Sing and pray, and have the children sit down to listen to your story today.
Tell them that when Jesus was on the earth, He talked about all of us who follow Him as being like a certain kind of animal. What animal does Jesus call His children? Tigers? Bears? Horses? Rabbits? Jesus calls us His sheep.
What's so special about sheep for Jesus to chose that animal to describe us? First of all sheep cannot live without a shepherd. They don't have sharp teeth to fight other animals like wolves and foxes do, they don't have strong horns to fight with like deer, they don't run fast like horses, and they don't have sharp claws like lions or bears. They are small, fluffy, peaceful and can become afraid very very easily. Sheep are a lot like us because if we try to live alone in this world without our Shepherd, we will never live a good life or go to heaven.
So if you and me are sheep, who do you think is our Shepherd? It's the Lord Jesus, of course! Who remembers the time we learned Psalm 23 that begins with the phrase, "The Lord is my Shepherd, He gives me all that I need?"
How can we get everything that we need? By letting Jesus be our Shepherd, by obeying His voice and going wherever He leads us. What if Jesus takes us someplace strange? What if Jesus wants us to do things we aren't used to doing? What if Jesus wants us to become friends with people we don't like? If Jesus is our Shepherd, He'll always make sure that we are cared for very well and very blessed. He never leads us to bad or dangerous places, but always to green pastures.
There was a story that Jesus told His disciples about Himself. He told them about a shepherd who was a very good shepherd and loved his sheep. He had one hundred sheep in his flock. Every day he would take those fluffy little sheep out of the pen out into the pasture where they could eat green grass and drink from a fresh pond, and play and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. Sheep love to be together and they feel very safe when their shepherd is close by.
But one day a little sheep got distracted. He got curious about a place that he could see in the distance, and began to walk over there. Maybe he thought that he could find better grass to eat, or that something interesting was waiting for him there. The little sheep was being foolish. He should have stayed with all the other sheep in the pasture, but he just too curious. He walked and walked and went further and further away from his flock and from his shepherd. He wandered into a strange new place where he couldn't even hear the sounds of his brothers or sisters in the flock.
It began to get dark, and the wind became chilly. The little sheep turned around to see if he could go back home, but he couldn't remember which way he had come from. The dark shadows were scary, and the wind made strange sounds in the branches of the trees. He jumped and ran one direction, but a big stone in his way stopped him. He turned around and ran another direction, but bumped into a tree. He turned and ran again, and then a horrible thing happened. He fell into a deep hole and got hurt.
The little sheep began to bleat and cry out for anyone to hear him, but all he could hear was the echo of his own voice and the whistle of the wind. Poor little sheep. He had been foolish and should have stayed close to his shepherd. Do you think he'll ever get out of that hole in the ground?
Back at the pasture, the good shepherd looked at all his beautiful sheep. They were eating and drinking peacefully and he gathered them together to go back into their pen for the night. But when he counted them, he found only 99 sheep. Oh no! One sheep is missing! Where could he be? The shepherd carefully closed the gate of his pen to protect his 99 sheep, and then immediately went looking for the one little lost sheep who had wandered far from the flock.
It was getting dark and cold and he knew that his missing sheep would be afraid. So he moved as fast as he could to search for him. He looked here and he looked there, but couldn't find him. Then as the sun went down and the darkness was getting darker, he heard a little noise from far away. "Baaaa, baaaa!!" It was his little sheep! He quickly ran to where the sound was coming from and there he saw his poor sheep, dirty and frightened in the deep pit where he had fallen. The good shepherd always kept his rod and his staff with him, and reached down into the pit, hooked the staff under the little sheep's belly, and gently lifted him up to safety.
The little sheep was so happy to see his shepherd!
What do you think the shepherd did? Was He angry with His sheep? Did He shout at him and tell him that he could never go to the pasture again? No. This was a good shepherd. He saw how helpless his sheep was, and how much he needed the shepherd's help. So he lovingly picked up his little sheep and carried him on his shoulders back to the safety of the sheep pen. That night all the 100 sheep slept peacefully and happily in the warm cozy pen, and who do you think was sleeping right at the door all night? The shepherd! A good shepherd is gentle and understands that His sheep are weak.
We are God's sheep. We are weak without Him, and we make a lot of foolish mistakes when we don't obey what He tells us to do. There are a lot of people in our churches who were like that little sheep who was too curious to stay close to his shepherd. Many people just want to do whatever they feel like, and then get into big trouble. They do bad things and the devil attacks them. Some of them go to jail, or some of them lose their jobs. Others can get very sick or even lose their families because they don't want to follow their Shepherd Jesus, who loves them so much.
But those of us who DO follow our Shepherd Jesus, are always safe and loved and protected from all kinds of evil.
And what if someone who didn't follow Jesus changes his mind and calls out to God to save him? Just like the little sheep, Jesus will quickly come to help him, rescue him and carry him safely back to His Kingdom - but the sheep must always obey if they want to stay close to their Shepherd.
Who of you wants to be the sheep that is foolish and gets lost? Who wants to be the sheep that stay close to their Shepherd, Jesus? Who wants to call Jesus to come and rescue them right now?
Make a prayer for them to choose to be one of Jesus' sheep, and to let Him be their only Shepherd.
God bless and have a great week!
ACTIVITIES of the week