The Good Shepherds

We are so grateful to “The Good Shepherd” for bringing to us a new sister in Christ—Desiree Sandoval!

We are so grateful to “The Good Shepherd” for bringing to us a new sister in Christ—Desiree Sandoval!

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”  – John 10:11-15

One of the most notable things Jesus taught was that he was “the good shepherd.”  Jesus explained that what it took to be that “good shepherd” was the willingness to “lay down his life” for the sheep.  Anyone who wants to lay claim to the title “Christian” needs to examine this principle in their life.  Jesus taught about laying our lives down for one another again just before he faced the cross – “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command.” (John 15:11-14)  Here Jesus is calling us to have the same heart he has, to “lay down [our] lives for [our] friends” as the “good shepherd” would.  If we claim to know Christ, then we need to be just like him, and lay our lives down for one another.

“…This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” – 1 John 2:6 The first century disciples give us a few glimpses of what this actually looked like in the book of Acts starting off in Acts 2 at the beginning of the Kingdom – God’s Church – here on earth.

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.  Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.  All the believers were together and had everything in common.  Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.  Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” – Acts 2:42-47

Brent Madison is pictured here with some of the brothers who studied the bible with him!

Brent Madison is pictured here with some of the brothers who studied the bible with him!

Clearly these 3000 new converts who’d just been called to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit understood there was a principle of laying their lives down for each other.  They sold their possessions, they had everything in common, they met together every day, and they ate together and took care of each other.  This is such a clarifying scripture about the heart we should have towards each other and meetings of the body!  One thing I truly admire and I have seen the Phoenix family grow in is how after church almost everyone sticks around and the fellowship is sweet.  It is the same after midweek services and it is the same after leaders meetings.  The disciples are talking, laughing, planning to grab a bite to eat with those they are reaching out to…and not just racing home to catch the pre-game highlights.

Esther Okwatum is graciously added to the Kingdom of God!

Esther Okwatum is graciously added to the Kingdom of God!

There are many kinds of “shepherds” in our lives.  We might not call them that, but even the world understands some of the principles of “shepherding” each other in certain contexts.  We have our school teachers—many of whom I remember making a mark on my life and perspective.  We have our professors—some of whom took a vested interest in shepherding us professionally and academically.  There are our coaches—who instill drive, discipline and courage into us as athletes.  There are employers who expect the best out of us and for us to conform to the standards of their company.  All of these are forms of shepherding, and in the world, outside of God’s kingdom, the standards and understanding(s) can vary very widely as can the heart behind shepherding someone.  Some of these “shepherds” do it for results, for profit, for their own income and you may not mean much to them as a person.  Some of these people have been the most sincere and caring and really striving to instill value and character into you as an individual.

As great as some of these are, none of them compare to the “good shepherd” – Jesus Christ.  Jesus proved his sincerity on the cross, he is willing to pay the ultimate price for the right to shepherd you.  We understand as those who lay claim to the Holy Spirit in us, those who have made the good confession, “Jesus is LORD”, and those who have been baptized into his name as disciples of Jesus – we are to walk as Jesus did!  We are called be the best shepherds of one another that we could possibly be!  Certainly God has appointed Evangelists and Women’s Ministry Leaders, Shepherds and Deacons, House Church Leaders and Bible Talk Leaders, and MERCYWorldwide coordinators and Interns…and calls all of them to be good shepherds!  Let us not forget though, that the call to shepherd, the call to lay our lives down for one another, is an integral part of ANY of us claiming to follow Jesus!  We should not dare point our finger and mutter, “Well, that is their role!  That is something they are supposed to do…”  Instead, we must follow Jesus and lay our life down for our brothers and sisters every chance we get with glad and sincere hearts!  This takes time, this takes prayer, this takes being engaged, this takes compassion, conviction, and a heart to imitate Jesus Christ.  When every disciple in the Phoenix church embraces this, the sick, the injured, the weak and the lost/strays will be healed, will be bound-up, will be helped and ultimately brought back!

Our dear brother Tynee Clark is born again and baptized into the Body of Christ!

Our dear brother Tynee Clark is born again and baptized into the Body of Christ!

“Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock?  You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock.  You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally.  So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals.” – Ezekiel 34:2-5

We are all called to be shepherds in this sense, and we are all challenged by this scripture to do four things: (1) strengthen the weak, (2) heal the sick, (3) bind up the injured, and (4) bring back the strays and search for the lost!  God’s people can be weakened by physical illness, by things out of their control, or even by the consequences of past sins.  Disciples can be made sick by sins in their lives that they are being mastered by!  Often sickness of this kind is because a Christian’s hope is in something other than Jesus Christ – such as a relationship, their family or having children, their success or their career.  And when this hope fails (or fails to come at their preferred time) they become sickened.  “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” (Proverbs 13:12).  Sickness of this sort can lead to other kinds of idolatry (impurity, immorality, greed, deceit, discontentment, bitterness) and thus more sickness.  We all need to care for one another whenever we get sick spiritually!

Caleb stands with the brothers who studied the bible with him just after his baptism into Christ! We are so thankful God added him to our family!

Caleb stands with the brothers who studied the bible with him just after his baptism into Christ! We are so thankful God added him to our family!

We all can have deep injuries from our lives, from sins someone committed against us (like physical/sexual abuse) or harsh family/life situations that wounded us (being orphaned, abandoned by a parent, or being raised by parents with addictions).  We need each other to use God’s words to bind up these injuries, to help us in our weakness, and give us the right spiritual medicine for our sickness.  We all can stray and we all started off at one time or another lost in our sins.  Some “good shepherd” disciple came after us and helped us with the scriptures to get healed, get strengthened, get our injuries bound-up, and get right with God!

We are so grateful to see the amazing victories God has given us in 2015, from the amazing men and women He added to our number through baptism, restoration, and placing membership!  We are also thankful to have seen the inspiring wedding of Rico and Janelle Jones and we are so encouraged they are doing great things for God in the LA church!  We also said goodbye to the Smiths, who have now become a tremendous support to the LA AMS ministry.  It has also been awesome to see how Santana DeJesus has grown and made such a fruitful impact in the Washington DC church as a full-time Intern!  It’s been a joy to have Paulina Rivera in our ministry and many of us were deeply moved to tears by the sharing at her farewell this past week!  We know that God is in control and has great plans for his daughter in Australia – not to mention being in the same ministry as her dear boyfriend, Pete Wade!  We will miss her dearly, but we are excited to see how our God moves in this new chapter of her life!  I’m so grateful we are a part of a close-knit movement of churches, and that we can communicate about disciples moving and collaborate to advance the gospel and shepherd one another.  We are also overjoyed that Jade Rubenstein has joined us from Australia.  She has shown herself a great women of God by already giving of herself fully to God’s work here in Phoenix shepherding the disciples and brining in the lost sheep!  We are so grateful for both of these amazing sisters and the family God has built to shepherd our souls all throughout the world!

The Patterson wedding was an absolute joy for all!

The Patterson wedding was an absolute joy for all!

We are all excited for the call to see even greater things for God in 2016!  We’ve already started off with a stunning wedding with Anthony and Gabrielle getting married in January!  Also, we are very inspired to officially kick-off our teen ministry with our new teen interns, King Burke and Monica Wilson!  Also serving in the teens as overseers are our new shepherds in training, Robb and Teresa Hamblin!  We are thankful as well for Rick who serves as a deacon in the teen ministry. We had our first “Parents of Teens” dinner devotional this past Saturday and it was refreshing to sense the community, the investment, the vision, and the love for the teen ministry.  Truly, God is blessing our efforts to have vision to shepherd this vital part of our church!  We are so thankful for the advice and direction we can get from our sister church in LA via Ricky and Coleen Challanor and of course the overseeing evangelist and women’s ministry leader, Luke and Brandyn Speckman!   We know that God has amazing plans for the teens, for the church overall, and for each one of His sheep in 2016—and to the good shepherd will be all the glory, Amen!

Jeremy Ciaramella, Evangelist

Jeremy Ciaramella, Evangelist

Comments

comments

2 Comments

  1. by King Burke on February 11, 2016  3:04 pm Reply

    Bro I was really inspired about the part of the Article where you were speaking about "laying down our lives for our brothers and sisters every chance we get" Then you spoke about how it every disciple in the church needs to embraces the position of shepherding! I was inspired by this teaching because I believe it is very true that God will move greatly when ALL disciple make the decision to change.

  2. by Telma Cunjuca on February 15, 2016  10:17 pm Reply

    It is very inspiring to see how God has moved in the ministry in the year of 2015, and it's exciting for the new chapter we've just started. Jesus is the good shepherd, and the good shepherd look after its sheep, wow! Jesus was definitely the most amazing men on earth, he was the Word in the flesh, God in the flesh, and it is so easy for me to think that of course he was awesome because he is God, but he also thinks that I'm awesome. Jesus took me out of the darkness because he believed I could be just like him, a good shepherd, who takes good care of the sheep, and love them because you don't lay down your life for someone unless you love them. Many times we get so caught in the matters of life that we forget the basics of being a disciple that is to walk as Jesus did, and have our hope in Christ. I can't have my hope in Christ if I am not focused on God, and in how can I give Him glory. I'm definitely looking forward giving glory to God as He cut the unfruitful branches(it's good to be cut), and prunes me so that walk the walk like Jesus did.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.

 
%d bloggers like this: