Bob, Bezalel, and Ohilhab: Men the Church Need

IMG_0709During life, everyone meets a “Bob”. My Bob was a child of the depression; a GI, retired Postal worker and entrepreneur.  He was able to make just about anything with his hands. Perched on pillars at the edge of his driveway, sat two eagles, mid-flight, that he had carved with his own two hands and cast in bronze. He built a kwanza hut for him and his wife to live in as he built his house.  But before he built the house, he had to move the Boce ball court he had built for his wife. I first got to know him because of his handiwork.

My sermon was forgettable (and I know because I had forgotten it), but I had mentioned new research on whether or not Noah’s Ark was a sewn boat based on an ancient boat excavated in the Sea of Galilee. Bob met me down stairs and asked for a picture of the boat. The following week he arrived at church, far to excited for a man who carries glycerin tablets for his heart, with two boards held together with twine based exactly off the archaeological diagrams.

It would be three years and countless numbers of breakfast’s at the Grantville “Almost Home Café” when our next project would arise. I was planning a purity dinner for the middle school girls at the Church and I searched far and wide for a trinket for them to take home. A friend showed me how simple it would be to weld a piece of steel to a horseshoe and write the Bible Verse on it. The problem however, was twofold: 1) I didn’t have access to a welder; 2) I had no idea how to weld. Bob was the answer to both. When he heard about my predicament, he told me to meet him at his house one afternoon. I met him as he was pulling out all of his equipment ready to go to work. He would spend the next 3 hours teaching me to weld, showing me how to set things up, and how to make a clean bead. After 40 horse shoes (80 welds), which for him must have seemed like eternity with my shaky hands in control, we had accomplished our goal. Just before I left his house he said this, “I feel guilty that I don’t help you out enough.”  One of his attempts to help was buying me a mule to train, but that story is for another time.

That was the beginning of Bob helping out at middle school youth group. An 80 year-old-man hanging out with between 50-75 inner city middle school students sounds like a social science experiment, but for some reason it worked. Bob showed up every week. He handed out snacks, talked with the kids, and helped me out. He didn’t understand a lot about them, questioned some things, but he was faithful and devoted to teaching the kids.

Bob’s are a rare find today, just as they seemed to be back in Moses’ day.

“And he [the Lord] has given both him [Bezalel] and Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan the ability to teach others.” (Exodus 35.34)

The placement of this verse is interesting. In verse 31-33, Bezalel is described as having both the theoretical ability (31), the material ability (32), and the physical ability (33) to make the structure and furnishings of the Tabernacle. On the other side, in verse 35, Moses reiterates the physical skills needed to make all the things of the Tabernacle. To link together, these thoughts, Moses shows how God has given them the ability to teach others to be master craftsmen and designers.

The word the NIV translates “ability” in verse 34, is the hebrew word leb which is most commonly translated heart. So Bezalel and Ohilhab, didn’t just have the ability to do the tasks, but the heart to “teach” people how to do it. Elsewhere it ahs been discussed how the heart is more than just feelings and emotions in the ancient near eastern mindset. For Bezalel and Ohilhab, teaching [yare] or probably more accurate, showing or displaying for others, was a passion and desire. It was their will and motivation to help and teach others.

I have known great and skilled people, who’s ministries, business, and legacies, did not outlive them, because they were unable to teach others. What makes Bezalel and Ohilhab, so special is not just their skill but their heart to teach. God set these men apart, because the job was bigger than just them. He knew that they needed to be leaders on display, teachers able to communicate, workers with dirt under their fingernails.

Bob spent time investing in me. Bezalel and Ohilhab, spent time investing and training their people to the point where they became master craftsmen. There have been numerous men who have invested into me on all sorts of levels. It should be our heart, our will, our passion to do the same for the next group of men coming up in the Church. Whether it is going through a book with them, drinking some root beer and watching a game, showing them how to change the oil, or even just lunch after church, men take a moment to teach the next group of men. Church’s are full of young men needing spiritual mentoring and it needs to become our heart to teach others.

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XIT Windmill Crew: Taking Applications

Penny under the McNorton's Windmill
Penny under the McNorton’s Windmill

Around the turn of the 20th century, the XIT was one of the largest cattle ranches in the world. It was just over 3 million fenced in acres in the panhandle of Texas and was home to around 150,000 XIT branded cattle. Of the 100 or so cowboys that worked the spread, the most important job was saved for a select few. Their title was “the windmillers”. Where as many of the cowhands would retreat at night to camps and shelters, the windmillers were seen once a month at headquarters to pick up supplies. They lived out in the open year round with only a chuck wagon as their home. In summer swelter and winter chill, they were responsible for the upkeep and care of the 355 windmills that gave water to the cattle of the XIT ranch (Evetts, 96).   The most impressive windmill on the ranch and in the world at the time rose 130 ft catching the west Texas wind (Evetts, 167).

Though they got their name from what was above ground, the real purpose of a windmill took place below ground. Though the usually didn’t stand very tall, many of the XIT windmills pumped water from well below the surface. They averaged a depth of 125 ft, with the deepest pumping water from 400 ft below ground. “Sometimes you have to dig deep to find water” is a sentiment not only shared by the wind millers of the XIT but also Solomon, the author of many of the Proverbs.

Near the end of the Proverbs that Solomon wrote, he offers up an ambiguous gem of thought. He writes:

“The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out.” (Proverbs 20.5)

A man’s heart can be many things, especially in the book of Proverbs. In our scientific thought and western philosophy, the heart is full of emotions and feelings. Occasionally, the heart is equated with desire and passion, ‘follow your heart’ and ‘what the heart wants’. But in the Biblical world, the heart was so much more. It was the mind, the will, the emotions, the passions, the decision-maker, and the life giver of the person. The heart held their personality and character, their morality and their center. So when Proverbs talks about the heart it contains so much more than just the emotions; it entails the man. “As water reflects a face, so a man’s heart reflects the man.” (Prov 27.19)

“Purposes” have filled this man in Proverbs heart. The hebrew word translated “purposes” is oft used and inconsistently translated. It can mean “advice”, “counsel”, “verdict”, “judgment”, or “consulted”. To cover the range of translations, the noun seems to indicate “a prescribed course of action”. Reheboam, for instance, receives a “consultation” from his elders, then rejects their “counsel” and accepts the “advice” of the young men he grew up around. The decision would ultimately, cost him the entirety of the Kingdom. This illustrates an issue that arises often in Scripture: the origin of the “advice” or “plans”. When the “counsel” came from the Lord or one of His Agents, universally the outcome was positive, however, when man made the recommendation, it almost always turned bad. It remains to be seen as to whether the purposes of this heart are from God or from man.

The heart has its own “prescribed course of action” and they aren’t visible on the surface. The text says they are like “deep waters”. The word for deep, ‘amoq, is used in Psalm 64 where the wicked are plotting for David. There the mind and heart of man are described as cunning [‘amoq] (Psalm 64.6). Here the wicked are obviously not led by the Lord but by the counsel of men. The cunningness of the heart is not lost in the book of Proverbs where the heart can be full of deceit, envious, and led astray. Like Jeremiah said: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure…” (Jer. 17.9) The heart can play games, its waters are deep; however (and thankfully for this man), it is not the final authority. This man in Proverbs 20.5a seems to harboring his own plans and actions that are cunning and hidden well below the surface; ones that are not in line with those of God and it would be of serious issue if they welled up and remained there.

Thankfully, the plans of a man’s heart, made in the heart of man, are clearly in submission to the thoughts and plans of God. Proverbs reminds us:

“All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord” (16.3)

“In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” (16.9)

“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” (19.21)

Since the Lord’s way prevails, it seems as though our hearts ought to align with his purposes, passions, and paths. This is where the man of understanding comes in.

Like the windmills that pierced the West Texas dirt, the purposes of a heart must be uncovered. The perfect person for the job is the “man of understanding” (Prov. 20.5b). He “draws the purposes out” of the heart. Two things pertinent to this discussion are made abundantly clear:

  1. The qualities of a man of understanding. This study began as I tried to figure out the type of man Bezalel was in Exodus 31. He was filled with “ability” which is most commonly translated as “understanding”. Solomon gives background to the type of man Bezalel was by weaving a description of a “man of understanding” throughout the book of Proverbs. He is a patient man (Prov 14.29), who delights in wisdom and good conduct (Prov 10.23) and holds his tongue (Prov 11.12), with an even temper (Prov 17.27) and the ability to make keen judgments, keeping his course straight and on track (Prov 15.21). All these qualities lead to a blessed (Prov 3.13) and prosperous life with God (Prov 19.8).
  2. A man needs community. Proverbs makes many claims to the need for counsel and advice, which only comes from life in community. It is the wise who seek advice, guidance, and counsel from their brothers (1.5; 12.5; 12.15; 13.10; 15.22; 19.20; 20.18). A man of understanding seeks help from others and counsel from friends. It is only those who can bring his true motives, his “prescribed course of action”, to the surface. Without that process, hearts are easily corrupted, ambitions ignored, and motives overlooked. Only in an accountable relationship, is a heart truly understood.

A man of understanding is the man that can draw out the deep waters of another’s heart and honestly take stock and examine what lies deep underground. It was the words of a mentor that showed me how selfish my ambitions were, as I desperately wanted to speak in front of thousands of teenagers about God. The ultimate goal was praiseworthy, but my ambitions were corrupted. It took the honest assessment of a true friend to point out that my dream of being a PRCA Bullfighter had much more to do with pride, than it did with serving God. It was the same man who, as I mourned my own lack of measured success and achievement in the world of Rodeo, pointed out the ministry that God has given me at this point in my career, and the awesome people I spend all summer elbow to elbow with in the arenas and back pens during the summer. These were “men of understanding” who drew out, from the depths of my heart, the “purposes” that I had, and analyzed them.

"The purposes of a man's heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out." (Proverbs 20.5)
“The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out.” (Proverbs 20.5)

I spent 3 weeks thinking about this verse because I made every effort to show that the “man of understanding” was able to draw deeply out of his own heart…but the text seems clear to itself. My heart easily fools me and as much as I desperately want to be the man who studies, guides, and asses my own heart, it takes another to do that. I wanted to be in isolation, because I still struggle to see manhood as a group endeavor…but it is. It is a community, a brotherhood, a squad that makes men better, as much as I tried to make it not so.

Haley, J. Evetts. The XIT Ranch of Texas: And the Early Days of the LLano Estacado. (University of Oklahoma Press: Norman) 1953.

Leading the Next: Elijah Call’s Elisha

IMG_2146The first time I felt grown up I had a hay hook in my hand. My family was putting up some brome on Grandpas farm and needed another person, no matter how skilled. Upon arrival I was put up on the hay wagon directly behind the baler. Grandpa kicked it in high gear and we stacked bales upon bales. I don’t recall how many I put up myself but it wasn’t very many. I was 10 and poor help. We pulled the full hay rack into the barn and began throwing it into the loft. It being my very first time, I doubt I accomplished much. But I do remember the lesson I was given on using a hay hook. On the fly I was shown how to operate a sharp, bent piece of steel. How to stick it into a bale, pull back on the handle and lift with your leg. That lesson changed me forever. As a 10 year old in somewhat rural America, a hay hook, and the skill to use it is a rite of passage. From then on, I wasn’t as much of a liability to work, as a partner. Not so much a space filler on the hay crew, but a hand with a purpose.  The same could be said of Elisha when Elijah got a hold of him.

Elijah’s brokenness was assuaged with God’s message that his ministry would outlive him; that his work was not in vain; and he would be instrumental in bringing up the next in line. He is instructed to anoint the next king of Aram (Hazael), the next dynasty of Israel (Jehu), and the next prophet in line (Elisha).

Elijah took these instructions seriously. He went from the Mountain of Sinai and found Elisha with his hand to the plow. It is fitting that he was preparing the ground for planting, because that is what his life will be about.

The prophets, especially at this period in the history of God’s people, are much less harvesters than stump pullers. Elijah has been engaging opposing worldviews for a majority of his ministry, preparing the ground. Looking back on the ministry of the prophets, they spent more time confronting sin and morality than they did “planting” seeds of righteousness. Much more time was spent attempting to remove and displace the idolatry and evil in the kingdom, than talking God’s plan for the nation. Elisha spent his days prior to ministry, making hard ground suitable for planting and in ministry, attempting to make hard hearts suitable for planting. 

As Elisha is plowing, Elijah runs up to him, throws his cloak around his waste, and runs off. Elisha forsakes his oxen and plow, and chases down [hb. rus] Elijah. The same word [rus[is used of Elijah out running Ahab (18.46) down the mountain. Elisha, filled with similar passion and excitement that Elijah displayed, catches up quick. Elijah gives him permission to say one last good by to his family and work. He kissed his parents, burned his plow, and feed the people his oxen.

“Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his attendant [sarat].” (1 Kings 19.21)

What Elisha was excited about, I cant say exactly, but I think this verse hints at it. Today we use the words “servant” and “attendant” synonymously, but in hebrew there seems to be some difference between servant [‘ebed] and attendant [sarat]: Elisha is said to have become Elijah’s attendant [sarat[ which conveys the idea of: 

  • Partnership. Elisha and Elijah from this point on were partners in ministry. Elijah had more experience and took the lead, but Elisha had come alongside him in ministry not behind him in ministry. Take for example Joshua. He was a servant [‘ebed] of the Lord (Josh 24.29; Jud. 2.80, but an aide [sarat] to Moses. With Moses, Joshua stood alongside him as he stayed on the mountain 40 days and nights (Ex. 24.13ff.) and wouldn’t leave the tent of meeting as Moses and God spoke (Ex. 33.11). When Moses did ministry, Joshua was beside him, learning and doing. I think Elisha reveled in the idea of being a sarat, not just an ‘ebed.
  • Purpose. In the OT servants performed any number of odd jobs, but attendants performed only the highest of tasks. Three times sarat is used of articles used for worship in the Temple (Num 4.9;2 Kings 25.14; 1 Chron. 6.32). Numerous times sarat is used of the Levites “assisting” in worship led by the priest. Elisha understood that Elisha was calling him to a live of purposeful service in worship to God. This was not the kind of intership where Elisha will be mailing out 5,000 postcards, or filling 10,000 waterballons, but a chance to do dirty-hands, front-line ministry.

These two reasons, I believe, are why Elisha can outrun Elijah. For these reasons, Elisha would burn his oxen and plow. The chance to be caught up and swept up in life changing ministry and the adventure of following God in daily service alongside a passionate leader, is what brought excitement to the life of Elisha.

Elijah was anointing a partner in purposed ministry. This is an opprotuinty that many in younger generations would leap at and get excited for. There are many who have been disappointed in the past because their preparation for ministry involved purposeless busy work, the understanding that they were not partners but projects, or their voice and opinion didn’t matter. The next generation of leader wants to partner in ministry; do significant work; and lead alongside. With that being said, who are you partnering with in ministry today? What younger man or woman, are you involving in your sphere of influence, your ministry, or your service? Who are you pouring into, giving responsibility too, and training to serve, worship, and lead?  These are the things I hope to convey to my bullfighting protege above, my students at Robinson, and the men I get to pour into every week.  Who are you bringing onto the crew?