Category Archives: Christian

The Other Team Sport?

2019-01-01_waterdrops-8-1184377-1599x1066The human concept of religious freedom is our acknowledgment that spiritual beliefs, practices, and understanding can be as individual as the number of humans. The recognition and respect for all individuals to freely express their personal beliefs are fundamental as breathing.

So, why do so many people participate in their spiritual development as a team sport? Also, why have many people allowed their personal spiritual identity to become entangled with a religious organization? Organizational religion has two main goals. One is to aid in the spiritual training of those that join its organization. The second is to transmit to future generations the teachings and practices that are part of the religious culture for which it represents.

Many Sunday morning worship services in America have morphed to resemble sports and political gatherings with people supporting their home teams. The Sunday morning gatherings in America used to be a time of spiritual devotion where any visitor could join the community practice. It was an opportunity for people to temporarily escape from of their personal lives to reflect on the actions they committed or omitted during the busy week. It was a time for quiet reflection while being washed in spiritual words of encouragement. It was an opportunity for personal transformation.

Do you gather in huge a stadium or do you gather in a smaller group, and is it with people and friends that have the same perspective or worldview? Is there time for quiet devotion and reflection or does the gathering put on a production and presentation to keep you excited so you will come back again? Is the overall point of view being shared one that says, there is only one way to God and all others perspectives in the marketplace need to be driven out, so the world can become transformed? If someone holding a different worldview happens to visit or is invited to attend your service are they accepted as they are if they never change, or are they made to feel especially uncomfortable if they fail to cheer on the home team and its perception of the world?

This may be fine for sport and political gatherings, but it violates the concept for spiritual freedom. Yet, religious institutions have adopted this format as a method to support and bolster its organizational goals. Religious institutions train their membership in groups to maximize efficiency, but they fail to reinforce the idea that a person’s spiritual identity is as personal as their fingerprint and that it belongs to them. More important and because of tradition, many members freely abdicate their responsibility for spiritual development and trade in their personal identity for a group identity. Many people do this in hopes that God’s heart is moved by numbers when standing in faith on an issue. Have you given over your identity in hopes that it will be used as a political force that can influence the material world issues in a spiritual way?

For many years religious organizations, worldwide, have been more than happy to let people give them their identities so they can be the ones representing their spiritual lives. Just prior to the Protestant Reformation in the Christian culture, the most popular religious institutions were accused of having to much power and abusing that power. Back then the power was in the form of a financial tax on individuals, and families. From birth to death these organizations formulated a strategy of dispensing and withholding blessings to influence and control various parts of a persons moral and spiritual life.

Today people volunteer to be members of their religious institutions and have the freedom to terminate the relationship whenever they want. However, for those that choose to evolve spiritually, most never do it outside of a religious organization. Therefore, today these organizations continue to yield tremendous power from birth to death. They do not directly tax individuals, but the relationship has financial obligations and when it comes to political power, they strongly influence the beliefs and thoughts of most of its members. There is a valid chicken and egg argument to be made, however, within the membership only a few members hold differing beliefs from the membership at large.

But be encouraged, many people are waking up to these trends as it concerns personal spiritual development. The Spiritual But Not Religious (SBNR) movement and specifically within Christianity the Emergent Church movement and the Red Letter Christian movement are examples of pushbacks towards this trend. However, just switching teams is not a solution to the trend of spiritual development being a team sport.

Only the act of taking personal responsibility for one’s spiritual training can truly reverse this trend. It does not require everyone to exit organize religion, but it does require everyone to set personal goals and partake of training materials that they have sought out. With the advent of human technological advancements, especially in the area of social networks, individuals in the western world are without excuse when it comes to seeking spiritual enlightenment. Do you avail yourself of the spiritual resources available on the social network at least once a week?

To remained pigeonholed into a way of thinking spiritually from birth to death reflects truly on one’s beliefs about all things spiritually. Fear is the primary tactic that keeps many people from exploring spiritually. In every other area of life, people exercise freedom except when it comes to their spirituality. It is kind of like when a stockbroker or a doctor discourage you from getting a second opinion, you should automatically know that something is wrong. However, many falsely believe they will be better off not knowing the truth.

Again, be encouraged that you will not be the first pioneer to strike out on your own and do something spiritually on one of the other six days of the week and still show up on Sunday for the religious pep rally. Odds are that there are more than a few members already doing it. Social media sites like Meetup.com provide links with information about meetings and groups that have planned alternative events for exploring and finding people with awakened spiritual points of view.

For every charlatan standing in the pulpits in America, there is probably one on social media with the fraudulent intents, and yet my experience over the last 5 years has been all good and left my desire to explore peaked and all the while feeling safe. As human understanding grows some religious tradition will not stand the test of truth. What is true is that our spiritual identity as a created child of God is secure as God’s very Presence. That is our spiritual heritage and it has nothing to do with human tradition or the team we choose for our spiritual training.

One reason that unconditional love is in short supply among the human population, is because love has been made conditional to the spiritual identity of the spiritual team a person trains with. Yet, the true source of unconditional love is God. This is the reason that Jesus made love the only condition for a true relationship. While the religion of Jesus day had 613 ways to break the relationship, Jesus made love the only condition for a relationship.

So, let each of us stay mindful that we have the right and the freedom to develop our personal spiritual training. If nothing else, explore the limits of your current training organization. Ask questions of God, your organization’s leadership and other members. Open your heart and spiritual ears to God and determine where you want to end up when this earthly life is finished.

Do you want a personal faith relationship in your spiritual team or personal faith relationship in God? There are 52 Sundays this year, will your personal spiritual development remain as the other team sport?

 

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Is There A Sense Of Transcendence Active In Your Life?

2016-10-01_ripple-1181181-1279x794Most humans will simply live out their lives playing on the field between the birth and death, end zones. Yet every one of us has within them a sense that there is more to life than this material plane of existence. Many will discover and experience one or several religious systems that claim to provide understanding and solutions that will aid them in their transcending to the next levels of existence.

Today most humans living in the western culture live in societies were obtaining their basic needs (food, water, shelter and clothing) require only a fraction of the 24 hour day cycle to obtain those needs. So why is there not more time devoted to answering our transcendent call? Could it be that our human education has convinced us that our pursuits would be more beneficial if spent elsewhere?

Even though the sense of transcendence is individualistic, we are culturally entangled with one another, and as a member of the human species, there is also a sense of limits and protocol when we attempt to inform others about our discoveries pertaining to the subject of transcendence. This attachment to our cultural groups makes escaping earth’s material hold on us very difficult to overcome. So how does an individual achieve escape velocity?

First, it takes a belief that escape and transcendence are real tangible possibilities.  Then it takes faith, first to seek out strategies, then faith to pursue the goal of transcending. Even after we grow weary on our journey, it requires courage to re-evaluate and re-tool if necessary. This journey toward transcendence moves us form the material to the spiritual plane of existence and experience. It is a lifelong endeavor that affects everyone member in the human species. We are all a part of the same whole.

For many our sense of transcendence has been reduced to the joy we get by having children and living vicariously through the next generation. Then they mature and begin to pursue their life’s journey. Quickly do we come to the understanding that only our personal journey can fulfill our heart’s desire to answer transcendence’s call?  For many this occurs during their midlife awakening, and realization.  During this period, many begin to take seriously their spiritual development and not rely on human tradition to solve their transcendent call.

Throughout our lives, the sense of transcendence continues to reverberate internal to our being. Some answer the call by doubling down on the traditions given to them at birth and others set off and explore the foreign and exotic traditions of other cultures. Regardless of how you choose to answer the call, what are the questions that arise and keep active the call?

Acknowledging that there is a process or a state called transcendence brings little comfort if our lives are not actively pursuing that state. What is the process for achieving escape velocity? Is it available to every human? Is it called by different names in different cultures? So let us say, for discussion purposes we have become born again, awakened or enlighten; am I transcending this game called life? Will the religious tradition, spiritual journey, or cultural path that I have chosen position me in achieving escape velocity?

It is very hard to measure our progress towards transcendence. Even if we compare our journey to the previous generations, we still have no way of determining the success of those generations in the afterlife.  Regardless of the path we are on, we can measure how active that sense of transcendence is in our life. Are we passionately pursuing the unknown? Do we trust in the traditions, myths and legends?

The God of the Christian bible once described Himself as “I am, that I am”. What is the nature of what we call I am? Is it awareness? Are we spiritual beings? What is that relationship to God and others?  This brings us to the question what are we transcending from? Is it our being, our relationship with God or our relationship with other humans? The questions are many and the answers are sometimes few.

Yet, for some of us we are very aware that this current life is not all there is. Many around us allow themselves to become distracted in the everyday drama of life. Many do it to deafen the sense of that internal call to transcend, thinking that if they ignore it, it will go away. Many bury themselves in religious and cultural traditions hoping that it will absolve them from a judgement that will determine if they qualify to transcend.

On my journey as a non-affiliated Disciple of Jesus, I am convinced that my awareness of love and peace within my fellow humans is paramount to experiencing a transcended existence. Quantum science also hints that the observer changes the potential of possibility, into reality. Therefore, if I want a sense of transcendence active in my life and in future human generations, then I must remain consciously aware of the transcending human potential.

Matthew 22:1-14 The Parable of the Wedding Feast

And Jesus answered and spoke to them again by parables and said:“The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come. Again, he sent out other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding.”’ But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business. And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them. But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.’ 10 So those servants went out into the highways and gathered  together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests. 11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. 12 So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and[a] cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 “For many are called, but few are chosen.”

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National Forgiveness

 

2016-08-06_splash-3-1190007This may seem to be a crazy concept; however, God dropped it into my spirit a few weeks ago. It is staying in the forefront of my mind quite possibly because we are in this political season. As I pondered the concept, I imagined it to be a fully developed doctrine plucked out of the rubble of our current civilization by some futuristic civilization. What my mind can’t imagine is this concept ever being acted on by the human subcultures that exist in the world today.

The act of forgiveness would necessitate a clear violation of sovereignty. Rarely do we think of ourselves as sovereign or relate to other individuals as sovereign beings. The term is relegated to members of royal families and the stuff they own as part of their kingdom. Yet that is exactly what we all are, members of God’s royal family.

Notwithstanding, we live in a reality, that is defined by our awareness of secularized social authority. These various forms include authority of family, of persons over 18 year of age, religious organizations, state and local governments, and their delegated officers. When these various entities exercise their form of authority quite often they come into conflict, and we appeal to a higher authority such as the Federal Government and God.  Therefore, it is that within the reality of our social structure, violations happen and forgiveness is needed. Many judicial proceedings are held every day to keep in-check the lines of authority and to recognize the boundaries of individual rights or what could be described as personal sovereignty.

A violation of national sovereignty could rise to the level of an act of war or a simple snub in diplomatic relations between two nations. Depending on the severity of the violation, what is required is for the collective ego of the violated nation to absorbed the incursion to its sovereignty and be willing to forgive.

What this is not, is an overlooking of an accident between allies, or an act of insurgency by one of it colonized states. What I am talking about is an unprovoked unilateral attacked on the national sovereignty by a nation with lesser or equal strategic power. What makes the situations more difficult is when the offense is witnessed by other sovereign nations. This is where a national ego arises and asserts it standing among its fellow members of nation states.

The reason I cannot imagine the concept of National Forgiveness being executed at this moment in human history is because the individual collective egos (you and me) within a nation-state are very fragile. We live in a world where the love of God for us is constantly in question by every human child. In other words, every child still requires a constant demonstration by God that they are loved. In the face of a foreign sovereign nation’s violation, the collective of individuals turn to God for justification and an overt act to save face and comfort their fragile ego. God on the other hand is looking for mature individuals, people who recognize His presence within, having the strength of spirit to absorb offense and a heart willing to forgive.

The roots of the Judaeo-Christian religion has created a system of beliefs, popular today in humanity, that God chooses to love one child more than others for the benefit of all His human children. Therefore, everyone wants blessing so they can be the path through which humanity is saved.  Everyone desires to be so enriched that others around them can’t help but notice the hand of God in their lives.  If that is not reality, wars are fought to change the status quo. It is within this traditional framework that makes forgiveness between individuals very difficult and the concept of National Forgiveness a pie in the sky fairy-tale. Can this be changed? Does hope exist?

When we examine the roots of traditional scriptural interpretation and the resulting human beliefs today, we can see some areas available for re-evaluation. Again, in the Judaeo-Christian religion three early historical stories (Cain/Able, Jacob/Esau, Ishmael/Isaac) are caught up in this dynamic of who will get God’s blessing. Even the most popular parable of Jesus, the story of the lost or prodigal son has its traditional interpretation trapped in this paradigm of blessing one and not the other.

Luke 11:13 (NKJV)  If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”

The belief that a parent chooses to love one child over another child may be an experiential reality, from the point of view of human interaction, however it is a misinterpretation of scripture and of God’s nature to think that God would bless one child over another. This definition of dysfunctional love, even though traditional, is a gross injustice and has been used to justify one group of humans mistreating another group.

Humanity is evolving by dropping outdated traditions and beliefs that tend to keep the status quo and serve only portions of humanity. Jesus died for all and scriptural interpretation is growing in the light of what “all” means today. Concepts like National Forgiveness are on the horizon for the nation states within humanity. More and more human children are learning to recognize God’s presence within “all” and His love for “all”. Therefore, as His children mature, humanity’s evolution continues to advance.

The infinite-ness of God is clearly seen in scripture. However, the human inability to contemplate the infinite-ness of God or the infinite-ness within our personal being has causes us to hoard wealth and display it like a badge of honor creating a false reality of God’s blessings. Individual human identity has shifted its roots from the relationship with God, to its relationship with wealth, traditionally interpreted as God’s blessing. Our ability to discern God’s presence is therefore limited to the wealth we perceive.

God loves us all and God is within us all, individually and collectively.  The awareness of that truth makes individual forgiveness and national forgiveness possible.

Luke 15:28-32 (NKJV) “But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him. 29 So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. 30 But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’ 31 “And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. 32 It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’”

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