MY TRAVELS WITH GOD
I was ordained as a minister in the Universalist Church in 1979 (formerly licensed in N.Y. State) and hold a Doctorate of Divinity degree (D.Div.) specializing in pastoral (spiritual) counseling. I am currently not affiliated with any church or organized religion.
Here is another example of what I consider "useless" education, which was meant to be used for purposes which have nothing to do with God, but rather to groom me for some of the roles which CIA had in mind for me.
But despite all this, I know and love God. I am a believer in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I consider myself a Christian (though that is a loaded word these days); and I'm sure many who also call themselves Christians would consider me a heretic, which does not concern me; that's their problem, not mine.
On this subject, I will attempt to be brief, though I do intend to cover spiritual issues in more detail in my future writings, being that the world of the spirit is extremely important to me personally.
For many years, I have been accosted by religious crazies, fanatics and zealots, in attempts to "convert" or evangelize me to their own various "Christian" sects or cults. Most were Fundamentalists, of one stripe or another. Since these folks were intrusive and obnoxious, I mostly ignored them; told them to mind their own business; told them that my relationship with God is my own personal business and none of theirs.
Sometimes I even made fun of them (though I probably shouldn't have). In those days, I didn't even "admit" to being a Christian, mostly because I saw no point in discussing it with these people, as I saw little common ground.
Especially, I refused to argue scripture with them (still my policy to this day), despite the fact that I am armed with more knowledge of scripture than most. This is due to my long-term studies of various religious and spiritual teachings. These include the many gospels; apocryphal and non-canonical scriptures not included in the Old and New Testaments in most widely accepted versions of the Bible, including the "authorized" King James Version, which many Fundamentalists consider infallible and the ONLY "Word of God" extant.
As part of my seminary training, as well as my independent research, I have also made exhaustive studies of all the world's major religions and their scriptures, and have a large reference library of these various spiritual/religious works, collected over a period of many years.
And after all this, I still consider myself a Christian, as I have found nothing else that measures up to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Now for my little sermon (which you probably didn't expect and which you may wish to skip if you don't like being sermonized.) But here it is anyway, and it comes from my heart.
For the most part, I avoid "religion" like the plague; and accordingly, have kept religious content, per se, out of most of my writings. For this same reason I use no title in front of my name, though Reverend Doctor was the one designated to me upon completion of my seminary studies and ordination. I earned it and am entitled to use it. But it means little to me, as it came from a human system, a man-made institution --not from God.
I do not believe a seminary degree qualifies me (or anyone else) as a more "godly" person or places me above others in any way, spiritually or otherwise. In fact, I learned little of what I know about God through any process of formal education, much of which was an intellectual pursuit, not a spiritual one. Rather, my real knowledge comes from direct interaction with the Almighty, which I have been blessed to have experienced since childhood.
I cannot remember a time when God was not with me, though I first met Jesus Christ in person on August 21, 1976, when He appeared in all His Glory at the foot of my hospital bed and saved my life, as I was bleeding to death after childbirth, on the way to emergency surgery.
The hospital personnel knew this for a miracle, as the priest, Father Hybel, from St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Somers, New York (where my son was baptized later that year) had already been summoned and it was believed I had lost too much blood to survive.
Jesus picked me up in his arms and carried me out of my physical body, carried me away from the Earth and into the sky, where I saw all the brightly burning stars. My physical body was in surgery, far below.
Jesus said I wouldn't be allowed to die, as God had work for me to do. Since that time, I'm not sure how well I've done the job God intended for me, I only know I've done the best I could under some extremely difficult circumstances.
From what I have seen and learned in knowing God directly through my own one-on-one personal relationship, He doesn't care about religious titles or seminary degrees. He doesn't care if you're the lay preacher; the ordained-and-licensed minister; the Doctor of Divinity; the High Priest or even the Pope.
God doesn't care if you're holy-rolling in the aisles; slain-in-the-spirit; speaking in tongues under the Revival tent; taking the Holy Eucharist; or kneeling quietly on the prayer bench.
He only cares that in your heart, you truly want to know Him. How you worship is a matter for little concern as long as you are sincere in your heart.
It might surprise some people to hear that God has little use for "religion"...especially when it is used (as it so often is) to lead people astray, to lead them away from God, rather than closer to Him.
To indoctrinate people into religious and scriptural literalism and legalism; to trap them in a man-made churchly hierarchy, full of such things as Papal "bulls" (great description of the content of these!) or other self-limiting man-made systems --rather than to enlighten them to God's truth.
Bluntly put, most religious systems amount to a form of mind control. They are based on man-made dogma, not spiritual truth.
God doesn't care if you go to a church; stay at home; go out to a cornfield; stand on a roof top or a mountain top; or even on an empty asphalt lot.
He doesn't care where you are, as long as you seek to know Him.
He certainly doesn't care if you're a man or a woman (Promise Keepers and other male-supremacists, take note!) as long as you're a righteous person who seeks God's face and presence in all things.
God is no respecter of persons. God is not a bigot, a sexist or a racist. God does not practice such forms of discrimination!...only flawed human beings do. As in: All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
True, some human beings are more godly, more righteous, than others. But no human being is perfect. Not even the best of angels are perfect; after all, it is wise to remember that many angels are fallen angels and fell from grace by refusing to obey God.
Only God is perfect. His love never fails.
God cares what is in your heart; whether or not you have a love of the truth; and whether or not you follow His laws, through the inspiration (literally, breathing in the spirit) and instruction of the Holy Spirit and God's Word, which can only be understood by having it inscribed on your heart.
Many are called, but few are chosen. Many may hear the Word, yet fail to understand. If you don't understand, and would like to, ask God to explain it. Keep asking, in humility before God, until you get your answer.
If you do go to a church, make sure the priest or preacher has the Holy Spirit, for without it, no matter what ceremonies, rituals or sermonizing, God is not being served and you will not benefit from the association or fellowship.
I do occasionally attend a church service and I enjoy visiting different ones. Since I love gospel music, I particularly enjoy and often feel most comfortable in the Full Gospel or even Pentecostal churches.
And I can tell the moment I walk through the door whether or not the Holy Spirit is there. When the Holy Spirit is present there is an undeniable feeling of being uplifted, which anyone can feel, body and soul.
Most important: Invite God and the Holy Spirit into your life. God always knows what you need, long before you ask. What you think you may need may be very different from what God KNOWS you need. If your request is sincere, and in keeping with God's law and will for you, your prayer will be answered.
None who truly want to know God are ever turned away. But you will never find the truth... not just by going to a church; or even just by reading scripture; you will never understand the Word, without also having the Holy Spirit as your guide.
Ask God to fill you with the Holy Spirit. Spirit-filled people learn God's truth.
And knowing God's truth, they follow God's Law, it cannot be otherwise. Praise God. Amen and amen.