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Posts Tagged ‘Heaven’

Jennifer Fulwiler atheism ChristianityFor life-long atheist Jennifer Fulwiler, the pivotal moment came when she held her first child for the first time.

“I looked down and thought ‘what is this baby’?” she recalled in a YouTube video. “From a pure atheist, materialist perspective, he is a collection of randomly evolved chemical reactions.

“I realized if that’s true, then all the love I feel for him is nothing more than chemical reactions in my brain. I looked down at him and I realized, ‘that’s not true’. It’s not the truth.”

Jennifer went on to research the world’s major faiths, but considered Christianity not worth the bother. Then her husband suggested she investigate Christianity because one of its most significant claims — that Jesus Christ is God in the flesh — would be easy to disprove if it wasn’t true.

So she did. Jennifer discovered a world of deeply intellectual thinkers (like Thomas Aquinas and Augustine of Hippo) who were also serious Jesus followers.

Men like them made such a compelling, reason-based case for the life, death and resurrection of Christ that, in Jennifer’s words, “I started to think something world-changing happened in first-century Palestine.”

Jennifer realized that atheists “don’t have the lock on reason that I thought. Christians had all the knowledge of science, but they have the total picture of the human experience — love and triumph and hope. Christians could articulate that in a way that atheists couldn’t.”

The result of all this is Jennifer went from denying there is a creator, to becoming a serious follower of the man that most Christians know is the Son of God.

Why do all this? Let me make it clear that following Jesus can be hard, especially when most of the world (sometimes including your family and friends) doesn’t follow Him and you can be mocked or even disowned for your beliefs.

As far as I’m concerned, the upside more than compensates. When I decided to follow Jesus, little things immediately changed (I stopped cursing and swearing) and bigger things followed (my wife and I have a firm commitment to donate regularly to charities and to our church).

In other words, like me, you’ll get a new perspective on life. The holy grails of our culture — gaining power and prestige, buying a bigger house, going on expensive cruises, having the latest iPhone — will start to look shallow and pointless.

You’ll start living for the approval of your creator, who the Bible says “loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in his Son would not be lost, but have eternal life.”

And as you start living for God and start attending a church regularly, you’ll be surrounded by others who are also in the midst of being transformed by following Jesus.

Finally, when this life is over, you’ll have real and solid hope that you won’t become nothing more than rancid worm food. You’ll become a citizen of Heaven.

Interested? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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13+-+1-5I love this challenging quote. At the same time, I’m mystified as to why atheists consider it so credible, given that it was spoken by a man (definitely a brilliant man) who died in 1931. It’s hardly a stretch to write that there’s been a whole lot of research done since then.

Without getting into boring details of studies and terminologies (anyone who needs that stuff can certainly find it online), I’ll toss out a few interesting tidbits.

On life after death: In 1991, Pam Reynolds had a near-death experience while undergoing surgery for a brain aneurysm.
Reynolds was kept literally brain-dead by the surgical team for 45 minutes. Despite being clinically dead, when Reynolds was resuscitated, she described some amazing things — like interacting with deceased relatives.

According to Time magazine, as many as 18 percent of people brought back from death after a heart attack said they’d had a near-death experience.

On the existence of Heaven: In 2008, neurosurgeon Eben Alexander III suffered an E coli meningitis infection which attacked his brain and plunged him deep into a week-long coma. Brain scans showed that his entire cortex was not functioning.
Against all odds, Mr. Alexander woke up a week later. And he claimed to have experienced something extraordinary: a journey to Heaven.
In his book Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife, he asserts that there is an eternity of perfect splendor awaiting us beyond the grave, complete with angels, clouds, and departed relatives.

On a personal God: The Internet is overflowing with blogs and articles from people who have experienced God in an intimate, personal way. So I’ll contribute two quotes from the Bible:

  • “God even knows how many hairs you have on your head” (from a section called ‘Luke’ – even my wife can’t make that claim).
  • “Before I made you in your mother’s womb, I knew you” (from a section called ‘Jeremiah’).

Granted, none of this is the scientific proof that many people demand. But let’s be honest here: the creator and master of time, space and universe, who’s responsible for the air you are breathing right now, will ALWAYS be beyond proving or disproving.

God will ALWAYS be past our ability to fully comprehend. Looking for a metaphor? It would be like asking a porcupine to understand the theory of relativity.

So let’s look beyond this to what we CAN understand:
1. God created YOU.
2. God wants to have a personal, eternal relationship with YOU, but there’s a barrier in the way: the wrong things you’ve done (including living your life as if He doesn’t exist) and the right things you haven’t done.
3. You can never do enough to make up for the wrong things you’ve done and the right things you haven’t done.
4. You don’t have to. Jesus Christ, whom serious Christians (and many others) consider to be God’s son, did the heavy lifting for you when he died to make up for the sins of everyone who accepts Him and believes in Him.
5. All you need to do is accept the gift of Jesus; make Him your lord and saviour, so you can see your life transformed NOW and have eternal life with Him.

Does this make sense? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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HeavenAndHell2Now this is a curiosity.

I wrote a Frank’s Cottage essay about a survey indicating the promise of Heaven is far more motivating than the fear of Hell in encouraging church attendance and prayer.

Kinda makes sense, right? The tasty carrot is better than the nasty stick, goes the thinking.

Then I heard from an old friend, Tim Callaway, who’s doing university research and stumbled upon statistics that indicate a very different story.

These stats are by no means a definitive indicator, but they are consistent. In the 1930s and ’40s, surveys of 100 to 200 students somewhere in North America (sorry, this ancient stuff has no further details) consistently indicated fear of Hell was far more motivating to become a Christian than the love of God. In many of those years, the numbers were so lopsided that the love motivation was less than 10 per cent.

Huh? The huge difference between then and now is so puzzling that I bounced this disparity off a pastor buddy, Ross Carkner, to get his feedback.

“I wonder if the change has more to do with the nature of society at large,” Ross emailed me. “I think in the 1930s and ’40s, there was a different mindset.  The world had just come through one war and was posturing or in the middle of another.  The planet was covered in gloom.”

Between the wars and the ruined dreams of the 1930s Great Depression, Ross wondered, “If there was a sense that all you could do was make the most of what you had. This was the builder generation. Work hard and you might get by. This is very different than the baby boomers … the builders were set on making the most of what they had, the boomers were about getting more.”

This makes sense to me. As Ross put it, “I think against that kind of a backdrop, perhaps the builders were open to hearing that ‘things could get worse’ [i.e. the nasty stick of Hell], while the boomers wanted to hear about how ‘things could get better’ [the tasty carrot of Heaven]”.

If this assessment is accurate, then it comes with a subtle suggestion: many people’s ideas about God depend on the world around them. That’s not surprising, but then I remember something I read in the Bible: “Jesus doesn’t change—yesterday, today, tomorrow, he’s always totally himself.”

I also think of a Bible story about Jesus defending a woman who was brought up on charges of adultery. He told her accusers, who wanted to stone her to death (fooling around on your spouse was serious business in the ancient world), that anyone who’d never done anything wrong could go ahead and throw a stone.

Eventually, all of the woman’s accusers walked away. That left Jesus to do nothing more than tell the woman to go home and don’t commit adultery again.

For me, this event is a powerful example of who God is. And when I realize that he doesn’t change, I see that the ultimate picture of God is incredibly positive. And that’s a picture I want to keep, no matter what happens to me or to the world.

So if you believe in God, what’s your ultimate picture of him? And does it motivate you to do something about your spiritual life?

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HeavenAndHellReady to take the world’s briefest psychology test? Okay, here goes: which would persuade you to become a person of faith – the promise of Heaven or the threat of Hell?

According to the results of a 32-country study by researchers at universities in Spain and Israel, it’s no contest.

“When heaven and hell are considered valid final destinations, researchers find the notion of eternal bliss is three times more powerful than that of eternal damnation in shaping church attendance and frequency of prayer.” This is from a story in the Windsor Star, a Canadian newspaper.

Is this surprising? When I read the article, I was taken back to the beginnings of my own faith journey. I’ve always believed in a creator, but I decided to follow Jesus in 1990, mostly because I started listening to Christian rock and pop music and, through that, discovered a positive, loving, closer-than-close God.

Since then, the trip has had rocky moments, primarily because I had faith issues which I didn’t think I could bring to anyone without them wondering about my “salvation”.

In other words, I thought someone was going to tell me if I kept asking hard questions, I could end up in Hell. So I went from embracing the ‘carrot’ (the attraction of a loving God) to running from the ‘stick’ (the threat of God’s damnation).

The story didn’t end there, of course. (If it did, I wouldn’t be writing this essay.) After a long time and many discussions with intelligent, compassionate, non-judgmental Christians – there are more of them around than you might think – I came back to Christianity.

If I had returned to the faith because those discussions centered around the ‘stick’ – avoiding Hell – I would likely be the poster boy for judgmental, unpleasant Christianity. I’d be following Jesus only to appease an angry God who doesn’t love me – or anyone else, for that matter – and doesn’t have my best interests at heart.

But he does. In the Bible, St. Paul, one of men most responsible for spreading Christianity 2,000 years ago, wrote “God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death [to pay for all the bad things we did and still do] while we were of no use whatever to him.”

It’s this love, plus the promise of a life-long, day-by-day relationship with Jesus, and a future in Heaven, that brought me to this place of faith.

I’m not about to deny the truth and suggest there isn’t a Hell and that it doesn’t influence people’s faith journeys. But more importantly, there is a God who wants every single person on this planet – including the likes of ISIS terrorists – with Him in Heaven.

Does that make a difference to you?

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