James 1: Which Kind of Person Will You Be?

James starts his letter characterizing two types of people (click here to read James 1). The guy experiences trouble and out of that experience develops a mature faith. The second guy James describes doubts God. He is foolish and his life ends up being blown around like the waves, going here and there but never really ending up anywhere very purposeful. It is the picture of immaturity. In between those two kinds of people, James tells us that God has provided a bridge to go from foolish and immature to wise and mature, not lacking anything. James says that to make that transition. God doesn’t want to leave us wallowing in our own immaturity. He has provided a way out, unfortunately there are times another route is chosen that is not God’s way.

In psychology there is a term called “Locus of control”. The theory is that people either have an external locus of control or an internal locus of control. External locus of control is like the guy who is being blown about by the waves. External factors guide his life…always going with the flow of the people and situations around them. Internal locus of control is the kind of person who calls their own shots and is out to control their own destiny. External factors don’t budge them. Here is why I bring that up. For the longest time I thought having an internal locus of control was the way to be. Who wants everyone else to call the shots for them? I wonder, though, if faith is about having an external locus of control (putting our faith/trust in God and submitting to Him) that becomes an internal locus of control as the Holy Spirit comes into our life and informs our direction.

As I read these verses last week I asked myself, “Which of these two kinds of men will I be? Will I allow God to better guide me? Or will I keep trying to take control of things myself due to my own pride?

Hurt by Chap Clark

Have any of you read “Hurt” by Chap Clark? Our youth minister has highly recommended that I read this book and has laid out the premise of it for me. Then I was speaking with another youth minister who also mentioned this book and how powerful it is in understanding today’s adolescent culture. From what I understand this is a book of qualitative social research into the lives of today’s youth. It is a genuine attempt to try to understand them and their differences from their successors. One of the things the youth ministers are saying is that there is a wide cultural gap between today’s teens and when the rest of us were teens, even those in their late 20s/early 30s. The danger is to assume their life is like ours was and that their needs are the same as ours. So we keep aiming at a culture that no longer exists and end up being ineffective.

I am looking forward to reading this book. Have any of you read this, what did you think?

Now Offering Statistics Help for Doctoral Candidates and Dissertations

Over the last several months I have started offering help with statistics and research design for people who are working on their dissertation. Often people are severely under-equipped for doing the statistical analysis for their doctorate. Many programs only require a small handful of stats courses and very little by way of research design.

Now for the shameless plug – I have studied statistics on the undergraduate and the graduate level as well as research design and am trained to use SPSS for dozens of analysis and descriptives (over 40 hours of statistics and research design coursework).

My approach is one that helps the candidate learn the process and work through each analysis themselves in a guided yet hands-on way that adequately prepares them to understand their analysis, results and eventually to defend. Sometimes people who hire out their statistics get burned because they haven’t put the time in to learn what the statistician did and why that answers their hypotheses. My aim is to keep that from happening by being an educator along the way.

So if you or anyone you know is needing help with statistics for a masters or doctorate feel free to inquire about this via email – matthewdabbs@hotmail.com

Services available (Fees flexible to fit your needs and budget):

  • Advising on research design – make sure you are asking the right questions in a way amenable to analysis
  • SPSS tutoring – understand how data is analyzed and be confident you are using the correct analysis and the right steps in SPSS to accomplish it.
  • Descriptives – An understanding of your sample and this affects your research design and hypotheses
  • Data analysis – Assisting you in running your statistics to make sure it is done appropriately and accurately. Also, helping you understand the statistics you are running and understanding how they answer your research questions/hypotheses.
  • Advising on writing up the results and discussion sections – You can run all the stats in the world but if you don’t understand how to explain what you have done and how it answers your questions you aren’t going to be well prepared to write your dissertation much less defend.

[Image from mediabistro.com]

Schizophrenia – A Frequently Misused Word

I can’t tell you how many times and from some of the most reputable authors and sources I see the word schizophrenia misused. Over and over I read and hear people use the term schizophrenia or schizophrenic when they mean multiple personality disorder. The most recent comes from Thom Rainer in Simple Church, “When ministry philosophies collide, schizophrenia happens. The church is unsure of who she is…” (p.21). “Schizophrenia happens”? You mean church members start hearing voices and get delusional? He is trying to say a ministry can result in trying to act like more than one person or have so many dimensions that it gets stymied. I doubt this post will do any good to correct this issue but I think it is important to bring up even if it just breaks a few dozen people of this habit.

The DSM-IV defines schizophrenia as, “a disturbance that lasts for at least 6 months and includes at least a month of active-phase symptoms (that is, two [or more] of the following: delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, grossly disorganized or catatonic behavior, negative symptoms.”

This is confused by many people with Multiple personality disorder/dissociative identity disorder, “The presence of two more more distinct identities or personality states (each with its own relatively enduring pattern of perceiving, relating to, and thinking about the environment and self).”

It is time to drop this altogether. When you say something is schizophrenic you are saying it is characterized by delusions and hallucinations (and possibly paranoia depending on the subtype). If you are trying to say something gets confusing or trying to take on too many roles at once, just use another term or avoid this altogether.

One of the Best Christian Books on Sex – A Celebration of Sex

In studying for our 20s & 30s class on sex, Missy recommended to me a really good book written from a Christian perspective. It is called A Celebration of Sex: A Guide to Enjoying God’s Gift of Sexual Intimacy written by Dr. Douglas Rosenau. The book is broken down into these sex…I mean six sections:

  1. Creating Knowledge
  2. Enhancing Pleasure
  3. Enjoying Passionate Intimacy
  4. Overcoming Common Hurdles
  5. Resolving Problems
  6. Healing Brokenness

What is so great about this book is Rosenau’s Christian perspective in tackling tough issues. He is interested in the physical, spiritual and emotional/mental aspects of sex and sexuality. So many secular books never can give you a complete picture because they lack the proper foundation from the One who created sex in the first place. I highly recommend this book to counselors and ministers and even to some couples who have questions and need some godly perspective.

Religious Systematic Desensitization

Back in General Psych 101 you probably remember the term “Systematic Desensitization.” This is a treatment used for phobias where you take that person and slowly introduce them to their phobia first at a great distance and then closer and closer until they realize they aren’t really afraid of it anymore. You can’t just put the object of someone’s phobia in the room with them (this can range from fear of dirty things to balloons to clowns, you name it) and expect them to touch it. But you can put them in the room with it and session by session get them a little closer each time until they are able to actually touch whatever it is that they are afraid of.

How does this apply to religion? Repetition and closer proximity bring a sense of ease and a loss of fear. For many people their initial feelings toward God may be great anxiety and fear. But over time, and fortunately so, we grow closer to God and the fear is replaced with love. That is a great thing and is scriptural and healthy. 1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect love.”

The flip side is that this can also work against us. We can become so comfortable with God that we lose all sense of fear, all sense of wonder and all sense of reverence. The result can be an empty religion that is just going through the motions rather than offering ourselves as living sacrifices because of our love for God. Another thing that can happen is a total disregard for God. We come to worship week in and week out, sing the same songs, take the Lord’s Supper, hear a sermon, pray prayers (all good things, by the way) and the extraordinary can become ritual and routine rather than heartfelt and sincere.

In Ezekiel 23:36-39 we find out that God’s people had made his temple so routine and common that they committed idolatry and even sacrificed their children as food. Surely those aren’t church going types right? Wrong. The very next verse says, “They have also done this to me: At that same time they defiled my sanctuary and desecrated my Sabbaths. 39 On the very day they sacrificed their children to their idols, they entered my sanctuary and desecrated it. That is what they did in my house.” Wow! The temple was supposed to represent the very presence of God on earth. It was holy. It was to be used for God’s purposes and they were committing atrocities in it!

How does that happen? This doesn’t happen in a day. You don’t go from respecting and loving God to committing lewd acts in his sanctuary in a day. We are lulled into it. It becomes ordinary. Worshipping God becomes common and every day rather than special, meaningful, and from the heart. Obviously we aren’t murdering people in church today but is it possible to have the same attitude of disrespecting, misusing and abusing things God intended for good and twisting them into evil things?

Do we murder people with our anger (Matthew 5:22) and then walk into church and praise God as if everything is somehow alright?

Do we commit adultery with our lust (Matthew 5:27-28) and then sing songs of praise moments later or even at the same time and expect God to be pleased?

How do we see that today and what temptations do we face that, while not as extreme in being carried out, have the same root cause as the people in Ezekiel’s day?

Maybe the solution is to regain a healthy respect for God and find the balance that is needed between unconditional, all out and extraordinary love for Him and a sense of awe and wonder that keep our experiences with God through our life and worship fresh and pure.

Cutting – What Parents, Teachers, and Ministers Need to Know

I am amazed at how few people are aware of this growing trend among young people. We normally think of cutting the arms and wrists and suicidal behavior but more and more teens and young adults are tuning to this habit as a form of emotional release and control. This video explains much of the behavior and it is something that more and more people need to be aware of:

One of the tell tale signs that someone is cutting is the wearing of long sleeves shirts, especially with holes cut in the sleeves for someone to put their thumbs through. This ensures that their sleeves don’t pull up and expose the cuts and scars on their arms. I was at a youth rally a couple of years ago and noticed a teenage girl with her thumbs poked through holes in her sleeves. I found her youth minister and told him that might just be a sign she is cutting and that I thought he or someone else (parents, etc) might at least want a heads up of the possibility. He told me that she had been struggling for some time and had indeed been cutting herself recently. It is out there and is more and more prevalent. Chances are you know someone who is wrestling with this. It is important that we raise awareness on this issue so we can get our teens and young adults the help they need but don’t always know how to ask for.

An example of personal testimony from a teenage girl:

Here is one of the youtube viewer comments on  that video –
“Ive been cutting for 2 years and i hid the scars from my family and friends. It was and still is one of the hardest times in my life. Ive tried to stop but its so addicting and it feels like im draining out all of my pain. My friend found out one week ago and shes been helping me alot but i still think about it all the time.”

And another:

“im 13. i use to cut.
at first i would think, who would ever do that?
and then i did it one day. and after, i felt.. relieved?
like that was a way i could get all my feelings out.
they would be half way up my arms.
whenever a friend or someone found out, they would tease me.

but ive stopped for 5 months now! ;’]
althought sometimes when i feel emotional i have the urge to do it.

More useful information

Probably the Most Manipulative Approach to Soul Winning Ever Presented

Have a look at the post by Tim Challies outlining an approach in an old book he recently received. Craziness. Here is the link. I don’t think it gets much more manipulative and strong arming than this.

James Dobson Steps Down

Anyone else hear the news of James Dobson stepping down as Chair of Focus on the Family? I have a tremendous respect for much of his work over the years. Here is the press release from Focus.

Credibility and Confidence

When I was a student at Harding University I took a class in social psychology. Myself, Sherri Scharff, and Rachel Crum did a research project on the effects of confidence on how credible a speaker was perceived to be by an audience. We wrote two speeches about the history of psychology. One speech had 100% accurate facts. The other speech was full of errors (wrong names, wrong dates, mixed up theories, etc). I presented these two speeches to two different college speech classes. The speech with 100% accurate facts was presented with lots of vocalized pauses, zero eye contact, monotone, and just all together very poorly presented…but correct! The speech with the errors was presented as flawlessly and confidently as I knew how…yet it was totally incorrect!

Guess which speech was thought to be more credible and even more factual? The speech that was 100% incorrect. Amazing. When ran statistics on it and found highly significant results that favored the confidently presented speech as being perceived as more factual than the bumbled up speech. Do you find that surprising?