Category Archives: Church

World Beauty

There are two common sayings used today. One is “selective hearing,” and at least one contestant in every beauty pageant always answers “world peace” during the question segment of the contest. What I and many others are discovering about life, from both a spiritual and scientific perspective, is that our conscience has a significant effect on the reality we experience.

Sayings like selective hearing and world peace are statements of what we do and desire. With that, I want to introduce a new saying. World Beauty. Ironically when we gather with our local spiritual communities and churches, we most often misuse our conscience by selectively limiting and acknowledging God’s virtue in operation. For many, the main reason we attend a Sunday morning spiritual gathering is that we see the beauty in the person standing on the stage. What we miss is the beauty inside everyone else. By beauty, I am talking about the virtue and God-like qualities that all humans possess.

We desire a beautiful world of peace, but we fail to see and acknowledge the beauty in every ordinary person. That is because we participate in selective seeing which finds and complements the divinity only in our cultural leaders. With 7.5 billion of us, we need to see and speak forth the good that resides in every person and not just our role models and group leaders. Being aware of the goodness in another person is one of the most empowering things we can do to bring about a beautiful world. In quantum physics, there is a theoretical experiment called Schrodinger’s cat and there is also the dual slit experiment with its many variations. In both cases, the conscious observer is the determining factor for the outcome of these experiments.

World beauty is a real possibility for human experience. What is required is for us to see it. We need judgment that finds beauty, love, and peace in the fabric of our reality. To experience world beauty, we must see it in more than just our leaders, role models, and celebrities. We need to see it in every one of our fellow human beings. We need a practice of selective seeing that will produce the desire of our hearts, which is world beauty.

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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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Spirit or Religion, One Difference Is Love

2017-02colors-1383652The big problem we humans face in the world today is our inability to love one another. Of all the institutions in the world that can solve this problem, humanity puts it hope in the religious institutions. Why? Secular institutions made attempts with ethics but it was corrupted by corporate interest. The goal of ethics has been reduced to determining what can be done legally in the pursuit of making a profit.

Yes, the golden rule may be defined as do unto others as you would have done unto you. Thus, the ethical response is like a chess move, let me gain the upper position over you, before you can gain the position over me. Love on the other hand is putting others before self. Jesus states the minimum requirements (love other’s as equal to self) but demonstrated what love really looks like in action (put others before self).

John 10:14-15 (NKJV)  I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. 15 As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.

Daniel 7:14 (NKJV) Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, Which shall not pass away, And His kingdom the one Which shall not be destroyed.

In many ways, religion has become a tool of identity politics and communities that once gathered for spiritual reasons have been reduced to grass roots recruiting grounds for political constituencies. All the while, Jesus remains at the task of building a kingdom from every nation on earth. Unfortunately many religious groups are going through the motions by choosing winners and losers based on religious affiliation. More importantly national political policy is being crafted around religious affiliations.

Jesus came to break down those distinctions between Jew and Greek, slave and free, and male and female. Even the Prophet Mohamed placed all the religious relics of the warring tribes into a single tent in order to unite the worship of many nomadic peoples. The arc of humanity is on a trend towards removing that, which separates.

We can also define love as the removal of distance between people, and beauty as the removal of distance between people and objects. When in nature one comes to a clearing or a view that makes you feel that you are one with all that you see. Even the lobbies of some purposely design buildings create this feeling of oneness. Many times, what is mistaken for sexual attraction is a sense of oneness between two people.

Many of our great travel experiences are when we leave our usual cultural setting and immerse ourselves into another culture. The sense of oneness, the welcoming feeling and embrace we experience is hard to put into words. And when we return to our usual cultural norms, we quickly notice how our culture requires us to identify and shed all identity from outside cultures.

I encourage you to be agents of change within your religious cultures helping them to embrace the outsider or your neighbor or the Samaritan. The OT and NT uses the Samaritan as the one group that should be embraced but are always rejected.  The Samaritan’s accepted Jewish religious traditions while sharing captivity with the Jews. They were abandon when the wall was rebuilt and religion was returned inside the walls of Jerusalem. The star in one of Jesus’ parables, the women at the well and the object of the disciple’s wrath when they want to ask God to rain down fire from heaven. The Samaritan’s are equivalent to African descendants in western culture today.

If Jesus and Mohammad could see their spiritual communities that were originally designed to love and reduce the separation, they both would be disappoints with their respective religions today. Membership and group identity have replaced the actions of love. Disciples of both of these religions have become devotees to the culture, ignoring the words and actions of their founders.

Each of these religious cultures is in need of a reformation to regroup to the original goals set forth by their founders. What the world needs is love, which is the spirit not the law of these cultures. More important is that there are many in these groups that see the need for change and their voices are being drown out. Helping a religious culture keep its spiritual sensitivities is a noble task today. It is the hope of humanity.

The Parable of the Good Samaritan

Luke 10:25-37 (NKJV) and behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?

27 So he answered and said, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’”

28 And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.”

29 But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.31 Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. 33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ 36 So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?”

37 And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.”

Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

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