1978

Dr. James Lewis MacLeod

 

 

Introduction

This book is in memory of Flannery O’Connor. Since she was an ecumenical author, a Catholic who wrote of Protestant evangelists, it is appropriate she be remembered by a Protestant.

Flannery died in 1964. I was a pallbearer at her funeral. I was a friend, a young Protestant minister who had enjoyed discussions of an intellectual and religious nature with her for some time. She had also regularly given me the benefit of her literary criticism on my writing.

She encouraged me to write a sort of illuminated rhetoric that seemed to grow from the nature of the material and to keep it brief. She encouraged me in writing intelligent religious expression. She did this, I suppose, because we both considered popular religious writing beneath contempt.

It is my feeling definitely encouraged by her, that there is a tragic schizophrenia in the religious personality of Christianity. A split religious consciousness divides works into intellectual or sentimental, utilitarian or romantic, head or heart. Books touching on theology are often hyper-intellectual, lengthy, abstruse, rarely moving, but they are vastly superior to books that are called inspirational. These books are usually vapid, sentimental and even inane. They put the Christian interior life on a sick-making level.

If the religious consciousness of the Christian community is to be the Biblically desired “whole”, there has to be works that merge intelligence and inspiration in the spiritual life.

These writings represent a thrust or attempt to unite the split intellectual and evangelical consciousness of the Christian church into a spiritual whole. It is then perhaps fitting that the work should be Catholic-protestant in its dedication. O’Connor was a great Catholic advocate of ecumenical things.

Because of the color in her writings, many tend to forget O’Connor was an orthodox Catholic concerned with the development of the interior life. personally, she lived a life of remarkable piety and patience; faced, as she was, with a fatal disease that wasted her for years before inevitable death. However, in my opinion, her faith was not based on fear of death. It was my convincement that she would have been just as faith-oriented had she never been ill. Incidentally, she was a great believer in prayer and never lost her very dry sense of humor.

Some of the topics in this book are what we discussed or what I was writing at the time. The views expressed herein are certainly not meant to be construed as hers. The world view is uniquely mine. I am fully responsible for any heresy expressed.

The challenge of the interior life is the need of the next hundred years. It has almost gone under in this age under the waves of commercialism, mass conformity, and shallow materialism. It is my hope that in some small way this book will help to keep it afloat.

Some of the views expressed herein are admittedly paradoxical, but I do not think that of any particular consequence. There is no easy solution to the problems of faith or organized religion.

In the past the churches have taken the easy way, which is that it is easier to try to force people to fit their minds into rigid creeds than to admit we cannot now write, nor has anyone ever written a theological remedy that will prescribe for all the needs of humanity.

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The Inner Life

We cannot control what happens to us, but we may control what happens in us. If we control through Christ what happens in us, can anything really happen to us? Who can separate us from Christ’s love but ourselves?

It is not that we are afflicted, because affliction is life. It is only how we take it. There is not a person who has not suffered; to live is to suffer. If we see life without meaning or direction, then pain and isolation will be warping enough to separate us from God.

Inner resources are needed to strengthen life. Non spiritual persons have no inner lives. They are children, going one way, then another. Their lives are careless waves tossed about on an ocean of emotional reaction. Among these, a Christian is a ship at anchor.

Jesus said of these non-spiritual ones, "they are reeds in the wind." When these children of the moment came to see Him, for His time had come, He said, "What did you expect to find in Me? A reed in the wind like yourselves?"

We cannot control what happens to us but we may control through Christ what happens in us. If we have an inner life to anchor us, then the rains may come, the wind may blow, and the ship may toss, but it holds. The man with an inner life is like the man who built his house upon a rock, or a ship with an anchor.

John Knox, dying, said to his wife, "Go read where I cast my first anchor." So she read the seventeenth chapter of John, containing the words, "And this is life eternal. . . to know Thee."

The Apostle said that neither death, nor life, governments with the power of death, ideas in fashion, ideas out of fashion, the infinity of space, nothing would separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Thus, the Apostle threw out his anchor.

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The Church

Swarms of poisonous snakes bit the children of Israel in their wandering in the desert after Egypt. The Eternal told Moses to fashion a serpent of bronze, place it on a pole, and elevate it high above the people. Those whose eyes lifted to it and stayed on it were freed of poison.

Jesus said that as Moses held up the snake, He had to be held above the people’s eyes and keep them transcendent that they may be freed of the poison around them.

There is a church with a sculptured hand that points above the steeple, the gesture of the preacher who used his sermon to point men above him to God. For the duty of the Church is to lift men’s eyes to God that they may be freed of the influences around them.

People need prayer because lives that do not look up die of their own poison. The devils inside us show out, each with its own apple. High purpose is lost in personalities, quarrels, side issues, bickering and literalisms. The energy misplaced on these has comic overtones, but it is deadly.

Only with spiritual maturity do we realize that without transcendence, there is no hope, and we are caught without purpose on a wheel of life.

The Church calls to prayer, to transcendence and to look up, to that quality of life that gives freedom. This restores innocence and wholeness. to a world that is constantly poisoned by its own life. The Church points upward to God and the sky and health.

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Laughter

Sara and Abraham had a child in their old age. Sara delighted in the child. She said in true Christmas spirit, "God hath made me laugh so the hearing smile."

Laughter is a natural form of praise. It is spontaneous applause of the mystery and irony of creation. It is a delight in the many facets of life the universe may reveal. Only depressed and sick men say of laughter: It is mad. What good does it do?

Laughter is an integral part of the Christian’s way. Christianity involves suffering, but, nevertheless, after three days, Jesus, His head whirling from the anesthesia of death, opened an eye and smiled.’ Then He got up and went towards Emmaus that He might share with them the laughter and the news.

The psalmist says, "The Lord hath done great things for us: whereof we are glad. Then was our mouth filled with laughter and our tongue with singing." Enjoy God. He has done great things. Allow those who laugh with delight to go unto Him. They understand. Is there any house with a child that has not laughter? The Kingdom of Heaven is such a house of laughter.

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Allowing Wrongs

Jesus taught people that they should have a charitable disposition towards the universe; going a second mile, turning the other cheek and trying to do good in the place of evil. " While He taught the giving of self in taking the charitable path ", He was protective of others. He would not allow wrongs to be done. He was not forced to speak out against the scribes and false religion. When the house of prayer was made into a den of thieves, He drove the thieves out.

A man letting wrong be done to others shares the wrong. It takes two to make a wrong, the one doing it and the one allowing it.

Looking the other way in the name of religion when a wrong is done is a perversion of Jesus' morality. I was being done a wrong, and you looked the other way. How does this lack of response fit in with, I was hungry and you fed me, I was naked and you clothed me? And if you love yourself as your neighbor, will you not see that your rights as well as his are respected too?

What would the Lord Jesus have been had He not preached against scribes and driven the moneychangers robbing the poor out of the temple? A person may preach the high-minded way of Heaven and take it himself, but he cannot allow evil done to’ others. Overlooking suffering in others is too near what people want to do anyway. This is what people have always done. No religion will excuse it.

It takes two to make a wrong, the active one who wrongs and the passive one who allows the wrong to be done.

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God’s Will

God is steady in His purpose. He is not put off by people. He is loving, but God will not take any thing. He knows human nature too well. God likes a straight back and irony. His will is always ironic.

Christians must put away the obvious and egotistic. If we pray for victory, God may send defeat. If we pray for a blessing, to be blessed is what draws us closer to God. A man generally prays for what elates or elevates him, but such rarely draws him closer to God.

God’s will cannot often be discerned in the shallow and obvious petitions we offer in prayer. In the obvious request, the spirit is rarely evident. We plot our little designs unaware how God counter-plots, brooding over us.

Our idea of the will of God is always the obvious, but God is rarely obvious, yet He is always logical. He feeds the poor, but has no understanding humorous wink for the powerful. He sends away the unhappy rich. He is King over all the children of pride. He is wise and ironic as befits a ruler. He uses a man’s weakness as His strength, watches the vindictive, then transfigures suffering they have caused. He lifts the dead to the resurrecting sun. God’s ways are not our ways. Observe the creation and how He has dotted every i. His ways are beyond ours. Every microscope praises God. Every telescope is a preacher.

Study the animals, the grasshoppers and the giraffe. They have logic but such beauty of design as a bird can hardly be called obvious. His conceptions are beyond ours. The idea of man is dazzling. Will not the brightness of His will prove more so when seen?

A spirit of joy moves behind us in ecstasies of creation. This spirit has made of life a festival, a fountain of disciplined joy. This joyous spirit is working the will of God through us and unknown to us.

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Reflections of God

The spirit of God is too strong to shine directly on fragile creatures. Spirit must be reflected. If it is true no one has seen God, everyone has seen reflections of His spirit.

If I never saw the sun, I would know it exists. Its rays and their results are everywhere. In fact I accept the sun's existence second hand; looking directly at it is too intense. I accept its existence because I see its rays and their reflections. I know whoever sees does so by its light, and whatever grows does so by its grace. Whatever is away too long from some reflection of it dies.

If we cannot see the source of life, we may see its reflections, and many reflections of God light up this world. We split, shred and deflect God's light according to our personalities: nevertheless, the light of God is not lost, only deflected and broken; and the bits and shreds of love we see shine in others reflect a broken splendor that rises as a rainbow of praise.

God is not lost nor is humanity done while these loving reflections of God shine. Their light makes rainbows above floods and devastations. Their light gives shattered things hope in new configurations.

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Enjoyment of God

God is an experience to enjoy. The enjoyment of God is the basis of faith. The enjoyment of God is its own justification. I am religious because I enjoy it. I revel in God.

I feel not to experience God is incomplete living. The experience of God is emotionally satisfying, cleansing and changing. It gives a sense of freshness when we feel used or tired. It gives meaning to things and makes them fit.

" I have proved," says Pascal, "my faith in the testing of it." We prove air in the experience of breathing, taking fresh oxygen that is needed for survival. So we prove faith in heightened life, cleansing and even raptures that are needed at times for our survival just as much as oxygen.

This need for transcendence is something people have always known. Even if people forget it, it will be discovered again. The natural need of mankind for God will make it known.

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Reverence

Man profits more by reverence than God. God has no need of reverence. People do. Reverence produces control of self, a shared respect and the agreed upon values that stem from a common worship. The mystery of things to a healthy mind produces awe, and the reverent are men who walk in awe of the eternal, of institutions, of law, of self and of God. It is fair to say that in praising God people discover themselves.

Those who have no reverence or faith are the real problem for mankind. They are more to be feared than the smug who see nothing, because the irreverent have never grown up. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I was irreverent; but when I became a man, I learned there were things worthy of reverence, and I put away childish skepticism.

It is unfortunate that from misapplied piety some things are wrongly stymied in the name of God, but the greater danger is that in lack of reverence everything intangible and decent will end. A healthy civilization begins with reverence and the shared values implied. A doomed civilization ends with quarrellings among the intelligent over what is to be revered if anything. The bright are taught to have no reverence while the pious are believed to be unintelligent.

Let us therefore caution our questioning that it may serve us, rather than creating hysteria and disrespect. For it is as silly to believe there is no God as to believe there is a silly one. God is too great to have need of anything, but man desperately needs the reverence he gives to God.

To reverence Being as life and humanity as part of a net of life, and this sea of air in which the net is thrown out as part of God's creation is the reverent view. For all galaxies worlds and stars are part of the infinite spirit of God and to see this spirit as concerned for us is the Christian's way. But if a man may not reverence this way, may he learn reverence some way, and God be with him.

 

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Trust

Trust is faith, and the Kingdom of God is built on trust. Jesus said, "If God takes care of sparrows, will He not take more care of people who trust Him knowingly? See the children and the flowers in the fields, and how naturally they trust, and Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed as one of these."

If a man asks you to go half way, go the full way. If he takes your coat, give him your shirt. Let your trust awaken him to the true nature of reality. Your real gift may awaken him to the real world of trust and harmony.

Let a man take advantage of you, then who is worse off? The man who is trusting or the man who could not be trusted? The man who could not be trusted is outside the deep rhythms of reality and the life of harmony, not the man who trusted.

All of us have to suffer for trusting at times, but others at times suffered for having trusted us. That's the way things are. It takes strength to enter life. Life is not for the timid, the defensive, the paranoid, who cannot enter the circle of trust.

The person who trusts himself and others and seeks for universal laws leading to trust is in harmony with reality. The non-trusting man is outside the rhythms of being.

Do not look on this as mere rhetoric. Believers are practical people. Contrary to malicious popular opinion, trust is the proven way. Where no trust exists, there is no higher life', and each round of higher life rises, reaching out from the trust beneath it.

Trust and go higher, circling in every round from the child to the mother, the youth to his father, the woman to the man, the farmer to the earth, the operator to the machine, the curious to the law, the law to love and finally to God. Reality is a Jacob's ladder of trust. Life is a soaring higher, ever higher, on a fugue of trust triumphantly emanating from God.

If birds are built to fly, then man is built for trust, and it is through trust he soars higher and higher. A man who will not trust is a non-flying bird. He goes back on what he was built for. A man who does not trust is like a bird that does not fly.

The day people stop trusting the end of the world is here. Trust is the basis of everything. It is the only practical attitude. Trust awakens reality to its potential. Wherever anything is growing or in harmony, trust is the reason. Faith is trust. Trust is the victory.

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Kingdom of God

From romance to reality is the story of our years. In the beginning day dreams put down the track for reality. The children dream of a free adulthood, the girl of the boy, the boy of a girl, the young parents of the future children who will be brave or rich or good.

Very rarely does anything happen as we will it. The day dreams are impossible advertising born of dreamy self-indulgent fantasies.

The result is disappointment in nearly every person. The time comes when wives and husbands see illusions vanish, to look on each other as strangers. The day comes when the mother sees in a brief moment of pain the child as he is. The spark in the son‘s eye dies as he regards that shrinking man, his father.

It is then we learn the nature of God’s love that takes us as we are, and carries on in spite of it. Then we decide if we shall try to love as God does.

Love is resigning. “Away with the childish,” says the Apostle. I am becoming a man, unlearning the self-indulgent and romantic promptings of dreamy ignorance, and bracing to take tight the rolls and tosses reality sends.

These are the brave, the Christians putting away childish things, the quiet ones leaving behind the mourning dreams of ignorance, to take on a mysterious reality as it comes, tossing and rolling. They are. as brave as those who go down to the sea in ships.

Do not go to the shores or the highlands to watch the daring, or -- as Jesus said, “Listen to those who say, lo, here, or lo, there is the Kingdom of God.” The Kingdom of God is within the people. They have laid aside their dreams, and every night they come tiredly bringing it in.

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Preaching

Preaching is an attempt to put across the intangible to the incorrigible. The Apostle Paul marveled that through such foolishness people could be saved.

Advice is useless to an honest person. The only advice he can hear is what he is ready for anyway. But preaching does allow the hearer in some unknown click of time to take another view. This negative may lie developing until one day it appears from the subconscious and things are made plain.

Conversion experiences are really conversion appearances. These emotional appearances are for the troubled who have repressed the picture until one day they have to face it emerging. The Apostle Paul in the New Testament was one of the few who had a dramatic conversion experience, and this was because he had been repressing his awareness.

It is a mistake to preach solely an either/ or religion of conversion or damnation. Most people are groping between these, and the slow emergence of God is valuable and solid.

Preaching is also leadership, and in leadership people tend to pick idealizations of themselves. If we choose to lead congregations those who are most like us, what good is that? And if we choose to hear over and over what we think already, what good is that? Do not publicans and sinners do likewise?

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Non-Belief

Refusing anything to do with God when presented through shoutings of hell, and an aggressively ugly morality may be what we need. Indifference to this kind of God suggests a high opinion of Him.

How much worse off than the ignorant must be the people that think low things of God. His morality is vindictive, He lives bitterly to punish, and He becomes a thing always used in the endless struggle of manipulating man by man.

Believing in God is not enough, but it is the kind of God we believe in that is important. It is odd how people who would move away from a low character next door accept placidly a manipulatable, ugly and vindictive God. It can only mean He is not considered of importance by them. Those agnostics refusing to worship such a God consider Him of more importance.

God is sovereign and cannot be manipulated; He is Father universal and wise with a pattern beyond us; He is Christ compassionate and understanding. Our conception of God must be full. Still the fact remains no belief is high enough; no words say enough. He must be known to be experienced. Our dogmas are but nursery rhymes recited by children.

The words we say about God do not change Him. They mirror us. God is not changed by what we say of Him, but what we say of Him shows what we are. So in all creeds and doctrines, beware.

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Human Nature

If we believe human nature to be good, we are self righteous; if we believe human nature to be bad, this is an oversimplification; if we believe human nature to be a mixture of good and bad accepted by God, then we may so regard others.

Jesus saw this when He said, “Do not go into the temple and give thanks you are not like other men.” No matter how good you may be, you share human nature. If you share human nature, you know that everything, all people and all institutions, is a mixture of good and evil, and that no matter how much we have done, it is not enough.

Human nature is a condition we all share, and because all of us share it, pointing out this one as good and that one as bad is ridiculous.

Instead say each man is good in some way and probably bad in another way. None of us are all good or all bad at the same time. Even Jesus said, “Do not call me good. There is none good save God.”

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Yes and No

Our self respect depends on our ability to say no at times, and if we are not able, that others will say it for us. Hubris waits for every person. People too proud to take a no bring it down on themselves.

God says, no and He says it often; but yes, always yes is the song that will draw out the defects each man has in his character. The devil says yes, and he says it often that we may be destroyed. It puts us to sleep. Only a few may be roused before destruction by trusty survival howling within.

Men seek for a no as a tired crew seeks to sight the line of shore. When they find it, they breathe easier. The braggarts pretend they regret it, only they relax too and are secretly pleased with the security.

He who made the shore for ships made the law a harbor. It is a resting place that is part of the order of things. For the world is made up of sea and harbor, grace and law, yes and no. The proper use of these is wisdom.

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Tempting God

People pray as children cry to be lifted and carried off by the miraculous parent. For people usually pray to God expecting miracles, and with a selfish idea of what God is supposed to do for them.

Many people do not believe in God because they are angry over God’s refusal to violate the natural order of things especially for them. Everyone believes himself special, and the pouting say they do not believe in God, because He has not passed a miracle for them.

If a father constantly protects a special child from reality, treats it differently, and builds self- indulgent life around it, then we say that father does wrong. He is creating an artificial person from false circumstances.

If evil people know such an attitude is dangerous, then why do we throw up to God that He does not grant false miracles? The cunning, egotism in man tempts, bribes, vows and begs for special treatment. The final shot of a child who cannot have his way is to say, you do not love me. But this is nonsense. How much more is the man who cannot get his way saying to God, “You do not exist.” He is saying, “God, you do not exist for me, because you do not give me what I want.”

A person with that attitude is beyond the pale. He pretends to be a sheep and prays like a wolf.

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Prayer of Self

The prayers of people are proof of their depravity. People generally pray. to further themselves. These requests are to satisfy vanity.

Our prayers are often day dreams verbalized. Who would pay attention to such silliness? The God who hears us dreaming in prayer answers us on a different level.

“Do not pray,” said Jesus, “saying things over and over.” The ignorant think repeating can change things. God is not nagged. His will is not a fort that egotism can barrage. Nagging will not force Him, to surrender.

“How should we pray?” asked the disciples. “Say,” said Jesus, “Thy will be done,” The Apostle added, because we cannot pray as we should, the Spirit of God prays in us with sighs too deep for words.

Every man’s being is a sigh of longing, of incompleteness, of wanting he knows not what. We may say things in prayer, but our real prayer is a self that is a sighing volcano. God soothes this.

God does answers prayer, but He rarely answers in the simple way we prefer. He knows our effusions too well. Our prayers are answered not as we understand our minds, but as He understands our inner fires. ‘Some day,” glorified the Apostle, “I shall understand even as my self has been understood.”

Each man’s personality is a volcano and hearing it sigh, God answers the prayer that is deep in every man. Yet the Gospel also answers each man universally. How it does this is part of its mystery. God gives to each person an answer that is above and beyond the darkness out of which all of us flame and sigh and sometimes erupt.

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The Christian's Way

God’s glory is that He accepts people in full knowledge of their sins. His actions follow full awareness. There is no full measure of grace in accepting without knowledge. Acceptance without awareness is unworthy.

Jesus knew where He was going, and He told Peter to put up his sword, then He went with the Jews. The glory is that He advanced to Golgtha, knowing.

The result is the Christian’s way. Accept people; tolerate different ideas in spite of the difficulty they cause. Just because we Christians allow all types of ideas, it does not mean we are made fools of by them, and because we reach out to all men, it does not mean we are blind to their imperfections. So as the intelligence is not fooled, the spirit stretches. Spiritual stature grows to a fuller measure believing truth will not be vulgarized by the presence of other ideas. Truth will be ultimately revealed by time.

If people have flaws, and God is accepting, then how can we do otherwise, unless we cease to believe in God? Accepting is the Christian’s way.

It is true errors of non-acceptance have happened in the literal past, no matter, such is the nature of man; still there resides in the God of Scripture a magnificence of mind, an Acceptance, made more precious by the keen awareness of sin that accompanies it.

We may know your ugliness very well, yet because of God, we accept, we tolerate, we do. A love for Christ overcomes the force of any ugly knowledge to shrink our hearts and make us cower. We are not liars holding out our hands to others. That is the Christians s way. We know; yet we love.

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Proportion

We generally ask if men have proportion about their religion. Only rarely do we ask if their religion has proportion in it. Yet it is this lack of proportion in faith that makes us think.

The frustrated or effeminate want a comfortable and easy religion. Other types are off on some tangent totally without proportion in it. The history of the churches is full of tangents.

Overkill is an easy slip in religion. Passion gets caught up in itself and forgets any real aim. Enthusiasm for law and morality can eat up the understanding of why it is there. Jesus drove the money mad out of the temple crying, “The zeal of your house has eaten me up.”

But the psalmist sings of the man who meditates on the law of the Lord. He considers passionately the purpose of morality and faith, and his religion then has a sense of proportion in it.

The wise in religion are those whose proportion comes from considering its purpose. While many are called, those are the chosen of faith whose zeal has not eaten up their understanding.

Thank God for them. The sane and level headed, the undiverted few, the cocked heads of the single hearted, and all the captains of faith, who find that correct proportion comes to earth from eyes on Heaven. Thank God for all like them. Brave ones daring to chart by some star of purpose and keeping it clearly ahead that they may rightly reason, sort, divide and calmly steer us on.

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Zealots

The greatest enemy of Christian morality is the enthusiastic oversimplification of the faithful. It was this anti-morality Jesus warned against in the parable of the Sabbath Day. He said that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. This also applies to rules, laws and material things.

A high degree of intensity, a low level of awareness, and a complete absence of honest relationship make the zealots. Their morality masks a sick attitude. Their intensity betrays the hysteria of the insecure and their reasoning is never transcendent. Jesus said, “if your righteousness does not do better than the scribes and pharisees, you will not inherit the Kingdom of God.” Zealots can’t even understand it. They think it is a new church building or a million members.

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Pious Fakes

The real enemies of the church are the pious fakes within it. These are the congregations whose members lead lives of colorless righteousness, bigotry, unexamined respectability and moral stereotyping. A more uninviting Christianity cannot be conceived.

It is almost a universal truth that the mean, rigid, and judgemental fill up the pews. The churches are the last refuge of the worst moral and racial bigotry. If the intention of the church on paper is good, the social reality of its existence is another matter. It is sick with the devil’s conformity.

While it may be true that the bigotry of church members arises out of a deep concern, so what? Bigotry assumes truth and right morality are not able to survive, compete or win in a free situation. This is nonsense. Christianity cannot condone moral or racial bigotry. But it does not stop there. Equality and fraternity for the different are not enough. There must be no hatred in our hearts, no matter what the difference may be. Only when we are without hatred can we respond to different people as human beings.

There are vast numbers for whom a difference is a sour thing. The very sight of a skin color difference or the discovery of a moral difference makes them intensely bitter. These are a sick conformist people. The saddest thing about these bigots is they don’t think themselves diseased. They believe the different ones are the carriers of an evil that may infect. How totally oblivious they are to the sickness in themselves.

It is not unfair to ask how long we shall be forced to live in a supposedly religious society where there is tribal hatred in almost every heart. Shall the skin colored person and the different never be free of the devil’s demand for uniformity?

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Moral Fear

The tendency to superficial judgement is always easy, and because shallow judgements have caused so much trouble, many people are afraid to judge at all. If intelligent life is to go on, we must have moral judgements.

People who are conventional say, “If you can’t say good things, don’t say anything at all.” In consequence they lose all sense of the reality around them. They become social hypocrites: mealymouthed, deaf, and blind.

They are afraid to judge because it must be done wisely. Cowards approach life in that way. It does not become a Christian. Apply this same logic to life. It would mean that if we make a mistake in living, do not live at all.

Do not allow caution to paralyze living. Live boldly. The grace of God is acting, and He can turn mistakes around and surprise us. Enter into life, because love is there to bear up our errors and the consequences of our lack of judgment.

If you feel called upon to live in a different manner, live that way. God knows many life styles. If you see things differently, see them that way and do not lie to yourself about it. Try with wisdom to fit your piece of the vision into the redemptive intelligence of God at work.

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Moral Sanity

If values do not change, and the things to be valued are eternal, the application of these values change with the times. The natural rhythm of things guarantees shifting circumstances, and new situations call for new evaluations. It is only by changing constantly that we can stay as we are, much less advance. To change takes courage. Knowing when not to change takes moral intelligence.

A higher morality is not for the effeminate who will not dare or for the unintelligent who have no vision. It is for the healthy spirited and reasoning who will dare to spend their lives in pursuit of an eluding moral sanity, which when found, cannot stay permanently because circumstances may change later.

Whatever is moral, if it is stereotyped on life brutally, it becomes immoral. Morality needs reasoning., and reasoning must be done in the right spirit. The right spirit comes from deep relationships with God, with each other, and with the universe. This is the way God cracks into life.

It is moral insanity that must be feared, whether it be through the bad values of the amoral or the righteous indignation of decent people. Good people can do as much harm as anybody, particularly by smugly thinking they are good and everyone else is evil. We are neither good nor evil, only human. God is judging us on endeavors, although the method many of us pick for endeavors must seem curious to God at times since we are so prone to pettiness, exclusion, accusation, and trying to pass off rigidity as righteousness.

Jesus saw in the inhumane rigidity of the conventional scribes a loss of control as blind as any passion In fact, passion has the saving grace of heat. A health moral intelligence is elastic and understanding.

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Morality

Among the chief enemies of morality are misinterpretation and laziness. Misinterpretation obvious enough will eventually attract attention to correct it. The laziness of conventionality is the larger and deadlier moral poison.

Most people are conventional semi-heathens following lazily the laws of custom. The aim of custom should be to make good things habitual, but habit is blind and lazy, and the dead touch of convention is the result.

The conventional is cheap morality made dangerous by the fact that when society comes together to reinforce mutual strengths, mutual weaknesses are too, and constant conventionality is an oversimplifying anti-life.

Jesus said, “Man was not made for the Sabbath law, but the Sabbath law for man.” Morality should be made for man, not man for morality. The needs of men must be considered. Morality cannot be altogether categorical, such as the blind obedience of a dog to commands. Morality is the triumphant insight into the needs of people.

Love considers people’s needs. Love can say no, because that is often needed. Only love applies intelligence and energy to a goal. Love considers people’s needs, not dismissing a reality of needs as if they were dirt. One need does not cancel out another. “Not by bread alone,” Jesus preached, then He fed the people who came to hear Him.

Christian morality is love helping people cope with a hierarchy of needs in the best possible way. It is not for the conventional. If the morality of the Church is oversimplified and conventional, so much for the Church. Christianity is the subject. The Church is the baggage of Christianity. It is rarely sent ahead.

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Thinkers

Higher and higher faith moves forward. It climbs a constant precipice. If self consciousness overtakes faith, the fall is certain. It can be saved only by looking higher, not thinking of where it is, only where it is going.

When we start to question and be frightened of where we are, then faith is soon over. We cannot walk by faith and indulge fears too. One predominates. The fear of faith is a common complaint. Faith is too high, too heroic, too unknowing. Either we take unknowns through faith, or time and belief will pass us by.

Faith helps us cope with reality. False and pretentious faith talks of escape, but a genuine and understanding faith helps us to deal fully with reality.

Many people follow a mirage with sincerity and call it faith. Following a mirage with sincerity is a misapplication. The only way to avoid this is intelligent thinking about our faith.

We need thinkers in faith. Whatever things are true, honest, just and clear, wrote the Apostle, think on these things. So the Apostle advocated the use of moral intelligence in faith that Jesus encouraged by the use of parables.

Particular thinkers on faith are needed because a lot of faith is a dangerous thing. The more faith we have, the more dangerous we are for good or evil. Faith is social dynamite. It is important that it be applied wisely.

The misapplication of faith has led to the most horrible things. Unless faith is checked upon regularly, it can go astray and lead to disaster. Besides individual torments, it has led to the Spanish Inquisition, Calvin’s Geneva, the excesses of the French Revolution and Stalin's Russia. The people behind all of these social disasters believed themselves doing the right thing. They were inspired by a misdirected faith.

Very few people except the frankly insane, do their wrong purposely. Instead such people have been victims of a badly judged and unconsidered faith. They have been propelled by social visions that have caught their imaginations but not engaged their minds and sympathies for individuals. The result of this flawed faith is nearly always a tragedy. If faith is not examined regularly by thinkers to see if it is held in the right way, it degenerates into a social blight, a family curse.

If the faith around us is foolish, we are saved by lack of faith rather than a wrong faith. Today, considering the faiths offered to us in the world and even in the churches, lack of faith may be the respectable course.

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Perspective

Misdirected people rush from door to door, role to role, fad to fad, and creed to creed. If we would feel pity, study those without transcendence. Observe the spiritually uncivilized as they run from expectation to impossible expectation, and wish for belief as a magic for weak and fearing selves.

The materialistic are too taken up with life to know it, too near life to live it. Their lives are like fool’s errands. They have no higher goal in life than to be children sent to the store. Satan takes them to the mezzanine, and shows them the counters of the earth. Look on life and see it reduced to baubles, gadgets and vehicles.

We are as lost as stars falling from the great perspective of heaven, lost to the reason of our rightful mind. In everyone transcendent reason seems fallen and buried under little vanities. Divine transcendence is heaped and covered over. The perspective of heaven is lost and faith alone can restore us to our once high minded place.

Faith may return us to ourselves and to God. Faith gives us back our sense of the stars, and from there our reason united with God considers things beyond mere self. We need a union with God’s mind to restore perspective, even reason and to bless us once again with the serene integrity found in faith.

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Fulfilling Possibilities

A man who can be shocked by anything around him is still a stranger without grasp of the full power of evil in this world. Anyone who looks unflinchingly can see that man’s capacity to deny himself is weak, his conduct is inconsistent, his good points are vices through misapplication, his wants are not in harmony with the universe, and most of his opinions are based on passion rather than concerned detachment. Human nature is easily inflamed, prone to false values, and rarely lifts its eyes unselfishly towards heaven.

An awareness of human nature at its worst should not force us to become defeated. Those are defeated who believe God has no purpose, and have given up to the worst in themselves. They are the cultivated barbarians of the spirit, sinking morally, sighing intellectually. Are we pigs, animals to give up, sighing and slopping, to a hopeless hedonism?

Neither resignation to what man can slip to, or trying to cover up what he has done, or illusions over what may happen can serve the cause of God or humanity.

Away with any delusion of perfectibility; examine the possibility. Do not examine only the obvious as a fool limits reasoning. If the literal nature of man is eternal, the hope of fulfillment in man is also.

Take into account what man can be. His passions may be purified, his behavior may become reasonably consistent and still be mysterious, his needs may be examined intelligently, his opinions rendered more rational without becoming lifeless, his values may be improved and he may gain transcendence again and again in spite of backsliding.

This is a Stone Age of man’s spirit. Anyone with insight can see beneath the veneer of the age into materialism, literalism, false images and spiritual immorality in high places, but what of that? Have we not made these gnats into camels when we consider the grace of God granted to the possibility of man?

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Reality

The attitude we bring to life fulfills it. If we begin to believe reality is ugly, then we are weak, because no one can live always surrounded by ugliness. An ugly situation causes fantasy. This is the real danger of religion: that those in an ugly situation make religion into their fantasy.

Reality takes a fighter like the Apostle. He has pleasure in reality’s challenges, its necessities, its beauty and the opportunity it offers for the spirit of Christ to triumph in us. So let us regard reality as an unknowing friend, and see if we are equal to its challenges when we have the right spirit of faith.

This spirit does not make religion into escapism, nor resigns itself to reality stoically. It believes life is not unfair when it asks of us everything we have to give. If we exhaust ourselves we might consider the strength before the hills and the life that came originally from the sea. For the spirit of God is a sea that reaffirms itself over and over, exalting in waves of humanity.

A religion that offers faith in reality and reality in faith is the only possible religion. Then ask for faith in reality, and have reality in your faith.

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Courage

Without courage, what is life? Courage holds out a welcoming hand to life. Courage dares to fail. Courage carries on through ups and downs. Without courage, there is no higher life. Any faith takes courage.

God’s spirit is courage. The Creation, constantly fouled, keeps purifying itself. The spirit of evolution, constantly experimenting, keeps trying. The love of God, constantly spurned, keeps redeeming. Every manifestation of God’s spirit reasserts itself endlessly. God keeps on giving. God’s courage never stops, but is prodigal.

Our courage may fail. Faith can falter. The truth remains, courage and faith are necessary to life. They may agonize and disappear for a time, but they will resurrect, because man's spirit comes from God. It will not be vanquished. It is a part of God. No part of God ‘ surrenders.

Since the spirit in man comes from God, the spirit is a part of God. Not even death can stop it. The disciples went out to say, "Christ is Victor. In this man, Jesus, was God. He did not surrender.

The spirit of God and the spirit of humanity are one. In His image we are made. In our image He has risen. Not even death can hold down the spirit of God within us. God’s spirit in man is there.

What does the eternal say? What does the Lord always say—I speak courage, Oh, Jerusalem. You need courage to be God's and to fail and to be human. Now courage is the victory.

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Love I

The love of God is as the sun that shines on all, grandly indiscriminating. To be in harmony is to love openly and freely as God and to treat all warmly and alike. The sun is marvelous in its benevolence towards all, thus Christianity demands a magnificence of mind towards all. That people should take a path as benevolent as the sun was taught by Jesus as the way of heaven.

Christ is our sun whose circuit of understanding is the earth. A magnet of understanding is His love. All things revolve around Christ, and wherever there is love, there is Christ. He moves around the earth as the sun, He draws all to Himself, and He leaves everything clean and warm.

The horizon itself is the Lord’s Table, His chalice is the sun, and each day the earth receives its communion. So Christ shines at the end of our understanding radiant with acceptance and compassion. As the earth receives its communion at dawn, God’s love is ours. It too circles the world.

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The Spirit of Growth

In concern for tomorrow, today may be lost. Too much planning is the mark of the spiritually insecure. All situations have many delicately balanced components, and planning can be only superficial foresight at best. . One aspect may take on a new weight on the scale, or a new circumstance is introduced, and things readjust inevitably.

Any concern for the future must take into account that no one knows what the future will bring. The man who does not know what is coming must be ready for any thing. The only way to be ready is to be spiritually alive. Whoever chooses to be spiritually alive takes the risk of suffering. Many have crossed to the other side of life to protect themselves from suffering, but this is not the Christian’s way.

It is better to be spiritually alive at the risk of suffering, preferring a ready living to a secure dying, than blaming what comes’ on God. Rather we should work with God to create an enduring trust.

Trust alone provides us with the spirit of growing things. It is through trust growing things become what they were meant to be. Man becomes what he is meant to be by entrusting himself to God, then trusting self. A man who trusts only himself can be trusted to do evil.

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The Earthly Kingdom

The Jews prayed to Jehovah to send a warrior to form a Kingdom of God on earth. The Jews were a naive people, and literal about the ways of God. A baby born, in a manger appeared instead to one day preach spiritual truths.

Jesus carried the Gospel, saying, "Re-orient yourselves, make God the center of your lives, for the Kingdom of God has appeared." The Jews of a literal and non-spiritual cast of mind asked, "Where is this Kingdom of God?" And wearily Jesus replied, "Oh faithless and unthinking, why am I among you? … The Kingdom of God is within you."

If social conscience is to bring the Kingdom of God to earth, and such Genevas have often been attempted, then it will be another magnificent failure, a kingdom of legalism, unless it has deep spiritual understanding and depth.

If we bring together every ethnic group and have not love, and the state has powers of prediction and understands mysteries through computers and has every righteous law and men to die for them, it will be nothing. It will be the naive people to whom Jesus came, and who will be very blind to the ways of God.

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Harmony

Society will always pick and chatter till we shudder and go inside ourselves for peace, because our lives are spent in forcing others to our desire. Because of this, the violent and loud always seem to prevail. The meaning of truth seems lost in a conflict of noisy wills. The harmony and counterpoint of life seem gone.

Harmony comes from laying aside the violence of what we like or is like us, and learning a respectful consideration for what already has a life of its own.

Life cannot be changed by force; it must be served with love. If life is served with love, it hea1s and transfigures itself naturally.

Force may change the position of ignorance, but what use is served by passionate rearranging of the ignorant. Only people have ideas in their heads, and they learn late that imposition of their wills on others is defeating. No matter what the passive may accept, they do not understand, so they cannot carry on.

Outside of our attempt to force, there is a harmony not seen. It is the spiritual rhythms of life humming as the universe continues. A spiritual life of great complexity is going on around us. Only people are too insensitive to enter the Kingdom of healing and harmony that is Christ. They prefer force, injury and disorder. Such people are spiritual barbarians caught on the wheel of violence.

The Kingdom of God is within us.

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Integrity

Life is made of complex structures. The devil tempts people with a superficial method. He leads us to think we can reach in to change things without profound understanding of the depth of situations. Jesus said, "Why do you try to pluck that beam in another’s eye? First pluck out the beam in your own."

Some people fool themselves into thinking they know just how to pluck out the beam in another’s eye, only they do not realize the integrity of the eye structure and how they will blind. A cheap and easy morality of nave solutions does not take into account the depth of sin nor the integrity of the structure.

Is not this character etched in acid upon the face of the old? Years have taught them carefully the integrity of things. The length and hardships of life have taught them the discipline of humanity. We are taught to respect those who have learned the discipline of humanity, and have respect for the complexity of the structures at the basis of life. How very hard they are to change.

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Want And Need

In my state want and need are split. God knows my needs. I know my wants. Between us a civil war is raging and all that is touched is laid to waste. In similar confusion most people spend their lives.

A unity of minds and wills LS needed, but we are as personalities divided. In all of us want has seceded from need and declared war. The struggle is on, even if war is not openly declared.

Some people live getting what they want, ignorant of their needs. Others fulfill needs to be tantalized still by wants. Yet other people find deep needs still aching after silly wants are satisfied. This state is obvious about us and others know it to be self-evident.

We have in God what we need, but a paradise of wants is the mirage before us. Yet we know if we get them, we will find a fool and his paradise are soon parted.

Give us the grace to see what we need, the strength to want it. End this civil war of raging prayer between us. Mend want and need to make us whole. Only if Christ is Victor in each Gethsemane will we be one. Here ends this skirmish.

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Clergy

A mealy mouth is the clergyman’s disease. The fear of catching it should make everyone have second thoughts about Christianity. Everywhere the majority of preachers seem mealy mouthed positive thinkers or shallow revivalists.

The reason for their mealy mouths may be that the ministers are paid by congregations and they fear a loss of prestige and money if there is any dissension. The Apostle Paul earned his right to freedom of speech by making his living as a tentmaker. Another reason no preacher speaks out may be that these ministers have hostages held by the community in their families. They have to look after the security of their wives and children first. A very true reason for it is the fantastic ignorance of some of the revivalists. They know little but the most primitive and cheaply sentimental vulgarizations of theology.

Whether the reason is economics or ignorance, the clergy are a bovine lot and easily dismissed. They have their own little church world. Spirit is best shown when a larger congregation looms ahead, so that they can claw, peck and manipulate to get it. There is nothing quite as broad as the smile of a clergyman for a bishop.

Behind everything is a complete lack of any sense of tragedy as it applies to themselves. Particularly since these clergymen are tragio-comic figures, pathetic little men, rabbit-souled and dumbly conventional, unbelievably silent on every form of bigotry.

The clergy are the tragicomedy of the churches. However, it may be best for little men to address themselves to little things. Let their worries be how to get a few more members as bland and blind as the ones already enrolled, how to put up bigger and uglier buildings and how to get the deacons to raise their salaries. I see little men preaching little sermons to little people.

Yet the pitiful are those innocents looking to these preachers for the Kingdom of God. These preachers may hold a formal church service, but members should not look to them for the Kingdom of God. Anyone can sense they lack not only a certain something, but a certainty of anything. A man who has been to the Kingdom of God and returns is forever different and certain about the difference.

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Puritans

All good children have this view of their parents: they will aspire in their way only never apply in their way. Our spiritual forefathers were Puritans. There were many excellent things about them, but Puritans were people with the right aspirations making the wrong applications.

Puritans wisely did not assume the difficult to be ugly. They saw reality as a challenge for man’s spirit. They brought strength of purpose to morality. They knew an effeminate attitude was no solution.

Nor did they advocate self-defeating extremes. The Puritans knew it wiser to purify morality and institutions than to abolish them. They saw that the argument was over the method of satisfaction, not the abolition of need. They knew that to purify was not always to simplify. They had fine aspirations.

However, they became too concerned with inconsequential rules and accusations. Their ideals bogged down in a swamp of literalisms. They passed ridiculous actions off as high cause. A sublime purpose was their excuse for ridiculous and comic moral behavior. They fell on application.

Puritans were a people with the right aspirations and the wrong applications. All should aspire in their way only not apply in their way. Then the best part of our fathers is not buried.

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Going And Being

Being Christian and going to church are not the same thing. Nowadays the two have a tenuous correlation. The ones going to the churches seem to be the most unchristian in their values. Going and being are not the same thing.

What is worse is a popular solution to the problem is thought to be a revival. We have enough frightened neurotics scared silly enough by death and damnation to say they accept Jesus. Whatever that is, what good does it do? People are really confused enough to think they can make it to the Kingdom of God by mumbling magic formulas of acceptance and showing up at church. Jesus said that heathens thought they would be saved by vain repetitions.

It is possible to love the church and not be a Christian. Church members seem to have all sorts of reasons but the right reason. Sentiment from long association, community involvement, meeting the right people, the minister or priest is attractive, the music is good, the service is pleasant, the ancestors founded it, the kids like the Sunday School teacher are wrong reasons. My God, is there even one Christian in these congregations? It is like Abraham searching the city to find some righteous ones to avert the anger of God.

The churches are the conventional way the respectable testify to their moral superiority. If the conventional are the moral leaders, God save us all. In Jesus’ day the Pharisees had simpler work. They blew trumpets on the street corners to advertise their goodness before giving to name charities. They attended the synagogues to be seen.

Jesus said that He wept over Jerusalem. Jerusalem represented the Church of His day. It was the conventional moral leaders of the synagogues who were responsible for His death. It is not pagans and wicked men who are killing God today. It is the churches.

The bitter irony is that these churches send missionaries to anybody. Physician, heal thyself.

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Tragedy Of Christ

Christianity is the tragedy of Christ. The organized church was once the glorious company of apostles and martyrs. Now it is more of an assemblage of unthinking mediocrity's. People of any stature resent going. Why not? Any sensible person would.

Kierkegaard said that the fallen church served as an immunizing agent. As people were exposed to a disease so they would not catch it, so the flat and fallen church gave enough exposure to religion so that the people who attended would be forever safe from it.

Nor is that all. The back biting, the pettiness, effeminacy, the emphasis on money, buildings, members; all these mark the flat and fallen church. To these can be added the holy security neurosis that fights any change. The moral outlook often is rigid, negative and domineering.

People who truly enjoy God are never satiated, but they can be too sick of church to go. Where is any of God in these churches? Church going should be a joy. It has degenerated into a cold duty for nearly everyone.

Who can actually be fond of manicured spiritual parlors where well dressed Pharisees gossip about the neighbors in a state of titillation? Or to hear people known to be race bigots give a Sunday School lesson on the Good Samaritan?

Away from this. Christianity is the tragedy of Christ. It has cut, torn, shredded, overlooked, forgot, distorted and misconceived its founder. No amount of Sunday morning moralizing is going to erase the lack of a good heart and a proportioned mind. God asks a good heart, a cheerful giver. Instead, God is given sermons, rituals, and hymns. Such are the toys we squeak to keep God away.

God can use churches, but the churches oddly enough do not seem to have any real use for God. His presence would be an embarrassing variable, cutting down barriers of class and race, oh so subtly erected and reinforced.

The churches are more often the enemy of Christ than a friend, if we measure by a Christian yardstick. No one is asking for a perfect anything, but in some of these churches not a modicum of love or acceptance exists. The only thing they have is a preacher who talks a good game on Sunday morning- a Sunday morning quarterback.

All about us are the churches and denominations that represent what the intentions of Christ have come to. That Christianity has come to this is the tragedy of Christ.

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Religion

Religion is its own worst enemy. How many evils has religion been used to cover? A fifth column in the Church represents evil motives as good to the unsuspecting and gullible.

The organized Church is supposed to be the friend of religion. With a friend like false organized religion in the Church, who needs enemies? False members go to Church because they like to be thought respectable. Others swell from being in the center of things.

Often false members are evangelical figures of fun with a cure all in the form of some Bible verse. These enthusiastic people with a low level of awareness are comic. They make missions out of literalisms. Such Christians may have a high plane of intensity, but they lack a level of awareness to match it.

"I bear them witness," wrote the Apostle, "they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge." Jesus Christ remarked, "They cross the earth to make zealots worse than themselves."

Bear the Church members witness that they often have religion but without proportion or knowledge. What is to be done when religion itself lacks the transcendence that is the highest kind of knowledge? Religion is needed, but it needs to he held in a different way.

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Reverie

The church is no place for a Christian. The temperament of organized religion is that of a neurotic old woman propertied, frightened, rigid and reactionary. There is little to offer those sick with a desire for God.

It does not offer any consuming fire of holiness that burns a sinner clean. Nor does it speak of danger and the wild, mad joy of God that threw out the stars and is the axle upon which the universe turns. These churches do not bring the tone of some world far from ours, a mysterious Kingdom of God.

The task of the churches is a difficult one. It is true that telling of the Kingdom of God is like having to sing a color to a blind man. No easy task. But the necessity is there. The churches must convey the tone of some world far from ours, show a mysterious Kingdom of God that opens to everyone.

Our churches have not done this. Distorted, broken, degenerate, every now and then they pound a note but never do they raise a strain. They do not convey by their tone that faith has the missing colors which irradiate life. They inspire no one to go gathering eternity.

Once there were churches which, however misinformed on some issues, trumpeted God, put a message across, arrested and awakened. These brought the tone of a world far from ours, a glorious Kingdom of God inside of us for the asking. As we look around it is evident that all this is lost.

But no people can live without transcendence for too long. We shall see it resurrected.

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Awareness

Everyone is born to a desire for a life of quiet selfishness. Actions for this seem predetermined and obvious. On this level, we see exactly what we ought to do. The temptation is to do it. And given a life without some other and higher level of awareness, nothing remains but the hard logic of vicious common sense culled from insights into a pitiful human nature.

Faith brings in a conflict. New problems in thought and action introduce new ways. Other things have to be considered, things outside the ring of self. Faith is not the problem solver people think. It is no panacea.

Faith itself creates problems, because life in faith has to be lived on two levels of awareness. There is one level where everything is clear and selfish. It is what we want. On another level, there is what God wants, and this cannot be discerned clearly. This higher level of awareness evolves painfully and only a little at a time.

The real danger is if we live on one level of awareness. Take the simple path. It is through the introduction of a higher faith that the simplicity of minimal thought is left behind, and we move toward the proud complexities of human beings.

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Indifference

So many beautiful people are cut down blindly, and he wise may die before their wisdom seeds and flowers some wide expanse of fertile ignorance with hope.

Death, have you no shame to, take the student from life, the child from its mother, the father from the family, a husband from an old wife? Death have you no shame to make fathers cry, Absalom, would to God I had died for thee.

Indifferent mankind, have you no shame to be as ignorant, hardened and blind as death? Or has that part an shares with death won life? and man is unashamed to war, curse, openly confound a neighbor, or look aside to damn with attitudes that spell catastrophe in class and racial ways. How long can people stand unredeemed by shame? Or has man too become indifferent death?

God, let not man be a bigger fool than he must be, the unashamed child of shameless death, only give to unblushing men their only hope, the gift of sorrow. For Christ in greatest triumph conquers death, and reason is restored to life thereby and so restore to man his Christlike reason his only hope, his greatest victory, the grace to blush and be ashamed.

For the fool has said, there is no shame, and his customs are his blind to veil despair.

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Election

The word of God is a unity. The truth goes out, but who can say who will respond to it? Truth is part of the Word of God. It takes a person to respond to it as much as it takes a person to say it.

The truth goes out to all; only a few recognize it. Many hear, but few are chosen for understanding. Some recognize truth and a response is formed.

The people who can recognize truth are the people ready for it. They are the people who can bear the light. Every truth has its own elect waiting to respond to it.

Respect the election of all truths, for each of us is elected to some response. Respect the election of others, as you would have them respect yours.

Life should be used in moving the series of unities to which you have been elected by experience, temperament or circumstances for response.

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Differences

The normal thing is to magnify a difference. The sight of a difference swells the conformist's eye. He cannot wait to iron it out. A weak man thinks a difference is a wrong.

Ugly people do not find a common purpose, but keep their eyes fixed on differences. It is love, not agreement, that keeps life together. Those who love hold life to a high purpose without perfect agreement; those who hate destroy life for unanimity.

The benevolence of God is a sun that shines on all differences alike. Love is gracious: love is courteous; love has the same manner with everyone. If you accept only those who agree with you, what thank have you? Do not sinners and evil men do likewise?

Pretending there are no differences is a lie, but renouncing differences to conform is sick. Love considers differences, then rises to a higher purpose. Trying to abolish differences is the devil's way, but trying to rise above them to a higher consideration is the Christian's way.

Love is not love if it does not call men higher than conformity. Love does not bully; it takes a stand, then transcends it. Love is the only solution with integrity. Do not keep your eyes fixed on differences, but raise your eyes to the purpose of life, which is love. In love differences are valued, cherished, ultimately forgotten.

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Dehumanization

The world is boiling over with fools. It needs no more. Every day can be counted on to bring fresh passion to stir the ignorance.

Passion does not wish to pause to reason or find instruction. It wishes to delight in itself. If passion by itself is wrong; passion in itself is not. Life would be sorrowfully thin without passion, and those who act as if passion were evil try to dehumanize life in the name of God.

Since it is dehumanizing to live without passion, a man must not try to separate himself from passion, but to separate his passion from ignorance. Nowhere is this more needed than in humanity's passion for God, which has often been an excuse for sustained and militant ignorance.

Faith is also man's attempt to separate ignorance and passion, and so reaffirm his belief in creation. A belief that he must have if he is to survive.

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Selfless Love

We are seldom loved as we wish to be loved. Each loves his or her own way. We give what love suits us and we have to take what suits others. The two rarely fit.

Being caught in selfishly expressed temporary exchanges of love gets boring eventually. Constantly accepting a love that is only partial becomes frustrating. God's love is needed.

The love of God is selflessness that alone is satisfactory. It enables us to pass on a newer type of love to those around us.

We can only give the type of love that we have known. No person can give a love they are unacquainted with. No one can pass on what has not been experienced. We are caught in a helpless round of partial love until we experience the love of God. Then we are sometimes enabled to give selfless love and to became involved in compassion beyond self.

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First Things

People have a natural feeling for God. If they seek this first, everything else will pull itself together. Therefore, Jesus said, "Seek first the Kingdom of God, then all these things will be added to you." If God is the center of life, only then do things fall into place and seem to fit.

Everyone has God within. This lies latent in us as the hidden negative that appears in the right solution. It is true that only the outline appears at first, but finally the developed picture will appear.

If human nature appears black, outlines of God are hidden in it. Shapes and signs of redemption move in the background of reality, and as the Apostle says, we peer through a glass darkly at spiritual shapes. If the figures are not clearly discernible, do not be discouraged, but take pleasure in the signs of coming redemption and that God is at work.

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Love II

Before love, reason is the catechism of a child. Before love, differences are no longer feared. Before God's love ours is base and mixed with self-interest.

Love is the most appealing motivation of all. In a healthy family love enables diverse members to regard each other with tolerant affection. For love people will put up with things. For love, people will sacrifice with a happy heart. Love is the ultimate discipline of innocence that civilizes us.

Love is dangerous in that it may be blind, over protective or indulgent. It may lose its capacity for truth and lapse into mere sentimentality. There are many foolish methods and expressions of love, but love remains easily the most genuine and desirable force in our lives. As a compelling force, it has no equal.

It is written in the very egocentricity and ignorance of humanity that people will be foolish in their expressions of love, but often very awkward and defective expressions of love are redeemed by the undoubted sincerity of the motivation. Other motivations are always with us vanity, egocentricity, greed, only these are handicapped by base emotions that are socially destructive.

Our expressions of love are usually according to our temperament and moral intelligence but the best and soundest motivation of these is love.

Jesus Christ called His love the rock. If He is not the motivation there is no solid foundation, therefore; consider the forces that are presently compelling us. Are they not socially destructive and individually brutalizing?

Love is truly not the answer for everything, but it is the basic foundation for almost anything that is to be healthy and sound. Thus, the Apostle says, "Make love your aim."

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Discipline

People reach out to innocence as the best discipline. Parents think they discipline their children, but their children discipline them far more. The best discipline in life is responsibility for innocence. Christ, family, patriotism, responsibility for earth are these.

The future of Christianity is assured. The storms will come and the winds howl, but the house is built on rock. Christianity gives me Christ, and Christ is the discipline of innocence that will bring out the good in every man. Christ is innocence reaching out to put the responsibility on every person. It is every person answering the responsibility for innocence that made the Apostle say, "The love of Christ constraineth me."

What ever survives will offer mankind the discipline of innocence. How wise was Jesus to say, blessed are the meek. The meek ones offer the discipline of innocence that shall inherit the earth.

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Imitation of Christ

Neither imitation of Christ nor accusation of others is the Christian's way. By criticizing others, we do not enlarge ourselves. Magnifying the flaws of others will not diminish ours. Nor can any man imitate Christ, nor should he wish to.

We ought not to wish to imitate Christ, because this is superficial. We ought to enter into a deep relationship with God, and in this way we discover our best selves. If we bring out this best self, then we have become true brothers to Christ.

We become members of the family of Christ by making God our father, and from this relationship, we become friends of humanity and respecters of the living world. In this way, Francis of Assisi called the moon, sister, and the sun, brother, because through Christ he saw all creation as kindred.

There have been too many stereotyped imitations of Christ without an inner light to give real life. Righteousness has been made a caricature by pale imitations. How long is Christianity to be in the hands of the rigid and the dead?

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Joy

The world runs by. It knows not, cares not, praise God, why. This is fortunate, because a look at the world's blunderings, its excesses, its literalism, its oddly dumb masses and all the vexations that weigh down humanity's efforts to rise illuminate the defects of conscious reason and effort.

At the center of life is a geyser of natural joy, leaping and praising. Around us every manner of life is glorifying God without taking any thought: horses leaping, tigers jumping, boys racing, men thinking, petals opening, and birds flying. Everywhere is the praise of spirited being, natural and unashamed.

Life itself praises God. We may become dispirited by the inaccuracy of human effort and the implications of original sin, but life glorifies God continually, unfolding its variations on a theme of being in brave wonders and speckled elaborations.

The Auld Catechism says the chief end of man is to glorify God as well as to enjoy Him forever. How much better life does this in general than individuals do in the particular. Our greatest spiritual danger is to lose sight of the glory of overall being in focusing on the sins of individual people. We lose sight of the forest in analyzing the trees.

The creation is aflame with glory, crackling with praise. Let us not think God is dependent on our poor attempts. God has no need of us. Job reminds us, "What is man that thou are so mindful of his efforts?" God is continually praised by infinite forces of which humanity is only a very insignificant part.

Therefore, it is not up to us to be too discouraged when our well-meaning efforts go astray. The praise of God will go on without us. No matter how notable and grand our effort may have been, it is inconsequential in the vast eternity of the mind of God. The galaxies will dance their rounds without our help. The fountain of joy that is the permeating and invisible spirit behind creation will not fail or fumble. Who is man that we should be so mindful of his efforts?

So all our attempts may have gone for nothing. This is unfortunate, but not insurmountable. It has happened before and will happen again. Take heart in the irony that truly, God has no need of anything, only humanity is in need of the reverence it finds in God. If we have given God honest reverence, we have risen above the circumstances around us.

Why should we pretend God needs us? The galaxies have no need of us. We are merely summoned as guests to a tiny segment of God's festivals of joy.

If we have had reverence for God, for life and for creation, we have done what is necessary. Nothing else is expected from us. Let us then enjoy horses leaping, boys racing, men thinking, birds flying, stars shining and planets spinning in the vastness, glorifying God. Everywhere is praise. Too much discouragement is unworthy. Be united to God. Enter into universal joy. On this universal joy the world runs by. It knows not, cares not, praise God, why.

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Spiritual Evolution

What is this life but a continual spiritual development? It is a constant unfolding of phases understood only when they pass. The young, adult awakes from youth and looking back is contemptuous. The middle aged man aged man looks back at his early manhood as naive, unrealistic, and warped by lack of experience. The older person looks back on maturity as immaturity obsessed with wrong values and far too frantic and shallow in a search for success.

At the end of each phase we awake more fully to understanding. Each compartment of life opens to another giving a more commanding view. Each step of life takes us higher and grants more perspective.

Why regard death as the end? This view places us outside the logic of life and the spiritual evolution of nature. Death is far more likely to be the final fulfilling wisdom, the last judgment, the greatest awakening. "I shall understand then," prophesies the Apostle, "as I have been understood."

All of us are in a process of evolution that is spiritual, as well as physical. Evolution is the force moving towards higher life and the specialization of spiritual consciousness. It is an evolution from the egocentricity of the child, to the protective instinct of the young buck, to the larger responsibility of the middle aged father and eventually to the grandfather gray with understanding who has learned compassion for the young from experience. The last phase is the fulfillment of death that makes him one with God and ultimately concerned for all.

The final stage of our spiritual evolution is the selflessness of God that comes from being returned to the glorious fountain of life. Death is not the end. It is the last post of our spiritual journey towards transfiguration. When fulfilling death comes, it is the happy end of the long march of self to soul. Death is the end of the evolution of the single cell to joyful selflessness. Let us thank God for it.

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Sentence

Every person is sentenced to a life term in the cell of self, and when maturity unveils this, it is natural to wonder about God's plan for the world. Yet, he who has known himself has known the world in a distorting mirror, and the question of each man is the same as the world, so if we are to deal with the problem of the earth, we might best start with that piece of earth which is ourselves.

Jesus said, "The kingdom of God is within you," and this means the treasure of any earth is to be found when we reach out and bring a relationship in. The world has a new awareness when we enter a relationship with God, because it is then life calls unto deeper life, and we experience ourselves as part of I the flow of mysterious refreshment that is God.

If we learn to live peaceably with ourselves as part of the consciousness of God, we may then live with others because we have knowledge of a deeper pattern. It is awareness of being part of this deeper stream of God that allows us to live without losing hope among others who may be irritating, or to live with ourselves without losing hope over our own deficiencies.

The unbalanced define God as enthusiasm. In this way, man having gone mad in the cell of self, escapes from God by calling his excess divine. This torment pillages, burns, makes morality ugly, and tries to lock out others in many ways as it has been locked in.

Living in the self with dignity and balance is the first lesson of God the universal Father. The second is we must all accept, as Jesus Christ the fact we are given a term in this world. Though our longings are immortal, we must reconcile the longing and reality as best we can.

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A Season Of Grace

If for everything there is a season, the best season is that of grace. Purpose reasserts itself then. Hope that shines in eyes as the sun on water makes light and happy many colored seas. Grace fills even limpid souls with high resolve as the wind, a spirit where it wills, makes pregnant sails of graceless, slacking faith.

At such times men will venture into parts badly named and barely known. Then small ships set out on oceans of circumstance and hurdle storms of passionate position.

The safe have to be shown that they are silly. Life starts where the horizon stops. In our end is the beginning because the end is where faith must begin. Those who have explored the bounds of grace, hurdled storms: passionate denial, and dared the vast sea of uncharted circumstances are better than the ones who will go down unseasoned. Contemptible are the safe ones who will remain forever green.

We learn from different seasons. From one season we learn that gentleness makes strength bearable. In another season that reason makes love endurable. In still another season of grace that any harbor is named despair hat stops short of the goal before us.

The man who has not had his season of grace will remain forever callow. It is the voyage of grace that makes character. No man has lived wisely or even well until he has had a season of grace in which he dares to venture. Nor will he be of any use to others.

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Index
Click on the chapter links below

1. Introduction

2. The Inner Life

3. The Church

4. Laughter

5. Allowing Wrongs

6. God's Will

7. Reflections of God

8. Enjoyment of God

9. Reverence

10.Trust

11. Kingdom of God

12. Preaching

13. Non-Belief

14. Human Nature

15. Yes and No

16. Tempting God

17. Prayer of Self

18. The Christian's Way

19. Proportion

20. Zealots

21. Pious Fakes

22. Moral Fear

23. Moral Sanity

24. Morality

25. Thinkers

26. Perspective

27. Fulfilling Possibilities

28. Reality

29. Courage

30. Love I

31. The Spirit of Growth

32. The Earthly Kingdom

33. Harmony

34. Integrity

35. Want and Need

36. Clergy

37. Puritans

38. Going and Being

39. Tragedy of Christ

40. Religion

41. Reverie

42. Awareness

43. Indifference

44. Election

45. Differences

46. Dehumanization

47. Selfless Love

48. First Things

49. Love II

50. Discipline

51. Imitation of Christ

52. Joy

53. Spiritual Evolution

54. Sentence

55. A Season of Grace

 

 

 

 

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Dr. James MacLeod may be contacted through the Neill Macaulay Foundation.

 

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