Tuesday, November 28, 2023

The Transformation of the Mouth


                                                                 (Monroe County)

James 3:3-12 is about an out-of-control mouth that ruins Jesus-communities with untruths. In James, one of the problems is antinomianism; viz., the misguided idea that one can have faith without obedience to Christ. This is why James stresses that faith without deeds is dead. Our hearts and mouths are to be obedient to the ways of Jesus. 

James understands the power of words. He knows that such a small (micro) thing as the mouth can have mega-effects (megala) vastly disproportionate to its size. 

The tongue, writes James, is a fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. Divisive untruths, gossip, slander, flattery, and a critical spirit are rooted in evil.  (Slander is saying something behind a person's back that you would never say to their face; flattery is saying something to a person's face that you would never say behind their back.)

New Testament scholar Scot McKnight writes, "Hell inspires the abusive tongue." (McKnight, James, 286) Words that tear down rather than build up, words of hatred rather than love, words showing favoritism of one person over another, all rise out of a heart in touch with hell.

Why such strong language? After all, doesn't the old proverb apply here? "Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me." To the contrary, "Far easier to heal are the wounds caused by sticks and stones than the damage caused by words." (Moo, in McKnight, James, 286)

James ramps up the intensity when he writes: "With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness." 

For James this is crazy, because it means blessing a person with your words, and then cursing the same person with your words. "Cursing” is a failure to see in one another God’s image. (David Nystrom, James) This is why James adds, "who have been made in God's likeness." 

If you curse a person you are cursing God’s image in that person. Thus, we have the contradiction:

1. I praise God.
2. I curse God (via cursing people who are made in the image of God).

This is the incongruous "double-mindedness" James warns about. He is addressing Christians who praise God with their mouths on Sunday mornings, and on Sunday afternoons brutalize people on social media. Or in their homes. 

Cursing is tearing down the image of God in other people. N. T. Wright writes that if "someone turns out to be pouring out curses – cursing other humans who are made in God’s likeness – then one must at least question whether their heart has been properly cleansed, rinsed by God’s powerful spirit. And if that isn’t the case, that person is getting their real inspiration from hell itself." 

How can our mouth be healed of its abusive ways? The answer for James, and his biological brother Jesus, is by focusing on the mouth's source, which is the heart. To rescue your mouth, focus on your heart. Let your heart align with the heart of Jesus. If your heart is pure, your words will be pure. Nystrom writes:

“Jesus understood actions to be revelatory of character, as the saying “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit” attests. He also believed our speech to be revelatory of character, which is the essential point being made here. Our speech comes from the heart.”

So what can we do? I like how Oswald Chambers directs us. He writes:

"Jesus says that there is only one way to develop spiritually, and that is by concentration on God. “Do not bother about being of use to others; believe on Me” [ pay attention to the Source], “and out of you will flow rivers of living water. We cannot get at the springs of our natural life by common sense, and Jesus is teaching that growth in spiritual life does not depend on our watching it, but on concentration on our Father in heaven. Our heavenly Father knows the circumstances we are in, and if we keep concentrated on Him we will grow spiritually as the lilies."

The message of James 3:3-12 is that, while humanity has failed to tame the human tongue, God can tame our mouth, as we abide in him.

Encounters with the Holy Spirit (co-edited with Janice Trigg)

Identity: Who You Are. Who You Are Meant to Be, by Linda and John Piippo (coming in 2024)

Anyone remember this?

Love Is Not an Entity to Be Worshiped


                                                              (Lake Erie, Monroe, MI)

(I am re-posting this for a friend.)

For followers of Jesus, love is great. But love is not the greatest. First Corinthians 13 tells us that love is the greatest, among faith and hope. In the great triumvirate of faith, hope, and love, love takes first place.

As mighty as love is, love is not a thing. It is not a substance. It is not an entity. Love is not an object, nor is it a being, or a person. Therefore, love is not to be worshiped, since it is irrational to worship non-entities, be they physical or non-physical.

Love is a multi-faceted verb, manifesting itself in actions we call "loving," such as patience, kindness, gentleness, not easily angered, protective, trusting, and so on. While 1 Corinthians 13 appears to reify love, that's just a rhetorical device to elevate the behaviors associated with love. Love acts in certain ways, and does not act in certain other ways.

When the Bible says God is love, it is telling us that love is an essential attribute of the being of God. As an attribute of God, love is not to be worshiped. We don't worship attributes. Let's say, for example, that one of my attributes is weighs 170 pounds. (I wish this was true!) While weighs 170 pounds would be commendable, this attribute is not an entity or a substance which, in itself, is praiseworthy. We wouldn't expect someone, unless they are mentally incapacitated, to bow down and worship weighs 170 pounds.

Don't reify love. It's misleading, and false, to do that.

Don't bow before love and worship a verb.

Worship God who, in his being, is love.

Monday, November 27, 2023

Faith and Knowledge. Grace and Effort,


                                                    (Looking out one of our church windows.)

One of my morning devotional books is Hearing God Through the Year: A 365-Day Devotional, by Dallas Willard. Here is from the Sept. 27 entry.

"People of faith sometimes think knowledge is unimportant because they think they should have faith instead of knowledge. But having faith is not the opposite of having knowledge. Faith and knowledge work together. (Instead, the opposite of living by faith is living only by sight.) People of faith often misunderstand grace as well. They think grace is the opposite of effort and since they are “saved by grace,” they should not make effort. God’s grace and our effort work together. (The opposite of grace is earning.)" 

The Power of Influence

(Room, in our home.)

I’m not entirely against starting a movement, 
but most movements don’t amount to very much, 
On the other hand, people who know how to stand, 
and stand in the Spirit of Christ, 
change people all around them. 
They never fail. 
They never fail. 
When you have that, 
it will never fail to change people all around you. 

Dallas Willard, “How to Be 
in the World but Not of It”

(In Gary Moon, Becoming Dallas Willard, p. 175). 

This is the power of influence. It's not about trying to change people's hearts. But as your heart is broken in the right places, you will see breakthrough in people around you.

40 seconds of flamenco guitar

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Praying on the "Thank God Ledge"

(I'm re-posting this. It's from my book Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God. Linda and I saw "Free Solo" at the Imax in Ann Arbor. It's about Alex Honnold's rope-less climb of El Capitan. Amazing, and frightening!) 

Several years ago I watched a "60 Minutes" segment that fully engaged me. I dvr-ed it and showed it to several people. It was on rock climber Alex Honnold's "free solo" of Half Dome in Yosemite National Park.

Half Dome is a nearly vertical 2000-foot sheer granite wall. Alex climbs it... without the assistance of ropes or harness. It's just him, his hands, and his tennis shoes. It made me nervous watching him, even though I knew he survived. The shots of him clinging to the wall, with the trees and river a half mile below him, are astounding.

No one else in the world has done this. Perhaps no one else can. Alex's focus is amazing! One cannot help but think: one mistake and you are dead. No second chance. It's either perfection and completeness or total failure. This sport is unforgiving. To conquer Half Dome you have to be perfect.

Nine-tenths of the way up Half Dome there is a place climbers call "Thank God Ledge." This ledge is a 35-foot-long ramp that is anywhere from 5 to 12 inches wide. If a climber can get himself on this ledge he can jam his fingers into small cracks in the wall and "take a break." "Thank God Ledge" is a place of relief. It's a slim moment of mercy, grace, and forgiveness.

Alex Honnold on
Thank God Ledge
Fortunately, when it comes to God, it's all about forgiveness, mercy, and grace. In Matthew 18 we read: "Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times."" (vv. 21-22) Which means: we just keep on forgiving other people when they fail and when they fall. Why? Because we have been forgiven. Of much. Paul writes, in Colossians 3:13: "Forgive as you have been forgiven."

Thank God that he is forgiving! His forgiveness is not narrow. God's love is wide. 

Back in the 70s I wrote a song called "How Many Times?" The words go: "How many times we all fall down, broken and bent by the wind. How many times His love comes down, lifts us up again." 

In the forgiveness of the Cross God has placed us on "Thank God Ledge." When we experience his forgiveness we are lifted up to this place of beauty and rest. It is a place of restoration and healing. When experienced and understood, it provokes praise. When we forgive others we invite them to join us in this place. Unforgiveness lets people fall to their destruction. Forgiveness rescues.

In the Cross of Christ you have been conquered by God.

There's plenty of room on Thank God Ledge. Pray there.

Friday, November 24, 2023

Two Modes of Thankfulness


("The One Who Showed Mercy")

Not every mode of thankfulness is to be applauded.

One misguided form of thankfulness is seeing a beggar on the street, and thinking, "Thank God I am not like this beggar; that, while she does not have a roof over her head and food to eat, I do. And for this, I give thanks." 

This is hierarchical gratitude. One sees people who have less than I. This is accompanied by a feeling of gratitude for having more than they. 

"More than they" means things like: more giftedness, more opportunity, more stuff, more money, more beauty, more experience, more square footage. The "prayer" that rises to God out of one's place on the status-honor hierarchy sounds like: "Today, God, as we approach Thanksgiving Day, we know there are people who do not have food enough to eat. We see them on TV. We read about them on the internet. But we do have enough to eat. For this bounty, we give You thanks."

That is Pharisaical thankfulness. It's a gratitude that grows in the soil of confidence in one's own righteousness and status.

Luke 18:9-14 says, "To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'  "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.' "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."" 

Pharisaical thankfulness is comparative, based on the idea that one's physical condition and circumstances indicate the approval or disapproval of God. The man born blind must have sinned, or at least his parents must have sinned. Thus, he deserves his blindness.

"The Pharisee stood up and prayed about." His self-prayer ("I... I... I...") only makes sense on the honor-shame hierarchy. His occasion of thankfulness is someone else's infirmity. Pharasaical thankfulness looks like this: I see someone who has less than me, and I thank God that I am not them.

This is not true gratitude. Real thankfulness, having a thankful heart, comes out of one's relation to God and not to others. The core recognition is: I need God, and God's love came down and rescued me. This kind of praying says:

  • God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
  • You have had mercy on me!
  • Thank you God.
True thankfulness is a function of an awareness of one's own neediness, and not that of others. It contains the realization that God has displayed, and is displaying, his mercy towards me. When you realize how in need of rescue you are, and rescue comes, you will feel thankful

At this point prayers of thanks can become passionate. One outcome of a God-directed thankful heart is the heart-desire to be used of God to rescue others, rather than looking at them and feeling good about your own abundance. 

There's no honor-shame hierarchy in the kingdom of God. We're all beggars in need of bread. Give thanks in the right direction, and for the right reasons. 

Nine Common Cognitive Disorders, and Taking Thoughts Captive


                                                                     (Our back yard)

I am interested in connections between Pauline thinking and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. The apostle Paul writes:

"Finally, brothers and sisters,

whatever is true,

whatever is noble,

whatever is right,

whatever is pure,

whatever is lovely,

whatever is admirable

-- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy

-- think about such things

and the God of peace will be with you."

Philippians 4:8

Examples of Pauline thinking include the "declarations" given by Steve Backlund of Bethel Redding Church, and the identity statements of Neil Anderson. Both are about thinking on identity truths, using verbal repetition.

For example, I am God's child and deeply loved by him. As followers of Jesus, that's true, right? So, why not meditate on that truth so that, as Henri Nouwen says, it might descend from your mind into your heart.

In The Coddling of the American Mind, Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt advocate Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) as a cure for maladies such as anxiety disorder, depression, OCD, anger, marital conflict, and stress-related disorders. CBT is uncannily similar to Paul's instructions in Philippians 4:8.

CBT treats cognitive distortions, such as "I'm no good," "My world is bleak," and "My future is hopeless." (Lukianoff and Haidt, 36) CBT breaks disempowering feedback cycles between negative beliefs and negative emotions.

They write:

"With repetition, over a period of weeks or months, people can change their schemas and create different, more helpful habitual beliefs (such as "I can handle most challenges" or "I have friends I can trust.")" (Ib., 37) This is remarkably like Backlund's identity declarations. (See also James K. A. Smith's excellent You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit.)

Cognitive distortions empower negative emotions. Put in a Pauline way, repetitive thinking on "whatever is false" distorts our emotions. Lukionoff and Haidt are concerned over our universities and the cognitive distortions they produce in our students. While to my knowledge neither Lukionoff nor Haidt are Christians, they refer to CBT as the "thinking cure." I see the Pauline "thinking cure" of Philippians 4:8 as combating these distortions in ways that are similar to CBT.

They list nine such distortions. Here they are, direct from the book, with my comments on logical fallacies added. (38).



Letting your feelings guide your interpretation of reality.

"I feel depressed; therefore, my marriage is not working out."

(In logic this is an example of the fallacy of false cause.)


Focusing on the worst possible outcome

and seeing it as most likely.

"It would be terrible if I failed."

(This is similar to the slippery slope fallacy in logic.)


Perceiving a global pattern of negatives

on the basis of a single incident.

"This generally happens to me.

I seem to fail at a lot of things."

(In logic this is called the fallacy of hasty generalization.)


Also known as "black and white thinking,"

"all or nothing thinking," and "binary thinking."

Viewing events or people in all-or-nothing terms.

"I get rejected by everyone," or

"It was a complete waste of time."

(In logic this is called the fallacy of false dichotomy. But note: logic is the reaqlm of binary thinking. Which is good, and true, even beautiful as related to simplicity.)


Assuming that you know what people think without having sufficient evidence of their thoughts.

"He thinks I'm a loser."


Assigning global negative traits to yourself or others (often in the service of dichotomous thinking).

"I'm undesirable."

"he's a rotten person."


You focus almost exclusively on the negatives and seldom notice the positives.

"Look at all of the people who don't like me."


Claiming that the positive things you or others do are trivial, so that you can maintain a negative judgment.

"That's what wives are supposed to do - so it doesn't count when she's nice to me."

"Those successes were easy, so they don't matter."


Focusing on the other person as the source

of your negative feelings;

you refuse to take responsibility

for changing yourself.

"She's to blame for the way I feel now."

"My parents caused all my problems."

Lukionoff and Haidt claim that universities encourage students to use the distortions listed above. (40)


Meditation on truth transforms the human heart. It breaks lies, and heals.

I have discovered that, when I carry my 3X5 cards with me, on which I have written what God thinks of me, the truths of God slowly descend from my mind into my heart. They become my heart.

This is a Henri Nouwen idea, a James K. A. Smith idea, a Dallas Willard idea, and a Pauline idea. Philippians 4:8-9 reads: 

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

I view this as a form of cognitive behavioral therapy, supernaturally empowered by the Holy Spirit. Perhaps, mind-of-Christ Behavioral Therapy.

"Cognitive" - how we think; what we set our mind on. 

"Behavioral" - what we do; how we live and experience life. 

"Therapy" - from the Greek word therapeuo, which means "to heal."

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

"Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a common type of talk therapy (psychotherapy). You work with a mental health counselor (psychotherapist or therapist) in a structured way, attending a limited number of sessions. CBT helps you become aware of inaccurate or negative thinking so you can view challenging situations more clearly and respond to them in a more effective way.

CBT can be a helpful tool in treating mental health disorders, such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or an eating disorder. But not everyone who benefits from CBT has a mental health condition. It can be an effective tool to help anyone learn how to better manage stressful life situations." (From the Mayo Clinic.)

When we add the Holy Spirit to this, we have an effective therapy that transforms and heals. I'm calling this God's Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. This involves two biblical concepts: 

1) Intentionally think on (meditate on) whatever is true, right, noble, lovely, and admirable. 

2) Take captive whatever is false, wrong, ignoble, unlovely, and unworthy of praise. 

Paul writes: 

We do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 

Defeat falsehoods by intentionally meditating on God's truths. The Holy Spirit champions and empowers this. We are promised that "the God of peace" will be with us. This means an invasion of peace into our hearts. God's truths, which you mentally acknowledge, become your heart, your way of being, your way of seeing things, and even seeing yourself. Our thoughts become "obedient to Christ." All this is healing, transforming, and liberating.

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Potato Chips and Thanksgiving


(From my book, Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God, Kindle Locations 3590-3612)

There was a man in our church named Floyd. Floyd died several years ago. It was my privilege to do his funeral. 

When I met with Floyd’s wife, Grace, she shared something I had never heard before. “Floyd,” she said, “was a thankful person who was always thanking God for what he had been given.” 

Floyd had not come from a wealthy family. As I heard about him and his thankful heart, it reminded me of my mother who, as a young girl, sometimes received only an orange for a Christmas present, and cherished and savored it, and was thankful. 

How deep did Floyd’s heart of thanks run? 

“Whenever we had snacks, like potato chips,” said Grace, “Floyd would stop, bow his head, and thank God as the bag of chips was passed to him.” 

“You’re kidding me, right?” I said. “Floyd would give thanks, in front of everyone, for potato chips?!!” 

“Yes. He was grateful to God for anything that came his way.” 

I thought: I’m not that thankful. I take too many things for granted. 

“For granted” - to expect someone, or something, to be always available to serve you in some way without thanks or recognition; to value someone, or something, too lightly. To “take something for granted” - to expect something to be available all the time, and forget that you have not earned it. 

A “for granted” attitude presumes. A “for granted” attitude has a sense of entitlement. Like: “I am entitled to these potato chips.”

“For granted” - to fail to appreciate the value of something. 

“Entitlement” - the belief that one is deserving of certain privileges. Like: “I deserve these potato chips.” 

Floyd, it seems, had no sense of entitlement, as if God owed him something. He didn’t take provision, in any form, for granted. From that framework, giving thanks logically follows. And, in yet another “great reversal,” God is deserving of, and entitled to, our praise and thanksgiving. God, for Floyd, was not some cosmic butler whose task was to wait on him, and make sure he was satisfied with the service. 

The apostle Paul instructed us to “always give thanks for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” “For everything” is all-inclusive. Nothing exists outside the realm of “for everything.” Everything is a gift from God, even my very life, even my eyes as I read this, and my breath as I inhale. If I gave thanks for everything, my gratitude would be unceasing. 

If I realized how God-dependent I actually am, I would stop now and say, “Thank you.” And then, in my next breath, I would say it again.

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Prayer, Poverty, and Thanksgiving

(A meal of rice and vegetables in Kenya)

(I'm re-posting this for the Thanksgiving season.)

I embarrassed myself when I was in Kenya. 

I was leading a Pastor’s Conference in Eldoret, with sixty wonderful men and women from Kenya and Uganda. They were part of New Life Mission, a network of over 150 churches in Kenya and Uganda. 

We ate many meals together. This was real Kenyan food – vegetables, cooked raw bananas, rice, maize… I loved it!

I noticed many of the pastors taking very full plates of food. A lot more than I took. I made a joke, saying “Kenyans and Ugandans eat a lot, but still are slim and run so fast!” My host, Cliff, later told me the reason they load their plates with food is because they only eat two meals a day. When they have the opportunity, they eat a lot.

Inwardly I sank. Who am I, that I am so out of touch? 

The prayers of many Kenyans and Ugandans are for food to eat, today. I, on the other hand, fight overeating. My problem is not securing my next meal. It's that there is so much food available, and I approach our American Thanksgiving Day hoping I do not overeat.

I live the land of over-plenty, over-eating, and struggling to diet. In the midst of abundance, I am being processed by God. Here are some things God is showing me. 

1. I am no longer to see someone who is foodless and thank God that I have food. I am to thank God for food, for a roof over my head, for clothing. But this thanks is not to come at the expense of someone else’s poverty. There is something wrong about this. It uses another person’s bondage as an occasion for my thanksgiving. 

Jesus never looked on sick or hungry people and said, “Thank God that I am God and not like these sick people.” Instead, he had compassion on them. Actually, he became one of them, for “the Son of Man had no roof over his head.” 

My focus must be on my own need for God’s mercy, rather than giving thanks that I am not among the mercy-deprived. I am not to be like the Pharisee who prayed, “I thank you God that I am not like these other people.”

2. If this thought comes to me - "Thank God that I have more than these poor people"  - I must assume this is God calling me to help. Why would God show me someone poorer than I as a way to make me give thanks? Authentic thankfulness results in overflowing, sacrificial giving. To those who have much and thank God for it, much is expected. Thankfulness is hypocritical and meaningless if it does not overflow to others. Pure Pharisaic “thankfulness” thanks God that I am not poor; true thankfulness to God impacts the poor. Self-centered gratefulness is faux-gratitude.

3. At one of our recent worship gatherings God was speaking to  me about such things. It was a beautiful time of intentional thanksgiving to God for how he has blessed us as a church family. That day God told me, “John, when you see someone who has nothing, and then give thanks for what you have that they don’t have, that is the spirit of poverty on you.”

A spirit of poverty, a spirit of “lack,” whispers to me, “You do not have enough.” This heart of not-enough-ness, when it sees someone worse off than me, feels thankful. This is the spirit of poverty’s solution to my dilemma; viz., to keep me perpetually enslaved to a poverty mentality by comparing me with others. 

Some drive new cars and I feel deprived; some have no car and I feel thankful. A spirit of poverty is never satiated, and in this way it continuously punishes. 

Feeling thankful when I see someone who has no food comes from feeling I do not have enough. One thinks, “Whew, I’m not so bad off after all!” We only say words like that when we feel “bad off.” 

Real thanksgiving has nothing to do with any of this. I’ve been living under a spirit of poverty, and renounce it.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Progressivist Myths About Sex and Gender


Every ideology has its myths. So it is with progressive ideologues. Especially when it comes to sex and gender.

I've been reading neuroscientist Debra Soh's The End of Gender: Debunking the Myths About Sex and Gender In Our Society

Before I tell you what the myths are, allow me to anticipate those who will argue against my post by employing the genetic fallacy. Soh is non-religious. Her book has been applauded by atheists. He are three of them.

“By far the best I’ve read on this topic.”
—Michael Shermer, PhD, Presidential Fellow at Chapman University and New York Times bestselling author of Giving the Devil His Due

“Very, very good. Quite feminist, very liberal, highly compassionate, thoroughly evidence-based, utterly reasonable.”
—Helen Pluckrose, editor in chief of Areo Magazine and author of Cynical Theories

"Sex and gender are always gripping topics, and The End of Gender does not disappoint. Debra Soh has given us a lucid explanation of the latest science and politics of men and women. And she fearlessly pushes back against the notion that the only way to advance equality is to scramble biology, language, and common sense, and to intimidate anyone who doesn’t go along."
—Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and the author of The Blank Slate and Enlightenment Now

Soh knows that mythicist progressives will try to intimidate her and shut her down. So, take note that Soh is an actual scientist, and not a postmodernist. She writes,  "research challenging progressive narratives has become increasingly precarious territory."

Soh dedicates her book "For everyone who blocked me on Twitter."

The myths are...

Myth #1 - Biological Sex Is a Spectrum

Myth #2 - Gender Is a Social Construction

Myth #3 - There Are More Than Two Genders

Myth $4 - Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Are Unrelated

Myth #5 - Children with Gender Dysphoria Should Transition

Myth #6 - No Differences Exist Between Trans Women and Women Who Were Born Women

Myth #7 - Women Should Behave Like Men in Sex and Dating

Myth #8 - Gender-Neutral Parenting Works

Myth #9 - Ideology and Social Justice Make Good Bedfellows

(See Preston Sprinkle's review HERE.)

Prayer with Thanksgiving Is an Anxiety-Buster


(Monroe County)

I have a list of things I am thankful for. Sometimes I print the list out, carry it with me, and pull it out to re-read it. Regularly doing this defeats my sometimes anxious heart.

J. P. Moreland writes about this in Loving God with Your Mind: Essays in Honor of J. P. Moreland 

"I practice the discipline of gratitude. Due to my heredity and upbringing, I have a predisposition to anxiety and depression. One way to avoid these is to train yourself to see the glass half full and not half empty, that is, to habitualize a positive, thankful approach to life. And the best way to do that involves a negative and a positive step. Negatively, learn to spot early on any catastrophizing or totalizing thoughts you have in which you take fears and so forth, blow them up out of proportion, and engage in fearful, negative self-talk. When you spot the negative thought, tell yourself that it isn’t true, that it is overstated, and seek to undermine the thought. Then, positively, turn to God in prayer and thank Him for, say, five to six things in your life, ranging from little things like the taste of coffee to large things like friends and family. I will do this around one hundred times a day, and by now, such expressions of gratitude have become a habit and they have colored my perception of life. The discipline of gratitude keeps one from becoming sour on life and is very, very life giving." (p. 225) 

In Philippians chapter four Paul instructs Jesus' followers to "not be anxious about anything." The Greek word for 'anxious' is one used in contexts of persecution. It's used in Matthew 10:19, where Jesus tells his disciples, "When they arrest you, do not be anxious about what to say or how to say it."
When Paul counsels the Philippian Christians to not be anxious, it's not like they are sitting down to a sumptuous Thanksgiving dinner in a peaceful, non-threatening land. He writes from prison. The context is: persecution. The Jesus-followers were suffering under opposition from their pagan neighbors, just like Paul and Silas had suffered when among them (Acts 16L19-24; Phil. 1:28-30). 

I know what worry and anxiety are like. I have, in some especially troubling times, felt consumed by them. So I ask - how realistic is it to be told, “Be anxious about nothing?” Paul’s answer, and his experiential reality, is found in his rich, ongoing prayer life. He writes: 

Do not be anxious about anything, 
but in every situation,
by prayer and petition,
with thanksgiving,
present your requests to God.

I have proof that this works, (following Henri Nouwen, in his book Gracias!). It's this.  When I don’t pray, when I don't count the many reasons I have to be thankful,  I am more easily filled with worry and fear. In the act of praying I enter into the caregiving of the Great Physician, who dials down the anxiety.

In everyday prayer-conferencing with God, I present my requests to him. I lay my burdens before him (See 1 Peter 5:7). I remember that I have a Father God who loves me, in whom I trust. Where there is trust, there is neither worry nor anxiety. A person with a thanks-filled, praying life, grows in trust and diminishes in anxiety. A praying person discovers, experientially, that thankful trust and anxiety are inversely proportionate. 

Paul writes that our prayers should be accompanied “with thanksgiving.” Ben Witherington comments on this. He writes,

“Paul believes there is much to be said for praying in the right spirit or frame of mind.” This is significant for the Roman Philippians, since pagan prayers did not include thanksgiving. Roman prayers were often fearful, bargaining prayers, not based on a relationship with some loving god.

Witherington adds: “Prayer with the attitude of thanksgiving is a stress-buster.”

John Wesley said that thanksgiving is the surest evidence of a soul free from anxiety.

J. P. Moreland counsels that the discipline of gratitude thwarts catastrophic thinking.

The antidote for worry and anxiety is: praying, with thanksgiving.

Monday, November 20, 2023

The Many Benefits of Thankfulness

Gratitude is greater than bitterness. Thankfulness is better than resentment. 

Colossians 3:15 says:

Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.

A heart of thankfulness positively affects one’s entire being. Some scientific studies confirm this. Here are some of them.

From “Giving Thanks Can Make You Happier” (Harvard Medical School)

  • “Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.
  • Dr. Martin Seligman (University of Pennsylvania) says most studies on showing gratitude to others support an association between gratitude and an individual’s well-being.
  • Gratitude can improve relationships. “For example, a study of couples found that individuals who took time to express gratitude for their partner not only felt more positive toward the other person but also felt more comfortable expressing concerns about their relationship.
  • Gratitude is associated with emotional maturity.
  • “Gratitude is a way for people to appreciate what they have instead of always reaching for something new in the hopes it will make them happier, or thinking they can’t feel satisfied until every physical and material need is met. Gratitude helps people refocus on what they have instead of what they lack. And, although it may feel contrived at first, this mental state grows stronger with use and practice.”

Here are some ways to cultivate gratitude on a regular basis.
·        Write a thank-you note.
·        Thank someone mentally. (“It may help just to think about someone who has done something nice for you, and mentally thank the individual.”)
·        Keep a gratitude journal. I make lists of things I am thankful for and carry them with me.
·        Count your blessings.
·        Pray. “People who are religious can use prayer to cultivate gratitude.”

Research reveals that gratitude can have these benefits.

  • ·        Gratitude opens the door to more relationships.
  • ·        Gratitude improves physical health. “Grateful people experience fewer aches and pains and they report feeling healthier than other people, according to a 2012 study published in Personality and Individual Differences.”
  • ·        Gratitude improves psychological health. “Gratitude reduces a multitude of toxic emotions, ranging from envy and resentment to frustration and regret. Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., a leading gratitude researcher, has conducted multiple studies on the link between gratitude and well-being. His research confirms that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression.
  • ·        Gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression. “Grateful people are more likely to behave in a prosocial manner, even when others behave less kind, according to a 2012 study by the University of Kentucky. Study participants who ranked higher on gratitude scales were less likely to retaliate against others, even when given negative feedback. They experienced more sensitivity and empathy toward other people and a decreased desire to seek revenge.”
  • ·        Grateful people sleep better. “Writing in a gratitude journal improves sleep, according to a 2011 study published in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being. Spend just 15 minutes jotting down a few grateful sentiments before bed, and you may sleep better and longer." 
  • ·        Gratitude improves self-esteem.(Acc. to a 2014 study published in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology.)
  • ·        Gratitude increases mental strength. (Acc. to a 2006 study in Behavior Research and Therapy, and a 2003 study in the Journal of Personality and social Psychology.

From “Giving Thanks: The Benefits of Gratitude” (Psychology Today)
Psychologists Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough “point out the benefits of expressing gratitude as ranging from better physical health to improved mental alertness. People who express gratitude also are more likely to offer emotional support to others.

·        “Expressing gratitude in your daily life might even have a protective effect on staving off certain forms of psychological disorders. In a review article published this past March (see below), researchers found that habitually focusing on and appreciating the positive aspects of life is related to a generally higher level of psychological well-being and a lower risk of certain forms of psychopathology.
·        Increase your gratitude-ability by looking for small things to be thankful for.
From “Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude” (University of Berkeley)

·        It’s easy to take gratitude for granted. “That might be why so many people have dismissed gratitude as simple, obvious, and unworthy of serious attention. But that’s starting to change. Recently scientists have begun to chart a course of research aimed at understanding gratitude and the circumstances in which it flourishes or diminishes.”
·        Recent studies on people who practice thankfulness consistently report a number of benefits:
·        Stronger immune systems and lower blood pressure;
·        Higher levels of positive emotions;
·        More joy, optimism, and happiness;
·        Acting with more generosity and compassion;
·        Feeling less lonely and isolated.

From “Thanksgiving, Gratitude, and Mental Health” (Psychiatry Advisor)
Gratitude can have a positive effect on a person’s emotions in four significant ways.

·        First, gratitude magnifies positive emotions by helping us to appreciate the value in something; thus gaining more benefit from it.  

·        Second, it blocks toxic, negative emotions, such as envy, resentment, and regret - emotions that can destroy happiness.  

·        Third, gratitude fosters resiliency.

·        And lastly, gratitude promotes self worth. 

  • Gratitude is good for your heart. “According to a recent study at the University of California, San Diego, being mindful of the things you're thankful for each day actually lowers inflammation in the heart and improves rhythm. Researchers looked at a group of adults with existing heart issues and had some keep a gratitude journal. After just two months, they found that the grateful group actually showed improved heart health.”
  • ·        You’ll smarten up. “Teens who actively practiced an attitude of gratitude had higher GPAs than their ungrateful counterparts, says research published in the Journal of Happiness Studies.”
  • ·         It’s good for your relationships. “Expressing gratitude instead of frustration will do more than just smooth things over—it will actually help your emotional health. Expressing and attitude of gratitude raises levels of empathy and abolishes any desire to get even, found researchers at the University of Kentucky.”
  • ·        You’ll sleep more soundly. “ Writing in a gratitude journal before turning in will help you get a longer, deeper night's sleep, says a study published in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being.”

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