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The way how this blog post has come into being was really strange. A few days ago I thought about publishing a new article, yet I felt no clear leading apart from posting these pictures of the sheep in a WordPress draft. I also recalled I had written an older blog post about another ‘sheep experience’ that dealt with the how we as His sheep can hear our Master’s loving voice (cf. here). But that seemed to be ‘all’ at that moment. I also searched for a book or an article by T. Austin Sparks that would contain the word ‘sheep’ as part of a title anywhere, but alas, there was nothing. So, I gave up on trying to find something to write about and rather tidied up our flat. Indeed, such an occupation that can turn out a spiritual experience, too. Whether it is cooking, shopping, doing the laundry or else, God is always at hand.  🙂

I talk with Him in my mind when other people are around and when I am finally alone with Him, I sometimes speak out loud what I have been thinking. I remembered that although God had nudged me to post these sheep pictures, He did not tell me anything else. So, while I was tidying up, I asked Him about further information aka inspiration. Later when I was done with everything, I sat down in the living room, praying silently again. After some time I felt led to delve into a longer series of lectures given by T. Austin-Sparks at a time when he and his wife had spent several weeks in Manila/Philippines in the spring of 1964. I had read a few more personal and interesting details about his life in the transcription of those ‘meetings’ recently, too. God soon pointed me to a letter by TAS right in the middle of those 42 ‘meetings’. Dear reader, I guess, you know these doubtful thoughts arising in your mind, “Was it really God who told me to read THIS? Or was it another voice? Or simply my own thoughts??”  🙄 I was not sure, either. Clicking on the link that opened the letter, I saw that it was really short. T. Austin-Sparks addressed his fellow-travelers, expressing his spiritual wishes for the coming year. I got a bit distracted until I read through the second paragraph where I found the following.

“Christ is all-sufficient; but our capacity is so small. In a new way, or with a new emphasis, we have been burdened with the need of so many scattered and hungry sheep (!!). We do need to know the mighty resurrection-life which can make the small handful of ‘loaves and fishes’ expand to the multitude for whom the Great Shepherd has compassion.” (emphasis added) (1)

“Sheep? Have I just read SHEEP??” I could not read much further, but I can tell you that I was shocked!!  😳There were 42 meetings split into in two volumes that had been transcribed and published by Emmanuel Church, Tulsa, OK in 2000. Between meeting 22 and 23 there was this small letter. Only God knew that I would find the little word “sheep” in TAS’ writings in exactly this letter, right? Actually, I had really been perplexed for quite some time.  🙄

Afterwards God gave me some more confirmation on other things, but then all inspiration was gone. Until today. So this afternoon I returned to the draft and added the title. Not “scattered sheep” like TAS wrote, but “shattered sheep”. Even though many of us might be scattered on earth, as long as we cling to our Good Shepherd, we can trust that He will lead us beside still waters. We read,

A Psalm of David. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. (Ps 23:1-3 ESV)

He makes us lie down in green pastures, too. There we can rest and restore our souls in God’s calming presence as Jesus has promised here,

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Mt 11:28 ESV)

During the last three days I was confronted with the question about the restoration of those sheep who get somehow lost as they had no chance to become well-fed by the proper feeding coming directly from our Shepherd through the Holy Spirit. The first group of believers I am referring to are those who have been drawn into a branch of Christianity that is focused on spiritual gifts and emotions, in short, on sensationalism. The other group rather draws those who rely on their reason and logic which is presented in such churches by ‘preaching the law’, so to say. Whether it is the Pentecostal or the charismatic formation (type 1) or the legalistic Bible-thumping congregation (type 2), those Christians who have spent a longer time in either of them have been deeply affected as to their view of the real God. In fact, any image of God that has not come by revelation through the Holy Spirit is a twisted image of the Living God.

The first group I mentioned above tends to allow licentiousness because their kind of spirituality which includes love is considered more important than anything else. God is seen as always gracious and thus all positive features of Jesus they like are highlighted. They preach a very unbalanced gospel because they usually do not point to God’s holiness and justice just the same. You rarely hear them mention the word sin any longer just as it is the case with liberal Protestant churches. The second group, if followed hard after by anyone, brings forth self-righteous and judgmental believers who get more and more hardened by such loveless approaches unless they finally break down under the burden of not being as perfect as expected by the church leadership. The outcome in the latter case is not uncommonly a change of sides by running over to the former liberal ‘enemy’. Whether afterwards a more licentious church or group is joined, too, or if such a one rather renounces his faith in God completely by returning to all this world has to offer appears to depend on how much spiritual damage has been done to this particular shattered sheep.

Today I asked the Lord what we who follow Him could do or say when confronted with such saddening cases. Of course, we always need Jesus’ guidance as to the when and how to open up regarding our own belief in God. It seems to me that those shattered sheep that broke down under the legalistic burden of a false gospel primarily need to experience God’s unconditional love for a certain time until they feel secure. Over time they might realize that their twisted view of God had fully been shaped by false teachings and not Spirit-led preaching. Indeed, if a church preaches the law to people who have not written God’s law on their hearts and minds yet, this church will deeply hurt people who, as a result, hardly dare to approach the Living God anymore.

In contrast, the licentious group must be left alone until their shaky spiritual system breaks down through the revelation of more and more (moral) scandals that were hidden inside these churches. I know we can often only pray for these people concerned and wait for a time when God gives us a chance to speak up for Him, or rather, a specific timing He chooses when He speaks through us to them. Since the flesh profits nothing, I decided to wait on God and to no longer interfere in the lives of those around who are in religious bondage of some kind. We know that our Lord loves all of His sheep, especially those who no longer know which spirit they are of. If they run to and fro, not knowing where to go to, Jesus Christ will surely intervene and help them find the truth, that is Himself.

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray?

And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” (Mt 18:12-14 ESV)

(1) https://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/001091.html

“In keeping with T. Austin-Sparks’ wishes that what was freely received should be freely given and not sold for profit, and that his messages be reproduced word for word, we ask if you choose to share these messages with others, to please respect his wishes and offer them freely – free of any changes, free of any charge (except necessary distribution costs) and with this statment included.”

All images by Susanne Schuberth 2022