Your life will be as bright as the noonday sun. Job 11:17

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Thinking About What You’re Thinking About

An amazing discovery I’ve had since retiring is that my mind wanders. Not short trips but journeys.  In a matter of minutes my thoughts race from laundry to shopping lists to telephoning a friend to a Scripture I read to a program on television to a conversation with my mom to whether I should mow the lawn or not and back to the laundry and should I do a load of “whites” or “colors.”  It’s easy to dismiss that kind of thoughtlessness, but Scripture teaches that as a man thinks in his heart, so he is.  What does that mean?  Studylight.org writes, “A man is as his thoughts.”  I like to put it this way, “You are what you think about!”

The way that we think determines to a large if not complete part how we live, what we do, who we do it with, where we go and who we are.  Just let that soak in for a few.

My thoughts dictate whether I am going for a walk or lounging in the recliner.  My thoughts lead me to telephone a friend or dwell in quiet time.  My thoughts guide my decision to drive through a fast food restaurant or stir up a meal from the pantry.  My thoughts determine whether I will pray about a situation or gossip about it.

It is crucial that we think about what we are thinking about and, as 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 teaches, learn to take our thoughts captive.  Our minds do not have to be open pastures allowing any and every creature to pass through.  We can and, more importantly, we should erect fences that hold captive the thoughts we should dwell on and keep out those that would not only prove detrimental to our well-being but those that rob us of peace with God, peace in our relationships and peace with ourselves.  You know, the spirit-killers and joy-robbers – the thoughts that keep us from being who God created us to be.

Philippians 2:5 (AKJV) says, “Let this be the mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” This Scripture should raise for you as it did for me the question of How – How do I have the mind of Christ?

First, you must know Christ. If you don’t know Him, you cannot possibly have his mind. Settle this business first! You can visit the SALVATION tab at the top of this page to learn how you can have a personal relationship with Christ as your Lord and Savior.

To those who know Him, Scripture gives guidance for our thought life.

  • Romans 12:2 (NASB) says, “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Women are somewhat experts on renewal; you know, new hairstyle, new wardrobe, new shoes. Those things are nice, but what we need is a new mind, new thinking. We need to continuously renew our minds through prayer and the study of God’s word. Renewal is an ongoing process.
  • 1 Peter 1:13 (KJV) says, “gird up the loins of your mind.” I love Scriptures like this because I am forced to go deeper in my study to understand the meaning. Gird is not a word we tend to use freely in the American language, and our use of the word loins is typically preceded by the words beef or pork.

The Art of Manliness.com writes, “Back in the days of the ancient Near East, both men and women wore flowing tunics. Around the tunic, they’d wear a belt or girdle. While tunics were comfortable and breezy, the hem of the tunic would often get in the way when a man was fighting or performing hard labor. So when ancient Hebrew men had to battle the Philistines, the men would lift the hem of their tunic up and tuck it into their girdle or tie it in a knot to keep it off the ground. The effect basically created a pair of shorts that provided more freedom of movement. Thus to tell someone to “gird up their loins” was to tell them to get ready for hard work or battle. It was the ancient way of saying “man up!”

Well, we don’t have to “man up,” (Ladies, don’t get upset.) but we do need to “step up” and “mature up,” especially in our thinking. This Scripture calls us to prepare our minds for the battle. What battle? The battle with Satan. He knows that if he can wriggle his way into your thoughts (doubt, anger, bitterness, jealousy, revenge, etc.), he can control you. Remember, “a man is as his thoughts,” and “you are what you think about.”

Just as the Hebrew men lifted their hems and tucked them into their girdle to free themselves to fight more effectively, so we need to hem up our thoughts, tuck in those that are of Christ (I am his child, John 1:12; I am a friend of Jesus, John 15:15; I am no longer a slave to sin, Romans 6:6; In Christ Jesus I have wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption, 1 Corinthians 1:30, etc.), and keep out those that are of Satan (I am no good, I am a loser, I am weak, I can’t help myself, etc.)

Think about what you are thinking about.

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The WhatIfs

Shel Silverstein, long one of my favorite poets, penned a poem entitled WhatIf.  It begins, “Last night, while I lay thinking here,
some Whatifs crawled inside my ear and pranced and partied all night long and sang their same old Whatif song:  Whatif I’m dumb in school?  Whatif they’ve closed the swimming pool?  Whatif I get beat up?  Whatif there’s poison in my cup?  Whatif I start to cry?  Whatif I get sick and die?”

Instead of breaking up the late night party, we join in, serve refreshment, turn the music up and add our own lyrics!

Our grownup version tends to go more like this:  Whatif I can’t pay my rent?  Whatif all my money’s spent?  What if my spouse decides to leave?  What if my children begin to deceive?  What if the doctor gives me a cancer scare?  What if I lose all my hair?  What if my house is taken away?  What if I die and this is my last day…?  What if my child is born with defect?  What if my teenagers are in a wreck?  And so on…you know how it goes.

I challenge you to change the tune completely and consider these lyrics:  What if God is, as His Word says, in control?  What if God is omniscient?  What if God is omnipresent and is with you wherever you go (Joshua 1:9)?  What if God has a plan for your welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and hope (Jeremiah 29:11)?  What if with God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26)?  What if God’s Word does not return empty but, rather, accomplishes His purpose and succeeds in the thing for which He sent it (Isaiah 55:8-11)?  What if in His hand is the life of everything (Job 12:10)?  What if God is faithful and will provide (1 Corinthians 10:13)?  What if nothing is too hard for Him (Jeremiah 32:27) and what if you can do all things through Him (Philippians 4:13)?  What if God will strengthen, help and uphold you (Isaiah 41:10)?  What if all that seems to be meant evil towards you God means it for good (Genesis 50:20)?

What if you stopped worrying and started trusting?

Silverstein ends his poem, “Everything seems well, and then the nighttime Whatifs strike again!”

When the Whatifs strike you, strike back with the Word of your Lord!  Stop worrying.  Start trusting.

THIS WEEK take captive every thought (2 Corinthians 10:5) including your whatifs!  Replace each with a promise from God.

The Whatifs:  A Silverstein Poem   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=plxOibb0L0s

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Loose Lips

“Once upon a time, there was a village called Smoldering Pines.  Smoldering Pines… lay at the foot of the great sleeping volcano, Mt. Discordia.  Spoken words in Smoldering Pines take on a physical form.  Whenever people talk, their words appear in the air and then fall haphazardly to the ground.  Homeowners then rake their discarded words into piles at the edge of their property.  Over time, these piles…become fences.  Thoughts, like words, can become visible, too.  Granted the town does like dangerously close to a volcano.  But this isn’t a concern for the residents.  After all, Mt. Discordia has been dormant for hundreds of years.”

Bet you can guess the rest of David Hutchens’ story.  Listening to the Volcano is a marvelously funny yet thought-provoking fable about many things including the power of our words.

Research says that women speak about 20,000 words a day – some 13,000 more than the average man.  That alone ought to caution us because Proverbs 10:19 (ESV) says, “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.”   Admittedly, I have to agree.  Somewhere among that many words we are bound to find some that would have best been kept behind the teeth.

In Hutchens’ fable, spoken words actually materialize into wooden placards and fall to the ground.  They mound up into piles and form fences around the speaker.  Likewise their thoughts.  Guess what?  In reality our words and thoughts form fences, too.  We do not see them as readily as in Listening to the Volcano, but it might be a good thing if we did because they would be a very visible reminder to us.  How powerful if we actually saw that hateful thought, that sarcastic word, that vengeful or vindictive contemplation and that spiteful, spirit-killing word – materialized and lying right before us at our feet.  I can’t help but believe we might have some pause before speaking again and that we might be more obedient to 2 Corinthians 2:5 and actually take captive our thoughts.

As wedding presents my maternal grandmother gave me gifts of her wisdom.  One tidbit I remember is, “Choose your words very carefully.  All the “I’m sorries” in the world cannot take them back.  Even if your husband tells you he forgives you, he will remember what you said.”  That was good advice for me as a newlywed, and it is good advice for anyone.   We can say we’re sorry, that we didn’t mean it or that we weren’t thinking.  We can offer a ton of other excuses about not feeling well, misunderstanding and being confused.  But once a word is spoken, it’s out there, and you cannot take it back.  No one can ever misunderstand a word not spoken!  Proverbs 21:23 (ESV) says, “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.”  Another way to think about it might be as my grandmother put it.  “The Lord gave you two ears and one mouth; that ought to tell you something!”  Practice listening and speaking proportionately.

Sometimes we feel pressured to speak.  Someone angers us, falsely accuses us, slanders us.  This is one that I have struggled with.  As a retired school administrator, I’ve had more than my fair share of false accusations – some, stretches of the truth; others, just out right lies.  Proverbs 26:4 (ESV) teaches us, “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself,” but I had a friend that summarized this lesson with his own adage, “When you argue with a fool, you become the fool.”  Ecclesiastes 5:6a (ESV) says, “Let not your mouth lead you into sin,” and Proverbs 17:27 (ESV) adds, “Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.”  Proverbs 21:23 (ESV) goes further, “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.”  When I taught Junior High School (where there were a lot of hot, angry, teenage tongues) I posted an African proverb on one of my bulletin boards, “Must you turn around and look at every dog that barks at you?”  It was a good reminder for my students to ignore the lies, accusations and gossip their classmates spread.  More than 25 years later, that is still good advice.

Finally, we sometimes get caught up in conversations and dialogue because we are around others who talk too much.  I am convinced that a loose tongue can be caught – something like a cold or the flu!   Do you work with colleagues who tell “off color” jokes?  Do you have family members that curse like sailors or girlfriends that should be on gossip television?  Perhaps you have friends that are super negative – every spoken word is a complaint or a put down; they see (and point out) only what is wrong; their throats are open graves and their mouths are full of curses and bitterness (Romans 3:13-14 ESV).  We do not have to be unfriendly, and we need never act superior to others, but 2 Timothy 2:16 (ESV) teaches us to “Avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness.”   You need only remember this childhood ditty, “Loose lips, sink ships.”  They will sink you, too.  When we dwell in the presence of these individuals, it is often not long before we sink to their level – we repeat the jokes, begin cursing and spread the gossip.

Words are powerful. Consider the following Scriptures understanding that there are at least a dozen more found in the pages of the Bible.  God’s word is never in vain. It always achieves its purpose (Isaiah 55:11).  Surely there is purpose in so many Scriptures addressing our tongues and our words.

“Rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” (Proverbs 12:18, ESV) 

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” (Proverbs 18:21, ESV) 

“Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.”  (Proverbs 17:9, ESV)

“By your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”   (Matthew 12:37, ESV) 

“Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.”  (Proverbs 29:20, ESV) 

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”  (Ephesians 4:39, ESV)

“But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.”  (Matthew 15:18, ESV)

THIS WEEK, observe your speech and consider your words.  Are you talking more than listening?  Do your words heal or thrust as a sword?    When you speak, are you building up or tearing down?  What do your words reveal about your heart?

Remember, “On the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak.”  (Matthew 12:36, ESV)  Don’t you want to stand before our Lord knowing your words restored, built up and made better?

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Attention Deficit Disorder

You’ve probably heard or read this old joke.  I just found it in my email from 2004.  (Yes, I have archived email from 2004…and before that, too!)

“Recently, I was diagnosed with A. A. A. D. D. – Age Activated Attention Deficit Disorder.

 This is how it manifests:  I decide to wash my car. As I start toward the garage, I notice that there is mail on the hall table. I decide to go through the mail before I wash the car. I lay my car keys down on the table, put the junk mail in the trash can under the table, and notice that the trash can is full.

So, I decide to put the bills back on the table and take out the trash first.  But then I think, since I’m going to be near the mailbox when I take out the trash anyway, I may as well pay the bills first.  I take my checkbook off the table, and see that there is only one check left.

 My extra checks are in my desk in the study, so I go to my desk where I find the can of Coke that I had been drinking. I’m going to look for my checks, but first I need to push the Coke aside so that I don’t accidentally knock it over. I see that the Coke is getting warm, and I decide I should put it in the refrigerator to keep it cold. As I head toward the kitchen with the coke a vase of flowers on the counter catches my eye–they need to be watered.  I set the Coke down on the counter, and I discover my reading glasses that I’ve been searching for all morning.

I decide I better put them back on my desk, but first I’m going to water the flowers. I set the glasses back down on the counter, fill a container with water and suddenly I spot the TV remote. Someone left it on the kitchen table. I realize that tonight when we go to watch TV, I will be looking for the remote, but I won’t remember that it’s on the kitchen table, so I decide to put it back in the den where it belongs, but first I’ll water the flowers.

I splash some water on the flowers, but most of it spills on the floor. So, I set the remote back down on the table, get some towels and wipe up the spill. Then I head down the hall trying to remember what I was planning to do.

At the end of the day: the car isn’t washed, the bills aren’t paid, there is a warm can of Coke sitting on the counter, the flowers aren’t watered, there is still only one check in my checkbook, I can’t find the remote, I can’t find my glasses, and I don’t remember what I did with the car keys.

Then when I try to figure out why nothing got done today, I’m really baffled because I know I was busy all day long, and I’m really tired.  I realize this is a serious problem, and I’ll try to get some help for it, but first I’ll check my e-mail.”

This semester I am teaching two undergraduate courses in Special Education.  On the first day of class my 46 students and I engaged in some lively dialogue about Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).  I asked them to please tell me who does not have ADD?  They laughed as we launched into deeper dialogue about the differences and challenges that we all have, but beyond that dialogue I have continued to think about ADD – Spiritual ADD that is.

You’ve experienced it.  (I refuse to believe that I am the only one.)  You know how it goes.  While praying your mind wanders to the children, the dry cleaning, fixing dinner.  While listening to the minister on Sunday you begin to doodle a grocery list or a “to do” list in the corner of the bulletin.  While reading your Seminary homework sleep overtakes you and you weren’t even sleepy when you began reading. (Yikes, I slipped a confession in there with that last one.)

Peter experienced ADD.  He left the boat to join Jesus as He walked on water.  As long as he kept his focus on Christ, he was fine.  The very moment he became distracted, looked away, took his eyes off Jesus – he began to sink.  And that is what happens to us.  We become distracted, turn our focus away from God and we sink.

Hebrews 12:2 tells us to “fix our eyes on Jesus.”  The Amplified translation of this Scripture says “look away from all that will distract” and “look to Jesus.”  Easier said than done?  Certainly.  But we must be intentional in our walk, our service and our relationship with Christ.  Identify your distractors and rather than a pill, endeavor to take captive every thought and cease every action that is not of the Lord.  Determine to maintain focus during prayer, worship and life.

At the end of the day you still may not know where your keys are, but you will know where YOU are – centered in the will and plan of God!