Meditations Of Light

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Meditating on fundamental aspects of the Christian faith, such as those expressed in the Creeds, helps us grow closer to God.  For example, 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.

LORD, please help us to love living simply in the  light of Jesus.

Meditations Of Joy

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Meditating on fundamental aspects of the Christian faith, such as those expressed in the Creeds, helps us grow closer to God.  For example, 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.

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

Early Christian Missionary Workers

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

The first twelve chosen witnesses of Jesus went throughout the known world, establishing local church communities in which Christians helped one another grow closer to God.  (Luke’s historical account gives us many details about Paul’s missionary work, but the other apostles were also active missionaries — around the Mediterranean, and in Africa, India & Europe.)

Subsequent missionaries took the Christian faith into Eastern Europe & Russia, prior to the separation of eastern & western churches in Europe.  Thereafter, Orthodox missionaries took their faith eastward to the far reaches of the vast Russian Empire.

Catholic missionaries took the Christian faith into Northern Europe — to Germany, England, Ireland, Scotland & elsewhere — prior to the separation of northern & southern churches in Europe during the Protestant Reformation.  Among these missionaries were Patrick (who worked for Jesus in Ireland), Augustine (who worked for Jesus in England) and Boniface (who worked for Jesus in Germany).

In the 16th century, as part of the Catholic Reformation, Jesuit monks began taking the Christian faith to South America & the Orient.  Francis Xavier went east to recruit & encourage Catholics in India & Japan.  Matteo Ricci also went east to recruit & encourage Catholics in China.  Peter Claver dedicated his life to the care & service of African slaves in Columbia, South America.

The simple aim of all these efforts was that all the world would know Jesus.

LORD, please help us to love & serve You as king over all the earth.

Christian Diversity: European Reformation

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The second major movement to reform the church of Jesus Christ occurred in the 16th century, when Protestant churches in parts of northern Europe separated from Catholic churches in the rest of Europe — events known as the Protestant Reformation.

The main issues which divided the churches concerned widespread corruption in the Roman Catholic Church, the authority of the Pope and the relative importance of faith & works in the relations of believers with God.

The northern European churches wanted to rid the body of Christ of corruption, rejected the authority of the Pope & insisted that faith was the one vital key to continuing relationship with God.  The southern European churches, while also concerned about corruption in the Roman Catholic Church, continued to affirm the authority of the Pope & insisted that faith without works was useless.

Even today, each side thinks it is being more faithful to the teachings of Jesus & so this schism also continues.

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

Also in the 16th century, the Catholic church instituted reforms — events known as the Catholic 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.

Yet the church still struggles to rid itself of corruption — currently involving financial mismanagement & sexual abuse of children by ordained priests.

LORD, please help us to love differences in Your church, as You do.

Inspired Scriptures

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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 – who God promised would rescue his wandering people, and whom we know as Jesus.

The second main part of the inspired scriptures tells 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 & John – 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 Bibles  (mainly Protestant) 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.

LORD, please help us to love hearing You speak into our lives.

Christian Creeds

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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 the original twelve witnesses, chosen & trained by Jesus.  The creed affirms that God has revealed himself to us in three persons: Father, Son & Holy Spirit — to make it easier for us to get to know him.

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.

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

Spiritual Authority

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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 Christian scriptures, Jesus called his chosen witnesses to serve as shepherds of his people, after he had returned to heaven.

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

From beginning to end, both Jewish and Christian inspired scriptures teach us the value of humble submission to the spiritual authorities that God establishes over his people.

But there are two common difficulties for redeemed sinners in these relationships.  One is that our flesh usually resists submitting to other people.  And the other is that Christians often disagree on which spiritual authorities we must submit to.

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 also frequently look to Christian friends as spiritual authorities in our lives.

Dietrich Bonhöffer, a 20th century German Protestant minister, gives a model (368) for how someone, with or without any formal title, may fruitfully serve other people as a spiritual authority; the parts of this model are:

  • Hearing, which normally means we must stop talking, we must admit that God loves them as much as he loves us, and we must apply active listening skills.
  • Helping them, with the needs of everyday life.
  • Bearing with them the heavy burdens of life, as opportunities arise.
  • Proclaiming from the inspired scriptures 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.

LORD, please help us to love knowing & submitting to spiritual authority.

 

(368) Life Together, Dietrich Bonhöffer

(369) The annual cycle begins today to conclude with about two weeks of meditations on the church of Jesus Christ since the time of the inspired Christian scriptures.  The cycle will then begin again.  Please see About.