You know who is one of the most influential spokespersons in the world today on spirituality? Oprah Winfrey! Read this quote from a CNN interview which shows that she definitely sees herself and her current mission as a spiritual leader.
“. . . I’m very clear about what my role is and purpose is. This isn’t about me. I am the messenger to deliver the message of redemption, of forgiveness, of gratitude, of evolving people to the best of themselves. So I am on my personal journey. My personal journey is to fulfill the highest expression of myself here as a human being here on earth.” Hence, she is interested in fostering spirituality but not religion. She wants people to turn inward for relevant and spiritual wholeness, not to structures, theological systems or the church. In so many ways, we are talking about one of the most powerful spiritual leaders of our time–more influential and more powerful than almost any pastor or religious leader one can imagine.”
Now, personally I think Oprah is a very talented, confident woman. She obviously wants to understand spiritual things. She is articulate and intelligent. She has a way of engaging folks to talk about what is going on in their lives and wants to help them figure out ways to grow. She is a very generous woman who takes joy in sharing her wealth with a variety of people, especially those around the world who are the most needy.
Now, I also personally think that Oprah’s spiritual advice is most often–well–WRONG, and that those who call themselves Christians in particular need to ramp up their understanding of God’s word as it stands beside Oprah’s words! Let’s take the title to this post. What in the world does this statement really mean? What “nature” are we talking about? are we talking about birds and animals and fish? Are we talking about beautiful scenery and the universe? Are we talking about the nature of mankind?
And, what “spiritual” are we talking about? Are we talking about God, or a higher being, or someone or something beyond ourselves? Are we talking about the deep soul and spirit each of us possesses in this physical body? Are we talking about ourselves as we look inside and ponder what, who, and why we are?
I find it interesting that Oprah will quickly say she is a Christian, but does not talk so quickly about her relationship with Jesus. Read this description:
“Winfrey said her definition of spirituality is living life with an open heart, through love, and allowing yourself to align with the values of tolerance, acceptance, of harmony, of cooperation and reverence for life. She said she believes there is a divine thread that connects spiritually to something greater than ourselves. ‘My favorite Bible verse–because I am a Christian–is Acts 17:28. It says, “In God I live and move and have my being.”‘”
Another time, she said, “Well I am a Christian who believes that there are certainly many more paths to God other than Christianity.
And another: “Christ did not come to die on the cross but to bring Christ consciousness.”
And even another: “And God is a feeling experience, not a believing experience. And if your religion is a believing experience, if God for you is still about a belief, it is not truly God.”
Oprah has a great variety of friends in realms deemed spiritual. When she attends megachurches Potter’s House in Dallas (T.D. Jakes) and Lakewood Church in Houston (Joel Osteen) she raises her hands and amens frequently.. Currently, she is close with spirituality author and speaker Eckhart Tolle, who writes and lectures about “the inner state of your consciousness” and “your essence identify.” Oprah’s Belief TV series in 2015 explored major world religions to display that there is a deep longing inside people to find someone or something beyond themselves which will bring peace, contentment, and joy. I watched several of this series, and did not see a whole lot of peace, contentment, and joy represented there.
Well, In Oprah’s stepping onto “Christian” turf, she’s in territory I am more familiar with. When she makes statements like, “Christ did not come to die on the cross. . .” I can go to the Bible to find these words of Jesus when His death was getting closer. “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ No. It was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name!” (John 12:27-28)
There’s so much more to say–and I’m working on more posts on this subject. On the surface, the title of this post may feel like a “deep” thought to many–and if Oprah said it, it must be true. Right? Hmmmmm. I see it as a thought which can lead us down a myriad of bunny trails which hide the way to the Truth, Way, and Life who is Jesus Christ! (John 14:6)
More scratches on the surface of this topic to come soon. 🙂
A young couple I know has four amazing children, and I love seeing them bounce into church on Sunday mornings. The night before school this fall, young mom asked oldest son, Drew, to think about something he might say to his younger siblings the next day. She didn’t tell him what to say, and expected he would say things like, “Have a happy day,” or “Play nice.” Well, read this and be amazed at what came out of this boy’s mouth!
“Today is Drew’s first day of first grade. As we drove to school he took a few minutes to talk to each of his siblings:
‘Abigail, even though I’m going to school and you are staying at home for school (kindergarten), I’m real proud of you. You are a good girl and you are still my best friend. I love you so much. And you are a beautiful daughter of the King.
‘Simon, You are crazy. I’m praying that you will be a good boy today, that you will listen to mom and make good choices. I will play with you when I get home. I love you, buddy.
‘Essie, you are so silly and goofy. Don’t grow up too much today. I’m sorry I have to go to school and I will miss your birthday. I know you will be a good happy girl all day. You are a beautiful daughter of the King. I love you.’
As if that wasn’t enough . . .
‘Mom, I love you. You do so much for me. I’m real proud of you. I hope you have a good day. You are beautiful. Don’t be late picking me up.’
Yes, I cried.”
Wow! This articulate little boy – and so many like him – is our future! I anticipate that he and his family and friends will stand firm in the relationship they are building with Jesus! His will not be an easy world. We see more and more derision of those who are Christ-followers, don’t we? Many paint all of us with broad brush strokes because of the unwise and thoughtless – perhaps trite and downright stupid – words and acts of a few who identify themselves as Christians. Fortunately, it’s not up to me to decide whether they are or not. That’s God’s business.
It’s getting less and less popular to believe that the Bible is adequate to be our guide. Our culture sees it as outdated and jaded in its content. Folks like to pick out a phrase and use it as proof text that the whole of scripture has outlived its usefulness. But, my guess is that most will adhere to much of the Ten Commandments to largely shape their moral compass because they see the value of the relational “do-nots:”
- Do not murder.
- Do not commit adultery.
- Do not steal.
- Do not give false testimony.
- Do not covet – envy – what others have which you do not have.
Just about any crime against another falls under one of these categories..
There are five more Commandments, though.
- Have no other gods before Me – the Lord your God!
- Have no idols which you honor and worship instead of Me – the Lord your God!
- Do not misuse the name of God in any form – use it in a way which dishonors the Lord your God!.
- Take a Sabbath Day – a day of holy rest.
- Honor your parents.
Jesus summed up all ten of these in a succinct sentence: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind,’ and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27) I believe that if the “Love your God” part is in place, the “love your neighbor” will also fall into place.
I have the privilege of seeing Drew and his brother and sisters grow up knowing and expressing the love of Jesus, and also have the privilege of praying that they and their peers will grow in their knowledge of Him, learning discernment as they face all sorts of opposition to their beliefs.
Oh yes, have you noticed that when folks are so vitriolic in their criticism of Christians’ intolerance that they are practicing the intolerance they are criticizing? Just a thought.
“Good” is one of those words we use in a great variety of ways: good day/night, good food, good girl/boy, good job, good vibes, good hair day, good sex . . . well, you get the picture. Most of these give the idea of fulfilling and refreshing times which make you feel – well – good.
I was glancing through the TV schedule this week, and saw these movies: “The Good Sister,” “The Good Mother, ” and “the Good Teacher.” Hmmmmm, let’s see. The “Good Sister” pretended to be a long-lost identical twin who seduced her husband, finally killing him, and returning to her original identity and a new life. The “Good Mother” demonstrated Munchausen Syndrome by making her daughters ill so she could play the part of the perfect caretaker. The “Good Teacher” seduced at least one high school student.
Now, I do understand that the point of these movies was to demonstrate the opposite of “good.” But, too often in conduct these days, the meaning of what is “good” does get mixed into a crazy quilt of “what makes me feel good,.” but which may demonstrate the opposite. Sometimes, having a “good” day may come from having seen someone fail which made us feel superior – or “good.” Eating “good” food may include eating less than healthy stuff which admittedly makes us feel “good,” but which is not so beneficial for the body. Having “good” sex may be in the context of a couple of high school students having an experience for which they are not really prepared. But, if it feels “good” it must be OK. Right?
What is “good” anyway? Webster says: “possessing desirable qualities, promoting success, welfare, or happiness; kind, benevolent, gracious, polite, and friendly; clever, skillful, adequate, sufficient, competent and sound.”
Other definitions: “possessing moral excellence; real and actual; full and complete; honorable; unblemished.”
A man approached Jesus one day saying, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus’ first response was, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good–except God alone.” He didn’t define “good,” nor did he deny that this adjective actually correctly applied to Him. He just went on to demonstrate how the goodness of God might apply to this inquirer by listing some of the 10 Commandments: no adultery, no murder, no stealing, no false testimony, do honor father and mother. The man said he kept all those. Jesus then told him to sell all he had, exposing the man’s heart concerning the commandments He had not mentioned: no coveting, no gods before God, no idols, no taking God’s name in vain, and keeping the Sabbath holy. This very wealthy man went away sad because his real heart attitude and understanding about what is “good” was revealed for all to see. He had not kept all the Commandments after all. (Luke 18:18-23)
Now, of course, the question I often ask myself is “What is good singleness – as opposed to what is good about singleness? I have to admit that while I want my life to reflect the character of God, I do covet once in a while – especially when I go to a wedding and hear the words, “to love and to cherish.” While I do not have any carved idols in my home, there are times when my wants control my thoughts and actions as strongly as if they were idols. Frankly, there are times when I have not viewed singleness as “good” because it has not felt so good!
Well, here’s what I’ve decided. Good singleness is based upon the unwavering belief that God is the ultimate of goodness – far beyond what I can possibly describe. Even when I grieve over losses of what I’ve never had, or ache with the tension of unfulfilled desires, God is still good! It is my assignment from Him to pursue contentment and joy – in the condition I find myself – for the good set before me. Good singleness comes when I celebrate the life He gives to me.
Paige Benton writes in Singled Out by God for Good:
“His goodness is not the effect of his disposition but the essence of his person–not an attitude but an attribute. . . I am not single because I am too spiritually unstable to possibly deserve a husband, nor because I am too spiritually mature to possibly need one. I am single because God is so abundantly good to me, because this is his best for me.”