Pages

Have you ever felt like running away?

Photo courtesy RichardSweet, rgbstock.com
Running away. 

That's what I want to do when I allow my life to get too busy. When I'm juggling so much that things start falling through the cracks. When the pace I'm keeping causes my body to rebel and I find myself fighting stress-induced maladies. When I have so much on my mind that I can't remember important stuff. 

I tend to keep going until I hit the wall. I crash and burn. I get all ugly with everyone in my life. Everything they do irritates me.  I don't even like the face I see looking back at me in the mirror.  I rant, I grouse, I snap. You don't want to be around me. I don't even want to be around me.

That's the state I've been in for a while, now. This weekend, it all came to a head and I just wanted to run away. Unfortunately, that's not an option, so I turned to my old stand-by stress reliever - food.  I headed to the grocery store with every intention of filling my cart with junk and then eating myself into oblivion. 

I started through the aisles with a lump in my throat and tears threatening to bust loose. I had just placed the first item in my cart when I got a text from a friend.

"Come have breakfast with me in the morning."

My response - "I'm pretty toxic right now and I'm probably contagious."

I told her where I was and what I was about to do. Fortunately, she loves me enough to risk making me mad. The next few texts back and forth made me face the truth, made me realize that was a stupid way to handle my feelings, made me admit that gorging myself on junk food would only make things worse.

I already knew that, but at the time, I didn't care. Thank God, she did!

I left the store without buying anything. Knowing she was praying for me at that very moment. We met the next morning for breakfast and then spent the day together.  We talked through what was bothering me.  We laughed together.  She listened. She gave good, godly advise. She understood.

I didn't want to run away anymore.
Thank you, Lord, for seeing me right were I was - in the middle of the grocery store about to indulge in sinful gluttony - my drug of choice. You loved me enough to prompt a friend to contact me at that very moment. Thank you.

It's true, when you are tempted, God will provide a way out (1 Corinthians 10:13). 

It's up to us to take the way out or to continue on our path of destruction.

------------------------------------------------------- 
If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to share it with your friends using the Facebook, Twitter and other share buttons below. Thanks!

Brokenhearted and Crushed in Spirit



Sometimes life can be overwhelming. We’re tired and worn, discouraged and disheartened by the problems of life in this world.  The good news is that when we cry out to God for help, he hears and delivers us from our troubles.

That doesn’t always mean he takes away the circumstances. Often he does a greater work by strengthening us and changing us as he walks through those circumstances with us.

We are never alone and we never leave one of our own to struggle through their own difficulties. We gather around them, pray for them, encourage them and support them.  That’s what the family of God does.

------------------------------------------------------- 
If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to share it with your friends using the Facebook, Twitter and other share buttons below. Thanks!

It's all in Your Mind

Sandra, Jeanette and I sat around the small table going over our sermon notes from this past Sunday and answering our discussion questions. The discussion took us to what goes on in our minds when we let them wander...like when you're busy with some monotonous task and you let your mind slip into neutral gear.

Me? I confess...if I let my mind wander it goes places that it should never go. I will have a running argument with someone, supplying both sides of the conversation. Or I will find myself listing all the things that are wrong in my life/church/family and who is to blame, which eventually leads to wondering why God isn't taking better care of me.

When we allow our thoughts to run free, they are like wayward children, rushing headlong into dangerous areas. That's because when our minds are idle, they are susceptible to input from the world, the flesh and the devil and those things pull us in a downward spiral.

We need to be on guard against those idle moments by actively keeping our minds focused on God and godly thoughts. 

"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." Philippians 4:8 NIV
When we allow (or force) our minds to dwell on these things, an amazing thing happens...
 "You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You." Isaiah 26:3 AMP
So, let's reign those thoughts in. No, for all the damage they do to our spirits, let's take this thing seriously and wage all out warfare on stinkin' thinkin'.
"For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." NIV
Are you in?

------------------------------------------------------- 
If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to share it with your friends using the Facebook, Twitter and other share buttons below. Thanks!

From Terrorist to Evangelist - It Can Happen


Once upon a time, there was a man named Saul who thought himself quite religious. He was zealous about his faith and abhorred anyone who thought differently.  He felt it his righteous duty to seek out, persecute, imprison and even have put to death others who followed the Christian faith.

We're seeing that very same scenario played out today in Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries. Men, who are so zealous about their faith that they think they are doing their god a favor by putting to death men, women and children who follow the Christian faith.

Our response - kill them - kill them all - is the cry on many hearts today, but if that cry had been the same back in Saul's day and if Saul had been killed for his atrocities, we wouldn't have several books of the Bible, penned by the Apostle Paul as Saul became known after his conversion.

How did his conversion happen?  It went like this...
1 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”
“Yes, Lord,” he answered.
11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”
13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”
15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength." Acts 9:1-19
After this experience, Saul became the Apostle Paul, evangelist to the Gentiles, converting thousands upon thousands to Christianity, both in his day and down through the ages as the author of several books in the New Testament. He spent the rest of his life telling people about the love of God and salvation through Jesus Christ. From terrorist to evangelist. Only God can do something like that.

As we hear about the atrocities taking place in the Middle East today, about children being beheaded, Christians forced to renounce their faith or die. Forced to leave their homeland on foot across the hot desert, forced to flee into the mountains where they are starving to death, the first inclination of our hearts is to wipe out those evil men who are committing such crimes, but there is a better way.

We can pray - earnestly, forcefully, on our faces for God to save the very people who are doing these horrible things. That God will stop them in their tracks, just as He did with Saul and bring them face to face with Himself. Not just to save them, but convert them so completely that they will give themselves to serve Him and spread the Gospel through out the Muslim world for the rest of their lives.

God can do that. God would prefer to do that, rather than slay them, sending them to Hell. He loves his creation and His plan has always been to bring man to Himself through Jesus' death on the cross. Satan's plan is to destroy every man, woman and child before they can receive Christ and in the event that they do receive Christ, then his rage is heightened as he influences evil men to carry out his evil vendetta against God by destroying his children.

One of the hardest, yet most God-honoring thing we could do at this point is pray - pray for the safety and deliverance of those who are under such great persecution and pray for those who are perpetrating this evil to be stopped in their tracks by the Lord God Almighty and brought to their knees in repentance and conversion.

This is how I will pray. 
 
------------------------------------------------------- 
If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to share it with your friends using the Facebook, Twitter and other share buttons below. Thanks!

A Walk Through Revelation - Part 22 Final


Revelation 11-22
The Rest of the Story

I began this study in Revelation as my daughter and I were reading through the book together. I thought it would be cool to post each chapter with my thoughts on it. Now, I find myself knee-deep in the realization that I'm not equipped for this mission.

I'm sure I'll take some flack for this, but I'm going to leave reading the rest of the book of Revelation to you.

I find myself inadequate to explain what's written there - as is everyone else.  I fully believe it, even if I don't understand how it will all play out. I know that it is God's plan. He has revealed as much of our future as he intended to reveal, so trying to figure it all out is futile.  If we will just heed the parts we do understand, it will be enough to cause us to hit our knees and ask God to forgive our sins and accept us into His family.

If you can read Revelation and not want a relationship with Him, then nothing I can say will sway you in that direction.  

I pray that you will want to continue reading on your own. I pray that the Holy Spirit will not let you rest until you do and I pray, above all things, that you will surrender your life to God so that you can experience first-hand an amazing relationship with Him and second, so that you will not have to experience any of the horrors of Revelation.

Amen

------------------------------------------------------- 
If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to share it with your friends using the Facebook, Twitter and other share buttons below. Thanks!

A Walk Through Revelation - Part 21


Revelation 10 
The Angel and the Little Scroll

10 Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven. He was robed in a cloud, with a rainbow above his head; his face was like the sun, and his legs were like fiery pillars. He was holding a little scroll, which lay open in his hand. He planted his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land, and he gave a loud shout like the roar of a lion. When he shouted, the voices of the seven thunders spoke. And when the seven thunders spoke, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven say, “Seal up what the seven thunders have said and do not write it down.”
Then the angel I had seen standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven. And he swore by him who lives for ever and ever, who created the heavens and all that is in them, the earth and all that is in it, and the sea and all that is in it, and said, “There will be no more delay! But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.”
Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me once more: “Go, take the scroll that lies open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.”
So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, “Take it and eat it. It will turn your stomach sour, but ‘in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey.’[a] 10 I took the little scroll from the angel’s hand and ate it. It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour. 11 Then I was told, “You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages and kings.”
In verses 1-2, we see an "angel" who seems a lot like Jesus - when he shouted, the voices of the seven thunders spoke. John was about to write down what then said, when he was told to "seal it up and not write it down".

Seal it up where? I think he was meant to think about it. Mull it over. Consider the ramification of what was said. Because what was about to unfold needed to be felt and absorbed by the prophet in order for him to proclaim the events to come with clarity.

Next, he was told to take the little scroll from the angel's hand and eat it. At first it was sweet, but then it turned his stomach sour. This little scroll was a look into the upcoming events - a look into the future. Who doesn't wish they could look into the future a bit? It seems like that would be a good thing - sweet, but if we really saw the future, it just might sour our stomach.  The events about to unfold were going to happen with unrelenting speed, ushering the world to the end of time as we know it.  I'm sure what John saw was enough to set his head spinning.

Having experienced the future by absorbing it first, prepared John to pour out the coming prophecies with an urgency that all but begs people to wake up and see what's coming...and repent.

That's exactly what reading through Revelations has done to me. It makes me want to beg people to seriously consider the reality of God and the future of man. Each person must choose for himself whether to follow God or to reject Him. I pray you will make the right choice.

 ------------------------------------------------------- 
If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to share it with your friends using the Facebook, Twitter and other share buttons below. Thanks!

A Walk Through Revelation - Part 20


Revelation 9:13-21
The Sixth Trumpet


What would it take
for you to cry out to God?
13 The sixth angel blew his trumpet, and I heard a voice speaking from the four horns of the golden altar that stands before the throne of God, 14 saying to the sixth angel, “Release the four mighty demons[c] held bound at the great River Euphrates.” 15 They had been kept in readiness for that year and month and day and hour, and now they were turned loose to kill a third of all mankind. 16 They led an army of 200,000,000 warriors[d]—I heard an announcement of how many there were.
17-18 I saw their horses spread out before me in my vision; their riders wore fiery-red breastplates, though some were sky-blue and others yellow. The horses’ heads looked much like lions’, and smoke and fire and flaming sulphur billowed from their mouths, killing one-third of all mankind. 19 Their power of death was not only in their mouths, but in their tails as well, for their tails were similar to serpents’ heads that struck and bit with fatal wounds.
20 But the men left alive after these plagues still refused to worship God! They would not renounce their demon-worship, nor their idols made of gold and silver, brass, stone, and wood—which neither see nor hear nor walk! 21 Neither did they change their mind and attitude about all their murders and witchcraft, their immorality and theft.

As God's judgement continues on the inhabitants of earth, we see demonic forces unleashed and a mighty army marching out to destroy mankind. Their power to anhilate man is limited to 1/3 of the population, but the devastation is horrendous.

The most interesting portion of this passage for me is that in the face of all this, people still refused to worship God.  The world is coming to an end. Plagues, death and destruction surround them. Their one hope is God, who, should they call out to Him, would quickly forgive their sins and accept them as His own, but they refuse to do so. Instead, they cling to their idols, their wealth, their security. They continue in their wicked ways, still believing that they don't need God.

It's hard to believe that people would refuse to turn to God in the midsts of all this, but isn't that just what's happening today? We are hearing of increasing horrors across the globe. Our financial security is fading fast. Every foundation we've built our lives on is shaking.  This is the beginning of the end, my friends. God is trying to get our attention. He wants us for His own...and if that means allowing or bringing tragedy into our lives in order for us to recognize our need for Him and His love for us, that's what He's willing to do. 

It's not going to get better. It's going to get worse. God has a timeline. There is a "year and month and day and hour" appointed for the events of the end times to occur.

My heart's cry is for each of you to know God. To enjoy the incredible joy that comes from having a personal relationship with Him...now. Not sometime in the future when your life is crumbling all around you.  Reach out to Him, now and invite Him to come in...to be the Lord of your life. Surrender your all to Him.  You don't need fancy words. You don't need words at all, really. What you need is a heart that cries out to Him. He will meet you where you are.  You can do that right now.

I pray you will.


------------------------------------------------------- If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to share it with your friends using the Facebook, Twitter and other share buttons below. Thanks!

A Walk Through Revelation - Part 19

Revelation 9:1-12
The Fifth Trumpet


The fifth angel sounded his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from the sky to the earth. The star was given the key to the shaft of the Abyss. When he opened the Abyss, smoke rose from it like the smoke from a gigantic furnace. The sun and sky were darkened by the smoke from the Abyss. And out of the smoke locusts came down on the earth and were given power like that of scorpions of the earth. They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any plant or tree, but only those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads. They were not allowed to kill them but only to torture them for five months. And the agony they suffered was like that of the sting of a scorpion when it strikes. During those days people will seek death but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them.
The locusts looked like horses prepared for battle. On their heads they wore something like crowns of gold, and their faces resembled human faces. Their hair was like women’s hair, and their teeth were like lions’ teeth. They had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the thundering of many horses and chariots rushing into battle. 10 They had tails with stingers, like scorpions, and in their tails they had power to torment people for five months. 11 They had as king over them the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon and in Greek is Apollyon (that is, Destroyer).
12 The first woe is past; two other woes are yet to come.

woe -great sorrow or distress.
synonyms:misery, sorrow, distress, wretchedness, sadness, unhappiness, heartache, heartbreak, despondency, despair, depression, regret, gloom, melancholy;

What horrors will befall mankind as a supernatural plague of demonic spirits is unleashed upon those who reject God. I can't imagine what John thought and experienced when he saw this vision of future events. It's terrifying to even think about!

There's nothing I can add to this passage of scripture, except to say that we don't know when these events will take place. It could be 1000 years from now, or it could be today. Either way, it would be foolish to ignore (or reject) God's offer of salvation through Jesus Christ. You'll not only spare yourself from these horrors, you'll experience a wonderful and intimate relationship with your Creator from this minute on until you meet with Him in Heaven.

How do you enter into this relationship? Find the answer here.

------------------------------------------------------- 
If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to share it with your friends using the Facebook, Twitter and other share buttons below. Thanks!

A Walk Through Revelation - Part 18


Revelation 8:6-13 (NIV)
The Trumpets
Then the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to sound them.
The first angel sounded his trumpet, and there came hail and fire mixed with blood, and it was hurled down on the earth. A third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up.
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.
10 The third angel sounded his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water— 11 the name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter.
12 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.
13 As I watched, I heard an eagle that was flying in midair call out in a loud voice: “Woe! Woe! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the trumpet blasts about to be sounded by the other three angels!”
Ok, now we know why there was complete and utter silence in Heaven for about a half an hour when the seventh seal was opened and those watching got a glimpse of what was to come. Seven angels were given seven trumpets - trumpets used to herald in horrifying, catastrophic events that destroy parts of the earth.

At this point, I, too, feel the need to fall silent. I have no words to explain what I just read. I believe it. I know it will happen, but I am overwhelmed at the thought of it. It seems cruel and I have a hard time wrapping my mind around the loving God that I know doing these things. Why? Why?

Ok, I confess - I had to keep reading and long about the end of chapter 9, I found the reason. Believe it or not, these destructive acts are perpetrated for a loving reason.  We'll get there, but before we do, we'll take a look at the fifth and sixth trumpet effects.

On a side note - did you notice the in verse 11 that the star was named Wormwood? It reminded me of a book I once read - The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. One of the characters was named Wormwood.  The short story is a series of letters between Wormwood (a novice demon) and his Uncle Screwtape, a devil high in the Infernal Civil Service. Wormwood's mission is to assure that his assigned "patient" (an ordinary man) never received salvation through Christ. When he fails at this task, he is given instructions for tempting and distracting the new Believer.


The Screwtape Letters is a timeless classic on spiritual conflict and the psychology of temptation which are part of our daily Christian experience.



I know this kind of book is not for everyone, but I found that it really opened my eyes to the schemes used by Satan to pull us away from a vibrant walk with Christ.  The writer of 2 Corinthians mentions being alert and aware of Satan's schemes.
 ...in order that Satan might not outwit us.
For we are not unaware of his schemes.
2 Corinthians 2:11
While I don't focus on Satan, because he has been defeated by Christ, I am aware that his goal is to destroy God's people or at the very least, draw their hearts away from God and lure them into temptation. Knowing this keeps me on my guard against any thing he might try to disrupt my close relationship with my Savior.
 
If you would like to read it, you can pick up a copy at almost any Christian bookstore, order it online, or read a free copy in your browser or download an epub copy here - http://www.epubbud.com/book.php?g=DLJWXYQK .  You can also download a free discussion guide for the book here - https://www.cslewis.com/images/ckfinder/642/pdfs/TheScrewtapeLetters.pdf
 
 Next post, we'll look at the 5th & 6th angels and what happens when they blow their trumpets.


 ------------------------------------------------------- 
If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to share it with your friends using the Facebook, Twitter and other share buttons below. Thanks!

A Walk Through Revelation - Part 17

The Seventh Seal and the Golden Censer
Revelation 8:1-5
Shock & Awe!

When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.
And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them.
Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all God’s people, on the golden altar in front of the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of God’s people, went up before God from the angel’s hand. Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake.
We've finally come to the opening of the seventh seal. In previous seals, Jesus opened them and all the inhabitants of Heaven, along with the Apostle John, who was just visiting saw what was contained in the seal. Something's different about this one. When it's opened, there is absolute silence for about a half an hour.

They were in shock & awe. Why? I read ahead in the chapter and the events that are about to unfold upon the earth next nearly took my breath away!

Seven angels are given seven trumpets. One might think that they're about to give a lovely concert, but one would be very wrong! Just before the angels step up to blow their trumpets, another angel comes forward and offers burning incense before the throne, which is mixed with the prayers of all God's people. We've seen this before - our prayers coming up before the Lord. Does that thrill you the way it does me?  Sometimes we wonder if our prayers are going anywhere. They just seem to bounce off the ceiling, but that's not how it is. Each whispered prayer, each cry of the heart, goes up before God. He hears them, He sees them, He is touched by them.  Keep praying, my friend. We have no idea what has been changed because we prayed.

Then the angel fills the censer with fire from the altar and hurls it to the earth, setting off peals of thunder, rumblings and flashes of lightning and an earthquake to end all earthquakes.  The first angel steps up and prepares to blow their trumpet. You won't believe what happens next.

Now, don't read ahead...ah, go ahead if you want, but come back here for the next post so we can walk through these seven trumpets together.


------------------------------------------------------- 
If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to share it with your friends using the Facebook, Twitter and other share buttons below. Thanks!

A Walk Through Revelation - Part 16

Revelation 7:1-8
Salvation during the Tribulation

a creative commons image
After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree. Then I saw another angel coming up from the east, having the seal of the living God. He called out in a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm the land and the sea: “Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.” 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 Zebulun 12,000,
from the tribe of Joseph 12,000,
from the tribe of Benjamin 12,000.

The Great Multitude in White Robes

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice:
“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.”
11 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, 12 saying:
“Amen!
Praise and glory
and wisdom and thanks and honor
and power and strength
be to our God for ever and ever.
Amen!”
13 Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”
14 I answered, “Sir, you know.”
And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 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 shelter them with his presence.
16 ‘Never again will they hunger;
    never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat down on them,’[a]
    nor any scorching heat.
17 For the Lamb at the center of the throne
    will be their shepherd;
‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’[b]
    ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’[c]
When I first started reading this chapter, I got hung up on trying to figure out who the 144,000 people are, and here's the answer - I don't know.

What I do know is that they are Jewish, they received a seal that marked them for God. Further on in Revelation 14, they are mentioned again...

Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they remained virgins. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among mankind and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb.  Revelation 14:1-4
 So, if these precious souls are the firstfruits, who follows after them?

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. 
A great multitude follows them. Where did this multitude come from?

 “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
So, there's the answer to the question, "Can people be saved during the tribulation?"

Yes, they can, but...

If a person has a hard time believing in God because of the trouble and injustices in the world today, how much harder will it be to have faith in God during the tribulation?
If a believer struggles with temptation and sin now, how much harder will it be to live a holy life during the tribulation?
If you have a hard time standing up for your faith now, how will you remain faithful in the face of persecution to the point of death if you won't deny the name of Christ?
If you've "heard the old, old story," but thought you have plenty of time to start a relationship with Jesus Christ after you've had your fun, got married, had kids, raised those kids, reached your career goals...you might want to rethink your thinking.




------------------------------------------------------- 
If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to share it with your friends using the Facebook, Twitter and other share buttons below. Thanks!

A Walk Through Revelation - Part 15


Revelation 6:12-17
The Day of Destruction
photo credit: SpaceShoe [Learning to live with the crisis]
  via photopin cc

12 I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, 13 and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. 14 The heavens receded like a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.
15 Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. 16 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! 17 For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?”

Honestly, the first two verses of this passage read like a Hollywood end-of-the-world script. I don't think even Indiana Jones could survive these catastrophes; an earthquake that's off the Richter scale, the sun turning black, the moon looking like blood, stars falling from the sky enmasse, the heavens receding, mountains and islands moving from their places - who could live through that? What would you do?

I'll tell you what you would do. You'd do the same thing I'd do, the same thing that the Bible says the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty and everyone else - the poor, the man, the woman, the child would do if they were able. You would run for cover, but since the whole earth had been shaken, there would be very little cover. You'd find a cave somewhere and cower in fear for your life.

You'd wonder what was happening. What was behind it all. You couldn't explain it away as an evening newscasters might - terrorism, aliens, natural disaster. No, when this day comes - and it will come - anyone left huddling in those caves will know without a doubt that this is the judgement of God for all the evil that has been done on the earth. 

They will beg to be hidden from the face of God. There won't be any debate about whether or not there is a God. No one will be arguing theology at that point. They will be on their knees, their head in their hands, wishing they has listened to their Mama's teaching about God. Wishing they hadn't slept through most of the Sunday sermons they'd heard. Realizing that skipping church to play golf or go fishing might not have been the wisest thing to do. Scripture will come to mind, regret will gnaw at their souls. They'll pray, they'll plead, they'll cry out to the God they've been ignoring all their lives, but will it be too late?

I don't know - I'm not God. I don't know whether there will be one last chance for them to surrender their lives to the One who loved them enough to send His Son, Jesus Christ to pay for their sins by dying on the cross. What I do know is that it's just foolish to wait until that day to wake up and realize that God loves us, that He wants to spare us from these coming events. He made a way if only we will reach out to Him and receive the gift of forgiveness. If only we will begin that amazing relationship with our Creator that not only gives us abundant life here and now, but promises that we will not see these catastrophes, because we will already be with Him in Paradise.

 Please don't wait. Open your heart to God, now. 


------------------------------------------------------- 
If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to share it with your friends using the Facebook, Twitter and other share buttons below. Thanks!

A Walk Through Revelation - Part 14

Revelation 6:9-11
The Fifth Seal
Click for a larger version
When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. 10 They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” 11 Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters,[a] were killed just as they had been.
a11 - The Greek word for brothers and sisters (adelphoi) refers here to believers, both men and women, as part of God’s family.
Every day our brothers and sisters around the world are being imprisoned, beaten and killed for their faith in Jesus Christ. Below are some accounts of this persecution - warning, it's hard to read, but we need to be aware of what's happening to our brothers and sisters so that we can pray earnestly.

  • Kim Jong Un, leader of North Korea, is guilty of the imprisonment and torture of 30,000 of your brothers and sisters in Christ. (Read More)
  • A Ugandan Pastor was the victim of an acid attack by people unhappy that he left the Muslim faith. (Read More)
  • The wife of a U.S. citizen is to be hanged for apostasy. The birth of a healthy baby is usually a joyous occasion. But when Meriam Ibrahim gave birth it triggered a two-year countdown to her execution.  The 27-year-old Sudanese doctor was sentenced to death for apostasy by a Sudanese court. In addition, she is to endure 100 lashes for the crime of committing adultery—with her Christian husband. (Read More)
I found these stories and many more on a website called The Voice of the Martyrs, a site that keeps us informed of persecution around the world, invites us to get involved and to pray for these tortured Believers.

It's easy to turn our head an not want to know or see what's happening, because it's so awful to imagine that people can be so cruel or that God doesn't seem to be protecting His people from these attacks.  We want to believe that as children of God, He puts up a shield that nothing can bad can penetrate, but that's not what Jesus said would happen. Here's what the Bible has to say about this...

  • In this world you will have trouble. (from John 16:33)
  • “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.  (John 15:18-20) 
  • But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God...In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:1-12)
Brothers and Sisters, this world is not our home. We don't fit in. We are called apart for God's purposes, which puts us in direct conflict with Satan and those he influences for evil.

2 Corinthians 4:4 calls Satan the god of this world (KJV) or the god of this age (NIV). What does that mean?
The phrase “god of this world” (or “god of this age”) indicates that Satan is the major influence on the ideals, opinions, goals, hopes and views of the majority of people. His influence also encompasses the world’s philosophies, education, and commerce. The thoughts, ideas, speculations and false religions of the world are under his control and have sprung from his lies and deceptions. (Read more)
Could God stop all this violence? Could He put an end to Satan and his evil influence on mankind? Of course He can...and He will, but for now, He has chosen to allow mankind the privilege of free will. We are free to chose our own behavior - for good or for bad.

Why would God do that? Why would he give man the right to choose?  I believe that it goes back to His desire to have a voluntary (on our part) loving relationship with His creation. He didn't want a bunch of robots that had no choice about whether to enter into a relationship with Him. He wants us to want Him...and so, He gave us free will. If He then decided to stop us every time we were about to do something wrong, we wouldn't have free choice, would we?

So, as the fifth seal is opened, we see the voices of the martyrs, those who have already been tortured and killed for their faith in Jesus Christ, those who refused to recant their Christianity. They are crying out for justice. They are wondering how long it will be until God judges the inhabitants of the earth (those living and dead, evil and good). We will all be judged, however, those who have received Christ as our Savior will be judged in light of Christ's sacrifice and His blood that paid for our sins.

These martyrs were given white robes (signifying holiness) and were told to...
...wait a little longer until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been. (verse 11)
I have to admit, that bugs me. Why doesn't God end things now. Why wait for more of his children to be tortured and murdered?

Here's the bottom line - God has a plan, a specified time frame for the things he is doing. His time frame and mine are not the same. He knows who is yet to be saved. Everything will happen just as he knew it would and when the time is right, we will see the rest of the events in the book of Revelation take place. Until then, I will trust him and pray that I will be strong if I should ever face real persecution...and I will pray for my brothers and sister who are facing the horrors of it today.

Read more about God's timing.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this passage or the topic of persecution. Please feel free to leave a comment to this post. (First time posts are moderated, then posted due to a large amount of spam posts I've gotten recently.)

------------------------------------------------------- 
If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to share it with your friends using the Facebook, Twitter and other share buttons below. Thanks!

A Walk Through Revelation - Part 13


The Scroll and the Lamb
Revelation 5
The Opening of the First Four Seals

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

a creative commons image
I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.
When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make people kill each other. To him was given a large sword.
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, “Two pounds of wheat for a day’s wages, and six pounds of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!”
When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth. Revelation 6:1-8
 Oh boy - I think I'm in way over my head!  I have no idea how to explain the imagery here, except to say that the opening of the seals and the dispatch of the four horsemen (often referred to as the four horsemen of The Apocalypse) signals teh beginning of terror and chaos on Earth

What does the word apocalypse mean?  One modern definition is: an event involving destruction or damage on an awesome or catastrophic scale, such as the utter collapse of the stock market - a stock market apocalypse.  Well, that's scarey, but we've seen and lived through a stock market crash, so we've come to believe we can survive that catastrophe.  However, we're not referring to just any old apocalypse here, we're talking about THE apocalypse: the complete final destruction of the world, described in the book of Revelation.

God created the world, he sustains the world and a day is coming when he will destroy the world and create a new heaven and a new earth. (Revelation 21:1)

The four horsemen are agents of destruction, sent to earth to carry out God's plan.

Does this fly in the face of your concept of God? Do you have a hard time reconciling a loving God with a fierce God who would destroy earth and its inhabitants?

We must remember two things...
  1. God is Holy and as such, he can not tolerate sin. Romans 6:23 says that "the wages of sin is death."  All who are alive at the time of this event will face this judgement, for they have chosen to reject Christ and live a sinful life.
  2. We (Christians who have received Christ as their Savior and surrendered their lives to Him) don't have to fear the apocalypse, because we will have already been taken up in what we call The Rapture ( 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)
So, let's take a look at those four horses and their riders.

  1. A White Horse -  Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.
  2.  A Fiery Red horse - Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make people kill each other. To him was given a large sword.
  3.  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, “Two pounds of wheat for a day’s wages, and six pounds of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!”
  4.  A Pale Horse - Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.
I know I'm not a learned bible scholar. I have no doctorate in theology, so I'll just tell you what I see here.
  • Rulers on earth, bent on conquest
  • The complete absence of peace on earth and people bent on killing others (the mass slaughter of people groups - Hitler style)
  • Total economic collapse, people starving to death because they can not afford food..
  • The annihilation of at least 1/4 of the people on earth by murder, famine, plagues and even the wild beasts of the earth are unleashed to get in on the slaughter
What a terrifying picture of the future! All I know is that I don't want to be here when this happens and I don't want anyone else to be here either. Not friend, not family...not foe!

Jesus came that we might not have to face this terrible judgement - please accept him if you haven't already. Here's more information on Salvation through Jesus Christ.

As I said, I'm no expert in explaining these all these things. In fact, no one can explain the book of Revelation entirely, but there are learned Bible scholars out there that have studies and written great commentaries on this portion of scripture. I've been reading a really good one at Biblegateway.com that was put out by InterVarsity Press. Check it out if you want more information of understanding the four horsemen.  Revelation 6 Commentary.


------------------------------------------------------- 
If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to share it with your friends using the Facebook, Twitter and other share buttons below. Thanks!

A Walk Through Revelation - Part 12


creative commons image

The Scroll and the Lamb

Revelation 5

1 Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?” But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”
Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. The Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. 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.
10 
You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,

    and they will reign on the earth.”
11 Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. 12 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!”
13 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,
for ever and ever!”
14 The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.
Revelation 5:1-14

 For me, this is when the book of Revelation starts to boggle my mind. From here on out, it's hard for me to detect what is a literal translation of what John saw and what is symbolism. I could try from here to eternity to figure it all out and I'd probably still get it all wrong, and I'm not the only one.

In studying this chapter, I read many different commentaries by learned Bible scholars, each giving differing opinions on whether the seven spirits were seven actual spirits or whether the Greek translation of a seven-fold spirit of God was more accurate. Some said the seven-fold spirit referred back to Isaiah 11:2 and some argued that Isaiah wasn't describing seven spirits, but three and then defining attributes of  those three with four descriptions.

Holy Moly!  I'll tell you what - I'm going to focus on what I do understand from the passage, because while we debate what could have been meant by the strange things described here, we could overlook the main point of the chapter and that is this...

There was a very important scroll to be opened.
Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. 
Only someone WORTHY (virtuous, righteous, good, moral, ethical, upright, upstanding, high-minded, principled, exemplary) could open the scroll and it seemed line no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth measured up to those standards, which made John profusely sad.
And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?” But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside.
And then One was found!
Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”
It's Jesus - of course, it's Jesus.

Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. The Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne.
Ok, this is not the Jesus I recognize. I never pictured him having seven horns and seven eyes and I don't think this is a literal translation, but symbolism. Here's were we could get stuck, but rather than try to figure out why Jesus was described this way, let's get to the main point. What happened when Jesus took the scroll from the right hand of God?
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.”
Rejoicing - that's what happened! Falling-down-on-your-face rejoicing, joyful singing and though the text doesn't say it, I'll just bet those harps were being played, too. Notice the golden bowls filled with incense? See what the are?

they were holding golden bowls full of  incense,
which are the prayers of God’s people
I love this! Our prayers don't just go up to God and evaporate into thin air. They are held in a bowl as sweet smelling incense burning before our Lord.  David prayed for this in Psalm 141:2
May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.
Doesn't that make your prayer life richer? Doesn't it make you want to pray more, knowing that your prayers are a fragrant offering to God?

So, what happened after the four living creatures and 24 elders began rejoicing that Jesus was found to be worthy to open the scroll? The angels got in on the worship...
creative commons image
11 Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. 12 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!”
How many angels? Circling the throne along with the living creatures and the elders and softly praising Jesus...NO, it says they were crying in a LOUD VOICE. Worship can be soft and reverent, but it can also be loud and raucous. It's okay to let yourself go and really praise. It would be weird to see a stadium full of baseball fans sitting quietly, whispering, "Go team. Go." We have something much more amazing to celebrate than a ball and a bat, two teams and nine innings. Don't be afraid to worship out loud.

What happens after the living creatures, the 24 elders and thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand angels began praising and sing around the throne?

13 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,
for ever and ever!”
The book of Philippians (2:9-11) says...
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.
and the book of Romans says...
11 It is written:“‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
‘every knee will bow before me;
    every tongue will acknowledge God.’”
Though many may not acknowledge Jesus as the King, the Savior, the Holy Son of God, a day is coming when every created being will bow down give him the praise and honor and glory He deserves. I choose to start now!

Finally, we come to the end of this chapter...
14 The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.
They said "Amen" which means, it is so; so be it; truly; an expression that means I wholeheartedly agree! And that is the point of this whole chapter. Jesus is the only One worthy to be worshiped, the only One we bow down to, the only One we look to for our hope and our future. 

creative commons image

Take a few minutes (or a lot of minutes) and praise Him. Put on some music, praise Him on bended knee, standing up, sitting down, dancing, softly and loudly. Let yourself be caught up in adoration. Have a wonderful time in the Spirit of Worship, for...


HE IS WORTHY!

 
-------------------------------------------------------
If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to share it with your friends using the Facebook, Twitter and other share buttons below. Thanks!