Sheep Are Meek and Obedient

One great characteristic of sheep is that they are meek and obedient. In a radio sermon, I have heard an illustration about two shepherds taking refuge inside a cave. “Two shepherds with their flocks entered in a cave. Their flocks mingled together that you can no longer distinguish which sheep belong to which shepherd. When the time has come for one of the shepherds to leave, he simply stood up and called out his sheep. Immediately, his sheep stood up from among the multitude of sheep lying down and followed his voice.”  It is surely an awesome sight. In verses 3-4, we can see the image of the Good Shepherd calling His own sheep by name and leads them out. When He has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. Do you know the Shepherd’s voice? Do you hear His voice? Do you follow His voice?

Hands in Prayer

The Lord’s sheep knows His voice because they spend time in prayer. Sometimes, in our busy schedules we forget to spend quality time with God in prayer and meditation. Yet, we know that there is no way we can recognize the voice of our Shepherd unless we spend time to listen to Him in prayer. Of course, it is not an audible voice but a spiritual voice that we discern through our fervent prayer and study of His word.

In the book, the Lord is my Shepherd, A. W. Tozer, an American Pastor who preaches about the value of prayer writes, “Stay in that sacred place till the surrounding noises begin to fade out of your heart, till a sense of God’s presence has enveloped you. Listen for His inward voice till you learn to recognize it”. Solitude in God is a healing place where God can repair the damage by the noise and pressure of the world. Prayer is always our safe place.

Image: http://www.taneyparish.ie

Jesus is the Good Shepherd and the Gate of the sheep pen and We Are the Sheep of His Flock

An oasis in the Negev Desert of Israel created by trees planted by the Jewish National Fund

Do you still remember the image of the two kinds of sheep pen? The Lord is the Good Shepherd and at the same time He is the Gate. He is the shepherd that sits at the opening of the enclosure. We are His flock. He keeps us safe and secure; He leads us to green pastures and quiet waters. According to Psalm 23:2, “He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads us beside quiet waters”. The verb in the text suggests gentle persuasion- a shepherd patiently, persistently leading his sheep to the place where their hunger and thirst will be quenched. He does not force the issue. He does not pushes us down in green pastures neither drags us beside still waters. He patiently waits for our cry. Sometimes, he allows us to get hurt so we could learn that we cannot survive life without Him. When we start to cry, he is there to carry us on His back.

In the book, “The Lord is my Shepherd” the writer writes that in David’s day, “green pastures” are oases, verdant places in the desert where shepherds lead their thirsty flock. Left to themselves, the sheep would wander off into the wilderness and die. Experienced shepherds know the terrain and urge their flocks toward familiar grasslands and streams where they could feed; lie down and rest. In the same way, God knows our needs and thirsts. He senses our weary souls and He wants to lead us to a safe place.

Image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oasis

A Sheep Is One of the Weakest Animals

Sheep

Sheep have little ability to defend themselves, compared with other species kept as livestock. Even if a sheep survive an attack, they may die from their injuries, or simply from panic. When they fall on their back, they could not stand up on their own and they could die in that position. Sheep are so vulnerable. It is interesting to think why the Lord has likened humans to meek sheep.

We are so vulnerable to the things that happen to us, even Christians. One time we feel so strong yet something we do not know would come and hit us so big that we would fall flat on our backs and it seems so hard to recover from the unexpected hard knock. We are vulnerable to sin and temptation. Like sheep, the Good Shepherd knows that we need special care and so He cares for us individually.

Image: http://www.sheep101.info/breedsW-Z.html

The Lord is Our Shepherd- John 10.1-10- Part II

Sheep pen with a gate

Before we proceed, I would like to clarify the two images of a sheep pen that we can see here in John 10:1-10. The first one in verse two is an enclosure with a gate. The second one in verse nine is an enclosure without a gate. In the former, there is a gate. In the latter, the shepherd himself sits down and serves as the gate of the enclosure.

As a caveat, in the previous chapter (John 9), the Pharisees are investigating the healing of the man born blind. The man boldly tells the Pharisees that he believes that Jesus is from God. He believes that Jesus is the Messiah. The Pharisees claim that they are disciples of Moses and they do not know where Jesus has come from. The Pharisees are supporting themselves in their opposition to Christ; that they are the pastors of the Jews and Jesus has no authority from them so therefore the people should not listen to Him.

Sheep pen without a fixed gate

In response, here the Lord describes the true shepherd of the flock and the relationship that exists between the shepherd and his flock through a parable but the Pharisees have not understood. The Lord here reveals Himself as the true shepherd- the Good Shepherd.

I propose the following points for reflection, which I will discuss in the next posts:

  • A sheep is one of the weakest animals.
  • Jesus is the Good Shepherd and the Gate of the sheep pen and we are the sheep of His pasture.
  • Sheep are meek and obedient.
  • The evil one aims to destroy us.

 Allow me to invite you to follow the next posts…

 

Images:

http://leecadden.com/2011/03/20/i-am-the-gate/

http://www.oneyearbibleblog.com/2008/05/may-18th-one-ye.html

The Lord is Our Shepherd- John 10.1-10

Jesus, the Good Shepherd

This is my favorite image of the Lord, being our Good Shepherd. For me it is one of the most comforting attribute of the Lord. It gives the assurance of His personal loving care and protection.

In Matthew 18:12-14, the Lord has shown us a picture of how a good shepherd cares for each of his sheep. He would leave the ninety-nine sheep to look for the one that has wandered away. He would not let even just one sheep wander too far away. Apostle Paul has called the Lord, the great Shepherd of the sheep and He would not let anyone of us who come under his pastoral care perish.

In the book, “The Lord is my Shepherd”, F.B. Meyer has written: “The Lord has a:

  • Shepherd’s heartit beats with pure and generous love that counted not His own life-blood too dear to pay down as our ransom. He has laid down his life for the sheep. In the Old Testament image, the sheep gives up his life for his shepherd or owner as according to the law. The owner/shepherd would take the lamb to the sanctuary, lean with all his weight on the lamb’s head and confess his sin. The Lamb would be slain and its blood would flow out. The greatest irony of faith is that the Great Shepherd has laid His life down on the cross in order that the sheep might be saved.
  • Shepherd’s eye: takes in the whole flock and misses not even the poor sheep wandering away on the cold mountain.
  • Shepherd’s faithfulness: never fails or forsakes, leaves us comfortless, nor flee when He sees a wolf coming.
  • Shepherd’s strength: delivers us from the jaw of the lion or paw of the bear.
  • Shepherd’s tenderness: no lamb so tiny that He will not carry it; no saint so weak that He will not gently lead; no soul so faint that He will not give it rest”.

I invite you to follow the succeeding posts about “The Lord is our Shepherd”.

Image above courtesy of: http://www.sodahead.com/united-states

Condensed from a sermon by: Arnel Oroceo, Church Organist, The Lagro United Methodist Church, May 15, 2011

Safe and Secure

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. [We are] hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; [we are] perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed”- 2 Corinthians 4:7-9

There is a Christian cartoon strip in one of my folders but I could not remember when and where I have obtained it. There are what seem to be Chinese characters on the frames. Most likely, I have received it through email years ago.

First frame: The cartoon strip begins with a boy kneeling to God in prayer for protection. It is the perfect way to start a day, to pray for God’s blessing to face the challenges of the day.


Next frame: After he has prayed, he has started on his way.


Next frame: However, a stone hit him at the back of the head.


Next frame: He cries aloud as if distraught that something bad has happened to him even if he has already prayed to God.


That is the common reaction of many people and even Christians. Yes, God’s protection is always there. His hands cover us and shelter us from all forms of harm. However, life on earth is not perfect. People commit mistakes. We can make mistakes that can harm other people and vice versa.

As in the text above, we are hard-pressed on every side but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed. All these because we know the hope of our calling and we know that the Lord will never leave us or forsake us. His joy is our strength.

Next frame: The boy has noticed that there are stones falling behind him.


Next frame: So he looks up behind him…


Last frame: He has seen the Lord Jesus protecting him from all the bigger falling stones with his own body.


The cartoon strip has implied that the Lord has missed one stone not because he has failed to protect him but because he needs to get hurt so he could learn important lessons while on his way; so he could pause for a while and look up and see the goodness of God and how He loves him. Its intention is not to break him but to make him firm and strong.

God loves us too much to hurt us. Whenever it seems too hard to see the hands of God moving in our lives, we should always keep in mind that He remains and we can trust his heart.

Three Principles for Spiritual Victory

“And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, a Man stood opposite him with His sword drawn in His hand. And Joshua went to Him and said to Him, “[Are] You for us or for our adversaries?” So He said, “No, but [as] Commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and said to Him, “What does my Lord say to His servant?” Then the Commander of the LORD’s army said to Joshua, “Take your sandal off your foot, for the place where you stand [is] holy.” And Joshua did so.” – Joshua 5:13-15

Student Reception LUMC July 17, 2011

Last July 17, The Lagro United Methodist Youth Fellowship with the leadership of its president Karen Hernandez has had this year’s “Student Reception”. Every year, during the opening of the school, we hold this activity in church to welcome young students to impart spiritual guidance and exhortation as they face the day to day challenges of being a student. This year’s theme is “Shout Out”.

The speaker for the occasion is Rev. Bong Mangubat, associate pastor of Puno United Methodist Church. His sermon has dealt with the “Three Principles for Spiritual Victory”. Even young people experience problems in their lives and those come in different forms and magnitude. It is crucial for young people who are starting to explore life to understand these three principles because these can guide them to understand how they can achieve their goals with God at the center of their lives.

1. Know who is in charge- It is important to realize who “call the shots” in our life. Do our desires reign supreme over the principles of God? When we encounter conflicts between those that what we want and what is pleasing to God, which side prevails? If God is in charge of our lives, we accede to His commands. Sometimes, it is difficult to let go of some enjoyment, friendships or conveniences but when faith is at stake, we should learn to obey. Making God in charge of our life is not giving up our options but putting our life in safe hands.

2. God’s methods are not man’s methods but they are always right- Normally, young people are aggressive and impulsive. Consequently, they fall into the bait of leaning on their own knowledge as they enjoy their new found liberties. All of us need to understand that we cannot lean on our own understanding because we are imperfect people but we can always trust God’s ways because He never makes mistakes. God’s methods are clean and guilt free. In man’s eyes, they are not easy often difficult but for a Christian believer, they always lead to fruitful results.

3. The best way to hear from God is to be quiet- The most important privilege of Christians is the direct access to the Almighty God. Prayer gives strength to us whenever we feel weary and discouraged. However, prayer is a two-way communication. Often, we are the one talking and we talk too much. Sometimes, while we do worship Him, yet we present a very long list of requests. It is not wrong to depend on God in fact it pleases Him but we also need to have quiet moments in prayer so we could let God speak to us in a very special way.

If we can observe these three principles in our lives, we can expect spiritual victory in our life. The road toward our goals will not be easy but with God’s guidance, we can get there safe and sound.

Student Reception- July 17, 2011, Lagro United Methodist Church, Group Dynamics: Bro Jay-Ar, Praise and Worship: Matthew 5:16 (Praise Team) Message condensed from the sermon of Rev Bong Mangubat of Puno UMC

Come, Let Us Sow the Seeds- Matthew 13.24-30

“Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn”. –Matthew 13:30

Tares and Wheat

This account in Matthew chapter 13 tells about the Parable of the Weeds. As the story says, a man has sown good wheat seeds in his field but during the night, his enemy has come and has sown tares among the wheat so that when the wheat sprouts have sprung and have produced crops, the tares have grown as well. When his servants have seen this, they have come to their master to report what has happened and have asked his permission to uproot the tares among the wheat. However, their master has not allowed them to uproot the tares because he is afraid that could uproot wheat sprouts also in the process. He has told them to let things be until harvest time, then, he would ask the reapers to separate the wheat among the tares and bring the wheat to his barn while the tares; they will throw into the fire.

There are four points that we can see from this gospel lesson:

  • The clear presence of good and evil in this world The parable shows a clear picture of the presence of good and evil among men. It tells us that our enemy, he devil has planted his influence among us to prevent us from bearing good fruits, hurt us and annoy us to the point of giving up in the faith. He could use people around us to distract us and lose our focus on our God.
  • Bad things happen to good people An age old question persistently occurs in the minds of many; “Why do bad things happen to good people?” This is one serious question that is so hard to answer. Yes, bad things happen even to godly people because precisely, the intention of the evil one is to create doubts in their hearts regarding the goodness of God and spell trouble in their minds.
  • The patience and loving-kindness of God This parable speaks of the end time judgment when God will finally redeem his people and send the devil and his cohorts to eternal damnation in hell. God delays the punishment for evil until the last day so that his people will not suffer the punishment that is not for them. As humans, when people wrong us, we want quick judgment and apply the appropriate punishment as the legal dictum says, “Justice delayed is justice denied”. The timeline of God’s punishment and judgment is different. He delays the punishment to save the innocent. Here we can see the patience of God toward people and his loving-kindness toward those who are His.
  • The need to enrich the good seeds In view of this truth, we can see the need to enrich the spiritual health of God’s people. Evil is the most creative force in the world and we need to equip the people of God to be victorious over it. Our Christian love, prayers and helping hands are like water and fertilizer to one another. We, as Christians should go and nourish each other with the word of God most especially within our churches then we also need to proclaim God’s words to people outside that they too may know about the Lord’s salvation.

Digested from: Sermon by: Rev. Orlino Veron, Administrative Pastor, Lagro, United Methodist Church, July 17, 2011, based on Matthew 13:24-30

Image above courtesy of: http://ihs-sonlite.com/id134.html

 

 

The Four Faces of Soil

“And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red [pottage]; for I [am] faint: therefore was his name called Edom. And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright.  And Esau said, Behold, I [am] at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me? And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him: and he sold his birthright unto Jacob.” –Genesis 25:30-33.

Seeds Grow in Good Soil

In this narrative in the book of Genesis, we can read the account about the sons of Isaac, Jacob and Esau.

Isaac’s wife Rebecca was barren so Isaac prayed to God in behalf of his wife and the Lord answered his prayer so Rebecca conceived a twin. However, she observed that the twin was wrestling each other inside her womb. She went to the Lord for enlightenment.

In verse 23, the Lord said to Rebecca that in her womb would come out two nations. One would be stronger and the elder will serve the younger.

Right from birth the younger Jacob wanted to go out first as he held on the heel of his brother Esau and that is how he got his name, Jacob meaning “he deceives”. Esau grew up a skillful hunter and earned the affection of his father while Jacob was a quiet man and lived in tents but his mother loved him.

Then one time Esau arrived home from hunting very tired and wanted to eat. Jacob was cooking red stew so Esau asked for a serving but scheming Jacob asked for a terrible condition. He asked his elder brother to sell his birthright to him. Esau readily agreed. Birthright did not matter much to him.

In this event between the twin brothers, the prophecy was fulfilled. The elder Esau lost his birthright in favor of his younger twin brother Jacob. How do we see it? Jacob deceived him by taking advantage of his vulnerability at that precise moment when he so tired and hungry. Yet at the same time, we saw Esau not giving any value to his birthright and even despised it just for a bowl of red stew.

The right of the first born is more than just inheritance. It transfers the big responsibility of taking care of the entire family in all aspects of life soon as the father dies. This is what Jacob has wanted but Esau has despised. How can you entrust such a responsibility to Esau anyway?

Application:

  • Christians should never despise service to God. They should never stop giving value to serving God because they might lose its blessing. God can always give it to another who desires it with passion. You do not want to get involved because you think that it is just a waste of your precious time. Do not lose your blessing; instead desire it that God may grant it to you.
  • The word of God will be fulfilled. Rebecca has received a prophecy from God and it has been fulfilled in Jacob. The purpose of God will always be fulfilled. The question is how we receive the word of God. We are all like soil receiving seed. In Matthew 13, we can see the four faces of soil in the Parable of the Sower: Wayside Soil- the word of God does not penetrate, Rocky Soil- the word of God does not mature, Thorny Soil- the word of God has no space, Good Soil- the word of God grows and bears fruit.

What kind of soil are we? Let us allow the word of God to transform us inside and out.

Digested from:

Choir Bible Study: led by Rev. Orlino Veron July 9, 2011

Sermon by: Rev. Rolando Abesamis, Associate Pastor, Lagro, United Methodist Church, July 10, 2011, Vesper Service, based on Genesis 25:19-24; Matthew 13: 1-23

Image above courtesy of: http://www.st-marymagdalene.org/2010/10/a-word-of-warning-a-word-of-hope-on-the-parable-of-the-sower/

Sowing Kingdom Seeds: (Parable of the Sower)

“But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”-Matthew 13:23

The Parable of the Sower is perhaps the best known and most noted parable in the Bible. Bible scholars point out three important elements in this parable;

  • the sower– the person who is living the life of Christ, out for mission, preaching, and teaching.
  • the seed– the Word of God, the insights that produces faith. Deep inside the seed is life and when it falls into the soil, it will live.
  • and the soil– the person who receives the Word.

Assimilation of the gospel truth may vary between people’s (listeners) understanding as they may view them at different angles. However, each Christian’s job is to “sow the seeds”. Whether people will accept the seeds, allow them to grow and bear fruit in their lives is no longer his or her responsibility. He or she only needs to trust God and obey the call to sow “spiritual seeds”.

The Parable of the Sower

Different Types of Soil

Pathway or Wayside– This kind of soil could be as hard as a pavement as people walk on it regularly. The seeds could not penetrate this type of soil so they remain on the surface, which makes it easier for birds to feed on the seeds. One may be like “wayside soil” at some point in his or her life. Prejudices, pride and even tradition may cause an unteachable spirit within the person. He may be too attached to his comfort zone that he could not entertain any call to change. Perhaps, bad experiences and unanswered prayers have hardened his or her heart.

Rocky Ground- This describes people who are excited about their religion. Spiritual experiences warm their hearts but they do not last. They receive the teaching with gladness but forgo the application.  It seems all superficial. Perhaps, certain influences cause them to lose the fire easily.

Thorny Ground- This describes people who become too pre-occupied with worldly affairs; forsaking spiritual responsibility in exchange for earthly pleasures.

Good Soil- This describes people who receive “the spiritual seed”, allow it to grow, mature and become fruitful and multiply.

At certain points in our lives, even as Christians, we experience all these four conditions of “spiritual soil” in our lives. At one point, we might have been hardened by despair, confused with our priorities and tired from responsibilities.

However, we need to strive to become “good soil”. The kingdom of God is like a seed that grows from small to great. We just need to be faithful with our calling to spread the good news no matter where the seeds fall. We can be sure that God will take care of the result.

Digested from a sermon by: Rev. Orlino Veron, Administrative Pastor, Lagro, United Methodist Church, July 10, 2011

Image above courtesy of: http://blog.beliefnet.com/beyondblue/2010/08/mindful.html