Sunday Thoughts: Meditations on John the Baptist’s Testimony

John the Baptist’s presence in the Scriptures is extremely brief, but what it lacks in duration it makes up for in power. He is the towering figure who straddles the Old Testament (the last of the OT prophets) and the herald of the Son of the God who has come to bring the New. I want to take just a few minutes to share what the Lord’s been showing me in my personal Bible reading times from John the Baptist’s ministry as recorded in John 1.

Make Straight the Way of the Lord

This morning I read again John the Baptist’s words about himself, where he quotes Isaiah, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord.’” Years ago I wrote about this. I had written how we, too, are to “prepare the way” everyday in our hearts for our Lord and King. Reading that passage again I stopped. Once again the personal application washed over me with fresh conviction, and I needed to savor it.

John the Baptist’s words are my heart’s desire. In the popular vernacular of today, my Why—the core thing that motivates me every day—is Jesus: to know him and make him known. My heart’s greatest desire is to be involved in the lives of others to urge them to “Make straight the way of the Lord” in their own hearts, every day.

Behold the Lamb of God

And of course there is John’s most famous statement of all: Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!” John continues his declaration by diminishing himself and exalting Jesus, “This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me…'” And then later, “He must increase and I must decrease.”

There is no more blessed place in our lives than be nothing. So much of what I read on the Internet from professing Christians who are in business talks about becoming someone.Even those who don’t subscribe to the false teachings of the prosperity “gospel” are often infected by it and don’t even know it when they declare great things for themselves, their business, their families, etc.

That’s not what we are supposed to be about. Our whole lives ought to be about promoting and pointing others to Jesus, the Lamb of God slain for the sins of his people, and resurrected in power on the third day, and coming again to judge, and who will rule and reign on high forever and forever in glorious triumph over his enemies and eternal celebration with those whom he ransomed by his blood.

Doesn’t that sound like a much better, much more appropriate thing for a Christian to be declaring? How am I saying “Behold the Lamb of God!” to others every day?

And I Have Seen and Have Borne Witness that this is the Son of God

Wouldn’t this make a great epitaph? Imagine some stranger walking past your headstone some day. They read your name but don’t know really know you. They read your birthday and the date of your death, random days that probably hold no personal significance on their life’s calendar. But then their eyes read this as your epitaph!

Sure, they may read it and keep on walking by. But for that brief second they are put in mind of the Lord Jesus Christ. They are forced to think of him whom they may otherwise have no regard for. The Word of God does not return void. The Spirit does his work of glorifying the Son.

Or maybe that stranger is also a believer? Maybe they are weary as they still walk in this sin-cursed world? Maybe they are passing your grave to get to the fresh grave of their husband or wife or other loved one. And maybe it is your posthumous testimony that God uses to encourage them as they walk by. Wouldn’t that be something!

Of all things that could be pronounced as a final statement, literally etched in stone to the world, the passerby has just encountered someone who gave as their life’s sum declarative statement that they personally attest 2,000 years on that the historical Jesus Christ was the very Son of God.

Personal Application

I hope you and I share the same desire, to have this as our life’s testimony.  After all, isn’t that what our lives–single, married, widowed–are ultimately all about? It’s the very first answer in the Westminister catechism:

Q: What is the chief end of man?

A: Man’s chief end is to glorify Godand enjoy him forever. (emphasis added)

In recent years I’ve had several close family members die. Only the Lord knows where they are, but outwardly they gave off no sweet fragrance of being alive in Christ. And even now I think of some who are still alive. I’ve tried for years to preach the need for Christ to them. I have solemnly warned and earnestly pleaded many, many times. And they remain deaf to it all and dead in their sins. I want so much for them to be born again! I want John the Baptist’s testimony to be theirs, too.

John the Baptist’s fire was brief but intense. He burned white-hot for God. His wasn’t foolish zeal without knowledge either, but zeal becauseof knowledge. As believers, let’s be like John the Baptist. In our private lives, in our marriages, in how we conduct ourselves to hopefully one day prepare for marriage, and how we glorify the Lord even in widowhood. May it be said of the sum total of our lives that we, “have seen and bore witness that this is the Son of God.”

Gratitude and the Sovereignty of God

Ed. Note – It’s my pleasure to include a post written by my wife, Amy. -AR

It’s December 2018. Christmas has just passed. I am grateful. Yes, I am grateful that Christmas is over with, for the most part.

The idea of gratitude is actually quite overdone in writing, and I hesitate to discuss it except for the fact that this command from our Lord has been a real challenge to me in 2018, especially in these last few months.

As believers and followers of Christ, we are commanded to be thankful. But in this command should also be the overflowing and overwhelming desire to wantto be thankful. My Lord has chosen me. He has saved me from sin and death. He has allowed me to be part of the family of God. I should be jumping for joy at all times every day.

However, like many believers, I don’t.

I grumble and complain. Trivial stuff in the overall scheme of life – renovations in the house not going as fast as I would like. The messiness and disarray from a home under reconstruction. Impatience with entitled students not doing what I tell them to (yet the realization in the back of my mind that I am the same selfish individual wanting my own way). Then the less than trivial. The death of my father in January. My mom being alone. The death of our dog in February. Family members in my husband’s family who have died this year. Various friends and colleagues who have loved ones sick or dying… The list goes on.

This is where God’s sovereignty comes in. Continually reminding myself that God is sovereign over all things, and also that my God is good in all things. I truly believe this. Of course I do not always understand the whyof what happens around me. I still ask the question, but these days I do so more because it’s natural to talk to my Father, yet knowing there are mysteries in this life which I am not meant to know about or understand.

In all of life’s happenings – good or bad – there is always something to be grateful for. My mom got to spend six weeks with us here in South Carolina in June, and is also here with us in December over the holidays. I am grateful she is with us. My husband and I are both thankful to not only have her company, but to also serve her in this first holiday season without my Dad. I’m grateful for the comfort she is to me in this first holiday season without my Dad and our dog. I’m grateful the Lord has blessed Anthony and I so abundantly with a home, work, a new loving church family, and ministry opportunities coming up in 2019.

Yes, the subject of gratitude as a secular mantra is overdone. But I speak of true gratitude. Thankfulness as a believer for who I am in Christ, with the grace and mercy bestowed on me which I do not deserve. As a follower I need to remind myself of the importance of this gratitude. That in a world where people are quick to be offended, desirous to place blame on others for seemingly everything and often tending only be grateful during the now-plastic commercialized “holiday” season, we are reminded as believers that we are not to conform to this world. We are only temporary sojourners here on earth. My kingdom and my home are elsewhere.

And for that, I am eternally grateful.

The Most Powerful Thing a Husband Can Do for His Family

The most powerful thing a husband can do for his family is to get alone with God every day. Notice I didn’t say the most powerful thing a husband can do for his family is to serve them, encourage them, or even to pray for themin particular. What matters is being “a man after God’s own heart” like David was. Let me explain…

Personally, I recommend that every man (every believer, in fact) ought to seek to rise before dawn to spend time with God. I’m not making this a legalistic rule. I realize some work second shift, third shift, or have other obligations that make early morning prayer and Bible time impossible. Barring any of those kinds of reasons, I can’t stress the value of this practice enough.

Waking up and being alone with God before sun up is to rise when our chaotic day to day world is still at rest. Distractions are at a minimum. This naturally helps us to prioritize a “God first” mindset. It may be hard at first, but I believe anyone who commits to this will soon after begin to taste spiritual fruit from it.

How early should we wake up? Whenever is reasonable for your schedule. For me, I naturally enjoy the quiet hours of the early mornings. I’d rather go to bed by 9:30 or 10pm and wake up at 4:30 or 5am to have an hour or more to myself. If you’re not sure when a good time would be, simply ask the Lord to wake you up when He thinks would be a good time. It may take some tinkering, but eventually you’ll figure it out.

For a man to rise before his family is to be the spiritual sentry of his home. He rises early first because he knows the importance to his own spiritual vitality of meeting with his Master and submitting to being transformed by Him daily. He “walks the talk,” proving he really does value the Word of God, meditating on it, and prayer. In His earthly ministry, our Lord rose early to be alone with His Father before the busyness of each day’s ministry to others. If Perfect Jesus sought to be alone with the Father, how much ought we?

As God works in our own hearts, those times with Him are blessed and multiplied in their effectiveness. God changes us and makes us ever more fit for the Master’s use. This plays out in our relationship with our wife: We become more loving, more patient, more of a model, mentor, and leader to her in the things of God.

I know a man who, more than once in his marriage, his wife has commented on the powerful impression it leaves on her when she wakes up in the morning and comes to their living room or into his office and sees him already up and reading my Bible. Let’s be blunt here: If more wives woke up and “caught” their husbands reading their Bibles, less of them would catch them viewing pornography. How wise of the Lord to use everything–even your simple daily Bible reading time–to demonstrate to our wives the single-greatest importance of being submitted to God each new day.

Let’s be blunt here: If more wives woke up and “caught” their husbands reading their Bibles, less of them would catch them viewing pornography.

From there, the concentric circles of influence keep extending outward. If you have children in the home, God will use it in their lives and in your relationships with them. God will use it with your coworkers–they will begin to smell the fragrance of Christ lingering more heavily on you, either as sweet or repulsive, but either way, He will be publicly glorified through your new private routine.

Jesus exalted! In your own life, in your wife’s, in your children, and in the world around you. What a wonderful reason to get out of bed a little earlier tomorrow!

Jesus is My Why

If you asked me up until a month or two ago, I would’ve told you that life’s journeys start and sometimes life’s journeys stop, and sometimes they surprise us by starting again. What I know now is that I was completely wrong.

The truth that I know now is: It’s all one journey. What looks like a hope dashed is only a hope redirected. A journey that looks like it ended abruptly years ago didn’t–not on the Lord’s timetable anyway. Like a layover at a connecting airport, I now know that sometimes the Lord has us waiting somewhere for sometime until, in His wise timing, the next leg of the samejourneycan begin.

That’s what happened with ChristFocusedMarriage.com. CFM was a site and a potential ministry idea I first launched in 2014. It went nowhere, mainly because I didn’t understand how to start a ministry, so I abandoned the idea a short while later.

So why startup CFM as a blog again? I wasn’t planning to at all, actually.

I wanted to come up with a blogging platform and needed a niche. Not a marketing niche, but a focus–what would the blog be about? Who would its target audience be? What did I want to write about? The heart of the question is really: What am I passionate about? As people say nowadays, What is my Why?

I like my job as a real estate agent, but I don’t want to write about it all the time. When I was challenged to write the titles for 10 blog posts I would want to write about, the topics I kept coming back to all had to do with men, Christianmen and the questions and situations we find ourselves in. No other topic was of interest to me enough to write one sample title, let alone 10.

But I knew that writing a blog solely for Christian men would be too limited in scope. That’s when I wondered if my old domain was available. Amazingly, it was!

The question isn’t Why do a thing? but rather Why …Everything?Ultimately, that’s the question each of us has to answer if we are to understand why we do what we do, set the goals that we set, and dream the dreams that we dream…

And to my original question: What Whydo I have that is powerful enough to sustain me and inspire me to write when I won’t feel like writing? Answering that is easy because since I was born again on September 15, 2005, my why for everything I do has never changed: Out of love for what Jesus did for me when he saved me.

Right now I’m writing these words for me–for my own outlet to have something to do that I enjoy. If the Lord sees fit to do more with it, praise Him! If not, and this site again ends up in the digital dustbin, well, praise Him!

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

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Helps for Evangelistic Apathy

Two weeks ago I met Dr. Henry Krabbendam, an 82-year old theologian, professor, and evangelist. He came to speak at our church about evangelism.

During the weekend there was a reception and Q&A with “Dr. K.” at someone’s house. When it came time for the Q&A, we went around the circle, each having a turn to ask a question. My question was deeply personal, one I’ve wanted to ask someone for years. I was a little nervous because 1) I’m still very new to our church and these people are just starting to get to know me, and 2) it wasn’t some polite, underhand pitch softball of a question. It was a fastball, right down the line, with years of history loaded in it, and fired right at my target. I wasn’t trying to hit him; my question was propelled honestly. For a long time I carried this question like a burden. It was a hard question which required a real, concrete answer:

Why it was that in all my years as a Christian, after sharing the gospel with many people in many different settings, I’ve never had one convert? Not even one person say to me, “I’d like to hear more…” No one coming to me and thanking me for showing them Jesus and now they are so thankful they know Him too. Why?

His answer had three main exhortations:

Get on your knees and plead with God for a convert.

Be willing to pay the price.

Don’t give up sharing the gospel.

The next morning in my time with the Lord, I did just that. I got on my knees and prayed for a convert. That next night my wife and I had dinner with Dr. K. We talked about a lot of things. One of the additional exhortations he gave was to pray for a burden; pray to weep for souls. (Something I admitted I don’t have, and don’t do.) This made me ask another blunt question, Do you literally weep for souls? Many preachers and writers talk about weeping, and I’ve wondered if they are using that word as hyperbole or if they really do themselves. Is weeping for souls supposed to be normative for every Christian? Dr. K. received my intensely personal question with grace and candor. He shared that he doesn’t always weep either, but that was proof he, too, needed to pray more earnestly.

I want to have that kind of broken, weeping concern for the spiritual condition of those around me, but I often don’t. But then again, it’s up to the Spirit to give that kind of intense burden, and perhaps He does not give that to every believer. My job is to be faithful in the measure God has entrusted to me, not to focus on straining to produce a kind of fleshly emotionalism. I believe all Christians should evangelize, both out of delight and duty, “in season and out of season.”

When was the last time you shared the full message of the gospel with someone? As I asked two professing believers a few weeks ago, if you had an opportunity to do so, could you even tell someone what the gospel message is? (They admitted they could not.) Incidentally, if you’ve been at a church for any length of time, and months or years later you can’t summarize the message of Christianity in a minute or so, you’re not being property trained and should find a Bible-teaching church immediately.

If you’ve been at a church for any length of time, and months or years later you can’t summarize the message of Christianity in a minute or so, you’re not being property trained and should find a Bible-teaching church immediately.

We don’t need tears to evangelize. But we do need to be able to articulate the points of the gospel. And then we need to pray for the Spirit’s help to step out in faith, over our human fears, and tell others how they can be saved.

God give me a love for people and concern for their spiritual state. Help me, as Dr. K also said, to see people not with my eyes as a man sees (i.e.: see them as black/white, male/female, rich/poor, clean/dirty, safe/suspect, etc.), but to see them as You see them, either saved or lost. There are no other categories. In short: Lord, I repent of my apathy, please let me bear fruits in keeping with repentance.