The essence of Christmas is GOD’s coming into the world – the greatest gift known to humanity – the hope of planet earth!
God who is so great, the Creator of our ever-expanding universe, became so small, to be one of us, so that we who are so small can know him, and become so great in him. Christmas is the mystery of God’s coming into this harsh and cruel world, not to add to human pain by killing others to set up his Kingdom; but he came as humble love and tender mercy in a vulnerable baby, to save the world.
In keeping with Pope Francis’ declaration of an Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy (begun 8 December 2015), God’s coming into our world in the little baby of Bethlehem was the Jubilee of all Jubilees, “The Year of the Lord’s favour” (Luke 4:18), The Day of Salvation, The Moment of Mercy that changed history forever. Francis said, in light of the harsh realities of our cruel world – the Syrian civil war with 300 000 killed and millions of migrants on the march, the horrendous massacres by Jihadist terrorists, and the many other sources and forms of human pain and tragedy – we need mercy! We need to show mercy, to receive mercy. We need a revolution of tenderness, to be kind and gentle with others. There is no more tender and merciful story than Christmas: God’s coming into our world as a little baby, to begin a revolution of tenderness – that we must join!
Read Luke 1:26-38. Gabriel announced to the teenage Mary that God’s coming into the world would be through her – her young body. Paul “spiritualizes” that same reality: God comes into this world again and again in and through every believer, as “Christ is formed in you” (Gal 4:19). The early church fathers used Mary as model for all believers in Christ. As Messiah was physically born in her, so he is spiritually born in us who believe. Just as Mary’s life, body and relationships took the shape of the Christ formed within her, so our lives, bodies and relationships, take the shape of Christ being formed in us. And the purpose is to literally save the world around us!
In the Luke text we find four characteristics in Mary that facilitated God’s tender and merciful coming into the world as the baby of Bethlehem. Continue reading Christmas: A Revolution of Mercy and Tenderness
To listen to the audio teaching of these notes click on http://followingjesus.org.za/sermons/being-the-beloved-21-practicing-holy-spirit-intimacy-or-administration-part-1/
Recap & Intro: Prayer and Holy Spirit
The third spiritual practice in following Jesus is prayer, both the right and left foot of walking with Jesus, as in a) set time of daily prayer as Jesus taught in Luke 11:1-13 and Matt 6:5-15, and b) continual prayer-interaction through the day, as Paul taught in 1Thess 5:17. This week I focus on the latter, but in terms of practicing the abiding presence and leadership (“administration”) of the Holy Spirit. I ended last week on Luke 11:5-13: Jesus taught persistent perseverance (Jewish “chutzpa”) in prayer on the basis of faith and confidence in God’s goodness, that he will give us what we need and ask for. Jesus ends the passage with the key, v.13: “how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him and keep on asking, seeking and keep on seeking…” This joins prayer and the gift (ministry) of the Spirit, whom the Hebrew prophets promised God would be poured out in the last days (Joel 2:28-32).
Why the Holy Spirit? What is the practice of Holy Spirit Administration?
John the baptizer announced the coming of the Messiah-King, The Anointed One, the Spirit-bringer in fulfillment of the prophets (Matt 3:11). The Spirit came on Jesus at his baptism (Matt 3:16-17) enabling “Be-Loved” relationship with his Father, in exquisite intimacy, via ongoing prayer-full interaction. This was the source of his life, ministry and miracles (Luke 4:18). Jesus said, “Though I am God’s Son, I do nothing on my own initiative. I only do what I see my Father doing, I only speak what I hear my Father saying” (John 5:19-20, 12:49-50). Jesus lived and ministered by the koinonia (intimate friendship) of the indwelling Spirit, empowered and led by the Spirit in all things. Continue reading Following Jesus by Practicing Holy Spirit Administration (Part One)
What a wonderful time!! I returned this past Sunday night tired but exhilarated. Sarepta is a special church in a special place – Gillets/Hillcrest – all green and luscious, with daily visits from monkeys to all the houses! I stayed with Alan and Mary Ellen Blackman, the team leaders of Sarepta. I so enjoy staying in people’s homes, as I get to experience something of their family life, seeing God’s goodness and beauty in people – the Blackman’s are no exception! (The older I grow the more fascinating I find human beings, each unique in the mystery of God’s creation and good work in them).
I taught on one of the biblical and life themes that is closest to my heart: “Intimacy with God and People.” There was such an enthusiastic and affirming response from those who attended the conference. About 40 or so came to the Thursday and Friday nights, and Saturday morning, and then a full church service on the Sunday morning (about 180 or so). I defined the biblical understanding of intimacy as a growing oneness in love with God and others, through the gift of self, which is relational self-disclosure. Intimacy is “into-me-you-see”! That is being very vulnerable! The intimacy of which I speak is not sexual as in genital intimacy – that’s for covenant called marriage. It’s intimacy in the whole of who we are: spiritually, psycho-emotionally, socially affectionate – all of which is godly sexuality. Continue reading Report on Ministry Trip to Sarepta Church, Durban