The Alternative Christian

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A Series

The thread of Truth runs through all the world’s religions, often overshadowed by the low hanging fruit of dogmatic beliefs handed down through generations. These gain acceptance, not necessarily because they are true or spiritually logical, but because they are repeated so long and so often we assume they must be true.

I consider myself a Christian, but I obviously do not flow with the mainstream. In this sense, I would compare myself to Jesus. He was a Jew, but his greatest critics were the Jewish orthodoxy. They had their doctorates in religious law, but they had no understanding of the spiritual rebirth he spoke of with Nicodemus. Paul, who began his life as a Pharisee, had an experience that opened his mind to a deeper level. “The unspiritual man (strict intellect) does not receive the gifts of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually (intuitively) discerned” (1Corinthians 2:4).

Embodied in the teachings attributed to Jesus there are universal principles that largely go unacknowledged by our native Christianity. Critical scholars believe that the first Gospel writer, the author of Mark, began simply with a list of sayings attributed to Jesus. To these he added his own narrative and interpretation of who and what Jesus was. Matthew and Luke created their differing versions about a decade later. John, who presents a completely independent interpretation, appeared sixty to seventy years after the death of Jesus. These writers were evangelists, not historians. To find the gospel or “good news” of Jesus, we must look beyond the imposed and currently accepted interpretations of early church orthodoxy.

Truth, as I will define it through this series, is the omnipotence of God expressing as the spiritual essence of every individual. I’m confident Jesus taught that a return to the bedrock of our spiritual core is the key to salvation from the full range of life’s hardships. When he said, follow me, he was not suggesting that we follow him, the man, but the instruction he was giving. The kingdom he spoke of is not lo here or lo there. The kingdom of God is within you (Luke 17:21).

That Jesus appealed to the common person of his day tells me his message was both accessible and practical. But as someone has pointed out, what we’re now presented with is not the religion of Jesus, but a religion about Jesus. When we start from the basis that we are each an expression of that one presence and one power we call God, we more readily see the present and practical value of what Jesus was communicating.

Through this series we will explore the many gems of wisdom found throughout the sayings of Jesus. We’ll look at how these sayings were compiled and put into narrative form as the Gospels we know. Most importantly, we’ll explore the universal principles embodied in the sayings and actions of Jesus, principles that serve as a solid basis for those who feel comfortable identifying as the Alternative Christian.

Finding Strength in Adversity

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In returning and rest you shall be saved;

in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”     Isaiah 30:15

Everyone has moments of uncertainty, of trial, of self doubt, and even despair. In these moments we seek help from all kinds of sources: books, counselors, ministers, doctors, friends, or family members. Any one of these may pass on some level of assurance that things are going to work out, that harmony will be restored in our body or in our affairs. With this bit of assurance, we rest a little better, regain some of our optimism, and turn our attention to more creative endeavors.

It is a freeing thought to realize that the strength we seem to draw from others is really a process of opening our minds to our own deeper resource. In consciously returning to this inner resource we find the salvation we seek. In quietness and trust in this larger context of life, the flame of new strength is kindled.

When we are consumed with a problem, we have simply relegated our attention to one miniscule aspect of our being. Our entire universe revolves around our little problem. We weigh everything against it, including our ability to be happy and productive with our life.

There is nothing that can sever your connection with your unsounded essence, that limitless source of energy and inspiration that will lift you out of even the apparently tightest corners. Regardless of how far you feel you have strayed from your Source, it is still present and will still flood your being with the strength and assurance you need to move beyond this current stretch of uncertainty.

Begin now to take the healing advice found in Isaiah’s words. Feel the “rest” of letting go of your frantic search for answers. Be still and trust that the answers you need are now forthcoming. Turn from the apparent adversity and let new strength and courage arise from the core of your being.

All that you seek is always with you. Embrace it now, in the quiet.

 

Love Yourself Through Fear

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Question: “I know I need to make some changes in my life, but I’m afraid to make them. How can love help me to overcome fear?”

A familiar misunderstanding we have about love is that it is a power we call upon or we employ as we might employ an air freshener. Love is not a power we employ but an aspect of our being we express. What’s the difference? We don’t try to muster enough love to power our way through obstacles. Instead, we allow love to do its perfect work through us.

We start from the premise that love draws to us that which is for our highest good and dissolves that which is not. You may argue, “I’m in an unhealthy relationship that I know is not for my highest good, but I’m afraid to do anything about it. Why would love draw to me an unhealthy relationship?”

Love is not drawing the unhealthy relationship. Love imparts the wisdom to recognize you are in an unhealthy relationship. Love is stirring the discomfort you feel. Love is alerting you to the fact that you are trying to stuff yourself into a container (relationship, circumstance, etc.) that is far too small. Each time you make decisions that perpetuate this confining situation, love alerts you. If you ignore the signals, then love patiently sends them again.

Think of it this way: Love expresses a strength, fear protects a weakness. Am I responding to inner strength, or am I protecting a weakness? You already know the answer. If you make different choices, then know that love will support these choices. You were not given a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power and love. Your discomfort is your soul asserting itself, assuring you that life can be more than your fear allows. Accept the gift that love inspires in you and watch how it dissolves the chains of fear that have kept you in bondage.

Awaken From Your Sleep

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“Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place; and I did not know it.’” Gen. 28:16).

This story of Jacob represents a profound moment in ancient Hebrew history, and in ours. Jacob, fleeing the wrath of his brother, Esau, was in a distant region when he had a dream that angels ascended and descended a ladder. Above the ladder, the Lord stood. Jacob had thought, like all his contemporaries, that he had left the presence of God who was considered to be a localized deity. In his dream he realized that God was even in this distant land.

Jacob drew great strength from this revelation, and he made this covenant with God: “If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God, and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house; and of all that thou givest me I will give the tenth to thee.” He entrusted himself fully, including his finances, to the guidance and all-supplying power of God.

Omnipresence must become more to us than a concept; it must become a living revelation. Right now, you are in the presence of God. You will not get there in the next fifteen minutes, or with the resolution of your current problem, or when you get that new job, or find that right person. You are here, fully in the presence of God right now!

You and I can follow Jacob’s example by fully committing ourselves to what it means to be in the presence of God. We can trust that God is guiding us, supplying all our needs because we are fully relying upon the wisdom and intelligence, the love and the prospering power that is within us and all about us.

Like Jacob, awaken from your sleep and make a vow to commit your whole being to God. See God guiding every step you take, moving through every deal you make, and drawing to you everything you need to take your next successful step. In return, see all that you have as God’s. See yourself, your finances, all your affairs as God’s and you will, like Jacob, prosper beyond your wildest dreams.