"Please, please, please!" The voices rang out as the kids were begging their parents, "Please let us spend the night!" It was such a common occurrence when the cousins got together. So much so, that I remember my mom giving instructions to my sister and I on one occasion, "Now when we get ready to go, I don't want to hear you all begging to spend the night!"
It was that way with us cousins. We loved being together and my cousins were some of my best friends growing up. On my mom's side, my cousin, Ron, was closest to my age and his sister, Karen, was closest to my sister's age. So, we were a perfect match to play and have fun together. Our adventures were filled with fun and mischief alike. Whether it was paper routes, softball games, Barbie dolls and G.I. Joes or bicycle rides and trail bike adventures, tree houses and camp outs...we loved spending time with our cousins...there may have even been a few adventures involving eggs and a roll of toilet paper (I apologize for our few mischievous escapades). Our cousins on both sides were our friends and we grew up cherishing those times, and still cherish the memories we made as kids together.
Did you have those kinds of experiences with your cousins? Sometimes cousins can be as close as siblings. They play a special role in our lives and have a special place in our hearts.
There is another couple of cousins that I've thought about recently as I've been reading through the Gospel of John. Jesus and John the Baptist were second cousins. Their mothers were cousins: Mary and Elizabeth. They had a unique connection, however. Unlike the closeness I experienced with my cousins, John the Baptist said of Jesus, "I myself did not know him..." (John 1:31). The cousins lived apart from one another growing up, Jesus in Nazareth (northern Israel) and John, in Judea (southern Israel). So, it is not surprising that John didn't grow up knowing Jesus personally. However, John apparently grew up being taught something very important about the relationship between he and his cousin from the north. John had a calling...a purpose for his life. As a matter of fact, an angel appeared to his father, Zechariah the priest, to foretell the miraculous birth of his son and the purpose he would fulfill. The account of this is found in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 1. Among other things that the angel Gabriel said to Zechariah, was that his son would prepare the way for Jesus to come onto the scene.
And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
Fast-forward 30 years and we find John in the wilderness outside of Jerusalem, preaching and baptizing people who came to hear his message. He was fulfilling the purpose for which he had been created as he proclaimed, "I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’ ” When Jesus showed up, John went on to declare, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:19-42) Then the most interesting thing happened. John's followers left him and started following Jesus! John was successful in fulfilling his purpose and it meant losing all of his followers to someone else! But, then, that was the idea, right!? Exactly!
Consider what we can learn from John's example of fulfilling his purpose
How has God called you to surrender? In what ways have you been tempted to make the focus on yourself? Who are the people that have helped you see your purpose? How does your purpose serve the greater purpose of God's plan of salvation for the world? I hope you will share your thoughts in the comments below.
With over forty years of ministry experience, Randy Kinnick continues to live a life of pursuing the purpose for which he was created. Whether teaching God's Word to adults, coaching youth and young adults in finding their purpose, or caring for the hurting and abused in Southeast Asia, the adventure has taken him around the world in ways he could have never dreamed. The adventure continues!