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Brianmhager

Heaven And Hell And Free Choice

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Hi Everyone, I have been reading and digging for some time to better understand the progressive movement...

6) ...If asked about Hell, the PC would almost never say who will and won’t go there, and would likely say that hell and the devil are misunderstood archaic tribal notions.

 

- Eric

 

 

Eric,

 

In reading your views about the PC movement, I came upon the above commentary. I think you're right. As someone who fits into the PC classification I am thoroughly convinced of Jesus' injunction about not passing judgment. For one thing I cannot accept the notion of
"Heaven"
or
"Hell"
as places within the context of eternity; that's an impossibility. Shortly after I made that connection I began to view them as two different ways of relating to the Lord. Jesus refered to Himself as the "Alpha and the Omega."
ALL CREATION
began in Him and at the end of time, it is not out of the question that
ALL CREATION
will return to the beginning. What defines a heavenly end versus a hellish end is the human choice to embrace God; our Creator or reject Him.

 

The primary consideration here is that when
The Veil is pulled aside
(meaning of greek word, Apocalypse), there may be only one reality to which we all return. For those who cannot stand being in God's presence they most likely will experience Him as
Hell.
For those who find the Lord's persona pleasurable, to be with Him for an eternity may be
Heaven.
What makes the experience Hellish stems from the reality that the souls who reject Him may be 100% aware that they can change and accept Him. But in the life beyond the Veil there is no denial of the truth. They see fully what they cannot accept. And so they refuse to draw near to Him for doing so would be the worst possible choice for them to make. Neither God nor anyone else has condemned them to this consequence they choose it freely, because they spent their lives choosing it freely here and now. Just as those who spend eternity with God in Joy chose to embrace Him here and now with the all the consequences that arise from that choice.

 

So, in a sense, I don't see this as a "progressive" Christian understanding. I have chosen to open my eyes to the light which God shines into my spiritual poverty. This leads me to a different definition of SIN, but I'll delve into that later.

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Neither God nor anyone else has condemned them to this consequence they choose it freely, because they spent their lives choosing it freely here and now.

 

Brian,

 

This 'free will' concept is one that I have difficulty with and has been litigated here from time to time.

 

George

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Heaven and hell are states of mind and heart that we move in and out of in this life. I just wish I had more control about which one I am in.

 

I agree with what you stated. I guess I am more weighted toward the "heart" side of things in the way I move in and out of Heaven and Hell. My definition of SIN evolved out of the sentiment you express. In Spanish, there is a preposition spelled the same way. It means "without." When I first saw that, it struck me how perfectly it defined the growing awareness of what sin was/is in my life. Jesus said to pray without ceasing. When I considered how non-existent my prayer life really is I examined how I prayed and and what that meant for my "eternal disposition."

 

Not only in the manner of "formal" prayer, but also in most of my thoughts throughout any given day, I am aware of God's presence and His love in and around me. There has been one important consequence of all of this for my continued spiritual growth; I am now, always have been and will continue to be a sinner until the day I die. It is one of those things innately part of the human experience. It is God's great desire that I spend eternity with Him enjoying his eternal and Unconditional Love.

 

Today, when I am aware of choices and actions - or lack of action - that people traditionally define as sins(s), it reminds of just how much I need to invite God back into my heart. I can never do that enough or perfectly. I cannot be certain about my final place in the hereacter, but I am certain that God wants me to with Him and in Him. Having spent some time involved in Al-anon, I view the idea of confession (in the Catholic Church) as being on a parallel with the 4th and 5th steps of the 12 step programs.

 

To face how frail and faulty I really am is to face how "powerless" I really am and how little or no control I have over a many things - including my sinful nature. I will - at the very least - always forget to include God in my every waking moment for as long as I live. Sin reminds me of that and eventually I remember to turn back jump into prayer of some kind. It doesn't bother me any more that I can't control so much of my life. The first three steps of the 12 steps reminds me: 1) I can't, 2) He can, 3) I think I'll let Him.

 

Brian

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[/indent]

 

Brian,

 

This 'free will' concept is one that I have difficulty with and has been litigated here from time to time.

 

George

 

George: All "free will" means to me is the ability we all possess to accept or reject God's knock at the door. Will I or won't I answer the door and let Him in. Or will I stand on the other side as He knocks and say or do nothing?

 

I personally think religion of the fundamentalist variety has really muddied the waters on just what God wants from us.

 

I am have come to believe that because God is the essence of Unconditional Love, I believe He created the Universe and us so that He could Give Away that Love. I think is safe to say that the nature of Unconditional Love is that it must, of necessity, give itself away freely without condition. Most churches these days put a ration of requirements and "shoulds" on our receiving that Love.

 

God will give to anyone who asks, no matter what condition that soul may be in.

 

If I am wrong about any of this, I'm in a lot of trouble!!!

 

Brian

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Brian,

 

Could you please elaborate on your statement-

 

"For those who cannot stand being in God's presence they most likely will experience Him as Hell.......What makes the experience Hellish stems from the reality that the souls who reject Him may be 100% aware that they can change and accept Him. But in the life beyond the Veil there is no denial of the truth. They see fully what they cannot accept. And so they refuse to draw near to Him for doing so would be the worst possible choice for them to make. Neither God nor anyone else has condemned them to this consequence they choose it freely, because they spent their lives choosing it freely here and now."

 

I wonder what sort of soul you think might stand before this God of Unconditional love, which of neccessity gives itself away freely, yet refuse to draw near to Him/it?

 

I'm not debating with you, but rather am simply interested in your theology.

 

Cheers

Paul

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I wonder what sort of soul you think might stand before this God of Unconditional love, which of necessity gives itself away freely, yet refuse to draw near to Him/it?

 

 

Paul,

 

Thank you for your question. Ever since my experience in the fall of 1993 (see my introduction under "55 Year Old Former Seminarian - Now Former Roman Catholic."), God forcefully pulled my crutches away and left me bereft of any consolation or succor. I see now, after all the time that has passed, that it was necessary for me to realize that what I had mistaken as my faith were actually only those "beliefs" I had learned from my parents and more so from the Church. When I finally did receive the Gift of Faith, I began to grow in a relationship with the Lord which is available to all of us.

 

One of the key verses from the New Testament which began to cycle back into my life was Jesus' words, "When you see 'the abomination that causes desolation' standing where it does not belong--let the reader understand--then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains." I looked at various different commentaries, but was never wholey satisfied with the explanations.

 

One day I decided to look up the footnote on the bottom of the page where I first read it (MK 13:14 - NRSV). It pointed back to the book of Daniel and the reference to a king that conquered Jerusalem and put up a statue of himself in the Temple in the Holy of Holies. In the past 2 - 3 years, I began to see a further connection to the account in Daniel to King Nebuchadnezzar's dream. I meditated on the vision of the statue with the head of gold, neck and shoulders of silver, etc. and a fuzzy view I held of Heaven and Hell came into sharper focus.

 

What happened to me in the Fall of 1993 was that the idol I called my faith was struck at the feet of clay and iron and the entire edifice crumbled to the ground and was blown away as a fine dust. When Jesus later spoke His name, he established a relationship with me that has grown into a new mountain of the Lord - His presence in my life. From that I saw how much in the past I (and still to this day) I put myself at risk by passing judgment on others. It is from the memory of that fallen idol that I do that. The sad reality was that the image of God that used to guide me in my life had my face stamped upon it. Like so many I remade God into my own image and likeness.

 

If I had succeeded in persisting in living my life that way I could very well have eventually entered heaven maimed. God - the true God - would not have looked like me and I believe I would have rejected His Love. That is because reality didn't operate the way I thought it should. God didn't operate the way I thought He should. In the book of Revelation, John (whichever John he is) writes, "They called to the mountains and the rocks, 'Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!' REV 6:16)."

 

Is it possible to experience God's Love as wrath? It may be, if the soul who faces God has not died to its own image of itself and God. In the response I wrote above to a question or concern by Dutch, I wrote about my concept of "sin."

 

 

 

on 22 April 2012 - 10:50 PM, I wrote:

My definition of SIN evolved out of the sentiment you express. In Spanish, there is a preposition spelled the same way. It means "without." When I first saw that, it struck me how perfectly it defined the growing awareness of what sin was/is in my life. Jesus said to pray without ceasing. When I considered how non-existent my prayer life really is I examined how I prayed and and what that meant for my "eternal disposition."

 

I grant you that I am not a scholar, nor an expert on the Bible. I did learn during my time in Seminary that there are multiple layers to the meaning of various Scripture verses. I do not claim an exclusive, personal revelation to any of this, but believe it to be a way in which the Lord sought to allay my anxieties and fears in the face of those who threw "proof texts" in my face as a way chipping away at my faith in an effort to proselytize me.

 

I am more than willing to carry on a dialogue about this, but keep in mind, I am sharing from my own personal experience. I can only share my story with you. Much of it represents my personal opinion, but it does stem from the Light I walk by.

 

Sincerely,

 

Brian

Edited by Brianmhager

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The problem with the heaven/hell dynamic is that it assumes we are omniscient in this life. And I mean this quite literally. It assumes that the choices we make are wholly our own and not the result of the social structures in which we grow up. It necessarily purports that I, who grew up in a white, middle-class New Jersey home, is the same as someone who grows up in a poor Iraqi family. The denial of all influence from the social structure is required to believe in the Hell you purport. For if we do not know the truth (i.e. are not omniscient) in this life, then it is almost certain that we would choose to embrace the love of God upon death and realizing the truth. It is only possible for us to say that those who reject God in this life, would reject Him in the next life, with any certainty if we are omniscient.

 

I am not being comical here. I literal mean it omniscience on the part of men and women is necessary for your assertions to be true. I personally do not believe the soul survives death. When this mortal body perishes, our soul/spirit will return into the oneness of God. We are like cups of water drawn from the river, which is the Sacred. When we die, our cup is poured back into the river. We die into God.

Edited by John Ryan

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For if we do not know the truth (i.e. are not omniscient) in this life, then it is almost certain that we would choose to embrace the love of God upon death and realizing the truth. It is only possible for us to say that those who reject God in this life, would reject Him in the next life, with any certainty if we are omniscient.

 

I personally do not believe the soul survives death. When this mortal body perishes, our soul/spirit will return into the oneness of God. We are like cups of water drawn from the river, which is the Sacred. When we die, our cup is poured back into the river. We die into God.

 

John,

 

I made a conscious choice to stir clear of "debates" a very long time ago. I grant you that I am far from being omniscent, which is why I believe in the Unconditional quality of God's Love. I am also convinced that it is up to me to accept or reject that Love. I no longer hold a traditional view of Sin, so I am positive of God's charity toward all of us. I share what I see based on my experience. Since we both cannot literally stand in each other's shoes at the same time, I will accept your view as important to you. I wouldn't try to convince you of anything else when it comes down to it.

 

I do like your image of the cup being poured back into God. How did you arrive at that view? Do we necessarily "die into God?" Or do we find that beyond the veil that seperates the finite world from eternity there is only one reality without limit or border that is God?

 

Sincerely,

 

Brian

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Brian,

 

What do you mean by possibly entering Heaven maimed? Could you describe what you believe Heaven to be/entail?

 

I still don't quite understand just how you understand a soul after death rejecting God. To you, is this a conscious decision on the part of the person to continue to reject God and live...well, how?

 

Cheers

Paul

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From the OP:-

 

Neither God nor anyone else has condemned them to this consequence they choose it freely, because they spent their lives choosing it freely here and now. Just as those who spend eternity with God in Joy chose to embrace Him here and now with the all the consequences that arise from that choice.

 

 

I have many quibbles with this statement. First we have the "quibble" expressed by the poet R.S.Thomas...

 

and one said

speak to us of love

and the preacher opened

his mouth and the word God

fell out so they tried

again speak to us

of God then but the preacher

was silent reaching

his arms out but the little

children the ones with

big bellies and bow

legs that were like

a razor shell

were too weak to come

 

So, there are many - far too many - who are "too weak to come", or to "choose" one way of the other. To involve ourselves in "rationality" here would be wrong - in my book. Fortunately the world is not "consistent" nor "rational" at its deepest ground. As has been said, the world can only be consistent without God. Mercy, grace., forgiveness have very little to do with "consistency"!

 

Moving on to further "quibbles", there is the argument put forward by Thomas Talbot in his book "The Inescapable Love of God" in which he deals with the "free will" defence of hell....

 

Given that God wills the very best for us, and given that we would wish the very best for ourselves, the idea that any human being fully informed would choose anything else is inherently flawed and incoherent. And if not fully informed, then the free will defence is void.

 

Again, we have the words of St Augustine....."You have made us for yourself, and we remain restless until we rest in you". So the only final resting place will be "in God". Until such time, we stay "on the move". "As swans that leave the lake, we leave home after home behind" (Dhammapada)

 

P.S. In my haste ( :) ) I forgot to mention the simple point that we are chosen, we do not choose. Which opens another can of worms............ :D

Edited by tariki

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I do like your image of the cup being poured back into God. How did you arrive at that view? Do we necessarily "die into God?" Or do we find that beyond the veil that seperates the finite world from eternity there is only one reality without limit or border that is God?

The image of the river is taken from the Tao Te Ching, and "die into God" is a phrase Marcus Borg likes to use. See Borg's Agnostic About the Afterlife. Edited by John Ryan

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Brain,

 

You said in one of your posts "I think is safe to say that the nature of Unconditional Love is that it must, of necessity, give itself away freely without condition."

 

Now, If God is unconditional Love and Unconditional Love is given away freely without condition, then how can it be a condition that we must accept or reject that love. It seems to me that it is present with acceptance or rejection. And in the fulness of times, who can ultimately resist God?. In my view, no one 'fully informed' could reject that love unless he/she had no 'free choice' but was rather a product of an evolutionary conditioning stage created by no less than that Love. And then they would not be as of yet in my view, 'fully informed'.

 

Now to the eyes it may be certain that some die in rejection. Yet as to time, who can say with certainty even that this one life here to accept or reject that love and be 'fully informed' is all there is? Certainly not i. I would also suspect not the words of a book that was controlled by the very religious system you testify gave you the beliefs that were stripped away in a single weekend?

 

These are just some thoughts for consideration because like you, i can only speak of my own subjective experience. To me, Sin and a man at the door knocking is a characterization created by religion and not God. To me, it is not possible to be separate from God by a door or even such a thing as sin unless one defines sin as ignorance which resides in every thinking mind and is but a veil to reality. Perhaps In Love is unconditional forgiveness for all and where that forgiveness resides in mankind, sin, guilt, the law and the like cannot cloud that reality in which death is not possible.

 

Just my own musings to share,

Joseph

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Now, If God is unconditional Love and Unconditional Love is given away freely without condition, then how can it be a condition that we must accept or reject that love?

 

In MATT. 5:43 – 45 Jesus says, “43 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.”

 

If human beings fail to accept what God gives us freely, without condition, what is it that prevents us from receiving his Love? If we do possess FREE WILL where is the “Sin?” If we don’t possess FREE WILL how can we be held responsible for anything?

 

I there is more I can respond to, but I need a little time to reflect your questions and concerns...

 

 

Your brother in Christ,

 

Brian

 

 

 

More later,

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If we do possess FREE WILL where is the “Sin?” If we don’t possess FREE WILL how can we be held responsible for anything?
If you view sin in the general paradigm of bondage, and not just as "bad things you have done," then the problem disappears.

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If you view sin in the general paradigm of bondage, and not just as "bad things you have done," then the problem disappears.

 

The only bondage I really see John is to my own "false image" of myself or God. As such my hands are too full to receive what God has to offer. Whatever the "bad things I have done" in this life I see as a consequence or symptoms of my sin. Which comes first the chicken or the egg? For me the Pharisees were a prime example of individuals who were so enamored of their own "righteousness" that they failed to see how they rejected God and failed to recognize Jesus as sent by God.

 

I can not except the idea of Lucifer (or Satan) as the Great Evil many fundamentalists portray him as. He is a "temptor" for sure, but the claim, "The Devil made me do it," is a bit of a cop-out.

 

I think what I am gravitating towards here is the idea of "Progressive" as continued growth and openess to TRUTH wherever I find it.

 

If you think I'm wrong about my take on your point, please educate me.

 

Your brother in Christ,

 

Brian

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If human beings fail to accept what God gives us freely, without condition, what is it that prevents us from receiving his Love?

 

In my experience, it is there all along and has been but perhaps was not in conscious awareness because of judgments of self and others.

 

If we do possess FREE WILL where is the “Sin?” If we don’t possess FREE WILL how can we be held responsible for anything?

 

Good point Brian, perhaps what some look at as 'free choice or will' is not free choice at all but an evolution of consciousness and conditioning. Therefore i have said in effect that though each action precedes an effect, you can do no other than that which conditioning allows until and unless the One (God) who is beyond conditioning surfaces. And in my experience, no man can come to the One unless the Spirit draws him. What then are we responsible for except to live and experience the myriad of options and consequences put before us until we come of knowledge and are complete in God.?

 

Just some thoughts to consider.,

Joseph

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I can not except the idea of Lucifer (or Satan) as the Great Evil many fundamentalists portray him as. He is a "temptor" for sure, but the claim, "The Devil made me do it," is a bit of a cop-out.

I read the passages about the Devil and devils metaphorically. I love the quote from The Duchess of Padua, written by Oscar Wilde, which reads: "We are each our own devil, and we make this world our hell."

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I can not except the idea of Lucifer (or Satan) as the Great Evil many fundamentalists portray him as. He is a "temptor" for sure, but the claim, "The Devil made me do it," is a bit of a cop-out.

I think even reducing Satan to the tempter gets God off the hook and is not consistent with a monotheistic universe. Even as metaphor I think it distracts us from practices which bring us into God's presence.

 

Dutch

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I think even reducing Satan to the tempter gets God off the hook and is not consistent with a monotheistic universe. Even as metaphor I think it distracts us from practices which bring us into God's presence.

I like the metaphor of the Devil very much. Sometimes when you are tempted to do bad things, it feels as if there is this other presence compelling you. I find its corollary in the phrase "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." We often intellectually want to do what is right, but our id (to use Freudian terminology) keeps gnawing at us, and whispering into our ears.

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What defines a heavenly end versus a hellish end is the human choice to embrace God; our Creator or reject Him...

 

...or whatever your particular interpretation divines:

 

There's a great text in Galatians,

Once you trip on it, entails

Twenty-nine distinct damnations,

One sure, if another fails.

If I trip him just a-dying,

Sure of heaven as sure can be,

Spin him round and send him flying

Off to hell, a Manichee? - Browning, Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister

 

 

The bargaining one must do to appease the gods we make seem like so much tilting at windmills, IMHO.

 

NORM

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What defines a heavenly end versus a hellish end is the human choice to embrace God; our Creator or reject Him.
So do you have to be a Christian to embrace God? Or can you embrace God as a Buddhist' date=' Muslim or Wiccan?[/font']

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I see a basic flaw in these idea of there being "choice" in matters of heaven or hell, accepting or rejecting god, in that before there can be "choice" there must be informed options frown which or between whuch to choose. And I simply do not see that humans are universally and inevitable informed of such options as "choosing" to accept or reject god, or an ultimate destiny of eternity in heaven or hell.

 

This was a critical flaw evident even to my own young mind as a little child, and it baffled me even then hwo the grown-ups seemed unable to see it. And it seemed there was such incinsistency in what they did beleive and teach...I was taught to sing 'Jesus love all the little children of the world,', but then, that many, even most of those children were doomed to hell because they'd not accept Christ, most for never even having heard about Christ, or Christian ideas about heaven and hell and salvation doctrines. How could god condemn to hell people that never even heard of any of that? Even then such claims by preachers and such that at some point in every persons life, they had the chance to "choose Jesus", are obviously absurd to me!

 

That all makes this salvation thing all about being 'lucky enough' (yeah, God's will crap) to run into someone that will tell them about Jesus and Christian salvation, and 'wise enough' (gullible enough?) to accept it as truth in any of the really outraegous forms it may be presented to them. I could never see god placing such a burden of a 'choice' on everyone without even letting all of them in on what choice there was or even that there was a choice!

 

Jenell

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As I see it, until truth/righteousness is written on our hearts, rather than on tablets of stone, then all our choices as well as all our righteousness will be "as filthy rags".

 

Love God and do what you will, or "effortlessness" and "no striving".

 

Pertinent the words from "The Book of Hours" (Merton) which capture the paradox of all this.....

 

 

 

In a Zen koan someone said that an enlightened person is not one who seeks Buddha or finds Buddha, but simply an ordinary person who has nothing left to do. Yet stopping is not arriving. To stop is to stay a million miles from it and to do nothing is to miss it by a whole width of the universe.

 

As for arriving, when you arrive you are ruined. Yet how close the solution is: how simple it would be to have nothing more to do if only - one had really nothing more to do.

 

The one who is unripe cannot get there, no matter what they do or do not do. But the ripe fruit falls out of the tree without even thinking about it.

 

Why?

 

The one who is ripe discovers that there was never anything to be done from the very beginning.

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That all makes this salvation thing all about being 'lucky enough' (yeah, God's will crap) to run into someone that will tell them about Jesus and Christian salvation, and 'wise enough' (gullible enough?) to accept it as truth in any of the really outraegous forms it may be presented to them. I could never see god placing such a burden of a 'choice' on everyone without even letting all of them in on what choice there was or even that there was a choice!

 

 

I could not agree with you more Jenell!

 

I arrived at my current view after a very difficult struggle to overcome my former "Roman Catholic" exclusive salvation thinking. I could never wrap my mind around the notion that only Catholics were going to be saved, because - according to the Church - the "fullness" of Grace resides in the Catholic Church.

 

I sought to make a more inclusive view for myself in the idea of Heaven or Hell Freely Chosen by the acceptance or rejection of Love in one's life; not the "right" set of beliefs. I appologize if I was not clear about that. My brain can be my own worst enemy. I forget to include details that would make myself better understood. Much in the same way that people will often forget to include a word in something they write because they're thinking too fast for their fingers to keep up.

 

Brennan Manning, the author of The Ragamuffin Gospel, helped me to finally accept the idea of a more inclusive view of "salvation." By "salvation" I am not refering to the more traditional definition of "being saved." I prefer the meaning of the root word in the term, "salve;" a healing ointment or balm. Just as my personal definition of the word "sin" now refers to a "lack" of God's presence in my heart when I fail to Love and accept those God calls upon me to embrace. I don't believe God wants me to be a doormat, but rather, am I willing to be a conduit for His/Her Love and Grace to those I perceive to be in need.

 

So Heaven or Hell - for me - has become the inevitable outcome of my willingness to genuinely Love (and not hate) the people I meet. Sometimes real Love has to be tough - That is where I tend to fail most often.

 

When I think of my Final Destination, I am aware that it is available to everyone, because everyone is capable of Love and receivintg God's Grace - again, not in the traditional definitions of those words or ideas, but a universal application that excludes no one and allows for the individual religious practices of the entire human race. I don't have to be exclusive in my faith for it to be efficacious for me.

 

I hope I've made more sense. If you require any further explanation or qualifcation from me don't hesitate to ask.

 

Peace,

 

Brian

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