Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I Do It ... You Do It: Thoughts on Mentoring

Thoughts on Mentoring

"See how I hold the bat straight up? Do you know why I do that?" the coach asked. "Because the bat is lighter when held straight up. Less surface for gravity to pull on."

"Hold your bat back like I am. As the pitcher throws the ball, respond with your body the way mine does. Pivot your front foot, twist your hips and shoulders, bring your arms around. If you decide you like the pitch, bring the bat around with you. If not, hold up. Understand?"

We didn’t. We were a bunch of eight year olds being drilled in the art of batting. And the coach, my dad, was tasked with making sure we had some idea of what we were doing.

But, would that be enough? Is it ever enough to just tell someone, "Clean your room. Don’t do drugs, alcohol or sex. Make sure you do well in school. Treat a girl right. Drive carefully. Make sure the boys respect you."

We might think that just verbalizing these instructions is enough, but do any of us catch on to abstract concepts or even concrete behaviors that easily? Don’t we need someone to go beyond the verbal instructions to show us what the ideas look like or how the behaviors are performed?

My dad taught us in his batting clinic. But, he did more. He showed us. "Hold the bat like this." John Maxwell identifies four biblical steps to training someone. The steps are:

I do it. Before anyone can teach they must first be proficient themselves. Proficiency is developed by faithful and careful performance over time.

I do it - and you watch. The teacher or coach instructs and performs the deed as the students watch, hoping they catch as many of the details as possible. An experienced teacher or coach knows that not much is going to be caught or understood by the students, so they move to the next step.

You do it - and I watch. The teacher and student now exchange roles, with the student performing the desired action. It may not go very well at first. That is why the instructor is still present, correcting, teaching, guiding and demonstrating again how to perform the task. There is still one more step.

You do it. As the student gains proficiency, he is now ready to be entrusted with the job. He has been trained and mentored to perform at a higher level, all under the caring and watchful eyes of the mentor. (John Maxwell, Mentoring 101, p.17)

After steps one and two in the batting clinic, dad moved to step three, You do - and I watch. He gave each of us a bat to perform the various exercises he demonstrated - holding it upright and straight out to experience the difference in weight; holding it behind us in a readied stance; swinging. After spending most of one practice session on these basic drills, dad moved us to step four, You do it. We batted. The rest of the season we continued to receive mentoring.

Maxwell says, "In all the years I’ve been equipping and developing others, I’ve never found a better way to do it than this." (P.18) The Bible says, "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 Timothy 2:2). That is mentoring.

"Am I doing this right?" (Ashley Sisk Photography)

These four steps apply not only to a batting clinic or to Paul preparing Timothy to minister. They apply to the issues and concerns in our home, family and spiritual life. To a child keeping his room clean. To a teenager keeping his body free from addictive chemicals. To a boy or girl dating carefully. To a student doing well in school. You set the example. Then teach and show them what the idea looks like. Then entrust them with restricted levels of freedom to perform how you expect, while providing oversight. If they abuse the freedom, reel them back in for more instruction, with correction and discipline. Then, they move out to perform on their own.

This year, is there someone in our lives - a child, friend, co-worker, or neighbor - that we can mentor in the ways of spiritual living and godly perspective?

Warren Baldwin

Sunday, December 12, 2010



The engagement period is exciting for a young couple. It should be. After dating and falling in love, the couple is now seriously envisioning a future together and are making concrete plans for it. The engagement period signals to the world that this couple is committed to a lifetime together.

There is an element of ecstacy during the engagement as the man and woman draws even closer together. Intimacy develops naturally and deeply as the couple continues to learn about each other, talk about their love, plan the big day, and dream about their future. The world seems like a wonderful place when you are engaged to the person of your dreams and are about to take that joyful step into committed and intimate connection.

Participate Together

There are a few things couples can keep in mind during the engagement to make this transition period to the wedding be meaningful and bonding. One, be aware that while the engagement period is exciting, it can also be a time of stress, especially for the bride, as she plans the wedding. Guys usually get out easy on this, much of our contribution being, "Yup, oh yeah, that’s nice, sure, whatever you say."

It doesn’t seem fair, does it? But as most of us know, men are not as concerned about matching plates and linens, dresses and suits, and the host of other details that are planned for the wedding during the engagement. But, guys should be aware that it is important for the bride, so we shouldn’t discourage her attempts to make the wedding as nice as it can be. This is a time for us to participate in something meaningful with our future bride.

For me, this participation was shopping with Cheryl for the cake knife. I didn’t know people shopped for cake knives! The first store we went to had a nice knife and Cheryl said, "I like this one." I said, "Good, let’s get it." She said, "No, we have to go look at some other stores first." So we did. Several stores. And I don’t remember for sure, but I’m certain that while we were there we also looked at other things as well. Then Cheryl said, "Ok, let’s go back and get the knife"

"Which one?" I asked.

"The knife at the first store."

"Why didn’t we just get it when we were there the first time? We did all this other shopping for nothing," I said.

"No," Cheryl corrected me, "We had to go to all the other stores to make sure the first one is really the one we wanted."

"Well, I was sure."

"Maybe so, but I wasn’t."

Boy, I had a lot to learn. One of the things I had to learn was that marriage is sharing of hearts and activities. It is a participation in the life of the other person, even shopping for knives. The engagement is a good time to learn that.

Planning Your Future

Secondly, the engagement is a time to seriously plan your future together. There are several very important things to discuss. Having kids, for example. You might want to have five but your finance only one, or even none. That is a good thing to find out and discuss now! I wanted four kids and Cheryl wanted two. We discussed that during our engagement and settled on three (and then I wish I had said six). We began having our children at the same time some of our friends did. In one family, the wife wanted two or more kids but the husband only one. She expressed her frustration with us and asked what we were going to do. I said we talked about that before we married and plan on having two more. "You talked about that before you were married?" she asked, incredulously.

Related to having kids is having some serious discussion about raising the kids. What are your styles of discipline? Will you warn a child once if he misbehaves and then administer some form of correction, or will you warn him numerous times? Will one of you stay home to raise the children, or will you seek daycare? These are things to know before the children begin to arrive, and the engagement period is the optimum time.

Other issues to discuss are relationships with in-laws, relationships with friends (be aware that your fiancé may not share your warm feelings toward your life-long best friend) and where/how to spend the holidays. You may not know at this point how you will handle some of the issues or situations, but at least you have eliminated some painful surprises later on.

Exercise Restraint

Thirdly, during the engagement you are committed to getting married, but you still are not married. This has important spiritual and moral implications. Because they are going to get married, it is so easy for engaged couples to begin acting as if they are married. And in some things, that is good and shows wise planning. Making joint purchases of furniture, getting the paper work to change the wife’s last name, making arrangements with banks about joint accounts and other details is good.

In other ways, though, acting as if you are married before you actually are can be a problem. During the dating years showing affection is exhilarating, even when shown with great restraint. It is a taste of what the full measure of romantic involvement will be like the night of the "I do" and of the days to follow. That anticipation can be difficult to contain during the months leading to the wedding. "Since we are going to get married anyway, can’t we go a little farther than we normally do in showing affection?" is a normal question for engaged couples. Emotional, psychological and even spiritual restraints can melt away in the warm embrace of the one you are going to marry in only 37 more days. But those 37 days can seem like 37 years at that moment.

Sadly, I’ve seen a few young couples reason, "We are going to get married soon anyway," and engage in levels of sexual behavior they previously resisted. In some cases, and for a variety of reasons, they didn’t follow through with the wedding plans. Now, here is a young man and young woman who had saved themselves for 22 years wracked with regret because they didn’t wait a little longer.

I encourage engaged couples to continue to exercise the same discipline during the engagement that they did during their dating years. Becoming sexual involved now just complicates the relationship, creates feelings of guilt and regret, and robs the wedding night of much of its allure. Wait.

The engagement period is an exciting time. But, it is also a time for some important relationship and character issues to develop and grow. It is a time for wholesome participation in the other’s life, for planning life issues, and for exercising a rugged discipline of the mind and body to keep the relationship pure. Hebrews 13:4 is as appropriate for the engagement as it was for the time of dating: "Keep the marriage bed pure." To help encourage this purity, I encourage young couples to have a lengthy dating period, but a very short engagement.

My hope for the couples who read this is that your engagement will be fun, joyous, pure, and an exciting taste of what your years together will be like as marriage partners. God bless.

Warren Baldwin

Note: This article appeard in three segements on my other blog, Family Fountain. I am reposting it here in one article for ease of coping or sending. Feel free to share this article with anyone.

Also, a special thanks to Amy Free Photography for permission to use these pictures.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Suffering as Punishment #2


This series of lessons is about SUFFERING. The title is WHEN GOD ACTS. I chose this as the title because sometimes the acts of God result in suffering. In our suffering. And there are three particular purposes God has when he allows suffering to be visited upon us. This week we look at PUNISHMENT.

Most moms and dads have rules for their house and home. If they don’t they need to! "Don’t talk with your mouth full." "Don’t hit your little brother." And most of us use means to enforce the rules when the little ones think they can break them. "I will tell you one time and one time only. After that you are in trouble." I knew one lady that would count to 10. The kids always waited until she got to 9. Why waste all that time? Just count to 1. And they better be moving!

Parents, this really is important: If we do not ENFORCE the rules, our children will never respect us. They will never take us seriously. Not when they are little and not when they are grown. Also, if we do not PUNISH them when they break the rules, they will forever think that rules are made for other people, but they can do whatever they want.

Rules let us know how we are supposed to live. Punishment lets us know that the rules are for real. That they are not to be ignored or laughed at. A firm spanking administered immediately after a little one willfully breaks a rule teaches a lesson learned for a lifetime.

If punishment works for earthly mothers and fathers who are trying to train their children, doesn’t it make sense that it would also work for the heavenly father who is trying to train his children? Us? And if punishment causes pain in our children, then we can expect it to cause pain in God’s children.

Punishment actually serves two purposes.

One, punishment involves retribution. That is, the idea of pay back. You did something wrong and hurtful, so now something hurtful will be done to you. Rom. 3:23 - 6:23. Bible says we have lived lives of sin. And that deserves only one thing - punishment. Sometimes the punishment or pain doesn’t just come at the end of this life. Sometimes it comes now. If you are committing armed robbery, and you die in a shoot-out with the police, that is punishment. Wouldn’t you call that "just desserts"?

Secondly, punishment involve deterrence. When an evil person is punished, that serves as a warning to the rest of us. Hopefully, the death of the armed robber would deter some others from committing the same sin.

Ultimately, however, punishment is about retribution. Getting our just desserts. God giving us what we deserve. Suffering and death - because of a world of sin. That is what hell is all about. Rev. 21:8. The ultimate suffering. That is what we have earned. Psalm 7:11. Hell is the wrath of God. And only when we accept that can grace truly mean anything to us.

The "ultimate" punishment, hell, is reserved for the end of the world. But sometimes punishment can come during this life as well. Amos 4:2-13 illustrates how God works in the lives of people to punish them for sin. And to deter them from sinning any more. There are 3 points.

One, the sinful behavior of people draws out the urge in God to punish.
In Amos 4 the people are acting like Adam and Eve - they are doing their own thing. They are walking away from God.
- Instead of worshiping in Jerusalem they are going to Bethel and Gilgal.
- They oppressed the poor and needy (2:6-7; 4:1; 5:10-13; 6:1-7).
So, God determines to punish these people. They are stubborn and arrogant. They care only for themselves. They are like Adam and Eve, doing what THEY want.

Two, God punishes the people to DETER them from further sin.
- He gave them a shortage of food and empty stomachs (v.6)
- He stopped the rain so the crops would burn up (v.7)
- The people were weary from thirst (v.8)
- Blight, mildew and locusts destroyed their crops (v.9)
- The young men God allowed to die in battle and by the plague (v.10)

Why did God do all of this? These are horrible acts! These punishments were not just retribution - punishment for doing evil. If it was, God could have caused even greater death. Instead, it was punishment for deterrence. God hoped this little bit of punishment would cause people to say, "Hey, we don’t want to sin any more. We are going to follow the ways of the Lord."

The punishment was intended to restore Israel’s desire to follow the Lord. We know that is the case from a refrain God repeats FIVE TIMES. 4:6,8,9,10,11.

Here are God’s warnings: 5:4b, "Seek me and live." 5:14ba, "Seek good, not evil, that you may live." Then, Amos promised, "The Lord God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is." 5:14b. But the people wouldn’t listen. So, now, God moves into another phase of punishment.

Three, God punishes the people, not as a deterrence anymore, but to give them their ‘just desserts.’ This is retribution, or retributive justice - getting what you deserve. Amos 4:12c - "Prepare to meet your God, O Israel." And this will not be a pleasant meeting.

God has done everything he could to call his people back to him.
- He has sent prophets to preach.
- He has sent hunger and thirst, destroyed crops and a few deaths.
But nothing would move the people. Punishment did not warn them. "If you do that again I’ll spank you again." Nothing worked.

So now the punishment would become more severe. And it wouldn’t be a warning.
It would be "getting what you deserve with no hope of reversing it."
Here is what it will be like when they meet the Lord: 5:16-17; 27; 6:14; 9:8.
The Assyrians, a hostile nation, will conquer Israel. They will kill many of the Israelites, and take many away into captivity. And the northern kingdom would never again exist.

That is punishment. And God did it. In 1 Chron. 5:26 says God "stirred up the spirit of Pul king of Assyria." Isaiah described Assyria as God’s "club of wrath" (Isaiah 9:11). God punished Israel.

"God is patient with sinful people, but his patience ultimately wears thin with the arrogant. Eventually their cup becomes full and God destroys them." (J.M. Hicks, Yet Will I Trust Him, p.129)
- God did it in the flood
- He did it at Babel
- He did it to Israel
- Later, he does it to Judah
- Later still he does it to Rome.
Can we expect that God is stll doing it? Could some of the suffering we experience now be our "just desserts" for sinful living?

Israel was conquered by an oppressive foreign country. Her citizens were killed. The healthy teenage boys and girls were taken as slaves to a foreign country. 2 Kings 17:22,23. Just as Amos predicted.

That is a horrible story!!

But there is a glimmer of hope. Amos 9:14: "Yet I will not totally destroy the house of Jacob." God will keep a remnant for himself. Why? He wants fellowship with us.

I believe everything God does is about fellowship with us.
1) God created us for fellowship
2) God sent Abraham to call people back to him. For fellowship.
3) God sent Jesus to call people back to him. For fellowship
4) God sends punishment to call people back to him. For fellowship

I can not say that suffering in one’s life is ALWAYS punishment. But I think I can say that if there is suffering in your life, God is hoping you will see it as a sign to come back to him if that is what you must do. And if you haven’t left him and you suffer ... well, that is our next lesson.

God wanted fellowship with Israel. And God wants fellowship with you. Don’t, like Israel, move arrogantly away. Come to him in humility.

(Many of the ideas for this series come from the book Yet Will I Trust Him by John Mark Hicks)

Warren Baldwin