Posted by: StrongStakes | September 20, 2014

Turning a martyr’s wail into the victor’s song

Sinners in HandsIn 1741, Jonathan Edwards preached a powerful and memorable sermon: Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”  In our day and age … an age of grace … we seldom think about the wrath of God … how real it is and when/why it occurs.  We often forget that God is serious about the consequences of sin, and He will mete out judgment accordingly.

At the end of Revelation 14, an angel exhorts Jesus to “Put in Your sickle and reap, for the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth is ripe.” (v. 15)  The apostle John’s apocalyptic vision of the end times is rapidly drawing to a close, but not before the wrath of God is fully unleashed against Satan, his minions, and obstinate earth-dwellers.

But just before this occurs, there is a beautiful interlude in Revelation 15, describing the victory song of those believers martyred at the hands of Antichrist.

To prepare for our discussion this Monday night on Revelation 15, read through the 8 verses in this chapter several times.  In addition, ponder the following questions and cross references:

  1. What does v. 1 indicate about God’s wrath?
  2. How might Joshua 7:10-15 serve as an interpretive key to Revelation 15?
  3. How might Hebrews 10:26-31 also serve as an interpretive key to Revelation 15?
  4. What is the “song of Moses” referenced in v. 3?  Cf., Exodus 15:1-18; Deuteronomy 32:1-43; Psalm 90:1-17
  5. What is the “song of the Lamb” also referenced in v. 3?  Cf., Revelation 5:9-13; 7:10-12
  6. What observations do you make of the “lyrics” of this victor’s song in vv. 3-4?
  7. What application(s) can you make for us today?

I am eager to be back with you, delving deeply into a chapter in God’s Word together!  Bill W. promises to bring the dessert, which will be served by 7 pm, so plan to arrive a few minutes early to enjoy that.  Our study will get going shortly after that.

Grace & Truth!

~ tr

CCC_ReflectionsPlan to join the OC Bereans this Monday, September 15th, for reflections on a month of ministry in Thailand.  It’s been six weeks since we last met for our Bible study, and one of our members recommended that we focus on how God has been revealing Himself to us during this time.

Bring your Bibles, even though our focus will not be on Revelation 15 specifically.  The fellowship will be sweet … as will the dessert that Rick M. has promised to bring!  Plan to arrive by 7 pm to enjoy that.

I’m eager to be in your presence again!

Grace & Truth!

~ tr

After exposure to a false, unholy “trinity” in Revelation chapters 12 and 13, we now turn the corner beginning with chapter 14 as God’s righteous wrath begins to be unleashed on an unrepentant world.

To prepare for Monday night’s Bible study, read through Revelation 14 two or three times.  In addition, download, print, and bring this attachment with you for note-taking … Revelation 14:1-20.

Plan to arrive by 7 pm to enjoy dessert, followed by our study.

Grace & Truth!

~ tr

In Revelation chapters 12 & 13, the apostle John reveals that in the future the world will be duped into believing, following, and worshiping a false, unholy “Trinity.”  As amazing as this sounds, it is even more alarming how gullible the nations of the world will be as they practically fall over each other to swear their allegiance to this counterfeit.

For the past few weeks we studied the lead character in this triumvirate … a “great red dragon” … none other than the “serpent of old” … the devil … Satan … the once proud archangel Lucifer.  We saw how he has been defeated … first at the Cross, when Jesus shed His blood in our place … second in a cosmic clash in heaven versus the archangel Michael and his “angel-armies.”  Click here to download and review the Revelation 12:1-17 Notes.

To prepare for our discussion this coming Monday evening, think through the following questions, targeting the first 10 verses of Revelation 13.

  1. Revelation chapter 13 presents a false, unholy “Trinity” … identify the members.
  2. Make a list of every instance in this chapter that indicates that God is sovereign … still in control.
  3. What might be the significance of the first beast arising “out of the sea”?  (v. 1)
  4. This beast is described in v. 2 by comparing it to three animals: leopard, bear, lion.  Why is this important?  See Daniel 7:1-6 for clues.
  5. Think carefully about v. 3 … what key points do you notice?
  6. Describe the irony of v. 4.
  7. How is it possible that God’s “temple” is equivalent to “those who dwell in heaven”?
  8. What do you learn about God’s love for you from v. 8?

Download, print, and bring this attachment with you for note-taking … Revelation 13:1-18

Plan to arrive Monday by 7 pm to enjoy dessert, followed by our study.

Grace & Truth!

~ tr

Posted by: StrongStakes | June 21, 2014

Are we a generation of “biblical illiterates”?

Christians used to be known as “people of one book.”  Sure, they read, studied and shared other books.  But the book they cared about more than all others combined was the Bible.  They memorized it, meditated on it, talked about it and taught it to others.  We don’t do that anymore, and in a very real sense we’re starving ourselves to death.  ~ Kenneth Berding @biolau

This dramatic claim has been made by a professor of New Testament at Biola University’s Talbot School of Theology.  He is the author of a just-released book, Bible Revival: Recommitting Ourselves to One Book.  Additional excerpts from this book, plus other insightful resources on this priority topic, can be found in this multi-page magazine: The Crisis of Biblical Illiteracy (click to download).

Plan to join us this coming Monday, June 23rd, for a closer look at the end of Revelation 12 and chapter 13.  Dessert will be served at 7 pm, with our study starting shortly after that.

Grace & Truth!

~ tr

Posted by: StrongStakes | June 7, 2014

How will you celebrate Pentecost?


The Feast of Pentecost was celebrated 50 days after Passover, so traditionally, Pentecost Sunday has been celebrated by Christians at about that same time after Resurrection SundayPentecost Sunday celebrates the birth of the Church (Acts 2:1-13), and the coming of the promised and summoned Holy Spirit (John 14:16-17), Who enables and empowers us to live as Christians in a pagan world culture (Acts 1:8).

Think about the amazing promises in John 14:12-15!

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.  Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you ask me anything in My name, I will do it.  If you love Me, you will keep my commandments.”

What does this passage mean? … “greater works than these he will do” … what are these “greater works”? … and how is it possible for us as human beings to even come close to doing the “works that I (Jesus) do”?

Bottom line:  We are called to “extend the heart and hands of Jesus Christ” to a lost and dying world.  The indwelling Holy Spirit is Who enables us to fulfill this promise.

Invest some time this Pentecost Sunday reflecting on the significance of this historic day.  Happy Birthday, Church!

By the way, please remember that the OC Bereans will NOT meet Monday night (June 9), since I will be in Montana at another at the first “Trinity Encounter” of this summer.  We will reconvene the following week on Monday, June 16th.

Grace & Truth!

~ tr

Posted by: StrongStakes | May 9, 2014

How Would Life Change During Those 50 Days?

We are now nearly halfway to Pentecost, the “Feast of Weeks,” celebrated 50 days after Resurrection Sunday.  Originally set aside as a harvest festival (Exodus 23:16), Shavuot, as the Hebrews called it, commemorated the day that God gave the Torah to the people of Israel, indicating that they were now a nation committed to serving Him (Leviticus 23:15-16).

Too often we descend from the high point of celebrating Resurrection Sunday, only to begin focusing on our plans for the summer, or the next great American holiday.  We ignore the significance of the 50 days between the Resurrection of our Lord and the fulfillment of a promise made by Jesus Himself.

Jesus repeatedly promised the gift of a Comforter, Helper, Paraclete“one summoned to come alongside to render aid” (John 14:16-17, 25-26; 15:26-27; 16:5-15; Acts 1:4).  Unfortunately, His early followers forgot these promises.  Or maybe they were so distraught and confused, or so slow or dull to believe, that they didn’t recognize their risen Lord, even when He was in their presence (Luke 24:16, 25, 36-37).

Think about what must have been happening in the hearts and minds of the men and women who had followed Jesus during the previous 3+ years.  Were they as lost and confused as the two disciples on the road to Emmaus?  Did it take a personal, tangible encounter with Jesus to open their eyes, minds and hearts to the truth of the resurrected Jesus?

Living in the early 21st Century, even with a complete 66-book Bible and all the online tools available at our fingertips, we struggle with these same challenges.  Therefore, I urge you to consider reading through the post-Resurrection accounts in Scripture to glean answers and insights for your own life:

  • Matthew 28:1 – 20
  • Mark 16:1 – 20
  • Luke 24:1 – 53
  • John 20:1 – 21:25
  • Acts 1:1 – 2:1

Do we need personal, tangible encounters with Jesus to enable and empower us to follow Him?  I believe the answer to that question is a resounding YES!  This is why we invest time with Jesus, in His Word, each and every day.  Like the prophets Ezekiel and Jeremiah, and the apostle John, we “Eat the Word”!

Grace & Truth!

~ tr

Posted by: StrongStakes | April 20, 2014

The Tomb is NOT empty … it’s Full of Evidence!

ResurrectionWhen celebrating Resurrection Sunday during the second half of the First Century, Christians would greet each other with “He is risen”!  The usual reply would be, “He is risen indeed”!  We continue that tradition today … in fact, 2 billion+ believers on our planet will exchange that greeting with each other throughout today … but

•  “What does this really mean”? and
•  “What difference will it make in our everyday lives of following Jesus”?

“He is risen” points to the fact that His tomb is, in fact, empty of His body.

Because He has conquered death and the grave, He lives! … He now sits at the right hand of the Father … and He intercedes on our behalf.

But His empty tomb is, therefore, full of corroborating evidences to this historical fact.  Click on this link for a helpful article published by Koinonia House … Evidence for the Resurrection.

I love the lyrics to the classic hymn, “Hallelujah! What a Savior,” written by Philip P. Bliss in 1875.

Man of Sorrows! what a name
For the Son of God, who came
Ruined sinners to reclaim.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
In my place condemned He stood;
Sealed my pardon with His blood.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Guilty, vile, and helpless we;
Spotless Lamb of God was He;
“Full atonement!” can it be?
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Lifted up was He to die;
“It is finished!” was His cry;
Now in Heav’n exalted high.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

When He comes, our glorious King,
All His ransomed home to bring,
Then anew His song we’ll sing:
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

But what difference will this evidence-filled, empty tomb make in our everyday lives of following Jesus?

Fortunately, the Apostle Paul answers this question for us.  In 1 Corinthians 15, he invests 57 verses to strongly lay out his case for the “So what?” of the empty tomb.  I urge you to invest time today reading and contemplating his conclusions.

Verse 58 begins with the word “therefore” … and we all know what that means, right?! … stop and ask, “What’s it there for?”  In this verse Paul simply lays out the “Now what?” of the Resurrection … his Spirit-directed recommendations for our lives today.

If you want to dig even deeper, then check out this article by Thomas Schreiner, a Pauline scholar from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary … but don’t read the article until you have first read 1 Corinthians 15!

“He is risen indeed”!

Grace & Truth!

~ tr

Posted by: StrongStakes | April 17, 2014

Resources for intentionally following Jesus during Passion Week

Passion_WeekDisciple-building requires intentionality … particularly this week, “Passion Week” … as we seek to closely follow the footsteps of Jesus, while learning from His words and His actions.

To aid this process, here are several resources:

•  All four Gospel writers include lengthy accounts of this final week in the human life of Jesus.  Matthew writes nearly 8 chapters, Mark includes 5 & 1/2 chapters, Luke records the equivalent of 5 chapters, and John devotes 8 & 1/2 chapters.  In fact, John’s Gospel covers only 22 days of Jesus’ 3.5 years of public ministry.  Six of his 21 chapters are devoted to just one week.  One-third of the verses (237 of 878) are sharply focused on the final 24-hours.  Click on this link for a handout … Passion Week … to immerse yourself in one of these Gospel accounts, seeking to answer the two questions:  What did Jesus say?  What did Jesus do?

•  It’s not too late to benefit from Biola University’s The Lent Project, which includes devotions for next week, “Bright Week” (April 20-27), focusing on the marvelous accounts of Christ’s post-resurrection appearances.

•  Trinity Church, in Greenwich, CT, has produced three outstanding 4-min. videos about aspects of “Passion Week.”

•  John Piper, the founder & teacher of, created devotional readings for Holy Week … Love to the Uttermost.

•  Finally, “Passion Week” is not without some controversy.  For example, If Jesus was crucified on “Good Friday,” how could He be in the grave “three days and three nights” (Matthew 12:40) and still be resurrected on Easter Sunday?  Bible scholars have debated this question for centuries, falling into three basic camps:

  1. Jesus was crucified on Friday.  *Click on any day for a link to a basic explanation of that viewpoint.
  2. Jesus was crucified on Thursday.  *Conduct an online search for additional links.
  3. Jesus was crucified on Wednesday.  *Click on The Passover Feast for an interesting chart supporting this theory.

In summary, whichever day of the week Jesus was crucified is not as important as the fact that He did die on our behalf, and that He physically, bodily rose from the dead on Resurrection Sunday!

Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Grace & Truth!

~ tr

Palm_SundayAs we celebrate Palm Sunday (April 13th this year), remember that this day …

… not only marks the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:28-40; John 12:12-19) …

… not only sets in motion the events of the Passion week …

But this day commemorates the precise fulfillment of numerous Old Testament prophecies … even to the very date on the calendar!

Check out Zechariah 9:9“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!  Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem!  Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

When the OC Bereans studied the O.T. book of Daniel during early 2012, we discovered that the angel Gabriel delivered an extremely detailed and precise timetable for the future (Daniel 9:21-27).  Based on what Gabriel stated in verses 25-26, we know that the predicted date for the “Triumphal Entry” of Jesus into Jerusalem would be the 10th of Nissan in A.D. 32, or 173,880 days from the Decree of Artaxerxes (Nehemiah 2:1)!

We are loved by … and we serve … an AMAZING God! … who has delivered to us an “integrated message system from outside our time and space domain” … revealing His character, His will, and even His calendar!

“Hosanna to the son of David.  Blessed is the King that comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.  Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

Grace & Truth!

~ tr

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