Blogtober 9th: A Tale of Two Gospels – Poverty vs. Debt

RembrandtProdigal

Rembrandt’s Return of the Prodigal

 

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised…” Luke 4:18

The church’s primary work is spreading the gospel of Christ and making disciples.  I never stop being surprised at the widespread misunderstanding of this.  Some ministries get pretty creative in their pursuit to do this work, and naturally there are critics. One of those creative ministries states at the top of their website that they are “…an apologetics ministry, dedicated to helping Christians defend their faith and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ effectively”.  It is a para-church ministry, (not a church) but it has come under scrutiny in recent years for how it raises and spends money. I watched the comments fly around online about it last summer, demanding that instead of using their collective $7 million budget for their own building projects, they should donate the money to help the state with the heroin addicts. This is assuming the people who gave the money don’t also give to their own church and elsewhere. $7 million is about 1/2 % of the $1.5 billion that was raised last year by candidates for the presidential election…and a failed presidential election for all the candidates but one. Did the people who gave their time, talent and treasure to the presidential election forget about the needy?

$7 million spent by Christians in creative pursuits to proclaim the gospel of Christ may seem very  frivolous, even to other Christians, but if our primary work is the proclaiming of the gospel of Christ, our first love and devotion is to Christ himself. I love this passage:

“Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, 7There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat. 8But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste? 9For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor. 10When Jesus understood it, he said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me. 11For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always. 12For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial. 13Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her.” Matthew 26:6-13

My own giving will go to a church or a ministry whose primary work is preaching the gospel rather than a government recovery program or an election campaign, but if anyone else feels compassion for heroin addicts, look no further than your own hard earned dollars. Don’t give your money to a politician or a ministry you don’t feel you can support! That is our right and our freedom to give where we wish to give. Even better would be if you are a Christian, give to a Christian ministry that preaches the gospel and treats addictions or join together with like-minded people and start one yourself.

There is a fundamental reason though, that people get mixed up and think it is the church’s primary work to meet every social need society creates. It is the throwing over of the gospel of Christ in favor of the social gospel. A few years ago, a well-known, world religious leader said on more than one occasion that the core and center of the gospel is poverty. It was such a popular statement that it was even reported in the mainstream news, but why would the mainstream news care what a religious leader said about the core and center of the gospel?  They care because it was a statement about the social gospel, which makes an effective impact on people’s views and response to government policy. Regarding the gospel of Christ though, it misleads us into a deadly lie. Christ’s gospel is not about poverty, but about debt. It is about man’s sin debt to God. We cannot repay that debt, except with our own life. “For the wages of sin is death”. Are you willing to die for all of eternity, separated from God in payment for your sin? I don’t want that for you, I don’t want that for me, I don’t want that for Pope Francis or the Dalai Lama. I want to see everyone saved…but none of us can pay that debt to God with our donations, service and government policy. We each own our own debt, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”.

Making poverty the value at the center of the gospel obscures Christ’s gospel behind the social gospel, which is no gospel. It prevents people from hearing the gospel of Christ and responding right now for salvation. “Today is the day of salvation” The true gospel, the good news, is that Jesus paid your debt, and my debt and every religious and world leader’s debt on the cross by willingly laying down his perfectly obedient life. You can be materially poor and have no debts. Likewise, you can have material abundance and be deep in debt. Not everyone may be able to identify with what it means to be rich or poor. But everyone knows what it means to be in debt.

How is the debt paid? Every person’s most urgent need is to have their sin debt to God forgiven:

And the Lord said, “… I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me” – Acts 26

You will notice there are no words here about poverty and the poor, but rather forgiveness which is a concept that means a great deal to someone who is in debt. A debtor who cannot repay is condemned:

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. ” – Jesus, In John 3

~L

 

 

 


 

 

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Was Jesus Married? Talking it Out

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“Why can Jesus have no other bride besides the church?”

L: “That’s an interesting question and one that would make for an interesting discussion. 🙂 I think if you look at scripture and God’s treatment of marriage and the relationship between the bride and groom, you can see God’s design beginning with Adam and Eve, of course, but look at the Proverbs 31 woman and the Song of Solomon for the relationship between a wife and her husband, or lover and beloved. The idea is one bride and one groom. God referred to Israel as His covenant people and spoke of their waywardness like that of an adulterous wife. So, God the Father as ‘husband’ to Israel is similar in imagery to Christ the bridegroom waiting to marry his bride, the church. What are your thoughts about how scripture addresses this issue?”

CS: “The comparison of Jesus’ relationships and marriage is a metaphor, not literal. Even the verses where Jesus is stating that it is not necessary to marry, so that you can devote your full attention to God states that this would merely be a choice and not a necessity. Loyalties can be divided by two wives, provided they are both the same (as two women.) So, a metaphorical marriage to the Church or God has no bearing what-so-ever on an earthly marriage.

If we were to take the metaphor literally, then why isn’t there only one actual nun at any one time, like there is only one pope? Are they not the Brides of Christ?

There is plenty of reason to believe that Jesus was married (from historical texts outside the Bible.) There is nothing stating one way or the other (in the Bible or anywhere else.)

The part about this that fascinates me the most is that people who claim to be devout Christians state flat out that if Jesus were married then he cannot be the son of God. When challenged on this point they refuse to explain why they would abandon their faith so easily.”

L: “I’m a little confused by your reply, possibly because I am not Catholic. I am not familiar with the scriptures where Jesus says it is not necessary to marry. However, I am familiar with the words of the apostle Paul about that and he did suggest that Christians remain as Paul was, unmarried, but that if they could not, they were free to marry. He also pointed out that those were his own words and not a commandment from God. The reference in scripture to Christ and His bride, absolutely does have bearing on an earthly marriage and is very, very plain in Ephesians 5:22-32. That is a long passage and simple to search online. Again, these words are by the apostle Paul, carefully laying out the relationship of a wife and husband as being precisely like that of Christ and the church. He says it is a mystery, so I can see why it would be challenging to understand. The reference that you make to nuns is not anything I am aware of in scripture. There is only one bride of Christ referenced in scripture and that is the Church. There is zero reason to believe that Jesus was married while on earth and there are no accepted scholarly historical texts that challenge his status as unmarried. It’s just not an issue. I’m also not sure what you mean about abandoning faith, rather than people simply stating that a married Jesus is not the Jesus of scripture. Therefore, THAT Jesus is not the Son of God, naturally. It’s like saying that Jesus stopped being a carpenter when he was in his early twenties and spent 8 years as a goldsmith, because some obscure piece of paper found in Egypt said so. It’s not remotely relevant or believable. It’s a waste of time. My faith in Christ alone is not shaken by that. I find it fascinating that people are so easily lured away from the Word of God to cling to any scrap of controversy. There’s enough to do following Christ without being blown around by every wind. Read the scriptures as they are written. Consider the context. Look for patterns and repetition. Allow scripture to interpret scripture. Consider the authors. Read it straight, like you would any other literature. Start with the gospels…the gospel of John would probably be good. Try to lay aside denominational traditions in your mind and look at the text square in the eye. For example, I recently started re-reading Matthew. I was fascinated by Matthew Ch. 8. and how reading it through all in one sitting makes the theme of faith and how concerned Jesus was with faith leap off the page. I read it again. There was much more there… in the verse that says he healed people, fulfilling Isaiah the prophets words “Himself took our infirmities and bare our diseases”, Jesus, creator, TOOK and BARE or carried our diseases. He took the little viruses and bacteria. He commanded them to come out of the sick and he carried them away. Amazing. So much to think about.”

CS: ” >>>Re: ‘And there is zero reason to believe that he was not married.

…I’m also not sure what you mean about abandoning faith, rather than people simply stating that a married Jesus is not the Jesus of scripture.’

Why? This is the simple question that you, and dozens beside you, refuse to answer.

If Jesus were never married, not a single line of scripture would need to be changed to reflect that. If Jesus were married, however…. the same. Not a single line of scripture would need to be changed because of it. It’s that simple.

All I am asking of you and your fellows is an explanation of why you would immediately abandon Jesus as your Lord and Savior if you found out he was married? You keep trying to say it’s a simple thing, but then you go off on long tangents that have nothing to do with that one question that you refuse to answer.”

L: “I said the exact opposite about faith and about abandoning the Lord. If a married Jesus is not the Jesus of scripture, my ‘fellows’ and I are not abandoning scripture and Christ, but rather dismissing the marriage claim. The question of Jesus being married is a ‘what if’ question about an earthly wife that doesn’t exist in scripture. Abandonment of faith in a ‘what if’ scenario is needless speculation, whereas dismissing the actual scriptures about the very real bride of Christ and the direct application to earthly marriage actually is an abandonment of faith in the Word of God…Jesus is the Word of God.”

 

CS: “And now you resort to flat out lying about what I’ve said. I’ve said repeatedly that we don’t know. That’s the simple fact of the matter. There is nothing in the Bible one way or the other. It’s irrelevant.

You, however, continue to claim that you have been granted special knowledge to know that which is unknowable. Let me know how that Pride serves you when you stand before the throne.”

 

L: “And what have *I* said all along? That we can know what ~scripture~  says about Christ. The reason you and I are not finding common ground here is our divergent approaches to scripture. Is scripture authoritative for you? From your statements here, you place it on equal footing with folklore. From a scholarly perspective, how do you come to this conclusion? It’s important to know where you stand on this important issue. I am a family historian. I search documents for dates and details. For example, I had always been told my mother’s grandfather died from an unusual disease no one else had in the family. As an adult, when I began researching family history, I obtained a copy of his death certificate. The cause of death was listed as TB. His mother also died of TB, as did several extended family members. At first, my mom was resistant to the new information. She had always been told otherwise. The other story she knew could have been true, but we don’t know now. We have a lot more evidence to the contrary. Primary sources are important to the study and documentation of history. The bible is no different. Take a look at the studies that have been done on scripture. Look at how much more we actually know about Jesus compared to other historical figures of his time. Now let’s consider folklore. I love folklore. I’ve spent the last 8 years getting to know storytellers and balladeers and understanding their craft. Consider historical figures and weigh the facts about them with folklore. How do we know the difference between historical fact and folklore? Let’s take a pop culture reference. Chuck Norris. He is alive and we can study his life and the facts about him. Legend has it that he was bit by a rattlesnake and the snake died. When he is asked how many push ups he can do, he says “all of them”. He is amused by his own folk-hero status…but we all know these are folk stories. They are fun. They speak to people’s affection for him. This is the same regarding folklore about Christ. Stories about Christ speak to people’s interest in him and affection for him. Who would be mad at people for loving him and speculating on things about it that *might* have been *could* have been or could be? However,  scripture as authoritative and scripture as the rod by which we measure all other stories about Christ and God’s design and plan for mankind, intentionally sets it apart from other material. It’s not a pride thing. It is a decision that you make as an individual. Is it authoritative? Do you trust it as the Word of God? Then have faith in Christ, who *is* the Word of God to preserve for you his word in your own language. Embrace it. Love it. Read it. Stand alone on the Word of God.”

CS: “And again you are back to claiming scripture says something that it doesn’t. No where in the Bible does it say one way or the other whether Jesus was married or not. This is the simple fact.”

L: “And we are back to square one…it says he is betrothed to the church, his bride and the wedding is soon.”

CS: “No, it doesn’t, but please keep claiming you are special among all, chosen by God to know things others don’t. That Pride will lead you to where you deserve.”

L: “Yep. It does. A quick Google search will find a lot of stuff on ‘bride of Christ’. Chapter/verse references include but are not limited to: Ephesians 5:22-29, 2 Corinthians 11:2, Revelation 19:7-9, 21:1-2..Jesus speaks of himself multiple times in the gospels as the bridegroom. Why would that be significant to the Jews? What was Jesus communicating by calling himself a bridegroom? Look at the book of Joel, chapter 2. This is a prophecy of the “day of the Lord”. Verse 16 talks about the bridegroom and the bride. Bridegroom appears 8 times in the old testament. Jesus is referred to in scripture as the last Adam. In 2 Corinthians 11, the bride and bridegroom are likened to Adam and Eve. God’s design is one bride and one bridegroom. The bride of Christ is made up of many…but the many are only one bride. Just one. There’s so much more that would fill so much more space and begin so much more discussion. All of God’s people are chosen by God to know things others don’t. The scriptures are available to all, but not all will read. The bible says the meaning is spiritually discerned. Not all will respond to the call. Not all will be compelled to read and study and know. Why? I don’t know. Jesus said his sheep hear His voice. In the book of Jeremiah, the voice of the bridegroom is mentioned 4 times. 4 being for seasons perhaps? I would have to study it, but the opportunity to study it is available to all. What is plain as day in scripture to me and full of treasure upon treasure is ignored or dismissed out of hand by some. This is as available to you as it is me. What good is being prideful about understanding what scripture says? I didn’t do anything but read it straight like anything else anyone else would read, but I didn’t understand it at first. Even when I didn’t understand a word of it, I wanted to know it and the first step was a blow to all pride and rebellion, repenting of my sin and believing on the Lord Jesus Christ.”

CS: “Yes. His relationship with his followers and the church is compared with marriage as a metaphor. It compares the relationship. It’s not an actual marriage to the church. That has no bearing what-so-ever on whether he was married in actuality.”

L: “Except that it does! Christ’s sacrificial role as bridegroom to the church, His bride, is the template, the real deal, and the model upon which earthly marriage of a man and woman is based…not the other way around. Jesus is the bridegroom of His bride, the church, as seen in the old testament, long before the incarnation. He was already betrothed long before his appearance in Matthew. When he tells to the Jews the parables of the bridegroom, he is revealing *himself* as bridegroom. It has enormous bearing on to whom he is married. What purpose would there be in Christ preparing the church in chaste purity as his one and only, where the church is to be wholly committed to Christ alone, only to have his affections divided by an earthly wife and children? It is nonsensical and not remotely in keeping with God’s character and what we know ~in scripture~ of God’s marriage plan.”

CS: “Your belief that is what is says doesn’t make it absolute. It’s obvious you are clinging to this like a life preserver, and we’re back to my original question. Why? It’s obvious you will never get to an answer, so I bid you good day.”

L: “Bye, bye, CS…Scripture answers your original question. The scripture references I have provided answer your question and there is so much more. All of scripture is about Jesus. All of it. If you cannot see it reading it yourself, remember that Jesus is alive. Ask him directly. Tell him you are not seeing it. Tell Him you have questions and you don’t understand. “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths.” – Proverbs 3:5″

CS: “No, it doesn’t, but as I’ve already said, you will never admit that you aren’t perfect in your understanding of the Bible.”

 

No, Not One!

~Rembrandt~ Face of Jesus

~Rembrandt~
Face of Jesus

There’s not a friend like the lowly Jesus,

No, not one! No, not one!

None else could heal all our soul’s diseases,

No, not one! No, not one!

 

Jesus knows all about our struggles,

He will guide till the day is done;

There’s not a friend like the lowly Jesus,

No, not one! No, not one!

 

No friend like Him is so high and holy,

No, not one! No, not one!

And yet no friend is so meek and lowly,

No, not one! No, not one!

 

There’s not an hour that He is not near us,

No, not one! No, not one!

No night so dark but His love can cheer us,

No, not one! No, not one!

 

Did ever saint find this Friend forsake him?

No, not one! No, not one!

Or sinner find that He would not take him?

No, not one! No, not one!

 

Was ever a gift like the Savior given?

No, not one! No, not one!

Will He refuse us a home in Heaven?

No, not one! No, not one!

 

 

Blogtober 18th – What Then? I Will Rejoice.

Paul in Prison -Rembrandt 1627-

Paul in Prison
-Rembrandt 1627-

Since trying to blog everyday during Blogtober, I’ve found that meandering posts that map out my train of thought behind a central point or theme is the most satisfying. I’ve often gone back to my own writing over the years and at times, I can’t pick up on my train of thought. So, starting at the beginning and winding my way through the hills and valleys of my reasoning is where this one is going this afternoon. 😀

I don’t watch regular TV. So, I miss out on cable news and local news, shows and movies that play daily, 24/7., unless I’m doing something with the kids or my husband specifically that entails watching a movie or show. The last show I watched was a Dr. Who episode with my son. The last movie I watched was…I don’t remember. I think it was the Hobbit. That was several months ago. I loved this part:

The frenetic pace of TV frays my nerves. I was sitting in the dentist’s waiting room a few days ago and a Disney channel show was on that the kids used to watch. It was painfully annoying. Thankfully, the hygienist called me in to the office in short order and then asked me if I wanted to watch TV while she cleaned my teeth. “No, thank you.” I said. Screentime for me usually means internet.  My phone has internet and I get a lot of use out of the many apps. One of my favorite is Kindle. When I go places where I have to wait awhile, like doctors offices and hospitals,  I enjoy having a library of downloaded books to read. Currently, I am carrying around Bonhoeffer, The Life and Words of GK Chesterton, Oresteia of Aeschylus, Eat to Live, Moby Dick and Orthodoxy. I also have YouVersion as I mentioned in a previous post, which is the bible in app form. These are all a blessing to me, because I love to read.

On the flip-side, my love of reading and ready access to the internet has increased my news reading exponentially. Sundays at my home when I was growing up were spent with the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times Sunday editions strewn around the livingroom and everyone reading all day. I learned to love it. At six years old, my step dad would hand me a couple of dollars and pull the car up to a newsstand on Saturday night. He told me, “Tell the man – Sunday Times and Trib.” So, I jumped out and handed the man the money and repeated the exact phrase. We would come home with the fat newspaper bundles and start reading. At six, I could handle the comics and the ads and coupons.

Fast forward 40 years and I’ve got it all down.

So, I am on vacation. My usual routine is broken of news, school, news, work, news, sleep, news. I do still check messages and in the course of human events, I trip over the news. I saw a story. The following is an example of how I read news and consequently study and do research for school assignments:

Obama’s Faith and Spirituality Have Changed Since Becoming President

The story left me with more questions than answers, the first of which was why write this story just now. The media and their ways have become the focus of most of my Q’s and A’s when reading news stories. Stories aren’t usually written just because. The title was also not the first title that ran. It was something like “President has a strong Christian Faith”. I read through the article again to find out why they thought the link title above was better. There may have been something added to the article at the end to reflect this new title, because I don’t remember reading a few sentences that are in there now. Maybe I’m imagining it. I decide to try and find out more about Joshua DuBois, because he sends the president daily devotionals. He stepped down from his post as head of the president’s faith-based office earlier this year. He plans to write a book using these devotionals. I hope he has the book proofed by a minister. This passage made me a bit sad:

“At pivotal moments in Obama’s presidency, DuBois sometimes selects texts that offer lessons apropos of the challenges at hand. Before one State of the Union address, it was the words of Isaiah, in an appeal for clarity of speech: “So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth, it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose.”

The passage in Isaiah is a direct quote from God about His own Word. The choice of this quote and the way it was used is unfortunate, because the article was maybe an attempt to reach out to the religious community? Also, I found this same quote in another article somewhere, from at least a year ago. It’s not unique to this article. I also looked up info on Joshua DuBois. He has a bachelors degree in Political Science and a masters in Public Affairs. The current head of the faith-based office, Melissa Rogers, has more of an  actual religion background. In reviewing the entire council list, I found Lynne Hybels name. She is the wife of Bill Hybels, founder of Willowcreek Church. Interesting. I read an article written by DuBois and an article about Lynne Hybels. I’m finding a lot of ‘social gospel’ in lieu of ‘gospel of Christ’. Surprisingly, especially in light of the assertion from the article that the president doesn’t talk about his faith, the most ‘gospel of Christ’ I found after all of the rabbit trails I followed was from the president himself:

2010 Whitehouse Easter Prayer Breakfast – He says he is particularly blessed and thanks his brothers and sisters in Christ.

2011 Whitehouse Easter Prayer Breakfast – He quotes from Isaiah 53

2012 Whitehouse Easter Prayer Breakfast – “Jesus said in this world you will have trouble, but take heart. I have overcome the world”

2013 Whitehouse Easter Prayer Breakfast – “Those of us as Christians remember the tremendous sacrifice Jesus made for each of us, how in all of his humility and grace he took on the sins of the world and extended the gift of salvation”

Someone may say, “Well, he didn’t write any of those speeches. ” I am unconcerned about this. Rather, the first thing I thought of was the Apostle Paul:

“Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.” Phil. 1:15-18

And so, I’m coming to the end of my vacation from my routine being less and less concerned with the things of earth as they grow strangely dim, turning my eyes upon Jesus.

To be continued…

Blogtober 14th – The Kingdom of God

cathedral

Are you a Christian, friend? Then you are a citizen of the kingdom of God. And who is your King? It’s Jesus Christ. He is our only wise King, our interceding King, our annointed King, our reigning King.

– Matthew 6:33 But Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you

– Luke 12:31 But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you.

“Only the kingdom of God is present in such a fashion that a man can daily and moment by moment apply himself to it – seeking the advancement of the kingdom. No one can seek the kingdom of heaven moment by moment, since it is a political institution and beyond the reach of single individuals til it “comes” as the only government on earth, there is nothing to seek. But one who gives himself to serve the kingdom of God, God promises to provide his daily food and clothes, for he is then God’s employee.” – Michael Pearl, Eight Kingdoms

Father in heaven, today, help me to remember that I am a citizen of the kingdom of God and an ambassador of Christ here on earth. Help me Father to bear the likeness of Christ-likeness. Father, teach me to plan to neglect all other things that do not lead to Christ-likeness.

Bible study today:

1. Read Matthew 12-17
2. Listen to John 1

Blogtober 13th – Jesus is the Cornerstone

toulouse
“The Bible is like an ancient treasure map directing us to truth in a book of prophecy, first concealing and then revealing truth to believers. But, like a puzzle, when the pieces all fit together, there is no doubt that you have solved the mystery and found the hidden message.” – Michael Pearl, Eight Kingdoms

Matthew – Jesus is the Son of David and Abraham
Mark – Jesus is the Son of God
Luke – Jesus is the Son of Man
John – Jesus is the Word Made Flesh
Acts – Jesus is the Power from on High
Romans – Jesus is our Salvation
1 Cor – Jesus is our Christian Ideal
II Cor – Jesus is Victory Over All Things
Galatians – Jesus is our Liberator from the Law
Ephesians – Jesus is the Chief Cornerstone
Philippians – Jesus is the Supplier of Our Needs
Colossians – Jesus is the Fullness of the Godhead
I Thess – Jesus is the Soon and Coming King
II Thess – Jesus is the Mighty Returning Messiah
I Timothy – Jesus is our Mediator
II Timothy – Jesus is our Faithful Witness
Titus – Jesus is our Blessed Hope
Philemon – Jesus is our Brother and Friend
Hebrews – Jesus is our High Priest
James – Jesus is the Source of All Blessings
I Peter – Jesus is our Chief Shepherd
II Peter – Jesus is the Coming Judge
1-3 John – Jesus is Righteous Love and Truth
Jude – Jesus is Glory, Majesty and Power
Revelation – Jesus is the Worthy Lamb of God

Bible Study:

1. Listening to Matthew 6-11
2. Studying and comparing Luke 19:11 and Matthew 25:14
3. Listening to John 1 for memorizing

Father, today you bless me again with all that you teach me. Today you have revealed many things. Lord, you are Love and our Creator, you are our Father and our Messiah and our Deliverer, The King of Kings and our Eternal Sacrifice. Thank you Jesus always and in all things.

Blogtober 5th – Customer Service

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One of the things I like to do in my spare time is go to work. 😉  Every job I have ever had entails some form of customer service. In fact, my very first job outside the home was when I was 6 years old. My mom worked at a small branch of Ben Franklin Savings Bank and they needed someone to serve punch to customers at Christmas time, I think. So, mom dressed me up as a little angel and I stood in the lobby and offered customers punch and I think we had cookies too. And I do believe I got paid real money, although I was MUCH more impressed with the dehydrated, flattened sponge the bank gave out that was stamped with the image of a $100 dollar bill and the slogan “At Ben Franklin, watch your savings grow!” So, after work that day, mom and I went home and I could hardly wait to put that sponge in the water. It worked beautifully! The sponge soaked up the water, and grew. I think about that sponge now 40 years later, at least once a week. I am not joking.

I love customer service and I truly enjoy helping. So, it was no surprise to me every time I’ve taken a spiritual gift test that the top things that show up in my profile are encouragement, mercy and helping. When I was 15, I volunteered for a non-profit organization that would be running our town carnival to raise funds for juvenile diabetes. I worked myself to exhaustion and loved every second of it. I served food at the ridiculously busy concession stand and then switched off with other kids working the dunk tank. I sat on the dunk tank seat and taunted the patrons with enthusiasm. Fun, fun.

Well, in my long adult life I’ve worked in the fast food industry, floral, medical, financial and communications. I’ve been employed by enormous companies and I’ve been self-employed. Good customer service is something that works best when kindness is given by both the server and the one who receives service. I’m sure we can all relate to receiving poor service. It happens everywhere for many different reasons. In August there was a story in the news about a customer service problem in Switzerland, experienced by a very famous American. I was reminded of this story while reading some of the entries on notalwaysright.com. I first visited notalwaysright.com a few years ago, when it was kind of new and still a novelty. The stories were very funny and sounded so much like experiences I’ve had both as an employee and a customer. I went back today to read some and something has changed. I like some of the changes. I like to read the stories about how someone turned around a bad situation. In fact I love those stories. What I don’t like however, are the stories that don’t sound real, but rather sound like made up customer service problems with an activist agenda. They have a different way about them than the other stories. There’s either too much monologuing with excessive detail, excessive expletives or not enough detail for the story to make sense, or all of the above. In short, they would be more believable if they were less emotional and more professional. For example, here’s one story that I find very hard to believe in its entirety:

The Bald and the Beautiful

Beware of excessive expletives! They are starred out, but I admit I don’t know what all of them are. I’m not familiar with the one used in the last sentence. Anyway, the telling of customer service stories to claim discrimination is officially getting on my nerves. Most often, I have noticed in these stories that the perpetrators of civil rights violations through poor customer service or insensitive public ridicule are “young people”. This link is to a story that gets closer to the Oprah story from August. It has a similar tone, storyline and moral. The story brought up more questions for me than answers:

What White People Can Do

All three stories that I linked here have commonalities that make them irritating and not helpful. 1. They are long on emotion and short on facts 2. They cannot be verified 3. The offended parties are all women over 40 of decent to extravagant means 4. The offenders are all younger and in some sort of inferior position, especially economic. I am a woman over 40, so maybe the contrived manner in which the stories are delivered is just over-the-top for me. I’m embarrassed to read and watch the videos. I cringe. I definitely learned something from them, but I don’t think it’s the lesson that was intended.

So, customers…there are many kinds. Every job I’ve worked and even the jobs my husband has worked have taught me so much about people and how to be better and better at my job, no matter where I work or what I do, but knowing does not necessarily translate into doing. 5 years ago, I started a new job in a new town and felt I had already learned all I needed to know about taking care of my customers, but there were new challenges and I discovered a new area where I was lacking. Patience. I always thought patience was one of my superhero powers. Apparently its not. As I grow older, I find myself losing  patience more every year. I don’t understand it completely, but I think in part it has to do with thinking if I learned my lessons, everyone else should know them too. I’ve observed that way of thinking in others too, as they age and I think I need to be praying more about that. I used to receive a newsletter from Elisabeth Elliot and in one issue she wrote out a prayer to God asking him to remind her to grow in grace and gratitude and avoid the temptation to complain and focus on every ache and pain, so that at the end of her life her obituary won’t read “Old Crab Dies. Everyone Glad”.

Lastly, as it relates to customer service, I wanted to talk about focus. Do you find it difficult to focus these days? I know I do. There has never been more distractions in my life than there is now. I have to make a grand effort to limit noise and interruptions in my life. The work I do now has done more than just train me in patience. It has also trained me in focus. I have a very limited time to answer questions and move on to the next customer in line. I have to get straight to the point and not get sidetracked. This can be very challenging to keep up for 8 hours. There are words and phrases that contribute to a focused transaction and words and phrases that don’t. One of my pet peeves is the fairly recent opening phrase change at certain drive through fast food restaurants. I think they’re in the same family of restaurants, like Taco Bell and Arby’s or somthing. Instead of “Welcome to Captain Oliver’s. May I take your order?”, or “Hello, how may I help you?” or “Hello, would you like to try a Cheesy McCheese Deluxe Big Kahuna Combolicious Super Value Extravaganza?”, the opening is…wait for it… “HiHowRU”. I don’t know how to respond. It’s been going on for a few years now and it irritates me every single time. I’ve tried to figure out a way to make it work for me, but it just doesn’t. I’ve tried. “I’m fine” or “I’m good, how are you?” It gets worse from here. I either get no reply at all or “Good”. I don’t know what to say now. I’m guessing I should just order. So, I do, but I still have that feeling, like the conversation didn’t really go that well.  And then, when I get my food, I drive away feeling like I forgot something. Contrast that with Five Guys. When you go in there, you know how you feel. You know when to order, what to order, how to order, how it’s cooked, who’s cooking it, what they look like, what they talk about and then they shout at each other, shout at you in front of the whole restaurant and make you take your food. You either hate this or love it. There’s no in between. That’s focus.

In conclusion, I covered a lot of customer service territory in my rambly style of writing:  

– kindness

– enthusiasm

– encouragement

– less emotional and more professional

– service

– helping

– turning around a bad situation

– patience

These descriptions apply everywhere and not just on the job. Paid or unpaid, the list should look vaguely familiar:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.: – Galatians 5:22-23

Have a beautiful week my friends. :0)