John 11:25 Heaven is for Real, movie claims

Today’s post was written by and used with permission from Rusty Wright.
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The kid says he sat in Jesus’ lap. In heaven.

And that angels sang Sunday School songs. He asked them to sing “We Will, We Will Rock You,” but they declined.

Colton Burpo, age 3, had a near-death experience (NDE) during a 2003 emergency appendectomy. He claims he rose above his body and saw the doctor working on him, his parents each praying in separate rooms, and his mother speaking on the phone.

Astounded parents

Four months after surgery, Colton told this to his astounded parents, Todd and Sonja. Todd affirms, “There was no way he could have known” some of it. “We had not told him what we were doing while he was in surgery, under anesthesia, apparently unconscious.”

The Burpos’ gripping story became a bestselling book, Heaven is for Real, and now a film opening in the US April 16. Randall Wallace (Braveheart, Secretariat) co-wrote and directed the TriStar production.

Meeting his unborn sister

About seven months post-surgery, Colton said, “Mommy … you had a baby die in your tummy, didn’t you?” Todd and Sonja had never told him about the miscarriage preceding his conception. Colton said his unborn sister – whom he met in heaven – was eager to meet her parents there.

Colton said in heaven he also met his great grandfather “Pop,” who died in 1976. Though he didn’t seem to recognize Pop from an age-61 photo, he later identified age-29 Pop in another photo. “Nobody’s old in heaven,” Colton explains.

Legitimate experience?

I have longtime personal and professional interest in NDEs. My late mother had one. I’ve written, lectured extensively, and broadcast about them. Was Colton’s experience legitimate?

Physiological NDE explanations consider factors like head trauma and oxygen deficiency. Pharmacological theories posit drugs or anesthetics. Psychological explanations propose defense mechanisms, wish fulfillment, misinterpretation. Spiritual explanations see NDEs as afterlife previews, either genuine or distorted. Applications of these theories can be complex.

Certainly Colton had anesthesia. And his church upbringing – Todd’s a pastor – could have planted mental images that influenced his interpretations.

Careful method?

But Todd feels Colton had no previous exposure for some of his reported visions. Todd and Sonja carefully asked Colton mostly open-ended questions – not leading ones – to minimize bias.

Todd told me that, not anticipating writing a book, he and Sonja didn’t write down Colton’s 2003 NDE accounts back then. The book released in 2010. Memories, of course, can shift over time.

It’s difficult to dismiss Colton’s accurate account of his parents’ whereabouts during his operation. Alas, we don’t have a mind/spirit-reading machine to validate NDE accounts. And anyway, these events usually aren’t controlled clinical situations; they’re medical emergencies.

Is there life after death?

Can we know if there’s life after death? As somewhat of a skeptic, I concluded there is, not based on NDEs but on evidence for Jesus’ resurrection. He predicted his own death and return to life, and then it happened. This gives me confidence to believe his claim, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.”

Heaven is for Real is an entertaining book and film that engages heart, mind and spirit. Both portray this ordinary family coping with life’s daily challenges, plus – they feel – a supernatural encounter. You may not agree with every detail; I still have questions. But I predict their story will get you thinking. And if you’ve ever been confused about life or angry with God, you’ll find passionate – and compassionate – kindred spirits.

Colton Burpo remains a regular kid, now a teenager. He attends school, plays sports, and has normal sibling relationships. During family brainstorming for the book’s title, his sister Cassie suggested He’s Back, but He’s No Angel.

Is heaven for real? Absolutely. Did Colton Burpo see heaven? Perhaps; maybe even likely. But can we really be sure heaven exists? For ultimate confidence, my money’s on the one who predicted his own resurrection, then pulled it off.
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Rusty Wright is an author and lecturer who has spoken on six continents. He holds Bachelor of Science (psychology) and Master of Theology degrees from Duke and Oxford universities, respectively. www.RustyWright.com
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Rated PG (USA) for “thematic material including some medical situations”

II Corinthians 5:17 An Easter Bunny – and an Easter Story – Worth Remembering

Today’s post was written by Rusty Wright.
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You’ve probably seen Santa Claus; but have you ever seen the Easter Bunny?

As a small child, I enjoyed visiting Santa at a local department store at Christmastime. My parents would take me downtown to the jolly bearded man in the red suit. I felt comfortable climbing into his lap, telling him my wish list and receiving a gift along with his encouraging words. He was friendly, predictable and safe.

Imagine my excitement when one Spring I learned that the Easter Bunny would be at the same department store. Neither my family nor I had ever seen the Easter Bunny. I had seen white rabbits. Those cute, cuddly little bunnies seemed so warm and innocent. I looked forward for some time to seeing the real Easter Bunny.

Finally, the big day came. My father took me to the store that afternoon. When we reached the Bunny’s floor, I was shocked. Before me was a human-sized hare with big eyes and large, floppy ears. The creature walked on two legs like a human. He talked.

The more clearly I saw him as I approached him, the more slowly I walked. I would not get close to the furry beast. He wanted to give me a gift, but I was not cooperating. “Just throw it to me,” I suggested. He tossed his present across the room, Frisbee-style.

Much as I was confused about the Easter Bunny, many folks are confused about the meaning of Easter itself. For some, it means new clothes and a chance to show them off. Others focus on eggs, candy and special meals. Spring Break is a highlight of the season. The beach beckons and relaxing on the sand or reveling at parties defines the holiday.

Easter is also billed as a time of renewal. It may be relatively easy to renew things outwardly — new clothes, a hairstyle, a fancy party. Renewal on the inside can be more difficult. Problems from the past can haunt one’s memory. Broken relationships undermine self-esteem. Guilt over missed opportunities, pain from rejection, loneliness and anger from past hurts can sometimes create a swirling inner vortex, a psychological suction from which escape is difficult.

Where does one find inner renewal? Some look to friends or family. Counselors and self-help books provide coping skills. But maybe a look at the first Easter could also offer some clues.

Nearly two millennia ago, a young Jewish leader fell into disfavor with established authorities. He was executed, declared dead, wrapped up like a mummy and placed in a tomb. A large stone was rolled against the tomb’s entrance and an elite unit of Roman soldiers guarded the tomb against grave robbers.

Two days later, the stone was rolled away and the tomb was empty, but the grave clothes were still in place. The man’s closest followers, most of whom had abandoned him during his trials, reported seeing him alive again. Many later died horrible deaths for telling people that their leader had risen from the dead.

They had been transformed from the inside and it affected every facet of their lives, giving them inner strength, freedom from guilt, love for their enemies, and boldness to stand for what they believed was right. “If anyone is in Christ,” wrote one early believer, “he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (II Corinthians 5:17)

Sometimes life’s challenges can seem as scary as that huge hare seemed to me when I was a child. We don’t want to get near them. Yet that first Easter still offers hope. Maybe if Jesus really did come back from the dead, then people today can find inner renewal by knowing him personally.

As we enjoy eggs and rabbits this Spring, might that be a message worth pondering?
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Rusty Wright is an author and lecturer who has spoken on six continents. He holds Bachelor of Science (psychology) and Master of Theology degrees from Duke and Oxford universities, respectively. www.RustyWright.com

I Corinthians 15:3-6 Jesus’ Resurrection: Fact or Fiction?

Today’s post was written by Rusty Wright.
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At Easter, some might wonder what all the fuss is about. Who cares? What difference does it make if Jesus rose from the dead?

It makes all the difference in the world. If Christ did not rise, then thousands of believers have died as martyrs for a hoax.

If he did rise, then he is still alive and can offer peace to troubled, hurting lives.

Countless scholars–among them the apostle Paul, Augustine, Sir Isaac Newton and C.S. Lewis–believed in the resurrection. We need not fear committing intellectual suicide by believing it also. Where do the facts lead?

Paul, a first-century skeptic-turned believer, wrote that “Christ died for our sins…he was buried…he was raised on the third day…he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve (Disciples). After that, he appeared to more than five hundred…at the same time, most of whom are still living.” (I Corinthians 15:3-6) Consider four pieces of evidence:

1. The explosive growth of the Christian movement. Within a few weeks after Jesus was crucified, a movement arose which, by the later admission of its enemies, “upset the world.” What happened to ignite this movement shortly after its leader had been executed?

2. The Disciples’ changed lives. After Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion, most of the Disciples fled in fear. Peter denied three times that he was a follower of Jesus. (The women were braver and stayed to the end.) Yet ten out of the eleven Disciples (Judas committed suicide) were martyred for their faith. According to traditions, Peter was crucified upside down; Thomas was skewered; John was boiled in oil but survived. What turned these cowards into heroes? Each believed he had seen Jesus alive again.

3. The empty tomb. Jesus’ corpse was removed from the cross, wrapped like a mummy and placed in a solid-rock tomb. A one-and-a-half to two-ton stone was rolled into a slightly depressed groove to seal the tomb’s entrance.

A “Green Beret”-like unit of Roman soldiers guarded the grave. Sunday morning, the stone was found rolled away, the body was gone but the graveclothes were still in place. What happened?

Did Christ’s friends steal the body? Perhaps one of the women sweet-talked (karate-chopped?) the guards while the others moved the stone and tiptoed off with the body. Or maybe Peter (remember his bravery) or Thomas (Doubting Thomas) overpowered the guards, stole the body, then fabricated–and died for–a resurrection myth.

These theories hardly seem plausible. The guard was too powerful, the stone too heavy and the disciples too spineless to attempt such a feat.

Did Christ’s enemies steal the body? If Romans or Jewish religious leaders had the body, surely they would have exposed it publicly and Christianity would have died out. They didn’t, and it didn’t.

The “Swoon Theory” supposes that Jesus didn’t really die but was only unconscious. The expert Roman executioners merely thought he was dead. After a few days in the tomb without food or medicine, the cool air revived him.

He burst from the 100 pounds of graveclothes, rolled away the stone with his nail-pierced hands, scared the daylights out of the Roman soldiers, walked miles on wounded feet and convinced his Disciples he’d been raised from the dead. This one is harder to believe than the resurrection itself.

4. The appearances of the risen Christ. For 40 days after his death, many different people said they saw Jesus alive. Witnesses included a woman, a shrewd tax collector, several fishermen and over 500 people at once. These claims provide further eyewitness testimony for the resurrection.

As a skeptic, I realized that attempts to explain away the evidences run into a brick wall of facts that point to one conclusion: Christ is risen.

The above does not constitute an exhaustive proof, rather a reasoned examination of the evidence. Each interested person should evaluate the evidence and decide if it makes sense. Of course, the truth or falsity of the resurrection is a matter of historical fact and is not dependent on anyone’s belief. If the facts support the claim, one can conclude that he arose. In any case, mere intellectual assent to the facts does little for one’s life.

A major evidence comes experientially, in personally receiving Jesus’ free gift of forgiveness. He said, “I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him (or her).” (Revelation 3:20)

Worth considering?
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Rusty Wright is an author and lecturer who has spoken on six continents. He holds Bachelor of Science (psychology) and Master of Theology degrees from Duke and Oxford universities, respectively. www.RustyWright.com