Learning How to Think

Hey TD!

Now that we are fully vested into the summer, I’d love to encourage you to brush up your mental game, so to speak.  The Apostle Paul exhorts us to not be conformed to the patterns of this world, but to be TRANSFORMED … how? … by the RENEWING OF OUR MINDS (Rom. 12).  In a culture that is increasingly thinking with its feelings, Ravi Zacharias cautions us to remember that our feelings ought to be connected to thinking, and our thinking ought to be right; if we don’t think rightly, we will feel the repercussions of whatever it is that we’re thinking.  As Proverbs 23:7 comments, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.”

RZIM’s  Margaret Manning perceptively and honestly challenges us to work through the origins of our own thought patterns with the following contribution to RZIM’s A Slice of Infinity.  Think about it! – Arthur

Learning How to Think

by Margaret Manning Shull

There are patterns of thought that come as natural to us as our daily routines. These patterns of thought emerge from constructs and experiences that color and shape the way in which we view the world and they can emerge in the most unexpected ways. Sometimes we simply repeat what we have heard. Mindless phrases spill out of our mouths forming the patterns of response—even when the response is incongruent with the situation. “It is what it is,” we say, when compassionate silence is called for or “Everything has a reason” when faced with inexplicable chaos.

I recognize in my own life how these patterns of thought belie my true way of viewing the world, much to my chagrin. Oftentimes, they reveal callousness to the suffering of others. I’ll tell someone, “I’ll keep you in my thoughts and prayers” as a substitute for tangible assistance. Or my desire to fit every happening into a neat, understandable package compels me to speak when I first should listen.

Alexej von Jawlensky, The Thinking Woman, oil on canvas, 1912.Regardless of the situation, it seems a sad reality that so often these patterns of thought and action revolve around placing the self at the center of everything. Many function as if the world really does revolve around the immediate and urgent demands of living one’s own life. Everything is simply an incursion into the routine of putting me, myself, and I front and center. I automatically feel offended, for example, when cut off in traffic. I instinctively feel slighted or defensive that my very presence doesn’t delight and soothe the unhappy. I groan at the inconvenience of having to wait in another line and when I finally have my turn, I take offense at the clerk who doesn’t smile at me the way in which I think I deserve.

In his lauded address to graduates of Kenyon College, the late author David Foster Wallace exposed the routines of thought and action that place the self at the center.(1) In his remarks regarding the benefits of a liberal arts education in shaping one’s ability to think, he suggests that it is the “most obvious, important realities that are the hardest to talk about.”(2) In other words, one of those obvious realities is that when left to our own devices humans think and behave in self-centered ways. But it is one of those routines of thought that mostly goes unmentioned. He continues, “The choice is really about what to think about and how we think about it…to have just a little critical awareness….Because a huge percentage of the stuff that I tend to be automatically certain of is, it turns out, totally wrong and deluded.”(3) Rarely, Foster Wallace notes, do we think about how we think because what is revealed is that we are basically selfish in action and thought 99% of the time.

But what if we really made thinking about how we think the routine? Foster Wallace conducts a thought experiment to illustrate how this can be done. What if the car that cuts me off in traffic is not about being in my way or being rude to me, but is a father trying to rush his sick son to the hospital or the doctor and I am in his way? What if the person who is critical of me or sullen towards me has only known criticism and neglect her whole life? What if the grocery bagger is not without social skills, but someone who has had little opportunity, whose parents’ have recently split up, and whose general home life is nothing but misery? How different these situations might look if I took the time to think! Indeed, what if my routine became first thinking of the other person?

One of the beautiful aspects of the Christian story is that we really don’t have to live for ourselves in order to find the good life. In fact, the opposite is true: those who seek to save their lives will lose them. Jesus offered an alternative vision as the one who came to serve. As the apostle Paul encouraged the Philippian Christians to not merely look out for their own interests, but also to have the interests of others in mind, he looked to the life of Jesus. “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who although he existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself taking the form of a servant and made in the likeness of human beings.”(4) How different the world might look if each day we took time to think about the needs of someone else—even just once per day? In so doing, how might that change the very patterns of thought that conspire to keep us living at the center of our own universe, embittered by all the ways we’ve been slighted?

Foster Wallace concludes his address by telling the Kenyon graduates:

“Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom all to be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the center of all creation…. But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talk about in the great outside world of wanting and achieving. The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able to truly care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad of petty and unsexy ways every day.”(3)

In a world that isn’t always sure what it thinks about Christianity, Jesus stands inviting us to encounter a very different kind of kingdom at the center of all creation, a kingdom in which he, the suffering servant, is Lord. In this kingdom marked by his living example of sacrifice and care, it is most freeing to discover you are far from alone.

Margaret Manning Shull is a member of the speaking and writing team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Bellingham, Washington.

(1) David Foster Wallace, “This is Water,” Commencement Address, Kenyon College Graduation, Kenyon, Ohio, 2005.
(2) Ibid.
(3) Ibid.

 

TD Fri. – “Out of This World”- final study on Rom. 12

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Hey TD,

I’m excited to wrap up both our TD summer and our journey through Romans 12 this Friday with a message on Romans 12:16-21! In our study of Romans 12, we’ve seen that Christians are transformed people who are also continually being transformed into the likeness of their Savior and Master, Jesus Christ.

In these last 6 verses of Romans 12, Paul tells us what a transformed life looks like when we interact with anyone in the world, no matter who they are. No one is excluded—not the lowly, not unbelievers, not even our enemies. The humility it takes to follow these commands is out of this world. It’s OK to gulp when you read these imperatives. Do you have what it takes to be a peacemaker? To seek peace and do good even with those who seek your harm? Most people would look at this passage and scoff: “Don’t be so naive, that’s just not the way the world works.”

But that’s exactly the point. What this world needs is otherworldly love and grace. Join us as we explore our calling to reflect the only One who has given exactly what the world needs.

– Robert

Romans 12:16

16 Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.17 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. 19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

TD Fri. – TD Pre-Party @7:15, Msg. & SG Discussion

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Hey TD!

We have a fun and full TD in store for us this Friday, starting with the TD Pre-Party @ 7:15 p.m. We’ll also have time in our small groups, as well as a short message on “Blessing Those Who Persecute You” from Rom. 12:14, as we continue our series, “Renew: Transforming Our Life in Christ”.

Please work on trying to have Romans 12:1-14 memorized by this Friday:

1Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

      3For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. 4For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, 5so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; 7if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; 8or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

      9Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. 10Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; 11not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, 13contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.

      14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

Let’s finish the year strong, TD!

TD Fri. – Total Devote-ion SG Study

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Hey TD!

This Friday, we’ll be meeting together in the TD room at 7:30 p.m. before we split up and head into our small group time. Below you’ll find the links to the great teaching Sandra shared with us, as well as the small group study.

Please listen to the message and do the study this week before our small group discussion. You should also have memorized Romans 12:1-13 by the end of the month.

“Total Devote-ion” Rom. 12:10-13 (mp3) – Sandra

Total Devote-ion” Rom. 12:10-13 (sg study)

“Total Devote-ion” Rom. 12:10-13 (mp3) – Sandra – Table of Contents

Arthur introduces Sandra – 0:00

Introduction – 4:15

Judy’s guess of “philostorgo” – 8:14

(Technical difficulties) – 9:30 – 11:10

Philostorgo – 11:11 – 12:00

(Technical difficulties) 12:00 – 13:00

Interview with Kathy & Robert about philostorgo & parenthood – 13:05

Sandra’s struggles with being a new mom – 17:30

Devoted to the love God wants us to have – 19:05

Sandra’s old tennis racket and philostorgo – 20:20

Interview with Rebecca regarding Jacob’s family issues –  23:25

We all have family issues 33:40

Sandra “bad habits” and her family background – 40:30

THE argument b/w Sandra and Arthur – 43:35

J-O-Y – 50:30

A closer look at our hearts – 56:30

TD Fri. – Guess Who’s Speaking?

Sandra head shot

Hey TD!

We are in for a treat this Friday as my beloved Sandra continues our theme from Romans 12, Renew: Transforming Our Life in Christ!  Did you know that Sandra was a professional teacher for 17 years, having taught math full-time at Pasadena City College and prior to that, Long Beach City College (back when we were dating!) prior to her retirement from teaching to help raise our young family?

Sandra is an excellent teacher (as so many former students, both at church and at school have attested to) who likes to help simplify complex subjects by using memorable associations, analogies, and devices to make the abstract more concrete and understandable.

Here’s the very insightful message that she gave last year on our conscious and sub-conscious thoughts:

“The Power of Sub-Conscious Liturgies” (mp3) – Sandra

She will be teaching very practically on verses 10-13:

10Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; 11not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;12rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, 13contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.

Please meditate on these verses this week and continue to memorize Romans 12.  By the end of this month, you should have memorized verses 1-13:

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.

For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, 

so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 

Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith;

if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; 

or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.

10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; 

11 not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 

12 rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, 

13 contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.

See you on Friday! – Arthur

TD Fri. – Small Group Study – “Loving Unhypocritically”

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Hey TD!

This Friday, we will be in our small groups discussing love and hypocrisy.  As usual, each small group will be planning their own evening, so make sure you’re in contact with your small group leader for time and location.

Please prepare for this Friday’s discussion by working through the small group study Judy prepared below.  You’ll also find the Table of Contents for the message that you’ll need to bolster your understanding of the study.

“Loving Unhypocritically” Rom. 12:9 (sg study)

“Loving Unhypocritically” Rom. 12:9 (mp3) – Judy

“Loving Unhypocritically” Rom. 12:9 (mp3) – Judy Table of Contents

“Renew” theme  review and introduction (Arthur) – 0:00

Paul’s purpose and context in writing Romans – 23:15

The outline of the letter of Romans – 27:35

Let’s talk about love  (four loves, CS Lewis) – 31:50

The what and how of exercising spiritual gifts with love – 40:00

Stewarding what you’ve been given – 43:15

Hypocrisy and why God hates it – 50:50

Abhor what is evil – 54:50

Cling to what is good (“Blowing the Fluff Away” poem) – 1:02:40

 

 

 

TD Fri. – Guess Who’s Speaking ???

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Sandra and Judy on MARTA (Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority), heading to the hotel from the Atlanta airport.

Hey TD!

I am excited to invite you to TD this Friday as Judy makes her TD teaching debut! Judy is a talented communicator and pursuer of Truth that Sandra and I have had the privilege of counseling and mentoring since her freshman year in high school (in TD, Speakers, discipleship groups, as a TD intern, etc.).

In fact, as a high school junior, Judy made the effort and raised the funds to join my family in Atlanta to participate in Ravi Zacharias International Ministry’s week-long Summer Institute, a 32+ hour intensive apologetics training forum geared towards adults.

Judy is a hungry girl (for both spiritual and physical food, might I add!) and does what it takes to try to keep growing in Christ. Judy will be continuing our year’s theme from Romans 12, Renew: Transforming Our Life In Christ, teaching on verse 9:

“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.”

Please meditate on this verse this week and continue to memorize Romans 12.  By the end of this month, you should have memorized verses 1-9:

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.

For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, 

so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 

Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, [f]according to the proportion of his faith;

if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; 

or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.

See you on Friday! – Arthur