A Story of a Life

The story of David opens with a poem written by a woman named Hannah. She had suffered emotionally for years and was ridiculed relentlessly because she could not have children.

The Lord then provides for her a son, Samuel, and out of her joy she composes “The Lord is a Rock and a Deliverer” which begins the chronicles of David (1 Samuel 2) and then 130 years later David closes his life by composing a poem mirroring Hannah’s original work providing poetic bookends to the story (2 Samuel 22).

These bookends unify the whole narrative of David’s life. The message of both poems is clear-in times of trouble and pain, the Lord is trustworthy. He has a plan. He will protect. He will rescue. The poems were birthed out of each author’s experience of the Lord’s deliverance in heartbreak, disappointment, rejection, enemies, pain, and betrayal.

  • Listen for the themes in the story of life of your child or disciple. Each story is unique and is different from your story.
  • Look for the “Hannah” in the life of your disciple-a person who years before had a role in the spiritual formation of your disciple. (Someone he or she may have never met.)
  • Encourage your child or disciple to create expressions of the work of God in his/her life. (Writing, painting, music, storytelling, poetry, etc.)
  • Suffering are the markers of the work of God is the life of your child or disciple.

The Calling Out

This past weekend was the “Calling Out” ceremony for my nephew. Sansui, my brother-in-law, is Nigerian and it is their tribal custom for the father, joined by the other men of the tribe, to “call out” a son from boyhood to manhood when he turns 13. It is a rite of passage of love, belonging, responsibility, accountability, and identity. Now living in the States Sansui has adapted the ceremony to include the significant men who make up their family’s American tribe. The men ranged in age from 83 down to 15.

The ceremony began with my nephew sitting among his peers wearing a colorful woven hat that identified the tribe to which he belongs. Sansui asked his son to rise and then in a loud voice called out his name inviting him to leave boyhood and to join the other men in the room to manhood.  My nephew acknowledged the call and expressed his desire to enter manhood.

He then moved to a designated seat where each man read to him a letter he had written concerning manhood and gave to him a gift that correlated to his letter.  The letters were autobiographical in nature drawing from the unique spiritual pilgrimage of each man. (Unexpectedly I was moved by what the 15-year-old men had to say.)  Woven together these letters made up a beautiful collection of wisdom, counsel, love, but also warning.

The clear messages from the 2-hour ceremony were: (1) you are loved and (2) you belong to us and we belong to you.

A couple of observations:

  • The “Calling Out” was initiated and led by a dad. It was a family event.
  • Although the ceremony was meaningful to my nephew, it also reinforced the importance of belonging for the adult participants. The older men were visibly moved as well as those still in their teens.
  • The ceremony made clear what in life is important and what is not.





Love: Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing

In 1972 Eastern Airlines Flight #401 to Miami was using the most advanced commercial airliner in the world being flown by a pilot with 30 years of experience.  On their final approach the indicator light that the landing gear was in place had not illuminated.  While the pilot, co-pilot, and flight engineer focused on the $12 burned out light bulb the airplane crashed into the Everglades killing 99 people because no one was flying the plane.  The moral of the story is: keep the main thing the main thing.

To be distracted from the main thing has consequences. Recently I was involved with a relational conflict between two church planters.  I asked one of the pastors when was the last time he had told his fellow pastor that he loved him, after an awkward silence he replied timidly “a couple of years ago.”   Meanwhile, I spoke at a church that has a history of interpersonal conflict.  After the service the pastor asked if he could walk me to my car to ask me a question.  He asked: “Do you think that it is important for me to tell the individuals in my congregation that I love them?”  At that moment I began to understand the reason for their church’s relational troubles.

Peter tells us our main thing: “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8 Our main thing is based on the truth that our God is love (1 John 4:16), our message is love (Romans 5:8), and our distinction is our love for one another (John 13:35).

In closing a quote from the poetry of Thomas Traheme:

You never enjoy the world aright. . .till you love men so as to desire their happiness, with a thirst equal to the zeal of your own; till you delight in God for being good to all; you never enjoy the world . . . [1]

[1] Thomas Traherne, Selected Poems and Prose (New York: Penguin Classics, 1991)

The Kindness of Friendship

Jonathan is my hero.  He provides for us an example of the heart of friendship a discipler should have towards his disciple.  Though a courageous warrior, Jonathan was a kind man, living counter to his surroundings and upbringing.  His father, King Saul, was an angry, violent, proud, and irrational person. Although his siblings were products of their environment, Jonathan became humble, loyal, affectionate, and a good friend.  He gives us hope that we are not fated to repeat our family’s dysfunction and self-destructive behavior.

As the story of Jonathan and David’s friendship unfolds we get a glimpse into the heart of Jonathan.  Though heir to the throne, Jonathan was submissive to the purpose and will of God even though it meant for him a displacement to a secondary role.  He actually chose to be a friend to the very man who would take his place as king.

But are there really any secondary roles in God’s economy?   I do not believe that David could have become the man of God that he did without the foundation of Jonathan’s friendship in his life.  Jonathan not only loved David but he taught him how to place a confidence in the purpose of God.  Once when David was running for his life from Saul, Jonathan was able to speak courage into the heart of David because of his own trust in the sovereignty of God.

And Saul’s son, Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God.  “Don’t be afraid,” he said.  “My father Saul will not lay a hand on you.  You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you.  Even my father Saul knows this.”  The two of them made a covenant before the Lord.  Then Jonathan went home, but David remained at Horesh.  (1 Samuel 23:16-18)

Placing others ahead of myself is at the heart of following Jesus and making disciples.  To be a follower of Jesus is to live for others.  This is not only what Jesus taught but also what he displayed by his life.

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.  (Mark 10:45)

When I place the interest of my friend’s life ahead of my own I am illustrating the good news of Jesus to the world.   My nature is to watch out for myself and trust no one.  Only my surrender to the sovereign purpose of God can rescue me from the pull of self-centeredness.

Jonathan embraced God’s purpose for his own life by understanding and embracing God’s purpose for his friend David’s life.  Jonathan then purposed to join God in making David king and to serve him as the second man; in other words, to make David a success.

It is when I recognize that there is a divine purpose for the life of my disciple and that I willingly join the Holy Spirit in fulfilling that purpose, no matter the cost, that I become a true friend.    Many want a Jonathan and David type friendship but few are willing to pay the price.  It is in losing my life for the sake of a friend that I find my own life’s purpose.

Friendship and Making Disciples 3

Many desire a “Jonathan and David” friendship but few are willing to pay the price. The starting point for such a friendship is a heart surrendered to the Lord. If I am not yielded to the will of God, not only will I have difficulty embracing God’s purpose for my own life, but I also open myself up to jealousy and envy, even with those to whom I am closest. Jonathan exhibits for us a heart that is surrendered to the purpose of God that resulted in his extraordinary friendship with David, in spite of their circumstances.

As Jonathan and David’s story unfolds we see deep into the heart of Jonathan. Jonathan was to be the king of Israel after his father Saul, but due to Saul’s stubbornness and disobedience, his family loss the right of succession. Jonathan’s loss of the throne was due to no fault of his own, and yet he is submissive to the purpose of God even though it means a lesser role for him. Not only was it a diminished role, but he submits himself to the very man who is to take his place on the throne.

And Saul’s son, Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “My father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you. Even my father Saul knows this.” (1 Samuel 23:16-18)

Jonathan had the freedom to love and serve David rather than consider him as a threat because he was surrendered to God’s purpose in all things. Viewing others from a surrendered heart removes all threat and gives me the opportunity and privilege to lay down my life for my friend, first out of my love for God but also out of love for my friend. Also, David could trust Jonathan because Jonathan’s surrendered heart would never allow him to thwart God’s plan. A surrendered heart finds joy in making others a success, no matter the cost.

Here are some final thoughts:

  1. Take an afternoon with the Lord to pray for your disciple/friend and seek what the Lord’s purpose maybe for your friend’s life. (Most people will never have anyone do this for them during their entire lifetime.)
  2. Communicate to your friend your belief that God has a purpose for his life and together seek out what that purpose may be.
  3. Ask the Lord to provide opportunities for you to serve your friend.
  4. Help your friend to recruit a team of people to prayer for their life’s purpose.