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It All Comes Down to Love

Persuasion, conformity, obedience, discrimination, and other positive and negative social behaviors are all important topics to consider in regards to the Christian faith as we attempt to live like Christ in order to reach others with His truth. Each of these has a unique role in Christ-like behavior.

In order to bring people to Christ, there is a natural inclination to persuade people to believe. The movie God’s Not Dead shows this truth in a rather captivating way. A college student enters a class where the professor is forcing everyone to admit that “God is dead”. The student refuses and is then requested to provide a defense for God in the upcoming classes. The approach taken by the student revolves around scientific facts, like a presentation in a court case. However, there is a twist that occurs at the end of the discussion. All of his points become irrelevant to the ultimate decision everyone must make, which is actually just a decision. There will always be debate over whether God exists or not, so the only thing an individual can really do is decide which side to have faith in. This revelation destroys the initial need to persuade people to Christ. It all comes down to living a life that portrays Christ to others so they can have a desire for God, hopefully making that decision to believe.

Other interesting issues involving social behavior also penetrate the church. Conformity has an interesting role in churches. For many church-goers, their faith is based off of family or friend’s beliefs. They do not have a personal commitment to their faith and miss out on the most important parts of following God.

Like the negative impact conformity can have, discrimination is a huge problem for Christians. Christians are both discriminated against and are guilty of the act of discrimination. In some ways, that discrimination is partly backed by biblical principles, specifically an avoidance of homosexual acts and behaviors (1 Cor. 6:9-11). But at the same time, an overt and hurtful discrimination of homosexuals pushes away potential followers of Christ. There is a fine line between standing up for what you believe in and bringing everyone to God. Discriminating against different races and religions can be difficult for some Christians, but there always needs to be an extension of God’s love through us to all people (1 John 4:7, Mat. 22:39).

Obedience is something God requires of us. The psychologist’s definition of obedience is a simple one—a change in behavior in response to the commands of others. Stanley Milgram’s experiment testing obedience to authority demonstrates an interesting variable in this quality. In the experiment, the participants’ actions showed a certain willingness to follow authority to extreme measures, especially when it is known that any repercussions will not affect them. There is a certain trust in that relationship between the participant and experimenter. Similarly, the trust between us and God, knowing that we can live for Him in confidence, can influence our obedience to Him. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).  That creates a special bond between “those who are in Christ Jesus” and Christ Jesus himself. At the same time, we know that this trust cannot be replicated to anyone here on Earth. God is our ultimate authority and we have full trust in Him.

The love that God has for us is amazing. I trust God with my life because I made a decision to believe that He sent His Son to die a horrible death for me, only to be raised to life again three days later. By doing so, he saved me from my sins and conquered death. Romans 8, Ephesians 1:1-14, Ephesians 2, and Ephesians 3:1-13 all illustrate this through amazing words. Paul knew that God’s love for us is like nothing that can be produced here on this Earth, so our love for Him and our trust in Him should be like nothing else we have or could have.

The many negative and positive social behaviors we constantly exhibit are all important to consider while walking with God on our way to God. There is amazing power in what we do and how we do it. Making sure we live like Christ is important in everything that we do. At the very least, God deserves that. He deserves our life long dedication to glorifying and worshiping Him because He loves us so very much. Louie Giglio, the pastor of Passion City Church in Atlanta said it best: “In the end, our worship is more about what we do than what we say.”

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Cheese

I like making weird comparisons, so here is one involving cheese–a yummy, delicious, fantastic, amazing, scrumptious, beautiful, odd, weird, disgusting, crazy, wacko, perfect, awesome, totally rad piece of food which I have decided to relate to the Bible as a whole. BAM!

You know what I am talking about with that title up there… That yellowish, more often whitish, stinky, weird looking, cowified delicious stuff that always surprises my mouth with its goodness is everywhere. Something like that needs to be examined when it fills so many of our favorite dishes. From lasagna, to pizza, to cake (as in cheesecake), to burgers, to crackers (as in cheese and crackers), to the great spray cheese, cheese fills life. When I say “fills”, I mean both literally and figuratively…

Cheese fills my stomach and surrounds my everyday life. So what in the world is it?

No one knows…

But I believe cheese can be compared very easily to the Bible. It is kind of weird, often times white, sometimes weird looking, probably not cowified, but definitely (figuratively) delicious. It surprises me too. It surrounds my life spiritually as it pours out so many truths into my thoughts and beliefs. Something like that needs to be examined, just like cheese. The other thing, though, is that we can’t really tell what it is. Somehow, the Holy Spirit uses God’s word to guide us and help us through our lives. It is a magical, but rational, gift from God which has helped me get a glimpse of who He is.

I know, I am making a weird comparison here, but I like cheese and I like the Bible so I would like to make it okay to eat cheese, some how, from a biblical standpoint. The Bible carries so much weight to it in our lives and we need to take it seriously. Read it, feel it, smell it, (figuratively) eat it, touch it…

LIVE IT.

Micah 7:8:  Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the LORD will be my light.

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PSYCH: Psychological Disorders and Mental Illness

Mental illness is a difficult issue to deal with when people suffer from co many disorders every day. The impact psychological disorders have on daily functioning is depressing in itself. Personally, just last week my grandmother’s mental state declined rapidly to a minimal point. She doesn’t understand what year it is, doesn’t recognize her grandchildren, and cannot carry on a conversation in any decent fashion. My grandmother went from being a loving, mostly happy individual to one who can barely function at all. After a test to determine whether hydrocephalus may be the problem, no change occurred, leaving us still in the dark as to what exactly has happened.

The power that the brain has on us and our usual functioning, and the power that psychological disorders have to disrupt that, is an astounding thought. From somatoform disorders to anxiety and mood disorders, the range of predicaments one can enter into involving psychological disorders is discouraging and makes studying the causes and developing treatments for them is extremely challenging. There are many perspectives that one can view a problem from, and each one has benefits and disadvantages.

Overall, I believe that there are truths to each perspective on abnormality which, if combined in a proper way, can produce the best perspective for all individuals to take, including the church. The medical perspective has evidence to support its perspective, and many times the source of psychological disorders are medically identifiable. Hydrocephalus, for example, involves a build-up of fluid in the cavities deep within the brain, creating a multitude of possible symptoms, including memory loss. This can be treated with the drainage of that fluid, creating an almost instantaneous improvement in brain functioning. This perspective helps identify and treat many types of psychological disorders, however, there are some which are not medical in nature. This requires a different perspective to be introduced.

In a way, the psychoanalytic perspective has some truth in focusing on the conflicts of childhood, but I do not believe the focus solely and primarily on sex and aggression. Because of this, I tend to disregard this perspective and move onto behavioral perspectives. This can also be a helpful perspective in identifying and treating disorders in addition to the medical perspective. After adding the cognitive perspective as well, you get a full view of how the human body works in regards to the brain. I would assume that most disorders can be identified and treated using these perspectives. The medical perspective covers the more physical nature of the human body, while the behavioral perspective covers the actions that result from the cognitive perspective’s view on the thoughts and feelings occurring inside the person. However, there could be more pieces to the puzzle, which is why considering two more perspectives is also a wise action to take. The humanistic perspective takes into account the responsibility people have over their actions and how that can affect a person’s psychological state. The environment around the person also has an impact on the psychological state of a person, which is where the sociocultural perspective comes into play.

With the combination of these five perspectives, and a slight influence of the psychoanalytic perspective, every possible psychological situation is explored. Not one of these perspectives can identify the source of and treat every psychological disorder by itself. The combination of all of them, though, gets the job done and gets it done correctly.

The church needs to have this combined perspective in all of its dealings with people, not just psychologically impaired individuals. Approaching individuals with a single perspective can cause problems when witnessing or just loving a person. Just like when diagnosing psychological disorders, making sure you have a fuller picture of the situation before stepping in to try and produce a result can be a disaster. Taking a step back for a moment and absorbing the factors of a situation is a wise habit to develop.

This truth can be applied to many different situations in life, including mental illness. The power that these illnesses have over us can be terrifying, especially when a loved one is affected by them. I pray that the doctors who are working with my grandmother can take this combined perspective and use it to identify the true problem behind her rapid decline in mental state. But, I also pray that God will use whatever happens for his glory. “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21)

Hands. We are all different, yet the same. Drawing and Photo editing by Troy Coates

CAUTION! Intelligence at Work! CAUTION!

Intelligence, thinking, and reasoning are all difficult and complex concepts that impact our lives every day. As humans, we are constantly gauging our abilities. Intelligence is the most measured ability of all in our Western culture. Intelligence, as defined by psychologists, is the capacity to understand the world, think rationally, and use resources effectively when faced with challenges. With different theories of intelligence available, each giving a specific definition of what intelligence can be, there is clearly a lot of ambiguity in this area of study.

Divergent thinking versus convergent thinking, practical intelligence and emotional intelligence, and fluid and crystallized intelligence are all examples of the many theories and types of intelligences. How do we sort through these many different types of intelligences? Personally, I prefer Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences which includes eight different forms of intelligence, each holding a distinct area of expertise. The eight categories which Gardner defined show the assortment of talents and intelligences that God has given us as individuals. Though I may not be an intelligent linguist, musically I hold much talent from God. This intelligence theory appeals to me because of the great ease with which it sorts out all kinds of intelligence.

Other theories limit the definition of intelligence and restrict what can or cannot be intelligent. The information-processing approach of intelligence degrades so many aspects of intelligence which can be exhibited by people, which results in the degrading of those people. Our education system currently is set up in a fashion which models this diminishing attitude toward multiple kinds of intelligence. Standardized tests are the means by which we assess a student’s intelligence. These tests often undermine the greatest abilities of the student. Creativity is discouraged through our education evaluation. Creativity, which can be associated with divergent thinking, is a vital part in our intelligence, yet it is not considered on any standardized intelligence test or encouraged and developed in our schooling. Our very nature craves success, which is reinforced by test scores, compliments, and accomplishments in our skills and talents. A degrading test score deflates the self-esteem of an individual. The importance of supporting all sorts of intelligence is certainly commanding.

Having established that importance, the evaluation of intelligence tests is noteworthy. These tests, which are designed to quantify a person’s level of intelligence, need to take into consideration what intelligence is and how it then can compare with other types of intelligence. Is the test reliable and valid? Approaching the results of current intelligence tests should be approached with caution because of the possible reactions one can have. Intellectual disabilities or giftedness, as well as diversity in culture and ethnicity, may be reason for test scores to be interpreted in such a way as to diminish the individual who was scored. The many different kinds of intelligence that can be exhibited may not be tested or emphasized, making a person or race look unintelligent. Employers, educators, policy makers, politicians, and other authoritative figures may create discriminatory attitudes towards these people. This result needs to be avoided at all cost.

In America, race is a large issue, which gives rise to the concern for evaluating intelligence between these different races and cultures. Environment, and thus culture, is more of a factor when it comes to intelligence than genetics, however, race is still a stumbling block when assessing intelligence. In my life, I am surrounded by mostly white folks, but I have lots of experience with African American people as well. I have a number of friends who are African American, and I serve at His Place, an urban outreach project of the Pittsburgh area Christian Churches and Churches of Christ. As I work with the children in His Place, who are mostly African American, and as I associate with my friends, I need to be conscious of my views of intelligence. Being wary of the different types of intelligence one can exhibit is vital to my encouragement of these people and love of them. Jesus talks of this in Luke 10:25-37 with the parable of the Good Samaritan. We should not be like the priest or Levite, but the Samaritan who had mercy on the broken man. The second greatest commandment is love your neighbor as yourself. Approaching intelligence with caution, mercy, and an open mind is key in loving others and promoting Christ.

The complexity and diversity intelligence carries with it makes it a difficult load to carry, but with the support of all kinds of intelligence so as to encourage and love others, we can make the load a lot easier.

Parties, Summer Jobs, and Love… But No Blue Popcorn

My dreams are usually extremely weird, involving things like blue popcorn, giant monsters pushing me towards a door-stop, talking trees, birds being eaten by dogs, and many other odd occurrences. This wasn’t completely false with the dream I had last night but I did find a way of relating it to God this morning, which is unusual. To explain…

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It all started with me starting to work at my summer job again. I met up with my boss late on my first night. The night sky was seen clearly above us, framed by the trees that make up the mountain woods, yet the camp seemed bright with all the lights that were shining from the buildings. I remember having a conversation with my boss which included giving me my instructions for a task, then walking off in search of my work boots, which I seem to remember wearing at the time of the conversation. I entered a house that apparently I thought held my work boots, or whatever I was looking for, and found a party. I mean a hip-and-cool lights-going-off-all-around food-and-drink (of course non-alcoholic) jumping-grooving-happening party. It looked great. I remember having a quick conversation with someone and then walking into a small room where I found whatever I was looking for. I then returned to the party room and carried on having small conversations with people, having fun in the process. After a while of this I remembered I needed to return to my boss who probably suspected something. I returned. Then I scampered off again and got distracted doing something else. I don’t know what but I’m sure it was fun and exciting and probably involved puzzles…

Wait, puzzles aren’t exciting, and generally not fun either… hmmmm…..

Anyways, it is a dream…

I realize I must return to my boss again who is probably waiting for me again, this time he is probably very angry and will most likely kill me.

That didn’t happen though. I return to him and he gives the final instructions for the night. After finishing these instructions, he said, “Now, don’t be going to anymore parties from now on, okay? Get the work done, then you can have more fun.”

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Can you see what I realized with this dream?

God does the same thing. We start off with God saying, “Okay! What can I do! I am ready! You are my Lord and Savior! I love you and will serve you with my entire life!” And then what happens?

Life happens.

We start out on a mountaintop looking at the entire world with joy and enthusiasm and then we start walking. Then we look up and the scenery has changed. What used to be a gorgeous view of the world has now turned into a valley of despair. We can see one of two things. One, all we see are the giant challenges before us and nothing else. We don’t see the landscape and overall view of the world anymore. We get stuck in a situation that drags us into pain and suffering. Or, two, we find a nice little spot down in the valley that isn’t full of wild animals or terrible thorn bushes. It is just some nice green grass that can keep us comfortable for a while.

The second thing is what I find myself, and most of America, doing today. We find a nice place to settle down and we are just indifferent to the struggles and pain around us. We ignore all the things we should be doing, both in our everyday lives as people and our everyday lives as followers of Christ. This is what I did in my dream. I was with my boss and everything was as it should be. I was doing willing to do my job and get some rewards for it. But then, when I went to do my job, I found something that looked much more pleasing and was much more immediate in its reward.

There are so many things out in this world that do this to me. Friends, music, talents, exciting life events, and other such things are what pull me away from my mission for God and my mission to get closer to God. You might initially think, “those are awesome things though!” Yes, they are, but if I focus too much on myself and my personal gain in relation to those things, it becomes harmful to me and my missions.

Eventually I exited the first fun party and returned to my boss. Sometimes in life, we return back to God and our mission, but then those things suck us back or new distractions enter our lives, as I fell victim to in my dream.

After I returned to my boss the second time, he said that I needed to stay with my work so I could achieve the greater reward, just like God tells us to do with our lives. Living eternally with God and praising His great name because of his love and sacrifice for us is something that I look forward to in this life, but I do get distracted by the immediate things that come up to tempt me in life, even though they might not be inherently evil.

Colossians 1:21-23a (NIV) parallels this dream perfectly when Paul says, “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel.”

One of the most amazing things about this verse, and the surprising part about my dream, is that the person in charge, doesn’t hold the sinner accountable for his actions. In my dream, my boss just continued on, just reminding me of the work and reward that was to come as a result. In life, God wiped our entire history for us so we can be blameless and pure. Search histories are often filled with evil things, but God just hit the clear button with Christ. He replaced every single terrible website with Jesus Christ. And, “In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” (Ephesians 3:12 NIV).

Through Christ, we now stand before God with freedom and confidence. We can return to God from those ‘parties’ or those evil things we have been doing, and He will welcome us with open arms, covering us with his overwhelming love.

Because…

“His love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me.” -One Thing Remains-  -Jesus Culture-

Beauty in the Creativity

Creativity

Creativity, or the ability to bring about an original thought, expression, idea, and the like, is a gift from God to his children. This creativeness was a result of the Creator creating man and woman in His image, almost a reflection of Himself. Humans are naturally creative, as Sir Ken Robinson explained at a TED talk filmed in February, 20061. Robinson supported his thesis that creativity is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status. He reasoned that we are born with creativity as a part of ourselves and then we beat it out of our kids in the education system. A very illustrative story from his speech introduced a girl who would not pay attention in school until one class they had a drawing lesson. Robinson continues, “The teacher was fascinated and she went over to her and said, “What are you drawing?” And the girl said, “I’m drawing a picture of God.” And the teacher said, “But nobody knows what God looks like.” And the girl said, “They will in a minute.” That creative imagination is ingrained into human beings’ heads. There are multiple creative aspects that reflect God wired in humans, including two specific examples—originality and intelligent design.

First, originality is commonly associated with creativity, but it was originally given to us from God when He used His creativity to create Adam and Eve. Humans and the world we live in, as well as the redemption story, are His great original work of art. When God created us, we were created in his image with creativity. That creativity allows each of us to formulate unique thoughts, art, projects, and ideas. Psalm 139:14a says, “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Ephesians 2:10 states, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” We each have good works that we are able to do because of our uniqueness as a result of God’s creativity. As humans, we have that ability to create original works of art. Just look at the many artists that are spread throughout time. From Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling, to Claude Monet with his impressionist Water Lilies, to the pop art of Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans, the originality of artists is revealed through their works. Though, originality is not restricted to just art. Frank Lloyd Wright was a fantastic architect who created the intriguing home famously named Falling Water, which is located on top of a water fall. Even those who own businesses, lay out neighborhoods and cities, or design cars must have some level of creative originality in order to separate themselves from others who have similar skills. Originality was used when we were created, and we inherited that gift and should use it to serve the one who gave it to us. John Stuart Mill, a British philosopher from the 1800s, once said, “All good things which exist are the fruits of originality.”2

Secondly, intelligent design is a unique aspect that humans have that was inherited from God. We are constantly looking to the future and visualizing our lives as we want them, then making adjustments accordingly. As a high school student, I am creating what my future will look like with the choices I make. Such as my choice of college, major, friends, classes, even food sometimes. I have a design for my future that I am creating as the days pass by, and that design reveals me as a person. God had a plan when he created us. This plan would reveal God to us. A plan to show His love, compassion, and mercy, and He chose us to be a part of that plan. Jeremiah 29:11 illustrates this when God says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” We make plans for our lives all the time, but ultimately, God’s will shall prevail. Proverbs 16:9 says, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes His steps.” As a result we should, as Proverbs 16:3 says, “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” As we arrange our lives, we must realize we are working for our Creator, not ourselves. Intelligent design must be used in order to figure out what God’s will is for us and then act on that so that we may please Him.

In conclusion, we have many attributes of God involving creativity, including originality and intelligent design. We must use these attributes to serve our Creator according to His will. Personally, as I go further into deciding and arranging what I want to do with my life, I must find the originality that I carry and use it through my work for the Lord.

 

 

  1. “Transcript of “How Schools Kill Creativity”” Ken Robinson: How Schools Kill Creativity. TED Talks, Feb. 2006. Web. 29 Aug. 2014. <http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity/transcript?language=en#t-221000&gt;.

 

  1. John Stuart Mill. (n.d.). BrainyQuote.com. Retrieved August 29, 2014, from BrainyQuote.com Web site: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/j/john_stuart_mill.html
    Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/citation/quotes/authors/j/john_stuart_mill.html#HxEdYbvH1fjfvDrr.99
Video

No Man Is An Island

Tenth Avenue North has released a new EP called Islands which includes the song “No Man Is An Island”. Mike Donehey, the lead singer for Tenth Avenue North, released a devotion in the form of a video journal that relates to this song. These two releases from Tenth Ave are both related to the post “Uncovering Loneliness” that I wrote a few weeks ago. Take a look, it’s pretty amazing: