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We are what we think

The sermon entitled “We are what we think” can be heard here. It was presented on March 19th 2017.

What we think is really who we are.

We are what we thinkOne of the things that distinguishes us from the rest of Creation is our ability to think. We are the one part of Creation created in God’s image. Of course, we understand that that does not mean we are physically like God but like Him in spirit. We are a spiritual being in a physical body and when you try to identify that part of us that makes us “us”, it comes down to our ability to think. What we think is the reality of who we are.

Do not take the food of him who has an evil eye, or have any desire for his delicate meat: For as the thoughts of his heart are, so is he: Take food and drink, he says to you; but his heart is not with you. (Pro 23:6-7)

From this passage, the proverb writer teaches us that just because a person says one thing, it does not mean he is being sincere. However, it also shows us that it is what we think rather than what we say that is truly able to reveal our character.

The Bible records the thoughts of many individuals and does so for our benefit. If it weren’t for God knowing the hearts and thoughts of His own creation and choosing to reveal them to us on occasion, we would be unaware of the need to be cautious and also might fail to realize that our own thinking needs to be reviewed and controlled.

As an example, let’s look at Hezekiah. As King, his reign was not perfect. He had done good and he also did things that were not so good. In one case, Hezekiah showed representatives of Babylon all the riches of his kingdom. God sent Isaiah to share with him the consequences of his action.

Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the LORD: Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the LORD. And some of your own sons, who will come from you, whom you will father, shall be taken away, and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.” Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the LORD that you have spoken is good.” For he thought, “Why not, if there will be peace and security in my days?” (2Ki 20:16-19) Emphasis mine.

From the outside, one might think that Hezekiah was very righteous and accepting of God’s word. However, seeing his thoughts gives us a different picture.

Our thinking is very important.

We all know that our words are important.  The Scriptures teach that we will be judged by every idle word (Matt. 12:36-37) but the context for that teaching started with the “thoughts” of the Pharisees who said Jesus was using the power of Satan to cast out demons.

But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. (Mat 12:24-25)

Jesus also spells out the relationship between our heart/thoughts and words in the following two passages:

But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person….” (Mat 15:18-20)

and:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Mat 5:27-28)

If we are are able to be condemned for our thoughts and not just our words, it would be good for us to know how to control our thoughts!

How can we control our thoughts?

First, the passage we all know but sometimes misuse is what Paul wrote in Philippians 4.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Php 4:8-9)

The way we misuse it is by thinking or saying that all I have to do is think good thoughts and everything will work out. (Sort of like Peter Pan singing “Think of a wonderful thought, any merry little thought”) I don’t mean to imply that passages like this will not make us more optimistic but the Bible does not teach that being a Christian and maintaining optimistic thoughts will keep us from troubles or persecutions.

As Christians, we are not dwell on the things the world would have us to dwell on or meditate and contemplate about. Most of those things are anything but true or lovely or just or commendable. How could they be? They come from the world.

So the first thing is to think about those things that have the characteristics Paul mentioned.

Second, there is the passage in Mark 4 which advises:

And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” (Mar 4:24-25)

We need to pay attention to what we think AND we need to pay attention to what we hear. While Jesus was undoubtedly saying to pay attention to what He had been teaching, one can also see how we need to pay attention to what is being presented to us from the world with the view of not listening to it.

What if we judged what we heard by the standards of Phil 4:8. Is it true? Is it lovely? Is it commendable?  and so on.

What if Cain had used this standard? What if he had paid attention to what was spoken to him and we know that God’s word is TRUE. “If you do well, will you not be lifted up?” If only Cain had listened and thought on those words rather than his bruised ego…

What would the effects be in your life?

The effect of such a standard would affect many areas of our life. It would affect our motives, our entertainment, our speech, and our actions. All of these areas would become more God-like and more like Christ.

It isn’t easy to control our thinking but one thing is for sure, no one else is able to do so. Many will try to influence your thinking. (Even I am trying to influence your thinking in this post.) The only one who can control it is you!

Question:

How has controlling or not controlling your thoughts affected your life?

 

7 things you need to go to heaven

How much clearer could Peter be when he said:

For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2Pe 1:8-11)

There are seven things that we need to add to our faith in order to be fruitful and make it to Heaven.

As we finish our look at these characteristics, we have spent many weeks writing about these qualities. This post will review them as we finish this line of study. Should you wish to read  posts about these individual qualities, you can do a search on the characteristic you want in the search box to the right.

Lest we forget what they are, I will list them and a brief description:

Virtue (or moral excellence)

This is the characterisitc that you need to have which says “I will do what God wants me to do, regardless of the costs.”  This quality is needed because we don’t yet know everything God will require of us or that Satan will tempt us with. When Joseph fled from Potipher’s wife, he showed great virtue and it did cost him.

Knowledge

It makes sense that the faith we start with is not the faith we will die with if we live any length of time. Learning more about what God wants and meditating on His word will give us that knowledge to live more holy lives.

Self-control

A wonderful quality that more of us should practice. We should note that this is not “other” control. Once we have a little knowledge, it is easy to look at others and judge where they are. However, we need to focus first on our self, then we can see clearly to pull the mote from our brother’s eye.

Steadfastness

Without this, we may quit. To be able to beat  a temptation once may be easy but to endure the temptations of Satan, or to bear with those who are still learning, or to continue to grow even when we think we have attained all we need to do requires dedication to the race. When you retire from your work, you do not retire from God.

Godliness

This quality says, what I do, I do with God in mind. In being pious, I show the attributes that God would show were He on Earth. It is something to be trained in, is not to be used superficially for gain but to be coupled with contentment so that I can gain even more…in the next life.

Brotherly love

I owe it to my brothers to have a warm feeling for them, to desire to be around them more than the world. There is a companionship in the church that needs to be fostered to encourage others and allow yourself to be encouraged.

Love (Agape)

This is a duty bound love that does what is in the best interest of the person loved. Sometimes it is your neighbor, sometimes it is God, sometimes (occasionally) it is your self. You cannot love God unless you love your fellow man. This is the love that we are commanded to show to enemies because when we were enemies of God, He showed it to us!
This is not some check list that you can just mark off and say “I got that covered”, it is not that simple. You cannot simply do godliness for a day and think you have it. You cannot be steadfast for a week and mark it off. These are qualities that you ADD to your faith and CONTINUE IN and GROW IN.

Conclusion:

Notice Peter didn’t say if you ‘have them’ but if you have them and they “abound.” That is, if you grow in them. And if you grow in them, you will not be “unfruitful”, you will not “stumble” and you will be “abundantly” supplied entrance into the Kingdom of Jesus.

Those that do not, are soooooooooo short sighted (blind) that they can’t see past this world. In other words, unlike the great men of faith, they do not look for a heavenly home, it is not real to them. They also have forgotten that they were cleansed from their sin. Imagine someone barely saved from death by a liver transplant. Grateful, they stop drinking which caused the problem in the first place. Then they forget that they were barely saved and go back to the bottle and ruin the new liver.  Such are those who were saved and do not grow in these virtues.

Peter made a point of reminding his readers about these qualities. It wasn’t that they didn’t know these things but he wanted them always to be able to remember them, even after his death. Let’s work to add these qualities to our faith so that we may be fruitful for Jesus.

Love is not irritable

Another version of the same passage says that Love is not easily provoked. I don’t think there is one of us with an older or younger sibling, who does not understand the meaning of the word “provoked”. Either we were the provoker or the victim! Hopefully, as we grew older, in most cases, that type of early childhood provocation died away.

Yet, we know people today, adults, who will, with the slightest hint of provocation, unleash a whole barrage of anger. They then turn around and say “YOU make me so angry” or “That’s the way I am”. Some even blame their heritage or hair-itage. “I am Irish” or “I have red hair”, they say.

Love does not rush to wrath. In fact, if we were to follow the advice James offers us: be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to wrath, we might avoid a lot of problems in our own lives and create fewer difficulites in the lives of others.

James says that the “wrath of man” does not work the righteousness of God. Perhaps I am incorrect, but in the context of James, I think he contrasts “man’s wrath and will” with “God’s will” and implies God’s wrath is different.

We understand that God does show wrath but after how long of a time? The patience he showed while the ark was being built, while the sin of the Ammorites increased, with Nineveh during the days of Jonah, with Israel….all through their existence, teaches us two things very clearly. God’s wrath is slow in coming and is not something you want to experience.

Love does not allow the little things to provoke it. Love is bigger than the petty things that those who have not learned to love are interested in. Love will show wrath at appropriate times but the childish provocations of children and worldly people are not the times to let loose.

Can you imagine if Jesus had displayed the wrath of man?

He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. (1Pe 2:22-23)

How would the righteousness of God (Romans 1:16-17) been shown, if Jesus had been so easily provoked! (I hasten to add, that I speak in hyperbole when I say “easily provoked”, He showed remarkable constraint) What if He had called those 12 legions of angels? Where would the Gospel be?

Question: What causes you to get angry the quickest? Is that trigger mechanism something you have prayed to God about?

Photo Credit: Matt Erasmus

Three steps to imitate Jesus’ lack of fear!

google imagesFear is sometimes explained as an acronym with each letter representing a word: False Expectations Appearing Real. However, as you read the Bible there is one person that is never described as being afraid: Jesus. Why is this? Jesus showed many emotions but fear is not one of them. Until last week, I had never thought of that and to my knowledge have never heard anyone mention it before. (If you can find a scripture that would suggest otherwise, share it!)

It doesn’t seem that Jesus ever had any false expectations. He knew why he had come and what he needed to do. Why would you fear the very task for which you have been born? But we fear many things in our life and most of those never need to be feared.

I am going to offer three steps today that will help us remove fear or at least minimize it. If Jesus did not have fear and we are to imitate Him, then this would be a good thing to work on. Perfect Love casts out fear. (I john 4:18)

Step one: Learn more about God.

This is best done when we are young. Parents have the responsibility to teach us about God and instruct us in His ways. (Dt. 6 and Eph. 6) David wrote that a young man can cleanse his ways by taking God’s word into account (Ps 119:19) Yet, even as we grow older we can still learn more about God. Moses didn’t really start learning about God until he was 80 years old.

In learning about God, you will learn about His character. He is ever-present to help those of his household. If God is for us, who can be against us? God does not allow us to be tempted above what we can bear and we can have confidence in His promises because He does not lie. (Rom 8:31, I cor 10:13, Heb 6:17-18) No wonder Jesus was able to be asleep in the bow of the ship during a storm that frightened the apostles (Mark 4:38-41), he knew the promise of the Father that He would be protected while on earth so that the mission would go forward. Though misapplied by Satan in Matthew 4, the scripture was accurately quoted.

Step two: The Lord has conquered the truly great reasons to be afraid.

While fear of public speaking is one that outranks death in most surveys, if you never had to speak in public you would be fine. However, though non Christians may fear death, it is one something that, for the Christian, God has removed the need to fear:

Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. (Heb 2:14-15)

Yet, even of more fear than the actual death is the fear of our eternal destiny: Will I make it to Heaven? Jesus adequately deals with that as well.

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. (Joh 14:1-3)

Knowing that we are not going to cease to exist at death or wind up in Hell’s fire should give us great comfort. I wish more Christians would look at death that way. Paul, in Phil 1, said that he really desired to die…so that he could be with the Lord. Many Christians act as if waking up each morning is the best thing that could happen to them. Not quite!

Step three: Ask for help

While I am suggesting that we should not be afraid, I am not naive. We all fall into fear in so many ways. However, Jesus does understand and is not just able to, but willing to, help us.

For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb 4:15-16)

When we find ourselves suffering from fear, we need to ask for the help that our High Priest is ready to give us. We can then walk through the valley of the shadow of death knowing that God is with us. We then can say with confidence: the Lord is my helper, what can man do to me?

These three steps will help us to reduce our fears and give us greater confidence. In that confidence, we will be more useful for His purposes.

Godliness vs. Asceticism

Yesterday, we talked about bodily exercise in relationship to godliness. Paul uses this metaphor to encourage Timothy toward a life of godliness. However, it is not the physical exercise that Paul is really warning Timothy about. Paul’s main point, starting in chapter 4, is to warn Timothy about those who will depart from the faith and practice an ascetic life thinking it will produce benefit. This departure is not simply because they are tired of Christian living but because they pay attention to “deceitful spirits and teachings of demons”.

It is not the ones drawn away that are the real problem but those who draw them away by insincere lies and teachings that, for all practical purposes, are the teachings of asceticism. The forbidding of marriage, requiring abstinence from certain foods, and all such types of “irreverent and silly myths”  are only, in reality, an appearance of piety.

They offer no true benefit:

If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations– “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)–according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.  (Col 2:20-23 ESV)

It is that stopping of the fleshly indulgences that Godliness is able to help with.

Asceticism does seem to help answer some of life’s more difficult questions. The Ascetic believes that by abstaining from worldly pleasures one can achieve a more spiritual or enlightened state. Paul’s warning may be an early indication of Gnosticism beginning in some areas of the Christian faith. When one renounces worldly pleasures and goods, it is easier to answer those hard questions such as:

  • How much do I give to the church or others?
  • How much car should I buy?
  • How big of a house should I get?
  • How much “bling” do I buy in clothes or toys?

The answers are to give more, buy less, do without and avoid purchases that you do not need. Living an austere life then becomes the measuring stick. You also are more able to judge others by how they stack up to your level of austerity. If they have more, buy more, enjoy life more, then they are not as pious as you are. The whole attitude is one of self-will, self-control, or will power. Without the proper motivation and purpose, it is doomed to fail.

Biblekids.info

Godliness, on the other hand, also answers these questions but does so with a different attitude. Godliness, is not an outward, mechanical, rote action that by itself has some value. You can not say because you spend 5 hours in prayer that you are more godly than the person who spends 1 hour in prayer, even though prayer is something that a godly person will engage in. That is the type of trap the Pharisee fell into and Jesus warns about:

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”  (Luk 18:9-14 ESV)

1918 photograph Entstrom

Godliness answers these questions from the heart. With a Godward attitude, one is first grateful to God for what he has and then because he knows God is a generous God, he is then able to let go of things this world promotes. Why? Because they are sinful? To be sure, some are but many are not. The Why is answered by what distracts him from putting God first in his life.  I have no doubt that Abraham and Job were godly men. Their riches did not prevent them from serving God. If they will prevent you from doing so, then by all means, get rid of them, for it is better to enter into Heaven, poor and destitute, than to be cast into Hell with all of your riches (which will be burnt up, in a short nanosecond anyway.) You do not see a U-haul following a hearse.

Paul encourages Timothy to train for godliness, but he will not be able to do so if he goes to the extreme that Asceticism would require. What examples to you have, were Asceticism was being promoted to try and improve godliness?

Train yourself for godliness

The use of athletic illustrations is common in Paul’s writings. He uses the illustration of preparing for or being in a race to draw a spiritual point.

In athletic events, those who engage in them spend a great deal of time preparing for them. They train and exert self control over many facets of their life. You would not expect to see a marathon runner eating unhealthy foods prior to the race or during the preparation for it. Athletes follow the rules and don’t expect to win unless they do. (2 Tim 2:5) Paul, as he about to depart from this world, writes to Timothy and says that he has finished the race. (2 Tim 4:7)

Each of those illustrations relate to our spiritual goal of getting to heaven. Athletes exercise self control but do so to win a perishable crown and we do so for an imperishable. (I cor 9: 24-25) Paul finished the race and knew that there was a crown of life waiting for him.(2 tim 4:8) Even Jesus, asked “why do you call me Lord and do not do the things I tell you” (e.g. follow the rules) (Luke 6:46)

Paul uses the illustration of exercise but he does so primarily to make the bigger point. He says that bodily exercise does profit but only a little, whereas godliness profits in this life and in the life to come.

To his first point, that bodily exercise profits little, we should recognize that  even if we were able to extend our life span up to double the normal span and reach 150 to 200 years of age,  there is nothing that physical exercise can do beyond death. We might live a better, more healthy life and we might stretch those years out but we are all going to die eventually. Knowing this, we recognize that even those victories which we win, those wreaths that perish, are short lived.

When compared with eternity, our mere 70 to 80 years of life in this world is nothing. But even more “nothing” than that is the 2-4 hours that a marathon runner has trained so hard for. You see, they exercise such control, practice so hard, endure so much and all so that their body will endure the time that they spend during the race: 2 hours if you are fast, 5 hours if you are slow.  We on the other hand exercise self control, exercise for godliness, and endure so much so that we might live in eternity.

Godliness, on the other hand, is profitable in both this life and the one to come. We understand the benefit of the next life but even here in this one, being a godly person is profitable. Daniel found that out as he determined not to defile himself with the King’s food. (Dan 1:8,17). Many times in our life, we will find that being godly is something that people will respond to in a positive way but it also is a way that we keep our lives on track; you might even say it is a way by which we can sleep at night.

The fact that Timothy was told to exercise himself to godliness should serve as an admonition to us and encouragement. Timothy, who had been trained with Paul was so highly thought of by Paul:

But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also may be encouraged when I know your state. For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state. (Php 2:19-20)

If this young man was needing to be encouraged to train himself for godliness, then we also should take such an exhortation to heart as well.

 

 

 

Beware, Lion ahead

The temptations of Jesus make for an interesting lesson but a major lesson (often forgotten) is what happened afterward.

Temptations are those enticements to sin and violate God’s will in our life. While many may consider that Satan is the source of these sins in our lives, the Scriptures are clear that sin begins in our heart, within ourselves.  Here are two passages:

And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”  (Mar 7:20-23)
But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. (Jas 1:14-16)

These two passages indicate that the source of sin comes from our heart. Satan may inflame those desires, but he does not generate them. If temptations are from our own desires, then it follows that if our desires are under control, that temptations will not have as much pull upon us. One of the ways that we remove the temptations is by removing the desire.

Desire, when it comes to temptations, is not simply “wants” but “wants” that are beyond God’s boundaries. The English word is “Lusts”.  One of the things Jesus had working for Him was that He did not desire things that went beyond doing God’s will. This is why Satan’s temptations did not have an effect on Jesus.

But what about after the temptations? Was that it? Satan just gave up and said “I can’t beat you?” No! not at all.

And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time. (Luk 4:13)

This is an important point to see. The Devil did not simply give up, he waited for another opportunity.  Examples of such other opportunities may be seen in Peter’s insistence that Jesus should not die (Mt 16:23), when the people wanted to make Him their King, (Jn 6:14-15) and even in the hours leading up to Crucifixion. (Lk 22:41-44)

In our lives, we sometimes are able to overcome desires that God does not approve. However, we must never think that Satan is done with us.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1Pe 5:8)

While we should always be endeavoring to overcome our weaknesses, we should never think that Satan is done trying. If he did not stop tempting Jesus while He was here on the earth, one should not think that we will also fail to endure more temptations.

 

Adding perseverance

This morning’s lesson dealt with the quality of perseverance, sometimes translated steadfastness, patience or endurance. Keeping in mind that Peter’s list of qualities which we need to add to our faith includes perseverance, we might ask why he includes this one. I think that perseverance is the quality which best compliments self-control because anyone can exercise self-control for a short period of time, maybe seconds, hours or a few days but to live a life time of self-control takes perseverance.

The idea of perseverance is that you do so willingly, not out of force. God does not force us to serve Him; we choose to do so. Also, while we persevere under the circumstances that befall us, we are not to go looking for trouble. When I was in 3rd grade, my dad told me that if a bully tried to beat me up I should go find an “equalizer” (e.g. a stick or piece of wood to help out). What he did not tell me to do was to go get an equalizer and then go knock on the bully’s house and challenge him to a fight. Which is exactly what I did! I did suffer for that but Peter also tells his audience not to endure suffering for doing wrong.

For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. (1Pe 2:20)

Another idea to keep in mind is that persevering just for the sake of persevering is not a good thing either. John writes in Revelation that the Ephesian church was a persevering church:

“I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. (Rev 2:2-3)

However, they had a major problem: Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. (Rev 2:4)

It seems as if the Ephesian church was all about the mechanics of being a church of God and not about the Love of being that church. Perseverance without the other qualities that make a Christian life Christian will not avail anything in the end.

The implication in saying that we should add Perseverance to our Self-control is that there will be resistance to our Self-control. I mean, how hard is it to persevere when there are no obstacles in your way? Perseverance is a fruit of the trials we go through, which is why, not only do we hear that we will go through them, but we are told to count our trials as a source of joy, knowing that it will help our faith.

And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.”  (Act 14:21-22)

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. (Jas 1:2-3)

It can be easy to quit but we need to continue to persevere as Christians in our service to the Lord.  Jesus warns us about starting and not finishing:

And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.” But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luk 9:61-62)

The Hebrew writer says:

For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: “FOR YET A LITTLE WHILE, AND HE WHO IS COMING WILL COME AND WILL NOT TARRY. NOW THE JUST SHALL LIVE BY FAITH; BUT IF ANYONE DRAWS BACK, MY SOUL HAS NO PLEASURE IN HIM.” But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul. (Heb 10:36-39)

When we look at the examples of perseverance from the Scriptures, we see plenty of examples that we can follow. In another post, I would like to look at those examples and see what we can learn from them. Here’s a question for you:

What do you think is the best way to help a person continue to persevere?

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.

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