A Quiet Christian Speaks – Part Three

Silence is a form of acceptance

If you are new to this blog, Welcome. You may want to start reading the series of articles at the beginning, or pick an article from the Table of Contents.

When we say nothing about the things going on in our country (or even the world) that bother us and grate against our values, we are quietly accepting those things. I know it is difficult to speak out. Protests often seem to do no good. We may be ridiculed, or even shunned, by others as our reward for expressing our beliefs. However, when things go beyond what we can tolerate, we should speak out. In doing so, we may give courage to others who feel the same way. They will find out that they are not alone. I’ll continue this series by discussing a few more of the issues that bother me.

Black Lives Matter First off, black lives should not (and do not, in my opinion) matter any more, nor any less, than anybody else’s life. Yes, this country has had a problem with racial discrimination in the way that some police departments have operated. We should strive to fix that. We should oppose that kind of discrimination wherever we find it. We should not be overreacting to the extent that the police can’t even do their jobs. People of all races should be treated equally under the law. ALL lives Matter!

Lack of respect for the Police. Just about all police officers are in that profession because they want to help people. They are not our enemies. Sure, there are a very few bad ones, but the vast majority are trying to do a good job through their shift, and want to go home to their families at the end of the day. Their job is difficult, at times dangerous, and too often thankless. We need the police to keep order and to protect us from the evil elements of society.

Looting and Vandalism  as a Form of Protest.  Really?  These are acts of out-of-control hooligans.  Stealing a flat-screen TV has absolutely nothing to do with making a political point.  Breaking shop windows and setting cars on fire is nothing but criminal vandalism.  The perpetrators ought to be arrested and prosecuted, no matter what their race or their politics.

Divisive Politics In today’s political environment, it’s very easy to get sucked so far into one side or the other of our national divide that you lose all respect for the other side. I should know. I’m a Conservative, and proud of it! However, we all need to tone down our rhetoric and show a little respect to those who are well-meaning, but hold a different opinion than we do. The two sides have drifted so far apart that we each believe a different set of “truths” and we accuse the other side of lying. This divide is not helped by the fact that there are lies propagated by both sides.

Unfortunately, not all of those in politics are well-meaning. There are too many who knowingly promote lies and distort the truth, in order to advance their agenda. Honest and unbiased journalism seems to be a thing of the past. Polls, survey and research are rigged and faked to support preconceived conclusions. The laws of our country are selectively enforced, or ignored, in favor of the political stance of our leaders. Even science is distorted and misrepresented to promote political ends.

I am trying to avoid my own political opinions and biases in this article. (Perhaps in another post someday, I’ll say what I really feel.) For now, I’ll just say that we, the people, and especially we Christians , need to hold our politicians, and our elected officials, accountable to be honest and to represent the best interests of the people they are supposed to represent. We need to hold our news media accountable to be fair, honest and unbiased. We have a long, long way to go if we are going to restore our politicians and our news media to where they should be. Just because it seems impossible doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make our voices heard.

Now, I come to an item on my list that has rapidly become a taboo subject in recent times – the Redefinition of Marriage. A great many of us Christians spoke out and voted on this one. Let’s face it, we lost, in the referenda, and in the courtrooms of this country. Before this change, two persons of the same sex could make a home together as Civil Partners in Maine, and many other places in the country, and have essentially all of the same rights and protections that a traditional married couple does. However, they felt they needed the named status of “married” and the recognition that goes with it. Now, that they have it, the term means something different than it used to.

Regardless of what our government has done, I believe it is still OK for us to believe that real marriage is the union of one man and one woman. I also believe that a business person who provides some kind of services, and who holds this belief, should not be forced to provide their services for same-sex weddings. If they refuse to bake the cake or take photographs, etc., on the basis of their beliefs, the same-sex couple should merely take their business elsewhere. That should be the end of the problem.

The real haters are those who brand someone a “hater” or a “bigot” simply because they are standing up for their beliefs, based on their religious or community traditions.

Some of my comments in the previous two articles in this series, as well as this one, speak to what I call a General Moral Decay in our country. The popular culture no longer honors morality the way it did years ago. In fact, it often honors immorality. The popular culture is more self-oriented than ever. Christ’s two commandments are neither taught to, nor followed by, a growing percentage of the population. (If you don’t know what the two commandments are, read Matthew 22:36-40. Don’t have a Bible? No problem – just Google it on your computer or smartphone.)

Among our population, there is an alarming number of Amoral People. These folks have no moral values at all. One notorious case is Charles Manson. Another is Dylann Roof, the kid that shot up the church in Charleston, SC, in June of 2015. There are many more that have not received the news media’s attention. I believe that Satan has not only deceived, but has possessed the worst of these.

Another example of Satan’s influence is Terrorism. No legitimate religion would condone nor encourage the kind of random bombings and killings that are now happening around the world. These acts are not simply caused by groups of devout muslims who are trying to avenge their people for wrongs committed by Christians and the Western culture hundreds of years ago. There is something darker going on. I have no doubt that Satan has deceived large numbers of radical muslims, as well as most, if not all, of the “lone wolf” terrorists.

Most people of my generation, who hold beliefs and values similar to mine, have been passive and relatively silent while the world changes around us. We have let the louder voices, even when they are in a numerical minority, carry the day on all too many issues. Our silence has indicated acceptance of what the louder voices have forced upon us.

I would not be surprised if all of these issues and problems are part of what sets up the conditions that will let the End Times prophecies in the Bible come true. More on that next time.

Messages from the Music

I hear them, do you?

If you are new to this blog, Welcome. You may want to start reading the series of articles at the beginning, or pick an article from the Table of Contents.

1/25/17 – Tonight, as I refreshed my soul by watching and listening to some Gaither music videos, I was impressed by a reading that Gloria Gaither gave in the middle of a rendering of “Beulah Land” by Squire Parsons and friends.  Gloria pointed out that “we can have moments of Heaven here.”  She is so right!  In my case, I have experienced many of those “moments of Heaven” while watching, and listening to the Gaither gospel music videos.

When I feel like I have been knocked out of kilter by the events of my day, or the events in the news, I can find my way back to a good and balanced feeling by listening to this music.  Forget the politics and the other garbage going on!  The Lord, our God, is where we should be focusing our attention.  The music helps to get me back there.

Give this a listen and see if you agree:

1/26/17 Here is one of my favorite singers from the Gaither videos, Jake Hess. Jake passed on a few years ago, so I reckon he now knows for sure whether the message of this song is true. I believe it is, and I love the attitude it conveys. Enjoy your well-earned reward, Jake, my friend. I hope to meet you in your new home some day.

I plan to expand this article as I find other songs that I would like to share with you.  You can check back later by finding this Messages from the Music article in the Table of Contents on this website.

Thanks for reading, watching and listening.  May God bless you, guide you and protect you.

A Quiet Christian Speaks – Part Two

We should not keep silent

If you are new to this blog, Welcome. You may want to start reading the series of articles at the beginning, or pick an article from the Table of Contents.

In this article, I will deal with a few more of the issues that have convinced me that Quiet Christians, such as myself, need to speak out. I will try to be brief with each issue. Some of them may warrant their own article in a later post.

In our national conversation, I see a lot of Them and Us attitudes, which serve only to divide us while we should be uniting for the common good. Let’s look at some of them.

Tax the rich – they are not paying their fair share.” This argument always sounds good, especially to the majority of folks who don’t have much wealth. I agree that our tax laws need to be overhauled, with the intent to make them more fair. However, the common rhetoric on this subject talks of income tax percentages and not of the total tax amounts that wealthy people often pay. It fosters a “class warfare” type of attitude. The truth is, in order to have a vibrant and resilient economy, we need some percentage of wealthy people. They are the ones who can start and expand companies, their investment dollars do a tremendous amount of good in the economy, many of them provide a substantial part of the income of charitable organizations, and they spread their money around with their purchases. We should not get so greedy that we tax the wealthy out of existence. If anything, we need more of them. An important part of the American Dream, which built this country, is the desire, through hard work and enterprise, to become wealthy. We should encourage savings, investment and the American Dream, not snuff it out. We do need to re-balance our tax system, but we should be careful not to stifle the growth of wealth.

Big corporations are evil.” Too many of the business leaders in our country have brought this attitude on themselves. There is a certain amount of truth to it. Decisions are often made for short-term gain by those in the top of the company’s pyramid, and not for the long-term benefit of the company, its workers, or even its stockholders. The people at the top, with their exorbitant salaries, bonuses, and other compensation, are probably more to blame for this variety of Them and Us attitude than the workers at the bottom. For our economy to prosper, we need the big corporations and we need them to be healthy. For any company, big or small, to survive, top management needs to make decisions that are in the best interest of the company and its people. The people are a company’s most important asset. Adapting from the Golden Rule, management should say “I will treat my employees as well as I would like to be treated, if they were my boss.” If managers would take that to heart, a lot of problems could be solved. We need everyone in the company, from top to bottom to realize that “We all are part of the company. If the company succeeds, we all succeed.” Fortunately for me, I work in a company that has just that kind of attitude.

Union workers are good, management is bad.” This one overlaps with the preceding paragraph about corporations. However, the dynamics of union contracts, negotiations and strikes tends to magnify the severity of the damage this attitude causes. Another factor, which I have experienced, is forcing union membership, or “fair share” payments by public sector employees. This is morally wrong, but our weak politicians have caved to the demands of the unions.  Maine is one of many states where the choice of union membership or making such payments is forced on state employees. The unions are very political organizations and much of the money they collect goes to support the campaigns that they favor. The unions claim that is not where the “fair share” payments go, but I do not trust them.

I’m sure there are other examples of Them and Us attitudes that we could talk about, but I’ll close this discussion with one of my favorite quotes, which speaks to the issue. During Lyndon Johnson’s presidency, a book, Quotations from Chairman LBJ, was published, which was a spoof on the “Little Red Book,” Quotations from Chairman Mao, of Communist China.  The Little Red Book was distributed widely to Chinese citizens at the time. I have a copy of the LBJ book, packed away somewhere. The opening quote in the LBJ book was “Don’t spit in the soup. We’ve all got to eat.” Perhaps you have to be old enough to remember LBJ (as I do) to fully appreciate it, but to me, this quote says a lot.

In Maine, especially, there seems to be quite an increase in burglaries and theft. Vandalism seems to be on the rise, as well. There are all too many people out there, who have no respect for others, and for their property. In the small town, where I grew up, folks almost never locked their houses or their cars. If a neighbor needed something while you were away, he might come in to your shed or your barn and borrow it, but he would always return it. Neighbors were considered almost the same as family anyway. Now, things have changed. While building my house a few years ago, the crew and I had a few hundred dollars worth of tools stolen. We often hear of theft of tools and building materials at construction sites. The increase in drug addiction accounts for some of this. (We later learned that the thief at my house was a drug addict, who was working for a subcontractor.) However, part of it is due to the declining moral integrity of the population.

In Maine, notably in the Augusta area where I live, we have had a number of drug dealers come up from the more urban states to our south. Some of them set up shop in a cheap motel. Others shack up with a local woman who often uses drugs herself and becomes a partner in the distribution. Our Governor has been accused of being a racist for truthfully identifying who the majority of these people are. Regardless of who they are, we have too many customers for their wares in Maine. The growing tendency and willingness for people to use heroin, cocaine, and other harmful drugs, is another sign of the decay in our society.

Maine has had legal medical marijuana for a while. In the recent election, Maine, and several other states, passed a referendum to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. In my opinion, this is not a good development. Marijuana will be regarded as more acceptable and will be more available to under age kids. It has been established that marijuana damages brain cells. We will be further dumbing down a population that is too dumb already! How can that be a good thing?

I still have more problem issues in my list to talk about, but I think I have covered enough for this time.

As these things pile up, and the decay in the moral structure of our society continues, I am beginning to understand that Satan is at work in the world. Many otherwise good people have been deceived into doing or advocating things that advance Satan’s plan, and not God’s plan. Much of the current society’s system of Political Correctness, and how it is used, is the result of Satan’s deception.

We Christians are in a dilemma. On one hand, we should warn others of the deceptions and advocate for the value system inspired by God in the Bible. However, when we do that, Political Correctness is thrown in our faces and we are called bigots, haters, etc. Too often, these critics of Christian beliefs exaggerate what we may have said about a situation, in order to make us appear worse. Meanwhile, Christianity’s reputation among the general population sinks as a result of these accusations.

We must be strong in our faith, and we do need to speak out. When we speak, we must be kind and gentle, even when we are riled up (as I often am). The approach taken by the Westboro Baptist Church, of Topeka, Kansas, does us tremendous harm. We must approach our adversaries in a calm and loving manner, while speaking truthfully at all times.

Have faith that God will put things right some day. More on that in a later post.

A Quiet Christian Speaks – Part One

Finding my Voice

If you are new to this blog, Welcome. You may want to start reading the series of articles at the beginning, or pick an article from the Table of Contents.

For most of my 70 years, I have been a Quiet Christian. After going through a very skeptical period in my High School and early College years, I have been a Believer (though perhaps not a good one). In my youth, I had been put off by folks who “pushed” religion (see my Obstacles and Great Commission articles). I developed a philosophy that one should study and develop their religious beliefs on their own, and that one should not try to push their beliefs on other people. I felt that one’s faith should be between themselves and God, and that it’s nobody else’s business.

My views have evolved somewhat since the position described above. However, I still firmly believe that others should be allowed to absorb religion (or not) at their own speed and of their own free will. So, why am I now getting more vocal about my religious beliefs? I touched on one important aspect of it in my Great Commission article, but there’s more to the story. In this article, I will attempt to explain myself.

In my lifetime, I have seen many changes in our society and in our country. In my opinion, many of these changes are not for the better. I am concerned about the future of Maine, the USA and the world in general. There are many aspects of these changes. Let’s start with a discussion of values.

People used to respect each other more. People were more polite to each other. There has been an erosion in respect and politeness that comes partly from TV, movies, music, and now social media. People can and do post mean, exaggerated, sometimes libelous comments or tweets without any retribution.

Men used to be taught from boyhood on to respect women. Partly, but not wholly, because of the feminist movement and the demand for the totally “equal” treatment of the sexes, the idea that women are special, and should be treated especially well, is fading away. There ARE differences between the sexes. Men and women are not only physically different, their psychological makeup is different as well. These differences should be honored and celebrated.

A woman who is a good wife and a good mother is a rare treasure and she should be celebrated. A man who is a good husband and a good father, who supports his family with more than just his paycheck, is also worthy of praise (and is becoming increasingly rare). While it is OK if people want to take on other roles in life, these basic roles that were the foundation of family life, should be honored and encouraged.

In our society now, way too many kids are being raised by single parents, usually the mother. Meanwhile, the dude who planted the seed takes no responsibility. If he gets nailed for child support, he resents it. In all too many cases where the father is paying child support, he is fighting with the mother over custody, as if the child is property that he has a “right” to because he pays for the privilege.

Sex without marriage used to be at least frowned upon. Now, it’s expected and considered OK. Of course, premarital sex used to go on in previous generations. I’m living proof of it myself. I learned years later that my own Dad didn’t face up to his responsibilities until my Mother’s father had a very serious talk with him, and let him know how things were going to be. I don’t know if a shotgun was brandished, but it wasn’t far from that scenario. I was very fortunate to grow up in a small town where everyone knew everyone else. My Dad’s family and my Mom’s family were both well known and respected. The community encouraged my parents as a young married couple and things turned out fine. The difference in those days was that people were strongly encouraged (and sometimes forced) by the community to take responsibility for their kids. Now, the attitude is that the government will take care of them.

In recent years, an alarming number of young women (with the encouragement of their boyfriends) take the “easy way out” of an inconvenient pregnancy. I don’t want to make this article into a rant on abortion. I’ll just make a one-sentence statement that sums up what abortion is:

Abortion is the deliberate killing of an absolutely innocent and totally defenseless human being.

‘Nuff said on that topic, let’s move on.

The USA was founded and populated as a Christian country. That is our heritage. Up until approximately the 1980’s, Christians were respected by the general population. While some of us may not have lived our faith as well as we should, most of us considered ourselves to be Christian. To be a Christian was considered a good and desirable thing. However, the popular culture and attitudes have rapidly changed in the last 30 years or so.

Here are a few factors that have led to these changes. Some of the television evangelists, who were sucking up millions of dollars from good-hearted viewers, didn’t help our cause. The child sex abuse scandals and cover-ups among the Catholic clergy didn’t help us either. The downhill slide of the entertainment industry has not helped. The activism by atheist, and even satanist, groups has contributed to the problems. The movement to take all traces of religion out of schools and the government has gone overboard. The liberal news media has contributed to the decline.

Schools don’t teach moral values anymore. Neither do the parents, or anybody else, in the lives of many children. When I attended public schools, my first two or three teachers definitely taught us a lot about what is right and what is wrong. There was an optional program where kids could travel by bus to the one church in town for lessons from a Bible teacher once a week during the school day. That program wouldn’t be allowed now.

Especially with the recent rise of radical Islam, Christians are being persecuted in several places around the world. The way things are going, I would not be at all surprised to see persecution of Christians start to take root in the USA as well.

I started to write this article a couple of evenings ago. At first, I thought I would get it all in one blog post. The more I wrote, and roughed out additional thoughts, the more it grew. Consequently, I have decided to break these thoughts up into installments. In later posts, I will talk about a few more of the problems that bother me as a Christian and a citizen. I will try to keep partisan politics out of it. I will share a few thoughts about how we can exert some positive influence, and how we can cope with this world. I plan to end this Quiet Christian Speaks series with a discussion of God’s plan to straighten this whole mess out.

I’ll end this installment on a positive note. I was thrilled today to hear President Trump’s inauguration speech, where he referred to God several times! The program also included two ministers and a rabbi, who did an outstanding job of asking God’s blessings on the proceedings, on the President and Vice President and their families, and on our country as a whole. It is OK to speak of God once again!

Is the New Testament True?

Can you believe the story of Jesus?

If you are new to this blog, Welcome. You may want to start reading the series of articles at the beginning, or pick an article from the Table of Contents.
Is the New Testament True? Can you believe the story of Jesus Christ?


There has been a tremendous amount of research and thousands of books and articles written over the years about whether the Jesus story is historically correct.  Admittedly, there have been very different conclusions drawn by various scholars and authors. I can’t claim to have studied the topic extensively, but I have read enough that I now firmly believe that the answer to both of these questions is “yes.”  In addition to the New Testament Gospels, I have read all of the books listed in GrampaDennis’s Recommended Reading and several more.  To me, the weight of the evidence strongly supports the affirmative answer.

If you would like to dig into this further, I highly recommend the following two books as your starting point:

Jesus on Trial by David Limbaugh

Searching for Jesus by Robert J. Hutchinson

If you want a bit more depth and detail, I suggest:

Can We Still Believe the Bible? by Craig L. Blomberg PhD

The above three books are among my collection. There are many others available as well.

The Shroud of Turin and the Sudarium Christi

Many of us have heard of the Shroud of Turin, which is claimed by some to be the burial cloth used when Jesus was put in the tomb.  It bears what appears to be a photographic negative image of the man that it was wrapped around.  The image shows evidence of crucifixion and scourge wounds which agree with descriptions in the New Testament.  In 1988, Carbon-14 dating tests were done, which said the material was not old enough and led to a conclusion that the Shroud must be a forgery.  However, more recent research has explained that the Carbon-14 dating was done on fragments that were contaminated by materials used in later restorations.  Recent datings by other methods have shown that the Shroud could indeed have come from Christ’s time.  Scientists have puzzled over how the image was made on the Shroud.  It appears to have been some sort of radiation, which some theorize may have occurred at the moment of resurrection.

There’s more, and it gets more interesting.  Another relic, the Sudarium Christi, is claimed to be the cloth that was put on Jesus’ face when he was taken from the cross and transported to the tomb.  It was removed before he was laid on the Shroud, and the Shroud wrapped up around his head and over the top of his body. This facecloth has been in separate custody from the Shroud of Turin as far back as 711 AD. The blood on both of these relics is of the same relatively rare type – AB.

The above information, on the Shroud and the Sudarim, is from an article by J. Michael Fischer, which I found at http://www.newgeology.us/presentation24.html

A National Review article, by Myra Adams, can be found at http://www.nationalreview.com/article/434153/shroud-turin-jesus-christ-blood-relic-sudarium-oviedo

Her article also mentions that a rare pollen, found only in ancient Israel, was found on both of these relics. She draws the conclusion that “The Shroud and the Sudarium authenticate each other.”

GrampaDennis’s Recommended Reading

From My Collection

If you are new to this blog, Welcome. You may want to start reading the series of articles at the beginning, or pick an article from the Table of Contents.

I have taken a few days off from writing more articles because I have been on a reading binge lately. My current binge started with a book that my beautiful daughter in-law gave me for Christmas – Proof of Heaven by Dr. Eben Alexander. That got me to thinking that I should prepare a Recommended Reading List to include in this blog. All of these are books that I have read and recommend for others who are seeking to know more about God, the Afterlife and the Universe. I have organized them by categories:

Near Death Experiences (NDE) / Glimpses of Heaven

Proof of Heaven by Dr. Eben Alexander
Dr. Alexander is a neurosurgeon, who was in a coma for 7 days. Prior to this experience, he thought NDE’s were dreams created in the physical brain. He has a totally different opinion, now that he has been there himself. He visited at least 3 different realms of what lies beyond the curtain of earthly death.  Though from a distance, he even met and spoke with the Divine source of the universe. He makes a strong argument for the existence of the spiritual side of reality. For me, this was a “can’t put it down” type of read. This one was definitely faith-building.

Map of Heaven by Dr. Eben Alexander
I’m not sure the title really describes Dr. Alexander’s second book. After his NDE, he has researched meditation and other methods to better access the memories and knowledge that he received on his excursion into the afterlife. He has had some success at it. He also has received many letters from others who have had NDE’s and were inspired to write after reading Proof of Heaven. This book continues to make the case for spiritual reality, and that Heaven is real. It is a little bit drier read than the first book, but is absolutely worthwhile. I plan to re-read it.

To Heaven and Back by Dr. Mary Neal
Dr. Neal is a orthopedic surgeon who drowned while whitewater kayaking. Before being resuscitated, she went to Heaven and communicated with Jesus and angels there. She says that there is an entrance hall where “…we are each given a final opportunity to choose God or to turn away – for eternity.” It’s been a while since I read this one, but just reading some clips makes me want to go back and read it again.

90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper
Don Piper is a Baptist minister who was in a very bad auto accident. He was pronounced dead at the scene, but another Baptist preacher, returning from the same conference, came upon the scene and didn’t give up on him. While Don was dead on this earth, he experienced a marvelous visit to Heaven. This was the first of several NDE books that I have read. There was a movie made of this one, though I haven’t seen it. All of these books affirm my faith.

About God

The Secret Things of God by Dr Henry Cloud
Dr. Cloud is a psychologist and definitely a Christian. He brings out and organizes truths from the Bible in a way that makes sense and “rings true” to me. He backs up his statements with Bible references. You could argue that the “secrets” he discusses are not really secrets – they are right there in the Good Book. However, he presents them in a way that gets you to the important points, clearing up a lot of confusion along the way. Very highly recommended by GrampaDennis!

12 ‘Christian’ Beliefs That Can Drive You Crazy by Dr Henry Cloud
I have to admit that this title drew me in. The 12 beliefs that Dr. Cloud discusses are held by many people. He explains, and backs up with Bible references, why these beliefs are mistaken. He presents a better way to deal with the issues that these beliefs are about (also backed from the Bible). I can’t say for sure if he is totally right on every point, but his messages “ring true” to me. This book sorts through a lot of the confusion that comes from apparent contradictions and conflicting interpretations of the Bible. Dr. Cloud deals with misconceptions about guilt and shame, and how we should react to them. Another major part of the book is how the concept of God’s grace frees us from the “have to” attitude and inspires the “want to” attitude. In other words, God desires for us to want to please him, instead of trying to please him because we have to. I definitely recommend that you read this book after you have read The Secret Things of God.

God and Soul – The Truth and the Proof by Jim Denney
This 2012 work is more of a science book than a religious book. Jim Denney is a writer and researcher, who has a heavy interest in the nature of the universe. He pulls together information from many sources that shows that there is convincing and overwhelming evidence that God exists, that the soul is real, and that the universe was designed with you and me in mind. The author admits that this is very much a minority view among academic circles. However, everything he presents is sourced, footnoted and verified. The author presents both sides of every argument and urges the reader to fact check him.
The book includes the following quote from Physicist Freeman Dyson:

“Religious creationists and scientific materialists are equally dogmatic and insensitive. By their arrogance they bring both science and religion into disrepute.”

If you are willing to approach these topics with an open mind, I highly recommend this book to you. You will come away more firmly convinced than ever of the existence of God and that our Soul (or Mind) is much more than a figment of our brain’s imagination.

The Soul and the Spiritual Side of Reality

The Spiritual Brain by Mario Beauregard, PHD & Denyse O’Leary
Mario Beauregard has done groundbreaking work on the neurobiology of mystical experience at the University of Montreal. Denyse O’Leary is a freelance journalist and blogger who specializes in faith and science issues. This book contains a thorough examination of the materialist view that the Mind (or Soul) is simply the physical workings of the brain. The authors show that the materialist view does not account for many of the phenomena that a substantial portion of the population experiences. They present evidence which indicates a spiritual reality and that our Minds are part of that reality. There are many good quotes in this book. Here are some of my favorites:

While consciousness lies in the no man’s land between religion and science, claimed by both yet understood by neither, it may also hold a key to the apparent conflict between these two great human institutions. – B. Alan Wallace, The Taboo of Subjectivity

Is the real purpose of science to help us to understand the world we live in or to provide support for a specific, narrow view of that world? The choice is ours. – Mario Beauregard, The Spiritual Brain

Those who seek the truth seek God, whether they realize it or not. – Carmelite philosopher Edith Stein, who became Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, and was gassed at Auschwitz in 1942.

This book makes a strong case for that which most of us know on some level, but can’t objectively prove – that our Mind/Soul/Consciousness exists in a way that is more than our physical bodies, and that we are somehow connected to a larger Consciousness (God) in the Universe. It’s heavy reading, but worth it if you are seeking deeper understanding.

History and the Validity of the Bible

Can We Still Believe the Bible? by Craig L. Blomberg PhD.
Dr. Blomberg is a distinguished professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary. This book takes you through an examination of issues that have been raised about the authenticity of the Bible. This book is heavy reading. The Conclusion (actually a lengthy chapter) can be summed up in this quote: “We can still wholeheartedly believe the Bible in the twenty-first century, even after honestly engaging contemporary questions.” This book is not for everybody, but if you want to dive deep into the subject, and come up with a faith-affirming conclusion, I recommend it to you.

The Historical Jesus: Five Views by Paul Rhodes Eddy
Professor Paul Eddy was the chief editor of this “multiple-views” book, which actually has five authors. The book includes essays from each of five leading scholars, involved in historical research on Jesus. Each of the scholars responds to a set of five topics. This is essentially a debate in book form, with a spectrum of views represented. You can come away from this one, affirmed by whichever of the views you most agree with. For me, it was a worthwhile read.

Jesus on Trial by David Limbaugh
Don’t judge David Limbaugh by opinions you may hold about his more famous brother. David is a lawyer and a well-regarded author, commentator and columnist. Here are a few quotes from the book cover notes:

“From popular culture to the halls of academia, Christianity is under attack. The Old Testament’s accounts of history are often dismissed as myths, while the gospels are frequently derided as a fairy tale. … David Limbaugh confronts the skeptics head-on. Applying his lawyer’s eye to the evidence, he provides powerful arguments demonstrating the Bible’s truthfulness. … Limbaugh knows the skeptics’ arguments well – because he used to be a skeptic himself. … Part personal testimony, part Christian apologetic, part informative evaluation of the facts, and part primer on theology, Jesus on Trial provides Christians with a remarkable reaffirmation of their faith – while offering a challenge to skeptics that cannot be ignored.”

I found and read this book at a time when I needed it. It definitely helped to rebuild my faith. I would put it in the top 3 of my recommended books (besides the Bible).

Searching for Jesus by Robert J. Hutchinson
This book, published in 2015, provides a nearly current overview of recent archaeological finds and new developments in biblical scholarship that question much of what skeptical scholars have assumed and asserted about Jesus over the last two centuries. It examines multiple sides of many issues and concludes that the New Testament Gospels were written earlier than many believe and are more accurate than many believe. Quoting from the Author’s Note:

“…the New Testament may be truer than we thought, and Jesus of Nazareth, rather than being smaller than the Gospels portray him, may actually be much bigger…and far more interesting.”

The book is about 35% footnotes and references. Mr. Hutchinson backs up what he says. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is seeking to know more about the authenticity of the Bible and Jesus.

The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel
Lee Strobel holds both journalism and law degrees, and once was the legal editor of the Chicago Tribune. He uses his investigative journalist and legal techniques to interview 13 of the leading experts, scholars and researchers in various fields relating to the historical accuracy of the New Testament and the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Contrary to some of the stories publicized by the popular media, he finds a wealth of convincing and credible evidence that Jesus is who he says he is, that he is the Messiah predicted in Old Testament prophecies, and that these events did happen as written in the Gospels. I recommend this book very highly.

End Times

Antichrist Before the Day of the Lord by Alan Kurschner
What every Christian needs to know about the return of Christ
Kurschner brings together the prophecies from the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Book of Revelation, analyzes them, and develops a timeline for the end times. He interprets what these prophecies mean, in a general sense, without trying to nail down every detail of what is to come. He shows, from the scriptures, that the Tribulation is well under way before the Rapture occurs. This is contrary to a very popular belief (as illustrated in the Left Behind series) that the Rapture occurs first. Mr. Kurschner makes his case in a very logical way and shows very convincing Bible references that support it.

I know that there is a substantial body of Believers, including at least one good friend of mine, who are sure that the Rapture comes first. However, I am convinced, not just from this book, but from previous reading as well, that Kurschner has it right.

Religious Reference

The Complete Bible Answer Book by Hank Hanegraaff
Hank Hanegraaff has hosted a syndicated radio program called The Bible Answer Man for over two decades. This book is distilled from the radio program, and is in question and answer format. While I may not totally agree with every one of his answers, he provides a good place to start your examination of each of 172 questions. He backs up his answers with Bible references. This is a worthy addition to anyone’s collection.

1,001 Things You Always Wanted to Know About Angels, Demons and the Afterlife
by J. Stephen Lang
This was a bargain find at Marden’s Surplus Store. It’s both a reference book and a treasury of trivia. Mr. Lang is the author of 20 or so books on religious topics. He includes Bible references in the majority of his articles. Some of his information comes from other sources. Most of those refer to literature, movies, etc.

I have more books on religion in my collection, some of which are packed away in boxes in my garage attic. There are a few that I may add to my Recommended list later, after I skim them again. I rejected 3 or 4 today, as I looked through those I could find right away. Even the books I rejected added something to my overall education. However, I wasn’t impressed enough to give them my recommendation.

Now, back to my reading. I have a book to finish and another interesting book that I just bought. I mostly buy or borrow books in Kindle format now, unless I find them on a bargain sale somewhere.

How do you get to know God?

Start by introducing yourself

If you are new to this blog, Welcome. You may want to start reading the series of articles at the beginning, or pick an article from the Table of Contents.

In order to know God, first you have to know that God exists. If you’re unsure about that, my article Who (or What) is God? – Part I might be helpful.  The rest of this article assumes that you believe that God is real.

This article offers help from a Christian perspective.  If you are a member of some other religious tradition, by all means seek guidance from advisors in that tradition.  As I have said in my Other Religions article, I am not the one to say that Christianity offers the only path to God.

To get to know someone, you must go beyond merely being aware of who they are.  You need to establish some sort of relationship with them.  It is the same with God.  Whether or not you are aware of this, God’s son, Jesus, has invited you to join His family.  To begin your relationship, you need to respond to this invitation.  There are many churches and religious authors who have produced books, pamphlets and articles on how you should respond.  The exact language and process is not the important thing.  I will attempt here to spell out some essentials for you.

Would you like to come to Jesus?
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28 ESV)

Or, would you prefer to have Him come to you?
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20 ESV)

You can take either of the above (or others from the Bible) as your invitation.

Basics you should know before responding:

  • All men and women have sinned.  It is in our human nature, and our free will, to do things which violate the laws that God has established.
  • No one is perfect enough, on their own merits, to be accepted into God’s family.
  • God’s original penalty for sin is death.  However, Jesus paid the price for us when he died on the cross.
  • God’s grace is extended to us through Jesus.  It is by this grace, and the price that Jesus paid for us, that we can be accepted.
  • The Salvation step, which I am about to describe is only the beginning.
  • You are expected to learn and grow throughout your earthly life, to better prepare you for what comes after.

Four keys to your response – If you wish, you certainly can use your own words instead of the suggested prayer below, but you should include at least these elements:

  1. Admit that you are a sinner, in need of God’s forgiveness.
  2. Repent – be willing to turn from sin.
  3. Believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay for your sins
  4. Through prayer, receive Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior

Suggested Prayer:

Dear Father, God in Heaven
I am a sinner and I need your forgiveness.
I have heard about your son, Jesus Christ, and I understand that he paid the price for my sins when he died on the cross.
I am willing to turn away from sin and I pray that you will help me do so.
I ask Jesus to come into my heart and guide my life as my personal Savior.
I am willing to follow and obey Jesus as the Lord of my life.

Have faith and believe this, my friend.
If you honestly and earnestly prayed the above prayer (or something very similar), you have, just now, been adopted into God’s family.  Your sins are forgiven.  You are now a child of God and one of the heirs to His Kingdom!

You have introduced yourself to God and your relationship is just starting.

I suspect you would like to know Him better. Here are some of the ways you can do that.

  • Read the Bible – Start with the New Testament. Many recommend the Book of John.
  • Visit some churches. Try to find one that is a good fit for you and your family.
  • Read books and articles. There are a host of them. Ask God to guide you in selecting those that are truthful and appropriate for you.
  • Pray at least once a day. Ask for God’s blessing on others that you know – relatives, friends, coworkers, neighbors, etc. Ask God to guide you in your journey through this life.
  • Talk with friends who know God and are willing to share their experiences. A church bible study group is a good way to meet such people.
  • Donate and/or volunteer to help some worthy cause or organization that you believe in.
  • Meditate on God and what He means to you.
  • Take time out to enjoy nature and God’s creation.  Walk in the woods or along the seashore.  Hike in the mountains.  Visit a park, or even a zoo.  Don’t rush these visits. Take your time to really absorb the sights.  If in a zoo or animal park, observe each animal enough to begin to understand them.  Don’t just give them a look and rush on to the next.
  • Be kind to everyone you interact with.  If someone frustrates or angers you, avoid or minimize any negative response.
  • Some churches say you must be baptized.  Baptism symbolizes rebirth and certainly is a good way to demonstrate your commitment and celebrate your new life in Christ. However, our Lord will let you get started without that step.  When, and if, baptism seems right to you, go for it.
  • Some people are a little hesitant about taking communion, and some churches may project the attitude that you should only take communion if you are their kind of believer.  I say that if you are sincerely trying to follow Christ, you should be confident in taking communion.  It’s between you and Jesus.  If anyone else has a problem with you taking communion, the problem is theirs.

When God sees you doing the kinds of things I have listed, He will find ways to reward you. Some of these rewards may be very subtle.  Overall, you will start to see your life improve.