A Praying Elder’s Wife

by Dana Spence 

What does it look like to be an “Elder’s Wife”?

I used to think being an elder of a church just meant you were recognized for your faithfulness and your opinion and that your insight mattered to help steer the church.  Not to say that that is a wrong statement, but there is so much more to the role.  It requires a lot of time and energy.  It’s not always fun and rarely easy.  I learned that pretty quickly once my husband became an elder eight years ago.  We share and discuss everything with one another in our marriage.  Once he accepted the role to be an elder at our church, he explained to me there were going to be times he wouldn’t be able to share things with me.  So much is discussed and brought to the elders that is private, personal, and confidential.  I had to accept and become comfortable with the fact I wasn’t going to know everything that was going on behind those closed doors.  He wasn’t going to be able to share everything with me. 

It’s difficult to see him carry heavy burdens, have his mind be preoccupied with issues he can’t share and talk about with me.  This was new territory for us.  I was so used to asking how things went, or telling him I could tell something was bothering him, and then converse about it.  There are certain issues he can’t openly talk about with me.  I’ve learned to turn to prayer.  When I see him burdened, I pray for God to give him wisdom and discernment.  I pray for him to have peace and unity with the other elders.  Not only do I pray for my husband, but I pray and ask God to help me to be the wife and partner he needs.  

There are also times where he needs to talk through something and it’s important to be a confidant while not allowing the struggle or conflict to overtake my own emotions.  Trust plays a big role in being an elder’s wife.  The company I work for is named after Proverbs 31, so I’ve read through it many times.  Proverbs 31:11 says “Her husband can trust her, and she will greatly enrich his life.”  If he opens up to you about concerns he has, you need to listen in confidence.  Proverbs 31:12 continues: “She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.”  It’s natural as wives and women to sympathize with our husbands, but it’s important to not react in a way that might make things worse.  It’s important to support, love, honor and trust your husband always.   

Praying for our husbands and our marriage is something we should always be doing, but turning to prayer has especially helped me be an elder’s wife.

To Elders’ Wives…

by Keren Hamel 

My husband recently received a call from an elder at a church in another state. His face fell as his friend described that a third of his congregation and several staff have left in the wake of Covid-19.

Over the past few months, my husband and I have spent many hours with friends whose marriages are falling apart. Our hearts break as we hear the sordid and devastating details.

Plus, we’re experiencing the same thing as many of you. Personal friends have decided not to return to church because we have a mask requirement. Some of our favorite congregants are leaving for new church homes. Church members and staff have said untrue and unkind things.

These are heavy times. Covid-19 has laid bare some ugly realities. As church leaders scramble to respond, we don’t have the usual relational touch points and face-to-face grace that often make resolution possible. In speaking to elders and wives across the nation, I’ve heard the same sentiment: this has been the hardest and most fatiguing season of leadership in our lives – even when we are spiritually healthy ourselves.

As I share the leadership load alongside my husband, I sometimes forget that my first ministry is to my husband. During this season, as our husbands have taken on so much extra weight, God has impressed upon me my unique ability to minister peace and rest to him. As much as I was his primary companion and greatest encourager before, I am even more so during Covid-19. No matter what kind of challenges he faces, I want him to find rest when he’s around me.

In full disclosure, we have a 1-year-old son, I’m 7-months pregnant, and I have a painfully limiting back injury. So, you can imagine how often I fall short and how often my husband makes sacrifices for me! But, I am earnestly trying to help him find rest in four specific ways.

Most importantly, I want to give him the gift of a gentle and quiet spirit. Each day, I set aside my growing list of prayer requests to take time to enjoy the presence of the Lord – to seek God for His sake alone. He’s my peace, and in His presence is the fullness of joy. I also avoid the toxic Covid-19 diet: slanted journalism (both ways), social media, rumors and gossip. I want more of God’s Spirit and less of the spirit of the age. When my spirit is restful, my husband is the greatest beneficiary.

Second – and this is easier said than done – I try to say and do the things that bring my husband rest and avoid the things that bring stress. These lists are vastly different for each of our husbands, but we do know what they are. For my husband, it’s apple pie, sweet tea and family walks around sunset; it’s not packing our calendar with several engagements every single night.

Third, when my husband is extra fatigued, I try to get creative. This month, I asked a friend if I should help my husband get some alone time. She wisely texted, “No! He gets his energy from adventures and good conversations with people he loves.” She was right! So, I invited her family to come to town for a jam-packed weekend of fun. My husband’s tank will be full for at least a month.

Finally, I pray for God to create life-filled moments for us. God loves to answer this prayer. Just a few weeks ago, I told my husband I wanted to build our son a slide from the deck into the yard. The next day, my husband came home with two large, high-quality slides in the back of his truck. He found them on the side of the road with a sign that read “FREE.” Our son enjoys that gift from God every single day.

Though this is a season of heavy-lifting, I’m more confident in my role than ever. As wives, we are essential workers, vital to the health of the men on the front lines. 

A Land Between

by Leah Johnson

Yesterday, a song lyric stuck with me: “Joy still comes in the morning / hope still walks with the hurting” (by Matt Maher in the song Alive and Breathing).  Because it was such a pleasant tune it stayed with me over the next several hours.  I found it expectant, upbeat, on the edge of the next … something; it made me wonder how God will resolve the next situation. 

In this season of life, I’m not hurting, though I do find I’m “in between.”  Theoretically, we are coming out of COVID quarantine.  Schools are back in session, so I will be back to volunteering at an after school program for hurting children.  We must re-tool and change our approach completely.  The Lord is taking me out of my rut and I’m feeling it.  What’s next?  Our congregation’s programing for kids has not resumed, so that’s another volunteer opportunity on hold.  I don’t feel useful, productive.  I know about Jeff Manion’s book, The Land Between.  Maybe I should read it now.  He focuses on the uniqueness of Israel’s journey from their liberation to their final destination of the Promised Land.  At times of uncertainty, they wanted to return to sitting around pots of meat in their proverbial “good old days” (Numbers 11:5).  Did they actually have plenty to eat as they said, or was that how they chose to remember their slavery?  Is this my attitude?  Do I long for what used to be, meanwhile missing the lesson God has in front of me right now?

How about you?  Are you at loose ends?  Unsure of the future?  As an elder’s wife, do you feel like you’re in a “land between?”  Are some of your areas of volunteer ministry on hold right now?  It feels strange doesn’t it?  Do these days make you feel tense, uncertain about tomorrow?  Why would “normal” be behind us, “back there,” before COVID?  What if “normal” is tomorrow, where God is lovingly leading us?

Let’s go back to the song lyric, “joy [still] comes in the morning.”  We get that phrase from Psalm 30.  David wrote Psalm 30, but he wrote it for the occasion of the Temple’s dedication, which happened years after his death.  David was looking ahead, to the future, expectantly watching God at work and waiting on His deliverance.  Rather than blame God for the stressful times while he ran away from Saul’s murderous intentions, David understood it as an opportunity for growth.  God wasn’t out to “get him,” rather in a Father’s love, He was giving David a chance to repent, be stronger, grow closer to his heavenly Father.  David didn’t perceive trials as God picking on him but rather that he was being shaped and refined for future service.

How about us today?  Do I moan, “Why is God making it so hard for me?” or even “Why is God allowing this?”, do I ask instead, “What am I supposed to learn from this situation?”  I can find joy when I know that God is working in my life.  There is hope when I am hurting because God is walking with me through this “land between.”

I am not alone.  We are not alone.

Just Like Proverbs 31

by Stephanie Wright

Here’s a question…

In our world today, how can you help your husband in his work as an elder?

Many will say they can’t, that they are already doing as much as they can, struggling just to come up for air, feeling burned out, stretched to their limit.  I, for one, would place myself in that category. I am crazy busy all the time; well, most of the time, hmmm … some of the time, at least. Dang, I am not that busy at all!  But why does it seem that I can never get all my work accomplished, I’m always behind and playing catch up, and that being stretched to the limit seems an understatement? 

I tried for many years to work like the woman of noble character, the gal in Proverbs 31. I am sure you have read it at one time or another.  No?  Stop reading this moment and go open your Bible to this passage, starting in verse 10. You will find a wonder woman, one who works vigorously with eager hands, is clothed with strength and dignity, and doesn’t seem to need sleep.  She rises before the sun comes up, and burns the late night oil.  Her children call her blessed, and her husband praises her!  What is her secret?  I want to know, because trying to be like her didn’t work for me.  I was grumpy all the time, because I was tired all the time!  I was not able to help my husband because I couldn’t help myself get off the crazy merry-go-round!

Now, mind you, that portion of Proverbs 31 is all I had read, and I completely missed the gem of the whole chapter. Don’t miss the last phrase of verse 30: a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.  It’s so quiet, yet it speaks volumes.  She has a holy respect for God, a relationship with Him, and God grants her the blessing of being able to accomplish all things, because she is doing them for Him.  The Lord wants that same relationship with you – not you and your husband, not you and the kids, not you and your job – just with you.  Imagine just you and God being together, without distractions, and with your Bible open so He may speak to you.  Doesn’t it sound delightful?  It is so sweet, so soft, so intimate.  And it’s yours for the taking.  He is calling you to that peace.  He leads us individually beside the still waters (Psalm 23:2).

I know it will take a few moments to clear some of your busyness to find time, but when you do, you will discover you never want to be without that precious time together, and will make sure nothing comes between you and your special relationship with your Savior!

Now let’s get back to the original question, how can you help your husband in his work as an elder?  Remember, there is no better teacher than that of an example.  When we display God’s ways to another, He is able to use this example to glorify Him.  And also 21remember, it takes no words.  Words only get in God’s way.  There is no reason to tell someone what God wants.  Instead, show them what God wants.  Be the woman God wants you to be.   From your husband to your kids, from co-workers to cashiers, everyone will see within you an example of how a true woman of noble character looks and acts.

Who knows, you may even end up not needing any sleep! (I still haven’t figured that one out!)

Unnamed but not Anonymous: Manoah’s Wife

by Paulette Stamper 

What comes to mind when you hear the biblical name of Samson? Chances are you recall the stories of his long hair and supernatural strength. Or maybe you think of his less-than-ideal relationship with Delilah and his ultimate tragic demise. While these stories may be familiar to us, I wonder how many of us are familiar with his parents’ background – specifically his mother? Before you read any further, I want to encourage you to pause and read Judges 13. It will take about five minutes, and it might be the best five minutes of your day.
 
The Book of Judges recounts the ongoing saga of Israel ending up in one hot mess after another as a result of their rebellion against God. In this chapter, they were under the harsh oppression of the Philistines for forty years (and we think four or eight years of a President we may or may not like is a long time!). Circumstances were increasingly difficult for those who remained faithful to God in an increasingly anti-God culture. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
 
I would summarize the chapter like this…
 
Israel was in BIG trouble, and they needed a BIG solution, and God revealed his BIG plan to a wife who displayed BIG faith.
 
If we dig our way through Judges 13, we will discover some pretty big chunks of gold. Let’s look at a few of those gold nuggets together.
 
Gold nugget #1 
 
Dire circumstances make ideal settings to hear God speak.
 
In this instance, Manoah and his wife lived in a hostile culture, and they also faced the personal hardship of being unable to have children. Just when things looked like they couldn’t get any worse, God sent his angel to Manoah’s wife to deliver the news that not only would she have a son, he would eventually be the one to rescue Israel. Undoubtedly, this answered two prayers – one for a child, and one for Israel to be rescued from her enemies.
 
Gold nugget #2
 
God chose to reveal his plan to Manoah’s wife – even though His plan included them both.
 
Let me pause and clarify something – this isn’t a commentary on the roles of women and men in the church. Not even close. Instead, this is simply a beautiful reminder that God esteems women, and in this particular instance, He chose to reveal His plan to Manoah’s wife. Her faith in God’s Word would play a huge role in her husband’s response – which we will see in the next nugget.
 
Gold nugget #3
 
A faith-filled response can bring peace and reassurance in a fearful situation.
 
That’s a nice way of saying that sometimes we freak out and we need a calming word from our husbands, and sometimes our husbands freak out, and Lord knows, we need a strong, confident, and faith-filled response that ushers in the peace and strength required for the task at hand. That’s precisely what Manoah’s wife did. When Manoah panicked and thought they would die because they’d seen the angel of the Lord, she said, “If the Lord had meant to kill us, he would not have accepted a burnt offering and grain offering from our hands, nor shown us all these things or now told us this” (Judges 13:23, NIV).
 
We also live in an increasingly anti-God culture, but make no mistake, it can serve as an ideal setting to hear God speak. If we position ourselves to hear God by staying in His Word and communing with Him in prayer, our voice can and will carry significant weight – especially in our marriage, so let’s use it wisely.
 
Listen to God, then faithfully and confidently use your voice to encourage and strengthen your husband. Remember, God can and will do BIG things through both of you

When All My Plans are Ground to Dust

by Jon Weatherly 

Leaders plan. Leaders write and revise and execute and evaluate plans. Leaders plan planning retreats.

Elders are leaders; therefore, elders plan.

Today, all of humanity, including the church, is about a half year into the COVID-19 pandemic. All our plans have been ground to dust by a microscopic strand of RNA.

The Letter of James says some pointed things about planning:

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that” (James 4:13–15).

There was a time when I read those words and thought, “That has to do with selfish planning about getting rich. It has nothing to do with other kinds of planning, not church planning, not my planning.” Well, amid COVID-19, I’m revising that understanding.

James cautions us about our plans because we humans are terrible knowers of the future. With hindsight we love to take credit for knowing things in advance, but the truth is, we’re just educated guessers who sometimes guess right and conveniently forget our wrong guesses.

God, on the other hand, is a perfect knower of the future. And God is a perfect promise-keeper about the future. That’s why James says we should say, “If it is the Lord’s will,” not as a pious formula but as a confession of our weakness and our utter reliance on the Lord. James was simply applying Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:31–34:

So do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Our ignorance of the future should not paralyze us. It should direct us to trust the God who knows the future and cares for us so much that he sent his Son to die for us.

This tells us something about our planning, something more constructive than “stop planning.” We cannot project the future accurately, though we can make reasonable guesses about parts of it. But we can not only trust God but work to enhance the capacities of the Lord’s church to trust God under any circumstances. James begins his letter by telling suffering Christians to count their suffering as joy because it produces perseverance and maturity (James 1:2–3). Moments when hardship grinds our plans to dust remind us that the Christian life and Christian leadership are about not being the best planner but becoming a persistently faithful, trusting follower and helping others become the same.

So at that next planning retreat, on the other side of the pandemic, let’s talk about the future, in full humility and as best we can. But let’s place ourselves in the Lord’s almighty hands and ask ourselves what we can do to grow up to persistent, mature faith and guide others to the same destination. It has a promising outcome: “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12).

Unsung Heroes

by Brad Dupray 

Every organization has those people who stand out.  We think of them as the shoulders upon which we stand – and we do.  At CDF Capital, those are names like Ralph Dornette, Jim Campbell, Al Mills, Jackie Charnell, and others.  But every organization also has the people behind the scenes who receive little of the glory but are crucial to its success.  When I think back through my own ministry history, both at CDF and elsewhere, one of those unsung names is Harold Purdom.
 
When I was a young minister, Harold was the Chairman of the Board of the church where I served, Lawndale Christian Church (Lawndale, CA; now Restoration Life Christian Church).  Harold was also on the Board of Directors of CDF at the time, thus dedicating his life to two ministries in his off hours.  Harold took me under his wing and mentored me in the ways of life and ministry.  He was really like a second father to me.
 
Harold had worked his way up through the ranks to the executive level at Continental Airlines and after a thirty-plus year career, he retired, thinking his working days were over.  But no, they were just getting started.  Soon after he cashed it in with Continental, he had a moment that Bob Buford would later define in his book, Halftime, as moving from success to significance.  Ralph Dornette asked Harold to cast retirement aside and come to work at CDF, and that’s when Harold found his real calling.  Rebecca Lyons defines calling as “where your talents and your burdens collide.”  Harold had a magnificent collision.
 
For over a decade Harold worked alongside Ralph to build CDF into the dynamic ministry that it would become.  Harold worked tireless hours, meeting with churches, raising investments, and most importantly, providing paternal leadership to a staff that was growing and experiencing a changing of the guard from those who built the structure to those who would reform it, shape it, and mold it for the future.
 
When I was that young minister, Harold would often take me to lunch to talk about life, ministry, and family; he poured his life into a young man who was trying to make his way, trying to find his own calling.  I can remember the restaurant table I was sitting at when Harold asked if I would be interested in working at CDF.  It was one of the most transformational days of my life.
 
I have friends who remember Harold, but most of them are in their twilight years.  And there are a few of my co-workers who can hearken back to things like Harold’s “change game” where he would shake the change in his pocket and if you guessed correctly within a certain range he would hand it over to you; it was the game of a loving father figure.
 
The real change game for Harold, however, occurred when he came out of retirement and blessed a ministry with his leadership and helped lay the foundation to help churches grow long after he passed from this life to join his heavenly Father.  He told me how he looked forward to that day.
 
Like the unsung heroes of the New Testament who helped lay the foundation for the future of the church (think Priscilla, Aquila, Epaphroditus, Onesimus, Nicodemus, etc.) people like Harold Purdom didn’t seek the spotlight.  He was one of the many quiet heroes who gave his only life for the benefit of countless others.  God bless you, Harold Purdom, and the unsung heroes all around us.  You are the real shoulders upon which we stand.

When God Moves: how Promise Keepers Started

by David Roadcup 

(e2 enjoys ministry partnership with Renew.org, and David earlier recounted his experience with the start of Promise Keepers on their site.)

So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us.  We want to present them to God, mature in their relationship to Christ. That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me.
Colossians 1.28-29 (NLT)

I was one of the founding leaders of the Promise Keepers men’s movement of the 1990s. 

It was truly one of the most exciting and stretching experiences of my fifty-three years of ministry service to the body of Christ.  I was invited to pen this series to share with our readers the history of this movement, its impact and influence on the men of America (and other countries) and what I learned and experienced as we saw the mighty hand of God move in the lives of the men of America. 

This is how things began for me: 
In August of 1988, I moved from my Vice President role at Cincinnati Christian University to Boulder, Colorado to become the Lead Minister at Boulder Valley Christian Church.  As we arrived, several of the men of the congregation invited me to attend a popular interdenominational men’s prayer breakfast which was held each Friday morning at 6:30 a.m. the Boulder Country Club. 

The first Friday after the invitations, I arrived at the country club at 6:30 a.m. to find the parking lot full.  I entered the banquet room, got coffee took a seat at a round table up front.  The room was filled with 150+ men who seemed to really enjoy the fellowship and time together.  I introduced myself to the man on my right.  “Hi, my name is David Roadcup.  I am new in town and the new Pastor at Boulder Valley Christian Church.”  

The man on my right said, “Welcome to our fellowship.  My name is Bill McCartney.” 

At that point, I did not know that Bill was the Head Coach of the football program at the University of Colorado in our city.  I also did not know where this meeting would take us. 

If you were a pastor and attended the breakfast regularly, you were asked to join the rotation of speakers who provided the fifteen-minute devotion at the weekly breakfasts.  I began speaking in the rotation and Bill would graciously speak to me about what he had received from my messages.  We made a connection through those brief visits. 

This began a relationship with Bill that led to a phone call a year later. 

Coach Mac and one of his close friends, David Wardell, had traveled together to fulfill a speaking engagement on Coach Mac’s schedule.  As they drove, they sang and prayed together. 

During this trip, Bill shared with David that he thought the Lord was leading him to begin an outreach to men.  David encouraged Bill to pursue what he thought the Lord had revealed to him.  They would work on this project together. 

Immediately after this trip, two men called me to share Bill’s vision.  He believed that the Lord was leading him to begin a men’s ministry that called men to do a couple of focused things.

The first challenge was to be true to the promises they made at their immersions – promises of a life committed to integrity, purity, loyalty and obedience to Jesus.  The second calling was to be the most biblical husband and father they could be, devoted husbands who loved their wives as Christ loved the church, and to love their wives as they loved themselves; to be husbands who would raise their children to walk in faith and commitment to Jesus Christ.  We were to restore the spiritual identity of the sons of God.  

Bill felt he knew what the Lord was leading him to do.  He just was not sure how to make this happen.  The phone call was an invitation to meet with Bill, David and several other leaders to discuss the vision that these brothers had shared in together. 

Our meeting was held at a Perkins Pancake House in Boulder.  It was the fall of 1989.  Eight of us gathered, had breakfast and listened to Bill and David as they shared their vision.  Bill told us that he dreamed of the day when the stadium his team played in on Saturday afternoons would be filled with men seeking the Lord. 

They asked us if we had any input into how this kind of a ministry could be launched.  Being ministers, we told him that we knew the basics of how to create this kind of a gathering.  We also shared our hearts about the need to call men to a faithful commitment to Christ.  Bill asked for our help and we prayed a prayer of unity and dedication to move forward. 

The men at this meeting eventually formed the first Board of Directors for Promise Keepers.  That original group served together for many years, adding new members as others rotated off the Board.  I served on the Board for eleven years, the last five as Board Vice-Chair.

Our first action was to invite a group of men to a meeting where we introduced the idea that would become Promise Keepers. 

We decided to call men in our networks to a meeting that would take place at the church where I preached, Boulder Valley Christian Church.  This first informational meeting took place in July of 1990.  Seventy-two men gathered for dinner, worship and to hear about this new men’s ministry.  (This meeting became known as “The Meeting of 72.”) 

After a worship time, Coach Mac shared his heart about calling men to keep their promises.  Bill was an excellent motivational speaker.  His presentation was powerful and visionary.  It was such a needed ministry for all of our churches. 

In addition, the Lord’s powerful Presence was there that night.  It was palpable.  We all left the meeting, committed to moving forward with the vision of inviting men to come to a meeting where they would be challenged to get more serious than they had ever been before about knowing, loving and following Jesus.

In the following weeks, our Board number grew to ten men.  We began planning our end of July 1991 event, the date Bill requested.   We issued invitations to the men of Colorado and the immediate adjoining states.  Bill and his coaching staff had the entire month of July off each year.  The first of August, summer practices began and Bill requested that we have the mass meeting the weekend before his season officially began. 

We met and decided to lease Folsum Field, the football stadium at the University of Colorado for the last weekend of July.  The date was set.  We planned all fall and winter long, arranging worship leaders, speakers and a myriad of thousands of details which we, as the board, handled ourselves.  We labored in the details of putting together a meeting that would see 55,000 men come together in the name of Christ. 

As we planned and prayed, little did we know what the Lord had in store long-term.  The tens of thousands of men who would come to Christ and the myriad who would recommit their lives to Jesus in NFL stadiums around the country were still ahead.  We were excited and had great anticipation concerning what the Lord would do.  Our anticipation grew as the last weekend of July, 1991 approached. 

Laugh Again

by Gary Johnson 

Every Christmas, my wife Leah says that she is going to buy me “Miracle Ear” for my gift.  To her, it seems that my hearing is waning.  Like many, I have what we call selective hearing.  Yet, there is a sound that I have not heard in recent times, and perhaps you can say the same. 
 
Where has all the laughter gone?  Have you noticed its conspicuous absence?
 
Life today is not a laughing matter.  COVID is making a comeback across the country and around the world.  Businesses that were told they could open are now being told to close.  Our nation is divided politically as never before.  Civil unrest is unrelenting.  Even Christians are at odds with one another.  Even the American Psychological Association recently stated that 70 percent of Americans say this is the lowest point in US history they can remember.  These are heavy-hearted days and there is little about which to laugh.
 
Yet, we need to laugh again – loudly and often.  We need to enjoy belly-busting laughter.  And why?  Proverbs 17:22 reminds us that “laughter is good like a medicine.”  We all want a vaccine for the virus, but we already have some great medicine for our souls that is readily available – laughter!
 
Laughing actually improves our breathing, increases our blood flow, reduces our stress, activates our “feel-good” hormones in the brain, and makes for a stronger immune system.  Knowing this, who would not want to “take this medicine” and laugh out loud?      
 
Think with me.  Jesus had a fun side.  In John 21, the resurrected Jesus appeared to some of His disciples at the Sea of Galilee.  Peter and six other disciples decided to go fishing.  It wasn’t an afternoon of recreational fishing, hoping to get a few bluegills for supper.  The text reads that they fished through the night – and caught nothing.  Ashamed for having denied knowing Jesus three times, Peter reverted to his old ways and went back to commercial fishing.  Jesus appeared to them early in the morning and the boat was about one hundred yards from shore.  He could have called out to them, “Hey guys!  It’s Me, Jesus!  Get in here!”  But, He didn’t.  He told them to “throw their nets on the other side of the boat,” and as they did so, the nets were filled with 153 fish!  Been there.  Done that.  Jesus performed this miracle with the disciples when He firsts met them some three years earlier.  Immediately, they knew it was Jesus and they took off for the shore.  Peter even jumped in the water and swam, the laden boat moving too slowly for him.  Talk about a practical joke.  I can “hear” the gut-busting belly laughter coming from Jesus.  Luke reminds us that Jesus “was filled with joy through the Holy Spirit” (Luke 10:21), and the same can happen with us.  After all, the fruit of the Spirit includes joy (Galatians 5:22).
 
We have been made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27), and God has a sense of humor.  We often think of God as being serious 24/7, but we need to think of God as being our ultimate joy-giver.  In Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale (HarperCollins, 1977), gifted author and pastor Frederick Buechner describes a joyful moment from Genesis 18.
 
The place to start is with a woman laughing.  She is an old woman, and after a lifetime in the desert, her face is cracked and rutted like a six-month drought.  She hunches her shoulders round her eyes and starts to shake.  She squinnies her eyes shut, and her laughter is all wheeze and tears running down as she rocks back and forth in her kitchen chair.  She is laughing because she is pushing 91 hard and has just been told she is going to have a baby….  The old woman’s name is Sarah, of course, and her old man’s name is Abraham, and they are laughing at the idea of a baby’s being born in the geriatric ward and Medicare’s picking up the tab.  Maybe the most interesting part of it all is that far from getting angry at them for laughing, God told them that when the baby was born, he wanted them to name him Isaac, which in Hebrew means laughter.  So you can say that God not only tolerated their laughter, but blessed it and, in a sense, joined in it himself.
 
Does it look like we have been baptized in vinegar and weened on a pickle?  Maybe it’s time we start smiling and laughing again.  Let’s resolve to watch more comedies than we do action, suspense, or even horror movies.  And speaking of horror, rather than binging on fear-driven news updates, let’s read humorous stories.  Are there funny stories from your past?  Tell them again and again as if they were happening for the very first time.  And let’s not forget to laugh at ourselves! 
 
Years ago, someone gave me a piece of art as both a gift and a reminder.  This piece of art has never left my desk.  It is a well-known sketch of Jesus.  Drawn in 1973 by the late Canadian artist Willis Wheatley, Christ, Liberator (probably more commonly known as “Jesus Laughing”) became a sensation.  Why?  Few Christians ever gave thought to Jesus having a sense of humor.  This sketch reminds me to laugh like Jesus.  After all, “the joy of the Lord is my strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).
 
Go ahead.  Laugh out loud.  People will wonder what we’re up to. 

News Story by Vancouver Sun about Willis Wheatley and the image:
https://vancouversun.com/news/staff-blogs/meet-the-creator-of-the-laughing-jesus-photo/

Tools for the Times

by Jeff Faull 

Chances are, you saw the same stuff I’d read.  Dust storms all the way from the Sahara are the latest threat to our safety.  One person humorously responded to the news like this:

“Always wondered what it would be like to live during the times of the Civil War, the Spanish flu, the Great depression, the civil rights movement, Watergate and the dustbowl.”

And, I might add, murder hornets, giant asteroids, Cyclospora food-borne illness and the list goes on…  Seems that threats are multiplied.  We definitely live in a V.U.C.A. world: Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous.

So how do we live on this planet in these chaotic times?  How do we respond to 2020?  And what can elders do to understand the times and help believers navigate this increasingly insane culture?

We who are shepherds can start by identifying some tools for God’s people to have in their discipleship toolbox to face uncertain times.  We can’t merely tell them what they are supposed to think, but we can provide biblical tools to help them learn to think and use the tools well.

At Mt. Gilead, where I serve, we are highlighting and demonstrating some of these tools and how to use them in our next sermon series, 2020 Tools for the Times.

We are building our toolbox and developing our skills with things like…

  • Courage and Conviction
  • Discernment and Wisdom
  • Spiritual Awareness
  • Active and Prayerful fasting
  • Good Theology and Hermeneutics
  • Uncommon Decency
  • Healthy Community
  • Righteous Justice
  • Honest History
  • Enduring Effort

Our responsibility as leaders and elders is to equip our people, including our children, with these essential cultural tools to use in an increasingly confusing and unsettling future.  

We can do this.  

Indeed, we must.