Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Lifestyle Change: Following Jesus one day at a Time






Following Jesus, I mean really following him...  That's the mission.  It's not a social club or a tradition.  It's a vital experience, and it takes work.  It's wonderful.  It's beautiful.  The feelings and experiences are so surreal.  It's like a dream really.  It's stepping into a journey very new, and powerful.  It's not like the old lifestyle.  It's a new lifestyle.  Day in and day out, I change.  I become positive, friendly, selfless, loving, and faithful.  I become wiser and wiser, learning and growing.  It's a beautiful journey that the Jesus-follower enjoys.  It's tough at times, it's easy at times.  It's magical at times and sometimes it hurts.  Yet it's all worth it.  And the goods always outweigh the bads.  

It is a daily lifestyle change.  One day at a time.  24 hours a day, it's living differently than before.  Stepping outside the comfort zone.  And really if I'm not growing then I'm moving backwards.  There is not much standing still in the Christian lifestyle.  There are certainly vacations, quiet time, and sabbaticals, but complacency is a different matter all together.  There are negative extremes that we need to avoid.  On one end is total laziness and on the other is perfectionism.  Both will lead to collapse.  So balance.  Do what you can, yet also take care of your own needs.  And focus on now.  I try not to worry about what's coming next week.  I try to focus on today.

Today I'm a Christian, a follower of Jesus.  Today I'm going to pray before I leave the house.  Today, I'm going to listen to an audio Bible while I scroll through Facebook.  Today I'm going to smile at a stranger.  Today I'm going to stop at the food pantry and give a few cans of food for the poor.  Today I'm going to share some encouraging posts and links on my social media accounts.  Today I'm going to thank God on my knees before bed.

Intimacy with God is a massive goal in all this.  How can I be more intimate with my maker?  How can I cultivate a firm relationship with God?  How can I increase my devotion to following Jesus?  Communication is vital.  Just communicate!  Talk to God.  And listen for his response.  Read the scriptures.  Page through Philippines, Romans, John, Galatians, Psalms, and Proverbs.  Let the life of Jesus Christ inspire your actions.  

One day at a time.  How can I encourage someone?  How can I meet a need?  How can I volunteer my time?  The actions increase our faith.  Our faith rests in the Lord, and our actions confirm that faith and build that faith.  Take an interest in others.  Take an interest in someone who seems upset or lost.  I had no idea how selfish I had become, until I really tried to take an interest in others.  It was harder than I expected.  I'd always considered myself such a great guy, but I really was quite selfish.  But I found as I pushed myself a bit to take an interest in others, I started seeing myself becoming increasingly legitimately interested.  And eventually I started to really care about the people around me.  I started to love to care about others and meet needs.  It snowballed slowly, and as long as I continue to practice that, growth in the Spirit continues.  It's a wonderful thing to experience.  

Truly truly, you have never truly lived until you've loved and cared for someone who can do nothing to help you.  It's really true.  The feeling of helping and loving others is wonderful.  Sometimes it hurts.  Sometimes it really hurts, when they make poor choices.  But in any case, when you're really loving others, despite the result, you will experience the incredible peace of Jesus Christ.  Because you're actively working for the kingdom by loving others and showing mercy.  It's at those moments, and after those moments that you'll truly feel those moments of the active presence of Jesus Christ the architect of the universe.  Truly truly, peace is a lifestyle change.  

So live it my brothers and sisters.  Live it one day at a time.  Don't worry about yesterday or tomorrow.  Live in today.  What can you do today?  You can do a lot today.  You can live for Jesus, just for today.  God bless you, and take care.






Related Posts:
Resurrection Sunday: Living a life of Worship
Pain/Suffering in the Christian Life & the Solution
Father, Comforter & Savior
Choose Greatness
10 Encouragements to every 1 Rebuke

Christian Mental Health: Strategies for Developing Personal & Relational Security















Strategies for Developing Personal & Relational Security

Justin Steckbauer
Liberty University





























Abstract

A great deal has been written on the topic of healthy relationship styles and damaged relationship styles. In addition, a great deal has been written on personal security and self esteem. However, few have examined the practical application of change techniques for a client seeking to build a secure personal and relational pattern. The paper examines the problem of personal security from the perspective of a client intending to make a concerted effort to move from a damaged sense of personal security to a healthy style of personal and relational security. The paper examines four relationship styles described by Clinton & Sibcy (2006) in their work Why You Do the Things You Do. Five personality styles presented in the Freedom from Depression Workbook by Carter & Minirth are also briefly examined. EMDR and Theophostic therapy are discussed as possible means for growth in personal security. Spiritual disciplines are examined with a focus on daily implementation. Another key issue discussed is countering lies of the world with truth found in scripture. Finally, twelve step groups and Celebrate Recovery are examined for their usefulness in helping the client maintain and build upon progress made on the journey to personal and relational security.



















Introduction

Jesus Christ, during his time on Earth was once asked, “What is the greatest commandment?” (Mark 12:28 English Standard Version). His response was very powerful: “29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:29-31). From the mouth of the blessed Lord Jesus Christ humanity discovers the very greatest imperative of life: a loving relationship with God and equally loving relationships with other people. Unfortunately for those who have developed poor personal security and broken relationship styles, this can be a very difficult proposition. Humanity lives in a world cursed by sin and brokenness (Genesis 3:17-19). Therefore many do struggle with past trauma, a shattered sense of self worth, and broken patterns of relating to others. To obey the command of Jesus to love God, people must know Jesus. In addition, if people are to obey his second command: “Love your neighbor as yourself” they must also love themselves. If a person can love Jesus, a person can love God, if a person can love God, a person can love himself, and they can also love others. Assuming someone has been through trauma and hurts, and have developed broken relationship styles, how do they fix those broken places and come to a place of personal security and healthy relationship skills? Some possible solutions would include: Understanding the psychology of personal and relational security, Theophostic therapy, EMDR treatment, development of spiritual disciplines, confronting lies of the world with truth of the Bible, personal study workbooks, and long term twelve step group attendance.



Personal & Relational Security Overview

What does it mean to be a secure individual? What does it mean to be relationally secure? The two concepts are completely interrelated, to the point that personal security and relational security are simply two parts of the same issue. Personal security is the internal structure of self esteem while the secure relationship style is the logical outworking of a healthy personal security. The terms will be used interchangeably for the course of this paper. Every person has a relationship style that is developed very early in life (Clinton & Sibcy, 2006, p. 13). Clinton & Sibcy (2006) in their book Why You Do the Things You Do discuss four primary relationship styles: the secure style, ambivalent style, avoidant style, and disorganized style.

The characteristics of a secure self are emotional strength, a willingness to seek and accept comfort in times of trouble, courage for love and intimacy, responsibility for self, and overall courage (Clinton & Sibcy, 2006, p.61-65).  Emotional strength is described as an acceptance of emotions as a part of life (Clinton & Sibcy, 2006, p.61).  An emotionally strong individual tends to accept challenges and take necessary risks, while standing up for what they believe in (Clinton & Sibcy, 2006, p.61).  The emotionally strong person feels emotions deeply, yet does not fear emotions but accepts them as a healthy sign of experiencing life (Clinton & Sibcy, 2006, p.61).  The second characteristic of a secure person is seeking and accepting comfort (Clinton & Sibcy, 2006, p.61).  The secure individual seeks comfort from within, from others, and from God in reasonable balances (Clinton & Sibcy, 2006, p.61).  Turning to God in prayer frequently is a sign of healthy behavior (Clinton & Sibcy, 2006, p.61).  The third characteristic of a secure person is courage for love and intimacy (Clinton & Sibcy, 2006, p.62).  Secure people are willing to step out and take the risk of loving someone through all the hard work that takes (Clinton & Sibcy, 2006, p.62).  The secure person is optimistic despite knowing that life comes with much suffering (Clinton & Sibcy, 2006, p.63).  The secure person relies on God's plan for their life during times of trouble (Clinton & Sibcy, 2006, p.63).  The fourth characteristic of a secure person is that they take full responsibility for themselves, their actions, and their attitudes (Clinton & Sibcy, 2006, p.63).  The secure person actively looks for solutions to problems as they come up, and if the problem can't be avoided they look for ways to cope in a healthy way (Clinton & Sibcy, 2006, p.63). 

In stark contrast to the healthy relationship style are the three unhealthy relationship styles: avoidant, ambivalent, and disorganized (Clinton & Sibcy, 2006). The avoidant style is similar to the secure style in that the individual believes they are worthy of receiving love, but only on the basis of success and meeting goals (Clinton & Sibcy, 2006, p. 67). The avoidant style also believes they can find love, but they depend on their own abilities to do so (Clinton & Sibcy, 2006, p. 67). The avoidant style believes others are incapable or unwilling to love them (Clinton & Sibcy, 2006, p. 67). The avoidant style believes firmly that others are not trustworthy and are unreliable in regard to meeting his or her needs (Clinton & Sibcy, 2006, p. 67). The second insecure style is called the ambivalent relationship style. The ambivalent style is characterized by a belief that they are not worthy of love. They also believe they cannot get the love they need from others. The ambivalent style is typically quick to anger, clingy, and desperate (Clinton & Sibcy, 2006, p. 87). They believe others are indeed trustworthy and capable of meeting their needs, but fear abandonment and their own flaws upsetting the relationships they have (Clinton & Sibcy, 2006, p. 87). The disorganized relationship style is characterized by a negative view of themselves and others. This relationship style has characteristics of the secure, avoidant, and ambivalent styles. One moment the disorganized individual will be secure, the next clinging as the ambivalent style does, and another moment or day showing classic avoidant style tendencies (Clinton & Sibcy, 2006, p. 103). The disorganized relationship style is often developed by an individual in a highly abusive family, having endured physical, emotional, or sexual abuse early in life (Clinton & Sibcy, 2006, p. 107). For those who can identify with the avoidant, ambivalent, or disorganized relationship styles, there is a path to healing and security.



Self Esteem

Ruth Ward in her book Self-Esteem: Gift from God (1984) writes “Self-esteem is a little-understood abstract quality that influences and controls our entire existence. Many people recoil at the word, thinking it is egotistical and self-seeking. Instead they prefer to demean themselves in an effort to avoid being conceited, which only produces negative results.” Christians in general have often recoiled at the term “self-esteem” suggesting instead a total focus on Jesus Christ, and a death to self (Mark 8:34-35). In the context of the scriptures, death to self is putting aside selfish desires and seeking to imitate the example of Christ in serving others (Mark 10:44-45). However, Christ did not hate himself or talk poorly about himself (John 14:6). He knew his identity in the heavenly Father, and as a result lived with dignity, self-respect, and purpose (John 10:30, John 5:36, John 4:34). The example of Christ is the perfect example for living and includes a sense of identity and intrinsic worth, confidence in position, and eternal hope (1 Peter 2:9, 1 Corinthians 12:27, 1 John 3:1-3). Therefore it can be reasoned that self-esteem is indeed a good thing, and a biblical concept (Ward, 1984, p. 30). Self-esteem is developed early in life, derived from parents, siblings, neighbors, friends, self talk, and personal achievements (Ward, 1984, p. 30). The quality of such sources can be quite varied and cannot be relied upon for long term stability (Ward, 1984, p. 30). Therefore understanding God's provision for self-esteem is absolutely vital to personal security. Ward (1984) describes God's unique packaging of esteem as a “constant iron-clad bottomless reservoir.” The characteristics of that provision include God's approval, his personal attention, encouragement, unique gifts, and a calling to good works (Ward, 1984, p. 30). In understanding God's provision for the malady of relational insecurity the recovering individual can proceed forward knowing there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother (Proverb 18:24). The message of Ward's book Self-Esteem: Gift from God is one of hope for the insecure and troubled believer, that God has made each person unique with important gifts to contribute to the family of Christ, introverted or extroverted, artistic or rational; making the book an important tool for recovery from insecurity.



Spiritual Disciplines

The journey of long term recovery from broken patterns of relationship will ultimately fail without the dedicated practice of spiritual disciplines (Clinton & Sibcy, 2006). Ultimately personal security is a journey like any other, and is contingent on the daily practice of relationship with God and community with believers. Relationship with God must be the primary source of security for the recovering individual (Clinton & Sibcy, 2006, p. 136).

The Bible has very clear things to say about the identity of a person in Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV) says “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” The first area of focus should be the fact that the believer is a new creation, fundamentally right and good before God. It would be a mistake for a person looking to development a healthy relationship style to think of him or herself as a broken sinner. For the believer, that was a previous condition that is now gone, and the new has come (Galatians 2:20). 1 Peter 2:9 ESV says “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” The believer is royalty, cherished by God, and chosen to proclaim truth. The believer is part of a holy family, a child of God and has the privilege to call the architect of the universe: “Father” (John 1:12). There are three very important fundamentals within the scriptures regarding identity. The believer is a new creation, therefore fundamentally good and right in Christ. That is the foundation. Second, the believer is important and has intrinsic value and a mission to live by truth. The third area is that the believer is in relationship to others in the church and to God the Father. All of this is made possible through faith (Galatians 3:26). Of course these truths are difficult to ingrain within a believer who has struggled with identity issues from a young age. In addition, it's not enough to simply know the truth, one must live the truth and practice it. God is the safety net for the believer, and that truth must be known and lived in daily life (Clinton & Sibcy, 2006, p. 140).

The most common spiritual disciplines are Bible study, prayer, worship, and fasting (Clinton & Sibcy, 2006, p. 141). Of course they should be practiced daily. Searching the scriptures, and studying them vigorously should be the practice of a believer (Clinton & Sibcy, 2006, p. 142). Practicing solitude is also very useful, shutting off the phone, laptop, and all electronics and just sitting in quiet contemplation (Clinton & Sibcy, 2006, p. 142). Another discipline is the practice of silence (Clinton & Sibcy, 2006, p. 145). The noise of the day can keep believers from realizing the realities that exist behind all the noise (Clinton & Sibcy, 2006, p. 145). Other disciplines are helpful such as confession of sins to other believers, admission of powerlessness before God, and celebrating the blessings of Christ Jesus (Clinton & Sibcy, 2006, p. 150). With the daily practice of dedicated relationship to God the Father, and reliance upon Jesus Christ the individual seeking to build a secure identity may be assured of long term success.



Depression and Personality Disorders

Inevitably many of those who suffer with relationship insecurity will also have struggles with depression. Carter and Minirth (1995) in their Freedom from Depression Workbook describe a practical process by which depression can be dealt with in a healthy biblical manner. The workbook outlines twelve steps arranged through twelve chapters helping the reader to identify the depression, learn about the illness, commit to a path of recovery, and implement positive attitudes to counter future outbreaks of depression (Carter & Minirth, 1995). Of particular interest are six personality disorders that relate to depression, personal security, and relational security (Carter & Minirth, 1995, p. 161). The six personality types are: dependent, obsessive-compulsive, histrionic, avoidant, narcissistic, and borderline (Carter & Minirth, 1995, p. 183).

The dependent personality is characterized by a core desire to please others (Carter & Minirth, 1995, p. 162). People in this subgroup often work too hard to keep peace in a world where conflicts are common. The dependent individual has a hard time saying no, and often struggle with fear and guilt, as well as a sense of being dominated by others.

The obsessive-compulsive personality is distinguished by a desire for order and repetition (Carter & Minirth, 1995, p. 166). The obsessive-compulsive performs out of a sense of duty and obligation, feeling a powerful need to complete a task, then move on to the next (Carter & Minirth, 1995, p. 166). The obsessive-compulsive finds a sense of self-worth in the completion of projects, while often hiding intense feelings of insecurity and confusion (Carter & Minirth, 1995, p. 166).

The histrionic personality is characterized by an intensity of emotional expressiveness (Carter & Minirth, 1995, p. 169). The histrionic individual may often appear intense, dramatic, and excitable (Carter & Minirth, 1995, p. 169). They are extroverted, people oriented individuals who feed off the emotions of others (Carter & Minirth, 1995, p. 169). The histrionic personality feels a strong need for emotional satisfaction and attention, and when others fail to meet those needs they quickly become dejected and melancholy (Carter & Minirth, 1995, p. 169).

The avoidant personality commonly seeks to avoid personal involvement and works very hard to minimize their own vulnerability (Carter & Minirth, 1995, p. 173). The avoidant person attempts to create a pain free comfort zone around themselves in the hopes of evading uncomfortable emotional attachments and high stress (Carter & Minirth, 1995, p. 173). The avoidant personality maintains only limited relationships that are of the least possible commitment and possible threat (Carter & Minirth, 1995, p. 173). The avoidant personality is often quite frustrated internally and expresses that frustration passive-aggressively through evasiveness, procrastination, indecisiveness, and a lack of accountability (Carter & Minirth, 1995, p. 173).

The narcissistic personality is characterized by an excessive self affection (Carter & Minirth, 1995, p. 176). The narcissist is quite self absorbed, and diligently seeks a life of ease, pleasure, and comfort (Carter & Minirth, 1995, p. 176). This personality can seem quite friendly, but the narcissist struggles with building deeper meaningful connections (Carter & Minirth, 1995, p. 176). The narcissistic personality refuses to acknowledge the struggles of life and is entirely pleasure oriented (Carter & Minirth, 1995, p. 176).

The borderline personality struggles with moodiness, out of control emotions, clingy behavior, and intense fits of anger (Carter & Minirth, 1995, p. 179). According to Carter & Minirth (1995) “The term borderline implies that they seem to teeter on the brink of breakdown.” The borderline personality is characterized by a strong fear of being alone (Carter & Minirth, 1995, p. 179). The borderline personality struggles with a sense of identity confusion and a disintegrated self-image (Carter & Minirth, 1995, p. 179).

Carl Jung (1923) said “We cannot change anything unless we accept it.” Self-knowledge is an important aspect of recovery from broken relational and personal security. When one understands their personality disorders they are more likely to succeed in dealing with the underlying issues of personal and relational insecurity.



Confronting Lies with Truth

The lies of the world can have a very damaging effect on personal security. In his book The Lies We Believe (1989) Dr. Chris Thurman describes how people often believe many lies about the world and themselves, and as a result their relationships and mental health suffer. Dr. Thurman uses the acronym TRUTH to describe how lies, false beliefs about the world and self can become ingrained in the mind (Thurman, 1995, p. 16). A trigger event occurs leading to reckless thinking regarding the trigger event (Thurman, 1995, p. 16). The reckless thinking leads to unhealthy response (Thurman, 1995, p. 16). The second T refers to truthful thinking, the practice of telling oneself the truth regarding a given situation, to confront the lies and reckless thinking (Thurman, 1995, p. 16). The H stands for healthy response and is a result of the truthful thinking regarding the situation (Thurman, 1995, p. 16).

Dr. Thurman effectively approaches the issue of false beliefs from the framework of developing the mind of Christ (Thurman, 1995). In The Lies We Believe Workbook (1995) Thurman helps the reader confront lies about self, the world, marriage, and religion (Thurman, 1995). There are many workbooks available from the perspective of Christian counseling that are very helpful to those seeking personal recovery from issues like anxiety, worry, depression, and anger available through Thomas Nelson publishers and Meier Clinics. Though resources like The Lies We Believe Workbook are very effective tools for growth in personal security, additional help may be required.



EMDR & Theophostic Ministry

EMDR was initially developed in 1989 by Francine Shapiro to help those suffering from PTSD (Cornine, 2013, p. 83). EMDR is considered an empirically verified form of treatment for those with PTSD, but it's also been applied to a myriad of other issues including depression, trauma, and substance abuse (Cornine, 2013, p. 83). EMDR is based on the presupposition that there are physiological changes that take place in the brain when trauma occurs, effectively freezing information in the mind that then cannot be processed successfully by the client (Cornine 2013, p. 83). Recalling the memory or information then triggers a harsh emotional response connected to the trauma (Cornine, 2013, p. 83). Through the use of bilateral eye movements or bilateral stimulation through touch or sound, the emotional context of the memory can be adjusted to a properly processed state (Cornine, 2013, p. 83). For those who struggle with personal insecurity and broken relationship patterns, many of the underlying issues may be based in painful memories that have never been properly addressed (Clinton & Sibcy, 2006). EMDR treatment should only be conducted under the supervision and care of a trained medical professional.

Theophostic therapy, or theophostic ministry can be described as a technique quite similar to EMDR in it's effect on the brain, though the approach is quite different (Entwistle, 2004, p. 26). Theophostic ministry is similar to Dr. Thurman's The Lies we Believe in that theophostic ministry is about accessing past memories embedded with a “lie” and with the help of Christ replacing that lie with the truth (Entwistle, 2004, p. 26). The theophostic approach is about bringing to light things in the dark that have hurts attached to them (Entwistle, 2004, p. 27). Through the guidance of a trained and certified professional the individual can experience God's healing power in past memories and false beliefs attached to those memories (Entwistle, 2004, p. 27). Like EMDR, theophostic ministry should only be conducted by trained lay counselors or trained professional counselors in cooperation with the individual seeking treatment.


Twelve Step Groups

Twelve step groups, through the use of spirituality, have revolutionized client on client health care. Since the first fellowship developed under the name Alcoholics Anonymous in 1939 hundreds of twelve step based fellowships have developed (Alcoholics Anonymous, 2006). Other prominent fellowships include: Gamblers anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, and many others.

The twelve steps are designed to trigger a spiritual awakening in the person who works them (Alcoholics Anonymous, 2006, p. 25). The individual working the steps admits to a state of powerlessness over the issue they are facing, then comes to believe that a spiritual power can help them (Alcoholics Anonymous, 2006, p. 60). The individual offers their life to serving their higher power, then completes a written inventory of their life, later confessing it to a trusted friend or clergy (Alcoholics Anonymous, 2006, p. 65). The individual then requests that God remove his or her character defects, makes amends to those he or she has harmed, and pursues prayer, meditation, and helping others with similar ailments (Alcoholics Anonymous, 2006, p. 59, 89). Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of the program of action, the individual continues to live by the principles of the twelve steps as a permanent “design for living” (Alcoholics Anonymous, 2006, p. 28).

The twelve steps have been adapted successfully, not only for alcoholism and addiction, but also for mental health support (Emotions Anonymous - a 12 Step Anonymous Program). Rick Warren and John Baker adapted a program called Celebrate Recovery using the twelve steps, and eight principles based on the beatitudes (Baker, 2014). According to Celebraterecovery.com “A wide variety of hurts, hang ups and harmful behaviors are represented at Celebrate Recovery. Examples include dependency on alcohol or drugs, pornography, low self-esteem, need to control, depression, anger, co-dependency, depression,fear of rejection, fear of abandonment, perfectionism, broken relationships, and abuse.” Celebrate Recovery could provide an excellent resource for those struggling with identity and personal security issues. Unfortunately Celebrate Recovery is not particularly widespread, though it has served over 17,000 people at Saddleback church in California and has programs in over 20,000 churches worldwide (Celebrate Recovery). The resources for starting a Celebrate Recovery group are also somewhat expensive, and the program suffers from a lack of governing traditions and departs from the tried and true methods of the various other successful anonymous programs.

Another option for the individual seeking support and growth in a group setting would be Emotions Anonymous (Emotions Anonymous - a 12 Step Anonymous Program). According to Emotionsanonymous.org “Our program has been known to work miracles in the lives of many who suffer from problems as diverse as depression, anger, broken or strained relationships, grief, anxiety, low self-esteem, panic, abnormal fears, resentment, jealousy, guilt, despair, fatigue, tension, boredom, loneliness, withdrawal, obsessive and negative thinking, worry, compulsive behavior and a variety of other emotional issues.” Though consistent work with a counselor can be helpful, as well as dedicated study and a strong support network, the power of weekly meeting attendance is unparalleled. The creator of the twelve steps, Bill Wilson came across the power of spirituality, and adapted a practical program of action to help those with many kinds of ailments to seek lifetime recovery (Alcoholics Anonymous, 2006, p. 1).



Conclusion

Jeremiah 33:6 (ESV) says “Behold, I will bring to it health and healing, and I will heal them and reveal to them abundance of prosperity and security. “ Jeremiah wrote in regard to the nation of Israel and it's health and security and healing. Today all can receive the same from God through his gift of Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19 (ESV) says “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Jesus Christ provides restoration for those with even the most severe relational and personal security problems (Psalm 41:3). There are many powerful tools for recovery including personal study, spiritual disciplines, professional counseling, and twelve step support groups. An individual committed to a daily path of healing and change can experience total healing through the power of Jesus Christ (Clinton & Sibcy, 2006).







































References

Alcoholics Anonymous big book (4th ed.). (2006). New York City: AA World Services.

Balswick, J., & Balswick, J. (2014). The family: A Christian perspective on the contemporary home (4th ed.). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic.

Carter, L., & Minirth, F. (1995). The freedom from depression workbook. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Celebrate recovery Bible. (2007). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan.

Clinton, T., & Ohlschlager, G. (2002). Competent Christian counseling. Colorado Springs, Colo.: WaterBrook Press.

Clinton, T., & Sibcy, G. (2006). Why you do the things you do: The secret to healthy relationships. Nashville, TN: Integrity.

Clinton, T., & Sibcy, G. (2012). Christian counseling, interpersonal neurobiology, and the future. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 40(2), 141-145. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1032965901?accountid=12085

Cornine, C. K. (2013). EMDR, sexual confusion, and god-image: A case study. Journal of Psychology and Christianity, 32(1), 83-89. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1357043176?accountid=12085

"Celebrate Recovery." Celebrate Recovery. Accessed December 2, 2014. http://www.celebraterecovery.com.

"Emotions Anonymous - a 12 Step Anonymous Program." Emotions Anonymous - a 12 Step Anonymous Program. Accessed December 2, 2014. http://www.emotionsanonymous.org/.

Entwistle, D. N. (2004). SHEDDING LIGHT ON THEOPHOSTIC MINISTRY 1: PRACTICE ISSUES. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 32(1), 26-34. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/223668474?accountid=12085

Hemfelt, R., & Minirth, F. (2003). Love is a choice. Nashville: T. Nelson.

Jung, C. G. (1923). Psychological types: or the psychology of individuation.. Retrieved from http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/1923-15021-000

McLemore, C. W., & Brokaw, D. W. (1987). Personality disorders as dysfunctional interpersonal behavior. Journal of Personality Disorders, 1(3), 270-285. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1521/pedi.1987.1.3.270

Minirth, F., & Meier, P. (1995). The complete life encyclopedia: A Minirth Meier New Life family resource. Nashville: T. Nelson.

Thurman, C. (1989). The lies we believe. Nashville: T. Nelson.

Thurman, C. (1995). The lies we believe workbook. Nashville: T. Nelson.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Destiny of the Unevangelized: Universal Opportunity














THE DESTINY OF THE UNEVANGELIZED: A DEFENSE OF UNIVERSAL OPPORTUNITY

























Justin Steckbauer

LUO THEO350

December 10, 2014





























Introduction



The scenario has commonly been suggested: What if there is a native in a tribe somewhere in the jungles of Africa who has a heart to hear and believe the gospel, but never is evangelized? Is that person damned to eternal disconnection from God for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time? This area of theology relates to eschatology, and is sometimes called the problem of the destiny of the unevangelized (Boyd, 2009, p. 198). It is also sometimes called “the fate of the unlearned” by skeptics and is used as an argument against the existence of God (Altstadt & Wan, 2005). The question is a very profound one. The great majority of man kind fall into the category of the unevangelized (Boyd, 2009, p. 197). The question of their fate relates to family, friends, cultures, and societies all over the world, past, present, and future. The question raises a great deal of emotion, and controversy (Altstadt & Wan, 2005). The issue is difficult, but there are several views that seek to answer this complicated question.



Views on the Fate of the Unevangelized

The prominent view is commonly considered “the restrictivist view” (Blowers). For the restrictivist the answer is that anyone who did not come to know Jesus Christ as personal savior in their life is damned to hell (Boyd, 2009, p. 199). This causes a problem regarding the question of the goodness of God. How can a good God arbitrarily allow someone with a heart to receive the gospel to miss that opportunity and burn in hell? The restrictivist justifies this position by claiming that the individual did not go to hell because of anything God did or did not do, but went to hell because of his or her sins (Blowers). A second view is called the Post-Mortem Evangelism view (Boyd, 2009, p. 205). For those of the post-mortem evangelism view, the answer would be that the person in question may have the chance to accept Jesus as their savior after they have died (Boyd, 2009, p. 199). Unfortunately there is little scripture to back up this position, aside from the descent of Jesus into the lower parts of the Earth mentioned in Ephesians 4:8-9 and Romans 10:7 (Boyd, 2009, p. 206). A third view is called the Inclusivist view (Boyd, 2009, p. 209). For those holding to the inclusivist view, it would be suggested that the individual may have a faith in Jesus, though he or she does not know his name (Boyd, 2009, p. 209). This is also referred to as the faith principle, indicating that if one has a faith in God, they can be saved through faith, by Jesus Christ, without actually knowing the name of Jesus (Altstadt & Wan, 2005, p. 4). This view edges very closely to pluralism, or the idea that all will be saved regardless of what they specifically believe. The inclusivist view also fails to show adequate support in scripture and is quite nebulous in it's description of the faith principle (Altstadt & Wan, 2005, p. 3-5). Of course it remains a reasonable possibility. However, all these views are incorrect theologically and either omit the loving character of God (the restrictivist view) or lapse too far into speculation (the post mortem and inclusivist views). 


The correct understanding of the destiny of the unevangelized is the Universal Opportunity view (Boyd, 2009, p. 198). The universal opportunity view is that anyone who can receive the gospel will have it presented to them at some time (Blowers). And those who never hear the gospel, never would have received it anyway. The restrictivist view has paradoxically a high level of support in the scriptures, yet also the most offensive to both the character of God and the worth of man. If a man exists somewhere who would have received the gospel but God ignores him and tosses him into the burning pit, the character of God is diminished (1 John 4:8). In addition, the value of man is snuffed out. If God could treat one man with such little regard, there would be no reason to conclude that another is worth anything but garbage. God the Father gave up his son Jesus Christ, the sinless God-man for the sake of the redemption of his image-bearers (2 Corinthians 3:17-18). Therefore man is of value to God (Matthew 6:26). Therefore the exclusivist view is theologically contradictory in it's depiction of the character of God and the value of man. The restrictivist view fails. The post-mortem evangelism view has some merits. After all, all of those who were justified by faith in God before the coming of the messiah waited eagerly for his coming, so they could be freed from their sins (John 8:56, Hebrews 11:13). Would it be so strange to assume certain little ones, children, or even those outside the scope of the great commission's range might be evangelized after death? It's certainly at least possible, though not highly supported by scripture. It's important to remember that the scriptures are not exhaustive (Towns, 2008, p. 21). God has not revealed everything to his people, he only reveals what they directly need to know, namely, Jesus (John 21:25, John 6:29). The inclusivist view is quite interesting, also known as the faith-principle position (Richards, 1994, p. 89). The notion that one could believe in Christ without knowing his name is intriguing, but hardly supported in the scriptures (Richard, 1994, p. 86). It also tends to step too close to pluralism (Altstadt & Wan, 2005, p. 3). But once again it certainly is possible. However, given the blasphemy of the restrictivist view, and the highly speculative nature of the post-mortem evangelism view and inclusivist view, the universal opportunity view is the most correct theological position.



Universal Opportunity

Universal opportunity is the idea that anyone who has a heart to receive the gospel will indeed come to receive the gospel by the power of God (Boyd, 2009, p. 202). Very simply, no matter where someone is in the world, God will bring a missionary or a book or a dream to them to inform them about Jesus Christ (Blowers). John 4:23 (ESV) says “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.” Father God seeks out and finds those who whom he wants and those who will freely choose him and gives them salvation in Christ Jesus. At the same time, the gate is narrow that leads to salvation, and there are few who find it (Matthew 7:13-14). It's always been clear within the pages of the Bible that mankind is not particularly disposed to the message of salvation (Jeremiah 17:9). God the Father draws people to Jesus and that is the primary way that the lost come to salvation (John 6:44). Of course it's clear many will resist the calls of God to salvation if they choose to do so, evidenced by Acts 7:51 (ESV) which states “You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit!” Never the less, nothing is too hard for God (Jeremiah 32:27). And God desires all to be saved (1 Timothy 2:3-4).

The Bible is replete with examples of God finding people where they are, people who are searching and wanting to know the truth about life. God uses his disciples to find those seeking him out and they then receive the truth. God has given every Christian a testimony to this very day, a message so important that believers are to forsake personal safety and comfort to deliver it, by the Holy Spirit and the manifestation of God's presence and power (Elwell, 2001, p. 1280). A clear example is that of the Ethiopian eunuch. In Acts 8:26-40 (ESV) Philip comes upon a man searching the scriptures and attempting to understand the prophecies of the Old Testament. Philip takes the opportunity to tell the man about Jesus Christ the savior. Another example is the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4). Jesus Christ came to a seemingly doomed person, a sexually immoral Samaritan and she is saved as a result. Another example would be the preacher called Apollos (Acts 18). Apollos had been taught about Jesus but only knew about the baptism of John. He preached regarding the baptism of John. God saw his heart and his actions and sent Paul and Barnabas to help complete his heart knowledge with the fullness of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, in Christ Jesus (Acts 19). There is a great deal of evidence to support the theological principle that God has not left himself without a witness. According to 1 Peter 3:15 (ESV) “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” God has commissioned every believer to witness to his son Jesus Christ, and as a result every one among the nations who might seek God would indeed find him by the power of witnesses, or by dreams, visions, or angels (Acts 22:15, Numbers 12:6, Acts 9:3-6, Hebrews 13:2, Acts 8:26).



Theological Support

There are four key theological arguments that support the Universal Opportunity view of the fate of the unevangelized (Blowers). The first argument is that the natural world is not sufficient for salvation, the natural world and the internal conscience of man is sufficient to communicate the moral law and the existence of a creator; but not sufficient for eternal life (Blowers). In other words, nature and internal knowledge do not equal an explicit knowledge of Jesus Christ. The second theological argument is that man needs a special revelation, a special knowledge of Jesus Christ to be saved, it is not sufficient to simply have knowledge of a loving creator (Blowers). The third theological argument is that no one responds to God aside from through his benevolent grace (Blowers). Those who respond to the little bit of light they have within, to search, to seek, and to knock, then God recognizes that response and gifts them Jesus Christ (Blowers). The fourth argument is that scripture mentions nothing of anything after death, aside from hell for those who go there, or eternal life, and no mention is made of any post-mortem evangelism (Blowers). In addition to those theological arguments, universal opportunity has had strong support in church tradition (Boyd, 2009, 204). Major supporters of universal opportunity have been Thomas Aquinas, Dante, Jacobus Arminius, John Henry Newman, Norman Geisler, Earl Radmacher, J. Oliver Buswell, Robert Lightner, and Robertson McQuilken (Blowers). Given strong theological support and weighty defenders of the universal opportunity view, the conclusion seems sound to consider God as loving and gracious to give eternal life through Jesus Christ all those who respond to the light they have (Boyd, 2009, p. 204).



Conclusion

In conclusion, 2 Peter 3:9 (ESV) says “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” God the Father wants all to know Jesus Christ. He desires none to perish. God the Father is the God of those whom he elects and predestines to salvation (Romans 8:29, Ephesians 1:11). God the Father is the God of the seekers, the ones who look for him do find him (Deuteronomy 4:29, Proverb 8:17, Matthew 7:7). Jeremiah 29:13 (ESV) says “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”

Returning to the question posed at the beginning of this paper: What about the tribal man in the jungles of Africa who never hears the gospel? The answer is, according to the theological underpinnings of universal opportunity, that as this man wanders through the jungle, staring up at the sky, wondering who made the earth, taking joy in the light within, the internal knowledge of God's existence; as he journeys he will encounter a missionary amongst the foliage who will tell him about his redeemer, Jesus Christ. Or the man may have a dream where Jesus speaks to him, and he is saved. Or he may have a vision or be visited by an angel. God will always provide a way to be saved to the one who delights in his presence and seeks him with a full heart (Psalm 27:8).











































Bibliography

Altstadt, Robert A., and Enoch Wan. "The Salvation of the Unevangelized: What the Literature Suggests." Global Missiology, Contemporary Practices, 2005. Accessed December 10, 2014. http://www.globalmissiology.net/.

Blowers, Dr. LaVerne P. "Are They Really Lost? What Is the Status of the Unevangelized?" Christian Higher Education 7, no. 1. Accessed December 10, 2014. www.bethelcollege.edu/assets/content/mcarchives/pdfs/v7n1p127.pdf.

Boyd, Gregory A., and Paul R. Eddy. Across the Spectrum: Understanding Issues in Evangelical Theology. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2009.

Douglas, J. D., and Merrill C. Tenney. Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2011.

ESV: Study Bible : English Standard Version. ESV Text ed. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Bibles, 2007.

Elwell, Walter A. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 2001.

Lutzer, Erwin W. The Doctrines That Divide: A Fresh Look at the Historic Doctrines That Separate Christians. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1998.

Richard, Ramesh P. "Soteriological Inclusivism and Dispensationalism." Bibliotheca Sacra 151 (1994): 85-108.

Sproul, R. C. The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version, Containing the Old and New Testaments. Orlando, Fla.: Ligonier Ministries, 2005.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Living in the Suburban Sprawl (Mountains beyond Mountains)



Proverb 27:19 As water reflects the face,
so one’s life reflects the heart.


A spiritual journey begins in the oddest of all places.  In the confusion of a realization that true love in the sense of a perfect relationship is, understandably, impossible and unrequited.  And stomping off into the night.  Waiting at a street corner, trees on the sides, black as night, under the street lights.  Half awake in the surburbs, hoping for something indescribable.  

A construct all encompassing, detached and wondering, what is the purpose?  Knowing something isn't right, in the suburbs.  Growing up in the suburbs.  Taught the stories.  Given the instructions.  On the surface it all makes sense.  Punch the clock, take a drive, work some hours, wear the uniform, entertainment, television, and classes upon classes.  

I was a young man once, but then I was a young man in his twenties.  Feeling out of place wherever he went.  Always out of place.  Always pressure.  Pressure to be someone, employee, family member, brother, son, friend, citizen, faceless consumer.  Suffocating, starving, on the edge.  Couldn't quite breath the air, too thin to take in.  

Something wasn't right about it all.  The consuming society, the producing society.  The suburbs so formatted.  Flying along the highways and biways trying to understand it all.  Everything costs something, everything exacting a price.  Going from place to place, yet every place seems to be same.  Same restaurants, same intersections, same skyline.. 

Joy was fleeting.  On some sort of journey.  Wandering the streets at night.  Almost every night I would be out there.  It was a place of bareness.  I could see better in the dark than I could in the sprawl.  Day was too bright.  In the silence, tracking along quiet forest streets, meandering between street lights listening to indie rock.. wondering.  Why am I here? What is this for?  

Most will never slow down long enough to wonder.  The truth snuck in the back door, of night walks.  Hour after hour, 2 in the morning, 3 in the morning, 4 in the morning, 6 AM, 7 AM.  On and on.  Mile after mile.  Music playing, thoughts spinning, imagining scenarios in my mind.  Asking questions.  

Laughing out loud in the darkness.  Feeling the desperate relief of nothingness, nowhere, void winter nights.  

From my earliest memories I wanted to save the world.  Desperately wanted to fight for the truth.  Never knew the truth.  Caught up in the surburbs.  Caught up in the grind.  Daily go, go, go. Drive, drive, listen to radio, snap on the TV.  So fast, so fast.  

When we were kids we had nowhere to go.  Nowhere was safe.  On the bus, at school, in the bedroom, doing homework, in the hallway, at basketball practice, always told to be something.  Never feeling entirely myself wherever I was.  Nowhere was home.  Yet, being alone in the woods, with a group of friends meandering the streets, that was home.  

Asking others, what is happening here?  I don't like money!  Don't you want something more than sex!?  No one seemed to understand.  Clocks were always ticking, always assignments to turn in on biology, math, and scientism.  Nowhere to hide, brainwashing sinking in.  Materialism, and bang, go!  Chase the money at all costs.  Don't ask questions, don't dare wonder why!  Don't ask how you got here!  

But what was happening?  Is it spirit?  Can I change the world?  Can I stop the megamonsters from devouring the city, from destroying the suburbs?  Can I stop the mighty CEO from bankrupting the world?  Can I change anything?  If so, how?  And if I can, would it matter 200 years from now?  Where do I go when I die?  Why do I exist?  What is the purpose of life?  What is meaning?  How do I change this?  Why am I so addicted?  Why can't I breath?  Why can't I sleep!?

Spiritual journey.  Eyes open.  Light sneaking in through the night.  The moon, the stars.  Hope in the quiet.  Heart shining bright.  

Intersections upon intersections.  Mountains beyond mountains.  Problems and more problems.  Hope in the shadows.  Light in the alleys.  Comprehension in silence.  Mountains beyond mountains.  Ideas beyond ideas.  Spirit by spirit.  Eyes seeing something.  Threat of destruction.  Final ego crush, last moments, last gasps of breath..

Consumerism in the veins, desperation, hospitals upon hospitals.  Detox beyond detox.  Answers in the forest.. a tree shining brightly.  Jesus Christ, please save me.

Living in the suburban sprawl.  Saved from a consumerist nightmare in the veins.  Stuffed to the core with addiction, sex, entertainment.  Hope in the simplicity, God in the shadows of the night walks, stars above and trees to all sides, hope born in the repeating disasters of the past, eyes open, covered in red, cleared of distortion, finally, sight and eyes that see.

In the suburbs things are pretty straight.  You've got shrubs, paved roads, insights, jobs, benefits, family life, doorbells, classrooms, soccer fields, sunlight, laughter, and suburban disaster.  Maybe somewhere there is a twisted boy, running down the night roads screaming within, why is this happening?  Why am I here!?  Is he crazy?  Has he lost his mind?  Doesn't he understand about money and marriage?  Doesn't he have a job?  

But maybe if he wants to know the truth sincerely enough, maybe if he cries out loud enough, God might step out of the shadows and introduce him to hope.  A chance to save the world at last.  A new life beyond the suburbs, where the mouth can breath and the eyes can see clearly, and finally, unplugged from the total dream world.  Woken up.  Changing into who he actually is. 

Wake up.  Are you there?  Can you hear me?  There is a way out of the sprawl.  There is only one who can move the mountains beyond mountains.  He is Spirit.  He is truth.

2 Corinthians 3:18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

(This post inspired by a song by Arcade Fire called Sprawl II - Mountains beyond Mountains