Summary: The purpose of this sermon is to motivate the hearers to affirm to others that God draws believers and non-believers out to the WILDERNESS in order to spiritually toughen/strengthen them.

6 December 2008

U.S. Army Chaplain (MAJ) Ken Harris

Fortress Chapel

F.O.B. Sykes

Tall-afar, Iraq

BIG IDEA: God draws both believers and non-believers, out to the WILDERNESS, in order to spiritually toughen/strengthen them.

REFERENCES: Second Sunday of Advent; Isaiah 40:1-11 (ESV); Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13 (ESV); II Peter 3:8-15a; Mark 1:1-8 (ESV); John 1:19-23 (KJV); Luke 3:1-3 (KJV); Matthew 3: 1-3 (ESV) In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said," The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ’Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.’"; Matthew 11:2-15 (John described as the return of Elijah: John is the Elijah who was supposed to come. Those who have ears should listen. ); Roman 16:25-27 (ESV) Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen; Romans 5:3-4 (KJV) And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope; Romans 3:23 (KJV) For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Experience – OEU – the process of Observing, Encountering, or Undergoing something.



III. READ THE TEXT: Mark 1:4-6 (ESV) John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

IV. PURPOSE: To motivate the hearers to affirm to others that God draws believers and non-believers out to the WILDERNESS in order to spiritually toughen/strengthen them.



Good morning FOB Sykes, I am indeed honored to have this opportunity to serve alongside you as your Senior Pastor “at such time as this”. Your support is greatly appreciated in advance. Many thanks to you for what you have already done. Please keep me in your prayers as I do my best to do what God has called me do at this time.

On a different note: I once served alongside an ordained minister by the name of Albertha Grant. A very humble – yet awesome Woman of God. Minister Grant served as the Resource Manager for the 19th Theater Support Command in Dague, South Korea several years ago.


MOVE 1: Now, when you are as old as I am, you don’t tend to remember a whole lot (smile).

a. And, although, that was several years ago, I still vividly remember a particular conversation that Minister Grant, ….

b. … and I had where she shared with me a sermon that her pastor back home (in Alabama) once preached dubbed – “Double for your Troubles”.

c. As she recalled, the purpose of the sermon was to encourage believers to TOUGHEN UP AND HANG-IN THERE and deal spiritually with their trials and troubles;

d. And if they did toughen-up … as a result of their faithfulness, The Lord (himself) would “double-up” on their blessings ….

e. because of their unyielding TRUST and FAITHFULNESS to HIM. “Double for Your Troubles”. Wow! What an awesome WORD of encouragement that must have been!

****** TAKE 5 BEATS *******

MOVE 2: Likewise, in the 40th Chapter of the Book of Isaiah today, we come across a passage of scripture in verses 1-2 that says:

a. Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.

b. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.

c. Now, “double for all her sins” does not mean that God has punished the nation twice for what their sins required.

d. This phrase is a reference to a tradition that is found in this Eastern Culture – where “if a man owed a debt he couldn’t pay, his creditor would write the amount of the debt on a paper and nail it to the front door of the man’s house;

e. so that everyone passing would see that HERE IS A MAN WHO HAD NOT PAID HIS DEBTS.

******* TAKE 5 BEATS *******


a. AS A TESTIMONY …. that the debt had been fully paid.” “Double for your Troubles”.

b. This beautiful WORD PICTURE, in Isaiah 40:1-2, is a prophetic announcement to the Nation of Israel that in the “death and resurrection of her Messiah - her debt would be fully paid.”

c. Then in verses 3-5, we collectively hear the voice of one crying in the Wilderness in order to prepare the way of the Messiah.

d. Now, you may recall, that in the Book of John – Chapter 1 – verses 19-23;

e. we find The Testimony of John the Baptist where he says (in verse 23): “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

******* TAKE 5 BEATS *******

MOVE 4: The WILDERNESS Experience. One of the definitions of Experience is: the process of personally (OEU) Observing, Encountering, or Undergoing something.

a. Therefore, WILDERNESS experience IS DEFINED AS “a strong compulsion or a powerful urge to personally Observe, Encounter, ….

b. … or Undergo something spiritual … in a wild and uncultivated region like IRAQ.

c. For don’t you remember … in our text, today, we find John the Baptist preparing the way for Jesus’ ministry in Israel and around the world.

d. For the Bible says that John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness …

e. In other words, my brothers and sisters, John (himself) was compelled and urge – in the spirit - by God the Father to go out of the City of Jerusalem ….

f. … into the wilderness to preach a a message entitled, “baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”

******* TAKE 5 BEATS *******

MOVE 5: John the Baptist … was compelled by God to leave his comfort zone in the City to go out where the wild animals lived in the wilderness and create a ministry of baptism.

a. And I not sure what all happened because it’s not all accounted for in the Word.

b. But, somehow, folk got word that John – the one that ate grasshoppers;

c. John - the one that was clothed with CAMEL’s Hair and wore a leather belt around his waist – was baptizing in the River Jordan.

d. I don’t know how you read your Bible;

e. but my Bible says that folk left their – nice - homes in the City of Jerusalem …

******* TAKE 5 BEATS ********


They left their nice home to travel miles out into the wilderness …

to the Jordon River Revival … risking their lives … stepping over scorpions and dodging lions and foxes … swatting at flies and avoiding snakes … all for a chance at eternity.

For John preached the Word … he may not have looked like the others in the religious community; but he preached the WORD.

He made not have dressed like the others in the religious community – but He preached the WORD.

For the Bible says that he was clothed with CAMEL’s Hair and he wore a lether belt around his waist ….

Preaching repent …

in other words, everything ISN’T OKAY for Believers to Do;

And don’t just STOP the WRONG that you’re doing … but truly REPENT … “Turn-Around” and head in a different directions.

For I can hear John saying, “(Mark 1:8) I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”