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Posts Tagged ‘open minded’

I definitely need to preface the presentation of the following list with the understanding that I’m not saying that these traits are ungodly or undesirable; but as the church in America has in many instances veered dangerously close to becoming a cult of personality, I think it is important to understand that these characteristics are only worthwhile to the degree that they are brought into submission to Christ Jesus, and the power of His Holy Spirit.

 

  1. Knowledgeable: Though warnings about the danger of being led astray by our emotions seem to be more prevalent in the church today, the scripture puts a far greater emphasis on how our thoughts and ideas can pull us off track.  The Bible cautions us that knowledge can puff a man up, warns us not to lean on our own understanding and reminds us that even in the best case scenario our perspective will only be a partial piece of a much bigger picture.  In Jesus’ time, the Pharisees were the most knowledgeable authorities on matters of scripture and yet they were unable to discern the very One those scriptures pointed to, even as He stood before them.  Though I’m not an advocate of empty-headed theology, we cannot put our hope in what we know and/or understand. In fact, Jesus said that anyone who will not receive His kingdom like a little child will not enter it.
  2. Practical: While I tend to be a fan of what most people refer to as “common sense”, my enthusiasm is tempered by the understanding that God’s ways are much higher than ours and thus what He wants may not always make sense to me.  The Bible goes so far as to say that there is a way which naturally seems right to a man, but that it will ultimately lead to death.  In the well known Bible story of Mary and Martha, we see Martha take the more practical approach with her guest, only to have Jesus tell her that Mary had made the wiser choice.  We too can fall into that same trap, as we endeavor to serve God when we really need to be cultivating our relationship with Him.
  3. Confident: Undoubtedly God wants us to be confident about some things, but I’ve noticed that those things are always centered on Him. He wants us to know that we can come “boldly” before His throne of grace; that He will never leave us, nor forsake us; and that He works all things to the good of those who love Him and are called to His purposes.  The problem with confidence is when it drifts from who He is and what’s He’s accomplished for us to who we think we are and what we want to accomplish.  While God has indeed given us good gifts, our confidence cannot be in the quality of those gifts, but in His willingness to work through them.  A common term for misplaced confidence is pride, which inevitably invites God’s resistance.
  4. Charismatic: One of the most misleading images in all of Christendom is the representation of Satan as a little horned creature with a pitchfork.  The Bible says that our enemy comes disguised as an angel of light; that false prophets, performing signs & wonders, will deceive many; and that when the Anti-Christ comes, he will initially be perceived as a man of peace.  The idea that evil will present itself in a way that is repugnant to us is foolishness and yet there seems to be an increasing willingness in our culture to place our confidence in those whose appearance is attractive and whose words seem compelling.  Recent history is littered with examples of persona and personality eclipsing issues of character; but character is at the heart of God’s plan for us.  The Bible says that it is the destiny of every Believer to be transformed into the image of Christ and that the fruit of God’s Spirit dwelling within us is Christ’s character being revealed through us.  For a follower of Jesus Christ, an attractive appearance, an engaging personality and a persuasive argument, are hardly qualifications for leadership; ultimately it is the character of Christ that is the essential trait.
  5. Goal Oriented: As with all of the other traits on this list, setting goals certainly has its place within our lives; but the danger in becoming “goal oriented” is that our goals can take on an unhealthy prominence within our priority system.  Goal oriented people often seem willing to sacrifice people and relationships for the sake of attaining their desired outcomes; and their focus on goals often seems to impair their ability to maintain a healthy perspective in other areas.  The Bible tells us that we need to fix our eyes on Jesus, who is the Author and Finisher of our faith.  It also says that the fulfillment of God’s law is found in loving Him and loving other people.  Goals that are unrelated to these priorities threaten to be little more than distractions.
  6. Empowered: To be sure, it is God’s intent to grant His children access to the power of heaven, which He accomplishes through the in-dwelling of His Holy Spirit, but I believe that it is important to realize that there is nothing virtuous about the pursuit of power. The world loves power, Satan loves power, our flesh craves and responds to power.  While we may rationalize that the pursuit of Gods power is somehow different, I would submit that isn’t necessarily true.  The Bible warns that the heart can be deceptive and I believe that it is essential that we continually check our motivation.  While we serve a God of power and while His power is inherent in the gifts that He’s given us, I don’t believe it was ever meant to be the object of our pursuit.  Our pursuit needs to be after the person of Jesus Christ and of a loving, meaningful, personal relationship with Him.  The fact that this power comes infused within His very being indicates that it was never His intent for us to implement that power apart from Him.  Those who attempt to apply spiritual authority (i.e. power) in areas or ways that God has not ordained are at risk of unwittingly deriving their empowerment from “other” spiritual sources.
  7. Visionary: In our culture, the word “vision” can mean many things; it can mean how well we see (i.e. our visual acuity); or it can refer to a dreamlike state, where images permeate our conscious mind; or it can refer to our long term goals and the strategies for achieving them. Just as the term vision has multiple contexts, so has the term “visionary”.  Whereas there was once a very spiritual connotation to the term, it now seems that anyone who has an active imagination or the ability to “visualize” their ideas can be viewed as a “visionary”.  The problem with such visionaries is that they can tap into any number of sources for their vision.  Visions that are not birthed from the Spirit of God, but are instead derived from observations, imaginations, aspirations… would probably be more accurately called wishes, dreams or fantasies.  Proverbs 28 (NIV) addresses the idea of fantasies when it says, “one who chases fantasies will have his fill of poverty”.  In view of this scripture, it would seem vital that we discern the origin of a “vision” before we choose to embrace it.  I believe that apart from divine inspiration, a “visionary” will inevitably just build a monument to themselves
  8. Proactive: It is commonly held that God helps those who help themselves, but that’s not something that God chose to say about Himself (in scripture).  In fact, the Bible says that they that wait on the Lord are the one’s who renew their strength and rise up as on the wings of eagles.  It could be argued that the Israelites were being proactive when their attack on the Philistines caused them to lose the Ark of the Covenant; just as it could be said of Peter’s efforts to protect Jesus from the Temple Guard in the Garden of Gethsemane.  While being proactive is generally viewed as an essential element of what we consider to be good leadership, for a “follower” of Christ, responsiveness (i.e. to God’s direction) is the greater virtue.
  9. Experienced: It has been said that with age comes wisdom and hopefully if we endeavor to learn along the way, this should be true. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed certain patterns in life, which makes it easier to anticipate what might be around the next bend.  But the walk of faith differs from our natural journey in that God isn’t necessarily bound to work in the same way twice.  Throughout the Old Testament we see Him orchestrate victory for His people through many different means.  In one case He brings Joshua victory through Moses upheld arms; in another the walls of Jericho fall to the shouts of His wandering tribes (Joshua 6); in yet another case the angel of death wipes out 185,000 enemy soldiers in their sleep because of Hezekiah’s prayer (2 Kings 18 & 19); while in still another instance their enemies turn on each other as Jehoshaphat leads the people onto the battlefield while praising the Lord (2 Chronicles 20).  The danger for those who have experienced victory in their faith journey is that they might come to presume that they have found the formula for success with God.  Today’s Christian Bookstores are filled with books (& other media) that have been built on the premise that, My Experience + God Moved = This is How to have Success with God.  Since faith is an essential element for God’s pleasure, it seems unlikely that He would honor any sort of rote approach.  Experience in our walk with God is only valuable to the extent that it convinces us that He is our only source, our only hope and our only goal.
  10. Open Minded: Jesus said that we must love God with all of our heart, soul & mind (Mat. 22:37); and that He wasn’t willing to do anything that He didn’t see the Father do first (John 5:19). This is not a picture of a mind that is open (i.e. receptive) to just anything, but of one that is reserved for a single purpose.  The scripture also says that we must test everything by the Spirit (1 John 4:1); taking every thought captive, making it obedient to Christ; and demolishing every argument & pretense that exalts itself against the knowledge of God (2 Cor. 10:5).  This is not a picture of an open door, but of a guarded gate.  The open mind looks for “new truth”, while the Christ-centered mind seeks a greater revelation of the truth that has always been.
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There is a world of difference between teaching your children to be considerate of diverse perspectives, versus raising them to be truly “open minded”. Encouraging young people to try on other people’s ideas and philosophies, as though they were trying on outfits at the Mall, is akin to having them accept rides from strangers in order to better understand human nature.

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I find myself walking along a darkened street in what appears to be a very old, residential area, within a large city.  The houses look as though they were built around the time of the First World War and they are big by today’s standards.  I imagine that in its day this was a very inviting place to raise a family, but the neighborhood has long since fallen into ruin.  Most of the windows and doors have been boarded up and the few houses that appear to be occupied seem to be dimly lit and tightly shut.  Weeds have overtaken the cracks in the sidewalk and the concrete is uneven and crumbling in places.  Only one street light on the block remains lit and an ominous sense envelops me as I make my way down the street.  I ask the Lord what I’m doing here, but He is silent.  As I walk on, I come to a house that appears to be abandoned, but which isn’t boarded up.  In that moment I hear the Lord say, “Go take a look”.  I can feel my stomach rumbling an objection and I swallow hard to avoid asking the Lord, “why?”  Reluctantly, I turn and begin to shuffle up the short pathway to the porch.

As my eyes strain to detect any signs of movement, I see that the windows on the second floor seem to be open, while all of the windows on the ground floor appear to be broken out.  I notice the remnants of a curtain in one of the windows, as it gently rolls with the breeze.  As I step onto the porch I’m struck by the fact that despite what may have been decades of neglect, the structure itself still seems sound, which is undoubtedly a tribute to those who built it.  There is trash and broken glass strewn all over the porch and the sound of my feet treading on the debris seems unusually loud.  I feel new waves of apprehension as I come to the doorway and I can see that the door has been ripped from its hinges.  Everything beyond that point appears to be pitch black and I pause to once again query the Lord; but before I’m able to form the words I feel Him nudge me forward, as though He has anticipated my question.

Stepping through the doorway I once again stop allowing my eyes to adjust to the darkness; as the smell of urine overwhelms my nostrils.  Like the porch, the floor is littered with debris and the walls are covered with graffiti.  In places chunks of the plaster are missing and the lighting fixtures appear to have been ripped from their mountings.  As I step through the foyer I can see the shattered remains of the stairway banister; in the corner of the dining room there is a large burnt area on the floor; and in the kitchen I find that someone has defecated in the sink and apparently smeared it on the cabinets.  Nauseated, I stumble back toward the front door, hoping to leave this depressing scene behind; but as I come to the stairway, the Lord once again nudges me and I know that I must also go upstairs.  The creaking of the stairs seems amplified in the quietness of the house, and I am soon making my way through the upstairs hallway.  In one bedroom I find a crib that has been smashed into splinters; in another a mattress covered with a sheet, which is stained with blood and other bodily fluids; and in the bathroom I see the cockroaches scurrying to the open hole where the toilet once was.  I feel as though I can take no more and I quickly move back down the stairs and out the front door.  Relieved to be out in the open air, I stumble back to the sidewalk and begin to distance myself from the house.  As I look back over my shoulder, I ask the Lord, “What was that?”  To which He responds, “That is a picture of an open mind”.  (The vision ends)

I found myself somewhat surprised by those words.  I guess on some unconscious level I had accepted the idea that being “open minded” was a good thing; but obviously this picture indicated otherwise.  As if to remove any doubt about misinterpreting the message, I felt like the Lord definitively stated, “I have not called you to have an open mind!”  Instinctively I wondered whether this meant that I was supposed to have a “closed mind”; but the Lord quickly impressed upon me that many have been deceived to believe that those are the only two options.  Indeed, the scripture exhorts us to test everything by the Spirit (1 John 4:1); taking every thought captive, making it obedient to Christ; and demolishing every argument & every pretense that exalts itself against the knowledge of God (2 Cor. 10:5).  This is not a picture of an open door, but of a guarded gate.

As the post-modern society (including many within the church) embraces the concept of an open mind we see the scriptures fulfilled, as the collective thinking becomes increasingly futile and depraved; with elements like anxiety, depression, bullying, suicide, shootings, pornography, child molestation… becoming commonplace in our culture.  Just as the fathers of these philosophies before them, those who embrace this way of thinking are destined to become hollow shells, whose minds have been vandalized, scarred and desecrated by nameless intruders, who have wandered in and out, unimpeded.  Lord God, in your mercy – transform us by the renewing of our minds.  Amen.

 

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