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Enter False Religion

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, ‘If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.’ So the Lord scattered them from there over all the whole earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel–because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.” Genesis 11:5-9

Image result for chichen itza mayan ruinsThe Tower of Babel construction is known as a ziggurat. Ziggurats–also known as step-pyramids–can be found on five of the seven continents. These towers were built in many cultures as a temple to worship the heavens, that is the sun, moon and stars rather than the One True God.

Nimrod was the first to turn the hearts of people from their understanding of and a personal relationship with their Creator. And with the help of his wife, Semiramis, he propagated the first false religion on the face of the earth.

Because of this blatant disobedience and misuse of God’s name, God confused the languages of human beings. Human beings were made in God’s image [Genesis 1:27], with the ability to plan and create and work together. God acknowledges that if allowed to continue to work together, they could accomplish anything that they could of think of to undertake.

As the people scattered in their separate language groups, each culture shared a few common historical events: Creation, Flood, and the division of languages at the Tower of Babel. Until modern history, most people groups had in fact preserved a variation on these three stories in the forms of myths, legends and religious stories. The existence of ziggurats on five of seven continents itself is a testimony to a shared history and ancestry.

Moreover, this event is very important to the Biblical viewpoint of world history. So important that Babylon is mentioned 315 times in scripture. About 100 of those mentions occur in Jeremiah with the pending captivity.

When Israel, God’s chosen bride, prostitutes herself with the idolatry and false religions of surrounding nations, God relents. He gives Israel exactly what she insisted on out of His will to begin with. He allows Israel to have front row seats and firsthand experiences with the lifestyle that they so earnestly desired in Babylonian captivity in hopes that she will turn her heart once again to Him.

But one day, Babylon will fall. Revelation 19 records how the heavens will rejoice when that day comes, when the season of idolatry and false religion will lay decimated, never again to rise. When glory and honor will belong once again to God alone.

Is there any trace of Babylon in your heart or life? Is there anything that turns your prayer, praise, worship and devotion from the Creator? Allow the Holy Spirit to search your heart and bring such things to light to God’s glory and honor.

Every Tongue Confess

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“These are the clans of Noah’s sons, according to their lines of descent, within their nations. From these the nations spread out over the earth after the flood. Now the whole earth had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.” Genesis 10:32-11:2

Image result for talking mouth close upNow that the historical big picture has been laid out in the table of nations, God zooms into the Nimrod and Tower of Babel portion of the chronology. The flood is done. The brothers and their wives have started their families. Ham’s grandson Nimrod has grown into manhood along with his brothers and cousins–the grandchildren of Shem and Japheth. The whole world expanded eastward, where Nimrod finds the plain of Shinar and begins to build his empire [Genesis 10:10].

At this time, all of Noah’s descendants still shared one language. Everyone on the earth could understand each other. Even their speech–how they used the language–was still in common. They had the same idioms, figures of speech and cultural/historical background to inform their language usage. In fact, Genesis 10 & 11 are the first mentions of language in the Bible, because before that there was no need to define language. There was only one.

It would not remain that way, but we will one day return to God’s intention for our common speech and shared language. However, before that day comes, our languages will only be united in Christ. Daniel 7:14a gives us a sneak peak at this, “He [Jesus, the Son of Man] was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him.” Philippians 2:10-11 and Romans 14:11 concur that every tongue–that is language and literal tongue–will one day confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.

Not only that, but until our speech is united in heaven, the Holy Spirit enables us to speak in other languages and, thereby, to share the gospel with the world [Acts 2:4-8]. We were meant to speak God’s truth with one another and to understand the same.

Does the Holy Spirit live in you? If you are a Christian, He surely does. Ask Him, therefore, to enable you to share God’s truth with whomever you meet, regardless of whether you personally know their language. And let Him amaze you with His grace.

God’s Message Bearer

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“The waters continued to recede until the tenth month, and on the first day of the tenth month the tops of the mountains became visible. After forty days Noah opened a window he had made in the ark and sent out a raven, and it kept flying back and forth until the water had dried up from the earth. Then he sent out a dove to see if the water had receded from the surface of the ground. But the dove could find nowhere to perch because there was water all over the surface of the earth; so it returned to Noah in the ark. He reached out his hand and took the dove and brought back to himself in the ark.” Genesis 8:5-9

Image result for flying doveSo five months between rain and flooding before the waters began to recede. Then two and a half months after the ark rested on the mountains of Ararat [like getting caught on a reef or a shoal under the water] the water finally went down enough more that they could see the tops of the mountains they were snagged on.

But it was another forty days after this before Noah opened a window and tested the readiness of the earth with some bird scouts. To date that makes 265 days total on the ark before Noah thinks that maybe they’re getting close to being able to leave.

At first, Noah sends out an unclean bird, the raven. Ravens are scavengers. They will eat carrion which is the meat of dead animals, an act that made them unhealthy for consumption. However, this also made the raven an unreliable scout. Because when the raven didn’t find dry land or trees to perch on, it was totally willing to touchdown on floating carcasses then to return and maybe sit atop the ark’s roof before going scavenging again. It did this back and forth routine, without returning to Noah’s hand, until the earth was dry enough to live on again.

The dove, however, is a clean animal because it does not scavenge. This made the dove a more reliable scout as well, because the dove wouldn’t land on floating carcasses. So when there was no dry land, the dove returned to Noah’s hand.

Doves are actually in the pigeon family and historically were trained to carry messages in a tube tied to their leg. They would learn a route to fly between two people/destinations and faithfully delivered their cargo. Perhaps that is why God chose to use the dove as a symbol of His Holy Spirit at Jesus’ baptism [Matthew 3:16]. A clean [aka holy] message bearer who faithfully moves between two parties–God and man.

A message bearer who we can receive if we just reach out our hand.

Have you reached out to accept God’s message bearer, the Holy Spirit, in your life? If so, what have you done with His message?

When God Closes the Door

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Then the Lord shut him in. For forty days the flood kept coming on the earth, and as the waters increased they lifted the ark high above the earth. The waters rose and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water. They rose greatly on the earth, and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered. The waters rose and covered the mountains to a depth of more than fifteen cubits…The waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days.” Genesis 7:16b-21 & 24

Image result for pitching hayIf Noah or his family had any doubt whatsoever that they were obeying the will of God, surely when God Almighty closed the door to the ark once they were all safely inside was sign enough.

But was it sign enough to endure forty days of intense flooding that pushed the ark off the safety of dry land, rocking it–none too gently–as the waters swelled deep enough to cover the highest mountains of Noah’s day under about 23 feet of water?

Looking forward from Noah, the Israelites of the Exodus saw God do many miraculous things, and yet they grumbled against Him all the same, losing their opportunity to settle the Promised Land [Exodus 16:12, 17:1; Numbers 14:2]. Did Noah’s family feel this same frustration and temptation at any time when they were being tossed about in their floating zoo, pitching hay and other vittles to three stories worth of wild animals for a hundred and fifty days [about five months]?

Or did they whole heartedly trust God and just go for the ride of their lives?

More than that, I think it’s fascinating that God describes the ark here as floating on the surface of the water. Remember back in Genesis 1:2b that God’s spirit moved over the surface of the deep, and looking forward to Matthew 14, Jesus physically walked on the water.

God was with that ark, because God was in that ark with His faithful servants.

Everyone who didn’t have the faith to build and board with Noah was judged by the flood water and found wanting [Daniel 5:27]. But those who put their faith–their absolute certainty in what they hoped for but couldn’t see–in God, by His grace–undeserved favor–were saved.

The truth of sin is very real. But salvation by faith alone through grace alone is also a very real truth.

Like Noah, are you building your life in faith alone? Do you recognize God’s grace in your life that allows you to board His ark of salvation? In whom is your faith?

The City of Enoch: Part 1

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

Image result for walking away + imageCain 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?

Refusing God’s Mercy

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Where is your brother Abel?’ ‘I don’t know,’ he replied. ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ The Lord said, ‘What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.” Genesis 4:9-12

Image result for Hebrew gravestone + imageThe joy that Eve felt when God helped her to bring forth a man [4:1-2] now bore the sorrow of her own sin [Genesis 3:16]. God warned her that raising children would be fraught with pain, and what could be more painful to a mother than one son killing the other?

But Cain is downright contemptuous with God here. God asks His usual question meant to make Cain realize his own wrong, and Cain throws flippant lies and insolent sarcasm back in God’s face! “I don’t know. Am I my brother’s keeper?

Perhaps he was shocked by the outcome of his enraged attack. Perhaps not. Either way, it’s clear that Cain tries to mask his guilt and shame with walls of careless words. Just as we all as sinful humans, at some point, have tried to do to defend ourselves. Feigning ignorance. Pleading the fifth [amendment that is, meaning we refuse to self-incriminate].

Since Cain doesn’t respond in humbled repentance to God, God reveals an aspect of His nature to Cain that apparently Cain, as a second generation human, didn’t know about–omniscience [God is all knowing]. Ok Cain, have it your way. If you won’t confess, then I’ll just tell you that I already know that you’re guilty of murder.

So because of your second generation sin–which is just as unholy and irreverent as your parents’ disobedience–now not only will you have to work hard and be frustrated to provide for yourself, now the ground won’t even produce for you. You watered it with life blood, a defilation of My intended purpose. In your sin, you caused a death–which I am working to reverse in the world–and returned a man to the dust before his appointed end. This is so reprehensible that even the ground has rejected you and will force you to move from place to place as the first ever nomad on the planet.

Again, God’s heart is grieved many times over. He is certainly grieved at the wrongful death of Abel, but God is also grieved at both the murder Cain committed and his lack of post-murder remorse. It’s the same scenario of God–in His mercy–coming to Cain beforehand to help him see the error of his ways and repent before it was too late. But this time, the crime has already been committed, and God again in His mercy comes to Cain to give him the opportunity to repent of the wrong that he’d done. And Cain refuses.

Not only does anger divide us from our fellow man and threaten to consume our physical lives, but it also separates us from God.

Is there anger in your life? Is God’s Holy Spirit coming to you in His mercy to give you the opportunity to repent before it’s too late? Have you already sinned in your anger? Do not refuse the Holy Spirit when, in His mercy, He offers you the opportunity again.

In Your Anger

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Now Cain said to his brother Abel, ‘Let’s go out to the field.’ While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.” Genesis 4:8

Image result for Mad FaceI wonder how old Cain and Abel were when this tragic event occurred. How Abel loved and trusted Cain and had no idea what his brother was plotting. Today, most of us see an angry person, or a jealous person, and we’ve seen enough TV shows, news broadcasts and movies to know not to go with when invited into an otherwise innocuous field–at least not alone.

But obviously, this was before the rise of internet, cell phones, television, radio, telegraph, or even the Pony Express. This was even before the advent of the Brothers Grimm fairytales and Aesop’s fables, both of which warned children of the evil in the world. There were no stories of stranger danger or–as the case was here–not-so-stranger danger.

There was only loving, trusting, carefree Abel and his big brother Cain with whom he had laughed and played while growing up. Did they sleep in tree branch bunks? Build forts with vine swings or manual dumbwaiter-elevators? Did they race and climb and shout, “I win!”? Did one excel over the other in learning all of the animals’ names when Adam surely showed them everything in God’s Creation? Did they dream of doing something great to please their loving God?

Perhaps. But the sin that their parents allowed into the world seeped deep into their hearts as well. Cain felt the disappointment of not measuring up in one instance and there was no 12-step program for managing that guilt. There was, however, God as Mighty Counselor who came along side Cain and tried to make him aware of his sin before it was too late.

I wonder, did Cain know that his attack was going to end in his brother’s death? We know he’d never seen a dead person before. Did he even know it was possible to take someone else’s life breath away? He may have seen an animal slaughtered occasionally in his lifetime to provide new clothes as God prescribed. Was he testing it out? Or was he just so suddenly overcome by rage that nothing mattered except releasing his very violent jealousy?

Whatever exactly occurred, we need to know that this history was recorded for our understanding. In the New Testament, Jesus warned the religious leaders of His day that being innocent of murder was not enough to be considered righteous before God.

Matthew 5:22 clearly tells us that anyone who is angry with his brother–meaning any fellow human being, not just actual brothers–is in danger of the fires of hell. And the apostle Paul warned the Ephesians not to sin in their anger [Ephesians 4:26]. Clearly, allowing anger to seed itself in our hearts is a very dangerous Russian Roulette. Anger is not easily controlled, particularly in a heated moment with the person with whom we are angry. And full grown, the seed of anger grows into murder.

Jesus said don’t allow murderous seeds into your heart. The apostle Paul warned that when we are angry we have to master the crouching tiger of Genesis 4:7 and not sin, just as God warned Cain not to do. But Cain gave up that battle, he surrendered to his anger and murdered his little brother.

Do you struggle with anger? Ask God to help you understand its root. Ask Him to help you master the tiger that is crouching at your door. Ask God to help you surrender to Him alone, rather than to the violent seeds of anger that try to root themselves in the heart.