commands

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.

Crushed with Longing

“What worship means is the submission of the whole being to the object of worship. It is the opening of the heart to receive the love of God; it is the subjection of conscience to be directed by Him; it is the declaration of the need to be fulfilled by Him; it is the subjection of desire to be controlled by Him. And as a result of all these together, it is the surrender of the whole being. It is the total giving of self.” – William Temple

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There are times when the words of the Bible just jump off the page, leaping out to teach, correct, training, and yes, reproof. Today was such a day for me, as I read Psalm 119:20. In the New American Standard Bible, the verse says, “My soul is crushed with longing after Your ordinances at all times.” I wondered, almost out loud, whether or not I could claim the universe truth of that verse in my own life.

At once, I was met with a myriad of questions. For starters, this verse paints soul crushing as a positive effect of following God’s ordinances. In what universe is soul-crushing a good thing?! Secondly, the soul is crushed because of longing. What kind of longing is this, that it has the ability to crush the soul? Thirdly, the longing and the soul-crushing is a result of God’s ordinances. What commands, at once, have the effect of crushing the soul and producing great longing?

I can tell you, I have been a Christian since I first knew the Lord at age four. (It is true, he knew me well before that!). But, I have never, in all the years following, thought of God’s commands as being simultaneously soul-crushing and life-giving. But, that’s what the verse in Psalm 119 claims as true!

Now, here is the deal: most of the time we view God’s commands as something that grinds us into some lifeless, colorless submission. And apparently, there is some reason that we think this. God’s commands (and all commands, by nature) are designed to drive us to submission! So, submission, yes! But, that is only half of the story. God’s commands also grant us longing, passion, LIFE!

Doug Brown says that we rightly assume that coming to Christ means that we will have to give our very lives over to Him. But, we wrongly assume that doing so will rob us of the joy that this life has to offer. Remember what Jesus Himself said in John 10:10, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

Friends, the Good News is not only that God has provided a way from sin, but also that He has given new life to you and to me. And it is Hebrew poetry like this that gets at the heart of what Christian worship actually is. We give our very selves to God so that He can, at once, crush our souls and fill us with longing for Himself.