Sleep: The Practice of Death and Alternative Reality

Have you ever considered the fact that every time we go to sleep, we are in a sense, dead to the world? I mean, think about it: When we are asleep, we are not aware of anything that is happening around us, and life as we know it, goes on without us! When we are asleep, we do not participate in any of the activities or functions of people who are awake! When we are asleep, we are totally unaware of the world around us. So, in a sense, when we are asleep; we are dead!

However, during sleep, while we may be ‘dead to the world,’ we are by no means in a state of total unconsciousness! The medical community says we don’t go to sleep without dreaming. I read one report that said everyone is thought to dream 3 to 6 dreams each night with each dream lasting from 5 to 20 minutes! The report also said that about 95 percent of the dreams are forgotten by the time a person gets out of bed and that dreaming can help a person learn and develop long-term memories.

Think about it! Not only are we dead to the world every time we go to sleep, but also, every time we go to sleep, we participate in and experience an alternate reality! Yes! We participate and experience! The report said; we don’t remember 95 percent of our dreams, but the 5 percent we do remember often have a lingering effect upon us after we wake up! Have you ever had a dream that you were falling and you woke up in a cold sweat; screaming and clutching the sheets? If you were not alone, someone probably assured you that everything was all right and that you should go back to sleep because it was ‘only a dream.’ But when you were experiencing it, it didn’t ‘feel’ like it was ‘only a dream’ to you! It wasn’t like you were in a movie theater or just watching television. No! You weren’t merely watching it; you were experiencing it! You were an active participant! You had stake in how things turned out; so much so that your body reacted in the same way it would if you actually had that experience during your conscious waking hours!

Now, I don’t know about you, but in the dreams I remember, I was always able to do things I could not possibly do in my waking conscious state. For instance, in one particular dream, I was able to move from one location to another in a matter of seconds by just thinking! I was able to fly and do other things that were physically impossible to do in my conscious state. The weird thing about it was that in my dreams, I didn’t think of those things as impossibilities, they were normal, because in my dreams, I was actually doing them!

Now before you brand me as a heretic or as being unstable, I’m qualifying what I’m about to say as just musing. But what if the lyrics of the song: “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” are more true than we realize? What if this life, as we consciously experience it for 70 years or so, is merely ‘but a dream?’ What if, when we close our eyes for the final time and experience physical death, at that point ,we wake up to real life and discover this life was but a dream? Only time will tell, because those who have actually experience it don’t come back to tell; it’s a one-way journey! But in the meantime, every night and every time we go to sleep; we are practicing death and experiencing alternative realities.

Please! Don’t Take Me With You!

I am deeply disturbed by the recent rash of murder-suicides happening all around the country with couples. I am trying to wrap my head around it. The whole situation is senseless!

I mean, if you kill that person in a fit of jealous rage, that only proves that you really didn’t love them in the first place and that the relationship was all about you, because real love doesn’t hurt!

So, you kill them, cause untold grief and despair for everyone involved, ruin your life and then go to jail, just to prove you are not to be played? That doesn’t seem very smart to me! Especially when you consider how many other people there are in the world; surely there is someone else you could find happiness with.

And then there are those who kill their lover and then turn around and kill themselves! I mean; what’s the point? If you killed them because you couldn’t stand the idea of them being with someone else, why not just kill yourself first? That would serve the same purpose.

Now before anybody thinks that I am suggesting murder or that people should commit suicide before they murder someone, I am not! I’m just thinking out loud, trying to make sense out of a senseless situation.

But, I will say this: If you are troubled and contemplating such irrational actions as I have just described, find someone to talk to! I can assure you that murder and suicide are never viable options! If you are angry and upset that they left you or cheated on you, your best revenge is to go on with your life and be happy! Whatever you’re going through, remember that you’re just going through; it won’t last! It’s only temporary! That is why murder and suicide are so tragic; murder and suicide are permanent solutions to temporary problems

In times like these, we need to be there for one another! If someone comes to you with a situation, most of the time, they already know what they need to do, they just need someone to listen. Please be a good listener and a good friend. Don’t betray their trust in you and don’t abuse their confidence in you.

Let’s look out for one another! Murder and suicide are never viable options; but love always is! 

 

Some Thoughts on the Death of Bishop Eddie Long

michael-harrisThe following is a “guest post” from Michael Clayton Harris, M. Div. Harris is a graduate of Emory University’s Candler School of Theology and pastor of the Acts of Faith Baptist Church in Stone Mountain, GA. He is also the son of the Rev. Dr. Michael Neely Harris, the recently retired pastor of the historic Wheat Street Baptist Church of Atlanta, GA.

This is a reflection by Pastor Harris concerning reactions to the death of Bishop Eddie L. Long, pastor of the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church of Lithonia, GA taken from his FaceBook page with permission:

“I tried to avoid writing this but I just couldn’t sleep on it so here it goes. It’s a shame that people are so heartless and hateful that they would vilify Bishop Eddie Long on the day that he died because of his alleged past indiscretions. Additionally, it’s very important in thought plus spirituality to have the mindset that if you prayed for Eddie Long while he was sick and now pray for his family and church family now that he has passed, then that suddenly means you have no compassion and have stopped praying for the young men who were the plaintiffs in the highly publicized scandal.

I must admit, I’m livid by how people can attack the deceased and have no respect for at least the loved ones of the deceased. I guess Eddie Long’s family deserves hearing him or reading about him be crucified on the day of his death even though they didn’t have anything to do with his alleged actions? As people talk about the victims whose lives have been forever changed mentally, emotionally, and let’s not forget financially (since they settled the case out of court allegedly for millions of dollars), where’s the deep compassionate talk for his widow and his children whose lives have forever been changed because of the scandal being publicized, plus the hurt & shame they have encountered because of the alleged actions of their loved one, plus the hurt & pain they have experienced through watching their loved one’s sickness and now dealing with their death? I guess they deserve whatever comes their way because of being related to someone who allegedly committed such a heinous act? I guess praying for family members whose lives have also been forever changed not because of what they’ve done shows support for Bishop Long’s alleged actions as well? I guess the family members don’t have to wrestle with anything like the alleged victims?

I highlight this side because I’ve seen first-hand on year before last the damage from the scandal that has been done to one of his children who in a public setting was very anti-social and insecure because of the fear of not knowing what other people felt or thought about them because of the alleged actions of their father which were made public. Imagine trying to live your life in the shadow of one of your family members indiscretions for the rest of your life? Imagine hearing people pull out all of your deceased loved ones baggage and skeletons in the closet as you begin to mourn your loved one’s death? Would you be cool with that? Should there not be any prayer and compassion given to a family member whose innocent from any wrong doing but forever will live under the dark cloud of a family member’s indiscretion for the rest of their life? FYI, if you haven’t discerned there are way more victims in this whole matter than just the young men.

May God grant #BishopEddieLong‘s family & the #NewBirth Church family a double portion of His love, peace, comfort, strength, & healing! May God bestow upon some people more love and compassion to respect the deceased and their family members as they grieve, in Jesus name!”

Thanks to Pastor Harris for his prolific insights and for allowing the reproduction of his thoughts on this page. Your comments are welcomed.

All Dogs ‘Don’t’ Go To Heaven

all dogsIn an age of political correctness and moral inclusiveness, talk of the concept of Hell is passé and distasteful, even in the church and in religious circles. It seems that there is a prevailing belief today that it does not matter what is done in life or what type of life one may live, when one dies; there is an automatic admission into Heaven. In other words, the prevailing belief is that all dogs go to Heaven!

I was confronted with this common belief that everyone goes to Heaven when they die when I viewed a Facebook posting not too long ago. It was a memorial posting in memory of someone who had been murdered, who during their life-time, was a known drug-dealer and gang-banger. I would have passed the post up were it not for the artistic rendition of the deceased drug-dealer, hovering in the clouds with angel-wings and a gold chain around his neck! Among the many comments to the posts were comments like: “Rest in Peace Hommie!” and “I know you’re in a better place now!” Now, I am not one to judge whether or not this person actually is in Heaven or not; that’s not my call. All I’m simply saying is this: You can’t die a devil and be raised a saint! If he did not accept Jesus as his Lord and Savior, he is not resting in peace and neither is he in a better place!

I know we don’t like to talk about it, but if the Bible is true, then we must accept the fact that there are people in Hell! We must accept the fact, no matter how distasteful it might be, that all dogs DON’T go to Heaven! If that were the case, then Jesus came and died for nothing! If everybody goes to Heaven anyway, then there really is no sense in church, morality, or even right-and-wrong! If all dogs go to Heaven; the Bible and the idea of God, is a lie!

Now, people like to think that God is a God of love and that such a loving God would not send people to Hell! And they are right! That’s why the Bible says: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16 KJV) God loved us so much that he sent His only Begotten Son. The Son loved us so much that he gave his life on a cross. The problem today is that people want to go to Heaven on their own terms! And they are upset and they reject the idea of a Holy God who would dare to put restrictions upon their desire to live a lifestyle that is pleasing to their immoral nature!

But the bottom line is this: No matter how people try to deny it, ignore it, or explain it away; Hell is real! At least Jesus said it was! In fact, he talked more about Hell than he did about Heaven!

God and Heaven paid the ultimate price to keep us from going to Hell! So if there was no chance for us to go in the first place, then the redemption process recorded from Genesis to Revelation is one big fairy tale and if that’s true, it was also a colossal waste of time!

The greatest demonic trick of all times is deniability! Satan wants humanity to disbelieve his existence! But even if you don’t believe in something, your disbelief does not negate its reality! I’m reminded of what I heard a young man say to an old preacher! The young man said: “I don’t believe in Hell!” The old preacher replied: “Your disbelief will not keep you from going!” No! No matter how we might try to deny it or try to “angelize” people who live sinfully, the truth of the matter is this; all dogs don’t go to Heaven!

Does God ‘Need’ Us In Heaven?

heavenly cloudLet me preface this discussion by affirming the fact that, in the truest sense, God doesn’t need us or anything period! God is the All-Self-Sustaining Being! But I raise this subject in light of a post I shared recently by Pastor Robert Houston (“My Problem with Angels”). In that post, Pastor Houston beautifully lays out the premise that humans do not “morph” or are not transformed or changed into angels when they die. I concur whole-heartedly with his findings and I too am distressed and disturbed by the various false theologies that are being promoted concerning death and dying.  Now I can understand when it is coming from posts on Facebook and other social media outlets (I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen depictions on Facebook of people who have died hovering in the clouds with angel wings). But what is even more disturbing to me is some of the things I hear at funerals (Oh I’m sorry, they are not ‘funerals’ anymore, they are ‘home-going celebrations’ and ‘celebrations of life’) from preachers, pastors, and supposedly seasoned saints! I was almost floored recently when I attended a funeral service for an elderly mother of a church. The church clerk read a resolution from the church and all was going well until. . . .She read: “Whereas God, in His wise providence, decided to take out of this world a lovely flower that He needed for His Heavenly Garden. . .” I’m sorry, I’m not trying to be overly critical, but that’s just bad theology and church folks should know better!

First of all, by implication, the statement is saying that God killed or allowed the mother to die just to enhance or beautify Heaven! What a ridiculous idea! God is not in the business of taking people out of this world for Heaven’s benefit! Jesus said that he came that we might have life and that we might have that life more abundantly! Secondly, God really doesn’t need us in Heaven! In fact, we are actually of more use to God on earth than in Heaven! If God really wanted or needed us in Heaven, then it really was a waste of time and effort to create a physical world in the first place!

Now, I’m about to say something here that many orthodox and traditional theologians and church folks might gasp at: I really don’t think “Heaven” as we traditionally know of it, is God’s ultimate destination for us! Now, before you pick up rocks to stone me or call a ministerial counsel to revoke my preaching license, allow me a few moments to argue my point. If we are to take the Bible as the revelation of God, then we must deal with the reality that according to the Genesis account, death was not part of God’s original plan. According to Genesis, God created man as a combination of spirit and flesh with the intentions of man living in a physical state upon the earth forever! Death only came about as the result of sin. And death in the Bible is never extinction; it is always separation. When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, they immediately died spiritually (that is, they were separated from God) and they began to die physically. So my point is this; the only reason people die is because of sin, and sin and death were not part of God’s original intent!

Now, let’s fast-forward to Revelation 21, where the Apostle John talks about the culmination of the age. He said: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev 21:1-4 ESV) Notice in the text that John said he saw the holy city “coming down out of heaven.” Where is it coming down to? The new earth! Notice also that according to the voice John heard, the dwelling place of God will be ‘with man.’ “He will dwell with them.” He makes the same statement in other words with the very next breath: “God himself will be with them as their God.” He says it three times in very short order: God will be with them! We think the ultimate goal is for us to be with God, but according to the Bible, the ultimate goal is for God to be with us!

Also, let’s consider the purpose of the resurrection. According to the Bible, the purpose of the resurrection will be to reunite the spirit/soul with the body. Now, if it’s God intent for us to spend eternity in Heaven with Him in a spiritual state without a body, then the resurrection has no purpose! Why will we need a body? Because as God made us; our bodies are part of who we are! We are not complete without our bodies! Our loved ones who have died and who are in Heaven right now, even though they are in the presence of God, they are yet incomplete because they do not have their bodies! Remember 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18? Paul told them that God would bring with Jesus those who had died in Christ. And then he says that “the dead in Christ shall rise first.” Wait a minute! Aren’t those who died in Christ that God will bring with him when he comes and the dead in Christ who shall be raise first the same people? Then how can they be brought with Christ and be raise up out of the graves at the same time? Answer: Christ will bring their spirits with Him and will resurrect their bodies from the grave. Why? To reunite their spirits with their bodies! And why will they need their bodies? Because they will spend eternity, not in a strictly spiritual state as angels in Heaven, but rather they will spend eternity on the new earth in a redeemed spiritual-physical combination, which was God’s original intent for man in the first place!

I really didn’t mean for this post to be this long, but I really wanted to bring out the point that God wants us to be in good health and live as long as possible so that we might influence people to accept His Kingdom! Our task is not just to wait, but to work while we wait! Being saved is not just about getting ‘fire insurance’ or securing a ‘Heavenly retirement package,” it’s about influencing as many people as we can, while we can, for the Kingdom of God!

No! God doesn’t ‘need’ us in Heaven! God has no needs at all! God is self-sufficient and self-sustaining! But if there is something that we can do for God, then the Bible indicates our service is more profitable now, here on earth, than in Heaven! The old hymn writer had it right when he wrote: “To serve this present age, my calling to fulfill! Oh may it all, my power engage, to do my Master’s will!”