Sheep among wolves - Day One

Monday 7 July 2014

David Parker is the Lead Pastor of Desert Vineyard Christian Fellowship in Southern California.  From Monday 7 July to Friday 11 July he will lead the morning Bible teaching sessions at the New Wine Ireland Sligo Summer Conference.  The theme is "Nothing but a burning light" - When the Lord spoke, "let there be light" as  the first act of creation, His words were more than a command, they were an expression of intent. Here we bring you summaries of each message!

The church that I lead is unusual not that we do unusual things but what has happened.  We are racially mixed and economically mixed.  It is a fascinating environment.  We have tried to create a community and a context where people who do not have faith, can search for it.  The end result is that during our weekend services, we have hundreds of people who are in process, who have not found faith yet but they are interested and reaching.

At the end of chapter 9 in the Gospel of Matthew, the writer summarises Jesus’ ministry:

"Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and illness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field."

Then in Matthew 10, Jesus sent out his disciples to do exactly what He was doing. Maybe the disciples thought they were Jesus’ road crew (fetching Him water and food, carrying His bags) and then one day it turned and Jesus said, “I want you to do what I am doing.”  That would have been a frightening day - when a disciple goes from being attracted to Jesus’ teaching and begins to put it into practice, it is scary.

 Before I knew God, I bought a Bible thinking if I knew what my friends were believing, then I could talk them out of it.  Someone told me to read the Gospels.  When I encountered Jesus’ teaching, I was amazed! 

Jesus knows what is waiting for His disciples as He sends them out.  He tells them, “I’m sending you out as sheep among wolves.” (Matthew 10:16)

We are vulnerable, servant-hearted… like sheep.  A complex combination of shrewdness and yet softness.  We are going to overcome in a way that is compassionate and open hearted.  We are drenched with the knowledge of suffering around us and it would be easy to become hard.

The world produces soft-headed and hard-hearted creatures.  We need to be tough-minded and soft-hearted people.

Too often, the seed falls on the hard soil or the rocky places or the thorns … there is no understanding, no depth… truth needs to take a deep root in our lives. A good soil response allows the root system of conviction to grow.

We seek to live a life of faith in a world of tragedies, trials, temptations and testings.  Following Christ requires us to combine toughness and tenderness, innocence and shrewdness. 

We hunger for what is true and for what God has for us.  But ultimately, that hunger won’t be satisfied by information but by encounter.  People need to see it, own it and receive it. At the time of the early church, Christians died for their faith because they had encountered a person - Jesus Christ.

Our convictions are deepened in our life because we do something with what we believe.  We must put it into action In that process, the rocks are put out of the way and the thorns are pushed aside.  It is in the place of engagement and action and doing of it… I’m so through with spin and people talking who don’t match their talk with any kind of walk.  I’m so tired of the internet as a source of “expertise”.  We need to put it into practice.

What do you believe about God? Confidence comes from love and character - our convictions are linked to who God is, His character, His grace and His love.  Are we living in a world of literalism? …where God looks down and condemns people over minutae? “…Got the day wrong, go to hell!” Who is the God you know?