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Revelation And Response November 30, 2006

Posted by rattazzimedia in Christianity, Church, God, Religion, Spiritual, Spiritual Overview, Spiritual Study, Spirituality, Theology.
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Whenever God reveals something about himself his method is always to structure the revelation in a form that requires some sort of response from the hearer.  This response indicates the heart of the listener.  For`example God made certain promises to Abraham, these promises were somewhat difficult to believe but Abraham’s response is so important it is noted more than once by the writers of the New Testament.  Both James and the apostle Paul referenced Genesis fifteen using the quote: “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”  This is why Abraham is remembered today.  This is why Abraham is the father of many nations.  When God revealed himself to Abraham, Abraham made the correct response.  He changed his life and started on a journey of faith with the Lord.  Abraham believed God and followed the instruction that came with the promise. 

The response to God should not be: “ok that’s nice thank you God” and then you continue on just as you did before.  God’s revelation requires a response.  The format God uses in communicating with us is to make a promise (or promises) and give instruction.  It was that way in the garden of Eden and it is still that way today.  Our response should be to believe the promise and follow the instruction.  Revelation and response.  Our response demonstrates our heart toward God and our fellow man.  Now you and I can’t judge each others hearts but we can look at each others response to God’s grace.  We can help each other to better understand the response God is looking for from each of us.  This way together we can form a community that is noted for it’s faith in God’s word and commitment to following God’s instruction.  This is what should bind us together.  This should be our response to God’s revelation.

Alright then, revelation and response, our religion is not a passive thing.  Our faith is not a lifeless thing.  Our answer to the living and active God should be a living and active response.  God requires us to make an active decision to follow him, this means that we have decided not to follow a different path, one that is in disagreement with God’s instruction.  Easier said than done, this is why we are there to help each other.  This is why God has instructed us to help each other.  So let’s get to it together.  Let us together explore God’s revelation of himself and encourage one another in making the response that God is looking for.  Revelation and response.  

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The Path Of Least Resistance November 28, 2006

Posted by rattazzimedia in Christianity, Church, God, Religion, Spiritual, Spiritual Overview, Spiritual Study, Spirituality, Theology.
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Back in my younger days studying electrical engineering, I learned that the key to understanding electricity is that electrical current always follows the path of least resistance.  In the natural world we live in this often explains how things go.  Like water flows downhill and storms naturally flow toward zones of low barometric pressure human behavior is often influenced by this inexorable natural law.  But sometimes Spiritual law requires us to act in a way that opposes the natural tendency of things.  The Spirit may be strongly encouraging us to follow a path where we will encounter a great deal of resistance.

Why is this so?  Why can’t things just flow easy?  In fact why is there so much resistance to doing the right thing?  Each day for us this world presents a challenge because the natural way of this physical world has been set in opposition to the world of the Spirit.  The sooner we each get this into our heads and firmly commit ourselves to the Spirit, the sooner we will be able to begin to do what is right.  The moment must come for the individual when they become curious and then concerned about the things of the Spirit because if someone just follows the path of least resistance nature will inevitably lead us away from God.  I can imagine some reading that statement and wanting to disagree with it.  This war between the natural world and the Spiritual world or as the apostle Paul put it between the flesh and the spirit is the cause of all the distress we see today.

We can be encouraged by those who have challenged this status quo and despite sometimes almost insurmountable resistance have risen to the challenge and prevailed against the natural law.  In the Bible, Hebrews chapter 11 goes through a list of those who have done just this and tells us: “This is what the ancients were commended for.”  As a matter of fact as the chapter unfolds and lists a number of examples of individuals applauded by God who did not follow the path of least resistance the observation is made: “the world was not worthy of them“.  What motivated them to face head on such opposition?  It was their faith.  It was their belief in the promise God made to them that compelled them to follow the leading of the Spirit despite incredible resistance.  So the lesson for each of us from Hebrews chapter eleven is to clearly understand God’s promise to us so that we can stand up to the opposition we find in this world and not just flow to the path of least resistance.

In the physical world a great deal has been accomplished by those who understand and harness the natural forces.  In the world of the Spirit we must also understand how these natural forces interact.  We need to clearly uncover the path that God is leading us on by study and investigation so that we can overcome the natural laws and be true to God.  Instead of just following the path of least resistance.   

Is It Important? November 26, 2006

Posted by rattazzimedia in Christianity, Church, God, Religion, Spiritual, Spiritual Overview, Spiritual Study, Spirituality, Theology.
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I often talk about how we should be one with God and with each other, how we should all be working toward spiritual unity.  Is this import?  Or is this just my idea of something to talk about?  First let me say that the reason why I am often talking on this topic is because of what I have learned from God’s word which paints a very different picture than what we see in the world today.  To answer the question:  Is it important?  Let me use an often quoted passage from the Gospel of John.  Jesus Christ is speaking:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.  This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.  Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.  But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”

We can see from this passage that as far as God is concerned this is very important.  We know this because God considered it important enough to sacrifice his son so that we could have reconciliation with him, unity with each other and finally eternal life.  This is such an often used figure that it looses much of it’s meaning, but think about it, what is so important that someone would sacrifice his only son?  The only reason why we have even the remotest chance of achieving unity is because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  We know from the Gospel of John chapter seventeen that Christ dreaded what he would have to go through for us.  So considering what has been done for us and how important this is to God, how can we ignore such a thing?

It really makes no sense but that is what most people do because the culture for the most part pays no attention to the things of God.  Even in the religious world it is more often about man’s concerns than the concerns of God.  We see in the passage above Christ referring to this very thing when he talks about those who “will not come into the light”  So this is very important and each of us needs to put more effort into paying attention to God’s word.  You don’t have to quit your job and go to a monastery.  You can start just a little at a time each day read, discuss with others and start working these things out.  Then you will understand the true answer to the question: Is it important?

Spirituality And The Holidays November 24, 2006

Posted by rattazzimedia in Christianity, Church, God, Religion, Spiritual, Spiritual Overview, Spiritual Study, Spirituality, Theology.
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Sitting here eating leftover turkey and stuffing, once again the holiday season is upon us.  Traditions that have developed surrounding holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas bring families together, encourage us and warm our hearts.  All good things.  These traditions, cherished though they are, come from the mind of man.  These are merely human traditions, they are no substitute for God’s instruction.  There is a danger for us because these man made traditions have the appearance of some sort of connection to God.  Unless we investigate carefully and clearly separate what comes from God and what comes from man we will be deceived into thinking that we have done some sort of religious duty when we have not.  Is this important to God or is this just my way of being a party pooper?  Remember the words of Jesus I have quoted before:

“You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.”  And he said to them: “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions !…..  Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”

Now don’t get me wrong I’m not knocking the holidays and if these activities spark people’s interests in spiritual matters then that is good.  But many mistake these secular celebrations for religious activity.  Religion should be all about following God and being one with each other as we grow to become one with God.  This can only be done by learning about and understanding God’s word.  Remembering the birth of Christ is all well and good.  But Christ gave us instructions on how he is to be remembered and these instructions have nothing to do with December 25th.  So once you become aware of the fact that possibly your holiday traditions really have very little to do with God, you need to look into the matter and understand what God’s will is.

The central theme of our Spiritual life should be all of us gathering together in accord with God’s instruction.  Human traditions have a natural tendency to wander away from God (I have indeed said this before).  So we need to look at what we are doing and make sure that we are following God’s instruction if we want to have any hope of being pleasing to him.  We need to understand especially that our human traditions are no substitute for the word of God.  We need to each get this straight and help each other to understand the proper relationship of Spirituality and the holidays. 

Just A Little Off? November 22, 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 posed the question: Who created evil?  My position that man created evil, not God was met with some thoughtful and well reasoned responses in disagreement with the statement.  I very much enjoyed the input and would encourage anyone reading my blog to join in the discussion now and in the future.  This can be an avenue to achieve unity by working through any differences we might have in approaching the scriptures.  My intention is to carefully study the passages brought to my attention and the thinking behind their application and see if my thinking is off in any way.  I thank everyone for their thoughtful responses. 

The topic I was planning on discussing today before I even posted the last blog is the difficulty in addressing teaching of the scriptures that is just a little off.  The recent discussion dovetails nicely into this topic.  While it might be very easy to see that someone who pays no attention to God needs to re-examine his priorities, it is much more difficult to convince someone who pays some attention to spiritual issues that perhaps his/her thinking is just a little off.  In fact, the stronger the belief the more difficult it is to get someone to consider any correction to their thinking.  This is human nature but God has instructed us to be one in our beliefs so we must each be ready to consider whether our thinking needs a little adjustment.

Each generation has the responsibility of examining the beliefs passed on from previous generations.  Each generation must compare the teaching they have received with the word of God to be certain that we are not passing on and possibly amplifying the errors of our fathers.  The Gospel message is not only for unbelievers to repent but also for believers to repent of any error or false teaching that may have crept into their understanding with the passage of time.  This is so important, no one benefits from blindly holding on to teaching that has strayed from the truth. 

I want to encourage people to re-examine and discuss openly any teaching ostensibly based on scripture that might be a little off.  The religious individual who resists entertaining this discussion is the same as the unbeliever who refuses to repent.  Jesus Christ reserved his sharpest criticism for religious folk whose teaching had wandered away from the truth found in the scriptures and had become merely a blind adherence to human tradition.  This is the state of much of the religious world today.  This is a natural process that requires constant attention and correction.  Special attention needs to be paid to those of us whose teaching might be just a little off.

Who Created Evil? November 20, 2006

Posted by rattazzimedia in Christianity, Church, God, Religion, Spiritual, Spiritual Overview, Spiritual Study, Spirituality, Theology.
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I’ve heard people say things like: “If God created everything then God created evil”.  Let’s investigate this idea and see if the Scriptures shed any light on the question: Who created evil?  Going back to Genesis we can see how evil got it’s foothold in this world that we live in.  We see in Genesis chapter one that God created everything and it was “very good”.  We also see that mankind is unique in God’s creation in that man was created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27).  What that precisely means at the moment we first read it is not clear, events have to unfold for us to begin to understand this concept.  In the very next verse we begin to understand our unique place in God’s creation, mankind is given the responsibility to rule over God’s creation.  In other words in the beginning, just under God, man is in charge.  This is very important.  So Genesis chapter one ends with everything very good and man, being created in God’s image, is mow a participant in the creative process.

Then in Gensesis chapter two we see in the garden of Eden, right in the middle of the garden is the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the unique thing about this tree is the instruction from God not to eat from it.  Eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is contrary to God’s instruction and we also see in Genesis two that the result of departing from God’s instruction is death.  A picture is beginning to develop here, in the beginning, everything good, everything in agreement with God.  Man, in God’s image is given a responsibility and authority to rule over creation.  What happens in Genesis chapter three?  Mankind decides to depart from God’s instruction and partake of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil.  The consequences for the world that man is in charge of are disastrous.  Death and trouble and woe enter this world because mankind has departed from God’s instruction.  This disobedience prevents mankind from eating from the tree of life.

This other creature (the serpent) that suggested an opposing point of view is not responsible because the serpent is not in charge, man is.  Evil has it’s prominent place in this world and death as a consequence because mankind has turned this creation over to it by departing from God’s instruction.  So as far as this creation, this natural world is concerned mankind is the creator of evil.  We each of us are co-creators with God, we each of us have to choose between good and evil.  Good is what God does, evil is anything that departs from God’s way, from God’s instruction.  Mankind has by and large turned God’s creation over to evil and that makes it difficult to see what is good.  Careful examination of God’s instruction is necessary from each of us each day to understand and then be in agreement with what is good.  

Did God create evil?  No.  Evil is created when we depart from God.  I have often heard it said, and sometimes from people who should know better: “How can God stand by and let all these awful things happen?”  God is not the one who is just standing by and permitting all this evil to occur.  We are.  We are responsible because we have departed form God.  We need to work together to get back to God and then we will all clearly understand the true answer to the question:  Who created evil?

Knee Jerk Spirituality November 18, 2006

Posted by rattazzimedia in Christianity, Church, God, Religion, Spiritual, Spiritual Overview, Spiritual Study, Spirituality, Theology.
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Knee jerk: The reflex tested by tapping just below the knee causing the lower leg to suddenly jerk forward.  This is the definition from MedicineNet.com.  As a figure of speech “knee jerk” is often used to indicate an automatic predictable response to something.  The main thought being that there is no thought involved.  There is no reasoning just a mindless, automatic, “knee jerk” reaction to a situation.  This is how many of us are spiritually.  Our upbringing and culture have exposed us to certain spiritual concepts that we (without thought) come to accept as true.  If we are faced with an opposing idea we often react strongly despite the fact that we have never really given the matter any serious thought.  Is this how we should be functioning concerning such an important aspect of our lives?

The prophet Isaiah delivered this message from God to a people living in error, he said: “Come now, let us reason together“.  Isaiah also said “We all, like sheep , have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way“.  I have been told by people who know something about sheep that they need to be led and can be led even off the side of a cliff because they follow without thinking.  These two quotes come from passages where Isaiah is encouraging the people to reason with him, to think and stop this mindless “knee jerk” following of the corrupt and pointless traditions handed down to them.  We can see that just as it was in the days of Isaiah (yes I’ve said this before) it is the same today.  People are so confidently and sometimes even violently advocating spiritual positions and principles that they have never given any real thought to.  This is absolutely ridiculous.  But at the same time this is so widespread and common that this kind of mindless “knee jerk” spirituality is accepted as right.

This is most certainly not how God meant us to be.  God wants us to “reason together”.  God wants us to make a habit of sharing the words and concepts from him (look at Deuteronomy chapter six).  God very much does not want our religion to be a mindless knee jerk adherence to empty and meaningless traditions that do not make any sense.  To paraphrase Judge Judy: If it doesn’t make sense, it probably isn’t true.  We should all be, little by little, each day, step by step trying to reason through the confusion and conflict of today’s spiritual landscape.  We should all be making every effort to separate truth from fiction, the word of God from human tradition.  We should all be trying to make sense of religious teaching.  We should all be bringing our thinking into agreement with God and passing this understanding down to future generations.  We should all be reasoning thinking individuals and put a stop to all this knee jerk spirituality.

Spirituality And Religion November 16, 2006

Posted by rattazzimedia in Christianity, Church, God, Religion, Spiritual, Spiritual Overview, Spiritual Study, Spirituality, Theology.
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I went looking for a succinct definition of the word “religion” to kick off this post.  I usually find good succinct definitions in Wikipedia but in this case their definition was a little wordy.  One of the definitions in my pocket Webster’s is “system of worship” which is pretty good.  The important element about religion that this definition does not sufficiently bring out though is that religion is usually an organized social construction or, more colloquially, an organized group activity.  Some say: “I am spiritual but not religious” to indicate that they do not participate in any organized religious group.  These people are often disillusioned by the confusion and disagreement in the religious world today (who can blame them) or they don’t think it is necessary.  Can we shed some light on this question?

The division and disagreement in the religious world today cannot be overlooked or accepted as typical (despite the fact that it is).  In the book of Acts we notice an important characteristic of the early church under the Guidance of the Spirit of God is that: “All the believers were one in heart and mind.”  The apostle Paul warned the church at Corinth against divisions but at the same time noted  “No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval.”  This is the very point of the disagreement in the religious world today, who is and who is not in agreement with God.  In other words if everyone was in perfect agreement with God we would all be in perfect agreement with each other.  The division is not to be accepted as par for the course.  The division should cause us to make every effort to determine who is in agreement with God and who is not.

Spirituality is thinking on eternity.  God has made a promise to us concerning eternity.  Religion is defined as “system of worship”.  Our worship then should be toward God.  Our thinking on eternity should be in agreement with God in order to obtain the eternity with him he has promised.  Our reaction to all the division in the religious world should be to set our minds on discovering the truth rather than to give up and say “I am spiritual but not religious”.  God has told us that our religion must be shared and carefully passed on to future generations so that they also can know about the promise of eternal life and be able to obtain it.  So one cannot say religion is not important.  Jesus said: “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”  God has made clear the connection between spirituality and religion.  Let us all make every effort to be in agreement with him. 

Spirituality And Dialog November 14, 2006

Posted by rattazzimedia in Christianity, Church, God, Religion, Spiritual, Spiritual Overview, Spiritual Study, Spirituality, Theology.
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In a few previous posts I discussed the concept “God is one” mentioned for example in Deuteronomy chapter six.  I also discussed how Jesus Christ demonstrated what is meant by this.  Jesus always spoke and acted in perfect agreement with God the Father and prayed that we could all be one with him in the same way.  This brings us to today’s topic “spirituality and dialog”.  Wikipedia defines dialog as “a reciprocal conversation between two or more persons”.  Dialog is an extremely useful instrument we can use to work toward the unity God wants for us together.  In other words: Let’s get together and talk.

What prevents us from being able to speak to each other?  What prevents us from having a truthful dialog?  One reason might be that word “truth”.  Some of us live our lives hiding from the truth and are therefore reluctant to dialog and bring the truth to light.  Why hide from the truth?  Because if we reveal the truth together then we need to respond to the truth together.  Some are reluctant to enter into a relationship with others while hiding from the truth for fear of the consequences.  In other words, some won’t dialog because they are afraid.  Fear often keeps us from achieving the unity God desires for us.  But perfect love drives out fear.  Some would object to being labeled afraid, they merely have decided to ignore the truth in some way and are not interested in dialog because they are not interested in having their mind changed.  We need to speak the truth to each other in love so that we can be together, not separated from each other and God. 

My efforts connected with the Gospel have sometimes brought me to a place with some individuals where they are reluctant to continue the conversation.  There are also some who have firmly decided to have nothing more to do with me.  Some are family members, some are friends, some members of the church of Christ.  All this of course is very painful.  No one wants to be ignored and labeled undesirable by people we love.  My door is always open and I am constantly trying to find new ways to break through the barriers that have been erected in opposition to the truth. (that is not to say that I haven’t made many mistakes in my efforts).  We should all be trying together to work out our differences and then continue to dialog so that we can continue to walk together.  There is no substitute for this. 

This is an invitation to all those who have disagreements with me.  Let’s get together, let’s dialog and become one in the truth.  We are never going to have the peace and the unity God wants for us if we don’t even talk to each other.  Let’s all get together with the objective of achieving peace with each other in the sight of God.  Then we can begin to understand the vital link between spirituality and dialog. 

Good And Evil November 12, 2006

Posted by rattazzimedia in Christianity, Church, God, Religion, Spiritual, Spiritual Overview, Spiritual Study, Spirituality, Theology.
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The whole idea of good and evil we see in society today is very much different from the view of these concepts we see in God’s word.  So count these as two more words whose meaning has changed as humanity strays from God’s instruction.  What one person considers good another considers evil and of course there is no agreement about how to resolve these differences.  So in this world we live in the concept of good and evil begins to loose all meaning.  Some might tend to view everything as good and some might tend to view everything as evil.  Either way there is no agreement on good and evil and this is not good (although some might argue with me about that).

How can we define these terms in the context of the Bible?  Like we did in the last post, let’s go back to the beginning.  The Bible tells us in Genesis that when God created everything it was “very good”.  So when did things start to go bad?  Things changed when Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s instruction.  Now we begin to see these ideas develop.  What God does is good, Adam and Eve follow God’s instruction, still God.  When they begin to disobey God’s instruction or begin to think and act in a way not in agreement with God, this is a step away from goodness, a step toward evil.  Good is what is in agreement with God.  Evil is what is not in agreement with God.  The whole rest of the Bible is built on this understanding.

Notice that this view of good and evil is God centered.  Various people may have various and conflicting opinions concerning what is good and what is evil, but the true definition of good and evil is all about God’s way of thinking.  In fact not to see that, by our definition here is, in and of itself, evil.  We have no chance of avoiding evil if we do not make it our business to clearly understand God’s instruction.  We all have to work at this, it’s not going to happen by itself or by accident.  The general condition of the world we live in is by our definition evil.  The world is not in agreement with God and is strongly influencing people away from good and toward evil.  This is because most of the people in this world pay little or no attention to God’s way of thinking.

God has provided a solution to this problem but it requires decisive action from each of us.  We are all required to investigate and fully understand God’s instruction for us.  Then we are required to be examples and teachers, modeling God’s way of thinking about good and evil.  Then we will each of us leave the path of evil and begin to head toward good, toward God.  Also we will help others find their way out of the darkness and captivity of evil and into the light and freedom of good.