So encourage each other with these words.

first resurrectionWho is holy? God alone is holy-God the Father, God the Son (Jesus), and God the Holy Spirit. The people of God are made holy by God. What will happen to the holy people?

I have done a word search and taken 22 verses with the word ‘holy’ from the Book of Revelation. The verses describe two scenarios: the holy God and His faithful people made holy by Jesus, and the unholy people under the rule of the enemy of God. There will be persecution for the holy people of God. But Jesus will come and judge and to reward. In the meantime the holy people of God must endure persecution patiently, obeying his commands and maintaining their faith in Jesus.

Revelation 3:7 [ The Message to the Church in Philadelphia ] “Write this letter to the angel of the church in Philadelphia. This is the message from the one who is holy and true, the one who has the key of David. What he opens, no one can close; and what he closes, no one can open:

Revelation 4:8 Each of these living beings had six wings, and their wings were covered all over with eyes, inside and out. Day after day and night after night they keep on saying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty— the one who always was, who is, and who is still to come.”

Revelation 6:10 They shouted to the Lord and said, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you judge the people who belong to this world and avenge our blood for what they have done to us?”

Revelation 8:4 The smoke of the incense, mixed with the prayers of God’s holy people, ascended up to God from the altar where the angel had poured them out.

Revelation 11:2 But do not measure the outer courtyard, for it has been turned over to the nations. They will trample the holy city for 42 months.

Revelation 11:18 The nations were filled with wrath, but now the time of your wrath has come. It is time to judge the dead and reward your servants the prophets, as well as your holy people, and all who fear your name, from the least to the greatest. It is time to destroy all who have caused destruction on the earth.”

Revelation 13:7 And the beast was allowed to wage war against God’s holy people and to conquer them. And he was given authority to rule over every tribe and people and language and nation.

Revelation 13:10 Anyone who is destined for prison will be taken to prison. Anyone destined to die by the sword will die by the sword. This means that God’s holy people must endure persecution patiently and remain faithful.

Revelation 14:9-10 Anyone who worships the beast and his statue or who accepts his mark on the forehead or on the hand must drink the wine of God’s anger. It has been poured full strength into God’s cup of wrath. And they will be tormented with fire and burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and the Lamb.

Revelation 14:12 This means that God’s holy people must endure persecution patiently, obeying his commands and maintaining their faith in Jesus.

Revelation 15:4 Who will not fear you, Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous deeds have been revealed.”

Revelation 16:5 And I heard the angel who had authority over all water saying, “You are just, O Holy One, who is and who always was, because you have sent these judgments.

Revelation 16:6 Since they shed the blood of your holy people and your prophets, you have given them blood to drink. It is their just reward.”

Revelation 17:6 I could see that she (Babylon) was drunk—drunk with the blood of God’s holy people who were witnesses for Jesus. I stared at her in complete amazement.

Revelation 18:24 In your streets flowed the blood of the prophets and of God’s holy people and the blood of people slaughtered all over the world.”

Revelation 19:8 She (the Lamb’s bride) has been given the finest of pure white linen to wear.” For the fine linen represents the good deeds of God’s holy people.

Revelation 20:6 Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. For them the second death holds no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him a thousand years. (See below 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 about the first resurrection)

Revelation 21:2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.

Revelation 21:10 So he took me in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and he showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God.

Revelation 22:11 Let the one who is doing harm continue to do harm; let the one who is vile continue to be vile; let the one who is righteous continue to live righteously; let the one who is holy continue to be holy.”

Revelation 22:19 And if anyone removes any of the words from this book of prophecy, God will remove that person’s share in the tree of life and in the holy city that are described in this book.

Revelation 22:21 May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s holy people.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (NLT)
The Hope of the Resurrection
13 And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died[a] so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died.
15 We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died.[b] 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the believers who have died[c] will rise from their graves. 17 Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. 18 So encourage each other with these words.

Footnotes:
(a) 4:13 Greek those who have fallen asleep; also in 4:14.
(b) 4:15 Greek those who have fallen asleep.
(c) 4:16 Greek the dead in Christ.

Advertisements

made holy

God made you holyOur God made us holy. This is the difference between Christianity and other religions. God made us holy by means of Jesus Christ. Jesus made us holy by becoming a holy sacrifice. The words of God (the Bible, the Truth) make us holy. The Holy Spirit makes us (all people who call on the name Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.)holy. God united us with Christ Jesus, joined to Him, one Spirit with Him. (1 Corinthians 6:17) God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy. God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ.
In summary: we were chosen by God. Obeyed His words. Cleansed by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Made holy by the Holy Spirit in us.

John 17:19 And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth.

Romans 15:16 I am a special messenger from Christ Jesus to you Gentiles. I bring you the Good News so that I might present you as an acceptable offering to God, made holy by the Holy Spirit.

1 Corinthians 1:2 I am writing to God’s church in Corinth, to you who have been called by God to be his own holy people. He made you holy by means of Christ Jesus, just as he did for all people everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.

1 Corinthians 1:30 God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin.

1 Corinthians 6:11 Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Ephesians 1:4 Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.

Hebrews 10:10 For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time.

Hebrews 10:14 For by that one offering he forever made perfect those who are being made holy.

1 Peter 1:2 God the Father knew you and chose you long ago, and his Spirit has made you holy. As a result, you have obeyed him and have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ. May God give you more and more grace and peace.

Hebrews 10:29 Just think how much worse the punishment will be for those who have trampled on the Son of God, and have treated the blood of the covenant, which made us holy, as if it were common and unholy, and have insulted and disdained the Holy Spirit who brings God’s mercy to us.

persisting prayer

baptized with Holy SpiritHeed His call today! Be persistent in prayer.
Come, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the Lord our maker, for He is our God. We are the people He watches over, the flock under His care. If only you would listen to His voice today! (Psalm 95:6-7 NLT)

Today we learn what Jesus means by persistent prayer and why we need to pray persistently.
1. Keep on doing it until you receive what you need.
2. The key is in the spiritual realm.
3. Only the Holy Spirit can deliver it.
4. The persistence is for our good. Because otherwise we lose heart and fall away even though God has already given us through the Holy Spirit (in the unseen realm).
5. Note that the persistence is not because God is hard hearted or refuses to give until we have prayed long and hard.
6. It is not by our own might or power. It is by His Spirit. (Zechariah 4:6)
7. Stephen’s testimony demonstrated that only by being full of the Holy Spirit, being led by the Holy Spirit we can see God and His marvelous deeds in our lives. Spiritual blindness only leads to unbelief and loss of God’s favor.
8. Being born of the Holy Spirit is a must to see and enter God’s kingdom and living the Kingdom’s abundant lives. (John 3:3, 3:5)
9. Receiving the baptism (being filled/full) of the Holy Spirit is a must for manifesting the favor of the Lord just as Jesus did. (Luke 4:18-19)
10. Baptism with the Holy Spirit is linked to the Kingdom of God. It is not dispensable. Jesus baptized with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 1:1-5; Matthew 3:11)
11. God wants us to live a holy life. The baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire should lead us wanting to live a holy life. (1 Thessalonians 4:7-8)
12. The work of the Holy Spirit is a must for our daily living as the children of God. (Romans 8:12-14)

Matthew 7:7-11
Effective Prayer
“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.
9 “You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? 10 Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! 11 So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.

Luke 11:8-13
But I tell you this—though he won’t do it for friendship’s sake, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you whatever you need because of your shameless persistence.[a]
9 “And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

11 “You fathers—if your children ask[b] for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? 12 Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! 13 So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.”

Footnotes:
(a) 11:8 Or in order to avoid shame, or so his reputation won’t be damaged.
(b) 11:11 Some manuscripts add for bread, do you give them a stone? Or [if they ask].

Acts 7:48-51 (Stephen’s testimony)
However, the Most High doesn’t live in temples made by human hands. As the prophet says,
49 ‘Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool.
Could you build me a temple as good as that?’
asks the Lord.
‘Could you build me such a resting place?
50 Didn’t my hands make both heaven and earth?’[a]
51 “You stubborn people! You are heathen[b] at heart and deaf to the truth. Must you forever resist the Holy Spirit? That’s what your ancestors did, and so do you!

Footnotes:
(a) 7:49-50 Isa 66:1-2.
(b) 7:51 Greek uncircumcised.

Acts 7:55
But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand.

1 Thessalonians 4:7-8 God has called us to live holy lives, not impure lives. 8 Therefore, anyone who refuses to live by these rules is not disobeying human teaching but is rejecting God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.

Romans 8:12-14
Therefore, dear brothers and sisters,[a] you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. 13 For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature,[b] you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children[c] of God.

Footnotes:
(a) 8:12 Greek brothers; also in 8:29.
(b) 8:13 Greek deeds of the body.
(c) 8:14 Greek sons; also in 8:19.

Jesus and the Father in heaven

John 5-36On Sunday (Today Christian equivalent to Jewish Sabbath-Saturday) Jesus performed a miracle and healed a man who had been paralyzed for thirty-eight years. The Jewish leaders objected to the miracle because it happened on their traditional rest day. Jesus further revealed that He is the Son of God who can override all the traditions of man. Thus the Jewish leaders tried all the harder to kill Him. So Jesus explained, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything he is doing. In fact, the Father will show him how to do even greater works than healing this man. Then you will truly be astonished. 21 For just as the Father gives life to those he raises from the dead, so the Son gives life to anyone he wants. 22 In addition, the Father judges no one. Instead, he has given the Son absolute authority to judge, 23 so that everyone will honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Anyone who does not honor the Son is certainly not honoring the Father who sent him.Let us compare the religious leaders at that time with Jesus.

The religious leaders were not interested in the miraculous healing of a man who had been sick for thirty-eight years.
They were only concerned with the loss of their own authority and control through the Law of Moses and their added traditions.
They did not care whether their religion or tradition brought lives and healing to the suffering people.
They did not have an accurate knowledge of the God whom they claimed to worship.
They did not have a relationship with the spiritual God.
They were merely using God’s name to perpetuate their own self-importance through exercising their religious authority.
They felt threatened by Jesus because Jesus had all that they wanted but could not have: real spiritual relationship with God, authority and power from God, and a genuine love from God.

Jesus explained to them why he had what they wanted but they did not have:
Jesus is the Son of God.
He has a close relationship with His Father in heaven.
He only does God’s will: Whatever God does, Jesus also does.
This miraculous healing of a man who had suffered for thirty eight years (and daily placed in a location right in front of the religious leaders and they could not do anything about his sickness) is no big deal to Jesus.
There are bigger miracles Jesus can do: Raising the dead. Giving life. Absolute authority to judge the living and the dead. Give eternal life.

Jesus also told them who would qualify to receive eternal life:
“I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life.” (John 5:24)

today’s reading is from: John 5

Jesus and His brothers

John71617The world can’t hate you, you go on to this festival of Shelters. Jesus replied His brothers. For even His worldly brothers didn’t believe in Him at that time. He was traveling around Galilee to stay out of Judea where the Jewish leaders were plotting to kill Him. His brothers told Him to leave and go to Judea, “where your followers can see your miracles!” They knew and had seen His supernatural power but they were not His followers. They wanted Him to show off the physical power He could display. They further said, “You can’t become famous if you hide like this!” They wanted him to become famous in their world. Judea was the centre of religious and political activities as people went there yearly for various national festivals. The ‘who is who’ would all be there, people of political/social/economic power, wealth and influential connection. They also said (obviously with unbelief), “If you can do such wonderful things, show yourself to the world!”

What makes a person believe in Jesus? Even His brothers did not believe, who can believe? This is the question today.

Jesus told us the answer in John 7:17 “Anyone who wants to do the will of God will know whether My teaching is from God or is merely My own.”

Anyone can believe.
The condition in your heart must be right and ready. You really want to do the will of God.
Believing in Jesus is the will of God. (John 6:29, 39-40)
You will be given the discernment from God to know that Jesus is the One who comes from God and is speaking to you God’s message for you.
Anyone who is thirsty for God. (John 7:37)
Anyone who loves God will love Jesus. (John 8:42)
Everyone who listens to the Father (God) and learns from Him comes to Jesus. (John 6:45)

to him I will give power over the nations

Revelation 2
Revelation 2:26

“And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power ove the nations-“
The Message to the Church in Ephesus
“Write this letter to the angel[a] of the church in Ephesus. This is the message from the one who holds the seven stars in his right hand, the one who walks among the seven gold lampstands:

2 “I know all the things you do. I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance. I know you don’t tolerate evil people. You have examined the claims of those who say they are apostles but are not. You have discovered they are liars. 3 You have patiently suffered for me without quitting.

4 “But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first![b] 5 Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first. If you don’t repent, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place among the churches. 6 But this is in your favor: You hate the evil deeds of the Nicolaitans, just as I do.

7 “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. To everyone who is victorious I will give fruit from the tree of life in the paradise of God.

The Message to the Church in Smyrna
8 “Write this letter to the angel of the church in Smyrna. This is the message from the one who is the First and the Last, who was dead but is now alive:

9 “I know about your suffering and your poverty—but you are rich! I know the blasphemy of those opposing you. They say they are Jews, but they are not, because their synagogue belongs to Satan. 10 Don’t be afraid of what you are about to suffer. The devil will throw some of you into prison to test you. You will suffer for ten days. But if you remain faithful even when facing death, I will give you the crown of life.

11 “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. Whoever is victorious will not be harmed by the second death.

The Message to the Church in Pergamum
12 “Write this letter to the angel of the church in Pergamum. This is the message from the one with the sharp two-edged sword:

13 “I know that you live in the city where Satan has his throne, yet you have remained loyal to me. You refused to deny me even when Antipas, my faithful witness, was martyred among you there in Satan’s city.

14 “But I have a few complaints against you. You tolerate some among you whose teaching is like that of Balaam, who showed Balak how to trip up the people of Israel. He taught them to sin by eating food offered to idols and by committing sexual sin. 15 In a similar way, you have some Nicolaitans among you who follow the same teaching. 16 Repent of your sin, or I will come to you suddenly and fight against them with the sword of my mouth.

17 “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. To everyone who is victorious I will give some of the manna that has been hidden away in heaven. And I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it.

The Message to the Church in Thyatira
18 “Write this letter to the angel of the church in Thyatira. This is the message from the Son of God, whose eyes are like flames of fire, whose feet are like polished bronze:

19 “I know all the things you do. I have seen your love, your faith, your service, and your patient endurance. And I can see your constant improvement in all these things.

20 “But I have this complaint against you. You are permitting that woman—that Jezebel who calls herself a prophet—to lead my servants astray. She teaches them to commit sexual sin and to eat food offered to idols. 21 I gave her time to repent, but she does not want to turn away from her immorality.

22 “Therefore, I will throw her on a bed of suffering,[c] and those who commit adultery with her will suffer greatly unless they repent and turn away from her evil deeds. 23 I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am the one who searches out the thoughts and intentions of every person. And I will give to each of you whatever you deserve.

24 “But I also have a message for the rest of you in Thyatira who have not followed this false teaching (‘deeper truths,’ as they call them—depths of Satan, actually). I will ask nothing more of you 25 except that you hold tightly to what you have until I come. 26 To all who are victorious, who obey me to the very end,

To them I will give authority over all the nations.
27 They will rule the nations with an iron rod
and smash them like clay pots.[d]
28 They will have the same authority I received from my Father, and I will also give them the morning star!

29 “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.

Footnotes:

2:1 Or the messenger; also in 2:8, 12, 18.
2:4 Greek You have lost your first love.
2:22 Greek a bed.
2:26-27 Ps 2:8-9 (Greek version).

The above passage is quoted from: The Holy Bible, Revelation 2 New Living Translation (NLT)

“Come now, let us settle the matter,”

writing on wall2The watchman hears today. This a valley of decision now for the nations (states) which are gathered together to vote. Are they electing a Persian King like King Cyrus the Great, or a Babylonian king like King Belshazzar who would see the writing on the wall? (His kingdom fell overnight and Babylon was no more!)Read Daniel 5 for “Writing on the Wall”. Either you are with Cyrus the Great who protected God’s people and rebuilt the Temple of God, or you just wait for the writing on the wall to appear on your wall.

Daniel 5:25 “This is the inscription that was written:
mene, mene, tekel, parsin
26 “Here is what these words mean:
Mene[e]: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end.
27 Tekel[f]: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.
28 Peres[g]: Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”

Isaiah 1 New International Version (NIV)
1 The vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem that Isaiah son of Amoz saw during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.
A Rebellious Nation

2
Hear me, you heavens! Listen, earth!
For the Lord has spoken:
“I reared children and brought them up,
but they have rebelled against me.
3
The ox knows its master,
the donkey its owner’s manger,
but Israel does not know,
my people do not understand.”

4
Woe to the sinful nation,
a people whose guilt is great,
a brood of evildoers,
children given to corruption!
They have forsaken the Lord;
they have spurned the Holy One of Israel
and turned their backs on him.

5
Why should you be beaten anymore?
Why do you persist in rebellion?
Your whole head is injured,
your whole heart afflicted.
6
From the sole of your foot to the top of your head
there is no soundness—
only wounds and welts
and open sores,
not cleansed or bandaged
or soothed with olive oil.

7
Your country is desolate,
your cities burned with fire;
your fields are being stripped by foreigners
right before you,
laid waste as when overthrown by strangers.
8
Daughter Zion is left
like a shelter in a vineyard,
like a hut in a cucumber field,
like a city under siege.
9
Unless the Lord Almighty
had left us some survivors,
we would have become like Sodom,
we would have been like Gomorrah.

10
Hear the word of the Lord,
you rulers of Sodom;
listen to the instruction of our God,
you people of Gomorrah!
11
“The multitude of your sacrifices—
what are they to me?” says the Lord.
“I have more than enough of burnt offerings,
of rams and the fat of fattened animals;
I have no pleasure
in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.
12
When you come to appear before me,
who has asked this of you,
this trampling of my courts?
13
Stop bringing meaningless offerings!
Your incense is detestable to me.
New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations—
I cannot bear your worthless assemblies.
14
Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals
I hate with all my being.
They have become a burden to me;
I am weary of bearing them.
15
When you spread out your hands in prayer,
I hide my eyes from you;
even when you offer many prayers,
I am not listening.

Your hands are full of blood!

16
Wash and make yourselves clean.
Take your evil deeds out of my sight;
stop doing wrong.
17
Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.[a]
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow.

18
“Come now, let us settle the matter,”
says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool.
19
If you are willing and obedient,
you will eat the good things of the land;
20
but if you resist and rebel,
you will be devoured by the sword.”
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

21
See how the faithful city
has become a prostitute!
She once was full of justice;
righteousness used to dwell in her—
but now murderers!
22
Your silver has become dross,
your choice wine is diluted with water.
23
Your rulers are rebels,
partners with thieves;
they all love bribes
and chase after gifts.
They do not defend the cause of the fatherless;
the widow’s case does not come before them.

24
Therefore the Lord, the Lord Almighty,
the Mighty One of Israel, declares:
“Ah! I will vent my wrath on my foes
and avenge myself on my enemies.
25
I will turn my hand against you;[b]
I will thoroughly purge away your dross
and remove all your impurities.
26
I will restore your leaders as in days of old,
your rulers as at the beginning.
Afterward you will be called
the City of Righteousness,
the Faithful City.”

27
Zion will be delivered with justice,
her penitent ones with righteousness.
28
But rebels and sinners will both be broken,
and those who forsake the Lord will perish.

29
“You will be ashamed because of the sacred oaks
in which you have delighted;
you will be disgraced because of the gardens
that you have chosen.
30
You will be like an oak with fading leaves,
like a garden without water.
31
The mighty man will become tinder
and his work a spark;
both will burn together,
with no one to quench the fire.”
Footnotes:

Isaiah 1:17 Or justice. / Correct the oppressor
Isaiah 1:25 That is, against Jerusalem

three kings of Persia (3)

favour-grace-and-mercyThe third king of Persia who made a significant impact on God’s people was Artaxerxes I (Longimanus) who reigned during the period 465-424BC.(Ezr.7:1,21-26; Ne.2:1-8) He appointed Ezra as the secretary of state for Jewish affairs (in today’s language). He trusted and favored Ezra so much that he gave him everything he asked for. He wanted to beautify the Temple of God in Jerusalem and also make sure the priests and Levites there were carrying the worship correctly. So he listened to Ezra’s advice and sent Ezra to Jerusalem in 458BC with all the resources Ezra needed. He paid for all expenses to re-establish the proper Temple worship and sacrifices. He also gave Ezra authority to ensure compulsory religious education of the people of God (teaching them the Law of Moses) and their due compliance with the Law. He decreed that those who refuse to obey the Law of Ezra’s God and the law of the king would be punished immediately, “either by death, punishment, confiscation of goods or imprisonment.” He honored God and favored God’s servants-gave those who served God tax free status!

Here is a prayer of Ezra, praising God for the favor from God and from the king:
Ezra 7:27-28 New Living Translation (NLT)
Ezra Praises the Lord
27 Praise the Lord, the God of our ancestors, who made the king want to beautify the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem! 28 And praise him for demonstrating such unfailing love to me by honoring me before the king, his council, and all his mighty nobles! I felt encouraged because the gracious hand of the Lord my God was on me. And I gathered some of the leaders of Israel to return with me to Jerusalem.

Thirteen years later, the same Persian king listened to another trusted Jewish official in his court, Nehemiah, allowed him to go back to Jerusalem in 445BC to re-build the wall of Jerusalem so the enemies would not be able to continue to harass the people of Israel and interrupt the Temple worship.

From these Biblical records we can see that king Artaxerxes I knew the two officials well, trusted them, acknowledged their godly wisdom, moral integrity, professional ability and leadership quality. History had proven that king Artaxerxes’ judgment was right in employing and granting favor to these two great men of God! Both men of God were not ambitious or greedy for gains for themselves. They served God faithfully, served the king with integrity,  and capability for the respective task assigned. They truly loved God and loved the people of God. Upon completion of their respective specific assignment they returned to their own previous posts in the Persian Empire working close to the king and continuing to counsel him wisely. In today’s language, this is a win-win situation when both parties work together with integrity, justice, and honor  for one another, sharing the ultimate reverential fear of the Almighty Holy God of Heaven.

three kings of Persia (2)

4decreesDarius I, the Great, was the third king after Cyrus II, the Great, and reigned in Persia for the period 522-486BC. During his entire reign, the governor of the region beyond the River, and Shethar-Boznai, and his companions, the Persians who were in the region beyond the River, were against the re-building of the Temple of God in Jerusalem. They bribed agents to work against the them and to frustrate their plans.

In 520BC the governor’s letter of complaint went to his superior, the satrap who had charge of Babylon and the country west of the Euphrates, no records of the decree of Cyrus II instructing the re-building were found among the archives kept at Babylon. However, a further search found the memorandum at Ecbatana, where Cyrus had resided. Darius I confirmed this decree and ordered his officials to help the Jews.

Darius I reorganized the satrapies. His system of military commanders, introduction of coinage, legal and postal systems lasted as long as the empire of Persia. These facilities and the autonomy allowed to the subject people contributed to the stability of the empire. Under such a system the small community of Jews in Judah (only 42,360 people returned to Judah in response to the Persian king’s decree) was sustained. Jewish officers were appointed to govern them.

We can see how God had preserved the people of Israel in history. Indeed, during the entire period of re-building of the Temple and later the wall, the enemies of the Jews were harassing and threatening them. But God had raised powerful foreign kings to grant the people of God justice, favor and protection. All these fulfilled the promises of God spoken through the prophets of God long before they actually happened.

Indeed, by granting favor to the people of Israel, the Persian kings too continued to sustain their power and considerable prosperity. The Persian Empire which was established by Cyrus the Great lasted from 559BC to 651AD (interrupted by Moslem conquest). The main religion of ancient Persia was Zoroastrianism, but after the seventh century, it was replaced by Islam.

a spiritual continuum

a spiritual reviewChristianity is a progressive journey on a spiritual continuum. I realized this truth when I first encountered the Holy Spirit’s reality in physical life. It was a spiritual experience which could be confirmed by physical reality. The encounter transformed my life and my direction in life. Over the years since I changed course I have experienced the abundant life as Jesus has promised to His believers and followers in all aspects of my being, physical, mental and emotional, and spiritual. The change is from within and can be discerned externally. Here is a summary of what happened on the spiritual continuum based on my personal experience and how I perceive and recall it:

1. The baptism of the Holy Spirit first came to me as an overwhelming love of God. It poured out on me during a worship. The worship was not particularly emotional or anything. It was orderly and “conservatively” Spirit-filled. A guitar accompanied the singing of short choruses and hymns. The participants were mainly fellow business travelers like me who happened to stay in the group of hotels or its vicinity. The pastor preached on Joseph’s business model. It was calm and unemotional and rational. I was on a six-month corporate posting in that city and lived in the hotel. My colleagues introduced me to that Sunday service.

2. The Spirit-filled experience led me to read God’s words passionately. I spent nearly all my off-duty time reading the Bible. It was a journey to see God in His words.

3. My prayer life started then. I prayed/talked to God a lot. Asking questions and receiving answers through reading the Bible.

4. Many important changes started: value system, perspectives, priorities, interests and hobbies. These changes led to changes in daily life. New lifestyle and habits were being formed and built.

5. My worship life changed and I actively sought out a Spirit-filled and Bible-believing church to join when I returned to my home base.

6. I began to be interested in serving God and joining voluntary ministries to serve others.

7. My monetary giving to churches, missionaries and the poor began to align with God’s words.

8. Other visible cognitive-emotive, internal and external changes began to emerge: attitude, thoughts about self and others, communication, connection, association, social life, relationship and behavior etc.

9. During the early stages my struggles between following God’s words and my own words continued.

10. After some years I was stuck and stagnated spiritually.

Many years later I had another spiritual encounter with the Lord. I call it the second phase of accelerated growth on my journey on the spiritual continuum in which I experienced the reality of signs, visions and dreams. I have already written a lot on the second phase in my previous blogs. One significant change was a specific calling of a spiritual watchman’s role in the reading of God’s words. Demonstration of more pronounced gifts include: interpretation of God’s words as led by the Holy Spirit, manifestation of the word of knowledge and word of wisdom, and discernment in the spirit. When warranted by occasions, other gifts like gift of faith and gift of healing manifested.

I find an unchangeable constant factor of “a passion for God’s words” on this spiritual continuum. Jesus has declared that His words are spirit and life. This has been true and real to me as I progress. I find that the minute I stop having this passion I stagnate. Stagnation in the spiritual realm is the major obstacle to living an abundant life in the Kingdom of God.

Stagnation means: cease developing; become inactive or dull: stagnate into a set of routines. How to ensure not to set in a set of meaningless routines? My way of dealing with this is to be spiritual. Worshiping in the Spirit. Praying in the Spirit. Singing in the Spirit. Taking Holy Communion. Talking to God. Writing/copying God’s words. Looking at the spiritual perspectives when I look at worldly events. The apostle Paul reminded us that sons of God are led by the Spirit of God. Thus my motto is: be led by the Holy Spirit.

Words with real power do transform lives

Acts 13 eternal lifeWords must come with real and visible power to transform. Words of God do that when the believers of Jesus carry the power of the words and the Holy Spirit into the harvest. In Acts 13-14 (quoted from Holy Bible NLT version in parts here) Paul and Barnabas demonstrated this truth. I shall quote only the parts wherein Paul preached a powerful sermon in Antioch of Pisidia (in today’s Turkey).

Acts 13:30-38
30 But God raised him from the dead! 31 And over a period of many days he appeared to those who had gone with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now his witnesses to the people of Israel.
32 “And now we are here to bring you this Good News. The promise was made to our ancestors, 33 and God has now fulfilled it for us, their descendants, by raising Jesus. This is what the second psalm says about Jesus:
‘You are my Son.
Today I have become your Father.[a]’
34 For God had promised to raise him from the dead, not leaving him to rot in the grave. He said, ‘I will give you the sacred blessings I promised to David.’[b] 35 Another psalm explains it more fully: ‘You will not allow your Holy One to rot in the grave.’[c] 36 This is not a reference to David, for after David had done the will of God in his own generation, he died and was buried with his ancestors, and his body decayed. 37 No, it was a reference to someone else—someone whom God raised and whose body did not decay.
38 [d]“Brothers, listen! We are here to proclaim that through this man Jesus there is forgiveness for your sins.

Footnotes:
13:33 Or Today I reveal you as my Son. Ps 2:7.
13:34 Isa 55:3.
13:35 Ps 16:10.
13:38 English translations divide verses 38 and 39 in various ways.

Acts 13:46-52
46 Then Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and declared, “It was necessary that we first preach the word of God to you Jews. But since you have rejected it and judged yourselves unworthy of eternal life, we will offer it to the Gentiles. 47 For the Lord gave us this command when he said,
I have made you a light to the Gentiles,
to bring salvation to the farthest corners of the earth.’[a]”
48 When the Gentiles heard this, they were very glad and thanked the Lord for his message; and all who were chosen for eternal life became believers. 49 So the Lord’s message spread throughout that region.
50 Then the Jews stirred up the influential religious women and the leaders of the city, and they incited a mob against Paul and Barnabas and ran them out of town. 51 So they shook the dust from their feet as a sign of rejection and went to the town of Iconium. 52 And the believers[b] were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

Footnotes:
13:47 Isa 49:6.
13:52 Greek the disciples.

Acts 14:1-4
Paul and Barnabas in Iconium
14 The same thing happened in Iconium.[a] Paul and Barnabas went to the Jewish synagogue and preached with such power that a great number of both Jews and Greeks became believers. 2 Some of the Jews, however, spurned God’s message and poisoned the minds of the Gentiles against Paul and Barnabas. 3 But the apostles stayed there a long time, preaching boldly about the grace of the Lord. And the Lord proved their message was true by giving them power to do miraculous signs and wonders. 4 But the people of the town were divided in their opinion about them. Some sided with the Jews, and some with the apostles.

Footnotes:
14:1 Iconium, as well as Lystra and Derbe (14:6), were towns in what is now Turkey.