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.”

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)

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-

The Mystery Revealed

Have you ever wondered what the angels are doing? Have you even wondered if angels even exist? How about whether they float around among us or not? The Bible doesn’t say lots about angels, but it does say they exist and explains some aspects of these unseen creatures. We know they were created by God, as all things were created by God for Him and for His purposes (Colossians 1:16). There are thousands upon thousands of them, as we can see in many places in the Bible, including Jesus’ birth and Hebrews 12:22. We are not to worship the angels, for they are servants of God just like us (Revelation 22:8-9). So we know that there are many angels that are servants of God. So is the only difference between them and us that they are up in heaven, already with God? Maybe they have more shine to them when they enter into a room and wear white clothes with halos above their heads? Or maybe another difference is that they have wings?

Yes, angels are up in heaven with God already. Yes, they may shine a bit more because they are from heaven. Yes, they may or may not dress a little differently, but I don’t think that any of these differences are important. The angels are servants and worshipers of God, just like us. They are already in heaven, but we will eventually be in heaven worshiping and serving God. The way they dress or glow with light doesn’t really seem that important either. So what separates humans from angels?

In Ephesians 3, Paul talks about the mystery that has and is being revealed. This mystery is Christ. God sent His one and only Son to die for our mistakes and our wrongs so that we would forever live together with God, forgiven of everything that we did or even thought that separated us from God. In verses 2 and 3 of this chapter, Paul says, “Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly.” Paul wrote, apparently briefly, about the glorious blessings that we now have through Christ because of his sacrifice in chapter 1 of Ephesians. Verse 3 of chapter 1 states, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” Amen! But Paul continues to reveal the mystery in chapter 3!

Paul continues in Ephesians 3:4-6 saying that we are all united, Gentiles and Jews, because of what Christ has done for us, and this knowledge was not made known to former generations. I want to just stick Ephesians 3:7-13 in here now just so you can read it on your own, because there is some powerful stuff in what Paul says here:

7 I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. 8 Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, 9 and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. 10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms,11 according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. 12 In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. 13 I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.

I don’t know if caught some of the things Paul mentioned, but there are a few things that really stick out to me. Verses 8 and 9, verses 10 and 11, and verse 12 all have something different to say and they all say something powerful. But they all come down to a very important point in the end.

Paul gets as humble as a person can possibly be when he says in verse 8, “…I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people…” How can Paul think that way?! Paul was a very highly respected person in the Jewish society, but Paul persecuted those who proclaimed Jesus’ name. Paul did this until Jesus literally appeared to him and blinded him. After this moment, and after he got his sight back, Paul became one of the most influential missionaries for the Lord. The Ephesian church is one of the churches that he helped to establish. So with all of this, Paul says, “…I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people…” How depressing, right? But wait, Paul says less than the least of all the Lord’s people, and he continues, “…this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things.” So even though Paul says that he is the least of all the Lord’s people, he does realize that he is the Lord’s and that he was given the honor of reaching people with the good news of life. That mind set is outstanding! He realizes that he has done terrible things and is probably at the bottom of the totem pole, but he still gets it. He gets to serve God. Do see that? He gets to serve God. He is joyful that he gets to serve God and tell others about Jesus’ sacrifice! This verse makes me think about one thing: Am I focusing too much on the bad and not on the joy and honor that I have in Christ?

Now we get to the angels. Verses 10 and 11 reveal what the angels think of what is going on down here on this little planet called Earth. “Through the church, the manifold wisdom of God is being made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished through Christ Jesus our Lord.” Uh… WOW! We, the church, are unfolding the MANIFOLD WISDOM OF GOD! And who are we revealing it too? The rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms. I would assume that is mostly angels. God’s plan was to save us and show us His love through Jesus Christ and that plan is unfolding before the angels very eyes. The angels had no idea what was happening! They want to know what is going on in us humans! We were discussing the difference between us and the angels before. Well, that is the difference. We have been reconciled through Jesus and are now filled with God’s Spirit, and our job is to tell everyone we can about this reconciliation. The angels serve and worship God, but they don’t have the experience of being taken away from God and brought back to Him through His Son. What a privilege to be the ones that God loves enough to send His Son to die for. But the crazy part, is in the next verse.

Verse 12 says it all. “In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” Did Paul just say that? We may approach God, the ruler and creator of all life, with freedom and confidence. God would have struck anyone down had they done something wrong in the tabernacle or if they approached and touched the ark of the covenant (2 Samuel 6), because that is where He dwelt with His people at that time. But now, if we trust in Jesus and give our lives to Him, we can approach God with freedom and confidence. We are free from our transgressions and we are confident in forgiveness of God. Nothing is more encouraging than that! We are blessed with every spiritual blessing, so we can approach with freedom and confidence. I cannot wait for that day when I approach God with freedom and confidence, ready to worship and serve him for all eternity.

So all of this combines into one main point: We are privileged. We are privileged because we have been saved by God and we now have His Spirit in us, and because of that, the angels look down in wonder and amazement. Through the grace God has given us we can now reveal the mystery of Christ to all of those around us. We need to spread the word that God has saved us and we can now approach God with freedom and confidence! We are privileged! No matter what we go through we know that we are forgiven and we have an eternal life with God coming our way and we need to send that message out the world. So after reading this today, I hope that you feel privileged to be apart of God’s chosen children. Even the angels look down in amazement at the mystery that is being revealed in us, so do you feel that amazement, thankfulness, freedom, and confidence in Christ?

Alive in Christ

Romans 3:23 states, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” That is depressing. We will never, EVER, be anything close to what God is. God is perfect, holy, righteous, pure, he is LOVE. And what are we? Sinful. Miserable. Unholy. Ephesians 2 talks about how we are dead in our transgressions. We are dead! Death is constant fear for humans. Some may not know what lies on the other side of death and are lost in this life. But Ephesians 2 comes back and says, “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” God loves us even though we fall short of the glory of God. And we can be called righteous because of Christ’s sacrifice for us! How awesome is that?!

Even with this wonderful life that we have in Christ, we still had nothing to do with it! We couldn’t have done a single little act of love, kindness, or sacrifice to defeat the power of sin. Only Jesus could do that. Which is what Paul says in the next three verses: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Everything is for the Glory of God, because, well… just look at everything he has done for us!