Why was John baptizing, after Jesus started?

John the Baptist was a great man. He was used of God to do many wonderful things, and turn many hearts toward their Savior. At one point in time, John the Baptist was even chosen by God to baptize Jesus. The scripture seems to suggest that John was a figure in the bible who would call out to people to prepare the way for the Lord.

So in John 3, we find that Jesus has begun his ministry and has begun to baptize people. John, however, is still baptizing. And in this snapshot of time, we see John’s heart, and the perspective a true co-laborer with God should have.

You see, John’s ministry didn’t stop when Jesus’ began. God still had a specific calling on his life. I feel like it could have been easy for John to simply say, “Well, God’s here, I can go home now.” But he didn’t take that attitude. He continued to serve.

Some of his followers even came to him, and they basically asked, (I’m paraphrasing) “What’s with this other guy who’s baptizing?”

John’s reply is perfect.

“Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him . . .  He must increase, but I must decrease.”

John knew his place. He was there to serve. He was not to gain glory for himself. He wasn’t there because no one else could do the job, or because God “needed” him. He was simply in the role of a servant, doing the service appointed to him.

I feel like we can become discouraged sometimes. Maybe someone else seems “better” at ministry than we are. Maybe we feel like we’re not needed. Or we question our place because we know God could do it all on His own.

Let me exhort you, be the person God has called you to be. And seek out to do the ministry God has for you. It doesn’t matter how you think you measure up, or how much you may think God doesn’t need you to do His work. God chose you for a specific purpose. The ministry He has for you was given to you with the purpose of glorifying Him. So take your place in bringing glory to Him, with all your heart!

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Are you an expert?

In today’s world we are constantly bombarded by the “expert” opinions of this panel or that scientist. We erect colleges, bestow degrees, acquire years of experience all in the name of knowledge. People dedicate their entire lives to the studying of a thing, and for this they become respected, renowned, and even revered.

In all this, do we examine our limitedness? Do we even know that much? What is the wisdom of the wisest man compared to God? What is the knowledge of the most astute intellectual compared to God? We scoff a the experts of  20 years past, and they scoff at those 20 years more. We seek after knowledge, and we do find it, but does our search ever bring us to truth, or simply another facet of man’s ever shifting flawed perspective on the world?

There was a man who was a leader of the Pharisees who visited Jesus by night. He wanted to learn from Christ so that He could find truth. At one point in the conversation, Jesus exclaims, “Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?”

Nicodemus was the expert of his day. He was in charge of the religious system, and He didn’t know some basic spiritual ideas. Jesus even chided him for rejecting the testimony of people who had spoke of Jesus’ ministry’s power saying, “If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?” John 3:12

The idea that I’m trying to share, is that no matter how much you have studied, or learned, or how you may be at the forefront of your field, there is always more to learn, and there is always someone to learn from. Nicodemus was an expert, and compared to the wisdom of Christ, he didn’t know very  much at all.

In 1 Corinthians 8, we are told, “Knowledge puffeth up,” When we are rich in earthly knowledge, it can become easy to be enticed by pride. We become so involved in our good opinion of ourselves we forget the God who deserves all the praise and honor and glory.

I would invite you, no matter how much you may be an ‘expert’ don’t allow your experience, knowledge, or education to bring you to pride. You may know much compared to those around you, but you know nothing compared to an all wise God. Remember that.

Is it okay, to be angry?

I’ve always heard it preached, that anger is okay. People would quote Ephesians 4:26, “Be ye angry, and sin not:” and say, “Look! You can be angry, as long as you aren’t sinning.” This made perfect sense to me, and I took it as truth. But in time I’ve come to find another verse not far away, it says:

“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:” Ephesians 4:31

Wait.

So isn’t that a contradiction? One verse tells us to be angry and not sin, and the other tells us to put our anger away? How can this be?

On another note, multiple verses tell us to be “slow to anger.” So anger is permissible, but only if you are not quick to anger?

With all of these thoughts, let us turn to our ultimate example- Christ.

It may surprise you that Jesus was angry upon multiple accounts. One time is mentioned in Mark 3. Jesus is about to heal the a man in the synagogue. He challenges the Pharisees ideas and they do not reply. In that moment, He was very angry. It says that he looked around at them in anger. Then, he healed the man.

Notice Jesus didn’t become violent, He didn’t act out in anger. He kept to His purpose. He continued His ministry. He continued to love. And from everything we read in that passage,

He moved on.

I think the answer to the anger question is simple.

In our anger, we should not sin. So that means we don’t lose control. But more than this, we don’t lose our focus. Not sinning in anger is more than just not yelling at someone, or not punching them in the face. No. It’s much more. In order for us to have anger in it’s proper place, we must be able to

Be angry, and still love

Be angry, and still prefer others above ourselves

Be angry, and still have Christ as our supreme focus, delight, and desire.

I have come to this conclusion, which I ask you to consider carefully before you accept. If our anger detracts, deters, or detours us from any objective- it is sin. If we flicker in our devotion to God. If we glance away from His plan for our lives. If we use it as an momentary occasion for pride, it is sin. If we feel anger as a reaction to an affront against us, instead of being angry for the sake of God’s honor, it is sin.

I do not know what kind of anger you have known, but my anger is most assuredly always an occasion of pride. It is always a moment of “How dare they ____ to me.” My anger is always in defense of what I think I “deserve.” True humility and love teaches me that I deserve nothing. And I need no defense.

I truly believe, if we are angry, it should be on behalf of God, and not ourselves.

If you have known this righteous anger, then I salute you, but there is still another aspect to consider. Ephesians 4:31 says, we must put our anger away. No matter how righteous your anger is, it will not be righteous for long, if you allow it to stay. The children of God must not live in a spirit of anger. We must not let it dwell in our hearts. Read the fruit of the spirit, love, joy, peace, longsuffering . . .

Do these all coexist with a heart full of anger, I think not. Let us be like our glorious Creator, of which it has been said,

“The LORD is merciful and gracious,
Slow to angerand abounding in mercy.”

Psalm 103:8

 

Spiritual amputees

In all our lives we can feel weak. We can feel emotionally or spiritually disabled. The sin that we’ve been born with has caused us to loose a part of ourselves. We are all, in a sense, spiritual amputees. We cannot love. We cannot have faith. We cannot do good.

Romans tells us, “They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.”

“They are together become unprofitable”

Basically everyone on this earth is useless.

But we don’t all feel that way do we? The rich man feels that he is better than the poor man. The strong man feels  he is better than the weakling. The ruler feels he is better than the commoner. In our own little world, we give glory to those who we see as wise or strong. We erect these measures of status and profitability for our own comparisons among each other. We become disillusioned and blinded to the true measure and standard of God’s power and worthiness.

God doesn’t want to leave us in this false world of fake and useless status, so He shakes things up a bit.

In Corinthians we find, “But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence.

God basically reveals himself by taking those considered weak, and making them strong. He takes the poor man, and uses him to show up the rich man.

He takes a bunch of lowly fishermen, and transforms them into apostles who revolutionize the demographics and belief systems of the entire world. He chooses Gideon, who was lowly in status, to lead an army of very few to defeat a massive army. He takes a life as common and lowly as yours or mine and uses it to make a difference for His glory.

So next time you feel as if you have nothing to offer God. Or that you don’t measure up. Or that you don’t have the tools to succeed. Realize that might just be what God is looking for. God can use anyone. He can use the strongest person in the room. But He seeks out the weakest. He chooses the foolish. He plans to use the ones no one would ever expect, to do the things they could never do on their own. And why? So the world can know all the things they value and esteem worthy of praise are worth nothing. They are all gone out of the way, they are all together become unprofitable. Everyone is useless without Him. There is not exception. There is no comparison worth making between us.

“That no flesh should glory in his presence.” 1 Corinthians 1:29

 

When your ship is full

Have you ever wondered if God was watching? If God cared? Maybe you are wondering right now. Financial troubles, relationship problems, health issues, and loss can all make us lose sight of God and question Him. We can become angry with God, lose our hope in Him, feel frustrated with Him, and lose faith.

This is exactly how the disciples felt in Mark 4:35-38. They traveling by ship when a storm came upon them. They were no doubt working furiously to save themselves, but it was not enough. There’s a part of this story that can be overlooked very easily. In verse 37, it tells us that the ship was full.

It was full.

There wasn’t just a frightening storm. There wasn’t just turbulent waves. There wasn’t just a few feet of water in the ship.

No.

The ship was full of water.

As I’m composing this, my heart goes out to each and every person who is in such a situation. Maybe you’re struggling financially and you don’t know how you will feed your kids. Maybe a loved one has just passed away. Maybe you find yourself destitute and alone. You find yourself in dire straights, and your ship is full of water. Whatever the circumstances, it looks as if they will certainly drown you.

It is not the end.

Go to Jesus. In the middle of your storm.

Go to Jesus. When your ship is full.

Go to Jesus. Even if you’re doubting Him.

Looking at the passage, we see the disciples aren’t asking for His help. They aren’t going to him in faith. They’re going to him in anger and frustration. Pain and disbelief. They say,

“Master, carest thou not that we perish?”

Jesus immediately calms the storm and the seas become peaceful. He rebukes them for their unbelief. The story ends with them marveling at His power.

There may come a time when you loose all faith in God. You doubt His power, you doubt his involvement, and you doubt His love. Go to Him anyway. Ask Him for His help. He can calm the storm, even when you doubt Him and loose all faith.

Imagine hearing truth from Hitler

What if I told you that you should be kind to other people? Would you take that as something to be listened to? Would you take it to heart?

Now imagine your most hated enemy. Or perhaps it’s someone that hates you. Think of someone you hate the most, from history or from current times. Think of Hitler, Stalin, Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, a terrorist who wants to kill you. What if they were here, and they told you to be kind to other people? How would you receive it?

In John 4, a woman is confronted by a similar situation. The Jews and the Samaritans had an old hateful relationship. The Jews resented the Samaritans because they were “half-breeds” with the Assyrians. And the Samaritans hated the Jews right back. There was a lot of animosity, and they were not on speaking terms.

So in the story in John 4, Jesus asks a Samaritan woman for a drink of water. Immediately she is on guard, and she asks him, why he is talking to her. As the conversation continues, Jesus reveals himself as the Messiah and He changes the woman’s life. She in turn goes back to the town and invites all them men to meet Christ and know His transforming power.

Now I ask you, what if that woman couldn’t see past Jesus’ Jewish heritage? Where would she have gone? How would her story had ended? She opened her heart, even though Jesus was a Jew. She chose to see past the hate.

I would like to pose the idea to you, that God has many ways of teaching us. He may want to teach us through our pastor or trusted friends, or He may use someone we don’t like. Sometimes God brings people in our lives to teach us things and these people we may not especially like. I challenge you, look past the outer shell and see the person on inside. Don’t let hate, bigotry, or stereotypes determine how you treat someone or whether you listen to them.

God uses everyone, don’t ever let your views of other people limit God’s working in your life.

For the Samaritan woman, looking past her feelings about Jews totally changed her life. She had a special talk with Christ, and it left her different. Imagine how God might speak to you if you listened for His leading despite the source.

 

Is your solution, His solution?

Prayer is a powerful vehicle for our lives for good. We can ask God for His will to come to pass in out lives, and He works on bringing it to fruition. The thing is, we can pray for anything. And it doesn’t mean that it’s going to happen. You could pray for the continents to move together and become one land mass (because you think it would be cool). And I’m gonna tell you that’s probably not going to happen.

You could ask God to change your natural hair color. And it’s probably not going to happen.

There’s a lot you could ask God for. The limits are boundless. But the thing is, God isn’t going to do anything that is outside of His will. It’s in His character.

It’s important to pray right. Pray according to His will, or we won’t get results, we will waste our breath, and we will be left with disillusions of what God wants or His capabilities.

Let me give you an example.

In John 17, Jesus is praying. He says, “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.”

Jesus was praying for believers, and praying for them to do well. He clarified at one point (probably for our benefit) that He wasn’t asking the Father to remove the disciples from the influence of the world, but to protect them from evil. Isn’t that interesting. God wanted them in the world as a witness. As a stark contrast between what a righteous person’s life was like, and what a sinners was like. Being in the world was probably a growing experience for the disciples as well.

I invite you to remember what God’s will is when you pray. If you’re stressed, maybe don’t just pray the stress goes away. Perhaps it would be better for you to pray that God teaches you how to trust Him in your stress. If you are scared of something, perhaps you don’t need to pray for a specific solution, but for God to calm your fears. If you are in a job you don’t like, maybe you don’t need to pray for a new one. Maybe you need to pray for contentment right where God has you.

Every situation is different. But I challenge you to consider that God’s solutions are not always our solutions. There was a time when Christ calmed the storm for the disciples. And there was a time He invited Peter to walk on the water in the middle of the storm.

Won’t you ask God for wisdom when you pray?

Do you wait for a mistake?

Have you ever watched someone, waiting for them to make a mistake? Maybe they showed you up at work. Or they always got an A on their tests. Maybe they seemed to be the perfect brother or sister. You hated the fact that they always did so well. you wanted to see them fail.

In Mark 3, the Pharisees did just that. Jesus entered the synagogue, and there was a man who needed healing. Immediately, the Pharisees were wondering if Jesus would work a miracle on the Sabbath.

They were looking to accuse Him.

They didn’t care about the man with the problem. They didn’t wonder or appreciate Jesus’ power and goodness. They cared about whether Jesus would heal on the Sabbath. And why? Honestly why?

Could I submit to you, that they pridefully wanted to have a grievance against Him. They wanted to be able to say He had a fault. They wanted to be better than Him.

Think about that.

They were filled with pride, they were blind to those around them. They didn’t care about Christ’s goodness or someone else’s condition. All they cared about was whether or not they were better than Christ.

Pride will do that to you. Pride will want you to accuse others. Pride will teach you indifference to the problems of others, and teach you to only observe you’re own assessed worth, how you measure up to others, and how they measure up to you.

Pride will teach you to accuse. To search for a fault in others, in your friends, and even in God.

I challenge you, make a commitment to banish pride from your life. Don’t allow foolish selfish pride to steal you from loving others, from loving those close to you, and loving God.

The Bible teaches us that Satan is the accuser of the brethren.

He doesn’t need any help.

Herod was troubled, but you don’t have to be

Throughout the gospels, wherever Christ went, he stirred up people. People were inspired, lame men walked, sinful men and women thirsted for righteousness, and the seats of power (the establishment if you will) seemed to loose it’s luster and prestige after seeing the glory of the Most High.

Matthew tells us of the first announcement of Christ’s presence on earth.  Wise men came from the East asking to see Christ and declaring that they knew he had been born. Matthew 2:3 says, “When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.”

Don’t miss that last phrase! “All Jerusalem with him.”  Jerusalem heard of Christ’s arrival! They knew! And they were scared.

I ask you, what kind of men shake when they hear of God’s arrival?

Herod was carnally minded. He didn’t want Christ to take his “power” from him. The rest of Jerusalem was probably thinking the same way. They didn’t want to disturb the status quo. They liked their life the way it was, and though they were Jews, and called by His name, they were not interested in their Savior if it meant giving up their comfortable life.

How about you?

What is your reaction when you sense Christ nearing to your heart? Do you prefer the comfort and familiarity of your life to the transforming power of Christ?

Some of us are so carnally minded we aren’t interested in Christ being Lord of our life. We like our routine, the sinful pleasures we allow ourselves, the prerogative to do whatever we want.

When Christ shows up, he changes things.

If your spiritual life is stagnant, perhaps it is because you have only allowed Christ to get “so close.” You don’t want Christ to permeate every part of your life, because then you might have to change. You might have to give up your “dominion” of your life.

I challenge you, don’t make that foolish decision. Don’t ever shut Christ out and tell the Lord of Lords to not be the Lord of your heart. Let us be like the wise men who searched out Christ. Let us seek him and lay our lives down before Him.

Herod’s life ended badly. His life was supernaturally ended for not giving God the proper praise. It didn’t have to be that way.

God promised in ancient times, “Them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed.” – 1 Samuel 2:30

The path to glory is not up, but down.

Don’t be the one shaken with fear at the mention of Christ. Be the one who searches for him each day, to lay your gifts at His feet.

10 minutes could save you . . .

There’s a popular insurance ad that reads, “15 minutes could save you 15 percent or more on car insurance.” It’s sales tactic is simple, take some time out of your day and explore the possibility of . . . Think of the time it would take!

Only 15 minutes!

That’s not a lot of time. And you could save money too! This advertisement has become somewhat known in America and I’m sure many parts of the world. It’s tactic is brilliant.

So I’d like to use it.

But let’s shorten it. Let’s say ten. What could you do with ten minutes? You could aimlessly surf the internet, chat with a friend, play a Sudoku game – I’m running out, so think of something that you would do in a 10 minute window of time. You probably come across these once or twice a day. You know, that random time between appointments. What do you do with it?

I don’t know what your schedule is like. Or what you face every day. But I would challenge you, take 10 minutes every day, and invest it. Do something eternally profitable.

For instance, if you struggle with laziness – take ten minutes every day to suppress your sin nature. Do that thing that you’ve been putting off for some odd days. You may not be able to finish it, but start. And start again day 2- for ten minutes.

If you’ve noticed that worry or anxiety has been stressing you out, take ten minutes. And spend it in constant prayer. Take that time to turn your eyes heavenward. God promises that he will keep you in peace if you keep your eyes on Him.

If you’ve been feeling distant from God. Take ten minutes and spend it in His Word. Flip through proverbs, or psalms, or wherever the Spirit takes you and learn from Him. And then do it day 2. And so forth.

If you’re like me, you’ve spent more than ten minutes surfing the internet, or having a long conversation with a friend. It flies by doesn’t it? Not very much time. Take that time and invest it in God’s eternal kingdom, and you will be amazed at what He does with it.

I challenge you, take 10 minutes. Every day. And watch your world change