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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
Like 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.
by Kristen C. Strocchia
“To the angel of the church in Thyatira write: These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze. I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first.” Revelation 2:18-19
In Greek mythology, Zeus’ son Apollo was called the son of god, and he was the patron god of Thyatira when Alexander the Great founded it as an army garrison. Under Roman rule, Thyatira’s business structure was built around guilds. Much like labor unions today a worker had to be faithful to the guild and the guild would in turn be faithful to protect their job.
But the guilds often celebrated their festivities in the temple to Apollo, sponsoring acts that Christians could not take part in. And if you didn’t participate, your job was as good as gone; you had no way to make a living.
It is to this culture that Jesus proclaims Himself the Son of God–the True Son of the One True God, not like the culturally glorified fictitious Apollo and his father Zeus. Jesus identifies Himself with the bronze smiths and guild laborers in the portrayal of His fiery eyes and burnished feet. Then, He commends the Thyatirans for their works, love, faith, service and perseverance. He commends them for increasing in these things despite the cultural pressures of their city; not easy to do.
So how long does it take to become a mature Christian? The longer the Ephesians served God, the more ritualistic it became. They totally forgot about their love for Him. The longer the Church at Smyrna served God, the more they were slandered and suffered for Him. The longer the Pergamenians served God, the more they compromised. And the longer the Thyatirans served God, the more liars sprang up in their midst, encouraging them to return to their old life.
But this was not true of everyone in these churches. Because becoming a mature Christian is an individual process. No one is perfect, nor will anyone arrive at perfection–completeness–in this life. Everyone is maturing in their Christian walk. [Either that or they are shrinking, but that is a subject for another post.] And everyone matures at a different rate and will finish life at a different level of spiritual maturity than others.
However, we can do certain things to ensure that we are in fact maturing in Christ and that our experiential knowledge of Him develops sooner rather than later: prayer, Bible study, praise and worship, and fellowship with other believers. But even in these things, we must be careful not to fall into the religious pitfalls that the seven churches of Revelation experienced–losing sight of love for Jesus, compromising with culture or flat out turning back to our old way of life while still professing to be a Christian.
In effect, it takes a whole lifetime to become the most mature Christian that you’ll ever be, but it takes only a moment to devote yourself to maturing in Christ and the daily commitment to see it through. Are you on the path to Christian maturity?
by Kristen C. Strocchia
“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands. I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this one thing against you: You have forsaken your first love.” Revelation 2:1-4
Chapter 2 opens with a letter to the church in Ephesus. It is the first of seven letters–one to each of the seven churches of Proconsular Asia, the Roman province which is modern day Turkey. Ephesus was the capital of the province and an important port city.
In Greek grammar, the two phrases sandwiching the preposition of could be read either way. So the opening could either read to the angel of the church in Ephesus as is commonly translated, or it could read to the church of the angel in Ephesus. Again, it could be either to the Ephesian church’s angel or to the angel’s church in Ephesus. The second translation seems the more likely of the two in human terms, though it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if the seven churches were entertaining angels unaware [Hebrews 13:2].
The letter then follows with a description of Jesus taken from His Revelation 1 description. Interestingly, each of the seven church letters open in this same format, but they each contain a different portion of this description, one specifically suited to the particular church’s needs.
So to the church in Ephesus, Jesus’ priestly, kingly and godly nature was re-emphasized [Revelation 1:12-13].
Then, Jesus told them that He knows all about them–their deeds, hard work and perseverance. This was an active church, full of ministry, missions and mercy.
Jesus told them that He knew they’d kept wicked men out from among them and tested false apostles just as they ought. This church was fighting the good fight, staving off heresies and cultural/idolatrous influences.
Jesus told them that He knew they’d persevered, tirelessly enduring hardships for His name’s sake. This church had withstood tests of intensifying persecution in their Roman state.
By all human measures, Ephesus was walking the walk.
But Jesus needed them to know that they were missing one very important piece of the Christian puzzle–Christ. They’d forgotten their love for Him. Not unlike the 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 reminder that without love–specifically without Love [Jesus Himself; 1 John 4:8; John 15:9]–they’d gained nothing. They were doing ministry, preserving the knowledge of God, and enduring hardship in vain. All this while Jesus was walking among them [2:1].
How about you? Do you work tirelessly to advance the gospel? Do you avoid sinful influence? Do you suffer for the name of Jesus? And in all this, have you forgotten Someone very important in your Christian walk? Or are you walking daily with Jesus who is walking right here with you?
by Kristen C. Strocchia
“And God said, ‘This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all the living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.” Genesis 9:12-16
Wedding rings are not themselves a promise, but just a sign of a promise that was made. Whenever a husband and wife see or feel the circle of gold on their finger, they remember the promise that they made to be faithful to one another.
So the rainbow is a sign of God’s faithfulness to His promise.
However, He didn’t just promise human beings, but every living creature whose existence is bound to ours. Adam and Eve were charged with stewarding the animal kingdom [Genesis 1:26]. Noah obeyed the command to receive and tend the animals in the ark [7:2-3]. Likewise, we ought to recognize that our choices and our end are not ours alone. When the earth was destroyed in the flood, it didn’t merely destroy precious habitats, but all animal life–except for those contained in the ark–perished along with sinful mankind.
God holds back His return out of love for His creation. But He will not hold it back forever [6:3].
At this point, it’s imperative to draw a distinction between mythology and the Bible. Myths use fictional stories to explain natural phenomena to a culture that didn’t understand the scientific truth. The Bible, however, teaches scientific truths behind natural phenomena and explains how these truths testify to the Almighty God.
Take the rainbow for example. Mythologies would offer an explanation such as this:
A beautiful maiden, favored of the gods, received suitors from near and far. Each brought a precious stone from their homeland and laid it at her feet. They would know whose heart she had chosen by whose stone she wore around her neck on the day of the great feast. But the maiden could not choose. Instead she made her necklace of every stone. The suitors became jealous of one another waiting for a decision and began to war with one another, but the gods admired the maiden’s loving wisdom. So when the war came to her palace gates, the gods whisked her safely into the air. Her necklace fell away behind her. To this day, her many stoned necklace appears on the warring clouds of storms, as a rainbow.
But notice how God says that He set His rainbow in the skies. Revelation describes the throne room of heaven, and God is, in fact, encircled by a rainbow that shone like an emerald [4:3], and the New Jerusalem’s foundation is inlaid with ascending layers of precious stones coming in every color of the rainbow [21:19-20].
Being surrounded Himself by rainbows, God knows full well how they form. He allowed this piece of His heavenly throne room to manifest itself on earth, and He says that the rainbow will appear in the clouds–not that He sends each one, but that He set in motion the science behind the natural processes that give us rainbows…air, water and light.
And the purpose of this rainbow is to remind Him that even though sin brews like a storm on the earth, He promised never to destroy the entire earth in floodwaters again. Local floods will happen, but there will always be a refuge of dry ground.
Do you believe that God is faithful to keep His promises? Do you know the promises that He has made to us in scripture? Become a students of God’s Word so that you can stand in faith.
by Kristen C. Strocchia
“And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each human being, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of another human being. Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind.” Genesis 9:5-6
Our lives are sacred. If it were not so, sin would only be towards God. But God loves each of us so much [John 3:16], that He calls us not to sin against one another and, moreover, not to take any one’s life.
We are not gods, but we are made in God’s image. We can love God with all that we are, and we can sin against Him. But we can also love our fellow humans as ourselves, and we can sin against them. Do you see how tightly God patterned us after Himself?
He will demand an accounting–a report for all bloodshed. God is just. He will not avert His eyes to allow some to murder, while others are vigilantly watched. “For it is appointed unto every man to die once, and after that to face judgment,” [Hebrews 9:27]. Even animals, here, are required to give God an accounting for their actions. This may mean that there will be animals in heaven as well. Or it may mean that C.S. Lewis’ portrayal of talking animals–in line with the serpent in the Garden–is more accurate than modern humans would imagine.
Either way, there is a third person in the Hebrew that must give an account for bloodshed–a brother. In this new, post-flood Creation, God warns immediately of the repercussions of living as Cain did. And this time, He doesn’t offer a mark of protection but a sentence of capital punishment.
Many people throughout history deny that God exists because of passages like this. They don’t look at the truth that God is protecting all human beings by instituting punishments for crimes. Rather, they look at all of the possible “grey area” scenarios where this punishment would seem a perversion or an extreme. They seat themselves as judge over God Himself and rule this capital punishment–that fits the crime–as unloving, intolerant and unjust. Yet we have these same types of criminal law and consequences throughout U.S. history precisely because it is necessary to ensures that people have to answer for their actions–so that maybe they will think and repent, think again, about their deeds.
Why is this so very important to God? Because He made us in His image. Even for the shed blood of Jesus that He willingly laid down for us, will be demanded an accounting. If we refused His sacrifice, it will be an accounting of judgment. If we accepted, it will be accounting of the deeds born to that faith.
Do you treat all life as sacred? Even those who bother you? Ask God to help you see and love all people through His eyes, so you can truly know what it means that we are made in His image and loved by Him–what it truly means that our life and Christ’s sacrifice are sacred.
by Kristen C. Strocchia
“The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in His heart: ‘Never again will curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done. As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” Genesis 8:21-22
God can smell. Did you know that? He enjoys savoring the scent of fire-grilled meat that waft heavenward just as much as we might enjoy driving by a local barbecue pit with the windows down. When we please God–as we were intended to do from our Creation [1:26]–He remembers [8:1] us, that is He keeps us in mind as worthy of consideration.
Makes sense. Our relationship must always be a two-way street. We remember God, that is we keep Him in mind as worthy of our consideration by pleasing Him, and He remembers us. He remembers us and forgets–puts out of His mind–our sins, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood.
God prays for our hearts. Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever [Deuteronomy 5:29]! Because we were created to love God with our whole heart et al and to love our fellow human beings just like we love ourselves. But the natural inclination of our heart, our human tendency, is evil–morally wrong or profoundly immoral.
But here, Noah stands in the gap. Because of Noah’s faithful and righteous remembrance of God, God promises that no human being ever after–until the end of the earth [Revelation 6:14; Matthew 24:35; 1 John 2:17]–will have to endure total world destruction.
And God’s promises are faithful and true [2 Corinthians 1:20]. So when the scientists and the news reports predict asteroids or comets colliding with earth, the polar ice caps melting and flooding the earth, the sun running out of fuel or exploding or whatever, we don’t have to be afraid. They’re wrong and God’s right. He promised that we will always have planting and harvesting so we can self-sustain, cold and heat and summer and winter so the earth can rest and then live again, and day and night so that our bodies–especially our eyes–can fully rest. If Jesus is the Lord of our life, we don’t need to fear human predictions, we just need to trust and obey God.
We don’t make animal sacrifices since the death of Christ, but we can still be a pleasing aroma to Him. Our prayers are like a fragrant incense [Psalm 141:2; Revelation 8:4]. And we can live as one standing in the gap, just like Noah did for us, reminding God of how very good His Creation was and is. Remembering our love for Him as He remembers His love for us.
How often do you pray? Do you daily fill up God’s nostrils with the perfume of prayer? Do you live as one standing in the gap? In other words, by your life, does God remember in you the goodness of His Creation and hold back the floodgates of heaven’s wrath once more?
by Kristen C. Strocchia
“The waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days. But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and He sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded. Now the springs of the deep and the floodgates of the heavens had been closed, and the rain had stopped falling from the sky. The water receded steadily from the earth. At the end of the hundred and fifty days the water had gone down, and on the seventeenth day of the seventh month the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat.” Genesis 7:24-8:4
One hundred and fifty days–five months–total, living with and caretaking all of the animals chosen to repopulate the post-flood earth. Forty days of rain and active flooding [Genesis 7:17], so one-hundred ten days of floodwaters with nowhere to go.
But God remembered. Now this doesn’t mean that God forgets things like you and I do. Remember here means to keep [someone] in mind as worthy of consideration or recognition. God kept Noah in mind. He watched over Noah’s situation in the ark, with all the animals in his charge. God watched over his whole family because–having been found full of faith and righteous, that is, having remembered God [or finding God worthy of consideration]–God also found Noah worthy of consideration.
Remembrance is a two-way street.
Now think back. Rainwater from heavenly floodgates and floodwaters pushed out of the broken open springs of the deep for forty days. So where in our world did all this water go? Well, the Bible tells us that wind helped cause the waters to recede.
Today we know that wind assists with evaporation in the water cycle, so some of this water returned to the sky in the form of clouds. The wind also helps to create surface ripples that grow into currents that help direct water, so some of this water was herded into the geographic formations sculpted during the flood itself. Which land features formed in the flood? It’s possible that the tectonic plates resulted from the water bursting out of the crust of the earth. It’s also possible that ocean trenches, canyons, faults, lakes and mountains are all resulted from the shifting of the earth in the flood. We also know that wind cools, and there is a very good possibility that the ice caps and the glaciers in our world are frozen remnants of the receding flood.
Can we also just say, on Day 3 of the Creation God spoke and the waters gathered into one place so that dry land appeared [1:9]. So using the wind He created and controls to drive back the floodwaters from the face of the earth is a nonissue. It’s a God thing. Just like Him perfectly orchestrating the touchdown of the ark on the mountains of Ararat.
The whole earth was destroyed, but I’ve no doubt that God knew well that under the waters there was a place that was best for mankind to start again.
God loves every person who has ever lived, is living now, and will ever live [John 3:16]. He remembered–kept every human ever in mind as worthy of His consideration–when He made a plan of redemption, when Jesus Christ went to the cross to carry out that plan, and when He returns again one day. God didn’t redeem the world for His own sake. He didn’t need to repossess us. He redeemed us to buy back our lives on our behalf, so that He could return our lives to us–eternally.
Do you know that we serve a great God? Do you know that He alone is God, and He is good, and He loves you? Do you know that He remembers you, finding you worthy of His consideration? Do you also remember Him?