Friday was the dreaded Friday the 13th – that day when scary and dreadful things are supposed to happen. Fortunately nothing untoward happened. I didn’t see any black cats. I didn’t break a mirror. I didn’t encounter any serial killers (that I know of.) It was an uneventful day.
You know, sometimes we put too much emphasis on all the wrong things, don’t we? We might be afraid of breaking mirrors, or the trade war, or losing our job. We might have a lucky shirt, a favorite pen, or a cursed intersection. Those things range from inconsequential to counterproductive. But they have no real power. What we should really work toward in this life is a closer relationship with God and His people.
The LORD is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1
Last week I was blessed to attend Equip Conference in Orlando. This ministry conference was very informative and refreshing. I decided to mostly follow the Discipleship and Evangelism tracks, which means I had the opportunity to hear lessons and lectures from some ministers very talented in these areas.
While mentoring has always been one of my focuses, I’ve never really thought of mentoring/discipleship as THE focus of Christianity. The realization was eye-opening! Consider: Jesus came to the world and ministered for about three years. With three years to make an impact, certainly he preached, taught, and healed… But his primary focus was always in disciple-making! He found Peter and Andrew and said, “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him. Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. Matthew 4:18-22 He goes on to collect 12 men and call them Apostles. These were the men he mentored. They had the closest of relationships, eating, living, traveling together and learning from Jesus and each other. Jesus ultimately commands them, “Go and make disciples of all nations!” Matthew 28:19
Discipleship as always been Jesus’ plan for ministry. He has always intended us to live our lives together, learning from each other and teaching each other. It is my intention going forward in ministry to make this my primary focus as well. Each of us should be mentoring someone and each of us should be mentored by someone. Every one of us putting this into practice may make a greater difference for the kingdom of Christ than anything else we can do.
Fathers have an overwhelming, amazing job. They have the task of helping create, care for, protect, teach, and encourage a tiny human being. From keeping it alive through childhood to launching it into successful adulthood in the world, this is a job fraught with difficulty and joy. It’s not a job for the faint of heart… or the slow of reflexes!
When we consider the range of emotions parents face: fear, love, disappointment, triumph, frustration, adoration… it’s a dizzying pendulum. And it’s one God, as our loving father, experiences as well. How often has God been disappointed in me? How constantly has He loved me even so?
The steadiness of God’s love is something we can depend on. Even when our own earthly fathers have failed us, even when mentors or fellow Christians or our friends have disappointed us, God is constant and will never fail us.
Even if my father and mother abandon me, the Lord will hold me close. Psalm 27.10
The rain over the last few weeks has been astonishing! Our street flooded to the point ducks were actually swimming up the block. Long-time residents say our neighborhood has never flooded so deeply. Even here at church, the flood puddles poured over the tops of my shoes as I darted in and out on the rainy days. It has been miserable!
Except, only a few weeks ago, we wanted more rain! We humans love to complain, don’t we? We complain about the drought, the heat, the rain, the cold, our sports teams, each other. Complaining and discontent seem to be inherent in human nature. While it’s a common trait, it’s one we should work to curb. Through constant vigilance we can reframe our discontented thoughts. Each “bad” thing is also an opportunity or a chance to change our expectations.
On a rainy day, it’s much better to focus on the moisture for growing things, the cooler temperatures while the sun is obscured by clouds, and the soothing sound of raindrops on the roof. I try hard to focus on the green of the church lawn instead of the depth of the parking lot puddles. Difficulties, struggles, and unexpected events are certainly challenging, but when has life been anything but challenging? Isn’t life meant to challenge us so we can grow? While we won’t be 100% successful in eliminating complaining from life, being mindful and aware will help us be more content with where we are and more aware of where we need to go.
“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
1 Thessalonians 5:18
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” – James 1:2
This weekend we remember soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice, laying down their lives to protect their homeland and defend our freedom. As we dust off the grill, fill up the kiddie pool, or turn on the tv, we take at least a moment to remember their great sacrifice. The fallen soldier’s sacrifice is a legacy we honor.
Take some time today too to reflect on others who have impacted your life. Who has left you the greatest legacies? I don’t mean money or a house, though certainly be grateful for those. I mean the eternal legacies… who brought you to church for the first time? Who taught your bible classes as a child? Who studied with you before your baptism? Is there a preacher whose words caused a sea change? Maybe at a Gospel meeting or your wedding or the funeral of a parent. Who stood alongside you during a crisis like an illness or marriage troubles or the loss of a child? Who has held your hand through your heartbreaks in this life? Remember these legacies of compassion and service and love.
Remember as well the greatest sacrifice of all… when Jesus, sinless, God in human form, went willingly to take your place on the cross.
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13
There’s nothing quite like a royal wedding… the crowds, the carriage, the prestigious guests in their fancy hats, and, of course, the bride. It’s a spectacle! At least, that’s what Lea says.
Everyone has ‘that thing’ they get excited about. Maybe it’s royal weddings, or football season, or holidays. Maybe it’s Disney or travel or new books.
Sometimes someone might surprise you with their enthusiasm. This week while Windsor was quite sick, I stopped by her favorite fast food place. When I got home, I discovered a slim package from Amazon on the doorstep. I ripped it open as I walked inside. I handed Lea the children’s book she had ordered and the bag from McDonald’s. “Windsor, which first? Book or Mcdonalds?” Lea asked. “Read!” Windsor demanded, to my shock and Lea’s delight.
God created us with a wonderful capacity for interest, passion, and enthusiasm. At times, though, our enthusiasm for God and the church is pushed aside for our diverting earthly concerns. This world is full of beautiful distractions! Let’s recommit this week to focusing on what is eternally important.
Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus… Hebrews 3:1
Mother’s Day. It’s a beautiful celebration. It’s an awful day to power through. It’s gifts and brunch and joy. It’s heartache and memories and tears.
Motherhood is messy. Some of us have lost our mothers and we mourn. Some of us are estranged from our mothers and we grieve. Some of us have lost children and we know heartbreak. Some couldn’t have children, didn’t have children, didn’t have as many children as they wanted. There are many who celebrate today and many who mourn. Mother’s Day is a lightning rod for all of us in our own way. This makes celebration sweeter, and it makes mourning more bearable. Because, no matter what, we are not alone. Whether you’re celebrating today or wishing something in life could be different… I say to you, you are not alone. Your church family stands beside you and our God is a God of love everlasting.
Women, and mothers in particular, are sometimes held up to an ideal… to a Proverbs 31 perfection. But no one is perfect. No situation is perfect. Yet days like Mother’s Day are here to remind us that we have many strong, influential, courageous, hurting, imperfect women to recognize in our lives.
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Romans 12:15