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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

ST. AUGUSTINE - "I LOVED THE EVIL IN ME"

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From The Confessions of Saint Augustine (354-430 A.D.)
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Your law, O Lord, punishes theft; and this law is so written
in the hearts of men that not even the breaking of it blots it out: for no thief bears calmly being stolen from - not even if he is rich and the other steals through want.  Yet I chose to steal, and not because want drove me to it - unless it was a want [lack] of justice and contempt for it, and an excess of iniquity.  For I stole things which I already had in plenty, and of better quality.
Nor had I any desire to enjoy the things I stole,
 but only the stealing of them and the sin.
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There was a pear tree near our vineyard, heavy with fruit, but fruit that was not particularly tempting either to look at or to taste.  A group of young blackguards, and I among them, went out to knock down the pears and carry them off late one night, for it was our bad habit to carry on our games in the streets till very late.  We carried off an immense load of pears, not to eat - for we barely tasted them before throwing them to the hogs.  Our only pleasure in doing it was that it was forbidden.  Such was my heart, O God, such was my heart: yet in the depth of the abyss You had pity on it.  Let that heart now tell You what it sought when I was thus evil for no object, having no cause for wrongdoing save my wrongness.  The malice of the act was base and I loved it - that is to say I loved my own undoing, I loved the evil in me - not the thing for which I did the evil, simply the evil: my soul was depraved, and hurled itself down from security in You into utter destruction, seeking no profit from wickedness but only to be wicked.
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Sunday, August 21, 2011

AUGUST 21 - CHRIST WAS BORN 2018 YEARS AGO TODAY!

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From THE URANTIA BOOK
Part IV, 132, 8
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 The Birth of Jesus
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 All that night Mary was restless so that neither of them slept much. By the break of day the pangs of childbirth were well in evidence, and at noon, August 21, 7 B.C., with the help and kind ministrations of women fellow travelers, Mary was delivered of a male child. Jesus of Nazareth was born into the world, was wrapped in the clothes which Mary had brought along for such a possible contingency, and laid in a near-by manger.
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 In just the same manner as all babies before that day and since have come into the world, the promised child was born; and on the eighth day, according to the Jewish practice, he was circumcised and formally named Joshua (Jesus).
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 The next day after the birth of Jesus, Joseph made his enrollment. Meeting a man they had talked with two nights previously at Jericho, Joseph was taken by him to a well-to-do friend who had a room at the inn, and who said he would gladly exchange quarters with the Nazareth couple. That afternoon they moved up to the inn, where they lived for almost three weeks until they found lodgings in the home of a distant relative of Joseph.
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 The second day after the birth of Jesus, Mary sent word to Elizabeth that her child had come and received word in return inviting Joseph up to Jerusalem to talk over all their affairs with Zacharias. The following week Joseph went to Jerusalem to confer with Zacharias. Both Zacharias and Elizabeth had become possessed with the sincere conviction that Jesus was indeed to become the Jewish deliverer, the Messiah, and that their son John was to be his chief of aides, his right-hand man of destiny. And since Mary held these same ideas, it was not difficult to prevail upon Joseph to remain in Bethlehem, the City of David, so that Jesus might grow up to become the successor of David on the throne of all Israel. Accordingly, they remained in Bethlehem more than a year, Joseph meantime working some at his carpenter’s trade.
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 At the noontide birth of Jesus the seraphim of Urantia, assembled under their directors, did sing anthems of glory over the Bethlehem manger, but these utterances of praise were not heard by human ears. No shepherds nor any other mortal creatures came to pay homage to the babe of Bethlehem until the day of the arrival of certain priests from Ur, who were sent down from Jerusalem by Zacharias.
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 These priests from Mesopotamia had been told sometime before by a strange religious teacher of their country that he had had a dream in which he was informed that “the light of life” was about to appear on earth as a babe and among the Jews. And thither went these three teachers looking for this “light of life.” After many weeks of futile search in Jerusalem, they were about to return to Ur when Zacharias met them and disclosed his belief that Jesus was the object of their quest and sent them on to Bethlehem, where they found the babe and left their gifts with Mary, his earth mother. The babe was almost three weeks old at the time of their visit.
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 These wise men saw no star to guide them to Bethlehem. The beautiful legend of the star of Bethlehem originated in this way: Jesus was born August 21 at noon, 7 B.C. On May 29, 7 B.C., there occurred an extraordinary conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in the constellation of Pisces. And it is a remarkable astronomic fact that similar conjunctions occurred on September 29 and December 5 of the same year. Upon the basis of these extraordinary but wholly natural events the well-meaning zealots of the succeeding generation constructed the appealing legend of the star of Bethlehem and the adoring Magi led thereby to the manger, where they beheld and worshiped the newborn babe. Oriental and near-Oriental minds delight in fairy stories, and they are continually spinning such beautiful myths about the lives of their religious leaders and political heroes. In the absence of printing, when most human knowledge was passed by word of mouth from one generation to another, it was very easy for myths to become traditions and for traditions eventually to become accepted as facts.
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Our ADVENT SERIES has a large amount of Christmas related
photos and graphics; various prayers, poems, and stories; and
  lots of music.  Here's a link to the "Introduction" page
 that has a list of the subect matter for each day.
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Merry Christmas!
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Thursday, August 18, 2011

PROSPERITY THEOLOGY: GOD WILL MAKE YOU RICH

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From MINISTRY OF GREED
The Inside Story of the Televangelists &
Their Holy Wars
by Larry Martz
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While fundamentalists cling to the Calvinist belief
in austerity, hard work, atonement for sin, and abhorrence of worldly pleasures, charismatics tend to put their stress on God's love.  It is an old dichotomy in the Protestant faith.  As far back as the Puritan movement of sixteenth-century Britain, the pious have been arguing that the Lord loves his people and will not neglect his elect in this life.
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Indeed, no matter what Calvin said, some prosperous
burghers maintained complacently that rich meant right; they were manifestly enjoying God's grace, and the poor were just as obviously destined for hell.
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But one wing of the Pentecostal movement has found
in this notion the key to millions of Christian hearts.  In the late 1930's, in a sermon called "Acres of Diamonds," the preacher Russell Conwell told his flock: "I say you ought to get rich and it is your duty to get rich . . . because to make money honestly is to preach the Gospel.  The men who get rich may be the most honest men you find in the community."
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In recent years, the doctrine has been developed
into all-out prosperity theology: God will make you rich, Jim Bakker and his colleagues promised, if you give him your money first as a token of faith.
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In Tulsa, Oklahoma, Oral Roberts developed the doctrine
of Seed Faith.  Giving is just like agriculture, he discovered; the farmer plants a tiny handful of seed and reaps a great harvest.  So Roberts sent his contributors Seed Faith booklets, with monthly coupons to clip and mail in to request prayers and note the amount donated.  God wants you to succeed, Pat Robertson told his flock; there is an earthly store of abundance waiting for you.  It's all there in Luke 6:38: "Give that it may be given unto you."
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Dozens of other verses reinforced the message,
and the preachers told endless stories of pious folk parting with their last dollars in a good cause, only to receive several times as much from a surprise benefactor.
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To preachers with a sterner view of God and reality,
 prosperity theology was outright heresy, a perversion of the faith that turned Calvinism upside down.  As Jerry Falwell was to say upon taking over PTL, the Bakkers' message made God into a slot machine and insulted the faith of every poor person whose belief was not rewarded with riches.  And it was far from universally tolerated even among charismatics.  Jimmy Swaggart, who condemned Bakker and his operation for years, was a fellow minister in the Assemblies of God - until he resigned in his own fall from grace.
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For the preachers who held it, however, prosperity theology
had an interesting side effect.  If they were seen to be rich, it was no disgrace but a proof that their message was true.
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"Oral recognized what the popes knew long ago," said Robert's disillusioned old friend Jenkin Lloyd Jones, editor of the Tulsa Tribune.  "Little people are impressed by wealth.  That's why the silver is on display at the Vatican."
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Editor's Note:
The worst part of this mess took place some years ago,
when people like Tammy Faye Bakker (above, with what I'm
told is called "landfill" makeup) and her husband, and a
 bunch of other rascals, were wheeling and dealing religion
at all hours of day and night on television, everywhere
it seemed, with a smug assurance and arrogance
about their righteous cause that made the lies
obvious, transparent, dark, and depressing.
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Now most of these characters have spent time in prison, or died,
 or just melted away into the televangelical video tombs,
with one exception (below).
But take note: they've been replaced with
people just as dishonest and fraudulent as they were -
just different tactics,"con's," tricks, smoke and mirrors;
new lies for new rubes, new fools, new gullible and
spiritually bankrupt lost souls.
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And the new liars have better attorneys too, to keep
their butts out of jail and make sure the money flows nonstop.
We should note that Jim Bakker, who spent time in prison,
 has been back in action for a while -
 I watched him last night on the tube.  He blasts
prosperity theology out of one side of his mouth,
decrying the true foolishness of his old "line of goods,"
while at the same time hyping his books and a whole array of
trash on his website - watches and necklaces, vitamins,
 squeeze bottles, water pumps, so-called "survival items" that include
 5 gal paint buckets filled with beans or rice for $100.00,
blue tarps you can buy at the hardware store,
and even a "food bucket opener" for $5.00.  And lots more.
The whole thing is a hideous display of someone with
more nerve than an L.A. street whore, or maybe her pimp.
Some people just can't quit selling their crap,
even (or maybe especially) when they have a reputation
 as rotten and sordid as this guy's.  He should be forgiven,
but that doesn't mean he has to be tolerated.
He ought to be banned from the airwaves.
He's still a fraud.
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I pray that he fails.  The "average American's"
common sense is no longer insurance that total idiocy
will not prevail in our time.  Actually, maybe it
never was, but it was comforting at least to think that
we live in a place where reason and good sense were going
to win the race, in the long run.  Obviously, that's nothing but
a myth, a fantasy, an ideal - for the present.
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Faith tells us that all of this will change, in time.
And speaking of time, certainly this character must smell
 like goat cheese or milk that's gone real, real bad,
 but as long as people watch him and send cash,
 this all goes on, and on, and....
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BEWARE!
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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

WE ARE LIKE THE MOON - WE CAN BECOME NEW AGAIN

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video
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The text below and the music
above are both about a Jewish
 ceremony called Birkat Halevana. 
 Debbie Friedman sings the song about
the matter from a Carnegie Hall concert.
It makes interesting background music
for the read.
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From WE PLAN, GOD LAUGHS
by Sherre Hirsch
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"CELEBRATING YOU"
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Each month, Jews host a party for the moon.
The Jewish year is based on a lunar calendar,
 and every month we take note of the passage of time
 through the ritual of Birkat HaLevanah,
the blessing and celebration of the new moon. 
 What is surprising is when this ritual takes place.
You would think we would celebrate the full moon,
the night of romance.  We don't.  Instead we celebrate when
the moon is just a sliver in the sky and hardly noticeable.
Most times we need a flashlight even to see the blessing
on the page.
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We bless the sliver because it expresses our faith in the future.
We are blessing what the moon can become. 
 It is a prayer of hope and belief and renewal. 
 Though we know that each month the moon
will wax and wane, the real purpose of this ceremony
is to remind us that we are like the moon. 
We can become new again.
We can uncover more potential and find even more
of our beauty.  As it says in the prayer,
"Blessed are you, God, who says to the moon each month,
you will be new again just like my children."
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Your potential is unlimited.  Each day, God revels in you.
From the day you were born until the day you die,
God is celebrating you.
God is not celebrating how much money you have made.
God is not celebrating your job title or your house.
God is celebrating each day that you are in his world.
Each day you have the potential to imitate him:
to create, to better, to discover, to build, to repair, and to laugh.
That is God's party, a joyous celebration of each one of
his creatures discovering her or his divine purpose.
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God does not stop celebrating when you are thirteen,
fifty-three, or even ninety-three.  Just like my mom never
stopped celebrating my birthday.  She still makes it a big deal,
even now.  We are God's children.  Just like we celebrate our
children and see all that they can become.  God thinks that our
best selves are always in front of us.  Whether it is your second
birthday or your seventy-second,
 God is hoping you will discover more
 about your incredible soul with each passing year.
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Saturday, August 13, 2011

PRAYERS FOR THE MEDIA

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The prayer below was written by Mike Smith, Editor
of the Spartanburg Herald Journal, Spartanburg, South Carolina.
This is only part of it - the link to the entire prayer is below this text.
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Lord, the traditional institutions of the media are crumbling under economic pressure. While some of us may be tempted to celebrate this destruction, the death of these institutions will leave a void that will be filled by less responsible avenues of information. Already, news outlets that seek to provide objective information are over-shadowed by outlets that seek only their own segment of our population and tell that fraction only what they want to hear. This divides rather than unites us. This often obscures rather than reveals the truth. And it furthers the antagonism in our society that demonizes anyone who disagrees with the prevailing views.

 Lord, give our people a renewed hunger for the truth rather than the confirmation of their own preconceptions and prejudices. You have told us that the truth will set us free.
Too many of us are not interested in learning the truth and
too few of us are interested in spreading it.
 Change our hearts Lord.
 Give our nation a true curiosity to learn the truth and allow those news outlets who reveal that truth to grow and prosper.
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Lord, too often we see a media today that looks down its nose at traditional social institutions, at ethical standards other than its own relativism, at faith itself. Give those of us in the media respect for those institutions, values and faith.
 Help us to realize that God is not mocked, and when people of faith and devotion to you are denigrated that our society is harmed, cheapened and made a little more brutal.
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Lord, give us a media that lifts us up rather than drags us down. Give us a media that celebrates the good rather than the evil. Help our media and our society to move away from the voyeurism and the celebration of degradation that characterizes much of our entertainment. Help us not to revel in gossip and the tearing away of others’ privacy. Help us to rise above an interest in seeing others debase themselves by surviving tortures and being stripped of human dignity.
 Lord, give us a news and entertainment media that pushes us to become better rather than to reduce us to our basest level.
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Lord, make us a media that acknowledges evil but refuses to celebrate it. Make us a media that exults in triumph and perseverance and joy and virtue. Lord, make us a media that tells us what is happening and tells us forthrightly and honestly. Make us a media that not only tells us what’s wrong, but make us a media that also points us to whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable. Let us report on what is excellent or praiseworthy as well as what is outrageous and shocking.
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Lord, make us a media that acknowledges the worst in us, but refuses to wallow in that evil.
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To see the complete prayer, go here:
http://www.mikehamlet.com/index.php/2010/05/07/prayer-for-our-media
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From The Book of Common Prayer
of the Episcopal Church
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Prayer 39.  For those who Influence Public Opinion
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Almighty God, you proclaim your truth in every age
by many voices; Direct, in our time, we pray, those who speak
where many listen and write what many read;
that they may do their part in making the heart
of this people wise, its mind sound, and its will righteous;
to the honor of Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.
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 The prayer below is from the Catholic
Pauline Order, a media-centered religious group
of priests and brothers.
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Father, in a world deafened by a cacaphony of sounds,
 may all be able to hear your whispering voice. 
We ask this first of all for ourselves, men dedicated to the
 Sacred Scriptures and the teaching of the Church, who must
 communicate your truth, Father, in a world
 that would prefer to hear lies.
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Secondly, we ask this for all who work in media,
 the press, radio, television, the internet.
 May they cherish truth more strongly than their own
 prejudices and personal agendas. May they present truth
 in a way that will enlighten hearts rather than
 inflame passions and conflicts.
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Thirdly, we pray for the artists and musicians of the world.
 May they utilize their talents to give you glory and in the
 process receive the recognition that they deserve.
 May they expose the horror and error of sin and 
the beauty and truth of virtue. We ask this Father,
 in the name of your Son, our Divine Master, the Way,
 the Truth and the Life, who lives and reigns gently with you,
 and the Holy Spirit, one loving God, forever and ever.
 Amen.
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