Can’t Sleep


Bull in China ShopOh God, please , No!

It’s 4:52 AM and I have to preach the first of 3 sermons in just a few hours!

I need my sleep!

Not buying it? Ok, I’ll get up.

And so it goes. It’s familiar territory for me. And whenever I lay in bed with the Lord’s voice whispering over and over in my ear I know sleep is not an option.

Maybe I can get up and ‘tweak’ the message a bit?

Nope, that’s not what He woke me up for. Time to talk. At times like these I know the routine and the best place to go is to my knees first to tell Jesus I’m listening and then to His Word (the Bible) to actually listen. It’s usually not hard to know where to begin believe it or not. Most of the time God actually wakes me up with a scripture that I can’t get out of my head. This morning is no exception.

So, with the light of my study burning into the otherwise black night, I go to the passage I can’t get out of my head to search out the context and see how God is asking me to specifically apply it to my life. Here’s the passage in “The Message”

When you knock on a door, be courteous in your greeting. If they welcome you, be gentle in your conversation. If they don’t welcome you, quietly withdraw. Don’t make a scene. Shrug your shoulders and be on your way. You can be sure that on Judgment Day they’ll be mighty sorry—but it’s no concern of yours now.

16“Stay alert. This is hazardous work I’m assigning you. You’re going to be like sheep running through a wolf pack, so don’t call attention to yourselves. Be as cunning as a snake, inoffensive as a dove. Matthew 10:12–16

And here’s where the picture of a Bull in a China Shop comes in. Last night I spoke to some hurting people. These were individuals wounded badly by other Christians. They were lucky to escape with their lives, you know? We Christians are infamous for shooting our wounded. But alive they were and they are going to be just fine. The Lord is good and He will heal them to serve another day—already has in fact—though they may not be fully ready to get back in the starting line up just yet.

This isn’t new. I see it all the time. But each story is a bit different and my heart goes out to every one. But particularly the ones who are hurt by the very shepherds charged with taking care of them. Those sting the most.

And they convict the most. A part of me knows that it’s unavoidable at times. I mean, sometimes I see pain in my children’s eyes as I discipline them for something they’ve done wrong that I know will lead them down the wrong path.

Momentary pain to learn lasting life lessons.

But sometimes we pastors can be so gung ho for the vision that we run rough shod over the very sheep that God placed around us to help accomplish God’s will.

Honestly? This balancing act can be one of the toughest parts of ministry and I often do a lousy job of it. I’m talking about treating sheep like wolves and wolves like sheep. You’d think it would be easy to tell the difference, but sometimes it’s not. Here’s why,

28Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.[a] Be shepherds of the church of God,[b] which he bought with his own blood. 29I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. Acts 20:28–30

From this passage it’s made obvious that pastoring a ‘wolf free’ church is a pipe dream. They are going to get in, and they don’t dress like wolves. They dress like sheep. So, occasionally you shoot’em before they unzip the wolf costume and occasionally you shoot, go to unzip, and find there’s no costume!


I’ve shot one of the sheep! Someone pray for healing! Grab some holy water! Do something!

But it’s too late. You wound a brother or sister deeply and at first all the apologizing in the world doesn’t heal the deep wound. I hate that. I wish I could say I’ve never made that mistake, but that wouldn’t be honest. Sometimes a brother or sister is trying to help me and I react with all the finesse of a bull in a china shop.


Thank God it’s rare. Very rare.

Over the years God has given me ESWP (Extra Sensory Wolf Perception). You learn to spot them even in the best sheep costumes money can buy. There’s always a claw or a fang sticking out somewhere. They just can’t hide it all. They are to focussed on the hunt and therefore never as careful as they should be to keep up the sheep act. And an act is what it is. The Bible makes that much clear. I mean, they aren’t sheep, they’re wolves in sheep’s clothing. So I find myself relying heavily on my ESWP. But it’s not flawless and that’s where the second part of that scripture comes in…“gentle as doves (inoffensive as doves).” We pastors are called to shepherd and to be hard on the wolves and quick to chase them off, but we are also cautioned to be “inoffensive” as we go about the calling the Lord has given us—not to be bulls in a china shop.

In the case of these folks I met last night, I think they got caught in the crossfire. I believe they may have been trampled by a bull and they are now shattered pieces of china.

My heart went out to them and my prayers as well.

They’re going to be just fine—thank you, God! And thank you for the reminder that I can sometimes be more of a bull than a shepherd.

I hear you loud and clear.