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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

Authority Shift

“And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time. ” Revelation 20:1-3

See the source imageCould this be another Christophanic angel [Revelation 10:1]? This one holds the keys to the Abyss–that death, hell and grave underworld where the fallen angels, aka demons, are holed up–the same keys that Jesus took when he conquered death in His resurrection [Revelation 1:18]. This one seizes Satan and binds him up for a thousand years, locking him up in that same Abyss. So it seems likely that either it is an angelic appearance of Jesus, or that since Jesus already conquered, the angel is able to act in His authority and strength to accomplish this.

And we too–when we have accepted Jesus as Lord and are indwelled by His Holy Spirit–we have His power in our lives. Jesus told the disciples at His ascension into heaven that because He had received authority over all of heaven and earth, therefore they [we] were to boldly go and make disciples across the planet, baptizing in the names of the triune Godhead and teaching obedience to His commands [Matthew 28:18-20]. His disciples could obey this command, holding onto Jesus’ promise that He Himself would be with them through the person of His Holy Spirit.

This commissioning comes on the heels of a ministry in which Jesus informed the disciples that, by faith, they would do greater things than He Himself had done on this earth [John 14:13]. During His earthly ministry, He cast out demons. Notably, He sent a whole legion of demons into a herd of pigs that rushed off a Cliffside and drown themselves [Matthew 8:28-34]. Greater still, He will see Satan bound and banished for all eternity.

God has given us who live by faith an incomparably great power–a power, the apostle Paul tells us, equivalent to the mighty strength of God worked through Jesus Christ to accomplish His will [Ephesians 1:18-21].

When we walk into a room, there is an authority shift that accompanies us. At the name of Jesus, darkness is routed, demons must flee, and spiritual discernment is made evident to all.

But so often, we let our sinful-nature–the ways of our old self–cling to us. We walk around with the name of Jesus on our lips, or in our prayer pocket just in case, but cower from or are enticed by the darkness, denying the true power of God in our lives [2 Timothy 3:5]. In so doing, we ourselves are deceived by Satan, even while we live for Christ.

Satan is already defeated though, and his lies will go with him down to the Abyss along with everyone who denied the truth of God in this life.

Do you boldly live as God’s light of salvation in this lost and dying world? Do you, by faith, walk in the power of the Most High? Are you growing in spiritual discernment?

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 Path of No Return

“And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, ‘Come, gather together for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals and mighty men, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, small and great.’ Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against the rider on the horse and his army. But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. The rest of them were killed with the sword that came out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh.” Revelation 19:17-21

See the source imageAn angel calls all of the scavenging birds to a great feast that contrasts to the marriage supper of the Lamb. It is the bitterness of sin juxtaposed to the sweetness of salvation–many will choose to perish. Kings who have become drunk on their own authority. Generals, their captains and their soldiers who fought for the things of earth in the name of the kings of the earth. And all people–regardless of social status–whose name is not written in the Lamb’s book of life [Revelation 13:8].

Unlike the mythological phoenix, new physical bodies will not regenerate from the ashes and dust to which we return [Genesis 3:19]. Only spiritual bodies will live in the new heaven and the new earth [1 Corinthians 15:42 & 52]. So flesh will be no more.

As we make choices in life, it is wise for us to remember that we are all appointed to die once and after that to face judgment [Hebrews 9:27]. The things of earth bring us much trouble and ultimately will pass away [Matthew 6:19; 1 Corinthians 3:12-13; 1 John 2:17]. Our physical bodies too will pass away [John 12:24; 1 Peter 1:24].

How much more dreadful for those who resist God to the end. Who stand against Him in the battle of Armageddon, siding with the enemy–Satan’s unholy trinity of self, antichrist and unholy prophet. Like the enemies of any bloody rebellion, there will be no peace in their passing, no body to return to mourning loved ones. Like the soldiers who fell in the No-Man’s-Land between the trenches of WWI, there will be no way to intercede and rescue those who wage war against God without also bringing death on oneself.

Armageddon will be a point of no return, a line that, once crossed, can never be undone.

But for many, they have already chosen a path of no surrender and, therefore, no return. Many have already decided that they would rather live this life denying and defying God, than to worry about the things to come [Revelation 1:19].

Refusal to acknowledge God is a choice. Surrender is a choice.

Which path have you chosen [Matthew 7:13-14]?

KCS

On Earth as It Is in Heaven

“Then the angel said to me, ‘Write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’ ‘ And he added, ‘These are the true words of God.’ At this I fell at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, ‘Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus, Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” Revelation 19:9-10

See the source imageBlessed–extremely joyful–are we faithful who will one day sit to banquet with Jesus in heaven [Luke 14:15].  Again, the angel commands John to write, for this message was to go out to all the churches in Asia Minor and, of course, in posterity to every church in the world ever. But he also emphasized the fact that this statement of blessing was an actual quote from the living God.

Woah!

So either John took that to mean that God was standing in front of him in this angelic form, or John was supremely amazed to be in the presence of one who himself had been in the presence of God. In antiquity, this was believed an impossibility–to stand before God and live to tell about it. Either way, John gladly humbled himself before the angel. For in his day, it showed the utmost respect to fall at someone’s feet in awe.

Not to mention, the angel had just confirmed something incredible–prophecy, like God, was not dead. Many of John’s contemporaries believed it to be so. Since Jesus was the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies they knew so well, then surely there was no need for any further prophecy.

But the angel said, No way! Wait! Stop! I am not God that you should bow in worship to me. Don’t ever give God’s worship to anyone but Him alone.

Did you catch it? The spirit of God in His faithful? The righting of wrong?

Back in the beginning, Satan lied to everyone–people and angels alike–telling them they could be their own god [Genesis 3:5; Isaiah 14:14]. One-third of the angels in heaven followed after that belief and were cast out with him [Revelation 12:4]. If John had bowed to any of these fallen, they would have let him, because it would have been the fulfillment of the lie they had bought into. It would, to them, have been usurping God’s worship for themselves.

But God’s angels, the faithful in heaven [Acts10:25-26; Revelation 22:8-9]–just as the faithful people on earth ought [Matthew 6:10]–redirect all praise and worship to Him who alone is worthy, God. And we do so in the knowledge that the spirit of prophecy–that pneuma mentioned 160 times in the New Testament, occasionally rendered as wind, ghost or life breath, but most often as the Holy Spirit–that spirit lives in the testimony of Jesus for which many will be persecuted and even lay down their lives [Revelation 12:17].

Jesus’ messianic prophecy wasn’t finished at the cross. The truth of His revelation isn’t done until it is done. Until the faithful stand before the Father in heaven while Babylon lies in a smoking ruin. When sin has been removed and eternal life bestowed on all who believed. Then, and only then, will the prophecy cease [1 Corinthians 13:8-10]. Because then, and only then, will every bit of it be fulfilled.

Do you give God’s worship to anyone or anything other than Him? Do you allow others to praise you for the things that God has accomplished in and through you? Do you testify to Jesus until He comes?

KCS