Archive for January, 2010

4th Master Class of Jesus Christ (2)

January 31st, 2010
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Scripture of the Day: Luke 1:5 -15

In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years.

Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.

Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth.(NIV)

John had eschatological (events associated with the end of the world) expectations. We have only to go back to see how Luke introduces us to him. It is a dramatic story culminating in a dramatic witness.

The birth narrative of John the Baptist is found in the Gospel of Luke.

John came  from a very priestly genealogy. Faithful in the Temple service.

His parents were a dedicated couple, who really experience the goodness of God in the Old Covenant.

It must have been a difficult reality for such upright people to see the scandalize compromises of the elite and the oppression of the Roman occupiers.

 Having no children was a terrible burden to carry on a couple of fronts: It could raise question marks about their relationship with God – that he was displeased and not blessing them.

And secondly it was the fear of their own mortality – that the seed would perish with them. With no strong belief in the after life, children were a means in the OT to carry on your name.

Thus there was a disgrace to being childless.

Although working in the Temple of God, Zechariah was terrified by this visitation. Maybe deep down his inner doubt were aroused – how is God towards me? God allows very human responses. The spiritual dimension is really beyond our comprehension and when it does break in to our time and space it shakes our very foundations and exposes our fragility.

John sounds like a very obedient and respectful son who brought great happiness in to his parent’s lives. A wise son who loved God.

Zacharias was instructed to raise the child in a Nazerite-like manner. This was an unusual life to follow. Very different from his peers. A child separated by the miracle of his birth , by the presence of the Holy Spirit and by the way he was to live.

Message for the Day

4th Master Class of Jesus Christ (1)

January 30th, 2010
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Scripture of the Day: Luke 7:18-23

John’s disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them, he sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”

When the men came to Jesus, they said, “John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?’ “

At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.”(NIV)

I would like to return to the series on Luke 7 – a Master Class which reveals a lot about Jesus’ ministry and who he is. We see the Teacher in action interacting with people that are selected in the account to illustrate the Jubilee Manifesto Jesus announced at Nazareth and the radical challenge to the norms of his society in the sermon on the plain.

After the Roman centurion and after the widow grieving for her dead son, Luke brings into the account an encounter with John’s disciples.

They were among those following Jesus and probably had heard of his Jubilee Manifesto and this subsequent behaviour – particularly his response to the centurion and the widow.

John is asking the old question: Who are you? You don’t seem to be the one we were expecting.

All of what Jesus does was expected in the Messianic age. Jesus was endorsing his ministry by dramatic miracles: who had ever heard of a blind man seeing, or the scourge of leprosy healed –the main treatment was social isolation and quarantine, or the deaf hearing and dead people being raised? There are only a couple examples of that over 100’s of years and they were down by special prophets, yet Jesus did this several times – the latest being the widows son. And he commanded it to be done as the centurion so deeply understood “”But say the word and my servant will be healed.” No mediation or prayers like the ordinary prophet. He was something more.

And the last statement — the poor being the outsiders, the marginalized – showed the upside down nature of his presence. John should have appreciated this point since it was the power elite that had thrown him into gaol. It was the religious elite that refused to be baptized,

Who Jesus is does not necessarily fit into our preconceptions. He can challenge our human imagined interpretations or ideas about God or how God should do things.

This encounter implies that even John had difficulty in the way Jesus was working.

Message for the Day

Sydney – 50th Anniversary

January 29th, 2010
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The Sydney congregation of the WCG officially started on January 30th 1960. John Mclean wrote:

Dear Sydney congregation,

Congratulations on your 50th anniversary from the national office and all your brothers and sisters around Australia. What a wonderful milestone for you to celebrate together.

Our very best wishes to you as you rejoice and enjoy your celebration. Anniversaries are great times to reflect and give thanks. We look back with gratitude at all God has done for us and in us and through us. We look back in hindsight, seeing the hand of God in our midst on the long, and sometimes difficult and challenging journey. We thank him that he never leaves or forsakes us.

We also thank and honour those who have gone before. We thank them for their faithfulness, steadfastness, sacrifice and service. We miss those who, for whatever reason, are no longer with us, but we appreciate the time and journey together. And we thank God for one another, for those continuing their walk of faith as dedicated disciples with us.

At anniversaries, we also look forward, in foresight, anticipating our future in Christ, and celebrating our spiritual blessings in him. We recognize there are still miles yet to travel, led by the Spirit, responding in humility and faith, and continuing to learn and be transformed into the full measure of Christ. We keenly anticipate what God is in the process of doing with us as his family.

And we celebrate the present with deepened insight, “Joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:12-14). We rejoice in our adoption as sons and daughters in Christ, loved by God before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:1-5).

Through the Word becoming flesh, we receive the gift of joining in the relationship of the Father and Son through the Spirit. “And our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son, Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3). And because of this, we have fellowship with one another, as sons and daughters together in Christ.

Although geographically separated, we are one in Christ, united by his Spirit and his love. Our lives, and our journeys, are shared; the road is travelled together, not as isolated individuals. Your church family joins with you at this delightful time of celebration. The national office was started barely a month before the first church service, so those of us here feel an added connection to your rejoicing. And, on a personal note, Sydney has been very much a part of Heather’s and my life, joining the ministry there in 1976, and later again in the 80’s, when our son was born as a New South Welshman.

Special thanks to your current pastor, Rod and Vicki Dean, to immediate past pastor and current pastoral team member Peter and Cathy McLean, and the other members of the pastoral team. They love you, pray for you, and seek to serve you in Christ. And heartfelt thanks to you all, for your faithfulness, dedication, and your continuing love and service to one another in the Spirit.

Together, we celebrate the blessings of our shared fellowship with God.

May God continue to guide, edify, comfort and bless you, according to his good and perfect will. And may he bless your celebrations together today, and your lives together into the future.

With love and affection,

John and Heather McLean and the National Office Team