Posted on Leave a comment

God became human: How does that make you FEEL?

It’s the third day after Christmas and I’m still struck by the absolute wonder of the Creator-God becoming human in (baby) Jesus. I’ve been thinking, essentially, what does it mean? And how does it make us feel?

By becoming one of us, in essence, God accepts and loves us for who we are. The ‘Incarnation’ means God affirms our humanity, blesses our body, dignifies our unique personhood. 

God doesn’t sit in heaven dealing with us in terms of what we do or don’t do. God becomes one of us, dealing with us in terms of who we are… his broken but beautiful image on earth.

THAT loving acceptance, incarnate in Jesus, heals and transforms us. We’re not changed by performance, motivated by rules or guilt or fear of punishment. We see this loving acceptance in the remarkable story of Jesus and the women caught in adultery in John 8:1-11. We see it ultimately in the cross, in the bruised and broken image of God dying in our place.  

THIS reality determines not only our beliefs, but our feelings. How does it make you feel? The more I ponder it, the more it makes me feel truly accepted and deeply loved.

Why this question about feelings

Because emotions are important. They are powerful in our human formation. Feelings can develop into patterns that become fixed in our body, forming thoughts, beliefs, moods… for better or worse. Negative feelings, left unattended, dominate. They paralyse our will and determine our (poor) self-image and self-worth(lessness). They lead to dysfunction, and ultimately, to destruction.

In short, feelings are like unruly children clamouring for our attention. If not disciplined, they become merciless masters. However, if disciplined and trained under God, they are transformed into good servants of God’s truth/reality.

For example, I’ve struggled with dominant feelings of rejection since childhood, due to psycho-emotional hurt. You may struggle with loneliness, or anger, or worthlessness, that darkens and deceives your mind into believing the lie that you’re unloved – even though you have family and friends who love you. Why? Because you still FEEL unloved.  

Such desolate feelings incarnate themselves in our body over time and become our posture, resulting in ‘issues’ of mental health, physical ailment, relational dysfunction. Oscar Wilde said that by the age of 45 or 50 we all have acquired, even developed, the face that we deserve! Faces reveal emotional states, sometimes fixed for life, for better or worse.

How can we change this?

By learning to pray our feelings – as taught in my Praying the Psalms Volume Two, Praying our Challenges & Choices. I don’t have to accept desolate feelings when they arise. I’m NOT a passive victim of my emotions. They’re asking for attention. So, I consciously process and release them to God. I ask God, again and again, to lift them off me, while I wilfully reverse them by asserting the truth that God accepts and loves me for who I am – in all my brokenness and beauty.  

Consciously throw yourself into the loving arms of God, your real Father and Mother, as often as is needed. Picture yourself being held, just as Mary and Joseph adoringly embraced the babe of Bethlehem. Just as Jesus grew into a profound awareness of being loved by Abba (Father) in each moment of every day: “you are my son (or daughter), my Beloved, in whom I delight”. Just as the Father ran and embraced and kissed the returning son.

You are God’s beloved daughter/son, accepted for who you are in Christ.

THIS is how God becoming human makes you feel… if you embrace it.

Practice it.

Live it.

Be and become it. 

Posted on Leave a comment

Becoming the Beloved

Recap: The Life of the Beloved 

Jesus’ newly affirmed identity as The Beloved was tested after his baptism in water and the Spirit. The three desert temptations in Matthew 4:1-11 are common to all people, but Jesus overcame them – our model to defeat evil. As Jesus later set his face to Jerusalem to die, the Father ‘broke the sound barrier’ for a second time (on Mount Tabor) saying, “This is my Son, my Beloved, in whom I am well pleased, listen to him” (Matthew 17:5). This confirmed the Life of the Beloved (as Henri Nowen writes in his book by that title), that Jesus’ life – and ours as his Beloved – is Taken, Blessed, Broken and Given. 

Practically, how then do we actually become God’s Beloved?

Henri Nouwen’s key point is that we must listen to the voice that whispers deep inside us, the voice of the Father that proclaims and affirms our Belovedness. We hear so many voices inside and outside of ourselves that continually say, “You are no good, you are ugly, you are fat, you are worthless, you are nobody…” These negative destructive voices reinforce our poor self-image and our self-rejection. To overcome these voices we must continually hear and believe the Father’s voice that says to us (quote from Nouwen, page 30-31):-

“I have called you by name, from the very beginning. You are mind and I am yours. You are my Beloved, on you may favor rests. I have molded you in the depths of the earth and knitted you together in your mother’s womb. I have carved you in the palms of my hand and hidden you in the shadow of my embrace. I look at you with infinite tenderness and care for you with a care more intimate that that of a mother for her child. I have counted every hair on your head and guided you at every step. Wherever you go, I go with you, and wherever your rest, I keep watch. I will give you food that will satisfy all your hunger and drink that will quench all your thirst. I will not hide my face from you. You know me as your own as I know you as my own. You belong to me. I am your father, your mother, your brother, your sister, your lover and your spouse… yes, even your child… wherever you are I will be. Nothing will ever separate us. We are one.” Continue reading Becoming the Beloved

Posted on Leave a comment

Being the Beloved – A Year of Spiritual Formation

Last year was about replanting and restoring health to our church, as “Following Jesus”. This year is about laying a firm foundation for a) spiritual growth, b) healthy community, and c) service to our world. This letter is not only my preaching notes, but sets the tone for the year as we begin laying the foundation, being guided by our chosen theme…

“Being the Beloved – A Year of Spiritual Formation”

It might sound weird! Being the what… ?? The word/idea of “Beloved” is significant and powerful in the Bible. It’s all about “be-loved” or “being loved”, which is difficult for most people. We have to learn how to be loved, how to receive love, and thus to love. They say, “Love makes the world go round!” Pretty close! God IS love… so, love is the center of the universe, making all things work – that is IF we receive his love and learn to love as he loves – then that’s heaven on earth! But if we don’t, we make hell on earth!

Being the (God’s) Beloved is about discovering our true selves. It’s about our identity as human becomings. The deepest source and definition of our identity is God’s love for us – not the myriads of other means of identity imposed on us, or that we choose. And it’s not the “feel-good-flowery-luuvvv” from Hollywood! It’s God’s love from eternity, enfleshed in its costly demonstration in Jesus of Nazareth. He lived and died for YOU, for ME, for our sin, our rejection of God’s love, so that we may turn and receive God’s love. In fact, Jesus was who he was, and did what he did, because he came to know how deeply God loved him as his Father – confirmed at his baptism in water when Father spoke from the heavens, “You are my Son, my Beloved, in whom I am well pleased”

That voice, that Spirit of Love, opened the heavens for Father’s love to flood and fill each one of us, so that we may learn to live in his love as Jesus did. All of life flows from that. It’s the source of healing and spiritual growth, community formation and social transformation – our focus for this year as we follow Jesus together. Why not take this journey very seriously and commit to Being (becoming) the Beloved? In effect, we will be unpacking our calling as a church, our Mission Statement: Following Jesus and making followers of him, learning to live a life of love just as Jesus loved us.

To begin this journey we are calling our church to a full week of FASTING and prayer, from 20-26 January. Here are some guidelines to help us. Continue reading Being the Beloved – A Year of Spiritual Formation