Something to Think about is a daily (more or less) commentary on life. The Author, Howard Merrell's, goal is to help us think Biblically and Christianly about the issues of life, from the mundane to the sublime.
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"Our society has replaced heroes with celebrities, the quest for a well-informedcharacter with the search for flat abs, substance and depth with image and personality." (Moreland, J.P.. Love Your God with All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul (Kindle Locations 122-123). NavPress. Kindle Edition.)
I'm teaching a class on thinking. J. P. Moreland's book, from which the above quotation is taken, is required reading. In writing a report on the book, I think more students referenced the flat-abs line than anything else. It does capture the mood of our day. Sadly, Moreland isn't only talking about the nonChristian world. He is talking about the church--in particular the Evangelical Church. Go to what used to be called a Christian book-store and you'll get an illustration of the phenomena. There was a time when such shops contained books--serious books, books that one has to work to read. In the end, though, if one takes the time to work through this kind of book it will make one smarter, wiser, and more mature. Now one almost has to ask where the books are located. They tend to get lost behind all the cute figurines and other Gospel kitsch. Look at this cartoon.
Linus is right. Sound Theology, and, for that matter, other kinds of sound thinking do make us feel better. You have to work to get there, though. Too many of want to go straight to the feel-good, without ever passing through the work-hard.
Thanks, class, for teaching your teacher. It is indeed . . .
"Inquiring Minds Want to Know." A few years back that was the advertising slogan for a tabloid newspaper. It is also an accurate observation. It is healthy to want to know, to grow in understanding, and to gain a better command of the world around us and how it works. In the Western world, we speak of knowledge as being power. Indeed in this digital age, some of the most successful businesses deal in nothing but information, knowledge, data. Those who can successfully tap into that natural human tendency to quest to know more, find that knowledge is wealth. Sometimes, though, knowledge isn't a good thing. I've seen situations when:
Knowledge is pain.
Knowledge is corrupting.
Knowledge is guilt. or,
Knowledge is maddening.
Some people-groups tend to live with a view of knowledge that is far different than mine, as a senior American. They aren't nearly as open, and they respect the closed-ness of others. Perhaps in those cultures, inquiring minds still want to know, but I see a realization there that says, "Wise hearts care enough to leave it alone. Many of us are so connected that our lives are like a reality TV show, where cameras are on us 24/7. We don't eat without posting a picture of our food. Every move we make leaves a digital footprint and often a tweeted prediction. The most intimate details of life are dumped out before millions like breadcrumbs thrown to pigeons in a park. On the other end of those feeds are those who become annoyed, even indignant, when they aren't fed. Some of us are old enough to remember when people would make major trips without ever calling back home. My wife and I carried out a courtship largely through the US Postal Service. I have noticed that as we have more, cheaper, and faster means of passing on information that the demand--and I mean that in its most demanding sense--to know more has increased. "Minds addicted to knowledge demand to know," and they will make you pay if you don't feed them.
I'm not suggesting that you throw your iPhone away, or cancel your Twitter account. I am suggesting that perhaps we ought to think more and know less. The book of Proverbs speaks of discretion, the quality of behaving or speaking in such a way as to avoid causing offense or revealing private information. In 1:4 discretion--the ability to make proper decisions--is a goal of the book. Discretion guards a person (2:11). 11:12 speaks of an aspect of discretion, " a man of understanding keeps silent." (See also 11:22)
Instead of being so eager to know the latest, let's try to understand what we already know. Let's create some space between the deed done, or the word said, and its announcement to the world. Let's exercise some discretion. Let's emphasize wisdom in our hearts.
I can't begin to tell you how many times I've heard this basic explanation as to why a divorce was imminent or a friendship that had lasted for decades couldn't go on: "I don't trust him/her anymore." Not as often, but I have run across folk who didn't get along with anyone. They had been hurt and they weren't willing to risk it again, so they lived in a lonely fort, having surrounded themselves with a high wall and a deep moat filled with a determination to never trust anyone. Don't get me wrong. Clearly there at times when it is foolish or even wrong to trust. Women who have been abused, especially if there are children involved, ought not "just trust" their abuser. Such foolishly placed trust becomes one of the weapons of the abuser. What I'm addressing today are those situations where two people stand a safe distance apart and glare at each other. They may mumble under their breath, "Why can't you trust me?" Yet, neither of the people lacking in trust is willing to say, "I'll trust you." When we demand surety before we are willing to take steps toward reconciliation, we ensure that former enemies will stay belligerents. Back in my day, "Give peace a chance." was a popular slogan. I'm not encouraging you to buy an old microbus, or start braiding flowers, but I would like to rehabilitate the old line.Give peace a chance. Choose to trust. Trust, like love, is a choice. I can trust as an act of my will, even when I don't feel like it. There is no certainty here. It might not work out. It is sure, though, that if someone doesn't extend trust nothing will happen to make things better. Husband, wife, why not sit down and try? Hurt friend, what you once had with your friend is worth a cup of coffee. Parent of a teen who has become painful to deal with, that uneasy stand-off is--well--uneasy. Could it be that it's worth one more shot? We long for others to give us a second chance. Look at Matthew 7:12and apply it here.
Whenever the USA is involved in military action, and that has been often in my lifetime, the news media will have reports and commentary about "rules of engagement." I found this brief definition of the term:adirective issued by a military authority specifying the circumstances and limitations under which forces will engage in combat with the enemy. Rules of engagement exist to keep combatants from killing those we don't want to kill and to prevent forces from doing something that will be regretted later. I got to thinking we could use some R. o. E. in everyday life.
Avoid jumping to conclusions. Extend to others the same opportunity to explain themselves that you would like for them to give you.
Be slow to take offense. Or to put it another way, interpret the actions and words of others with the same grace that you would like to have extended to you.
Don't keep grudges. Unless there is a relational reset button, soon everyone will be estranged from everyone else.
Let love be the default position.
I'm sure my brief list could be added to, but this is a good start. There is nothing original about my thoughts. You'll find them all, better stated, in the Bible, here.
I've often come away from a verbal skirmish knowing that I hurt someone who shouldn't have been hurt, or that I had burned a bridge I would need to cross later.
Lord, help me to remember Your rules of engagement.
One advantage to living on this tiny outpost of the USA, is we get to begin holidays before most of you. (Heaven for the impatient.) It's Valentines Day here. Kathy reminded me a few minutes ago as I munched my morning cereal. Kathy has been my valentine for most of my life. In some ways, Kathy and I have started over. Our life was remarkably stable for four decades--same job, same church, same house. Now, even our changes get changed. I am glad that one of the few constants that continues is that Kathy loves me. Thank you, Hon. In a couple of hours, Kathy and I will be on a panel in a special chapel service, here at PIU. We'll be asked Valentine-ish questions. I hope our answers will contribute to setting these young people on a path that will help them find the kind of joy that Kathy and I have been privileged to enjoy.
In our temporary home on, what for us, is the other side of the world, Kathy and I generally awake to the sound of roosters. You'll note that is plural. I'm not talking about one proud male welcoming the sun, or arrogantly assuming that it rises at his command. No, I'm guessing there are well over a hundred of the birds next door. Not only do we awake to their announcement, "Cock-a-doodle-I'm-cock-of-the-roost . . . the-baddest-chicken-in-this-yard!" cries, but often we go to bed to it, and for reasons, yet hidden from me in chicken psychology, all during the day there are periods of intense racket. Using human logic, I figure one of the guys, who lost his cellphone and therefore doesn't know it's the middle of the day, let's out with a crow, which then demands a response from a neighbor, and so the auditory cascade begins. I don't speak Chicken, so I really don't what they are saying, but I can provide some context. Each bird is caged, or tied to a tether, so he cannot reach his neighbors. Everyone of them live with only a few desires:
They want to eat. Their owner gives them what they need. He wants them to be strong for what is ahead.
They desperately want to get with a hen. As far as I know that desire is frustrated in order to sharpen their lust for the one other thing they want.
Each of those birds has a marble-sized brain filled with an all-consuming desire to kill every other rooster on the place. When we look at what is ahead, we know that they will have their opportunity.
The chickens next door aren't being kept for eggs (I do know that roosters don't lay eggs), nor are they being raised to eat. The fowl next door are gladiators. They will die in fights arranged for the amusement of those who watch. Another striking feature of my temporary home is the near total absence of birds other than chickens. I've told you in the past about the Brown Tree Snake. It should not be here. The progenitors of the pests who eat every bird and egg they can swallow were brought here by another group with death on their minds. Apparently, a couple of snakes hitched a ride with the military during World War 2. In this cacophonous environment, marked by the by-products of death, a world where the beautiful is consumed by the ugly, and where those bent on death announce their intentions as loudly as possible, is there any hope? Most mornings I hear the soft call of a dove. Exactly how this gentlest of birds has avoided the predation of the serpent invader, I don't know. It's soft "coo" gives me hope. That, and for the past several days I hear the sounds of hammers, saws, and grinders. A short-term missions team is here doing some projects on our little campus. Pacific Islands Universityexists to push back against the darkness. We believe that if we send out women and men who see this sin-cursed, death-infected world through a Biblical lens, that they will be agents of change. They are part of that army who knows that the battle is not won by those who crow loudest, nor by those with the most agents of death on their side. Our message is one of peace in the midst of conflict, life in the face of death, light that overcomes darkness, and hope. Hope. HOPE. It's a message and a cause that is worth our best effort.
I can just about hear it now. "Moses, are you sure this is the way?" I hope you guys won't hate me for this, but if Mrs. Moses had asked this question I wouldn't think it unreasonable. In fact, I figure that more than one of the Jews on the trek to the promised land, must have wondered, "Does God know the way?" It's not a blasphemous question if we don't ask it in a blasphemous way or with derisive intent. There were more direct routes to the land between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea. If you have any idea where you are going, you may have noticed that you aren't on the most direct route, either. God didn't book you in first class, in fact, you might be stuck beside the road with a flat tire, at this very moment, and you wonder, "Does God have a clue?" A friend recently shared a message from Deuteronomy 8. One of the realities he pointed to was that part of God's purpose for the people of Israel was to "humble [them], test . . . [them], to know what was in [their] heart, whether [they] would keep His commandments or not" (Deuteronomy 8:2). The next verse even says that He let them be hungry. Talk about cruelty. My friend pointed out that all through the Bible we find God humbling and testing His people. Romans 8, 1 Corinthians 10, Hebrews 5:8, & 12 are several examples.
There is a balance we need to see. It was not only God's intent to toughen them through difficulties that they could bear, He protected them from dangers too great for them.
“Now when Pharaoh had let the people go, God did not lead them by the way of the land of the Philistines, even though it was near; for God said, “The people might change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt.”” (Exodus 13:17, NASB95)
I can hear some of you, "The Lord let my brother die in a car wreck," and, "I lost my health in. . . . " Where was the Lord then? When you read those Romans 8, and Hebrews 12 passages you'll notice that there is some disagreement about destination. We think we know where we want to go. Our Lord knows for sure where we need to go.
Back in Sunday School we used to sing,
"My Lord knows the way through the Wilderness. All I have to do is follow."