Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Cart Before The Horse

I’ve always taken a lot of heat for having questions about church doctrine that other people find easy to believe. I tried to explain why in an earlier blog. Now I’m hearing it for suggesting, although I’ve seen it for more than thirty years, that healing by the laying on of hands doesn’t occur often enough in the church. I guess I need to look at this a little more carefully. I really do believe what Jesus said about us being able to do what he did, and I look forward to the day when it becomes normal practice in the life of all Christians. Healing the sick is what we should be doing and I respect anyone who is seeking the gift. But for some reason the gift isn’t coming to us easily. I’m willing to admit that fact in hopes that we may find out what’s wrong and fix it.

Anyone who has attended a mega-healing-conference (I’ve been to several) knows what a small percentage of people - compared to the number in attendance - get healed of anything. Those who do are talked about and written about as proof of success as if it happens all the time. We want so much to feel the touch of God. We think if we heal the sick and raise the dead we’ll become more like Jesus, but in fact it’s the other way around. When we become more like Jesus we'll be able to heal the sick and raise the dead. It’s a classic case of the cart before the horse. Healing is not a gift - no matter what the church says - that you develop by trying it on people over and over until it works. There’s no evidence in the bible that Jesus had to practice, nor was he was ever unsuccessful when he prayed for someone. (Well maybe one time he had to pray twice). But praying in Jesus’ name just doesn’t seem to get the same results for us as it did for him. Something is missing. Let's see if we can find out what it is.

Hmmm. Jesus of Nazareth was a man just like us. The church says he was the only begotten Son of God. Is that why he was able to do miracles? I don’t think so. He knew who we were yet he still said we would do greater things. So that’s not it. Was he just wrong about that? I don’t think so. How could Jesus be wrong about something? Did he spend all those missing years studying before he prayed for the first leper? Maybe. I really do think (and there’s a lot of evidence to support it) that he spent some time in the East learning about things the Church doesn't tell us. But it’s not just that. Did he know something we don’t know? YES. There’s the elusive answer. He knew something we don’t know. He knew the truth about the relationship between God and man. There it is. That’s it. Jesus understood who he was in God - and we don’t. 

And so we need the Church to intercede for us. We have to ask for help from above and pray in Jesus' name because we don’t realize the authority we have in our own. Why? Because we’ve been told we’re sinners, separate and apart from a God who has the power and who may or may not give us some depending on how good we are. We have this relationship with God thing all wrong. He lives in us - and through us - just like he did with Jesus. He loves us the same way he loved Jesus. His power is available for us the same way it was for Jesus. The reason we can be like Jesus is simply because we are like Jesus. That’s the real good news. Jesus knew the way the universe worked and tried to tell us about it in the Gnostic gospels. We're just now starting to learn about the one-ness of life and how matter responds to consciousness. When these kinds of things becomes real to us we'll be able to change the course of disease and illness the same way he did. We have access to the same power. We're part of the same "one-ness".

Fortunately, as if by divine coincidence, just as the spirit of truth is beginning to awaken these things in us, science is beginning to prove them. We really are all one with the source. We are not separate from God. He doesn't exist in a heavenly realm somewhere apart from us. He is in us. He is in us because he is us. That’s the real untold truth of the Holy Spirit. And that's why Jesus said it would be better for us if he left. He knew as long as we depended on him we would never learn the amazing truth about ourselves. When that truth becomes our reality we will have a new understanding of everything. What the bible says about a God of love will make perfect sense in a whole new way. In fact everything we’ve been taught will make sense in a new way - even healing. Someday we’ll see it happening for us the same way it did for Jesus. He said it would. That’s all I want to see.

Then I promise not to question it anymore.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Can We Talk?

That’s what Joan Rivers says when she wants someone to get serious and be honest with her. I heard some things in church this morning that I need to get off my chest. Sorry if it departs from the intended continuity of this blog.

I got “saved” in June of 1982, so next year will be my 30th anniversary in the church. Add to that 12 years of Catholic school and it means I’ve been hearing about the Good News for two thirds of my life. I say this like Paul in order to qualify what I’m about to say. I’m a water-baptized, spirit-filled, bible-reading, tithing, homegroup-hosting, worship-leading, mission field-experienced Christian looking for evidence that we’re becoming like Jesus. In 42 years there should be some sign of that, shouldn’t there? It's true I don’t lose my peace as quickly when someone cuts me off on the parkway, but is that the best I can say? What I'm looking for is some victorious living in the body of Christ - people operating in the power and authority that Jesus promised and not just talking about it. Are we doing what it takes to see that happen? I have friends who struggle with chronic depression, debilitating physical conditions, and lifelong addictions. They've been in church all their lives and nothing they do seems to help them. People keep praying for them because a famous church leader once told us, "If healing doesn't come in 99 tries, try 100". I’m happy to hear about successes in Africa and Bolivia, but if healings are proof that we're moving into Christ-likeness then I'd like to see it happen for someone I know - at least someone who knows someone I know. Even if I don't see any healing miracles it would be nice to see a church full of genuinely joyful people - not acting like it while inside they're just trying to get by.

Today in my church our pastor told us not to lose our faith if we're struggling. He said we need to keep obeying God's word and circumstances will change because this world isn’t our home. Is that really what the Good News has come to? The moral structure of our society has collapsed along with the economy and there’s little hope for a recovery of either. We have enemies all over the world at a time when turning the other cheek is nothing more than an ideology that Christians don't even believe. The world is going to hell in a hand basket while we wait for Jesus to come and do something. Can we talk about all this without someone denying it and telling me if I exercise my faith I’ll see all the good things that are happening in peoples’ lives?   

Dr. Charles Stanley (whom I like very much) says the purpose of life is to come to the fullness of Christ-likeness - not signs of Christ-likeness - FULL Christ-likeness. Paul told us that we are NEW CREATIONS who have the MIND of CHRIST. These are lofty things that I’ve heard all my life. But what do they mean? And does it really happen to anyone? Just this morning in church we declared the following things in our “worship” songs. “I’m so unworthy”, “Lord you’re all I need”, and “I will wait for you to come and rescue me”. Is that the mind of Christ talking? God himself is alive in us yet we continue to speak separation into existence and wonder why we have no joy and no power. When are we going to come to our senses?

The good news is science is beginning to show us there is no separation between us and the source of the joy and power we seek - only a one-ness that Jesus talked about in the Gnostic Gospels. The bad news is we aren’t allowed to believe what Jesus said in the Gnostic Gospels because they weren’t inspired by God. How and why this awesomely narrow-minded position has been supported without question throughout church history is beyond me. The recognition of our identity in God is the key to our transformation and the answer to all our questions. Thankfully there will come a time when it becomes an accepted truth. Until then, no matter what lip service the church gives to the Holy Spirit, the present truth is this: We can’t move in power because we think it comes from somewhere outside of us. We pray for things in Jesus’ name because we don’t understand the authority of our own. I’m so thankful for his amazing, God-realized life, but Jesus didn’t intend to be idolized to the extent that we are helpless without him.  

There’s a Zen parable that illustrates what I mean.

The teacher’s dog loved his evening romps with his master. The dog would bound ahead, fetch a stick, then run back to wait for the next throw. One evening the teacher invited his brightest student to join them, a boy troubled by the seeming contradictions of Buddhist doctrine.

“You must understand”, said the teacher, “that words are only guideposts. Never let words or symbols keep you from experiencing the truth. Here, I’ll show you”.

With that the teacher called his happy dog. “Fetch me the moon”, the teacher said to the dog and pointed to the full moon. 

“Where is my dog looking”? asked the teacher of the bright pupil.  

“He’s looking at your finger”, the boy said.

“Exactly. Don’t be like my dog. Don’t confuse the pointer with the thing being pointed to.”

I’m not sure about this but as a child of God, and under the trusted guidance of the Holy Spirit for 30 years, I can’t help thinking that we’ve missed the point of Jesus’ life. In adoring him as the only begotten Son who atoned for man’s sin to appease a wrathful God, we’ve completely missed the fact that he beckons us and empowers us to be more than human life has yet been. He is calling us back to a place of unity and wholeness that existed in the beginning when there was nothing separate from God - back to an awareness of our true identity. It is in this place that we fully experience God. It is only from this place that we will realize our fullness in Christ and begin to see evidence of the joyful and victorious lives we seek.