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What’s In Your Heart?

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one ‘like a son of man’ with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand. Then another angel came out of the temple and called in a loud voice to him who was sitting on the cloud, ‘Take your sickle and reap, because the time has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.’ So he who was seated on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested.” Revelation 14:14-16

Image result for cloud pillarBy day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way [Exodus 13:21]. John sees the white cloud with the Son of Man [Daniel 7:13; Revelation 1:13 & 6:2] seated on it–Jesus, wearing the victor’s crown. But Jesus is also holding a sickle.

If you’re not familiar with antiquitous farm equipment, you may still recognize a sickle as the blade usually wielded in portrayals of the grim reaper. Jesus is anything but grim. He is not death incarnated to frighten the nations into submission. On the contrary, He is a merciful and loving Savior, friend to all who know Him as Lord.

Still, the sickle he wields–just like the double-edged sword of His mouth, His word–will cut two ways. The harvest of the faithful to eternal life [John 4:35] and of those who rejected God to eternal death in the fires of hell [Joel 3:13; Jeremiah 51:33].

John 12:24 and 1 Corinthians 15:42 liken our eternal soul-man and our physical bodies to a seed. We are each born with a young faith plant in our hearts and enough childlike faith for food to sustain us while we are nurtured in the truth. But what happens when God’s word is not taught? When prayer and praising God Almighty are not apart of the life that a child leads? It’s like leaving a seed to dry up and die. It may look whole on the outside, but it will never grow into the plant that it was meant to be.

We are the same way. And those who have grown in their faith will be good, mature plants. When our end comes our souls will live on. But those who allow their faith to lie dormant, or to shrivel and die, they will grow other plants in their heart that have no place in heaven. When their end comes, their soul will not find peace with God as they never made that peace in life.

One swift fell of the sickle. The hour and day unknown. What’s in your heart? Growing faith? Or growing discord with God?

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Counterfeit, Counterfeit. What Begins and Ends with Counterfeit?

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Then from his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent. But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring–those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus.” Revelation 12:15-17

Image result for living water imageIn the beginning, God’s spirit hovered a formless and void deep [Genesis 1: 2], the same waters that He separated and from which He called forth dry ground [Genesis 1:9-10]. About 2,000 years later God broke open the springs of the great deep and, working them together with the floodgates of heaven, flooded the whole earth [Genesis 7:11 & 19-20]. He pulled them back so that Noah and his family could begin again.

His word came through the prophet Jeremiah, tell Israel that they have forsaken Me, God, their source of living water [Jeremiah 2:13, 17:13]. Habakkuk was told that the knowledge of the glory of God would fill the earth as waters cover the sea [Habakkuk 2:14]. Jesus is living water [John 4:10-11].

As believers, we have streams of living water flowing from within us [John 7:38]. Ezekiel had a vision of a river flowing from the Temple [Ezekiel 47] that was so wide and so deep no man could swim it [Ezekiel 47:5]. Which, of course, was only a copy and a shadow of the river of life that will flow through the tree of life down the center street of the New Jerusalem in heaven [Revelation 22:1-2].

So of course Satan spews water to try to take out the woman. The devil tries to counterfeit everything that is God’s. But the earth, God’s physical creation, helps God’s chosen nation. To the point that Satan is, once again, furious and stomps off to war against the rest of humankind–well, those who have faith in God anyway. He doesn’t concern himself so much with those who already deny God’s existence or those who have walked away from their faith to pursue worldly pleasure. But if you believe there is a God and you live to honor and glorify Him, then you have a spiritual target on your back. That’s why Ephesians talks about donning the full armor of God so that you can stand your ground in your faith [Ephesians 6:13].

Do you feel attacked? If not, are you actively standing for and sharing your faith? If yes, are you daily donning your armor and taking up your cross to make the stand again and again?

Questions of the Spirit

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Then one of the elders asked me, ‘These in white robes–who are they, and where did they come from?’ I answered, ‘Sir, you know.” Revelation 7:13-14a

Image result for askVerses like this are sprinkled throughout the Revelation account to remind us that John is still in a vision and being shown things that will happen in the future. An elder takes John aside to make sure that he understands what he is seeing, because John has been charged with reporting it with accuracy to the world at large.

In this instance, just like in Revelation 1:20 with the symbolism of the lamps and the stars, John is clearly told what the literal white-robed multitude means. But the elder does so through a question, much like God employed with Adam and Eve in the garden [Genesis 3:9, 11 & 13] and with Cain [4:6, 9 & 10].

The Genesis questions were not for God’s sake, not because He didn’t already know the answer, but to cause Adam and Eve, and Cain to consider the truth. Here in Revelation, the elder’s question is not because the elder doesn’t know the answer, but to prompt John to be an active observer–not passive. He needs to know what he is seeing, and the elder’s question causes John to ask for understanding.

We, like John, are not to be passive consumers of Christianity. We too need to understand what we read and hear of God’s Word so that we can always be ready with an answer for the hope we have within us [1 Peter 3:15]. And when we don’t at first understand, all we need to do is ask God for wisdom and believe that He will show us the truth of His Word [James 1:5].

What questions is the Spirit prompting your heart with today? Are you seeking His understanding? Are you listening for His answer?

Continually Moved

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. And they sang a new song, saying: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” Revelation 5:8-10

Image result for Offering IncenseJesus alone, the slain Lamb and Lion of Judah, is able to take the scroll from God’s hand. And when He does, it causes all of heaven to break out in worship. They fall prostrate, which seems to be the most natural response to recognizing God the Son and God the Father for who they are. And then they sing a song that embodies the reason for why they find Jesus so worthy.

He is worthy because He can take God’s sealed document from His hand and open it so that all can know what it says. And no one else can.

He is worthy because He died on the cross for our sins, redeeming–that is regaining possession of–every human life, just as was promised in the garden [Genesis 3:15]. Taking us back from death, hell and the grave so that we can be reconciled to–or our relationship made right with–God the Father. And no one else could have done it.

He is worthy because He has given to us His righteousness to put on [Galatians 3:27] in place of our filthy, sinful rags [Isaiah 64:6]. And no one else can do this for us either.

He is worthy because by this righteousness purchased for us on the cross, Jesus restored our heavenly citizenship, making us into the kingdom of heaven that God always intended us to be. And not just that, but priests–a group selected by God because they chose to be set apart for God, a purified people who ministered in God’s presence. Furthermore, this kingdom of priests will reign on the earth [1 Peter 2:9]. Not over each other, but like Adam was created to steward the earth [Genesis 1:26], Creation will once again be subject to those made righteous through Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And Satan will no longer have dominion over the world [Ephesians 2:2].

This praise is punctuated with more heavenly Temple original artefacts. Bronze bowls were used in the earthly Tabernacle and Temple for sprinkling blood, water and possibly oil as prescribed in the sacrificial rites. However, incense–a special blend of four spices that was only to be used in the Temple worship–was kept burning before the Lord day and night as a pleasing aroma [Exodus 30:8 & 34-38].

But this incense was a copy of the original. Our prayer is the incense that should rise to God without ceasing [1 Thessalonians 5:17]. It is a fragrant reminder to Him of our faith, love and desire to commune with Him.

In your worship of Jesus, have you ever been moved to physically bow before Him as Lord of your life? Do you lift up your prayers without ceasing to Him alone who is able to hear and to answer? Are you continually moved to honor God for who He is?

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].

Enter False Religion

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, ‘If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.’ So the Lord scattered them from there over all the whole earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel–because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.” Genesis 11:5-9

Image result for chichen itza mayan ruinsThe Tower of Babel construction is known as a ziggurat. Ziggurats–also known as step-pyramids–can be found on five of the seven continents. These towers were built in many cultures as a temple to worship the heavens, that is the sun, moon and stars rather than the One True God.

Nimrod was the first to turn the hearts of people from their understanding of and a personal relationship with their Creator. And with the help of his wife, Semiramis, he propagated the first false religion on the face of the earth.

Because of this blatant disobedience and misuse of God’s name, God confused the languages of human beings. Human beings were made in God’s image [Genesis 1:27], with the ability to plan and create and work together. God acknowledges that if allowed to continue to work together, they could accomplish anything that they could of think of to undertake.

As the people scattered in their separate language groups, each culture shared a few common historical events: Creation, Flood, and the division of languages at the Tower of Babel. Until modern history, most people groups had in fact preserved a variation on these three stories in the forms of myths, legends and religious stories. The existence of ziggurats on five of seven continents itself is a testimony to a shared history and ancestry.

Moreover, this event is very important to the Biblical viewpoint of world history. So important that Babylon is mentioned 315 times in scripture. About 100 of those mentions occur in Jeremiah with the pending captivity.

When Israel, God’s chosen bride, prostitutes herself with the idolatry and false religions of surrounding nations, God relents. He gives Israel exactly what she insisted on out of His will to begin with. He allows Israel to have front row seats and firsthand experiences with the lifestyle that they so earnestly desired in Babylonian captivity in hopes that she will turn her heart once again to Him.

But one day, Babylon will fall. Revelation 19 records how the heavens will rejoice when that day comes, when the season of idolatry and false religion will lay decimated, never again to rise. When glory and honor will belong once again to God alone.

Is there any trace of Babylon in your heart or life? Is there anything that turns your prayer, praise, worship and devotion from the Creator? Allow the Holy Spirit to search your heart and bring such things to light to God’s glory and honor.

Every Tongue Confess

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“These are the clans of Noah’s sons, according to their lines of descent, within their nations. From these the nations spread out over the earth after the flood. Now the whole earth had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.” Genesis 10:32-11:2

Image result for talking mouth close upNow that the historical big picture has been laid out in the table of nations, God zooms into the Nimrod and Tower of Babel portion of the chronology. The flood is done. The brothers and their wives have started their families. Ham’s grandson Nimrod has grown into manhood along with his brothers and cousins–the grandchildren of Shem and Japheth. The whole world expanded eastward, where Nimrod finds the plain of Shinar and begins to build his empire [Genesis 10:10].

At this time, all of Noah’s descendants still shared one language. Everyone on the earth could understand each other. Even their speech–how they used the language–was still in common. They had the same idioms, figures of speech and cultural/historical background to inform their language usage. In fact, Genesis 10 & 11 are the first mentions of language in the Bible, because before that there was no need to define language. There was only one.

It would not remain that way, but we will one day return to God’s intention for our common speech and shared language. However, before that day comes, our languages will only be united in Christ. Daniel 7:14a gives us a sneak peak at this, “He [Jesus, the Son of Man] was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him.” Philippians 2:10-11 and Romans 14:11 concur that every tongue–that is language and literal tongue–will one day confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.

Not only that, but until our speech is united in heaven, the Holy Spirit enables us to speak in other languages and, thereby, to share the gospel with the world [Acts 2:4-8]. We were meant to speak God’s truth with one another and to understand the same.

Does the Holy Spirit live in you? If you are a Christian, He surely does. Ask Him, therefore, to enable you to share God’s truth with whomever you meet, regardless of whether you personally know their language. And let Him amaze you with His grace.