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Demolition and New Construction

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“The fourth angel sounded his trumpet, and a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them turned dark. A third of the day was without light, and also a third of the night.” Revelation 8:12

Image result for demolition and new constructionBeat four, enter the fourth trumpeter. This time the blast takes out one-third of the heavenly lights. Naturally darkening the skies for those who already live in a figurative darkness. Even those who live in highly light polluted areas and everyone clinging to human light sources will be effected by the dim.

Light plays into mental health as well as physical. Minds crack and bodies heal more slowly in diminished light. So it will be as the end of everything sinful nears.

But look again at these first four trumpets, in light of the days of Creation:

  1. Trumpet one destroys one-third of the land and plants with seed from day three of Creation [Genesis 1:11].
  2. Trumpet two destroys one-third of the sea from day two [Genesis 1:6 & 10] and its creatures from day five of Creation [Genesis 1:20].
  3. Trumpet three destroys more of the water from day two and, as a result, day six descendants of Adam and Eve die [Genesis 1:26].
  4. Trumpet four destroys one-third of the celestial bodies created on day four to govern light [Genesis 1:16].

Every day of Creation–except Day one, light and darkness [Genesis 1:3], and Day seven, Sabbath rest [Genesis 2:2]–is partially destroyed by the first four trumpets. How else can there be a new heaven and a new earth [Revelation 21:1] if the old is not destroyed? It’s like building a new skyscraper to replace an old, condemned one. There must first be demolition and disposal of the old to prepare for the new construction.

As Christians, this demolition of the old man–the person we were before accepting Christ as Lord–begins in this life. We are to flee from evil desires [2 Timothy 2:22], be transformed by the renewing of our minds [Romans 12:2], comport our bodies as the holy temple of God [1 Corinthians 6:19], clothes ourselves with Christ [Galatians 3:27] and live as living sacrifices [Romans 12:1].

It’s not easy and we’ll never be perfect, but in view of God’s mercy, we will be pleasing to Him as we grow more and more like His Son, Jesus, every day.

Have you submitted your old self to God for demolition and renovation? Is there any part of your old self that you stubbornly–or pridefully–cling to? Trust God, in His perfect wisdom and love, to make you new beyond all you could ask or imagine [Ephesians 3:20]. Knowing full well that He loves you [John 3:16], that He will never leave you or forsake you [Deuteronomy 31:6; Hebrews 13:5], and that He has prepared a place for you with Him in heaven [John 14:2-3]. Will you surrender all to His loving demolition?

Heavenly Domino Effect

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying ‘Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!” Revelation 7:11-12

Image result for worshipPraising and worshipping God has a domino effect in heaven. Remember back in Revelation 4, every time the four-living-creature [cherubim]-throne of God praised Him [4:8] then the elders would bow down and worship God as well [4:11]. And again in chapter 5, the cherubim and elders sang a song of praise to the Lamb [Revelation 5:9-10] –God’s Son, Jesus–which prompted the millions of angels to sing praise [5:12], which prompted every living thing on the entire face of the earth to sing praise [5:13], culminating full circle with the cherubim and elders falling down in worship [5:14].

Here again, when the innumerable multitude of the saved praise God for who He is [7:10], then the 4 cherubim and 24 elders and millions of angels all three will fall down in worship.

Perhaps you’ve noticed this same domino effect in a church worship service here on earth. A loud voice cutting over the music or moment of worshipful silence, giving glory to God for the things He has done. Others hear this praise and join in with praises of their own. Voices go up and the presence of God descends into the midst of His people [Psalm 22:3].

It can all feel quite euphoric, but, at the same time, extremely heavy with the tangible presence of God. It’s a momentary glimpse of the true joy that restored communion with God brings. Heaven will carry this feeling forward eternally [Isaiah 25:8; Revelation 7:17, 21:4]. So it’s a good sign of church health when worship naturally spreads throughout the body of believers.

Beware of naysayers and counterfeits. I’ve heard some celebrities who have left the church try to downplay their past experiences of God’s presence by saying things like, “Oh, I got the same feeling at a concert or when my team scored the winning touchdown.” Karl Marx–the German philosopher and economist whose ideas formed the basis for later communism–tried to reduce worshipping God to an experience that is just, “the opium of the people.” In other words, he said God worship is no more than a drug high. Naysayers do so because–like Nimrod at the Tower of Babel [Genesis 11:4]–they refuse to accept God, instead choosing to elevate self, however falsely.

Satan is always at work to undo our minds and experiences with the question, “Did God really…?” And he is always ready with counterfeit moments of euphoria. Fleeting experiences and temporary happiness triggers come in many forms–food, clothes money, relationships, jokes, media, drugs, alcohol, you name it–but they are all empty and none lasting. Only God can give true joy, the fullness of which is eternal.

Are you in a healthy worshipping church? If not, pray that God would use you to relight the fire, restore health in your church situation. Or if He chooses to move you, pray for guidance to bring you into a healthy church body. Do naysayers of your faith bring you down? Pray for strength to endure. Do counterfeits threaten to overtake the time you devote to true worship? Hold on. Jesus is coming soon!

Hard Rock Heart

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” Revelation 6:15-17

Image result for rock heartDespite the wide spreading insistence to the contrary, when this great earthquake shakes even the heavens, every person of every station of life–whether the most famous and wealthy and powerful or the least known and most impoverished–on the face of the earth will recognize that there is a God in heaven.

And as the mountains and islands are shaking from their foundations, slipping, sliding and moving in ways no human has ever seen or could ever bring to pass, people will actually speak to the rocks instead of even now turning to God. That’s how great the hardness of the human heart, the pride that we can do it for ourselves and never have to face up to our Creator. It’s a lie from the pit of hell.

God offers us love–always has and always will. But love comes with discipline–the positive discipline of a life well lived, forsaking things that hinder or hurt, and the harsh discipline of consequence for disobedience, as even our human legal systems recognize to be necessary. God never stops loving us, but one day earthly time will stop. When it does, every knee will bow and acknowledge that God is God [Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:10-11].

The day of the sixth seal is not that end of time day. People will be so bold and arrogant–and yet aware of their sinful ways–that they will try to once again go it alone. Though the rocks themselves cry out to God when people will not [Luke 19:40], the people living on the day of the sixth seal will cry out to the rocks, “Hide us from God!”–just like Adam hid in the garden because of the awareness of his sin against God [Genesis 3:10].

But we can never hide our sins, because God sees even the most hidden things about us. He sees inside our hearts [1 Samuel 16:7; Hebrews 4:12]. Only those who have believed on Jesus, God’s Son, will be free from the guilt and shame of sin [Leviticus 14:13; John 3:16; Hebrews 10:10, 14 & 17; 1 John 3:5]. Only those who have repented their self-as-god ways, acknowledging Jesus as Lord, will find forgiveness for their sins [Acts 2:38, 3:19].

When time stops, where will your faith lie–in God or in yourself-as-god? How hard is your heart? Would you sooner call out to the rocks to hide you or do you gladly bow your knee to your Creator?

Hold On: Summarizing the Seven Churches

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” Ephesians 6:10-13

Image result for holding onAs John records Jesus’ words to the seven churches of Asia Minor, each letter contains one main idea, critical to the believers getting their faith back on track.

To Ephesus: Lost Love.

To Smyrna: they’re not off track…yet. But they will face trials and need to hold on tight so that this doesn’t shake them from their faith.

To Pergamum: Compromise.

To Thyatira: Tolerance.

To Sardis: Spiritually Dead.

To Philadelphia: another church that was not off track, but being pushed to their limits by the surrounding culture. They needed to persevere in the face of slander and betrayal, guarding their faith.

To Laodicea: The distant, lukewarm faith of affluence.

But the point in pointing out the faith flaws and trials of each church was to exhort them and guide them in holding on.

Like Ephesus: Hold onto your love for Jesus.

Like Smyrna: Hold onto your faith no matter what the physical threat.

Like Pergamum: Hold onto the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Hold onto righteousness.

Like Thyatira: Hold onto your stand, boldly. Hold onto sound teaching.

Like Sardis: Hold onto abundant life.

Like Philadelphia: Hold onto your identity in Christ.

Like Laodicea: Hold onto true wealth, the spiritual treasures that can only be laid up in heaven.

To those who are victorious, to those who have donned the full armor of God and made their stand in the face of cultural opposition and spiritual temptation and confusion, to these victors go the spoils of eternal life.

Are you holding onto Jesus with all that you are?

Entrenched in Affluence

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So because you are lukewarm–neither not nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” Revelation 3:14-16

Image result for church of laodicea revelationAffluence. The people of Laodicea–Christians as well–enjoyed financial security and material accessibility. However, their city was built close to trade route access, and not to water access. So water had to be piped in.

Neighboring Colossi had wonderfully icy springs fed by mountain snow melt. And on the other side, Hierapolis had sacred mineral hot springs believed to heal. But Laodicea’s mineral laden water, deposited sediment all along the aqueduct. Minerals that ruined even the flavor of the lukewarm water that arrived in town. Minerals that stunk up the whole house if the water was boiled, not to mention food preparation and even left some sick from drinking it.

It is to their own decrepit water that Jesus compares the Christians of Laodicea. Your faith tastes foul and it is neither hot nor cold enough to satisfy. One drink makes me want to gag, spewing your worship from my mouth.

Ouch!

And the rebuke goes back to the culture of Laodicea. The deep entrenchment in affluence. The people had all they needed and provided for themselves in everyway beyond what many cities and peoples around them ever could. They needed nothing. Including Jesus. And their lifestyles and worship testified to their lukewarm, sediment filled faith in Him.

It wasn’t about becoming on fire for Jesus or getting out of the faith altogether. It was about loving the giver Himself more than gifts and blessings He could bestow.

Do you lean on the Lord? Or are you so self-sufficient that Jesus is almost an afterthought to your daily life?

Gold State Warriors Dominate the Reigning Champions, Cleveland Cavaliers

by Jimmy Sileo

Image result for basketballIn this year’s NBA Championship, we are quite possibly witnessing the greatest team ever assembled. But are they? Watching the way this team plays is beautiful–their smooth ball movement and their feisty defense is a rough to score on as an A-League Champion Bible Quizzer. In the same way, God is currently building His team. Want in?

In game one, the Warriors convincingly beat last year’s champs by twenty-one points. Game two wasn’t any better as KD, Steph and crew ran away with it and easily won by nineteen. The beat down was so severe that Cleveland’s coach pulled the starters with eight minutes left on the clock to preserve their worn-down bodies for the next game. Even the best player in the world, Lebron “King” James, couldn’t will his team back into the game no matter how hard he tried.

So how can this be? The answer is unity and unselfishness. The Warriors’ unselfish play and ball movement kept the Cavs honest. That means, no one ball hogs. They pass the ball around to all five players until someone can take a wide-open shot. Dominating the ball, or “hero ball,” as some put it, does not happen. No one is bigger than the team. They play like a unit on offense and especially defense. If one defender needs help, another rotates, aiding in his defense, sometimes even giving up his body to take a charge. And that’s hard to do when the 6’8″, 230 pound Lebron-James-freight-train is coming full steam to the hole. These four future hall-of-famers are giving up self [pride, fame, money, stats, minutes] for the sake of the team, and tat is exactly how we are to be if we chose to be disciples on Jesus’ team. Naturally, this goes against our grain and is hard to do , but the coming glory is far better than anything we can receive on earth.

Like the Warriors’ play, God sacrificed it all. He risked His reputation, His word, and His only son for the sake of the team’s ultimate goal. He knew He had to make a way [the cross] for His team to reach the podium [heaven] to lift the Championship Trophy [Crown of Glory].

When Jesus revealed to his disciples that he was the Messiah, he asked Peter, “Who do you say I am?”

Peter said, “You are the son of the living God.”

Jesus replied, “Blessed are you for this was not revealed to you by man but by my Father in heaven…and on this rock, I will build my church [team] and the gates of hell [all forces opposed to Christ and his kingdom] will not overcome it,” [Matthew 16:16-18].

Shortly later he said to the team, “Whoever want to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross [total commitment] and follow me…For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done,” [Matthew 16:24 & 27].

When we put our selfish desires aside, totally commit to God’s plan, value unity other believers, and tell others about Him, then we can proudly say we are a part of the greatest team ever.

Brick and Tar Vengeance

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“They said to each other, ‘Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.’ They used brick instead of stone and tar for mortar. Then they said, ‘Come let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” Genesis 11:3-4

Image result for sunbaked bricksLook at all of the rich tiebacks in these few verses. Under the direction of Nimrod [Genesis 10:10; Josephus Antiquities], the people consorted to build a city and tower. Not just any tower, but one built of bricks not stone.

Why would scripture mention a detail like that? Well, it’s possible that this is the first time in history that human beings made bricks to use in construction. More importantly, is to know why the people under Nimrod’s command wanted to build the tower.

According to secular historian, Josephus, Nimrod excited the people to an affront and contempt of God. He was a bold man, and of great strength of hand. He persuaded people not to credit God or give Him glory for any joy they had in life, but to believe that they could be happy in and of themselves from their own courage. Nimrod also gradually changed the government into tyranny, seeing no other way of turning men from the fear of God, but to bring them into a constant dependence on his power.

More than that, Nimrod was in God’s face about the flood. He swore to revenge himself on God, if He ever drowned the world again. So Nimrod planned to build a tower too high for the waters to reach as a means of avenging himself on God for the previous destruction.

Now the multitude were very ready to follow the determination of Nimrod, and to esteem it a piece of cowardice to submit to God; and they built a tower. It was built of burnt brick, cemented together with mortar, made of bitumen, that it might not be liable to admit water. Did you catch it? Nimrod and the people were building a waterproof tower that they could climb to safety in case God chose to flood them out again for doing it.

But why not stone? Simple. God created stone, and they didn’t want to show any reliance on Him. They wanted to create their own materials and build for themselves to show God that they didn’t need Him. Not only that, but they repeated the attitude of Cain [Genesis 4:17]. While God wanted people to split up and stop influencing each other to do wrong and mistreating one another, Nimrod said, Hey, let’s do it our way. Let’s build a city and stay together.

Remember Satan’s lie to the angel and to Adam and Eve in the garden? You can be like God–in other words, you can be your own God? He hasn’t changed his tune over the course of human history. We see it cropping back up here within a few generations after the flood to such an extreme level that Nimrod is inciting the whole earth against their Creator.

What’s in your heart? What about the influences in your life? Is there anything telling you to do it your way, for yourself and all by yourself? Trust God. Bring this thing under submission to Him and watch the blessing that this releases in your life. Know that those who stand opposed to God will–like Cain and Nimrod–stand judgment before God and confess that He alone is Lord [Romans 14:11]. But, oh, the grief they will bear for the sins they cherished in this life. Do not be like them. Be blessed.

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers [Psalms 1:1].