time chasing people down a hill

Simple Guide to Know God Better | Spiritual Meditations

Momma always said “Stop, Look & Listen”. Although excellent instruction for children crossing traffic, it is also good advice in polite conversation, especially polite conversation with God. My friend, Stephanie, explains how these simple words can guide your improved connection with God.

Is it the busy-ness of life that sometimes makes you feel that God is silent? Are the hours at work, family responsibilities, and self-care routines actually building a wall that keeps you from hearing His voice? Does the instant gratification created by the information age make you feel impatient and want to put a time limit on getting the answers to your prayers?

Now let’s be real. God is never really silent. we only have to open our Bibles and He speaks to us. However, there are times when you think you need a timely answer. When life, love, and liberty might hang in the balance and each moment waiting to hear from God is excruciatingly long and exhausting. Here are a few questions to ask yourself when you’ve repeatedly petitioning God, and you’re getting impatient to hear from Him:

Are you listening for God’s answer?

Sometimes the answer is ‘No’ when you really want ‘Yes.’ Or, vice versa. The question may already be answered, but you are hoping that God will change His mind. Other times, the noise around you won’t allow you to hear the whispered voice of God. Just imagine being on a roller-coaster at Disney. You’re strapped in and ready to enjoy the sights, sound, and physical aspects of the ride. The cast member gives the go sign and you’re off! At that same moment, the person in the seat next to you leans over and whispers something really important in your ear. Any chance you’re going to catch what was said? And even if you do hear the words, any chance that you’ll be able to give it the focus it deserves? Probably not. In fact, more than 3000 years ago, God gave you the answer to this perplexing challenge of a busy life in Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God…” So, find a place to be still and silent before the Lord. Pray as you always do, but before the ‘Amen’, take a moment to listen and see if God is whispering to your heart.

Are you watching for God’s activity?

God is at work all the time. All….The….Time. God does not take a vacation, which is confirmed by Jesus in John 5:7 “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” And if He’s working, then something is happening, just like a clock without a second hand moving from one minute to another. Somewhere inside that clock something is counting the seconds until the minute has passed. You don’t see the counting but you know it’s going on. The awesome and amazing thing about God, is that He can work on us all at the same time. He doesn’t have a schedule that says, “Okay, today I work on the people whose names start with L and tomorrow I move on to the M’s.” No, he works on us individually and collectively simultaneously! That movement from who you are, to who God longs for you to be is the journey of transformation, and if you are truly seeking God, you can look back on your life and see the growth and evolution that is your story for His glory. Take a moment to look for God, in your life and in the lives of those you love. It’s an amazing metamorphosis. (Accounts of real experiences of God working in people’s lives)

Are you open to God’s answer?

I think that this is a really challenging aspect of this whole thing. Somewhere along the line, we humans became really stubborn. Really stubborn. We’ve either become so sure that we have all the answers, or realize that we don’t, but we want to ‘fake it till we make it’ and we forget that the only one with all the answers doesn’t answer to us. Allowing the Holy Spirit to do His work in you can be difficult, yet Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to be your counselor, intercessor, and guide. This Spirit of God is your biggest fan when you’re reflecting God honestly. Yet the Revealer (Holy Spirit) will also admonish you and nudge you toward God when you’ve strayed or rebelled. It is hard to be open to an answer that will probably change you. Yet growth produces the seeds that will start the next exciting cycle in your life with God.

Finally, remember that you don’t need to be in church for the change to occur, yet having a family (your church family) who recognizes your gifts can be an awesome thing. And you don’t need another person to intercede for you, yet having others praying on your behalf can be extremely comforting.

Conclusion

If you combine these things with a quiet place to regularly listen for the Lord, you will hear Him. He’s waiting to speak with you. You just need to give Him your attention. Stop, look and listen.

many hands in prayer

3 Steps to Successful Prayer | Spiritual Meditations

How to Make Prayer Work for You

If your prayers are not being answered, it’s time to take a look at your attitudes, your pride, your trust in God and your connection with God and His Spirit. The following, written by my friend, Reverend Dr. Tim Ehrlich, talks about the power of prayer and how you can tap into it.

“I have been crushed and completely defeated at least four times in my life; I am talking about times I was brought so low by my circumstances that I felt like I was walking through ‘the valley of the shadow of death’, and I could not find my way out. Neither could I see the sun. I could only see doom and gloom. I felt completely empty inside, like there was a dark cloud on my soul. Every time, it was prayer that brought me back up out of the valley.

The Interview I Tried to do Myself

I am going to tell you about the second time I was crushed and defeated; it happened in my second year of my first church appointment.

I had already graduated from Duke Divinity school with a three-year masters degree, and I was serving as a Licensed local pastor. To be an ordained Methodist Pastor you had to be a Methodist for two years before graduation. I was not ordained yet because I had gone to Duke as a Presbyterian and became a Methodist in my second year. but if no ordained pastors were available, I could be appointed as a Licensed local pastor before being ordained.

For my first assignment I was appointed to serve two little churches in the Catskill Mountains. After about a year and a half, my boss, the DS (District Superintendent), told me I should go before the Annual Conference Board of Ordained Ministry to seek approval for ordination. I told him I wasn’t sure that it was a good time for me; my wife had just had our baby girl, and my sons were ages two and four. It was pretty crazy in our house, and my two churches, that had been declining for 20 years, were now growing, and there was a lot going on.

Going before the Board of Ordained Ministry is a big deal; you sit in the hot seat in front of about 20 ministers and they pepper you with questions, to determine your knowledge, your calling, your commitment and your suitability to be a pastor. If they say “no” you are done….out….finished. But the DS said, “Tim, you are one of my best pastors, you will do fine, but if for some strange reason you don’t get approved, no problem, I will just reappoint you and you can try again next year.”

I went before the board and I was nervous. I didn’t know enough at that time to just put it in God’s hands and let go of it. And I was holding on to it like it was all on me. My boss was wrong. It didn’t go really well. I will never forget that, at the end of the day, I was alone in a room in a church…. waiting. A bearded pastor came into the room and sat down. He told me, “it didn’t go well for you. There were 28 people applying to be ordained and because you weren’t in the top group, you won’t be ordained and they are giving your church assignment to an ordained pastor.”

How Did I Get Here?

When I was 17, I had offered to give my life in service to God if He would save my sisters life when she was terribly injured in a car accident and expected to die. (Link) God had poured out his Holy Spirit on me to let me know he had accepted my offer and that my sister would live. God confirmed my calling with several other miracles, and I was completely convinced that I was called into ministry. I could not wait to become ordained as a pastor. It was the great joy and desire of my life.

Revived by Prayer

Now it seemed like it was over and my dream was dead. I drove home that day tired, defeated and completely crushed, empty of joy and hope. I am not sure if I cried but I sure felt like it.

There was a group of five or six Christians in that area who called themselves ‘prayer warriors’. They would get together weekly in one of their homes. People who needed healing would go there to be prayer over. I was friends with several of the prayer warriors who would attend my church when the Spirit led them.

The next morning, I called Loretta, who was in the group, and asked her if I could come over for prayer during their next meeting and she said ‘sure’. At the meeting, I sat in a chair and they stood in a circle around me and put their hands on my head and on my shoulders and back and they prayed out loud for me. After about 30 minutes they stopped and asked how I was doing. I said, “I am half way there. Please don’t stop praying.” They laid their hands on me again and prayed. And over the next 20 minutes I could feel myself getting filled, until I was overflowing with joy!

I can’t remember a single word that was prayed over me, but, in less than an hour, those people transformed me from the worst depression of my life to being filled with joy. That is the power of prayer!

Witness to the Power of Prayer

Since then I have seen dozens of amazing miracles brought about by prayer; a woman burned all over her body instantly healed, a man brought out of a coma, another man who flat lined brought back to life. I have seen two different people who were going to die within hours brought back to health. I have seen people rescued from drowning and disaster. I have twice seen my son, Timmy, recover from bouts of cyclic vomiting through prayer when medicine wasn’t working. This week I heard the wonderful testimony of Melissa Hill who told how God miraculously rescued her from death, through prayer, after being stabbed 30 times. Over the years I have seen so many great examples of the power of prayer that it brings tears to my eyes when I stop to think about them.

My Story Continues

My feeling of emptiness was healed and I turned my situation over to God. My boss, the DS, appealed the decision to the Board of Ordained ministry. They met to reconsider my case, and my boss brought with him letters from 124 members of my congregation, written to the bishop on my behalf, and a video the Sunday school kids made. My boss told me afterwards that, because the bishop was angry with him about another matter, the appeal on my behalf was turned down. But the very next day, he called me and said he had another appointment for me in another nearby conference through a friend of his who was a DS there. I went on to get ordained during that appointment.

Prayer – What Works and What Doesn’t

A recent survey found that 55% of Americans say they pray every day; and only 23% say they seldom or never pray; so, I know that many of you know how prayer works and you already rely on it. But some of you may not. Jesus’ apostle James wrote “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” And in Proverbs we read, “God hears the prayer of the righteous.” What makes a person righteous? Hold that thought.

I want to start by telling you about how prayer doesn’t work.

Prayer is not a magic spell that you say and results occur. On TV, in cartoons and in movies I have seen people using incantations, magic spells, which basically are a string of words or sounds that, when spoken, are supposed to have the ability to release some supernatural power. That is BS.

It is not the words you say, but the intentions of your heart that matter to God. The famous Danish, Christian philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard wrote, “Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays.” Actually, there are three things that happen inside us when we pray.

1     The first thing that happens is that your thoughts and actions become righteous or in agreement with God’s will.

God’s will or desire is that we love Him with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength and our neighbor as ourselves. Any thought or action that is in opposition to love, to the decrease of love, or that is damaging to the love of God or neighbor, is something that God finds objectionable (i.e. sinful).

Pray with openness to God, surrendering anything that is in your heart or mind that is against this love. God will bring your thoughts into alignment with His will as you pray earnestly via the gradual inflow of the Holy Spirit which acts to align your thoughts and intentions with God’s will in the same way that a magnet gives order to a pile of iron filings.

This is a process that is not instantaneously obvious, although, it can happen quickly. It depends on how tightly you cling to your anger, your hurt, your improper desires, your depression, and / or anything that is opposed to the love of God. It can take hours of prayer, even hours over several days. But your prayers will not be powerful or effective if you skip this step.

2     The second thing that happens inside you when you pray, provided you pray long enough and sincerely enough, is that prayer opens a channel in your heart. In some ways opening up that channel is like the work of an icebreaker creating a channel. The ice is all the thoughts and distractions you have floating around your mind. See Transcending Mind for guidance on how to stop those thoughts

3     The third thing that prayer does inside you is it prepares a place for the Holy Spirit to come in and rest. The apostle Paul said that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. You are a temple for the Holy Spirit, but the temple is unoccupied if you keep the doors locked. You have to invite the Holy Spirit in. Jesus said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock, if any hear my voice and open the door, I will come into their house…” For you to have effective prayer you need to be willing to have the Holy Spirit living inside your heart and all that that implies.

When you have all three of these, things happen, God will answer. God’s answer is not always “yes,” but it is always in your best interest. When what you are asking lines up with His will; when you pray passionately enough to open a channel of communication; and when you are willing to invite the Holy Spirit to live inside you, then God responds powerfully to prayers. A good example from the Bible is when Paul and Silas were put in jail for teaching about Jesus; they prayed and their chains fell off. (Act 16:16-36)

I was talking to my son, Timmy, recently about prayer and he finally got it. He said, “You mean all I really have to do is talk to God like I am talking to you?!” Paul wrote to the Philippians “Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace,” That’s all there is to it.

Why Does God Care?

Why does the all-powerful Creator of the entire universe care what we say or what we pray? Lucky for us, God sees all people on earth as His sheep and Himself as our Shepherd; and when God sees those who believe in Him and in Jesus, He sees His children. That was a part of God’s plan in creating the universe and it gives Him great pleasure to adopt us as His children. It gives God pleasure to interact with us as a loving Father. And for those of us who have committed our lives to following and serving Jesus, God sees us, not just as children but as holy and royal priests. When we get to that point then we too become prayer warriors.

Conclusion

Through prayer, God opens eyes, changes hearts, heals wounds and illnesses, saves lives, and grants wisdom and power. Prayer is the key that opens the door to all these blessings from God, so let us resolve to pray more, to take full advantage of all that God is offering us.”

Relevant Scripture

James 5:13-18 (TEV) Are any among you in trouble? They should pray. Are any among you happy? They should sing praises.  Are any among you sick? They should send for the church elders, who will pray for them and rub olive oil on them in the name of the Lord.  This prayer made in faith will heal the sick; the Lord will restore them to health, and the sins they have committed will be forgiven.  So then, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you will be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has a powerful effect.  Elijah was the same kind of person as we are. He prayed earnestly that there would be no rain, and no rain fell on the land for three and a half years.  Once again, he prayed, and the sky poured out its rain and the earth produced its crops.

Proverbs 15:29 (NRSV) The Lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous.
Mark 11:24   So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

Acts 16:24-26 ( TEV ) About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.  Suddenly there was a violent earthquake, which shook the prison to its foundations. At once all the doors opened, and the chains fell off all the prisoners.

Philippians 4:6-9 (NLT) Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
Ephesians 1:4-5 Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.  God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.

1 Peter 2:5-9 And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God… But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.

Psalms 116:1-8 (TEV) I love the Lord, because he hears me; he listens to my prayers.  He listens to me every time I call to him.  The danger of death was all around me; the horrors of the grave closed in on me; I was filled with fear and anxiety. Then I called to the Lord, “I beg you, Lord, save me!” The Lord is merciful and good; our God is compassionate. The Lord protects the helpless; when I was in danger, he saved me. Be confident, my heart, because the Lord has been good to me. The Lord saved me from death; he stopped my tears and kept me from defeat.

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child reading Bible in bed

The Baffling Look of a Christian | Spiritual Meditations

Who or what is a Christian?

The ambiguity encourages criticism and accusation of hypocrisy against all Christians when non-Christians witness, or become aware of, unchristian acts performed by professed Christians.

In a broad sense, a Christian is anyone who follows the teachings of Jesus Christ. Some people are better at this than others.

Christians Are Not Perfect

Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. (Romans 12:13)

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building other up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29)

Granted, nobody is perfect and, try as we might, we do the things we don’t want to do and we don’t do the things we want to do. (Roman 7:15) It may not be in a person’s personality to be generous because their economic circumstances were less than desirable as children. Or perhaps, due to low self-esteem, someone criticizes others a little too much. But for the person who is trying to live the teachings of Jesus, these should be mistakes, not a way of life.

Christians are Diverse

The amount of devotion to Christianity varies widely among individuals and progresses along a continuum. On one end are the politicians who say they are Christians to solicit the Christian vote. On the other end are the people who have dedicated their lives to God’s work through various ministries or by becoming missionaries.

In between there is a host of people, from many denominations, with priorities that they have chosen or have been imposed upon them. Their development toward God can stall at any point as they mature, resulting in a group that lacks uniformity with an inconsistent application of Jesus’ teachings.  Christians do not all develop their faith at the same rate or at the same time.  I expect there is a continuum of devotion or interest with most religious and secular groups.  We humans have the free-will to decide the extent to which we want to be involved.

My Relationship with God is of Little Importance

Many individuals were taken to church by their parent when they were children. As soon as they reached puberty and had more voice in their activities, church fell by the wayside. Another group views church attendance as a part of the expected festivities on religious holidays, similar to fireworks on Independence Day.

This group self-identifies as Christian, but is missing the regular reminders of what their relationship with God could be and what kind of people they need to be to have a relationship with God. As a result, they have less knowledge of what the Christian life entails. They are not guided by the Holy Spirit and are, therefore, more likely to provide a poor example to non-Christians.

Is Church Necessary?

It is possible to have a healthy relationship with God without Christian fellowship, but it requires much individual study of resources that you may not be aware of. Building your understanding and relationship with God can take years and not everyone has the inherent personality traits that allow the consistent prayer and dedication required. Church resources and the help of other Christians makes it easier.   If you are a person who wants to help others, such as the economically disadvantaged, service opportunities are generally already initiated by churches and you can just plug in to them or lead new ones.

Once a Week is Enough for Me

There is a group of people who attend church regularly because they started as children, were told it was the right thing to do, and it is now a habit. Some churches try to frightened parishioners into attendance and are successful in doing so, but the individual may regard it as a duty rather than an opportunity to grow in their faith. Yet others have so many commitments that church attendance once a week is all they can manage. The type of services to others, that Jesus asked his followers to embrace, is largely ignored.

The exception in this group, of course, are the folks who have served God during their earlier years, but no longer have adequate health to continue in an active way. They generally do their best to attend religious services regularly and contribute financially to support others in good works.

I’m Born Again

Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”  Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again. “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”  Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.  You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’  The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:1-8)

A ‘Born Again Christian’ is someone who has had a conversion experience. A person accepts Jesus Christ into their life and they are filled with the Holy Spirit. They may have already considered themselves a Christian or not. It may be a very quiet or a very charismatic episode, but it is always emotional. Afterwards, the individual is highly motivated to learn all they can about Jesus and God and they are ‘on fire’ to put their new found Spirit into active service.

Their heightened response to the experience may continue for a life time or it may resolve into a more internal dedication, depending on the personality. Some people may have a decline in interest, called ‘back sliding’, but this can reverse again at another time. Jesus compared being ‘born again of the Holy Spirit’ to the wind….it is difficult to explain and must be experienced.

Let Me Help

You see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith alone. (James 2:24)

Individuals who have developed a connection with God, no matter how strong it is, get involved in God’s work. Having received the Holy Spirit, they cannot help themselves…. they are compelled by God’s love from within to do so. Their contribution can be physical and/or financial.  It may be out of their own abundance or, as Jesus extoled, they may give all that they have. (Mark 12:41-44 see below). For those that can, the occasional mission trip may be part of their service to God and humanity. Local community needs are identified and church groups are organized to address those needs.

I want to Minister to Others Full Time

….to you who have been called by God to be his own holy people. He made you holy by means of Jesus Christ, just as he did for all people everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours. (1 Cor 1:2)

One hundred years ago a trained missionary moved to an area in the world where non-Christians lived and tried to convert them to Christianity. They were the administrators of evangelistic schools, hospitals and churches

People involved in missions today, sacrificially cross social, cultural and political boundaries to spread God’s love through service. They come from all walks of life and may receive many months of training which is broader based than a century ago. With the advent of cheaper airfares and the internet, medical, business, agricultural, and apostolic short term and long-term missions have proliferated. There is now an emphasis on working with a community to develop solutions to its needs and train it to maintain those solutions.

The ministers or pastors of churches are generally called by God to fill that role. Additionally, they must meet the educational and experience requirements of the church that is hiring. This could be very little or could include up to four years of college and two to three years of graduate school. This is a big decision, but because of their ability to sense God’s guidance, it is a decision they are confirmed in making.

Conclusion

Those who lump together all Christians, expecting them to meet the single perfect standard that Jesus encourages, are not aware of the continuum of spiritual development. The amount of time and effort one puts into reading spiritual texts and meditating on Christian values, which is invisible to non-Christians, is the determining factor in the level of Christian maturity that is achieved.

Each Christian may be the only Christ that some people will ever see and we must be vigilant to be the best role models we can be. It is possible with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Relevant Scripture

But the Comforter, which is the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatever I have said to you (John 14:26)

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watch the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, the poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth, but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on. (Mark 12:41-44)

Then Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38)

References

http://www.bu.edu/cgcm/files/2009/09/101015dldanarobertpaper.pdf

The Bible

 

name of Jesus

Who is Jesus? A Peek at the Unique /Spiritual Meditations

Hundreds of thousands of people ask this question every month. If you asked it, I’m going to assume that you have an interest in developing, or, at least, exploring your spiritual side.

Jesus is considered a prophet by Muslims.  The Jewish faith considers him a teacher at best.  Jesus said that his kingdom is not of this world, but is found in our hearts, souls and in heaven.  The Jews were expecting a Jewish ruler who would relieve their earthly persecution. Because he did not meet this expectation, Jesus is considered a false-messiah by many of them.

But Jesus is the central figure in Christianity creating a stronger connection between God and man.  There has been so much written about who he was that an exhaustive answer would be …. exhausting. So, I’ll just touch on a few important aspects from the Christian perspective, which provides the most in depth information. Even if you have had significant Christian experience, you will find some food for thought and maybe a surprise or two in this article.

What did Jesus do?

I posed this question to my friend, Pastor Nathan. In his opinion the following four acts performed by Jesus while walking this earth, were the most important. The vast majority of Christians would agree with the first two. There may be various opinions regarding numbers three and four, but Pastor Nathan’s reasoning is eye-opening.

Crucifixion

Jesus’ crucifixion is the most important thing that He did. He voluntary clung to the cross in death and took upon himself all of our sin and punishment fulfilling the role of the Hebrew Scriptures as scape goat.

Resurrection

Being resurrected is the second most important thing Jesus did. It is important because through His resurrection we are given the down payment on our own resurrection. His death consumed death, His resurrection restores and promises life. [This event is celebrated at Easter. ] A Bible reference for Jesus’ resurrection.

The Samaritan Woman at the Well

The next most important things Jesus did was to have a conversation with a Samaritan woman at a well.  [Samaritans were a people scorned and avoided by the Jewish community because their beliefs about God were somewhat different than the Jewish teachings. Because Jesus embodied God,] this conversation revealed the radical nature of God’s grace and inclusion in the salvation plan carried out by Jesus. This conversation paved the way toward the recognition that all people are offered the opportunity to recognize Jesus as the Messiah and it extended the ministry of Jesus beyond the Jewish people.

The Feeding of the 5000

When Jesus was teaching, huge crowds could gather and follow him. One of the stories documented in the Bible describes a day when 5000 men plus women and children gathered on a hillside to hear Jesus teach. After several hours it became clear that these people were hungry and had not carried food with them. A boy offered his lunch of fish and bread which Jesus multiplied to feed all the people there.

Feeding the five thousand was the fourth most important thing that Jesus did. This is because he demonstrated, in a significant way, the radical nature of God’s grace, mercy, and power. The number of people fed matters little other than that it was a lot. The nature of how they were fed, revealed who Jesus was, and that they were fed even though they could give nothing in return. This reveals the truth about God’s economy in this world and the next.

[Parentheses are mine]

Who was Jesus?

By reading one of the first four books (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) of the New Testament, you will learn about the miracles Jesus performed and how he went everywhere doing good.  He was helping, loving and encouraging to others. He was merciful and humble.

There are several names for Jesus found in the Bible. Because they usually contain information as to who Jesus was or thought to be, let’s take a look at some of them. This review is also useful as sometimes Jesus was written about, using one of these titles, without telling the reader that Jesus was being referred to.

“Emmanuel”

means “God with us” in Hebrew, which was the language that the Old Testament (OT) was originally written in. It refers to the idea that Jesus embodied God’s spirit when he walked this earth. In the NT (New Testament) it is found only once where it refers back to a passage {verse} in the book of Isaiah in the OT. (Matthew 1:23, Isaiah 7:14)

“Rabbi”

is a Jewish teacher or master. Used in several NT episodes but most often in the gospel of John.

“Lord”

is used over 700 times in the NT. It was a respectful form of address for one who was more than a teacher, closer to a rabbi.

“Christ”

means “anointed one” and was taken from the Greek language which is what the NT was originally written in. The idea was that Jesus was anointed (blessed/chosen) by God. In religious ceremonies of the time, a person could be anointed by having oil rubbed on them as a symbol of this blessing.

“Master”

is used only in Luke and seems to indicate a status just below Lord.

“The Word”

is found only in the gospel of John and Revelation, which was written by John. John indicated by its use that Jesus was eternal, existed before he walked the earth and was divine like God.

“Son of God”

is used many times in the NT. It was spoken by God as a voice from heaven in Mark 9:7 and affirmed by Jesus himself. This indication of family relationship with a deity was used for centuries by some political rulers and was adopted by the early Christians in reference to Jesus. The concept of Jesus as the Son of God has had a lasting impact on Christianity and is part of the basic beliefs of Christians.

“Son of Man”

appears many times in the gospels (first 4 books of the NT-Matthew, Mar, Luke, John) and is an affirmation of Jesus’ humanity in contrast to his divinity as indicated by the title Son of God.

“Son of David”

indicates ancestral lineage from King David to Jesus. This was important as Jewish teachers taught that their Messiah would be of the Davidic line and, therefore, one of the Jewish people. Jesus, the man,  was Jewish.

“Lamb of God”

is only in the book of John.  John the Baptist exclaims “behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world “ in John 1:29. The Jewish people sacrificed lambs and other animals at the temple as restitution for their sins. John the Baptist here predicted that the coming sacrifice of the sinless earthly life of Jesus, would compensate for all the sins of humanity, thus allowing forgiveness by God.

“Light of the World”

is only in the gospel of John where Jesus applies the title to himself. It indicates that the teachings of Jesus provide the pathway to the Truth and a relationship with God.

“King of the Jews”

is used on three occasions coming at the beginning of his life and at the end. In the account of the nativity in the Gospel of Matthew the wise men called Jesus “the King of the Jews”. All four Gospels mention that the “King of the Jews“ title led to charges against Jesus that resulted in his crucifixion. The title is used only by the Gentiles (non-Jews) mainly by the Magi (wise men), Pontius Pilot (who ordered Jesus’ crucifixion) and the Roman soldiers.

“Brother”

is one of my favorite titles. Jesus repeatedly referred to God as our Father and as his Father, making us all one family and highlighting the fact that the same Holy Spirit that filled Jesus is available to us and is waiting for us to realize it.

The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 8. 15-17,” For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of Sonship. And by him we cry “Abba, Father”. The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children then we are heirs – heirs of God and coheirs with Christ”.

Recognizing Our Gifts from God

So, why aren’t we experiencing all the great gifts, joy, harmony and love that an heir of God should expect? God’s gifts are there for the taking but we must develop spiritual consciousness to realize it. Joel Goldsmith gives some insight into how we can achieve this.

People ignorant of art may behold an oil painting done by a master and say that it is only daubs of paint on canvas. To them that is all it is and can ever be, they cannot appreciate it. Yet the person who has learned art appreciation goes into raptures over it. So it is with music. Some will hear a magnificently performed symphony and think that it sounds terrible, while others sitting beside them are in raptures. The difference is art appreciation and music appreciation. To appreciation art or music, we behold what those without it can never know.

When we have been touched by the Spirit, we have a “spiritual appreciation” which we call spiritual consciousness or spiritual awareness or spiritual discernment. With it, what has heretofore been unreal, ephemeral and transcendental becomes the reality. The heart and soul of our experience, of our entire lives, and the things of the outer world, become the shadows. Oh yes, we continue to eat and drink and sleep and enjoy, but the things of the outer world never move us or thrill us to the same extent as the things of the inner world that we now perceive.

You must realize that this God …is not external to you or separate and apart from you, but is your own selfhood, your soul, at the center of your being, which you call your Self, the Spirit that is of God, the God individualized as you, the Christ, son of God, who is heir of God, and with whom you are joint heir to all of the heavenly riches. As a child of God, you cannot be disinherited.

Today we may be a worm in the dust and feel unworthy to sit at His [God’s] feet. With a little spiritual enlightenment, we may come to the point where we say, “oh no! I am a Truth student and something higher than a worm in the dust”. Then a little more enlightenment comes, and we say, “I am the child of God”. That brings more enlightenment, and we say that “not only am I the child of God, but I am heir, joint heir with Christ to all the heavenly riches”. We seem to be growing now, but we are not. We are merely becoming more and more aware of what we already are, always have been, and always will be.

Jesus said the way is straight and narrow and few find it. Once we achieve spiritual freedom in Christ, we are challenged to maintain and sustain it in the world that we live in. But anything that can bring us better health, greater harmony, greater supply, or that can enable us to bring these freedoms to our family or friends is worth working and striving for.

With the study of spiritual writings, prayer and meditation,  and following the example of Jesus, it is possible for you to increase you “spiritual appreciation”.

Relevant Scripture

Hebrews 2. 11-13 We who have been made holy by Jesus, now have the same Father he has. That is why Jesus is not ashamed to call us his brothers. For he says in the book of Psalms, “I will talk to my brothers about God my Father, and together we will sing his praises.” At another time he said, “I will put my trust in God along with my brothers.” And at still another time, “See, here am I and the children God gave me.”

1 John 3 Tree of Life Version (TLV)  See how glorious a love the Father has given us, that we should be called God’s children—and so we are!

Gal 3.:26-27.  For now, we are all children of God through faith in Jesus Christ, and we who have been baptized into union with Christ are enveloped by him. We are no longer Jews or Greeks or slaves or free men or even merely men or women, but we are all the same—we are Christians; we are one in Christ Jesus.

Gal 4:6-7. And because we are his sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, so now we can rightly speak of God as our dear Father. Now we are no longer slaves but God’s own sons. And since we are his sons, everything he has belongs to us, for that is the way God planned.

References

The Bible-New International Version

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Names_and_titles_of_Jesus_in_the_New_Testament

Invisible Supply: Finding the Gifts of the Spirit Within by Joel S Goldsmith,  HarperSanFrancisco 1983

 

light rays

A Thought-Provoking Question That You Might Face-Spiritual Meditations

There are no statistics on how many people are given an opportunity to answer this important question. Some people know what their answer would be while others have not thought about it. If asked, another segment of the population will say it depends on their circumstances at the time. Where do you stand?

This is an experience told to me by a friend of a friend.

Roberta’s Near-Death Experience

It was November 6, 2006 when Roberta and her husband, Al, left Alaska to winter in Arizona for the fourth year. The nighttime flight landed in Phoenix in the early morning after which they had a 3-hour drive to their winter home.

Upon arriving, Al started turning on the utilities and preparing their home for occupancy. Roberta went inside and shortly thereafter experienced the worst headache she’d ever had. When he came inside, Roberta told Al about her headache and he suggested that she lay down. As she turned to do so she blacked out into his arms. As their phone was not yet connected, Al ran to the next-door neighbors to ask them to dial 911.

To the outside world, it looked like Roberta was unconscious, but, for Roberta, there was much more happening. She was drifting toward a light that gradually enveloped her. It was pure and peaceful like nothing she had experienced before. Roberta saw no one, no deceased family, no angels…she was totally alone but unconcerned. It then came to her mind that she had a decision to make. She was being given the choice between heaven and earth…between additional life in the world or eternal life in paradise.

Which would you choose? Would your health or financial situation cause you to select heaven? Or do you have family that you are not ready to leave? Is the prospect of paradise more enticing than your life on earth? Or do you have unfinished projects that you want to complete? This is a big decision that you may get to make, but probably only once…what would you do?

Roberta decided to spend more time with her family and she was immediately returned back in her home. As she was being lifted onto the stretcher, the medics asked what medications she was taking and, surprisingly, Roberta woke up long enough to tell them. This was her last memory until one month later when she awoke in the hospital, survivor of a bleeding brain aneurysm.

It wasn’t until her release and arrival outside her Arizona home that she realized the enormity of what had happened when a neighbor happily greeted her with “There’s our miracle!” Roberta had been a woman of faith but now she was a woman of knowledge. There is an afterlife.

Relevant Scripture

2 Corinthians 6:2 Living Bible (TLB)

For God says, “Your cry came to me at a favorable time, when the doors of welcome were wide open. I helped you on a day when salvation was being offered. Right now God is ready to welcome you. Today he is ready to save you.

 

boy in sleeveless T with hand at mouth brick background

A Shocking Number of Children are Vulnerable | Spiritual Meditations

“It takes a village to raise a child”. This African proverb means that an entire community of people must interact with children for them to experience and grow in a safe environment.  My friends, Amanda and Nathan, took this to heart….then didn’t think it was enough.

Convicted by Their Faith in Jesus

My wife, Amanda, and I have been reading, learning, thinking, and praying about the great need that children have for a loving home, a stable environment, security, and support. Our hearts break when we see children enter into our “spheres of existence” who lack these things.

After getting to know a number of people, in very personal ways, who became foster parents, we found ourselves naturally reading about it. All of this noticing, learning, and reading led us directly to praying about it. Praying, “Lord, please raise up enough stable families for these children. Please call people who are willing and able to love those who need to be loved…”.

We started moving in directions that would lead us to a more direct influence on the lives of the children we know. Through our participation in youth sports leagues, Amanda’s job move to pediatrics, kids we know through the church, and mentoring at the high school, we noticed even more need. We had started to do something about it.

Yet in our reading, learning, thinking, and praying, we still felt this wasn’t enough. After doing everything we could think of to be involved and give back to the lives of the children who need it, we were finally convinced and convicted that we were called to do something more.  We then arrived at the decision to become foster parents and are nearing the end of the process of certification now.

When I talk about active discipleship, I like to think I’m talking about something I’m endeavoring to live out. I’ll be honest, there are times I preach something and it is born more out of self-examination than experience. Yet this is a time when I see a clear parallel in my life, because my wife and I both view this calling to fostering as being connected to our journey as disciples of Jesus.

Following Jesus, to us, means caring for the most vulnerable, feeding others, providing clothing for those who cannot clothe themselves, and so on. Is there a more tangible sign that we believe these things to be true, than fostering children….the children who Jesus cares for a great deal?

Active discipleship, to me, means putting the beliefs and faith I have (about who Jesus is, who Jesus loves, and what the church should believe) into action in my life at home. I don’t always get it right (just the other day I apologized to someone for not being gracious), but sometimes I hope I do. And I believe this might be one of those times.

Fostering isn’t for everyone. Heck, after we care for a few children it might not even be for us. But we all have ways in which we can be more intentional about putting our faith into action, about living out our faith while “on mission” in the world. I encourage you to examine yourself and ask how you are living your life on mission or how you might start in some area.

What would it look like to put some component of what you’ve learned and believe about Jesus into action? You might be surprised where it leads you, and you might just change a little part of the world to look more like heaven.

Pastor Nathan

Orphans – a Worldwide Crisis

This is one busy family making a difference in the lives of several vulnerable children. “It takes a village to raise a child”, so there is room for all of us to contribute and our village has become worldwide.  The IHH Humanitarian and Social Research Center produced a lengthy report in June 2018 that is overwhelming in its scope and implication.  Here are a few excerpts:

Wars, invasions, conflicts etc. are all crises which lead to an increase in the number of orphans. Currently, the crises prevailing in Eastern Turkistan, Syria, Nigeria, Iraq, Somali, Mali, Sudan, Palestine, Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, Arakan, and Pattani leads to ever increasing numbers of orphans in these areas. Natural disasters also leave behind many orphans. The tsunami that hit South Asia, the earthquakes in Haiti and Pakistan, and the drought in East Africa, have all left millions of children orphans.

11 countries with most orphans

Children account for one of every three asylum seekers in Europe. In 2016, more than 63,000 unaccompanied children reached Europe.  Since the outbreak of the refugee crisis following the war in Syria, 480,000 children have crossed the border into Greece. 5,174 of these were not accompanied by any adults.  During these exhausting journeys, the children are exposed to many problems such as violence and sexual abuse, whereas the greatest danger is that posed by human traffickers. According to studies, tens of thousands of the children, who had arrived in Europe after overcoming such major obstacles, were lost.  96,465 of all the children who filed asylum applications in European countries in 2015 are now unaccounted for.

Approximately 33% of the people in question in Germany, the country hit hardest by the flow of refugees towards Europe, are children.  According to a report published in 2017, more than 350,000 children who applied for asylum in Germany are housed at unsafe locations while reviews are pending, and many may be exposed to physical, psychological and sexual violence during that uncertain period.

In the first half of 2016, approximately 26,000 children, who reached the border of the US, were found to be unaccompanied by any adults.  In the US, approximately 3 million children strive to maintain a life without parents. Each year approximately 22,000 babies in the US are abandoned in hospitals, while 2,000 to 3,000 kids are left as orphans due one of the parents killing the other. 60% of these kids are assigned to foster families as a result of exposure to domestic violence and abuse, while a further 17% are assigned to foster parents due to the death, imprisonment, disability or illness of the parents. These studies reveal that the children living under such conditions have difficulties in adapting to the society, and often face violence, abuse, and ill treatment sometimes at the hands of foster families. As with the case of any orphan, these children also have difficulties in many areas of life, such as education.

Today, 153 million orphans are registered around the globe. Yet, estimates of the actual figure range above 400 million. This is because it is impossible to get an accurate count of the children who live on the streets or who have been kidnapped or conscripted.

street traffick soldiers graph

The Magnitude of Child Abuse

A UN report published in 2014 on global child abuse states that one out of every 10 girls suffer sexual abuse.  (See also Generations of Women Endure Abuse)  The report is based on data from 190 countries, and notes that in 2012, 95,000 children and teenagers were murdered.

This is the leading reason of death of boys aged 10-19 in Latin American and Caribbean countries such as Brazil, Guatemala, Colombia, Panama, and Venezuela.

Reports produced by the UN again reveal that in 58 countries, 17% of children face severe physical punishments. Another noteworthy point raised in the report is the fact that three out of every 10 adults consider such punishment as a necessary element in raising a child.

child abuse stats

Conclusion

The numbers are overwhelming and make us feel helpless to make any improvement.  However, we are many and like the Butterfly Effect if we each make an effort to enhance the life of one child, it can result in a large difference overall.

The impact of child poverty, which is an alarming development for any country,  unfortunately, is usually permanent.  Consider the impact of many permanently damaged children, now adults, on our communities.  Like Nathan and Amanda, we can all do something to help grow healthy people.  If you are interested and unable to find a volunteer opportunity to make an impact in your community, please consider UNICEF.

Relevant Scripture:

1 John 3:18
Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.

2 Esdras 2:20
“Guard the rights of the widow, secure justice for the ward, give to the needy, defend the orphan, clothe the naked,

Matthew 10:42
“And if, as my representatives, you give even a cup of cold water to a little child, you will surely be rewarded.”

Matthew 18:10
“Beware that you don’t look down upon a single one of these little children. For I tell you that in heaven their angels have constant access to my Father.

Mark 9:37
“Anyone who welcomes a little child like this in my name is welcoming me, and anyone who welcomes me is welcoming my Father who sent me!”

statues of Christian Apostles on Roan building

15 Elusive Apostles Unlocked|Spiritual Meditations

More than historical names, the Apostles were real people with strengths and weaknesses, like you and me.

We often lump the first followers of Jesus into a group with few distinguishing characteristics. The Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles present the facts and it takes some deduction to find the story behind the faces. These were real people, who made up a tiny, vulnerable group, often persecuted, and on fire with the Holy Spirit, making missionary efforts in major city centers. “The Apostles were the cutting edge, spreading the message across the vast trade networks of the ancient world and leaving small Christian communities in their path. The reach of science is limited, so much remains inconclusive. We must rely largely on legend and historical accounts” (National Geographic March 2012).

Jesus chose 12 Apostles, possibly paying homage to the 12 tribes of Israel. On this list of great original evangelists, I am including Mark, Paul and Luke, who, although not part of the 12, made huge contributions to spreading Christ’s good news to all parts of the world.

Theologians, Bible scholars and historians can tell us a little about them as people. Unfortunately, there is very little documentation available about some of these inspired men. We must assume that those who are not fully represented had similar experiences to those whose activities are better documented.

Inquisitive Andrew

Andrew was the first disciple. Because he had an enquiring mind, he was actively looking for the truth.

He was a fisherman, like his brother Peter, with whom he lived in the area of Bethsaida and Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee. The two brothers were followers of John the Baptist and it was Andrew who introduced Peter to Jesus. They became Jesus’ first followers.

Andrew had a very different personality from his brother. He was less impulsive, more approachable, a man who thought quite deeply. He had educated Greek friends who respected his opinion. Some of them asked to meet Jesus, and Andrew introduced them to Jesus and his ideas. He may have been something of a quiet intellectual among the group of people who formed Jesus’ core supporters. Every time Andrew is mentioned as an individual, it is because he is bringing someone to Jesus.

After the events described in the book of Acts, he is never mentioned again. According to tradition, Andrew spread the teachings of Jesus Christ in Greece and perhaps the area adjacent to the Red Sea, now Georgia, Bulgaria and Ukraine. He suffered martyrdom in Achaia (Greece), and was there crucified on the X shaped cross, now called St Andrew cross.

Outspoken Peter

Jesus gave some of his disciples a second name – Simon the fisherman was also Peter, the rock. No other man in the New Testament bears the name Peter.

Peter was a married man with children.  Andrew, his brother, and Peter’s mother-in-law, as well as his children lived with him.  It as possible the Mark the Evangelist (author of the book of Mark) also lived with him for a time.

Most of us find Peter to be likable – he was outgoing, gregarious, transparent and enthusiastic. Most important of all, he loved Christ. And Simon could be anything but a rock. He wasn’t dependable. Without God’s Spirit, he often spoke or acted in a way that would be inappropriate. His actions belied an underlying insecurity in spite of his outward confidence. He could be audacious, presumptuous and foolish.

Because he was impulsive and strong-willed, his faults were obvious. That’s what enables us to clearly see the contrast in his personality after he received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Because of this, Peter’s example and writings are a great inspiration. Filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter was no longer self-centered and vain. He sought to do all to the glory of God.

Peter’s first recorded sermon is related in Acts 1:15-22. Already we see an added dimension of sobriety, maturity, wisdom and knowledge of Scripture. With his second sermon in Acts 2, we see a mighty preacher of the gospel giving a focused and powerful masterpiece of a sermon.

When Peter and John were arrested, they were inspired and fearless in their testimony because they were “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 4:8). The officers “saw the boldness of Peter and John” and marveled (verse 13).

Peter’s humility and loving-kindness are evident all through his two epistles, I Peter and II Peter.

He was the first to invite non-Jews to join the early church. With John, he went to Samaria where, with laying on of hands, the Holy Spirit fell on the Samarian believers. He also toured in Judea.

With the opening of the door to the Gentiles and the spread of Christianity, Peter receded in the Biblical narrative and was last mentioned in connection with the Jerusalem conference where he championed the liberty of the Gentiles. It appears that Peter traveled widely, taking his wife with him, doubtless in Jewish evangelism. Tradition uniformly asserts that Peter went to Rome, that he labored there, and then in his old age suffered martyrdom under Nero. New Testament reference to the closing years of Peters life is found in John 21:18-19. Tradition says that he was crucified on an upside down cross at his request, as he felt unworthy to be crucified in the same manner as Christ.

Peter spread the good news to modern-day Turkey, Betania on the West Bank, Italy and Asia

Practical Phillip

Like nearly all of the apostles, Philip came from Bethsaida in Galilee, the region in the northern Israel were Jesus‘ ministry was centered. He was a good friend of Andrew and Peter who lived in the same fishing village. It is almost certain that he was first a disciple of John the Baptist, because Jesus called him near Bethany on the Jordan River where John was preaching.

It appears from the Apostle John’s account of the Feeding of the Five Thousand, that Philip may have been in charge of the supplies and food, the road manager of sorts. He was the kind of guy who was practical, always thinking about the bottom line. And on this occasion, Jesus, trying to stretch Philip’s faith, posed a question to him as the crowd gathered:

“Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” (John 6:5). Philip responded, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little” (verse 7).

Philip didn’t do so well on that test. He didn’t have the most faith, but he was a follower of Jesus who was used by God.

Philip is known for bringing Gentiles to Jesus. His days after receiving the Holy Spirit at Pentecost are shrouded in legend and mystery, but the best tradition says that he did mission work in Asia Minor. The historian Eusebius says that he was a “great light of Asia” and that he was murdered, possibly by crucifixion, and buried in Hierapolis, which is in what is now South-Central Turkey.

Skeptical Bartholomew

Some believe he was also called Nathanael.

The one and only opportunity for Bartholomew to shine in scripture, comes in a very curious and intriguing passage found in John 1:43-51.

The following day Jesus wanted to go to Galilee, and He found Philip and said to him, “Follow Me” Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses told in the law, and also the prophets wrote–Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” And Nathanael said, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit.” Nathanael said to Him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered and said to Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And He said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

This passage is interesting for a variety of reasons. It reveals at least two important aspects of the apostle’s character–his relationships with other apostles, and his honest and sincere personality.

There is no further reference to him in the New Testament and the traditions concerning him are not trustworthy. He may have gone to Turkey, India and Armenia.

Ambitious James the Greater

It is thought that this James was called “the Greater”, to distinguish him from the other James, being either taller or older. His home was in Galilee, probably Bethsaida.

James he was a fisherman with his brother John and they may have been in partnership with Peter and Andrew early in the ministry of Jesus. They were the sons of Zebedee and Salome. Salome may have been Mary’s sister, making the sons cousins of Jesus.

From the reference to “hired servants” in the employee of Zebedee and the mention that Salome was one of the women who ministered to the needs of Jesus and his company, it may be inferred that the family was one of some means.

The Apostle James and his brother John were, in the beginning, hotheads. They received from Christ the name “Boanerges,” meaning “sons of thunder,” for their impetuosity. When they went with Jesus to a Samaritan city, they were spurned by the local residents and this angered James and John. They asked Jesus “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven and consume them” (Luke 9:54)? Jesus rebuked them for their attitude (Luke 9:55) and said “the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them” (Luke 9:56). This was not likely the only time that they lost their tempers.

Because of the ambitious self-seeking of James and John, they asking Jesus for a special place in his coming Kingdom, calling forth the wrath of the other apostles.

James occupied a prominent place among the apostles, and, with Peter and John, became a special confidant of Jesus. Only these three are present at the Transfiguration, at the agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, and when the daughter of Jairus was raised from the dead. He was also present when Jesus appeared to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias after His ascension.

James was the first of the disciples to die.  In the year 44, the zealous temper of James and his leading part in the Jewish Christian communities, probably led King Herod Agrippa to choose him as his first Christian victim in his attempt to please the Jewish community. James preached in Judea and was beheaded in Jerusalem, although, some believe that he preached in Spain and was buried there.

The book of James is not attributed to him.

John, Transformed

John was a fisherman and the son of Zebedee and Salome and brother to James the Apostle.

The fact that John knew the high priest well enough to gain entrance to the court where Jesus was tried and could also get permission for Peter to enter, further reinforces the thinking that the family made a comfortable living.

John is introduced as a disciple of John the Baptist. One day as he stood with Andrew and John the Baptist, he heard John say as Jesus walked by “behold the Lamb of God“. The two disciples immediately followed Jesus. That day changed their lives and was so memorable, that many years later when John the Greater wrote his gospel, he still remembered that it was about 4 o’clock in the afternoon.

During the course of the Lord’s ministry the experiences of John were common to all the apostles. There are, however, a few scenes in which he takes in important part. The Gospels makes it clear that he was one of the most prominent of the disciples. With the other two in the inner circle of the apostles, James and Peter, John was also chosen by Jesus to be present at the Transfiguration. They were nearest to Jesus during the agony in Gethsemane and the raising of Jairus’ daughter.

John had an explosive or fiery personality and could be over zealous to protect Jesus interest. Further, John and his brother offended the other Apostles because they and their mother asked Jesus if they could sit at His right and left hand in glory (cf. Mk 10:35-41).

However, John is known as the “Apostle of Love.” He really loved the church and always encouraged the brethren to love each other. John was brave enough to stand at the foot of the cross where Jesus was nailed, while all the other Apostles were still in hiding. John could also be trusted; he received Jesus’ commissioned from the cross to look after his (Jesus’) mother.

Five books of the New Testament are attributed John; the fourth gospel, three epistles, and Revelation. The only one in which he his name actually appears is the last.

Very likely the seven churches of Asia enjoyed his ministry. The book of Revelation was written on the small Greek isle of Patmos, where he was exiled for preaching the word of God as the testament of Jesus. Tradition says that he wrote his gospel in Asia at the request of Christian friends, and that he agreed to do so only after the church had fasted and prayed about the matter of three days.

It is evident from his Biblical writings that John was very aggressive in dealing with heresies in the church, while at the same time remaining very loving and gentle. He was a man who studied and knew the scriptures. Throughout his gospel he tells how Jesus fulfilled certain scriptures. In fact, John was so knowledgeable that he was able to call Jesus the “Word and the Word was God” (cf. John 1:1).

John was described as the “disciple whom Jesus loved”, no doubt because of his understanding of and love of his Lord. The defects of character with which he began his career as an Apostle –intolerance, and selfishness – were in the course of time brought under control, until he became especially known for his gentleness and kindly love.

John was a man of prayer. In his golden years, the historian Eusebius reports that John was still a mighty intercessor and he was considered a sacred priest devoted to God (Eusebius, 106, 107, 116, Roberson, 2).

John was the last survivor and died peacefully in Ephesus about year 100.

Matthew was Scorned

Since double names were common among the Jews, there can be little doubt that Levi and Matthew (meaning “Gift of God”) were one in the same person. He was the son of Alphaeus and as a tax collector, he would have been literate in Aramaic and Greek and skilled in record keeping and writing.

Jesus met him at the tax office in Capernaum and called him to be one of his disciples. Society was shocked when Jesus dined with Levi because he was a  tax collector, and therefore, an outcast. Under the Roman Empire’s system, Levi would have paid all the taxes in advance, and then collected from the citizens and travelers to reimburse himself. Tax collectors were notoriously corrupt because they extorted far and above what was owed, to ensure their personal profit. Because Roman soldiers enforced their decisions, no one dared object.

The readiness with which Levi responded to Jesus’ call seems to indicate that he had previously encountered Jesus and his teachings and had already decided to dedicate his life to his cause.

In addition, he must have been a man of deep spiritual conviction. This is revealed by his concern for his former colleagues, whom he invited to a dinner at his home, Jesus being the honored guest. No doubt, his purpose was to win these men to Christ.

Matthew seems to have accompanied Jesus in his ministry up to the time of the Last Supper. After Jesus’ death, Matthew retreated to the Galilee (Matt. 28:16), where he became one of the witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection. Later, he was among the apostles in Jerusalem said to be present at the Ascension and the election of another “Matthew” (Matthias) to replace Judas Iscariot among the Twelve (Acts 1:10-14).

The Gospel ascribed to him does not claim to be written by “Matthew,” but he has been characterized as its author since the second century. Modern scholarship now doubts that he was in fact the writer of this work.

It is thought that Matthew preached the Gospel to the Jewish community in Judea, before going to other countries – possibly Ethiopia, Persia, Macedonia, and Syria.

There is wide disagreement in the sources as to the place of Matthew’s martyrdom and the manner of his death, which is variously reported as being by burning, stoning, stabbing, or beheading. According to the historian Hippolytus, Matthew died at Hierees, a town of Parthia (near modern day Tehran in Iran)

Mysterious James the Lesser

The Bible reveals very little about James the Lesser – only that he is a son of Alphaeus. He is usually identified as the brother of Joses and son of Mary. Since Matthew/Levi is also called the son of Alpheus, it is possible that he and James were brothers.

There are only a few Biblical verses about James the Lesser and what he did for the early church. He was one of the Apostles who witnessed Christ’s resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:7), a confidante of Peter when he was on the run from Herod Agrippa (Acts 12:17), and later rose to prominence in the church along with the other apostles (Acts 15; 21:18; Galatians 2:9).

The writer of the epistle of James refers to himself only as “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.” As many as six different men in the Bible are named James and there is little consensus as to who wrote the book.

According to Roman historian Eusebius and Hippolytus, James became the bishop of Jerusalem and was killed by a Jewish mob. He was thrown down from a parapet and clubbed to death after he refused to abandon the Christian faith – all the time praying for his attackers. He was possibly buried beside the temple.

Matthias the Replacement

Peter wanted to maintain 12 disciples after Judas’ death and developed two qualifications that were necessary in the replacement. First, the new Apostle must be someone who had been a follower of Jesus from his Baptism to his Ascension. Second, it had to be someone who had witnessed Christ’s Resurrection. The choice came down to two men: Joseph, who was sometimes called “Joseph the Just,” and Matthias. Both men were qualified, so the disciples drew lots. This means that they made their decision by drawing or pulling a marked piece of straw or cloth from a bundle. Matthias was the winner. The Bible does not give us any information about him after his selection to the Twelve.

Nothing certain is known of his career or subsequent to his appointment. Various traditions have developed to fill in the details of the future ministry of Matthias. One says that he evangelized in Ethiopia, where he was stoned to death. Another says that Matthias traveled to Damascus and later died in Judea. A third tradition says that he spent most of his time in Jerusalem, where he eventually died and was buried.

Paul, Inspired Traveler

Paul was born in the busy first century Greco Roman city of Tarsus, which is located on the northeast corner of the Mediterranean Sea, now Turkey. Paul’s Hebrew name was Saul. The change to the Greek name Paul, was timely as he entered upon this position of leadership in bringing the gospel to the Gentile world. Providentially, three elements of the world’s life of that day-Greek culture, Roman citizenship, and Hebrew religion-met in this Apostle of the Gentiles.

Tarsus was a trading center, known for its manufacture of goats’ hair, and here Paul learned the trade of tent making.

His Gentile connections greatly aided his ability to bridge the chasm between the Gentiles and the Jews, but of central significance was his strong Jewish heritage. His racial affinity with the Jews enabled Paul to begin his missionary labors, in each city, at the synagogue. Born of parents of Jewish blood, the son of a Pharisee, he was cradled in Orthodox Judaism.

He made his first appearance as a “young man “, probably at least 30 years old and already an acknowledged leader in Judaism. He actively opposed Christianity making him an enthusiastic leader of the persecution that arose upon the death of Stephen.

At Damascus the transforming crisis occurred. Repeatedly he refers to it as the work of divine grace, transforming him and commissioning him as Christ messenger. When the supernatural Being identify himself as “Jesus persecuted“, Paul at once saw the error of his ways and surrendered instantaneously and completely.

In assembling an approximate chronology of the apostle’s labor, Ramsay calculated that Paul was converted around A.D. 34, and likely was executed at Rome about A.D. 67. If this dating is accurate, the apostle’s earthly life and labors spanned some thirty-three years.

Paul was a skilled traveler. In the December 1956 issue of the National Geographic Magazine, there appeared an article entitled, “In the Steps of Paul.” The authors, who did  considerable research on Paul’s travels, estimated that his missionary endeavors consumed some twelve thousand miles, some by ship on the Mediterranean Sea, and across the Aegean and Adriatic Seas. In addition, hundreds of miles were traversed by land. He visited approximately fifty cities in his evangelistic endeavors (McRay 2003, 11).

Yet within the thirteen epistles known to have been written by Paul, and penned over an era of maybe just under twenty years, there is no complaint of fatigue, no whimpering at the hardships, no disappointment expressed of having been “crucified with Christ,” or of wasted years, or lack of family, wealth, or fame—just adulation. There was the simple joy in serving his Lord, and for the blessed hope of life to come. Paul could not be budged from his resolute course.

map of the journeys of the apostle Paul

“Paul was an apostle to the Gentiles par excellence, so much so that the church became predominantly Gentile by the end of the first century” (Ferguson 2005, 37).

Paul had a basic understanding of himself as a sinner with all other human beings, and he accepted responsibility for his sins. Yet he was extraordinarily confident in three things:

  1. the importance of the work he was called to do,
  2. the benefit of the gospel to all those he approached, and
  3. the authorization that he had from God for his message.

This confidence came from two sources – from the scriptures, in which he believed completely, and from his personal encounter with Jesus in the road to Damascus. In addition, he did not hesitate to express himself in strong language when he felt strongly about a particular issue.

He was executed at Rome in late AD 66 or early 67. Tradition says he was beheaded on the Ostien Way.

Obscure Simon the Zealot

The most obscure of the Apostles, Simon was the son of Clopas, and was also called Jude. His title may be a reference to his political affiliation, although there are some translations which indicate the meaning of Zealot to be ‘jealous’ or ‘zealous’. Later accounts depict him as a missionary to Persia, where he was murdered; either crucified or sawed in half, but this is not definitive.

According to the historian Hippolytus, Simon the Zealot became the second bishop of Jerusalem, after James the Just. He died in his sleep and was buried in Jerusalem at the age of 120 years.

Little-Known Thaddaeus

Thaddeus was also known as Labbaeus or Jude. His name is included in only 2 of the 4 gospels lists of disciples.

We know that Thaddeus, like other disciples, preached the gospel in the years following the death of Jesus. Tradition holds that he did so in Judea, Samaria, Idumaea, Syria, Mesopotamia, and Libya, possibly alongside Simon the Zealot.

According to eastern tradition, he founded a church and converted the city of Edessa after healing its king. Church tradition holds that he was crucified there as a martyr. One legend suggests he died in Persia because he was executed by an ax or club and these weapons, typical in Persia at the time, are often shown in artworks depicting Thaddeus.

After his execution, his body may have been taken to Rome and placed in St. Peter’s Basilica, where his bones remain to this day, interred in the same tomb with the remains of Simon the Zealot.

Ancient historians agree that he died at Berytus (Lebanon, near Syria and Turkey), and was buried there. Armenians, however, for whom St. Jude is the patron saint, believe that Thaddeus’ remains are interred in an Armenian monastery.

Probing Thomas

The Apostle Thomas (Hebrew or Aramaic for “twin”) was also called “Didymus” (Greek for “twin”). Little is recorded of Thomas the Apostle. He was probably born in Galilee to a humble family, but there is no indication that he was a fisherman. He was a Jew, but there is no account of how he became an Apostle to Christ.

Thomas was courageous, willing to stand by Jesus in dangerous times. He also relentlessly sought the Truth; constantly asking questions. In addition, his wonderful profession, “My Lord and my God,” is the clearest declaration of Jesus’ divinity in Holy Scripture.

Famously, Thomas is remembered for being absent from the Upper Room the first time Jesus appeared to the disciples after His Resurrection. Thomas dismissed the accounts of the others by saying, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in His hands and put my finger into the nail marks, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe” (Luke 20:25). Eight days later Thomas made his act of faith. He fell at the feet of Jesus and said, “My Lord and my God!” and Jesus replied, “Because you have seen me, Thomas, you believed. Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet believe” (John 20:25-29). This incident gave rise to the expression “doubting Thomas.”

Thomas, Reluctant Missionary

According to the Acts of Thomas, one of the New Testament apocrypha written in the city of Edessa, the apostles divided the world for their missionary labors, and India fell to Thomas. However, Thomas claimed that he was not healthy enough and that a Hebrew could not teach Indians.  Even a vision of Christ could not change his mind. Therefore, Christ appeared to a merchant and sold Thomas to him as a slave for his master, a king who ruled over part of India.

One story suggests that Thomas offered to build a palace for the Indian king that would last forever. The king gave him money, which Thomas gave to the poor. Asked to show his progress, Thomas explained that the palace he was building was in heaven, not on earth.

Ultimately, after giving into God’s will, Thomas was freed from slavery and planted seeds for the new Church, forming many parishes and building many churches along the way.

Many historians believe that Thomas did indeed land on the palm-lined coast of Kerala on a site now called Cranganore. Here’s he is reported to have established seven churches – the first in AD 52.

Thomas is said to have raise the first cross in India and performed one of his earliest miracles when he encountered a group of Brahmins throwing water into the air as part of a ritual. He asked why the water fell back to earth if it was pleasing to their deity. “My God”, Thomas said, “would except such an offering”. He then flung a great spray into the air, and the droplets hung there in the form of glistening white blossoms. Most onlookers convert it on the spot, the rest fled.

Although, accounts of Thomas’ missionary activities are unreliable, the most widely accepted report holds that though he was reluctant to start the mission. he went east through what is now Syria then Iran. Historians believe he then traveled to Southern India. He traveled further than any of the other 12 Apostles and represents, most profoundly the missionary zeal associated with the rise of Christianity.

To this day,  Thomas is venerated as the Apostle of India. In fact, there exists a population of Christians on the western coast of India, who lay claim to conversion by Thomas. Their tradition holds that he was martyred during prayer by a spearing on the “Big Hill” near Madras, and was buried in Mylapore, on the east coast of India. Thomas’ remains may have been transported to Ortona, Italy, although some say he is still buried in Inda.

The following two famous authors, although not generally considered to be Apostles,  were disciples of Christ, and instrumental in broadcasting the Good News.  They cannot be omitted from any list of original Christian evangelists.

Mark, First Gospel Author

One of Christ’s 70 disciples, his original name was John and his surname was Mark. He was mentored by Peter, who was his likely source for writing the second gospel-the Book of Mark.

Mark was born in Cyrene of Jewish parents, near the western border of Egypt and his date of birth is unknown.  His parents, Aristopolos his father and Mary his mother, migrated to Palestine shortly after his birth because of the Berber attacks on their town and property. They settled in Cana of Galilee not far from Jerusalem.

A few years later Mark’s father died and Simon Peter, who was married to a relative of Mark’s father took care of Mark and considered him a son. Peter saw to it that St. Mark got a good education, studying law and the classics.

Church Traditions state that Mary, Mark’s mother, was an admirer of Jesus Christ and followed Him everywhere and that Mark was one of the attendants who served at the feast in Cana of Galilee where Jesus turned the water into wine.

Mark traveled with Barnabas and Paul on many religious missions, during which he founded the Church of Alexandria Egypt and established the Coptic faith. He died circa 68 A.D. in Alexandria. In the 9th century, some of his relics were relocated to Venice Italy where he had been adopted as their patron saint.

Luke, Loyal Companion

Many scholars believe that Luke was a Greek physician who lived in the Greek city of Antioch, Turkey. Other believe that, based on Colossians 4:10–11, 14, Luke may have been a Gentile.

A gentle physician who joined Paul‘s mission, Luke chronicled the development of the early church in the third gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. He, therefore, contributed over a quarter of the text of the New Testament.

In Acts, Luke wrote in both the first and third person, indicating that he may have lived in Troas and was in the company of Paul when Paul was in Troas. The composition of the writings, as well as the range of vocabulary used, indicate that the author was an educated man

Based on his accurate description of towns, cities and islands, as well as correctly naming various official titles, archaeologist Sir William Ramsay wrote that “Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy… [he] should be placed along with the very greatest of historians.” Professor of Classics at Auckland University, E.M. Blaiklock,

Luke followed Paul until his [Paul’s] martyrdom. In II Timothy 4, Paul wrote that Luke alone remains with him as he sat in prison awaiting his execution.

Luke was an evangelist, a historian, a physician, a pastor, a missionary, a companion, a brother, and a theologian. Christian tradition, starting from the 8th century, states that he was also the first icon painter. He did not write a gospel for fame or recognition, which is why he does not mention his own name in either of the books he wrote. His goal in writing a gospel was to document the exact truth concerning Jesus Christ and the plan of salvation.

Luke died at age 84 in Boeotia Greece. His tomb was located in Thebes Greece, from which his relics were transferred to Constantinople, modern day Istanbul Turkey, in the year 357.

map of mediterranean Click here to see how Christianity spread during the first 1000 years.

IT IS SO COOL.  There is a second video that covers the 2nd 1000 years at the same site.  FASCINATING.

You can skip the ad.

Conclusion

The original Christian evangelists were a brave group, each with his unique set of strength and weaknesses. Although God assisted them in their endeavors, most endured arduous travel conditions and they all endured constant persecution. They would have missed their families, due to travel that could last for years. The dangers of the road required that they evangelize in pairs so their travel companions and converts became the closest thing they had to family. Although, inspired and motivated with the joy of the Holy Spirit, they deserve our greatest admiration and gratitude for the sacrifices they made.

If you are aware of additional information regarding the personal lives of the Apostles, please let me know and refer me to your reference.  I’m interested.

References:

The Coptic Orthodox Church Network (http://www.copticchurch.net/topics/synexarion/mark.html)

St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church (http://www.stapostle.org/st-thomas-church-parish-history/saint-thomas-biography/)

Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/)

Crosswalk.com (https://www.crosswalk.com/faith/bible-study/5-things-to-know-about-luke-from-the-bible.html)

National Geographic March 2012 edition

Pictorial Bible Dictionary, Southwestern Company

The Bible

St Paul by Litsa Hadjifoti, Michael Toubis Publications

Holy Spirit Dove

Become an Insider on the Holy Spirit Controversy | Spiritual Meditations

If you have reached this article because of your search criteria, you are one of thousands of people who ask the questions every month:

 Who or What is the Holy Spirit

And it is no wonder there is uncertainly when there are so many possible interpretations of scripture.  Even people, who have experienced the Holy Spirit first hand, would have difficulty providing a satisfactory answer to someone who has not experienced the Spirit. 

In my attempt to provide some understanding, I’ll tell you that the references to the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament are generally related to the words and actions of the prophets. In the New Testament, Jesus is the prime example of someone totally filled by God’s Holy Spirit as is evidenced by the many miracles he performed and wisdom he conveyed. 

The big event that made the Holy Spirit available for the rest of us took place as follows:

Jesus prepares His followers to Receive the Holy Spirit  

In A.D. 31, Jesus told His disciples what was soon to occur. At the Passover ceremony, which took place on the evening before His crucifixion, Jesus explained that He would ask God to give His followers another “Helper, … the Spirit of truth,” to dwell with them and be in them (John 14:16-17).

After spending three days and three nights in the grave, just as He had predicted (Matthew 12:40), Jesus miraculously rose from the dead and met with His disciples in Jerusalem and Galilee (Matthew 26:32; 28:7) before the Jewish holiday of Pentecost.

“And being assembled together with them, He [Jesus] commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, ‘which,’ He said, ‘you heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now’” (Acts 1:4-5).

He went on to tell them something they could not have fully comprehended at the time: “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth”

As instructed, the disciples went to Jerusalem to wait for this promised power that would give them the courage and commitment to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God to the world (Matthew 24:14). Within a matter of days, the gift of the Holy Spirit arrived

The Holy Spirit Comes to the Jesus’ Followers

The way the Holy Spirit came was spectacular and stunning! Along with the sound of a mighty wind, flames of fire appeared on the heads of all the believers who then, inexplicably, started speaking in other languages (Acts 2:2-4).

As multitudes of people from many countries began flowing to this scene, they, too, were caught up in the miracle—everyone understanding in his or her own native language the words being spoken. Who could deny this proof that the Holy Spirit now resided within the followers of Christ? They truly had received a power they had never previously possessed.  Their understanding of the Holy Spirit was exactly what Christ had said—it was indeed the power of God that would be used to tell the world His true nature.

Thank you to David Treybig for such a succinct rundown of the events.

The Holy Spirit Today

The Holy Spirit today is still the motivating force behind telling others what Jesus Christ taught us about God.  However, there are many other benefits that provide a better life to those who live with God’s infinite and invisible spirit.  We feel God’s love for us and want to share it with others.  His spirit opens our heart and minds so that He can work through us, speaking directly to our hearts and giving us courage to follow his guidance.  God’s spirit directs our prayers and shows us how to meet the needs of others as well as ourselves.  It is our teacher and reminds us of Jesus’ teachings.  It is our comforting counselor and gives us peace.

The Gifts of the Spirit

Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.  And there are diversities of ministrations, and the same Lord.  And there are diversities of workings, but the same God, who worketh all things in all.  But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit to profit withal. [As an example] For to one is given the Spirit the word of wisdom; and to another the word of knowledge, according to the same Spirit:  to another faith, in the same Spirit; and to another gifts of healings, in the one Spirit;  and to another workings of miracles; and to another prophecy; and to another discernings of spirits: to another divers kinds of tongues; and to another the interpretation of tongues:  but all these worketh the one and the same Spirit, dividing to each one severally even as he will.  (1 Corinthians 12:4-11)  Brackets are mine for clarification based on the following verses. 

What does it Mean to Receive the Holy Spirit

Jesus taught that we must be born again to enter into the kingdom of heaven.  He clarified this by saying that we must be born of the water (Baptism) and the Spiriit.

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. (Acts 2:38)

The first step to receiving the Holy Spirit is to make sure that your motives are right and pure with the Lord.  You have to really want this gift because you want to be able to enter into a much deeper, personal relationship with God – and you will need His power and anointing to flow through you so that you can fully accomplish whatever His divine destiny is going to be for your life.

God will be able to read  your thoughts and motives. If you are not sincere with Him as to why you really wanting this gift, or you are seeking after this gift for all of the wrong reasons, God will know and withhold this gift from you until you can come to Him with the right reasons and the right motives.

Once you realize what this gift entails and that you will have to be willing to fully surrender to whatever God’s perfect plan and destiny is going to be for your life – then the next step is to take that big leap of faith and fully surrender body, mind and soul to God the Father.

Then just ask God.  “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” (Luke 11:13)

Controversies Regarding the Holy Spirit

Is the Holy Spirit a Person?

Holy Spirit as a Separate Entity

There is some controversy as to whether the Holy Spirit is a separate entity from God.  Those who believe so, generally site the anthropomorphic qualities described in the Bible as proof of this. 

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association points out that In John chapters 14, 15, and 16, Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit as “He”.  They also state that the Holy Spirit, as the third Person of the Holy Trinity, is made clear by His inclusion with the Father and the Son in such Bible passages as Matthew 28:19.  Here the apostles are commanded to baptize those who receive the Gospel “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

However, other Biblical verses indicate that the Holy Spirit is God’s power in the world.  Still other verses can be interpreted either way.

Holy Spirit as the Power of God

Jesus began His ministry “in the power of the Spirit” (Luke 4:14).  Peter relates that “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power” (Acts 10).   Likewise, Jesus worked through the apostle Paul “in mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God” (Romans 15)

Again and again the Scriptures depict the Holy Spirit as the power of God, the mind or spirit of God and the very essence and the life force through which the Father begets human beings as His spiritual children.

Paul wrote that God’s plan for humanity had been “revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets” (Ephesians 3) and that his own teachings were inspired by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:13 ). Paul further explains that it is through His Spirit that God has revealed to true Christians the things He has prepared for those who love Him (1 Corinthians 2). Working through the Spirit, God the Father is the revealer of truth to those who serve Him.

Jesus told His followers that the Holy Spirit, which the Father would send, “will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (John 14) It is through God’s Spirit within us that we gain spiritual insight and understanding. Indeed, we come to receive the very “mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2), also referred to as the “mind of the Spirit” (Romans 8).

The Father imparts the same Spirit to true Christians through Jesus Christ (John 14), leading and enabling them to be His children and “partakers of the divine nature” (Romans 8).

Impersonal Attributes of the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is spoken of in many ways that demonstrate that it is not a divine person. For example, it is referred to as a gift (Acts 10) that God gives without limit (John 3). We are told that the Holy Spirit can be quenched (1 Thessalonians 5), that it can be poured out on people (Acts 2:17), and that we are baptized with it (Matthew 3).

People can drink of it (John 7:37), partake of it (Hebrews 6) and be filled with it (Acts 2).  The Holy Spirit also renews us (Titus 3) and must be stirred up within us (2 Timothy 1). These impersonal characteristics are certainly not attributes of a person.

The Spirit is also described by other designations—”the Holy Spirit of promise,” “the guarantee of our inheritance” and “the spirit of wisdom and revelation” (Ephesians 1:13)-that show it is not a person.

In contrast to God the Father and Jesus Christ, who are consistently compared to human beings in Their form and shape, the Holy Spirit is frequently represented, by various symbols and manifestations, in a completely different manner—such as breath (John 20), wind (Acts 2),  water (John 4), oil (Psalms 45), a dove (Matthew 3) and an “earnest,” or down payment, on eternal life (2 Corinthians 1).

These depictions are difficult to understand if the Holy Spirit is a person. 

[includes excerpts from Bible Study Tools.]

The Development of the Trinity

One can hardly discuss the Holy Spirit without discussing it’s inclusion in the Trinity.   Why question whether the Holy Spirit is a person unless possibly to justify a trinity?  Where did this concept originate?

There is no trinitarian doctrine explicitly taught in the Old or New Testament. However, many Christian theologians, apologists, and philosophers hold that the doctrine can be inferred from what the New Testament does teach about God.

David Treybig tell us that “In the centuries that followed the Pentacostal experience, most people discarded the earliest Christians’ clear understanding of the Holy Spirit in favor of an evolving, humanly devised definition of the Godhead.

According to that new theory, now well-known as “the Trinity,” the Holy Spirit was elevated to be a coequal member of the Godhead….the Holy Spirit, God the Father, and Jesus Christ were now seen as three distinct entities that together comprised one triune God.

[It is theorized that] theologians had devised the idea of the Trinity to combat polytheism—the belief in many gods—and after long debate had finally come to a general agreement that this explanation of God should be a central tenet of Christianity.”  Brackets are mine

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy indicates that “the many thinkers influential in the development of trinitarian doctrines were steeped in the thought of Greek philosophy (Hanson 1988, 856–869). Those developing the doctrine saw themselves as trying to build a systematic Christian theology on the Bible while remaining faithful to earlier post-biblical tradition. Many also aimed to show Christianity as consistent with the best of Greek philosophy” where the number three is seen again and again.

Paul J. Pastor suggests that Christians are forced to retain two equal and (seemingly) opposing truths; the God that is utterly and infinitely beyond creation with blazing uncovered glory; and the God that indwells our souls and sustains our lives. He suggests that a separate Holy Spirit entity helps us more clearly define and understand this dichotomy.    

Biblical Definition Discarded

David Treybig goes on to say that “In spite of the theory’s nonbiblical and mysterious, logic-defying elements (how can three individual beings be only one being?), this man-made philosophy is today firmly entrenched in mainstream Christianity. In fact, most churches now consider adherence to the Trinity doctrine the litmus test for determining whether or not one is indeed a Christian.

But bothersome questions arise from this. For example, did theologians have the right to reject the understanding of the Holy Spirit that was held by first-century Christians—the people who actually experienced the miracle of that special Pentecost? And why don’t we give greater consideration to the understanding God gave those with the firsthand experience?”

The Biblical Definition

The Biblical teaching only shows a Godhead consisting of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is described and respected as the power of God, but is nowhere defined as a separate being.

Toward the end of the first century, Jude admonished the Church to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). “This faith, including its explanation of the Holy Spirit,” Treybig says, “provides the only biblically defensible definition of the Holy Spirit.

The first-century Christians clearly understood the Holy Spirit was the power of God. Through the power of His Spirit, God comforted them through trials, assisted them in learning the truth, identified them as Christians and offered them the promise of eternal life. But we find no evidence that the Christians considered the Holy Spirit to be a separate member of the Godhead.”

As for the Godhead, Paul succinctly noted the teaching that God had given him and his first-century brethren: “For us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live” (1 Corinthians 8:6). No mention of the Holy Spirit.

Conclusion

Whether you believe the Holy Spirit is a separate entity from God or God’s spirit existing in the world, it makes little difference in how you build your relationship with God.  Different people may explain the Holy Spirit in different terms depending on their view point as discussed above.  However, no matter what their belief on the subject, the Holy Spirit is always there guiding us, comforting us, protecting us and pushing us into Christian action. 

Paul J. Pastor expressed it beautifully when he said “Without the Holy Spirit we lose the capacity for seeing the wonder and wisdom of God in places where we commonly overlook it. We lose the chance for God’s closeness in the world to give holy quiet shape to our inner lives.”

How the Holy Ghost Became the Holy Spirit?

I’ve been asked about this and whether it had any spiritual implications, so as an interesting aside, this is the explanation given by the Zenit Daily Dispatch – a Catholic publication.

Both Holy Ghost and Holy Spirit were used well before the 20th century,

The word ghost is of Germanic origin and comes from Old English gast, meaning soul, life, breath, good or bad spirit, angel or demon. Christian texts in Old English use gast to translate the Latin Spiritus from where we get Holy Ghost. The more modern sense of a disembodied dead person is first attested in the late 14th century but remained quite rare

Spirit comes to English from Latin through French and also means souls, courage, vigor, breath.  Spirit, in the sense of a supernatural being, is found from the 13th century.

Practically all recent translations of the Bible, both Protestant and Catholic, have preferred Holy Spirit in most instances. The reason is probably because the meaning of the word ghost has gradually shifted over the last 300 years and now predominantly refers to the vision of the specter of a deceased person or a demonic apparition.

It must also be remembered that in literature the popularity of the “ghost story” had enjoyed an enormous boom from the mid-19th century on, a popularity compounded by the advent of the cinema and television.

All of this probably led translators to the conclusion that the meaning of the word Ghost had been so transformed and stereotyped that continuing to apply it to refer to the Divine Person was more likely to lead to confusion than would the alternative expression Holy Spirit.

Relevant Scripture

Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost. (1 Cor 12:3)

 

 

womans face with many thoughts circling her

Transcending Mind | Spiritual Meditations

A revelation from God always comes as somewhat of a shock, not only to the person who receives the revelation, but also to those with whom it is shared. It is the nature of revelation to be shocking and startling because when it hits up against our cherished beliefs, we become conscious of the degree to which our minds have been conditioned by the opinions and theories current in human thinking, and suddenly realize the extent of our unenlightenment.

The Strength of God Consciousness

It is not long ago that the majority of people lived a wholly materialistic life, believing that the only real things of life were the material ones and the only real power a physical power. Into that world was introduced the idea that there is a world of mind and mind power, and this so permeated consciousness that the focus of attention was shifted from the material to the mental.

Had it not been for God’s revelation, I, too, would have lived out my life in the world of mind, never realizing that the world of mind power is as illusory as that of material power. But one day a message came to me that mind is not power, that thought is not power. This was a shock to me, steeped as I had been in the teaching that “right thinking“ could solve all my problems.

What was revealed to me was that the only strength there is, is in union with God, and that is an infinity of strength. Union of the human variety changes with the change in an unstable world. If we have learned nothing else through the centuries of wars, we have learned how fleeting is power. And with all the covenants that have been made – all the treaties and other international agreements – there has been no lasting strength.

Strength is in conscious union with God and in a realization of the true nature of spiritual power. When we have that realization, one with God becomes a majority. One individual having the spiritual understanding of the nature of God can becomes a law of harmony, health, and supply for thousands and thousands of people all over the world. That is where the strength is – in union with God.

The Freedom of God Consciousness

The only way that you can be free is to know God — mentally and spiritually free. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty“ – that is where liberty is; that is where real freedom is, where strength is.
For centuries country after country has been seeking its freedom. Many a country has temporarily found what it thought was freedom only to find itself enslaved later on by something more powerful than that from which it had broken away.

It is not possible to get free from anything. This is a hard saying, bitter in the mouth and even more bitter in the belly. There are thousands of people trying to free themselves from husbands or wives, thinking that when that particular freedom is gained, their lot is going to be a better one. Sometimes it is, temporarily. But even if it is, it is only a human solution, not permanent and real, because no one ever gets free from anything. To become free from one thing is to become attached to another thing. The only complete freedom is a freedom in Christ.

The Harmony of God Consciousness

Peace, happiness, safety, and security can only be found in the realization of God, which brings a release from fear of what man can do, or from circumstances or conditions.

Harmony is found, not by exchanging one condition of bondage for another, but by coming out from under the law and living under that Grace which is the gift of God. For a while, unfortunately, there remains the thousand on our left and the 10,000 on our right who will not accept the grace of God [Psalm 91:7-16 see below] and who brought forth from the Master [Jesus Christ] his sorrowful, “Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem… How often would I have gathered your children together, even as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and you would not “ [Matthew 23:37 see below].

This is the one remaining sorrow after we have attained our own freedom, the sorrow of looking at our parents, children, sisters, or brothers, or husband or wife, or fellow countrymen, and thinking, “why can’t you except the thing that I have found?”. But the longer we are on this spiritual path the easier it will be for us to understand that it is not possible for anyone to embrace Truth except in proportion to his readiness for it.

Your Readiness for God Consciousness

Sometimes the readiness comes only because of the futility and frustration that has gone before. Every sin, every disease, and every lack that has ever touched our lives has been a necessary part of our entire experience without which we would not have been made ready or prepared to receive the unfoldment of a truly spiritual message.

I say this knowing that some of us have been down into the very depths where sin, disease, and lack are greatest, while others have had very little with which to contend. Yet whatever the degree or the severity of the problem each one has had, it is perhaps the degree that each one has needed. Some cannot go up to the heights of spiritual vision until they have gone all the way down physically, mentally, morally, or financially. Some have had to go only halfway down, and some probably much less than that; but whatever depths you and I have known, that was the experience necessary for us to reach the heights.

Absorbing Principles to Reach God Consciousness

To reach greater God consciousness, you must realize what the principles are and then take them into your heart and mind and soul and body, living with them, moving and having your being in them, with them, and through them, until they become demonstratable principles within you.

Then you become the light of the world, a world which may be bound only by your immediate family or community, or which may be one so vast in it’s scope that it includes the entire globe. No two will be led in the same way; no two will evolve in the same manner. It all depends upon the degree of your individual unfoldment.

There is an inner grace that does not operate through, or by, physical might or mental powers. It is a grace of which most people are unaware. it is the God within that gives us understanding of the truth….the principles of which can be found in the New Testament.

The materialistic state of consciousness must yield and surrender itself to the transcendental consciousness and take over the mind, body, and every day experience of your life. This change of consciousness can take place in any person who abides in the Word. Such a change must take place within a person before he will find it possible to live by the I-say-unto-you of the Sermon on the Mount. (Matthew 5:21-48)

Transcending Mind to Reach God Consciousness

The body is an instrument used for the activity of life by the mind. The mind is an instrument of something higher than itself and that something is ones Inner Self or Soul. When we come to the point where the mind is governed by the Self, we will be embraced in a peace that passes understanding.

Then we do not control the body or the mind, but the activity of Truth in our consciousness, of which we become aware through the mind, keeps the mind clear, clean, harmonious, and vital; and it in its turn manages, controls, and governs the body, acting as the purifying agent of both mind and body.

A mind filled with evil thoughts – fear, hate, injustice, lust, or malice – must appear outwardly as inharmonious and in discord; whereas the mind filled with good thoughts – clarity, purity, benevolence, or cooperation – will appear outwardly as the good life. That is the karmic law as taught in Scripture: “whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap” [Galatians 6:7].

The mind in it’s unilluminated state, filled with materialistic beliefs, theories, opinions, doctrines, and creeds can only manifest it’s own state of chaos; but a mind freed of these beliefs becomes the instrument through which the creative Principle of life can flow as harmonious and eternal form.

We rarely see what is before us. Everything that we observe in the world, we see through the eyes of our background – our parents attitudes towards life, or racial and religious roots, our national heritage, our early environment, our education, and then later the experiences that we garner after leaving school.  This is the mind that must be transcended.

The Mind Aware of God’s Presence

In the human scene the mind is creative, It can create good and it can create evil – and does. In a spiritual sense, however, the mind is not a creative faculty but an avenue of awareness.

The whole secret lies in making the transition from a thinking, plotting, planning, scheming mind to a mind at rest in a state of awareness, through which divine ideas come flow.

If we dwell with spiritual truth in our consciousness, none of the evils of this world will come nigh our dwelling place because the truth entertained in consciousness takes over and begins to live our lives.

When living in an atmosphere of spiritual wisdom and feeding our consciousness with truth, there comes a moment when the Truth takes over the mind, and then no longer is it necessary to fill the mind with truth. From then on, the flow is the other way. It is not we who are thinking truth, remembering, declaring, or meditating on truth: it is Truth using our mind for its expression, always using us, always flowing through us. The mind is an instrument of awareness through which God communicates and acts.

Read examples in the category of Spiritual Experiences.

An awareness of God’s presence takes us time and dedication to study and internalization of Principles of Truth through prayer and meditation.

The thoughts and most of the words in this post are excerpts from Joel S Goldsmith’s book The Thunder of Silence. Years ago, I was urged by God to pick up and read one of Mr. Goldsmith’s books; Practicing the Presence. I was so captured and inspired by his experience that I have since read several of his books several times and have been rewarded with a closer relationship with God. This is why I want to share a small portion of his writing with you.  There are links to two of Goldsmith’s lectures in Videos.

As I practice the Presence, more and more of Mr. Goldsmith’s precepts have become understandable. Although a couple of them are still incomprehensible to me, I think that by continuing his suggested method of meditating on New Testament Principles and inspirational phrases, the obscure portions may someday become clear.

Relevant Scripture

A thousand may fall at your side and ten thousand at your right hand, but it shall not come near you. Only with your eyes shall you look and see the reward of the wicked. Because you have made the Lord….your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you. Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling place. Psalm 91:7-10

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those sent to her, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were unwilling!  Matthew 23:37

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  2 Corinthians 3:17

 

 

a question mark formed of clouds over the ocean and in a clear blue sky

What is Heaven? | Spiritual Meditations

80% of Americans believe in heaven and most expect to go there when they die. When considering your forever home it is important to know more about it. After all, if you’re wrong about heaven, you’re going to be wrong for a very long time.

Although there are well documented near-death experiences, we have only one known experience of someone being in heaven and then on earth.   His words are recorded in the New Testament Gospels of the Bible. The only information that we have about heaven is revealed in the Bible,  but it doesn’t tell us all that we are curious about.  Some questions require us to make deductions based on those words. Everything else is just speculation.

What Does Heaven Look Like?

What the Old Testament Says About Heaven

The Old Testament says very little about heaven. It says that God lives there, has a throne and that heaven it situated above the clouds.

The greatest Old Testament prophet, Isaiah  describes heaven as a place with many pastures, where hunger and thirst do not exist and the desert heat and sun will not beat upon us. This would be sheer heaven for the people of that time.

Although there are many societies today which would welcome these very things, the societies in first world countries are more likely to envision heaven as a place where they have time for hobbies, get daily food delivery, and have a swimming pool.

The point is;  Life (or afterlife) is good.

The New Testament says a bit more.

What the New Testament Say about Heaven

In the gospels of Matthew and Mark, Jesus tells the disciples that he will be in heaven, sitting at God’s right.  He tells them they will have a place to live in heaven.

Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am (John 14:1-3).

Other New Testament books tell us that heaven is a paradise built by God in which an eternal residence has been prepared for the righteous. There will be better and more enduring goods than what we experience on earth. Heaven will be a place of rest, from which the wicked will be excluded. And there will be innumerable angels.

Heaven Will be Better Than We Can Imagine

I love the old story of the rich man who, on his death-bed, negotiated with God to allow him to bring his earthly treasures with him when he came to heaven. God’s reaction was that this was a most unusual request, but since this man had been exceptionally faithful, permission was granted to bring along just one suitcase. The time arrived, the man presented himself at the pearly gates, suitcase in hand…. BOTH hands, actually, since he had stuffed it with as many bars of gold bullion as would fit. St. Peter said, “Sorry, you know the rules-you can’t take it with you.” But the man protested, “God said I could … one suitcase.” St. Peter checked, found out that this man would be an exception, prepared to let the him enter, then said, “OK, but I will have to examine the contents before you pass.” He took the suitcase, opened it, saw the gold bars and asked quizzically, “You brought PAVEMENT?”  [Note: This story is from the sermon “Heaven” by Dr. David Leininger, March 30, 1997]

I couldn’t resist sharing that.  The idea of streets made of gold is written about in Revelation.

The Revelation

The Apostle John tells of his vision of an apocalypse while he was in a “mystical trance”.  Near the end, he gives a brief description of heaven.

He tells of a place where there is no sun or moon. There is no darkness as God’s glory provides light at all times. The city of God is made of gold, precious stones and pearls. There is a crystal clear river of water and the tree of life, which bears 12 kinds of fruit. The leaves of this tree have healing properties.

The gates to heaven are never closed. Heaven will be inhabited by the glorious and honorable people from every nation and they will all wear white robes. Heaven will contain no lies, abominations or anything that defiles it. John also says that God’s servants will see His face.

But think twice before formulating your image of heaven based on the book of Revelation alone.

Nearly every religion has it’s concept of an apocalypse and this was John’s from his perspective based on the political and religious situation at the time he wrote it.  His imagery was drawn from portions of Jewish writings in the Old Testament books of Amos, Micah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Joel and Zachariah, and occasionally from Persian pagan culture.

S. MacLean Gilmore, a Bible commentator, gives an example of how events current at the time of John’s writing found their way into the account of his vision:

“Every tribe, tongue, people and nation” is indicative of the multicultural church of John’s day and, in heaven, the church triumphant – those who remained loyal despite the pressures of persecution and threats of death. The white robes may indicate the martyrs.”

“As an apocalypse, Revelation is concerned with the events of it’s own time and with those that it’s author expects to take place in the immediate future. We can relate it to the historical and religious situation in the Roman Empire….toward the end of the 1st century. [It is] not written for people thousands of years later….but for people of his own generation” [who would have an understanding of the symbolism used.]

The symbolism and metaphor in Revelation is extensive and difficult to understand in modern history. It has been interpreted in many ways by many scholars and is far more than can be explored here. If you would like an in-depth study,  the Bible Gateway commentaries on Revelation is a good place to start.

Although Revelation does not satisfy our curiosity about the appearance of heaven, Gilmore says this about it:

“Revelation is a drama of a high order set on a cosmic stage….which rises again and again to heights of sublimity and grandeur that have inspired some of the worlds greatest literature, poetry and art. John created a work of singular vividness, power and intensity”.

What Will Life be Like in Heaven

What Happens to Us in the First Minute After We Die?

The Bible indicates that when we die we enter immediately into God’s presence if we belong to Christ. From our earthly point of view, death looks somewhat like sleep—but not from God’s point of view.

Paul declared, ‘We are confident (of eternal life), I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord’ (2 Corinthians 5:8). Elsewhere he wrote, ‘I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far’ (Philippians 1:23).

However, I think the most definitive words regarding the swiftness with which we will  ascend to heaven are the words spoken by Christ to the repentant criminal from the cross.  The criminal asked “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” and Jesus replies “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise”. (Luke 23:42-43)

When We Die, does an Angel Accompany Us into Heaven?

The Bible indicates that when a believer dies, the angels will escort them safely into Heaven.  In A Glimpse Through the Thin Curtain Between Life and Afterlife a modern lady is prepared for ascension by her heavenly relatives.

In a parable, Jesus told about two different men. One was a wealthy man, who lived only for himself and ignored both God and others. The other was a beggar who had no earthly goods, but had faith in God and His promises. When the rich man died, he received what he deserved: a life of misery, separated from God forever. But “when the poor man died, the angels accompanied him safely into God’s presence. (You can read this parable in Luke 16:19-31.)

Will We Know Our Family and Friends?

There are many accounts of near-death experiences in which loved ones meet the temporarily deceased.  Too many to have any doubt.  Spend as much time as you have to read these fascinating accounts.

The writers of Bible Study Tools present some additional thoughts of interest on who we will know in heaven and how well we will know them:

God knows us completely, intimately, thoroughly, inside and out, with nothing hidden but everything seen as it really is (Psalms 139:1-4; Hebrews 4:12). When we get to heaven we’ll know each other, as God knows us because all the imperfections of this life will be removed.  We can be ourselves with no shame, no pain, no embarrassment, and no covering up. We will be individuals, each with our own memories and God-given gifts.

In heaven we will know every person and all of them will be friends and loved ones to us.  The essence of who we are will remain throughout eternity-yet vastly improved by God’s grace.

excerpt from Bible Study Tools

What Will Our Resurrected Bodies be Like?

Paul teaches us about our resurrected bodies in 1 Corinthians 15. They will not be like our current bodies which are subject to aging, disease, and death. Our resurrection bodies are incorruptible. You will never get old nor grow tired. You will never suffer disease or disability or death.

‘The dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed’” (1 Corinthians 15:52).

Will there be Animals and Pets in Heaven?

There is considerable evidence of animals in Heaven. Elijah was taken up to Heaven in a chariot pulled by horses (2 Kings 2:11), and the book of Revelation makes references to horses (6:2-8, 19:11) and eagles (4:7) in Heaven. Isaiah 65:25 describes wolves, lambs, and lions.

Billy Graham had a good answer when a little girl asked him, “Will my dog, who died this week, be in Heaven?” Because heaven is paradise for each individual, Dr. Graham replied, “If it would make you any happier, then yes, he will be.”

Will We Learn in Heaven?

Randy Alcorn points out that we will continue to learn based on  Ephesians 2:6-7. “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms…. in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace.” Alcorn instructs that the word “show” means “to reveal.” And the phrase “in the coming ages” clearly indicates this will be a progressive, ongoing revelation, in which we learn more and more about God’s grace.

We can expect an eternity of growing to be more and more like Christ.  We will be “transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

What we learn here carries over after death.  The relationship we build with God will continue.  We can begin this joyful process here and now, and there’s every indication it will endure forever.

If you have knowledge that will contribute to this topic, do not hesitate to leave it in the comments on this site.