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Merciful Bread of Truth

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, ‘Come!’ I looked, and there before me was a black horse. Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, ‘A quart of wheat for a day’s wages, and three quarts of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!” Revelation 6:5-6

Image result for balance scaleJesus’ finger continues to slide under the scroll edge, and He looses the third harden wax closure. As He does so, the third living creature–which is His throne–beckons a third horse and rider. Black this time.

We can see from the grain dialog and the pair of scales that this rider holds–which was a balance beam hung with trays from both ends to measure two weights against one another–that the black rider symbolizes pestilence, famine. The cherubim quote market prices. Just enough wheat for one person or barely enough barley–less nutritious–for a small family for your whole day’s pay!

Now there are many places in the world today where such prices and malnutrition are at work, but in the time and place that John wrote, food in the Roman empire was plentiful, just as we enjoy here in America. So readers would be shocked to hear of such prices. They would understand instantly that only severe famine would drive consumers to be willing to pay such highway robbery.

Again Matthew 24:7 tells us that this famine is a sign of the end of time. But Jesus also–in His temptation in the wilderness–reminds us that man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God [Matthew 4:4].

Even when physical lack of food comes, we should remember that our spiritual nourishment is of more value. Because the world will fail, but God will never fail. He will never fail in His promises [2 Corinthians 1:20]. He will never fail in His love [Psalms 136]. He never fails in His rewards for obedience [Leviticus 26:9-12], He does not fail in punishment for disobedience [Leviticus 26:23-26] nor does He fail to show Himself merciful to those who repent [2 Chronicles 7:14].

The interpretation of this pestilence goes spiritually and prophetically deeper, but for now it is good to understand the most basic premises herein. And these end with an exhortation to the black rider not to damage the oil and the wine. Oil and wine were not necessities, but niceties of the diet. So here we see God’s mercy once again portrayed. There is still some food, though it is costly and scarce due to famine, and there are still the pleasures of oil and wine. People have to work hard and trust God to provide in times like these, but He will show Himself faithful to those who remain in Him.

No matter what else this passage signifies in terms of end times happenings, where does your daily bread [Genesis 2:9; Exodus 16:4; Matthew 6:11; John 4:32] come from?

No Participation Trophies in Heaven

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.” Revelation 6:2

Image result for participation trophiesNotice that the thunderous voice emanates from God’s living throne, the same voices that continually lift up praise to God throughout eternity. So when we read about the peals of thunder coming from God’s throne elsewhere in scripture, we can know that this thunder is the praise rising from the throne itself. Praise that proclaims, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty [Revelation 4:8].

Perhaps that is why as young children we so fear thunder. Because our spirits–in childlike faith [Matthew 19:14]–recognize God’s holiness in it.

The breaking of the seal and the beckoning of one of the living creatures–that is God’s throne–usher in a rider on a white horse, symbolizing righteous justice and victory. The rider holds an archer’s weapon and receives a crown before riding out. And as prophesied from the Fall of Man [Genesis 3:15], it is time to finish crushing Satan.

The adversary never had the power of God, and yet throughout history he has deceptively promised to be able to give just that. He struck at Jesus’ heal with the crucifixion. But was crushed when Jesus conquered death, hell and the grave [Revelation 1:18]. Still, his final defeat, and those of his deceived followers, will come at the end of time with the seal and bowl judgments of Revelation, starting with the conqueror on the white horse–Jesus Himself [Psalm 45:4, Revelation 19:11].

Remember the double-edgedness of God’s Word–it cuts two ways. For Satan to be vanquished, all that were faithful to him must also share in his punishment. For the righteous to be victorious, their adversaries have to be overcome. There has never been a war that ended in a tie, or a victor without a loser.

It’s no wonder that Satan’s anti-God campaign in our time is a message of tolerance and participation trophies. Everyone can do what they want, when they want, how they want, and everyone should be honored with a participation trophy for whatever they did. No one should be allowed to feel bad for anything they have done, no matter what.

But we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to many in the world and foolishness to the rest of it [1 Corinthians 1:23]. Because all have bought into Satan’s lies, Did God really say?…You will not surely die…You can be like God… [Genesis 3:1,4 & 5]. We like to be so empowered and so emboldened to believe that we’re never wrong and we don’t really deserve to ever face a consequence for anything we do. But it’s a lie from the pit of hell. It is entangling sin [Hebrews 12:1], because it denies that there is a God in heaven. One God. That He alone is Almighty. And that He is holy.

Are you tempted by tolerance? Or do you recognize God and His holiness? Are you embarrassed to speak God’s truth in the face of majority opposition [Luke 9:26]? Or victoriously emboldened to stand for Jesus?

 

Worship that Wholly Recognizes God

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousand upon thousands, and ten thousand time ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they were saying: ‘Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise! Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying, ‘To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, forever and ever. The four living creatures said, ‘Amen,’ and the elders fell down and worshipped.” Revelation 5:11-14

Image result for host of angelsLook how many angels there are! I’ve read this verse before, but it never really registered how large the heavenly hosts really are. This is a comfort, knowing that angels–besides praising and worshipping God–guard [Psalm 91:1], warn [Genesis 19:15], fight spiritual battles [Matthew 13:41; 2 Thessalonians 1:7] and minister [Hebrews 1:14; Revelation 1:20] on behalf of we who are faithful to God.

Together with the Cherubim and the elders, the angels praise God in His holy, heavenly throne room. They recognize Jesus as being worthy of all the things that Satan tries to deceive us into thinking we ourselves should receive.

Power. How many power hungry people in this world have rejected Christ? Do we fall prey to small power trips in our own lives? Guard against that spirit.

Wealth. All riches are God’s riches. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills [Psalm 50:10], dresses the lilies and cares for every sparrow, and yet He provides for us [Matthew 6:26-31].

Wisdom. God is omniscient–that is all-knowing. He is all wise. He alone judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart, our unspoken motives, because He alone knows them even better than we do ourselves [Hebrews 4:12]! No one can know God’s mind or counsel or instruct Him [Romans 11:34].

Strength. Umm, does this go without saying? God is almighty and omnipotent–that is all-powerful. Strong enough to create everything that ever was, is or will be with His word. Strong enough to hold it all in motion by the same. And that’s just what His word can do! What about the strength in His hands and feet?

Honor and glory. Who do we honor? Who do we glorify? People that amaze us. We give them our best words, our undivided attention, the decoration spaces on our walls, our time and money, and our accolades. But only God is truly worthy of any and all of this adoration, all our honor and all our glory.

Praise. The words of honor and glory that we speak and sing. If only God is worthy of the honor and glory–and without question He is–then only He is worthy to be praised.

The angels recognize it. The cherubim and the elders recognize it. And every creature, man, woman, child, nation and language will recognize it on this day. All of Creation [Genesis 1:27-28; Philippians 2:10; Romans 14:11] will finally confess God for who He alone is.

Ask the Holy Spirit to examine your life. Seek God’s Word to reveal to you where your worship of Him fails to recognize God truly and wholly.

Jesus at the Door

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Revelation 3:19-22

Image result for knock on the doorThe Laodicean faith was lukewarm, as if it was being piped over a long distance to Christ. They stood away from Him, yet still wore His name before this world. And their worldly impurities clogged the pipeline of their prayer, praise and worship to Him. It smelled foul and tasted worse–an offense to God.

He offered them–knowing their love of marketplaces–the opportunity to shop in His store, where they could purchase something not available anywhere else and not for any earthly price. His gold was the character of their lives refined in the fires of persecution for standing strong for Him.

And how like a father who loves his child enough to discipline the folly out of him, Jesus says–not for the first time–I correct those whom I love [Proverbs 3:11-12; Hebrews 12:5-11]. In our modern culture, many parents fear the word discipline, believing if they consequence their children it will bring the authorities to their door. But Godly parents have always known that if they neglect disciplining their children, the authorities will come to their home one day for other reasons, legal discipline reasons or even announcing their death.

Laws demand respect, obedience and discipline–either of self to follow the laws, or by the governing authorities to enforce them. God gave parents the first line of responsibility for disciplining children to respect God, obey His righteous decrees and to be self-disciplined like athletes training for Olympic games. God Himself sends the Spirit into our hearts to prick our consciences whenever we disrespect Him, disobey or are being undisciplined. This type of discipline is an act of love–saving a child from harmful foolishness and willful defiance of human law and Godly living.

God so earnestly loves the Laodiceans–as He does all people–that He says He’s standing outside, knocking on the door of their hearts, waiting to be let in. And if they open their lives to Him, He offers them deep fellowship, such as was the custom of their day. He offers them the prestige of sitting enthroned with Him on high, just as His victory afforded Him the right to sit with His Father God on His throne. Affluence of an other worldly nature.

But they needed to lay this world aside and follow Jesus [Matthew 16:24; 19:21-24].

Do you enjoy close fellowship with Jesus? Or is the Spirit convicting you about material things? When He offers it, accept the Lord’s discipline–His correction to keep you on the straight path through the narrow gate [Matthew 7:14].

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?

Holding to Truth

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets, ‘I will not impose any other burden on you, except to hold on to what you have until I come.’ To the one who is victorious and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations–that one will, ‘rule them with an iron scepter and will dash them to pieces like pottery’–just as I have received authority from my Father. I will also give that one the morning star. Whoever has ears, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Revelation 2:24-29

Image result for Teen Holding BibleHere we learn a little more about this so-called Jezebel in the Thyatiran church. Her teachings appear to be similar to a later Gnosticism teaching that espoused experiencing the deep evil of Satan in order to know how to defeat him. This false prophetess, however, likely used the phrase deep secrets to lead fellow church members to believe that she had a more intimate knowledge of God  and His will for the church, one that said that they didn’t have to alienate themselves from local civic and commercial life even though much of these happenings occurred in the pagan temples in conjunction with reprehensible acts.

It was a tantalizing teaching. I mean, who wouldn’t want to have the blessings and eternal security of Jesus, but also be free to make a livelihood and maybe even rise to a position of influence? It’s not that Jesus was against either of these things. On the contrary, the scriptures say much about working as unto the Lord and providing for the needs of self, family and even others. Scriptures also encourage us to be an influential light wherever God plants us.

But not if it means compromise. Not if it means being a Christian in name only and participating in godless cultural practices in order to attain local civic and commercial success.

Jesus recognizes that the believers at Thyatira already had the truth. He encourages them just to hold onto this truth, without wavering under the social pressures. And if they were victorious in this, clinging to God’s will in all things, He would give them authority over nations and the morning star. The authority quote refers back to Psalms 2:8-9. A Psalm of David. A picture of Jesus establishing his reign over every nation, even those who oppose Him–His enemies. The morning star also refers to Jesus [Revelation 22:16]. So God promises all those who hold faithfully to the truth–uncompromised–that they will have Jesus, salvation. Righteousness. Eternal life.

Today, we have received this same truth that the Thyatiran Christians had. The Bible is God’s Holy Word. But the world is still asking us to compromise. Go to church, but then hang out with your buddies wherever they go and whatever they do as well. Read the Bible, but then also imbibe any and all media without worry about God’s view of the contents. Love Jesus, but be your own God–do whatever feels good and right to you. The temptations can be subtle, but the consequences will not be.

Do you know the truth of God’s Word? Are you standing daily on His righteous commands?

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, a mistake that Ephesus hadn’t made.

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.