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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

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Foundation for Life

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“When the kings of the earth who committed adultery with her and shared her luxury see the smoke of her burning, they will weep and mourn over her. Terrified at her torment, they will stand far off and cry: ‘Woe! Woe, O great city, O Babylon, city of power! In one hour your doom has come!’ The merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her because no one buys their cargoes any more–cargoes of gold, silver, precious stones and pearls; fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet cloth; every sort of citron wood, and articles of every kind made of ivory, costly wood, bronze, iron and marble; cargoes of cinnamon and spice, of incense, myrrh and frankincense, of wine and olive oil, of fine flour and wheat; cattle and sheep; horses and carriages; bodies and souls of men.” Revelation 18:9-13

False religion. Earthly governments. Economic pursuits at any cost. Misplaced worldview or life perspective. All are temporal. All will come to ruin.

And when the time of the end comes, when judgment comes, those who placed their hope, faith and trust in such temporalities will grieve their error.

Babylon trusted in her self-ascribed power. Rome too. And how many others? Yet their empires were short lived in the expanse of eternity–naught more than an hour. A breath–like the vaporous, rapidly withering human lives that constructed them [Job 7:7; Psalms 144:4; Matthew 6:30; James 4:14; 1 Peter 1:9 & 24]. Bankrupt systems brought to further ruin by the truth of heaven.

Earthly gold, silver and precious stones will pass away in the fire [1 Corinthians 3:12-13], yet heaven will be paved with and foundationed on them [Revelation 21:18-21].

Earthly pearls will also pass away, yet heaven is analogized to their worth in the human heart [Matthew 13:45-46].

Earthly fashions, wealthy wardrobes, stately furnishings and trendy trinkets will all pass away, many ensnaring and dragging their owners into the fires with them [Matthew 19:24; Mark10:25].

Even the earthly gifts presented to baby Jesus that helped support his family in Egypt [Matthew 2:11] and God’s merciful restraint in the Revelation plagues [Revelation 6:6] had and will have no eternal value.

Animal and human trafficking was never God’s intention and will have no place in heaven.

All these financial and flesh indulgent snares for which human beings trade away their souls. All temporal. All carrying the world away to ruin at a breakneck pace.

Is your heart set on the things of this world? Are your building your life on the things that are passing away?

That Which Has Become

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and out of the temple came a loud voice from the throne, saying, ‘It is done!’ Then there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder and a severe earthquake. No earthquake like it has ever occurred since man has been on earth, so tremendous was the quake. The great city split into three parts, and the cities of the nations collapsed. God remembered Babylon the Great and gave her the cup filled with the wine of the fury of his wrath. Every island fled away and the mountains could not be found. From the sky huge hailstones of about hundred pounds each fell upon men. And they cursed God on account of the plague of hail, because the plague was so terrible.” Revelation 16:17-21

Image result for biggest hail in the worldSeven. Once again we come to the number of completion, only this time, there is no reprieve. The angel dumps his bowl into the atmosphere and God’s voice rumbles out of the heavenly temple. He proclaims, It is done–Gegonen–which in English, translates similar to Jesus’ words from the cross [John 19:30], It is finished–Tetelestai–though in Greek, they have unrelated roots.

Jesus’ Tetelestai declaration literally means have been fully developed, most likely related to the James 1:15 description of sin that is fully grown–apotelestheisa. The full-grown sinful nature of humanity weighed on Jesus as he hung, of His own free will, on the cross to pay the wage of that sin with His life blood.

God’s Gegonen proclamation, on the other hand, translates as many different phrases–took place [Matthew 1:22; et al], occurred [Matthew 24:21; et al], happened [Mark 5:33; et al], has been done/came to pass [Matthew 19:8; et al], has come [John 12:30; et al], come into being/made [John 1:3] and even fell [1 Timothy 2:14]–but all referring to a present perfect or completed action. Literally, it has become–the end of sin in the Creation has come to pass at long last, consummated by an earthquake to end all earthquakes.

An earthquake without the merciful restraint shown during the seal judgments [Revelation 6:12-14]. Every island and mountain will return to the deep from whence it was called. The plague of hail, once visited on Egypt, will be heaped one-hundred fold on the heads of those who worshiped the antichrist and his father, Satan.

And, bitterly clinging to their distorted perception of free will, humanity will, for the last time, shake their fists at God and curse Him for the result of their own arrogance and defiance.

The great city, Jerusalem [Revelation 11:2,8], is rent in three pieces, not unlike the Temple veil splitting in two at Jesus’ crucifixion [Matthew 27:51]. Every city on the planet will be destroyed in this great quake. Remembering the idolatry that began in Babylon, God will remove, once and for all, every trace of false religion from the Creation.

But He would rather that we will to love Him as He first loved us. He would rather that we invite His Holy Spirit to root out every trace of false religion and self-as-god defiance from our hearts. He would rather that we accept Jesus’ Tetelestai on our behalf instead of His Gegonen at the end of all things.

Will you?

Fire Breathers

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“If anyone tries to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and devours their enemies. This is how anyone who wants to harm them must die. These men have power to shut up the sky so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying; and they have power to turn the waters into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want.” Revelation 11:5-6

Image result for fire breathingMany say that these two witnesses are neo-Elijah and neo-Moses because of their attributes in these verses. The ability to protect themselves with fire from their mouths has a few scriptural precedents.

In 2 Kings 1:10, 12 and 14, King Ahaziah is trying to command Elijah to come to him, but he keeps sending military bands to fetch the prophet. The first two commanders make the demand, calling Elijah man of God. To which Elijah replies, If I am a man of God, may fire come down from heaven and consume you… The fire does rain down and consume the men, verifying Elijah’s relationship with the one true God. The third commander demonstrates wisdom and humility. He recognizes God for who He is and Elijah’s relationship to God. He doesn’t come shooting his mouth off by order of the king, but humbles himself with a petition for his very life. In the end, the wise commander and his men are spared, and Elijah relents and goes to see the king. Unfortunately for the king, the message he insisted on receiving from Elijah was not a good one.

Elijah also prayed that it would not rain for three years and it didn’t [James 5:17].

In Numbers 16, Moses also spoke of divine consequence for unholiness among the tribe of Levi. The ground split and consumed the offenders, followed by fire from the Lord Most High.

Of course, Moses also commanded Pharaoh to let God’s people go, and pharaoh’s hardened heart response resulted in the Exodus plagues [Exodus7:17-19].

Not to mention, when Jesus was transfigured on the mount in Matthew 17, who should appear with Him but Moses and Elijah.

The prophet Jeremiah was told that his words would be a figurative fire that would consume the spiritually dried up people who heard them [Jeremiah 5:14]. And certainly, words that bring the realization of our own sinfulness and guilt are burning words in our soul.

When Moses proclaimed the coming plagues, he did so in hopes that Pharaoh would relent and repent before God. Before his words split the ground and brought fire from heaven, he begged the Levite offenders to reconsider their complaints before God. When Though Elijah prayed for rain to be withheld and for the rain to be released, and though his remarks called down a hail of fire, Elijah lived to bring glory and honor to God alone.

So shall these two witnesses be in the End Times. It will still not be God’s will that any should perish [2 Peter 3:9], but respecting the freewill with which He created all men, God will show Himself God. Mercifully, He will send these powerful witnesses upon the earth so that even the Gentiles audaciously trampling and desecrating the Temple will be given the opportunity to know God and repent of their ways before the final moments of this earth.

Are your words ablaze with the truth of God’s Word? Do the dry souls around you catch fire to God’s glory and honor alone?

A Blazing Mountain-Thingy

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“The second angel sounded his trumpet, and something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea turned into blood, a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.” Revelation 8:8-9

Image result for Mountains and Ocean WavesBeat two, trumpet two enters. The result? Something like a huge mountain. Something like? John is seeing things he has to explain with words he knows, even if he has no words for the reality. Though God doesn’t correct Him as He could have.

So a blazing mountain-thing is hurled to the earth–like the censer and the hail-fire-blood mix–but this time into the ocean. Jeremiah 51:25 speaks of a destroying mountain that will repay Babylon for her idolatrous ways, leaving behind a pile of burnt rubble. Remember that Babel first introduced and spread false religions [Genesis 11:4-6], so false religion will be blotted out from the earth in the reversal of sin in the new creation at the end of time.

But Jesus also told believers that, with a mustard seed of faith, we could tell a mountain–an obstacle in our lives–to throw itself into the sea. And if we believe, it will happen [Matthew 11:23 & 21:21]. This something like a mountain being thrown into the sea, could very much represent the faith of believers moving the hindrance of false religion from the world, not by might, not by power, but by the spirit of the Lord [Zechariah 4:6].

And fire is used to refine [1 Peter 1:7]. It burns away the impurities, leaving behind pure gold, silver, and other precious metals. In scripture, a fire coal is also used for figuratively cleansing, in much the same way, the prophet Isaiah’s lips or his words/speech [Isaiah 6:6-7]. Any part of our life that is built on anything or anyone other than Christ will burn away in the refining fire of judgment [1 Corinthians 3:11-15].

Here again, we see a repeat of the first Exodus plague, water turned to blood [Exodus 7:14-24]. Just as in Egypt when the Nile’s fish died [Exodus 7:21], so the effected ocean life will die as a result of the fiery mountain turning one-third of the sea to blood. Not only that, but one-third of all the world’s ships–a creation of human hands–will also be destroyed.

Now you could probably name a dozen movies that glamorize this much ecological and nautical carnage. And many people have no problem attaching this type of thing to governments at war either. But one mention that God is involved and, all of a sudden, He is unjust. On the contrary, it is because God is just and holy and good that false religion cannot continue eternally. It is because of who He is that sin and death cannot exist eternally. And why would we want it to?

But if death is to be destroyed, then its root–sin [James 1:15]–must also be destroyed. And we each are responsible for choosing how the sin is removed from our lives. We can either accept Christ’s sacrifice to cleanse us from sins–as simply as believing in Him–or we can reject His sacrifice and accept the wages of our own sin [Romans 6:23], death in whatever form it takes.

Have you accepted Christ’s sacrifice for your sins? Do you have a faith in Him that moves mountains? Or do you intend to face death without Jesus?

Questions of the Spirit

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Then one of the elders asked me, ‘These in white robes–who are they, and where did they come from?’ I answered, ‘Sir, you know.” Revelation 7:13-14a

Image result for askVerses like this are sprinkled throughout the Revelation account to remind us that John is still in a vision and being shown things that will happen in the future. An elder takes John aside to make sure that he understands what he is seeing, because John has been charged with reporting it with accuracy to the world at large.

In this instance, just like in Revelation 1:20 with the symbolism of the lamps and the stars, John is clearly told what the literal white-robed multitude means. But the elder does so through a question, much like God employed with Adam and Eve in the garden [Genesis 3:9, 11 & 13] and with Cain [4:6, 9 & 10].

The Genesis questions were not for God’s sake, not because He didn’t already know the answer, but to cause Adam and Eve, and Cain to consider the truth. Here in Revelation, the elder’s question is not because the elder doesn’t know the answer, but to prompt John to be an active observer–not passive. He needs to know what he is seeing, and the elder’s question causes John to ask for understanding.

We, like John, are not to be passive consumers of Christianity. We too need to understand what we read and hear of God’s Word so that we can always be ready with an answer for the hope we have within us [1 Peter 3:15]. And when we don’t at first understand, all we need to do is ask God for wisdom and believe that He will show us the truth of His Word [James 1:5].

What questions is the Spirit prompting your heart with today? Are you seeking His understanding? Are you listening for His answer?

The Get-Along Approach

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.” Revelation 3:1-3

Image result for church of sardisIt is extremely important that the church of Sardis recognized Jesus as the One holding the spirits of God and the stars that represented the angels of the Asia Minor churches. It reminded them that He alone is God. There is no other.

Why was that particularly important to this church? Because they’d found a way to avoid persecution. A way to worship God in their house churches without suffering for their dissenting faith. They simply stopped dissenting with other belief systems. “You want to believe Judaism is the way or that pagan worship is for you? Go for it. It’s all good. And we’ll just do our Christian thing over here and leave you alone.”

It’s a stance that we see imitated in modern American society. How many times I’ve heard someone say, “Well, being a Christian works for me, but I don’t try to push my views on other people. They can do what works for them.”

But Jesus calls out the church on this approach, saying, “You are dead.” People see a church that appears to be alive with the love of God, but your message is dead.

It is not enough to hide the light of Jesus under the bushel of our comfortable lives [Matthew 5:14-16]. We claim that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. There is no other. So how can we keep this truth to ourselves? Knowing that no one will receive eternal life who does not believe in Jesus. So again, how do we keep this to ourselves? We were called to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them everything I [Jesus] have commanded you [Matthew 28:19-20].

Jesus commands the Church of Sardis–and us today–to wake up! Get the message back on track. Do not cut short the truth in order to get along and have social peace in this life. Repent–rethink this in the light of God’s truth. If they didn’t, they would be like the history of their own city. Twice, Sardis was conquered because the enemy discovered a weakness through the fault of the city’s own guard. That enemy overwhelmed them like a thief in the night, caught the city unaware in their complacency.

Jesus is coming back soon and we have to be watchful, but also faithful with His truth, His whole truth and nothing but His truth. Not just as hearers of His word, but as doers [James 1:22].

Would you say that your Christian walk is dead or alive? What does the Spirit testify within you? Does your Christian walk challenge those around you to examine their own lives? Or do you silently coexist with unbelievers despite conflicting worldviews? Does your light shine for Jesus? Or does your comfort shade it?