will seek to be a help in that family.” There was a dear old lady in the Old Country where we went to preach the Gospel. She and her husband got out of their own bed for us. I felt glad and satisfied to be in that home. Sometimes I would go out to visit and one day she said to me, “You would be no credit to the home if you went out like that.” She took my hat and cleaned it and gave it back to me. Both those people were faithful to the end and died in a fellowship meeting. That is this great family that we belong to.

I remember a boy went for a job. They gave him a job cleaning out carriages. He was inclined to think it was a very humble job but then he said, “I belong to the company anyway.” He was situated at the bottom of the ladder. Perhaps you have just started; you have yielded to God and He is satisfied, and will help you and you can remember that, “I belong to the company anyway.” It is nice to be in this fellowship. I also remember about a willing lad, employed in an office. The man who was the head of the place dropped a paper on the way up. He did it for a purpose. All the other boys came up and passed by that paper, but this boy stooped and picked it up and went to the boss and said, “I found this on the way up. It may be of some use.” The man gave him a place in the business and he rose higher. It is nice to be people that will put their best into it. It is good to be a people that will keep your eyes open for chances and opportunities.

The little maid that waited on Naaman’s wife had a chance and opportunity. She felt that the prophet of God, Elisha, could heal Naaman of leprosy. He did get the healing that he needed and that man became useful. It is nice to be the person that will do the little thing that may sometimes start the ball rolling. That servant girl did the little thing that brought her master into the place where he could get help. It is nice to be an attempter. It is nice to do the little you can do.

I would like to say the same thing to myself. When God gives me opportunities, I would like to make the most of them. When you get opportunities, you should make the most of them also. Be a people that will do the little they can do and leave the rest to God. You will find the Lord will bless you and comfort your heart. ~ ~ ~

Monday, November 20, 2017

Today I Smiled

Today I smiled, and all at once
Things didn't look so bad.
Today I shared with someone else,
A little bit of hope I had.

Today I worked with what I had,
And longed for nothing more,
And what had seemed like only weeds,
Were flowers at my door.

Today I loved a little more,
And complained a little less.
And in the giving of myself,
I forgot my weariness.

~ author unknown ~

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Thrust of the Bow

Genesis 49:24 “But his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob...” Joseph’s bow abode in strength. It is the hand on the bow that determines the thrust of the arrow. I am ashamed at the lack of thrust in my service, the lack of willingness to bend. There was much bending in Joseph’s experience, and there was a powerful thrust going forth.

Chapter 41 verse 49 “And Joseph gathered corn as the sand of the sea, very much, until he left numbering: for it was without number.” It takes bending to gather by the handfuls. The thrust of his influence went out to all the countries of the earth. It would be impossible to measure the thrust of influence in lives that are willing daily to gather handfuls of heavenly seed. Joseph knew that experience of being falsely misrepresented and misunderstood—the supreme test for many of us. In chapter 39, there was a beautiful bending in his spirit. He kept himself from the hardness of bitterness. The thrust of influence that went forth from his spirit could not even be contained by prison walls. The keeper of the prison committed all authority into his hand. The thrust of that influence has reached even into our hearts today, and it is an example to us of bending in our own spirit. Unwillingness to bend existed in the hearts of his brethren and it created their problem. They brought an evil report to their father. They could not bow to speak peaceably to their younger brother. They could not tolerate the message of his dream that resulted in sorrow, suffering, pain and famine. This involved their little brother and grief-stricken father, until finally they were brought to the place where they said, “We are guilty”. The thrust of their influence started reaching out and their father could bless them and see the possibility of them becoming the patriarchs of the Old Testament. There is a tendency within us to be afraid to bend because of the experiences of pain and suffering that might be required.

Psalm 78:9 “The children of Ephraim, being armed, and carrying bows, turned back in the day of battle.” They turned aside as a deceitful bow. It is possible to have the outward appearance of bending and not the reality of it within, and as a result, there is no thrust, no accomplishment in the day of battle.

I thought of Jesus who felt His need of an additional thrust that last evening before He faced Calvary. It was accomplished by Him bending both inwardly in the struggle in the Garden and also outwardly bowing as He bent to wash His disciples’ feet. In the light of accomplishing cleansing for the sins of the whole world, this matter of washing the feet of twelve men would seem very minimal, but we see the result of that tremendous thrust. Those armed officers came to Jesus with lanterns and torches and weapons. Jesus said to them, “Whom seek ye?” and they answered Him, “Jesus of Nazareth”. Jesus said, “I am he”. They stepped backward and fell to the ground in John 18. His bow abode in strength because of His willing spirit to bend. The momentous thrust that went forth from that bowed figure on Calvary we cannot find words to describe, that cleansing that still reaches and cleanses us from every stain of sin. In light of such bending we should live in appreciation of it, so the effect could prevail upon our hearts and help each be willing for what it means to bend each day. Jesus was willing to completely bow so cleansing could be brought to others.

I would like to speak the words of Job, “My bow is renewed in my hand.” May we enter more fully into the effect of such a thrust.


Saturday, July 29, 2017

So Many Things

So many things I do not know of earth's philosophy;
But this I know - God sent His Son to live a life for me.
It matters not that earth's wise men o'er words and creeds have striven,
I see that Jesus marked the Way so clear from earth to heaven.
'Tis not the things I ought to know, or truths I ought to see,
But what I ought to be and do, which matters most to me.
So many things I do now know, for "Jacob's well" is deep
But this I know that Jesus died, the Shepherd for the sheep,
And if I follow as He leads, and thus requite His love,
I'll prosper in the pastures green, and dwell with Him above.
And when the gilt of earth shall fade with every transient joy,
I'll have my treasure where no thief nor rust can e'er destroy.
So many things I do not know about the stars above;
But this I know - God put them there, and at His will, they move.
The last of Adam's race will die, the gates of time be past,
Before men tell their number, or measure space so vast;
And "what is man" that such a God should of him mindful be?
And such as we should dwell with Him throughout eternity?
So many things I have not learned about this world below;
But I can trace the work of God in every place I go
I've seen Him in the tropics, and in frozen northern land,
In valley, plain, and mountain height, by lake and ocean's strand.
The wise man said, "Of making many books there is no end,"
But I love the Book of Nature more than all that men have penned.
I cannot find identical two pebbles in the brook!
Nor yet two grains of wheat as with the microscope I look!
I cannot find two quite the same among the forest trees;
Nor yet the leaves which shiver in the gentle noonday breeze!
How can each sheep in hundreds its own lamb's bleating tell?
And when it finds it by its bleat, confirms it by its smell.
The wild bird calling to its mate its answering note discerns;
The waiting wife, her spouse's step as homeward he returns.
The features are dissimilar in households of one name,
And though it scarce seems possible, no voices are the same;
Nor yet exactly like the script wherewith our names are signed,
Woe to the criminal who leaves his finger prints behind.
I do not know, and no man knows, when Christ shall come again;
'Tis not revealed to angels, much less to sons of men.
Eleven sad disciples heard upon the mountain's brow,
"This self-same Jesus comes again, just as you see Him now."
And I know He'll seek one people, and only one that day
Those doing what He told them before He went away.
I love the Book of Nature and all its precious lore;
I read God's Book - The Bible - and I love it more and more.
I glory not in what I know, nor ought that I have done;
I feel my education here has scarcely yet begun;
But in one thing, I do rejoice midst earthly sin and strife
That ever God wrote down my name within the Book of Life.
Author:  W. Hughes

Thursday, June 1, 2017

The Keepers of the Light

The Keepers of the Light, who day by day,
Wipe clean the lamp, that it will clear display;
Trim back the wick, so that it will burn bright,
Then add the oil, enough to burn all night.
'Tis not their lot to turn the helms of ships,
Nor change the tide, or stop the wind that whips;
Their portion is that precious light to tend;
And o'er and o'er a constant message send.
The Keepers of the Light, at eventide,
Kindle the lamp, which shall in the darkness guide
The mariners who ply the treach'rous sea,
Oft' peering in the dark, so anxiously.
That steady beam which says that 'Someone Cares',
Makes even hardened seaman offer prayers;
That still on earth are such as these
Concerned to help them safely cross the seas.
The Keepers of the Light, in midnight drear',
They know not who is watching – far or near;
Nor can they see the weary sailor weep,
When lost at sea, A glimpse! A bearing reap!
These faithful souls, whose vigil in the night
Steadfast to send a beacon of bright light;
It matters not how fierce and storm and gale,
They purpose true: "The Light Must Never Fail!"

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Seek Thy Servant

Perhaps that hymn (119 - “There is rest”) doesn’t apply to this Convention when it speaks about entering the fold and so forth, but here at this place we can enter into more fully than ever before, the riches and promises of God’s Kingdom.

My thoughts have been in Psalm 119, the longest psalm in the Bible.  Who wrote it? I don’t know.  The writer was a real child of God, a real servant of God.  When we read the different chapters in the psalm, we come to the conclusion that this man knew God, knew the statutes and ways of God.

Verse 165 says, “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.”  It was not a theory in his mind.  He had proved that there was great peace in serving God.  This was a man who knew many things about the Kingdom and word of God.  There is no doubt that this man was a servant of God, who followed closely in the footsteps of God.

The very last verse, 176 is an unusual verse.  “I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments.”  He had gone astray: past tense.  Then present tense: “seek thy servant.”  When we think of this most wonderful man who wrote all these verses, at the end he said, “I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant. .”  I have prayed this prayer many a time down through the years.  More than once I have gone astray but have prayed, “Seek Thy servant.”

When we talk to this man who wrote the psalm and we would say, “You never left the borders of the Kingdom.  You always prayed and sacrificed and did your part to serve God.  You never left the Kingdom or this faith or this way of Truth.  How can you say then, ‘I have gone astray . . seek Thy servant’?”  

He would answer, “Yes, I did go astray.  I never took steps outside the Kingdom of Heaven.  I remained within the borders of Israel, but many a time, in my thoughts, in my feelings and in my attitude I went astray.  Many times in my spirit I went astray and I had to pray to God.  I have had some wrong thoughts, some wrong feelings, some wrong desires and had to pray, ‘Please bring me back into the centre, right near the Shepherd.  Not physically but in my own being I have gone astray.  O Lord, seek Thy servant’.”

We may feel the same today.  We have stuck with it through different circumstances and tests and trials in hard and dark days.  We are still here, coming to the meetings, taking part in the fellowship, but within ourselves we know we have gone astray many a time in our attitude, in our judgement, in our thinking at the time, towards others.  “Lord, seek Thy servant.”

Sheep are wonderful animals.  You have millions of them in Australia.  They all have this one trait, they just can’t find their way.  No animal gets lost so easily as a sheep.  Take a dog a hundred miles away.  Let him loose and he will find his way.  Take a sheep a few hundred yards down the road and it won’t find its way home.  For any of us it is so easy to go astray in our spirits, in our thoughts, in our minds; not going astray physically.  “Lord, seek Thy servant.  Bring me back again to have the mind of Christ in all matters.

There is a similar thought in the Book of Psalms where we read many a time about the harp and different musical instruments including an instrument of ten strings.  
Take the harp.  It is often tuned.  Even a piano needs tuning from time to time.  It takes someone with a very good ear for music to get the tuning fork and get the right tone.  Leave a harp in the corner for a few days and it has to be tuned again; the strings tightened or loosened.  For good harmony there is need for tuning all the different strings.

We have come to Convention to be tuned.  Our tuning fork is Jesus.  He gives the right reading, the right measured tone for our lives, to have the right attitude in every experience.  As we said in Psalm 119, last verse, “Lord, I have got lost in this or that experience.  I need Thy help.  Seek Thy servant.”  I hope, in this Convention, God can seek and find us to bring us right near the Shepherd for future days.

A sheep gets lost so easily.  Other animals never get lost.  The lions and tigers, even the elephants find their way in the jungle, where there are no tracks, no roads to follow to get where they wish, but a sheep gets lost so easily.  It is our tendency, even in this fellowship, to get lost.  We need His guidance to bring us back to the centre of the flock.  “Seek Thy servant.”  A sheep needs a shepherd.

Other animals, even like the cows over in Switzerland where every year they take them up into the Alps for the summer months where the special type of grass grows.  They graze on those grasses to produce butter and cheese and such products.  But then the snows fall and the cows come down.  Every time they come down, there is quite a procession.  The herdsmen guide them down the mountainside.  Often there is music to accompany them and they take flowers and put them on the horns of the cows.  It is a tradition in that part of the world.  Usually there is the queen of the herd.  She is number one.  Even other animals, wild animals, amongst themselves they choose one to be number one; to be the king.  They take one of their own to guide them through life.

But with the sheep it is not so.  There is no king or queen sheep.  Sheep need a shepherd.  They need a higher level of intelligence to find their way.  A sheep is not able to lead other sheep and that is why sheep need a shepherd.  Even David, that gifted man, whose musical attainments were obvious to all, courageous on the battlefield, head and shoulders above everyone else in the country: he had ability; he had strength; he had courage, all that a man could require, humanly speaking, yet he said, “The Lord is my shepherd, I need the Lord.  The Lord is my shepherd. I need Him.”  We need a higher power to guide us.

Do you know what’s wrong with Australia and New Zealand and Switzerland and every nation upon the face of the earth?  So much turmoil, so much distress and chaos and so many upset people.  It’s because they take one of their own to be their guide.  They elect one of their own to lead the country.  Every time there is disillusionment.  Things go wrong every time.  We need a shepherd.  We need God.  As the psalmist said, “I have gone astray . . seek me.”  I can’t find the way.  It’s not in me to find the way.  I need Thy power.  I need Thy Word, I need Thy Spirit.  I need all the strength of Heaven just to find the way, to be amongst the flock; just to realise our dependence upon Him in this place.  “Bring me into the centre of Thy will.”

We need a shepherd.  There is a very interesting verse in Proverbs 30:21 “For three things the earth is disquieted, and for four which it cannot bear: For a servant when he reigneth . .”  To sit on the throne, to guide the affairs of a nation it needs a certain amount of ability, a certain amount of intelligence and schooling to guide the people, but when a slave (in Bible days illiterate) who can’t read or write is on the throne, then the country is troubled; the nation is disquieted.  There is trouble on every hand when a servant reigns on the throne.

When this old Esau nature, this one who should be servant to the new nature, when the human is serving the spiritual that is good, but when this servant starts reigning and governing, when the old human nature has the say in our life, there is trouble in our hearts, trouble in our whole being, in our hearts and around us.  God must be our guide in all matters.  “I have gone astray . . seek Thy servant.”

I have no real verification of this story but it seems, when the first settlers arrived in New Zealand from the British Isles they brought deer, pigs, rabbits and sheep.  New Zealand was then a paradise for animals. There were no snakes, no wild animals.  Those first settlers let all those animals go free.

The pigs multiplied quickly and the deer multiplied quickly until there were hundreds of thousands of deer in the whole country.  Of course the rabbits multiplied with great speed.  Of the pigs, deer and rabbits, there were hundreds of thousands within a few short years.  

The sheep all perished.  No snakes, no wolves, no enemies and yet they perished because they had no shepherd, no one to look after them.  They died.  It just proved again that a sheep cannot survive without a shepherd.  We are glad that we have the Shepherd, seeing our hearts and our need and where we are in our spirits and in our thinking and He is there to bring us back again into the centre of His will.  “I have gone astray . . . seek Thy servant.”  We need the shepherd so much in our lives.

In my teen years, back in my home country one evening, three teenagers and myself, all professing, all trying to find the Way in heavenly matters, were travelling.  We went this evening by car, those three other boys and myself.  One of those boys was driving correctly but came around a sharp corner and there were five sheep in the middle of the road.  He put on the brake but unfortunately,  hit one of the sheep.  It was obvious it had to be put out of its misery.

I am a city boy.  I made a remark to my friends, “Those stupid sheep, those silly sheep, being on the road, putting dents in the car.”  One of my friends, a country boy said, “It’s not the fault of the sheep.  It’s the fault of the shepherd.  He should have been more careful, when evening came, that all his sheep were in behind a closed gate and not wandering on the road.”  If there had been a court case you wouldn’t judge the sheep and put him in prison.  It would be the shepherd who would be judged, not the sheep.

Aren’t we so glad we have such a Shepherd who said, “I will pay the price.  I will be condemned.  I will go to Calvary’s cross and die for the sinners of the world.”  He is a true Shepherd who says, “I want to find them and bring them right to the centre, the best place for their souls.”  We are glad that we have a Shepherd who cares for our souls.  Sheep go astray so easily.

Psalm 73:2 “But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped.”  It is a psalm of Asaph.  This was a man of God, a member of Israel, one who understood the things of God.  He knows all about God, the will and way of God and has been a faithful man for many years and he says in this psalm, “My feet were almost gone . .”  “I almost tripped over.  I have been stumbling.  I have had trouble in past days.  It has been rough going and I have stumbled many a time, tripped on this and that.  My feet were almost gone.  I almost lost my footing in the things of God.”

What was to blame?  Was it the Way of God?  Was it that the Way was so narrow or rough or steep, or was it because of others who weren’t so true or faithful in their place?  
No!  He was stumbling and tripping over and failing to make any progress in the things of God.

We have the answer in the next verse, verse 3.  “For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.”  He saw the wicked flourishing, lack of discipline in their lives.  He couldn’t understand it.  How could they live such a life, turn their backs on God and prosper at the same time?  He was envious at the foolish.  “They’ve got it so good.  No self-denial, free to do whatever they wish.”  For that reason he began to stumble and that made the going very hard as far as his life was concerned.  “O Lord, seek me and bring me back.”

Psalm 73:16 “Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end.”  He was going into the presence of God; going into the sanctuary, into the place where there was always light.  There were seven lamps burning the whole night through, never darkness there.  He got the answer in God’s presence.  Sometimes we see what others are doing and could be influenced by them.

Psalm 1:1 “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.”  Don’t sit in the seat of the scornful.  It is easy to be scornful, to mock, to criticise, to judge.  It is very, very easy.  It comes from human nature.  The easiest thing to do is to be scornful and to mock others.  Don’t sit there.  Why not?  If you sit there too long you will see things as they see them.  You will get the very same way of thinking about things and judge as they do.  Who wants to be a scorner?  

I have gone astray like a lost sheep . . . seek Thy servant.”  That was the case in Psalm 1 and Psalm 73; people going astray inside the Kingdom; people going astray inside the fellowship, people going astray inside the flock of God.  “Lord I’m having trouble.  I can’t fathom it out.  Why this or that?  Why that unfairness?”  When that happens pray, “Lord seek me.  Give me clear understanding of the things of God.  Seek Thy servant again.”

In the Bible there are at least two parables of lost sheep.  They are in Luke 15 and Matthew 18.  In Luke 15 Jesus was talking with the Pharisees and Sadducees. One sheep got lost and He left the ninety-nine to get the one lost sheep.  It was the picture of the publican folk who led a different type of life, down to the gutter level of life and the ninety and nine were just a picture of the Pharisees, religious people of Jesus’ day.  I couldn’t understand why the shepherd would leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and seek just one lost sheep.  Why would he leave all those sheep behind, ninety and nine, just for one sheep that got lost?

If those ninety-nine sheep were as concerned about that lost sheep they would have gone too.  Those ninety-nine sheep should have followed the shepherd to find the lost one.  They stayed behind in the wilderness.  They didn’t have the hallmark of the true sheep.

I don’t believe, anywhere in the world, is there a people who stand by their preachers like God’s people do.  I have been in a number of Conventions and I have heard time and time again in testimonies, how God’s people have appreciated Gospel meetings.  Hundreds of times it has been mentioned like, “This year we have appreciated the Gospel meetings in our district.”  That is a hallmark of God’s people.  No one does more to stand by their preachers or their shepherds than God’s people do.  It is a hallmark of a true sheep.

Matthew 18.  It seems to be almost the same parable but it is not: a shepherd and a hundred sheep.  The subject in this chapter is the spirit of a little child.  
He took that little child and put it in the midst of them.  That whole chapter is about having the spirit of a little child.

Where did He find the sheep?  Up in the mountains.  This sheep had strayed from the lowly place and climbed to the mountains and got lost there.  It hadn’t stayed on the plain in the fold.  This sheep was found in the high place, strayed from the place of humility.  The spirit of a little child had been lost.  The Master went to find this one who had lost the spirit of a little child.

The shepherd and the sheep, when they leave the sheepfold in the morning, the shepherd calls his sheep to come and the day lies before them.  The thing is to go and find grass for the sheep to feed on, a place of shade and water; that is the part of the shepherd every day.  The shepherd never asks one of the sheep, or the sheep in general, “Where will we go today?”  The shepherd never asks, “What shall we do today?  Where shall we feed today?”

In all our plans, if we are young or old or middle aged, be guided by our shepherd and not make our own plans.  I can tell you stories about people who took their own way, never asked the Shepherd for His answer on the matter, be it career, be it marriage; there has been sorrow and tragedy. Remember we need the Shepherd and the Shepherd chooses the way and we have to follow the Shepherd.

In John 27 there are three little statements.  “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”  If there is one shepherd and there are a hundred sheep like back in the Bible days, if they were travelling overland, how many in actual fact, physically, are following the shepherd of the whole one hundred?  It would be just five or six, just those who can see his heels, the back of his legs or the back of him.  They follow the shepherd and all the others, ninety or more of them, follow the sheep.  All cannot see the shepherd’s heels.  Most are following the sheep in front of them.

But spiritually speaking it can be done.  We can all follow the Shepherd. “ . . they follow me.”  We must be very, very sure about one matter.  “Am I really following the Shepherd, not just following the movement of others, but really following the voice of the Shepherd?”  If there be a hundred or a hundred thousand or more, all can hear the voice of the Shepherd and follow the Shepherd.

Abraham heard the voice of the Shepherd.  “Leave behind thy father’s house and country and go forth.”  The Bible tells us that Lot went with him.  Abraham heard the voice of the Shepherd and followed Him to go further.  God gave guidance all those years in the land of Caanan and Lot went with him to this point where there were disputes between the herdsmen.  Lot made that selfish choice, that fertile land for the future, but didn’t see hidden behind the horizon, disaster and catastrophe.  He lost everything in Sodom and Gomorrah.

We never read once that God spoke to Lot.  Lot didn’t make any altars.  He just followed Abraham.  What were the results?  He lost everything.  He didn’t follow the voice of the Shepherd, he just followed one of the sheep.

My sheep hear my voice, . . . and they follow me.”  I have been impressed at these Conventions in Australia and New Zealand, impressed with my fellow Workers, impressed with you good folk, with the devotion and attitude and spirit and sacrifice of love.  There is so much evidence of life and the love of God working in the hearts of His people, but there are a few here and there who find it hard to follow. 

They are straggling, on the fringe of things, drawn away by other thoughts, by other opinions, by other doctrines, all sorts of things out there.  They are those on the fringe of things, finding it hard to follow.

My sheep follow me.” Why?  Because they “hear my voice.”  Some are finding it hard to follow because they are not hearing the voice of the Shepherd, not taking time to get alone with God, not making the effort to pray and hear the voice of the Shepherd.

With Psalm 23 we have to come to the conclusion, what a paradise for the sheep!  There is every provision and every promise.  It is just a paradise for the sheep; still waters, green pastures, cup overflowing.  The sheep who hear the voice of the Shepherd follow.  Only those who follow know this wonderful provision.  “My sheep hear my voice . . and they follow me.”  It’s not hard to follow.

Once, in Switzerland, I parked a little car on the shores of Lake Geneva and a big, old truck came in behind me and stopped.  It was a truck from France.  The driver didn’t know Switzerland.  He asked me, “Can you please tell me where this address is?”  I said, “Sure, I know where that is.  Some of our good friends live on the same street.  You get back into your truck and turn round and turn up to the left, climb the hill, bear to the left and right, come to another street, turn sharp left.  There will be street lights, then you will go under a passageway.  Go through there and take the second street to the left.”

The look on his face showed that he was perplexed.  It got confusing for him.  I said, “Look, I will get into my car and I will drive.  You follow me.”  He found his destination without one wrong turn.  What a privilege to follow our shepherd!  He knows the way.

John 10:28 “ . . they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.”  What a guarantee!  What a wonderful promise that no power, nobody, is able to pluck them out of My hand.  Those are the promises of Jesus, the words of Jesus.  Let us realise that we have the choice of being in the flock of God or in the hand of the Shepherd.  “No man can pluck them out of my hand.”  It is a promise, not for those in the flock but for those in the hand of God.

The flock graze together and there is a certain amount of unity in a flock of sheep, but sometimes a lion can come and grab those sheep and they perish.  Even with the best of shepherds one on the fringe can be destroyed by a wild animal.  It is better to be those in the hand of the Shepherd, not in the flock of the Shepherd.  Sheep in the flock have a certain amount of basic freedom, can go to the right or to the left, or drag behind others in the flock, but the sheep in the hand of the Shepherd, they cannot move.  

They are held.  They have no liberty.  They are captors, held in the hand, but they have the guarantee that no one, nothing “shall pluck them out of my hand.”  “No man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.”  Are we just in the flock of God, or in the hand of God, to be held tightly our whole life through?

As I said before, I have often had to pray this prayer, “I have gone astray like a lost sheep . . . seek Thy servant.”  Like a harp we need to be brought back into harmony; need to be finely tuned.

If we have gone astray then God is here to seek and find us.
G. Snow

Friday, April 14, 2017

A Story About Forgiveness

Here's an inspiring story of two friends who learn something special about forgiveness together. It reflects those experiences in our lives that get us thinking: "should I hold on to this, or just forget about it"? I hope the lesson in this inspiring story will help you answer some of these questions, as well as help whoever you share it with:

Click Here to watch the video.