Author: Roberta Grimes

Thomas Jefferson After Death

“I was in an atmosphere of beauty,
countryside, scenery which was magnificent.
I remember seeing various relations and friends
who all seemed terribly, truly excited to see me,
all crowding around me, welcoming me,
showing me around.”
– Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), from his Leslie Flint interview (1960)

Soon after he ceased incarnating, the being who had been Thomas Jefferson found himself sadly reduced to guiding an oblivious fourteen-year-old girl. The child had been his close male friend through seventeen previous lifetimes, and he had spoken to her in an experience of light when she was eight years old. He would become more openly involved when she was in college, but in 1960 he must have been bored right out of his considerable mind.

In 1960 the world was only fifteen years past the use of atomic bombs in warfare. What had been done to Hiroshima and Nagasaki in an effort to end the Second World War had shocked elevated beings at the highest levels. So Thomas’s young charge was one of many who had lately entered bodies as part of an emergency effort to elevate the consciousness vibrations of humankind away from fear and hatred and toward ever more perfect love. The British medium Leslie Flint (1911-1994), undeniably the greatest independent direct voice medium of the twentieth century, was then in his heyday. He was inviting the famous of prior eras to adapt and use the ectoplasm voice box suspended in the air beside his head, and speak again.

Perhaps out of boredom, in 1960 Thomas returned to his Jefferson persona and gave Leslie Flint’s communication process a try. And when he spoke, the voice that was recorded was undeniably that of Thomas Jefferson in old age. I was young back then when he was old, his law clerk and a surrogate son; and that voice put me right back into his cabinet at Monticello, listening to him opine. In 1960 he refused to talk about his Jefferson lifetime. Instead, he made a plea for world peace, and he answered questions about where he had arrived some 134 years before. The two who questioned him were George Woods and Betty Greene, who were Leslie Flint’s usual sitters; and while we don’t have room here to share more than highlights, I’ll try to help you feel the magical wonder of that conversation. At first, he complains about the process itself:

“I am not quite sure if you can hear what I am saying. Very difficult for anyone in my position to manifest in this fashion to talk to people on Earth and at the same time keep one’s equilibrium, if one can use that term and apply to the spirit. Aligning with vibration, tuning in, remembering things that one wishes to say, transmission of thought into sound, words, words, often words which don’t indicate anything clearly at least what one feels, I find extreme difficulty.” (We read this, and we smile. One of the greatest wordsmiths in American history was by then so used to communicating by thought that he is annoyed to be back to having to use words again!)

(He begins with the need to end the Cold War.) “I’m particularly concerned naturally in my own country, or at least that which was my own country. I’m very disturbed indeed, because I feel that unless something is done very soon, the world could so easily be plunged into a third world war which would be more ghastly and more dreadful than anything that one can imagine. There’s still hope. While there’s hope, you must make every effort to try to bring people together. … I think you’ve got to trust Russia, whether you like the idea or not. You can’t get away from the fact that eventually you’ve got to start hugging the big bear. It’s no good going on the way that statesmen have been going on this earth for around ten years. You’ve got to realize that you’ve got to live together, you’ve got to work together, you’ve got to trade together, you’ve got to be friends.”

(He expounds at length on the need for peace and friendship in the world, which apparently was the reason why he had chosen to communicate at all. Then someone says, “Weren’t you in Washington? You’re president, weren’t you?” And he answers that question.)

“One time, a long time ago. … I don’t feel inclined to talk about that.”

(So then someone asks him about his transition.) “Well, my reactions when I passed over here were simply very different to any I could have possibly anticipated. … I found myself in an environment here which was so like material life as I’ve known in the country that it seemed that I was way back in my youth. … It was as if, you might say, that your world that I had known in my youth had been transported into this new world, as if I was being received into an atmosphere which was natural and quite comforting. What amazed me, of course, at first was that everything seemed so natural. I don’t know why what you’d think passing out should be unnatural, because, in a sense, it’s the most natural thing that happens to everyone. But here was a world which was so real, so natural, that it could have been a kind of dream that one might have had thinking back into one’s early years, one’s youth among one’s friends and countryside that was familiar. And in a kind of way I suppose, you might say it was a kind of dream. There were dreams that were very real and I realized now that several times I had dreams when on Earth which were, in fact, realities. I realized that those things I thought were dreams were not so. My spirit had been released from its body, and I traveled over here and met various souls that I had known and been in an environment which was familiar and friendly. So when I died, as you call it, I went into this environment or condition of life which I’d seen often in my dream state.” (We all travel in the astral on many nights and visit earth-like places. We spend time then with deceased love ones, especially as death approaches. We often think these memories are only vivid dreams.)

(He is asked about visiting those on earth.) “I came back quite frequently the first few years. … I felt well, here am I trying to make contact and take an interest in the old life, and no one seems very interested in me, and no one seems conscious of my presence. … I got very tired of that, and for quite a while I stepped away from Earth. But gladly I felt the call to come back and be of some service, and so in consequence I’ve taken an active interest in politics, because I realize, as many do here, that it’s essential for changes to take place in your world. … Man’s got to realize that the only things that matter are the spiritual things. … One should realize that one has got to progress mentally and spiritually, and if you’re blessed with worldly things, to realize their only link is, they’re there for you to use and to share among those less fortunate than yourselves. But to do as the majority do: struggle from birth to grave for money and position and then have to leave it and accomplish nothing in consequence, seems to be a pointless and foolish attitude towards life.”

(Then he is asked about “other spheres.”) “Well, I have been privileged to go to one higher sphere on my own for a great visit. … it’s very difficult because you ask me to tell you something about a sphere which is even removed from myself and far, far removed from Earth, and for me to describe something or in a material language, I could think of no way, no words that could really describe it, except in that it was full of light, and that it had such harmony and such beauty that words couldn’t describe it, and one was ever conscious of beauty in so many ways, one felt so elevated in consequence that one felt that one could rise beyond all that one had ever known, and all that one had ever hoped. Here there was perfection, if ever there was perfection, and in a kind of way, it was so wonderful that one felt like a child that had opened his eyes on something which is so beautiful and so glorious, that you could hardly believe it, except you gasp in surprise, and your heart would thump away and you sort of feel this is too wonderful and would it last? Indeed, there are some things that one cannot describe.” (I believe what he refers to here is a visit from the upper fifth level, which he had achieved, into the lower sixth level, where the vibrations would have been higher but still bearable for him.)

(He is asked about flowers, and he begins a soliloquy.) “Flowers grow here six feet high with magnificent blossoms, and they give off a ringing tone and a musical note and the perfume is wonderful. … We have colors here which we couldn’t describe to you. The hues are varied and many, and the birds, for instance: we have wonderful birds, many of which you’re familiar with of course, but others that you are not. And of course, we have a mental communication. You take the animal kingdom in your world: you have a pet animal, a dog, cat, and you get to know it and it gets to know you, and although it can’t speak, it somehow transmits things to you, and you’re able to transmit things to it, and the same applies here. But here because mind is so dominant, here thought is such a reality that the animal can speak, not only in a vocal sense, but in a mental sense. Here the animal is more sensitive than it is on Earth. Here we are conscious of each other’s thoughts. Here you are known really as you are for the first time. At first it’s a little frightening, but gradually you begin to progress and you lose a lot of the things which at one time were common to your nature, and you expand and grow and those things don’t worry you so much. But I’m afraid that here you cannot put up any facade, because you are known immediately. You know exactly what a person is. I want you to know this: that I in common with every soul on this side are only concerned with the welfare of the human race. We’re only concerned with the spiritual development and progression of the human being.”

Everything Thomas says about the afterlife realities is amply confirmed by others. Still, it’s lovely to have the personal testimony of such a brilliant man! In the soft drawl of a Virginia gentleman who had at last achieved a developmental level past the need for him to incarnate again, we hear with the wonder of joyous children what our own next stage of life will be.

The following decades of this being’s development brought ever-deeper understandings. Amazingly, he considers his present task to be even more important than his having so materially helped to found the United States! His charge now is to assist the Heavenly Host in uplifting and transforming the world. Next week we will consider how all of reality looks to him today….

“Whoever you are or wherever you may be,
working in loving cooperation with the realms of Spirit,
we will help you. We will guide you and uplift you.
Give us the opportunity, open your hearts and your minds to us,
let us come in and we will do our utmost to help you
individually and collectively and in peace and in harmony together. …
Don’t imagine that you are superior, because those who are most humble
are often those who are most progressed. Love opens the door.”
– Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), from his Leslie Flint interview (1960)

 

Sunlit hilltop photo credit: cattan2011 <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/68166820@N08/49859606913″>Rydal Water, Ambleside, Lake District</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a>
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White dog photo credit: Soul_Sammy <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/146129824@N08/33227759520″>In the woods</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a>

Thomas Jefferson on Jesus

“Millions of innocent men, women, and children,
since the introduction of Christianity,
have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned;
yet we have not advanced one inch toward uniformity.
What has been the effect of coercion?
To make one half of the world fools and the other half hypocrites.”

– Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), from Notes on the State of Virginia (1787)

Thomas Jefferson was the first Secretary of State, the second Vice President, and the third President of the United States. He was the primary author of the Declaration of Independence, and he made it a document of such emotional power and intellectual weight that it has become the moral conscience of the most powerful nation on earth. You or I would be proud to have lived such a life! But the being who was Thomas Jefferson was instead deeply disappointed by it. When he spoke through Leslie Flint in 1960, he refused to talk about that lifetime. When he spoke to me through a medium in 2015, he said,   “I had too much power and I didn’t always use it well.” He was castigated for his religious views and even called an atheist, but in fact he was nothing of the sort. He was instead a deeply spiritual man simply thinking two centuries ahead of his time.

Jefferson was fluent in English, French, Greek, and Latin. As he sought to better understand the teachings of Jesus, he cut up Bibles and pasted the Lord’s Gospel words into a copybook in all four languages. Of his compilation of what was later called The Jefferson Bible, he said, “My aim was to justify the character of Jesus against the fictions of his pseudo-followers… the follies, the falsehoods and the charlatanisms which his biographers father upon him.” – letter to William Short, August 4, 1820

In freshly reviewing Jefferson’s writings, I am struck by how closely his work with us here aligns with what he thought during that lifetime. The only differences come from the added insights that he gained once he died and learned that, happily, both God and a wonderful afterlife are real. Almost twenty thousand of his letters survive, and they contain far too many quotations that could be usefully included here; but I will give you a flavor of his ideas in six areas:

WE CANNOT BE SURE ABOUT GOD OR AN AFTERLIFE

“I believe in both a creative and personal God, a divinely ordered universe, that man has a innate moral sense, and that Jesus was a great moral teacher, perhaps the greatest the world has witnessed.”  – letter to his nephew, Peter Carr, August 10, 1787

“To talk of immaterial existences is to talk of nothings. To say that the human soul, angels, god, are immaterial, is to say they are nothings, or that there is no god, no angels, no soul. I cannot reason otherwise … without plunging into the fathomless abyss of dreams and phantasms. I am satisfied, and sufficiently occupied with the things which are, without tormenting or troubling myself about those which may indeed be, but of which I have no evidence.” – letter to John Adams, August 15, 1820

GOD IS NOT A TRINITY

“It is too late in the day for men of sincerity to pretend they believe in the Platonic mysticisms that three are one, and one is three; and yet that the one is not three, and the three are not one…. But this constitutes the craft, the power and the profit of the priests. Sweep away their gossamer fabrics of factitious religion, and they would catch no more flies.” – letter to John Adams, August 22, 1813

“The hocus-pocus phantasm of a god like another Cerberus, with one body and three heads, had its birth and growth in the blood of thousands and thousands of martyrs.” – letter to James Smith, December 8, 1822

“I trust there is not a young man now living in the United States who will not die a Unitarian.” – letter to Benjamin Waterhouse, June 26, 1822

JESUS WAS HUMAN AND NOT DIVINE

“To the corruptions of Christianity I am indeed opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian, in the only sense he wished any one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others; ascribing to himself every human excellence; & believing he never claimed any other.” – letter to Benjamin Rush, April 21, 1803

“That Jesus did not mean to impose himself on mankind as the son of God, physically speaking, I have been convinced.” – letter to William Short, August 4, 1820

“The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter.” – letter to John Adams, April 11, 1823

FREEDOM OF THOUGHT IS ESSENTIAL

“No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever. ”Virginia Act for Religious Freedom, 1786

“Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear.” – letter to his nephew, Peter Carr, August 10, 1787

“I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.” – letter to Benjamin Rush, September 23, 1800

CHRISTIANITY IS HARMFUL AND COERCIVE

“The purest system of morals ever before preached to man (the teachings of Jesus) has been adulterated and sophisticated by artificial constructions into a mere contrivance to filch wealth and power.” – letter to Samuel Kercheval, January 19, 1810

“Paul was the… first corrupter of the doctrines of Jesus. These palpable interpolations and falsifications of his doctrines led me to try to sift them apart.” – letter to William Short, April 13, 1820

“The truth is, that the greatest enemies to the doctrines of Jesus are those, calling themselves the expositors of them, who have perverted them for the structure of a system of fancy absolutely incomprehensible, and without any foundation in his genuine words.” – letter to John Adams, April 11, 1823

THE TEACHINGS OF JESUS ARE OF GREAT MORAL WORTH

“Of all the systems of morality, ancient or modern which have come under my observation, none appears to me so pure as that of Jesus…. I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus.”  letter to Charles Thomson, January 9, 1816  

“The genuine and simple religion of Jesus will one day be restored: such as it was preached and practiced by Himself.” letter to Francois Adriaan Van der Kemp, July 9, 1820

“The doctrines of Jesus are simple and tend all to the happiness of man, that there is only one God and God is perfect. That God and man are one. That to love God with all your heart, and your neighbor as yourself, is the sum of religion. These are the great points on which I endeavor to reform and live my life.” Letter to Benjamin Waterhouse, June 26, 1822

“Had the doctrines of Jesus been preached always as pure as they came from his lips, the whole civilized world would now have been Christians.”  Letter to Benjamin Waterhouse, June 26, 1822

Thomas Jefferson was a spiritual thinker at least two hundred years ahead of his time. Few who were his contemporaries could have grasped the notion that for Jefferson to love and closely follow Jesus while at the same time he despised Christianity was no inconsistency. Even now, to many that makes no sense! His views changed over the course of that lifetime. He went from merely loving the Lord’s Gospel words in his youth to the urgency about rescuing them from the shell of Christianity that is evident in his later writings. It seems to me likely that his early interest in Jesus was developed in prior lifetimes; but when I tried to investigate the sixteen priors that he tells me he and I have shared, he refused to allow that. Too much information, apparently.

And we can follow his development even after his death! He was so disappointed in how he had handled power in what should have been his final lifetime that he took an additional lifetime as a simple farmer in Wales in order to get himself back into balance. Then, 134 years after he died as Jefferson, he spoke freshly to the twentieth century in his famous persona. You can see in that interview that he was becoming the beautiful being that he is today. Stay tuned….

“On the dogmas of religion, as distinguished from moral principles,
all mankind, from the beginning of the world to this day,
have been quarreling, fighting, burning and torturing one another,
for abstractions unintelligible to themselves and to all others,
and absolutely beyond the comprehension of the human mind.”

– Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), letter to Archibald Cary (1816)

 

Monticello photo credit: SchuminWeb <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/64873675@N00/50018308657″>Monticello [01]</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>
Monticello gardens photo credit: SchuminWeb <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/64873675@N00/50018308692″>Gardens at Monticello [01]</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>
UVA Rotunda photo credit: Alex E. Proimos <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/34120957@N04/5867728061″>The Rotunda – University of Virginia</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>(license)</a>
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Jefferson Memorial photo credit: Sky Noir <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/49788302@N00/20369993952″>Thomas Jefferson Memorial</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>(license)</a>
Thomas  in memorial photo credit: Gage Skidmore <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/22007612@N05/8555488894″>Thomas Jefferson memorial</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>

Sermon on the Plain

Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come,
Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heaven and home,
When Jesus is my portion? My constant friend is He:
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.
 – Civilla D. Martin (1866-1948), from “His Eye is on the Sparrow” (1905)

The clerics at the First Council of Nicaea in the year 325 assured us that their work was being inspired by God. But it is evident now from the fact that the Councilors added things to the Gospels that contradict some of what Jesus said, and perhaps just as much from the fact that those that we used to think were dead are now repudiating those Gospel changes, that the Councilors’ main inspiration was their earthly boss, the Roman Emperor Constantine. What they were up to was building a religion, and the religion they were building was based on the notion that Jesus had come to die for our sins as the ultimate sacrifice to a judgmental God. So we flat-out cannot trust the Council of Nicaea’s product to be the Inspired Word of God.

But what about the four canonical Gospels that those Councilors included in their Bible? Might the Gospels, at least, have been divinely inspired? Until a few years ago, I would have been skeptical. But lately I have been forced to accept the fact that if I am channeling my guides, my fingers can’t move fast enough; but if I try to write on my own, I cannot complete a coherent sentence. And there was one two-week period five years ago when an enormously elevated energy that Thomas told me was the Lord Himself was in my mind both day and night, and we produced an entire book that needed no editing. I know now that when we give ourselves to God, we can be used in amazing ways!

So, yes, I think it likely that the Gospels as they arrived at Nicaea had been channeled. And the additions made at Nicaea were so clearly built around adding ideas that were prominent long after the Lord’s death, and those additions were so sloppily done, that it is easy to pluck them out. The Gospels the original writers produced just decades after the death of Jesus, the ones that Nicaea tweaked much later, then went on to survive two successive translations and the custody of the Catholic Church; and still, beings who are not now in bodies assure us that they are what Jesus said. This seems to be substantial evidence that the whole process of producing the Gospels as we have them now was first channeled, and then it was overseen by elevated Beings of the highest rank. This is something I still cannot get over! Three generations of primitive people played telephone with the Lord’s teachings, after which those precious words were written down and translated from Aramaic into Greek, and thereafter from Greek into English, and that was followed by centuries of custody by clerics whose religion was very different from what Jesus teaches in the Gospels. How could the Lord’s truths have survived all of that so well that the elevated dead will still vouch for them now? They have survived only by repeated miraculous interventions. Indeed, I am quite confident that the pre-Nicaea Gospels are in fact God’s Inspired Word.

The fact that the Gospels of Matthew and Luke contain many of the same quotations has long had Biblical scholars assuming they had to have a common source. This hypothetical source is now called “Q Source,” or simple “Q” (from the German “Quelle,” meaning “source”). And what seems to be the case is that much of Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount comes right from Q, while Luke’s briefer Sermon on the Plain contains fewer of the Q quotations.

It is obvious that the teachings have the same source, but the authors use it differently. In that, we can see what different people these two authors really were! We will give the writers the names of their Gospels, although we cannot know who they actually were; but we can see just by their differing uses of the source materials that Matthew was a deeply spiritual man who soared on the perfections of what the Lord had come to tell us, while Luke was more somber. More fearful and judgmental. His use of the Lord’s teachings feels rooted in earth-life, practical and not about spiritual growth. Just look at how different the Beatitudes are in his hands!

And turning His gaze toward His disciples, He began to say, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. 22 Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. 23 Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets. 24 But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full. 25 Woe to you who are well-fed now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. 26 Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for their fathers used to treat the false prophets in the same way (LK 6:20-26).

The words that Matthew treats as profoundly spiritual seem to Luke to be meant just to comfort the disadvantaged. In Luke’s hands, the word “poor” – which must appear in the Source, since it is in both Gospels – seems to be about earthly wealth. This is not what Jesus taught at all! For Him, the problem with wealth is not that it is evil, but rather that it is a distraction that makes it harder for us to grow spiritually. He said, where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (MT 6:21). Matthew’s Beatitudes focus on spiritual growth, but I am not sure from Luke’s Gospel words that he understands even what spiritual growth might be, nor why it matters. He talks about our getting a “reward” in heaven for doing the Lord’s work here, which of course would be irrelevant to Jesus. And Luke’s four blessings are followed by what we might call “the four woes,” which seem to insist that good fortune must be followed by pain while we are still on earth. None of this is what Jesus taught! And these are not later revisions, but this is rather how the teachings of Jesus look when they are filtered through the mind of a man who has a less spiritual understanding of them. We should thank God for Matthew! Luke does, though, handle the Lord’s more earth-based teachings well, although he may not understand the point of them:

27 “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. 30 Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. 31Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. 32 If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. 36Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.”

39 And He also spoke a parable to them: “A blind man cannot guide a blind man, can he? Will they not both fall into a pit? 40 A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher. 41 Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 42 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye. 43 For there is no good tree which produces bad fruit, nor, on the other hand, a bad tree which produces good fruit. 44 For each tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush. 45 The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.

46 “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? 47 Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: 48 he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. 49 But the one who has heard and has not acted accordingly, is like a man who built a house on the ground without any foundation; and the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great.” (LK 6:27-49)

This is the last of five messages on the Sermon on the Mount and the Sermon on the Plain. These genuine words of Jesus have been miraculously preserved for two thousand years, and Jesus Himself told us that His teachings are the center of His earthly work. He said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (JN 8:31-32). These teachings are the literal Word of the Godhead, speaking to us freshly each time we read them, so it is tragic that none of the forty thousand versions of Christianity pays much attention to more than a few of the most famous passages.

But a friend of ours has loved these words for hundreds of years. He saw Jesus as a non-religious figure, the greatest Teacher who ever lived, even back when Christianity was still being enforced by law in many places. He elevated these teachings over the religion in a prominent prior lifetime in ways that still puzzle some scholars today; and his interest and understanding have matured over centuries in ways that those who know him now are uniquely able to follow. This blog is his work more than it is mine, and he teaches me here as he is teaching you. He has so far preferred to stay in the background, directing our work rather than being a part of it, but apparently he now sees an opportunity to give us all an interesting lesson. When he was Thomas Jefferson, he was an intelligent being so spiritually advanced that he was living his final planned earth-lifetime. How might his eventually having died and resumed his eternal mind, and his now being at or close to the sixth level of spiritual development, have changed his views of Jesus, of God, and of other things? Over the next two weeks we will look at my beloved guide’s own views of the teachings and the work of Jesus as he shared them from this side long ago, and also as they seem to him now.

I sing because I’m happy,
I sing because I’m free,
For His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me.
– Civilla D. Martin (1866-1948), from “His Eye is on the Sparrow” (1905)

 

Sunset thinker photo credit: Philipe Li <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/158244522@N06/47945395501″>Pensando</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a>
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Sermon on the Mount (Part IV)

Images of broken light which dance before me like a million eyes,
They call me on and on across the universe
.
Thoughts meander like a restless wind inside a letter-box.
They tumble blindly as they make their way across the universe
.
– John Lennon (1940-1980), from “Across the Universe” (1969)

It’s very unlikely that there ever was an actual Sermon on the Mount. The Jesus of the Gospels was an itinerant teacher with an ever-increasing crowd in His wake, and there were always Temple guards around who were eager to report to religious leaders whatever heretical statements they heard. Since much of what the Lord had come to teach amounted to heresy, He had to parse out most of His teachings in innocuous bits here and there. For Him to have stood on a hillside and given to hundreds or thousands of people the long and organized speech containing many heresies that is the Sermon on the Mount would have been a lunatic act! And it comes early in the public phase of His life. If He had taught this way, He could not have survived and continued to teach for three more years at a time in history when the only way He could have made any impact at all was by teaching the truth over and over again in many places over years of time. It is likely that those who wrote down the folk memories of the teachings of Jesus that survived into the third generation simply organized them into collections that later made their way into the written Gospels.

The Gospels of Matthew and Luke mostly share the same sources. In Luke, an extract of the collection of teachings that became Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount appears as what is called the Sermon on the Plain, and it is interesting to see how the sayings subtly differ as these two Gospel writers use their common source material. We’ll talk about that next week.    

Chapter Seven concludes Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount. In Chapter Six, Jesus tried to banish fear; now in Chapter Seven He works to bring us to a more adult understanding. But before we plunge in, I hope you won’t mind if we pause here briefly. There are two points that I want to make sure you always keep in mind when you read the Gospels.

First, Jesus lived and taught two thousand years ago. He taught at least two centuries before there was any recognizable version of Christianity, and nothing He said even hints that He was trying to form a new religion. On the contrary, He seems to have been trying to move us beyond the need for religions so we could relate to God on our own. We must never forget how primitive the world around Jesus was two thousand years ago! Nor can we overlook the fact that His Gospel teachings were spoken in Aramaic and passed along orally for a couple of generations before being written down and translated into Greek, and from Greek they then were translated into Latin and all the modern languages. And even beyond all these sources of potential confusion, the Gospels spent more than fifteen hundred years in the custody of Christian leaders to whom some of what Jesus had said must have felt antithetical to their religion. That the Catholic clerics didn’t butcher the Gospels when they could have done that so easily is an astounding blessing. It may be a miracle.

And Second, the dead consistently tell us that the Gospel teachings of Jesus are accurate. Even despite the handicaps enumerated above, we are assured by those not now in bodies that the teachings of Jesus as we have them in the four canonical Gospels are indeed substantially what the Lord taught. To be frank, that really is a miracle! But perhaps it’s not such a surprising miracle, since Jesus told us two thousand years ago that He was speaking as God on earth. For example, He said,  I and the Father are one” (JN 10:30), andThe words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works” (JN 14:10). Not everything Jesus is quoted as saying in the Gospels actually was said by Him, since the First Council of Nicaea in 325 added some passages on church-building, sheep-and-goats, predestination and election, hellfire and damnation, and end-times nonsense. But those additions are so inconsistent with the Lord’s genuine teachings that we can easily pluck them out. When we have done that, we still have today the genuine words that the Godhead spoke to us through the Lord two thousand years ago!

Matthew’s Chapter Seven is teachings that are mostly quite familiar to us. I am going to give them to you as they appear, and then share a few thoughts at the end of this post. These are teachings that the Lord’s followers considered to be so important that they lovingly passed them along to their children, who shared them with their children and their children’s children. Sixty years or so is three solid generations of oral tradition. So let’s give a grateful thought to the families who made it possible for us to have so many of the Lord’s words intact today!

“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

“Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? 11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!

12 “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.

15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 So then, you will know them by their fruits.

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. 26 Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.”

28 When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; 29 for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes (MT 7:1-29).

There are three confusing passages here that we have never before considered:

  • MT 7:6 has always puzzled me! I think He may be telling us that there always will be people unwilling to listen to new ideas, and they will refuse even to attempt to grow spiritually. He may have been speaking from personal experience.
  • MT 7:13-14 is an exposition of the conflict between following fear-based religious rules that are easy to understand and learning to internalize God’s Law of Love. That broad and easy gate is for those who simply follow the old fear-based rules, and they make no attempt to follow God’s Law that requires that we learn to love perfectly and forgive completely. The old rules will not help them raise their spiritual vibrations, and Jesus sees that as a waste of their lives. So it is destruction indeed! But those who discard the religious rules and instead strive to perfectly follow God’s Law of Love will have found the narrow gate that leads to spiritual growth, which of course Jesus sees as life!
  • MT 7:21-23 is another comparison between following fear-based rules and following God’s Law of Love. If you are still applying old fear-based rules and you are not learning to follow God’s Law of Love, then in the Lord’s eyes you are practicing lawlessness.

Jesus is a Man on a Mission! What Christians might see as impatience or anger is just His ardent zeal for the teachings that He came to share. And the author of the Gospel of Matthew seems to be delighted with the Lord’s mission, which is one reason why for many people this is their favorite Gospel. Next week we will consider how the author of Luke uses the same sources to create from the teachings of Jesus a quieter and more sobering Sermon on the Plain.

Sounds of laughter, shades of life are ringing through my open ears,
Inciting and inviting me
.
Limitless, undying love which shines around me like a million suns,
It calls me on and on across the universe
.
– John Lennon (1940-1980), from “Across the Universe” (1969)

 

Holy family statue photo credit: archer10 (Dennis) <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/22490717@N02/34390645695″>Israel-05346 – Wall Statues</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>
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Sermon on the Mount (Part III)

I really want to see you,
Really want to be with you,
Really want to see you, Lord,
But it takes so long, my Lord.
– George Harrison (1943-2001), from “My Sweet Lord” (1970)

Modern humans have existed on earth for roughly two hundred thousand years. Those earliest moderns lived in terror of predators, disease, hunger, weather, and lethal attacks by one another, so among the earliest human inventions were religions that featured powerful gods. In an effort to ease our fears in a world where we had no control and even less understanding, we imagined large beings in human form who could protect us. And to ensure the favor of these made-up gods that we imagined were as brutal and as fickle as people, we invented the notion that they could be placated by sacrificing some of what we most valued, especially our firstborn children. The whole concept of religions to serve cranky gods is an entirely human invention. And this idea that we can improve our lives by placating gods is a stubborn one, so even as late as the birth of Jesus the Jewish tribes were still sacrificing birds, animals, and grain to a god they called Jehovah. With such a history, it is easy to see why the execution and the miraculous rising from the dead of the greatest Jewish Teacher Who had come to us from the genuine Godhead must have seemed to be the ultimate sacrifice. God sacrificed His Firstborn to Himself! Now God is placated forevermore!

But the genuine Godhead doesn’t play human games. There is no evidence that the death of Jesus has ever made an afterlife difference for a single human being, and if it ever had happened we would know that by now. The genuine Godhead is all that exists, and that Godhead is infinitely greater and far more perfectly loving than any religion ever has imagined. Each of us is inextricably part of the Godhead. And God doesn’t want our sacrifices, our worship, or anything from us at all but that we work in eternal harmony toward eventually achieving the Godhead’s own level of  absolute and perfect love. And since all religions are based in fear, one of the primary missions of Jesus when He came to earth two thousand years ago was not to start a new religion, but rather to free us from all the old ones. 

Chapter Six of Matthew is the second of the three chapters that give us the Lord’s Sermon on the Mount. It feels like a cozy harbor after the sea of surprises in Chapter Five; it rests so gently on our minds that we fail to realize how radical these ideas were when He first spoke them. Chapter Six is about rising above religious fears, how essential that is, and how easy it can be.

My children are in their early forties. They are successful enough in earthly terms, but they are even more successful at what is more important: they live useful lives of love and kindness. Our oldest often reads these posts, and she was so bothered when she read last week what Jesus had supposedly said about divorce that she brought it up to me. “That doesn’t sound like Him,” she said. “That’s not loving. That’s legalistic.” And she is perfectly right! I have been through the Gospels repeatedly, but I never had noticed that the early church had apparently slipped in among the Lord’s exhortations about love this legalistic whammy: “I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of un-chastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery (MT 5:32). Of course that has to be wrong. If Jesus had ever said anything like that, He would have been injecting a fear-based, arbitrary rule and polluting the purely love-based substance of His Gospel message. There probably are other such religious insertions lurking among the Lord’s love-based teachings. My firstborn has given us a timely reminder that we should be seeking out and discarding them all.

Chapter Six is so straightforward that I am giving it to you without comment, and with its superscripts intact so we can more easily discuss it. Let’s sit together on the hillside and listen.

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.

“So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

“When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

“And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.

“Pray, then, in this way:

‘Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
10 ‘Your kingdom come.
Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.
11 ‘Give us this day our daily bread.
12 ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is
the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’

14 “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.

16 “Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 17 But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face 18 so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is evil, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.

25 “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? 27 And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? 28 And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, 29 yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! 31 Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ 32 For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

34 “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Matthew’s Chapter Six is about easing the terrors of people whose ancestors always had lived deep in human-made and fear-based religions. It is the Lord’s first gentle instructions to people who never had lived without religions, who never had attempted to venture into life without worrying about offending their imaginary gods. They were free now to seek and find the true Godhead as they never before had been free in their lives! Jesus couldn’t take them in one leap to His own perfect level of understanding, but He could support them in learning to be less afraid. He could help them begin to trust in the comforting certainty that the genuine Godhead loves them infinitely, so there is nothing that can harm them. In Matthew’s Chapter Six, Jesus speaks to us about daring to free ourselves from fear. Now next week we will listen as He begins to teach us some of the practicalities of this freer and more abundant life.

My sweet Lord, Mm, my Lord.
I really want to know you.
I really want to go with you.
Really want to show you, Lord,
That it won’t take long, my Lord.
– George Harrison (1943-2001), from “My Sweet Lord” (1970)

 

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Sermon on the Mount (Part II)

Imagine there’s no countries. It isn’t hard to do.
Nothing to kill or die for. And no religion too.
Imagine all the people living life in peace…
You may say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.
I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will be as one.
– John Lennon (1940-1980), from “Imagine” (1971)

It is essential as we read the Lord’s Gospel words that we always keep in mind the fact that nothing Jesus is quoted as saying is a straight transcription. On the contrary! Our having even an approximation of the Lord’s truths today is a miracle. Here are some of the reasons why:

  • For Jesus to have spoken against the prevailing religion was a crime punishable by death. Yet resetting our understanding of all things spiritual was precisely what He came to do! And He managed by some clever devices to effectively teach what in His day was heresy. For example, He would deliver innocuous-sounding bits of information over days of time, knowing that the Temple guards would change so often that they were unlikely to catch on while his constant followers could put those bits together. He would tell simple stories and then say, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (wink-wink) so His listeners would know to seek His deeper message. He would firmly state some Old Testament truth, and then add a sentence that transformed its meaning.
  • The Lord’s words as we have them in the Gospels come from people who actually heard Him speak. But their accounts were then passed down orally for a couple of generations before anything was written down.
  • The First Council of Nicaea in 325 both added to and subtracted from the four Gospels they included in their Christian Bible. We know, for example, that they added various anachronistic and erroneous bits about church-building, sheep-and-goats, predestination and election, hellfire and damnation, and end-times nonsense.
  • Jesus spoke Aramaic. His remembered words were later translated into Greek, and then from Greek into modern English. The dead tell us that these two-step translations are more faithful to what Jesus came to teach than are modern translations made directly from Aramaic into English. That truly does look like a miracle.

When we read it cold, the Sermon on the Mount seems to hold some contradictions. But when we keep these four issues with the Gospels in mind, we are sitting at the feet of a master Teacher! Making allowances for the obstacles He faced, we see that everything Jesus said really does fit together and make sense. Furthermore, now we can check with the dead, and they consistently tell us all the same truths. Jesus couldn’t speak freely. His words were likely garbled by repetition and then edited for religious reasons. Still, by nothing less than the Grace of God His truth survives today!

Chapter Five of the Gospel Book of Matthew seems to be more randomly assembled than it is. Jesus tells us in the Beatitudes that begin the chapter how our spiritual growth will feel;  then in the rest of it He shows us how to free ourselves from fear-based religious rules so we can rely on God’s Law of Love to help us begin to grow naturally. What follows the Beatitudes are two transitional statements, the first of which is a brief exhortation that we use the example of our lives well lived to share the truths that Jesus taught:

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven (MT 5:14-16).

Then comes the puzzling statement that despite His having replaced the Old Testament laws with God’s Law of Love, those old laws still survive. No doubt when He was saying these words He could see the Temple guards listening closely, so He was putting on a show to reassure them of His old-time orthodoxy. Note, though, how His last sentence transforms the meaning of this entire paragraph:

“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (MT 5:17-20).

So, is He now contradicting His replacement of the Old Testament laws with God’s Law of Love? Not at all. He is instead providing an essential bridge between the “Thou shall” and “Thou shalt not” external laws that are taught by the scribes and Pharisees, and His new spiritual version of the Law which demands that everything we do must be done from love. He is saying that the Old Testament laws have not been abolished, but rather they have been fulfilled and perfected by the new and greater command that we love God and love our fellow man in ways that will internally transform us.

From now on we won’t need inflexible external laws, because our living in righteousness will be just the beautiful, natural fruit of our spiritually transformed being. That this is what the Lord is actually saying is borne out by the fact that the balance of Chapter Five is His explanation of how the new Law of Love applies to those now-outmoded Old Testament laws! Let’s sit at His feet and marvel:

“You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into Gehenna. Therefore if you are presenting your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your gift. Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Truly I say to you, you will not come out of there until you have paid up the last cent.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into Gehenna. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into Gehenna.

“It was said, ‘Whoever sends his wife away, let him give her a certificate of divorce’; but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of un-chastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

“Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to the Lord.’ But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may show yourselves to be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (MT 5:21-48).

Chapter Five of the Book of Matthew gives us the core of the Lord’s spiritual teachings in one place. First the Beatitudes summarize our goal of internal transformation; then Jesus shows us how God’s Law of Love goes far beyond the Old Testament laws to empower us to at last achieve the spiritual perfection that must be our goal. What more is there to be said? Stay tuned! As the wise and loving master Teacher that He is, Jesus uses the rest of His Sermon on the Mount to give us gentle advice about how we can better live on earth as the eternal beings that we are. His advice was timely when He spoke it on the hill. It is every bit as timely today.

Imagine no possessions. I wonder if you can.
No need for greed or hunger. A brotherhood of man.
Imagine all the people sharing all the world…
You may say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.
I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will live as one.
– John Lennon (1940-1980), from “Imagine” (1971)

 

Jesus in childhood photo credit: archer10 (Dennis) <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/22490717@N02/33580695623″>Israel-05344 – Painting</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>
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Sermon on the Mount (Part I)

And when the broken hearted people living in the world agree
There will be an answer, let it be
For though they may be parted, there is still a chance that they will see
There will be an answer, let it be
– Paul McCartney, from “Let It Be” (1970)

The Lord’s Sermon on the Mount is the beautiful center and sum of His transformative teachings. It fills three chapters of the Book of Matthew, but it seems to be only Chapter Five that causes people trouble. Their problem is in part the persistence over centuries of an archaic word-choice, and in part the intrusion of Christian dogmas that came along a few centuries later. The start of Matthew’s Chapter 5 is the Beatitudes, where Jesus seems to be requiring us to adhere to rules for living that would be even stricter than all those Old Testament laws that He is replacing with God’s Law of Love. Worse, He seems to be telling us that unless we have been blessed with certain personal characteristics, for us to achieve much spiritual progress probably won’t be possible. To believe the literal words of the Beatitudes in an English translation is to despair! I think, though, that what Jesus really means to do here is to complete the process of freeing us from religious rules. He is making our rapid spiritual growth even easier to attain. And He does it in the Beatitudes in a beautiful, wise, and powerful way.

The key to understanding the Beatitudes is to know that transformation cannot be accomplished with rules, no matter how well we follow them. At best, rules can only shape our behavior, forming new habits through repetition; but since rules must be enforced through fear, once the fear is gone the habit degrades. No behavioral rule can transform you spiritually, even if you follow it for your whole life. Transformation must first happen within! If it is to be lasting, the behavior mandated by any rule can be nothing more than the fruit of your wondrous internal spiritual transformation.

Let’s first read the Beatitudes without comment, enjoying the flow of the words; and then let’s consider how each of the Lord’s statements here relates to His overall message:

“When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying,

‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

‘Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.

‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

‘Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

‘Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you’” (MT 5:1-12).

The word “beatitudes” means “supreme blessings.” These exalted characteristics therefore seem to many English speakers to be rare and unmerited gifts. As I began to write this week’s post, I discussed the Beatitudes with a knowledgeable friend who was dismissive of them. She said, “If you are not naturally ‘pure in heart’, Jesus is saying you won’t get to see God.” It does look as if Jesus is ordering us to behave in certain exalted ways that seem so unattainable that we despair of ever measuring up. But Jesus is not insisting here that we meet arbitrary, impossible standards. Instead, He is giving us in the Beatitudes a list of the primary characteristics of those who have completed their earthly spiritual development. He is giving us a track to run on. The Greek word that was long ago first translated as “blessed” could also mean “fortunate,” “rich,” or even just “happy.” So none of the characteristics listed in the Beatitudes should be seen as a mere unmerited “blessing.” They are all earned spiritual wealth that can be attained by anyone. He says elsewhere in His Sermon on the Mount, “You will know them by their fruits” (MT 7:16). And here He actually lists the fruits of genuine spiritual growth. The Beatitudes together describe the wondrous condition of those who have faithfully followed the Lord’s teachings and raised their personal consciousness vibrations to the point where by the end of this earth-lifetime they are ready to enter the kingdom of God.

Jesus has given us the method. Now here He gives us the measuring-stick.

Let’s look at each of these stated characteristics specifically. The words in parentheses are translation alternatives that have been suggested in Biblical footnotes:

When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain (or hill); and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying,

  • “Blessed (or fortunate, or rich, or happy) are the poor in spirit (or those not spiritually arrogant), for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” It is almost a defining characteristic of those who are spiritually advanced that they are modest and peaceful. For example, rather than arguing, they will withdraw, in part because they find interacting with angry people to be unbearably stressful.
  • “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” What greater comfort for mourners can there be than the certainty that our loved ones never die? And those who are more spiritually advanced find it easier to trust the Godhead enough that with just a bit of evidence they can readily defeat their fear of death.
  • “Blessed are the gentle (or humble, or meek), for they shall inherit the earth.” Being gentle and humble defines everyone who is more spiritually advanced. And when at last we bring the kingdom of God on earth – which is what Jesus says is His goal – then the meek will indeed inherit the earth!
  • “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” This is the Lord’s universal invitation to grow spiritually, which also is expressed somewhat differently later on in His Sermon on the Mount where He says, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (MT 7:7-8).
  • “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” A grounding theme of the Lord’s teachings is Mercy, which He often demonstrates. A key characteristic of those who are more spiritually advanced is their universal compassion for others.
  • “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” The whole process of spiritual growth consists in rooting out everything about ourselves that is not-God, so we can spiritually raise ourselves enough to approach the vibratory level of the Godhead.
  • “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” We have talked about Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as exemplars of how dramatic a force for good in the world their radical kind of peacemaking can be in the face of otherwise overwhelming force.
  • “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Those who are spiritually advanced to the level of the kingdom of God are able to stand fast in the truth, despite even brutal persecution.
  • “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (MT 5:1-12). How would it feel to be persecuted for defending the Gospel words of Jesus? By what was probably no coincidence, I got a first taste of how it would feel this past Thursday.

On Thursday morning someone pointed me to a Christian forum where my work was under discussion. A newcomer there had naively said, “Hello, My name is Jason, and I am new here. Recently, I was forwarded a video of Roberta Grimes, a business attorney in the US who also studied early Christian history. I don’t know if I should post the link of her YouTube videos here but you can do a search of her name on YouTube and find her videos. My question is, what do you think about her videos? Any thoughts?” He had received a few answers when I read the thread. The one I liked best was, “I watched some of her videos after your initial post. In some ways, she reminds me of Thomas Jefferson and Tolstoy. She wants us to embrace the moral teachings of Jesus, and reject everything else as a perversion of the institution of ‘Christianity’.” Every other response was from the judgmental perspective of traditional Christian dogmas. Not one of them considered the possibility that Jesus might have had a different agenda from the fear-based human ideas of people who lived more recently than He did. Then finally came the response that made me smile. Someone’s whole comment was, “She is a whack job.”

Wow! That last Beatitude may be the hardest to attain, since it requires that someone else take the trouble of insulting you because you stand up for Jesus. And being called a “whack job” for the Lord could be considered persecution, wouldn’t you say?  Perhaps it is time to talk about what some of us might be asked to endure as we risk sharing the Gospel truths. First, though, we will tackle the beautiful and comforting balance of His Sermon on the Mount….

And when the night is cloudy there is still a light that shines on me
Shine until tomorrow, let it be
I wake up to the sound of music, Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
Let it be, let it be, let it be, yeah, let it be
There will be an answer, let it be
– Paul McCartney, from “Let It Be” (1970)

 

Southern manor veranda photo credit: Julie Haines
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This Changes Everything

I release and I let go,
I let the Spirit run my life.
And my heart is open wide,
Yes I’m only here for God.
                   – Michael Beckwith & Rickie Byars, from “I Release” (1993)

Anatomically modern humans have existed for barely two hundred thousand years. For nearly all that time, we had no more awareness of why we are here or what is going on than your cat has as it purrs in your lap, so the fact that in just the past two decades our knowledge of how reality works has advanced so much is tremendous news! We now know that our species is a vehicle by means of which the vast, eternal Mind that continuously manifests this universe can grow spiritually by experiencing negativity. And with that insight, we can look back at the long sweep of human history and marvel at what we have accomplished despite the fact that we have always been clueless.

Technologically and culturally, we have advanced by light-years! But we have made almost no spiritual progress. We each have struggled toward learning to choose love over fear and anger, feeling drawn toward love but as oblivious about the reason why as are the bugs that blindly mob your back-porch light. We have advanced in stumbles through many earth-lifetimes until eventually we achieved enough spiritual growth to complete our development in what we call the afterlife. Then, after eons, those who were most successful at elevating their spiritual vibrations grew to become the perfected beings who oversee our spiritual development today.

This has been how the process of spiritual growth has worked for all of human history. Whether our technology under development was the Clovis Point or nuclear fusion; whether culturally we were creating the first alphabet or the U.S. Constitution; and whether our view of God was the Canaanites’ Moloch, the Hebrews’ Yahweh, or the modern Christian God, there was little awareness of our spiritual nature in anything that human beings ever did.

Now all of that is changing. Fast! For the first time in two hundred thousand years, living people are being given insights sufficient to help us achieve whole leaps of amazing understanding. We are being given to know not only what we are and why we are here, but also what and where “here” is; we are being handed depths and insights that the prophets of yore could only glimpse. We are told that we are being helped to achieve this sudden elevation in our awareness because our assistance is needed now to raise the spiritual vibrations of a planet that has sunk so deep into negativity that its very survival is at stake.

The plain fact is that without the divine insights that we are being given now, we would know no more about reality today than we did ten thousand years ago. Oh, our technological advancements are flashy; our cultural developments enrich our lives; and the God we have created in an effort to satisfy the core human need to feel closer to our Source seems to have gentled over the millennia. But the scientific community’s nonsensical beliefs that matter is solid and consciousness is an artifact of our brains have handicapped our scientific progress for millennia. In contravention of scientists’ false beliefs, we have lately learned conclusively that you and I are eternal beings in a fundamentally nonmaterial reality. We think of this as big spiritual news, and hopefully it will be the source of many great personal transformations! But it is a great deal more than that.

In fact, this changes everything.

We have been talking about building The Lord’s Way, and in that area the transformation will be especially profound. But the extent to which every aspect of human life is going to be transformed once our deeper understanding of reality is more broadly known deserves at least a moment’s attention. Consider:

  • Scientific Transformation. Quantum mechanics transformed physics a century ago, and it has fostered an explosion of technological progress. But that was just the start! The only barrier to our using what we have learned to universally uplift the world is the fact that mainstream science is still stuck with its materialist dogma. To this day, every working scientist is required to hold as true some absurd ideas that can now be demonstrated to be false. Scientists are required to believe that matter is fundamental, when in fact it is consciousness that is fundamental and gives rise to matter. Oops! Every scientific conclusion drawn in the past few hundred years is going to need to be re-examined in light of the fact that consciousness is primary. But that will turn out to be a good thing! As the great polymath Nikola Tesla said a century ago, “The day science begins to study non-physical phenomena, it will make more progress in one decade than in all the previous centuries of its existence.”
  • Cultural Transformation. For everyone living on earth to know as part of our daily reality that all human minds are eternal will mean that most of humanity will begin to live in an eternal frame. I have been teaching these truths for a decade now, so I have seen the transformations that happen in people as they come to know for certain that they are never going to die. They stop seeing their lives as brief and private. Amazingly, wealth and possessions matter less, and better understanding the wonders of our genuine reality starts to matter much more. And becoming whatever they see as better people feels worth doing to those who know they are building the kind of wealth that is going to be theirs forever. In a summer of American rioting that is further depressing the earth’s consciousness vibrations, the improvement in every aspect of our lives that will come when people bent on doing harm realize how much they are harming themselves on an eternal scale is a joy to contemplate!

But the coming transformations will be greatest of all for those who feel called to create the movement that Jesus came to earth to begin. Some have asked why we can’t just take a simplified version of Christianity and add to it an intensive study and practice of the teachings of Jesus. Wouldn’t that be enough?

This sort of gentling of Christianity has been attempted before. Martin Luther tried to improve the religion early in the sixteenth century; and Catholic leaders have held all of twenty-one ecumenical councils, from First Nicaea in 325 through Vatican II in the nineteen-sixties. These were just the biggest attempts at Christian reform! Each of the forty-thousand-odd versions of Christianity extant today was an attempt at improving on the religion, and each now remains forever frozen into the shape those well-meaning reformers gave to it. A decade ago, the number of Christian denominations extant was reported to be just ten thousand or so, and the number of practicing Christians in the world has hardly changed at all in that time. So, no, for us to make yet another attempt to fix Christianity would be just one more partway measure that would even further fracture our already heavily fragmented religion.

The movement Jesus tells us in the Gospels that He came to earth to begin bears no resemblance to Christianity. So on a spiritual level, this really does change everything! Let’s look briefly at some of the primary characteristics of the Lord’s Way:

  • The only commandment is God’s Law of Love. What must most of all distinguish the followers of Jesus from all the rest of the world is that we have one setting and one purpose. All we ever do is love. Whatever the question, love is the answer! We will spend the next few weeks considering just how radical a commandment the Lord’s Law of Love really is!
  • There is no requirement that we take anything “on faith.” The core reason why Christianity is losing followers now is that those reared in the faith stop believing. But the Lord’s Way has no dogmas, no doctrines that must be taken on faith, so everyone on earth can choose The Way without compromise.
  • There will be no conflict with a post-materialist science. We are used to thinking of science and Christianity as incompatible opposites; but once we are free of both Christian and materialist dogmas, science and the Lord’s teaching can not only coexist, but they actually will work together in ever greater service to humankind.
  • There is no concept of “sin.” Jesus mentions sin, but He uses the word to mean falling short of one’s own best aspirations. Never does He talk about sin as a punishable failure to obey God’s laws.
  • We never judge. The biggest complaint I hear about Christians is that they are so cliquish and judgmental. I have experienced it too! If you don’t believe what you are supposed to believe and say what you are supposed to say, you get the side-eye. But Jesus tells us our task is to spread His teachings; it will be up to Him to work on people’s hearts. There can be no crime severe enough to ever cause the Lord’s followers to withdraw their unconditional love, or even to presume to lecture anyone.

This really does change everything! Let’s look next week at just how deeply the followers of The Way are being called to demonstrate the Lord’s love to the world.

No more struggle, no more strife,
With my faith I see the light.
I am free in the Spirit,
Yes I’m only here for God.

– Michael Beckwith & Rickie Byars, from “I Release” (1993)

 

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Finding the Way

“Everyone who hears these words of Mine
and acts on them may be compared to a wise man
who built his house on the rock.

And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew
and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall,
for it had been founded on the rock.”
– Jesus, from the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 7, Verses 24-25

One thing that strikes you when you read the Bible from Genesis through Revelation is that Jesus speaks to us as a modern man. In contrast, the Old Testament feels ancient! Parts of it are beautiful, true, but still it all seems pat and religious, just old ideas and divine edicts that no longer seem to fit us well. So I have been freshly astonished each time I have left the Book of Malachi and begun to read the Gospel of Matthew. We are suddenly in the modern world! Jesus is amazingly timely, speaking in simple and comfortable terms and seeming almost to be answering questions as soon as they occur to us. He speaks from the timeless Godhead. After the Gospel of John come The Acts of the Apostles and Paul’s Epistles, books not so ancient as the Old Testament but still seeming deep in the long-ago. The difference between the rest of the Bible and those four Gospels is the difference between reading dusty manuscripts and watching breaking news on a flat-screen TV.

Jesus speaks to us directly. Today. You have the sense, too, that people who read the Gospels two thousand years from now will find in them the same living Friend Who speaks in their own language. Jesus lives! He is alive in the present in a way in which no other historical or religious figure can be said to be alive. And as we freshly read the Gospels, we find that He told us two thousand years ago precisely what He wants from us now. Last week Thomas pulled from the Lord’s teachings four characteristics of His modern Way:

  • The Way is complete at the Lord’s Resurrection.
  • The Way is not a religion, so it has no prophets and no clergy.
  • The Way has no dogmas and no traditions.
  • The Way uses the Lord’s teachings to help each individual follower achieve real spiritual growth.

This gives us a great beginning, but we need a lot more information! Let’s ask Jesus if He will share with us more about what He has in mind as we begin to implement His Way:

  • His teachings must not be added to or blended with any other set of teachings. They are not to be folded into Judaism, nor even read together with the Psalms and the Prophets! He says,But no one puts a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and a worse tear results. Nor do people put new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wineskins burst, and the wine pours out and the wineskins are ruined; but they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved” (MT 9:16-17). So not only must our message be just the Lord’s words prior to His Resurrection, but we also must not create a mess of burst skins and spilled wine by attempting to incorporate into the Lord’s Way anything that was said before His birth.
  • His teachings are to be shared not as part of a religion, but as a separate line of wisdom. He wants the clerics of His day to continue to lead their flocks in their ancestral religion, while at the same time they also offer His teachings as a new divine revelation. He says, Therefore every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household, who brings out of his treasure things new and old (MT 13:52). In the same way, Thomas tells us that the Way must be offered to all, with no thought of wanting anyone ever to leave an existing religion. Christians, Muslims, Jews, and others will find the Lord’s teachings compatible with whatever are their existing beliefs. Thomas tells me it will be very important that we never speak against any religion, but instead our whole task is to spiritually support the adherents of every religion on earth by demonstrating and broadly sharing the Lord’s Way.
  • His teachings require spiritual preparation if they are to bear fruit in listeners’ hearts. He explains the parable of the sower (LK 8:4-8) by demonstrating that unless people are prepared on a spiritual level to hear His teachings, they won’t be able to follow them. He says, “The seed is the word of God. Those beside the road are those who have heard; then a demon comes and takes away the word from their heart, so that they will not believe. … Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; but they have no firm root, so they believe for a while but in time of temptation fall away. The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity. But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit in abundance” (LK 8:11-15).
  • His teachings are meant to spread not from any spiritual leader, but naturally in the human community. This is crucially important to Jesus! And it is yet more evidence of the Lord’s aversion to religious leaders. He says, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.” He spoke another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened” (MT 13:31-33). This sort of gradual, organic, seeping growth is not possible for a traditional religion, where each convert must learn new ideas and simply accept them all on faith. It is only genuine divine wisdom that places no restraints upon our minds, but just gives us glorious and timeless ideas that can comfortably grow in our hearts.
  • His teachings work internally on each of us and at the level of Spirit. Jesus all but tells us what we know now to be true, which is that there is one Mind of which every human mind is a part. He says, It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life (JN 6:63). The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is within you” (LK 17:20-21).
  • Spiritual humility is essential! The temptation toward smugness and self-importance is ever-present for people inspired to do something big, so the Lord keeps beating our egos down. He says, “Many who are first will be last, and the last, first” (MK 10:31). The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted (MT 23:11-12). Whoever receives this child in My name receives Me, and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me; for the one who is least among all of you, this is the one who is great” (LK 9:48). In my experience, raising your personal vibration serves to lessen the ego’s hold, so it makes you naturally gentler and milder. And that is a very good thing! When Jesus tells us that to enter the kingdom of God we must become like a little child, He is giving us a basic law of spiritual physics. He says, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all” (MK 10:14-15).
  • He intends that those who follow Him will teach not so much by lecturing as by example. And it is a great deal harder to live the Way than it is to simply try to teach it! But to live it for all the world to see is our divinely mandated task. He says, “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (MT 5:13-16).
  • There can be nothing about the sharing of The Way that makes these teachings feel difficult. Religions demand a lot from us! But The Way is nothing like a religion. Instead, it is a sweet and love-filled plan for joyfully living life on earth, and it works whether or not you practice any religion. Jesus says, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (MT 11:28-30).

So now you see how different the Christian religion is from what the Lord has been telling us all along that He has in mind! And you also can see that what He asked of us while He was living on the earth can just as easily be our charge today. Indeed, it may be only in the modern world that His Way can actually transform the world! Two thousand years ago, all He could do was to set His disciples on the open road with a warning to be careful (MT 10:16-20) as they followed His directive to make disciples of all the nations … teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (MT 28:19-20). Lifting the consciousness vibrations of the world in such a gradual way would likely have taken until “the end of the age,” even if they had at the time truly understood what His charge was to them!

Jesus is with us still today, as alive for us now as He ever has been. He is calling on us to use the power of all our twenty-first-century tools to deliver to humankind His most essential messages. The kingdom of God is at hand! All it needs now is for those of us who have awakened to His eternal truths to make teaching and living The Way our priority….

“Everyone who hears these words of Mine
and does not act on them
will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.

The rain fell, and the floods came,
and the winds blew and slammed against that house;
and it fell—and great was its fall.”

– Jesus, from the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 7, Verses 26-27

 

Face of Jesus photo credit: Thomas Hawk <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/51035555243@N01/16048967919″>Little Ones to Him Belong</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>(license)</a>
Forgiven puzzle photo credit: Puzzler4879 <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/24882165@N07/25716217690″>”Forgiven” Happy Easter to All!</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>(license)</a>

Sharing the Truth

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me bring love.
Where there is offence, let me bring pardon.
Where there is discord, let me bring union.
Where there is error, let me bring truth.
– attributed to St. Francis of Assisi (c.1182-1226), from “Peace Prayer”

After having my first experience of light at the age of eight, I grew up as a devout Christian. I was going to adult church at ten and reading the Bible daily when I was twelve. My college major was early Christian history. When I married I became an ardent Catholic, but all the while I continued my decades-long hobby of researching what comes after death. And once I was sure the afterlife is real, I put a lot of follow-up effort into seeking any evidence at all that what Christians believe is true. My inevitable crisis of faith landed with a thud when I was in my fifties. Not only had I found no evidence that Jesus actually died for our sins, but I had found abundant and consistent evidence that such a thing is impossible. The genuine Godhead is nothing like the cranky and judgmental Christian God that I had believed in and feared since childhood, and the afterlife turns out to be far more glorious than anything I had ever imagined. Everyone goes to the same afterlife. Everyone is forgiven and perfectly loved!

The moment when I first accepted the fact that the Gospel words of Jesus agree with what the dead have been telling us, but Christianity has nothing to do with Jesus, was a hinge in my life. It took me years to come to terms with it. I was mourning the religion I had so much loved while I sought a way to shield and vindicate Jesus. I went through a period, too, when I was struggling to understand how a perfectly loving God could have allowed Christianity to betray us this way. Had it all been part of some gigantic plan so clever that no human mind could comprehend it? I didn’t have the right to ignore my discovery, but I didn’t have the right to trumpet it either, so in the end I settled for making it just the topic of an Appendix to most of my Fun books. When Thomas told me it was time for us to write Liberating Jesus, I felt flat unworthy to speak for the Lord until Thomas appeared to me through a medium in 2015 and insisted that I do it anyway. In 2017 he inspired me to write The Fun of Loving Jesus – Embracing the Christianity that Jesus Taught, but then he had me put that book aside until some future day when the time will be right. In recent years I have done a great deal of work under his guidance, but with no clear idea of where this work is taking us.

And I have been fretting about the rapid decline of my childhood religion. Since I first realized that my beloved Christianity actually has nothing to do with Jesus, I have gone through all the stages of grief as they are generally listed: shock, denial, guilt, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. For years I worried that Christianity was dying so rapidly that I had to do something big – and fast! – to separate the genuine historical Jesus from that old-time religion in the public mind. We had to save our precious Baby from being thrown out with the bathwater! But whenever I thought about the possibility that saving Jesus might be up to me, I floundered. How do you even begin such a task? Eventually I came to suspect that we might be supposed to emulate the spiritual movement of the Lord’s first followers, the persecuted but joyous movement of a hundred different perspectives that its first-century adherents called “The Way.” But Thomas kept telling me to do nothing big. The time wasn’t right, and neither were my ideas. Instead of giving me a clear direction, he week after week gave me pieces of his thinking to share with you here as he built a base for our eventual deeper understanding.

And now, quite unexpectedly, he tells me it is time to begin our work.

Thomas guides me, but he serves the Godhead. And the individual tasks that millions of us volunteered before birth to undertake with the assistance and direction of our guides are being carried out in close coordination with a heavenly host of the guides of millions of God’s other minions on earth. There is nothing being done in this field now that is not of great importance! But there is no one bit that is more important than any other servant’s part. Thomas reminds me now that when I was going through my writing-bad-poetry phase at twelve, I channeled a poem that was something about sticking to my work, not wondering why I was doing it or what the end would be, but trusting that there was a point to it all and eventually I would know what it was. That poem’s last line was something like, “And when it all is plain and true, you’ll see the little puzzle-piece that was your work and joy.” He tells me that all the previous years of my life have been spent in preparation, and now l am ready to begin to do what I agreed before birth would be my little part of the great work of elevating this planet’s consciousness vibrations.

Thomas tells me that our particular aspect of God’s work is to serve disaffected Christians. I have been hearing from so many! Typically they are in their fifties or older, and most of them have advanced spiritually to the point where they recoil in horror from the most fear-inducing Christian dogmas. And yet, they still love Jesus! They are eager for a closer walk with the Lord. Thomas tells me that he and I volunteered  to spend decades in preparation, and then in the fullness of time to offer spiritual care to the Lord’s strayed sheep (MT 15:24). For Jesus, the good shepherd is a powerful model. He says, “What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?” (LK 15:4). And, “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. … I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father … (And) I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd” (JN 10:11-16).

Thomas tells me that our first task is to attack and destroy the fear of death. Fear of death is the one great fear, to the point where every lesser fear can be seen at its core to be a fear of death; so once we no longer fear death, we no longer fear anything. Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (MT 7:7-8). Long ago I asked, and over fifty years I have been given the truth abundantly. Now Thomas has some exciting ideas about how we can efficiently teach the truth about reality and eternal life online! We’ll be saying more about this soon.

As we are easing people’s fear of death, Thomas intends that we will quietly launch a new Christian denomination. He wants to call it Christianity as a further assurance to disaffected Christians, but as is true of all the forty-thousand-odd other denominations of Christianity, it will have its own name. We will call it “The Way.” As he says, this will be the only Christian denomination that is centered on the Lord and nothing else, so if any mode of thinking should bear the honored name of Christianity, it is this one! And he has given me a few first details:

  • The Way is complete at the Lord’s Resurrection. It knows nothing that has happened since that day. So it offers no ideas beyond the genuine Gospel teachings of Jesus insofar as He leads us to understand them, and no dogmas or articles of faith at all. Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (JN 8:31-32). In The Way, we take Him at His literal word!
  • The Way is not a religion, so it has no prophets and no clergy. When you read what Jesus said about religions, you cannot help but suspect that one of His purposes in coming to earth was to bring an end to all religions and teach us to relate to God individually. He said, Beware of the false prophets … You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? … A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. …  So then, you will know them by their fruits” (MT 7:15-20). And He said, “When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.  But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you” (MT 6:5-6).
  • The Way has no dogmas and no traditions. The Lord despised religious traditions! He said, “Why do you transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? … You hypocrites! Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far away from me. But in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men’” (MT 15:3-9).
  • The Way uses the Lord’s teachings to help each individual follower achieve real spiritual growth. This is a fellowship of people striving to live the Lord’s wisdom ever more completely, helping one another to grow spiritually, and demonstrating love and peace to the world. The fact that all religions are fear-based was the Lord’s greatest complaint against them! He said, “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in” (MT 23:13). Now at last a group of people who love and trust the Lord completely can demonstrate what is possible when His followers make His teachings the base of their lives.

I had been wondering how we might hold spiritual services without any fear-based religious trappings, but my beautiful friend Sandra Champlain is doing it now. She hosts a weekly Sunday gathering online that “celebrates life and the afterlife,” and it happily grows in attendance each week. Here is the link for Sunday, July 26th, in case you might like to drop in.

How can we live a Christianity that is based entirely in the words of the Lord? Let’s talk about that next week. It is time for all the world to take the Lord Jesus at His literal Word!

O Master, let me not seek so much to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that one receives, it is in self-forgetting that one finds,
it is in pardoning that one is pardoned.
It is in dying that one is raised to eternal life.
             – attributed to St. Francis of Assisi (c.1182-1226), from “Peace Prayer”

 

Woods road with sunlight photo credit: Grotevriendelijkereus <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/127554398@N02/49977986907″>Tilburg – Oude Rielse Baan</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>
Snowy road photo credit: sniggie <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/16943730@N00/49610690846″>Trail through the woods</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>
Autumn road photo credit: Kerri Lee Smith <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/77654185@N07/44843117555″>Autumn in Lawrenceville (2 of 2)</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>
Bright woods road photo credit: DrQ_Emilian <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/84945604@N02/43760174210″>If woods told stories</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>
Leaning tree photo credit: yooperann <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/99923398@N00/14209072298″>Sunlit path</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a>
Road to sunlight photo credit: DrQ_Emilian <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/84945604@N02/39741999604″>Path through the Woods</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>