Faith like a Necklace

Last night after work I was talking to a few of my co-workers while sitting outside on the picnic tables. After a while the conversation changed when Michael said the he needed God in his life. I told him that He is right here. We began to engage in intentional conversations about the gospel but not everyone at this table was a fan of what we were doing.

We work at a hip tex-mex restaurant in the River Oaks/Montrose area of Houston, TX. If you don’t know about this area it is the place to be for nightlife in the fourth largest city in America. So nevertheless the sometimes-hostile environment of being a Christian in the service industry, but also between the bars, nightclubs, and hipster hangouts, a gospel centered relationship is not an easy one to build. But for some reason Michael and a few of my other co-workers feel comfortable talking to me about Christianity, no matter how much they do or don’t know about or agree with the faith. Sometimes the things I say about the Bible confuse them because that is not what they have heard about Christians or seen from the church.

These conversations are very difficult to walk though. I am a pretty open-minded guy and I don’t pretend to be anything that I am not, sometimes to a fault. Being in this place is sometimes hard for my faith because in all honesty I am a skeptic by nature. I have not always been a Christian much less a very good one, but the work that God has been doing in my life is progressive to say the least. All the questions that people throw at me I can field, sometimes with difficulty, sometimes with ease but always with conviction. See it was not very long ago that I was giving the same arguments to myself about Jesus. Trying to excuse my lifestyle by rationalizing my morals and what I believed about believing in “god”.

But last night as I was heading home I really started evaluating what my witness is. Do I offer a good witness to the world as a follower of Christ? What is the reason that people feel comfortable asking me these questions? Why do people enjoy getting into friendly debates with me? Is it because the Holy Spirit is drawing them near or is it because they think I am just a hipster with a cross necklace? Do I look any different to them than the next guy or do they see me as a minister of the gospel of Gods love?

19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel,that I may share with them in its blessings. -1 Corinthians 9:19-23 ESV

How does this look for our lives, testimony, or the building of the Kingdom? How can we become more intentional but less influenced?

The line between looking like a hypocrite and fool is very thin. If your witness is to be just like those you are surrounded by but wear faith like a necklace then your character shows no grace. Grace does not exist so that we may continue on in our old lives. Your testimony then becomes foolish. But at the same time to be so disconnected from the reality of our society and the relationships before us is to ignore the message of Christ. To distance ourselves from the world and continue to live in the arrogance that is our own lives is a masquerade of humility. People are not drawn to either person. Maybe they are but that is how cults get started.

Wealth in the Kingdom, pt. 2

Last year, I wrote a post analyzing a couple of scriptures regarding what to do with wealth. Further discussion has made me want to explore this again, from a different angle. Previously, I wrote about what those who are already in the Kingdom should do with their wealth. But lately, a different subject has come up: 1) Do we welcome the wealthy into the Kingdom? and 2) If so, how?

I think the answer to the first question is…almost obvious. The doors of the Kingdom are open to all; we are not to reject anyone. The wealthy are as welcome as any other sinners. However, we do have to be a bit more careful than that, as Jesus reminds us that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matt. 19:24) Entering into the alternative community of Heaven requires sacrifice. It is costly.

Another relevant, and challenging, teaching of Jesus comes from an often-misapplied parable in Luke 14:25-33. Jesus is speaking of the costliness of entering the Kingdom, and compares it to building a tower. The lesson here is spiritual, not economic. Before building a tower, you have to make sure you have the money and resources to complete the project. Similarly, before you choose to follow Jesus, you must “calculate the cost” and assess whether you’ll be able to pay it. The “cost” is not subjective or metaphorical. Jesus makes it explicit in verses 27 and 33: “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple,” and “So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.”

Are the wealthy welcome in the Kingdom? Certainly; but their wealth is not. At least, that’s what I’d like to say – but we have to be a little more nuanced there as well. As it turns out, the wealth is welcome, provided that it is entirely detached from those who originally accrued it. Let’s look at how the apostles handled welcoming the wealthy into the Kingdom in Acts 4:32-35:

And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them. And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need.

A lot of wealth was brought into the Kingdom as the Gospel spread to both poor and rich. But nobody brought their wealth intending to retain it (yet — as homework, continue reading into Acts 5). This passage is really, really intense. Imagine being able to speak statements these today! “All things were common property to them.” “There was not a needy person among them.” This is not anarcho-communist idealism. This happened. This was the lifestyle of the first-century church. This is the lifestyle of the Kingdom of God.

In closing, wealth is not something to be embraced, it is something to be repented of. That’s what was happening in the apostolic community. People who were rich recognized that they were being unjust to the poor and sought to make things right by repenting of their wealth and allowing it to be distributed to those who needed it (cf. Zaccheus in Luke 19:8; also see John the Baptist’s concept of “bearing fruit in keeping with repentance” in Luke 3:11). In a community that is operating on God’s economy, no one is wealthy, yet everyone is able to live. In this way, all are wealthy in the root sense of the word.

Making New Friends

Made a few new friends the other day. Let me tell you about them.

Maurice was sitting on a bench in the park beside St. Vincent de Paul church downtown, grateful for the park and the ability of people to engage in charity there.

Mikey was a young guy standing at the end of I-83 with a sign that said he was broke and traveling. Turns out he was headed to Asheville, NC, which is very near where my parents live.

Towanda, whose name may not be spelled like that, was sitting on a mattress underneath US-40, listening to a Jeremih CD and hoping to get a few more albums.

Augustus was lying on the other side of MLK Boulevard, also under Rt 40, on a few quilts in a bed of ivy. He seemed more reluctant to engage in conversation, but still chatted for a minute.

James was an older man, walking along the road with the aid of a single crutch. His wife had died several years ago, and he hadn’t been able to put his life back together since. He talked about knowing God was taking care of him, but not being able to “stay out of his own mind” – that is, whenever he felt led in a certain direction, he would overthink it and start asking “What for? Why bother?” I can certainly sympathize.

And Marlon Harris, who I’d run into before, was an energetic soul with plenty to talk about. He’s intermittently working on a book. He’s been in jail, an experience which forced him to deal with parts of his life he otherwise never had, and seems to be better off personally for it. He could easily walk into church and preach a sermon next Sunday. (How awesome would that be?)

These are some of the people we encountered on Saturday afternoon, when myself, my wife (on her birthday), and our friends Brett and Jen all roamed around downtown Baltimore handing out sandwiches (and some of Jen’s homemade chocolate chip cookies). My attitude toward actions like this is not to feel like we’re blessing others, but to be prepared to be blessed by them. Every person is made in the image of God, so everyone we meet gives us new insight into Him. I hope we did bless them, with food and a short bit of company, but I hope we were blessed as well. I know I was. I hope to encounter these individuals again, and I pray God will continue to bless and protect them as they live on the streets of Baltimore.

The Dangers of Focusing on Our Failures, Shortcomings, and Sins

Religion and religious institutions are plagued with the overemphasis on what is wrong with us. Their message is clear. We are sinners, we don’t deserve to live, we deserve to go to hell, we’re messed up from birth and there is nothing we can do about it, only accept God’s grace. We find this doctrine in many Judeo-Islamic-Christian traditions. I believe the constant pounding of this philosophy into our brains is detrimental to our spiritual growth.

I don’t think I’m qualified to say much about the impact of sin doctrine on Judaism, as I have limited experience with modern-day Judaism. As it pertains to Islam, I find that Islamic practice is generally far more focused on our sinful nature than is portrayed in the Qur’an. This is based off conversations with friends who are Muslim and my reading of the Qur’an (english translation is not considered to be legitimate by Muslims). Again, I refrain from diving in any deeper because of my limited experience with the faith.

The primary focus on the doctrine of sin is extremely damaging to our spiritual selves. It is the product of religion and not true transcendental spirituality. This results in our conformity to religious systems, which hold us in place and thwart growth. Ponder how indulgences were purchased and used  as the only means of repentance  in the Catholic church shortly after Christianity became domesticated under Constantine’s rule. Prior to the Council of Nicaea, Christ followers, or followers of The Way, had an extremely optimistic view of Christianity. There weren’t many discussions on hell, and many early Christians believed in Universal Salvation. The point here is that they were not focused on pointing out that people were sinners. They were focused on serving a living God through radical discipleship. When you are focused on building the church through loving your neighbors, resisting Roman rule, taking care of the poor, living in community and sharing resources, there is little time to focus on the negative.

This is not to say that Paul did not preach a message of repentance. He most certainly did. We can see that this was his message early on in Acts:

19 “So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven.20 First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds. 21 That is why the Jews seized me in the temple courts and tried to kill me. 22 But I have had God’s help to this very day, and so I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen– 23 that the Christ would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would proclaim light to his own people and to the Gentiles.”

-Acts 26:19-23

But if we look at the end of that passage, we see that Christ’s message was to proclaim light to his people and to the Gentiles. This message puts a positive spin on Paul’s words. The word for repentance in Greek is μετάνοια, meaning after/behind one’s mind. Repentance isn’t synonomous with confessing, and asking for forgiveness; there is a strong element of change or transformation from within involved. If we look at repentance in this way, it focuses mainly on transformation. The focus is on going out there and serving God and others through love. In today’s church many of us focus on asking for forgiveness. If we keep putting a big band-aid on the wound, maybe it will heal, or that it’s alright, because God’s grace will cover our sins.

I think 1700 years of beating the idea that we are sinners into our heads is enough. We all know that we are imperfect, broken beings. We know that deep down we have lost our connection with our Maker and with the natural world in which we were created for. I think we equate the word sin too much with lawlessness. Sin means that we are “missing the mark” which constitutes as inequality with God, but also can be used to describe our unequal  relationships with each other. Ched Myers argues in Jesus’ New Economy of Grace that:

Throughout the New Testament the same verb (aphiemi) is used to “forgive” sin and “release” from debt. Unlike our society, which refuses to see the economic dimensions of moral and criminal dysfunction, the gospels do not spiritualize “sin” and ignore the realities of “debt,” but rather see the two as fundamentally interrelated.

I think we need to look at sin in a new way. We need to really understand what sin is, and how it is a part of our lives, and how we can be transformed by the Holy Spirit. In our Westernized, individualistic society, sin is seen as a separation between God and the individual. We fail to see collective sins, and we also fail to address sins as a community, congregation, or church. Preaching sin from the pulpit fits right in line with our Western values, and leaves the individual with the only solution as turning to God for personal salvation. I believe God calls us to transformation as a whole, and we need to really learn what this means. Repeatedly telling someone that they are a sinner really doesn’t do anything accept damage the person’s ego, inner-being, or soul.

We know we’re messed up, let’s get on with it and work on living out God’s Kingdom here on Earth. Let’s proclaim messages of how we as a church can live it out here and now, and of how we can stand up to the powers of the world and be a part of God’s ultimate redemption project.

Wealth in the Kingdom

Money. Possessions. Property. Stuff. It’s everywhere. We all have it. Some of us have less of it than others. Some of us have more – wayyyyyyyyy more – of it than others. So what do we as Christians do with it? My church, the Garden, has been tackling this issue head-on, simply because money is such a central part of life in our culture. It therefore presents either a huge stumbling block for our spiritual walk or huge potential for service and stewardship.

It’s fairly well-known that Jesus talked more about money than most other topics like, say, heaven and hell. Included in His financial wisdom are such tidbits as “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21) and “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:25). There are of course many others, but I need to stop looking them up or this post will end up being 10,000 words long. Let’s just delve into those two for a few minutes.

Rendering Unto Caesar

“Tell us then, what do You think? Is it lawful to give a poll-tax to Caesar, or not?” But Jesus perceived their malice, and said, “Why are you testing Me, you hypocrites? Show Me the coin used for the poll-tax.” And they brought Him a denarius. And He said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to Him, “Caesar’s.” Then He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.” — Matthew 22:17-21

This little exchange has so much more depth and meaning than it is traditionally given. American Christians read this at a very surface level; the Pharisees confronted Jesus with a question regarding taxes, so this passage is obviously about…wait for it…TAXES! And because Jesus effectively said “Yeah, go ahead and pay the poll-tax”, we as obedient Christians should pay taxes to our government too. The end.

Except not. While there’s plenty to be said about whether or not Christians should pay taxes to the American government, that’s not what I want to talk about here. Whose image is on the denarius? Caesar’s. Symbols of the Roman Empire were on every unit of currency. All over the world throughout time, currency is branded with the marks of the empire it is in. Money, worldly wealth, is definitively “Caesar’s”. So let Caesar keep it. Jesus is rejecting the entire economy of the world; at the very least, he is separating two economies – the world’s and God’s. Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s; God didn’t make money. God made stones, copper and silver and gold, but man invented currency. Currency is not a part of God’s Kingdom.

Caesar (note I’m using Caesar, empire, and the world fairly interchangeably) wants your money…but he also wants your allegiance, your fealty, your worship. Those, however, are God’s, and are to be rendered to God only. If Caesar gets the currency, but God gets the allegiance, then ultimately God’s Kingdom is the one with power.

This means, of course, that your allegiance can’t lie in any way with the money you’re rendering unto Caesar. Recall another financial teaching of Jesus, namely, “You cannot serve God and wealth.” We must place God and (worldly) wealth in completely separate worlds, and then turn our focus wholly to the world of God, leaving behind the world of money, empire, and all the things that go with it.

Counterpoint: Jesus obviously didn’t reject the entire system of worldly economy, since he had a treasurer.

Response: 1) Unfortunately, escaping money is not that simple. Try rejecting the economy of the world and living without money for a week. If you succeed…well, I envy you. Fact is, even the Messiah needed to live, and that required having a certain amount of funds available. We have virtually no idea how much money or how it was spent, but I’d be surprised if it was anything other than just enough for Him and the disciples to get by on. Note also how Jesus and the disciples never turn to money as a solution. They solve things with miracles and faith. When they need to feed 5000+ people, the disciples readily admit they don’t have enough money to provide food for everyone…and then Jesus goes and turns a kid’s lunch into a feast, no cash required.

2) Who was that treasurer again? Oh, right, Judas Iscariot, that guy who sold Jesus to the authorities for 30 pieces of silver. The one guy who was around money was corruptible. Given that one of the twelve would end up betraying Jesus, is it coincidence that it was the disciple who was in the closest proximity to wealth? His heart was torn. He chose to cling to riches.

Riches and Wealth

Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed. — 1 Timothy 6:17-19

Separating the kingdom of the world from the Kingdom of God enables us not so much to leave “wealth” behind, but to redefine it altogether. Remember, whenever Christians are called out of something, it is so they can be called into something else. We, as Christians, actually have the capacity to be the richest people in the world without having a single penny.

One good place to turn for a deeper understanding of wealth in the Kingdom is the Bible. Start looking at all those verses about money in the gospels, prophets, and epistles through the lens of separated kingdoms and suddenly you get a new vision for what Christian economics can be. Another good place, though, is primitive tribal life. As Daniel Quinn elucidates in “My Ishmael”, tribal wealth is based not on money, possessions or property. Indeed, these concepts are substantially less meaningful in uncivilized peoples (“uncivilized”, by the way, is not a pejorative term). Rather, “wealth” is intangible, made up of community, relationships, and the security of knowing that everyone is taking care of everyone else. The word “wealth” comes from the root “weal”, which wiktionary (the new Webster’s) defines as “a sound, healthy, or prosperous state of a person or thing; prosperity; happiness; welfare.” We tend only to think of the prosperity. Tribal cultures see more the soundness, health and welfare.

This tribal idea is completely independent of the Biblical construct of the Kingdom of God, but they harmonize beautifully. We as Christians are to find our wealth in the mutual and communal love of the Body of Christ, the relationships we build with our neighbors, the aid and support we give and receive, and the faith that God is providing for our joy and welfare. When we have these things, currency and property become meaningless, as they were for the early apostles, who sold and shared their goods so that everyone would be cared for – that is, they quite literally traded in their worldly wealth for godly wealth.

Some, myself included, have thought that a truly Christian lifestyle is one which forsakes worldly wealth to the point of worldly poverty, living so simply and sacrificially as to actively place oneself near the bottom of the economic ladder, so to speak. But I have come to realize that true belief is not about where you rest on the ladder, it is about leaving the ladder behind altogether in favor of the richness of Christian love, relationships and community. Love is the currency of the Kingdom of God, and it is free to give and receive in unfathomable abundance. This richness liberates us from the worship of worldly treasures, enabling us to give those just as freely. This is our wealth.

Trading in the Anti-American Dream

I don’t want to trade in the American Dream for an Anti-American dream. Even the Anti-American dream still has America in it.

I think a dangerous mindset we can get into is to be critical of our nation and the people too. Where we are looking at other people’s things and not focusing on the issues of the heart. There are reasons that people pursue things they can see, because they cannot understand things that they can’t. (1 Cor 2:14) This is our call as Christians in America, do not forget the poor amongst you, let’s not forget the poor in spirit either.

[3] for we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. [4] But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, [5] he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, [6] whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, [7] so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:3-7 ESV)

First off- I am not speaking about political movements, I am speaking on behalf of our social clout. But because so much of our faith and values tie into how we view government, it shouldn’t be to hard to align with this idea. In reading, try to keep in mind that I am focusing on our views of the American Dream.

Secondly- at the same time as I write this I do wish for you to keep in mind the underlining political aspect. (bear with me)

Yes, there are injustices in America. Yes, we do need to bring awareness to these issues. Houston (and the area I am from) is home to the second most human trafficking and sex-slave exploitation in America. [ ] This is a disgusting and terrible practice that I drive by and never even realize. My eyes have been opened to the hunger and pain that surrounds me. Two counties away is the 17th poorest in the Nation with a per-capita income of nearly $10,000 a year. My car I drive was once more than twice that amount. Yes, this is terrible. It is in our rights as Christians to draw attention to this, but is it America’s responsibility or is it the church’s? God’s mercy extends to both the oppressed and the oppressors.

The criticism I am speaking about is this. It’s beneficial to draw attention to injustice, but another to condemn men because of their apathy. We are not to judge because we do not know how to judge with love, only God does. We should be praying just as much for the white-collar SUV-super bowl-church on Sunday-Americans as we should for the abused, starving, sex-slave boys and girls in America. Because while we were not slaves to man we were once slave to sin. Just like them. (Romans…all of it!)

(I have to admit that I am just as guilty. I have way more money than I need. Over the past few years I have hoarded money away and become a workaholic. My obsession with numbers drives me to the point of forsaking relationships for a better portfolio. I have more money in my bank account than the average American. God has definitely blessed me with a financial mind-set and an uncanny ability in savings. But even though I know how to save I am not being a good steward of my money. God’s passion for blessing me financially is not so that I can be comfortable, but it is that I can be uncomfortable, so I can be a blessing to others in need. I now realize that I am to give until it hurts. And this is not an anti-American dream…this is me trusting Jesus.)

Can you change the world without Jesus? Yes- and no.

We can bring about reform. We can bring awareness. But who brings salvation? God. (John 3:16)

If we become so critical to the point that we forget about grace then we have became the exact replica of those we hate. Forsaking riches for rags still leaves you wearing something that is not yours.

Love is not in what we do, but why we do it. (1 John 4:19)

Remember the rich young ruler who couldn’t give up his “stuff” and follow Jesus? Remember the scripture that follows this? It is often left out in this conversation; “And Jesus, looking at him, loved him!” (Mark 10:21) We must not forget the poor; let’s not forget the poor in spirit.

God has done some pretty awesome things throughout American history (but He’s done the same for other nations too) If you have change in your pocket and place to crash you are in the top 75% wealthiest peoples in the world. We need to be mindful of the blessings we receive because of our freedoms, yet also remember the same freedoms go for outsiders as well.

Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. (1 Pt 2:16 ESV)

If you hate America so much you need to be on your knees begging God to make you a missionary!

If you love America…read 1 Timothy 6.

I want to be a Christian. Nowhere in the Bible mentions America but it does testify of the body of Christ. My attention turns to the church. We need to become unified as a kingdom authority, rich and poor, right and left. When you see a need, give generously and often. As a church we have to get our hands out of our pockets, the flag off our cross and worship the Son of God for who He is, our salvation. (Acts 4:12) Our Hope. (Rms 5:2) Our Glory. (John 17:21) Developing relationships is the only way we will ever change the world, because this is how Christ has changed us.

<Perfect example of this is Sean’s previous story>

Your riches will do well. But my God is better.

Your protest will do well. But my God is better.

Charity and Revolutions will die when the contributors dies.

But Jesus never dies. (Rms 6:9) Neither do we. (John 11:26)

For God loves a cheerful giver: In which Sean learns about generosity in community

“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

-2 Corinthians: 9:7

Nearly two months ago I decided that it would be a great idea to gather with friends to play capture the flag.  I loved this game as a child and thought it would be even more fun as an adult.  So gather we did.  About 8 of us on the most perfect field, on the most perfect day.  We quickly laid out our boundaries and set our teams in place, hiding out flags.  We yelled out go…..

10 mins later….

…..and so there I lay, a fallen hero.  Well, not quite.  10 minutes early I had gone to chase one of our “enemies”, slipped on some grass and now lay on the ground with what I would find out later was a broken collarbone.  Terrible.  See what I get for trying to be 12 at age 27?!

In all seriousness this was a terrible blow to me.  I am mostly self employed.  Earning my keep as a freelance photographer and artist.  Money can often times be few and far between.  The same with being able to afford health insurance.  But beyond the cash flow issue there was one more pressing matter.  I was now incapable of holding a camera and thus lost my ability to work.  I was crushed.

After getting through the initial physical shock, the hospital visits and getting used to a sling.  I begun to wrap my mind around my financial situation.  It was (is a bit still) quick bleak.  My money was running out and the medical bills would eventually total nearly $2000.00.  I’m used to worrying about money a bit but now that I couldnt even work for my money ,what would I do?

Turn to God.

Being a freelancer leaves you quite dry some months.  And I’ve always seen God do miracles.  Things just often work out.  I get through them.  God provides more jobs.  I guess my question was this time: “how can I work more jobs if I can’t use my arm?  How can You possibly provide for me now?”, “can You really make a money tree?”  I was starting to get scared….

enter the church

After a few days of praying and nursing myself I began to see out pouring in a way I have never seen in all my life.  Members of my church (The Garden) began to offer their time and their money to help support me for the first month.  I was puzzled at first having not even asked for help.  But then my puzzling turned to joy as I saw their hearts leading them to just hand me money with out expecting anything in return.  My financial needs that month were now going to be met!  What a burden to be lifted from me!

I guess what had so impressed me was that the giving wasn’t asked for specifically, it was prayed for, and I was surprised how freely they gave to me.  This was giving from genuine love.  And it seems to me that giving of that sort is what we ought to be doing.  Its just I have rarely seen it in action before.  My past experience with Church told me to expect many “I will be praying for you”‘s and “I’m sure God will provide”‘s but very little action on the part of the members.  Often times we forget that WE are the church.  And if God is to move through the church WE have to take action rather than sit around and just pray.  The purpose of a community goes beyond simply meeting together to worship and pray.  We are to take on a supportive role with each other.  Hold each other up where we cannot.  Give where there is need.  My brothers and sisters at the Garden were actually living out the principle set out in scripture.

“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”

-Romans 12-10-13

And I will be eternally grateful for the radical generosity they have shown me during my time of need, by actually practicing principles of church and community that are far too rare in our society.

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