"Garbage in garbage out," is what people say in the computing world. Is that statement also true when it comes to our minds? The entertainment world rates what is acceptable to come into our mind based on our age. The idea being that age makes a difference; older minds are less susceptible to bad influences. Is that true? Frankly, I think garbage in garbage out applies at any age because people of all ages are influenced by those around them. Let's plunge into our study and find out what the Bible teaches about our minds!
Reformation: Thinking New Thoughts
Commentary for the September 14, 2013 Sabbath School Lesson
“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus” Philippians 2:1-5, NIV
There is almost a Gnosticism about relational Christianity in that all who turn to Christ are given the Holy Spirit.[i] The Holy Spirit, in turn, is given to lead us into all truth.[ii] The implication here is that there is a knowledge that is unattainable any other way – an unknown or hidden knowledge, but offered to everyone. Be that as it may, the intellectual aspects of belief can be quite astonishing, especially to those who see faith as solely a matter of acquiescence and obedience. How astonishing, for instance, that the God of anywhere and any when would say to each of us, “Let’s reason together.”[iii] To make such a statement is to assert its possibility. Though I cannot even visualize something as simple as a number line trundling off into eternity, I am assured that my finite mind is capable of reasoning with God. This tells me the mind must be something more than simply the sum of its finite components. Somewhere in the many, many neurons and their synapses hides not only self-awareness, but the ability to perceive things we cannot presently understand.
Although I cannot visualize it, I can understand the possibility of life existing on other worlds. Without ever leaving my planet, I can also understand the idea of an infinite universe, even if I cannot recreate an image of one in my mind. I can even understand that the possibility of God exists, even though I have no real idea of what God is. What would a being look like who could occupy every point in both space and time? I don’t know. Even though I can see how this might make Him omniscient simply by definition, this does not help me to visualize Him. Somehow a picture of a grey-bearded old man floating about in the heavens as in Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel portrayal seems to fall far short of a being with such attributes. Yet this unknowable being asks me to reason with Him. Incredible!
I cannot help but think that the level of reasoning might need to be on the level of “See Spot Run! Run, Spot, Run!” of the elementary Dick and Jane readers.[iv] While we all enjoyed reading about the two siblings and their dog, Spot, the books were far from a course in college physics. As they grew older, some made fun of the basic reading in the Dick and Jane books. However, we all knew that this was a vital step in our educational career and are happy to encourage our own children to read basic readers to advance their skills until they are ready for something more challenging. As they grow in ability and understanding we are often bombarded with the question “Why?” as they seek to understand the world around them. While sometimes it may try one’s patience, we nonetheless explain to them, and simply, according to their reasoning ability, we unfold to them the reasons for the way things are. Perhaps when God offers to reason with us, it is a similar process. He knows we cannot fully understand infinity or dimensions beyond our own, but He patiently reveals what He can from the perspective we now have.
Sometimes, like a petulant child who is having difficulty accepting the limits to his understanding, we may turn away, rejecting God as a way of refuting our lack of understanding. But just as the parent of that child continues to love the child and encourage him back to relationship; maybe God does the same with us. This may be hard to understand from the perspective of someone raised in a world where authority figures are often disappointing at best and malevolent at worst. Perhaps it is precisely because of the lack of adequate role models for a healthy relationship that God chose to become incarnate in Jesus.[v] In Jesus and His relationships, we find that the lowest and most despised of people could come to Him and find acceptance and hope. They were not made to feel diminished in any way. In fact they often went away from the encounter empowered and uplifted beyond their expectations. In contrast those who asserted their superiority over others when meeting Jesus often found that humility is more suitable to positive relationships with God and their fellow man than pride.
In the Beatitudes[vi] we find the inscrutable vastness of all that is God poured into a simple Dick and Jane reader format that is easily understood by almost anyone who reads it, yet it also has a depth that transcends our ability to fully explain its meaning. It is as though the door of heaven was left slightly ajar, and we can see the beautiful light streaming through the crack but cannot fully appreciate what lies beyond. Perhaps God in offering to reason with us, in his immutable wisdom is offering to show us a little light now that we might have faith that something greater lies beyond, even though we cannot see it.[vii] Like the smell of baking cookies that draws us to the kitchen, this taste of the reasoning of heaven instills in our hearts a hunger for more.
Just as children grow beyond the Dick and Jane books, so we grow through each encounter with the reason of God. Children often grow to become more and more like the parents who raise them. Christians can also grow in the same way. They find themselves becoming more and more like God as He is in Christ. Our thoughts become more mature as we find ourselves thinking more often like Jesus with love and compassion. The Bible tells us this is what to expect if we let the Spirit educate us.[viii]
Some may feel that they no longer have the ability to grow in this way. They may say that all that they have been through in life has damaged their ability to such an extent that they can no longer respond to the Spirit’s stimulation to growth. However, the brain is a remarkable creation. Due to plasticity it can overcome incredible amounts of damage and restore abilities thought lost forever.[ix] The brain simply transfers functions from the damaged areas to those which are still functioning properly. Of course the many healing miracles attested to in the Gospels endorse the idea that God might heal our minds by miraculous special intervention, and this is always a possibility. However, the incredible ability of the brain to heal itself through plasticity might qualify as a “built-in” miracle.
If we were to ask, “Which is the most important organ for communication?” some might say the mouth, others might say the ear, but perhaps it is the brain. Receiving or sending communication signals may not be very helpful without the ability to interpret those signals. Perhaps the brain’s remarkable plasticity is why it is very hard to extinguish the voice of the Holy Spirit. It may allow us to hear and understand the Spirit’s attempts to speak to our hearts and minds even when it would seem to be well-nigh impossible.
Some of us have known those who have been laid low by catastrophic strokes. The damage they have suffered seems to be too much to recover from, yet in a few weeks we find them up and about and regaining the lost pieces of their lives. The person who could not even lift themselves from the floor may be back driving a car, shopping and going unattended to their round of appointments. It may be the same for those whom we might deem to be spiritually paralyzed. They keys might be desire and direction.
In the Pericopae Adulterae,[x] a woman is caught and brought before Jesus where she is accused of the crime of adultery. The penalty for that crime was to be stoned to death.[xi] Her accusers apparently forgot that the man and the woman involved were both supposed to meet the same fate as they brought only the woman. Jesus’ response was to the effect that no sinner had the right to judge another sinner. Sadly this is lost on many, today. We all too often judge for even the most trivial offenses not only against the commandments of God but for violations of our interpretations of those commandments which may or may not be accurate. In true Lilliputian fashion, some will argue over whether or not someone who drinks coffee can be expected to go to heaven. Others might exclude dancers, or meat eaters, or those who listen to rock music. Yet perhaps to all of these Jesus might say, “You are sinners. You have no right to judge the sins of others.” Only He has that right.[xii] He alone can say to the woman that was brought before Him, “Go, and sin no more.” Stop walking away from God and start walking toward Him so the healing can begin.
[i] Acts 2:38
[ii] John 16:13
[iii] Isaiah 1:18
[iv] “Dick and Jane,” www.wikipedia.org
[v] John 14:9
[vi] Matthew 5:1-12
[vii] John 20:29
[viii] Philippians 2:5-7
[ix] “Brain Plasticity: How learning changes your brain,” www.sharpbrains.com
[x] John 8:1-11
[xi] Leviticus 20:10
[xii] John 5:22
"Reformation: Thinking New Thoughts"
September 14, 2013
Colossians 3:1-4; 2 Corinthians 3:17, 18; 2 Corinthians 10:3-5; Romans 12:2, 3; John 10:10; Matthew 5:13-15
You've no doubt heard the quote, "A mind is a terrible thing to waste." It was first used in 1972 as part of a campaign slogan by the United Negro College Fund. Forty-one years later it is still a motivational mantra widely used to show the importance of acquiring an education.1
Today there is another terrible thing that impacts the mind: Alzheimer's disease. More than five million individuals in America have some form of the disease. It is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. Irrespective of one having an education or not, the mind gradually withers and dies.
To help visually understand the disease and its impact on the mind, the National Alzheimer's Association has posted a fascinating brain tour on their website.2 As one proceeds through the slides and activates their computer mouse on each highlighted word, the website shows the healthy brain and its various parts and functions. We definitely are fearfully and wonderfully made!3
Then we see the contrast of what happens during the various stages of Alzheimer's disease. When Alzheimer's disease is present the disease "leads to nerve cell death and tissue loss throughout the brain. Overtime, the brain shrinks dramatically, affecting nearly all its functions." The disease progresses at different rates in different people and can impact an individual at any age. It cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed.4
There is a disease that affects a healthy mind that can be prevented, slowed and even cured. Our Bible lesson talks about this disease. "Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Be alert and of sober mind." A mind that is not focused on Christ is vulnerable to the world, sin, and the devil. This in-turn negatively impacts one's actions and behaviors. The good news is that the Bible gives instruction for what we can do so we aren't dragged down by this disease caught by association with the evil that surrounds us.
Scripture admonishes us not to be conformed to the world. We are told to set our minds on things above, not on earthly things. If we love God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind this renewal of our mind that focuses on Christ will allow us to be able to test and approve what God's will is-God's good, pleasing and perfect will for us. If we live in accordance with the Spirit our minds will be set on what the Spirit desires. 
A mind governed by sin is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.
2. Alzheimer's Association
3. Psalm 139:14
4. Alzheimer's Associaton, slide # 8
5. Paraphrase that combines thoughts from Colossians 3:2, 1 Peter 5:8; Mark 12:30; Romans 12: 2 and Romans 8: 5, 6
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