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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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.

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?

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.