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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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God’s Morality Check

“But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars–their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” Revelation 21:8

See the source imageBecause the Word is double-edged [Hebrews 4:12], scriptures often list those who will not inherit the kingdom of God in contrast to those who will [i.e. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Galatians 5:19-25]. Just as light would not be understood without the contrast of darkness, the life that God desires for us is not always clear to the human mind without looking at that which is in opposition to God’s will.

Since God is holy–meaning no impurity or sin is in Him–and since He is the sovereign of heaven–the authority before whom we will stand judgment–it is imperative that we understand what God expects of us, both to do and not to do.

So why does cowardliness make the list? Remember that this letter of Revelation is being circulated among the churches in the Roman province of Asia Minor. Jesus, through John’s writing, tells the churches that they were going to face persecution, hardship, imprisonment and even death for His name’s sake [Revelation 2:3 & 8, 9-11 & 13; 3:8-9]. In each instance, if they held boldly to their faith, if they did not cower from the physical, social and cultural threats of the world [Matthew 10:28], they would be called victorious and receive the inheritance of eternal life. We are not of those who shrink back from the world in fear, renouncing our faith to save our skin [Hebrews 10:39]. Rather we are to stand firm in our faith [1 Corinthians 6:13; Ephesians 6:11-14], boldly proclaiming salvation through Jesus Christ. The cowardly turn their back on God when times get tough. They do not acknowledge Jesus before others; in turn, they will not be acknowledged before God [Matthew 10:32-33].

Obviously, those who do not believe in God will not be saved. For it is, by grace we are saved through faith [Romans 1:5 & 5:2; Ephesians 2:8]. And even if we continue to struggle against sin we can experience God’s grace and, by faith, salvation in our lives. But if we do not have faith, then we will never see heaven.

Vile means morally corrupt. Since morals–standards of belief and behavior–are established by God who is holy, corrupted morals are anything that deviate from His norm. It makes sense then that those who buy into Satan’s lie that we can be our own God and make our own morals [Genesis 3:5; Isaiah 14:14], will never inherit the kingdom of God.

This corrupted moral system includes murdering, any sexual behavior that deviates from God’s plan of one man and one woman within the confines of marriage for life, trying to summon magical powers rather than rightly seeking the power of God, creating images of false gods and praying to/worshiping them, and telling lies. Many of these were addressed in the well-known 10-commandments [Exodus 20:1-17]. All of these are natural desires of sinful people, but can be overcome by the power of the Holy Spirit living in us, and are completely forgiven us through the blood of Jesus Christ.

Who is God in your life? You or God? Not sure? Well, whose standard of right and wrong are you living by? Yours, the world’s or God’s?

KCS

The Old Made New

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelation 21:1-5

See the source imageFrom the moment sin entered Creation, God laid the foundations for the new heaven and the new earth [Genesis 3:15 & 21-24; Isaiah 65:17]. The land masses of the first earth were surrounded and divided by seas since Day 3 of the Creation, and in Babel’s day, God divided the people over the face of the whole earth so that they wouldn’t influence one another for evil [Genesis 11:8-9]. But there will not be a need for such a separation in heaven. There believers will be of one heart for Jesus, they will be of one accord in praise [2 Peter 3:13; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Revelation 3:12].

The New Jerusalem will be a heavenly city, a true dwelling for God among the redeemed [Hebrews 12:22]. A dwelling that God Most High prepared for us like a bride prepares for her wedding [John 14:2; Hebrews 11:10]. Like the Temple was an earthly wonder to behold, the heavenly Jerusalem will be like nothing we can imagine.

But it isn’t for the New city that we hope, it is for the restored relationship with God. That we will once again be the people that He created us to be with reverence for God restored to our hearts. Though Jesus was God with us on earth for a short time, when we are restored as God’s people, He will be with us for eternity. He will undo all that sin that we have done–no more tears and no more pain [Genesis 3:16-18; Isaiah 65:19; Revelation 7:17], no more death and no more mourning the dead [Genesis 3:19; Isaiah 35:10; 1 Corinthians 15:26].

We live in the old world. It is lost and dying and it will pass away. While we are here, we live in our old bodies, which will also pass away. We can choose to allow God to make us new in this life. Our old bodies will still pass away, but our new soul man will live on.

This is a truth you can take to the bank. It is absolutely trustworthy, unlike the promises of this world.

Are you a new creation in Christ? Has your relationship with God been restored?

KCS

With Eyes on Eternity

“I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.)” Revelation 20:4-5a

See the source imageThese judges’ thrones were prophesied since the time of Daniel [Daniel 7:9]. Though all authority in heaven and earth belongs to Jesus [Matthew 28:18], He gives the authority to sit in judgment over Satan, his antichrist and his unholy prophet, to those martyred for their faith [Revelation 6:9 & 20:4]. Like a jury for the Holy Judge, those who hold true to their faith even to the point of death, show themselves worthy to render this final verdict with Christ [Daniel 7:26-27].

They did not give in to the threat of physical death, because they understood the bigger picture of eternity.

The millennial reign of Christ mentioned here is the same duration of Satan’s prison sentence, locked in the Abyss, before his final doom in the lake of burning sulfur.

According to this passage, only martyrs get the blessing of being raised to rule and reign with Christ during this millennium. It seems to clearly state here that other believers who have died will remain dead until after this time has passed. However, scripture often indicates that when we die, we go straight to heaven–to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord [Luke 23:43; 2 Corinthians 5:8]. So is this an inconsistency in scripture?

Not at all.

This seems to be an example where the English translation misconstrues the meaning of the original language. In the Greek, the conjunction kaiand–comes between the phrases describing the martyrs and those resisting the beast. Meaning that this is a list of more than one group of people, not a continuing description attributed to only the martyrs.

The church of Smyrna was encouraged to hold on–through testing and suffering, imprisonment, persecution and even martyrdom–and they would not be affected by this second death, the lake of fire [Revelation 2:10-11 & 20:14]. Not everyone would be martyred, but the victorious–everyone who held firm to their faith through whatever trials came their way–would be counted with those who gave their lives as the ultimate expression of faith.

Are you living victoriously by standing firm in your faith? Do you live with your eyes fixed on eternity?

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

Black Friday and the Bible

“When the neighboring people bring merchandise or grain to sell on the Sabbath, we will not buy from them on the Sabbath or on any holy day. Every seventh year we will forgo working the land and will cancel all debts.” Nehemiah 13:22

See the source imageChristmas. Wait! We just put the turkey away. But that doesn’t matter so much in American culture. For years, people have commented on how Christmas gets earlier every year. How stores start putting up displays as soon as Halloween is done–seemingly skipping Thanksgiving altogether–or even as early as midsummer.

A few years ago, the Black Friday sales–so named because it is the day that carries most retail businesses out of the red of debt and into the black of profit for the year–were offering their sales at earlier and earlier morning hours, so that customers could extend their bargain shopping day. People camped out in parking lots and on sidewalks to be the first in the door to get a deal before stock disappeared.

Not long after that, early morning got backed up to midnight. So then people left their Thanksgiving celebration almost as soon as the turkey was cleared from the table to go wait in shopping lines. And this year, the sales are backing up again–some to the dinner hour of 5:00 or 6:00pm and some even earlier. If the trend continues, then it won’t be long before retailers forget about Black Friday and just overtake Thanksgiving Thursday entirely.

And people let them, because they keep showing up to shop at whatever hour the sale is held. Christians included.

In the book of Nehemiah, however, we see that the returning Israelites recommitted to honor the Lord’s commands about keeping Sabbaths, holy days and jubilee years the way God intended. They weren’t to work. And they weren’t to shop, which would cause other people to have to work on a day that was meant for human rest and giving God honor and thanks for His provision.

This is not to say that Christians should boycott the Black Friday shopping tradition. In Paul’s day, people were struggling to draw a line with their newfound freedom in Christ. We have the free will to do anything, they said, but, he reminded them, not all things are beneficial and we should not allow anything but Christ to master us [1 Corinthians 6:12 & 10:23].

Rather, in all things, we should participate out of a God-fearing heart, seeking His wisdom in how–and probably about when–we shop as well. For the sake of space, we’ll only mention two things here.

Remember to keep the appointed holy days holy. Separate. Special. Rest and relax with family and friends where possible. These times are so very important to our physical, spiritual and emotional well being. They are also important to our children and how they view life and the world. And many have turned the Black Friday shopping into a family event. So it can be an extension of a good time spent well together.

Debt. God does not look with favor on debt, because it binds us up, keeps us from being free to truly live, love and serve Him. But God does make allowances for debt in scripture, with the caveat that we pay back what we owe. And it is in our best interest to do so quickly. Keep short accounts with God and man. So if you are out Black Friday shopping, remember to stay within budget–and hopefully to create a budget to begin with that won’t break your bank for the year while you help retailers dig out of their debts.

Are you committed to observe God’s days God’s way? Do you live financially in ways that please God?

KCS

The First Thanksgiving–By Faith

“Obey these instructions as a lasting ordinance for you and your descendants. When you enter the land that the Lord will give you as he promised, observe this ceremony. And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when He struck down the Egyptians.’ Then the people bowed and worshipped. The Israelites did just what the Lord commanded Moses and Aaron.” Exodus 12:24-28

See the source imageThe Passover. But isn’t that right before Easter? As in not November?

Yes, it is. But Passover originated in a Thanksgiving feast eaten in faith that God would do what He said if the Israelites first obeyed what He said.

Now thankfulness to God and the act of giving thanks definitely occurred in scripture long before this first Passover–Abel’s offerings came from a heart of thankfulness and reverence [Genesis 4:4], Noah built an altar and sacrificed out of a thankful heart when he finally was able to leave the ark [Genesis 8:20]. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob each gave thanks to God throughout their lifetimes. Joseph too. No doubt Moses’ mother and father gave God thanks for protecting their son from Pharaoh’s edict and for returning him to their care [Exodus 2:8-9; Hebrews 11:23].

And thankfulness is the natural response of the forgiven heart [Psalm 9:1; 1 Corinthians 15:57].

The instruction to observe thankfulness was a lasting one. Not just a one and done. As God’s love endures forever, so our thankfulness should go on and on–on this earth just as it does in heaven [Revelation 4:8-9].

The Israelites ate a celebratory meal in anticipation of God’s faithfulness, of Him keeping His promise as spoken through Moses. By faith, they gave God thanks through obedience. They could only trust that God would do what He said.

This week, we as Americans will gather together with our loved ones to give thanks for all that God has already done for us. And to be sure, He has done great things [Psalm 107:8, et al]. We have much to be thankful for! But God calls us to live out thankfulness by faith–a life lived in thanksgiving for the things that He has yet to accomplish in our lives, things that He has promised but that we may never see come to fruition in our lifetime [Hebrews 11:39-40].

Can you imagine the power of such a statement?

I’m thankful that God will–heal, provide in every situation, move mountains, answer prayer, guide in His wisdom, accomplish His will–you name it!

I’m thankful that Jesus will acknowledge me before His Father one day [Matthew 10:32-33].

I’m thankful that my someday-spouse will love God and spiritually lead our home, that my children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren will know and love God–that they will impact their generation to the glory and honor of God.

What are you thankful for by faith? What has God spoken into your future? What has He promised that you may not live long enough to see? Are you seeking and giving thanks for that kind of spiritual legacy?

KCS