Jewish Atheist Meets Jesus – Nikki Naparst’s story

Apr 2, 2021

Side B Stories
Side B Stories
Jewish Atheist Meets Jesus - Nikki Naparst's story
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A Jewish atheist, Nikki wanted nothing to do with Jesus until an unexpected spiritual experience caused her to question all she believed as real and true.
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Episode Transcript

Hello, and thanks for joining in. I’m Jana Harmon, and you’re listening to the Side B Podcast, where we listen to understand how someone flips the record of their life from atheism to Christianity. Each podcast, we listen to the story of someone who was an atheist and became a Christian. Each journey is unique, filled with unusual twists and turns. The story we’re going to listen to today certainly does not disappoint. It is as fascinating as anything you might imagine seeing, reading, or hearing about. Nikki contacted me after hearing my interview on Justin Brierley’s Unbelievable? Podcast and told me her incredible story. I thought it was too good not to share. As a Jew who didn’t believe in God, who lived and immersed herself in an anti-God, very intellectual culture, Nikki was highly resistant to religious belief, particularly to Jesus, someone whom she adamantly did not believe in, nor anyone she ever wanted to believe in. But she experienced an unexpected profound spiritual encounter with Jesus, that she immediately became open to the possibility that perhaps God existed after all, and that His name was Jesus. As someone who valued reason, Nikki set out on a diligent intellectual search to find out what was actually true, whether or not a reality outside of the natural world actually exists and that the person she met, Jesus, actually had good reason to exist based upon more than just her personal experience. I hope you’ll come and listen to her extraordinary story with me. Well, thanks for joining us at the Side B Podcast, Nikki. It’s so great to have you here today.

Thank you. Thank you.

Well, as we’re getting started, so the listeners know a little bit about who you are, why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself?

So my name is Nikki, and I live in Portland, Oregon. I work as a pastor’s assistant at a local church, and I’ve lived in Portland since 2005, but I’m originally from the South.

Originally from the South? Oh, okay. Yeah, I don’t hear a real strong Southern dialect. As someone from Atlanta, I can tell you’ve not lived here for a while. So, why don’t you take us back to the beginning, your childhood, and let us know kind of where you grew up. What was it like there? Did you live in the Bible Belt? Did you live in southern America. Tell us what that world was like. Was there any sense of God in it in your world?

So yeah, I grew up in Houston. We moved there when I was four years old. And I knew that we were… I’m Jewish by birth, so we were the only Jewish family in the whole neighborhood. I was often the only Jewish kid at school, but we were unique in that my parents did not believe in God. They were atheists, and that’s how they raised me. But we would still go to synagogue. But my first encounter with Jesus was when I was seven years old. We were on the school bus, and I was about to get off the school bus, and I was going down the stairs, and this little girl came up to me, and she had this angry look on her face. She was actually a friend of mine, and she just yelled in my face, “You killed Jesus!” and she shoved me down the bus stairs. So I laid there stunned. I went home with tears, and I had to ask my parents. “Who’s Jesus? And why did I kill him? I don’t remember killing anyone.” So it was at that point that I heard about Jesus and was told that He was a rabbi and that he’s not the Messiah but most of the people that we live around believe that he’s, like, a savior. “But that’s not for us. Jesus is for the Christians, and we have nothing to do with them.

Yeah. So that was your introduction to Jesus?

Yeah.

So I would imagine… Did that make you feel like an outsider with regard to your culture? Was that girl… unfortunately, was she representative of most of the people around you? Did you live around a lot of Christians? Did you ever experience any kind of Christianity apart from the girl who shoved you down the bus stairs?

They were just my neighbors, so I didn’t know any different, but I knew that we were different, that the teachings about Jesus were that… That was for the goy. That was for everyone else. I didn’t understand because I was told there wasn’t a God. And we were going to synagogue, and my dad acted like he was God but he hated God. So there wasn’t any God. We still went to synagogue. It was all very confusing. And then, every year, my brother and I would do a Hanukkah presentation, and my mom would make latkes, the potato pancakes, and bring them to school, and I’d have to do this presentation and educate all the Christians about Hanukkah. So it was kind of weird growing up in the Bible Belt as just, like, the one Jew, but apparently actually Houston has a large Jewish population, but we were not a part of it. So I was kind of isolated, and I didn’t really understand religion. It didn’t make any sense to me. I would go to Hebrew school and learn Hebrew. I would go to synagogue and kind of say these prayers that were transliteration and not in English. They were just… they had absolutely no meaning to me. I liked being in synagogue because there was a sense of community and I kind of felt self, especially when you’re in a culture that is different than yours. And then you have this one little group, so I liked that, but it didn’t have a… I’d hear other people talk about their faith and what faith should be, and that wasn’t my experience, so I kind of didn’t like the whole religion thing. I would go with my friends to Mass sometimes, and there was a sense of peace there that I didn’t understand, but I knew it wasn’t for me. That’s what I’d been told. It was… Christianity and this whole Jesus thing really wasn’t for me. So that’s all I knew about it.

So as you were growing up, that must have been a bit confusing, participating in religious ritual and services but not believing in a sense. That it was more, I guess, community and part of your ethnicity. Part of your community in a sense, but not believing.

Yeah. It was just tradition. It was something that we did, and especially coming out of World War II, there was a strong sense of, you know, “We’re going to stick together as Jews. We’ve just come through this horrible experience. We’ve lost a lot of our families, and so you kind of have an obligation to be Jewish, even if you don’t believe that there is a God or even if you want to be a Buddhist. You still have to be Jewish first. That is your identity. Even though it doesn’t make any sense. That’s your identity. You can be an atheist Jew. The Judaism itself is your identity.” But I didn’t understand. It was unmoored from anything scriptural. I didn’t really understand that part. We did do the feasts. We did do Passover. We did do… Well, Hanukkah’s not really technically a kingdom feast, but we did do that, so there was kind of a semblance of community and culturalism, but it wasn’t connected to who I now know God is, so it was really empty and devoid, and I saw that in the lives of Christians around me, too. So I was told that science was the answer, rationality was the answer, and everything is observable, and reality is no more than what we can see and experience and observe. So that took the place of my God, and that’s what I pursued. I was always just interested in knowing what was true. So that’s how I grew up. I also was pretty ill growing up. I was born prematurely, and so I had a vestibular issue which… I would have severe attacks at least four times a year, and they were hell. I mean I’ve had it all my life until recently, so growing up with that and not having a God was particularly challenging. And I was told that I wasn’t sick. Because it was a dizziness thing, so there was no treatment, and my parents really didn’t know what to do about it, and so I grew up with like a sense of a moral weakness. I know that sounds funny from an atheist perspective, but because I wasn’t able to function, there was something wrong with me. I was morally weak because I couldn’t quite hold a job after graduate school, and so it was all… Growing up was a little bit challenging compared to a lot of people.

Okay. Wow. It does sound like you grew up with some challenges for sure, in terms of trying to navigate your way. Very admirably, though, in terms of really your pursuit of what you believed to be true, whether it was science, rationality, so obviously then you believed that religion was not rational, not true in any sense. So talk with me about, as you were growing up, obviously, through high school, college, graduate school, you were moving through this period of your life, doing life on your own, but what did you perceive religion to be if it wasn’t true or rational?

Religion was an opiate for the masses. It was a crutch for the weak. It was something that people hung their hat on when there was nothing else to hang their hat on. They were uncomfortable with ambiguity. Of course, I… In my intellect, I was so superior because I was okay with not knowing. Belief had nothing to do with truth. I mean that never entered my mind, that belief could have anything to do with truth. At least a faith belief would not have anything to do with truth, so I never… I just saw it as patently untrue. I would hear the bible stories of, like, a talking donkey, and I would just laugh. I worked in a children’s bookstore at one point, and they had the creationist books, and I would be on the floor laughing. I would mock and deride it. I really did. Anyone who believed in any sort of God was… I thought that they were really dumb, although I met some smart people. The Jews were smart because they had been… I guess it was genetic or something, so there was that sense of Jewish exceptionalism and superiority, which is no more than pride, but that’s what I grew up. The term “chosen people” that were chosen by God. I thought that was silly. But I couldn’t see how any of it could be true, and I didn’t understand why otherwise smart people would believe in it, other than it gave them a sense of comfort and ability to deal with the unknown in a way that kind of structured their anxiety. I just thought, in the end, it was a mental illness. I really did. I thought that belief in God was delusional and that some day science would come along and cure humanity of all of this insanity. So that’s the way I looked at religion and belief.

No, yes, in a very… I mean, according to your own worldview, that makes perfect sense. So as you were again embracing your atheism as the rational way of thinking about the world, did you… I know you were dealing with your vestibular issues of illness and frailty on your own part but weren’t able to do that, like you say, with the comfort of a God, but within your own atheistic worldview, did you look at the logical implications of your atheism, in terms of what it meant for your life practically speaking, in terms of…. whether it’s meaning or purpose or human value or freedom to choose or your own consciousness and those kinds of things? Did you reflect on what atheism meant for you and your life in terms of its logical implications?

Not in an ultimate sense. I never really looked at the logical presuppositions of my blind faith in atheism, but I would say that… The farthest I ever got was that I was just going to be comfortable with the ambiguities, that I was just made in that way. I wasn’t weak. So it was really more of a superiority thing that I took comfort in. As far as the logical endgame of reconciling that… how I reconciled that there was meaning and purpose clearly, but ultimately there wasn’t. No. I didn’t think about it had to be logically consistent all the way through to be true, but I just… It was about really self sufficiency, and so ultimately, it didn’t have to have meaning and purpose as long as it had meaning and purpose in the here and now, and then, of course, when you die, you’ll return to dust, and it all goes back. So that’s as far as I ever got. I didn’t need to have anything beyond that. It was just observable and provable. That was what made it comfortable for me. But I never got into more the deep philosophical things, and when I would have those conversations, they were… I think I would just mock them and laugh at the people who wanted to push beyond that.

So you had quite a resolute understanding of the world, of your own atheism. It just seems very pragmatic. It seems like this is the way the world was. Did you feel… It sounds like you had some intellectual superiority with that, some sense of existential satisfaction that you were where you should be as a rational thinking person.

Yes.

Did you live among a community of atheists? Or was this… You said that you live in Portland. You moved from the South to the Northwest, where I presume that atheism is a bit more normal way of thinking about things. Can you talk about the change of culture for you as you pursued your life as an adult as an atheist?

Yeah. One of the reasons we chose Portland is because it was one of the most well-read towns, and I was such a reader. And so I liked being around people that were people of ideas and liked to have deep discussions and were thoughtful about things. So when I moved here, people had all different types of belief, and so finally I got to the point where I realized that not all of them could be true but if we’re making up our own idea of what’s out there maybe some of us are wrong. That kind of occurred to me, but it didn’t really… it was like, well, how do we ever know which one is right, and so we’re just going to make up what we think is objectively true. But I was never really challenged on that. But it was comfortable to me to be around people who had thoughts. Thoughts were really interesting, and so I was very comfortable here. Escaping the Bible Belt seemed like… very fundamental and very restricting to me as a self-identified intellectual atheist, when I was being told I was just wrong all the time. It was very freeing to move to the Pacific Northwest. But I got to a point where my health struggles were getting worse. I’ve always had severe anxiety and depression, and as my health got worse and worse, I did reach out for help, and I began to have my beliefs challenged in a way because truth became very important. Truth, like knowing what was true, what was actually true, became central to my life at that point. If you’re going to be honest, if that’s a characteristic in your life that you want to pursue, honesty, then you have to know what truth is in order to tell it. And so I got to the point where I was told, “You have to choose a higher power,” and well, as an atheist, that’s a really challenging thing, right? So how do you choose something that’s higher than you? Well, I knew truth as higher than me, so put, on the altar of my life, truth. And then I also knew that energy was true, right? Because we can see it. There’s light bulbs. And then love must be true. So those three things I kind of lifted up to a higher power and began to deify those characteristics. And that’s probably when that door opened for me, that I just really wanted to know what was true in order to speak it. Because I wanted to have integrity in my life. So that was the first step that I took. But it wasn’t like God. I mean I never thought that God was a person or anything like that. That was-

Yeah. But there was something in you that became open to another perspective or perhaps another view of reality or, like you say, the pursuit of truth above all else. And that’s very admirable. Sometimes that’s very difficult to do.

I’m curious, during this time where you were becoming a little bit more open, did you meet any Christians or anyone of faith that tried to tell you, “Oh, I know a higher power.”

Yes, I did. And her name is Mary. She’s my little angel. I came in one day, just shaking, and she grabbed onto my hand and has not let go. We called her “Bible-thumping Mary,” and here’s this atheist and this Bible thumper, and we became friends. There’s just like a similar spirit that we had. Because we can spot each other even if we’re in a different field, like the wrong field. But she would just… She told me about Jesus, and she said her pastor was Jewish. I would roll my eyes at her and think, “Lady, you’re crazy, because pastors aren’t Jewish.” But she said, “No, no. Jesus was a Jew.” I’m like, “Well, yeah, I knew that,” but towards the end I really thought that Jesus was fictional. There was a DVD that had been passed around in Portland on the streets called Zeitgeist, and it posited that Jesus was probably made up. Or He was just kind of an embodiment of all these other different mythical gods or real gods or… I don’t know. But in the end, I really believed that Jesus was probably fictional, probably completely fictional, and so when Mary started talking to me about her Jesus and how much she loved him, I thought, “Oh, my gosh! This lady is nuts. But I really like her.” But she would tell me she’s praying for me, and she’s got her church praying for me, and I didn’t know what to make of that. I would just tell her, “Please don’t. Please don’t pray for me. That’s dumb.” But she was… The things she would say were true, like morally true, emotionally true, and I didn’t know what to do with that. That was really challenging. And I was meeting more and more Christians who were like… They seemed really solid, and they didn’t seem crazy, and they were talking about Jesus. I still couldn’t go there. I was not having any of it. So I did meet some, and that wasn’t… That didn’t move me very much, other than to just kind of put things in me that said, “Okay, maybe they’re not completely nuts. Maybe there’s a truth in there somewhere. Maybe Jesus had some really good teachings,” and that’s as far as I got with that.

Well, but I suppose what Mary did for you is to break down some kind of stereotype about who you thought Christians were and that perhaps they’re not as strange or irrational or whatever it is you had in your mind. “They’re not as bad as I thought they were,” perhaps.

Yeah. When you get desperate enough, like… So Mary is a very salt-of-the-earth person, not intellectual at all, but God had… I didn’t know it was God, but my heart was open. Love was a very important virtue to me because I needed that connection. I didn’t have a really good family that I had connection with, and as I had been ill for 13 years at that point, off and on on my deathbed. I had been just, like, slowly dying, and so my friends had fallen away, and so I needed that connection, and you know when it’s real. On a human level, you know when it’s real. So that’s what I was craving. All the intellectual stuff, it didn’t matter at that point. So I think that’s what happened. I hit a point where I was so desperate in my life that I was just going to choose good people, and Mary was good. And she was loving, and she showed up, and that’s what spoke to me. So I would try to engage her, like, “Well, it can’t be true.” She couldn’t follow what I was saying. She didn’t want to talk about quantum physics. So we just had a relationship that wasn’t based on all the intellectual stuff that I would put up that I would have with my other friends, and my other friends just had kind of disappeared when I had been sick. They were in it for just the discussions, and when my IQ started dropping because of the vestibular issue… I mean, in the end, it was down to 85, a functional IQ of 85. I wasn’t discussing a lot of quantum physics. I wasn’t discussing the nature of the universe and reality a whole lot. I was just lying in bed, being sick, and so I needed someone like Mary to just kind of love me. And that’s really what spoke. That’s what did it.

I imagine that was very powerful.

Yeah.

But again I suppose the issue of truth – even though you weren’t able to speak to Mary so much about quantum physics or the hard questions, she softened you in that way – but what happened, though, in terms of… you still had a desire to know what was true. Talk to us a little bit about what happened next in your journey.

So yeah, I was sick. So I still had the vestibular thing. I was diagnosed with MS, I think in 2008, and then in the summer of 2017, I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and so I was put in the hospital, and it was strange. I had this sense of peace that I’d never had, and Mary visited me every day. She continued to tell me about her Jewish pastor, and she brought me this Bible, and she said her pastor wanted me to have it because it was written by a bunch of Jews, and I’m like, “Okay, lady, I’ll take it,” because I didn’t want to upset her. Here I am dying, and in the hospital, they did another MRI, and they said that I didn’t have MS, which was… I had never heard of anyone just having MS and then all of a sudden not having it, and they did a contrast CT scan. They diagnosed me with pancreatic cancer based on the lab work, and then the next day, they go in to biopsy it, and there’s nothing there. I didn’t know what to think of that. They discharged me from the hospital, and I didn’t know that that had been the case, so ten days later, when I still don’t get the results and I still think I have pancreatic cancer, Mary says, “You probably need to call them to find out.” I called the doctor, and I said, “So what are the results?” They said, “Oh, we didn’t find anything.” I said, “Oh, good! So the biopsy was negative?” And they said, “No, there wasn’t anything there.” And that really shocked me because I’d seen the picture of the contrast CT scan, and there was something there. I said, “But there was a lump.” They said, “Yeah, but it wasn’t there when we went in.” And I didn’t really think about that was a miracle or anything. I just thought, “I don’t have pancreatic cancer. Yay,” move on to the next thing. But the thing was I was still declining. I was having transitory paralysis. My IQ was dropping. I wasn’t able to function. Things I could do before were just not available. My intellect was being taken away, and so in November, November 11, 2017, I go to bed, and I have an encounter with the Lord. But, you know, had I wanted a god, the last god I would have been chosen would have been Jesus, so I know it’s the Lord. There’s a golden light. He gave me the symbol of the cross. I could see that. So it would be unmistakable. He was singing over me, and this word “shekhinah” kept on ringing through my head. I wake up… So I had been asleep, and I had woken up and had seen the Lord. And then the next morning, when I get up out of bed, I don’t need the walker anymore. The word shekhinah’s running through my head, and out of my mouth comes words that sound like scripture, and I don’t know what to make of this. So I had this experience. I call Mary. I said, “Maybe you should take me to church. Maybe I should thank Jesus. I think it was Him.” But I still… Even though I had that experience, I’m like, “I could be crazy,” so I have to do the investigation, right? So if I ascribe to the scientific method, if I think scientifically, I have to put this to the test, and so I went through a very rigorous period of looking at science, looking at the history, looking at the textual criticism, talking to people, looking at things that I’d never looked at. The Lord was giving me logic proofs. I’d never studied logic. I never studied these things, but they were coming in whole. There were things that I knew that there was no way I could have known because I’d never studied them. I never formally studied logic or philosophy, and yet He was giving me things that there’s no way I could have known unless it was Him. It’s kind of like I had a library card to the universe. And I used it. I did, I did! I would just ask these questions. And in the beginning I didn’t know who to ask them to. I said it was the universe, and then I knew it was the Lord at some point. But even as I went through the investigation and the science and into history, there was a majority part of me that did not want Jesus to be true. I didn’t want it to be true. Because then there are certain implications. At the same time, though, I was attending church, and I was worshiping, and I was studying scripture, hard. I was studying the Torah. I was reading the New Testament, and the Lord was putting it all together. I knew things that… pretty advanced theological concepts were just like I knew them, and I didn’t have any explanation for that. People were seeing the writings I was… the Lord had given me. They were coming to the Lord. Ex pastors, atheists. I mean, it was just kind of crazy, and I liked Christianity because it just opened up the world. It gave it color. It gave it dimension, and the world began to make sense. When you see truth, things come in line, and I really like that. My political views the day I went to bed had been very, very liberal. I do live in a… Well, you guys know Portland. You’ve heard of it. It’s a very liberal town. The morning I woke up, my views had changed. I became a political conservative overnight. Never wanted that to happen. So what the Lord did with me was extremely dramatic, and I don’t even… There are some times I just don’t have words to put it into context. It’s just a miracle. So that’s how I got to Christianity. I had to have the Lord blast my eyes open, give me scripture supernaturally, and then I had to do the rigorous research, and then I came to see that it was true.

What an extraordinary story! A very supernatural story, it sounds like, in many ways. So you came to believe that it was true, but there’s a difference between just belief that something is true and actually willing to give your life to a person who is truth.

Yes.

So you obviously made that step towards an embodied belief, almost.

Yes, exactly. But that took a while. He had opened my eyes and put the questions to seek out in my heart and gave me that spirit of inquiry, and it was progressive after that. It wasn’t a very clear vision of Jesus in the beginning. It was more conceptual, and the embodiment, like seeing Him as a person, it took time. It’s only been three years, but it took time for Him to come out of the scripture into 3D form as My Beloved. Yeah. That was not immediate, but the eye opening was, and the Lord just removed whatever was blinding me. And I truly believe that the reason that that was possible was because I had truly been seeking truth. I truly wanted to know what was true. But more than that, I needed something more, and it was the morality of truth that I needed. Because I wanted to be a person of integrity who spoke truth, not just an intellectual knowledge of it, but a heart knowledge of truth, which is different. Those are qualitatively different.

Yes, and it strikes me, as you’re telling your story, that the three values that you honored or were pursuing the most before you met Jesus were truth, energy, and love, and it’s not lost on me that the person of Christ came, you said, in golden rays of light, which is extraordinary energy, but yet He is the personification of both truth and love. So He came as, again, the person, the embodiment of all of those things which you had valued but you had no place to put them. But then you found them in the person of Christ, and it sounds like He’s just completely transformed you, so that you are actually experiencing and knowing those things, knowing them intellectually but experiencing them in your life and in your heart. I’m curious about two things, really. One is how has your life changed? And secondly, now that you still live in Portland, Oregon, in a place that now you find yourself as an outsider again in a different way, describe for us what that is like.

Well, I’m not in my deathbed anymore. Praise the Lord. And just like the disciples, after He had communion, they’re like, “Where are we going to go, Lord?” Where am I going to go? I had to find something to do. So I started working at a church. I didn’t have any income when I started. They didn’t pay me for two years, but praise the Lord, He’s been faithful, and this year I started earning a salary. So I started doing that. I started working again after not having worked since 1999 because I had been so sick. There’s some sadness, of course, but the Lord says that those who are not willing to leave house and father and mother are not worthy of Me. And so my husband did leave. My family, most of them do not talk to me because they know that I’m a follower of Yeshua, so that’s been… I’ve largely done this alone. My son, as I raised as a very good atheist. He will not talk to me. So there are these things that the Lord tells us about, and truth is truth. He is the embodiment of truth. He is my beloved. I’m going to follow Him. And yeah, there are sacrifices, but He sacrificed Himself for us, and I don’t get to make up truth and change that. I have to follow it. I was following it, pursuing truth before I met Jesus, and I’m still going to follow Him. And I’m glad He’s a person. Let me just tell you that. When you walk alone and you have the Lord, it fills you, and my life, even though I’m alone, even though I’m in Portland, I’m alone without my family, I am in a really good Spirit-filled church with the word that has kind of embraced me. I’m literally at the center of the church now as the pastor’s assistant. But it’s Him, it’s the Lord that fills me. I have time to study the word. I have time to worship Him. I have time to pursue education in apologetics and do ministry, so He’s filled my life. So it is different, but He is worthy. I don’t know what else to say. I think a lot of other Christians might look at it and say, “Wow, that’s a big sacrifice.” The Lord is worth it. And especially I know the joy of salvation. Every day, I know the joy of my salvation, because I know from whence I come, and that was hell. Literally being snatched from the jaws of death in the midst of depression and anxiety, suicidal often because of my vestibular issue and because of emotional scars from my past. I know what I’ve been given, and I know what I’ve been saved from, and I am not… what’s the word? Complacent about it. I am not complacent about my belief because of what He did for me and who the person of Christ is and the reunification with the Father and having the Holy Spirit. So my life has dramatically changed, and to know truth is the most glorious thing I can possibly imagine. So Portland… They can burn their flags, and they can ring cowbells in front of my house or whatever they’re going to do, and that’s fine. God bless them. They don’t have the knowledge yet. And I have great compassion, and I just remember Jesus on the cross saying, “Father, forgive them.” That’s my attitude towards Portland because they don’t know, and I’ve been given such a treasure and such a gift, and I’m so grateful that I have him in the midst of this. I can’t even imagine going through the world now, the way it is, with COVID and the elections and fires burning this summer and riots going on. I mean, my goodness! So I’ve got a grounding in truth, and I’ve got the peace of God and meaning and purpose, so yeah. It’s great living here because, in the middle of this darkness, they need the light, and we’re the light. I mean, I get to be the light! That’s amazing!

What a privilege! What a privilege!

And I’m thinking, for some people listening, they may not understand how you can be Jewish and Christian at the same time. Can you just very briefly put the dots together for that?

Well, if Jesus is not the Messiah of the Jews, He’s the Messiah of no one. He came for the Jews first, to reunite the tribes, and then to the rest of the world. So I am more Jewish now than I have ever been. It’s just such a joy. I study the Torah. When I do Shabbat, His presence and being in the presence of the father is profound, but Jesus is a Jewish man, and that just… If I had just been given the New Testament, it would not have made sense. I have to have all, and His wisdom of the Torah and the Chinuch and the prophets and the writings, all of it, in order to be complete. Jesus completes… He stands at the center of Judaism and Christianity. He is the whole thing. He is the embodiment of God, the same God, the Holy One of Israel. So that’s what I would say. I think that Christianity is beginning to wake up, that those false divisions are being broken down. That’s what God wants. He wants us all united. There are no Jew or Gentile, male or female, none of it, in the kingdom of God. So yeah, He’s breaking down those walls for all of humanity and reuniting us back to the original Adam in the garden before the fall, so that’s what I would say.

Wonderful. Thank you. Thank you for that, Nikki. As we’re wrapping up, I wondered if there was someone listening who valued truth like you did and like you still do. What would you say to a curious skeptic or a seeker or someone who really does want to know what is true and what grounds love and what is light and what grounds even, like you say, you had a strong sense of morality, a strong sense of good and evil, and you wanted to know what was true. What would you say to someone like that, who is open to seeking truth?

Yeah, so I think you do have to be humble, and you do have to be open. I wasn’t. I never would’ve made it on my own. I admire atheists who actually have the humility to put their true bias aside and just seek after it. So if you’re truly seeking truth, then you have to approach it humbly. Because it is greater than you. Truth is always greater than you. Put it on the altar of deity in your life and seek it humbly. Ask questions. Follow it, even where you don’t agree necessarily. Look at all the sources. Truly be unbiased. Don’t exclude the Bible. Because it can be treated like a theory. You just want to see where the evidence best fits, and if it best fits on scripture, then that’s where the evidence leads. So that’s what I would say. There is a logic proof that the Lord had given me very early on, and it’s called the absolute truth proof. It’s very brief, and it’s that all claims of religion are claims of absolute truth, including atheism. They describe the nature and function of reality. But absolute truth is exclusive. It excludes everything that isn’t absolutely true, so that if there are differences in the claims of absolute truth, the differences between the claims of religion or atheism, that means that only one claim can be true. Now if that’s true, which it is – and that’s just logic. Well, which claim? Well, God’s going to make it easy. He says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” He’s not claiming to be just one way among many, nor is he claiming to be a truth among many truths. He’s claiming to be the truth, the absolute truth. So if we’re going to start looking at truth, you can use that claim and just say, “Okay, let me take this claim seriously because I value truth. Let me look at the historical evidence. Let me look at the evidence for the resurrection unbiased.” Follow the evidence. Look at the scientific sources and then make your own decision. And don’t rule out people who are experts in the Bible. Because they’re going to know it better than you. Just like you would go to an expert in any field to look at the information, you also want to consider the claims seriously. So seek truth. Knock, and it will be opened to you, and the truth will set you free. That’s what I would say.

That’s excellent. And again, you are speaking as a voice of wisdom and experience, as a light in your own culture. If you were speaking to Christians now as those who want to be light among those around them, what would you say to the Christian who wants to be like a Mary in your life or even in a different way addressing the issues, the intellectual issues with regard to truth, or whatever you think. Stereotypes or anything that you want to say. What would you say to the Christian in terms of them being a better witness to a resistant world?

Fill yourself with God. Get to know Him. Make sure you have a good relationship with the Lord. Worship. Read the word. Take it seriously. It should come first. Secondly, if you’re going to talk to atheists, you want to lay a foundation. So one of the objections I had about Christianity that it was intellectually vacuous. I would ask someone, “Why do you think it’s true?” and they would say, “Because Jesus” something. And that did not… It’s not very satisfying when you’re an atheist. So if you really want to deal with atheists, you’re going to have to do the hard work of learning their perspective, learning what they know, and studying. So you want to do the preparation, which is work. Of course, you do that with a grounding in the gospel. No one’s going to listen to you if you’re shoving facts in their face because it’s disrespectful. Jesus gives us dignity. He comes from grace. He asks questions. He’s not forceful with anything, so we want to, when we’re preparing, just really embody Christ and treat the person in front of us as a person, as Jesus would, despite their beliefs. And build relationship. I would say that relationship is key. God is a relationship of three persons. He puts us in relationship. When He was here, He had his disciples. You see Him moving in relationship. That’s how He shares love. So, like with Mary, the reason I even listened to her is because she had ministered to me in relationship. She had shown her love and proved that to be true. If we think that someone doesn’t care about us, we’re not going to listen to them. No matter what, I would say. No matter how good the argument is, if there’s not love – 1 Corinthians 13 – there, you’re just going to be a noisy gong. So you have to ground it in true love for the person in front of you and true caring and then prepare. Yeah. That’s what I would say.

Yeah. That’s beautiful. I am sitting here feeling so – I guess blessed is the best word I can come up with  – to hear your story. Just to have sat back and listened to the really extraordinary transformation in your life and how that happened. I mean, someone who was an atheist and so strongly against Christianity, an intellectual atheist who believed that nothing supernatural was real, and then you encounter this incredible supernatural reality in the person of Christ, but of course, at that point, too, you had made a choice to be open to that coming into your life, to that person coming into your life, that truth, that love, that energy, and that speaks to all of us, really, that we all need to have an openness to truth, wherever that evidence leads. Whether we’re Christian or non-Christian or wherever, that should be our posture, one of humility. I mean if we know anything as humans, we know that we’re very finite! And we’re very fallen, right? But God overcomes those, and like you say… I love what you said about the fact that He will show up if you are earnestly seeking. So thank you for your story, Nikki. It really is extremely powerful and such a privilege to have you on the podcast today.

Bless you. Thank you so much.

You’re very welcome. Thanks for tuning into the Side B Podcast to hear Nikki’s story. For questions and feedback about this episode, you can reach me by email at thesidebpodcast@cslewisinstitute.org. If you enjoyed it, subscribe, rate, and share this podcast with your friends and social network. I would really appreciate it. In the meantime, I’ll be looking forward to seeing you next podcast, where we’ll be seeing how someone else flips the record of their life.

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