Generations Coming Together

Tom Flahertyby Tom Flaherty, pastor (City Church, Madison, Wisconsin)

The company of the prophets said to Elisha, “Look, the place where we meet with you is too small for us. Let us go to the Jordan, where each of us can get a pole; and let us build a place there for us to meet.”
And he said, “Go.”
Then one of them said, “Won’t you please come with your servants?”
“I will,” Elisha replied. And he went with them.  They went to the Jordan and began to cut down trees. As one of them was cutting down a tree, the iron ax head fell into the water.
“Oh no, my lord!” he cried out. “It was borrowed!”
The man of God asked, “Where did it fall?”  When he showed him the place, Elisha cut a stick and threw it there, and made the iron float.
“Lift it out,” he said.  Then the man reached out his hand and took it. (2 Kings 6:1-7)

Every year, Alice and I go to our National FCA Convention where we hear a number of speakers. The final message of last year’s convention was from this text. The first message of this year’s convention was also from this exact text.

Can you imagine how we felt when the second night’s message this year was also from 2 Kings 6:1-7? Three straight speakers all speaking from the same obscure text!

Only God could arrange this, so the question becomes, Why? I think it has to do with the generations coming together. Here are three encouragements for the older generation:

One: Have something from God to give to the younger generation—something they need. Elisha had burned his plow and pressed in for a double anointing, which he then received from Elijah.

The younger generation doesn’t need information from us—they can just Google to get that. But Google can’t supply the wisdom that comes from an ongoing relationship with God. We must keep pressing in for all God has for us so we can be “relevant” to the generations coming behind us. They asked Elisha to come because they needed what he had.

Two: Release the younger generation to go beyond where we’ve been. The idea to build bigger came from the young prophets. The place they where they lived was probably built by Elisha, but the time came when it wasn’t good enough. Instead of being offended by their request, Elisha released them to do something more than he’d done.

King Saul reacted the opposite way. He had become jealous of the next generation and feared they would be greater than he was, so he tried to kill David. But Elijah believed God could take his anointing and double it in the next generation. let’s believe as he did and release the coming generation into even more grace than we’ve experienced.

Three: Go with the next generation to ensure their success. In their zeal, mistakes were made. The ax head was lost. But Elisha was there to show them that every problem can actually become an opportunity to encounter the faithfulness and power of God.

Here are three encouragements for the younger generation:

One: Desire the right thing. This story follows a heartbreak in Elisha’s life. The man he had been mentoring, Gehazi, chose money instead of God. Gehazi felt Elisha had missed an opportunity for material blessing after Naaman’s healing, so he went after Naaman to get the clothes and silver Elisha had ignored.

Gehazi thought the anointing was something to be used for personal gain. And while God let him keep the clothes and silver he wanted, he also received Naaman’s leprosy, which forced him away from the presence of Elisha from that day on.

Two: Ask the older generation to go with you. Even though they aren’t as “cool” or as fun as your peers, you need them. The wisdom and anointing of Elisha led to the success of the young prophets by the design of God. When you learn to honor, God ordains life and enduring success. (See Ephesians 6:1-3.)

Three: Ask for a double portion. Our ceiling can be your floor because of the grace of God. Forgiveness breaks the evil that comes down to you, while honor draws the good. When you go farther than we do, you honor our sacrifice. Your victory is our victory.

Reprinted by permission from Tom Flaherty’s weekly devotional to City Church, Madison, WI.

Who Is My Neighbor?

Who Is My Neighbor?

Who is my enemy?

Randal Rauser challenged attenders at the 2016 FCA Canadian Convention in Grande Prairie, Alberta with a number provocative questions.

The convention planners asked Rauser to speak to difficult societal issues faced by the church today. His first assignment: What would Jesus say to Caitlyn (Bruce) Jenner? 

Rauser reminded the assembly that the church is the only organization that exists for the sake of its non-members.

However, we often see ourselves engaged in a “culture war.” Rauser pointed out that Jesus was not at war with the “out-group”—the poor, sinners, the disenfranchised. Rather, Jesus loved them—the woman at the well, the one caught in adultery, the disreputable sinner who washed his feet. The “out-group” sought Jesus because he showed them love.

Randal Rauser engages attenders at the 2016 Canadian FCA Convention.

Randal Rauser engages attenders at the 2016 Canadian FCA Convention.

Sharing personal stories of confronting his own hypocrisy, Rauser painted the tough questions with compassion and understanding. We’re quick to forgive our own trespasses but so slow to forgive the trespasses of others, he said.

Rauser, who presents four follow-up sessions on Thursday, explained that most of us make a distinction between sin and SIN. Lowercase sin is what we do—minor infractions so slight they are easily forgiven and quickly forgotten. Uppercase SIN, however, is the despicable, outrageous things that others do—the major sins, the “unforgivable” sins, the labels that stick for life.

So what did Jesus say? He spoke with compassion and understanding: “I love you.”

Rauser is Professor of Historical Theology at Taylor Seminary in Edmonton where he has taught since 2003. He is the author of several books including Is the Atheist My Neighbor? (Cascade, 2015).

Canadian Convergence 2016

Canadians Converge

“It’s not so hard to ‘confer,'” said Glen Breitkreuz, senior pastor at Christian Fellowship Assembly of Grande Prairie, Alberta. “It’s fairly easy to ‘confer,’ but it’s a lot harder to ‘converge.'”

Breitkreuz explained that is essentially the difference between a conference and a convergence. It’s the difference between conferring to share ideas and converging to form unity of purpose and establish a single-minded plan of action.

On a unseasonably warm day (over 30°C/87°F), pastors from across Canada converged on this northern city, about 460 km northwest of Edmonton. At their opening “envisioning” time, they gathered with a sense of urgency about the political climate of their country. And they recognized fresh opportunities to stand boldly for God.

With Canadian society trending away from biblical truth, they pledged their collective voice to uphold the truth of God’s Word.

Just as much, they pledged their hearts to express the grace of God’s love. The gathering begins Tuesday evening with an opening banquet and continues through Friday, May 6.


Lead Elder Glen Forsberg encourages the ministers at the 2016 Canadian convention as Glen Breitkreuz looks on.

Matty Coppin, site pastor from The Father's House Christian Fellowship in Morinville, AB, summarizes his discussion group's views.

Matty Coppin, site pastor from The Father’s House Christian Fellowship in Morinville, AB, summarizes his discussion group’s views.

John Sprecher, lead elder from the U.S., talks over lunch with Mark Ost, long-term missionary in Paris, France.

John Sprecher, lead elder from the U.S., talks over lunch with Mark Ost, long-term missionary in Paris, France.

What Are the Polls Saying?

Here in the USA we are in the midst of one of the most unusual political election cycles in recent memory. In every news cycle we hear about the latest poll, margin of error, trends, and the pundits who are convinced that they can interpret the future for us. Every candidate’s most recent statement, whether it be outrageous or profound, is analyzed to determine whether it has helped or hurt the polls. The sad reality is that the perception of the polls becomes more important than substantive commentary and real stands on issues.

I like the description of leadership expressed by Rosalynn Carter years ago, “A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be.”

How are we doing as Christian leaders? Are we more concerned with the “polls” of the opinions of our congregants, or are we leading people to the places that they need to go whether they like the process or even recognize it at the time?

Jesus spent His entire ministry on earth with one focus…the cross. He told His disciples on many occasions that He was going to the cross and even death, and then told the crowd that the only way to follow Him was to deny oneself and to take up your cross and follow Him (Mark 8:34). The evidence is clear that they did not understand it at first. Peter rebuked Jesus right after his great declaration of faith, saying that He should never die (Matthew 16:21-23) and even after the resurrection they were still looking for an earthly kingdom (Acts 1:6). However, Jesus was clear that The Cross was really the only way to life. “He who loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25)

Perhaps no one was more articulate with the doctrine of the cross than the Apostle Paul. I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me (Galatians 2:20). In his description of baptism we are told that we are buried and resurrected with Christ (Romans 6) and in practical living Paul declared that he died daily (1 Corinthians 15:31).

If the cross and death to the old nature is a significant need for all true believers, then we have to ask ourselves, “How is our leadership?” Are we great leaders taking people where they need to go even if it is not the most popular message? Or are we listening to the polls of popularity and, in fact, not leading, but rather following people where they are wandering as sheep without a shepherd?

The pressing need of the day are real leaders who will help people see beyond the immediacy of life to the greater plans and purposes that God has created us for. Jesus is described in Hebrews 12 as enduring the cross for the joy that was set before Him, a focus not just on the death of the cross, but the glorious victory to follow. Let us proclaim the hopeful message of the cross so that we might experience life now and for all of eternity!

John Sprecher is the Lead Elder of the FCA USA.