The Highway to Zion

How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts! My souls longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God. Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise! Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion. As they go through the Valley of Baca they make it a place of streams; the early rain also covers it with pools. They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion.” Psalm 84:1-2,4-6

If a highway is a route between two places, the Psalmist says I am blessed if I progress from the present to the place where I will behold my Savior face to face and be like Him, if my heart’s destination is the dwelling place of God. My heart’s affection, my soul’s yearning, my flesh’s song, is to be there. The highway must be traveled; there is no shortcut. Life’s journey, with all its lessons, challenges, setbacks, discoveries, even painful potholes and unexpected detours, is one mapped out by my gracious God, my constant companion. He has ordained my work, He sets my tempo, He enables me to make springs in the valleys, He metes out strength for each moment and day. He is teaching me here on earth the manners of heaven. (1 John 3:2; Ephesians 2:10)

C07FA4F8-7F18-445B-B7D1-677BF4829128

Lord, You know the way I take, and the highway set before me. Carve Zion in my heart as my chief delight and highest joy. Keep me fixed on her beauties and steadfast on her pathways as You prepare me for glory. Teach me all You intend as I travel this life. (Psalm 139:3)

You are the One that we praise,                                                                                            You are the One we adore,                                                                                                       You give the healing and grace                                                                                                 Our hearts always hunger for.”   ~Selah

 

From Everlasting to Everlasting

Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” Psalm 90:2

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” Genesis 1:1; John 1:1-2

Being around mountains, beholding their splendor from the flats, climbing them on curvy cut-back roads, and hiking their slopes along winding, ascending paths all give sense of their greatness and just how long they must have been in place. There is something about their stately grandeur, their majesty in solid form with craggy peaks dusted with powdered sugar snow, that seems eternal, immovable, yet, they were made by the preexistent God! Eternal, from everlasting to everlasting, immeasurable God is He! 

New Zealand, South Island

What difference does it make in my daily life that God is from eternity past to unending future? It means He knows all, and has been at work accomplishing all His good purposes from the beginning of time, way before He created me. It means He Whose Providence is perfect is not surprised by anything that befalls me, and He orders all things to their good end. It means that He is steadfast and His attributes are infinite. He does not change, and never fails. Because He so reigns, I live in glad freedom and security in the present, and with unshakeable hope for the future, which He has promised and holds in His mighty hands. (Psalm 139:16; Romans 8:28; Joshua 1:5; John 3:16)

God unchanging and everlasting, stay my eyes on the hills, on the heights that remind me You are sovereign, almighty, my foundation, help, and strength. Keep my going out and my coming in forever, that through endless days I may exalt Your name. (Psalm 121:1-2,8)

One Body, One Spirit

“I urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” Ephesians 4:1-7,11-13,15-16

I recently heard a godly minister describe benefits to participation in the Body of a Christ in a church, including learning to get along with people you would not choose. In any fellowship, any small group, any congregation, God has placed many and varied people under His one Spirit, one hope, one faith, and He gives ample opportunity for us to learn how to walk worthy of our calling, in unity, with them. How eagerly, how well, am I walking? How am I contributing to the fitness of the Body?

Christchurch NZ Botanical Gardens elm

God’s purposes within this Body are several, as mentioned in this passage. We build muscle in Christ-like attitudes and characteristics through unselfish service and bearing with others. We strengthen the Body and ‘joint’ health when we exercise our specific gifts and encourage and appreciate those of others. We gain courage and kindness through speaking truth in love, and humility receiving that from others. Our capacity to love, especially the unlovable, increases as we love in Christ’s power. As we all grow in maturity, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, to His glory, He is recognized by and made attractive to the watching world.

Lord, You have extended a lofty calling, and I desire to walk worthy of it. Work in and through me to develop and exhibit Your qualities, Your measure of grace and gifts, Your maturing in discernment and self-control. May the Body be so strong and well-functioning that the needy world takes notice, quickens in Spirit, and gets in step.

Bring the Spring!

“Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?” Psalm 85:6

It is early spring in the Southern Hemisphere, where I am. Rows of fresh green trees stand like sprigs of fresh rosemary bordering fields punctuated by blossoming fruit trees and dozens of lambs and calves. New life! In this land where the mornings are still frosty, the whipping air is chill, and river beds are dry, I imagine revival, wide spaces teeming with baby believers, nestled together, discovering the edges of new life, nursing on and nourished by delicious truth, growing as they graze in God’s wide pastures. I imagine buds of faith taking in the warmth of God’s light and opening to bloom beautiful and fragrant. What a hopeful picture God the Creator gives!

What does it take to awaken the spring? The proclamation of truth and planted seeds, feeding and caring for one baby at a time, prayer, and the movement of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 10:14; Ezekiel 36:26)

Oh Lord, bring the spring! Bring revival!! Begin in me, and use me to bring it through me, for Your sake and glory.

Beauty in the Inner Sanctuary

“The inner sanctuary he prepared in the innermost part of the house, to set there the ark of the covenant of the LORD. He overlaid it with pure gold. And the whole altar that belonged to the inner sanctuary he overlaid with gold.” 1 Kings 6:19-20,22-23,27-28

There is something about the design and construction of God’s temple that fascinates and lifts my heart. Through the ages, churches and cathedrals have been constructed to lift the eyes upward, to make the soul soar in worship as the buttresses and altar rise heavenward. The intricate beauty in design and execution, the details that showed exquisite care, the fine elements used to build, all reflected God’s magnificence. Solomon’s attention given to the inner sanctuary particularly hushes me, as I see in its perfect shape and resplendence a reminder of the attention I must give to my inner sanctuary, my heart where my LORD dwells.

Oh God, You are worthy of lofty thought and exaltation! You are the One Who sanctifies me and is the sanctuary in my midst forever. Make me attentive to all the clutter I allow in my inner sanctuary, to the low living, crude expenditures of time, meaningless distractions I allow in personal worship, and purify me through and through. Help me tend to my time and place with You and give it my very best, in honor of You and for Your glory. (Ezekiel 37:38)

What Fire Cannot Consume

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” “Forever, O Lord, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens.” Matthew 24:35; Isaiah 40:8; Psalm 119:89

In the fourth year of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, this word came to Jeremiah from the Lord: ‘Take a scroll and write on it all the words that I have spoken to you against Israel and Judah and all the nations. It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the disaster that I intend to do to them, so that every one may turn from his evil way, and that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin.’ Then, in the hearing of all the people, Baruch read the words of Jeremiah from the scroll, in the house of the Lord.” Jeremiah 36:1-3,10,

Wild fires devour hundreds of acres of trees, foliage, and communities, house fires destroy homes, but they cannot remove the love people within them have for one another, or the indomitable truth that life will go on. The scrolls Jeremiah dictated to Baruch were burned in King Jehoiakim’s fire pot, but the fire could not destroy the truth of God’s word they contained. After the people had heard Jeremiah’s message, the officials listened to them, and feared, and told the king. But when the scrolls were read to the king, every few columns, not liking their message, he cut a piece of the scroll and threw into his fire, unrepentant and not afraid. He wanted to seize the prophet and his scribe, to squelch and ignore the Lord’s pronouncement of judgment, but the truth of the proclamation remained. He would be held accountable.

God of Truth, as the wildfires of wantonness and rebellion rage against Your truth, make me bold to live and proclaim it. When many messages are broadcast, opinions are repeated and information flows incessantly, keep me stayed on Your word. Thank You that no matter the inclination to destroy or distort, Your word stands forever.

One Body

“For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility… that he might create in himself one new man in place of two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing hostility. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,…Christ himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God but the Spirit.” Ephesians 2:14-16,18-22

I’ve recently had the privilege of gathering with sisters and brothers in Christ from around the world. I am not sure there is anything that exemplifies the unity of the Body of Christ more than does a room full of hundreds of different nationalities, generations, colors, religious and cultural backgrounds, all singing robust, harmonious praises that have been sung by saints through the centuries to the Lord of Peace, the Cornerstone, the Head of the body. When I think of racial tensions and denominational squabbles, I want to cry, “bring them to the cross!” Language barriers, education levels, blue collar-white collar, formal and street-plain, all are melted by Spirit-filled smiles and affection, unified in Jesus Christ when on our knees we pray together. Hues of skin tone and spiritual maturity blend into an exquisite masterpiece crafted by God’s loving hands, run through by a ribbon of Christ’s blood.

The Cathedral Church of St. Philip, Birmingham, England

“Do not be surprised , brothers, that the world hates you. Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God. We love because he first loved us.” The church is dwindling in numbers in Europe and the U.K., yet has great power and influence because of the Spirit dwelling within. The world will know we are Christians by our love. The enemy would divide what only the church can present to the world as a picture of the reconciliation offered in our Savior. (1 John 3:13; 4:7,19; John 13:35)

“Beautiful Savior, Lord of the nations, Son of God and Son of man; Thee will I cherish, Thee will I honor, Thou my soul’s glory, joy, and crown.” ~German, 17th century

Thank you, Lord of all, that You put hostility to death by Jesus’s victory at Calvary. Thank You for the oneness Your children enjoy, spanning time, distance, differences. All the nations You have made shall one day come and worship before You. Fill us now to love because, and as, You love us. (Psalm 86:9)