The Delinquent Elder

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By Dan Amos

A couple of weekends ago we had a crazy Sunday. Right after church we had a meeting which was followed by a graduation party and then another meeting. It was go, go, go, right until it was time to collapse into bed that night. It was not much of a day of rest.

The next weekend was similar. I knew that Sunday afternoon was completely filled and Sunday evening was another meeting. So, on Saturday, which was really another day of work, I recognized I needed a break. I chose then not to attend church in the morning. We rarely miss when we are home and we rarely go anywhere, so most weeks you’ll see us at church.

Now that the sun has returned, I realize my Sunday community is going to get smaller for the summer. Many of us take breaks when the weather is nice and kids are out of school. But, according to Hebrews 10:25, we are a community and we gather together for mutual benefit, instruction and encouragement. The verse implies it is easy to get out of the habit of meeting together and we should not neglect our community.

I think I can safely say it’s okay to miss a week. I’m pretty sure all of our Elders and Pastors have taken a break. We need to rest and sometimes say “no” to very good things in order to be healthy. Demands on our time can add up and have a way of growing without conscious assent.

The wise person maintains the margin in their life, leaving capacity for others, taking time to be still and listen, honoring their responsibilities and not neglecting assembling together. Enjoy these precious few days of sunshine and try to keep the complaints about it being too hot to a minimum. It’s already been too hot this year.

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What Kind of Horse Are You?

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donkey3By Nate Champneys

The election is over! We now have a new President-Elect. As I sat back and watched social media during and following the election, one thing became very clear: No matter what side of the political spectrum people are on, everyone is tired of the way things are, and there is a lot of fear and unrest about the future. I totally get it. If you are feeling anxious or fearful, let me make it all better. Allow me to share one of the most used, sometimes misused, dare I say cliché verses with you. 🙂

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

We love to quote this verse. I think we especially love to focus on the “rest” part and the “easy and light” part. We love anything that makes our life easier. I was reading this passage the other day and it occurred to me, “Wow, Jesus is basically asking us to be His horse.” This got me thinking about horses. Horses are magnificent animals, aren’t they? When I think of a wild stallion running free across the plains, it gives me a good feeling, like watching an old John Wayne movie. But as I thought more about this passage, I don’t think that this wild stallion picture is what Jesus is saying brings rest. He says, “take my yoke upon you.” What is a yoke? A yoke is what connects the workhorse to the load that it is pulling. It holds the horse in place.

Now, I don’t know about you, but sometimes in the past I have read that passage and thought, “Man, Jesus’s yoke is neither easy nor light, and it is anything but restful!” This passage didn’t seem very true to me at all. Here’s the thing: if we believe the Bible is the Word of God, (which I am assuming you do) and we believe it is absolutely true without any error (which I also assume you do), then we can assume that it is true when Jesus says His yoke is easy and His burden is not a heavy one we have to carry. Logically, we can assume that when His yoke doesn’t seem easy or light and we don’t feel rest, then maybe it says more about us as the horse than it does about His yoke. Are you with me? When we feel like His yoke is actually difficult, scary, or painful, perhaps we have actually not taken His yoke upon us at all, or maybe we are under His yoke but fighting for control. Maybe it is us who have not learned (to quote the movie Shrek) to be a “faithful steed.”

Do you know what a horse’s job is, when it is yoked to a load? It’s actually very simple: to walk when the master says walk. To run when the master says run, to turn left when the master says turn left, and to turn right when the master says turn right. Basically, to do whatever the master says. It is the master’s job to know where they are going, to be aware of all the obstacles, and to carefully guide the horse to the destination in the best way possible. But it is literally the job of the master to provide for the horse’s needs, to protect the horse from danger, and to look out for the good of the horse. Presuming that the master of a horse is a good master and doesn’t push the horse too hard or overload the horse, the only time a horse experiences “a heavy burden” under the care of a good master is when it is fighting for control or not trusting its master. When a horse has a good master, it never has to worry about the destination; its job is literally to just put one foot (or hoof) in front of the other and obey the master. Then, and only then, is the yoke easy and the burden light. On the flip side, a wild stallion, though free to do what it wants, roams the prairies unprotected. It sacrifices the security, rest, and provision of being under a master for the freedom to be its own master.

I love this horse-and-master metaphor Jesus uses for our relationship with Him. God is a good, good master. The problem is that because of our sin, from the moment we are born, we have a deep-rooted desire to be our own masters. We tend to either run free and control our own lives as wild stallions or take on His yoke and fight it. What it means to be a disciple of Jesus is to make Him Lord and Master over us and every part of our lives. It’s on Him to direct us to the destination, to provide for our needs, and to protect us. All we are responsible for is to walk in obedience and put one foot in front of the other as He leads and directs. If you are having anxiety and turmoil in your life, it is most likely rooted in the fact that you are trying to be your own master. Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24). Here he was referring to money, but this can be applied to anything, including ourselves. Either Jesus is our master, or we are. Almost every trouble we face in our lives can generally be traced to us, putting ourselves in the place of the master. It doesn’t mean that difficult things won’t happen in our lives. The apostle Paul faced many difficult things, but because Jesus was his master, he was able to say, “I rejoice in my suffering.” Even when things around him were in utter chaos, he found rest and peace, because he was under the yoke of a good Master.

As you look at every moment of your life right now, ask yourself these questions: Where are the areas I feel turmoil? Am I being the “faithful steed” and trusting and following the Master, or am I seeking my own way, trying to be my own master?

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By Dan Amos and Pastor Martin

As we engage in ministry there are ebbs and flows, seasons of work and seasons of rest — because, let’s face it, ministry is hard work. Elders are only allowed to serve in their role for six years, and then they must take a break for at least one year. Most of us will serve in a role within the body for a time and then step back for a time while another volunteer steps in to carry the load.

The periods of rest and renewal are more difficult for the full-time ministry worker, when times of professional growth have to be crammed into a 24/7 commitment. This is the practical basis for offering a sabbatical to our ministerial staff. We ask them to step back for a time and experience renewal in their relationship with the Father and pursue personal spiritual growth.

Jesus modeled this behavior during His public ministry by getting away from the crowds and concentrating on His relationship with the Father. Perhaps when He sent the disciples out to experience ministry on their own He experienced a longer period of spiritual refreshment.

The Elder Board began seriously pursuing the sabbatical model over the last couple of years. Our goal is to give our pastors this break every six years. Pastor Martin has been faithfully leading and shepherding us for 19 years without this opportunity. Pastor Brian has also been asked to begin planning for his own sabbatical next year.

We are asking Martin to take this break with specific professional and spiritual goals. We are convinced this is good for him and good for all of us at Elim. The Evangelical Free Church declares that taking sabbaticals is a “positive trend reflecting increased awareness of a series of work/rest cycles found in the scriptures. Observing them is a healthy practice that assures sustainability in ministry.”

Martin will be away from Elim from May 1 through July 31, 2013. Pastor Brian and others will fill the pulpit during this time. Brian will lead the staff and day-to-day ministries, while being supported by a host of people, including the Elders and all of us at Elim. We ask for your prayers for Martin and Kim as he is away from us and for the staff and Elders as they fill in.

Elim is experiencing a time of health and growth, and it is my prayer that we put into practice what Martin has modeled for us. We trust we will welcome him home in August healthier and stronger than when he left.

From Pastor Martin:

The big question is, what will I do on this sabbatical? In addition to getting some rest and some much appreciated “wind therapy,” I will go through some life coach training which deals with the integration of the spiritual, relational, professional, and personal dimensions of a person’s life. This training will be a benefit to my ongoing ministry at Elim as well as to other consulting opportunities that may cross my path in the future.

Second, I will seek out a pastoral prayer mentor. It has been my desire to deepen my prayer life and to better shepherd Elim toward becoming a “house of prayer.” There are a couple of opportunities that I will explore to find the person who will best equip me to fulfill this vision.

Third, I will visit some churches which have a clear strategy for discipleship. I want to continue to sharpen my strategic understanding for growing passionate, persevering followers of Jesus. This is our mandate; therefore, it must be our mission.

Fourth, I will immerse myself in reading the Gospel of Mark multiple times in preparation for preaching this Gospel beginning October 6.

One final question must be answered: “Do I plan on staying at Elim after I return from this sabbatical?” The answer is yes. I have no plans for leaving and have no intention of using this time to look for other ministry opportunities. Kim and I love this body and we look forward to having many more years of growing disciples at Elim.

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On wasting time …

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By Larry Short

Because I had a lovely a four-day vacation last week, I have been thinking about a recent blog from one of my favorite technology writers, Seth Godin: “Wasting Time Is Not a Waste.”

Basically Seth defines (with tongue in cheek, I’m sure) “wasted time” as any time that’s not directly devoted to productivity (working). And then he says, while we certainly can “waste time” poorly, it is so much better to “waste time” well.

Wasting time well (which is not a waste!) is measured, Seth says, by the extent to which our investment of “wasted time”: 1) brings us needed rest, 2) brings us important discovery, or 3) brings us joy.

I like that! It also got me to thinking about a biblical view of “wasted time.” From the very beginning, God ordained a cyclical 24-hour period of rest for we weak and frail human beings who don’t know any better (and that’s apparently all of us), and He called it “Sabbath.” In Sabbath, we were obviously to rest, that was a fundamental part of the fourth commandment as revealed in Exodus 20:8-11 …

 8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

The impetus for the Sabbath was resting from our work, while resting in God’s work. Jewish scholars took the “resting from our work” part very seriously and exhibited great pains in defining exactly what “rest” meant. But there is so much more when it comes to the “rest” we should observe as Sabbath. There were also elements of discovery … and if you dig deeper, elements of joy!

Over and over again in Exodus, the Sabbath is referred to as a day “holy unto the Lord.” Ch. 31:16 says the Sabbath was to be “celebrated.” It was an occasion for joy, even in the midst of “denying yourself” (Lev. 6:31). And a denial of self, in Scripture, is always portrayed (as Stan alluded to on Sunday) as a refocusing from self to others. First and foremost, denial of self means refocusing upon God.

This is why the Jews attended synagogue on the Sabbath. Lev. 23:3 calls it “a day of sacred assembly,” a day in which to show reverence for the Tabernacle or the Temple as God’s dwelling place. Discovery of who God was and how to draw near to Him, in the sacred assembly, was a part of the “rest” that God required, a refocusing upon the person and work of God (and off of ourselves and our own desires).

Such discovery of God results in joy, as Jesus assured us in John 17 when (in the midst of His greatest trial) He prayed that we would experience His fullness of joy.

So, I think Seth hits it right on the head. If vacations are simply wasting time in empty pursuits of self-gratification and “entertainment,” then they are truly a waste. But if during your vacation you can truly get rested up, engage upon a discovery of who God is and who we are in right relation to Him, and experience as a result the joy that knowing God and loving Christ brings to our hearts, such “wasted time” is far from a waste!

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