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Self control in thinking. How do to it! Part 2

This week has been a week of thinking about thinking, striving to understand the need to control our thinking, what thoughts lead us from God and finally, how to control the thinking process.

I quoted this passage in yesterday’s blog. Today, I want to look at it a little more.

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. (Php 4:4-9)

Before discussing it though, this is not an appeal to “Just think positive thoughts and it will all be ok”, it is more along the line of the song from Jungle Book “You’ve got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative”. I am not naive enough to think that this will be an easy process. Simple (as I said yesterday), but not easy.

I think that if we apply this passage, it will help us control our thinking:

First, We will rejoice in the Lord! (shall I say it again? Sure, if Paul can, so can I!) Rejoice!

It is not easy to focus on things that get you down, cause you problems, or tempt you away from God if you are rejoicing in the Lord. This, to my mind, means that if we are properly thankful to God for the gift of salvation that He gave us, we will be rejoicing because of it. If we are truly thinking about the joys of going to Heaven, we will be anxiously looking for and waiting for our Lord to return.  Even when we go through the inevitable trials of life, we will do as James said and “count it all joy” and agree with Paul that the difficulties of this life are not to be compared to the riches of the life to come. In other words, it is hard to be thinking about sinful, gossipy, angry thoughts if we are rejoicing in the Lord. There is only room for one thought at a time.

Second, let your gentleness be known to all men. (“reasonableness” NKJV). This deals with how you treat others. It is hard to be focusing on your self wants if you are being kind to others, especially those who are not Christians. Your light (which you should always let shine “let it shine, let it shine, let it shine”) will reflect to them that there is a God and in chapter two of this book, we are called lights: reflective like the moon. How do you know that the Sun is shining bright when it is night-time? Because the moon reflects the sun’s light. How do you know the Son is shining in this world of darkness? Because WE reflect His light!)

The Lord is at hand.  No kid steals a cookie from the cookie jar with Mom in the same room. Remember the song “There’s an eye watching you” ?  Well, there  is!

In nothing be anxious. Still, there will be times that even with all of the intent of our hearts, we may still wind up being anxious or perhaps fearful and those are times to turn to God in prayer to remove the anxiety. Make those requests known! Even Jesus made a request just before going to the cross. However, we are to do so with thanksgiving and realize that everything we have is from Him, and that whatever path He leads us on, even should it lead to death, only takes us closer to being with Him.

With those steps, Paul says, the peace of God will guard our hearts and thoughts. If God is guarding them, then I would say they are in good hands. But Paul does go on and says that we should also THINK in a certain way. Those things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, of virtue or praiseworthy are the  things on which we should meditate. Not the conspiracy emails, the gain of riches, the gossip at work, the latest games our friends are playing on FB or their status, and as for the TV shows….oh don’t me started on the many different TV show messages that run contrary to the heart of God and therefore, should run contrary to  our heart as well!

What do you meditate on? David said the righteous man, meditates on God’s law (Psalms 1).

Then Paul says in different words but with the same thought “Imitate me, as I imitate Christ”. What better goal could we have than to attempt to bring our thoughts under control so that our actions, which proceed from those thoughts, will be godly and wholesome and God honoring.

Comments anyone?

Self control in thinking. How do to it! Part 1

This whole week I have been posting about controlling our thoughts. Up until now, I have discussed the difficulties in doing so. I think we all understand that we need to. However, the problem is in doing so.

It is from the heart that a man’s thoughts originate. But in order to produce the same actions that God does, that heart needs to be facing in a certain direction or made of a certain caliber of material.  Getting our hearts to be more in tune with God’s will is simple but it is not easy. It is simple because we simply need to learn more of him, spend more time with him, and get to know Him better. This will cause us to take on His characteristics.

I am sure we have witnessed this phenomenon in ourselves or in others. As we grew up, we may have wanted to be different from our fathers or mothers but as time goes on, we adopted their characteristics: their manners, laughs, phrases, gestures, etc. Even though there is plenty of room for a variety of unique qualities in our own life, still some minor and sometimes major qualities were passed to us by our parents through a variety a means: discipline, example, and simply spending time with them.

In the wilderness as God was revealed to Israel, there is an interesting passage that helps us understand why God did not take on a particular form.

“Then you came near and stood at the foot of the mountain, and the mountain burned with fire to the midst of heaven, with darkness, cloud, and thick darkness. And the LORD spoke to you out of the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of the words, but saw no form; you only heard a voice. (Deu 4:11-12)

“Take careful heed to yourselves, for you saw no form when the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, lest you act corruptly and make for yourselves a carved image in the form of any figure: the likeness of male or female, the likeness of any animal that is on the earth or the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air, the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground or the likeness of any fish that is in the water beneath the earth. (Deu 4:15-18)

If you read that like I am reading it, you will conclude that God did not appear to them in some specific form because He knew that they would make an image to try to capture what He looked like.  But what image does LOVE take on? God is love. In a sort of “I told you so” way, even when Jesus, God in the flesh, came to show us the Father and how He would live, we see numerous attempts to capture His image. I little doubt that the paintings and carvings bear no resemblance at all to his physical appearance but more importantly they do not capture His character.

So the simple part is to spend as much time with God as we do with our parents until His characteristics ‘grow on us’. Of course, as simple as that is, it is not easy with all of the things that are tugging on us, trying to pull us away, capture our imagination and entice us into a life that is more self-centered than God-centered.

One of the many passages that will help us to control our thinking comes from the book of Philippians.

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. (Php 4:4-9)

I will note a couple of things in this passage today and finish tomorrow.

First, Paul says that the “peace of God” will guard your hearts and thoughts and then in the end says that the “God of peace” will be with us. Peace of God, God of peace, either way there will be peace and I would suggest it includes peace of mind.

Second, Paul says in both cases that if we do certain things we will have this gift and I want to talk about those tomorrow. However, in the mean time, read that passage again and see if you might be able to determine why the actions Paul tells us to have will result in a peace that will guard our hearts and minds.

Self control in thinking. How do to it! Part 1

This whole week I have been posting about controlling our thoughts. Up until now, I have discussed the difficulties in doing so. I think we all understand that we need to. However, the problem is in doing so.

It is from the heart that a man’s thoughts originate. But in order to produce the same actions that God does, that heart needs to be facing in a certain direction or made of a certain caliber of material.  Getting our hearts to be more in tune with God’s will is simple but it is not easy. It is simple because we simply need to learn more of him, spend more time with him, and get to know Him better. This will cause us to take on His characteristics.

I am sure we have witnessed this phenomenon in ourselves or in others. As we grew up, we may have wanted to be different from our fathers or mothers but as time goes on, we adopted their characteristics: their manners, laughs, phrases, gestures, etc. Even though there is plenty of room for a variety of unique qualities in our own life, still some minor and sometimes major qualities were passed to us by our parents through a variety a means: discipline, example, and simply spending time with them.

In the wilderness as God was revealed to Israel, there is an interesting passage that helps us understand why God did not take on a particular form.

“Then you came near and stood at the foot of the mountain, and the mountain burned with fire to the midst of heaven, with darkness, cloud, and thick darkness. And the LORD spoke to you out of the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of the words, but saw no form; you only heard a voice. (Deu 4:11-12)

“Take careful heed to yourselves, for you saw no form when the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, lest you act corruptly and make for yourselves a carved image in the form of any figure: the likeness of male or female, the likeness of any animal that is on the earth or the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air, the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground or the likeness of any fish that is in the water beneath the earth. (Deu 4:15-18)

If you read that like I am reading it, you will conclude that God did not appear to them in some specific form because He knew that they would make an image to try to capture what He looked like.  But what image does LOVE take on? God is love. In a sort of “I told you so” way, even when Jesus, God in the flesh, came to show us the Father and how He would live, we see numerous attempts to capture His image. I little doubt that the paintings and carvings bear no resemblance at all to his physical appearance but more importantly they do not capture His character.

So the simple part is to spend as much time with God as we do with our parents until His characteristics ‘grow on us’. Of course, as simple as that is, it is not easy with all of the things that are tugging on us, trying to pull us away, capture our imagination and entice us into a life that is more self-centered than God-centered.

One of the many passages that will help us to control our thinking comes from the book of Philippians.

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. (Php 4:4-9)

I will note a couple of things in this passage today and finish tomorrow.

First, Paul says that the “peace of God” will guard your hearts and thoughts and then in the end says that the “God of peace” will be with us. Peace of God, God of peace, either way there will be peace and I would suggest it includes peace of mind.

Second, Paul says in both cases that if we do certain things we will have this gift and I want to talk about those tomorrow. However, in the mean time, read that passage again and see if you might be able to determine why the actions Paul tells us to have will result in a peace that will guard our hearts and minds.

Self Control in your thinking Part two

Yesterday’s blog began the discussion of controlling our thoughts. God is quite able to judge our thoughts and intents even if we ourselves mess things up so much we cannot even fully figure out our motive. I don’t suppose that anyone who is more than 15 years old does not know the anguish of calling into question their own motives. At the end of the blog we introduced a passage from Mark.

And He said, “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.”
(Mar 7:20-23)

Truly, we need to realize that the thoughts we have come from within our own selves. It is not that sometimes there are not influences that work on us (and Satan is a master at that) but the desires and wants are there to begin with and so it is within our own thinking that we have to begin the process of self-control. When James chastises his audience in chapter 4, he says:
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? (Jas 4:1)

Esther was warned not to think in a certain way as she pondered the need to risk her life by visiting the king:

Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews.  (Est 4:13)

It is from the heart that these thoughts proceed, whether for good or bad, we generate them ourselves and as such need to be careful as to what we think. We might even find ourselves thinking thoughts that God, himself, had never thought:

Because the people have forsaken me and have profaned this place by making offerings in it to other gods whom neither they nor their fathers nor the kings of Judah have known; and because they have filled this place with the blood of innocents, and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, which I did not command or decree, nor did it come into my mind— (Jer 19:4-5)

It should not surprise us then to know that God chooses by what is in the heart of man. As Samuel was sent to anoint one of Jesse’s sons the next king, he looked on the outside but God looked on the inside.

When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the LORD’s anointed is before him.” But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”
(1Sa 16:6-7)

Today God also seeks those with the right heart, a heart like David’s who was chosen to be King. It isn’t that David was perfect, but his character was such that he was able to do God’s will in his lifetime and promote God’s kingdom. Jesus told the Samaritan woman:

But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (Joh 4:23-24)

Among the many lessons we can glean from this verse, one is that God wants people who will serve Him from the heart (spirit) and in the way God wants (truth).

What we focus on is what we will wind up doing.  The person who has a heart of God is going to wind up doing the things God wants, not the things that they would otherwise do if left to their own devices. Tomorrow, Lord willing, we will look more at the idea of outside influences on our thoughts but to close up today, let me just remind everyone to think on those things that are God like. Yes, Paul did write Phil 4:8 to think about those things that are true and honorable, etc. We will discuss that later

But answer this question: What does God want us to focus on with our thoughts? Why is it important to think on the good things? What do Christians really think about?

Again: Be careful little mind what you think!

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