The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
“I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way”— “a voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’” Mark 1:1-3
Welcome to the Advent Season, everyone! I am certain this season is as special at your church as it is at mine. Now begins the challenge of leading our people’s hearts to turn toward Christ as opposed to getting so entangled with the secular culture of Christmas that they lose sight of Jesus. I know you are thinking about that. You are considering how you can best lead so as to help your people “prepare the way for the Lord”. In that regard, you, my church leader friend, are John the Baptizer. Your calling this season is to help your people prepare for Jesus.
So, as you strategize about this Advent Season in your own church, and how you will help your people prepare for Jesus, will you just consider the following:
How will you help the single mom who is holding down three jobs and just trying to survive from one day to the next prepare her heart for Jesus?
What is your strategy to help the child whose parent is deployed or in prison or just disappeared to prepare his/her heart for Jesus this season?
What can you do this week to help that nursing home resident who gave your church so many good years of ministry to prepare for Jesus this season?
What is your plan to pour into your second tier of church leaders over the next couple of weeks, so that they and their families are prepared
Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord. Acts 15:36-40
I honestly cannot even imagine how difficult being on a mission trip with the apostle Paul would have been. It seems to me you would be hard-pressed to find a more driven, intense “missionary” in the entire Bible than Paul. He seems to have worked tirelessly through very long days and he seems to have pushed himself and his fellow laborers to extremes. Being on mission with Paul would not be for the faint-hearted. So, just between you and me, I don’t blame young John Mark one bit for bailing on Paul in Pamphylia. I am sure that young man felt utterly overwhelmed by it all.
But oh what I wouldn’t give to have been a fly on the wall during that later conflict between the two teachers, Paul & Barnabas, over this very incident. Paul would have argued vehemently that the mission field is no place for quitters and that he had no time to be babysitting when he could be out teaching. He would have pointed out that John Mark literally left them holding the bag when he quit on them in the middle of that mission trip. Barnabas, ever the …