In Sunday School classes across the country, there was a game that was played as I was growing up. They called it “Sword drill” after the Hebrews 4 passage comparing God’s Word to a sword. The game is quite simple. The Bible is held on top of the students head until the teacher calls out a scripture. Students slam their Bibles on the table and frantically search for the scripture that was called out. The first to arrive at the passage and begin reading would get a point. I have better and kinder Sunday School teachers than I was as a teacher. My two favorite verses to call out to my students were: Acts 8.37 and Mark 15.28. Most likely they are quoted in the footnotes of your Bible, but it is not often they are found in the actual text of your Bible. They are called textual variants (more on that later) and scholars don’t really know what to do with them. It brought me great joy to see the confusion on some of my kids faces…kinda mean right. I always gave them doughnuts to make up for it.
The quotation of Isaiah 53.12 is the textual variant, the added verse, of Mark 15.
Prior to Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press in 1439, manuscripts, books, and correspondence was copied by hand. It was an arduous, time-consuming, and precise. Errors in copying, both intended and unintended, happened. Sometimes, scribes hust heard things wrong. At other times things were misspelled. Think back to a time before word check and spell check. Sometimes, the scribe felt background information was needed for the reader to understand (see John 5.4). Or the scribe wanted to harmonize two passages (Luke 11.2-4 and Matthew 6.9-13). It wasn’t an exact science nor is it an easy topic to study. But what does this have to do with Mark 15.28.
It too is a textual variant that most scholars would argue was not in the original text of Mark. Mark was the first gospel written. It lacks the intricate structure that the other gospels possess. It show signs of being written rather hastily. It also doesn’t use OT prophecy in the same way, nor the volume of the other gospels. Mark is like a 6th grader on Red Bull, bouncing around telling the story at a fast pace, hoping his readers can keep up! One of his favorite words is euthus meaning “immediately”! The oldest, most complete, and best preserved manuscripts, codices, and papyri, do not have this verse in them. Some later families have the verse inserted. It is doubtful that Mark wrote this verse.
So if Mark didn’t write it, who did?
This is not meant to weaken anyone’s faith in the Bible or the accuracy of Scripture. To the contrary, I think it can strengthen it. The Bible is more complex yet so simple. It is a simple story of God loving the World, with a storied history.
The early church’s used to get letters and books from writers, make copies, and then send them on to the next one. People would copy down reports and books for their own personal libraries. They shared with one another, traded with one another, and compared libraries. With the same veracity of a 9 year old with Pokemon cards, men of ancient renown collected volumes of documents.
There is no doubt in my mind that John Mark wrote the original gospel of Mark. Ancient historians attest to it, the content seems to point to him, and I believe that he even wrote himself into the book (Mark 14.51-52). But once Mark wrote down his gospel and made his own copies (however many there were); he sent them out to the Church’s as a testimony to the identity of Jesus. And somewhere along the way, someone inserted this verse and it got copied over and over and over. Many later copies of Mark have this verse. It is in both manuscripts and papyri. It is wide spread.
So if it wasn’t original to Mark, and someone else inserted it after the fact, why worry about it here? Why Easter?
First off, Isaiah 53 is finally put in the “right” place. It’s a passage about the sacrifice of the servant in place of the people. And every other place its been quoted, it wasn’t at the crucifixion! Some early scribe, probably thinking about Luke 22, put this verse about “counted with the transgressors” at the cross. Some early believer knew this was something that needed to be spelled out to the readers of Mark.
Secondly, it connects with the mission of Mark. The main point Mark is trying to make is communicated in Mark 10.45: “For the son of Man came not be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” If that isn’t the thrust of Isaiah 53, I certainly don’t know what is. If that isn’t the main thrust of the Crucifixion in Mark 15, I certainly don’t know what is. Some early scribe connected the two and took away the doubt.
Finally, it says something about Isaiah 53. All of the major New Testament authors drew from Isaiah 53 in vastly different ways and for many different purposes. Mark, or should I say the scribes and copiers of Mark, used it in the most straight forward way possible. Jesus hangs between 2 criminals…which is exactly what Isaiah said. Could it possibly be that a scribe, who knew that they did not have apostolic authority or the direct access to an apostle, shouldn’t stray to far from what would be called direct application? Just a thought.
The point is that Isaiah 53 has more than just crucifixion in mind as evidenced through the last week. But when it comes down to it, the major application, the major point of Isaiah 53 is straight forward: a servant took on our sin.
“For the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10.45)
In rereading Scot McKnights book The Blue Parakeet, I am reminded of the storybook nature of the Bible. Not a mythical story, or a fairy tale, but a narrative including characters, in depth story lines, a central plot, and revelation. The story can be lost with too narrow of focus so, just like I will present to the Middle Schoolers at camp tomorrow morning, I have put together a reading plan to capture the whole story.
It was three years ago that I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. While I still don’t have it completely under control, I am getting better. Type 1 is usually found in kids and teenagers, but no shocker to most of you, I matured a little bit later than most. Yet I can’t imagine how a 4 or 5 year old kid can manage this disease, or their parents for that matter.
With the kick off of A1C camp at Gage park this week, I wanted to let you know about an opportunity for you to help many others who have this disease. Penny and I have signed up to raise money for JDRF, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, and we hope to raise $500 at the rodeos and camps that we will be at during the months of June, July, and August.
We made leather steer-heads with the blue circle for Diabetes Awareness and with a donation to JDRF you can stick one of these guys on a gear bag, hang it from a purse, or attach it to a saddle and help fund research for juvenile diabetes.
Just a little update for you.
There have been many places where joy found me. Last year at Chariton Hills Rodeo Bible camp was one of them. I watched from the top row of a sale barn/chapel, as two young men shared the gospel with some of their bullriding students. I didn’t know what to call the feeling then, but I certainly do now.
It found me at the Burlington Pizza Hut. Sitting around 3 large pizzas with a group of young rodeo athletes as our talk transitioned from a book to the gospel, it hit me. I couldn’t put my finger on the feeling, but I can now.
It arrived at Hog Wild BBQ around my second helping of seasoned fries. I was discussing the attributes of God with a young man when we got on the topic of grace. Then the feeling struck me. I couldn’t explain it at the time, but can definitively explain it now. It wasn’t the heartburn from the two helpings of brisket, or the numerous seasoned fries…it was the same thing that made Paul sing in spite of his chains. It was joy.
Paul found joy in the preaching of the gospel. The communication of God’s love for humanity, Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and his resurrection, and the reconciled relationship between us and God. This is what brought Paul joy in Philippians 1.
The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. (Philippians 1.18)
The backstory here is fairly simple. Paul, once again, is in chains. While sitting in a jail cell, he passes the time by writing to some of the congregations that he began during his early travels. He is writing this letter the the Phillippians. They know about his checkered past because his first visit there resulted in his imprisonment (Acts 16).
As discussed prior, Paul’s circumstances didn’t dictate his demeanor. He was joyful in every surrounding, even a prison cell. But while he is in prison, some have begun to preach the gospel for profit and fame. They are doing it for selfish reasons, for rivalry and competition (1.15). Yet, Paul’s attitude about it is not what we would expect. He takes the same approach as he does toward everything else. It doesn’t get to Paul because the outcome, regardless of motive, is the preaching of the gospel. Christ is preached…I rejoice (1.18)
The gospel, the good news of salvation, has always carried with it joy. Luke 15, “the lost chapter”, there are three parties. When the shepherd finds his sheep he says “rejoice with me, I have found my lost sheep.” (Luke 15.6) When the woman finds her coin she says: “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.” (15.9) When the prodigal son returned his father said: “Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; was lost and is found.” (15.24)
When the gospel is preached, when it is experienced, when it is lived, joy is the natural by product. Luke communicated the connection in his “lost chapter”. He was, after all, a traveling companion of Paul. I wonder where he picked this up at? It was modeled and lived by Paul.
Paul saw the connection between the gospel and joy and wanted the Phillipians to catch it as well.
When you are down on joy, search out the place where the gospel is being preached. Surround yourself with those on the front lines of evangelism. Write a missionary, volunteer with a youth group, join the welcoming committee. Do something to place yourself in a place where the gospel is being lived out and taught to those without it and there you, like Paul, will find joy.
As I sat down to study over the last few weeks one thought has raced through my mind: during this time of transition, what type of man do I want to be. It’s not a question of what I want to do or accomplish, but who I am becoming. After a few weeks of studying, listening, and absorbing, I have found that I want to be a giving man, a praying man, and a joyful man. The first two are fairly easily remedied. I should pray more and give more, but how does one become joyful? Quoting John Ortberg: “I am joy impaired!” So I asked the question: What gave Paul joy?
Paul’s letter to the Philippians is packed with joy, but the circumstances of the letter was not. Paul is in prison for preaching the Gospel. To pass the time, he picks up a pen and writes to a body of believers that understands what persecution looks and feels like. In spite of his current condition, joy flows from his pen. It was these very people who saw Paul and Silas beaten and thrown in prison on their first visit to Philippi. They were also the people who heard that at midnight their songs and prayers filled the prison (Acts 16.25). What gives a man joy that allows him to sing while in chains? Philippians 1 gives us a glimpse.
It’s the joy of partnering with others. Joy can be found in the people sharing the fox hole. “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayer for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel…” (Phil 1.3-4) The Philippian Church was a vital partner in the ministry of Paul. So much so that he would take a rabbit trail in a letter to another church, the Church at Corinth, to brag on the Macedonian churches.
“And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in the service to the saints.” (2 Cor. 8.1-4)
The ones who are doing ministry alongside him, gives him the joy to sing. This week I was brought joy by:
- Watching a soccer coach pour into her athletes, so much so that they call her their ‘soccer mom’. The love of Jesus is being shown through her life.
- Riding with a horse trainer talking about the opportunities he has been given this summer for clinics and competitions where he will have contact with more lost people than most people do in a lifetime.
- Eating Mexican food with a good buddy talking about his future fatherhood
- Talking to the youth ministry students at Ozark
- Bringing my buddy, Penny-Dog to school and watching her love the kids…she is my partner in ministry.
The joy of partnership can fade circumstances and situations into the background. The joy that is found in partnering to advance the gospel cuts through the dark, rises above the fog, and brings clarity and freedom. Paul tells Timothy, in 2 Timothy 1.4, “I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy”. Partnerships are what made Paul sing.
It’s the joy of grace. Paul continues his letter: “It is right for me to feel this way about all of you since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me.” (1.7) The greek word for joy, chara, is very similar to the greek word for grace, charis. Over half the times the word ‘grace’ is used in the New Testament, it is by Paul in his letters. It is a concept Paul cant communicate enough of. These words also form the root of one of the words translated in Scripture as ‘forgive’, charizomai. The point is that joy is not to be separated from grace and forgiveness. Paul sings because of the grace he has been shown by God. The gift of grace, extended to the chief of sinners, is a reason to sing. Paul tells Timothy:
“The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of who I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as a an example for those would believe on him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever…Amen.” (1 Timothy 1.14-17)
He ends that passage with doxology, a song. Song flows out of the grace that he himself has been shown. When is the last time your heart was moved to song because of a gift? Scripture, song, and prayer have been composed in some dark places: Job’s trials, David’s retreat, Jeremiah’s tears, Jesus’ night of agony. But song and prayer overflows in times of refuge and peace as well…”Shout for joy to the Lord all the Earth” (Ps. 100); “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.” (Ps. 150). Now Paul finds himself in the midst of both. He is in chains but his heart is in joy. He is drowning in persecution, but his heart is overflowing with joy. The joy of being shown grace.
It’s the joy of being rooted in God. Just like Nehemiah and David before him, Paul knew the source. “Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8.10) and “…David found strength in the Lord his God.” (1 Sam. 30.6) “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ,filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ–to the glory and praise of God.” (Phil 1.9-11) Joy only comes through a relationship founded in Jesus Christ. One of the byproducts of the Spirit, the fruits as Paul puts it in Galatians 5, is joy. Paul’s joy is a direct result of his daily connection with God. His joy comes through his relationship with Jesus Christ. And he prays that the Philippian joy comes in the same way, from the same source, through the same work of Jesus.
Joy is found despite what we are covered in, surrounded by, or in the midst of. Paul had more things go wrong than most, still he was known by his joy. What makes a man sing in prison, amid shipwrecks and beatings, abandonment and persecution, in a word: joy.
David’s story is really told in two parts and it all centers around a man named Nathan. Nathan the prophet arrives on the scene in 2 Samuel 7, stays until 2 Samuel 12, during which he puts a kink in all of David’s plans. The problem in a nutshell was power; Nathan pointed that out. It was his words, given by God to David through him, that tells Davids story best: “I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock, and appointed you ruler over my people Israel” (2 Samuel 7.8). The power the was given David from God, was lost after he gained the throne because David forgot from where it had come.
The beginning of David’s story is well documented. David, the youngest of a group of brothers is anointed by Samuel to be the next King of Israel (1 Samuel 16.7). The problems in, no particular order, were these: 1) there was already a king (King Saul); 2) He wouldn’t have even been the first pick of his family (that was usually the oldest); 3) He wasn’t that spectacular (contrast him with Saul in 1 Samuel 9.2 and 11.24).
The thing that made David stand out is recorded from the mouth of God in 1 Samuel 16.7: “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
Throughout David’s ascent to the throne, there were times that other’s tried to change who David was. “David you have too look like this to have power”; “David, you must do this to be powerful” and so on.
Before fighting Goliath, what did Saul have him do? “Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head. David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them.” (1 Samuel 17.38) Saul was saying: “David, you have to be like me to go do this.” Do it this way and gain power! But it was the heart after God in David that was powerful enough to face Goliath, not the power of armor and the sword of the King.
In 1 Samuel 24, Saul has been pursuing David for some time. Saul knows that killing David will give him the undivided loyalty of the people and cement the throne for him for some time. He got sidetracked with a Philistine invasion as he was closing in on David the first time (1 Samuel 23.26-29). After subduing the invaders, Saul has resumed the chase. But like anyone on a long journey, nature calls sometimes. The King went into the very cave where David and his men were hiding to take a potty break. David’s men saw the fortune in this and said: “This is the day the Lord spoke of when he said to you, ‘I will give your enemy into your hands for you to do as you wish.” (1 Sam 24.4). What do you think the men of David expected? “David, kill him and end our hiding!” “David, finish him and you can be King!” Do it this way…and get power!
Later on David would have the chance once again to get Saul. He and his army were camped alongside the road. David took one of his three closest men, Abaishai (2 Sam. 23.18ff.) down to the camp at night. They saw that Saul had fallen asleep with his spear next to him. Abaishai turns to David and says what we are all thinking: “Today God has delivered your enemy into your hands. Now let me pin him to the ground with one thrust of my spear; I wont have to strike him twice!” (1 Samuel 26.8) Translation: “David, this is how you do it!”, “David, get your throne by killing him!”. Do it this way…and get the power!
Of course David refused all three things, the armor of Saul, the murder in the cave, and the spear by Saul. His idol and hero, his men, and one of his closest friends, all had the wrong way to power. And David withstood all of them. David’s heart towards God was all the power he needed to journey to the throne.
But something strange happens in 2 Samuel 10. David takes Bathsheba, sleeps with her, and then kills her husband. David has the power of the throne and uses it. No longer is his connection with God the source of his power, but the throne. Nathan is the one who calls him on it.
David not only took what he wanted (Bathsheba) and tried to cover it up (death of Uriah), he sought power with the men in his command. In 2 Samuel 24, David counts the men in his army. In short the message was this: “the power is found in who has the biggest army!” David heard the message! Shortly after he had done this, you feel the pain in David’s spirit.
“David was conscience-stricken after he had counted the fighting men, and he said to the Lord, ‘I have sinned greatly in what I have done. Now, O Lord, I beg you, take away the guilt of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing.” (2 Samuel 24.10)
David’s life is a story of two halves. The first half, was one of power gained by faithfully following God. The second half, was one of power lost, by trying to gain it by himself. Jesus says: “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” (John 12.23-26)
He says in Mark 8: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.” (34-35)
The message of the Gospel is this: We live by dying and power only comes by submission. He is most powerful who has no power left to defend. Jesus taught that we live by dying to ourselves. When the glory of God is all that we care about, there is so much that we can look past. David’s power came from his relationship with God, not from what the world said.
David’s heart was powerful because it was in submission to God. When his mentor, the world, and his friend was telling him that power was to be found in a certain way…his heart after God told him differently. He followed God instead of their teaching. Jesus teaches that power comes from himself, not from the places we often look. We look towards things, idols, relationships, and abilities, but the Gospel shows that power comes only when we give it up to God! Go figure…
With great trepidation, I discuss this particular subject. I have never heard an audible voice telling me to “go” and I have never had my alphabet cereal spell out a destination for mission work. These are the thoughts that many have when we discuss a “calling” on their life. As if the only real and true “calling” can come from some kind of metaphysical interaction. It hasn’t helped recently that everyone who say’s that they were called by God to do something, has been pegged as a crazy person (think Michelle Bachmann in the 2012 presidential election). So how can mentors tackle this subject? It begins with knowing what a calling entails.
A “calling” [gk. kaleo] is an invitation. An invitation to join a party (Lk. 14.16-25). We are summoned to go on this great quest in trusting God to lead. It is a challenge to follow God wherever he leads: be it your interactions with others (general calling); or your vocation and ministry [from the latin word vocar, meaning “calling”]. It is a request to let God be the one who chooses the direction as we let Him steer. It is a beckoning to discover and enjoy the unknown to us, as God takes us where we need to go. Jesus started off by calling four fishermen, “Come follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matt. 4.18-22; Mark 1.16-20). The translation: “Come follow me and you will do things you never once imagined.” Jesus was asking them to follow, to go, to journey with him to an existence that was farther beyond their ambitions. Some have been specifically called in Scripture to do specific tasks (which I have written about elsewhere), but what about the men we are mentoring? We too have calls on our lives, they just might not be spelled out.
The Christian has two different calls on their lives. The first is commonly called a general calling. All Christians are called by God to live a certain way. This calling is called a general calling, meaning it was for everybody at all times in every circumstance. We were called to a life lived in relationship with Christ (1 Cor. 1.9); a life of holiness (1 Thes. 4.7; 2 Tim. 1.9); a life of peace (Mark 9.50; Col. 3.15; 1 Cor. 7.15); eternal life (1 Tim. 6.12); sanctification (2 Thes. 2.13-14). Henry Blamires put it best describing a general calling as “the responsibility of all mankind to live as children of God.” In essence it is the call to live out among the rest of mankind the relationship that we enjoy with our heavenly Father. We are to love one another (16 times we are commanded too); be at peace with one another (1 Cor. 7.15; Mark 9.50; Romans 14.19; 1 Thes. 5.13b); encourage each other (Hebrews 3.13; 10.25); speaking truthfully to one another (Eph. 4.25, Col. 3.9); honoring your father and mother, and countless others. The commands, the stipulations that apply to all mankind are our General calling. The Puritans had three levels of calling, and the first two [Abide in communion with Christ, and the common] are those that would be expressed in our general calling.
The second type of call is a specific calling. This call is individual to the Christian. No two specific calls are exactly the same. This call is what we think of when we use the word vocation [the latin word vocare means “calling”]. Our specific calling is “God’s call to man to serve him in a particular sphere of activity.” Your specific calling is the area where God has gifted, placed, and prepared for you to flourish. In this life we were created to thrive, not just survive. Specific calling is the place where God has created us to thrive. Jethani points out that our culture is moving towards this idea of calling.
Younger people today, perhaps more than previous generations, have a strong sense of their specific calling. They believe God has called them into business; the arts, government, the household, education, the media, the social, sector, or health care, and they are often very committed to these venues of cultural engagement. But when their specific callings are never acknowledged by the church, and instead only our common callings or the goal of the institutional church is extolled, the young feel like something important is missing.”
God has placed in you a specific mix of gifting, ability, passion, and desire that is unequaled and unmatched by anyone else on the planet. Our use of these things is part of our worship and service to God. Dallas Willard reminds us that the use of our specific calling is part of our stewardship. Wayne Cordeiro warns that we often get confused about our calling: “It’s easy to get our callings mixed up with our careers…I recall hearing an old saying that still holds true today: ‘Your career is what you’re paid for. Your calling is what you’re made for.’”
At this point I feel it is necessary to interject a brief statement about the equality of all callings. Our culture struggles with what I call the pendulum paradox. Our culture has eliminated the middle ground. The pendulum swings from one extreme to the other. One the one hand, much of the Christian community has made a bigger deal than necessary about the height of the calling to serve in a Church (based in my opinion largely upon a misapplication of James 3.1). When I was in college there was an unwritten hierarchy with located church work at the apex. To work for a church is the only way to make sure that you are doing God’s work. To that Dallas Willard argues:
“it is as great and as difficult a spiritual calling to run the factories and the mines, the banks and the department stores, the schools and government agencies for the Kingdom of God as it is to pastor a church or serve as an evangelist.”
On the other hand, with the rise of bi-vocational ministry, the increase of the parachurch ministry (especially amongst this generation), and the amount of worldview training (helping people understand how their calling fits into the overall picture of God’s redemption of mankind), there is an undercurrent of distrust and disillusionment of located Church ministry. In some areas, Church work has taken a nose-dive as a respected profession. Some believe youth ministry is nothing more than showing up to kids games, playing x-box, and being a paid best friend to a middle school student. Some believe the pastor works only one day a week. The work (if you can call it that) of minister has become a punch-line. In a way of finding the equilibrium position of the pendulum let me argue the equality of callings. The reformation mindset needs to be at the forefront of our thoughts. For years the church instead of being a priesthood, had a priesthood. Luther’s reformation argued for the priesthood of all believers, meaning we all had the responsibility of interceding, and serving the community of mankind for God’s purposes. The youth pastor, the tire maker, the police officer, the stay-at-home mom, or the accountant has all been charged with the purpose of glorifying God and serving others. As Tim Keller reminds us, “All work, according to God’s design, is service. Through work we enrich one another and become more and more interwoven.”
 Blamires, Henry. The Christian Mind (Regent Publishers: Vancouver, 1963) 20.
 Jethani, Sky. “Uncommon Calling” Christianity Today. January 2013. pg. 52
 Willard, Dallas. Spirit of the Disciplines (HarperOne: San Francisco, 1988) 214.
 Cordeiro, Wayne. Jesus: Pure and Simple (Bethany House: Minneapolis, 2012) 39.
 Willard 214
 As one in this profession, I feel that I can be honest and upfront about the issues. I will tell you that it is in part due to sin within the ministry, laziness of pastors, a perceived incompetence within the pastorate, and a weird mix of relatability/unrelatability of those in ministry with the parishioners.
 Keller, Tim. “Vocation: Discerning Your Calling” redeemercitytocity.com
I 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” redeemercitytocity.com
^Bickers, Dennis. The Healthy Pastor (Beacon Hill: Kansas City, 2010) 138.
**Deresiewicz, William. “Generation Sell” Nov. 12, 2011 <http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/13/opinion/sunday/the-entrepreneurial-generation.html>
The case could be made that the ministries of some of the greatest men in the Bible, pinnacled as they anointed and mentored their successors. Moses had a great run standing up to Pharaoh, but it was his mentoring of Joshua that would fill more pages of his story than anything else. Elijah spent his days in the middle of a crumbling kingdom, trying to re-align their moral compass and pushing himself to the brink, but his ministry climaxed as he found Elisha to pour into. Try to read through 1 & 2 Timothy without noticing the instruction, the guidance, and the direction that Paul was trying to impart to his protégé Timothy.
When studying the lives of these people it is best to put them in juxtaposition with one another, which led me to this study. Many have sat down an attempted to write a character sketch of Paul or of Moses. I too studied their lives in an effort to understand them. Every study I undertook ultimately left me disappointed. Paul and Moses had an impact that lasted well beyond their day. Without even taking an account of the quarter of the Bible being written by their hands, it was the way they influenced the people around them that had a great impact on the future of Israel and the Church respectively. What did Moses and Paul do in mentoring the next group of leaders? What methods and actions did they undertake?
Moses and Paul didn’t just expect mentoring to happen. Moses was told by God to appoint Joshua as his successor (Numbers 27.18) and Paul called Timothy his ‘dear son’ (2 Timothy 2.2). These relationships didn’t appear “organically” as some in churches have expected. Organically is often a word used in place of “unplanned”, “unintended”, and “accidental”. Timothy and Joshua were certain of their roles and their relationships with their leaders. Pastors need to become more intentional with raising up leaders to succeed them. In Judges 2 a startling picture is shown when “another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel.” The previous generation/the older generation, the one who had seen the walls of Jericho fall, the Jordan River parted, the manna and the quail daily, the fire at night and the cloud by day leading them, departed, gathered to the fathers, died. The next generation wasn’t prepared by that generation.
It is vital for the survival of Biblical manhood for us to be future thinkers. We need to be daily asking the question: Who’s next? The purpose of the next few Monday’s is to help us avoid the issue that plagued Israel so long ago and answering the needs of young men: Providing Leadership for the Next Generation. Failure to do so will materialize for us the way it did for Israel in Judges. “After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel.” (Judges 2.10) After an entire generation, ones that had seen the Jordan dry up before them, the walls of Jericho fall, the sun standing still, the manna and quail daily, the pillar of cloud and fire, had passed away…the knowledge of the works of the Lord was not passed on to the next generation. For the next few weeks, on Mentoring Monday, by leaning on the lives of Moses and Paul (and by proxy their mentees Joshua and Timothy), I want to provide a framework for mentoring from the Biblical text.
In all my life, I have owned three things with my name on them. A college soccer warm-up shirt, a bullfighting jersey, and a belt buckle. All of them have come in the last few years. Growing up, however, I was certain that a shirt with my name on it would give me legitimacy in sports, and in life. I mean, major leaguers had their names on the back of their shirts. It cost an extra couple bucks and a certain amount of organization to put the name on the back of a shirt. I was kind of a shallow and ignorant individual.
Still as an adult I feel the need for that affirmation and identity, and still as an adult, just like Saul, I search for them in the wrong places. But the story of David and Saul, show what happens when we derive our identity from God as opposed to other things like victories, people, or titles.
The story of David and Goliath, is really a story comparing David and Saul. And before we get indignant about comparing one imperfect human being to another, their whole history has been one of comparison.
…The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command. (1 Samuel 13.14
The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to one of your neighbors–t0 one better than you. (1 Samuel 15.28)
It is a comparison derived from the text.
This comparison not only showed through in their anointing, but I believe is even more clearly displayed in their identities. David found his identity in God and his purposes and plans, where as Saul found his in the title, the people, and his accomplishments. Rest assured, if a man was to find his identity in God and Him alone, it makes some things more clear.
It becomes clear what we are supposed to do. (1 Sam. 17.1-32) Saul was the King of Israel but he was not in a good spot with God. The battle lines had been drawn up and the Philistines were controlling a valuable territory both economically, geographically, and for National Security.* Who ever controlled these ridges and valley’s controlled commerce and security. Saul as the King was responsible for all of this. The victor of this battle would have the upper hand in all of these areas. Between the battle lines, a champion named Goliath would defy the armies of God, twice a day for forty days. (1 Samuel 17.16) When Israel asked for a King, it was clear that they wanted a man to go and fight their battles before them. (1 Samuel 8.20) This was what Saul was meant to do as King. Instead he and all the armies of Israel were “dismayed and terrified” at the giants words. (1 Samuel 17.11) Saul had gotten used to wearing the title without taking the responsibility; he wanted the buckle with out the beating. David, on the other hand, knew exactly who he was and what he was commissioned to do. He knew this giant was defying not just the army of Israel, but the God they served. (1 Sam 17.26) Someone had to do something and that someone would be him. “David said to Saul, ‘Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.'” (1 Samuel 17.32) Someone once said, “If we spent more time telling them who they are, we would spend less time telling them what to do!” David knew who he was and that came forward in his actions. Knowing your identity in Christ, will lead your feet to follow him, press your hands to service, and your heart to love.
It becomes clear what we are to avoid: trying to be something we are not. (1 Samuel 17.33-51a) David stepped up to fight and the first thing Saul did was to tell him he couldn’t. Goliath had been trained his whole life to fight (1 Samuel 17.33). Besides David doesn’t have the armor or the experience that Saul has. Saul tries to put his armor on David and it just doesn’t fit right. (1 Sam 17.38-39) The message from Saul is quite clear: “You need to become like me to do this”. Saul knows that David needs his resume of victories, his experience fighting, and his armor to defeat Goliath. But David has God’s process on his side. The battles with bears and lions over lambs, the heart of worship, the trust in God’s faithfulness, and the willingness to follow God (1 Samuel 17.34-37), was all the training that he needed. Instead of a kings sword, David, with sling and stone, would face the giant. Maybe that is what God was looking for the entire time. Even Goliath seemed confused that “only a boy” was sent to fight him with “sticks” (1 Samuel 17.42-43). Where Goliath and Saul missed it, David knew exactly who he was: “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.” (1 Samuel 17.45) David didn’t have to become something he wasn’t, change the man that God had made him to be, put on an image or keep up an act, instead, he was the man God had fashioned and empowerd. Shocking confession: sometimes, even in ministry, men can get jealous of others and try to be something they’re not. The first time I read a 17 page manuscript sermon, people hated it because that is not who I am. The first freestyle event I entered, I tried to jump a bull and he hit me in the midsection. I wanted to be Dusty Tuckness, but I am Travis Long. I beat myself up all the time because Daniel Unruh and Lucas Littles can make an extrodinary save, make a few rounds, and then get a way looking good. My saves are just that, saves with no flash. I catch myself constantly wanting to preach like Doug Aldridge, ride like Josh Rushing, the passion of Seth Reynolds, the compassion of Roger, or the steadiness of Chuck Harris. Their gifts, matched with their experience, made them who they are…so why cant that be true for me and for you?
It becomes clear when people let God determine their identity, others take notice. (1 Samuel 17.51b-58) David prevailed over Goliath and three entities took notice. 1) The Philistines took notice. They took an ran before this boy who killed their champion. (1 Samuel 17.51b) They came to watch a fight but ended up running for their life. 2) The Israelites took off after the Philistines. For forty days they cowered before Goliath, and now they surged forward and chased the Philistines from the valley because of the actions of one young man who’s identity was given by God (1 Samuel 17.52). 3) The King. Before David had killed Goliath, Saul watched him going out to meet him (55-56). He noticed the young man. After his victory, Saul again took notice of him (57-58). Saul had promised tax exemption for the family of the man who would kill Goliath. Saul probably knew David from his time serving him as a musician (1 Samuel 16.14-23), but most likely did not know his father Jesse. So he asks. But Saul’s interest in David did not stop there. His notice, would turn to envy and jealousy. Finally it would end in attempted murder and pursuit. There are men, some of whom are my best friends, who, when they enter a room, I become uncomfortable for this reason: NOTHING MAKES AN INSECURE MAN MORE INSECURE THAN A MAN WHO IS SECURE. A man who knows his identity and who God has created him to be and what he has been created to do, elicits fear, without trying, to any man who is unsure of his. David knew who he was and nothing bothered Saul more than that.
This story, told in VBS from days of old, is a little bit deeper than facing the giants in your life, it is about who is really in control and who gives voice to who you are. David’s identity in God achieved victory over the Philistine, kept him from contemporance, and challenged everyone that he would come into contact with to become better. That is the kind of man I want to be.
*a point which I am grateful for John A. Beck pointing out in his wonderful article “David and Goliath, A Story of Place: The Narrative-Geographical Shaping of 1 Samuel 17”