HE MUST INCREASE, I MUST DECREASE
A Devotion based on John 3:22-30
If there had been social media in Bible times the John the Baptist would have been trending. His Facebook posts would have garnered thousands of likes, his Twitter feed would be exploding, and his YouTube videos of baptisms in the Jordan River would have gone viral. His preaching had caught the attention of King Herod and made him nervous. And on top of all that Jesus was his cousin! John the Baptist had celebrity status.
Ok, hold on a moment. This was the guy who dressed in homespun, lived outdoors and ate wild honey and bugs!!! Do you think he really would have cared about his Twitter following? The message of repentance and of the coming Messiah was his focus. And to this end he baptized any and all who would change their lives.
From the get-go John the Baptist had his head on straight about who he was and his role in God’s plan. He was the messenger. He was the guy who runs in front of the royal parade announcing the arrival of the king.
Prior to the time of his eventual arrest at the hands of King Herod he set himself up in Aenon, where there was “an abundance of water.” Folks were still coming to him to be lowered into the waters , and coming up filled with the Holy Spirit. There arose an argument between John’s disciples and an unnamed Jew. The Jew pointed out that Jesus was in Judea doing the same thing and had become more popular. John 3:26 states “He is baptizing too, and everyone is flocking to Him.”
So what does John do? The human side of him could have been angry to see his ratings go south. But instead he counters with this statement: “He must increase and I must decrease.” ( John 3:30) Wow. I love that!
And so I got to thinking: isn’t that true of me in the context of my life? As a believer I’m supposed to put my faith into practice and surrender my will to God’s. Hmmmm….isn’t that a decrease of self? John the Baptist knew from early on that he was just the forerunner of the Son of God. He had no problem seeing himself as less important than Jesus, Connect the dots to now. It’s not about me. I need to serve others in the name of Jesus. That’s’ the meaning of decrease. Friends, we MUST decrease. HE MUST increase. Let that be our goal.
JESUS KNOWS BEST: An ah-ha moment from Mark 5:18-20
Those of you who are old like me no doubt remember the show “Father Knows Best”. Robert Young is the wise, kindly, often beleaguered father who shepherds his family through the pitfalls of life in the 50’s in an idyllic Midwestern town. He always gives loving direction to them; proving that “ Father knows best”.
Here’s something that should be obvious to all Christians: JESUS KNOWS BEST! Sadly, I need reminders. Mark 5: 1-20 is the story of how Jesus drove the legion of demons out of the crazy naked man. This man was posessed by a legion of demons and living among the tombs in the district of the Gerasenes. The man was out of control: running among the tombs raving like a maniac, breaking shackles and cutting himself. It was morning. Jesus and His disciples had just landed their boat on the shore. Seeing Jesus the man fell at his feet. Fearing an encounter with The Most High, the demons began to cry out in terror. They begged Jesus to cast them out into a herd of swine rather than face the power of God. So Jesus granted their request. Immediately upon taking over the swine, the demons ran pell mell to the edge of a cliff, jumped into the sea and were drowned. Word spread to the the townspeople and they asked Jesus to leave. It was too much for them to process the loss of livestock; much less the crazy naked man clothed and raional. What a fantastic tale! It underscores Jesus’ power and compassion.
Mark 5:18 is the snag I hit every time-I don’t stop reading, I just stop comprehending. The story changes direction here…. the man who was cured was so grateful that he begged Jesus to let him get in the boat and go with His party. Jesus refused. What? To me that was a less than charitible move on Jesus’ part! I didn’t feel good about that part so that’s where I stopped comprehending. Why not let the guy join His entourage and swell the ranks of the healed, converted new Christians? Ah, but JESUS KNOWS BEST!
Today, as I was reading the story again I finally GOT IT! Mark 5:19&20: Jesus commanded the man to “Go home to your family and friends and bring back word of how much the Lord has done for you.” The man was probably bummed out but did as Jesus said. Not only did he bring the good news to the town but went on to Decapolis. At Decapolis he was successful and “the people were astonished and marveled.” Jesus knows best and I need to stop drawing my own conclusions based on human feelings.
Then I got to thinking….okay, God has done some really great things in my life. Rather than park myself in church and receive grace every week, maybe I should go to Decapolis. You can figure out what I mean. You’ve got a Decapolis, too. Maybe you should go there!
BLESSED? YOU CALL THAT BLESSED?
(Thoughts based on Matthew 5&6)
Much is made of the Beatitudes. The annals of Biblical literature are filled with scholarly interpretations of that powerful excerpt from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Consider this-when Jesus spoke the Beatitudes He knew the world wouldn’t buy it.
Check out the world’s Beatitudes: Blessed are those who have great jobs and perfect looking families. Blessed are those who have plenty of money and expensive things. Blessed are those who are healthy and fit. Blessed are those who are trending on social media, and who take gorgeous selfies. Blessed are those who have hundreds of followers on Twitter and whose Facebook posts get hundreds of likes.
You get the picture.
Jesus knew the world wouldn’t buy the Beatitudes. After all, it’s a tough sell in a world that operates under the principles of “getting”. And if you can’t see it, touch it or spend it, you ain’t got it! He warned the people not to place their trust in the principles of “getting”. How many times did He reference “the least of these” as being ” the greatest in heaven?” More than you think!
Jesus blows the world’s Beatitudes out of the water. Jesus explains that to be “blessed” is to be filled with contentment no matter what the outward circumstances are. Jesus made it clear that the “meek”, the “poor in spirit”, the seekers of righteousness, the “peacemakers”, the “merciful”, and the people whose hearts are for God even while the world bullies them are the BLESSED ones. Here’s a personal note: I have known peace in my spirit when my world seemed to be crashing. This peace filled me with a calm that couldn’t be shaken. I have experienced joy within me that gets me through the rough days. And I’m not rich,smart, beautiful or popular. But I am blessed.
“Blessed? You call that blessed?” So says the world! By the world’s standards , the people whom Jesus speaks of are the losers. The people who are humble and think less of themselves than their achievements might suggest. The people who will go all in to help others, and take no credit for doing so. The people who love God to the end of themselves. The people would lay down their lives for others and for righteousness if need be. Like Jesus himself.
The Beatitudes are a call to us: a call to strive to become more like Jesus. Let’s become the meek, the merciful, the peacemakers, seekers of righteousness. Now that’s what I call BLESSED
GOD’S BIG BAZINGA (Proving yet again that He has a sense of humor)
Those readers who are acquainted with the “Big Bang Theory” will understand this Sheldon Cooper reference. Bazinga! I have taken you unawares and have startled the heck out of you…..
God gave me a Bazinga this summer that I will never forget. And Holy Cow, what a lesson it taught me. Psalm 27 verse 8 speaks of seeking God’s face. Verse 14 states that we should “wait for, hope and expect the Lord.” Also Matthew 6:31-34 is a great snapshot of prioritizing our lives. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God” is how the passage begins and then states later on “The Lord knows you have need of it.” Beautiful. And I thought I had it down and was living it. Wrong…….
I had just retired from my 26 year career of teaching music to elementary school children. It was June and I was settling into a fun and relaxing summer routine. Then one balmy Friday my husband came home at 3:30 in the afternoon. He had just lost his job. They didn’t even let him finish out his shift. Oh, boy. 24/7 of marital togetherness.
I immediately went into TRUST GOD mode and felt confident that He was in control and that there would be a job on the horizon for my husband. The next week he got a call and an interview. I praised God and sent money to a worthy cause as an offering of great gratitude.
Sadly, he did not get hired. This went on week after week, but I stuck to sending money every time he got an interview. I truly felt blessed and was grateful to God for all He was doing in our lives. And I wanted to show Him how grateful we were. You might think that I was being good and faithful. But wait for it……..
Since I was the one with the writing and computer skills it was decided that I would fill out the applications and all the stuff you have to do nowadays to get an interview. I was getting pretty involved in the process. I pored daily over the postings, and would jump on anything new that came online. Trouble is, it was starting to consume me. Trouble is, I didn’t notice until the BIG BAZINGA. Trouble is, I should have ditched my phone during my God time every morning. But I didn’t; and every time I heard a chime (which sounds when there’s a posting on the job websites) I ran to my phone. Pretty soon I was obsessing about the job postings and wasn’t focusing on God. What made it worse is that I felt something was off in my spirit but thought it was just panic about the job search. And my husband was beginning to show some signs of discouragement; which all factored in.
It was the last Saturday in July. I was still confident that God had a job for my husband, but there were no concrete offers in sight. Tearfully I sent the last of our discretionary funds to a charity. I felt fear, but quelled it by praising His name. I felt better. But still kept running to the phone and computer during my devotion time that weekend.
On Monday my husband saw a job posting on, of all things ,CRAIGSLIST. I immediately dismissed it as unreliable and not worth his time. He called the number, had a very pleasant and productive conversation with the owner of a small business. They met the next day and he got the job offered to him on the spot.
BAZINGA!!!!! I was very happy for my husband BUT felt more than a little cheated that NOTHING came of my exhaustive labors. BAZINGA!!!!! “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness-and all these things will be added unto you.” Uh oh. Therein was the lesson. I started to rely on myself rather than take Psalm 27 to heart and daily seek His face. Those mornings when I would run to the phone instead of the throne set me up for the BIG BAZINGA. Yup, I had it coming to me. But thank God for HIs tender mercies and tireless patience as He teaches us to “Seek ye first the kingdom of God.” Thank God for His BAZINGAS