• Our hope-filled future is bound up in sharing the story of Jesus, in discipling others, in bringing those disciples together into communities of believers, and in developing and releasing those believers to create other communities... till Jesus the King comes again!

Am I Really Thinking?

We’ve asked the question in some recent posts: “Am I really listening?”  However, I think it’s also worth asking the question about our capacity to really think, and to think theologically about a host of issues.

It’s a standard line to say that things move at a much faster pace these days. And yet it is true.  We used to get upset standing in line for more than 15 minutes. Now we wonder where the problem is when the webpage we’re trying to access doesn’t open up within 2 seconds.  In that context, we may be tempted to settle for expediency rather than depth of thought; to immediately download and try a new concept or idea without asking some harder questions.

The biblical model that comes quickly to mind of those who thought well, who thought deeply is that of the Bereans (Acts 17:10-15).  They are described as those who “received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so.”  Now here’s the thing that struck me.  Nowhere in the text does it give us a time frame for that process of “thinking”.  Rather, the emphasis is on a “grid” or a “framework” through which the Bereans ran all new ideas or concepts daily.  And that framework was the Scriptures.

Could we say that it’s not the amount of time that is to key, but giving time to think more deeply more theologically about ideas, issues and concepts?

4 Responses

  1. Taking care of my Mom with Alzheimers I’m daily reminded that someday i too could loose my ability to think. Two months ago I began my Alzheimer Prevention Program….memorizing the book of James. My goal is one verse a day Monday thru Friday and review like crazy on weekends. It has meant giving up somethings…and I carry my spiral bound 3 x 5 cards with me everywhere and quote them to anyone who will listen.

    I have actually been amazed as I feel when I walk/run
    in the morning memorizing as I go how clear my thinking is all the rest of the day. I feel like it’s given me a brain boost and I am definate seeing everything through the lense of James these days.

    I have an accountability buddy who is doing this with me and so we meet weekly to pray together and say our verse to each other over a cup of coffee at the local mall. this has been such a blessing to both of us.

    • Thanks for this reminder and challenge! Memorizing Scripture is one of those ways that God “soaks” our lives with His truth, but it is work. Yesterday, at our local church, the preacher did not show up for the message. The fellow leading the service opened up the normal time for the message for people to share what the Lord might have laid on their hearts. I was surprised to see that few (if any) shared a meditation on the Scriptures. This is not a knock on the people of the church. It simply revealed to me how little we think deeply about the Scriptures each day.

  2. I think the problem may be far worse than we think. Most of us missionaries are by nature activists. We have received an amazing calling to serve the King of Kings in extending His kingdom. We are burdened by the tragic state of the lost. So we are deeply committed to making waves where we are. Sitting still to meditate, contemplate, think deeply, not only about issues, but about the real state of our hearts is an extremely difficult discipline. To be still, to become vulnerable until I am able to know that He alone is God and I am not…almost feels like being useless, lazy, unproductive, and wasting precious time.

    When did the Apostle Paul write Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon? While he was in prison, chained to two Praetorian guards. When did Saint John of the Cross write his amazing Canticle wherein he describes his encounter with the Living Flame of Love who burns away our dross gently? In a dark, damp cell in the prison in Toledo, Spain. Where did John Bunyan write his great metaphor of the Christian life, The Pilgrims Progress? While he was imprisoned for many years in the Bedford County Jail in England. As we can see, these times of silence and solitude were extremely fruitful. I’m not a proponent of prison terms for the innocent. But I am a proponent of solitude and silence- chosen, extended times of quiet and stillness (no laptop computers, no cell phones, maybe not even good books) where God just might get a word in edge-wise. He’s the one who can really get my theology straightened out…and my heart. Wow! Wouldn’t that do wonders for the Kingdom.

  3. The Berean principle (Acts 17:10-15) has more than one aspect. The first part deals with listening –they “received the word with great eagerness…” That is they listened with an open mind to the preached/taught message. Too often our listening and acceptance or interpretation of a message is largely determined by the worldview of our native culture –a situation we are warned about in Romans 12: 2. Our standard of right, truth, and reality are the Scriptures. The 66 books in the Bible should be the functional authority for our life and ministry including our thinking, planning, actions. Therefore we should follow the second part of the principle –”…examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so.”

    Having an open mind bound only by the Scriptures is the key to innovative productive thinking. Too often our paradigms close our mind so we fail to listen to one another in community with understanding. Our paradigms often limit the expansion of our own thinking and even our interpretation of Scripture.

    As Christian leaders we not only have to break through spiritual blindness but also communicate clearly across lines of corporate and social cultures. Every organization and every society has its culture with its presuppositions. Every culture has its worldview that
    determines the meaning they give to whatever is communicated no matter how clear and precise the language employed might be. Often the preconceptions of a particular worldview, the paradigms, so distort the meaning that what the leader thinks they are communicating is 180 degrees out of phase with what the listener understands.

    Piaget in the book, Mental Imagery in the Child, proposed that previous knowledge incorporated into the worldview of the child provides a structure for inferring and filling in the gaps when the instruction or text is not completely explicit. It is also a framework
    for classifying concepts presented so that the concepts are more easily retrievable from long-term memory. Incorrect prior knowledge often hinders forming a correct conception when new concepts are presented. Incorrect prior knowledge must be refuted before any attempt is made to teach a new concept. This is true of adults also.

    Is this really so new? Did not our Lord often in His teaching say, “You have heard it said that…, but I tell you ….” He also used parables for this same purpose.
    Paul in Romans 12:2 taught the same principles as being taught by a number of modern students of human communications. Let me give you my expanded translation of this passage.

    Do not allow yourselves to be conformed to the age in which you live—its culture with all its preconceptions of ultimate reality, truth and what is right and wrong—
    but be metamorphosed in the way you think in order that you might begin to discern the will of God which is good and acceptable and perfect.

    How does all this apply to our giving due diligence to decision-making and planning in our ministry or mission?

    We’ve all heard the last seven words of a dying church –“WE HAVE ALWAYS DONE IT THIS WAY.” These are also the last seven words of any dying organization.
    Healthy organizations are forward looking and proactive. Our unconscious preconceptions can keep us from seeing accurately not only the present but also cause us to fail in discerning key future trends. It is possible to be caught in a paradigm paralysis and therefore fail to make timely changes. We must constantly keep our mission looking forward, in line with biblical mandates and with current and future realities.

    This is biblical. In itself, change is neither friend nor foe. The danger lies in our failing to understand the times in which we live, so as to plan and proceed with discernment. We need to be like the sons of Issachar, “…who understood the times and knew what Israel
    should do…” and like David, who “…served his generation according to the will of God.”

    We live in a rapidly changing world. Only God, His truth in the 66 books of the Bible, and the laws established by God in His creation and sustained by Him are unchangeable; everything else is changing rapidly. (God can even change His laws of creation; when this takes place we have a miracle.) In this context of change, we as leaders must be proactive if we wish our church or mission agency to continue to be healthy and effective.

    God has given humans as His regents on earth, two sources of knowledge that we are to use as stewards of His creation. One is His special revelation, and the other is truth He reveals through the observation of His creation. What we learn from observation of His creation is always to be interpreted in the light of His special revelation the Bible. Nevertheless, due to our finiteness, false preconceptions and faulty thinking, we can misinterpret both the Bible and that which God has created.

    This should make us humble and dependent on God for His supernatural illumination.

    This is one reason why there is wisdom in having a multitude of counselors so we can correct one another. Also, decision making should be done in the context of corporate worship and seeking God’s guidance through His Word and in prayer (Acts 13:1-3).

    Let us therefore, humbly in prayer, recognize the probability of faulty preconceptions and need of renewal in our thinking so that we might discern God’s will for our church or mission. Let us ask God to save us from paradigm paralysis so we might be proactive in our constantly changing global and domestic contexts.

    Let us pray, therefore, asking God:
    • To free us from false presuppositions that would distort our thinking
    • To free us from the tyranny of the worldviews of our own age
    • To give us a biblically oriented worldview
    • To save us from paradigm paralysis that would hinder us from being innovative; adopting new solutions to old problems
    • To supernaturally superintend our thinking so we might discern His will both individually and corporately
    • To give us wisdom from above that is first pure, then peace loving, gentle at all times, willing to yield to others, full of mercy, showing no partiality, and always
    sincere.

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