Why the End didn’t come.

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September 24th was supposed to be the end of the world. According to David Meade, who is obviously a seriously flawed Christian numerologist, a planet (Nibiru-which NASA says doesn’t exist) was going to collide with earth and usher in the end of the world, the Rapture, then all hell would break loose according to his twisted interpretation of scripture.

Meade is not the first doomsday preacher. He is but one in a parade that have preyed upon the naive throughout our history. Not all doomsday preachers are foolish enough to put a date to their speculations, but obviously it’s a strategy that works. Those like Meade who calculate mathematically the return of Jesus gain a tremendous following and interest as the date arises. Then when it passes, instead of calling bullshit many just buy the next tagline and frauds like him continue to succeed.

We must see the belief beyond our belief.

The recipe Meade and many modern evangelicals use fits on a continuum. Some extreme, some less extreme. Most won’t lay claim to knowing a particular day and time, but all use the same fear based ploy:

  • First, claim to be a prophet of God with a special anointing that gives you special knowledge that nobody else has.
  • Next, tap into the tribal (pre-rational) beliefs that still reside in many modern people. Leverage pain and suffering by continually diminishing the world and showing how it is on a downward course (tapping into regressive thinking).
  • Use the daily news to draw parallels to Bible prophecy. Use math and science to make your point but don’t ask a real scientist.
  • Exploit belief in Satan (adversary) as the cause of darkness, suffering, pain, confusion, tying Satan to either political, commercial, or religious figures.
  • Once people see scripture as playing out in the daily news, their belief becomes mostly about self-preservation and evacuation (fear). This raises distrust in anyone who doesn’t share this special (tribal) knowledge. (addicted)
  • Of course, you will need to join the effort to spread the word, which means buy their books, programs and support their propaganda.
  • Money follows belief and now the loop takes you deeper and more extreme.

My issue is not so much with the false prophet, life is full of them. The issue is how tenaciously we cling to world going in the shitter. We need it to be bad, but why? People are not stupid, but immature. An adult can manipulate a child because children lack the necessary categories. When it comes to eschatology (end times) most people are children lacking understanding. The message of scripture is to grow up and avoid such nonsense. (Luke 8:14, 1 Corinthians 2:6, 14:20, Philippians 3:15, Hebrews 5:14, Galatians 3:1, 2 Timothy 2:23) But most don’t really know their bibles.

I’m often asked about my eschatological beliefs. So I have decided to do a series that I hope will deconstruct some of the common pre-rational belief patterns. Scripture does indeed talk about the end of this world, but it isn’t what modern Christianity has sold us. The New world emerges when the old framework gives way to the new (Revelations 21:5, 2 Corinthians 5:17, Mark 2:22).

It may surprise you to learn that Scripture does not encode some secret message, nor predict the future world wide destruction of everything we know. In fact the book of Revelations is just that: A revealing, not a cryptic message of Harry Potter type magical future events.

I’m sorry for those who are charging up their credit cards thinking that Jesus us coming soon, but it may surprise you to learn that we are not heading toward a world wide Armageddon as we have been taught, and the biblical trajectory of the world is actually toward restoration not destruction.

Suppose the USA and North Korea launch a nuclear war and destroy the earth as we know it. The only thing true about the prediction of scripture is that war begins at the heart level. Our pollution and destruction of our material world is not proof of armageddon prophecy, it’s proof that we have lost the battle in our soul, now bearing a global consequence. The inside and the outside are not distinct, but two aspects of one macrocosm. Separating them stems from the tribal belief that the world is evil and under the control of Satan. The attitude of many is: “Why should we care for it if its just going to all burn anyway?”

See how these deeply ingrained pre-rational ideas have horrible consequences? It’s time we all become brutally honest about our beliefs. This series will illuminate our prejudices, our biases, and our lack of understanding that we present as our faith. We need to cut out the tumors and grow up.

A profoundly optimistic future awaits us once we break free from our formative containers and lay hold of the truth that has been right before us. That is and always has been the promise of the gospel.

 

Qualitatively Deeper

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Last week I shared a new framework for both faith and works by illustrating how peace fizzles out if we don’t apprehend and apply our creative impulse. I know this didn’t satisfy very many of you, so let me add a bit more to the soup.

What if we are doing our best to apply faith to our life’s work and it doesn’t bear fruit? Have you ever felt as though all your striving in life has been in vain? How many endeavors simply don’t work out? Are failed relationships, failed business, and lost opportunities all just a waste of our time?

As I write this I can access the visceral feeling of angst, pain, anger, and frustration that is common to all of us. In a nut shell it is the experience of trying and failing. If we gave our very best at something and it didn’t work, then what is left?

Sometimes the story of Thomas Edison’s light bulb failing 999 times is not enough. Sometimes we put so much of our lives into someone or something that when it comes to an end, it feels like our end.

Then what?

  • Do we pay a life coach to ratchet up our output and hold us accountable?
  • Do we have our religious figures convince us that God must not have been in it?
  • Do we entrust counselors to endlessly scour past events in hopes of finding the bigger lesson?
  • Do we just say “Fuck it!” and settle for a life of under hoping?

All these solutions are software hacks. They don’t address the hardware problem.  They are externals based in the past or future, not the internal reality of the present moment.

Our doing is always based in time, our being is not. If we gain our sense of being from our accomplishments then we build a false self that lives on the surface of circumstances. If our doing flows out of our being then we are free to surrender the consequences of our action because something qualitatively deeper defines us.

Peace is elusive because our hardware thinks it is quantitative.  “If I can just get…”, or “Once…… happens I’ll be good.”

That which is qualitatively deeper is accessed via means without measurement. Quantitative assessment is counting. Counting is measuring one higher or lower and by definition moves us out this eternal Moment where all things are accounted for.

This might seem like a bunch of mumbo jumbo or double speak to some of my audience. My religious audience would like me to say this is about salvation, the Church, or their particular system of faith. I’m suggesting this is deeper and wider than any religion, scientific discovery, or that which is presently known.

We must move to the unknown or else our peace will not be the sort that surpasses our understanding (Philippians 4:7).

We can’t know it with the usual binary operating system.  We know it in a poetic way.  We know it like we know a tune or a dance. We intuit it. Deep down we know that we know that we know.

We can quantify a wave in the ocean. We can know it’s size, speed, force and much more. So long as we are focused on the water we will fail to realize that the wave is in the water and not made of water. Water enables us to see it, but it’s energy goes out beyond the shoreline. There’s more to the wave.

We can quantify a relationship. We can keep score of good and bad and measure all we like and dislike. So long as we are focused on counting we will fail to understand the force of love. Love is the end of counting and goes beyond our feelings though our feelings allow us to glimpse it. There’s more to love.

The wave and love are one and the same. They are quantitative and qualitative, time and beyond time, word and flesh, and so are we. To experience well-being in the whole of life, or Shalom (what we call peace) requires that we see beyond everything. We need to recognize that our very being is not solely quantitative, but qualitative. It’s not either/or it’s both/and.

Religion is a scorecard. Love says “Where are your accusers?”  Science says only that which is measured is real, Love says “You are my child, in you I am well-pleased.” To be qualitatively deeper is to live from a place that doesn’t measure us and differentiate us from everyone and everything. Deeper moves us toward union–Divine union.

From this place we have true peace. From here we are compelled to act because we participate in the wave of love. Since we no longer need the outcomes of our deeds for our identity, security, or validation, we are free to surrender them and live in peace.

This is living from the true self, transparently grounded in God.

 

Elusive Peace

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Our world struggles to find peace. If we do obtain a measure of peace, it’s usually in small doses like receiving a massage or rare moments of quiet. For some, peace simply cannot be experienced so long as the world is full of injustice, tragedy and suffering.

Pastors, Priests and gurus all offer a path to peace, but there is always a catch. We have to buy their program, sign up for their coaching, or get sucked into their weekly services or programs. This would be ok if there were a measurable difference in peace between outsiders and insiders, but this difference doesn’t prove out.

For most of us, peace comes and then fades away.

Is peace supposed to function like a tire with a slow leak? Are we supposed to limp along between service stations that fill us up?

Does living in peace mean we must disengage from our stressful reality? Are those who meditate more peaceful? Scripture tells us that God gives a peace that surpasses our understanding (Philippians 4:7). Does this mean only Christians have peace?

I hope these rhetorical questions help us gain insight. If peace is promised via a framework of belief, then I’m sorry to say it’ll be short-lived. If our fundamental mode of operation is: “Just tell me what to do so I can be at peace.” Then we are setting ourself up to be consumed by countless systems that promise peace by selling us our life’s software.

The problem isn’t the software, it’s the hardware. Our anthropology is bifurcated.

If peace is external, then it’s impossible given the state of the world and humanity. If peace is a morality exchange, then it is only as good as our last repentance. If peace is some spiritual plateau then it is only possible for those who master ritual and practice.

You see folks, peace isn’t up there, or out there or even in there. Peace is ONLY HERE. Peace is only NOW. Lasting peace then is found in the Flow of this Eternal Moment.

Peace is elusive because we can’t or won’t fully be here now. We fear the sobriety of being. The anesthesia of our life numbs us to Presence. We are victim to the gravitational pull of either the future or the past.  If we stay under anesthesia too long we become as Rob Bell says either bored or cynical. This is when we conclude there is nothing interesting or new here to create.

While peace is a byproduct of being, it is not distinct from our divine creative impulse. Peace is experienced as the satisfaction of knowing ourself and our role in creating. Both are integral to peace.

Peace is the alignment of our being and doing. These are not two separate operating systems, they are two dimensions of the same life. Once separated, our religion tries to pull us out of our life, while our ambition tries to put us back in, resulting in detachment on both sides.

Detachment is what we call a loss of peace. Peace is an integral, multidimensional Flow. We don’t FIND peace, we ENTER it. We JOIN it. We’ve been going about it all wrong.

Answer this: Are you detached from your divine creative impulse? Do you know what it is? If so, then peace is obtained through reattachment or re-entering the Flow.  And now we are back to the message of pastors and gurus, but this time we can recognize the difference between attachment to a delivery system and attachment to our divine source. One is framework, the other is a flow.

Peace does not come from frameworks!

Yes, spiritual frameworks and practice point us to sacred space and to re-enter the Flow, but they’re a means to an end, not the end. Yes, we can know ourself and pursue our dreams (apart from a religious framework) but that too is a means to an end and not the end in itself. There is no flow of peace without unifying both being and doing, not by camping on one side. James said faith without works is dead (James 2:17).

True peace is not out there, one day; it’s in the midst of us (Luke 17:21). It begins in the small, honest, and secure acceptance of what is right now, owning the mess and all. Peace is lived when we see ourselves as we are, dark and light, word and flesh. Peace is when we drop the stone we would cast at ourselves because we finally believe we have no accusers (John 8:7). Peace then is sustained when we give ourselves to our tiny corners of the world, and bring forth the unique, imperfect gift that is us. 

This my friends is peace. May you JOIN all of it’s dimensions NOW so you can give yourself away.

 

 

Driving and Consciousness

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A living thing cannot live beyond its level of consciousness. Given the diversity of life in plants and animals we seem to easily accommodate the inability of lower life forms to do only what they can do and we expect nothing more.  When it comes to people we try not to use terms like lower life forms because we know that the consciousness of people varies from person to person and there are countless variables that influence it. But deep inside, we are always measuring ourselves.

Another way of saying that we cannot live beyond our consciousness is to say that no person can live better than they think. Here we are talking about how we think more than what we think.

For example:

When I first began to drive I thought that operating the vehicle and knowing the laws was all there was to driving. How could I possibly know about the countless other things to keep in mind when I first got my license? My driving consciousness was low, but it was certainly higher than it was three years earlier. Once on the road I learned how my driving related to everyone else’s driving. I am inter-connected. I became aware of weather, traffic, shortcuts, merging, towing, and deeper engagement with everything related to the car.

After years of driving, a few accidents, a few speeding tickets, and countless close calls, my consciousness is far higher. Yet it still no where near the consciousness of a professional race driver, or an OTR truck driver, or a stunt driver. I have confidence but not certainty.

This example helps us see consciousness from a different angle. The rule of driving is to make allowances for the young or elderly or those who have difficulties getting along. Unfortunately, something else usually happens. We begin to drive as if our driving agenda surpasses all other driving agendas. We use our consciousness to promote and differentiate ourselves and we leave everyone else in our wake. We think our cars isolate us to bigger realities.

Consider the other aspects of life. If we have low consciousness in finances, we will poorly manage our resources and be in want. If we have low consciousness in business or social engagement, we will be marginalized and less successful. If we have low consciousness in a particular sport, music or activity, we will not perform very well. Skill is the byproduct of consciousness, not knowledge.

Consciousness determines the life we will live. In fact, the moment it’s gone, we are gone. If we have low consciousness about non-physical reality (spirituality) we will not be able to find meaning, presence, or our true identity in this life.

There is no way around this, for this is the design of the universe. Matter comes from consciousness and it goes back to it. Word becomes flesh (John 1:14) Consciousness is dynamism. It is constant movement, growth and expansion. It is never stagnant and thus is always in flux, thus science struggles to define it.

Given that the shape of reality is flow or movement, then it stands to reason that remaining in a particular frame of mind is to be counter to the expansive flow. Learning then is the path of expansion and we enter the flow best as a student even though in our heads we think we are a teacher.

This is what Jesus meant when he said if we don’t receive the kingdom as a child we couldn’t enter it (Mark 10:15). Disciple means “student”.  Only the humble student who has everything to learn can enter the new realm. Entrance to the Kingdom is not defined by religion, but humility. Those who pridefully know everything will ironically never know the bigger picture (1 Peter 5:5).

Consciousness has everything to do with God. As we learn and grow and discover, we gain the bigger picture and that raises our consciousness to a place where we no longer see others as lower life forms, but younger brothers and sisters. Our grasp of God corresponds to our grasp of ourselves. As we give our lives away to others, we are not diminished, but instead we rise along with them. This “kingdom” is a perfect win/win by design and it’s everywhere, coexisting with it’s opposite.

Certainty then is the great adversary to all humanity. Certainty is the loss of dynamism and choking off of flow. Certainty is the result of otherness disease and differentiation. Certainty stops genuine service and knows very little of love.

No matter where we are on the spectrum, we will never lose if we keep striving to learn and remain humble and teachable. This is what it means to be poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3) This is what it means to inherit the Kingdom of God. Spiritually speaking, there is very little else beyond this.

 

The Lie that Motivates Us

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Countless people go through life grumpy, depressed or with a massive chip on their shoulder. If you or someone you know seems to live perpetually on the edge of blowing up or lashing out then this post is for you.

It’s like a low-grade fever that heats up right below the surface of our lives. That thing that is grating upon us is deeper than what is in our purview, and in order to change it, we have to deconstruct things a bit.

Many people attribute this malaise or discontent to bad circumstances or being too busy. Life has become like digging a hole in the sand; take one scoop out and the everything sloughs off the perimeter to fill in the void. If we live in this hole, we perceive our efforts as fruitless and it introduces hopelessness into the equation. Even proactive efforts are diminished by life collapsing around us. Is it any wonder we seek anything that will anesthetize us to this reality?

Most solutions are only surface solutions. Most only examine the circumstances and the burdens of our life. If we determine these to be binding obligations, then the solution is to cope with what cannot change.

There is another way, but the masses don’t follow it, so it remains counter intuitive and hidden in plain sight.  Below the surface of our discontent lies the motivations that created our circumstances. These motivations reveal how we got stuck and offer us an unusual, constricted path to freedom (Matthew 7:13-14). Be warned, when I reveal this, you will diminish it as powerless nonsense. Our ego and pride hates this option and would prefer a miserable existence to liberation.

Our lack of freedom produces a powerful self-pity enabling our pride to lash out and blame everything that isn’t delivering us to satisfaction. Our score-card thinking ensures that no one else suffers like we do and thus we validate our identity as a martyr and parade it around like it was noble. The Hebrews call this a loss of Shalom, or the absence of peace and well-being. This is the idea behind a living Hell.

We are all born to different circumstances; some dire, some optimal. Psychology tells us that our circumstances today are a result of yesterday’s choices. I don’t disagree, but we can go deeper. When we make a choice, it’s consequences germinate into what we call life. Making good choices is all but impossible if we are not able to access the spiritual reality of the motivations beyond them.

The most clever lie of which I’m aware is that “Love obligates us.”  We all buy into this on some level. It’s a lie that preys upon our pride and sense of duty. We believe this lie and it puffs us up inside and makes us feel better than others because we are “laying it down” or “sucking it up”. Duty feels so good to the ego. This lie helps us do some wonderful things and tremendous acts of goodness, while it simultaneously creates a scorecard in the backdrop of our mind. It makes us the worst kind of good people who keep track of our efforts but fail to see how it cuts both ways. It’s fruit is the fear of missing out (FOMO).

The truth is that obligation is never motivated by love. Love compels us, it doesn’t obligate us. When love is motivating us, service is not a burden. When love serves, freedom is not lost elsewhere, but gained everywhere. Love recognizes that everything belongs and it easily reframes everything into goodness. Love surrenders all outcomes happily (1 Corinthians 13:3). Marriages, parenting, caregiving, vocations and charity becomes drudgery when obligation subtly replaces compulsion.

I warned you that you wouldn’t like this. The reason we reject this is because we can immediately recognize all the implications of the truth. It’s painful to realize that we do very little out of love especially with those for whom loving should come easy. It stings to discover our good isn’t that good. Sure we can convince ourselves that we are good people, upstanding citizens, and overall good chaps, but its sad when we sober up and realize we know very little about love. Our version of it is so shallow compared to God’s.

Digging out is easy and very hard. We are not just accountable for what we do. We are accountable for why we do it. Obligatory good deeds are just as poisonous to the soul as bad deeds. We must stay with this process of self criticism and exploration. This is the path of spirituality. Let’s ask ourselves why we do anything. If the motivation is love then we will be compelled to do it and we will live gratefully for any outcomes. If the motivation is anything other than love, we will never know peace. 

May we exchange the lie of obligation for the truth of compulsion and see everything change.