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Friday, February 19

The Magnetic Mantle -or- Why Cats Should Have Kitties

"If cats stop having kittens that become cats that have kittens, guess what?! Soon, we won't have cats anymore!"

Remember when we were kids in science class and our teacher showed us how to take a magnet and rub it along a screwdriver so that the screwdriver would become magnetized? How is that possible? It occurs when the screwdriver's atoms are realigned by the action of rubbing the magnet along the screwdriver blade. There is one thing for sure, the screwdriver would have never become magnetized if it had not been brought into active contact with the magnet itself.
So what does magnetism have to do with a mantle and what's a mantle, anyway? A mantle is an ornamental outer garment. The prophet Elijah wore a mantle and that fact figured quite prominently in the Biblical accounts of Elijah's life and ministry. When Elijah was instructed by God to select Elisha as Elijah's replacement, Elijah went to Elisha and, without a word, cast the mantle over Elisha and walked on. Elisha grasped the significance immediately and left his home to serve and to study under the prophet. When Elijah was taken up to heaven via fiery chariot, Elijah's mantle was a very important part of the event. Elijah used the mantle to strike the waters of the river Jordan, and God responded by parting the waters so that Elijah and Elisha could cross over to the other side. After crossing the river, as the two walked together, the flaming chariot came, separated the two men, and carried Elijah away. The mantle was left behind. Elisha took the mantle, walked back to the river, and, just as Elijah had done moments before, struck the waters with the mantle, crying "Where is the God of Elijah." And, just as before, God responded by parting the waters. The mantle of the prophet had been passed from Elijah to Elisha!
So, was there something "magical" about the article of clothing itself? No. It was symbolic of the time and effort spent by Elijah investing in the life of the younger man and of the fruit borne of those efforts. The passing of the mantle has come to mean the transference from one person to another of some quality or position, such as a spiritual ability or office. The mantle is passed in the same way that magnetism is passed from the magnet to the screwdriver -- by active contact. This is God's design for nurturing, caring for, and raising up the young believers among us. More mature believers are to spend time with younger believers so that the mantle will be passed on. Apostle Paul writes about this in Ephesians 4:11-13, "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ."
Many examples of God's design in action are recorded in the Holy Bible. In addition to Elijah nurturing and raising up Elisha, you can read about Moses and Joshua, Moses and the seventy elders, Naomi and Ruth, Jesus and the Apostles, Paul and Timothy, and the Sons of the Prophets. Each of these relationships is characterized by the significant amount of time spent together one-on-one or in small groups. The secular concept of "mentoring" is based on the Scriptural principle and truth, "the passing on of the mantle."
The active contact between a magnet and a screwdriver causes the atoms in the screwdriver to align properly to magnetize the screwdriver. Similarly, in the examples listed above, God used the active contact between the mature believers and the younger believers to align those younger believers with God's word and, hence, with Himself. In so doing, they became energized with His Power. For example, Paul, who invested much time and effort in teaching, training, and raising up Timothy to be a minister of the Gospel, wrote to Timothy, "Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery." (1 Timothy 4:14) Note the great involvement of the presbytery (as in Ephesians 4:11-13 above) in Timothy's life and mission: Paul the Apostle, a certain prophet, and certain elders.
In fact, active contact with anyone has the effect of realigning a person's character and personality. The company we keep determines, to a large degree, the health of our soul, walk with God, and even physical body. Active contact includes what we fill our minds with when we're watching TV and movies, and when we listen to music. The right thing to do is to make sure the people we spend time with are pursuing oneness with God and are right with God. How can we tell? Honestly answer the following four questions, first with yourself in mind, and then for each of the people you give place to in your life (including actors you watch, musicians and musical groups you listen to, preachers and teachers you sit under and learn from, friends, etc). (1) Does the fruit of their life reflect a religious spirit or the Holy Spirit? (2) Do they know the Bible? (3) Are they living according to what they know the Bible says? (4) Do they study the Scriptures to show off how much they know, or think they know? Be honest with yourself, first about yourself, and then about other people in your life. Sometimes in order to grow in the LORD we have to find new friends, new music, new activities other than TV, and so on. Which brings us to the subject of why cats should have kittens!
Kittens are supposed to grow up to become cats, but they cannot do this on their own. Since kittens cannot take care of themselves at first, they need cats; because the cats have what the kittens need to become cats. It's the way God planned it. Cats should take responsibility for raising the kittens. Similarly, the Scriptures refer to new and immature believers as babies. For example, in Numbers 11:11a-12, there is the record of a discussion between Moses and the LORD concerning the ministry of Moses to God's people. Moses said that his ministerial responsibilities were like "a nursing father beareth the sucking child" Similarly, Paul the Apostle wrote in a letter to the Corinthians, "I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you. For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel." (1 Corinthians 4:14-15) And Paul wrote in his letter to the Galatians, "My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you." (Galatians 4:19) So, new believers need older, more mature believers in the same ways that kittens need cats and a baby needs a mother and father.
Interestingly enough, for their own sakes, mature believers should stay involved in ministering to younger believers. For he who refreshes others is himself refreshed as in Proverbs 11:25b, "he that watereth shall be watered also himself." Also, this type of ministry involves much more than meeting basic physical needs. Multiple studies have shown that food and shelter are not sufficient for promoting health. Although given equal nourishment and shelter, babies who are not given personal attention, such as, touching and holding. will not be as healthy and happy as those who are not touched and held. The nourishment of food is not enough! Proper development requires the involvement of someone who will nurture the baby. The baby cannot select the proper foods or care for itself. As the child grows the nurturer instills the knowledge that the child needs to be able to eventually assume responsibility for itself.
Today, via TV, radio, internet, etc, it is easy to hear teachings on just about any topic you can imagine without ever stepping foot into a church service. Degrees can even be obtained by taking correspondence Bible courses by mail or over the Internet. All of this can be done without ever having any kind of direct personal contact with God's people. Nevertheless, the Scriptures give ample evidence that a believer's health and development require personal attention and contact. The nourishment of teaching is not enough! When a person becomes born again it is essential that they become personally and actively involved with at least one person who is mature in the ways of God. Note that this may or may not be a licensed minister of the Gospel.
One misconception in the Church is the notion that "nurturing" is the job of the Pastor, and that "teaching" is the job of the teacher, and etc. This is simply not true. And the result is that way too much is being required of too few!
However, this is not a new condition and the letter Apostle Paul wrote to the Hebrews contains the rebuke on this very subject, "For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat." (Hebrews 5:12) In this case, the kittens were not growing up to become cats! In fact, they were resisting the process of growing up altogether.
Concerning spreading the burden of caring for the flock, Paul wrote to Timothy, "the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also." (2 Timothy 2:2) Paul says that Timothy is to take what Paul had given to Timothy and give that to men who would be able to give it to others. Similarly, Paul wrote to Titus, that he was to instruct, "the aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness...; That they may teach the young women." (Titus 2:3-4) The idea that ministry is a limited calling is not supported by these and many other passages.
Mature believers must have influence in the lives and hearts of younger believers. However, there is the danger that the magnetic personality of a charismatic leader or person will exert influence in ways that prevent growth in the LORD. A strong personality can take control over a flock and cause them to bend more or less to his or her will, all the while quoting chapter and verse from the Scriptures. Self-seeking leaders love to be the center of attention. They love the limelight, being center stage, and the intoxication of gaining power or undue influence over others. A simple test to know whether a leader is self-seeking or a servant of God is, "Is the leader focused upon self, or is Christ Jesus being lifted up?" A godly leader will be a servant of the Lord and of others, even as Elijah served Elisha and the Lord (then, in fact, Elisha served Elijah and the Lord, as well, in various ways).
So where are the "Elijahs" of God today? Where are the people who are willing to put forth the time and effort to become mature enough in the LORD to help others grow and mature in the LORD? And where are the people who are willing, like Elisha did in following Elijah, to put forth effort to find and to serve alongside mature believers? Where are the "Elishas" of God?
Do you have a mantle to pass on to someone else? If so, then God's Will is for you to be a part of ministering that gift to others. If your answer is, "No, I don't have anything to pass on to someone else," then God's Plan is for you to be working diligently to acquire a mantle from someone else.
Always remember this: Success without a successor is failure. Cats should have kittens who will become cats who will have kittens. As Ephesians 4:13 reminds us, "Until we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" remember that the mantle must be passed on!

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XII SMOOTH STONES by Keith Shealy and Toward The Mark is a 12-message collection:
No Matter What!
The Magnetic Mantle or Why Cats... Have Kitties;
Fire, Pressure, and Them Slithery... Snakes
The Ultimate Home Gym
Vampires In The Church
The Great Deception
The Invisible Man
God Is So Much Bigger Than You Think!
Die Empty!
Building Godly Friendships
The Secret To A Happy Life

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