The Infant Lord

Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel. (Luke 2:29–32)

Simeon blesses Jesus

Simeon blesses Jesus

These words, usually in a more traditional translation, have found their way into the closing section of many worship services. Yet though Simeon, who spoke them, was close to his departure from this world, he was speaking in celebration of a new beginning—in fact, of the most wonderful new beginning that has ever happened: the birth of the Lord Jesus into the world.

Luke 2:21–32 tells first of the naming of Jesus at his circumcision when he was a week old, and then of his presentation in the Temple at the completion of another thirty-three days, which was the prescribed period for ritual purification of a woman after the birth of a son. This means that at the time of his presentation in the temple, Jesus was forty days old.

When his parents brought him to the temple, a devout man named Simeon was also inwardly directed, by the spirit of the Lord, to come to the temple. There, he took the infant Jesus in his arms and praised the Lord, saying of the child, “My eyes have seen your salvation.” “Salvation” is the meaning of the name “Jesus,” which the child had been given according to the instruction of an angel, as we read in the Gospel of Matthew: “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).

“My eyes have seen your salvation.” How could Simeon say this of a baby less than two months old? How could this baby be the salvation not only of the Jews, but of the Gentiles as well—meaning the Savior of all people?

For more on the infant Lord, please click here to read on.

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Posted in All About God

The Divine Birth

For the day of vengeance was in my mind, and the year for my redeeming work had come. I looked, but there was no one to help; I was appalled that no one gave support. So my own arm worked salvation for me. (Isaiah 63:4–5)

The birth of JesusIn the previous post, I responded to the question “What child is this” by saying that this child Jesus was and is “God with us,” as the prophet and the Gospel say. With that as a preface, I would like to introduce a new series on the inner life of Jesus Christ—originally sermons delivered in 2004, during my decade as a pastor. While I may occasionally post articles on other topics as well, my current commitments as a Swedenborg scholar, seminary professor, and graduate student leave very little time to write new material for Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life.

I was inspired to this theme by the beautiful booklet A Life of Jesus Little Known, by the Rev. William L. Worcester, originally published in 1905, and unfortunately now out of print. In this series, we will follow the Lord’s (Jesus’) life as told in the Gospel stories, together with the deepest level of meaning in the Bible story as illuminated by Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772) in his great work Arcana Coelestia, or Secrets of Heaven.

For today’s introduction, I would like to delve a little further into the question of who Jesus was, where he came from, and why he came to earth. Without knowing these things, we cannot possibly understand what was going on in the Lord’s mind and heart during his lifetime here on earth.

For more on the divine birth, please click here to read on.

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Posted in All About God

What Child Is This?

All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Behold, the virgin will conceive and bear a son, and they will name him Emmanuel,” which means “God with us.” (Matthew 1:2223)

The Virgin Laying the Sleeping Christ on Straw, by Carlo Maratta

The Virgin Laying the Sleeping Christ on Straw, by Carlo Maratta

“What child is this?” asks the beautiful old Christmas carol. “What child is this, who, laid to rest, on Mary’s lap is sleeping?” A simple, tender domestic scene—one that has been repeated by the billions in thousands of cultures throughout the world, and throughout human history. A newborn baby lies sleeping in a mother’s lap.

It is a miracle in itself. No matter how much we study it, we still don’t know just how it happens. And no matter how many times it happens, the fact that this incredibly complex biological, psychological, and spiritual being has come into existence is so mind-boggling that the safest thing for us is just not to think about it too much. Every new birth, every new human being, is a work of science and art far, far more advanced than the human mind has even been able to conceive, let alone create. If we think about it too much, our minds may be in danger of expanding beyond any reasonable boundaries, and coming face to face with the infinite Creator whose work of science, art, and spirit each one of us is.

What child is this? Is this truly a child who brings us face to face with our Creator? Is this truly a child in whom the Infinite One has come to meet us and dwell among us?

For more on what child this is, please click here to read on.

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Posted in All About God

According to Emanuel Swedenborg, who is the man Jesus, born of a woman, who died and then was resurrected?

The title is a question recently asked on the website Christianity StackExchange, here. After several quotations from Swedenborgian sources, the questioner asks:

Did the Lord (God Almighty) incarnate as a human in the body of Jesus of Nazareth? Does this mean that Jesus did not have a pre-incarnate existence in heaven? So who died on the cross? And is it up to humans to earn their salvation by good deeds in this life and in the life to come?

Whilst seeking Swedenborgian sources, I also request references from the Bible.

To keep things simple, what I really want to know is: who, according to Swedenborg, is this Jesus, born of a woman, who died and then was resurrected, and what part did Jesus play in our salvation?

The rest of this post will be a slightly edited version of my answer. You can read my original answer on Christianity StackExchange here.

Because the question specifically asked for Swedenborgian and biblical sources, this post will contain more direct quotation from Swedenborg than is usual here on Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life, including examples of Swedenborg’s ample quotations from the Bible. For readers who want to dig deeper into Swedenborg’s teachings about who Jesus Christ was and is, this post will provide some great food for thought.
For more on who Jesus is, please click here to read on.

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Posted in All About God

The Eternal Word

The Eternal Word

Your word, O Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens. (Psalm 119:89)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being that has come into being. In him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. . . . And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1–4, 14)

The Word as presented in these Bible passages is vast, eternal—a cosmic being or presence that exists beyond all the created universe as its source and as the instrument of its creation. In its essence, it is above human comprehension. The words of the Lord through Isaiah the prophet come to mind:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8–9)
For more on The Eternal Word, please click here to read on.

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Posted in The Bible Re-Viewed

How Can I Be Sure that My Partner will Be Waiting for Me in Heaven?

The Meeting of a Family in Heaven, by William BlakeThe article “Will Happily Married Couples be Together in Heaven?” has become one of the most heavily read posts here on the Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life website. Since the time it was published five years ago, it has been visited over 125,000 times. Clearly there is a great yearning for good and comforting news among people who have lost a wife, husband, or other romantic partner. For partners who dearly love one another, the unbiblical “Christian” belief that there is no marriage in heaven is very bad news, not the good news of the Gospel. (See: “Didn’t Jesus Say There’s No Marriage in Heaven?” and the articles linked at the end of it.)

And yet, people want assurance. Many times since that article was originally published, we’ve heard from readers who are concerned that perhaps their partner will not be waiting for them on the other side, and may not be with them in spirit.

Of course, I do not have God’s infinite vision nor God’s infinite wisdom. It’s not for me to say whether a particular couple will be together in heaven. The most I can say for sure is that couples who love one another will meet on the other side, and can then continue their relationship forever if that’s what they want.

And it will be even better than it was before.

For most people whose partner has moved on to the spiritual world, any assurance that their relationship will continue forever must come from within, and from the relationship itself. Let’s take a look at one reader’s questions about this.

For more on partners in heaven, please click here to read on.

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Posted in Sex Marriage Relationships, The Afterlife

The Right and Left Agree: The Bible Oughta Be Banned!

Recently seen on Yahoo!Life:

Viral photo of near-empty library shelves sends powerful message: ‘We removed every book with content that could offend someone’

The article begins:

Efforts to ban books at school libraries — particularly those telling the stories of LGBTQ youth — have been in overdrive recently. And now a Facebook post on the topic has gone viral.

Near-empty library shelves - Pflugerville, Texas, Public Library demonstrationThe pair of side-by-side photos, shared by Pflugerville Public Library in Texas, aims to provide a visual of what library shelves might look like if everything containing subject matter that could cause someone discomfort was to be removed.

“This is a before and after shot of what a single shelving unit in the library’s Teen Space would look like if we removed every book with content that could offend someone,” the caption begins. “Out of 159 books, there are ten left on the shelves. We removed books that contained profanity, teen drinking, religious content, racism, magic, abuse, sexual content, and more. But in taking away those books, we also removed examples of friendship, love, courage, creativity, faith, forgiveness, reality, resilience, humor, and history.”

Just for the record, Annette and I strongly oppose censorship, no matter what the motivation for it might be. And it occurs to us: by the standards of both the right and the left, the Bible should definitely be banned!
For more on banning the Bible, please click here to read on.

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Posted in Current Events, The Bible Re-Viewed

Marriage in Heaven: A Response to Tom Wenig

Here is a Spiritual Conundrum submitted to Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life by a reader named Deeply Wounded:

Hi Lee, it’s me again. I am still struggling with how I am single and alone. I saw this article and found it ludicrous. I also cringed because it claims that sin permanently altered marriage, which was originally going to be permanent but now will end because of sin. Would love it if you would respond to this and help heal my deep wounds, if you’ve got some extra time on your hands:

I long for marriage and intimacy and a husband so bad. If this article were true, then I should be extra angry at Adam and Eve for taking away my opportunity to be together forever with my soulmate.


Deeply Wounded

Hi Deeply Wounded,

When people have wrong doctrine in their head, it clouds their vision. In the very first sentence of the article you linked, Pastor Tom Wenig gets Jesus’ words about marriage in the resurrection wrong. And it all goes downhill from there.

Let’s take a closer look. Along the way, perhaps we can exorcise a few more of the false “Christian” demons that have been tormenting you for so long.
For more on reading the Bible rightly and wrongly, please click here to read on.

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Posted in Sex Marriage Relationships, The Afterlife

Swedenborg’s Solution to the Fermi Paradox

Aliens“Where is everybody?”

That is the question physicist Enrico Fermi asked several of his fellow physicists over lunch one summer day in 1950. And that’s how the Fermi paradox got its name.

What is the Fermi paradox?

Here’s the short version: There should be intelligent life on other planets. But so far, we haven’t found credible evidence of any civilization other than the one here on Earth. Why not?

We now know that in our galaxy alone, there are over one hundred billion stars. We think that most of them have planets. We know that intelligent life is possible, because it exists on our planet. Even if only a small percentage of stars have habitable planets, intelligent life could have developed on millions of other planets in our galaxy. (The Drake Equation is one tool for making such estimates.)

Since most stars are billions of years older than our sun (which is about 4.5 billion years old), some of those intelligent beings would have had billions of years to develop technology far beyond what we earthlings have achieved since we first started on a technological path a few thousand years ago.

By now, there should be spaceships zipping all over the universe! Aliens should be exploring every corner of the galaxy, as portrayed in popular science fiction series such as Star Trek and Star Wars.

And yet, there is no scientifically sound evidence that alien civilizations have ever visited our planet, nor have we been able to detect any signals or other evidence for the existence of any intelligent beings elsewhere in the universe.

So where is everybody?

Many answers have been suggested to the thorny question raised by the Fermi paradox. Most conclude that intelligent life on other planets is very rare, and maybe even unique to Earth.

A common assumption in these answers is that other intelligent species would naturally follow the scientific and technological path that we humans on Earth have followed. Any cultures that didn’t develop advanced technology would be primitive, and far below our level of development.

Swedenborg had a different view.

For more on Swedenborg and the Fermi paradox, please click here to read on.

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Posted in Science Philosophy and History

Is the COVID-19 Vaccine the Mark of the Beast?

Here is a Spiritual Conundrum submitted to Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life by a reader named Ray:

Is the COVID-19 vaccine the mark of the beast? I’ve heard some disturbing things like people saying they can’t feel God anymore and that their soul is dead. Also the Great Reset sounds like the end times. You should research it and do an article on it.

Thanks for the question, Ray. A reader named Kristen recently asked the same question. I guess it’s time to answer it! And the short answer is:

covid19_vaccineNo the COVID-19 vaccine is not the mark of the beast.

That idea is the latest incarnation of decades-old conspiracy theories that just won’t die, no matter how baseless they are.

These conspiracy theories are themselves a type of intellectual virus. They are false and destructive ideas that eat away at people’s minds, morphing and adapting to every new scare that sweeps around the world via the Internet. If some people feel that after they get vaccinated, they can’t feel God anymore and their soul is dead, that feeling is not caused by the vaccine. It is caused by the conspiracy theory virus that has infected their mind.

As for the Great Reset, it sounds like more of the same vague and grandiose proclamations that the wealthy elite are always broadcasting in public while privately they go about the business of doing what they really care about: becoming wealthier and more elite.

Back to the main question, the mark of the beast mentioned in the book Revelation is not a physical mark. Revelation is a prophetic and symbolic book. It is talking about spiritual events, not earthly events. See:

Is the World Coming to an End? What about the Second Coming?

Now let’s take a closer look at the mark of the beast, what it is, and what it isn’t.

For more on the mark of the beast, please click here to read on.

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Posted in Current Events, The Bible Re-Viewed
Lee & Annette Woofenden

Lee & Annette Woofenden

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