Monday, May 24, 2010

Finding Meaning and Identity in Life

Just wanted to share some of the things I've thought about in my struggles to find a place to rest my heart and form my identity. I hope this isn't confusing.


It is improper for a man to base his confidence on what he has done, what he has on earth, what he hopes to have on earth, or who he is. For what becomes of such a man's confidence when he finds another who is, in the eyes of the world, worth more? Or what becomes of his confidence when he meets another who has more-- or will have more?

It is true that if a man's confidence is based on the aforementioned things, if he should lose them, devastation will occur.
For our hearts are like foundations resting on columns. If the columns fail, our heart's confidence collapses. The pain of a collapsed human heart is unequivocally related to losing the very essence of one's existence. If I lose who I am, who am I?

In my life, I have built the fortress of my identity around pride, relationships, personal abilities, possessions, and hope in future gratification of similar nature, but the fortress was wrecked and destroyed each time. My heart is an idol factory, and I have a tendency to desire anything but a solid foundation for who I am.


Not in relationships, nor things, nor pride, nor future hope in earth's riches can a man derive his heart's confidence. Those columns on which rest the very foundation of his heart's strength and identity cannot be those which crumble in an instant. They must be strong and sturdy-- unyielding to the regular devastation that occurs in a man's life.


If no hope in the earth, if no confidence in things or other people, where does man rest the precious identity of his heart? Upon which sturdy columns may the heart rest and be unafraid of falling?

It certainly, then, must come from a universal truth which does not fail nor collapse. It must come from hope in a truth which rises and does not recede in times of peril and possible devastation. That I am man is certain. But what is man? Is man from God? The evidence says so. But if I am from God, what does that mean? If I am from God- then it follows that there is meaning in life. If the Christian God exists, then an objective truth- a source of meaning exists which I can tap into.

This is hard to think about... It all depends on what the meaning is, if I'm going to draw a foundation from it! If the truth is that God is the portion of my heart- then it is true that God will be my satisfaction. But what does it mean for God to be the portion of my heart-- my satisfaction? Does it mean that fellowship with God is my satisfaction? If fellowship with God is my satisfaction, how do I find fellowship with God? And how does fellowship with God provide a firm foundation for my heart to rest on??

Again.. a hard thing to think about. Some relevant truths you can derive from the truth of Christ the eternal king are these:
1. There is an objective truth which WE conform to, not which we create.
2. There is a standard of righteousness that we ardently seek out.
3. That since we are in the image of God, the essence of God's truth- righteousness- is what makes our hearts come to life.
4. God has a will- justice, sanctification, and salvation. God desires that we work to counteract the lack of His sustaining power, which results in the evil on earth, be sanctified in order to have more Life, and that we devote ourselves to sharpening ourselves in order to better love others by leading them to Christ.
5. That it is not our accomplishments which give us favor in the eyes of the Cosmic King of Eternity, but His sacrifice.
6. We were worth enough for Christ- God- to give up everything in order that he fellowship with us forever.
7. We find our identity in Jesus.


If these are true, then I would take it to mean that fellowship with God is simply letting His spirit of truth saturate your heart with the knowledge/meaning that follows from knowing that Christ has died for you. If Christ has died for us- then our confidence comes not from things, pride, relationships, or hope in similar things, but from knowing that He who created the Universe has a love for us which is unfathomable. Who cares what other people think? Who cares what I have on earth? If I have this knowledge-- that Christ has given Himself for me- and that he has broken the power of sin in me, I can place my heart's identity and confidence in this, in the truth that there is an objective will that I conform to- the will of the one who died for me- that matters more than my own flimsy desires. When the foundation of my confidence- my identity in Christ- has been laid, my heart overflows with thankfulness. But on top of this, when I know that the trivial things I desire- that other people think good of me, that I have many things- don't matter, I am given the ability to cast them off and be freed in solely worshipping Christ in doing his will.

It's a miracle.

Podcast Feed

Somehow I figured out how to make a podcast feed and run it through Itunes, so I made a podcast! This podcast will not consist of things I have recorded (I may record a few things, but not all of them), but rather it will be an rss feed of just great audio files I find on the internet. If I don't like them and don't think they're that great, I'll take them off- but it is available through itunes if you click this link: itpc://feeds.feedburner.com/armstrong/zfIr.

The link to the xml web page of the site is here: RSS

I hope you enjoy it! It doesn't have a huge amount of files on it now, but I'll be adding a few every day. The file types will be great sermons and great apologetics lectures/podcasts I find.

Gary Habermas - Dealing with Doubt

Gary Habermas talks about the various approaches to dealing with doubt and relates his own personal 10 year journey through skepticism. He focuses a lot on the fact that it is not our experiences which dictate our emotional states, but rather what we tell ourselves about our emotional experiences. That's incredibly true- when we tell ourselves things which we know not to be true, there is great potential that we will start believing them simply out of repetition. We must remember to seek the truth.








Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Let Your Heart Rejoice

I want to re-post a blog post that I made in September 29, 2009. It consists of several ideas which are based on scripture. I think that, if we pored over every point, and thought about how to apply them in every area in our life, we would experience so, so much joy in the living Christ. If we pray for the spirit's power, He will be faithful to "lead us into all truth."
John 16:13 - "But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come."

I believe the Holy spirit works by giving us truth- that is, you can have head knowledge of the logical truth of something, but the Holy Spirit's power turns truth into meaning.

This meaning is truth, but it is a different form of truth. It is a truth that the heart identifies with and orients around. These verses and reflections can help you, of your own power, to realize their logical truth, but the Holy spirit will give you the power to have your heart recognize and rejoice in it. So get on your knees and pray before the father!

Tuesday - September 29, 2009

Forget what is past. Strive toward the future, run the race in order to obtain more of Christ in heaven and in your heart. Philippians 3:13-14

Seek Christ and the beauty of His sacrifice out first- remember that embracing the beauty of His given love, and giving it, is more valuable than anything else. It does not perish. It is more beautiful than the highest quality gold or silver. Matthew 6:33

Just as we have been loved, cherished, and died for- let us follow in His footsteps by loving, cherishing, and dying to ourselves for other people. Matthew 16: 24-25 Hebrews 12:2

Worry about today only. This afternoon, or tonight, may never happen. Live like your burden only rests in today, in the task of storing up treasure, and healing and freeing hearts. Matthew 6:34

Get rid of the stuff that slows you down, fix your eyes on Jesus Christ solely. All else inhibits. Hebrews 12:1-2

Basic Lessons in Logic - Sentential Logic Rule #1

I've been reading "Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview" by William Lane Craig and J.P. Moreland, and I thought I'd share what I learned on here.

Propositional Logic, or, Sentential Logic, has 9 basic rules, and wish everyone knew about them!

Here goes:


The first rule of Propositional logic is called modus ponens.

modus ponens states that if Q's truth leads to P's truth, then if Q is true, then P is true.

"P --> Q" is another way of saying "If P, then Q.", or, "If P is true, then Q is true."

Therefore, since P --> Q means "If P is true, then Q is true, then the proposition "P", or, "P is true", logically leads to the truth of Q.

A symbolic Logic demonstration
1. P --> Q
2. P

3. Q


See how it's almost like a math equation? Here is that translated verbally.

1. "If P is true, then Q is true."
2. "P is true"
3. "Therefore, it logically follows that Q is true"

Notice how each statement is numbered. Each numbered statement (For example: 1. "P-->Q") is called a premise. A premise is a proposition which an argument depends on to be true. In deductive logic, if an argument's premises are true, then the conclusion logically follows.

You'll also observe that between #2 and #3, there is a line drawn. This is kind of like a math equation.

Ex--
5
+5

10

Arguments in logic are very close to mathematical. The line between the 2nd and third premise in the last argument I showed separated the conclusion from the supportive premises. So, the line between the two is kind of like the big "therefore".


So, to review this a bit, we know that:
1. Q --> P  1. "If Q is true, then P's truth logically follows"
2. Q   2. "Q is true"

3. P      3. "Therefore, P is true"


Now, we can translate this into a verbal argument.

Let us say that "I can play guitar" = P and "I can play music = "Q"

1. If I can play guitar, then I can play music.
2. I can play guitar.

3. Therefore, I can play music.

or,

1. Q --> P
2. Q

3. P


Now, let's assess the validity and the soundness of this argument.

If conclusion follows from the premises, then the argument is valid. But, even if the argument is valid, if the premises are not true, then it is unsound.

Does the conclusion follow from the premises? Yes. It is true that if I play guitar, I can play music. Therefore, no matter what my second premise about my ability to play guitar is, if I make a conclusion about the truth of the conditional statement "If I play guitar,then I play music", based on the true or false statement "I can play guitar", my conclusion is valid.

Are the premises true? This will determine if the argument is sound. We've already made sure that we logically used the premises correctly, but we also we know that it is highly plausible that if I can play guitar, I can play music. We'll also assume for the moment that it is true that I can play guitar. (that's debatable :p)

Both premises are true, and the conclusion is valid! Looks like a sound argument. See, an argument is unsound if the premises are false or if it is invalid. Because of this, an argument can be valid and unsound at the same time!

Lets do another one:

Let us say that "I have a dog" = P and "I have a pet = "Q"

1. If I have a Dog, then I have a pet.
2. I have a dog
3. Therefore, I have a pet.

This is a sound argument (for the purposes of this post)

But what if you were have a different premise in there?


1. If I have a Dog, then I have a pet.
2. I have a pet.
3. Therefore I have a Dog.

This is not a sound argument, because the conclusion does not follow from the premises.

Why, though?

This is when you start getting into conditional statements.

In logical arguments, P's truth will be sufficient for Q's truth to be necessary. BUT, Q's truth is not sufficient for P's truth.

The truth of the fact that I have a dog is a sufficient condition which is sufficient to make the necessary condition, or, the necessary truth of my having a pet, follow.

But, my having a pet is only a necessary truth. That means, it is necessarily true only when verified by a sufficient truth, which is P. You cannot switch Q and P(once you're already defined them), or you will end up coming to invalid conclusions like I did in this argument. (note that Q and P are not the letters you absolutely HAVE to use-- you can use any letters you want, just remember what they stand for)

So, you know that P's truth is sufficient to cause Q's truth to necessarily follow. But you also know that Q's truth is only a necessary attribute of P's truth. Therefore, P is a sufficient condition, and Q is a necessary condition.

Examples:
The truth of my being a man is a sufficient condition, being sufficient to cause the necessary condition of the truth of my humanity to necessarily follow. But the truth of my humanity, only being a necessary condition for the truth of my manhood, is not sufficient to justify the truth of my manhood, since it takes more than my being a human to be a man.

I am a canoe racer. I am also an athlete. Is it true that, if I am a canoe racer, I am an athlete, or is it true that, if I am an athlete, I am a canoe racer?

Of course, you logically choose "it is true that you are an athlete if you are a canoe racer" because being an athlete is a necessary condition which follows from the sufficient condition of your being a canoe racer.


So, some of the terms you should remember if you decided to tough this post out to the end!

Premise
Conclusion
Argument
Valid
Invalid
Sound
Unsound
Sufficient condition
Necessary condition
modus ponens

Peace! (and pray for me that I'll make it through this book... :p)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Hard Questions: Why does God allow me to Doubt?

Why Does God allow me to Doubt?

This is another question that burned inside me as I went through a period of excruciating doubts. It's funny how your doubt leads to even more doubt. Well, it really stinks actually.

Here's how I want to deal with this. There are several issues which singe the intuition of the typical doubter, and these issues need to be taken care of first.

Before you can deal with the pain of the doubts themselves, a common sense principle that will direct you to eventual healing needs to be laid out. What is it? You may be surprised at how obvious it is, but you'll also find that you forget it a lot! Here it is: Truth exists apart from your opinion or any other person's opinion. If something is true, it is true no matter what you or others think about it. If Christianity is true, Christianity is still true even though you're doubting it. If Christianity isn't true, it never was true. Sound good? If you disagree, take a class on logic and get acquainted with the law of non-contradiction :)

Now, let's go through several points that should help you:

Misplaced Beliefs

Misplaced beliefs is a good place to start. Have you ever had set beliefs about someone or something based on experience? Whenever your expectations were, at one point, not met, did you start to doubt your core beliefs about that thing or person?

For example: Suppose you've been married to your wife for 25 years, and not for a minute has she ever indicated any kind of desires for or intentions to be unfaithful to the marriage. You have learned and become well acquainted with her behavior and expect nothing different.

One day, however, you briefly part from her while shopping at the store in order to go hunt for your own guy stuff. Upon obtaining your things,(guys don't browse, they determine and execute the task of shopping :P) you turn the corner and find her giving one man you don't recognize a kiss on the cheek, and after doing so, she looks around (to your mind)as if to make sure no one saw her, and walks off.

You would, of course, immediately be horrified and start to question your initial assumptions and your faith in the fidelity of your wife. Past experience tells you that she isn't like this, but current experience tells you otherwise! You assume that she is cheating on you and become horribly hurt by her actions, but don't say anything about it and try to probe about it in the car on the way home! After driving for about 15 minutes, somehow you get her on to the topic of this man she was with. You're nervous as all get out, scared, on the edge of being angry, and all reality seems to have fallen out underneath you. But.. as soon as she finds out that you saw her with the man, she laughs and says that it was her brother Bob who you're well acquainted with, and he was home from a tour in the military and was wearing clothes neither she nor apparently you recognized! "A likely story!", you think to yourself, and then ask, "What about that fleeting look around after you... kissed him on the cheek???" Starting to look hurt, your wife explains that Bob had his kids with him and just before he said goodbye, he asked her if she had seen his kids. After kissing him goodbye, she looked around to see if any of them were toddling through the store. You suddenly start to think about it and realize that you may be wrong. You apologize to her, and when you get home, you check your email to find a message from Bob about his recent arrival home and how he'd like to meet up with everyone and say hello. Weren't you wrong in your initial assumptions? Should you have jumped to those conclusion automatically?

(Ok sorry, cheesy demonstration, but do you get my point?)

If you have a set of beliefs about something or someone, and they are not met, when you expect them to be, you start to doubt your original beliefs about that thing/person.


It works the same way with our relationship with God. Do you expect to feel God's presence all the time? Do you expect to have easy access to God's spirit of joy and boldness and power 24/7/365? Do you never expect to be in a situation where you are so overwhelmed with doubt that you start questioning how you ever believed in such a thing such as "the Holy Spirit", and thinking crazy thoughts about those who entertain the idea of it actually existing?

If you answered yes to any of these, then you have formed false beliefs based on your experience. Take it from someone who made that mistake. You need to pay attention to what scripture says, and not what your experience has told you.

So, my first contention is that the reason many of us doubt is because of misplaced beliefs about God and His interactions with us. My second contention is that there is no reason to adopt the misplaced belief that doubt should not happen.

One of the horrible questions that bothered me so much was something like, "God, why in the world are you letting me doubt?? I don't even know if you exist anymore and you're not doing anything about it."

Well, now that I've emerged out of that horror, being overly thankful for it, I will see if I can write something to provide a bit of comfort for anyone enduring these hard times.

Why I believe any kind of doubt is a gift

First of all, in asking the question, "why do I doubt?" a person must consider the function of their brain/mind. Having studied psychology for my counseling major in college, I am amazed at the ways the brain/mind handles its beliefs.

If the brain/mind believes one thing, then it will project that belief onto everything it sees. Sorry to burst your bubble, but when you have a sense of God's presence, its most likely not God's presence that gives you that, but your confidence in God's presence. After all, the atheist believes there is no God, and they confess to feel no such thing as "God's Presence" or anything like that. God is present everywhere no matter what we think about it. This serves to support my point that, when your brain believes something, it projects that belief onto everything. Yet, God's presence is still here, no matter what anyone's brain is projecting onto the situation.

In working on theories of emotions, behaviors, and beliefs, I've come to the conclusion that our beliefs about reality govern our experiences of reality. Remember that story I told about the man who believed his wife was most likely cheating on him? Did not his new-found beliefs shape his experience and interpretation of reality? If he believed that his wife was being 100 percent faithful to him, he would not have experienced such troubling emotions, nor entertained such suspicions. His wife's unfaithfulness, even though it was non-existent, became his reality.

Now, when your brain starts to doubt God's goodness or existence.. what do you think is going to happen? You guessed it! Because your cognitive faculties have lost their total confidence in God's existence, they will fail to project God's presence on everything you see. When your beliefs about God's presence begin to weaken, your experiences of reality will project less and less of God's presence onto reality. In the same way, when an atheist starts to doubt his or her atheism, suddenly they start to feel God's presence surrounding them.

As a side note, I want to be careful to add that, again, I'm not saying that God's presence isn't here. God's presence is everywhere, but the only way you could possibly experience it is through beliefs about it. That's why the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth (not the spirit of emotions-- like I've said earlier, emotions are the brain's projection of beliefs onto reality). When He reveals amazing truths to us, He reveals timeless and spaceless truths (that have always been true) to us. It's not like God was less glorious when you believed him to be less Glorious-- He's always been infinitely glorious no matter what you've thought. Its just a matter of God revealing truths about Himself to your heart and mind.

What I'm trying to communicate is that, in day to day life, our feeling that God is near is based on our confidence that he is near. In the same way that the atheist's lack of a sense of the presence of God is because of their own confidence that God is NOT there. I do not deny experiences with the Holy Spirit in the least, as I've had plenty of those myself.  My point is, whether God's presence is there or not, usually what we feel about it is based on our confidence in the validity of our beliefs about God.

So, in the end of all this, you end up doubting the goodness of God and then suddenly your mind loses its confidence in the presence of God, then suddenly you don't "feel" God anymore, and everything comes crashing down on you! And yet, you pray and feel God does nothing. You've lost His sense of presence, and suddenly every moment of silence is more agonizing than anything you've ever experienced. Why isn't He answering? What's going on up there in heaven?

First of all you simply must consider this possibility. (as much as I know you don't want to) The reason the brain does these things is because it is an incredibly complex tool for survival. The brain is designed to be rational. If your brain is rational,  it only makes sense that your sense of the presence of God will disappear when you doubt so heavily as you may be now.

Imagine with me for a moment. (You're going to have to think hard about this) Suppose, for example, that an invincible man went about having total confidence in his invincibility. After a while of going about life, not ever experiencing excessive amounts of pain, he started to question his invincibility based on his reasoning. "How is it that everyone else feels pain and experiences injury and I don't? Can I really be sure that I'm invincible?" The man then loses his sense of confidence in his invincibility and is a nervous wreck everywhere he goes because of his new found fears and anxieties. Of course, he would rather have not lost confidence in it, because it made him terribly daring and bold and fearless, and allowed him to conquer hard things in life which require much more confidence than the regular man can claim. Is he not still invincible? But, if he wasn't invincible, wouldn't it be a smart move on the part of the brain to cause him to lose his confidence in his invincibility in order that he take greater precautions in light of the possibility that he was not invincible? The brain is a wonderful thing, I promise you. It is incredibly rational!
So, take this into consideration. God may be right beside you (in fact, He is). He may be holding you in his powerful and mighty arms, but your mind is undergoing a process that is only to be expected for someone who is doubting.


Why I believe religious Doubt is a gift
My third and last contention is something that your doubting brain may find the hardest to agree with. And that is-- that Doubt is God's will for you. I don't care what kind of doubts you are experiencing, people have been there (and worse) who have risen up and become great men and women of God, strengthened by their experiences with doubts. Gary Habermas is a great example. He was a Christian who started to experience a few doubts, then became a full blown skeptic for ten years in his search for the truth, and he ended up arriving at the conclusion that indeed, Christianity is true. Now he is a world class apologist who has made significant contributions to the scholarship surrounding Jesus' resurrection and has encouraged and sustained the intellectual faith of thousands and thousands of people.

The plain and simple truth that you may not want to accept is that the horrible tunnel of doubts you may be experiencing is possibly for your own good. Do you know how much better I understand people who have trouble believing Christianity now? Before-hand, I figured it was all sin that made people doubt. Then I started doubting while I wasn't sinning. I experienced a dark night of the soul, which is a period that people go through in their life where they are enveloped with loneliness and despair and questions which make them want to rip their hair out! But has it benefited me? Oh, yes.

These are the benefits that going through periods of intense doubt gives us.

1. It gives us an understanding of other people who doubt.
2. A heart for people who doubt, and a desire to help them solve their doubts
3. It humbles an already humble person, even more deeply.
4. It skills us in defense of the faith.
5. It makes us aware of just how weak our own ability to believe is.
6. It makes us so, so, thankful for the truth of the Gospel, once we return to faith.
7. It causes us to be "wise as serpents but harmless as doves".
8. It gives us deep confidence in the Gospel.

Doubts help you. You will make it. God has a plan and He wants you in it. Refrain from falling into sin and pray, staying in the Word, despite the tricks your brain is playing on you. You're going to make it. Thousands of other people have. The main thing that is bothering you is that your doubts seem pointless to you, like God has left you to deal with it on your own. And perhaps He does want you to deal with it, but that doesn't mean He's not right beside you, waiting on the right moment to bring you back to faith. Read the Bible- God's will always leads people into places they weren't expecting to be and places they didn't want to be.

If you want to check out Gary Habermas' articles, go here: Dealing with Doubt

Peace and Joy to you! Christ has risen indeed!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Modesty with C.J. Mahaney

This is such a wonderful sermon by C.J. Mahaney on Modesty. It's mostly addressed towards girls, but it helps guys to understand girls' struggle, and girls to understand guys' struggle. Any girls who see this, please listen to this! The joy of modesty and avoiding lust is so wonderful once it is reached.

The Soul of Modesty

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

"The End of Christianity" by Bill Dembski




Bill Dembksi's book, "The End of Chrisianity: Finding a good God in an evil world" is available on his website, www.designinference.com. I haven't read it yet, but I heard that its a great book that explains the situation of the problem of evil and the old earth, postulating some great (peer reviewed, of course) theories to explain the situation. I hope to read it soon. Check it out here.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Identity Moratorium!!!

So, I'm currently on a bit of a truth search right now, and it will most probably continue all this summer. I believe this will be much less emotionally painful! Though I'm increasingly certain that Christianity is true, I've got much studying to do within my worldview.

Creation/Evolution/Intelligent Design Evolution/ Special Creation?
Calvinism/Arminianism/Molinism?
Inerrant/Errant?
Free will/No free Will?
Cessationist/ Gifts of the Holy spirit? (most likely leaning toward the latter there)
Possible to Lose Salvation/Perseverance of the Saints?

There are a lot of questions I have that need answering!

About my future:
Apologist/Philosopher/Missionary???? All three??
I have NO idea!


Hopefully by the end of this summer, I'll be able to come back with some more firm answers.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Update

Just an update very quick! For anyone waiting on an email from me, it will be coming soon! Been putting life on hold to study the past few weeks.

Remarkably, I'm only going off of 3 hours of sleep and feeling pretty awake. ALMOST done with school, but studying till my ears are pouring out economics and psychology for the next two exams in order to keep my grades up. English presentation paper taken care of today. DONE. Economics and Psych tomorrow. (I should not be blogging right now)

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”

One of my favorite verses- So, let me confess that I am astounded at how selfish I am. I often wonder if even my desires to not be selfish are based off of selfish desires. I so ardently desire to have a clean and pure heart, but I seem so unable to do so. That's when I go straight to Romans 7, over and over again. Also, I've been dealing with a lot of depression lately, but the whole past 2 months has been agonizingly emotional for me as I've been studying apologetics and praying that God pull me through this "dark night of the soul" I've been going through, yet Christ has not let go through it all. The truth still keeps me. I'm just praying that I would be humbled by whatever means possible.