Empty the Pews (and open your Bibles)

I left 20 years ago. It was a dead church. They talked the talk, but they didn’t walk the walk.  A defining moment for us, was when the deacons were approached by a small local food bank, who were using the church building for distribution,  if the church would be willing to contribute to the empty food cupboard.  They were turned down, saying if they started feeding the poor there would be no end to it, and they would use up all their resources.

If the teachings and actions of a church do not line up with the teachings of Jesus,  walk away.

 

There’s a message that the Evangelical church needs to hear.

via #EmptyThePews — The Barefoot Preacher

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Let love rule.

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An underground network of medical workers and trauma surgeons in Syria, led by David Nott, aims to spread medical knowledge as the Syrian government strives to eradicate it.

via Syria’s War on Doctors — Discover

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You Rule, Britannia.

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Selling Snake Oil 101

(This is part three of a series on the Tarot.)

To some extent you are the master of your own destiny.

In a very minute way perhaps, on the grand scale, but also in a profound eternal way.

You are free to choose your path, and God wouldn’t have it any other way.

However much or little we are influenced by the changing positions of the cosmos and other environmental factors, we are free to make decisions in our lives that affect the lives of ourselves and of others, at least on a mundane level.

We can manipulate our lives in such a way as to bring about a desired outcome.

Survival, for starters, perhaps.

Where it ends though, is the heart of the matter.

Much of what we have thought of as magic in the past, was just specialised knowledge.  To know the properties of plants, for example, was information that was passed down in families over generations, and perhaps not generally understood.

Sometimes that which is not understood is  feared for its power and inherent threat, when it ought be treasured.

Sometimes such understanding is revered, or thought to be God-given, when it is not.

We can easily delude others into thinking that we have special powers, even when we haven’t. And we can wield considerable power and influence over others in this way, to our own ends, be it glory, or financial gain.

Who is to say whether this prophetess or that seer is the real thing or a fraud?  It is hard to tell. Only time will tell if their predictions are right, and by then most of them will have been long gone with your money. There is also an element of self-fulfilling prophesy influence. If I tell you that you are going to have a miserable day, it is probable that you will go about having a miserable day. Psych 101.

And we all want so much to have something to believe in.

Some higher power to help us, and heal us and give us what we need and want. Preferably with no strings attached. And depending on how deluded we are, one that can be manipulated.

We don’t want to do God’s will…we want God to do our will.

Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

On the other side of the coin, that which is of divine origin is not always recognised as such.

I am thinking of something I read about Reiki, as an example. It suggested that when the early Christians performed miraculous healing through hands-on touch, the Chinese wanted to re-create the effect, so they started to lay hands on people, and it developed into a complex modality.

It didn’t work, of course.

There is lots of snake oil out there.

Maybe it is fitting that the first person the Fool meets with on his journey is the Magician.

It is the second day of his journey, and his provisions are low..he might be starting to worry about finding food and shelter as darkness falls.

Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?

 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.

 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

 

Usually this image is portrayed as a benevolent guide, or as being in touch with our wild natural instincts, but it might more accurately be described as the personification of self-will, or self-preservation.

Maybe it is well to be reminded at the outset that if we are not following this path to achieve our own ends, but God’s.

Make no mistake.. unlike the master of manipulation, the Prince of the World, who can only lie and deceive, this is real power.

But it is to be carefully wielded in the cause of righteousness, and until we have the spiritual maturity to make decisions based on love and in line with the will of God, we will not be trusted with it.

We can do nothing without him, Jesus said.

But with him, we can effect real and lasting change in the world, partly in miraculous ways, by divine intervention, but largely through our mundane daily lives, by following his example and instructions to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and strength, and to love one another.

That is the when the real magic happens.

It can be a heady experience as you begin to trust God and see his promises come to pass, see prayers answered, people walking on water.  But Jesus also cautioned us not to rejoice at these, but that our names are written in the Book of Life.

You don’t need any magic tricks to connect with God. He has the technology to be present in your life at all times, aware of everything that concerns you, even to the number of hairs on your head.  He knows everything that has happened to you since the day you were conceived, and he wants you to live in health, in peace and harmony, free of suffering or sorrow.

The way there is not through manipulating the world, but by choosing to trust God, who has your best interests at heart and who is willing and able to intervene in your life for good, by following the steps of his Son along the path, one step at a time.

Test the spirits. If what they say does not come to pass then you will know. And don’t play with fire. It can be a dangerous panacea, and you don’t need one when you can simply ask God for the things you need.

 

 Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?

 If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not.

 But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him.

Jesus

Matthew 7.15, 6.31, John 10.36-38

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Fools

A while back I read of a pastor from Toronto who went to China to administer a mission for widows and orphans. While there he was detained by the authorities, and as far as I know he is still being held in prison for proselytizing, or something. His family said he knew the risks of going there and went anyway.

In the comments someone called him a fool, for risking his life and freedom.

And so it seems to the world. To risk ones life goes against our instinct for survival. It is not sensible or safe. To survive one must guard ones self from harm at all times. To do otherwise is foolish, is it not?

But Jesus said there is no greater love than one who gives his life for another.

And so it is with the first card in the Tarot, The Fool.

Here we have a man energetically leaping across a stream along a narrow path into the wilderness. He has left everything behind, and left the safety of the main road, and is following behind someone who can’t be seen in the image. He is carrying a small pack, only enough for perhaps a days provisions. So his actions seem impulsive and not well thought out.

However he has answered a call, and set off without delay.

It reminds me of the fishermen who, when Jesus called them to come, immediately left their nets to follow him.

Crazy.

Foolish.

Unless they know something we don’t know.

Unless they believe that the one they follow is who he says he is, and they know that this narrow path leads to eternal life.

Interestingly, The Fool is given the numerical value of 0. It is like a wild card in the game, so if you have the Fool in your hand, it can be placed in any part of the progression of your hand to change the outcome and start upon a new path.

And so it is with us. No matter where we are on the path or if we have strayed along the way, we can turn back to following the one who has gone before us.

If following the path of love seems foolish to the world, to me it seems the most auspicious card in the deck.

It is only the beginning of the journey, and you can only see a little of the path in front of you, perhaps a day at a time. You don’t know what is around the next bend, but you have been promised that you will be provided for along the way. Not by the Universe, but by God, your creator, who though unseen, is watching over you every step of the way.

You are promised that the path will eventually lead you to a place of peace.

And along the way you will have learned to love.

 

 

 

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On Divination.

I have taken up a study of Tarot.

I am surprised at what I have found.

I have watched a great many video Tarot readings and predictions, from dozens of readers over the past several months, and compared them with what is going on in my life, and except for the rare occasion, I don’t find that they resonate with me in any way.

But the cards themselves, for me, tell a different story than that which the readers interpret.

Tarot is a game that came about in a place and time where the Church were the Powers that Be, and when people, to be succeed or even survive not only had to be devoutly religious, but also be seen to be religious.

It is evident in the art work and literature of the time, in their speech and clothing, and in nearly every aspect of their lives and behaviour, including their leisure and recreation.

So the game of Tarot is rich with meaning. It is the Gospel message, portrayed as the Fool’s journey, rather like Pilgrims Progress.

In seminary, I was taught that Tarot, like astrology, was dangerous heresy. And I see the danger in it, for those who don’t understand the imagery or who take personification literally. But from my perspective, that of a christian, their meaning is very clear.

So I don’t use them for fortune telling, but I have come to think of them as a useful tool for self-awareness, self-examination.

I will follow this with some examples. If you are a believer you might find that they also resonate with you.

Shul

 

 

 

 

 

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