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Shards of Heaven

“The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. This first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass.” Revelation 21:18-21

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Walls made of jasper–the stone of the tribe of Benjamin–meaning son of my right hand [Genesis 35:18], or honored son. The New Jerusalem is the city of God’s Son. A city of pure gold–His people refined in the fire [1 Peter 1:7; Revelation 3:18]. Pure as glass–transparent. Nothing sinful. Nothing hidden [Genesis 3:8 & 10].

The first foundation, also jasper–the last son of Jacob, the last Adam–Jesus Christ [1 Corinthians 15:45]. Look at how the last shall be first [Matthew 20:16]–the tribe of Benjamin before all his brothers and Jesus Christ the Alpha and Omega before the first man Adam.

Each foundation stone representative of the tribes of Israel as was worn on the priestly ephod when they ministered before the Lord in the Tabernacle and the Temple [Exodus 28:17].

Reuben: carnelian [aka sardius or ruby]

Simeon: topaz/chrysolite [aka peridot, emerald or topaz]

Manasseh, Levi, Judah: beryl [aka carbuncle or emerald]

Judah, Zebulon: emerald [aka carbuncle or beryl or diamond]

Issachar: sapphire

Nephtali: jacinth [aka ligure]

Gad, Ephraim: chalcedony [aka agate or onyx]

Gad, Ephraim: chrysoprase [aka calcedony, agate or onyx]

Asher: amethyst

Ephraim: sardonyx [aka onyx alternated with sardius]

Benjamin: jasper

The book of Job tells about how we human beings plumb the depths of the earth for hidden riches [Job 28:1-19]. In the name of beauty, wealth and greatness, we ferret out every nugget of gold and precious gem the ground produces.

But before Adam and Eve ushered sin into the world, riches like these were abundant, even laying on the ground as commonplace as gravel or river rock [Genesis 2:12]. After sin, though, all of Creation was broken. The truth of eternity hidden from human understanding.

What does this have to do with the foundations of heaven? As aliens and strangers in this world [Hebrews 11:13; 1 Peter 2:11], we are naturally drawn to the wonder, beauty and riches of our heavenly home. We dig into the earth seeking treasure to fill the need for something that we are missing. It is the natural response of the eternity in our hearts [Ecclesiastes 3:11]. Yet because of sin, we do not recognize the shards of heaven when we find them. Rather they become the impetus for greed and the root of all kinds of evil [1 Timothy 6:10].

Beauty is fleeting [Proverbs 31:30]. Earthly wealth will pass away [Proverbs 13:22]. Greatness belongs to God alone [Psalm 145:3]. True wonder emanates from Him alone.

Do you search for God as for hidden treasure [Proverbs 2:4]? Do you seek Him while He may be found [Isaiah 55:6]?

KCS

 

 

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Are You Thirsty?

“He said to me: ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.” Revelation 21:6-7

See the source imageUnbelievable! The entire book of Revelation John has been spoken to by angels, and heard the voice of God the Father and God the Son. But this time, God doesn’t relay His message. He speaks right to John.

And what does God Almighty say? Just as He announced–when the angel poured out the seventh and final bowl of God’s wrath–that sin had met its end [Revelation 16:17], so now He proclaims Gegonen again. Only this time, all of heaven and creation have been made new. The work of the New Creation is done.

It’s interesting to note that, In the beginning [Genesis 1:1], derives from a different word than the Beginning used here. This totally makes sense since God is eternal and His creation is not. Like the Alpha and Omega that begin and end the Greek alphabet–an alphabet which does not contain every possible phoneme, or sound-letter-representative–God is the Beginning and the End of all things, though He Himself does not have a beginning or an end. He exists outside of created time just as His Word–that Word which created all things–exists outside of the Greek alphabet, and every other alphabet ever conceived.

He gives John the same gospel message to share with the world as Jesus brought–living water [John 4:13-14]. Water is so essential to the creation. It was the foundation of the world on which God created everything [Genesis 1:2]. It flows through every living organism, and without it, nothing can live.

Jesus is that spring of eternal living water. His death paid the wages of our sins, while we can freely receive His gift of eternal life [Romans 6:23].

But if it’s that easy to be saved–and it is–then what does God mean that we must overcome? Just as He counseled Cain so long ago, we must overcome the crouching tiger of sin who is waiting around every corner to devour us [Genesis 4:7]. But not in the way that we must defeat sin of our own accord. We are not gladiators thrown into a ring of divine entertainment. Jesus overcame it all [John 16:33] and–by His Holy Spirit living in us–we can stand firm in the faith [Ephesians 6:10-18].

When we choose to will and to act in obedience with God’s commands, then, like Christ, we show ourselves to be overcomers of this world–we show ourselves to be conduits of living water. And we become children of God [Galatians 4:7] and co-heirs with Christ [Romans 8:17]. Our inheritance? Heaven for all eternity.

Are you thirsty?

KCS

Offering Thanksgiving–Part 1

“These are the regulations for the fellowship offering anyone may offer to the Lord: If they offer it as an expression of thankfulness, then along with this thank offering they are to offer thick loaves made without yeast and with olive oil mixed in, thin loaves made without yeast and brushed with olive oil, and thick loaves of the finest flour well-kneaded and with oil mixed in. Along with their fellowship offering of thanksgiving they are to present an offering with thick loaves of bread made with yeast. They are to bring one of each kind as an offering, a contribution to the Lord; it belongs to the priest who splashes the blood of the fellowship offering against the altar. The meat of their fellowship offering of thanksgiving is to be eaten on the day it is offered; they must leave none of it till morning.” Leviticus 7:11-15

See the source imageThroughout the Old Testament, the Israelites were bound up in a sacrificial system that was designed as a divine awareness campaign [Romans 7:7-8]. It is so easy, as sinful humans, to walk around believing that we are right and everyone else is wronging us. But under the Mosaic law each person had to analyze themselves, they had to consider their actions and their motives, then offer sacrifice according to the measure of their wrongdoing.

To be clear, the law and sacrificial system were never meant to provide forgiveness for sins, just to make people aware of themselves from an eternal perspective [Acts 13:39; Romans 8:3; Hebrews 10:4].

But there was also a sacrificial offering prescribed for those who wanted to give thanks to God. A variation on the fellowship offering–in which man could commune with the God from whom he was estranged–the thanksgiving offering required the making of bread. Yeast-free loaves both thick and thin. Thick yeasty loaves. Each with a variation on the use of olive oil. [It makes me imagine being in a French bakery!] Think of how wonderful all of this fresh baked bread smelled, all warm and crusty on the outside, soft and butter-melting on the inside–though they probably didn’t do the butter thing at that time.

The command is to prepare loaves–plural–but only to share one of each kind with the priest making the blood-offering at the altar. So where does the rest of the bread offering go? And what about the meat from the animal whose blood gets sprinkled?

Well, fellowship meant truly that. The people prepared their gifts to eat with God. He wasn’t-and still isn’t–aloft and untouchable, though He is holy and sovereign. To bring a fellowship offering was to share a meal with God. Though He Himself is not flesh and blood, so His representative, the priest, ate the thanksgiving meal in God’s stead.

In this way, the people were reminded of the guilt of their sin and how it separates them from God. They were also shown that God wanted to make an offering on their behalf–an offering to reconcile Him to them–so that, one day, all humans everywhere could fellowship with Him the way He intended from the Creation. It was a time of divine thanksgiving as well as for those who wanted to actively give thanks to God for His goodness in their lives. God rejoices when we, His beloved Creation, draw near to Him with thanksgiving.

The law and the sacrificial system no longer regulate our behavior, but God’s desire to reconcile and commune with His Creation is unchanging.

Have you an offering of thanksgiving for God? Will you draw near to Him during this time of corporate thanksgiving to fellowship with your heavenly Father?

KCS

The First Thanksgiving–By Faith

“Obey these instructions as a lasting ordinance for you and your descendants. When you enter the land that the Lord will give you as he promised, observe this ceremony. And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when He struck down the Egyptians.’ Then the people bowed and worshipped. The Israelites did just what the Lord commanded Moses and Aaron.” Exodus 12:24-28

See the source imageThe Passover. But isn’t that right before Easter? As in not November?

Yes, it is. But Passover originated in a Thanksgiving feast eaten in faith that God would do what He said if the Israelites first obeyed what He said.

Now thankfulness to God and the act of giving thanks definitely occurred in scripture long before this first Passover–Abel’s offerings came from a heart of thankfulness and reverence [Genesis 4:4], Noah built an altar and sacrificed out of a thankful heart when he finally was able to leave the ark [Genesis 8:20]. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob each gave thanks to God throughout their lifetimes. Joseph too. No doubt Moses’ mother and father gave God thanks for protecting their son from Pharaoh’s edict and for returning him to their care [Exodus 2:8-9; Hebrews 11:23].

And thankfulness is the natural response of the forgiven heart [Psalm 9:1; 1 Corinthians 15:57].

The instruction to observe thankfulness was a lasting one. Not just a one and done. As God’s love endures forever, so our thankfulness should go on and on–on this earth just as it does in heaven [Revelation 4:8-9].

The Israelites ate a celebratory meal in anticipation of God’s faithfulness, of Him keeping His promise as spoken through Moses. By faith, they gave God thanks through obedience. They could only trust that God would do what He said.

This week, we as Americans will gather together with our loved ones to give thanks for all that God has already done for us. And to be sure, He has done great things [Psalm 107:8, et al]. We have much to be thankful for! But God calls us to live out thankfulness by faith–a life lived in thanksgiving for the things that He has yet to accomplish in our lives, things that He has promised but that we may never see come to fruition in our lifetime [Hebrews 11:39-40].

Can you imagine the power of such a statement?

I’m thankful that God will–heal, provide in every situation, move mountains, answer prayer, guide in His wisdom, accomplish His will–you name it!

I’m thankful that Jesus will acknowledge me before His Father one day [Matthew 10:32-33].

I’m thankful that my someday-spouse will love God and spiritually lead our home, that my children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren will know and love God–that they will impact their generation to the glory and honor of God.

What are you thankful for by faith? What has God spoken into your future? What has He promised that you may not live long enough to see? Are you seeking and giving thanks for that kind of spiritual legacy?

KCS

The Beginning Mirrored in the End

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Every sea captain, and all who travel by ship, the sailors, and all who earn their living from the sea, will stand far off. When they see the smoke of her burning, they will exclaim, ‘Was there ever a city like this great city?’ They will throw dust on their heads, and with weeping and mourning cry out: ‘Woe! Woe, O great city, where all who had ships on the sea became rich through her wealth! In one hour she has been brought to ruin! Rejoice over her, O heaven! Rejoice, saints and apostles and prophets! God has judged her for the way she treated you.” Revelation 18:17b-20

Do you see the Genesis call back in these verses? Way back in the beginning, God separated the ground from the water–lands and seas on Day 3. Now here in the end, land and sea is once again separated, only this time it is the inhabitants thereof. This time, the city–a mirror image of Cain’s disobedience [Genesis 4:16-17]–the great city that represents false religion and the systems of the world, lies in the ruins of its own making[Revelation 18:8] and seafaring merchants fearfully mourn.

They throw the dust–from which Adam was made and to which we will each return [Genesis 2:7 & 3:19]–on their heads as was the custom during times of intense sorrow. And they proclaim intense sorrow, or woe, over the fallen treasures and accomplishments of humankind. Everything that Nimrod promised they could accomplish at Babel has come to naught after generations of propagating the self-same lie that each person can be his/her own god [Genesis 3:5; Isaiah 14:14].

In just a very short earthly history, just one hour in the scheme of eternity, man’s riches and religions rise and fall, taking their loyalists with them to their doom.

The bittersweet double-edge of eternal truth. All that in life choose destruction must in eternity go to that bitter destruction. While all who in this life choose faith in Christ go in eternity to the sweetness of that eternal reward. It is the destruction of soul-destroying sin, sin-inducing systems and the salvation of the faithful over which heaven rejoices. For God does not desire that any should choose to perish [2 Peter 3:9].

How is God’s truth reflected in your life? Do your words and actions mirror Christ?

The Altar of the Heart

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even their name is forgotten.” Ecclesiastes 9:5

Image result for day of the dead altar heartOne of the customs of Day of the Dead is to build an altar and fill it with the favorite foods and possessions of those who have died. This act of remembrance is done in the belief that the souls of the departed will return and be happy to know that you have remembered them.

Scripture is clear, however, that the souls cannot return to us or enjoy this world anymore. They cannot hear or feel or choose to follow God if they did not accept Him in life [Ecclesiastes 9:5]. We should not become superstitious or fearful about them, or in anyway devote our time and passions to the dead [Leviticus 19:28; Deuteronomy 14:1 & 26:14]. Therefore, while it can be healthy and good to remember those who have gone before us, remembering is for the living. The dead cannot enjoy the smells and sights of a painstakingly prepared altar memorial.

Image result for kneeling altarHowever, altars are mentioned 384 times and offerings 728 times in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, so they do have a very significant spiritual place in the Christian life.

The first altar is mentioned when Noah gets out of the ark and makes a sacrifice of thanksgiving to God [Genesis 8:20]. Each altar is built as a place of remembering God.

The first offerings, on the other hand, go all the way back to Cain and Abel [Genesis 4:3-5]. Very specific offerings and times are prescribed. God instituted this sacrificial system so that the Israelites would be aware of their sinful state, though the sacrifices themselves could not fix the sins [Hebrews 10:4].

God, however, asks us to prepare our hearts as an altar for our lives [Romans 12:1]. That is, He asks us to remember Him with our whole heart–intellect, will and emotion. By doing so, we will recognize our sinful state and repent. Through repentance we accept Jesus’ lordship in our lives, allowing His forgiveness to cover our sins.

Satan would have us forsake altars and offerings or misuse them, but he does not want our cultural understanding to be made whole or our spiritual vision to be made clear. He does not want human beings to restore the heavenly altar of our hearts.

Will you consecrate your heart to Christ? Will you lay your life on the altar of a Godly heart?

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?