Archive for the ‘ Psychology of Christian Living ’ Category

Regrets Holding You Back?

“So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:36 NRSV

The past is past. It is over and done, gone and forgotten.

….Or is it?

Does what’s in the past actually stay in the past?

What’s in my past stays in my memory. Then, when I least expect it, those memories sometimes pop up, seemingly out of nowhere. So the past is never really gone or forgotten.

MP900396104[1]That’s a good thing, especially when the memory is something I am proud of. Memories of accomplishments, awards and shared family moments all leave me feeling good about myself.

MP900401567[1]But not all memories are pleasant ones. Some of the most painful are those of failures and shortcomings. Those leave me with regrets. When they pop up, I find myself looking back, thinking how I could have behaved differently, responded more lovingly, used more wisdom, or been more patient.

Still, no matter how much I wish I could go back and make changes, I can’t. What I can do is to turn to Jesus Christ, and ask for his forgiving grace. His sacrificial love washes my heart clean, redeems my past, and frees me from the bondage of regret.

Yes, the past is in the past. But the past follows us, and continues to impact how we think, feel and behave. Only Jesus Christ can wipe our slate clean, free us from past regret, and give us new life and a new future.

Today’s video  chronicles some of the regrets many of us carry, and reminds us of the one who came to bear our burdens and set us free. To view the video please click here.

MP900401002[1]Then allow Jesus to heal your past, transform your present and set you on the path to eternal life!

 

Knowing Precedes Going

I run the way of your commandments, for you enlarge my understanding. Psalm 119:32 NRSV

MP900409394[1]Many people turn to professionals for advice and counsel. As a psychologist, I have seen numerous people at the end of their ropes, who just didn’t know what else to do. I imagine they hope that I will have the answer they need. But what usually happens is that the more we talk, the better they come to understand their situation. That insight opens the door to identifying effective solutions.

Even though many of us will never seek professional counseling, I wonder if the one of the most common prayers we pray is, “What should I do, which way should I go?” We all know that having God’s guiding hand at work in our lives can make all the difference. So we wisely turn to God, and ask for God’s guidance and help.

MP900321197[1]But knowing what to do and where to go isn’t just a matter for earnest prayer. The psalmist discovered that knowing what way to go also depends on understanding God’s commands. The more we understand about God’s nature and will, as revealed in the Scriptures, the easier it becomes to discern the way our lives should go! Insight precedes solutions.

Not only that, but the more we enlarge our understanding, the less we depend on urges, impressions and intuition. Knowing God and understanding God’s ways opens our eyes, grounds our minds in truth and sensitizes our hearts to the Spirit’s work. When that happens, we are in a much better position to recognize the roads God wants us to travel.

MP900400642[1]The psalmist runs the way of God commandments, because God has given him understanding. For him, knowing precedes going. That tells me I need to spend more time, not just seeking God’s will, but enlarging my understanding and gaining insight. How about you?

Drink As Much As You Want

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters…Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David. Isaiah 55:1-3 excerpts NIV

MP900443670[1]Recently I read a newspaper report on troubling changes in teen alcohol use. Part of the problem was attributed to combining of alcohol with everyday beverages, from lemonade to energy drinks. Particularly worrisome is that fact that the amount of alcohol in one serving of these drinks is often greater than in 3-4 servings of traditional alcoholic beverages.

I imagine that any public criticism about these products will be countered with the industry defense, we tell them to drink responsibly. What a good idea. Drink, but only drink a responsible amount. I wonder, how much is that? Is it just enough to feel relaxed? Is it enough to make you the life of the party? Is it enough to make you sick?

The other problem is that drinking alcohol impairs judgment, relaxes inhibitions and encourages over indulgence. So how is it that people are supposed to be able to drink responsibly?

Of course there is one place we can go and drink all we want. We don’t have to worry about getting stupid or sick. We don’t have to hear people tell us we’ve had enough. We don’t even have to think about how bad we will feel in the morning. We can just drink to our heart’s content!

MP900401350[1]God invites you and me to come and drink in the blessings of God’s love. This is living water. It restores, revives and renews. It gives life and life more abundant.

Next time your soul gets thirsty, why not accept God’s invitation? Come. Come to the waters. Drink. Drink as much as you want. Drink in the love that gives eternal life!

Who Sees You?

And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. Mark 16:15 NRSV

In a recent radio show, the commentator told the story of MP900439536[1]a group of students meeting with various leaders to discuss important concerns. The event lasted several hours, and during the meeting a popular rap star appeared. His arrival was heralded by loud applause. He stayed for only 30 minutes. While there, he made a few comments that were not particularly helpful to the dialogue, but were met with thunderous applause.

After the singer left the gathering, the students were asked why they paid so much attention to him. One student spoke up and said, “We listen to those we see.”

What a remarkable statement! I think he is telling us that the generation we are educating today listens to those we put in front of them. When we provide role models through the media that appeal to some of the most base and vulgar aspects of the human experience, we should not be surprised when those watching end up valuing what they are hearing.

Of course I have little control over the media and music of my day. But I am someone seen by others. MP900422593[1]Every year hundreds of college students sit in my classroom for 30+ hours a semester. I am one of the instructors my college puts in front of them.

So I ask myself, what do they hear me say? Am I modeling a life that respects others, that values truth, that loves, honors and serves Jesus Christ? I hope so. I also hope that when I leave the classroom my students have heard words that have built them up, that have inspired them to learn more, to make positive changes in their life and to seek God.

You are also seen by many others. Those who see you are listening to you, whether you realize it or not. What is your life saying to them? What kind of message does the time you spent with them leave them with?

In the early church, Jesus’ disciples made themselves visible and proclaimed the good news. Many who saw them heard and responded.

MP900442849[1]Today you and I are the disciples Jesus is counting on. People listen to those they see. When you are seen, let the love of Jesus shine through your every thought, word and deed!

The Maximum Promise

Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. Hebrews 10:23 NRSV

A university professor, Mark Edmundson, suggests that for many, the moment of maximum pleasure is "the moment when the choices had been multiplied to the highest sum…the moment of maximum promise." (1) It’s as if having infinite possibilities is the ultimate pleasure.

MP900438761[1]Maybe that’s why smartphones are so popular. They promise to keep us connected to whatever we want or could imagine we want, and offer apps that let us pursue almost any interest or activity we want to try whenever we want to try it. According to Edmundson, using that kind of device holds maximum promise of maximum pleasure.

Psychologists like to study the things that influence us and shape our lives. New technologies certainly influence our MP900443361[1]behaviors and change how we go about our days. But they don’t change us. They hold out the promise of a new and better day, but they fail to transform the human soul, or meet the needs and longings of our hearts. Having almost infinite possibilities in a handheld device is nice, but it fails to touch who I really am and fulfill what I most need.

Well, what about faith? What does your faith do for you? Does it open the door to infinite possibilities, or deliver maximum pleasure? Does it touch you at your point of deepest need? Does it offer you new life and the power to be transformed?

MP900443036[1]My faith in Jesus Christ delivers! It doesn’t give me an app to help me search for truth, it gives me truth. It doesn’t let me download e-books about finding fulfillment, it fulfills me. It doesn’t give me list of gods to believe in, it puts me into a relationship with the One who created me, redeemed me and sustains me. It doesn’t track my movements with GPS, it shows me how to follow the Good Shepherd.

I’m not about to abandon the use of technology. Neither am I going to put my faith in a smart phone. The promise I am putting my faith in is the promise of God’s redeeming, life-changing grace. That’s the maximum promise that gives me maximum pleasure!

(1) Mark Edmundson, "Dwelling in Possibilities," The Chronicle of Higher Education, Vol. 54, Issue 27, p. B7.

Socially Desirable Responding

They all deceive their neighbors, and no one speaks the truth… Jeremiah 9:5 NRSV

42-15737535I ask my psychology students to conduct a survey each semester. I want them to get a feel for doing real research.

One of the surveys asks, “What are the top five things that make you happy?” One semester a student reported the answers of a mall shopper. After the shopper finished the survey, he said, “Now do you want to really know what makes me happy?” He then went on to list things like alcohol and drugs.

That shows people aren’t always honest in describing themselves. Typically, especially when put on the spot, people tell you what you want to hear. Researchers call that socially desirable responding.

I think the more sensitive the topic is, the more likely people are to answer in socially desirable ways. That is especially true when it comes to matters of faith. Today’s video vividly illustrates that point by contrasting the witness a young man professes, with the thoughts the young man is thinking. To view the video, please click here

Thankfully, God knows the heart. God looks behind our words MP900443136[1]and searches our inner being. What we say many sound good and create a respectable image. But the faith we profess is of little use if it does not match how we truly think and feel on the inside. The truth lies within.

God knows what you and I really think. Why not be honest, and talk with God about where you really are in your faith journey. Then invite Jesus to meet you there. As you do, he will lead you to where God really wants you to be!

A True Friend

"No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13 NRSV

Now that we live in the Facebook era, I think it is time for someone to ask, what is a friend anyway? What does it mean if someone friends me?

Am I anything more than a name on their list? Do I get a window into the heart and mind of that person, or just a window into their posts and the posts of their other friends? Do I get a place in their life, or just the right to post on their wall? What kind of connection have I really forged?

Social psychologists have tried to understand why some people have tens of thousands of Facebook friends, and others only a few. They have not found any clear answers. But I wonder if Facebook friends are actually friends at all?

I am not interested in arguing the benefits of social networking, which can be many. But I do question whether what Facebook and the other social media web offerings give us is actually what we really want, and so desperately need, in a friend.

In the song, What a Friend We Have in Jesus, Joseph Scriven tells us there are some unique things Jesus offers those who befriend him. Jesus bears our sin and carries our burdens. He shares our sorrows. He sustains us through trials and temptations. He lifts us when we get discouraged. He knows our every weakness. He is our refuge, our shield, and our source for solace. He offers us a future in glory, where we will enjoy rapture, praise and endless worship.

MP910220956[1]How many friends on Facebook can offer all that? How many friends on Facebook even care much about our real struggles, issues and eternal destiny?

Being popular and connected is nice. But I want, and frankly need, much more. I need a friend who is closer than a brother. I need Jesus. I’m glad he’s friended me. Aren’t you?