Biblical Messages

Old Testament Lessons in Leadership: Be a Mentor

As we think about investing in others, the relationship between Elijah and Elisha teaches us about the value of mentoring.  After Elijah had poured himself into his prophetic ministry,  he was spent, but found renewal for his work when God appointed Elisha to be his apprentice, his understudy – the one who would take on the prophetic role when Elijah’s time was done.

This message began with a reading from 1 Kings 19, where Elijah’s burnout was becoming clear. A few chapters later, we read about the hand-off, if you will, between Elijah and Elisha in 2 Kings 2.1-15.

Early in the message, we listened to a song by Relient K, called “Be My Escape”. A video accompanying the song can be found here.

You can listen to the message by clicking this link.

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Encouragement From The Word

Investing in others

As the years go on (and especially as tax time nears), we are encouraged to ensure that we have sufficient investments to enable us to retire in the manner in which we have become accustomed.  After all, the financial professionals remind us, we want not only to be able to live well in retirement, but to be able to leave something for our loved ones when we die.

While I don’t disagree with this statement (I’m working toward the ‘Freedom 95’ plan myself…), I think there are other investments that matter even more than the financial ones.

In some ways, I see myself as an investment professional.  I don’t know much about life insurance policies or mutual funds, but this much I do know:  investing in people is immensely important.

Consider the prophet Elijah.  He was God’s servant for a time – for a very influential time – and he spoke the Word of the Lord with power under an oppressive regime (about which you can read in 1 Kings 17 to 2 Kings 2 in the Old Testament).  Elijah did many great things for the Lord in his ministry.  (My personal favourite is his showdown with the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18.)  But it might be suggested that those great things would not have had the same impact had Elijah not done one other important thing:  he invested in others, specifically in his apprentice, Elisha.  When he was taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire, Elijah was gone.  But he left his apprentice behind, and Elisha took up the mantle – literally! – of his mentor.  And the work of the Lord continued.

It’s likely that if you’re in a leadership position of some sort, at least one person in your past invested in you – probably heavily.  When I think back to my days as a student, freshly called by God to ministry, having little idea as to what that meant, there were several people who invested themselves in me to help me become the leader God is making me to be.  (Notice I didn’t say that God had finished making me into that leader yet – it’s a lifelong process of discipleship and discipline!)

Here’s the question:  are you doing the same for others?  Are you investing in future leaders?  As a mentor, you can help people who show an interest in your ministry to do the task you do in the life of the church, so that when you sense God calling you to something else, you can hand over that ministry to another, who will be equipped for the task.  But there’s more to it than that.

Part of investing in others is helping them to grow in Christ.  If you’re mentoring someone, you can not only share the nuts-and-bolts of a task to that person, you can help them know Jesus the way you do – maybe even go beyond where you are.  One of the most satisfying things about mentoring others comes when we see them start to ‘fly’ faster than us.  Some get jealous about that, but there’s no reason to be jealous and every reason to praise God for the person whose walk with God is growing exponentially.

Whatever ministry you have, the model Elijah gives you is to find your replacement, work yourself out of a job, and hand it on and see the kingdom of God continue to grow.

Elisha “picked up the cloak that had fallen from Elijah and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan.  Then he took the cloak that had fallen from him and struck the water with it. ‘Where now is the Lord, the God of Elijah?’ he asked. When he struck the water, it divided to the right and to the left, and he crossed over” (2 Kings 2.13-14, NIV).

Take a moment to think about the people who invested in you, and thank God for them.  As I think of the many people who have invested in me, I am incredibly grateful.  Some of these people have gone on to be with the Lord, others are still alive and serving.  I think of three different Franks.  Bud.  Don.  Lloyd.  Stan.  Das.  Ray.  Ken.  Ralph.  Jack.  There are others.  Thank you, Lord, for people who invested in me.  Help me to invest in others!

P.S.:  My parents were married 50 years ago today.  I am incredibly thankful for them, and for the many investments they have made in me!  Happy anniversary, Mom and Dad!!

Biblical Messages

Old Testament Lessons in Leadership: Principles in the Fire

When the people of Judah were sent into exile after being overtaken by the Babylonian armies, a few made it into positions of high authority, including Daniel and his friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  They were strangers in a strange land, foreigners involved in a foreign government, but they stayed true to the Lord…even when death was likely the result.

In Daniel 3, we read this story, and see how principles can be maintained, even in the fire.  Listen to the message here.

Encouragement From The Word

Investing in our future

At St. Paul’s Church, Nobleton tonight (Friday), there’s going to be a special congregational pot luck dinner that will celebrate youth ministry in our community.  Not only do we want to celebrate what God has done and is doing among us and among our community youth, we want to celebrate what God is going to do.  The leaders of the congregation, along with the youth leaders, have a vision to see us hire a half-time youth pastor to work alongside our current youth leaders.

There’s a cost involved in hiring staff, of course, which is why our celebration will also be a fund-raiser.  We’ll be accepting silent auction bids, gifts, and pledges toward this appointment.  But we don’t want people to see this just as ‘another expense’. 

Far from it.   This is an investment in our community’s future.

Many people in congregations are quick to put their money behind a bricks-and-mortar project, because they can see virtually immediate results.  Some are less quick to put their money into staffing, because the results are harder to measure, and are not always immediate.  But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done.

Someone much smarter than me once said, “Vision is planting a tree under whose shade you will not sit.”

Think about it:  if you plant, for example, a maple sapling in your back yard when you are in your sixties, there’s a fair likelihood you won’t live to see it tower over the roof of your house.  Maple trees don’t grow that fast.  However, your children, or at least the next owners of your home, may well sit under the tree’s shade in the heat of the summer, with gratitude to you for your vision in planting that tree.

Funding youth ministry is no different, no matter what church you go to.  It’s not an expense, it’s an investment:  an investment in your community’s future.

Statistically, teens and pre-teens are a vulnerable group, especially ideologically.  By the time a young person turns 13, typically, he or she has already established the values by which she or he will live.  And currently, the percentage of young people who have a Christian world view is one-half of one percent.  So, church, we have some work to do!

Wherever you are, invest in your community’s future by paying into its present.  Support ministry that guides young people in the ways of the Lord.

Jesus said, “Let the children come to me.  Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children”  (Matthew 19.14, NLT).

Biblical Messages

Baptism as an act of God

“Act of God” – when heard in the context of an insurance claim, that’s never good news.  But it can be good news, as in the case of the rescue of the 33 trapped Chilean miners!  But when it comes to the sacrament of baptism, seeing it as an act of God is a very good thing, and very reassuring for families under the covenant.

In this message, based on 1 Thessalonians 1.1-10, we examine why it’s important for parents to be active in their faith when seeking baptism for their children.  You can listen to it here.

Encouragement From The Word

A miracle of engineering, or just a miracle?

Most of us were glued to our televisions earlier this week as brave rescuers assisted the retrieval of 33 miners who had been trapped more than 600 metres underground in Chile.  What was most intriguing about this rescue effort, to me, was the faith that was expressed among the miners as they were brought back to the surface, and even among many onlookers – even as far away as Canada.

People were praying, and then praising God all over the place for this miracle.

Some in the news media chose to refer to it as a “miracle of engineering”, referring to the contraption that was designed to be lowered to the safe cavern in which the miners spent some two months.  To be sure, the developer(s) of that tool deserve an award, if not a raise, for their ingenious design.  But this was more than a mere miracle of engineering.

True, the emergency and safety steps taken long before this mine disaster occurred enabled these men to live while they awaited their rescuers.  The fact that they had air to breathe, food to eat, communication with the outside world, and a safe place to stay proved the value of all that is encompassed by the term ‘workplace health and safety’.  But even all this was more than a mere miracle of engineering.

Who, after all, gave those who built the retrieval machine, the air line, the communication system, and all that kept these men alive, the ideas?  Who gave these people life?

God.

What about the miners themselves?  Who gave those who encouraged the others not to lose hope the ability to encourage?  Who gave those who led the others leadership?  Who gave them all families that anxiously awaited their safe return?

God.

So people are acknowledging God, the real author of this miracle.

Did you notice that the miners, on their ascent, were all wearing the same t-shirt over their green sweat-absorbing coveralls?  Those t-shirts were arranged by one miner, whose family had been in touch with the international organization which is known in Canada as Campus for Christ.  In translation, on the front, these t-shirts all said, “Thank you, Lord.”  On the back, they cited Psalm 95.4:  “In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him” (NIV).  These miners, we are learning, had prayer services each day at noon and 6:00 p.m. in that cave underground.  They were trusting in the God who performs miracles, who displays his power among the people (Psalm 77.14).  They knew that God, in whose hand are the depths of the earth, had not abandoned them.

The world may see this memorable occasion as a miracle of engineering.  But those miners saw it as a miracle, period.  How about you?

Biblical Messages

Baptism as an act of gratitude

“Remember your baptism, and give thanks.”  On this Thanksgiving weekend, we are reminded of the need to be thankful to God for everything.  In this message, we are focusing on the importance of baptism as an act of gratitude – both something that happened for which we are grateful, and somethng we do to show our gratitude.

This message is based on Romans 6.1-14, and can be heard by clicking here.