GPS Training

Is your GPS training you not to think?

Because I live in the huge metropolis of Los Angeles County, where traffic can make a relatively short commute into a nightmare, I sometimes use GPS even on familiar routes (in order to avoid some of the traffic). However a few times I have turned off the GPS after checking the route, but then have almost missed a turn because I was waiting for the machine to tell me where to go. Having a device that directs you through a route can eventually lull you into a mindless kind of driving that depends on the device rather than paying attention to the surroundings.

This is not a complaint about GPS–certainly it is very helpful and I will continue to use it–rather, this is simply an observation that came to me as I was driving recently: depending on something like GPS can train my mind to disengage and not think. And I see a similar principle at work in my daughter. Because all her formative years were spent in an orphanage in China where the workers did a lot of things for her (granted, for good reasons–her Down Syndrome means everything she does is very slow), her mind was gradually trained to not think but just wait for someone to do it for her.

I wonder if that same dynamic comes into play in our spiritual lives as well. Do we listen to a sermon the same way we listen to our GPS? In other words, does our mind shift into autopilot just waiting to be told what to believe or think or do? Or, do we engage deeply with the Word being preached, examining the truth of it (Acts 17:11), letting it dwell deeply in us (Colossians 3:16), and then doing it (James 1:22)? Is our singing truly an expression of worship and submission and joy to our God, or are we mindlessly mouthing words (Mark 7:6-7)? Do we love one another deeply from the heart (I Peter 1:22), or is our interaction with one another distracted and shallow?

Don’t let the routines of your Christian life lull you into passivity or mindlessness, rather “Prepare your mind for action…” (I Peter 1:13) so that you can follow Paul’s admonition to the Ephesians:

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”   – Ephesians 5:15-16

Whiter than Snow

 

img_1286A few weeks ago my family, along with some good friends of ours, enjoyed a few days up in Idyllwild to play in the snow. God blessed us with clear roads going up and coming down the mountain, but with lots of snow while we were there.

Freshly fallen snow blanketing the landscape is tremendously beautiful to me. The untouched snow is so bright and clean and sparkly in the sun. Scripture uses the metaphor of the purity and whiteness of snow to speak of the beauty that God brings to the hearts that He cleanses from sin.

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
    wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. (Psalm 51:7)

From a human perspective, there is nothing on this earth that is more brilliantly white than new snow. Yet the Creator of snow can also cleanse our sinful, dirty hearts so completely that they will be even whiter than snow! How amazing is that?!

May this prayer for cleansing be our regular request as well, that the purity and brightness of the very righteousness of Christ would be seen in our lives as God washes and cleanses our hearts to be whiter than snow.

 

Is Freud Right?

Heath Lambert, in his book The Biblical Counseling Movement after Adams, says that a part of Sigmund Freud’s impetus to develop psychotherapy was that he believed the church had failed in the task of “helping people with life’s problems.” Because the church was not providing this needed care for souls, Freud sought to develop a class of professional, non-religious workers to carry it out. Ironically though, Freud called this class of counselors “secular pastoral workers,” by which he seems to be acknowledging that at its core, counseling is a pastoral role.

Many psychoanalytic theories—and theorists—have come and gone since Freud, but the question posed by his indictment of the church still remains: Is the care and cure of souls a uniquely pastoral role, and if so, has the church indeed failed by handing over this role to professional psychologists?

A present-day psychologist named Larry Crabb asks a similar question in his paradigm-shifting book Becoming a True Spiritual Community. This is what Dr. Crabb writes:

If that [i.e. a desperate determination toward autonomy from God] is what needs therapeutic attention, and if attention that is therapeutic is a relationship of love, wisdom, and integrity, then successful therapy consists of a kind of relationship a spiritual community is uniquely and intentionally gifted to provide. Why, then, do we turn to professionals?

Crabb’s answer to his own question—“Spiritual community is rare. That’s why we have professionals.”—sounds like he is coming to a similar conclusion as Freud. But rather than turning to the psychotherapy he had been trained in and practiced, Crabb started NewWay Ministries to train lay people in the art of spiritual direction. According to a CT article, Crabb “turned his back on diagnostic counseling methods in order to care for people’s souls in an unpredictable, unprofessional, fickle, and, in his opinion, most useful context: caring relationships. He now believes that there’s no better psychotherapy than friendships fashioned after the everlasting friendship between Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.”

Spiritual community is rare. Therefore we as God’s people must rise to the challenge and learn to love one another in redemptive and healing ways, in order that one day perhaps Freud’s indictment of the church may be proved wrong.

Redemption Value

As a child growing up in Oregon, I occasionally picked up discarded aluminum soda cans from the street, not at all because I wanted to recycle and save the planet, but simply because they offered a 5-cent redemption value. So if I scavenged enough of them, I could turn them in for a few dollars to save up for the next Lego set I wanted. My only understanding of redemption at that time was that I got a nickel for every can I redeemed. Redemption was not costly–in fact it was rather lucrative.

I’ve been studying Ephesians lately, with my family and in my community group, and Ephesians 1:7 speaks of redemption also: “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace…” Redemption in this Biblical understanding is very, very costly.

The Greek word translated “redemption” is a word that means “a releasing effected by payment of ransom.” In fact, “ransom” is the root word from which “redemption” originates. And “ransom” is a costly word. To ransom is to pay whatever is demanded in order to get back something (or someone) very valuable. A large sum of money is given by a desperate father to ransom his kidnapped child. The kidnapper knows that the child is so valuable to her father that he will hand over an exorbitant amount of money just to get her back safely.

The ransom that Ephesians 1:7 speaks of was the highest ransom ever paid. We as God’s beloved children were held captive in the slave market of sin, and the price demanded for our return was nothing less than the life-blood of the only begotten Son of God. The riches of God’s grace are beyond measure, and it was out of that great storehouse of grace that Jesus’ blood was shed to satisfy the price demanded in order to effect redemption for the sons and daughters of God. The fact that such an unthinkably high cost was paid in order to effect our release shows the immense value that God places on us as His beloved children.

My chains are gone
I’ve been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy reigns
Unending love, amazing grace!