Living in the Shadow of Mt Zion


The 12th chapter of Hebrews reminds me that the journey from Mt. Sinai to Mt. Zion is a course of sun drenched mountain tops, plenty, and the amazing bounty of God’s blessings. But it also winds down into valleys shrouded in darkness where there is little to remind one of his God.

Many of today’s most recognizable preachers would have us believe that if we are faith-filled people we should always live on the mountain top with all of its beauty and have money, the best clothes, nice cars and houses. After all if God loves you doesn’t he want you to prosper? Has he not promised it?

Today as I was meditating on God’s Word and thinking of a friend who is in a death match with cancer I was drawn to the wonderful book of Hebrews. It is true that we who are actively depending of Jesus Christ and the gospel promises about Him are living in Zion.

But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. (Hebrews 12:22-24)

Aren’t you thankful that we have experienced the grace of God in Christ and are living perhaps only a breath away from the heavenly Jerusalem? God has chosen to pitch his tent in us and to write his law on our hearts. What a blessed state!

The previous chapter, 11,  is the chapter of the faithful. Those Old Testament heroes of the faith are listed with some of their accomplishments that proved their faith in God. Then near the end of the chapter it sums up those faith walkers.

And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. (Hebrews 11:32-35)

These like Abel, Noah, Abraham and others saw the hand of God on their behalf in mighty ways. How good is our God! How faithful to his own! But…that is not the end of the chapter.

Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. (Hebrews 11:35b-38)

These too were God’s faithful people. Some stop the mouths of lions while others are food for lions, both while living by faith in God. For some reason (that is quite obvious) we don’t hear much about this latter group of God’s own. But, they were God’s faithful servants none the less.

You see, while we really do live in the shadow of Mt. Zion, some of us receive a good report after chemo and radiation and some don’t. It says nothing about our great faith or lack of faith. It says nothing about our daily living as Christians before God. Both those who experienced some of God’s best blessings, and those who were sawed in two, trusted a sovereign God who does all things well.

We must “faith it ’til we make it“. Living by faith is not vindicated by what we can see with our physical eyes. God’s promises are true without regard for our present circumstances. It is maybe impossible for me to comprehend how it can be best for some of my friends to battle cancer…and loose. We must not get caught in the trap of allowing present circumstances to dictate to us our standing with God or his approval.

Life is very, very brief. As fast as a child’s breath on a school bus window is gone, that quickly we will one day someday see things from a different perspective. God sees the parade of our lives from start to finish, all at the same time, and treats us in love every step. We must not become weary in doing good, in trusting the best we can, and believing God will not fail us in the end.

Sooner than we might think we will sit at his table, whole and holy, with all of the faithful where there is only wonderful family with our God and his people. Not even a hint of darkness, sadness, tears, disappointment, restless nights…none of this will not even be a distant memory.

All of God’s promises are good and true. He always loves us and cares for us. Hang on to what you know and don’t worry about what you don’t know, it’s a short ride…

Trusting…

Royce

 

What does love look like?


A couple of weeks ago Carol and I visited with the good folks at the Hemley Road Church of Christ. We are always so encouraged and built up in our faith to just be with them and observe 1st century Christianity up close. One of my experiences was on Thursday morning at the food give away.

I arrived at the Civic Center in Bayou La Batre to find the parking lot full of cars. I drove to the side of the building, found a place and entered through the service entrance. When I entered I saw a long line of people who were waiting to have their ID’s checked and then receive a large box of Hungry Man dinners. The Mobile County Bar Association was present offering pro bono legal work for the citizens. Medical personnel were there checking blood pressure, trying to get a snapshot of the health of those who wanted the service.

Each week a semi trailer of food is distributed. This week about 400 family units received about 1700 meals. They also received tooth brushes, tooth paste, and other essentials most of us take for granted. Perhaps 30 volunteers helped in the effort. The local jail’s trustees, dressed in their horizontal striped black and whites carried cases of food out for people, ladies at a long table checked the necessary paper work so food and other supplies would go to those who most need it.

I studied the faces of those people in line to get food. Most of them entered the line showing no emotion. Their faces were those hardened by days in the sun on shrimp boats, working in ship yards, and a history of fighting for survival in a place where drug abuse and alcoholism is as common as the sun. Their faces did not reflect hope, just a determination to survive. Most would force a faint smile as they said “Thank you” when they received their allotment of food.

A series of storms topped off by Katrina, the Gulf Oil Spill, and stupid government policy has forced this once thriving fishing community to its knees. Will they ever recover seems to be the question of most people I spoke to. It is difficult to be optimistic when you and most of your friends are unemployed and only a fraction are eligible for any benefits.

When the local network affiliates come from Mobile or Pensacola, or CNN, and PBR come calling to find how and why all this is going on in south Mobile County they find that the Hemley Rd Church of Christ is responsible. It is an amazing story of God’s faithfulness to a hand full of people who believe He can do anything.

Only 4 1/2 years ago they were less than a half-dozen common folks who together decided that they would make a difference in hurting people’s lives. They were distributing what ever they could find that the people needed. They started to repair storm damaged houses and people began to come and help. Soon, they decided they would worship together and they met at Hardees, the Odd Fellows Hall, on the beach, and finally in their own building. They have gone from nothing to being the leading church in the area, touching lives both for time and eternity.

Not only have they fed thousands, repaired almost 500 homes, given tons of bedding, furniture, and large appliances, they have also baptized people regularly who have decided to follow Jesus.  In God’s providence, funds, goods, and volunteers have come to help from all across the U.S. Not only church of Christ people but perhaps a dozen or more other groups continue to be staunch supporters both with funds and people on the ground.

Recently a church gave a 28 passenger people mover, another church purchased a 2010 van, and a local denominational church opened its heart and check book to help them help the community they serve well into the next year. The stories are too numerous for this format. Again and again, when the funds are almost completely gone and bills are due God supplies every need and more. I had not seen this kind of faith first hand in a long time. I’ve read about it, but when you see it up close and personal there is no denying that God is faithful to those who are depending only upon Him.

Carol and I spent a week working, worshiping, laughing, watching, and being amazed at these simple and unlikely hero’s of the faith as they feed the hungry, heal the broken-hearted, love the unlovable, and give out of their poverty in Jesus name.

Want to see some first century Christianity at work in 2010? Drive down to south Mobile County, Alabama and ask someone where the Christians are. They are easy to find.

Agape’

Royce

 

A few words from Jesus to you.


“You are down a little this morning. I don’t like it when you are unhappy, you don’t have to be, let me remind you of a few things.

I love you and have since before the world was. I know you, your best and your worst, and I still love you intensely. You have never disappointed me because I have never been surprised by those times when you have done stupid things, destructive things, unloving things, even things that make me look bad. My love for you never wavers, it is always sure, steadfast, and certain. You can count on my love.

You are weak but I am strong and if you will, you can live today and every day in my strength. Remember, I created you and the world you live in and I still am in complete control. I know, from your vantage point it seems things are spinning out of control sometimes but never doubt me on this, I’ve got it covered. Just trust me.

I have all authority in heaven and on earth and I have overcome the world and all of its evil, even Satan is defeated, and I did it for you. I came to earth and lived a perfect life, and died as one who had broken every law, and I did it for you to give my Father glory. My Father has credited my perfect life to your account and all of your sins and short comings to my account. When I died, I died for you, in your place, so your sins are paid in full! Don’t fret, you are safe. You need not fear anything, even when its time for your physical body to die you will only enter into my life more fully.

There will never be one moment of any day when I am not with you and in you. I will never allow any circumstance that I don’t approve and I always and forever have your best interests in mind. It is not for you to understand, it is for you to rest in the knowledge that I am always for you. Take me at my word, I have overcome the world…for you.

It is my intention to provide for you everything you need to the tiniest detail. But I do want you to ask me for what you need and even for what you want. Understand that what you want is not always best for you so I’ll say no sometimes and other times I’ll be silent, but I’ll always do what is best for you and what gives glory to my Father.

You are safe. Your life is untouchable in my Father’s mighty hand. Your future is secure, your hope will soon be reality. You have the supernatural capacity to love like I love and to forgive like I forgive. So today, take a deep breath, drink deeply from the wells of joy my love and presence provide, and go love someone today. Remember as you go, you represent me so don’t depend on yourself, just completely depend on me, I’ve got everything covered.

Now, let’s have a great day together.”

Jesus

Will you walk with God?


Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
(Proverbs:3:5,6)

These two verses from Proverbs are some of the most widely known Proverbs and a favorite of many. Tonight during our “Peak of the Week” Wednesday night worship at White’s Ferry Road Church, our preacher Mike Kellott quoted this passage and made some comments. Immediately when I saw these verses on the screen many thoughts blazed through my mind, I knew I would write a post on those verses.

These two simple verses sum up what it means to walk with God. No seminary degree is required, you don’t need commentary, you only need to carefully read it and allow the Holy Spirit to pour into your heart and mind God’s way for those who would walk with God. Consider these truths.

Walking with God does not depend on human effort.

Right away the message is clearly stated, “Stop trying and start trusting”. When you and I live our lives before God in the energy of our human flesh alone we can only expect what human flesh can achieve. “Trust in the Lord”, do not trust yourself. If you do, you become god taking the place that only Jesus Christ should occupy, Lord of your life. You can expect God sized results when you “Trust in the Lord”!

Walking with God does not depend on what you know.

If you want to get into trouble quickly and stay there just rely upon your own resources. There are those who lean heavily upon their education. They foolishly believe that they have learned enough so that they can chart a course for life and just follow that well planned journey and things will be great. The text screams “NO”, “Don’t depend on what you know!”, “Depend on WHO you know”.

Walking with God requires a surrendered heart.

If you would walk with God the starting point is to raise the white flag of surrender. That’s right, give up. Admit you can’t do it. You have no power concerning what tomorrow may bring, you are helpless, so the sooner you admit it the better off you will be. In Romans 12 Paul paints the picture of a person laying himself on an altar as a sacrifice to the Lord so that God’s will may fully be known and experienced. “Present you body a living sacrifice..”, there is no other way.

Consider these things as you begin your journey of faith today.

Appropriate and appreciate God’s promises!

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart!” That leaves no room to trust yourself. You have been promised “I am with you” and “I will never leave you” and God has said to you “Trust me alone and I’ll take care of the journey ahead”.

Acknowledge and anticipate God’s power!

“He will make straight your paths!” Relax, you don’t have to try to make anything happen. If you will trust Him,  and acknowledge Him, He will make it happen for you. The decisions will be made before you need the answer. He can “make” a way for you, in fact He can make “the way” for you.

Accept and applaud God’s provision!

Let’s review. What has God asked of you? Stop trying, start trusting. Don’t depend of your resources, depend on His. Recognize His presence and power and expect His provision. It takes the “I” and “me” out of the equation doesn’t it? God wants each of us to trust Him alone, do not trust human flesh, acknowledge Him in “everything”, and He will “make” it all work out.

How can we remain silent about our great God when we know his promises, His presence, His power, and His mighty provision for us?

The God who “so loved the world that He gave His only Son” for you, is for you and not against you. All He asks in return is rely on Him and not yourself, recognize He is with you all the time and in everything, and trust the future and the results to Him.

Romans 8:26-39

Agape’

Royce