Does one go up or down to London?

Does one go up or down to London?

Does one go up or down to London? From South Wales I always considered I went up geographically from Swansea to Paddington but to say I’ve come down from Chester to Euston feels condescending. It’s too big a place for that isn’t it? Stepping out of the station the place is (and remains for the duration) oven hot. I arrive wearing a jacket (with my pens, notebooks, train tickets and phone I consider it the true man-bag) but I’ve taken it off within ten minutes. I head to Skoobs the secondhand bookshop in Bloomsbury for a browse without anything really taking my fancy, then on to the National Gallery to see the Raphael exhibition. 

I have no great knowledge when it comes to art but I want to learn. So when The Times gave the exhibition a five star review I booked a ticket. Raphael is (apparently) a bit de trop these days and even I can see why. The colours are so bright it’s like being in a sweet shop and whilst initially they’re almost lickable they quickly become a little bit too saccharine. Everything feels bright and sunny and, in a post covid, mid Ukraine, pre-recession era just a bit too perfect for our tastes. However, I’m a philistine! So when I read that Raphael lost his mother as an infant and was orphaned before he was twenty I look again. Turns out, of all those Madonna’s not a single one is smiling. Raphael may paint beautifully but it’s painful too. Painting aside the visit is worth the effort for the drawings. His sketching is beyond description. Two or three times I find myself stifling a laugh. It’s not funny, just an involuntary expression of how extraordinary his work is. I’m a philistine but I think I know genius when I see it. 

I’ve come to London for the Catalyst conference at the International Presbyterian Conference in Ealing. The speakers include Sinclair Ferguson, Jonty Rhodes, and a man I’ve not heard of called Jonathan Landry Cruse. The theme of the conference is The Church and over three days we hear about Jesus: The Lord of the Church; Worship; The Sabbath, and Baptism. You can see what was said for yourself by searching IPC Catalyst Conference 2022 on Youtube.

Travelling from central London to Ealing I get to try out the new Elizabeth Line train. A woman in front of me demands that someone give up their seat for her boxes. She’s transporting birds, injured ones at that. I see some people give her dirty looks and move away. 

One of the uncertainties of conferences is who else will be there. The primal fear going back to High School is that everyone else will know each other and you’ll be left eating alone. Of course being a Christian conference you hope that won’t happen and, happily I eat out with friends, new and old each night. One night after pizza someone suggests a game. One person thinks of a bible character (let’s say Moses) and gives that characters initial — in this case ‘M’. The other players have to guess the character by asking questions like ‘did you part the Red Sea’ or ‘did you sleep in the bulrushes’. To make the game more difficult however, those asking the questions should ask in such an obtuse way that the other person doesn’t know who they’re thinking of. For example, if the person guessing thinks the M is Miriam they might ask ‘did you sing after about a disaster?’ If the person can’t think of who or where that might be (Exodus 15) they lose their turn. It sounds much more complicated than it is. We spent nearly two hours playing it. 

One of the best things about conferences is the illustrations that ministers bring. Jonathan Landry Cruse told of an experience he had in America. He had gone into West Philadelphia (home of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air) one night to buy supper when he noticed something on the ground. It was a brand new, unwrapped, bow tie. He looked around for the owner and then decided to keep it. It is, he said, one of his favourite. He pointed out however, that this was not the normal way to shop for bow ties. Ordinarily he would go to a shop to buy a tie. In the same way we can ‘find’ God in the most unlikely places but that does not mean we should search for him while buying a pizza on the mean streets of West Phillie. The church is the place where God invites us to meet with him, in the name of Jesus, by the power of the spirit and through the fellowship of the church. It was the illustration that summed up the theme of the conference. Next year the conference will be held on June 13-15 with the theme being about Christian Ministry. Why not save the date? If you come I’ll take you for dinner and teach you how to play the Bible guessing game!

Funny Bones

Funny Bones

The ‘death’ of Elijah is pretty extraordinary. The death of Elisha is not.

Truth be told, Elijah’s ‘death’ wasn’t even really a death. The postmortem in 2 Kings 2:11 reads:

As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. Elisha saw this and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his garment and tore it in two.

Elisha’s death on the other hand most certainly was an ordinary death. And one barely remarked upon. His postmortem in 2 Kings 13 reads:

Elisha died and was buried.

But both deaths had one similarity. Following the end of the prophet Elijah and the end of Elisha, something remarkable happened.

Most people know something of what happened to Elijah if only from the name of the film. Elijah departed on ‘chariots of fire’. But Elisha’s end is less well known. We read that in the days of Elisha, raiders from Moab would descend on Samaria. The people would be terrified, literally dropping what they were doing to flee. On this particular occasion ‘what they were doing’ was burying a dead body. 2 Kings 12 tells us that in their haste to escape some men threw a dead body into the tomb of Elisha whereupon we are told:

When the body touched Elisha’s bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet.

That’s quite a story isn’t it? In fact, if we’re honest we’d say it’s not very believable. In fact, if wee read it in a book of Catholic saints we’d roll our eyes and dismiss it out of hand. But here it is in the Word of God— a dead man came into contact with the bones of the dead prophet and came back to life.

What on earth are we to make of this?

Well, I think this was a timely reminder to the people of that time. Those people needed reminding that God is the God of the living and because of that, the grave should not be seen as the end.

3000 years on it’s no less an important thing to know. A million things have changed since this event occurred, but one thing at least remains the same. We remain terminally ill people, literally dying of sin. And if you take time to listen to them, even some unbelievers have worked that out. The comedian Bill Hader was interviewed recently about his new comedy series. The headline on The Guardian website quoted the comedian asking: “What’s this disease that keeps making us make bad choices?”

It’s a good question isn’t it? In the newspaper today I read about a woman who paid £4000 to fix the potholes in her street. She said, ‘It’s a gift to my neighbours, who are very nice, and to our estate”. That’s impressive isn’t it? But in the same newspaper I also read of a massive fraud running into billions of pounds by people falsely claiming for help during the pandemic. What is wrong with us as a species that we can perpetrate acts of great kindness and great harm?

The philosopher Blaise Pascal observed:

“What sort of freak then is man!  How novel, how monstruous, how chaotic, how paradoxical, how prodigious!  Judge of all things, feeble earth-worm, repository of truth, sink of doubt and error, glory and refuse of the universe… Man’s greatness and wretchedness are so evident that the true religion must necessarily teach us that there is in man some great principle of greatness and some great principle of wretchedness!

In his evangelistic video Life Explored, Rico Tice asks the same question. He says:

“We tell jokes, write poems, score goals, make music, make babies, build skyscrapers, cure diseases. But the garbage is easy to see too. We break promises, tell lies, murder, exploit, cheat and exploit and abuse. With the same hands we create wonder and unimaginable pain. Why are we like this?”

The answer of course, is that we are marred by the curse of sin. Bill Hader knows it, we know it, our great grandparents knew it, those undertakers of Israel who fled those Moabite raiders knew it too. We live with the curse and we will die from it too.

And yet in Elisha’s day. The curse was momentarily reversed. Contact with a man of God who had once preached the words of life and forgiveness, salvation and hope gave this man his life back! Read it again! Contact with the decaying bones of the dead prophet led to one man’s heart beginning to beat again, his blood to circulate, his eyes to focus, his mind to think.

What was this but a gracious hint, a powerful whisper from God to a dying people that there was hope in the Lord.

Today, we don’t need to put our hope in the bones of a dead man. We trust in the death and resurrection of a powerful saviour Jesus Christ who has conquered death and overcome the grave. The regeneration is different, the outcome more glorious.

Having mentioned a Bill, let me finish with a Will.

Our neighbour Will was in Chester a few years ago. He was sat with a beautiful wife in a beautiful city at Christmas; a beautiful time of year. And yet he remembers looking around and asking himself “what is the point of life?” He had everything he could have wished for and felt completely empty.

But he came into contact with a Christian. His life made contact with the life of a woman who knew the Lord. She shared her testimony, gave him good news and today he testifies that he is born again.

Will was a bit like that dead man. Quite by chance he came into contact with a person a bit like Elisha. A person who knew Jesus and who was willing to share the word of God and the promises of Jesus with a dying man. By God’s grace the Spirit came into his heart and he experienced real life.

As we observe the ending of Easter may we know the good news ourselves and may we be as Elisha was — a point of contact for someone to one day say: “My life touched their life, I came to know Jesus and I was never the same again…”

 

How Putin is the latest Herod but maybe not how you think

How Putin is the latest Herod but maybe not how you think

This morning Steff Morris was leading the PCW worker’s online devotions. The passage was Mark chapter 7 which tells the macabre story of the murder of John the Baptist. As we read I was surprised again at quite how close Herod seemed to come to faith. We read that,

“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.”

Imagine being a follower of John and hearing that testimony? Imagine sharing it in prayer meeting. Imagine hearing someone on the street criticising Herod. Someone would curse him, call him a traitor or a pagan or a hedonist. ‘No, no’, you would reply, ‘you’ve got him all wrong. If you would only ignore the mainstream media and listen to what I’ve heard you’d know he’s (almost) a believer!’

Until, of course, you find out that Herod got drunk and brutally martyred the man of God.

It’s worth bearing Herod in mind when we hear what is being said about Vladimir Putin at the moment. I don’t mean the criticism, there’s plenty of that. I can’t remember a time when a world leader has been so completely condemned. Normally, in my experience at least, there’s always been a vocal minority opposing war: be it in the Falklands, the Gulf or the Balkans. But right now, even China seem to be uneasy about ‘Vlad the Invader’.

But inevitably, if it hasn’t already, a contrarian position will begin to appear. You might see it on social media, particularly perhaps, from Christians claiming that we have it all wrong. Despite appearances, they will say, Vladimir Putin is worth supporting because he is ‘a Christian’.

You might be surprised to hear that but a quick search of the internet reveals plenty of people willing to testify on his behalf. Take, for example, an interview in 2001 with the Archimandrite Tikhon (Shevkunov) of the Sretensky Monastery. He said:

Putin is really an Orthodox Christian, really, and not nominally. He confesses, receives communion and is aware of his responsibility before God for the ministry entrusted to him from on high and for his immortal soul.

Combining the modern Russian state with past forms, Putin has undertaken a huge effort to connect it to the heavens. The construction of churches, the reconstruction of destroyed parishes, monasteries and the revival of Russian shrines has become an urgent matter for Putin.

For the dark, soulless landscape that was imposed on Russia after 1991 – one dominated by nihilism, anger, and nonsense mercantile scams – Russia was in a condition completely unsuitable for any future development. Anything built in this context, any laboratory or university, immediately plunged into the abyss of a toxic lifestyle.

After all that has gone on in the last few years 2001 seems like ancient history but this quote seems to me to be really important.

Here is a world leader seemingly unashamed to go to church and do the things Christians do. To call him a modern day Herod would be unfair. Putin appears to be much further along the road than Herod. Herod was puzzled by John but Putin seems committed to Jesus. He attends church, takes communion, feels called, invests in the construction of churches and is rolling back the years of atheism. Wouldn’t we love to have a leader who said these things?

But Jesus tells us to be ‘crafty as snakes as well as innocent as doves’. We must be willing to look a little deeper. And, whatever was said twenty years ago, we see more recently that Putin is no friend of the Christian.

Relevant magazine writing a few years ago says: “If you are a Russian citizen in 2018, it is currently illegal for you to share the Gospel with a friend in your home. It’s illegal for you to invite others to your church. VKontakte— the Russian equivalent of Facebook—can’t be used to spread anything that might be considered “evangelism.” In fact, all religious dialogue has been banned outside of churches and other religious sites. On the street. Online. Even in your own home.

I’ll be honest, I don’t like straying too far into the internet. I’m suspicious of a lot of  things I read because it’s hard to find sources or know who is really writing and what their biases are. But the evidence of what’s happening in Ukraine tells me that whatever he professes, Putin’s actions are not consistent with those of a godly ruler.

Like Herod, I imagine Putin has an interest in spiritual things. He probably does feel moved as he sits in an Orthodox Church service, humbled as he takes the mass, even perhaps like a servant of God as he considers the churches he has recommissioned after the era of Soviet atheism.

But like Herod Putin is not convinced by Christ. When the moment comes to do the right thing; to ignore the lust in his own body and the temptation to show off to power, neither man can resist. Herod was happy to show an interest but when the moment came he decapitated John rather than bow to Jesus. Do we see anything different in Putin?

Let’s learn a lesson from John the Baptist. He was willing to stand up to Herod. He wasn’t seduced by his authority or frightened of his power. He spoke truth to the ruler of the kingdom because he believed in a greater ruler of a greater kingdom. Let’s not get caught up in pointless arguments defending tyrants and dictators and defending the indefensible just because they claim to be one of us. Let us be as Jesus commands: As innocent as doves, but as crafty as snakes.

May we pray for wisdom as we search for the truth in events.

May we be careful about what we read and what we share.

And may we pray for leaders to not only listen to God but humbly respond to what He says.

The Church is not Animal Farm, We don’t labour in vain

The Church is not Animal Farm, We don’t labour in vain

To the tune: ‘O My Darling, Clementine’

Beasts of England, beasts of Ireland
Beasts of every land and clime
Hearken to my joyful tidings
Of the golden future time

Soon or late the day is coming
Tyrant Man shall be o’erthrown
And the fruitful fields of England
Shall be trod by beasts alone

Rings shall vanish from our noses
And the harness from our back
Bit and spur shall rust forever
Cruel whips no more shall crack

Riches more than mind can picture
Wheat and barley, oats and hay
Clover, beans, and mangel-wurzels
Shall be ours upon that day

Bright will shine the fields of England
Purer shall its waters be
Sweeter yet shall blow its breezes
On the day that sets us free

For that day we all must labour
Though we die before it break
Cows and horses, geese and turkeys
All must toil for freedom’s sake

We all know the book Animal Farm don’t we? At least we’re all aware of the parable of how the animals overthrew the farmer and took over his farm? How they instituted a kind of communism where “all animals are created equal” even as Napoleon and the other pigs overthrew the Major, took control of the farm, and declared that while “all animals were created equal, some were more equal than others”

Currently our middle child has been reading the book at school and is delighting in marching around the house singing the song Beasts of England at the top of his voice. I was helping him do his homework the other night and we were trying to answer the question: “Why do the animals like the song Beasts of England? To what emotions does it appeal?” My middle son wasn’t sure so I asked him “well think about it, why do we sing hymns?” 

I wanted him to think that they were singing a song of hope for the future. That the time now would be tough but there were better times to come. But then I started to wonder. Am I (and are we) as misguided as those dumb animals in Animal Farm who naively brayed and honked and whinnied their hymn even as the pigs who ruled over them sat in comfortable armchairs drinking brandy and smoking cigars? 

The philosophers that inspire the French Revolution certainly thought so. Baron d’Holbach mourned that, “religion has ever filled the mind of man with darkness and kept him in ignorance of the real duties of true interests”. Voltaire believed that  “every sensible man, every honourable man must hold the Christian religion in horror.” And Diderot speculated gruesomely that “Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.”

200 years later in the Paris riots of 1968, student protestors daubed graffiti on the walls that said Savez-vous qu’il existent encore des chreteins? (Can you believe some people are still Christians?) 

Now in the twenty-first century, plus ca change.  Our culture assumes that clergymen like me are either hopelessly heavenly minded or horrible hypocrites. Meanwhile churchgoers like you are lumped in with morris dancers and steam train enthusiasts as people who are trying to keep a dying tradition alive. 

So are they right? Are we trying to hold on a to a discredited idea? Are we singing hymns of hope in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary? Are we people to be pitied?

It’s a great question and one that Paul deals with head on in 2 Corinthians 15. He agrees that 

“If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

Yes, says Paul, if we are hoping in something imaginary then what a terrible waste. We have put hope in something that didn’t happen and now dream of something heavenly that is not going to happen. “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.” Isn’t it tragic? No hope for us or those we love and hope to see again. 

“But” he says, in verse 20 “Christ has indeed been raised from the dead.”

To those French Revolutionaries, to the Marxist-Leninists, Atheists and Secularists. To those who mock us and scorn us and pity us, Paul says, don’t pity us, because Christ is risen, he is risen indeed, Hallelujah! 

At which point we kind of come to the end of the argument. The unbeliever will doubt, the believer will, well, believe! It’s a matter of faith. 

But the Christian can say we’re not stupid. We know that there are hypocrites in positions of leadership. We mourn when churches turn aside from the truth and follow some other gospel. We recognise that suffering poses serious questions and that we have no easy answers. We admit it— there’s no doubt we sometimes doubt.

But all of this is inevitable. We who live in the light are most aware of the dark. We who believe that by God’s grace we have found the truth are most aware of what life was like without it. We know what it is to live without hope. We know what it is like to put our hope in things that don’t satisfy.  

That’s the difference between us and the animals in Animal Farm. They sang of something they hoped for but had no experience of and they worked fruitlessly to achieve it. We sing about something we know. Mystically, miraculously, marvellously, God has made himself known to us in Jesus Christ. We cannot explain it entirely but we know it to be true. As Paul concludes in that magisterial argument in 2 Corinthians 15:

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain.

So you think 2022 is the End of Days? Now’s the time to keep your nerve

So you think 2022 is the End of Days? Now’s the time to keep your nerve

I met a man yesterday who told me he had become a Christian over Christmas. His brother was a Christian, his other brother a minister. I can only imagine that they were overjoyed to hear him profess faith after so many years.

But then he told me that these are the end times. He believed that the world is so evil and broken we should expect Christ to come soon. He told me about paedophiles and suicides and the wickedness of young people. He told me with venom in his voice and the F word on his lips that these are the end of days.

Do you know any Christians who are thinking about the end times? It would surprise me if you didn’t. We’re living in such extraordinary and appalling times that I imagine a great many of us and have wondered with the Psalmist ‘How Long O Lord’; maybe even prayed with John in Revelation ‘even so Lord Jesus quickly come!’

In Matthew 24 Jesus tells us not to pay too much attention to those who prophesy the Second Coming saying:

“Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many.  You will hear of wars and rumours of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.

So Jesus wants us to take care not to be frightened or overly obsessed with the timing of his coming, however, obviously there is a generation (and perhaps it is even ours) which will be the generation that experiences those final birth pains. And Jesus warns that in some ways those times won’t be pretty. Continuing his theme in verse 9 he says,

“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.”

I don’t really want to imagine what that will be like. Betrayed by false teachers and perhaps exhausted from arguing with others who see things differently to you. Shellshocked and confused by wars and rumours thereof. Physically shaken by earthquakes and starving from famine.

But worst of all there will be an increase of wickedness. In my mind that must relate to sexual sin of the sort we see and hear practiced, condoned and laughed about in our culture on a daily basis. In my mind it must also relate to cruelty including abuse of the old, tormenting of the weak, and manipulating the innocent; again all things we hear a lot about. I think wickedness must mean a love of violence, a love of money, and a terrible narcissism. It must refer to the senseless pride in self that goes against reason, a fatalism about the future, and a despising of what is beautiful.

Perhaps your list of what is wicked is different to mine. No matter. See what Jesus says is the effect of exposure to this wickedness:

“Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold”

That’s obvious isn’t it? If you see vomit on the street, it makes you wince, perhaps even retch. Your body detests what is unpleasant. So too wickedness. If you see and hear about ugliness, immorality, cruelty, violence and wickedness and hear about it over and over, day after day, eventually you will not only detest it, you will detest those who produce it. You might even consider it a mark of Godliness to hate wickedness and of course, in a sense, it is. After all, our God is a holy God he cannot bear to look upon sin and is angry with wickedness and injustice.

However, Jesus concludes:

“but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

I feel sorry for the man I met yesterday. He had seen and experienced a series of horrible trials and he was angry and exhausted. He needs to hear the aphorism ‘It’s OK to not be OK’. But he also needs to hear the second part of the aphorism: ‘It’s not OK to stay that way’.

Maybe you think 2022 is the beginning of the end times. Maybe Covid and Wickedness and a general sense of decadence and decline has convinced you that Christ is on his way. If so, you need to remember that now, especially now, you need to keep the fire burning. Don’t. Let. Your. Love. Grow. Cold. (As the cool kids would Tweet it!)

Your task as a Christian is to hate wickedness without letting hatred consume you. You must weep over wickedness. You must mourn with those damaged by wickedness. You must pray for those consumed by wickedness. But you must not lose your love. Stand firm to the end for the gospel of the Kingdon. Speak the gospel as a testimony to all nations. Support those who preach the gospel. Only then, will the end come.

Will 2022 Be The Year We Stop Getting John The Baptist’s Name Wrong?

Will 2022 Be The Year We Stop Getting John The Baptist’s Name Wrong?

noun, rai·son d’ê·tre
reason or justification for being or existence

Are there any people in the world worse than Christians for losing sight of their raison d’être?

Consider the prime ministers, the sportsmen, the entrepreneurs. They all have a raison d’être and the greatest give it their all to achieve it. In their biographies they tell of hours spent on the training ground when others have gone home. They talk about family time they missed, about money invested, sleep lost, and holidays abandoned, all for the sake of their raison d’être.

And then, having arrived they are not satisfied. Because politics or sport or invention is their reason for being, they do everything they can to stay number one. Terrified of the next big thing they cling on, obsessing not only about their position  but also their legacy.

Even so, the Blair’s, Beckhams and Bezos’ of this world are nothing compared to a Christian. 

Not all Christians of course. Only some. Maybe in your experience it’s Sally the Sunday school teacher, or Freddie the Food Bank Manager, or Mike the Minister. But what damage they do as they cling to power. How many church meetings have been ruined, families damaged, ministries stunted and fellowships split by Christian’s whose little kingdom has become their raison d’être

In the bible the classic example of a man defined by his ministry is Jesus cousin. Who could be more synonymous with his ministry than John the Baptist? 

In each of the synoptic gospels John is the first man we really hear from. He is commended by Jesus as the greatest in the kingdom; he is feared by the powerful and adored by the poor. Thousands travel miles to hear him speak and hundreds respond to his message with life changing decisions. 

However in John’s gospel we see that by chapter 3 he is no longer the main man. As his supporters point out, the new man Jesus is attracting bigger crowds and his disciples are doing more baptisms. What, they imply, is a Baptist with no-one to baptise?

The nature of John’s response has had an incredibly profound impact on generations of people right up to this day: “He must become greater; I must become less.” (John 3:30).

How does he do it? How does he go beyond a pious sounding aphorism to really mean ‘may Jesus increase even as I decrease?’

To find the answer to that question we must consider the parable he tells his followers in verse 29,

The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete.

In John’s mind it is not duty, it is his delight. His ministry is and always has been to show people their sin and show people their saviour.

This is really hard. You don’t need to be a megalomaniac or a control freak to feel inadequate when someone greater (or merely new) comes into your little kingdom. It’s frustrating when the flavour of the month suggests something you’ve been saying for years. It’s humbling when the new leader is clearly more able than you.

But we can learn so much from John. He is happy to live under a sovereign God (v27), serving at the pleasure of the Lord and stepping back at the right and proper time. 

Moreover he never doubts his calling. Other’s might have called him John the Baptist but he is clear: “You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him. (V28). 

Do you see how we’ve had his name wrong all these years? Baptising never was his raison d’être. He was John the Signpost, there to point people to the saviour. And, like a series of motorway mileage signs, once you can see Big Ben and Buckingham Palace, you no longer need to be looking out for the signposts saying London 6 miles. 

So. Why is he signposting to Jesus? Because Jesus is the groom. He loves, no, he adores his bride. She is the apple of his eye. It goes to show how much John loves people that he delights to see them come to Jesus. Why does he want to decrease? So that Jesus may increase. Why does he want Jesus to increase? So that joy may increase.

If you are struggling for raison d’être in 2022 why not start here praying 

“May my reason for being that I become ‘Jones the Signpost’ — leading people to Jesus that their joy may increase.”