Blessed are the peacemakers

peacemakers

In the sermon on the mount, Jesus said, Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.”  Matthew 5:9

I asked the Lord what he meant by that on my early morning walk today.  

First, he gave me a scripture; God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in Jesus, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”  Colossians 1:20.

The Lord explained that he was the first peace maker; and when we become his sons and daughters, we become his peace makers.  He reminded me what I’d done with my mother last year.  We never had a good relationship.  But he saw her differently from me.

Here’s my story about making peace.

Shepherds call

Seven years passed.  Healed from the hurt of the past, Joanna went from strength to strength.  But she still had bad memories from her childhood.

One day her mother grew seriously ill.  Joanna approached the Lord, concerned about her mother’s salvation.

“Father, it’s up to you whether she’ll pull through this time. I forgive my mother for all the abuse she heaped on us. She wasn’t able to be a good mother because she was abandoned at the age of three.

Is her name written in your book, the book of life?  She believes in you – but she doesn’t know you. I want to be able to bring her to you, but I can’t reach her. I can hardly go through the four spiritual laws, or walk her down the Roman road.  Lord, how can I get her to trust you? You promised that if we lack wisdom, we should ask. I’m asking.”

albrecht_schenck_shepherd_call

Shepherd’s Call, by Albrecht Schenck

“I will come to her,” He replied, pointing to a painting that her mother used to have; a vintage 1900’s painting called ‘Shepherd’s call’ which depicted a collie barking for the shepherd after finding a lost lamb in the snow.

“Talk about that painting. Ask her who the dog is barking for, and then bring me in. I want her to know she is the lamb …”

“What a brilliant idea. I’d never have thought of that,” Joann replied, impressed. “But I don’t want religion getting in the way. What should I do if it does?”

The Lord gave her an answer for that.

Later Joanna sat at her mother’s side, alone.

“You know that painting of the dog and the lamb you had?” she began.

“Yes, I gave it away,” her mother replied.

“Yes, you did. Remember that lost lamb?”

“The lamb didn’t have a mother,” her mother recalled.

“Yes, that’s right Mum, she didn’t have a mother,” Joanna replied, sad.

“The Lord said for me to tell you that you are that lamb” she said, as soon as she’d gathered her composure.

Tears came to her mother’s eyes.

“Who was the dog barking for?” Joanna asked.

“The shepherd,” her mother eventually answered.

“Did you know the Lord is the Shepherd?” Joanna replied.

More tears came.

Just as Joanna had foreseen, Joanna’s mother talked about religion.

“Mum, do you know what the Bible says true religion is?” Joanna responded.

Her mother shook her head.

“True religion is to take care of widows and orphans,” Joanna replied, giving the answer the Lord had given her.

“I’m a widow,” her mother said.

“That’s right, you are a widow,” Joanna replied, impressed at the Lord’s answer.

“Who is the Lord to you?” Joanna cautiously asked, feeling like the Collie.

Her mother was silent.

“Are you afraid of death?” Joanna asked.

“Yes, I’m afraid of the devil – I don’t want to see him,” she replied.

Joanna introduced the Shepherd.

“Mum, Jesus tends his flock like a shepherd. He looks for lost lambs and he saves them. He wants to carry you in his arms, close to his heart,” she added.

“Who would you like him to be?” she asked, watching her mother’s face.

“My protector,” her mother replied.

“Like a saviour?” Joanna asked.

“Yes,” her mother agreed.

“Do you accept him as your saviour?” Joanna asked.

“Yes,” her mother replied, with childlike faith.

“You are saved,” Joanna told her, relieved to see the lamb now cradled in the Shepherd’s arms.

“Now that you have accepted Jesus as your saviour, you need fear no evil in the Valley of the Shadow of Death. The Lord is your Shepherd, and his rod and staff will comfort you,” Joanna reassured her, remembering her own staff.

That was as much as she could do.

Outside, a piece of rainbow shone out from clouds above the Ruahine mountain range.

That night, her mother sang.

The gift of the Shepherd

The Lord is My ShepherdTired and drained, she stood by the fire inside in her father’s house, trying to get warm, and trying not to look at her father’s empty chair.  The shepherd’s staff leaned in the corner near the chair, unnoticed. 

In the land of the Kingdom, she wearily trudged through the Valley of the Shadow of death, stopping at her father’s house for the sad task of sorting out his belongings.  “One of you girls can take that,” Sally his widow said, suddenly noticing the staff. She recognised it.

“That’s my old crook” she remarked.

“It was down in his workshop,” Sally said, “He’d made it down there the other day, but he was too weak to walk back up the path.  I found him leaning on it, unable to move. It’s yours, please take it.”

Her sisters gave her his car.  As she got the engine running, a thin stream of water shot out of the radiator, landing in an arc on the concrete in front of her sisters.  Sighing, she cracked an egg into the radiator water, praying it would hold until she could get the leak fixed.

Obviously her father had been too ill to maintain the car.  It still had all his stuff in it, the paperback he’d been reading was face down on the seat where he’d left it. Putting the crook in the back of the car with the rest of his stuff, she concentrated on getting the car back to Wanganui.

At home she put the crook in the corner of the room and cried.  It was more than she could cope with. The endless winter days felt like a long, dark valley where she did not laugh and she did not smile.  Again the humble crook stayed unnoticed until finally, the God of all comfort came.

Her tear filled eyes were drawn to the staff.  She noticed it had been varnished.  Mindful of the care taken in its preservation, she asked “Does this crook have some significance?”

The Shepherd replied, giving her some dates, and a number.  “From the day you left Napier on the 4th day of August 1971, to the day of your Father’s death on the 4th day of August 1994, 23 years were written in my book. When your father leaned on the staff, I was there.  Now the time for your father has ended, and you will go on. Read Psalm 23. It will be familiar to you.”

   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.

  Even though I walk through the valley
   of the shadow of death,
   I will fear no evil;
   for you are with me;
   Your rod and Your staff comfort me.  Psalm 23

Carried back to the place where she had first encountered the Shepherd in the valley, she smiled at him through her tears.  She could see the hills, the sheep, the creek and the quiet pool by the willows. “This is the place where we first met” she said, wiping away her tears as her eyes lingered on the crook, the shepherd’s staff.

Taking the staff in her hands she ran her fingers over the smooth wood, remembering.  The staff had come back to her as a great gift from the Shepherd, and it comforted her.   She wiped her eyes and said “It’s true. Your rod and your staff … comfort me.”

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted,” the Lord replied. (Matthew 5:4)

Jesus, the great I AM

The lost lamb

The lambing beat, Sharon & Jo Dassler

Sharon & Joanne Dassler, back from the lambing beat

There is nothing more endearing than a lamb.  This is me in my earlier life when I lived and worked on our family farm, bringing in a lamb we found next to its dead mother. 

We did a lambing beat each day to check the ewes and bring in any orphans and we were really happy when one was found.  We did our best to search for the little ones and save them.

In the same way the Lord goes out of his way to search for and save us.  Jesus said;

For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.

“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?

And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off.

In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.”  Matthew 18:14

“He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young. Isaiah 40:11 (Old Testament)

This shepherd loved us so much He laid His life down for us.

Jesus said I AM the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father, and I lay down my life for the sheep.”  John 10:14-15 (New Testament)

The Good Shepherd and His Sheep

“Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber.   The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.  The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.  But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” John 10:1-5

John 10-27

Hearing the Master’s Voice

His masters voice

Christ said “My sheep hear my voice”.  He’s not kidding, it is possible to hear His voice.  A very dear Moslem friend of mine, who I shall call “Ishmael”, asked me how I could hear God’s voice.  Are you wondering the same thing?

I assure you it is possible to know God, and speak with Him, but its up to you to initiate the conversation.  He is waiting for you.

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. Matthew 7:7

Make sure you’re going to the right God, I can’t stress this enough.  Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.  2 Corinthians 11:14  There is only one way to God. You have to approach God through Jesus.   This is not me saying it, this is what  Jesus said.  Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6.  

This is how you can hear His voice:

1) Believe that Jesus died to save you, and ask Him to be your Lord.  “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” Romans 10:9-10

Someone once said to me “It can’t be that easy!”  Yes it is!  God wants to save us.  It should be called “Salvation for dummies!”

Turn away from sin, find a small, Bible believing Church, and ask to be baptised with water and the Holy Spirit.  If you are in a country where you can’t do this openly, ask Jesus to save you and give you the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is given freely to those you ask.

Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead?  Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?  If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:11

2) Read the Bible.  “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word.”  Romans 10:17

3) Record any meaningful, “non-pizza” dreams.  “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.” Acts 2:17

4) Take note of signs and coincidences, and record them in a journal.

5) Be a seeker of the truth, not of the doctrines of men.  Make sure that what you are taught agrees with what is written in the Bible.

“Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”  Acts 17:11

Let me know if you do this, so I can pray for you or answer any questions you may have.

The gate, and the sheep that went astray

Splattered with mud, I threw myself at the ewes and lambs that were dodging past me.  I tried to stop one charging ewe, only to stab my hand on a thorny stick of gorse hidden in her fleece.  Another jumping ewe hit me in the chest, ran me over and kept on going.

NZ lambs

It was our first muster, in late August – the end of winter and the first month of our new lives on the sheep farm.  Our arrival coincided with the lambing and docking season, one of the busiest times of the year.  We didn’t know what we were doing, and lacked the experience to see that the  docking pen was in an impossible place.  It was stuck right in the middle of the long boundary fence we shared with Mt Zion, the sheep station in the next valley over from ours.  I don’t know what the previous owners were thinking.  It was a stupid place to put the pen, as there were no corners to herd the sheep into.

Ewes and lambs were launching themselves in every direction, with us six inexperienced children, aged eleven down to five,  trying to hold them.  There were no dogs for that first muster, we were the dogs.  Our father, more used to cows than sheep, shouted at us in frustration.

That first dock took all day.  Wearily trudging home in the dark, I decided to ask for a crook for my birthday, a staff with a curved end.  It would make life easier mustering those sheep.  I thought of the pictures I’d seen of sheep trotting after their Shepherd.  What a contrast.  Nothing could be further from that idyllic image. These sheep weren’t tame.  We were strangers to them.  There was no way they were going to follow us.

In Jesus day, the sheep were led in small flocks by their Shepherd.  The pens were for the sheep to lie down in peace.  The Shepherd would lay his own body across the gate of the sheepfold.  Jesus was thinking about that when He said “I AM the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.

sheepfold

These are His words;

“Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.  The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.  But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”  Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.

Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:1-10

I know that the Lord has chased more sheep than I have.  He’s run after me, before I knew Him as my Shepherd.  We all like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way.  Isaiah 53:6.  He wants us to follow Him.  May you hear the voice of the true Shepherd calling, and enter by the gate.  Here is good pasture, and you will find rest for your soul.

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”  Matthew 7:13-14

Sheep of his pasture

For such is the Kingdom

For such is the Kingdom

But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the Kingdom of heaven. Matthew 19:14

Sitting cross legged on the floor of her Aunt’s cottage, the child pulled out the first book from the set of children’s bibles on the bookshelf.  The night before her Aunt had read them a story from one of those books.  She was curious about the one written of in the stories.

The inside cover showed him wearing a white robe standing in a green field.  He looked so kind, and there were a lot of children gathered around Him.   She wanted to know Him, but did not know how to come to Him.

After she was dedicated to the King when she was a baby, as was the custom, He was forgotten.  All she knew was that He lived in Heaven.  She was told that only good children would go to Heaven, and then she would be told that she was bad.  If she did try to come to Him, would He make her go away?

Sometimes she would sing Him a song with a wish in her heart.   Later that summer evening as she waited for sleep to come, she thought of him in that green field.  She approached Him in her mind, but a dark presence kept her from coming closer, telling her that “only good children could go to him”.  She stood there uncertainly, not knowing He was holding out His arms to her as He dropped to His knees calling her name.

The angel who had been appointed from birth to be her guardian watched her.  Seeing she had come alone, the angel asked the King if there was not some way to be found to reach the little girl.  The angel stood between the hesitant child and the dark one.  The King roared like a lion at the dark one saying “forbid her not to come to me: for of such is the Kingdom of heaven”.

The child approached the King with longing, fearful she would be rejected.  Shyly she touched His hand, pleading “Jesus, I believe in you.  Please, I know that I am not good enough, but I want to come to you, and live in Heaven one day.  Will you let me come?”

The roar subsided as the child approached.  The face of the King softened as the lion turned into a lamb.  He held her as she was welcomed into His Kingdom.  The child could only perceive Him dimly.  Unseen her angel responded with great joy and shouts of gladness.  The joy was tinged with grief, for many of the children of Adam who came to Him alone were dispossessed and orphaned, many of them clad in filthy rags, not knowing who they really were.  If only they could see, if only they could know who they were born to be.  The greatest in His kingdom were those who were like children.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3

This nine year old child was clad in green checked shorty pyjamas that had the motif “my heart belongs to Daddy” embroidered on the front, which brought a smile to His face.  Those who wanted to enter His kingdom had to come to Him in belief like this child.  Unheard by the girl He said “Child, the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to you.”

He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.  Matthew 18:2

Later on in life the King told her how she had met Him wearing those pyjamas.  She asked her mother if she had been given clothing like that.  Her mother replied that indeed she had, for she had sewn them for her holiday.

Children came to Him very easily, but unless the parents knew Him the child got left in the wilderness.  This child would not be trained in the way she should go.  She would be travelling alone to start with.  Unguided, she would eat the bread of adversity and drink the water of tears. 

It was crucial that the children were shown the way to Him.  It is written;

“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”  Proverbs 22:6.

Encounter in the valley

The road leading to the farm was a narrow gravel road that few bothered with unless they had a reason to travel it. 

The farm

‘Mount Zion,’ a neighbouring farm lay further up the road.  In the Kingdom of God, Mount Zion is both the city of David and the city of God, “the Jerusalem above that is free.”  Galatians 4:26

The farm lay in a lovely valley.  It was hard hill country, a land of rugged slopes crowned with flat topped hills.

Joanna’s favourite place on her farm was a field named ‘Swamp.’  It lay at the bottom of the hill, over the fence from the wool shed and the farm cottage they called the ‘Whare’.  Swamp was bordered by a willow lined creek on one boundary, and a narrow poplar lined gravel road on the other.

Kapok and elm trees grew by the bridge.  The Kaukatea creek ran into a silent pool which the sun drew pictures on with its fingers.

She liked it there because it was very green, even in summer, and the voice of the water was easy on her ears.  The shadows and rustle of leaves through the Kapok trees made it a quiet, soothing place.  Purple Pukeka birds with their bright orange beaks liked it there too, making their homes in the rushes.

The King chose that quiet place by the creek for their first real meeting.

Joanna was at work helping her father move some sheep, positioned to head them off by the gate.  It took a long time for the sheep to move her way.  Waiting, she stood idle in the sun.  Lulled by the birds and the gurgle of the creek, she leaned on her crook and thought about nothing, until He came.

His warm presence added to the peace and felt like sunlight, filling the pleasant and soothing place where she stood.  She felt totally safe with him.

Afterwards she recalled the words having a feeling attached to them, although she could not remember exactly what was said.  He talked about growing up – she remembered that, and he talked about women.  It was almost like having a talk with a really loving mother, except this was a ‘He’.  She didn’t know who it was.

By the time she heard the dogs and the sheep coming, she had begged him to stay.  She never told her parents – they would have scoffed at her and her ‘big imagination’, but she did tell my younger brother and sisters about it.

They didn’t know who he was either.  “Perhaps it was Mother Mary?” one of her sisters said.  They weren’t Catholic; it was just that the song “Let It Be” by the Beatles was popular at that time.  “No, He just spoke like I imagine a loving mother would” she replied.  Who was He?  It would be years before she found out.