The Riddle

“What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 25 But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed those who are gorgeously appareled and live in luxury are in kings’ courts. 26 But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet. Luke 7

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Remember the old batman character the Riddler? He was always messing with Batman’s mind by giving clues to his true intentions in the form of a riddle.

Riddle me this caped crusaders; What is covered in camel’s hair but is not a camel? What speaks the words of God but is not found in a temple? What eats locusts and honey but is not a wild beast, and stands as sturdy as an oak but is not a tree. What is not concerned about being politically correct and not offending anyone yet draws hearers from far and wide?

Answer—A true prophet and more than a prophet, the voice of one—John the Baptist.

The crowds weren’t drawn to John because he was a smooth talker in fancy clothes. They were drawn to John because he was honest, because he spoke truth, and the people were hungry for the truth. Which is of course why they now followed Jesus—he also spoke truth—he could do nothing else because he is truth.

People were not drawn to John because he looked good in his designer clothes and impeccably groomed beard and stylish haircut, people did not walk miles in the hot sun into the middle of nowhere because they wanted to hear the message of abundant living, the secret to success, that some well-to-do preacher was offering. They went because they were hungry for truth, hungry for something real; because John was proclaiming, for no apparent personal gain of his own, with no pretense or fancy talk, that the Kingdom of God, the Redeemer was coming and coming now.

“The Redeemer will come to Zion,
to those in Jacob who repent of their sins,”
declares the Lord.

 “As for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the Lord. “My Spirit, who is on you, will not depart from you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will always be on your lips. . .  Is 59:20—21

They went to John because they were hungry for God, hungry to be right with God, hungry for the word and seeing and hearing this wild eyed man in the desert who cared not about his own pride or esteem, who wasted no energy worrying about whether he would look good enough and preach good enough to make people want to come back next week, hearing him tell them that he had a way for them to do that—to be right with God—'”repent and be baptized” and be ready.’ ‘Believe in the one who was to come, “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.’”

Peter would preach that same message on the day of Pentecost three years later—Repent and be baptized— but this time it was not to receive the one who is to come, but to receive the one who has come.

38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2

This was a fulfillment of John’s promise that one was coming who would baptize them with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

But for now, on that day when Jesus asked the people, why did you go to see John?—No one else was offering them that hope for grace, no one else was telling them their sins could be taken away, let alone the sins of the world, or that they could soon even be immersed in the Holy Spirit.

The priests had made a business out of offering only temporary absolution, ‘keep coming back, keep buying the animals for the sacrifice we sell here, keep paying the temple tax and the tithe, keep doing everything the teachers of the law tell you to do, you dirty sinners, if not for you God’s Kingdom would have come a long time ago!’

Garments of righteousness

Jesus wasn’t trying to make the point that we need to dress modestly like John did. He was telling us that it is what’s on the inside that’s important.

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, My soul shall be joyful in my God; For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. Is 61:10

Here are the garments that we need to wear, the ones that are truly important, the ones that we wear out of respect and love for the one we stand before as a bride.

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I always tell the groom to be when we are preparing for a wedding I am performing when he is stressing over how he is going to look up there in his Tux or whatever as he is standing before a crowd nervous and self-conscious—”No one is going to be looking at you”, the minute that bride comes in, all eyes are on her. She even has her own song.

The bride is usually all decked out in a white dress that is made just special for her to dazzle and magnify her beauty. They spend hours on the hair and the makeup, the flowers and accessories, veils, trains, jewels, whatever and as soon as the groom sees her the last thing he is thinking about is whether or not he looks dorky.

He is awestruck and madly in love at that point and can never imagine ever feeling any other way about her, she is the very center of his universe.

Every time I gave away one of my daughters at their wedding I had the same thought, “Boy, you had better realize how lucky you are.”

That is how Jesus sees us—as the most beautiful thing he has ever laid eyes on and he is thrilled beyond comprehension that we have chosen to be his, that his Father has given us to him. He is honored and happy that we have accepted the garments of salvation, and me the robe of righteousness he offers to us and that we chose to wear them just for him.

The lamb of God who has taken away the sins of the world has made us his bride, and we are perfect and beautiful and he can never imagine himself loving us less. How can we not rejoice in that?

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It’s not luck that gets the groom the beautiful bride, it’s the unfailing, sacrificial love and devotion that the husband to be showers on the one he has chosen to be his bride—Jesus has chosen you.

 

 

 

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The Mad Prophet

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“. . . clumsy, uncouth, crude, unsophisticated, redneck— that’s the words, those don’t bother me so much as the condescending looks and attitudes do. ‘

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord;
Make His paths straight.’”

Now John himself was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. Mat 3:3—4

I think we can learn a thing or two from John the Baptist that is relevant to where we are as a church family today. Just as John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus, prepared hearts for the message of Jesus and the subsequent outpouring in his day, the last days will need harbingers as well—they could very well be alive today, they could even be you.

Chew on that for a minute. —If you are mentoring or teaching, encouraging or equipping someone, you may very well be preparing the next John the Baptist, or you are the next John the Baptist. Don’t discount that idea or think it could never be someone like you.

11 “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. Mat 3:11

“I am not worthy”  Biblical prophets never considered themselves worthy, they were seldom well known until they went mad in the eyes of the world, and most often those who thought themselves superior to them didn’t take them seriously and told them to back off.

We cannot make either of those mistakes, we cannot discount others and we cannot discount ourselves—in fact, we are all called to prophesy.

I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. 1 Cor 14:5

It’s what your prophetic role is that becomes the question and whether or not you are bold enough to fulfill it.

The Lord likes to call those who, to the rest of the world, seem the least likely to fulfill the role he has in mind for them. It’s like God looks through High School yearbooks to find those voted least likely to succeed and chooses them. It might not be officially written in our year books but we all get labeled, classified, nonetheless. No matter our station in life at any given time we always seem to be either running from or trying to live up to a label.

I only recently embraced and became proud of what I call my barbarian side but it is something that has followed me all my life. Since I was a kid I have been labeled at various times as clumsy, uncouth, crude, unsophisticated, redneck— that’s the words, those don’t bother me so much as the condescending looks and attitudes do. We are all very adept at pegging people and being pegged, often times without a word and it is always very evident.

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Construction worker

I have worked with my hands all my life and never saw a lot of benefit to just putting in time in a classroom if they are not teaching something relevant or new.

Because of that I quit school at the start of my junior year to go into Job Corp to learn a trade that would make me a living. I had always done well in school but by the start of the 11th year it seemed like we just kept relearning the same stuff so I decided to stop wasting my time trying to stay awake in a classroom and do something more constructive. So before my classmates got that piece of paper and a tassel to hang on their car mirror for sticking it out I had gotten a GED, completed a heavy equipment operating course with over a thousand hours of operating time and was certified in three different types of welding.

While my former High school classmates were either going to work for minimum wage or going into debt to fund a college education they would spend much of their lives trying to repay, I was running back hoes, bulldozers and cranes and welding on pipeline jobs making decent money. But in most of the world’s eyes I was, and am, an uneducated construction worker.

Those of you who get dirty for a living know what I am talking about. There is often a little bit of an air of superiority in the way those who wear suits and ties to work relate to you—if they even bother to try. People assume you work with your hands because you are too stupid to do anything else.

This stigma carries into the church also. It’s not overt, but it is there. This is relevant because it is often a factor in who we choose to invest in as leaders. Surely the educated sharp dressed handsome man or the tastefully dressed young woman from the upstanding church family with no tats or piercings is the best candidate for the salaried position of her dreams in the big church.

I’m just saying, we need to stop looking at people like we are choosing the next cover model for GQ or Vanity Fair, we need to stop judging people by whether or not they have grease under their fingernails or letters after their names. And that goes both ways. Not all suits are snobs, many wish they had my job and my skills, they ae going insane sitting behind a desk all day.

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We cannot judge a person by outward appearances and the church establishment is probably the biggest offender. It goes all the way back to King David, and King Saul. Saul won the people’s choice award and David wasn’t even invited to the party, yet David became the king whose throne would endure forever.

And for you, don’t ever think you have to somehow look or act a part to win that part in the Kingdom of God. If you are called to be the preacher, the teacher, the evangelist, the prophet, the harbinger of the coming of the glory of the Lord—then don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Forge on my barbarian friends.

BAR COVER

Barbarians in the Kingdom