God representative

Any person who is minister of any sort – priest, pastor, a chaplain or just a visitor from the church – needs to remember that they are a representative of Jesus to the person they are visiting. To people who are hurting and especially people who have been hurt or felt marginalized by the church, any person who represents themselves as being from a church represents Jesus himself to them – represents God to them.

This means that you have to make sure that how you act is impeccable. If you make an appointment to visit with someone don’t be late. If you are late, you are saying to them that their time and concerns don’t matter to God.

If a newcomer visits your church and leaves their name and address for you to contact them, then do it within the week – and do it personally. A form letter won’t cut it – especially if it is two weeks late. People like to think that they are noticed and special and important. Make the extra effort, because you’re not just you anymore but the person you serve.

Consider it as if you are driving a delivery vehicle for some company. On the back of the vehicle there’s a bumper sticker that says “How’s my driving? Please call” and it gives a 1-800 number and your tag number. When you represent God to people you’re not you anymore – you’re representing something much bigger than you and it’s important that you be as perfect as you can be.

Poem – God and money

I saw a church sign that said
“Did you give back to Him this week?”

I’m pretty sure what they meant
was money.
But what God wants
is work.

God wants your service.
God wants you to use your talents
to help someone,
to feed someone,
to clothe someone,
to visit someone in prison.

Bono said
“The God I believe in isn’t short of cash, mister.”
I think he’s on to something.
If God wanted money,
God would make money.
Instead,
God made people.
God made us
to help each other.

God doesn’t want your money.
It isn’t as easy as that.

To give your money
to a church
or a charity
is to pay someone else
to do
your
good deeds.

What God wants
is for you
to help people
directly.
When you give money
to a charity
or a church
you’re letting someone else
get that good feeling
that comes
from helping someone
directly.

Musings on “Mem”

The Hebrew letter Mem looks like this מ

It sounds like the letter M. By the way, this is the shape of the M at the beginning or the middle of the word. The one at the end of a word is closed and looks like this ם. That isn’t part of this musing today – perhaps another day when I learn more about it.

According to David Sacks, creator and speaker in “Spiritual Tools for an Outrageous World” (an Orthodox, Chassidic, and often Kabbalistic Jewish podcast) the letter Mem is a symbol of the womb. The center of it is where the baby is, and the bottom is where the baby comes out. You may have to copy and paste the Hebrew letter Mem and make it larger to see the opening at the bottom to understand this, because this website makes the font very small.

According to Jewish grammar, Mem means “from” – yet it also turns a verb into a noun. It can be seen in the word (transliterated for ease) Mitzvah (commandment), which is derived from the verb Tzavah, which means “command”.

Mem, a symbol of the womb, is the thing that turns a verb – action, spirit, essence, – into a noun – actuality, physicality.

This blew me away.

Especially since Mary, (which really would be Miryam מִרְיָם) (Hebrew reads right to left) is the mother of Jesus – spirit made flesh.

We are all called to be like Mary – the letter Mem – to bring forth God’s will into the world. We are all called to make the idea into reality. We do that by serving God every day by being merciful and kind, by being just. We do it by building homes for the homeless and by giving clothing to the naked, and by healing the sick. These all sound like verbs, but they are verbs made real by doing them rather than just thinking about them.

Talents aren’t for us, they are for God.

In the parable of the talents, in Matthew 25:14-30, is about trusting in God and using the gifts that God has given you.

The “prosperity Gospel” preachers will tell you that this parable means that God wants you to make more money, but they have it wrong. Remember that “the love of money is the root of all evil”?

So what is it about?

The king (who represents God) gives money, to three people. It is understood that he is coming back. He gives different amounts to them “to each, according to their ability.”

Two of them are mindful of their gifts and use them to make more. One is afraid of the king and buries the money so he doesn’t lose it. When the king returns and asks for an accounting of his money, the first two are able to give the king back more than what he gave them. The last is only able to give back the original amount. The king is very angry with him.

Notice they had to give back everything. This wasn’t a money making opportunity for them. They didn’t profit from this. They were just stewards of the king’s money.

This isn’t just about money. This is about any gift from God, which is everything. It is your abilities, your special skills, your strength, your time…everything.

God wants us to trust that God will provide. God wants us to trust that we are safe and provided for. God wants is to trust that God is in charge.

Basically, God wants us to trust God, in all things, all the time.

We aren’t in charge. God is.

We are here to use our gifts – time, talent, and treasure, to build up the kingdom of God. We are here to be good stewards our entire lives.

As long as we are not doing things for our own benefit and glory, we will thrive. When we become selfish and greedy, we will fail.

This isn’t about tithing money to a church. This is about serving God all the time, and trusting God all the time.

If we are called to do something by God, God will provide a way for it to happen. This is especially important to remember when we can’t see a way that is possible.

Look at Moses. God told him that he was going to lead Israel to safety across the Red Sea. That made no sense. How was that going to happen? God told Moses to take what he had, his staff, and use it. He did, and God worked through Moses and parted the sea so they could cross safely.

Opening prayer

(A prayer that can be said at the beginning of a home church service)

Almighty God,
we are gathered together
in the promise of your son
Jesus Christ
who told us
that whenever two or more
are gathered together
in his name
that he is there
among them.

Send him now
to be with us
that we may
lift each other up
and honor You.

Send him now
among us
that we may
fully and better
understand him
and serve You
through him.

Amen.

On names – what does it mean to be a Christian?

“Israel” means to struggle with God.

“Islam” means to submit to God.

So what does it mean to be a Christian? In a way it means a little bit of both. It means to serve God. It means that you believe that God loves us so much that God decided to get down to our level and understand things from our perspective. It means that we are to follow Jesus’s example and to allow God to work through us to bring healing to the world. It means we are to be obedient to the will of God and put our own desires and wants last. Not second.

Now God will never ask us to ignore our needs. And we aren’t meant to be zombies.

This all sounds a lot like the word “submit”, but I think “to serve” is more accurate. To be Christian is to intentionally, willingly, and (hopefully) joyfully serve God.

How do we serve God? The easy answer is to be a minister. The hard answer is just as you are. You can go to school and learn how to tend God’s sheep. Or you can take care of them right now. Mother Teresa taught us that we don’t have to help everybody all over the world. We just have to help one person at a time.

God made you the way He made you because He needs you that way. We aren’t all supposed to be the same. Your differences are your strengths. Consider a garden. A garden full of the same kind of flower is boring. God made us all different because we are more beautiful that way.

I’m not a Christian. I’m a Jesus follower.

I’m not a Christian apologist. In fact, I’m not even comfortable admitting I’m a Christian. But I am for Jesus. And I want to make sure that people don’t confuse the two.

There are many Christians who are awesome Christ-followers. There are many who quietly work for justice and peace. There are many who feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick and visit those in prison. You know, the stuff Jesus said to do.

But they are quiet. They are quiet because that is part of it. They understand that they aren’t supposed to toot their own horn or call attention to themselves. They understand that they are to keep their piety private. They understand this because they have read the words of Jesus. They understand this because they have Jesus in their hearts.

My issue is with the people who aren’t pious and who aren’t quiet. My issue is with the people who give the term “Christian” a bad name. Those people who make “Christian” mean anything but love and service.

I’m not apologizing for them. They are like the relatives that you don’t talk about. While Christians generally agree that the Westboro Baptist Church people aren’t following Jesus, they get a little iffy on the Duck Dynasty patriarch. They feel that some level of crazy-hateful-intolerance is OK.

The problem is, it isn’t. It isn’t Christian to be anything other than loving, and ‘loving’ doesn’t mean telling other people they are wrong and going to hell because of how they are living their lives. The more you read of Jesus’ words, the more you realize that.

I feel like I keep writing this same thing over and over, yet I feel it is still necessary. I almost didn’t write my Duck Dynasty piece. I feel like they don’t need any more attention. I feel like the whole thing needs to die down. But then, I realize that they are doing the exact opposite of what Jesus wants, and they are besmirching the name of Jesus. Way too many people can’t see Jesus because of all the fake Christians standing in His way.

I’m not a Christian apologist. I don’t want anybody to become a Christian – not now, not with what “Christian” means right now.

But I will say I love Jesus, and I want you to know that Jesus isn’t like His followers at all. They say that you know a tree by its fruit, and if you look there are a lot of really rotten apples in the bunch. But it isn’t all bad. The good ones are hiding.

Sometimes I want to burn the whole thing down and start over from scratch. I want to strip away everything that gets in the way of following Jesus, of serving God. Jesus did this. There were ten Commandments, and Jesus stripped them down to two. He saw that people were getting bogged down in the details and missing the big picture.

Sure I’m upset when people use Christianity as an excuse to be judgmental and hateful. I’m also upset when they do this to the exclusion of focusing on more important matters.

Christians, if we really are going to be worthy of the name, need to focus more on poverty and homelessness than pornography and homosexuality.

Instead of telling others what they are doing wrong, we need to start doing things right. There are people who are dying every day because they don’t have enough food or water. There are people who are suffering because they don’t live in a safe home. People are illiterate and undereducated. People are in prisons, both real and mental.

This is our calling. This is our place. This is what we are here to do. We are here to relieve suffering. We are here to lighten the load. We are here to help.

That is what being a Christian should mean. We need to be known for our love.

That is who Jesus is.

We need to be more like Jesus, who was totally obedient to God. He broke all the rules of his society and declared everybody “clean.” He touched the lepers and the menstruating woman – both were excluded and inhuman in those times. He ate with tax collectors and prostitutes. He violated every rule to show us that nobody is unclean. Nobody is inhuman. Everybody is welcome. Everybody is loved.

This is what we are supposed to do. Love. Welcome. Serve. Forgive. Bless.

So if you were to ask me right now if you should become a Christian, I’d say no. Become a Jesus follower instead. Read the Gospels – any translation. Don’t read someone else’s interpretation of the Gospels yet. Read the words of Jesus. There are some bits that don’t make sense – that’s OK. Even his disciples didn’t get everything and he had to explain it to them. There are some bits that are repeated. That’s OK too. It is the same story from four different viewpoints. The people who put the New Testament together thought that this story was too important to try to mash together into one story, so they left it the way it is.

You’ll come to see that the Jesus you find looks nothing like the one you’ve been sold all these years.