A Vision of Death

There is little that we know about death other than it will come.  And it will come.  We also have little control over our death, other than we may hasten it if we so choose or we may labor to live longer through nutrition and exercise.  But what comes after our last breath gives us concern.  Is death the end?  Or is it the beginning of a new life?  Do we stop thinking?  Or do we start thinking differently?

Certainly, during life, we have our senses to entertain us.  We watch television and movies.  We listen to music on the radio or on our i-Pods or i-phones.  We enjoy lobster and steak.  We sniff flowers.  We stroke the soft hair of our favorite dog.

Let me admit right up front that I don’t know what will happen after death.  Nobody does.  There are many who will tell you that they have faith that certain things will happen.  But the truth is they don’t know either. 

But don’t dismiss faith just because you can’t prove the belief is true.  Faith, by definition, is a belief that something is true, not that you can prove that it is true.  Faith may be all that you can take to death’s door.  You may leave your senses behind and still be thinking.  Of course, if you are not thinking after death, then this entire discussion is moot.  Death is the end.  Nothing matters at that point.  Faith would be irrelevant.  But if you are still thinking after death without your senses to entertain you, you will be locked into your thoughts, which may not be a good thing.

Sensory deprivation is a known form of torture.  Without our senses, our minds wander through nightmarish territory with no boundaries on where our thoughts may carry us.  If you fear heights, you can expect to transport yourself to the highest points, teetering over a precipice.  If you are claustrophobic, you can expect that you will be thinking about being squeezed into a tight compartment with no way out.  You will be your own worst enemy and create your own hell for as long as you are thinking, which could be an eternity.

So, if you are still thinking after death, you better have faith… in something.  And it better be a powerful, unshakeable faith.  Only through faith can you withstand the chaos that might await you if you are still thinking after death.

One of the most interesting faiths to me is Christianity because it covers all the bases.  If you truly believe in Jesus as your savior, then if you are still thinking after death, you will not only see Jesus, but your sins will be forgiven.  You will not be thinking about the bad things that you did during life.  You will not be thinking about your phobias.  You will only be thinking about Jesus, who will lead you to your new life after death.

Jesus explained this process in John 3:3-21.  Jesus stated, “… no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”  He explained this by comparing being born again of the Spirit to being like the wind blowing wherever it pleases.  He continued, “You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.”

Jesus may have been describing the portal to death where only the spirit, which is like a wind, can carry you into a new kingdom.  We must allow the wind or Spirit to carry us to its destination, not ours.  God’s will be done, not ours.  We must let our rebellious spirit stay behind in our prior world and allow the Spirit to move us through a narrow passage way into the new world.  It would be like being born again, but not into the human world from whence we came, but into the Spirit world where we can’t detect its origin or destination.  You can only provide the faith to the Spirit that transports you into the kingdom of God.  Without both faith and the Spirit, you cannot be born again.

The faith of little children far surpasses my insignificant faith, which is clouded by my experiences of deception and lies in the human world.  And others are like me… confused by the negativity that clouds our hearts, hiding the disappointments of life that can also weaken our faith. 

How can we have faith in Jesus, who will lead us to God’s kingdom, if we don’t have complete trust in Him?  How can we have complete trust if we are attempting to do this just to avoid sensory deprivation or hell itself?  How can we have complete trust if we never had met Jesus before?  How can we trust this person because everybody we met in our world was trying to get something for themselves? 

Does Jesus have an agenda?  Yes, but His agenda is only to help us squeeze through the narrow portal to the kingdom of God.  We must accept His kindness and generosity and unconditional love, which does not come from our world;  it comes from His.  Only those who are born again can understand and receive this gift.  

We must be born again to better prepare for our certain death .  Once our faith has merged with the Spirit, we can talk to Jesus and get to know Him before death, so we will trust Him completely and follow Him to the new kingdom.  Many people say that they are born again, but these are merely words.  The average person, who goes to church, prays to God with ritualistic words, tries to be a good person by doing good deeds, and reads the Bible, is not going to have any better chance of reaching God’s kingdom than a murderer.  

The last comment goes against the grain of religion.  I must be a madman to make such a comment.  Yet, it is my vision of death on Judgment Day.  It’s not your deeds that are measured on this day.  It’s not your attendance at church that determines whether you make the grade.  It’s not the scales of judgment in our world that apply.  It’s not a preponderance of good in your heart.  It’s truly a pass-fail test. 

You must enter a new world, where you must completely turn your thoughts over to Jesus.  You must stop driving the car and turn the wheel over to Jesus.  Can you do that?  That requires a trust that you may not have.  That requires a relationship with Jesus that you must develop during your life.  You must develop and nurture that trust before you die or it will not be sufficient.

Even though this is my vision.  The Bible supports much of the vision.  Jesus reminded us of the difficulty in this journey in Matthew 7:14 when He said, “But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”  Jesus taught us in the Beatitudes that we must purify our thoughts along with our actions.  This was because our thoughts will be our actions in the next life.  Only those with pure thoughts and powerful faith will reach the kingdom of God.

So, if I believe that sensory deprivation is the hell that awaits the non-believers… the ones who do not have a strong enough faith to weather the tornadoes of chaos that would separate them from their beliefs, am I believing in something fictional just to avoid chaos?  Good question.

The answer may surprise you.  Even though I believe that sensory deprivation is the source of hell, I separate that from God’s kingdom.  Life without God makes no sense to me.  In fact, life would be quite absurd without God.  All the beauty of creation in life… DNA, complex systems like eyes, the unlikely marriage of relativity and quantum mechanics… points directly to a creator.  The fact that it is beyond our comprehension also points to a creator.

And what better test for us to endure than to be given free will to make decisions during our short stay on earth?  And these decisions are made without a visible judge.  God is invisible to us, so many will make poor decisions based on what is best for them personally.  There is no better test of your ethics than to examine the decisions you made when you thought nobody was looking.

It is a brave new world in God’s kingdom.  But it requires much more than we can even imagine to enter this new world.  Since we know nothing about it, we have to place ourselves in the hands of Jesus to take us there.  We cannot even imagine the kingdom of God because we have nothing to compare it to on earth. We have no ability to create it in our thoughts, so we have to give it to God or we will never reach it.  And this requires us to place our heart and soul at the feet of Jesus, trusting Him no matter what happens next.  And we can expect surprises on Judgment Day that will test our faith and the Spirit.  But we must not fail.  Because failure will be hell.        

Do You Want to Live Forever?

 

If you had an option to be immortal and live forever or to be mortal and die, which would you choose?

It’s not a simple answer, but I believe if you thought about all the possibilities, you would select being mortal over immortal.  This is why:  your chances of losing your eyesight, loss of limbs, or any number of injuries would be inevitable over an infinite number of years of living.  You also would certainly develop multiple cancers, a skin-eating disorder, bubonic plague, heart disease, and emphysema.  These are just a few of your ailments that would certainly mount up over eternity.  You would be challenged to differentiate this scenario with hell, itself.  Eternity in this world or the next would be hell.

So, now that you realize that you were lucky to only live temporarily, what do you do with your life?  Is it important for you to be better than most of the others on the earth?  Is it important to have more money or a better house or car?  Or is it more important to make the world a better place? 

You have to start with your importance, which is insignificant.  You don’t matter.  Your temporal life is only important for the small role you can play in making the world better.  You should not even worry about how much longer you will live.  It doesn’t matter.  Your life is only important if it steadily progresses toward a goal of making things better for others.  You will reach your goal by continuous movement toward the goal, because even if you die tomorrow, you will have made the world a better place.

Religion is important for the mortality of life because it provides the discipline and morals that you will need to maintain your focus on making things better for others.  Christianity taught the “Golden Rule” of doing to others as you would have them do unto you.  As a religious follower, you will want to make the world better for your progeny and those who follow behind you, just like you wanted others to do for you.  You will do this because Jesus taught you to love your neighbor.

Religion is more important for immortality of death.  If you die and are still thinking, then you better have a plan because thinking for eternity would be hell.  As bad as living for an eternity would be, thinking for an eternity would be much worse.  Your mind would rush off into nightmares that you couldn’t control.  And that would happen within the first few minutes.  What would you think about for eternity?  Believe me, you better have religion.

And believing in God just for your benefit does not work.  You must believe in God because you do believe in God, not because you want to believe in something.  Believing in God must be honest and truthful.  You cannot call on God because you want to hold onto something after death.  Your belief in God must be genuine and very powerful in order to withstand the horrible chaos that awaits you on the other side.  Many who go to church every Sunday will fail this test.  Only a few will have this powerful belief that will carry them through eternity.    

Ethics for Unethical People

This subject title may seem a little strange initially, but after you think about it, it should start to make sense.  Ethical people may need to examine their values and polish them occasionally, but as a general rule, they do not need training in ethics.  Of course, it does not hurt those who attempt to do the right thing to become further emboldened by like-kind citizens who espouse actions following the tenets of integrity above all else, including life and power and riches.  But the individuals who really need ethics training are those who are unethical.  To them, self enrichment and empowerment are more important than ethical values. 

Many years ago, a lady was approached by a needy gentleman, who offered her $2.00 to spend the night with him.  The lady, greatly offended, told him that she was not that kind of a person.  He would find the prostitutes up the street several blocks away.  He stroked his gray beard and then offered her a million dollars to have sex with him that evening.  Her eyes lit up and she said, “Why, sure.  There’s a hotel we can use on the next block.”  The man reflected further and said, “Well, now that we know what you are, we just need to negotiate the price.”

We all would like to think that we are ethical people.  If you polled thousands of people off the street, over 80% of them would tell you that they were ethical most of the time.  This really translates to their ethical values are only tested about 20% of the time.  Over the course of a normal day, you are busy handling common problems, most of which do not involve testing your ethical values. 

But the truth is that most of us are like the lady who was insulted with a small temptation to show her true unethical leanings.  The reality is that the majority of people are unethical when it comes to dealing with tremendous temptations to do the wrong thing or significant consequences for doing the right thing.  We are drawn to the million dollars like a bug to a bug zapper.  We will take the least painful path even if it means doing something bad.  How many people would rather die of starvation rather than stealing from a farmer’s field?  And even more, how many people would let their child die of starvation rather than stealing from the farmer?

So, who should receive ethics training more:  the ethical student or the unethical student?  I think the answer should be clear.  There is much less value in training somebody who is already ethical to be ethical than in schooling somebody who is unethical.  The degree of difficulty is certainly greater in reaching an unethical person, but successful results are so much more gratifying.

How do you reach and teach an unethical person to turn them from the dark side to doing the right thing when nobody is looking?  Well, it starts with a cost-benefit analysis.  When an unethical person is caught doing the wrong thing, there are consequences because our society pretends that unethical people are in the minority.  Rules and laws are imposed in society because without them, we would clearly see that the majority of people are unethical.  The majority would take care of themselves even if their actions hurt others.  The laws are written to provide punishments that hopefully will deter the selfish mean spirits in our world. 

As society’s legal system breaks down, so that criminals are optimistic: (1) that they will not be discovered, (2) but even if they are found, there will not be sufficient evidence to make a case against them, (3) but even if a case is made, they can have it overturned on appeal, (4) but even if it is not overturned, they will obtain a reduced sentence or will be paroled, and (5) even if they serve their full sentence, they will meet some like-minded people who can assist them with their continued life of crime.

So ethics training is for unethical people and it starts with consequences.  For example, a greedy corporate officer may looks for unethical ways to make more money, but he knows that if he is caught, it will end his career with the company and he would lose his “golden parachute.”  He knows that there are also ethical ways to make more money and there is no risk of jail time.  The Mafia has moved from unethical practices to legitimate business tactics, following the law.  Having a corporate culture that emphasizes core values like integrity and honesty is becoming the thing to do because it makes for profits from other companies that want to do business with you and from customers who are comfortable doing business with an honest company.  It is similar to “going green” on environmental issues because it actually is more profitable and is less risky than violating environmental laws.