In my previous post, I discussed what a biblical Elder should look like (or smell like), citing work done by Dr. Lynn Anderson on this matter. Elders are shepherds, mentors, and equippers. Knowing that, how should I react, and how should I relate to my Elders. Let me suggest a few items for consideration and prayer.
First, we need to pray for our Elders daily. These men are under the call of God to lead the flock of which we are a part. The least we could do for them is to pray.
We need to be willing to be mentored and equipped for works of service. I would dare say that we should look for areas of service where there is a need, and where we have skills to help meet that need, and VOLUNTEER to take care of that area. We need to let our Elders know that we are with them.
Dr. Anderson asserts and I agree that we can help our Elders by shepherding flocks ourselves. At Vero Christian, we call those flocks “Life Groups.” Our Life Group leaders shepherd the people in their group. If there is that rare shepherding need that arises needing an Elder’s attention, this need is reported to the Elders. Otherwise, the Life Group leader and his group members handle the shepherding needs of the members of their group. This is a TREMENDOUS blessing not only for the people in the Life Group, but for the Elders as well.
We all play the role of shepherd to someone. Whether it is raising your children in the faith, teaching a Sunday School Class, discipling a fellow Christian, mentoring a younger man or woman, or leading someone to Christ. Realize that God has designed you for those roles. God expects each of us to mentor others. On purpose. As Paul told Timothy, we are to “teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others.
Elders who have a servant’s heart can overextend themselves, taking on responsibilities that should be delegated to others. They see areas of need, and often dive in to handle that need themselves. What if we, members of the flock, looked around at areas of need (preparing and serving Communion, helping in the children’s ministry on Sunday mornings, etc.) and VOLUNTEERED to meet those needs? We would be serving the body and would be obedient to God’s call on our lives.
I wonder what would happen if we approached an Elder and asked them to mentor us? Yeah, you are right. They probably would faint. It would be fun, though, wouldn’t it? I mean to have an Elder pour themselves into us. Having an Elder looking at our lives, seeing what God can do through us, and casting a vision for us in that manner. You thought I was referring to making an Elder faint, didn’t you?
The body of Christ is healthier when we all function as we were designed. God has gifted each of us in different ways, and those gifts are to be used for the building up of the body of Christ. Biblical Elders will shepherd, mentor, and equip. Christians will respond by being willing to submit to the Elders; by being willing to be mentored by someone who is further along in their faith journey than us, or someone who has a skill set we need to learn; and by being willing to allow someone to equip us properly for works of service.
I declare this to be “freak your Elders out week.” Approach an Elder and ask how you may be of service. Better yet, tell them about how you have seen a need and how you are willing to meet that need.
I would love to continue the conversation in the comments section below.
This week, I have had the privilege of spending some time with one of my former youth group “kids” and his beautiful family. Greg Nunley was in the first youth group I led as a student minister who was still wet from the baptistery. That group is forever notched in my ever-failing memory, because I honestly relied 100% on God to get me through leading that group. I was too “dumb” to do anything else.
30 years later, I have learned much about “doing ministry,” but honestly, that group at Westwood Christian Church taught me more than I could have dreamed of teaching them. I still have regular contact with several members of that group, and yeah, they all know that they are still “my kids.”
About nine months ago, Greg found out that he has an aggressive form of lymphoma. He has undergone numerous treatments, but it appears that his time walking on this earth is drawing to a close. Greg and his wife Stacy have seven children raninging in age from 7 to 17.
Although it had literally been decades since Greg and I had seen each other, and although I had never met Stacy or any of the children, they immediately took me in as family from the instant I walked through their door. (I guess I DID teach Greg a thing or two after all).
Greg is a minister of the Gospel of Christ, and has served in several smaller, mostly rural congregations. This beautiful, loving family has moved on numerous occasions, but shows a resiliency not often seen today. Perhaps it was one way God has been preparing them for the road that lies ahead.
This family is a loving example of Christ to all with whom they come in contact. They openly talk about their faith in God, their love for Christ and for each other, and they openly talk about their journey with Greg through the battle against lymphoma. They do not shy away from the fact that Greg will not be with them on this planet much longer. Greg leads from his quiet strength that I first saw in him as a teenager. His love for the Lord has not wavered, and he continues living his life one day at a time for Jesus. He was like that long before lymphoma came around, and he is living that way in the face of this horrible disease. There is no hint of bitterness or questioning from Greg (nor was there from Stacy or the kids). We all agree that we would desire for this disease to just go away, but this family is a loving example of trusting that God has this.
How refreshing my time spent with Greg and his beautiful family has been for me this week. How I long to be a source of encouragement and strength for this family I love so dearly. I pray that they know they are “stuck” with me now. More importantly, I pray that Stacy and the children will take comfort in knowing that God loves them. Period. God wants them to continue to be vessels of praise for Him. I pray that God will protect their hearts through the very tough days ahead, just as He has through the tough days they have experienced over the past nine months. May they remember that every day is a gift from God. May they know that life on this planet is not the “be all, end all.” May they long to be in the Presence of Jesus so they can be reunited with their Dad and Stacy’s husband again some day.
Nearly 30 years ago (the exact date is in question, since Greg did NOT date this), Greg did a caricature of Don Boswell and me at Westwood Christian church. Yeah, I am the guy in the van with the mustache, Maia!
This has hung in my office for nearly three decades. It reminds me that the rock foundation of Jesus is what we must build upon. Greg, Stacy, and their children are a loving, living example of that. I am SO GLAD that I got to spend this time with them. I am SO GLAD for the love we share through Jesus. I implore everyone who reads this to keep Greg, Stacy and their children in prayer. Thank you for doing so.
I have been known to answer the “how are you?” question/non-question with “if I were any better, I’d be twins.” It comes from an old story that pre-dates the Interwebs (although there is a different variation of the story that can be found on a Google search). It basically has to do with an attitude that chooses joy. I absolutely want that to be my attitude. I choose joy.
It’s not that I don’t have my “down days,” my “challenges,” or “opportunities to grow.” I do. Every day. It’s not that I don’t fail in my desire to choose joy always. I do (just ask Peggy). It’s just that I want to choose joy as my default way of thinking and behaving.
I am reminded of Paul’s admonition to the church at Colosse in chapter 3, the first part of verse 16: Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. If the message of Christ is to fill my life, then joy MUST be my default setting. Remember, joy was a chief motivator for Jesus. Remember Hebrews 2:2? fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
I would be less-than-honest if I said that I have not struggled in this area lately. I have previously written about my struggle with WES (“Whiny Elijah Syndrome”), and I have come off of a summer of spiritual mountaintop experiences. I have also trudged through some valleys over the past month.
I find that when I spend time interceding for others in prayer, my focus get realigned properly.
However, I do work on a few “attitude adjustments” to help me choose joy. Those include:
Realigning Focus. My worries, concerns, challenges, etc. pale in comparison to those facing many other people I know. I don’t engage in the comparison game, I simply stop and pray for those whom I know are facing far greater challenges in their lives than me. I find that when I spend time interceding for others in prayer, my focus get realigned properly, and I can move on.
Realizing Timing. There are two parts to this adjustment. 1) “This, too, shall pass.” It is temporary. Deal with it in prayer and proper action and move on. 2) “There is a purpose for this.” Pray to know what God is trying to teach in this situation. Learn from it and move on.
Remembering Who is in Control. God has got this. He is the One in control, not me. I need to let go and move on.
I have much to learn still in my walk with Christ. I have my obstacles to face and to overcome. I still have my times (days, or even weeks) of WES creeping in. I need your prayers to help me in that regard. I also know that when I realign my focus, realize God’s timing, and remember Who is in control, my climb out of those valleys is much quicker.
I would love to continue this conversation with you. How do you overcome the obstacles of an improper attitude? What are some practical tips you would share in this regard? I need your input, so please comment below and let’s dialogue together!
In 2015, I started working through Colossians chapter 3 as an extra to my personal daily devotions. After a few months of doing that, I decided that I would spend time in the entire four chapters of this small New Testament letter. I even found a reading plan on my youversion Bible app called, “Immersion Into Colossians.” As the new year approached, I decided that I would read through this 7-day plan every week in 2016.
I often listen to the audio version on my app, and have found that now when I read from the book of Colossians, I use the same inflection as the narrator does. It tickles me.
As I have been diving in to this fascinating letter from Paul, I have been astonished to learn that the Creek congregation in Indianapolis is doing a 40-week study through Colossians this year. Dr. Gary Johnson is one of my heroes of the faith. Another hero of the faith, Dr. Dale Meade, has challenged my thinking this year when he suggested to start viewing Paul’s writings as a missionary communicating with a supporting church. Yikes!
As such, my reading of Colossians has convinced me of the two MAJOR purposes of that letter:
1)To combat a heresy that Jesus is not really God.
2)To instruct us Christ followers on how we should now live.
Since this blog comes from an unapologetic Christian viewpoint, let me just say that when Paul writes about Jesus in chapter 1 verses 19-20 (NIV) 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross that ends the discussion for me on this subject. Christ is Lord, Jesus is God, and our salvation comes ONLY through Him.
The “how we should now live” part is where the rubber meets the road. As the NLT puts it in Col. 3:1, since you have been raised to new life with Christ set your sights on the realities of heaven where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. If my perspective on how I live my life is not different than it was before I became a follower of Christ, then I am not truly following Him. I cannot continue thinking, acting, and living like I did when I was a pagan (Col. 3:6-7 reminds us: 6 Because of these sins, the anger of God is coming.7 You used to do these things when your life was still part of this world.) and expect to be okay in God’s eyes. Oh, chapter 3 continues to kick me in the hind quarters, as I see much that I still need to work on in my daily walk. It seems to me that I have opportunities nearly every day to put into practice treating others with tenderhearted mercies, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. (See Col. 3:12). I daily need to remember to forgive others, because I can be just as thin-skinned as the next person.
So, may I ask a favor from you? Please pray for me in this regard. I promise that I will pray for you as well, but I am soliciting your prayers. It is my desire to live in such a manner that others will want to hang out with me so they can get to know Jesus better. I want people to see Jesus at work in my life so that Jesus is glorified. I just want Scott to get out of the way. Spending time daily in the book of Colossians and meditating on what those words mean for my life is how I am starting this process. Your prayers will be the next step in that process. Putting what I am learning into practice, well, that is the step that really counts!
One of the more frequently asked questions prior to and upon returning from Colombia has been, “so what will/did you do there?” In the setup that the Colombian Christian Mission operates under, our role as a group of “gringos” coming to Colombia was to play a support role to the work of the mission. How’s that for a fancy way of saying, we do manual labor? We stayed at Villia Peniel, the church camp operated by the mission just outside of Villiavincencio. As of this writing there are three cabins, a pool and a supply shed for use by the camp. We helped with two other significant projects to bring a couple more buildings much closer to being able to be used at the camp.
Now, the camp operates just like a Christian camp in the states. It offers summer camp for kids, it serves as a retreat and training ground for adults, they have family days for the church family in general, etc. Obviously, there is a need for more housing, so one of the projects we worked on while there was painting inside and outside of a cabin to be finished and put into service next year. Those were our “light work days.” More on that in a minute. First, let’s talk about the concrete work we did on our first full day in Colombia.
We helped mix and spread concrete for a 25′ X 60′ pad that will serve as the base for an open air meeting pavilion. Praise the Lord that we had a portable concrete mixer, so we didn’t have to do that by hand in wheel barrows! In fact, this is the first project at the camp where a concrete mixer was available and used, thus we got the slab laid in a single day of work! All other slab laid at the camp has a cold joint because only part of the slab was laid one day, with the remaining portion completed on a 2nd day. So, yeah, we made history at Villia Peniel with our “mad concrete” skills. Okay, the Colombians who made up a majority of the crew might have had something to do with that, too.
Concrete work in the Amazon during rainy season is a risky business.
Concrete work in the Amazon during rainy season is a risky business. the non-Christian operator of the concrete mixer expressed his concerns to Dale before we arrived. Dale’s reply was basically that he had prayed to the Lord to take care of the weather so we could pour the concrete as planned, and Dale had the confidence that Jesus would take care of matters. While it rained for several days prior to our arrival, and on the day of our arrival, we had nothing but blue skies on that Friday as we poured that concrete pad. Nothing but blue skies on Saturday as the concrete had more than the 24 hours needed to “cure.” In fact, it didn’t start raining again until Sunday evening! Do you think this concrete mixer operator might be more open to talking about and learning about Jesus now? I do.
We knew that the work we were doing would be a blessing to countless numbers of people over the coming years
Concrete work is physically demanding, back straining work. The Colombians who worked along side us, some Christian, some not, all saw these “rich, affluent, educated, powerful Americans” doing grunt work with smiles on our faces, and laughter in our conversations. They saw the joy of Jesus in us as we served the Kingdom. We knew that the work we were doing would be a blessing to countless numbers of people over the coming years as they meet in this facility to hear God’s Word proclaimed. The Colombians saw that the joy of Jesus can lead people to do the grunt work that most would not normally associate with “rich, affluent, educated, powerful Americans.” God was glorified in multiple ways that day.
It was truly an enriching way to begin our time in Colombia, and it would only get more enriching for this old guy. What a true joy and a true blessing. Yeah, I have numerous posts to follow as I recount the mission trip I was privileged to participate in along with Cody Morse, Emily Hillman, Alex Harrah, and Elliott Blount. Again, I cannot thank adequately those who partnered in prayer and in funding for this trip. You all bless me beyond words.
That being said, there will be more words describing this experience.
While my social media sabbatical ended a couple of weeks ago, I have hesitated to start blogging again just yet because I have so much to process.
A major ongoing life event for me is my Immersion Into Colossians. I am reading this four chapter book every single day, and just soaking in what God has to say to me. At the same time, I am watching/listening to the sermon series from The Creek Christian Church in Indy, as Dr. Gary Johnson and crew take that congregation through Colossians this year in a verse-by-verse pace that it very exciting to me. I have much to discuss regarding this study, and will save it for a future blog post.
A summer event that has literally turned my house upside down was a washing machine-induced flood. Let’s just say that the end result is and extreme makeover that is taking place in our house. Flooring throughout the house is being replaced, as are all bathroom vanities, all cabinets in the kitchen and laundry room, all baseboards, new toilets, as well as new kitchen appliances. When all is said and done, we will have invested around $31,000 including the part paid for by insurance. The flood took place on June 11th, and the contractor is supposed to start work in the house this week.
My mission trip to Colombia was indeed life changing in many ways. It was my first foreign mission trip (having done lots of domestic mission work throughout my years in ministry). My eyes were not only more appropriately opened to the church around the world, but to idolatrous teachings in the name of “Christianity” and the devastating impact those teachings have on entire cultures of people. I also got to sit at the feet of a humble servant of God, who truly lives out his dedication to the Great Commission. I have MUCH more to talk about regarding this trip in future blog posts.
Getting to travel to Arkansas to spend time with Ian, McKayla, and Landon was a highlight of the summer as well. I have spent many hours in prayer and in tears for our middle child and his family, and it is so gratifying to see how well they are thriving in Arkansas.
Ministry challenges and opportunities continue to abound, and again I come back to my time in the book of Colossians each day. The heart of the book is found in Col. 3:12-15, and as I process all that I have mentioned above, let me make sure to couch it all in that passage:
Colossians 3:12 Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.
As promised/threatened, there is plenty more to discuss as I come off of my blog sabbatical. Thanks for putting up with me as I am putting it Blountly.
I realize that not everyone comes from a great family situation. I am blessed to be part of a family that truly loves one another. No, we don’t always agree with each other. Yes, there are times we may not even LIKE each other very much. However, through thick and thin, we are a family that LOVES each other dearly.
The family, in Appalachian culture, is the hub of society. It’s weird like that. Kind of like how God designed it to be…well, anyway, family is more than a Mom & Dad and their kids. It’s grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and more. Adopted, married into, or stays taken in, we are family.
We will fight fiercely among ourselves, and even more fiercely for each other. We laugh, we love, we get loud. We cry, we support, we lean on each other. We believe in Jesus the Christ as the glue to hold us all together, and we believe that together we are going to be just fine no matter what life may throw at us.
As the family continues to grow and spread around the country (literally), our times together are more rare and frankly usually revolve around a funeral. When Peggy’s Unce Tom passed a way recently, Peggy & I saw family members we hadn’t seen in several years. Our son Ian, his wife McKayla and our grandson Landon made the 13 hour drive from Arkansas just to be with family. Mind=blown. Heart=full.
Now, again, we are not perfect people. We fuss more than we should. We talk about each other in ways that we would not tolerate an “outsider” to do. Sometimes, we know that a “little dab will do you” in time spent with family members. However, when all is said and done, we are family, and we know that togetherness is great medicine for what ails you.
I am grateful to be part of this family. It is a privilege I do not take for granted. My only prayer is that my kids and grandkids will know the joy (and other stuff) that goes with being a close-knit bunch. So much more difficult to do with us living in different towns and states, but so important to me. I praise God for FaceTime, but I praise Him even more for Face-to-Face time. I pray for more of that. Please pray that with and for me. Please pray that for my family.
Do not take family for granted. We are not promised our next breath. Make the most of every opportunity. Let your family members know how much you love them always. Make Jesus the center of your family. He IS the glue that holds a family tougher. As such, family is how you survive the trials of this world. Family is how you learn to get along even when you cannot agree. Family is the group that has your back. Family is God’s design for people, because God knows that we are better together.
Just some random thoughts as I reflect on a weekend with extended family, and prepare to fly back “home.” I love and miss these guys and gals when we are separated by miles. I feel closer to them than ever when we are together, no matter the circumstances.
As an already self-confessed depressaholic, I want to examine further this notion of my battle with WES (Whiny Elijah Syndrome). DISCLAIMER: I in no way consider myself to be anywhere near the spiritual stature of the prophet Elijah except in the fact that he, too, could be whiny. That is the full extent of the similarities between this great prophet of God and me.
Honestly, this is the 3rd time I have tried to write the post. I struggle with writing it, because I am struggling with WES. I want to keep things in a general tone, and offer some hope for those of us who are afflicted with WES.
We have read of Elijah’s great victory over the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18). What a resounding victory for God and what a blessing to have been a part of that victory. Right? Then, Elijah runs off by himself for his pity party. in 1 Kings chapter 19, he whines to God about being the only one left who is serving God.
Okay, so that is the basic context for my treatment of the Syndrome. When I experience tremendous “God victories,” I can count on the whining to commence shortly thereafter.
Why does WES afflict me? Let me wrestle with three possibilities.
1) Physical Exhaustion.
Times when great things have been accomplished to bring glory and honor to God can be physically exhausting for this mere human being. A great deal of energy is expended, because I do not believe in doing anything halfway. I am all in for God. I “leave it all out there on the court” (since some people are still in the NCAA March Madness phase. For the record, my bracket was busted on the first day of this year’s tourney).
I’m as mental as mental can be, I must say.
2) Mental exhaustion.
As my favorite SNL character of old, Ed Grimley would say, “I’m as mental as mental can be, I must say.” While I am of above average intelligence, it is hard work mentally for me to do the things I do for the Lord. I enjoy every minute of it, but it is taxing to say the least. I am not trying to be terribly self-deprecating, or even to just put myself down, and this is not false humility, I recognize that I am a two talent servant (as opposed to a five talent servant, or even a one talent servant), and I am okay with that. I also know that my service to the King is not just physically, but mentally exhausting.
3) Spiritual exhaustion.
I confess that during the times when I get too busy “doing” God’s work, I can tend to slack on simply “being” God’s guy. Arron Chambers’ book “Devoted” is a great reminder to me to just slow down and “be God’s.” That phrase has served as my signature ever since I “borrowed” it from the late great Rich Mullins in the early 1990’s. Spiritual exhaustion sets in when I am trying to do too much on my own, and not allowing God to “do” through me. I tend to get seriously grumpy and whiny then. Just ask Peggy.
So, how can we guard against WES, and how can we come out of that syndrome and back to a more healthy place? What i have to say sounds simple, but it is not.
Get away, rest, immerse yourself in Scripture. Or as Psalm 46:10 puts it: “Be still and know that I am God.” Being still does not come naturally to me. I struggle with stillness and with silence. I have to force myself to get away. I’m not talking about running away, I’m talking about the purposeful time away from people to draw closer to God. Being silent and listening for God is another struggle. My mind races, and I like to fill the silence with noise (even Christian music is noise in this instance). Reminding myself that God is God and I am not even close is something that I find healthy to do. No, I don’t have a “God complex,” but there may be times I act like it. Again, just ask Peggy.
Having accountability and prayer partners is a must for me. I need folks to pray for me every day, but especially when I am in periods of WES. Having some people who have permission to “kick my butt” when needed is also key. Trust me, there are plenty of times when kicking needs to commence.
I confessed earlier that it has taken several tries to write this post. Part of that is because I am in a season of WES right now. Thanks for allowing me to remind myself of the issue, and some ways to conquer it. If you have any suggestions on overcoming WES, I would love to continue the conversation in the comments section below. As always, thanks for you prayers, and as always…