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Holy Fire

“When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, ‘Moses! Moses!’ And Moses said, ‘Here I am.’ ‘Do not come any closer,’ God said. ‘Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.’ Then He said, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.’ At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.” Exodus 3:5-6

Image result for holy fireGod is holy. Where He is, sin cannot be also [Isaiah 59:2]. His presence is infinitely pure and whole.

We can see in the story of the burning bush, that fire–without sin–does not consume. Sin is like oxygen licking up the branches under a flame, but God’s fire purifies the place it inhabits. The place where Moses sees God’s fire is holy because, in God’s presence, sinful damages are restored to wholeness and purity, restored to that good and perfect–complete–life that God designed.

And God cautions Moses not to approach purity and wholeness as if it were any other commonplace occurrence.

Don’t come any closer in your present state. Don’t walk in my presence with the same shoes where you walked to go to the bathroom, stand before pharaoh or herd sheep. Don’t come with coverings to protect the soft skin of your soles from Me. Bare your feet to stand before Me as Adam did when I first created him whole, sinless, perfect. Venerate my presence. Treat Me with the honored respect that I–your loving Creator–alone am due.

While sin cannot be where God is, God can certainly be in our sinful presence. His loving mercy and grace bring us face to face with Him whenever we seek Him [Isaiah 55:6]. He inhabits the praises of His people [Psalm 22:3]. Where two or three are gathered in Jesus’ name, there He is with us [Matthew 18:20].

But sin cannot abide in His presence. When God comes into our hearts, the sin must go out. It cannot remain in the presence of holiness. Sin that remains becomes like a consuming fire, the oxygen burning branches that reduce our days to rubble [Matthew 7:19; John 15:6]. But when sin is relinquished God’s holy fire burns in us without consuming. We are made holy–whole and pure–just as our heavenly Father, for whom we are set apart, is holy [Matthew 5:48; 1 Peter 1:15-16].

When we come to God’s presence–His Word, His sanctuary–to learn from Him, to pray with Him, to offer praise and sacrifice, we must remember who He truly is–Holy. We must remember that we are all sinners, even if we are saved by grace [Romans 3:23; Ephesians 2:8]. And we cannot come into God’s holy presence like we’re running out to recess, joining a ball game, watching a movie, sitting to dinner with family or texting with friends.

More than that, as Christians, God’s presence goes with us. So everywhere we are, in all we do and in all we say we need to honor God. Our culture doesn’t model a right reverence of God. It mocks Him and scorns us [2 Chronicles 36:16; Psalm 74:10 & 22; Galatians 6:7]. But we are a peculiar people and a holy nation belonging to the One True God [1 Peter 2:9].

Do you approach God with reverence and awe? Or do you treat the Most Holy as if He were an everyday ordinary and impure thing? Is His holy fire purifying your heart?

KCS

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Favor Not Favoritism–Part 1

“But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” Genesis 6:8 KJV

Image result for open armsModern Scripture translations have exchanged the word grace for favor. Favor is a more readily understood term in present-day, though it still lends to miscommunication. After all, it is the root word of favoritism.

Favoritism has a negative connotation–giving unfair preferential treatment–while favor is positive–an act of kindness beyond what is due or usual. Favoritism is a corruption of favor because it expends one to elevate another. While favor is an approval or support that any can attain.

Favor is one facet of divine grace. Noah found favor–he proved himself acceptable–in the eyes of the Lord. God tells us that, Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God [Genesis 6:9 & 7:1; Hebrews 11:7; 2 Peter 2:5]. He proved himself acceptable by living a blameless, morally right life–morally right as defined by God’s standard. That is not to say that Noah did not sin. All of us are sinners [Romans 3:23]. Only Jesus lived a sinless life [2 Corinthians 5:21]. But Noah believed God and lived for Him. And God approved!

Moses found favor in God’s sight. He obeyed God, leading His people out of bondage in Egypt. He sought God’s counsel, leading humbly for God’s glory and honor not his own [Exodus 14:1-31]. He asked God to personally and physically be with him and with the whole nation of Israel as they followed to the promise [Exodus 33:15-17]. Again, it’s not that Moses was without sin–he disobeyed and lost the opportunity to cross into the Promised Land [Numbers 20:12-13]–but He heard God’s voice and obeyed Him. And God approved!

Abraham was God’s friend [2 Chronicles 20:7]. Though he tried to fulfill God’s promise in his own strength, he loved God and believed God would keep His promises no matter what [Hebrews 11:17-19]. And God approved [Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:3; Galatians 3:6]!

God considered David a man after His own heart [Acts 13:22]. God approved of Abel’s offering [Genesis 4:4]. God saw Hagar [Genesis 16:13]. God heard Hannah [1 Samuel 1:20]. God spoke audibly to Samuel [1 Samuel 3:10-14]. He sent the Christ child through Mary [Luke 1:26-38].

Throughout scriptures we see God actively bestowing His favor on those who believe that He exists and live Godly lives because of this belief.

But God does not show favoritism [Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11].

He provides everyone with a testimony of Himself [Romans 1:20]. He sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross so that everyone had the opportunity to choose eternal life [John 3:16]. He patiently waits, not wanting anyone to perish [2 Peter 3:9].

God is not interested in expending atheists or Hindus, pantheists or Buddhists, mystics or Muslims. He loves everyone. He sent His Son to die so that He might reconcile everyone to Himself. He is preparing a place in heaven for everyone–but only those who believe in Him alone will find this favor. By God’s grace–His infinite favor–we all have the same opportunity to accept or reject the One True God and, thereby, eternal life.

Have you found favor in God’s eyes?

KCS

Multiplying Understanding

“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Matthew 18:21-22

Image result for heart pattern

God is merciful–rather than requiring us to pay the debt of our own sin He forgives us if and when we ask [Matthew 6:12; Luke 11:4; Romans 6:23].

Because of this, the kingdom of heaven–the redeemed of the Lord on this earth–are made anew in His image so that we might also be merciful.

We are to forgive–plain and simple. Forgive when others ask, and extend forgiving mercies even when they don’t ask.

God is also infinite. Therefore, His mercy has no end. Though we are commanded to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect [Matthew 5:48], we all still fall short of the full measure of the glorious mercy of God [Romans 3:23].

Seven is the heavenly number of completion and, therefore, perfection. It may have seemed to Peter like a righteous extension of self to be so generously forgiving. But Jesus instructed Peter to multiply his human understanding of mercy. Seventy times seven is a huge number in terms of finite human mercies, but it completely vanishes against the infinite ocean of God’s compassion and forgiveness.

No wonder King David declared that he would rather fall into God’s hands than men’s [2 Samuel 24:14; 1 Chronicles 21:13]. God’s mercies surpass human mercies every time–as does His love, His grace, His goodness, His faithfulness, His justice and every other facet about Him.

Though we will never equal His mercy, we were made in God’s image and washed in the blood of His Son, Jesus, so that we would live mercifully with all. Not just when we feel like it. Not just when we get a reasonable apology. Not just when we stand to gain. Not just with people that we prefer. But merciful at all times, and maybe especially when it hurts or when we stand to lose. After all, while we were still sinners–nailing Christ to the cross–He mercifully died for us [Romans 5:8].

How generous and steadfast is your mercy? Will you allow the Holy Spirit to multiply your understanding of compassion and forgiveness?

KCS

Patterned after Mercy

“David said to Gad, ‘I am in deep distress. Let us fall into the hands of the Lord, for His mercy is great; but do not let me fall into human hands.” 2 Samuel 24:14 & 1 Chronicles 21:13

Image result for heart patternGod is merciful. And we were made in His image to love one another and to do good works [Leviticus 19:9-18; Mark 12:31; Ephesians 2:10]. Not the least of these is to be merciful and compassionate with our fellow human beings [Matthew 7:12; Luke 6:31].

Mercy is the deeds accompaniment to our faith [James 2:17 & 26]–giving a cup of cold water [Matthew 10:42; Mark 9:41], doing more than just wishing someone warm and well fed [James 2:16].

Mercy extended to the people around us reflects our love for God. How we treat the apple of His eye is how we treat Him [Deuteronomy 32:10; Psalm 17:8; Zechariah 2:8; Matthew 25:31-46].

How ironic that the eternity in our hearts calls to the mercy we were made for yet rejects He who is our mercy [Ecclesiastes 3:11]. How many decry God’s mercies because the people in their lives are not merciful? How many insist that because human beings can be ruthless and wicked that therefore God cannot be merciful?

When we recognize wrong, it is because of God’s justice patterned deep in our image. When we recognize foolishness, it is because of God’s wisdom calling to the eternity in our hearts. When we recognize apathy and cruelty, it is because of God’s mercy woven intricately into the fiber of our being.

We were made in the image of the All-powerful, All-loving and All-merciful God. We were made to compassionately meet needs. We were made to love those who hate us [Matthew 5:10-12 & 44; Luke 6:27-28]. We were made to take up the cross of Christ and to daily forgive the multitude of wrongs visited on us [Matthew 16:24 & 18:22; Luke 9:23].

And when we do not do what we were made for, the world accuses God for our unfaithfulness. The world rejects God, because His light is dimmed or dirtied by our sinfulness.

Will you live out the mercy you were made for?

KCS

Witchcraft and Divination

“When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead.” Deuteronomy 18:9-11

Image result for witches cauldronOne of the most highly associated figures with Halloween is the witch. Do such people exist? Do they really have powers to turn themselves or others into different creatures or to cast evil spells? Is there such a thing as magic?

The Bible speaks against the sin of witchcraft, meaning that there are people who “practice” such acts. In fact, witchcraft is mentioned on 6 different occasions [Deuteronomy 18:10; 2 Kings 9:22; 2 Chronicles 33:6; Micah 5:12; Nahum 3:4; Galatians 5:20] and the related sin of divination 24 times [Genesis 30:27, 44:5 & 15; Leviticus 19:26; et al]. In each instance, God warns against doing such things.

Divination is trying to know what will happen in the future by means outside of human ability. Witchcraft is Old English for the power or skill of a witch, while witch is an Old English synonym for the Medieval Latin sortiarius–one who influences fate or fortune. So is it just that God doesn’t want people to know the future? Not at all.

God Himself reveals the future to us at many times and in various ways [Hebrews 1:1]. The whole book of Revelation deals in near and distant future disclosures from God to man as do many other Biblical passages. However, in the sin of divination, people are not seeking Godly knowledge and understanding, they are consorting with the fallen angel–that is the demonic–spirits. For the cost of rebelling against God, for that’s what God likens unto witchcraft [1 Samuel 15:23], Satan’s lackeys will sell you lie. Because they cannot see the future or understand what will happen therein.

But the enemy isn’t interested in accuracy. His only intent is to steal, kill and destroy [John 10:10]. He steals faith in God by offering the lie that you can be your own God [Genesis 3:5; Isaiah 14:14]. He kills the body of all who trust him with themselves or with their children [Deuteronomy 8:10]–sometimes slowly through the harmful effects of smoking, drinking, drugs, promiscuity and the like, and sometimes quickly through murders, violent riots, drunkenness, human sacrifice rituals, et al. He destroys mental, emotional and spiritual health through addiction, even to such things as believing in omens, luck, fate, spells and magic.

You see, when we believe that we can do things in our own power, we turn our eyes from the One True God from whom our help comes, the maker of heaven and earth [Psalm 121:1-2] and turn them onto self or lifeless idols or Satan himself.

But there is no such thing as magic, just optical illusion. There is no such thing as an omen, just vain superstition that ties the heart in knots with fear. There is no such thing as fate, God gave us free will. And there are no such things as spells or incantations that hold any power whatsoever.

God so desired that we understand this that He Himself doesn’t answer people in the Bible the exact same way twice. There is nothing we can chant to make God do our will, though we can seek to learn what His will is for us. There is no incantation or potion by which we command the authority of heaven, though, through prayer, Christians certainly have access to God Himself and can petition Him to act on our behalf in His mercy.

Do you worry about superstitions, omens and fate? Focus your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith [Hebrews 12:2]. Do you seek spiritists, mediums or fortune tellers to try to learn the future? Ask God for wisdom and trust Him to show you the way, one step at a time.

KCS

Stealing Across the River

“The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the East. Then I saw three evil spirits that looked like frogs; they came out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet. They are spirits of demons performing miraculous signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty. ‘Behold, I come like a thief! Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes with him, so that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed.’ Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.” Revelation 16:12-16

See the source imageThe mighty Euphrates, fourth river of Eden [Genesis 2:14], covenanted border of the Promised Land [Genesis 15:18; Exodus 23:31; Deuteronomy 11:24; Joshua 1:4; 1 Kings 4:21 & 24]. In modern times, the Euphrates appears to be nowhere near Israel’s borders, running instead from Turkey across Northern Syria and through Iraq. Only for a short time under the reigns of King David and his son Solomon did Israel’s territory extend all the way east to the great river [1 Kings 4:21; 1 Chronicles 18:3].

Still, it is significant that the river is removed altogether when the sixth bowl of wrath is poured out. With it, God’s covenanted Promised Land with the Israelites is without border, a border that delineated both divine protection and spiritual alignment in scriptures. Jacob fled from his father-in-law into the country of refuge across this river [Genesis 31:21], while enemy kings are noted as having come from beyond the river [1 Chronicles 19:16; Isaiah 7:20].

God’s hand of protection is removed from the earth along with his mercy [Isaiah 11:15; Jeremiah 46:6] to prepare for the final war–Armageddon. A demonic spirit comes out of Satan, his antichrist, and the false prophet, each one. The frog-like demons represent unclean spirits, since the frog was considered an unclean animal. They aid with the deception of the antichrist and the false prophet, and help unite the governments of the entire world against their Creator God.

Armageddon likely is a re-pronunciation/respelling of Har Mageddon, meaning the mountain of Megiddo. Throughout history, the plain of Megiddo, located in the main pass that runs northeast through the hill country between Sharon and Jezreel, was a frequent battleground because of its strategic location [i.e. Judges 5:19; 2 Kings 23:29; 2 Chronicles 35:22; and in modern times–1468 & 1917].

Just as Jesus’ return to rapture the church to heaven will be like a thief in the home of the unsuspecting [1 Thessalonians 5:2 & 4; 1 Peter 3:10; Revelation 3:3], so will his appearance at the last battle be like a thief to the earthly governments who have fallen asleep, those who have not only denied God, but forgotten Him. There is a difference. But Jesus is warning them that, Hey look, you’re going to be defeated by virtue of aligning yourselves with the unholy trinity, but you don’t have to shame yourselves in the process. Be ready.

This can also be taken as reminder to believers to be ready for His return. Jesus coming will only seem like a thief in the night to the unsuspecting. We not know the exact day or the hour [Matthew 24:36], but we can see the signs of the times, recognize that it is near, and be ready for His return [Matthew 24:1-35].

Do you know the signs of the end times? Study God’s word to understand them better. Do you see the signs all around? Is your heart prepared so that Jesus’ coming does not take you by surprise?

KCS

The Love-Wrath Coin

After this I looked and in heaven the temple, that is, the tabernacle of the Testimony, was opened. Out of the temple came the seven angels with the seven plagues. They were dressed in clean, shining linen and wore golden sashes around their chests. Then one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls filled with the wrath of God, who lives for ever and ever. And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power, and no one could enter the temple until the seven plagues of the seven angels were completed.” Revelation 15:5-8 

Image result for bowl of fireIn the Old Testament, the Tabernacle came first. It was a mobile Temple for the wandering Israelites until a permanent one could be built in the capital city of the Promised Land. The Tabernacle served as a witness, that is testimony, of God’s presence to His chosen people, reminding them that He was ever with them. And the book of Revelations is very clear that all things earthly Temple have their origin in the one true heavenly Temple, including the kinship of the tabernacle.

The Testimony of God’s presence among His people in eternity can again be seen in the tabernacle-temple.

Seven angels take seven plagues. One of the living creatures, that makes up God’s throne, hands them bowls filled with God’s wrath, while God’s presence itself fills the heavenly temple as it often did the earthly one [Exodus 40:34-35; 1 Kings 8:10-11; 2 Chronicles 5:13-14; Isaiah 6:4]. And just like in those times on the earth when God’s presence came down, no one could enter the tabernacle-temple.

But many want to focus on God’s wrath here, so let’s look at it. The question they ask is, if God is love then how could He also be wrathful? Doesn’t His wrathfulness prove that either–a) He is not love; or b) He is not unchanging [different OT and NT personalities] after all? And then from here, many make the leap to therefore God must not exist because there are too many contrarieties in their understanding.

As humans, those who love most can be driven to protect the object of their affection through wrath. Meaning that they will defend the one they love. Does that make the person unloving? Not at all. Their vengeance is spurred by their love. Does that mean that the person has a split personality or that they are acting inconsistently with their purported character? Again, not at all. Love and wrath are two sides of the same coin. Defending their love is consistent with that love.

God loves people, and He abhors sin. People who align themselves with sin and refuse to acknowledge God place themselves on the receiving end of God’s wrath, the side that is protecting those who choose to love Him because He first loved them. It would be the same if American citizens chose to ally themselves with other countries who opposed the U.S. By doing so, they position themselves as enemies to their homeland. Not many would balk at the U.S. punishing, warring against or wiping out their enemies in the name of homeland security. But when God says that He will do the same thing to protect the citizens of heaven, then people fly into a rage.

Why? Because they want to be their own God. They want to be allowed to choose to live however they see fit, and anything else seems unjust…even if they would accept it from an earthly government.

Are you ready, willing and able to give an answer to tough questions like how to understand God’s wrath in light of His love? If not, pray. Read His word and let His truth penetrate your heart. He will give you wisdom if you seek Him.

KCS