God

The Problem with Prophets

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It is hard to tune into "Christian" media these days without encountering a self proclaimed prophet.  They all claim to hear the voice of God, yet they all have different messages many contradict each other.  There is one consistent point in all their proclamations, if you give them money, you will get rich.

These "prophets" then turn to their own lives as an example of how this divine pyramid scheme works.  How amazing! If you tell people to send you money so they will get rich, you will get rich; then somehow you get rich off the backs of the poor who send you their hard earned money.  That is not a miracle. It is little more than vile theft from the poor to line your own pockets.

So what happens if you get caught and imprisoned for embezzling money from your so called religious institution?  What do you do when you have been exposed as a fraud who is only interested in lining your own pockets?  You scare people into giving you money. Manufacturing fake crises and lying about future mayhem so you can sell disaster preparedness kits.  How do you justify your lies in the name of God to enrich yourself?

September 2015 was supposed to be the end, with violence and collapse in the Great convergence (see here, here, here, and here). The world did not end. The earthquake didn't come. The stock market did not crash. You scared people in the Name of God to buy buckets of freeze dried food.  You invited your followers to party as the world is falling apart.  

You did this to line your own pockets with ill gotten gains stolen through fear from your followers.

Oh, if only you were the only one who worshiped Money over the Lord of Life!

The God and Father of Jesus Christ is not the God of Fear and Division!

True Fear of the Lord or Yirah is trembling awe in the face of God's Power and Nature, it is not scaring the money out of people's pockets to line your own.  We believers have no reason to fear.

If you don't believe me, listen to Christ:

Therefore, I tell you, don’t be anxious for your life, what you will eat, or what you will drink; nor yet for your body, what you will put on. Isn’t life more than food, and the body more than clothing? See the birds of the sky, that they don’t sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns. Your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you of much more value than they? Which of you, by being anxious, can add one cubit to the measure of his life? Why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow. They don’t toil, neither do they spin, yet I tell you that even Solomon in all his glory was not dressed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today exists, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, won’t he much more clothe you, you of little faith? Therefore don’t be anxious, saying, ‘What will we eat?’, ‘What will we drink?’ or, ‘With what will we be clothed?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first God’s Kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things will be added to you.

Therefore don’t be anxious for tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Each day’s own evil is sufficient.
— Jesus, Matthew 6:25-34

And since some prefer the words of Paul over those of Christ:

In nothing be anxious, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. The peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.
— Paul, Philippians 4:6-7

It couldn't be clearer.  Fear paralyzes, but faith drives action. If you knew the God and Father of Jesus Christ, you would know that we serve a God who is Love, Compassion, however you want to translate the Greek.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God, and knows God. He who doesn’t love doesn’t know God, for God is love. By this was God’s love revealed in us, that God has sent his only born Son into the world that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, if God loved us so, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God remains in us, and his love has been perfected in us. By this we know that we remain in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as the Savior of the world. Whoever will confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God remains in him, and he in God. We know and have believed the love which God has in us. God is love, and he who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him. In this love has been made perfect with us, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment, because as he is, even so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear has punishment. He who fears is not made perfect in love.
— John, 1 John 4:7-18

The God you proclaim is not the Father of Jesus Christ.  There is no love in your words, there is only fear.  Fear flees from the prayerful life of a disciple of Christ who meditates day and night on the Nature of God and lives through the power of the Divine Energies flowing through them.  You proclaim nothing but Pride, Fear, and Envy, and the punch line is always the same.  Give us your money, only we can save you.  In your actions, your god is revealed.

You Preachers of Fear worship God Money

No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to one, and despise the other. You can’t serve both God and Mammon.
— Jesus, Matthew 6:24

Woe to you who fleece your followers in service of the Mighty Dollar while proclaiming the Name of Jesus.  I beg of you, cast this darkness from your heart. Only the vilest beast stokes the fears of others to take their money from them. I know you will not hear these words, and if you do, you will simply mock them.

I ask the community of the faithful to rise up against you, and show their friends and family why you do not deserve their money.  You are liars and frauds.  You bring nothing but harm into this world, but the Power of God lives through the faithful and through our love, we will cast out your fear. 

The Way of Humility is living as the Image of God, an Ambassador of Zion

As we continue our study on Humility, it is time for us to go back to our definition again: "Occupy a rightful space, neither too much nor too little. Focus neither on your own virtues nor the faults of others (Alan Morinis. Everyday Holiness: The Jewish Spiritual Path of Mussar p. 45.)."  This brings up the question:

What is our Rightful Place?

I have evoked that we are created in the Image of God, The Tzelem Elohim, so the question is, what does that mean?  To discover the answer we need to look at 2 versions of the same passage:

What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him? Yet You have made him a little lower than God, And You crown him with glory and majesty! You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet,
— Psalm 8:4-6 (NAS)
But one has testified somewhere, saying, “WHAT IS MAN, THAT YOU REMEMBER HIM? OR THE SON OF MAN, THAT YOU ARE CONCERNED ABOUT HIM? “YOU HAVE MADE HIM FOR A LITTLE WHILE LOWER THAN THE ANGELS; YOU HAVE CROWNED HIM WITH GLORY AND HONOR, AND HAVE APPOINTED HIM OVER THE WORKS OF YOUR HANDS; YOU HAVE PUT ALL THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET.” For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him.
— Hebrews 2:6-8 (NAS)

Did you notice the difference? 

Are we made lower than God or the Angels?

The answer is both, sort of.  Let me explain.

In the Psalm, the Hebrew word used is Elohim (God), and in the Letter to the Hebrews, the Greek word used is Aggelos (Angel).  Is this a contradiction or a mistranslation?  The answer is tricky, but kind of neither.

I am not familiar with another word in another language that has a meaning like Elohim.

Elohim means God in Fullness, all the energies of God, and every one and thing that participates within the Divine Nature.  It incorporates Yesh (God as the Ground of Being) and Ayin (The Nothingness of God), as well as the Heavenly Host (The Angels and Saints) and often the Just who are still living in this world who act according with the energies of God (Psalm 82:6; John 10:34).

The author of Hebrews uses the translation of Angels to highlight the argument he is making.  It is not a mistranslation, but it focuses on a part of the meaning rather than the whole.

What does it mean to be made a little lower than Elohim?

First of all, it means that we were made with Free Will.  Our nature is not forced to submit to a will that is not our own.  Since we can choose our actions, we can align ourselves with justice or injustice.

It also means we do not have an exact copy of the Yesh (Being) and Ayin (Emptiness) of God in our nature.  Instead, we have:

  • a Yetzer ha-tov, a shadow of the Ayin (Emptiness) of God.  This is our inclination toward unity, and it is often an inclination toward good.
  • a Yetzer ha-ra, a shadow of the Yesh (Being) of God.  This is our inclination toward individuality and separateness, and it is often an inclination toward evil.

I use the word often because neither of these inclinations are purely good or evil, and that is what makes them hard to navigate in between.

Our spirit is a trinity just like God, we have a Nashamah, a Ruach, and a Nefesh.  I just wanted to mention that now, I will go into more detail about that later.  Sorry about that, but I don't have enough time to go into that in this post.

Humility is the path between our two sides

True Humility is learning to live our lives as the Images of God that we are by walking carefully between these two sides of ourselves.  We have, in fact, been talking about this all along.

The Yetzer ha-tov of Humility is self-effacement.  The Yetzer ha-ra of humility is Arrogance.  Like with everything in the life of the Spirit, we need to learn to walk the middle path.

Armed with this knowledge, we now have the tools to determine our individual level of Humility in each and every circumstance we find ourselves.  Ask yourself:

  • Am I conforming too much? 
  • Have I submitted myself too much to the authority of others?
  • Have I allowed someone or something else to take up more space than it rightfully should?
  • Am I standing out too much?
  • Am I being to obstinate, forcing my will on others in a way that I have no right to do?
  • Am I taking up more space than I have any right to?
  • Am I taking up so much space I have left no space for others?
  • Have I allowed my opinions or comfort to blind myself to the needs of others that I should pay attention to?

These are only some of the questions we could ask.  Once we learn to question our inclinations to unity, conformity, individuality, and separateness, we can properly discern our rightful place, and develop a just and balanced sense of humility in ourselves.

May we all learn to walk this middle path.

The Nature of God

We have been talking a lot about the nature of God and the most fundamental beliefs of the the faith of the prophets and mystics. Of the hundreds if not thousands of ways we could take the discussion of the nature of the Deity, I have decided to continue my posts inspired by Brian McLaren's a Generous Orthodoxy.

In the book, McLaren describes the God he sees in creation in a simple yet profound way.

God is a:

a unified, eternal, mysterious, relational community/family/society/entity of saving Love (a Generous Orthodoxy, 85).


This is a phrase for meditation and quiet contemplation in the night. We have already talked about Rabbi David A Cooper's image of God as a Verb (see this post). This notion of God is very close to the glimpses of Providence we get in our everyday life, but McLaren has found a way to describe our encounter with the Divine.

Unified


The testimony of the Prophets reveals to us a God that is One. On the night before he was crucified, our Lord prayed:

That they all may be one; as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that you have sent me (John 17:21).


It is our mission to reconcile all to God and to spread the word that we are one in Christ, and one in God. We are one human family, in fact, we are one terrestrial family. This is where our impulse for peacemaking and conservation arise.

Many people confuse the unity of God is one of the most misunderstood ideas in the history in monotheism. There is but one God, called by many names. There are no other Gods. Once we realize this, our tribalism melts away and we realize the commonality of all faiths.

Eternal


As Joseph Campbell said:

Eternity isn't some later time. Eternity isn't a long time. Eternity has nothing to do with time. Eternity is that dimension of here and now which thinking and time cuts out. This is it. And if you don't get it here, you won't get it anywhere. And the experience of eternity right here and now is the function of life. There's a wonderful formula that the Buddhists have for the Bodhisattva, the one whose being (sattva) is illumination (bodhi), who realizes his identity with eternity and at the same time his participation in time. And the attitude is not to withdraw from the world when you realize how horrible it is, but to realize that this horror is simply the foreground of a wonder and to come back and participate in it. 'All life is sorrowful' is the first Buddhist saying, and it is. It wouldn't be life if there were not temporality involved which is sorrow. Loss, loss, loss.

Moyers: That's a pessimistic note.

Campbell: Well, you have to say yes to it, you have to say it's great this way. It's the way God intended it (Power of Myth).


Eternity is a present reality that we tend to ignore. Through prayer and meditation we learn to reside in this eternal now, and through mindfulness we learn to live with in it. In so doing, we are learning to practice the presence of God.

Relational Community/Family/Society/Entity


God is most clearly seen in the relations of things to one another. We see God in the heart of all living. We find God as Father/Protector, Mother/Nurturer, Sibling/Believer, and Child/Actions.

The God we see through providence is the Unknowable Father, the one whose name has never been soiled by human language.

In nature and times of trouble, we rest in the nurturing Spirit as our Divine Mother.

In every believer, we see Christ in them as our Brother and Sister in the Lord.

Through our actions and the actions of the faithful, we see God as Child, the one who is conceived in us upon conversion, and who through our lives we bring into the world.

Corporately, we as the church are the body of Christ. We see God in the hearts of all people.

This is the Living God who is with his people and frees them from fear and torment through his marvelous grace.

Saving Love


The power of God is intimate love and peace we find as we rest in the arms of the Godhead in liturgy and meditation. This Saving Love is the power of Christ to deliver us from Satan's power.

In all things, we worship the Living God.

For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain`also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.

Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device.

And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commands all men every where to repent:

Because he has appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he has ordained; whereof he has given assurance unto all men, in that he has raised him from the dead (Acts 17:28-31)

Epiphany and Mystery of God

 We have followed the star to the new born Christ, and behold the one in whom God is made manifest to the world. We stand by the river Jordan and watch the skies open as the dove descends upon our Lord. We drink the wine at the wedding at Cana and marvel at the one who produced it. We celebrate the revelation of the Lord.

This is the day when we remember the revelation of God to humankind, but how can we celebrate the revelation the one who:

Clouds and darkness are round about him: righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne (PS 97:2).


This is the God of whom Solomon says:

It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honor of kings is to search out a matter (Pr 25:2).


While I do not believe that anyone can every describe or define God in any great detail, I believe that God can be found be those who seek him out. All religion is an attempt for us to put these experiences in words. God is hidden from us by the minutia of our lives. Anyone can find God by relaxing, and coming to the present moment fully aware. This is the glory of mindfulness.

Creation Spirituality talks about the four paths to encountering God. As Matthew Fox answers the question, "Where can God be found?"

 In the Via Positiva. In awe, wonder, and mystery of nature and all beings, each of whom is a ‘word of God,’ a ‘mirror of God that glistens and glitters,’ as Hildegard of Bingen put it. This is Path One (Creation Spirituality 18)


This is the path most people find to God. Sitting in the awe of nature, we feel our interconnectedness with all things. This interbeing is the purest connection we have with the Divine.

We can find God in music, art, or anything that instills within us a deep sense of Awe.

Where else can God be found?

“In the Via Negativa. In darkness and nothingness, in the silence and emptying, in the letting go and letting be, and in the pain and suffering that constitute an equally real part of our spiritual journey. This is Path Two (Creation Spirituality 18).”


This is the path of the Buddha- the path of silence meditation. Most of us what to reject this aspect of life, but it is an equal part of existence, and the most universal.

The Buddha himself reminds us of the only things we can ever know for sure, that we exist and that we are interconnected with all things. There is not an atom in our body that did not come from another creature, plant, or long lost star. It is in this lack of separate self that we find the Ground of All Being.

Where else can God be found?

“In the Via Creativa. In our generativity we co-create with God; in our imaginative output, we trust our images enough to birth them and ride them into existence. This is Path Three (Creation Spirituality 18).”


This is the path of Rumi- the path of art and co-creation. The Via Creativa is the very beating heart of the sacrament of Art as Meditation. In trusting our own creativity, we come closer to God. We learn how to be bearers of Christ into the world like those who came before us.

"My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you (Gal 4:19)," as the apostle said, we find God through trusting our generatively.

Where else can God be found?

“In the Via Transformativa. In the relief of suffering, in the combating of injustice, in the struggle for homeostasis, for balance in society and history, and in the celebration that happens when persons struggling for justice and trying to live in mutuality come together to praise and give thanks for the gift of being and being together. This is Path Four (Creation Spirituality 18).”


This is the path of Gandhi and Dr King, the path of satyagraha. In community and common cause, when find God. As David prayed, “Yours, O LORD is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is yours; yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all (1Chr 29:11).” Wherever we see greatness, we see God. Wherever we see glory, power, victory, or majesty, we see God. When ever we see love, charity, grace, mercy or any of the Divine attributes, we see God.

These are the paths to God we have learned, the paths that we walk every day. They are as natural as breathing. There is nothing more simple than our experiences of God and learning to trust them.

The Word God Reimagined

 In Christ Jesus, the world met someone who radically challenged their views of God. The God of Jesus is something the world had never seen before.

He is our Daddy, or Abba as Jesus called him. This God is so close and dear to us that we can call him Daddy. This is very different from the aloof, distant gods the were discussed previously.

This God cares about how we treat one another, and not in a legalistic or moralistic way that previous visions of God had described. The God of Jesus judges us by how we treat the unfortunate, the sick, the hungry, the imprisoned, and the homeless.

In Jesus himself, this caring God is met in a very real and powerful way.

Jesus, Son of God

 Domine Iesu Christe, Filii Dei, miserere mei, peccatoris.


Lately, I have noticed that the Jesus Prayer has been spontaneously popping out of my mouth. I don't even notice that it is happening until it is happening.

It has become so common to refer to Jesus as the Son of God that I think most of us have never stopped to consider what it means.

McLaren suggests that the phrase "Son of God" is the same as saying "Embodying God (80)," or "Embodying the Essence of God (80)." But it is almost as important to ask what the word God means before we can discover the meaning of "Son of God."

Rabbi David A. Cooper found the most brilliant way I have ever seen to discuss God:

"The closest we can come to thinking about God is as a process rather than a being. We can think of it as 'be-ing,' as verb rather than noun. Perhaps we would understand this concept better if we renamed God. We might call It God-ing... [Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi] suggests that God-ing is a mutually interactive verb, one which entails an interdependency between two subjects, each the object of the other (God is a Verb, 69).


When we begin to think about God in this way, then what does that mean about Jesus as Son of God. If "Son of God" means "Embodying God," then Jesus is the embodiment of this mutually interactive being. or as McLaren puts it:

God is "a unified, eternal, mysterious, relational community/family/society/entity of saving Love (85)."


If we look at Jesus, his life and his teachings, it is plain and easy to see that he is the embodiment of this God. Nothing can ever be more clear.

The Jesuses I have Known

I have been reading Brian D. McLaren's, a Generous Orthodoxy, and it has really been making me think a lot about my faith. At the end of each chapter, he asks numerous questions, and I have been learning a lot about the faith I actually believe.

Over the next couple of weeks, I will be sharing with you my answers to his questions. I invite and encourage you to read the book and share your answers too. We discern the voice of the Spirit in the witness of the faithful.

McLaren begins by talking about the Many Jesuses he has known in his life. I thought I should use his labels (and one of mine) and share my own story.

The Conservative Protestant Jesus


I grew up in a Baptist home. My grandfather and great grandfather were both Baptist ministers. I used to go up to talk about the Bible with my great grandmother all the time. I would read the story and we would talk about the text. In many ways, some of my happiest and most disturbing memories of religion come from this period of my life.

The happy memories are all with my family and Brother John. The disturbing ones are memories I don't like to dwell on for very long. I attended a Baptist school... the teachers prided themselves on scaring the children. They constantly threatened us with corporal punishment, and gruesome stories about the tortures of hell that awaited us if we did not behave exactly as we were told... The other more despicable things they did, I will not go into.

The Pentecostal/Charismatic Jesus


 The next phase of my life started after we moved to Maryland and I saw Pat Robertson on the TV for the first time. I was young, and the God he talked about was God of Magic and Might. It was easy to how this cosmic Super Savior would appeal to a young kid. This Jesus is not only superheroic, but he will include you in his circle of super friends. It was like magic, and I wanted that magic so bad. There was only one problem: I am gay.

I have known this since I was about 7 or 8, but I never new what the word for it was until Pat Robertson defined the word and said that all people like that were going to hell... Imagine my horror. The Baptist school I used to go to had burned images of hell into my mind.

This initiated what was for me the worst period of self-loathing, an act I was assured made me pious. I often thought about killing myself. If God hated people like me, maybe God would reward me if I took myself out. It all seemed so natural.

One night, I decided to do it. I went into the kitchen to get a knife to do the deed, but luckily I met:

The Roman Catholic Jesus


 Over the silverware drawer, I found a copy of a book my cousin gave me, The Secret of the Rosary, by St Louis de Montfort. The preface of the Black Rose promised that even the darkest sorcerer with one foot in hell could be saved if they said the Rosary faithfully. So instead of killing myself, I prayed the Rosary for the first time in my life.

It was amazing. I began to pray it everyday and read the other works by St Louis de Montfort. Soon I was asked to leave the small nondenominational church that I attended for wearing a crucifix. I started taking classes and walking to church every Sunday for Mass and Eucharistic Adoration.

I would often go up to the Shrine of St Elizabeth Anne Seton to pray.

The Charismatic Catholic Jesus


One summer, I went to live with my sister in Pennsylvania to watch my niece. While I was there I encountered the Charismatic Catholic movement. It was amazing. I will never forget the profound experiences I had that summer.

Imagine the ritualism of Catholicism and the exuberance of Pentecostalism mixed together into a single thing. This summer changed my life.

The Eastern Orthodox Jesus


 By the end of the Summer I found the Philokalia and the Way of the Pilgrim. I began saying the Jesus Prayer in addition to the Rosary, and hunting down more books on the Eastern Orthodox faith.

What impressed me the most was with the way one book answered the question: if Adam and Eve had never tasted the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, would Jesus have still been crucified?

The answer was amazing to me. Yes, it is in the crucifixion that Christ was hung on the border of faith and doubt, hope and fear, life and death- at the very transit of every pair of opposites and points the way to God through it all. Wow! The Crucifixion as a love letter to humankind. How refreshing.

The Liberal Protestant Jesus


As was almost inevitable I began my own quest for the historical Jesus. I read everything I could get my hands on. The numerous gospels and works of the early church. I began studying the various expressions of the early church as it struggled to express their encounter with the Risen Christ.

I was amazed that doctrine was regional. Creeds varied so much from place to place as did the books that were considered Scripture. I began to see these expressions as a mosaic. The more disillusioned I became with the church, the more attracted I was to the God of Paul Tillich, Bishop Spong, and Marcus Borg.

The Jesus of the Oppressed


 Then I discovered Matthew Fox. His writings about the Cosmic Christ and Creation Spiritually completely transformed me and my faith. In his call for a new reformation, I found my spiritual home. This Jesus speaks with the same voice as the one I meet in the gospels, and helps me to Live God into the world every day.

These are the Seven Jesuses I have known in my life. They are different from the ones McLaren met in his life, but the lessons that I took away are very similar. It left me looking for a relational Divinity who is truly present with me in my life.