Posts Tagged ‘Christian’

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JESUS IS ALREADY HERE

October 29, 2009

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The end of conflict.

I was baptized in the Greek Orthodox church (at the age of one), but I have not been a part of the church since my late teens. This is not because I think there’s anything wrong with the Greek Orthodox faith, I do not. The Sunday Service is a moving experience that captures the imagination and is rich with tradition and symbolism. But when I looked around the cathedral with its gold trim on… everything: icons, platters, robes, crosses, walls, ceilings, arches, and stained glass visages everywhere, a discomfort came over me.

I couldn’t imagine Jesus speaking in a room like this.

Cathedral

Entering adulthood, I occasionally experienced other churches’ Sunday Services and discovered a seemingly endless variety, each with their own unique way of offering the “…word of God.” The stoicism of my childhood religious experiences seemed rigid and out of touch, by comparison.

SingersLightsSoundI found myself enjoying the “celebration” of many contemporary services: rooms mildly decorated, some with non-descript stained glass windows and often without the traditional large cross; gospel choirs and small vocal groups with drums, bass, guitars and keyboards; people standing up, clapping in time to the music – on 2 and 4 for a change – filling the room with joyous sounds and once the songs ended, offering thunderous applause; messages that lifted people up, instead of asking them to get on their knees; ministers, dressed in business casual or even casual attire, asking questions and challenging the congregation to respond, engaging them to think not only with their minds, but with their hearts.

I could imagine Jesus speaking in a room like this.

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There are, of course, the mixed messages within organized religion: Jesus was not the son of God, therefore (the son of God) has not arrived on earth verses He is the son of God, and is coming back; the Old Testament’s “an eye for an eye” verses Jesus’ “love your enemy”; back in the previous century, the world – which was only 6000 years old according to some – was in its sixth day of creation, Armageddon was near, and by the year 2000, only 144,000 would survive as God’s chosen people, yet here we are nine years after the “seventh day” has begun; a newborn baby, pure of thought and deed, is somehow born a sinner;

It appeared Jesus’ teachings differed greatly with some of what was said in traditional Services. I had many questions and no reasonable answers. I understood faith is “…the evidence of things not seen.” What I didn’t understand was how do we as people of faith, live our lives according to scripture, when scripture is conflicted?

bandstandDuring this time I realized I had to make a decision on what (not who) “God” is (for me) and why the man from Nazareth came to be the most quoted yet misunderstood (my opinion) person in Christianity. For three decades, being a member of a church was not a top priority. From time to time, I read about the teachings of different denominations, realizing that none have a lock on Christianity, although many would have us believe they do.

When I finally learned how to walk this gauntlet of contradiction, the answers came. I discovered a peace that will sustain me for the rest of my life. Whether my conclusions are in agreement with any denomination is not the point. Each denomination of the Christian faith represents nothing more than the conclusions of a few people who think their way is better.

Who can say they’re right and I’m wrong? No one. So, here’s what works for me:

1.)   The man, Jesus of Nazareth, showed us through words and deeds, we have all we need to live peaceful, loving lives. It’s our choice.

2.)   My mother did not give birth to a sinner.

3.)   Armageddon is a man-made concept, created to control people through fear.

4.)   An “eye for an eye” results in blindness, to paraphrase Gandhi.

5.)   You attract that which you are.

6.)   The “…second coming of Christ…” is already in progress, in each and every one of us, every day. Jesus, the “the Son of God,” is not coming back – there’s no need. His work on earth was done years ago. He showed us we have the power to become whatever we choose. The future is our responsibility, not His. Our choices and their consequences were made crystal clear.

In other words…

Jesus is already here.

BandPerforming 

As for those who absorb these contradictions, week after week, year after year, without ever asking questions? How does this affect their beliefs?

Soon after the 9-11 attacks, I had many conversations about traditional Christianity. In one discussion, I was told the invasion of Iraq was necessary. When I disagreed, it was then brought to my attention that, “…there were wars in the Bible that were justified, as is this one.”

“I’m pretty sure Jesus would not go to war,” I said.

“Jesus wasn’t around during those wars.”

“So which is right?”

No answer.

Jesus is already here.

RockChurch

I once presented a hypothetical to one of my Greek Orthodox relatives:

A man, or woman, lives in such a remote part of the world that he or she has never heard of Christianity, the Bible, God or Jesus. They’ve unknowingly lived their life, according to Jesus’ teachings, to the letter: never wronging anyone, having forgiven anyone who may have wronged them; helping to care for the sick and the elderly in their village; giving of themselves selflessly day in and day out. They’ve led an exemplary life.

“Would they be accepted into the ‘Kingdom of God’?” I asked.

 “No, no! Unless they ‘give themselves to Jesus Christ,’ they would not be accepted into God’s Kingdom.”

A stunning answer and one I couldn’t disagree with more. It’s obvious to me Jesus’ teachings are already in that person’s life, whether he or she knows it or not.

Jesus is already here.

ContemporarySanctuary

I was once asked if I believe in God. Before I answered, I took a moment to collect my thoughts, because I did not want to give the impression that I was either Atheist or Agnostic.

“Yes. But not in the traditional sense of God in a place called ‘Heaven’ and the devil in a place called ‘Hell.’”

“I don’t understand.”

“For me, God is not some being – in the sky somewhere – that we pray to. Instead, God is inside each of us. It’s the moral compass – the power to reason and choose – the power of free will. That’s God, to me.”

“So why don’t you go to church?”

“I can’t find one that has what I’m looking for.”

“Do you know what you’re looking for?”

“No. But I’ll know when I see it.”

“Would you go to church if you found the ‘right’ one?”

“Yes.”

“I’ll start looking.”

This paraphrased conversation took place between my wife and I very early in our relationship. I’ll never forget it. It was the only time I have ever been asked the question and finding the right words was not easy. Not long after that, she found a church home that’s part of the rapidly growing movement known as “New Thought” or “Practical” Christianity. Most of these churches are non-denominational and welcome people of all faiths, races and sexual orientation.

Jesus is already here.

PlainChurch

Many traditionalists have voiced their discontent with these new, more progressive approaches to Christianity. Could it be their discontent stems from the diminishing attendance at their own Sunday Services? Is it possible the more progressive approach to Christianity is the future? Are people growing weary of the conflicting messages? Are they concluding, as have I, the answers to their questions are actually inside of them?

The incredible growth of progressive, forward-thinking ministries seems to answer these questions. Case in point: the highest attendance of any church in this country belongs to the very progressive Lakewood Church in Texas, which draws well over 40,000 people, in three separate Services, each weekend.

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Borrowing again from Mahatma Gandhi: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” I believe we have all we need – here and now – to be that change.

Jesus is already here.

Sincerely,

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www.MichaelKontras.com

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TOO MUCH PLURIBUS, NOT ENOUGH UNUM

October 1, 2009

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It’s time for a “Rant” with no “Observation.”

Featured on the front of the Great Seal of the United States of America are the words “E Pluribus Unum.” “Pluribus” is related to the English word “plural” and “Unum” is related to the English word “unit.” The direct translation of the term is “Out of many, one.”

Apparently, many of our elected leaders have forgotten (or don’t know) what this means. Their exploitation of cultural issues is an attempt to keep us divided for their personal gain. Politicizing these issues is a disservice to our country and is certainly not in step with the ideals they have been elected to uphold. Those who suppress, intimidate, belittle or dismiss portions of our citizenship because of race, color, religious beliefs, sexual orientation or income level have failed to grasp the concept of “E Pluribus Unum.”

We are called the “United” States of America, not the “Divided” States of America. We’ve already had our Civil War, and those who no longer wanted to enslave human beings, won, with much blood and treasure expended. Yet, it seems there are those who would like nothing better than to reverse that outcome.

They are not accepting of anyone who looks or believes differently than them. They’re right and everyone else is wrong. Theirs is the only accurate interpretation of The Constitution. Theirs is the only way to “run” this country. Theirs is the only way to believe in God or be a good Christian. They say they are tolerant, but tolerance is not acceptance. If it were up to them, we would go back to the days of white supremacy with all people of color being only “two-thirds human.”

Now that we have our first black President, those supportive of the lunacy we’ve seen since his election are being exposed. I couldn’t be happier. Let them make asses out of themselves for the nation – and the world – to see. Once they’re embarrassed enough, they’ll retreat to privacy, and those with constructive ideas for moving our country forward will engage with the ideals set forth in our Great Seal.

We’ve had enough “Pluribus.” It’s time for some “Unum.”

Sincerely,

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www.MichaelKontras.com

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THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO

September 12, 2009

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The depth and breadth of my Christian understanding exceeds that of most church goers. I was a volunteer, a team leader, a musician, and ultimately the administrator for my church. It was a rewarding, albeit, exhausting time in my life. Being “on the inside” of church operations allowed me access to information and knowledge few will ever have. I will never forget the experiences.

Our minister did far more than give messages on Sunday morning. She was as much a teacher as she was a pastor, always lifting people up, never judging anyone, and often putting her own well-being on the back burner to be there for others. Growing up, I assumed all ministers behaved this way.

Wow! Was I ever wrong.

Meet Rev. Wiley Drake and Pastor Steven Anderson.

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Watch and listen to what they have to say about the death of the President of the United States.

Then of course, there are those who would follow through with action.

Fueling these fires are many who hide behind fictitious names like “Sleek1978” spewing their hatred. Here’s what was posted after Pastor Anderson’s sermon:

“Well Mr Pastor ….the whole ARAB WORLD support you and Amen to your prayer…Americans: this presedent is hijacking your country and the world to bring about the demonic agenda of the NWO ..be prepared America the micro chip is coming to you soon as it has been implemented in 3rd world countries as a test on pets now in united arab emirates and the RFID will be inforced by 2010,The NWO will not spare your blacks nor whites,its all planed folks and their plan is in action..which side youre on?”

Isn’t it interesting how little this person knows about our country’s language and its grammar?

Our nation is changing – for the better. But change never comes without discomfort. What is being revealed, now that we have our first man of color as President of the United States, is the truth about where and with whom the hatred, anger and bigotry rests in our land. This too, shall pass. These elements of our society will fade away over time. Those of us of the Christian faith will denounce the teachings of “false prohets” and move on.

There was a time, a couple decades back, when I would have been angry and writing hateful words of my own in retaliation to what you’ve seen and heard here. Now, I do my best to adhere to the teachings of our Way-shower.

“…forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

These words have saved me from experiencing much anguish.

Sincerely,

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www.MichaelKontras.com