Don’t turn your brain off

Ever get home after a long day and sit down in front of the television and zone out? I think everybody has. I know I have, especially on those grueling days when my brain is desperately tired. Giving it a rest is probably good for it.

But have you noticed that the things on television are skewing more and more toward stupid? I don’t really watch much television, honestly, mostly because I just can’t stand the drivel that’s on it. A good percentage of it is trash. Not even good storytelling.

Granted, then you have brilliant shows like Sherlock or Broadchurch or Downton Abbey or Doctor Who that challenge your thinking and feed your wit. (Is it coincidence they’re all British?) Regardless of whether you watch television (British or otherwise) or read books, there’s a difference between letting your mind rest and allowing your mind to be dull.

TV Remote Isolated on White.Today’s verse is 1 Peter 1:13.

So prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control. Put all your hope in the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world.

How do you prepare your mind for action? What does that even mean? To me, that means making sure you are healthy, so that you can think well. But it also means that your thinking needs to be straight, and that only happens when you align your thinking with what God says.

We don’t have the Bible so that it can act as a paperweight. We don’t have the Bible so we can club people with it. We have the Bible so we can read it, so we can hear God’s Word, so we can learn how to live, so we can know what is right and what is wrong and what God expects of us.

But how can you know what it says if you never open it? If you never read it, you’ll never know what God wants to tell you. Now, it’s true, you can hear God’s word from other people. From your church. From your pastor. From your friends. But God wants to speak to you directly, and He will through the pages of the Bible.

But it’s so much easier just to live life being told what to do, isn’t it? You don’t have to think. You don’t have to reason. You don’t have to choose. But what kind of life is that? It’s not meaningful, I’ll say that much.

Part of preparing your mind for action is taking responsibility for the way you live, for the choices you make, and to do that, you have to understand your options. You have to know what God says is right and what God says is wrong.

So don’t zone out. Don’t let your mind get dull. Get ready for action. Following Christ is an adventure like no other, and you don’t want to miss out because you weren’t paying attention.

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Do you pay attention to the instructions?

Can you recite the safety speech flight attendants give before every airplane takes off? I’d be willing to bet I can probably tell you everything they say and even pantomime their motions, and I’m not even what you would call a jetsetter.

Most people tune them out completely. Most people stay buried in their phones or tablets and ignore them. After all, what they’re saying is common knowledge, isn’t it? Everyone knows the safety regulations on an airplane, don’t they?

I’ve never read the seatback information card on a plane. I’ll admit it. I already know the basics. But what would happen if someone told me that I needed to help the child sitting next to me with his mask first in an emergency? What if that person told me I was honor bound to help the less able around me before I take care of myself? I’m a Christ-follower, and I’m supposed to put others before myself.

Doesn’t that make sense? Never mind the flight attendant says to get yourself settled before you try to help the person next to you.

Today’s verse is Hebrews 2:1.

The seatback information card on my flight to Chicago, Wichita, KS

The seatback information card on my flight to Chicago, Wichita, KS

So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it.

The devil’s in the details. It’s an old saying, but it’s true. You can think you’ve got everything right. You can think you’ve handled every issue, but you usually always miss some small, pesky detail that screws the whole project up. And the same is true when it comes to our faith.

Sure, you can get the big picture right. You can live your life according to the major tenants of what the Bible says, but the details matter too. The details of the Christian life often affect the big picture more than we think they do.

Example? Say you believe that murder is wrong. It’s wrong to kill someone because the Bible says it’s wrong. But that’s a broad subject. Let’s get specific about murder. Let’s get down to the details. What do you believe about abortion? Does your belief about murder match up with your belief about abortion? Because the Bible is pretty clear on both. The Bible calls murder the ending of someone’s life unjustly, and the Bible also says that life begins at the moment of conception. And what’s more unjust than ending the life of an innocent who can’t even fight back?

I’m not trying to start an argument. I’m just trying to make a point. You can believe that murder is wrong all day long, but if you pay attention to the details of what the Bible says, that means you should also believe that abortion is wrong. If you don’t, you’re a hypocrite—picking and choosing what you like about the Bible and dismissing what you don’t.

The Bible doesn’t work that way. God doesn’t work that way. We don’t get to approve or disapprove of God’s plans. He’s God. He does what He wants, and He is gracious enough to include us on some of what He’s doing in the world. Just because you disagree with Him doesn’t make Him wrong. And it sure doesn’t make you right.

It seems to me that every street is lined with people who would twist the Christian faith to fit their own purposes. Every day there’s someone on television or radio who’s claiming something that the Bible never promises or quoting scriptures God never inspired. And it’s more important than ever to pay attention to what the Bible actually says.

Don’t just listen to the next person who comes along. Don’t even listen to me. Like I blogged about earlier in the week, you need to take responsibility for your own faith, because at the end of days when you stand before God Himself, you won’t be able to shift blame on anyone else. You’ll have to stand on your own, and if you don’t have Jesus, you really will be on your own.

Every American has heard the truth in some form or other. Americans are without excuse, more than any other nation in the history of the world. We have freedom. We have churches on every corner. We have Bibles gathering dust on our coffee tables.

So listen carefully. Pay attention. Don’t just ignore the safety demonstration when God decides to give it. Don’t shove the seatback card in the pocket and plug your earphones in while the plane burns up around you.

Listen up. Speak out. And don’t back down, especially when you’re faced with people who treat the Bible like it’s some kind of tree that only produces good fruit half the time.

Sunset through the apricot trees - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Sometimes darkness clings

If you’ve followed Christ for any amount of time, you have probably encountered some aspects of spiritual warfare. As children of God, we have an enemy who hates us and wants to cause us pain, who wants to make us walk away from the plans God has for our lives. And there are times when we are more open and vulnerable to attack, but in those times God shows His strength through us, kind of like what I blogged about yesterday.

And while it is quite exciting to think that we have access to that kind of strength, we need to remember beyond anything else that we can’t beat the darkness by ourselves.

Sunset through the apricot trees - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Sunset through the apricot trees – Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Romans 13:12.

The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living.

This is one of my favorite verses in Scripture. It doesn’t sound as dashing in the New Living Translation as it does in the New King James, honestly; the New King James makes it sound epic … like something out of Lord of the Rings. But this is probably more practical in actually understanding what Paul is talking about.

But even this translation is full of metaphor. Removing our dark deeds like dirty clothes? Putting on an armor? Sorry. I don’t think I have one of those lying around. If I did, I think I’d know about it, no matter how dirty my house might be.

So what on Earth is Paul saying? For the most practical explanation, though, I think the Message says it clearest:

Romans 13:11-14 (The Message)

But make sure that you don’t get so absorbed and exhausted in taking care of all your day-by-day obligations that you lose track of the time and doze off, oblivious to God. The night is about over, dawn is about to break. Be up and awake to what God is doing! God is putting the finishing touches on the salvation work he began when we first believed. We can’t afford to waste a minute, must not squander these precious daylight hours in frivolity and indulgence, in sleeping around and dissipation, in bickering and grabbing everything in sight. Get out of bed and get dressed! Don’t loiter and linger, waiting until the very last minute. Dress yourselves in Christ, and be up and about!

Here’s the deal, Christians. We don’t have a lot of time left. God has been patient for a very long time and has extended chance after chance for the world to turn to Him. Even America. We have had countless chances to give up our futile pursuits of personal pleasure and self-entitlement. God’s patience will wear out soon.

But remember, Romans is written to Christians. Paul is talking to believers in this passage. Christians, we need to wake up. We need to pay attention to what God is doing around us. And we need to get rid of the darkness in our lives, no matter what form it takes. If it’s negativity, get rid of it. If it’s complaining or griping, get rid of it. If it’s impure thinking (the full range from sex to gossip), get rid of it.

Like every other morning, I’m talking to myself. I struggle when I’m exhausted. I can get easily discouraged by the darkness I see all around me, by people who should know better, by people who don’t know better, and by people who don’t care either way. And sometimes it feels like the darkness of our world is like a sticky black tar that clings to us, and nothing we do can get it to release us.

That’s where the metaphor comes in. I don’t have an armor lying around my house, but God has given me a metaphorical armor when He sent His Holy Spirit to live in me. When the darkness in this world gets to be too much, remember that we’re not fighting this battle alone. Stop focusing on the ground you’re losing and focus on the truth – God’s already won and you don’t have to give in to the darkness. If you’re a Christian, you’re already wearing an armor of light; you just may not be using it.

So … use it.

We don’t have any light in us without Christ. So how can we push the darkness back without Him? We can’t. So why are we trying? Why are we throwing Bible verses at people when our lives don’t match what Scripture says? Why are we doing good works when our hearts aren’t motivated by our faith?  Why are we trying to make a difference in the world on our own? It doesn’t work.

Stop trying to fight the darkness in your own strength. You will lose. And when you accept that, you can accept help. That’s how you use your armor of light. You ask God for help.

God gives us strength, not just to endure, not just to keep going, but to live and to live right. We don’t have to be negative. We don’t have to be discouraged. We don’t have to complain or gripe. We don’t have to subsist on impure thoughts and gossip and whatever else slows us down. God’s Spirit — our Armor — gives us the strength and the power to stand up against all that.

When the darkness clings to you, remember you have an armor of light. So start using it. And pay attention. Stop wasting time chasing things that don’t matter; stop wasting time focusing on what you don’t have or what you don’t know or what you can’t control. Plug in. Get busy. There’s lots to do and not much time left to do it, and it doesn’t matter where you are because the workers are few and there’s a lot of field to harvest.

So if you don’t have an armor, get one. And if you’ve got one, start using it before it’s too late.