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Spirituality And Repentance November 10, 2006

Posted by rattazzimedia in Christianity, Church, God, Religion, Spiritual, Spiritual Overview, Spiritual Study, Spirituality, Theology.
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My last post talked about the definitions of words, about how the meaning of some important words has shifted over the years and how this is an obstacle to clearly understanding God’s message for us.  This is also a cause of some of the disunity in the religious world today.  Another definition we need to work on to clearly understand the underlying concept is this word “repent”.  Not used much outside of religious circles, the use of this word is clouded with all sorts of connections to hypocrisy and opportunism so much so that the very important concept it represents is lost.  Let’s see if we can poke through this cloud of misunderstanding and shed some light on this vital concept.

A point I mention in just about every post is that we live in a world, and each of us is the product of a culture, that has wandered away from God.  There is a natural tendency in this world for things to go their own way.  Like a plant needs to be cultivated or your hairdo coiffed, specific and ongoing attention needs to be paid to keep things in order.  I noticed the other day as I was walking along a crowded street that it is often difficult to tell at a glance if two people are actually walking together or if their paths just happen to be temporally in sync.  A little bit of time needs to pass for the natural flow of the pedestrian traffic to begin to move them apart if they are not actually with each other.  This will certainly occur if both are not working on keeping together.  The prophet Amos wrote: “Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?”   

So what does all this have to do with the word “repent”?  In a nutshell, everyone must understand that as a natural consequence of being the product of a world that is out of step with God, we are each of us out of step with God.  In order to be able to say that we are walking with God, we need to each get in step with God.  Then continue to make every effort to remain in step with God despite the natural flow of pedestrian spiritual traffic.  Coming to this realization and making the firm decision to turn to God is what repentance is all about.  God knows that we are under the strong influence of the world we live in so he has created a way and provided the help we need to get in step with him.  All that is required of us is to believe his promise and follow his instruction.  And his instructions are not burdensome. 

Another word that comes to mind here is inertia.  Inertia is a very strong natural force.  Inertia is the natural tendency of things to keep going the way they have been going.  The natural tendency is for things to go their own way and wander away from God.  Inertia will resist the changes needed to correct this.  Inertia kills.  Inertia works in opposition to repentance.  Everyone must decide to do something about this and also decide to apply sufficient effort to overcome inertia.  That is repentance.  We all need to do it.  We all need to pay attention to this each day.  Repentance is not a one shot deal because each day we have the opportunity to go astray.  So this is not only a message to those who pay no attention to God, this is also a message for the religious among us.  Repentance is looking at your religious practices and teachings and bringing them into agreement with God.  If a constant effort is not applied to this task then your religion will also wander away from God.  This is especially important for religious folk to understand because if your teaching is not in step with God then you will be leading people away from God.  You will be hurting them instead helping them.

Of course inertia also comes in to play for religious folk.  When someone comes with a message that maybe your teaching is a little off base and starting to wander from God’s line of reasoning the natural tendency is to resist correction and waste time defending false teaching.  Each of us must be aware of this and always be eager to repent and get back in step with God.  We cannot be pleasing to God if we ignore the crucially important connection between spirituality and repentance.

Definitions Of Words November 8, 2006

Posted by rattazzimedia in Christianity, Church, God, Religion, Spiritual, Spiritual Overview, Spiritual Study, Spirituality, Theology.
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As time goes by it is natural for each of us and as a consequence humanity in general to wander away from God.  One result of this tendency is that over time the very meaning of words change.  This is important to understand because this phenomenon is one of the elements that works to obscure the meaning and confuse our thinking as we study God’s word.  To put it another way some important words have a different meaning to us than they did to the ancient writers of the Bible.  This is also another cause (and at the same time, symptom) of much of the division in the religious world today.  The solution of course is for all of us to get together on the meaning of these words and make sure we have the same understanding as the writers of the text.

I’ll start with a simple example. the word “saint”.  This word has come to mean a special class of notables who have been officially “canonized” and set apart by the church as especially accomplished.  Is that the understanding the apostle Paul had for example when he used the word we now translate as “saint”? No.  The apostles applied the term to all believers, those who have been set apart by God because they believe God’s promise and follow God’s instruction.  The meaning has changed over the years.  What is this change indicating?  First this is an indication of a church that has let go of God for the sake of following human tradition (Jesus Christ strongly condemned this).  The focus is now on who men say are “saints” rather than who God sets apart as holy.  Also this is an indication of the human tendency to elevate some individuals and confer on them special status and worship rather than keeping the focus on God.  The shift in the meaning of the word is caused by religious teaching and practice that has wandered away from God.

 Since we just looked at saints let’s now look at sinners or more specifically let’s look at the definition of the word “sin”.  This word does not have much meaning to many people today, people understand the word to mean something that has violated some moral code.  What makes the application of the word unclear is the focus on what man considers moral or just as opposed to what God considers moral or just.  Let me try to clarify what I’m saying by discussing the understanding of “sin” we get from the Bible.  Let’s go all the way back to the book of Genesis.  God created everything and it was very good.  He gives the first man and woman the instruction that they may eat from any tree in the garden of Eden except for one particular tree.  Let’s pause for a moment here and consider the concept of sin in regards to this specific instruction.  Adam and Eve could choose to eat or not eat from any other tree in the garden, they could do whatever they want with any of those other trees and sin does not enter the picture.  But concerning this one tree, the one specific tree God gave a specific instruction about, sin is the word for what they have done if they choose to eat from that tree, if they choose to specifically violate God’s specific instruction.  They came to think that it was a good idea to violate God’s specific instruction and forever altered their relationship to God and creation.  Sin is anything that violates God’s instruction and the consequences of continued sin are enormous.

So why does this word have little meaning to most people today?  Because the focus is on what man says is sin as opposed to what God says is sin.  God is specific and clear, man has various opinions.  Going back to the garden example, I may have a strong opinion about some other tree and want to go around telling everyone not eat from that tree also.  I might even have very good reasons for my opinion but I cannot call it sin when someone eats from that other tree no matter how strongly I feel about the issue.  This very thing happens all the time in the religious world and muddies up the concept of sin by taking the focus off God’s instruction.  We should all encourage everyone to see what God has clearly spelled out in his word.  We should not confuse the issue with our own modifications or human traditions.  

How about the word “faith”?  The word has come be applied to something people strongly believe in without sufficient reasoning to back up their belief.  In the Bible we get a very different idea of the word “faith”.  Faith is all about believing the promise and then following the instruction from God.  You believe the promise from God because of who God is, he is truthful and supremely powerful so their is nothing to prevent you from receiving the promise if you do your part.  That is what faith is, you can be certain to receive eternal life if you believe that God has promised it and you follow God’s instruction.  And how about the word “believe”?  Once again this word is often applied to something I am convinced of without sufficient grounds as opposed to something I can firmly say is true.  “I believe it’s not going to rain today.” This is not the way the word is used in the Bible, rather it is used for something you can firmly say is true and act according to that truth.   

We can clear up some of the disagreement and disunity in religious circles if we come together on the meanings of these important concepts.  We should realize that the shift in these word definitions helps to obscure the true meaning of the Bible.  Clear understanding of the words and the concepts they represent is vital to our understanding of God’s word.  Our focus should be on defining these words according to God’s instruction.  We should take our focus off what they have come to mean in religious practices that have wandered away from God and focus instead on God.  We should understand God’s reasoning as opposed to man’s reasoning.  We should make every effort to specifically and clearly reveal God’s definitions of words.  

Spirituality And The Word November 6, 2006

Posted by rattazzimedia in Christianity, Church, God, Religion, Spiritual, Spiritual Overview, Spiritual Study, Spirituality, Theology.

There are a lot of bloggers out there, writing all sorts of things on all sorts of topics.  One thing we all have in common is we all have a great deal to say, time will tell if any of my words ought to have been spoken at all.  Myself notwithstanding words can be very powerful.  Even in ancient times God compelled various individuals to pass on a message and of course words were often the vehicle employed.  Sometimes the words seemed to contradict the prevailing thought of the day (this was often the objective).  Sometimes the words seemed even to contradict common sense.  Sometimes as a result the words of God’s chosen spokesman were not very well received at all.  Isaiah was one such man, he very strongly advised the people to change their ways and the people generally did not listen.  Why didn’t they listen?  These people had wandered away from God, things their culture accepted as true did not agree with God so they did not agree with the words that came from God.  The truth did not make sufficient sense for them to stop and change their ways.  The pull of the prevailing culture and the ideas of the day was too strong.

Are things any different today?  Things go on in the world now, much as they did in the time of Isaiah, most do not agree with the words from God.  A little less than two thousand years ago and more than seven hundred years after the time of Isaiah the apostle Peter quoted Isaiah as he is making a point about the word of God:    

Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.  For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.  For,

     “All men are like grass,
     and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
     the grass withers and the flowers fall, 
     but the word of the Lord stands forever.”

And this is the word that was preached to you.

Peter is attempting to encourage believers (a very small minority at that time) with the words of Isaiah written many hundreds of years earlier.  These words contradict the prevailing view of our society today.  The permanent thing is the word of God.  Our physical life is temporary, our “glory” is quickly forgotten but notice that almost three thousand years after Isaiah wrote those words they still remain.  Funny how that worked out huh?  As more time passes it begins to look more and more like the word of the lord will stand forever.  Perhaps time can teach us a lesson most of those ancient folks didn’t get.

Words are important, words are powerful.  We are all familiar with the figure the apostle John used referring to Jesus Christ as “the Word”.  The Word was God and with God from the beginning.  Words communicate ideas.  Words communicate patterns of thought.  Spirituality is so much about ideas and patterns of thought.  God is one and Christ demonstrated to us that oneness.  This oneness is what we should all be striving for and words are an important tool and indicator, this is especially important to those who consider themselves religious.  Often the people who are the most reluctant to let go of the words they use to communicate ideas are religious folk.  But words represent ideas and if our words conflict then that is a strong indicator that our ideas, our hearts are in conflict.  If we want to be disciples of Jesus Christ we need to understand his prayer for us to be one just as he and the Father are one.  Then we will all understand the vital connection between Spirituality and the Word.

More Important Than Life November 4, 2006

Posted by rattazzimedia in Christianity, Church, God, Religion, Spiritual, Spiritual Overview, Spiritual Study, Spirituality, Theology.
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There have been a few times in the past when my immediate circumstances caused me to be concerned about the possible loss of my physical life.  This concern caused me to swiftly and decisively address the situation.  I did not pause to consider the alternative.  The loss of my physical life was not an option.  I did not have to think at all to realize that I felt very strongly about this.  In other words: very important to me not to loose my physical life.  What could be more important than that?  As it turns out there are various reasons from time to time people will set out on some course of action that might put their life in jeopardy.  One easy example is someone going off to war.  The cause is worth the possible risk.  Some examples are less easy to justify, someone might take up smoking cigarettes despite the danger.  Despite these sort of exceptions most would agree that keeping ones life is important.  But to make life even more interesting, some people (me included) believe in the promise of eternal life and consider that so much more important than this life, hands down.

This life, this physical life is just a brief moment compared to eternity.  So as you are making various decisions and some decision that might put your eternal life at risk is under consideration this should not just tip the scale but pin the scale down in favor of eternity.  How many people though, stop to consider how their decisions affect their eternal situation?  I point this out to say that if there is even the remotest chance that folks like me are in any way correct, then this is an incredibly huge oversight for the people who live their life without considering eternity.  Incredibly huge oversight is an incredibly huge understatement.  Jesus Christ posed the question like this: “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world yet forfeits his soul?  Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”  Christ is making this very point.  What in this life can compare with what God has promised?

Some that are not of this particular mind are so because they are unaware that any “promise” has been made by God.  Once again though, as soon as it comes to your attention that some sort of promise has been made and the stakes are so extremely high, it is only reasonable to make every effort to investigate this matter to determine if there is any need for concern.  Why would you not?  Indeed many people pay no attention and this makes no sense to me.  This question of your eternal soul is more important than life.  What could possibly be more important than that?  I am not saying that you need to stop everything that you are doing and figure this out (not a bad idea though).  But it is more than reasonable to decide to set aside just a little time each day to investigate this issue.  Study, discuss and make an effort to understand what the truth is.  Just a little each day to get you started.  This is such a small thing to do considering something that is more important than life.  

On The Same Page November 1, 2006

Posted by rattazzimedia in Christianity, Church, God, Religion, Spiritual, Spiritual Overview, Spiritual Study, Spirituality, Theology.
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Are we on the same page here?  Just checking to see if we’re on the same page.  You might hear phrases like this if someone is uncertain if the others he is with are still with him.  As we go through life or some specific task or line of reasoning it is often a good idea to check and verify that those who were with you at the start are still all together and with you, “on the same page”.  Or perhaps you were never together at all and you are attempting to get everyone in agreement, “on the same page” so to speak.  This is a key issue when it comes to God and spirituality.  If I am on the same page with God and you are on the same page with God, you and I will also both be on the same page Spiritually speaking.  This is certainly not the prevailing state of affairs in the religious world today.  Is this an important point?  Is this something we should all be striving for?

The prophet Amos wrote: “Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?”.  The point God was making through the writing of the prophet and in fact a major theme of the Bible is that people always have the tendency to go their own way.  In order to be on the same page we need to make specific efforts to accomplish that.  Like walking together with someone both have to be aware of each others movements and intent to be able to remain in step.  Walking together, being on the same page, both metaphors for being in sync.  God chose to send Jesus Christ with the mission of reconciliation so that we all could be on the same page spiritually.  Once again, major theme of the Bible so clearly important to God.  Therefore if you and I were wise this would be important to us also.  So why are we not on the same page?

One obvious reason is: we don’t even agree on the need to be on the same page.  Another reason is we are not focused on making the effort to get in sync and remain in sync.  Some at this point might say to me that it is not even possible for us to be in sync spiritually.  Two answers to that.  One: if it were not possible God would not be asking us to do this.  Two: with man this may very well be impossible but with God all things are possible.  Jesus Christ, as he went about his business on this earth demonstrated how this is possible.  He was always on the same page as the Father (this is what is meant by the phrase: he did not sin).  He understood eternity and that heaven is a place where everyone is on the same page with God.  So he remained focused on the task God The Father gave him to do; which is to show us all how we also can be on the same page as he and the Father.  After completing his task on earth Jesus took his place with the Father in heaven where he will be for eternity.  The same promise is offered to us if we, like Jesus, focus our life to be on the same page as God.  This indeed is a difficult task but Jesus showed how it is possible.  Therefore we should all make the decision to focus on God and make every effort to all be on the same page.