Twelfth Month 30

His throne was fiery flames, and its wheels were burning fire. A stream of fire issued and flowed out from his presence. A thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood attending him. The court sat in judgment and the books were opened. Daniel 7:9-10

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For a moment, I thought we were still in the book of Revelation.

In some ways, I see the Bible as a great workbook – take the whole collection, but feel free to argue with it, to ask “What if instead of X, so-and-so had done Y or Z …” to wonder if so-and-so really did interpret a dream correctly or act rightly … or to even say, “I cannot accept that view and here’s why.” That’s even before we get to the question, “Did it really happen?” Much less, “Did it really happen that way?”

As I look back, I find myself less concerned with historical accuracy and ever more focused on the reported experiences of a lived faith, especially as it strives increasingly toward an alternative society of peace, justice, and equality. Not just a society, at that, but a whole world – one renewed in Universal Love.

Look who sits at the head of the court there, then.

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For this I write in the Openings of Life, and from the Motion of the good Spirit of my God, do I declare unto you, viz. That none of ye were absolutely excluded from Eternity; well knowing, that a Measure of his Grace hath been freely tendred to every one of you; because his Love extendeth universally, and he is crying, Ho, every one that thirsteth come ye to the Waters of Life: And he that hath no Money, come ye, buy and eat; yea, come, buy Wine and Milk, without Money and without Price. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

 

Twelfth Month 28

In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him. But we see Jesus. – Hebrews 2:8-9 (NIV)

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In our own time, we are left to see Jesus in other people – those who are filled with the Holy Spirit. Often, they appear where we least expect. Be ready, all the same, and welcoming.

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Yea, it is that Word of Reconciliation, which God hath committed to such as himself hath called, to make them Ambassadors for his Son Christ Jesus; by the Ministry of which, they turn People from Darkness to Light, and from the Power of Satan unto God, that they may receive Forgiveness of Sins, and Inheritance among them that are sanctified, through Faith that is in Christ Jesus. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

 

Third Month 12

…  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 co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. … – Romans 8:9-18 (NIV)

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Two of the standard dictionary definitions of “testimony” reveal the scope of Quaker action: “evidence in support of a fact or assertion: proof” and “a public declaration.”

For Friends, both definitions apply. Testimony – and its synonym, witness – are the way we live, not the words we utter. Through them, we respond to a sensed concern – “something of interest or importance,” “earnest regard,” and even “anxiety; worry” as definitions that can be blended to create an awareness of what is intended. A Dictionary of Friends Terms (Friends United Press, no date) defines concern as “Urgent matter which a person feels the Lord calling him or her to do, i.e. John Woolman’s concern to visit the Indians,” and testimonies as “Application of Friends’ beliefs to situations and problems of society, i.e. peace, simplicity, regular attendance at meetings.”

Here, too, we can see Christ’s glory.

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Not by Works of Righteousness, which we have done, saith the Apostle, but according to his Mercy he saved us, by the washing of Regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

Third Month 10

…  And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.  … – Romans 8:9-18 (NIV)

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To be Spirit-filled unites us with Christ. Think about that!

Scary? Or comforting? We’re talking about life.

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See here their Mission, Christ bids them Go teach, baptizing; baptizing is in the present Tense, whilst they were teaching. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

Third Month 9

…  And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. … – Romans 8:9-18 (NIV)

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The Christ Within – or the Inward Light – is the Spirit of Christ filling the obedient with new life, awareness, and action.

This is not a result of outward baptism or memorizing Scripture or repeating prescribed phrases. Rather, an active relationship in Universal Love is what defines the authentic Christian. Righteousness, after all, is action.

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If our Opponents will have that mean material Water, may not we then as well conclude, that John Baptist meant, Christ would baptize them with material Fire? But if we understand the Power of the Holy Ghost, to burn up the Stubble (that naturally grows in us) by the latter, then must we also understand the same Power to cleanse us from our natural Filth by the former. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

 

Third Month 8

You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you … – Romans 8:9-18 (NIV)

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Paul says: Stop making excuses!

Paul says: Open up to the Light!

Paul says: It’s your decision!

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The Baptism which answereth to Noah’s Ark, was not material Water, but the Power of Christ within, which preserves us cleansed, and enables us to call on God with a good Conscience. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

Third Month 7

Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him;
I will surely defend my ways to his face. – Job 13:15 (NIV)

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Job shares a parallel fate with Noah. Both men suffer innocently at the hand of the Divine. But Job is prepared to speak with God, rather than simply listen while walking. The relationship deepens and then expands.

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That must needs mean the Baptism of which I am now speaking, viz. spiritual Baptism, for Christ bidding of them Go, denotes their being impowered from him, to baptize in, or rather [into] his own and his Father’s Name; which is the true spiritual Baptism: Besides, here is no Water made mention of, whence we may infer, the Apostles Ministry was to be the Laver in which they were to be baptized. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

Third Month 6

Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God. – Genesis 6:9 (NIV)

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Among its many dimensions, the Great Flood sets Noah and his family apart from the rest of humanity. Even so, he and his household are flawed people, becoming more so in the trauma. In the end, there’s plenty of blame to go around. (While Noah walked with God, was he passionate and loving, or merely obedient? Did he plead for his neighbors, or issue calls for repentance? Did he invite others to join in the enterprise?)

As for our own era? Even before we listen to talk of a “zombie apocalypse,” how accountable are we for furthering God’s creation?

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The same did Peter witness, And as I began to speak, (saith he) the Holy Ghost fell on them as on us in the Beginning, then  remembred I the Words of the Lord, how he said, John indeed baptized with Water, but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

Third Month 5

Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:
And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. – Psalm 139:23-24

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God has given us the example. The Light will divide darkness, and this Light is indeed good. In it are hope, faith, peace, and salvation, free to take root in the human heart. I like, especially, the image of following the Light, whether as a flashlight or spotlight or hope at the end of a tunnel.

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And being assembled together with them, he commanded them, that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the Promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me; for John truly baptized with Water, but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many Days hence. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

Third Month 4

Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief in the night, and you will not know at what time I will come to you. – Revelation 3:3 (NIV)

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When you try to be everything to everybody, where do you excel? What is your outstanding quality? Where is your fruitfulness? What should you be doing to express and extend the unique talents you have been given?

How will you account for your thoughts and actions?

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But the one Baptism necessary to Salvation, I do believe is inward and spiritual, being that of the Holy Ghost, foretold by John the Baptist. … I indeed baptize you with Water unto Repentance, saith he, but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose Shoes I am not worthy to bear, he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with Fire. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)