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Walking Bundles of Habits

Sep 15, 2018

I love to read old books, and I’ve recently been enjoying a collection of readings from some time-tested authors. One particular article recently caught my attention—you would have thought it was written yesterday, for it speaks so clearly to us today.

It is entitled “How to Change One’s Habits,” and the sentence which jumped off the page to me was this one: “Could the young but realize how soon they will become mere walking bundles of habits, they would give more heed to their conduct while in the plastic state.” Walking bundles of habits—what a clear picture that gives us of ourselves, does it not? Obviously, those can be good habits or bad habits—or some mixture of both—but I have to acknowledge that I am, to a large degree, a collection of the habits that I’ve established in my life.

Let’s examine our “bundle of habits” to see how we can add good ones and get rid of harmful ones.

When we first start a habit that is harmful, we don’t intend for it to become a habit. For instance, lately we are seeing how so many have become addicted to pornography, especially on the internet. This is a devastatingly bad and evil habit, but my guess is that the person who first goes to one of those pornographic internet sites tells himself or herself they are doing it simply out of curiosity—they just want to see what it’s like. Then one time leads to another and another. . .and before they know it, they’re hooked.

Someone has said, “Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.” If we dealt with our harmful habits in the beginning stages, we could pretty easily break them. This author calls it the “plastic state”—that period of time when breaking the habit wouldn’t be too hard to do. But the longer we allow it to continue, the more likely it will become part of our bundle of habits and then it’s very difficult to overcome.

Speaking of ancient authors, the Apostle Paul addressed this issue in his letter to the Romans. He said, “Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?. . . Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness.” (Romans 6:16,19)

In other words, since we are all creatures of habit and are walking bundles of habit, we need to make certain that those habits lead to holiness and righteousness. Unfortunately, many times we’re controlled by bad habits.

If you truly want to break a bad habit—and you have to really want to do it—you must begin by specifically praying about that habit. Whether it’s what we may classify as an innocent bad habit or one that is recognized as harmful, if you are addicted to it and it’s not good for you, ask God to give you strength to overcome it.

Then in order to break that habit, you need to replace it with a good habit. Habit is overcome by habit. As Paul wrote to the Romans, you and I choose whether we will be a slave to sin or a slave to righteousness—whether we will incorporate habits that are wrong or replace them with good habits.

The first part is the hardest part—getting started. You must stop talking about it and start doing it. As Jesus said, “Now that you know these things, you are blessed if you do them” (John 13:17). The blessing is in the doing. So, how do you get started when you want to break a bad habit? After praying about it, you need to determine what new habit you will use to overcome the bad habit. Remember, habit is overcome by habit.

For example, if you watch too much television or see too many movies that are not good for you, what new thing will you do to replace the time you used to spend watching the wrong things? You could get some Christian DVDs or movies to replace them; you could find a good book to read instead of watching the television. It will be most helpful if you will determine in advance what new good habit you will put in place of the old harmful one. Instead of eating chocolates, you eat carrot sticks—whatever.

Do everything you can to launch your new habit in a strong and intentional way. Get rid of anything that will tempt you; accumulate anything that will re-enforce your decision. If you’re trying to change bad eating habits, don’t stock your refrigerator with all the bad stuff. Stay away from people or circumstances that encourage the old habit and surround yourself with people and conditions that will encourage your new habit. Don’t make it easy for the enemy to tempt you. Then, be tough on yourself, especially at first, until the new habit is securely rooted in your life.

If lack of discipline is one of your bad habits, it will keep you in bondage to your other bad habits. Regardless, start working on them one at a time and, as you are successful in breaking one bad habit, it will give you encouragement to work on others.

Zig Ziglar has said, “When you choose a habit, you also choose the end of that habit.” We are all walking bundles of habits, and our challenge is to make sure we are walking bundles of good habits.

It’s true that habits have consequences, so when we allow a habit to become engrained in our lives, that habit will produce consequences—either good or bad. I’ve often said you can choose your sin but you can’t choose its consequences—and that’s true of habits. However, if they’re good habits, then the consequences are wonderful.

For example, if you are very disciplined about spending quality time with God on a daily basis—you are studying God’s Word, praying, and learning how to be a better follower of Jesus Christ—that habit will produce wonderful fruit in your life. You will be like a tree with deep roots—you’ll be strong in good times and in bad times because of that good habit of daily time with God.

Now, that habit takes discipline. If you are depending on your feelings to get you going, you’re going to find that those feelings are very undependable. This good habit begins by setting your alarm clock early and getting up when it goes off so you have that quiet time alone with God. Establishing this good habit in your life means you have a plan and a structure to help you read and study God’s Word, and you are truly learning how to pray more effectively. I can promise you that there will be few days when you will wake up with a burning desire to get on up and get into the Word. You will do that mostly through sheer discipline—strengthened by your dependence on God to help you.

However, I can wholeheartedly tell you that once you begin through discipline to establish this very good habit in your life—the most important habit for a Christian—you will become addicted to the new habit. You will see that God is changing you, you are coping with life so much better, the joy of the Lord is truly giving you strength, and you are coming to know you can’t make it very well without regular, planned time with God. This good habit will do more good than any other habit at getting rid of bad habits in your life. As I said, habit is overcome by habit.

I don’t think I’ve ever quoted Aristotle before, but here’s something he said which is very true: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” Since the beginning of time it has been true that we are creatures of habit—or as I’ve said, walking bundles of habit. It is also very true that the longer a habit is engrained in your life, the more difficult it is to break.

That applies to good habits as well as harmful ones. So, the smart thing to do is to make sure you eliminate the harmful habits in your life and replace them with good habits—things that will make you more effective for Jesus and his Kingdom. Of course, this takes discipline and commitment.

Let me ask you this: What are you repeatedly doing that is building excellence in your life? Zig Ziglar says, “We build our character from the bricks of habit we pile up day by day.” So, what you are repeatedly doing every day is determining your character. Are you building good character in your life through repeatedly doing what you know you should do?

We must teach our bodies that they cannot just do anything they want to do or have everything they want. The Apostle Paul wrote, “Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize” (1 Corinthians 9:26-27).

No doubt Paul was exaggerating when he said, “I beat my body,” but he wanted to make the point that without discipline over his body’s demands, he would never be able to do what God had planned for him to do. It’s very easy to become slaves to our own bodies, and those bad habits can ruin us—physically, mentally and spiritually.

Here’s a good suggestion: Teach your body that it must come under God’s control by regularly doing something—every day or two—that you would rather not do. For example, you don’t eat sweets for a day, even though you want them, but you tell your body, “Nope, you don’t get what you want today.”

When you give an account to Jesus for how you’ve lived your life and used your resources, it would be so sad if you’ve wasted your life by simply not getting rid of bad habits. If you’re born from above, you have the Holy Spirit to empower you to get rid of bad habits. You have no excuse.

Would you like to change a bad habit? I have some final suggestions that may be helpful. Take it one step at a time. You can’t change everything at once, so choose a small goal and stick to it for at least 30 days until it has become ingrained.

For example, if you have trouble getting up on time or getting up early enough to have time with God each day, determine by God’s grace to overcome it. Put an alarm clock on the other side of the room so you have to get up to turn it off. Do whatever you have to do to force yourself to put those feet on the floor as soon as the alarm goes off. Determine that come what may, you will stick with it for 30 days.

Give a friend, mate, or relative some money—maybe $100—and tell them to hold it for you and only return it to you if you’ve kept your 30 day commitment to get up on time each morning. That should help motivate you! Accountability is a key factor in putting change into our lives.

Once you’ve had some success—even in a small way—it will encourage you to know that God will give you the victory over other bad habits. You will build one good habit on another, and you’ll replace bad habits with good ones. I promise you, it really works.

For some people, discipline comes easier than others. Whether or not it’s easy for you, if you’re a child of God through faith in Jesus Christ, you have what it takes to be victorious over bad habits because you have the Holy Spirit residing within you to empower you. What you must do is claim the victory that is yours through Jesus, and put the discipline in place.

I John 5:4: says, “For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.”

You have great blessings in store as you overcome your bad habits and become a walking bundle of good habits, bringing honor and glory to Jesus.

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Looking with Forever Eyes

Jun 9, 2018

PROGRAM W-1731 – Part I

Little things bother me much more than big ones. I can stress out more over a late flight or a broken nail than I do over significant issues. Not because I think the little things are more important, but because I so easily lose my perspective on how truly unimportant they are.

Years ago, I recognized that this was a major failing of my Type A, driven, and controlling personality—I knew I needed to change. But how? After all, I was born this way!

That’s when God began to teach me some valuable lessons about polishing my personality so that it becomes more Christ-like. True, he made me “this way,” but sin corrupted his creation in me, just as it has in all the universe. Although I don’t need to change my personality, I do need to allow his Spirit to smooth off the rough edges.

Having recognized this rough edge that needed some work, I asked God to give me a way to overcome my tendency to overreact and lose my perspective so quickly and easily. Prayer became my first and most important weapon in this battle. Then I heard or read a “gimmick” to use that has made a big difference. It’s a simple question I ask myself at those moments of diminutive-distress or trivial-trouble. Here it is:

What difference will this make in twenty-four hours?

I determined that any incident that would not matter in twenty-four hours was truly not worthy of any negative reaction on my part. It was a foolish waste of my time and energy, and contributed to much unnecessary stress. Furthermore, it almost always caused me to say and do things that were not wholesome, lovely, or a good testimony as an ambassador for Jesus Christ.

I established a rule for myself that I am not allowed to expend any energy or emotion on anything that won’t matter in twenty-four hours. This means I can’t get angry, upset, or frustrated about it—or about him or her—because the experience truly is insignificant in the bigger scheme of things.

This simple technique began to bring my personality disorder under control. I discovered that probably eighty percent of what upsets me at any given moment will not matter a whit in a short twenty-four hours. With one simple question, I was able to lower my stress levels, control my propensity to overreact, and smooth those personality rough edges a bit.

The secret to this little trick is to force myself to have a longer perspective. As soon as I can get my eyes off the here-and-now and look ahead—even a short twenty-four hours—my coping ability increases immensely. All this simply because I look at it long-term rather than short-term.

This simple illustration is what my book, Looking with Forever Eyes, is all about: Learning to have a long-term perspective. However, we need more than a twenty-four-hour outlook. We need an eternal one! The Apostle Paul reminded us of this when he wrote the following:

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).

To analyze this statement from a strictly logical perspective, one would have to say that Paul was, at best, delusional, and at worst, stupid! To see what is unseen is a total contradiction in terms. Any first-grader can tell you that if you can’t see something, there’s no need trying to fix your eyes on it. It’s un-seeable!

Yet here we have the greatest Christian who ever lived, by most accounts, telling us to fix our eyes on what is unseen. This is another paradox of Scripture that appears bewildering at first. However, within the truth of this verse is a very straight-forward, simple, and life-changing principle.

I call it “Looking with Forever Eyes,” and it is, indeed, very simple. However, it is not easy. It is the process of learning to live now in the light of eternity and, quite frankly, it is in opposition to our inborn, natural instincts.

Much of the Christian walk doesn’t come naturally, I am discovering. Living by biblical principles has to be a God-thing—something that he does in me. It’s more than just being disciplined, hard working, or persistent. It has to begin with a motivation and a will on my part that is God-inspired and God-empowered.

Motivation” and “will”—these are two key words that always determine success or failure. When I am properly motivated and absolutely determined to accomplish something, little can stand in my way. When my motivation is God-given and my will is God-empowered, I have what it takes to “do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13). However, I have to relinquish my desires and my will to his control—and that’s the hard part. It’s what Jesus meant when he said the following:

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it (Luke 9:24).

It takes Forever Eyes to understand this verse. Earthly eyes will never motivate you to lose your life for Jesus. Here-and-now eyes cannot see why or how losing your life for Jesus would save it. But with the ability and the will to look with Forever Eyes—to see what is unseen—then you can see beyond the years of this earthly life and recognize the incredible blessing and joy that await you when you give up the control of your life to Jesus Christ.

If I take that simple question I have used for many years to help me keep my cool, and change it a bit, I could ask it this way:

What difference will this make in eternity?

Imagine the changes in your life if you determined that you would regularly use that yardstick to determine and control your priorities, your time management, your relationships, your dreams, and your aspirations. How much stress, frustration, anger, depression, and discouragement could you take out of your life if you simply asked yourself that question at least once a day?

Unused Forever Eyes

It must be noted that there are far too many who have been born from above and have been given these new eyes, yet they live their everyday lives without ever using their Forever Eyes. Either they don’t know they have them, they forget to use them, or they choose not to use them.

This is truly sad because to miss seeing the unseen things is to miss much of the joy, excitement, and uniqueness of the Christian life. Think about it: If you had eyesight that allowed you to read a sign a mile off, to see for two miles with clarity, or to see beyond the horizon, would you not feel very special? Nobody else around you would have such extraordinary eyesight, and that would give you an incredible advantage.

You could see trouble coming and avoid it. You could see good things up ahead and get there first. You would have more knowledge than those around you, more insight into what’s ahead, and you would be less likely to misjudge or miscalculate.

Because of Forever Eyes, those of us born from above have even greater, more miraculous vision. The advantages this offers us are phenomenal! We have the ability to do all of the following:

  • See consequences
  • Avoid temptation
  • Establish correct priorities
  • Make the best use of our time
  • Love unlovable people
  • Avoid the tyranny of the urgent
  • Better discern people and their intentions
  • Accept the uncontrollable
  • Live a contented life

 

This is not an exhaustive list—there are more advantages than my mind can conceive. These, and more, are yours when you choose to look at life through Forever Eyes.

If you’ve got a set of these Forever Eyes, why not use them? Can you think of a good reason not to? Beats me! To have this ability and not take advantage of it is foolishness at best, and disaster at worst.

What difference will this make in eternity?

I hope this question will be emblazoned in your mind this week. I hope you will pray and ask God to show you how to live now in the light of eternity, and to give you his view, his perspective of every person, every situation, and every circumstance in your life. Believe me when I tell you this: Looking with Forever Eyes changes you; it reduces your stress; it increases your patience; it eliminates worry and strife. Ask God for Forever Eyes, won’t you? You’ll never be sorry you did.


As offered by Mary, dig more deeply into this topic of looking at life through Forever Eyes. Make a donation of any amount to the Christian Working Woman ministry, and we’ll send you a copy of this book, “Looking with Forever Eyes: How to Live Now in the Light of Eternity.” Call us today at 630.462.0552 to make a donation and receive this book.

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Think About What You Think About

Jun 2, 2018

PROGRAM W-1730 – Part II

I have demonstrated how Philippians 4:8 gives us clear guidelines into which our thoughts must be confined. Those guidelines are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable.

Did you take my challenge? Did you examine your thoughts, one by one, checking them out to see if they meet these requirements? Did you think about what you were thinking about? I hope so. If you did, you may have discovered that much of your thinking failed to fall within the acceptable boundaries.

Undoubtedly you saw that critical thoughts don’t fit. Negative thinking is way off limits. Complaining thoughts are never lovely, and proud thoughts are rarely pure or true. Bitter thinking is never noble, and self-pitying thoughts are anything but admirable or lovely. Applying these guidelines to our thinking really illuminates how much of our thinking is wrong!

To think correctly, we must think biblically. To think biblically, we must know God’s Word. To know God’s Word, we must spend time reading, studying, listening to, and absorbing it. That must be our highest priority. Whenever your spiritual life is out of sorts, it is because your thinking is out of sorts. And your thinking gets out of sorts when you don’t know God’s Word, you don’t spend significant time in God’s Word, and/or you choose to disobey what you do know about God’s Word.

The parameters for our thoughts, from Philippians 4:8, are strict guidelines. They may appear impossible to you, or perhaps legalistic or restrictive. But hang in here with me, because the best is yet to come. There is freedom and great reward for right thinking, and it is totally possible for you to bring your thoughts into captivity, if you really want to!

I can testify that captive thinking becomes more attractive the more you practice it. When I was first starting to practice this principle, I found myself one day getting into some self-pity thoughts—the “poor me” syndrome. It was a way of thinking that was fairly common for me before, but I had come to realize that self-pity thoughts simply don’t fit the guidelines and, therefore, must be abandoned.

On this particular day, as I caught myself starting to feel sorry for myself, I stopped and said to myself, “I don’t want to be depressed. I don’t want to be blue or down. I will not think these self-pity thoughts.”

Those thoughts were now distasteful to me. I had enough experience at changing my thinking to realize how much better it is not to indulge in self-pity thinking. Don’t get me wrong: that was not the last time I’ve had thoughts of self-pity. It is a continuing lesson to learn. But each time I am tempted to indulge in self-pity, I remember how much better it is to change those thought patterns, such that there are fewer and fewer self-pity thoughts in my mind these days.

Once you get into the habit of screening and testing your thoughts, then the question is, “How do I stop thinking the wrong thoughts? I can determine they’re wrong, but I can’t stop thinking them?!”

Here are two things that have helped me immeasurably:

The first is what I call the Replacement Theory—replacing wrong thoughts with right ones. This theory works because it is a biblical principle. Isaiah 26:3 tells us, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” In Hebrews 12:2-3 we read: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. . . Consider [or think constantly of] him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Fixing our eyes means concentrating our thoughts on Jesus.

We have a replacement thought as Christians that is guaranteed to work every time we need to replace a wrong thought with a right thought. That replacement thought is Jesus Christ. When in doubt, think about Jesus!

For instance, I struggle with proud thoughts. But if I replace proud thoughts with thoughts about my Savior, and I think of all he has done for me and his incredible humility, the proud thoughts have to go. They cannot occupy the same space with thoughts of Jesus Christ. They are incompatible.

Thankfulness is a sure cure for self-pitying thoughts. Start reciting all you have to be thankful for, and the self-pity has to stop.

I don’t mean to imply that it’s always easy to replace wrong thoughts. It isn’t. The moment of abandoning the wrong thoughts and forcing myself to think correctly is a moment of struggle in my mind. Sometimes I have to replace wrong thoughts every minute or two. But don’t let that discourage you. Keep applying this principle. Keep replacing. You’re changing habits that are ingrained, adjusting thought patterns that have been long-established in your mind, and you’re in a warfare with your enemy. So don’t give up! Continue replacing the wrong thoughts with the right thoughts as many times as necessary.

The second thing that will help greatly in creating a right thought life is to carefully guard what you put into your mind. You’re probably aware of the expression “Garbage In, Garbage Out” as it relates to computers. Nothing could be more true of our minds, as well. If you put garbage into your mind, your thought life will reflect that input.

What do you read? Trashy novels, trivial magazines, and secular newspapers? Do you spend more time reading God’s Word and good Christian material than you do reading the world’s literature, even if it’s not necessarily evil? You will never change your thinking if you’re reading trash, or you’re failing to read the Bible, consistently giving it top priority over all other reading.

What do you look at on television and at movies? If you spend hours watching television, chances are you’re pouring lots of trash into your mind. Those soap operas and situation comedies are full of immorality and non-Christian lifestyles. If you’re pouring that stuff into your mind, forget having a good thought life. It won’t happen. If you’re going to change your thinking, it’s highly likely you’ll need to change your television and movie habits. Keep this in mind—you don’t want to be laughing at what grieves the heart of God.

What do you listen to? Are you soaking up the world’s music? Much of the lyrics are absolutely evil. You may think that those lyrics don’t get to you and you just like the music, but you’re wrong. Those lyrics get into your mind. If the lyrics don’t meet the thought standards of true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable, you should not listen to that music.

What kind of conversations do you listen to? Do you subject yourself to off-color conversations, gossipy conversations, and critical conversations? Your thinking won’t change with that kind of input entering your mind.

Reprogramming your mind requires careful screening of all that enters it. Think of your mind as a large container. Over this container is a screen, called true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable, which filters everything that enters it. As long as you keep that screen tightly fit over the entrance to your mind, you will screen out the wrong thoughts.  An amazing thing to realize is that lifting that screen even for a moment is dangerous.

I remember one night, I had planned to do some writing. I was getting ready to begin, and I had meant to turn off the television after watching the news. Right at that moment, a TV movie came on, and I looked at it a couple of minutes, intending to turn it right off. Unfortunately, I got hooked. The next thing I knew, two hours had passed—I had watched the whole thing. While I wouldn’t call it X-rated, the subject matter was not first-class—it was about some adulterous affair, making adultery look sympathetic. For days I couldn’t get that junky movie out of my mind. Furthermore, I had wasted my whole evening!

I don’t do that anymore because I don’t want to face the job of cleaning my mind up from all the trash that gets in. It takes a long time to get those trashy thoughts out.

If you will change the input into your mind, you’ll be amazed at how your thinking will change. Scripture memorization is a fantastic way to program your mind correctly. Good reading has helped me immensely. And, of course, essential is the Word of God, poured into your mind regularly and systematically.

Anytime we neglect pouring God’s Word into our life regularly, we can expect wrong thinking to take place. That will then result in wrong actions, in problems, in frustrations, and in dilemmas. Our American mind-set is to look for quick fixes, short cuts, and instant solutions. Right thinking doesn’t come in a pill you take once a day. It comes mostly by spending time with the Lord, saturating your life with his Word, and getting rid of the junk you’ve been allowing into your mind.

For right thinking we are promised two wonderful things, found in Romans 8:6: “The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.”

Life and peace. You can’t buy them, you can’t earn them, and you can’t manufacture them. They come to you as a result of having a mind set on the Spirit of God, having a mind controlled by his Spirit, and having a thought life that stays carefully within the acceptable bounds of true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable.

If you’re really tired of the ups and downs of your life, and hungry to know freedom from sins and attitudes that weigh you down, learning to bring your though patterns under control is the doorway to freedom. This is meant to be the normal life of every Christian, but few ever discover it. I hope and pray I’ve been able to help some of you, who are willing, see how you can transform your life by renewing your mind and bringing your thoughts into captivity. I can testify to you, as one who is still learning to practice this principle, that it makes wonderful differences in your life, and is well worth the effort.

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Think About What You Think About

May 26, 2018

PROGRAM W-1729 – Part I

I believe the process of learning to bring our thought life under the control of God’s Holy Spirit—to be “narrow-minded,” if you please, rather than follow the world’s popular “broad-minded” philosophy—is the key issue for Christians today. This is a process God began teaching me many years ago when I came back into fellowship with him and gave him control of my life. As I have learned to follow this principle, my life has changed drastically. When I’m having difficulty in my walk with God, I can always trace it back to wrong thinking.

In Proverbs 23:7 we read that as a person thinks in their heart, so are they. Heart, of course, refers to our inner person, the true us, our mind. What this verse tells us is that what we think determines what we say and what we do. It is an accurate indication of the real you.

Did you know that there is a great battle going on to capture your mind and your thoughts? The god of this present age, Satan, is doing everything possible to control your mind. He is an expert at it; he’s been doing it for ages.

For example, consider the time when Peter tried to convince Jesus that he was not going to be killed. You’ll find the story in Matthew 16 and Mark 8. Jesus rebuked Peter with very strong words:

“Get behind me, Satan! You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns” (Matthew 16:23).

I think Jesus was tempted to listen to Peter. After all, to his human ears it must have sounded inviting to think that he would not have to suffer death on the cross. Satan, through Peter, tried to feed this thought into the mind of Jesus.

But Jesus knew God’s will. He recognized the source of the thought and without hesitation he dealt with the source: Satan. He wasted no time, no words, and no feelings were spared.

Why did Jesus deal so drastically with this? It almost seems like an over-reaction, and we want to say, “Lord, go easy on Peter. He was just telling you he didn’t want you to die.” But Jesus would not allow that thought to stay in his mind. We know from Gethsemane what a struggle Jesus had with this bitter cup. He dared not allow Satan, through Peter, to get him thinking about avoiding the cross. He knew God’s will, and he could make no provision for these kinds of evil thoughts.

What do we learn from this? First, we learn that we must recognize the source of thoughts that are contrary to God’s will for us. Second, we must deal drastically with them. We cannot allow them to lodge. We cannot give them one minute’s consideration! They can come to anyone, as they did to Jesus, and from any source, as they did from Peter.

How do you recognize wrong thinking? Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Our standard and judge for right thinking is God’s Word.

In 2 Corinthians 10:5, Paul says we are to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” In the context of this verse, Paul is talking about war—the spiritual war which Christians wage. Warfare is the appropriate analogy because, I can tell you, it is not easy. It is not overnight. It is not once and for all. It is a battle to bring your thought life under control.

However, it’s the most important battle we face! If we don’t learn to win these spiritual battles for our minds, we will never be the people God intends us to be. We have to learn to bring our thoughts into captivity in this war for our minds.

How do we do this? What are the limits? Where do we start?

The Bible, of course, gives us the answers. Let me read Philippians 4:8:

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

This is the secret to controlling your thought life! You must agree to these limits and guidelines for your thinking, and you must be willing to bring your thoughts into these parameters. Paul says we are to bring our thoughts into captivity. That is our part. God will control them, but we must bring them to him.

With that as our background, let’s now look carefully as these boundaries that God has given to govern our thought life.

The first one is TRUE. This is easily understood. We are not allowed to think about things that are not true—which includes the untrue speculations and imaginings that we often indulge in.

For example, do you imagine what may or may not happen and worry about things that have not yet occurred? You are not thinking true thoughts when you do. Jesus told us not to borrow trouble from tomorrow; today has enough trouble of its own. So often we allow our imaginations to lead us into areas of untruth by thinking about what might happen if. . .or by wondering what we will do if. . . These are not true thoughts, and they usually cause us great harm.

Another example is this: Do you indulge in “gossipy” thoughts of others that you don’t know to be factual? These are not true thoughts! They’re not allowed, either.

The second boundary for our thought life is NOBLE. Noble thoughts are those which rise above self-interest. They are thoughts which are not crammed with ideas of our own importance. They are not totally focused on our own agenda and our own circumstances.

How much of our thinking rises above self-interest? This has to come as a conviction to all of us; I know it does to me. How often my thoughts are consumed with what will promote me, my interest, my program, my “self,” and how little of my thinking is focused on what is good for others.

I have a feeling that if we stopped here and made certain all our thoughts were both true and noble, we’d eliminate a great percentage of our current thought life.

But there’s a third limit set on our thinking, and that is RIGHT. Is it fair and equitable? If not, don’t think about it. All of us dislike unfair treatment. Yet how often do we allow ourselves to think unfair and unjust thoughts about others? We mentally accuse others unfairly before we know the facts. We have prejudiced thinking toward people—some of us have prejudiced thinking toward other races and cultures. This kind of thinking is not right, and it is not allowed.

Then, our thoughts must also be PURE. Are they without sin, containing nothing evil? If not, eliminate those thoughts. This covers immoral thoughts and sexual fantasies. Please don’t misunderstand me: I’m not saying that sex is an evil thing, a subject never to be contemplated. What I am saying is that impure, lustful thoughts are very strong and very difficult to dismiss. Illegitimate sexual thoughts or fantasies are definitely outside the limits of pure thoughts.

Next comes LOVELY. Is your thought life full of love, and does it inspire love or affection? Many times our thoughts may pass all the other tests, but they’ll fall short on this point. Lovely thinking is caring and compassionate and gentle.

In addition to true, noble, right, pure, and lovely, our thoughts must be ADMIRABLE, or worthy of praise. If we could read what you were thinking, would we admire your thoughts? To be admirable, they must be in good taste, refined, and of a good reputation. This covers more than just impure thoughts. It eliminates distasteful and disrespectful thinking.

There they are—six clear guidelines from God’s Word as to what we’re allowed to think about, and what is out of bounds. True, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable. I encourage you to memorize them until you can recite them quickly: true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable!

In Romans 12:1-2, we are told not to be conformed to this world, but to be transformed by the reshaping—or remolding or renewing—of our minds! These six guidelines which I’ve just covered give us the shape and the mold into which our thoughts must fit if we are going to know freedom and have transformed thinking.

What shape is your mind today? Are you indulging in thoughts that exceed these boundaries? Does one boundary give you more difficulty than another? How would you describe your thought life? Do you often find yourself getting into mental areas that are way off limits?

Did you ever ice skate? You know that as long as you stay on the frozen surface, you have all the freedom you want to skate. But if you insist on leaving the boundaries of that frozen pond and get into the bushes, those skates will bog you down and you’ll lose your freedom. You have to stay within the frozen boundaries in order to be free to skate.

The same is true with our thought life. Freedom comes when you stay within the boundaries. A captive mind offers freedom. Exceeding the boundaries always gets you bogged down.

You will begin to have a captive mind by testing your thoughts—by becoming keenly conscious of whether your thoughts fit into these boundaries. We literally must stop and examine our thoughts, one by one, thought by thought, to make sure they fit within our “reshaped” mind.

One translation of 2 Corinthians 10:5 says: “We even fight to capture every thought until it acknowledges the authority of Christ” (PHILLIPS). Are you ready to fight? Are you tired of having a defeated thought life? Remember, what you think is what you are, so if we change our thinking, we change who we are and what we’re like.

I want to issue a challenge to you: Examine your thought life by the guidelines we’ve seen today—true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable. Find out how much of your thinking falls outside of these boundaries. When you’re starting to feel anxious, angry, frustrated, depressed, or discouraged this week, stop and ask yourself, “What am I thinking? Is it true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable?” If it is not, think of tying a rope around that unacceptable thought and literally pulling it back inside the boundaries of right thinking.

After you’ve done that for a week, you’re going to be amazed at what you discover about your thought life!

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Principles of Sowing and Reaping

May 2, 2018

PROGRAM D-8088

What you sow you reap. You’ve undoubtedly heard that before, but it’s a most important principle we all need to understand, because each day we are sowing seeds that later will yield a harvest like the seed itself. There are three principles of sowing and reaping, and that’s the first one: You reap what you sow.

The second one is you reap more than you sow. Obviously if you’re sowing good seeds, that’s very good news. But if the seeds you’re sowing are not the right ones, then you need to be aware that the harvest for that bad seed will be plentiful in a negative way.

The third principle of sowing and reaping is that you reap in a different season than you sow. Many of us forget this. We must keep reminding ourselves that just because we don’t see the results of our actions today doesn’t mean we won’t yet reap that harvest!

Perhaps you’ve been sowing good seed for a long time and it doesn’t seem to get you anywhere. Maybe you’re discouraged and thinking that it doesn’t do any good to try to do things right. Asaph felt that way in Psalm 73 where he laments the fact that while he’s trying to live a godly life, it brings him nothing but trouble. Furthermore, those who are snubbing their noses at God seem to be doing just fine. Asaph obviously forgot this principle that we reap in a different season than we sow.

When he finally gets back to his lament at the end of the chapter, he has an entirely different perspective. He says, “When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny. Those who are far from you will perish. . . But as for me, it is good to be near God” (Psalm 73:16-17, 27-28). He finally remembered that we reap in a different season than we sow.

You may not see the results of your righteousness right away, but you must never doubt that God will give you a good harvest in due season. When is due season? Well, often it’s further away than we would like. But remember, God has the times and seasons in his hands and you will reap the harvest.

Also remember that if you’re sowing seeds of sin and disobedience, you may not see that harvest for a while, and you may be thinking that you’re getting away with it. Be assured of this: you will reap what you sow. The season for harvesting will come as surely as night follows day.

Three important principles: You reap what you sow. You reap more than you sow. You reap in a different season than you sow. Remember these; I think they’ll help you.

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Principles of Sowing and Reaping

May 1, 2018

PROGRAM D-8087

There are three major principles about sowing and reaping we should all know very well because we are each sowing seeds in our lives on a daily basis which later on we will reap. The first principle is that what you sow, you reap. If you sow good things, you reap good things.

The second principle is that you always reap more than you sow. When we plant flower seeds, we reap many blossoms from one seed. When the farmers plant one grain of wheat, they reap many more grains of wheat from the single grain. We reap more than we sow.

Now, consider how these two principles apply to our daily lives. What seeds did you sow yesterday? Did you work diligently and do your very best? Were you kind to others, willing to help and with a good attitude? If those are the kind of seeds you sowed yesterday, you will reap good things today.

Your work will be easier today because you worked hard yesterday. You won’t be nearly as frantic and stressed out today because you don’t have yesterday’s work to do today. You’ll find that people will treat you better today because you were kind to them yesterday. The help you gave someone else yesterday will come back to you today when someone is willing to help you. You are reaping today what you sowed yesterday.

Furthermore, you’re reaping more than you sowed. When you sow a good seed in someone’s life, it reaps a multiplied harvest. You may not be aware of that harvest, but it’s there. You extend kindness to someone, and they are encouraged to be kind to someone else. You role model a servant attitude, and other people reflect that in how they treat others. You may sow one little seed of doing something good, but it will reap a much larger harvest than you can imagine or will ever know.

It’s always amazing to me to see how the seeds we sow in this ministry reap such multiplied harvests. The emails and devotionals we send out every day travel everywhere, from one person to another, one state to another, one country to another. Those tiny good seeds each of us plants just keep multiplying in the lives of untold numbers for long periods of time!

We also need to remember that when we sow the wrong seeds, they come back plentiful as well. Have you ever noticed how quickly weeds multiply? Let one dandelion get in your yard, and the whole lawn is overtaken with dandelions before you know it. This principle applies to both good and bad: You reap more than you sow.

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