Thursday, June 21, 2018

Think, don't just act

Remember how fretting and worrying wears us down and brings us into a place of paralysis in our faith? There is a lot of power behind our thoughts - our way of thinking has a great deal to with how it is we perceive a situation and how it is we will approach it. There are very specific things we are supposed to be thinking on - allowing these types of thoughts to become fertile ground in our minds can go a long way to keeping us from fret and worry. Remembering that there is  first the need to "put off", then to "put on", we can conclude that some thoughts are meant to be left behind and others pursued. For some of us, the thoughts we have been mulling over for some time have become almost habitual with us - maybe not even the best of habits for us to have!  You have to put off a bad or less desirable habit, and in turn, you put on a better one.  When God tells us to have no other gods before him, he also says to honor him with our entire hearts, minds and souls.  When we are told to stop stealing, there is the follow-up command to get a job. The idea is that we MUST replace one behavior (which begins with thought) with another, or there will be a "gap" that is open to being filled - if not purposefully, then by whatever comes along that we embrace with any actual thinking - including the thinking that leads us to worry and fret!

Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.  (Philippians 4:8-9 MSG)

We are told to do two things here - fill our minds and then meditate on what we put in there. There is only as much room to "fill" any object as there is "room" made for what will fill in that space. Our minds are amazing "tools" - they can be used to do such tremendous things. With the mind, we can begin the visionary work of creating or inventing - picturing what is to become even long before we have all the tools and resources at our disposal to create whatever it is we envision.  With the mind, we can think through a scenario, step-by-step, until we see what we envisioned take form - like creating a blueprint.  As I am fully aware, the mind can be like a "steal trap" or a "leaky sieve".  When someone has an uncanny ability to remember all kinds of facts or details, we say they have a mind like a steal trap.  If the opposite occurs, and the individual cannot seem to recall facts longer than say a nanosecond, we say they have a mind like a leaky sieve. It always amazes me to see the sports enthusiast that can recount the entire career of some ball player, complete with every stat of their season right on the tip of their tongue, yet they cannot remember the birthdays of their children!  What's up with that?

The mind controls every function in our body, every action of day, and every inaction, as well.  With it, we make choice, interpret input, and "feel" things with what we call emotion. It is our mind that gives us the ability to resist temptation, or plunge full force ahead into disaster.  That is why God takes time to point out to us what to put into our mind.  He asks us to center our thought life on things that will build up, give a foundation, and provide a safe course for our Christian walk.  Let's briefly see what he poses as the type of thought we are to fill our minds with:
  • Things that are true - that which conforms to reality or fact.  He reminds us that our minds can indeed come up with any conclusion they want - we need to remember to center on what is fact. It is oftentimes easiest to see what we want to see, but that isn't always what is true!
  • Things that are noble - that which is of the highest quality.  The idea is that we should not accept mediocrity in our thought life - we are to strive for the best. I can buy lower quality paper towels at the grocery store, but it takes more to finish the job that the ones of a little higher quality!
  • Things that are reputable - thinking on that which is worthy of honor or is respectable is sometimes one of the most difficult parts of our thought life.  We do a lot of damage in our thought life with both the reputation of others and of ourselves - simply because we think upon things that would be best left alone.  Paul reminds us that reputation, even God's, can be broken or built up in our minds.
  • Things that are authentic - genuine and supported by indisputable evidence. Isn't it surprising just how much of our thought life could be discounted and discarded when put to the test of authenticity?  We need to be cautious here - we can find almost any evidence to support our belief - therefore, we need to go to the evidence that has "born up" throughout the ages (The Word of God) - test what you believe.
  • Things that are compelling - this is the type of thought that drives an individual into action.  It has a powerful and irresistible effect on us to think in such a manner.  It is important to see what is compelling us to move - does it line up with what God outlines in his Word - with what he desires for us?
  • Things that are gracious - the thought that immediately moves us into actions of compassion and mercy - not judgment and guilt - these are the thoughts we need to entertain the most.
  • The best, not the worst - how many times am I guilty of "jumping to conclusions" - immediately drifting into negative thought about a person, situation, or perceived threat?  I sometimes go to the "worst" first, but find myself having to "reign in" my thoughts, taking control of them through active choice, and "shifting" to the best way to see that person, situation, or threat. The "best" may not be our first thought, but it should be our final one!
  • The beautiful, not the ugly - okay, don't get me wrong here, but there is some pretty ugly stuff out there just waiting to get into our brains!  Whatever we allow in will have an affect. Guard your mind - don't let that ugly stuff in!
  • Things to praise, not to curse - if we keep all the rest in perspective, it is easy to allow things in that we want to speak about - things that build up - rather than those things that we can only formulate more and more negative talk about.
We are not just to fill our minds with the right thoughts, but we are to meditate upon them. Think of this as "chewing on them". Sometimes we'd do well to take a little more time in thought before we actually speak or act upon the thought we are entertaining! There is a place of safety in learning to meditate on the right stuff. What are you "chewing on" today? If it something that is really "chewing on you", then maybe it is time for some fresh thought about the situation.  Just sayin!