Saturday, July 22, 2017

So Great a Cloud of Witnesses


The Example of Jesus

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us,  looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1-2

When visiting Westby last week, we stopped out at Coon Prairie Lutheran Church cemetery (about two miles from town) to look at the gravestones of the ancestors. It's a wonderful thing, I think, to have a graveyard adjacent to the church. Anyway, Mr. C's grandfather, great grandfather, and great great grandfather are buried there, and any ancestors before that time would have been buried in Norway.

While walking through a graveyard like the one above, the verses from Hebrews always come to mind - those who put their trust in Jesus, although their bodies are buried in the cemetery, are with the LORD now until the Great Resurrection, when Christ will return to reign on the new (renewed) earth and those who died 'in Christ,' along with those who remain at his coming, will be changed, given new, indestructible physical bodies. As someone said, 'Right now, we are mere shadows of our future selves.'* Like Abraham and Moses and David and Rahab and all the others who loved God, the ancestors who died 'in Christ' are also part of that great cloud of witnesses.

I'm posting the entire chapter 11 and then verses 1-2 of chapter 12 in case you'd like to read them. They're such an encouragement for the believer.




***

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  Indeed, by faith  our ancestors received approval.  By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.

The Examples of Abel, Enoch, and Noah

 By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain’s. Through this he received approval as righteous, God himself giving approval to his gifts; he died, but through his faith he still speaks.  By faith Enoch was taken so that he did not experience death; and “he was not found, because God had taken him.” For it was attested before he was taken away that “he had pleased God.” And without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would approach him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.  By faith Noah, warned by God about events as yet unseen, respected the warning and built an ark to save his household; by this he condemned the world and became an heir to the righteousness that is in accordance with faith.


The Faith of Abraham

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going.  By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.  For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.  By faith he received power of procreation, even though he was too old—and Sarah herself was barren—because he considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one person, and this one as good as dead, descendants were born, “as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.”

 All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.  If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return.  But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them.

 By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac. He who had received the promises was ready to offer up his only son,  of whom he had been told, “It is through Isaac that descendants shall be named for you.”  He considered the fact that God is able even to raise someone from the dead—and figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.  By faith Isaac invoked blessings for the future on Jacob and Esau.  By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, “bowing in worship over the top of his staff.”  By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave instructions about his burial.



The Faith of Moses

 By faith Moses was hidden by his parents for three months after his birth, because they saw that the child was beautiful; and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.  By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called a son of Pharaoh’s daughter,  choosing rather to share ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.  He considered abuse suffered for the Christ to be greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to the reward.  By faith he left Egypt, unafraid of the king’s anger; for he persevered as though he saw him who is invisible.  By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.

The Faith of Other Israelite Heroes

By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as if it were dry land, but when the Egyptians attempted to do so they were drowned.  By faith the walls of Jericho fell after they had been encircled for seven days.  By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had received the spies in peace.

And what more should I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets—  who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions,  quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.  Women received their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured, refusing to accept release, in order to obtain a better resurrection.  Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.  They were stoned to death, they were sawn in two, they were killed by the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, persecuted, tormented— of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.

 Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect.

The Example of Jesus

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us  looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the  joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. -  HEBREWS 11:1-12:2 NRSV - copied from BibleGateway.com


 We've been visiting that cemetery for years.
The little boy and girl in the photo above
are now 47 and 43.

*C.S. Lewis or N.T. Wright, I don't remember which.

Have a blessed Lord's Day, friends!

Judy

9 comments:

Terri D said...

I love walking through really old cemeteries and reading the stones. I also love genealogy and wonder if your hubby has traced his family farther back in Norway? I am impressed that three generations are waiting right there in the same cemetery for the second coming. My family members are spread all over Ohio, Pennsylvania and Indiana. I doubt I could ever find them all. Very interesting and good to read the scripture you shared too!

The Joy of Home with Martha Ellen said...

Judy, it's amazing to have that many generations buried in the same cemetery! What a legacy to your grands. Faithful followers of our Lord and Savior--yes a Cloud of Witnesses! ♥

Vee said...

Counting on this great truth! I, too, believe that those churchyard cemeteries are helpful and, further, I wonder if the church has any records from that time.

Sandra said...

I love the old pics and this is more proof that time is on fast forward. my dad's side of the family is buried in a church cemetery in Reidsville GA.. old wooden church and almost everyone buried there is kin to us, maybe 100 graves. Daddy and his brothers are not there, they are buried in Savannah... I do love that old family cemetary even though one of the babies always makes me angry. because the baby was bi=racial it could not be inside the fence and is outside the fence. I am glad times have changed

Arlene Grimm said...

I love visiting cemeteries....thanks for sharing!!

Karen S. said...

Good morning! I made a cemetery visit yesterday too! Thanks for such an interesting post! God bless you and your family!

Linda said...

Beautiful post for this Sunday morning. We are in the country and I have seen a cemetery in town. Not sure if it's beside a church but I think I will go exploring a little bit this week and find out.

ellen b. said...

It's interesting to have so much personal history in one part of our country. So good to have a family legacy of believers. Have a great week.

Deb @ Frugal Little Bungalow said...

oh my Judy this was wonderful. Made me look back on my blog... in case you would be interested

http://www.frugallittlebungalow.com/religion-family-tree-research/ one of my ancestors founding a church over here :)

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