The Path to Thanksgiving

For a very long time Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday. Even though it is somewhat secular in practice and today seems to be more overshadowed by the need to go shopping before the meal is even digested, it is clearly a lasting testimony to how the early settlers were believers in a Heavenly Father who not only watched over them, but guided and provided for them. While not all of the actions of early American history may exemplify the divine law of “Love thy neighbor”, it is very clear that they truly believed that the Hand of Providence was with them and that they were subjects to the Creator and Sovereign of the Universe.

Jewish tradition has always used one particular Psalm as “THE” Psalm of Thanksgiving. The Psalm is Psalm 100 and I have included it below:

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the lands!

Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!

Know that the LORD is God! It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him, bless his name!

For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations. (Psalm 100)

Sometimes it is difficult to be thankful for anything when our current state of affairs may not always seem to be playing in our favor. Maybe you have felt rejected or forgotten. This is most often a choice, arguably a subconscious one, and you have the power to change whatever it is you are feeling. Once a person learns to control their emotions instead of letting their emotions control them, they obtain the balance in life that leads to happiness. Once a tight rein has bridled the passions, a clear course can be drawn to a life that is more fulfilling. Of the many gifts we have been given, our ability to choose (or free will ) is perhaps the greatest of them all. It is that gift that enables us to forge our own path and chart our own course. The path of life is a narrow one and there will always be forks in the road that may throw you off course. Sometimes the path less traveled leads to where you want to go and sometimes the destination is merely an entrance to yet another path. Whether you choose to walk alone, or pick up the lamp at your feet to light your path, is up to you.

God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well. – Voltaire

(Only on The Quest will you see the Bible and those against it woven together for a common message)

Today marks the 2nd Anniversary of this blog and I want to thank all of you for being on this Quest with me. I hope that all of you enjoy a very Happy Thanksgiving with your families.

No need to fear, NO ONE will burn forever.

 As a result of my last couple of posts, and a few others from some of my friends in the blog-o-sphere, a big debate has spurred about eternal punishment and biblical literalism.  If  you haven’t figured it out by now I am pretty open from a theological perspective.  While I do heavily rely on and reference the Bible, it is not my only source of theological concepts.  There are other theologies and cosmological myths that predate the Bible.  Many of the concepts in the Abrahamic faiths were adopted by religions that preceded it.  While I try to uncover the wisdom within the great book I have found that many of the doctrines of the established church are either not biblical or literal interpretations of a hidden source of wisdom that only an inquisitive mind is capable of uncovering.  As a result doctrines like original sin, the trinity, predestination, biblical inerrancy, faith over deeds, and the rapture are dogmatic doctrines that have seeped their way in to a religion that was intended to be based on LOVE and not FEAR. 

OK.  Now that I let all that out, if any one is left let me turn to the defense of He who’s name we can’t pronounce and who’s essence no one will ever be able to comprehend.  First, we need to erase the myth that Jewish Scripture (or as the uninformed refer to it, Old Testament) is all about showing us how we are imperfect and destined for eternal punishment.  There are a few verses in Jewish Scripture that talk of God as “merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness and truth.”   There are so few that I can only rattle off a handful off the top of my head like: Exodus 34:6; Numbers 14:18; Deuteronomy 4:31; Nehemiah 9:17; Psalms 86:5; Psalms 86:15; Psalms 108:4; Psalms 145:8; Joel 2:13….  These verses say crazy things like:  “Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches;  but let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth; for in these things I delight, says the LORD.” ” Jeremiah 9:23-24

Literalness is a cancer and does not do the Bible justice. The layered meanings are what matters the most. I for one get tired of seeing people who think they know scriptures and try to slap people around with passages as if they are holier than thou.  The problem is they use bits and pieces and take the passages out of context.  Worse yet, they take it literally and in the process completely miss the underlying and hidden meanings within.  If anyone were to think that I am making up the concept of reading in layers or that it is some failed Jewish concept, I suppose that these words are nowhere in the Bible:

“And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to him who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.  This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.  With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah which says: ‘You shall indeed hear but never understand, and you shall indeed see but never perceive.  For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are heavy of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should perceive with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and turn for me to heal them.’  But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.  Truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it. ” Matthew 13:11-17

“But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glorification.  None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” 1 Corinthians 2:7-8

“The unspiritual man does not receive the gifts of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”  1 Corinthians 2:14

To much scripture for one post?  Well,  I have often been accused of not using enough scripture to back up my opinions so the last thing I wanted was for anyone to accuse me of coming out here and creating an argument that I can’t back up. Let’s face it, in the hands of a madman the Bible can be equally as effective as it is in the hands of someone like Mother Teresa.  My opinion is it’s not Sunday-only finger food.  In order to be useful and understood it must be critically read and  investigated.  Not just quoted by a pastor or an easy bake devotional.

Now, I have given a concept of a pure, loving, and merciful God that is not an angry tyrannical narcissist.  If you can refute my claim that NO ONE WILL SUFFER ETERNAL TORMENT than feel free to do so. My question is – Why in the – firey made up place for eternal torture that doesn’t exist – would you want to defend such a horrible concept?

Never gonna give you up..

 Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down, never gonna run around and desert you…  Yes, I just lured you in with a Rick Astley song.  For whatever reason I thought that set of lyrics was pretty relevant to what I am going to cover in this relatively brief post.  My recent post “Who’s in control?” garnered the biggest single day number of hits for this blog.  It also had a good number of comments and email responses.  It seems my Christian friends have taken issue with my position that as human beings we are not wretched, worthless, disgustingly sinful beings.  That we are not building up a debt of sin that will justify eternal torment and punishment forever, which can only be paid and forgiven by belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus.  That all of our actions and imperfections somehow get erased by faith alone.  Well, aside from the fact that the words of Jesus himself contradict the concept of faith alone in favor of “what you do to the least of these my brethren you do unto me“,  it really doesn’t portray God as has often been the Christian position that God is love

So, is God love?  I believe so.  Mostly because no science has been able to prove what causes love and that particular feeling or emotion is the thread that weaves humanity with a concept of morality.  So what exactly is love?  The Apostle Paul, who as most of you know I have been pretty critical of, wrote one of the most inspirational chapters of the Bible and it happens to be perhaps the greatest description of love.  The chapter, for those of you who may not have guessed it, is 1 Corinthians 13.   As the Bible has multiple translations this chapter reads differently from version to version.  The most obvious difference is when comparing the KJV and the NIV.  (to those not familiar – the KJV is the King James Version which was translated in 1611 and the NIV is the New International Version which was translated in 1984. These are the 2 best-selling translations)  The KJV doesn’t use the word Love, it uses the word Charity.  To the skeptic this would seem to be a problem, but not to me.  Charity is, after all, a tremendous example of unconditional love.  When one exercises charity, they give for the sake of giving, with no expectation of reciprocation.  There is no doubt that is love.  So, if God is love, why not use 1 Corinthians 13 as a description of God.  For the sake of brevity, let’s just take the core of  the chapter which are verses 4-7 and replace the words “love” and “it” with “the Lord” (note- I am removing a few “it’s” for the sake of flow):

The Lord is patient, the Lord is kind. The Lord does not envy, does not boast, is not proud.  The Lord does not dishonor others, is not self-seeking, is not easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs.  The Lord does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  The Lord always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Now I ask you again: Is God Love?  If so, than we have never been rejected, nor will we ever be.  Why else would a word like “Father” be invoked so often?  The way I see it, our Eternal Father never gave up on you, me or anyone else.  It seems that for many people it really is the other way around. 

For the Lord your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you.. – Deuteronomy 4:31

A prayer for our time

Divine Author of all faiths,

Humbly we thank you for giving us life, family, and friends.

We pray that you watch over those who are less fortunate and guide them on the path to prosperity,

that you summon the courage within the oppressed to rise against their oppressors,

give strength to the needy,

give hope to the poor,

give happiness to those in distress.

Help all who have, learn the willingness to give.

Be with those who live for others and sacrifice themselves for the betterment of society.

Help us all to live in peace and harmony, dispensing all animosities that may exist.

To you we owe all that we have, so to you we humbly give thanks.

Amen.

© Nelson Rose, The Quest for Light