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Eternal Day

“I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” Revelation 21:22-27

See the source imageThe temple was the center of Jewish spiritual life. It was the place the Israelites came to draw near to God–and He to them–for them to worship and to offer sacrifice. In the Old Testament, God’s presence indwelled the Most Holy Place of both tabernacle and temple. The mercy seat therein resembled a glorious, ancient throne room. And the Most Holy Place itself was shaped as a perfect cube like the city of New Jerusalem–the heavenly Jerusalem.

All was just a copy and a shadow of that on which we are to truly set our hearts. The eternal throne  room of God, His Most Holy dwelling place among His faithful people in the New Jerusalem .

In heaven, we won’t need a temple to draw near to God. We will live in His presence. In heaven, we won’t need a temple to worship God. Like the four living creatures, the twenty-four elders and the angels, we will continually worship God Almighty [John 4:21-23]. In heaven, we won’t need a temple to make sacrifices to God. We will live eternally thanks to Jesus’ sacrifice once and for all for our sins.

So radiant is He that no lights outside His being will be necessary [Isaiah 24:23 & 60:19-20]. How inspired of the Spirit when the Psalmist said, your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path [Psalm 119:105].

No more will darkness reign upon the earth–the new creation [Matthew 4:26; John 1:5]. No more will corruption reign in government. No more will people trespass against one another [Matthew 6:12; Luke 11:4].

The gates of the New Jerusalem will ever be open to the inhabitants of the new heaven and the new earth. Night will never fall. Safety and peace never compromised or threatened [Isaiah 52:1; Joel 3:17; Zechariah 14:11]. No more terror. Nothing contrary to the love of God will enter His gates. Only those who have received salvation by grace through faith [Ephesians 2:8-9].

Do you see by the sun or by the Holy One of Israel? Are your feet on the straight and narrow path to the New Jerusalem [Matthew 7:14]?

KCS

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The Foundation of Peace

“One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, ‘Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.’ And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.” Revelation 21:9-11

See the source imageRecall that Revelation chapter 17 began this exact same way, one of the seven angels who held one of the bowls of God’s wrath at the very end and poured it out on all people, invited John to see an outtake from the overall End Times picture. In chapter 17, the Spirit takes John away to see what happened to Babylon–false religion personified as a woman [vs. 1-5]. Here in chapter 21, we see what becomes of those who hold firm to their faith in Jesus to the end–the bride of Christ.

Babylon meets her end in the desert [17:3], a dry and barren land despite her so called riches. But the bride of Christ descends from heaven, higher than the hilltop on which the earthly Jerusalem perched [Isaiah 10:32], higher than the mountaintops over which the floodwaters rose [Genesis 7:18-20], the most elevated position possible for this historical climax.

The Holy City is peopled by a royal priesthood, the chosen of God who themselves chose God, a holy nation [1 Peter 2:9] and carries the name the New Jerusalem.

First mentioned in Genesis 14:18, it was originally known as Salem where the priest Melchizedek collected the tithe from Abraham. Jerusalem was a Canaanite city conquered by the Israelites as they took the Promised Land [Joshua 10:1].  Jeru meant foundation or city and Salem comes from Shalem which was the name of a Canaanite god. The second part of the name, however, easily converted in Hebrew to Shalom meaning peace.

So then Jerusalem was the city/foundation of peace a double entendre for the city/foundation of the one true God [Romans 5:1-2; Ephesians 2:14-18]. An allusion not lost on the writer of Hebrews who spoke of a glorious city that the ancients looked forward to receiving by faith [Hebrews 11:10].

This heavenly Jerusalem will shine with the glory of God Himself. In fact, the Day 4 Creation–sun, moon and stars–will no longer be necessary for governing light and marking time. All of these earthly restraints will pass away [Revelation 22:5]. Imagine 24-7 not having any meaning! Because the earth will not exist to rotate a 24-hour day in its orbit around an equally non-existent sun. Mind blowing, right?

See the source imageEqually thought stretching is the image of crystal clear jasper. Most types of jasper stone are variegated and opaque. This scripture mention invokes, in my mind, the sunniest kind of day where everything seems to be surrounded with halos of clearish rainbows. What do you imagine when you read this description? That’s the beauty of heaven. Our earthly minds can only begin to imagine a rough sketch of what it might be like. But the real thing will be beyond compare.

Is Jesus your foundation of peace with God? Will you see heaven one day?

KCS

 

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

The Heart of Thanksgiving

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7

See the source imageIn Philippians, Paul speaks God’s truth into our culture. Rejoice in the Lord always! For better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. They’re not just the words for wedding ceremonies. After all, the church is the bride of Christ. We are to live this life with Him as our beloved, rejoicing in Him in every situation.

And repeat.

When we can relax and rejoice in our Lord Jesus Christ, we become a gentle people that show others the truth of God with us. If people deny His existence, it’s because we first have denied Him with how we live our lives. If people reject Him as Lord of all, it’s because we first have rejected His call to live and love this world as He does. Our faith needs to be evident to all, to the glory and honor of God.

When we are full of worry and doubt, stress, anxiety and tension, we are giving in to the attacks of sin on our lives. Jesus told us that we would have trouble in this world, but He also told us that He overcame all of it [John 16:33]. I don’t know about you, but that makes me incredibly thankful!

And since the mouth speaks what the heart is full of [Luke 6:45], then I can truly in every situation–for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health–give thanks to my Creator God. To my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. To my comforter, the Holy Spirit.

No matter what comes our way, we can relax and pray a prayer of thanksgiving that Jesus has overcome. We can relax and petition God to act faithfully on our behalf, giving thanks that Jesus has overcome. We can relax and bring our requests straight to God Almighty, the Creator of the universe, giving thanks that Jesus opened the way for our direct communication with the Father.

Having a heart centered on giving thanks to God, guards us with peace. Our hearts and minds can relax in the peace of God. A peace that those who have denied His existence will never know.

When is the last time you felt genuinely thankful?

As Americans we live in a society where our needs are usually met and even many of the things we don’t need are available if not provided for us as well–by human hands. Most of us live in general comfort–which ironically leads to discontentment, even boredom, and a general spirit of ungratefulness for the things that we have and the people who provide them–though it should make us eternally grateful.

Does your heart overflow with thankfulness to God? Is this heart of thanksgiving evident to all? Do you rest thankfully in His peace?

KCS

 

The Path of No Return

“And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, ‘Come, gather together for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals and mighty men, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, small and great.’ Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against the rider on the horse and his army. But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. The rest of them were killed with the sword that came out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh.” Revelation 19:17-21

See the source imageAn angel calls all of the scavenging birds to a great feast that contrasts to the marriage supper of the Lamb. It is the bitterness of sin juxtaposed to the sweetness of salvation–many will choose to perish. Kings who have become drunk on their own authority. Generals, their captains and their soldiers who fought for the things of earth in the name of the kings of the earth. And all people–regardless of social status–whose name is not written in the Lamb’s book of life [Revelation 13:8].

Unlike the mythological phoenix, new physical bodies will not regenerate from the ashes and dust to which we return [Genesis 3:19]. Only spiritual bodies will live in the new heaven and the new earth [1 Corinthians 15:42 & 52]. So flesh will be no more.

As we make choices in life, it is wise for us to remember that we are all appointed to die once and after that to face judgment [Hebrews 9:27]. The things of earth bring us much trouble and ultimately will pass away [Matthew 6:19; 1 Corinthians 3:12-13; 1 John 2:17]. Our physical bodies too will pass away [John 12:24; 1 Peter 1:24].

How much more dreadful for those who resist God to the end. Who stand against Him in the battle of Armageddon, siding with the enemy–Satan’s unholy trinity of self, antichrist and unholy prophet. Like the enemies of any bloody rebellion, there will be no peace in their passing, no body to return to mourning loved ones. Like the soldiers who fell in the No-Man’s-Land between the trenches of WWI, there will be no way to intercede and rescue those who wage war against God without also bringing death on oneself.

Armageddon will be a point of no return, a line that, once crossed, can never be undone.

But for many, they have already chosen a path of no surrender and, therefore, no return. Many have already decided that they would rather live this life denying and defying God, than to worry about the things to come [Revelation 1:19].

Refusal to acknowledge God is a choice. Surrender is a choice.

Which path have you chosen [Matthew 7:13-14]?

KCS

From the Students Question Board: Are Ghosts Real?

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your mind? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” Luke 24:37-39

Image result for flashlight faceAfter Jesus rose from the dead, he appeared to his disciples–alive! And not just alive, but in bodily form–flesh, blood, hair, fingernails, you name it. But the disciples couldn’t believe it. They couldn’t wrap their understanding around Jesus’ appearance. He didn’t come through the door, He simply stood before them. A dead man. Standing before them. Not even a little bit dead. With all the same human body features that they themselves had. It blew their minds.

The English translation here is problematic in our culture, because the Greek word pneuma or spirit is rendered as ghost. To be clear, there is a spiritual world all around us–angels and demons at war for our souls. Sometimes we can see this spiritual dimension. But ghosts, the supposed spirits of deceased humans, are not a part of it. It’s kind of like the popular myth that when people die they become angels. Like humankind, Angels are uniquely created beings [Hebrews 2:7]. So when we die, though we go to heaven, we do not morph from human to angel. The saints will still be the saints and the angels will still be the angels in heaven [Revelation 7:9-11]. Similarly, when people die, our spirits do not join the spiritual warfare of the angels and the demons, nor we do not haunt those still living.

Rather, just as Jesus told the thief on the cross–who acknowledged Him as Lord–that he would be in heaven with Jesus that same day they died [Luke 23:43], so we believe that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord [2 Corinthians 5:8]. And for those who are not believers, their souls sleep with their bodies in the ground until the judgment [Revelation 20:11-15].

Christians are often spiritually sensitive, even from a young age, sensing the spiritual battles around us. But we do not need to be afraid. God reveals the deep things of darkness and brings utter darkness into the light [Job 12:22]. He is our lamp that turns our darkness into light [2 Samuel 22:29]. Where He is, darkness cannot be because darkness cannot stand in the presence of light [John 1:5]. That is, darkness cannot overcome or overtake the light.

When spiritual fears and worldly superstitions threaten to overwhelm our senses, we need only to call on the name of Jesus. If we remain in Him, He is with us. His authority will drive out every demonic spirit that tries to come against us [Matthew 8:28-34; Mark 1:21-34 & 5:1-17] and, at the same time, He will fill us with a peace that beyond anything we could understand [Philippians 4:7].

Is the Lord your lamp? Does the truth of His word light your way [Psalm 119:105]?

Do Not Be Afraid–Part 1: Superstitions

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can kill both body and soul in hell.” Matthew 10:28

Image result for black cat and a broken mirrorThroughout scripture, God appears or sends an angel on earth. The people they visit rightly respond with fear. Fear is a sense of dread, panic or alarm over a perceived threat or imminent danger.

Why would people fear God? Being afraid of God is the natural response of our sin. We recognize that we are sinners and, therefore, cannot stand in the presence of the Holy God. Our soul understands that unless we are right with God, we are in danger of His wrath [Romans 1:18].

But when God talks about us fearing Him, it is a different kind of fear altogether. The fear of the Lord is recognizing that, yeah, we are sinners and therefore deserving of God’s wrath–but when by recognizing this we come to confess our sins and seek His forgiveness–true fear of the Lord manifests itself in love for Him. Reverence. Divine respect.

Satan operates in opposites. Where God says do not be afraid–but rather have a proper perspective of eternity and reverence for Him–Satan says, be very afraid. Be paralyzed by fear. Be driven by fear. Be numb to fear. Anything, so long as your life is consumed with godless fear.

Much of the upcoming Halloween observance began as a fear response. It was superstition that paralyzed nations in literal darkness.

Before the advent of electric lights, night was, well, truly dark. It was a cloak for thievery, murder and other godless acts. When someone heard a noise in the dark, they could not flip a light switch to find out where the sound came from. If damage was done, or property stolen, or what-have-you, lies abounded to explain the crimes away. It was ghosts, I say. I saw them with my own eyes! Or, Werewolves were here. See the bite marks! Or, It’s that old witch living in the cottage that cursed you for sure! Throughout history, when people couldn’t understand what was happening–or were too afraid to speak up against the powerful and corrupt perpetrators–they often created lies, folklore, myth, and superstitions to explain the world instead.

Superstitions are based on a false understanding of how the world works–that is worldview. Luck is not mentioned one time in the Bible. Not once! Because God wants people to know that that there is no such thing as luck. Yet, worldly superstitions about being cursed with bad luck abound, and many people spend their whole lives driven by the fear of avoiding things that might cause “bad luck.” A haunt in the Bible was used to describe locations frequented by people or animals. Vampires, werewolves and banchees are never mentioned in scripture, because they do not exist. So hauntings and luck superstitions are unbiblical fears.

The only sense of danger we should rightly concern ourselves with is the eternal condition of our soul–are we going to heaven or hell?–because this is the only true danger we face.

Are you bound by superstitions? Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to show you where superstitions have a hold on your life, then ask Him to free you from these fears so that you can live in the freedom God intended.