Posted by: StrongStakes | January 10, 2014

True or False: God’s Judgments Yield Lifestyle Changes

As we wrap up our study of Revelation chapter 9, an angel in heaven sounds the 6th trumpet, releasing four more angels who will wreak havoc on humanity.  Download, print, and bring this attachment with you for note-taking – Revelation 9:13-21.

Ponder these questions as you read through this latter portion of chapter 9:

  1. Four more angels are identified in 9:14 and described as “bound at the great river Euphrates.”  Who are they?  What does it mean that they are “bound”?
  2. These four angels are released to kill a third of earth’s remaining population.  Can you think of other Scriptural instances where angels were used to kill humanity?
  3. By the way, what percentage of earth’s population remains at this point in chapter 9?
  4. An army of 200 million horsemen appear to be connected to the destruction wrought by the four angels.  Describe these horsemen.  How do they kill people?
  5. At the end of this unbelievable massacre of humanity, what are the results?
  6. Who or what do the remaining humans worship?  Describe their “lifestyle.”
  7. What truths will you take away from this chapter describing the 5th and 6th “Trumpet Judgments”?

You may also want to review the six questions posted on January 4th for Revelation 9:1-12.

Dessert will be served at 7 pm this coming Monday, with the Bible study starting shortly after that.

Grace & Truth!

~ tr

Posted by: StrongStakes | January 6, 2014

Christmas may be past, but celebrate Epiphany today!

“Epiphany,” also known as “Three Kings Day” or “Twelfth Day,” falls on the 12th day after Christmas.  The word means “manifestation” or “revelation” and is commonly linked in Western Christianity to the visit of the wise men to the Christ-child, and thus Jesus’ physical manifestation to the Gentiles.  Eastern Christians commemorate the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River, seen as His manifestation to the world as the Son of God.

This Christian feast day celebrates the revelation of God the Son as a human being in Jesus Christ … an amazing, profound reality!

“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” – John 1:14

“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.” – Philippians 2:5-7

“He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” – Hebrews 2:17

Christmas trees may be dismantled or discarded, the garland and wreaths packed in boxes, lights removed from the eaves and stowed in the garage, but the reality of Immanuel“God with us” … lives on in our lives!

We may have already “hit the ground running” into 2014 … with people to see, places to go, and appointments to keep … but let’s take a moment to reflect on the reality of Jesus in our lives.

“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 5:16

Celebrate Epiphany today!

Grace & Truth

~ tr

Posted by: StrongStakes | January 4, 2014

Monday Bible Study vs. NCAA Football Championship

If you’re a college football fan, then here’s a quandary for this new year …

Should you attend Monday night’s OC Bereans Bible study? … OR … stay home and watch the NCAA football championship game?

Unless you’re an alumnus of Auburn or Florida State, the decision is really a no-brainer! … or is it?  The last time our Monday night study was suspended for an NCAA championship game was in 2006, and we all know what happened … the wrong team won … unless you’re a Longhorn fan!  Right then I said, “Never again”!

I can assure you that this Monday’s Bible study will be the MOST impactful study of this new year … at least so far!  😉  If you’re in town, please join us at 7 pm.

Hopefully, the OC Bereans faithful will show up in force … sort of like to a football game!  Here is what to expect and how to prepare for Monday night’s study:

  • Download, print, and bring this attachment with you for note-taking — Revelation 9:1-12.
  • Read through the first 12 verses of Revelation chapter 9, reflecting on the six questions below.
  • Come prepared to share one thing you resolve to do (or be) in 2014.
  • Plan to share one to three words that you hope and pray will characterize 2014.
  • I also have a bit of a surprise that I want to share/discuss with you.

Here are six questions for your reflection on Revelation 9:

  1. When the fifth trumpet is sounded in v. 1, a “star from heaven” falls to earth.  But this “star” is also called a “him” … Why?  Who or what is this star?
  2. Describe the “locusts” that emerge from the abyss.
  3. What role will they play in God’s judgment on the earth?
  4. How has God’s judgment changed from the earlier seal and trumpet judgments?
  5. Who is Abaddon or Apollyon?
  6. Jump ahead to vv. 20-21 … what are the results of God’s judgments on the earth?

By the way, the football game will be on my TV up until we start the study.  Plus, someone with a smartphone can keep us posted on the final outcome, if you like!

Eagerly looking forward to being together with you men! … our living room has been way too quiet the past four Monday nights.

Grace & Truth!

~ tr

Posted by: StrongStakes | January 3, 2014

Signing off with Grace & Truth!

Using a Bible-based signature on emails is an intentional habit.  In 2011, I signed off with “Abide in the Vine.”  In 2012, it was “Embrace God’s Grace.”  In 2013 … “Shalom!”

2014 will be marked by “Grace & Truth” … hopefully, in more ways than an email signature!  The Bible uses both words liberally to paint a detailed picture of God’s character.

The primary Hebrew word translated “grace” in the Old Testament is [חֵן or chen] meaning “grace, favor, charm, elegance or acceptance.”  It occurs scores of times (69x in the NASB), plus additional Hebrew words approximate this meaning, adding new dimensions.

In the New Testament, [χάρις or charis] is the most frequently used Greek wordDepending on the context for each verse, the term is translated as “that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness, good-will, loving-kindness or favor.”  This word occurs 159 times in the N.T.

“Truth” [אֱמֶת or ’emeth], occurring 127 times in the O.T., defines “firmness, faithfulness, sureness, reliability, stability or perpetuity.”  In the N.T. [ἀλήθεια or alētheia] describes (110x) that which is “free from pretense, simulation, falsehood or deceit.”

Even more significant are the two times the Apostle John combines “grace and truth” (John 1:14, 17) to describe Jesus … the Word made flesh … Immanuel … God with us!

When you receive an email this year signed with “Grace & Truth,” be encouraged, be blessed, be filled with grace and truth!

Hope to see you all in my living room on Monday night.

Grace & Truth!

~ tr

Posted by: StrongStakes | January 2, 2014

Making the NFL Playoffs a Disciple-Building Exercise


The NFL playoffs begin anew this “Wild-Card Weekend” and will stretch four more weeks until Super Bowl Sunday on February 2nd.  Rather than creating a pool where we predict winners and losers each week, I propose a more fulfilling challenge.

For every quarter of NFL playoffs football we watch on TV during this month, let’s read one chapter out of a book … any book! … on discipleship or “following Jesus” … including the Bible!

Yes, you read that right!  Most, if not all, of us have made a resolution or two for this New Year.  In fact, you may have resolved to read a good book in 2014 … or two? … three or more?  How has that started for you so far? … two days into the New Year?

This reading challenge may help!  Simply keep track of every quarter of football that you watch on TV, then later that day or week, read one chapter for every quarter.  Don’t cheat! … viewing part of a quarter counts as a quarter.  This just may help us “redeem” some of that time spent in front of the TV or computer screen.

Need book recommendations?  Check out the titles and links on the right side of this blog under the “Worth Reading” column. Remember, the Bible counts, too!

Happy watching & reading!  May the best teams win … and the best books get read!

Grace & Truth!

~ tr

Posted by: StrongStakes | January 1, 2014

“Preparing for 2014” via 20 Questions

The 20 questions in this handout — “Preparing for 2014” — will stimulate your thinking as you prepare to launch into this New Year.  Not all questions may apply specifically to you, but answer as many as possible.

  • During a quiet time of solitude, thoughtfully and prayerfully write your responses in the space provided after each question.
  • Consider supporting your answers with relevant Scripture passages.
  • Reflect on what you REALLY need and want to accomplish this year.

After you finish the questions, then reflect a little longer on all your answers. On the final page of the handout you can then apply your answers by setting a handful of specific, concrete, measurable goals for 2014 … call them “resolutions” if you like!

Grace & Truth!

~ tr

Posted by: StrongStakes | December 31, 2013

Resolve to Read & Journal Through Scripture in 2014


Dudley Rutherford, pastor of Shepherd of the Hills Church in Porter Ranch, compiled a 365-day Bible reading guide and journal last year titled Anchored. It was one of my Christmas gifts to all members of the OC Bereans weekly Bible study, along with the 6th annual “Drive-Time Worship” CD.

In the preface to Anchored, Dudley prays that every person who picks up this book “will be disciplined and faithful in reading God’s Word every day,” while listening for and journaling what God is saying through His sacred text. I echo that prayer!

Dudley also shares an acrostic revealing the benefits gleaned when one is anchored in God’s Word:

  • Aways know the will of God
  • Never be alone, afraid, or without
  • Christ will lead you to full surrender
  • Have a biblical view of marriage
  • Only way to have victory over temptation
  • Recognize the difference between good and evil
  • Evangelism will become your burden
  • Develop and grow as a believer

If we did not connect during Christmas and you did not receive this gift of Anchored, I will have a copy for you on Monday, January 6th.

You can also order a copy directly from Dudley Rutherford. Check out the link on the right side of this blog, under Bible Study Tools.

Remember to check back into this blog tomorrow (New Year’s Day) for a handout entitled “Preparing for 2014.”


~ tr

Posted by: StrongStakes | December 26, 2013

20 Probing Questions to Aid Your Reflecting on 2013

As we enter the last few days of this calendar year 2013, plan to invest some time pondering the 20 questions in this four-page handout: Reflecting on 2013.

You may choose to do this alone, or with your spouse or family member(s), or even in a small group of friends.


*Another handout … “Preparing for 2014” … will be posted here on January 1.


~ tr

Posted by: StrongStakes | December 25, 2013

Listening & Learning from “Mary’s Song” on Christmas Morning


As we all awaken this morning to Christmas Day, consider sharing this poem with family and friends … Mary’s Song.

Mary’s Song

Luci Shaw

Blue homespun and the bend of my breast
keep warm this small hot naked star fallen to my arms.

(Rest . . . You who have had so far to come.)

Now nearness satisfies the body of God sweetly.

Quiet He lies whose vigor hurled a universe.

He sleeps whose eyelids have not closed before.
His breath (so slight it seems no breath at all)

once ruffled the dark deeps to sprout a world.
Charmed by doves’ voices, the whisper of straw,
He dreams,
hearing no music from His other spheres.
Breath, mouth, ears, eyes
He is curtailed Who overflowed all skies, all years.
Older than eternity, now He is new.

Now native to earth as I am,

nailed to my poor planet, caught that I might be free,
blind in my womb to know my darkness ended,
brought to this birth for me to be new-born,
and for Him to see me mended
I must see him torn.

This first appeared in 1971 in a publication by Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship called HIS magazine.  It speaks clearly to the wonder of our Savior’s birth.


~ tr

Posted by: StrongStakes | December 24, 2013

What Makes This Night So Holy?

“O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining, it is the night of our dear Savior’s birth.”

ChristmasStar2For many years our extended family would gather around the Christmas tree as my mother-in-law blessed us by singing those words from a familiar carol. But is this carol really that familiar?

The historical “back-story” to this carol’s origins is not only fascinating, but also reveals what makes THIS night so holy.

The original lyrics were written in 1847 as a poem by a French wine merchant, Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure, entitled “Midnight, Christians.” Cappeau was asked by the parish priest to write a Christmas poem to commemorate the installation of a renovated church organ. Amazingly, he agreed, even though he was a self-professed anticlerical and atheist!

Frankly, the words of his original poem are much more insightful and powerful than the English rendition normally sung at Christmas.

Midnight, Christians, it is the solemn hour,
When God as man descended unto us
To erase the stain of original sin
And to end the wrath of His Father.
The entire world thrills with hope
On this night that gives it a Savior.

People kneel down, wait for your deliverance.

Christmas, Christmas, here is the Redeemer,

Christmas, Christmas, here is the Redeemer!

May the ardent light of our Faith
Guide us all to the cradle of the infant,
As in ancient times a brilliant star
Guided the Oriental kings there.
The King of Kings was born in a humble manger;
O mighty ones of today, proud of your greatness,

It is to your pride that God preaches.

Bow your heads before the Redeemer!

Bow your heads before the Redeemer!

The Redeemer has broken every bond:
The Earth is free, and Heaven is open.
He sees a brother where there was only a slave,
Love unites those that iron had chained.
Who will tell Him of our gratitude,
For all of us He is born, He suffers and dies.

People stand up! Sing of your deliverance,

Christmas, Christmas, sing of the Redeemer,

Christmas, Christmas, sing of the Redeemer!

Notice the key word? … Redeemer … What makes this night so holy? … God chose to become like us, to live among us, in order to redeem us! … to purchase our salvation and restore us to relationship with Him, our Creator. But at the price of His life … His shed blood.

“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us.” – Ephesians 1:7

“Worthy are You … for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” – Revelation 5:9


~ tr

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »


%d bloggers like this: