Must My Brother Repent Before I Forgive Him?

As a Bible teacher, I’ve heard this question many times: can a person actually forgive if the offender is not repentant? Should Sally wait for her husband to meekly ask for forgiveness before she forgives him? Can Ben go ahead and extend forgiveness to his boss who repeatedly disrespects him and often abuses his time and talent?

Does Jesus forgive only when a person repents?

Forgiveness differs from reconciliation. We sometimes confuse the two.

For instance, from the cross Jesus said, “Forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” His statement did not result in reconciliation, but it did reveal His compassionate and forgiving heart towards His most bitter enemies.

Jesus also taught an assertive forgiveness. Check out Mark 11.25:

“Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions.”

Jesus does not command us to hunt down our brother and demand an apology first. Just forgive. How? In this context, it seems we should have a heart–an attitude–of forgiveness. It’s not necessarily saying the words, “I forgive you,” to the person, but it’s a willingness to absorb the cost and the hurt, put it away, and let it go. Isn’t that what God does for us?

Also consider Luke 15.20 in the parable of the prodigal son:

“So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.”

The father didn’t ask for a full confession. In fact, he acted so quickly the son didn’t have time to speak before his dad was crushing him in an embrace and kissing his face. He then tried to tell his dad how he would pay him back and how he didn’t deserve to be called a son, but again the father cut him off, reinstated him as a son, and totally accepted him back. Obviously, the father forgave his son even before his son demonstrated repentance!

Reconciliation is only possible when both parties act properly–one repents and the other forgives. Sometimes one person repents but the one who was wronged will not forgive. No reconciliation. In other cases, one person forgives from the heart but the other refuses to apologize and repent. No reconciliation.

But notice that forgiveness is not necessarily dependent upon the other person’s repentance. God expects us to forgive those who sin against us. Period. Just how we can do that is a subject for another article, but suffice it to say it’s simply not possible to forgive completely without an internal power that most humans don’t possess.

So don’t wait for your brother or sister to come crawling, contrite and crushed. They may never repent. God wants you to always have a heart of forgiveness, ready to accept back the moment your brother heads your way.

It’s difficult, yes. But it’s so freeing! Discipline yourself to forgive.

Your Main Task, Dear Parent

I have no faith in our politicians, either federal or state, to give my children righteous role models or teach them how to live a godly life. I certainly would not want the sitting President to teach my child how to live. How few claim to follow Christ, and fewer actually live like it.

While your specific school board may exhibit a much healthier and more spiritual attitude than some others, the public school system is owned and operated by the government, states and local school boards being the final administrators. How many atheists, evolutionists, and godless men and women pass their moral (or immoral) philosophies down through the curriculum and syllabi? Children in the public school systems (and many in private school systems) might be blessed with a few spiritually-minded teachers, but the majority are unapologetically godless.

Modern education has stripped parents of the desire and confidence to teach their own children. Parents parent and teachers teach, and never the twain shall overlap (unless the parent happens to have a degree in teaching granted by the system).

I wonder why we parents would trust a system to teach our children if that same system produced parents (us) who don’t feel like we have enough education to teach our own children.

Modern education seems to be a strategic piece in Satan’s battle against the family unit. It steals our children for most of the good hours of the week. It pounds information into their heads that we would rather them not have. It fails to instill the morals and values that we do want them to have. It gives our children (and us) a sense that parents don’t really have a role in teaching. It segments children off into age groups, not allowing them much time to interact with those much younger or much older then they. It encourages kids to think themselves wiser than their elders.

Am I saying it’s a sin to send children to public school? No, I’m not. Neither am I saying Christians should necessarily shun the public school system (especially in teaching roles). In fact, the solution for keeping children spiritually healthy through private or home school is the same for children in public school.

What is that solution? God gave it around 1500 B.C. in the book of Deuteronomy:

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!
You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.

And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.
You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them
when you sit in your house,
when you walk by the way,
when you lie down,
and when you rise up.
You shall bind them as a sign on your hand,
and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.
You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
(Deuteronomy 6.4-9)

First, dear Parent, God’s word must be in your heart. If it’s not in your heart you cannot transfer that word to your child’s heart.

Second, you shall teach them diligently to your children. It only takes a generation to fall away from the Lord, and we fall away because we don’t love and respect God’s word.

Third, you shall talk of God’s word all the time and everywhere! Take every opportunity, whether driving in your car, eating supper together, getting ready for bed, waking up in the morning.

Fourth, make sure God’s word is everywhere. Keep them on your person–reminders. And have verses hanging on your walls, on the bathroom mirror, on your child’s wall.

Your child should have no doubt that God’s word drives and directs everything you do in your household.

Who teaches your children? It has to be YOU, Parent! You cannot leave your child’s education to others. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking math, science, and history can be taught by atheists and they’ll get their Bible at church. No! They need to understand how God created math, how science reveals God, and how history tells His story. If we allow modern education to have its way, God will be confined to a brief activity we engage in once a week.

Wherever your child “goes to school,” you are and must remain his primary teacher.

Teach your children. All the time. Don’t stop. For their sake and for yours. This is your main task, dear Parent.

How Do You Measure Jesus?

The white man thinks Him too brown.

The black man thinks Him too blond.

The tall man thinks Him too short.

The short man things Him to tall.

The legalist thinks Him too gracious.

The despot thinks Him too kind.

The miser thinks Him too generous.

The libertine thinks Him too strict.

How do you measure Jesus?

“John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is justified by all her children.” (Luke 7.33-35)

People seem never satisfied with Jesus. He’s too harsh or too kind, too noble or too low, too powerful or too weak. On and on they complain, and by their complaints they reject Him.

Perhaps we should quit measuring Him and notice that He is measuring us!

What Is the Opposite of Fear?

Fear of failure. Fear of pain. Fear of rejection. Fear of losing.

Fear freezes the gears of our lives. We shut down, become immobile, stop advancing.

Fear causes us to remain silent when we should speak, to sit when we should stand, to settle for the comforts of today when we should work towards the glory of tomorrow.

Someone recently asked an audience, “What is the opposite of fear?” The general reply was “love,” as the Christians in the room knew 1 John 4.16-19:

We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us.

Remember that one-talent man in Matthew 25.24-25? He hid his talent in the ground because he was fearful of what the master might do to him if he lost the money. Instead of taking some risks with it in order to work hard and increase the wealth of his master, he froze up and sat on the talent. The master became angry with that servant. God has no place for kingdom citizens who operate from a platform of fear. If he had loved his master and realized his master loved him, he would have felt free to do the master’s will.

However, fear has another opposite in Scripture.

When the waves tossed the disciples so badly they thought they would die, Jesus stilled the storm. Afterwards He chided, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” (Mark. 4.40).

Faith is the opposite of fear!

When we don’t enter difficult conversations because we don’t want our feelings hurt or we don’t want to lose our job or we don’t want pain, we fall victim to fear. When we don’t discipline our children because we don’t want to lose their friendship, we react out of fear. When we don’t tackle the addictions in our lives because we know it will cause pain and discomfort, our decisions are based out of fear. When we don’t speak the gospel to our neighbors because we don’t want them to think we are weirdos (who actually believes dead people can rise from the grave?), fear freezes our mouths.

The fact is, we don’t have enough FAITH to face these sins or these God-given tasks! What we need is an increased faith.

A distraught man once begged Jesus to cast a terrible demon out of his son “if You can do anything.” Jesus replied, “All things are possible for one who believes.” With gripping honesty, the man exclaimed, “I do believe! Help my unbelief!” (Mark. 9.22-24)

I want to understand God’s love to the point that I don’t fear this world. I want a faith so strong that I know God undoubtedly loves me and is with me no matter what trial I face. I want a faith which walks through death’s door with great anticipation and conviction. I want a love and a faith that casts out fear.

The Theory of Evolution Is NOT a Scientific Theory

Defining terms ranks among the most important activities in which scientists, philosophers, and thinkers must engage. It’s not enough to say “evolution is a fact” or “I don’t believe in evolution.” You must define your term because there are different kinds of evolution and you may look silly if the hearer inserts the wrong kind of evolution into the conversation. Do you not believe in micro-evolution, the observable fact that organisms undergo minor changes within species from generation to generation? If you don’t believe that, perhaps you haven’t properly observed your surroundings, and we suggest you begin taking notes on the nature around you.

On the other hand, macro-evolution states that one species evolves into another, different species across thousands or millions of years. This has been called the “Theory of Evolution” and “Darwinian Evolution,” which uses the theorized mechanism of “natural selection.”

That brings us to a second term which demands a strict definition: theory. What is a theory? In normal, every-day terminology we use the term “theory” as an idea inside someone’s head. No empirical facts back it up. It’s quite possibly fanciful and imaginative, not to be taken too seriously.

However, evolutionists quickly explain that a theory in SCIENCE holds a rather different definition. Here is an explanation from ScientificAmerican.com:

scientific theory is an explanation of some aspect of the natural world that has been substantiated through repeated experiments or testing.

From Study.com:

Outside of science, the definition of a theory is a thought that may or may not be true. In the science community, a scientific theory is defined as a hypothesis or a group of hypotheses about some phenomena that have been supported through research using the scientific method.

You will notice both of these define a “scientific theory” as something which has much scientific support through research and testing (using the scientific method).

If we define “scientific theory” in this way, can we in all honesty and integrity call macro-evolution a scientific theory? Have scientists tested the mechanism of natural selection on the macro level? Sure, we daily observe changes within species–Darwin’s darling was the family of finches he observed in the Galapagos Islands. Some had short beaks, which they used to pick up seeds on the ground. Others had long beaks, which they used to pierce cacti and grab grubs. The different beaks were put to different purposes, but they were all finches.

Scientists have classified 13 or 14 different species of finches among the Galapagos Islands, but it is obvious that all of them came from a common ancestry. Darwin’s finches have become one of the leading tools in promoting the theory of macro-evolution–the idea that one species can give rise to another, different species.

But let’s define species. From Evolution.Berkeley.edu:

A species is often defined as a group of individuals that actually or potentially interbreed in nature. In this sense, a species is the biggest gene pool possible under natural conditions….

That definition of a species might seem cut and dried, but it is not — in nature, there are lots of places where it is difficult to apply this definition. For example, many bacteria reproduce mainly asexually. The bacterium shown at right is reproducing asexually, by binary fission. The definition of a species as a group of interbreeding individuals cannot be easily applied to organisms that reproduce only or mainly asexually.

Also, many plants, and some animals, form hybrids in nature. Hooded crows and carrion crows look different, and largely mate within their own groups — but in some areas, they hybridize. Should they be considered the same species or separate species?

Notice: members of one species cannot interbreed with members of another. This is the major way of defining the boundary of a species. What many evolutionists don’t confess is that at least six of the separate “species” of finches on Galapagos have been observed to interbreed! What we have, then, is not evolution from one species to another but micro-evolution within a species. At the very least, we understand they are all still finches! These have not evolved into some other kind of bird.

In fact, not a SINGLE example of a “missing link” has been documented successfully. Not a single transitional species has been found. You would think that if macro-evolution were true our world would be absolutely covered up with weird and wild plants and animals across the spectrum. I would expect to still have every one of those apes and ape-like creatures you see in the science books illustrating the evolution of man.

So here we stand in the 21st Century without a single observation or test which shows macro-evolution to be true. It may be a theory, but it doesn’t qualify as a scientific theory as defined above, because it cannot be and never has been tested. It should be understood as an idea (a fanciful one, at that) that men have created in their heads.

Others, including Nobel Prize winner Francis Crick, have theorized that aliens seeded this world with life. I’d say their theory stands on equal footing with the evolutionists’.

All Cells Come from Other Cells

Robert Hooke is credited as the first to discover a cell in 1665, which he found in bits of cork–dead plant material. Though he truly discovered cells (they looked to him like little rooms), he only observed dead, empty cells. The world, as yet, knew nothing of the complexities in those little rooms.

Almost 200 years later in 1838, two men (Schwann and Schleiden) together observed living plant and animal cells and noticed the similarities. They gave the world the first cell theory:

  1. The cell is the unit of structure, physiology, and organization in living things.
  2. The cell retains a dual existence as a distinct entity and a building block in the construction of organisms.
  3. Cells form by free-cell formation, similar to the formation of crystals (spontaneous generation). (from BiteSizeBio.com)

One small observation for man; one giant theory for mankind.

You may have caught the problem with number three above, because cells do not form spontaneously. “How does new life form?” was the great question, and the answer so many had rested upon was that it simply popped into existence! Louis Pasteur famously disproved spontaneous generation once and for all in 1859.

In 1858 Rudolf Virchow introduced the following description of cellular regeneration:

Omnis cellula e cellula: “All cells come from cells.”

In other words, in order to get a new cell, you must have a pre-existing cell. That sounds right, doesn’t it? In fact, it has been scientifically verified again and again until today, and we now understand much more as to the actual mechanics of how cells transfer data from a mature cell to a brand-new duplicate.

But think about the consequences of that statement: all cells come from other cells. If I killed every kind of platypus cell on earth, it would be absolutely impossible to generate another platypus.

Newly-generated life must derive from pre-existing life. That’s what we can observe. That’s what is scientific. Of course, scientists and philosophers wonder (along with everyone else) how life first came into being, because that’s a question science cannot answer–it’s not observable, quantifiable, or reproducible.

So what might we say about the theory of Evolution and the theory of Creation? Which is more probable? Which supports more of the facts? Which seems to continue to rely on the theory of spontaneous generation?

In the words of Maria in The Sound of Music, “Nothing comes from nothing. Nothing ever could.”

Better Than Mommy Snuggles

Last night my nine-year-old daughter walked into the living room carrying my four-year-old son, who was sobbing up a storm. Daughter was saying, “I am so, so sorry!”
Concerned that she had somehow injured him, I quickly inquired as to the nature of the problem.
“I was talking to him about heaven,” she explained, “and he asked if he could still snuggle with Mommy in heaven. I told him I didn’t think so…”
My heart broke for the little guy, whose chest was heaving and tears were streaming. I am quite happy about the subject of their conversation, but eternity–which leaves adults squirming in our seats–should probably be carefully introduced to young minds. My little son, trying to comprehend a foreign and unimaginable environment, could only think of the wonderful things of his current life. My daughter, attempting to explain the inexplicable, had accidentally ripped away all the comforts and anchors of his little life–but knew not how to replace them.
So last night, you’ll understand why I sobbed for a while in my bed before falling asleep. My children are attempting to understand these enormous, mysterious matters of life and death and life hereafter, grappling with reality.
I don’t think about heaven enough. It will definitely be different. Jesus said there is no marriage or giving in marriage, but we will be like the angels. We will have better, incorruptible, eternal bodies. We will be with the Lord! And we will be with all the saints who have lived throughout the ages.
Instead of thinking of all the things we won’t have in heaven, we would do better to excite ourselves with thoughts of what God is planning for us! Jesus told His disciples,

“Let your hearts not be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14.1-3)

“My little son, in heaven you can have all the Mommy snuggles you want.” It’s the best way I know of explaining the infinite wonders God has planned to his fresh mind. We’re going to be living in God’s house! We may not have literal mommy snuggles, but–rest assured–whatever we have will be better than mommy snuggles 🙂

Upset with God?

Joshua 7 accounts the trouble Israel fell into because of Achan’s sin and what they ended up doing about it.

Do you remember Achan’s sin? He stole some silver, a beautiful cloak from Shinar, and a bar of gold from the city of Jericho. God had absolutely and clearly forbidden them to take anything from the city because it was all devoted to HIM, as all firstfruits should be. Achan directly disobeyed the word of God and stole those things, hiding them under his tent.

Thirty-six Israelites died in a small battle they should have easily won against Ai, all because of Achan’s sin.

Joshua was mad because God had let them lose such a small battle–what would the people of the land think when they found out about it? They would be emboldened to fight against Israel, and God’s name would not be glorified.

But God told Joshua someone had sinned, and until Joshua removed the sin from the camp, God would not be with them; they would continue to lose.

So Joshua and the Israelites discovered Achan, heard his confession, dug up the contraband, and then stoned him AND his wife AND his kids AND his animals. Then they burned them with fire and heaped a huge pile of stones over their bodies.

Yes, that’s exactly what God wanted them to do.

Here is where we hear indictments against God. Shocked individuals cry, “How could God allow such a thing?!” Perhaps they could imagine how God could hold Achan accountable for his own sin, but how could God hold it against the whole family? There is no indication that the family knew what Achan had done, and surely we wouldn’t hold little children responsible.

Before we continue thinking about God, what else might we learn from this account?

1. Sin is serious. We are apt to label our own sins as “mistakes” or “issues,” downplaying and trivializing them. How often do we honestly look at what we have done and use God’s language? I have sinned and “transgressed [God’s] covenant that [He] commanded” me (Joshua 7.11). Call it a lie. Call it stealing. Call it fornication. Call it adultery. Call it unfaithfulness. Call it pride and arrogance. Call it what it is, and recognize how serious it is.

2. Sin never hurts only me. One of Satan’s great lies is this: “It’s okay because it doesn’t really hurt anyone else.” This is total nonsense. The teenage junky uses this logic, while her parents pray and mourn and worry at home. The watcher of pornography uses this logic, while the ladies in his life suffer because of his warped way of viewing women. The drunkard uses this logic, right up until he is charged for vehicular homicide. Achan probably thought, “It won’t hurt anyone…” Thirty-six men and his whole family died as a direct result.

But back to God’s actions. Instead of sitting in judgment over God and questioning His decisions and actions, the healthy way of reading Scripture is to attempt to understand God and how we should relate to Him.

1. God knows all the details. He knew Achan’s heart. He knew what his kids would turn out to be, had they grown up. He knew the wife’s heart.

2. God has all authority, and He makes rules for us to follow. We don’t get to question His authority; neither can we disobey without consequences. Every day men and women flaunt His authority because they don’t like God’s rules, but just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean it’s not fully true!

3. God doesn’t act like you or me. Sometimes God acts much more severely than I would. But most of the time He acts much less severely! When we truly understand sin and how it attacks and spurns our Creator, we realize that He has a right to kill each and every one of us because we have all disobeyed His rules. Why does He put up with us? Why does He let us live? Once we come to grips with that, then we see His harsh judgments upon some sinners is totally justified.

Why are folks continually upset with God? Either they don’t understand His complete authority over them or they don’t agree with His assessment of their sins. People reject God because they don’t like Him.

What about you?

Will Jesus Say “I Don’t Know You”?

Once as Jesus traveled towards Jerusalem, someone asked, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” He answered:

“Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then He will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ But He will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!'” (Luke 13.23-27)

Customarily, Jesus did not answer the question as it was asked. He didn’t give a number or estimated percentage of the population that would be saved. Instead, He focused in on the questioner and got real personal, as if to say, “Don’t worry about everyone else; YOU strive to enter the narrow door.”

He also said MANY would seek to enter and would not be able. It’s not that God actively keeps people out of the kingdom of Christ, but people want to enter the kingdom on their own terms, and it’s impossible to enter except by the terms God lays down for us. We must give up self in order to enter, and most don’t want to give themselves up.

But one day the door will be shut and there will be no more access to the kingdom, to salvation, to God. Those on the outside will be like the five foolish virgins who were late in arriving to the wedding. Although they planned to be there, they didn’t make the necessary preparations, and it cost them entrance to the feast.

But the saddest picture is of these OUTSIDE folks knocking, pleading, “Let us in! Please open up!” But Jesus will say (for He is Lord) “I do not know where you come from.” In Matthew 7.23, He says, “I never knew you”! Can you imagine hearing Jesus say that to you? You might be like those in this text who argue with Him: “We ate with You! We drank with You! We were right here when you taught us. We sat at Your feet! What do You mean You don’t know us or where we come from?!” Many from my own generation will yell at the closed gates, “I went to church! I was baptized! I prayed! I told other people about You! What do you mean You don’t know me?”

You do not want to be outside, friend. You don’t want Jesus to say, “I do not know where you are from.” How will you avoid this? He’s looking for those who STRIVE to enter the narrow door. The Greek word is agonizomai, by which we get our word “agonize.” Struggle with passion to enter the narrow door. It’s narrow because it’s very specific–you can only enter through Christ, and you must love Him with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind. He accepts no half-hearted commitments, no empty confessions, no relaxed religion. He accepts only full submission.

When you stand before the Father on Judgment Day, you will want Jesus at your side, and you’ll want Him to confess your name before the Judgment Throne–“This is one of Mine, Father.”