Caring for the Sheep
“`For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land.’” (Ezekiel 34: 11 – 13 NIV)
“`I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.’” (Ezekiel 34: 16 NIV)
“`Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says to them: See, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because you shove with flank and shoulder, butting all the weak sheep with your horns until you have driven them away, I will save my flock, and they will no longer be plundered. I will judge between one sheep and another. I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd. I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them. I the Lord have spoken.’” (Ezekiel 34: 20 – 24 NIV)
“`I will make them and the places surrounding my hill a blessing. I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing. The trees will yield their fruit and the ground will yield its crops; the people will be secure in their land. They will know that I am the Lord, when I break the bars of their yoke and rescue them from the hands of those who enslaved them.’” (Ezekiel 34: 26, 27 NIV)
“`You are my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Sovereign Lord.’” (Ezekiel 34: 31 NIV)
The above excerpts have been taken from a longer passage in Ezekiel 34 to bring to our minds the intent and purpose of God to shepherd His people. Undoubtedly, this passage refers to the Israelites coming back from exile and focuses particularly on those who abuse their fellow Israelites. There is a long standing way of speaking of the justice that is required by God: “To care for the widows and the fatherless and the aliens among you.” Oppression in Israel often was accomplished by the rich enslaving the poor and taking their inherited land from them so that the rich became richer and the poor became more and more destitute. Is this any different in our world today? Was not this exactly what Jesus was addressing in Luke 16 with the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus? (See Luke 16: 19 – 31)
For Living Fully we are declaring that the ministry of the Good Shepherd has been assigned to us by the Holy Spirit. This is not surprising because the general scriptural basis for Victorious Ministry through Christ – International and Living Fully, the VMTC-Canada organization, is Luke 4: 18, 19:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
Because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
And recovery of sight for the blind,
To set the oppressed free,
To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
At the annual meeting of VMTC-Canada of 2014, we had a revelation that we had been carrying on the established ministry of Victorious Ministry through Christ rather than obeying the leading and prompting of the Holy Spirit. The result of our attitude and approach was a restlessness and dissatisfaction with what we were doing. Another way of expressing how we were feeling or what we were being shown was that we were asking the Holy Spirit to empower something we had created rather than allowing the Holy Spirit to continually direct us in the creation of something constantly new.
What the Holy Spirit is revealing to us is to add something to the teaching of Living Fully. It has always been our intention of preparing people to carry on the work of Jesus as described in the formation scripture from Luke 4: 18, 19 quoted above. We have, however, failed to complete the process necessary to equip the people of God to carry out the mandate of Jesus. We have made an assumption that is largely false. We have failed to recognize that during the ministry of Jesus opposition came from the religious community in which Jesus lived. Furthermore, we have not recognized that the religious community of our day is not remarkably different from the religious community of Jesus’ day.
One April 16, 2015, the president of Living Fully and the vice-president met to finalize plans for our Leadership Conference to be held in Grand Bend on May 1 & 2, 2015. We sense strongly that we are going forward with plans to announce changes to our School of Prayer Ministry (SPM) schedule with some consolidations and some additions. We sense that the emphasis that the Holy Spirit is directing us to bring about is in agreement with the emphasis that Jesus demonstrated and with the Scriptural mandate.
The illustration of the emphasis that we sense the Holy Spirit bringing about is difficult to envision. I have entitled this article “Caring for the Sheep.” That title brings to mind the vision of the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, as the incarnation of God among us who has carried out the mandate of Father to care for and provide for the sheep. Included in that vision is the emphasis of leading the sheep with justice so that the fat, sleek sheep do not bruise the weak sheep and trample the pasture and the water so that others are destroyed.
Now, we come to our day. We come to the situation we find among the sheep in our modern day. We have today in our midst fat, sleek sheep who bruise the weak sheep and trample the pasture and the water so that others are destroyed. Within the teaching of Victorious Ministry through Christ (VMTC) we have taught the Scriptural mandate that confession of sin, repentance, and asking for forgiveness is a necessary part of continued spiritual growth. We have further emphasized the work of the Holy Spirit, the need to understand Spiritual Warfare, and have called for Total Commitment to follow Christ. In short, we have been a Total Commitment ministry with the mandate to partner with and come alongside churches to assist the people of God to find spiritual maturity so that the churches will be helped in the process of continuing to being about the kingdom of God on the earth. With partnership with the churches in mind the expectation has been that spiritual maturity will continue as individuals return to the shelter and support of the churches. Our actual experience, however, has been that individuals returning to the expected shelter and support of the churches have been butted by the heads of the fat, sleek sheep and have been pushed aside.
Again, I emphasize that the illustration that I envision is difficult to consider. The picture takes a radical turn when I suggest that our goal is to put armor on the sheep. Yes, I know that VMTC has always recommended taking on the whole armor of God as described in Ephesians 6: 10 – 18 and elsewhere is scripture. However, this armor has always been presented as a defensive protection from the whiles of the devil. I am suggesting armoring and arming the sheep with an emphasis on offense. I believe we have the mandate of Jesus to follow Him into Hell and take out the lost souls entrapped there. I believe we can go through fire, storm, and flood to save the lost. Following Jesus in an offensive battle fully armored and equipped is what Living Fully is all about.