John 10:11-18 (NLT)
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep. A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don’t belong to him and he isn’t their shepherd. And so, the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock. The hired hand runs away because he’s working only for the money and doesn’t really care about the sheep.
“I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep. I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd.
“The Father loves me because I sacrifice my life, so I may take it back again. No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded.”
The mighty hand of God
All of us who had the privilege to serve God in this little island in the Caribbean called Cuba during the 1960’s through the 1990’s had the amazing experience of seeing the mighty hand of the Good Shepherd protecting and delivering us who had made a decision to remain faithful to our Lord and Savior, whatever the cost may be.
Pastors and Lay leaders were sent to do forced labors. On every Church corner, on any given Sunday morning, there were people assigned to report to the government who was coming to worship. Some people found out on Monday morning they had been fired because of worshipping Christ on Sunday.
The Church of Christ was not erased by 1970 like the communist government had announced. The Methodist Church in Cuba had 10,000 members in 1959 and by 1973 we had less than 2,000 still defying the government and attending worship no matter the consequences.
Today The Methodist Church in Cuba worships in more than 400 locations in all Cuban municipalities and reports over 40,000 very committed and active members.
This text… is about the blessing of having such a Good Shepherd watching over us, our families, our communities, his Kingdom. But it is also about a call to the people of God to be good shepherds in the missionary fields we’ve been assigned to serve.
It compares the ministry of the good shepherd with the poor performance of the hired hand, people who do the shepherding task for personal gain and won’t defend the sheep from the wolves.
And it is also a text about sacrificing our lives to offer others quality of life and human dignity, the same that our Good Shepherd has done so graciously for us.
The hired hand
The Good Shepherd, on the contrary
The other sheep
The Good Shepherd knows there are other sheep outside of the sheepfold waiting to be brought into a relationship with Him. The Good Shepherd is even willing to leave the 99 in order to reach out to the one who runs astray.
The sheep outside of the flock will recognize the voice of the Good Shepherd and will respond to his care. The Good Shepherd is committed to both the sheep inside and outside of the sheepfold.
One flock, one shepherd
The Good Shepherd’s ultimate goal is to erase any dividing walls between “inside” and “outside” sheep. The Good Shepherd wants to be the Shepherd of all, whether inside or outside. The Good Shepherd has sacrificed His life in order to be recognized as “Lord of all” and to reconcile all Creation to Himself.
Our Task is…
The imitation of the Good Shepherd:
May God give us the courage, the passion and the wisdom to do so!
In His amazing love and grace,
Dan Christopherson * Southwest District Mission Program, Inc * www.christforcuba.com
Let me clarify from the start I am not talking about the U.S. Naval Base and prison in Guantanamo, Cuba. I can say, “I have looked towards the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base and prison”. While in the Guantanamo District of Cuba we stopped at a look out point with a spectacular view of the southern coastline of Cuba. As we climbed the lookout tower half way to the summit we had to rent a pair of binoculars. I must admit in each direction the views were spectacular. Yes, in front of me was Guantanamo Bay (the water) I was told to look to the left horizon to the point of land shooting out into the Bay, which I could see. There was a faint “blur” of nothing even through the binoculars that was the base. Not that I really cared but I did expect to see more than a blur.
How many times in life have you experienced similar results? I can remember looking so forward to seeing “The Alamo” in San Antonio, Texas. I had seen movies and I had this vision of the rolling country side and the Santa Anna troops attacking this humble Texas Mission Fort. To say the least the experience left a lasting impression which was not good. It was in the city and nothing like I pictured in my mind.
Guantanamo where the grandeur of the mountain ranges in places cuddles the coastline and the blue green turquoise waters of the Atlantic Ocean. The enchanting city of Baracoa is still healing from two years of being struck with hurricanes and severe storms. You can still see the decaying remains of towering Royal Palms lying on the mountainside. The beautiful palm trees once over looked the humble villages below.
The resilience of the people and their love of Jesus Christ is something to behold. You would think after the torrid winds of two hurricanes their faith would be broken but it only grows stronger. The Methodist churches growth in this area has skyrocketed. They are short of space, short of Bibles, but they are not short of faith.
I attended a Women’s Conference on the beach in Imias, Cuba. Rest assured when Cuban’s meet there will be music, no not just music, “Loud Music!” I want you to picture this in Sarasota, Venice or anywhere with a beach in the United States. First loud music is echoing across the beach; and people standing listening to a lady preaching and praying. After an hour and half six young people came up to the group. My expectation was; would you please turn down that loud music but totally to the contrary. They asked, “Who and what is so special about this Jesus Christ that we heard in the music?” Pastor Arnaldo did not miss a beat telling the youth about the joys of knowing and being in a relationship with their savior.
Our group still had some Bibles available in the bus that we had delivered to one of the local churches. As we started to hand out Bibles the group grew to fifteen youth all wanting to learn more about this stranger that they were hearing his name for the first time. One of them asked, “Who is this Jesus you are talking about?” This experience at the beach far exceeded my expectations. What will happen to these fifteen youth? I do not know only God does. But that day fifteen youth came to the beach to play in the water, sun, and sand. I want to believe their day left a lasting impression as they get to know “this Jesus.”
Pray and Push for Guantanamo.
It’s time to apply for the 2018-2019 Institute of Preaching. Reflecting on his experience in the 2017-2018 Institute, Tim Smiley, the pastor at Trinity, Palm Beach Gardens, said, "The Institute offered me the opportunity to engage and grow in the practice of preaching in this season of my ministry. Faculty, peers and congregational members all provided helpful feed back. And it was fun!” Click here for information and applications. The application deadline is June 1, 2018.
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