If we tore down our churches buildings and replaced them with parks, would the buildings be missed? If churches were parks, there would be trees and grass and places for pleasant walks, neighborhood families enjoying the changing seasons, and our “old ones” sitting on benches telling children stories of their lives and faith.
In the fall, as the leaves changed from green to yellow, orange and red, we could invite our friends and neighbors to corn roast and BBQs; invite them to laugh with us, talk with us, and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation – in the park. We could leave the children something wonderful in a world gone mad.
In the winter we could roll in the snow with the neighborhood children, throw snowballs, create snow sculptures, and get to know each other again as we walked under tree heavy with hoar frost. At Christmas we could string colored lights, decorate a Christmas tree, savor the story of nativity, and sing carols under quiet stars.
If churches were parks, we would have to forsake our games of power and our dreams of empire for pleasant walks, snow forts, corn roasts, Christmas trees, carol sings. Easter pageants, and heart-to-heart talks with those who need to know why we still believe in God. If our churches were parks, all people could gather there; they could come whenever they wished, for there would be no locked doors or security windows on our parks – no stained-glass windows to hide behind. Members of the church eating lunch in the park could strike up a conversation with a business person, or admire the multicolors of a group of teenagers and ask them if they are afraid of the world we have created for them, or angry because of the future we may have taken away from them.
Of course we would find pain in our parks: lonely people, unhappy children, sullen youth. We might fear those who would hurt us and steal from us. If churches were parks, we would have to confront the world outside our buildings. We would have to be those who make peace and speak of redemption and hope rather than those who hide behind fortress walls and wish the world away.
When God started the world, He put his man and woman in a park. He chose to walk and talk with His creation in a park. When we were cast out of the park, we begun to build towers, empires, cities, and temples. We had to acquire and possess – not only the present but the past and the future. We found ways to control our world and other persons. It’s hard to do this in a park.
Obviously the “park” image cannot be pressed too far, but it does suggest that there are certain qualities that should be nurtured in congregations – especially when children are present.
Note* (page 148) from Children Matter by Scottie May, Beth Posterski, Catherine Stonehouse and Linda Cannell
This is the approximate Hebrew rendition of: The Servant of the Lord. It comes from the combination of the words eved = servant, and YHWH (the name of God in the Bible – also called the Tetragrammaton). The Biblical name closest to this is Obadiah (which is built on the same verb and personal name). More information about me can be found at: http://www.ttgst.ac.kr/sub.asp?gubun=01030000.
By God’s grace – my intention is to be one of the many servants of the Lord.
I was listening to the biography of John Owen on my way to work (see Piper’s notes on this: http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Biographies/). There are many things that are amazing about Owen, but I was especially amazed by the attitude of this man of God. He had 11 children of which 1o died young (as children). He actually outlived his wife and only daughter who made it to adulthood. (He had on the average a child die every 3 years). In spite of all this – his writings to not seem to betray any bitterness toward God. He is rather passionate about Holiness and the glory of God!!! He definitely reminds me of biblical Job who lost all 10 of his children (but all at the same time).
He has also taught me about the amazing providence of God. This is something worth sharing, and it is also great as an illustration for Romans 8:28 etc. I am posting a section of the article by Piper about the relationship between Owen and Bunyan:
Owen and Bunyan
It’s not clear to me why some Puritans at this time were in prison and others, like Owen were not. Part of the explanation was how openly they preached. Part of it was that Owen was a national figure with connections in high places. Part of it was that the persecution was not nationally uniform, but some local officials were more rigorous than others.
But whatever the explanation it is remarkable the relationship that John Owen had in these years with John Bunyan who spent too many of them in prison. One story says that King Charles II asked Owen one time why he bothered going to hear an uneducated Tinker like Bunyan preach. Owen replied, “Could I posses the tinker’s abilities for preaching, please your majesty, I would gladly relinquish all my learning” (see note 32).
One of the best illustrations of God’s hiding a smiling face behind a frowning providence is the story of how Owen failed to help Bunyan get out of prison. Repeatedly when Bunyan was in prison Owen worked for his release with all the strings he could pull. But to no avail. But when John Bunyan came out in 1676 he brought with him a manuscript “the worth and importance of which can scarcely be comprehended” (see note 33). In fact Owen met with Bunyan and recommended his own publisher, Nathaniel Ponder. The partnership succeeded, and the book that has probably done more good, after the Bible, was released to the world—all because Owen failed in his good attempts to get Bunyan released, and because he succeeded in finding him a publisher. The lesson: “Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,/but trust him for his grace;/behind a frowning providence/he hides a smiling face.”
Blessings and grace to all!
The WOGA conference is starting today in Seoul, South Korea (see http://www.wogakorea.org/for info). By God’s grace, 12 Romanian women were invited to come and made the trip here. They arrived yesterday after 20+ hours of traveling (or 40? – some took the train to Bucharest). They made it to their place of lodging (after some misses – the bus driver had a hard time finding the right place :), and they ate Korean food (some perhaps for the first time?). Most of them liked the food (the kimchi was too spicy for most), but the hunger may have played a role too (?).
In any case – they are here, and they are open to learn from the speakers, and from each other. It is a wonderful opportunity for all of them to get to know some of the Christian sisters from other places (there are women here from over 70 countries), and to be able to pray for those who are persecuted and restricted in their service for Christ. It is – I believe – a time to learn to be humble, and to serve in communion with other saints, through prayer, encouragement etc.
I am posting this, to encourage these 12 women, and perhaps others, to share their thoughts about this coference with each other and with the loved ones at home. Thus, this may become an English/Romanian conversation (?). Blessings and peace to all! Psalm 133
I was recently invited to a retreat by Jubilee church in Seoul(www.myjubileechurch.com.). The retreat was nearby – at Osanri (?). This is the original prayer mountain.
I was blessed and impressed by the worship and atmosphere of this English speaking church from the city of Seoul, and I would like to continue praying for them. I also appreciate their prayers for me.
The theme of the conference was “Christian Service 24/7.” One thing that I learned by preparing for this conference, was that for real CHRISTIAN service to be possible, we have to enter the life of COMMUNION with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In other words, before working FOR Christ, we have to let Him work for US, so we can become part of the Triune communion of the Godhead (We have to let Him ransom us – Mk 10:45). You can “perform” CHRISTIAN service, only if you are IN communion. See the very useful book of Seamands: Ministry in the Image of God (http://www.ivpress.com/cgi-ivpress/book.pl/code=3338), and the importance of Rublev’s icon on the Trinity (http://www.wellsprings.org.uk/rublevs_icon/trinity.htm).
Seamands puts it very well: “The ministry we have entered is the ministry OF Jesus Christ, the Son, TO [for the glory of?] the Father, THROUGH the Holy Spirit, for the sake of the church and the world.” To see a significant excerpt of this book go to http://www.ivpress.com/cgi-ivpress/book.pl/toc/code=3338.
Other useful information for this topic I obtained from John Piper’s site: desiringgod.org. Just do a search on the word: SERVICE.
Let us continue to serve with humility and passion (Romans 12:11), by trusting Him for future grace, and by honoring and prizing Him above all else.
May all of us fear to say say: “It is vain to serve the Lord.”
We should rather serve Him as beloved children (Malachi 3:13-18), for those who labor “in the Lord” do not labor in vain (1 Cor 15:58).