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Shards of Heaven

“The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. This first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass.” Revelation 21:18-21

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Walls made of jasper–the stone of the tribe of Benjamin–meaning son of my right hand [Genesis 35:18], or honored son. The New Jerusalem is the city of God’s Son. A city of pure gold–His people refined in the fire [1 Peter 1:7; Revelation 3:18]. Pure as glass–transparent. Nothing sinful. Nothing hidden [Genesis 3:8 & 10].

The first foundation, also jasper–the last son of Jacob, the last Adam–Jesus Christ [1 Corinthians 15:45]. Look at how the last shall be first [Matthew 20:16]–the tribe of Benjamin before all his brothers and Jesus Christ the Alpha and Omega before the first man Adam.

Each foundation stone representative of the tribes of Israel as was worn on the priestly ephod when they ministered before the Lord in the Tabernacle and the Temple [Exodus 28:17].

Reuben: carnelian [aka sardius or ruby]

Simeon: topaz/chrysolite [aka peridot, emerald or topaz]

Manasseh, Levi, Judah: beryl [aka carbuncle or emerald]

Judah, Zebulon: emerald [aka carbuncle or beryl or diamond]

Issachar: sapphire

Nephtali: jacinth [aka ligure]

Gad, Ephraim: chalcedony [aka agate or onyx]

Gad, Ephraim: chrysoprase [aka calcedony, agate or onyx]

Asher: amethyst

Ephraim: sardonyx [aka onyx alternated with sardius]

Benjamin: jasper

The book of Job tells about how we human beings plumb the depths of the earth for hidden riches [Job 28:1-19]. In the name of beauty, wealth and greatness, we ferret out every nugget of gold and precious gem the ground produces.

But before Adam and Eve ushered sin into the world, riches like these were abundant, even laying on the ground as commonplace as gravel or river rock [Genesis 2:12]. After sin, though, all of Creation was broken. The truth of eternity hidden from human understanding.

What does this have to do with the foundations of heaven? As aliens and strangers in this world [Hebrews 11:13; 1 Peter 2:11], we are naturally drawn to the wonder, beauty and riches of our heavenly home. We dig into the earth seeking treasure to fill the need for something that we are missing. It is the natural response of the eternity in our hearts [Ecclesiastes 3:11]. Yet because of sin, we do not recognize the shards of heaven when we find them. Rather they become the impetus for greed and the root of all kinds of evil [1 Timothy 6:10].

Beauty is fleeting [Proverbs 31:30]. Earthly wealth will pass away [Proverbs 13:22]. Greatness belongs to God alone [Psalm 145:3]. True wonder emanates from Him alone.

Do you search for God as for hidden treasure [Proverbs 2:4]? Do you seek Him while He may be found [Isaiah 55:6]?

KCS

 

 

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Are You Thirsty?

“He said to me: ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.” Revelation 21:6-7

See the source imageUnbelievable! The entire book of Revelation John has been spoken to by angels, and heard the voice of God the Father and God the Son. But this time, God doesn’t relay His message. He speaks right to John.

And what does God Almighty say? Just as He announced–when the angel poured out the seventh and final bowl of God’s wrath–that sin had met its end [Revelation 16:17], so now He proclaims Gegonen again. Only this time, all of heaven and creation have been made new. The work of the New Creation is done.

It’s interesting to note that, In the beginning [Genesis 1:1], derives from a different word than the Beginning used here. This totally makes sense since God is eternal and His creation is not. Like the Alpha and Omega that begin and end the Greek alphabet–an alphabet which does not contain every possible phoneme, or sound-letter-representative–God is the Beginning and the End of all things, though He Himself does not have a beginning or an end. He exists outside of created time just as His Word–that Word which created all things–exists outside of the Greek alphabet, and every other alphabet ever conceived.

He gives John the same gospel message to share with the world as Jesus brought–living water [John 4:13-14]. Water is so essential to the creation. It was the foundation of the world on which God created everything [Genesis 1:2]. It flows through every living organism, and without it, nothing can live.

Jesus is that spring of eternal living water. His death paid the wages of our sins, while we can freely receive His gift of eternal life [Romans 6:23].

But if it’s that easy to be saved–and it is–then what does God mean that we must overcome? Just as He counseled Cain so long ago, we must overcome the crouching tiger of sin who is waiting around every corner to devour us [Genesis 4:7]. But not in the way that we must defeat sin of our own accord. We are not gladiators thrown into a ring of divine entertainment. Jesus overcame it all [John 16:33] and–by His Holy Spirit living in us–we can stand firm in the faith [Ephesians 6:10-18].

When we choose to will and to act in obedience with God’s commands, then, like Christ, we show ourselves to be overcomers of this world–we show ourselves to be conduits of living water. And we become children of God [Galatians 4:7] and co-heirs with Christ [Romans 8:17]. Our inheritance? Heaven for all eternity.

Are you thirsty?

KCS

Offering Thanksgiving–Part 2

“Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never will never be thirsty.” John 6:35

See the source imageIn the Levitical sacrificial system, the thanksgiving fellowship offering required making a variety of breads to share with God [Leviticus 7:11-15]. It was a time of reconciling sinful man with our holy God in anticipation of the day when our sins would be forgiven and we could daily fellowship with Him for eternity–heaven.

It’s no coincidence then, that Jesus called Himself the bread of life [John 6:35] or that He referred to His crucified body as bread broken for us [1 Corinthians 11:24]. Jesus was prepared lovingly by the Father to be the bread God offered as the one true fellowship offering for all time.

Give thanks! God made us. He loves us. And He wants to restore our relationship to Him so that we can live for eternity the way He intended. He made the way through His son Jesus, and all we have to do is believe on Him [John 3:16].

God is actively pursuing the hearts of every man, woman and child at all times. But we should just as actively be pursuing the heart of God. Those who hunger and thirst for the things of God will be filled with them and be blessed by them [Matthew 5:6]. This is not a physical desire to eat and drink. This is referring to the appetite of the mind, emotion and soul.

When we hunger to know Jesus, the bread of life, He shows Himself to us. When we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive them [1 John 1:9]. By faith in Him, we have eternal life [John 3:16]. He indwells us with His Holy Spirit so that we may live our lives in the power of God Most High [Acts 1:8]. When we thirst for eternal life, we ourselves do not rest until we take hold of it.

This drive for truth and righteousness results in finding them both. It is not a surface kind of hunger and thirst, it can only be satiated by digging deeper into the things of God, becoming more and more like Him with each passing day.

With Thanksgiving behind us and the celebration of the birth of Christ looming, hold on to an attitude of thanksgiving. Earnestly seek God. Hunger and thirst for more of Him each day. Get in His Word. Pray. Give thanks to Him in all things. Daily.

What desires drive your life? Do you recognize God pursuing your heart in your life? Are you persistently pursuing God’s heart?

KCS

Offering Thanksgiving–Part 1

“These are the regulations for the fellowship offering anyone may offer to the Lord: If they offer it as an expression of thankfulness, then along with this thank offering they are to offer thick loaves made without yeast and with olive oil mixed in, thin loaves made without yeast and brushed with olive oil, and thick loaves of the finest flour well-kneaded and with oil mixed in. Along with their fellowship offering of thanksgiving they are to present an offering with thick loaves of bread made with yeast. They are to bring one of each kind as an offering, a contribution to the Lord; it belongs to the priest who splashes the blood of the fellowship offering against the altar. The meat of their fellowship offering of thanksgiving is to be eaten on the day it is offered; they must leave none of it till morning.” Leviticus 7:11-15

See the source imageThroughout the Old Testament, the Israelites were bound up in a sacrificial system that was designed as a divine awareness campaign [Romans 7:7-8]. It is so easy, as sinful humans, to walk around believing that we are right and everyone else is wronging us. But under the Mosaic law each person had to analyze themselves, they had to consider their actions and their motives, then offer sacrifice according to the measure of their wrongdoing.

To be clear, the law and sacrificial system were never meant to provide forgiveness for sins, just to make people aware of themselves from an eternal perspective [Acts 13:39; Romans 8:3; Hebrews 10:4].

But there was also a sacrificial offering prescribed for those who wanted to give thanks to God. A variation on the fellowship offering–in which man could commune with the God from whom he was estranged–the thanksgiving offering required the making of bread. Yeast-free loaves both thick and thin. Thick yeasty loaves. Each with a variation on the use of olive oil. [It makes me imagine being in a French bakery!] Think of how wonderful all of this fresh baked bread smelled, all warm and crusty on the outside, soft and butter-melting on the inside–though they probably didn’t do the butter thing at that time.

The command is to prepare loaves–plural–but only to share one of each kind with the priest making the blood-offering at the altar. So where does the rest of the bread offering go? And what about the meat from the animal whose blood gets sprinkled?

Well, fellowship meant truly that. The people prepared their gifts to eat with God. He wasn’t-and still isn’t–aloft and untouchable, though He is holy and sovereign. To bring a fellowship offering was to share a meal with God. Though He Himself is not flesh and blood, so His representative, the priest, ate the thanksgiving meal in God’s stead.

In this way, the people were reminded of the guilt of their sin and how it separates them from God. They were also shown that God wanted to make an offering on their behalf–an offering to reconcile Him to them–so that, one day, all humans everywhere could fellowship with Him the way He intended from the Creation. It was a time of divine thanksgiving as well as for those who wanted to actively give thanks to God for His goodness in their lives. God rejoices when we, His beloved Creation, draw near to Him with thanksgiving.

The law and the sacrificial system no longer regulate our behavior, but God’s desire to reconcile and commune with His Creation is unchanging.

Have you an offering of thanksgiving for God? Will you draw near to Him during this time of corporate thanksgiving to fellowship with your heavenly Father?

KCS

Sin or Shine

“Then a mighty angel picked up a boulder the size of a large millstone and threw it into the sea, and said: ‘With such violence the great city of Babylon will be thrown down, never to be found again. The music of harpists and musicians, flute players and trumpeters, will never be heard in you again. No workman of any trade will ever be found in you again. The sound of a millstone will never be heard in you again. The light of a lamp will never shine in you again. Your merchants were the world’s great men. By your magic spell all the nations were led astray. In her was found the blood of prophets and of the saints, and of all who have been killed on the earth.” Revelation 18:21-24

See the source imagePerhaps this is the same mighty angel who asked to know who was worthy to open the seven-sealed scroll [Revelation 5:2]. Picking up the donkey millstone [Matthew 18:6; Mark 9:42] to represent the sinking of Babylon is significant. It is better to meet this end by our own choosing, than to lead the faith of others–and children in particular–astray.

Jeremiah prophesied this millstone sinking [Jeremiah 51:63]. And Revelation assures us that once Babylon, and all that she represents, have been destroyed, the sinful systems of the world will never rise again. No music, career, daily chore or light will come from those who made their homes in false religion and sinfulness, though once earthly fame abounded therein.

By Babylon’s deceptive promise to influence fortune and fate–for that is what the rebellion of sorcery and witchcraft is–many, many, many lose their way on the straight and narrow [Matthew 7:13-14]. Our flesh is weak and easily tempted to behave according to our sinful nature [Galatians 5:19-21]. But by His spirit in us, God calls us to overcome the fleshly temptation and sin in our lives, just as He overcame this world [Genesis 4:7; 1 Corinthians 10:13; John 16:33].

All those who live by the world’s ways, bear the bloodguilt of the prophets, saints and martyrs. That is, if we live like the world, sinning against God, then we are guilty of the world’s bloodshed because we are a part of those who oppose God’s people.

But those who–by faith–live by God’s word, will be forgiven the guilt and penalty of their sin, and will be counted among the just and the righteous by God [Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17; Hebrews 10:38]. They will be like a city on a hill whose light shines for all to see the truth of their way in the darkness [Matthew 5:14].

Are you bearing your own sin and guilt and that of a complicit world? Or have you been saved through faith by grace?

KCS

What Are You Made Of?

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Then I heard another voice from heaven say: ‘Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes. Give back to her as she has given; pay her back double for what she has done. Mix her a double portion from her own cup. Give her as much torture and grief as the glory and luxury she gave herself. In her heart she boasts, ‘I sit as a queen; I am not a widow; and I will never mourn.’ Therefore in one day her plagues will overtake her: death, mourning and famine. She will be consumed by fire, for mighty is the Lord who judges her.” Revelation 18:4-8

Image result for People sculpturesGod is calling–actively in the present tense and all throughout history–for the people that He created to see the truth of eternity and come out from the sins of the world.

As Christians, while we live among people who completely disregard God, we ourselves revere Him, glorifying and honoring Him with our whole lives. We live in this world, but we are not made of the same stuff as this world [John 17:16; Romans 12:2; 1 John 2:15-17]. We are free from the constraints of the world’s social systems so that we might reach the world with the gospel [1 Corinthians 9:19-23].

By putting off our old sinful self and refusing to be influenced by the ideas of false religion, we save ourselves an eternity of hurt [Revelation 20:11-15. But we also save ourselves a multitude of hurts in this life. This doesn’t mean that our lives will be problem free. We will still have trouble [John 16:33]. Trouble because of those around us who choose to keep on sinning. Trouble because of our own wrestling with a sinful nature that wants to tear out our heart for Christ. Trouble because this world and these physical bodies are passing away [1 John 2:17; 2 Corinthians 4:16]. But Jesus has overcome all of these troubles on our behalf [John 16:33]. He is preparing a place for us where sin will no longer have any hold or sway in our lives [John 14:2-3; Revelation 21:4].

Meanwhile, the world’s systems multiply sin and boast about it. The world confidently masquerades as a figurehead queen, with no real authority. She declares that she has not been widowed, that her husband–Satan–has not died, and that she will never be in mourning for his passing. But she is wrong. Our Creator God always was, and is and always will be–He is eternal [Revelation 1:8]. Satan had a beginning, will have a time out and will meet an end [Hebrews 2:7; Revelation 20:2 & 7-10]. He is the antithesis of the eternal. He is temporal–time bound.

And just like Satan, false religion is temporal. She will meet the same end that it has brought upon the multitudes–plagues, death, mourning and famine–each judgments from the book of Revelation. She will be consumed eternally by fire, the end for everything and everyone that is not of God [Revelation 20:9-10 & 14-15]. We are not to sit back and let false religion get her hooks in the people around us. We are to give her grief by turning the hearts of her followers back to the One True God.

Because it is our choice. Yours and mine. And God does not desire that any should choose to go down with the burning ship of false religion–including atheism [2 Peter 3:9]. He desires that the whole world would know and live the truth. He desires that our hearts will rightly revere Him so that it might go well with all of us unto eternal life [Deuteronomy 5:29].

And He desires that, as Christians, we share His heart for a lost and dying world. You may live in this sinful world. But what are you made of?

Do Not Be Afraid–Part 2: Death

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even their name is forgotten.” Ecclesiastes 9:5

Image result for day of the deadWhile Halloween was born from a fear of the literal dark, Dia de los Muertos–or Day of the Dead–was born from a fear of death. Many cultures have tried to explain away what happens at the end of life, but without the truth of God. Day of the Dead, however, was a blend of indigenous Mayan beliefs and the teachings of the Catholic missionaries.

The natives feared the nine-leveled underworld of their mythology and the violent landscape and beasts they believed it to hold. Learning the truth ought to have set them free from this trepidation. Yet, when missionaries shared the truth of scripture, the old fear-steeped mythology held the natives captive. They tried to believe in both and–a multi-leveled underworld of the dead and a new hope, returning souls and altar offerings, darkness and light. Fear based on a lie from the pit of hell prevented the native peoples from fully accepting the truth of God.

While it’s true that everyone is appointed to die once and after that to face judgment [Hebrews 9:27], it is also true that as Christians we do not need to be afraid of dying or the judgment to come [1 Corinthians 15:55].

In modern times, the Day of the Dead is a day of niceties–family graveside customs, humorous skeleton scenes, sweet foods, traditional music–seemingly removed from its fearful origins. But God, again, would see His truth go forth to the unbelieving and transform lives through transformed understanding [Romans 12:2]. He would that His truth set free the captives of superstitions, traditions and fears.

Is He calling you to take up His light and carry it to the unbelieving nations? Is He setting you free from the bondage of sin and deception so that you can in turn free others with His truth?