“It’s odd how certain things at certain times attract our attention. It’s almost as if our brains focus on one sense or impression at a time. You get hurt—you notice that. Then, as the pain starts to fade, you realize you’re hungry. But the thing is—were you hungry that whole time and your brain just didn’t tell you? Or did you suddenly start to get hungry right when you stopped focusing on the pain? It makes it hard to tell how much of the world passes by every day in that slipstream between what’s really happening and what our brains register as real.”
from “Curse (Blur Trilogy Book 3)” by Steven James
We really are single tasking. No matter how much we like to talk about multitasking – we don’t. We can’t. At least not consciously.
We’ve got one brain. It can focus on one thing. Sure – we can quickly flip between multiple things, quite rapidly. But still – only one at a time.
Having been in the computer field, I can tell you that this is how the early ones worked. They had one processor. They could do one thing. And yes – they could “appear” to do multiple things simultaneously, but they didn’t. The truth is – the more things we tried to make them do “at the same time”, the slower they actually went. They could spend so much time trying to change between many different things that the only thing they really accomplished was to flip from one thing to the next. On and on – all they did well was bring in the next thing they needed to do! And the more things they tried to balance, the less productive work they actually accomplished. We used to be called “Operating System Specialists” – and part of our job was to fine tune this balancing act between doing real work – and changing from one program to another – to make it look like the computer was doing hundreds of things at one time. All the while – doing one thing at a time.
We are no different, as far as the way our conscious minds work. No – I’m not talking about sub-conscious. Just what we consciously process with our minds.
The quote above puts it quite nicely. One thing at a time.
But what is that one thing? And what part do we play in deciding what that one thing is?
As usual – even for something we view as a “modern” development – the answers are in the Bible.
So lets look at some examples of what we do with our “mind” – Biblical style. (emphasis added to each section to identify the key phrase and focus your “mind” on it)
Ex 13:17 When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” 18 So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt armed for battle.
This is right after the Israelites were freed from 400 years of captivity Egypt. In this very first example, we see God knowing that His people would focus on fear if the Egyptians were to attack them. That fear would be so bad that they’d even want to return to the horrible captivity from which God had just free them. In order to keep that from happening, God led His people on a path that would enable a very visible demonstration of the fact that God could – and would – protect them.
Dt 11:13 So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today—to love the LORD your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul— 14 then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and oil. 15 I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied.
Dt 11:16 Be careful, or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them. 17 Then the LORD’S anger will burn against you, and he will shut the heavens so that it will not rain and the ground will yield no produce, and you will soon perish from the good land the LORD is giving you. 18 Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 20 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, 21 so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land that the LORD swore to give your forefathers, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.
Dt 11:22 If you carefully observe all these commands I am giving you to follow—to love the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways and to hold fast to him— 23 then the LORD will drive out all these nations before you, and you will dispossess nations larger and stronger than you
Now we see Mosses talking about what God did for His people. He’s also talking about how they can try to focus their minds on God – and not get sidetracked onto something else. The whole thing is about keeping their minds on God.
Jer 14:11 Then the LORD said to me, “Do not pray for the well-being of this people. 12 Although they fast, I will not listen to their cry; though they offer burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Instead, I will destroy them with the sword, famine and plague.”
Jer 14:13 But I said, “Ah, Sovereign LORD, the prophets keep telling them, ‘You will not see the sword or suffer famine. Indeed, I will give you lasting peace in this place.’ ”
Jer 14:14 Then the LORD said to me, “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I have not sent them or appointed them or spoken to them. They are prophesying to you false visions, divinations, idolatries and the delusions of their own minds. 15 Therefore, this is what the LORD says about the prophets who are prophesying in my name: I did not send them, yet they are saying, ‘No sword or famine will touch this land.’ Those same prophets will perish by sword and famine. 16 And the people they are prophesying to will be thrown out into the streets of Jerusalem because of the famine and sword. There will be no one to bury them or their wives, their sons or their daughters. I will pour out on them the calamity they deserve.
Here in Jeremiah, we see God talking about those who claim to be prophets – but are talking about things they made up in their own minds. They aren’t focusing on Him – in fact they are far away from Him.
Jer 31:33 “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel
after that time,” declares the LORD.
“I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
Later in Jeremiah, we see what will be God’s future response to those false prophets. He will put His law into His people’s minds. God wants them to focus again on Him.
Jesus Appears to the Disciples
Lk 24:36 While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
Lk 24:37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”
We’re into the New Testament now. Jesus has been crucified and resurrected. He is appearing to some of His disciples. And He can tell they have doubts in their minds about whether it’s really Jesus they’re looking at and talking to. Jesus is trying to get them to first focus on what they “know” – as opposed to what they are afraid of. Then, they will be able to focus on Him again.
Ac 14:1 At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Gentiles believed. 2 But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. 3 So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders. 4 The people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews, others with the apostles. 5 There was a plot afoot among the Gentiles and Jews, together with their leaders, to mistreat them and stone them. 6 But they found out about it and fled to the Lycaonian cities of Lystra and Derbe and to the surrounding country, 7 where they continued to preach the good news.
This is from the book of Acts – the early church. It shows some of the Jews, who refused to believe – refused to accept in their minds – the message of Paul and Barnabas about Jesus.
With their minds focused on not believing, they tried to get others to focus their minds on the same thing – unbelief. And that all got started because Paul and Barnabas were trying to get people to focus their minds on believing.
There are more examples, but hopefully I have shown enough of them to get your attention – to have your mind focused on what I’m trying to show you.
In each of these cases – it was about competition for someone’s mind. Two sides, both trying to get people to pay attention to them.
If we follow the computer example – it’s like two things are trying to be processed at the same time. It keeps flipping back and forth from one to the other. The more it flips back and forth – the less at actually spends time working on either side – and the more it spends trying to just spend some time on each of them.
The same thing happens with us. If we spend so much time trying to switch our minds from one issue to another – we may never actually make up our minds and decide to go with either side. We’ll fit into that category that pollsters call “undecided”. We can’t make up our minds – because we’re too busy trying to listen to both sides at the same time. And we can’t do that.
It’s much better to listen to one – then the other. Then decide.
You may be asking – “Did he really just say that?” – listen to both sides?
Yes – I did.
Surprise – even Satan invited Eve to do that very thing – listen to both sides.
Ge 3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
Yes. The serpent just invited Eve to examine what God said. Eve could very well have gone back to either God or Adam – and asked them the very same question that was posed to her by the serpent.
But she didn’t do that –
Ge 3:2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ”
Instead, Eve just responded from her memory. And got it wrong. Very wrong.
It’s OK to listen to both sides
Just the fact that God allowed this “little” interaction between Eve and the serpent implies that He’s OK with it happening.
In fact – I believe the encounter was essential.
God wants us to make a choice – between good and evil – between Him and Satan.
Choice – it’s the only way love can really happen.
Without a choice between two things – there is no love.
When there’s only one “choice” – we haven’t truly chosen anything.
With only one object for our love – there is no love.
I also think history and our own experiences show that we are inquisitive people. We have this desire to examine things. To look at both sides of an issue.
I believe there are two problems that come up because of that –
- As in the example I discussed earlier – we never make up our minds. We just keep examining. Maybe we don’t spend enough time on either one to really understand them. Maybe we’re just afraid to commit. But we have to – because failure to commit to God is essentially the same as committing to Satan.
Sorry – but that’s just the way it is. I didn’t make it up. If we truly take the time to examine what God has given us – the Bible – we see that’s quite obvious. He wants us to freely choose Him. Not choosing Him is the same as rejecting Him.
- The other possibility is that we don’t do a good job of examining both side. The “Eve” problem. Truth is – she didn’t really look deeply into either side. Just like us, if we go down this path. We have some knowledge of both. But a complete picture of neither. Then we go with the one that sounds good, based on our incomplete knowledge. Not wise. Not wise at all. Because that’s going to end up just where Eve did. And we (should) know where that’ll end up –
Ge 3:6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
Do you think maybe I’ve missed something – that God doesn’t want us to listen to both sides?
Check this out.
Remember in Revelation – the seven letters to the seven churches? Jesus “dictates” a letter to each of the churches. “We” are part of those churches – so the letter is for us.
Every one of those letters contains these word – from Jesus –
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
Think about the implications of that.
We already hear the words of the enemy. We all hear the words from Satan. There’s no avoiding it. It’s been here since the fall – since the “Eve” problem first happened.
Whether we are willing to admit it or not – we have all “studied” the message of Satan. Maybe we have a real understanding of what He’s all about – but probably not.
Satan certainly isn’t going to tell us the truth. We learned that back in Genesis.
“Regular” people aren’t going to tell us the truth about Satan – because they don’t know it either.
Unfortunately, too many churches won’t tell us the truth either – because people don’t want to hear it. They’ll stop going to that church and look for one with a non-threatening message. So the message isn’t given.
The only way to get both sides of the message is from the Bible
Think about that.
The only way to get both sides of the message is from the Bible.
The Bible – obviously – gives the true message about God.
The Bible – maybe not so obviously – is also the only source for the truth about Satan.
If God didn’t want us to closely examine both sides – would He have done things this way?
If God didn’t want us to examine both sides, would Jesus have said things like –
Mt 10:16 I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.
You may think blind love for God is Good.
It’s not a bad thing. But it’s also not an informed choice.
One could just as easily have blind love for Satan. And lot’s of people do.
In Isaiah – God gives us an invitation to do something –
Isa 1:18 “Come now, let us reason together,”
says the LORD.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool.
There are two things to point out here –
- God is inviting us to reason with Him. He wants us to go to Him. He doesn’t want us to suffer from what I called the “Eve” problem.
- God is also telling us that our default position is not one where we have chosen Him. By default – we have chosen Satan. Because of the “Eve” problem.
And God’s letting us know this in no uncertain terms.
But if we don’t read His word – we won’t know this.
However, when we read His word – He will teach us about evil – what’s evil – why it’s evil — along with what’s good – and why it’s good.
He will teach us to focus our minds on Him.
He will give us the Holy Spirit to help us do just that.
We know this because –
Jn 14:23 Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.”
Jn 14:25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
Really pay attention.
Pay attention to God’s word.
Pay attention to the world around you.
Pay attention like your life depends on it.
Because it does.
Your eternal life is completely dependent on you paying attention.
Here’s an example of what I’m trying to say.
The book that the original quote comes from – “Curse (Blur Trilogy Book 3)” by Steven James – it’s written for teenagers. Maybe for the parents of teenagers as well?
But I’m neither one. My wife and I are the parents of three wonderful four-legged creations of God. A Shih-Tzu, a Havanese (we think – maybe a mix), and a Chow Chow mix. All rescue dogs.
And yes – they all get together very well.
And yet – I read the books. Because if I’m going to write about these things – I have to do what I’m suggesting above.
I have to examine things from various sides.
I have to reason with God.
I have to try to involve the Holy Spirit in my research.
I have to know where people are – which is not necessarily where we should be. At least that’s one lesson I have plenty of experience with!
So pay attention.
Reason with God.
And continue to pay attention.
image from 4mat4business.com