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TURN BACK, O MAN!
CAMPBELLTON, New Brunswick, June 4, 2023 – When I was 16, God in his wisdom had me play Mary Magdalene in the musical “Godspell”. It was a high school production with all the missed cues, corniness, nerves, and occasional flashes of brilliance that characterize such productions. The lanky, long-haired cool guy who played Jesus was 19 and in a heavy metal band at the time (he’s a preacher now) and most of us in the troupe were either hard-core or closet atheists.
So there I was, playing Jesus’ closest female disciple while not even believing in God, let alone Jesus. But God, of course, knew exactly what he was doing in placing me in that role. I thought I was chosen to play Mary Magdalene because the character’s solo was more spoken than sung (I’m not a talented singer, to put it mildly) and God let me believe that at the time. Now I know otherwise.
Our conversions, when they happen, are sudden and monumental. The day I was born-again, I woke up an atheist and went to bed a Jesus freak. The actual instant of conversion occurs outside of time, in the eternal realm of God’s Kingdom, and involves the exorcising of the world’s spirits (demons) and the inrushing of God’s Holy Spirit. For me, the conversion happened while my body was lying dead on a beach in Australia and my soul was communing with God. As instantaneous and definitive as my conversion was, it was the fulfillment of a process that had started many years before and of which I was only made aware after I was reborn.
In the musical “Godspell”, Mary Magdalene sings (actually, kind of purrs) a song called “Turn Back, O Man”. I knew all the words to that song even before I auditioned for the part, because when I was 10 years old, I’d won a “Godspell” album as a prize on the radio (for being Caller Number 4! Yay!). I used to play the album on my little brown and white portable record player and then when I got older, I’d play it on my parent’s big wooden floor-model stereo, full blast. I knew all the songs in “Godspell” by heart, which you may or may not know is based on the book of Matthew, with a few of David’s psalms thrown in for good measure.
God must have had a good laugh watching me sing his Word off-key but enthusiastically as I warbled along with the album. He must have smiled the kind of smile that only God can smile, because I was a proud hard-core atheist at the time, having been removed from religion class when I was 7 after so disturbing the nun by something I’d said to her, she didn’t want to teach the class anymore with me in it. But there I was, a little nun-disturbing self-professed atheist, reciting Jesus’ teachings verbatim without realizing what I was reciting. Like I said, it must have made God smile to see me singing his Word, and then a few years later to watch me playing Jesus’ friend, Mary Magdalene. By exposing me to “Godspell”, God wasn’t so much priming me for my later conversion as he was providing me with a radically different perspective of Jesus than the mainstream church and society were offering.
And he was planting his seeds.
As farmers and gardeners well know, not every seed that’s planted germinates. And of those seeds that do germinate, not every sprout survives, and of those sprouts that do survive, not every plant makes it to fruition, and of those plants that do make it to fruition, not every fruiting plant continues to bear fruit. Farmers and gardeners also know about weeds and pests and watering and fertilizing, and about the heartache of frost and drought and blight. Some even know that some seeds take a long time to germinate – sometimes years, hidden away in the dirt and dung – and then yet more years, post-germination, to grow to strength and maturity. I was such a seed, trodden down and covered in filth and sludge, but God knew I was there and he never stopped watching over me. He never stopped moving things thisaway or thataway (though never interfering with my free will), all the time time betting I’d some day say “YES!” to him, while the devil kept on betting I’d say “No”.
From this blog, you can see who won that bet.
I took “Godspell” with me in spirit during my hitchhiking travels in my late teens and early twenties, singing God’s Word as a comfort (without realizing I was singing God’s Word) when things got really bad, which you can imagine they did with increasing frequency for an atheist who believed she was a law unto herself.
What I mean to say here is that we start our journey toward turning back to God long before we actually turn. And it may look like we’re moving farther and father away from God, when in fact we’re starting to go through the refining process. Refining involves burning, sometimes with heat and flames, sometimes with chemicals. It’s a crude and dangerous process that leaves enormous amounts of waste behind. But it’s how God makes us fit for his Kingdom by sloughing off all the worldly impurities we’ve accumulated living life our way rather than his.
But I’m here now, in God’s Kingdom. I turned back. I’ve arrived. It took a lot of behind-the-scenes shifting and digging and weeding and sloughing on God’s part, but I turned back. I finally said “YES!” to God. The song that I sang all those years ago as Mary Magdalene in my high school’s production of “Godspell”, I now know I was singing to myself. I was preaching to myself. I was begging myself.
I was warning myself.
I now sing that song to you.
Turn back, O man
Forswear thy foolish ways
Old now is earth
And none may count her days
Yet thou, her child
Whose head is crowned with flames
Still will not hear
Thine inner God proclaim
Turn back, O man (mmm, I like that)
Turn back, O man (Handle with care)
Turn back, O man (can you take it?)
Forswear thy foolish ways
Earth might be fair
And all men glad and wise
Age after age their tragic empires rise
Built while they dream
And in that dreaming weep
Would man but wake
From out his haunted sleep
Turn back, O man…
Turn back, O man…
Turn back, O man…
Forswear thy foolish ways
Earth shall be fair
And all her people one
Not till that hour
Shall God’s whole will be done
Now, even now
Once more from Earth to sky
Peals forth in joy
Man’s old undaunted cry
Earth shall be fair
And all her people one
C’mere Jesus, I got sump’n to show ya!
Turn back, O man
Forswear thy foolish ways
Old now is earth
And none may count her days
Yet thou, her child
Whose head is crowned with flames
Still will not hear
Thine inner God proclaim
Turn back, O man
Turn back, O man
Forswear thy foolish ways!
BINGEING ON THE END TIMES
CAMPBELLTON, New Brunswick, June 4, 2023 – Jesus rarely taught about end-times prophecies. He mentioned them on occasion, and three of the four gospels devote a chapter to them, but they weren’t his focus. More important to Jesus was that his followers understand the necessity of having a strong faith foundation (building on rock rather than sand) and of being born-again. Everything else would flow from that.
Contrast Jesus with today’s self-professed prophets, whose entire ministries revolve around end-times prophecies. This is a red flag of spiritual danger right there, as such prophecies tend to lead Christians away from the basics of having a strong faith foundation and being born-again. They instead stress “visions” and prepping and private revelations, so that being a Christian is no longer about loving your enemies, but about hoarding food and guns and ammo that you have no intention of sharing with your neighbours, let alone your enemies.
Focusing on end-times prophecies is spiritually unhealthy. Perpetually and breathlessly rehashing John’s book of Revelation to see if this or that world event aligns with this or that prophesied sign is little more than a Bible game based on current events if the inspiration doesn’t come from God’s Holy Spirit. Jesus tells us to “watch” for signs, not to binge watch.
Ultimately, fixating on the mark of the beast or the identity of the anti-Christ becomes fear- and ego-driven spiritual porn that has nothing to do with Jesus’ teachings or God’s Kingdom and everything to do with pride and caving to the devil’s seductions.
We need to be very, very careful when we approach the topic of end-times prophecies, especially prophecies based on John’s Revelation. We need to let God lead us by his Spirit, not allow ourselves to be led by random YouTube prophets whose sole purpose appears to be riling up their viewers for clicks, likes, and donations. Elijah, Jeremiah, and other prophets dealt with the same issues during their time on Earth. False prophets are not a new phenomenon, and neither is their focus on end-times prophecies. The only thing that’s new about this latest batch of false prophets is their high-tech method of delivering their lies.
But why are people so drawn to the topic of the end times? For some people, it’s curiosity; they simply want to know what may be coming down the pipeline. For others, there’s an element of escapism in fixating on eschatology (anything to do with the end times) that gives them the feeling they don’t have to deal with issues at hand (since those issues are going to be meaningless once the bombs start dropping, right?). These people use end-times signs as an excuse not to live in the present and deal with their problems. Then there are those who believe that Jesus is coming back soon to set up a worldly kingdom, and they’re rightly looking forward to such a time, if only they weren’t so wrong about Jesus doing that.
Jesus tells us that we should pray to God to take us away before the final cataclysms begin. Why would he tell us to pray to God to take us away if he’s coming back to set up a kingdom? Wouldn’t he instead have told us us to find a nice little hidey-hole to hunker down in and wile away the time until his return? But that’s not what he says; he says we should pray to God to take us Home before the storm begins.
I am not a specialist in eschatology and I don’t focus on it. Still, I’m relatively knowledgeable about it simply by being a follower of Jesus who reads God’s Word daily. I have a believer’s knowledge of the end times. My understanding is based not only on the book of Revelation and chapters in the gospels, but on other books in the Bible, including Daniel, Isaiah, and some of the so-called minor prophets. They all speak of a time when the world will undergo simultaneous cataclysms across every sphere (geological, economic, physical, social, spiritual, etc.) that will be so horrendous, nothing and no-one will survive. It will be a mass extinction event from which there will be no coming back. It will be the end of the world not only as we know it, but the end of the world altogether.
For a Christian, this is a not something that you should pray to happen soon. For a Christian, the focus should be on following Jesus’ example of teaching about God’s Kingdom and doing whatever is necessary to bring people to “repent and believe the Gospel”. Christians should not be praying for the worst of the worst to happen on the off chance that Jesus may be dropping by at the same time.
If you find yourself unduly attracted to end-times prophecies and those who are pushing them, especially on social media, maybe now’s a good time to remind yourself that Jesus didn’t focus on end-times prophecies and didn’t spend much of his ministry teaching about them. It was more important to him that we live our lives day by day by day as he instructed that we do, that we make godly choices, and that we unfailingly treat others as we would want to be treated, including our enemies. These teachings might not have the same thrill and attraction as speculating who the anti-Christ might be or whether we’ve entered the tribulation years, but they are critically important to our eternal soul.
That we learn to love our enemies under every circumstance and temptation is the meat and veggies of our spiritual education, whereas figuring out end-times prophecies is more like dessert. And we all know what happens to our body if our diet consists mostly of dessert.
“Let them eat cake” was never intended as nutritional advice.
ITCHING FOR A JIM JONES-STYLE REVIVAL: A WORD ON CHRISTIANS AND SUICIDE
CAMPBELLTON, New Brunswick, June 4, 2023 – Someone sent me a YouTube video yesterday featuring a pastor telling his flock it’s OK to commit suicide as long as you have faith in Jesus, because faith in Jesus is all you need to get into Heaven. It was cartoon video, and I thought at first it was a parody of Jim Jones, the guy who counselled his followers to kill themselves by drinking a Kool-Aid-like concoction laced with cyanide. But no, the video wasn’t a parody. The pastor was teaching his flock that God is fine with them killing themselves.
But here’s what God actually has to say about Christians and suicide.
First of all, Jesus tells us not to judge, which in this case would mean not to say whether someone who commits suicide will or won’t get into Heaven. A soul’s final destination is determined by God, not by man, and certainly not by doctrines of men. To say that all those who have “faith in Jesus” automatically have a ticket to Heaven is a form of judging. It’s as much judging to claim that someone will get into Heaven as to say someone won’t. Both claims are judging, and we’ve been warned not to do that.
At the same time, Jesus also taught us that, at the Judgement, we’ll be held accountable for everything we do and say during our time on Earth, and Paul tells us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. These lines from scripture don’t in any way indicate that anyone has an automatic ticket to Heaven, no matter how strong their faith in Jesus.
In any case, how can people claim to have faith in Jesus and at the same time want to kill themselves? The two positions – faith in Jesus and suicidal intentions – cancel each other out. If we have faith in Jesus, we’ll want to be like Jesus, and Jesus was in no way suicidal.
The pastor on what I now think of as the “Jim Jones video” also trotted out Paul’s statement that we’re saved by grace, not by works. However, what the pastor didn’t mention was that the works Paul was contrasting to grace in that particular verse were the works of the law (the 600+ statutes and ordinances given to the children of Israel by Moses), not the 600+ choices we make every day with our free will. Jesus and Paul and others throughout the Bible are abundantly clear that our works (that is, everything we choose to say and everything we choose to do, including the thoughts we choose to think) are being monitored and recorded in the spiritual realm. We’ll be held accountable for those at the Judgement.
It’s also worth noting that the pastor didn’t define grace. Had he defined grace, it would have upended his argument about suicidal people getting into Heaven, which I guess is why he chose not to define it. Grace is the state of living with God’s Holy Spirit with you 24/7. It is a gift that God confers through conversion. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross reconciled us to God not by default but only if we willfully submit to God like little children, repent, and are genuinely converted. Again, first comes the willful submission and repentance, then comes the conversion, and then comes God’s Holy Spirit into our soul.
When we’re converted, Jesus and God come to live with us through the Holy Spirit. This is the state of living in grace. But after conversion we still have free will and so still need to make godly and righteous choices for the rest of our time on Earth or we’ll push God and Jesus out of our soul. Grace can be lost, as the fallen entities well know and as Jesus warned us in the parable of the man who was “swept clean” and then later became so full of evil that his end was worse than his beginning. Anyone who claims that grace cannot be lost is dead wrong. God and Jesus cannot live in a soul where sin has command, and the potential for sin to have command in a soul persists (due to free will) as long as that soul, whether converted or not, remains on Earth.
Furthermore, and this needs to be said loud and clear – someone who contemplates committing suicide is not by definition a Christian. The definition of a Christian is someone who is born-again and so lives under God’s grace and has the companionship and guidance of God and Jesus 24/7. Entertaining (that is mulling over) the possibility of suicide is A BIG RED FLAG that the soul is not under grace. Such a soul urgently needs to submit to God, repent, and be converted. No genuine born-again follower of Jesus would under any circumstance entertain thoughts of suicide (including assisted suicide), let alone actually do it.
As I mentioned, a genuine Christian has God and Jesus with him or her 24/7. When you have the constant presence of God and Jesus with you, contemplating suicide never comes to mind, or if it does, it’s knocked back so fast, your head spins. Any problems you encounter, you take them immediately to God and Jesus and they help you work them out. That’s God’s promise to you and that’s their job. As a born-again believer for over 23 years, I can vouch for this. Before I was born-again, I constantly thought about killing myself, but since my rebirth, I have never again thought about suicide.
Most people contemplate suicide as a way out of their spiritual (emotional) pain. Spiritual pain is a sign that a soul is in sin. Souls that are in sin cannot get into Heaven, not because God is keeping them out, but because their sin, as evidenced by their spiritual pain, is keeping them out. Scripture reminds us over and over that it is sin that separates a soul from God. That is a basic spiritual fact.
Again, we’re not to judge – God is the judge – but God’s given us enough rules and examples in his Word, along with a Spirit of Truth and wisdom and understanding, that we can easily discern right from wrong. Any pastor who teaches that it’s OK for a Christian to commit suicide because “once saved, always saved” and that it’s all about “faith in Jesus” rather than our relationship with God and what we choose to think, say, and do during our time on Earth – well, such a pastor will find out the hard way, I guess, what happens to you when you teach lies. “It’s a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
To sum up, Jesus tells us not to judge, which means not to claim that this or that particular soul will or won’t go to Heaven. God is the Judge. Also, there’s no such thing as a suicidal Christian. People who are contemplating committing suicide are in a state of sin. They need to get right with God and then they’ll actually become Christians and live under God’s protective and healing state of grace. Under grace, all thoughts of suicide automatically stop, including thoughts of assisted suicide. Those thoughts will not come back as long as that person remains under grace.
Jesus invited us to drink the water of life, not the dregs of death, and definitely not the Kool-Aid.
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine;
but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
2 Timothy 4:3-4
ON CAUTIONARY TALES
CAMPBELLTON, New Brunswick, May 31, 2023 – I read the Bible cover-to-cover several times a year. I don’t stop after each word and mull it over, but I do get a good overview of the history of God’s people across the millennia. What I see is the same thing happening over and over again – God setting limits to people’s behavior through a covenant, people promising to abide by the covenant, the promise slowly being bent and then broken, God giving his people time to repent and turn back, God finally running out of patience, followed by a major upheaval… and then God setting a new covenant, his people promising to abide by the new covenant, the slow bending and breaking of the new covenant, and so on, and so on, and so on.
And yet despite the obvious cyclical nature of this process, most people haven’t learned from the mistakes of those who came before them because they keep making the same mistakes themselves.
It’s disheartening to read how easily people fall back into sin after promising God they won’t. It’s especially disheartening to read how people turn their back on God after they’ve heard (and to all appearances received) the Gospel.
Scripture says we’ll all be tried and tempted. I’m an expert at being tried and tempted, not to mention a poster child occasionally for what NOT to do when tried and tempted. Yet the whole purpose in God permitting us to make mistakes is that we learn from them so that we don’t make those same mistakes again. Jesus was very clear in his warnings to the people he’d helped not to sin again or they’d find themselves in a worse state. He said, and I quote: “Go, and do not sin again.”
Ideally, we’d learn not only from our own mistakes but from each other’s mistakes as cautionary tales, so that we don’t make the same mistakes ourselves and go through the same suffering. Yes, ideally, we’d learn from each other’s mistakes, but this rarely happens. I guess maybe we learn best by personally suffering consequences, but just how many mistakes can we make before God’s patience runs out?
For some sins, we only get one chance. If we do the same thing again, after being explicitly warned not to do it, we may not get a second chance. It might be our spiritual undoing.
There is no judgement in this piece. I am not judging, simply pointing out that sin leads unavoidably to spiritual pain. The problem with spiritual pain is that most people when they feel it run to other people for help rather than to God. They hide from God, like Adam and Eve hid from God in the Garden of Eden after they’d eaten the forbidden fruit and suddenly realized they were naked.
Whole denominations with creeds that deviate from the Commandments exist solely because people are hiding from God. But if you hide from God and refuse to repent, God has no option but to turn the spiritual thumbscrews on you. When he does that, the pain is immense.
(And yes, I do speak from personal experience.)
Many people in the Bible were forced into similar situations when God had to resort to the spiritual thumbscrew option. The wise ones responded by immediately repenting in sackcloth and ashes but the foolish ones doubled down on their sin, continuing to refuse to repent. It’s all laid out there for us in the Bible, the right way and the wrong way to respond to God’s corrections. All God asks of us is to pick up the Good Book and read it and heed it.
Read it and heed it. That’s all he asks.
Every time I read through the Bible, I get more and more frustrated with the people who didn’t heed it, and I’m not talking about the “heathens” here – I’m talking about God’s people who had full knowledge of God’s Laws and instructions, who willingly bound themselves to God’s covenants and then turned around and broke them. I get frustrated to the point where I don’t even want to read those passages any more, so I skip over them. I don’t want to read and reread what most of the kings after David did, the ones who purposely did evil in the sight of the Lord. So I skim through the kings until I get to the ones who did “that which was right in the sight of the Lord” and I read about them instead.
Jesus expressed the same frustration with the educated temple elite. They knew all of God’s Laws and had for the most part memorized the prophets, and yet there they were, raining all over Jesus’ parade and acting worse than the worst of the heathens. Recall that it wasn’t the heathen Romans who were agitating for Jesus’ execution (Pontius Pilate wanted to let him go); it was the temple elders who demanded that Jesus be crucified.
And so, it seems, we have two types of people who defy God – the ones who are ignorant of him (the so-called heathens) and the ones who think they know better than him and proudly refuse to repent, even when God applies the thumbscrews. The heathens we can get to with our prayers, but the proud (or what God in scripture calls the “stiff-necked” and “hard-hearted”) will have to suffer and suffer hard, like King Manasseh or like yours truly. The stiff-necked and hard-hearted need to be thoroughly broken before they can turn, if they ever do.
I know God doesn’t want me to be disheartened by the cycle of sin that repeats over and over in the Bible or by the record of those who fell and didn’t get back up. I know that every time I open the Good Book he wants me to learn from it so that I don’t fall into the same traps as other people, so that I’m encouraged and comforted by those who got it wrong at first but who eventually learned the right way, so that I’m encouraged and comforted by his kept promises.
The Bible is not meant to discourage and dishearten us – far from it. If it were meant to discourage and dishearten us, it would be promoted 24/7 by the mainstream media, and that clearly isn’t happening. Part of the reason why I keep this blog is to show what being a born-again believer looks like in real life. I’m not perfect, but that doesn’t stop me from aiming for perfection. I make mistakes every day and occasionally I make whoppers, but THANK GOD I crawl back to God and make amends as he sees fit. If it’s the thumbscrews, it’s the thumbscrews. Even Jesus’ closest disciples had to go through those occasionally.
I hope that you pick up the Bible every day and read it. I hope that you learn from it and that if God’s Spirit convicts you in some way while you’re reading it, you accept the conviction and not hide from God. (You can’t hide from God anyway, so you might as well not even try.) I hope that you’re encouraged by God’s Word and fed by it so that it becomes part of you now and for all eternity, because all things that are good come from God and stay with you forever. Those are the treasures you take to Heaven; the rest you leave behind.
I hope that when God opens the Book of Life at the Judgment and reads from it, you’re in it. I hope that far from being a cautionary tale, you shine brightly like all of God’s saints, and while not perfect on Earth, you finally achieve perfection in Heaven. And I hope that when we both settle into our respective places in Heaven (if we both make it), we’ll visit each other. I know we’ll have a lot to talk about and a lot to laugh about, too. We won’t remember our mistakes that we made on Earth, but we will remember the good times – the godly times – and we’ll remember everything we’ve done and said in Heaven up to that point.
And we won’t have any more cautionary tales to share with each other ever again, just treasures.
CAMPBELLTON, New Brunswick, May 26, 2023 – Every day, it seems, globalized corporations are releasing more and more explicit ad campaigns promoting degeneracy. The videos and images are meant to shock, not sell, as the aim of the campaigns is not to win customers but souls. They do that by trading in the currency of outrage.
Have you been outraged lately? Have you seen the images of the all-but-naked men parading around in high heels in libraries (of all places), thrusting their bikinied groin just inches from a child’s face? Have you seen the lite beer ads? How about the ad campaign for children’s “rainbow clothes” for “rainbow season”?
Christians, according to Christian forums, are in a constant state of outrage these days about what is happening all around them. But if an ad is obviously aimed to shock and promote outrage, Christians need to step back and take the high road.
Outrage will get you nowhere good spiritually. Outrage fuels the devil and makes him stronger. Jesus told us to be offended in nothing, and that includes satanically inspired ads meant to shock you into outrage. We’re not to be outraged. We’re to pray, not denigrate; bless, not curse; do good, not evil. That’s what Jesus taught us.
Prayer, as I’ve said many times here on this blog, is the most powerful force in the universe. When you bypass outrage and go straight to prayer, you give God permission to intervene in the situation. When God intervenes, he knows exactly what to do. He knows all the sweet spots of every soul on Earth; he knows exactly what to whisper in the ears of the lost at exactly the right time. We, on the other hand, don’t know the sweet spots or what or when to whisper, which is why we need to react with prayer, not outrage.
Jesus never protested. Scripture prophesied that the Messiah would not raise his voice in the streets like a rabble-rouser or an insurrectionist, and so he didn’t. The only time we see Jesus visibly angered is in the temple, when he overturned tables and whipped the money changers, which he did in accordance with prophecy.
Outrage is not a valid Christian response to worldly provocations. Outrage is not righteous anger. What Jesus did in the temple is righteous anger. Getting mad at men who wobble around in high heels is not righteous anger. If something or someone provokes you, put aside your outrage and start praying. Ask God to intervene and to help and heal all those involved. That’s how you fight against the current tidal wave of degeneracy. That’s how you don’t sell your soul. If the devil wants you to be outraged because it makes him stronger and God’s Kingdom weaker, call his bluff.
Default directly to prayer.
That’s how you win this game.
THE DEMONS IN THE BASEMENT
CAMPBELLTON, New Brunswick, May 24, 2023 – Years ago, when I was much younger and even more foolish than I am today, I used to hitchhike back and forth between Halifax and Vancouver in the summertime. I did it so often, it became like an annual pilgrimage to the west coast. During one of those pilgrimages, I got picked up by a young man, probably in his mid-20s, who took me to his basement apartment just outside Calgary. I spent the night there.
The apartment was filthy and had a strange stench that I could not identify. What looked like leftover meat was rotting on plates here and there around the kitchen and living room. I don’t remember much beyond the filth and mess and strange, strange smell. The place was very dim and the only functioning light was the hall light. Shortly after we arrived, I remember telling the guy I was tired and wanted to get to sleep early so I could leave first thing in the morning and try to make it to Vancouver by nightfall.
The guy led me to a small bedroom with a single bed and left me there alone. I laid down with my clothes still on and fell into a restless sleep that was punctuated every so often by the guy standing at the bedroom door, silhouetted by the hall light, asking if he could come into the room and ‘sleep’ with me (for decorum’s sake, I won’t use his exact words here). Every time he asked, I told him “No”, and he went away. This bizarre ritual went on all night, too many times to count.
At daybreak, groggy but determined to get the heck out of that apartment, I got up and gathered my few things together to leave. The guy was already up and sitting at the kitchen table waiting for me. I think he’d been sitting there all night. Without saying a word to each other, we left the apartment, got into his car, and drove to the closest highway onramp, where he pulled over and let me out.
I thanked him for the lift and for letting me spend the night at his place. He stared straight ahead as if he didn’t hear me and then drove off without saying a word.
I never saw him again.
Years later, for what I thought was the first time in my life, I was exposed to a dead human body that had begun to putrefy. The smell of the rotting corpse immediately took me back to that basement apartment all those years ago and the strange smell that I could not at the time identify. I finally knew what it was.
My hitchhiking as a teenager and young adult had exposed me to many dangerous scenarios that I was too naïve and foolish to understand were dangerous. But that man constantly asking my permission to come into the room to rape me was among the strangest of all the bizarre situations I’d ever found myself in. Until I was born-again, I didn’t understand why he didn’t just come into the bedroom and rape me, why he kept asking my permission to enter the room. Now I understand that he needed me to say “Yes” in order to break through the spiritual safety net that even as an unbeliever was all around me. I didn’t put the net there; God did, on behalf of the few people in my life who were praying for me.
The demons in the guy could not get past that spiritual barrier without my permission, which even in my youthful atheistic foolishness I wasn’t about to give.
I recalled this incident today after reading about a young man in Lethbridge, not far from Calgary, who’d held a woman captive in his basement for days, repeatedly raping her. I thought: There was a woman who had no safety net of prayers around her, not from her own prayers or the prayers of those who love her. I had no idea at the time that I was being protected by the prayers of my loved ones, but I know now that I was. God honored their prayers and protected me, even when I didn’t believe in him, even when I persecuted those who were praying for me.
We need to be reminded every now and then about the power of the prayers of God’s children. These prayers are the most powerful force in the universe because they allow God to directly intervene. I experienced that power as an unbeliever, when I was rescued on umpteen occasions from being raped and abducted or otherwise molested during my hitchhiking days. The strangeness of the protection, at the time, and how I escaped in ways that to me and to those who witnessed it defied logic, puzzled me for years until my rebirth. When I was born-again, I finally understood.
Please pray for those you know who need your prayers. They may not be believers and they may hate your guts but please pray for them. The safety net of my loved one’s prayers played a critical role in keeping me alive long enough to realize the error of my ways and turn back to God. I might not still be here – even worse, I might not be born-again – had it not been for those prayers.
Please pray for your loved ones, especially for the naïve and foolish ones who’ve lost their way. Your prayers may be the only thing standing between them and the demons.
GOD’S FORGIVEN YOU; HAVE YOU FORGIVEN YOURSELF?
CAMPBELLTON, New Brunswick, May 23, 2023 – One of the devil’s classic tricks is to remind you about sins already forgiven by God. That’s the first part of the devil’s trick – reminding you of the sins. The second part is to get you to feel guilty about them all over again.
This two-part trick is a devil’s classic because it works (nearly) every time. How often do we hear people bemoaning what they did before they were Christians, relaying their deeds in gory detail and wondering how they can ever forgive themselves?
But when you say “how can I ever forgive myself” about a sin that God’s already forgiven, it’s like a slap in God’s face. It also shows profound spiritual ignorance. As born-again believers, we should not be spiritually ignorant, and if we are, we should work to overcome our ignorance through knowledge.
Did you know that when you resurrect your repented sins, you relive them in part? When you relive them, you partially reopen old wounds that otherwise would have remained closed and healed. You pick at the spiritual scab, as it were. And we all know what happens when you pick at a scab that’s covering open flesh: an infection can set in that’s worse than the original wound.
But even more concerning is that in resurrecting forgiven sins, you question God’s grace of forgiveness. When you’re reborn, you’re wiped clean. Every sin you’ve committed up to that point is forgiven, and when God forgives you, you are well and truly forgiven. You no longer are under conviction for any pre-rebirth sins. It doesn’t matter if people still throw those sins in your face; if God has forgiven you, you’re forgiven.
As for the sins you’ve committed since rebirth, if you’ve repented them, you’re forgiven them, and they assume the same status as your pre-rebirth sins, which means they’re expunged from your record.
I still occasionally get confronted by people who’ve rejected God. They dredge up old sins God’s long forgiven me and demand I pay some kind of emotional price for them. Since I no longer owe anything on those sins, I simply tell the people that I’m sorry they’re hurting, which I genuinely am. But I don’t apologize for what God’s already forgiven me, even if my lack of an apology makes the people angry.
If you know the devil’s tricks, you shouldn’t fall for them. God allows the devil to tempt and test us – whether in our own minds or through unbelievers – because he needs us to strengthen our faith and deepen our spiritual knowledge. Until we get Home, God will permit us to be tempted and tested by the devil. That’s just part of being human.
Is there something you’ve done that still haunts you on occasion? If you know God’s forgiven you (and you’ll know; he doesn’t keep those things a secret from you), then you need to forgive yourself. If the devil tries to play his classic trick of reminding you of those sins, just simply say to yourself “God’s forgiven me”, and that’s it. No mulling over the details, no “how can I ever forgive myself”. Just simply, “God’s forgiven me” and move on.
If an unbeliever throws a forgiven sin in your face, don’t apologize for it again (you have no reason to apologize); just tell them you’re sorry they’re hurting. If your lack of an apology for the sin angers them, let them be angry. Their anger is not your fault. Be sorry that they’re in pain (which comes from their unrepented sin), but don’t be sorry for sins you’ve repented and been forgiven. Never be sorry for those, because they don’t exist anymore, not in God’s eyes.
If God’s forgiven you, you are well and truly forgiven and you need to forgive yourself, no matter what the devil or unbelievers may do to convince you otherwise.
I AM WHO I AM
CAMPBELLTON, New Brunswick, May 22, 2023 – It’s important to remind yourself every now and then that God called you to be YOU. It’s important to remind yourself, because the world will try to change you to be something that you’re not.
But God didn’t call you to be something that you’re not. He didn’t call you to change your personality or anything about you. He called you to be you, but with his Spirit in you.
When God puts his Spirit in you, the core essence of what makes you YOU does not change. If you had a sweet personality before you were born-again, you’ll continue to be sweet. If you had a salty personality before you were born-again, you’ll continue to be salty.
Your personality (what makes you YOU) doesn’t change when you’re born-again – your values change. What you believe changes. What you’re willing to fight and die for changes. But your personality doesn’t change.
So having an outspoken and bold personality, I get razzed every now and then for being abrasive. I’m told it’s not Christian to be abrasive. I’m told that being plain-speaking (not sugar-coating the Word) comes across as judgemental. I’m told not to judge.
But God called me to be who I am, just as he called you (if you’re born-again) to be who you are. If I had an abrasive personality before I was called and God still called me, then he has need of an abrasive personality in the Kingdom, and I’m happy to comply.
Every now and then, before I was born-again, I tried being a people-pleaser on for size, but it didn’t fit. I tried being nicey-nice, but that didn’t fit. I tried to like what I didn’t like or to agree with what I didn’t agree with or to go along just to get along, but none of those things worked for me. I felt like a fraud. I felt like I was pretending to be someone else, pretending to be something and someone I’m not.
So I stopped pretending and was just me. It didn’t win me many friends (or the support of many relatives), but at least I didn’t feel like an intruder in my own skin.
Shortly after I was born-again, I also tried (for a time) to be nicey-nice and to go along to get along, thinking I had to do so to “be Christian”. But even as a Christian, being nicey-nice didn’t suit me. I again felt like a fraud. So I decided that, Christian or not, and regardless of how people disliked it, I was going to continue to be a straight-shooter and not sugar-coat the Word, because that’s who I am, and who I am is how God made me and why he called me.
We need to remind ourselves of this every now and then, that God called us to be us. He didn’t call us to change our personality to please others. The last thing God would ever want me to do is to change my personality. He made me as I am for a reason. He called me for a reason. So if you’ve got a problem with the way I am, take it up with God.
Oh, and have a nice day. ;D
IS IT LOVE?
CAMPBELLTON, New Brunswick, May 22, 2023 – There is no love without God.
Only God is love, so where God is not welcome, there can be no love.
What many people call love is a mimicry of love expressed through a wide range of emotions such as companionable comfort, physical desire, the need to be loved, and even obsession, but none of these emotions – however strong, enduring, or overwhelming – is love.
Where God is not involved, there can be no love, because God is love.
God rarely blesses relationships these days because most people exclude him from their lives. Where God is not invited to bless a relationship and where the people in the relationship are not living godly lives, what these people feel for each other is not love, even though they might label it as such.
God will not go where he is not welcome. If you live your life denying God and his Word, you will not experience love. You might experience what seems like love, but it isn’t love: It can’t be love. If you’ve rejected God and Jesus, you’ve closed your heart to them, which means you’ve closed your heart to love.
We need to remember this indisputable spiritual fact when people who stand in open defiance of God insist that what they feel for each other is love, and then demand that we see it and accept it as such. The truth of the matter is that whatever these people feel for each other, it’s not love. How can it be love when God’s not involved?
You cannot force God to bless sin, and you cannot love God and support sin at the same time. As followers of Jesus, we are to pray for those who are deluded by sin into believing that what they feel is love, but we’re not obligated to support their delusion. When we support their delusion, we deny God and spit in the face of Jesus. We are under no obligation before God or any worldly authority to support the delusions of sinners; our obligation to sinners is to pray for them and to help them if they come to us for help (that is, to feed them if they’re hungry, give them a drink if they’re thirsty, house them if they’re homeless, clothe them if they’re naked, and visit them if they’re sick or in prison).
But we are not obligated to deny that God – and God only – is the sole source of love, and we are not obligated to bless a relationship rooted in sin.
Please remember that.
CAMPBELLTON, New Brunswick, May 20, 2023 – One characteristic that nearly all YouTube prophets have in common is that they’re slick.
They pique your interest with a catchy video title and then draw you into a spiel that usually opens and/or closes with a plea to subscribe to their channel. What they say in between the opening and closing frames is essentially filler for the plea to subscribe. They want your attention just long enough to get your contact info, which they will then either sell to a third party or use later to hit you up for donations.
I suspected already a few years ago that nearly all the most popular Christian video channels on YouTube had auto-generated content. I now suspect that even the videos that are hosted by people are using an AI-generated script. This is the easiest way around not knowing scripture or even being a Christian – just plug a theme and other specs into an AI, and it will generate the content for you. Heck, you don’t even need a human (let alone a believer) to deliver the AI-generated content anymore. You can just use an automated voice feature synched to a computer-generated “person”.
It’s difficult not to be disgusted by how cheaply God’s Word is held by those who only see it as an easy way to feed their ego or bilk people. To avoid getting angry about this, I remind myself that God can use anything to his benefit, including AI-generated text read by computer-generated images on YouTube. If it didn’t have some capacity (however indirect) to benefit his Kingdom, God wouldn’t permit it to exist. So even slick YouTube prophet channels have their place in God’s grand plan.
Contrast these flashy presentations with those of genuine prophets, like Paul. By his own admission, he was awkward, stammered, and wasn’t much to look at. His letters were powerful, but his physical presence was unimpressive. The devil’s agents, on the other hand, are almost always charming, charismatic, persuasive, and good-looking. They draw you in with their slick words, like snake-oil salesmen have been doing since the beginning of time. Knowing that what they’re telling you is a lie or at best half-truths, they compensate with a shiny and seductive surface.
It’s hard not to be tantalized by the superficially attractive because God made us to be attracted to beauty. Slickness has all the appearance of beauty, but without the substance. Spend too much time on this or that YouTube channel watching this or that false prophet, and you start to feel like you’ve eaten way too much dollar store candy.
Jesus is our gold standard in everything we do, including how we share God’s Word. No-one could ever accuse him of being slick, but he wasn’t awkward or clumsy, either. He was the full package, the real deal – confident but not boastful, authoritative but not demanding, engaging but not cloying. He simply relayed what God asked him to relay, and those who had ears to hear heard.
I understand that some people feel the need to do whatever they need to do for clicks and subscribers, but that’s not how God wants us to relay his Word. We’re not midway barkers at a county fair, shouting ourselves hoarse at passersby and trying to hustle customers over to our target-shooting booth. We’re God’s messengers and prophets. Not everyone listened to Jesus, and not everyone’s going to listen to us, no matter what kind of gimmick we might feel compelled to use to catch their attention.
Here’s a thought – instead of trying to catch people’s attention, let God bring people to you. Let God bring whoever needs to hear what he’s relaying through you. When Jesus walked from village to village, he didn’t look for people to heal; he healed those who came to him or were brought to him. God was his agent. We need to understand that the same dynamic is at play today, that God still uses his messengers and prophets in the same way as he used Jesus, and that God is our agent, too.
We’re to make ourselves visible and available as we preach and teach the Word, but we’re not to be slick or push ourselves on anyone. Jesus never pushed himself on anyone or resorted to hype. He simply relayed what God asked him to relay and healed everyone who came to him for healing.
The rest he let be.