June 9th, 2008
What is the “Mark?”
A bit of explanation as to the beginning: The friend who received my e-mail had informed me in a previous e-mail that someone had e-mailed my friend (what did we do without e-mails) letting my friend know that there was a “Jewish Zionist” conspiracy to take over the world. Please do not send me an e-mail telling me how true it is or how much it is a lie from the pit of hell. I could have removed the comment and my comment about the church, money and bankers but to do so would have made the rest of the first paragraph pointless and my ego wanted to leave it in.
Hi ****: So it is the Jews who are taking over the world? Oh well, blame it on the church who long ago thought money was evil and so they “let” the Jews be bankers. I really like conspiracy theories - oh wait - actually it was the movie Conspiracy Theory with Mel Gibson and Julia Roberts that I really liked. Well actually, I really like both. And I must admit that there is a part of me that likes the idea of doing something so that it appears that others actually did it and end up getting blamed. When I made the huge changes to our web site I should have blamed it on hackers. Of course I could only get away with that for so long. Hard to convince everyone that the site was hacked into every day.
Not surprisingly, I have NOT received a plethora of e-mails suggesting how lost, unsaved,, backslidden, heretical, and deranged I now am, based upon my absurd theological views though (not sure I mentioned this) one person stated that he would have no problem now viewing me as a "spiritual moron." Actually, much to the chagrin of my ego, most people are content to simply hit delete, trust me to keep my word and remove them from my e-mail list (which I did) since I didn't hear back from them and then they can get on with their life, minus my brilliant insights, as unthinkable as that may be.
Indeed, my "spiritual cooties" condition is making the rounds somewhat in the circles that know me. Always fun to hear someone tell you that they did hear through the grapevine that I was now a little weird, entertaining "strange" thoughts and ideas.
Actually there is something "weird" about this whole situation. A good friend and I were discussing how quickly a large part of our "belief structure" fell away. It was like 20+ years of beliefs evaporated almost over night. It would be like being Rush Limbaugh and waking up the next morning and you are Hillary Clinton. That would definitely be weird.
You "foolishly" mentioned that you wouldn't mind hearing more of my thoughts on hell and salvation. Be prepared for a book. However for this e-mail I will keep it down to a chapter or two. I am quite comfortable with the statement that “salvation” in the Old Testament NEVER had anything to do with escaping some place of eternal torment. There is one verse and one verse only in the entire O.T. that I think could be used to try and prove that concept -- one verse in 39 books. To think that Jesus showed up and dropped this bombshell teaching out of the blue is ludicrous. And to create the doctrine of hell in the N.T. one must ignore culture and context when it comes to Gehenna/the Valley of Hinnom, and one must also badly interpret aion in the Greek and olam in the Hebrew. Not to mention ignoring a plethora of verses that state the opposite.
I have suggested that once we understand what sin is, then we can understand what salvation is. Using the ancient Hebrew definition of sin, it simply means "to miss the mark." Most people have heard that definition and accept it for the most part. Then I ask the question "What is the mark" that we miss?" Often, I get mumbled responses or blank stares because few if any seem to know the answer or at least they aren't confident enough with their answer to share it. Actually, I think most of never thought about it and so the question catches them off guard.
My suggestion is that the "mark" is in fact "the image of God." Sin is anything we do that diminishes who we are, i.e. sons and daughters of God created in His/Her image. The mark we are aiming at is the image of God. Salvation is simply being restored to that image. We could say it in many different ways... prospering in body, soul and spirit, experiencing the fullness of God, overcoming the lusts of the flesh(though that one needs to be carefully defined) and experiencing the fruit of the spirit. It is transforming from dysfunctional human beings controlled by an egoic self into true human beings manifesting the very image of God. It is knowing who you are to such a degree that nothing truly rocks your boat and if the boat is rocking too much because of others, you just might get out and walk on the water.
Jesus' mission/ministry was indeed to save us from our sins but I don't for a moment think that means save me from a God who is going to punish me without mercy forever but it means to save me from " my self, my carnal mind, my ego." It means He came to show me who I truly am and to show me that the true me lies inside me and when that true me rises up (resurrects or is born from above if you will) I will experience eternal life, i.e. the kingdom of God within me and from that "space" will flow out into the world the abundant life, the living water that He spoke of. That true me is the one Paul spoke of in Romans 7 who truly loves God and others and ALWAYS hits the mark. Salvation is becoming aware of who you truly are and living our lives out of that identity. And it certainly involves crucifying the "self/ego/carnal mind" daily.
As to hell - I have no problem that hell is a place of suffering, fear, violence and injustice where people are punished unceasingly. It is a very real place. It is found within our ego/mind, in that place where we incessantly think and judge ourselves and others. It is the place where we will let our minds run rampant and fill ourselves with worry, anger, offence, etc. so that it is impossible to truly "live." In that place dwell two "people", the "judge" and the "victim" and the egoic self is the consummate actor, playing both roles to the hilt. It is the "woe is me," "I don't deserve this," "how could they do this do me" place as well as the "I am so stupid," "I am no good," "I can't do anything," "A Christian would never do what I just did," "I am such a rotten person" place. It’s the place where the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (Right and Wrong) absolutely flourishes and chokes out the Tree of Life. It is the place where we are constantly judging ourselves and others and inflicting punishment upon ourselves and others for their misdeeds. It is the punishment that never ends. If we could, we would drag things up that occurred before "In the beginning..." and punish ourselves or others for supposed misdeeds, despite the fact that we have punished ourselves and others a thousand times before for the same "crimes."
The Greek and Hebrew words that we translate as forever, everlasting or eternal really don't mean that but they do carry the idea of an indeterminate length of time, often lengthy or hidden/secret. I have no problem that people spend lengthy times in "hell," but it is often self-inflicted and though Jesus could set them free in an instant, amazingly some people actually seem to enjoy being there, or in some cases, they simply can't envision living any other way. Oh indeed the captives need to be set free.
You mentioned that Jesus never came to start a new religion. I would agree 100%. I think he came to share his teachings and those teachings are universal truths. If someone is following some of those truths in their life, I have no problem that they will experience God to some degree, even if they have no clue that Jesus taught these things. I also have this feeling that these universal truths have been taught since man was created so they can be found to some degree in a lot of "places" other than Christianity and the Bible. Jesus however is the ultimate expression of those truths. He is the manifestation of the Fullness of God in the flesh. He is that "mark" that we are striving for personified. And He died at the hands of the political and religious system/leaders who are not about to let the captives go free because to do so means they lose all their control, authority and power (not to mention a lot of money). He was indeed willing to die for us in order to show us the way to be set free so I have no problem seeing Him as the Saviour of the world.
It is this outlook/belief/way of thinking that allows me to feel comfortable with Wayne Dyer, Eckhart Tolle, Neale Donald Walsch, Caroline Myss, the Toltec teachers and on and on, and yes I have books by all of them and more. I remember back in my more "fundamental" days, a friend of mine told me about a book that he thought was great but was sure I wouldn't read. It was The Celestine Prophecy. I was staying overnight at his house and after he went to bed, I read the book. The next morning, to his surprise, I told him how much I enjoyed it. I explained to him that in my opinion, virtually every “new age insight" contained in the book was also in the Bible. What saddened me was that the author, James Redfield, did a better job of presenting those truths/insights than most Christian bible teachers or authors do. I would say the very same thing about Dyer, Tolle, etc.
Of course, it also makes it a lot easier when I think Christianity has really messed up the Bible including its interpretation and presents a very inaccurate concept of God. I guess with that "bias" I don't have a lot of problems reading those who are definitely outside the box of Christianity.
Okay enough of all of that... one last thing for this e-mail. We are definitely outside the box of a standard church. Kelly and I currently meet with about 14 other people. We have in the past gathered in homes, back yards, parks, a Holiday Inn meeting room, a Lawn Bowling Club, a meeting room in a condominium building, a Presbyterian church etc. Currently homes, back yards, parks and the condo meeting room serve as our "meeting place." Can't remember the last time we had a formal service. Usually we will have a time of discussion, then more discussion and fellowship and then a meal in which we all contribute. Then for those who want to, more fellowship and more discussion. Sometimes we watch a movie or DVD, like a Tolle teaching or hopefully in the next week or two, What About Bob or Groundhog Day. We have also managed to get away. For example, last October, I found these 5 bedroom cabins near Gatlinburg Tennessee that were available for a great price. So most of our group and a few others (20 all together) rented two cabins side by side and spent a week hanging out. People took turns cooking etc. We had a great time.
Looking for our next place to go. Found a fantastic villa in Costa Rica. More than the Gatlinburg trip, that is for sure. We don't have a lot of money but one never knows. (Of course, I won't mention that I found the place because a couple e-mailed me about a "Tantric Sex" seminar taking place at the villa.) You may not be aware of it but for some reason, church people can get more uptight about that three letter word, sex, than they do about the other three letter word....sin. Oops I forgot, in some religious minds, those words are synonyms.
Anyway that's it for now.
Blessings, shalom, namaste