When Things Fall Apart

December 29th, 2017 by Dave No comments »


Friday, December 29, 2017

The word change normally refers to new beginnings. But transformation more often happens not when something new begins but when something old falls apart. The pain of something old falling apart—disruption and chaos—invites the soul to listen at a deeper level. It invites and sometimes forces the soul to go to a new place because the old place is not working anymore. The mystics use many words to describe this chaos: fire, darkness, death, emptiness, abandonment, trial, the Evil One. Whatever it is, it does not feel good and it does not feel like God. We will do anything to keep the old thing from falling apart.
This is when we need patience, guidance, and the freedom to let go instead of tightening our controls and certitudes. Perhaps Jesus is describing this phenomenon when he says, “It is a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:14). Not accidentally, he mentions this narrow road right after teaching the Golden Rule. Jesus knows how much letting go it takes to “treat others as you would like them to treat you” (7:12).
Transformation usually includes a disconcerting reorientation. Change can either help people to find a new meaning, or it can cause people to close down and turn bitter. The difference is determined by the quality of our inner life, or what we call “spirituality.” Change of itself just happens; spiritual transformation is an active process of letting go, living in the confusing dark space for a while, and allowing yourself to be spit up on a new and unexpected shore. You can see why Jonah in the belly of the whale is such an important symbol for many Jews and Christians.
In the moments of insecurity and crisis, “shoulds” and “oughts” don’t really help; they just increase the shame, guilt, pressure, and likelihood of backsliding. It’s the deep “yeses” that carry you through. Focusing on something you absolutely believe in, that you’re committed to, will help you wait it out.
Love wins over guilt any day. It is sad that we settle for the short-run effectiveness of shaming people instead of the long-term life benefits of grace-filled transformation. But we are a culture of progress and efficiency, impatient with gradual growth. God’s way of restoring things interiorly is much more patient—and finally more effective. God lets Jonah run in the wrong direction, until this reluctant prophet finds a long, painful, circuitous path to get back where he needs to be—in spite of himself! Looking in your own “rear-view mirror” can fill you with gratitude for God’s work in your life.

Gateway to Silence:

You make all things new.

Deserter or Disciple?

By Oswald Chambers

From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. —John 6:66

When God, by His Spirit through His Word, gives you a clear vision of His will, you must “walk in the light” of that vision (1 John 1:7). Even though your mind and soul may be thrilled by it, if you don’t “walk in the light” of it you will sink to a level of bondage never envisioned by our Lord. Mentally disobeying the “heavenly vision” (Acts 26:19) will make you a slave to ideas and views that are completely foreign to Jesus Christ. Don’t look at someone else and say, “Well, if he can have those views and prosper, why can’t I?” You have to “walk in the light” of the vision that has been given to you. Don’t compare yourself with others or judge them— that is between God and them. When you find that one of your favorite and strongly held views clashes with the “heavenly vision,” do not begin to debate it. If you do, a sense of property and personal right will emerge in you— things on which Jesus placed no value. He was against these things as being the root of everything foreign to Himself— “…for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Luke 12:15). If we don’t see and understand this, it is because we are ignoring the underlying principles of our Lord’s teaching.
Our tendency is to lie back and bask in the memory of the wonderful experience we had when God revealed His will to us. But if a New Testament standard is revealed to us by the light of God, and we don’t try to measure up, or even feel inclined to do so, then we begin to backslide. It means your conscience does not respond to the truth. You can never be the same after the unveiling of a truth. That moment marks you as one who either continues on with even more devotion as a disciple of Jesus Christ, or as one who turns to go back as a deserter.

Our Foundation

December 28th, 2017 by Dave No comments »

Thursday, December 28, 2017

If we are going to rebuild Christianity “from the bottom up,” what is the foundation upon which we’re building? Love is our foundation and our destiny. It is where we come from and where we’re headed. As St. Paul famously says, “So faith, hope, and love remain, but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13).
St. Augustine (354-430) said, “The church consists in the state of communion of the whole world.” [1] Wherever we are connected, in right relationship—you might say “in love”—there is the Christ, there is the authentic “Body of God” revealed. This body is more a living organism than any formal organization.
My hope, whenever I speak or write, is to help clear away the impediments to receiving, allowing, trusting, and participating in a foundational Love. God’s love is planted inside each of us as the Holy Spirit who, according to Jesus, “will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you” (John 14:26). Love is who you are.
Only God in you can know God. You cannot know God in an intimate, experiential way with your mind alone. You are going to need full access knowing, which many of us call the contemplative mind, or even the “mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16).
Great religion seeks utter awareness and full consciousness, so that we can, in fact, receive all. Everything belongs and everything can be received. We don’t have to deny, dismiss, defy, or ignore. What is, is the great teacher. The purpose of prayer and religious seeking is to see the truth about reality, to see what is. And at the bottom of what is is always goodness. The foundation is always Love.
Enlightenment is to see and touch the big mystery, the big pattern, the Big Real. Jesus called it the reign of God; Buddha called it enlightenment. Philosophers might call it Truth. Many of us see it as Foundational Love.
The central practice in mature spirituality, therefore, is that we must remain in love (John 15:9). Only when we are eager to love can we see love and goodness in the world around us. We must ourselves remain in peace, and then we will find peace over there. Remain in beauty, and we will honor beauty everywhere. This concept of remaining or abiding (John 15:4-5) moves religion out of any esoteric realm of doctrinal outer space where it has been lost for too long. There is no secret moral command for knowing or pleasing God, or what some call “salvation,” other than becoming a loving person in mind, heart, body, and soul. Then you will see what you need to see. Jesus did not say, “Thou shalt be right”; Jesus said, “This is my commandment, ‘Love one another’” (John 13:34, 15:12; Matthew 22:39).
Gateway to Silence:

You make all things new.

================================

Continuous Conversion

By Oswald Chambers

…unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. —Matthew 18:3

These words of our Lord refer to our initial conversion, but we should continue to turn to God as children, being continuously converted every day of our lives. If we trust in our own abilities, instead of God’s, we produce consequences for which God will hold us responsible. When God through His sovereignty brings us into new situations, we should immediately make sure that our natural life submits to the spiritual, obeying the orders of the Spirit of God. Just because we have responded properly in the past is no guarantee that we will do so again. The response of the natural to the spiritual should be continuous conversion, but this is where we so often refuse to be obedient. No matter what our situation is, the Spirit of God remains unchanged and His salvation unaltered. But we must “put on the new man…” (Ephesians 4:24). God holds us accountable every time we refuse to convert ourselves, and He sees our refusal as willful disobedience. Our natural life must not rule— God must rule in us.
To refuse to be continuously converted puts a stumbling block in the growth of our spiritual life. There are areas of self-will in our lives where our pride pours contempt on the throne of God and says, “I won’t submit.” We deify our independence and self-will and call them by the wrong name. What God sees as stubborn weakness, we call strength. There are whole areas of our lives that have not yet been brought into submission, and this can only be done by this continuous conversion. Slowly but surely we can claim the whole territory for the Spirit of God.

From the Bottom Up: Summary Our Foundation

December 28th, 2017 by JDVaughn No comments »

From the Bottom Up: Summary

Our Foundation
Thursday, December 28, 2017

If we are going to rebuild Christianity “from the bottom up,” what is the foundation upon which we’re building? Love is our foundation and our destiny. It is where we come from and where we’re headed. As St. Paul famously says, “So faith, hope, and love remain, but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13).

St. Augustine (354-430) said, “The church consists in the state of communion of the whole world.” [1] Wherever we are connected, in right relationship—you might say “in love”—there is the Christ, there is the authentic “Body of God” revealed. This body is more a living organism than any formal organization.

My hope, whenever I speak or write, is to help clear away the impediments to receiving, allowing, trusting, and participating in a foundational Love. God’s love is planted inside each of us as the Holy Spirit who, according to Jesus, “will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you” (John 14:26). Love is who you are.

Only God in you can know God. You cannot know God in an intimate, experiential way with your mind alone. You are going to need full access knowing, which many of us call the contemplative mind, or even the “mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16).

Great religion seeks utter awareness and full consciousness, so that we can, in fact, receive all. Everything belongs and everything can be received. We don’t have to deny, dismiss, defy, or ignore. What is, is the great teacher. The purpose of prayer and religious seeking is to see the truth about reality, to see what is. And at the bottom of what is is always goodness. The foundation is always Love.

Enlightenment is to see and touch the big mystery, the big pattern, the Big Real. Jesus called it the reign of God; Buddha called it enlightenment. Philosophers might call it Truth. Many of us see it as Foundational Love.

The central practice in mature spirituality, therefore, is that we must remain in love (John 15:9). Only when we are eager to love can we see love and goodness in the world around us. We must ourselves remain in peace, and then we will find peace over there. Remain in beauty, and we will honor beauty everywhere. This concept of remaining or abiding (John 15:4-5) moves religion out of any esoteric realm of doctrinal outer space where it has been lost for too long. There is no secret moral command for knowing or pleasing God, or what some call “salvation,” other than becoming a loving person in mind, heart, body, and soul. Then you will see what you need to see.  Jesus did not say, “Thou shalt be right”; Jesus said, “This is my commandment, ‘Love one another’” (John 13:34, 15:12; Matthew 22:39).

Gateway to Silence:
You make all things new.

_______________________________________________________

Continuous Conversion

By Oswald Chambers

 …unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. —Matthew 18:3

These words of our Lord refer to our initial conversion, but we should continue to turn to God as children, being continuously converted every day of our lives. If we trust in our own abilities, instead of God’s, we produce consequences for which God will hold us responsible. When God through His sovereignty brings us into new situations, we should immediately make sure that our natural life submits to the spiritual, obeying the orders of the Spirit of God. Just because we have responded properly in the past is no guarantee that we will do so again. The response of the natural to the spiritual should be continuous conversion, but this is where we so often refuse to be obedient. No matter what our situation is, the Spirit of God remains unchanged and His salvation unaltered. But we must “put on the new man…” (Ephesians 4:24). God holds us accountable every time we refuse to convert ourselves, and He sees our refusal as willful disobedience. Our natural life must not rule— God must rule in us.

To refuse to be continuously converted puts a stumbling block in the growth of our spiritual life. There are areas of self-will in our lives where our pride pours contempt on the throne of God and says, “I won’t submit.” We deify our independence and self-will and call them by the wrong name. What God sees as stubborn weakness, we call strength. There are whole areas of our lives that have not yet been brought into submission, and this can only be done by this continuous conversion. Slowly but surely we can claim the whole territory for the Spirit of God.

A Great Turning

December 27th, 2017 by Dave No comments »

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

In her book Christianity After Religion, church historian Diana Butler Bass writes:
Strange as it may seem in this time of cultural anxiety, economic near collapse, terrorist fear, political violence, environmental crisis, and partisan anger, I believe that the United States (and not only the United States) is caught up in the throes of a spiritual awakening, a period of sustained religious and political transformation during which our ways of seeing the world, understanding ourselves, and expressing faith are being, to borrow a phrase, “born again.” Indeed, the shifts around religion contribute to the anxiety, even as anxiety gives rise to new sorts of understandings of God and the spiritual life. Fear and confusion signal change. This transformation is what some hope will be a “Great Turning” toward a global community based on shared human connection, dedicated to the care of our planet, committed to justice and equality, that seeks to raise hundreds of millions from poverty, violence, and oppression. . . .
Exponential change creates exponential fear along with exponential hope. Massive transformation creates the double-edged cultural sword of decline and renewal. Exponential change ends those things that people once assumed and trusted to be true. At the same time, upheaval opens new pathways to the future. Change is about endings and beginnings and the necessary interrelationship between the two. [1]
In his Letter to the Romans, Paul has a marvelous line: “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Romans 5:20). In so many places, there are signs of the Holy Spirit working at all levels of society. The church might well have done its work as leaven, because much of this reform, enlightenment, compassion, and healing is outside the bounds of organized religion. Only God is going to get the credit.
The toothpaste is out of the tube. There are enough people who know the big picture of Jesus’ thrilling and alluring vision of the reign of God that this Great Turning cannot be stopped. There are enough people going on solid inner journeys that it is not merely ideological or theoretical. This reformation is happening in a positive, nonviolent way. The changes are not just from the top down, but much more from the bottom up. Not from the outside in, but from the inside out. Not from clergy to laity, but from a unified field where class is of minor importance. The big questions are being answered at a peaceful and foundational level, with no need to oppose, deny, or reject. I sense the urgency of the Holy Spirit, with over seven billion humans now on the planet. There is so much to love and embrace.
I am convinced that the only future of the church, the one Body of Christ, is ecumenical and shared. Each of our traditions have preserved and fostered one or another jewel in the huge crown that is the Cosmic Christ; only together can we make up the unity of the Spirit, as we learn to defer to one another out of love.

Gateway to Silence:

You make all things new.

Where the Battle is Won or Lost

By Oswald Chambers

“If you will return, O Israel,” says the Lord… —Jeremiah 4:1

Our battles are first won or lost in the secret places of our will in God’s presence, never in full view of the world. The Spirit of God seizes me and I am compelled to get alone with God and fight the battle before Him. Until I do this, I will lose every time. The battle may take one minute or one year, but that will depend on me, not God. However long it takes, I must wrestle with it alone before God, and I must resolve to go through the hell of renunciation or rejection before Him. Nothing has any power over someone who has fought the battle before God and won there.
I should never say, “I will wait until I get into difficult circumstances and then I’ll put God to the test.” Trying to do that will not work. I must first get the issue settled between God and myself in the secret places of my soul, where no one else can interfere. Then I can go ahead, knowing with certainty that the battle is won. Lose it there, and calamity, disaster, and defeat before the world are as sure as the laws of God. The reason the battle is lost is that I fight it first in the external world. Get alone with God, do battle before Him, and settle the matter once and for all.
In dealing with other people, our stance should always be to drive them toward making a decision of their will. That is how surrendering to God begins. Not often, but every once in a while, God brings us to a major turning point— a great crossroads in our life. From that point we either go toward a more and more slow, lazy, and useless Christian life, or we become more and more on fire, giving our utmost for His highest— our best for His glory.

From the Bottom Up: Summary

December 26th, 2017 by JDVaughn No comments »

From the Bottom Up: Summary

Richard Rohr
Continuing Conversion

Tuesday, December 26, 2017
My friend Brian McLaren expertly maps the process of rebuilding Christianity in his book The Great Spiritual Migration. In the introduction, Brian explains how humans are people in motion, as evidenced by anthropology, the biblical Exodus, and Jesus’ disciples who were to “go into all the world” [Mark 16:15]. Brian’s own story moved from fundamentalist Christianity to Evangelicalism and now is more of a pilgrimage than a static place:
I’ve come to see that what matters most is not our status but our trajectory, not where we are but where we’re going, not where we stand but where we’re headed. . . . [Religion] is at its best when it leads us forward, when it guides us on our spiritual growth as individuals and in our cultural evolution as a species. Unfortunately, religion often becomes more of a cage than a guide, holding us back rather than summoning us onward, a buffer to constructive change rather than a catalyst for it.
In times of rapid and ambiguous change, such a regressive turn in religion may be understandable, but it is even more tragic: when a culture needs wise spiritual guidance the most, all it gets from religious leaders is anxious condemnation and critique, along with a big dose of nostalgia for the lost golden age of the good old days. We see this regressive pull in many sectors of Christianity, along with sectors of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, and other religions too.
In that light, it’s no surprise that people by the millions are moving away from traditional religions entirely, often into secularism, often into experimental forms of spirituality that are not yet supported by religious traditions. But at this pivotal moment, something else is happening. Within each tradition, unsettling but needed voices are arising—prophetic voices, we might call them, voices of change, hope, imagination, and new beginnings. They say there’s an alternative to static or rigid religion on the one hand and religion-free secularism on the other. They claim that the Spirit is calling us, not to dig in our heels, but rather to pack up our tents and get moving again.
Brian doesn’t try to whitewash Christianity’s history of oppression; the church has often led or supported war, colonization, segregation, slavery, sexism, and many other abuses. But, he says:
Thank God that Christianity has a rich tradition of changing course! The Catholic theologian Gustavo Gutierrez agreed: “Conversion is a permanent process,” he said, “in which very often the obstacles we meet make us lose all we had gained and start anew.” [1] Or as Martin Luther said in the first of his oft-mentioned but seldom-read ninety-five theses, repentance, rethinking, and yes, experiencing ongoing migration and conversion are absolute necessities, not just at the beginning of one’s faith journey but at every step of the way. Without continuing conversion, our traditions grow proud and corrupt, self-seeking and ingrown, rigid and constricting. Without continuing conversion, we can be faithful neither to Christ nor to ourselves and the world around us.
Gateway to Silence:
You make all things new.

________________________________________

“Walk in the Light”

By Oswald Chambers

If we walk in the light as He is in the light…the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. —1 John 1:7

To mistake freedom from sin only on the conscious level of our lives for complete deliverance from sin by the atonement through the Cross of Christ is a great error. No one fully knows what sin is until he is born again. Sin is what Jesus Christ faced at Calvary. The evidence that I have been delivered from sin is that I know the real nature of sin in me. For a person to really know what sin is requires the full work and deep touch of the atonement of Jesus Christ, that is, the imparting of His absolute perfection.

The Holy Spirit applies or administers the work of the atonement to us in the deep unconscious realm as well as in the conscious realm. And it is not until we truly perceive the unrivaled power of the Spirit in us that we understand the meaning of 1 John 1:7 , which says, “…the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” This verse does not refer only to conscious sin, but also to the tremendously profound understanding of sin which only the Holy Spirit in me can accomplish.

I must “walk in the light as He is in the light…”— not in the light of my own conscience, but in God’s light. If I will walk there, with nothing held back or hidden, then this amazing truth is revealed to me: “…the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses [me] from all sin” so that God Almighty can see nothing to rebuke in me. On the conscious level it produces a keen, sorrowful knowledge of what sin really is. The love of God working in me causes me to hate, with the Holy Spirit’s hatred for sin, anything that is not in keeping with God’s holiness. To “walk in the light” means that everything that is of the darkness actually drives me closer to the center of the light.

Breach-Menders

December 25th, 2017 by Dave No comments »

From the Bottom Up:

Summary

Breach-Menders

Sunday, December 24, 2017

The ancient ruins will be rebuilt,

You will build on age-old foundations,

You will be called “Breach-Mender,”

Restorer of ruined houses.

—Isaiah 58:12
Throughout this year’s Daily Meditations, I have tried to follow in the footsteps of great reformers like Isaiah, Jesus, St. Francis of Assisi, and Martin Luther. In 1205, Francis heard these words in a vision: “Rebuild my church, for you see it is falling into ruin.” Francis simply focused on different things, an alternative orthodoxy that he believed was the “marrow of the Gospel.”
Every so often, religious institutions become rigid and need to be revived, reformed, and reborn. When churches become machines more than movements, it’s a sign that they must shake off the historical and cultural calcifications so they can continue evolving as a living movement. Just as in Scripture and our own lives, growth is never in a straight line; it is often three steps forward and two steps backward.
This year, the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation—when so many people are leaving the church and Christianity’s reputation may seem irreparably damaged—felt like a good time to again rebuild our faith “from the bottom up.” Rather than coming from those in power at the top, the most effective and lasting change happens at the grass-roots level, led by those who are on the “edge of the inside” and are not dependent upon the status quo.
This year we’ve explored many first principles or essential elements of the Christian tradition, attempting to clear away the rubble of unhelpful theology, low-level thinking, abuse of power, and misunderstanding. Even if you aren’t Christian, I hope you’ve been able to apply universal themes to your own spiritual journey. Here are just some of those topics (find more in the online archive):
* Scripture, Experience, and Tradition
* Contemplation
* Trinity
* The Cosmic Christ
* Salvation as At-One-Ment
* Law and Grace
* Sin as Separation
* Nonviolence
* Faith and Science
* Sexuality and Gender
I pray that my words will not get in the way of what God is doing in your life and in the world. I pray that these words will not just be words, but “spirit and truth” (John 4:24) that plant you firmly in the breach between the world as it usually is (Power) and the world as it should and could be (Love). Both love and power are the necessary building blocks of God’s peaceful kingdom on earth. Love utterly redefines the nature of power. Power without love is mere brutality (even in the church), and love without power is only the sentimentality of private lives disconnected from the Whole. The Gospel in its fullness holds power and love together, creating new hope and healing for the world.
As this year draws to a close, may you go and grow forward as a breach-mender, restoring the places in which God’s presence has become hidden or misrepresented. Have courage and be tender.
Gateway to Silence:

You make all things new.
———————————————————-

All Things New

Monday, December 25, 2017

(Christmas)

Yearning for a new way will not produce it. Only ending the old way can do that.

You cannot hold onto the old, all the while declaring that you want something new.

The old will defy the new;

The old will deny the new;

The old will decry the new.

There is only one way to bring in the new. You must make room for it.

—Neale Donald Walsch [1]
My spiritual father, Francis of Assisi (1181-1226), was a master of making room for the new and letting go of that which was tired or empty. He was ready for absolute newness from God and therefore could also trust fresh and new attitudes in himself. His God was not tired, and so he was never tired. His God was not old, so Francis remained forever young.
Francis was the first to create a living nativity scene, bringing to life the revolutionary new way God revealed God’s self in the vulnerability of a baby in a manger. The Incarnation of God in Jesus was foundational to Francis, and he wanted others to experience its life-changing power.
Francis was at once very traditional and entirely new in the ways of holiness. Franciscanism is not an iconoclastic dismissal of traditional Christian images, history, or culture, but a positive choosing of the deep, shining, and enduring divine images that are hidden beneath the too-easy formulas. It is no fast-food religion, but slow and healthy nutrition.
Both Jesus and Francis did not let the old get in the way of the new, but like all religious geniuses, revealed what the old was saying all along. Francis both named and exemplified that “first, churchless incarnation in the human heart.” [2] But somehow he also knew that it was the half-knowing, organized Church that passed this shared mystery on to him and preserved it for future generations. He had the humility and patience to know that whatever is true is always a shared truth; and only institutions, for all their weaknesses, make this widely shareable, historical, and communal.
Both Jesus and Francis were “conservatives” in the true sense of the term: they conserved what was worth conserving—the core, the transformative life of the Gospel—and did not let accidentals get in the way. They then ended up looking quite “progressive,” radical, and even dangerous to the status quo. This is the biblical pattern, from Abraham to Moses, to Jeremiah, Job, John the Baptist, Mary, and Joseph.

Gateway to Silence:

You make all things new.
————————————————-

His Birth and Our New Birth

By Oswald Chambers

“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” —Matthew 1:23

His Birth in History. “…that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God (Luke 1:35). Jesus Christ was born into this world, not from it. He did not emerge out of history; He came into history from the outside. Jesus Christ is not the best human being the human race can boast of— He is a Being for whom the human race can take no credit at all. He is not man becoming God, but God Incarnate— God coming into human flesh from outside it. His life is the highest and the holiest entering through the most humble of doors. Our Lord’s birth was an advent— the appearance of God in human form.
His Birth in Me. “My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you…” (Galatians 4:19). Just as our Lord came into human history from outside it, He must also come into me from outside. Have I allowed my personal human life to become a “Bethlehem” for the Son of God? I cannot enter the realm of the kingdom of God unless I am born again from above by a birth totally unlike physical birth. “You must be born again” (John 3:7). This is not a command, but a fact based on the authority of God. The evidence of the new birth is that I yield myself so completely to God that “Christ is formed” in me. And once “Christ is formed” in me, His nature immediately begins to work through me.
God Evident in the Flesh. This is what is made so profoundly possible for you and for me through the redemption of man by Jesus Christ.

Choosing Heaven

December 22nd, 2017 by Dave No comments »

Choosing Heaven

Friday, December 22, 2017 Richard Rohr

Today I’d like to share a reflection from Franciscan sister and scientist Ilia Delio (who in turn presents insights from Rabbi Rami Shapiro) to end our week of reflection on eternity, love, and heaven:
Heaven is earth transformed by love when earthly life is lived in love; the suffering of earth is transformed into a foretaste of heaven when one sees and hears from the inner center of love. Even in heaven the wounds of suffering will not be removed but will be transformed by divine love into new and eternal life. Heaven is not a place of eternal rest or a long sleep-in, but a life of creativity and newness in love; one with God in the transformation of all things. . . .
One might think, on face value, that the self-creation of heaven and hell conflicts with the scriptures, but in fact, the gospel message is based on invitation and choice, symbolized by the parable of the wedding feast: “‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner . . . and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’ But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business” (Matthew 22:1-14). The question of heaven is not one of worthiness before God but accepting God’s invitation for life: “I have set before you life and death, choose life” (Deuteronomy 30:19). . . .
Christian life requires a conscious decision to shift the mind (metanoia) by training the mind to focus on the central values of the gospel and to dispense with all other things. Without the choice for a new level of consciousness, there can be no new reality or reign of God. Where our minds focus, there our treasure lies. As Rabbi Shapiro writes, “I made the choice for heaven and, having done so, I went in search of tools for living it.” [1] When Teilhard [de Chardin] said that we are evolution made conscious of itself, he indicated a basic lesson of modern science: there is no real “world” apart from us; rather, the world unfolds in and through our choices and actions. The concept of world is like a mirror; empty in itself, it can only reflect to the giver the values it receives. Rabbi Shapiro [asks]:
Will you engage this moment with kindness or with cruelty, with love or with fear, with generosity or scarcity, with a joyous heart or an embittered one? This is your choice and no one can make it for you. If you choose kindness, love, generosity, and joy, then you will discover in that choice the Kingdom of God, heaven, nirvana, this-worldly salvation. If you choose cruelty, fear, scarcity, and bitterness, then you will discover in that choice the hellish states of which so many religions speak. These are not ontological realities tucked away somewhere in space—these are existential realities playing out in your own mind. Heaven and hell are both inside of you. It is your choice that determines just where you will reside. [2]

Gateway to Silence:

Going home to Love
————————————
The Drawing of the Father

By Oswald Chambers

No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him… —John 6:44

When God begins to draw me to Himself, the problem of my will comes in immediately. Will I react positively to the truth that God has revealed? Will I come to Him? To discuss or deliberate over spiritual matters when God calls is inappropriate and disrespectful to Him. When God speaks, never discuss it with anyone as if to decide what your response may be (see Galatians 1:15-16). Belief is not the result of an intellectual act, but the result of an act of my will whereby I deliberately commit myself. But will I commit, placing myself completely and absolutely on God, and be willing to act solely on what He says? If I will, I will find that I am grounded on reality as certain as God’s throne.
In preaching the gospel, always focus on the matter of the will. Belief must come from the will to believe. There must be a surrender of the will, not a surrender to a persuasive or powerful argument. I must deliberately step out, placing my faith in God and in His truth. And I must place no confidence in my own works, but only in God. Trusting in my own mental understanding becomes a hindrance to complete trust in God. I must be willing to ignore and leave my feelings behind. I must will to believe. But this can never be accomplished without my forceful, determined effort to separate myself from my old ways of looking at things. I must surrender myself completely to God.
Everyone has been created with the ability to reach out beyond his own grasp. But it is God who draws me, and my relationship to Him in the first place is an inner, personal one, not an intellectual one. I come into the relationship through the miracle of God and through my own will to believe. Then I begin to get an intelligent appreciation and understanding of the wonder of the transformation in my life.

Heaven

December 21st, 2017 by JDVaughn No comments »

The Home of Love

Richard Rohn
Thursday, December 21, 2017

Mutual presence or intimacy is the ultimate goal of the spiritual journey. Perhaps this is why images of bride and bridegroom are so commonly used by the prophets, the Song of Songs, John the Baptist, Jesus, and in the last verses of the Bible where the marriage is symbolically consummated (Revelation 19:7; 21:2, 9; 22:17).

Remember, presence does not happen in the mind. All the mind can handle is before and after; it does not know how to be present in the now. That is the mind’s great limitation. This is why all teachers of prayer give us methods for literally moving “beyond the mind” (meta-noia), which so many Bibles since St. Jerome’s unfortunate Latin (poenitentia) translate as “repent.”

To be capable of mutual indwelling or co-inherence means that religion has achieved its full and final purpose. Bride and bridegroom are together just for the sake of being together! Presence is the naked language of union, of being lost and found in the face of the other, or in Jesus, the very breath of the Other (John 20:22). If that is the core meaning of eternal life, then why wouldn’t you practice it now, enjoy it now, choose it now? How you get there is where you will arrive.

You don’t have to figure it all out or get everything right ahead of time. You just have to stay on the full journey. None of us know how to be perfect, but we can practice staying in union, staying connected. “Remain in me and I remain in you,” says Jesus (see John 15:7). It is about abiding, not performing. It is about holding to your core identity more than perfect behavior—which would only make you proud and self-sufficient—even if it were possible.

If you are already at home in love, you will easily and quickly go to the home of love, which is what we mean by heaven. God doesn’t keep anybody from heaven. But some people are not choosing heaven. If you don’t want a trusting relationship of love now, why would you want one later? We must be honest with ourselves.

In third grade, the nuns told me that heaven would be looking at God, at a “beatific vision,” for all eternity. As a child, this sounded quite boring to me. But now that I’ve had experiences of deep love and union with God, I am enthralled with the possibility of infinite life and love. It must be a state of constant growth and newness since love is infinitely good, “the greatest” of the things that last (1 Corinthians 13:13).

Every day and in every way, we must choose to live in love. It is mostly a decision, not a feeling. We must even be eager to learn the ever-deeper ways of love which follow from every decision to love.

Gateway to Silence:
Going home to Love

____________________________________________

Experience or God’s Revealed Truth?

By Oswald Chambers

We have received…the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. —1 Corinthians 2:12

My experience is not what makes redemption real— redemption is reality. Redemption has no real meaning for me until it is worked out through my conscious life. When I am born again, the Spirit of God takes me beyond myself and my experiences, and identifies me with Jesus Christ. If I am left only with my personal experiences, I am left with something not produced by redemption. But experiences produced by redemption prove themselves by leading me beyond myself, to the point of no longer paying any attention to experiences as the basis of reality. Instead, I see that only the reality itself produced the experiences. My experiences are not worth anything unless they keep me at the Source of truth— Jesus Christ.

If you try to hold back the Holy Spirit within you, with the desire of producing more inner spiritual experiences, you will find that He will break the hold and take you again to the historic Christ. Never support an experience which does not have God as its Source and faith in God as its result. If you do, your experience is anti-Christian, no matter what visions or insights you may have had. Is Jesus Christ Lord of your experiences, or do you place your experiences above Him? Is any experience dearer to you than your Lord? You must allow Him to be Lord over you, and pay no attention to any experience over which He is not Lord. Then there will come a time when God will make you impatient with your own experience, and you can truthfully say, “I do not care what I experience— I am sure of Him!”

Be relentless and hard on yourself if you are in the habit of talking about the experiences you have had. Faith based on experience is not faith; faith based on God’s revealed truth is the only faith there is.

The Search for the Real

December 20th, 2017 by Dave No comments »

Heaven The Search for the Real
Wednesday, December 20, 2017

We are created with an inner restlessness that sends all of us looking for our True Self, whether we know it or not. There is a God-sized hole waiting to be filled. God creates the very dissatisfaction that finally only divine grace and love can satisfy.
We dare not try to fill our souls and minds with numbing addictions, diversionary tactics, or mindless distractions. The root of evil is much more selfishness, superficiality, and ignorance than the usually listed “hot sins.” God hides, and is found, precisely in the depths of everything, even and maybe especially in the deep fathoming of our fallings and failures.
If we go to the depths of anything, we will begin to knock upon something substantial, “real,” and with a timeless quality to it. We will move from “belief” to an actual inner knowing. This is most especially true if we have ever loved truly, accompanied someone through the mystery of dying, or stood in awe before mystery, time, or beauty.
This “something real” is what all the world religions point to when they speak of heaven, nirvana, bliss, or enlightenment. Our mistake has been delaying that inner state until after death. If heaven is later, that’s because it is first of all now. When we die before we die, we are surrendering to the Real, to our union with God ahead of time. Why wait? If God loves us now, why not later too?
Experiences of the Real here on earth are the pledge, guarantee, hint, and promise of an eternal something. Once we touch upon the Real, there is an inner insistence that the Real, if it is the Real, has to be forever. Call it wishful thinking, if you will, but this insistence has been a recurring intuition since the beginnings of humanity. Jesus promised the Samaritan woman that “the spring within you will well up unto eternal life” (John 4:14). In other words, heaven/union/love emerges from deep wellsprings within us, which can only imply it is already there. Why, since that is true, does most organized religion keep us concentrating on external “holy” things outside the self? The primary sacrament is the soul itself (I have the courage and authority to speak this way from experts like Augustine, all the Teresas, John of the Cross, and any mystic worthy of the name.)
Our task is simply to embody heaven now. We cannot “get there”; we can only “be there”—which ironically is to “be here!” Love, like prayer, is not so much an action that we do, but a reality that we are. We don’t decide to be loving. Love is our True Self. It is where we came from and where we’re going. All spiritual growth is no more than a matter of becoming who we already are.

Gateway to Silence:
Going home to Love
—————————-

The Right Kind of Help
By Oswald Chambers

And I, if I am lifted up…will draw all peoples to Myself. —John 12:32
Very few of us have any understanding of the reason why Jesus Christ died. If sympathy is all that human beings need, then the Cross of Christ is an absurdity and there is absolutely no need for it. What the world needs is not “a little bit of love,” but major surgery.
When you find yourself face to face with a person who is spiritually lost, remind yourself of Jesus Christ on the cross. If that person can get to God in any other way, then the Cross of Christ is unnecessary. If you think you are helping lost people with your sympathy and understanding, you are a traitor to Jesus Christ. You must have a right-standing relationship with Him yourself, and pour your life out in helping others in His way— not in a human way that ignores God. The theme of the world’s religion today is to serve in a pleasant, non-confrontational manner.
But our only priority must be to present Jesus Christ crucified— to lift Him up all the time (see 1 Corinthians 2:2). Every belief that is not firmly rooted in the Cross of Christ will lead people astray. If the worker himself believes in Jesus Christ and is trusting in the reality of redemption, his words will be compelling to others. What is extremely important is for the worker’s simple relationship with Jesus Christ to be strong and growing. His usefulness to God depends on that, and that alone.
The calling of a New Testament worker is to expose sin and to reveal Jesus Christ as Savior. Consequently, he cannot always be charming and friendly, but must be willing to be stern to accomplish major surgery. We are sent by God to lift up Jesus Christ, not to give wonderfully beautiful speeches. We must be willing to examine others as deeply as God has examined us. We must also be sharply intent on sensing those Scripture passages that will drive the truth home, and then not be afraid to apply them.

Heaven

The Search for the Real

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

We are created with an inner restlessness that sends all of us looking for our True Self, whether we know it or not. There is a God-sized hole waiting to be filled. God creates the very dissatisfaction that finally only divine grace and love can satisfy.
We dare not try to fill our souls and minds with numbing addictions, diversionary tactics, or mindless distractions. The root of evil is much more selfishness, superficiality, and ignorance than the usually listed “hot sins.” God hides, and is found, precisely in the depths of everything, even and maybe especially in the deep fathoming of our fallings and failures.
If we go to the depths of anything, we will begin to knock upon something substantial, “real,” and with a timeless quality to it. We will move from “belief” to an actual inner knowing. This is most especially true if we have ever loved truly, accompanied someone through the mystery of dying, or stood in awe before mystery, time, or beauty.
This “something real” is what all the world religions point to when they speak of heaven, nirvana, bliss, or enlightenment. Our mistake has been delaying that inner state until after death. If heaven is later, that’s because it is first of all now. When we die before we die, we are surrendering to the Real, to our union with God ahead of time. Why wait? If God loves us now, why not later too?
Experiences of the Real here on earth are the pledge, guarantee, hint, and promise of an eternal something. Once we touch upon the Real, there is an inner insistence that the Real, if it is the Real, has to be forever. Call it wishful thinking, if you will, but this insistence has been a recurring intuition since the beginnings of humanity. Jesus promised the Samaritan woman that “the spring within you will well up unto eternal life” (John 4:14). In other words, heaven/union/love emerges from deep wellsprings within us, which can only imply it is already there. Why, since that is true, does most organized religion keep us concentrating on external “holy” things outside the self? The primary sacrament is the soul itself (I have the courage and authority to speak this way from experts like Augustine, all the Teresas, John of the Cross, and any mystic worthy of the name.)
Our task is simply to embody heaven now. We cannot “get there”; we can only “be there”—which ironically is to “be here!” Love, like prayer, is not so much an action that we do, but a reality that we are. We don’t decide to be loving. Love is our True Self. It is where we came from and where we’re going. All spiritual growth is no more than a matter of becoming who we already are.
Gateway to Silence:

Going home to Love

The Right Kind of Help

By Oswald Chambers

And I, if I am lifted up…will draw all peoples to Myself. —John 12:32

Very few of us have any understanding of the reason why Jesus Christ died. If sympathy is all that human beings need, then the Cross of Christ is an absurdity and there is absolutely no need for it. What the world needs is not “a little bit of love,” but major surgery.
When you find yourself face to face with a person who is spiritually lost, remind yourself of Jesus Christ on the cross. If that person can get to God in any other way, then the Cross of Christ is unnecessary. If you think you are helping lost people with your sympathy and understanding, you are a traitor to Jesus Christ. You must have a right-standing relationship with Him yourself, and pour your life out in helping others in His way— not in a human way that ignores God. The theme of the world’s religion today is to serve in a pleasant, non-confrontational manner.
But our only priority must be to present Jesus Christ crucified— to lift Him up all the time (see 1 Corinthians 2:2). Every belief that is not firmly rooted in the Cross of Christ will lead people astray. If the worker himself believes in Jesus Christ and is trusting in the reality of redemption, his words will be compelling to others. What is extremely important is for the worker’s simple relationship with Jesus Christ to be strong and growing. His usefulness to God depends on that, and that alone.
The calling of a New Testament worker is to expose sin and to reveal Jesus Christ as Savior. Consequently, he cannot always be charming and friendly, but must be willing to be stern to accomplish major surgery. We are sent by God to lift up Jesus Christ, not to give wonderfully beautiful speeches. We must be willing to examine others as deeply as God has examined us. We must also be sharply intent on sensing those Scripture passages that will drive the truth home, and then not be afraid to apply them.

Heaven

December 19th, 2017 by JDVaughn No comments »

Richard Rohr

Returning to Union
Tuesday, December 19, 2017

A familiar—and apparently true—story of a newborn baby’s homecoming illustrates the implanted memory of union or heaven. A newborn’s precocious four-year old sibling tells her parents, “I want to talk to my new little brother alone.” The parents put their ears to the nursery door and hear the little girl saying to her baby brother, “Quick, tell me who made you. Tell me where you came from. I’m beginning to forget!”

The baby represents the “little ones” Jesus praises, the innocent children and mystics who know their belovedness and union with God. The four-year-old represents most of us, caught in between knowing and forgetting and wanting to know again! In the complexity of life’s journey, we all begin to forget. It grows harder and harder to remember our original identity in God. Many of us experience a crisis of meaning and hope that keeps us scrambling for external power, perks, and possessions, trying to fill the void.

I am saddened that much of Christian history has had so little inner experience to trust that divine union could really be true for us—already and now. Once we know there is an original implanted and positive direction to our existence, we can trust the primary flow (faith); eventually we will learn to calmly rest there (hope); and we can actually become a conduit (love). Finally, we are at home both here and forever. What else could salvation be? Remember, “There are only three things that last: faith, hope, and love” (1 Corinthians 13:13).

Going to heaven is not the goal of religion. Salvation isn’t an evacuation plan or a reward for the next world. Whenever we live in conscious, loving union with God, which is eventually to love everything, we are saved. This can and should happen now in this world. Social justice advocate Dorothy Day (1897-1980) credited Catherine of Siena’s inspiration for her often-shared words: “All the way to Heaven is heaven, because He said, ‘I am the Way.’” [1] Even Pope John Paul II said that heaven and hell are not geographic places but states of consciousness. [2] When we understand this, we will spend our lives trying to bring about the Lord’s Prayer: Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

In a sense, the Christ is always too much for us. He’s always “going ahead of us into Galilee” (Matthew 28:7). The Risen Christ is leading us into a future for which we’re never fully ready. How can we even imagine divine union? It is too big a concept for most of us. “These are the things that no eye has seen and no ear has heard, things beyond the mind of humanity—what God has prepared for those who love” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

Gateway to Silence:
Going home to Love

_______________________________________________

The Focus Of Our Message

By Oswald Chambers

 I did not come to bring peace but a sword. —Matthew 10:34

Never be sympathetic with a person whose situation causes you to conclude that God is dealing harshly with him. God can be more tender than we can conceive, and every once in a while He gives us the opportunity to deal firmly with someone so that He may be viewed as the tender One. If a person cannot go to God, it is because he has something secret which he does not intend to give up— he may admit his sin, but would no more give up that thing than he could fly under his own power. It is impossible to deal sympathetically with people like that. We must reach down deep in their lives to the root of the problem, which will cause hostility and resentment toward the message. People want the blessing of God, but they can’t stand something that pierces right through to the heart of the matter.

If you are sensitive to God’s way, your message as His servant will be merciless and insistent, cutting to the very root. Otherwise, there will be no healing. We must drive the message home so forcefully that a person cannot possibly hide, but must apply its truth. Deal with people where they are, until they begin to realize their true need. Then hold high the standard of Jesus for their lives. Their response may be, “We can never be that.” Then drive it home with, “Jesus Christ says you must.” “But how can we be?” “You can’t, unless you have a new Spirit” (see Luke 11:13).

There must be a sense of need created before your message is of any use. Thousands of people in this world profess to be happy without God. But if we could be truly happy and moral without Jesus, then why did He come? He came because that kind of happiness and peace is only superficial. Jesus Christ came to “bring…a sword” through every kind of peace that is not based on a personal relationship with Himself.