Today it seems that ageing is accompanied with a growing paranoia and relentless pursuit to stay young. We frequently hear that “50 is the new 30” and everywhere one looks you see men and women desperately clinging on to their youth.
Worryingly, this is all part of the growing phenomenon ‘kid-ults’ (a.k.a. ‘adultescents’), the social epidemic of adults who have difficulty properly maturing as adults in society and taking the reins and responsibility for their families and lives.

Some of the following may sound familiar:
•    30-something adults spending much of their weekend glued to computer games, looking and acting a bit too much like the adolescents they used to be
•    Or else the example of the husband and father who needs time out to ‘find himself’, and so takes off on his Harley, leaving his family to fend for themselves
•    And what about the true story of Giuseppe Andreoli, ordered by an Italian court of law to fork out the equivalent of 500 British pounds (about R 6 000) a month to his 30 year old son indefinitely, as the lad was currently living with his mother and not yet gainfully employed
•    Not to mention the explosion of adolescent-type gimmicks in society: burping (and other) ring tones, endless trivial ‘status posts’ on Facebook, as well as infantile rock stars as role models for teen and adult alike.

We are amusing ourselves to death?
So what lies behind the new trend? For writer and social observer Jenny Bristow, one problem is the culture itself. Too many choices, too much fun, not enough stability and responsibility. “This generation is collapsing under the burden of too many choices,” she notes. “Bereft of a structure to their lives, young people are frantically searching for signposts and goals.”

We live in a world where you can get (almost) anything with a single phone call or click of a mouse, from the latest yummy pizza-topping to a state-of-the-art cell phone complete with giggling ring-tone. For a culture where leisure and pleasure is a billion-dollar industry, we’ve become experts in the art of self-gratification. From advertisers to TV shows, we’ve got it easy. Maybe too easy…

We must grow up
There’s an old Biblical principle, that suffering produces character (Romans 5:3-4). Not that anyone’s advocating suffering per se, but it’s a simple fact of life that work, effort and maybe a little stress are essential parts of growing up – and, in fact, of maturing us up as people and better human beings. The sobering fact is that we live in a ‘pied piper’ culture, with the pan-piper of the fairy-tale enchanting so many into unchartered waters, or maybe into the Peter Pan world of Never-Never-Land, where children just don’t grow up.

The observation of comedian Sean Hughes on his own generation is eerily familiar: “People are refusing to grow up; this generation is very weird. There’s been this kind of cop-out. Even friends who are married are still kids in many ways.”

How did we get here?
Perhaps the real root of the problem hearkens back to the 1960s, when that generation rebelled against the morals and norms of the day – including Biblical principles of sexuality and family. Radical feminists took to the streets with mantras like, “We want to destroy the three pillars of class and caste society: the family, private property and the state.”

As a result, divorce, unwanted pregnancies, and marital strife soared. With the break-up of countless families, it is little wonder that in our age we are seeing so many struggling to come to maturity – after all, if parents are not around to bring their kids to maturity, then who else is going to?

Modern culture dictates
So too, the ‘anti-establishment’ and ‘youth rebel’ attitudes of that 60s generation have carried down to this day, becoming an accepted part of a modern culture that celebrates immaturity. Little coincidence that the ‘me’ generation and wave of consumer selfishness quickly followed. Political commentator P.J. O’Rourke (once a Sixties radical and now deeply grieved by his former actions), laments: “That’s the worst thing of all about the Sixties – the one really unforgivable thing – that it’s been straight downhill ever since.”

Who says art doesn’t imitate life?
For the media the new ‘kid-ult’ is often portrayed as ‘cool’ or the smart thing to be. It’s ok for Pauly Shore and Owen Wilson (not to mention perennial bachelor George Clooney), so why not for the rest of us? Take some recent Hollywood films, for instance. Adam Sandler cuts a bittersweet character in ‘Grown-Ups’, a story about former schoolhood pals, now adults, who go off for a reunion weekend.

The problem is, it seems that in the space between childhood and adulthood, neither he nor his friends seem to have done much real maturing. Rob (Rob Schneider) is a confirmed womaniser who can’t keep a relationship – let alone a marriage – down.

We learn from the movies
Sandler’s ‘Lenny’ is little more than an overgrown adolescent himself, telling infantile jokes and tripping over his metaphorical shoelaces for much of the film. The humour is mostly of the bathroom-and-bedroom variety – precisely the sort of thing you’d expect from adolescents. About mid-way through the film it hits you: how are they supposed to cope in an adult world when they’ve never become adults themselves, and still seem to be stuck in some kind of mental teenage-hood?

And how come so many of Pauly Shore’s films (Son-In-Law; Jury Duty; In the Army Now) always seem to surround an infantile adult character who can get nothing right in life, earning the derision of the adults around him?

Suffer the children
This also means, of course, that the real children suffer as well. For if those responsible for child-rearing are themselves behaving like children, then what hope have the actual kids of properly maturing? For psychoanalyst Adam Phillips, “The modern preoccupation with childhood means that people have lost a sense of there being a difference between adults and children.”

Mutton dressed as lamb
For UK journalist E. Jane Dickson, one needs look no further than to many of the fashions of the day:  “It is possible today for a 60 year old, a 20 year old and a two year old to step out in exactly the same T-shirt, chinos and trainers. Girls of three are tripping around, just like mummy – or, for that matter, granny – in miniskirts and crop-tops. If we can’t look like children (and few over-30s can get away with smocked frocks) then we are determined the children will damned well look like us.”

One mom says with pride that the relationship between her and her pre-teen daughter is ‘more like sisters’. In some cases it is hard to distinguish the difference between father and son – both give the impression of being adolescents, whether in dress sense or behaviour.

A serious problem
Yet is this simply a case of parents ‘relating’ to children, or is it something more serious? It’s great that fathers can relate to their kids. It’s great to go out playing and sporting with your son, or for mom to go off  shopping with her daughter at the mall. Father-son bonding is great – and maybe there’s not enough of it in our society.

Perpetual adolescence
But, what we’re seeing more and more nowadays, is not so much fathers relating downward to their sons, but more like something that resembles two kids playing. Yet, maybe children want adults, not fellow-siblings.

Children don’t want a role model who’s going to be a fellow-child indefinitely; they want one they can look up to. They don’t want a fellow adolescent to lead them to the greater things of life: they want an adult, they want a mother and father. Again, there’s nothing wrong with coming down to the level of children at appropriate times, in the sense of relating to them, playing with them, etc. The problem is the perpetual adolescence we are seeing so much of today.

The new ‘adultescence’  is hardly surprising, given the high rates of divorce, AIDS-related parent deaths, and the like. Younger generations simply lack parent role models on whom to base their development.

A growing trend
For UK sociologist Frank Furedi, even many varsity-leavers are just plain scared to go out and find independence for themselves, for fear of repeating their parents’ mistakes, and so continue to live in the parental home indefinitely. According to a recent UK study, the number of adult men still living at home rose by 20 percent between the years 1998 and 2003. What’s more, many of these are well-off white collar workers, and can well afford to be independent.

Healing a broken society
This means that for many 20-somethings, maturity and responsibility come later than usual. Noting once again the parallel with Peter Pan, Furedi notes grimly that, “Our society is full of lost boys and girls hanging out at the edge of adulthood.”

On the one hand, we need to be aware of a media far too fixated on material things – and which will do anything, try any advertising gimmick, to get a gullible public to sustain the billion dollar pleasure-and-leisure industry. We must be on our guard against a culture that encourages trivia and vacuous pleasures.

We need to look inward
On the other hand, perhaps we need to look inward. The Bible is clear that a healthy society can be built only on a traditional family system, with parents acting as role models to bring their children to proper maturity. Satan knows that to destroy the family is to destroy society, to condemn it to perpetual immaturity and ineffectiveness – hence the relentless present-day attack on the family system.

Society needs mature leaders
Genesis 2:24 tells us, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” The verse is trying to say something about maturity and what happens next. When a man has matured, he leaves the parental nest and, now a man, forms a new family, bringing those children to maturity, and so on.

There is something here about men taking up their roles as men and leaders of society, establishing themselves and taking up the responsibility befitting those leaders. Without leaders society cannot go forward. It cannot survive – and perhaps this explains in part the dire state of Western (Christian) society today.

We need to ask God for help
Maybe for many, the problem is never having had an effective parent role model to lead one to maturity as a man or a woman. The thing to realise is that God is ultimately our Father. Fathers are supposed to show, by example and deed, what God is like as Father.

The good news is that even when parents aren’t there for us, God can and will step into the gap – if we let Him. Three thousand years ago David could say, “For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me in.” Psalm 27:10.

Allow God to come into your life now and show you what the concept of ‘Father’ really means, and reveal His Fatherhood to you. Let God fill your life with His perfect healing today. Pray and ask the Lord to help you take up responsibility in your life and for your family. It’s time to let go of unfulfilled dreams from your youth; embrace the season you are in.

The Science of Thought

Every single thought – whether positive or negative – goes through the same cycle when it forms. Thoughts are basically electrical impulses, chemicals and neurons. They look like a tree with branches.

As the thoughts develop and become permanent, more branches grow and the connections become stronger. As we change our thinking, some branches go away, new ones form, the strength of the connections change, and the memories network with other thoughts. What an incredible capacity of the brain to change and rewire and grow! Spiritually, this is what we call renewing the mind.

As you think, your thoughts are activated, which in turn determines your attitude, because your attitude is all of your thoughts put together and reflects your state of mind. This attitude is formed in the chemical secretions that are released. Positive attitudes cause the secretion of the correct amount of chemicals, and negative attitudes distort the chemical secretions in a way that disrupts their natural flow. The chemicals are like little cellular signals that translate the information of your thought into a physical reality in your body and mind, creating an emotion. The combination of thoughts, emotions and resulting attitude impacts your body in a positive or negative way. This means your mind and body really are inherently linked, and this link starts with your thoughts.

As you are reading, perhaps you have some classical music playing in the background.  You might be sitting in a comfortable chair, smelling the freshly mowed lawn through an open window and savouring a piece of fruit. If you were in this idyllic setting, all five of your senses – sight, sound, smell, touch and taste – would be your contact between the external world and your internal world, thereby activating your mind.

The Doorway

As the information from your five senses pours into your brain, your brain is gathering electrical impulses through your peripheral nerves (the lines of communication between your brain and your body). These senses become the doorway into your intellect, influencing your free will and your emotions. The first step in the process, the forming of a thought and the gathering of electrical impulses, makes sense of the information coming in from your five senses.  This incoming information then travels through some astonishing brain structures that flavour, enrich and distribute the information all along the way.  The information is taken to a place where you can decide on the permanence of that data and whether it becomes part of who you are.

The most exciting fact on this journey is the brain’s ability to react to toxic versus non-toxic information and the many opportunities we have to accept or reject the incoming info. You can control the incoming information and get rid of what you don’t want before it takes root.

Once the information has entered your brain through any of your five senses, it passes a major transmitter station (the Thalamus) that monitors and processes this information. The Thalamus is the meeting point for almost all the nerves that connect the different parts of the brain. You can equate the Thalamus to an air traffic controller. There isn’t a signal from your environment that does not pass through the Thalamus. It connects the brain to the body and body to the brain. It allows the entire brain to receive large amounts of important data from the external and internal worlds all at once.

The Thalamus transmits the electrical data throughout your brain, activating existing thoughts (or nerve cells) in the outer part of the brain, the cerebral cortex, to help you understand the incoming information. This activation of existing thoughts is what I call the “breeze through the trees” stage. The nerve cells in the cerebral cortex look like trees in a forest, and the activation sweeps through like a wind, bringing the existing thoughts into consciousness. This wonderfully complex transmission of information through the cerebral cortex, alerts and activates attitude. Attitude is a state of mind (all thoughts on the trees) that influences our choices and what we say and do as a result of these choices.

If the attitude activated in the cerebral cortex is negative, then the emotional response will naturally be a negative or stressed feeling within the depths of your mind.  If the attitude is positive, the feeling will be peaceful.  The truth is your attitude will be revealed no matter how much you try to hide it. Then the activated attitude – positive or negative – is transmitted from the Thalamus down to the Hypothalamus.

The Hypothalamus is like a chemical factory where the thought-building processes happens and where the type and amount of chemicals released into the body are determined.  The Thalamus signals the Hypothalamus to chemically prepare a response to your thoughts.

The Endocrine System is a collection of glands and organs that mostly produce and regulate your hormones. The Hypothalamus is often referred to as the “brain” of the Endocrine System, controlling things like thirst, hunger, body temperature and the body’s response to your emotional life.  The Hypothalamus is like a pulsating heart responding to your emotions and thought life, greatly impacting how you function emotionally and intellectually.  

This means that if you are anxious or worried about something, the Hypothalamus responds to this anxious and worrying attitude with a flurry of stress chemicals engaging the Pituitary Gland – the master gland of the Endocrine System. The Endocrine System secretes the hormones responsible for organising the trillions of cells in your body to deal with any impending threats. Negative thoughts shift your body’s focus to protection and reduce your ability to process and think with wisdom or grow healthy thoughts.  

On the other hand, if you change your attitude and determine to apply God’s excellent advice not to worry, the Hypothalamus will cause the secretion of chemicals that facilitate the feeling of peace, and the rest of the brain will respond by secreting the correct “formula” of neurotransmitters (chemicals that transmit electrical impulses) for thought building and clear thinking. Although you may not be able to control your environment all the time, you can control how it affects your brain.   How?  Well, this incoming information is still in a temporary state.  It has not yet lodged itself into your memory or become a part of your spirit, which defines who you are.   You can choose to reject the presently–activated thoughts and the incoming information, or you can let the information make its way into your mind (soul) and your spirit, eventually subsiding in your non-conscious, which dominates who you are. 

Even though you can’t always control your circumstances, you can make fundamental choices that will help you control your reaction to your circumstances and keep toxic input out of your brain.

To help us make good choices, we have the Amygdala and Hippocampus. The Amygdala deals with the passionate, perceptual emotions attached to incoming thoughts and all the thoughts already in your head. The Hippocampus deals with memory and motivation.  Now this is where you consciously step up to centre stage, needing to make a decision whether or not these incoming thoughts will become part of who you are. 

The Amygdala, a double almond-shaped structure located in your brain, is designed to protect you from any threat to your body and mind – such as danger or stress.  It puts the passion behind the punch of memory formation by influencing the Hippocampus to pay attention to more established information.  The Amygdala deals with both positive love-based emotions like joy and happiness, as well as negative fear-based emotion like sadness, anger and jealousy.The Thalamus alerts the Amygdala of any incoming information from the five senses, so the already alerted Amygdala literally adds its “thumb print” to the incoming information – flavouring it with emotional spice. How does it do this?

The Amygdala is like a library, storing the emotional perceptions that occur each time a thought is built. In other words, every time we build a memory, we activate emotions.  The Endocrine System and the brain have to release the correct chemicals (the molecules of emotion and information) necessary for building healthy or toxic memories. 

Because the Amygdala is in constant communication with the Hypothalamus (which secretes chemicals in response to your thought life), we are able to feel our body’s reaction to our thoughts. These physical reactions (rapid heartbeat and adrenalin rushes) force us to decide whether to accept or reject the information based on how we feel physically.  To help us even more, the Amygdala has lines of communication connected to the frontal lobe, which controls reasoning, decision-making, analysing and strategising – all executive level functions. This connection enables us to balance the emotions we physically experience and react reasonably.

Here is the exciting part: we can decide at this moment to say things like: ”I choose not to think about this issue anymore,”  and those temporary thoughts will disappear.  The choice to not think about the thoughts will send them away; they simply fade. But if we don’t stop thinking about the issue, with either negative or positive thoughts, all the information including the awakened toxic or non-toxic attitude will flow into a sea horse-shaped structure called the Hippocampus and entrench themselves.

The Hippocampus is a sort of clearing house for thoughts. It classifies incoming information as having either short or long-term importance and “files” it accordingly, converting temporary thoughts into permanent thoughts that become part of who you are (a lot of this happens at night whilst you are sleeping).

To do this, the Hippocampus needs to work with the central hub of the brain – a whole group of structures that integrate all the activated memories and work with the Hippocampus to convert information into your permanent memory storage.

This is where we begin some serious reflection in order to make life-changing decisions. Ask yourself, “do I want this information to be a part of me or not?”

A good point to remember is that toxic memories create stress and the Hippocampus is extremely vulnerable to stress, as it is rich in stress hormone receptors (tiny ‘doorways’ on cells that receive chemical information) that are normally used to reinforce memories.  For these brain cells, excessive stress is like setting off a firecracker in a glass jar, causing the Hippocampus to lose cells and shrink. This affects the communication between the Hippocampus and the central hub of the brain, keeping it from building good memories.

We have to recognise how toxic thoughts in the brain can disrupt the process if we are going to understand how we are negatively affected in our mental life and behaviour. As we start to understand how a thought forms and impacts our emotions and bodies, we have two choices: we can let our thoughts become toxic and poisonous, or we can detox our negative thoughts, which will improve our emotional wholeness and even recover our physical health.

What would you prefer????
“Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on Heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live.”      Deuteronomy 30:19

You have been experiencing the affects of all your thoughts your entire life and may not have even known it! For example, have you ever become ill in the wake of a difficult or traumatic event? You may not have made the connection, just chalking it up as coincidence, when it was more likely to have been the result of toxic thoughts taking their toll on your overall health. Thoughts are not only scientifically measurable, but we can verify how they affect our bodies.
We can actually feel our thoughts and emotions.

Emotions are involved in every thought we build, ever have built and ever will build. In fact, with every memory you make, you have a corresponding emotion attached to it, which is stored in your brain, and as a photocopy in your body’s cells. Emotions are attached to thoughts. These emotions are very real and link your thoughts to the reaction in your body and mind. This is called the psychosomatic network. They can surface even years after an event has occurred, when the memory of that event is recalled.

To demonstrate how this works, take a minute to focus on an upsetting recent event in your life.  As you deeply think about this event, become aware of how you are feeling and how your body is reacting to these thoughts and emotions. Rethinking and imagining the event are activating a cascade of chemicals. The more you ponder, the stronger and more vivid this cascade becomes. You may even start to become angry, frustrated or upset.  You will start reacting to the thought mentally and physically as though it were happening all over again. What you think about expands and grows, taking on a life of its own.

What you choose to think about can foster joy, peace and happiness or the complete opposite. In fact, your thoughts create changes right down to genetic levels, restructuring the cell’s makeup. Scientists have shown this restructuring is how diseases are able to take hold in the body.  On the flip side, when we choose non-toxic thinking, we step into a whole new realm of brain and body function. “Feel good” chemicals are released that make us feel peaceful and also promote healing, memory formation and deep thinking, which increases intelligence when combined together. Healthy, non-toxic thoughts help nurture and create a positive foundation in the neural networks of the mind. 

These positive thoughts strengthen positive reaction chains and release biochemicals, such as endorphins and serotonin, from the brain’s natural pharmacy.  Bathed in these positive environments, intellect flourishes, and with it, mental and physical health.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”                    Philippians 4:8
Have you ever felt discouraged, unfocused or overwhelmed? Are there unhealthy patterns in your life or your family that you just can’t seem to break? Thankfully, we are living in a time of revolution. We now have a better understanding than ever before of how our thoughts affect our emotions and bodies. The greatest joy for me as a scientist is that it all lines up with God’s precepts. Toxic thoughts are like poison, but the good news is that you can break the cycle of toxic thinking. You can reverse the affects of toxic thoughts. And once the cycle of toxic thinking has been broken, your thoughts can actually start to improve every area of your life – your relationships, your health and even your success!
A thought may seem harmless, but if it becomes toxic, even that fleeting thought can become physically, emotionally or spiritually dangerous.
Thoughts are measurable and occupy mental “real estate”. Thoughts are active; they grow and change. Thoughts influence every decision, word, action and physical reaction we make. Every time you have a thought, it is actively changing your brain and your body – for better or for worse.

There are 12 areas of toxic thoughts – I call them the “Dirty Dozen” – that can be as harmful as actual poison in our minds and bodies. Toxic thoughts don’t just creep into our minds as a result of abuse or an especially horrific trauma. Toxic thoughts affect people in all stages of life, in every part of the world, every day. Even something as small as a minor irritation can become toxic, and these thoughts need to be swept away!

The result of toxic thinking translates into stress in your body; this type of stress is far more than just a fleeting emotion.  Stress is a global term for the extreme strain on your body’s systems as a result of toxic thinking. It harms the body and the mind in a multitude of ways from patchy memory to severe mental health, immune system problems, heart problems and digestive problems. 

No system of the body is spared when stress is running rampant.  A massive body of research collectively shows that up to 80% of physical, emotional and mental health issues today could be a direct result of our thought lives. But there is hope! You can break the cycle of toxic thinking and start to build healthy patterns that bring peace to a stormy thought life.

The common wisdom of the time was that the brain is like a machine, and if a part broke, it couldn’t be repaired. It was believed that the brain was hardwired from birth with a fixed destiny to wear out with age. Adding this belief to the assumption that we were bound to a fate predetermined by our genes made the horizon of hope seem bleak.  

As you can imagine, these assumptions led to many common conclusions about the best ways to overcome the most difficult experiences, conclusions which were not based on how the brain functions. But we are no longer bound by those misperceptions. You are not a victim of biology. God has given us a design of hope: we can switch on our brains, renew our minds, change our thoughts and heal our bodies.

Medical research increasingly points to the fact that thinking and consciously controlling your thought life is one of the best ways, if not the best way, of detoxing your brain. It allows you to get rid of those toxic thoughts and emotions that can consume and control your mind.

A change in your thinking is essential to detoxing the brain. Consciously controlling your thought life means not letting thoughts rampage through your mind. It means learning to engage interactively with every single thought that you have, and to analyse it before you decide either to accept or reject it. How do you go about doing that? By ‘looking’ at your mental processes. That may sound like a strange, if not impossible, thing to do.

After all, it’s not as if you can just crack open your skull like an egg and have a look at what is going on inside your brain! It is possible, however, to look at your mental processes. In fact, it is not just possible – it is essential.

How many “could-have”, “would-have”, “should-have” statements have you made today?

How many “if onlys” were part of your inner vocabulary today?

How many times have you replayed in your head a conversation or situation that pained you, or one that hasn’t even occurred yet?

How many scenarios have you created of the
unpredictable future?

How much is speculation taking out of your day?

How passive is your mind?

How honest are you with yourself?

Are you at cross-purposes with yourself – going through the motions, but not really committed to the goal, saying one thing but meaning another?

How distorted is your thinking? Are you forming a personal identity around for example, a disease? Do you speak about “my arthritis”, “my multiple sclerosis”, “my heart problem”?

Do you ever make comments like “nothing ever goes right for me”; “everything I touch fails”; “I
always mess up”?

If you answered yes even to just one of these, your thought life needs detoxing right now.

A potential pitfall on the path towards detoxing your brain is the fact that toxic thoughts come in many guises. On the surface, a thought like “I must do well” seems positive enough. It is only when you look at it closely, and check out the feelings it generates and their effects on your body and mind, that you will be able to judge fairly and squarely if this is a thought that serves you well.

If you base your thought life on assumptions like the above, the foundations will be shaky and the edifice (your body/ mind) that you create thereafter will be highly unstable. As you think more toxic thoughts and generate more toxic emotions, that edifice will show cracks, cave in and eventually collapse altogether as burgeoning illness and disease takes hold.

Ditch bad thinking
Right off, you need to ditch unrealistic thinking and keep in mind some key principles to kick-start the process of controlling toxic thoughts:

• When you experience a fear-based emotion you will feel depressed and your thoughts will be characterised by negativity
• A negative thought linked to emotional turmoil will be distorted
• “…bringing all thoughts into captivity to Christ Jesus” 2 Cor 10:5 becomes the golden rule of safe thinking.

1.  Understand that thoughts are real and have an actual anatomy:
• Thoughts are real things. They have a structure in your brain and occupy space. Thoughts are the same as memories. Thoughts and memories look like trees and are called neurons or nerve cells. You build a double memory of everything as a mirror image of each other. This means that the memory on the left side of the brain builds from the detail to the big picture; and the memory on the right side builds from the big picture to the detail. When you put these two perspectives of thought together, you get intelligent understanding taking place.
• As information comes in from the five senses, you process it in certain structures of your brain, then you grow branches on the ‘trees’ to hold this information in long term memory. In fact, as you reading this, you are growing thoughts, because, thoughts are the result of what we hear and read and see and feel and experience. This means that whatever you grow is part of you, actual branches in your brain that create your attitude and influence your decisions.

2. Increase conscious awareness of your thoughts and how you are feeling:
• Knowledge of the anatomy of thought naturally leads into the process of actively analysing incoming information and thoughts constantly. You should never let a thought, or thoughts, roam chaotically and unchecked through your head. Examine every thought you have and ask yourself: is this good for me? Is it from God or the devil or my own confused thinking? Conscious awareness of your thinking should become like a habit; a habit takes twenty-one days to create. Make today the first day of that twenty-one…
3. Do something once you have analysed the thought:
• So, whilst technique two is developing a conscious awareness of what you are thinking about, technique three is doing something about the thought. This means making a conscious decision to actively accept the thought (if it is good for you) or reject it (if it is bad for you). This means you use your God-given ability of free will (this also has actual structural position in the brain) to do something about the thought you are consciously aware of.  Thoughts have as much control as we give them.

4. Build new memories over the old:
• This is the really exciting part in dealing with our thought life because accepting, or rejecting, the thought is changing the neural circuitry of your brain. Your brain is growing while you think and you have control over the process. Technique four happens when the brain steps in and creates a structural representation of what you have chosen to accept (adds more branches on the tree) and converts what you have chosen to reject into hot air!Let’s see how these four techniques work if you have unforgiveness in your memory trees towards someone:
• Technique one: this unforgiveness looks like a thorn tree and will hurt you – visualise the twisted bitter thorn tree
• Technique two: be consciously aware of this thought of unforgiveness – where it comes from, how long it has been there, and so on
• Technique three: ask the Holy Spirit to help you use your free will to make the wisdom decision to reject unforgiveness and forgive. Picture the unforgiveness disappearing as hot air
• Technique four: now build a new de-thorned memory to replace the thorny unforgiveness with for example, quoting Scriptures, singing a worship song, praying for the person, and so on.

Learning to Forgive

I was healed from Multiple Sclerosis and can testify that forgiveness was the ultimate necessity to complete my inner healing. My physical healing was linked to an inner healing.

This inner healing is a complete restoration and cleansing of the heart and soul from a broken marriage or relationship, abuse, a traumatic situation, bitterness and disappointments. God cannot heal if there is any unforgiveness in your life – as this blocks the process of blessing.

“But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” Luke 6:35

Following the Lord’s guidelines
In Matthew 6:9-14 Jesus teaches us to pray; all our prayers can and should be based on these guidelines of the Lord’s Prayer. In verse 12 it says “Forgive us our sins as we also have forgiven those who sin against us”. ‘Sin’ here is also translated as debts.

Sin is a debt we owe God, and it is a debt to our neighbours if we hurt them in any way. All sin hurts God and therefore we owe Him our repentance and sorrow for the hurt done to Him in the sin we have committed.

We need to ask forgiveness of God
Sin is often considered an “old fashioned” concept and the very mention that we are all sinners who fall short of the Glory of God can offend those who think they are good. A lie is not white, it is sin. Sleeping around is not having fun, it is adultery and fornication, and it is sin. Embezzlement and ‘cooking the books’ is not clever, it is dishonesty and it is sin. Corruption is greed at work and is sin.
Integrity is almost a forgotten word these days and clever crime is often admired and emulated in many cases.

It is not politically correct to say the word sin in case we appear narrow minded. Nevertheless sin is sin, and in God’s eyes we have fallen short and done wrong. We have hurt Him and owe Him an apology; we must repent and make it right with the Lord and the person we have hurt.

We cannot withhold forgiveness
Damaging other people with words or deeds, however thoughtless, is sin. We are told to love our neighbour as ourselves. Hurting people is not loving, it is sin. Jesus says in Matthew 5:48 “Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.”
This is a hard thing to accept. Who can be perfect? No one but Jesus, who was the sinless Son of God; only in Him can we be perfect. If we sin regularly against God and others, how can we withhold forgiveness from those who have sinned against us and hurt us? Jesus asked the same question in Matthew 7:3-5 “Why do you look at the speck of dust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own?”

Unforgiveness keeps you bound
I think Jesus had a wonderful sense of humour. Can you imagine Him telling this story with a grin and a twinkle in His eye! How ridiculous to have a plank in your eye. How big do you think the plank was? He didn’t refer to a chip of wood, but rather a huge plank – can you imagine how a plank would even get into one’s eye? You wouldn’t be able to walk, let alone see with a plank in your eye! I can just imagine the crowds giggling when He painted this picture. But the reality is that when we are hurt and injured by people, we don’t want to forgive them, we want to see them punished.

However this unforgiveness does not punish them, it punishes us. The only person who suffers when one won’t forgive is oneself. Bitterness and unforgiveness are like cancer in our heart and lead to misery, illness and demonic soul ties.

A plank in our eye is painful to live with, difficult to move with and impossible to see with. Forgive and you will take the plank out of your eye. Whew, what a relief!
Your life is tainted…

How often have you heard people say; “I am not a bad person. I don’t murder or steal or cheat. On the whole I am a good person.” How does one answer a statement like this?

If you are making an omelette of 10 eggs (a large omelette) and crack the last egg into the bowl, you would be horrified to smell it was a bad egg. What do you do? Can you still use the other eggs, take out the bad one and pretend it was not in the bowl? No! You have to throw the whole batch away as now they are all tainted.

In just the same way, if one egg in your life is bad, you are a sinner. Only the Blood of Jesus can take out that bad egg and make the omelette usable and edible. Just imagine how many ‘bad eggs’ there would be in your omelette batter if even just one small rotten egg dropped in every day!

We can have the bad eggs removed and our lives cleaned out by accepting the sacrifice that Jesus paid for our sins. He gave His life as a sacrifice for iniquity. Only in Jesus can the bad eggs be removed. As soon as we accept Him and give our lives to Him, we are forgiven and cleansed. It is as if there was never a ‘bad egg’ in the bowl; God sees it as a perfect omelette.

How can we be self-righteous?
How can we be self-righteous and refuse to forgive others who have thrown bad eggs at us? We can get out of the way of the rotten eggs launched our way, but if we try to catch them, we are covered in the grime. Unforgiveness is like standing still and allowing rotten eggs to break all over us and not washing them off. What a smell!

When we are in a ‘rotten egg throwing contest’ of blaming others and hurting them, the eggs we throw leave a smear and a stench on our souls and spirits. We are made dirty and need to be forgiven and washed clean. Only the love and forgiveness of Jesus can remove the stench.
We are hurt and injured, and feel violated and unclean. We have to wash off the  bad egg mess ourselves and only then can the forgiveness and love of the Lord cleanse away the remaining dirt, hurt and smell of the rotten eggs of others.

Don’t start throwing rotten eggs!
If you have ever had an egg thrown at you, or breaking over you, you will know what a thorough mess it makes and how difficult it is to clean. Your clothes need a very good wash. Any trauma or abuse you have suffered is like being pelted with rotten eggs.

This same dirt and mess comes from the marriage fights (throwing rotten eggs) that lead to divorce, and without us giving forgiveness (washing off the surplus mess) and allowing God to wash off the deep stench and stain (His forgiveness), can we be fully healed and cleansed?

In Matthew 6:14 Jesus plainly tells us; “For if you forgive men their sin against you, your Heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their sins, neither will your Father forgive your sins.”

We can’t claim forgiveness if we don’t forgive others
This is a scary Scripture – how can we expect reconciliation and forgiveness from God, if we won’t forgive others?

We have no shame pointing out the sawdust in another person’s eye but we don’t notice the plank in our own eye. Jesus called this hypocrisy. Unforgiveness is hypocrisy. God will hold the Christian responsible for their reaction to the hurts and sins of others. We know better and thus have no excuse to live in a place of bitterness, anger and unforgiveness.

Helpful tips for walking in love
Christians are supposed to stand out from the world. We are to give off the fragrance of Christ which is beautiful, not the stench of rotten sin and a begrudging attitude. Lay down the hurts and injustice of the past. Pray for your enemies and extend kindness to those who persecute you. If you are not able to make right with the person who hurt you, write them a letter and let it go! Make a quality decision not to remember past hurts, just as the Lord makes you clean as snow. Forgive much, that you may be forgiven much.

Animism, Ancestors & The ANC

The centenary celebrations of the ANC and their dedication of the country to the ancestral spirits sparked nation wide controversy earlier this year. How are we as Christians to respond? What does the Bible say concerning the spirits of our ancestors? To whom should South Africa be dedicated? Are there examples in history of other nations that have invoked the spirits of their ancestors?
Ritual slaughter
The African National Congress started off the year by throwing itself a lavish birthday party in Bloemfontein. With drums pounding and chants filling the air, the ANC president, Jacob Zuma, initiated the traditional cleansing ceremony by ritually sacrificing a bull, killing it with a spear while it was tied to a tree. ANC secretary general, Gwede Mantashe, explained: “traditionally the act of slaughtering has different meanings. All nations have a way of celebration through slaughter…”
Despite his assertion that “all nations have a way of celebration through slaughter…” journalists could not think of how the Queen of England, for example, marks national events by ritual slaughter of a helpless animal. The inter-faith service included messages and blessings from representatives of all major religions, including Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Rastafarians, and traditional Animist witchdoctors.
Opposition from Christians
Dr. Kenneth Meshoe, opposition leader of the African Christian Democratic Party, turned down his invitation to attend the festivities, declaring that invoking the spirits of dead leaders will have devastating consequences for the country. Instead Rev. Meshoe joined other Christians outside the Union Buildings in Pretoria for a prayer and worship ceremony to dedicate South Africa to the Living God.
Illogical reasoning
In response, the ANC chaplain general, Vukile Mehana, criticised Dr. Meshoe for his “fundamentalist Christian beliefs” declaring that he was “practising religious intolerance”. Vukile Mehana condemned Kenneth Meshoe’s position as “totally unacceptable and a direct contravention of our constitution as well as the fundamental values and principles of Christianity.” Venerating the ancestors
Mehana declared that it was “mischievous and misleading” to suggest that the ANC favoured any one particular faith over others. He insisted that the centenary celebrations did not involve the worshipping of ancestors, but the venerating of the spirits of those who were part of its history. The distinction between ancestor worship and “venerating the spirits” would seem to be a fine line.
Confusion and distortion
The position of the ANC chaplain general seemed confused and self-contradictory. On the one hand, he condemned Dr. Meshoe’s “fundamentalist Christian beliefs”, and on the other hand maintained that Meshoe’s position was in direct contravention of “the fundamental values and principles of Christianity”!
It was not clear how Dr. Meshoe’s position was a violation of the Constitution. One would have thought that freedom of religion, freedom of opinion, freedom of speech and freedom of association were guaranteed by the Constitution.
A cursed nation
An example of a country which has been dedicated to ancestral spirits is Haiti. As the Wall Street Journal noted in its article: ‘Haiti and the Voodoo Curse: The Cultural Roots of the Country’s Endless Misery’, that despite Haiti having received billions of dollars in foreign aid over the last 50 years, it remains the least developed country in the Western hemisphere.
Operation World reports that Haiti is the poorest state in the Western hemisphere. Effective unemployment is around 70%. 98% of the island is deforested. Haiti has some of the worst pollution, drought, famine, drug abuse and spread of AIDS in the Western hemisphere. An estimated 75% of the population are actively involved in voodoo. Haiti is at the top of the corruption index; 25% of the police are in the pay of drug lords and gangs.
At its inception in 1803, Haiti was dedicated to satan. In 2003, voodoo was declared a national religion of Haiti; the massive earthquake in 2010 was the worst natural disaster to ever hit the Western hemisphere, with over 300 000 dead.
Obstacle to progress
The Wall Street Journal quotes Cameroonian development expert, Daniel Etounga-Manguelle as observing that voodooism is “one of the principal obstacles to progress in Africa.” Daniel Etounga-Manguelle observes that “Haiti’s culture is powerfully influenced by its religion, voodoo. Voodoo is one of numerous spirit-based religions.
It is without ethical content. Its followers believe that their destinies are controlled by hundreds of capricious spirits who must be propitiated through voodoo ceremonies.”

What is animism?
Animism is a “progress-resistant force”. Animism is spirit worship. It involves necrolatry – the worship of the souls of the dead. The witchdoctors or shamans are regarded as expert mediators who know the proper incantations and sacrifices to placate the spirits. Animism seems obsessed with invoking good luck and avoiding bad luck. Each community is seen as having its own sets of territorial gods and spirits.

   A religion ruled by fear
Fear plays a major role in the life of Animists. They see the world as full of spirits, omens, spells and forces. Through magic, divination and sacred rituals, they seek protection to appease the gods, the spirits and the ancestors. They observe numerous taboos and prohibitions and observe sacred places. For example, in Haiti there is a sacred tree where a pact with the devil was signed over two centuries ago by witchdoctors.
Ritual murder
The High Court in Pietermaritzburg found 28 year old Smangaliso Ngubane guilty of murder for having slaughtered his 17 month old baby daughter in a ritual killing. Amini Xaba was stabbed by her father six times in what state witnesses described as “an offering to his ancestors”. Ngubane testified that he had heard voices that had told him to do this.
Child sacrifice
In Uganda the government is setting up posters in playgrounds and on roadsides warning of the danger of abduction by witchdoctors for child sacrifice. Police have investigated hundreds of cases of child sacrifice in Uganda. The Anti-Human Sacrifice Task Force reports that there is a growing belief that when you sacrifice a child, you get wealthy. There are people willing to buy these children to be sacrificed for the prosperity of their business!
Powerful spells
Jubilee Campaign, reports that they know of over 900 cases of human sacrifice in the country. Churches are singing: “Heal our land, end child sacrifice.”
An undercover reporter for the BBC filmed a local witchdoctor who explained how the sacrifice of a child is “the most powerful spell”.
The witchdoctor was recorded saying: “there are two ways of doing this, we can bury the child alive on your construction site, or we can cut him in different pieces and put the blood in the bottle of spiritual medicine.”

Animism is serious
These and many other examples remind us that Animism and the consequences of dedicating a nation to ancestral spirits are very serious. The Scriptures are clear: “You shall not…practise divination or soothsaying…give no regard to mediums and familiar spirits; do not seek after them, to be defiled…I am the Lord your God.” Lev 19:26, 31
What the Bible says
“When you come into the land which the Lord your God has given you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead.
For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord and because of these abominations the Lord your God drives them out from before you. You shall be blameless before the Lord your God. For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, the Lord your God has not appointed such for you.” Deut 18:9-14
Communicating with the dead
The Scriptures are clear that we are not able to communicate with the spirits of departed ancestors. It is appointed unto man once to die and after that the Judgement (Hebrews 9:27). There is a great gulf set between the living and the dead and communication between them is impossible (Luke 16:26). However, many people who think that they are communicating with ancestral spirits are actually communicating with deceptive demons (Matt 10:1; Acts 19:12; Jude 6).
Demonic activity
Occultism makes the enemies of God the guiding forces and the source of knowledge. Those who are “giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons” actually “depart from the faith…” 1 Tim 4:1. We are commanded “Do not learn the ways of the heathen…” Jer 10:2
Dedicating South Africa to God
The only One to whom South Africa should be dedicated is our Creator God, the only Redeemer and Saviour, (as was done when the Voortrekkers established the Day of the Covenant). “Therefore submit to God, resist the devil and he will flee from you.” James 4:7
Jesus Christ is the King of the nations. He is the Creator, the Eternal Judge, the only Mediator between God and man (1 Tim 2:5-6). Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life, no one comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6). There is no other Name given under Heaven by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).