Get in the Game, 15 May 2022

Get in the Game!
Series—Alliance Core Values
Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8; Ephesians 4:11-12
Series Big Idea: After a 2021 reveal of our First Alliance Core Values, this series is a presentation of the Christian & Missionary Alliance Core Values.


Big Idea: Completing the Great Commission will require the mobilization of every fully-devoted disciple.
How many of you like sports…any sports? There are two types of sports fans…those who watch and those who play. Which do you prefer?
Someone once said football is 22 people on the field who need rest and 22,000 people in the stands who need exercise!”
Tragically, many churches are a single pastor who needs rest and a congregation of people who need to
get in the game! Not only is ministry a team sport, it was designed to involve everyone who claims to be a Christian. It’s not exclusively for professionals. In fact, as we’ve noted previously, it’s the task of the professionals to equip the saints.
Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-12, NLT)
Today we’re continuing our series on the Alliance Core Values, those foundational principles that our Christian & Missionary Alliance family values which we also believe describe Jesus’ values.
We began by saying,
Lost people matter to God. He wants them found.
Last week Pastor Mike reminded us that
Everything we have belongs to God; we are His stewards.
It’s not that ten percent belongs to God. Everything we have belongs to God, including all of our time, talents and treasures. Today’s core value states,
Completing the Great Commission will require the mobilization of every fully-devoted disciple.
There are some churchy words there, so I want to be crystal clear about what this means. Working backward, a
disciple is a student, a follower, a protégé. Therefore, a fully-devoted disciple is someone devoted to following Jesus…what you might call a “real” Christian, not a CINO: Christian in name only.
Are you a disciple of Jesus? If not, I urge you to consider making Jesus the leader of your life. He is wiser, stronger, and loves you more than any celebrity, social media personality, or philosopher. I’m not a perfect disciple, but I’m seeking to build my life around the teachings and leadership of Jesus.
The Great Commission was read earlier in our scripture reading. It’s one of the most famous passages in the Bible. Jesus commissions his followers—his disciples—before ascending into heaven.
Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18, NLT)
The Great Commission will be completed when there are disciples or followers of Jesus of all the nations. Jesus has all authority and he promises us his presence, which is fantastic. The key verbs are
go and make. Make disciples. Reproduce the life of Jesus in others. Jesus passed the baton, to use a sports metaphor, to his disciples who have been passing it for generations to us. We don’t want to be the generation that drops the baton!
The Great Commission is the work involved in sharing good news and seeing men, women, and children of all the nations obey Jesus, follow Jesus…and that includes helping others obey and follow Jesus. This is not a command just for pastors. That would mean only about one percent would be engaged. The enemy would love that! No,
Completing the Great Commission will require the mobilization of every fully-devoted disciple.
If you are a disciple—a follower of Jesus—discipleship is your mission, your commission. It’s what life is all about…knowing God and making Him known. My primary role is to disciple our staff and leaders to disciple the rest of you to disciple others until every person on the planet has been invited to the party, has heard the good news, has been given a chance to follow or reject Jesus, his love, his death and resurrection.
We need you to
get in the game! For too long, too many so-called Christians have been content to watch. Following Jesus is not a spectator sport! We need every fully-devoted disciple making disciples. I hope that means you!
We often talk about a
triangle: Up, In, and Out. A disciple of Jesus has a relationship with God…up. They also have a relationship with others in the Church…in. There’s also an outward relationship with those Jesus called the lost…the unchurched, those who are not yet followers of Jesus. We have the privilege of sharing good news and introducing them to Jesus. Discipleship is helping people develop Up, In, and Out relationships.
The Great Commission is about making disciples…restoring God’s masterpieces. Every person you encounter this week is a broken masterpiece in need of restoration. That’s God’s work, yet we get to be a part of the process.
Jesus said,
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
Let’s work backwards: the
ends of the earth. This is what most people think of when they hear “missions” or “missionaries.” There are many ways to get in the game with global missions. We’ll look at seven today. The most obvious is to
-       Germany video
-       Heather: Germany
       Explore next steps with the Alliance (
       Participate in an overseas trip with Envision (
We’re praying for God to call men and women and children from First Alliance to go. We want to be a sending church. There’s so much more you can do to get in the game with global missions. You can
-       LIFE Conference
       Alliance International Workers
       The Lost
-       Take the course
       Join the Missions Committee
       Subscribe to Alliance Life magazine
       Participate in our Global Missions events
-       Give to the Great Commission Fund
       Give to FAC Missions which includes Faith Missions (our Samaria)
       Support special short-term trips
You can also reach people from around the world without a passport. You can…
-       Befriend an international in Toledo
       Volunteer at Water for Ishmael
       Engage with the Afghan Resettlement Team (ART)
-       Home Missions partners (our Judea)
       We’re excited about sending the Pollocks this fall to launch Visible Church in Toledo.
Jerusalem is here…First Alliance. You can serve in many ways here at First Alliance.
-       Leadership at First Alliance (Elders, Deacons, Deaconesses, Trustees)
       Volunteer with Kids Club United, or Alliance Youth
       Sports & Arts Camp
       Life Groups
       Dinner Church
       Celebrate Recovery
       Worship teams
-       Masterpiece Mentors (NEW!)
- is a free tool to help you discover how you might best best able to serve. Please take it and share the results with us.
I have one final way you can get in the game, participating in the Great Commission.
The Great Commission is all about
relationships. Ministry is all about relationships. God’s mission to seek and save the lost is all about relationships. Although we have a variety of activities at First Alliance, we never want to overload the calendar to prevent you from inviting a neighbor over for a BBQ, meeting a co-worker for coffee, or engaging with others in hobbies. We need to be present with others.
When was the last time you sat across the table with a non-Christian? I didn’t even say share your faith…just had a conversation! Months ago I talked about how Bowling Green Alliance is challenging their congregation to have meals with people…inside or outside of the church…
in or out. It requires intentionality and I know some are more naturally suited to invite people to coffee or lunch, but eating and drinking are wonderful activities for conversation (and survival!). I want to challenge you—and myself—to have one conversation this week with someone over a drink or meal. Invite someone into your home, to Rustbelt or Black Kite Coffee, to grab breakfast at your favorite greasy spoon or even a trip to DQ or Mr. Freeze.
Completing the Great Commission will require the mobilization of every fully-devoted disciple.
It all begins with relationships. Conversations. Words…and deeds.
Be present.
I love First Alliance Church. I love our global family, the Christian & Missionary Alliance. Missionary is our middle name! What is your next step in obeying Jesus, in fulfilling the Great Commission, in making disciples…here and around the world?
Don’t let the professionals have all of the fun! Get out of the stands and get in the game!

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library

Why are You Here? 26 September 2021

Why are You Here?
Series—Fingerprint: Discovering Your True Identity
Colossians 1:16-18; Isaiah 43:6b-7; Ephesians 2:10; Romans 12:3-8; Ephesians 4:11-12; 1 Peter 4:10-11; 1 Corinthians 12

Series Big Idea:
You’re a masterpiece created unique and special to glorify God and bless others.

Big Idea:
You’ve been given gifts, passions, and talents to discover, develop and share.

I believe the two most important questions in life are:

Who is God?
Who are you?

Every Sunday is an exploration of the first question. We will never be able to fully know and understand God, but it’s a wonderful journey! How great is our God!

Last Sunday, Pastor Mike addressed the second question. If you are a follower of Jesus, your identity is first and foremost as a child of the Most High God. You’ve been adopted into His family and like the Prodigal Son, nothing you can do can make God love you more than He already does…and nothing you can do can make God love you less. That’s unconditional love. That’s amazing grace!

Once we know who we are—and Whose we are—the next logical question is, “Now what? Why are we here?”

One of the best-selling books of all time is called
The Purpose-Driven Life by Rick Warren. What’s your purpose? Why were you created? There are two answers to that question. The first is a general response applicable to each of us. The other is unique for every person.

You were made by God, for God, and for God’s glory. This has been the mantra of our District Superintendent, Rev. Thomas George, for years. Paul wrote these glorious words about Jesus in the book of Colossians:

For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. (Colossians 1:16-18)

All things have been created through Jesus. All things have been created for Jesus.

We could stop right now. You were made by God and for God. You have a purpose. You’re not an accident. But you’re also not God!

As I have said previously, the essence of satanism is not the worship of satan, but the worship of self. We live in a narcissistic, self-worshipping culture. The world says, “It’s all about you. You deserve. You choose. Have it your way. Whatever makes you happy. Truth is whatever you feel.”

It’s not all about you! You didn’t make this world. You didn’t create yourself. You are not in control. You are not God.

This is the inconvenient truth…and the reason there are empty seats in churches around the world today. Surrender and submission to God is offensive to the self-absorbed person who thinks the world revolves around them. Imagine more than seven billion people living for their own pleasures. No wonder our world is so broken!

You were made by God. Human life is such a miracle. I wish I knew how many former atheists were established in the delivery room of hospitals! It’s nearly impossible to look at the miracle of life and call it an accident, random chance, the results of something emerging from nothing. For further study, meditate on Psalm 139. You were made by God.

You were made for God. He is before all things. He holds everything together. He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning. He is supreme. It’s all about Jesus!

You were made for God’s glory. The LORD said to the prophet Isaiah:

Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth—everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” (Isaiah 43:6b-7)

You were not made for your glory. You were made for God’s.

When a painter paints a masterpiece, it reveals the beauty and creativity of the artist. You are a masterpiece. Like me, you are a broken masterpiece in need of restoration, created with a purpose. Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus:

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. (Ephesians 2:10, NLT)

The heart of our church’s mission statement is restoring God’s masterpieces. We were all created—and recreated in Christ Jesus—to do the good things he planned for us long ago. What are those things? I’m glad you asked!

But first, let me say it once again:
you were made by God, for God, and for God’s glory.

I tell this to myself all of the time, especially when I don’t get what I want, when I want it…especially when life feels out of control…especially when I want my circumstances to change…especially when…well, you get the point!

It’s amazing how quickly my perspective changes when I reflect upon this simple mantra.

What are You up to, LORD? How can you get glory through my suffering? How can you be strong in my weakness? How can I decrease and you increase in my life? How can my life reflect You and Your glory? It’s not about me!

These are daily questions. Jesus said,

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:23)

It doesn’t mean that your needs and desires are unimportant, but they’re not the most important. Last Sunday we witnessed four people dying—to their old lives—and making Jesus their priority, their LORD. It’s not a one-time event, though. It’s a daily—hourly—moment-by-moment surrender.

You were made by God, for God, and for God’s glory. We all were!

But while that can be said about more than seven billion people, you are unique among the human population. Your fingerprint is special. There’s nobody else exactly like you…even if you have a twin or triplet! This begs the question, “
Why are you here?”

You are a unique masterpiece created for a purpose.

You’ve heard us talk about a tool called I highly recommend you set aside some time this week and check it out. There’s nothing magical about it, but it’s a helpful assessment that will ask you questions about you. This is one test you can’t fail! God has wired each of us up with a unique personality and heart. We have different abilities and experiences that shape us for loving others. He has also given every believer at least one spiritual gift to use to serve others. Several texts in the Bible talk about spiritual gifts. Romans 12 says,

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. (Romans 12:3-8)

We are all different! Nobody has all of the spiritual gifts. We need one another. Every part of the body is important. I need you. You need me. If you haven’t discovered your gift or gifts and started using them, what are you waiting for?! This isn’t a pitch for volunteers, it’s an invitation to join the family, to get engaged, to experience the thrill of being used by God to bless others. It is truly better to give than to receive. Some of you love kids and are gifted to equip the next generation. Some of you can’t stand kids. You didn’t like yourself as a kid! Don’t serve in Kids Church! Please!

But maybe you’re gifted with singing, construction, finances, cooking, hospitality, sports, graphic arts, social media, technology, sound engineering, transportation, …the list goes on and on. We are a family and every member is important. Every member is to do the work of the ministry, …which reminds me of a remarkable scripture one of our elders discussed with me recently. I’d like to invite Doug Oliver up for a brief lesson on Bible translation.

Doug Oliver

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: (Ephesians 4:11-12, KJV)

And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, (Ephesians 4:11-12, NKJV)

As I have often said, the role of the church staff is not to be the professional Christians doing the ministry. It’s to equip you—the saints—for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ. I think the confusion behind this has been one of the greatest tools of the enemy to limit and even destroy the Church. If only the professionals could love, serve, make disciples, visit the sick, pray for the needy, and minister, we’d all be in trouble! Our staff would burn out and you’d miss out on the joy of ministry! Peter said,

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:10-11)

To God be the glory! Keep in mind, too, there were few professional Christians in the early Church…or even today in many parts of the world. I feel extremely blessed to make ministry a vocation, but that doesn’t make me more spiritual than you. It just means God has called me to equip you to discover your purpose and live it out, which is what this sermon series is all about.

God has called us all to minister to one another and the world through our spiritual gifts, heart, abilities, personality, and experiences.

We looked at 1 Corinthians 12 in our last series on our core values when discussing First Alliance as a family, but let me remind you…

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.

And yet I will show you the most excellent way. (1 Corinthians 12:27-31)

That most excellent way is what follows: 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter of the Bible.

You were made by God, for God, and for God’s glory.

You are a unique masterpiece created for a purpose.

God has called us all to minister to one another and the world through our spiritual gifts, heart, abilities, personality, and experiences.

Take My Life and Let It Be

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library

Sent: Preaching & Anointing

Sent: Preaching & Anointing
Mark’s Gospel: The Real Jesus
Mark 6:6-29

Series Big Idea:
The shortest gospel is filled with good news about Jesus!

Big Idea: Following Jesus is radical and dangerous…but worth it!


Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. According to the Declaration of Independence, these are our unalienable Rights endowed to us by our Creator. Despite its countless flaws, I love the United States, but Thomas Jefferson’s words are not taken from the Bible. In fact, following Jesus may result in the loss of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…but it will be worth it.

Today we continue our look at Jesus from Mark’s biography of him. Last week we saw Jesus’ amazement at the lack of faith among those in his hometown of Nazareth. The text continues…

Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. (Mark 6:6)

I want to pause and analyze Jesus’ leadership. Contrary to popular belief, leadership is more than a title or position. At its core, leadership is influence. We all have some influence on others. The best leaders do not merely have followers, but rather they develop leaders. Perhaps my favorite verse describing this comes to Timothy from his mentor Paul:

And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. (2 Timothy 2:2)

Four generations are found in one verse: Paul, Timothy, reliable people who teach others.

Here’s Jesus’ model as outlined by Dave Ferguson in his book

1. I do. You watch. Jesus was teaching and healing and the disciples observed.

2. I do. You help. At some point Jesus told them he had a purpose for them beyond companionship. He wanted them involved, helping.

3. You do. I help. We talk.
This is the point of action. The baton is being passed; not thrown, but passed. Debriefing is important, too. Feedback can be so valuable, especially when we are doing something new.

4. You do. I watch. We talk.
Not the leader does not assist except to coach afterward.

5. You do. Someone else watched.
Now the student becomes the teacher, the apprentice is the leader. Things have come full circle.

This process works if you are teaching your kids how to load the dishwasher, training your apprentice small group leader, or equipping a new employee at the office.

John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus who is preparing his twelve disciples to transform the world…without cable tv, Twitter, or even the newspaper.

Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits. (Mark 6:7)

It sounds like Noah’s ark, doesn’t it, two by two? It’s not good for man to be alone, God said after creating Adam. There’s strength in numbers. A partner helps protect against the dangers of temptation and attack. Who does two by two well? The Mormans and JW’s! They have it mastered, undoubtedly drawing their inspiration for this verse. If only the entire Bible was followed as carefully by them. Notice Jesus gave them authority. He equipped them. He didn’t shove them out the door and say, “Good luck!”

These were his instructions:
“Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. (Mark 6:8-9)

They are to travel light. They can’t even run to the ATM and get some cash! He wants them focused on the mission and dependent upon God for daily bread. Personal comforts are not a priority for Jesus. Now this is not meant to be a universal plan for missions work. Today we raise money to provide for ministries around the world, but this particular mission was dependent upon the hospitality of others.

Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town.
(Mark 6:10)

I want to suggest perhaps Jesus is saying, “Get to know the people. Build relationships. Don’t rush off. Preach repentance. Drive out demons. Heal the sick. You’ve seen me do it. Now it’s your turn.”

And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.”
(Mark 6:11)

This is an odd instruction in our culture, but he’s saying if they ignore you, let them know the consequences. Let them know judgment would eventually fall on them…they’ve been warned. The disciples were commissioned to preach repentance, to urge people to turn from their selfish desires and follow God. Repent means to turn, to do a 180. Not everyone is eager stop what they’re doing and surrender to Jesus. This is obviously just as true today. Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good, but to make dead people come alive…but first they must die…to themselves. This is where I struggle with Thomas Jefferson. I’m not against life, liberty or happiness—nor is God—but those are not God’s highest values for us. Jesus calls us to die to ourselves, submit to Jesus as LORD, and pick up our cross and follow him. It is not always easy, fun, or comfortable.

I get worried when I see Christianity sold to USAmericans as just another self-help alternative. Pray this prayer and God will make you happy. Have enough faith and you’ll be rich. The safest place to be is in the center of God’s will. UGH! What garbage!

Jesus gave up everything—including his own life—and he asks us to do the same…because it will be worth it in the end. He doesn’t promise is safety and comfort and pleasure now. We have work to do. We are in the middle of a war…between good and evil. So many so-called Christians are lounging by the pool unaware there’s a battle on the other side of the gate. Look around, friends.

Heroin. Sex trafficking. Racism. Hunger. Homelessness. Violence. Hatred. Injustice.

Jesus didn’t come and die so we could sit in comfy seats for an hour a week with our nice leather-bound Bibles and fancy clothes…and I’m not against any of those things. But following Jesus must take precedent over life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Kingdoms collide.

One final thought on this verse: we are not to coerce, threaten, entice, or pressure people to follow Jesus. The command for the twelve was to preach repentance, to invite people to turn from their pleasure to seek God’s kingdom. And if they don’t listen, move on.

They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them. (Mark 6:12-13)

They did it. They obeyed Jesus. The miracles authenticated their message. I wish I had a recording of their conversation with Jesus afterward. The stories must’ve been amazing! God obviously provided despite their lack of provisions. Ministry was accomplished. Lives were changed. The twelve began to get a glimpse of what it truly meant to proclaim truth and follow God.

And then Mark inserts a bizarre flashback, a story that reminds us the risks of obeying God.

King Herod heard about this, for Jesus’ name had become well known. Some were saying, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.” (Mark 6:14)

Herod hears rumors about Jesus and begins to think perhaps John the Baptist was back, resurrected.

Others said, “He is Elijah.” 

And still others claimed, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of long ago.”

But when Herod heard this, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised from the dead!” (Mark 6:15-16)

Remember, the central question in our series is, “Who is Jesus?” Herod thinks the only one who can preach with authority and heal is John, whom he beheaded! He killed John but has enough faith to believe in the resurrection, even though John was still dead! Yet he does nothing to pursue Jesus.

For Herod himself had given orders to have John arrested, and he had him bound and put in prison. He did this because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, whom he had married. For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she was not able to, because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him. (Mark 6:17-20)

Herod liked John the Baptist even though John spoke out against the king’s marriage. He married Herodias, his niece, who is already the wife of his half brother, according to scholars. It’s rather confusing because Herod was a family name, not one man’s name. This was not Herod the Great. This was his son, Herod Antipas. He was banished to southern France by AD 39 and his kingdom was given to Herodias’ brother Agrippa. Mark calling him “King” Herod was ironic and sly.

Let me be radical and politically incorrect and say despite what some say, our culture does not believe any two people in love should be able to marry. What if one is a minor? What if one is a relative (eww!)? What about polygamy? Then again, it may just be a matter of time.

Herodias hates John because he criticized her marriage, likely a plot of hers to gain power by marrying Herod.

Finally the opportune time came. On his birthday Herod gave a banquet for his high officials and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. When the daughter of Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests. (Mark 6:21-22a)

This was not some Chuck E. Cheese birthday party. Jews saw birthdays as pagan celebrations, and this occasion was filled with paganism: dancing girls at a stag party, a drunken king, …you get the idea. Most likely the amoral Herodias sent her teen daughter to perform erotically for her uncle and these other powerful men.

The king said to the girl, “Ask me for anything you want, and I’ll give it to you.” And he promised her with an oath, “Whatever you ask I will give you, up to half my kingdom.” (Mark 6:22b-23)

This must’ve been quite a dance! Herod actually can’t give half of the kingdom away because he’s merely a puppet of Rome. Jesus, however, gives his disciples the power of the kingdom of God which brings healing and salvation.

She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” 

“The head of John the Baptist,” she answered. (Mark 6:24)

At once the girl hurried in to the king with the request: “I want you to give me right now the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” (Mark 6:25)

I’ve played that genie game many times, the one where you ask, “If you could have three wishes, what would they be?” I’ve never heard someone mention a person’s head on a platter!

The king was greatly distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he did not want to refuse her. So he immediately sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. The man went, beheaded John in the prison, and brought back his head on a platter. He presented it to the girl, and she gave it to her mother. On hearing of this, John’s disciples came and took his body and laid it in a tomb. (Mark 6:26-29)

What an incredible story.

So What?

What do we do with it? Be careful what you ask for!

It might seem odd, but look what Mark says next.

The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. (Mark 6:30)

This is the only time Mark calls the twelve “apostles.” They are sent ones who have completed a commission. It seems like Mark is connecting the dots between John, Jesus, and the disciples. Their mission to preach repentance is the same. Their fate as martyrs is the same. They are hated like the prophets of old. David Garland notes that “what happened to John the Baptizer presages what will also happen to any who preach the same message of repentance in a hostile world. They too will be handed over. They too will have to stand before kings. While Jesus’ ministry began after John’s imprisonment, the disciples’ preaching begins after John’s death.”

Paradoxically, this is how the kingdom of God has grown for thousands of years. Tertullian said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” Kierkegaard stated, “The tyrant dies and his rule ends, the martyr dies and his rule begins.” Mark shows us a cowardly man, Herod, with wealth and no character. He also shows us brave men with character and no wealth. One enjoys life now, the others for eternity.

A choice must be made. Following Jesus is risky business. Sure, we’re blessed with tremendous freedoms in this nation today, but tomorrow offers us no such guarantees. One report I read this past week said a Christian was killed every six minutes last year for their faith. Over 90,000 of our brothers and sisters, slaughtered for following Jesus. That doesn’t include those arrested, imprisoned, and tortured.

It’s a radical thought, but might God be preparing you for a life of suffering, of radical living, of dangerous adventure for the sake of eternity? Jesus never promised us a successful career, good health, or a stocked 401k. He never said obedience would result in popularity, comfort and pleasure. Jesus taught and modeled the denial of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for the glory of God, for the kingdom of God.

Credits: some ideas from Stephen Leston, Mark Strauss, Ian Fair, NT Wright, J. Vernon McGee, Scott Pinzon, Richard Niell Donovan, and David Garland.

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
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