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Mentor Monday: Giftedness

kid and cowboy bootsI am not a fan of mass production when it comes to making disciples.  I think public education is realizing its own mistake in turning public schools into a factory that takes in kids and spits out graduates.  Mentoring is a highly personal endeavor and a Mentor helps his disciples FIND and UTILIZE their giftedness.  Of all the roles of a mentor and mentee relationship this is perhaps the most specialized and unique.  As Dallas Willard says in The Spirit of the Disciplines: “Everyone who has a pastoral role to others, whether as an official minister or not, must strive for a specific understanding of what is happening to those who come regularly under his or her influence and must pay individual attention to their development.” (247)  Giftedness comes in two somewhat overlapping areas, the first of which we will explore today.

Spiritual gifts are the “manifestations” phanerosis [1 Cor.12.7; 2 Cor. 4.2]) of the Holy Spirit’s work and power in the life of a Christian in order to build up the people of God. (1 Cor. 12.7; Eph. 4.11-12)  They are the evidence, the talents, and the abilities given by the Holy Spirit’s indwelling within the life of a Christian.  Every Christian has one, some have multiple, but only Jesus had them all.  These abilities are “gifts” (in the sense that they were not earned or achieved) from the Holy Spirit with the express purpose to meet needs.  It turns people from an inward focus, to an outward focus, from consumers to distributors.*

The first step is finding their Spiritual Gifts.  There are three theories to finding your giftedness: 1) Testing for them is a common way to find and reveal your gifts.  Most tests are arranged as a series of questions, which are assigned a numerical value based on how well they describe the person taking the test.  There are multiple tests and evaluations that are out there.  Most range from 50-100 questions.  This method assumes that you are honest with yourself and know yourself well. 2) Another method of finding gifts is what Nike has made its slogan for years: “Just Do it!”  The best way to discover something is to try it out and see what fits.  If we continually just try the things that we feel gifted at, we may never discover a gift or a passion that has been dormant and unknown.  This can at times become frustrating as the pains of trial and error can wear on. This is the “grip it and rip it school” of thought.  3) Or you can point them out!  At some point, someone may need to point out a gift that has gone unnoticed.  There are times when we are the last one to see the truth.  I have a student whom I constantly remind that his gifting is leadership.  This student can influence those in her class to do anything.  She would and still does argue that she is not a leader, but everybody in the church can see what God has given her.  This is where you as a mentor may be able to provide direction, counsel, and illumination for your protégé.

Now that it is understood what spiritual gifts are in the student, it is imperative that they utilizing them. One of the best presents I have ever received was a 20 gauge Remington 870 shot gun.  My parents got me the gun for my 12th birthday.  The next step was learning how to shoot it.  The Spirit freely gives gifts to God’s people, but learning how to utilize those gifts is often overlooked.  Dennis Bickers, in his book The Healthy Pastor, make this observation about the Church:  “The church seems to be the only institution in the world that still believes it can ask someone to do a job without requiring training for that job…This training should include both theological education and training in practical ministry skills.”^  Training people to use their gifts more efficiently and effectively should take a higher precedent in churches across the nation.  If we are to take Paul’s words in Ephesians seriously “It was [God] who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up…”  then as leaders and churches need to make it a priority to train, to prepare, people for service.  Peter reminds his readers, “Each one of you should use whatever gift he has received to serve others faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” (1 Peter 4.10)  Mark Moore, my Acts professor at Ozark Christian College, had a tradition of bestowing the name of a character from the book of Acts on every one of his students in class.  He would say your name and then tell you what character that he sees you as.  With each character he would give background and how they used their giftedness to further God’s kingdom in the book of Acts.  If only we as the leaders in the church would follow his lead in challenging our people to use their giftedness.

In order to utilize giftedness, the first thing is that we must know the opportunities.  Often times our inability to help people utilize their gifts comes from our own disconnection from the body.  Mentors need to keep their ear to ground in order to know the needs opportunities within the body.  I have found that high school students are either: a) too busy to find their own ways to use their gifting; or b) not motivated enough to find ways.  Not being willing to use their gifts is not the issue, but my job is to disassemble all the barriers that stand in the way of using their gifts.  Make an effort to talk to the leaders in the church and know where the needs are.  Check with ministry heads and ask them where people have vacant positions.   Ask questions, make a volunteer opportunity board in the fellowship hall of your church, post them online, send them out via Facebook.  There are many ways to inform your congregation (and your students) off places to utilize their gifts.   One creative way I have seen this done is after having taken the giftedness test, a bulletin board full of note cards with their giftedness was posted.  Written on the visible side was the gift that was needed to accomplish the task on the backside.  For example, one side might read “service” and the other side might read “clean the restrooms once a month at the church”.  One might read “encouragement” the other side might read “send a note to each person from your congregation in the hospital”.  Knowing the opportunities for implementation of gifts really comes down to communication and organization.

Secondly we can create our own.  If your search for vacancies has proved fruitless, get creative in thinking and find an outlet.  “Our cultural hero is not the artist or reformer, not the saint or scientist, but the entrepreneur.”**  This is the generation that gave us Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook; David Karp and Tumblr; and the Instagram creators Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger.  All entrepreneurs and all under the age of 30.  Most were under the age of 23 when they started their ventures.  This generation believes in creating the place where they fit.  Creating a place (and helping them create a place) for their giftedness to be developed and used takes a venture and vision, which the next generation of leaders can rally around.  Start with the gift and rule out nothing.

Finally, connect your disciple with those like-gifted.  After exhausting leaders, finding vacancies, and racking the brain to create and outlet for gifting, find someone who is gifted in a like manner and arrange a time for your mentee and them to get together.  When I first got to the church where I serve, most of our students were musically inclined.  I am very much not.  I didn’t know how to relate to them, how to lead them, of to implement their giftedness.  The church didn’t really have a great place for them to use their gifts at that time, but our worship leader assembled a youth band.  It was his leadership that showed me the necessity of connecting people with similar giftedness to create and to find a place to use the gifts that God has given.

Mentors make it a priority to help their disciples discover their gifts and to put them into practice.  Paul reminds Timothy to “fan into flame the gift of God” (2 Timothy 1.6).  A simple reminder for Timothy to exercise, to take care of, protect, and implement the gift that God had given him.  Paul had called Timothy out in his previous letter, making sure that his gift would not be neglected (1 Timothy 4.14).  When is the last time that a leader stepped in a held someone accountable for not using their gifts to the fullest extent?  I can’t think of the last conversation I have had as a youth minister, with a student, confronting them on a neglecting of the gifts that God had given them?  At a birthday party recently, I watched two young girls (3 and 5) open up every one of their presents.  They did not find excitement in the $50 Barbie’s or the $70 All American girl dolls, but it was the 50 cent tissue paper that they enjoyed throwing around the room.  If I had brought one of those presents I would have been frustrated knowing that I could saved a ton of money and went with just the tissue paper.  How much more does God feel seeing a gifting that he has placed in us go dormant and atrophied from lack of exercise?  The role of a Mentor is to help their student to discover their giftedness, by testing, opportunity, and telling them.  The next role of the Mentor is to find opportunities for the student to use and implement the Gifts that God has given them.  When I coached, I always told the athletes that my job as a coach was to put them in a position to succeed.  I’m not going to play the shortest kid on the team as a center, or the slowest person on the soccer team at forward.  As a mentor, it is my responsibility to help our students to find areas to serve where their gifts are used and their passions are fed.

*Keller, Tim.  “Discerning and Exercising Spiritual Gifts”

^Bickers, Dennis.  The Healthy Pastor (Beacon Hill: Kansas City, 2010) 138.

**Deresiewicz, William. “Generation Sell” Nov. 12, 2011 <>


Surviving Attack

tumblr_m1e50bLWVk1qljd8so1_500Patches O’Houlihan had nothing on David.  If the 5 D’s could work for David, Patches could make them work in dodgeball.

First things first: learn to dodge.  David learned to dodge.  Saul hurled his spear at David and David “turned from his face twice”, according to the Hebrew.  The NIV renders it “eluded”.  The idea is that David learned to evade the spears.  Being around spear throwers mandates that we, as targets, must learn to dodge the attacks that come.  Often there is little that we can do about the predicaments that we are in and our proximity to spears, so we must learn to stay alive amidst the danger.  By learning how to make them miss, we retain our place and remain alive.  Sometimes it is the pay, the relationship (familial or something like it), or the commitment, that keeps us from relocating, forcing us to stay within spearing range, but learning how to dodge, keeps us alive.

The second maneuver is to dive away.  I played goalkeeper in college.  Once you start to dive for a ball, there is no going the other direction.  When you are parallel to the ground there is no changing directions.  That is why there is no guessing, just reacting.  David had to commit to the direction away from spear throwing.  The common sense reaction, the way of this world says: “Saul no longer has a spear, and now I have his”, therefore, I grab his spear and throw it back at him.  But David knew that once your hand finds comfort on the handle of a spear, it will never find comfort without it again.  The move has to be away from the spear and a commitment to never picking one up.  Too many spear-throwers begin by picking one up that was originally thrown at them.  If we are to be men after God’s heart, then we must commit to not becoming spear throwers ourselves.  That means leaving the ones that were aimed originally at us, stuck in the wall, never to be thrown again.


Gardner Rodeo Bible Camp  Dodgeball MVP

Thirdly, David has to dip into his own soul and remember his identity.  If you have ever read the Psalms, David is no stranger to probing the depths of his identity and his relationship with God.   In 1 Samuel 18.12-19, David was committed to not letting the spear throwing change him.  He remained in closer relationship with the Lord (12), a commander of troops (13-14), a humble servant to Saul (18-19), and a man after the heart of God.  How many times does being targeted affect the target?  We can become “the victim” and wallow in pity or we can be come the aggressor and start throwing the spears.  Some choose to hole up and never trust again and some seek revenge at every opportunity.  Some have allowed the incident to take over their every detail of their lives.  They save old emails and letter of attack, archive old documents and letters of accusations or lists of people that they wronged…I for one don’t know anything about that (insert sarcastic emoji here).  Each document, file, extension, email, voicemail, text, and story became a sharpened point aimed back at the ones I felt were attacking me.  I became the very thing that I hated, because I didn’t know how to move on from the spear stuck in the wall.  It has taken a lot for me to dip back into what God created me to be and to do.

David learned to duck; keep your head down or lose it.  Through all of the turmoil, David continued to serve the man that God had chosen to lead his people (1 Samuel 18.12-16).  What is good for David was also good for Saul.  A victory for David meant also that the people of Israel, led by Saul, was also victorious.  The spear throwers may be elders, pastors, government officials, or bosses, it doesn’t matter, God put them in that position and we are to serve as long as we are under their charge.  God’s Word says:

  • When the Government throws spears: “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.  The authorities that exist have been established by God.” (Rom. 13.1)
  • When Elders or pastors throw spears, Paul reminds us in his speech to the Ephesian Elders at Miletus: “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers…” (Acts 20.28)  God picked them and the elders of the church.
  • When bosses throw spears: “we are to obey our earthly masters” not as slaves, but as workers who “are working for the Lord and not for men…because it is the Lord Christ that we are serving.” (Col 3.22-24)

We could say the same for parents, friends, family members, other believers, and any other title that we could come up with.  We are to learn to duck, to continue to serve those that the Lord has given us to serve.
When we are exhausted because of the first 4 D’s, we move on to the fifth: Dodge (yeah again).  But before we get to that, we need to look at the last characteristic of a spear thrower.  Verse 29 of 1 Samuel 18 says: “Saul became still more afraid of him [David], and he remained his enemy the rest of his days.”  Once spear throwing begins, without God’s intervention and the person’s repentance, it will not end.  Saul wasn’t going to stop.  David “eluded” him the first time (18.11), and “eluded” him a second time (19.10).  This time the Hebrew account uses the word pater.  The word is used for a dam that is “breached” in Proverbs 17.14 and being “released” from a job in 2 Chron. 23.8.  Essentially it conveys the idea of “breaking for the open”.  David was left in 1 Samuel 19.10 with no other option than to make a break for it and run away.  First of all, this is not the idea of running in fear or backing away from a fight.  That is cowardice.  This is David, choosing to honor God, by letting the party established by God, to rule his people.  David dodged, to wait for his time and turn, appointed by God, to rule His people.  As a target, there will come a time when the only option that is God honoring is to leave.  In my experience, I missed multiple opportunities to honor God by leaving.  I should have gone to Kearney when I had the opportunity.  My spear-throwing career started, because I chose to stay.   I had the chance to follow and glorify God, yet I chose to stay and start chucking.  To this day, I am appalled at my profession of spear throwing.  Nate and Chad told me that things wouldn’t change…I didn’t listen.  Will things change for you as the target?  I don’t know.  But when the time comes, running is not cowardice or abandonment (as I once thought) but a decision to let God be God and his established leadership remain.

Resume of a Spear Thrower



Tombstone (1993)

Life was simpler when the good guys wore white hats and the bad guys wore black.  Every cowboy that walked into a scene was able to be identified immediately by the hat they wore.  Wouldn’t life be easier if we could just recognize the good and the bad at a glance.

Actions reflect the man.  Saul’s actions would lead to multiple attempts on David’s life.  Maybe you have had spears thrown in your direction?  Perhaps you were the one throwing them?  Chances are, at one time or another, you have been both.  It could be that you are living life under the charge of one who is trying to stick you to a wall?  Maybe you are the one in charge and wondering if you are in danger of starting to throw spears?  The characteristics of a spear thrower can be found in the middle of 1 Samuel 18.

The spear thrower was angry (1 Samuel 18.8).  The hebrew word is chara.  It is a word that means more than just frustration, or hatred towards someone.  Chara is anger ready to act.  This type of anger is different for two reasons: (1) It is ready, as it resides just below the surface.  Cain was angry (Gen. 4.5) and sin was crouching at his door, ready.  Jonah was angry (Jonah 4.1), and it took a mere word from God to bring it out.  Like a hedge post that is smoldering, a slight breeze can flare up (chara) into a massive fire.  Saul’s anger lived just underneath his skin and not even Jonathan was safe from it (1 Sam 20.30). (2) It acts.  Chara makes itself known.  When the Lord’s anger is aroused He answers with fire (Num. 11), a plague (Ex. 32.10), a donkey (Num. 22.22), a death (2 Sam. 6.6), and a journey (Num 32.13).  Humans answer with a killing (Cain), a beating (Balaam [Num 22.27]), a death wish (Jonah [4.9]), and thrown tablets (Moses [Ex 32.19).  For Saul it manifested itself with two spear thrusts (once at David and once at Jonathan [1 Sam 20.30])  Chara always makes itself known.  But for what?  The first characteristic of a spear thrower is: when they care too much about who gets the credit.  What made Saul angry?  A simple song declaring that David killed his ten-thousands vs. Saul’s thousands. (1 Samuel 18.7)  Have you ever served with, worked with, been related too, or friends with, someone who needed the credit?  Their name had to be first, biggest, and brightest?  Have you ever needed to be known for your involvement, your name in print, or the praises of men?  If you have known or have been, then you know a potential spear thrower!

The spear thrower was galled (1 Samuel 18.8).  Literally the hebrew means “saw evil in his eyes” [ra’a b’ayin].  In front of Saul stood a threat to his kingdom.  Saul was looking into a future where he would not be the focal point and that really bothered him.  “What more can he get but the Kingdom?” Saul wondered to himself.  Which brings us to the second characteristic of a spear thrower: When they begin to own something that was never theirs to begin with.  Saul had to protect his Kingdom.  The pronouns are important.  Instead of Saul being charged with the care of God’s people, it became his Kingdom to rule and protect.  When it starts being your church, your ministry, your possessions, or your money, as opposed to the ministry you serve, the money God has given, or the things God has blessed you with, you are well on your way to becoming a spear thrower.  Saul want to protect his kingdom.  David, on the other hand, was “taken” from the pasture to the throne (1 Chronicles 17.7).  He was in charge of a Kingdom he never built, in a throne he didn’t own, to do a job he wasn’t worthy of.  David knew the true owner and possessor of this Kingdom, Saul though he was it.

The spear-thrower was jealous (1 Samuel 18.9).  This is the only time that this word is used in scripture (called a hapex legomena for those that care).  Saul “kept a jealous eye” on David.  Up to this point David had assuaged Saul with his harp playing, fought battles in his honor and brought victory to his name.  He had dined with him and advised him.  David was a faithful servant to the King.  Now at every dinner Saul had to look cross-eyed across the table at his servant.  He double checked everything David did.  It takes a conniving person to think everyone is conspiring against them.  So Saul kept watch.  When they/you start to look at everyone around as a threat, potential usurper, and enemy you’ve got a potential spear thrower on your hands.  David knew what Absalom was doing in Hebron (2 Samuel 15.7-9) but refused to look at his son as a threat.  The kingdom, after all, belonged to whom God had chosen, therefore, David would not stand in the way.  David refused to “keep a jealous eye” towards his son.  Saul, however, looked at everyone that way.

Finally, the spear-thrower was afraid (1 Samuel 18.12).  Saul’s fear was rooted in two things: 1) the realization that God was with David (v.12) and 2) the success of David made Saul uncomfortable (1 Samuel 18.15).  The Hebrew word yare’ [afraid] is supposed to be used in response to God:

  • “I was naked and I heard you walking, so I was afraid.” – Adam (Gen. 3)
  • “I hid my face because I was too scared to look at God.” – Moses (Ex. 3)
  • “Do Job fear you [God] for nothing?” – Satan (Job 1)

It is a word that is meant to be used of men understanding where they stand before a Holy God.  For Saul, however, it was a word used to describe his character and his rule.  The object of Saul’s fear was not God, but men.  Saul was afraid [yare’] of the people (15.24), Goliath (17.11), David (18.12), and the Philistines (28.5).  The great leader had become fearful of men. Fear would define him.  When the work of God and His people begin to frighten them/you, then you’ve got a potential spear-thrower on your hands.  Saul was bothered by God’s chosen servant, David, and God’s chosen direction, movement against the surrounding nations.  It can get scary when God’s leaders, start to be afraid of what He is doing and how He is doing it.

All these qualities wrapped Saul’s fingers around a spear and thrust it towards David (1 Sam. 18.11).  So what’s your bosses excuse?  What is your brother or sister’s excuse?  Is a co-worker displaying some of these qualities’?  Are you starting to get a “cross-eyed” look from leadership, or a sense of fear from a pastor?  What about you?  Have you taken census of your own soul?  Are you fearing the direction God is going?  Are you gripping for something that was never really yours to begin with?  Do people alongside you elicit fear every time their name comes up?  Do you need your name in lights or a mention on facebook or a shout out in a captioned photo?  Where is your heart as your serving?  Hoping a picture will get leaked somewhere?

But what happens when you’re the target?

The inspiration for this study came from a fantastic book by Gene Edwards called “A Tale of Three Kings”

What the Church could learn from Legos

Cowboys in Church thanks Jason for the Legos

Cowboys in Church
thanks Jason for the Legos

The appeal of a miniscule, plastic, studded block has stretched the limits of kids’ imaginations, challenges the latest technology in sales, and plagued parents walking barefoot to the kitchen at 3 am. There are few things that match the pain of stepping on a lego brick laying isolated on a hardwood floor. As “play” becomes more and more passive and sedentary, with an influx of apps and screen games, the little brick has managed to not only survive, but thrive. It’s fitting that a company that makes blocks that stick together, would be able to hang on in the rapidly changing entertainment market. They, Lego, would call it “clutch power”, the ability to stick together. Much has been written on how the Church is a lego-like community. Lego’s, like Christians, weren’t meant to be alone. Have you ever played with a single lego? But I can speak from experience that the Church has struggled to think in “clutch power” as it comes to service, specifically when it comes to men.

A recent Popular Science article claims: “it has been calculated that there are more than 900 million possible combinations for six eight-stud bricks.”* Nine-hundred million combinations for six bricks? Creativity has no limits. I preface that by saying some men are well connected to the church in both belonging and service, as long as they are gifted properly. Simply take a look at the places to serve in the church and most of them appeal to women. They are places that women are naturally gifted, skilled, and experienced; often times outside of direct leadership and teaching from the pulpit. The areas of the churches greatest need are often areas of men’s least experience: hospitality, communication, compassion and empathy. These skills are nearly universal to most area’s of church service and also things that a lot of men either struggle with or are unconfident in. I am not absolving men from service to the church, but if we want more men to serve, we need to think honestly about giving them places to serve where they feel gifted, confident, and utilized.

8 studded brick

8 studded brick

“It’s been calculated that there are more than 900 million possible combinations for six eight-stud bricks,” according to the Popular Science article. (84) As I said earlier, we were meant to be connected, but the possibilities for connection (and service) are endless. At some point in the history of the church, there became standard area’s of service and no more. For years the church has asked men to serve, but in the same old ways. David Murrow, in his book Why Men Hate Going to Church, came to the same conclusion in his observations stating:

“Generally speaking, men’s gifts and abilities do not match the ministry needs of the American congregation…most jobs in the Church require verbal and relational skills that men may not possess. They demand proficiency with children, music, teaching, hospitality, or cooking; areas where women typically have more experience. A woman is so much more valuable in Church than a man because her natural gifts and life experiences enable her to fill so many slots.” **

It is my contention that men desire to serve, but are searching for a place to. We want a place that our gifting and ability can be used, that success is measurable, and we will be encourage through service. So how does the Church get men to serve? Just a few thoughts:

  1. Be concrete. Men are concrete thinkers and want concrete results. We enjoy areas of service that are task oriented because we are task oriented. The Church can help us out by giving specific descriptions of opportunities including: duration, time commitment, the type of work being done, and who it involves. Where as most women can deal with a certain amount of ambiguity, men strive under clear direction. Communicate the vision, the expectations, and the task upfront and help men out.
  2. Be Man-minded. We like competition, fun, and activity. We work best side by side as opposed to face to face. When helping get men involved in service, allowing them time to work alongside others can change the service experience for the better. Putting together tasks, projects, and goals can make the difference between a bad experience and a good one. There is a reason men congregate to mission trips, work days, and other activity minded projects. The church needs to think about how to incorporate these things into their weekly routine. Have a small group competition ever week; find small service projects (that can be done in an hour) during Sunday school; give men something to do as they are teaching (so that they aren’t face to face with their students)…try different things which leads me to the third one.
  3. Be ready to say yes. The common paradigm of service has left most men in the dust. Many want to serve and have ideas on what they want to do, only at times to be shut down by the modus operandi. Some ideas will be wacky, or uncommon, but it doesn’t mean they lack substance. Say yes!

When men lead in the Church, they become better leaders in the home. When men lead in the home, they become better leaders in the Church: it’s a cycle. The greatest servants in the Church that I know are also the men who exhibit that leadership in the home. Jason Hildebrandt and Aaron Jones are two guys who lead our youth group. They served alongside me, challenged me, challenged the youth, and set the direction and vision for the ministry. We grew alongside one another, became better men in our homes, and more connected to the Church. Aaron came alive watch the UFC, teaching our youth to do yard work, and teaching Sunday School. Jason led the most eclectic group of middle school boys you could envision. He came alive when he was playing games, talking lego’s, and ultimate Frisbee. These were two men, with very uncommon ministries, each finding a unique way to serve. They will someday lead the Church as elders because of what they learned from their students serving in the youth ministry. When men serve, they gain experience to lead. The final result is a healthier and more vibrant Church. Women outnumber men in most Churches.  Men show up when they have a vested interest.  Men show up when they are serving.  Without men serving, the Church struggles to become all that God intended it to be. Leadership should commit itself to helping get men “connected” to service, but to do so we need to think differently about it.

The Corinthian Theatre made out of legos.  Jason Hildebrandt and I made the City of Corinth out of the plastic bricks for a lesson one time.

The Corinthian Theatre made out of legos. Jason Hildebrandt and I made the City of Corinth out of the plastic bricks for a lesson one time.

*Paterniti, Michael. “Everything is Awesome and Mysitcal and Made Out of Plastic Bricks.” Popular Mechanics Apr, 2015. pg 84.

**Murrow, David. Why Men Hate Going to Church (Nashville; Thomas Nelson, 2005) 38.

Bob, Bezalel, and Ohilhab: Men the Church Need

IMG_0709During life, everyone meets a “Bob”. My Bob was a child of the depression; a GI, retired Postal worker and entrepreneur.  He was able to make just about anything with his hands. Perched on pillars at the edge of his driveway, sat two eagles, mid-flight, that he had carved with his own two hands and cast in bronze. He built a kwanza hut for him and his wife to live in as he built his house.  But before he built the house, he had to move the Boce ball court he had built for his wife. I first got to know him because of his handiwork.

My sermon was forgettable (and I know because I had forgotten it), but I had mentioned new research on whether or not Noah’s Ark was a sewn boat based on an ancient boat excavated in the Sea of Galilee. Bob met me down stairs and asked for a picture of the boat. The following week he arrived at church, far to excited for a man who carries glycerin tablets for his heart, with two boards held together with twine based exactly off the archaeological diagrams.

It would be three years and countless numbers of breakfast’s at the Grantville “Almost Home Café” when our next project would arise. I was planning a purity dinner for the middle school girls at the Church and I searched far and wide for a trinket for them to take home. A friend showed me how simple it would be to weld a piece of steel to a horseshoe and write the Bible Verse on it. The problem however, was twofold: 1) I didn’t have access to a welder; 2) I had no idea how to weld. Bob was the answer to both. When he heard about my predicament, he told me to meet him at his house one afternoon. I met him as he was pulling out all of his equipment ready to go to work. He would spend the next 3 hours teaching me to weld, showing me how to set things up, and how to make a clean bead. After 40 horse shoes (80 welds), which for him must have seemed like eternity with my shaky hands in control, we had accomplished our goal. Just before I left his house he said this, “I feel guilty that I don’t help you out enough.”  One of his attempts to help was buying me a mule to train, but that story is for another time.

That was the beginning of Bob helping out at middle school youth group. An 80 year-old-man hanging out with between 50-75 inner city middle school students sounds like a social science experiment, but for some reason it worked. Bob showed up every week. He handed out snacks, talked with the kids, and helped me out. He didn’t understand a lot about them, questioned some things, but he was faithful and devoted to teaching the kids.

Bob’s are a rare find today, just as they seemed to be back in Moses’ day.

“And he [the Lord] has given both him [Bezalel] and Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan the ability to teach others.” (Exodus 35.34)

The placement of this verse is interesting. In verse 31-33, Bezalel is described as having both the theoretical ability (31), the material ability (32), and the physical ability (33) to make the structure and furnishings of the Tabernacle. On the other side, in verse 35, Moses reiterates the physical skills needed to make all the things of the Tabernacle. To link together, these thoughts, Moses shows how God has given them the ability to teach others to be master craftsmen and designers.

The word the NIV translates “ability” in verse 34, is the hebrew word leb which is most commonly translated heart. So Bezalel and Ohilhab, didn’t just have the ability to do the tasks, but the heart to “teach” people how to do it. Elsewhere it ahs been discussed how the heart is more than just feelings and emotions in the ancient near eastern mindset. For Bezalel and Ohilhab, teaching [yare] or probably more accurate, showing or displaying for others, was a passion and desire. It was their will and motivation to help and teach others.

I have known great and skilled people, who’s ministries, business, and legacies, did not outlive them, because they were unable to teach others. What makes Bezalel and Ohilhab, so special is not just their skill but their heart to teach. God set these men apart, because the job was bigger than just them. He knew that they needed to be leaders on display, teachers able to communicate, workers with dirt under their fingernails.

Bob spent time investing in me. Bezalel and Ohilhab, spent time investing and training their people to the point where they became master craftsmen. There have been numerous men who have invested into me on all sorts of levels. It should be our heart, our will, our passion to do the same for the next group of men coming up in the Church. Whether it is going through a book with them, drinking some root beer and watching a game, showing them how to change the oil, or even just lunch after church, men take a moment to teach the next group of men. Church’s are full of young men needing spiritual mentoring and it needs to become our heart to teach others.

Runnin’ on all cylinders

195157I inherited an 8n tractor. Inherited is probably not the correct word. Dad upgraded and the 8n became yard art. It hasn’t ran since the upgrade and if I can drive it off its mine. The engine, a 4 cylinder, needs some work. I think it will run, but not fully. At least one of the cylinders has a compression problem (I think!). If you had to use it, it would probably work, but wouldn’t be able to do the things it’s supposed to be able to do; the things that made it the most popular tractor in American history. I wonder how many of us aren’t running on all cylinders.

The saying “running on all 6 cylinders” alludes to an engine where the injectors, spark plugs, pistons, and values, are working in proper timing and coordination to move the drive train, which inturn drives the transmission, which drives the car/truck/tractor. If just one of all the parts is ineffective, out of time, or out of commission, the whole system suffers and thought the machine may run, will prove to be lacking in performance. How often in life would you say you spend running on all 6 cylinders? Part of the problem is that we often don’t know what the cylinders are. Human beings, like legos, were created to be in relationship and community. In the same way that you can’t play with a single Lincoln log, lego, or eat a single Pringles chip, humans don’t do well in isolation.   We were made to have certain relationships. When one of our relationships goes bad, the entire system suffers. Though it may still work and run, it isn’t performing at peak performance. So these relationships help our lives run at peak performance:

  • Our relationship with God. When Adam and Eve sinned they hid from God (Gen 3.8-10) and we have been in hiding ever since. Sin and disobedience have clouded our relationship with God.
  • Our relationship with family. Adam and Eve…Cain and Able…James and Jesus. Nearly every page of Scripture save the first and the last is riddled with family strife. Sin took the family apart piece by piece. The same can be said for our own families.
  • Our relationship with self.  Shame entered the world with Adam and Eve. They sowed leaves together to hide their nakedness. Shame and pride are inward emotions. So sin distanced us from God, from others, and from ourselves.
  • Our relationship with others. The world has 6.8 billion people on it and there is more strife than ever before. With Babel in Genesis 11, the world was divided by thoughts, language and worldview. We are divided by oceans, continents, and seas, but our greatest divide is worldview.
  • Our relationship with Creation. Creation was God’s gift to us to explore, work and learn from. Now creation is marked with disasters, tragedies, and struggle. We fight it, use it up, and toil against it.
  • Our relationship with Culture. Society, music, media, and communication are areas that were taken captive after sin entered the world. Sin has tainted our relationship with the arts, creativity, and expression. Messages are lost, mistranslated, and under communicated because of the distance because of disobedience.

We went from a six cylinder fine ride, to a bike without pedals. From a high performance engine to a Fred Flintstone foot-powered mobile with a single decision of disobedience.

How do we get back to running full speed, full power, on all cylinders? Jesus says “…I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” (John 10.10b) John uses the greek word for life [zoe] thirty-six times in his book. The word is most often used in reference to the life given by a person’s proximity to Jesus. John writes the purpose of his book is: “these things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20.31) Many times we thing about the life that Jesus offers is life after death, but with John it is so much more. Life, as described in the book of John, is not just a life like the one we have now with no end, but a quality of life that is promised. This is adventure; it is excitement, contentment, and joy. The life promised in John, as a gift from Jesus, is fulfilling and sustaining like bread (John 6.35-49), refreshing and quenching like water (John 4.14), illuminating and focusing like light (John 8.12), and directing and true (John 14.6).

My life needs some maintenance work. I have ran down a few cylinders for a while, mostly because I think I can solve and diagnose my own issues. Jesus promises the life that I want, the one I need. The beauty of Jesus words and his story is that no one is beyond restoration.

The Clustered Craftsmanship of God

Skill, ability, and wisdom are all qualities that would make anyone successful. These are the qualities of a successful businessman, farmer, rancher, welder, or horseman. These are qualities that are better modeled than taught and before they were ever modeled in humanity our Heavenly Father modeled them for us from the beginning.

It is fitting that the first person to be spoken of as “filled with the Spirit of God” is not an academic or leadership guru. Nor is it a celebrity or a financial savant, but a craftsman drafted into the service of the Lord. In Exodus 31.2 it says: “See, the Lord has chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts.” The three qualities that the Spirit of God “filled” Bazalel form a distinctive cluster of words that are found a few other places in the Old Testament. He is said to be filled with “skill” or hokma, a word more commonly translated “wisdom”.   Biblical wisdom is the tools to live well. It is our life lived and decisions made in response to who God is. Bazalel was also endowed with “ability” [tebuna] and “knowledge” [da’at]. “Ability” denotes understanding; a capacity to see the big picture that comes from a long-life (Job 12.12), an even temper (Prov 17.27) and a hold on the tongue (Prov. 11.12). All of these things will contribute to a life lived without need for a course correction (Prov. 15.21). Bazelel was a man of the big picture, able to keep true to the direction and the plan.

The importance of his work cannot be over stated and undoubtedly was not lost on him. The cluster of words previously mentioned carry great weight because the only other times they are found together, they speak of the character of God or the communion of God with His people. They are clustered at:

  • “By wisdom [hokma] the Lord laid the Earth’s foundations, by understanding [tebuna] he set the heavens in place; by his knowledge [da’at] the deeps were divided, and the clouds let drop the dew.” (Prov 3.19-20) Creation was the original meeting place of God and man. It was the first communion between our Heavenly Father and us. No veils, no separation, no distance. True face to face communion and communication fostered by His wisdom, understanding, and knowledge.
  • The Tabernacle. “…the Lord has chosen Bezalel…and has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill [hokma], ability [tebuna] and knowledge [da’at] in all kinds of crafts.” (Ex. 35.30-31) The tabernacle was the sanctuary of God during the time of wandering in the desert up until the Temple was built by Solomon. (2 Samuel 7.6; 1 Chron. 23.26). In it resided the Ark of the Covenant, the Table, the Altar of Incense, the Altar of Burnt Offering, the Wash Basin, and all the other things need for worshipping the Lord. Everything that resided in the Tabernacle, and the Tabernacle itself was under the skill and supervision of Bezalel and the Spirit that filled him.
  • The Temple.   David wanted to build it (1 Chron 28.2), he was given the plans for it (1 Chron. 28.12), but was told by God that Solomon would do it (1 Chron 28.6). Solomon undertook the building of the Temple (1 Kings 6), but hired Huram who “was highly skilled [hokma] and experienced [tebuna + da’at] in all kinds of bronze work. He came to Solomon and did all the work assigned to him.” (1 Kings 7.14) The ark was brought from Shiloh to the Temple, where God’s glory filled His new dwelling place (1 Kings 8.10-13).
  • The Messiah. “The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom [hokma] and of understanding [bina], the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge [da’at] and of the fear of the Lord…” (Isaiah 11.2) The “him” here refers to the “shoot from the stump of Jesse” which is to say the Messiah. The Jewish community interpreted these verses (and all of chapter 11) as a Messianic prophecy. A careful study of the life of Jesus and the teaching of the early Church in the book of Acts reveals a community that understood Jesus as a resting place for the Spirit of the Lord. He even applies another Isaiah text to himself that begins “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me”. (a quote of Isiah 61.1-2) Jesus was from the line of Jesse (Acts 7.23), grew in wisdom (Luke 2.40, 52), and had the Spirit rest on him (Matt 3.16)

What ties all of these together is not just the words but also the implication of God’s presence. These were all places where God dwelt with Man. In the Garden/Original Creation, God would walk with man in the “cool [ruach] of the day” (Gen. 3.8). Sin broke our relationship and made hiding desirable. There would be no more walks with the Lord and no more seeing His full glory. For year’s there would be intermittent contact with God. People knew that he was with him (even non-Hebrews could see that [Gen. 39.3]) but there was no lasting place for God to dwell among His people until He gave Moses instructions for the Tabernacle. Moses was to “make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell [sakan] among them. Make this Tabernacle…” (Ex 25.8-9) The tabernacle was God’s dwelling place in the center of the Hebrew camp. When they entered the Promised Land it was set up at Shiloh, where God would eventually say “Go now to the place in Shiloh where I first made a dwelling [sakan] for my Name…” (Jer. 7.12) But the Tabernacle would eventually be replaced by a building designed by God, communicated to David by the Spirit, and built by the oversight of Solomon and the hands of Hiram. In the Temple at Jerusalem would now be where God’s name would dwell (Neh. 1.9; 1 Kings 8.12). God, however, would soon find another way, a different way to dwell amongst his people. John writes: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” (John 1.14) Jesus was God’s representative to this world for 33 years until he sent his replacement, the Spirit, to make his dwelling in us (1 Cor. 3.16).

The Lord dispensed His wisdom, skill, and ability in His interactions with man. These qualities came out because they were central to God’s character. He “gives wisdom and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Prov. 2.6) because that is part of His character. That is why Solomon implores those to “turn your ear to wisdom and apply your heart to understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” (Prov. 2.2-3)

We are now the vehicles by which God meets others. We are the carriers of his wisdom, skill, understanding, and ability. We not only bear the image of the one who created us, but we are indwelled with the very qualities that God has meet with humanity for ages. As we walk through the day, as we undertake a project, as we comfort those around us, as we interact with others, we are the meeting place where God’s character meets others…its our job to let Him do His thing.


I was driving home tonight with a couple of rodeo kids when the topic of “what drives you?” came up.  It was in the midst of a discussion about what causes us to do the things that we do.  “Sometimes we do the things we have to do, to do the things we want to do” kind of conversation.

I want 2015 to mean something.  I want to thrive in 2015 which means “why I do what I do” needs to be at the center of everything that happens.

I have known both of these students for a time.  I love both of these kids.  One did what they did because of the relationships that they have.  They know they are a role model, that people look up to them and they perform because others are counting on them to do so…a noble task.

The other did what they did because they loved it.   It was an accomplishment, a pride, that drove them to success and helped them persevere.

Then they asked me…

What makes me do what I do???

The answer was easier when I was in full time (paid) ministry, but tonight it just kind of spilled out.  I do what I do because of tonight.   Two students sharing their dreams and their lives with me on a drive home from pizza.  Hearing about a young woman buying the Percy Jackson books for her “little” brother (through Big Brothers/Big Sisters) is why I do what I do.  Getting to hear about a kid working out everyday so that he can ride bulls better; learning how to ranch from his father; building towards what he wants to do…is why I do what I do!

I do what I do because I work with some of the best kids I have ever known and Jesus is working in their hearts which, in turn, works on mine!

A Community Following Christ’s Challenge

photo 1Fixed oaken pews facing tword a curtained back drop stage.   Four chorus’ a sermon and an invitation.  A pulpit front and center with a preacher proclaiming his sermon.  Powerpoint slides, with ballet slippers as a background, expounding songs about “falling in love with Jesus” or “dancing with Jesus” shown on a wall above the band.  The baptistry, long since dry, waiting with hope as the parishioners exit the doors of the fellowship, passing by a sign that reads “You are now entering your mission field”.  Church.

For many these are the images of Church.  Sadly these were my pictures of what Church was.

photo 2

Cowboy Church at Council Grove

But what if it was so much more?  What if Church was songs sung as the sun rises over a damp arena, worship around a campfire, a conversation at the sale barn, or a late night of team roping?  What if Church has become to narrowly defined?

As he writes the book of Acts, Luke the Historian, breaks from recording stories and sermons, to take a birds eye view of what is happening with the Church.

  • Acts 2.24-47, the first of his overviews, is the result of Peter’s sermon at Pentecost.  The Church is getting its bearings, in its infancy, and Luke records its key components: teaching, fellowship, worship, and prayer.  Its people shared with each other as they had neeed, taking care of one another, and they praised God.  God kept adding to their number every day.
  • Acts 4.32-35.  The Church has grown in size and influence.  They are testifying to the resurrection and are growing together in their doctrine.  They are taking care of one another, providing for each other’s need, and grace is being poured out amongst themselves.
  • Acts 5.12-16.  God’s power over sickness and evil is being shown amongst the people.  As they are meeting together, God is working through them in each others lives the result of which is more and more people being added to their number.
  • Acts 6.1-7.  The numbers have grown so much that the daily task of taking care of people has become too much for the apostles.  They picked seven men to take on the task of serving the people, so that the apostles can focus on prayer and teaching.  The word of God spread and their numbers grew rapidly.
  • Acts 11.19-29.  The Church in Antioch gets it beginnings.   A great number of people came to the Lord and a multi-cultural Church grew to be the launching point for missionaries.  The Church at Antioch was the leading church in the area, quite possibly the world, and it all started here.

So what are these asides, parenthetical notations, footnotes about the early church supposed to teach us? Why is Luke filling in the book with these organizational details?

For all the things that Luke records the Church and the apostles doing in the book of Acts, I think he is using these small teachings to recalibrate what the Church is all about.  We can get so tied up in the stories about Peter, John, Paul, and Barnabas that we think that we should do everything that they did.  But in these sections Luke takes a step back and reminds us what the Church is really about:

  1. It’s a Community…we are God’s people.  We are unified, devoted to one another, and connected.  The early Church took care of one another.  They fed eachother, took care of one another, and loved each other.  When one joined the Way, they often were kicked out of the synagogue after a while, lost their meal ticket, and were sometimes abandoned by their friends, families, and bosses.  The only way to survive was to depend on your fellow Christians.  What would it look like if we took care of one another the same way today?
  2. …Following Christ…the thing that tied it all together was the Name of Jesus Christ.  It was the resurrection that changed these people.  Suddenly it was sunday that they were worshipping on (Acts 20.7) and they were devoted to this teaching by the Apostles (Acts 2.32,42).  Christ’s call on their lives was the thing that they all had in common.  How would this change the way we orient service and worship?
  3. Challenge.  The Challenge of Christ was to love the people around them.  To serve and take care of the people they came in contact with, whether it was in the market as they passed by (Acts 2), those that they came to from a distance (Acts 11), or those that they would travel across the ocean to sea.  Christ’s challenge to them was to take care of them, to love them as he did, and to serve them as he did.  When is the last time we asked ourselves, who it was that God had brought into our life to serve and love?  My church experience would change if I honestly asked that question.

A Time to Experience

39740728_318073“Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment – Cowboy Proverb

It’s a strange feeling to wake up wondering where you are and how you got there. From a guy whose taken a few shots to the head, within the first few minutes, the puzzle can be solved of where you are and how it came to be. It doesn’t change the interesting feeling.

It was mid-june and I was down in Lyndon fighting bulls at a youth rodeo. The bull riding was still a few events away and I was doing what I always do before the bull riding: annoy the judges and chute help. The stock contractor looked over the chutes during a down time and asked me “if I was going to get my vest on and fight bulls today?” While I wasn’t paying attention, they had run some jr. bulls into the chutes. Without hesitation I put my vest on and hopped into the fray. The first bull bucked that day came out 2 jumps and spun to the right. The bull rider came off to the outside of the spin and I stepped in. Fifteen seconds ago I didn’t have my vest on and now I was making a save. The bull didn’t look at me as he continued his spin, but the bull rider wasn’t making a real quick get-a-way so I stepped in a second time I paused between bull and bull rider, when he stuck a horn under my right knee lifting me into the air. I was perched atop his head just long enough for my head to make contact with some part of his body. He took me for a ride, two spins with me as a hood ornament. I don’t remember that part. I came too sitting on his head and holding onto the bull rope. He flung me clear and left the arena. He had no intention of hitting me in retrospect…I just kinda got in the way. When I opened my eyes, sitting on his head, with a bull rope in hand, I wondered where I was and how I got there.

Someone once said: “Experience is what you got when you didn’t get what you want.”

My briefly lived football career, my time spent on the cross country team, my service in ministry, all were times when I didn’t get what I wanted, but appreciate what I got. Fighting bulls, roping, and my attempt at cowboying has been spent getting experience. But my times of greatest experience pale in comparison to Moses.

Life had been good for Moses. He was saved from the waters of the Nile by Pharoah’s daughter (Ex . 2.5-6) In a wacky turn of events, his mother gets paid to raise him (Ex. 2.8) until he is old enough to learn the ways to rule. He grew up in the best schools of the most powerful nation on Earth (Acts 7.22). He was training to lead a nation.

But his quick temper got him into trouble and he killed an Egyptian who was mistreating a Hebrew (Ex 2.12). Now his life of luxury was behind him and he ran to the desert and entered his own time of “wilderness wandering”, following some of the dumbest animals that have ever graced God’s green earth: sheep. His father-in-law puts him to work and he spends 40 years wandering the desert tending his flock, not getting what he wanted but getting what he needed,

Experience to lead God’s people through a tough 40 years of their own; experience that Jesus would view as his ministry; experience to see that best lessons of schooling is no match for a relationship with God; experience that God would use as a metaphor of His relationship with us.

How many times did Moses feel like he was wasting his time? I feel like I am wasting my time often. I work at a school where I have no leadership and responsibilities. I have a bachelors degree in Old Testament, which I challenge you to find a more useless degree in the secular world. I feel like most of my life at this phase is a wilderness wandering where I am gaining experience. Experience….that I have no idea for what. Learning to trust God in these times is difficult as I wake up every morning and question the point of a lot of it. But experiences that Moses took from his time as a shepherd helped shape him into the leader that God could trust with His people.  I write this to remind myself that this is a phase, a stage, where I may not be getting what I want, but am certainly getting what I need.

What lessons are you learning in your desert wanderings and what experience are you gaining now that God is going to leverage in the future?