The Lost Sheep

Uncle Paul remembers having a discussion with his dad, my grandfather, about my dad, who was always getting into trouble. Exasperated with his older brother’s behavior, Uncle Paul asked, “Why do you put up with him?” My grandfather, then the corps sergeant-major of the Corry, Pennsylvania, Corps, simply answered, “All I can tell you is that he is my son.” Grandpa’s steadfast love was rewarded when Dad finally yielded himself, once and for all, to Christ.

Steadfast love is much simpler spoken about than lived. It is much easier when the loved one behaves well, acts responsibly, returns love openly. Yet there are those prickly people, those ones that continually mess up, that almost dare you to love them. Who will love them?

The parable Jesus told, using sheep as the subject matter, was really about those kind of people, but it is also about our responsibility to seek them out.

What do sheep have in common with the incessant wanderer?

Sheep are easily lost. They have no sense of direction. Even if the sheepfold is in sight, they struggle to find their way to it. They don’t mean to wander off, but when they see grass they are soon are off the path. They look up, confused about where they are. Realizing the danger, they panic. Every sound is threatening; every shadow looks like an enemy.

That’s how it happens for so many. Even in sight of the Kingdom, they struggle to find their way. And when they are on the path, it isn’t long until some little attraction or slight temptation lures them away. They see the danger and grab for a drink, a drug, a psychic reading or a lottery ticket. The quick fix, no matter how unlikely, is seen as a way to go to a place of safety.

Sheep are defenseless. If God ever designed an animal to be easy prey, it was this one. They can’t run well. They can’t find their way. They have no defensive weapons like horns or fangs. Their only safety is the flock. On its own, a sheep is just a target.

How often the sins that ruin a life are presented when people are most defenseless. The first drink, the first sexual encounter, the first drug or outburst of violence usually happens while a person is still young. Though the young seldom realize how vulnerable they are, the drug pusher does. The beer commercials present an exciting life, not the drunk in the gutter. They prey on the defenseless, snatching them as early in life as possible in order to keep them as perpetual slaves.

Sheep left to their own devices will most likely need rescuing. They are hopeless without someone interceding. That is what this story talks about. The good shepherd notices his sheep is missing and knows that without immediate action, that sheep is lost forever. The parable says that having 99 sheep safe and one lost is not good math. Every single one of the sheep needs to be accounted for and safe.

Jesus was also addressing those who have the responsibility to find them. Jesus’ enemies were listening, readily agreeing that a shepherd owed his sheep the rescue mission. But their regard for a dumb animal was more than they had for a lost soul.

To those who name Christ as Savior, know that you are called to seek the lost. This is not to be delegated, nor is the duty optional.

The shepherd has nothing on his mind but finding the lost sheep. It is not something to do after dinner or the day after tomorrow. He sees the sheep in his mind, considers where and how the sheep got lost and where he might be, hurrying to that spot. If the sheep is not there, he looks elsewhere. Nothing else matters but getting the sheep safely home to join the sheepfold. He does not have to read a book about how to do it, or convene a committee to consider the possibilities.

How do we seek the lost? If we could be as focused on the lost as some are on their smartphones, the Kingdom of God would explode with new converts.

When the shepherd finds the sheep, he does not scold it for being stupid or lecture it about getting what it deserved. No, he picks it up and carries it on his shoulders to safety. The sheep is not sought for its value to the world but because the shepherd loves it.

Can we understand the pain the Heavenly Father feels when one of His sheep is missing? The lost need to know our love for them. They need to sense the strength that comes from having a vibrant relationship with Christ. They need to feel God’s love, which is channeled through our hands and hearts and hugs. The parable concludes with this wonderful scene of rejoicing over the lost being found.

“When he [the shepherd] arrives [home], he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ In the same way, there is more joy in Heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!” (Luke 15:6-7).

Heaven rejoices. Think of that. Every time a lost soul finds the Savior, a party erupts in Heaven!

If you are that lost sheep, know that there is a way home. Even if no earthly friend stands at your side, Jesus, the Good Shepherd is calling to you right now, ready to lift you on His shoulders and carry you to safety.

If you are one of those tasked to seek the lost, know that every lost sheep is worth the scrapes, the blood, the sweat, the strain. And know that when you bring that sheep home the party in Heaven will sound in your heart as well.

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Lt. Colonel Allen Satterlee
Editor–in–Chief and National Literary Secretary

 

A Boy Named Pain

I am no expert at having babies, but I’ve heard its no picnic. I am the father of three children. The first two came in the late 1970s, when expectant fathers would pace in the waiting room during delivery.

During the early 1980s, however, I was in the delivery room for the birth of my daughter. After witnessing what my wife went through during labor, I’ve often said that if my little girl had been the first, she would have been the last!

That said, for all the pain and physical trauma women experience during childbirth, one remarkable iRony is apparent nearly every time: once a mother holds her newborn baby for the first time, she seems to forget the ordeal she went through in the preceeding hours, or at least it’s replaced by motherly love.

If the name for the baby hasn’t yet been decided, that’s usually the next order of business. Long ago, it wasn’t unusual for a child to be named for a circumstance, or an event. Still, I’ve never heard of anyone naming their newborn “Pain.” Some may have been tempted; but no one I know has actually done it.

Except for the mother of Jabez, as recorded in I Chronicles 4:9. Jabez is the Hebrew word for pain. Yep, she named her bundle of joy Pain.

What a rotten name, I thought when I first learned the story. Imagine going through your entire life with a name that screams out to the world that what your mom thought of when she held you for the first time was pain.

And it doesn’t stop there.

“This is my boss. His name is Pain.”

“My husband, Pain, says…”

“Hello, may I please speak to Pain?”

By the way, do you happen to know what your name would have been had you been born the opposite sex? Mine would have been “Dorcas,” a woman in the New Testament whom Peter brought back to life through the power of God.

Yep, that would’ve been me: Dorcas Duracher.

But back to Pain.

To his credit, Jabez didn’t let his painful name define him. He intentionally prayed to God for a life that would be the opposite of what his name implied.

I can almost hear him asking God, “Make my future a contrast to my past. Give me a convenant with You that will forever praise Your holy name!”

And that’s exactly what the Father did for Jabez. Instead of being a reminder of sorrow and tribulation to his family and friends, as his name implies, Jabez was a blessing and a credit to God who is immortalized in Scripture forever.

God can and will do the same for you. No matter your name, no matter what pain you’ve caused others, it’s never too late.

Now is the time to start trusting in Him for everything.

Take it from a guy who was almost named Dorcas.

____________________

Major Frank Duracher
Assistant Editor-in-Chief

Fulfilling a Promise

Joey Zumaya couldn’t believe the words coming out of his teenage daughter’s mouth: “I don’t believe you!” But once he thought about it, he couldn’t really blame Elaine.

After all, Joey had made promises to his family many times, but his lies and addictions had pushed everyone away. “Things were as bad as they could get,” Joey admits. “Jessica and I were already divorced for five years, and I had full custody of Elaine only because she is my daughter from a previous marriage.”

He explains he was able to mask his addictions at work for some 11 years, but even that deception had caught up with him.

“I lost my family, my home, my job—everything except my daughter, Elaine—but now the two of us were homeless,” he says. “Imagine, a single dad with a teenage daughter and no way to provide for her, all because of my addictions and behavior.”

Joey was also battling severe depression. That’s when God broke through to him and seemed to say, Joey, you’ve let things go too far.

Father and daughter applied for admission to The Salvation Army’s Transitional Living Center (TLC) in Ventura, California. Even though there was a waiting list of some 30 people ahead of them, the two were able to get in the very next day.

This was the new beginning Joey was desperate for. He knew he had to get right with God in order to finally beat his addictions. God has to be in control of this, he thought to himself.

He told Elaine that they had to find a church home. If they wished to attend the nearby Ventura Corps of The Salvation Army, the corps officer would be glad to pick them up every Sunday. “That’s when we met Lieutenant Fabio [Simoes],” Joey explains. “He came for us and I felt that the corps was the perfect place for me to achieve restoration—physically, emotionally and spiritually. The single dad expressed to his daughter the growing conviction that he was to “go to the corps for every activity during the week.” He told her about his faith that Christ was going to help him conquer his demons.

“No matter what happens, we will be there [at the corps],” Joey promised her.

“I’ll believe it when I see it,” was Elaine’s response.

He realized he’d better back up his promise.

Now that the Holy Spirit was motivating Joey, he was able to faithfully keep his promises to Elaine and the other children. One by one, the others began attending the Army with Joey and Elaine, and with a good deal of persuasion, so did his wife, Jessica.

“My children and my ex-wife began to see a real change in me,” Joey says.

Jessica gave her heart to Christ, and soon the entire family became uniformed soldiers of the Ventura Corps. Joey asked Jessica to marry him again. Not only was the Zumaya Family restored, but the corps began tremendous growth as well. The Tuesday youth night grew from three to 30 children, Wednesday’s Bible study grew significantly in number and those at Sunday morning worship numbers went from seven to 120.

Another remarkable ministry the Zumayas have undertaken is to return to the TLC every Thursday night to share dinner with and counsel other couples whose marriages are on the rocks.

“We have so many opportunities to serve here at the corps. Keeping so busy in our family faith has leapfrogged us to total restoration!” Joey says.

For this story from Elaine’s point of view, see the Summer 2016 Young Salvationist.

____________________

Major Frank Duracher
Assistant Editor-in-Chief