Tag Archives: Kingdom of Heaven

Tuned in: Testing God once again

There is an interesting blog titled “A Year Without God” which caught my attention a few months ago. It is a provocative blog that describes a former Adventist pastor deciding to live a year as if God did not exist .   He says in one of his posts titled “Where I stand: a six-month report” that he does not believe in God because of lack of empirical evidence.  These are his exact words :

I don’t see how there is any empirical, scientific evidence for God’s existence.I don’t see any evidence for any recognizable pattern of God’s interaction in the world. I don’t think the Bible records anything more than ancient people’s search for the divine.”  (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/yearwithoutgod/)

This is a  powerful and bold statement regarding the possible existence or non-existence of an all powerful being.   Although I understand his point of view, I also tend to be cautious and vigilant about any conclusions I make about that which possibly created my mind in the first place.  I sometimes ask myself :  Can the cartoon character conclude that there is no cartoonist?  Can the painting prove that there is no such thing as a painter?  I cannot reach such a bold conclusion if I am not capable of fully understanding what the universe is all about and what other people are perceiving and experiencing.  It is true that we may not be able to “prove” the existence of God by using physical evidence that only our five senses can detect.  But do we have only five senses?

Having said this, I am currently in a position in my life where I felt the need to get on my knees and plead for an answer.  I have been evolving in my spiritual journey, from being a catholic, to a pentecostal fundamentalist, to a more liberal reflective Christian.    For the past two to three years, I have gradually distant myself from the traditional Christian faith.  I chose to liberate myself from living a fundamental religious lifestyle, and adopt a more liberal and inclusive approach.   I have learned a lot from other faiths and traditions in this journey of mine.  You can read more about this spiritual journey in the following posts:  Spiritual Roller coaster,  Is this all there is to Life?, Am I Losing Faith?, Embarrassed by the Church, How NOT to be a Good Christian,  Religiously Correct. 

I am not ashamed to say this, because I also believe that doubt and skepticism can be utilized to learn more about the true nature of my existence, and also about God, as I am capable of understanding Him.

To make a long story short, I recently encountered trouble in my immediate family and felt desperate about it.  More doubts came to my mind, but this time it was about the approach I have been taking in the last year.  I started wondering if this “God business” was actually a bad thing to walk away from.  The concept of hell, salvation through faith alone,  the “forgiveness” of sins, the Holy Trinity, and the divinity of Jesus Christ were a few of many questionable doctrines that simply became too mystical for me to accept and believe any longer.  But right now I am looking past these doubts and allowing God to work on me.  I still have my doubts, but my recent experience in life has been like a a bucket of ice water spilled on my face.  I needed to wake up.

 

So I started to pray, like I have not done in months.  I humbled myself against my rational and intellectual nature, and started to talk to this “invisible” and “distant” God out of desperation.  I often criticized the act of prayer as a manipulative way of getting God to do what I want, which you can read more in the post “Why pray?.”  But I felt like a vegetarian craving for a hamburger in the middle of a desert.

I also started posting and sharing messages in a Christian forum and started reading an inspirational Christian book as well.  As I read some of the pages, my rational mind kept saying to myself:  “be careful…. don’t fall into the religious trap…. you know it is just superstitious….. this is only religious fanaticism… fairy tales.”

But my personal family ordeal was pulling me away from my rational mind, and towards the “unknown” of spiritual life.  I craved for answers.  So I decided to give God another chance.  I blindly got to my knees and plead for my heart to be transformed.  Instead of blaming others and expecting circumstances to change, I accepted the challenge of opening my heart again and let “God” do whatever needed to be done.  I was basically “testing God.”  I remember praying : “you want my attention?…. you got it!”  I cried like a baby.   I remember saying, “I don’t have a lot of faith… but I am here pleading, just in case you are listening!”

I then came across this other wonderful blog titled “Isaiah 53:5 Project” where it has a recent post called “God is calling, Pick up the Phone” The author described a time when he decided to open up to the possibility of God’s call:

” Since I couldn’t escape thinking about the possibility of God or continue to ignore His constant calls I finally, and reluctantly, “answered the phone”.

 

This post helped me realize that God may be “calling me.”   I have asked God if He is listening.  This post asked me if I have been listening to God.  The answer is probably NO.  Like the prodigal son, who walked away from his father, but returned after he has been starving to death.    I still have my doubts.  But that is ok.  I don’t believe God expects me to know everything for certain in order to grow spiritually.   Christianity may still not have all the answers, but I am willing to learn.  I am willing to listen.

I am tuned in.

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God versus Humans: Part 2

We, humans, have declared war on God.  But this is not an ordinary war.   It is a different kind of war.  We have tried very hard to fight Him, not with guns, tanks, and bombs, but with our egos. Our weapons are our egos.  We try to use human logic to explain away the existence of God.  We attempt to justify the non existence of God by using suffering and evil as evidence.  We try very hard to live independently. We try to own our lives.  But we truly own nothing.  Not even our own bodies. Once our bodies die, we lose them forever.

No matter how many rules, regulations, and laws we create, we humans will continue to break them.  And when we break the rules and laws, we must create consequences to enforce the laws.  And when we enforce the laws, we are also creating a hierarchy of those who have the power to enforce the laws, and those who must obey the laws.  This creates different classes based on different levels of authority.  And by doing so, we create inequalities among ourselves.  Those who can and those who cannot. Those who must obey, and those who must be obeyed.  And this almost always leads to injustice, abuse of power, and hatred.  It is a dead end.

This dead end is even more enforced by a very powerful armor that we tend to use: Pride.

Pride is a very dangerous thing to live with.  It blinds us to the point of exalting us to a level that is more than we really are, but is truly an illusion.  Pride gives us a false sense of security that is temporary and shallow.  It makes us even more vulnerable to suffering and pain.

But someone once said “love your enemies.”  He also said “be perfect as my Father in heaven is perfect,” “walk the extra mile,” “turn the other cheek,” “forgive seventy times seven,” and “those who are free of sins can throw the first stone.” How can you do all of these things, and still enforce rules, create hierarchies, and maintain our pride?

We simply cannot.  It is either us with our own strengths, or something else.  Something outside of us.

We humans cannot ever function perfectly without failing with our own limitations, unless we rely on something greater than us. Because, after all, it is not about us and our limited strengths.    Like a community is not built with an individual but a combination of different individuals, humans cannot surpass our limited ways of living without the collaboration of something beyond us. And it is through this collaboration that we can move beyond the strict set of rules and regulations that we cannot escape from on our own.  This collaboration is with something greater than us. Something transcendent.

I think we need to surrender to the fact that we cannot do this on our own.  We need to empty ourselves from our arrogant ways of living. We surrender ourselves by being poor in spirit.  In this spiritual poverty, we will then have the space to fill ourselves with something greater.  We will cease to look at other humans as inferior, but will see them as worthy.  And the key word here is Surrendersimilar to when soldiers surrender in a battle field.

We would not need to maintain a hierarchy.  We would not need to keep ourselves segregated or compartmentalized.  We would not need to create fear, abuse, or hatred. We simply would need to Surrender. And by surrendering, we are automatically welcoming Grace.

And when you have grace, then we start experiencing forgiveness.  We start having true harmony.  We begin to love our enemies.  We experience strong communities.  We encounter and start living a new way of existence.

“…for God, nothing is impossible.”

And by doing the above, we humans are already making peace…. With God.


What kind of Atheist or Believer are you?

http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/07/15/the-six-types-of-atheists/

The above link has been a popular blog post that CNN published recently regarding a new study that identified different atheists.  It invites some of us to try to identify with a particular type of atheism.

It looks to me like the beginning of the development of various “non-religious” denominations.

In the “religious”  or Christian world, there are those who identify themselves as Catholic, Pentecostal, or Episcopal.  There are also those who prefer to be called Baptists, Lutherans, or Methodists.  There is also the Church of God, The Church of Christ, the Assemblies of God, and the Church of the Nazarene.  Furthermore, there are others who attend the Seventh Day Adventist Church, the Unitarian Church, the Orthodox Church, and the Scientology Church.

There are people who are labeled as conservatives, moderates,  liberals, creationists, evangelicals, and missionaries.  There are those who believe in the literal interpretation of the Bible, and those who believe in the symbolism of the scriptures.  There are those who believe in the story of creation, and those who believe in evolution.  There are those who believe in the power of the Holy Spirit, the Sacraments, Baptism in water, praying to saints, and the intervention of angels and saints. There are those who believe in the Rapture, others in the second coming of Christ, and others believe in the Resurrection of our bodies in the latter days.

Not to mention Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Jewish, the Baha’i faith, Wicca, and many other organized  religious affiliation.  The list goes on and on of the different kinds of churches and belief systems.

How much more division and labeling are we going to embrace?  How much contrasting are we going to endure?

According to CNN’s article, there are six main types of Atheists (is it a coincidence that they came up with the number 6?).  There is the “Intellectual”, the Activist,  the Seeker/Agnostic (which does not sound like an Atheist since it implies seeking something transcendent with an open mind), the Anti-theist, the Non-theist, and the Ritual Atheist.  What will they come up with next?

This is why I don’t necessarily like the idea of using labels to identify myself.  It tends to separate us from each other and from ourselves.   I have written that I call myself a Reflective Christian.  This does not imply any particular religious denomination or philosophy.  I am just a person who seeks and strongly believes in serving the poor, like Jesus, Ghandi, and Buddha taught.  Period.  If this description is not enough to fit the popular method of labeling and categorizing, too bad.

Do you identify yourself with a particular religious group?  Or are you more like one of the six kinds of Atheists?  Are you an “ABC” (Atheist, Believer, or Confused)?

I would like to hear about your opinion on this matter.

Thanks for reading.


Conversations with God: A Review of The Shack book

I will try to give a brief review of this book without giving away the plot.

The Shack is a story about a man named Mack who suffers the loss of his daughter victimized by a serial killer.  While still grieving her death, he receives a note in the mail supposedly from God, inviting him to meet him exactly at the place where his daughter was murdered: an abandoned shack.  Mack decides to go and meets three individuals who introduced themselves as the three persons of the Holy Trinity.  The conversations are casual and friendly, trying to normalize the interactions as if there were four human beings talking to each other.

This book pictures God repeatedly condemning the idea of independence from Him.  In chapter 8, God says  “When you chose independence over relationship, you became a danger to each other”, implying that independence would lead to hierarchy and authority.  Mack reasons that authority is used to refrain people from fighting endlessly and getting hurt but God explains beautifully that in a selfish world, authority is used to inflict great harm.  I believe that the key word is not independence or authority, but selfishness.  Being selfish is the root of all evil.
According to God , we humans ” embrace fear and pain and power and rights so readily in our relationships” but our choices are not stronger than His purposes. We don’t understand it now, but one day we will. I think this is all a human author can say about the possible reason why God allows evil things to happen to people.  We can never fully explain or justify evil, which is why so many people conclude that God is evil or simply does not exist.

But going back to hierarchy, doesn’t the Bible teach about the man being “the head of the household” like Jesus is “the head of the church”? And didn’t Jesus relied on God the Father to do his miracles and fulfill God’s will? Doesn’t the Bible also teach about slaves submitting to their masters? Clearly, the Bible does teach about the importance of hierarchy.

In chapter 12, God uses the analogy of sinking in water and encouraging Mack to allow God to rescue him.  “When you start to sink, let me rescue you.”   While reading this, I ask myself : are we sinking?  Are we unsaved and desperately needing to be saved?  I believe we are sinking in our own selfishness and need to be “rescued” by learning to reach out and serve others in need. We need to genuinely rescue others from injustice, hunger, and illness so that we can be rescued from our egos. But God says we cannot do this with our own strengths.  I can believe that, except that we don’t necessarily need to be saved from “eternal damnation”, but we actually need to be saved from ourselves.  The ego gets in the way of genuinely helping others (which can be called sin if you want).  Emptying ourselves from the ego so that we can fill ourselves with genuine care and love can also be interpreted as being dependent on God so that we can live the Kingdom of Heaven (“blessed are the poor in Spirit” Matthews 5).

God also said in chapter 12 “I don’t create institutions…”.  This is an important statement to remind ourselves with.  Humans create institutions, including religion.  God, on the other hand, is about relationships.

In chapter 13, God teaches that lies are like fortresses that need walls (justifications) to make us feel secured, but it does not work.   God uses our choices to work perfectly into His purposes.  He says “All evil flows from independence, and independence  is your choice”. He also says “True love never forces” and He further explains that love has true meaning when He allows consequences of our choices be manifested.  But, does true love also permits God to allow people to suffer eternally in hell? What happened to grace?  And wouldn’t true love allow us to be independent somehow? For example, my love to my children would not be selfless and complete if I don’t allow them to live on their own and have their own lives outside of my house. I would want them to succeed in life without depending on me forever.  True love would mean being willing to let go.  Maybe God’s love does not function the same  way as a human father’s love.

In Chapter 14, conversations get even more interesting.  God states an important fact when he says that emotions are neither bad or good.  “Most emotions are responses to perceptions” and “Just because you believe something firmly does not make it true” are  statements I agree with.  The description of expectation versus expectancy nicely illustrates how important it is to maintain a relationship alive instead of killing the relationship with rules and requirements. If I perceive my relationship with God by simply being fixated on the rules that I must obey (the Law), then my relationship with God is based on fear.  But if I accept  the fact that I am imperfect and accept God’s grace while living a simple life, then my relationship with God is further nourished and deepened.  If I expect my wife to do certain things to make me happy, then I would be greatly disappointed and will quickly start building resentment towards her.  But if I focus on simply being with each other in good times and bad times, everything else becomes secondary.

Farther in this same chapter. God says “I don’t want to be the first among a list of values: I want to be at the center of everything.” According to this statement, God does not want to be #1 in my life, or be the most important thing in my life.  He rather be involved in everything in my life.  This idea conforms with the concept of not idolizing an erroneous image of God  by attending religious services , but simply living life to its fullest.  In other words, stop looking for God in particular places and during very long repetitious prayers, but live God in everyday life.  When we idolize God, we put everything else behind.  When we “live God” , everything else is included.  We can do this by practicing compassion, mercy, forgiveness, service, peace making, and simplicity when we interact with family, coworkers, strangers, and friends.  Everybody we commune with; everywhere we go; every time.  Otherwise, we run the risk of treating everyone else with contempt and hatred, while “loving” an idolized God.  Livng the Kingdom of Heaven instead of searching to go to heaven.

God says that religion uses the Law to condemn and accuse.  Mack asks “Then why did you give us those commandments…?” and God responds “Actually, we wanted you to give up trying to be righteous on your own.  It was a mirror to reveal just how filthy your face gets when you live independently”.    So this answer implies that the Ten Commandments were just another reminder of human’s tendencies to be independent through rules and regulations and controlling others.  So it wasn’t God’s attempt to keep us straight?  I understood that the Commandments were ways for God (or humans) to keep control of a chaotic mass of confused people in the middle of the dessert.  Anyhow, the book also implies that we don’t have to follow the Commandments anymore. So I don’t have to love God with all my might since Jesus forgave my sins and it is all about grace?  I believe it is true that God’s grace is unimaginable and enough to redeem us, but we should also not take for granted the importance of loving our neighbors as ourselves, being truthful, avoid greed, honor our parents, etc. while we live the Kingdom of Heaven.

I also think that having a genuine love and care for others would automatically lead us into obeying the Commandments, without having to worry about breaking them.  It is almost like learning  a new language by trying to memorize a long vocabulary list and grammatical rules, versus simply speaking the language with others in everyday conversations and learning as you go.

“Forgiveness is first for you, the forgiver…to release you from something that will eat you alive..” is a true statement that we should all learn from.  We should let God  help us “take on the nature that finds more power in love and forgiveness than pain.” At the end of the book, Mack pardons the killer by repeating himself “I forgive you, I forgive you…” To me this sounds simplistic and superficial.  Do people really forgive by simply repeating this phrase? Is this realistic?  Jesus taught in the Gospels that we should forgive 70 x 7.  I am not sure He meant to “fake it until you make it.”  Maybe Jesus did mean it like that.  At the end of the story the reader is left in the dark about whether Mack spent a real weekend with God, had a near death experience, a psychotic break, or simply a dream.

In the After Words page, the author talks about a “new revolution of love and kindness.”  This is what I call the Kingdom of Heaven.  The Life that involves a radical change of behavior that reflects selfless acts of service and compassion.  Whether you are a Christian, a Buddhist, a Muslim,  an Atheist, or whatever you decide to identify yourself with, we all can agree that this kind of revolution is essential in today’s world. I could say a lot more about other parts of the conversations that Mack had with God, but I will only limit it to what I have written  on this post.  I may have more input in another post.

The Shack is a book that clearly reflects the Christian’s interpretation of what God would tell us about suffering and His love (although not fully explained). However, it is fair to say that the author attempts to address life’s most difficult questions with kind words and reassurance which reflects an unconditional love from a graceful God.  It emphasizes on relationship instead of institutions and authority.  It stresses on dependence on God rather than independence and self-righteousness.  It magnifies  on grace rather than guilt. It reminds us of God’s unexplainable purposes being bigger  than our fruitless and selfish choices.    If I ever have a true conversation with God about suffering and His love for us, I think it would be similar to the conversation that Mack had with Papa, Jesus, and Sarayu.


Are you Hungry?

I am experiencing another reminder about the mysteries of life.  I have family members who may soon reach their final days on earth.  Human suffering continues to occur everywhere.  I have been reflecting again about the pain of having to let go.  It is a necessity to learn to surrender.  It is part of life for lives to come and go.   I have been rereading literature from famous Christian authors such as C.S. Lewis.  This author described the mere Christian faith as a way to rely on the help of the Almighty God to lead us into perfect repentance.  Thanks to this review, I have thought about the way I have been trying to let go of my selfish nature, of the natural way of thinking only about myself, and shifting into a more inclusive, forgiving, and selfless approach in life.

I have contemplated on the more flexible, serving, and merciful way of perceiving myself as merely another being among billions of others in an insignificant planet among millions of other planets and stars in a gigantic galaxy. Perhaps this is what Jesus meant when He  taught about “denying the self” (Mark 8:34), “loving our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:33)”, “turning the other cheek” (Matthew 5:39), and being “meek as I am meek” (Matthew 11:29).  This also relates to other teachings such as Buddhism which teaches that we must surrender  our desires, have a simpler life, and empty our thoughts. It teaches about being in the present and to become united with others.  Hinduism also talks about rejecting the world we perceive because it is an illusion, and embrace the inner self.  I am convinced there is a connection to all of these teachings.

But there must be a change of heart.  There must be a realization that the world we typically perceive is not the real world.  There must be a desire to deny what we have always perceived as the “I”, the Ego.    We must connect with the real self. There must be hunger.  There must the a thirst for Truth.

When we eat food and are stuffed, there is no desire for anything else.  We usually get tired and go to rest. We are typically distracted with the mundane, the superficial.  But when our stomachs are empty and our throats feel dry, there is an obvious desire for something new.  There is an acknowledgment of a need for something more.   The irony is that, the desire for something more, the need to be satisfied and quench the thirst, involves emptiness.  Emptiness of what?  Emptiness of the “junk food” and the “sugar drinks”  of the superficial and immediate gratification we have been consuming most of our lives.  There is a need to “purify” our thoughts, our minds from all the “stuff” that keeps our egos fed.  There is a need to have a “bowel movement” of all the selfishness and individualism, and defensiveness.  There is a need to be hungry and thirsty again, and then satisfy ourselves with Truth.

But this requires guts.  This process requires “dying“.  This approach involves pain, suffering, and embracing the hunger and the thirst.

I am currently feeling hunger and thirst.  Sometimes I don’t feel the hunger and thirst because I make the common mistake of consuming “junk food” and “sugar drinks.”  But I become hungry again.  I become thirsty again.  Isn’t this what Jesus taught about the “bread of life” (John 6:35)  and the “living water” (John 4:13-14) that He offered?  I feel the need again, but it is time to change my diet.  It is time to feed the real self, and let the ego starve to death.

Have you been eating the proper “food” to enhance the real self?  Have you been hungry and thirsty recently?  I challenge you to fast and empty yourself.  We need to become purified, and continue to hunger and thirst for Truth.  We need to desire to be true to ourselves.

Blessed are you who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for you will be filled...” (Mathew 5:6)


Worshiping America

We the people of the United States,  like to worship the god America. Our pledge of allegiance serves as our daily prayer, and the national anthem is our hymns.

The American flag is our idol, and the American seal is our religious icon.  The Fourth of July is our religious holiday . The Constitution serves as  our Holy Book.

George Washington is the Messiah.   Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln are our prophets and holy teachers.  We fill ourselves with patriotism, the same way we fill ourselves with a divine spirit.

We find comfort in excluding ourselves from the rest of the “anti-American” world the same way we exclude and condemn other religions.   We police the world and spread American democracy, the same way we try to convert the world.

We strive for American freedom and liberty, the same way monks escape the world through emptiness and surrendering. The American dream is our promised land.  American citizenship is our Salvation.

America is chosen among other nations. America is the greatest, the strongest, the most beautiful, the richest, and the most desired.

America is our god.

“Our America who is on the top of the earth, great is your name, your government will rule the rest of the earth as it is done in American soil.   Give us this day our daily dose of American dream.    And disregard our lack of patriotism, as we ignore those who try to remind us about our arrogance.  And lead us not into anti-Americanism, but deliver us from socialism, communism, and anything that threatens our American tradition.  Yours is the government, the power, and honor, forever and ever.  Amen.”


Religiously Correct

I sometimes have been tempted to be “religiously correct”.  By this I mean that, in spite of my continuous spiritual growth and evolving journey in life, I sometimes tend to regress and think in a traditional, exclusive, and religious way like I used to.  Of course, there are a lot teachings and customs in the Christian faith I grew up with that are still a huge part in my spiritual life, not because others have taught me to believe them, but because I genuinely believe them to be true.  But I wanted to share a list of old beliefs I learned from childhood which I accepted without question until recently, which now I consider “religiously correct”:

“I shouldn’t be angry  at life… or at God.”   I have always been taught that we should not  be angry at life or God because He knows everything and loves us, and that life is a gift.  This is true, but it does not dismiss the fact that this life can sometimes be painful. Besides, acknowledging the pain is also healthy.  God also at times seem unfair and distant.  I tend to feel fearful in expressing my true feelings to God.  But if I don’t, I would not have a close relationship with Him.  Thankfully I have learned in my spiritual journey that we have the right to be angry at God.  The Bible has stories such as  Israel, Job, and David whom disputed and questioned God on the injustice they experienced.  Even Jesus once said “Why have you forsaken me?”, citing Psalmist, while slowly dying on the cross.  So, yes, being angry at life and God is natural, even healthy, because expressing this honest feeling to the Omnipresent Being is better than having no relationship with  Him at all.

“People who are not Christians are living in sin, and therefore, not ‘saved’.”    This is one of the most disturbing beliefs of the Christian faith.  Jesus said “Do not judge…for in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:2)  Who are we to determine who is “saved” or not? Jesus taught that many will claim to know Him but He will say to them “I never knew you…! (Matthew 7:23).  How am I to conclude that people like Gandhi, Dalai Lama, and other inspired people who lived serving others,  are burning eternally in hell unless they agreed with my faith? No, I cannot embrace this exclusiveness anymore.

“Behaviors such as drinking alcohol, smoking, and tattooing are sinful.”  I have witnessed the damaging results of drunkenness and smoking cigarettes in my family. Many close families have been affected by the disease of alcoholism and I recently lost someone to lung cancer caused by heavy smoking.  So it is easy for me to agree with those who automatically link these behaviors to spiritual shortcomings and sin.  However, I have learned that true spiritual growth relies on what my genuine attitude about life is and how I treat others.  I can be completely sober, never touch a cigarette, and have a clear skin, and still practice adultery, gossip, lie, manipulate, be greedy, and discriminate others, which is broadly done by many Christians. Jesus himself said that  what truly defiles man comes from within (Mark 7:15).  So no matter how much junk I put in my body, or how much ink I use to decorate my body, what comes from  my heart is what defines how I truly am.

“If it somehow involves Jesus and his teachings, then it must be good.”  Whenever someone preaches or talks about how God inspired them, I tend to show admiration and trust because it is commonly an expected response. I used to listen to people “of faith” without a filter, simply because they admired and worshiped Jesus.  I thought “Surely Jesus is backing them up for their arduous commitment to Him…!”  Not necessarily.  There are thousands of churches and denominations that claim to be the true church, but are actually based on self-service and worldly ambitions.  Ever wondered why the Christian church is so divided?  John wrote in the book of Revelation about Jesus preaching to various ancient churches that were short from being righteous (Revelations 2-3).  So if people claim to have a message from God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, or any of the so-called “saints”, my suggestion is not to believe them.  Do your own research and follow your guts.

“All we need is prayer.”  Saying that I will pray for those in need and even myself is  usually the first thing that comes to mind.  I tend to tell people in need, “I will keep you in my prayers”  Again, this is a nice thing to say because it is religiously correct.  Well, this is easy for those who are doing the prayer, but not for the ones having the need.  I am not implying that we should have no faith and simply rely on our own strength. But prayer should not be the only thing we do.  I agree that actions speak louder than words.  To me, prayer is not what I have been taught.  Prayer to me is like reflecting, meditating, thanking, and doing all the things that helps us to be more connected with our true self and our creator, not simply requesting for things.  So reflecting on life is not sufficient for good things to happen, we should also put into practice what we pray  or reflect on.  The book of James in the Bible beautifully describes how faith and work should go hand in hand (James 2:17).

The following beliefs continue to be a strong part of my spiritual journey, which I do not think are religiously correct, but rather  teachings we should all follow as fellow human beings to maintain peace and genuine love and care regardless of religious background.

Deny yourself and be humble.  This is one of the traditional teachings I still long to accomplish  on a daily basis.   It is the initial step we should take to begin our journey towards spiritual maturity. We should be like children, “born again”, and begin a new life of simplicity, selflessness, and God-centeredness. (Luke 9:23, John 3:3, Matthew 5:3-5)

Love our neighbors as ourselves.  This is a simple teaching to understand, but not to practice, which is probably  why it is seldom done.  Jesus identified himself with those in need, and wanted us to do the same.  Loving ourselves more than others is easy, but loving others the same way as the self is true Salvation. And not only loving those who are easy to love.  Jesus said that if we love only those who love us, what is so special about that?  We should be perfect as God is perfect, not because it sounds good, but because I honestly believe it is the way to spiritual purity.  (Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 5:43, 47, Galatians 5:14)

Forgive and don’t hold grudges. Letting go of hurts and resentments will surely free us from any bondage that keeps us from growing spiritually.  I still believe strongly in this. My personal life has taught me how liberating it is to truly forget past hurts and simply live.   (Matthew 18:22)

Fight for righteousness, justice, and peace.    These are strong teachings most people believe in, including myself.  Fighting  for what is right in today’s world should be one of our priorities. There is too much injustice, wars, famine, and suffering for us to cross our arms and simply pray for what we wish for.  No, we should act and fight for what is right.  Jesus taught this and it is our obligation to follow this commandment.  (Deuteronomy 16:20, Matthew 5:6, 9)

Following certain teachings simply because they are popular or because they sound religious does not necessarily make them right.  I had to learn this in my life.  It was not easy breaking away from traditions and customs that people taught me all of my life.  It is not easy being unpopular, discriminated, and singled out because of my decision to be genuine and truthful to myself.  But I rather be honest and continue to grow spiritually, than to continue to be “religiously correct.”