Where is Zion?

rebecca5

There are 24 places in the world named Zion and 55 places in the world named Mount Zion. I have noticed a few of the road signs for these towns as I travel. One is located in Indiana. This Mount Zion is only about an hour away from the campus where FUEL Youth Camp is held each summer. But the Zion or Mount Zion that we want to focus our attention on is the Biblical Zion.

The word Zion appears 168 times throughout the scriptures.  The first reference to Zion is when David and his men marched to Jerusalem and captured the Jebusite fortress of Zion-which is the City of David. (2 Samuel 5:7) Later Zion was called the holy mountain. “I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.” (Psalm 2:6) In Isaiah 33:20 it states, “Look on Zion, the city of our festivals; your eyes will see Jerusalem.”

Zion is also used to refer to the Millennial Jerusalem in Israel where Jesus Christ will reign over the entire world. An amazing description is presented in Isaiah 2. It states, “In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” What an amazing time of righteousness, justice (Isa. 33:5) and peace that will be! Jesus, the precious cornerstone will rule from Zion (Isaiah 28:16). Imagine the joy that people will experience as they come to Zion. Isaiah chapter 35 describes it this way, “the redeemed will walk there, and those the Lord has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.” We are shown a glimpse of this beautiful scene to encourage us to “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come…He will come to save you. (v.4) What an amazing experience it will be to see the Lord Jesus Christ return, to enter Zion and experience every part of the Kingdom!

If you want to discover more about Zion, take a moment to read the 10 verses of Isaiah 35 and Isaiah chapter 63.

-Rebecca Dauksas

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Return to Me and I Will Return to You

 

Zechariah 1-6

zechariah 1

Sunday, April 23

 

Zechariah 1-6 is comprised of a series of 9 visions which can be difficult to understand, but if you read them from start to finish you begin to understand the big picture message.

 

The book starts us off with post exiled Israelites who are called to return to God and rebuild the temple!

 

Side note: I found it especially cool that these first 6 chapters, which are mostly about rebuilding the temple begin by encouraging the people to first rebuild their relationship with God. Zechariah 1:3  Therefore tell the people: This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Return to me,’ declares the Lord Almighty, ‘and I will return to you,’ says the Lord Almighty. Think about that in your life…Where’s your relationship with God? Do you have one? Do you need to return to Him?

 

Dream 1: This dream talks about four horsemen on patrol for God. They report that the land is at peace. God is upset the land is at peace because his people were hurt and he wants justice.

Application: God can’t stand when evil people are at rest while those he loves are being persecuted.

 

Dream 2: This dream displays 4 horns that crushed the Israelites. Then it switches to 4 horns that will crush those who crushed the Jews.

Application: God provides due justice to those who do evil against his people! If you chose to follow Jesus, God will provide you a haven in the Kingdom.

 

Dream 3: This dream depicts a man measuring  Jerusalem to make sure it will hold all the people. God promises to be Jerusalem’s walls. He promises to protect them against attack.  

Application: We are called to build the Kingdom by believing in Jesus Christ and sharing that good news with others! Are you afraid to share your faith? Your belief in Jesus? Isaiah 41:10 says, “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Don’t let your fear get in the way of living a devoted life for God.

 

Dream 4: Joshua the high priest (a major leader) is standing before God with dirty clothes. God replaces his clothes with new CLEAN ones.

Application: We have salvation through Christ!  Our sins can be made new through belief in him! 1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

 

Dream 5:  A lamp with 7 flames is fed oil by a spigot attached to two olive trees. One olive tree is Zerubbabel the current king of Jerusalem and the other is Joshua the high priest. These two leaders will unite to rebuild the temple and all of Jerusalem. God makes a special note that Zerubbabel will use his spirit to rebuild the temple.

Application: God sends people to help us do what seems like impossible feats, he also sends his Spirit, the power of God. This allows us to accomplish his will in ways we wouldn’t otherwise think possible. The Spirit allows us to rely on God versus our own strength.  

Dream 6: This dream has a flying scroll that is going throughout a newly rebuilt Jerusalem cleansing it of the liars and thieves. The scroll is purifying Jerusalem of those not obeying the covenant.

Application: God will purify those within the church that are not truly devoted to God and living according to his way. How you live today affects how you live later…the Kingdom of God.

 

Dream 7: A women in a basket, representing all wickedness, is being flown back to Babylon where it first came from. God does a final purification.

Application: God will do a final purification of wickedness in our lives and the church. One day we will all stand before the Lord

 

Dream 8: Four horsemen go out to survey the land. They find it is at peace. God’s Spirit is at rest knowing the temple will be rebuilt, the enemies are punished and Jerusalem is purified and ready for the temple.

Application: One day God will welcome us into his kingdom. We have to choose now to live that way! 🙂

 

Dream 9: God anoints Joshua with a crown as if for a king. He promises that one day a King-Priest will rise up and rule Jerusalem.

Application: This king-Priest is Jesus who lived, died and rose again. Jesus brings us salvation, hope, faith, peace and a place in God’s Kingdom!  

 

All of the above dreams are providing us with the big picture. First, rebuilding the temple, second the return of Jesus and third the Kingdom of God. After reading these passages I realized that God really does have a plan and he wants us to faithfully do his will, using his Spirit as our strength.

 

Just as the Israelites were called to return to God and rebuild his temple, we are called to return to God, accept Jesus as our savior, and prepare ourselves for the Kingdom. So I encourage you today to take that first step and Return your life to God.

 

-Elleigh Dylewski

Elleigh is an energetic, lively person who is married to a really cool guy, she hopes that after three years of marriage some of his coolness has rubbed off on her! Together they enjoy spending time with the youth, teaching, discipling and encouraging them as they grow their faith. She says her energy comes from eating too much chocolate and the joy she found in accepting Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior.

Bearer of Bad News

Ezekiel 24-26

ezekiel 24-26 amber

Sunday, March 26

When I think of Ezekiel, the phrase “bearer of bad news” comes to mind.  After completing numerous acts of valor such as eating a scroll, becoming mute, laying on his side for over a year, shaving his head, and scattering his hair among the Earth, Ezekiel continues to be one of the few servants of God in his time.  As a major prophet, he does not have news of prosperity and victory to recount to the people.  Instead, he continues to call the rebellious people in exile (and in the surrounding nations) to repentance, ultimately forewarning of their destruction and the destruction of Jerusalem.

 

To me, Ezekiel is no “easy read”.  At times, these scriptures seem abstract and I have a hard time finding application to my daily life. Therefore, I have created a visual to help me, and hopefully some of you understand some of the main concepts in these passages.  I hope these illustrations help some of the content “stick” and become real for you.  If my amateur doodles aren’t your thing, I completely understand that too J

 

Here are a few of the main points/interpretations and moments of personal application that I picked out in our passages today as noted by the visual above:

  • Parable: Jerusalem as a Cooking pot
    • Pot = Jerusalem
    • Scum = corruption of the people *notice this corruption is visible; it cannot be hidden from God.
    • Choice meat = God’s chosen people
    • The meat (God’s people) is thrown out because it is ruined from the scum (corruption/sin)
    • The pot must be set on coals until it’s impurities are burned away (Jerusalem must be destroyed).
    • Application to our lives: Don’t let the scum of your life keep you from bearing good fruits. Find your peace and fulfilment in God, not in the approval of others, your work, sin, the media, and other worldly influences. These things will fail you, God will never fail you.

 

  • Death of Ezekiel’s Wife
    • Ezekiel is told not to mourn, but “groan quietly” (24:17)
    • Interpretation: God instructs Ezekiel and the community not to mourn as he tries to give them perspective into their behaviors. The rebellious people do not mourn when the temple, which should be “the object of their affection” (25:21), is destroyed.  Therefore, they ought not mourn when something of lesser tragedy takes place.  God should be the top priority of all men.
    • Application to our lives: Where are your priorities? Do you value the gifts of this earth more than you value the glory of God? Do you worship the approval of others, celebrities, idols, your children or spouse on accident?

 

  • Prophesies against nations near Judah
    • Because the nations of Ammon, Moab, Tyre, Philistia, and Edom did not care when the temple was destroyed or when the people of Judah went into exile, they will also be punished. The entire nation will know that HE IS GOD.
    • Application to our lives: Earlier in Ezekiel we read that Ezekiel will be held accountable for the sins of others if he fails to spread God’s word. Here we see that other nations are held accountable to a similar degree. We too must spread the good news to ALL nations! What a blessing and a privilege!

 

Do you allow yourself to accept the peace that only God brings?

-Amber McClain

 

Amber McClain cannot wait for the Kingdom.  If she won the lottery she would 1.) Buy a helicopter so that she could spend weekdays learning and teaching in the USA and weekends with our brothers and sisters abroad.  2.) Pay for her fiancé, Josiah to get his helicopter-flying license, and 3.) Throw a world-wide pizza & prayer party; everyone in the world is invited!

Who Will Stand in the Gap?

Ezekiel 22-23

ezekiel 22

Saturday, March 25

Throughout Ezekiel there are certain themes that keep circling back around: God’s judgment against Jerusalem, Israel’s unfaithfulness to God.  In today’s reading we see another very graphic depiction of Israel’s immorality.  This time, it’s the northern kingdom of Samaria and the southern kingdom of Judah.  They are likened to two sisters who prostitute themselves.  They again perform lewd acts shaming themselves before their neighbors.  It’s very sad, indeed.

God searches for someone to help:  “I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one.”  God could find no one righteous to fill the gap and act as the mediator between God and His people.

We know the Gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ and God’s Kingdom.  One day, Jesus would stand in the gap to keep God from destroying the earth.  Jesus on the cross fills the gap between a holy God and a sinful people.

I hope that these devotions from Ezekiel will help you to see some important truths with greater clarity.  God loves His people very much.  God wants His people to be faithful and obedient.   Some are and some aren’t.  When His people are unfaithful, God brings calamity and judgment, in order to turn people’s hearts back to Him.  It’s not the judgment that ultimately turn hearts, but it’s the fact that despite all of our wicked acts that deserve punishment, God is faithful to His promises and His steadfast love remains.  Ultimately, its God’s mercy that leads us to repentance.  May you know His love and His mercy through Jesus Christ, the man who did stand in the Gap for us.

-Jeff Fletcher

God of Mercy. God of Justice.

Ezekiel 17-19

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Thursday, March 23

God used the King of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar to enact His judgment against Israel.  He carried off King Jehoiachin and 10,000 nobles to Babylon and installed Zedekiah to act as his vice regent or king in Jerusalem.  The prophet Jeremiah warned Israel that this was God’s judgment and that the exiles would not return from Babylon until the people repented.  But the people didn’t listen and false prophets gave Israel false hope that Babylon might soon fall.  So Zedekiah broke his treaty with Nebuchadnezzar and made an alliance with Egypt.   This led to a revolt against Babylon.  Nebuchadnezzar crushed the revolt.   Eventually, Jerusalem fell to Nebuchadnezzar and King Zedekiah and family were carried back to Babylon where they faced Nebuchadnezzar’s wrath.  Zedekiah had his eyes put out and his sons were executed.  Israel did not repent quickly nor easily, and because of her stubborn disobedience they continued to suffer.

In Ezekiel 17 God chose to use the allegory of an eagle plucking up the top of a cedar and then replanting it to depict His judgment against his people and to remind them of his power to build and His power to destroy.

In Ezekiel 18 God gives a very clear teaching to His people on the nature of sin, righteousness, judgement, repentance and forgiveness.  Each person is responsible for their own actions.  Parents are not held responsible by God for the sins of their children, and children are not held responsible by God for the sins of their parents.  Each person is responsible for their own behavior.  In the same way, you don’t get credit for your parents good behavior if you do bad.  Each person is responsible for their own sin and will be judged accordingly.

There is good news imbedded in Ezekiel 18.  God doesn’t take any pleasure in seeing wicked people die.  God wants to see people who do evil turn away from their evil.  God wants everyone to repent.  If an evil person repents, God will not punish them.  If a righteous person turns evil, they will be punished for their evil behavior.  God is a God of both mercy and justice.  He will punish unrepentant evildoers and he will forgive and restore those who repent of their evil.  This chapter is best summarized in the final three verses:  30 “Therefore, you Israelites, I will judge each of you according to your own ways, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. 31 Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel? 32 For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!

 

In Ezekiel 19, there is a lament for the end of the Messianic dynasty that came from David.  Since the time of David, his descendants, beginning with Solomon reigned as Kings over Israel.  But that has been brought to an end.  There were no more descendants of David serving as the Lord’s anointed over Israel.  Of course, we have the benefit of hindsight.  We live on this side of the New Testament.  After several hundred years of NOT having a descendent of David as King of Israel, one was finally born in Bethlehem and his name is Jesus.  One day, Jesus will sit upon the throne and rule over not only Israel, but all the earth.  In the meantime, we have a choice, we can turn away from our sins and turn to God, or we can face the judgment.  Jesus Christ is God’s provision for our salvation.  We go to him to get a new heart and a new spirit.

-Jeff Fletcher

Graphic Material

Ezekiel 5-9

ezekiel 5 14

Monday, March 20

This portion of Ezekiel is, admittedly, difficult to read.  It’s a pretty graphic account of God impending judgment against the city of Jerusalem and his people, Israel.  God tells Ezekiel to shave his head and beard.  This would have been an act of mourning for most people, but it was double disturbing for Ezekiel, since he was a priest and normally forbidden from shaving his head or beard.  Ezekiel was told to burn, take a sword to, and scatter his cut hair.  This was to symbolize what was to happen to Israel.  A few hairs were kept back, symbolic of the remnant who would not be destroyed.

God accuses his people, Israel, the chosen nation, of being worse than the other nations.  They broke the law more than the nations that did not have the law.  God was bringing his judgment against His own people.  The description of the siege almost defies comprehension, including cannibalism of both parents and children.  This was to serve as a warning to the other nations: if this is how God treats his own people for their idolatry, beware of what he will do to you.

In Ezekiel six God makes it clear that their judgement is upon them because of their idolatry. However, there is a remnant that will be spared and live in captivity and will come to repentance.

In Ezekiel seven, a special emphasis is made regarding their idolatrous attachment to gold and silver.  This wealth that they turned to and fashioned into idols will be unable to save them from the coming judgment.  All the money in the world can’t save you from judgment.

In Chapter eight Ezekiel has a vision of the temple in Jerusalem.  This includes the “Idol of jealousy” which we discover is the pagan god Tammuz.  Tammuz was the Sumerian god of food and vegetation.  At the summer solstice there was a period of mourning as the people saw the shortening of days and the approaching drought.  Sacrifices were made to Tammuz at the door of the Jerusalem Temple.  This was an absolute abomination to Israel’s God, YHWH as He made it clear that He alone was to be worshipped as God (see Deuteronomy 6:4-5).

In Chapter Nine an angel is sent out to put a mark on all of the people of the city who did not commit idolatry and worship Tammuz.  They would be spared.  But then all those who did not receive a mark would be destroyed.  This is reminiscent of the story of Exodus, when the doorposts of the Israelites were to be marked with the blood of the sacrificial lamb, and those with the mark were spared their firstborn sons dying when the Angel of Death passed over their houses.  It also points to the future (See Revelation 13) when the beast will cause people to have a mark on their forehead or they would not be able to buy or sell.  This is contrasted with those in Revelation 14 who have the name of God and of the lamb on their foreheads.

God is a God of love and mercy.  God has provided a means for us to be rescued from the consequences of sin.  There is a way for each of us to be spared the final judgment of God that is coming.  Jesus Christ, the lamb of God is the only means by which we can escape judgment.  Along with God’s mercy is His holiness.  God will not allow sin and rebellion to continue on earth forever.  A day of judgment is coming for all the earth just as it did for the nation of Israel.  God tolerated their sin for only so long, and then came the time for judgment.  Mercifully, God spared those who repented by placing His mark upon them.  God has been tolerating sinful rebellion on earth, but a day is coming when He will destroy sin and sinners who have not repented and turned away from their sins and turned to him through Jesus Christ.  Ezekiel’s harsh imagery should remind us that we must not forget that God’s wrath is coming from which we all need to escape, and we need to warn others.  This won’t make us popular, but doing God’s will is seldom popular among the rebellious.

-Pastor Jeff Fletcher

 

(Photo Credit: http://w3ace.com/stardust/)

Grieving the Heart of God

Lamentations 1

lamentations 1

Thursday, March 16

 

The book of Lamentations does not make it onto most people’s “Top Bible Books to Read” list. Its title actually comes from the word “lament”, which means “to mourn (a person’s loss or death)” as a verb, and “a passionate expression of grief or sorrow” as a noun. This book is a compilation of Jeremiah’s laments about the destruction of Jerusalem and all the events leading up to it. He emphasizes that all this calamity is a result of Judah’s disobedience.

 

Jeremiah definitely had a good excuse for some serious lamenting. Sometimes we wallow in self-pity parties about silly little things like how the brand-new Chick-fil-A in our town doesn’t have a play place (true story, and very sad for this momma!), but when is the last time we offered up lamentations to grieve about and lament over an injustice in the world?

 

I live in Ohio, near the crossing of two major highways: Interstate 75, which travels from the Canadian border in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to deep into Florida, and Interstate 70, which spans the great distance from Utah to Maryland. Because of this intersection, the Dayton area is a major hub for drugs and sex trafficking; in fact, Dayton recently made national news for its record-breaking number of fatal opioid overdoses (which included at least one person I knew personally). When I think of how many lives are ruined or stolen by drug addiction and sex trafficking, I feel angry and mournful. It is cause for lament.

 

There are so many other injustices in the world: babies being murdered in utero every day; murder, violence, abuse, racism, discrimination; the growing porn industry; a failing mental health system; families being ripped apart … I’m sure you could add dozens to my list that are worth lamenting!

 

However, it is not enough to just sit on our bums and lament. God wants us to be active in His work in this world. What happenings today do you think grieve the heart of God? Pray with me that God would instill a sense of unrest in our hearts that drives us to fight against the injustices in the world, and to give us opportunities to help lead people toward freedom and hope in Jesus! While Jeremiah had much reason to lament, he was also a man of action (as we will see again in a few chapters), and we need to be people of action too!

-Rachel Cain

 

(Photo Credit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p8GDFPdaQZQ – this link will take you to the Bible Project – with a video of hand drawings and explanations for every book of the Bible – pretty interesting stuff!)