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An All-Anticipating Fairy-Godmother?

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.” Revelation 2:19-23

Image result for wrapped in paddingLike Ephesus, the church at Thyatira had a lot going for it. But also like Ephesus, there was one major problem–Thyatira allowed a false prophetess among them, one of the things that Ephesus did right.

Jesus calls this false prophetess Jezebel–not likely her real name, and certainly not a compliment. The wickedest Israelite queen in their entire history, Jezebel ordered the killings of every prophet in Israel [1 Kings 18:4]. Her husband, King Ahab, did more to rouse God’s anger than every king before him [1 Kings 16:33].

This so called Thyatiran Jezebel taught the church that it was well and good to participate in the local pagan temples, which involved sexual immorality and eating food sacrificed to idols as an expression of worship to the false gods. Apparently, God was patient with this woman, and He gave her opportunities to change her ways. Perhaps He sent people to try to set her straight. Perhaps He allowed the natural consequences of sin to manifest in her life in hopes that she would return to Him.

But she refused God. And just like every one who refuses the Creator of the Universe, they give themselves over to the destruction of sin and death, both of which are replete with suffering [James 1:15; Romans 1:21]. Even in this, God is mercifully patient, still allowing those who followed this prophetess the opportunity to repent.

Though some may say that because He said He would strike her children dead that He is anything but a good and loving God. Consider this: Jezebel was luring God’s children to die eternally. And God ends this portion of scripture saying that He would repay each according to their deeds. Jezebel herself was luring her own children to die eternally.

Why do we always blame God for allowing us to choose when that is exactly what we as humans want so much? We want to choose. To do whatever we feel like whenever we feel like it. And we want God to be an all anticipating fairy godmother that keeps anything bad from happening to us despite our choices. And if He ever lets us feel the consequences of our choices, then we get indignant. Surely God isn’t really good or loving or actually God if He lets “bad” things happen. This mindset has riddled humanity for too long. Since the Garden actually [Genesis 3:5]–remember the be your own god lie? Except, when we screw it up for ourselves, then we can blame the real God, right?

Is there a Jezebel spirit at work in your life? Someone mixing God’s word with a more culturally appealing teaching? Ask God to give you discernment and the boldness to cling to His truth in an intolerant generation.

The Epitaph of Sin

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“After the flood Noah lived 350 years. Noah lived a total of 950 years, and then he died.” Genesis 9:28-29

Image result for armThe sinful saga continues. Noah’s epitaph mirrors Adam’s final verse so closely [Genesis 5:5]. It’s clear that God wants the reader to be aware that His plan of redemption did not come through the flood in the day of Noah. Yes, the majority of sin was purged from the earth with its inhabitants, but Noah still sinned, and then he died–old and full of years, but he died nonetheless. And sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death [James 1:15].

Jesus conquered death, hell and the grave to fulfill the Genesis 3:15 prophesy, but it won’t be fully realized in us until we have eternal life. Until Christ comes again and we believers meet up with him in the sky [1 Corinthians 15:52-53], we are still confined to sinful human bodies which, themselves, are subject to death.

But what we do with our lives while we are clothed in mortal array matters immensely. Do you live in such a way that you would find favor with God in your generation? Do you live by faith? Are you governed by righteousness? Have you accepted the atoning sacrifice of Jesus’ blood for your sins? And when you sin, do you repent, asking the Lord for forgiveness?

Peace With God

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“He waited seven more days and again sent out the dove from the ark. When the dove returned to him in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf! Then Noah knew that the water had receded from the earth. He waited seven more days and sent the dove out again, but this time it did not return to him.” Genesis 8:10-12

Image result for olive leafAfter 265 days of life aboard the ark, what’s another 14 days [2 weeks]? On Day 272, the dove came back with a fresh olive leaf! Not bedraggled and waterlogged from flood debris, but freshly picked from a growing tree.

Clearly, God was at work once again. Just as He had prepared the Creation before placing Adam into a perfect garden home, so He ensured that Noah and his family would be able to survive the post-flood earth.

However, if–during the flood–mountains were covered to a depth of 23 feet, then trees were covered to depths of possibly hundreds of feet. The types of waves and riptides produced by a worldwide deluge would be enough to rip most of the trees out of the saturated earth and toss them around like pick-up-sticks. According to the Biblical account, every living thing died in the flood save those on the ark. So forests, fields, jungles, and all the creatures therein–birds, mammals, humans, and reptiles…including dinosaurs–died in the flood.

Do you know that there is evidence of this death toll everywhere? Trees have been found coalified and petrified and coalified [again…as in the same tree crossing through three different geologic layers] standing straight up, though not rooted. Human artifacts have been discovered inside coal. And fossil fuels are termed such because scientists know that they are the pressurized decomposed remains of once living organisms. Only there had to be a whole lot of organisms deceased and squished all at once under an inordinate amount of pressure to form the coal, natural gas, and oil seams that we have today. [Or the organisms had to be a whole lot larger…maybe like dinosaur size?]

So an olive leaf was a great sign! Trees do not grow up over night–at least not without divine intervention. Olive leaves/branches are a symbol of peace, as are doves and doves carrying olive branches. All symbolism has an origin, and we today use these as symbols of peace, because of this moment in history right here when God made peace with man. The man named peace, whose father had prophesied would bring peace to all the earth, received the sign of peace from God.

The earth was almost inhabitable again, but Noah waited one more week to be sure. With worldwide mud, I’m sure he did not want to get stuck, maybe lose a sandal that couldn’t easily be replaced. He also, as Adam in the garden before him, was caretaker for the animals the Lord had sent him. So besides his own well being, Noah remained on the ark until he felt sure that the world was ready to receive back life in the midst of all the death.

And when the dove–that clean bird–did not return, then Noah knew for sure that the life had returned upon the earth.

Sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death [James 1:15]. The world we live in is full of sin growing to its fullest. Our own lives not withstanding. Death abounds. Judgment leading to second death is coming. But where there is death, there are also those ready to receive new life. And just like in Eden and the post-flood world, God is at work, but this time, preparing hearts.

Look at your life through God’s Word and ask yourself, if you had been alive during the days of Noah, would God have chosen you? In the post-flood aftermath we live in 4,000 years later, are you prepared to plant life in the hearts and minds of those God sends your way?

Hard Work and Frustration

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“To Adam he said, ‘Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” Genesis 3:17-19

Image result for farmer weeding + imageAdam’s turn–third to sin, third to learn the consequence for his actions. And God lets him know on no uncertain terms that following his wife into sin–the excuse he gave when he admitted his disobedience–is exactly the reason why he too is subject to the effects of sin.

Scripture is clear that, “Each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed,“[James 1:14]. If Adam hadn’t already considered eating the forbidden fruit, Eve’s offer wouldn’t have been so tempting. She affirmed his evil desire to disobey God, and he acted on it. “Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full grown, gives birth to death,” [James 1:15].

Adam’s first death–as Eve’s and every other sinful human being after–was the broken relationship with God. His second death came in the form of a broken relationship with the world that he was created to care for [Genesis 2:15].

Where once he could walk freely among the trees and eat of any fruit that God had prepared for him, now Adam was exiled to plant seeds, tend their growth and harvest their fruit. But the ground wouldn’t cooperate with him so easily. Where he planted seeds, he would receive weeds for his trouble. And if he intended to eat [which of course he did], then he would have to hoe and sow, weed and water, fight blight and inspect for insects in the burning sun and hot winds. Adam would have to work hard for every meal that he and his family ate for the rest of his life!

And then he would die, physically, just as God warned would happen if he ate from the forbidden tree. He lost his free meal ticket. He lost his home. His wife subjected herself to pain and heartbreak. And Adam subjected himself to frustrated labor. All because they gave in to their temptation.

But while we all certainly face temptations today, we do not have to succumb. Scripture promises us that, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it,” [1 Corinthians 10:13].

Do you ever find your self-defense starts with, “But s/he did it too?” Ask God to reveal your inner desires, those enticements threatening to grow into full-blown sin and death. Ask Him to show you His provision of a way out of your temptation so that you can endure it.

Where Are You?

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“But the Lord God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’ He answered, ‘I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” Genesis 3:9-10

Image result for hiding in trees“Shh! I think I hear God coming!” Can’t you just hear Adam and Eve whispering and shushing one another like little children who know they’ve done something terribly wrong? Satan was right about this one thing, they would now know–by experience–good and evil. God’s goodness contrasted with the sinful evil that Adam and Eve had invited into the world.

But even though God is omniscient–all-knowing–He calls out to Adam with a very pointed question. It’s not to alert God to Adam’s presence that He asks, “Where are you?” It’s to bring Adam to a place of spiritual understanding about where he now stands–separated from God by his own choosing.

And make no mistake, the evil of sin shatters, first of all, our relationship to God.

How lovingly our Creator had prepared everything at the Creation, adding man as the pinnacle at just the right time. How carefully He endowed man with His own breath and image, forming him by hand as a unique individual among the whole of Creation. Adam was given life to love and be loved by God.

Yet the first effect of sin was for Adam to fear God. “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid…” [Genesis 3:10].

He was afraid because he now understood the holiness of God contrasted to the newly fallen sinfulness of his human nature. He was afraid because he recognized God’s sovereignty and felt the weight of his disobedience, his lawless, guilty and shameful choice to break faith with the One who made him. He was afraid, and he hid.

Six-thousand years later, we find ourselves in the same predicament as Adam. Sin pervades our human nature by virtue of being descended from Adam [Romans 5:12]. God lovingly knits us together in our mother’s womb [Psalm 139:13], maintains the order of the cosmos to graciously provide for our every need, and sends testimony after testimony of Himself in every possible way [Romans 1:20], and yet we humans still disobey Him.

We disobey Him. We hide from Him. We try to say that He doesn’t exist so that we have no God to fear but ourselves.

But just like with Adam, God speaks into every heart, asking one first question, “Where are you?” He asks for two reasons: 1) So we can come to understand our spiritual distance from Him; and 2) So we can choose to do something about it [James 4:8; John 3:16; Matthew 7:78; Isaiah 55: 6-7].

Have you heeded God’s first question to you? Where are you spiritually? And what are you doing about your relationship with Him?

Closing the Circuit

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.” Hebrews 11:20

Image result for prophecyBy faith–absolute certainty in what he hoped for, but could not see–Abraham’s son Isaac spoke a blessing, a promise of inheritance and a prophetic word over the lives of his twin sons, Jacob and Esau.

Words have power.

As a believer in God–the God who spoke the world into existence–Isaac was not just speaking about the good things he hoped would happen to his son in the future. Isaac’s blessing came from God because it was spoken out of his relationship with God.

And God speaks life. God spoke everything that is into existence. God speaks purpose. “For many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails,” Proverbs 19:21.

As followers of Christ, our words have power too, because they also should flow from our relationship with God. Our words have authority because of our relationship to the author of life from whom all authority comes.

We need to recognize this authority and use our words wisely then. We should not be careless about how we throw our words around and/or away because they carry the very power of God in them.

Words can build up or tear down. Words can be a spring board or a stumbling block to others. James 3:10 warns us that, “Out of the mouth come blessing and cursing”–harmful and hateful words towards others–“My brothers and sisters, this should not be.”

Image result for Simple Electrical Circuit DiagramIn A.W. Tozer’s book THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE HOLY, he says that greatest work we do is to, “pass on undimmed and undiminished that noble concept of God we have received,” from those who came before us.

You see, our life is like the conductor in a circuit. If we are connected to God, our power source, then our lives should close the circuit each time we touch another person, letting God’s power flow into them.

God wants to speak life into those around us. He wants to speak purpose and to bless the world we live in. He wants to speak healing and salvation to the nations.

And He has entrusted you and me with the task of standing in the gap and closing the circuit to make that happen.

Are you connected to God your power source today? If so, are you conducting His power through your words to bless the lives around you?

Without

Image result for faith without deedsby Kristen C. Strocchia

“Just as the body without spirit/breath is dead, so also faith without deeds/good works is dead.” James 2:26

Dead. No matter what I believe about God and what He can do, if I do not obey Him, if I do not act on the faith that I have, I am as good as a dead man walking. I am as good as the world’s shiniest and fastest car with no gas.

What deeds is the writer of James speaking about? Whatever God asks of me.

How do I know what He’s asking of me? By reading His Word. By maintaining close conversation with the Lord through my prayer relationship. By walking this world with my eyes and my heart wide open.

Maybe God will ask me to share my lunch with someone who forgot theirs or to befriend the smelly kid at school. Maybe He will ask me to share the gospel with the class president or pray with the class bully. Maybe He will simply ask me to say and do what is right according to His Word [and this He is definitely asking of all of us at all times].

Regardless of what God asks of me, one thing is certain, if I do not respond with obedience, if I do not act on my faith I am like a body that’s not breathing. I am like a car that can’t leave the driveway. Dead.

Image result for faith expressing itself in love“…if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:2b-3

But let’s say my faith is very much alive. I gave, befriended, shared the gospel, prayed, and said and did what was right according to scripture, but I didn’t actually love any of the people that God sent me to, then none of it meant a thing. None of it is of any value to me. I miss out on the blessing, because I can’t grow in God without loving the people He sends me to. It’s like Jonah being sent to Nineveh. He was so angry with God for saving those people because Jonah himself didn’t love them at all, and Jonah missed the true blessing of the good work that he’d done.

“What is important is faith expressing itself in love.” Galatians 5:6b

The Galatian church fought about whether Gentiles becoming Christians had to be circumcised–by the same obedient faith that God called Abraham to–just like the Jews. They knew what God’s Word said. But by their fighting it’s obvious that they didn’t love one another. The apostle Paul, who wrote Galatians, basically said, Look guys. It doesn’t matter whether you choose to get circumcised or not. He recognized this choice as a physical act. A deed not connected to New Testament faith, but to Old Testament faith. A deed that had no value because the church had missed the point. God hadn’t called these new believers to act on someone else’s faith. But He had called all believers–just as He does today–to act on their faith in love.

What is God calling you to do today? Do you have the love for God and others to make your obedience count?