A Word from Pastor Oren - June 2014

What do you know about shepherds and sheep? As a pastor, I think often on the subject of shepherding. I’ve never been a shepherd, although my family owned sheep for a while during my child/teen years. I learned a little bit about sheep in my experience caring for them, but in no real way could I be classified as a shepherd. A shepherd has a tremendous task to not only lead his flock to food, water, and rest, but also to protect and guard them. When it comes to the work of the church and the ministry of the gospel to which God calls us, that is the most common comparison in scripture. In fact, the Bible is filled with imagery of shepherding, whether it be the Old Testament shepherds like Moses (Ex. 3:1) or David (1 Samuel 16:11-12) who were called to serve God and lead his people, or God’s relationship with his people as their Great Shepherd (Isa. 40:11). The most obvious example of shepherding in the New Testament is of Jesus, who is the Good Shepherd who “lays down his life for his sheep,” (John 10:11) and who continues to this day to guide and direct his followers (Heb. 13:20).

The NT also refers to church leaders as shepherds. The word “pastor” essentially means shepherd, and he has the responsibility to lead God’s people well, according to God’s Word and in his Spirit. As a shepherd would lead his sheep to find cool waters to satisfy their thirst, so too is a pastor to lead his people to drink of the depths of God’s Word and Spirit to satisfy their spiritual thirst. As a shepherd would lead his flock to feed on the green pastures for nourishment, so too is a pastor to lead his people to feast on the Word of God in the Spirit of God for their own spiritual nourishment. As a shepherd would lead his flock to rest as he stood watch against predators and thieves, so too a pastor is given the task of calling his church to rest in Christ as he stands watch against the wolves and thieves of our culture who seek to harm

God’s people and rob them of their joy in Christ. I take this responsibility seriously, and I want to address one particular threat against the church that I am aware is a danger to us all.

One of the continued messages that I want to be sure to convey to you, and have tried my best to repeat many times over, is of God’s faithfulness and consistent care for his people. To say that God is faithful means that he is always acting according to his love to do what is best for his people, resulting in their highest joy and the greatest glory of His name. The faithfulness of God is the theme of scripture (Ex. 34:6, Ps. 36:5, Lam 3:23, 1 Cor. 1:9, Phil. 1:6) and the story of the church. We must trust him to be all that he says he will be, AND we must believe that he will accomplish his will in us, despite all the evidence we see to the contrary. Our lives should reflect this belief, and others should know us by our hope in God.

The truth is that we live in a world which is hostile to God (Col. 1:21) and wants nothing to do with him or his authority (Psa. 2:1-3). It is discouraging and can even be depressing when we look around and see so much lostness around us. We often weigh all of our options and opportunities to reach into that darkness with the light, but the darkness is vast and our light seems so small. We are quick to point out what is wrong with the world, and to some degree what is wrong with us and why the church has failed so many times to remain obedience to Christ. And yes, we have failed many times and we have often been disobedient so we could maintain our own personal preferences. In order to reach a world confused about God and his Word, we must be honest about our weaknesses and failures and the wonderful grace of God in Christ Jesus (1 Tim. 1:15-16). But there is more to the work of redemption than our failures and faithfulness to God.

So if I may, let me do what a shepherd should do in this circumstance by reminding us all of 2 very important truths. The first is a genuine warning of a very real danger, and the second is a promise which we must trust is true. 1) The evil one, Satan, is wholeheartedly bent against God and against God’s people. He will be actively and viciously determined to cause you to sin and to expose your pain (1 Pet. 5:8). Do not underestimate Satan’s single-minded cause to dishonor God by attacking God’s people. Satan is the prince of darkness who masquerades as an angel of light, and who manipulates and uses people of darkness to lead God’s children astray (2 Cor. 11:14). Your attitude and perspective are often affected by your circumstances, and Satan will use your circumstances to discourage, defeat, and depress you. Beware of the temptation to turn away from God and fall into fear, cynicism, and ridicule. That is the bad news; there is better news.

(2) God is still on his throne (Psa. 99:1), accomplishing his will and purposes for the glory of his name (Isa. 48:9-11), and he will be faithful to complete his work of redemption in this world despite our failures and lack of obedience (1 Thess. 5:24). Let us not grow weary of following Christ because the world seems so bent against Him and us. We face many challenges, many obstacles, and many enemies. Our mandate is to live holy lives and reach the world around us. Let us be faithful to love Jesus and our neighbors (Matt 22:37-38). Whatever opposition we face, be diligent to face it with the love of Christ (Luke 6:35). May we speak out against the evil in this world and do what we can to combat darkness with light. Let us set aside our own personal preferences for the sake of those who do not know Christ. And when they ask about the hope that we have, may we be bold and unashamed to share the gospel of Jesus Christ, by whom we are saved and being sanctified and one day will be glorified. God is at work in your life, always. There is never a day where he is not working to make you more like Jesus. Trust him and he will once again prove to you his faithfulness is everlasting to everlasting.

Your Pastor,

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