Improve your mind

Isaac Watts, the famous hymn writer calls us to be intentional about improving our minds.

…every son and daughter of Adam has a most important concern in the affairs of the life to come, and therefore it is a matter of the highest moment, for everyone to understand, to judge, and to reason right about the things of religion. It is vain for any to say, we have no leisure time for it. The daily intervals of time, and vacancies from necessary labour, together with the one day in seven in the Christian world, allows sufficient time for this, if men would but apply themselves to it with half so much zeal and diligence as they do to the trifles and amusements of this life, and it would turn to infinitely better account.
 
Thus it appears to be the necessary duty and the interest of every person living, to improve his understanding, to inform his judgment, to treasure up useful knowledge, and to acquire the skill of good reasoning, as far as his station capacity and circumstances furnish him as his station, capacity, with proper means for it. Our mistakes in judgment may plunge us into much folly and guilt in practice. By acting without thought or reason, we dishonor the God that made us reasonable creatures, we often become injurious to our neighbors, kindred, or friends, and we bring sin and misery upon ourselves; for we are accountable to God, our judge, for every part of our irregular and mistaken conduct, where he hath given us sufficient advantages to guard against those mistakes.”

 
~ Isaac Watts, The Improvement of the Mind, (1837).
[emphasis added]

Seek the One behind your blessings

After you’ve counted your blessings, and given thanks to God, do you go further? Do you seek to know better the One behind all of your blessings? On Thanksgiving Eve at our church, we looked at MICAH 7:18-20 — and were challenged to go beyond giving thanks….

18 Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. 19 He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. 20 You will show faithfulness to Jacob and steadfast love to Abraham, as you have sworn to our fathers from the days of old. (esv)

The prophet here speaks of God’s great forgiveness and salvation and goes on to seek to understand the God who does such things for sinners. He presses beyond praise and thanks, to look behind the curtain of kind providences, to seek to understand WHO this God is, and what He is like.

His first and fundament tool is a mind that asks questions: Who is a God that does such a thing…? We would do well to ask the same question as we ponder our blessings: Who is this God, and why has He done these gracious things in my life?

His second tool is a mind that meditates on what he discovers: this God did not act in anger towards me, but showed me His lavish love — why??

Friends, may we follow in Michah’s footsteps, and follow up our giving of thanks with giving much thought to WHO God is, WHAT He is like, and WHY He does such things.

— pdb

Spring Has Sprung

In the early morning sunshine Thrusday, I was walking into a place for a breakfast and could not help but notice the abundance of spring flowers surrounding the entrance: bunches of yellow daffodils, ranks of hyacinths, tulips (my favorite) and lots of other colorful things I don’t know by name. Spring has finally sprung here in upstate NY. But when I got home, and walked up to my front door, things still looked bleak and drab; no flowers in sight here. What’s up? Ah, the truth pinches me now as it did that morning: no sowing, no reaping! I did not plant flowers that would come up this spring.

Sowing and reaping is a mainstay of a biblical worldview (Gal. 6:7, Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. esv).

Let me apply this concept (sowing or planting, giving rise to something to reap) to just one area of life: your mind. If you desire to grow spiritually, love the Lord your God with all of your mind — so that the thoughts and expressions coming out of you are like those beautiful spring flowers —  you must first consider what you’ve planted (or failed to plant). What do you ‘sow’ to your mind? What goes in by way of watching, or hearing, or reading? And then what do you reap? What springs forth? Is your thinking and your conversation looking drab and barren?

In Luke 6 Jesus teaches about a tree and its fruit:
43 “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, 44 for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. 45 The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

Of course this verse points to the reality of grace — which if God implants in our hearts, will bear good spiritual fruit in our lives, confirming our new nature (new birth) as Christians. But further, it also reminds us of the principle that our thinking and our conversation is the fruit of what is treasured within, and what is sown to our heart and mind.

So let me ask you: do you read your Bible? Do you read it daily? This is the Word of God and by it (alone) will you grow to understand God, yourself and the world you live in. Or is your daily mental diet simply watching TV or reading newspapers? (A fellow named Ben Hecht, once said, Trying to determine what is going on in the world by reading newspapers is like trying to tell the time by watching the second hand of a clock.)

And further, what else do you read to sow godly thoughts in the seed bed of your mind? When was the last time you worked through a good book? How about one of the great Christian books so readily available? (I could easily recommend several books that have significantly impacted my life; just ask me).

It was Sir Francis Bacon who said, Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man. The Word of God (Psalm 119) says,

97 Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.
98 Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me.
99 I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation.
100 I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts.
101 I hold back my feet from every evil way, in order to keep your word.
102 I do not turn aside from your rules, for you have taught me.
103 How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
104 Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way.
105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

Spring has sprung, but the time for sowing is not past. It is new every day! Sow away!

pdb