Pastor Scott's Blog

(for more blog entries, go to:  http://jcctracy.blogspot.com )

12/11/17 - Rev 8

Dec 11, 2017

The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of God's people, went up before God from the angel's hand.  Rev 8:4

Every believer's prayer matters to God---He listens and holds them until they are fully answered.

Smoke is an interesting element in the Bible.  It is recorded as a physical representation of worship.  In the Old Testament, the sacrifices were pleasing to God because of the odor of the smoke.  Some of the sacrifices were from cooking the meat, and others were from cooking grain or burning incense.  God also was surrounded by smoke in many of His appearances – the burning bush, His appearance on Mount Sanai, and the pillar of fire and cloud of smoke that led Israel through the desert.  Smoke has a connection to worship.

In Revelation, that same connection exists in heaven.  The picture of worship shows smoke rising before God’s throne, connected to the prayers and praise of people.  Somehow, smoke is a powerful function of worship. 

So how does that metaphor fit with Christians?  Here are some thoughts:

-          Smoke is often visible – seeing it reminds us of a fire underway

-          Smoke rises – when our hearts are on fire for God, it rises to

-          Smoke is evidence of change – just as fire changes an object, it also changes our lives

-          Smoke has odor – it’s smell represents the impurities being removed to make the object pure

-          Smoke lasts – it dissipates into the air, but still exists until combined with other elements

We often are interested in the objects or the fire, but God is moved by the smoke of our lives.  He sees the smoke of our prayers, He smells the smoke of our praise, He enjoys the odor of life change.  Heaven celebrates when we are on fire for God, and let the smoke rise to heaven.

Sometimes we may feel like are prayers are not producing anything, like they are a vapor vanishing into the air.  But God sees & smells the smoke!  He hears every prayer.  He knows our needs.  He enjoys our praise.  He welcomes our worship. 

So keep praying!  Keep praising!  Keep serving!  Keep loving!  Let the smoke of your life move the heart of God.  Every vapor matters to God.


12/08/17 - Rev 7

Dec 08, 2017

The Believers 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.   Rev 7:15

His Presence is the only place we are fully protected... So come before Him and worship.

My daughter recently made me aware of a new housing phenomenon – homes built in fallout shelters & missile silos.  Crazy as it sounds, there are many of these places being built out of old facilities, providing huge space at a low cost and very high level of safety.   I was quite skeptical until she showed me designs and pictures that are beautiful and intriguing.  (I’m not looking to move to one any time soon – but it did create a new perspective!)

While we may dismiss that idea now, there have been times in recent history that people would have jumped at the option.  Some seasons of life are flooded with dangerous and harsh circumstances, and a safe room or protected place to live would bring incredible relief.  There are times in history, and even times in our lifespan, where safe shelter is a top priority.  (Just ask someone who lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis in the 60s.)

The problem with physical shelter is that it never works forever.  No physical shelter has ever been enough to protect us from the advances in warfare or attack.  When the Great Wall of China was built, it was considered to be the safest protection ever created for a country … until men started learning how to fly over the wall in balloons and aircraft.  When countries started protecting themselves with anti-missile launchers, it worked for a little while, until terrorists started bombing countries from within.  Even people in ‘earthquake-proof’ buildings and ‘bomb-proof’ shelters have found themselves at great risk by an unexpected strike.  We will never be fully protected from the dangers of life.

But there is one place that is completely safe from all risk.  According to Revelation, it’s the shelter that comes from God’s Presence.  Even when our life is filled with high-risk challenges, the one place we can go and find restful shelter is under the canopy of God’s Love.  Worshipping God can remove the fears, calm the spirits, push back the risks, and create protection that nothing else in this life offers.

That’s why people who are going through severe trial always seem to find peace and encouragement when they gather in a body of believers to worship.  The best shelter for pain and heartache is in the Presence of God – because nothing in life can overpower Him.  Our best home is not built in silos & shelters, but under the umbrella of God’s love.
12/07/17 - Rev 6

Dec 7, 2017

The martyrs 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, were killed just as they had been.  Rev 6:11

Dying for Jesus is far better than living without him.

The greatest danger to our lives is not unsafe environments, but comfortable ones.

These days, it’s becoming more and more difficult to find people who want to serve on mission with Jesus.  Many love Jesus, and want to have Him in their lives, but still fear “being sent to Africa”, or facing persecution, or being rejected by friends & family for their faith.  And many who are interested in missions don’t want to leave behind their conveniences – like cell phones and internet and personal assets.  To be on mission is fine as long as it doesn’t require risk and doesn’t take us out of our air conditioning and hot water homes.

Let’s face it, we don’t like to think about being martyredfor our faith.  And just to be fair, who would?  People would rightly question your sanity if you WANTED to be martyred for your beliefs.  That’s not much of a testimony, and often doesn’t really produce much good.  What makes a martyr’s testimony powerful is their commitment to faith in Christ in SPITE of the threat, even maintaining their hope for God to rescue them or overcome through them.

But in the end, it is those who are martyred whom God respects the most.  They are protected in the central altar of heaven.  They are the first to be given white robes, symbolizing honor and holiness, while we wait for the final day of judgment.  These folks are the ones God WANTS to see lead His Kingdom, even to the point of waiting on the full number of them to finish their work. 

That doesn’t mean you have to seek crucifixion or hanging to enjoy the respect of God.  He values the other ways people are martyred too.  He is honored by the spouse who remains faithful in an unequally yoked marriage.  He pays attention to the student who speaks for Jesus while friends and classmates ridicule them.  God is awakened by the sounds of persecution that happen all around us, when Christians are demeaned or attacked by the media, by government, by EVEN OTHER CHRISTIANS, just because they stayed faithful.  Martyrdom doesn’t always mean execution, but it always involves persecution – and while Satan sees it as the best tool to shut up the Christians, God sees it as the greatest testimony to eternal life.

Stop being afraid of the risks, and start living out your faith boldly!  That doesn’t mean we have to be rude or judgmental (God is in charge of judgment), it just means we need to live out loud, speak up when needed, and remain faithful to His Word.  Then, whatever happens, God will have your white robe ready for you.

And parents – let me speak some truth into our lives as well – sometimes WE are the biggest defeater of our kid’s faith when they feel the calling of God and we try to “keep them safe”.  Safety is NOT the greatest value in the Kingdom of God – faithfulness is!  So stop preventing their calling because of your fears, and start trusting in a God who is ALL POWERFUL over that risk.  Release your kids to God, because it is FAR Safer to have your kids in God’s hands than it is to keep them in yours!
12/06/17 - Rev 5

Dec 6, 2017 

Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, (worship the Lord)…  Rev 5:13

The question isn’t whether you will worship God … the question is when & how you will worship Him.

Working in a garage, I often hear mechanics remind people of the dangers of poor maintenance:  You can pay me now, or pay me later.  Their point was clear – saving a few bucks now by delaying oil changes, tuneups, and other maintenance activities only costs much more later.

That same principle applies for many things in life.  Things like equipment and home maintenance, relationship maintenance, career maintenance, and more --- all fall under the same truth.  Interestingly enough, our spiritual life works much the same way.  A delay in spiritual maintenance only costs us more later.

Revelations is a book that shows us the ‘pay me later’ of life.  John is privileged to see what that end costs us, and in Chapter 5 we see what worship looks like.  Notice in this verse how everyone is worshipping God … there’s no differentiation between believers and unbelievers, nations, different faiths, or anything else.   Everyone will worship – period!

But it’s the cost that is noticeable.  Some will worship God in heaven, some will be on earth, or even under the earth and in the sea (dead and unaccepted in heaven).  Everyone will worship God with all they have, but those in heaven will benefit from the worship, and those outside of heaven will only grieve that they didn’t worship God beforehand.  It will be those in heaven who worship God in freedom and joy.  It will be those everywhere else who worship Him in regret and pain.

Yet even knowing that, many people treat worshipping God like they do maintaining their cars & homes & relationships.  If worship is inconvenient, or costs something, or doesn’t fit the schedule, it is delayed and put off until another time.  Eventually, the engine of our spiritual life breaks down, and we find ourselves weak and defeated, complaining to God (and everyone else) that this religion thing doesn’t work.  The problem isn’t God, nor religion.  The problem is we stopped worshipping. 

Maybe during the Christmas season, it’s time to re-evaluate our worship a little.  Is our worship of God truly bringing Him praise and glory?  Are we really investing and engaging in worship when we sing, or study, or serve?  Is worship at the top of our priority list, or is it pushed down by other more pressing substitutes.

Don’t ruin your spiritual engine.  Invest in some regular maintenance.  Make time to regularly worship God, and grow your spirit.  Otherwise ---- you be left to pay God later.
12/05/17 - Rev 4

Dec 5, 2017

“You are worthy, our Lord & God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”   Rev 4:11 

We may have many things that are valuable, but few are truly worthy.

What is the most valuable thing you have?

A survey of the most expensive works of art in the world lists the famous Mona Lisa by Rembrant to be the highest valued painting.  Insured for over $110 million in 1962, it is now estimated to be worth over $780 million!  While it is difficult to be quantified into a price, many believe it is worth more than the entire economies of many countries.  Yet as expensive as it is, the Mona Lisa is not worth much to a person who doesn’t value art.

If you looked at the most valuable assets in your life, you would likely realize that while they may be worth something to you, they are likely not worth much to other people.   Your car may be a valuable tool in your life, but considered junk by others.  Clothing we wear may seem important to us, but be second-hand merchandise to others.  And visa versa – what seems old and unwanted to us may be the greatest asset for others.

The point:  Worth is not directly connected to value.  Your job pays you a salary based on the value you provide the business (or what they can afford for that function), but your work may be of extreme worth.  Others get paid millions for their work (like pro athletes), but their true worth is not that valuable.

John sees heavenly worship, and realizes how worthy God is.  In fact, the scene of heaven shows that God is the ONLY thing worthy of our worship & praise.  Our deeds are unworthy, our assets are not worthy of worship.  Nothing we think valuable in this life is worthy of worship in the next.  Nothing except God!

But there IS something in this life that is WORTH more than any painting or asset or investment.  God says every person is worth far more than possessions.  The Bible says your faith is also worth more than money.  That’s because your faith and family were worth Jesus coming to earth and dieing for.  He loved us enough to give his life for you.  That’s one of a million reasons why He is the only thing Worthy of our our worship! 

Take time today to express to God how worthy He is … and show it by making worship a commitment.  Start practicing on earth what we will be doing for eternity in heaven.  He is truly worthy!