The Evidence of Things Unseen

Those of you that have been following this blog for any length of time are probably aware of the two concurrent and interrelated themes of my near death experience and my God dreams. I cannot separate the one from the other because the things revealed to me while out of my body were reinforced by the first of my God dreams, which occurred immediately upon my return to my body, and further clarified by subsequent dreams, the most important of which concerned the resolution of a deep wound from my childhood.

Over the past 36 years, the Creator has taken me on a journey I never could have predicted and a great deal of the flow of that journey has been accomplished through the interplay between my NDE and the ongoing occurrence of these special dreams. The frustration for me, however, is that, while I have profited greatly from these experiences and feel humbled and blessed to have had them, I find that there is no way to share them with others in a way that rises above, at best, the level of odd, perhaps interesting, rantings of a man that believes he has experienced things which cannot be shared in a way to which anyone else can readily relate. It’s maddening. Sometimes it makes me want to scream.

But I have come to accept that it is only reasonable for others to be skeptical. After all, extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. This has led me to constantly seek out the stories of others that claim to have also experienced an NDE, with the result being that I find myself more and more encountering depictions of heavenly visits that resonate with me in ways too harmonic to be explained away as mere chance. This is especially true when I read the accounts of those children, like Colton Burpo in “Heaven is for Real“, who were too young when they visited heaven for the descriptions of their experience to be reasonably explained as “hallucinatory fulfillment of religiously fueled  expectations” since such expectations would only reasonably exist in persons old enough to have developed a personal belief system rich enough to fuel such a possible explanation.

Some of the details that struck me most vividly in Colton’s descriptions of his experience in heaven are the vivid colors of the rainbow, the intense (like REALLY intense) love of Yeshua for His children, the awareness of events in “the real world” that he could not possibly have known while unconscious, and the knowledge of things, past, present, and future, that have no reasonable “natural” explanation. These things make my heart resonate like a bell.

While our individual experiences of heaven were not identical (as no two appear to be), there are certain themes and details that recur over and over again. For instance, Akiane Kramarik, who claims to have started visiting heaven in her dreams at the tender age of 4, describes the “hundreds of millions of more colors we don’t know yet” which is identical to my own experience. Akiane was raised by atheists and had NO religious background from which to draw any expectation of God or heaven. Her experience falls more under the God dream category than the NDE, but the thematic resonance is unmistakable.

I know there are many that simply cannot accept as evidence the anecdotal stories of those that claim to have visited heaven (or hell) as anything other than hearsay, fanciful wish fulfillment, or fabrications, but if you look at the facts of each case and start examining the circumstantial evidence, the case for a spiritual realm or dimension grows stronger and stronger. Granted, it cannot ever be proven to the standard required by scientific inquiry, but that does not mean it can be readily dismissed either. And for those of us that have experienced these things first hand, I can assure you that it would require a great effort to ever cease to believe in the reality behind the experience. I could just as easily dismiss as real the entire experience of the reality we all seem to share. I guess seeing really is believing.

Shalom, my friends. Try not to be too enamored of your own assumptions.

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What We Don’t Know Can Hurt Us

The most accurate description of the state of the religion called Christianity, which spans a great range of sects, is that the modern institutions, or at least most of them, that identify themselves as Christian could more accurately be referred to as Constantinians, since it was Constantine that presided over the formation of the institution known as the Roman Catholic Church.

During the canonization process of the books of the Catholic Bible, many texts viewed as sacred by a large portion of the early Christian Church were rejected and criminalized. The official creed was formulated to define the “accepted doctrine” of the official Church and allow enforcement by means of Roman soldiers, enlisted to confiscate and burn any writing deemed heretical. Heretics were persecute, imprisoned, and killed in an effort to establish a single religion and bring peace to the empire.

All of this occurred under the direction of Constantine, who at the time, was the high priest of the temple of Apollo. He himself refused to be baptized until he lay on his deathbed. The point is, the modern institution is not a pure descendant of the movement known as “The Way” that existed in the first couple of centuries following the ministry of Yeshua. I’m not saying Christians should abandon their belief in Christ – after all, I am a believer – but I am saying that we should be very careful about assuming that all that glitters in the institutional church is gold.

As many of you know, I had a near death experience when I was 18 that involved a direct encounter with Him. While my belief preexisted this encounter, the results of this experience erased any doubts in my heart of His existence, and firmly established the authenticity of His nature as a loving Creator. He is all of that and more.

But the biggest take away from that experience was the overwhelming impression that we are all loved with a love so deep, so profound, that it is practically indescribable using human language. I came back realizing that our very existence is a manifestation of that love, and that we, as humans, have way overcomplicated the whole sin thing. I firmly believe that God’s definition of sin is very different from the common human understanding of that word. (See The Robot Parable for my best shot at elucidating my understanding of the concept I encountered in His being.)

One of my friends recently posted a meme that derided as illogical belief in a God that would create humans with sin, blame them for His act, come to Earth to die to atone for that sin, and then cast in eternal punishment those that reject Him. In this view, God is viewed as an egotist that craves validation from his creation and cruelly punishes those that don’t comply. Indeed, much of the dogma of both the Jewish and Christian (and Muslim) religions support this view. But that is certainly not the nature of the Creator I encountered. I am convinced our understanding of Him is very skewed, which makes perfect sense. We are finite (very finite) creations that struggle to even understand the created universe in which we live. The concept of infinity is only loosely understood by us in the most abstract sense. We simply cannot fully comprehend something so far outside our limited experience.

That is why everything ever written, spoken, or thought by living humans concerning the nature and will of the Creator is, at best, speculation. Even in encountering Him directly, while free of the constraints of my finite, physical body, I could not comprehend Him in anything even approaching totality. To do so would require that I be Him, for He is the only one that can. So our religion suffers from the innate limits of Human frailty. So why allow sin? Did God create us simply so He could bully us? Is He cruel? What gives?

In the Christian Bible, Yeshua is quoted as saying “God is Love”, and that, to me is the essence of the Truth. He is no egotist. He doesn’t need our worship. He loves us and desires the best for us. But He wants a relationship with beings given free will which, unfortunately, means that He must allow us to choose not to seek a relationship. That choosing is, in my best understanding (which is limited, I admit), the key to understanding sin.

The Creator did not create us with cruel intent, but rather with the intent of empowering us to choose, free of obvious, verifiable, provable consequence. If you want an intelligent being to reveal its own true nature, you have to allow it to believe that the only consequence for any and all actions is the result within the immediate context. Good behavior under the threat of punishment reveals nothing about the nature of the acting entity. John Wooden is quoted as saying, “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.” I truly believe that this sentiment strikes to the heart of the sin question. I firmly believe the Creator wants to know us as we really are and part of that knowledge must encompass what we are capable of doing in the deepest, darkest recesses of our hearts. He is not interested in us putting on a show. He wants to find out how fluently each of us learns to speak the language of love.

That is why He created a universe where chaos is balanced with beauty. Where life and death, joy and suffering are possible. Only in that setting can we show ourselves for what we are. Each individual must choose, in every moment of life, to either be an agent of love, joy, peace, truth, understanding and grace (all of the things demonstrated and embodied in the life of Yeshua) or to walk a darker path of fear, anger, hatred, apathy, greed, and turmoil. We can seek to serve others in love, crush others in a bid to control and exploit, ignore others in a pursuit of selfish indulgence, or justify ourselves by acting out a mime of “righteousness” by following rules and laws.

Those that choose to walk in search of Love (which is God), become more and more in tune with His being. Those that choose other paths move ever farther from Him.

But wait, some will object, that’s not fair. If we are to be judged, shouldn’t it be made incontrovertibly clear what the standard is? Isn’t it cruel to punish poor, frail humans without making the stakes clear? Why doesn’t the Creator, if He exists, simply reveal Himself? Why not step onto the stage of our world and solve all our ills? Isn’t that cruel?

To be honest, none of us can answer that question from where we stand in this universe. When I passed out of this universe into His presence, I realized that many of the answers cannot and will not be revealed until we have moved on, but in His presence, I was overwhelmed with the sense that anything and everything about His nature is founded in Love, Grace, and innate Justice. I came back understanding that there is, deep within us all, an instinct, the still small voice, that, if we choose to seek it out, will give us all the evidence we need.

Yeshua said, “Seek and you will find. Knock and it will be opened to you.” He wasn’t kidding. We have to make a choice to seek. We have to be willing to embrace Love even when it means foregoing opportunities for self indulgence or enrichment. Even when it means fogiving those that hate, who act cruelly, who seem unlovable. We have to come to a place where we see every human as His child – precious, unique, loved, valued – and seek to love even in spite of the inevitable flaws. In fact, we have to choose to love without judgement. The very definition of heaven requires beings that behave in this fashion. The essence of Hell (if it is a place at all) is typified by those that choose judgement, manipulation, anger, addiction, fear, lies, etc. You can’t mix the two things and have paradise.

But does that imply that there really will be a heaven and hell in the end? Some think so. Some do not. Rob Bell, in his book, “Love Wins” argues that God seeks to gather all his creation to Himself (heaven) and will find the means to do so. With eternity to work with, this is always a possibility. I personally do not know the answer… yet. We all will eventually. What I do know is that seeking to embrace love and acceptance is never a wrong thing.

Even if I turn out to be totally full of bologna and am self deceived; even if my whole NDE was simply an epic hallucination brought on by hypoxia; even if in the final analysis there is no God; I can still confidently state that choosing to live as if there is and choosing to embrace Him as the very essence of Love and seek to conform myself to that essence, I will have won a great victory in this life. Because the bottom line is that the path of Love, joy, truth, and grace is a path that generates peace and well being without fail. We are wired to desire these things. Even scientific analysis concurs in this. So, while I firmly believe He exists, I even more firmly believe that seeking Him is the greatest endeavor a human being can undertake.

Shalom to you all.

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Kindle on your Phone? You bet!

In case you didn’t know (and I seem to be running into a lot of folks that don’t), you don’t need to buy a Kindle to read Kindle books. Just download the app on your P.C., MAC, or phone. It’s free and it opens up a world of reading, no matter where you go. Here’s the link:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html/ref=kcp_pc_mkt_lnd?docId=1000426311

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Make it Stop

I write a lot about the whole “Science vs Religion” debate. You might say it’s my special passion. It’s the topic of my book, has been the subject of the majority of my public speaking, and has been the topic of many of my blog posts. Part of the reason I am so passionate about it is the memory of how it affected me growing up. I actually became an atheist for a while based upon the doubt engendered in me by this debate.

But here’s the rub. It wasn’t so much that scientific discoveries and theories (which I will heretofore refer to by the word Science) directly dissuaded me from embracing the Bible, and most specifically the creation stories of Genesis. No, the larger factor was the reaction of many Christians in trying to argue against Science. Even as a teen, I could very clearly see that much of the anti-Science arguments were just plain silly, or worse, made God out to look like a great charlatan. (Read my book to understand why.)

I did eventually reject atheism and became a believer for reasons that had little to do with the raging debate. But over the years, I have continued to see several especially egregious examples of ignorance surface time and again on the part of well intended Christians. Please, my brothers and sisters in Christ, when it comes to ignorance, just make it stop. Ignorance never furthers the cause of Truth.

With this in mind, here are a few questions / claims I see floating around the internet from time to time that I would love to see put to rest.

Q1: If man evolved from monkeys (apes), then why are there still monkeys (apes)?

A1: Where do I start. Just asking this question betrays such a profound lack of understanding about the science of evolution that I am almost at a loss of words in responding. But here is the simple answer: evolutionary change, by definition, occurs when one member of a species experiences a genetic change that distinguishes the offspring of that one member as different from the rest of the original species. The rest of the species doesn’t cease to exist simply because one member brought forth a new species. If the new species always killed off the old species, then there would only be one species left on the entire planet.

Q2: Why does atheistic science… (or could be secular humanist science…)?

A2: Good grief. Generalizations are poisonous in reasoned debate. It is no more true that all scientists are atheists than it is that all Christians are Catholic. Please, please, please, please stop displaying such ignorance.

Q3: If evolution is real, where are all the transitional forms?

A3: Everywhere. Humans are one. Snails are one. Paramecia are one. Every species is, according to evolutionary theory, in the process of evolving, so we are all transitional forms.

Claim1: Evolution (geological dating, carbon dating, etc) is all just a belief system based on opinion. It’s not real science.

Rebuttal 1: Again, this sort of rhetoric simply displays a profound lack of understanding about how science works. While certain aspects of science are indeed up for debate, the above listed topics really aren’t on that list. Evolution (not classic Darwinian) is accepted because it holds up under review. Again, please stop spouting this sort of nonsense. By definition, science is not perfect and will never have all the answers. Science is the pursuit of answers using a skeptical, systematic approach intended to constantly improve our understanding of the physical universe. So, yes, there may well be facets of current scientific theory that will be overturned in time, but the likelihood of that happening to something as well established as carbon dating or the broad concept of evolution are infinitesimally small. When it comes to evolution, there probably will continue to be tweaks to specifics of the theory, but the general basis will almost certainly, and rightly, survive. This is good news, though, since the Bible actually supports the whole notion of an evolutionary process in the speciation of Earth. (It’s in my book.)

These are just a few of my pet peeve questions and claims made by believers that drive me nuts. If you are going to contend in the arena of facts, at least don’t come to the fight unarmed. There is only one Truth. Seek it.

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Science vs Religion? I think not.

I came across a great quote from St. Augustine written over 1500 years ago:

“Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men.

“If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion.”

– St. Augustine of Hippo, 5th Century AD (considered by some Protestants to be one of the theological fathers of the Reformation)

Even in the 5th century, the science vs religion debate was brewing and old St. Augie got it right: there is only one truth. Any religious belief that seems in opposition to observable and reasonable fact needs to be reexamined. God doesn’t lie and His Truth is visible in His creation, so any interpretation of scripture that seems in conflict with the observable facts of nature is, by definition, suspect. My book on the creation accounts of Genesis addresses this head on.

As St. Augie pointed out so correctly, doggedly clinging to an interpretation of scripture that is glaringly at odds with the observable truth of our universe is not only embarrassing, but is damaging to the cause of Christ in that nonbelievers, once convinced of the folly of even a single part of scripture, will be forever averse to trusting any part of scripture. We cannot accomplish the great commission if we, as believers, bring into ridicule the scriptures that establish the foundation of our faith. THERE IS ONLY ONE TRUTH. Seek that truth with all you heart, soul, and mind, even if it means opposing long held doctrine. Even if it means pissing some people off. The truth is too important to simply go along to please others. Have courage. Seek Truth. As my mother used to say, the Truth shall set you free, but first, it will piss you off.

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March Madness – Book Style

Starting at 1:00 A.M. CDT on the morning of March 27, there will be a limited discount period on the price of my Kindle ebook, Revelations of a Glory Passing: The Genesis of Genesis. This promotion is a two part promotion with the initial 99 cent price lasting only 3 days, after which the price will be $1.99 for the next 3 days. Get ’em while they’re hot!

Image

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The Power of Perspective

http://www.photolib.noaa.gov/700s/nssl0069.jpg
Photo courtesy of NOAA
Whenever I find myself drowning in self pity,
Whenever I feel lost in the darkest night,
Whenever tempests roil within my soul and threaten to tear me asunder,
I cling with all my might to the memory of His light flooding through me,
His thoughts intermingled with my own,
And the profound sense of peace, love, and joy that cradled me so tender
Even while my body lay dead,
And I keep on clinging until that light slowly, but surely,
Calms the tempest,
Illuminates the path forward,
And reminds me all over again
How very tiny are my problems in the face of a universe vast
And a creator that loves me with a love that dwarfs this universe.
Image courtesy of NASA.
Because He is, I am blessed.
Because He is, we are blessed.
Because He is, we are loved.
Because He IS, we ARE.
Image courtesy of NASA.
So remember,
When you can’t see the light,
It’s probably because you have your eyes closed…
…in pain…
…or terror.
In those moments,
Simply cling to the memory of the light.
And if you refuse to let go,
Eventually, the light will overcome all darkness,
Both internal and external…
…And then the darkness will simply cease to exist.
Photo courtesy of NASA.
I love you all, my friends, my family, both of blood and Spirit.
May the Creator, the Eternal One, the great I AM, grant you perspective.
May He fill you with His love.
May He flood you with His light.
May He plant the seeds of shalom within you,
And may it cease to grow there no more, forever.
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