Monthly Archives: December 2012

Healthy habits for the New Year; pt. 1: Routine

Many people approach the New Year in a frenzy of goals and promises.  This is actually an unhealthy approach to change.  Take diet for example, if a person approaches “diet” in a frenzied state, making promises to themselves and others, they are setting themselves up for failure.

Any new goal should be approached in a balanced way.  I say that because even though this series is entitled “healthy habits,” if they are approached haphazardly, or even with an overabundance of enthusiasm, they are more likely to fail.  Also when I speak of health, I speak of the health of the whole human; body, mind, and soul.  Any or all of these suggestions should be approached in a balanced way, not to be seen as a set of rules that “must” be followed; humans don’t tend to do well with orders, even positive ones.

So, with that being said, the first “habit” is a bit redundant, it is “routine.”  This doesn’t mean you need to plot and plan every minute of every day, but rather it should be a framework.  Later I’ll specifically talk of sleep patterns, but every daily routine should begin with a plan of when to go to sleep and when to wake up.  This routine isn’t just a workday routine, but a routine that should be followed on weekends and holidays too.  In a later article, I’ll write about how waking early in the day is a way to get ahead, and be more successful at whatever you set out to do.

For now, you need to set a time to rise and a time to go to bed.  You also need to schedule time to eat during the day and try to stick as close to that schedule as possible.  These things help to regulate your body, which functions better with routine.  It’s the same with medication; in short, anything that will have an effect on your body and its metabolism should be a part of your routine, for your physical, mental, and spiritual health.

Establish “mini-routines” for the most important parts of your day.  When you rise, have a routine to kick off your day.  For example, an easy exercise (walking, yoga, etc…) or simple stretching routine, quiet time, a time for prayer and/or bible study/praise and worship, and then breakfast.  Then the steps you go through to make yourself presentable to the day; shower, brush your teeth, etc…  When you go to bed, the same thing (will blog about specific bed routines later).

One important routine to establish is a goal routine; you set specific goals in the morning, and review them at night.  Obviously this includes a lot of honesty.  If you failed to reach a goal, why did you fail?  Did you set too big of a goal, did you squander your time, did something else come up?  This is where you must watch for defense mechanisms, like rationalization.  Rationalization is where you basically fool yourself into believing an excuse instead of the real problem.  The truth is, many of us are lazy and just don’t want to do certain things, but routine and schedule will help to develop a level of discipline that will help get things done.

Figure out what else is important to you such as exercise, reading, gardening, etc… and make sure to set aside time for them as well.  There will be certain things you are willing to sacrifice in a day for the sake of already scheduled events, and somethings you make a priority.

Kids and pets thrive on routine, so they will thank you too.  What if you don’t have kids or pets?  You have friends or a boss, or a spouse, or co-workers who will also thank you, because you’ll be in a better mood and be better functioning.  One last point about routine; it is obvious but the routine you establish should be positive, if you establish a negative routine, you will reap the opposite results (for example, if going to bed at different times all week is your routine, that is going to have ill effects on your physical, mental and emotional state).

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Filed under Health, Of Interest, Philosophy, Prayer, Psychology

Christians and the Environment

Should Christians “go green?”  Is environmentalism a moral issue?  I can only give my opinion on these and similar questions.

Instead of framing the ideas presented by some environmentalists as a moral issue, I tend to see it as a spiritual issue.  Our morality is rarely linked to the environment; sometimes, but rarely.  Instead, what becomes healthy and good for us spiritually?  I believe scripture points us to a balance.   There are several factors to consider when looking at this; First, God did indeed put humans in charge of the earth, which included animals, plants, and the earth itself.  Second, He built the earth to be resilient.

The first point means that we are at the top of the consideration when looking at environmental matters.  Humans are the pinnacle of this earthly creation, and we were to have a ruler-ruled relationship with the rest of creation.  That means humans are always to be considered before anything else (whales, fish, plants, etc…) and also we are more fulfilled when we are stepping up and safeguarding the environment.

The second point means that the environment is far from fragile.  It is designed to be resilient.  For example when a volcano erupts the gases and effects of the eruption, the ripping of the earth, the physical steam, ash, etc… are devastating in the short term, but long term, the earth adapts.  Take an oil spill caused by humans; oil is actually a natural substance.  There is indeed a shock to the environment if oil is suddenly introduced in mass amounts, but it will recover.

The answer then is a balance; we shouldn’t be panicked over the environment, but we are indeed connected to it in a way that should make us responsible.  If we exercise our responsibility we also reap spiritual fulfillment.  Look at it this way; Adam was designed to be placed in the garden of Eden.  He named each animal, and was surrounded by perfect nature.  We, his descendents, can find working with animals, or plants, or cultivating land, or even just being out in nature very fulfilling in a very basic way.

That brings us back to environmentalism.  There are some “duh” aspects to this, and non-fanatical ways to approach supporting and helping the environment.   Is it a moral issue if I use a plastic bag instead of using my own reusable canvas bag at the grocery store?  No, but there is the fact to face that plastic bags are one of the banes of our existence.  They clutter our houses and blow down the streets like urban tumbleweeds.  They wind up in our water systems, and even get hung up in trees.  Plus, if you think littering is no big deal, get a dog you love and try walking it down a street, pretty soon you are going to “get” why littering is irresponsible and frustrating.

Jesus didn’t just come here to fix us, His sacrifice is ultimately going to save and fix the whole of creation.  He cares about the physical earth, why shouldn’t we?  That being said, humans are the main concern of Jesus, He became human. Jesus was so “down to earth” about things, we should be the same way.   We were meant to have an awesome responsibility, and also to enjoy the physical world. We shouldn’t stress about the environment, nor become fanatical about it (fanaticism often leads to a from of idolatry).  The balanced approach is the best approach for us and the environment.

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Filed under Christianity, Musings, Of Interest, Uncategorized

Ayn Rand; Brilliant? Fool? Both? pt. 1

As a philosophy instructor I’ve of course learned and taught about Ayn Rand, but only recently have I really looked at her, as a person, instead of “just” the philosophy she adopted as her own and presented to the public.  Ayn had a lot of interesting philosophies, and many of those philosophies have a place in our current society, and could even be embraced by Christians; however, Ayn also had many personal and psychological issues that get in the way of her own philosophy.

Contrary to Ayn’s own apparent belief, her philosophy had been around for thousands of years before she was born; her objectivism wasn’t so much a new philosophy, as it was a mix of philosophies that could be found in the annals of philosophy that came before her.  She also lacked a logical basis for her philosophy, though that idea would insult her very much.

First, a run down of what “objectivism” is, according to Ayn. Objectivism is espoused to be an answer to subjectivism.  Objectivists like Ayn believe that our senses actually and accurately inform us about reality.  Human logic stands in for God (which is an illogical position that I’ll address later); meaning Ayn believed that human reason alone could result in absolutes.  For example, we can rationally conceive of a morality totally defined via human reason and have it be absolute.

One of the hallmarks of Ayn’s morality was the idea of selfishness; that selfishness is morally right.  She was fond of bashing (and misunderstanding) altruism, as well as Christianity. And, the one big thing we’ve heard recently because of the state of our economy and country; she pushed for laissez-faire capitalism with extraordinarily limited gov’t interference in the business world.

Ayn’s philosophies never caught on in any academic sphere.  One reason; she disliked academics, so there was her strike against the liberals.  She disliked religion and denied there was a God, so there was her strike against the conservatives.  She effectively cut off both routes to respect and implementation of her philosophies (this is important because one reason she wrote what she did when she did was to try to change the directions of the U.S.).  While her philosophies are popular amongst college/high school students, it is her stories that are popular amongst the “common folk” whom she often complained did not understand the deeper implications of her work.

Surprisingly enough, Ayn was anti-feminist and anti-homosexual, finding both positions to be immoral and disgusting.  She had odd ideas about sex and sexuality that are apparent just by reading her fiction stories.  To be a “good” objectivist was to believe that it was the man’s place to be worshiped, and a woman’s place to be submissive and to be owned.  Authors tend to write themselves into certain characters and by reading Ayn’s descriptions of her female characters, we can see a common thread that is both sad and disturbing.  I intend to take a look at this in my next blog post as well as discussing her take on altruism and morality.

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Filed under Atheism, Logic, Of Interest, Philosophy, Psychology, Religion and Politics

Jehovah-Rohi; The Lord is my Shepherd…

This look at one of the names of God is going to focus on one of His more popular names or roles; that of our Shepherd.  This name is commonly known because of Psalm 23 and its “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…”  The fact that it is “Jehovah-Rohi” shows us that being a shepherd is a part of Who God is, meaning it is His character to be our shepherd.

We know from scripture that there are good shepherds and bad shepherds.  One of the differences was to see if the shepherd would be willing to give his life for his sheep.  In God we have the ultimate shepherd, He sees to us, cares for us lives alongside of us… and did indeed die for us.  If one of us goes astray, He comes for us, not to condemn us but to get us out of whatever trouble we’ve found and bring us home.

The other aspect of a shepherd that many people tend to forget is that they do desire the sheep to follow them.  A sheep knows the shepherd’s voice and was expected to follow along, staying close to the shepherd.  I always like to imagine the Holy Spirit as the Shepherd’s sheep dog.  Not in any negative sense of course, but in the sense that the Holy Spirit is what helps guide us, and helps us tune into the shepherd’s commands.  All we have to do is listen for the Shepherd’s voice and respond when He calls; we have to trust Him, in other words, faithe on Him.

One aspect of all of this that should give us comfort, is that God is so far above us, that we are compared to the sheep, while He’s the shepherd.  Sheep aren’t the smartest animals on earth, but have their place, and their uses.   But note; the Shepherd is in charge, and it is His duty to see to the sheep.  If a threat approaches the sheep, it is the Shepherd who deals with it.  How wonderful to be a sheep protected and loved by God Himself!

How wonderful to be able to say, as David did, the LORD is my Shepherd, it is He Who leads, guides, loves, and protects me.  If I stray, He comes to get me.  Another awesome aspect?  That Shepherd, God Himself, became a Lamb that gave its life for me, and you, and to rid of us of sin and the penalty of the law.  This Lamb is so perfect, He meets every criteria of a perfect sacrifice.  Hold on to the fact that God, the Creator of all things, is your Shepherd the second you heed His call.  When times get tough, remember Who your Protector is, call out to Him, He will hear you.

For my other articles on the names of God see; Jehovah-rapha, Jehovah-Shammah, Jehovah-Tsidkenu, and Jehovah-nissi

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If any would not work, neither should he eat.

The people that try to paint Jesus or God as a socialist have obviously not read scripture.  As always there is a danger when people go to the extreme on any teaching, and it is the same with giving others money, food, help, etc… What we are taught constantly in scripture is that we should not be lazy, gluttonous, or envious of what others have.  Now, I’m no legalist, as any of my regular readers will know, but I do believe we are given guidelines of what will truly make us content and given the direction that will make us the most efficient and “best” human possible while on this earth.

2 Thessalonians 3:10 For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.

It’s pretty clear; you don’t work you shouldn’t eat.  If you are idle, if you are not seeing to your own provision, you should not eat.  In our society food is usually bought with money, so that means you should be gainfully employed.  It can also include working the land for your own food.  I am dismayed as I look around this great country, the U.S., and find people not willing to see to their own provision.

Now, the scripture is also clear that if someone has need through no fault of their own, we should see to them.  Our welfare and disability system here in the U.S. makes a mockery out of this idea.  As one great teacher I know once said, “if you can talk on the phone, you can work.”  Yes, times are tough and jobs can be hard to find, though I question whether it is jobs that are hard to find, or people willing to work, to do anything gainful to make some money, including working in the fields, or washing dishes.  The ability to work with and through computers and the internet have almost guaranteed that a vast majority of people can indeed work.

I cannot tell you, dear reader, how much I respect the waitresses, the garbage men, the presidents and CEO’s of companies, the teachers, the accountants, the custodial staffs, anyone that sees to their own provision through work.  Money in this world is for taking care of oneself, one’s family, and others that truly cannot earn a living of their own; children, the elderly, those completely mentally incapacitated, etc…  However, that is the job of the church, not the job of the government.  Further, it is not my job to manage your money, it’s your job.

In that same chapter, Thessalonians also gives another reason to work; if you don’t, you tend to turn into a busybody.  A busybody is someone who sticks their noses into other people’s business, other people’s sins, other people’s lives.  If you are gainfully employed you are seeing to yourself and those to whom you are responsible.

In short, if there is anything you can do to be gainfully employed, you should be.  There should be no unnecessary mooching off of the government, the brethren, or taxpayers.  For the truly needy, the church should be a help.  Laziness, idleness, OR a lack of legitimate, earned income is not a virtue.  It is indeed scripturally on the males to be the major breadwinners and to take care of their families.  Women too can, and should play a role in work and support; neither gender should be lazy, but there is something especially fulfilling for a man to be gainfully employed, and something especially annoying or painful about a man that will not work, nor seek work of any kind.

We, as believers, should be unbelievably generous, loving, helpful, and kind.  We should also be industrious in some form, be good stewards, occupying until the Lord returns, or we go to meet him in death.  While we work in the occupation God leads us to, there is also time for rest, and fun, and relaxation.  If we find ourselves in dire straits, or unable to work, there is no shame in asking our church family for help and to accept help when and where it is given.

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John MacArthur’s misunderstanding about the sufficiency of scripture

I recently listened to several sermons by John MacArthur on the sufficiency of scripture, which is what is prompting this article.  By the middle of each sermon I was shouting at the radio, and not “Amen” or “Hallelujah.”  The lead-off was talking about how psychology has infiltrated the church.

Now, I have to be clear from the outset, I don’t think a psychologist has the requisite training to be a pastor, that takes a whole other type of schooling and training.  The opposite holds true; a pastor that has only been trained to teach out of the Bible doesn’t have the requisite training to be a psychologist.  What does any of this have to do with the sufficiency of scripture?  Well, Johnny Mac’s point was that the Bible is sufficient for all spiritual need… which apparently includes mental need from his POV.

Does the Bible contain teachings that apply to psychology?  Yes.  Is it, sufficient in and of itself to treat someone’s mental disorder?  Well, let me ask this; is the Bible sufficient to teach someone to set a broken leg?  The answer to both is “no” without any insult to the Bible.  A human is physical, mental, and spiritual.  The Bible is mainly a spiritual guide, with overlap in the physical and mental areas.  We would never make the argument that if someone is suffering from cancer, that the Bible gives us specific cures.  It is the same for mental health.

MacArthur bemoans the fact that people look for answers outside the Bible… we do that all the time, in fact he does that all the time.  When you have a problem with your car, the Bible does not teach you how to fix it.  Beyond that, what MacArthur teaches sounds like a form of idolatry; the Bible isn’t to be worshiped, God is.  The Bible, as a physical, written document is not sufficient to save anyone.  Only God is sufficient. That is why the Bible should be labeled the word of God, while Jesus is The Word of God.

Further, I did not hear MacArthur teach on Ephesians 4; specifically:

Ephesians 4:11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

Notice that these people are to teach, so a written manuscript is not sufficient for the perfecting of the saints.  It takes teaching and guiding, it also takes the Holy Spirit!  Should psychology run the church? No.  Should psychology be preached from the pulpits? No.  Do humans have a mind that can have issues that need addressed outside of scripture? Yes.  To teach anything else is to neglect a God-given aspect of humanity, and to put believers in danger who are listening to John MacArthur.  The danger is that someone suffering from a mental disorder, or mental pain may not get the help they need, being scared that psychology is somehow “of the Devil.”

The Bible teaches us about life, and eternal life.  Without God we are doomed, without Jesus we are doomed, so the eternal state of your soul should be your number one priority.  However, there are aspects to our earthly lives that will have to be dealt with alongside scripture, not out of scripture.  Mental health overlaps with spiritual and physical health, and we need to make sure each of the three is getting fed, and treated.  Scripture helps with all of them, and is sufficient for moral and spiritual teachings, but it was not meant to cover all we humans will encounter here, so the next time my power goes out, I’m not going to quote scripture and think it will magically come back on, someone at the power company is going to have to fix it.

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Filed under Christianity, Ministries, Psychology, The Bible