Developing a Shepherd’s Heart


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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How many times have we come to the end of a year and wondered, “Where did my New Year’s resolution go?” You know how it is. We resolve to eat right, lose weight, be more kind, and make time to volunteer for a good cause. We always mean well, and for the early part of the year, we actually seem to do alright. But somewhere around the six-week mark, we hit a wall and lose the motivation to keep on.

It’s not that we plan to fail. We simply allow the demands of life to once again take control of our groove. If your are a family guy like I am, simple things like getting kids ready for school, going to meetings, running errands, and doing house chores all add up and eventually eat up our precious time. Before we even realize it, there just isn’t enough room for all the other things we resolved to do.

So we start off with yet another new year of promises to once again try to do the things we repeatedly fail to accomplish. Face it, we’ve fallen victim to the resolution rut.

It doesn’t have to be that way. A few simple guidelines can help us get out of this rut and find success at the end of this new year.

1. Know your priorities. An important part of knowing what to do is knowing what not to do. Start by eliminating things in your life that are mere time-wasters.

2. Don’t overdo it. It can seem exciting to resolve to change a million things in January, but it doesn’t take long for us to realize that unrealistic goals are motivation killers. It’s better to stick to one meaningful resolution than to make ten and accomplish none.

3. Be accountable. Find someone your trust and respect and keep them updated on how your are doing with your resolution. It is harder to give up on a goal when you know that you have to answer to someone for achieving it.

4. Seek God’s help. No one wants to see you succeed more than the One who came to give you eternal life. By His Word and His Spirit, God is able to give us all we need to do right things.

From my family to yours, have a blessed new year. May 2013 be your best one yet!

Pastor Ed

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And once again it’s Christmas, the most wonderful time of the year. The coming of our Savior is truly an event worth remembering and celebrating. But before the festivities begin, we need to stop and consider why a Savior had to come in the first place. Lest we forget, the Good News of the Gospel actually begins with bad news.

The Christmas story begins in the Garden of Eden, not Bethlehem. It was in the garden that humanity’s epic fail took place. According to the Genesis account, Adam and Eve were blessed to eat of any fruit in the garden, except the forbidden fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Unfortunately, they succumbed to the temptation and ate of the it anyway (Genesis 3:6). As a result, they were banished from God’s presence and doomed to an eternity apart from Him.

Furthermore, the fall of Adam had a catastrophic effect on all humans. In his letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul wrote, “When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned” (Romans 5:12). Because Adam sinned, all those who come from his seed (you and I) are born in sin. Bad news indeed.

And yet, although the consequence of sin is death, “the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Through the sacrificial death of Christ on the cross, the penalty of sin is dealt with, and we who believe have a restored relationship with God. It was for this reason that this baby was born of Mary. He grew up to become our Savior.

So make no mistake about it. We celebrate Christmas, not because of what the man in a red suit will bring, but because of what our Savior Jesus Christ has brought—the gift of eternal life with Him forever. And that, for sure, is good news!

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