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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Where Else Can We Go?

An old adage contains a lot of wisdom--"He who stands for nothing will fall for anything."

In many ways people in our society are proving the point.

It is said that interest in spirituality is at an all time high in America. Yet interest in the Church is at an all time low. The interest of Americans in spirituality is not being channeled into traditional forms of religious expression but in a myriad of 'new age' concepts, Eastern religions, cults, and a combination or hodge podge of different beliefs put together into an individualized system.

Some of this is not necessarily bad. There are certain spiritual concepts that are true across the board in a variety of faith groups. And it is certainly true that when viewed from an allegorical point of view, the concepts of the Christian gospel are applicable across the board within the belief system of a variety of faith groups, including those based on 'new age' teaching.

But there is also a pitfall inherent in this scenario. Without a foundation, without a solid platform or template based upon certain undeniable, timeless truths, then the venture into a nebulous, generalized 'spirituality' is doomed to failure.

People have always had doubts about the truth or validity of their faith tenets. They did so in Jesus' day. On one occasion John the Baptist sent a envoy to Jesus to ask, "Are you the Chosen One, the Messiah. or shall we look for another?"

John asked this question even after he had baptized Jesus and referred to Him as "the One who sandals I am not worthy to tie," and "the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world."

On another occasion Jesus put a direct question to His disciples when many who had begun to follow Him turned and walked away, "Will you also go away?"

Peter then answered Jesus by saying, "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life." (John 6: 66-69).

Dr. George W. Crane, famous psychiatrist and writer from the 20th century, once stated that we can ascertain truth by looking at history--whatever has been proved to be true for the most people for the longest period of time is a safe bet when it comes to truth.

The principles of the Judeo-Christian worldview have withstood the test of time. Going back into ancient epochs of history, the Hebrews, ancestors to modern Jews, discovered truths that when put to the test have proved themselves time and again. It is out of this worldview that Christianity developed.

A point to ponder--Christian truths have their basis in concepts that have been proved going all the way back into antiquity, at least 4000 years ago. I would think it more prudent and logical to trust the veracity of those truths than to base one's life recklessly on concepts that are so new as to be untested, untried, and therefore unworthy of our confidence.

Peter had it right when Jesus asked him, "Will you also walk away?"

Where else shall we go?

Saturday, February 4, 2012

All Dogs Go to Heaven

Several years ago a movie was released with the title displayed above, "All Dogs Go to Heaven."

When it first hit the movie theaters it immediately caught my eye because it resonated with something deep inside my spirit. And that is what I wish to talk about briefly today.

Through the years many people, too many to count, have approached me asking, "Chaplain, do you think animals go to heaven? Will we see our beloved pets again?"

I remember one lady asking me that question as I walked across the campus of a hospital system where I once worked. She had been in one of my classes for those in recovery from various emotional illnesses, including addictions.

Without thinking I simply blurted out what was in my mind at the time--"I sure hope so. It wouldn't be heaven if my beloved dog were not there."

Later I had some regret for saying that, because, frankly, Jesus Christ is what makes heaven a place of pure joy and peace. It wouldn't be heaven were HE not there!

But at the same time, I do think that in the scheme of things, the way heaven is described in the Bible, dogs and other pets would seem to be a perfect fit. I mean, why not?

Many Christians have historically debunked such a notion due to the fact that, in their view, animals do not have souls, and therefore, without a soul an entity cannot go to heaven.

How do we know for sure, though, that a dog has no soul? Is there a statement in the Bible that even remotely suggests such a thing? And where in the Bible does it state that having a soul is a requirement for getting into heaven?

The answer in both cases is that there is no such statement in the Bible.

"But," they object, "An animal does not have a will to choose and therefore cannot willfully choose to be a servant of God, a disciple of Christ."

Neither do infants. Yet we all assume that infants who die infancy are safe in the arms of the Heavenly Father. Why would it be any different for a dog?

In the Bible we find all sorts of wonderful descriptions and imagery that attempt to capture the essence of what heaven is like. We are told it is a land flowing with milk and honey, that there are streets of gold and walls of jasper, and mansions that have been built just for us, not to mention a place where we will be reunited with our loved ones who have gone before us.

These things do not make heaven heaven, however. Heaven is where God is in His essence, the holy light of the universe. And that is what heaven is in its essence. But these other things simply make it better.

Heaven would still be heaven even if our pets were not part of it. We would never miss them. Why? Because we will be too busy basking in the complete joy of the presence of Jesus.

However, it is my opinion that lots of things are provided in heaven that make it better for us humans who have spend our conscious life in this earthly home. Being able to be reunited with a beloved pet would be icing on the cake.

Thus, while I cannot point to any Biblical proof that this is true, there is also nothing in the Bible that teaches against it. It is a matter of speculation. And it is my opinion, after much speculation, that our dogs, cats, and other precious pets are a part of what God has prepared in that place in the great beyond.

After all, He made them. Why, then, would He discard them?

(Dedicated to the memory of my beloved dog Bo, who showed me more about the love of Christ than most humans!).