Tuesday 1 January 2013

"-for John had"not yet been thrown into prison." - John 3:24 NASV

Happy New Year & Closing Thoughts After Almost 8 Years

Just before Christmas  I shared with you all a post about what I've learned about the persecuted church and today, as I have thought about what to share with you in my last post for this blog, I wanted to leave a few final thoughts with you all.

Before I do that though, I wanted to let you know that if you want to stay in touch with me, you can follow my blog and what I'm up to at my company website at Active Christian Media.  I will continue to share about the news of the persecuted church there, as well as other things we'll be doing, including my daily radio program.

First, let me say that this almost eight year ride having the blessing of doing this blog for The Voice of the Martyrs has been just that, a blessing!  I recently asked my neighbor how she ended up being a neo-natal nurse for 25 years and she shared with me that she was simply placed in a NICU unit during her training and she ended up loving it.  Well, I was asked by a friend to be a contract writer for this blog and the rest as they say is history.  I was asked because my friend Paul knew I subscribed to VOM's weekly prayer requests and that's all it took.  It's actually really funny if you think about it.

The scripture really is true when it says that the Lord directs your steps and so not only did He direct me here, but I am confident that He is directing me on to a new place.  I'm excited about what the future holds and I hope you are too.

Yesterday I saw something in scripture that I wanted to leave with you as I close this chapter of my life.  I was reading the gospel of John chapter three and I read the following verse:
"-for John had not yet been thrown into prison." - John 3:24 NASV

This verse just popped out at me because I found it interesting that the writer made a point of sharing it within the context he was sharing it.  In order to get some background, please take the time to read all of John chapter 3. 

Here's what I thought as I read the verse - "What if my name was there instead?  What if it said, "for Stacy had not yet been thrown into prison" - How would I feel?  What would I do differently?  Would I be more grateful, would I take my faith more serious, would I watch my favorite TV show or would I be more intentional about sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with others?  Would I study the scriptures more and would I consult with the Lord concerning everything in my life?

Now, what if YOUR name was there - how would you feel?  What would you do differently?  Pause and think about it for a second.

As you continue to read through John 3 you'll see that the aforementioned verse is referring to John the Baptist and if you know anything about John the Baptist  you know that he was beheaded because Herod the tetrarch wanted to give his step daughter the birthday present she requested, because her mother wanted it -   John the Baptist's head on a platter - literally. (Talk about a soap opera plot!)

Here's the account from Matthew 14:1-12 -
 At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the news about Jesus,  and said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.”       For when Herod had John arrested, he bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip.  For John had been saying to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” Although Herod wanted to put him to death, he feared the crowd, because they regarded John as a prophet.

But when Herod’s birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before them and pleased Herod,  so much that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked.  Having been prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” Although he was grieved, the king commanded it to be given because of his oaths, and because of his dinner guests.  He sent and had John beheaded in the prison.  And his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother.  His disciples came and took away the body and buried it; and they went and reported to Jesus. 
A birthday, a beheading... drama for sure! This passage reminds me of one of the first big decisions I had to make when I started this blog, and that was whether or not I should post an actual picture of a beheaded person.  I remember debating it for quite some time before I did it because it's not every day that you see that.

I also remember the feedback from readers when I posted the picture.  Some people were very upset because they didn't feel the picture was suitable for all readers and others were really glad that I did it because honestly, it's a reality for Christians in countries where Christians are severely persecuted.

Well, back to the last observation I wanted to share with you from John 3.  If you continue to read through John 3 you'll see that John the Baptist was a man who knew his God given role.  He knew he was the forerunner for the Messiah and he knew that his life wasn't about exalting himself, but rather the One who made him.
Read John's words from John 3:27-30 -
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.’  “He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made full.  “He must increase, but I must decrease.

Note John's words, "He must increase, but I must decrease." As I have considered these words over the years, and especially consider them in light of the persecuted church, this is what I know, every Christian who is a martyr understands that being a disciple of Christ is not about what we get out of it.  Being a disciple of Christ means that Christ is exalted and that we are to pick up our crosses daily and follow Him with all of our hearts.

We are told that all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted in 2 Timothy 3:12 and that is true.  Luke 9:23-26 also tells us the following:
And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.  “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.  “For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?  “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.
 In closing, I want to encourage you to follow the Master and pursue Him with all of your heart.  I want to remind you though, that following Christ will cost you.  For some of you it may cost you your life, for others of you, it may cost you a job or a promotion or even friends. Never let the cost of being a disciple of Christ scare you into denying Christ because what is waiting at the end of your life is a glorious reunion with the One who died for your sin and life everlasting.

Pray daily for the persecuted church worldwide and never forget the reason we are all here on this earth - to lift up the name of Christ and honor Him with our lives.

I pray the Lord blesses you in 2013 and want to encourage you to run this race with perseverence.

I leave you with Hebrews 12:1-3  -
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.   For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Go Honor Your King,
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 Stacy Lynn Harp

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