Saturday, April 14, 2012

M is for Mind

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio 

Luke 10:27
He answered: 
“‘Love the Lord your God 
with all your heart 
and with all your soul 
and with all your strength 
and with all your mind’ ; 
and, ‘Love your neighbor 
as yourself.’ ”

I'm not sure why "M" is being difficult maybe it because there are lots of words to choose from. I have been thinking about M for several day because I had gotten slightly ahead in the A-Z posts. I try to set the blog to post just after midnight my time so it will be there when readers start their day. Last night I sat down after a full day and all I was wringing out of my mind was silliness. Maybe you could have used a dose of my silliness but it just did not seem to fit. This morning after hunting the elusive "M" word for days through the forest of my daily activities, I have finally captured a word that will transport me where I want to go with this post. I have settled on M is for mind. 

We are told to love the Lord your God with all your mind in Luke 10:27. How do we do that? 
There is an account of a time in the life of Daniel that I think gives some clues. First a bit of background on the story.  Daniel was one of young men taken into captivity. We have to go back to Daniel 1 to catch the threads of that story.  1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia and put in the treasure house of his god. 3 Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring in some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility— 4 young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians. 5 The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service. 

According to Rabbinical tradition, Daniel was from a royal family as were his three friends Hananiah, Mishal and Azariah. Its quite possible it that they are those spoken of in Isaiah 39. " Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the Lord Almighty: 6 The time will surely come when everything in your palace, and all that your fathers have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left, says the Lord. 7And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood who will be born to you, will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.”  Judah existed until 586 BC, when it was conquered by the Babylonian Empire. Hezekiah's reign was between c. 715 and 686 BC. This would mean that at minimum a hundred years has passed since the prophecy given to Hezekiah and the time that Daniel and the boys finding themself captive in Babylon. I find these little nuggets in the word interesting, they remind me that God has a bigger plan. I also think it is interesting that Daniel is likely the guy that creates a group of learned men who's decedents many many years later are watching for a star in the heavens that will mark the birth of a long awaited king. The teaching of Daniel and that star lead them to the baby Jesus. Some of loving God with my mind is to seek out and follow the little threads I find in my bible to see God bigger story woven into the fabric of time and the lives of mankind.

So Daniel is among these young men described as being with out physical defect who shows an aptitude for every kind of learning, are well informed, and quick to understand. So he is brought to the kings palace and trained. While there he does not want to defile himself by eating the things that God had told the people of Israel not to eat. So he asks his keepers to test him and his buddies using his suggested diet.12 13 Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” 14 So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.  “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink.
At the end of the ten days they were healthier and stronger than the others who had eaten the kings regulare fare. Do you see the keepers perhaps starting to wonder if there is something different about these guys. I think they were probably saying to each other "hmmm lets keep a close eye on these boys."

In this example we see Daniel using his mind in a difficult situation to solve the problem of how to live Gods way while in captivity.  He came up with a plan and presented it and was able to show over the course of ten days that it would work.

He goes on to interpret the dreams of the kings. He looks to God and prays that God would tell him the meaning of the dreams. Here is one example. Daniel  2 23 I thank and praise you, O God of my fathers: You have given me wisdom and power, you have made known to me what we asked of you, you have made known to us the dream of the king.”  I think it is worth noting that Daniel did not just give the king his own opinion he takes the time to seek God about what the dream meant. Although he is one of the greatest minds of his generation he still goes to God and believes God will give him the needed answer. 
Even in a bad situation he grows over time, in wisdom, favor and stature with God and men. Much like Joseph he did not forsake God because of his dismal circumstance. He believed that God would be with him in it.  I think all too often we look at our difficulties and shake our fist at God and use them as an excuse to languish in self pity. We need to make the best of them and consider that perhaps God will use in our lives to prepare us for his purposes. 
In the case of both Joseph and Daniel they allowed those difficulties to be the chariot that propels them forward to accomplish great things. 

Later in his story in Daniel 9, during the reign of Darius the Mede it says. "I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the LORD given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years. 3 So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.   
The word says if we seek we will find. Daniel was seeking an answer and God sends Gabriel who tells him 23 As soon as you began to pray, an answer was given, which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed. Therefore, consider the message and understand the vision.  Have you ever fasted and prayed and petitioned God to better understand the word?

Again later in chapter 10 after he had been praying and fasting for a considerable time he is visited again by an angel.   Daniel 10:10 A hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. 11 He said, “Daniel, you who are highly esteemed, consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you, and stand up, for I have now been sent to you.” And when he said this to me, I stood up trembling. 12 Then he continued, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. 

He set his mind to gain understanding and to humble himself before God. Hmmmmmm

I think Daniel understood loving God with his mind. He used his mind to seek God. He used his mind to understand the scriptures and the words of the prophets. The things he did not understand took to God in prayer. I think that you see him rise in status and power during the reign of quite a number of kings that employed his service because he took what he had and kept going to God to seek out the deeper truth and meaning. Did you notice that the angels that come to him tell him each time that his prayers were immediately heard and answers were sent to him. Each time the angels say Daniel is highly esteemed. I would like to be highly esteemed by God. I want to seek to know and better understand God and his ways and endeavor to put them into practice in my life.

I found this quote that I like and I think it defines a character quality found in both Joseph and Daniel. “Two qualities are indispensable: first, an intellect that, even in the darkest hour, retains some glimmerings of the inner light which leads to truth; and second, the courage to follow this faint light wherever it may lead.”
― Carl von Clausewitz

I think it is interesting that we see two examples of how God develops great leaders. Both are taken out of a life of high status and go into a long season of life in captivity. Both of these men continue to seek God and to live according to his way. They don't just acquiesce to the surrounding culture of their captors. I think it is notable that the prophet Ezekiel receives a word from God talking about Daniel and he is listed along side of some other guys who pleased God. Ezekiel 14 12 The word of the LORD came to me: 13 “Son of man, if a country sins against me by being unfaithful and I stretch out my hand against it to cut off its food supply and send famine upon it and kill its men and their animals, 14 even if these three men—Noah, Daniel and Job—were in it, they could save only themselves by their righteousness, declares the Sovereign LORD."

 I think we might be wise to take a look at these guys and the lives they lived and ask the question why are they held up here as examples of righteousness. I think in looking we will find that they managed to Love the Lord their God with their heart, soul, mind and strength to a greater degree than most.  Our verse today does not originate in the New Testament it goes way back to Deuteronomy 6:5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

Theologian J.I. Packer says "Man's mind becomes free only when its thoughts are brought into captivity to Christ and His Word; till then, it is at the mercy of sinful prejudice and dishonest mental habits within, and of popular opinion, organized propaganda and unquestioned commonplaces without. Tossed about by every wing of intellectual fashion and carried to and fro by the cross-currents of reaction, man without God is not free for truth; he is for ever mastered by the things he takes for granted, the victim of a hopeless and everlasting relativism." 

Deuteronomy 11:18
Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.

Isaiah 26:3
You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.

Isaiah 32:6
For the fool speaks folly, his mind is busy with evil: He practices ungodliness and spreads error concerning the LORD; the hungry he leaves empty and from the thirsty he withholds water.

1 Peter 3:15
“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.

Phil. 4:8  ”And now, dear brothers and sisters, let me say one more thing as I close this letter. Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”

“Some people think only intellect counts: knowing how to solve problems, knowing how to get by, knowing how to identify an advantage and seize it. But the functions of intellect are insufficient without courage, love, friendship, compassion, and empathy.”
― Dean Koontz

I should wrap this up - Here's what I would like you to remember God give us a mind so that we might choose to seek him and know him with it. He desires for us to turn to him in every aspect and circumstance of our lives. You may find yourself struggling in some difficulty of life. God blessed Joseph, Daniel, Noah and Job but he did not just take away their troubles - he leaves them all in them for an extended time until one day he lifts them up on to some platform of prominence as leaders in their day and examples or patterns to us in our day.

Romans 12:2 says Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.

1 Corinthians 2 16 “For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?” 
But we have the mind of Christ.
Dear Lord, 
Help us to use the minds and the intellect you have given us to know you more. Help us from a position of knowing you to become better ambassadors for your kingdom. Help us to live out the truth that you reveal to us and to use our minds as we look to you, to overcome the many obstacles that we will face on our journey through this life. May we find ourselves standing before you one day and may we hear you say "Well done".  

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