LIFE CHANGE: Mentoring
Pastor Terry Inman
Our theme passage for this series describes the process of spiritual Life-Change. “God is kind, but he’s not soft. In kindness he takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into a radical life-change.” Romans. 2:4 (MSG)
Someone said a picture is worth a thousand words. So here’s one of my spring collection photos from my early morning walks around Quarry Lakes. This is an evergreen tree with some old and new growth. What got my attention was the deeper developed green branches that are all growing new and brighter growth at the edges.
It’s a great image of Harbor Light at the moment. I believe we really are in another spring of the spirit. We are experiencing challenging but good changes. We are firmly in the grip of God’s hand growing and changing.
I like this prophetic promise. “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?’ Isaiah 43.19 (NIV)
The promise that got my attention from the movie based on Isaiah 58 was encouraging; “spend yourselves” on behalf of the hungry and hurting and your light will shine brighter in the darkness. “Your light shall break forth like the morning, your healing shall spring forth speedily! Isa. 58.8
One of the reasons everything is so green right now is that some good spring rain broke our dry spell. Here’s another prophetic metaphor. “Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.” Hos. 6.3 (NIV)
We’ve been a bit dormant, a little laid back, maybe hibernating a bit. It’s easy to think because you have a respectable congregation and everybody seems to be getting along well that we are successful. It’s easy to get a little ingrown and eternally focused when we should be more externally focused. Before we even notice we stop growing.
I know our numerical and financial growth have been impacted by the economy; many have lost jobs and moved on others are going though very stressful times. But I don’t want to blame the economy for our dormancy. There are just seasons in church life, summer, winter spring and fall. They all have their place and purpose, but I’m ready for spring!
There are also changing seasons in our personal lives. I’m excited about new growth. Last week we were challenged to get into God’s word and let God’s word get into us. It is inspired, it’s living, it’s active it’s life changing.
Today we will talk about life mentoring. This idea is also captured in this close-up of the tree. The mature growth is nurturing new shoots.
One of the popular labels for a mentor is a life-coach. The Apostle Paul was a life-coach to many. One of the most recognized young leaders he coached was Pastoral intern named Timothy.
In a letter addressed to his young apprentice Paul writes; “The things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.” 2 Tim. 2.2 (NIV)
This is how effective discipleship works. It gets passed on in authentic accountable and interactions with one another. This kind of mutual mentoring promotes personal wholeness and accelerates life-change.
So before we talk more about this I want to feature a band of brothers that are doing life-change together. Please welcome Pastor Mike Brown and this semester’s grads of Men’s Fraternity. I goggled Men’s Fraternity, an international ministry, and actually found photos of our own leaders Joe Puchta and Robert Dagys. You guys are Internet conquerors!
Thanks guys. Men’s Fraternity is just one great example of many groups for men, women and couples at Harbor Light that we call connections.
Now let me take you to a text that often finds its way into wedding ceremonies. Actually it was not intended to be exclusive to couples. It clearly articulates the value of all authentic and accountable relationships.
The writer of Ecclesiastics is known for his frustration with things in life that seem futile or meaningless. He is talking here about being alone.
Again I saw something meaningless under the sun: There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. “For whom am I toiling,” he asked, “and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?” This too is meaningless — a miserable business! Ecclesiastics 4.7-8 (NIV)
Aloneness is harmful to our emotional and spiritual growth. God created man and then said, it’s good for man to live alone. This hard-working man had no one to share his work or his wealth. It was just purposeless profit.
So the writer of Ecclesiastics continues with the virtues of partnerships.
If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. Eccl. 4.9-12 (NIV)
Let begin with the “cord of three stands”. It’s a great visual metaphor for the strong relational bonds that support real and rapid life-change. That’s why we call our small groups at Harbor Light connections. Jesus said, “Wheretwo or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” Matt. 18.20 (NIV)
Our goal is for everyone at Harbor Light is to commit to a weekly worship celebration and a small group connection. These connections may be two or three or thirty-three! The first Christians met regularly at the temple and from house to house for prayer, instruction, food and fellowship!
Here, the writer of Ecclesiastics suggests four ways that authentic and accountable relationships create life-change. He talks about our work, weakness, warmth, and warfare.
Work: “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work.” In our culture this is called collaboration. We get more “bang for our buck” when we team up! He says aloneness is futile.
Jesus did not work alone he had a small group of trainees. He was probably closest to John. Then there was a circle of three, the sons of thunder, Peter James and John. His small group of twelve disciples became apostles or sent ones. At one point he delegated seventy-two “others” and sent them out to serve in pairs. Jesus was not a lone ranger!
Jesus’ coaching was simple. Watch me do it. Do it with me. Now you do it.
Research has proven that serving together really advances spiritual growth especially in the early stages of our development. Do you want life-change? Serve along side someone. Team up and do something purposeful together. It’s more fun, it’s instructive and encouraging!
Weakness: “Pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” We are all weak in different ways and at different times. Life-Change is challenging it is not something we can do without support.
The bible says, “We that are strong ought to bear the failures of the weak, and not just please ourselves.” Romans 15.1(NIV)
I am so grateful that I had a safe friend and brother who loved me confronted me and supported me though a vulnerable time in my life.
“Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Gal. 6.1-3 (NIV)
Here’s the “law” of Christ. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13.34 (NIV)
Do be afraid to admit to weakness, failure or falling. Reach out for the hand of a brother or sister and get back up. I love this image of the Lord’s compassion in the face of our limitations. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice. Is. 42.3 (NIV)
James the brother of Jesus does some coaching on how to overcome weakness. Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. James 5.16 (NIV)
Warmth: “If two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?” Now I was at the men’s breakfast yesterday and I don’t think there’s too many guys here that get that.
Nobody is getting in my sleeping bag. But were not just talking about getting cozy, warmth is about close friendships. There is nothing colder than isolation. Life-change happens best in safe and secure relationships.
Jesus told his disciples I’m not calling you my servants but my friends. Bosses only tell you what they want you to know and what they want your to do. But Jesus said, everything my Father tells me I tell you!
Warm-hearted communications between friends are deep and real. Two grieving followers of Christ unknowingly had dinner with Jesus after His resurrection. They said, as he talked “our hearts burned within us”!
Conversation between brothers and sisters of faith may even get heated. The bible says “speak the truth to one another in love.”
Prov. 27.6 says, “wounds from a friend can be trusted.” This is what I mean by authentic and accountable relationships. These are connections that are life-changers!
Warfare: “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
In the book of Nehemiah God’s people who had been exiled had returned and were rebuilding their city walls for protection. Sanballat and Tobiah a couple of tribal war Lord’s were ridiculing and threating their efforts.
Sanballat attempted to vilify and terrify them in front of his warriors. “What are these miserable Jews doing? Do they think they can get everything back to normal overnight? Their building stones are make-believe?
Tobiah kicked in. That’s right! What do they think they’re building? Why, if a fox climbed that wall, it would fall to pieces under his weight.” Neh. 4.3
We are all vulnerable to the enemy’s accusation and attack. The bible says, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1Pet. 5.8 (NIV)
The harder God’s people worked on the wall the louder the resistance got. Nehemiah led the workers in prayer. They continued to build the wall with a tool in one hand and a weapon in the other.
Nehemiah says, “I stationed armed guards at the most vulnerable places of the wall and assigned people by families with their swords, lances, and bows.” Then after looking things over I stood up and spoke to the nobles, officials, and everyone else: “Don’t be afraid of them. Put your minds on the Master, great and awesome, and then fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.” Neh. 4.13-14 (NIV)
Life-change happens when we are connected with people that will fight for us and with us. I cord of three stands is not easily broken!
The hands we hold to work together, to face weakness together, to communicate warmth together, and to do warfare, together is actually the firm hand of God.
Do you have the support you need for spiritual life-change?