When I finish writing this article, I will have completed 13 years and 650 articles for the Baptist Messenger. I hope I have another 127 articles in me. That way, I’ll reach the 777 mark. I don’t know why, but 777 seems much more spiritual than 650.
I know plenty of superstitious people who think the number 13 is unlucky. You may be one of those who won’t walk in front of a black cat or under a ladder. I don’t do those things, either. I‘m allergic to cats, and my body’s too big to squeeze between the rungs of a ladder. But here’s the bottom line: I have a high respect for the sovereignty of God. I don’t guide my life by luck, but according to His Holy Word.
Besides, I like the number 13. It all has to do with my youngest son, Caleb. Several years ago, he was on a journey, running from God. Nothing makes a father feel more like a failure than his son’s rebellion. I tried to reason with him, but he put his foot down and kept it there, determined to have his way.
In fact, God was calling Caleb to the ministry. But the last thing he wanted was to be like his dad. He got into trouble with the law, was incarcerated several times and gave his parents many sleepless nights. Our only hope lay in the knowledge that a man can never outrun God. Look at Saul. The man who shook his fist at the God we serve and set out to kill people of faith was brought to his knees by the holiness of that same all-powerful God. There on the Damascus Road, he was forever changed.
As for Caleb, all my wife and I knew to do was to continue to love him and pray. Early one Saturday morning, we heard a knock at our door. We opened it to find our youngest son reeking of alcohol and staring at us with bloodshot eyes. But everything fell away as he spoke the words every parent of a prodigal longs to hear: “I’m sorry. Will you forgive me? I’ve sinned against God and against you. I want to come home and submit to your authority.”
I know many of you have children who are running from God. You feel like a failure—just as I did. I went to God many times to tell him I had tried my best and didn’t know where I went wrong. My ever-gracious Father told me He understood. Once upon a time, He gave His children a beautiful Garden filled with everything they needed. But when they chose to reject Him and His Word . . . we know the rest of the story. God understood and identified with my situation. That meant a lot.
For months I had prayed for wisdom about what to do when Caleb returned home. As he entered the house that morning, we noticed a patch of raw pink skin and the Roman numeral XIII freshly tattooed across the back of his neck.
God used that tattoo to give me the idea to write Caleb a letter pronouncing him a member of the Order of Matthias. Remember Matthias? He was the man who took the place of Judas and became the 13th apostle. “Then they prayed, ‘Lord, You know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two You have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.’ Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles” (Acts 1:24-26).
Being the 13th apostle carries a special significance. Not chosen among the original 12, but still chosen. Chosen out of time and out of season, but still chosen.
Today, with the help of God, the North American Mission Board and the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, Caleb is a church planter. Late last year, he began a church that ministers to people in tattoo parlors and bike shops. It targets those who would never darken the door of a traditional church. Caleb is making a difference, and I am so proud of the ways he allows God to use him.
If you ever go to a pastor’s conference, look for a man with the number 13 tattooed on the back of his neck in Roman numerals. That man will be Caleb—disciple and pastor.
Yes, I like the number 13, whether a tattoo on the back of my son’s neck, a disciple chosen many years ago or the number of years God has allowed me to write this article. When you trust in a sovereign God, the number 13 stands for . . . grace.
Walker Moore is president of AweStar Ministries in Tulsa, P.O. Box 470265, Tulsa 74147, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, phone 800/AWESTAR (293-7827)