Book Review: Revealing Heaven

Revealing-Heaven-197x300

Revealing Heaven by John W. Price is about near death experiences and how every person who is good and kind gets to heaven no matter their religion, but mean people will face hell.

John W. Price is a member of the Near Death Experience Research Foundation. He is an Episcopal priest. A collection of real life accounts of near death experiences (NDE) are recorded in this book, but I have to say I am disappointed in it. The book contradicts scripture.

The first half of the book works at proving that life after death exists. He says a lot of Christians doubt it exists. Most Christians I know believe in life after death, but when you hear of near death experiences it’s natural to feel skepticism. Price uses scripture to prove life after death. I don’t dispute this part of the book. Halfway through is when I had a problem.

Skepticism plays in when he writes about how some NDE’s return able to read minds and predict the future. One of the NDE’s saw Heaven but remains a Buddhist today. Price talked about how God didn’t care about any sin, unless you were mean; especially a mean Christian. At the end of the book, Price affirms his own belief. Here are the two statements of belief:

Page 137: “Now Jeff had not been baptized a Christian. Yet he and others like him with whom I’ve visited did not go to hell, but rather experienced God’s wondrous love in heaven. How can we reconcile this with statements in the New Testament that way we must accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior in order to go to Heaven? I think the conclusion we can draw here is this. Jesus is, in Christian theology, God come to earth. Since God is love, so is Jesus, and he showed and commanded that love for us. Those who do live a life of love are, whether they know it or not, accepting Jesus in his command to love as the central orientation of their lives.” Emphasis mine.

Page 143 [Regarding John 14:1-6): “As an Episcopal priest, I cannot argue with it except to point out that it seems to exclude non-Christians.Emphasis mine.

Price also speaks about the controversial Rob Bell and his book “Love Wins.” In several places, Price can’t explain the scripture about Jesus being the only way.

In the beginning of the book, Price’s stories of NDE’s returning exemplified changed lives from meeting Jesus, but towards the end it felt like all I had to do was love well to go to Heaven regardless of the choices I make in my life. He got one point correct, however. Jesus is about transformation. Jesus also spoke about loving our enemies. Love is God. However, there is more to God than just love. For clarification, I would recommend reading the Bible and pray. Satan can come as an angel of light, too, and if something contradicts the Bible, one should ask lots of questions. From the point of view of a non-Christian, I am left confused as to how to get to Heaven.

Scant places in the book talk about getting to Heaven through Jesus. Then, many statements talk about God’s love as if that’s His only attribute. I gave this book one star. It contradicts the Bibles’ main point: the only way to Heaven is through accepting Jesus Christ as Savior. You can’t be a Muslim and enter Heaven, unless you have accepted Him as your Savior which means you are no longer a Muslim. His book indicates that religion doesn’t matter. All roads lead to Heaven. This makes Christ’s sacrifice on the cross meaningless.

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*Book given by publisher to review.

Updated 3/18/2013: John W. Price left a comment beneath my review on Amazon saying, “This reviewer put words in my mouth/pen. I did not say “every person who is good and kind gets to heaven no matter their religion,” I said the reviews of returnee’s lives shows love is the key question regarding entry into heaven. I did not say, “Love is God.” I said “God is Love.” (I John 4:8). I did not say I didn’t believe in life after death, I said I didn’t know what to believe about it, as the Bible itself is not clear from its various statements. That is very different. The reviewer is right saying conservative Christians will have a hard time with this book, particularly if they are inclined to misquote me.”

My response: He infers it in his book. Others like this reviewer read it the same way, too. Price follows it up saying, “…reviews of returnee’s lives shows love is the key question regarding entry into heaven.” But Price is clear as quoted below that he believes Christ is not the only door to Heaven.

Price says on page 144:

“God’s love is not limited to Christians, but is for all people of goodwill who live with love for one another. The returnees show us this truth abundantly. I cannot in good conscience say that Christianity is the only way. I can say it is the way for me. I can say God’s love is not exclusive to Christianity or Judaism or Islam or Hinduism or Buddhism or any other faith group, since members of each group embrace and live the command that we are to love one another.”

He also takes issue with me saying he didn’t believe in life after death. I said in the above review, “The first half of the book works at proving that life after death exists. He says a lot of Christians doubt it exists.” I merely mentioned that in my corner of the world I had not heard that. I didn’t say he didn’t believe in it.

I like what this reviewer said on Amazon.

In any case, as a courtesy, I have added his comment to my review. It’s a courtesy I extend to any author.

Book Review: Unexpected Joy

Unexpected Joy by Cheryl A. Tuggle felt too real for fiction.

It’s a story about Annie, an atheist, who discovers while on a school assignment, a woman named Anna. Anna is a survivor from the Ukraine at the time of the Russian Genocide. Her wisdom shared with Annie begins to move through Annie’s searching mind. Annie’s fractured relationship with her mother and the grief of her grandmother dying has created in Annie the desire to belong.

Anna’s involvement in Annie’s life helps Annie deal with her many side issues like her friend, Lena’s penchant for partying, her friendship with Angelo (Lena’s brother), and a curious icon over Anna’s mantle. The questions about the icon’s origins propel Annie and Lena to the fringes of the country where they meet Father Elias.

With Father Elias’ guidance, Lena eventually leaves her partying ways. Angelo and Annie’s deepening relationship is obvious to all of us except for Annie. Anna grows frail as her health deteriorates. It’s a story written in first person using Annie’s point of view and it felt too real.

When I reached the end of the book, I discovered a note written by the author explaining that the character Anna was real. It made me wonder if Annie wasn’t Cheryl. Some novels are very autobiographical. Unexpected Joy was well-researched on the least taught aspect of history, the Ukrainian Genocide. Annie’s character’s emotional exploration of atheism had a touch of depth only written by someone who experienced that spiritual struggle.

Unexpected Joy began too slowly. I would not have included the prologue. The prologue didn’t add anything to the story. Chapter one also felt slow. Then, the beauty of the words and the story began to come together and the plot sped up.

Because this is a novel, I agreed not to touch upon the theological aspect of the book as a reason to deduct a star. For the most part, I found the religious aspect of the novel quite agreeable. For instance, when Angelo was explaining to Annie the “Jesus Prayer,” he said:

“It’s a meditative prayer. Orthodox Christians use it to center the mind in the heart and concentrate it on Jesus Christ.”

“Like a mantra,” I said understandingly.

“No,” he corrected me firmly. “Not like a mantra. A mantra is a meditative method used to alter consciousness. According to my spiritual Father, the Jesus Prayer is supposed to bring the mind into the heart and fill it with God in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. There’s a difference. The aim of the Jesus Prayer isn’t alteration. It’s transformation…”

I deducted a star because of the slow beginning. Otherwise, Unexpected Joy was exactly that—an unexpected joy. The end disappointed me because I wanted to see more of Angelo and Annie. Perhaps Cheryl will write a sequel? In any case, I gave this novel four stars.

*Book given by author to review.

A Moment of Silence

Join me today in praying for our country?

I have no words, just heartache today. So I will mourn and tomorrow take up the sword of hope again. My hope is in Jesus as your hope should be, because without hope we let them win by giving up. Continue the fight. Continue to do the right thing. Continue to volunteer, love your neighbor and enemy, and continue to live in relationship with Jesus.

Mike Huckabee said it best:

“There is a lot to be disappointed by in the election results this evening and I am disappointed, but not despondent.

Tonight’s results only remind me that our country has slipped into a deeper state of dependence on government than I wanted to believe. Where the Goliath of government has grown so too has our dependency.

It’s also increasingly apparent to me that our real problems are not political, but spiritual. Both parties have failed to acknowledge that. Democrats have not wanted to even acknowledge the need for God in our public institutions, but sadly, many of the Republican leadership will acknowledge God, but not because they believe we should be humble before Him, but to use God in our speeches and platforms. We wear our love of Israel like a badge of courage but on the issues of life and marriage too many of our leaders are more like lambs than Lions of Judah.

Well now maybe our Republican Party will look at itself in the mirror. I feel that we shouldn’t pack up and quit, but gear up and get ready for the next battle. That’s what we do as people of faith and a party of principle. We don’t stop believing what we believe. We do a better job of doing what we’re supposed to do. That’s how you attract voters and win elections. And that is how you save America from herself.”

Join me today as I pray for our country.

 

Guest Post: Bibles for Brian

By Sheila Lagrand

Will you please send my friend Brian a Bible? Or two Bibles? or ten? They’re for a great cause.

My friend Brian Short and I went to junior high and high school together. We reconnected via Facebook not too long ago. Brian has found his salvation in our King, Jesus Christ. He also recently celebrated a year of sobriety after living with alcoholism.

Brian needs Bibles, and he’s asked me to spread the word. They’ll be distributed in San Diego this fall at the San Diego Lowrider Gospel Fest. This annual event shares hope with gang members, drug addicts, and kids at risk of gang activity. It’s a “least of these” population, if you will.

I’d like you to hear Brian’s own words, taken from his Facebook posts on the day this project began.

March 16
I had just finished praying and as I was pouring a cup of coffee to sit and enjoy my quiet time of the day, my phone went off. My friend Tim called. He and I have shared faith as we walked through sobriety. I gave him a Bible and some books about God’s grace. He asked me for 5,000 bibles to be given away at something called Gospel Fest. I replied without thinking. “Five loafs and two fish.” I have ten in my closest to start with…Good morning Beautiful…

A busy blessed day. I now have five more Bibles than I started out with. If you want to help in this Micah 6.8 project. Send a Bible or two to 270 C St #10 E , Chula Vista Ca 91910. An elder at the church just ordered a case of 24 for a starting point. He multiplies well. I will keep you all posted. Sheila, if you want to share this with the blog universe feel free. It would be so cool if 5000 faces could participate in sharing the Word.

I just got in. A long blessed evening. My friend and brother in God’s work, Tim Dominguez. He is the one who asked for the Bibles. We talked about his Ministry. Ex Gang members who are working to spread Christ to at risk kids, drug addicts, and alcoholics. I listened and shared faith with a couple of members. We look different and have different paths. But the power of God’s grace and redeeming power was evident. Sweet dreams Angel…

Sheila here, again. Since this day last month, Brian has gathered over 500 Bibles. That’s ten percent of his goal. He has many more Bibles to gather.

Will you please do one or more of these things?

  1. Would you please share a link to this post so others might be inspired to send a Bible?
  2. Would you prayerfully consider sending one or more Bibles to Brian Short at:  270 C St #10 E , Chula Vista CA 91910
  3. I can purchase Bibles for less than two dollars a copy. My church, Trabuco    Canyon Community Church, has partnered with me to help Brian gather Bibles. You may write a check to the church and we’ll pool the funds and order Bibles for Brian’s project. You may mail checks, payable to the church, to me at P.O. Box 117, Trabuco Canyon, CA 92678.
  4. Will you pray for Brian’s Bible-gathering project, for his pal Tim, and for everyone involved with the San Diego Lowrider Gospel Fest that God would use these hands and feet, these opportunities, for His glory?

Thank you, and God bless you.

He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
Micah 6:8 (NASB)

April 15, 2012: 504 Bibles collected.

April 20, 2012: 566 Bibles collected.

Guest Post: Is God Judging Them? Or US?

Daily Reflection
by Mark D. Roberts

Is God Judging Them? Or Us?

Lamentations 1:1-22

Her adversaries have become rulers;
her enemies relax.
Certainly the LORD caused her grief because of her many wrong acts.
Her children have gone away,
captive before the enemy. (CEB)
Lamentations 1:5 [ Lamentations 1:1-22 ]

In yesterday’s reflection, I began to consider the implications claim in Lamentations 1:5: “Certainly the LORD caused [Judah’s] grief because of her many wrong acts.” I noted that Scripture teaches, in this verse and others, the unsettling truth that God does at times grieve us. But I strongly warned us not to start pronouncing judgment on others in light of this fact.

For one thing, we are on dangerous ground when we pronounce judgment on others as if we are free from guilt ourselves. If we read Jeremiah 1:5 out of context, it might sound as if the writer is standing back from the grief of Judah. Yet, the rest of the book makes it abundantly clear that the writer is sharing fully in the suffering of his people. He might just as well have written, “Certainly the LORD caused us grief because of our many wrong acts.”

This is part of what concerns me when Christian pundits purport to explain God’s judgment on others, while completely ignoring what God might be saying to them. Occasionally in Scripture God speaks through the prophets to judge the nations. But, in the vast majority of cases, the prophets pronounce judgment upon the people of which they are a part. They proclaim God’s judgment on us, not them.

These days, it’s easy to point pious fingers at the sins of others. Ironically, I do this most often when judging those who pronounce God’s judgment on others. Yet, I must ask myself how open I am to receiving God’s judgment on my sin and the sin of my people, the church. Am I willing to be admonished by God’s Word in Scripture? Am I open to the possibility that God is using painful things in my life to help me become more like him? More on this tomorrow.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Do you think God judges his people today? If so, how does judgment come? What might help you to be attentive to God’s words of admonishment? How can we avoid self-righteousness as Christians?

PRAYER: Just and holy God, I admit that sometimes I like to build myself up by considering the sins of others. I suppose I’m even tempted to take solace in the thought that you are judging them and not me. Forgive me, Lord, for my self-righteousness. Forgive me for my lack of compassion. Forgive me for my hard-heartedness.

Give me ears, Lord, to hear what you would say to me. Give me eyes to see your work in my life. Give me a heart ready for repentance.

All praise be to you, O God, because you are making me more and more like you, through Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. Amen.

And Jesus asked, “Do you love me?”

Psalm 26:1

        Vindicate me, O LORD,

   for I have walked in my integrity,

   and I have trusted in the LORD without wavering.

Do I really love God?

I held the Bible open and read, beginning with Psalm 27, going backwards to Psalm 26 and 25; and then returning to Psalm 26. I walked in athletic shoes, wore jeans, and a nice shirt as I circled the building, praying and lost in the Psalms on a beautiful Sunday morning before service. The blue sky and the varied yellows of the trees across the street gave every indication of fall except for the warmer temperatures. It should feel cold today. It’s in the seventies. My soul, however, feels too cerebral; cold, like a fall day threatening snow.

I’m always planning, scheming, and thinking outside the box. It’s in my nature to plan ahead, to be creative, but I can be very cerebral—head minus heart. It’s something I grew into in my twenties and something I shed in my thirties. I like balance, but today I feel off balance. A friend had confided in me how she questions her love for God. Sometimes, she doesn’t feel the words in a song and thinks singing them anyway is anything but worship. Psalm 26:1 spoke to me.

Have I walked in integrity? Have I trusted in Him unwaveringly? Have I truly loved Him?

We all make decisions in our life that don’t always align with God’s truth. We lie to ourselves and to each other and excuse it away by saying, “everyone does it.” Does that make lying okay? Does that make your choices right? Does that help or hinder your relationship with Christ? If you answered yes to any of these, you’re lying again.

I’d like to say I walk with integrity though I really don’t bandy around that word much. I feel like such a hypocrite when I say it. I line up the word integrity with God’s perfect truth. So I rewrote the verse to read:

“Vindicate me, O Lord, for I have (tried to) (walk)ed in my integrity and I have (tried to) (trust)ed in the Lord without wavering.” (Emphasis mine)

This is what prayer walks do to me when I have countless minutes to dwell on scripture. My feet are circling the building, praying for the service, the church, and I am not dressed in a dress or heels. I wear athletic shoes because I know I will walk much this morning for Him. I think hiking boots and athletic shoes portray God’s people better than high heels, like Jesus’ sandals. I think jeans and a nice shirt say to someone who has nothing nice to wear on Sunday that they are welcome. Christianity is more than an image.

I think if we are to wear the Christian label we should be ever conscious of it in our actions and words. We should not make excuses for our behavior, but work out our own Salvation by trying to live in integrity each day and walking on level ground (Psalm 26:12a); not because we live by the law, but because we love our Lord, Jesus Christ however imperfectly. So Lord, help me today to walk in integrity and trust You unwaveringly.  In Jesus Name, Amen.

Have you thought about your relationship with Jesus lately? Or do walk around on automatic doing everything because it’s become a tradition or something you swear an allegiance to? Or something you follow because everyone else is doing it?

The Chronicles of Church Fellowship: Corinne Crites

Testimony written by Corinne Crites

March 6 2011.

This was when I heard God speak. God originally spoke to me when I was just 5 years old. As a little girl being tucked into bed, I heard Gods voice. I asked my Mom “Do I sin?” She explained how we all sin, and how Jesus was sent to earth and died so we could be forgiven. God has been with me since that night when my Mom prayed with me, and I gave my life to Him.

However, trusting God in my “twenty-somethings” has been a struggle. I carried around burdens from my past and tried to control my life on my own instead of giving my cares to Jesus…until March 6, 2011. This was the day I chose to have faith like a child again. This was the day I listened to the God who had been trying to get my attention for years. This was the day I received his promise.

About 4 months prior to this, I began having health problems. I experienced pain throughout my body that was unexplained. Every x-ray and blood test result was normal. After 3 months of x-rays, tests, unsuccessful medications, and countless visits to the doctor’s office, I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. This was difficult to accept because Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain syndrome. Those who have it experience physical pain in muscles and tissues as well as many other symptoms that fluctuate. Symptoms can be managed with medications and therapy; however, there is no cure.

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18)

On March 6 2011, after years of ignoring the God who pursued me relentlessly, I heard God speak. He decided to give me a glimpse of His plan for me. God told me that I was not going to be healed anytime soon. I needed to accept His plan in my life even though it was physically painful. Through my faith, God promised he would transform my lukewarm relationship with Him into something alive and growing, and that He would make more of my life.

“For I know the plans I have for you, “declares the Lord, “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

Since that day, I have experienced freedom like never before. Fears and phobias that haunted me for years have disappeared. Each day that I trust Jesus, he blesses me with new joy and strength. I have had to change my lifestyle because of Fibromyalgia, and my health issues come and go, but my God is steadfast. There is freedom in Jesus Christ.

She recently told me how God is using her: “David Joannes from Within Reach Global is speaking at Prescott Life Church and I’m going to learn about foreign missions. I got to know David because he was a customer of mine at Starbucks. He and his wife Lorna are doing amazing things with a team of missionaries in Asia. I’m going to be helping them out soon with answering WRG e-mails and taking over the FB page, etc.. It’s one of the awesome opportunities God has given me lately to serve His purpose.

www.withinreachglobal.org is the website if you wanna check it out.

Corinne Crites attends FBC Prescott and has recently joined one of their Worship Environment Prayer Teams. She has graciously allowed me to share her testimony publicly. If you would like to submit a story for The Chronicles of Church Fellowship, please click here to read submission guidelines.

 

 

 

 

The World Did Not Implode

The world did not end today. It did not implode. The skies did not rain down fiery shots of rock to flatten the mountains. Today dawned brand new like every other day, but today I am 37-years old.

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” – Memory Verse, Philippians 1:6

I get up and work out. The coffee pot begins to drip filling the house with that scent. My heart prepares in excitement for Donna Goodrich’s all day workshop. The day begins a mystery. I don’t know what each hour will bring or whether it will live successful. Will I absorb the wisdom of someone so much farther in her writing career or will my eyes glaze and my mind become a useless rubbery form in my struggle to focus? A good Starbucks will keep the blood flowing all day. A good lunch will silence the hunger like good knowledge will feed the hungry soul who yearns to grow, always grow.

It’s my birthday and my life holds moments, some steeped in waters of regret, and others glad moments that shine above the others through the veil of tears and the smoke of anger. I am 37-years old today and I feel as if I was just born eight years ago; still feeling so young and yet old, too from the experiences of my past. What could I possibly wish for in this life at 37-years old? More things? A larger house? A New York Times Best Seller manuscript? Always the word ‘more’ haunts our steps, mixes in our tears, and fills in the gaps of boredom; we’re always searching for ‘more’ and not one of our ‘more’ wishes include more God.

What is there in me that could be hidden from you, Lord, to whose eyes the abysses of man’s conscience are naked, even if I were unwilling to confess it to you? In doing so I would only hide you from myself, not myself from you. But now that my groaning is witness to the fact that I am dissatisfied with myself, you shine forth and satisfy. You are beloved and desired, so that I blush for myself and renounce myself and choose you, for I can neither please you not myself except in you.” -Augustine of Hippo, “Confessions,” From Prayer and Contemplation of From The Library of A.W. Tozer, Selections from Writers Who Influenced His Spiritual Journey, by James Stuart Bell

The peace of the morning light fills the empty places of my home like the peace of God filling those empty places in my soul. I get out my Bible and open it to something that I have read before in the Book of Esther:

When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” – Esther 4:12-14

God has a purpose for my life. I wasn’t born 37-years ago to live life as some people see me—a burden, a screw-up, a loser, someone who could not live through their dreams, or a by-product of a bad relationship. He separated me from them by cutting the ties that kept me back from fully living. Doubts once filled in my steps like ocean water in a freshly dug hole; or like the waves that always retreat. I will never retreat. I will never quit. I will never again think of me as a loser or a screw-up. I will never believe the lies again because Someone thought I was worth dying for on a cross.

And I call Him Christ.

I call Him Father.

I call Him Friend.

I call Him Dad.

Just because they call your life less-than, purposeless, and people tell you that you are a loser or a screw-up, it doesn’t mean they tell the truth. I once thought I was drowning. I could see the light gleaming on the surface of this great ocean of anger, grief, and confusion and tried to kick upward to break the surface and take in great gulps of air. The others held me down drowning me. They were like islands of seaweed in the ocean. The only one who dived in and wrapped His arm around my waist was Jesus. As I broke the surface I breathed in air and saw land in the distance. A struggle doesn’t last long and in the longsuffering comes redemption, joy, and love and a deeper relationship with Christ who saved me.

The world did not end today. I didn’t believe it would because not one of us knows the hour or the day according to scripture. I get another chance to love better. I get another chance to believe deeper. I get another chance to soak in the morning sunlight on my favorite chair. I get another chance to touch the lives around me and to be touched. I am 37-years old and tomorrow holds great promise.

 Describe your trials. How did you allow Jesus to help you to overcome them? What did you get out of that harsh time in your life?