The Holy Spirit in John the Baptist

The first mention of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament is in connection with John the Baptist – Luke 1: 5-6:-

In the days of Herod, King of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.

And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord.

And in Luke 1:15 an angel appeared to Zechariah:

For he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.

John the Baptist in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, preached the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins and great multitudes flocked to hear him preaching and to receive his baptism.

Matthew 3:10-12:-

Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

I baptize you with water for repentance but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry.

He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

Mark 1:7-8:-

And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.

I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.

 

Luke 3: 9, 16, 17

Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 

As John was baptising people with water, he openly confessed that there was someone who would come after him who was far more powerful than he was and who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

When John saw Jesus coming towards him, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” and he testified that Jesus was the one who would baptise with the Holy Spirit.

When we become Christians, it’s the Holy Spirit working within us that changes us and helps us to become holy people.

He will give us the strength and power to overcome the things in our lives that need to be changed and to break down any barriers, to enable us to become more like the person God wants us to be.

John 1:33

I myself did not know him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.

John is preaching to a mixed multitude composed of those who would accept his teaching and baptism, and of those who would accept neither.

Many of the former would become disciples of Jesus and receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit to qualify them to take up the work of Jesus and carry it on until the church would be established and the gospel fully revealed to men.

The baptism of the Holy Spirit, which was purely supernatural, was necessary to qualify them for this work.

With many peaceful and loving blessings

Geoffrey

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A Story for Palm Sunday

Rebekah and Simon were helping their mother unpack the special food that she’d bought at the market for their Passover meal later in the week. The fruit and nuts smelt delicious, and the children could hardly wait for Thursday night to come.

Suddenly their dad stood up and hurried to the window. ‘What are those men doing with our donkey?’ he said. Flinging open the door, he yelled out to the people outside, ‘Who said you could untie that animal? Bring it back right now!’

Rebekah could just hear their reply: ‘It’s all right. The Lord needs it. You’ll have your donkey back by the end of the day.’

‘The Lord? You mean Jesus of Nazareth? Is he in town again?’

‘Yes, he’ll be in Jerusalem for Passover. He’s going up there now, just to have a look around.’

‘Well, OK, take the donkey, of course. But tell Jesus to be gentle with her. She’s never been ridden before.’

‘Can you imagine Jesus doing her any harm?’ laughed the man. ‘See you later.’

Simon and Rebekah looked at each other. They’d heard amazing stories about Jesus of Nazareth, but they’d never seen him for real. ‘Can we go?’ Simon asked, breathlessly.

‘What, with the donkey?’ said their mother. ‘Yes, I suppose so. If we trust Jesus with her, I guess we can trust him with you. Hurry up, then. They’ll be gone!’

The children skipped out of the house and ran to catch up with the two men. It was a bit of a walk up the hill to where Jesus himself was waiting, on the Mount of Olives. Simon and Rebekah hung back when they saw him, feeling shy, but Jesus said, ‘You’ve brought some friends, then, Philip?’ and held out his hands to them.

Before long, the children felt as if they’d known him for ever. They watched as Jesus stroked their donkey’s head and sat carefully on her back. Then the whole party—Jesus on the donkey, his twelve disciples, Simon and Rebekah—set off down the other side of the hill, towards Jerusalem.

As they walked down the stony road, more children caught sight of the little procession and ran to join it. A few grown-ups came over to see what the children were doing, and when they saw Jesus, they tagged on to the group as well. By the time they reached the valley and started climbing yet another hill, crowds of people were starting to gather by the side of the road.

Suddenly, Simon heard someone call out, ‘The prophecy! Remember the prophecy! Our king is coming to us, riding on a donkey! He’s the king, the Son of David!’ At once, a great shout went up: ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Hosanna to the King of kings!’

People reached up to the tall palm trees round about and ripped off whole branches, waving them in the air as they sang praises to God. Others threw their coats on the ground to make a soft carpet for the little donkey to walk on, and everyone was dancing and cheering.

Rebekah loved parties, and she didn’t want this one ever to end. But then she looked up and gasped as she caught a first sight of the great city of Jerusalem, its whitewashed buildings shining in the sunlight. ‘Wow! I never realised how beautiful it is,’ she whispered.

At last they were at the gate to the city. Jesus climbed down from the donkey and handed her back to Simon. ‘Thank your parents for lending her to me,’ he said. Rebekah pulled on his sleeve. ‘Are you really going to be our king?’ she asked.

Jesus put his hand on her head and smiled. ‘One day very soon,’ he said, and walked through the gate into the jostling crowd.

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With many peaceful blessings

Geoffrey

 

Praying: A Highway To Heaven

Jesus’ disciples were Jews, steeped in the ways of their faith and familiar with prayer. Observing Jesus they became aware of a different dynamic to prayer that wasn’t part of their experience. What this was we can never know. I think it was something about both the intimacy in relationship in prayer between Jesus and his Father, and the reality of God’s presence during his prayer.

As I began to seek God afresh in my own place of confusion and pain, I turned to reading many extracts from the Church Fathers. I made formal retreats where I observed the daily prayer rhythm of Franciscan and Benedictine brothers filled with a serene sense of God encounter. I sensed it more than understood it. It drew me towards a growing appetite for God in my own experience. I too spoke with several, asking that they might teach me to pray.

The disciples themselves requested teaching; revealing prayer isn’t something that comes naturally to any one of us. It is a learned practice. That learning lasts a lifetime, with the benefit that in older age when one is less active and perhaps increasingly socially isolated, the space in which we encounter God is highly developed, enriching and real. We also discover that the time we choose freely to invest in prayer increases and we yearn to step away from the daily clamour of everyday life and sit within the stillness and silence of our solitary space in God’s presence.

When I started my regular daily office of prayer, I struggled. It was quite simply a discipline I chose to impose upon myself. Like any learning, it felt both strange and uncomfortable initially, with many temptations to give up. It did require perseverance. I often felt I was only speaking to myself, and frequently emerged with no sense of God encounter. But all these experiences were building blocks for my highway to heaven.

(Dr Micha Jazz)

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With many peaceful blessings

Geoffrey

Thought For The Day

As a parent you soon learn that pleasant though silence is, where a toddler is involved it usually means trouble! One afternoon when looking after my daughter, and having left her contentedly playing in her room, I realised that my last hour had not been disturbed once by the normal intrusion of an inquisitive youngster.

Time to investigate…A good job, as I was greeted by a face decorated with Mum’s make-up and an endearingly cheeky smile. This, of course, the make-up in which her previous repeated interest had been forbidden with strict instructions that it was off-limits.

The Israelites, rather like my daughter, had been left to their own devices rather too long. Moses was away up Mount Sinai conversing with God while they remained below, pumped up about serving a God who was about to covenant with them. In their enthusiasm, they implored Aaron to create something for them to worship, such was their hunger for God.

There is nothing to say that they rejected God, only that they wanted to create some form to which they might direct their worship; an early form of a ‘designer religion’.

It may well be that you want to honour your saviour, yet it may also be that you want to do so in a way that best serves your needs. The whole purpose of gathering to worship is to demonstrate that God is worthy of our veneration, declare the simple truth of our faith as captured in the Apostles’ Creed, draw encouragement and strength from God in the Eucharist, and recommit to live by God’s Rule in a lawless society to which we return.

(Dr Micha Jazz)

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With many peaceful blessings

Geoffrey

God’s Way

Ever felt you’ve been sold out? The initial creeping awareness is bad enough. But then comes the long battle with resentment that easily leads to bitterness. At the same time, waves of feeling stupid sweep in to act as character assassins and gnaw at our self-confidence. Yet, while this is the way we can treat others, or indeed find ourselves treated, this is not God’s way.

However, it can at times feel like it is exactly God’s way.

The disciples, adrift on the Sea of Galilee hours after participating in the wonderful spectacle of the miraculous feeding of the 5,000, confront a storm of immense proportions. Surrounded by the storm, they feel that the wind and the waves are too large, while their nautical skills are too small to meet this challenge. They move to despair – the Jesus of the miracle is nowhere to be seen.

Then suddenly they hear a familiar voice, and perceive through torrential rain and blinding spray the figure of Jesus actually approaching them upon the waters. Peter, the impetuous one, asks Jesus to call him out of the boat. Jesus does and Peter somewhat bravely if uncertainly leaves the boat and walks on the water. As reason trumps faith, he begins to sink and Jesus reaches out to rescue him and restores him to the boat.

This is a growth moment, when Peter and the disciples, disciples that include both me and you, are invited to grow beyond our natural understanding and recognise that we participate in a multidimensional world in which the Lord of life, Jesus himself, is in fact the only true constant. All else is movable in God’s loving desire to reveal his gift to the world and the nature of the God-filled life.

(Dr Micha Jazz)

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With many peaceful blessings

Geoffrey

5 Tips for a Better Prayer Life

“As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  John 13:34–35

I believe that faithful following of these five rules will revolutionize the life of any person.

1. Be bold, and mighty forces will come to your aid.
The person who is afraid cuts himself off from the flow of power, but when you venture boldly, there comes a flow of power in response.

2. Deny adverse conditions.
Don’t go around saying or thinking: “Conditions are against me.” Face facts, but realize that it often happens that a person is defeated not so much by the facts of a situation as by his negative interpretation of the facts. In every problem there is an inherent good. Believe that.

3. Picture good outcomes.
By envisioning good things, you actually bring good influences into play, both within yourself and in the world around you.

4. Pray for every person you meet with by name. 
Pray that he or she may benefit from the dealings you have with him or her.

5. Practice Christian love toward everybody.

(Taken from ‘Positive Living Day by Day’ by Norman Vincent Peale)

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With many peaceful blessings

Geoffrey

Wednesday in Holy Week

Now the Festival of Passover and Unleavened Bread was only two days off; and the chief priests and the doctors of the law were trying to devise some cunning plan to seize him and put into death, “It must not be during the Festival”, they said, “Or we should have rioting among the people”.

Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper.

As he sat at the table, a woman came in carrying a small bottle of very costly perfume; oil of pure nard.

She broke it open and poured the oil over his head.

Some of those present said to one another angrily, “Why this waste? The perfume might have been sold for £30  and the money given to the poor”; and they turned upon her with fury.

But Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why must you make trouble for her? It is a fine thing she has done for me. You have the poor among you always, and you could help them whenever you would like; but you will not always have me.

She has done what lay in her power; she is beforehand with anointing my body for burial. I tell you this: wherever in all the world the gospel is proclaimed, what she has done will be told as her memorial.”

Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve disciples, went to the chief priests to betray him to them.

When they heard what he come for, they were greatly pleased, and promised him money; and he began to  look for a good opportunity to betray him.

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In today’s reading we see an example of a woman’s devotion to Jesus and of his tenderness to her. Her love and gratitude overflow in an act of extravagant giving, “Very costly perfume”. “Why this waste?”, said the onlookers.

“Let her alone”, said Jesus, taking the initiative in her defence, careless about his own reputation.

“It is a lovely thing she has done for me.”

And, of course, Jesus is also preparing himself to be betrayed by Judas!

(Mark 14: 1-11)

 

With many peaceful blessings

Geoffrey