All posts by ponderosapapa

Papa to five grandchildren, Dad to two daughters and two sons-in-law, Husband of one wife. Leaving a legacy of thought and perspective worth carrying through the generations that follow.

People Believed, then …

Acts chapter 2 tells us of the days following Pentecost, the days when 20151204_095731the apostles, filled with the Holy Spirit, were teaching all who were within hearing range. Those who believed were filled with joy and joined in the fellowship of believers sharing what each one had. Verse 47 reports that they were praising God and having favor with all the people. This favor paved the way to tremendous growth in the number of people who were being saved. Exciting days those were, believers were being added to the body of Christ every day!

Then the Jewish leaders saw that many were following “the way” because the apostles were teaching in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. The Sadducees did not believe in life after death. So they threw Peter and John in jail. Life begins to become complicated for the early Christians, not because of the Roman government, but because of the religious leaders. We have a saying these days that says, “We have found the enemy and they are us.” Isn’t that so often true? We feel constrained in following the word by our denominational preferences. Time passes and Paul, formerly Saul, begins to plant churches around the Western Asia world in places like Galatia, Ephesus, Colossae, Corinth, Athens, etc. The church at this point is growing through Paul’s teaching, yes, but also through the teaching of those who have learned from Paul.

In 2 Timothy 2:2 Paul instructs Timothy as follows: “… what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” This is how the churches where Timothy was ministering were to be (a) strengthened and (b) growing. Much of my life has been committed to mentoring and helping other men navigate life from a biblical perspective. A few years back, my son-in-law, Russell, gave me the 4-link chain shown in the picture above. I keep it on my key ring as a reminder of my purpose as I travel from meeting to meeting. Regardless of the subject of any meeting, it helps me keep an eternal perspective on the relationships interacting in those settings. How does it work?

Paul said, “what you have heard from me …” are the first two links … Paul (the first link) passing truth and the message on to Timothy (the second link). Timothy, then was to entrust those truths to faithful men (the third link) who, in turn, would be able to teach others also (the fourth link). With each sharing of the truths of the Gospel, a new chain is started. We are called to share the truth of Jesus Christ, His love and His death and resurrection and the resulting future hope with others. Recently, I’ve been blessed to observe a couple of men prepare to share their faith with others, including their children! We are all trusting God to prepare the hearts of these “others” that God has laid on the hearts of these men. Yes, some of our words will fall on rocky soil, but some will fall on rich soil eager to hear the good news of the Gospel.

A dear friend excitedly talked of “paying it forward” with another couple we both know. While scripture doesn’t have that specific terminology, the concept of sharing the good news of Jesus that we have received in a “pay it forward” manner certainly is biblical. We who have been gobsmacked by God’s grace, can’t wait to share with others who need to hear the freedom that comes from life in Jesus Christ.

My challenge to you is to be the first link in the chain. Take the scriptural truths that you have received and share them with a friend or neighbor or even someone you know at church. Be in prayer asking God to guide you to that person who needs to hear His good news (gospel). We live in a world that is fearful and doesn’t know where to turn. They know they are looking for answers, and that there has to be a better way. Even though the media ridicules God and faith, when you build relationships with people to the point where you can hear their hearts, and they can hear yours, God will open doors. We’ll talk about this in another blog, but we’re not talking here about a Billy Graham style campaign on another person. We’re talking about building a very personal trusting relationship which gives each person the opportunity to hear heart level desires.

Praying for each one of you, because you have a story to tell, a story of redemption and hope that another person needs to hear.

What is Believing?

In the previous blog we talked about what it takes to go to heaven. The short version is that we need to believe in Jesus Christ. But what qualifies as a saving belief? James, the brother of Christ, wrote in James 2:19, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder! But we know that the demons do not have a saving faith. What then is the belief that brings us salvation that give us eternal life?

Turning to the scriptures for clarification is most always helpful. I Peter 1:21 tells us that “Through him [Christ] you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.” An element of faith enters into the equation here. The demons believe but they refuse to put their faith and hope in God. This begins to paint a deeper picture of the word ‘believe’ for us. I can believe that it is warm outside because the local meteorologist says it is warm, but until I step outside without a jacket, my belief is an academic thought. Not only that but the weatherman’s definition of warm may not agree with my sense of heat and cold. Not until I go out to experience it for myself, do I learn to have a level of confidence (faith) in that person’s perception of hot and cold.

In the same way, we can believe there is a God. Then someone comes along and tells us that there is no God and that this world and life itself came about from a huge explosion and we evolved to the state in which we now exist. I am always fascinated by the number of people who ‘believe’ those theories, because to my way of thinking, such a belief system requires a greater leap of faith than to believe that our universe was created by the grand plan of God. But, I digress.

Hebrews 11:22 says that without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. Here, again, we see that our belief is a confident faith that God (which includes Christ) is who he says he is and that he responds favorably to those who search him out.

It is interesting that as I watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, I noticed that the theme for this year’s parade is “Believe.” I am left to wonder what it is they want us to believe.

Romans 3 provides additional insight into this believing when it says beginning in verse 22, “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Here we have a faith (belief) in Jesus Christ that brings a righteousness that comes from God through his grace or undeserved favor.The Greek word being translated here is pistueo which comes from the Greek word pistis which is translated faith. The breadth of the word pistueo includes: commit unto, commit to (one’s) trust, and be put in trust with. It should also be noted that the word pistueo is a verb, an action word as the other possible meanings imply.

The English words for pistueo align very closely then from the origin of believe which is pistis or faith. To put one’s faith and confidence into a person or object requires more than just acknowledging that the person or object exist. To acknowledge that a bridge exists and observe it is very different from beginning to walk across or drive across that bridge. By taking those steps you have put your faith in the fact that the bridge will sustain you. In the same way, believing in Christ and putting your faith in Christ require similar steps of putting the confidence of our salvation in Christ’s ability to redeem us from our sinful condition.

As a result, very often we’ll use the words believe and faith interchangeably. Belief that Christ is the Son of God emanates from our confidence (faith) that He is who both He and the Father say He is, and that faith / believing in Him is our only path to salvation. So when the Bible says that whoever believes in Jesus will have eternal life, it is talking about that confident faith and belief. A friend of mine, Russ Crosson, introduced me to the term ‘truth system.’ That is part of our belief and faith in Christ, because that belief becomes part of our truth system or world view.

One last word before I let you go on this point. At the point when we take on faith in Christ, it is not natural or normal that we will be theologically correct in every aspect of the faith. That is why Paul prayed for the church at Collosae so that they would be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. (italics mine) The writer of Hebrews challenged the Jewish believers to grow by saying, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food.” So as with our relationships with people where we learn to know them, the journey with God is also that of getting to know Him and building our faith by growing our knowledge and familiarity of our Lord.

I trust this has been helpful in clarifying what God desires in our faith and in our believing in Jesus Christ His Son.

Who is Going to Heaven?

In these days of PC (politically correct) talk and the incorrectness of offending another person, it has become increasingly difficult to speak the truth. In my previous post the topic was about finding our way back to God. But what does that mean? While we’re finding our way back to God at what point along that journey do we find we can say that we’re definitely going to heaven? As usual, the Bible is a lamp for our feet and a light for our path (Ps 119:105). God doesn’t want to leave us in the dark on this critical question.

So why are we confused on the matter? I believe our confusion results from (a) a desire to sort out this key question in the affirmative regarding our family members and friends, (b) the scriptures are quite clear on the matter, and (c) God has told us that we look at outward appearances but that God looks at the heart (1 Sam 16:7). Who can know the heart of a man? Only God. Near the end of the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 7, Christ tells us what is going to happen when some of us face the final judgment. In Matt 7:21-23 He tells us that some will say they did a lot of good things in God’s name and Christ will say to them plainly, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers.”

Not only don’t we know who of our family and friends are going to be in heaven, many people think they’re going there, but don’t have their names written in the Lamb’s book of life. What’s up with that? How much worse can it get? Let’s see if we can’t find some answers.

When Billy Graham would preach at his meetings in cities all over the world, he would repeatedly preface his words with, “The Bible says …” Likewise, I want to stay on target with what the Bible says, so will quote scripture. Many laugh at the man who wore a colored wig and showed up at various sporting events displaying a sign that simply said, “John 3:16.” The hoped for result was that many would go to their Bibles and read what John 3:16 has to say. It says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” The story is told in Acts 16 of the Philippian jailer who asked, “What must I do to be saved?” Paul’s reply was simple, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved – you and your household.” (Acts 16:31)

Ephesians 2:8-9 reads as follows, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” Here is the thing we must keep in mind in answering the question of who is going to heaven. Our job here on earth is to love our neighbor. God tells us not to judge others so that we won’t be judged. God alone can see a man’s heart. King David, who was far from perfect, was a man after God’s own heart (1 Sam 13:14, Acts 13:22). As our faith in Christ is a personal one that plays itself out as we exercise our faith, we need to limit our speculation to ourselves. Acts 10:42 tells us that God has appointed Christ to judge the living and the dead.

Since God knows our hearts, He has reserved the ability to determine who goes into heaven and who does not. He has ruled out works as the key. The only key for entry to heaven is a heart level belief that Jesus is who He said He is. Set aside the judging of others; what of those who were confident that they would be welcomed at the final judgment?

We have tremendous capacity to fool ourselves. We deny the truth. One has only to look at how our society makes up its own version of convenient truth. If I sin, I do penance to compensate. If I do good things caring for the homeless and those in need, surely that counts for a few points with God! Or when I die, if my friends pray hard enough, they’ll get me in. The question asked most often is not whether God exists, but whether God is good. If God is good, by our standards, surely He gives credit for being a good friendly person who loves people. These are the people to whom Jesus will say, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers.”

My prayer and passion is that more will place their faith in Christ alone and His work to reconcile us with the Father. The simplicity is hard to accept and understand. But it is real. God has given us His word on how to find our way back to Him. That part is not a secret. The real question is what each of us does with the truth He has revealed for us.

I’m going to close this segment with another Billy Graham quote regarding who will attain eternal life in heaven. Billy is quoted as saying that we’re going to be surprised when we get there. We’ll be surprised as to who is there and who is not there. Who do you say that Jesus was? What will be your rationale for entry into the kingdom of heaven?

While not comprehensive, hopefully this adds a little light.

Finding Your Way Back to God

Over the course of the past six weeks Judy and I have been hosting a Life Image result for Road to GodGroup in our home. We’ve been following a series being led from our church entitled “Finding Your Way Back to God.” The series has been intended to help us focus from any starting point on our pursuit of and relationship with God. The biblical context for the series is the story of the prodigal son as found in Luke 15.

For most people, finding our way back to God is not a six week study or exercise. Even the stories shared in the accompanying videos talked about a lifetime of searching for something more. We have a tendency to get stuck in our day-to-day lives, but we were made for so much more. God tells us that “I know the plans that I have for you ..” (Jer 29:11). These plans have been in place before the foundations of the earth were laid. Psalm 139 tells us that God knit us together in our mother’s womb, and that this work was being done with the knowledge of each of our days.

So even before we were being formed, He was making plans for us. God had written in His book every one of our days that were made for us. Is it any wonder then, that we have this longing for more? He formed us with intentionality to meet the needs of the days that were made for us! Ephesians 2:10 tells us that we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do!

It boggles the mind that God created Adam and Eve knowing full well that they would fall into sin. It certainly was no surprise to Him and He did not have to scramble to come up with plan B. God loved us so much that He gave us a free will that would be free to sin and free to love Him. He sent His one and only son to die for our sins and failings, so that by faith in Christ we could be restored into relationship with Him. With those same global concepts and thoughts, He created each one of us, intentionally, with a purpose, knowing that He would need to draw all men to Himself so that they could make the choice to open the door to their hearts and let Him come in.

We all take different paths. I have been blessed recently to observe and encourage a couple of friends in renewing their walk of faith in Christ. Each came by a different path, but both, clearly came in response to the beckoning of the still small voice, that gentle knock on the door of their hearts and the engagement of plain folks like Judy and me. Along this journey, I have had a very real sense of fulfillment of the purpose for which I was made. That purpose began before I was being physically knit together in my mother’s womb.

Much more to talk about regarding such journeys. For now, I ask of my reader, where are you in your relationship with God? I am reminded of an old family friend whom I hadn’t seen since childhood, but a man who had been friends of my parents’ for all of my lifetime. Our paths crossed, ever so briefly, in the lobby of a multi-organizational meeting. Almost without taking a breath after our introduction and greeting, he looked me squarely in the eyes and said to me, “So, Bill, tell me how things are going with you and God.” I confess that I was a little taken aback, but at the same time I felt as though I had just been touched by God Himself. I gave our friend a response that I’m sure in retrospect might have seemed a little shallow, but I promise you that I have never forgotten that very brief interaction. That story, too, is part of my journey and part of my story.

Blessings!

Do you think you are pushing things too far with Jesus? That is the only way to know how far you can go.

Great thought expressed here. How vast is our God? How limitless are His resources. You have not because you ask not. Thanks to my friend Michael Wilson for pushing my thinking today.

Jesus Quotes and God Thoughts

Jesus Challenges Us Jesus Challenges Us

God challenges us to get radical for his blessed son Jesus, the Messiah. This is not a life for the faint of heart. Jesus has won the victory and challenges us to live that life as well.

We need more passion not less.

We need to be more radical not softer.

We need to pray to be more bold.

This is his way.

Do you think you are pushing things too far with Jesus? That is the only way to know how far you can go.

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Faith and World Events

Today is the 14th anniversary of the comandeering of four commercial aircraft. Three of them crashed into (1) World Trade North Tower, (2) The Pentagon, and (3) World Trade South Tower. The fourth hijacked over Pennsylvania, presumably to head for the White House. That hijacking was subverted by some very brave people and the plane crashed in a field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania killing all aboard. Thousands of lives were lost that day as the World Trade Towers crumbled from the heat of the fires created by the planes flying into them. It was a horrific scene.

I remember that I had just concluded a meeting at Starbucks near our home and had returned home, clueless to what was going on. As I turned on the television in our family room, I was watching a reporter talk about the plane that had crashed into the North Tower. The North Tower was engulfed in flames in an area quite near the top. As he talked, I noticed a plane flying across the skyline and thought little of it until the South Tower exploded before our eyes on live TV. As the horrors of the scene continued to unfold, we learned that a commercial airliner had crashed into the Pentagon. The pieces then began to fall into place that our country was under attack. We later learned of the fourth plane that crashed in Pennsylvania.

We had no idea how these events would change our world. During the ceremonies of remembrance today, one person being interviewed commented that unlike Pearl Harbor which was attacked by Japan, there was no country or political entity that had created this event. What we were dealing with was a fanatical Islamic religious group that worked out of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and some of the middle eastern countries. We found ourselves at war with an ideology rather than a country that could be punished or counter-attacked for such an attack. This was a new world and we knew little about how to combat an ideology. To this day we know little about maintaining a safe world, given the challenges of identifying the enemy. So where does this leave us?

Our God is a sovereign God. Nothing happens in this world that surprises Him. Could He have stopped the attacks? Yes, but throughout history, He has chosen to give man a free will. And guess what? Despite many who want to believe that man is inherently good, the Bible tells us that we are ALL sinners (Rom 3:23) and that through Adam (one man) sin entered into this world. From the time Eve believed the serpent and gave Adam some of the apple, sin has been a part of who we are. Even Adam’s son, Cain, killed his brother Abel. From those tragic beginnings, the Bible tells us that everyone has sinned and the devil has been allowed to “prowl around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) We are in a season where the devil who is called “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience,” is being allowed to roam this earth. As long as he is allowed to roam free, we will have a battle on our hands. Ephesians 6:12 says, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers and authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present  darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” So there is a spiritual battle going on for which we need to be prepared. The rest of Ephesians 6 describes for us the “whole armor of God” that helps us withstand the spiritual forces that will attack our hearts, minds and souls. Romans 5:6 tells us that “While we were still weak, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly.” God has a plan and that plan is at work. He says that Jesus will not return until every nation has heard the gospel. While we are fast approaching that milestone, know this. God’s timing is perfect and He will come to claim those who believe in the name of Jesus.

I said above that God is a sovereign God which means that He is in control. The Bible tells us that He even puts the political powers in place. Romans 13:1 says, “For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgement.” An appropriate warning for our day, when Christians are so prone to protest and not comply with the law. It is important to remember during the days of Christ, the Roman government was as corrupt and debased as any in the history of man. In that light it is interesting that scripture does not record Christ railing against the government. He repeatedly chastised the church leaders, but never spoke about those in government. In fact, even after he had been anointed as the next king of Israel, when David had opportunity to kill Saul, he refused to kill the man who was out to kill him, because he was the Lord’s anointed. Another man’s wrong does not justify wrongdoing on our part.

How then should we live? In the U.S., our government has long approved and funded abortions, more recently it has approved the marriage of gay and lesbian couples. We see many in the Christian community at a point of rebellion against our government, to the point that our speech has become hateful and unloving toward sinners just like us. God calls us to love Him with all our heart, and soul, and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. If we focused more on loving our neighbors and less on hating the government that was put in place by God, perhaps we’d have a more attractive faith. Perhaps we’d be viewed not in the same light as the radicals Islamic terrorists. I’m not suggesting that we condone sin. Christ never did that, but still He loved the sinner. He told the woman who was about to be stoned for adultery to go and sin no more.

A man asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus gave him the list of several of the commandments, to which the man replied, “All these I have done.” The next words are stunning … instead of berating and correcting him, the book of Mark records that “Jesus, looking at him, loved him …” and told him to go sell everything he owned and give the proceeds to the poor. I fear that in today’s Christian community we would be prone to show our skepticism and dismiss the person out of hand by saying something to the effect, “Yeah, right!” Our challenge is to be Christlike. Be a Berean by studying the scriptures so that you know how to respond.

In the context of today’s world, most people of middle eastern descent and especially followers of Islam are viewed with suspicion and often with disrespect. We’ve come through a Civil War which started this country on the path to respecting all races. We still have a ways to go. In light of the radical Muslims who attacked us on 9/11/01, we need to be careful not to paint all people of Islam with the same brush. Is it hard to tell who can be trusted and who cannot? Sometimes. But suppose we started from a position of trust until proven otherwise. Suppose that we followed Christ in loving even those who railed against us. Suppose we really were able to love our neighbors as much as we loved ourselves. Just suppose …

Christ told us to love those who hate us and to love our enemies. That is not a model I’m seeing widely practiced in the public arena today by “Christian” politicians or even those who are posting on the social media. We are throwing the Bible at these sinners and expecting them to live up to our standards without the help of the Holy Spirit! Let’s think about our rhetoric and vitriol before denouncing unbelievers and trying to hold them to biblical standards. 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 tells us that it is not our job to judge those outside the church. That is God’s job! Our job is to love those outside, so that they will come into the church. The Holy Spirit then convicts men of sin.

Just suppose that we loved our enemies and those who hate us. Might there be fewer, then, who hate us? We’re doing a fantastic job of making new enemies with each self-righteous statement that we make.

Something to think about.

What Do We Make of ’90 Minutes in Heaven’?

Don Piper’s story, now made visible in the movie 90 Minutes in Heaven (out this weekend), records his experience of “dying” as a result of a head-on car crash and experiencing some moments (90 minutes of them) of glorious encounter with “heaven” where God, a suffusing and overwhelming light, resided in the middle of the heavenly city.

In that near death experience (NDE), Piper saw and heard the voice of many of his fellow Christians as they were journeying toward the gate of heaven—but he never entered. A fellow pastor was praying for his recovery at the crash scene, and he found himself singing along with the pastor, back on earth.

The slow-developing movie focuses far more on the pain both Piper (Hayden Christensen) experienced and his family, especially his wife (Kate Bosworth), endured as he lay in hospital beds for months—suffocating with a desire to return to heaven and unwilling to communicate either about his NDE or what was happening in his soul. The slowness of the scenes accentuates the slowness of his recovery. But recover he did, to find a purpose in life—to tell people that heaven is real and that prayer really works.

Piper’s story is encouraging, and surely in the top two or three of hundreds of NDE stories I have read.

I do not disbelieve Don Piper’s story. He seems credible, and his experience is far from unusual. Mally Cox-Chapman, a skilled journalist, read and interviewed and tracked down one story after another. In her book The Case for Heaven: Near-Death Experiences as Evidence of the Afterlife, we read the fairly common pattern of near-death experiences:

  • Feelings of peace and quiet
  • Feeling oneself out of the body
  • Going through a dark tunnel
  • Meeting others, including one or more beings of light
  • A life review
  • Coming to a border or limit
  • Coming back
  • Seeing life differently
  • Having new views of death

Not everyone has each element. But the pattern is so common, and spans the religious spectrum so noticeably, that we can speak intelligently of the “NDE Pattern.” Christians of all stripes, Muslims, Buddhists, and others tell similar stories. In fact, there are NDE stories going all the way back to ancient Egypt and ancient Rome. Many of those stories have similar elements, though each religious orientation causes a reshaping of those elements.

Piper experienced the first two, not the second, the fourth, not the fifth, clearly the sixth and the seventh, and from that point the last two elements have reshaped his life and ministry. And the movie shows far fewer specifically Christian themes than his book did.

My concern is neither the movie nor Piper’s story; my concern is what to do with NDEs. What are we to make of them? Are they all true? Are they all bogus? How do we know?

And I have another concern: If death is irreversible, how can these be seen as experiences of what happens after death? Most would say these people have not, in (scientific) fact, died. Instead, they have entered into a pre-death experience that may glimpse heaven or the afterlife (or it may do neither).

But is not the deeper ache for an “after-death” experience? One where someone has scientifically died and told us what is in the Beyond? (We have such an account in the Gospels of the New Testament.)

The issue then is what to make of NDEs. After studying story after story of the NDE Pattern, Cox-Chapman landed on at least three conclusions, and these conclusions need to be considered before we rush to affirm too quickly the truthful witness of NDEs.

First, Cox-Chapman concludes that those who have an NDE become believers in an afterlife or in some kind of heaven. This is surely Piper’s experience.

Her second conclusion ought to warn those who find their faith most confirmed by these NDE stories: those who have NDEs become more universalistic in their faith. (I have not read anything by Piper that would indicate this, but there is plenty of evidence in NDE collections that this occurs.)

Cox-Chapman’s final conclusion startled me: the diversity of the experiences and the variety of religious ideas at work in those experiences lead her to conclude that “we will be provided with the Heaven that is right for each of us.”

That is, NDE studies make us think each person gets the heaven they want.

This is where our deepest concern breaks through the surface: the variety of NDEs, if they are true experiences of the afterlife or heaven, may well be a deconstruction of all faiths.

So a very serious issue arises for anyone who cares about how Christians determine what Christians are to believe about heaven and NDEs. In other words, if many Christians—the numbers who buy NDE books, the numbers who go to this movie—believe a story like Don Piper’s because it confirms their faith, a faith that comes from the Bible, then they are only believing what the Bible says, and don’t need the NDE story. In which case, let’s focus more on the Bible and bring the discussion back to what the Bible clearly teaches.

But we can turn this around slightly and look at it from a different angle: if many Christians disbelieve elements of many NDE stories because they don’t cohere with the Bibleand the elements that don’t cohere with the Bible are legionthen they don’t need the stories either! In which case, let’s focus on what the Bible teaches, not what NDEs suggest.

There is a more negative undercurrent to the NDE stories: if you believe the NDE stories because of the power of the experience being told, then you don’t need the Bible. If the experience itself is what determines what you believe, then you will believe the experience regardless of what the Bible says about heaven.

My reading of hundreds of NDE stories is that they in fact often don’t confirm what the Bible says. In fact, they bring into the light the faith and convictions and suspicions and hopes and dreams of what that person already believed. In this case, the Bible is being pushed to the side for the sake of the experience.

Again, this more negative consideration can be stated from a slightly different angle: if you believe the elements of the NDE stories because of the power of the experiences, you will need to believe every element in these stories. Which leads me to a question that haunts me every time I hear fellow Christians clap so loud about NDEs: How then does one distinguish which elements in these NDE experiences is what heaven is really like from what is not? I just don’t know that there’s a way of believing in the experience of the NDE, filtering out what is unbiblical and affirming as a witness to heaven what matches the Bible.

It seems to me in the flourishing of these NDEs, many Christians will want once again to take a whole new look at what the Bible says about heaven. What they will find, in almost all cases, is a view of heaven that is quite unlike what is experienced in the NDEs.

Scot McKnight is a New Testament Professor at Northern Seminary, the writer of the popular blog Jesus Creed, and author of the forthcoming book The Heaven Promise: Engaging the Bible’s Truth About Life to Come, (Oct. 6, WaterBrook Press).