[shoulders] SHEPHERDS IN THE SAME COUNTRY

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From: lifeunlimited@... (Robert A Tolliver)
Date: Fri, 6 Mar 1998 20:23:10 -0600
Subject: SHEPHERDS IN THE SAME COUNTRY
Date: Tue, 23 Dec 1997 23:12:28 -0600
Message-ID: <19971223.231232.2662.2.lifeunlimited@...>

December 23, 1997

For several weeks my mind has been challenged by the story of the
shepherds at the birth of our Lord Jesus.

"And there were shepherds in the same country" ---- an unasuming phrase,
but impregnated with profound truths.

I.  "And there were SHEPHERDS":  Two thoughts capture my heart.  First,
the declaration of  shepherds.  Second, the duties of a shepherd.

A.  The Declaration of  Shepherds:  Three simple words declare an
undeniable reality ---- "and there WERE" shepherds included in the most
amazing event of history ---- the introduction and incarnation of deity
into the human scene.  Shepherds were there!  Shepherds were ---- and ARE
---- indespensible to the incarnation and proclamation of the Redeemer. 
Are you one of the shepherds?

B.  The Duties of a Shepherd:  Our image of that incredible night is a
group of guys lounging around a warm campfire, chatting, dozing,
snacking, keeping a mildly alert eye out for wolves in the night.  That's
not an adequate picture.  A shepherd had an arduous job.  He lived,
slept, breathed, and sweat sheep.  He was responsible for feeding,
healing, leading, counting, correcting, protecting, rescueing, and
shearing sheep.  Their safety, health, and welfare were dependent on the
faithfulness and effectiveness of their shepherd.  If you're a shepherd,
the same is true for you and your sheep.

II.  IN THE SAME COUNTRY:  What a profound thought!  The incarnation of
the Redeemer and the presence of shepherds nearby  taking place in the
same locale.  That tells us something of the significance of shepherds in
relation to the Divine Invasion into human affairs.  That relationship
remains today.  God intended the Reality of Christ and the reality of
shepherds to exist in the same country.

III.  KEEPING WATCH OVER THEIR FLOCK:  What else should we expect?  That
they would be off at some social occasion?  Or out playing golf or bird
hunting?  No, they did what shepherds do ---- they were tending their
flock.

IV.  BY NIGHT:  A short but profoundly significant fact.  Sheep are the
most vulnerable when they are in the night.  And, shepherds are crucial
to the welfare and safety of the sheep especially in the night.  Good
shepherds are not only faithful in keeping watch, but also to be with the
sheep during the night seasons of life.

When the angels were revealed, even the shepherds were caught off guard.

V.  THEY WERE (EXTREMELY) AFRAID:  Sometimes shepherds become so numbed
by the "dailiness of life" that even they are not prepared for the
revelation of the supernatural.  And, if they are not spiritually and
mentally prepared and alert, they will react the same way ---- with
skepticism, uncertainty, insecurity, hesitancy, unbelief, and even fear. 
It's essential for shepherds to keep themselves in the position of
immediate expectancy.

To their credit, once the wonderful news that "Jesus is here!" had been
announced and was apparently believed, they took the necessary action to
get to the place where He was.

VI.  THEY CAME WITH HASTE:  Who really knows the motivation that drove
them so quickly to the presence of The Redeemer ---- unbelief? 
curiosity?  embarrassed need to redeem themselves from earlier conduct? 
unabated joy over the fulfillment of the prophecy?  the fear of being the
one who decided to stay by the comfort of the fire?  the stubborn
commitment to "duty" over "divine visitation"?  Whatever the true reason
in the heart, there is the undeniable and desperate need for shepherds to
make fast tracks into the presence of the Shepherd of their own souls.

When they got there, they found what they had been promised. 
Interestingly, there is no mention as to whether or not the shepherds
worshipped the Christ.  We have assumed they did, but it doesn't say.  If
they didn't, they should have.  So should every shepherd.  It isn't
accidental that such information is withheld.  Such absence simply
reminds us of how easy it is to be in the very presence of our God and
still fail to worship Him.  It's easy to be so pre-occupied with the
needs back with the sheep or the uniqueness of the surroundings and
circumstances that a shepherd can stand in the very presence of Divine
Incarnation and fail to worship Him.

VII.  WHEN THEY HAD SEEN THIS THEY MADE KNOWN ABROAD . . . :  Two
important thoughts arrest my mind.

A.  When they had seen THIS.  THIS?  THIS!  You would have thought they
would have  seen HIM ---- not THIS!  What would cause a shepherd to be
more captured by "this" than by "Him"?  The same things that cause
shepherdstoday to focus on the "This's" rather than on Him.

Nonetheless . . . .

B.  " . . . They made known abroad the saying which was told them
concerning the child."  Perhaps the most important thing we read in this
story is this great truth ---- they didn't keep it to themselves.  
Regardless of the many possible dynamics surrounding this entire episode,
they came through at the end ---- they told others about Jesus.  And they
didn't tell it just to each other, or to perhaps others in the immediate
proximity to the field in which their sheep were bedded down.  They told
it "abroad".

I've been curious about "what" they told.  It says they told what they
had been told.  That's what good preaching is.  D. T. Niles said good
preaching is simply "one beggar telling another beggar where to find
bread".  We can assume that Mary and Joseph told them the story of what
all had happened over the past nine or ten months.  That would certainly
be exciting to tell.  "We talked personally with Mary and Joseph, and
they told us that . . . "

One thing is certain about what they said.  We have a record of at least
what the angels told them, and I suspect this was included in what they
told others ---- "Unto YOU is born this day in the city of David a
Saviour, which is Christ the Lord . . . "  The message of the angels
alone contains more than enough to keep excited shepherds busy for a year
or more "making known abroad".

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS:  Shepherds are some of the most privileged people in
the world.  They get to care for sheep.  They can be surprised by
periodic angelic appearances that interrupt the mundane.  They are
invited for a personal visitation before the Christ.  They are allowed
opportunities to confront their own mortality and human weaknesses, and
work through them.  Most important, they are provided extraordinary
opportunities to make this news known to others who are not yet sheep.

Have a wonderful 1998 tending the sheep, seeing and hearing an occasional
angel, and making regular visits before the Christ.  Just don't forget to
make known abroad the things you know about Him.

Devotedly,

Bob Tolliver

Life Unlimited Ministries
Ph: 417-275-4854.  Fax: 417-275-4855
E-mail: lifeunlimited@...

Copyright by Robert A. Tolliver, 1997

If this little article has blessed you, please pass it on to others.  We
need shepherds who are being encouraged and lifted up in their special
ministries.
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