Monday, January 16, 2012


I was given this poem today, and it made me think of Psalm 46:10.  He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; 

Silence is not a lack of words.
Silence is not a lack of music.
Silence is not a lack of curses.
Silence is not a lack of screams.
Silence is not a lack of colors
or voices or bodies or whistling wind.
Silence is not a lack of anything.

Silence is resting, nestling
in every leaf of every tree,
in every root and branch.
Silence is the flower sprouting
upon the branch.

Silence is the mother singing
to her newborn babe.
Silence is the mother crying
for her stillborn babe.
Silence is the life of all
these babes, whose breath
is a breath of God.

Silence is seeing and singing praises.
Silence is the roar of ocean waves.
Silence is the sandpiper dancing
on the shore.
Silence is the vastness of a whale.
Silence is a blade of grass.

Silence is sound
And silence is silence.
Silence is love, even
the love that hides in hate.

Silence is the pompous queen
and the harlot and the pimp
hugging his purse on a crowded street.

Silence is the healer dreaming
the plant, the drummer drumming
the dream. It is the lover's
exhausted fall into sleep.
It is the call of morning birds.

Silence is God's beat tapping all hearts.

Silence is the star kissing a flower.

Silence is a word, a hope, a candle
lighting the window of home.

Silence is everything --the renewing sleep
of Earth, the purifying dream of Water,
the purifying rage of Fire, the soaring
and spiraling flight of Air. It is all
things dissolved into no-thing--Silence
is with you always.....the Presence
of I AM

Elaine Maria Upton

Friday, January 13, 2012

Pastor Or Shepherd?

My favorite TV series of all time is the tragically short-lived Firefly.  It should be no surprise that one of my favorite characters in that show was Shepherd Darius Book.  In fact, I created a sermon around this character.

However, the reason for writing today has more to do with terminology than the theology of Book.  One of the things that was unique to the series was the use of "Shepherd" rather than "Pastor" as the title for religious leaders.  At first I thought it was a very odd change.  But the more I've thought about it the more it makes sense and I really like it.

There is actually a lot of Biblical basis for the title of Shepherd.

Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding.  Jeremiah 3:15

Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
   He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
   Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
John 21:16

Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. 
Acts 20:28

Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; 
1 Peter 5:2

Now the word pastor is actually used in the New Testament, in Ephesians 4:11:  So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers. The word itself actually does mean "shepherd", originating from the Latin pastorem.  So in essence and reality, Pastor and Shepherd mean the same thing.

The reason I prefer the title of Shepherd is because of the imagery.  When you use the word Pastor you conjure an idea of a religious leader and often a specific person.  The title is so ingrained in church history and even bureaucracy that it can seem more of an administrative term than anything else.  I have a lot of respect for many pastors I know, and many people with this designation do amazing work to help people.  But to me "pastor" has lost a little of its original meaning and impact.  It's so common that its essence has been diluted and it is often merely a word and not a source of inspiration.

Which brings me back to "shepherd".  When I hear the word I get a specific mental image of someone guiding and protecting their flock.  Combine that with the verses related to shepherds, sheep, and flocks, and I get a good idea of someone who should be leading a church or a group of believers.  I think I'd prefer to be led by a Shepherd rather than a Pastor because of what the first word seems to mean or imply.  And yes, I know that the effectiveness of the position lies in the person and not the title.  Even so, I think it might be good to change things up a bit and go back to the idea of a Shepherd.  I really doubt most church-goers know where "pastor" originates.

As a leader of Fans For Christ I have become a sort of pastor for the group.  I help organize the group, give sermons, and am looked to as a spiritual leader.  However, I don't want to be called pastor.  Instead, refer to me as "Shepherd Bern." 

Friday, January 6, 2012

Define "Christian"

Here's a question for the couple of people reading this blog...what is a "Christian"?  That's something that has been puzzling me lately.  I've seen the title of Christian be used to describe plenty of people that I think are only marginally Christian as well as those who may give lip-service to the Bible but don't actually live according to the teachings of Jesus.  So what does it really mean?

It's not as easy as many might think.  Some of my friends have defined Christian as someone who has accepted Jesus as their savior, and as the intercessor for their sins.  Technically, that is correct.  However, that rather simplistic definition includes many people that are outside of mainstream Christianity and who hold beliefs contrary to the Bible, such as Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons.  So do we need a stricter definition?  Well, that makes sense, but who is going to write it?  The New Covenant that came with Jesus' death is supposed to free us from laws and regulations, not put us under more.  Christianity is supposed to be about freedom, not a checklist of do's and don'ts to "qualify" for heaven.

I'm still struggling with figuring it out, but I think that we should go back to the original meaning.  "Christian" was used in an almost derogatory manner and very simply means "little Christ".  To me this means that we should act like Christ.  We should be little examples of Jesus.  When someone looks at us they should be able to see Christ in us and through our actions. 

So how do we become miniatures of Jesus?  Reading and studying the Bible, especially the New Testament.  I've started a personal Bible study where I'm going through the Gospels and looking at how Jesus acted. Not what he said, but what he did.  How he treated people, when he prayed, who he hung around, and so on.  My goal is to be a little Christ, to figure out how to act like Him.  Once I learn that, then maybe I'll start to truly earn the title of Christian.