Category: Christian Living

Nature Nurture and God

What Would I Have Become?

When I was about two years old, my parents got a divorce. Dad got custody of my brother and me, and Mom soon moved back to Kansas never to contact us again. In later years, Dad would tell me that when I was a baby, a rich old Indian (Native American) man wanted to buy me from my parents because he had no heir; but Dad would not sell. After that, from time to time, the question would come up in my mind: what would I have grown up like if I had been raised by a rich old Indian?

Then when I was about 18 years old, my brother found my natural mother. By this time, she had two girls from subsequent marriages. She was a working mother and the girls, in stark contrast to my strict upbringing, had very little supervision – they were allowed to do just about whatever they felt like. Later, my brother moved down to Oklahoma to spend his last couple of years of High School with Mom and was essentially allowed to do whatever he pleased. This again sparked my interest in how I would have “turned out” under different circumstances.

My Thoughts on The Nature Vs. Nurture Argument

I don’t think that any thoughtful person could attribute 100% of our characteristics to either nature or nurture alone. “You need nature to be able to absorb nurture” (Ridley, 2003, p. 173). The extent that each affects us will probably be debated until Jesus returns. Which is a great segue into my next thought: There appears to be very little mention of spirituality and probably none about how the Holy Spirit and the “Renewing of the mind” in psychological circles. I can attribute much of my mental foibles to genetics as well as my environment. But since I was about age 20, the Holy Spirit has been renewing my mind into something that I could never have accomplished myself. Many emotional diseases could be attenuated or eradicated by the Holy Spirit if people would seek Him. I’ve worked with alcoholics and addicts for years, and have seen several be able to completely rid themselves of antidepressant medication after they stay sober for a while and let God do His work.

The History of the Nature Vs. Nurture Issue

The concept has been around even before Shakespeare’s time (Ridley, 2003, p. 71). Sir Francis Galton (1822-1911), a half-cousin of Charles Darwin, was credited with coining the phrase: “Nature versus Nurture” (University of Indiana, 2007). Some people strongly affirm that genetics influence what people become, while the other side favors “nurture”. Ridley (2003, p. 69) says that “it was Galton’s fate to ignite the feud in 1864”. Since then, the discussions have often been very passionate. The feud has raged for over a century. And by all appearances, it will not be over in my lifetime.

What are The Most Essential Characteristics of This Issue?

Psychologists want to know to what extent our traits are genetically inherited from our parents, and what is the influence of our environment (i.e. upbringing) on who we become. Certainly some physical features are exclusively inherited (I have blue eyes because my ancestors had blue eyes.). Some, like a propensity to gain weight, are partially inherited, and partially influenced by our environment (Myers, 2010, p. 460). But since this is a psychology paper, I’ll be concentrating on the psychological aspects.

What do we inherit from our ancestors, and what role does our environment play?

Some traits are more inheritable than others are. For example, a person’s temperament is almost exclusively biological (inherited) (Myers, 2010).


David Myers (2010) says that personality is virtually 100% inherited: “The environment shared by a family’s children has no discernable impact on their personalities.” (p. 139). And I know this to be true. My brother and I are 21 months apart. We were raised almost as twins. We both got nearly identical clothes, and same treatment. We were grouped together as a unit. It was “The kids” as though we weren’t even individuals. But we have always been as different as night and day in personality. My biological mother affirms that I was easy-going, and my brother was “wild” even from birth. And to this day, despite nearly identical upbringings, we are still very, very different.


There are a few things that are not so strongly tied to genetics. Among those are “attitudes, values, manners, faith, and politics” (Myers, 2010).

Nature in the formative years

Matt Ridley (2003) shows how complex the issue really is:

Nurture is reversible; nature is not. That is the reason responsible intellectuals have spent a century preferring [environment over genes]… But what if there was a planet where it was the other way around? … [A] world in which lived intelligent creatures whose nurture they could do nothing about, whereas their genes were exquisitely sensitive to the world in which they lived.

Search no more… You live on precisely such a planet. To the extent that people are products of nurture… they are largely the products of early and irreversible events. To the extent that they are the product of genes, they are expressing new effects right into adulthood, and often those effects are at the mercy of how they live. (p. 151)

If a person is exposed to certain environmental factors while in the womb, or during critical phases in childhood, there can be irreversible catastrophic consequences. A girl named Genie was raised chained to a potty chair or a crib most of her childhood. She was finally found and freed. But tragically, the only words she learned to speak were “stopit” and “nomore” (sic). She was deprived of appropriate verbal input at a critical age. (Ridley, 2003, pp. 169-170)

Jensenism: The heritability of intelligence.

Arthur R. Jensen (1923-) became the focus of a very emotional controversy when in 1969 he published an article saying that intelligence was a result of genetics, followed by biological environmental differences. He asserted that socioeconomic status (SES) had little or no influence on intelligence. This was published at a time when it was popularly believed that the 15 point IQ difference between blacks and whites was attributed to financial status. People were outraged that Jensen suggested Black people were genetically less intelligent. (Miele, 2002, p.18)

So, was Jensen right? Is intelligence inherited? Intelligence seems to be a product of genetics. But perhaps not as much as Jensen thought. David Myers (2010) says that the heritability of intelligence runs about 50 percent (p. 429) though he then goes on to explain (p. 434) that there is a “stubborn” ethnic gap in intelligence scores. But that has been narrowing since 1970.


“Mental similarities between adopted children and their adoptive families wane with age, until the correlation approaches zero by adulthood” (Myers, 2010, p. 428). I could expect my native intelligence and personality to be about the same after I grew to adulthood. What I would do with this mind would certainly be influenced by my environment. I could not imagine that if I had been whisked off to Libya or the Soviet Union as a child that my life would be much the same, for instance.

Like Bandura’s reciprocal determination (Myers, 2010, p.577), my genes most certainly affect what I am interested in. So discounting an environment of inadequate resources, I would still have been interested in paleontology as a child and not so interested in math. Genes ultimately control who we become, but our experiences add shades of hue to our genetic dispositions. “Our genes shape the experiences that shape us” (Myers, 2010, p 429).

So, all secular things considered, with similar advantages, I probably would still have grown up to be just about what I am today. And Jesus would have had to step in and mould me into someone He can work with. Because left to my own devices, I did not do very good!



Miele, F. (2002). Intelligence, race, and genetics: Conversations with Arthur R. Jensen. Boulder, CO: Westview Press

Myers, D. (2010). Psychology. New York: Worth Publishers.

Ridley, M. (2003) Nature via Nurture. New York: HarperCollins Publishers. Published again in 2004 under the title: The agile gene: How nature turns on nurture

University of Indiana (2007). Human intelligence: Francis Galton Retrieved June 16, 2011 from

Judaizers – The Law vs. Grace

The Judaizers

The entire book of Galatians is Paul’s effort to correct the heresy of Judaizers who were trying to tell people that they had to be circumcised and follow Jewish law to be saved. Paul explains at length that we are not saved by law or ritual (i.e. Galatians 4:4-5). In Chapter 5, he is talking about circumcision: how if a person trusts in circumcision to save them, then Christ is of no value (5:2). Paul was furious! He even went so far to say that he wished the people who were trying to convince the Galatian believers to be circumcised (Judaizers) would emasculate themselves!

How Paul deals with the Judaizers

In Galatians 5:19-25, Paul helps distinguish what proceeds from the Spirit, and what proceeds from the flesh. He describes the evidences of living by the flesh (sexual immorality, drunkenness, etc.) and then he proceeds to describe the results (fruits) of walking in the Spirit (Love, Joy, Peace, etc.) and encourages us to continue to walk in the Spirit.

Judaizers were telling people that they had to follow Jewish law to be saved. If they had succeeded, Christianity would have become just another Jewish sect (Barclay, 1976). In the preceding verses, Paul is talking about how if a person trusts in circumcision to save them, then Christ is of no value (Gal 5:2). Paul was furious! He even went so far to say that he wished the Judaizers would emasculate themselves! In verse 13, he warns the church not to use our Christian freedoms to indulge the flesh. Verses 5:16-18 may have been seen by the 1st century church as a “how-to” guide for living in grace instead of under the law. Paul explains that if we live by the Spirit, we will not satisfy our fleshly nature. It’s not going to be easy! Our flesh and spirit are at war, and this conflict does not allow us to do what we want (cf. Romans 7:14-25). And that if we walk in the Spirit we are not under the law. The verses that follow (vv. 19-26) are indications of a life of walking in the flesh contrasted to those of walking in the Spirit. Gal 5:16 So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.

Gal 5:17 For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.

Gal 5:18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.

How might the Galatian people perceive Paul’s letter?

The poor Galatian people had to be so confused! Judaizers were telling people that they had to follow Jewish law to be saved (Barclay, 1976). Paul was furious! (Gal 5:12) If they had succeeded, Christianity would have become just another Jewish sect (Barclay, 1976, p. 3). Paul devotes most of this letter to answering the judaizers. Chapter 5 is the peroration (summary) of his argument (Fausset, 1871). In the preceding verses, Paul tells us we are called to freedom but warns us not to use our Christian freedoms to indulge the flesh (v.13). The poor Galatian people might see vv. 5:16-18 as a “quick-start” guide for living under grace: Live by the Spirit, and we will not satisfy our fleshly nature. But it’s not going to be easy! Our flesh and spirit are at war; we are never free from this conflict (Gl 5:17b NLT). Verse 18 reminds us that if we walk in the Spirit, we are not under the law. The verses that follow (vv. 19-26) describe the fruits of a life of walking in the flesh vs. those of walking in the Spirit.

We could relate to the Galatian people!

We in the Western World could easily relate to the Galatian people. The Galatians, as a part of the Roman Empire, would have been bombarded on all sides by a myriad of religions competing for their attentions just as we are today. And I dare say the subtleties of law vs. grace would easily be lost on the average new believer in America. A new believer in America (and many “old” believers) would be easy prey for a slick-talking judaizer.

The Theology of Galatians 5:16-18

Gal 5:16 So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.

Gal 5:17 For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.

Gal 5:18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.

The theological principles of Galatians 5:16-18 are: 1.) How to live a clean life – to keep from following through with our carnal desires with the help of the Holy Spirit (v. 16); 2.) The ongoing war between our flesh and spirit (v. 17) and; 3.) Christian liberty – living by grace rather than under the law (v.18).

How can we apply God’s Grace to our lives?

1.) In the year 1531 AD, Martin Luther wrote: “When I was a monk I thought I was lost forever whenever I felt an evil emotion, carnal lust, wrath, hatred, or envy. I tried to quiet my conscience in many ways, but it did not work, because lust would always come back and give me no rest…” You don’t have to be a monk to feel this way. I also tend to be a “perfectionist” and have a very hard time dealing with any shortcomings. It is comforting to know that we are not under the law. And as I walk in the Spirit, though I feel unholy desires at times, when I walk with God, I need not carry them out.

Today I am free of the obsession to drink by the grace of God. When I first got sober, I tried everything I could think of to be at peace when not drinking – to no avail. Today, I am doing what is suggested in the 12-steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. The 12 steps are a “spiritual program” based on Christian principles. It is not about being “good”, it is about getting rid of the garbage in our mind that is blocking God, then improving our relationship with God and helping others. Today though once in a while, a drink sounds tempting, it is no longer a losing battle because I walk in the Spirit. I quit trying to cure myself long enough to let God in to do His work.


Barclay, W. (1976) The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians Revised Edition. Philadelphia: Westminster Press.

Fausset, A.R. (1871) A. R. Fausset commentary on Galatians: The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians

Luther, M. (1531) Martin Luther’s Commentary on Galatians

Wikipedia (2011) Retrieved April 3, 2011 from

Finally a Sensible Approach to Westboro “Church”

I saw an article today that gave me hope. A pastor in Seattle has invited Westboro protesters to donuts and a sermon.

This is the kind of thing that will beat Westboro’s evil: love. Perhaps if even one member is touched by a truly godly sermon, the word will spread and Westboro will be defanged.

Read the story here.

Make doughnuts not protest — Seattle pastor offers Westboro Baptist picketers sweet treats

Does Jesus Teach Tolerance?

In a word, “no”.
He tolerates things that appalled the “religious” of the times. But notice, for instance, Zacchaeus who immediately offered to pay restitution; and clean up his act, repentance was implied (why pay people back then start ripping them off again?) Or the woman caught in adultery, He instructed her not to sin anymore.
Jesus accepts sinners, but he expects us to turn from our sins.
His first ministry, after the temptation, but before he called the disciples was walking through the countryside proclaiming “repent!” (Matthew 4:14)
On the other hand, Jesus did not tell people to go out and kill infidels. But would that be considered “tolerance”?
You decide.

The Precipice of our Lives

Imagine for a moment…


We’re standing on the precipice of our lives and looking out over the landscape of our past and present pain.  Over to the left is our hidden shame (we can still feel its presence) and peeking out to our right is our fear.  Right in the middle is our pain – bold and confident in our defeat.  Sprinkling the entire terrain are our tears (our regrets for what might have been yet failed to become).  Dark clouds that make up our doubts cover everything and block out all light, all hope.  And everywhere we look, darkness threatening to consume us and yet there is so much to see. The story of our lives is played out below us over and over and we wish we could just change the scene that is before us.  How did we get to this point? If there were only some source to light to dispel the shadows and the darkness but there is none.


But there is a rumbling in the heavens as if the very clouds are being shaken and dissolved.  And there it is in the distance – a single solitary shaft of light pierces the clouds and the causes the darkness to flee.  And as that beam of light increases in size and intensity, the darkness is consumed and the clouds make way for the light.  And then the miraculous happens – the shame, the pain, the fears and the tears – all gone!  By a single touch of the Master’s hand.

All we need is a touch from God.  No matter where we are in life or what we’re going through or what we have gone through, the frustration we feel or the desperation we live out, all we need is a touch from Him.  No matter whether you’ve stumbled and fallen, whether you’ve fallen short of your potential, no matter how great your sin has been that you think God could never forgive you, ALL YOU NEED is a touch from Him. Like that single ray of light from Heaven that can brighten our lives and turn our lives around, all from a touch of the Master’s hand.  Reach out to Him and He will reach out to you.  All you’ll ever need is Him.  Have faith!


There was someone in the Bible that just needed a touch from the Master.  You can read their story here:


As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her.  She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped. “Who touched me?” Jesus asked. When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.” But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.” Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.” Luke 8:43-49 (NIV)


Be blessed and be a blessing!

Ernest M.



There is a song that sums up this devotional. It is: “All I Need” – Brian Courtney Wilson


Levels of Christian Discipleship and Taking Up Your Cross

And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:27 NIV)

There are various people in the world back in Jesus’ day as there are today. There were sometimes vast crowds (“multitude” In the KJV) of people numbering in the thousands. (Luke 12:1) The size of these crowds of people apparently ebbed and flowed. Sometimes there were just a few followers, and sometimes it was in the thousands.

Then there were the unnamed disciples. These apparently sometimes numbered in the hundreds. (John 6:66-67, Luke 6:17 NIV)

Then there were the twelve. (Matthew 10:1-4)

Then out of the twelve, there was an “inner circle”: Peter, who was given a promise that nobody else was given — namely that he would be the rock that Jesus would build His church upon (Matthew 16:18). Then there was James and John, the disciple that “Jesus loved” who were the only disciples present to see the transfiguration. (Mark 9:2)

Present day is little different. We all have different stations. There are evangelists, such as Billy Graham, teachers, like Joyce Meyer, and pastors of huge churches like Pastor David Yonggi Cho, and pastors of small community churches. There are elders and deacons and the congregation. There are people minister to youth, and the little old lady who brings the wonderful dishes to the pot luck dinners… All the way down to people who only go to church on Easter and Christmas.

Notice also that Jesus made promises and demands of the general populace that are different than the promises that he made to his closest disciples. The sermon on the mount was for everyone including the disciples, but the command to Peter to “feed my sheep” was directed at Peter. Sure it applies at some level to all of us. But God is very smart. Why would he make the same requirements for the poor old blue-collar worker as he does for an internationally-known evangelist? That would not make sense, would it?

Bloom where you are planted. Do not lay a greater burden upon yourself than even God does. You know your station in life and you know God’s requirements. You will do well to fulfill those and don’t expect to be able to walk on water — at least before your time.

So. How strong of a walk with Jesus do you want? It is up to you. Though God calls many, He is very polite. If you are among the called, He leaves it up to you how close you want to draw to him.

Sure it sounds great in theory – but in practice, you will find there is a cost. Sure the reward is great but so is the cost. And the devil will remind you of all the things you are “missing out on” in hopes of discouraging you.

You have to take up your cross. Not a fun task as anyone who has seen or heard about Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ will know. What is the “cross”? I misunderstood this for years. Your cross is not suffering for your own sins – though you will reap what you sow – everyone, believers or not, will in some fashion will reap what they sow. The cross that Jesus carried was a burden that he carried for others. If you take up burdens for other people, you are bearing your cross.

Remember Love is a choice of behavior – not a warm fuzzy emotion. Emotions go away. Love is eternal.

By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.(John 13:35 NIV)

Why Prayer Makes The Demons Tremble

Demonic forces come to attention when people get into God’s Word, but they have a greater fear than Bible study. They shudder when God’s people begin to pray.

Chip Ingram The Invisible War Chapter 13


Why is prayer so powerful?

As everyone knows, Bible study is indispensable. You have to know God’s word before you can wield it (See Ephesians 6:17). But Satan has been around for much longer than the Bible has. He knows the Bible better than you do, and he is much smarter than you. Left alone with your knowledge of the Bible – strong as it may be, Satan will run circles around you — laughing. You don’t stand a chance.

But prayer to God is like having radio contact in combat with a general who has a spy satellite. The General (God) can see the big picture. He can see where forces are advancing and see weak points in the adversary’s positions. God is much smarter than Satan (God runs circles around him. The Old Testament prophets had told the world including Satan that Jesus would be crucified — hundreds of years in advance, yet Satan could not figure out what was really going on, and went ahead and crucified Jesus anyhow… sealing his fate.)

Better than a general, God spans time and space. He knows what is going to happen before it happens and He is much smarter than the devil. (Imagine how smart God is to have designed the eye that connects to the brain, which can interpret what it is seeing… and you will get a small glimpse of how smart God is. It is overwhelming.)

If you have direct “radio” contact with God, you can cause some serious damage to the enemy. The demons know that so they will try a million tactics to keep you from praying. They can make you feel tired, too busy, any number of things. But pay no attention pray anyhow. No matter what worldly thing you have before you. No matter how urgent, if you want to make a difference for the Kingdom of God — and in your own life, and the lives of your friends family, and the church as a whole, your little tasks suddenly pale in comparison. Nothing is more important than your prayer life.

Remember to strengthen the things that remain (See Revelation 3:2). The things of this world will be burned with fervent heat. But the things that will not burn you will be rewarded for all eternity — other people. If you are instrumental in saving other people, they will not burn, and you will get a reward (See 1 Corinthians 3:13-14). All else is vanity.

Better Biscuits – A Story of a Child’s Faith

Mark 11:24 Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.


Greeting and blessings to you one and all! I am often convinced that in this day and age we have forgotten about the power of prayer. Sure we have more people talking about prayer; we even have more books written on prayer. And we as believers should be doing more as prayer warriors but prayers seem to barely squeak out as a last ditch effort.

Prayer is no longer the first thing we think of to do. Prayer is relegated to being one of those niceties that ‘Christians’ extend to others as a common courtesy; “Your child is sick . . . I’ll pray for them.” Or “I’ll put them on my prayer list.”

James 5:16 [KJV] states, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” Put another way, this could be stated, “The effective [producing or capable of producing a result], fervent [with great intensity of feeling] prayer of a righteous man avails much.”. Translation: If your prayer is generated with great intensity of feeling or great belief, it is capable of accomplishing the desired result if you are in right standing (righteous and without doubt) with God.

My story today is about the simple prayer of a child, uttered without fear or doubt. I hope you enjoy it.

Back in the depression days of the early 1930’s, my husband pastored a small country church. We then had three little children. Many times our weekly income was less than $10. One day, we found ourselves out of bread and with only some rancid bacon grease for shortening. I used it, however, in making some hot biscuits and we managed to eat some of them for lunch.

Later, as we put the remaining biscuits on the supper table, our five-year-old daughter prayed very earnestly, “Dear Jesus, help us to eat these biscuits or else send us some better ones. Amen!”

Later, that evening, the doorbell rang. There, at the door, stood a member of our church who had a bakery route. Before we could tell him our story he began unloading his hugh bakery basket with all kinds of sweet rolls, buns and biscuits, besides dark and white bread.

“You know”, he said rather apologetically, “I was tired tonight and seven miles out here in the pouring rain seemed so far. I was tempted to wait until tomorrow evening and bring these bakery things on my way to prayer meeting as I usually do.” Then he added, “But I was strongly constrained to come tonight! I hope you can use these things!” – Anne S. Alexander in Power Magazine

The effective, fervent prayer of the righteous avails much. Be blessed this day and know that you are a blessing to God.


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