After graduating from seminary, Robin and I moved to Troy, TX where I became the pastor of the First Baptist Church. We moved into the small parsonage next door to the church which was located on the access road to I35. Not exactly a quaint place to raise a young family. While moving in I discovered that the utility nook was four inches too small to accommodate both the washing machine and the dryer. As a result, we had to put the dryer out in the garage. This was particularly annoying to me because I was “the laundry guy.” Whenever I took a load out of the washer, there would always be a recalcitrant sock or pair of underwear that would drop on the way to dryer. Then, I’d have to stoop down to pick them up and inevitably drop another pair or two in the process. Frustrating!
One Wednesday evening after the church supper and Bible study, several of us were sitting around the tables and enjoying a little Baptist fellowship. Somehow the parsonage came up in the conversation and I took the opportunity to ask the question I had been dying to ask, “Why did ya’ll build the utility nook in the parsonage too small to house both the washer and dryer?” And without missing a beat, three women spoke up in chorus, “Because there were no women on the building committee.” This response caused me to answer the question listed above in the pull quote, “What else is the church missing because the intellect, and the experience, and the gifts of women are not allowed to be lived out or appreciated in the highest levels of leadership.”
If you’ve ever wondered the same thing, or what the Bible really says about the place of women in the church, check out this message where I take an in depth look at God’s original intent for the role of women in creation and the new creation in Christ.
Here at 365Discipleship, our purpose is to make discipleship a daily habit—the good kind, more like brushing your teeth than eating your broccoli. One of the easiest habits to cultivate in the Christian faith is daily worship. Psalm 100 provides a great example for us:
“Shout for joy to the Lord, all of you. Worship the Lord with gladness, come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture, enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name, for the Lord is good. His love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.”
The psalmist shows us that worship is to be joyful—if not passionate—and our emotions are to be strong. But you can’t worship someone you don’t know. If you don’t know God, it’s going to be really difficult to feel the joy of worship in church on a Sunday morning, much less while worshipping on your own. So, if you want a more passionate worship life, seek a more personal knowledge of and experience with God.
The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah said you will find God when you seek him with all your heart. How do you seek him? You can seek him in his story. Begin reading the gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. Look for him beside a mountain stream or a Texas sunset. Hear him speak to you in a friend’s well-timed encouragement. I promise you, the more you look for him, the more you will find him. And the more you find him, the more you will get to know him—his character and his heart. Then, you’ll discover that worshiping him is the most natural response in the world.
Since we now record our messages on Saturday afternoons, I find myself with more free time on Sundays. So, Robin and I are using this time afforded us by the lockdown to undertake the daunting task of cleaning out our garage—sorting through boxes of keepsakes and Christmas decorations.
Today we came across a small box of letters my dad had written to my mom in the early days of their marriage. Dad was in the Army stationed in Tokyo during the Korean Conflict. This is the first time I had seen his missives. I never would have guessed that Dad was such an innocent romantic. He called my mom Darling and Honey. He was effusive in his praise of the beauty of her hair and especially her eyes. He spoke often of his love for her and their future together, “I can’t wait to get home so I can finish school, be a geologist, and raise orchids (as a hobby) want to help?” “Bye now. I’ll see you in my dreams,”—killer close, Dad! Well played!
So much love to share, so much to look forward to, so much life to live. Dad could hardly wait for the time to pass so he could get home to be with his new bride. Neither of them could have known that less than a month after Dad graduated from college he would be in a near fatal oil field explosion which would maim his body and demolish many of their dreams.
When I headed out to clean the garage yesterday, the last thing I was expecting was a sacred moment peering back in time and seeing the blossoming love of my parents—a love which flowed down from them into my life and deeply enriched me. Yesterday was a very good day.
Why am I telling you these things? Well, I just don’t want you to miss a very important truth. No one knows what tomorrow brings, and it’s easy to miss what today could have brought.
I know this is an incredibly difficult, frustrating, and onerous time. I get it—an invisible enemy is lurking, homes have become schools, parents have become teachers, paychecks are tenuous, many of us are on our last nerve, and some of us need to be talked off the ledge.
But please, resist the temptation to just wish this time away. God has something for you. He has something he wants to show you. Seek him with your whole heart. Seek him with an open mind. Seek him with a willing spirit. There is no telling what you will find . . . in this hard time . . .
This weekend is Mother’s Day, so consider this email a friendly reminder to make sure you do something special for your mom this Sunday. No surprise here, it’s going to take a little more thought and creativity this year to aptly celebrate the one who brought you into this world.
For most of us, it will be a different kind of Mother’s Day celebration. . . no lunch out, flowers are in short supply, and you may not be able to get any closer to your mom than six feet.
It’s going to be a different kind of Mother’s Day celebration for me, too, but for a different reason. My mom passed away in October. Last month our family celebrated her first birthday in heaven. This month, my sister and I will celebrate our first Mother’s Day without her.
So, if you will allow me, I’d like to give a shout out to my mom, which hopefully will also remind you of why you appreciate yours.
Mom was a covenant keeper. When she married my dad, she made a vow to have and to hold him, for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish him till death parted them. Those traditional vows include two commitments—to have and to hold and to love and to cherish—and four conditions—for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, and till death doth part.
When we marry, we tend to think most about the commitments. We’re so in love and geeked up on oxytocin—the bonding hormone—that we rarely think of the four conditions. Little did mom know that three short years from their wedding day, three of the four conditions would come into play with dad’s devastating accident . . . and for 56 years she kept the fourth one.
Covenant keeping is the thread which is spun to create the beautiful tapestry of human existence. If people don’t keep their covenants (think commitments), families splinter, relationships fizzle, companies collapse, cultures rot, and countries implode. The biblical phrase the righteousness of God, in its purest sense, means God keeps his covenants. Dare to think what would happen if the God of the universe didn’t keep his covenants.
Mom, thanks for being a covenant keeper . . . the fabric of our family was never raveled or torn, and I’m the better for it. My wife and children are the better for it. And those with whom I have influence are the better for it.
Moms, I know you want to give your kids every possible advantage so they can succeed in life. The list of things our culture tells you to do for your kids is long and exhausting. But, the one thing you can do which will have the single greatest impact on your children and your children’s children is to be a covenant keeper with your husband.
And by the way, dads, the best possible Mother’s Day present you could give to the mother of your children this year, is to be a covenant keeper too.
And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
Take a minute and review the first 169 days of 2020. A lot has happened, and I mean a lot—a historic pandemic, the likes of which the world has not seen in 100 years—economic shutdown, personal lockdown, family quarantine, home school, work from home, and rituals lost. Just when it feels like it’s safe to get back into the water of life, a policeman in Minneapolis kneels on the neck of George Floyd until he is lifeless and the symptoms of a pervasive, festering racism in our nation break out–tears, mourning, protests, and violence.
Just because these things are happening, it doesn’t mean that the normal travails of life take time off—bills to pay, marriages to maintain, kids to corral, jobs to do, processes to pivot, and health to lose.
It’s no wonder you feel spent, frustrated, or even a little bit angry. You may be able to resonate with one of my father’s favorite laments, “I’m plumb numb.” I don’t know about you, but when I feel this way, it’s even hard for me to pray. I’m out of words.
That’s why I led with this consoling passage written by Paul the Apostle. Take a minute and read it again. You may find that in this moment when you feel poor in spirit, that you can echo the words of James Bryan Smith in his book The Magnificent Story:
The richest times of prayer for me are when I ask the Spirit what I should pray about and pray for. The Spirit searches my heart and beckons me to love what God loves. They are always good, beautiful, and true things. They are for things like love, joy, peace, kindness—the fruit of the Spirit—either for myself or others.
We can’t be sure what circumstances the rest of this year will bring, but there is one thing that we can count on. If we love God and entrust our lives to him, he will squeeze out his divine good in every one of them.