Word

Zion: the player, the city, the kingdom

Come fathers and mothers,
Come sisters and brothers,
Come join us in singing the praises of Zion.
O fathers, don’t you feel determined
To meet within the walls of Zion?
We’ll shout and go round
The walls of Zion. – John G. McCurry

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I have thrown three of my recent experiences into a blender and have come up with a blog post called Zion: the player, the city, the kingdom. There are three parts to this post: the first being a player named Zion Williamson, the second being a a city called La Mision, and the third being the Kingdom of God as depicted in the book of Psalms. I think that’s enough eclecticism to get a bunch of people to look at the post and just three of you to finish reading it. But those who finish will find just what all the buzz is about Zion: the player, the city, and the kingdom. So, here we go!

Zion: the player

Zion Williamson is expected by almost all parties to be the number one pick in the NBA Draft coming up Thursday, June 20th. He is the most anticipated player to come into the draft since LeBron James was drafted in 2003, 16 years ago. We had the normal process of NBA teams being bad on purpose in order to get Zion, though a new percentage distribution for the bad team made it less certain this year that it would result in landing the number one pick.

What makes a team lose on purpose? The belief that what is coming next is better than what they have today. Teams have placed their hopes on future promise becoming reality today. In this respect, Zion is sure to answer these hopes. The team that gets Zion Williamson will immediately be better than they were before getting him. He’s that kind of player, who will instantly make his team better for the foreseeable future. He won’t disappoint. And he will help a team (now probably the New Orleans Pelicans) make there future promise a reality today.

Zion: the city

I saw something similar to this in La Mision, BC, Mexico over the weekend. I was there on a mission trip with the men’s group from my church, La Habra Christian Church. We connected with Jim from Strong Tower, DJ from the Orphanage, Brendan from Siloe, and Eddie from Calvary Chapel Liberty Ranch. Here, I saw future promise becoming a reality today. Though, there was a stark difference in the process. The people we connected with in La Mision weren’t losing on purpose to win later. They weren’t hoping things got really bad so that the could luck out with a draft and be better next year. They weren’t waiting for a Savior to come. They already have one. As Brendan’s dad shared in a message at Calvary Chapel, “You don’t need a deliver. You already have one.”

The people that we connected with in La Mision believe that Jesus Christ has already come to deliver. He is the key to making future promise reality today. In fact, Jim, DJ, Brendan, and Eddy have already started to realize future promise in the here and now. Hope isn’t far off! Instead, through work at Casa de Mana, Door of Faith Orphanage, the Siloe Clinic, and Calvary Chapel Liberty Ranch, the people in La Mision are seeing God’s reality become our reality today, not some day in the future! And the city is being changed.

Zion: the kingdom

The idea of God’s reality becoming our reality is what is behind the Biblical teaching of Zion. Zion is mentioned in the Bible over 150 times, sometimes referring to the specific city of Jerusalem and sometimes referring to the heavenly city of God. In fullness, Zion refers to both. It is, as N.T. Wright says, “the intersection of God’s space and our space, of heaven and earth.” In other words, it’s the place where God’s reality becomes our reality.

The encouraging teaching from the Bible about Zion is that we don’t have to tank for God’s reality to become our reality. We don’t have to get worse and worse in order to luck out for the draft some day. We already have a deliver, whose name is Jesus. 2 Peter 1:3-4 says, “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” We already have everything we need to live in Zion, for God’s promise to be reality today. 

Zion is the place where God lives and people thrive with Him.

Zion is the place where God reigns as King and people benefit from His commands.

Zion is the place where God builds His Kingdom and we are placed brick by brick.

We change. The city changes. The world changes. And all of it happens today.

So we say with John G. McCurry,

Come fathers and mothers,
Come sisters and brothers,
Come join us in singing the praises of Zion.
O fathers, don’t you feel determined
To meet within the walls of Zion?
We’ll shout and go round
The walls of Zion.

This is what I’ve learned from zion: the player, the city, the kingdom. It’s what Jim, DJ, Brendan, and Eddie taught me this weekend. I want to go to Zion. I’ll meet you there, where God’s reality becomes our reality today.

7 Awesome Mary Traits (That All Christians Can Celebrate)

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(The Virgin Mary Consoles Eve by Sister Grace Remington)

When it comes to Mary, it often seems that Protestants have thrown out the proverbial baby with the bathwater. Due to a fear of idolizing Mary (which most Catholics and Orthodox DO NOT do) and in an effort to keep churchgoers locked in on the birth of Jesus (which is important during a season of waiting on Him), many Protestants just gloss over the very important traits found in Mary, the mother of Jesus.

With that in mind, here are 7 Awesome Mary Traits (That All Christians Can Celebrate):

Trait 1 – She stands toe to toe with one who stands in the presence of God. (Luke 1:26-29)

Mary was awesome. Most cower in fear when an angel shows up (see Zechariah’s reaction to a similar visit from Gabriel). According to Luke, Mary was simply…perplexed. She moved straight past the shock factor of a visit from Gabriel and straight to trying to understand his message. While most men cower in the presence of an angel, Mary stood toe to toe with Gabriel.

Trait 2 – She has the Lord with her (in her) and receives His favor. (Luke 1:30-33)

Gabriel tells Mary that the Lord is with her. While Mary had not yet become pregnant with Jesus, the angel tells Mary that God is already with her. She receives favor from the Lord. This favor is unmerited and comes before Mary had done anything. God with us (Emmanuel) will soon literally be with her, as she becomes with child. But, before all of this, Mary is willing to receive and in Mary, God finds a willing vessel. This is an excellent example for the Christian. When God comes near, invite him in, and receive His favor.

Trait 3 – She doesn’t ask IF God’s Will will be done, but how. (Luke 1:34-37)

Most of us are caught still asking the question whether or not God is able to accomplish his will. Mary is not concerned whether or not God’s will is able to be done, but how it will be done. Again, contrast this with the way that Zechariah received his message from Gabriel. Mary believes already that God’s Will will be accomplished and asks not IF it will be accomplished, but how.

Trait 4 – She hears the word of the Lord and becomes obedient to it. (Luke 1:38)

Mary understands that it is not enough for the Christian to simply hear the word of the Lord. Instead, the Christian must hear the word, believe the word, and be willing to do the word (see James 1:22). The mark of the Christian is that the Christian becomes obedient to the word of God. Like Mary, we are to have Christ formed in us as we become obedient to the Word.

Trait 5 – She does not hesitate to share the word of the Lord and the work of the Spirit. (Luke 1:39-45)

If we believe in our hearts and confess with our mouths (see Romans 10:9), we will be saved. Mary wasted no time in sharing the word of the Lord and the work of the Spirit with those around her. Like Mary, we ought to boldly share the work of the Lord in our lives and be willing to give our hearts and our lips to the Lord.

Trait 6 – She proclaims God’s justice BEFORE it becomes a reality. (Luke 1:46-55)

The Magnificat (Mary’s Song) is a butt-kicking proclamation for oppression and injustice. In it, Mary proclaims that God has scattered the proud, brought down rulers, and sent away the rich empty-handed. At the same time, she proclaims that God has raised up the humble, filled the hungry with good things, and done great things for the bondslave. And, the original language uses a type of future tense as a declaration that God has already accomplished these things BEFORE they have come a reality in the world. Wow. Christ’s birth, life, death, and resurrection would literally upset the fallen order of things and restore salvation to humankind. Yes, in Christ’s birth, Mary consoles Eve. And like Mary, the Christian should console the world with God’s justice even in a world where it is severely lacking.

Trait 7 – She rests in God’s promised Word, knowing that it is God who accomplishes his purposes. (Luke 1:56)

The text in Luke 1:56 shows that Mary stayed for three months after this and THEN returned home. Most of us can’t wait three months for anything. Most of us would hear this word and frantically begin working towards the promises that God had just revealed. Rather, Mary rested in the promised Word that the Lord had given her, stayed three months with Elizabeth, and then returned home. After all, Isaiah 9 had prophesied in Isaiah 9 that “the zeal of the Lord” would accomplish all this. None of this is passive for Mary, but all of it rests in the promises of the Lord.

May each of us, today and this Advent season, follow Mary’s example of hearing the Word of the Lord, giving birth to Christ in our own lives, and proclaiming the work of His Spirit to a world in need of his justice!