Posts tagged ‘Religion and Spirituality’

A World of Gods

There is a common story across religions of humans wanting to be gods resulting in rebellion, pride and division. Still today there are people who claim to be spiritual, but live with a lust for personal power, not service. They show no respect to anyone (despite deceptive words to the contrary) and use personal perspective to judge everything and everybody. And they are so wrapped up in their infinite wisdom and unshakable “rightness” they have no room for empathy or humility, despite verbal claims of loyalty to these principles.

So, after decades of experience (including much formal training) and a history of victimization based on my race, gender, religious affiliation and economic status I have something to say:

Praying during worship in Tanzania

I chose, and still choose, heavenly love. I remain loyal to The Almighty, not to any religious institution, dogma or doctrine. Service to Creator and creation costs everything, but I would rather be tormented as a child of The One Who Made me than have an inflated public image of importance and power. I will continue to confirm the accuracy of my observations of others before I complain about, or condemn, people. Reconciliation with the Family who share this Earth is far better than humiliating others for personal advancement or “proving” superiority of personal ideology. To alter a famous line from a famous poem (“Paradise Lost”), “I would rather be the lowliest servant in the household of The Divine One than a governor in the world of evil and hate.”

I pray I would start hearing people tell me stories of humble collegiality instead of betrayal and self-aggrandizement. I would be filled with a soul-joy if I met more people who thought social responsibility was a higher ideal than personal rights and opinions.

The life I have chosen is to follow, without religious trappings, the Jesus of the Bible: Saviour and Only Judge.

Personal Stories
Personal Stories
Personal Stories
Personal Stories

Under an Evil Spell

I was in dialogue with a person about a present-day issue. I referred to one of the places in the Bible where this issue is addressed. The response was, “But what limitation do you put on it?”

In my mind I answered, “None!”

This person is one of the too many who have abandoned Scripture and live loyally to the interpretation their religious group places on the Bible. They were inviting me to accept their dogma, which totally negates what God says in The Holy Word. I could not join their heresy.

Several times recently Galatians 3:1-5** has been thrown into my view. It breaks my heart to think that there are so many people who have been “bewitched” into thinking their ideology, their efforts, their self-appointed heroism and their actions which are affirmed only by like-minded individuals (even though rejected by spiritual Christians) constitute righteousness. Alas, it is merely self-righteousness, the spiritual condition of the 1st century Pharisees who opposed Jesus.

Since the modern-day Galatians who are “under an evil spell” (and those at early Ephesus according to Revelation, also) have lost their first love they are called to “repent” (Revelation 2:1-7). If they do not repent Jesus will “come to [them] quickly and remove [their] lampstand from its place”. My call on them to repent has been met with a closed mind, so far, but I keep praying. They do not realize that their “everlasting life” (John 3:16) is at stake!

** “You stupid people of Galatia! Who put you under an evil spell? Wasn’t Christ Jesus’ crucifixion clearly described to you? I want to learn only one thing from you. Did you receive the Spirit by your own efforts to follow the laws in the Scriptures or by believing what you heard? Are you that stupid? Did you begin in a spiritual way only to end up doing things in a human way? Did you suffer so much for nothing? [I doubt] that it was for nothing! Does God supply you with the Spirit and work miracles among you through your own efforts or through believing what you heard?

Temple Sacrifices

There is a practice among Christians that shows contempt for the teaching of God. It is widespread, insidious and undermines the most basic operation of the Realm of God on earth.

It is about holy space. Some denominations even have a ritual, using “holy elements” like water and oil, to sanctify land/soil before building an edifice to house a congregation of believers on it. When the building is completed it is referred to as “The House of God”.

This term comes from the Old Testament where King David gathers materials to construct, and King Solomon completes, The House of God in Jerusalem – The Temple. This was to become a permanent place to house the altar of sacrifices, replacing the Tent of Meeting which the Hebrews built in the wilderness during the Exodus.

Joshua 22 makes it abundantly clear how serious this was to be observed, namely having only one site for the offering of sacrifices – in Jerusalem. There would have been a civil war if the altar built on the east side of the Jordan River had, as was presumed wrongly by the Ten Tribes, been intended to compete with the one and only Holy Place where God dwells.

Jesus changed this, symbolized at the crucifixion, by the tearing of the curtain which separated the Holiest Place from the rest of the Temple.

Paul makes it abundantly clear that there is to be no holy place called “House of God” for the Church: “Don’t you know that your body is a temple that belongs to the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit, whom you received from God, lives in you. You don’t belong to yourselves. You were bought for a price. So bring glory to God in the way you use your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 God’s Word Translation©).

And what happened in The Temple? Sacrifices! Our role as “temples” Paul makes abundantly clear in Romans 12:1, “Brothers and sisters, in view of all we have just shared about God’s compassion, I encourage you to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, dedicated to God and pleasing to him. This kind of worship is appropriate for you.” (God’s Word Translation©)

Who Do You Go to for Help?

When God’s people trade away faith in God for religious opinion, whether Israelites of old or self-declared heroes of today, God sends natural or political alarms to awaken them to their sin and bring them back to spiritual sanity.

Sometimes people respond humbly and repent, turning from the off-trail route to the highway to heaven. Other times they decide to find their own solution apart from trusting in Almighty God.

The Lord declares,
“How horrible it will be for those rebellious children.
They carry out plans, but not mine…
They pile sin on top of sin…
They look for shelter under Pharaoh’s protection
and look for refuge in Egypt’s shadow.
But Pharaoh’s protection will be their shame,
and the refuge in Egypt’s shadow will be their disgrace”
(Isaiah 30:1-3 God’s Word Translation©).

In today’s terminology it would read, “They look for shelter in the Charter of Human Rights and look for refuge in their lawyers’ shadow.”

All I know is a Follower of Jesus will never use a secular court case to win a spiritual battle.

Vital Salvation

Salvation is foundational. Among Christians today there is a conflict about what that is, though! Some teach ‘universal salvation’, which states that, when Jesus died, everyone everywhere at all times was saved. This conflicts with those who hold that everyone must make a decision and accept Jesus as their personal Saviour to gain eternal life in heaven.

To start with what we know, God’s grace is bestowed on everyone in this life. (A)

So God acts like God, Who is love, because that is what God does. This is grace.

The Bible makes it clear, however, that not everyone is saved. (B) So how can both be true?

Grace is unconditional, being the activity of God alone.

Salvation, on the other hand, is a covenant between a person and God. If a person refuses to sign on to the covenant (like a contract), then salvation is on hold and the conditions are not in force.

While the blessing is readily available to anyone (C), not everyone will accept the conditions Almighty God sets forward. (D)

God calls everyone from the cross. Each person has the choice for life with the Saviour here and in the hereafter, or not.

Bible References
(A) “But I tell you this: Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you. In this way you show that you are children of your Father in heaven. He makes his sun rise on people whether they are good or evil. He lets rain fall on them whether they are just or unjust” (Matthew 5:44-45 God’s Word Translation©).

(B) “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the person who does what my Father in heaven wants. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name? Didn’t we force out demons and do many miracles by the power and authority of your name?’ Then I will tell them publicly, ‘I’ve never known you. Get away from me, you evil people’ ” (Matthew 7:21-23 God’s Word Translation©).

(C) “The Lord isn’t slow to do what he promised, as some people think. Rather, he is patient for your sake. He doesn’t want to destroy anyone but wants all people to have an opportunity to turn to him and change the way they think and act” (2 Peter 3:9 God’s Word Translation©).

(D) Such as “all of you must serve each other with humility, because God opposes the arrogant but favors the humble. Be humbled by God’s power so that when the right time comes he will honor you” (1 Peter 5:5b-6 God’s Word Translation©), and “I’m giving you a new commandment: Love each other in the same way that I have loved you. Everyone will know that you are my disciples because of your love for each other” (John 13:34-35 God’s Word Translation©).

Vital Versus Vapid #4 – Ministry

Teachings that are about Church organization, human authority, religious rituals or cultural requirements cannot be used to shape righteousness (“doing the right thing for the right reason for the Right Person [God]”), even if they seem to be Biblical.

Another teaching that is not foundational is the so-called Five-fold Ministry. “And [His gifts to the church were varied and] He Himself appointed some as apostles [special messengers, representatives], some as prophets [who speak a new message from God to the people], some as evangelists [who spread the good news of salvation], and some as pastors and teachers [to shepherd and guide and instruct]” (Ephesians 4:11 Amplified Bible).

This verse describes various functions within The Church, not a teaching that is necessary for salvation. Therefore, this teaching must be used with caution, because:

  1. This teaching occurs only once in the Bible, and is therefore more likely an answer to a specific problem at Ephesus (while things like Christian love, humility, servanthood, and giving glory to God alone are taught repeatedly and have no expiry date);
  2. The Greek of this verse can also be translated, as some versions attempt, that the last role in the list would be written in modern English as “pastor/teacher”, one person whose function is explained by The Amplified Bible translation “to shepherd…and instruct” (so there might be only four ministries listed here);
  3. These functions will not continue into eternal heaven as we will have no need of such an organizing principle when we live with Jesus face-to-face (whereas God’s grace and love will continue on forever, foundational to salvation);
  4. Misused, these functions become titles which the spiritually weak use to “hold absolute power over” those who are even more spiritually weak and undiscerning (“Jesus called the apostles and said, “You know that the rulers of nations have absolute power over people and their officials have absolute authority over people. But that’s not the way it’s going to be among you. Whoever wants to become great among you will be your servant” (Matthew 20:25-26 God’s Word Translation©).

    Because this structure is conveniently helpful does not qualify it as foundational.

Valid Versus Vapid #2 – Other Sheep

It is not difficult to differentiate between teachings vital to our faith and holiness, and those which are for specific occasions or times. Simply put, teachings that are about Church organization, human authority, religious rituals or cultural requirements cannot be used to shape righteousness (“doing the right thing for the right reason for the Right Person [God]”).

God saves people and that is all that it takes to enter into the fullness of a spiritual life. Yet institutional religion (eg denominations) demand a person holds formal membership, without which they are excluded from participating in the decision-making life of the Congregation, as though salvation was not enough.

Jesus reprimanded the disciples when they denounced some people doing ministry without belonging to “the group”. “John said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, we saw someone forcing demons out of a person by using the power and authority of your name. We tried to stop him because he was not one of us.’ Jesus said, ‘Don’t stop him! No one who works a miracle in my name can turn around and speak evil of me. Whoever isn’t against us is for us’ ” (Mark 9:38-40 God’s Word Translation©).

On another occasion Jesus said, “I also have other sheep that are not from this pen. I must lead them. They, too, will respond to my voice. So they will be one flock with one shepherd” (John 10:16 God’s Word Translation©).

Add-ons may be useful for a computer browser, but not “to walk in love” (Ephesians 5:2).

Godly Protest

How do I know when to be a protester? I have protested against the government, very publicly, and this is the basis I follow for knowing when to protest and when to adapt. This is not theory, dogma or philosophical thinking. This is what I have lived, and God grant I will never lower this standard.

  1. If I gain any personal benefit from the successful outcome of the protest, it is wrong to proceed. If I gain then my actions may be (or become) selfish, and even if only the appearance is that I stand to gain, then my protest is not driven by God.
  2. If people affirm my object, and I am energized by that, I cannot proceed. Right is right, and if I need human compliments to be strong in the cause I have no cause that comes from God.
  3. If I gain fame or notoriety from my actions I must stop. The cause is not for me, and if I become the focal point of the protest I have lost the purpose. For example, during a protest I help organize the media wanted to interview me. I had to decline assertively as they did not want to take “No” as an answer. Another person, who had no role in the protest at all, came to the scene and basked in the media coverage, gaining brownie points for advancement. That was as it should be.
  4. If people oppose what I am doing this is to be expected. If I stand for a godly cause and purpose then evil people and religious zealots will become vocal and actual enemies. If religion supports my cause I stop. God does not work through religious institutions, who have power, but through The Spirit whose purpose is to bring glory to God alone, not through financial, political or cultural clout.
  5. If at any point I trade humility for pride in what I am doing, I am compelled to cease. Human pride, close-minded confidence and disregard for spiritual wisdom from Scripture mean I am off the rails.

I have never published this testimony before, but in the present age I felt led this afternoon to be vulnerable and make this known.

May God “receive glory and honour and power” (Revelation 4:11).

WWJD

What would Jesus do?

A moment of clarity was granted to me. Read more…

Right?

In the last while I have had so many punches to the soul that I am weary. What do I mean by that?

This is all rooted in what I have termed “The Eden Syndrome” which is when people play God.

I have people respond with, “God doesn’t do that!” when I share what God wants me to do. Or someone discounts the Bible because its words do not suit their personal doctrine or theology.

Or facts of reality are roundly rejected simply because the reactor had a differing opinion.

Anyone who lives their faith openly faces this. What God wants is rarely what human society wants. Humans do not want to be humbled by God’s high ways because humility goes contrary to the obsession with “being like God” (Genesis 3:5-6) instead of serving God. The famous line from Paradise Lost rings true across the ages: Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven (Book I line 263).

Now, I have not yet been murdered or kidnapped or imprisoned as the prophets of old were. So I shouldn’t complain, I guess. Yet, I understand why Jeremiah concluded that resignation from the job as prophet was a preferred option. I also understand that, when he handed in his resignation he realized it couldn’t happen, because the words of God which were given to him had to be uttered.

What a dilemma – do what is right and get hit right in the head from those God wants rightly to save! Right?