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By Dr. Ed Miciano

We pastors are often referred to as shepherds of God’s flock. More precisely, we are undershepherds who serve under the leadership of Christ, the Chief Shepherd. As co-laborers in the work of Christ, it is important for each of us to truly understand what it means to have a “shepherd’s heart.” Thankfully, Jesus himself demonstrated this for us on many occasions throughout his earthly ministry. One good example is the time when Christ sent his apostles to various villages to preach the Gospel, heal the sick, and cast out demons. The evangelist Mark recounts this event when he writes:

The apostles returned to Jesus from their ministry tour and told him all they had done and what they had taught. Then Jesus said, “Let’s go away from the crowds for a while and rest.” There were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat. They left by boat for a quieter spot. But many people saw them leaving, and people from many towns ran ahead along the shore and met them as they landed. A vast crowd was there as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he taught them many things. (Mark 6:30-32)

Imagine how frustrated the apostles must have felt at this time. Although they were excited to report their ministry experiences to Jesus, they were also tired and hungry. Furthermore, Jesus invited them to take a break from their work and led them to a quiet place where they could rest and eat. However, when they reached their destination, they were met by a large crowd. To the apostles’ dismay, instead of telling the crowd to leave them alone, Jesus began to teach them. It may have seemed like Jesus had completely forgotten his promise to give the apostles a time of rest.

Readers come to understand, of course, that Jesus was using this time to teach his apostles a very important lesson on compassion. Mark describes Jesus’ response to the crowd as having “compassion,” or “to be moved as to one’s inwards.” Christ had a deep concern for the crowd because he saw them as a people in dire need of guidance and care; they were “sheep without a shepherd.” As such, he took it upon himself to provide the people with the shepherding they needed. This is why Jesus laid down his plans to rest with his apostles, and instead proceeded to feed the crowd the truths of God’s kingdom.

The apostles clearly did not share this same level of compassion. While they may have tolerated Jesus’ actions for a moment, their impatience was unveiled late in the day when one of them finally said, “This is a desolate place, and it is getting late. . . . Send the crowds away so they can go to the nearby farms and villages and buy themselves some food” (Mark 6:35-36). Without reading too much into their recommendation, it is as if the apostles where saying to Jesus, “Enough with this teaching; send these people home so that we can go on to get the rest and refreshments we were promised.” Remarkably, Jesus, knowing the condition of their hearts, responded by saying, “You feed them” (Mark 6:37). With this, Jesus reminded his apostles that caring for a lost and displaced people was their responsibility. Even if they themselves were hungry and weary, it was more important to have compassion for others in need. Jesus implied that ministry involves the willingness to temporarily suspend the gratification of personal needs in order to meet the needs of others. When the apostles finally succumbed to Jesus’ request and fed the crowd despite their limited resources, Jesus taught them yet another important lesson regarding the work of the Kingdom. After the crowd of thousands was miraculously fed with a meager five loaves of bread and two fish, there was still enough food left over. Mark even takes the time to specify how much was left over. We are told that there were twelve basketsful of leftovers—that’s one for each of the twelve apostles! Jesus did not forget them after all. So the apostles eventually got their share of rest and food, but only after they took care of the greater business of God’s Kingdom. This lesson would certainly remain in the hearts of the apostles for years to come as they would soon go to all the corners of the world preaching the Gospel to lost people everywhere. Only this time, they would each do it with the heart of a shepherd.

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This week the Bridgepoint family has suffered a great loss. Our beloved Elmo has gone to be with the Lord.

While it’s true that everyone is special, Elmo was a special kind of special. Everyone who knew him absolutely loved him. And what’s there not to love? Elmo brightened a room, just about any room, with his trademark greeting, “Happy birthday” (it didn’t matter if it was actually your birthday or not). If I could describe him in just a few words, I would say that he was a joy-giver. Always willing help, always giving us a reason to laugh, always pushing us to be our better selves. He will be sorely missed.

Elmo was loving husband and father, a consummate musician, a true friend, and an all-around great guy. Most of all, he profoundly loved Christ and His church. And he served his Master faithfully until the very end.

This morning, we think of Elmo with fondness, we pray for Brenda, Ria, Nathan, and Gabby, and we give thanks to God for sharing such a wonderful soul with us.

May his peace and comfort be with us all.

In His love,
Pastor Ed and Sis. Ana

 

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New Dogs With Old Tricks

“Pastor Ed, have you heard of this new false teaching?” It’s a question I get all the time.

It seems like every couple of years a new spokesperson emerges with a false Gospel or erroneous teaching. To many listeners, these teachings come across as new and fascinating, but in reality, they are often rehashed heresies that raise their ugly heads at opportune times throughout the course of church history. The teachings are not necessarily new, only the messengers are—new dogs with old tricks, if you will.

The Christian church has been hounded by false teachers from the earliest years of its inception.  In the first century, the Apostle Peter was alarmed by the number of false teachers who were beginning to penetrate the persecuted and scattered church. These teachers were exploiting the people’s hunger for truth as well as their willingness to welcome those who come in the name of the Lord. Left unabated, these “theological dogs” would cause unthinkable damage to the people of God and the cause of the church. Peter, therefore, had to step in by warning the flock about the dangers of such false teachers.  In his second epistle he wrote,

But there were also false prophets in Israel, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will cleverly teach destructive heresies and even deny the Master who bought them. In this way, they will bring sudden destruction on themselves. Many will follow their evil teaching and shameful immorality. And because of these teachers, the way of truth will be slandered. In their greed they will make up clever lies to get hold of your money. But God condemned them long ago, and their destruction will not be delayed. (2 Peter 2:1-3, NLT)

According to Peter, there are a few things we need to keep in mind about false teachers:

  1. False teachers are nothing new. They were around in the early times of Israel’s history and they will continue to hound God’s people until the final day. This means that we always need to be vigilant and prepare ourselves to confront false teachers and their false doctrines. But we can only do so as disciplined students of Christ and his Word.
  2. False teachers are clever. People fall for their schemes because they know exactly what people will fall for. They use fancy words, make enticing promises, and employ manipulative methods to reel unsuspecting victims. To combat the works of the false teacher, we ought to be grounded on God’s truth as well as be even more clever than they are.
  3. False teachers have a butchered theology. Heresy, for the most part, paints an inaccurate picture of God and his nature. Within the first four hundred years since the birth of New Testament Christianity, about half a dozen major Christological heresies plagued the church. These heresies continue to linger today, simply taking the form of newer and more sophisticated garb. The more we learn about the false doctrines of the past, the better able we will be in combatting modern heresies.
  4. False teachers are enemies of truth. False teachers have no reverence for the truth. They will either change it or alter it just enough to fool an unsuspecting audience. Sometimes false teaching has enough truth in it to make it sound credible, yet the small amount of falsehood is enough to poison the entire stew. Remember, a half-truth is no truth at all.
  5. False teachers are greedy. At their core, false teachers do what they do for personal gain. They have no love for God nor are they committed to the cause of Christ. They use the Gospel to enrich themselves and prop up their already-inflated egos. A true servant of God is humble, selfless, and fully surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
  6. False teachers face a frightful future. Their end is one of judgment and destruction. False teachers are not to be believed nor followed because their path is one that leads to eternal separation from Jesus, who alone is the way, the truth, and the life.

*Tricks photo courtesy of google images.

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