I've known God since I was a young kid. But what I knew and continue to know about God has nothing to do with experiencing God as a human-like personality with supernatural powers who alters the universe or history as a reward or punishment for human behavior. My communication with God does not result in mystical words spoken to me or by me, visions, or the witnessing of mysterious, unexplained phenomena. These sorts of things reflect a desire for superstitions, and I have no such desire. I accept life exactly as it presents itself. To me, God has been a personal companion, always available to nudge me toward truth and understanding whenever I need and seek it out. God is Truth, manifesting all that is and can be at our individual levels of understanding. I am part of that Truth and can communicate freely with it, because everything I am and will become emerges only from what has always been possible.
What I have come to understand about God is that God is not about religion. God is most clearly experienced in the miracle of life itself, and through expressions of love. Religions may be about human concepts of God, but the reverse is simply not true.
So, does this mean religions are useless or wrong? I do think religions are wrong if they seek to strictly define God through traditions, myths, creeds, rituals, or dogma. However, any religion that helps you learn how to experience and participate in God's presence is certainly not useless. Religions and centers of worship provide excellent opportunities for personal spiritual growth. Supportive spiritual communities can help you discover ways to face whatever is unknown to you with confidence in the presence of God. You'll never know all the answers, but you will always have faith that what you do know and believe, as you keep yourself open to learning, fits perfectly with whatever the final answers actually are.
God is experienced on a personal level and cannot be captured within the creeds of corporate religions. That does not mean that individuals cannot be moved to a God experience of their own through devotion to creeds or by participating in rituals of organized religions, because many are. What it does mean, however, is that the personal experience of God's presence and Truth is the real journey and is more important than surrendering to external pressures to conform to church teachings and dogma.
Be true to what feels right to you and the way you experience life. Always seek guidance from a higher perspective than your immediate personal cares and you will be led toward better, more loving, and more practical answers. Creeds, religions, and spiritual leaders, all can help, but the final decisions need to be what makes sense to you based on your accumulated experiences and knowledge at that point in your life. Religious institutions are best viewed as stepping stones along your path of spiritual growth, not as end-points of your journey.
God is ultimate Truth, so more can always be learned that will draw you closer to God, your personal companion, forever.
Here are the lyrics of a song, the melody of which, has yet to be written. I thought of these lyrics one Christmas season while listening to the beautiful singing of our soprano soloist in church. Even though it is not actually a song until a composer puts music to the words, I still soar with the message and somehow feel a rhythm and melody, anyway. I enjoy reading through it each Christmas season and am happy to share it with you this year.
The Angel Of Your Heart V. 1 Always when life troubles you Seek
the peace that angels do, And
through the work of letting go, Feel
the love of God inflow. I'll
bring the peace you seek inside, But
only when there is no pride. So
open wide your heart to see The
sign of hope you seek from me.
V. 2 I only move when called anew To
heal your life as love can do. It is
your choice to seek me out Even
when you have a doubt. For
having faith is not to know, But to
seek the way to go. Each
journey starts with your desire To
raise your thinking even higher.
V. 3 Let my voice of love renew All
the hopes in life you're due. Let my
song of joy resound Making
life your holy ground. Let my
theme of harmony Lead
you where your life should be. Let
the dream of troubles past Be
subdued by love, at last.
Chorus: I am the angel of your heart
And only soar when you take part.
I am the angel of your mind
To search for pathways new to find.
I spread my wings upon your word
To let you know that God has heard.
I am the angel of your soul,
I am, when Love's your only goal.
Christmas is not really a celebration of a supernatural baby, miraculously born to a virgin more than two thousand years ago. It's about something more important than that. To understand Christmas we should ponder what drove two New Testament gospel writers to use such a story line? What spiritual understandings prompted them to create their particular fictional life stories of Jesus? On the other hand, what eternal insights from these stories can forever lead the human heart and mind toward God? Answering these kinds of questions leads us to the real Christmas story declaring the potential birth and growth of God's love in the heart and mind of each individual.
Let's consider some of the scriptures that tell the traditional Christmas stories and study the spiritual meanings of selected terms used in these scriptures. The spiritual meanings will be definitions drawn from the Metaphysical Bible Dictionary, (MBD) written by Charles Fillmore, Co-Founder of Unity. I will let the selected Bible verses (New American Standard Version) and Fillmore's related definitions speak for themselves.
MBD -- Christ. A name, or title, applied to Jesus of Nazareth (Matt 16:16; Acts 17:3). Jehovah of the Old Testament is the I AM, or Christ of God invisible; the Messiah is the promise of the visible manifestation of that I AM or Christ, and Jesus Christ is the fulfillment in man of that original spiritual I AM, or Jehovah. Christ is the divine-idea man. Jesus is the name that represents an individual expression of the Christ idea. Christ is the only begotten Son of God, or the one complete idea of perfect man in Divine Mind. He is the embodiment of all divine ideas, such as intelligence, life, love, substance, and strength. This Christ, or perfect-man idea existing eternally in Divine Mind, is the true, spiritual, higher self of every individual.
Luke 1:26-33 -- Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee, called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And coming in, he said to her, "Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you." But she was greatly troubled at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this might be. And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God, and behold, you will conceive in your womb, and bear a son, and you shall name Him, Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end. MBD -- Joseph and Mary. The parents of Jesus, represent wisdom and love, which have been ideas in mind, but are now to bring forth a manifestation in substance. Mary, the mother of Jesus, represents the soul that magnifies the Lord "daily in the temple" and through its devotions prepares itself for the higher life. She signifies the divine motherhood of love. She can also be said to be intuition. Luke 2:1-5 -- Now it came about in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all were proceeding to register for the census, everyone to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register, along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. MBD -- Joseph was merely betrothed to Mary, yet she was "great with child"; so Joseph "was minded to put her away privily." This means that we do not in the first stages of the birth of Christ in us understand the process, and sometimes are moved to put it away from us. The soul is heavily charged with divine life, and so full that it cannot express itself intelligently, because no union has yet taken place between it and the understanding (Joseph). Jesus, the perfected-man manifestation, is conceived in the intuitive or soul nature, and is molded in its substance. This coming of the Christ body into activity is the result of an exalted idea sown in the mind and matured by the soul (Mary). The soul is devout and expectant. It believes in the so-called miraculous as a possibility. Mary expected the birth of the Messiah, according to the promise of the Holy Spirit. Matthew 1:19-20 -- And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her, desired to put her away secretly. But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit." MBD -- Our angels are our spiritual perceptive faculties, which ever dwell in the presence of the Father. "Their angels do always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven". The office of the angels is to guard and guide and direct the natural forces of mind and body, which have in them the future of the whole man. Matthew 1:24-25 -- And Joseph arose from his sleep, and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took her as his wife, and kept her a virgin until she gave birth. Luke 2:6-7 -- And it came about that while they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her first-born son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
MBD -- Bethlehem means house of bread symbolizing the abiding place of substance. Judea means praise or spiritual recognition. The tribe of Judah symbolizes the aggregation of thoughts that has acknowledgment of spiritual things as the one and only thought reality. Thus the substance in which the Jesus man is born in us must be spiritual in character.
Luke 2:8-14 -- And in the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. And the angel said to the, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ, the Lord. And this will be a sign for you; you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is please." Matthew 1:1-2 -- Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him." MBD -- Stars: Revelations of Truth that are as yet remote. The human mind cannot conceive the wonders and immensity of the universe of stars in the heavens. The star that pointed the way for the Wise Men to find Jesus was in the east. It symbolizes our inner conviction of our divine sonship. When the Jesus ego first appears in the subconsciousness it is a mere speck of light, a "star in the east." Matthew 2:3-11 -- And when Herod the king heard it, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he began to inquire of them where the Christ was to be born. And they said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it has been written by the prophet." Then Herod secretly called the magi and ascertained from them the time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, "Go and make careful search for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, that I too may come and worship Him." And having heard the king, they went their way; and lo, the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them, until it came and stood over where the Child was. And when they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And they came into the house and saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell down and worshipped Him; and opening their treasures they presented to Him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh. MBD -- Our divine sonship is developed in some people so strongly that they actually see it reflected in the atmosphere and ... believe that a destiny is theirs that cannot be defeated so long as this star is in its ascendancy. This inner conviction of our ability to accomplish whatever we undertake calls forth the very best in us, and helps us to succeed where others of equal ability fail. The accumulated wisdom and experience of the soul (Wise Men from the East) rejoice when this faith in one's destiny to do the will of God begins to rise within and all the riches of wise experience, such as gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, are bestowed on the young child. Matthew 2:12-15 -- And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their own country by another way. Now when they had departed, behold the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, "Arise and take the Child and His mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him." And he arose and took the Child and His mother by night, and departed for Egypt; and was there until the death of Herod. MBD -- HEROD: The ruling will of the physical, the ego in the sense consciousness. This ruling ego is temporal because it does not understand man's true origin or the law of man's being. It is narrow, jealous, destructive. Under its rule man does not fulfill the law of his being. it would seem that we, knowing the wonderful glory that comes to man when he develops his spiritual nature, should be earnestly seeking the inner illumination, that we should be willing to give up everything else to attain it. But it is not so. "For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh," wrote Paul. The man who lives in his appetites, in his passions, in his flesh, does not want anything but the flesh consciousness. When this is in the ascendancy he seeks the things of the world. He says: "If I have plenty of money in the bank I can get along all right. You can take your religion. I know nothing about a hereafter. I know nothing about another world. But I do know that if I have plenty of money I can get about anything I want." That is Herod. He is the ruler in the world mind, and if we do not watch him he will slay the Christ child. We must be on our guard against this subtle sense mind and take tender care of the little, innocent, new idea that has been born deep down in the heart. We must not give it over to the keeping of Herod. We must nurture it, care for it, and hide it away. If necessary we should take it down into Egypt (darkness) when Herod seeks to kill it. Matthew 2:19-23 -- But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying "Arise and take the Child and His mother, and go into the land of Israel; for those who sought the Child's life are dead." And he arose and took the Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel, but when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned by God in a dream, he departed for the regions of Galilee and came and resided in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, "He shall be called a Nazarene." MBD -- NAZARETH was a despised place (the things of the Spirit of God are considered foolish by the natural man; ... and as such would be a type of inferiority.) It was considered a community of commonplace, if not disreputable, people. "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" Yet in this commonplace village, Jesus was reared; and in the seemingly mediocre mind the Christ Truth is received and expressed. Nazareth typifies the commonplace mind of man, but it is a place of development, through which the Christ comes into expression. =========================================== Christmas celebrates the birth of God's love in our hearts. If we do not search for the Christ spirit within our own being, and care for it as a new born and growing reality, then we will not fully understand the messages within Jesus' teachings and the spiritual purpose of his life on earth. May the joy and wonder of the Christmas message find its place in your heart so that the universal Christ consciousness is made manifest in the part of the world you influence through your thoughts, words, and actions.
we talk about God we are giving a name to our awareness of the great unknown that
underlies the creation and progression of all of reality. Being aware that there must be some
kind of ultimate truth prompts humans to create religious systems that
attempt to describe in detail the nature, actions, and requirements of God. However,
most of what the word “God” must represent lies beyond our human capacity to
understand, much less describe. This means that religions must be recognized as
human institutions created by human minds in efforts to help guide and
influence human behavior.
However, just because humans attempt to do an impossible task does not mean that task is
not worth the effort. Whatever we learn through our scientific, philosophic,
and religious efforts must, inevitably, bend toward the truth of ultimate
reality or none of our conclusions would lead to meaningful outcomes. Gradually, humans have come to many accurate conclusions about life and the nature of our universe, and have made significant progress over the ages.
it is important to remember that what we know of what is true, whether scientific or
spiritual, is gradually discovered from a common sharing of personal
experiences. Scientific knowledge, for example, comes from shared results of independent
investigations, unfettered by personal bias.This is true even though scientists’ personal biases (hypotheses) are
often the catalyst for initiating specific scientific investigations. However, scientists
accept the final objective conclusions of their studies because when observed results are verified as true, that tells them that their alternate hypotheses are false. Truth is always what it demonstrates itself to be.
spiritual knowledge and faith come from an honest and open personal searching unrestricted
by religious doctrine. Still, that does not mean that religious dogma cannot be
instructive and useful in facilitating personal spirituality. However, developing an inner, private sense of the spiritual is always more important than surrendering to institutional
pressures to profess beliefs in specific religious doctrines.Those who seek truth from the depths of their
own being tend to be in greater harmony with everyone else than those committed
to believing proscribed religious teachings. Even Jesus taught that life is more
important than doctrine.
if sacred books and religious institutions are man-made and thereby limited and
biased, how can we most directly and naturally experience God, the Infinite to
which they all refer? One possibility is through a basic understanding of the
statement, “God is love.” Similar to the word “God,” the word “love” is nearly
impossible to define. Yet, when love is in our midst we are usually aware of it
and recognize it as it touches our hearts and minds.The statement, “God is love” seems to make
obvious sense and when thought or spoken it can affect our attitude, even in
the face of evil.
within the deepest meanings of God and love, brought together, we are provided
a doorway whereby we can experience pure spiritual truth while still fully
aware of our immediate physical reality. This seems true to me based on experiences
I have had. So, until I understand God and love with even greater clarity, I will
assume that whenever anyone brings an attitude of love into any human encounter
that, that creates a moment for everyone there to experience God’s presence and
influence. If the statement, “God is
love,” means anything, it means that; when God, faith, and reality merge into
full human awareness.
One of the most important family values there is, is not interfering with the private and legal lives of others. If you
believe that abortion before the third trimester of pregnancy, or that same-sex marriage
at any time, are both sinful acts, then that should be the standard for the decisions you make for yourself. Each of us is responsible for both the decisions we make
and the consequences. I cannot think of a religious organization that would
If a woman believes it is her
responsibility to decide on the necessity of an abortion before the third trimester
of her pregnancy, then she is legally allowed to accept that responsibility. If
you believe it is your responsibility to decide whether or not to enter into a
same-sex marriage, then you are legally allowed to make that decision. As already stated, each of
us is responsible for both the decisions we make and the consequences.
What if civil law allows others to
act contrary to your religious beliefs? In your civic interactions with others, respect the rights and privacy of others by respecting the law. In
your private life and decisions, follow your beliefs. The U.S. Constitution protects your
personal right to do just that, but guarantees the exact same right of privacy for your neighbor, as well. Living
peacefully with both yourself and those who are different, demonstrates the
highest of family values, unconditional love and respect. Jesus taught that when we have love in our hearts we experience God in our lives and all is well.
Popular Christian orthodoxy states that Jesus Christ was
crucified as a sacrifice to God, his heavenly and earthly father, to redeem
humanity from sin for all time. Despite his death on the cross he arose from
the dead in three days, appeared to his followers, then ascended into heaven
until he is to return to conquer evil on earth forever. Those who believe this
about Jesus will live with him forever in heaven and those who do not believe
this will be condemned to hell for all eternity.
I have known this narrative most of my life, but never for a
moment, have I considered it to be truth, nor based on factual history. It has always struck me as strangely sadistic
and barbaric. Frankly, I don’t think most Christians believe these ideas
literally, either, but there is no public perspective other than this
supernatural narrative from which to discuss Christianity. This needs to change
because natural Christianity is far more meaningful in every aspect.
Supernatural elements written in stories of Jesus’ life,
ministry, death, resurrection, ascension, and future return, always meant more
to me than anything requiring physical explanations.I understood full well the spiritual significance
of Jesus’ followers feeling he was still alive even after he was crucified and
buried. I understood that heaven represents living with love in your heart and
hell occurs when you separate yourself from love. Heaven and hell didn’t have
to be places and interpreting miracle stories as literal historical events
reminded me more of the adventures of comic book characters such as Superman,
or the exploits of Greek and Roman gods, than they did of Jesus, a fellow human
being. Let’s keep things real so we don’t need senseless thinking.
The real New Testament messages of Easter, for example, come
from understanding why the Gospel writers wrote their resurrection liturgies
the way they did. They never pretended to be writing history. What they were
doing was interpreting the significance of Jesus’ life on earth and his
teachings by creating literary parallels in Jesus’ life story that showed him
to be superior to the heroes and events found in ancient Hebrew scripture.
Their audiences, followers of The Way, were Jews who believed Jesus was the
fulfillment of the Jewish expectations for the next messiah.They listened to these new gospel messages
while worshipping in synagogues on the Jewish Sabbath after hearing readings
from the Torah. They would have clearly understood the parallels and grasped
the metaphysical implications.
However, their beliefs about Jesus being the expected messiah conflicted with the
more conservative Jews. The breaking point occurred around the year 80 CE when the
followers of The Way were ejected from synagogue membership. They left and
became the Christian movement. But, by the year 150 CE most of the members of the
developing Christian religions (yes, there were many) were not Jews, but were
pagan converts, who had little knowledge of Jewish scripture or history. They
tended to look at the Christian Gospel stories just as they had the stories of
the Greek and Roman pantheon, or myths of other gods they had worshiped.But, with Christianity, there was a real,
verifiable human involved within what they interpreted as a documented history
of supernatural events. Viewing scriptures as less interpretive and more
literal significantly alters the gospel messages.
Dogma about supernatural events or proofs is a
real problem because the word “dogma” itself means you are honor bound not to
change your mind no matter what. This is contrary to the human mind’s natural skills
at learning by thinking, experimenting, and separating fact from fiction. To
prevent this natural searching into religious matters, dogmatic beliefs or
statements of faith are frequently required of members in Christian churches.
These requirements are meant to restrict the understanding of Jesus, his
teachings and mission, to specific ideas, which are granted the title of being
“orthodox.” However, there is a great difference between faith developed
through personal searching for spiritual understanding and faith based on disciplined
obedience to religious doctrine. Jesus taught and demonstrated the former and
specifically condemned the latter.
Jesus’ teachings also show that strict religious tenets tend
to become irrelevant when you strive to live each moment of your life open to
the love and wisdom of God in your heart along with a commitment to love your
neighbor as yourself. When communities
of people live practical, everyday lives with this loving approach it spreads
God’s influence on earth, as it is in heaven.
Jesus taught and demonstrated love and he was crucified for
it. However, his crucifixion could not stop what he had started because his
message had such power it remained in the hearts and minds of those touched by
his presence and teachings. Jesus’ spiritual teachings continue to speak to us
from the New Testament despite being surrounded by apocalyptic ideas that were
popular in the first century. Even
today, a parable such as The Good
Samaritan provides incredible and timely spiritual insights, which have
nothing to do with substitutionary atonement, heaven, hell, or an impending
apocalypse. They involve human realities and circumstances all of us
We need to work past our desire for quick, supernatural answers
to what we don’t know and dig into the real, practical, and spiritual lessons
of the Bible. When you study it carefully, the Bible tells you a lot about what
is in the Bible and why it is there. Very little of it has to do with factual
history. Most of it has to do with showing how Judeo-Christian communities and religious
traditions have evolved from polytheistic superstitions, to national
monotheism, to universal monotheism, and finally to a personal relationship
with God that conquers fear including the human dread of death. It’s good stuff
and I want to learn even more. However, to grow in our understanding of
ultimate truth as a community and to help facilitate public discussions of
Christian teachings, we need to respectfully set aside supernatural Christian
dogma and give natural Christianity the full consideration it deserves.
When we learn we grow, and when we grow we change, so let’s
make it all right to change our minds as we learn.