The gates of heaven open.
A host of tiny faces, shining like sun-gilded petals, gather in the clouds.
These are the babes who perished, torn apart in the womb or singed with liquid fire that ended their brief existence.
These were future doctors, lawyers, laborers, homemakers, teachers, and bearers of more little souls who were meant to come but never shall be.
They hover with open arms to greet the repentant ones who ended their lives.
They smile. Their eyes glow with a message of love and forgiveness.
They long to embrace the very ones who resisted them, to let them know all is well in the presence of a great and merciful God.
Consider this. Does one of these little ones belong to you? Did you make the crucial decision that changed their lives and yours?
There is hope. Turn from the pain of regret and grasp the tiny hand that can lead you to the throne of God where new life and restoration await.
Travel back to the Great Depression and World War II and find out why so many of our parents and grandparents saved everything, even items we throw away without thinking about it twice. From those days of trying to survive the most devastating time in American history, our ancestors came into the 20th and 21st centuries fearing tomorrow.
Their mantras were similar: “We might need this someday.” “I don’t trust banks anymore.” “This still has usefulness.” “I can turn this chicken into four dinners.” “Don’t throw that out. Just cut away the green part.” And so on.
Angela Busconi tells her story as she’s about to lose everything. But the truth is, like Angela, we sometimes find out what our real treasures are in the most unexpected ways.
Many Christians are offended when someone sends a card with an abbreviation for Merry Christmas. The term Xmas has been used more often these days. I have issues with it as well. By removing Christ’s name and inserting an X, it’s like eliminating the true meaning behind the celebration.
Christmas is about the birth of Christ. That’s how the observance got started. It may not be the actual date of Jesus’ birth, but it certainly reflects on the fact that a Savior came to earth, took the form of a human being, was born as a baby, lay in a manger, and received a variety of visitors, including shepherds and, later, wise men.
By writing Xmas, it seems those details are eliminated in favor of the secular view of the holiday, which includes gift-giving, feasts, family gatherings, decorations, pine trees, wreaths, colored lights, etc., all of them fun activities, but they leave no room for remembering a babe in a manger. It seems Jesus is forgotten in the midst of all the busyness.
Perhaps, in order to reflect on the true theme of Christmas, we should change Merry Xmas to read Merry Tmas. Notice the T looks more like a cross, which points to the reason Christ came to earth in the first place. He didn’t come here to be born. He came here to die. He sacrificed His life so we might live eternally.
And so I say, Merry Tmas to all my friends. May this symbol be a reminder of the true reason behind the Christmas holiday.
Beloved apostle receives message
PATMOS — While laboring in the rock quarries on the isle of Patmos, John the apostle was given a new assignment through an intermediary sent by the Lord Jesus Christ.
According to the apostle, He also received a visit from Jesus Himself, in the midst of seven lamp stands and clothed in a long robe with a golden girdle around his breast. At the sight of Him, John fell to the ground in awe.
John gave a full description of his visitor. His hair was white like wool, his eyes were aflame, and he wore shoes of bronze on his feet. He carried seven stars in his right hand, His face was as bright as the sun, and he spoke with a sharp two-edged sword. His voice was like the sound of a waterfall. When he declared himself to be the first and the last, the alpha and omega, John had no doubt that it was his Lord Jesus Christ.
Though John had already written a legacy of manuscripts, including a gospel and three letters, he was instructed to write still another document. It was to be addressed to seven churches but it would ultimately go to the Lord’s bondservants throughout the earth. In this prophetic work, John was to relate the things that he had already seen, the things that were taking place at that time, and the things that were going to take place in the future.
The prophecy came with the assurance of Christ’s return in glory one day and a promise of blessing on anyone who read the message and heeded it.
Four churches the first to receive Christ’s messages
ASIA MINOR — Four churches receive letters with unique messages.
The people of Ephesus received a letter praising them for their perseverance and hard work in removing evil men and supporting those who continue to endure. The faithful were encouraged not to grow weary and were commended for hating the deeds of the Nicolaitans.
On the negative side, the Ephesians were warned to return to their first love. Their letter came with instructions to remember, repent and do the deeds they did at first. The letter concluded with a promise that those who overcome will eat from the tree of life in the Paradise of God.
In Smyrna, yesterday, people who’d been commercially rich were reminded of their spiritual poverty. The letter they received exposed a few who claimed to be Jews but were, in truth, members of the synagogue of Satan.
The people of Smyrna received no words of condemnation and were encouraged to remain faithful to the death. Though they could expect to endure suffering, the devil’s prison, testing and great tribulation, in return for their perseverance, they were promised a crown of life and freedom from the second death.
The residents of Pergamum were praised for holding fast to Jesus’ name and for not denying their faith while under the threat of persecution. Their letter exposed several flaws, such as their adherence to the teachings of Balaam, eating things sacrificed to idols, and acts of immorality. Unlike the Ephesians, some of the people in Pergamum also followed the teachings of the Nicolaitans. They were warned to repent or face a war with the Savior who could destroy them with the sword of His mouth. The faithful will receive some of the hidden manna, a white stone, and a new name written on the stone.
In the meantime, the people of Thyatira were commended for their deeds, love, faith, service, and perseverance. However, their letter condemned their tolerance of Jezebel, a false prophetess who promotes acts of immorality and eating things sacrificed to idols. Without repentance, she and her followers will face disease, great tribulation and pestilence. Those who reject Jezebel’s teachings were encouraged to hold fast and were promised authority over the nations, a rod of iron, and the receipt of the morning star.
Three additional churches receive letters
ASIA MINOR — The residents of Sardis became troubled, yesterday, after facing charges that they claim to be alive but are actually dead. The letter they received warned them to wake up and strengthen the things that remain, before it’s too late. They were cautioned to remember what they had received and heard, and to repent and be alert, or the master of the house could return when they are not prepared.
Meanwhile, a few individuals in Sardis have proven themselves faithful and can expect to one day walk beside Jesus dressed in white. The names of the faithful will not be erased from the book of life, and Jesus will confess their names before His Father and His angels.
Not far away in Philadelphia, the residents celebrated multiple commendations with no reproofs mentioned in their letter. Their list of good deeds included faithfulness in keeping God’s word and not denying the Lord’s name.
It was noted that those members of the synagogue of Satan would soon be dealt with, however, the faithful will avoid the hour of testing that will come upon the whole world. The Philadelphians were encouraged to hold fast to the truth. In turn, they will be awarded a royal crown and a place as pillars in the temple of God. They also can expect to receive the name of God, the name of the holy city, and Jesus’ new name.
While the people of Philadelphia were celebrating, the residents of Laodicea fell into discouragement when they learned they had been judged as neither cold nor hot, but are lukewarm and distasteful to the Lord.
Their letter disputed their claim to be rich, and stated that they are, in fact, wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked. They were instructed to buy gold refined by fire, white garments, and eye salve, which are spiritual metaphors that speak of a relationship with Jesus Christ.
The Laodiceans can expect more discipline, which should lead them to repentance. If they open the door of their hearts to the knocking of Christ, He promised to come in and dine with them, and to allow them to sit down with him on His throne.
The seven letters were distributed to the individual churches, but were actually meant to be shared with Christ’s followers throughout the world.
Celebration draws crowd of worshipers
HEAVEN — A huge celebration took place, yesterday, when four living creatures, resembling a lion, a calf, the face of a man, and a flying eagle, gathered around the throne of their Host. The gala included a display of pyrotechnics with an emerald rainbow, streaks of lightning and bursts of thunder. Seven glowing lamps of fire intensified the passion of the atmosphere.
Meanwhile, 24 elders, wearing white robes, cast gold crowns to the floor and joined in the worship. The entire event was witnessed by John the apostle, who had been summoned to the occasion by a voice from heaven. He flew in the spirit to the location and entered to the blast of a trumpet.
Visibly shaken, John described a throne, and One sitting on it, clothed in gems such as jasper and sardius, and before the throne, “something like a sea of glass, like crystal,” he said. At more than 90 years of age, John added that it was a sight that would stay with him for the rest of his life.
Unrest in Heaven
HEAVEN — A frenzy broke out in heaven, yesterday, over a sealed book that no one was able to open. A strong angel sought far-and-wide, but could not find anyone worthy to break the book’s seven seals.
John the apostle wept openly and was about to give up, when one of the elders stepped forward and named the only One who was worthy to open the book and its seven seals. He described the hero as “the Lion from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, a Lamb that had been slain.”
John and the rest of the worshipers breathed a sigh of relief as the Lamb, having seven horns and seven eyes, received the book and prepared to open it. In response, the four living creatures and the 24 elders threw a big party. Many angels and thousands of guests showed up to sing praises and to worship the Lamb.
PROGRESSION OF WORSHIP IN REVELATION
Notice how the following, from 1:17 to 7:10, begins with only one worshiper and progressively grows and finally involves a great multitude no one could count:
1:17 One person (John), “I fell at His feet as a dead man.”
4:8 Four living creatures.
4:11 Twenty-four elders.
5:9-10 Four living creatures and 24 elders.
5:12 Many angels, living creatures, and elders.
5:13 Every created thing in heaven and earth.
7:9-10 A great multitude no one could count.
Notice how the heavenly worship begins with the angels and progresses to include faithful humans and finally, once again, with a great multitude:
7:11-12 All the angels.
11:15 Loud voices in heaven.
11:16-18 Twenty-four elders.
12:10-12 A loud voice in heaven.
14:7 An angel.
15:2-4 The victorious.
16:5-7 Angel of the waters and the altar.
19:1-3 A great multitude in heaven.
19:4 Twenty-four elders and four living creatures.
19-5 A voice from the throne.
19:6-7 A great multitude.
The point: worship begins with only one. Will you be that one? Will you encourage others to join you in worship? Are you looking forward to the day when your voice will merge with the multitude?
TIME FOR SURGERY
By Marian Rizzo
No manuscript should brave the scrutiny of an editor until the writer has first scheduled it for surgery. And the writer must perform the operation.
Having spent more than twenty-five years in the newspaper and magazine industries, I look back on thousands of stories that endured a slash-and-repair on my personal computer before I submitted them to an editor who then hacked it up even more.
Now, as a budding novelist, I find myself in a similar position. My home office has turned into an operating room. Wearing an imaginary surgical mask and non-existent latex gloves, I approach my patient. I’m not wielding a scalpel or a forceps. I’m using only a keyboard and a critical eye. My “baby” is about to have an operation.
Look at it this way—the same procedures we follow for our physical well-being should also apply to making our manuscripts healthier. To think the first draft turned out perfect is ludicrous. Once we’ve exercised our right brain creativity we need to turn the project over to our left brain. First we wrote from our emotions, now we’ll get serious.
But, before we start cutting, we need to go through several stages of preparation. We need to check with other authorities. Read books on the subject. Attend conferences. Join a critique group. And interact with other writers.
This stage is called Pre-op.
Pre-op can take the longest of all the stages, mainly because multiple specialists are involved. What you learn determines what type of surgery is needed. Does it require a local or general anesthetic? If you choose local, your creative side will be awake during the entire procedure. If general, you’ll put that part to sleep until stage two, Prepping.
For a surgeon, Prepping involves an interaction between the surgeon and the patient. The doctor may call in another specialist. For the writer, it means calling upon the greatest writer of all time. God himself. After all, he did a great job with the Bible, didn’t he? Like the patient, who can’t eat or drink after midnight. The writer may find fasting helpful. It not only clears the senses, it separates us from influences of the world and gets us ready to perform the operation.
For this operation, the moment the scalpel makes its first incision, something magical happens. Contrary to the writer’s expectations, no blood flows from the wound. The second cut is easier. So is the third, and so on. In the end, the manuscript has gone through a tremendous transformation, but there are no wounds, no scars, no loss of limb.
In the post-op period, the patient receives nourishment in small doses, and sometimes is left at bed rest. Give it time to recuperate from all the cutting. Even the surgeon must take a break. A day at the beach. A family gathering. A weekend cruise.
Then comes visitor’s day, time to share the patient with friends, family members, critique group buddies, even your Aunt Edna. Take their comments and criticisms seriously. Then, swallow your anxiety and take your manuscript back into surgery, where you can implement the proper changes.
From there, your manuscript may possibly move into rehab. In the physical world, rehabilitation means visits to therapists, trainers, gyms, and/or support groups. In the writing world, it means you might want to hire a professional editor to fine-tooth your manuscript. Injuries that seemed impossibly broken get fixed. Wounds heal. Scars disappear. The patient gets involved in activities again and is ready to face the world.
Which leads to complete healing. Just like a patient who sheds the crutches, the bandages, and the pills, the repaired manuscript finally can stand on its own two feet. Now it’s ready for an agent or a publisher. Or both. But don’t put away your scalpel yet. Chances are those professionals will require more surgery before you’re finished. Face it like you did the first time, with confidence that another operation can only make it better.
And so, we leave our parent side in the waiting room, and we proceed through the restrictive double doors into the area where all the nips and tucks will take place.
If anything, improvements came from following the rules Has the writer used too many passive verbs? Do descriptions involve adjectives and adverbs, rather than powerful nouns and verbs? While I’m writing this, I’m learning too. I need to remind myself to pay attention to the rules.