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.

Handwritten poster of Psalm 19:8-10 in Kekchi on the wall of a church in Peten, Guatemala

Making life make sense

I love the Bible. I love its stories. I love its characters. I love everything about it. But there’s so much more to Scripture than just stories about God and about people. I’ve always been amazed that when the Bible speaks about history or science, it’s never wrong. And, yes, the Bible does speak about science. It’s ironic how much science is actually in the Bible when so many people consider it to be unscientific. But that’s a post for another time.

The Bible is more than a book; it’s God’s Word. And everything in the Bible was written to help us. So I’m not sure where we got the idea that the Bible isn’t relevant to our culture. I’ve heard more than one person say it, known more than one person who think the Bible is outdated. And I’m not sure if it’s because they’ve only read the King James Version or if they’re just taking other people’s opinions for their own without looking into it themselves.

The truth of the matter is that you can’t make it through this life as a follower of Christ without trusting the Bible.

Handwritten poster of Psalm 19:8-10 in Kekchi on the wall of a church in Peten, Guatemala

Handwritten poster of Psalm 19:8-10 in Kekchi on the wall of a church in Peten, Guatemala

Today’s verse is Romans 15:4.

Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us. And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled.

The Bible is our road map, our instruction manual, and our life coach. It answers our questions, gives us insight to who God is, and reminds us what this life is actually all about. And if you want to know how to stay focused on living the right kind of life, knowing the Bible is essential.

The Bible is full of promises. On every page God makes a promise or refers back to a promise He already made that He will keep, and because the Bible reveals who God is, we can trust that God will keep those promises. True, He won’t do it when we expect it. Either He’ll wait “too long” or He’ll move “too fast” for us, but that’s just because God operates on His own timetable (which is superior to ours anyway).

I’m working on staying focused right now because my life is so crazy. With church, work, home, family, and personal things all piling up on top of each other, I feel like I’m treading water under Niagara Falls. No matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to get my head any further out of the water, and if I stop swimming, the force of everything is going to push me underneath the water until I drown.

When life gets that crazy (because I know I’m not the only one facing this sort of overwhelming flood of life right now), it’s easy to lose focus and just look out for yourself. It’s easier to just watch your own back. But God doesn’t allow all these things into our lives without reason, and He doesn’t expect us to face them alone either. He’s right there with us, and all we have to do is ask for His help. That’s what the Bible says. That’s what God has promised.

So, read the Bible. But don’t just read it randomly. Read the Bible with purpose. Read the Bible with expectation. Google verses on certain topics and then instead of just reading the one verse, read the whole chapter. Get books on topical Bible verses. I think a lot of times people just pick up a Bible and go to some random page and start reading and expect that God will provide the answers to their biggest questions. I suppose He could do it that way, but that’s not real seeking. That’s a lazy way of reading the Bible. Just opening to a page and reading and refusing to actually study? I’m not sure if God will honor that the way He would if you put some real effort into looking for your answers.

Get your Bible out today. Or go to a Bible site online. And when you start reading, tell God what you’re looking for. Whether you’re looking for an answer or just encouragement, I promise you’ll find it. God gave us Scripture to help us thrive in this life, to help us get to know Him, to give us the boost we need when life gets too heavy. The Bible is like a pair of glasses that are custom designed for your vision; it brings the world into focus.

Don’t try to make sense of life without it. Without Scripture, the world is fuzzy and blurry.

Stone face at Tikal - Peten, Guatemala

If common sense were a gift, everyone would have it.

Some people are born with more common sense than others. That’s something I’ve heard said numerous times, but I’m not so sure it’s true.

Is common sense something that you’re born with? It certainly seems like some people have more of it than others, but does that mean it’s connected to their personality? Or is it something they learn over time? Is it the way they’re raised? Or is it something they are given?

Stone face at Tikal - Peten, Guatemala

Stone face at Tikal - Peten, Guatemala

Today’s verse is Proverbs 2:7.

He grants a treasure of common sense to the honest. He is a shield to those who walk with integrity.

That sounds pretty clear to me: common sense is a treasure God gives to people who are honest. But what does that mean? And how can that be? Because I know a lot of honest people who have a decided lack of common sense (just being honest myself).

Just for grins I read this verse in the Message, but because the Message has a lot to do with concept and context, you usually have to read more than one verse even if you are just looking for one:

Proverbs 2:6-8 says this:

And here’s why: God gives out Wisdom free,
   is plainspoken in Knowledge and Understanding.
He’s a rich mine of Common Sense for those who live well,
   a personal bodyguard to the candid and sincere.
He keeps his eye on all who live honestly,
   and pays special attention to his loyally committed ones.

The context of this verse is talking about God being a mine. In earlier verses, this chapter talks about searching for wisdom like you would search for silver. The Message actually uses the phrase “like a prospector panning for gold.”

Do you find it hard to look at common sense like a treasure? The longer I live, the more I realize how precious wisdom really is.

Common Sense is still valued on some level in our culture, at least in words. But in actions it’s becoming less and less preferred. With movies and television shows that glorify people who make foolish choices, our culture is wrapped up in rejoicing in the misfortunes of others. We are taught that foolish choices are entertaining, and I think in many cases Reality TV has influenced true reality so much that there’s no dividing line anymore.

We revere celebrities who have destroyed their families and their lives. We elevate people who make foolish decisions. We raise people who can’t tell the difference between right and wrong on pedestals and display them as monuments to our great society.

And the people who choose wisdom are regarded as backward. The people with common sense are called stupid and uneducated and mocked. That’s the world we live in.

If Common Sense were a gift, everyone would have it.

Salvation is a gift; Common Sense is something you have to dig for. It isn’t something you obtain when you’re born. And it isn’t something that’s just given to you with no effort on your part. If you want Common Sense, if you want Wisdom, you have to look for it. You have to search for it like you’re searching for treasure. And digging isn’t easy. It takes dedication and work and sweat. You’ll get blisters. You’ll get blisters on your blisters. But it’s worth it because Wisdom is treasure.

And just like any other treasure, you have to know where to start looking. If you want Wisdom, you have to go to the source.

If you want Wisdom, if you want Common Sense, read the Bible. Even if it’s just a little every day, it will make a difference. And if you have questions, keep reading because oftentimes the Bible will interpret itself. You don’t need a scholar. You don’t need a pastor. You don’t need a priest. The Bible isn’t complicated, but it will hurt because it strips away any righteousness we think we deserve.

I’ve posted about the ruins of Tikal in Guatemala before. That’s actually where today’s picture came from. It’s this stone mask just sitting on a chunk of rock on the walking path. One of the amazing things about Tikal is the number of temples that are still unearthed. All throughout Peten, if you go digging around in any random cave in a mountain you have a good chance of finding ancient Mayan artifacts. You don’t have to dig long, and you don’t have to look really hard. It’s a rich mine of history.

The Bible is the same way. God is the same way. We can find wisdom without a lot of effort. We can get common sense without a lot of pain. We just have to be willing to look for it.