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Life Eclipse

by Bridget Sileo

“Be still and know that I am God…” Psalm 46:10

Image result for eclipseWhat is an eclipse? An eclipse is when one object moves between two other objects, blocking the view of one from the other. When the moon blocks our view of the sun during the day, does that mean that the sun is no longer there?

No. In fact, it is still dangerous to look directly at the sun.

Sometimes our circumstances seem to eclipse God and we question whether He is still there. We can’t see Him because other things in our lives stand in the way.

Psalm 46:10 tells us to be still and know that He is God. Even a total eclipse only lasts a short time before we can see the sun again. Eventually, our circumstances will no longer be blocking our view of God.

We can’t control the solar system or its timing, but God can and does. In the same way, we can’t always control our life circumstances, but God is bigger than all of them. Sometimes we just need to wait for the eclipse to pass, knowing that God is still there.

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!

How To Study Puzzling Bible Passages

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel. From the tribe of Judah 12,000 were sealed, from the tribe of Reuben 12,000, from the tribe of Gad 12,000, from the tribe of Asher 12,000, from the tribe of Naphtali 12,000, from the tribe of Manasseh 12,000, from the tribe of Simeon 12,000, from the tribe of Levi 12,000, from the tribe of Issachar 12,000, from the tribe of Zebulon 12,000, from the tribe of Joseph 12,000, from the tribe of Benjamin 12,000.” Revelation 7:4-8

Image result for puzzleI’m going to be honest, I’m not exactly sure the significance of the numbers in this passage. But when I come across a piece of scripture that perplexes me, it is exciting to start hunting through God’s Word for understanding. The best commentary on the Bible is the Bible itself. It makes the simple wise and enlightens the eyes [Psalm 19:7-8].

Obviously, 144,000 is the product of 12,000 sealed from each of the 12 tribes of Israel. But my question is why 12,000 from each tribe? I’ve searched through the commentaries to see what others have said and the agreement is inconclusive. This is a point of Scripture on which we can pray for God’s understanding and that, if it still pricks our hearts to know, we can ask Him about in heaven .

A few thoughts to consider when delving into the Word to understand this matter:

1) The tribes are given out of order and two are omitted, but there are still twelve total–so in all things we can know that God’s purposes prevail [Proverbs 19:21];

2) These same 144,000 are mentioned again in Revelation 14 with the Lamb–so we can read within the larger context of Revelation to see if anything else can be disclosed about who and why;

3) There are many Old Testament passages that refer to the twelve tribes in list fashion, often with social/spiritual commentary about the state of each [i.e. Genesis 49, Numbers 26 and Deuteronomy 33 to name a few]. I’m particularly interested to study through these scriptures to see what light they can shed on the puzzling Revelation 7 passage, because they may give insight into the order rearrangement and omissions mentioned above. But also because they give snapshots of the tribes over distant points of time and place.

In Genesis 49, the patriarch Jacob is blessing his sons, the tribal heads, on his death bed. Blessing in this instance meaning that he speaks to the character and lets them know what it will produce in their life, so not always a positive. While the Deuteronomy 33 passage is Moses blessing the twelve tribes before they part ways–him to his death and them to possess the Promised Land. This blessing is as it sounds, good things spoken on behalf of each tribe, good things spoken with future blessing in mind.

4) One other factor not to be overlooked in interpretation of difficult Scripture passages–the Holy Spirit. As I puzzled over this the last few days and looked for other passages that might give insight, the Holy Spirit spoke to me about the equality of the number 12,000.

No matter what each tribe’s patriarch behaved like or the decisions he made, no matter what the particular history of each Israelite tribe throughout scripture and beyond, God does not show favoritism [Romans 2:11; Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 3:25]. He forgives each of us equally. He loved each tribe equally. No matter their position or their history, when they devoted themselves to God they inherited the same measure of blessing.

What’s your Bible study routine? Do you dig deep into passages that perplex you or skip over them? Do you have sound Bible study tools and practices?

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?

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.

Mercy from the Throne of Thrones

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“In the center around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered in eyes, in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was and is and is to come.” Revelation 4:6b-8

Image result for ark of the covenantIn the ancient world, thrones were typically formed so that the King sat on the images of powerful animals. It affirmed their position of authority in the perception of their people. King Solomon’s throne, for example, had two carved lions serving as armrests and the dais–leading up to the throne–had six steps with twelve more lions, each step flanked with a sculpted lion on each end.

However, just as God Himself lives and His Word is living and active, here in Revelation 4–as in Ezekiel 10–God’s throne is portrayed as being alive. These four living creatures full of fire and eyes and wings in conjunction with the fiery, intersecting wheels create something like a divine chariot on which God crosses the heavens [2 Samuel 22:11; Psalms 18:10; Ezekiel 10:1].

Moreover, these living creatures–aka the Cherubim–guarded the way to the Tree of Life after Man’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden [Genesis 3:24], and were included in the adornment of the ark of the covenant [Exodus 25:18-22] and the tapestries of the Tent of Meeting [Exodus 26:1]. In this way, the creatures served as a reminder of the holiness of God’s house. And the symbols themselves were in fact patterned after the originals in heaven.

Interestingly enough, the set-up of the ark of the covenant with the winged cherubim facing each other on top and the requisite construction and layout of the Holy of Holies gave the room the appearance of a throne room. So in a very real sense, God was seated on His throne among His chosen people, the Jews. And the name of this ark of the covenant throne in the Holy of Holies? The Mercy Seat [Psalms 99:1; Exodus 25:17-22]. For it was here that the sacrificial blood–once a year–was sprinkled to make atonement for the sins of all Israel.

But this was just a copy of the original. Jesus–having shed His blood on the cross–was seated at the right hand of His Father on His throne in heaven. The original Mercy Seat. His sacrifice didn’t need to be repeated year after year [Hebrews 10:1-10]. And it made atonement–that is it made a wrongdoing right–for the sins of the whole world, not just Israel [Ephesians 2:11-19; John 3:16].

Do you believe that God is holy? Does His holiness pervade your life as a Christian? Do you allow His mercy to flow from His throne through you to this world to His glory and honor?

Alive and Active

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze in a glowing furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was shining like the sun in all its brilliance.” Revelation 1:12-16

Image result for thracian long swordNow that John has set the stage, he begins to reveal how his vision unfolded. At first he turns to see the owner of the voice that told him to write to the seven churches of Asia Minor. The first thing he sees are golden lampstands, a well-known tabernacle/temple furnishing among the Jews, not unlike people-height menorahs.

Walking or standing in among these candle-less lamps is someone he describes to be like a son of man. Now Jesus referred to himself as the Son of Man about eighty-five times in the gospels, while He let others recognize Him as and call Him the Son of God. The Jews were familiar with the Daniel 7:13 prophecy about the son of man quoted in Revelation 1:7, so it’s likely Jesus was proclaiming to them that he was, in fact, the fulfillment of this prophecy.

But the title Son of Man also shows that this person speaking to John had human form. A human form that was dressed in the full-length robe of the high priests and kingly golden sash. A human form that also bore resemblance to the Daniel 7:9 description of God–clothing white as snow, hair white as wool, flaming throne.

As we’ll learn later, the seven stars represent the angels of the seven churches to which John is writing [Revelation 1:20]. And isn’t it comforting, knowing the persecution these Christians faced, that Jesus held their angels in his almighty hand? That he himself walked among the churches?

Not only that, but as he did so, a double-edged sword–likely a long Thracian sword symbolizing divine judgment–came from his mouth. Hebrews 4:12 tells us that, the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing… And John 1 describes Jesus as that word of God. That word that we hide in our hearts that we might not sin against God [Psalm 119:11], because the word judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart [Hebrews 4:12].

Is the word of God alive and active in your life today? Do you hide God’s word in your heart, allowing it to penetrate your thoughts and attitudes in all things?