The Lord Said! Really?

As I work with believers I often hear them say “the Lord told me…” or “I heard the Lord say…” followed by some nice thing that He is promising. Something He plans to do for them. An adventure that He is sending them on. A vacation. A blessing. A financial breakthrough. A calling. A ministry. The list is endless.

And, they are so sure that they have heard the Lord speak to them that they begin immediately to make decisions based on what they believe they have been told. And some of these decisions are fairly life-changing affecting family and friends. 

However, often what they believe they have heard simply justifies their existing lifestyle or the sin they are living in. Thus they don’t have to change and believe they are in the Lord’s will and thus He is blessing their current situation or circumstance and the decision they have made.

They don’t test what they are hearing to the Word of God, the Bible. They don’t seek the wisdom of more mature believers with whom they fellowship. They don’t take into account the timing of what they think they have heard. And, they don’t question that what they heard might not even be the voice of the Lord for them – but more their own desires and emotions. 

I have found over my 50+ years of walking with Jesus and listening to what people think that He has spoken to them that 90% or more of what they hear is simply their own emotions, desires, and dreams. It is their soul speaking to them and not the voice of the Holy Spirit living in their spirit. 

If God is truly speaking to us then, again by experience, I have discovered a number of things…

      • What He is saying will stretch you and make you somewhat uncomfortable and is usually life-altering.
      • Whatever He is asking you to do will be greater than what you are able to do on your own. You will need to join with others and work as a team.
      • You will need to go through a season of learning and growing; developing new skills and understanding.
      • What He is calling you to is most often not something you would desire in the natural.
      • It will cost you something. It comes with a price. You will be taking up your cross.
      • It will challenge what you know and cause you to grow spiritually before it begins to come to pass.
      • You will need to build new relationships with people who can help you to achieve what the Lord has spoken – someone to disciple you, mentor you, and walk with you in this stage of your journey. This will require you to submit your life to others and be accountable.
      • There will be many tests and trials along the way which you will need to go through so as to grow into the calling and be strong in your faith. Joseph, in the Old Testament, went through ten different tests before reaching the fulfillment of what the Lord said to him. (See “The Ten Tests” article in the resources section of ralphhoweminsitries.com)  
      • It will involve hard work and a good length of time to see what the Lord has said come to pass. 

So, my observation is that what most people think “the Lord said” is not Him at all. And, because people are fairly vocal about what they think the Lord said to them the world gets the impression that believers are unbalanced and not to be taken seriously. 

We need to be really careful with “The Lord said…” and make sure that He really did!

 

What Do You Worship?

The question is “what” do you worship – not “who” do you worship. I am quoting from a book I recently read while on a three week retreat in the north of my province….

And, please note my definition of idolatry. Idolatry is taking something — anything — and making it more important than it should be in our lives.

A friend of mine who visited a remote, impoverished village in India told me a story. He saw a woman sacrificing a chicken as an act of worship to her god. My friend was shocked to see such blatant, modern-day idolatry. After striking up a conversation with the woman, he was impressed with her. She was well-spoken, kind, and educated.

When he learned that she had visited New York City three years earlier, he asked what she thought of America. She explained that she hated it. She had never seen more idolatry anywhere in her entire life. When my friend pressed her, she described three areas of idolatry that she saw.

First, she said, not so gently, the Americans worship their stomachs. Her eyes wide as she talked, this woman from a simple village described the massive stores overstocked with food to sell to people who had already had too much to eat. Evidently this woman was offended by people who are overweight when so many people in her village go hungry. 

Second, she described how Americans worship television. From her perspective, they design their homes around the television. It takes the most prominent place in the most important room, and the furniture is arranged not for talking to people but for watching television. It was almost too much for her to comprehend that some people even allow a television in their bedroom — of all places!

Finally, she said the worst form of idolatry was in the relationship people have with their phones. She was deeply offended that people use them while driving. Even worse was that no one (at least in her experience) could have a full conversation without reading something on their phone.

Kind of gives new meaning to American idol, doesn’t it. My friend didn’t try to disagree with the Indian woman. He knew he couldn’t. Everything she said was true. And she hadn’t even scratched the surface. 

Without getting into our obsessions with food and media, I’m simply raising the question about what we worship when we click. You are probably not putting a statute of a turtle ahead of God, and you probably aren’t a star-worshipper, but is your obsession with your phone gearing out of hand?

Some of us can honestly answer no. We are already using technology with good boundaries. We control it. It doesn’t control us. We might have a healthy view of social media and how we interact with it. If so, I’m thankful, and you should be too!

Yet I know many well-intentioned followers of Jesus who are being seduced, sucked into, and consumed by the virtual world. They think, “I just want to help my business.” Or, “This will give more exposure to my ministry.” Or, “I just love staying in touch with so many friends and family members.” 

As I read this and then took a long walk to think about it I had mixed feelings and several distinct reactions. I was pleased that for several years now I have set boundaries on my iPhone. It turns on at 9:00a. Before that is my time with the Lord, in prayer, reading and studying the Bible. It turns itself off at 10:00p so that I have an uninterrupted 90 minutes to read before heading to bed. I work so many hours in front of the computer screen in my office (9:00a to 1:00p) with emails and texts and then shut it down and go about other things – appointments, meeting with non-believers, and time in my study writing a book I am currently working on.

But I did realize that I needed to put up better boundaries regarding how much time I “waste” watching television some evenings. I realize there are more productive things I can do. But, after a normal day and early evening I am tired and want to simply relax and not have to think. But, that is simply a rationalization and an excuse. So, I have been changing my evening routine and putting my time and limited energy to better use. Establishing boundaries. No longer spending more time binge-watching than I do with the Lord in any given day.

Idolatry is still very much alive in the world today … no matter where you live or what language you speak. And, with all the technology now available idolatry has become an acceptable aspect of life. It is time to reclaim the precious time the Lord given to us each day. 

Remember: Idolatry is taking something — anything — and making it more important than it should be in our lives.

A Friend Of Sinners

If the church wants to reach the next generation – and we are the church – it has to allow more apostles, prophets, and evangelists to lead and influence the direction of the church. Right now the ministry office that impacts the church the most if that of pastor-teacher. Once the other offices of the fivefold ministry begin to influence the church that Jesus is building we will inevitably move the body from a church-focused mindset to a culture-focused mindset which will also then include a Kingdom-focused mindset. The apostles, prophets, and evangelists think externally, which is where the young people are. When we keep our people inside the church by keeping them busy with “Christian activities,” we reject culture. But when we disperse our people, we redeem it. Maybe even create it. 

There was a day when Christians created the culture. (Now we just seem to copy it). Our faith influenced the birth of hospitals, universities, and even some nations. For example, 106 of America’s first 108 colleges were started as Christian institutions.

I like to remind people that Jesus, during the course of His public ministry, performed around forty miracles. Most of them happened outside the temple. The same goes for His disciples. Of the forty miracles in the book of Acts, only one happened in the temple. You don’t get labeled a “friend of sinners” if most of your time is spent in church. 

The mantra of shepherd and teachers leans towards “Come as you are.”

The mantra of apostles, prophets, and evangelists leans towards “Go where they are.”

Which one sounds more like the mantra of the younger generation? Honestly, both. They’re inclusive and adventurous. So what if we changed it to “Go as you are”? Wherever God has you,, be all there. It reminds me of Matthew 10:7: “As you go, preach” (NASB). Steward the mysteries of God exactly where God has placed you. If you are a scientist, do careful research in the context of learning and caring for God’s creation. If you are an athlete, compete with self-discipline, resilience, and integrity. If you are a business owner, make high-quality products while serving the dignity of both your customers and your employees. 

Shepherds (pastors) and teachers tend to want young peopler to come in and serve the church, giving up or minimizing their outside activities. But pastors need to understand that the more you empower young people to go and serve outside the church, the more they will be inspired to come and serve inside the church.

The test for gauging whether your church is internally or externally focused is a simple question. If your church closed its doors, how long would it take for the neighbourhood to notice?

A week? A month? A year? Would the neighbourhood ever notice? And if they did, would they care? This is how young people think – and all Christians really should be thinking this way as well. It is a very practical question that each and every believer needs to answer for themselves. 

I believe it is time to return to the mandate Jesus gave to the Church. Jesus only left us one task to be involved in as the church. And remember, you are the church. The mandate was and still is: “Go into all the world and make disciples.” It is time we make whatever changes – all the changes – needed to refocus on that one mandate. It is time that we, like Jesus, “seek and save the lost” and stop playing church. 

For this to happen we need to welcome and release the ministry gifts of apostle, prophet, and evangelist into the leadership of the church. 

Reaching Your God-Given Potential – Part Three

We have been looking at the need for decent and mature friends in our individual journey of life. These are the three types of friends everyone needs to reach their God-given potential…

    • A friend to challenge you and bring out your best
    • A friend to help you find strength in God and grow in your faith
    • A friend to tell you the truth, especially when you don’t want to hear it

We have looked briefly at the friend who will challenge you and help to bring the best you to the surface and forefront. And, a friend to help you find strength in God and grow in your faith. The third type of friend that we must have is one who will tell us the truth – the whole truth, God’s truth, the truth that brings a reality check. And the more successful you become, the more you need this person in your life and, oddly, the harder they are to find.

King David discovered this the hard way. During the season when kings were suppose to be at war, David decided to stay home rather than go to battle. One night he was out on his rooftop when he saw his neighbour’s wife, Bathsheba, bathing outside her house. His selfish lusts spoke louder than his wisdom, so the king sent someone to bring the woman to him. What’s interesting is that whomever King David sent to get Bathsheba had to know that she was married to Uriah, one of David’s closest friends and one of Israel’s greatest war heroes. But since the messenger was on the king’s payroll (and he might have been afraid of losing more than just his job), the guy did exactly as he was told. He summoned the woman to the king’s palace. And if you don’t know the story well. One thing led to another, and Bathsheba ended up pregnant.

Recognizing that this could become a scandal, David tried to get control of the situation. He called he husband home, figuring Uriah would sleep with his wife and then assume the baby was his. But when Uriah refused to enjoy intimacy with his wife while his men were still on the battlefield, David changed his tactics. He issued the order to move his friend to the front line where he was sure to be killed. And he was.

Unfortunately, everyone in the king’s court was too afraid to tell David the truth. So God sent a man who cared enough to help David see the way back to the right path. The prophet Nathan met with David and told him a story that went something like this. “Once upon a time there were two men. One was very rich and the other was very poor. The rich guy had an unlimited number of sheep and wealth. The poor guy had almost nothing and only one lamb, who was almost like a pet to him and his family. When the rich man had a guest come to town, he took the poor man’s lamb and had it butchered for a meal.”

When David heard this story, he was beside himself with anger. David ranted, “As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity” (2 Samuel 12:5-6). Fortunately, Nathan loved David enough to tell him the truth. “Then Nathan said to David, ‘You are the man’” (2 Samuel 12:7). That was enough to jolt king David out of his denial and bring him to his knees in repentance before God. 

Many people around us tell us the things we want to hear, rather than helping us to see the truth. And the more successful we become, the more difficult it is to find people who have our best interests at heart. That’s one reason we must connect with people who love us enough to be blatantly honest. In other words, a true friend. 

David’s son Solomon wisely said, “An open rebuke is better than hidden love! Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy (Proverbs 27:5-6 NLT). 

When was the last time a friend loved you enough to give you an open rebuke? Has someone loved you enough to offer helpful correction? If not, you might be missing one or two very important relationships that could help you grow, thrive, and succeed. Everyone needs people in their lives who will candidly tell them the truth. Maybe you need to connect with someone who’s willing to show you what you need to see so you can become the person you’re suppose to be.

Winding up the three blogs…

Which kind of friend do you need most in your life right now? Someone who helps you be better? Someone who helps you draw closer to God? Or someone who tells you the truth about yourself?

Is one person’s name popping into your head right now? Someone you could consider getting to know better and sharing your need for this kind of connection? If not, ask God to provide the right person at the right time, that friend who can help you grow closer to Him and to make decisions leading you in a divine direction.

Reaching Your God-Given Potential – Part Two

We started looking at the need for decent and mature friends in our individual journey of life. These are the three types of friends everyone needs to reach their God-given potential…

      • A friend to challenge you and bring out your best
      • A friend to help you find strength in God and grow in your faith
      • A friend to tell you the truth, especially when you don’t want to hear it

We looked last time at the friend who will challenge you and help to bring the best you to the surface and forefront. Let’s look today at a friend to help you find strength in God and grow in your faith.

This second friend can help you find strength beyond yourself in the midst of temptation and weakness. Jesus as Samuel helped David see that God wanted to do more in his life than he ever imagined, a guy named Jonathan helped David find strength in God when he needed it most. David was chosen to be the next king, but God didn’t promote him to the throne immediately. God still had a lot to do before He replaced Saul with David. First, David became a war hero winning the hearts of thousands. David was so effective on the battlefield that women danced in the streets singing, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands” (1 Samuel 18:7). You can just imagine how jealous that made an already insecure king. Feeling threatened by David’s rising popularity, King Saul plotted to take his life. David was forced to flee to the mountains to hide from the raging monarch’s posse.

There, in David’s darkest moments, God sent him an unlikely friend to help him find spiritual strength. King Saul’s own son Jonathan recognized the error in his father’s ways and stood faithfully by his friend David. Here’s how Samuel describes the courageous show of support: 

“While David was at Horesh in the Desert of Ziph, he learned that Saul had come out to take his life. And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God.”

I love that simple phrase, which describes so clearly one of the key ways Jonathan served David: he “helped him find strength in God.” There may not be a more valuable gesture one friend can make to another than pointing them toward God, encouraging them to seek His power, loving them toward God’s unending strength.

This friend is someone who will listen and care. Not always giving you the answers you are seeking for. But, there to listen and have your back as you struggle through the issues that you face in life. They are not an ‘answer man.’ They are not there as ‘Mr. Fix-it.” They are there to listen, to care, and to help you see what God is doing and where He is taking you in the situation you are facing and the current spot in the journey that you are on.  

This friend will be praying for you and with you. They will be a safe place for you to recover, refocus, and regroup. They don’t judge. They simply love, support, and encourage you.

So, who helps you find strength in God? If you don’t have anyone, it’s time for you to connect with someone who can help. God already has that person ready for you. It’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help., It’s a sign of wisdom.

Reaching Your God-Given Potential – Part One

Let’s consider the three types of friends everyone needs to reach their God-given potential:

      • A friend to challenge you and bring out your best
      • A friend to help you find strength in God and grow in your faith
      • A friend to tell you the truth, especially when you don’t want to hear it

To look at and illustrate these three types, let’s look at the life of David in the Old Testament to see the people that God used to make him the man God wanted him to be.

First, everyone needs a friend who makes them better, and makes them want to be better. You don’t have to know much about David’s life to know he was far from perfect. But even with all his mistakes, sins, and shortcomings, David was still described as “a man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22). If you study David’s life, it becomes clear that the right people at the right time helped him become the right man.

Although David had many people who made him better, I’d like to start with Samuel. During the time when God rejected Saul as king (and this is a different Saul than the one we read of in the book of Acts), God chose Samuel the prophet to identify and anoint the next king of Israel. When Samuel visited the house of Ben Jesse (David’s dad), he saw an obvious candidate. The oldest son was strong, handsome, and qualified. Samuel thought that surely this man was God’s chosen king. But God told him not to consider his stature, because God doesn’t look at the same things people look at. Most people judge others by their appearance, but God looks past their appearance and into their heart (1 Samuel 16:7).

When all the obvious sons turned out not to be God’s chosen one, they finally called in the least likely one, the youngest, who was out tending sheep. And God spoke to Samuel and said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one” (1 Samuel 16:12). Everyone would have been shocked by this announcement. David was just a kid, and a little rough around the edges, camping next to his family’s flock of sheep. There wasn’t a single person in David’s family who would have picked him as the next king. But God used one man, Samuel, to help David see that God’s will for his life was more significant than anyone could have imagined. 

Samuel made David better – much better. The prophet helped David see himself the way God saw him – as a leader, warrior, poet, and king. He wasn’t just some kid, cut out for nothing more than wrangling sheep for his whole life. Samuel told David, “You’re the one! God has chosen you!” God had a glorious plan, and Samuel helped David glimpse it.

Do you have a few friends who make you better, people who see your potential? Think about it. Do your buddies at the gym make you better? Or the ladies in your Bible study help you grow? Do the people you work with make you sharper? Do the people you run with make you stronger?

If not, connect with someone new, someone who makes you better.

If you need to get closer to God, connect with the right person who can help. If you want a good marriage, there’s nothing like befriending people who have strong marriages. If you want to grow in your parenting skills, you might find someone wise and do life with them. Walk with the wise and grow wise. If you hope to start a business, then gleaning from someone who started a successful business is a great place to start. If you need to learn to handle your finances better, I know that if you pray for the right influence, God will answer that prayer.

David’s son Solomon, the wisest man who ever lives, said, “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend” (Proverbs 27:17 NLT). Instead of hanging out with people who dull your skills or put down your dreams, it’s time you start finding friends who make you sharper. If you connect with someone who makes you better today, then you will write a totally different future for yourself – God’s future. This is what David did with the help of Samuel.

Who sees you, the real person inside you, the way God sees you?

More next time….

Be Confident – Be You

The Bible states and God says, “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded” (Hebrews 10:35). Of course, our confidence is in Him and what He is doing in us and through us. On our journey with Jesus, as we discover who we are, we also learn what He has called us to do for Him and His Kingdom.

As we gain confidence in Him and thus who we are “in Christ” and what He has called us to do then we can reach the stage where we can relax and be confident and comfortable. You can “be confident in who you are, and comfortable with who you’re not.” In other words, you truly discover yourself – the real you that God created. And, you are then able to sort out and settle many of the issues that keep you from living a full and fulfilling life. You can separate what God expects of you and from you from what others expect and even demand. Your life-focus becomes much sharper and you stop wasting time trying to impress people or ‘keeping up with the Jones.’ You are too busy keeping up with Jesus and all that He is revealing to you about you. 

This means you can just be yourself. Being someone and thus something you’re not is exhausting. No one wins. You are plastic in your relationships. Conversations remain shallow and boring. You fear doing new things that might disturb the false ‘you’ that you have been projecting for years. You are fearful that if people really got to know you they would not like you and would reject you … walking away permanently. You live with that fear. You live ‘timid’ and afraid. As a result, you remain relationally unhealthy. And, never discover the real you; never experience what a healthy relationship is like; how life-giving and freeing it can be.

If you want to change and discover the real you and live with confidence … remember that if you cling to what got you to this point you will fail to evolve, and you will continue to be the you that you were never meant to be. 

However, if you want to create something that matters, for both yourself and others, you have to start where you are, with who you are and what you have. You can’t just jump into what you want and who God wants you to be. There are lots of small steps that you will need to take.The first being the way you see life, see yourself, and see what you do. To change your perspective you definitely need to push past your comfort zone. Get out of your rut no matter how comfortable that rut may be.

Remember this: Comfort zones are the places where dreams and hope go to die.

So, where others see the mundane and minimize it, you will need to see the possibility and maximize it. You will need to decide to live in “change mode” for the rest of your life, starting right now! You must stop thinking and believing small. I understand that what makes smallness difficult to overcome is that it feels easier and more comfortable than pressing forward into the new you and much bigger dreams. Just remember, comfort zones are the places where dreams and a better future go to die. Where the better you is buried and never discovered. You need to decide that no matter what happens you are going to move forward in the opposite direction to where you are currently headed.

Live fearlessly. Don’t allow past disappointments to abort today’s possibilities. See that everything is working together for your good. Don’t be petty.  Look for the good in everything. Find people – build relationships with people who love you, will stick with you, encourage you, and will be there for you regardless. There are relationships out there that are priceless. But they will be products of your own willingness to press into people, believe in them, love, take risks, and be open to the possibility of friendships and relationships that are open and transparent. 

Begin the journey and be yourself – the real you. Remember, being someone and thus something you’re not is exhausting. 

There Is No Off-Season

The year we have just entered is a year when the Gospel will be setting more people free than any other year in your lifetime. As we pray and the Holy Spirit works opportunities will open for us to share the love of God. And, that love is discovered and received through the finished work of Jesus the Christ. So, we need to be ready to share the Gospel of the Kingdom (Matthew 24:14) as doors open allowing us to do so. 

The key to being ready to plant seeds and bring in the harvest is preparation. Always being ready. The most excellent athletes in the world have this principal down pat.

Every sport has an off-season. This is the time when players who have been enduring a long, exhausting season take a break to relax and rejuvenate. All sports have these designated periods of rest. The best competitors will take a few weeks to allow their bodies to recuperate, but then they’ll use the rest of the time to prepare for the next season.

They train.

They lift weights.

They run.

They go through drills.

They push their bodies to the limit so that they will not only be ready for the next season but will also be better than the previous season.

The Bible clearly states that there is no off-season for an ambassador of God. And we are all ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20). Paul wrote to his protégé, Timothy, “I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke, and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Timothy 4:1-2).

Notice this wasn’t a casual suggestion, but a charge. A strong command for all believers – not just pastors – to be ready to preach the Word anytime, anywhere, to anyone. When it’s convenient, and when it’s not. When it’s easily accepted, and when it is adamantly rejected. Our circumstances, situations, or surroundings do not alter the charge.

The mandate is still the same – no matter if you’re in Southern California, Mexico City, Bangladesh, South Africa, or any other region of the world: preach the Word!

God’s Word is precious. It is everlasting, unchanging Truth. We as believers have been given the awesome responsibility to become stewards of the Word of God. It is our duty and spiritual obligation. Now is the time to preach the Gospel … more than ever before. It is exciting to anticipate Jesus’ return to this earth – but until that happens there are specific mandates God has made clear to every Christian.

Receive the Word. Be faithful with the Word. And preach the Word as often as you can. 

To preach the Word simply means to share the love of God with others you relate to and those you don’t. It is more than helping or serving someone in a physical way. It must always include speaking God’s Word to them – sharing your experience of being born again and set free by the Cross of Christ. You will, of course, need to be familiar with the Gospel of the Kingdom. You will also need to learn how to share that good news with others in a way that they can understand and receive it. And, you need to become sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s work and let Him do what He does best – convict the person of their sin (John 16:8-10). So there is some training to undergo. 

And, as important, realize that when you are speaking to another generation – that although the message has not changed the method by which you share it must. You need to approach each generation differently and be sensitive to where they are at in their understanding of spiritual truths  and in their spiritual journey.

We are mandated to be ready to share. But, there is a season of intense preparation and I believe we have entered that season here at the start of 2020. 

If your church is not teaching you how to share the life-changing Gospel of the Kingdom, change churches. Find one that believes in being born again and that teaches, trains, and equips believers to share the Gospel with others. Find someone more mature than you are who is “going into al the world and making disciples” and ask them to teach you how to do what they are doing. It is your responsibility to fulfil this command that Paul writes to Timothy about. And, everyone of us will be held accountable for what we have done in this regard. 

Born Again or Bored Again

The Barna Group found that 68% of unbelievers would describe Christians as boring. I can’t handle that statistic. Jesus was many things, but boring was not one of them.

  • Boring people don’t have five thousand followers flocking to hear their boring message
  • Boring people don’t get approached at weddings to make the party better
  • Boring people don’t get crucified for their boring beliefs
  • Boring people aren’t greeted with palm branch parades when they enter cities
  • Boring people don’t inspire martyrs to give up everything for their boring cause
  • Boring people don’t change the world

My point is simple: Our God is not boring!

The world altered its calendar and gauged human history by everything before Christ (BC) and after Christ (AD). His life made a mark. His life made a difference. His life was everything but boring.

So obviously the question is: If the Christ we follow isn’t boring, why in the world are we?

If you look around at those who claim to follow Jesus – believers – they really are generally very boring. They lack angst. They lack a faith that cost them anything. But, I think the situation is far worse than it looks.

I don’t think Christians are just boring. I think Christians are bored.

I think many older Christians were once born-again Christians and now they are just bored-again Christians. They are waiting on the next message, the next conference, the next experience that will ignite their faith. All the while the Great Commission is at their doorstep. The reality is, we are bored because we are disobedient. I bet painters that don’t paint are bored. I bet dancers who don’t dance are bored. I bet writers who don’t write are bored. And I am convinced that disciples that don’t disciple are bored (and boring).

There is a true story I read just a few days ago. It is about a dog named DeSoda. When the owner’s children were young, he got them a puppy. This puppy, like all puppies, had a ton of energy and lacked a lot of wisdom. DeSoda always tried to run away when the door opened, always tried to jump on any stranger who walked in the home, and always barked obnoxiously. Then a decade went by. DeSoda was now an old dog and no longer a young puppy. His energy was gone. He desire for adventure was gone. Heck, he didn’t even care when a stranger walked in the house. He would just lift his head from the mat, give them a nod, and go back to sleep. In dog years, DeSoda was really old. The family was pretty sure he was going to die soon.

So the kids, now young teenagers, asked their dad, “Dad! Dad! Can we please have a new dog? DeSoda is so boring now! He never plays with us anymore. He just wants to sit around the house all day.”

The Dad conceded and got the family a new puppy. And the process repeated itself. The new puppy, Beau, had a ton of energy and no wisdom. Except one difference was, their puppy Beau had DeSoda to show him the way. Beau and DeSoda became really good friends; they were like peas and carrots. All the puppy passion and energy in Beau would get DeSoda to do things he normally wouldn’t do. DeSoda was playing outside again. He was modelling for Beau where to go to the bathroom. DeSoda was now wrestling with Beau. He had a renewed energy, and the kids could tell.

The dad noted, “The crazy thing is we thought DeSoda was going to die that year. It just wasn’t looking good for him. But he ended up living four more years. And I’m convinced it was because of Beau.” Then he said a profound thing we have all heard before but never in this way. He said, “You may not be able to teach an old dog new tricks, but you can give an old dog a new purpose.”

I just wonder how many old dogs in the Church are bored out of their minds, and their lives would be radically changed if they’d just find a young puppy.

That is what the Great Commission is all about. “Old disciple, go into all the world and make a new disciple (or two). Find a puppy and end boredom.”

Choosing a Mentor – Part Four

We are looking at how to be wise when looking for and choosing a mentor. So far we have examined…                    1> A good mentor is a worthy example                                                                                                                                         2> A good mentor is available                                                                                                                                                    3> A good mentor has proven experience                                                                                                                                 4> A good mentor possesses wisdom                                                                                                                                         5> A good mentor provides friendship and support

6> A good mentor is a coach who makes a difference in people’s lives

A major theme in my life is the desire to add value to people and make a difference in their lives. One of the ways this happens is in a mentoring relationship (see yesterday’s blog – “Christians Can’t Be Passive). A mentor can be a great encourager when the person they are mentoring is wanting to grow and develop in the Christian faith and in their calling. In other words, they are not passive but are willing to invest time, effort, and even money to move forward in their knowledge, understanding, and application of biblical principles. To mature as a believer and minister.

In our world today we often substitute other words for “mentor.” The most familiar and common is the word “coach.” A coach is someone who carries a valued person from where they are to where they want to be. The key is ‘they want to be.” Otherwise, as I mentioned yesterday it just ends up in frustration… like pushing a parked car with the brakes on uphill by yourself. Not interested. 

In an article called, “A Coach By Any Other Namer” Kevin Hall describes what it means to be a coach. He writes,

      • In other cultures and languages, coaches are known by many different names and titles.
      • In Japan, a “sensei” is one who has gone further down the path. In martial arts, it is the designation for master.
      • In Sanskrit, a “guru” is one with great knowledge and wisdom. “Gu” means darkness, and “ru” means light – a guru takes someone from darkness into the light.
      • In Tibet, a “lama” is one with spirituality and authority to teach. In Tibetan Buddhism, the Dalai Lama is the highest ranking leader.
      • In Italy, a “maestro” is a master teacher of music. It is short for “maestro de cappella,” meaning master of the chapel.
      • In France, a “tutor” is a private teacher. The term dates back to the fourteenth century and refers to one who served as a watchman.
      • In England, a “guide” is one who know and shows the way. It denotes the ability to see and point out the better course. 
      • In Greece,. A “mentor” is a wise and trusted advisor. In The Odyssey, Homer’s Mentor was a protective and supportive counsellor. 

All these words describe the same role: One who goes before and shows the way. No matter what word you use to describe them, coaches make a difference in others’  lives. They help them grow. They improve their potential. They increase their productivity. They are essential to helping people effect positive change. 

Andy Stanley in “The Next Generation Leader” states, “You will never maximize your potential in any area without coaching. It is impossible. You may be good. You may even be better than everyone else. But without outside input you will never be as good as you could be. We all do better when someone is watching and evaluating … Self-evaluation is helpful, but evaluation from someone else is essential.”

In my opinion, good mentors share five common characteristics. They…

        • Care for the people they coach
        • Observe their attitudes, behaviour, and performance
        • Align them with their strengths for peak performance
        • Communicate and give feedback about their performance
        • Help them to improve their lives and performance 

Please note that the first letter of each characteristic spells “coach

The process of growing with the help of a mentor usually follows this pattern: It begins with awareness. You realize that you need help and that following yourself is not a viable option for effective personal growth. When a person comes to that realization, one of two things can happen. The first is that the person’s pride swells up and he cannot bring himself to ask another person for advice. This is a common reaction. However, to keep from looking ignorant, they almost always ensure their own ignorance.

The other reaction to awareness is to humble yourself and say, “I need your help.” That decision not only leads to greater knowledge, but it also often develops maturity. It reinforces that people need one another [- not just when they are young and starting out, but their entire lives. 

Chuck Swindoll in “The Finishing Touch” states…

“Nobody is a whole chain. Each one is a link. But take away one link and the chain is broken.

Nobody is a whole team. Each one is a player. But take away one player and the game is forfeited.

Nobody is a whole orchestra. Each one is a musician. But take away one musician and the symphony is incomplete…

You guessed it. We need each other. You need someone and someone needs you. Isolated islands we’re not. 

To make this thing called life work, we gotta lean and support. And relate and respond. And give and take. And confess and forgive. And reach out and embrace. And release and rely…

Since none of us is a whole, independent, self-sufficient, super-capable, all-powerful hotshot, let’s quit acting like we are. Life’s lonely enough without our playing that silly role. 

The game’s over. Let’s link up.”