Thoughts of Phillip Seymour Hoffman

PSHI remember seeing the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman for the first time in Twister in which he stole several scenes. Since then, he has clearly made his mark on stage and screen including attaining the coveted Oscar for Best Actor in a leading role. Since his untimely death only a few days ago, the internet has been a place of much discussion and debate regarding the nature of drug addiction. I want to offer some thoughts here. We must not tag wrong behaviors with legitimizing terminology, even with the best intentions. It is discouraging to read web articles that express the idea that Hoffman’s brain would not allow him to make the right choices. If one has a quasi-scientific excuse for wrong behavior, then one is free from responsibility and/or culpability and more importantly–he is stuck in a trap. There is far more encouragement and hope for the person who understands that since he has gotten himself into a mess, he can get himself out. Labels like “disease” “disorder” or “addiction” really trap the person into a hopeless corner. Moreover, these terms provide excuses for things such as drunkenness or getting high; thereby releasing one from responsibility. Granted, choosing to use substances becomes easier over time because it has become habitual but the choices are in no way a final snare as some have purported. Once someone begins creating new habits, one can begin to climb out from frequent use of substances. Addicts do have a way out and in Hoffman’s case, it would have been hard but not impossible. I offer Mark Shaw’s “The Heart of Addiction” and Edward Welch’s “Addictions:A Banquet In The Grave” as resources to stimulate your thinking in this area.

Use the Brain God Gave You (Part 4 of 4)

I think a great name for an industrial cleaner would be “Elbow Grease.” I can picture the bottle and hear the commercial in my mind with the narrator saying, “for the toughest stains, all you need is ‘Elbow Grease’…try some today.” We use the phrase, elbow grease to motivate people to try harder–no matter what the task is. In this final blog of the series on Using the Brain God Gave You, I want to motivate people to put forth effort and hard work that God requires for us to think and act biblically.
The renewal of the mind that Paul calls for (see part 2 in this series) will not be easy and the Apostle Peter agrees as he states in his letter (1 Pet 1:13). The believer is to “gird up the loins of his mind,” which is similar to the modern day proverb, “roll up your sleeves and get to work.” Peter applies this maxim to the need for believers to be holy (14-15). In other words, in order for the counselee to live a holy life that God demands, he must do the hard work of thinking correctly. Granted, changing one’s behavior is complicated at times, but there is tremendous hope for the one who grasps this basic concept that genuine change begins by renewing the mind from what you once thought was true to what the Bible teaches is true. Godly actions will certainly follow!

Use the Brain God Gave You (Part 3)

I agree with the addage “a mind is a terrible thing to waste!” I am sure that no one would want to fall into the category of those who waste mental energy on things that have no lasting or redeeming merit. Amusement and entertainment are fine but should be kept within reasonable proportions. This blog is the third in a series of four and is designed to stimulate readers towards engaging the mind in daily life–centered on the Scriptures.
Paul writes rather succinctly that those who fulfill the lusts of the flesh do so from wrong desires of the mind and heart (Eph 2:3). Therefore, it is imperative that I deal with my mind and heart as they relate to my current problems in life. In doing so, I will answer two important questions: What does I think about my sin? What do I want (or love) so much that I am willing to sin to get it?
Anger, lust, depression, addictions…many problems in life can surface as the result of someone yielding solely to his feelings. There is a wise maxim that reads, “You can’t begin to act like Jesus until you think like Jesus.” There is a lot of biblical merit to that. Jesus always chose to do the will of the Father, whether he felt like it or not. He engaged His mind to obey the Father on the night before His death because He certainly didn’t feel like it. His actions followed His thinking, not His feelings. I can learn a lot from Jesus’ use of His mind in making important, God-pleasing decisions that will help him to have victory through his current problems and set him up for future success. I need to equip myself to think biblically that will lead me to godly actions. When i can make this a habit in my life, then I cannot be guilty of “wasting my mind!”

Use the brain God gave you (part 2 of 4)

You probably recall the moment in celluloid history when the Scarecrow realized that he was no longer among the intellectally challenged as the Wizard conferred upon him the “Doctor of Thinkology.” All of his hopes, dreams, and aspirations converged in this climactic moment and he could not restrain himself as he proved to the world that he had a brain. He pointed to his temple and heralded,”the sum of any two sides of an isosceles triangle is equal to the remaining sides. Oh, joy…rapture, I have a brain.” Like so many others, the Scarecrow beleived that intellect is tied to knowledge of facts, however, I would appreciate a sequal to the Wizard (instead of the recent prequel) where we see exactly how the Scarecrow used his new-found brain. I wonder–did he ever make practical use of all of that knowledge? If so, then how was that manifested? The point I want to make is that God certainly wants us to use our minds but for far more than the attaining of facts.
The first post in this series set the table for these subsequent posts that investigate Bible passages that express God’s desire for people to pay special attention to the brain because how one thinks has a direct inflluence on how one acts. No passage in the Bible more clearly defines this connection than Ephesians 4:17-32. This passage is no stranger to the Biblical Counselor’s methodology but I want to address how the mind effects behavior. I will give three observations from this passage that will force one to consider how one thinks!
Observation #1: Paul is indeed emphasizing the cognitive aspect of the human constitution. There are many terms in the opening section (17-24) that refer to exercises o fthe brain: “mind(2xs),” “understanding,” “ignorance,” learned,” and “taught” (NKJV). This first observation is simply to prove the point that the mind is in Paul’s view and is indeed the seat of the put off/put on concept of spiritual growth.
Observation #2: Poor behavior stems from poor thinking. This is the clear point from vv.17-19; lewd, unclean behavior is the direct result of how someone thinks. I see this play out regularly in individuals today because one’s standard for what is right or wrong is tied to what one thinks about right and wrong. One might be prone to think that a particular behavior is fine but fail to see it from God’s POV; however, one would be wise to consider God’s thoughts on any given topic as the next observation suggests.
Observation #3: Good behavior stems from Godly thinking. This is the clear point from vv. 20-24. One needs to think like Jesus (20) in order to behave like Jesus, which is defined as righteous and holy (24). Jesus, of course being the ultimate standard of what is ideal behavior. Therefore, when someone begins to think like Jesus, he can begin to act like Him!
Granted, changing one’s behavior is complicated at times but there is tremendous hope for the one who grasps this basic concept that genuine change begins by renewing the mind from what you once thought was true to what Jesus taught that was precicely true. Jesus provides a fixed goal for change! You too can earn a genuine “Doctor of Thinkology” by grasping the truths of Scripture that will lead to a changed life!

Use the brain God gave you (Part 1 of 4)!

Choose your pop culture slogan: “A mind is a terrible thing to waste” or “Get, get, get,-get your head in the game.”  Whichever you choose will not only reveal your age but you will come away with the notion that the brain is an important part of your existence.  As these slogans suggest, you engage your brain regularly whether you are at work or play.  What has been nagging at my brain lately is whether or not we fully engage our minds in our spiritual journey.  As a Pastor and Biblical Counselor, I observe that believers are sometimes quick to disengage the mind while applying full throttle to his feelings when it applies to his walk with God.

This blog is the first in a four-part series that will encourage counselors and counselees to make the brain an important part of one’s spiritual growth formation.  For this blog, I simply want to give 3 reasons why the need for this mini-series is a “no-brainer.”

1.  The role of the mind in biblical counseling writing needs to be emphasized.

The Biblical Counselor will notice a heavy emphasis in the movement’s literature on the concept of the “Idols of the Heart.”  Of course I use this biblical concept regularly and appreciate the vast amount of literature that speaks to the counselee’s need to cultivate the heart.  With that said, I can’t help but notice that the emphasis of the idols concept has left the “Arena of the Mind” in it’s wake.  Aside from aforementioned book and some seminars, the mind in biblical counseling writing is a topic largely ignored and therefore, ripe for discussion.  I hope that this series of posts stimulates some quality writing on the biblical concept of the mind in spiritual formation , which will have a direct and significant bearing in the counseling room.

2.  The role of the mind in biblical counseling practice needs to be emphasized.

           Anger, lust, depression, addictions…many problems in life can surface as the result of someone yielding solely to his feelings.  I’ve heard a wise maxim that said, “You can’t begin to act like Jesus until you think like Jesus.”  I think that there is a lot of biblical merit to that.  Jesus always chose to do the will of the Father, whether he felt like it or not.  He engaged His mind to obey the Father on the night before His death because He certainly didn’t feel like it.  His actions followed His thinking, not His feelings.  Counselees can learn a lot from Jesus’ use of His mind in making important, God-pleasing decisions.  I ask that counselors be sure to consider the mind along with a strategy for dissecting the idols of the heart.

3.  The Bible speaks often about the mind in spiritual growth.

I want to leave this post with this final point that simply serves as an introduction to the remaining three parts of this series.  Indeed the Bible speaks to the Idols of the Heart concept but my goal here is to remind biblical counselors of the significant amount of biblical data regarding the mind in one’s walk with the Lord.  I trust that I am not alone in some of these observations and hope you find this series profitable…all for the glory of our great God!