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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

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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

Thanksgiving Alive

“In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” James 2:17

See the source imageYesterday’s scripture, Philippians 4:4-7, instructed us how to operate in our daily lives by faith.

Rejoice. Pray. Give thanks. Receive peace. Repeat in all things.

Luke 6:45 tells us that from the overflow of our heart the mouth speaks–that is to say that the condition of our heart dictates our response to life.

So if our heart is full of God and full of rejoicing, bent towards prayer and thanksgiving, and therefore full of peace, then the daily walking out of our faith flows from heart to mouth to eternal-life affirming deeds.

Conversely, if our heart is not full of God, if there is little or no rejoicing, prayer or thanksgiving, and therefore much anxiety or even fear, then our faith is either sick or dying.

Because as James 2:17 above says, faith without action is dead. So believing in what we hope for but cannot see without actively giving thanks is like dragging around a dead weight in our heart. Like a seed that will never grow into the plant it was meant to be is faith that doesn’t rejoice, faith that doesn’t pray, and faith that doesn’t give thanks and receive peace.

But how can one be forgiven a lifetime of sins, gain eternal life, and not be moved to give thanks [Luke 7:47]? Does the thanks you give equal the faith you profess to have?

KCS

The Heart of Thanksgiving

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7

See the source imageIn Philippians, Paul speaks God’s truth into our culture. Rejoice in the Lord always! For better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. They’re not just the words for wedding ceremonies. After all, the church is the bride of Christ. We are to live this life with Him as our beloved, rejoicing in Him in every situation.

And repeat.

When we can relax and rejoice in our Lord Jesus Christ, we become a gentle people that show others the truth of God with us. If people deny His existence, it’s because we first have denied Him with how we live our lives. If people reject Him as Lord of all, it’s because we first have rejected His call to live and love this world as He does. Our faith needs to be evident to all, to the glory and honor of God.

When we are full of worry and doubt, stress, anxiety and tension, we are giving in to the attacks of sin on our lives. Jesus told us that we would have trouble in this world, but He also told us that He overcame all of it [John 16:33]. I don’t know about you, but that makes me incredibly thankful!

And since the mouth speaks what the heart is full of [Luke 6:45], then I can truly in every situation–for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health–give thanks to my Creator God. To my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. To my comforter, the Holy Spirit.

No matter what comes our way, we can relax and pray a prayer of thanksgiving that Jesus has overcome. We can relax and petition God to act faithfully on our behalf, giving thanks that Jesus has overcome. We can relax and bring our requests straight to God Almighty, the Creator of the universe, giving thanks that Jesus opened the way for our direct communication with the Father.

Having a heart centered on giving thanks to God, guards us with peace. Our hearts and minds can relax in the peace of God. A peace that those who have denied His existence will never know.

When is the last time you felt genuinely thankful?

As Americans we live in a society where our needs are usually met and even many of the things we don’t need are available if not provided for us as well–by human hands. Most of us live in general comfort–which ironically leads to discontentment, even boredom, and a general spirit of ungratefulness for the things that we have and the people who provide them–though it should make us eternally grateful.

Does your heart overflow with thankfulness to God? Is this heart of thanksgiving evident to all? Do you rest thankfully in His peace?

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-leveledĀ 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?

Witchcraft and Divination

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“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 cauldron and broom + imageOne 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.