Friday, March 11, 2011

Imperfect Joys of the Shepherd and Saint - Discounted Hands of Peace

This post is a disjointed effort to share something God has shown me through recent circumstances.

To those who have been damaged by a Shepherd: I am not giving this as an excuse...but there is none, no not one, perfect except Christ Jesus.To those who have been damaged by a Saint: Again, not given as an excuse....but there is none, no not one, perfect except Christ Jesus.

Yes, even those shepherds who have been given care of the flocks/church are just imperfect human beings trying to do right...and sometimes they fail. Sometimes they fail to see beyond the obvious. Sometimes they fail to extend grace and mercy toward one of their own flock who has fallen into the wolf's den. Sometimes, rather than help heal those that have fallen, they break them against the rocks and leave them laying there without help or care. Sometimes. they are carrying their own bitterness and pain and fail to see beyond themselves. Simply put, sometimes they fail....

Sometimes, WE, the saint, fail to see when the shepherd or another saint is hurting. Sometimes, we fail to see our own fault and failure. Sometimes, we simply will not admit to our sin and want things to continue as before. Sometimes, we fail to see beyond the obvious. Sometimes, we fail to extend grace and mercy toward our shepherd or our fellow saint who has hurt us. Simply put, sometimes we fail...

Through my 40+ years being raised in church, I have seen ministers and saints alike fall into sin...adultery, fornication, bitterness, unforgiveness, lying, hatred, gossip, etc. I have seen many of them make it back to the throne of grace but more often, I saw them eaten alive by the very flock they were trying to shepherd or the very shepherd they were trying to follow. Chewed up, spit out, cursed, reviled, maligned, and kicked to the curb without hope, I still saw many stand up, confess their faults, and do their best to make it back into church. I, myself, have sinned and struggled to be restored to the faith.

How did some make it and some not? It falls on the sinner, whether they wore the mantle of shepherd or saint, to confess their sins, to ask forgiveness, to plead the blood of Christ, and to forgive themselves. If we are away from God, even if it is a temporary moment of willfulness, then WE must do whatever it takes to get right with God again. WE must read the Word. WE must pray. WE must seek the face of God UNTIL we get the answer we need. AND, we must listen to HIS Word and follow HIS ordinances...not man-made rules...but GOD'S laws. If we do that, then shepherd nor saint can remove us from the hand of God and his forgiveness.

When we are right with God, then we can stand on Romans 8:35-39:

"35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:

   “For your sake we face death all day long;
   we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”[a]

 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[b] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Only you or I can take ourselves out of God's hand. When we fall into sin and are mishandled, or even fall and are given every opportunity to make things right, it still is our responsibility to search out our own salvation. I am not advocating the circumventing of ministry, we need them to preach the Word and to help us make heaven. The local shepherd of God's flock have much responsibility for our salvation but ultimately WE must be right, even if the shepherd isn't. We must set our eyes on Christ and follow Him only. Man will fail us.

Here's the disjointed part:
Sometimes, we ask for a hand to reach out and help us and they do but we fail to see it.

Be careful to acknowledge when those hands are being extended. Sometimes it may only be a friend who is holding you up in prayer and encouraging you. And it can be easy to discount that hand as unimportant because the Ministry, the Shepherd, the one you want to notice, isn't the one reaching. Maybe the earthly shepherd will never reach for you....but will you discount the hands of those God is sending your way? Will you discount His hand?

As I am writing this, a song by Casting Crowns comes to mind that deals with this scenario:

"It's crowded in worship today
As she slips in
Trying to fade into the faces
The girls' teasing laughter is carrying farther than they know
Farther than they know

But if we are the Body
Why aren't His arms reaching
Why aren't His hands healing
Why aren't His words teaching
And if we are the Body
Why aren't His feet going
Why is His love not showing them there is a way
There is a way

Jesus is the way

A traveler is far away from home
He sheds his coat
And quietly sinks into the back row
The weight of their judgemental glances tell him that his chances
Are better out on the road "

Will we be the hands that reach, whether we be saint or shepherd? Will those that need to be reached discount our reaching hands because we aren't what they want? Will I do my part to reach for the lost, no matter who they are?

God is coming back soon....are you ready? Are you reaching? Or are you part of the body who is just simply failing God, the ministry, the saints, and the sinner? Oh, God please help me to do my part and to be ready for your soon return!