The Power of Thought

October Sunrise in Oregon

“We take every thought captive” ~2 Corinthians 10:5

Since it’s original printing in 1937, Think and Grow Rich had sold more than 20 million copies at the time of author, Napoleon Hill’s death in 1970. This book still remains as one of the all-time best selling books. According to Hill, the germ of the idea behind his book was given to him by Andrew Carnegie, another well-known and wealthy businessman. 

Each chapter recounts stories of men who refused to give up once they established their goal. They fixed their minds upon that goal and worked through all difficulties and obstacles until they obtained their riches. Of course many such books have been written throughout the years but this one seems to be the master seller still, focusing on setting goals, visualizing what you want and never giving up. 

There is power in our thoughts and there is also destruction in them. Proverbs 23:4 says in words we should place on our computer monitors or bathroom mirrors:  “Don’t wear yourself out to get rich; stop giving attention to it. As soon as your eyes fly to it, it disappears, for it makes wings for itself and flies like an eagle to the sky.” HCSB 

Matthew 6:21  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 

Surely as Christians, we’ve learned that the love of money is the root of all evil and therefore we have set money in its rightful place in our lives. A place of necessity to live and to share. And yet, if we are honest, each time we see a book such as Think and Grow Rich, a little twinge peeks above the horizon and suggests that if we did grow rich, think how many people we could help. Such thoughts are to be handled according to the following verse: 

2 Corinthians 10:4-5  We destroy false arguments; we pull down every proud obstacle that is raised against the knowledge of God; we take every thought captive and make it obey Christ. 

As it turns out, our thoughts are either focused on our Heavenly Father and His will and instructions for us discovered in the pages of the Bible or they are not! And if not, then on what? Will our thoughts please God and build up our relationship with Him? 

1 Corinthians 13:11  When I was a child, my speech, feelings, and thinking were all those of a child; now that I am an adult, I have no more use for childish ways. 

Romans 12:3  And because of God’s gracious gift to me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you should. Instead, be modest in your thinking, and judge yourself according to the amount of faith that God has given you. 

Ephesians 3:20-21  Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.   

Hebrews 4:12  For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating as far as to divide soul, spirit, joints, and marrow; it is a judge of the ideas and thoughts of the heart. 

Philippians 4:7  And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 

The ability to think is a God-given gift and is accompanied by great power. Power for good and evil. Power to build up or tear down. The source of our thoughts decides which result will follow. 

Contented

“And My people will be satisfied with My goodness.” Jeremiah 31:14 

A synonym for contented is satisfied. And God has made us fully satisfied because of our relationship with Christ. Since that is so, when I become discontent or dissatisfied, I am actually saying God’s hand in my life is not sufficient to keep me contented. Which brings me to the unhappy conclusion that I am tearing at the fabric of my eternal relationship with my Lord and Savior. Rather than immersing myself in His Word and bathing myself in true contentment and satisfaction, I have turned to my own selfish desires where I find, not surprisingly, discontentment. Lord Jesus, forgive my shallow desires and bathe me in your everlasting Word. 

2 Corinthians 12:10  “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  

Romans 5:1-5  “Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Also through Him, we have obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, 4 endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. 5 This hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”  

Philippians 4:11  “I don’t say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.”  

2 Corinthians 9:8  “And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.”

1 Timothy 6:6-8  “Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. 7 After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. 8 So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.”

Hebrews 13:5-6  “Your life should be free from the love of money. Be content with what you have, for He Himself has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you. 6 This is why we can confidently say, The Lord is my helper, and I won’t be afraid. What can people do to me?”  

Proverbs 30:7-9  “O God, I beg two favors from you; let me have them before I die. 8 First, help me never to tell a lie. Second, give me neither poverty nor riches! 

    Give me just enough to satisfy my needs 9 For if I grow rich, I may deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?” And if I am too poor, I may steal and thus insult God’s holy name. 

What now? We are laid bare before God, our excuses piled high like cord wood, waiting for a heavenly match to set them afire, burning away the impurities with only glowing hot embers of faith and contentment in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ remaining.  

Oh God, thank you for your eternal patience, grace and mercy. We see your light of hope gleaming brightly just over the horizon, beckoning us ever nearer to walk along this life-path, hand-in-hand. 

“But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sins.”  1 John 1:7 

Are You Holy?

It was impossible to  miss the oversized white tent in the early Spring evening with a gigantic white banner rippling in the breeze, BE HOLY BECAUSE I AM HOLY!

Adjacent to the Mid-State fairgrounds, the grassy parking lot was covered with cars as the curious and hopeful seemed to throng to this unusual meeting. Many were drawn by the harmonious music and singing as the choir led several hundred seekers with powerful, moving hymns. Emotions ran high. The air was filled with earnest expectation. Something special was happening here they felt.

The music came to an end as the tall, redheaded pastor took the pulpit. He was carrying a leather-bound bible in one hand, holding it casually like a carpenter’s tool. He did not speak. The crowd grew silent. He came to the pulpit, set his bible down and gripped both sides. Leaning forward the silence was broken with his powerful voice, “Are you holy?” He shocked them all. Gasps were heard throughout the tent. Again he said, “Are you holy? God says we must be holy to please Him. So I ask it again, are you holy. Have you been sanctified?” And so it went for the next 45 minutes as this charismatic speaker whipped his listeners into an emotional state, feeling certain they were not up to par with God unless they came forward to become sanctified and holy.

The emotional and dramatic pastor should rather have spent his time elevating the Lord Jesus Christ, explaining to the people that faith in Christ makes us holy in God’s eyes: “God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made Him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; He made us pure and holy, and He freed us from sin. Therefore, as the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the LORD.”  (1 Corinthians 1:30-31)


Let’s see what God’s Word has to say about our sanctification/holiness:
1 Corinthians 1:2 ~You who have been called by God to be his own holy people. He made you holy by means of Christ Jesus, just as he did all Christians everywhere.

1 Corinthians ~6:11 Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

1 Thessalonians ~5:23 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Along with the unimaginable grace and mercy of God’s provision for our sanctification, He expects us to do our part; to work our faith in day to day circumstances. He has already done the impossible and has assigned us the possible such as making choices and slipping on His armor. We’re at war!

2 Corinthians 7:1 ~Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God.

2 Thessalonians 2:13 ~As for us, we can’t help but thank God for you, dear brothers and sisters loved by the Lord. We are always thankful that God chose you to be among the first to experience salvation—a salvation that came through the Spirit who makes you holy and through your belief in the truth.

Hebrews 10:10 ~For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time.

Romans 15:16 ~I am a special messenger from Christ Jesus to you Gentiles. I bring you the Good News so that I might present you as an acceptable offering to God, made holy by the Holy Spirit.

Sanctification is not something we can beg God for at a church altar. Sanctification is a gift from God as a result of our faith in Jesus Christ. Although a gift, God requires our involvement to make choices for purity and holiness. Even so, the Holy Spirit enables us to follow through on our Christ-like decisions.

Ephesians, Part 4

coffee cup in hand (2013_06_21 16_53_37 UTC)

“Put on your new nature and be renewed” Colossians 3:10

Ephesians Chapter 1

4 “Even before He made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in His eyes.”

Talk about a mind bender! How do we wrap our human minds around this simple verse? “Before He made the world, God loved us?” How can that be, we ask? First we struggle with the idea of whether or not God made everything in six literal days and now— we read that God loved us before we existed; prior to making any of the heavens or the earth. This is a stunning concept truly beyond human comprehension.

Of course it is beyond human comprehension, we are His creation and He is the Creator. Can you remember back to a time in school when you began a new class and your mind was in utter confusion, struggling to understand the necessary concepts? I can recall a class in which I was completely in the dark, ready to give up. As I shared my confusion with the professor one day he said, “Oh I know how hard it is to grasp this concept but don’t give up. I can tell that you are just about to break through. Don’t give up!” Fortunately I listened to his advice. Within that very week, the understanding exploded into  my mind. I was so joyful. I had faith in the professor’s observation.

In a way, attempting to understand all of God’s mysterious Scriptures while we are still living on earth is similar. But the complete revelation of God’s truths is yet to come. “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.” 1 Cor. 13:12

The first verse of the first book in the Bible says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1 Do we understand what this means? Can we imagine this act of creation? Absolutely not. We understand the words and the idea but not literally. We are totally dumbfounded. It is beyond human comprehension. And so is the idea that verse 4, above,  expresses. Before God made our world He loved us. God loved me personally before he created the world! Then surely I owe my allegiance to Him.

Not only has God loved us before He made everything, He “chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in His eyes.” Holy and without fault? Will everyone who feels holy and without fault please raise your hand! We shrink back from the very idea. If you only knew me, we think. Holy and without fault? Far from it. And yet, through the filter of Christ’s blood, God does see us as holy and without fault. Not only that, before He created the world He saw us in this way.

God says to you, “I love you and have loved you before I created anything!”

History Changed by Rock and Roll

British Rock and Rollers Bring World-wide Change!

Initially the UK was ruled by Kings and Queens, then by a parliament consisting of Lords and upper-class men. The established rule of law was passed down to the working class who expected to live in a type of subjection to those living in castles and mansions. Working class people grew up with class distinction firmly in place.

In the sixties, change crept into life in the UK and around the world; Change brought about by teenagers who tossed aside the status quo and turned their backs on tradition. They looked for and found their own idols who were their age, had long hair and danced about on stage, banging on drums, guitars and singing songs of revolution, sex and drugs.

Their new idols were an incredible success and changed the status quo forever. Although rich barons and lords still had wealth and power, the young rock and rollers brought societal changes for good and for bad. Actually, they brought a bloodless revolution with far-reaching effects.

Not only was their music challenging, loud and in-your-face, their behavior was totally outlandish which gained them a world-wide following among teens. They were sudden idols; stars who misbehaved, tore hotel rooms apart, smashed guitars on stage, openly took drugs, had sex with young women who clamored after them.

They broke all the norms of society and did it with bravado. Of course they should do whatever they wanted, they were famous and quickly became rich as well. The adults didn’t know what to do so they did nothing which brought out the very worst behavior in these teen idols.
They became wild and out-of-control which made them even more famous. It was sort of “Just how bad can we be before someone stops us?” The answer? “As bad as you want!”

For the first time in history, admiration was now reserved for the young and disdain for adults. Society was tipped upside down and has never recovered. Along with replacing adults with teens for respect and admiration, morality also went out the window. For the first time, the most sexually exaggerated behavior was not only condoned but revered as well. Before this global change, teenage sex and pregnancy were the exception but now became the rule.

Enter abortion! Now that promiscuity was predominant, what about pregnancies and unwanted babies? Some insidious, evil people stepped forward with a simple answer–abortion. If you find yourself inconveniently pregnant, we can take care of that issue. It is a woman’s reproductive right, after all. No, that thing is not really a human yet. That doesn’t happen until it is born.

And now, more than fifty years later, thousands of young people have been ruined by drugs, alcohol and abortions. How can it be fixed? Actually the disastrous state of affairs in which we now live can only be “fixed” by faith in Jesus Christ who brings total forgiveness and a new life. The search for pleasure, independence and freedom from rules will always bring an unhappy ending.

Releasing My Hold

“However, not My will but Your will be done” Luke 22:42

Jim was a sophomore in college when a friend invited him to a Campus Crusade for Christ meeting. He was touched by the love of Christ and gave his life to follow Him. Jim was thrilled to experience this love and prayed, asking God to release him to find a missionary post to begin his new life of faith. Instead, after many hours of prayer, Jim understood that God was telling him to finish his bachelor’s degree. Obediently Jim let go of his desire and graduated.

Upon graduation, Jim prayed, “Ok, Lord, I’m ready to find a missionary position to serve you.” God’s answer was clear: “Stay in college. Get your masters degree.” Surprised, Jim willingly followed God’s direction. He obtained a master’s degree.

“Now Lord, I know I am ready to serve you on the mission field somewhere. Send me where you wish and I will go!”

Much to his shock, God’s answer was, “Stay in school and get your PhD!” Stunned, saddened but obedient, Jim let go of his constant desire and followed what he knew was God’s will for his life. Two years later, the letters PhD followed his name in his resume and Jim was very curious as to what God’s plan was.

Five years after receiving his doctorate, while speaking at a church in Oregon, Jim shared his experience of following God’s will. “At each point I was sure the Lord would guide me into a missionary position. I was eager to serve Him anywhere. But in each case, He had plans different from mine. Serving Him took the form of letting go of my desires to follow Him. Ultimately, it became clear to me what He had in mind all along.”

“Because of my PhD, I am now the athletic director at my college. And as such have some sway in our faculty meetings. Inevitably, our meetings will come to a place where we share our frustration with student’s attitudes and problems. It is then that I can stand and say something like, ‘The only real solution to these and other serious problems is faith in Jesus Christ!’ My statement is always followed by silence. And then something wonderful happens; faculty who are Christians find themselves compelled to agree, to verbalize their faith.

“Although I drug my heels along the path, I discovered letting go of my desires in favor of obedience to God proved to be the best of all possible scenarios. I know I am where He wants me…for now!”

1 Samuel 15:22  “Does the Lord really want sacrifices and offerings? No. He doesn’t want your sacrifices. He wants you to obey Him.”

After the meeting two men were sitting in a nearby restaurant. “What does it really mean to let go?” asked Danny to his friend Sam. “I read a devotional today that talked about letting go of things for God. I’m not sure I understand.”

“I have an example from my life,” Sam said. “Before we got married, Suzy and I were attending a church where the pastor required that parents agreed with the marriage before he would perform the wedding. The problem was with my mother. She is Catholic and didn’t want me marrying a non-Catholic. We spent hours talking with her but she wouldn’t give in.

“We were planning an August wedding and time was drawing close. Additionally, I had been accepted to a college in California and had to move soon. We were both stressed  and discouraged.

“Finally, in my room as I prayed to the Lord one night, I felt I had to give it all up to God. I had to let go of my plans and desires. I understood that Suzy and I would still get married but it was important to let go of our plans to allow God to work it out in His way. As soon as I made that decision that night, I felt sudden peace. All the burdens of stress and worry were gone. God took them from me.

“In the morning I found my mother in the kitchen and said I wanted to talk to her. But she said she wanted to speak first. “Your father and I talked last night and decided that we want to be a part of your wedding with Suzy. We no longer have any objections son!”

“I could never have made that happen so wonderfully. I am not sure how it works, but I do know that once we let go of our plans and give them to God, we allow His perfect plan to be worked out. It has something to do with releasing our hold on life, trusting God to have control.”

John 5:30 “I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.”

Matthew 26:39 He went on a little farther and bowed with His face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from Me. Yet I want your will to be done, not Mine.”

Most of us struggle through life, attempting to make something of ourselves and achieve our goals. As followers of Christ we must let go of that compulsion to prove ourselves worthy and successful. Instead, Christ gives us the freedom to give those burdens to Him “for His yoke is easy and His burden is light.” Matthew 11:30

Selective Application

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Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” Job 38:4

 

Even though we are Believers and followers of Christ, we seem to have the gift of selective application as we read the Bible (forgetting it is the Word of God). This is a version of Christianity that allows us to pick and choose what we apply to our lives rather than attempting to immerse ourselves fully into His Word by the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Selective interpretation allows the reader to decide which verses are applicable to their life and which are allegorical or historical or, perhaps, applicable to specific people of a different time and place. This heretical approach gives the reader the power to challenge God’s word, picking and choosing which verses are “for today.”

The most obvious danger in this approach to reading the Bible is the reader becomes equal to God, deciding that they have the authority to eliminate or water down the precious word of God. Left unchallenged, they freely re-translate the Bible into ideas that are more convenient or less challenging. Imagine thinking that we can decide which Bible verses are pertinent to our lives rather than asking God to give us wisdom and understanding as we read His Holy Word.

A classic example of this dangerous approach to the Bible is taught by a popular, well-known pastor who has decided that the Spiritual Gifts, as described in 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 are no longer applicable to Christians today. According to him, these miraculous gifts ended some time after the original apostles died. He says we no longer need such gifts because we have the Bible. If that is true, the Bible itself says all believers have gifts. In order to make such a decision, he has decided that 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 is no longer applicable. How can mere man make such a declaration?

2 Timothy 3:14-16  Yet you must go on steadily in all those things that you have learned and which you know are true. Remember from what sort of people your knowledge has come, and how from early childhood your mind has been familiar with the holy scriptures, which can open the mind to the salvation which comes through believing in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching the faith and correcting error, for re-setting the direction of a man’s life and training him in good living. The scriptures are the comprehensive equipment of the man of God and fit him fully for all branches of his work. (J.B. Phillips)

The Bible is not a collection of stories, fables, myths, or merely human ideas about God. It is not just a human book. Through the Holy Spirit God revealed his person and plan to godly men who wrote down God’s message for his people. This process is known as inspiration. The writers wrote from their own personal, historical, and cultural contexts. But even though they used their own minds, talents, language, and style, they wrote what God wanted them to write. Scripture is completely trustworthy because God was in control of its writing, and its words are entirely authoritative for our faith and lives. (Life Application Bible Notes © Tyndale House)

2 Peter 1:19-21  So we have seen and proved that what the prophets said came true. You will do well to pay close attention to everything they have written, for, like lights shining into dark corners, their words help us to understand many things that otherwise would be dark and difficult. But when you consider the wonderful truth of the prophets’ words, then the light will dawn in your souls and Christ the Morning Star will shine in your hearts. For no prophecy recorded in Scripture was ever thought up by the prophet himself. It was the Holy Spirit within these godly men who gave them true messages from God.

Romans 15:2-4  Even if we believe that it makes no difference to the Lord whether we do these things, still we cannot just go ahead and do them to please ourselves; for we must bear the “burden” of being considerate of the doubts and fears of others—of those who feel these things are wrong. Let’s please the other fellow, not ourselves, and do what is for his good and thus build him up in the Lord. Christ didn’t please himself. As the Psalmist said, “He came for the very purpose of suffering under the insults of those who were against the Lord.” These things that were written in the Scriptures so long ago are to teach us patience and to encourage us so that we will look forward expectantly to the time when God will conquer sin and death.

Job 38:4-11  “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you know so much. Do you know how its dimensions were determined, and who did the surveying? What supports its foundations, and who laid its cornerstone as the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?

“Who decreed the boundaries of the seas when they gushed from the depths? Who clothed them with clouds and thick darkness and barred them by limiting their shores, and said, ‘Thus far and no farther shall you come, and here shall your proud waves stop’?”  

If enough people agree on an idea it eventually becomes established as truth. Many of these so-called truths are actually myths, superstitions and outright lies. But, as we have all experienced in life, sayings learned from childhood establish themselves as fact in our minds.

Consider the Bible. Do you think of it as fact or fable? Is it absolute truth or partial truth with scatterings of myth for variety. Either you believe the Bible is the inerrant word of God or you do not. There is no middle ground; no neutral territory. By faith in God, the Bible becomes absolute truth leading us to forgiveness of sins and eternal life with God.