The Joy of Jesus, by Doreen Virtue

Here are a few thoughts about Doreen Virtue’s book, The Joy of Jesus, which recounts her recent conversion to Jesus Christ, after having been a successful teacher (of new age spirituality), for some decades. I will list, first, what I find positive and admirable about her message. Secondly, I will make a couple of points in critique in light of Christian tenets.

Here’s what I admire about Doreen Virtue’s personal witness, her message, and her book.

  1. The Courage to Take a Stand: DV has fearlessly and courageously sought the truth. Upon realizing that Jesus is the savior — through a vision, prayer, and study — she has been willing to act upon her faith, even at risk to herself. She gave up her lucrative business, and her status, as a new age spiritual teacher in favor of a Christian evangelism for which she receives comparatively few rewards. This courageous example speaks volumes in favor of the life-changing reality of God that she describes.
  2. The Gospel is for Everybody (Finding/Seeking):  DV honestly and graphically recounts the emptiness (indeed, the torment) of a life that is dedicated to spiritual seeking, for its own sake. In her own career as a successful spiritual teacher (so, she confesses), she tirelessly tried to track down special or esoteric knowledge. Yet, if the prize was forthcoming, the pleasures were temporary and elusive.  She likens the promise of esoteric knowledge to Eve’s temptation: the shiny apple is the secret wisdom that will finally make one like God. Esoteric knowledge — or special wisdom — in new age circles can become a commodity and a badge of superiority.  By contrast, the gospel is at once fully satisfying and freely accessible– (the wisdom revealed to babes). If Christ exhibits the nature of God, then it is God’s nature to be generous, truthful, and forgiving.  We may touch God, in the here and now, and rather than searching, relentlessly and restlessly, for something to make us whole, we may find–and be found by–a limitless and loving God. Healed, we are whole.
  3. Joy: DV reveals, through her conversion, an encounter with Jesus Christ that fills the heart with causeless and boundless joy — no matter one’s trials and tribulations. We are all seeking such joy, aren’t we? As DV shows, through Christ, that joy is real.

Here are some points of critique.

  1. Guilt and Judgment: DV seems to believe that she was duped and deceived by the devil up until her conversion and her meeting with Jesus Christ. Yet, against this self-castigating narrative, it may be urged that the Christian gospel is about forgiveness, which releases one from guilt. In the light of forgiveness, one may see the beauty — and truth — that have been present, even while one has been hindered by various vices and sins.  Surely, DV had lots of good things to say, in her earlier books, even if she made some “mistakes,” when measured against her current standards of belief. While writing her books about angels, and portraying Jesus as an ascended master (rather than as the unique Son of God), DV showed an enthusiasm for spiritual things, and curiosity about various ideas, which inspired many.  These gifts ought not to be so sternly condemned. Guilt toward self, furthermore, gets transmuted into judgment toward others. For instance, DV believes that hell is real and that theological universalism is misguided. So, anyone holding these beliefs, so she judges, must be deceived and duped, just as she used to be. Surely, Jesus embraced theological pluralism, on a number of points, even if he also preached certain universals (such as the Great Commandment). Heterodox opinions do not amount to grave sins.
  2. Biblical Literalism: I honor DV’s respect for the Bible. Yet, to lapse into rote biblical literalism is to take the easy way out when faced by controversial or difficult passages. For instance, DV claims that God (through the Bible) condemns mediumship and witchcraft. Yet, Jesus himself was accused of magic and of being in league with demons. These accusations against Jesus were argued on biblical grounds –which draw upon similar passages (from Deuteronomy) as those on the basis of which DV derives her biblical prohibitions against mediumship. If Jesus (the Son of God)  “broke” such biblical rules himself — or if he was suspected of doing so– then perhaps the biblical rules, here, are liable to be misinterpreted. Could it be that the surface meaning of the Bible needs to be probed, more carefully, so that a deeper truth will emerge? Biblical doctrines about hell are equally complex and open to interpretation.

DV’s book, The Joy of Jesus, is available as a free PDF download on her website.

 

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Asia Bibi : Christian Jailed in Pakistan

Asia Bibi, Pakistani Christian

The Pakistani Christian woman, Asia Bibi, was arrested and jailed in 2009 for allegedly blaspheming the prophet Muhammed. She was sentenced to death.

In fact, Asia Bibi extended hospitality and friendship towards her Muslim coworkers by sharing water and conversation. Rumors then circulated, and false accusations, claiming that she had defamed the prophet of Islam.

Asia Bibi’s case has been appealed. She has been waiting (in jail) for the Supreme Court of Pakistan to hear the case and render a final verdict.

Jesus fought for Spiritual Freedom : Lightworker

Jesus himself was accused of blasphemy for claiming to be united with God. No matter our religion, all of us have the right– like Jesus–to enjoy such intimacy with God. We ought to be free to openly declare or speak about our faith, peacefully, without incurring retribution by a dogmatic orthodoxy or a strident majority.

Not Just about Religion but about Human Rights

While Asia Bibi’s imprisonment involves persecution on religious grounds, her case goes beyond sectarian differences between religions. Instead, the case puts on trial freedom of speech and basic human rights.

Pakistan, a country which claims to protect religious minorities, ought to uphold the freedom of a person (Asia Bibi) to speak and associate freely with Muslims even while practicing her own different culture and mode of faith.  Is one free, respectfully, to declare one’s own faith (as a Christian) without thereby being accused of allegedly insulting the religion of the Muslim majority?  The charge of blasphemy, if it should ever be legitimate, is illegitimate, here.

This case has not to do with protecting a Christian person, merely, but rather with the democratic right of freedom of religion and freedom of speech.

More Information about the Asia Bibi Case 

A journalist risked her life so that she could get Asia Bibi’s story. The book can be found here: Blasphemy: A Memoir

Here are updates about her case:

Update Asia Bibi Appeal Pakistan

Prayer Support 2018

Goodbye England’s Rose

Goodbye England’s Rose, by Bernie Taupin and Elton John

The lyrics to this song, a tribute to Princess Di at her funeral (in 1997), remind me of the saying of Jesus: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

In this song, Princess Diana is compared to the “rose of England” who grows in the heart of the people. The rose is also the grace that is placed “where lives are torn apart,” probably a reference to Diana’s activism on behalf of abused and hurt people (e.g., in working with AIDS patients in the 1980s).  Princess Diana had the courage and the caring, as a member of the royal family, to stand with the afflicted, sharing her life, her stature, and her hope.

The rose is the fragrance of love and compassion, which grows in the midst of suffering. The rose is also the memory, in the hearts of people who love her, of a legend and hero. Grace is the fragrance of the rose, which heals and uplifts lives that are torn apart.

The lyrics go on to say: “And you whispered to those in pain/Now you belong to heaven/And the stars spell out your name.”

By exuding the fragrance of compassion to people who are torn apart, the rose (or grace) soothes the soul. The afflicted are welcomed into heaven, a place of joy and well-being, thanks to this grace. Even the stars give honor to those in heaven and to the one who helps them to get there.

This tribute to Princess Di illustrates self-sacrificing love: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  Jesus is himself regarded as royalty, as the divine king. By laying down his life for his friends, Jesus stands with those who are hurt, abused, alienated, or in other ways, suffering.

Jesus says (improvising) in effect, “I give my life since Life is abundant. I give my stature so that you who feel unworthy will be raised up. Life can never be killed and lost. Life revives the sick and the suffering. Now, you are enrolled in heaven.”

SEE BELOW FOR SONG RECORDING AND LYRICS.

ARTIST: Elton John
TITLE: Goodbye England’s Rose
Lyrics and Chords

Goodbye England’s rose
May you ever grow in our hearts
You were the grace that placed itself
Where lives were torn apart

You called out to our country
And you whispered to those in pain
Now you belong to heaven
And the stars spell out your name

{Refrain}
And it seems to me you lived your life
Like a candle in the wind
Never fading with the sunset when the rain set in
And your footsteps will always fall here
Along England’s greenest hills
Your candle’s burned out long before
Your legend ever will

Loveliness we’ve lost
These empty days without your smile
This torch we’ll always carry
For our nation’s golden child

And even though we try
The truth brings us to tears
All our words cannot express
The joy you brought us through the years

{Refrain}

Goodbye England’s rose
May you ever grow in our hearts
You were the grace that placed itself
Where lives were torn apart

Goodbye England’s rose
From a country lost without your soul
Who’ll miss the wings of your compassion
More than you’ll ever know

{Refrain}

A Horse Named Grace: (and Noah)

Here’s an inversion of the biblical Noah story. In the story of flood, Noah is saved because of his righteousness. A remnant of humanity — and animals — take refuge on the ark.

In this era of global climate change, many natural disasters put our lives at risk, both  human and animal lives. Here is a sad story of horses who died due to drought. One horse was saved. See link.

Horse Saved From Drought

Now, I do not believe that God “caused” the flood  in the days of Noah. Nor did God cause the drought that killed many horses in Arizona. However, the fact that one horse was saved — aptly named Grace — can give us hope and alert all of us, in whatever ways we can, to be like the horse Grace. We are given life. Let us live in a way that we may contribute, generously, to the lives of others. Let us do our part to avert disasters and to contribute to restoring our natural environment.

The Wine of Joy

This post is for our Lightworker’s Study of the Gospel of John. On the left, click the folder icon, then sign up.  

John #23

John 2:1-11 (Text is reproduced at the end of this post)

Gospel of John 

Hello Lightworkers,  We move ahead to John 2, where Jesus performs his first miracle or sign (John 2:11). The Gospel calls Jesus’s miracles “signs”, which is also the Old Testament (i.e., the Hebrew Bible) term for the miracles of Moses.

At a wedding party in Cana of Galilee, Jesus turns water into wine. The water is contained within six stone jars for the Jewish rites of purification (2:6).  Note, here, that Jesus is himself a Jew. So, although the scene suggests that the new “wine” of Jesus replaces the old water of Jewish purification, in fact no super-cessionist or replacement theology is required. Jesus here is a Jewish prophet not a Christian god.

According to John, Jesus is also more than a prophet. He is the divine Bridegroom. The spiritual message, as I see it, has nothing to do with religious politics or sectarian disagreements: once the divine Bridegroom is present, enjoy the wine. You don’t need to keep purifying yourself, or waiting for the bliss to come. Religions, in general, often put people through rituals – for purification or as a means to an end, so that one will later on…meet and experience God, once one is holy enough or pure.

What if God has already arrived but we are in church so we miss it?  Drink the wine now.

The Wedding at Cana John 2:1-11
2 On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6 Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. 9 When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

Angels Descending/Ascending on our Behalf

Gospel of John #21

John 1:43-51 (Note that the text is reproduced at the end of this post)

Hello Lightworkers,

This scene continues the so-called “call narratives,” where the disciples are called to follow Jesus. The attitudes toward Jesus of Philip and Nathanael are contrasting. Philip immediately recognizes that Jesus embodies the very Messiah, or anointed leader (the Christ), that Jewish tradition and scriptures predict.  Nathanael, in turn, is skeptical : “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (1:46).

Yet, when Jesus performs a simple feat of telepathy or clairvoyance — revealing that by a sixth sense, he has seen Nathanael sitting under a fig tree — Nathanael makes a sudden about-face, declaring that Jesus must be the Son of God and King of Israel. Note: Son of God was the title for the Roman emperor.

Nathanael has set his sights far too low. Jesus is appointed not merely to perform magical tricks — of telepathy or the like — nor is he merely a King, like the Roman emperor. Jesus is instead appointed to a more significant role as the Son of Man. He will open a pathway between heaven and earth, on which angels may ascend and descend.

One simple message of this passage is that heavenly things come in humble packages. In fact, our own humble attire – and vulnerability – may be hard for us to embrace and reveal to others, particularly when our needs are urgent and held closely to our hearts.

How would you like somebody to say to you, “Can anything good come out of XXXX?” where XXXX substitutes for your hometown, your workplace, or some other identifying characteristic of yourself?

Spiritually, however, to receive the Christ, who is compassion and truth, sometimes we are lowered, like servants, in the opinion of others. We may look foolish and lose our self-esteem. When others assist us — while in this humble or humiliating predicament– we receive the Christ and gain that much more faith in life itself.

Through such ordinary means and measures, heaven opens.  The angels descend and ascend on our behalf.

Text: Jesus Calls Philip and Nathanael
43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47 When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” 49 Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you,[m] you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”