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…




Chosen to Suffer?

Yes! It seems clear that Jesus commissioned Saul of Tarsus (Paul) to make Him known and to suffer. This two-fold ministry is outlined in Acts 9. God speaks to Ananias saying:

15But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name. (Acts 9:15,16)

God’s plan for Paul from the beginning was that he should carry his name and suffer greatly along the way. And, Paul completely understood this calling.

In his second letter to the Corinthians Paul gives this snapshot of his life.

far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. 24Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. (2 Corinthians 11:23-27)

This is hardly a description of the life of a minister of the gospel of Christ according to popular teaching today. The common teaching is “God wants you to be happy”, “Your best days are ahead”, and even that you should expect perfect health and have financial success. What hogwash!

For a Christian, suffering is not a bad thing, it is a good thing, provided you are suffering for the cause of Christ. Paul referred to his manifold troubles as “light and momentary” and meaningless compared to the glory that awaits at Christ’s coming.

Peter advised this response to troubles for the cause of Christ.

12Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. ( 1 Peter 12,13)

What about suffering that is not for the cause of Christ? I think we should have the same attitude knowing full well that our God who loves us is for us and in His infinite plan is working everything together for our ultimate good. (Romans 8:28)

In both suffering for Christ and all other suffering we are to be people of faith. We are to unshakingly trust the promises of God while looking for our Saviour from heaven.

Yes, some are chosen to suffer for Christ and the gospel and others are to face other suffering with faith and rejoicing so that a watching world is pointed to Jesus by whose stripes they too can be healed.


Excuse me. Is this the line you get in to be sawed into?

A scan of the religious TV channels and the usual programing would lead you to believe that if you are a good Christians, giving those $1,000 checks of seed money, that life is smooth sailing. They promise everything from supernatural debt cancellation to a get out of jail free card.

Unfortunately, it is not only the gullible audiences of the “name it and claim it” preachers with bad hair who buy into the idea that faith in God is a ticket out of trouble. Does anyone read the Bible? Let’s see now…. Oh, remember Jesus? He was the best of guys and the most religious folks in town demanded that he be executed. So, a typical, spineless politician bowed to the pressure of the latest poll and he was crucified.

Sometime read the 11th chapter of Hebrews (that is in the Bible..) and learn about the people of faith down through history. They were commended as righteous because they took God at his word, like Abraham and Sarah. They stopped the mouths of lions and women had their dead raised back to life, and more….

But, there is more…

“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 11:35-38)

I have an idea! Why don’t I start a TV show promising these things for those who follow God in faith? How popular would that be? But, there is the inspired record. Following Jesus, living by faith, has absolutely no promise of good health, perfect kids, a steady job, or a lack of big time trouble.

The myth is only that, a myth. The evidence of faith in God is not the absence of trouble, but it is peace and joy in the midst of it. So, don’t beat yourself up when the doctor tells you it’s cancer, or you get that dreaded call in the night.. You likely haven’t done anything wrong, it’s just life, and life isn’t fair.

One of the best Christians who ever lived was the Apostle Paul. He was beat up, run out-of-town, ship wrecked, and on and on. He had plenty of troubles including spending years in prison. He saw the big picture! He called his troubles “Light and momentary”. How is that for a good attitude?

So my friend, when the rain doesn’t come and the crop dries up, when you lose your job and your house, and Mom might not make it ’til tomorrow night, keep believing in God. Keep walking by faith. There is something better coming.

We must be like Abraham who was looking for a place to live not made with human hands. This life is only a dress rehearsal, the eternal show starts some tomorrow. Keep you chin up and your trust in Jesus, the hard times don’t compare to the glory that awaits. I’ll promise you this, you might not be delivered out of all your troubles but, God will be in your trouble with you. When its your turn to be thrown into the furnace or the lions den, don’t worry, God will be right there with you in the middle of your worst difficulty. You just have to acknowledge his presence.