John The Baptist
When I think of John the Baptist, I think of a strong man of God, someone with unmatched faith. Other Biblical heroes have obvious flaws: Abraham’s cowardice, David’s lust, and Jonah’s rebellion. But John seems to be set apart from all of them.
He was a prophet in the wilderness. He called out the sins of Kings and prestigious religious leaders. He was so great, he was called the second Elijah.
Perhaps his greatest feat was baptizing Jesus himself: "Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” –Matthew 3:13-14
(This is important) He recognizes who Jesus is. He knows Jesus is the Messiah: "But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased." -Matthew 3:15-17
Can you imagine this experience? People talk about having amazing spiritual experiences, but John’s experience blows away any I’ve heard. Imagine watching the Spirit descend like a dove and hearing the voice of God proudly declare “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
Surely, in that moment, John had no doubts as to who Jesus was. And we would think that after having an experience like that, John couldn’t possibly ever have any doubts.
But that’s not what happened.
John The Doubtist
John was imprisoned because he publicly denounced the King and his mistress for the scandal their relationship was. And while he awaited certain death, he doubted.
See his words in Matthew 11:2-3: "Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”
Did you hear that? Did you hear what John just asked? He asked if Jesus is the one! What happened to John’s bold faith? What happened to literally hearing God say, “This is my beloved son”?
There is an important lesson to be learned from John’s story so far: Spiritual experiences are not enough for a strong faith.
I hear Christians say that they would have more faith if God just gave them a sign. Full disclosure: I’ve said this myself many times. But the Bible is filled with people who had amazing spiritual experiences, and yet sinned grievously against God or in John’s case, doubted. So what hope is there for us who will never have an experience like hearing God’s voice from heaven?
A Better Faith
Well there is hope, and we find it in Jesus’ response to John: "And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me." –Matthew 11:4-6
First of all, here are things Jesus did not say to John:
No, He doesn’t do that. He doesn’t hold John’s doubt against him. Instead, He graciously gives John reasons to believe and a few verses later even says “there is no one greater than John.”
This is an act of kindness and love. He does not require John to muster up more “faith” in a vacuum. He gives him tangible reasons to believe.
Jesus responds to doubt with love and evidence. Jesus determined that the best way to help John through his doubt was by providing facts. He gave him solid evidence which gave John every reason to believe.
And this is very important for Christians to understand today. If you feel that your faith is lacking, maybe you need to spend less time trying to will yourself to greater heights of faith. Maybe, you just need to look at the evidence that God has so graciously provided. There are great reasons to have faith. Will you take the time to hear them?
Tim is a lifelong student and loves nothing more than a good conversation on faith and truth. He is the chapter director of Ratio Christi at Grand Valley State University. He has spoken on dozens of topics at various universities, high schools, churches, and non-profit ministries. He has a BA in Worldviews and Apologetics from Boyce College. Tim, his wife Alexandra, and children MaryKate and Oliver attend Allendale Baptist Church where Tim also works as an administrative assistant. Anyone who meets Tim easily remembers him as the tallest Filipino they've ever met.
This post originally appeared at Tim's personal blog: apolothink.com
It might sound nuts, especially in our current socioeconomic climate regarding women, but I really DON'T want to have it all. I know, I know... This is the call of so many modern women who are proving something, to someone, somewhere: "You can have it all!" But I simply just don't want to, and neither should you, here's why:
To have it all means you have the responsibility of it all, and that is exhausting.
When you have it all, you're still missing something pretty big: rest. Trying to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders will make anyone start to drag. Even the strongest wives, the sweetest mommas, and the smartest administrators lose their energy reserves when it's all spent in the vague direction of more.
A great friend of mine quoted Francis Frangipane in one of my more busy seasons recently. Francis had explained in a study that we are not just responsible for our lives and situations, but that true responsibility is in responding to the ability of God. Only He is ultimately responsible, and ultimately able! There is a great deal of rest in the acceptance and surrender of that for us.
"Are you so foolish? Although you began with the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by human effort?" Galatians 3:3
With eggs in every basket, you never really have a full dozen.
At the end of the day your success is determined not by the amount of errands, tasks, meetings you've completed, but how well you've completed them. You can focus on your career, focus on your family, focus on your favorite nonprofit, and focus on a barrage of friends every time they reach out to you; sure, you could do all that. But I'm willing to bet at the end of all the "go time" you will have gone more than just a little crazy. Worse yet, there is no way you are doing "all of the things" effectively, or ending up with any time left for you and Jesus.
Yes, you have some fantastic ingredients in your character: diligence, talent, compassion, intelligence... However, if you use each ingredient for a different recipe then your cookies are only ever going to be half baked. No one likes half baked cookies...
"It is vain for you to rise up early, To retire late, To eat the bread of painful labours; For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep." Psalm 127:2
If you could have it all now, you wouldn't be a part of the process.
Moses, Job, Daniel, Mary Magdalene, Paul... what do they all have in common? Process. I'm not talking about the 15 minute process you took to decide what you'd have for breakfast this morning either. I'm talking about long years of waiting, trials of insurmountable odds, and fear shaking, faith building process.
The Lord who created you is also calling you on a life long journey of pressing in and walking out your salvation. Is His desire to bless you as his children? Absolutely. Will that blessing look the way you think it should? Probably not. However it looks to your earthly eyes, you can trust that the Lord has the truest desires of your heart at hand, and He will not let you settle for the easy stuff, the low hanging fruit. As the potter of your life, he promises to use the fires all around you for your own good! At the end of this life, and at many points along the way, you will be highly rewarded through the process.
"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:12-14
Ari is a wife to a nerdy stud named Joseph, a mama to 3 rowdy kids (sometimes confused with goats, understandably), and a lover of words and yarn. More importantly, she's a daughter of the Most High, and she believes that women are being called to create an atmosphere of worship in their homes and relationships.
This post originally appeared at Ari's personal blog: thewovenwomb.com
Most people that know me likely know my sanguine nature the best. I’m enthusiastic, a little obnoxious, and usually the center of attention.
However, when the right time comes – when the stars align – my true choleric self emerges from the dark crevices of my personality and takes over completely. On any project, I can only be the boss or the goofball. I will rarely just be able to contribute an even share.
Now, I don’t believe this choleric side of my personality to be a detriment. I believe it was placed within me by God as part of who I am to help others and further His kingdom on Earth. However, a big part of choleric-ism (?) is that I tend to be a little controlling. And by a little I mean a lot. Now, I’m not usually going to be a jerk about it, but I like to make sure that I have as much power over the results as I possibly can.
I’ve been realizing that maybe – just maybe – this is not a super spiritually healthy or responsible way to operate within life. I’ve been reflecting on a term that I’ve heard a few times before, and it’s been impacting my attitude and expectations heavily. That term is, God Room.
The room in which we leave for God to work and act. The Room that we dedicate to God’s works. The Room that we do not take up with our excessive worrying, anxiety, and frustration.
God Room is something special. Not just because it involves God, but because it doesn’t involve us. There’s no room for us. It’s God Room. It’s the place that God finishes His work.
One of the trickier parts of the Bible (for some) is the balance between faith and works that James writes about: “Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works,” (James 2:26). For myself, I’ve been finding that this idea of God Room is what allows for faith and forks to operate so completely in harmony.
I truly believe that God has given and continues to give each of us responsibilities on this Earth. They look different across each individual, but they are there nonetheless. I believe that this is the primary place in which our works exist. We put in the effort – the blood, sweat, and tears – in order to hopefully create a positive result. We know the area in which we are meant to be working, and so we put in the effort to do so.
The problem is that most of us don’t stop here. We continue to push through. We put further effort into attempting to control the result. We think that, if we put X effort in so that we can receive Y result, that we should. That things should turn out like we want them to. Or even, that they should turn out like the universe suggests that they might. But this isn’t always the case, and it’s why I believe we as a society struggle with so much anxiety.
We don’t have the faith to go along with it.
We don’t have faith that God will provide. Not that He will provide what we expect, but that we expect He will provide, and whatever He provides will be Good. Not fair. Good.
We don’t allow for God Room.
My greatest struggle is to allow for God to work in this space. I can’t seem to come to peace with the idea that God’s plan is potentially a little bit better than my plan. I fear that the results will not pan out. But this isn’t the type of living that I believe God called us to.
When we leave God Room, we expect that He will provide for us what we truly need according to the purpose in which He has made us. When we leave God Room, we have confidence in our abilities to fulfill our side of the partnership. When we leave God Room, we work hard in what we know we can control (i.e. us, our attitudes, our effort) and live in faith in what we can’t control (i.e. the result). We control input into a situation; God controls output.
I pray for you, and for me, that we can realize this before we lose ourselves. I pray that we may find that balance between works and faith. I pray that we may find it in the God Room.
I am a Speaker, writer, and teacher. I believe that teaching is not the end-product of learning; they come hand-in-hand.
I’m in a passionate relationship with Jesus Christ and I express that love in all enthusiasm and ridiculousness that I can. If I’m not examining the processes of the cell or pondering the movement of a charge in an electric field, you can find me studying any array of resources in search of personal growth and sharing this newfound knowledge with family, friends, and strangers (or what I like to call “future friends”).
About once a month, I go on a quest for invisibility. It’s not an epic quest or anything, there are no damsels to rescue and the stakes are relatively low but it is something that I find deeply spiritually fulfilling and that I’d recommend to anyone with a particular set of skills.
The quest I am referring to is not something that just anyone could accomplish. You need to be a master of timing and rhythm. You must be able to follow a script AND adapt to changes on the fly. You need to be able to think on your feet. This is also not something that will bring you fame or fortune. In fact, if you are in any way gifted with these skills you will succeed in being the most invisible person in your church. However, if you lack these skills, or slip up in the slightest way, you will be instantly seen and possibly cursed by what feels like everyone in the building.
Of course, I’m describing the church video operator.
For the unfamiliar, church video operators are an elite group of volunteers who control what and when images are seen on your church’s video screens. We keep up with the worship band’s lyrics, queue the videos, and follow the pastor when they go ‘off script’ and change the order of the sermon slides without warning. In some churches, we are in charge of those flashing nursery numbers as well.
Video operators are on a quest for invisibility. Only the very best of us achieve this level of excellence. Ask yourself this: 1) Is our church’s video person good? 2) Do I know their name? Chances are if you answered “Yes” to the first question, you answered “No” to the second. If you answered “No” to the first, you probably answered “Yes” or “No, but I sure know that they look like!” to the second.
There are two things every video operator fears hearing during a church service. The first is “Next slide please.” and the second is the confused and sudden silence of a congregation who has stopped singing because the wrong lyrics are up. On our quest is invisibility, we measure success in exactly how invisible we are. Think about it, when is the last time you even thought about the video operator? I bet it was when they made a mistake, wasn't it?
Working video (or sound, setting up chairs, cleaning, or anything behind the scenes) is a great way to build humility, which is a spiritual discipline that is more and more in need these days. I spent three years in pastoral ministry, preaching from the pulpit close to 150 times. I loved it. I love preaching, I love teaching, I also love performing and being in front of a crowd. Being the invisible guy in the booth at the back of the church forces me into anonymity. It forces me to remember that the Sunday service is not about me or my skill; in fact, the better I am, the less my skills will be recognized. The worse I am, the more likely I will be known.
My point is that the quest for invisibility is a noble one and a worthwhile spiritual discipline. Many of us, especially extroverted people like myself, spend so much time wanting to be known. We want to be the "go-to” person for a given ministry or team, and as a result we don't spend much time growing in humility, growing in the knowledge that it's not all about us, or how we are seen by others, but rather how our Father in heaven sees us. After all, his is the only opinion that counts; isn't it? At the end of the day, I really don't care if all my friends and family thought I was a "Good Christian" after I die, all I care about is whether the Lord calls me a "Good and faithful servant." Isn't that all that truly matters?
If you, like me, want to go on a quest for invisibility, ask that person in the back huddled behind a computer. I guarantee there's room for another volunteer on the team. Just wait until the service is over, they're busy until then.
As a Biblical conservative, a cultural Liberal, a husband, a dad, and a pastor, I want to see the church act differently in the world. My big passion in ministry is to see how believers can bring the Gospel into the world around them while pursuing the lost art of winsomeness. It is what fuels me and drives me to write. Engaging culture with the truth of the Gospel in a way that is winsome, wise, and as Colossians 4:6 directs us: “seasoned with salt.” It’s my hope that what I say here helps you not only in your own faith, but helps you share it more effectively and fruitfully.
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