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February 21 – Coming First

The battle to destroy institutional segregation involved many people. Members of the African-American community focused a lot of their battles on desegregating education because they knew that increasing opportunities for education would open up opportunities. They also knew that children were less likely to have been taught to hate at an early age. Higher education was important too, and Clyde Kennard was working on his degree at University of Chicago when he needed to go home to Mississippi to help his mother. He sought to enroll in his local college and was rejected numerous times. He spoke out about the need to end segregation in education. This made the segregationists mad and they arranged for Kennard to be convicted of false charges. He died in prison from cancer. He was a forerunner to those who would eventually break the color barrier and a reminder of the shame of segregation.

It’s not easy being the person who prepares the way for the star. Offensive linemen are those people who never get noticed, unless they commit a penalty, but prepare the way for the running backs to score touchdowns…or at least gain yardage. Jesus had a forerunner – one who prepared the way for Him. John led the way for Jesus by calling on people to repent. He got out of the way gracefully when Jesus came on the scene. He died in prison when his message of righteousness revealed the king’s sin. “In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’” (Matthew 3:1-2)

John never lost sight of his purpose. Crowds came out to hear his message. They responded with at least a show of repentance by getting baptized in the Jordan River. John never “made nice” with the powers as he warned them of the times to come. He wasn’t “seeker sensitive” as he called some of those who came out things like “broods of vipers.” John’s message was not an easy one to hear, but people came. Many thought he might be the Messiah and asked him about that. John reminded them that he was not the Messiah, but that the Messiah was coming. He never forgot that his job was to prepare the way. When Jesus came, he got out of the way. Jesus sought to be baptized, and John demurred, recognizing Jesus as the Messiah. He told his disciples that Jesus must increase and he must decrease. He announced Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. John’s message was vital in preparing the world for Jesus.

John should be an inspiration to anyone who knows Jesus. Our job is not to show others our own greatness; our job is to point others to Jesus. When I was in college I remember a billboard on the road out of Dallas. The billboard had a giant picture of the pastor of the church. In big, bold letters, we learned the pastor’s name. In smaller letters we saw the words “presents Jesus.” That pastor had it wrong. It wasn’t about him. Yet as much as that billboard bothered me even back then, I failed to recognize that then, and even now, I sometimes act as if it is all about me. My job is not to be the star of the show. My job is to be the forerunner to prepare the way for Jesus to enter into the lives of the people I meet. My life and my words should point people to their need for Jesus and introduce them to the forgiveness that Jesus offers. I can’t take away anyone’s sins. I can’t heal anyone. I do serve a God who can forgive their sins, take them away completely, and heal them. That is who I point others to.

Oh Lord, Your love and mercy is so great. Thank You for forgiving me. Help me to show others Your great love in all I say and do.

Daily Devotion by Bob James


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