The Birth Of Faith

As they went on to the territory near the town of Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asked his chosen witnesses, “Who do people say I am?” “Some say John the Baptizer,” they answered. “Others say Elijah or Jeremiah or some other prophet.” (117)

“What about you?” Jesus asked them. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the son of God!”

Peter's Faith

“God has truly blessed you with this faith, Peter” answered Jesus. “On this foundation I will build my church, my family of believers.  Not even Satan & the kingdom of hell will ever be able to overcome you!

“In this faith, you will speak with the authority of the kingdom of heaven here on earth.  You will forbid here what is forbidden there; you will permit here what is permitted there.”

Then Jesus told his students not to tell other people that he was the Messiah.  But, from then on, Jesus began to be more open with his students about his plan. “I must go to Jerusalem, where I will suffer much at the hands of the Jewish religious leaders; they will even have me executed.  But three days later I will rise to life!”

Peter got stuck on the execution part of the plan & exclaimed, “May God forbid this, Master!  May God never let this happen to you!”

But Jesus rebuked Peter: “When you think that way, you’re actually working against me, just like Satan.  You’re looking at things from a human perspective instead of from God’s perspective.”

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Father, please help me to love being Your child.

(117) Matthew 16:13-23, Mark 8:27-33, Luke 9:18-22

More Food For The Flesh

Not long afterward another large crowd came & stayed with Jesus out in the countryside (114).

After three days, Jesus called his chosen witnesses to him and said, “I’m concerned about these people.  They have been with me for three days, and some of them have come a long way.  Now they have nothing left to eat. If I send them home without feeding them, they may faint along the way.”

His students asked him, “Where in this deserted place can anyone find enough food to feed all these people?” “How much bread do you have?” Jesus asked. “Seven loaves,” they answered.

He gave orders for the crowd to sit down on the ground. Then he took the seven loaves, gave thanks to God, broke them, and gave them to his students to distribute to the crowd.

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They also had a few small fish. Jesus gave thanks for these and told his students to distribute them, too.

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Everybody there — about four thousand men, plus the women & children — got enough to eat! When Jesus’ students collected the leftovers, there were seven baskets full!

Afterwards, Jesus sent the people away.  Then he got into a boat with his students and went to the area known as Magdala or Dalmanutha.

Jesus, please help me to love being spiritually nourished by You.

(114) Matthew 15:32-39, Mark 8:1-10

Meditations Of Light

Meditating on fundamental aspects of the Christian faith, such as those expressed in the Creeds, helps us grow closer to God.  Jesus demonstrates the power of God among humans & brings light into our darkness.

  • Jesus was baptized by John the Baptizer, showing us the importance of baptism as a means of God’s grace in our lives. When the Son was baptized, the Spirit was present & the Father was pleased.
  • Jesus turned water into wine at a wedding in Cana of Galilee, demonstrating the power of God among his people. By such miracles, Jesus draws our attention to God.
  • Jesus proclaimed that the kingdom of God was present in the world, inviting people to turn away from the world & submit to God as king of their lives.

  • Jesus briefly revealed his heavenly glory to three of his chosen witnesses.   Though they did not clearly understand the significance of this event when it happened, it did help them understand more clearly that Jesus is God, after he had risen from death.
  • Jesus left his followers the ritual of communion, encouraging us to see his grace & mercy even in the things we take for granted, such as eating a simple meal, and encouraging us to renew our commitment to him as we remember his sacrifice for us.

God, please help me to love living simply in the  light of Jesus.

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.

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.

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.

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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.

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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

Jesus Overcame Death!

Paul continued speaking God’s message in the synagogue of Turkish Antioch (264).

“My fellow Israelites & you Gentiles here who worship our God, this message of salvation through Jesus has been sent to us.  The people who live in Jerusalem & their leaders didn’t know that Jesus is the savior; they didn’t understand the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath. They actually made certain of the prophets’ words come true by condemning Jesus. Even though they could find no reason to have him executed, they insisted that the Roman governor, Pilate, put him to death.

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“After they had done everything that the inspired scriptures foretold about Jesus, he was taken down from the cross of execution & placed in a tomb. But God raised Jesus from death!

“For many days he appeared to his chosen witnesses, who now testify about him to the people of Israel.  We are here to bring this good news to you also.  What God promised our ancestors that he would do, he has now done for all of us — by raising Jesus to life!

“It is written of Jesus in the inspired scriptures, ‘You are my son; today I have become your father.’  And about raising Jesus from death, God said: ‘I will give you holy & sure blessings, as I promised David.’  And David says in another passage, ‘You will not allow your faithful servant to rot in the grave.’

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“King David served God’s purposes in his own time.  Then he died, was buried with his ancestors, & his body rotted in the grave.  But this didn’t happen to Jesus.  Instead, God actually raised Jesus from death!

“All of you, my fellow Israelites, must know that it is through Jesus that forgiveness of sins is preached to you.  You must know that everyone who believes in Jesus is set free from all sins — from which the law of Moses could never set you free.

“Take care, then, that this saying of the prophets may never apply to you: ‘Look, you scoffers! Be astonished and die! What I am doing today is something that you will not believe, even when someone explains it to you.'”

God, please help me love the new life You give.

(264) Acts 13:26-41