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What is the difference between religion and spirituality?

A lot of folks say that religion and spirituality are different. Some go as far to say that people go to church merely for social, emotional or aesthetic experiences. But this is a gross simplification, one influenced, I think, by the new ‘religion’ of science, which has brainwashed many.

Would the Catholic Church, for instance, have lasted over 2000 years if it was just about club membership, laughing, crying, and pretty sights and sounds? Rosabeth Moss Kanter’s sociological study, Commitment and Community suggests that most cults dwindle away and die after their charismatic leader dies. Not so with Christianity. The death of the leader made Christians even more committed, to the point of willingly undergoing cruel death at the hands of the ancient Romans.

Contrary to what the materialists say, many real, living people report experiencing a purely spiritual indwelling at their church. They also report feeling a great sense of peace, transformation, and a unique kind of spiritual elevation. It’s not quite the same as going to the bingo hall, the dance club or the football game. The funny thing is, those adhering to the new ‘religion’ of science tend to ignore or reinterpret these real life reports of church-centered spirituality to make them ft with their materialistic way of seeing things.

Even some who critique science and lean toward a Gnostic (gnōsis is a Greek word for “knowledge”) type of spirituality often say that religion and spirituality are like oil and water. They’ll never mix.

But for me there’s an overlap among religions and spirituality. They need not be mutually exclusive. Moreover, we’re all different, with our particular needs evolving to suit different stages of our lives. So we hear stories about firm fundamentalist Christians trying to convert people in their youth, who later in life question their beliefs and begin to explore new interpretations of ancient scripture (e.g. Bart Ehrman). Or the Catholic Mother Superior who drops out of her convent to become a professor, where she hopes she will encounter less chauvinism and institutional hypocrisy.

I’ve talked with many people whose needs are always changing. And I’m one of them. Why should life be any different? We’re not sterile creatures locked up in a test tube. We’re living, breathing, organic creatures thirsting for meaning in an apparently meaningless creation.


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Jesus… myth, fact or a bit of both?


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A Brief Guide to African-American Worship

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Dr Ty King

While the diverse cultures of the Christian world have their distinctive and beautiful approaches of worshipping, there’s something distinctively enriching regarding African-American Christian worship. We trust it exemplifies principal outlines of thought & experience that do much to praise it to Christians far and wide.

Anyone who has noticed or partaken in an Afro-American Christian worship facility will agree that there’s an indisputable dissimilarity between the manner American Blacks worship & the worship of other ethnic and racial groups. Embedded in their distinctive social past in America, the similarity is more one of function & experience in comparison to proof that one approach is better to another.

The custom of Afro-American worshipping together persisted to progress throughout the late nineteenth century and carries on to till date in spite of the turn down of segregationist approaches and the standard acceptability of integrated devotion. African American Churches in Charlotte, NC have long been the hubs of communities, serving as school locations in the early years following the Civil War, hosting social welfare functions, like offering help for the poor, and going on to established schools, or prison and orphanage ministeries. Consequently, black churches have promoted influential community organizations and offered spiritual & political leadership, especially throughout the civil rights movement.

Tasks of Afro-American worship:

With no posturing to being comprehensive, the following are some modern tasks of Afro-American worship and it must carry on:

  • To reproduce the collective experience of Afro-Americans without lessening the critical focus of worship admiration of & for divinity.
  • To contain inventive tension its unmistakable emphasis on fixing the injustices & disproportion in this globe with eschatological focal point on the life to come.
  • To find a balance between impulsiveness and order
  • To be commemorative without surrendering to emotionalism.
  • To empower worship and rejoice Christ.

Afro-American worship has played an important part in the Afro-American society. Slaves who didn’t discard their African spiritual legacy came to admit the God of their masters, devoting God initially in the Invisible Institution and afterward in their free cathedrals.

There was revised Christianity exceptionally suited to fulfill the requirements of their existential circumstance. A merriment of God’s redemptive deeds in history and on their behalf, their devotion offered them with pastoral attention, freedom, and empowerment. Music, prayer and the sermonized words are amongst the rudiments of their devotion, meant to carry on to be a “Balm in Gilead” for the rest of the journey.

Source: A Brief Guide to African-American Worship


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Merry Christmas!

The Flight into Egypt by Giotto di Bondone (13...

The Flight into Egypt by Giotto di Bondone (1304-06, Scrovegni Chapel, Padua). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To celebrate Christmas I worked on a tune that started out as an exercise in exotic scales. There’s an app at Reaper.fm, the digital workstation that I use, that has countless scales. Probably more than anyone could ever use. So I picked a few that sounded good, tried to blend them together, and soon after realized that it was turning into an unconventional Christmas Story (musically speaking).

Just tonight on Christmas Eve I was watching a show about the flight into Egypt. How Joseph and Mary had to flee from the paranoid King Herod, who was killing all the firstborn because he got wind from the Magi that a King had been born. After a while, sitting in front of our Christmas tree, I felt that this tune sort of captured the flight.

Unconventional, yes. But then, so was Jesus Christ, who continues to be more radical (in a good way) than any other figure to have walked this Earth.

Merry Christmas to all who wish to celebrate this hallowed holiday. The lights and gifts are great. But they’re just symbols of something far greater.

Enjoy!

–Michael Clark


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Homosexuality and the Church

Portal of the Church of Pilgrims, in Washingto...

Portal of the Church of Pilgrims, in Washington, DC, with a LGBT banner. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By

Homosexuality has continued to be a highly controversial topic that has proponents on both sides speaking out for and against it. As it has evolved within society, what once was a topic that was considered taboo, has now become more of an accepted societal norm. It continues to dominate headlines and receive much backlash from the Christian community. Homosexuality preexisted before the birth of Jesus. Its origins have been difficult to pinpoint by Theologians and scientists to determine what causes it. One of the biggest questions surrounding homosexuality is whether or not someone is born predisposed to it because of birth or hormonal defects or if it is a conscious decision that is made later in one’s life. According to the Bible, homosexuality is… Read full article

Remember, Earthpages is about dialogue and keeping an open mind. That means we publish and link to material that we don’t necessarily agree or disagree with. All too often people simplify complicated realities, make up their minds, and close themselves off to thinking any further on a topic. Not us!


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Is your religion ready to meet ET?

David A Weintraub, Vanderbilt University

How will humankind react after astronomers hand over rock-solid scientific evidence for the existence of life beyond the Earth? No more speculating. No more wondering. The moment scientists announce this discovery, everything will change. Not least of all, our philosophies and religions will need to incorporate the new information.

Searching for signs of life

Astronomers have now identified thousands of planets in orbit around other stars. At the current rate of discovery, millions more will be found this century.

Having already found the physical planets, astronomers are now searching for our biological neighbors. Over the next fifty years, they will begin the tantalizing, detailed study of millions of planets, looking for evidence of the presence of life on or below the surfaces or in the atmospheres of those planets.

And it’s very likely that astronomers will find it. Despite the fact that more than one-third of Americans surveyed believe that aliens have already visited Earth, the first evidence of life beyond our planet probably won’t be radio signals, little green men or flying saucers. Instead, a 21st century Galileo, using an enormous, 50-meter-diameter telescope, will collect light from the atmospheres of distant planets, looking for the signatures of biologically significant molecules.

Astronomers filter that light from far away through spectrometers – high-tech prisms that tease the light apart into its many distinct wavelengths. They’re looking for the telltale fingerprints of molecules that would not exist in abundance in these atmospheres in the absence of living things. The spectroscopic data will tell whether a planet’s environment has been altered in ways that point to biological processes at work.

What is our place in the universe?
Woman image via www.shutterstock.com

If we aren’t alone, who are we?

With the discovery in a distant planet’s light spectrum of a chemical that could only be produced by living creatures, humankind will have the opportunity to read a new page in the book of knowledge. We will no longer be speculating about whether other beings exist in the universe. We will know that we not alone.

An affirmative answer to the question “Does life exist anywhere else in the universe beyond Earth?” would raise immediate and profoundly important cosmotheological questions about our place in the universe. If extraterrestrial others exist, then my religion and my religious beliefs and practices might not be universal. If my religion is not universally applicable to all extraterrestrial others, perhaps my religion need not be offered to, let alone forced on, all terrestrial others. Ultimately, we might learn some important lessons applicable here at home just from considering the possibility of life beyond our planet.

In my book, I investigated the sacred writings of the world’s most widely practiced religions, asking what each religion has to say about the uniqueness or non-uniqueness of life on Earth, and how, or if, a particular religion would work on other planets in distant parts of the universe.

Extrasolar sinners?

Let’s examine a seemingly simple yet exceedingly complex theological question: could extraterrestrials be Christians? If Jesus died in order to redeem humanity from the state of sin into which humans are born, does the death and resurrection of Jesus, on Earth, also redeem other sentient beings from a similar state of sin? If so, why are the extraterrestrials sinful? Is sin built into the very fabric of the space and time of the universe? Or can life exist in parts of the universe without being in a state of sin and therefore without the need of redemption and thus without the need for Christianity? Many different solutions to these puzzles involving Christian theology have been put forward. None of them yet satisfy all Christians.

Mormon worlds

Mormon scripture clearly teaches that other inhabited worlds exist and that “the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God” (Doctrines and Covenants 76:24). The Earth, however, is a favored world in Mormonism, because Jesus, as understood by Mormons, lived and was resurrected only on Earth. In addition, Mormon so-called intelligences can only achieve their own spiritual goals during their lives on Earth, not during lifetimes on other worlds. Thus, for Mormons, the Earth might not be the physical center of the universe but it is the most favored place in the universe. Such a view implies that all other worlds are, somehow, lesser worlds than Earth.

Bahá’í without bias

Members of the Bahá’í Faith have a view of the universe that has no bias for or against the Earth as a special place or for against humans as a special sentient species. The principles of the Bahá’í Faith – unifying society, abandoning prejudice, equalizing opportunities for all people, eliminating poverty – are about humans on Earth. The Bahá’í faithful would expect any creatures anywhere in the universe to worship the same God as do humans, but to do so according to their own, world-specific ways.

Light years from Mecca

The pillars of the faith for Muslims require the faithful to pray five times every day while facing Mecca. Because determining the direction of Mecca correctly could be extremely difficult on a quickly spinning planet millions of light years from Earth, practicing the same faith on another world might not make any sense. Yet the words of the Qu’ran tell us that “Whatever beings there are in the heavens and the earth do prostrate themselves to Allah” (13:15). Can terrestrial Muslims accept that the prophetically revealed religion of Muhammad is intended only for humans on earth and that other worlds would have their own prophets?

Astronomers as paradigm-shatterers

Philosophers and scientists have forced worldviews to adapt in the past.

At certain moments throughout history, astronomers’ discoveries have exerted an outsized influence on human culture. Ancient Greek astronomers unflattened the Earth – though many then chose to forget this knowledge. Renaissance scholars Copernicus and Galileo put the Earth in motion around the Sun and moved humans away from the center of the universe. In the 20th century, Edwin Hubble eliminated the very idea that the universe has any center at all. He demonstrated that what the universe has is a beginning in time and that, bizarrely, the universe, the very fabric of three-dimensional space, is expanding.

Clearly, when astronomers offer the world bold new ideas, they don’t mess around. Another such paradigm-shattering new idea may be in the light arriving at our telescopes now.

No matter which (a)theistic background informs your theology, you may have to wrestle with the data astronomers will be bringing to houses of worship in the very near future. You will need to ask: Is my God the God of the entire universe? Is my religion a terrestrial or a universal religion? As people work to reconcile the discovery of extrasolar life with their theological and philosophical worldviews, adapting to the news of life beyond Earth will be discomfiting and perhaps even disruptive.

The Conversation

David A Weintraub, Professor of Astronomy, Vanderbilt University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


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How to Determine Your Spiritual Gifts

By Rhonda Jones

Every believer has at least one spiritual gift according to I Corinthians 12:7, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” God has given every one of us at least one spiritual gift to edify the Body of Christ. Although we all have a spiritual gift, we often do not know exactly what that gift is or how it should be used. Four Biblical passages provide the basis for teachings concerning spiritual gifts, specifically Romans 12:1-12; I Corinthians 12:1-31, I Peter 4:7-14and Ephesians 4:1-15.

Spiritual gifts are meant to serve the Body of Christ in the pursuit to fulfill the great commission. The three categories of spiritual gifts include the motivational gifts, service gifts and the manifestation gifts. The motivational gifts are often referred to as the speaking gifts such as evangelism and exhortation. Gifts of service usually involve ministries that supply a need, like the food or usher board ministries. The manifestation gifts include gifts of healing, speaking in tongues or any gift that produces a result that can be seen or touched.

Learning what gifts God has given you through the Holy Spirit is a life changing experience. Once you know what gifts God has placed in you, it is easier to move into the purpose for which God has created you. If you are not confident in knowing what gifts you possess, there are steps to bring you closer to knowing your purpose.

Candlemas Day

Candlemas Day via Wikipedia

Step One: Listen to Your Heart

What are you happiest doing? What are you good at by nature? Knowing what brings your heart joy is the first step to discovering your spiritual gift. Often we operate unknowingly in our gifts, but on a much smaller scale than God would desire. Your natural reaction to a situation will offer insight to what gifts you possess. A person with the gift of exhortation will immediately begin to encourage someone facing an obstacle, while a person with the gift of intercession will immediately turn to prayer. A person with the gift of service will try to find a task that would lift some of the burden. Make a true observation of your heart; it will not lead you in the wrong direction as long as you are seeking God.

Step Two: Spiritual Gift Assessment

After you observe your heart, the follow up step is an assessment. A self-analysis of your strengths and interests will assist you with understanding specific areas of ministry for your talents. Evaluations vary in number and complexity of the questions and in their scoring methods, but often the results are relatively accurate. Assessments only provide a basis, they are not meant to replace seeking God to reveal your spiritual gifts. Primarily assessments spotlight gifts, such as faith, wisdom, discernment, or other qualities designed to glorify God. Free assessments are available with immediate results on the web.

Step Three: Pray

If you believe you have discovered your spiritual gift, ask God to confirm your discovery. The Bible tells us to do all things with prayer and supplication! Sometimes we learn how to do things and we learn certain responses, but it is not our true gift. God is the one who placed the gift inside you and he will let you know if you are on the right track. Even after you discover your gift, you must continue to pray. Prayer will help you remain faithful and humble in the use of your gift. Prayer will allow you to walk honestly and whole-heartedly in your gifts.

Step Four: Exercise your Gift

After you have discovered your spiritual gifts, learn to exercise them. Exercising what you believe to be your gift is the final determining factor of whether you posses a certain gift. For example, if you discover that intercession is your spiritual gift, but you find that you can never find anything to pray about, this may not actually be your gift. Likewise, if you believe you have the gift of exhortation, but feel like encouraging someone might be intruding, this may not be your gift. If you believe you have a gift, exercise it. If there is not a sense of fulfillment or joy just from exercising the gift (and not from affirmations by people), you may need to continue to seek God to reveal your gifts to you.

After you determine your spiritual gifts, continue to pray. The most important thing to remember is that gifts are given to edify the body of Christ and should never be used to promote negativity or competition. Ultimately, the gift still belongs to God and any power associated with the gift comes from God. Equally, any results from the use of your gift are up to God and are at his discretion. You do not bear the weight of “making” your gift work. You simply pray for opportunities to use your gift and an understanding of your gift.

About the Author

Learn about Guided Christian Meditation CDs and resources that will enhance your life and relationship with God. Are you ready to transform your life and live with more purpose and passion? Visit Detox Your Life Now and & Awaken Your Inner Spirit to learn about this 10-week Christian faith-based program.

Article Source: How to Determine Your Spiritual Gifts