Taking the Baton

  • Taking the Baton
  • 1 Kings 19:19-21
  • Bill Couch
  • July 10, 2016
  • Bishop W. Earl Bledsoe
  • Don Boren
  • Lyndol Loyd
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7-10-16 Sermon from LakeRidge UMC on Vimeo.

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July 10, 2016

 


 

By now you’re probably wondering why there is a pair of shoes here at the front of the sanctuary this morning. And the answer is that Bill Couch left these shoes here. As a matter of fact they look like pretty nice shoes to me so much so that when I first saw them I thought I would try them on. I mean if Bill is going to leave something like that behind, someone might as well use them. Right?

The problem is that when I tried them on, they didn’t fit my size twelve, sometimes size thirteen feet. No matter what I tried, or how nice the shoes are, my feet just don’t fit. I can’t wear Bill Couch’s shoes and I don’t know that it would ever really be a very good idea for me to try to step into Bill Couch’s shoes.

You see, one thing I’m certain of is that I wouldn’t make a very good Bill Couch. As much as I respect Bill for what he has been able to do for the past thirty-seven years as your pastor and as much as I appreciate what a strong advocate Bill has been for me since being appointed as your new lead pastor, I can never be Bill and what’s more is that I don’t know that you would want me to try to be Bill.

Bill has different gifts and graces than I have. I don’t have Bill’s deep resonate voice. I don’t have Bill’s personality and I certainly don’t have Bill’s hair. I can never be Bill.

But with all humility, I can tell you that I make a great Lyndol Loyd. I believe that God has placed the right gifts and graces, experiences and passions to be your new pastor if you are willing to let me be whom God created and has called me to be.

And while I can’t wear Bill’s shoes, what I can do is take up the mantle of leadership that Bill has carried for this congregation since 1979. Biblically our model for this comes from 1 Kings 19 which tells the story of Elijah and Elisha. And let me call time out right now and say that I’m not trying to tell you that Bill is Elijah and I’m certainly not Elisha, but in terms of models of biblical transitions this is a story that can be highly instructive to us so it is worth taking a closer look and examining it.

 

ELIJAH & ELISHA

Now Elijah was a great prophet of God that we read about in the Old Testament. He was bold, daring and full of faith. Elisha wants to be like Elijah and he is just bold and daring enough to ask for a double portion of Elijah’s anointing. And God in his sovereign will, granted Elisha’s request and as you read on in scripture you find out that Elisha performed more miracles recorded in scripture than anyone with the exception of course being Jesus.

What is really interesting about Elisha is that he is just an ordinary guy. He wasn’t anyone special. He is just an ordinary guy who is living at home with his parents working on a farm when God called him to do something incredible.

It is the 9th Century B.C. and this is a time in which Israel is divided so there is great tension. Many people have started worshiping a false god, Baal. And in this context God raises up this ordinary guy, Elisha, who demonstrates amazing faith.

V.19 

Bill led us in reading the passage of scripture from 1 Kings 19 earlier. I want you to think back for just a moment to what it was that Elisha was doing when Elijah shows up to tell him that he is going to become the next prophet. Does anyone remember? Scripture says that Elisha was plowing with twelve yolk of oxen and, he, himself, was driving the twelfth pair.

This is the same job that Elisha had been doing for a really long time. He was working on his parent’s farm, and he was plowing behind a yoke of oxen every day. So this was his view. (SHOW PICTURE OF BACKSIDE OF OXEN.)

Every single day this is his scenery as he has his hand to the plow – a couple of oxen tails. Think about this. What does he smell? To put this in the most gentle way possible, he smells oxen residue or what it smelled like at Mackenzie Park when my family was there for an event the other night.

I can’t help thinking that some of you may feel a little bit like Elisha. No you aren’t looking at oxen tails every day, but you are doing the same thing day after day after day and after a while it starts to get more than a little bit monotonous. You’re going to the same job, working with the same people and you’re like, “I feel like I’m staring at oxen tails.” By the way, don’t call your coworkers, oxen tails, that won’t go very well for you.

Maybe you are in sales and it’s just day in and day out. You make your quota and it starts all over again the next month. All you ever do is try to live up to some standard that is continually resetting itself.

Maybe you are a college student and you think, “What do I do with my life?” I study. I work. I pay the bills. I study. I work. I pay the bills. Everywhere I look it is oxen tails.

Maybe you are the parent of small children. What do you see all day long? Diapers, laundry, dishes, diapers, laundry, dishes. And after a while it feels as if all you are looking at is oxen tails.

And this is where Elisha was. But I want you to notice that he was being faithful in the task at hand and I believe with all my heart that God loves to reward those who are faithful in the little things. When you’re faithful with a little, he can trust you with much.

And Elisha, even though it might not have been his favorite thing to do, even though it could have been incredibly draining physically and emotionally, he was faithful. And in the middle of his faithful daily routine, God sent something new to take him from where he was into a place of amazing impact.

 

WHEN ELIJAH SHOWS UP 

Now Elijah is this great prophet of God that Elisha really looks up to. He admires him greatly. So Elijah shows up and he throws his cloak around him. And you may be wondering why would he do something like that? What on earth does that mean?

Well, his cloak would have been kind of like a coat made of animal skin or fur. This was his covering. And what Elijah did was to take his covering, and he put it on Elisha and basically, symbolically saying, “that which covered me will now cover you. That which was the mantle on me, will now be the mantle on you. As God has been working through me, now God is going to work through you.”

 

APPLICATION

While this is a really cool story from scripture, it remains just that unless we take the story and make application from it to our lives so there are a couple of things I want you to pay attention to about how all of this went down.

First: God calls Elisha to follow Elijah and he’s not going to know all of the details. So our first principle to note is this:

“You don’t have to understand fully in order to obey immediately.”

Remember in v. 20 the first thing Elijah does does is to put his cloak around him and then Elisha left his oxen and then what did he do? The Bible says that he ran after Elijah. “Hey, let me kiss my father and mother goodbye and then I will come with you.”

He didn’t have to pray about it. Can you believe your new pastor just said that? He didn’t make a list of pros and cons. “Here’s the list of why I should go and here’s the list of why I shouldn’t.” All he did was to say, “God I believe you on this one. I don’t know the details, but since I believe you’re in on this, I will obey immediately.

Now, I would love to tell you that this is exactly how everything went down when I was first contacted about possibly coming to LakeRidge to be your new  pastor.  But the truth is that it isn’t. I received an email from a consultant. I read what he sent. I read it again out loud to Joni and then I said, “I kind of think this sounds a lot like me.” And Joni said, “I know it sounds a lot like you.”  But then the Dad and Mom instincts in us kicked in and we said no, because after all there was no way that God would ask Madeline to give up her senior year of high school in Orlando.

After about a week, Joni came to me and said, “Lyndol, God will not leave me alone about this Lubbock thing. I think we’ve missed the boat. We are supposed to talk to Madeline about this. We’ve answered for her.” I thought this was a terrible idea. I knew that if we asked her about it that it would upset her.  That she would start crying, I didn’t want to see her cry. But Joni was insistent that we were supposed to talk to Madeline so we did.

We all sat down together in our living room and we explained to her that I had been contacted and invited to be part of this process and what it might mean for us as a family.  Right on cue she began to cry. The tears were rolling down her cheeks and I couldn’t take it.  So I blurted out, “Madeline, we aren’t going to Lubbock. We just wanted to tell you about it. Don’t worry it isn’t going to happen.”

And then I got the hand which is the universal sign for “stop talking” so I did. By the way kids, I don’t recommend that you give your parents the hand. It is usually not appropriate to do, but in this case it was called for. The first words out of Madeline’s mouth were, “No, I really think God may want you to do this” which caused me to have to back up a few steps.

Then we picked up the telephone and called Abigail at college. We explained everything to her and her first words were, “What about Madeline? How does she feel about this?”  And once Abigail knew that Madeline was on board, she said, “I think you are probably supposed to do this as well.”

I know that I’m partial and that they are mine, but folks I was blown away that my two teenage daughters were spiritually ready enough to adapt to the call of God when it came to them even if there father was not.

For all who will receive it, I believe it is a word to us about our need to live in a posture of spiritual readiness because we never know when God might show up, call our names for a new assignment in life. While we can’t predict what God might want to do in our lives even one year from now, we can live as those who obey immediately even if we don’t understand fully.

My personal experience has been that rarely does God give us all of the details about what he is calling us to do. I believe that God is often strategically vague in his directions. We want details. We want certainty. We want our neatly ordered lives and God is thinking, “You can’t handle the details. If I showed you everything, you wouldn’t show up. I’m just showing you the next step.”

Some of you may hear a word from God today. I don’t know what that will be, but in your marriage, maybe you are struggling right now and you’re thinking about cashing it in, and you hear God saying, “Stay.” You don’t have to understand completely to  obey him immediately.

Some of you might have a health situation going on that doesn’t look good and God’s word to you is simply “Trust.” And you are called to hang on to that word and you obey.

Some of you have an idea for a business or maybe even a new ministry of some kind, but you are like, “How? When? Where is the money going to come from? I don’t understand.” And God’s word to you is to “Start.” You don’t have to understand fully in order to obey immediately.

Some of you have been hanging around the church for a while and you’re kind of starting to grow with God, but you are still observing after a long while in some cases. And God’s word to you today is “Commit.”  Don’t just watch what God is doing. Get involved. Commit. Step up. Get in the game.  You don’t have to immediately understand everything in order to be obedient.

 

  1. 21 Notice what Elisha did next. He went back, took the yolk of oxen, that represented his very livelihood, and he slaughtered them. Then he burned his plows so that he could cook the meat and the people ate steak.

Strangely enough, this is sort of what happened to Brian Brownlow, our new executive pastor this past week. Somehow their freezer malfunctioned with a side of beef in it.  The church staff ended up having an impromptu steak night. But that is beside the point.

Elisha does all of this and then he sets out to become Elijah’s servant. By burning the plows and killing the oxen, it is as if Elisha is saying, I want to make sure there is no plan B for me to fall back on here. There is only plan A which is obey God. It is very much like what the disciples would later do when they were called to follow Jesus. They dropped their belongings, cast them aside and followed Jesus.

I think back to when Abigail was a little girl. There was a little mint green blanket that she had attached herself to and no other blanket was as special as that blanket was. She would carry it all around the house and she started to become obsessed with her blanky, until one day Joni and I decided, okay, I decided, that this whole blanky obsession had to end, so we put it up in a drawer or she was going to end up taking it to college with her or she was going to get married some day and still be sleeping with the green blanky.

Why do children cling to “little green blankies”? It is because they gain a sense of security and comfort from them. Could it be that some of us here this morning are holding on to something that keeps us feeling secure? I’m just asking.

You see, to step toward the future God has for you will most likely mean that you have to be willing to step away from the security. I believe with all of my heart that God is speaking even now to someone here today to have the faith to believe that he is calling you to something new.

You might be looking at oxen tails today, but in your faithfulness, God may call you to do something even greater for his kingdom. But to do so, you have to have the faith to go and you don’t have to fully understand all of the details. You just have to be willing to obey and walk in faith.

 

A DOUBLE PORTION

Later on in the story of Elijah and Elisha, there is a moment that drew my attention when thinking about what might be part of my first official Sunday at LakeRidge. It is just before the Lord is about to take Elijah up into heaven and is found in 2 Kings 2:9

When they came to the other side, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I can do for you before I am taken away.”

And Elisha replied, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit and become your successor.”

 

Remember, I told you that I don’t think I’m Elisha or that Bill is Elijah, but this is a prayer request that resonates with me. For thirty-seven years, Bill has been your pastor. He founded this church. As someone who has started two churches, I have a deep and abiding appreciation for how God has used Bill’s leadership to help make LakeRidge what it is today. And very much like Elisha, I would like to pray that God would give me a double share of the spirit he placed within Bill as your founding pastor. So Joni and the girls are going to come forward and join me as Bishop Bledsoe and Bill, along with all of you, pray over us this morning.