Gates Of Zion 

Psalms 87:2
“The Lord loves the gates of Zion, More than all the dwellings of Jacob.”

Jerusalem is without question a beautiful place. It sits atop mount Moriah and is surrounded by the mountains of Judah. Standing on the Temple Mount you can look out in every direction and see the beautiful hill country of Judea and imagine scenes straight out of the Biblical narrative. That being said, I think there may be another reason why God loves the gates of Zion. It may have a whole lot more to do with what He has and will accomplish there than with the terrain. The history of Jerusalem is the history of the grace of God.

It was a man from ancient Jerusalem who met Abraham after his battle with Chederloamar. This man, known as Melchizedek, is one of the great characters of Scripture and serves as a perfect type of Christ. He was both a priest of the Most High God and the king of Salem. It is from his ministry that we can understand the high priestly ministry of Christ, who sits at the right hand of God, and ever lives to intercede on our behalf.

It was Jerusalem where God instructed Abraham to take his only son and offer him as a sacrifice to God. It is in this scene that we have the most vivid illustration of God’s means of saving man. We see that no human sacrifice, no matter how great, can appease the wrath of God. It is only through substitution that we can be saved. In the narrative, God provides a ram and promises a lamb. Years later, John the Baptist explains that Christ is the lamb once promised by God, to take away the sins of the world.

It was in Jerusalem where Solomon built a permanent house for the Ark of God, and as a place for the people to gather in worship. His father, David, had purchased the hilltop from Ornan, the Jebusite, and stockpiled materials for his son to ultimately build the Temple. It was on this same location that Zerrubuabel would rebuild the Temple. Herod would spend countless funds to refurbish it, making it one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

It was in Jerusalem, at the temple where Jesus stunned the religious leaders with His wisdom and understanding of the Word of God. It was there where He turned the tables over and drove out the money changers. It was in this city of Jerusalem where he was condemned, beaten and carried off to be crucified. It was just beyond the gates of Zion, where the Son of God bore the weight of human sin, so we could be pardoned, forgiven and set free.

It was in Jerusalem where the apostle’s waited for the promises regarding the coming of the Holy Spirit. It was in an undisclosed upper room somewhere in the city, that they waited and prayed, until God opened the windows of heaven and poured His Spirit upon them. As a result, it was in the city of Jerusalem where the church began; the church that would spread the gospel around the world, and forever change human history.

It is in Jerusalem, where Jesus will one day return to set up his throne, and complete the Bible’s promises regarding the Kingdom of God. One day, all things will be made right and righteousness will cover the earth, as the waters covers the sea. Those who have trusted Christ will not only be saved from the wrath of God, but will have the pleasure of reigning and ruling alongside Him, as He establishes His Kingdom.

Certainly, “The Lord loves the gates of Zion, More than all the dwellings of Jacob.”

Pastor Jim

 

Dedication Day

Ezekiel 43:5
“The Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court; and behold, the glory of the Lord filled the temple.”

What a glorious sight this must have been, as Ezekiel watched the glory or radiance of God descend upon and fill the Temple. What had been a building made with men’s hands, now became the temple of the living God. The presence of the Lord within its walls transformed this building and set it apart from all others.

This is not the only time we read of the glory of God filling or transforming something. When Moses and his team first erected the Tabernacle, God’s glory rested upon it with such power that no one could even enter its gates (Exodus 40:34-35). Years later Solomon’s team completed the Temple and the glory of God once again rested upon it in a powerful and visible way (2 Chronicles 7:1-2). It is clear, when the glory of God fills a structure dedicated to God, it is visibly transformed.

The New Testament teaches us that God no longer dwells in temples made with men’s hand, but  those who have received Christ as Savior and Lord, actually become the dwelling place of God. When we receive Christ, the Spirit of God enters us, and like the Temple of old, we are visibly transformed, being filled with the Spirit of God. We are no longer just another building, we are now the dwelling place of the Living God. It is through this transformation that the world around us will begin to see the God of glory. Let’s seek to be people dedicated to revealing the glory of God, by dedicating ourselves completely to Him.

Pastor Jim

 

Ruins 

 

Ezekiel lived in Babylon as a prisoner of war. The nation of Judah had rebelled against Babylonian occupation and this rebellion cost them dearly. In 587 B.C. the city of Jerusalem and the Temple of God were burned to the ground. What had once been a glorious structure representing the majesty of God, was now nothing more than a pile of rubble.

One can only imagine the joy Ezekiel must have experienced when he was taken in a vision, back to the Promised Land. He watched as a new, even more glorious Temple was erected, to replace the one that had been leveled. This vision provided hope, against hope, of the future plans God had for His children.

After Ezekiel’s time had passed, a man named Zerubbabel would lead thousands of Jews back to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple. The basic structure they built would still be standing five hundred years later when Christ arrived. As amazing as this was, the promise Ezekiel received was of yet a future Temple, one that would be erected after Christ returns to set up His kingdom on earth.

What a blessing it is to know, no matter how dark things may appear, we can trust that the purposes of God will be completed.

Pastor Jim

 

Incoming Call 

Ezra 2:1
“Now these are the people of the province who came back from the captivity, of those who had been carried away, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away to Babylon, and who returned to Jerusalem and Judah, everyone to his own city.”

Ezra tells the story of the children of Israel returning to Jerusalem, at the end of seventy years of captivity in Babylon. We find that while hundreds of thousands were taken captive, less than fifty thousand returned. I am relatively certain that many should have returned that didn’t, but we are also given insight into the ones that were willing to leave all and take up the challenge of engaging in the work of God.

Ezra 1:5
“Then the heads of the fathers’ houses of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and the Levites, with all whose spirits God had moved, arose to go up and build the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem.”

Notice the phrase “all whose spirits God had moved.” There was a work of the Spirit of God upon the hearts of men and women, calling them into ministry. We often hear talk of the call of God, and we see it in action right here. The Spirit began to move and people were willing to leave their homes, friends, comforts, and land, to step out and be a part of the work of God in reaching the world. There are a few key truths regarding the call of God that are vividly illustrated in this passage.

First, we realize not everyone was called to the same task. This chapter refers to priests, Levites, gatekeepers, singers and the general public, all being called to the work of the Lord. Their varying gifts and callings would work together to accomplish the rebuilding of the temple. Sometimes we feel as though we are not called to ministry because we do not have a certain skill set or gifting. Not all ministry involves standing behind a pulpit or playing an instrument. Many have effectively served Christ without any of those gifts. One of my favorite missionaries was David Livingston who, although he shared Christ with many, also was somewhat of a trailblazer who, through his life, opened the door for many others to make their way to Africa with the Gospel.

Second, we find that while some were stirred to GO, others were called to stay behind and support those who were sent.

Ezra 1:6 “And all those who were around them encouraged them with articles of silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with precious things, besides all that was willingly offered.”

Even the king of Persia got involved and gave back all the articles that had been looted from the Temple when Babylon destroyed Jerusalem. In the God’s economy, those who support the work are equal participants with those who do the work. As a church, we have been blessed over the years to be able do ministry on six of the seven continents. We have had individuals, teams, and pastors travel to over 20 different countries, to be involved in spreading gospel and making disciples. While a lot of different people have been able to make these trips, many more have been involved by supporting the work. What kind of eternal investments have you been making?

Perhaps God is stirring your heart to get involved in ministry. Maybe you are sensing that it is time to make some greater eternal investments. The first step is to get involved in your local church. Contact them and ask how you can help. It may be that the Lord is calling you into a new season in life. I can attest to the fact that there is nothing better in life than serving Christ.
Pastor Jim

 

Memory Lane 

2 Samuel 15:14
“So David said to all his servants who were with him at Jerusalem, ‘Arise, and let us flee, or we shall not escape from Absalom. Make haste to depart, lest he overtake us suddenly and bring disaster upon us, and strike the city with the edge of the sword.’”

Perhaps you have heard someone speak of having their whole life pass before their eyes. In a moment’s time, while facing imminent danger, all they had done, whether good or bad, seems to flash into their mind. David is having a similar experience. His son Absalom has stolen the hearts of the people, mounted a large army to overthrow the king, and steal the kingdom. Instead of remaining in Jerusalem and turning the holy city into a battle ground, David chooses to flee to the wilderness and trust his life and future into the hands of God. As he departs, we are introduced to people from his past. It is like a journey through the memory of David, as he encounters those who stand with him or come against him. Let’s take a brief look at just a few of these encounters.

2 Samuel 15:18
“Then all his servants passed before him; and all the Cherethites, all the Pelethites, and all the Gittites, six hundred men who had followed him from Gath, passed before the king.”

David had spent many years as a fugitive fleeing from King Saul. During that time, he met a number of disgruntled men who were also living as fugitives. These men joined forces with David and over time became his “mighty men.” They were with him while he fled Saul in the wilderness, and remained faithful to him when the kingdom began to split. These were the men in whom David had invested his life, and they, in turn, were loyal to him to the end. We are exhorted to invest our lives in others, helping them to walk with, and grow in, Christ. Jesus called this disciple-making (Matthew 28:19). We should be able to look back on our lives and see that we have invested in the lives of others, helping them to grow in Christ.

2 Samuel 15:21
“But Ittai answered the king and said, ‘As the Lord lives, and as my lord the king lives, surely in whatever place my lord the king shall be, whether in death or life, even there also your servant will be.’”

Second, we come to Ittai the Gittite. We know very little of this man except he only recently joined ranks with David. He reminds us, making disciples was not just something of David’s past, but was part of his present as well. Some can look back and be reminded of great accomplishments for the Kingdom, but when we look at the present, we see very little we are doing for the Lord. It is sad and dangerous if our personal testimony is filled with only distant memories. We should be making current investments in the Kingdom of God.

2 Samuel 15:27
“The king also said to Zadok the priest, ‘Are you not a seer? Return to the city in peace, and your two sons with you, Ahimaaz your son, and Jonathan the son of Abiathar.’”

Finally, Zadok the prophet and priest passes before him. David encourages him to go back to Jerusalem because of his role as a “seer” or prophet. David surrounded himself with those who would speak the Word of God to him. We all have people that we allow to speak into our lives. They are the people we go to for advice, or we seek to model ourselves after. David reminds us to be sure we have those who will speak the Word of God into our lives. How important it is to allow God’s Word to direct us, and to surround ourselves with people who will speak His truth to us.
Look at your life. Are you currently involved in serving the Lord by investing in the lives of others? Are you surrounding yourself with people who will use the counsel of God to direct your life? If not, make the necessary changes today.

Pastor Jim