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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?

 

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Thinking like God does.

I was thinking about my posts on self-control and thinking and it brought to mind another thought.

When God says in Isaiah, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts…” one might be excused for saying “No kidding!” The one thing we do not seem to do naturally is think like God does.  I suppose that “Amen!” would be a better response since “No kidding!” might appear to be a little sarcastic.

We need to develop a thought process that is like God’s.  We need to think about things, what God thinks about things!

Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink: Which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him!  (Isa 5:20-23)

This world has lost its sense of God-thought. His is the opinion that we most should want to imitate. However, we decide that we are going to celebrate the bad and chastise the good. Even though there are many movies where we do root for the good guy, there are plenty where we root for the villain. And if it is not the villain, it is the good guys doing something  wrong and we ‘justify the means by the end”. We cloud the lines of how our heroes should be, from Professional sports players who are role models (despite their protestations) and get sent to jail for drugs, fighting, evading taxes, pick your crime to fictional characters like Vampires and Warlocks that we swoon over.

Do we root for the couple on our favorite sit-com or evening drama show to move in together or do we cringe when the lights dim and the clothes start coming off….For those of us who would turn away from shows that promote a pro-homosexual relationship, we should be consistent enough to do the same for relationships that are heterosexual the parties are not married. (Even so, there is way to much NOT left to the imagination in most of any of those shows)

Do we think more about how to fund our 401k so that we can retire wealthy or do we think of how we can use our money for promoting the Kingdom of God? Do we consider our things to be ‘our’ things rather than a loan from God where we have a stewardship?

Or are we more like those who refuse to have God in their knowledge. The end of those people is seen in every generation:

Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. (Rom 1:22-25)

God knows who He is. God knows what is the right thing to do. We are the ones with the questions and fortunately, God is not sitting up in Heaven withholding answers. He has shared them with us both in His Bible and in His Son.If we follow His lead, we will learn to think about our life, our purpose, our money, our time, our family, our relationship to all mankind in the way that He does. We will think about the things that world has to offer as the insignificant, temporary, unappealing, unprofitable, soon to be burned up things that they are and with that type of thinking, we will shy away from it.

We can’t avoid the world but we can avoid becoming like the world. Let’s think about things the way God thinks about them. In that way, we will truly be able to be lights in a dark place.

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 five

Well, I must admit as the week goes on and I write about controlling our thinking, a lot has come to mind. Sometimes it is hard to put into words what we want to say in one short post but these last several posts, have helped me feel more confident that if we can control our thinking, we are closer to living a more righteous life. That is, compared to just trying to live a righteous life while our thoughts run wild.

Today’s post will continue to look at things that try to captivate our thoughts and our imagination, things that will in some way lead us away from serving God which is, as Solomon put it, the whole duty of man. (Eccl 12:13) We have looked at our own desires as a pull away from God, we have looked at the tugging influence from others (Satan and so called friends) and even at the fearful thoughts as something that restrains us from doing as we ought. I would like to suggest that one last type of thought, which pulls us so easily away, is discontentment.

Ahab, who was not well known for serving God in the first place, serves as a good example of the problem of discontentment.

And it came to pass after these things that Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard which was in Jezreel, next to the palace of Ahab king of Samaria. So Ahab spoke to Naboth, saying, “Give me your vineyard, that I may have it for a vegetable garden, because it is near, next to my house; and for it I will give you a vineyard better than it. Or, if it seems good to you, I will give you its worth in money.” But Naboth said to Ahab, “The LORD forbid that I should give the inheritance of my fathers to you!” So Ahab went into his house sullen and displeased because of the word which Naboth the Jezreelite had spoken to him; for he had said, “I will not give you the inheritance of my fathers.” And he lay down on his bed, and turned away his face, and would eat no food. (1Ki 21:1-4)

Not satisfied with what he did have, he only looked at the convenience of Naboth’s vineyard. Maybe he had to ride in his chariot a little further to get to his own vineyards but rather than be content, he pouted. Then his wife Jezebel had Naboth killed and suddenly! all was right in the world, the sun was shining and the birds singing! What wickedness his discontentment led to.

Perhaps we do not act as extremely as Ahab and Jezebel did but discontentment will expresses itself in many ways. Let’s suppose that a spouse decides that the purchase of new clothes or a set of golf clubs would be a good idea. The purchase gets made without the knowledge of their mate. To sooth the conscience, the purchase is hidden for a few months. Then when pulled out and the mate observes “Oh, is that new?” The spouse is able to say: “Oh no….I have had this for a long time!”

“So wrong” on so many levels and yet we strive to justify things like this all the time. If you have to hide it from your spouse, it is  an admission that you are more concerned about satisfying a selfish want then being honest and upfront. Your discontent with the clothes or clubs you already have, and the fever that results in a buying frenzy, leads you away from a path that God would have you on….and it all starts with your thoughts.

We forget the words of Paul:

Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. (1Ti 6:6-8)

You never see a U-haul following a hearse! He who dies with the most toys….still dies!

Why was it that Jesus was able to resist the temptations of Satan in Matthew 4? It was because, at the heart of it, He was content with what God had provided to Him at that point. He didn’t need bread, though he surely wanted it. He didn’t need fame and honor and the kingdoms of the world, even though they soon would be His (as God has given them to Him). He didn’t feel dissatisfied, he knew God would take care of Him.

We need to realize that God will provide all we need and Matthew 6:25-34 makes that point very well. If God provides what we need, all we need to think about is how to please Him.

Self control in your thinking part four

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.
(2Co 10:3-6)

It is the imaginations of the heart that we need to bring into captivity, the thought that exalts itself against the knowledge of God. Whatever philosophy, practice, desire, plan, idolatry, pagan or Gnostic consideration, we need to bring it all under captivity and God gives us the tools and weapons to do so.  Romans talks about those who refuse to have God in their knowledge, even though they knew God the did not honor Him as God and became futile in their thoughts, so God turned them over to their own imaginations and let them do what they wanted to. (see Romans 1:18ff) The flood resulted one time when man got so bad, but the world is reserved for fire this time around.

Man got so bad “that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. ”  (Gen 6:5) Really, it doesn’t have to get that bad. Any thought or imagination that prevents God from being glorified in our life, that does not promote the Kingdom of God, that prevents or stops us from being zealous for good works, are thoughts and imaginations we need to bring under control.

Sometimes, fear tries to capture our thoughts. I am sure that you know the acronym for fear. F.E.A.R. False Expectations Appearing Real!. Mark Twain said something like this: 98% of everything I have been afraid would happen, never happened” And so it is in my life and I am certain in yours as well. However, I know I have put a lot of worry and concerns to events in the past and many, if not most, of them never materialized.

Jesus told the parable of the talents and introduced the three servants with these words:

And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey.  (Mat 25:15)

Then when the last one came to give an account.

“Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’ (Mat 25:24-25)

Notice that this last servant was “afraid” and in his fear, he did nothing. NOTHING! He didn’t even put it in a bank account and let it earn interest. If you read the next verse,  you will probably get the impression, as I do that the Master would not have been upset if he had done only that. Even at a meager .25% interest, it would have grown something. Still, the Master had given a responsibility according to his ability.  It was FEAR that kept him from doing what he could with the little the Master had given him.

Fear can be conquered by certainty. Two examples (though there are many more) from the Scriptures:

Shadrach, Meshach, Abed-Nego, Daniel’s three friends were put in a situation in which they had to choose to serve God or man. Told that they needed to bow down to an idol that the King had set up, they refused. This did not set well with the King and in his anger, he brought them before him and gave them a 2nd chance. Their answer shows their certainty:

 “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”  (Dan 3:16-18)

The confidence and love of God allowed them to respond, not in a spirit of insubordination but simply stating the facts that God comes first.

Moses also was not afraid.

By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible. (Heb 11:27)

A true love of God casts out fear. When we have our eyes focused on the goal and know that this life is temporary, we can then use our life to serve God better. When we have no fear of death, we are able to let go of other fears more easily and put our lives and plans into God’s hands.

My dear friends and readers. Fear not! Be careful, little mind, what you think.

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!

Self control in your thinking

This Sunday’s lessons dealt with the quality of self-control, specifically self-control in our thinking process. We normally think of self-control as being something we do in our words or actions but the best place to exercise our self-control is in our thoughts before they turn into words or actions.

Ideas are important and they even have substance. Perhaps I make too big a deal of it but since an idea is a “noun”, that is a subject, something that exists, at least in theory then they have weight. We can’t say that any idea by itself is without the potential to be used for good or bad.

In our journey through life, as a Christian, we should be aiming to get back to where we were before our life was corrupted by sin. Granted, we will not arrive there until we reach Eternity’s shore but the aim and journey of trying to become more like God and make our nature more like God’s is still what we should be doing. Of course, God is pretty clear that our thoughts are not His thoughts…

“Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. (Isa 55:6-8)

That our thoughts are not God’s does not mean that they cannot be. That we need to forsake our thoughts I think argues for the fact that God wants us to think more like him, develop the heart that He has and let our character be more like His Holy character. The question is: Will we be more like David  who said: Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! (Psa 139:23) or more like Adam who said: “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” (Gen 3:10)?

We can’t really hide from God and our thoughts are well-known to him:

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Heb 4:12-13)

Even to the point of discerning thoughts and intentions!! Those pesky motives that we sometimes forget about or that we allow to confuse even ourselves. Our thoughts do matter. Take for example what Jesus said in Matthew 5

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘YOU SHALL NOT MURDER, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire. (Mat 5:21-22)

It seems that His audience had heard something similar to what we have heard: If I don’t actually kill the guy, it is ok if I hate him. Jesus is not stating a higher law in these verses but rather restoring the laws Moses wrote back to the place where they should be. He is letting the people know that the traditions and teachings of the Rabbi’s missed the heart of the Law.

“And this is the case of the manslayer who flees there, that he may live: Whoever kills his neighbor unintentionally, not having hated him in time past—as when a man goes to the woods with his neighbor to cut timber, and his hand swings a stroke with the ax to cut down the tree, and the head slips from the handle and strikes his neighbor so that he dies—he shall flee to one of these cities and live; lest the avenger of blood, while his anger is hot, pursue the manslayer and overtake him, because the way is long, and kill him, though he was not deserving of death, since he had not hated the victim in time past. (Deu 19:4-6)

Read all of Dt 19 to get the fuller picture but basically, if you killed someone by accident, you could be found not guilty and not subject to the vengeance of the avenger of blood. However, we cannot miss that this guilt or innocence rests on a key phrase “since he had not hated the victim in the time past.”  No grudges, no animosity, no doubt that he had not set a trap, no hate.  the idea of ‘in time past’ goes back three days and some versions so translate it.

We cannot allow hate to control our lives, or lusts, or covetousness or any such thing and these ideas come from the heart.

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)

I will continue discussing this in the next few blogs and expounding on the lessons presented today. As I have opportunity, I will link to them when I get them loaded. Until then, like the song we teach our children: Be careful little mind what you think!

 

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