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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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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

 

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]?

The Unrepentant Leading the Unrepentant

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Then the angel said to me, ‘The waters you saw, where the prostitute sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations and languages. The beast and the ten horns you saw will hate the prostitute. They will bring her to ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire. For God has put it into their hearts to accomplish his purpose by agreeing to give the beast their power to rule, until God’s words are fulfilled. The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth.” Revelation 17:15-18

Image result for falling into waterHow interesting that false religion is shown sitting on waters that represent every people, multitude, nation and language–the very wayward hearts that will all one day bow and confess Christ is Lord [Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:10-11]. The human heart is an ocean of purpose [Proverbs 20:5]. God created it to be just that. But fraught with sin, the unrepentant heart is as the deep pit of the wayward woman [Proverbs 23:27]. The unrepentant heart is a blind heart leading other blind hearts to stumble and fall into the pit of false religion [Matthew 15:14; Luke 6:39].

More interesting yet is that the antichrist and his puppet kings will actually hate false religion–meaning they will prefer atheism to people believing in a fractured pantheon. They will promote atheism, denouncing any belief in any god–real or imagined–until the sin began at Babel is old news.

It is so much easier to prevent the sprouting of faith in the hear that has removed all possibility of faith. As long as the idea that some intelligent being greater than ourselves is out there–no matter how twisted and bankrupt this idea of a god is–then this view f God can be corrected and cultivated into true and lasting faith. But when the seed of childlike faith has been smothered out from infancy, it is a near impossibility that belief can ever take root in the heart and mature.

Babylon has long held the hearts of the rulers of this world. She has offered the illusion of worldly power and authority, the opportunity to choose the eternal ending to one’s life story–but it is all just fantasy. Not only that, but when the world throws off the veil of false religion, they will be confronted with the true face of their love–Satan, the adversary of the One True God. They will have to boldface accept Him, denouncing the Creator once and for all, bringing to full culmination the sin began in the Garden [Genesis 3:5; Isaiah 14:13].

From the beginning, though, God prayed for every human heart [Deuteronomy 5:29]–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! He prayed that we would choose to care for the childlike faith that He placed in each of our hearts. He prayed that we would love Him and one another as He intended from the start [Luke 10:27; Mark 12:30-31]. He prayed that we would accept His plan of redemption by faith and, thereby, live eternally with Him [John 3:16; 2 Peter 3:9].

Are you an answer to God’s prayer?

Head and Hand and Knees Will Bow

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries. This title was written on her forehead: MYSTERY BABYLON THE GREAT THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus.” Revelation 17:4b-6a

Image result for drinking from golden wine cupBabylon–that is false religion–masquerades as royalty. Wearing purple and scarlet and fine jewels, all symbols of wealth, she intoxicates the nations with her temptation and is herself intoxicated by the blood of those faithful to God who are killed in her name. She flaunts a golden goblet, which a king would have used to drink wine, but her cup is full of all things morally offensive and spiritually reprehensible.

In the Old Testament, God commanded the Israelites to bind His Word to their foreheads as a form of remembering both His identity and their identity in Him [Deuteronomy 6:8]. Then in the book of Revelation, we see that God seals 144,000 Jews with His mark on their forehead [7:3-4]. Satan counterfeits this seal with the mark of the beast which can be taken on either the forehead or the right hand, which also calls back to Deuteronomy 6:8.

A forehead tattoo is clearly visible to everyone else. It is an identification mark. You wouldn’t put anything on your forehead that you didn’t want anyone else to know about you. And the right hand is the hand of honor. So those who accept the mark of the beast, identify themselves with Satan and his antichrist and they bring honor to them both by wearing their mark. False religion–Babylon herein–aligns herself with her true father, Satan. And no one can serve two masters [Matthew 6:24]. Either you choose to honor God or you choose to give His honor to someone else and defy God in this life.

But one day, every knee will bow to God [Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:10-11]. Even those who spend their whole earthly existence shaking their fist at our merciful, loving Savior, or putting their fingers in their ears and chanting la, la, la, la, la–hear no God, see no God. Like that will make the truth of His reality go away.

With whom do you choose to identify? Who is honored by your life?

The Razor-Edged Gospel

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth–to every nation, tribe, language and people. He said in a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.” Revelation 14:6-7

Image result for flying angelIn Revelation chapter 8, an eagle flew in midair pronouncing three woes to come. Here, the angel flying in midair proclaims the eternal gospel, literally glad tidings often translated as good news as the angel brought to the shepherds in the Christmas story [Luke 2:10].

This so-called good news, will not be good news at all to everyone living on the earth at this time, because it will mean that their time is up. They have no more opportunity to accept Jesus as Lord of their lives.

Good news is always double-edged though [Nahum 1:15]. For someone to celebrate a win in this life, someone else has to lose. For one candidate to be blessed with a new job, another candidate has to be rejected. For there to be a recipient of a life-saving transplant, a donor has to lose their life. And for the good news of Jesus’ victory over Satan to be completed and the faithful to go on to eternal life, all those who have chosen to follow Satan–that is everyone who has rejected God–have to go on to eternal damnation.

Make no mistake about this moment, it breaks God’s heart that any should choose to perish [2 Peter 3:9]. Even now He withholds His hand of judgment so that others can choose eternal life.

The angel commands everyone to fear God, but throughout scripture God, or His theophanies, command people, Do not fear. The fear of the Lord, however, is a right respect for who God is. It’s like, when you meet world leader, you recognize their position of authority and honor them accordingly. So with God, we are to reverence Him for who He is. Those who have rejected Him, in this moment, come to the place where they will bend their knee to Him fully understanding the error of their ways [Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:10].

Worship Him, the angel says, acknowledge His true worth. Creator. Sustainer. Provider. God Almighty. There is none like Him.

The angel invokes the image of Creation through the heavens and the earth [Genesis 1:1] and the seas [Genesis 1:10 & 22]. And he invokes an image of the flood when the springs of the great deep burst forth [Genesis 7:11], an image equated to the lostness of sinful humankind [2 Peter 2:17] that only Jesus can set to right [Revelation 7:17].

Do you know people on the other side of the gospel’s razor edge? People who will pass to eternal damnation when you take your place in eternal life? Does your heart break for their salvation as God’s does? Share your hope with them and everyone you meet.

Power and Persuasion

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“And the dragon stood on the shore of the sea. And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. He had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on his horns, and on each head a blasphemous name. The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority. One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was astonished and followed the beast. Men worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, ‘Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?” Revelation 13:1-4

Image result for beast from the seaWe just saw in chapter 10, the christophanic angel standing on both the sea and the land, holding the open, bitter scroll [verse 2]. But this appearance of Christ comes down from heaven. Whereas, here the beast–in reality a human being–climbs up out of the sea, indicating where he has been held throughout the course of human history, or at least the Satanic nature of his origins.

Remember that Satan was cast out of heaven to the earth where he has ruled and reigned as prince of the air [John 12:31; Ephesians 2:2]. And his fallen angel, that is demonic hordes, were long said to live in the Abyss, a Greek term meaning very deep or bottomless [Luke 8:31]. The readers of Revelation would have recognized–as per ancient beliefs–the allusion to the beast coming from subterranean confinement, that is being sent from Satan rather than from God.

Satan–the dragon–gives this beast his authority, which is no authority at all. Because of this, the beast is a mastermind of deception [John 8:44], captivating the hearts of the world with impressive speech and faux-miraculous signs.

Again, in true counterfeit motif as always comes from the devil who has not one unique idea of his own, he twists and mocks the crucifixion of Jesus Christ by staging a near death and miraculous resurrection of this anti-Christ figure. Though the world spurned and rejected salvation through faith in the death and resurrection of Christ, they will be seduced by the illusion of power of this counterfeit holds.

Probably one of the saddest commentaries in the whole of scripture comes next, that the whole world will follow the anti-Christ and worship the devil during this time. Not one will stand for the truth of our Creator God and His plan of redemption, Christ. In fact, people will once again attribute what is rightfully God’s to the prince of the world [John 12:31; Ephesians 2:2], asking, “Who is like this anti-Christ? Who can stand against him?”

These questions can be asked of no one except God Himself. Who is like the Lord our God [Psalm 113]? And who can stand against Him [Acts 5:39; Romans 8:31]?

No one. And no one.

But people who refuse to turn their hearts back to God, who cling to the Satanic lie of self as god, will once again denounce the Almighty. They will readily accept this false-Christ and the prince who has held their hearts since the Garden, because, in a twisted way, the beast’s apparent power will give them hope that they have not been wrong all this time. It will seem to justify that they have always been right. That God is not the ultimate absolute to whom they will eventually bow their knee [Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:10]. They will be fooled into believing that anyone can rise to the place of god.

Who is like the Lord our God? If God is for you–and that inherently means that you are for God–then who can stand against you? Do you understand the powerful importance of these two questions in your life?