RE:FOCUS - Think on these things...

Our minds are constantly bombarded with all kinds of input, some good and some bad. We are influenced (sometimes subconsciously) by what we watch, what we read, what and WHO we listen to, and any other outside forces in our lives. Thought patterns of anxiety, impurities, selfishness, greed, hatred, destruction, laziness, and childishness have slowly and steadily taken control of our minds. The older I become and the more I learn about myself, the more I realize how important it is to filter the thoughts that I allow to run through my mind… and more importantly, the ones I choose to dwell on. You’ve probably heard someone say before, “you are what you think.” It’s true in a lot of ways. We’ve all made choices that we regret, but we also need to understand that the choices we make ultimately begin with what we think about. Our minds are true warzones with real fights going on each and every day… actually it’s more like each and every moment.

The mind is an incredibly powerful thing. If we do not control our minds (or submit to God’s control)… if we just allow ourselves to think on whatever pops into our heads, then our minds will control us. An unbridled flame becomes an uncontrollable fire, and it does so pretty quickly.

The answer? We have to allow God to reprogram our minds. And after the reprogramming, we can’t let up. It has to become who we are. Read Philippians 4:8 with me…

“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.”

Because of some of my life choices (that I will talk more about in part 3), Philippians 4:8 has become a favorite scripture focus for me. It is a good measure of anything in life… thoughts, motives, actions, things we say. Just using it to test our thoughts can stop us from doing some really stupid things that we will regret. For the next few Mondays, we are going to look at this verse piece by piece and talk about this test that God has given us to use in our lives.

Think on things that are… true.
I looked up the word “true” and found the following definitions and synonyms: valid, honest, reliable, genuine, authentic, sincere, loyal, faithful, steadfast, unfailing, sure, real. Do your thoughts match up with these descriptions? Or do they fit more with these antonyms for “true”: corrupt, counterfeit, fraudulent, deceitful, false, unreal?

The only real truth is God’s word. Unfortunately, we take a lot of the things we hear about on a daily basis as “truth.” Remember the movie, The American President? There is a quote in the movie that says, “…in the absence of genuine leadership, they'll listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone.” Lewis was talking about how people are so easily swayed by whoever “takes the lead” and presents his case. We can see this in our thoughts. If we are not truly focused on God’s truth everyday, really learning and seeking to find out what He has to say to us in our lives, then we will be easily swayed to listen to anything that comes our way. Our “slow fade” culture has caused all of us to be desensitized in a lot of areas (some that you and I probably don’t even consciously recognize). However, when our lives are grounded on God’s truth, and that is the measure of everything that comes at us, it is easier to fight off the everyday temptations that try so hard to control us!

So, how can we fight this battle?

First of all, know that it can NOT be done in your own strength. Trust me… I have tried and tried. Sometimes, I think I am more stubborn than most people. I’ve tried “routines” to keep my thoughts clean (that I will talk more about later), and they never work. It’s like dieting to lose weight. If you just go on a diet, the weight will ultimately come back. However, if you make healthy eating a LIFESTYLE, there is more potential to keep it up. The same goes for thoughts. If you try to do it your way, in your own strength, the old thought patterns will come back. Only by staying focused on God’s word can you truly change your entire way of thinking.

Second, since you know that it cannot be done through your own strength, ask God to change you. Give Him control and ask Him to reveal the “input” areas that do not exemplify truth. And ask Him what He wants you to do with them… then DO IT! ☺

Third, pursue the truth. Offensively. Don’t sit back and wait for a temptation to come. Know God’s word so well that you recognize a non-truth when it comes. Then throw scripture back at the TV, radio, person you are listening to, whatever it may be. When scripture becomes so much a part of you that you use it in everyday conversation, you know you are growing.

Everyone wants us to think like they think. Some are more persuasive than others, but we all have had the thought, “if only they thought like me…” That’s why we need to be prepared now and why we need to be so enamored with God that all other influences fade away. The challenge for this week... look back up at the definitions for "true" and see where your thoughts fit. Then ask God to work on you. We're all works in progress. :)

…take every thought captive to obey Christ. - 2 Corinthians 10:5

Next Monday… Think on things that are honorable and just.

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RE:FOCUS - Clear the Mechanism

In just a few weeks, I am turning 37.  Don’t ask me why this one is hitting me so hard… it’s not like this is a milestone birthday or anything.  Maybe it’s because this pregnancy is quite a bit tougher physically than the first 2 were.  Just reminds me that life is moving fast beneath me.  So, the time has come for ME to refocus on what is important in life.  To make some changes and to stop focusing on the temporary.  Out of that brainstorm comes RE:FOCUS, a time on Mondays to really stop and think about where your heart and mind should be spending most of its energy... And THIS is the FIRST post, the FIRST Monday.  Each Monday you will find some kind of writing here which will hopefully encourage you to draw your focus back to the main thing.

Focus is a hard concept to master.  Sitting here at Panera with my “cappuccino in a mug”… don’t ask me why it tastes better to me just because I get them to put my drink in that special fat, round mug.  Maybe it reminds me of when I worked at the Master’s Loft (good memories).  Maybe it’s the same reason as why Coke just tastes better when you drink it from one of those little 10-ounce glass bottles… See how easy it is to lose focus (especially for me and my ADD self)?  I was just starting a thought, and then my brain rambled on to why I like my cappuccino in a mug.  Anyway...

One of my favorite expressions is “clear the mechanism.”  I love baseball and I love movies, so when the two of them meet, it is pretty incredible!  In For Love of the Game, Kevin Costner is a pitcher who has the ability and discipline to get to a place where everything around him is completely blocked out.  Anytime the voices, people, criticism, noise, or even OUTSIDE thoughts get in the way, he reminds himself to “clear the mechanism.”  In this movie, you even see visually how he truly gets to a place of complete tunnel vision.

In our lives, there are so many distractions.  Our jobs can be difficult and stressful.  Relationships with co-workers, friends, neighbors, family, etc. can be hard.  Even “good” things in our lives can distract us from the true main thing… Our spouses & kids can distract us.  Housework can distract us.  “Church” can even distract us.  TV, facebook, internet, sports, music…. Must I go on?  Anything tangible in our lives can take the place of the One who should be our true focus.  Anything can become an idol.

My challenge to you and to me this week is to “clear the mechanism.”  Really take time every day to spend with God.  Not out of habit… or guilt… or as a chore.  Spend some real time developing the relationship between you and your Creator.  God is so good and He wants a relationship with us.  Not a relationship that is built from “what we have been taught all of our lives,” but a real, growing, thriving relationship with 2-way communication.  And remember, you don’t have to do all of the talking.  In your human relationships, if you do all of the talking, do you ever really get to know the other person?  Get to know Him.  Let Him talk to you.  And when those distractions come…. clear the mechanism.

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. – Colossians 3:2-3

Next Monday… Philippians 4:8, part 1

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Love Me

Do you sometimes feel like no one really loves you for who you are and not what you can do for them? Do you sometimes expect too much out of people? Maybe you even have trouble seeing God except through the lenses of “godly people” in your life. I struggle with all of this myself. A lot of it is self-inflicted, which I will talk about more later in this post. Today, I heard the song “Love Me” by J.J. Heller. She describes 3 different people, all who have struggled with feeling that nobody in this life has been able to show what love really means.  Here are the lyrics in the chorus:

Who will love me for me?
Not for what I have done or what I will become
Who will love me for me?
Cause nobody has shown me what love, what love really means

The last verse is about a man in prison who is living with the deep regret of what he has done… then God speaks to him… and reminds him that He already knows…

Then he heard a voice, somewhere deep inside
And it said, “I know you’ve murdered and I know you’ve lied,
And I’ve watched you suffer all of your life.
And now that you’ll LISTEN, I’ll tell you that I…

I will love you for you
Not for what you have done or what you will become
I will love you for you
I will give you the love, the love that you never knew.”

Wow… as I listened to this song, I was immediately struck by the fact that I have actually been feeling this way lately. What hit me the most was “and now that you’ll listen…” There is the self-inflicted part. You see, in my own mind, I sometimes get frustrated, wondering why the people in my close circle won’t love me the way I want to be loved. WOW how self-centered!! Do you know why people will never be able to love me the way I need to be loved? Because that is a part that only God can play. People are going to disappoint us every time if we put that kind of expectation on them.

Who do you have your high expectations on? Your pastor? Your boss? Your spouse? Another family member or friend? We have to get to the point where we realize that our complete faith & hope cannot be put on ANY human being on this earth. The only One worth having our focus is God. He is the only One who truly loves us for who we are. Don’t get me wrong. Those close to us should love us for who we are, but we all unintentionally look at each other through our own biased lenses. This means that even though we mean well, we still see those we love as what we want them to be.

What it comes down to is that we should focus on being who God made us to be, and know that He loves us JUST THE WAY WE ARE. After all, if we spend all of our time and energy on becoming what other people want us to be, how do we have time to stop and remember who God made us to be? He’s the only One that matters. Life is about relationships, but earthly relationships can never be what they are meant to be if the most important relationship is off-centered (hmm…self-centered?). Let’s focus on the One who deserves our focus.

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