And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. – Mark 1:4
If we live long enough, we will experience some significant shift in our life. Some of them are simply part of growing up; starting school, graduation, marriage, children, a new job. Some are more startling, like the loss of a job or the loss of a loved one. And sometimes a “shift” is more of an awakening.
In Mark’s Gospel, the world was on the verge of a major shift; an awakening. They were about to experience something they had never known before. And, at the on set of this shift, there would first be a wilderness experience.
There are very few significant shifts in life that take place without a wilderness experience. I’m not sure if it is possible to have a shift or awakening without a wilderness experience. Yet, we work hard at avoiding the wilderness at all cost.
Many people have asked me for prayer over the years. And one of the longest categories is people asking me to pray for God to remove them from the “wilderness” experience. I am faithful to pray for them, but, I confess, I rarely ask God to take them out of the wilderness. Instead, I ask God to take the wilderness out of them. Our wilderness experiences are the most significant parts of our lives. They shape us, prepare us, and make us the people God wants us to be.
Sunday we begin a new series called SHIFT. I hope you will come ready for a new awakening. And I hope you will come prepared to walk through the wilderness experience. September is a season of new beginnings. Spend some time this week in prayer and fasting. Ask God to prepare your heart for a new awakening and come ready to SHIFT your perspective.
It is a windy day in Michigan here. I sit and watch the trees swaying and remnants of autumn’s leaves rustling in the wind.
There is a bush in our front yard near the road. The deer have been nibbling at it all winter long. I’m not sure it will survive the spring though. I think they may have stripped it of all life.
The wind and the signs of spring remind me of a verse in John’s Gospel. Jesus tells Nicodemus that the Spirit of God is like the wind. We cannot see the wind. We don’t really know what it is or where it comes from. All we can see is the effect it has on its surroundings. And so we see the trees sway. Paper and leaves move over the ground as if on their own accord. And petals drop to the ground.
So it is of those born of the Spirit of God. We don’t really understand how it happens. It just does. And we see the affects of His Spirit as it moves upon the person. We see them change; become more like Christ; we see them desire the things of God.
And so we see what we want, but we do not know how to get there. It is a frustrating place to be. We see it. We want it. But we cannot reach out and touch it. And we certainly cannot control it.
So we wait…and we seek…and we pray. And we are reminded it is not by power or might, but by the Spirit of God.
Today, pray this prayer with me…
Come, Holy Spirit, come! Amen.
My in-laws are of Irish decent. And March 17th is filled with all sorts of festivities. Many of the cultural celebrations of St Patrick’s Day are unappealing to me. These have more to do with getting drunk and seeing how many shades of green we can layer upon ourselves. It’s not that I am a prude or opposed to having fun. I just find fun in more “sobering” ways.
But St. Patrick’s Day is not about green beer and corned beef. And I’m not sure it is even about a man from Ireland. It is about a man taking the Good News about the Good Shepherd to the lost sheep in a foreign land. I am reminded that there are still lost sheep today. Some are living in foreign lands and some in our own neighborhoods. Men, women, and children who need to hear there is hope. They need to hear there is a Shepherd Who longs to heal their wounded soul.
As we celebrate today (and, for some, all week long), let us remember the lost sheep around us. Invite them in. Share a drink and a laugh. Tell them there is still hope in this crazy, crazy world. And love them like the Good Shepherd would.