Pressing On

with THE WORD

A study of the Scriptures to discover who God is, what He is like, and how to partner with Him now.

Filtering by Tag: mentor

Trust the Process

Although in recent years the phrase Trust the Process has become a rallying cry for Philadelphia 76ers, I certainly remember hearing it said much earlier in my lifetime.  Typically it’s said by a coach attempting to win over a player’s confidence that the work put in today will reap benefits down the road.

It takes a lot of work to progress from a high school freshman to a college-ready athlete.  And it will take even more work if that college freshman wants to make it to the Pros.  And again, if you want to be among the best and have a long pro career – you better be ready to put in the work.  Few can ascend the ranks on natural talent, and those that do are forever remembered as someone who “never reached their full potential”.

Even if you have the motivation to work hard, you will need guidance.  You need that coach, that mentor, and their system – developed and refined over time to produce results in you that you may not even believe are possible.  You need someone who isn’t swayed by your emotional inner monologue.  You need a plan that takes all areas of your development into account.

However, the full list of what we need to develop is typically a blind spot.  Sure, we know our big weaknesses and a few of the little ones, for good measure.  But then the coach gives you a tough workout today after doing yesterday’s tough workout.  And then you are drilling – yet again – on the fundamentals.  You want to move on to other types of training, but coach won’t let up.  Sometimes, the drills just seem odd or unconnected to what we imagine as what’s best for us.  And it’s frustrating.

It’s in those moments you hear the phrase – Trust the Process.

Did you know that God has a development plan for believers? 

Becoming a Christian is simple enough, even a child can do it – we believe that Jesus will give us eternal life.  His death on the cross paid the penalty for all sin and His resurrection from the dead proved that He can fulfill His offer of eternal life.  Believing means we are persuaded that Jesus can do what He claims He can do; we are taking Him at His word, and we have faith in who He is.

When Paul was writing to the believers in Rome, he started his letter discussing how we are separated from God by sin and the only way to reconcile is by faith – not promises to do better, not dedicating our lives, not by effort, but by faith alone in Jesus.  At the end of this section, he says:

Romans 5:1-2
Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  We have also obtained access through Him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

But then Paul transitions his letter from how our relationship starts with God to what God has in mind for this relationship.  He spends chapters 5-8 discussing what this new life in Christ looks like; however, take a look at what idea Paul leads this next discussion topic with:

Romans 5:3-4
And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope.

Do you see The Process which God has in mind?  We all want to have hope as we go through this life, looking forward to when God will set everything right…but developing that kind of solid hope has some prerequisites.     

Rather than wondering “Why did God allow this to happen to me?” we need to Trust the Process God has laid out for His children.  Afflictions are hard, but they are worth rejoicing over because we know what’s on the other side and Who is with us the whole time.

Coaches often push us out of our comfort zone, in unexpected ways, in order to develop us further.  John Wooden spent time at the beginning of each season teaching his players how to put on their socks.  Mr. Miyagi gave Daniel-san the wax-on-wax-off chore.  I had a baseball coach insist that I learn how to juggle two baseballs.  None of these situations make sense to the athlete at the time, but they were all intentionally designed by the coach – John Wooden didn’t want his players dealing with foot blisters, Mr. Miyagi was teaching muscle memory, and my coach needed me to improve my hand-eye coordination.

God never promised Christians that life would be easy.  Jesus was quite clear that we will have trouble in this world (John 16:33).  However, our afflictions aren’t meaningless.  God has a purpose for us in them.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Flashback Favorite - My first assignment

My first assignment
originally posted on April 20, 2016

Wait, I’m going to teach what?

That was my mental reaction to my first teaching assignment from my mentor, Joe.

Our mentor-protégé relationship began when he was teaching a Sunday School class and had asked if anyone was interested in team-teaching with him.  I was eager to teach, but I knew that I had to learn how to better handle the Scriptures if I was going to take on the responsibility of teaching God’s Word to others.  Joe pointed me toward Howard Hendricks’s Living by the Book and, with his guidance, I began to learn how to Observe, Interpret, and then Apply the Bible.

I figured that my first teaching lesson would cover one of the passages I had just learned from…instead, Joe said that my first teaching experience would come from teaching the class how to study the Bible, like I had just learned.  I was instantly nervous and gave Joe a weak “You sure about this?”.  But he assured me that this was the best topic for me to start with.

I profusely prayed over every lesson.  I did my best to communicate the three steps, as well as provide good examples and practice exercises – some lessons went well; others didn’t feel like they went anywhere.  To anyone who was in those first classes of mine, I say thank you for your patience!  That experience was a huge step for me and my growth – both in my relationship with God, as well as in learning how to organize and teach.  It certainly helped to have my mentor’s example, his directions, and his confidence in me.

Reading through the gospels, we find that Jesus did something similar with his protégés:

Matthew 9:35-10:1
Then Jesus went to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness.  When He saw the crowds, He felt compassion for them, because they were weary and worn out, like sheep without a shepherd.  The He said to His disciples,

“The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few.  Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”

Summoning His 12 disciples, He gave them authority over unclean spirits, to drive them out and to heal every disease and sickness.

When Jesus told them to pray that the Father would send out workers to reach the people of Israel, I’m sure they agreed that would be a good thing to do…but then Jesus turns around and tells them that it is time for them to go out and participate in the harvest, by doing what they had only previously watched Jesus do!  Imagine everything that must have been going through their minds – anticipation, nervousness, excitement, tension?  Trust me, it was all those and then some.

Matthew 10:5-8
Jesus sent out these 12 after giving them instructions: “Don’t take the road leading to other nations, and don’t enter any Samaritan town.  Instead, go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  As you go announce this: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’  Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those with skin diseases, drive out demons.  You have received free of charge; give free of charge.”

Notice how Jesus gave them parameters and direction for their first assignment.  They weren’t supposed to go outside of Israel.  They had a very specific message to proclaim.  They were also given authority to do what Jesus did – heal, raise the dead, cleanse, and drive out demons – and they were not to charge the people for these acts, just as Jesus hadn’t charged anyone.

The disciples would eventually be ready for the larger assignment of the Great Commission, where they were instructed to go make disciples of people from all nations.  They were not ready for that yet, though.  The disciples were still going to do what they had seen Jesus do, but their first assignment was on a much smaller scale.

As a mentor, we need to give our protégé assignments that will begin to stretch them now and incrementally prepare them for later.  On the flip side, when our mentor gives us an assignment that seems like a very large leap, we need to trust them. 

Looking back, it was that first assignment that propelled me closer to God and sharpened my teaching ability.  Joe was making sure that I was not going to be just another teacher who can only feed people The Word, but he wanted me to be able to show others how to feed themselves.  Following through on that first assignment, despite how rough it may have been on me and/or the class, has paid many dividends over the years since.

Keep Pressing,
Ken 

Flashback Favorite - Joe Rheney has relocated to Heaven

I can’t believe that it’s been a year.

What a day that was, too.  The funeral was a wonderful representation of the man himself.  People from all walks of life, who wouldn’t have known each other if not for Joe, came together to celebrate and remember.  There were stories, smiles, unity in grief, and hope-filled relief in knowing Joe had finally reached his goal, to be in the presence of his Creator, face-to-face with Jesus.

Joe would have approved of the service, but only for one reason: the clear, good-news message of Jesus Christ was shared.  Over the years, he had lamented to me several times that the best use of a funeral service was to reach people with Christ’s offer of eternal life while they thinking about the big topics of life, death, purpose, and legacy.  The importance of this message, and its life-changing impact, were on full display during the event.

The verses that helped Joe, as a freshman at the University of Georgia, see his need for Jesus came from a letter written by the Apostle John:

1 John 5:11-13
And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.  The one who has the Son has life.  The one who does not have the Son of God does not have life.  I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.

As much as January 11, 2018 was a day of rejoicing and remembrance, it was under a shadow of mourning and grief.  I still miss him, terribly.  But a reunion is coming – either in Heaven or at the Rapture, whichever comes first. The next time I see him, there will only be joy and gratefulness – all because Jesus paid the price for our sins and gave eternal life to anyone who would accept His offer.

As Joe often said: I’ll see you there, or in the air!

Joe Rheney has relocated to Heaven
originally posted on January 11, 2018

On December 29, 2017, Joe Rheney, my father in the faith and the originator of THE WORD, passed on into Heaven.  Today, January 11th, he will be buried with military honors.  His family and friends have gathered to honor the man who loved and shared Jesus with countless people.  I have the double honor of being a pallbearer and speaking at his funeral.  Below is the text of my speech:

I first me Joe in 2004.  By anyone’s standards, he had already lived a successful, fulfilling life.  He had honorably served his country.  He had been married to his sweetheart for decades.  They had raised a son who was also married, with his own honorable service and thriving career, and they had grandkids.  Retirement was near, and he was entering the time of life when most everyone looks forward to putting their feet up and taking it easy.

I was at the other end of the spectrum.  25.  Married for almost 5 years.  The father of two young boys.  Just starting to get traction in my career.  And more naïve than I realized.

Joe was teaching Sunday School at Chestnut Ridge Church in Morgantown, WV, and my wife and I regularly attended his class.  One day, as the class time was wrapping up, he stated that the burden of teaching was too much for him to do alone and asked if anyone would be interested in teaching with him.  Now I had grown up in the church, and while I enjoyed tutoring and teaching during my schooling and for my job, I knew I was unprepared to stand in front of a class and teach the Bible.  However, I felt prompted to tell him, very specifically, “I would like to help you teach, but first I need to learn to study.” 

Looking back, this was clearly the Holy Spirit making sure I said the right thing, at the right time to start our relationship.  Joe began coaching me through the process of Observing, Interpreting, and Applying Scripture.  For nearly 9 years, Joe was my father in the faith – he mentored me through many of life’s early storms – ones that I didn’t even know were on the horizon.

He didn’t have to take me under his wing.  No one would have blamed him for coasting the rest of his years.  But Joe knew the value of mentoring and training the next generation of disciples.  He was the one who taught me how to study the Bible.  He taught me how to love my wife when she was rather unlovable or when I was stubborn (or when both were happening).  He constantly stressed the importance of being a Godly example for my boys, and making sure they saw me do Godly things.  He warned me about the temptations that arise when traveling for work.  My wife deals with some of the same health issues his wife has…while he couldn’t tell me how to fix them, he helped me love her and support her as she went through it.

Joe was a great mentor because he lived all these things.  He would smile that sly grin and tell me, “I’ve already made the mistakes.  If you listen you me, you won’t have to make them too.” 

I eagerly played the part of Timothy while he played the part of Paul.  Timothy was an outsider with a good reputation, potential, but someone in need of a mentor.  The Apostle Paul took him under his wing and guided him to become his eventual replacement.  Paul told Timothy do the same.  In one of his letters, Paul said, “what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). 

It wasn’t just me, either.  I have encountered many others over the years that refer to Joe as “my mentor”.  His openness and eternity-focused example resonated with so many.  Another one of the Apostle Paul’s protégés was a young man named Titus.  And when Titus died, his successor in the ministry referred to him as “the exalted echo of Paul’s own voice”.

As I have told friends and family of Joe’s passing on to Heaven, I have struggled with conveying everything that he meant to me, everything that he taught me, and everything did for me.  You and I would have to sit down and talk for days if I were to really attempt it.  The best way I’ve been able to quickly communicate his impact on my life is to say, “If you know me, then you’ve met him.”  I would not be the man I am today if not for his voice in my life.  Joe reflected Jesus so well that it rubbed off on anyone who spent time with him.  And that’s what Christian discipleship looks like.  This is what Jesus meant when He gave His disciples The Great Commission.  We teach the next generation how to connect with God.  We partner with them, so they learn how to partner with God.  In the end, the protégé reflects his mentor, but they both have been reflecting Jesus all along.  That is how the world will see Jesus.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Joe Rheney has relocated to Heaven

On December 29, 2017, Joe Rheney, my father in the faith and the originator of THE WORD, passed on into Heaven.  Today, January 11th, he will be buried with military honors.  His family and friends have gathered to honor the man who loved and shared Jesus with countless people.  I have the double honor of being a pallbearer and speaking at his funeral.  Below is the text of my speech:

I first me Joe in 2004.  By anyone’s standards, he had already lived a successful, fulfilling life.  He had honorably served his country.  He had been married to his sweetheart for decades.  They had raised a son who was also married, with his own honorable service and thriving career, and they had grandkids.  Retirement was near, and he was entering the time of life when most everyone looks forward to putting their feet up and taking it easy.

I was at the other end of the spectrum.  25.  Married for almost 5 years.  The father of two young boys.  Just starting to get traction in my career.  And more naïve than I realized.

Joe was teaching Sunday School at Chestnut Ridge Church in Morgantown, WV, and my wife and I regularly attended his class.  One day, as the class time was wrapping up, he stated that the burden of teaching was too much for him to do alone and asked if anyone would be interested in teaching with him.  Now I had grown up in the church, and while I enjoyed tutoring and teaching during my schooling and for my job, I knew I was unprepared to stand in front of a class and teach the Bible.  However, I felt prompted to tell him, very specifically, “I would like to help you teach, but first I need to learn to study.” 

Looking back, this was clearly the Holy Spirit making sure I said the right thing, at the right time to start our relationship.  Joe began coaching me through the process of Observing, Interpreting, and Applying Scripture.  For nearly 9 years, Joe was my father in the faith – he mentored me through many of life’s early storms – ones that I didn’t even know were on the horizon.

He didn’t have to take me under his wing.  No one would have blamed him for coasting the rest of his years.  But Joe knew the value of mentoring and training the next generation of disciples.  He was the one who taught me how to study the Bible.  He taught me how to love my wife when she was rather unlovable or when I was stubborn (or when both were happening).  He constantly stressed the importance of being a Godly example for my boys, and making sure they saw me do Godly things.  He warned me about the temptations that arise when traveling for work.  My wife deals with some of the same health issues his wife has…while he couldn’t tell me how to fix them, he helped me love her and support her as she went through it.

Joe was a great mentor because he lived all these things.  He would smile that sly grin and tell me, “I’ve already made the mistakes.  If you listen you me, you won’t have to make them too.” 

I eagerly played the part of Timothy while he played the part of Paul.  Timothy was an outsider with a good reputation, potential, but someone in need of a mentor.  The Apostle Paul took him under his wing and guided him to become his eventual replacement.  Paul told Timothy do the same.  In one of his letters, Paul said, “what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). 

It wasn’t just me, either.  I have encountered many others over the years that refer to Joe as “my mentor”.  His openness and eternity-focused example resonated with so many.  Another one of the Apostle Paul’s protégés was a young man named Titus.  And when Titus died, his successor in the ministry referred to him as “the exalted echo of Paul’s own voice”.

As I have told friends and family of Joe’s passing on to Heaven, I have struggled with conveying everything that he meant to me, everything that he taught me, and everything did for me.  You and I would have to sit down and talk for days if I were to really attempt it.  The best way I’ve been able to quickly communicate his impact on my life is to say, “If you know me, then you’ve met him.”  I would not be the man I am today if not for his voice in my life.  Joe reflected Jesus so well that it rubbed off on anyone who spent time with him.  And that’s what Christian discipleship looks like.  This is what Jesus meant when He gave His disciples The Great Commission.  We teach the next generation how to connect with God.  We partner with them, so they learn how to partner with God.  In the end, the protégé reflects his mentor, but they both have been reflecting Jesus all along.  That is how the world will see Jesus.

Keep Pressing,
Ken
 

Be Prepared

Nearly everyone knows the Boy Scout motto of Be Prepared.

This motto is repeated to the young men over and over, encouraging them to think past their immediate circumstances.  This simple phrase shifts their gaze to what the future may bring and instructs them to consider what they may need to do now in order to be prepared for various scenarios.

Similarly, when Paul wrote his first letter to Timothy, he wrote to encourage his protégé to be prepared for all parts of his job as leader of the church in Ephesus.  We have observed Paul writing things like I urged you and I am giving you this instruction…so that by them you may strongly engage in battle.  Later we’ll see Paul write if you point out these things and be conscientious about yourself and your teaching

And in the middle of his letter, Paul gives his thesis – his entire purpose for writing:

1 Timothy 3:14-15
I write these things to you, hoping to come to you soon.  But if I should be delayed, I have written so that you will know how people ought to act in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.

Notice that Paul admits to not knowing the future.  If anyone in Scripture was going to be clued-in by God as to what the future holds, Paul would be a good candidate.  But God didn’t tell him what personal, day-to-day events were coming next.  Peter wasn’t told those things, either.  Moses, David, Solomon…nope, nope, and nope.  While a vision or two was occasionally given by God to select individuals, those events happened only for very specific purposes.  Even when we consider the extensive Revelation given to the exiled Apostle John while he was on Patmos, future events were foretold; however, John was not informed if (or when) he would get to leave the island.

Paul has plans to work with Timothy again in Ephesus, but just in case something happens to change his plans, Paul wants Timothy to be prepared to continue his mission.

Timothy’s purpose was to take those who are saved – those who have trusted Jesus for eternal life – and help them answer the question: “Well, now what?”.  This is an incredibly important mission.  If Timothy were not there, then most folks would probably just go back to whatever sin-focused lifestyle they had before they encountered Christ…because that’s all they knew. 

They needed to build their new lives on the foundation of the truth.  Timothy was to show them how to cut the wood, hammer in the nails, and make their home with Jesus.  Paul wasn’t there to help them do that, and there was a chance that he could be delayed in doing this good work alongside Timothy.  So Paul did the next, best thing.  He still made an eternal contribution to the Ephesian believers (and us, too!) by writing Timothy a letter, making sure that Timothy was fully prepared to do the work God had called him to do.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Fulfilling His plans for us

Ever wish that God would just tell you what He has specifically planned for your life?  Maybe not all the details, but at least how He desires for us to partner with Him?  Very rarely was God that clear and specific with anyone in Scripture; however, God did foretell some details to one of Paul’s young protégés.

At some point while he was growing up, Timothy was told by God that he would do great things in ministry.  Paul knew of these prophecies; however, he also knew that Timothy still had work to do in order to fulfill what had been foretold about him.

1 Timothy 1:18-19
Timothy, my child, I am giving you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies previously made about you, so that by them you may strongly engage in battle, having faith and a good conscience.

Paul gave Timothy pointed instruction – both previously and in his current letter – for a specific reason: Paul wanted to encourage his child so that he could fulfill what God had designed him to do. 

Paul wasn’t trying to build Timothy up just so he felt good about himself, either.  Paul was looking forward to the time when Timothy was able to strongly engage in battle.  This phrase was spoken of a commander who would lead soldiers to war.  Timothy was to take Paul’s instructions, combine them with the special knowledge God had revealed to him, and then choose to apply them as he led an entire congregation of believers.

Timothy’s fulfillment of the prophecies previously made about him were conditional on his choices and actions.  Notice the Paul used the word may.  He had every confidence that Timothy could courageously lead the church in Ephesus, otherwise Paul would not have left him there and in charge.  But Timothy was still responsible to make use of the instruction and spiritual gifts that had been given to him.

Now I’ve never been given a prophecy about how I would serve God and point others to Him.  I suspect you haven’t, either.  Yet we do have special knowledge from God that even Timothy didn’t have – we have the entire Bible.  We can hold in our hands the complete revelation from God which details His plans both for and with humanity.

Our ability to achieve what God has planned for us to do is also contingent, just like Timothy.  If we are willing to take the instructions of our mentors, combine them with God’s revelation, and then choose to apply them…God’s design for us will be fulfilled.

Keep Pressing,
Ken
 

How to give correction, lovingly

No one likes a phony, especially when we are on the receiving end of correction. 

When presented with correction, our human nature will begin to build a defense any way that it can.  We justify our understanding, we make excuses for any gaps, and – if possible – we challenge the credibility of the messenger.

Because – we rationalize – if the person correcting us can be shown to be deficient, then we feel justified in not heeding their correction.

So does this mean we must have our lives perfectly put together before we can rebuke anyone?  Of course not.  However, those of us who lead know how difficult it can be for correction to be received and implemented…and how even more difficult it is to prompt a change in behavior when our own actions need some work.

Throughout his letter, Paul is mentors and advises Timothy on how those in charge in the church are supposed to lead and live.  Paul knows that it is not enough for a leader to just “go through the motions”.  So in addition to discussing what a leader is supposed to do, Paul also points out how they are to do these things, as well as their motivation of character behind doing them.

So when it comes to correcting error, take a look at where Paul tells Timothy he should be coming from:

1 Timothy 1:3-5
As I urged you when I went to Macedonia, remain in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach other doctrine or to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies.  These promote empty speculations rather than God’s plan, which operates by faith.

Now the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.

This love is the agape love, which is a ‘give-all’ kind of love that one has for the benefit of others.  This is the kind of love that God shows us; and in the context of giving correction, it is the kind of love Timothy is to have for his fellow believers who are messing around with bad teachings.

The goal of Timothy’s instruction is to show love to those he is correcting and that they will accept the correction, change their focus back to God’s plan, and also participate in the same agape love.

But this is where character matters.

Timothy could say “I’m correcting you because I love you” and still be a total jerk about it.
Timothy could say “I’m telling you this because I love you” and be a hypocrite.
Timothy could say “I’m commanding you to stop because you’re wrong and I’m in charge”.

In each of these situations, Timothy would be right – they need to be corrected – but he would have a difficult time convincing his fellow believer that change is necessary.

When we own ‘our stuff’, it is much easier to lovingly comment on ‘other people’s stuff’.  This applies to everyone, but especially those of us in leadership positions – at church, at work, or in the home.  Let’s take steps to keep our hearts pure, our conscience clear, and our faith sincere…and then love others accordingly, especially when they need correction.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

A note of encouragement

Remember your first “big assignment”?

You have learned, observed, asked questions, learned some more…and then, it was time.  Your boss gave you a task and then went on vacation.  The director stepped aside, and you were the only person on stage.  Your teacher put you in charge of the class – and then left.  How ever your situation came about, suddenly you found yourself working without a net.

If that sounds familiar, then you can empathize with Timothy. 

Timothy spent years working side by side with Paul.  He’s seen the good and the bad, the easy days and the hard days.  Together they have lived life, worshiped God, shared the gospel, and strengthened the faith of believers.  Timothy had started the church in Ephesus with Paul, and they ministered there for two years.  Now, years later, they have come back to Ephesus…however, this time Paul is moving on and Timothy is staying behind.

Ephesus was the third largest city in the Roman empire, with over 250,000 people living there.  It was also the regional capital, a bustling commercial center, and an important seaport.  Ephesus was a true melting pot of Middle East culture, and the people who became Christians had a wide-ranging background of religious experiences.  As many as 50 different gods and goddesses were worshiped there.  Other religious communities included Jewish religious practices and those who practiced magic, shamanism, and the occult arts.  The city was cosmopolitan on many levels, and the group of people who believed in Jesus for eternal life no doubt had a fair bit of baggage, a number of questions, and a need for guidance as to how this whole “life in Christ” thing is supposed to work out.

This is Timothy’s mission field.

It would be one thing to lead people with your mentor in an environment like that…it would be a whole ‘nother challenge if he left you in charge – but that’s what Paul did.

Imagine how Timothy felt, after he had been doing his best and some time had passed, when one day he received a letter:

1 Timothy 1:1-2
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus according to the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus, our hope:

To Timothy, my true child in the faith.

Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

Paul had written Timothy a letter of encouragement and instruction.  Right from the beginning, you can see Paul’s affection for Timothy – my true child in the faith.  These words would have breathed new life into the young man.  However, Paul’s words for Timothy weren’t sunshine and fluff.  In fact, Paul recognizes much of what he talks about as being hard…and that’s exactly why he writes to encourage Timothy to keep up the good work.  About halfway through his letter, Paul says

1 Timothy 3:14-15
I write these things to you, hoping to come to you soon.  But if I should be delayed, I have written so that you will know how people ought to act in God’s household

Paul doesn’t write Timothy to tell him how to share the gospel; Timothy knows how to do that.  Instead, Paul gives Timothy advice and encouragement for how to know what God expects of His family in the midst of mixed-up culture.  Even from a distance, Paul continues to support and exhort his young protégé. 

That is a great observation for us to take ahold of – mentoring doesn’t always happen side-by-side.  A note of encouragement can go a long way toward strengthening a person and keeping them focused on their Godly mission.  And that’s just the beginning.  We’re also going to take a look at what Paul had to say and how it was helpful to Timothy.  We have much to learn from their example.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Proud papa

How do you spell “love” to a child?

T-I-M-E

The same is true in mentoring.  Even a cursory look at the relationship between Paul and Timothy shows two things – that they spent a lot of time together, and Paul was proud of the man Timothy had grown into.

After leaving his family to join Paul and Silas, Timothy was present in many significant events in Paul’s missionary travels.  Timothy was at Philippi when the mob had Paul and Silas arrested.  Later an earthquake leveled the jail, which led to the jailer and his family to believe the gospel.  Timothy was also in Thessalonica when the riots started there, and he stayed with Silas in Berea when Paul was forced to travel ahead of them.

Timothy was also with Paul when he spent 18 months in Corinth, starting a church and ministering there.  Similarly, Timothy was with Paul during his two year stay in Ephesus.  Piecing together the timeline from other New Testament writings, we find that Paul would send Timothy out as his representative to encourage the churches they had previously established.

Timothy’s efforts mirrored his mentor’s so closely that Paul even referred to Timothy as “my co-worker” (Romans 16:21) and “our brother” (2 Corinthians 1:1, Colossians 1:1, Philemon 1).  Even more impressive is that Paul listed Timothy as a co-author in six of his letters – 2 Corinthians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, and Philemon.  None of Paul’s other ministering partners come anywhere close to that.

Over the years and years of working together, Paul also witnessed a lot of growth in Timothy.  Notice how Paul proudly recommends Timothy to the believers at the church they had established in Philippi:

Philippians 2:19-24
Now I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon so that I also may be encouraged when I hear news about you.  For I have no one else like-minded who will genuinely care about your interests; all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.

But you know his proven character, because he has served with me in the gospel ministry like a son with a father.  Therefore, I hope to send him as soon as I see how things go with me.

Their relationship is an excellent example of what a mentoring relationship should look like.  Timothy wouldn’t have developed without Paul’s guidance and the time Paul invested.  Timothy was able to learn from Paul; and not just to become a carbon-copy of his mentor, rather he would use Paul’s investment as the launching point of his own efforts to live out and spread the gospel.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Hello, my name is Timothy

Given the numerous mentoring examples in the Bible, it’s easy to see that God values the mentor-protégé relationship.  It is a special bond at an intimate level between two people.  Most of the Biblical examples give us just a snapshot – a mentoring moment or lesson taught – and then we must look at what happened next to the mentor and the protégé to find out how well the lesson was applied.  However, there is one mentoring relationship in the Scriptures where we get to see much more than a glimpse.  Paul and Timothy spent many years together, and much of their efforts and relationship is on display throughout the New Testament.

But who was Timothy?  How did they meet?  Why did they pair up?

We are first introduced to Timothy at the start of Paul’s second missionary journey:

Acts 15:40-16:2
Then Paul chose Silas and departed, after being commended to the grace of the Lord by the brothers he traveled through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches. 

Then he went on to Derbe and Lystra, where there was a disciple named Timothy, the son of a believing Jewish woman, but his father was a Greek.  The brothers at Lystra and Iconium spoke highly of him.

Timothy was a young man stuck between two worlds.  He believed in Jesus as the Messiah who would come from the Jewish half of his parents, but Timothy was also half Greek and grew up in a Greek city, surrounded by Grecian culture.  Since no additional information is given about his father, we can’t be sure of how much influence that heritage had – but the fact that he had not been circumcised suggests that Timothy wasn’t raised in a strictly observant Jewish household.  However, both worlds were still a part of him and people were aware of his mixed-race background. 

Although such mixed marriages were illegal in Jewish law, rabbinic texts reckoned a person’s decent through the mother’s line; and as such, Timothy would have been considered to be a Jew by the Jewish community.

Acts 16:3-5
Paul wanted Timothy to go with him, so he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, since they all knew that his father was a Greek.  As they traveled through the towns, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem for them to observe.  So the churches were strengthened in the faith and were increased in number daily.

Was it necessary for Timothy’s salvation that he be circumcised? 

No, not at all.  Salvation from eternal separation away from God is only through believing (i.e. – trusting) Jesus for eternal life.

Then was Paul being inconsistent by circumcising Timothy?  Was this an example of Paul “giving in” to local peer pressure?

No, not at all.  Timothy was already a believer before he met Paul.  However, given Timothy’s well known heritage, for him to come with Paul and have access to be a missionary in Jewish synagogues, he would need to be circumcised.  Otherwise, the Jewish communities would consider Timothy an apostate, and they would not be willing to listen to what he had to say about Jesus.

Timothy was willing to endure significant physical pain in order to share the gospel message with those who would have looked down on him as a “half-breed”, the same way that Jews had historically looked down on Samaritans.  In fact, by agreeing to be circumcised, Timothy boldly demonstrated an evangelistic principle which Paul would later pass on to the believers in Corinth:

1 Corinthians 9:19-22
For although I am free from all people, I have made myself a slave to all, in order to win more people.  To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win Jews; to those under the law, like one under the law – though I myself am not under the law – to win those under the law.  To those who are outside the law, like one outside the law – not being outside God’s law, but under the law of Christ – to win those outside the law.  To the weak I became weak, in order to win the weak. 

I have become all things to all people, so that I may by all means save some.

That is an incredible lesson for Timothy to grab a hold of so early in his mentoring relationship under Paul.  And it’s certainly not the last time Timothy is a reflection of his mentor.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

The invitation that launched a ministry

Let me introduce you to one of the great mentors in the Bible:

Acts 4:36-37
Joseph, a Levite and a Cypriot by birth, whom the apostles named Barnabas, which is translated ‘Son of Encouragement’, sold a field he owned, brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

Barnabas shows up many times throughout the New Testament.  He was always well respected, and he lived up to his nickname by encouraging others.

After Saul’s encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, not everyone believed that he had really changed.  Imagine if the top leader of ISIS, who had personally killed or imprisoned your friends and family, suddenly declared that he was now a believer.  Wouldn’t you be nervous to have him over for dinner?

Acts 9:26-30
When [Saul] arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to associate with the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, since they did not believe he was a disciple.  Barnabas, however, took him and brought him to the apostles and explained to them how, on the road, Saul had seen the Lord, and that He had talked to him, and how in Damascus he had spoken boldly in the name of Jesus.

Saul was coming and going with them in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord.  He conversed and debated with the Hellenistic Jews, but they attempted to kill him.  When the brothers found out, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.

Saul was accepted by the disciples only after Barnabas vouched for him.  However, soon after, the one who had once hunted believers was now being hunted for being a believer.  They needed to get Saul to a safe place, so the disciples sent him far away to Tarsus, back to his hometown.

About a decade later, we find that the persecution of Christians which had begun under Saul was the driver for getting good news of salvation through Jesus to those outside of Jewish boarders.

Acts 11:19-24
Those who had been scattered as a result of the persecution that started because of Stephen made their way as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, speaking the message to no one except Jews.  But there were some of them, Cypriot and Cyrenian men, who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Hellenists, proclaiming the good news about the Lord Jesus.  The Lord’s hand was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord.

Then the report about them reached the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to travel as far as Antioch.  When he arrived and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he encouraged all of them to remain true to the Lord with a firm resolve of the heart – for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith – and large numbers of people were added to the Lord.

It's what Barnabas does next that I find surprising: he leaves.  In the middle of a great spiritual awakening in an important ancient city, Barnabas leaves the many to go find one man – Saul. 

Acts 11:25-26
Then he went to Tarsus to search for Saul, and when he found him he brought him to Antioch.  For a whole year they met with the church and taught large numbers, and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.

Tarsus was further out from Jerusalem than Antioch.  Barnabas was willing to go out beyond his initial orders to find the man that he knew would be of great help to the newly formed church.  The church in Antioch would also be an opportunity for Saul to grow personally and for him to learn to lead both Jews and Gentiles in their new Christ-focused lives.

The work of Barnabas and Saul in Antioch would prepare them for future missionary journeys throughout the known world.  All because Barnabas invited Saul to participate.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

An unexpected example

Prior to Jesus’ death on the cross, we often find His disciples in an ego-driven discussion, debating which one of them was going to be “the greatest” in Jesus’ kingdom.  On His last night, Jesus gave them a powerful example of what a “great” leader does.

John 13:1, 4-5
Before the Passover Festival, Jesus knew that His hour had come to depart from this world to the Father.  Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end…So He got up from supper, laid aside His robe, took a towel, and tied it around Himself.  Next, He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples’ feet and to dry them with the towel tied around Him.

I’m certain you could have heard a pin drop.  The normal hustle and bustle of conversation and movement as 13 guys reclined at a low table to eat the Passover meal would have come to a standstill when Jesus picked up the basin and the towel.

Does your state’s Governor handle coat check duty at the annual Governor’s ball?  Does your company’s CEO shine your shoes at the annual budgeting meeting?  Of course not.  So why would the Messiah – at the remembrance meal that foretold His coming – wash the filthy, sweaty, gnarled feet of twelve grown men, all of whom were subordinate to Him?

John 13:12-17
When Jesus had washed their feet and put on His robe, He reclined again and said to them,

“Do you know what I have done for you?  You call Me Teacher and Lord.  This is well said, for I am.  So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have given you an example that you also should do just as I have done for you.”

“I assure you: A slave is not greater than his master, and a messenger is not greater than the one who sent him.  If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.”

The disciples had spent the last three years trying to learn everything they could from Jesus, in order that they might one day be just like Him.  The one who ended up most like Jesus, would be “the greatest” disciple, with all the authority and privilege that would come with that distinction. 

However, Jesus’ actions didn’t negate His title, position, or authority.  Since the disciples had accepted Jesus as their Teacher and Lord, how could they refuse to humble themselves and serve in the menial tasks, like what He had just performed?

As a mentor, we too need to provide a tangible example to our protégé.  Real life examples leave a mark like nothing else can.  Verbal instruction is the foundation for learning and developing others, but they will never forget the example of the time you stepped down and washed their feet.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

A question of forgiveness

Ever wish that you just had someone to talk to?  You need advice, and you would love to run your ideas and concerns past another experienced, trustworthy person.  That’s exactly what a mentor is for, and we have a perfect example of this with Peter and Jesus.

The disciples had been arguing, yet again, about which one of them was going to be the greatest in Jesus’ coming kingdom.  They brought their argument to Jesus, who told them

Matthew 18:4-5
Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child – this one is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  And who ever welcomes one child like this in My name welcomes Me.

Keep in mind that children were of little value in ancient society, so Jesus’ direction here would have been especially hard for 12 adults to accept.  However, Jesus doesn’t stop there.  He goes on to give them three more difficult lessons:

·        Drastic measures should be taken to avoid leading others into sin
·        A single, stray brother is worth searching out and there is great rejoicing when the one returns to the many
·        How to approach a brother who sins against you – first privately, then with a few others, and lastly, if necessary, involve church leadership

These lessons were counter-cultural for how the disciples had been raised and taught.  When giving their arguments about which one of them was going to have a bigger kingdom title, I doubt that these areas of their lives were part of their resume.

After hearing these teachings with the rest of the disciples, Peter had a question and wanted clarification.  He didn’t need to have any of the lessons repeated, instead Peter was wrestling with how to apply Jesus’ teaching when his brother repeatedly sins against him.

Matthew 18:21-22
Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how many times could my brother sin against me and I forgive him?  As many as seven times?”

“I tell you, not as many as seven,” Jesus said to him, “but 70 times seven.”

While the phrase seventy time seven may feel familiar to us, keep in mind that the conventional rabbi teaching of Peter’s day recommended to extend forgiveness only three times.  So Peter likely felt he was also being counter-cultural and generous by offering to forgive twice as many times, plus one extra.  However, Jesus pushed Peter even further and instructed him to give his brother significant, not limited, forgiveness.  Jesus then told Peter another parable to illustrate His point.

This is one of the times in life where having a mentor is beneficial.  Peter thought he had progressed sufficiently in his thinking, so he brought his new understanding to Jesus for verification.  Although Peter was growing in the correct direction, he was directed to go even further – to forgive generously, and be great in Jesus’ kingdom.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

The best defense against legalism

Sometimes, events really stick in your memory.  This next scene must have left a big impression on the disciples, since three of the four gospel authors wrote about it.

Matthew 12:1-2
At that time Jesus passed through the grainfields on the Sabbath.  His disciples were hungry and began to pick and eat some heads of grain.  But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, “Look, Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!”

The Pharisees weren’t knocking the disciples for “stealing” grain, as picking grain heads was expressly allowed in the Mosaic Law (Deuteronomy 23:25).  The Pharisees’ problem was with the disciples’ timing, as the Mosaic Law stated that the Sabbath was to be a day of rest.  The Pharisees had identified 39 actions that constituted “work” and were therefore forbidden on the Sabbath – the disciples had plucked the heads of grain (harvested), rubbed them in their hands (threshing), blew away the chaff (winnowing), and ate the kernels (preparing a meal).  So, in the minds of the Pharisees, not only were the disciples in violation of the Mosaic Law four times, but they had done so with Jesus’ permission.

This is no small, nit-picky charge, either.  Violating the Sabbath was punishable by death, and the disciples’ guilt would show everyone that Jesus was an illegitimate teacher.   Jesus came to the aid of his charges and gave three convincing arguments against the Pharisees’ accusations:

Matthew 12:3-8
He said to them, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and those who were with him were hungry – how he entered the house of God, and they ate the sacred bread, which is not lawful for him or for those with him to eat, but only for the priests?

Or haven’t you read in the Law that on Sabbath days the priests in the temple violate the Sabbath and are innocent?  But I tell you that something greater than the temple is here!

If you had known what this means: I desire mercy and not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the innocent.  For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

Jesus both protected his disciples and refuted the over-zealous self-interpretation of the Sabbath by the Pharisees by taking them back to the Scriptures. 

Jesus pointed out that an exception in the ritual law was made because David and his men were hungry – a legitimate need had to be met. 

From there, Jesus remind the Pharisees that the priests serve and work in the temple without being guilty of breaking the Sabbath – and if temple work can excuse a person from Sabbath, how much more “excused” is someone who serves the Lord of the Sabbath

Thirdly, Jesus quoted Hosea 6:6 to point out how the Pharisees have missed God’s desire to extend mercy toward those in great need, and how that desire takes precedence over a sacrifice if the two are in conflict.

Through a proper view of the Scriptures, Jesus demonstrated that His disciples had not violated the Fourth Commandment.  In fact, the only thing that had been violated was the traditional Pharisee interpretation of how a Sabbath day was to be observed.

Looking at this scene from a mentor’s perspective, our application is rather obvious…we need to know God’s Word.  We are to teach it to our protégés, but we must also be ready to defend them against unfounded attacks.

Keep Pressing,
Ken 

My first assignment

Wait, I’m going to teach what?

That was my mental reaction to my first teaching assignment from my mentor, Joe.

Our mentor-protégé relationship began when he was teaching a Sunday School class and had asked if anyone was interested in team-teaching with him.  I was eager to teach, but I knew that I had to learn how to better handle the Scriptures if I was going to take on the responsibility of teaching God’s Word to others.  Joe pointed me toward Howard Hendricks’s Living by the Book and, with his guidance, I began to learn how to Observe, Interpret, and then Apply the Bible.

I figured that my first teaching lesson would cover one of the passages I had just learned from…instead, Joe said that my first teaching experience would come from teaching the class how to study the Bible, like I had just learned.  I was instantly nervous and gave Joe a weak “You sure about this?”.  But he assured me that this was the best topic for me to start with.

I profusely prayed over every lesson.  I did my best to communicate the three steps, as well as provide good examples and practice exercises – some lessons went well; others didn’t feel like they went anywhere.  To anyone who was in those first classes of mine, I say thank you for your patience!  That experience was a huge step for me and my growth – both in my relationship with God, as well as in learning how to organize and teach.  It certainly helped to have my mentor’s example, his directions, and his confidence in me.

Reading through the gospels, we find that Jesus did something similar with his protégés:

Matthew 9:35-10:1
Then Jesus went to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness.  When He saw the crowds, He felt compassion for them, because they were weary and worn out, like sheep without a shepherd.  The He said to His disciples,

“The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few.  Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”

Summoning His 12 disciples, He gave them authority over unclean spirits, to drive them out and to heal every disease and sickness.

When Jesus told them to pray that the Father would send out workers to reach the people of Israel, I’m sure they agreed that would be a good thing to do…but then Jesus turns around and tells them that it is time for them to go out and participate in the harvest, by doing what they had only previously watched Jesus do!  Imagine everything that must have been going through their minds – anticipation, nervousness, excitement, tension?  Trust me, it was all those and then some.

Matthew 10:5-8
Jesus sent out these 12 after giving them instructions: “Don’t take the road leading to other nations, and don’t enter any Samaritan town.  Instead, go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  As you go announce this: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’  Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those with skin diseases, drive out demons.  You have received free of charge; give free of charge.”

Notice how Jesus gave them parameters and direction for their first assignment.  They weren’t supposed to go outside of Israel.  They had a very specific message to proclaim.  They were also given authority to do what Jesus did – heal, raise the dead, cleanse, and drive out demons – and they were not to charge the people for these acts, just as Jesus hadn’t charged anyone.

The disciples would eventually be ready for the larger assignment of the Great Commission, where they were instructed to go make disciples of people from all nations.  They were not ready for that yet, though.  The disciples were still going to do what they had seen Jesus do, but their first assignment was on a much smaller scale.

As a mentor, we need to give our protégé assignments that will begin to stretch them now and incrementally prepare them for later.  On the flip side, when our mentor gives us an assignment that seems like a very large leap, we need to trust them. 

Looking back, it was that first assignment that propelled me closer to God and sharpened my teaching ability.  Joe was making sure that I was not going to be just another teacher who can only feed people The Word, but he wanted me to be able to show others how to feed themselves.  Following through on that first assignment, despite how rough it may have been on me and/or the class, has paid many dividends over the years since.

Keep Pressing,
Ken 

Who can be mentored?

We really don’t know a lot about what the disciples were doing before they encountered Jesus.  If any of the disciples had been a part of a prominent family, or politically connected, or a member of the religious ruling class…you would think that the gospel writers would have brought that up.  However, given that Jesus was doing something new on earth, then it stands to reason that He would not have wanted his disciples to have any previous connections to the leading human institutions of the time.

The only community education for a Jewish child was to learn the Torah and impress a Rabbi enough for him to take the child on as his personal disciple.  If a Jewish child didn’t make the cut to continue up the religious school ranks, they were sent home to learn the family trade. 

We do know that when Jesus called Andrew, Peter, James, and John, they all were fishermen.  This job required no formal education, only on-the-job training.  So clearly, they hadn’t been picked by any Rabbi or Pharisee.  Matthew is introduced as a tax collector.  This was a job working for the hated Romans.  Tax collectors were generally known as cheaters, liars, and turncoats against their kinsmen.  They were barely tolerated in Jewish society.  Simon is referred to as “a zealot”, and while not a profession, the title suggests he was part of a fringe political group interested in the overthrow of the Roman government.  Again, not mainstream or popular. The rest of the disciples’ previous occupations are unknown.

But there is a scene that takes place much later that gives another piece of information about this rag-tag group.

After Jesus had returned to Heaven, the disciples were speaking about what they had seen and heard.  Through Peter, God performed a miracle and healed a lame man.  Reading through the account, we find that the man had been that way since birth and was now over 40 years old. 

Of course, the entire city of Jerusalem was going crazy over this miracle.  After Peter and John preached to the crowd, they were arrested by the religious authorities.  When they were brought before the Jewish leadership, Peter again spoke of Jesus:

Acts 4:12
There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved.

It’s the next comment that gives us a clue about their background before they had become Jesus’ disciples:

Acts 4:13
When they observed the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed and knew that they had been with Jesus.

Jesus’ disciples were men of little clout.  They were people that high society did not consider all that important.  They were common-folk, and some were outcasts.  Definitely not Varsity players.  Not even Junior Varsity.  Maybe they might make the B-team.  

However, no one can change a life like Jesus can.  Peter said it himself, that there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved.  Just as all are welcome to come to Jesus for salvation – regardless of their background – don’t overlook someone’s need for a mentor because they don’t have a great resume.  The uneducated, the untrained, the unwanted – Jesus didn’t disqualify them, and neither should we.

The disciples’ example should also keep us from thinking that we could be disqualified from either being mentored or doing great things for God because we didn’t get the proverbial “silver spoon” or if we’ve been rejected by others.  Ask God to send you a mentor.  You might be surprised by who they are when they show up, too.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

The goal of mentoring

Jesus is many things to us.  He is the second Adam, our prototype, our example, our Savior, and our God…but would you consider Him to be our mentor?  Or our example of how to mentor others?

When reading through the gospels – the books written to tell others about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection – we find that once the disciples are introduced by the author, hardly a chapter goes by where they are not involved in the story.  The disciples were always with Jesus.

Now whenever we think about Jesus interacting with His disciples, we typically picture a teaching situation, right?  He’s sitting on rock, a little higher up than the group of men huddled down around His feet.  Most certainly Jesus taught them, but there was much more to their relationship than constantly being in class.  They cooked and ate with him, they traveled – by foot – with Him, they slept near Him, they hung out with Him, they laughed and celebrated with Him, and they observed every possible aspect about Jesus’ life. 

What was the ultimate purpose of all this time together?  In the middle of one of His teachings, Jesus mentioned the goal of discipling and mentoring these 12 men:

Matthew 10:24-25
A disciple is not above his teacher, or a slave above his master.  It is enough for a disciple to become like his teacher and a slave like his master.

The goal for a disciple is to eventually be just like his teacher.  We say things like this when we meet a young man or woman and we tell them “I knew who your parents were just by the way you looked and the way you acted.”  In the same way, the highest compliment a disciple could receive was being told that they were a perfect reflection of their teacher.

This also explains one of the oddest scenes in any of the gospels – and it takes place just a couple of chapters after Jesus stated the goal of discipling and mentoring. 

The disciples were in a boat, in the middle of a storm on the Sea of Galilee, and Jesus walks out on top of the waves toward their boat.  Understandably, the disciples were freaked out…because there appears to be someone walking on the water.  But Peter says something that, at first glance, looks completely out of place:

Matthew 14:28-29
“Lord, if it’s You,” Peter answered Him, “command me to come to You on the water.”
“Come!” He said.
And climbing out of the boat, Peter started walking on the water and came toward Jesus.

Seriously?  It’s storming, visibility’s not all that great, and sure he recognizes Jesus’ voice…but Peter asks to go out there with Him?  If he’s wrong and it’s not Jesus, then Peter just booked a one-way trip to the bottom of the lake.  Why would Peter do something this risky?

Peter’s goal in being Jesus’ disciple was to end up doing everything like Jesus, no matter how outrageous.  If Jesus could, then it would mean that eventually Peter could, too…so why not right now?  At first, Peter is able to walk on the water.  Don’t knock him too much for sinking after actually taking a few steps across the water…he was the only one to get out of the boat!

As a mentor, you’re probably not going to be teaching your protégé how to walk on water.  However, you are going to show them a variety of character traits and Biblical applications that, to them, will feel just as impossible. 

The main reason Peter thought he could be like Jesus was because of the teaching he had received and the time Jesus had invested into him.  Likewise, the more you are willing to open your life, the more the person you mentor will become confident in their ability to live like you.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Encourage bravery

A plot had been devised to kill every Jew in Persia.  A man named Haman had convinced King Ahasuerus that the Jews were enemies of the state.  As a result, the king declared a day when the entire Jewish population was to be exterminated and their property confiscated.  Understandably, the Jews were distraught and terrified.

Esther 4:1-4
When Mordecai learned all that had occurred, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, went into the middle of the city, and cried loudly and bitterly.  He only went as far as the King’s Gate, since the law prohibited anyone wearing sackcloth from entering the King’s Gate.  There was great mourning among the Jewish people in every province where the king’s command and edict came.  They fasted, wept, and lamented, and many lay on sackcloth and ashes.

Esther’s female servants and her eunuchs came and reported the news to her, and the queen was overcome with fear.  She sent clothes for Mordecai to wear so he could take off his sackcloth, but he did not accept them.

Esther was scared out of her mind, and since she couldn’t go out to Mordecai, she wanted Mordecai to come to her.  Since he refused to change out of his mourning clothes, Esther had to settle for talking to him through her servant, Hathach.  After Mordecai described the situation to Hathach…

Esther 4:8
Mordecai also gave him a copy of the written decree issued in Susa ordering their destruction, so that Hathach might show it to Esther, explain it to her, and instruct her to approach the king, implore his favor, and plead with him personally for her people.

Esther’s response to Mordecai’s instructions shows that she had another fear to contend with – approaching the king was a “by-appointment-only” arrangement.  If the king was caught off-guard or felt threatened by the unannounced audience, it would cost the person their life.  Look carefully at how she conveys this situation, but also pay attention to Mordecai’s response to her fears:

Esther 4:10-14
Esther spoke to Hathach and commanded him to tell Mordecai, “All the royal officials and the people of the royal provinces know that one law applies to every man or woman who approaches the king in the inner courtyard and who has not been summoned – the death penalty.  Only if the king extends the golden scepter will that person live.  I have not been summoned to appear before the king for the last 30 days.”  Esther’s response was report to Mordecai.

Mordecai told the messenger to reply to Esther, “Don’t think that you will escape the fate of all the Jews because you are in the king’s palace.  If you keep silent at this time, liberation and deliverance will come to the Jewish people from another place, but you and your father’s house will be destroyed.  Who knows, perhaps you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this.”

Mordecai has incredible confidence in God’s ability to rescue the nation, but he also has confidence in Esther – both who she is and her position at this time in history.  The mentor knew it was time for his protégé to act.  His message to Esther was clear:

It’s time to step up and be brave.

Sometimes they need a little push.  The protégé may lack confidence, or they grab ahold of something to use as an excuse.  But the mentor knows they are ready…it’s in the tension of this moment that the protégé needs to trust their mentor and be brave.

Mordecai wasn’t there to do it for Esther.  She had to choose to trust Mordecai’s words.  She had to choose to be brave.  Esther had to accept that she was the one who was in the best position to make a difference.

Esther 4:15
Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: “Go and assemble all the Jews who can be found in Susa and fast for me.  Don’t eat or drink for three days, night and day.  I and my female servants will also fast in the same way.  After that, I will go to the king even if it is against the law.  If I perish, I perish.”

Esther was brave because of Mordecai’s encouragement…and her bravery was the first step toward saving her people.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Doing too much?

Ever have that overwhelming feeling that you’ve bitten off more than you can chew?  If yes, you can relate to this story.

After the Israelites left Egypt, but before they received the 10 Commandments at Mt. Sinai, Moses’ father-in-law Jethro met with them.  The night he arrived was filled with celebration for everything God had done to rescue the Israelites from the Egyptians.  However, the next day Jethro noticed a problem – and took the opportunity to advise and mentor Moses:

Exodus 18:13-16
The next day Moses sat down to judge the people, and they stood around Moses from morning until evening.  When Moses’ father-in-law saw everything he was doing for them he asked, “What is this thing you’re doing for the people?  Why are you alone sitting as judge, while all the people stand around you from morning until evening?”

Moses replied to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God.  Whenever they have a dispute, it comes to me, and I make a decision between one man and another.  I teach them God’s statutes and laws.”

Moses mistakenly believed that since God spoke to him and he was the one who knew God’s law the best, then he had to be the one to settle all the disputes among the people.  From the outside looking in, doesn’t it seem a little absurd that an 80-year-old Moses would try to justify being the only judge/advisor/teacher for 2 million people?

However, it probably started out small – with a few people bringing their issues to Moses.  He’s the God-appointed leader, so it would make sense to get his opinion and his decision.  However, by the time Jethro came to visit, the situation was well out of hand.  What’s important to note is that Moses’ mentor didn’t just point out what was wrong with the situation, but Jethro also offered a good solution:

Exodus 18:17-23
“What you’re doing is not good,” Moses’ father-in-law said to him.  “You will certainly wear out both yourself and these people who are with you, because the task is too heavy for you.  You can’t do it alone. 

Now listen to me; I will give you some advice, and God be with you.  You be the one to represent the people before God and bring their cases to Him.  Instruct them about the statutes and laws, and teach them the way to live and what they must do.

But you should select from all the people able men, God-fearing, trustworthy, and hating bribes.  Place them over the people as officials of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens.  They should judge the people at all time.  Then they can bring you every important case but judge every minor case themselves. 

In this way you will lighten your load, and they will bear it with you.  If you do this, and God so directs you, you will be able to endure, and also all these people will be able to go home satisfied.”

After spending just one day observing Moses’ work schedule, it was quite apparent to Jethro that how Moses managed his responsibilities was not sustainable – Moses was getting worn out and it was impossible to decide on every person’s case every single day.

Isn’t that what happens to us?  How many times have we justified our unwillingness to delegate by saying:

If you want it done right, you gotta do it yourself

When we insist on lifting more weight than we can physically carry, we pull a muscle and have to be side-lined until the injury heals.  When we take on more responsibility than we are capable of handling, we will quickly become burnt-out, which also leads to being side-lined.  Jethro saw that Moses was heading straight for a burn out, and if that happened, Moses would no longer be an effective leader for the nation of Israel, nor would he be able to represent the nation to God.

As a mentor, Jethro stepped in at the right moment with the right advice.  Also notice that Jethro still left it up to Moses to decide how to handle the situation – he could continue on as he had, or he could humbly accept his mentor’s advice.

Afterward, Moses did exactly what Jethro suggested, and everyone benefited.  Moses’ example proves that we’re never “too old”, “too accomplished”, or even “too spiritual” to need wise counsel from a mentor.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Celebrate good times

At 40 years of age, Moses was on the run.

He had killed a man, and Pharaoh wanted Moses dead for it.  So Moses fled hundreds of miles east to the land of Midian.  One day at a well, Moses came to the rescue of 7 shepherdesses who were being prevented from watering their flocks.  In gratitude, their father invited him to a meal.  The dinner event began the relationship between the two men, with Moses marrying and starting a family with Jethro’s oldest daughter.  During the next 40 years, Moses and his family stayed near and worked with Jethro’s family – Moses was actually shepherding Jethro’s flock when God met him in the burning bush to appoint him as the one to lead the nation of Israel out of Egypt.

Now let’s hit fast forward...Moses has successfully led the nation out of slavery.  Egypt has been soundly defeated by the plagues God had sent and their military was obliterated during the Red Sea crossing.  However, before they meet God at Mt. Sinai, there is a family reunion. 

Before we read about Moses and Jethro, let’s stop and think about their relationship.  Moses arrived at Jethro’s house as a man who was hunted and looking over his shoulder.  Moses had grown up in Pharaoh’s palace, the richest of the rich in all of Egypt.  The Bible doesn’t mention the extent of his Egyptian education and training, but it’s not too much of a stretch to think that Moses was a little out of place when it came to rural life.  Over forty years’ time, Moses learned the ropes of leading and shepherding.  Little did he know, God was using his time under Jethro’s supervision to prepare him for the task at hand.

With this in mind, let’s look at their meeting.

Exodus 18:7-12
So Moses went out to meet his father-in-law, bowed down, and then kissed him.  They asked each other how they had been and went into the tent.  Moses recounted to his father-in-law all that the Lord had done to Pharaoh and the Egyptians for Israel’s sake, all the hardships that confronted them on the way, and how the Lord had delivered them.

Jethro rejoiced over all the good things the Lord had done for Israel when He rescued them from the Egyptians.  “Blessed is the Lord,” Jethro exclaimed, “who rescued you from Pharaoh and the power of the Egyptians, and snatched the people from the power of the Egyptians.  Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods, because He did wonders at the time the Egyptians acted arrogantly against Israel.”

Then Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, brought a burnt offering and sacrifices to God, and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat a meal with Moses’ father-in-law in God’s presence.

This meeting was a joyous occasion.  You can see that they were excited to see one another, and they were excited about the things God had done.  It is a great moment when a mentor can truly celebrate with his protégé about the success God has had in their lives.  I’m certain that evening was full of “remember when” stories, with Moses thanking Jethro for his help all those many years ago, and with plenty of rejoicing over God’s part in all of it.

As mentors, we need to make sure we’re celebrating the successes of our protégés.  As someone being mentored, we need to make sure we’re telling our mentors about the victories God has won in our lives.  A public celebration will serve as an encouragement to both people and give God the proper recognition He deserves.

Keep Pressing,
Ken