Sifting

I love psychology. It is, after all, my chosen field. And I must say that getting my master’s degree from a secular institution has been interesting, to say the least. I always have to include a personal mental disclaimer to every lecture. For example, in my Social Cognitions class last night, we discussed briefly a classic psychological “chicken-or-the-egg” phenomenon — which affects which first? Physiology or affect (moods/emotions/etc.)? (See? Chicken. Egg.) Does physiology initiate an action and thus mood is interpreted from the aroused physiological state? Or does affect/cognition initiate the arousal and thus the physiological reaction.

Enter disclaimer — “Note to self: present company has little to no notion of the spirit/soul, and few theories even mention the topic, let alone discuss it. Be sure to account for that in your own personal practice.

That’s a continued problem I run into (and probably will for the rest of my professional life) – most of these theories are so frustratingly unilateral and unimodal. The theories attempt to fit all the facets and nuances of human behavior into a nice, tight little package of cause-and-effect (impossible!). And while some theories are better than others, none is perfect (or necessarily even great) at doing the job. So, I sift, sift, sift through the theories and take out the useful stuff (using a biblical, as well as a practical, foundation)and, with a VERY critical eye, blend it with what the Bible says about the human condition and the human relationship to one another and to God. Very tedious, yet at the same time, really quite fun. Especially when application can be made — and one can watch it work!

So, I sift the theories, but mentally add the element that nearly every theory neglects — the spiritual side of humanity. If you can’t identify ALL the pieces of Man, then you can’t properly address all the NEEDS of Man.

Misunderstanding the Gospel

I am of the opinion that the Gospel is the single most misunderstood topic in the history of mankind (even among Christians themselves). It has incited Crusades of death and persecution and yet has inspired millions to give their lives to Christ.

The most current example of this misunderstanding is the criticism of the release of The Passion of the Christ. One news periodical criticizes the movie harshly, saying, “The Reporter also says that the movie’s violence is so intense and more important than character development that audiences may have trouble with that.” I’ve not yet seen the movie (though I hope to this weekend), but the point of this particular movie is NOT to provide quality character development or shield us from the violence of that moment in history. Quite the opposite in fact. It is to show us the very graphic nature of what Christ went through to atone for our sins. And quite frankly, if you want character development, take some time to read through the Gospels for the complete view of Christ and his earthly ministry.

A local talkshow host advocated the movie during his broadcast last night, pointing out that many of the critics of this movie have yet to see it. His advice to said critics was to go see the movie and then form an opinion. And while he advocated the movie and was so close to being correct, he was also soFAR from being correct. He made the statement that Gibson’s goal in producing this movie was marketing and that local churches also are using it as marketing to get people into the pews. This is both correct and not correct (and here is a facet of the misunderstanding). On one hand, it is marketing insofar as it is intended to draw people. But that is NOT the primary goal. The primary goal is to share the Gospel, using a clear depiction of what Christ went through in His final hours to drive home the weight of that moment that has forever impacted and changed history. This is the thing that the unsaved world simply cannot understand. It is not marketing that we care about — it is souls. We desire to bring others to Christ so that they, too, may be spared from eternal damnation, as we have been. And the ONLY reason this movie has been so criticized so harshly even before its official release is because it is a religious movie, and a Christian religious movie at that. No one complains about the intense violence and lack of character development in a Jean Claude Van Damme movie (or any other movie or television show, for that matter).

..edit.. This website is a prime example of the Christian contribution to the misunderstanding of the Gospel. While I respect this organization’s attempt to exhort and correct a perceived wrong, it is Christian ‘wackos’like these who inspire hate and disgust of all those who bear the name of Christ while at the same time taking the Scriptures out of context in order to suit their own purposes and interpretations of the Bible. And it is exactly this kind of ‘Christian’ that makes me want to distance myself from everyone who claims to be a follower of Christ so as to avoid tainting my own ministry to others and to cleanse this bitter taste from my mouth.

Open Mind

It’s interesting to me that the word ‘open-minded’ has been paired with ‘rational’ and ‘pragmatic’ in the second frame of this comic strip. The reason for this is that ‘open-minded’ and ‘rational’ are actually on opposite ends of the continuum from one another. The word ‘open-minded’ is a product of our post-modern culture, where to settle into one opinion on a topic is to be considered ‘narrow’ and ‘close-minded’ and ‘intolerant.’ ‘Rational,’ on the other hand, is a remnant of modernism, where facts can be sifted through the sieve of the mind and truth discovered. Absolute truth. ‘Open-minded’ lends itself to relative truth or NO truth; ‘rational’ lends itself to the discovery of a single, absolute truth. So, to find these two words paired in the same sentence as complementary to one another is something I find VERY interesting…..

Hodge-Podge

Ok, a couple of different thoughts……

——————————————-

I’m pretty discouraged today at the way my fleshly lusts have pretty much pre-empted my other pursuits. For instance, I now have a PlayStation and a VERY cool video game to go with it (thanks, Hon! ). But the trouble is that this week it has completely consumed my free time, and I’ve gotten very little else done, like my house chores, homework, or even spending time with God. I hate that I’ve become so undisciplined. I don’t think it helps that my bedtime has been chaotic, and most nights I’m lucky to get 6 hours of sleep.

——————————————-

A quote from a website I stumbled across:

“Anyone who wants to glorify God more fully by moving from theology (The study of the nature of God and religious truth) to doxology (An expression of praise to God…which is the heart of worship)!”

This is a good start, but it’s missing a step. How about: Theology to Doxology to Methodology? i.e. the study of the nature of God to praise and worship of God to practical application in daily life — and actually DOING it! Our generation has this really bad habit of studying and praising and forgetting about the doing. Don’t get me wrong — I’m not condemning what this study group is doing. I am merely suggesting that another step be added to the mix, one that is all too often forgotten…..

——————————————-

I’m noticing a lot of discouragement and heartache is going around right now. For those of you struggling, I’ll be praying. For those of us not, we need to gather around those who are and offer Christian support. We are needed, and now is the time for us to step up and take our responsibility to show God’s love, compassion, and encouragement.

Road Most Traveled

He travelled the path alone, and so he had no one to blame but himself for the way things eventually turned out. The path was well-worn, indicating that many travelled this way. As it was now, though, there was not another person in sight. The sun was high in the sky, no clouds to obscure its bright face. The birds chirped cheerfully to one another.

He was enjoying his walk and the things he experienced along the way. The last village was particularly enjoyable, though the old woman’s warning left him feeling slightly disturbed and advice very confused (“Make sure to take the left fork. The other is dangerous. But if you find yourself in trouble, simply stop and turn around”). It wasn’t something he particularly wanted to reflect on, and so he made a deliberate effort to push the memory further to the back of his mind.

His journey continued into the late morning. The walk was not particularly difficult, the path following a relatively straight course and only slight rises and falls in the geography.

Eventually, the path topped a particularly tall rise, and he looked down the hill to see a dark wood ahead. It had a forbidding look about it. The path he was on went straight into those thick trees. However, he noticed that just before the treeline, another path split off that seemed to follow the edge of the wood.

He thought, “Well, I can just follow this secondary path around the wood and rejoin the main path on the other side.” And so he did, forgetting the warning he was given earlier in the day.

He walked along this new path for some time with no resistance. He thought to himself how much better this path was, how much easier, than if he had followed that other path into those dark woods. Surely, that journey would have been much more difficult.

As he was thinking to himself, he suddenly slipped and found himself sliding quickly down a hill that the path had dropped over. He was sliding toward a particularly nasty looking patch of brambles. He panicked and tried to claw his way back up the hill, but the struggle only accelerated his descent, and soon he found himself caught in the clutches of the brambles. The barbs cut into his skin, and every effort he made to get away only entangled him further. He had forgotten the advice to stop struggling. He didn’t know that even now, that advice would serve him well.

But then, he did remember. Only he remembered the woman and not her words. He cursed her, believing she had tricked him to go this way, when the fault only lay on himself. He had tried to find an easier way to his destination, and now his journey had been hopelessly delayed. He wondered if he would ever be able to get out of this mess…..

———————————————

It is interesting to watch people I know created problems and crises for themselves by the sheer power of their own poor decisions. And I know that these people should know better because I know that they have been advised by their close friends and family that their actions are going to prove to be ultimately self-destructive. Yet, they do not listen, choosing instead to take their own path, to do their own thing, because it is easier or because they would rather have immediate satisfaction rather than long-term fulfillment. And it scares me, too, because I see bits of myself in these people, the poor decisions that I myself make, and the consequences of those decisions can be very hard to live with. I can only pray that I make good decisions and that I can be humble enough to heed advice and turn from my bad decisions when I make them.

Life Is Painful

Life is painful. And the sooner I come to terms with that, the sooner I can get on with the business of living Christly and of fulfilling obligations that I am responsible for. Ultimately, I don’t really like to have to struggle and work hard, and it is especially difficult for me to struggle to improve in the area of my spiritual life. And yet, a big chunk of me desires improvement in this area, to be able to force myself out of bed in the morning to spend some time with God, to be able to actually be a strong spiritual leader for my wife, to defeat the pleasures of the flesh that have this irritating tendency to dominate me — in a phrase, to be a Godly man and husband. And yet the ‘old man’ dominates, inflicts his laziness upon me, and I am powerless against it.

But life is painful. And the funny thing is that I expect it to be otherwise, and so I keep treading water, hoping it will get better of its own accord. Yet, it never does. So, the thing to do is to face the pain, the hardship that goes along with growing, and fight the pain and fear and goes along with daily living, seeking my Savior all the way, and hopefully encouraging others to do the same while I’m at it.

And if I really want to go into the helping profession, then I really best get at it soon, or chance wrecking my whole ministry…..

Discontinuity

Finally! Some quality content with some actual depth! (I told you it would pass.)

————————————-

A discontinuity of thought that has been niggling at the back of my brain for the past couple of weeks finally came to the forefront of my mind tonight as I was driving home from school. It has to do with the now infamous Janet Jackson incident and the outrage that followed. The outcry of condemnation that I heard on every front was one of shock, embarrasment, and even disgust that such a thing could happen during family programming. What I wonder, however, is why anyone was even surprised. To be honest, immoral acts run rampant in our culture today, in everything from music to art to television and on and on and on. So, I wonder, when we fail to deal with the existence of immorality everywhere else, why we are surprised when it spills over into family time, into that “safe” zone. I wonder why we condemn one ‘minor’ act of immorality while overlooking more blatant displays of the same. I wonder why we are surprised, let alone shocked and outraged, when the snake on the path that we have been ignoring suddenly strikes out and bites us on the foot.

Tsk, tsk, people. You can do better than that……

Exhaustion

Exhaustion is the bane of my existence. When my body is weary, the whole of me suffers. My mind slags, my heart droops, my spirits resigns. Sometimes, I get depressed. Other times, I get irritatingly cynical. I always get apathetic, and when you want to walk the Christian life well, that is not a good thing. Oddly enough, I tend to think that the first line of defense spiritually is to take of self physically, including plenty of rest and healthy diet. Makes sense, then, why Christ spent so much time tending to the physical of those in need before tending to the mending and restoration of their hearts.

—————————————-

I think I need to lay off the coffee. Two full travel mugs, and I feel really edgy. Lots of caffeine like that does not agree with me, and since there is a caffeine allergy that runs in my family, I guess I am playing with fire.

Jack-of-All-Trades, Master of Words