Jesus Had Something to Learn and so do You!

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By Nate Champneys

I had been meeting with my mentor, Jim, for over two years. Every Thursday at 10 a.m. we would meet at Denny’s, and every week God was faithful to speak through him. For the most part we never knew what we were going to talk about each week, but still, we never had a hard time finding things to talk about!

Sadly, God has asked Jim to move to Arizona, and he drove out last week with his whole life in a moving van and headed down to Tucson. I’m not gonna lie: it was really hard for me when he left! For two days I felt the weight of the loss of my mentor being regularly in my life. I was irritable to my family and I was moved to tears multiple times through those two days. I couldn’t understand why I was feeling this way. I told myself, Nate, Jim isn’t dead. He is going to be back in Washington for a month every summer. You can Skype with him regularly. You can call him on the phone whenever you want.

Telling yourself why you shouldn’t feel something rarely works to make you stop feeling the way you feel. But my feelings told me something. They told me just how much I valued my time with Jim. Jim had really become a father to me. I had grown more over the last two years as a result of Jim’s mentorship than I had the rest of my adult life.

But what makes Jim an amazing mentor? Jim is a man who is more rooted in his identity as a son of God than anyone I have ever met. In our times together he never felt he needed to put forth an agenda, because he trusted God to say what needed to be said. Jim actually never told me what to do. He would just ask lots of questions and by the end of his questions, I would know what to do.

I wanted to share this with all of you for a couple of reasons. First, I wanted to honor my friend for the love and selflessness that he showed me each week. Second, I wanted to encourage you. If you are a believer, it is God’s design for you to walk with others. Being a Christian is a personal relationship with Jesus, but it is also an interpersonal relationship with His bride. How long have you been a Christian? If the answer is more than just a few years, my question is, who are you pouring into? Do you realize that if everyone in the Church across the world never passed their faith on to the next generation, the Church would cease to exist in a generation!

“But Nate, I don’t feel qualified to speak into someone’s life.” The question is, is your God big enough to speak through you, and maybe to even work in spite of you? I think he is.

On the other side of the coin, who is walking through life with you that you allow to speak wisdom into your life? Luke 2:52 says that, “Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” If the Son of God had something to learn, so do you! I have been meeting with a mentor regularly for the past 8 years. Not to my own credit, but do you know how much I have grown, and how many difficult painful things I have been able to avoid because I gave someone the right to speak into my life? What are you waiting for? What is holding you back from seeking wise counsel and sharing the wisdom you have learned?  Proverbs 12:15 “The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.”

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Personal Maintenance

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By Brian Sharpe

Cars perplex me. There are some things I have learned how to fix. Still, other problems are just beyond me. What amazes me is when a person knows cars so much that they can just listen to the engine and tell you what is wrong with the car.

My van broke down a couple weeks ago. The good thing is that it broke down near our house. One day after dinner with some friends I had to grab something out of the van for that friend. He asked me if I knew what was wrong with the van. I replied, “I’m not a mechanic and I have no idea.”

It just “happened” that my neighbor whom I hadn’t met before was getting something out of his car. He said. “I am a mechanic; I can help you.”  He went inside his house and returned with some diagnostic tools. He spent a little time that evening and the next day helping me diagnose what was going on with my van.

Every time I work on the car or even on the house, I am constantly reminded that, when doing a job, it is always helpful to have the right tools!

This struck me as I was thinking about our spiritual walk. We are like cars. We need maintaining. Sometimes we even break down and need someone to help us get running again.

I was sitting in some meetings this past February, and one of the things that was introduced is doing some “personal care.” The question was asked, “What practices do we need to do in order for us to be healthy spiritually, relationally, and physically?” This is a maintenance question.

Our cars need the oil checked. They need the tires filled. We need to sleep and eat. We also need to do things that are life-giving for us. For me, I need to listen to music. I need competition. I need physical activity. I need time with God. If I have these things in my days or weeks, it helps me stay healthy in my relationship with God and others. It’s a maintenance thing.

Sometimes, though, mere maintenance isn’t enough. Sometimes I need a mentor or counselor to come and help me diagnose what is broken in my life or relationships. Good maintenance or self-care can help me go longer times between breaking down, but we all break down at different points, and we need someone to come in and help us figure out what is going on.

I was sitting at a conference several years ago and a guy I was listening to said that we are like airplanes. We are built to go through the turbulence of life, but, like planes, we need maintenance or we will start to break down and crash.

Do you know the things you need in your life that help you connect with God?  Do you know the things in your life that help keep you physically and mentally sharp?  We all need Jesus. God created us to need time with Him. For me, some of my best times with Him are when I am just listening to music, praying through the words. I need that time.

God created each of us to need different things. Some of us need time by ourselves. Some of us need to run or work out. Some of us need time with friends, just processing life. Some of us need to play an instrument. The great thing is, God knows what we need and He meets us in those needs. When we run, He is running with us. When we play our instrument, He is listening with joy, like a parent listening to their kid’s recital. When we are not maintained well, or when we are broken down on the side of the road, we are limiting how God can use us.

We all need maintenance. We all need a mechanic. We all need to take care of ourselves by doing maintenance and sometimes (more often than we like to acknowledge) we need a mechanic to help us diagnose what is going on in our hearts and minds. Are you taking care of yourself because you love God and want to be used by Him?

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“Three Hands, Three Strands”

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By Larry Short

Associate Pastor Brian Sharpe has created a booklet called “Three Hands,” with the help of others on our communications team. The artwork on the cover is a bit goofy, and I’ve made fun of it a lot (insert comment about living too close to Hanford Nuclear Reservation here), but the foundational idea, while simple, is incredibly important.

The booklet looks at the lives of some of those who were called, in the first century A.D., to “lean into” the task of taking the life-changing gospel (“good news”) of Jesus outward from their home villages and spreading it so that the world might be changed. This obviously took an incredible amount of passion, and conviction, and selflessness, and courage—all gifts brought from the empowerment of the Holy Spirit who fell upon Christ’s disciples in Acts 2. Specifically, the booklet looks at the Apostle Paul, Timothy, and Barnabas, three men who made an incredible contribution to the spread of the Gospel. And, more specifically, it looks at the relationships between them and draws some simple ideas from what we see there.

Paul’s mentoring of Timothy was obviously incredibly important. It was far more than the relationship between student and teacher; it was discipleship. Paul frequently said, even as Jesus did, “Those things you see me do, go and do those things.” He modeled what New Testament life was supposed to be about, then encouraged others to follow his model.

And how does Barnabas fit in? One of the key things you see in Acts and beyond is that men such as Paul rarely went out “on their own.” They partnered with someone who could provide strength and encouragement. Ecclesiastes 4:12 says:

And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.

The truth is, we are too often alone … and too often, inevitably, overpowered! The Christian life wasn’t designed to be lived alone. It was designed to be lived in partnership with brothers and sisters. Too many Christians in this “cowboy” culture we live in here in the U.S. simply blow off “church.” They don’t need anybody, they can go it alone. But truth be told, our need for others is far more significant than we know. We need that brother and sister who can tell us the truth when we need to hear it or can give words of encouragement when that is what we need. We need others to “stir us up to love and good works,” as Hebrews 10:24 says.

A two-stranded cord is far better than one.

But wait, that’s not what Ecclesiastes says, is it? Oh, of course not! Duh. The third strand represents He who enters into our fellowship and interweaves His life with ours. The Third Strand alone is unbreakable, so any rope with it woven firmly into place is a rope that should surely hold under even the greatest pressure!

So, back to the three hands. On that goofy cover I told you about, one hand is reaching downward, one reaching upward, and one to the side. The hand reaching up reminds us that we all need to have a mentor who can disciple us and prepare us for what God has assigned. Even Paul spent something like three years learning from others and getting prepared for his public ministry.

And we should all be willing to pour what we have learned into others, for our faith is just one generation away from extinction and we must not be the ones who fail to pass it down! The hand reaching down reminds us that we should all have “Timothys” in our lives whom we are pouring ourselves into. We should be showing (with our lives, not just saying with our lips), and we should be working toward a specific goal (as Paul did), to release those we mentor into ministry once they are ready.

And finally, we all need Barnabases. (Barnabi?) I have a close friend in California named John whom I met my first year of college. Our friendship has continued to grow since then, and there has been many a time when we have needed and depended on each other. Often he is a Paul, and I a Timothy; and sometimes it may be the other way around. But always, we are Barnabases, to whatever extent we can be, separated by 1,200 miles!

Brian asks, Who is your Paul? Who is your Timothy? Who is your Barnabas? There are no hard-and-fast rules, and this may be a season when all three relationships are not operating in our lives right now. But we should always be on the lookout for whom God might bring our way. And we must never neglect “the assembling of ourselves together” and simply putting ourselves “out there” in places where we can impact (and be impacted by) the lives of others! Are you allowing God to weave that three-stranded cord in your life?

P.S.: I’m excited about the men’s retreat this weekend! It’s always a wonderful opportunity for men to come together and form dearly needed accountability and discipleship relationships. Please be praying for the men of this church, that we would be transparent, open, vulnerable, and willing to be used of God in whatever ways He sees fit to further our capacity as His Church to bring Him honor and glory and to be the hands and feet of Jesus to South Hill and beyond!

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Who’s Your Paul?

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By Brian Sharpe

As I look at my life, I can remember names of people who invested in me. I had friends who pointed me to Jesus. When I started at Elim, I was in a new place and didn’t know many people. After being here for awhile, I felt the need to invite someone to mentor me as a man, since I have always valued people speaking into my life. So, I started to think and pray about who could mentor me.

I decided that I was going to ask a certain man to meet with me and mentor me. I remember that being really hard, and it made me feel insecure. I even felt emotion well up inside of me while I was asking. For those who know me, you know that is not normal. But I did it; I asked this man to mentor me. It was great — we met twice and everything was going well. But then we never met again. To this day, I don’t know why. It could have been because I didn’t pursue it, but I just don’t know. This experience could have turned me off to inviting people to speak into my life. It did make asking someone again a little harder.

Fast-forward a couple years. While I met with some guys, I still didn’t have an intentional mentor whom I met with consistently. It was September, and I was at meetings at the EFCA National Office for ReachStudents team meetings. At these meetings, I was sitting waiting for a dinner to start. A guy on the same team as me came and sat next to me. His name was Jim. Jim was a guy that had been in youth ministry twice as long as I had. He was about 10 years older than me. He sat down next to me and asked me if I would be interested in staying in contact with him on a monthly basis. I said yes. It was at that meeting that God gave the gift of a Paul in my life. Jim and I have been meeting together monthly for the past eight or so years now. He has taught me a lot about life, ministry, and God. He has helped me grow as a leader and as a man.

I believe that is God’s heart for us, that we live in community, invite people into our lives, and let these people help us navigate this thing called life and faith. When you hear us say, “Who is your Paul?” this is what we are talking about. It is inviting someone into your life to whom you are giving the freedom to help grow you into whom God is calling you to be.

I guess the question is, has God done a work in your life that you need to be sharing? Are there people in your sphere of influence whom you believe you can help grow? Then maybe God has equipped you to be a Paul. If He has, then, who are you meeting with?

If you feel the need to have someone speak into your life, then the question is, who can you invite into your life to be a Paul? Is there someone you look up to spiritually? Is there someone you feel like you can learn from? If a name comes to mind, maybe you need to invite that person into your life to serve as your Paul.

I believe God uses these relationships to transform us into His image, into His likeness. I believe every Christian needs to have a Paul in his or her life. Who is yours?

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Two generations

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By Larry Short

The Young Adults Ministry is launching into a study of 1 and 2 Kings, following up on our recent study of 1 and 2 Chronicles. 1 Kings starts with King David, at 70 years old, burned out on his deathbed. David, the quintessential man’s man, began his ministry as the official King of Israel at 30 years of age. His life before then was lived in the school of hard knocks. His exploits were the stuff of legend.

Sociologists talk about a variety of “generational” benchmarks in our society. You have Generation X, Baby Boomers, the Y Generation, etc. But biblically, in any given lifespan you see basically two generations, and two key functions of people living successfully within those.

Generation 1

The first generation is 0 to 30 years, and it is marked by training and preparation. Jewish men were not considered fully “adults” until age 30. That is when they were permitted to enter their fulltime ministry vocation. Even Jesus was relatively obscure for the first 90% of his life (until age 30).

In most cases the first 30 years were considered preparation and training for a life of service, leadership and ministry. Even if they were married earlier, young men were apprenticed or mentored while in their late teens and early 20s. And 30 was a significant benchmark in their life. Jesus began his public ministry at 30.

Generation 2

While Gen. 6:3 caps 120 years as the span of mortal man’s days – a number which is still pretty much considered an upper limit despite significant advances in medical technology – elsewhere Scripture assigns “three score and 10” as a normal human lifespan. Our average lifespans today are slightly longer than that, but still, most consider those few years leading up to age 70 a good time for retirement!

So if the cradle to age 30 is considered training for life, what do those of us who are somewhere between 30 and 70 supposed to consider this second generation? I think this is a question that we struggle with. We divide it up: times when we are raising children, when we become empty nest and perhaps focus on our career, and when we wind our careers down and try and enjoy retirement.

But from a biblical perspective, this “second generation” of life is much simpler. It’s about service. People who have found what God has called them to do realize the key to a happy, purposeful and fulfilled second generation is service, ministry and leadership: whether of our families, our churches, our business/career colleagues, our communities, or our Lord. And hopefully all of the above!

Too many of us live our second generation simply for ourselves, accumulating things that we think we need to keep us happy and comfortable after we retire. There is nothing wrong with preparing for the future, but in light of a God who tells us “do not worry about what you will eat or drink, or what you will wear,” we must hold such things loosely, and seek to cling instead to the true priorities of service: how we can most effectively invest and use the gifts, talents, energies, time and abilities that God has given us to serve Him, and to serve those around us.

Darlene and I tell the Young Adults that if they are not yet 30, they are still in training for service. For most if not all of them, this training involves getting a real taste of what it is like to serve others. I am thankful that Elim is investing heavily in children, in youth, and in young adults, training them for service.

And when they turn 30, they get the boot! Well, not literally, but that is the point when they are expected to turn in their training wheels for something bigger, something riskier. They need to figure out what God has created them to do – and start doing it, in service of Him and others.

How about you?

Where do you fall? If you are older than 70, perhaps you can relax a bit. We still need your wisdom and mentorship, we need to hang around you so the fragrance of your life will rub off on ours. And hopefully it will be our privilege to serve you in the midst of your retirement and to celebrate the service accomplishments of your life!

If you are 30 to 70, like me, you should be in the middle of what God has called you to do, to serve Him and others. We may change gears many times during those years (God knows I have), but hopefully those changes will be with the goal of being a more effective instrument in His hands.

If you are under 30, you are the future of service! We will invest in you, and we will expect that you will be prayerfully considering how God wants you to apply yourself to the task at hand.

Take an example from David. At 70 years of age, he was burned out and exhausted by a life full of adventure as a friend of God, as a leader, a warrior, and a servant of others. He didn’t rust out, he burned out! And you and I are the richer for it today.

Are we leaving that kind of legacy for the next generation?

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