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Mon, October 20, 2014

Does Religion Really Matter?

By By TruthBook staff

Does Religion Really Matter?

In our modern, tech-savvy, and scientifically oriented American society, does religion really matter?

We've come across a short video that really packs a punch; only 90 seconds long, it tells us in a very succinct way what the effects of religion have had on our country in the view of a Chinese scholar who studied here in the states. We urge you to have a look:

Click to see the video now

Religion and American Culture

Religion has always been a part of American culture, even though the successful separation of church and state has been maintained. And, the teachings of The Urantia Book corroborate this wise mandate of our founding fathers:

70:1.14 One of the great peace moves of the ages has been the attempt to separate church and state.

Nevertheless, men and women of religious backgrounds have been instrumental in maintaining the running of the government. And countless citizens of America believe in the rule of law as a reflection of a higher, divine, law--law that provides order instead of chaos.

In the video, our Chinese friend observes that the reason religion is vital in our society is that people VOLUNTARILY obey the laws; the vast majority of people in this country rightly sense that abiding by the rules and laws of society makes a better world for all of us. And he further observes that we have learned this method of successful living largely through our religious traditions that have always taught us right from wrong.

What's Happened to Religion?

Today we are witnessing a drawing away from the formalized religions of previous centuries; we are witnessing a breakdown of formerly unassailable institutions of religion; people are leaving churches in droves and even questioning the value of religion. Institutionalized religion is no longer feeding the souls of its congregants as it once did. And, if we take an honest look at our society, the result appears to be a weakening of morality, a growing ignorance of the need for character development, and a thirst for ultimate truth through scientific fact alone.

92:7.14 Modern man is confronted with the task of making more readjustments of human values in one generation than have been made in two thousand years. And this all influences the social attitude toward religion, for religion is a way of living as well as a technique of thinking.

Like Clay Christensen, we wonder what will happen if our venerated institutions of religion fail to create a healthy sense of societal duty going forward? What of today's children, today's new generation of leaders? Without true religion, will they have the same sense of morality that is so vital to the smooth running of government and civilization?Will they be wise leaders and provide living examples of good citizenship? Will our citizenry, in its rejection of formalized religion, fail to evolve a workable and progressive kind of religion that will continue to uphold our society and its laws?

Why Are The Churches Emptying?

The teachings of The Urantia Book highlight the reasons for our modern disenchantment with modern religion, and many of us can recognize the truths in this list

99:6.3 The dangers of formalized religion are:

  • fixation of beliefs and crystallization of sentiments;
  • accumulation of vested interests with increase of secularization;
  • tendency to standardize and fossilize truth;
  • diversion of religion from the service of God to the service of the church;
  • inclination of leaders to become administrators instead of ministers;
  • tendency to form sects and competitive divisions;
  • establishment of oppressive ecclesiastical authority;
  • creation of the aristocratic "chosen-people" attitude;
  • fostering of false and exaggerated ideas of sacredness;
  • the routinizing of religion and the petrification of worship;
  • tendency to venerate the past while ignoring present demands;
  • failure to make up-to-date interpretations of religion;
  • entanglement with functions of secular institutions;
Most importantly,
    • it fails to hold the interest of adventurous youth and gradually loses the saving message of the gospel of eternal salvation.
    • Formal religion restrains men in their personal spiritual activities instead of releasing them for heightened service as kingdom builders.

Nonetheless, religion-and the continuing evolution of religion-is an important pillar of any successful society, as these Urantia Book passages explain:

Evolutionary Religion vs Revealed Religion

92:3.6 Without religion there would have been no enduring morality nor ethics, no worth-while civilization.

92:3.9 Religion fostered civilization and provided societal continuity; it has been the moral police force of all time. Religion provided that human discipline and self-control which made wisdom possible. Religion is the efficient scourge of evolution which ruthlessly drives indolent and suffering humanity from its natural state of intellectual inertia forward and upward to the higher levels of reason and wisdom.

And this sacred heritage of animal ascent, evolutionary religion, must ever continue to be refined and ennobled by the continuous censorship of revealed religion and by the fiery furnace of genuine science.

But, what to put in the place of evolutionary, institutionalized religions? Is there a way to go forward with a higher kind of religion that will meet the spiritual needs-not only of the individual religionist-but of society in general?

The Religion OF Jesus Can Meet That Need

195:6.10 Neither democracy nor any other political panacea will take the place of spiritual progress. False religions may represent an evasion of reality, but Jesus in his gospel introduced mortal man to the very entrance upon an eternal reality of spiritual progression.

195:9.4 Religion does need new leaders, spiritual men and women who will dare to depend solely on Jesus and his incomparable teachings. If Christianity persists in neglecting its spiritual mission while it continues to busy itself with social and material problems, the spiritual renaissance must await the coming of these new teachers of Jesus' religion who will be exclusively devoted to the spiritual regeneration of men. And then will these spirit-born souls quickly supply the leadership and inspiration requisite for the social, moral, economic, and political reorganization of the world.

And, speaking of Christianity (the dominant religion of this country, and this world) The Urantia Book teaches:

195:10.1 Christianity has indeed done a great service for this world, but what is now most needed is Jesus. The world needs to see Jesus living again on earth in the experience of spirit-born mortals who effectively reveal the Master to all men. It is futile to talk about a revival of primitive Christianity; you must go forward from where you find yourselves. Modern culture must become spiritually baptized with a new revelation of Jesus' life and illuminated with a new understanding of his gospel of eternal salvation. And when Jesus becomes thus lifted up, he will draw all men to himself. Jesus' disciples should be more than conquerors, even overflowing sources of inspiration and enhanced living to all men. Religion is only an exalted humanism until it is made divine by the discovery of the reality of the presence of God in personal experience.

Click to read the Life and Teachings of Jesus

Click to read about personal spiritual experience - the religion of Jesus

Click to read about The Future

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Mon, October 13, 2014

Angels Exist says the Pope and The Urantia Book

By By TruthBook staff

The religious leader of 1 billion Catholics can't be wrong, can he? Catholics have known the truth of angelic presence for centuries, and it's good to read this article which reminds the modern world that angels are real. Read the article here

Urantia Book readers (even if they are not all Catholic!) agree with Pope Francis about angels because our big blue book reveals the presence of angels, too, and in greater detail than ever revealed before; even the pope doesn’t have the whole story!

The Urantia Book explains who the angels are, where they originate, why and how they help us, and what their destiny is.

Check it out! Click to read about

...and more!

From the Mother of angels - the Universe Mother Spirit - to the amazing and comforting description of Seraphic Planetary government on our world, the presence and the ministry of angels is fully explored. Did you know that there is actually an angelic divisional headquarters located right here on earth? It is true... you can read about it here

Here's a brief idea of just how many angels are actually present here on our world (Urantia), according to the Chief of Seraphim who authored Paper 114 on angels:

114:0.2  At noon today the roll call of planetary angels, guardians, and others on Urantia was 501,234,619 pairs of seraphim. There were assigned to my command two hundred seraphic hosts—597,196,800 pairs of seraphim, or 1,194,393,600 individual angels. The registry, however, shows 1,002,469,238 individuals; it follows therefore that 191,924,362 angels were absent from this world on transport, messenger, and death duty. (On Urantia there are about the same number of cherubim as seraphim, and they are similarly organized.)

No matter how bad things seem to be at times, it is a comforting thing to know that the hosts of Heaven know all about us, they have our back, and are working behind the scenes to guide, not only individuals, but this world in the right direction.

By the way...do angels really have wings? Click to read about it here

Click to visit our Angel page...all angels, all the time!

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Thu, October 09, 2014

Did Jesus Really Exist?

By By TruthBook staff

Just recently, we came upon a couple of articles that were making the outrageous claim that Jesus never walked the earth...that he never even existed! It was time to write a blog...

Well, since then, we now came across an article whose authors roundly refute this hypothesis, saying that "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence." We like that...and we'd like to expand upon it here.

See "Link to External Source Article" below to read the article.

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About this article, though...while the authors do refute the claims of Jesus' non-existence, they are not exactly enthusiatic about Jesus, relegating him to a relatively unimportant "wannabe messiah..." Pretty disrespectful, but then these authors evidently don't know Jesus very well, either.

As far as historical records, it's important to note that the New Testament is itself a historical record, filled with eyewitness accounts of the Master's life; even the Koran honors Jesus, refering to him as "Messiah." And in our modern times, hundreds of books and numerous movies about Jesus are being produced at a feverish pace...a lot of press for someone who never existed, we'd say!!!

Of course, for Urantia Book readers, the truth of the existence of Jesus as an historical figure is accepted fact as a result of revelation regarding the vast context within which Jesus is placed. The Urantia Book lifts the Jesus of the Bible out of his primarily Christian context into a whole new understanding of this God/man. Jesus in The Urantia Book is a Savior for ALL peoples: Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish...even for the inhabitants of a whole universe...beings who love and honor this God/man as much as we do here.

Discovering who Jesus really was through the modern-day revelation of truth that is The Urantia Book- the beloved Son of God, the Creator of the universe in which we live, the compassionate Sovereign Ruler who has earned his sovereignty through hard-won experience - endears this amazing personality to any and all who read the accounts of his life in The Urantia Book and provides a stirring new context within which to appreciate Jesus, and the reality of his presence here.

Understanding the context of Jesus' appearance on our world through the revelation of The Urantia Book should put to rest any doubts as to his reality. We learn new and thriling facets of Jesus...details of his existence even before he came here. From his status as a "Michael Son," on high, this loving Son of God took it upon himself to incarnate as a helpless baby in the town of Bethlehem for an express purpose - a purpose that has heretofore been largely lost in the mists of time.

Far from the traditional ideas of who Jesus was - that of atoner, ransomer, substitute sufferer - the Urantia Book accounts of Jesus' existence before his arrival here tell a story of a compassionate Creator who saw this world of his making plunged into darkness by the evil rebellion against universe government. This rebellion under the direction of Lucifer held our world in sway for thousands of years until this Creator Son decided that this was the world upon which he would make the final bestowal of himself and take a final stand for goodness, truth and beauty.

Previously, and even while the drama of the rebellion played out on our world, this Michael-Son was engaged in six other bestowals of himself - bestowals into the likeness of all creatures that exist in his universe. He made these bestowals for the express purpose of gaining living experience as all types of created beings, so that he could claim legitimate and sympathetic sovereignty, knowing first-hand the trials and challenges that all of his children face.

When it came time to incarnate and bestow himself as a human being-his seventh and final bestowal-he chose this backward, rebellion-scarred world upon which to play out this final appearance as one of his universe creatures, so that the spectacles of his goodness, his righteousness, and his love would shine even brighter against such a sordid background.

A major purpose of Jesus' mission here was to reveal God the Father himself to us. Said Jesus: "therefore have I come into the world to show the Father to your creature eyes." Jesus said more than once: "He who has seen me has seen the Father," so when we see this compassionate, loving, sympathetic Savior, we can rest assured that God is all of that, and even more.

And while Jesus was here, he vanquished and soundly defeated those forces that put our world into such jeopardy so many thousands of years ago. When Jesus faced his enemies on Mt Hermon, the rebellion was settled, once and for all time.

After Jesus' brutal death, his followers were a dejected lot, becoming re-energized and re-purposed when Jesus resurrected. It is the resurrection of Jesus that then took center-stage, and the real message and purpose of his bestowal were lost in the sifting of this new reality of the risen Savior. At Pentecost, the Spirit of Truth - Jesus' Spirit - was poured out, and the apostles, and others, became once again, zealous in their proclamations of Jesus as Lord and Savior.

Click to read about The Beginnings of the Christian Church

There's a lot of good news associated with Jesus life here...because Jesus incarnated here, human beings are now privileged to have a fragment of God the Father indwelling their minds; Jesus himself is still present as the promised Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, helping each of us to navigate the turbulent waters of life; and with the advent of The Urantia Book we now have a complete accounting of the life and teachings of Jesus as a true example of what it means to live a religious life dedicated to doing the will of God.

Did Jesus exist? Of course he did...2000 years of devotion say he did; countless legions of followers of this God/man say he did; Jesus' story is told and retold on this world every day, in all parts of the world. EVERYONE knows the name of Jesus. And Jesus still lives. He lives in us as the Spirit of Truth. He reigns as supreme and sympathetic Sovereign of our universe, and knowing the religious life of Jesus and how he lived it constitutes the most important knowledge that any one of us can have.

The Urantia Book has that story, and it is there for you.

Jesus lived...and Jesus still lives...

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Wed, October 08, 2014

Life after death is Real

By By The TruthBook staff

Figure on path in serene space

Death is the great equalizer; no one escapes it, and it is rare that we can get a glimpse at the reality beyond the veil. The Urantia Book is very clear on the matter, and we are gifted with a very detailed description of what life after death is like, what it is for, and who gets to experience it. And yet, it still remains part of the great unknown. So, when we saw this article which validates those who have had "near-death" experiences, we were happy to see that science, once again, is helping to corroborate what Urantia Book readers already know - that there IS consciousness beyond the death experience.

The article is called "Life after death? Largest-ever study provides evidence that 'out of body' and 'near-death' experiences may be real"

We have a collection of pages and features that will help you familiarize yourself with Urantia Book teachings about this most interesting topic that affects each and every one of us, sooner or later.

We have fielded many questions about life after death over the years. Click to read more in Life Challenges

Finally, maybe you wonder about death itself...what does death really mean? Click to read our topical study about Death and most importantly, how YOUR self survives death.

Click to read about Personality Survival

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Wed, October 01, 2014

"Wayward" - The Lost Son

By By Breathecast review

'Wayward: The Prodigal Son,' is a new film based on Jesus' memorable moral tale about a son who abandoned his family in order to live a lifestyle of fame and sin before finding redemption in an unlikely source. The inspirational movie will debut in theaters sometime in the near future.

"[The upcoming film] tells the story of Tyler McMillan [Landon Henneman], a pampered rich kid who gets it all and almost loses everything, including his own life," according to a statement.

Cedar Fort Entertainment's Acquisition Manager Spencer Harden revealed the message behind of the future film. It's about a father's eternal love for his child, no matter how morally corrupt the child was prior to repentance.

"We all know someone who has gone astray," said Harden in a statement, according to a Christian Todayreport, "Every parent hopes it won't happen to their child, but they grow up with minds of their own."

Film director (in addition to writer and producer) Rob Diamond explained why he created his upcoming film, where he also plays as Tyler's dad Robert McMillan.

"I made 'Wayward: The Prodigal Son' because the Biblical story has always touched a deep place in my soul," said Diamond, according to a Christian Today report, "I have been on the receiving end of forgiveness many times for the mistakes I've made in my life. It's the perfect story of love, redemption and forgiveness."

See "Link to External Source Article" below to read further.

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This looks like it might be a good movie coming up. I watched the trailer and thought it was well-done...so maybe the actual film will not disappoint. I guess we'll see. But I am going to watch for it in November. Maybe we'll write another blog about it by then...

This movie is the enactment of one of the most famous parables of Jesus...one of the most famous and one of the most beloved.

The account of the Lost Son in The Urantia Book is very touching. In it, Jesus tells three parables together, with this parable of the lost son last; this section of The Urantia Book shows Jesus' skill and care in how he ministered to his followers with these parables.

The Urantia Book also gives the context in which these events of Jesus life take place. At this time, for example, Jesus was teaching at Pella, and this was after the resurrection of Lazarus; the chief priests and the Pharisees were finalizing their charges against Jesus, and planning his demise. Here were their charges against Jesus:

169:0.4 1. He is a friend of publicans and sinners; he receives the ungodly and even eats with them.

2. He is a blasphemer; he talks about God as being his Father and thinks he is equal with God.

3. He is a lawbreaker. He heals disease on the Sabbath and in many other ways flouts the sacred law of Israel.

4. He is in league with devils. He works wonders and does seeming miracles by the power of Beelzebub, the prince of devils.

Meanwhile, Jesus is teaching, preaching, influencing, and enlarging the Kingdom.

Click to read The Parable of the Lost Son

And speaking of the Kingdom, in the very next paper we read a full exploration of the kingdom of Heaven, including Jesus' concepts of the Kingdom, which you will find very enlightening.

The parable of the Lost Son is as relevant today as it was in Jesus' time. Do you know someone who's fallen on hard times? Are you a parent whose child is "wayward?" Knowing this story, and being willing to retell it - or live it - in real-life situations may be of great help to someone in need some day.

Let's hope that the movie will do justice to this wonderful, touching, inspiring parable that tells of God's undying love for his children.

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Tue, September 23, 2014

Substitutionary Atonement-Is It True?

By By MICHAEL BROWN

Did Jesus really pay for our sins on the cross, taking our punishment for us? Did He really die as an atoning sacrifice on our behalf?

In recent years, this doctrine, known as penal substitutionary atonement (PSA), has come under increasing attack, with some Christian leaders claiming that for God to punish His Son for our sins would be an example of "cosmic child abuse" (Steve Chalke).

This past Saturday, I was able to debate this important issue with pastor Brian Zahnd, who was eloquent in his arguments against PSA, claiming that it made our Father into a "monster god" and a "pagan deity." (You can watch the debate here.)

Are these charges true?

As I stated in the debate, I find it highly offensive when anyone characterizes my heavenly Father, the God and Father of the Lord Jesus, as a "monster" who engaged in "cosmic child abuse."

This is a perverse description of the glorious gospel, since the doctrine of PSA describes the greatest act of love the world has ever seen: The Father sending His Son to die in our place, and the Son willingly laying down His life to save us from our sins and to make us holy. What love!

We sinned; He died. We were guilty; He took our punishment.

See "Link to External Source Article" below to read further.

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This matter of the atonement doctrine (known in this article as “penal substitutionary atonement (PSA)” is one that is going to be raised more and more by those who love God and know him as a loving Father. Once accepted as fact by so many of us, the idea of this kind of "ransom" being a necessary element of winning God's love is making less and less sense, as the idea of a loving, forgiving God is becoming more popular through the individual's experience with the God of Love.

The author of this article, while certainly well­-meaning, takes great offense at God being characterized as a "monster" and a "cosmic" child abuser; one has to see, though, that if this kind of "substutionary" behavior by a human father were to happen, child abuse would be a mild accusation; that father would spend time in prison for a long time!

The idea of a human father offering one of his innocent children as a death sacrifice in order to pay for the sin of an erring child would be unthinkable...and yet, we are expected to believe that the Universal Father of all is so offended at what his created children have done, that he offered Jesus in just the same way that, in a human father, would certainly constitute abuse of the worst kind. Can human beings have more compassion than God? Is God's ability to control his own emotions less developed than a human father's? This is what the atonement doctrine expects us to believe.

One of the cardinal themes throughout The Urantia Book is the loving character and merciful nature of the heavenly Father. In its pages, the atonement doctrine is roundly rebutted and logically dismantled so that by the time one grasps the GOODNESS of God, the so­-called "wrath of God" that must be appeased by killing an innocent in place of a sinner becomes unthinkable; it is totally uncharacteristic of this new and healthy picture of God that we see in The Urantia Book.

Here are few Urantia Book passages that speak to this issue:

Righteousness implies that God is the source of the moral law of the universe. Truth exhibits God as a revealer, as a teacher. But love gives and craves affection, seeks understanding fellowship such as exists between parent and child. Righteousness may be the divine thought, but love is a father's attitude. The erroneous supposition that the righteousness of God was irreconcilable with the selfless love of the heavenly Father, presupposed absence of unity in the nature of Deity and led directly to the elaboration of the atonement doctrine, which is a philosophic assault upon both the unity and the free­willnes of God. ~ The Urantia Book, (2:6.5)
When once you grasp the idea of God as a true and loving Father, the only concept which Jesus ever taught, you must forthwith, in all consistency, utterly abandon all those primitive notions about God as an offended monarch, a stern and all­-powerful ruler whose chief delight is to detect his subjects in wrongdoing and to see that they are adequately punished, unless some being almost equal to himself should volunteer to suffer for them, to die as a substitute and in their stead. The whole idea of ransom and atonement is incompatible with the concept of God as it was taught and exemplified by Jesus of Nazareth. The infinite love of God is not secondary to anything in the divine nature. ~ The Urantia Book, (188:4.8)

Remember, Jesus of Nazareth was the embodiment of God; he said more than once that "he who has seen me has seen the Father." Did we ever see Jesus being unloving? Did we ever see Jesus exhibiting behavior that placed one person in jeopardy for the sins of another? Jesus was the new revelation of God that was to replace the Old Testament picture of God as judge, as wrathful, as punishing. He did a great job of it, but his message was distorted by subsequent generations of believers. The true mission of Jesus to our world has been grossly misunderstood. Now comes The Urantia Book to right that misconception.

In the article above, the author is liberal with quotes from the NT and especially Paul. But Paul did not even know Jesus; his conversion experience was what brought him to God, but he was a man of his time, and was desirous of making converts like himself. He worked within the parameters of his time; and, atonement was a common belief in those days, as was the belief in a wrathful deity.

Here’s more about Paul from The Urantia Book:

The Apostle Paul, in his efforts to bring the teachings of Jesus to the favorable notice of certain groups in his day, wrote many letters of instruction and admonition. Other teachers of Jesus' gospel did likewise, but none of them realized that some of these writings would subsequently be brought together by those who would set them forth as the embodiment of the teachings of Jesus.
And so, while so­-called Christianity does contain more of the Master's gospel than any other religion, it does also contain much that Jesus did not teach. Aside from the incorporation of many teachings from the Persian mysteries and much of the Greek philosophy into early Christianity, two great mistakes were made:

The effort to connect the gospel teaching directly onto the Jewish theology, as illustrated by the Christian doctrines of the atonement—the teaching that Jesus was the sacrificed Son who would satisfy the Father's stern justice and appease the divine wrath. These teachings originated in a praiseworthy effort to make the gospel of the kingdom more acceptable to disbelieving Jews.Though these efforts failed as far as winning the Jews was concerned, they did not fail to confuse and alienate many honest souls in all subsequent generations. ~ The Urantia Book, (149:2.2)

It is difficult to translate an act of barbarism such as was suffered by Jesus into an act of love on the behalf of a supposedly loving Father. Love for whom? It does not seem very loving to Jesus.

Jesus certainly did lay down his life, and he did it willingly, but not to appease some fictitious wrath of his Father’s. Jesus made it plain that mankind is not inherently evil - that man is not born under forfeit of sin, and so, again, the atonement becomes even more fictitious a theory.

In order to understand Jesus’ mission, one has to understand who he was, and why he came here; all of this is detailed in The Urantia Book...but one reason Jesus came is so that he could truly live the life of a typical human being. Jesus needed this experience so that he could regain sovereignty over this world as an understanding and compassionate ruler - a ruler who understands firsthand how human beings live; completing this mission gave him the right to take our world back from the archdeceiver and rebels who were holding it hostage. A typical life includes death. Jesus had to die, yes, but the manner of his death was determined - not by God - but by wicked and evil men, who were threatened by Jesus’ religion of personal spiritual experience with God which was anathema to the rulers of that time.

Click to read more about the Meaning of Jesus’ Death on the Cross

In The Urantia Book, we are given a new restatement of the Life and Teachings of Jesus...a restatement that is gleaned from the eyewitnesses who were there, and who recorded every movement of the Master as he walked our earth. It should make perfect sense to anyone who understands the importance of the Son of God’s incarnation as a human being that this record was preserved. For 2000+ years, all that we have had as records are the Gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; now, we have the complete story; week by week, and oftentimes day by day, we see the Master - as an infant, a toddler, a schoolboy, an adolescent, a young man, and finally, as the self-conscious Son of God, establishing the Kingdom on earth. His mission and his purposes are stated...his true identity is revealed...and his loving nature (which is also the same nature of God) is outlined in every page of Part IV of The Urantia Book.

Of great importance is the knowledge that God himself was revealed by this God/man...a LOVING God. Atonement cannot be part of his nature, and Jesus never taught such error. Instead, Jesus reveals a loving parental Father who loves all of his children with an eternal love that would never require violence upon an innocent to be realized and appreciated.

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Thu, September 18, 2014

So how would Jesus vote?

By By Great Falls Tribune - Opinion page

What appears at first blush to be a political campaign sign in a yard in Chester reads, upon closer examination, "Elect Jesus for Savior."

It's clever, but it also raises intriguing questions about how Jesus Christ would view today's politics and politicians if he were walking the earth today.

For example, would Jesus be interested in the Occupy Wall Street movement, since he was no big fan of money-changers and sent them scurrying out of a temple?

Would he lean toward folks who are devout Christians? Polls show Republicans have more adherents with regular church attendance.

Or would Jesus lean toward the Democrats, who have more support among the downtrodden, such as the poor and minorities?

Pretty clearly, Jesus in his time was an anti-establishment Jewish man who caused big headaches for officials of the day and drew large crowds.

For our part, we don't think Jesus would care for the nasty partisan bickering that afflicts much of the modern American political scene, or the fact that not much gets done in Washington, D.C. He wouldn't care for dishonesty, spin or bribery, of course. Which raises the possibility that the Messiah might not vote at all.

See "Link to External Source Article" below to read further.

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 Now that election season is once again upon us, it's a good time to think about values and about character. Even though it is not yet a presidential election, this congressional election finds many of the same issues that have dogged our political process still all-too-active. Division and polarization seems to be the order of the day. Character seems to be lost in the debate...

How would Jesus vote?

It's a question that was posed to us probably ten years ago - or more, and it's a really good time to revisit the well-thought-out reply, written by a staff member from that time:

Here's the reply in its entirety:

I think this is a great topic and it's understandable that people who love Jesus would ponder this at election time.

I have gotten some interesting insights when considering this question of how Jesus would vote. In the first place, I don't think Jesus would ever allow his political position to be known. Jesus fully understood his own power. One of the greatest powers of all is the power of influence. Knowing that humans would take the easy path of having Jesus make all of their decisions for them without thinking these things through for themselves, I think he would keep his political opinions to himself. I'm not suggesting that most of us should do that, but I think that the Pope, for instance, should keep his politics to himself. Religious leaders should never endorse political candidates; this whole election has really driven home for me the wisdom of the separation of church and state.

Clearly, Jesus calls us to learn how to think—not what to think. When we all become adept at independent cosmic thinking we will naturally come to more Godlike conclusions and be able to make more Godlike decisions. That is, decisions which create the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people for the greatest amount of time.

These scientific, moral, and spiritual insights, these cosmic responses, are innate in the cosmic mind, which endows all will creatures. The experience of living never fails to develop these three cosmic intuitions; they are constitutive in the self-consciousness of reflective thinking. But it is sad to record that so few persons on Urantia take delight in cultivating these qualities of courageous and independent cosmic thinking. The Urantia Book, (16:6.9)

We know from his life and teachings that Jesus deliberately avoided making pronouncements on political issues. The closest he came was "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's." We could write a novel on what he meant by that. But suffice to say, it doesn't give us much to go on at election time. However, I think we can look at his life by example and infer some definite qualities to look for in a leader. Here are some things I have thought of:

  • He was honest and sincere. He said what he meant and meant what he said. He spoke the truth even when the truth hurt. He was loyal to the highest principals in the highest sense of the word. He would be righteously indignant of the false and malicious political spin and negativity that we have become accustomed to.
  • He was courageous. He was willing to put himself on the line even to the point of direct contradiction with the powerful religious rulers of his day.
  • He was fair. He never would have thought only of the interest of his people (the Jews) or his nation (Israel). There was no self-interest in him. Everything he did was for the greatest good for all. From my point of view, the most powerful man in the world should also be a good world citizen. A true leader would want to lead mankind, not just America, into a new and better way of life. As Jesus said,

"When you once begin to find God in your soul, presently you will begin to discover him in other men's souls and eventually in all the creatures and creations of a mighty universe. But what chance does the Father have to appear as a God of supreme loyalties and divine ideals in the souls of men who give little or no time to the thoughtful contemplation of such eternal realities?" (155:6.13)

  • He was wise. He understood human nature well enough to know how certain people would react in certain situations.
  • He was patient. He waited for the right time to act and chose his battles and his opportunities very carefully.
  • He was respectful and trusting. He believed in men because he knew that God is in them. He empowered men to decide and act and supported the wisdom of the group. When the group made a decision he honored it.
  • He was merciful. He understood the human condition and was forgiving of human frailty. However, he abhorred deliberate wickedness, he said that more was expected of the Master than of the servant, and in the end he did not tolerate the corruption of false leaders.
  • He was sympathetic. He had real insight into the human heart and the human condition. He had real compassion for humanity and wanted all people to "have life and have it more abundantly."
  • He was truly kind. I don't think he would ever have resorted to harming anyone or allowing anyone to be harmed. He once said that he would not defend himself against harm unless he discerned that God was not present in the person who sought to harm him.

Clearly, we can't expect a leader, even one with as much power as a US president, to possess all the wonderful qualities that Jesus did. There were many powerful men in Jesus day that had no respect for Jesus and thought him foolish and weak. There are many powerful people today, even those who profess to follow Jesus, who would never endorse his non resistant and non violent ways. Many who think that, although Jesus ideals are truly good, they're not practical and they won't work.

Sadly, at this point in time, we are stuck with the reality of always having to choose between the "lesser of two evils." That is, two mortal [candidates] who are anything but perfect. We can take the easy way out and vote along party lines, trusting that at least our basic political philosophies will be upheld, or we can look at each [candidate] and try to discern their true character.

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Sat, September 13, 2014

Jesus was not a "Bible-Believer"

By By Frank Schaeffer

Jesus certainly was not a “Bible believer,” as we use that term in the post Billy Graham era of American fundamentalist religiosity that’s used as a trade-marked product to sell religion. Jesus didn’t take the Jewish scriptures at face value. In fundamentalist terms, Jesus was a rule-breaking relativist who wasn’t even “saved,” according to evangelical standards. Evangelicals insist that you have to believe very specific interpretations of the Bible to be saved. Jesus didn’t. He undercut the scriptures.

A leper came to Jesus and said, “Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.” If Jesus had been a good religious Jew, he would have said, “Be healed,” and just walked away. Instead, he stretched out his hand and touched the leper, saying, “I do choose. Be made clean,” even though he was breaking the specific rules of Leviticus. Two chapters teach that anyone touching a person with leprosy is contaminated.

The stories about Jesus that survived the bigots, opportunists and delusional fanatics who wrote the New Testament contain powerful and enlightened truths that would someday prove the undoing of the Church built in his name. Like a futurist vindicated by events as yet undreamed, Jesus’ message of love was far more powerful than the magical thinking of the writers of the book he’s trapped in. In Jesus’ day the institutions of religion, state, misogyny and myth were so deeply ingrained that the ultimate dangerousness of his life example could not be imagined. For example his feminism, probably viewed as an eccentricity in his day, would prove transformational.

Jesus believed in God rather than in a book about God. The message of Jesus’ life is an intervention in and an acceleration of the evolution of empathy. Consider this story from the book of Matthew: “A woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. She said to herself, ‘If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.’ Jesus turned and saw her. ‘Take heart, daughter,’ he said, ‘your faith has healed you.’ And the woman was healed at that moment.”

See "Link to External Source Article" below to read further.

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Can I get an "Amen?"

This article is a breath of fresh air, in my opinion. In it, the author asks important questions and posits revolutionary ideas about Jesus, which, taken to heart, can give any believer a new idea about who Jesus was and what his life was meant to be.

This article caught my eye because it echoes what I have learned of Jesus through the teachings of The Urantia Book, a modern-day revelation of God.

In Jesus' day, the Scriptures were thought to be inerrant, much as they are thought to be still today. But, did Jesus believe that? He did not. As this author has discovered through critical thought, "Jesus believed in God rather than in a book about God." This statement is akin to The Urantia Book's statement that Christianity is a religion about Jesus, rather than the religion of Jesus.

For centuries, the Scriptures have been the sole source of information about Jesus and his life...about God and his purposes. But, how's that working for us? Because of the belief that the Bible is inerrant in its teachings, mankind has felt licensed to kill, maim, shame, and otherwise direct and control the spiritual lives of spiritual seekers, believing that this is what God has mandated. And yet, we know that Jesus was the revelation of God to struggling mankind. Did Jesus act in this way? Did he try to direct and control through Scripture? Did he ever use strong-armed tactics to keep his believers in tow? If Jesus did not, then we can rest assured that God does not act that way, through Scripture or otherwise.

One aspect of Jesus' life that is touched on in this article is Jesus' revolutionary attitude towards women. This attitude and his subsequent actions with women are underscored and given a lot of attention in The Urantia Book.

Click to read more about Jesus and Women

One day, Nathaniel asked Jesus: “Master, could you trust me to know the truth about the Scriptures? I observe that you teach us only a portion of the sacred writings—the best as I view it—and I infer that you reject the teachings of the rabbis to the effect that the words of the law are the very words of God, having been with God in heaven even before the times of Abraham and Moses. What is the truth about the Scriptures?”

What follows is Jesus' enlightening discourse on the truth of the Scriptures. I find it to be so important to our modern-day understanding of this topic that I am adding it here in its entirety:

"Nathaniel, you have rightly judged; I do not regard the Scriptures as do the rabbis. I will talk with you about this matter on condition that you do not relate these things to your brethren, who are not all prepared to receive this teaching. The words of the law of Moses and the teachings of the Scriptures were not in existence before Abraham. Only in recent times have the Scriptures been gathered together as we now have them. While they contain the best of the higher thoughts and longings of the Jewish people, they also contain much that is far from being representative of the character and teachings of the Father in heaven; wherefore must I choose from among the better teachings those truths which are to be gleaned for the gospel of the kingdom.
“These writings are the work of men, some of them holy men, others not so holy. The teachings of these books represent the views and extent of enlightenment of the time in which they had their origin. As a revelation of truth, the last are more dependable than the first. The Scriptures are faulty and altogether human in origin, but mistake not, they do constitute the best collection of religious wisdom and spiritual truth to be found in all the world at this time.
“Many of these books were not written by the persons whose names they bear, but that in no way detracts from the value of the truths which they contain. If the story of Jonah should not be a fact, even if Jonah had never lived, still would the profound truth of this narrative, the love of God for Nineveh and the so-called heathen, be none the less precious in the eyes of all those who love their fellow men. The Scriptures are sacred because they present the thoughts and acts of men who were searching for God, and who in these writings left on record their highest concepts of righteousness, truth, and holiness. The Scriptures contain much that is true, very much, but in the light of your present teaching, you know that these writings also contain much that is misrepresentative of the Father in heaven, the loving God I have come to reveal to all the worlds.
"Nathaniel, never permit yourself for one moment to believe the Scripture records which tell you that the God of love directed your forefathers to go forth in battle to slay all their enemies—men, women, and children. Such records are the words of men, not very holy men, and they are not the word of God. The Scriptures always have, and always will, reflect the intellectual, moral, and spiritual status of those who create them. Have you not noted that the concepts of Yahweh grow in beauty and glory as the prophets make their records from Samuel to Isaiah? And you should remember that the Scriptures are intended for religious instruction and spiritual guidance. They are not the works of either historians or philosophers.
“The thing most deplorable is not merely this erroneous idea of the absolute perfection of the Scripture record and the infallibility of its teachings, but rather the confusing misinterpretation of these sacred writings by the tradition-enslaved scribes and Pharisees at Jerusalem. And now will they employ both the doctrine of the inspiration of the Scriptures and their misinterpretations thereof in their determined effort to withstand these newer teachings of the gospel of the kingdom. Nathaniel, never forget, the Father does not limit the revelation of truth to any one generation or to any one people. Many earnest seekers after the truth have been, and will continue to be, confused and disheartened by these doctrines of the perfection of the Scriptures.
“The authority of truth is the very spirit that indwells its living manifestations, and not the dead words of the less illuminated and supposedly inspired men of another generation. And even if these holy men of old lived inspired and spirit-filled lives, that does not mean that their words were similarly spiritually inspired. Today we make no record of the teachings of this gospel of the kingdom lest, when I have gone, you speedily become divided up into sundry groups of truth contenders as a result of the diversity of your interpretation of my teachings. For this generation it is best that we live these truths while we shun the making of records.
“Mark you well my words, Nathaniel, nothing which human nature has touched can be regarded as infallible. Through the mind of man divine truth may indeed shine forth, but always of relative purity and partial divinity. The creature may crave infallibility, but only the Creators possess it.
“But the greatest error of the teaching about the Scripture is the doctrine of their being sealed books of mystery and wisdom which only the wise minds of the nation dare to interpret. The revelations of divine truth are not sealed except by human ignorance, bigotry, and narrow-minded intolerance. The light of the Scriptures is only dimmed by prejudice and darkened by superstition. A false fear of sacredness has prevented religion from being safeguarded by common sense. The fear of the authority of the sacred writings of the past effectively prevents the honest souls of today from accepting the new light of the gospel, the light which these very God-knowing men of another generation so intensely longed to see.
“But the saddest feature of all is the fact that some of the teachers of the sanctity of this traditionalism know this very truth. They more or less fully understand these limitations of Scripture, but they are moral cowards, intellectually dishonest. They know the truth regarding the sacred writings, but they prefer to withhold such disturbing facts from the people. And thus do they pervert and distort the Scriptures, making them the guide to slavish details of the daily life and an authority in things nonspiritual instead of appealing to the sacred writings as the repository of the moral wisdom, religious inspiration, and the spiritual teaching of the God-knowing men of other generations.”
Nathaniel was enlightened, and shocked, by the Master’s pronouncement. He long pondered this talk in the depths of his soul, but he told no man concerning this conference until after Jesus’ ascension; and even then he feared to impart the full story of the Master’s instruction.

Bible believers of this age may be shocked as well, AND enlightened. The time is ripe for a new understanding of the role of Scripture in our lives. None have said it better than the Master...

Click to read an extended study about the Gospels and Scripture as presented in The Urantia Book for the 21st century truth-seeker

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Mon, September 01, 2014

Cheek Turning: Is it Practical Advice?

By By Steve McSwain

"If someone strikes you," counseled Jesus, "turn the other cheek!" Completely impractical words, wouldn't you agree?

Who does this? You get sucker-punched on one side of the face and you're supposed to submissively turn the other cheek too? Give me a break! Such nonsense could never possibly work. Just ask the Israelis. Or the Palestinians. Right?

Maybe not. But maybe it does too. But then, how would anyone know? Has it ever really been tried?

Oh, sure, there are those of us who mistakenly think that turning the other cheek means running from conflict, or rolling over and taking abuse, or disappearing to a remote corner to lick our wounds.

I'm not talking about this, and neither is Jesus. However, I do know what it's like to do everything I can to please everybody, to fix everyone as well as every situation, and then, when I fail, which is almost always, running at the first sign of disagreement in order to avoid a negative reaction or, worse, rejection.

Instead, Jesus is talking here about real cheek turning, or a radical departure from the more common method of handling conflict between two people, two religions, or two peoples or nations.

Like the Israelis and Palestinians.

Like Christians and Muslims.

Like the Americans and, well, just about everybody else.

See "Link to External Source Article" below to read further.

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Are the words of Jesus practical? Are his teachings really usable in the world today?

This article is a kind-of "tongue-in-cheek" response to Jesus advice to "turn the other cheek," but the author wants us to see this advice in a new way, as do the revelators of The Urantia Book.

In The Urantia Book, we witness Jesus offering this advice at least twice. Here, he enjoins the apostles during the Ordination sermon:

140:3.14 "I am sending you out into the world to represent me and to act as ambassadors of my Father's kingdom, and as you go forth to proclaim the glad tidings, put your trust in the Father whose messengers you are. Do not forcibly resist injustice; put not your trust in the arm of the flesh. If your neighbor smites you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. Be willing to suffer injustice rather than to go to law among yourselves. In kindness and with mercy minister to all who are in distress and in need.

But here, in the Urantia Book section called "The Positive Nature of Jesus' Religion," we learn the real meaning behind this seemingly difficult advice.

"Jesus did not hesitate to appropriate the better half of a Scripture while he repudiated the lesser portion. His great exhortation, "Love your neighbor as yourself," he took from the Scripture which reads: "You shall not take vengeance against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself." Jesus appropriated the positive portion of this Scripture while rejecting the negative part. He even opposed negative or purely passive nonresistance. Said he: "When an enemy smites you on one cheek, do not stand there dumb and passive but in positive attitude turn the other; that is, do the best thing possible actively to lead your brother in error away from the evil paths into the better ways of righteous living." Jesus required his followers to react positively and aggressively to every life situation. The turning of the other cheek, or whatever act that may typify, demands initiative, necessitates vigorous, active, and courageous expression of the believer’s personality.

"Jesus did not advocate the practice of negative submission to the indignities of those who might purposely seek to impose upon the practitioners of nonresistance to evil, but rather that his followers should be wise and alert in the quick and positive reaction of good to evil to the end that they might effectively overcome evil with good. Forget not, the truly good is invariably more powerful than the most malignant evil. The Master taught a positive standard of righteousness: "Whosoever wishes to be my disciple, let him disregard himself and take up the full measure of his responsibilities daily to follow me." And he so lived himself in that "he went about doing good." And this aspect of the gospel was well illustrated by many parables which he later spoke to his followers. He never exhorted his followers patiently to bear their obligations but rather with energy and enthusiasm to live up to the full measure of their human responsibilities and divine privileges in the kingdom of God.

"When Jesus instructed his apostles that they should, when one unjustly took away the coat, offer the other garment, he referred not so much to a literal second coat as to the idea of doing something positive to save the wrongdoer in the place of the olden advice to retaliate—"an eye for an eye" and so on. Jesus abhorred the idea either of retaliation or of becoming just a passive sufferer or victim of injustice. On this occasion he taught them the three ways of contending with, and resisting, evil:

"1. To return evil for evil—the positive but unrighteous method.

"2. To suffer evil without complaint and without resistance—the purely negative method.

"3. To return good for evil, to assert the will so as to become master of the situation, to overcome evil with good—the positive and righteous method."

The author also makes an interesting statement in his article, and asks an intriguing question: could this advice ever actually work? He says:

"But here's the question I cannot escape: How do we know cheek turning is impractical? Has anyone tried it lately?"

We ask also: can we bring this advice of Jesus to the 21st century table? Can it still inspire – and more importantly, can it be practicable? As we read in the passages above, "turning the other cheek" is a metaphor for dealing with conflict; the "positive and righteous method" of effecting resolution of conflict is to return good for evil, thereby becoming master of the situation by force of the God-inspired will.

But this is not an easy task. If it was easy, our world would look far different than it does at present. It is difficult because it does require a decision of will on the part of the God-knowing believer…a decision to rise above evil, and to dominate it by the force of goodness. How many of us are prepared to live this way?

From The Urantia Book:

195:9.6 Primitive man lived a life of superstitious bondage to religious fear. Modern, civilized men dread the thought of falling under the dominance of strong religious convictions. Thinking man has always feared to be held by a religion. When a strong and moving religion threatens to dominate him, he invariably tries to rationalize, traditionalize, and institutionalize it, thereby hoping to gain control of it. By such procedure, even a revealed religion becomes man-made and man-dominated. Modern men and women of intelligence evade the religion of Jesus because of their fears of what it will do to them—and with them. And all such fears are well founded. The religion of Jesus does, indeed, dominate and transform its believers, demanding that men dedicate their lives to seeking for a knowledge of the will of the Father in heaven and requiring that the energies of living be consecrated to the unselfish service of the brotherhood of man.

"Selfish men and women simply will not pay such a price for even the greatest spiritual treasure ever offered mortal man. Only when man has become sufficiently disillusioned by the sorrowful disappointments attendant upon the foolish and deceptive pursuits of selfishness, and subsequent to the discovery of the barrenness of formalized religion, will he be disposed to turn wholeheartedly to the gospel of the kingdom, the religion of Jesus of Nazareth."

This is a passage that should make all of us think whether we are willing to really LIVE our belief – to really act out the principles of Jesus’ religion in our daily lives. If we are willing, we will become beacons of hope in this dark world, and we will become the models (after Jesus) of the joys of living the spiritual life…joy that is born in the realms of the inner life of the believer. The believer who has overcome him/herself in this way has no fear of Jesus’ religion dominating their life; in fact, they desire that above all, for it is a life that can be lived on a plane far above the drudgery of material life – a life that has its foundation in the very real Kingdom of God.

So, is this advice completely impractical? Or is it rather completely challenging? Are we up to the task?

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Sun, August 24, 2014

Jesus Saving the Lost

By By Benge Nsenduluka

Dove award-winning group Selah recently spoke about why there is power in leaning on Jesus in the midst of pain and "brokenness." The trio also shared why they believe millions of people around the world are still drawn to their music after nearly two decades in ministry.

Todd Smith, Allan Hall, and Amy Perry dropped their ninth studio album "You Amaze Us" on August 19, weeks after making Christian radio history when their title track debuted at #1 on Billboard's Christian Soft AC chart.

In the song, which has been #1 for nine weeks, the acclaimed contemporary Christian trio sings about God's grace and the remarkable power of faith during dark times. The song was written as a "reminder," according to Smith, for those in need "wondering if God really does care."

"I think it's usually during your darkest times that's when you lean on Jesus. I think when you've got nowhere else to go. You've got several different choices as to what you can do," Smith told The Christian Post exclusively.

"But typically when I'm humbled, when everything has just been pulled out from underneath – that's when I'm most open to 'Lord I need you' and so [the] lyrics are just reminders to people who are in a dark place and who are wondering if God is there and if he really does care," he explained. "He knows who you are and you need to lean on Him while you're walking through this horrible situation."

 

See "Link to External Source Article" below to read further.

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This is a wonderful article, and there is some great music in it, too, by the Christian singing group Selah. I recommend that you go and listen to their song: You Amaze Us. The Jesus in this article is the same Jesus that all of us love; some of us are Christians, and some of us are not, but Jesus loves us all the same.

Jesus does amaze us, doesn't he? When you consider who he was and why he came here…the monumental purposes behind his incarnation as the babe of Bethlehem...and at the same time, he said: "I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners. The Son of Man came not to be ministered to, but to minister and to bestow his life as the gift for all. I declare to you that I have come to seek and to save those who are lost.”

His loving heart overshadowed all that he did, all that he said. His primary concern was the welfare of the individual. His mission to the individual was to restore self-respect

169:1.3 “You have been taught that divine acceptance comes after your repentance and as a result of all your works of sacrifice and penitence, but I assure you that the Father accepts you even before you have repented and sends the Son and his associates to find you and bring you, with rejoicing, back to the fold, the kingdom of sonship and spiritual progress. You are all like sheep which have gone astray, and I have come to seek and to save those who are lost.

171:6.3 "... turning to the crowd assembled about them, Jesus said: “And marvel not at what I say nor take offense at what we do, for I have all along declared that the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which is lost.”

Maybe those passages are a little different than the Biblical quotes that you're used to, but that's because these passages are from The Urantia Book.  Jesus has not changed at all, but in The Urantia Book, Jesus is elevated and explained; his life is detailed for us, and all the missing pieces of his life are finally in place.

That's right - The Urantia Book is a book about Jesus – and a lot more; but, from the beginning of the book, it is one long introduction to the pinnacle of experiences - both for our world, and for Jesus of Nazareth; that experience was the incarnation of the Creator Son - the very architect of our universe - into the fleshly tabernacle of the human Jesus.

And the crown of The Urantia Book is an amazing narrative of the real life and teachings of Jesus, told in over 700 pages of rich detail and insight into the Master's religious, family, and ministry life.

How did he save the lost? What did he do? How did he minister? The pages are rich with stories that will soothe your soul and lift your spirits. Stories like:

Jesus Takes a Lost Child Home

Jesus Helps a Runaway Lad

The Young Man Who Was Afraid

And these character portraits of the Master and his ministering style:

As Jesus Passed By

The Acme of Religious Living

The Urantia Book is not all that different from the Bible as far as the story of Jesus goes. There are differences; for example these stories above are known nowhere else but in The Urantia Book.  They are a part of a period of time in Jesus’ life (age 28) when he was traveling, and he enjoyed a very personal ministry to many, many people. This is a time in Jesus’ life that no one has known about until now.

If you are a person who wants to know more of Jesus, and you are unafraid to look into a new way to see Jesus - more of Jesus - then you will truly love The Urantia Book’s restatement of Jesus' life.  It is part of the celestial records, made at the time of his visitation to earth, and they are presented to us at this time in our history so as to give modern humanity a new grasp on the Savior through a retelling of the real story. Knowing the full life of Jesus is the most thrilling discovery one can make.

The Urantia Book states:

196:1.3 To “follow Jesus” means to personally share his religious faith and to enter into the spirit of the Master’s life of unselfish service for man. One of the most important things in human living is to find out what Jesus believed, to discover his ideals, and to strive for the achievement of his exalted life purpose. Of all human knowledge, that which is of greatest value is to know the religious life of Jesus and how he lived it.

It's in there...

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