Reflections and resources for lifelong learning for missionaries

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transformed by the Scriptures
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Mentoring: Transformed by the Scriptures

Editor’s note: We are continuing our blog series on mentoring using the Mentoring Pillars written by the late Jim Feiker, a former member of SEND International. This twelfth and last pillar talks about how the Scriptures transform the mentees and how important the Scriptures are in the mentoring process.

Three men in Scripture stand out as being known for their devotion to and their use of Scripture. They are Timothy (2 Timothy 3:15-17), Apollos (Acts 18: 24), and Ezra (Ezra 7:10). All were characterized by being “mighty in the Scriptures,” or “well versed and learned in the Scripture.”

Ezra’s example

Ezra is my favorite Old Testament character with this noteworthy distinction. As a priest, scribe, and teacher, Ezra was sent by the king of Babylon to Jerusalem to teach God’s laws to Israel. One verse in Ezra summarizes it all:

For Ezra had devoted himself to the study, and observance of the Law of the Lord, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.

Ezra 7:10

Let’s make a few observations to unpack his heart and commitment to Scripture.

“For” is referring back to Ezra 7:9. God’s hand was upon him because he devoted himself to the Scriptures. Three times in the book of Ezra it says of him “for the hand of the Lord his God is upon him.” His spiritual authority to lead emerged from God anointing him and in his manifesting God’s presence.

affirmation
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The Power of Affirmation

Editor’s note: We are continuing our blog series on mentoring using the Mentoring Pillars written by the late Jim Feiker, a former member of SEND International. This eleventh pillar talks about how powerful affirmation can be in a mentoring relationship.

Every one of us is a flickering flame. We need people to both cup their hands around us to protect the flame from going out and to fan it into a stronger burning flame. They can do so by giving verbal affirmation. Encouragement, affirmation, exhortation, admonition, and blessing are all words used interchangeably in Scripture.

A study of men and women of God suggests that God uses both affirmation and the deprivation of it as tools in our formation. God uniquely designs adversity, pain, suffering, trials, and his discipline as well as adversity to shape us into His likeness. They are gifts from his loving hand. In this mentoring pillar, affirmation will be our primary focus.

David blesses his family

“And David went home to bless his family.” Two times in Scripture at least,1 2 Samuel 6:20; 1 Chron. 16:43 this phrase is mentioned about David. After he had led his soldiers into victory, David chose to go home and to bless and affirm his family. Nothing was so important to him at a time when his family needed to see him and he needed to be with them. Their relationship brought mutual encouragement. He found blessing from his family, and blessing his family was a supreme role to him as a father. David knew that no one could honor and bring verbal affirmation as powerfully as he could.

All of us know people who come from a family which was blessed by a father and mother, where grace filled the home. We know them, for they dispense grace and bless every one of us.

intercession
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Intercession: The Indispensable Priority in Mentoring

Editor’s note: We are continuing our blog series on mentoring using the Mentoring Pillars written by the late Jim Feiker, a former member of SEND International. This tenth pillar emphasizes the importance of intercession in the mentoring relationship.

My mother’s intercession for me

Minneapolis was a great place to grow up. Its people gave me a positive spiritual heritage. My mother gave me to God as Hannah did with Samuel. She had lost her second child by miscarriage and then I entered this world. My mother never told me she had “lent me to God for His purposes” until I was 17. She only let me know when she knew that I had dedicated my life to Jesus as Lord and to ministry. I knew that my mother prayed for me often and that she enlisted others to pray for me.

God took her at her word, called me into ministry, shaped and transformed my life, and put key mentors in my life. All my life I have felt that I am reserved for God and His purposes only. Mother, now in the Lord’s presence, never knew the impact she had on my life by intercession. It was more important than anything else she ever did for me. The prayers she prayed for me extend on through my life and will influence my life forever. Thanks, Mom!

Chuck Swindoll has made a powerful statement:

There is no more significant involvement in another’s life than prevailing, consistent prayer. It is more helpful than the gift of money, more encouraging than a strong sermon, more effective than a compliment, more reassuring than a physical embrace.

quoted in When Couples Pray by Cheri Fuller, p. 58.

We need to both intercede for those we mentor and teach them to intercede for others by our modeling. There is no greater calling in our mentoring.

emotional baggage
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Helping People Move Past Their Past

Editor’s note: We are continuing our blog series on mentoring using the Mentoring Pillars written by the late Jim Feiker, a former member of SEND International. This ninth pillar was co-authored by Jim and his wife Bev. It deals with how to help mentees deal with their emotional baggage from the past.

A friend asked me a great question some time ago. “What are some of the emergency brakes in your life, which if released, would bring you to a whole new potential for Christ?”

There are both external and internal brakes. External brakes are things such as lack of funds, not being on an effective team, or not having the skills we need to be effective. But internal brakes are things like emotional baggage, lies we believe, and idols that limit and enslave us.

Dealing with emotional baggage

We all have a personal history, but it is the negative feelings and responses we have about the past that we call emotional baggage. These need attention so we can move ahead in our lives and go on to maturity in Christ.

This is not easy to do, as Kierkegaard reminds us:

It is really true what philosophy tells us, that life must be understood backwards. But with this, one forgets the second proposition, that it must be lived forwards. A proposition which, the more it is subjected to careful thought, the more it ends up concluding precisely that life at any given moment cannot really ever be fully understood; exactly because there is no single moment where time stops completely in order for me to take position [to do this]: going backwards.’

Soren Kierkegaard

This is a hard topic to tackle in one blog post. We are basically only opening the subject here. But it is vital that we address it. We have observed the effect of unresolved past issues both in our own lives and in the lives of others. Here are a couple of thoughts on the subject:

  1. Working through issues of the past is a process that we come back to through various stages of our life’s journey and the seasons of our life.
  2. All of us deal with areas of dysfunction (after all we’re human!). In times of stress, we tend to revert to coping mechanisms we picked up as children.
  3. We need to be alert as to when it is necessary to refer people to professionals for the type of help we cannot provide due to our lack of training.
a grace environment
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Creating a grace environment

Editor’s note: We are continuing our blog series on mentoring using the Mentoring Pillars written by the late Jim Feiker, a former member of SEND International. This eighth pillar explains the importance of establishing a grace-filled environment in the mentoring relationship.

To my daughter Susan, the ambiance is everything. Even as a child her favorite way to help was to create a beautiful table, or to make welcome signs when friends were coming over. To her the atmosphere set the mood for loving relationships. It gave signals to those who entered our home that it was okay to be yourself, that you would be accepted there. She wanted people to feel that they could be at home in our family, that they belonged there. This desire of Susan for a loving environment flowed from her gifts of mercy and hospitality. To this day, this is still a vital part of Susan’s ministry.

Environment of grace

She was right! An environment of grace does release a positive response in people leading to powerful outcomes. In it, people sense the freedom to be transparent and vulnerable. They feel safe to express themselves, they trust each other and they learn to speak truth to one another. They forgive each other and often walk out of their darkness into light, revealing and confessing their sins to each other. Mutual acceptance and forgiveness are given, as is the freedom to fail and disagree.

In this environment, learning is made fun, and people celebrate each other’s lives with laughter and joy. A grace atmosphere pours through them to others, fostering creativity and hope, and nurturing the learning process and growth. It attracts others into the Kingdom. Just to be in such an atmosphere is to be bathed in a healing power and to experience the presence of God. Grace sets the pitch for the music of the mentoring relationship.

divine resources
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Utilizing Divine Resources for Spiritual Transformation

Editor’s note: We are continuing our blog series on mentoring using the Mentoring Pillars written by the late Jim Feiker, a former member of SEND International. This seventh pillar explains the importance of relying on divine resources in order to see real transformation in the lives of our mentees.

The danger of spiritual malpractice

Have you ever wondered what spiritual ministry malpractice might look like? Is it possible to be the most skilled facilitator in the learning process, have a great relationship with a person, and still be out of harmony with what God is doing in a person’s life? We are called to a divine ministry to enable divine work in God’s eternal people through his Spirit. To this end, God has given us his unlimited graces to partner with him in ministry. He knows that without us utilizing his dynamite resources, we will be ineffective and powerless. God’s work, done in God’s way, will experience His power and blessing.1 This last sentence is an adaptation of a quote from Hudson Taylor – “God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply.”

Empowerment means not human equipment, but divine enduement. It is possible to be splendidly equipped from man’s point of view, yet magnificently disqualified in God’s estimate. Prayer gives a new vision to the soul, a new contact with God, and a new hold upon God; it makes possible a larger recognition of divine resources, a fuller reception and consequently a fuller distribution.

Arthur T. Pierson

Therefore, the critical question for us is this: Are we relying on our skills and gifts, or are we depending on the Spirit of God and His divine resources to do His ministry?

God's purposes
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Keep God’s Purposes in Mind

Editor’s note: We are continuing our blog series on mentoring using the Mentoring Pillars written by the late Jim Feiker, a former member of SEND International. This sixth pillar tells mentors that they need to remember God’s purposes for the mentee and work toward those ends.

In the process of spiritual mentoring, seeing the beginning and also the end are both of significant importance. We need to see both the way things ought to be and the way things really are now. Clarity in both where people are right now in their spiritual journey, and in where God wants them ultimately to gives us a realistic, balanced perspective.

To see only the beginning brings tolerance and grace toward a person’s humanity, but does not provide any direction in where to go. On the other hand, to see only the end purpose gives us direction. However, it may impose too high of standard (given where a person is now). It will lead to legalism and a failure to accept their humanness.

The journey between these two critical points is the process we call biblical transformation. Unless we are in sync with a person’s design (Pillar #5) and with God’s eternal purposes, we will not develop a clear God-ward perspective in our mentoring.

The purposes of God have three different aspects:

  1. God’s ultimate purposes in the universe – where he is going with his people into eternity.
  2. The universal purposes or objectives God has for every believer.
  3. His unique purposes or calling that he has for each person individually.

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