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Spirituality And Revolution October 30, 2006

Posted by rattazzimedia in Christianity, Church, God, Religion, Spiritual, Spiritual Overview, Spiritual Study, Spirituality, Theology.
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As a young man I was attracted to the idea of revolution, at the very least it seemed clear that there was a great deal of need for reform in the society I was growing up in.  As time passes there is a natural tendency for human institutions to drift this way and that and sometimes the establishment becomes so corrupt that repair is not possible without some sort of sweeping, far reaching and decisive (if not abrupt) change.  In other words: revolution.  The same thinking can be applied to the spiritual condition of each of us.  As it turns out, since we are all the product of many generations that have wandered away from God, we are each in the need of a spiritual revolution.  A revolution of the heart.  If I were to put this in Bible terms I would say: “each of us needs to repent”.  What I am talking about is exactly what is meant by the word “repent”.  Realize your condition, decide to make a change and turn to God.  

Gil Scott-Heron, back in the early 70’s wrote a song titled “The revolution will not be televised”.  This phrase is often picked up these days to make various points.  Today I would like to co-opt this phrase to say: The revolution will not be televised because the revolution is in your heart.  It is a spiritual revolution and everyone needs to experience it.  While I’m calling that time period to mind, I am reminded of Bob Dylan (just put out a new album by the way).  The opening verse to his song “The times they are a-changin'” goes like this:

Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’. *

I might be dating myself by bringing this up but the line: “If your time to you Is worth savin’ Then you better start swimmin’ Or you’ll sink like a stone”.  Is exactly what I am talking about.  Because of all the talk of the time about the “generation gap” most assumed that is what Dylan was talking about, but Dylan disputed that saying: “Those were the only words I could find to separate aliveness from deadness. It had nothing to do with age.”  The whole song is a wake up call.  Everyone, especially including those raised with a strong religious background, needs to have this revolution of the heart.  We all need to escape the corruption and error that is the natural state of human society and focus our hearts on the truth.  Then our hearts will be transformed, reformed and brought into agreement with all others also focused on the truth, others who have also had this revolution of the heart.

*Copyright © 1963; renewed 1991 Special Rider Music

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Spirituality And Indifference October 28, 2006

Posted by rattazzimedia in Christianity, Church, God, Religion, Spiritual, Spiritual Overview, Spiritual Study, Spirituality, Theology.
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Our most succinct definition so far for spirituality is: thinking on eternity.  I have pointed out before that our whole posture on spirituality turns on the concept of eternity, or to be more accurate eternal life.  Once you accept the concept that some will have eternal life the next logical question is: How can I be one of those who receives eternal life?  One can be indifferent to spirituality if one is not concerned about eternal life.  This has been the question from the beginning.  The apostle Paul said to those who did not believe in eternal life: “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.”   Paul added, quoting from Isaiah : “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”  Once again, ones understanding of eternity has a strong bearing on how one lives this life.  

A sign that someone has not considered or just does not believe in eternal life is an indifference to the concept of spirituality.  So then the answer to this indifference is to encourage the indifferent to consider eternity.  How do we do that?  The thing to do is turn to someone who has first hand and intimate knowledge of this topic.  Do we know of a being who had no beginning and who will have no end?  The answer of course is God and if you have read any of my previous posts the place to find out about God is the Bible.  If you take a peek in the Bible you will notice that this is a main theme of the Bible, eternal life.  An answer to indifference is study the Bible.  Of course it is hard to get people who don’t care to make the effort.  So this indifference is self perpetuating. 

This relates to the topic of my last post in a few ways, sometimes people are offended by attempts to rouse them from the sleep of indifference.  Some do not accept the possible negative outcome for those who remain indifferent to the good news of the Gospel.  The picture of a husband and wife is often used to illustrate the type of attention God gives to and expects from his people, indifference clearly falls outside this illustration.  We can also bring in the topic of unity (also spoken on often in previous posts), some react to the confusion caused by so much disagreement and disunity among  believers with indifference.  It’s easier for some when faced with the confusing array of religious beliefs to use that as a reason for doing nothing.  This is human nature and yet another reason we should strive for the unity God desires for us to have.

Indifference is not an option when talking about spirituality.  Everyone needs to make the effort to learn what God expects from each of us and we all have the responsibility to be proactive and unified in our attempts to do what God expects.  It may be helpful to consider the various reasons why so many are indifferent.  It is certainly difficult to overcome indifference but it is not what God wants from us and so we all must try to deal with this issue.

Negative Spin October 26, 2006

Posted by rattazzimedia in Christianity, Church, God, Religion, Spiritual, Spiritual Overview, Spiritual Study, Spirituality, Theology.
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Sometimes as I am discussing spiritual matters with people, some people take offense at some point that I am making.  Of course in the normal course of human affairs in any realm of interaction there often is friction.  And sometimes I might be offensive because of some error I have made or some aspect of my personality that is not so appealing.  But what I want to discuss here is the times when I am carefully and dispassionately attempting to explore some important spiritual principle and some listeners take offense.  The response I often get at these times is: “If your message is negative it can’t be from God” or “antagonizing people does not bring them closer to God, it just doesn’t work”.  I just posted an essay to my website also with the title “Negative Spin” and the point of the essay is that Jesus sometimes offended his audience also.  Take a look at the essay.  The objective for Jesus is to instruct and correct, but of course sometimes correction causes a negative response.  This indicates the listener is not in agreement with what is being said.  The offense is removed when the error is corrected and everyone is in harmony. 

Of course when I am the speaker the error could be with me, but when Jesus is the speaker and his words cause offense it is the listener who needs the correction.  This impacts on our efforts to achieve unity.  It is not necessarily a bad thing when a comment exposes the fact that we are not all on the same page even if that revelation causes pain.  The real test is what happens in the aftermath.  Does the offense cause one to pull away and cause a deepening of the divide or does the offense cause all to make every effort to work things out?  Is the response to set our minds on coming together and agreeing on the truth or to divide us further? 

The response to this kind of “offense” exposes the condition of ones heart.  All of us should be dedicated to working through these “offenses” and arriving together at the truth.  This is a painful process for everyone because we are all in various far flung spaces on the spiritual landscape, all of us far from being one with each other and God.  I would personally rather not be the one to remind people of this condition.  I want everyone to like me.  But there are more important things to consider than my personal popularity.  So I continue to make every effort to remind people even if my efforts cause friends and family to characterize my life with a negative spin. 

Spirituality And The Facts October 24, 2006

Posted by rattazzimedia in Christianity, Church, God, Religion, Spiritual, Spiritual Overview, Spiritual Study, Spirituality, Theology.
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Last post talked some on unity and thoughts on removing obstacles to unity.  I plan to get back to the idea of simplification and narrowing our discussion to a short list of items we all can firmly agree on in later posts.  Today I want to discuss facts.  Often on news programs they will interview representatives of opposing viewpoints concerning some controversial or breaking news issue.  Sometimes these representatives will debate with each other their opposing views.  Many times this “debate ” will disintegrate into a useless and uninformative argument.   We’ve all seen this sort of thing on various TV news programs.  One thing that often occurs as these discussions deteriorate is the opposing combatants start each quoting “facts” that are immediately contradicted by the other.  When this happens I amuse myself with thoughts like: isn’t this a news program?  The least we can expect is a clear statement of the facts.  Sometimes on PBS their will be an attempt to establish a factual base for the discussion and the moderator will not let the hired pundits stray too far from the facts.  This unfortunately is rare.

The same thing happens when discussing spiritual topics.  I know that spirituality deals with thinking on eternity and therefore it is more difficult to pin down the facts, but we could further the cause of unity if we made every effort to agree on the important facts.  For example; Jesus Christ, historical figure or made up character?  This man actually did exist and contemporary historians (like Josephus) recorded this fact.  So if you consider the reports contained in the New Testament unreliable due to the obvious bias of the writers, there are facts to consider.  But let’s talk about facts concerning the Bible for a moment.  One strong indicator that God is the spiritual driving force behind the Bible is the time span over which the various books of the Bible were written.  Things were spoken of in the texts that had their fulfillment years later, sometimes many hundreds or a thousand years later.  The facts concerning the dates that these books were written have been studied and examined by many authoritative institutions.  Some of the books are difficult to date but some contain very specific information concerning the time they were written in.  It takes some work to examine this information but in this day and age with tools like the Internet at our disposal the job is much easier.  The point is the 66 books of the Bible were written over a period of perhaps fifteen centuries and the most conservative estimates of the time frame still indicate more that a thousand years.

So this is a fact that can be reliably established and once understood can be helpful in expanding our understanding of the truth and quiet certain debates.  Also once the importance of this fact is understood you can examine other texts to see if they are able to boast a similar pedigree.  Let me know what you find out.  I am always in the market for facts.  We can take some important steps toward spiritual unity by making every effort to agree on the facts.

Spirituality And Unity October 21, 2006

Posted by rattazzimedia in Christianity, Church, God, Religion, Spiritual, Spiritual Overview, Spiritual Study, Spirituality, Theology.
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Some time back I created a post titled “One”.  I wanted to follow up that post with more talk on unity but I thought the title “One Part Two” was a little silly.  The point was made in that post that God is one and Jesus Christ demonstrated what that means by, in both words and deeds, always being in perfect agreement with God.  In the book of Acts we see this theme carried through to the church: “All the believers were one in heart and mind.”  The apostles with the help of the Holy Spirit made every effort to achieve and maintain that unity.  That is not to say that they did not encounter problems.  That is not to say that they did not encounter opposition.  Just as it is today they had to work at achieving and maintaining unity.  Being one in the spirit requires diligent effort. 

Considering all this, do we have the option, when we reach an impasse on spiritual matters to agree to disagree?  It sounds reasonable, we could have a negotiated “peace” if we agree to disagree.  Do we as disciples of Jesus Christ have that option?  The answer is no.  We must follow the instruction to be one just as Jesus and the Father are one.  In this day and age this is not easy to do.  Each “denomination” has their own set of teaching based on their own set of inferences supposedly based on the scripture.  But friends, if indeed your teaching and body of inferences are in agreement with the scripture they will be in agreement with anyone else’s body of teaching and inferences if they also are in agreement with the scripture.  Remember: God is one.  If there is disagreement either one or both of the parties is in error.  I would like to suggest at this point, rather than enter into a vigorous debate on the myriad of discrepancies contained in the various teachings, that we do the following:  Let us establish a short list of vital principles that make up the Gospel of Jesus Christ and make every effort to have unity on this short, vital list.  Let us keep the list as short as possible and establish unequivocal agreement on it.

Why do people in the religion business always feel like they have to go out on a limb?  There is so much in the word of God that is firmly established but not yet understood by the general population, why not concentrate on these major and vitally important issues and steer clear of teachings based on conjecture and unsupported inference.  For example we all agree that there is one God.  Good!  Let’s take that agreement and see if we can agree further that there is one mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ.  Let’s start with these two points, send me your comments and let’s see if we can proceed from here in total unity.  

Thinking On Eternity October 19, 2006

Posted by rattazzimedia in Christianity, Church, God, Religion, Spiritual, Spiritual Overview, Spiritual Study, Spirituality, Theology.
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Remember our definition of spirituality from a few posts back: an order of thinking concerning eternal things.  We can simplify that definition even further and say spirituality can be defined as: thinking on eternity.  It occurred to me the other day that an individuals relationship to religion (and God for that matter) turns significantly on the concept of eternity.  In the garden of Eden when Adam and Eve decided to depart from God’s instruction they lost the privilege of eating from the tree of life and living forever, Jesus Christ was often asked the question: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”  Some see religion as merely as set of ethical guidelines for proper human interaction, this view is human centered.  Granted, an important part of your spiritual life has to do with treatment of your fellow man.  It is folly to neglect considering God and eternity.  God is an eternal being (from everlasting to everlasting), he created us to have a close loving relationship with him for eternity, this is the core of spirituality.

In this day and age I hear a great deal of talk about spirituality that does not seem to connect at all with what God has communicated to us.  What good is that sort of  “spirituality”?  If your spiritual understanding does not take into account eternal life then you won’t be focused on what is necessary for eternal life.  You will miss it.  You will not obtain eternal life by accident or chance.  Your approach has to be deliberate, specific and organized, just as God is deliberate, specific and organized in his approach to us.  God has set up a divinely simple program for us to obtain eternal life.  This is what is meant by the grace of God, he has put eternity within our reach, all we need to do is reach out and grab it. 

So why do most choose not to reach out and grab it?  Mankind has wandered so far from God that at every turn we are fed false information that prevents us from seeing the truth.  There is so much noise and various so called “spiritual” teachings that have nothing to do with God’s true message to us.  We need to be aware of this and test anything put forward to us under the guise of spirituality and determine for certain if it is from God.  Spirituality that is not from God is of no use and prevents us from embracing the truth.

Another important point to consider is that God defines eternal life as eternity with him.  The alternative is eternity separated from God (eternal death, if you will).  And since all good things come from God, what do you think an eternity separated from God would be like?  Since the stakes are so high there is no good reason why each of us does not reach out for what God has placed within our grasp.  The point is: start thinking on eternity and take hold of eternal life. 

Not Scripture October 17, 2006

Posted by rattazzimedia in Christianity, Church, God, Religion, Spiritual, Spiritual Overview, Spiritual Study, Spirituality, Theology.
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My last post touched on the concept of determining what is from God and what is from man.  This is a troubling concept to some because at first blush it appears everything is from man.  So what am I talking about?  First it is important to note that this from God or Man question comes up when it is pointed out that some writing (like the Bible) is scripture (that is from God) and therefore speaks with authority.  How do we know that the Bible is from God?  The Bible is a collection of writings penned (or scribed) over a period of about fifteen centuries.  The various books authenticate each other and unfold a plan that could only be carried out through uncounted generations by a being who can command that his very words be made so.  Who else but God could accomplish such a thing?  Some of the details of this proof are on my website, but please let me know if you want to study in detail this amazing truth.

Once we establish that some writing is scripture (from God) it is helpful to begin to understand what is not scripture (from man).  For example, if you open up your Bible you will see text which is scripture.  But also you will see on the page a great many things that are not scripture.  The chapter and verse organization is not a part of the original text and was added much later to aid in study.  But even more importantly often in various Bibles there are chapter and paragraph headings that are not part of the original text and can be misleading sometimes.  Chain references, footnotes and commentary contained in many Bibles are all from man (not scripture) and may contain error.  All these “helps” (and some are very helpful) are subject to the understanding of those who created them.  Open up your Bible and make sure you understand what is in the book but not scripture.

Why is this important?  Because God’s word carries the authority of God, man’s word does not.  Some view all writing as coming from man and so no writing has any more authority than another.  If you begin to understand that there is a message from God out there, you will see the need to figure out with certainty what is and what is not scripture.  Some writings talk about eternal life.  What can any human being say about eternal life?  The only source we can have to tell us about eternal life is God (for obvious reasons).  So writing that is from God can talk on this topic, writing that is not scripture can not speak with any certainty about eternal life.

This is one of my concerns as someone who often generates writing on spiritual topics.  My blogs and essays obviously are not scripture.  My essays contain scripture and I am very careful to indicate on the page what is scripture and what is my own possibly misguided “helpful” commentary.  Remember my writings: not scripture, possibly helpful but certainly not authoritative.  But there is writing that is from God and therefore authoritative.  So once you understand this start considering what is from God and carries the authority of God, and what does not because it is not scripture.  

Spirituality And Flexibility October 11, 2006

Posted by rattazzimedia in Christianity, Church, God, Religion, Spiritual, Spiritual Overview, Spiritual Study, Spirituality, Theology.
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Remember our definition of spirituality from a few posts back: an order of thinking concerning eternal things.   Living in and being intimately familiar with this physical temporary world, what do we know about eternal things?  God has, since the beginning of time, been communicating with mankind about eternal life.  The Bible frames and chronicles this information from God.  His point of view is often at odds with the current prevailing world attitude.  The conclusions you might draw from you own experiences, from your own culture are very likely to be in conflict with God’s point of view.  This is actually a big theme of the Bible, mankind has a natural tendency to wander away from God.

This is why it is so important, no matter who you are, to remain flexible.  You need to always be open to the message from God saying “you need to make some changes here”.  No matter if you are completely ignorant and disinterested in religion or someone who has been studying religion all your life.  This challenge comes to everyone.  It is actually so much harder to be flexible if you were raised in a strong religious tradition.  It gets harder the older you get, but remember Abraham was in his seventies when God presented him with a life changing proposition, he believed God and began to follow his lead and we all benefited from that.  We see in the book of Acts the apostle Paul had to let go of his deeply felt, but more driven by his culture, religious convictions.  Perhaps though he was a little less flexible than God would have liked it, he had to be knocked down and blinded by God to get his point across.  After that though he became much more flexible and compliant to God’s leading.  We all benefited from that also. 

So how do we apply this to us today?  We all need to be flexible and open to God’s correction.  This especially goes for those of us who consider ourselves religious.  So if someone says: “Hey, I’m opening up my Bible here and I don’t see the support for what you’re saying, because what you are saying comes from your culture not scripture.”  The correct response to that is: “Let’s have a look, let’s see if we can agree together about what this is.”  Because the Bible teaches us to, “make every effort to keep the unity of the spirit“.  How well do you have to know the Scripture?  Well enough to separate it from your culture.  Well enough to know what issues are important to God.

Here in New York and in these days there is a lot of activity, a lot of interesting spirituality.  If someone wants to talk to you of things spiritual, of things eternal, ask this question first.  Is this from God or from man?  If it’s from man, if it’s from the temporal, world of the flesh experience, and not form God what can it say about eternal things?  You have to be talking about information that comes from God if you’re gong to be talking about things eternal, if you’re talking about spirituality.  This a hard truth.  How many more times is my heart going to be able to stand the disappointment of finding a group of people who claim to be following God but are unable to part with the errors of their own traditions and culture? 

What are you going to say when someone comes up to you and says: “You are part of a culture that has wandered away from God”?  Are you going to be flexible and try to agree on what the truth is?  Or are you going to stubbornly go your own way and ignore the critical message from God that you need to change?  The religious among us need to be so much more careful not to lead others off into the error that comes from not being flexible when faced with spiritual truth.

Grace Gets Lost October 6, 2006

Posted by rattazzimedia in Christianity, Church, God, Religion, Spiritual, Spiritual Overview, Spiritual Study, Spirituality, Theology.
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I was discussing a verse from the Bible the other day, from the apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesians chapter two verse eight, he wrote: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—” one of the reasons why people don’t get the meaning of this verse, I often focus on, is that the word faith means something different to most people today than it did for Paul and his readers back then.  During this discussion last Monday it also struck me that most people don’t know the meaning of the word grace either.  This is not to say that I adequately understand the meaning either, but this past week we saw something in the news that might help shed some light on the concept of God’s Grace.

I’m speaking about the horrendous events that occurred earlier this week at an Amish school house in Lancaster Pennsylvania.  Five little girls were murdered execution style by a deranged man.  This news though sickening is not so unusual in this day and age.  What is unusual, especially in this day and age, is the Amish communities focus on forgiveness in the face of this senseless and brutal act.  I saw on CNN a scene from the funeral of four of the girls, a reporter attempting to interview the grandfather of two of the girls who was sadly following the horse drawn hearses. The reporter commented about the man’s call for forgiveness saying: “How can this be?”  And it struck me: This is the meaning of the word grace: he’s not happy to be there, he’s not happy to be having some reporter shoving a microphone in his face at the funeral of his two granddaughters but despite all that this man is talking about forgiveness.  Anne Taylor Fleming observed: “A gentle heart’s stricken insistence on forgiveness”.  How can this be?  The answer is this man and this community understand something about the grace of God.

This is something we all need to understand if we are going to put an end to all this senseless killing.  I’ll apply this to me so that I don’t insult anybody, listen carefully. The difference between God and me is bigger than the difference between me and the fellow who did this.  How can I expect God to forgive me if I can’t forgive him.  Don’t take it out on the family, forgive that’s holy, THAT’S GRACE.  Think about it, then perhaps you can understand how this man had the grace to remain true to his convictions even though this was the last place he wanted to be.  To be absolutely truthful I strongly doubt that I would behave so admirably under similar circumstances.  “I stand in awe of their almost unfathomable grace in grief” another comment from Anne Taylor Fleming’s essay.  Here was an opportunity to live the teachings of Jesus Christ and these people, under unthinkable circumstances did not pass it up.  Amen.

Palestinians, Jews, Sunnis, Shiites, 911 victim families, in fact everyone please take note.  Don’t be a prisoner of vengeance, avail yourself of the freedom of forgiveness.  I know this is very hard sometimes but it is vitally important.  I would not be able to call myself a follower of Jesus Christ if I did not at least pause and bow my head to this example of grace.  Amidst all the clamor of daily life and the incessant drumbeat of all sorts of teaching that has wandered away from God, grace get’s lost.  We need a demonstration like this to remind us just what the truth is.  If we actually started to understand God’s grace we would have so much less of the escalating violence born from generation after generation of so and so can’t forgive what was done to their children.  Remember what happened to God’s son and think of his promise to each of us.  Think about this grandfather and think about the future generations.  Think about the grace of God.

A Question Of Balance October 3, 2006

Posted by rattazzimedia in Christianity, Church, God, Religion, Spiritual, Spiritual Overview, Spiritual Study, Spirituality, Theology.
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Balance is an important concept.  A balanced diet is necessary for good health.  Try riding riding a bicycle and you will quickly understand the importance of balance.  Also everyday we are reminded, often quite graphically, of the dangers of extremism.  I have mentioned in the past, one reason for religious error is following instructions and traditions that come from man rather than instructions from God.  Today I would like to discuss another source of error: the question of balance.  In my last post I mentioned that God has worked out for us a plan of salvation that is not difficult to understand.  Then why do so many not understand it? 

God has placed in the Bible a great deal of information over the fifteen centuries of time it took for it to be written.  To understand the truth one must take into account the entire text and how various principles and patterns of thought are balanced.  In other words if it seems that some passage is telling me to do something (or not do something) that supposition must balanced against the entirety of the teaching of God.  Far too often people will go off and do some absurd thing based on a misunderstanding of a single passage of scripture.  This would not happen if people took the time to really understand what is being said, weigh each individual element and strike a correct balance, taking everything into account.  This is the difference between someone who is actually seeking the truth and someone who is just trying to rubberstamp his own thinking with passages of Scripture.

This may seem like a daunting task, but no one expects anyone to accomplish this overnight.  Each day, just a little at a time, bit by bit, work through this stuff and over time (with the help of the Holy Spirit) you will be able to strike the proper balance and understand the truth.  Discuss it with other people who are sincerely seeking the truth.  Help each other, so that together you can all strike the proper balance and understand the truth.  You can’t do this by yourself. 

The universe is kept in balance by God’s power.  The planets and stars function precisely as they should.  You can set your clock by this universe.  God exhibits this same precision and power in his plan of salvation.  It is man who more often than not reduces God’s perfect truth to an incomprehensible garble of useless rhetoric and off base reasoning.  It is time to stop, take a good long look at the information God has provided and find the proper balance.