SPIRITUAL AND RELIGIOUS HOPSCOTCH
THE DREAM AND THE REALITY
compiled by Dee Finney
|8-16-2001 - VISION - I saw a vision of an object which looked
very familiar and knew I had written something about it. The only name I
could give it was a ' spiritual hopscotch '!
Then I saw it again and it had multiple layers like a wide ladder.
After I woke up, I realized the ladder was very similar to the diagram of the Tree of Life that didn't have huge circles on the lines like we see in pictures of it these days.
A recent crop formation is pictured on the left, above. The depiction on the right is one version of the ancient Tree of Life. The Tree of Life, of course, is mentioned many times in the Bible, from the beginning of the Book of Genesis to last part of the Book of Revelation. One who eats from this Tree, according to the Bible, is given "eternal life." The above diagram of the Tree of Life is part of an ancient tradition called "Kabala." Other spellings of the word include, kabbala, cabala, cabbala, quabala, and qabbalah. This is generally known as a special Hebrew tradition, the occult philosophy of certain Jewish rabbis, especially in the Middle Ages, based on a mystical interpretation of the Scriptures. Many scholars believe that the tradition is much older; that it traces back to the ancient Egyptians and Sumerians.
Rev: 2:7 - "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the 'tree of life', which is in the paradise of God."
See: http://www.greatdreams.com/treeol.htm for the rest of the article.
After the vision, I then fell asleep and went into a dream:
DREAM: I was working in an office. I was asked to type something in Hebrew. All I would have to do is copy something that was already written using the 'hunt and peck' method. That seemed easy enough to do.
When I got the machine, I noted that each letter I typed transposed into a number on the top and when I hit the 'enter' key at the end of the line, the machine started number crunching all by itself and then shot out a report about me at the end.
I was then expected to go to night school. There I would have to fill out numerous forms and check hundreds of little boxes with 'yes' or 'no', which people found extremely tedious, but I knew I could do that.
People hadn't wanted me to work in this place, but because I was stubborn and insisting on doing it, and staying the course, other people I knew came to work there too. I was rather amused by that.
I was then observing a woman doing a load of laundry. She had the machine running and it was way overloaded so the sheets that were in it weren't moving much. She started poking around at the center post and I fully expected 'black oil' to come shooting out into the clean sheets, but some kind of white fluid came out instead and permeated all the sheets and made everything pure white.
She exclaimed then as she pulled them out, "Oh! These clothes are all rotten!". But I was expecting them to be full of holes and call them "Holy!". I saw that the clothes were made of the finest thread and cloth I've ever seen. I saw some flannel shirts that now were like felt.
Just then the boss showed up. It was Ralph, the Jewish Judge I really used to work for.
He laughed when he saw the basket of clothes. He said, "Now we'll throw them in the dryer and subject them to the highest heat there is, and what doesn't make it through that, we'll sue the pants off of the washing machine maker."
End of Dream
NOTE: I realize this dream is about me as well as anyone else who can relate to it and that is a lot of people. The washing machine/laundry part of the dream is as spiritual as they come, as in the Bible in Rev: 3:4-5, it says: "Yet you have few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels."
As it was in my late 20's, when a fundamentalist Christian girlfriend used to sit in my kitchen and tell me about being a Christian and how simple life is when you believe in Jesus Christ in your heart, while one searches for 'truth'. At the time I had lost my faith in the reality of God, much less the God that was allowing me to suffer like I was.
After a long painful 10 year struggle as to whether I believed in God or not, I went down into the basement to do the laundry while my children were sleeping and my husband was working second shift. I was still struggling with the pain of life. I stood amidst the piles of laundry and looked up at the ceiling and did what preachers always tell you not to do because you might not get an answer, much less the answer you want.
I demanded that God give me a sign if he indeed was real.
All of a sudden, I felt a 'hand' touch me on the forehead and the sensation of 'heat' and 'love' came pouring through the hand, down into my head and through my body, as the Holy Spirit touched me. I truly felt the love of God at that moment.
I dropped to my knees in the dirty piles of laundry, crying, praising, and thanking God for showing me He was real.
It was a life-altering experience. I could never again doubt that God existed.
However, I still struggled for 'truth' of life. I changed churches, going from Catholic to Lutheran because we had Protestant friends who loved the church they went to.
After some time went by, I ended up teaching 5th grade Sunday school to a rough bunch of rowdy boys. One Sunday I was teaching the lesson of Joseph and the Coat of Many Colors, and in the Bible (Gen: 37) I read to them of how God allowed Joseph to be sold to roving merchants by his brothers who hated him for being the best loved son of their father.
Again, I realized that the God of the Old Testament was to be 'feared', like our Bible told us to do. If I couldn't 'love' God, like they talked about in the New Testament, then this wasn't the God I wanted to worship and adore either. I wasn't able to 'love' and 'fear' the same God. That just wasn't in me to do.
People told me that the word 'fear' really meant 'awe'. Sorry! I didn't buy that either. The God of the Old Testament was a 'too-human' type of God, who held hatred for mankind. Sorry! I was out of there. And I did, literally. I left the church. The search was on again to find a church where I could feel only 'the love' of God and not deal with the 'fear' of God.
A couple years went by and I went to see a traveling preacher/healer at a large auditorium with some friends I took there to be healed. Here again, I had an incredible experience. While the preacher was walking around the auditorium, he was singing, praying for people here and there. I prayed that he would touch me and pray for me, but he walked on by. But when he was several rows behind me, he turned back and came to me and said, "God told me to pray for you."
I was astounded. I knew that I hadn't told anyone that I wanted to be prayed for, and I hadn't made any signals by body language that I wanted to be singled out.
The preacher put his hand on my forehead and began to pray in tongues. In less than a second, I was again receiving the 'heat' and 'love' sensations from the Holy Spirit that I had received in the basement of my home all those many years before. Again I was brought to the realization that God hadn't forgotten about me and that he was still there.
My friends said that the 'joy' that came over me was like a light a shining out from inside of me. I know that the smile that came onto my face that night stayed there for 3 days. To feel that kind of love is so incredible, one wants to share it with everyone.
That didn't mean my search for 'truth' was over, however. To this day, I still search for 'truth' of life. One can never 'know' all of the 'truth'. I try to share what little bits I get with others as I can.
I don't want to get down, while on this page, to talk about the depths of despair I went through after those experiences, but life is not a smooth road or wide highway, it is the ladder or narrow stairway one must climb, or narrow upward path one walks to get to the 'mountain'.
Dreams show us this path, and I find clues there many nights. One night I had a dream that I should read the book of Job in the Bible. I did this, and all I saw was the pain that Job suffered while he told his friends how much he loved God. I didn't find any comfort in that. It took another 10 years of painful life of my own when I again had another dream that I should read the Book of Job in the Bible. I read the book again, and then I found the answer I might have found the first time and didn't. It's possible that the answer was spiritually hidden from me the first time, just like I didn't find God in the Bible in my early years. Sometimes we are led through the valley before we come out into the sunshine and light.
I found in my life numerous occasions where God was holding my hand along the path, no matter how painful it got. He wasn't always standing in front of me, showing me the way to go, but I frequently found Him standing right behind my right shoulder, urging me onward, and smiling his love on me while I walked the path.
Below, I have presented some other opinions on Spiritual Hopscotch. I hope they are helpful.
There is a spiritual yawning of the soul or hopscotch game on the tree of life.
One of the most often used expressions concerning trials and
tribulations is "I'm back to square one". It's like a "hopscotch" of emotions
going from one to the other.
Whatever spiritual practices you do, whether prayer, meditation, reiki, or hatsurei ho, or mantrayana, or kotodama, or zen or mindfully doing hopscotch or whatever, do not do them with the idea that you are going to 'get' ANYTHING or ANYWHERE from doing them. Rather do them with total concentration. Do them with complete attention. Do them knowing they are the expression of your awakening in this moment. They are the 'key' to walking the path.
Faithful find new outlets in era of growth, change
By Jan Ferris
Sacramento Bee Religion Writer
(Published Nov. 7, 1999)
At the turn of the century, fewer than 40 churches and a lone Jewish synagogue dotted the Sacramento landscape. Most were Methodist or Baptist. And many, if not most, families had been steeped in the same faith for generations.
Today that mainly Protestant picture has exploded in size and substance, and people adhere to denominations all but unheard of in the area a century ago. Churches, synagogues, mosques and other houses of worship have spilled over into strip malls, office parks, even apartments.
Local pastors have become media masters, regularly taking to the airwaves to spread the Word. Even parts of cyberspace have gone sacred, teeming with real-time prayer groups and other religious programming via the Internet.
But all of this activity in the spiritual marketplace doesn't necessarily mean we're more religious than our ancestors. In fact, the statistics are skewed.
Seven in 10 people claim religious membership, and even more proclaim an interest in "spiritual growth," according to a recent Gallup Poll. Yet in the past 30 years, the number of Americans who attend weekly services has generally hovered at only 40 percent of Americans -- and some experts call that figure inflated.
The real change this century isn't so much the degree of religious adherence as it is our shifting religious allegiances. Americans have become discerning consumers in their sacred lives, increasingly giving up "brand loyalties" and family heritage to seek out new denominations and worship styles.
In 1900, there were simply fewer choices for Sacramento's faithful.
The population stood at a neat 46,000 in the city and surrounding Sacramento County, but the development of religious communities didn't happen overnight. Forty-niners came for gold, not God, according to the Rev. Steve Avella, a Marquette University historian who's writing a history of Catholic Sacramento. Church growth, Avella said, reflected the city's "predictable, unharried pace."
Most local congregations at the turn of the century were concentrated downtown, mixed in with homes and businesses. On the list were Christian Scientists, Episcopalians (with three churches), Seventh-day Adventists and two churches apiece in the Catholic, Lutheran and Presbyterian traditions. Baptists logged five separate congregations; Methodists an area-leading seven.
A city directory from 1906 also detailed "miscellaneous" religions, including several Japanese and Chinese missions, and the Salvation Army.
The primary function of the various houses of worship, then as now, was religious. Still, many doubled as community centers, especially Sacramento's first two African American congregations: St. Andrews African Methodist Episcopal Church and Shiloh Baptist Church.
St. Andrews, founded in 1850, was the first visible black institution in Sacramento. When historian and civil rights advocate W.E.B. Du Bois came to town in the mid-1920s, he insisted he speak there instead of to a segregated audience somewhere else.
The region's earliest Buddhists used their faith community as a social outlet as well. Initially, the church provided a taste of home for Japanese immigrants. With succeeding generations, it also provided space for versions of popular American pastimes, such as sports, beauty and oratorical contests.
By the 1920s, established churches and synagogues numbered about 50 in the area, including a few in the nascent Pentecostal form. But it wasn't until the years after World War II that the religious landscape, like the population, mushroomed. Of the 22 Catholic churches now within the city limits, for instance, two-thirds were built after 1940. Congregations began to spread, following (and occasionally leading) the faithful to the suburbs.
The war had a unifying effect on some religious groups, especially Jews. In the early part of the century, Sacramento's German Jews generally worshiped in one community, Poles and Russians in another. Orthodox Jews -- following kosher dietary laws and other strict traditions -- worshiped at Mosaic Law synagogue. Reform Jews belonged to Congregation B'nai Israel. World War II changed that.
"We were all Jews in the eyes of Hitler, and that drove us all together," says Blanche Goldstein, 82, whose father emigrated from Poland to Sacramento in 1906. "That really cemented a lot of differences between the Jews, even if they went to their religion in a different way."
The post-war years saw a nationwide surge in religious attendance, with one in two adults turning out to worship each week, according to surveys -- the century's high.
"At least 25 years ago, all the church had to do was open the door and people would come," said Sally Hinchman of the Sierra Mission Partnership, which oversees Presbyterian churches in Northern California and Nevada.
First United Methodist Church in midtown was so busy in the '50s and '60s that it boasted as many as 2,625 members and four choirs. Easter Sunday was a major event, staged at Memorial Auditorium and occasionally attended by the governor and his wife.
Elizabeth Monk and her late husband joined the church in 1952 and served as music directors for 20 years. Monk has seen the numbers taper off ever since.
Other than at the holidays, the church now has just one choir. More than a quarter of First United Methodist's 600 members are elderly. And when the Rev. Larry George was hired three years ago, he did more burying than marrying the first few months, Monk said.
Regular participation is noticeably off. Many families opt for soccer, skiing or other leisure-time activities, both during the week and on weekends. Senior citizens, with their golf, travel and other interests, aren't much better, said Monk, who's 93.
"People used to go to church every Sunday. Now if they go once a month they feel like they're regulars. There are so many other things to do," she says, answering phones during a recent volunteer stint. "I don't think churches are anywhere as important as they were."
In a 1966 Time cover story, the magazine pondered the relevance of religion to Americans, posing the prickly question of whether God was dead. But in many ways, the decline in religious allegiance has become a more pressing issue -- and has shaped the landscape more dramatically than the attendance picture over the past two decades.
The Rev. DerkMadden of Greenhaven Neighborhood Church calls it the demise of "brand loyalty." His family is a prime example. Raised Catholic, his brother is a pastor in the Christian Missionary and Alliance Church. His mother is a Baptist.
Though Madden pastors a Mennonite Brethren church, he had to ask a college professor exactly what the Protestant denomination was when the job was offered. While its roots are Ukrainian, just a handful of families in the 200-member Greenhaven church are "ethnics," or Mennonite Brethren by ancestry.
Even at the Sacramento Buddhist Church, such cross-pollination is in full force. While almost entirely Japanese a generation ago, about 30 percent of the current members have married into Buddhism or chosen it over their own religious roots.
This energetic hopscotch -- or "seeking," as scholars dub it -- has forced adjustments in the ways congregations minister. One change seems minor, but speaks volumes: the increasing trend of houses of worship to drop denominational labels from their official names.
Shadow Ridge Community Church in Granite Bay is Southern Baptist. Laguna Family Fellowship Church is affiliated with the Church of the Nazarene. And Sunrise Community Church in Fair Oaks is a part of the North American Baptist Conference.
Capital Christian Center opened in 1984 as the region's first "mega-church." It, too, bears no outward sign of its membership in the Assemblies of God, a Pentecostal movement. Over the years, the Rev. Glen Cole, founding pastor, has ushered in other changes in keeping with the times and shifting public appetite.
As a youngster in Tacoma, Wash., Cole attended a church that was such "sacred ground" that dinners were held at the nearby Methodist church; basketball was played on Presbyterian turf. As an adult, he has learned how important it is to "minister to the whole person."
As such, the 63-acre Capital Christian Center boasts athletic fields, tennis courts and a gym. Alongside the mix of Bible studies and prayer groups, it hosts a number of support networks, from substance abuse and overeating to divorce recovery.
Congregations across the region have experimented in other ways as well to bolster membership, tinkering with more contemporary music -- creating a backlash among traditionalists -- offering services on Saturday and Sunday nights, and tolerating more casual dress.
Technology is also shaping religious practice at century's end. In 1900, the progressive pastor of Sacramento Central Seventh-day Adventist Church, Elder M.C. Israel, proposed that the church "look into the matter of lighting."
When the Rev. Doug Batchelor came on board 93 years later, he and his flock knocked on doors and sent out mailers to try to boost membership above 200 -- to little avail. But when Sacramento Central started airing services and other church programs on local-access TV soon after, attendance edged up to 1,000 or so. Now the church airs more than a dozen different programs. Batchelor also co-hosts a live call-in show on local radio.
"We're seeing the scope of influence really increase because we're focusing on media. We had no idea that it would go the way it did," said Batchelor, who spent several weeks in Manhattan this fall taping religious TV shows. "I think if Jesus was alive today, he'd use whatever means he could."
While so many are striving for novelty and new mediums, some communities are vigorously holding on to tradition as the millennium approaches. That's especially the case for Sacramento-area Muslims.
Pakistani immigrants were the first to organize in the region, forming an association in 1920 and opening the city's first mosque in 1947 at Fifth and V streets. The scene stayed static until the mid-'70s when Muslim students and faculty rented an apartment near California State University, Sacramento, to take part in requisite daily prayers.
Since then, eight other centers and the Nation of Islam have cropped up in Sacramento County and Davis, catering to Arabs, Fijians, African Americans and other Muslims. Worship came first. But in recent years, local adherents have borrowed from an American tradition: Sunday school, used as a tool to imbue youngsters with the tenets of Islam.
Teaching the faith is especially important to counter children's exposure to Christmas, Halloween and other non-Muslim customs, said MetwalliAmer, an Egyptian native and head of the Sacramento Area League of Associated Muslims mosque by American River College.
"The role has changed simply because the parents start worrying about their kids," Amer said. "If we don't leave them a legacy of building a faith, and of an infrastructure, then they could be really lost. They could really forget their identity as Muslims."
How we've changed
For women, years of change open doors to clergy
The increasing practice of ordaining women has had a profound effect on 20th century religion in the United States. From pulpits to the top position at the National Council of Churches, female members of the clergy have grown both in number and prestige.
In 1900, just five Protestant denominations had changed their rules to permit female ministers. But in the past 100 years, more than four times that number have done so, writes University of Arizona sociologist Mark Chaves in "Ordaining Women: Culture and Conflict in Religious Organizations."
In 1970, 3 percent of American clergy were women, according to the U.S. Census. By 1998: about 10 percent. And last fall, nearly one in three students pursuing master of divinity degrees -- a requisite for ordination in many Protestant faiths -- were female, according to the Association of Theological Schools.
The numbers have risen in other traditions, including two of the main branches of Judaism. And the effects go far beyond statistical increases.
"We're natural nurturers," said the Rev. Glenda Thomas, one of the first women assigned to pastor a church in the California-Nevada Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
When she was ordained in 1970, Thomas' superintendent questioned her ability to juggle ministry and motherhood. Another church official wondered what would happen if Thomas and her clergy husband were sent to different ends of the sprawling conference.
But Thomas has seen the climate slowly warm in the 30 years since. "If you can preach and you can be a pastor, whether you're green or purple, male or female, quickly pales," she said.
Barbara Brown Zikmund, Hartford Seminary president and co-author of "Clergy Women: An Uphill Calling," says women pastors are increasingly drawn to unconventional ministering posts, such as storefront ministries and radio work.
"The prevailing feeling is that these women ... are not playing the game by the old rules," she said. "They're saying, 'OK, I want the credibility of the old credential, but my ministry is to pull the edges of it.' "
Copyright © The Sacramento Bee
Please read the whole article. It's an eye opener.
TECHNOSHAMANISM: Digital Deities in Cyberspace
by Douglas Groothuis
Spiritual explorers are increasingly looking to cyberspace to meet the needs of the soul. Many neopagans, occultists, and New Agers deem the technologies of cyberspace as fitting media for their magical experiments and rituals and view the Internet as a mystical plane of being. For some in this movement, which has roots in the counterculture of the sixties, both hallucinogenic drugs and computers help to demonstrate that reality is strictly a matter of our own perception and therefore can be manipulated and even created. However, this enthusiasm for the mystical potential of human technology is misplaced, illogical, and spiritually dangerous. It vainly attempts to build a spiritual reality on the faulty foundation of silicon, instead of on Jesus Christ.
Being the incorrigibly spiritual creatures that humans made in Gods image are, many people are attempting to use cyberspace to feed and stretch the soul. A new movement is forming that views cyberspace as a sacred realm for the expansion of consciousness. Working from neopagan, occult, and New Age assumptions, technoshamans claim they are the wired wizards of the digital world (shamanism and technoshamanism will be defined in detail later). As this strange phenomenon unfolds, Christians need to address it theologically and biblically if we are to reach todays technological culture effectively with the message of Jesus Christ.
THE NEW AGE DAWNS AGAIN
The yearning for a New Age to spring from the divine depths of human consciousness is hardly new. It is an ancient aspiration, an occultic orientation to the divine, the world, and the self that sees them all as part of one ultimate reality.19 The new spin on the old view is the addition of cybertechnologies as significant aids in the process of self-discovery or even as the manifestation of the New Age itself. Some technovisionaries, such as John Perry Barlow, invoke the evolutionary scenario of French Jesuit thinker and paleontologist, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, to ground their viewpoint.20 Teilhard saw evolution as the fundamental category for all existence. He used this model of reality, which he spiritualized, to transcend naturalism and to reinterpret all the foundational doctrines and symbols of the Christian faith. Instead of the literal second coming of Jesus at the end of the age, he predicted the emergence of the noosphere (or mind-sphere), a level of unified consciousness that would, in essence, make the entire planet divine. This "noogenesis" would eventuate in the Omega Point the end of history and culmination of cosmic evolution.
The cyberian world view is shaped by the sensibilities of modern technologies, particularly those of cyberspace.Douglas Rushkoff asserts, "According to cyberian logic, the grids of reality are creations. They are not necessarily real....Anyone who has taken a psychedelic drug experiences this. Fantasy gamers play with this. Hackers who crack the ice of well-protected computer networks prove this. Anyone who has adopted the cyberian vision lives this." Rushkoff adds that cyberians rebel against dominant society not by crossing lines and breaking out of boxes, but by refusing to grant the reality of any lines or boxes. "The exploitation of these lines and boxes for fun is like playing hopscotch on the tablets of the Ten Commandments." God as Lawgiver is off the screen.
The domain of cyberspace does not in itself demand a descent into the high-tech deceptions of technoshamanism. However, given the combined influence of the bewitching nature of cyberspace and the occult ideas thick in the cultural atmosphere, technoshamanism easily finds itself at home in the keyboards of its devotees and beyond. Nevertheless, the soul will find neither rest nor wisdom there. Jaron Lanier, a pioneer in virtual reality technologies, sums it up: "The Internet exists for people to connect with each other. But to connect with the mystery of the universe, the Internet wont do. God doesnt have a Web site."
As we have seen, whatever enticements it offers, technoshamanism suffers from an internally inconsistent and ultimately unlivable world view. As Scripture affirms, "Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain" (Ps. 127:1). Jesus also taught that those who live by His teachings build their house on a rock that can withstand the vicissitudes of life, while those who fail to obey build only on shifting sand (Matt. 7:24-27). Erecting a world view upon silicon is no better than building it on sand.
Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor of Philosophy of Religion and Ethics at Denver Seminary and the author of five books.
Visit the Mountain, Live in the Valley
Luke 9:28-56, 17:10
October 11, 1998
Let me stay on the mountain, Lord! (I don't want to go down!)
We can all relate to what Peter felt. Once we get up to the mountaintop with Jesus, we want to stay there, we don't want to leave. Verse 33: Peter said to him, "Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters-- one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah." It's only natural. Being on the mountain with Jesus is wonderful! We see His glory, we taste heaven itself, our hearts are set aflame--who would want to leave?
Jesus wants us to leave. There are demons to be faced and dealt with in the valley, there's work to be done, so Jesus leads us off the mountaintop and down to live and work and fail and grow in the valley.
We see the Lord's glory on the mountain, but we don't live for His glory there, we live for His glory in the valley where demons and failures and rebukes are part and parcel of our daily lives.
Jesus will graciously lead you to the mountain once in awhile, but He will not leave you there. And if you insist on staying there, or spending all your time daydreaming about the mountain or planning frequent trips in hopes that you can recreate that mountaintop experience, you will be left behind, because Jesus' work is in the valley, where the people and the demons live.
So, thank God for the mountain, but determine in your heart that you will live for God in the valley. Amen? [End of message. Well, I suppose I could say just a bit more about this just to be sure that no one misses the point.]
How many of you have ever heard of a game called "hopscotch?" Kick the can, Mother may I, Red Rover, Hopscotch -- these were some of the most common games when I was growing up. Hopscotch tended to be played more by the girls in my neighborhood, but as the name implies, it involved a lot of hopping from place to place.
In the same way, some Christians fall into a bad habit of playing "spiritual hopscotch," jumping from one spiritual high or mountaintop to another, hoping to skip all the monotonous and hard steps in between. This tendency to want to live on the mountaintop with Jesus, to play spiritual hopscotch or to become almost addicted to spiritual experiences; is more common with new believers, but is not limited to them.
Hopscotch living will stunt your growth
Some people who have known Jesus for years are still "stuck" playing this game, unwilling to move on and live in the valley. And that is the danger, you will not grow and mature as God wants you to unless you do move on, and do the duty which lies nearest, and get serious about developing character and holy habits.
God will not just plop Christ-like character into your heart or zap good habits into your life. We sometimes pray and wish that he would:
"Oh God let this one trip to the mountain with you transform me into a holy, loving, and patient person; and take away my lust, my temper, my bitterness, and fill me with your Spirit and with glorious, heavenly power--beginning now and everyday for the rest of my earthly life! Amen!"
And I can almost see God smile and say something like this:
"I will indeed answer that prayer, but rather than your easy, shortcut approach, what say we do a thorough job, one that will require the rest of your earthly life and on into eternity. Are you with me?"
12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed-- not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence-- continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.
2 Peter 1:3-11
3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But if anyone does not have them, he is short-sighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. 10 Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
What leads to growth? (Advice to a new Christian)
If a new Christian came to you and said, "How do I grow as a Christian? How do I stay on track and in the race for the long haul?" what would you tell them? What spiritual disciplines or holy habits would you urge upon them with all fervency and help them to establish?
I'm so glad I had some godly, mature and common sense mentors in this regard. (Read & meditate on the Word of God daily/develop your own private devotional life, be committed to the fellowship, tithe as a way to give to God systematically and regularly, serve God with the gifts He has given you, live for Christ.)
The Snare of recreating experiences
(or going to the mountain without the Lord leading you there)
God has given me some wonderful times with Him and His people on the mountain. But one time I tried to recreate the experience. The time on the mountain was so wonderful. I wanted to get back up there. So I tried to get all the same components together in hopes that the fire would again fall. It didn't and I learned a valuable lesson.
The essence of this week's message is simple: Thank God for the mountaintop visits, but learn to live for Him in the valley. Don't fall into the snare of playing spiritual hopscotch, jumping from spiritual high to spiritual high, and wondering why you're so down in between times. Develop holy habits, lay hold of spiritual disciplines, and determine to run a spiritual marathon. You can do it because your trainer is the Holy Spirit Himself!
There is this pitfall of spiritual hopscotch, of trying to stay or live on the mountaintop. Next week I want to talk about the other end of the spectrum. There is another detrimental tendency in the Church, and that is to deny that there is a mountain top, to fear the mountain, or to have absolutely no desire to ascend the mountain of the Lord and behold His glory.
Which problem is worse? Spiritual hopscotch or lack of desire for the mountains? Neither is healthy, but if I had to choose, give me life! It's easier to redirect that which is misguided than to resurrect that which is dead! ("We will not settle for no fire in our avoidance of wildfire." --Dan Davis)
© 1997-2000 River of Life Community Church
|Another perspective on Spiritual Hopscotch:
The Spectacle of Worship in a Wired World by Tex Sample This book works through the issues of why we should use multimedia in the church to reach the American public today. You may not agree with some of his applications (You wont find me putting Sinatra in a worship service. :) ) but most of what he says makes a lot of sense. Here is a good quote on what I call the Mr. Potato Head approach to religion taken by much of the American Public today
I think here of the kind of spiritual hopscotch people play with world religions. Some people, for example, choose some fascinating aspect of different faith commitments and adopt it as a part of their cosmopolitan spirituality. As they say, taking the best of all the religions and choosing my own. Using this approach they may pick up in hopscotch fashion a piece each from Zen, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, or New Age. Wade Clark Roof has described this as multi-layered spirituality. Typically these cosmopolitan spiritualities are exercises in mere belief, that is, taking some series of ideas that are appealing and used to shore up their consumerist subjectivity. When challenged, one finds that these devotees usually do not know much about these various religious practices and certainly do not engage them much more than they do in choosing the brands of cat food they purchase for their feline accessories. Take Zen, for example. I often find people who adopt continually some belief in meditation sporadically used, maybe --and claim it for their own, displaying it in conversation but not devoting themselves to it. In radical contrast, Zen monks spend a lifetime practicing such meditation. The practices of these monks are forms of knowing and of shaping life, feeling and thought that forever lie beyond the grocery bag of beliefs taken home to fill the shelves of subjectivity in a closet of inexpensive finds from the sales tables of Americas psychic department stores. These items of spirituality take their place on these shelves right next to a running fashion of pop psychologies with the low-fat, low-calorie ingredients of transactional analysis, Myers-Briggs, and family systems theory.
Well, what's wrong with it? Apart from the reduction of ultimate commitments to mere belief, apart from the trivialization of a rich religious tradition, apart from an imperial and colonial grabbing up of abstract notions from the verdant land of a religious history, nothing much is wrong. Except this: Consumerist spiritualities do not fill or satisfy the human heart any more than do other commercial purchases driven by the emptiness of a commodity culture.
SEEK THE OLD PATHS
Thus says the Lord, "Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the Old Paths; where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls" (Jer. 6:16).
In a day when the Southern Baptist have long since left the "Old Paths"-and the Independent Fundamentalists are stumbling along in some of the "Old Paths" while refusing others-and the Pentecostal Chansmatics are so blinded by spiritual delusion that they have never been able to find an "Old Path." I wonder is there anyone who reads this article interested in responding to the words of the Almighty God and ask for the "Old Paths?"
What are the "Old Paths" wherein is "the Good Way"? Compare what you see and hear with the ways and message of the prophets and apostles. They did not hopscotch through the scriptures looking for something to fit their catchy topics. they preached consistently and exclusively "thus saith the Lord" The vast majority of modern day self-styled preachers consistently preach inconsistently the Holy Scriptures of God.
The ways of the prophets and apostles were very simple. They simply expounded the scriptures and left it at that. We live in a day of manipulating gimmick gospels. Every religious crowd has it's own gimmick and trick. The emphasis is on the invitation, not the message. Most preachers would feel very well preaching from Readers Digest if by some hook, crook, or trick they could only manage to get some poor sucker down to the front of the church at the conclusion of the meeting.
Did Paul ever use such trickery? You will search the scripture in vain to find anything that resembles the Invitation System employed by those who mask themselves as preachers of the Gospel in our day. Did Peter wear the people with twenty-nine verses of Just As I Am on the day of Pentecost? No, he spent about eight minutes expounding texts from the Old Testament and the power of God fell.
I leave with you-my text, "Stand in the ways. and see, and ask for the Old Paths were in is the good way." For your soul's sake, do not be as obstinate as the people were in the day that the prophet spoke those words and say as they did. "We will not walk in it.
We at Calvary Baptist Church offer one and only on thing, that one thing is a steady and consistent diet of the Word of God. We have no robed choirs, no professional singers, and no entertainment of any kind. We have no Family Life Center. no gymnasium and no sports fields of any kind. But we do our best to lead young and old alike and together into the "Old Paths" wherein is the good way that they might find rest for their souls. If you are interested come to see us.
|Gambling and Spirituality, A New Anthropological Perspective
Archaeological Records Equate Dice With Cycle of Death and Rebirth
No historical period or culture on the globe lacks the means for gambling, and it was often associated with death and rebirth. One Egyptian tomb-painting (c. 3500 BCE) depicts a nobleman in his afterlife playing a dice board game of hounds and jackals. A Sumerian board game was found in a royal cemetery dated to circa 2600 BCE. Antelope ankle bones, presumed to have been used as dice, are often found in prehistoric tombs and burial caves around the world, perhaps for afterlife recreation, or so the dead could "re-create" life. Icelandic and Hindu mythology mirror many Native American myths that claim that the gods destroy and recreate the world on a diceboard.
Playing boards or fields are themselves altars of the sacred. Johan Huizinga, author of Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play Elements in Culture, said that magicians, priests, and gamblers all begin their work by circumscribing the consecrated spot. There is no distinction between marking out a space for a sacred purpose and marking it out for purposes of sheer play. The turf, the tennis court, the chessboard, and the pavement hopscotch cannot formally be distinguished from the temple or the magic circle. Game diagrams were built into roofing slabs of a temple in ancient Thebes, carved into the cloister seats of medieval English churches, and pecked into survey markers for the grid underlying the pyramid city of Teotihuacán
|John 6, the Father and the Son, Salvation, and Roman Catholic
"The blessed Lord was quite blunt with His audience. He knew they did not possess real faith. But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe (v. 36). They had seen Him with their eyes, but unless physical sight is joined with spiritual enlightenment, it profits nothing. Often the importance of this statement is overlooked. Verse 36 is a turning point in the chapter. Jesus now explains their unbelief. How is it that these men could stand before the very Son of God, the Word made flesh, and not believe? Anyone who does not take seriously the deadness of man in sin should contemplate this scene. The very Creator in human form stands before men who are schooled in the Scriptures and points to their unbelief. He then explains the why, and yet so few today will listen and believe.
All that the Father gives Me will come to Me. These are the first words to come from the Lord in explanation of mans unbelief. We dare not engage in hopscotch across this text and ignore the very order of teaching He provides. The first assertion is one of complete divine sovereignty. Every word speaks volumes.
All that the Father gives Me. The Father gives someone to Christ. The elect are viewed as a single whole, [footnote: The neuter form pa'n is used when the entire group is in view; when each individual person comes into view with reference to their response of faith the masculine participle ejrcovmeno" is used, showing the personal element of faith.] given by the Father to the Son. [footnote: Two tenses are used by the Lord in this passage: here the present tense is used, all the Father gives (divdwsin) Me . In verse 39, however, the perfect tense is used, all that He has given (devdwken) Me . ] The Father has the right to give a people to the Son. He is the sovereign King, and this is a divine transaction.
All that are given by the Father to the Son come to the Son. Not some, not most, but all.
All those given by the Father to the Son will come to the Son. It is vital to see the truth that is communicated by this phrase: the giving by the Father to the Son precedes and determines the coming of the person to Christ. The action of giving by the Father comes before the action of coming to Christ by the individual. And since all of those so given infallibly come, we have here both unconditional election as well as irresistible grace, and that in the space of nine words! It becomes an obvious exercise in eisegesis to say, Well, what the Lord really means is that all that the Father has seen will believe in Christ will come to Christ. That is a meaningless statement. Since the action of coming is dependent upon the action of giving, we can see that it is simply not exegetically possible to say that we cannot determine the relationship between the two actions. Gods giving results in mans coming. Salvation is of the Lord.
But note as well that it is to the Son that they come. They do not come to a religious system. They are coming to Christ. This is a personal relationship, personal faith, and, given that the ones who come are described throughout the passage by the present tense participle, it is not just a coming that happens once. This is an on-going faith, an on-going looking to Christ as the source of spiritual life. The men to whom the Lord was speaking had come to Him for a season: they would soon walk away and follow Him no more. The true believer is coming to Christ, always. This is the nature of saving faith.
And the one who comes to Me I will never cast out. The true believer, the one coming to the Son, has this promise of the Lord: using the strongest form of denial possible, [footnote: Here the aorist subjunctive of strong denial, ouj mh; ejkbavlw e[xw, I will never cast out. The idea is the emphatic denial of the possibility of a future event.] Jesus affirms the eternal security of the believer. Jesus is the one who gives life and raises His own up at the last day. He promises that there is no possibility whatsoever that any one who is coming to Him in true faith could ever find Him unwilling to save. But this tremendous promise is the second half of a sentence. It is based upon the truth that was first proclaimed. This promise is to those who are given by the Father to the Son and to no one else. Of course, we will see in verse 44 that no one but those who are so given will be coming to Christ in faith anyway: but there are surely those who, like many in that audience in Capernaum, are willing to follow for a while, willing to believe for a season. This promise is not theirs.
The promise to the elect, however, could not be more precious. Since Christ is able to save perfectly (He is not dependent upon mans will, mans cooperation), His promise means the elect cannot ever be lost. Since He will not cast out, and there is no power greater than His own, the one who comes to Christ will find Him an all-sufficient and perfect Savior. This is the only basis of eternal security or the perseverance of the saints: they look to a perfect Savior who is able to save. It is Christs ability to save that means the redeemed cannot be lost. If it were, in fact, a synergistic relationship, there could never be any ground for absolute confidence and security.
Many stop at verse 37 and miss the tremendous revelation we are privileged to receive in the following verses. Why will Christ never cast out those who come to Him? Verse 38 begins with a connective that indicates a continuation of the thought: verses 38 and 39 explain verse 37. Christ keeps all those who come to Him for He is fulfilling the will of the Father. I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. The divine Messiah always does the will of the Father. The preceding chapter in Johns Gospel had made this very clear. There is perfect harmony between the work of the Father and the Son.
And what is the will of the Father for the Son? In simple terms, it is the Fathers will that the Son save perfectly. This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. It is vital to remember that this continues the explanation of why He does not cast out the one coming to Him. We must see this for some might be tempted to say that the Father has entrusted all things into the hands of the Son, and that this passage is saying nothing more than the Son will act properly in regards to what the Father has given Him. But the context is clear: v. 37 speaks of the Father giving the elect to the Son, and v. 39 continues the same thought. Those who are given infallibly come to the Son in v. 37, and it is these same ones, the elect, [footnote: Jesus uses the neuter pa'n again to refer to the elect as an entire group, though the fact that this group is made up of individuals is seen in their being raised to life and in their individually coming to Him.] who are raised up at the last day. Resurrection is the work of Christ, and in this passage, is paralleled with the giving of eternal life (see v. 40). Christ gives eternal life to all those who are given to Him and who, as a result, come to Him.
We must ask the Arminian who promotes the idea that a truly saved person can be lost: does this not mean that Christ can fail to do the will of the Father? If the will of the Father for the Son is that He lose none of those that are given to Him, does it not follow inexorably that Christ is able to accomplish the Fathers will? And does this not force us to believe that the Son is able to save without introducing the will of man as the final authority in the matter? Can any synergist (one who teaches, as Dr. Geisler does, that Gods grace works synergistically and that mans free will is a vitally important part of the salvation process, and that no man is saved unless that man wills it) believe these words? Can one who says that God tries to save as many as possible but cannot save any man without that mans cooperation fully believe what this verse teaches? It is not the Fathers will that Christ try to save but that He save a particular people perfectly. He is to lose nothing of all that He is given. How can this be if, in fact, the final decision lies with man, not with God? It is the Fathers will that results in the resurrection to life of any individual. This is election in the strongest terms, and it is taught with clarity in the reddest letters in Scripture.
Verse 39 begins with This is the will of Him who sent Me, and verse 40 does the same, For this is the will of My Father. But in verse 39 we have the will of the Father for the Son. Now we have the will of the Father for the elect. That everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day. Amazingly, many wrench this verse out of its context, misunderstand the reference to every one who beholds every one who believes in Him, and say, See, no divine election here! Any one can do this. But it is obvious, when the text is allowed to stand as a whole, that this is not the intention of the passage. Who is the one beholding the Son and believing in Him? Both these terms are present participles, referring to on-going action, just as we saw in the one coming to Christ in verse 37. Jesus raises up on the last day all those who are given to Him (v. 39) and all those who are looking and believing in Him (v. 40). Are we to believe these are different groups? Of course not. Jesus only raises one group to eternal life. But since this is so, does it not follow that all those given to Him will look to Him and believe in Him? Most assuredly. Saving faith, then, is exercised by all of those given to the Son by the Father (one of the reasons why, as we will see, the Bible affirms clearly that saving faith is a gift of God).
|A BOOK REVIEW
Divining the patterns of a prayer in stone
A study of the way faith is inscribed in a Roman church
By Ruth Walker (firstname.lastname@example.org)
This delightful book is a biography of a church, St. Agnes Outside the Walls in Rome. Margaret Visser, a onetime professor of classics who has branched out as an "anthropologist of everyday life," has written a guidebook that starts where ordinary guidebooks leave off.
Instead of reporting merely the usual tourist information about architectural features of the church and its connections with famous personages, she gives us a profound analysis of it as a representative of churches, specifically Roman Catholic ones, everywhere. How are the physical facts of a church building related to the thought constructs, the spiritual precepts of Christianity? What, in other words, does this church mean?
By Margaret Visser
North Point Press
Organized not chronologically, but spatially, the book follows a literal walk around the church interior and environs, extending to the surrounding roads, but concluding at the tomb of the eponymous St. Agnes, who was martyred at age 12 in AD 305. Sant'Agnese fuori le Mura, to give the proper Italian name, has existed for more than 1,350 years. "It is a building that feels as if it has been on a very long journey out of the past, has altered and suffered and gathered accretions, and now it is here with us, still bearing its cargo of memories, and still carrying out the purpose for which it was built," Visser writes.
And she finds in the very floor plan of the church - quite literally the "geometry of love" - metaphors for the pilgrim's progress, the Christian's journey heavenward: "It takes only two words to say the most mind-boggling article of Christian belief there is: 'God cares.' "
One has to quibble, though, just a bit with the reference in her title to "an ordinary church." How many churches in your neighborhood are built on the tomb of a Roman martyr?
Visser writes with a rich sense of the paradoxes of Christianity, not least among them that of having church buildings at all. She writes, "The church as 'journey' recalls the words of Jesus: 'I am the way, the truth, and the life....' And so the building erases itself before what it represents, namely Christ himself, who now 'is' the temple and the path we are to follow. These bricks, marbles, and mosaics were set up in full consciousness that all they can do is point to what they mean."
This is a scholarly book; it is a beautifully written one. (I resist connecting those two clauses with a "but.") One of my favorite little bits: A discussion of how the children's game of hopscotch - with its pattern of squares and "transcepts" recalling the floor plan of a traditional Latin cross church - can be seen as a metaphor for the Christian's "journey."
This is the third book Visser has written in a genre that we might call "deconstruction of the ordinary," an intense examination of something usually taken for granted. To her analysis of a church, she brings a commitment as a believing Catholic. But one can imagine what she might do with, say, a European market square, or a courthouse, to cite other examples of public spaces layered with social, cultural, and other meanings. She reminds us that culture consists in large measure of things we know without being aware we have learned them.
Ruth Walker is the Monitor's correspondent in Toronto.
This hopscotch mosiac inlaid into the sidewalk, designed by Lilli Ann Killen Rosenburg, commemorates the site of the original site of the Boston Latin School, founded on April 13, 1635. Any child, rich or poor, could attend this school without charge. Famous attendees included Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock and Samuel Adams.
Dream Catcher : Twenty Lectionary-Based Stories for Teaching and
Dreams are fuel. They not only give us a reason to live. They drive us to be better and better. James L. Henderschedt wrote this book to energize those dreams that are alive and to call back those lost and forgotten dreams. So let "Under the Bridge" tempt you to consider where, in this world today, Jesus might return. Reflect on what happens when one truly encounters the kingdom in "Never the Same Again." Ask yourself if you can ever go home again in "Going Home." Discover the wonderful gift in "Liverwurst on Rye." And find out what impatience reveals in "The Express Lane." Questions with each story will help you reflect on them.
Dreams: A Quest for Truth
by Dee Finney and Joe Mason
ISBN: 097026304X - Pub. Date: July 2001
The authors detail how their separate paths to find 'truth' ultimately brought them together after many years, enhancing their individual quests to put the puzzle pieces together for which they had so long been searching.
Beginning with a website to elucidate their individual dreams, experiences, and interpretations, this book brings the pictures of their found puzzle pieces out into the public eye for those who do not enjoy the benefits of being on the word wide web.
Although the primary basis for this search for 'truth' was their own dreams, the path ultimately led them to include other peoples dreams, coincidences, synchronicities, mythology, religions, crop circles, inspired art forms and other areas of study.
This volume is the first of a series. More puzzle pieces will be brought forth into the big picture in future volumes. This is an ongoing project, and individuals worldwide are encouraged to participate.
RELIGIOUS AND SPIRITUAL PAGES ON THIS SITE
END OF THE KALI
CONNECTION BETWEEN IRENAEUS AND BECKETT
THE TRUE HOLY-SEPULCHRE?
NUMBER 132 AND
- 3:16's of the Bible
KABBALISM - MAZAL
KABBALISM - MAZAL -
THE BARKED TREE