Sunday, November 6, 2016

The Mind of Christ

The Mind of Christ

With all of the technology around us, we rarely, if ever, stop to think about how any of it works. Even things as simple as the light switch on our wall is taken for granted. The more complex technology like television, radio (satellite radio), computers, smartphones, etc., do not even give us pause to consider how they do what they do. We just take for granted that they work, and they will continue working, as long as they provide us the service that we desire.

But for just a moment I’d like you to think how truly simple these devices are. All of them, as a matter of fact, every digital device, when you boil it down, operate off of an electronic circuit known as a flip-flop. The flip-flop has one of two states: on or off. Typically this is represented by a positive electrical charge (on), or a negative electrical charge (off). For the purpose of communication we assign a numerical value of 0 (off) or 1 (on). This gives us a binary code that can then be used to represent strings of values, which give certain meanings, drive computers (a massive series of flip-flops) to do things for us like monitor our car engine’s fuel/oxygen mixture for optimum performance, or drive the robotic device used by a surgeon to perform tedious operations too delicate for just a human hand to accomplish.

These, and many, many more all come down to a 0 or a 1. Is the flip-flop on or off? The thing that triggered these thoughts was the television I was watching this afternoon. It happened to be a football game being played in San Diego, CA. There in the stadium were camera lenses connected to computers that turned the optics being captured into a digital stream of 1s and 0s. That stream was then translated into the broadcast format being sent (HD) that was beamed up to a satellite, downloaded to receivers across the globe, one of which was WHNT in Huntsville, AL. They in turn beamed the signal over to Florence where it was picked up by Comcast, merged into their signal being sent over the vast coax web that covers Lauderdale County, into my DVR, and displayed on my television.

If you understand how many 1s and 0s it takes to produce just one frame of HD on your television then you realize that is quite a feat. My television is displaying 1920 x 1080 resolution. That means it takes 2,073,600 pixels just to make one image. Normal HD is refreshed at, on the low end, 60 times per second up to 480 times per second. In one second of video content on my television, using the low end of 60Hz, it takes 124,416,000 pixels transmitted from the San Diego stadium to Robinhood Drive in Florence. I’ll save you the numbers, but a 3 hour football game takes a bunch of pixels.

Now realize that each pixel being displayed is not just a 0 or 1. It has to have additional information like color, intensity, etc. The number just keeps growing. And remember, these numbers represent what is being sent per second!!

“Why,” you may ask, “are you boring us with all of this?” I was contemplating the way we process information. It is much the same way as the computer. We receive information from our senses: smell, touch, sight, sound, and taste. We respond to each one of these as they signal to our brain (0 or 1, on or off) causing a reaction from us. Many times we respond out of habit, actually most times, because we know what a given stimulus means and what the usual outcome should be. For instance, when driving we see a traffic light change from green to yellow. Instinctively we press the brake to slow down (or stomp the accelerator to run through it!) because we have done it so many times until our brain responds without thinking. We feel cold so we put on warmer clothes or turn up the heat. We thirst so we get water.

These responses are the same as the computer being fed a string of data (0s and 1s) and it giving the output predetermined by its programming. In the example I gave at the beginning of this piece, at each step in the sequence there was a processor (computer) involved: in the camera, the image processor, satellite transmitter/receiver, broadcast transmitter/receiver, cable distribution, DVR, and the television itself. Make note of the word “programmed.”

The human brain is the most capable of all mammals. We can learn, recall, and reason better than all the animals. We can also invent, create, derive, and evaluate new circumstances quickly and formulate a plan or response to new stimuli within seconds. I promise all of this is going somewhere. We are created in the image of God. If you’re a Believer you have the Holy Spirit inside you that will help you.

The enemy attempts to get us off course from following after our Lord in any way possible. He tries to present stimuli for which we are not programmed. He will introduce what the Bible calls “schemes” in order to sideline us from experiencing God’s best. If you think of these as 0s and 1s it makes things a little more simple for us. For each stimulus we give a response. We act out of our past experience. This is why it is so critical for us to have a relationship with Christ, study His Word, and immerse ourselves in prayer so that we will have the Mind of Christ in us. Then, when stimulus comes we can see it through the eyes of the Lord, and it gives us a predisposition (programming) to respond as Jesus would.

By maintaining an open dialog with our Creator through prayer we can learn to recognize the schemes of the enemy so that we will not be duped by his attempts to draw us off course. Even unfamiliar data can be met with a proper response because we know the Truth that lives inside of us. The key to all of this is to keep things simple. When we start trying to take in all of the data at one time we get overwhelmed. This is when we tend to make poor decisions. We become more reactionary with our behavior instead on giving a purposeful response based on what we know to be true about God, His nature, His character, and His love for us.

We are just like the computer. A computer only has a single decision to make and any given time. Is it a 0 or a 1? As complex as our lives seem to be, we are, in any given moment, making a decision based on current stimuli. Our response will determine the eventual outcome.

Computers have what is called a “check bit” to ensure data integrity. It is derived from an algorithm using the value being transmitted. In our life, this is the Holy Spirit. He is constantly giving us information on what we encounter and our response to it. He will let us know when a proposed response is appropriate. Our challenge is to get sensitive enough to this prompting that we do not act until we know the Spirit’s answer.

The best part about all of this is that our God is the Master Programmer. He knows exactly how each of us is wired, what we are capable of producing, and gives us His Holy Spirit to help us carry out His thoughts and intents for our lives. “We are His workmanship.” (Ephesians 2:10) We are to become conformed to the image of Jesus (Romans 8:29). We do this by renewing our minds to think like Jesus. (Romans 12:2)

Paul put it like this in Philippians 2:3-4 (ESV) Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus … 

Friday, October 28, 2016

Life and the Umbrella

Life and the Umbrella

Martha and I were at the beach for the first time in years. It was really good to get away and have some down time. I guess maybe I went too “down” because as I sat on the beach I began to contemplate what would happen to the umbrella if it were left there forever. Left exposed to the elements, constant wind and sun, rain and storms, and even the wildlife, the fabric would begin to deteriorate, the metal would rust, the plastic would crack, and eventually the whole thing would be consumed back into the earth from whence it came.

I then had an epiphany. It occurred to me that everything manmade moves toward decay, destruction, and death. If left to its own, anything man begins will come to an end. Physics calls this entropy. It’s the very reason I do not believe in evolution. But I digress.

When a female’s egg meets up with the male sperm, a single cell, a zygote, is formed. Inside of this one cell is enough energy to grow a human and live a life of 80 to 90 years, and beyond, in a world that is trying to kill it at every turn. That is one amazing cell! One of the reasons this is called conception is because it is the instant that God “joins” Sprit and flesh. Physically, the egg and sperm unite. Spiritually, in the same instant a human spirit is birthed out of God’s Spirit and placed within the new life.

Together, physical and Spirit, a journey begins that will take this person through a life full of growth, discovery, development, trials, failures, and successes, until the forces of nature takes it back to the ground from whence it came. The main difference between a human life and an umbrella is the difference it will have made during the process.

Objects, such as umbrellas, are useful inventions of man to help productivity or diminish hardships. People, however, have the ability to positively or negatively affect their environment. They have the ability to create or destroy, to bring life or death, to do good or evil. The determining factor in the outcome of human existence is how well we adapt to the Spirit that is in us. The only way we can optimize our presence in the earth is for our spirit to have an encounter with Jesus Christ, His atonement for sin, and then re-joined with the Holy Spirit to live our lives on purpose for our Maker, Jehovah God.

Don’t just sit through life waiting to be made back into dirt. Maximize the time you have by living every moment for the God that created you. Some call it “Finding Your Why”, or “Live Your Dash”, or many other catchy hooks coined by authors. My favorite way to phrase it comes from Ephesian where Paul says, “Be to the praise of the glory of His grace.” I cannot think of a more simple way to say it.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Women in the Bible – Basemath – Daughter of Elon, the Hittite, One of the Wives of Esau

Women in the Bible – Basemath – Daughter of Elon, the Hittite, One of the Wives of Esau

Genesis 26:34-35 (ESV)
When Esau was forty years old, he took Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite to be his wife, and Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite, and they made life bitter for Isaac and Rebekah.

Genesis 36:9-10 (ESV)
These are the generations of Esau the father of the Edomites in the hill country of Seir. These are the names of Esau’s sons: Eliphaz the son of Adah the wife of Esau, Reuel the son of Basemath the wife of Esau.

Esau had many wives. We have already looked at some of them. Today’s Women in the Bible was apparently his second wife, or at least second on the list. Esau married Basemath when he was forty. This was not long after leaving his father’s home and settling in Edom. He may have even been married to her and Judith before leaving, because it is said that these two “made life bitter for Isaac and Rebekah.

Basemath comes from the Hebrew word bāśemat, and means “fragrance.” She gave birth to one son. There may have been other daughters but they are not mentioned in the lineage. We don’t know much more about her than this. Neither Basemath or her son are ever mentioned again in scripture.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Women in the Bible – Baara – Moabitess, Wife of Shaharaim

Women in the Bible – Baara – Moabitess, Wife of Shaharaim

1 Chronicles 8:8-11 (ESV)
And Shaharaim fathered sons in the country of Moab after he had sent away Hushim and Baara his wives. He fathered sons by Hodesh his wife: Jobab, Zibia, Mesha, Malcam, Jeuz, Sachia, and Mirmah. These were his sons, heads of fathers’ houses. He also fathered sons by Hushim: Abitub and Elpaal.

Today’s name we consider is Baara. She was the wife of Shaharaim. This passage in 1 Chronicles also appears to use two names for the same person. In verse 8 she is referred to as Baara, followed by verse 9 calling her Hodesh. Even though the names do not resemble each other phonetically, their means are related. The root word for Baara is “ignite, as start a fire.” Hodesh means “lunar, or month” referring to the moon. It was tradition in those days to light fires to signify the new moon.

Apparently Baara/Hodesh practiced this ritual. She also gave birth to seven sons, which in her day that was the ultimate blessing. She is part of the lineage of King Saul, the first king of Israel. Her sons, and their sons, made up a might band of warriors from the tribe of Benjamin. We never hear anything else from these folks, but without them many things recorded in scripture would have never come to pass.

Never undervalue your life experiences. They may seem mundane, but God always has a bigger picture in mind, and you could very easily be filling a gap in His plan to bless you, your family, your people, or the world. Remain faithful to God’s call on your life.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Women in the Bible – Azubah – Wife of King Asa, 3rd King of Judah, and Mother of Jehoshaphat

Women in the Bible – Azubah – Wife of King Asa, 3rd King of Judah, and Mother of Jehoshaphat

1 Kings 22:41-42 (ESV)
Jehoshaphat the son of Asa began to reign over Judah in the fourth year of Ahab king of Israel. Jehoshaphat was thirty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned twenty-five years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Azubah the daughter of Shilhi.

2 Chronicles 20:32 (ESV)
Thus Jehoshaphat reigned over Judah. He was thirty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned twenty-five years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Azubah the daughter of Shilhi. He walked in the way of Asa his father and did not turn aside from it, doing what was right in the sight of the LORD.

The next name we consider is Azubah, wife of a king, and mother to a king. Royalty defined her life. Her name, as we saw last time with the first Azubah we considered, means “desertion or forsaking.” I’m not sure how someone could name a child that, but apparently they thought it sounded like a good name.

Azubah lived in an era where the kings were mindful of the things of the Lord. Both her husband and son “did what was right in the sight of God.” That can be a daunting task. The will of the people do not always correlate to what God has in mind. Most of the kings of Israel did not follow God’s plan for His people.

I know the affect a woman has on a man, her children, and household. It would not surprise me to find that Azubah had such an impact on her family, to keep them following after God’s ways. We don’t know much about Azubah, but the legacy left by her husband and son are a testament to her, and the life she enjoyed for so long as the “First Lady” of Judah.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Women in the Bible – Azubah – Caleb's Wife

Women in the Bible – Azubah – Caleb's Wife

1 Chronicles 2:18-20 (ESV)
Caleb the son of Hezron fathered children by his wife Azubah, and by Jerioth; and these were her sons: Jesher, Shobab, and Ardon. When Azubah died, Caleb married Ephrath, who bore him Hur. Hur fathered Uri, and Uri fathered Bezalel.

From what we know about Caleb, he had only one wife at a time. After his first wife died he married another. That was not common for that day. Azubah was Caleb’s first wife.
Azubah comes from the Hebrew word ʿazûbâ which means “desertion (of inhabitants), forsaking.

This passage in Chronicles is rather strange. Earlier in the chapter Caleb is referred to as Chelubai.

1 Chronicles 2:9 (ESV)
The sons of Hezron that were born to him: Jerahmeel, Ram, and Chelubai.

Then, when the wives and children of Caleb are given in verses 18-20, the writer appears to use two different names when referring to Azubah. The name Jerioth is also mentioned. I read many commentaries on this and there are about as many opinions as there are commentaries. Some think Jerioth was another wife of Caleb. Some think Jerioth was a concubine, some a maidservant of Azubah that bore Caleb’s children (like Hagar did for Sarah). Others think Jerioth was a daughter of Caleb by Azubah.

Because of the two-name references in this chapter I’m inclined to believe Azubah and Jerioth are the same person. Jerioth means “curtains.” It’s possible that someone (possibly Caleb) changed her name. After all, being married to “desertion” may not have been optimal. Perhaps she had long, flowing hair that resembled curtains. Obviously, we will never know.

Azubah was great-great-…-great aunt to King David. She had three sons. She died young. Apparently she had a husband in Caleb that honored her by being monogamous. Her name is forever remembered by being included in the Book. Let her be a testament to the truth that a name does not define you. In Azubah’s case, she overcame being “deserted” and became a wife, mother, and distant relative of one of the greatest kings of Israel.

What about you? Who do other “know” you to be? Determine now that in Christ you can become all that God has intended for you. Embrace your destiny and move forward.