Strange

(Based on Matthew 9:9; Mark 1:2-8)

Earth is a theater filled with a crowded audience.
The people are packed tightly together; expectant.
Anticipating.

You’re there. Front row. Edge of your seat.
The curtains have opened.
Act One has been announced: The Beginning.

The lights shift gradually. A slight change in the hues of red and yellow. He’s not in the spotlight, but he’s standing inside the color formation, stage left. Before his lines are delivered, you know his role is important.

Without hesitation . . . right on cue . . . he doesn’t simply deliver his lines, he declares them.

MALACHI: Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, 
who will prepare Your way before You.

Your eyes move to stage right where the slight change in blue and yellows directs your attention. Again, not in the spotlight but standing near the edge of the stage, another key role. Before you have time to absorb the previous lines, the following is delivered.

ISAIAH: The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord! Make His paths straight!

Malachi and Isaiah’s roles are complete. They’ve delivered the message. They’ve made the introduction. They now exit the stage of history, and the colored hues of lights blend into one strong yellow beam. It’s shining brightly on a wilderness setting and scene one begins.

The star?

No one we would have chosen. In fact at his audition we would have been tempted to say, “Thanks but . . . no thanks.”

Seriously?

But filling the role and now standing center stage is John the Baptist. We actually smell him before we see him. Everything about him seems strange.

Such an important role! The forerunner. The baptizer.

And given to . . . him?

We shift uncomfortably in our seats. We want a well-dressed businessman. One who’s well educated in marketing. Someone who knows strategy; cause and effect; supply and demand. One who can predict trends and interpret graphs of steady growth vs. decline.

But we didn’t cast the role. And like it or not, it belongs to John the Baptist.

Again . . . strange. Before we have a chance to think too deeply about it, however, we realize we’re right inside of Mark 1:8. Right in the thick of John’s introduction.

Maybe we can get used to him. Perhaps we can become comfortable together. After all, hasn’t God always filled important roles with the least talented? Hasn’t He always used the least expected to accomplish great things? That’s one of the great benefits of being a Christ follower.

A teenage girl brings the Savior into our world.

A donkey speaks to its master.

A former Christian-killer delivers the gospel to the Gentiles.

Even so, John the Baptist may be one of the strangest. But it was Jesus Himself who declared, “among those born of women there has not risen one greater” (Matthew 11:11 NKJV).

Think about that. John smells bad. He doesn’t fit the mold. Or maybe he’s wearing mold. It’s hard to tell. But in plain English, he just stinks. He has no social skills. He’s different.

And what he eats is disgusting—locusts and other crawling things. He obviously doesn’t care about his appearance. He’s wearing . . . well, it’s . . . he’s wearing something made out of camel skin. Where are the animal rights people?

John is really really really different. But still, Jesus says this about him. Let’s look at it again:

“Among those born of women there has not risen one greater” (Matthew 11:11).

What a compliment! There have been a lot of compliments given throughout time. But can you think of one higher than this?  Jesus said that John was great! That’s simply incredible. It’s amazing.

I really want this in my life.

I need this in my life.

I want to be great in Jesus’ eyes.

 

Searching
So, what was it? Really. What was it about John that caused Jesus to say those words? What made John so great? I want to know the answer to those questions. I need to know the answer to those questions.

 

I have my thoughts . . . but I’d love to know yours! So join the discussion below.

(And by the way . . . a little shameless promoting. This is an excerpt from my newest book Masterpiece: 18 encounters with Christ that prove it’s all about you! Don’t get it from Amazon. I sell it cheaper. If interested, you can send me an email, and I’ll tell you how to order directly from me: susieshell@comcast.net).

God is Depending on YOU!

There’s an old tale about Jesus ascending to heaven after He’d been resurrected and met with the disciples and other believers. The tale states that Jesus entered heaven and was greeted by the angel Gabriel. “Well, You did it! You became the greatest gift of all. You gave You very life for sinners that they may be forgiven and have eternal life. Was it worth it?”

“Oh, yes,” Jesus said. “It was worth every drop of blood.”

“And now You’ve conquered death and have come here to prepare an eternal home for all those who will accept Your wonderful and free gift of salvation.”

“Yes,” Jesus replied. “That’s correct. And on, how I yearn for everyone to accept My gift and live with Me forever here in heaven.”

“So what’s the plan, Jesus?” Gabriel asked.

“The plan?”

“Surely You have a plan! State-of-the-art technology? Huge marketing campaign? Maybe a few celebrities to endorse Your gift?”

“No, that’s not the plan,” Jesus said.

“Oh, Well, what is the plan?” Gabriel asked.

“I only have a few followers . . . and I’ve entrusted the entire gospel to them.”

“You mean . . . that little band of Christians?” Gabriel asked.

“That’s right,” Jesus said.

“But how will they ever spread Your wonderful gift from generation to generation? Shouldn’t we come up with another plan?”

“There is no other plan, Gabriel. My Christians are all I have. And I trust them.”

 

So . . . what do YOU think? Give me your thoughts on how you’re fitting into the plan.

I Don’t Pray for Patience

I don’t pray for patience, because I’m afraid I’ll get it.
I’m OK being impatient.

You know I’m kidding.
(Or am I?)

I’ve been up since 3:30 a.m.
My flight was supposed to leave at 5 a.m.
I travel 42 weeks/weekends a year, and I’m learning to discern what some of the pilot’s announcements actually mean.

“Delayed due to mechanical difficulties” really means we forgot to gas up.

“Delayed due to unforeseen problems,” means we can’t find the keys.

Pilot: Got the keys?
Co-Pilot: No. I don’t have the keys. I thought you had them.
Pilot: I don’t have the keys. Where are the keys?

And during the actual flight . . .

“We’re experiencing some unexpected turbulence,” really means the pilot’s son who’s traveling shotgum, got bored doing his homework and pulled a lever, turned a knob or pressed a button.

Pilot to son: “Don’t make me stop this plane. Cuz I’ll do it. I told you to concentrate on your homework!”

So I was supposed to depart at 5 a.m.

3:30 came way too early. I’m thinking on these early flights, maybe I should start calling the airline about an hour ahead of time and just check in with them:

ME: “Did someone gas up the plane? Got the keys? No children in the cockpit for this flight? Are the windshield wipers working OK? Gas pedal and brakes good? Toilet paper in the dollhouse bathroom?”

I finally leave the OKC airport at 8:45 a.m., and of course I’ve missed my connection from Chicago to Flint, MI. Now I’m enjoying a five-and-a-half layover in Chicago. That’s how long it takes to fly from OKC to London. As in England.

London, England!
I could be touring Madam Tussad’s wax museum right now!
Or the Doc Martin four-story headquarters.
Or taking pix with William and Kate and the babies.
Or being issued a restraining order from William and Kate and the babies.
Instead I’m eating an Auntie Ann’s pretzel and picking off the salt.
Almost as good being in London.

I finally arrive in Flint, Mich., at 8 p.m.
The service I was scheduled to speak at started at 7.
It’s over. I  totally missed it.
They turned it into a prayer meeting instead.
And God moved.
Without me.

What a great reminder.
He so does NOT need me.
I’m extremely grateful He has chosen to use me.
But He doesn’t need me.
He could make the rocks cry out, or the podium speak His Word,
or have the carpet sing His praises.

Father, I’m frustrated.
Exhausted.
But thankful for the lesson You’ve taught me today.
It’s not about my schedule, is it?
It’s not about my speaking, is it?

IT. IS. ALWAYS. ABOUT. YOU.

All the time.

Every day.

In every way.

Yes, Lord.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on what God uses to get YOUR attention to remind you of this truth.

Where’s Your Heart?

God spoke a lot about a man’s heart.

Know it by heart . . .

When you break someone’s heart

He’ll want a heart-to-heart with you.

David was a man after God’s own heart

But he soon had a heavy heart

After breaking God’s heart.

From the bottom of his heart

He had a change of heart.

David crossed his heart

That he would follow God’s heart

With all of his heart.

He did.

And God still refers to him as a man after His own heart.

Cool how God finds it in His heart to forgive, forget and   restore!

 

Did You Know . . .

• Michael J. Fox’s middle name is Andrew.

• My middle name is Sue. (No, it’s not Susie Sue. Susie is my nickname for Sue. I’ve always been called Susie. My first name is Marjorie—after my mother.)

• Twelve percent of all the Coca-Cola in America is drunk at breakfast.

• That God collects your tears (see Psalm 56:8)

• Anthophobia is the fear of flowers. (I’m glad I don’t have anthophobia! I love flowers. My favorites are roses. Around my front porch area, I have several rose bushes in bloom. I’m growing pink, yellow, red, orange, light green, peach, white and even purple.)

• There are some things God can’t do. He can’t go against His nature of holiness. He can’t lie. He can’t sleep. He can’t fail. He can’t lose. He can’t stop thinking about you. And He can’t be blamed if you don’t make it to heaven.

• Summer on Neptune lasts for 40 years! But the temperature is minus 328 degrees Fahrenheit.

• If you’ll read three chapters of the Bible every day, and if you’ll read five chapters every Sunday, in one year you will have read the entire Bible.

 


 

Have you read the Bible in its entirety? Some folks make it a priority to do this every year. I know an evangelist who reads his Bible several times through in a year.

My pastor mentioned in one of his sermons that many Christians don’t read the Bible at all—except for what’s flashed on the screen each Sunday in church.

Where are you with reading the Bible?

Just Being Careful

There’s a tan spot on the outside of my hand that I’ve had for a few years. It just looks like an age spot, and I never thought twice about it—until the other day when I happened to touch it and noticed that it was slightly raised.

I panicked.
Skin cancer.
Melanoma?

I made an appointment with the dermatologist only to find out it’s “nothing to worry about.”

But as I left his office I couldn’t help but think, Better safe than sorry. I mean, it’s good to be careful, right?

God is calling us to be this careful in our spiritual lives.

What kind of boundaries are we establishing?

When we hear or see something on TV that goes against His character, shouldn’t we be repulsed?

JUST WHAT IF we took the same measures when seeing something we shouldn’t that we do when we see something suspicious on our bodies? “Oh, no! It’s harmful. Get rid of it.”

I realize we can’t help but be “in the world.” But, of course, Christ calls us not to become part OF the world.

That can be a fine line, can’t it?

Are you drawing the line where it needs to be drawn?

I’d love to know your thoughts.