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Who Is God To You? September 30, 2006

Posted by rattazzimedia in Christianity, Church, God, Religion, Spiritual, Spiritual Overview, Spiritual Study, Spirituality, Theology.
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The other day I was talking with Sterling Edwards, he was talking about the all surpassing glory of God.  Now it is human nature to exaggerate things and use hyperbole when speaking, but Sterling was not exaggerating here.  We all need to recognize God as the supreme being whose ways are as high above our ways as the heavens are above the earth.  Does this contradict my efforts (that I discussed in my last post) to bring concepts of God more down to earth?  Not at all, in fact as I pondered his words I realized the danger in my efforts.  While everyone must recognize that God has worked out for us a plan of salvation that is not difficult to understand, this in no way makes it less awesome.  In fact perhaps it makes it immeasurably more awesome that God has the ability to take the promise of eternal life and place it within our grasp.

The danger in taking these sweeping spiritual concepts and comparing them to common temporal things would be to rob these concepts of their glory.  I am so glad that Jesus Christ used this method or else I would need to consider the wisdom of this teaching tool.  But there is indeed a danger, it is the same danger posed in Christ coming in the flesh.  Just because God chose to appear in the form of a man, one who made himself a servant no less, one should not let that obscure the glory of God that is out of this world.  This is the challenge God places before us in his plan of salvation through the work of Jesus Christ.  He came as a servant but through his obedience was given a name that is above any other name on heaven and earth.  Everyone must recognize this in order to obtain eternal life. 

So the pedestrian metaphors have their place and purpose.  It is vitally important that these spiritual concepts are made real to us and our minds must clearly understand them.  We must not loose sight of what we are dealing with here though.  It is the grace of God.  Grace is unmerited favor, in other words the gift from God is of such immeasurable value that no matter what work we do we could not possibly earn it.  The challenge is not to work hard enough and you will earn eternal life.  The challenge is to understand the simplicity of God’s plan and acknowledge how great it makes God that he could (or would) put this exceedingly wonderful gift within our grasp. 

The world we live in obscures our vision of God.  Often we have a vision of God that is so small (also pointed out by Sterling).  In our prayers we often treat God like a lucky rabbits foot we pull out and give a rub whenever we want something.  This is human nature and we each must ask ourselves the question: Who is God To You?  The challenge for each of us is to understand the greatness of God and at the same time realize how we can come into his presence.  We can then have the close intimate relationship God desires with each of us.  So I ask again: Who is God to you?

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Spirituality And My Lame Metaphors September 25, 2006

Posted by rattazzimedia in Christianity, Church, God, Religion, Spiritual, Spiritual Overview, Spiritual Study, Spirituality, Theology.
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In my previous post I employed a metaphor about a stop sign to illustrate a spiritual principle.  When I employ these pedestrian metaphors I sometimes get the complaint that it is not appropriate to make such comparisons.  In other words it is not appropriate to express such a mysterious and mystical concept as spirituality in such down to earth terms.  While I agree that eternal truths are by their very nature not of this creation we can take advantage of the fact that this reality is a shadow of a greater reality and use the things of this world to help illuminate eternal principles. 

How do I know that?  I am following the example of Jesus Christ and copying a method of teaching he often employed.  The parables that he is so famous for are just this, by placing side by side an eternal spiritual truth with a temporal example all his listeners were familiar with, he gave them a handle on something they could not see.  Christ used metaphors that spoke to his listeners there at that time.  In our culture today some of his parables have less meaning because we are not so familiar with the earthly things being spoken of.  For example may of his comparisons use agrarian elements, those of us not from a rural background may need to do some research to get the meaning of what is being said.  But even then our understanding is not equal to one who has lived with these elements all his life.

Let’s bring the discussion back to my lame metaphors.  These are my attempts to explore these same spiritual principles using elements from the culture we find ourselves immersed in.  They do not have the weight or authority of the parables of Jesus Christ, I could be way off base, but at the very least they may serve as fuel for discussion.  Our discussion may then help us to be able to agree on what the truth is and further the cause of spiritual unity.

So let’s do that, rather than dismiss my attempts at bringing these spiritual truths down to earth so that we can better understand, let’s discuss, let’s pick them apart and maybe together come up with some better metaphors we can all get behind and take a step towards spiritual unity.

Spirituality And The Law September 21, 2006

Posted by rattazzimedia in Christianity, Church, God, Religion, Spiritual, Spiritual Overview, Spiritual Study, Spirituality, Theology.
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All religions have rules, some have more rules than others.  When you’re talking about anything in religion the first question to ask is:  Is it from God or man?  People will add rules upon rules to their religion, this is not what I want to discuss today.  God has at various times given out rules, the rules or laws from God are under consideration here.  Why the need for rules?  To answer that question let’s look at the reasoning behind rules or laws.  Let’s say we have an imaginary community and each of us has our own automobile.  We all of course are of a mind to operate our cars in a safe manner not only for our own safety but also for the safety of the community.  As time goes by we notice a number of accidents at a particular intersection.  Visibility is limited so we put up a STOP sign to solve the problem.  The rule is when you see the stop sign, stop and look to see if it is safe to proceed into the intersection.

So, what does this have to do with spirituality?  In our example: everyone is of a mind to be a safe driver yet there have been accidents.  The introduction of a law has two effects, obedience to the law benefits everyone and it makes it clear who in truth are not driving their cars safely.  It is clear that those who break the law and run the stop sign are not operating their cars safely, no matter what they think of themselves or the law for that matter.  The law is not the object here, the benefit of everyone is the object, the law is just a tool and an indicator.

The purpose of the Law given by God to the nation of Israel in the Old Testament is very much like what we have been talking about here.  This is God carrying out his promise to Abraham to bless the whole world, first the world has to see clearly that despite what we may think, we are not doing the right thing for ourselves and others.  The Old Testament Law embodies the mind of God and indicates clearly how everyone is in disagreement with God on some point or points.  This proves that we need a mediator between us and God.  This is what God promised Abraham.  This is Jesus Christ.  He interceded for us by paying the penalty for our transgressions of the Law of God.

But there is an even larger spiritual thing happening here.  Jesus Christ did not break any of the Laws of God in his life.  He was always obedient to God and he always said exactly what God wanted him to say.  The only one who did not need to pay the penalty, paid the penalty for us.  After he paid the penalty with his life, he was rewarded by God and is now at the right hand of God as Lord over all creation.  What does this mean for us?  We each have a choice, we can be identified with Christ and benefit from the work he did or we can be identified the disobedient.  We can be exalted with Christ or live out an eternity without God. 

If we follow Christ we acknowledge that the Old Testament Law has done it’s job and we no longer have the burden of the Law.  All we need to do is follow Christ’s example, just as Christ was obedient to the father we are obedient to Christ.  The teaching of Christ is a much easier burden to bear than the Old Testament Law.  Christ’s teaching is not rule upon rule but we do indeed need to be obedient to Christ, not out of fear of penalty but because we believe the promise he made to us of eternal life.  I did not intend for this to turn into a gospel sermon but it sort of is.  Human nature is always at work to drive us away from God.  One sign of this in religious life, is an ever increasing body of rules that come from man.  Just as in the time of Christ all these additional rules and traditions do not bring us any closer to God in fact they draw us away.  A religion that consists of rule upon rule is a religion that has wandered away from God.  I hope this has shed some light on the topic of Spirituality and the Law.  Please feel free to add your comments on this topic.        

Additional Culture Note September 17, 2006

Posted by rattazzimedia in Christianity, Church, God, Religion, Spiritual, Spiritual Overview, Spiritual Study, Spirituality, Theology.
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In my previous post “Culture Is King” I made the point that the control culture has on our behavior is always working against us following the guidance from God.  The more our culture appears to be “Bible based” the more difficult it is to see that this is true.  This is very important.  Even though it is easy to see from reading the Bible how far a church like the Roman Catholic Church has strayed from God’s instruction, being raised Catholic made it very difficult for me to understand this.  Now the Catholic Church has had more than a thousand years of straying under it’s belt.  Some evangelical groups came out of a reformation “back to the Bible” movement in the 1800’s and as a result are more closely following the word of God.  But these churches have strayed from their initial zeal for the truth.  They rely too much on stock cliches and inferences that are not supported by the text.  They have had less than 200 years to stray so it is even more difficult for those raised in this evangelical culture to see their error than it was for me, coming from a Catholic upbringing.

This is a central Bible principle: religions are always going astray.  Think about it, give me one example where this is not true.  The responsible teacher will train others to correctly handle the Scriptures and separate facts from inferences.  Help people to understand what the text actually says and not what someone says it says.  Each generation must be firmly grounded on the word of God to prevent them from becoming another step in the path away from the truth.  The student of the Bible must in like manner verify that every understanding is firmly supported by the entire text.  Each principle must be tested in this way no matter how emphatically or aggressively it is communicated by the teacher.  Many a false teaching has escaped rigorous examination due to the stern demeanor of the instructor.  The truth is strong enough to stand on it’s own merits. 

Summing up, each of us must make sure that our understand rests firmly on the truth and not on some shaky and imprecise body of inferences that are in keeping with tradition and culture but only loosely based on God’s word.  The more religious you are the more important this is and unfortunately more difficult to see.  Jesus Christ reserved his strongest criticism to local religious leaders.  He said things like this: “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!  You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: “‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.  They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.'”   Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”  Christ is saying the same thing about the “Culture is king” proposition that I have been. Culture is always working against God and truth.  And there is no place that this is more important yet difficult to see than in religious life.

Culture Is King September 15, 2006

Posted by rattazzimedia in Christianity, Church, God, Religion, Spiritual, Spiritual Overview, Spiritual Study, Spirituality, Theology.
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Anthropologists, archeologists and corporate motivational speakers often quote the phrase “culture is king”.  What is the meaning of this phrase?  The point often being made by this phrase is that the core values of the culture you grew up in shape every decision you make.  If you are trying to understand what is going on with a particular society or individual you need to understand the culture they are immersed in.  This is especially true if what is going on is puzzling to you.  Often people from one culture do not understand people from another culture.

For people searching for God and the truth, the culture is always working against you.  Let me explain what I mean.  Our lives more often than not are directed by the culture we grew up in rather than an understanding of the truth.  A problem arises when the truth does not agree with the culture.  I’ll give you an example from my own life.  I was born into a catholic family and therefore as an infant I was “baptized” by water being sprinkled on my tiny head.  As my spiritual studies brought me to the truth about baptism, that it is something one must decide to do and is by immersion rather than sprinkling, it still took me quite some time to get it, the error of my culture obscured the truth from me.  I finally got it with the help of some persistent teachers.  But it wasn’t easy.  Now as I try to instruct others I am encountering the same difficulty with family and friends raised in the same culture.  The culture is still working against me.

It is so very hard for people to realize that something we have always believed to be true is indeed false.  A major theme of the Bible is that cultures and religions are always wandering away from God.  This happens naturally and a constant and specific effort must be made to keep in step with God.  So if you begin a study of spirituality, no matter what culture you grew up with, that culture is always working against you.  This is especially true for cultures who appear on the surface to be based on spiritual values.  Looking again at my personal example;  In the culture I grew up in, the false teaching on baptism was represented as being God’s instruction.  This made it so difficult to focus on the fact that it was false.    

Culture is king.  Each of us must deal with the happenstance and hodgepodge of our own understanding.  We must each rise above the tyranny of our collective upbringing in order to embrace the truth.  This is vitally important to our spiritual life and maturity.  Culture is king, but it should not be that way.  The truth should rule. 

Eternal Life September 10, 2006

Posted by rattazzimedia in Christianity, Church, God, Religion, Spiritual, Spiritual Overview, Spiritual Study, Spirituality, Theology.
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In my last post I discussed an element that separates man from the other life forms that inhabit this planet, the idea that we are the only species who purposely transmit information across generations.  The sudden appearance of this tendency exclusively in our species I connected with the concept of being created in God’s image.  Another important difference is that the life that is in each of us will continue after our physical bodies have died even into eternity.  After this world has ceased to exist we will continue.  This is a vitally important spiritual principle.  Remember our working definition of spirituality: an order of thinking concerning eternal things.  This is also one of the ways we are created in God’s image.

Now the best reason for us to be interested in what God expects from each of us is that we love him because we understand that he is the source of all good things.  But if that doesn’t work for you how about being concerned with how you and those you love will spend an eternity after your physical body has passed away.  We learn from the Bible that we can spend this eternity with God or without God.  Now if God is the source of all good things, how good do you think an eternity without God would be?  The way we spend our lives here in this life will decide where we will spend eternity.  This is extremely important.  We need to be extremely concerned with this.  Most people live their lives in a state of foolish disregard of this.  Like rearranging the deck chairs on the titanic most people are distracted by what seem to be pressing but are ultimately unimportant concerns.

I don’t want to be putting a negative spin on this.  God has made wonderful promises to those who follow his instructions.  This is good news, God has guaranteed an extremely pleasant eternity to those who follow him.  But you must follow him, this does not happen by accident, you must make a specific and determined effort to put aside the way you think things are and understand what God’s point of view is.  For the reasons discussed in previous posts it is abundantly clear that God chose to lay out his point of view and instructions for us in the Bible.  This then makes it extremely important that each of us make sure we clearly understand what is contained in the Bible.  Each day, each of us should spend at the very least a little time with the word of God.  Another important element also previously discussed is that it is necessary to share this effort with others.  This is also a choice God made and therefore an instruction to us.  So the wise man is extremely concerned about eternal life and with the help of others makes it a priority to investigate what needs to be done.

Across Generations September 8, 2006

Posted by rattazzimedia in Christianity, Church, God, Religion, Spiritual, Spiritual Overview, Spiritual Study, Spirituality, Theology.
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An oasis teaming with life, in a variety of forms as numerous as the stars in the sky, Our planet graces the cosmos.  Science is challenged to understand why civilization has flourished in only one species.  Intelligence initially seemed the answer.  But we are not the only species with sufficient brain capacity.  Opposable thumbs posed a possible explanation.  But science through observation and experimentation has proven that other species are capable of using tools.  Most recently a scientist studying primates made this observation: We are the only species who purposely transmit information across generations.

In the book of Genesis when God creates man we see that man is unique in that he was created in God’s image.  Many have commented on just what is meant by that, perhaps there is a connection here.  Man, the only creature in God’s creation said to be created in his image is the only creature in God’s creation who purposely transmits information across generations.  The story of salvation that God chose to record in the pages of the Bible can only be understood as one sees it unfold across generations.

This is not only proof of the hand of God in the spiritual scenario presented in the Bible this also confers a duty and a responsibility on those who want to follow God’s lead.  The spiritual duty and responsibility we each have is to see that God’s message to mankind is passed on accurately from generation to generation.  This is a great spiritual challenge for each of us and one of the major themes of the Bible is that man is naturally predisposed not to do that.  Either by not paying attention to God’s instruction or by modifying that instruction to suit some self serving purpose man has again and again failed to live this message and serve as models and teachers to their children.

God is able to make sure that despite all this his message does not vanish from the face of the earth, but ask yourself: are you doing your part to pass it on?  Or to put it another way are those around us, friends and family alike being drawn into or pushed away from an intimate knowledge of God’s eternal plan?  Or to put it yet another way are we making ourselves a link in the chain of salvation that stretches back before time and continues on into eternity?  Pop open your Bible and see if this is what God has in mind or just another one of my lunatic ramblings.  Read Deuteronomy chapter six and tell me what you think.  Let us, each of us, take our rightful place in this glorious story that unfolds it’s sacred design across generations.    

You Bet Your Life September 6, 2006

Posted by rattazzimedia in Christianity, Church, God, Religion, Spiritual, Spiritual Overview, Spiritual Study, Spirituality, Theology.
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When it comes to spirituality everyone bets their life on something.  Some say there is such a thing as eternal life.  Some say there is no such thing and live their lives accordingly.  They do not concern themselves with matters that pertain to eternal life.  Some, while agreeing that there is such a thing as eternal life remain unconcerned reasoning that the eternal forces will be in complete agreement with them.  All these various groups of people are betting that their beliefs will prove correct in the end.

In the religious world, even among those who have some concern or interest in matters concerning eternal life some are betting their eternal life on some set of inferences that at one time might have been based on the Bible but over the years have evolved into something entirely different.  Can such individuals have any confidence in what they are doing?  Does the Bible actually offer us something we can place our confidence in?  I have discussed in previous posts how the information contained in the Bible was put there in such a way that it could only have been done by God.  Each individual must investigate this matter and educate him or herself in order that their confidence may rest firmly on the information that comes from the only source that can speak with authority on eternal matters.  Then you have something to bet your life on.

We learn from the Bible that there is such a thing as eternal life and we also learn that we need to be concerned in this life how we will be in that life.  One of the reasons some remain unconcerned about this is that they are not sufficiently familiar with the information contained in the Bible.  If the Bible is carefully examined with an open mind, forgetting all the disinformation being constantly presented, then you can find out what you need to know about eternal life and have the kind of confidence you can bet your life on.  You bet your life.