“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 10:5
“… whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” – Philippians 4:8
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:2
Whether we like it or not, we are in our own heads 24-7. For most of us that is a good thing. We think, we love, we imagine, and we dream. For many it can be challenging. We worry, we speculate, we misunderstand, and we fear.
Our mind informs our hearts, and it is that information that the heart uses to form the convictions and worldview upon which our actions are based. Though our minds take in information, for the most part, we act and react not to the information provided by our minds but from the convictions formed in our hearts from that information.
The Apostle Paul speaks often about the necessity of monitoring the information our minds receive. But one of the most startling things he says is that we can control our minds. Paul makes it clear that we have a choice when it comes to what we allow into our minds and what we think about. We have a choice.
However, most of the time, we just get flooded with information. The Information Tsunami that is life in the Western World. Audio and visual input from television, news, social media, family, friends, neighbors, song lyrics, podcasts, and blogs. The quantity of the information we are exposed to on a day-to-day basis is staggering. And, overwhelms us to the point where we give up trying to "process" it. The quality of this information runs the gamut from evil to holy and everything in between. And sadly, our poor heart is left to determine which is which.
It is because our hearts are the wellspring of life (Proverbs 4:23) and the source of our actions that Paul encourages us to filter what our minds take in. To control the flood gates. Jesus tells us in Luke 6:45 that both good and evil flow from the abundance in our hearts. If we want the abundant life Jesus offers, we must choose what we allow into our minds. We must be discerning.
For example, today much is done in the name of “Love.” But, as Indigo Montoya said in the movie The Princess Bride, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." Love today has become, not the powerful, caring force that seeks and battles for another’s true good, but simply another name for appeasement. Chuck Swindoll once wrote, “Love is a mighty river bounded by discernment and truth.” It is only when we are discerning and truthful that love can bear its fruit. Like any mighty river, love without boundaries overflows its banks creating a wide path of destruction. Without the boundaries of truth and discernment, love destroys the life it is intended to bless. The word “love” has become the great appeaser of the age. Tickling the fancy of every ear. Identifying good as evil and evil as good.
I offer this context because too often we can just “let stuff happen.” In our daily lives we don’t often filter, discern, or seek the truth. Too often we just allow the World free access to our minds. Along with the beauty and wonder, the inspiring and joyous, the concerning and thoughtful, we allow the blood and gore, the hatred and malice, the anger and worry, the fear and confusion. And so, as Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:33 quoting the Greek poet Menander, “Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”
When an uncontrolled free flow of words and images is blended together it delivers not the vibrant, joyous, lifegiving color of God but the fake, artificial, empty color of the world.
“There's a rhythm and rush these days
Where the lights don't move and the colors don't fade
Leaves you empty with nothing but dreams
In a world gone shallow
In a world gone lean” – Stay Alive, José González
So, if we want the full technicolor of the life that God offers, we must choose discernment and truth. We must control what we allow our minds to take in.
So, let’s engage some life. Reality tends to bring our thoughts down to earth so to speak ... I have a friend who is deaf, and she is amazing! Michelle reads lips with such apparent ease that it is easy to forget she is deaf. Her interactions with you would in no way give away her deafness … as long as she is looking at you.
Recently she experienced an issue that caused her a bit of concern, and it was my privilege to be able to assist her. It really doesn’t matter what the issue was. What does matter is that God gave me the opportunity to interact with her on a more than casual basis.
Normally, when I am communicating with someone, I assume hearing. The person I usually communicate with can hear what I am saying while they are looking at something else and, because they can hear my voice, they know when I am speaking and so do not “talk over me” either to ask a question or provide information.
As I engaged Michelle, I had to adjust my normal mode of interaction in two primary ways. I had to pause, and I had to wait. Pause and wait. To make sure I had her visual attention. To make sure her eyes were on me so that she could read my lips and thus understand what I was communicating to her.
The more I interacted with Michelle, the more intentional I had to be about my communication with her. Pause, wait, communicate. Did it take more effort on my part? Yes. Did I do it perfectly? No. There were several times when, unbeknownst to her and, through no fault of her own, I had to repeat myself. Because, without thinking about it, I assumed hearing and blew by her so to speak. I had to back up, pause and wait, to make sure I was understood.
It was also through this time with Michelle, that the Holy Spirit brought me some unexpected illumination regarding my interactions with him.
I have come to realized that many times God has to pause and wait for me. When my focus is elsewhere, I find that it is unlikely that I can hear him either accurately or at all. In Isaiah 6:9-10, God says of his people …
“He said, “Go and tell this people:
Be ever hearing, but never understanding;
be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’
Make the heart of this people calloused;
make their ears dull
and close their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.”
God says something similar through his prophets Jeremiah (5:21) and Ezekiel (12:2). Seeing and hearing are linked to our understanding which leads to our turning and, if we turn, our healing. We must be intentional with our attention if we are to understand, act, and receive the blessing. Casual attention doesn’t cut it. We must pay deliberate attention in order to understand. Where does God say we understand? In our minds? No, in our hearts. Why? Because our hearts are the wellspring of life (Proverbs 4:23). And it is from the convictions in our hearts that we act.
What happens when we understand with our hearts? We must choose. Choose to turn from that which is evil. From our sin. We must reject it and leave it behind. Or not. But we must make a choice.
And the outcome? What is the outcome of seeing, hearing, understanding, and turning? God promises to heal us. Healing - restoration, renewal, and redemption … that is the promise. A true blessing to be sure. But to receive the blessing we must first act, we must turn.
Jesus elaborates on this passage in Matthew13 right before he talks to his disciples about Kingdom math explaining the parable of the sower. One seed “… yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”
When God speaks, I must respond. But sometimes it takes me a while to see and to hear and to turn. And God, in his wonderful mercy, is patient. He pauses and he waits. What is he waiting for? He is waiting for my full attention. Only then will I understand.
If I turn, he is ready and more than willing to heal. If I don’t, he continues to pause and wait. God is more than willing to do his part. But, in his love, he waits for us to do ours because we need him more than we need to be healed.
A second area of illumination came in relation to Michelle’s deafness and how it relates to my understanding of her and my interaction with the World.
Think about it … Michelle is deaf. She cannot hear. She has nothing auditory to either inform her or distract her. Unless she intentionally chooses to engage the World, she is literally in her own head all the time - 24-7. Think about what that might look like for you. Your interactions with others, your connection with God, your fight with sin, and your battle with the Evil One.
As I considered those questions, I thought, coming from my world of daily overstimulation, “Wouldn’t that be pretty good? No distractions. The ability to always focus. No temptations. Immune to the World.” But as I thought about it more, I am beginning to see the double-edged sword it truly is.
I can’t tell you how many times I have been spun up in my life, mentally and/or emotionally, and how it took another’s counsel with all the intensity and inflection of the spoken word to break me free. I am realizing how very much I rely on tone, inflection, volume, tempo, etc. in conversation to truly understand what is being communicated to me. Without those nuances, how lost would I be? How stuck would I be if I was unable to have the gift of the spoken word to teach, comfort, counsel, and guide me? How much harder to get past my own thoughts, my own issues, my own problems, and my own interpretation?
And, while the audio distractions of the World are many and confusing, how much more distracting and confusing would it be if what I experienced all the time were only my own thoughts, speculations, and interpretations along with the deceptive spin of the Evil One and his emissaries?
How much fear and anxiety would I experience? How much harder would I need to fight to stay connected to the love of God? How much more intentional would I need to be in all my relationships to walk closely with Jesus?
This has all lead me to a greater appreciation of Michelle and her walk with God. Her questions. Her persistence. Her anxiety. Her faith. Her valiant intentionality!!!
If I were deaf, how much more intentional would I need to be to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ”? To intentionally think about “… whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise...”? To consciously “… be transformed by the renewal of [my] mind”?
Through Michelle God has led me into a deeper posture of awareness. Awareness of others and their physical situations. Awareness of my own limitations even though I am endowed with a full set of senses. Awareness of Michelle and how her life and walk with God is impacted by silence. Awareness of myself and how my life and walk with God is impacted by the noise of the World.
Two extremes. Both with their own joy and their own danger. Different extremes requiring us both to live intentionally. Both extremes with the possibility of locking us in our own head 24-7. Two extremes that require action to avoid and our active participation to walk in the balance that is the example of Jesus's life. The acceptance required that allows the life he wishes to impart in us. For both of us, the key is the same. The physical realities and experiences of our lives are quite different. But, for each of us, we must take action to control our minds. We must be willing to turn. And, most importantly, we must choose to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith! (Hebrews 12:2)