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The Foundation of Peace

“One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, ‘Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.’ And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.” Revelation 21:9-11

See the source imageRecall that Revelation chapter 17 began this exact same way, one of the seven angels who held one of the bowls of God’s wrath at the very end and poured it out on all people, invited John to see an outtake from the overall End Times picture. In chapter 17, the Spirit takes John away to see what happened to Babylon–false religion personified as a woman [vs. 1-5]. Here in chapter 21, we see what becomes of those who hold firm to their faith in Jesus to the end–the bride of Christ.

Babylon meets her end in the desert [17:3], a dry and barren land despite her so called riches. But the bride of Christ descends from heaven, higher than the hilltop on which the earthly Jerusalem perched [Isaiah 10:32], higher than the mountaintops over which the floodwaters rose [Genesis 7:18-20], the most elevated position possible for this historical climax.

The Holy City is peopled by a royal priesthood, the chosen of God who themselves chose God, a holy nation [1 Peter 2:9] and carries the name the New Jerusalem.

First mentioned in Genesis 14:18, it was originally known as Salem where the priest Melchizedek collected the tithe from Abraham. Jerusalem was a Canaanite city conquered by the Israelites as they took the Promised Land [Joshua 10:1].  Jeru meant foundation or city and Salem comes from Shalem which was the name of a Canaanite god. The second part of the name, however, easily converted in Hebrew to Shalom meaning peace.

So then Jerusalem was the city/foundation of peace a double entendre for the city/foundation of the one true God [Romans 5:1-2; Ephesians 2:14-18]. An allusion not lost on the writer of Hebrews who spoke of a glorious city that the ancients looked forward to receiving by faith [Hebrews 11:10].

This heavenly Jerusalem will shine with the glory of God Himself. In fact, the Day 4 Creation–sun, moon and stars–will no longer be necessary for governing light and marking time. All of these earthly restraints will pass away [Revelation 22:5]. Imagine 24-7 not having any meaning! Because the earth will not exist to rotate a 24-hour day in its orbit around an equally non-existent sun. Mind blowing, right?

See the source imageEqually thought stretching is the image of crystal clear jasper. Most types of jasper stone are variegated and opaque. This scripture mention invokes, in my mind, the sunniest kind of day where everything seems to be surrounded with halos of clearish rainbows. What do you imagine when you read this description? That’s the beauty of heaven. Our earthly minds can only begin to imagine a rough sketch of what it might be like. But the real thing will be beyond compare.

Is Jesus your foundation of peace with God? Will you see heaven one day?

KCS

 

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Offering Thanksgiving–Part 2

“Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never will never be thirsty.” John 6:35

See the source imageIn the Levitical sacrificial system, the thanksgiving fellowship offering required making a variety of breads to share with God [Leviticus 7:11-15]. It was a time of reconciling sinful man with our holy God in anticipation of the day when our sins would be forgiven and we could daily fellowship with Him for eternity–heaven.

It’s no coincidence then, that Jesus called Himself the bread of life [John 6:35] or that He referred to His crucified body as bread broken for us [1 Corinthians 11:24]. Jesus was prepared lovingly by the Father to be the bread God offered as the one true fellowship offering for all time.

Give thanks! God made us. He loves us. And He wants to restore our relationship to Him so that we can live for eternity the way He intended. He made the way through His son Jesus, and all we have to do is believe on Him [John 3:16].

God is actively pursuing the hearts of every man, woman and child at all times. But we should just as actively be pursuing the heart of God. Those who hunger and thirst for the things of God will be filled with them and be blessed by them [Matthew 5:6]. This is not a physical desire to eat and drink. This is referring to the appetite of the mind, emotion and soul.

When we hunger to know Jesus, the bread of life, He shows Himself to us. When we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive them [1 John 1:9]. By faith in Him, we have eternal life [John 3:16]. He indwells us with His Holy Spirit so that we may live our lives in the power of God Most High [Acts 1:8]. When we thirst for eternal life, we ourselves do not rest until we take hold of it.

This drive for truth and righteousness results in finding them both. It is not a surface kind of hunger and thirst, it can only be satiated by digging deeper into the things of God, becoming more and more like Him with each passing day.

With Thanksgiving behind us and the celebration of the birth of Christ looming, hold on to an attitude of thanksgiving. Earnestly seek God. Hunger and thirst for more of Him each day. Get in His Word. Pray. Give thanks to Him in all things. Daily.

What desires drive your life? Do you recognize God pursuing your heart in your life? Are you persistently pursuing God’s heart?

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

Get Ready

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” Matthew 25:13

This week’s solar eclipse came and went in a flash, but people prepared for it for a long time. Scientists studied and charted the exact time and date. They knew where the best views could be had of this natural phenomena. Non-scientist people heard the exciting news and the warnings that viewing with the naked eye could cause blindness. Many took the good news and the warning to heart and prepared to view the solar eclipse in a safe and fun way. People bought cheap approved glasses and expensive ones. They made all kinds of homemade possibilities. Parties and community viewings were planned. In some cases, many months of preparations went into watching an event that took only minutes.

But for anyone who didn’t hear about the eclipse, or heard and didn’t prepare, they may have missed one of the single coolest earth moments in recent history. If they pay close attention, they’ll have another shot in seven years.

However, as Christians, we have even better news to share with people: Jesus died on the cross for our sins so that we can be reconciled to God and have eternal life. And the only preparation needed for His return is to believe on Him [John 3:16]. But the Bible asks us some very pointed questions about our witness to others: How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? [Romans 10:14].

Unlike the solar eclipse, if there are people who do not hear about Jesus’ return, or those who hear and choose not to believe in Him, there will not be a second chance. Oh, they will have the opportunity as long as they live. But–until Jesus comes back–the offer expires when we do.

How do you keep watch for the Lord in your life? Does your life preach Christ–using words only when necessary? When non-Christians meet and get to know you, do they hear about the one who came to give them eternal life? And are you prepared to always give an answer for the hope you have within you [1 Peter 3:15]?

A Blazing Mountain-Thingy

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“The second angel sounded his trumpet, and something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea turned into blood, a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.” Revelation 8:8-9

Image result for Mountains and Ocean WavesBeat two, trumpet two enters. The result? Something like a huge mountain. Something like? John is seeing things he has to explain with words he knows, even if he has no words for the reality. Though God doesn’t correct Him as He could have.

So a blazing mountain-thing is hurled to the earth–like the censer and the hail-fire-blood mix–but this time into the ocean. Jeremiah 51:25 speaks of a destroying mountain that will repay Babylon for her idolatrous ways, leaving behind a pile of burnt rubble. Remember that Babel first introduced and spread false religions [Genesis 11:4-6], so false religion will be blotted out from the earth in the reversal of sin in the new creation at the end of time.

But Jesus also told believers that, with a mustard seed of faith, we could tell a mountain–an obstacle in our lives–to throw itself into the sea. And if we believe, it will happen [Matthew 11:23 & 21:21]. This something like a mountain being thrown into the sea, could very much represent the faith of believers moving the hindrance of false religion from the world, not by might, not by power, but by the spirit of the Lord [Zechariah 4:6].

And fire is used to refine [1 Peter 1:7]. It burns away the impurities, leaving behind pure gold, silver, and other precious metals. In scripture, a fire coal is also used for figuratively cleansing, in much the same way, the prophet Isaiah’s lips or his words/speech [Isaiah 6:6-7]. Any part of our life that is built on anything or anyone other than Christ will burn away in the refining fire of judgment [1 Corinthians 3:11-15].

Here again, we see a repeat of the first Exodus plague, water turned to blood [Exodus 7:14-24]. Just as in Egypt when the Nile’s fish died [Exodus 7:21], so the effected ocean life will die as a result of the fiery mountain turning one-third of the sea to blood. Not only that, but one-third of all the world’s ships–a creation of human hands–will also be destroyed.

Now you could probably name a dozen movies that glamorize this much ecological and nautical carnage. And many people have no problem attaching this type of thing to governments at war either. But one mention that God is involved and, all of a sudden, He is unjust. On the contrary, it is because God is just and holy and good that false religion cannot continue eternally. It is because of who He is that sin and death cannot exist eternally. And why would we want it to?

But if death is to be destroyed, then its root–sin [James 1:15]–must also be destroyed. And we each are responsible for choosing how the sin is removed from our lives. We can either accept Christ’s sacrifice to cleanse us from sins–as simply as believing in Him–or we can reject His sacrifice and accept the wages of our own sin [Romans 6:23], death in whatever form it takes.

Have you accepted Christ’s sacrifice for your sins? Do you have a faith in Him that moves mountains? Or do you intend to face death without Jesus?

The Fall Reversed in the Greatest Commandments

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Therefore, ‘they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them of springs of living water. And God will wipe every tear from their eyes.” Revelation 7:15-17

Image result for lamb leading to waterBible scholars–and often the various church denominations–hold to differing views on which point of the end times the church will be raptured into heaven [1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:17]. There are usually three views of this: pre-tribulation [before all the bad stuff happens], mid-tribulation [sometime during while all the bad stuff happens] and post-tribulation [after all of the bad stuff happens].

Since no one knows the day or the hour that Jesus is coming–not even Jesus Himself [Matthew 24:36]–God doesn’t want us to spend our time debating it [2 Timothy 2:14]. We’re not even supposed to concern ourselves with anything except believing on the Lord Jesus Christ and trusting Him in all things. That does not mean that we won’t experience anything bad in our physical bodies. On the contrary, so long as sin remains and our bodies remain here in the sinful world, we will have trouble [John 16:33]. But our fear is not to be bound up in the physical [Matthew 10:28].

Rather, as we can see here, an innumerable multitude stays faithful through at least the opening of six seals which release increasing hardship on the earth, and then they are standing before God’s throne in His heavenly temple. The temple here signifying the presence of God and the tent, spread out over them, His tabernacle.

The next verses begin to show that God is undoing sin–in the exact reverse that He pronounced the consequences of sin in Genesis 3–and creating everything anew.

In heaven, we will not hunger, thirst or be scorched by sun–a reversal of Adam’s curse [Genesis 3:15-17]. And why will this happen? Because Jesus–the Lamb–will lead us. Having restored the reverence for God in our hearts, we will once again submit to His perfect authority and do the good things that He intended for us from the Creation. When He leads us to the eternal living waters and the banquet tables of heaven, we will follow without exception out of a free will governed by our love for God.

In heaven, we will no longer cry–a reversal of Eve’s curse [Genesis 3:16]. Not because women tend to be more emotional than men, but because the result of her sin was painful childbearing–meaning childrearing, as in broken relationships. Relationship breaks that lead to emotional strife–arguments, hurtful words and actions, betrayed trusts, mistreatment, abuse, oppression…heartbreak on so many levels in every type of relationship–and that escalates even to the point of war and death. All of our imperfect human relationships will be made whole out of a free will governed by our love for our fellow human beings, the way God intended for us from the Creation.

Though we are not in heaven and have not been made perfect yet, each day we ought to become more and more like Christ [Colossians 1:28], we ought to grow more and more in our love for God and fellow human beings [Matthew 22:36-40; 1 John 4:7-21].

Amazing isn’t it? The culture around us cries out for love for all, but deny the God who is love and who is trying to restore this very thing.

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?