Seven surprising truths Near Death Experiences reveal about the universe

As modern medicine has improved its ability to revive those who have experienced clinical death, thousands have experienced the phenomenon known as a “near death experience,” or NDE. An NDE is not about almost dying, but refers specifically to people who glimpse  a higher (or sometimes lower) reality while “dead.” Some of these episodes are brief, with souls encountering a realm of peace, love, and light, only to be sent back into their body after being told it is not their time to die.

A few near death experiencers (NDErs), however, go deeper into the afterlife, having conversations with angelic beings and learning truths about the nature of life and the universe. The following seven truths reveal a glimpse of a cosmos more complex and beautiful than we comprehend.

1.The unity of creation

In this mortal life we have a keen sense of the separateness of things. There is “me” and everything else that is “not me.” In higher realms, NDErs report that this strong distinction and separation begin to blur. Instead, they see a fundamental unity underlying all creation. While our earthly consciousness sees separation, a more god-like perspective reveals oneness. The Bible says “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” Why should we love our neighbor as ourselves unless it was somehow true that there is a oneness to our respective “selves.”

2. Love is the essence of creation

Perhaps the most common theme as NDErs describe their understanding of the universe is the absolute, all-encompassing, all-pervasive love that permeates creation. “Love,” they say, is a poor word to describe the intensity they experience. It is not merely an emotion, but somehow makes up the very substance of creation. Love is the “stuff” out of which the universe is created.

3. The universe is teeming with life

As modern astronomy reveals an incomprehensibly vast universe, statistics and probability make it hard to believe we are alone. Some NDErs took this curiosity to the other side and asked if there is other life in the universe. For Howard Storm, whose extraordinary experience is recorded in his book “My Descent into Death,” the answer was a resounding yes. He was even shown some of the many life forms in vision and was so overwhelmed by the diversity of life he witnessed that he asked for the vision to stop.

4. “Everything is as it should be”

Our mortal minds are almost constantly nagged with the sense that things are wrong. There is always some problem to be solved or some anxiety to be relieved. In a sense, this is true, and we should work to make the world a better place. But NDErs are often given a view of the world as “perfect” in its particular stage of evolution. Creation is evolving on God’s timeline, and “everything is as it should be” in this moment. Rather than seeing the world as terribly wrong, it’s more accurate to see it as incomplete. The entire universe is evolving according to the Creator’s process and timeline.

5. The familiarity of Heaven

Many NDErs are surprised by the complete familiarity of the heavenly realm they enter. They have a profound sense of returning home. They know on a deep level the beings whom they encounter. Sometimes these beings are deceased friends or family members. Other times they can’t place where they know them, but they report a deep familiarity and sense of belonging with their “welcoming committee.”

6. A small material universe

The material universe, this place of planets and stars and galaxies we can see in the night sky, is relatively small compared to the vastness of the heavenly realms. This material universe has a specific function it is carrying out in relationship to the spirit world, but it isn’t quite the same place and is by no means the whole picture. 

7. Few, if any, have ever seen “Heaven.”

Although many NDErs use the familiar word “heaven” to describe the beauty and peace of the realm they enter, most report being stopped at a certain boundary. Crossing that boundary is only allowed for those who experience complete death. Instead of “Heaven,” the realm they are allowed to experience is a kind of waiting station, a transition place for learning or detoxing from difficult Earth experiences. As gloriously beautiful as this transitional world is, it still does not compare with the true Heaven.

Certainly not every bit of content reported in NDEs is to be taken at face value. NDErs interpret their experience according to their cultural knowledge and upbringing, or according to their attempts to making sense of the experience after the fact. However, where many stories share similarities, as in the above points, we ought to pay attention and find joy in the beautiful possibilities that await in God’s created universe.

Sheldon Lawrence is the founder of bibledice.com, an award winning essayist, and author of the recent novel “Hearts of the Fathers”, a story about one soul’s redemptive journey into the afterlfe. 

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Conversion by Immersion: Could this be the cause of spiritual stagnation?

Environment is stronger than willpower. Think about that claim for a moment. We would like to believe we are strong and can transcend our environment. We like to hear stories about people overcoming the limitations of their environment. But most of these stories, if not embellished, are exceptions to the rule–the rare outliers.

We become what we surround ourselves with. Period. Think about the times you have tried to overcome some habit or addiction. Let’s take the simple example of trying to eat less junk food. Does it work to keep candies and sweets in the house just for special occasions? Does it work to keep chocolate in the cupboard, beckoning you to have just a little? How about when someone brings donuts to the office? It doesn’t take long until the presence of the temptation overcomes our will and we align with the powerful inertia of environment.

In spiritual  things, if we wish to grow closer to God, we must surround ourselves with holiness. That’s it. There is no other way. We can try to fight this truth all we want, but time and time again we will wonder how our resolve to resist some temptation–or start some new positive habit–once again ended in defeat.

Christians may debate the relative merits of baptism by immersion or by sprinkling, but one thing is certain: conversion comes through immersion. We must immerse ourselves in the things of God until they seep into the fiber of our souls. We must baptize ourselves daily in that which is “true,” “honest,” “just,” “pure” and “lovely.” (Philippians 4:8).  

Someone might say, “But Christ ate with publicans and sinners, got down into the muck of the world and ministered to the people. He didn’t remain aloof in some holy place!” It’s true. But look how often he “departed” from the people into some quiet place to renew himself. He prayed and meditated in the wilderness. He conversed with the Father on mountain tops. He conversed with angels in gardens. Although he often preached and ministered to the people, His day to day life in the ministry was often spent surrounded by nature and his disciples.

Successful recovering alcoholics do not hang out in bars. Those who are trying to quit smoking do not lounge around in designated smoking areas. Anyone who is pursuing a life of holiness is, in a sense, a recovering addict. The gravitational pull of the world, with its temptations and drama and negativity, is incessant. We simply have to eliminate as much of it as possible to have any hope of escaping its grasp. Yes, Christ can help us, but how, unless we surround ourselves with His presence? How, unless we make Him our environment?

He taught: “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” (John 15:7) The archaic meaning of “abide” is to live or dwell. When we abide in Christ, we dwell in his presence. We make Him our home, our environment.

This doesn’t mean we go through life prudishly sticking our noses up at anything or anyone we deem unholy. But it does mean we must be realistic about our weakness and the limitations of will power in bringing about change in our life. We cannot play all day in the mud of negativity, carnality, and worldliness and then scratch our heads in the evening, wondering why God seems distant in our life.

Yes, we have to live in the world and we cannot always control the type of environment we encounter. But for the environments we do have control over, we can cultivate spaces of peace and joy so that when we go into the world, we do so from a place of strength. If you have seemed spiritually stagnant, examine your environment to see what you have been immersing yourself in. By changing your environment, you could change your life.

Sheldon Lawrence is the founder of bibledice.com, an award winning essayist, and author of the recent novel “Hearts of the Fathers”, a story about one soul’s redemptive journey into the afterlfe. 

Christianity is Not Natural

The words “nature” and “natural” have taken on an almost sacred significance in recent decades, especially with advertisers promising products undefiled (mostly) by human processing. Natural is good, while anything that is not natural is bad.  

One of the common criticisms of Christian life is that it’s unnatural, that it denies people their right to enjoy that which is perfectly instinctive (usually referring to some kind of sexual freedom).

This criticism is absolutely true, and it’s wonderful. It’s the very unnatural nature of Christianity that makes it so revolutionary and so powerful.

Christianity is unnatural because it asks us to train and control, and in some cases, flat out deny, our natural impulses. But before we worry about that being too restrictive, let’s look at the purity of “nature” when it comes to human instinct.

Jealousy is natural. Greed is natural. Powerlust is natural. Criticizing and judging others are natural. Sexual entitlement is natural.The natural or “carnal” self is in a constant fight for survival and triumph.

But then Christ comes along says there is more to life than survival. He says that if we seek our carnal life, we will lose our spiritual life. We do not live by bread alone. We don’t need to constantly fret about tomorrow’s troubles. We don’t need to live in fear.

Christ’s teachings fly in the face of natural human impulses. It’s not natural to love our enemies. It’s not natural to forgive. It’s not natural to check our own weaknesses before criticizing others. It’s not natural to restrain our sexual needs when gratifying them could mean harm and betrayal.

But these teachings are gifts, not restrictions. Christian morality is liberating and empowering. We do not want to live in a “natural” society where everyone follows their natural instincts. Life in such a world would be, as the philosopher Thomas Hobbes famously stated, “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”

The in a sense, the purpose of Christian morality is to actually maximize the amount of fun a human can have. It just so happens that following every “natural” instinct is not the way to achieve that happiness.

As CS Lewis once said, (in the voice of a disgusted devil in The Screwtape Letters): 

[God’s] a hedonist at heart. All those fasts and vigils and stakes and crosses are only a facade. Or only like foam on the sea shore. Out at sea, out in His sea, there is pleasure, and more pleasure. He makes no secret of it; at His right hand are ‘pleasures for evermore.’ …He has filled His world full of pleasures.

Christianity is not a natural religion simply because God is trying to rescue us from the ravages of a brutal nature and lift us into a life of peace and pleasure our carnal natures can hardly comprehend.  

 

Sheldon Lawrence is the founder of bibledice.com, an award winning essayist, and author of the recent afterlife novel “Hearts of the Fathers: A story of Heaven, Hell, and the hope of new life after life.” 

 

Is your allegiance in Christ?

An intriguing new argument made by Bible scholar Matthew Bates in his book, “Salvation by Allegiance Alone,” states that the word “faith” in the New Testament, especially the epistles of Paul, could be translated more accurately as “allegiance” in many cases. (I have not yet read the entire book, only the introduction.)  He argues that when we are being asked to have faith in Christ, the meaning is more closely aligned with the concept of fidelity, as in swearing loyalty or fidelity to a king. Given the Pauline letters’ emphasis on the kingship of Christ, this makes sense, and it provides an intriguing new way of thinking about our relationship with Christ.

The concept of allegiance suggests a more devoted kind of discipleship than mere belief or mental assent that Christ is Saviour. When we pledge our allegiance to someone or something, we declare what side we are on, who we are working for. We declare our loyalty, our flag, our colors. We become, in the truest sense of the word, disciples. The root of the word disciple is the same as that of the word discipline. In declaring our allegiance to Christ, we submit to his discipline, or in other words, the devotional life he, as King, requires of his subjects.

This declaration of allegiance has saving power. In an earthly kingdom, declaring allegiance to a king makes one a citizen and a subject. Period. A life of discipleship (think, devoted citizenship) must follow, but the individual has declared to whom they belong. It doesn’t matter whether the loyal subject is a peasant or a wealthy landowner. The protection of the King is guaranteed. Similarly, when we declare our allegiance to Christ, he becomes our Saviour and Protector as we become His disciple-subjects, regardless of our relative weaknesses and strengths at the time. But if we are serious about our allegiance to the King, we will eventually become good subjects.

Loyalty oaths and pledges of allegiance can be dangerous when it is mere human beings asking for them. Often, when a person demands loyalty and allegiance, they are up to no good and are trying to manipulate someone. But in declaring our loyalty and allegiance to Christ, we are making the safest and wisest pledge we can, and are yoking ourselves to the only Master who truly has the power to guide us to eternal life.

Sometimes using the same language gets us in a rut. When we use the same word over and over again, often for our entire lives, it can lose meaning. It becomes background noise. Suggesting alternative translations, if not completely changing meaning, can at least offer new perspectives of what seems like a familiar term: faith. So, fellow-citizens, keep the faith…or… keep your allegiance in Christ, our King.

Sheldon Lawrence is the founder of bibledice.com, an award winning essayist, and author of the recent afterlife novel “Hearts of the Fathers: A story of Heaven, Hell, and the hope of new life after life.” 

Do your words kill or give life?

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” –Proverbs 18:21

Often we make the mistake of believing that words are mere symbols we use to convey a message. We have an idea, and we try to find the right words to express it.

This is only partly true.

Words do not just represent our thoughts; they shape them. Words do not just represent the world around us; they act as a filter that cause us to interpret that world in a particular way. Words are powerful. “In the beginning was the Word.” God “spoke”and created worlds. God can also destroy with the power of his word. The same goes with us (though on a smaller scale). Our words are more powerful than we think. They have power to cut someone down or build them up. As the above proverb states, our words can destroy, or they can give life.

Research confirms that this is true on a very literal level. The types of language we are exposed to subtly affect our view of the world and our mood. In a study in 1996, researchers ask volunteers to take a test in which they had to unscramble sets of words and form them into sentences. The task was not too difficult, but the researchers were not interested in how well they performed on the test.

When they were finished with the test, the volunteer had to give the test to an attendant at the desk. The desk person was absorbed in conversation with a friend, also at the desk (both actors staging the situation).

The real test of the experiment was to see how aggressively the volunteers would interrupt the conversation to turn in the exam. Two groups of volunteers had been given two different types of exams. The words to unscramble in one exam were words like patient, friendly, happy, and kind. The words in the other exam were words like irritating, annoyed, impatient, and angry.

 

The results were fascinating. The volunteers who formed sentences with positive words were more likely to wait a moment before gently interrupting the conversation. The group who unscrambled the negative words were more likely to aggressively interrupt and act annoyed. Other factors were controlled, so the only difference with the two groups was the kinds of words they were exposed to.

The implications of this study should profoundly affect a pfile0001964396712erson’s discipleship. We must pay attention to kinds of language that we not only use, but expose ourselves to. It’s worth considering, if we find ourselves in a cynical and depressed mood, have we been unconsciously marinating in cynical and depressed language? Think about the amount of garbage that even unconsciously flashes on our screen on the internet.

Our words have the power of life or death. But “our words” are not just those we speak. They are also those we listen to or read. As an experiment, become aware of the words in your life, and focus on the words that give life.

Sheldon Lawrence is the founder of bibledice.com, an award winning essayist, and author of the recent afterlife novel “Hearts of the Fathers: A story of Heaven, Hell, and the hope of new life after life.” 

 

Glitch Fixed!

Update 1/25: The glitch is fixed! Sorry for the trouble and thank you for your patience.

 

The website is experiencing a glitch where it gets stuck on the same scripture and does not update to a new one when the Bible is clicked again. We apologize for this inconvenience and are working on a fix.

God the Destroyer

We tend to think of God as the great Creator. God builds; He is the Author and Architect. It is Satan who destroys. The problem with this is that it’s only half right. It misses an essential characteristic of God, one we must understand to fully claim what God offers us. God is a destroyer. His creative work, in fact, relies on destruction.

The Bible is filled with examples of a destructive God. He is the Lord of Hosts. He lays waste, tears down, brings to ruin. He levels Sodom and Gomorrah, wipes the slate clean with the flood. Many believe incorrectly that this “harsh” Old Testament God was replaced with a kinder, gentler version in the New Testament.

But Christ was also a destroyer. He came with a sword to disrupt and destroy the established order of things. Not only did he overturn the tables in the temple, but he overturned our view of God and reality.

Destruction is a requirement for creation. Anytime something new is created, something old is destroyed in the process. Old buildings that have outlived their usefulness must be brought down. Overgrown and diseased forests must burn so that new growth and new life take root in the blackened soil. Bodies must be destroyed by disease and death before they can rise again in the resurrection. For “as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life”(Rom. 6:4). We cannot become a new self in God without destroying the old self in the process. “Our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed”(Rom. 6:6).

Too often new creation cannot happen in our lives because we are unwilling to destroy (or allow God to destroy) old patterns, old habits, and old beliefs. Christ spoke of renouncing the world and even the self. I do not believe this meant living in a cave and meditating for our entire lives. It means we must be willing to let old things die so that new ones can replace them. We renounce the self in order to find it.

My novel, Hearts of the Fathers, follows the journey of a soul in the afterlife where he must choose between destroying his old self and rising to his potential, or languishing in the hell of old habits and limiting beliefs acquired on Earth.

But this is precisely the dilemma we face every day. We say we want courage, but there is something in us still attached to weakness. We say we want to live to the fullest and let our light shine, but something in us does not want to destroy the comfortable self that hides from the light. Yet we know, deep down, that good enough must be destroyed to make room for great.

It is worth considering: What old patterns and mentalities are keeping us stuck? What needs to be destroyed in our lives right now?  Maybe it’s a relationship. Maybe it’s a job. Maybe it’s an addiction we use to escape our reality rather than transform it. But maybe it’s something even deeper. Bad jobs, relationships, and addictions are usually manifestations of deeper fears that prevent us from living courageously. Are we willing to question those fears and beliefs, or just keeping getting by?

We all have things in our life that need destroying. Next time you pray, before praying to God the Creator to renew your life, consider first praying to God the Destroyer to help clear the way and make the necessary space for the abundant life to take root.

 

Sheldon Lawrence is the founder of bibledice.com, an award winning essayist, and author of the recent novel “Hearts of the Fathers: A story of Heaven, Hell, and the hope of new life after life.” 

 

“A Season of Little Sacraments: Christmas Commotion, Advent Grace” Advent book review

 

Guest review by Nancy Hoch

“Whatever our religious affiliations or lack of them, we practice being the people that the season asks us to be.”

These are lines from a more than memorable little Christmas book produced by one of our own right here in Pocatello.  Author Susan Swetnam of Idaho State University’s English Department has produced a number of thought-provoking books, including this one.  She is a devout Catholic, and though her book deals with the season of Advent as celebrated by Catholics, much of the book will have meaning to any caring and committed Christian.

The title is “A Season of Little Sacraments: Christmas Commotion, Advent Grace.”  As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints preparing for Christmas each year, a title that would be clearer for those of my faith might be “A Season of Little Wonders: Christmas Commotion, Christmas Peace.”  This slight change in meaning aside, for non-Catholics, the importance of this warmly-written book is the overall message it conveys.  As readers, we can feel the approach of that special day with the author—which includes many new and exciting ways to truly celebrate that wondrous event.

The author takes us through poignant reflections in her own life, especially those dealing with the Christmases after the passing of her husband.  She writes of her personal growth as she experiences greater devotion, the practicing of more patience, and the writing of a non-traditional Christmas letter.  There are delightful ideas on activities such as hosting a Sunday afternoon wreath-making party with close friends and also ways she prepares for an annual Christmas gathering at her home.

There are thoughts on the simplicity Christmas lights can bring and even the act of de-cluttering her pantry.  That particular day-long activity becomes symbolic of the clutter that can rob any of us of deeper meaning if we allow ourselves to over-prepare at Christmas.  She shares fresh ideas on how to make, or select, truly meaningful gifts throughout the year and other thoughts that help us to truly “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord” as it is sung each year in Handel’s magnificent oratorio, “Messiah.”

This book gives honest insights into the frustrations and temptations that can steal from us the joy of what should be the most meaningful day of the year.  We are led to truly make room in our homes and in our lives—room for the celebration of the coming of the savior into mortality.

Originally published in the Idaho State Journal, 26 Nov. 2016 “Pocatello Woman’s Christmas Book Gives Insights For All”

“A Season of Little Sacraments” by Susan Swetnan is available here.

Excerpt: A conversation with an atheist in the afterlife

Hearts of the Fathers – Chapter 11

More than a hundred students looked on as the Professor introduced me to the class. It appeared that even a few faculty members had dropped in to hear my tale.

“Begin with the moment of your death on Earth,” he said.

I told my story, and whenever he felt I was sugar coating things, he pressed me for detail.

“Few people in this realm have been to the slum worlds,” he said.

Despite his prodding, I left out much of my experience in Hell and on Earth, not wanting to relive the horrors. And I didn’t want to feel like an ex-convict warning school children to just say no to drugs.

When I came to my rescue, I nearly used the word “angels” to describe my Guardian and his attendants but was embarrassed to use the term in this environment.

“It looks like you have met the Shiners,” said the professor with a laugh. “They must be getting desperate if they’re milling around in the slums to look for new recruits.” The students chuckled.

“Shiners?” I said, surprised that he had used the same term as Raven.

“They’re part of a powerful religious cult. They live in a different realm, but they come here looking for new recruits, luring easily-duped people with the promise of a better life in a better world. Basically the same kind of religious garbage that was sold in the old life. Those who were most religious during their life on Earth are the most susceptible to their evangelizing. But at least you didn’t get sucked in, to your credit.”

“But they helped me,” I said. “They were there when I needed them.”

“Sure, as long as you buy into what they’re selling,” said the Professor.

“But what about religion and God and all that?”

It was a risk to go there. Whenever religion came up in class in the old world, he would put on a mock attitude of patience and restraint, as if, were he less of a gentleman, he would be tempted to let loose a tirade and put such nonsense to rest immediately, but would instead patiently explain just one more time the folly of the student’s question. Most of the students learned what kind of questions to ask and what kind not to ask.

“I mean,” I continued, “here we are, still alive after our death on Earth. Weren’t they wrong, the atheists—or what did you call them—the scientific materialists? Didn’t they get it wrong?”

The class looked at me with a mixture of humor and anticipation, as if to say, this is going to be good.

“The materialists were wrong?” replied the professor with mock surprise. “Well let’s think about that. Look around and tell me what you see. If it’s not matter and energy, tell me what it is. Touch your face. Are you a ghost? A dream?”

“But we’re still alive after our death,” I said, trying to recover. “Doesn’t that mean we must have souls and all that?” I was unguarded. These questions, unlike those I asked in college, were sincere, born of genuine confusion rather than a desire to sound smart. “You told me yourself the promise of an afterlife was to pacify the uneducated and oppressed, to keep them from revolting and trying to improve their life on Earth.”

“Well,” he said. “I was both right and wrong, just as you are in this moment. Yes, consciousness somehow continues, and we have some excellent theories to explain the physics behind it. The mind we developed on Earth somehow forms a copy of itself in a parallel dimension. So we keep going, for now. No need to conclude that the soul is eternal or comes from God.”

“But it might,” I said.

He only laughed. “You’re new here. You don’t understand how far we’ve come in our understanding of the universe. Where is this Heaven that ‘might’ exist? Where is that God who sits on His golden throne answering everyone’s questions and solving everyone’s problems? Nowhere to be found. No harps or angels or Jesus to make it all better.

“We still answer our own questions and solve our own problems through scientific inquiry. Our research continues to point to a rational, natural universe, although admittedly more complex than we realized on Earth. When you dig deeper into nature, you don’t find super-nature. You just find more nature, matter and energy just like before. Our knowledge is still empirical, observable, and repeatable. The scientific method applies here as much as it did in the old life, even more.”

I recognized the old fire and certainty in his voice, a mixture of defiance and intelligence. Just listening to him made me want to be on his side. His tone dared you to disagree with him.

“Besides,” he continued. “How certain are you that you are experiencing a life after your death on Earth?”

“I died in a car wreck,” I said.

“Can you be quite certain of that? What evidence do you have of your physical death?”

This was another of his techniques I remembered from college. It was one I loved very much, especially when he applied it to what I thought of as less-intelligent students. He had a way of taking the most certain and obvious truths of our existence and turning them into problems. He could make someone doubt the very ground they walked upon.

I didn’t know how to answer. My existence was as real and obvious to me as anything I had known. I had a perfect recollection of all that had happened to me since my car wreck. But I had not, come to think of it, actually seen my dead body. I had not seen my funeral. Most of my post-death memories, though vivid, were more like a nightmare.

He let me puzzle over the question for a moment, then continued.

“There is a school of thought among some of our best minds here that asserts all of this is a dream. They believe their physical death has not actually occurred and that this is a coma-induced dream world. They believe their bodies are on life support in hospitals, and that eventually they will awaken back into their regular life, or their family will pull the plug, finally extinguishing their existence.

“Can you prove they are wrong? Can you prove to them they exist? Can you prove that you exist as a real entity beyond your supposed physical death on Earth? Maybe you survived that car wreck and you’re in a hospital right now, hooked up to life support.”

My mind was spinning, and I felt dizzy, like there was nothing to grasp on to. The thing I thought most certain—that my life had continued—was now in question. I could hear other students chuckling under their breath. Now I was the class dunce, paying the price for having said something stupid.

I was about to attempt Descartes’s famous “I think therefore I am” proposition, but I knew he had already thought of that and would have a ready response. I was done talking and wanted to dissolve into the anonymity of the class. If I were in a coma somewhere, this would have been a great time to wake up…or pull the plug.

“I guess I can’t prove anything,” I said, finally breaking the silence.

And then it came, the rescue, the counterargument that would show the issue was more complex than originally supposed. He wasn’t without mercy. He would hold students intellectually hostage, but he would eventually throw them a bone.

“The problem with that theory, of course, is that everyone who holds it believes they are the ones lying in the hospital bed in a coma, and that the rest of us are just props in their dream. To my mind, this is bad philosophy. We only have access to our own consciousness so it follows that we will be biased in favoring the reality of our own existence above others. We must take the facts as they are, and not fall into a solipsistic denial of reality on the one hand, or, on the other hand, strive for a supposed absolute reality in God.”

I was relieved, not only because he was moving on from my interrogation, but because assuming the reality of my existence was not as stupid as he first made it sound. Now I can see the only foolish thing I had done was invest the power to validate or invalidate my being in another person. I allowed him to set boundaries on what were and were not acceptable ways to pursue truth.

Now that I had been made a fool by his intellect, I decided never to be caught off guard again. I would redeem myself. He would see in me the intelligence he had once appreciated. I had grown intellectually soft after college, and even after my death my mind had dulled. I would work and prove myself, and he would not regret taking me in. I wanted him to see me as a peer worthy of real debate.

After the class, the Professor approached me and said, “I hope I didn’t come off as too harsh. I appreciate you having the guts to tell your story. You’re lucky you made it, you know. And I don’t just mean out of that pit. It looks like the Shiners are on to you, so you aren’t in the clear yet. Don’t let them get into your mind.”

I wasn’t worried. I had found a new home and wasn’t looking for another. The University captured my imagination, and I felt like I could spend eons there. But the Professor knew me better than I knew myself. I had been infected with the God virus, and my symptoms were already showing.

 

Read more here.

This is the first chapter of the exciting new spiritual novel Hearts of the Fathers–a story of one man’s journey out of Hell to discover a universe grounded in God’s love. 

Fleeing from a deadly head on collision, a man descends into a hellish realm to hide from Heaven’s beckoning light. God can rescue him from the darkness, but escaping Hell is only the beginning. The greatest test will come as he confronts his broken relationships and sees himself and others in truth. 

 In a journey through spirit worlds where beliefs, pain, and addictions continue to limit the progress of departed souls, Hearts of the Fathers takes on the critical question: How can we overcome the emotional, intellectual, and spiritual blocks that prevent us from reaching our God-given potential? 

 Inspired by the research of hundreds of near-death experiences, this book will transform the way you view spiritual growth. Available on Amazon here.  

How Not Forgiving is Killing You

The Bible teaches that forgiveness is good for the soul, but it turns out that what is good for the soul is good for the body as well. Medical research is increasingly showing a strong correlation between forgiveness and improved health. According to an article at John’s Hopkins:

Studies have found that the act of forgiveness can reap huge rewards for your health, lowering the risk of heart attack; improving cholesterol levels and sleep; and reducing pain, blood pressure, and levels of anxiety, depression and stress. And research points  to an increase in the forgiveness-health connection as you age.

Too often people withhold forgiveness because they misunderstand what it means. They think it means minimizing the wrongness of what others have done or coming to the conclusion that it’s “All okay, no big deal.” Therefore, they view holding on to the grievance as a way of living honestly or setting the record straight. To forgive would let the other person “win.” But forgiveness has nothing to do with the other person. It doesn’t even require their participation.

Forgiveness is not about letting people off the hook or allowing them to take advantage of us. If, for example, you have forgiven an employee for theft and given him a second chance, but the crime happens again, it would be possible to fire that employee while still forgiving him. You must protect the integrity of your business, but you can forgive in the sense of letting go of resentment and hostility for that person.

Forgiveness is not an action performed in a single moment, like checking something off a list. It is a way of being or a way of approaching the world. It means you have a forgiving heart that wants to error on the side of making peace. Better to occasionally get duped or hurt in the cause of peace than move through life constantly suspicious and guarded. You might make it through life without ever getting taken advantage of, but it will come at the cost of cultivating a hard heart.

Holding onto grudges and reliving past hurt is a full time job. Protecting our ego is hard work. That is why Christ called his own life easy: “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”(Matthew 11:30). When we read the Gospels, Christ’s life seems anything but easy, but he didn’t carry the mental and emotional burden of keeping track of whose fault it was and who started it. He asked us to try it out: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”

Many think their hard situation is a special exception to the need to forgive. “If only it were as simple as an employee stealing money! But my situation is toxic!” But our health doesn’t care about excuses, and it doesn’t make exceptions for so called “justified” anger and resentment. Our body doesn’t say, “Ah, well, this anger and judgement is completely understandable, so we’ll make sure it doesn’t affect our health.” Whether you think your anger is justified or not, your body will suffer.

Grudges, resentments, anger–these are not just concepts, but actual dark energies that reside in our body. When Christ healed people, he was not merely mending physical ailments; he was, at least in some cases, removing these energies: “Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk?” (Mark 2:9)

It has been said that lack of forgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. That isn’t just a nice metaphor. Resentment and anger really are poison to not only our souls, but our physical bodies. If spiritual reasons to forgive seem too abstract or unrealistic, then at least try to forgive in the interest of your health.

Sheldon Lawrence is an award winning essayist and author of the recent novel “Hearts of the Fathers,” a story of one soul’s journey into the afterlife to discover the truth of forgiveness and redemption, available here.