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Revelation 1

1:1 The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place.  He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John,

Let’s talk about who “John” is.  This is the same John that wrote the Gospel of John, and the three epistles called 1st John, 2nd John and 3rd John.  This is same John who was one of the 12 apostles.  This is not John the Baptist.  To our knowledge, John the Baptist never wrote any epistles or commentary on Jesus. There is both internal and external evidence that John the Gospel writer and apostle wrote this book.  There are titles (i.e., “nicknames”) that John used to describe Jesus that no other Gospel writer used.  One of those same titles is here in Revelation.  That fact that only John uses such titles supports his authorship.  In addition we have writings of early church leaders who claim John was the author. 

 Here comes the first of many controversies in Revelation.  It’s now been about 2,000 years since Jesus was taken into Heaven with the announcement He would return (See Acts 1:11).  Here in Revelation 1:1, it says these events will happen “soon”.  I don’t know about you, but 2,000 years is not my idea of “soon”.   However, some assert that this word “soon”, is better translated, “When these events do occur, they will occur in a brief span of time”.   This word can also be translated “soon”, which is why some scholars do hold the view that most of Revelation covers the last few thousand years of history.    Simply put, those who hold this latter view hold that Jesus coming back is just around the corner.  Those with the first view of “soon” do not place a time frame on Jesus’ second coming.  Put another way, some argue that these predictions are all future and some argue that many have already been fulfilled and are still being fulfilled today. 

One has to understand that Revelation is written in “letter” format.  Like all letters, we need to know 1) who is the author, 2) who is the letter written to and 3) what does the letter have to say.   When we write letters today, we have the person the letter is “to” at the beginning, and the person the letter is “from” at the end.  In biblical times, the “to” and “from” are both in the beginning of the letter.  The rest of the letter is then the message. 

The letter is “from” God the Father, given about (and to) Jesus Christ, through an angel to John the writer.  The most common function of angels is they are messengers from God to give specific messages to people.   

John is saying: “The letter is the Word of God and what I am saying in Revelation is direct truth from God.” 

Verse 3:  Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near. 

The last phrase is, “The time is near”.  John does not say, “The time is near, or it could happen several thousand years from now”.    How do we deal with the word “near”? 

First, keep in mind some claim the prophecies in Revelation have all been fulfilled.  However, we limit ourselves today to the classic views.  All of the events of Revelation have not happened yet simply because Jesus has not returned.  Chapter 1 Verse 7 says that when Jesus comes back, everyone will see it.  In a world of Satellite television, this is not a problem. 

One possibility of using the word “soon” is so that every generation of Christians will be on their toes watching for Jesus Second Coming. 

Another possibility is the events of Chapters 2 and 3 do happen in the lifetime of the 1st Century Christian, and those events are “soon”.

Finally, in relevance to the time span of human history, that time is “near” and even 2,000 years later, it is still “near”.  (See 2nd Peter 3:8-9). 

Some argue that the judgment chapters cover the last two thousand years of history and Jesus Second Coming is a future event.  We’ll cover this view more as we get into later chapters of Revelation.    Another classical view of Revelation is that the “destructive” chapters describe the destruction of Jerusalem that happen in 70 AD.  In that sense, the time is “near” to the reader.  I disagree with this view because there is strong evidence Revelation was written after 70AD.  Still, this view fits the “shortly” argument of Verse 3. 

Verse 4a:  John, To the seven churches in the province of Asia:    Here we have who the letter is written to:  “The seven churches in the province of Asia”.  When we think of Asia today, we think of China and many other countries.  The word “Asia” back then refers to Asia Minor, which is part of modern-day Turkey.     This letter is written to seven specific churches in Asia Minor. 

Does that mean we can ignore Revelation because it was only written to those churches?    Of course not.  That’s like saying Paul’s letter to Timothy only applies to Timothy and we don’t have to study that letter. 

These seven churches are picked out as examples for us to study.    One has to remember that this book was written during a time of persecution by the Roman Government against Christians.  Members of these seven churches suffered during this time.  One (not the) purpose of Revelation is to give comfort to the persecuted church that God will avenge His people of the harm done to them.   Remember Revelation does not just say, “And God smote the nations for harming his people”.  There is chapter after chapter of details.  The “why” is a key issue.  As we get into the “judgment” chapters of Revelation, we’ll learn more about the nature of God, why judgment is necessary and why those specific types of punishment are necessary.  My only point to bring out here is to understand the details of Revelation have a purpose. 

Verse 4,  Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne 5and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. 

In the first sentence of Verse 4, we had the “to”:  The seven churches in Asia (Minor)”.   In the second sentence of Verse 4 and Verse 5, we have the “from”:  We have titles that refer to God the Father, God the Holy Spirit and God the Son (Jesus Christ). 

Let’s look at the title for God the Father:  “From him who is, and who was, and who is to come”.  We know it refers to God the Father only because of the word “and” follows this text.  After this description comes “and Jesus Christ” and the term “and the Seven Spirits”.   The idea is to say God the Father, always existed, still exists and always will exist. 

Keep in mind the focus of Revelation is a “wrap up” of the world as we know it.  The bible teaches we live forever, but the world as we know it will come to an end one day.  Just as Genesis is a book of “beginnings”, Revelation is a book of “endings”.   Given that, it is appropriate to refer to God the Father in the title given here in Revelation 1:4.  The idea is to emphasize it is the same God who started creation as we know it and will end creation as we know it.

Now let’s discuss the title of the Holy Spirit: “from the seven spirits before his throne”.  Isaiah 11:2 describe seven functions of the Holy Spirit:  (The numbers below are added to the text.) 

“The Spirit of the LORD (1) will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom (2) and of understanding (3), the Spirit of counsel (4) and of power (5), the Spirit of knowledge (6) and of the fear of the LORD (7)”  (Isaiah 11:2 NIV) 

This is why some scholars do not tie the two texts together: Seven-fold aspects of the Holy Spirit?”  Instead, it reads, “The seven spirits”.  For them it is a number of completeness.   In the same way God rested on the seventh day, the number seven is associated with “completeness”.  (By the way, get used to seeing the number “seven”.  It is used hundreds of times in Revelation.) 

Verse 5 and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his  blood, 6and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen. 

This text describes Jesus himself, His titles, and different aspects of what He has accomplished.  We know it is Jesus because Verse 5 bluntly says so. 

The “The Faithful Witness”.   If you read the Gospels carefully, you get the idea that Jesus would rather have avoided going to the cross.  He prayed, “If there was any other way” other than the cross, to not let Him have that burden.  (Reference Matthew 26:39).  Jesus still willfully went to the cross as He was faithful to God the Father’s will.  One of the key ways to study Jesus life on earth is that He was always obedient to God the Father’s will.  In that sense, He was a faithful witness and a model for our lives.  The point of this title is that if Jesus is faithful “then”, He is faithful “now” and we can trust in Him.  

The second title given of Jesus is the “Firstborn of the dead”.   The word “firstborn” is a title.  Jesus was the first person to be resurrected into heaven.  The reason that title is given here is to remind us of the resurrection.  

The third title given of Jesus is the “Ruler of the kings of the earth”. 

Verse 6 ends with: “To him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.” 

The underlying point is despite whatever suffering Christians have gone through, whatever we are or will go through, is still meaningless in comparison to eternity.  The idea is Jesus is “faithful” and His blood was sufficient payment for our sins. We do get to live forever and that should get us to show gratitude to God.  That is what John the writer of Revelation did at this point.  

Verse 7:  Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen. 

Remember the purpose of this book is to describe the events surrounding Jesus Second Coming.  That is the key point of Revelation.  Here in Verse 7, it is stated as such.  Notice that John emphasizes that “every eye will see Him”.           Whenever, Jesus comes back, it will be seen by everyone.  Since we live in an era of satellite television, I don’t have a problem with this verse.  Since “God is God”, If He wants to manifest Himself in a way the whole world sees it, I’m sure He can pull it off with or without modern technology.  The point is Jesus Second Coming will not be a secretive event.  If someone claims Jesus has already come back, ask where the world full of witnesses are?  

The next phrase says, “all the peoples of the earth will mourn”.     There are millions or billions of people on this planet who are aware of Jesus yet don’t believe in Him.  Most adults around the world have heard of Jesus, but don’t believe the story or just don’t trust in Jesus for the payment of their sins.   That is the idea that when Jesus comes back, much of the world will say, “oh no we blew it”  The idea of this verse is to give comfort to the believer.  We all go through doubts in our faith.  Know that a day will come when a world full of nonbelievers will mourn the consequences of their non-belief in Jesus! 

Verse 8:  “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” 

In the Greek alphabet, the “Alpha” is the first letter and the “Omega” is the last one.  To paraphrase, Jesus is saying, “Life starts and ends with me just as the alphabet goes from A to Z”. This is another verse of Jesus reassuring us that just as He came once, He promises to come a second time.  Remember that Revelation is a book of “endings” just as Genesis is a book of “beginnings”.  It is a reminder that Jesus was there in the beginning and will be there in the “ending”. 

Verse 9: I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. 

This verse states where Revelation was written:  The island of Patmos.  This is an island off the coast of Turkey that is crescent shaped, roughly 10 miles long and 6 miles wide at its widest point.  The Romans used Patmos as a penalty colony.  John was sentenced to this island for the crime of Christianity. 

What we don’t know from the text is “when”.  Most (not all) scholars place the time period around 94-96 AD, based on the writings of the early church.  John himself was probably in his 90’s at this time.  Some scholars argue for an earlier date prior to 70AD,  The point is John was sentenced to Patmos for the crime of Christianity.  That is what is stated in the text of Verse 9.  John calls himself “a companion in the suffering”.  The point is John is writing to fellow Christians who are also being persecuted and John is saying in effect that he can relate to their suffering as he a prisoner too.  Remember that God often allows us to go through suffering to comfort others going through the same situation. 

Verse 10:  On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, 11which said: “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.” 

OK, it’s time to start on visions.  Much of Revelation is John seeing visions.   First, lets set the scene:  John was praying “On the Lords’ Day”.  To a Christian with a Jewish background, the “Sabbath” is “Saturday” and the Lord’s Day is “Sunday” as Jesus was resurrected on a “Sunday”.  The early church was in the practice of holding worship services on Sunday’s.  Even though John was banished on this island, He still kept track of the days of the week and worshipped God on “Sunday’s”. 

When John says he was “In the Spirit”, it is not some out-of-body experience.  It just means He was praising God and the Holy Spirit was working through Him to praise God, just as the Holy Spirit works through us when we praise God.  That is not the Spirit’s sole function, but it is one of His functions.   Now imagine John praying and singing hymns.  All of a sudden he heard a voice behind him saying, “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches…”  The churches are then named by name. 

Verse 12:  I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, 13and among the lampstands was someone “like a son of man,” dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. 14His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. 15His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. 16In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. 

The good news is we don’t have to guess what the lampstands mean.  The text itself tells us in Verse 20:  “The seven lampstands are seven churches”.  Remember that if the bible interprets the vision for you, stop there.  There is no need for any further speculation.  The bible is also teaching us that the lampstands are symbolic in their meaning. The rest of the vision refers to Jesus himself, and we’ll tackle that in a moment.  The point here is that Jesus “walks among” the seven churches just as He walks amongst your church and my church.  

OK, onto this strange vision of Jesus.  We know it is Jesus because Verse 18 says that whatever John saw here spoke and said, “I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever!”  That sounds pretty Jesus-like to me.

Remember that John was one of the 12 apostles.  He knew what Jesus looked like when He walked the earth.  John also saw the resurrected Jesus.  One of the titles used for Jesus in the Gospels is the “Son of Man”.  That refers to Jesus (God) coming in human form.  It is almost as if John is saying, “I saw this strange creature walking amongst the lamp stands.  John says this vision resembled the Jesus he knew, (called him “Son of Man”), but it also had these strange features. 

Since we know “lampstands” is meant to be word-picture of churches (Verse 20), it is logical to speculate that al the other aspects of Jesus here are designed to be word pictures to teach us something about Jesus’ role in this picture.  With that said, let’s cover them:

“Robe down to His feet”:  Most likely, this represented the robe of the high priest.  It is a symbol of His authority.

“A golden sash around his chest”: Another ancient sign of authority in the Middle East.  A king or a tribal leader would wear such a sash.

“His head and hair like wool:  John is using terminology he understood and his audience understood.  The word for whiteness is like that of pure white light.  The idea is it represents his purity or His perfection in His holiness.

“His eyes were like blazing fire”:  Part of Jesus’ job is judgment.  The idea is Jesus in his role as judge.  Remember that “all authority was given to Him” (Matthew 28:18) by God the Father, which would include judgment.   You can’t do an end-run around Jesus to approach God the Father.

“His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace”:  Heating bronze is a process used to rid impurities out of that bronze.  It is another word picture of Jesus in His role as “judge” separating the pure from the impure.

“His voice was like the sound of rushing waters”:  Imagine the sound of waters crashing on rocks.  Remember John was banished to this island Patmos.  This speaks of the power of Jesus’ voice, speaking in authority.

“His right hand…held seven stars”:  Verse 20 tells us the seven stars are seven angels that watch over the seven churches.  More on that in Verse 20.

“His mouth came a sharp double-edged sword.”  One can find New Testament references comparing a sword to God’s word (Hebrews 4:12, Ephesians 6:17).  The idea is that God’s word is convincing to our heart and drives to confession.  The idea with this description is that Jesus is judging us.  God’s word is the standard by which we are all being judged.

“His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.”  Another reference to purity. 

Note that almost every one of these word-pictures of Jesus will be used again in Chapter 2-3.  Understanding these pictures will help when we go through those two chapters. 

Let’s put all of this together:  The whole thing speaks of Jesus in His role of judge over mankind.  So why doesn’t the text just say, “Jesus will judge everyone one day”?  Why this strange alien-like visual picture?   For starters, we remember colorful word-pictures better than simple text.  If this text weren’t here, we would picture the Jesus as portrayed in the Gospels, and not so much a God of judgment.  Remember that this book is all about Jesus Second Coming.  It is not just a “here I am” event.  It is about judgment on the world. Remember Revelation is designed to be studied and not just read.  

Verse 17:  When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. 18I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades. 

Personally, If I saw this vision, I would “fall as if dead” too.  This would scare anyone.  Notice Jesus didn’t say, “Get up you scaredy cat, I’ve got more to tell you!”   Jesus understands our fears and does not condemn those who love Him during such times. 

The final title we have of Jesus in this text is ” (Jesus) hold(s) the keys of death and Hades.   Hades is the Greek word for hell.  Death is the state one is in when one reaches hell.  The two words are synonyms. 

Verse 19:  “Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later. 20The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.

Verse 19 is actually an outline of the book of Revelation.  This outline is given as a command Jesus gives John at this point is to write what you have seen (the vision so far, Chapter 1) and what is now (describing the “seven churches” which is Chapter 2 and 3) and what will take place later (the events of Jesus Second Coming, the rest of the book). 

Verse 20 explains that the stars mentioned in Verse 16 are angels of the seven churches.  Verse 20 also explains that the lampstands mentioned in Verses 12-13 are those churches.  

Remember the primary purpose of angels is to be messengers of God.  The text may simply be saying that God is using an angel to communicate His message to each church. 

OK, everyone take a deep breath, we made it through Chapter 1.

 

 

 

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Remember to follow Jesus

It’s common to talk about the stupidity of sheep. Even the great naturalist John Muir, who waxed poetically about the environment and the wonder of the plants and animals, could hardly stand sheep. As he wrote in his diary as a young man about his first summer in the Yosemite Valley, saying, “A sheep can hardly be called an animal: An entire flock is required to make one foolish individual.” During that summer, he assisted a shepherd who led a large flock from the dry, waterless Central Valley of California, where each summer the flock would have faced sure death, to the lush highlands of the Yosemite range. Muir despaired when the sheep would scatter, against their own interests, at the appearance of a bear or in the midst of a storm. They had a shepherd to take care of them, but at the crisis, they would forget.

How often do we forget to turn to Jesus, just when we need him the most?

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40 ideas for keeping a holy Lent

Day 1: Pray for your enemies222
Day 2: Walk, carpool, bike or bus it.
Day 3: Don’t turn on the car radio
Day 4: Give $20 to a non-profit of your choosing
(Sunday)
Day 5: Take 5 minutes of silence at noon
Day 6: Look out the window until you find something of beauty you had not noticed before
Day 7: Give 5 items of clothing to Goodwill
Day 8: No bitching day
Day 9: Do someone else’s chore
Day 10: Buy a few $5 fast food gift cards to give to homeless people you encounter
(Sunday)
ay 11: Call an old friend
Day 12: Pray the Paper (pray for people and situations in today’s news)
Day 13: Read Psalm 139 http://bible.oremus.org
Day 14: Pay a few sincere compliments
Day 15: Bring your own mug
Day 16: Educate yourself about human trafficking http://www.praxus.org
(Sunday)
Day 17: Forgive someone
Day 18: Internet diet
Day 19: Change one liht in your house to a compact florescent
Day 20: Check out morning and evening prayer at http://dailyoffice.wordpress.com
Day 21: Ask for help
Day 22: Tell someone what you are grateful for
(Sunday)
Day 23: Introduce yourself to a neighbor
Day 24: Read Psalm 121 http://bible.oremus.org
Day 25: Bake a cake
Day 26: No shopping day
Day 27: Light a virtual candle http://rejesus.co.uk/spirituality/post_prayer/
Day 28: Light an actual candle
(Sunday)
Day 29: Write a thank you note to your favorite teacher
Day 30: Invest in canvas shopping bags
Day 31: Use Freecycle http://www.freecycle.org
Day 32: Donate art supplies to your local elementary school
Day 33: Read John 8:1-11 http://bible.oremus.org
Day 34: Worship at a friend’s mosque, synogogue or church and look for the beauty
(Sunday)
Day 35: Confess a secret
Day 36: No sugar day – where else is there sweetness in your life?
Day 37: Give $20 to a local non-profit
Day 38: Educate yourself about a saint http://www.catholic.org/saints
Day 39: Pray for peace
Day 40: Pray for your enemies (you probably have new ones by now) then decide which of these exercises you’ll keep for good

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You Might Be Lutheran If

You might be a Lutheran if…
•you hold your hymnal open for the entire service but never look down at it.
•you serve jello only in the proper liturgical color.
•the church is on fire and you rush in to save the coffee pot.
•you think you’re paying your pastor too much if he buys Ya new car for the first time in nine years.
•you’re watching Star Wars on DVD, and when they say, “may the force be with you,” you reply, “and also with you.”
•you feel guilty about not feeling guilty.
•the only mealtime prayer you know is “Come Lord Jesus” and you can say it in one breath.
•you believe there’s an 11th Commandment that states, “if it’s never been done that way before, don’t do it.”
•your Baptist friends think you’re a Catholic.
•your Catholic friends think you’re a Baptist.
•all your relatives graduated from a school named “Concordia.”
•you know the difference between a “collect” and a “gradual.”
•your idea of a mixed marriage is an ELCA bride and an LCMS groom.
•you’re 47 years old and your parents still won’t let you date a Roman Catholic.
•you hum “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” while mowing the lawn.
•your LCMS pastor refers to St. Louis as “the Holy City.”
•when you’re agreeing with someone, instead of saying, “yes I agree,” you say, “this is most certainly true.”
•rather than introducing yourself to a visitor at church, you check their name out in the guest book.
•you think the way Calvinists number the commandments is not only incorrect but heretical.
•the Sunday bulletins at your church are 17 pages long.
•every time something changes, the old way was better.

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A Sharper Image of Jesus

LUKE 9:28-36
Imagine this scenario.
You’re a young, just-getting-started film student, and you take a job with a local video production company town — the kind that video tapes weddings, bar-mitzvahs, and school Christmas pageants. The longer you work there, the more you realize that your boss is uniquely talented — he makes videos of a quality far beyond typical small town production values. You even tell him one day: you’re good enough to work in Hollywood.

One afternoon you and he are taking a break from work, drinking coffee at Starbucks when, to your amazement, two movie stars approach your table: Harrison Ford and Tom Hanks. Harrison Ford says to your boss, “You’re the best director I’ve ever known. You’ve got more talent than anyone else. I can’t wait to be involved in your next project.” Then Tom Hanks chimes in, “You’re the best. Anytime you need me, give me a call.” (I know that’s not how real movie stars talk, but work with me here.)

After this conversation, you’re shocked, and not just at having two celebrities approach your table during lunch — you’re shocked at the things they’re saying about your boss. Isn’t he just a small town video producer?

You then take a closer look at the man you’ve labored with the last year or so, and it suddenly dawns on you who he is. You recognize him now: It’s Steven Spielberg. All this time you were working with one of the greatest, most accomplished directors in history and you didn’t realize until now just who he was.

This story, as far-fetched as it is, might give you something of an idea — in a limited way, I admit — of how Peter, James and John must have felt that day they went up onto a mountain with Jesus to pray.

They had been following him for almost two years, and they were beginning to understand that he was more than just another rabbi. Jesus was from Galilee, from the small town of Nazareth. He was in our terms a small town hick. This small town Rabbi developed quite a following and quite a reputation for working miracles and teaching with authority. His disciples began to realize that he was very special, indeed.

One day Jesus asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, some say a prophet of long ago.” Jesus then asked, “But what about you? Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “The Christ of God.” In other words, the Messiah. Peter was beginning to understand who Jesus was. In the next scene from Luke’s gospel, Peter, along with James and John, gets the complete picture.

In this story, called “The Transfiguration,” the three disciples see Christ as he really is. They get a sharper image of the one they have been following all this time. Until then they had only known him as a man, the same as them. That’s because Jesus was fully human. We sometimes forget that Jesus was real, flesh-and-blood human, just like all of us. He needed to eat or he would become hungry. He needed to drink or he would become thirsty. When he was tired he needed to sleep. Jesus was fully human.

But there was more to Jesus than his human nature. He is also divine. He is God in the flesh. His early followers didn’t easily recognize that. They were confronted with the human Christ; it took them longer to recognize his deity.

The Bible is clear about the deity of Christ. The New Testament was written after the death and resurrection of Jesus, after his followers had had time to fully understand who he was is.

As it says in one of the ancient creeds of the church, he is, “…the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father; through him all things were made.”

When he was on earth, this aspect of his nature wasn’t immediately obvious to his followers. They only began to understand it after a period of time.

In today’s story, found in Luke 9:28-36, Jesus took Peter, James and John up onto a mountain to pray. During that time something amazing happened. The appearance of Jesus changed, and his clothes became as “bright as a flash of lightning , and a voice was heard “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.”

Things changed for Peter. When others saw Jesus, they saw a man — a teacher, a rabbi, a miracle worker, a carpenter, a Galilean. But the transfiguration changed things for Peter, James and John. Now they were beginning to see not just a shadowy representation of Jesus, but a sharper image: the reality of who he is — the eternal Son of God.

Today I want us to take some time to look a little more closely at this story so that we can learn how to develop a better, more accurate picture of Jesus — a sharper image, you might say, of who he is and what he can do in our lives. Do you want to see Jesus? Do you want to know him better? Here are three things to keep in mind.

1. A Sharper Image of Jesus is connected to times of Solitude.

Peter, James and John were on the mountain, alone with Jesus, when they witnessed the transfiguration. During this time of solitude, his appearance changed, God spoke to them, and they recognized him as the Son of God.

My closest experiences with Jesus have come in solitude, as well. For me, getting a sharper image of Jesus also involves some amount of sensory deprivation like Peter James and John, but you can spend time in solitude with Jesus — in your office or at your home. Here’s how I suggest you do it.

a. Turn off the TV.
b. Unplug your computer.
c. Disconnect the telephone and power down your cell phone.
d. Get away from your routine. If you can’t go to a retreat center, go to your back yard an empty church or a park.
f. Turn off the music, too. Music helps me worship, but it can also be a distraction for me sometimes. Occasionally when I’m listening to music I’ll start thinking, “What a great song that is. I like the words. What Psalm is that from?

If you want to develop a sharper image of Jesus in your walk with Christ, begin by spending time in solitude with him. Secondly…

2. A Sharper Image of Jesus involves Stillness.

When Peter saw the glory of the transfigured Christ speaking with Elijah and Moses, he came up with what he thought was a great idea: (v. 33) “Let us put up three shelters — one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” Luke follows this with the statement, “He did not know what he was saying.” Once again, Peter was running ahead of God.

Think about all that Peter’s suggestion entailed. Three shelters. That would require work. Maybe some fundraising to buy the materials. Maybe some workers to get them completed.

But, this wasn’t the time for activity. It was the time for stillness. It wasn’t the time to talk or plan or vision-cast; it was the time to listen to Christ. That’s why God spoke to Peter from the cloud, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” (v. 35)

I’m sure your Pastor regularly challenges you to get more actively involved in some type of service. We are called to be laborers in God’s vineyard. There is much work to do — “the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few,” But I want you to understand that there is a time to be busy and a time to be still. There is a time when it is best for us to come away from the busyness of our daily lives into the stillness and solitude of the presence of Jesus. Here’s a principle to remember:

In our work we reveal Jesus to the world. In our stillness Jesus reveals himself to us.

I encourage you, as often as you are able, to spend time in solitude with Jesus — doing nothing, just listening. Turn off the noise of the world, turn off the noise of your own ideas and ambitions, put all your big ideas on hold — and hear what Jesus is saying to you. This will help you develop a sharper image of who Christ is, and what he wants to do in your life. Thirdly…

3. A Sharper Image of Jesus also includes contemplation.

Notice how Luke concludes this story. (v. 36) “The disciples kept this to themselves, and told no one at that time what they had seen.”

Isn’t that interesting? They had seen, as Luke put it, the glory of Christ. They had watched him transfigured before their very eyes, they had witnessed him speaking with Moses and Elijah, they had been enveloped by a cloud and had heard the audible voice of God. And they said nothing to about it to anyone. Why?

I’m sure that they didn’t fully understand all that had happened on the mountain. They needed time to think about it. It was only later — after the death and resurrection of Christ — that their experience on the mountain began to make sense.

Here’s what I’m saying. When you have a powerful experience with Jesus during a time of solitude, it’s not always easy, or even advisable, to talk about it. Our relationship with Christ is personal. He deals with each of us in a special way. He speaks to you in ways that only you can understand, he comforts you in ways that only you can be comforted, he reveals himself to you in ways that only you can recognize. He works this way with every single person on the planet.

Each of us needs to take time to reflect on what God is doing in our lives. We need to meditate on what he is saying to us. We need to take what we have learned in those moments of stillness and solitude, and continue to contemplate their significance in our walk with Christ. After a mountain-top experience, when God reveals himself to us in a mighty way, we need to continue — once we have left the mountain and are back in the “real world” — to contemplate the meaning of our experiences with him.

I believe that God wants each of us to see Christ transfigured before our eyes. He wants each of us to develop a clearer picture — a sharper image — of who Jesus is. He wants you to know Jesus, deeply, intimately, personally.

This is something you can’t get from a sermon. I can talk to you about Jesus all day long — but in order to walk closely with him, you have to experience him for yourself in times of stillness, solitude and contemplation.

Make it a habit — beginning right away, if only for an hour or two — to spend time in solitude with him, being still, listening for his voice, and meditating on his presence.

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Forgiveness

Forgiveness is, simply put, about letting go. Releasing the wrong done to you, or by you. This is a very simple concept, but often very difficult to achieve. Forgiveness is a choice.

To withhold forgiveness is to choose to remain in pain. Remember, you always have choice.

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