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Shall We Gather at the River?

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. – Revelation 22:1-2

Shall We Gather at the River?
By Robert Lowry

Shall we gather at the river,
Where bright angel feet have trod,
With its crystal tide forever
Flowing by the throne of God?

Yes, we’ll gather at the river,
The beautiful, the beautiful river;
Gather with the saints at the river
That flows by the throne of God.

On the margin of the river,
Washing up its silver spray,
We will talk and worship ever,
All the happy golden day.

Yes, we’ll gather at the river,
The beautiful, the beautiful river;
Gather with the saints at the river
That flows by the throne of God.

Ere we reach the shining river,
Lay we every burden down;
Grace our spirits will deliver,
And provide a robe and crown.

Yes, we’ll gather at the river,
The beautiful, the beautiful river;
Gather with the saints at the river
That flows by the throne of God

At the smiling of the river,
Mirror of the Savior’s face,
Saints, whom death will never sever,
Lift their songs of saving grace.

Yes, we’ll gather at the river,
The beautiful, the beautiful river;
Gather with the saints at the river
That flows by the throne of God.

Soon we’ll reach the silver river,
Soon our pilgrimage will cease;
Soon our happy hearts will quiver
With the melody of peace.

Yes, we’ll gather at the river,
The beautiful, the beautiful river;
Gather with the saints at the river
That flows by the throne of God.

If you know his song, you most likely know it’s title as “Shall We Gather at the River?” or simply “At the River.” These titles are the popular names for the traditional Christian hymn that is actually titled “Hanson Place,” written by American poet and gospel music composer Robert Lowry (1826–1899). Robert Lowry (1826-1899) was a professor of literature, a Baptist pastor of several large churches and a music editor at Biglow Publishing Company. He wrote close to 500 hymns, including “I Need Thee Every Hour” and “Low in the Grave He Lay.” “Shall We Gather at the River?” was written in 1864. The title “Hanson Place” is a reference to the original Hanson Place Baptist Church in Brooklyn, where Lowry, as a Baptist minister, sometimes served.

The song’s lyrics refer to the Christian concept of the anticipation of restoration and reward, and reference the motifs found at Revelation 22:1-2 – a crystal clear river with water of life, issuing from the throne of heaven, all presented by an angel of God. One hot afternoon in July 1864, as Lowry was resting on his sofa, visions of heaven pervaded his senses. He saw the bright golden throne room and a multitude of saints gathered around the beautiful, cool, crystal, river of life. He was filled with a sense of great joy. He began to wonder why there seemed to be many hymns that referenced the river of death, but very few that mentioned the river of life. As he mused, the words and music to “Shall We Gather at the River” came to his heart and mind.

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Pascal’s Wager

Pascal’s Wager is an argument in philosophy devised by the seventeenth-century French philosopher, mathematician and physicist Blaise Pascal (1623–62). It posits that humans bet with their lives that God either exists or does not.

Pascal argues that a rational person should live as though God exists and seek to believe in God. If God does not actually exist, such a person will have only a finite loss (some pleasures, luxury, etc.), whereas they stand to receive infinite gains (as represented by eternity in Heaven) and avoid infinite losses (eternity in Hell).

Pascal’s Wager was based on the idea of the Christian God, though similar arguments have occurred in other religious traditions. The original wager was set out in section 233 of Pascal’s posthumously published Pensées (“Thoughts”). These previously unpublished notes were assembled to form an incomplete treatise on Christian apologetics.

Historically, Pascal’s Wager was groundbreaking because it charted new territory in probability theory, marked the first formal use of decision theory, and anticipated future philosophies such as existentialism, pragmatism and voluntarism.

Que Sera, Sera


Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” – James 4:15

“If the Lord wills.” There are times when we really want something in our lives, but we wonder if it is the right move, if we even get what we want. In those circumstances, we must pray. We must pray that God’s will be done. We have to have faith. Faith in that whatever happens, happens because God wills it.

God has a plan for every one of us. Many people go through life without ever thinking about it, but that doesn’t change the fact that God put us here for a purpose. We aren’t here by accident; we’re here because God put us here. And He put us here for a reason–so we could come to know Him in a personal way, and then live the way He wants us to live.

That’s why you can pray and seek God’s will when you face decisions, and it is why you can know God is with you every moment of the day. The Bible says, “Teach me your way, O Lord; lead me in a straight path” (Psalm 27:11).

10 Reasons


Here are 10 reasons why God accepts gay Christians.
1. The term “homosexual” didn’t exist until 1892. Some modern Bible translations say that “homosexuals” will not inherit the kingdom of God, but neither the concept nor the word for people with exclusive same-sex attraction existed before the late 19th century. While the Bible rejects lustful same-sex behavior, that’s very different from a condemnation of all gay people and relationships.

2. Sexual orientation is a new concept–one that the Christian tradition hasn’t addressed. Many Christians draw on their faith’s traditions to shape their beliefs, but the concept of sexual orientation is new. Until recent decades, same-sex behavior was placed in the same category with gluttony or drunkenness — as a vice of excess anyone might be prone to — not as the expression of a sexual orientation. The Christian tradition has never spoken to the modern issue of LGBT people and their relationships.

3. Celibacy is a gift, not a mandate. The Bible honors celibacy as a good way of living — Jesus was celibate, after all — but it also makes clear that celibacy must be a voluntary choice. Requiring that all gay people remain celibate is at odds with the Bible’s teachings on celibacy, which are grounded Scripture’s core affirmation that God’s physical creation is good.

4. Condemning same-sex relationships is harmful to the LGBT community. Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount that good trees bear good fruit, while bad trees bear bad fruit. The church’s rejection of same-sex relationships has caused tremendous, needless suffering to the LGBT community–bad fruit. Those harmful consequences should make Christians open to reconsidering the church’s traditional teaching.

5. Sodom and Gomorrah involved an attempted gang rape, not a loving relationship. It’s commonly assumed that God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah out of his wrath against same-sex relations, but the only form of same-sex behavior described in the story is an attempted gang rape — nothing like a loving, committed relationship. The Bible explicitly condemns Sodom for its arrogance, inhospitality and apathy toward the poor — not for same-sex behavior.

6. The prohibitions in Leviticus don’t apply to Christians. Leviticus condemns male same-sex intercourse, but the entire Old Testament law code has never applied to Christians in light of Christ’s death. Leviticus also condemns eating pork, rabbit, or shellfish, cutting hair at the sides of one’s head, and having sex during a woman’s menstrual period — none of which Christians continue to observe.

7. Paul condemns same-sex lust, not love. Like other ancient writers, Paul described same-sex behavior as the result of excessive sexual desire on the part of people who could be content with opposite-sex relationships. He didn’t have long-term, loving same-sex relationships in view. And while he described same-sex behavior as “unnatural,” he also said men having long hair goes against nature, and most Christians read that as a reference to cultural conventions.

8. Marriage is about commitment. Marriage often involves procreation, but according to the New Testament, it’s based on something deeper: a lifelong commitment to a partner. Marriage is even compared to the relationship between Christ and the church, and while the language used is opposite-sex, the core principles apply just as well to same-sex couples.

9. Human beings are relational. From the beginning of Genesis, human beings are described as having a need for relationship, just as God himself is relational. Sexuality is a core part of what it means to be a relational person, and to condemn LGBT people’s sexuality outright damages their ability to be in relationship with all people — and with God.

10. Faithful Christians are already embracing LGBT brothers and sisters. Mainstream denominations like Presbyterians and Episcopalians now ordain openly gay clergy, and there are seeds of change in evangelical churches as well. This November, the Reformation Project will host a training conference for up to 900 LGBT-affirming Christians in Washington, D.C.–and the movement for change in conservative churches is just getting started.

Matthew Vines is the author of God and the Gay Christian and is the founder of The Reformation Project, a Bible-based non-profit organization that seeks to reform church teaching on sexual orientation and gender identity. Matthew lives in Wichita, Kansas.

Proverbs

Proverbs 3:5
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.

Proverbs 1:7
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 4:23
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

Proverbs 1:3
For receiving instruction in prudent behavior, doing what is right and just and fair.

Proverbs 17:22
A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

Proverbs 16:18
Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.

5 Psalms about the Future

By Nicholas Hemming

When you fear the future, the struggle often feels all-consuming. “What ifs” seem to run wild in your mind. You strive to focus on the task at hand—but without fail, you surrender to a fear that feels insurmountable. What does tomorrow hold? What if the future feels hopeless?

While submitting your latest rent payment, you may fear living paycheck to paycheck for the rest of your life. As you prepare for another move, you may fear loneliness or isolation. After an unsuccessful dating relationship, you may fear life as a single person, without a spouse to love and cherish.

Regardless of the circumstance, it seems impossible to move away from this fear. The future makes you freeze; thoughts of tomorrow, and the next day, unearth unmanageable anxiety. You want to have a hopeful, confident outlook, though at this point, you only feel grief and uncertainty. You wonder if your anxiety about the future will ever pass.

In these moments, turn to God’s Word for encouragement, comfort and hope. Depend on the Lord as you wrestle with anxiety about the future. And continually seek him through prayer as you work to overcome your fear. These five Psalms will get you started:

Psalm 23:4 (GNTD)
Even if I go through the deepest darkness,
I will not be afraid, Lord,
for you are with me.
Your shepherd’s rod and staff protect me.

Psalm 34:4 (GNTD)
I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me;
he freed me from all my fears.

Psalm 55:22 (GNTD)
Leave your troubles with the Lord,
and he will defend you;
he never lets honest people be defeated.

Psalm 94:19 (GNTD)
Whenever I am anxious and worried,
you comfort me and make me glad.

Psalm 121:1-2 (GNTD)
I look to the mountains;
where will my help come from?
My help will come from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.

Nicholas Hemming serves as a Content Specialist with American Bible Society. As a child of Southern New Hampshire, he grew up exploring hidden towns along the rocky New England coast. Though he now resides in Philadelphia, PA, he continues to curiously explore his home—and the towns, cities and countries that lay beyond his home.

Prayer for Safety

Our world is filled with events and situations that can cause great fear and anxiety. It’s easy to become overwhelmed and live imprisoned by fear.  We are promised in God’s Word that he is faithful and will protect us (2 Thessalonians 3:3).  God wants us to let go of fear and to live life to the fullest! (John 10:10) My family is in the path of Hurricane Nate, so I offer this prayer for safety.

Lord, I pray Your emotional, physical, and spiritual protection over my family. Keep evil far from them, and help them to trust You as their refuge and strength. I pray You will guard their minds from harmful instruction, and grant them discernment to recognize truth. I pray You will make them strong and courageous in the presence of danger, recognizing that You have overcome and will set right all injustice and wrong one day. Help them to find rest in Your shadow, as they live in the spiritual shelter You provide for them. Let them know that the only safe place is in Jesus, and that their home on earth is only temporary.