“She’s a Little Strange, Don’t you think?

John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven. You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent ahead of Him.’  So this joy of mine has been made full. He must increase, but I must decrease.”  John 3:27-30

Do you ever get that awkward feeling when you try to engage in a conversation with someone who isn’t like you, or doesn’t quite fit your mold for friendship? Me too!  Sometimes when I have that experience, I am reminded of John the Baptist in the New Testament.

Of all the characters in the Bible, I find John the Baptist the most intriguing, interesting, and STRANGE!  Who was this man who lived in the wilderness, ate bugs, and dressed in animal skins?  Was he believable? Did he know how incredibly strange he looked and sounded? And if he did know, did it matter to him at all? When I looked beyond his appearance, I discovered a few facts about John the Baptist.

John was the cousin of Jesus’ earthly family. He was Zechariah and Elizabeth’s son. He was a few months older than Jesus, if you recall the passage in the Bible that speaks of Elizabeth and Mary’s meeting while they were pregnant (Luke 1: 36-42).  John was compared to Elijah, who was an Old Testament prophet of God telling of the judgement on the nation of Israel (Isaiah 40:3 and Matthew 3:1-3).

John has several scenes in scripture that give us a glimpse into the importance of his mission. Although he primarily lived and preached in the desert, people flocked to him to hear him speak of the coming of Jesus Christ, and his plea for them to repent and be baptized to show their change of heart.  He confronted the Jewish elite leaders with words of warning and condemnation (Matthew 3:7-9). But perhaps the most amazing thing John the Baptist did was recognize that the throngs of people who followed him must be pointed to Jesus, the one of whom John preached (John 3:30).

What a strange, yet compelling man.  I often wonder if I would have received John’s words about Jesus Christ had I lived in that time.  If I’m honest, I would have to say probably not unless the Holy Spirit prompted me. It makes me wonder how many good things from God I have overlooked because they didn’t fit my mold for what is acceptable or pleasing.

So here are my answers about John the Baptist:  Who was this man who lived in the wilderness, ate bugs, and dressed in animal skins? He was the forerunner to Jesus Christ who had been prophesied in the Old Testament and looked and lived exactly the way God intended.  Was he believable? He absolutely was, as evidenced in the New Testament that throngs of people followed him.  Did he know how incredibly strange he looked and sounded? Yes he did, and it did not matter to him at all.  He knew his mission and he stayed focused on it.

My prayer today is that I look beyond my expectations and look for the experiences that God has planned for me.  What better way to be surprised by God?

About the Writer:
Pam Brewer is Director of Women’s Ministry of First Baptist Dallas, a wife, a mom, a grandmother, and grateful to be included in this great team of Yada Yada bloggers.

Take Hold of a Saul

Saul (later to become Paul) had been radically changed by Jesus as he was traveling on the road to Damascus. Later, he began to preach to all who would listen about his encounter with a merciful Savior.

Now for several days he was with the disciples who were at Damascus, and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.”  All those hearing him continued to be amazed, and were saying, “Is this not he who in Jerusalem destroyed those who called on this name, and who had come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?”  But Saul kept increasing in strength and confounding the Jews who lived at Damascus by proving that this Jesus is the Christ.  When many days had elapsed, the Jews plotted together to do away with him,  but their plot became known to Saul. They were also watching the gates day and night so that they might put him to death; but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a large basket.  Acts 9:19-25

Saul quickly faced opposition from those to whom he was proclaiming Jesus, and unbelief from other individuals to whom he was declaring the same message of hope. For a long time, Saul had persecuted Christians. Yet as soon as he became one himself, others had a hard time believing in his transformational change.  

When he came to Jerusalem, he was trying to associate with the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple.  But Barnabas took hold of him and brought him to the apostles and described to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had talked to him, and how at Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus.  And he was with them, moving about freely in Jerusalem, speaking out boldly in the name of the Lord.  And he was talking and arguing with the Hellenistic Jews; but they were attempting to put him to death.  But when the brethren learned of it, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him away to Tarsus.  So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace, being built up; and going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase.  Acts 9:26-31 

Saul tried to associate with some of the disciples, yet they were still afraid of him. Then a man named Barnabas stepped in to help. “But Barnabas took hold of him and brought him to the apostles and described to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had talked to him, and how at Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus.” (Acts 9:27)

Notice the following ways Barnabas was used by God to help Saul:

  1.  Barnabas took hold of him. He did not concern himself with what others were thinking. He believed in Saul and took him under his wing.
  2. Barnabas brought him to the apostles and stood for him. Barnabas exclaimed to the apostles what Saul had experienced with Jesus and how he was being used for His kingdom work.

As Christians, may we too take hold of those “Sauls” whom others have disregarded and even stopped believing in.  May we have the courage to stand for them and speak to others on their behalf.  Let each one of us be a Barnabas in someone’s life today.

About the Writer:
Shea is the mother of two and nana of five and enjoys both roles tremendously. She loves the opportunity to serve through various ministries at First Baptist Dallas as well as Entrusted Hope Ministry.  She also speaks to women’s groups, assists with biblical counseling when opportunities arise and is constantly working to develop women’s Bible studies. Shea received her bachelor’s degree in Christian Ministry from Blue Mountain College in Blue Mountain, Mississippi; her master’s degree in Biblical Counseling from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas; and began her doctoral work at Southwestern this past fall.

When Slowing Down Isn’t an Option

I move through life fairly slowly. I still accomplish a lot, but I’m not the type of person to be in a hurry about much. If I were a dog, I would be much more like a basset hound than a greyhound.  I have found that rushing generally delays things for me, because when I am rushed, I forget things. My husband is very patient, but I know his eyes must roll every time we get in the car and I run back into the house to grab something (usually my phone.)

Sometimes, however, I have to move more quickly. When my son or husband needs medical attention, for instance, I leap into greyhound mode without thinking.

Mark, the writer of the Gospel, understood this. The second book of the New Testament contains many of the same stories as Matthew, Luke, and John. And yet there is one thing Mark captures much more clearly than do the others, which is the sense of urgency that surrounded the following of Jesus. In one book, Mark uses the word “immediately” 39 times (Matthew 18, Luke 16, Mark 1:20-21, Mark 1:42, Mark 5:29-30, Mark 5:42.)  His intentional use of that word clearly shows the urgency that was needed. That urgency came mostly at the command of Jesus, most often with healing. The urgency was also displayed in His calling of the disciples:

And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.’ Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. Mark 1:17-18 

I don’t always respond immediately when Jesus calls me to do something, especially when that something isn’t pleasant to me. The scariest thing for me is to say the words he has laid on my heart to others.  When I do what he asks immediately, I am always surprised at the result. I enjoy rewarding my son when he cooperates with me and does what I ask with a sense of urgency, and I imagine my Heavenly Father does, too.  Thank you, Mark, for reminding me of the need for urgency when Jesus is calling.

About the Writer:
Wendy is a wife and mother who works full time in Risk Management.  Here at First Dallas she serves in Sunday school, helps coordinate Angel tree, and teaches at Discipleship University.  Her greatest joy comes from discovering how following Jesus can greatly impact her daily life and the lives of those she cares about in innumerable, practical ways.

Marriage with a Mission

Since my husband and I first heard the names Aquila and Priscilla, we were captivated. Always mentioned together, and with repeated gratitude from Paul for their impact on the church, this couple became a source of inspiration for our own marriage.  Although their names appear only six times, their impact has reached much further than the handfuls of words that comprise their written story.

In an effort to humanize Aquila and Priscilla further, I’ve caught myself speculating about what their relationship might have looked like, but scripture doesn’t provide many details about the inner-workings of their daily life. Each passage does, however, point to the pillars of their lives and how God used them to impact the early church.

Pillar 1: They were willing to face the unknown.

Although they were considered foreigners in many of the places they lived, they didn’t let it stop them from connecting with and investing in the people around them. The first mention of Aquila and Priscilla identifies them as exiles from Rome, having found their new home in Corinth where they first met Paul. (Acts 18:1-3)  And, then again, demonstrating a willingness to face new and unknown destinations, when Paul was ready to move on with his missionary journey, Aquila and Priscilla accompanied him, eventually arriving in Ephesus. God had equipped them for both of these moves.

Pillar 2: They welcomed others into their home to further the gospel.

A house is just a building, but the home is a special place where you recognize the privilege of gathering people together.  Each time people step inside, it’s a chance to encourage, teach and impact others’ lives.  Aquila and Priscilla knew this truth. When they met a Jew named Apollos in Ephesus, they recognized a gift he had that was falling short of the whole truth. Scripture says they

they heard him, invited him to their home, and explained the way of God to him more adequately. Acts 18:26

Then later, Paul mentions “the church that meets at their house.” (Romans 16:5 and 1 Corinthians 16:19).  Aquila and Priscilla kindled the fire of the early church through fellowship in their home.

Pillar 3: They served and worked TOGETHER.

By mentioning their names jointly in all 6 passages, Paul reinforces the fact that Aquila and Priscilla’s actions, thoughts, and mission were unified. Now, we may not all be equipped to work together with our spouses in our vocational work, but we can all work together in our missional lives. We can encourage, support, and fill in the gaps for one another.

At the end of Paul’s letter to the church in Rome, we learn that Aquila and Priscilla were again living in Rome after the emperor Claudius had died and the exile had ended. Paul writes to the church,

Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their lives for me, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. Romans 16:3-4

Wow, their impact echoed. Both near and far, the ripples of their ministry were felt across “all the churches of the Gentiles.”

These key pillars can serve as a framework of how to live out a marriage that becomes its own ministry:  united, together, in the name of the Lord.

I pray that, as we unite with our spouses on the big-picture purpose of life, God will give us new sight to recognize the ways that we were purposely paired together.  I pray, also, that, when we recognize the power of unity in our marriages, our homes will become bright reflections of God’s glory, drawing people into our homes to discover a deeper knowledge of God.

About the Writer:
Audra is mother to two young children and has a passion for encouraging women in their roles at home in both marriage and motherhood. She enjoys sharing her journey of refinement and learning through these important roles.