What Are You Wearing?

Your Character As Clothing

If your heart characteristics, and your corresponding behavior, could be visualized as clothing, what would your wardrobe look like?aa blog on put off: put on 2

Your suit of stateliness might be hanging there, or your mood-swing blouse with alternating black and white stripes.  The tie-dyed t-shirt of trouble-free unpredictability or your sweatsuit of steadfastness might be folded there on the shelf.  Do you still have that flannel shirt of forgiveness? And where is that cardigan of kindness that you used to wear all the time?

You Can’t Wear Everything At Once

There you stand wearing a winter coat. Oddly, now you try to put on a jacket over top of the coat.  It doesn’t work.  It is way too tight.  You don’t look normal, and you couldn’t act normally throughout your day.  There is a simple point: you don’t wear everything at once. You make a choice each day as to what you will put on.  And when there is a drastic change (cold to hot, office to sport, carpentry to surgery), you put off one set of clothes to put on another set that corresponds to the new demands of the day.

The visual of putting off and putting on clothing is a theme repeated throughout the Bible (Job 29:14; Psalm 132:9; Isaiah 61:3,10; 64:6; Zechariah 3:4; Revelation 19:13).

“The figure of changing clothes is, in good Hebrew tradition, an appeal to make an inward and spiritual change.” – Alan F. Johnson

The Replacement Principle – Put Off, Then Put On

aa-blog-on-put-off-put-on-1.jpgThe Apostle Paul used this wardrobe principle in “the twin epistles” – Ephesians and Colossians.  If you are following Jesus, “put off your old self … be renewed in the spirit of your minds … and put on the new self….” 

But in Colossians 3:5-17, Paul repeatedly stresses this change of clothing.  Your old “you” (enslaved to the power of Sin) died with Christ. Now, when you obey the internal impulses of Sin by committing sins, you make a fool of yourself.  You’re a child of the King! Why are you wearing those stinky old rags!?

  • Put to death [the list of sins] – v. 5
  • Put them all away [and another list of sins] – v. 8
  • You have put off the old self – v. 9

  • Put on the new self – v. 10
  • Put on [virtues that are listed] – v. 12
  • Put on love, which ties everything together – v. 14

At the end of this put-off-put-on passage, Paul gives us a hint at the importance of the garment of thankfulness – he mentions it three times in three verses.  This is the only such passage in the entire Bible.

“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.  And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”  Colossians 3:15-17

Time To Go Searching or Shopping?

wardrobeHow often do you put on gratitude? Do you know where it is in your closet? Do you even own the garment?  You might need to go shopping.

But owning the garment is not enough. Thankfulness doesn’t just automatically spring from the closet and cling to your body in the morning.  You have to put on gratitude.  And in order for it to fit properly, you must first put off the musty coat of ingratitude.  So often, you think that life stinks, when actually it’s just your old coat.

So, aside from this garment metaphor, how do you actually change? The key lies in Ephesians 4:23 and Colossians 3:10: “Be renewed in the spirit of your minds.”

The New You and the New Clothes

The power of Sin used your bodily impulses to force you to commit “sins.” It also messed with your mind pushing you to control your world and everyone in it for your own happiness.  And the world was never fully right, so you were seldom truly happy, focused on the shortcomings of life rather than all that was amazing and good.

Then Jesus came.  Jesus put off the enjoyment of His glory so that He could put on our sins (2 Corinthians 5:21) – how’s THAT for a garment switch! – and then He sent His Spirit to help transform believers.  Your old self died when you believed in Christ (Romans 6:6, Colossians 3:3), and the new “you” was born.

Your old reasoning and old habits are your old clothes. You start out your Christian life with them, but they don’t belong in the wardrobe of the redeemed, so throughout your life, you are discovering and throwing away the old and replacing them with new reasoning and new habits.

Th(i)nkful – The All Weather Coat

aa blog on put off: put on 4Romans 12:2 says we are transformed by renewing the mind – learning to think God’s thoughts.  Life isn’t about me; it’s about God.  He is not my genie; I am His servant.  Earth is the unbeliever’s only heaven, and the believer’s only hell.  Hard times aren’t a disaster; God designs them to refine, strengthen, and improve me as an image-bearer of the Creator.

And knowing His lovingkindness, His meticulous care for me, His rock-solid promises, His infinite mind, His unchallengeable sovereignty, and my redeemed pathway, there is so very much to be thankful for.

There! I just bought a new golden jacket called “thinkful,” put my arms into the sleeves, and wow does it feel amazing!  This is a keeper.  I think this might be my favorite coat ever.

4 L’s

What Is Your Biggest Sin-problem?

My grad school professor looked at all of us in class and asked: “What is your biggest sin problem?”a 4 L's post 2 He said that, in order for us to learn to be good counselors of others, we first had to be able to self-counsel.  Our assignment was to identify a sin pattern that we personally struggled with and to track it for six weeks.

And so, we began. We charted when we struggled most, when we failed and gave in to the temptation, and when we were able to resist and have victory.  We studied out how to avoid the places of temptation, to be vigilant during the hours of typical temptation, how to respond when tempted, and how to fight back by renewing our thoughts, replacing the evil with the good. It was a very profitable and eye-opening assignment for me.

4 L’s

I would like to present a tool from James 1 that could perhaps help you fight temptation.  I am certain that, if you are human, you are fighting some kind of temptation.  It may be sexual sin, covetousness, lying, stealing, worry, gossip, anger, bitterness, selfishness, or greed.  The list is long. God can use the battles with these temptations to mold us into the image of His Son, the Lord Jesus, but the fight is REAL.

Here are the 4 L’s:

  1. Locate – identify the temptation (James 1:14)
  2. Link – connect the test with the Lord (James 1:2)
  3. Linger – stay a while with Him and describe the temptation with blatant honesty and cry for wisdom (James 1:5-6)
  4. Lieu – replace temptation with something (James 1:22)

a 4 L's post 3Locating or identifying the temptation is a huge part of victory (James 1:14).  Personally I struggle with worry.  It is insidious and sneaks into the depths of my soul.  I want to comfort-eat to relieve the pressure that I feel and get my mind off the vexatious thoughts. When I react sinfully, I feel badly afterwards because I know that I have not responded in a Christ-honoring manner. So if I am able to shine the flashlight on the temptation by locating it, that is a great start.

Linking or connecting the test with the a 4 L's blog 4Lord is the next key. We are told in James 1:2 that we are to count it joy when we are tested. Jesus said we should ask the Father, “do not to lead us into temptation.” He doesn’t tempt us with sin, but He allows the situation to make us stronger under pressure (vv. 3-4), and to motivate us to call out to Him for help (vv. 5-8).

In my own situation I felt like I could locate the temptation (anxiety) and link to the Lord right away by asking Him for help.  But I find that often my focus is still on the temptation – for instance, I am getting more anxious as I pray. 😦

But when I begin to think thanks within the test, and for the test, I am able to link more profitably with the Lord.  Saying out loud the things that I am thankful for right in the middle of the test, and then giving that thanks to God, grows my strength to fight.

“Count it all joy” means being th(i)nkful

a 4 L's post 5Lingering with the Lord and sharing honestly with Him what I am struggling with, and even what I am tempted to do in sinful reaction, is like releasing the pressure that the temptation builds up. The sin especially flees if I speak it out loud or write it down. You shock yourself as you see your hand spell out the sin.

Rehearsing the promises that 1) God was with me, and 2) He designed and desired me to be victorious, and 3) He made wisdom available for free if I confidently asked just fueled my courage to trust in His help.  If forgiveness was needed, He welcomed me with open arms. As I lingered with the Lord, my focus became different.

In Lieu Of, or the replacement principle, is the action part of winning over temptation. What you focus on you give power to.  If I say “don’t steal this, don’t steal this,” I am repeating “this” and “steal” many times – not good.  If I have the temptation to steal, I should immediately go to the front of the store and pay for someone’s purchase, or give a store clerk some money to say thanks for all of the people who don’t. Look at Ephesians 4:28!

This is the embodiment of being a doer of the word and not just a hearer (James 1:22-25).  I need to replace the temptation.  Problem with text-gossiping? Put it down and get busy. Think it out! Have a plan ready.a 4 L's post6.jpg

  • Get down and do 10 sit-ups
  • Put on your running shoes and get outside and run
  • Vacuum
  • Take a shower
  • Sing a chorus out loud
  • Read a book that edifies your soul
  • Write down 10 things that you are thankful for right now

Winning?

Hey, this is just a simple suggestion, but it is helping me.  When I did that six-week assignment back in grad school, it made me aware of how advantageous it is to have a plan.  Being th(i)nkful is a key in winning over temptation.

Download grace/help from the Lord to think thanks in every circumstance – even for tests, trials, and temptations – as James 1:2-4 mentions.  Then express that thanks orally or in a written form.  If you are in Christ, you don’t have to live a defeated life!

a 4 L's post 1

 

LOCATE  ~ LINK ~ LINGER ~ LIEU 

The Bane of Anxiety

My Nemesis

If I had to pick one bane that I have struggled with throughout my life – one toxic, irritating, distressing, plaguing companion –  it would be worry.  I may try to dress it up and make it not look so ugly, but in reality my worry is actually glaring sinful pride that opposes God (I Peter 5:5b-7).  I think I know what is best.  I want to be in control.

Who is in Control?

This Christmas all of our family – children, spouses and grandchildren – were able to gather together in one place after 2 1/2 years.  This is a rare thing indeed as many of us live on different continents.meadowsix10

I was given a very precious, thoughtful gift from my children.  They recorded their voices reading some of my very favorite Scriptures.  A gift that I will relish for a very long time.  Listening through it, Matthew 6:27 caught my ear as I heard my son’s voice reading.

“And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?”  Matthew 6:27

It is almost like we believe that if we are anxious about something, we can change it somehow.

Anxiety“a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome”

Battle For The Throne

gratitude throneI find that I want to be in control; I want my superior understanding of what is best, my keen sense of order, and my better set of values, to be on the throne.  It is difficult to trust that God has everything completely in control and is sovereign. And even if He is in control, He at times does things in a messy and hurtful way; there seems to be no order, purpose, or reason for an illness, an accident, or a financial reversal.  Thus, I indict my God and conclude that my way is better.

But God is worthy of my trust.  He is in control whether I acknowledge it or not, and His ways are always good, perfect, and right, though they are much higher than my ways – so high that I cannot see them or evaluate whether they are up to my standards (Isaiah 55:8-9).

What benefits, however, I would enjoy if I would embrace God’s perfect and good Providence and see my ever-changing circumstances through this lens instead of relentlessly gasping and grasping at evasive control.

Th(i)nkful and Anxiety

Our Creator knows that humans have a strong propensity towards worry.  Therefore, He has given us advice and commands on how to respond.  In the Matthew 6 passage Jesus tells us to seek the things which are above and other things will come right.  Another exhortation to combat anxiety comes from Paul in Philippians 4:4-7:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, 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 your minds in Christ Jesus.

Here we are given the admonition of rejoicing in the Lord, remembering that He is near, thereby setting the foundation of being able to pour out our requests to God with prayer and supplication (supplication = asking God to supply), with thanksgiving. We must practice gratitude in our heartaches and challenges.

If you give thanks with your supplication, the Lord promises that a supernatural peace will guard your emotions and mind.  That is pretty cool!

Carefree vs. Careless

You may say that to be carefree, worry-free, seems to smack of not caring or having proper concern. Carefree is different from careless.  We truly care.  We care a lot, too much, and need to direct our care to the One Who cares for us and wants to carry our cares (Matthew 11:28-30). He knows that we struggle to control and He wants us to leave the control to Him and trust in His way.

Recently I have had the privilege of caring for three little ones while their mommy is going through some physical challenges.  anxietyIn reading to them I came across this book called Places You Haven’t See Yet: A Story About Learning to Trust God, SUCH good reading about what to do when you have anxiety.  Pray!!  We pour out our hearts to the Lord with thanksgiving.

The practice of thinking thanks in every situation is an antidote to worry.  One repulses the other.  One will win!  They cannot coexist.

P.S. I included a link to the children’s book in case anyone wanted to get it. 🙂

 

 

The Power of Reflection

Being Hijacked at Gunpoint

When we moved to South Africa to help plant a church in 1995, Johannesburg was a war zone with more than a thousand car hijacking per month at gunpoint.  A year later it was my turn.  My 4-year-old daughter Elly and I were held up in a hijacking attempt in our own driveway on a Friday night.

I can still see clearly the man with the pistol, his two accomplices flanking both sides of the car wanting to steal our vehicle.  It was awful.  I scolded him from inside the locked car and laid on the horn.  No help came.  It was truly a miracle that we were not both shot dead right there in our driveway, but it was not our time to go.  We survived.

But when you experience trauma, the trauma is not over with the experience.  I had to relive it a thousand times, retell the story a thousand times.  This compulsive reflection backward on traumatic incidents opens up a huge key to the discipline of being th(i)nkful.  Your reflection can make the original incident better or worse.

Objective Experience vs. Subjective Experience

I stumbled over an interesting concept recently while reading The Happiness Advantage, by Shawn Achor.  He shares how there are many ways to help promote happiness in our lives.  Oddly enough, happiness does not come from outside stimuli but is built from within our brains depending on how we shape our brain’s neural pathways.  We can create happiness even within difficult circumstances.  His use of the term “post-traumatic growth” especially fascinated me.

fullsizeoutput_11efWhen a person goes through a traumatic experience, that person experiences the happening objectively at first.  But the later subjective re-experiencing of the happening is what I want to focus on.  We relive notable experiences many, many times.  It is in this subjective replay of the original experience where the key lies.  You can choose how you relive an experience.

My Own Battle

As I reeled through my own subjective re-experiencing of the hijacking over and over, one of the keys to healing was to rehearse my gratitude for how God helped me through every part of that test.

  • God had prepared me earlier in the day by rehearsing a lot of verses about fear with a girl I was counseling;
  • Neither Elly nor I were touched, hurt, shot, or killed;
  • They didn’t get our car (that time);
  • We had just filled up the car – they didn’t steal a car with a full tank!
  • We had a short-term missionary’s bags in the back – they didn’t steal a car with a luggage bonus!
  • God caused them fear and confusion when our gate started to close on its timer;
  • Elly and I got in the house and locked up while they were regrouping;
  • Although they jumped the wall and tried to get in, they never did;
  • We were privileged to be attacked by the evil one because God was transforming the lives of people through the gospel;
  • We had a sense that God was right there with us.

God’s grace in helping me to be th(i)nkful as I reflected on the trauma provided me with post traumatic growth.  My faith-walk with the Lord actually grew stronger.

A Challenge

a simple thank you 2As we leave 2018 and move into the brand new year of 2019 in a few days, I would like to challenge you to make a simple “thank you” part of your living.  As you process daily things, as well as work through things of the past, insert a simple “thank you.”  Let God help you to develop eyes to see not only all His blessings, for which you can be grateful, but also to see His designs in the dark places, because He is there too.  And having His hand hold you through a valley of shadows is a cause for deeper gratitude as you get to know His ways, and heart, and character, and purposes more deeply.

At first you may feel awkward and clumsy in how to express this thankfulness, but don’t give up.  Keep on forging that pattern of looking for things to think thanks for.  It will bring a cupboard full of blessings for you.  Just image this time next year reading through a notebook of daily things that you were th(i)nkful for.  I can promise you that you will be edified and encouraged. Life will serve you hard things in 2019, no doubt, but as you move those things through the sieve of giving thanks to God for everything, you will grow.

“May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, A Simple Thank Youwho has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.”  Colossians 1:11-12

Be Aware of Flawed Thinking

The Wrong Order

When we go through difficult seasons in life, it is tempting to get things cart_before_the_horse_pictures_30991in the wrong order. We tend to look first at our circumstances and try to interpret God’s love and care, which seems missing.

We loose sight of the big picture and run to put out the immediate fire. Fully understandably, but dangerous.

Our emotions are strong and demanding and we cave easily to their demands. We want relief and peace. If God really loves me and is all-powerful, surely He would want the same for me?Be Aware Sign

    Be Aware! 

Gracious Gratitude vs Natural Gratitude

Mary K. Mohler in her recent book, Growing in Gratitude, brings out the importance of Jonathan Edward’s distinctions of “Gracious Gratitude” versus “Natural Gratitude.”

  • Gracious Gratitude: This is thankfulness for God himself – for who He is
  • Natural Gratitude: This is thankfulness for blessings received – for good gifts

Gratitude that acknowledges and thanks God for who He is lays the foundation for natural thanksgiving for what He gives. When we really understand God’s character; that He is completely sovereign, perfect in love, self-existent, with no beginning or end, aware of everything and nothing is hidden from Him, and that He has provided a way through Jesus Christ to forgive all our sin and make us His sons and daughters, our trust in Him fills our perspective.

It lays the foundation for why I can think thanks about every circumstance in my life and express that thanks orally or in a written form.

The Right Order

When the correct view of God is settled in our mind, we can then choose to think thanks in every circumstance in our lives.  Horse before the cart 1The strength of being th(i)nkful can only come from trust in a sovereign Creator and God that is good and worthy.

His plan to make me conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ, is clear from Romans 8:29. That sanctification may take me through seasons that frankly are quite uncomfortable, but knowing that He has an end product in mind gives me the grace to trust that He knows exactly what He is doing. I can be th(i)nkful in every circumstance.

“A thankful heart is one of the primary identifying characteristics of a believer. It stands in stark contrast to pride, selfishness, and worry. And it helps fortify the believer’s trust in the Lord and reliance of His provision, even in the toughest times. No matter how choppy the seas become, a believer’s heart is buoyed by constant praise and gratefulness to the Lord.”

John MacArthur

 

 

The Brain and Thinking

Our Amazing Brains

When God created mankind in His likeness, He gave us an amazing brain. Simply put, the brain controls the mental and physical processes and the actions of a human being.brain 3

Ready for a big word?  Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to change throughout an individual’s life.

It can be shaped very much like a ball of Play-Doh, albeit with a bit more time and effort. 🙂

Scientists claim that the brain is capable of being re-engineered – its shape, size, and functions modified – and that we are the engineers.

“Thought changes structure … I saw people rewire their brains with their thoughts, to cure previously incurable obsessions and trauma.” ~ Norman Doidge, Canadian-born psychiatrist and author of The Brain That Changes Itself.

Complaining and the Brain

My friend, Joanna Chapmon, sent me an article on how complaining affects the brain.brain 1 This is a visual of what happens when we constantly complain.

The neural pathways that we engage in when complaining actually change the shape of the brain, causing us to complain even more!

When we instead choose to be th(i)nkful, we can also change our brains. By choosing to think thanks about every situation in our lives we change the shape of our neural brain pathway making it easier to think thanks in the future.  Our brains are not stagnant, but continually change as they are programmed through repeated thoughts and attitudes throughout our days.

“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”
Proverbs 17:22

The admonitions in scripture from Ephesians 4:23 and Romans 12:2 sure make a lot more sense in the light of this discovery – we must renew our minds.  But amazingly, by doing so, we can actually change the inner workings of our brains to make renewed thoughts flow more naturally.  The Lord wants us to worship Him with our thoughts.  When we choose to think thanks, we are obeying His will for us as stated in Ephesians 5:20 and I Thessalonians 5:18.  Give thanks always in every circumstance!

Th(i)nkful’s Benefits

The brain article mentioned pointed out:

“In depression, there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the brain. It’s simply that the particular tuning of neural circuits creates the tendency toward a pattern of depression. It has to do with the way the brain deals with stress, planning, habits, decision-making and a dozen other things — the dynamic interaction of all those circuits. And once a pattern starts to form, it causes dozens of tiny changes throughout the brain that create a downward spiral.”

Although there can be physical reasons for why someone becomes clinically depressed, there are often major reasons connected with the person’s thought patterns. Just think of the positive effects on a person’s brain when he/she engages in a pattern of th(i)nkfulness.

gibbJane Gibb, a dear co-worker of mine, shared with me how she was struggling with some stress at a particular time. She decided to engage thinking thanks about that situation, and as she cultivated the thought pattern of looking for things to give thanks for in her situation and started writing things down, the stress lessened.  She benefited.  She was putting God’s Word into practice by renewing her mind.

Challenge

So how are you programming your brain these days?  You are programming yourself whether on purpose, or not.  Do you naturally gravitate towards complaining about a situation or do you instead look for things to be thinkful about in that situation?

I challenge you to begin aggressively carving out some new th(i)nkful neural pathways that will not only help you grow in Christ as He desires, but also benefit you physically as well.

Further study:

  • Professor Richard Restak, Optmizing Brain Fitness.
  • Dr. Caroline Leaf, a South African neurologist,  has done extensive work on the thinking and the brain.

“It is only with gratitude that life becomes rich!”  –Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Second Right

Anxiety My Enemy

Anxiety is not my friend.

I have had a propensity towards being anxious as long as I can remember.  Philippians 4:6, which says, “Don’t be anxious about anything,”  has been a place where I have parked often.

Recently I had a friend point out some valuable insights into that passage. When you consider the verses that surround the famous verse 6, you get a better picture of what Paul was exhorting the Philippians to do.

4 Rights

Let’s take Philippians 4:5-9 apart. There are 4 Rights in this passage – Right Awareness, Right Praying, Right Thinking, and Right Practice.

1. Right AwarenessRight Awareness

(v.5 CSB) Let your graciousness [gentleness, reasonableness] be known to everyone.  The Lord is near.  When we are in a conflict or facing hard circumstances, that pressure can cause our words and reactions to be filled with spikes and poison.  We need to realize that God is right here in our presence (Matthew 28:20, 1 Corinthians 6:19, Hebrews 13:5-6), and we are right there in God’s presence (Ephesians 2:6, Hebrews 10:19-22)!

Every sin that we commit is a result of a wrong view of God. If we practiced His presence, we would sputter and fume less and speak to Him more.  Jesus tore down the curtain into the Holy Place by His work on the cross, and we are allowed to enter in without a priest and speak to the God who created or permitted these circumstances!  The Lord is near is a great reminder that we should turn our thoughts toward Him and pour out our hearts.  He is there observing us; He fights for us; He prays for us. He is at hand in formulating the trial and filtering the toxic to get us to trust Him and talk to Him.

2. Right Praying.

(vv.6-7) Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgivingRight Praying 2 let your requests be make known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

This SECOND RIGHT is the one I want to emphasize. In the middle of instructing us to ask God to respond to our needs in specific ways, Paul adds “with thanksgiving.”  We are to pray earnestly (“please help with this”) with thanksgiving (“thanks for this”). We need to think thanks about what is testing us and express that thanks to God.

How do we do that?  We choose to look for things that we can be th(i)nkful for right in the difficulty.  It is after praying this way that the supernatural peace comes that will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. In fact, some would argue that thanksgiving is the trigger for downloading God’s peace.

3. Right Thinking.Right thinking

(v. 8) 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.

Having rolled my burdens onto the Lord, it is amazing how quickly I grab them back and then stress over them as though I am the only God who can fix them.  Paul writes that the battle is in our meditations. I need to focus on what’s true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy.  By way of contrast,  what we should not think about are things that are untrue, improper, dodgy, blameworthy, evil, dubious, unethical, shameful, ignoble, and disgraceful, to name a few.

4. Right Practice.

(v.9) What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

So after we have now learned this new way of living – right awareness of the Lord’s presence right here, right now, right praying that always includes thanksgiving, and right thinking that fuels our outlook and conduct, we are to DO this over and over.  We practice this.  We are not just hearers of the Word, but doers.

Second Right

Being th(i)nkful is a direct cure for anxiety.  When we worry, we are not trusting that God is in control.  When we are th(i)nkful, we are resting in His sovereignty and choosing to meditate on all the things we can be thankful for instead of untruths that fuel our anxieties.

Dr. Shelbi Cullen, my counseling internship professor at Master’s Seminary, shared these thoughts to help me help others, but I have found that it is first helping me.  🙂

  1. Remember that the Lord is right nearby.
  2. Pray hard with thanksgiving.
  3. Think the right way.
  4. Practice these things.

Practice th(i)nkfulness to vanish anxiety

Th(i)nkful for Truth

What is Truth?

Truth – any statement in accord with fact or reality as known in the mind of God

True – fidelity to an original or standard; if something lines up with Truth it is true.

Sometimes the best way to define something is to say what is the opposite.92E02B33-75E6-4B48-9324-C3B52B40A131  Truth has no elements or shades of unreality.  Something that is true is not a lie.  It has fidelity (loyalty) to the standard. It is true to the original.

A picture of truth is when Jesus claimed that He was the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6).  He is truth personified.

While Jesus is the living Word of God, the Bible is the written Word of God. John 1:14 says that the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. The Bible is Truth.

  • Psalm 119:160  “You word is true from the beginning: and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever.”
  • John 8:32 – “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
  • John 16:13 – “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth. “
  • John 17:17 – “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”
  • Galatians 2:5 – “We didn’t yield in submission to them even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.”
  • 2 Timothy 2:15 – “rightly handling the word of truth”

Truth Belt

God’s Truth is described as both a belt and a sword in Ephesians 6:14-18.  It holds the armor together but as a sword it also pierces between the soul and spirit, discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).

Why Be Th(i)nkful for Truth?

If we have no standard, there is nothing to shape our worldview or perspective. There is no objective standard of right and wrong – humanity just makes rules up as we go along.

Without Truth there is also no meaning, value or purpose to our lives except what we subjectively make up to give ourselves and our friends and family some happiness.  Without Truth, everything that happens in life is without design – just a matter of random fate, luck, chance or fortune. But when we acknowledge Truth, everything changes. We have a solid anchor to hold us steady.

The Value of “Speaking Truth into Someone”

snowrope-e1532456704174.jpgWhere I grew up in Norway, snowstorms at times would bring “whiteout” conditions where you couldn’t see a few feet in front of you. If a building near town was 20-50 yards away, a whiteout was dangerous. Some people got lost and their frozen bodies weren’t found until spring. So the town put up a rope fence tying the buildings together.

Truth is like that rope line; without it, you’re on your own and death is likely.  The value of having truth spoken into your life by a friend is immeasurable; it brings you back to the straight line in a swirl of circumstances, emotions, and panicked reactions.  A friend helps realign our perspective – –

“Wait!  Our God is in control.  He has allowed your failure … designed this illness … sent this financial reversal … to accomplish a number of things for His glory and your improvement.  Your pain has nothing to do with Him being angry; He didn’t spare His own Son from pain.  He is not wringing His hands or pacing around His throne.  He is looking at us right now and whispering  ‘perfect.’ You’re not in this alone. He will never leave you, nor forsake you, and I am here for you as well. I’m so sorry it hurts, so sorry, but our God is up to something.” 

Changes in perspective bring changes in emotions, changes in our conduct, and at times, changes in the outcome.  Just recently I was going through a mental battle.  Difficulties and different trials were pressing on my thoughts; I was increasingly dominated by sad feelings.  And then, I had a dear friend “speak truth” into my life.  Wow!  What a change.

Truth In Love

Ephesians 4:15 states that we must speak truth in love to each other in order for us to grow up in Christ.  This means mostly grace seasoned with salt that stings at times (Colossians 4:6) but not the other way around. If you trust a person’s love, there are few things better than sitting back together and “truth-telling” – stating the good things that are true, thankfully gasping at the bad things that didn’t happen, and mulling over our God’s promises and presence that never change.

Thank you God for being Truth, for giving us Truth, and for enabling us to speak the truth in love to one another.

Thankfulness and Sexual Sin

Connection Between Sexual Sin and Thanksgiving

Studying what the Bible has to say about thanksgiving over the past couple of years has yielded some fascinating truths.  I knew that being thankful was a good thing and that God was honored by it, but I am learning that thankfulness is, at the same time, a comfort and a powerful weapon.

There are strategic placements of contrast throughout the Scriptures.  Romans 12:21 says “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  Using this same replacement principle in another letter, the apostle Paul contrasts sexual sin and thanksgiving.

Watchman Nee once summarized Ephesians as “Sit, Walk, Stand.” In Ephesians 4 and 5, Paul is helping believers understanding the contrast between the sinful patterns of the old life and the new walk of faith and love as a regenerate Jesus-follower.  Then, he says something eye-opening.

“Sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.  Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.”  Ephesians 5:3-5

Regret

Instead of engaging in sexual sins, obscenity, sexual talk, and sexual humor – wholly improper and out of place for believers – there is to be thanksgiving.   Thanksgiving is the replacement, or can we say cure, for sexual sin.

Sexual sin is rooted in a heart that is discontent with God’s ways and what God has provided and seizes control to get its “deserved” comforts and pleasures. Rebel willfulness ignores the commands of Christ, and even what is healthy in the long run, and runs off into pornography, adulterous relationships, fornication, sexual abuse, and the list goes on.  The 180 degree opposite is a th(i)nkful person, learning to be content, celebrating what God has provided rather than chafing and brooding over what is missing. Dr. John Street writes:

“Giving thanks to God is an integral part of being a Christian – a child of God.  This is particularly true in the life of the believer as it relates to sexuality.  Those who are discontent and unthankful for how God has made them will often be greatly tempted to indulge in sexual deviancy.”  Dr. John Street, The Biblical Counseling Guide for Women, p. 305

Learning to Be Content

In life you can almost always boil down your struggles to whether you serve Self or God.  God doesn’t hate our bodies and cravings.  He designed them.  He wants us to enjoy our bodies to the fullest.  He even uses the picture of how we love ourselves in showing how we are to love others because it is a given that we love ourselves.

Thinking thanks about your situations will help you be content.  There is a peace that comes from filling your mind with gratitude.  God is in control.  He knows what is so hard for you right now.  He also has given us His Word to help us.  Rather, let there be thanksgiving, He says, to combat sexual sin and temptation.

“Gratitude is the opposite of every sin we commit.”

Freedom

Breaking free from sexual sin is a huge battle.  The doom may scream at you – “You are a slave! A prisoner! You’ve been in this too far and too long to ever get out!” Regret overcome 2 You need hope and a powerful weapon!  Heath Lambert, author of Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace, said something in a lecture that grabbed my attention.  He said that “gratitude is the opposite to every sin we commit.”

There is hope.  It could start with thanksgiving.  In I Corinthians 10:13, Paul wrote that with temptation there is also a way of escape so that you are able to bear it.  I strongly believe that one of the great ways of escape is th(i)nkfulness.


Hey, it’s always good to get a little feedback.  I received this note from a person who reads my blog:

Dear Karin, I just want to thank you for your teaching on thinkfulness. We are in a really difficult place right now but God is good and He is ever-present and His hand is at work. The unknown is always so scary though, but as I was journaling this morning I was just considering how powerful thinkfulness is, and how thankful I am to be able to use it in being victorious. So I just wanted to thank you for being willing to share this concept that the Lord put on your heart, it is a huge blessing to me!

Th(i)nkful That It Turned Out Differently

Open Hand Principle

My husband David has an message called Keeping an Open Hand.  In it he describes how we are allowed to clutch our hand around two things.clutched hand Those two things are 1) our relationship with God and 2) our commitment to do His will for our lives.

Everything else is to be kept in an open hand.Hand open

When you meditate on that, it exposes how we often clutch things that need to be released.

Expectations, for example, are things we need to hold loosely.  If we let a dream or wish morph into a targeted goal that drives us, pushes aside competing loves, and creates an expectation that is not God’s will, we will struggle terribly if God calls on us to release it and receive what IS His will instead. Best to dream while  keeping a neutral disposition. Psalm 16:11 says, “You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Fullness of joy doesn’t come from chasing my dreams; it comes from being in His presence.

Expectations

Have you ever thought back to things that you prayed so fervently for that didn’t happen?  I have. Big White HouseI remember when David was practicing law as a young new lawyer in south-eastern Pennsylvania that I prayed earnestly that we would be able to buy a large white historic house on the outskirts of town.  I even made a name for it and dreamed about how we would raise our family there and use it for hospitality.  It was a great dream, just not the Lord’s will for us.

That white house is just an example.  What about when we pray for success, health, fame, or even the salvation of others? Our desires and requests, although seemingly right, may not be what God wants for us. Maybe He will answer our requests totally differently than what we expect, or at a very different time in our life.

Romans 8:26 and 34 mention that the Spirit and Jesus Christ both make intercession for us. I love envisioning my prayers going through that grid.  I pray earnestly, but I cannot see the full picture. He can. We may not understand why He does things the way He does until glory, but we can trust that He does them well.  He is sovereign and trustworthy for me, His child.

If I turn my dreams into strong expectations I will almost chronically be an unthankful person because God’s choice is so seldom what I would have chosen.  But if I can yield my hopes to Him and leave my dreams at His feet, I will have no problem finding contentment and can even celebrate the path He has chosen for me.

 

Th(i)nkful in Simply Obeying

Zulu ladiesNurturing my relationship with God and earnestly renewing my thoughts so I can discover His good, acceptable and perfect will for my life (Romans 12:2) can bring simple joy and contentment.

These are good truths on which I am reflecting, especially as David and I prepare to move back to South Africa to work among the Zulu.  We are excited to learn the Zulu language and get acclimated to life in Amanzimtoti because God has shown us His will, and that directive trumps all other dreams and wishes.

What about you? How are you expressing your dreams to God?  Is your disposition summed up in “not my will, but Yours be done?”  As with gardening and athletics and most worthwhile things in life, His way is not the easy way, but it is the best.  And often as we grow older and look back, we can be th(i)nkful for unanswered prayers.  Our amazing God, Infinite Mind and Wisdom, has designed bigger and better plans, purposes, and pictures.

P.S. If you’re interested in a copy of David’s Keeping an Open Hand message, just email me.