Further to my post yesterday about our minds and imagination, listen to neuroscientist Dr. Caroline Leaf talking about how our brains and minds work and how thoughts are not just non-physical and unimportant puffs of nothing that evaporate and never do any harm.
Proof that if we follow the Word of God and obey it, we will literally know life and blessing.
My son, give attention to my words;
Incline your ear to my sayings.
21 Do not let them depart from your eyes;
Keep them in the midst of your heart;
22 For they are life to those who find them,
And health to all their flesh.
23 Keep your heart with all diligence,
For out of it spring the issues of life.
24 Put away from you a deceitful mouth,
And put perverse lips far from you.
25 Let your eyes look straight ahead,
And your eyelids look right before you.
26 Ponder the path of your feet,
And let all your ways be established.
27 Do not turn to the right or the left;
Remove your foot from evil.
We use our imaginations all the time.
And we don’t think anything of it… pardon the pun.
We have been told since we were children that using our imaginations is a great thing. Even Sesame Street told us to do it. Willy Wonka told us that living in our imagination we would be free. But he was a fashion challenged recluse with the moral compass of a sewer rat so we will give ourselves permission to discard his advice.
We use our imaginations in the same way a wind surfer uses his sailboard. We know where we want to go, we just make our thoughts go in that direction. I remember as a child reading a book by Monica Dickens, the granddaughter of Charles Dickens. She was writing a semi-autobiographical account of the various jobs she had had as a child and she talked about the ‘endless possibilities of the inside of one’s own head’. That quote stuck with me because it resonated. As a child, I spent most of my free time either reading or imagining other places where I would not have to face the daily pain I lived with. It is where I learned to hide my true thoughts and desires, and in fact to hide my true self. It is where in fact I found that I could be totally at peace because nobody else could control me there, I was king of my own thoughts.
The only trouble with imagination is that it is driven by our hearts and if our hearts are corrupt then so our imagination will be. I was not saved at that point, so my thoughts were corrupt. But I had developed a stronghold there almost literally. So much so that when I was much older and living in a cult, that stronghold became even moreso my place of refuge. God had been replaced by evil overlords claiming to be his representatives. So when it came time to recognise that this stronghold was in fact defiling me and was not God’s will for my life, the struggle to let go was enormous. It wasn’t until I began to experience physical reactions to the many emotional struggles I had in my imagination that I realised what it was doing to me. My mind was not just a stronghold, it became a ‘mighty tower’ the very thing that scripture tells us is the place that God is supposed to inhabit. I had made an idol out of my imagination.
The name of the Lord is a strong tower;
The righteous run to it and are safe.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress;
My God, in Him I will trust.”
I was doing some research on witchcraft recently and read something which really piqued my interest. I was intrigued by a video by a Christian lady who had been a witch before she was saved. This lady explained how she used to work and I thought I would just check out whether this was real or not. I would not encourage visits to occult websites by the way, they are not somewhere anyone should spend a lot of time. A witch’s blog was describing that two of the main ingredients needed to cast spells are strong emotions and intent. Apparently, demonic forces can be summoned simply by these two things and coupled with the words which are used, curses and spells can be cast over others. Now the extent to which this is successful (or even viable) is beyond my ability or my desire to prove, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if this was the case. When Trump came to power in the U.S., there were a bunch of witches who used pictures of him coupled with various wiccan accoutrements to curse his person and presidency. I would imagine there was a great deal of intense emotion and intent behind those spells.
Imagination often elicits strong emotion, and of course we use intent to control our imaginations. We picture what we want to picture in our minds and make the characters say and do what we desire. It is a potent mix, and one which human beings have used to their destruction and blessing. The imagination can create horrific scenarios as well as things which are of great benefit to ourselves and others.
Scripture gives us a great deal of direction when it comes to our thoughts. Romans 12:2 tells us not to be conformed to the world but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds so that we can know the good, perfect and acceptable will of God. In fact, we are also urged to ‘have the mind of Christ’ by Paul.
6 For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
1 Corinthians 2:16
Romans 8:6 tells us that to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. That right there friends is the prescription to end depression. I don’t say this lightly because I have struggled with depression since I was a child. But I also know that anti-depressants are not going to fix what ails us as human beings. We are carnally minded if we don’t have the mind of Christ and if we are not born again. We need to be cleansed by the washing of the water of the Word (Ephesians 5:26).
The word of God calls us to be sober-minded, to be single-minded and to be sound-minded. We are to be of the same mind towards one another and to be like-minded and to set our minds on things that are above. These are all clear and direct calls to train our minds and our imaginations to godliness.
Further, we are told that we are to bring every thought to captivity to Christ.
3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:
4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)
5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
6 And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.
2 Corinthians 10
These are serious words to consider and digest. Our imaginations are not our own, although we often keep our deepest imaginings secret from others. In truth, much of what goes on in our imaginations if it were brought to light would be pretty shameful. I know that my imagination has been having a field day over the years until God showed me only recently that in fact we can be defiled by our thoughts.
5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.
If you do a word study of defilement in the bible, you will see that in the Old Testament there seem to be three main ways you could be defiled, through dead bodies, through blood and through idol worship. There were other ways which involved mixture and eating wrong foods as well. But in the New Testament, Jesus said that it was not what went into a man that defiled him but what was in his heart.
4 When He had called all the multitude to Himself, He said to them, “Hear Me, everyone, and understand: 15 There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man. 16 If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear!”
17 When He had entered a house away from the crowd, His disciples asked Him concerning the parable. 18 So He said to them, “Are you thus without understanding also? Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, 19 because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods?” 20 And He said, “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within and defile a man.”
As you can see, evil thoughts come from the heart of a man, or his mind. We can be defiled by the sins which occur in our imaginations. Jesus told us that even if a man lusts after a woman in his heart he has already committed adultery or fornication with her. This is powerful stuff. It means that the Bible is telling us something that even practitioners of occult works understand and use to their own and other people’s detriment. If we think a thing as far as God is concerned it is already done. If our intentions are to sin and we imagine that sin and presumably ‘feel’ that sin, then we have sinned.
Therefore, imagination is a potent tool which is not to be toyed with. Nor can we own our imaginations and claim that we can play around inside our own minds without being accountable to God for what passes through them or what stays and is employed by us to act out various fantasies.
Every thought leads to an action. Even imaginary ones. Our actions may be those of omission rather than commission. For example, if you are spending so much time imagining revenge on an enemy and not giving your attention to things that require it, you will make mistakes, miss things, not do your work properly, or even cause an accident. I can’t tell you the numbers of times I have been mentally absent whilst driving because I was imagining a conversation in my head and not paying attention to the road. In fact on one occasion, I ‘came to’ about ten minutes down the road and didn’t realise I had missed my turn off and took a second to realise where I was. Now that is dangerous. I realised I had gone through several traffic lights and couldn’t even remember whether I had stopped at them or not. What if I had run a red light? Fortunately, it was a country road in the middle of the day so it was fairly quiet, but at peak hour?
Our imaginations can be used in godly ways. Really though, it is probably better if we don’t spend too much time in our imagination at all. In fact, even reading fiction can be a problem. We can lose ourselves in a novel, even a Christian one, and what we are doing is actually spending time in somebody else’s mind. A creepy thought. We might think that these are just words on a page, but actually they are creating something in our imaginations. Our imaginations are powerful. Words are even more powerful. Both evoke emotions and change the way we think and act. If we assume that we have ownership over both and don’t submit to the Word on these matters, we will not only allow sin to creep in and have power over us, we may even be walking into witchcraft without realising it.
People who have been through severe psychological trauma, whether that is brought on by physical, sexual or psychological abuse, will often ‘space out’, or disassociate at odd times. Psychologists claim that the mind can’t tolerate anything which is too overwhelming, especially if it is the mind of a child. When things become too much to deal with our minds can shut off during those events and also afterwards when reminded of them. If the trauma is especially severe, the mind blanks out all memory of them. One of the things that can happen to trauma survivors is that they can space out via the use of their imaginations as I have just described. While these behaviours can be understood in the light of what we have been through as children and as adults, we can know that Jesus is able to help us in the midst of these episodes. If we truly want to give him our lives and our whole being, body, mind, will and emotions, and that includes our imaginations, then He can both heal, renew, wash with His blood and change the way we think and the way we act. This is both the reality and the hope we have as believers. It is one thing to recognise and understand why our minds and imaginations can be used to shield ourselves during an abusive episode, but we must remain vigilant once we realise what we are doing. We are responsible for our thoughts and we can control them.
I don’t want anybody reading this to think that genuine soul and mind change is only true on paper. It is real. The key though is that only God can give us a revelation of how our imaginations can defile us. Some things, like sexual sin, are obvious. But other things, like using our imaginations to comfort or help us to deal with stress, triggers or other overwhelming things, need to be given to Jesus Christ along with the knowledge that “in the multitude of my anxieties within me , your comforts delight my soul”. Psalm 94:19.
Jesus not only wants to deal with mind sin, he wants to wash our minds clean. We used to be brainwashed in the cult. That is the exposure to manipulation via words to think a certain way dictated to by other men or women. Mind washing is the cleansing through the blood of Jesus and His Word, the healing of the effects of the sins of others and also the sins we continue to commit against ourselves and God. Mind washing is imperative if you have been believing false doctrine for any length of time and especially so if it has changed the way you see God The Father, or Jesus. Trauma can cause us to close off to God and believe He doesn’t care for us. Those strongholds which form because we are shielding ourselves from the abuse of false doctrine can be empowered by demonic forces. It feels like it is a safe place for us but in fact it is a prison. Jesus told us He came to set the prisoners free and to heal the broken hearted (Luke 4:18 and Isaiah 61:1). It truly is the answer to the pain and brokenness we have experienced through the sins of others against us.
Don’t use your imagination as a stronghold of comfort from suffering or as a mighty fortress against the enemy. God alone has that right and place for His people. If we name Jesus as the name above all names, and He is our Saviour, then we need to submit our imaginations to Him and allow Him to cleanse our minds.
Further Reading on this blog: By Hook or By Crook
The other day, my husband and I were walking through town when the local fire brigade/ambulance contingent blasted down the main street, deafening sirens blaring in staccato bursts and a dishevelled Santa Claus waving vaguely on the back of the fire engine. I cringed. While other more friendly, less Santa-phobic members of our community tooted their car horns and waved in response, I walked quickly in the opposite direction and generally tried to avoid having to make eye contact with the parade. They passed swiftly, thank God, but it brought back some very uncomfortable memories of my hate/hate relationship with Father Christmas.
I am not sure if this is just an introvert thing, but I have always disliked anyone using grotesque costumes to hide their true identity, even in a good cause. Admittedly, Father Christmas would hardly seem grotesque to most, but in fact there are very few genuine looking Santas around the place, most looking like they got dressed in a locker with their eyes shut, sporting nylon beards and faces which frankly resemble anything but a jolly old man.
As a very small child, I was once accosted by a Santa Claus whilst sitting in the car-park of our local shopping mall. I was in the back seat of the family car, my little brother beside me, my older sister in the front seat. I watched him weave around the car park poking his heads into car windows with growing dread. Eventually, he came up to us and tried to hand us some lollipops. I panicked. Then I dropped behind the front seat of the car, pretending to look for something under the seat, and trying desperately to avoid eye contact with the guy. My brother seemed less concerned, and my sister tried to explain my ‘behaviour’ to the Claus pretender. I stayed on the floor of the car until the clone got the message and decided to move on. My sister chastised me afterwards for being so shy, but in my mind, this person was an intruder.
As I grew so did my litany of characters to avoid. It wasn’t just Santa Claus, it was the Easter Bunny, clowns, mime artists, people pretending to be statues in the park, or anyone getting in my face and attempting to sell me something in shopping malls. As a child, as a teen, as an adult, these people have been the bane of my life. Frankly I don’t find Christmas characters or even Christmas stuff generally to be that enjoyable. I avoid choirs of small children in shopping malls, people dressed as christmas fairies in shopping malls, huge crowds of people in shopping malls, shopping malls. All of these things are hell at any time, but at Christmas they become hell with muzac.
It’s not that I don’t like music, or celebrating, I just have a great deal of appreciation for subtlety, and authenticity, and I have a pathological fear of pretenders of any stripe. Put it down to having grown up with a mother who took great delight in behaving like Martha Stewart in front of company, but became the Wicked Witch of the East when there were no witnesses, and perhaps it will explain the way I detest pretense. I guess I just don’t enjoy over-the-top performers and that includes circus acts or anything strange and surrealistic.
I discovered some years ago that, pre-Rome, Christmas was originally about some other semi-religious pagan festival, and not about Jesus at all. I think it was Ceasar Augustus who morphed the two celebrations together more for reasons of political convenience than any similarities between the two. Most pagan festivals have some sort of mythological icons which represent the festival itself. Spring festivals focus on gods and goddesses of fertility, winter festivals focus on spirits of death and life and so forth. For us though, the whole Christmas thing has focused on Saint Nicholas/Father Christmas/Santa Claus, the man with the sack of presents, giving to children and the poor and unfortunate. The idea of the cold and stark mid-winter being blessed with a spirit of wealth and generosity is entirely satisfying. For those of us in Australia, its the barbeque and surf angel who is celebrated moreso than the guy with the sack of toys. Santa Claus is merely a token of our Victorian past, as he has become with most western nations. His ubiquitous nature at this time of year is taken for granted. Most people just nod and laugh when they see Santa Claus’ helpers sweating in their synthetic garments and stumping around the shopping malls and streets of our major cities. A lot of children think he is wonderful, a lot don’t I have noticed. You still get the children who cry instinctively when confronted with a man hidden behind a bushy mound of rayon barbie doll hair. They look grotesque, and to a small child who doesn’t know the difference between surreal and real, they are frightening. I was one of those children, and the surreality has not diminished with age. I don’t care who thinks I am weird for not liking Santa Claus.
But Santa Claus represents to me all of the repellent aspects of Christmas. It’s not just the consumer-driven obsession with making everything ‘perfect’ for Christmas day. For me the spirit of this season is the spirit of excess not genuine love of our fellow men. That spirit,, benevolence and generosity, is far more visible at other times of the year, despite the loud protestations of tree-hugging politically correct do-gooders who insist that we should all adopt an ‘orphan’ so they will ‘know that it’s Christmas’. A genuine do-gooder will be led by their better angels to reach out to others in need at times when it is less popular but far more necessary.
Charity does not only begin at home, it begins in the heart, and the heart is changed more completely by still small voices, not frightening or shaming ones. Not angels, not spirits of Christmas past or Christmas present (was Dickens making a play on words here?) or Christmas future, not choirs of cherubic children, not big bearded men, not the expectations of others will truly change our lives or the lives of others. Maybe we are too invested in the idea that Christmas is the only truly ‘magical’ time of the year, a time of miracles and changes of heart. Maybe Scrooge is a far more appropriate icon of the yule tide than the fat red man. Scrooge was a skinny old man who came face to face with the supernatural (albeit in a dream), his own past, and his possible future demise. The threat of hellfire, a common Victorian peril, caused a miserable old man to change his behaviour. I would love to know how old Scrooge was on boxing day and how long his ‘change’ would have lasted. In my experience, real Scrooges don’t turn on a dime and become sweet-natured disabled-children-loving old men overnight and for no other reason than they were visited by the angel of death. Cranky old bastards tend to stay that way, Christmas or no Christmas.
I guess the main reason I hate Santa Claus is that my own childhood Christmases were fairly dismal. My mother, as I said, was more into what things looked like than what they were. As a child, I longed for genuine love and generosity, moreso than gifts and food, but a gift well given is a symbol of love to me. By that I mean a gift which has been given in consideration of the person you are giving it to, symbolising an intimate knowledge and appreciation for that person. A Christmas which is filled with symbols of the power of adults over children is hardly a christmas to be remembered, unless you, like Dickens, have a morbid love of tales of hardship and deprivation.
I understand that Christmas and Santa Claus go hand in hand. I understand that consumerism and advertising use Christmas as their flagship, and that poverty becomes both the antithesis and the focus of everything Christmas represents and is therefore spoken of in tones of harsh judgement against those who don’t consider the poor, and grandstanding on behalf of those who do. I also understand that it is in the invisible realm of the human spirit and heart that the true nature of character and action is seated, and no amount of ‘christmas cheer’ is going to make a difference if you are a genuine Ebeneezer Scrooge, rather than a literary one.
I have been reading ‘How Green Was My Valley’ again after many decades. Totally different reading this as a mature married mother and wife. Below is a bit of a quote from the Father of the family in the novel. Huw, the youngest son has just seen a neighbour woman give birth, he wasn’t supposed to be there, being only about 12 at the time. I love that this family are deeply committed church-goers, although not born again Christians. I also love that the pastor of the village, Mr. Gruffydd is also a man of action who takes care of the poor and needy, detests unfairness and immorality and is able to stand up to an abusive and Pharisaical elder with gusto. This book is a tear jerker in more ways than one.
“Right then,” my father said “Listen to me. Forget all you saw. Leave it. Take your mind from it. It had nothing to do with you. But use it for experience. Now you know what hurt it brings to women when men come into the world. Remember and make it up to your Mama and to all women.”
“Yes Dada”, I said.
“And another thing let it do,” my father said. “There is no room for pride in any man. There is no room for unkindness. There is no room for wit at the expense of others. All men are born the same, and equal. As you saw today, so come the captains and the kings and the tinkers and the tailors. Let the memory direct your dealings with men and women. And be sure to take good care of Mama. Is it?”
“Yes Dada”, I said.
“God bless you my son”, he said, “sleep in peace”.
Richard Llewellyn ‘How Green Was My Valley’
Thank God for Nightmares.
We have all had them. They come in different forms, with different subjects, but the common experience with nightmares is the shock, horror and fear that propels us to wake in fright, heart pounding. It usually takes us a few minutes to realise it was all a dream, a nightmare, and sometimes you need to actually get out of bed, walk around, make yourself a drink, sit and wake up properly before your brain gets a clue.
I don’t know how people without Jesus handle nightmares. All my children used to do is call out and either Steve and myself would run to them, pray over them and comfort them and they would go back to sleep. Sometimes it would take some time, but they would go back to sleep. If either Steve or myself woke up after a nightmare, we would pray for each other and the fear would go and peace would take over.
One night last year I was half asleep and suddenly woke up properly and the whole room was dark, as though there had been a blackout. But it wasn’t just dark, it was black, there was a presence in the room. The house we were in had had all kinds of weird anomalies and we were convinced that people who had rented the place previously were either witches or satanists. Doorways had appeared and disappeared, objects disappeared and reappeared practically before our eyes, we had plagues of fleas and ants and spiders, we had dog attacks, our cat died, people suddenly becoming loud and aggressive just as they walked past our house and then going back to normal once they were past, neighbours becoming hostile and aggressive and so many other things. We were convinced our neighbour was a witch, she was a deeply disturbed woman and her little boy used to laugh and cry hysterically when he went out to play. There were all sorts of strange things going on and we spent most of our time praying in tongues and just trying to get through the day. Of course we didn’t stay there, but it was the worst house we had ever been in.
But back to the ‘nightmare’, in the half-dream, half-waking experience I had, I could not move, but I could turn my head to see if Steve was awake, and I called out his name. Then I woke up properly and realised the presence had gone and the light in the bedroom was normal. It was horrible, and I will never forget it. Nightmares are the kinds of things we remember vividly, and some people are plagued with them frequently. To those ones I would counsel, call out to Jesus Christ, ask Him to save you, He is our Saviour and our protector against the darkness and our mortal enemy, Satan. You need to be born again and Jesus came to earth as a human being, indwelt by God, ‘The Word’ (see the gospel of John first chapter) in order to bear our sin, to become our sin, so that he may be sacrificed on our behalf so that we don’t have to bear the punishment of our sin. If you have not asked Jesus to save you and asked him to forgive you of your sin that sent him to the cross, you will not be received by God the father in heaven when you die. And it is this subject that I want to discuss.
Nightmares, no matter how bad they are, are simply a means that God uses to tell us that we have hope. Waking up from a nightmare has to be among one of life’s worst moments. If you have really really bad nightmares you know the horror and trauma that assails you while you are in them. But you have the blessed moment when you wake and realise it was not real, it was a dream. Fair enough, some people are still affected by the emotional torment of those nightmares, and some people simply can’t sleep because of them. But those people, in their waking moments still have hope. They can still go to Jesus and ask Him to heal them, to give them peace, to deliver them from the demons of their past and their inner minds. And He does, and He will.
We have hope.
Until we are on our deathbeds.
I am going to upload a video of the testimony of a woman who used to be a close friend of the satanist Anton Le Vey, the architect of America’s first Church of Satan. You can read about his life and career online, he was a pretty ugly character. He kept company with people like L. Ron Hubbard, also a satanist. Le Vey is reported to have ‘seen the light’ whilst on his deathbed. According to the woman in this video, satanists apparently revere death and consider it a great victory. What happened to Anton Le Vey apparently was not what he was expecting. He realised, to his great horror, that the nightmare was only just beginning and that he was not going to ever wake up from it. This is what hell is. Imagine your worst nightmare, and never being able to wake up from it. The horror, the pain and the trauma never ends, and there is no escape. Ever. For eternity.
It would take too long to list all the scriptural passages that refer to hell. I will include a fairly comprehensive article which will do that instead. To read more on what the bible says about hell go here.
The one verse which has always struck me as the most instructive is from Matthew 10:28.
27 “Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops. 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. 30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.
Matthew 10 NKJV
Even when Jesus is telling us about hell and God’s judgement, he is immediately afterwards giving us reassurance that we are valuable to him. He is giving us comfort in the midst of our fear, although it is fear of man that he is warning us against. It is better to fear God Jesus says, because God’s judgement is final and the wages of sin is eternal death.
This is why nightmares are such a vivid illustration of what awaits the unrepentant sinner, the one who ignores God’s grace. Today is the day of salvation.
Next time you have a nightmare, remember that. Remember that Jesus has given us today, the morning, the light, in which we can know the truth, and repent and be saved from eternal nightmares without end and with no escape.
Any unsaved person reading this will immediately try and dismiss this. Many so called Christians will also say that a loving God would not condemn anyone to hell, but Scripture is very clear on this subject. Just because you don’t like it doesn’t make it false. But God IS loving. He IS merciful, which is why He has provided a way of escape. His escape is now, while you are alive. We sometimes wonder why the very worst sinners, the mass murderers or the genocidal maniacs end up living such long lives. It is because their judgement awaits them at the end of their lives, and God is merciful to all. The rain falls on the just and the unjust, his mercy is fair and equitable to all, everyone, no matter how terrible their sin is able to be forgiven and will find a place in heaven with God. But make no mistake, a person who does not accept the salvation found in Christ will not find a place in heaven.
Our repentance needs to be true. Jesus said many will come to Him in that day, the day of the Lord (judgement day) and say ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we do this in your name, didn’t we do that in your name’, and God will say ‘depart from me I never knew you’. (Matthew 7:3) We can’t kid God. You can’t say “well, I believe” and then go on with your life as though your life is still your own. God requires not just faith, but our whole life.
25 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.
Matthew 16:25 NKJV
Yet, as we give Him our lives, He gives us – in exchange – His life. Who wouldn’t rather have eternal life, the life of Christ himself than our own miserable and petty lives filled with fear and hatred and anger. We have nothing to offer God, yet He gladly receives what we have. Like the widow with two mites who gave everything she had. (Mark 12: 41-44). Jesus told his disciples that her gift was greater than a wealthy man’s gift because she gave everything. Always in the Kingdom of God, it is the humble offering of ourselves, as little as we are, that impresses and pleases God. When Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5) tried to pretend they were like the widow and gave ‘everything they had’ after selling some real estate, they were struck dead by God for lying. They could have just given what they wanted to give and kept the rest and not lied about it. Nobody was forcing them to give anything, but they wanted others to believe that they were humble and righteous, and it was this ugly and self-loving deception which caused their deaths.
So next time you wake in fright, and then feel the wave of relief when you realise that it was just a dream, remember that while it is still day you have the opportunity to make that relief an eternal reality. You will never have to face eternal torment and death if you make the decision now to accept the salvation and love that Jesus offers us.
God bless you now and forever more.
Further reading on this blog: ‘Hell, Who Goes There‘.
Jesus Warns of Offenses
17 Then He said to the disciples, “It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come! 2 It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. 3 Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. 4 And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him. (Luke 17 NKJV)
Here it is in black and white – or red – depending on your bible version.
- Offenses are COMMONPLACE.
- Offenders will be JUDGED.
- If you offend somebody REPENT.
- If somebody offends you REBUKE.
- If somebody offends you and repents – FORGIVE.
The big lie on the internet at the moment is that forgiveness should happen regardless. This lie is perpetuated by both Christian and secular writers and speakers.My guess is that the reason Christians perpetuate this lie is that they are taught by others who have not taken the time to really look at this issue. Which is a shame, because it is a fundamental teaching in scripture.
The worldly lie is: Forgiveness is universal, unconditional and unilateral. The emphasis is on the person who has been offended, shall we call them the victim for ease of use. If the offender does not repent, the victim should forgive them. If they do not apologise, the victim should forgive them. If they continue to offend without either repentance or apology, the victim should forgive them. The underlying false teaching is that forgiveness is for the sake of the victim. The almost unvarying corollary to this is that the victim cannot move on with life unless they forgive the offender regardless of what actions the offender has taken to either repent or make reparations for their offense. The upshot of this is – if the victim doesn’t forgive, then they have sinned. Invariably it is insinuated that the victim will also end up with a root of bitterness, in scriptural terms, they will fall away from the faith. So long and short, forgive all offenders or you will end up in hell. This is not just eisegesis, it is a completely ridiculous assertion based on careless handling of the word by generations of believers who have not checked their sources.
Not only is this assertion theologically unsound, it is not even morally sound. Psychologists will preach (rightly) that it is imperative to both recognise and honour the other person’s right to boundaries and emotions regardless of the inconvenience it presents. Therefore, even before you act, you should be aware of those rights and act accordingly. Should you offend another person you should apologise right away and ensure the apology is sincere. Going purely by the number of articles on the subject of fake apologies on the internet even a non-Christian gets upset when presented with an apology which avoids either recognition of wrong or repentance. Further, people get really really upset when the offender continues to offend the same way after having just given a fake apology. So this is a big subject.
A sincere apology involves specific recognition of the offence and an offer to do something about it. It also involves a reassurance that they will not re-offend. This proves that the offender has learned something about other people and themselves. It proves that they are able to change their behaviour for the sake of another. People who refuse to apologise sincerely also prove that they neither recognise boundaries nor consequences. They are also usually repeat offenders. They reason that they have done nothing wrong and if the other person is offended it is their fault. The other person is too sensitive, or they can’t take a joke, they are fundamentalist oddballs, they are killjoys, they need to get a life and so on.
The foundation of the false teaching of unconditional forgiveness is really not about the victim at all. It is about the offender being allowed to get away with their sins the first time, and then also being allowed to continue sinning. The excuse is always, Jesus taught that you have to forgive me, so if you, the victim do not forgive you are actually the bad person. The offender then continues on their merry way habitually sinning and giving themselves a get out of jail free card. In actual fact of course, they don’t get out of jail at all, their sin will continue to affect them and in the end cause all manner of difficulties in their spiritual lives. If they are not Christians, they will simply continue to increase in their attitude of rebellion against God and hardened hearts against their fellow human beings.
Now. There IS a difference between somebody who does not forgive an unrepentant repeat offender and somebody who refuses to forgive a repeat offender who sincerely repents. You might think that genuine repentance means that you don’t continue to offend. But let’s get one thing clear. There is a huge difference between repeat offenses regarding the same sin and the issue of sin continuing to affect us while we are in the flesh. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We do still sin. The hope and prayer is that we sin less and less as we continue to mature. Part of doing this is to recognise what scripture actually teaches. It is not a sin to not forgive an unrepentant sinner. If we hold their behaviour as a reason to hold grudges and act badly towards them then we are at fault. Here is an example. This is a true story.
I notice my neighbour is having a party – balloons and tent in back yard. I go to my neighbour and ask if they are intending to have loud music at this party because in particular there was a loud party elsewhere the night before and it spooked our animals. The neighbour assures me assiduously that they are NOT going to have a loud party, they are not the type to have loud rock music and upset the neighbours and they agree that the ignoramus behind both them and you also upset their own animals. The neighbour points out how much they appreciate you coming to talk to them personally because somebody in the neighbourhood recently put an anonymous note in their letterbox complaining about their dog barking. So you leave the neighbours house feeling good that you are on the same page.
At about 10 p.m. that night, the party, which had been progressing well, a bit of loud yelling and talking and some fairly quiet music, suddenly becomes a disco. The music is turned right up and some very loud noises then ensue, right at the time you and your family are going to bed. So you go next door to ask them to turn their music down. The woman you spoke to a few hours previously is now drunk but still cogent. She proves to be a very nasty drunk and begins to verbally abuse you for asking her to turn the music down. She also makes a comment about the fact that your dog was barking very early the other morning. You point out to her that a) you immediately hauled your dog inside as soon as you heard her barking and b) that this has nothing to do with her current noise. She starts to get really hostile. Her boyfriend/partner/husband comes to the door, tells the woman to let him handle it, thanks you for coming personally to ask them to turn the music down, and asks if there is anything they can do to help the situation. So you, recognising the irony of the situation, (he is clearly drunk but not as drunk as the woman), attempt to explain again politely that he needs to turn down the music. The male neighbour promises to turn the music down but tells you that he cannot promise to keep the verbal noise to a minimum without asking the guests to leave.
The neighbours then turn the music down. About midnight they turn it up very very loud to the point that it freaks out your dog and cat just before they decide to shut down the party. The next day it turns out the party was a ‘sleepover’ so the point the neighbour made about ‘asking the guests to leave’ was a lie as well since they were obviously intending to stay the whole night.
Three days later, a very small box of chocolates together with a very small card saying ‘sorry about the noise’ appears on your front doorstep. What do you do?
Here’s the thing. If you offend me to my face, you apologise to my face. You recognise that a) you were the one who promised you would not have a loud party and that you really appreciated people complaining to your face and did not like anonymous complaints and b) when we did complain to your face you abused us verbally. You also recognise that you created even more noise after you promised to turn down the music the second time. So in effect, you not only continued to offend but you turned the offence volume literally and metaphorically to eleven.
A five word sentence with a box of chocolates is not a sincere apology. Further, waiting three days (??) to deliver said box of chocolates and micro-card without either waiting to talk to us personally or even knocking on the door is not only further offence, it is cowardly and hypocritical. THEREFORE: – this is not an apology which warrants a second glance, and these are people who have proven their fickle and anarchic character and with whom you do not have any further communication unless absolutely necessary. PS. Some might feel that the chocolates somehow prove sincerity because well, everybody loves chocolate and they at least made an effort right? Cut them some slack. But this isn’t even an argument. Chocolate is not a substitute for attending to the breach in trust and integrity which has been visited upon unsuspecting neighbours whom you have previously manipulated and assuaged with feigned assurances that you are in agreement with them about protecting pets from undue stress and enjoying neighbourhood peace and quiet. These people are not good neighbours, they are habitual liars and have no consideration for anyone other than their bad selves. If they re-offend we will not bother coming to them personally, we will simply report them to the authorities. People write anonymous notes for a reason, and in this case, the reticence of the other neighbours to engage with these people has been proven right.
Here is an example of a genuine apology. This is also a true story.
Recently we have been attending a Pentecostal church, something we have not been used to for some time despite having grown up in these circles. We were used to attending Baptist churches with their usual quiet and traditional services and people. One of the elders at this church greeted the females in our family with a hug and a kiss on the cheek. We were not expecting it, and our daughter showed that she was not comfortable with the interaction. The elder seemed not to notice that she was reticent and went ahead and hugged her anyway. We talked about it afterward, and later Steve went and had a quiet word with him about the appropriateness of his actions. He apologised to Steve profusely and offered to also apologise to us. We did not really want this interaction, but realised he was attempting to attend to the offence he had caused.
He came to us and apologised unreservedly, and such was the sincerity of his words, we told him that we appreciated that he actually offered to come and apologise for his actions and that it meant a lot to us. His face said it all, and as he went away, we all felt good that there was no intention to ignore personal boundaries and that he normally treated women at the church in this manner. In fact, he went so far as to say that his wife was always telling him that not everyone appreciates being hugged by strange men, despite the fact that we were in church. We all had a laugh, but the thought has occurred to me since then. If he is ignoring his wife’s sensitivity and emotional intelligence when it comes to other women, he is going to continue stepping on people’s toes. We hope and trust that he has learned from this admittedly uncomfortable situation.
One thought I should add to this is that our elder friend did not go through all of the steps required for a sincere apology. He did not have to. His heart was clearly in the right place, and love covers a multitude of sins. In other words, when somebody immediately proves that they regret an offence by their facial expression and words, you know you are in safe hands. Obviously time will tell whether he learns from this experience not to hug strange women, but that is between him and God and presumably his wife. We doubt very much whether he will hug us again, and frankly, even if we end up being the best of friends, we still would not want to hug him. In today’s climate, it is better not to give full body hugs to brothers in the Lord regardless of the circumstances. Scripture makes it clear that we need to be avoiding even the appearance of sin and the less physical contact that men and women in church have, the better for everyone. That probably sounds puritanical, but you can still love and relate well between genders without physical touch.
So, the point about sincerely apologising is really only important when you are dealing with insincere apologisers. Kind of redundant really. Genuine brothers and sisters don’t need to be lectured on this topic. Genuine Christians will automatically be sensitive and loving to each other, and if personal or cultural backgrounds mean that there is a misunderstanding, these can easily be dealt with if there is a mutual desire for a loving relationship.
When dealing with the unscrupulous unsaved, and lets face it there are a lot of them, we need to be forthright and open and then when somebody shows you who they are, believe them. We can pray for our neighbours, but when they lie and manipulate, they are showing you they are actually hostile and aggressive and looking for ways to control you. Be aware and fight the demons accordingly.
Update: The neighbours who sent us the ‘apology’ woke us up last night at 1.30 a.m. standing outside their house talking at the tops of their voices and slamming car doors. Our dog who sleeps in the garage went off at them. This simply serves to underline our contention that people will tell you who they are all you have to do is believe them.
Further Update: The neighbours who sent us the ‘apology’ spent the next Saturday afternoon in their garden with their music turned up loud enough for us to hear it in our house with the doors and windows closed. We discovered that their speakers had been deliberately turned towards our house. Our response? We prayed for our persecutors and turned on praise music – quietly enough so that only we heard it. The neighbours noise stopped soon after that.
A comprehensive look at transhumanism and the new technology which even the experts are freaking out about. It talks about how the internet is changing, 5G streaming, robotics, technology which is implanted in our bodies that is linked to the internet, the ‘internet of everything’ and lots more. Something we all need to consider.
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