Monday, November 3, 2014

Eternal thoughts

As we write computer courses, we consider how best to incorporate discipleship points for the students that the teachers can use. Sometimes it's exercises that require them to read and think about a Bible passage while applying a computer skill. For instance, in Computer Essentials, they practice their word processing skills on a document of Ecclesiastes. One thing they have to do is compose headings for the whole book. Other times, we just incorporate "Eternal Thoughts," tying some principle they had to practice on the computer to life in the perspective of eternity. Here's an example:

Eternal Thoughts, Programming & Databases 1, chapter 6, "Decisions"

Computers only make the decisions we tell them to. We have to tell them the conditions ahead of time. If this is true, do this, if not, do that. Human beings are much more complex in the way we make decisions. We'd like to think that we make all our decisions rationally, doing what makes the most sense and what we know is right. But emotions are also very powerful in our decision-making. Advertisers and propagandists know this, and make sure to send you the message that the decision they want you to make, whether to buy a certain product or support a particular politician, will lead to good feelings. They also try to make you feel bad if you don't make that decision. People's "gut reaction" also sometimes guides their decisions – a sense they can't explain that something is the right or wrong decision. Psychologists usually attribute this to perceptions we haven't consciously processed, memories we haven't consciously associated with the situation at hand, etc. Spirituality also influences our decisions – Satan will throw anything that he knows affects your decisions, whether it's reasons or fears or lusts or dreams, to try to tempt you. On the other hand, people who have walked with Jesus a long time develop a sensitivity to the Holy Spirit so that they begin to sense what is right even when they don't have enough information to base their decision on logic.

All these influences factor into our decisions, in a way that even we don't fully understand. We sometimes don't know why do the things we do. How then can we hope to make the right decisions? We certainly cannot just idly hope that whatever we decide will be right. We are far too prone to sin for that. The old saying that "Those who fail to plan, plan to fail" is true when it comes to sin. That's especially true for the sins that Jesus addresses in the sermon on the Mount about anger, retaliation, sexual sin, and worry. Those are sins that we commit when our emotions overtake us – we are usually not even capable of reasoning logically in the situations when we are tempted to these things. That's why it is very valuable to "program" ourselves ahead of time, that "if this happens, then I will do thus, no matter how I feel." If the decision is already made when we are capable of thinking, we can stand firm in it even when our feelings pressure us to sin.

Thinking these things through and deciding beforehand to do what is right can save us from a world of hurt. But we can't anticipate every temptation. That's why it is so important to be growing and walking daily in the Lord, seeking him in prayer and the Scriptures, disciplining ourselves to obey him in the small things, so that we are made to be more like him. As we do that, gradually our "first instinct" instead of selfishness will become to honour Christ.

Consider the following passages and how you are applying them in your life:

I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. 6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, "The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play." 8 We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. 9 We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, 10 nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. 12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

1 Corinthians 10, ESV

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints

Ephesians 6, ESV

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