Volume. XXXV, No. 16
Sunday, 18 October 2020

From the Pastor’s Heart: Educate Your Mind (4)

There are many reasons why we should read books for the benefits that we may gain from everyday reading.  Most of us, if not all, would agree that reading gives us cognitive mental stimulation and helps us with brain exercise.  There are other benefits like increasing our vocabularies, keeping our hearts in a tranquil state, or enhancing our empathy.  Some may say that book reading helps them sleep well!  Of course, reading increases our knowledge and enlarges our imaginations, helping us to see things from a broader perspective beyond our own limited boundaries.  Knowledge can be obtained from both direct and indirect experiences.  Our direct experiential knowledge is obviously very limited by time, location, surroundings, or the level of exposure to different cultures and knowledge bases.  However, indirect experiential knowledge can be unlimited beyond time and territory. 

In 1994, I visited a town of one of the tribes in Kenya (I won't disclose the tribe’s name).  It was January, during a scorching hot summer.  There had been no rain for a while, and the vast area was all dry and dusty.  There was no green grass for animals.  Certainly the water supply was a problem.  The government provided a well in this town for both people and animals.  Little kids followed their mothers to a water container, to drink water.  As a city boy myself, these tiny kids looked so adorable.  I could not resist the temptation to take photos of them.  As I was taking their photos, the tribal men were very angry with me and shouted at me in their own language.  My translator told me that they were using cursing and wrathful words.  They were extremely angry with me because they firmly believed that cameras would take the souls of the animals, which would result in the loss of their wealth.  I could not believe that there were still people believing such a thing.  This is one extreme example, probably.  However, all of us can have misconceptions, misinformation, prejudices, or pride because none of us has perfect knowledge of all things.  Thus, we evaluate, understand, and measure everything based on our knowledge which may not be true at all.  No knowledge or lack of knowledge does not mean that we feel our opinions and convictions to be weak.  In reality, people are even willing to give their lives for wrong ideas and distorted knowledge.  We cannot experience everything directly but it is more than possible that we can have indirect knowledge by reading.  However, there are also some cautions relating to our reading of books.

First, reading gets faster and faster today.  What I mean is that today, reading is assimilated with technology.  All the information we need is at our fingertips.  Thus, our knowledge is easily measured by the speed with which we can find and locate the information we need and by the quantity of information we can collect.  Thus, Dr. Google finds the information which we are seeking.  Therefore, technology gives the illusion that “easier and quicker” finding of information is the best for reading, and this eventually enhances our knowledge.  I would say that this is only partially true.  Reading that educates our mind is not of information.  Information comes and goes.  However, an educated mind changes and moulds us to set our way through life in a better and deeper way.  Mind-educating reading takes time, because it is a time consuming process.  It does not go with speed.  Rather, by nature it has to be very slow.  Deep meditation of God’s Word does not compete with speed.  It is an endless wrestling with truth.  

Second, serious reading needs to be slow.  Speed may be the highest virtue in the computerized world.  However, speed reading is probably the worst enemy to serious reading.  Think about water flow.  When water passes through a small conduit, it flows faster, because of added pressure.  When we attempt to assimilate a flood of knowledge or information, we may process everything faster, but it is efficient only for collecting information.  I am sure that many of us have tried it during our school days.  A night before exams, we try to cram information into our head as much as we can with a hope for better scores in the end.  However, after the exam, not much remains in our memory.  Wise and serious readers do not attempt to assimilate a large quantity of information as quickly as possible to produce quick results.  Our minds do not get educated by quick information processes.  There are many ideas and concepts which are fundamentally different from “simple information.”  There are many sides to concepts and ideas.  We must understand that there are many abstract words and ideas which cannot be easily understood.  Besides, certain ideas and truths require us to have more prior knowledge of subjects.  When we take classes, we know that there are prerequisite courses to take before we can take them.  Likewise, certain books or subjects require us to have prior knowledge before reading them. 

Now we move from reading to keeping and developing what we have read to educate our mind.  Isaac Watts said in Improvement of the Mind, “Once a day…call yourselves to an account what new ideas, what new proposition or truth you have gained, what further confirmation of known truths, and what advances you have made in any part of knowledge.” 

First, be ready to read with focus and thought.  Of course, I am talking about serious reading.  David Denby’s lyrical complaint in Great Books may be of interest to you: “I can no longer submit to fiction…. I read and stop, read and stop, a train halted by obstacles on the track, bad weather, power failures.  Everyone complains that young people, growing up on TV, movies, video games, and rap music, lack the patience for long, complex, written narratives, and yet as a child I had not watched all that much television, and I had also lost patience in middle age… [My] life had grown much more complex.  I was married to a clever and formidable woman, and there were two kids running around; I had multiple jobs and a lot more to think about than I had had at eighteen.  A much larger experience was not casting up its echoes” (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996, 47).  Probably, most of us can sympathize with him.  We just cannot read Shakespeare or Plato and say, “we simply read them.”  Our minds have to be fixed and organized well enough to grasp some ideas from the pages we are reading.  Our mind has to be engaged.  Isaac Watts advised us to “meditate and study.”  It is an act that “transfers and conveys the notions and sentiments of others to ourselves, so as to make them properly our own.” 

Second, try to record what we find from reading.  Though we may not do it very systematically, we often do a similar act.  We copy down some quotes or snippets that we want to remember.  We could mark or jot down “specific phrases, sentences, or paragraphs” that we want to remember or find to be useful.  Bronson Alcott wrote in his own journal in 1834, “Education is that process by which thought is opened out of the soul, and, associated with outward… things, is reflected back upon itself, and thus made conscious of its reality and shape.  It is Self-Realization…. He who is seeking to know himself, should be ever seeking himself in external things, and by so doing will be best able to find, and explore his inmost light.”  It is an interesting thought, though his words are not Christian wording, because it is true that we can know ourselves better by looking unto God (External and Eternal Being).  What we need to do is not just to read and collect a huge pool of information, but to understand, which will educate our mind. 



Your Pastor

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Praise & Thanksgiving

  • God’s daily guidance, protection & providence.
  • Church activities in the past week.
  • God’s mercy & protection from COVID-19 in SA & easing of restrictions in Australia.
  • Journey mercies: Rev Kyle Graham & family (Pt. Lincoln); others who have travelled.



  • Healing: Rev Mathews Abraham, Rev Pong Sen Yiew (S’pore) & others who are sick.
  • COVID-19 pandemic – God’s continued guidance and protection for Australia & all who are affected.
  • Journey mercies: Pastor & Sis Myung Ki (Queensland); others who are travelling.
  • Missions: Rev Sun Sokha & family; Faith Krang Angkrang Church (PhnomPenh).



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