Why are all my streams in Him?

Babylon, the city of captivity.

Babylon, the city of captivity.

1  On the holy mount stands the city he founded;
2  the Lord loves the gates of Zion
more than all the dwelling places of Jacob.
3  Glorious things of you are spoken,
O city of God. Selah

4  Among those who know me I mention Rahab and Babylon;
behold, Philistia and Tyre, with Cush —
“This one was born there,” they say.

5  And of Zion it shall be said,
“This one and that one were born in her”;
for the Most High himself will establish her.
6  The Lord records as he registers the peoples,
“This one was born there.” Selah

7  Singers and dancers alike say,
“All my springs are in you.”  Psalm 87 ESV

All my springs are in you.  That’s a go-to verse for worship leaders and creative types everywhere.  And so it should be.  It means that all our expression of praise comes from God Himself.  He is the inspirer, the fountainhead, the source.  But why does our praise come forth?

Psalm 87 tells us.  It is because we are God’s people in the midst of of a mixed up world.  There is a people that God Himself has made; a city He founded (vs 1 ).  This city of God is His called out people, that He loves (vs 2) and makes glorious (vs 3).  They live in a mixed up world, in the midst of those who don’t believe.  They may even be a minority among those who do not know God, Rahab (Egypt) and Babylon (vs 4)  It is alright to be an exiled people, strangers in a strange land.  It is part of God’s plan.  God knows who are His.  Some are born of different nations, some of born of Zion.  But God always knows who are His.  He looks down and says this one was born in Zion (vs 5).

God creates, establishes, loves, and counts His people (vs 6).  Even if things look confused down here, He knows what’s going on from up there.  It was difficult to be God’s people in Egypt and Babylon.  It seems difficult sometimes today.  There is lots to be discouraged about.  But He is in control.  He has always been in control.  He knows who His people are and He writes their story.  Everything is all right.  It is because of that fact that all creative praise erupts to give Him glory.  All my springs are in you (vs 7).  

This is an actual stream from Zion.  Zion National Park in Utah that is!

This is an actual stream from Zion. Zion National Park in Utah that is!

 

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A Good Dose of Chestertonian Wisdom

Christian faith as it has been given and received will never die. Jesus said it was he who would build His Church and that even the gates of hell could not prevail (Matt 16:18). It may not look like a good time for Christianity but when has it ever? We need a good dose of confidence and Chestertonian wisdom:

“Time and again, the Faith has to all appearances gone to the dogs. But each time, it was the dog that died.” G K ChestertonChesterton

The Sacred Image

This video will get you.  I’m not a mushy guy but this video got me.  It is an Italian production made for World Down Syndrome Day (March 21st).

Through seminary and several years into pastoring, I worked part-time at a group home.  4 young guys who happened to have various developmental/intellectual disabilities.  One of them had Down Syndrome.  Working with these fellows was often tedious but frequently wonderful.  It left an impact on me that remains.

Reflecting upon this beautiful video gives me pause.  Having known and cared deeply for individuals with Down Syndrome (and other disabilities) has been humbling.  It has also put me on my guard.  We live in a society where the value of human lives is often weighed upon the basis of capabilities.  Instead we need to weigh each human life upon the basis of its nature.  And the nature of human life is that it is precious.  Each human life is sacred, made in the wonderful image of God.  That is a Bible truth but sometimes it takes a wonderful little video to rediscover that truth.

Today, in the Western world, 90-92% of people with Down Syndrome are aborted before they are born.  Why?  Many because parents give in to the fear that this video gently addresses.  But also because something has been forgotten; that every human life is sacred, precious, and a gift.  Today, our friends and neighbours with Down Syndrome have a gift to give us – a reminder of that.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.  

And God blessed them.

Always, Always, Always Public

"The Apostle Paul explains the tenets of faith in the presence of King Agrippa, his sister Berenice, and the proconsul Festus (Апостол Павел объясняет догматы веры в присутствии царя Агриппы, сестры его Береники и проконсула Феста)" Vasily Surikov, 1875

“The Apostle Paul explains the tenets of faith in the presence of King Agrippa, his sister Berenice, and the proconsul Festus (Апостол Павел объясняет догматы веры в присутствии царя Агриппы, сестры его Береники и проконсула Феста)” Vasily Surikov, 1875.    How’s that for a title?

 

 

But Paul said, “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking true and rational words.   For the king knows about these things, and to him I speak boldly. For I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this has not been done in a corner.  Acts 26:25-26 ESV

When Paul spoke before King Agrippa his position was simple:  Christ is King of the entire world and His Gospel was news for the entire world.  It was not to be hidden in a corner, it was to be public.

Being public with faith and the truth claims of the Christian Faith comes with a cost.  But there is no choice.  A private religion is not following Christ.  We are called to be in this world, loving and serving it.  Not least in that loving and serving is making Jesus known.

May God’s people always be out in the open, having compassionate boldness.  For these things were not done in a corner!

Can’t we just worship and be a community?


The Church’s worship of God is what we are called to do.  We’re to love Him and sing His praises.  And it’s not wrong to enjoy doing it!  We’re also to be a family of faith – to love one another and draw closer in fellowship.  And it’s not wrong to desire community in Church.

But…  we knock the legs out from under those desires when a congregation forgets that it is to be about the mission of God.  That is, the call for us to make new disciples through proclaiming the Gospel and living it out in the world.  A congregation is not to exist for itself, it is to exist for the sake of God’s mission.

Here’s the thing, which I have suspected for a long while – when we forget that it is to bring others into the fold of God’s People, through evangelism and looking out, we’ll actually begin to miss out on the richness of our worship and fellowship.  I’ve seen it many times – an emphasis on depth, whether in worship or community, to the sacrifice of outwardness.  By outwardness I mean seeking, longing, yearning to let others hear the Gospel, believe, and join the Church.  Maybe this is due to an overreaction to the misguided Seeker-Sensitive philosophies of ministry.  Or maybe it’s because looking inward and caring about the self first can be a corporate as well as a individual failing.  At any rate, when we seek to look out – forget our mission – we begin to die.  We may not notice it at first, but a congregation that does not seek to gather even begins to lose the enjoyment it seeks from its own worship and fellowship.

We forget those who aren’t among us, we begin to lose the purpose of our worship and fellowship.  For a more convincing articulation of this, read this passage from Edmund Clowney’s formidable but wonderful book on Church:

 

"Don't forget those outside the walls of your church. I mean it!"

“Don’t forget those outside the walls of your church. I mean it!”

Jesus came to gather, and to call gatherers, disciples who would gather with him, seeking the poor and helpless from city streets and country roads.  Jesus said, “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters (Mt 12:30, Lk 11:23)  Mission is not an optional activity for Christ’s disciples.  If they are not gatherers, they are scatterers.  Some suppose that a church may feature worship and nurture, leaving gathering as a minor role.  More often, Christians shrink from affirming such a position, but implement it in practice…  Such a church is actively involved in scattering, for the congregation that ignores mission will atrophy and soon find itself shattered by internal dissension.  It will inevitably begin to lose its own young people, disillusioned by hearing the gospel trumpet sounded every Sunday for those who never march.” Edmund Clowney, The Church, page 159-160.  [emphasis mine for purposes of shock and warning!]

Two Lesbians Walk Into a Church…

I (Steve) once had a long talk with a lesbian couple in the park across the street from The King's Fellowship building.  We talked of many things.  One of their biggest concerns was what would happen if they walked into my church one Sunday morning.  That makes this article all the more pressing.  I pray that, by God's grace, it would be like this story...  http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/culture/20777-john-burke-two-lesbians-walk-into-a-churchTwo Lesbians Walk Into a Church…  Sounds like the start of a corny joke, right?  Except that it could happen.  Maybe it should happen.

This great little article from John Burke is making the rounds on the Interweb the past couple days.  I’m glad it is.  It also strikes a personal cord for me.  I (Steve) once had a long talk with a lesbian couple in the park across the street from my church’s , The King’s Fellowship, building. We talked of many things. One of their biggest concerns was what would happen if they walked into my church one Sunday morning. That makes this article all the more pressing.  I saw in these two women that they were actually fearful of walking in.  They didn’t really know what they would face but they did expect the worst.  That is why this great little story ought to be read widely.  And situations like it to be prayed for.

What would it be like for a lesbian couple to walk into my Church?  I pray that, by God’s grace, it would be like this story…

http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/culture/20777-john-burke-two-lesbians-walk-into-a-church