Monday, January 27, 2014

Coal or Diamond - Part 6

image used under Creative Commons license, courtesy of Wikipedia
Once again, that's the Oppenheimer diamond.  Its outstanding qualities are size and clarity.  Unlike many other stones, it might be more recognizable as a diamond because of the clarity.  And there are several sides to recognition.

The professional doesn't need something as obvious as the Oppenheimer diamond to recognize a stone having value.  The trained eye will know what qualities to look for.  The less well trained seeker will often make one of two mistakes.

The amateur or poorly trained professional can miss valuable diamonds. They may not recognize what they find. Or, on the other hand, looks can lead them to be attracted to other stones, with little or no value.  Because they display more sparkle or color.  That same kind of error can come into our spiritual life.

Matthew 24:4-5 (KJV)  And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.  For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.

Matthew 24:24 (KJV)  For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. 

This chapter has Jesus talking about the "end times".  Jesus certainly knew when that would happen.  But we don't know the time or date.  So, for the average citizen, the end times began in 33 A.D. and we're still in them.  Technically, that's not true.  But, since we lack omniscience, we've needed to maintain the higher level of awareness and discernment necessary for that precise period that is the real end times.  Unfortunately, mankind hasn't been very good at doing that.

When I say "mankind", that includes believers, as well.  Most of us will attempt some form of spiritual exploration till we're either frustrated at what we find or settle into some spiritual understanding, whether right or wrong.  Then we'll either become entrenched in what we believe or hold it so loosely that it leaves us at some point.  As strange as it may seem, one can lead to the other.

When I was searching, as I mentioned last time, I landed on Buddhism, later narrowing that to the Zen school of Buddhism.  There is nothing in Buddhism that claims to be or points to a god.  It's more a way of dealing with reality in a way that's in tune with that reality.  The "afterlife" is nothingness.  The follower is aiming at melding into the rest of what exists.  Being one with everything.  It's not all that far from what Jesus taught, except it doesn't recognize God.  When we realize that there is a God and He's an important element in the equation of how we live or should live, it changes some parts of what Buddha taught.

Legalistic Christianity, including Catholicism, has relied on an angry God to instill obedience. There's far too little of God's love taught in those branches of our faith.  I've described it, before, as God regularly wanting to grind us into the ground, squashing us with His thumb, like a bug.  On the other extreme, there's mainstream, liberal Christianity, ready to spout "God is love." at the drop of a hat, avoiding any sense of accountability at all.

Either one of those seems like a good reason to go running out of the religious room, screaming. Buddhism, without a reference to God, looked pretty good to more than just me.  And, as I read Jack Kerouac touting the virtues of Zen Buddhism, in particular, I thought I'd found a home.  Yes, I spent months studying Buddhism.  Yes, there's good insight in it.  When I determined that Zen was the branch I wanted, I thought I'd studied the rest enough.  Zen is a school of thought with total freedom.  What I missed and most westerners who espouse Zen ignored was that Zen (for those who went into it) came after long years of disciplined study of mainstream Buddhist thought.  So, real Zen Buddhists had an underpinning of discipline to mediate that freedom.  Many westerners, including myself, took to Zen without lengthy study because of the anarchistic lack of accountability. We could do what we wanted without fear of God getting even and without being spiritually "off". But we hadn't developed the discipline to make it work.

Smoking at 13 was "acceptable" to my way of thinking.  At that point, we didn't know about the harm smoking could do.  Along with that, I was finding ways to drink more and chase ladies.  I was creative enough to make the insecure gimp more successful at those things than most of the people who said I'd never be successful with the ladies or getting around my parents' restrictions.  On the outside, I looked a lot like the young man most fathers wanted around their daughters.  Inwardly, I was becoming exactly the opposite.  The outside looked good, inside I was a mess.  Fake spirituality, fake niceness, fake confidence.  We'll get into that last one, next time.  In the meantime, here are some verses that relate to what we've shared, today.  They're worth meditating on.

Isaiah 29:13 (KJV)  Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men: 

Revelation 3:15-16 (KJV)  I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.  So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.

1 Corinthians 13:2 (NKJV)  And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 

Matthew 7:21-23 (NKJV)  "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.  Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?'  And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'

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