He who is a hireling and not a shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf snatches them and scatters then. He flees because he is a hireling and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me.


Imagine what it would be like if you were taking a trip to England on a huge luxury liner. The ship is expected to reach port in five days. The meals are sumptuous. The weather is perfect. You sit on your deck chair every day and enjoy the sea and the sky and the relaxing ocean breeze. But when it comes time to reach England, land is nowhere in sight.


The liner churns on through the waters two days. Three days pass. You stop one of the ship's officers and ask him what's wrong. You were expecting to meet a friend in London. "Don't worry, everything's all right." he says and hurries on about his business.


Three more days pass and all the passengers are now quite apprehensive. The meals are served on time, all the activities continue as usual. But where is this ship going? Tired of asking officers and crewmen who never give you a straight answer, you climb the steps to the top deck and knock on the door of the ship's bridge. "Surely the captain can tell me where we are and where we're going." No one answers your knock. You pound on the door.  Nothing happens. Climbing a railing to look in a window, you discover to your amazement that no one is standing on the bridge. The instrument panel, the wheel, all the vital controls of the ship are unattended. This gigantic liner with thousands of people aboard is plying its way through the seas and no one is steering it!


You run down the deck, grab the arm of the first ship's officer you find. "Where's the captain of this ship? How come no one is on the bridge? How come no one is steering this liner?"


The officer turns and looks at you with sad eyes. "Well, now that you've backed me into a corner, I'll have to confess to you that I just don't know, I don't know whether this ship has a captain or not, I've never seen him."


"What kind of nonsense are you talking?" interrupts another officer who just came walking by, "Of course this ship has a captain....the best captain there is! and hurries on.

Your conversation has been overheard by a cluster of people who came near to listen and soon the rumor is all through the ship that there is no captain. No one is on the bridge. The ship is out of control and at any time may plow into some rocky island and go down.


While panic spreads, you climb once more to the bridge and with a crowbar pry open the steel door and burst in. "If nobody's going to steer this ship to port, I am," you say to yourself as you grab the wheel. But you find that the wheel does not respond to your efforts. The wheel is very much alive on it's own, as if it were in the grip of an invisible hand. Now it turns this way, now that, holding the ship to a course all on its own. But how? Who is in charge? What invisible hand controls the wheel? And how are the orders getting down to the crew? And most of all, where is it going?


These are the questions that are being asked by thousands everyday about this planet earth. Does this ship have a captain? And if it does, where is he? And where is he taking us?


People who once accepted it without further questioning when they were told that the Captain, God, is up there on the bridge, steering the ship are now hearing the rumor that the bridge is empty. Nobody's up there. So many things in life seem to bear this out.


"Where is God?" people are asking. "I used to feel his presence, but not any more. Was it my imagination? I used to know that he was near. I always assumed that God was somewhere close by, but when I began to look for him, I found nothing. Not even a hint. Not even a trace!".


It is as if the sheep wakes up one night on the rocky mountainside and discovers that the shepherd --- who used to be there --- or at least the shepherd he thought was there----is gone. Maybe he never was there.


Any god who is here today and gone tomorrow never was God. A god that comes and goes, a god that dances in and out of existence like the flame in the fireplace, a god that stands impressively above the altar tonight, and tomorrow is flat on its face----such a god is not God, but an idol, not the God who made us, but a god we made to suit our own ends.


These gods that are dying never were real. Let them die. If you had a Christ you could pick up and look at whenever you pleased, or a Christ you could pull around your shoulders at will like a warm blanket on a chilly night, what did you have? You had a Christ who was bound to die sooner or later, because he was never real in the first place.


This feeling of lostness, the God-forsakenness, that is spreading over our so-called Christian lands like a panic on a captainless ship has visited us because the real Christ, the Son of the God who rules this universe has not truly been known. If I've been worshipping an idol, and one day my idol is struck by lightning and lies in a thousand pieces on the floor, how do I feel? I feel terrible, I'm scared. My crutch has been taken from me and I think I'll never walk again. But when I'm finished crying over my broken idol, when I'm willing to take that fragment  of my idol that I've already hidden in my pocket and throw it away, and walk out under the heavens with no idol, lonely and bewildered and scared as I may be----then I am ready to meet the living God.


And only then.


Most of the Christianity that is being practiced in this land has nothing to do with Jesus Christ the Son of God. It is idolatry. Have we actually listened to Jesus Christ and trusted him, and done his will?. Have we even tried?. We have our Bible, but have we attempted to  practice the love it talks about from cover to cover?   One man accuses another. One group blames another. But very very few of us are taking the first step toward finding the real God----the painful step of admitting the truth about ourselves to him---the beginning of repentance.


So now the wolf is coming. Satan's hour is approaching. And the hirelings who are smart enough to see the wolf coming flee. The religious professionals, the men and women who are in it for their own gain or fame are beginning to run. And the idols that people have been clinging to without question are beginning to fall on their faces. And people are caught in a new kind of panic. Their gods are gone. They have nothing to hang on to----and nothing to be afraid of from "up there" any more. Some are celebrating their freedom. Others are running for cover.


Of course when the wolf gets here the party will be over. The wolf will make himself god and the freedom everyone is talking about today will end.


In the midst of this confusion we have a gospel (good news) for those who will listen. Even while the hirelings are fleeing and idols are falling off their dusty shelves and people and nations are losing their sanity the real Shepherd is still around and can be known.


He is still the Shepherd and has already won the battle for his sheep.

Let the pieces of your broken idol lie on the floor, and if you have been left holding the bag by some hireling, let the hireling go his way, even if his pockets are bulging with your money. Let him go. Be thankful that false things are beginning to show up for what they are and that you weren’t detained by them until it was too late. And lift up your heart once more from earth to heaven. Call on the name of Jesus Christ.


Turn from every human, every material, every fleshly crutch and lift your heart to the Lord Jesus----even if you feel nothing of his presence at this moment, even if you feel cut off and shut out by heaven. Lift up your heart and hold it there and keep still.


When the sheep lost in the thicket at midnight stops running and lifts up its cry, before long it sees the lantern swinging in the darkness and hears the shepherd’s voice. So it will be for you. No matter how God-forsaken you may feel, the real God is able to get to you. The real Shepherd is able to reach you wherever you are.


My sheep hear my voice, (when they stop and listen and wait ),  and I know them and they follow me, and I give unto them eternal life and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.


In the authentic Body of Christ we do not tell you how to vote. We do not inform you about what groups you may join and what groups you may not. We neither command nor forbid you to march in the latest protest. We never beg for your money. We say, "First get to know Jesus Christ, before you do anything. You will be of little use to yourself or anyone else until you do.”


If you seek him, you will find him. And when you have found him, love him and do his will. You may not make a lot of noise. You’ll never see your name in the headlines. But through your life more peace and healing will flow into this world than it will ever know until the Kingdom comes.


When courage is required, you’ll have courage.

When boldness is needed, you'll have it.

When something needs to be said, you’ll say it;

                                        or done, you’ll do it----in the name of Christ.


And when the wolf’s day is over and the Lamb of God ascends his throne---­

you will have the joy of seeing faces in that multitude of every nation, people, kindred, and tongue who found their way into the Kingdom of God through you.


My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me.


A lot of voices are being heard.


God help us to hear that voice,

and to choose it over every other.