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By Sarah Carter

[This is part of a series on John The Baptist as Prophet. You can read the other posts here!]

Dear American Church, here are some Resolutions. Love, John the Baptist.

Ok, I’m a little late for the New Year’s resolutions, but since it’s still relatively early in 2014, I think we can still throw a few out there. Instead of new gym routines and eating better, maybe we can collectively agree on some resolutions for the church in the US as a whole. In line with our John the Baptist series, I’m gonna go out on a hermeneutical limb and try to imagine what John’s suggestions for improvement to the American church might sound like. What he would say to us if we, like the crowd, invited him to tell us what to do? (These are my reflections on Luke 3:1-18).

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A Prophet’s Doubts

sarahcarter —  April 24, 2013 — 2 Comments

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[This is part of a series on John The Baptist as Prophet. You can read the other posts here!]

By Sarah Carter

One of the most intriguing windows into John the Baptist’s heart is found in Matthew 11 (or Luke 7) as he sits in jail, his life close to its end. Something about this conversation between Jesus and John speaks deeply to the places of doubt and misunderstanding in my own life, particularly in the prophetic or apostolic risks I have stepped into.

In the story, John sends some of his disciples to ask Jesus an important question: “Are you the one who is to come,or should we expect someone else?” This inquiry seems bold in its skepticism, or perhaps disappointment. Without assuming John’s attitude behind such a question, it’s safe to say he was struggling with some serious uncertainty about Jesus’ identity. Maybe it was the lack of fire baptisms, threshing, and chaff burning…basically any judgment in general (Matt. 3:12).  Maybe it was tinged with a little more self-interest or even entitlement as John rotted in jail (could you help a ‘cuz out?)

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cats

By Sarah Carter

It’s a beach-worthy Saturday morning as they often are here in San Diego, even in the winter.  But instead of soaking up some rays, I’m with a friend at church learning how to catch feral cats.  We put out metal traps, line them with tuna, hide them in the tall brush and watch from a distance. Part of me has that rush of adrenaline when hunting something, and the other part of me is wondering…”What the heck am I doing?” (This thought becomes especially acute when I catch the cats, and then have to keep them overnight, lug them to a vet, and stand in a line to get them fixed. Lest there are some worried cat-lovers out there, we are partnering with a very humane organization.)

The reason I’m spending my Saturdays catching cats is because our church property has become a breeding ground for wild cats, with litters of kittens in the bushes, pooping all over the property.  It might not be that big of a deal, if you can stand stepping in cat poo every now and again, and avoid the cats criss-crossing the church grounds.

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The six weeks leading up to Easter are observed all over the world as a season of preparation and repentance, known as Lent. If observed at all in evangelical circles, often Lent is a time to try and give up sweets, coffee, or TV. Instead of a holier version of New Year’s Resolutions, Lent has the potential to reach deeper into our lives and hearts and, in the words of the wise Christine Sine,

“sweep out the corners in which sin has accumulated”

I believe it is a season to cultivate the prophetic in each of us individually, and in our communities of faith as well.

While this post is not technically in the John the Baptist series, his prophetic ministry worked a lot like Lent. He was preparing the way for the Messiah Jesus in the ancient Jewish community by calling for a baptism of repentance, helping people change the way they lived so they could make way for Jesus. Lent is the season that makes space in our life for Jesus to come into it more fully. As we prepare, sometimes by getting rid of things that block our ability to connect with God, sometimes by diving into things more deeply that bring us closer to him, we make space.

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Six Marks of a Prophet

sarahcarter —  January 18, 2013 — 4 Comments

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[This is part of a series on John The Baptist as Prophet. You can read the other posts here!]

My husband and I recently became foster parents of a baby boy. We picked him up from the hospital when he was just 2 days old. His life, very unknown to us, stretches out like a blank manuscript, waiting to be written.

When a smile breaks across his face, I sometimes think about all the things ahead that will make him laugh, bring him joy. When he cries, I know all too well the possible heartbreaks he may face, already having braved a traumatic entry into this world.  His life is one big deposit of potential. He could be an artist, a teacher, a criminal, or a revolutionary.

God has marked us all, built in each of us the DNA that will shape the rest of our lives. Here at this blog we talk a lot about apostles, evangelists and prophets. I believe these are both gifts God gives people at certain times for certain purposes, but also ways that God has hard-wired some of us to be. This “wiring” can be seen throughout our life, if we look closely.  The journey of our lives often shows us marks, or signposts, of what God is calling us into becoming.

The life of John the Baptist reveals such marks, they are the fingerprints of God’s call on his life and also obedient responses from John and his family. The marks  on John’s life as a prophet are clear from the beginning, and stretch throughout his life, giving us a glimpse of what marks may exist in our own lives or in the lives of those around us.

Here are six marks of a prophet in John’s life that pave the way for his life purpose.

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The Parents of a Prophet

sarahcarter —  December 4, 2012 — 3 Comments
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Zechariah prophesying over lil’ John the Baptist. From Jonathan Case

[This is part of a series on John The Baptist as Prophet. You can read the other posts here!]

I love the Advent season. It is a time of collective waiting, contemplating the arrival of Jesus’ birth. Advent is a time to marinate in the early story of Jesus, and I particularly appreciate Luke’s account. In Luke’s gospel alone are we introduced to the family of John the Baptist.

One of my favorite Advent devotionals is called Watch for the Light, and the introduction writes this about Advent: “Mother Teresa once noted that the first person to welcome Christ was John the Baptist, who leaped for joy on recognizing him, though both of them were still within their mother’s wombs. We, in start contrast, are often so dulled by superficial distractions that we are incapable of hearing any voice within, let alone listening to it.” There is something about Advent that calls me to slow down, and listen to the deep longings within me, the things I wait for.

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saint john the baptist 11

[This is part of a series on John The Baptist as Prophet. You can read the other posts here!]

We are excited to announce that a new series on John the Baptist will be starting. We are going to look at the life of a prophet through the lens of John! Make sure to subscribe and stay tuned!

One of my favorite characters in the Bible is John the Baptist. Maybe it’s his eclectic lifestyle choices, his struggles with doubt, or his unfailing humility. One thing that’s clear to me is that John the Baptist was an APE. I think he definitely had a Prophet/Evangelist bent, but starting a flourishing baptism of repentance ministry from scratch gives him definite Apostolic points, too.

From birth until death, John’s life made way for the Messiah Jesus. Mark describes John by quoting Isaiah: “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.” John paved straight paths in many ways, from rebuking the current religious authorities to calling out everyday believers into a more just life, to literally pointing out Jesus to his followers.

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A Prophet’s Role

sarahcarter —  November 5, 2012 — 1 Comment

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Reading Beau’s post yesterday on the differences between evangelistic and apostolic gifting compelled me to offer this post about how prophetic gifts fit into the mix. How, or where, do prophets fit in this conversation about APEST giftings, and in the Church for that matter?

end is nearI would argue the prophets are the least understood of the five-fold gifts, and most broadly interpreted in different directions. It’s tempting to think of prophets as either doomsday preachers shouting about the end of the world or strange fortune-tellers predicting the future. While some could fit those stereotypes (and you could give examples from scripture), I think the prophetic gifts manifest in ways that are crucial to the present, and actually unlock and build on the work of the evangelists and apostles out there.

 

Walter Brueggemann articulates the role of the prophet in his book The Prophetic Imagination:

“The task of prophetic ministry is to nurture, nourish, and evoke a consciousness and perception alternative to the consciousness and perception of the dominant culture around us.”

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If you want to find a gathering of prophets within the North American church today, look no farther than the Christian Community Development Association. Founded by John Perkins and others. You can read more about their vision here.

I attended the national CCDA conference this past week in Minneapolis, and it was a rich time of theology, inspiration, and rubbing shoulders with everyday believers that are radically living out the gospel of reconciliation and justice.

There were some fantastic plenary speakers, and one talk in particular given by Chris Rice and Emmanuel Katongole offered some profound insight that applies to the  “Releasing the A.P.E.” context as much as it does to the work of reconciliation, which was the theme of the CCDA conference this year.

Here are their three essentials, taken directly from their talk. Most of the content is theirs, and I have interpreted it within an A.P.E. lens.

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San Diego Urban Project

Sarah with students on a summer project!

[This is a series designed to bring you into the the unique A.P.E stories of each writer on this blog. We hope each one of you can find a little of your A.P.E story inside of one of us. Read the other stories]

When I came to college, I was on the edge of faith. Not only was I faced with an onslaught of options to define who I was in that new and broader world, but I was also constantly nagged with a question about the Christian life…”Is this it?” Beyond just a restless sense of dissatisfaction, I’ve come to realize that question is the root of the A.P.E. in me.

Joining InterVarsity as a student answered many questions for me about what a community following Jesus could look like. Diverse, faithful, and risky, the students in InterVarsity gave me a taste of what being on the faith journey with good friends looked and felt like. Studying abroad in South Africa for a year expanded my American view of God and church and working with unwed, HIV-positive mothers in the townships gave me an insatiable desire to find God in the forgotten places.

Following graduation, I joined InterVarsity staff and during my first summer I took a small team of students to the Los Angeles Urban Project. This 5-week program gave us all a Kingdom theology grounded in God’s heartbeat for justice, and His preferential focus and call to those on the margins. It was here that my question of “Is this it?” was resoundingly answered by “Yes. This is what the Kingdom is like…”

From then, I was hooked. I have never been able to let go of a Gospel that “comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable.”

At a conference in San Francisco that we eventually brought to San Diego called Jesus, Justice and Poverty, a young woman shared her story about working and serving with the poor. As a white girl from a middle-class background like myself, she echoed the words in my heart when at the end of her testimony she cautioned,

“Don’t think that I do this because I am a great person or have anything to offer. This time spent in this community has saved my life.”

Every chance I’ve had to experience Jesus’ love and action for the broken, the prisoners, the poor has helped me understand and love Him more, and has saved me from a life of selfishness, oppression, and frivolity.

Prophet – Apostle

Therefore, in my very limited knowledge of APEST, I have found myself identifying with the prophet-apostle, unable to escape a “sent” life unleashing the Kingdom of God in anyway I can, and challenging the Church to do the same. There are many debates on how to interpret a prophetic role. I love Abraham Heschel’s definition in his book The Prophets,

 “The prophet was an individual who said No to his society, condemning its habits and assumptions, its complacency, waywardness, and syncretism. He was often compelled to proclaim the very opposite of what his heart expected. His fundamental objective was to reconcile man and God.”

Why does the Church need prophets today? In my interactions throughout the world, and in our own country, I have increasingly encountered an abject dismissal of Christianity because of how it has been lived out by Christians. Our good news has been lost as the Church has lost our grasp on the sacrificial, unconditional love of Jesus, who challenged the religious power, spent his time with sinners, and invited all people into an upside-down Kingdom. The prophets in our midst can call us back to that love.

For our truth to have any power, we must live out this message as well as speak it. Not only will it help our churches and our evangelism, but the world aches to see this Kingdom come, bringing healing, justice, and true reconciliation. This is the purpose of our life here on earth, and we must take hold of it completely, being willing to give anything in our life for it.  Along the way, this good news will transform believers as well as non-believers, churches, communities, and entire systems, giving us that kind of life that never needs to ask the question, “Is this it?”

What about you? Have you been asking yourself “is this it?” lately?

[This is a series designed to bring you into the the unique A.P.E stories of each writer on this blog. We hope each one of you can find a little of your A.P.E story inside of one of us. Read the other stories]