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by Kristen C. Strocchia
“John, to the seven churches in the province of Asia: Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits from before his throne, 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, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father–to him be glory and power forever and ever! Amen.” Revelation 1:4-6
The apostle John opens with a greeting to the seven churches of Asia Minor, which is modern day Turkey. Now the Romans had a Leading Council of Asiarchs that met on a yearly rotation to six of these same influential cities. The seventh–a much more northernly city–John swapped for the centrally located Thyatira. It’s possible that these cities were also the postal centers for seven geographic regions which would have facilitated delivery and dissemination of the Revelation given to him.
Grace is an important greeting. Basically blessing people with more goodness than they deserve. Grace is the crux of God’s gift in the gospel, and the apostles often greeted their readers with that unmerited favor, paying forward what God had done for them. Peace is another powerful spiritual blessing. Especially when the enemy–Satan–is at work to steal, kill and destroy. [John 10:10]. He brings confusion and conflict where God intended peace [John 14:27].
And John doesn’t claim this in and of himself. He passes the grace and peace of the One True, eternal God the father–like the conduit that we’re each meant to be–onto the seven churches. But he also sends these from the seven spirits before God’s throne and from Jesus Christ the son of God. Who are the seven spirits? Revelation 1:20 indicates that these are the angels for each of the seven churches. What a wonderful thing to know that there are ministering spirits who are also contending on our behalf.
Jesus the Messiah is described as being the faithful witness. We can count on his testimony on our behalf if we have believed on Him [John 3:16]. He is described as the firstborn from the dead. Before Jesus died for our sins and was resurrected, no one else had been born again into new life. True, Jesus raised Lazarus and others from the dead, but they had not yet been born again because death still reigned. It is only through Jesus that we can be born again and have eternal life because he conquered death, hell and the grave to make that possible [1 Corinthians 15:57; 2 Timothy 1:20; Revelation 1:18]. He is called the ruler of the kings of the earth, because all authority has been established by him [Matthew 28:18; Romans 13:1] and is subject to him.
The praise of Jesus continues. Glory–high renown or honor–be given to Jesus alone because 1) He loves us; 2) He died for us which freed us from the curse of sin; 3) He redeemed our heavenly citizenship which was lost in the Fall of Man. But not just glory. John also ascribes power–dominion, authority over our lives–for all time, to Jesus Christ, and stamps it with Amen–so let it be!
Is Jesus glorified [aka honored] by your life? In other words, do others see how amazing Jesus is when they meet/get to know you? Does Jesus have all authority in your life? Have you submitted everything to Him?
by Kristen C. Strocchia
“When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. After he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked faithfully with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Enoch lived a total of 365 years. Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.” Genesis 5:21-24
Five generations after Seth, Enoch was born to Jared. At age 65, Enoch is listed as one of the younger men of the first generations to become a father. His name meaning dedicated, amongst other things, seems to fit him very well. For the next 300 years after becoming a daddy, Enoch walked with God. This is God’s description of Enoch, not Enoch or another human being’s description of himself [2 Timothy 3:16].
Now faithfully has been added to the NIV translation to help English speakers understand what the original language intended to convey. The obsolete definition of faithfully seems to fit best here–full of faith; faith being absolute certainty in what you hope for but cannot see. Enoch didn’t see the Creation of the world, though he could’ve known Adam for 208 years. Enoch didn’t see the promised redemption for sixth-great-granddaddy Adam’s explanation of sin in the world [Genesis 3:15]. Enoch never knew his murdered fifth-great-uncle Abel and maybe never knew his fifth-great-uncle-Cain, the first murderer in history who moved east and built a city–named after his cousin-many-times-removed who was also named Enoch–in defiance to God. Seth’s descendant Enoch never had a Bible and never darkened the door of a church. He never kept one Levitical law. He just walked day in and day out with God.
And he was so full of faith–his absolute certainty that walking with God was the only way to live life–that after only 300 years of being an earthly father, God ushered him home to be with Him, the Creator and Heavenly Father of all.
The plan of Redemption.
Cain rejecting God.
Enoch choosing God. Rapture.
The overview of the first five chapters of Genesis is like a microcosmic version of eternal reality. Faith in Christ is this simple. Enoch didn’t live a religious or legalistic life. God did not say of him, as He will say of some, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” [Matthew 7:23]. Knew–as in relational experience. Enoch didn’t just know facts about God or how to do things the way God wanted them. Enoch had a close interpersonal relationship with God the Creator, his Lord and Redeemer.
So much so that Enoch never tasted death. He was raptured.
Do you have a personal relationship with God? Will God say of you at the judgment that you have walked with Him–full of faith?
by Kristen C. Strocchia
“So Cain went out from the Lord’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden. Cain [knew] his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth Enoch. Cain was then building a city, and he named it after his son Enoch. To Enoch was born Irad, and Irad was the father of Mehujael, and Mehujael was the father of Methushael, and Methushael was the father of Lamech.” Genesis 4:16-18
Cain left God. Not the other way around.
So often people demand of God, “Where are you?!?!” But just like his father Adam before him, the question was not “Where was God?” God hadn’t changed or moved in the slightest. The question to Adam was, “Where are you?” Because Adam left his relationship with God through his disobedience, just as his son Cain was now doing.
The land of Nod here, was not so-named when Cain moved there. In fact, it may not have received that name until several generations later. But when Moses recorded the book of Genesis, he would have used–as inspired by the Holy Spirit [2 Timothy 3:16]–names of places that the readers would readily identify.
However, just as Adam and Eve most likely moved east of Eden when they were banished from their garden home [Genesis 2:10-14; 3:24], Cain moved even further east when he left God’s presence and, therefore, his parents’ home.
He took his wife–one of his sisters–with him, and they had a son.
Now Enoch may mean–according to various baby name books and websites–experienced, profound, dedicated, and/or teacher. I wonder if Cain chose this name because of the fact that he had experienced the evil of sin and the goodness of God firsthand. Perhaps he came to a profound understanding through this experience and dedicated his son’s life back to God. Or perhaps he simply called his son his teacher, because he knew the love that he had for him and began to realize how devastated he would be if someone took Enoch’s life as Cain had taken his brother from his parents.
Whichever the case, Cain begins to build the first city in world history. No more roughing it. It’s time for dwellings. Maybe even for wells and marketplaces. And by human logic, this was a good thing too, because his family was being fruitful and multiplying just as God intended from the Creation [Genesis 1:28]. Cain saw his family live to at least six generations after him [Genesis 4:18-20], maybe more, and there’s a good chance they all stayed in or around this city of Enoch that Cain built.
And keep in mind, that the scripture is only recording the name of the firstborn son in this genealogical record. As is the case with Adam and Eve’s family, Cain lived hundreds of years and had other sons and daughters that are not named in scripture. Conservatively, in six generations, the city of Enoch could have been home to about 120-250 people [small by today’s standards, but huge considering that it started with just Cain and his wife!]
Now just imagine if Cain had not walked away from God. If he had raised Enoch and his whole family to love and serve the Lord. Imagine how different our world history would be. Imagine how different our world today could be.
Each person makes a difference. What will your impact on history be? Will your life be a life lived in God’s presence? Are you living in such a way that others see God in you?
by Kristen C. Strocchia
“If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” Genesis 4:7
Remember back to the Garden of Eden when sin entered the world and God let Adam and Eve know what the effects of this would be? Notably, the effects of sin are: guilt, shame, fear of God [as well as separation from God], experiencing both good and evil, spiritual warfare, emotional and interpersonal struggles, pain, sorrow, decay of the physical world and body, and ultimately death.
The answer to the question that was asked–What if I just really don’t like someone?–is sin. How?
The scriptures list many specific sins [i.e. Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Timothy 3:2-4; et al], and, to be sure, these lists contain many things not-to-like. But sin exists in all of our lives [Romans 3:23]. So it is the effects of sin in my life–interpersonal struggles, guilt, shame, experiencing both good and evil, pain and sorrow–that keep me from liking all of my fellow man. And it is also these same effects of sin in their lives that make other people seem unlovely and unlovable to me.
However, we have to remember that Jesus died to forgive us and to take the effects of sin from our lives. It’s not easy–no one can say that it is easy to learn to behave contrary to our sin nature–but it is possible and commanded by God that we love every other person on the planet just as much as we love ourselves [Mark 12:31].
So what if I just really don’t like someone? First, recognize that this dislike is the result of the sinful nature. Second, don’t try to hide it from God, He already knows anyway. Instead, ask God to help you to love this person. And not the late twentieth-century cop-out kind of love when some people actually said, “I don’t like’em but I love’em with the love of the Lord.” No, when God says to love others, He meant that we need to learn to like them for real–that’s the only way to genuinely love them as God commanded.
Again, it’s not always easy, but it is possible with God’s help. And remember–But by the grace of God, there go I–a more honest old saying that just means, remember that my sin nature makes me just as unlovely and unlovable to other people as they are to me. But God has called them to love me too, despite my faults.
Got a sin nature? [That’s rhetorical. We all do.] But do you recognize that you are a sinner? Ask God to show you the sin in your life, specifically where it pertains to being able to love everyone that He brings across your path. Because if we can’t love the ones He sends our way, how will we ever win them to Christ?
by Kristen C. Strocchia
“When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?” Psalms 11:3
A friend of mine from Sweden shared with me that a recent version of the Bible printed in Swedish was prefaced with the sentence, “This book is a myth.” If anyone believes this opening line, then that negates any reason to read the Bible. Of course, God didn’t inspire that preface sentence as He did the actual scriptures contained within that Swedish Bible [2 Timothy 3:16]. Some human being wrote that of their own accord, and a publishing company allowed it to go to print.
But I would take this a step further, if anyone believes that any sentence within the inspired Word of God is false, then it negates every other truth therein.
A bold claim? Yes. But faith in God must be bold.
This world would like to wear away at the foundation of the Word of God in our lives. They would like us to question the Bible on any part. Any part. It doesn’t matter which one. Because Satan knows that once we start to doubt just one sentence or phrase in scripture that he has a foot in the door to our undoing. One piece of doubt will begin to darken other things that once seemed clear. One piece of doubt spreads like yeast filling bread dough with air bubbles until our understanding is nothing but fluff, deflated by a single punch–which he will be ready and willing to furnish.
Transfer this idea to the Bible’s foundation–Genesis 1:1. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” The world would like us to question every aspect of this fundamental truth. When was the beginning? Was there really a God there? The God? Are there any heavens? Did God actually create the earth? Did He create it the way He said He did?
You see, if we start from the Swedish Bible outlook, then this sentence, and every other, is a myth. But if we begin with a firm foundation of faith in God–absolute certainty of what we hope for, but cannot see–then this truth informs our understanding of every other scripture and the world around us.
So what can the righteous do when the foundations are being destroyed? We can check to make sure that our foundation is firmly built on the rock of our salvation. We can study our foundation to know it better and, thereby, sure up our faith.
What is the foundation of your faith built on? If you profess to believe it, how well do you know God’s Word?