**Exactly one year ago today, this was the thought I posted. And as I look about, it is still the beat of my heart.**
"And it shall be, when the Lord thy God shall have brought thee into the land which He sware unto they fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give thee great and goodly cities, which thou buildedst not,
And houses full of all good things, which thou filledst not, and wells digged, which thou diggedst not, vineyards and olive trees, which thou plantedst not; when thou shalt have eaten and be full;
Then beware lest thou forget the Lord, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.”Deuteronomy 6:10-13
After reading these scriptures, I couldn't help but think: How many of us were involved in building the original church we attend? How many of us dug the wells of living water through our tears? How many of us took to the streets witnessing? Walked the aisles praying to supply an increase? Or spent sleepless nights carrying the burden originally set forth for our church? Probably very few of us but we sure are enjoying the increase and its rewards. We inherited blessings. But with the blessings, we've made changes to things that our predecessors sacrificed for. What things? How about removing our wooden altars at the church front (logic: need more room up front; tears of repentance can be shed anywhere; well, most need a place to kneel that allows them time to repent and to shed tears)? The removing of songs about the Blood from our services (logic: way too gory, the Blood was for Jesus, not us)? Excluding sermons that preach on hell (logic: Heaven makes people happy, hell depresses them)? Or how about our moving away from intercessory prayer (logic: too laboring, and "sincere" prayer works just as well, as long as it's done in the prayer room, God forbid the sanctuary)? The list of Whys and their "logic" could go on and on.
Don't you at times wonder that in our zealousness and need to do more (and have more) than the old churches, or the brothers and sisters down the street, or churches in other organizations that we’ve forgotten what the Lord really intended?
I’ve heard many stories of sacrifice over the years but I will write about one that is close to home. It was in 1943 when a young minister named Elder William (Bill) Garrett came to Goshen, California where my husband’s mom, dad, aunts and uncles lived. They had already received the revelation of God’s Truth, and desperately wanted a church to worship in. Times were hard, and with no money to rent a building, the congregation needed a plan. Elder Garrett talked my father-in-law into using an old never used 20 by 50 foot chicken house at the back of his property. The saints felt so blessed that Roy Hopper would say yes to its use that the brothers quickly begin preparing it for a house of worship. I can't help but wonder, would God mean that much to us today? Would we eagerly get a hen house ready to worship in? Would we proudly tar-paper the outside and stick cut-out letters on the side proclaiming its church name? (Don’t answer that – it may seriously reveal too much of our character). Well, the Lord blessed the Mt. Zion church family from day one for their efforts - and as the congregation grew, they purchased their own building.
Don't you wonder what type of people would be willing to worship in a chicken house; what type of services they had; what level of compassion they carried; and what was their prayer life like, etc. I think I can answer that in part because starting in the 1960s I witnessed first hand a group of people who stood strong in the face of every adversity and genuinely loved/cared for each other - and did they love God, never once charging Him foolishly. I remember in the early 60s (some 20 years after the original church started), seeing a group of ladies (my mother-in-law included) walk to the church to pray after the men went to work. They would go every morning, Monday-Friday, to pray for 2 to 3 hours each day. There is no doubt that it was those prayers that brought my husband and I to the Lord in 1969 for the home that I was raised in had a mother who justified going to church once a year on Easter Sunday, and a dad that was an atheist. I think the odds were stacked up against me, don’t you? Would I be safe to say if not for the sacrifice of those precious saints starting that small humble church in Goshen and being committed to prayer that I'd be lost and without God? Yes!
Now, here’s my soapbox proclamation: I’m concerned folks, I truly am. Have we lost our way? Have we come to the place where finances, homes, big churches, large congregations, recognition saddled with appointed positions, special programs, etc., are dimming our view? I pray not. However, do we take the scripture seriously? Do we truly appreciate those who forged the road before us? It was them, not us that blazed the trails, fought the battles, shed the tears, labored physically and spiritually, and sacrificed beyond measure for the church to be in the position it is today. The greatness of our churches comes from the men who started churches from scratch (no matter in what town). They are the ones that built, planted, and watered that we might have a place of worship to proclaim His precious gospel. Their labor of love feeds us. May we never forget the men who built (tar)paper houses (or started churches in tents, their homes, humble buildings, storefronts) - for they are our heritage, and through their selfless acts we are reaping.
Mt. Zion's First Pastor: Elder Bill Garrett, his wife Ilene and daughter Barbara
Mt. Zion's Men of Vision: my father-in-law Roy Hopper,
Pastor Bill Garrett, Jesse Gilstrap and Clarence Gilstrap. (not pictured, William Ashlock)
Mt. Zion's First Sunday School Group - 1943
Mt. Zion's First Fellowship Meeting December 6, 1943
I am so grateful that "Jesus Said So". The words of this song say my thoughts today - and have been echoing in my soul of how important our Lord and Savior's words really are. Just enable the video below with a click on play, and then follow the you.tube request, close your eyes, and may you be blessed.