Written By: Kevin Jackson
Tall tales of people that appear larger than life surround us every day. Our movies are filled with them. Sometimes we read about someone that is too good to be true and stories about things that seem unbelievable.
This is such a story, about a man that lived as a recluse most of his life. A man people looked upon as some sort of myth. The stories about him were fabled and unbelievable. No one knew what was true and what was pure fiction. Was this man a God? Was he the Savior? However, the gossip and stories did not really matter to him. It only added to his legend. It only added to his followers.
Our story begins with a prisoner, sitting in his cell waiting for his fate to be revealed. He was larger than life and ultimately it got him put away. Was he misunderstood, was he truly a criminal? He did not really care. He was focused on his mission. He had been told his entire life what his purpose was and he frankly did not give a flip about what people thought about him.
Now he sits here, in his dirty jail cell. This was not some country club white-collar detention center. This was a pit of despair. The roughest of the rough were put down here. Wet, dirty, dark and depressing. There were no TV privileges, no time out in the yard, just a jail cell 24/7 for who knows how long. This was hard time. It gave a man a lot of time to think about his life, his mission and his future.
As he thought back on his life, he knew he had lived a good one. Although he never married, many people loved him. He was special and he knew it. His mother was told she would never have any children her entire life. You see the prisoner was born when his parents were very old. Therefore, odds are he was on his own for most of his life. When he was younger, he quickly turned against society and the traditions of the day. He was a rebel, an outsider. He had left home and lived in the wilderness, homeless. He did not want any part of what society had become. He lived with the poor. He ate bugs and honey because money was nothing to him. Worldly stuff, he thought. “He was bigger than that, he was beyond this world”. His mother had told him that he was special, sent by God to save all people and he believed it.
People in the towns knew him as a man who lived out in the countryside and would preach about God, the coming of Christ and sin. Most thought he was just a crazy person who lived alone in the woods, somehow knew things and said things no one else had the guts to say. He called out people, EVERYONE, when they sinned and it often got him in trouble. No one likes to be called out publicly, especially people of power. They hated him for it and that only made his legend grow.
People were telling of stories of prophecies, miracles, preaching. “Did you hear about the man who lived in the woods?” “I heard he might be God, he might be the savior”. “I heard he was the prophet Elijah reincarnated.” I heard he preached to a 10,000 people.”
Whispers grew loud. Stories became unimaginable. He did not care. He only cared about telling people the truth. Honesty and guidance, that is all that matter to him. He did not let anybody get away with anything. There was no grey area to God’s laws. He was sent to save people from their sins and persecute those who disobeyed.
In his mind, the prisoner was royalty, God’s royalty, him and his entire family. Especially his cousin. He felt they were sent to this world to show people how to live. Unashamed, unafraid.
This led him to where he was today. Alone, jailed. Was he crazy? He did not believe so. He knew who he was. It was the rest of the world that was fallen. The reason he was in jail now was that he spoke the truth against the wrong man. Yeah, they all let this crazy man preach his “truth” out in the wilderness. They cared, but to them, frankly he was nothing more than a dirty homeless man that ate bugs and honey. The authorities looked the other way for many years.
Besides, even with his unabashed honesty, he was a charming man of sorts. The King liked him, truth be told. Even after he called him out for his affair and made it public knowledge. It made the King mad, but he also did not care much what people thought of him. That is probably what why he had a soft spot for John. They had that in common. However, ohh…. the Kings new wife was having none of that. She was disgraced and embarrassed. She was not going to let some weird religious freak spread rumors about her. She wanted his head, literally.
She eventually got it, on a platter. Although King Herod liked the prisoner, there is nothing like a woman scorn.
However, John the Forerunner, AKA John the Baptist knew he had fulfilled his calling. He had brought thousands to love God and follow his cousin Jesus. In addition, not only that, he had baptized Jesus himself.
John was an unashamed man of God. He lived dedicated to God and following God’s path for him, no matter what.
Unashamed, fully committed to God.
He lived dedicated to God and following God’s path for him. Maybe there is a lesson there for all of us.
The story of John The Baptist is described in numerous books in the Holy Bible such as Matthew and Luke. Read more on Bible.com.
Written By: Kevin Jackson
Rules…. we are surrounded by them everyday. Kids have rules like bed times, chores, respecting others, etc. Adults, well, we have rules too. Things like speed limits, criminal laws, ways to do things…..
Well, this is a story about some rules that are much more important than anything like that. Rules that will save your life if you abide by them.
Our story begins on a dark and cold night. An old man laid in his tent thinking about all he had been through. You see, his story goes back over 80 years to when he was abandoned by his family as a baby. Fearing for her son’s life, his mother had given him up in order to save him. Although certainly different circumstances, hundreds of mothers give their baby’s up for adoption every day in today’s world. However, this was no adoption; this was straight abandonment. He was a man of forgiveness, but this still affected him and helped create the man he was today.
He lived a lie for so long as a child, knowing he did not fit in. Tonight he was thinking about how he was able to face those challenges and still come out on the other side, some say victorious. He somehow found himself being a leader, even though he never meant to be and never thought he could be. He always viewed himself as that small boy that no one seemed to want.
Was his mother proud of who he had become? Was God? He knew he was on an important mission, but somehow still did not feel worthy. As a man of faith, he wondered why God put him in this position. Was God sure that he could handle this? He had failed God so many times before, even on this journey, that how can he be sure that it was God leading him and not some prideful ego.
However, none of that mattered tonight. Tonight was all about focus, all about the next part in the journey. The next step was showing all of the people that were following him that they were not wrong about him. That he was going to ultimately save them all.
The old man just could not sleep. He felt he had been laying there for hours. “It had to be morning,” he said to himself. “Will this night ever end”?
When the sun finally arose, he knew he did not have a choice. He was going to do what had never been done before. Today, he was going to climb that mountain while everyone watched. He was going to prove to them that they were right, that he was who they thought he was.
The old man started his journey up the mountain. He told everyone he would be back soon. However, honestly he was not sure how long it would take him to climb all the way up to the top and then back down. A week? Two? Who knows, but he pleaded with them to not give up on him and that he would be down soon.
The climb was tough, a lot tougher than he imagined. He kept thinking about what it took to even get here. The faith that these people had placed in him. The trust that God had given him. This was an honor; this was his destiny.
Over a month had gone by and there was no word from the old man. “Had he abandoned us,” they thought. “Did he die?” they worried. Certainly not. He was in good shape for an 80 year old, but geez…. climbing a mountain at his age? Maybe this guy was crazy. Maybe this guy wasn’t who he said he was.
That day they all gathered together with the old man’s brother, who happened to be there and decided that they were on their own. They accepted the fact that the old man was gone. Unsure and afraid, they had lost their faith in him and had lost their faith in God. Oh, how quickly people can change.
After 40 days on the mountain, the old man finally appeared. However, once he saw what was going on, he was very angry. Disappointed that the people had lost their faith in him and God that he threw down what he was carrying, smashing it all to pieces. “What was it he was carrying?” they thought. “He did not go up the mountain with it. Maybe this guy was right the entire time. Maybe God did talk to him as he said. Maybe he wasn’t crazy.”
As you might have figured out by now, the old man….. well, you know him as Moses. What he carried down that day from that mountain was the foundation of God’s scriptures and laws for us, the 10 Commandments. Although the originals were broken, they were soon replaced and to this day, these are the basic rules that we all know and we all live by. It is the foundation of most societies and cultures in this world. Most governmental laws are based on the 10 Commandments such as do not murder, do not steal. Well, you know them all.
However, it all started with a historical moment when a man who was an orphan obeyed God, dedicated his life to God’s direction and delivered on his promises.
Moses was a man who helped craft faith and religion for the entire world. He lived dedicated to God and following God’s path for him. Maybe there is a lesson there for all of us.
The story of Moses is described in the book of Exodus in the Holy Bible. The 10 Commandments are detailed specifically in Exodus, chapter 20. Read more on Bible.com.
By: Kevin Jackson
When most of the world thinks about prayer, they think about people gathered at church or families praying before a meal. In general, we think of a short, polite list of requests that ends with an “amen.” But prayer is far more than this. I invite you to think of prayer as the ultimate form of protest. While many people associate prayer with faithful conservatives and Sunday School, I believe prayer provides an opportunity for every person to lay aside their differences and come together.
If we are being honest with ourselves, secularism and forces against Christianity and God are very prevalent in our everyday lives. If you listen to the news, music, movies and most people on traditional media, this world is going downhill and only WE have the ability to fix it. Global warming, racism, crime, school shootings, war, etc. are all over our news and in our society. Instead of going to God for help, we are encouraged to elect new government officials, stand up to injustice, take a knee, make your voice heard ..... PROTEST.
But isn’t the most effective way to protest against this world's current issues is to ask God for help? Let’s protest against satan by telling God how wrong these things are and asking HIM for help.
Although you may have never thought of it like this before, here are some reasons why prayer is the ultimate protest:
Prayer admits that we have caused the problem.
Every protest begins with a problem. When we pray, we’re acknowledging that God designed the world for order, but we have messed it up. When we see disorder in the world, it’s time for us to pray.
Prayer admits we don’t have the answers.
What if, for just one day, we were humble enough to admit we don’t have all the answers? For all our disagreements, we would begin to see one simple fact: we’re on the same team. Our universal goal is a flourishing and civil society.
Prayer goes to the only one who can solve the problem.
When you want to protest a city’s policies, you typically march in its streets. When you want to protest disorder in the world, you knock on heaven’s door. Unlike most of your government officials, you’ll never find God unavailable for a meeting or out playing golf. He’s available 24/7 to you and me, and He wants to listen.
Prayer is about being heard.
When my children ask me for a snack, I don’t give him a rock. Sounds silly and that I really wasn’t listening doesn’t it? Yet when we complain or protest, we often feel the frustration of not being heard. Scripture tells us God is not an unrighteous judge. He hears us and He desires to answer us.
Prayer doesn’t require you to be an expert.
Whether you’re a pastor or unsure of how things really work, God welcomes your voice, your problems and your concerns. Prayer works not because we’re perfect but because we’re calling out to someone who is.
Prayer leads to action.
Prayer is not passive. On the contrary, prayer is an active way to relieve our burden and gives us a renewed vision of a world worth fighting for—a world filled with self-giving love.
Prayer is about letting go.
When we pray, we’re handing the weight of our burdens over to God because we realize only He can bring the change this world so desperately needs.
Prayer can change you.
Prayer has a way of showing us our own heart. When we pray, we realize our greatest need isn’t changed policies but changed hearts.
Prayer can change the world.
I believe prayer can change the world. Flip through the pages of history and you’ll see prayer as the fuel for culture-shaping movements. From Civil Rights to historical examples of revival, the evidence is clear. When we pray, God moves.
The United States Congress recognized 65 years ago when they established the National Day of Prayer, that prayer is a uniting force for the citizens of our great nation, not something exclusive to one segment of the population. So, why are we now running away from prayer in our schools, in our work place, in our government? Well, I believe satan is becoming more and more powerful. He has found a weakness in our society and has continued to exploit it to his benefit. It has always been there since the fall of Adam and Eve, but it seems lately our society is moving away from having a counter balance to him.
We need God back in our government. We need God back in our schools. We need God back in our businesses. We need God back in our families. We need to pray hard, pray every day and pray everywhere. That is the most powerful way to protest what satan and evil are doing in our world.
Can you join me right now in praying for your heart and the heart of others? Together, Christians are a powerful force in this world. If we band together in prayer “protest”, this world and satan is no match for us.
By: Julie Hildebrand
A few of years ago, I had a conversation that is seared in my mind as a reminder of all the work Jesus has done in my life. This conversation took place early one morning just as I’d finished an exercise class. One of my classmates and I were chatting in the parking lot about our families. She started to ask how I met my husband and then she said, “Oh, I guess you met while you were at Baylor together.”
I told her that I didn’t go to Baylor and that my husband, Brody, and I met after college. Then, I added (because I often add), “It’s a good thing we didn’t go to the same school. He wouldn’t have dated me when we were in college.”
Her eyes got bigger and she leaned in and asked, “Why? Was Brody wild when he was in college?” I giggled and then I could see that she was serious.
I answered, “No, he was a straight arrow and wouldn’t have dated ME. I didn’t even apply to Baylor because they had dorm curfews and curfews weren’t in my college plan.”
She laughed and said she could not even imagine me in that context. In a probably unexpected reaction, my eyes welled up and I said, “Praise God that you can’t recognize that person as me. Praise God for what He has done in my life.”
I had a similar conversation just a few weeks ago while I was working on a ministry project with a new friend. She was asking about my walk with the Lord and specifically asked about my college years. I said, “Oh, in my early college years I thought Christians were weak-minded people who needed a crutch to get by in life. I saw no reason to give credit to God because anything I had I got for myself.”
She tilted her head, furrowed her brow and said, “I can’t even imagine that person you just described was you.” But it was me. And again, I was so thankful that she could not reconcile who I was then and who she was sitting next to at that moment.
Those exchanges might not seem like any big deal to most people, but they are treasured gifts from the Lord, just for me. They were just what my heart needed to hear, needed to receive. It was as though in those moments Jesus was saying, “It’s gone. You have received a new heart, a new life and a new identity in Me. They don’t see who you were, they see ME.”
For years after college I struggled with “going out there” with my faith because I knew where I’d been. I knew what my heart was before Christ. And while I read scripture and understood the truth of redemption, and allowed it for other people, I struggled to believe it was also for me. Instead, I felt like a fraud (I wasn’t a fraud, I just have an accuser who uses the same tired tricks because he sure doesn’t want me “going out there” with my faith, either). These seemingly small conversations confirmed what Jesus wants me to know – He’s redeemed me and I am a new creation in Him. The old is gone and the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17).
So how did I get here from there?
I prayed to receive Christ as my Savior when I was eight years old and I meant every word of the sinner’s prayer. However, I was not discipled and by the time high school rolled around, I filled my time, heart and mind with things of this world. I was prideful (still being sanctified in that area), foolish, self-reliant and had no need for God (or His annoying people).
But by my junior year in college, I found myself incredibly lonely – even with people around me. It was then that I prayed, “Lord, I haven’t prayed in so long that I think I’ve forgotten how. I don’t even know if I’m doing this right, but I remember enough about You to know You hear even choppy, inarticulate prayers. Please come change my life. It’s been years, but I want to come back to You. Take anything out of my life that is a stumbling block to You. If You need to take every single friend out of my life to get to me, take them.”
And He did just that. From that Saturday morning prayer in my bedroom in an apartment near SMU, He took a mustard seed prayer and moved mountains in my life. He did take away a lot of friends, but He faithfully replaced them with people who are still in my life today. He gave me a voracious appetite for His Word and a desire to talk to Him and hear His voice.
He even had the most handsome straight-arrow man look my way – and never look away. The Lord has grown me in ways I could have never dreamed, taken me to places in His name that I would have never gone, built a family and showed me a capacity to love that I didn’t know was possible. And since I’m still breathing, I know He’s not finished with me yet.
Before posting this, I struggled to know if this is what the Lord wanted me to write and whether it will be received in the way it is intended. Part of me wanted to delete it because it could be construed to be “all about me.” But some people may read my posts and have the impression that I grew up following Jesus and never wavered in my walk with Him. That is not the case, and this is not about me, but about what He’s done in me.
I think that’s why I have struggled so mightily this month with the word, “receive.” I have no shortage of things to say about what I’ve received even above and beyond the blessed assurance of everlasting life, but it is all so incredibly personal. The new life and new identity that I’ve been given was tailor made by God, just for me.
And I receive it.
“Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12)
This post originally appeared on JulieHildebrand.com and was republished with permission.
By: Julie Hildebrand
A few Sundays ago my husband and I found our usual seats in church, greeted the familiar faces around us and stood for the beautiful praise and worship music that was just starting. I warmed my hands on my sleeved disposable cup that held hot herbal tea and I sang between sips. Beautiful music, comfy seats and a hot beverage for the bitterly cold morning. Ahhhhh. Cozy. Easy like Sunday morning.
As we sang the last song and got ready for the sermon, a man came to sit in the row in front of us. But before he could sit, he had to peel off layer upon layer of winter clothing. He removed his gloves, discarded his knitted hat, unwrapped his long scarf, and took off several layers of coats, jackets and fleeces. After he’d pared down all his extra layers, we finally recognized him as our friend, Ryan.
As it turns out, Ryan was joining the church service late because several years ago he committed to be on the church’s parking team. He committed to stand outside, regardless of the weather, and help church-goers navigate the potential chaos of parking at a multi-acre church campus with several thousand other cars. As I continued to sip my hot tea, I was in awe of Ryan’s commitment. I gotta be honest, I would have likely called in a sub that particular morning. I’m sure Ryan didn’t feel like being out in the bitter cold, either. Yet there he was, honoring his commitment to his fellow church-goers, his church, and ultimately God.
Since I’m prone to wonder, I imagined Ryan probably committed to be on the parking team on a day that was calm and beautiful. Maybe it was spring and there were birds chirping. The sun was shining, and only big fluffy white clouds in the sky. There was probably even a gentle, refreshing breeze. But with his sunny day pledge, he was also committing to days that would include heavy rain, freezing temperatures, hold-your-ground winds, and since it’s Texas, scorching heat (even on easy Sunday mornings).
That is what commitment is – it’s making a promise of future action even when things get rough. And if it requires a commitment, you can bank on things getting rough. That’s the reason a commitment is even needed, because at some point, you are going to want to go back on what you said you’d do (me, too). Whether it’s your marriage, paying a credit card bill, finishing the year as room mom, taking your kid to soccer practice, or following the Lord you said you’d never forsake (see also Peter, see also me) – sooner or later you are not going to feel like following through with your commitment.
Our feelings tell us to stay comfortable, avoid the struggle and pain. A commitment often requires us to move out of our comfort zone, struggle more than we think is necessary, and endure more pain than we thought possible. You can see why feelings often win the day over commitments.
Unfortunately, our culture has embraced the feelings-trump-commitment mentality. It’s evident in our divorce rate, the number of people who opt to live together instead of committing to marriage, our debt (both nationally and individually), the number of fatherless families, and just about anywhere else you look in our society. We’ve (I’ve) got to be diligent to honor commitments, not just honoring our feelings in our “all-the-feels” culture.
The Bible gives us so many examples of people who kept their commitments in agonizing circumstances. None was without risk or hardship in keeping their commitments, but God used each for His purposes and good (Romans 8:28). In each of their stories, feelings could have easily derailed their commitments:
Jesus committed to us then. He’s committed to us now. And He’s committed to coming back soon (John 14:1-3; Revelation 1:7; Revelation 22:12-13). And while we fail at keeping our commitments and others fail to keep their commitments to us, He never has and never will fail to keep His promises. Thank you, Jesus.
Counter to our culture, feelings are not paramount. When we allow our feelings to reign over our commitments, not only do we break a promise, but we miss out on all the blessings that were on the other side of that kept commitment. At some point, keeping a commitment gets hard and our feelings don’t like hard. But that’s why commitments are needed.
Here are a few questions about commitments in your own life (not going to lie, the last question was a hard one for me to confront):
This post originally appeared on JulieHildebrand.com and was republished with permission.