Who can be a minister?

We don’t have to debate about whether women or people who are gay should be ordained as ministers.  We can look at the words of Jesus and learn the answer to who is a minister.

Matthew 20:20-28
20 Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons approached Him with her sons. She knelt down to ask Him for something. 21 “What do you want?” He asked her. “Promise,” she said to Him, “that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right and the other on Your left, in Your kingdom.” 22 But Jesus answered, “You don’t know what you’re asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” “We are able,” they said to Him. 23 He told them, “You will indeed drink My cup. But to sit at My right and left is not Mine to give; instead, it belongs to those for whom it has been prepared by My Father.” 24 When the 10 disciples heard this, they became indignant with the two brothers. 25 But Jesus called them over and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles dominate them, and the men of high position exercise power over them. 26 It must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave; 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life—a ransom for many.”

This thought is continued a few chapters later – 

Matthew 23:8-10 
8 “But as for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi,’ because you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 Do not call anyone on earth your father, because you have one Father, who is in heaven. 10 And do not be called masters either, because you have one Master, the Messiah.

We can assume this instruction extends to all titles that are currently used for ordained ministers. We aren’t supposed to elevate ourselves over other people, and we are not supposed to put other people over us.

Even Jesus insisted on this rule for himself.  He continually pointed to God as the only one above us – not even himself. 

Luke 18:18-19 
18 A ruler asked Him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 19 “Why do you call Me good?” Jesus asked him. “No one is good but One—God."

So the answer is simple.  NOBODY is supposed to be above anybody else in the Church.  No ordained ministers, no bishops, no popes – NOBODY.  Only God is above us. This is what Jesus teaches us, and as he is the Messiah, that is what matters.

We are all ministers, by virtue of our call to this life.  If we do what God tells us to do, we are Jesus’ family.

Matthew 12:46-50 
46 He was still speaking to the crowds when suddenly His mother and brothers were standing outside wanting to speak to Him. 47 Someone told Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to You.”  48 But He replied to the one who told Him, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” 49 And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven, that person is My brother and sister and mother.”

So who is a minister? Those who do good.

Matthew 7:15-20 
15 “Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravaging wolves. 16 You’ll recognize them by their fruit. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit. 18 A good tree can’t produce bad fruit; neither can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 So you’ll recognize them by their fruit.”

What are some examples of “fruit”?

Galatians 5:22-25 
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith,23 gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit.

And you can’t ever go wrong with treating other people the same way you would want to be treated.

That includes – giving food to the hungry, giving a beverage to the thirsty, giving shelter to the homeless, giving clothing to the naked, healing to the sick, and visiting the imprisoned.  (See Matthew 25:31-46)

Jesus is far more interested in what we DO more than what we BELIEVE.  It is about right action, instead of right ritual.  It doesn’t matter what day you serve God, because it should be every day. It doesn’t matter what gender or sexual orientation you are, because this call is for everyone.

We are not to create limits. The work is too important, and too big. So who is a minister? Anyone who does the will of God. 

Mark 9:38-40 38 
John said to Him, “Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in Your name, and we tried to stop him because he wasn’t following us.” 39 “Don’t stop him,” said Jesus, “because there is no one who will perform a miracle in My name who can soon afterward speak evil of Me.40 For whoever is not against us is for us.
Matthew 9:37-38 
37 Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. 38 Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”

Notice that in all of the Gospels, Jesus doesn’t talk about what people should wear, length of clothing or hair, or what is the right seminary to go to – because these things don’t matter. Jesus called day laborers – simple fishermen and tax collectors, to be his disciples. They weren’t educated. They weren’t first in their class. They were simple people, just like us. He calls us too, right now, as we are.  We are called to be Jesus to a world that is desperate for his healing touch.

We are Daughters and Sons of God.

We are all created by God – but more importantly, we are God’s daughters and sons if we do God’s will. This is not to be taken lightly.  Do you think of yourself as God’s child – really?

Any person who chooses to serve God – and does it, is a “Chosen” person. It isn’t a birthright, but something that is available to people of all nationalities.

Exodus 19:3-6

Moses went up the mountain to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain: “This is what you must say to the house of Jacob, and explain to the Israelites: ‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Me. Now if you will listen to Me and carefully keep My covenant, you will be My own possession out of all the peoples, although all the earth is Mine, and you will be My kingdom of priests and My holy nation.’ These are the words that you are to say to the Israelites.”

Note the conditional “if”.  If you listen to the Lord and follow the covenant, then you will be unique among all people of the Earth. The corollary to that is that if you don’t follow the Lord’s commandments, then you will not be special. Your commitment to doing what the Lord commands is what distinguishes you.

John 1:11-13

11 He came to His own,
and His own peopledid not receive Him.
12 But to all who did receive Him,
He gave them the right to bechildren of God,
to those who believe in His name,
13 who were born,
not of blood,
or of the will of the flesh,
or of the will of man,
but of God.

Note that we can become children of God, namely daughters and sons of God.

Notice the Lord’s Prayer, to be found in Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:1-4. This is the Condensed Gospel rendition, which blends them together –

Jesus was praying, and when he was through, one of his disciples said to him “Lord, teach us how to pray, just like John taught his disciples.”

He said “You should pray like this:

Heavenly Father, we give honor to your holy name.

May your kingdom come soon.

May your will be done here on earth just like it is done in heaven.

Give us our bread for tomorrow,
and forgive our faults in the same way that we forgive the faults of others.

Do not cause us to be tempted, but instead rescue us from evil.

The kingdom and power and glory are all yours eternally. Amen.”

It starts with us saying that God is our Father. This is a bold statement. God is directly approachable by us. If God is our Father, we are daughters and sons of God.

Matthew 12:46-50

46 He was still speaking to the crowds when suddenly His mother and brothers were standing outside wanting to speak to Him. 47 Someone told Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to You.” 48 But He replied to the one who told Him, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” 49 And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven, that person is My brother and sister and mother.”

If you do God’s will, you are the brother or sister to Jesus.  If you are his brother or sister – you are a son or daughter of God.

Hebrews 2:11-12

11 For the One who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father.That is why Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers, 12 saying:

I will proclaim Your name to My brothers;
I will sing hymns to You in the congregation.

Jesus says he is directly related to his followers. 

See Psalm 51:16-17, 1 Samuel 15:22-23, Hebrews 13:16, Micah 6:6-8, Isaiah 58:3-11 for examples of what God wants. 

God isn’t interested in sacrifices.  All the detailed rules in Leviticus are about what kinds of offerings were appropriate in the time of the Temple.  But what God really wants is for us to take care of people. Who cares if you keep kosher or you cover your head if you ignore the needs of your neighbor who is hungry or homeless?

I’ve read before that atheists serve God better than many religious people.  They don’t think there is a divine being who will take care of people, so they know it is up to them. Actions speak louder than words.

Sunday meditation 4-22-18

Once a week isn’t enough to show that I love God, to remind me that I am a servant of God. But it isn’t just at a church service that you do that – but life. The church service should give you fuel and marching orders – and the rest of the time you are out in the field – working – planting seeds of hope and love, and reaping joy.

It is where you put into practice what you learned.

I like what monasteries do – you meet at least three times a day to pray. This reminds me of how AA works – you go to as many meetings as often as you would have gotten drunk. So now that you are sober, you pray instead. This keeps you from slipping into sin (of whatever sort) and you stay on the path. It keeps you on the wagon, on the Way.

Sin and addiction are closely related – and are cured the same way. Turn away from your own way of doing things, because those obviously weren’t working. Turn away from the world’s ways of “fixing” problems, which often end up causing more. Turn towards God – the One who is the true Healer. Work out your problems by yoking with God.

Following immediately

Look at these two different verses, one from the Christian scriptures, and the one it echoes from the Hebrew scriptures.

Luke 9:56-62 (TLV)

56 Then they moved on to another village. 57 As they were traveling on the road, someone said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go.” 58 But Yeshua said to him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” 59 He said to another, “Follow Me.” But that one said, “First let me go and bury my father.” 60 But Yeshua said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead. But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Then another also said, “I will follow You, Master, but first let me say goodbye to those in my home.” 62 But Yeshua said to him, “No one who has put his hand to the plow and looked back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

 

While all of this passage is interesting, this post is concerned with verses 61-62.

Now look at the parallel –

 

1 Kings 19:19-21 (HCSB)

19 Elijah left there and found Elisha son of Shaphat as he was plowing. Twelve teams of oxen were in front of him, and he was with the twelfth team. Elijah walked by him and threw his mantle over him. 20 Elisha left the oxen, ran to follow Elijah, and said, “Please let me kiss my father and mother, and then I will follow you.” “Go on back,” he replied, “for what have I done to you?” 21 So he turned back from following him, took the team of oxen, and slaughtered them. With the oxen’s wooden yoke and plow, he cooked the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he left, followed Elijah, and served him.

 

In the Hebrew scriptures (1 Kings 19:19-21) the prophet-to-be Elisha is allowed to go back and finish up his business.  Yet in the Christian scriptures (Luke 9:56-62), the unnamed follower-to-be is denied this.

Is it because he wasn’t chosen?  In the case of Elisha, God told Elijah that he was to be selected as his follower, moreover, as his successor.  He is not just a follower, but is going to be an equal to Elijah in status and power.

Yet the follower of Yeshua (The Hebrew name of Jesus) was not chosen.  He chose to follow, instead of being chosen.  There is a difference, and it is important.  He was at risk of turning away, of being distracted from his healthy choice, if he went to his family – his old way of living.  He had to follow immediately or he would be in danger of being distracted from the path that leads to life.

This feels like an echo of the Parable of the Sower.  Here is the Condensed Gospel version of Jesus’ explanation of it –

The parable of the sower explained

Jesus said “Do you not understand this parable? Then how are you going to be able to understand any of them? The seed is the word of God. The sower is the one who shares it with others. The people along the path are those who have heard the message about the kingdom and don’t understand it. Satan has snatched away the words that were sown in their hearts so they would not believe and be saved.”

As for the seed sown on rocky ground, this represents the people who hear the word and immediately receive it joyfully. However, because they are not rooted in their faith, they believe for a little while but stumble when troubles come because of the word.

Regarding the seed sown among thorns, these are the people who hear the word but are distracted and paralyzed by worry and greed, and the word is not able to take root in them and produce any fruit.

But the seed sown on good ground represents the people who hear the word with honest and open hearts. They understand it, welcome it, and through endurance are able to bear much fruit, even up to 100 times what was sown.”

MT 13:18-24, MK 4:13-20, LK 8:11-15

Put God first, and everything falls into place

A friend and I were talking about this verse, and were wondering about how God directs our paths. Her translation said that God “will make our paths straight”, but I feel this translation is more helpful for this lesson. (All translations here are HCSB)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own understanding;
think about Him in all your ways,
and He will guide you on the right paths.
–Proverbs 3:5-6

I was reminded of this from the prophet Isaiah –

Therefore the Lord is waiting to show you mercy,
and is rising up to show you compassion,
for the Lord is a just God.
All who wait patiently for Him are happy.
For you people will live on Zion in Jerusalem and will never cry again. He will show favor to you at the sound of your cry; when He hears, He will answer you. The Lord will give you meager bread and water during oppression, but your Teacher will not hide Himself any longer. Your eyes will see your Teacher, and whenever you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear this command behind you: “This is the way. Walk in it.”
—Isaiah 30:18-21

God will direct our paths, telling us which way to go. This will make our paths straight, because God is keeping us from straying to the left or the right. This phrase is used often in the book of Joshua. Here is one example –

“Be strong and courageous, for you will distribute the land I swore to their fathers to give them as an inheritance. Above all, be strong and very courageous to carefully observe the whole instruction My servant Moses commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right or the left, so that you will have success wherever you go. This book of instruction must not depart from your mouth; you are to recite it day and night so that you may carefully observe everything written in it. For then you will prosper and succeed in whatever you do. Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
–Joshua 1:6-9

Jesus echoes the most important part to how this works –

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
–Matthew 6:33-34

We must seek God first. When we follow God, we won’t get lost. This is how out paths, and our lives, will be straight.

Don’t make plans and then ask God to bless them. That is doing it in the wrong order.
Follow God, and God will fill you with God’s desires, and direct your way.
Then you will go in the right direction.

Peg

The “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” concept only works so far.  How do you deal with the situation when they don’t return the favor?  I feel like I’m constantly giving out 20 dollar bills, and not getting anything back – not even a thank you.

I have often felt like a square peg in a round hole. How people treat me is often at odds with how I feel they should treat me. I asked God about this and God said that perhaps it’s me. Perhaps I need to change my expectations of the world.

God says “My ways are not your ways.”

Jesus asked his disciples to stay in the world but not to be of the world.

Jesus said to forgive people without count.

Jesus said that we should treat our enemies with kindness, and in so doing we will prove that we are children of God.

God says to me that I am supposed to stay the way I am and stay in the world as it is,

and feel that hurt

feel that pain

feel that dissonance.

…in part, so that I understand and can empathize with people who are excluded and left out. But also so that in holding my ground I can teach others how to act in a Godly way.  Sometimes we are to be teachers through our actions.

Many years ago,

I had asked God to be able to spread the messages he gave without attention to me. I want to be anonymous, and live my life without fame. This way I can go to the gym or the grocery store and live like a normal person. In the meantime God uses me as a conduit. I want to be a good steward of the gifts that he gives me.

 

So why am I upset when a message I share is taken up and adopted (stolen, in my mind) by someone who acts as if it is theirs? I don’t want fame or money, so it doesn’t make sense for me to be upset.

I brought this to God this week and got a lot of peace.  That feeling I had is the human part of me, rearing its ugly head.  It is important that I felt it, and brought it to God.  That is what God wants – to heal all of our brokenness.  But we have to take it to the Healer to be healed.

Here is what it means to be a child of God: It isn’t natural, but spiritual.  We are all created by God at birth but the true children of God, once they are spiritually awake, then choose to be further formed and shaped by God. They choose to align themselves with God and then let God work through them.  It is a two-way adoption.  God wants all of us to choose to follow God’s ways, but not all of us do.  It is our choice.

I need to give my immature feelings of jealousy (because these messages are not mine, but God’s) to God, so God can transform them into selflessness.   I need to do this in order to become a pure vessel for God’s Spirit in this world.

Sometimes for healing to take place, there has to be a reconciliation – a balancing of the accounts.

It is important to let other people know how you feel.  They can’t read your mind. It is like being a bill collector who issues the bill (with interest) ten years after it is due.  It is better to issue the bill early, to get it over with and have the accounts settled as soon as possible.

Jesus says that if we have an issue against someone, to not take our offering to the Temple, but to leave it and go make peace with that person first.

So today I wrote sent this message to a lady in a head covering group I belong to:

“Hello!  I thought it would be important to write you.  At least a year ago I mentioned something on the “Cover me happy” Facebook page about how it would be a good idea to focus on the idea of covering, instead of covering with a lot of fancy wraps.  I said that too many fancy wraps would make it difficult for the beginner, or someone who is poor and can’t afford a lot of scarves.  I also pointed out that modesty is an important part of covering, so calling attention to it with fancy wraps didn’t make sense.  Not long after I said that, you posted on the Wrapunzel page this very idea, saying that you’d read it in another group but wasn’t sure who said it.  Then it became a thing, where people were posting their single scarf wraps and tagging you.  I felt very hurt by this, since I am the one who suggested it.  I said nothing at the time, but now that something like this has happened to me in a different context, I think it is important to speak up and set things right.  I don’t want fame for the idea – it was just an idea.  I don’t want to be tagged when people post when they wear one scarf.  But I also don’t want my ideas claimed by someone else.  I think it is important to make things right, so that is why I am writing, to let you know how I feel.”

I have no idea how she will respond to it.  She probably doesn’t even remember.  Because of the message system on Facebook, she might never see it.  But I needed to write it.  It is important to balance the accounts.

Yesterday I wrote to the administrator of a group I’d been submitting newsletter offerings to, saying that she could not claim that she was writing the posts.  My first several posts were given the anonymous “from a member” credit.  I wasn’t sure about this – there was nothing saying that what we submitted would be anonymous.  But now it didn’t even say that, and at the bottom I noted that she’d said the contents were copyright (to her group – not to me).

Perhaps it was good for it to be anonymous – that way one member wouldn’t stick out.  I was also still wrestling with the idea that at least my messages were getting out.  I still don’t want fame or attention.  But I also don’t want my work to be claimed by another.

It is why I say that anyone can use anything I wrote for “The Condensed Gospel” for free, but they cannot claim that they wrote it, or charge money for it.  I don’t want money for it – but I also don’t want someone else to make money on it.  I now feel that credit is a sort of money in a way.

So now I’m holding my ground and speaking up. I’m telling people that they have hurt me as soon as I realize that they have, without “charging interest”.

 

Stay in the path that leads to life

Deuteronomy 5:32-33 Moses speaks to Israel at Mt. Sinai –

32 “Be careful to do as the LORD your God has commanded you; you are not to turn aside to the right or the left. 33 Follow the whole instruction the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live, prosper, and have a long life in the land you will possess.”

Joshua 1:6-7 The Lord to Joshua, Moses’ successor –
6 “Be strong and courageous, for you will distribute the land I swore to their fathers to give them as an inheritance. 7 Above all, be strong and very courageous to carefully observe the whole instruction My servant Moses commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right or the left, so that you will have success wherever you go.”

Joshua 23:6-8 Joshua’s final instructions as he is about to die –
6 “Be very strong and continue obeying all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, so that you do not turn from it to the right or left 7 and so that you do not associate with these nations remaining among you. Do not call on the names of their gods or make an oath to them; do not worship them or bow down to them. 8 Instead, remain faithful to the LORD your God, as you have done to this day.

Isaiah 30:19-21 The prophet Isaiah speaks –
19 For you people will live on Zion in Jerusalem and will never cry again. He will show favor to you at the sound of your cry; when He hears, He will answer you. 20 The Lord will give you meager bread and water during oppression, but your Teacher will not hide Himself any longer. Your eyes will see your Teacher, 21 and whenever you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear this command behind you: “This is the way. Walk in it.”

(all verses are HCSB)