Meditations of Joy

Meditating on fundamental aspects of the Christian faith, such as those expressed in the Creeds, helps us grow closer to God.  Jesus came into our world as a man, which is a cause of great joy for all people.  In Jesus we get to know God better!

  • God sent the angel Gabriel to tell a faithful, young Jewish girl that she would bear God’s Son into the world, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Mary, not fully understanding what God intended, still agreed wholeheartedly to. serve God in this way.
  • Mary visited her cousin, Elizabeth, who was experiencing her first pregnancy at an older age, as the angel Gabriel had promised her husband, Zechariah. The two women encouraged one another, acknowledging that God was working these miracles in their lives.
  • Jesus was born to Joseph & Mary in humble circumstances in Bethlehem but with angelic fanfare, indicating that God had come into the world for all people.

  • When Joseph & Mary dedicated Jesus to God, Simeon received the baby in the Temple at Jerusalem. The Holy Spirit assured the old man that Jesus was God’s promised savior for Jews & Gentiles.
  • Having lost track of their 12-year old son at a festival in Jerusalem, Joseph & Mary found Jesus in the Temple — talking with priests & scribes, exhibiting astonishing knowledge of God. Nevertheless, the boy Jesus humbly submitted to his parents & returned home with them.

God, please help me to love & enjoy the Son You sent to save us.

On A Mission From God

During its 2,000 year history, there have been many missionary movements whereby Christian churches have sought to share Jesus with all the world.

  • The first 12 chosen witnesses of Jesus went throughout the Mediterranean world, establishing local church communities in which Christians helped one another grow closer to God.
  • Orthodox missionaries took the Christian faith into Eastern Europe & Russia, prior to the separation of eastern & western churches in Europe.
  • Catholic missionaries took the Christian faith into Northern Europe (ie., Germany, England, Ireland, Scotland, etc.) prior to the separation of eastern & western churches in Europe.
  • In the 16th century, as part of the Catholic Reformation, Jesuit monks began taking the Christian faith to the South America & the Orient.
  • In the 17th & 18th centuries, Puritan, Anglican, Catholic & other missionaries began taking the Christian faith to eastern America.

  • In the 19th century, Baptist missionaries (such as Adoniram Judson & William Carey) began taking the Christian faith to Southeast Asia & India.
  • Also in the 19th century, Hudson Taylor began taking the Christian faith to China, encouraging development of indigenous churches.

  • Modern missionary efforts emphasize the importance of indigenous missionaries (e.g., Indian missionaries in India, African missionaries in Africa, Chinese missionaries in China, etc.).
  • Many para-church ministries have also developed over the years, taking the Christian faith to specific groups of people (e.g., prisoners, soldiers, kids, etc.,) or emphasizing specific aspects of faith (e.g., Bible study, health care, evangelism, politics, social welfare, media, etc.).

The simple aim of all these efforts is that all the world may know Jesus.

God, please help me to love You as king over all the earth.

Reformation & Renewal

During its 2,000 year history, there have been three major movements to reform the church & bring it into closer union with God.

In the 11th century, after years of disagreement, churches in Greece, Turkey & the rest of eastern Europe separated from churches in Italy, France & the rest of western Europe (the Schism).  The main issues which divided the churches concerned the authority of the Pope & the source of the Holy Spirit; the eastern churches rejected the authority of the Pope & insisted that the Holy Spirit came from the Father, while the western churches affirmed the authority of the Pope & insisted that the Holy Spirit came from the Father and the Son. Each side thought they were being more faithful to the teachings of Jesus.

Orthodox churches have occasionally continued to pursue spiritual renewal over the centuries by continuing to separate into smaller denominations promoting distinctive doctrines, albeit to a much lesser extent than Protestants.

In the 16th century, churches in parts of northern Europe separated from churches in the rest of Europe (the Protestant Reformation).  The main issues which divided the churches concerned the authority of the Pope and importance of faith & works in the relations of believers to God.  The northern European churches rejected the authority of the Pope & insisted that faith was the one vital key to continuing relationship with God, while churches in the rest of Europe affirmed the authority of the Pope & insisted that faith without works was useless.  Each side thought they were being more faithful to the teachings of Jesus.

Protestant churches have occasionally continued to pursue spiritual renewal over the centuries by continuing to separate into smaller denominations promoting ever-more distinctive doctrines.

Also in the 16th century, the Catholic church instituted reforms (the Catholic Reformation or the Counter-Reformation).   Some of the reforms had been emerging from within the church for a long time; others were in direct response to errors highlighted by the break-away Protestant churches.  The principal reforms involved: requirement of rigorous training for priests, reform of religious life in monasteries & convents, encouragement of deeper spirituality among church members, and Jesuit worldwide missions.

The Catholic Church has occasionally continued to pursue spiritual renewal through events like the Second Vatican Council in the 1960’s, in which a wide range of church policies were modified & adapted to the modern world.

God, please help me to love differences in Your church as You do.

Inspired Scriptures

The inspired scriptures are a library of many books written by many authors at many times from many places – all under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  They were compiled by church leaders during the first few centuries after Jesus returned to heaven.  They remain a profound means through which God speaks to us today.

The first main part of the inspired scriptures tells of the Jewish people & their relationships with God.  Included are the stories of Moses & David, the two Jewish leaders with whom God had the most intimate & profound spiritual relationships.  Also included are the great prophets –such as Isaiah & Daniel – who were used by God to call his wandering people back into relationship with him.  Many passages in these Jewish scriptures point to a messiah – whom God promised would rescue his wandering people, and whom we know as Jesus.

The second main part of the inspired scriptures tell of the life & ministry of Jesus, and the establishment & growth of his church.  Included are four accounts of Jesus’ life, death & resurrection, plus an historical narrative, describing how the Holy Spirit grew the early church.  These Christian scriptures also contain letters from early church leaders – such as Paul, James & Peter – which encourage & instruct the first church communities in their witness for Jesus.

Most Christian Bibles include a handful of additional books & additions to books in the inspired Jewish scriptures, referred to as the Apocrypha.  Some Christian (mainly Protestant) Bibles exclude these scriptures.

Not included in any versions of the inspired scriptures are several other early letters which claim to tell of Jesus, but which were not written by the closest followers of Jesus & which were not in common use by the early church.

God, please help me to love hearing You speak into my life.

Christian Creeds

As the church grew in the early years after Jesus walked on the earth, it began to organize itself.  To help its members remain focused on Jesus, the church insisted that its ideas about God had to be consistent with the teachings of Jesus, as recorded in the writings of those who had walked with Jesus.

By the beginning of the second century, a basic statement of the Christian faith had emerged.  Now known as the Apostles Creed (from the Latin word credo, meaning “I believe”), this basic statement of the Christian faith may have been compiled by Jesus’ original twelve chosen witnesses.  The creed affirms that God has revealed himself to us in three persons: Father, Son & Holy Spirit.

Over the next two centuries, certain heresies arose; heresies are wrong ideas about God that people simply make up.  One heresy was promoted by a church leader named Arius, who taught that the Son was subordinate to & somehow less significant than the Father. But most Christian leaders insisted that the Father & the Son were equally God, equally divine.

So, by the beginning of the fourth century, a second, more detailed statement of the Christian faith had emerged.  Now known as the Nicene Creed, this creed emphasizes that all three persons in which God has revealed himself to us – Father, Son and Holy Spirit — are equally God, equally divine.

These creeds remain in common use by most Christians in the world today, although with slight variations.  They are helpful for reminding ourselves of basic truths of the Christian faith.  Meditating on these truths helps us grow closer to God.

God, please help me to love Your revelation as three Persons in one God.

Spiritual Authority

To help us serve Jesus, as we wait for his second coming into this world, God has given us the church, of which Jesus Christ is the head.  In the inspired scriptures, Jesus called his closest followers to serve as shepherds of his people after he returned to heaven.

As their time on the earth came to an end, these servants called other witnesses to serve as shepherds of the sheep.

From beginning to end, the inspired scriptures teach us the value of humble submission to the spiritual authorities that God establishes over his people.  But there are two difficulties for redeemed sinners in these relationships:

  1. Our flesh usually resists submitting to other people.
  2. We often disagree on the spiritual authorities to whom we must submit.

Over the centuries various classes of people have been recognized as spiritual authorities by various branches of the church of Jesus Christ.  And they have been called by various names: Bishops, Priests, Confessors, Spiritual Directors, Pastors, Ministers, and more.

On an individual level, we frequently look to Christian friends as spiritual authorities in our lives.

Dietrich Bonhöffer, a 20th century German Protestant minister, gives a model (347) for how someone, with or without any formal title, may fruitfully serve another as a spiritual authority:

  • Hearing, which normally means we must stop talking, we must admit that God loves them as much as us, and we must apply active listening skills.
  • Helping them with the needs of everyday life.
  • Bearing with them the heavy burdens of life, when opportunities arise.
  • Proclaiming God’s view of such burdens, as the Holy Spirit leads.
  • Serving as a spiritual authority over time, being careful to remain submitted to the spiritual authorities that God erects in our own lives.

God, please help me to love knowing & submitting to spiritual authority.

 (347) Life Together, Dietrich Bonhöffer

(348) About 25 days of additional meditations are inserted beginning today, before returning to the gospel accounts of the life & ministry of Jesus.  Please see About.

The End Of Time

Finally, John the Witness is shown the end of the world in a rapid-fire sequence of scenes (346).

  • Jesus returns to the earth with his church and wins an instant & total victory over the forces of evil.
  • Satan is bound for a thousand years, during which time Jesus restores & rules the earth.
  • Satan is then unbound briefly. His inevitable attack against Jesus results in his inevitable defeat; Satan’s forces are totally crushed & he is consigned permanently to hell.
  • All people are judged by God. Those who submitted to Jesus are taken to heaven; those who rejected Jesus are also consigned permanently to hell.

Judgement right left 2

The revelation concludes with encouraging images of God’s heavenly glory.  In Genesis, the first book of the inspired Jewish scriptures, we get a glimpse of God’s created children living with him in an earthly paradise.  At the end of Revelation, we get similar glimpses of God’s faithful children, living with him in a heavenly paradise, beyond the ravages of time.

Heaven-300x225

At the conclusion of the revelation, John is given several important commands by Jesus:

  • We are to worship God, not men. (Nothing good comes from worshiping men, as the prior revelations have made clear.)
  • God’s people are to rely on God’s Holy Spirit to serve Jesus; that service involves showing & telling other people what Jesus does for us and what Jesus expects us to do for him.
  • We are exhorted to trust the inspired scriptures for understanding the end to come — not adding to them or taking away from them. (The Bible may not contain everything there is to know about God, but those things it does contain are things we need to know about God.)
  • In this regard, we are encouraged to expect that Jesus may come back at any time, to begin the end described in these revelations. As Jesus taught his chosen witnesses, it’s absolutely important always to be ready for his return.

God, please help me to love Showing & Telling people about You.

(346) Revelation 19-22