Choose to Think

How Many Thoughts Do You Have a Day?

Have you ever thought about how many thoughts you think a day?

“According to the research of Dr. Fred Luskin of Stanford University, a human being has approximately 60,000 thoughts per day—and 90% of these are repetitive!”       

I do feel that at least for me many of those thoughts are monkey thoughts, jumping from one place to the next and sometimes in quick succession. 🙂 It’s amazing how quickly my thoughts can run.

In the last week I have had two people send me articles that had reminded them of being th(i)nkful.  By the way, I love that.  Thanks.  It is great fodder for more blog posts.  The topic of our brain and how it works is especially interesting to me.  I love how our Creator made it so that if you concentrate on one thing, there may be benefits that you didn’t even think of.

For example Dr. Earl Henslin, author of This is Your Brain on Joy, claims that the emotions of joy and anxiety travel the same pathway in the brain.  If being th(i)nkful is the primary thought, it pushes out anxiety thoughts.

So How Do You Spend Your 60 000?

What if you could hook up a wire to your brain and all your thoughts would register on a computer monitor?  Wow!  What if an app categorized the thoughts?  What would the printout of your thoughts look like?  choose to think2

I find that convicting and inspiring at the same time!

I love that the brain is not set forever, like drying concrete, but the Lord gives me the opportunity every moment to reprogram, overwrite, and reshape my thought patterns.  I know that through His grace-enabled discipline – choosing the next right thought – that I can wrap my mind and heart around ideas that are pleasing to Him and follow the eight guidelines from Philippians 4:8.  But I must choose what I think, and not let the monkeys of fear, worry, bitterness, discontentment, and envy run wild.

Now it is not so easy to control what you think about.  It is actually super hard. Not impossible, but a fight. It marks the difference between a person who is a slave and a person who chooses to think.

Retraining the Mind

Romans 12:2 says to not be conformed to this world, but “be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Pretty cool, heh?

Doing the will of the Father is extremely important – it is the test of whether you are a true believer (Matthew 12:50)!  Normal human thinking struggles to figure out God’s will.  You have to renew your thinking – reboot and restart your thinking patterns – to figure out His will.

Here’s a huge way to renew your mind – retrain it to start giving thanks in all circumstances.  Paul wrote that doing so is the will of God (I Thessalonians 5:18). It is good, acceptable, and perfect.

A Th(i)nkful Journal

In order to give thanks, you have to think thanks in all circumstances.  I know this to be true, but even I struggle to put this into practice.

It has helped me to get into a daily pattern of jotting down my th(i)nkful items in a little notebook before I go to sleep. My son Nicolas and his wife Julia got me started on that practice on my birthday over a year ago and that habit has stuck. It takes a few minutes before I turn the light off, but it helps to push out anxious thoughts and helps me focus on th(i)nkful items.

Example of Being Th(i)nkful

Let me close with a recent and powerful example of being th(i)nkful.  Stephanie Wesco, whose husband was shot and killed in Cameroon on October 30, 2018, just 12 days after they arrived in Cameroon as missionaries, wrote these words:

“Even in the midst of all that has happened these last several days, I see so many ways the Lord has guided, protected, blessed, and strengthened us all. Precious memories with my husband are something I’m so thankful for. The eight sweet children the Lord gave us together here on earth are my greatest treasure in the world now.

I’m so thankful for the military escort we were given out of the danger zone. The kindness of the soldiers to my children… One of the men was giving Emmy chocolate, which is her favorite. 😊 My heart broke as we passed the place where Charles was shot, but I know the Lord was our protection and shield as we left our home. I’m so thankful for that safety in passing through that area.

I’m so so thankful for our co-workers, the Sinclair family. This whole tragedy has welded us together as a group, and I fully believe the Lord still has plans for us, even though right now life feels so uncertain in so many ways. I’m so thankful for everyone who is praying and supporting our family in ways I don’t even know about. The body of Christ has taken in new meaning for me. The Lord keeps reminding me though His word and everyone’s words of encouragement that he hasn’t forsaken us. He is always good, always.

Revealer of our Heart

Season of Opening Boxes

opening box 2

Not sure how things are at your house, but I know for many, these weeks are so busy with boxes.  There are small boxes, and large boxes, fat boxes, and thin boxes.  Secrets and presents are busily being purchased, baked, built or developed to be revealed at the perfect time.

opening box 1The outside appearance of a box can hide a multitude of things.  It is often quite difficult to imagine what is inside.  The actual item may be a lot smaller than the box, but the box is filled with tissue paper as a playful deception. That’s part of the giddiness of Christmas giving – concealing the contents, avoiding the predictable. At the appropriate time, however, the lid comes off and what is inside becomes visible.

Pulling the Lid Off My Heart

The same is true with the human heart – you don’t know what’s inside until the lid comes off. Some of us put more stock, investment, and armor in our façade than others. But with the right amount of pressure or intoxication, the box opens up and … wow!

Surely the righteous shall give thanks to your name; the upright shall dwell in your presence.”  Psalm 140:13

opening box 4The Psalmist makes a revealing statement about the righteous person in Ps. 140:13.  Someone who loves God and is cleansed by the Lamb, will surely give thanks. They will have a bent towards wanting to be th(i)nkful.  It will fit for them and not feel out of place.

I Thessalonians 5:18 says that even when the box is suddenly ripped open, one of the first things people should see inside is the giving of thanks.  Yes, there may be hurt, pain, sorrow, expectations in ashes, and a thousand tears, but they will be intertwined with this unbelievable ribbon of thanks. That is God’s will.  It may not be easy all the time.  It is hard work to develop the mindset of thinking thanks about every situation, but it is profitable and fitting because God has designed it that way.

So How Is Your Box?

Opening the box of a righteous person’s heart should expose gratitude and a desire to express thanks.  I don’t know about you, but this was convicting for me.  My heart should be full of giving thanks.

When my thoughts are conflicted with frustrations and disappointments, I should take a reality check.  What is really important here?  Am I getting all bent out of shape because of a trivial thing?  May the peace of God rule in my heart and filter my thoughts so that I can quickly give thanks for His name, His character, and the plan He is working out.

Merry Christmas!

May you and yours have a lovely season of concealing and revealing boxes. However, let it be a reminder of your own heart box and what is in it.  Let the Lord pour His grace and strength into you so that you, in turn, can choose to think thanks about every circumstance in your life and express that thanks, first to God, and then to others.

opening box 3

 

The Slide of Ingratitude

The Mechanics of the Slide

The physics of sliding down a playground slide has to do with gravity, friction, inertia, and kinetic and potential energy. Your speed will be affected by your weight, the condition of the slide and the temperature.   For a child, there is little that compares with the exhilaration of a good slide.  In Lone Hill, South Africa there was a playground within walking distance of our home that contained a huge slide.  The children were hesitant to climb the step ladder to that slide purely because of its height.

Longest Slide in NYC picture by Tod Seelie Governors Island   

The picture above is “Slide Hill,” the longest slide in New York City, on Governors Island.  Children exude anticipation as they climb up and slide down the famous slide in this new park. A couple of lessons: 1) It takes effort to climb to the top of a slide; and 2) you slide downward quickly.

A Sinister Slide

There is another infamous slide that is recorded in the Scriptures.  This slide is ugly.  It is harsh.  It is fatal and destructive.  It starts out at the top in Romans 1:18 and continues rapidly downward, through twists and turns, to verse 32.  There is a baleful initial description of the ones sitting at the top of that slide.  The people who start down this slide are not thankful.  Ungrateful people suppress the truth of who God is and exchange it for a lie.

1:21 “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

Thankfulness is an antidote to temptation.  The inverse is also true. Ingratitude seems to invite every form of temptation and sin.  I have often mused over how ingratitude seems to create the fertile conditions of sin prospering. My daughter Elly once said that “it is hard for a selfish person to be thankful.” The essence of sin is self – self-absorption, self-preoccupation, self-rule and self-worship. You see all of your blessings as coming from your dreams and your hard work. And yet you are not fully a god just yet, so you are chronically competitive, discontent, and unthankful.

There are two things that sin does not love to do; to honor and glorify God as the source of every good thing, and to thank God for every good thing and for every bad thing He is working together for our good.  Sin wants to replace God with self and with alternate loves that supposedly will bring happiness to self and awkwardly try to fill our God-shaped void.

If you sense that you are not a very thankful person, perhaps it would be good to do some introspection. Why do I not want to be thankful? Do I want to count my many hardships? Is it just that I don’t think about being thankful?  Or do I disregard it?

Cultivating thinking thanks keeps us from beginning down the long and winding slide that is smooth and breezy at the top but becomes indulgent, brutal, empty, and destructive toward the bottom.

“Genuine thankfulness is an act of the heart’s affections, not an act of the lips’ muscles.” –John Piper

 

metal slide

Negative Th(i)nkful

Dennis

This is Pastor Dennis.  He was our co-worker in Johannesburg, SA.  He would often start our worship services at Sandton Bible with the question of: “Aren’t you thankful that you didn’t wake up in the hospital this morning?”

“A help toward personally fulfilling Eph. 5:20 & I Thess. 5:18 may be to continually thank God for all the things that could have gone wrong AND DID NOT; and, for all the things that went well BUT COULD HAVE GONE BADLY’!!! Examples- 1) how many things could have kept us from waking up this morning (countless)? 2) when driving on a 2 lane road and a car safely passes by in the opposing lane – it could have veered into our lane!” – Bob Meyers

There is no end to what we can think thanks about in our lives. When you think thanks about all the bad things that could have happened, but didn’t, you are practicing being negative th(i)nkful.  You could have been in a car wreck on your way to work this morning.  You could have a sore in your mouth that will not heal.  You could have severe abdominal pain right now.  You could have never heard about Jesus and the grace that He offers to anyone who wants to believe.  You could have nothing to live for and be looking for a way to die. You could not have access to the Word of God. You could have been born into extreme poverty.  The list goes on and on.

Think of five things that you are so thankful for that are not true in your life right now. Give that present of thanks to the One who deserves it.

Dennis Chapmon was the eternal optimist.  How inspiring he was to be around.  Yes, I am so thankful that I didn’t wake up in the hospital this morning.  Thank you God, that though Your ways are always good, you chose an easier path for me today in so many ways.