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

Invasion Of The Spirit

The day of Pentecost came about 50 days after Jesus had risen from death & about 10 days after he had returned to heaven (229).  On that day, the believers gathered in Jerusalem to remember Jesus & to worship God & to draw close to him in prayer.

Suddenly, the Holy Spirit of God invaded each member of their fellowship — with the sound of a strong wind & the appearance of flames flickering over every person there!

As the Spirit gave them power, all the believers began testifying boldly about how Jesus had changed their hearts & changed their lives — speaking in many different languages & dialects.

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When a large crowd of people gathered to learn the cause of this uproar, every one of them was able to hear testimonies about Jesus in their own language & dialect.  They were amazed that this common testimony about Jesus was being shared by so many different people at the same time!

But there was also confusion.  It was well known that many of the believers were from Galilee, which was a fairly isolated area of Israel.  So how  were they able to speak in so many languages & dialects?  Many kept asking, “What’s going on here?”  Predictably, some people in the crowd made fun of the believers, saying, “These people are drunk!”

Then all twelve chosen witnesses for Jesus stood up as Peter addressed the crowd.

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“People of Jerusalem, let me tell you what’s going on here.  None of us are drunk at nine in the morning.   What’s happening here is consistent with what God said long ago through the prophet Joel:

“‘In the last days, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.

  • Some will learn what I expect by proclaiming my message.
  • Some will see what I’m doing through dreams & visions.
  • Some will witness my miracles in the sky & my wonders on the earth.

“‘Finally, at the day of my judgment, there will be blood, fire, & thick smoke; the sun will be darkened, and the moon will be red as blood.  But I will save anyone who calls on me for help!'”

 

(229) Acts 2:1-21

Home

Before going home to heaven, Jesus led his remaining chosen witnesses from Jerusalem to Bethany for their final meeting (227).  He gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift I told you about, the gift that God promised. John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

His closest friends then asked Jesus, “Master, does this mean that you are now going to restore Israel to power as your independent kingdom here on the earth?”

In reply, Jesus said, “The time for that is determined by God, and it is not for you to know when that will be. But, when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you will be filled with power, and you will be witnesses for me in Jerusalem, in all of Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

After saying this, Jesus was taken up to heaven as they watched.

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A cloud hid him from their sight, but still they fixed their eyes on the sky.  Suddenly, two men dressed in white stood beside them & said, “Galileans, why are you standing there looking up at the sky? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but he will come back to the earth in the same way at the right time.”

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Then the  witnesses worshiped Jesus and went back to Jerusalem from Bethany by way of the Mount of Olives.  All of them were filled with great joy.

The remaining 11 witnesses included: Peter (originally named Simon), Andrew (Peter’s brother), James (a son of Zebedee), John (James’ brother), Philip, Bartholomew (also called Nathanael), Matthew (the tax collector, also called Levi), Thomas, James (son of Alphaeus), Judas (also known sometimes as Lebbaeus & sometimes as Thaddaeus), and Simon (the Patriot from Canaan).  Of the original 12 chosen witnesses, only Judas Iscariot was missing.

They went to the rooms where they were staying, where they often gathered for prayer with close friends & family members of Jesus.

 

(227) Mark 16:19, Luke 24:50-52, Acts 1:1-11