“For all the promises of God find their yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.”2 Corinthians 1:20
Perfect and majestic Father! How is it that you open your heavens, reach down and invite us in to your perfect world each and every minute of every day? I don’t want to miss a chance to say “yes!” back to you when you put out your glorious hand to me. Holy Spirit, I RSVP today to you, “Yes and Amen!”
A few weeks ago, my church was studying Proverbs 27 and the theme of friendship which runs throughout it. It hit me how God is always inviting us into relationships that mirror what He wants with us. Jesus, himself, changed the status of His relationship with the disciples in John 15:15 when he said, “No longer do I call you servants…but I have called you friends.”
The role that Jesus plays in the work of the Trinity allows us to create a personal relationship with the most holy of all holies – God almighty. In fact, a few of my friends who have spent years in Christian denominations where fearing God the Father is placed higher than other parts of the Trinity, recently discovered that it’s this close, personal friendship with the Lord that has brought them farther along in their sanctification.
God knows the value of friendships. He has defined what a healthy, beautiful friendship is through His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus provided gentle honesty, selfless attentiveness, stubborn loyalty, and intentional pursuit. He didn’t overlook sin and He didn’t call out sin without love. He doesn’t lie to us or betray us.
“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”Proverbs 27:17
Jesus didn’t meet a couple of guys, sit around having a beer listening to their woes and their sins then sign off for the day with a “see ya!” He invested. He pursued. He sharpened. Isn’t it amazing that God wants this type of relationship with little ‘ole us?
The sermon that day about friendship featured a pin drop moment. The pastor said, “Me and Jesus, it isn’t enough.” The crowd was silent. We’ve always heard that’s all we need, right? But we were made to be loved and to love. We were made to be in communion with other believers; to be friends, loyal, intentional and wise. We know that because it’s what God wants with us and models for us.
Friend, today ask the Holy Spirit to put someone on your heart to reach out to. Someone that you need to make an effort to get to know. Let’s honor and glorify God by making a new friend to whom we can sharpen and they will sharpen us, in His name.
On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:17
“We are pretty much the only hope that God has for reaching people who need him.”
On a recent visit with my daughter back in St. Louis, Missouri, she invited me to her friend’s 50th birthday gathering. It was to be just a small group as her larger party had already taken place. My daughter, who is 23, is blessed to have a number of women in her life who are not only mature in their marriages and in life in general, but in their faith. As I sat listening to them, I said a silent prayer of thanks to God. He, once again, put me right where I needed to be.
I listened as these Christian women of varied ages shared memories of shared events and the joy of being disciples to younger women. You see, their church encourages all ages to seek being discipled by more experienced Christians – something I haven’t experienced in the 20 years I’ve been an active Christian.
The birthday girl’s good friend suddenly announced we were to all take turns expressing what we loved about the newly christened 50 year old. She turned to me and said, “You don’t know Renee well so you don’t need to say anything.” I disagreed. I definitely had much to love about this woman that I had just met.
As each woman spoke, I felt the love flow throughout the group. It was sweet and brave and authentic. And at my turn I’m sure they all wondered what I would have to say.
“As a mother I miss my daughter terribly. She’s so far away. She has no family for hundreds of miles. And now with a baby on the way it grieves me that she is alone out here. But I realize she isn’t. I am so thankful she has Renee as her friend and godly counsel. A mother couldn’t ask for anything better besides being here herself,” I said.
You see my daughter’s friend, Renee, has taken her under her beautiful wings. She provides wise counsel about marriage, faith, motherhood and more. I could be jealous when I hear my daughter talk about her relationship with Renee. But my faith progression has brought me instead to a place of thankfulness. My daughter is incredibly blessed to be surrounded by Christian women who are prepared and ready to offer Biblical counsel.
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free" Luke 4:18
That’s Jesus in the above verse. Jesus our wise counselor setting us free from our prisons. And He trained up His disciples to spread His message of salvation and freedom. Like the old shampoo commercial goes, “and they told two friends and so on and so on.” Which brings us thousands of years later to this little group at a café in Missouri.
Here’s what I noticed about those six women I sat with that night. 1) They didn’t gossip 2) They lifted each other up with genuine compliments 3) They showed love and concern for each other 4) They were confident in expressing their faith and 5) They were eager and willing to take up being disciples.
"Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20
These women are living the Great Commission. Teaching and guiding and loving Jesus’ flock. I sat there like a fan-girl marveling at being in the midst of ordinary women who were so extraordinary. Yes, ordinary women. They aren’t pastors or scholars although one is in fact a trained Christian counselor. They are students of Jesus. It gave me hope of what I could achieve with faith and the blessings of God.
I took the opportunity to ask a few of them a Christian counseling question.
“If I find myself in a situation with a fellow Christian who is struggling with an issue, what’s your best advice?” I inquired.
Without hesitation three of the women, including my daughter who herself disciples young women, said: “You need to really get to know the person. There needs to be a sense of trust that you come from a place of love.” And the birthday girl? She emphasized my old favorite, truth plus love. Not being afraid to speak God’s truth into someone from a loving perspective. Remember that Jesus trait of having a warrior spirit? Renee takes it to heart. She knows the end game – saving a soul.
“As you being the process of bringing correction into someone’s life, put yourself in his shoes. If you were the one sitting there, would it be easy or difficult for you to hear what is about to be said? If the person you are correcting acts closed at first it may be that he’s just embarrassed or reacting out of insecurity. Therefore don’t stop the conversation unless you can see that he’s just being combative. You need to be patient and slow in judging their reaction to your correction.”
Rick Renner, Sparkling Gems from the Greek
Isn’t this the reaction we worry about the most when we need to speak truth to our Christian friends or family members? A fear of making someone angry or embarrassed? But here lies the reason why “Wise Counselor” sits at the end of our faith progression. Without love, without a sense of serving God, without courage, without knowledge of the Lord’s will, we will probably fail at being what our friend, child, sibling, co-worker, or sister in Christ truly needs.
So, when Jesus asks us to “follow” He isn’t just offering Himself up to save us from eternal damnation which by itself is a pretty amazing gift. He’s saying “join me in a journey.” He’s saying, “we’ve got work to do together.” And if we stop partway on the journey and decide we are “fine” where we are at, we miss the opportunities He wants to put in front of us to free more captives.
I don’t know about you but I need wise Christian counselors in my life. And if I could be like Renee and be a blessing in other’s lives, I know it’d make Jesus smile. My imperfect progress, as my friend Betsy likes to say, is still progress. I want to know and live out having the mind of Christ. I’m not where I was when I started and I still have a ways to go. Thankfully, I can trust that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are my guides and cheerleaders.
When we started this journey, I invited you to say a prayer of confession I found in Sparkling Gems from the Greek. And true to God’s ways He put another in front of me to close out this series. Please join me in this prayer and confession. I pray that you seek love, humbleness, courage, and wisdom on your journey.
“Lord, I ask you to help be kind and patient when it is essential for me to bring correction. Help me to not be offended if the person I’m trying to help doesn’t respond at first the way I wished he would have. Help me put myself in that person’s shoes and to sympathize with how he might feel. I ask You to give me wisdom to know what to say, when to say it, and how to say it. I also ask that You give the other person the grace to hear what I am telling him so he might see that I have his best interest at heart and that I am only trying to help him. I pray this in Jesus’ name!”
“I confess that I have the mind of Jesus Christ! When it is needful to me to speak correction to someone else I do it with love, kindness and patience. I refrain from allowing anger to rise up inside me. I am careful about the words that come out of my mouth, and I refuse to participate in vain arguing. I remain in control of myself as the Holy Spirit works mightily inside me. My words bring life to all who hear and receive them! I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!”
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” He replied. “Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what to do.” Acts 9:5-6
I did not grow up in a strong, male-led home. My father was a sweet man who worked a lot. When he got home from work we ate dinner, he showered, and then fixed himself dessert and watched TV. On the weekends we didn’t do family activities and outings. He was just, well, there. Not bad and not great. He is an atheist who believes he can work through any problem in life in his own head.
So, when I met my father-in-law, I expected the same. But I couldn’t have been more wrong. One of my first encounters with John Shetter lives on in infamy. And yet shows his commitment to humbly serving others. You see, I was out visiting my then boyfriend and his parents and we took a short drive from their hometown into nearby Boulder, Colorado. After a nice morning we had lunch, walked around a bit then headed back for the 20 minute drive home. Suddenly, my lunch decided it wasn’t agreeing with me. I whispered to my boyfriend that trouble was brewing. He then turned to John, who was driving, and said I needed a bathroom – pronto.
The car seemed to have entered hyper speed and we may have turned into the driveway on two wheels. The first out of the car was John. He ran to the front door with keys ready and flew the door open for me. I’m not sure if I have ever been more grateful in my life!
A funny tale for sure but John’s desire to make sure my needs were met as quickly as possible is his calling card throughout his life.
Dad is dedicated to Jesus’ teachings – he approaches all people with consideration, thoughtfulness and patience. He has given himself in service to so many entities: church, senior center, hospital, YMCA, underprivileged children. To serve others, therefore serving God is in his DNA.
Dan Shetter, youngest son
I didn’t grow up around any devoted Christian men in my life. In fact, most of the men I’d been around, either through work or school, were not the “humble servant” types. To see a strong, head of household with a job in the corporate world balance those roles with the character of Jesus is truly a great lesson for us all.
And he wasn’t alone. I found, as I married John’s son and met so many of their family friends, that he was surrounded by men of humble servanthood. Men who attended church regularly, went to Bible study, volunteered throughout the community, loved on their families, and talked comfortably about praying for others. They are bankers and realtors, teachers and business owners.
John’s service to the community is something he prefers to “keep behind the scenes.” His commitment to our church is exceptional as he has served in leadership, providing children’s messages, and many other tasks too numerous to mention!
Longtime friend, Chuck Allen
My younger daughter recently told me that one of her company’s core values was that everyone be willing to make the office coffee. I love that. It makes it clear that no task is too small for anyone throughout the organization. During a particularly busy season they asked the corporate staff to give one hour a week to the production floor because they were behind on orders. No job is too big or too small for even the CEO.
That’s how John sees his life. A few years ago, he helped set up a warming shelter at his church. On particularly cold nights they open their doors for the homeless to spend the night. But he didn’t just help set it up. I have been at their home when he headed off to his shift in the dead of night. No bells or whistles. In fact, I wasn’t sure where he was going at first. Just off to serve the Lord’s flock.
“You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.” James 2:22
He has even turned his favorite pastime into an act of service. He loves historical stories, especially related to the old West. He trained to become an official storyteller, a “Spellbinder,” just so he could go into schools and share his tales. This imposing 6’ man sits in a tiny school chair and regularly spins yarns about Indian folklore and pioneer heroes. All because he loves to see smiling little faces.
John doesn’t wait for someone else to fix a problem. He turns to the Lord for direction and takes a step forward. He may not always get it right but he knows he is always working from the right heart.
There’s a lot of “Johns” out there in the world. Men carrying the weight of their family. Men on their knees praying for God’s guidance. Men serving their communities and answering the call to, “feed my sheep.” So many serve quietly and humbly and we might overlook them. The noise today is that men are evil, men are self-serving, men need to be less like, well, “men.” But it is on men, like Saul in our first verse, to whom Jesus placed the weight of the world to spread the Good News.
A humble servant. A man of strength. Those aren’t mutually exclusive. They are an opportunity to achieve God’s holy balance.
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”John 15:13
Jesus sees you. The first lesson of this miracle is a welcome one. You and I aren’t invisible. We aren’t overlooked. Jesus spots us on the side of the road, and he makes the first move.
There are three women in my life that I count has having a significant influence on me. Two of the three will probably never know me. That’s the power of having an outlet to reach millions of people either through the radio, books, television, etc. My long commutes as a young working woman were filled with life wisdom dished out with a borderline harshness by Dr. Laura. She made sense to me and helped me to see different perspectives in relationships both personally and professionally. Later, my faith life received a much needed injection of God’s truth from the formidable Joyce Meyer. Her devotional, “Power Thoughts,” was Dr. Laura on faith steroids. But again, these two women and I will probably never cross paths.
The third woman God placed in my path couldn’t be more opposite in personality than the other two. She and Jesus share a beautiful character trait. They love all. They have compassion for all. They know just what someone needs at their darkest hour. When Jesus was asked how the masses would be fed, He stepped up to the plate. And so does my mother-in-law, Bev Shetter.
When I first would visit Bev in her hometown of Longmont, Colorado about 30 years ago, I would find myself frequently annoyed. You see, like people surrounding Jesus on His way to an official’s home, Bev couldn’t get through one aisle at the local grocer without multiple people approaching her. A quick trip for a loaf of bread turned into an hour.
This was so foreign to me. How could one person, not only know so many people, but know so many people so well? She wasn’t some famous tv personality. She didn’t write a book. She didn’t operate the local bakery, or any business for that manner. She wasn’t even head of any organization. She was a housewife who occasionally worked part time at a flower shop here or a dress shop there. And, a faithful member of her church.
She knows everyone’s name, their children’s names, their parent’s names. She knows who is sick and injured. She can share a joke with old and young. She lets people know she’s praying for them regularly. And at the end of a “short” trip for a few groceries I felt a bit like Peter, annoyed that we might be late for our next engagement because Bev needed to say yet another kind “hello” to an elderly woman.
She makes you feel loved, special, remembered.
“It’s funny how God leads us to just the right person to guide us through life. Bev has been that trusted loving spiritual friend to me for some 40 years. She has modeled the commandment of Jesus to love one another putting into action all the teachings of Jesus. We have shared laughter, faith, tears, fears, and all that life gives us and I am so grateful to her for walking beside me and revealing Jesus to me.”
Longtime friend, Jane Nelson
Jesus did that. You knew you were in the presence of someone special because He made you feel special. The disciples knew that when Jesus said, “Follow me” they would be well-loved. They would be remembered. He wasn’t famous when He first called His disciples. He was an unknown. Not a rich businessman or even mildly successful tradesman. Yet He made sure to make people feel known and loved.
“I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours.” John 17:9
Even in His last physical days on Earth He remembered His friends. Not just the disciples. You’ll notice in the verse above He is praying for everyone that the Father sent to Him – that’s you, me, Peter, John, the tax collectors, the adulterers, the gentile and the Jew. Everyone who has turned their lives over to Him.
When I committed myself to my husband, I was given the gift of moving into Bev’s large friendship circle. It wasn’t easy at first. We are also opposite in personality. I was angry, unsettled, untethered to God. I welcomed outrage in my life, judged harshly and forgave reluctantly. But the thing about Jesus is when He steps into a relationship with a Saul He transforms the Saul into a Paul. And when someone like a Bev enters your life, you can’t help but come out changed.
And so I watched and listened. I saw the peace she had in her life that I did not. I watched her minister to the homeless, the shut in, the sick, the needy, the hurt, the lonely. I listened to her words of compassion and quiet, unassuming advice to her friends. She opens her home to visiting missionaries, childhood friends, family and anyone else that needs a pillow to rest their head. And I said, “I want some of that.”
Isn’t that what we do when listen to Jesus talk to a hurting person? “I want to be able to love like that.” Isn’t that what we pray for when we watch Jesus stop and pay attention to one person on the street whom nobody sees? “I should stop and help them.” Isn’t that what we long for when Jesus tells us He will never leave us? “I want to be loved and be remembered.”
“My grandma doesn’t wait around for approval, compliments or appreciation. She has a keen eye for what people need before they may even know it themselves. She is one to show up with a warm meal before your stomach starts to growl or a blanket before you start to shiver.
Granddaughter, Haley Shetter
Jesus and people like Bev show us how to love and be loved. They show us how to be the faithful and loving friend. They aren’t looking for 10,000 “likes” on Facebook. They stop in the grocery aisle and say, “Hello, friend, how is your mom feeling today?” They give their time and prayers one person at a time. And from that, Jesus and Bev have gained a multitude of loving and faithful friends.
“My sister Bev cared for my blessed mother for many years. Her dedication in honoring God through love and service is selfless and enduring. Many times her faith has been tested but never paled.”
Sister, Kathy Pisano
The people like Bev, who live out this Jesus character trait so well, don’t work hard to make friends. They don’t work hard at keeping friends. They work hard at loving people. They look for ways to show compassion. They know that even doing their little part will mean something for somebody. People like Bev are remembered wherever they go, because the people they touch feel something special.
“From her I have learned to watch and listen to her ways. This is not something you develop overnight but attributes you gain over time. She surrounds herself with people who also have these qualities so they can act as a tribe, a community, to build and share their love.”
Granddaughter, Haley Shetter
Bev and her “tribe” are truly special followers of Jesus’ command to love one another and be faithful to others. I’m a living example of someone who can learn to imitate Bev and Jesus. I may never achieve the level of her success but God knows my efforts.
It’s important for us that aren’t more naturally inclined to be like her to know that Jesus still expects us to work at it. I won’t be Bev2.0 but with her example and the guidance of Jesus I can be transformed into someone new.
“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” Matthew 24:42-44
If you are a parent, or even a supervisor of others at work, you can relate so well to Jesus already. You work day in and day out to show those who look to you for guidance how to live, work and even play. Through your love, your willingness to give up other things to serve them, your confidence, counseling and teaching you hope all that you share sinks in deeply.
And then you turn your back for a minute.
I was listening to the Talk It Out podcast the other day. It’s three friends who discuss the teachings of Joyce Meyer. This particular episode found them doing their first Covid-19 distanced podcast. One of the women shared how the day prior, when they were practicing how the podcast would actually work, she set up her two kids in the bedroom with snacks and a movie. She then went to another room for privacy. Everything was perfect. The kids had what they needed and were properly admonished.
Partway through the run-through her daughter interrupted the proceedings. As the mom turned to see what caused the interruption all she saw was a massacre. At least that’s what it appeared to be. Her young daughter had somehow gotten a hold of red nail polish and had painted her entire feet and hands. And the white bedspread.
When asking her slightly older son what happened he replied unabashedly, “I dunno, she needed me to open it so I did.”
Jesus spent three intense years teaching, showing, guiding and yet even His closest disciples struggled to model Him. And we sit here about 2,000 years later, with our red nail polish spilled all over our guidebook. Oops.
The thing about the red nail polish on the sheets is it never completely comes out. It leaves a pink stain, as the mom found out. She sat night after night staring at it. But thankfully, each time we fail to live up to the lessons of Jesus we can come with our stained hands and hearts and ask for forgiveness. We are washed white as snow.
We need to get up off our knees and try it again. We turn to Him and say, “show me, teach me.” Because He will come back into the room with us to see how well we have lived out His example.
Join me for my next series, “Jesus Mindset,” where we break down the different characteristics of Jesus and how we can live them out. We will all get them wrong at different points but God always holds out his hand to lift us up and dust us off.
So we say with confidence, “The Lord is
my helper; I will not be afraid. What
can mere mortals do to me?”Hebrews 13:6
There’s been a number of times in my life when I felt all alone. In high school the neighbor girl who I had been friends with since I was in fourth grade rejected me. The kids I hung out with at school always treated me as an outsider, never inviting me over to game nights and other fun group activities. I wasn’t a nerd, athlete, druggie, ASB, drama, or whatever type person we think of when we remember our high school years. I was friendly with people in all groups but never a part of a group.
I could’ve really used Jesus.
I was listening to a great podcast recently called, “Talk It Out.” It’s an offshoot of the Joyce Meyer Ministry where three women of various stages of life take Mrs. Meyer’s teachings and work on applying it to their everyday lives. On that day they were talking about different times they’d felt alone. And I realized that probably every single one of us have felt that way at some point or multiple points in our lives. Some of you might feel that way right now.
One of the ladies spoke of when, in high school, she kept Jesus close to her at all times. Her only true friend. She would even talk to Him in the car as though He were a constant companion in her passenger seat.
One who has unreliable friends soon
comes to ruin, but there is a friend
who sticks closer than a brother.Proverbs 18:24
I can’t tell you with 100% accuracy that this proverb speaks of God. But I can tell you that God is 100% that friend who is “closer than a brother.” And when we feel alone and as though our faith journey is stuck, we need only turn to Jesus and say, “Hello.” If you are in a season that you feel alone, left out, far from any quality friendships – including God– it’s time to call to Him with all your heart.
It reminds me of when Mary, having seen the empty tomb, stands outside crying. She must’ve felt very alone at the time. When Jesus appears to her, she thinks He is the gardener and demands to know where he moved the body. And Jesus simply says to her, “Mary.” She turns to Him and suddenly recognizes Him and grabs hold of Him, crying out “Rabboni!” My favorite part of this is the fact the text is written like this in the NIV and King James version – “Mary.” No exclamation. He doesn’t yell out to her. It feels so quiet and gentle and personal. “Mary.”
Now imagine yourself standing there thinking God has let you down. He’s allowed the worst thing that could ever happen to actually happen. And you cry out. He responds. Standing right in front of you with a gentle, loving word.
Instead of saying with proud lip, “Well, if He leaves me I must do without Him, if I cannot have His comfortable presence I must fight on as best may be,” the soul says, “No, it is my very life, I must have my God.”
And with that renewed friendship we can add to our request of God, “Help me to find reliable friendships here on earth.” He may convict of you of your own sins or thinking. Rest assured when you sit with Him over coffee, while on your commute, or at a quiet lunch at the park, He will be the most honest friend you could ever desire.
The righteous choose their friends
carefully, but the way of the wicked
leads them astray.Proverbs 12:26
For me, I needed Jesus for a friend in high school as a companion – I was an oddball, a square peg and all the holes were round. And later, I needed Jesus as that friend who would speak truth into me to show me why I didn’t have close friends, why I’d been rejected so often. He showed me that my need to control the people around me was not a desirable attribute in a friend. I was quick to anger and judgement. And selfish ways pushed people away.
Sometimes when I think about what our lives are like today, I like to imagine what it would’ve been like living as a pioneer woman. Living a lonely life with just my husband and two kids out on the prairie. No texting, no Instagram. Barely any mail even. Where would I find friendship? In my days of harvesting and cooking and cleaning I would need to seek out the only person my Bible told me would be with me always – Jesus.
That was true then and it’s still true today. Friends we had 10 years ago may not even be part of our lives. Friends we meet today may fade away. So, it’s imperative we hold close to our hearts our one constant, our friend, our counselor, our Rock – our Lord.