Jesus said it many times, “I tell you the truth…” And yet, in spite of the myriad witnesses to the many miracles he performed, there was still doubt about Him. No one doubted he could perform feats of magic, they just doubted he was the son of the Creator, the son of God Himself.
Philosopher, Rene Descartes said, “If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.” Still and all, we human beings do love being tricked and even amazed, but we don’t like to be fooled.
The children and I were visiting my parents in Ohio in September 1981. I looked out onto our street, at the house directly across from ours, the DePadova house. I turned to my mother,
“When did Mr. DePadova die?”
“He’s not dead.”
“Well, yes, he is.”
The knowing was there, in my mind. Ollie DePadova had passed away, he was now spirit and he and I were somehow sharing the same plane of existence. I heard no voice, felt nothing physical. Remarkably I didn’t even feel a twinge of fear – or excitement – at his presence.
To shut me up, Mom decided to call our next-door neighbor Carol (who was also a close friend of the family) and, yes, Ollie had passed away yesterday from an apparent heart attack.
That was it; it was and we went on with our day. We never mentioned it again. I had been privileged to experience someone’s life after death but I forgot about it as quickly as it had come to me. It might seem odd that such a remarkable experience left me unmoved and, worse yet, uncurious, but then it happened again.
In one of his many letters, canonized in the Bible, the Apostle Paul wrote to the new ‘Christ followers’ in the town of Thessalonica, near Macedonia. Something was obviously happening there because he wrote,“Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good…” Were some Thessalonians making a mistake by sharing their unbelievable stories or experiences with others in the new “church” and found themselves disparaged, or worse yet, condemned as heretics?
Paul met Jesus after Jesus’ death and Paul was changed forever that day, on the dusty road to Damascus, Syria. I had experienced Ollie’s spirit after his death and I had not been changed. But remember, I told you it happened again.
We were again visiting the folks and to make Mom happy we went to church. A young girl, perhaps eight or nine years old, was walking in just ahead of me and when I looked down at her I suddenly felt sorry for her.
“I’m sorry about your grandmother passing away.”
The child stared up at me as if she had no idea what I was talking about. I felt a tug on my arm. The child’s grandmother overheard me and pulled me aside. It was her mother, the child’s great-grandmother who had died yesterday, in Florida; they just hadn’t told the child yet.
That day I learned that the dead are not bound by space – or distance. Still, no one asked me how I knew she was dead. I had no doubt as to how I knew because great-grandmother was there with me, in her new spirit condition. And, like Ollie, perhaps she wanted to be near the people she loved. That made sense to me.
I had no idea why Ollie and great-grandmother came to me, but it’s important that you know it never happened again. Albert Einstein said, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as a though nothing is a miracle. The other is as if everything is.” It was God who had been sharing some wonderful news with me but since I had squandered that news by not sharing it with anyone else there were no more.
I kept the experiences to myself for a long time and it had only come to me slowly that God used someone else’s departed loved ones to let me know that there was truly a place beyond this life, and that great-grandmother and Ollie were now with Him, just as Jesus had promised them.
You might think that events like these two visitations would be uncontainable, that the notion they inspire – that there is a Creator God who still communicates with us – would be irrepressible. You might think that these stories would naturally burst out of me every time I encountered someone who never saw or heard evidence of God, nor believed the fantastic stories in the Bible. But the truth is that these visits were so fleeting, and no one ever questioned how I knew things that I had no way of knowing, and, of course there was no corroboration of my experiences. No one ever had a chance to join me in the immediate and fantastic wonder of it all. Even to this day, words to describe these visits always seemed inadequate.
It was nearly twenty years later when I searched for their families, finally doing what I felt I was supposed to do all those years before. I started each conversation with,
“I have something wonderful to tell you.”
They made it easy for me. And neither was surprised, not Ollie’s son, nor Mrs. Martin. They both just said,
“Thank you for calling.” Now I was changed, having delivered the news that our Creator was still trying to communicate with us, His creations. It has taken me quite a while since those conversations, those revelations, to begin sharing the good news with others.
I still don’t like to think of myself as prophetic or a messenger because that implies that there’s something special about me, and that couldn’t be farther from the truth. But now I am different; it’s been a subtle change and the obligation to be different is more a blessing than a burden.
Every time I read the Old Testament stories of God’s interactions with us, his people, I’m reminded that God used all sorts of people to speak to us, and none of them felt qualified to deliver the message. I’m also reminded that they were full of flaws, just like me, and yet most were willing to do as God asked.
Of course, I’m not the first to try running away from a God-job. Remember Jonah, the one who was swallowed by a big fish? God ordered him to go to the town of Nineveh and tell the people to repent, to change their ways. But Jonah turned God down. He “…ran away from the Lord” and onto a ship heading in the opposite direction. That’s where the story gets scary; that’s when a big storm comes up and the crew tossed Jonah overboard because they knew God was angry. For his disobedience Jonah spent three days in the belly of the fish. His prayers were finally answered and the “fish” spit him out onto a beach. Jonah had learned his lesson.
Little by little I will keep sharing the story and the message. No doubt there’s a definite responsibility attached to believing the message, but it’s such a wonderful message, one thousands of years old. And, it never changes: “…for God so loved the world…”
Pastor’s message yesterday was all about forgiveness – well, not so much about the thing ‘forgiveness,’ rather it was a Biblical plea for us to forgive those who have hurt us in some way. It was a recurring message not only in churches, but anywhere the New Year is being welcomed. Forgiving could be the #1 Resolution every year since the calendar began rolling over.
Forgiving someone is often preceded by an apology, which is then followed by “I forgive you.” But what do we do when there’s no apology? How long can the “I forgive you” hang in the air awaiting its antecedent “I’m sorry” that may never come?
We’ve been told “Get over it,” or “Don’t hang on to the past,” or “Forgive and forget.” All well-meaning platitudes that we offer even when it’s not solicited, but something of a tool we might use to stop someone from whining about a slight or offense they’ve suffered and we’re tiring of listening to their story.
As a Christian I’m not supposed to quibble over forgiving vs not forgiving; it’s a mandate we’ve been given by our Lord Jesus Christ. It’s a pretty hard-and-fast rule, and leaves little room for disagreement. We’re supposed to forgive our brother/sister not just once, not just seven times, but seven times seventy times. Where’s the room for argument there?
But, you say, what do I do when I-the-injured-party attempt to forgive the Injuring-party and find they don’t feel they need forgiveness?
“It wasn’t ME!”
“It was YOU!”
A true battle of the Who-Dunn-Its. Game over. Why bother? Nobody cares, anyway.
Except that I believe that God cares. I believe He cares about me and my ability move on, to grow up, to put others first … even when they might not deserve it…
…because that’s what He does.
I dred the perennial “New Year’s Resolution,” that uncompromising deal I make with myself to do something I should have been doing right along, but haven’t.
But on the brighter, encouraging, side it shows me that I don’t think of myself as the smartest person in the room but rather that I’m always hoping to be a better person, a person hungry to learn more and more, from people lots smarter than me.
The mistake I made was sharing those things I learned, sharing them with people who don’t have that same longing to learn. For me it’s hard to imagine that anyone wouldn’t want to learn something they didn’t know; they would then be free to share their new-found knowledge with others who might want to learn.
How does one NOT want to know more? That’s the mystery, isn’t it?
Michael Cutler's ACT for America call:
The Muslim Brotherhood’s plan for the Islamization of Earth is working perfectly. This story from JIHADWATCH.ORG is frightening on so many levels – not just for Swedes, but it should scare the pee out of Americans who allegedly pride themselves on their diverse culture and “freedom of religion.”
Like it or not, Islam is not a religion where its forte is to bring peace (or salvation) to its adherents, nor does it tolerate non-adherents. Unlike other religions of the world (including Christianity) Islam intends – Muhammad believed “God” authorized it – to be the ONLY religion and to dominate everywhere it is allowed to take hold.
Islam of course denies the divinity of Jesus – which to non-Christians is no big deal.
So, what are Christians to do about this blasphemy? Turn the other cheek? Speak to Muslims about the love of God and that explain to them that Jesus is the “…the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”? To be sure, many have had that conversation and have seen conversions; there have been Muslims who leave their faith and risk death for it.
Everyone who claims to be a Christian has a decision to make in regards to Islam and how they feel about it and whether they should be doing anything about it. Martyrdom is not out of the question; it’s surely being practiced in the Middle East, the “birthplace” of Islam.
Here I have the time but I don’t have the mind … Disturbing to think that I have so much – compared to others – yet I lament what I do not have.
I worry about losing my new job at the church if the pastor leaves and the church goes “under.” Who could blame them for closing their doors with dwindling numbers?
Fox News “The Five” host, Juan Williams, called President Trump “despicable” tonight. Even so, I’m not one of those cats who feels he needs to go. Fox owes it to us to be “fair and balanced.” Actually, they don’t really “owe” anyone, but don’t they have an FCC license with some sort of mandate to produce material for the public good? I’m the public, and my liberal “friends” are also the public.
Elvis and I were just reading an article this morning about Libertarians these days being more like Lefties. Ron Paul must be rolling over in his grave – wait! He’s not dead yet, but if he were he’d be rolling over, and over. For that matter, Rand Paul must be finding it difficult to be LiberRepublican among the sizable group of Democ-republicans.
They’re all moving Left. Except Elvis. I couldn’t work for Elvis anymore if I moved one teeny bit to the center, let alone to the Left.
I never knew my father. Mom invited him in one season and Pooosh! he was gone.
But I’m sure if “dad” stayed around he would have been
A) A Conservative
B) A Republican
D) Member of the NRA
E) Member of ACT for America
I hope you dads out there have a great day tomorrow and spend a lot of time with your kids. Everything they learn in life – that’s generally worth remembering – they will learn from you.
Tiger thanks you.