Your Very Life

Living where Life is

Month: October 2017

Seven Questions if you Wrestle with your Thought Life

Everyone struggles with what goes on inside their head. Whether you’ve walked with Christ for 50 years or 50 minutes, we still struggle of thinking like Christ. “Set your minds on things above” (Col 3:2) will always tussle with “I do what I do not want to do” (Rom 7:20)

The journey of this life is one of pursuing Jesus, fleeing temptation, standing firm against the devil, and taking remaining sin seriously all at the same time.

Sin starts in the mind. James says that “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.” (James 1:14-15)

Our thought-life is the start of sin—what we choose to dwell on is what will lead us. We can’t choose what thoughts come into our head, but we can choose which of them stay there. Bitterness. Lust. Selfish Ambition. Worry. Envy. Unforgiveness. Greed. Pride & Conceit. Anger. All of these sins start in the mind.

None of us wants to continue in worry, bitterness, lust, etc. But why are there days when lust wins? Why does worry sometimes take over? Why can’t I be done with these and think godly thoughts all the time?!?!

Let me offer seven questions if your thought-life is just not holy.

1) What’s your first thought of the day?

When the alarm goes off, what’s your first thought? Of God, his grace, his commitment to you and power to accomplish it? Or, is your first thought of the things you have to do, the stress you are under, the concerns you have, etc., etc. Those thoughts are not sin in and of themselves. But instead of letting them have primacy, grab a 3*5 card (as you turn off the alarm), with a promise from Scripture on it? For example, Eph 2:10 or Psalm 138:8. If thought-life is the start of sin, what’s the start of your daily thought-life? Start with praise and promises.

2) What’s your plan for disciplining your thought-life?

To train for a marathon, grab a 16-week plan that gradually increases your stamina and ability to run 26.2 miles straight. What’s your 4 month plan for changing your thought patterns? Lay it out. Work the plan. “Exercise and eat right” in your mind. What redemptive words and truths are you feeding your mind on to build mind-muscle? What Scripture passage are you dwelling in today? What verse are you memorizing this week? What bible study are you moving through? What Worship Music or Hymns are filling your mind? Do you have friends that you can talk about growing in Christ with? What’s your plan? Without a plan, the fat, flabby and disoriented thought-life will never change.

3) What “fighter verses” do you have?

Grab a few “daggers” to jab at the enemy when he comes in close with temptation. He can’t stand up to God’s word. Leverage that. Quote and repeat and speak verses that you’ve tucked away in your mind. My favorite are the “Five Assurances” from the Navigators’ ministry. Click here to get all five of them.

Additionally, these two verses are worth memorizing to give you confidence.

  • 2 Cor 10:5 – “…we take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ…” is a great promise that we CAN change our thought-life.
  • Eph 6:16 – “…take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish the flaming darts of the evil one…” shows that the evil one can’t stand up to the faith we have in Christ.

4) How wired are you?

It seems to me that 80% (or more?) of our social media is at best “not helpful,” and at worst corrosive, to a holy thought-life. Not that 80% of the content is Satanic, but after a while, seeing all your friends’ Instagram pictures of their Mediterranean vacation breeds envy or discontentment; or going from one article to the next to the next on Facebook just loses you in random thinking. Not to mention the harmful stuff that is out there… and accessible with a click or two. A holy thought-life might be more attainable with parameters on your time in the virtual world: Not before ___ AM, and power down at ___ PM; no tech at certain times with your friends, kids, spouse (e.g., family supper). Give your mind space to breathe.

5) What friends do you have on the journey?

My friend says, “what’s conceived in the dark, and kept in the dark has a hold on you until you bring it to light.” Bring a friend into your desire for a holy thought-life and your struggle in it. Don’t bear this burden alone. Let Christ minister to you through his body. Agree in prayer together (Mt 18:19) & set goals for holiness (see #2).

6) Do you know your low points?

When do you most often dwell on the unholy thoughts? When you are tired? Lonely? After work? Are you filled more with self-pity at certain points in the week or month? (like Friday night when “everybody else” has plans). Are you more likely to indulge lust if you are alone and awake after midnight? Know your low points, and then guard them: get a friend to call you, put a “fighter verse” near your TV, etc. Keep track of your patterns, and when you sense you are thinking least godly thoughts… and then address those specific moments.

7) Do you know that God is for you and His Spirit is in you?

  • Romans 8:31-32 – “Since God is for us, who can be against us?”
  • 1 John 4:4 – “Greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world.”

These verses give us the confidence on two levels: first of all, God WANTS us to have a holy thought-life; he’s rooting for us to grow. Second, he’s given us the power to do it by living inside of us. The more I ask the Spirit to lead my thoughts, the more he will.

 

Seven questions if your thought life is just not holy. You’re not alone, but you are also not doomed. Where do you need to start? Leave a comment or a tip that has helped you.

Weeping in Vegas with Hope

Another Murderous rampage. It boggles my mind. As one witness at the concert in Las Vegas said, “it was a kill box.” (Wall Street Journal, 10.3.17)

What to say in a blog post?

Well, to start with, the world is broken, and there is real evil. This is undeniable. A funny thing happened since 2001: Nobody argues against the existence of sin anymore. When hijackers self-consciously fly planes into buildings, the illusion that “environment or education” causes society’s troubles vanishes. There is sin in the world. There is evil, darkness and horror. It’s not everywhere, by any stretch. But it’s out there, lurking, creeping, overpowering at times.

The world is broken and evil is real.

People are broken too. There’s no other way to say it. Stephen Paddock was messed up. Was it for all of his life? Did he harbor a deep grievance? Was there a vengeful pathology? Were there wounds that cannot be named? Right now, let me say respectfully: who cares! It does not matter what caused Paddock to act like this. The fact that he did shouts to us that people are broken.

Not just brokenness, but evil lurks in our hearts and characters too. We don’t have to be a mass murderer to know it. In the quiet moments, we harbor a vengeful grudge, or let fly a rage-filled tirade.  As Alexander Solzhenitsyn said, “the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains … an unuprooted small corner of evil.”

The world is broken; so are people. The world is evil; so are people.

Are things hopeless?

Yes. If you hope for Utopia. A world without sorrow or death… that’s a hopeless cause. A world with no pain or suffering… we just won’t be able to marshall enough resources to bring this to pass.  I’m not saying there’s no good anywhere; there is. And I love it. Kindness of strangers. Goodness in folks’ actions. Genuine love and concern for the plight of others. But on a macro level, on a once-and-for-all level, on a “I guarantee that nothing bad will happen to you baby”, this world is hopeless.

We all know this in our hearts. And it’s disheartening.

Here’s my question, then. If the world is hopeless, why are we so filled with hope?

“Hope springs eternal in the human breast,” we read from someone who knows. Everyone still has children, counting on something in us that says the next generation will see some great advances. Orphan Annie’s song resonates: “The Sun’ll come out tomorrow, you can bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow there’ll be sun.”

Why?

In this broken, evil world (filled with broken, evil people) we see where hope comes from: it’s the footsteps of the One who walked into it. In a corner of the world some 2,000 years ago, there was One who sat with broken people under an evil political system. There was One who loved evil people with broken hearts. We meet One who said “come to me with your weariness and burdens, and you’ll find rest with me… hope, peace, joy, love with me.”

Some 2,000 years ago, there was One who was brutally, thoroughly, utterly broken as they nailed him to a Roman Cross. It was hanging by those nails, scorned by all around, in agonizing pain that he became–for us and our sin–he became evil-incarnate.

“God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in him.” (2 Cor 5:21). Martin Luther called this the “Happy Exchange” – Christ offers to us his righteousness if we will give to him our sin. We can carry our sin, guilt, shame, evil and brokenness… or we can give it to him. As long as we carry it, we are sinful, shameful, guilty and evil. But, if we give it to him–Lord, please forgive my sins!–then he gives to us his righteousness… his wholeness, beauty, right-ness before God, adoption in God’s family, and joyous future.

This is where hope comes from. In our broken, evil world, hope spring eternal from the Cross – that place of worst evil and greatest brokenness.

As we grieve for the people in las Vegas (and everywhere), let us grieve as those wiht hope – knowing Christ’s only answer to evil was to endure its worst! And, to come out on the other side, the Victor!

Does God Initiate or Respond?

Think of the first two books of the bible – Genesis and Exodus. How do we see God?

In a few words, Genesis is all about the God who initiates. Think about it: he starts the whole universe in chapter 1. He initiates all the astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology, zoology in that one chapter of Scripture. Then, he initiates life in his image—by creating humanity. And thus he initiates family, relationships, society.

In the face of the Fall into sin, he initiates a rescue plan – promised in 3:15 and begun by choosing Abraham and his seed in ch12. Indeed, by sovereignly choosing Abraham, God proves again that he is the initiating God.

From there, he chooses Isaac (not Ishmael), Jacob (not Easu). He even initiates a rescue plan for Jacob’s family in the coming famine… by having Joseph down in Egypt as Prime Minister.

Genesis is the story of Initiating God.

What about Exodus? It’s the story of God delivering his people who are groaning under the weight of slavery. He redeems them with an outstretched arm, charters them in covenant (Ex 19-24), and dwells with them in the Tabernacle. It’s the story of him forgiving them at the Golden Calf.

Exodus is the story of the Responding God. He responds in compassion to the groaning of his people. “And God heard the groaning of his people, And God remembered his Covenant, and God saw the sons of Israel, and God knew.” (Ex 2:25)

We see the responsiveness of God to the plight of his people. But we also see his responsiveness in connection to his covenant promises: he will uphold them, fulfill them, be true to them. Exodus displays his utter commitment to his purposes.

So in Exodus we discover the Responding God on two levels: to the plight of those in bondage, and to his Word given beforehand.

Genesis and Exodus. The Initiating God and the Responding God. What hope does this give us? In both books, and in both angles of God’s character, we come face to face with one fact: everything rests on him. Creation. Election. Redemption. Deliverance. Covenant. It’s all his. As the old hymn says, “His grace has planned it all, ‘tis mine but to believe, and recognize his work of love, and Christ receive.”

If this is the pattern in the first two books of Scripture, have you seen this pattern in your life? Times when God initiates new things for you, with you, through you? Times when God responds to your groaning… and (though mysterious to you at first) brings deliverance and help (just like he promised he would)? Pause to give thanks to this initiating and responding God!

Thanks be to God!

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