Tag Archives: Emotions

Bible study: responsibilities and obligations in Philippians 1-4

Bible study that hits the spot
Bible study that hits the spot

Here are some parts of Philippians that speak to an issue that I think is a problem today for many Christians – self-centeredness.

Philippians 2 talks about the importance of not being self-centered, but instead being focused on the needs of others.

Phil 2:1-8:

2 Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion,2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. 3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

And Phil 2:19-23:

19 But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, so that I also may be encouraged when I learn of your condition. 20 For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare. 21 For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus. 22 But you know of his proven worth, that he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel like a child serving his father.

Nothing very complicated here, it’s important to look out for the interests of others and to be concerned about their welfare.

I think it’s a good idea to be practical about partnering with people, and instead of just speaking words like “I care” or “I’ll pray for you”, try to find out what needs to be done and do it. Solve the problem with actions. Prayer is important, of course, because so much of what happens to that other person is in God’s hands. You aren’t going to be around all the time, but God is, so talk to him about the other person and what you’re planning to do. But you must also do your part, and do it intelligently and effectively. (The New Testament book of James talks about the need to accompany good wishes with actions that solve the problem)

Also don’t just stand back and give orders while feeling righteous. Many people want to influence others by just quoting the Bible, putting on pious airs, or using mere words. This doesn’t work in any area of the real world. Instead, take a more active approach. Think about the problem that is preventing someone from serving Christ well, and then act to make it easier for the person to do the right thing.

I’ve been able to achieve good success by praying AND performing supportive actions, rather than by issuing commands or prayer alone. For example, I’ve gotten people to transition for useless careers into IT careers, got them to pay off their high-interest debts, got them to switch their majors from something useless to something useful, got them to move on from an abortion or a divorce, got them to not commit suicide, listened to their health problems, helped them pass the GRE or the GMAT or something, got them to take a better job, got them to do a public speaking engagement, taught them how to debate their atheist brother, sponsored a Christian speaker at their university, helped them recover from bad parents, etc. It’s pretty fun to partner with people to further the Kingdom, but if you just leave it at prayer and giving orders, you won’t get the same good results.

All it takes to move from prayer alone to prayer and solutions is to think about other people like a puzzle, and then sacrifice some of your time or your money to build them up. I have a lot of experience doing this, but it’s not something that I learned to do in church. Church doesn’t teach you to be practical about following the Bible intelligently and with your own initiative. It’s set up to favor emotions (singing) and passive listening. To be active, you have to think about the Bible from a higher strategic level. Think about who Jesus is, and then follow his example. Don’t read the Bible in order to just feel happy or sound pious, instead try to make a plan to really DO good. Your goal should be to achieve a result in line with Jesus’ character and goals.

By the way, part of being able to partner with other people to solve problems with actions is being capable yourself. Don’t study stupid things in college. Don’t get into debt. Don’t try to fill your days with fun and thrills. Instead, study hard things, get hard jobs in the private sector, save your money, and learn useful skills. That way, you’ll be able to do more when something more than passive words or feelings is needed. One time, a woman I knew severely hurt her hand at work. She has OCD, and liked to clean the stairs in her house every day. She has a furry cat who drops fur everywhere. So she was lugging this heavy vacuum up and down the stairs every day. And spending a lot of time ironing with an old-fashioned heavy iron, too. So I bought her a hand vacuum and a fancy new iron. With the extra time she saved, she was able to do more reading, public speaking and helping others. Doing Christianity well means making yourself strong, so you can look after others with more than just feelings, piety and prayers.

Philippians is my favorite book of the Bible. And the most important thing about Philippians is that it’s good to be focused on other people, and not on ourselves, and to think of the interests of others, not our own interests. It’s good to get down into the weeds of other people’s problems, and act to self-sacrificially to solve them. Read the book (it’s short) and see if there are not people who you could partner with by helping them solve problems so they can be more effective.

A lesson about men for marriage-minded women from the movie “High Noon”

Marine prays with his wife on their wedding day
Marine prays with his wife on their wedding day

One of my favorite movies for explaining the differences between men and women is “High Noon” (1952).

Here’s the summary from IMDB:

Former marshal Will Kane (Gary Cooper) is preparing to leave the small town of Hadleyville, New Mexico, with his new bride, Amy (Grace Kelly), when he learns that local criminal Frank Miller has been set free and is coming to seek revenge on the marshal who turned him in. When he starts recruiting deputies to fight Miller, Kane is discouraged to find that the people of Hadleyville turn cowardly when the time comes for a showdown, and he must face Miller and his cronies alone.

The main theme of the film concerns Amy’s decision to break her wedding vows the very day that she makes them. She tells her new husband that he must bow to her will, and give up his male role as protector. When he explains his reasons for standing his ground to her practically (Miller will hunt them down) and morally (he has a duty protect the town), she dismisses both. She tells him that if he doesn’t run away from Miller and his gang with her, that she will get on the train and leave town by herself.

The intro of film shows the member’s of Miller’s gang assembling, and the words of the song explain the central conflict between husband and wife:

Here’s the part of the lyrics we care about:

The noonday train will bring Frank Miller.
If I’m a man I must be brave
And I must face that deadly killer
Or lie a coward, a craven coward,
Or lie a coward in my grave.

O to be torn ‘twixt love and duty!
S’posin’ I lose my fair-haired beauty!
Look at that big hand move along
Nearin’ high noon.

He made a vow while in State’s Prison,
Vow’d it would be my life or his’n
I’m not afraid of death, but O,
What will I do if you leave me?

Do not forsake me O my darlin’
You made that promise when we wed.
Do not forsake me O my darlin’
Although you’re grievin’, I can’t be leavin’
Until I shoot Frank Miller dead.

What’s interesting is that his new wife Amy apparently does not understand the meaning of wedding vows or the natural roles of good men as protectors of the weak, and fighters against evil. Although she vowed to stick by him and help him, the minute anything threatening appears that makes her feel unhappy, she abandons her vows and abandons her man. Let’s break down her mistakes now, using actual conversations from the movie.

First, she doesn’t understand or respect the man she married as a man:

Kane: [while riding out of town] It’s no good. I’ve got to go back, Amy.

Amy: Why?

Kane: This is crazy. I haven’t even got any guns.

Amy: Then let’s go on. Hurry.

Kane: No, that’s what I’ve been thinkin’. They’re making me run. I’ve never run from anybody before.

Amy: I don’t understand any of this.

Kane: [after looking at his vest watch] Well, I haven’t got time to tell ya.

Amy: Then don’t go back, Will.

Kane: I’ve got to. That’s the whole thing. [He turns the buggy around and rides back into town]

Her feelings and her desires for the world to be a happy place for her are so strong that they cloud her judgment.

Second, she doesn’t understand the threat posed by evil men:

More:

Kane: I sent a man up five years ago for murder. He was supposed to hang. But up North, they commuted it to life and now he’s free. I don’t know how. Anyway, it looks like he’s coming back.

Amy: I still don’t understand.

Kane: He was always wild and kind of crazy. He’ll probably make trouble.

Amy: But that’s no concern of yours, not anymore.

Kane: I’m the one who sent him up.

Amy: Well, that was part of your job. That’s finished now. They’ve got a new marshal.

Kane: He won’t be here until tomorrow. Seems to me I’ve got to stay. Anyway, I’m the same man with or without this. [He pins his badge on his vest]

Amy: Oh, that isn’t so.

Kane: I expect he’ll come lookin’ for me. Three of his old bunch are waiting at the depot.

Amy: That’s exactly why we ought to go.

Kane: They’ll just come after us, four of ’em, and we’d be all alone on the prairie.

Amy: We’ve got an hour.

Kane: What’s an hour?…What’s a hundred miles? We’d never be able to keep that store, Amy. They’d come after us and we’d have to run again, as long as we live.

Amy: No we wouldn’t, not if they didn’t know where to find us. Oh Will! Will, I’m begging you, please let’s go.

Kane: I can’t.

Amy: Don’t try to be a hero. You don’t have to be a hero, not for me.

Kane: I’m not trying to be a hero. If you think I like this, you’re crazy.

Instead of recognizing how her feelings are deceiving her about the threat and trusting her husband, she tries to force him to accept her mistaken view of reality by threatening to abandon him.

One of Kane’s ex-girlfriends has a talk with Amy, which helps her to understand who Kane is, and what is expected of her:

Amy: That man downstairs, the clerk, he said things about you and Will. I’ve been trying to understand why he wouldn’t go with me, and now all I can think of is that it’s got to be because of you…Let him go, he still has a chance. Let him go.

Helen: He isn’t staying for me. I haven’t spoken to him for a year – until today. I am leaving on the same train you are…What kind of woman are you? How can you leave him like this? Does the sound of guns frighten you that much?

Amy: I’ve heard guns. My father and my brother were killed by guns. They were on the right side but that didn’t help them any when the shooting started. My brother was nineteen. I watched him die. That’s when I became a Quaker. I don’t care who’s right or who’s wrong. There’s got to be some better way for people to live. Will knows how I feel about it.

Helen: I hate this town. I always hated it – to be a Mexican woman in a town like this.

Amy: I understand.

Helen: You do? That’s good. I don’t understand you. No matter what you say. If Kane was my man, I’d never leave him like this. I’d get a gun. I’d fight.

Amy: Why don’t you?

Helen: He is not my man. He’s yours.

Helen understands the need for a wife to stand by her man. But Amy’s response to evil is to shut her eyes and focus on feeling good and being happy. Notice that her “better way” is unspecified – it’s just a feeling she has that pacificism and no-violence will somehow “work” to stop evil. But in reality, pacifism is not a “better way” of dealing with evil – it does not work. Her pacifist response not only does not make evil go away, it actually encourages more evil. Weakness emboldens evildoers, and laying down your arms provokes them to do more evil. Will Kane knows this, but she won’t listen to him.

You can watch the final gunfight here, as well as Amy’s final decision:

So, this is why I really recommend this movie as a discussion-starter when you like a girl and are thinking of marrying her. It clarifies the essential problem with many young women today not being ready for marriage. To be fair, most women come around to respect their husbands and his different roles after they get married. However, the risk of divorce is so dangerous that it makes sense to bring it up for discussion before the marriage happens. Marriage is supposed to be an engine to serve God, and the success of that enterprise cannot be left to chance. You can’t just rely on the fact that she says the words of the vow, you have to check to see if she has a habit of keeping her promises when it goes against her own self-interest.

Ask yourself: Who are you, as a man? And does your woman accept that you have obligations to stand up to evil and do good ? Will she support you in your battle against evil, or will the marriage just be about her feelings and desires? I would especially beware of women who think that God is speaking to them through their feelings and desires. Look at her friends: are they practical and successful? Or are they irresponsible, unaccountable and reckless? Look at her father: does he have a plan for her, and does he lead her to be practical, frugal and hard-working? If you are not going to get an ally and a supporter in a wife, then you will not be able to serve God well, as a married man. Think about it.

Why do so many Christian musicians, artists, athletes and celebrities leave the faith?

A conflict of worldviews
A conflict of worldviews

Several people sent me the story about a former Hillsong worship leader who decided to leave Christianity. Since we’ve had a few high profile departures, I thought it might be worth giving my very controversial view on Christian musicians, artists, athletes and celebrities. I’ve always been suspicious of celebrities claiming to be Christians and there’s a very simple reason why.

Anyway, here is the story sent to me by Tiasunep, published in the Christian Today.

It says:

Hillsong worship leader has reportedly walked away from the Christian faith after posting a – since removed – Instagram update in which he said he was “not in anymore”.

[…]”Time for some real talk… I’m genuinely losing my faith.. and it doesn’t bother me… like, what bothers me now is nothing… I am so happy now, so at peace with the world.. it’s crazy / this is a soapbox moment so here I go xx how many preachers fall? Many. No one talks about it.

“How many miracles happen. Not many. No one talks about it. Why is the Bible full of contradictions? No one talks about it. How can God be love yet send 4 billion people to a place, all coz they don’t believe? No one talks about it.

“Christians can be the most judgemental people on the planet – they can also be some of the most beautiful and loving people… but it’s not for me. I am not in any more.”

[…]Science keeps piercing the truth of every religion,” he writes.

“Lots of things help people change their lives, not just one version of God. Got so much more to say, but for me, I keeping it real.

[…]The news has saddened many in the Christian scene who were still getting over a similar announcement made a few weeks ago by Joshua Harris, author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye.

Within the space of a week, he announced that he was separating from his wife and that he had fallen away from the Christian faith.

It looks to me like no one has ever made the evidential case for a Christian worldview to him, and he’s just crumbling because he doesn’t have answers to basic, ordinary questions.

In modern secular America, authentic Christianity is spelled A-P-O-L-O-G-E-T-I-C-S

In primitive areas of the world, a person could be a sincere Christian without knowing how to answer basic questions about scientific evidence for a creator, historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, philosophical defenses to the problems of evil and suffering, etc. But this is modern America, and there are atheists in the universities and in the workplace and just everywhere. If you meet someone in America who claims to be a Christian, it’s guaranteed that this person will have met atheists in these places. If this Christian has not put in any effort to learn how to answer basic questions about God’s existence, the resurrection, the problem of evil, etc, and they are regarded as very pious and spiritual, you should immediately distrust their claim to be a Christian.

1 Peter 3:15-16
1 Peter 3:15-16

Authentic Christians will be appropriately moved by the existence of people who not only do not accept a Creator, but also deny Jesus as Lord and Savior. And since the example of using reason and evidence to respond to skeptics is everywhere in the Bible, then sincere Bible believers will likewise want to find a way to answer people who question the Christian worldview. If you look at a Christian, and you can’t find anything in their writings or words that interacts with Christian scholarship and responds to popular challenges to the Christian worldview, then you’re looking at a fake Christian. Such a person is merely posing as a Christian for feelings, fame and peer approval. Every real Christian is concerned about defending God’s reputation and character. And the way that this is done in the Bible – and today – is with evidential apologetics.

There is no mature Christian worldview that majors in praise hymns, social justice, essential oils, devotional reading, etc. Today, right now, your co-worker is an atheist. Today, right now, your child’s professor is an atheist. If you haven’t put in the time to prepare a defense to the challenges right in front of your face – challenges that affect you and your legacy in Christ – but you have plenty of time to major in the minors for fame and fortune, then that’s a sign that you don’t have a Christian worldview. If all your Christianity is just having feelings, devotional reading and singing praise songs, then you need to ask yourself whether you’re not on the same road as this Hillsong worship leader.

Young people should be learning apologetics from their parents, pastors and other Christian leaders

It’s not surprising to me that the Hillsong worship leader is an apostate. What’s surprising to me is that anyone at all who is raised in any American church is able to preserve their faith for very long after leaving home. The churches in America do a poor job of equipping Christians to answer the most basic questions about the Christian worldview. Questions that could easily be answered after a few Lee Strobel books, or some True U DVDs. But in Christian homes and Christians churches, young people are never exposed to the challenges of non-Christians. They never do any investigations to learn how to respond to them. Then when they get to college, they feel (rightly) as if they’ve been brainwashed and indoctrinated by people in the church who were divorced from reality. And then they quit on Christianity. I see it all the time.

If you’re going to pick someone to look up to as a Christian, then choose people who have put in the time to study the truth claims of the Christian worldview enough to defend them to other scholars, using arguments and evidence. I admire people like William Lane Craig, Stephen C. Meyer, Michael Licona who actually debate non-Christians on university campuses and other public forums. In contrast, an entertainer isn’t usually qualified to defend truth claims.

Positive arguments for Christian theism

‘Sex and the City’ inspiration Candace Bushnell reaches age 60 childless and alone

Man and woman working on a computer upgrade
Man and woman working on a computer upgrade

Did you know that there is a real woman who inspired the feminist fairy tale TV show “Sex in the City”? She had an enormous influence on young women, who wanted the glamour, fun, and consequence-free sex with “high value” no-commitment men. Most women who adopted the values of the show probably thought that this path would eventually lead to marriage and children.

My friend Chris sent me this article from Fox News, which talks the woman who inspired the show’s storyline.

It says:

“Sex and the City” may have left a trailblazing legacy for women on television, but the book’s original author now thinks her independent lifestyle may not have been as rewarding.

Candace Bushnell, 60, who wrote the original 1997 novel which spawned the successful TV series for HBO, opened up to Sunday Times Magazine about her 2012 divorce, admitting it made her realize how not starting a family made her feel “truly alone.”

“When I was in my 30s and 40s, I didn’t think about it,” she recalled. “Then when I got divorced and I was in my 50s, I started to see the impact of not having children and of truly being alone. I do see that people with children have an anchor in a way that people who have no kids don’t.”

I do think that it’s important for young women to really consider where they want to be when they are 30, 40, 50, etc. A wise person should seek to pattern their decisions off of the decisions of people who have reached the goals that they themselves want to reach. Candace Bushnell clearly has failed to achieve her goals. And those who listen to her will, likewise, fail to achieve the goals of marriage and children.

Making decisions today to achieve goals tomorrow

It’s important not to put too much faith in TV shows. Or any fiction.

Whenever I see women reading books in the office, I always ask them: is that fiction or non-fiction? In 19 years of full-time work, I have never had a woman answer non-fiction. And they usually answer “romance”. Well, I supposed if you were a fictional character, then you might take the advice of fictional characters. But if you are a real person, then you should look at the way the world really works. You should read peer-reviewed research, and take the advice of real people who have come up from humble beginnings to achieve the goals that you want to achieve.

After all, if your goal was to retire at 50, wouldn’t it make sense to read books about investing, and take the advice of successful investors? It certainly would not make sense to imitate the characters in TV shows and movies made by Hollywood divorcers, adulterers, rapists and pedophiles. And yet so many women do the latter with marriage and children decision-making. They seem to derive some sort of unquestionable emotional delight from making important decisions based on appearances, intuitions, peer-approval, etc.

Why listen to celebrities, teachers, politicians, etc. who have infidelities, no children, failed marriages, etc.? Why make decisions by counting votes from your no-achievement peer group? If you want to reach a goal, then there is only one way to proceed, and that’s by consulting the evidence, and seeking guidance from those with demonstrated results.

For example, when I was choosing which state to live in, I made a spreadsheet and filled it with all sorts of rankings of the 50 states that I pulled out of research papers and reports. I looked at things like infrastructure, income tax, economic growth, business friendliness, cost of living, tax as a % of income, abortion laws, support for traditional marriage, single motherhood, gun laws, concealed carry laws, fiscal solvency, etc. I moved here, and I’ve become very wealthy as a result. And my state has actually moved upward in gun rights rankings, fiscal solvency rankings, tax rankings, etc. since I got here. We’re even trying to pass pro-life laws! When you make decisions using evidence and when you listen to good advice from people who have real achievements, you succeed.

Don’t make decisions about sex, marriage and children by “following your heart”. That’s the lesson.

Study: women seeking to have a child should start before age 32

Brain vs Heart, from: theawkwardyeti.com
Brain vs Heart, from: theawkwardyeti.com

Dina sent me this sobering piece of research from the New Scientist which is perfect for all the young feminists who have been taught in college that marriage should be put off, and women can easily get pregnant after age 40.

Excerpt:

It’s a question many people will ask themselves at some point in their lives: when should I start a family? If you know how many children you’d like, and whether or not you would consider, or could afford, IVF, a computer model can suggest when to start trying for your first child.

Happy with just one? The model recommends you get started by age 32 to have a 90 per cent chance of realising your dream without IVF. A brood of three would mean starting by age 23 to have the same chance of success. Wait until 35 and the odds are 50:50 (see “When to get started”).

The suggestions are based on averages pulled from a swathe of data so don’t give a personal prediction. And of course, things aren’t this simple in real life – if only family size and feelings about IVF were the only factors to consider when planning a family. But the idea behind the model is to help people make a decision by condensing all the information out there into an accessible form.

“We have tried to fill a missing link in the decision-making process,” says Dik Habbema at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, one of the creators of the model. “My son is 35 and many of his friends have a problem deciding when to have children because there are so many things they want to do.”

It’s a scenario that will be familiar to many; the age at which people have their first child has been creeping up over the last 40 or so years. For example, the average age at which a woman has her first child is 28 in the UK and has reached 30 in Italy, Spain and Switzerland. In the US, the birth rate for women in their 20s has hit a record low, while the figures for those over 35 have increased over the last few decades.

The decision is more pressing for women thanks to their limited supply of eggs, which steadily drop in quantity and quality with age. Female fertility is thought to start declining at 30, with a more significant fall after the age of 35.

[…]The new model incorporates data from studies that assess how fertility naturally declines with age. The team took information on natural fertility from population data collected over 300 years up to the 1970s, which includes data on 58,000 women.

I have often tried to talk to young women about the need to get their lives in gear. I advise them to work summers during high school, obtain a STEM degree in university, minimize borrowing money by going to community college for the generic prerequisites, don’t have premarital sex, get a job related to their STEM field straight out of college, pay off their debts, move out of their parents’ house, start investing from the first paycheck, marry between age 25-30, and then start having children after the first two “stabilizing” years of marriage. This is sound advice, rooted in my careful reconnaissance of the things that human beings care about and need in their old age. This advice is not bullying, it comes from reading many, many relevant papers. It comes from putting the knowledge gained from reading the papers into practice, and seeing results where appropriate.

I am giving you the numbers. Straight out of a peer-reviewed study. Don’t follow your heart. Don’t listen to your friends. Follow the science. Make your decisions within the boundaries of reality. God will not save you from foolish decisions.

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