Posts Tagged ‘“John the Baptist”’

At my church this year for advent, I wanted to address something that worries me, that, on the surface, sounds like it shouldn’t. I sometimes worry that we know the Christmas story too well. I know, right? You might be thinking, “Cry me a river, pastor. You think people might know a text too well.” Not exactly. What concerns me is that people know the story so well that they take it for granted, and cease to be blown away by how amazing the story actually is. I mean, this is the incarnation, God becomes a man and comes to earth, born a baby, to experience all of life as we do, set a perfect example, prepare the way for us to receive eternal life, teach us all that the Lord wants us to know and dying to secure the way to God for all who will believe. It’s a beautiful, nearly scandalous story that I never want to see people miss because they think they know it. So how to present this powerful story in a way that makes people really take it to heart? Well I got creative.

I started reading through the text, selected four people intimately involved in the story and really studied all that the Scripture says about them. This led to a series I called “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord.” In the series I looked at four “men” (one of them was an angel, hence the quotes) and told the story as best I could, from their perspective as if I were them, dramatically. It was one of the most commented upon series I have ever done, but aside from that, it blessed me. I had to really delve into the story. I had to dig deep and I had to really put myself in their shoes, because I was going to quite literally put myself in their shoes. I had to think things like, “How would they have experienced this moment?” and “Would he really say that?” It was one of the most rewarding study experiences I have ever had.

The other thing was, I had no desire and felt no leading for costumes, but his would I get the people to forget it was me and imagine the person in question was speaking to them. I ended up doing what I do best, i.e., making art. I did a portrait of each of the people I was portraying and put them in the front of the sanctuary. Rather than speed painting these “live” since advent series’ tend to be very full, I took my time and painted them in my studio. This also ended up being a blessing, because I could really push myself artistically. I had a great time with this series, but that’s not why I share this. I share it to encourage you to take the familiar passages and find a different way to present them—a way that will be faithful to the text and yet creative enough to get people to see something they already know with fresh eyes. I believe God gave us our creative gifts for this very reason. How can you help people to really see God’s truth?

Here are the portraits. They are Gabriel, a shepherd (who I named Itzhak), John the Baptist (because if you’re going to talk about preparing the way for Jesus, he can’t be left out) and finally Joseph.

I’m away at a retreat, and since we constantly have new folks coming in, I thought I would share one of my favorite videos. It is an illustration of the concept where John the Baptist reminded his followers that Jesus must become more and we must become less.

In the late sixties, John Lennon of the Beatles touched off a firestorm by saying that the Beatles were “bigger than Jesus.” Now of course I don’t believe that the Beatles were bigger than the creator of the universe, that would be stupid. I’m not even a Beatles fan, but in terms of pop-culture at that point in history, they were extremely influential, especially among teens, quite possibly more so than Jesus. Of course the Church was outraged (or so I’m told I was a first grade student at the time and had bigger fish to fry) as they should have been. The problem was their anger was directed at the wrong people. We were upset with a boastful English pop-star. We should have been upset with ourselves.

How does a rock band with a misspelled name become more popular than the Creator of the universe? I think the answer is that those who represent Him were asleep at the wheel and if you think they had problems, look at our culture today. Today lots of things are “bigger than Jesus” and it’s up to us to do something about it. It’s up to us to represent Him well, as He is as reflected in His Word. It’s up to us to use whatever gifts we have received to serve others. It’s up to us to love our neighbor as ourselves. It’s up to us to preach the Word in and out of season. It’s up to us to speak the truth in love. It’s up to us to humble ourselves. It’s up to us to love our enemies. It’s up to us to pray. It’s up to us to read, know and follow the Word of God and it’s up to us to lay down our pride, deny ourselves and take up our cross.

Jesus, speaking of going to the cross said, “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” Today, lifting Him up is up to us. Pointing to Him, going and making disciples, being His witnesses to the ends of the earth—these are our mission, church. We represent Him not as self-righteous judges, but as humble servants, using whatever He has given us in His name to bring Him glory. It’s up to us, but it’s all about Him, all about Jesus and as we faithfully serve, it’ll be as it was with John the Baptist. Jesus must become greater (in the eyes of the world He came to save) and we must become less until when people look at us, they see Him. The video below illustrates this. How can you use what you’ve been given (your gifts talents, resources,life) to lift Jesus up.

Nothing and no one is bigger than Jesus!

Bible Reading Guide
An important part of following God is knowing what He wants and a great way to know what He wants is to read His Word. Follow this plan and you will finish reading the Bible in a year.
2 Samuel 12-13
You can also download your own chart here.

This message looks at the events surrounding the start of Jesus’ earthly ministry, His baptism. It features John the Baptist. The reading comes from Luke 3 2-18 and Matthew 3:13-17. Below is the painting that was done for the service

Bible Reading Guide
An important part of following God is knowing what He wants and a great way to know what He wants is to read His Word. Follow this plan and you will finish reading the Bible in a year.
Today’s reading is a very important one for creatives:
Genesis 5-6; Psalm 1, 93; 2 Peter 2
You can also download your own chart here.

Please keep me in your prayers as I preach spiritual renewal services tomorrow through Wednesday at two churches in the middle of PA. My theme is Don’t JUST Go to Church, BE the church.

Here’s one of my videos that bears repeating. Check it out and let me know what you think.

John the Baptist’s church board was freaking out. All their members were leaving and following this other rabbi, a guy named Jesus. John was a little incredulous. that was, after all, the whole point of his ministry, to point people to Jesus and now that Jesus was here, as John said, He must become greater, I must become less.

That’s what this video represents. When we seek to use out gifts to serve the Lord and point others to Him, it becomes increasingly less about us and more about Him until we are invisible and all that can be seen is Him. Are you willing to become less so that He can become greater in the eyes of the people He came to reach serve and bless? In the end, it’s all about Him.