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.

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)

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…

~~~~~~

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.”

~~~~~~

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-

L I F E . . . life…

Life is very complicated, yet sometimes seems pointless. I don’t know why you live life, but I have some reasons why I think it might be important for us to live long and prosper. 

My reasons for living life:
1) Praising God through a Christ-like life
2) Bringing others to make the choice of accepting Jesus so they can live for eternity with Him
3) Loving as many people as I can
4) Enjoying the beautiful Creation that God has made for us and Him
5) Eating and drinking as much ice cream and milk as I can
6) Enjoying this life that God created
7) Keeping this body nice while God lives in it, while eating ice cream and drinking milk

Those 7 reasons are very important to me and I hope that you look into them as you create some reasons for living. I hope that maybe I will think of some more reasons as life goes on, because life is beautiful. Scripture says that life is going to be tough and we are going to struggle, but isn’t life beautiful?! We get to live in a place full of nature and beauty that God has placed onto this earth. But the struggles we go through are also a beautiful part of life because we get to live through them and see the product of grace and truth on the other side.

I hope that this is an encouragement to you. Just remember:

In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. 

Ephesians 3:12

Complexity

I have recently been marveling at how much we have learned about ourselves throughout our history. The human race is an extremely complicated being, as it was intended to be. Humans are complex creations because of our physical complexity, psychological complexity, and our spiritual complexity. All of these complexities have been studied over the course of our history and many unique and stunning pieces of information have been found.

First off, physically we are a puzzle that has been put together perfectly so that we can live without complications.  Our bodies are full of little “machines” that, in general, work perfectly. Even when something does go wrong, there are many ways that the body can fix those emergencies. In a post on buzzfeed.com, a list of 23 amazing facts about the human body are revealed in some short little pictures. Pictures #13 and #14 state that every minute, three hundred million cells die in our bodies but that three hundred billion are created each day. What could create something that works out so perfectly? Also, cells themselves are amazing pieces of work. A site on the University of Utah’s Health and Science page, http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/cells/scale/, shows just how small some of the cells in our body are. Those cells, though, carry the DNA, RNA, lysosomes, Nuclei, ribosomes, and so much more and all of these parts of a cell do special jobs that help you and I live every day! On listverse.com, Jamie Frater shows us fifteen facst about the body in an article titled, “Top 15 Amazing Facts About the Human Body”. The first fact states that the “Stomach’s digestive acids are strong enough to dissolve zinc. Fortunately for us the cells in the stomach lining renew so quickly that the acids don’t have time to dissolve it.” That is some astonishing information! Another fact: “A single human blood cell takes only 60 seconds to make a complete circuit of the body.” The human body is a clear sign that there is a God that created us with a purpose to glorify Him. Only He could create our complex bodies!

The second complex aspect to our human race that I have marveled at lately is our psychological complexity. We are constantly thinking and “feeling” feelings. In an article in the Huffington Post, Bruce Davis, Ph. D., talks about trying to talk to our significant other when we have all these thoughts running through our minds. He explains that we have somewhere from 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts flying around in our minds per day and with all those thoughts, how do we make time for expressing those thoughts, especially to our life partners? This article sheds a little light on how complex we are psychologically. The fact that we are always wanting a significant other is a curious aspect of humans, and the rest of creation. Some weird facts about our psychology are presented in a list on mindclockwork.com. One of these facts state that, on average, your mind wanders 30% of the time. Little things like dreams, love, depression, and anxiety are mysteries that are created because of thoughts, chemicals, or other unknown pieces of our minds.

It is also interesting to note that nations even have a certain amount of psychology based on the people that live in them. For example, America, as explained by Alexis de Tocqueville, has a very individualistic nature. Also, Tocqueville says, “As one digs deeper into the national character of the Americans, one sees that they have sought the value of everything in this world only in the answer to this single question: how much money will it bring in?” These sorts of things represent a nation and are all created by the people that live and rule in the country.

The final general complexity of humans is their spiritual complexity. The truth is that we are created in God’s image (Gen. 1:26) and we were the only creation of God’s that He “breathed life” into (Gen. 2:7). We were created to give God glory. In many places in the New Testament it gives the glory to God, such as 1 Corinthians 10:31 and Philippians 2:11. God chose us to be his children. Isn’t that amazing? Yet, we let sin creep into our lives and now do not deserve God’s gift of eternal life, but He still gives it to us through His Son, Jesus Christ. God’s love for us is astounding and makes us his prize possession. In all of the things in his beautiful, complex creation, he chose us. So what must we do in response to that?

We have to choose Him.