Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!

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What Then

Reading: Luke 3: 7-18

Verse 10: “What then should we do”?

Perhaps you remember a few years ago when the WWJD bracelets and t-shirts were popular. The WWJD stood for “What Would Jesus Do?” It was a way to focus Christians in on how they should live out their faith. In many ways, John the Baptist is a precursor to this movement. He is helping people to prepare for the way of the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ.

There was a certain feel-good aspect to the whole WWJD movement. Although John the Baptist was a bit confrontational, there was a feel-good aspect to what John was doing out there in the wilderness. Our passage today begins with John addressing those who only want to look religious. The “vipers” look good but their faith has no depth. They are the folks today who come to church on Sunday morning and go home and swear at the television because their team is losing a ball game.

Some in the crowd hear John’s confrontation not as insult but as challenge. It is interesting to note who hears the challenge. The ordinary people in the crowd and the dreaded tax collectors and the hated Roman soldiers. Yes, there is a Good Samaritan angle to this passage too. In a similar way to this later teaching of Jesus, the religious leaders only hear insult in John’s words. He warns them, saying not to just claim Abraham as their father and think all is good. To many today, John would say, ‘Don’t just show up for an hour on Sunday and wear your little WWJD bracelet to work (or school)’. Just saying or pretending to be a Christian isn’t worth much.

To those whose hearts hear John’s message, there is a good conviction that occurs. In response they ask him, “What then should we do”? John’s response is what the WWJD gear was supposed to do: illicit the godly response in all situations. In essence, John said, ‘Do the right thing’. Share what you have, treat others well, don’t abuse your power, be content. Jesus would say, “Love your neighbor as yourself”. May we each go and do likewise.

Prayer: O Lord, sometimes I fall short. When I do, send your Holy Spirit, loud and clear, reminding me of my call to love and care for all of your children. May it ever be so. Amen.

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Reading: Matthew 11: 7-11

At times, we all go through what John the Baptist’s followers are going through.  Someone who has been a leader in our church or community or organization is no longer present.  They have moved on to another place or they have passed on.  To be filled with questions and doubts and fears is a normal reaction.  We wonder who will fill the void.  We wonder how the void will be filled.

John has been put in prison.  He had led a powerful ministry out in the desert and had positively changed many people’s lives.  So instead of trusting in God and expecting God to do something amazing next, the followers worry and fret.  So Jesus asks them, in essence, why they followed John and why people came out to see him.  What drew you and others to John?

Jesus begins by asking if they went out to see a reed swayed by the wind.  Well, no, John was rock solid in his beliefs and in his mission.  His message did not change no matter who came out into the desert: repent for the kingdom of God is near.  Jesus asked if John’s attire and other refinements drew them.  No, of course not – it was about the message and about personally drawing closer to God.  Jesus then harkens the people back to a passage from Malachi.  John was there for a purpose: as a messenger sent to prepare the way.  Jesus has come, John’s work is done.  God’s plan continues.  Jesus ends the section by stating that although John was indeed a great gift from God, in heaven John will be just like everyone else.

In our lives, we too experience people God is using to do kingdom work.  It may be for just a short time or the work may last decades.  The person may be you or I.  But at some point, the work of God in that time and place draws to a close.  There is naturally sadness and often doubt or fear.  Yet in the midst of this, may we allow our faith to move forward, trusting fully in God’s plan and will.  May we be thankful for what God has done while remaining confident that it is all part of God’s plan.  God alone is in control.  Trust God.

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What Should We Do?

Many people came out into the wilderness to see John the Baptist.  He preached a simple message of repentance.  He told people to get rid of the sin in their lives so that they were ready for the coming of the messiah.  Instead of looking within and searching their souls, many people asked John, “What should we do?”  His advice was pretty simple.

To the common person who asked, John said if you have two of something, to give to one who has none.  In doing so today we can clothe the naked, give drink to the thirsty, feed the hungry, and visit the orphan, widow, and prisoner.  Yes, this sharing includes our time and our presence.

To the tax collector, many of whom were know to overtax so that they could line  their own pockets, John said to collect only what is due.  For the business owner this means to charge a fair price and to pay a fair wage.  To the employee, to be content with your fair pay.

John’s advice to the soldier was to not extort or otherwise abuse one’s authority.  This advise extends to all in positions of authority – to the judges and other government officials, to teachers and parents, to caregivers and providers, and to all else who have authority over another.  In essence, John is saying to treat others with respect and dignity.

As we ask this same question, “What should we do?”, may we heed John’s advice.  May we lay aside the greed, the self-centeredness, the desire for power and may we pursue the things he championed – sharing, giving, treating others well, and offering of self to others.  What great ways to prepare ourselves for the coming of the messiah.

Scripture reference: Luke 3: 10-18

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Transform and Lead

John came to prepare the way for the Lord.  In the desert he preached a “baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”  He came to bring a message that would transform people’s hearts and make them ready for Jesus.

The radical changes to the earth that Isaiah wrote about and Luke quotes are very dramatic – valleys are filled in, mountains laid low, and crooked paths made straight.  Powerful things that only God could do.  But John called for and calls today for us to undertake such radical transformations in our lives as well.

As we seek to prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ this Advent season, what valleys or low spots in or lives do we need God to lift us out of?  What mountains or pedestals do we need to step down off of to allow humility in and God to be the one lifted up high?  What crooked paths do we sometimes walk that we need the Holy Spirit to turn us from and to walk alongside us on the narrow path?

We anticipate a time of celebration as we remember Christ’s birth.  We also need to be transformed by and made right with God.  May we allow God to transform us and to lead us in a life that knows His saving grace.  May we prepare Him room in our hearts.

Scripture reference: Luke 3: 3-6

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No one likes conflict.  Often we avoid it.  Maybe we go the other way or we accept another’s idea.  Maybe we simply choose to not be involved or we remain silent.  Yet God calls us to stand against injustice, oppression, and all things evil.  He calls us to always do what is right.  In making these choices we can find ourselves in conflict.

John the Baptist found great conflict at the end of his life.  He spoke out against Herod marrying his own brother’s wife.  This angered her greatly.  It led to John’s arrest and eventually to his beheading.  John’s integrity would not allow him to remain silent.  John’s cost was much higher than any cost I may have to pay for following Jesus, but at times there are still costs.

Living as a follower of Jesus will at times put me in a place where I have to choose between silence and integrity.  This can be a hard choice.  When I am led by the Holy Spirit to speak and I choose to remain silent, I am less than I could be.  I am less than I am called to be.  In silence I sacrifice part of myself and my faith to avoid conflict.

But when I allow the Spirit to lead and I speak out against injustice or oppression or anything wrong or evil, then I am showing God’s ways and bringing His name honor.  When I speak hard words of truth to a friend, I am leading them back to living God’s alternative way.  In turn, I trust they will do the same when I have gone astray or made a poor choice.  Conflict is never easy, But God is always present, there to strengthen, to encourage, to lead, to comfort, and to love.

Scripture reference: Mark 6: 14-29

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Pointing the Way

John the Baptist knew his role well.  He lived a very basic, simple life.  He did what God called him to do.  Although he had followers and many people came out into the wilderness to be baptized, John remained humble and true to his calling. His perspective never changed – always God’s servant and always speaking the truth.

As we move through Advent and closer to Christmas, excitement builds.  Christ’s birth precedes all of God’s promises being fulfilled in and through Him.  John knew just how important Jesus was to the world and put all of his focus and energy into drawing people’s attention to Christ.

Our role is really the same – to tell His story, to share our story, and to point people to Christ.  Through both our word and example we can help others to “make straight the way for the Lord.”  Our role is to point the way and to help others draw closer to the true and only reason for the season.

Scripture reference: John 1: 16-28

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God’s Voice

In the beginning God spoke and created the world.  As the world functioned according to God’s excellent plan, He dwelt among man.  God walked and talked with Adam and Eve in the garden.  Over time God continued to speak to prophets and to have His voice heard.  God dwelt among the Israelites in the tabernacle and led them by day and night during the exodus.  But as the world continued to grow and develop, God seemed to become quiet.

Then one day God spoke into Mary’s life through the angel Gabriel and a new life was formed in her womb.  Her little baby, Jesus, would forever change the world.  Once again God was speaking to man.  God sent John the Baptist ahead so that people were aware of and would be ready for Jesus to minister to them and to the world.

The prophet in the wilderness baptized with water so that people would repent of their sins and be ready for Christ.  Through Jesus and the disciples that followed after Him, God spoke again into the world.  God still wants to speak into the world today.  God wants to speak through all who believe so that the gospel spreads to the ends of the earth.  We each are called to be God’s voice, calling out to all the lost, so that they too may come to know this Jesus, the savior of the world.

Scripture reference: John 1: 6-8