Last week on PJ Lifestyle I read with great interest a piece by P. David Hornik titled “What Near-Death Experiences Tell Us.” With “great interest” refers to my long-time fascination with near-death experiences (NDEs), which began in 1994 after a friend gifted me the book Embraced By The Light by Betty J. Eadie.
The book, according to my friend, was a “must read.” As proof, she claimed it was still on the New York Times best seller list after an entire year. (For the record, Embraced By The Light was #1 on the New York Times list in September 1993 and in the top ten for 78 weeks. Subsequently, it became the fifth bestselling book of the 1990s.)
Embraced By The Light, published in 1992, was Eadie’s personal account of her near-death experience after an operation gone awry in 1973.
Then, for more than a decade, Eadie was hesitant to write or speak about her NDE out of fear that people (including family members) would think she was totally nuts, or would not believe her story.
What makes Eadie’s NDE so controversial and intriguing is the title of the book itself. Because, immediately upon reaching heaven, Betty was “embraced by the light,” and that light was Jesus Christ and he made himself known to her.
Betty is then taken on an unforgettable tour of heaven which she describes in great detail. Throughout the book, Jesus teaches Betty His message of eternal and unconditional love. But despite her pleas to stay in heaven, Jesus sends her back to earth because it was “not yet her time.” The book concludes with Jesus’ final message to Betty, “Above all else, love one another.”
Like millions of other readers around the world (the book was published in 130 countries, translated into 38 languages, and to this date has sold over 20 million copies), I was totally captivated by Embraced. This captivation stemmed from my belief in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. But Betty’s NDE account, the first one I had ever read, only served as sweet confirmation that the “benign deity” (the phrase used by Hornik in his piece) not only exists, but that we will meet Him face to face “when it is our time.”
Here’s a video of Eadie on the Oprah Winfrey Show in the ’90s, when Embraced was a best-selling book:
Anyone on a faith walk will eventually ask the question, “How do I pray?”
Except for the Lord’s Prayer that Jesus taught his disciples, there is no easy answer, for prayer is a very personal and personalized pursuit.
And, as with all pursuits, practice is the key to success and prayer is no different.
You will soon discover the more you pray, the more you will find answers to difficult questions, along with mental or physical healing from various maladies, protection for you or your loved ones and comfort from any number of storms that happen to be raging in your life.
Whatever the current state of your prayer life, even if you do not have one, or practice no faith at all, here is a powerful “prayer exercise” that you should find very beneficial.
Back in 1990 I first experienced this exercise in a group while attending a prayer seminar at my church. During the course of the exercise, the answer to a personal spiritual question that had been plaguing me for 15 years was instantly revealed.
Thus, I immediately became a huge believer in this prayer exercise and since have shared it with many others over the years. You too might find some answers but only if you are truly honest and unafraid to ask or face the most difficult questions or issues in your past or present circumstances.
So without further ado, here is the exercise.
Jesus is visiting your neighborhood. He is going house to house and will be at your door in five minutes.
Will you let him in?
What will you say to Him when he appears at your door?
What is He going to ask you?
What questions are you going to ask Him?
Are there any rooms in your home that you do not want him to see?
Any closets, drawers, photos, or computer files that you want to hide from Him?
Pray about these questions for five minutes.
(Five minutes passes)
Knock, knock Jesus has arrived.
Greet Him at the door or ask Him to go away.
If you invite Him in, visualize actually letting him in the door of your home or apartment as you would any guest.
You may even offer Him something to drink or eat.
Just let the visit unfold.
Perhaps you might want to take him on a tour of your home. Or ask him to sit down as you begin chatting in your most comfortable space.
Remember to discuss the questions or issues you identified in the first part of the exercise.
His visit can last as long as you want because, as the Bible says: I will never leave you nor forsake you.
However, in my group prayer seminar His visit lasted about 10 minutes.
After that time, the prayer leader asked our group if anyone was willing to share their experience of “Jesus’ visit.” Many did, but I was still in shock from His most perfect answer to my question, so I remained uncharacteristically silent.
This exercise is effective in a group setting or when one is alone. Adults, teenagers or even children can be enthralled by this 15 minute “visit with Jesus,” if participants take it seriously and deal with sometimes difficult personal issues honestly.
For a different twist, you could even visualize Jesus walking around your office building for five minutes visiting others before He shows up at YOUR office.
Even though it has been 23 years since I was first introduced to this prayer exercise, my experience was so enlightening it was imprinted on my heart and soul forever.
Do not be surprised if you have similar results. This exercise is extremely powerful because it presents Jesus as someone who you can communicate with in a two-way conversation.
And, after all isn’t that what prayer is anyway, a conversation with God?
Finally, this week on a country music station I heard the song, If I Could Have A Beer With Jesus for the first time. This song by Thomas Rhett reminded me of my 1990 prayer seminar experience and that is the reason why you just read what you read.
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On Christmas Eve, gather up your loved ones and to listen to Amy Grant sing Breath of Heaven (Mary’s Song).
This is my favorite modern Christmas song and one I cannot listen to without tearing up.
The song takes you inside the mind and heart of the person who would become the world’s most revered Jewish teenage mother as she is about to give birth, in the most difficult of circumstances, to a baby she was chosen to bear — the One who will impact the world like no other.
Merry Christmas to all and especially those who truly love this mother and Baby.
With over 40 million views, this video captures the essence of the article you are about to read.
A funny thing happened “on the way” as I was contemplating writing this piece. While listening to a Christian radio station the announcer said, “Jesus is the reason for the season.”
At that moment this very familiar phrase hit me like a thunderbolt. For not only is “Jesus the reason for the season,” but Jesus is the reason our world, nation, history, culture and society are the way they are.
So regardless of whether you believe in Jesus, practice another faith, or are devoid of faith, Jesus has impacted you by virtue of the fact that you are alive.
For no person has affected mankind – past, present and future –more than this Jewish teacher who lived over 2000 years ago, whose birth we will celebrate with great fanfare.
Although Jesus’ life, death and resurrection were the impetus behind His followers’ establishing Christianity, the world’s largest religion itself is only the starting point for the influence Jesus spawned in countless non-religious venues as people over the centuries were moved and motivated by Him to express themselves in a multitude of ways that we continue to see played out everyday across the planet.
With so many examples of Jesus Christ’s effect on mankind it is impossible to even mention them all in this short piece — the purpose of which is to not only enhance your celebration of “the reason for the season” but to also increase your awareness of just how much Jesus impacts the world around you every day of the year.
If after reading this piece you are moved to delve deeper into this topic, I recommend a book published in 1994 that has since become a “modern classic,” What If Jesus Had Never Been Born?, co-authored by the late Dr. D. James Kennedy and the still very much alive Jerry Newcombe.
This book had a profound influence on me as it oriented my thinking about Jesus in ways that I had never contemplated.
So here in alphabetical order is only a short, incomplete list of the most obvious “non-religious” aspects of how Jesus Christ has impacted the world.
While chatting with a close friend who is currently on location filming a mega-budget Hollywood movie, he mentioned, as a “good Jew,” he was planning on attending a Yom Kippur service today in a beautiful historic temple.
Yom Kippur, for those who are unfamiliar, is the Day of Atonement, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar.
Playfully, I asked him if the rabbi would let loose a scapegoat in the temple but my friend did not understand why I had even asked such a question.
That is when I told him about the Yom Kippur scapegoat, an integral part of the Old Testament account of The Day of Atonement.
Since my friend was unfamiliar with the Yom Kippur scapegoat I thought perhaps others might be as well. So if you are attending temple today and familiar this Jewish Bible story, you are dismissed.
If not, keep reading because this ancient tale is not only interesting, but the word “scapegoat” is derived from it.
Now class, please open your Bibles to Leviticus, the third book of the Old Testament, after Genesis and Exodus. Those first three books, along with the next two, Numbers and Deuteronomy comprise what is known as The Torah.
Leviticus chapter 16 is aptly named The Day of Atonement. It is a short chapter comprised of only 34 verses which I recommend reading if this piece piques your interest.
Here is the basic story.
While the Children of Israel were wandering in the desert during their 40 year odyssey between leaving Egypt and entering the Holy Land of Israel, God commanded Moses to make an annual atonement for their “uncleanness and rebellion” and “whatever their sins had been.” God then directed Moses to have his brother Aaron, the High Priest, obtain two goats for an atonement ceremony.
The first goat was designated as a “sin offering” and slaughtered for his blood. Then, the goat’s blood was to be sprinkled around the “Most Holy Place” which was inside the “Tent of Meeting” that housed the Ark of the Covenant.
Now, the second goat fared slightly better for it was to be the “goat of removal.” In Hebrew, it was known as the Azazel goat, and later translated to mean scapegoat in the English Bible’s King James Version.
Rather than me paraphrase the fate of the second goat, I will defer to GOD as HE gives Moses specific instructions for brother Aaron to carry out in Leviticus 16: 21- 22. The Bible translation is from the popular New International Version.
He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites –all their sins—and put them on the goat’s head. He shall send the goat away into the desert in the care of a man appointed for the task. The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a solitary place; and the man shall release it in the desert.
There you have it, the scapegoat as the central figure of Yom Kippur.
The scapegoat’s original meaning was escape goat because unlike the first goat, the second was allowed to escape with its life, though heavily laden with the collective sin of the Israelites.
As you know, the modern meaning of scapegoat is some entity or person who is unfairly blamed or punished for the actions of others, but I would wager that most people are unaware this term is from the Old Testament.
So for those of the Jewish faith attending temple today, you might pause to remember that little goat, released into the desert bearing the sin burden of all your ancient relatives.
Furthermore, click here if you are interested in knowing the Biblical origin of other common phrases like Good Samaritan, a drop in the bucket, a broken heart, a peace offering, or a sign of the times, to only name a few.
The Bible is still the best selling book of all time and continues to be an amazing resource for faith, history, morality and language.
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An update today, posted this morning at his blog:
i’m about to undergo an operation to attempt to drain the fluid from my lungs by inserting a tube. this will take 3-5 days and i will be in hospital. it is possible i will not be able to communicate during this time. they will then try to seal the lungs which if it succeeds will help me. we will then begin chemo and other therapies. the operation is said not be dangerous. please expect no correspondence or articles from me during this period. it is hoped that by next week i will be pretty normal and undergoing care. i have wonderful doctors. i hope and believe we will be together again in future. with all my gratitude for your being good readers and interested in my thoughts. i hope i have been helpful to you. please keep up the fight for what’s good and decent and right even when it costs us in personal and professional terms.