Spiritual Growth, A Metaphor


Proverbs 27.19 “You see your face in a mirror and your thoughts in the minds of others.”

James 1.23 “If you hear the message and don’t obey it, you are like people who stare at themselves in a mirror

1 Corinthians 13.12 “Now all we can see of God is like a cloudy picture in a mirror. Later we will see him face to face. We don’t know everything, but then we will, just as God completely understands us.”

Spiritual growth is like standing in front of a mirror with a giant spotlight directly in back of me, like one of those used at grand openings that illuminate the sky. It is shining directly at the mirror and is so bright I can not look at the light or its reflection in the mirror. In order for me to stand in front of the mirror I must get as close to it as possible with my nose touching the glass. But still light is leaking around me especially my head and I must put on sunglasses to tolerate the light. I find one pair of sunglasses will not do so I add layer upon layer of dark plastic until I can tolerate the light. My eyes will naturally adjust and once I get comfortable I am able to live there in what I think of as light but really it is still dim darkness. After a while I get used to the intensity of the light and feel comfortable enough to peel off a layer of dark plastic this causes somewhat of a discomfort but it is tolerable. This is done over and over until all the plastic is removed and I can actually remove the sunglasses. However my nose is still up against the mirror. Now as my eyes adjust to the brilliance leaking around my head I begin to see my face clearly but not my entire body. As the desire grows to see all of me I take my first step backwards toward the light. I know to turn around would blind me but my goal is to see in the light so I keep moving. As I back closer and closer to the source of light I see more and more of my reflection in the mirror but a strange thing begins to happen, the farther I get from the mirror I begin to disappear into the light. The light is surrounding me, swallowing me, enveloping me until eventually all I can see is the light and I have disappeared. And yet I know I am still me. I have disappeared and yet still here. “You are the light of the world.” Jesus, Matthew 5.14


The Fear of God


This is the big one isn’t it? I think all of our fears originate from this one. Basically the fear of the unknown. The future that is as dark as our deepest fears. Our guilt from our past actions projected onto an unknown future inhabited by an angry God. If not God than the capriciousness of life itself which many have blamed on an angry God. Natural disasters for instance. Why has God done this to me? Why has God allowed this to happen. Why doesn’t God stop all the suffering in the world? If these tragedies are occurring to others and I happen to be left out at the moment they only forecast my possible future.

My hope in exploring this difficult topic is not to answer completely why all these calamities befall the human race but to answer why we need to project our fear of the future onto God. Which, by the way has not answered anything. This projection only moves our fears into a truly unsolvable dilemma. We can fool ourselves into thinking we have some control of the outside forces in this world—it’s painfully obvious we don’t—much less the anger of an unknowable God. If we claim we know God but are still afraid of Him I don’t think we know Him at all.

As far as I can tell the purpose of most religions is to end our suffering by alleviating it on earth and completely dispelling us of any future visions of suffering via God. Buddhism points out that the world is indeed a place of suffering and then gives us it’s particular method of freeing ourselves from it. It denies the concept of God but also tells us that concepts themselves are the cause of our suffering. It is our concepts of God that will keep us from knowing God if we choose to take that route. As Christians we get our concepts of God from the Bible and so I will explore a few verses in hopes of dispelling that concept.

Moses gave us the Ten Commandments the sole purpose is to keep us from causing suffering to our neighbors and by result to ourselves. However to alleviate the ensuing guilt from not keeping the commandments an institution of bloody sacrifice was implemented where our guilt was projected onto a scapegoat who’s death took away our guilt for a short time. These sacrifices unfortunately did not fix the problem of suffering.

Jesus echos these commandments and gives us the Cliff Notes version to love God with all our being and our neighbor as our-self. In the Beatitudes—Jesus’ version of the Ten Commandments—he elaborates by telling us in more detail how to do this. I think Jesus’ mission was to show us we had nothing to fear whatsoever from God.

In the Sufis’, a mystical version of Islam, (I have not read the Koran only the writings of the mystic Rumi and other excerpts of the Sufi tradition) the end of suffering comes with total surrender to Allah in all of life. And complete acceptance of what ever happens as the will of Allah. The experience of unity with Allah ends our incessant fear of future punishment.

Since I am most familiar with the Christian traditions I will explore Jesus’ answer for ending our fear of God. His life and teaching do echo all the other mystical traditions I have read—unity with God and love for our fellow man. His teachings do point out God is not angry with us—never was nor ever will be—and we have nothing to fear now or in the future.

Jesus’ mission statement

Jesus is in the synagogue on the Sabbath and he is handed the scroll of Isaiah and he chooses chapter 61 verses 1-2 and some of chapter 58. In Luke 4.16-22 we find: “The Lord’s Spirit is upon me, because he has chosen me to tell the good news to the poor. The lord has sent me to announce freedom for prisoners, to give sight to the blind to free everyone who suffers, and to say this is the year the Lord has chose.” CEV.

Isaiah’s version: “The spirit of the sovereign LORD is upon me, because he has chosen me. He has commissioned me to encourage the poor, to help the brokenhearted, to decree release of the captives and the freeing of prisoners, and to announce the year when the LORD will show his favor, the day when our God will seek vengeance, to console all who mourn.” NET

Jesus states his version is the one fulfilled by him and his mission. I find it very telling he left out the phrase “…the day when our God will seek vengeance…” As someone chosen by God to demonstrate who God really is vengeance is not part of his ministry at all. Jesus goes on to say in verse 21; “What you have heard me read has come true today.” I can’t think of any better news than that we have nothing to fear from a vengeful God. There is only comfort and healing in Jesus’ words and deeds.

I do not think this was an accidental omission on his part. He did take the time to pick and chose what he wanted to point out to us because he not only reads from chapter 61 but also chapter 58 of Isaiah.

Luke’s version also includes some of Isaiah 58.6 part of which says “…to set free the oppressed and to break every burdensome yoke.”

I can’t think of any more burdensome yoke than to be in this life constantly afraid. Buried in the hidden rooms of our soul is the fear of God whether we believe in him or not. It is from this primal fear that all other fears grow. Not recognizing who we are afraid of we project all our daily fears onto others and make them responsible for our inner terror. This then fools us into thinking that if we can change the “other” (whatever is outside us we see as the cause of our suffering) we will then be free of fear. We then give ourselves permission to do anything including killing to achieve this end. If we don’t blame others we then blame ourselves and set about to deaden ourselves through all the distractions available to us today. Both of these dynamics are at work in us at the same time, as we escape into media it reinforces the idea there is danger out there and the terrorist is right at our doors. The victim and the victimizer have become the same.

The beginning and the end of wisdom and beyond.

Psa. 111.10 “The beginning of wisdom is the awesomeness of Lord Jehovah, and his Servants have good understanding; his glory stands to eternity.” The Aramaic Bible in plain English.

And again in the NIV. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise.” Notice here that when the translation of the Old Testament manuscripts went from Aramaic to Greek awesomeness was replaced by fear. Then it has to be explained that this type of fear is really awesomeness. But fear is fear no matter how much we try to explain our way out of it. If the Greek translators actually meant awesome why didn’t they use it?

The Amplified version adds ‘reverent’: “The reverent fear and worship of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom and skill [the preceding and the first essential, the prerequisite and the alphabet]; a good understanding, wisdom, and meaning have all those who do [the will of the Lord]. Their praise of Him endures forever.”

Ecclesiastes 12.13 echos this sentiment “All has been heard; the end of the matter is: Fear God [revere and worship Him, knowing that He is] and keep His commandments, for this is the whole of man [the full, original purpose of his creation, the object of God’s providence, the root of character, the foundation of all happiness, the adjustment to all inharmonious circumstances and conditions under the sun] and the whole [duty] for every man.” Amplified Bible

In the Old Testament the writer of Ecclesiastes after searching through all the possibilities of life discovers that nothing else will satisfy him but the fear, respect or reverence for God. He then has come to the beginning that the Psalmist tells us about as the beginning of wisdom. The writer of Ecclesiastes can now finally begin to live a really fulfilled life.

I Timothy 1:5 “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” NAS. Could a pure heart mean freedom from fear?

I John 4:16-18 talks about realizing that goal; “God is Love; and he who dwells in love abides in God. Herein is love made perfect in us, so that we may have boldness [not subservience] in the day of judgment; because as he is so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, because fear is tormenting. He who fears is not made perfect in love.” Lamsa’s Aramaic translation of the Bible. (Brackets mine.)

There is a quote from Jesus in Luke where on the surface he tells us to fear God.

As Jesus says many times; “do not to be afraid” equating fear with doubt several times (see Luke 24.38). Is fearing God or anyone actually doubting God? How can the fear of God which we are told to do be doubting God. Is it because the God of vengeance we have known is not the God Jesus wants us to know. I’m not talking about two different Gods but a raising of our consciousness from one of fear to one of Love as John pointed out.. The purpose of his ministry is to show us an end to fear. All fear. Including the fear of God. It is we who projected our fears of the unknown onto God and called him “The God of fear”

Why is the fear of God the beginning of wisdom? Jesus points out in Luke 12:4-7; “My friends, don’t be afraid of people. They can kill you, but after that, there is nothing else they can do. God is the one you must fear. Not only can he take your life, but he can throw you into hell. God is certainly the one you should fear! Five sparrows are sold for just two pennies, but God doesn’t forget a one of them. Even the hairs on your head are counted. So don’t be afraid! You are worth much more than many sparrows.”

First of all don’t be afraid of people-ever. They can kill your body [our bodies are not alive anyway] but you will not die, no one ever dies, because Life cannot die. You are not your body and all fear is based on this body identification.

Then Jesus takes us to the next level of awareness into a level beyond our physical identification; here is the paraphrase from The Message: True, they can kill you, but then what can they do? There’s nothing they can do to your soul, your core being. Save your fear for God, who holds your entire life—body and soul—in his hands.” After your body dies then what? We are not a body it’s only a container. Jesus points to the deeper place of after we leave our body, then we will have to deal with the consequences of our life while we were in the body.

He starts us at the same place as the Psalmist and says that we should fear God as the beginning of wisdom but then he does a remarkable thing, he paints a picture of God not as a wrathful being who is going to throw—even though he could—into hell but he gives us the picture of a feminine mother figure who feeds and cares for her children. He shows us a God who knows more about us than we do, the number of hairs on our head and he remembers all the tiny sparrows which have fallen to the ground. And we are much more valuable than hair or birds. Does God care and love and nurture what he values? A couple of chapters later in Luke 15 he gives us the story of the prodigal son. This is Jesus’ version of the fall. God throws a party for his wayward children who return to him. As I pointed out in my last post, (Amazed part 2) all of humanity will return willingly to the father/mother God. So there is no reason to be afraid of our Mother God either.

We do start with the acknowledgment of being afraid and he then asks us to place all of our fears of the “other” onto God. He then takes us from the physical into a new interior realm of soul and spirit. It is in this Realit

y where we move from fear to love. “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” 1 peter 5.7. This spiritual realm is the only place we can finally get rid of all our fears. This world (the Kingdom of the world) we made to replace the world God made provides no comfort only fear. It is painfully obvious that it is constantly falling apart. The spiritual realm (the Kingdom of God) is the place of true Reality. Infused with LOVE and is all that exists there/here. The Kingdom of God is among you and in you. Jesus tells us.

This obviously does not exhaust the subject of fear but it is a place to start, food for thought. I ‘m sure this raises more questions than answers, I would love to hear from you.

Amazed pt 2


Amazed pt 2

It has been almost a year since I posted part 1 if you’d like to catch up or refresh your memory please go my last post “Amazed” 

God wants everyone to be saved and to know the whole truth,…”

Does God get what he wants? If there is any being in the universe that always gets what he wants it must be God. At least the God I can think of. Anything less would demonstrate the powerlessness so often attributed to God by non-believers. As described in previous posts God being everywhere not only surrounding us but inside of us; knowing everything, the wisdom to make what he wants come to pass; and having ALL power, meaning the ability to make it happen and the desire to do so meaning He is ALL loving and does want ALL suffering to eventually cease.

One definition of salvation would be the end of suffering individually and ultimately the entire human race from the beginning of history up to the last grain of sand in the hourglass. My former belief in an eternal damnation of suffering and pain for all eternity would not allow for this broad interpretation of salvation. Only a few would be saved those who chose to enter the “narrow gate” would be allowed in. Allowing for a somewhat broader interpretation the Swedenborgians open up salvation for all those who live a good life and do the right things—no matter what religious tradition you belonged to—meaning acting out of love for your neighbor which equates with love for God as well. This would fulfill Jesus’ admonition to Love God and your neighbor. So far I have read many passages in Swedenborg’s works that tell me God has the desire for the salvation of all people but have not read anything which tells me ALL people will be saved. What Swedenborg’s interpreters do say is God will be with everyone in hell and will be loved by him as far as they are able to receive it. Which may eventually lead to some leaving hell but most will not and continue to suffer according to the consequences of their own choices.

Where does this disconnect come from. Why the apparent desire on God’s part but not his ability of fulfill that desire. Why can’t theologians find that God not only has the ability to SAVE ALL but will do so? To get around this conundrum theologians have said it is our fault. That the horde of people not finding the narrow path is because they just don’t want to. They choose not to enter the gate to the narrow road that leads to salvation. We are told in scriptures no less, people would rather live in darkness than come to the light. Will there ever be a time when everyone will want to come to the light?Is God therefore helpless to do anything for them. Now on this earthly realm it is painfully obvious that those we think need the most help adamantly refuse to be helped but will this continue after we leave the physical realm?

We are told our free will is the trump card foiling God’s desires. You see the fault is our own thus leaving God off the hook. But is this the case? Traditionally fundamental theologians who believed in the literal interpretation of the Christian Bible had to make room for all the passages which seemed to predict eternal suffering for all evil doers, God’s enemies. Before the rise of modern literalism when the church was in control of the lives of society, eternal hell was an extremely potent doctrine to help keep people in line, this form of emotional blackmail; i.e., bulling—is still with us today. How many of us who claim to follow Jesus, refuse to do wrong out of fear of punishment in eternal hell rather than out of Love of God. This type of motivation is just a subtle form of coercion. We are held in check by our fear. How is this different than being forced to submit to any despot against our will? For me there was this constant gnawing sense of failure and resultant fear. Every verse I read that had anything to do with hell would reinforce this feeling. Responding to alter calls was only a temporary remedy and never the solution. For me God’s “unconditional love” was always conditional. This is for those of us who are trying to do God’s will. What about the rest of humanity who Christianity has labeled the “enemies of God”?

Because of our refusal does God then reluctantly throw up his metaphorical hands and say, “What can I do, I’ve done all I can and now I’m at a lose. I just can’t figure this one out. I mean hey, don’t blame me I sent my son down to earth and you killed him I even raised him from the dead and still, nothing. I give up, you all deserve to suffer for eternity, I turn my back on the lot of ya.” I know this sounds simplistic but this is what my former belief boiled down to. If I abandoned God he would abandon me and close the gate for all eternity. I even thought hell was a completely separate place from heaven a place where God was not. My belief in eternal damnation not only made God powerless and also not omnipresent. As if there could be someplace “outside” of God. A place where God didn’t exist.

Is this the God we believe in? If so than I am an atheist. It is the God I used to believe in. I just hadn’t faced the limitations the doctrine of eternal damnation had placed on the unlimited God.

So I am wondering how is it even possible that my freewill will foil God’s will? This indeed would make me another being in the universe equal to or greater than God. Which by the way is what the ego/sin nature tells us we are. This ego/sin nature has us convinced we can go against God’s will and for centuries it has been codified in to our theologies. We have turned God’s gift to us—our free will—into the very instrument to foil God’s plan for the salvation of humanity. By allowing our free will to be this strong God’s plan becomes a sham.

Obviously I don’t agree with this interpretation.

Here is my simple solution to this seeming conflict between my will and God’s. My freewill is God’s will and it is precisely this instrument God uses to accomplish His ends not mine and He does this through His wisdom without violating my freewill or His desire.

God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven.

All the theologies I have read—not very many—tell me evil is the servant of God. That ALL things workout for the good. If evil is the servant of God then my evil choices somehow are working to accomplish God’s ends for the benefit of ALL. If ALL benefit then we must ALL be partakers of—eventually—the end of suffering.

God is inevitable, yes unavoidable and only good—meaning the end of suffering—will come of that encounter.

But how will this happen? What will make people who love only evil and hate God change their minds? Will God force people to bow the knee and swear reluctant allegiance to the conquering King? Or as some say everyone will be saved simply by the Grace of God because Jesus paid the penalty for ALL our sins on the cross. But both options violate our freewill which would then violate the very reason God gave us free will in the first place. God does want us to freely choose to bend our knees; i.e., recognize His preeminence in the universe and our lives individually.

Romans 14.11 is a partial quote from a passage in Isaiah 45.22-25, the following is taken from the Contemporary English Translation:

22 “I invite the whole world to turn to me and be saved. I alone am God! No others are real.

23 I have made a solemn promise, one that won’t be broken: Everyone will bow down and worship me.

24 They will admit that I alone can bring about justice. Everyone who is angry with me will be terribly ashamed and will turn to me.”

Again Romans 14.11 from the CEV

11 In the Scriptures God says,I swear by my very life that everyone will kneel down and praise my name!”

Something to keep in mind, in the spiritual world—in God’s presence—only what is truly in our hearts will be tolerated. Falsehood has no place in heaven. As Isaiah and Paul point out worship and praise will result when people bow the knee before God, even those who are angry enemies of God. This will be True worship from the heart not the feigned obeisance we see in this earthly existence. God will not force this, everyone will want to praise and worship the ruler of the universe.

But why would an enemy become a truly loyal subject? Through the process we know so well here on earth. It is so familiar like the air we breath that we rarely notice it until we need it. The “second chance”. Every instant of the day and with every breath we take we are given the opportunity to choose again. We really don’t notice it until we begin to feel the consequences of our decisions. The beauty of free will is the consequences we receive from the choices we make. This process then must continue throughout eternity until: “…everyone will kneel down and praise my name!”

“the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last” who has seen the beginning and the end has already witnessed this happening.

God does get what he wants and our freewill is not stronger than God’s will. Our freewill, in His wisdom, is the very instrument given to us by God to make this come to pass.

“Hey dude I knew all along you’d make the right choice, when everyone doubted you I didn’t. Way to go. I Love ya.”

What about Grace? You may ask. If you mean the Grace that allows everyone into heaven even those who don’t want to be there? A pointed out above this is a violation of our freewill and would surely result in the enemies of God remaining enemies. Grace is the entire process from beginning to end. It is all God’s grace. From the very first moment we thought that we could be separate from God until we come to know the impossibility of such a thought and surrender to him, is Grace.

The Holy Spirit’s job of leading us into all Truth—which is God—is constantly and gently whispering in our ear; “Choose again, my child. Its time to wake up from your nightmare. You don’t have to be in hell any longer.”