Sunday, January 20, 2013

thick in my thoughts

"Our lives with Christ were meant to be nothing less than the great adventure!"  I wish I could remember what teacher of the Word first spoke this.  I have it penned in quotes on the front page of my Bible.  And year after year I begin to more fully understand its truth.

An adventure? Most certainly.  A wild ride I wouldn't trade for the smooth and easy.  Recently though, I had found myself feeling exhausted from the ups and downs this life brings.  The majority of my days were coasting upward in belief, with a couple of interrupted days that abruptly cut into my climb, and plunged me downward in doubt.  This roller coaster faith journey is filled with valley and mountaintop moments.  It's to be expected.  However, I was beginning to find that those low-riding days were coming more frequently.  And when the low hit, it brought me down to a depth I hadn't felt before.  A threatening depth.  How could this be?

Daily I found myself writing in my prayer journal, "God, what do You want us to do?  We don't know what to do?  We'll go where You say go.  We'll stay where You say stay.  Just give us a sign; let us hear Your voice, and tell us what to do?!"  It was a desperate plea birthed out of the lows that came sneaking into my days.  I felt like a teeter-totter...going up and down in belief and doubt.  Waiting and straining to hear His voice.  This grows to be exhausting.  I wanted to coast upward in a perpetual state of belief, walking in victory daily.  And I beat myself up for not being able to do so.  It seemed that circumstance and emotion would ride in on the wave of the day and throw me off course.  As I began to explore the reasons behind this,  God slowly began to whisper a few things into my Spirit.  See, much of this world is out of our control.  We can't control the state of our circumstances,  but we can control the state of our hearts and our minds.  Perhaps we should start there.

During one of my recent mornings with God, when I found myself asking Him once again, "What do we do? Tell us what to do?" He did just that.  I felt Him quietly whisper something so simple, yet so profound.  For some time, I had been searching for a solution.  The doubt and the feelings of hopelessness all derived from a place inside of me that couldn't see a way out.  Some seasons in life are nothing short of arduous.  Such has been ours.  That morning,  I felt the Lord say to me, "Leave the solution to Me.  The answers are already written for you, they remain in My hands.  The resolution is mine.  I am your answer. For you, start simple.  Work on your thought life."

Take control of my thought life?

I can do this.  It seems my thoughts are what take me down those dangerous slippery paths.  The doubt and the decline begins here.  Almost a month ago I started re-reading Rick Warren's, "The Purpose Driven Life."  I'm using it as a 40 day devotional.  I last read it 9 years ago.  So much in my life and my faith journey has changed since then.  Yet, ironically, some of our circumstances didn't look all that different.  It made me ponder the idea that to some degree, we have little circumstantial control over our lives. We can find ourselves going in circles even when chasing hard after Him.  But we do have a choice in how we are going to respond to these circumstances.  And our choice begins with our thought life.  And why wouldn't it start here?

The enemy is unable to grab our attention when we are preoccupied with something else.  Change always begins first in our minds.  The Bible repeatedly tells us to refocus our thoughts and take on the mind of Christ:

"Be careful how you think, your life is shaped by your thoughts." (Proverbs 4:23, TEV)

"For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.  The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
(2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

"Fix your thoughts on Jesus..."
(Hebrews 3:1)

"Do not conform to the pattern of the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind."
(Romans 12:2)

"There must be spiritual renewal of your thoughts and attitudes."
(Ephesians 4:23)

"Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things."
(Colossians 3:2)

Rick Warren describes the mind as our most vulnerable spiritual organ.  As Christians, we are sealed in Christ.  The enemy can't get inside our heads and read our minds, but he can influence our thoughts.  He has been around for thousands of years and has many tricks up his sleeve.  His ultimate goal is to pull us away from God and sabotage our relationship with Him by sprinkling in doubt and lies, and by taking away our hope.  The enemy is the Father of Lies (John 8:44) and he yearns to make us question ourselves and God.  As sinful men living in a fallen world, our natural default is to fall back into a distorted way of thinking.  We allow our circumstances and emotions to paint a portrait of "truth" in which we view the world.  But rarely does our truth come into alignment with God's.  His thoughts and His ways are higher  than our own (Isaiah 55:9).  They are holy and perfect and must always trump whatever lies the enemy begins to plant in our lives.  Lies that claim we are inadequate, incapable, lacking, useless, purposeless, unvalued, unimportant, unloved, alone, abandoned, and hopeless.

1 Peter 5:8 says, "Your enemy the devil prowls around like a lion looking for someone to devour."  He is plotting for our downfall and begins his crusade by worming his way into our thought life.  But, we have a weapon we can use against him.  In Ephesians 6, we are told to "Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground..."

This is exactly what I have been straining to do...stand my ground.  Part of our "full armor" includes the  "Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God." (Ephesians 6:17).   The Word of God is our weapon.  And by looking at the life of Jesus, we've been given a perfect example of how to use this weapon to stand our ground and walk in victory.  The enemy is most successful coming after us when we are vulnerable, weak, lacking, and tired. When we are struggling to have our basic needs met or are desiring to have a void filled (even good desires such as feeling loved or valued), he is most likely to win ground in our lives.  He attempted to do this with Jesus in the desert (Matthew 4).  But every time Jesus was tempted by the devil, He used scripture as His weapon.  He did this until the devil left Him.  He didn't try to argue and debate with Satan.  He didn't stew and marinate on the temptation, worry, or His state of lacking.  He shut the enemy up by immediately speaking the Word of God over His circumstance.

Truth makes the devil tremble.  Defeating bad thoughts, doubts and worry means we refocus our thoughts and replace them with something better, good, and true.  The very Word of God.  Memorizing scripture is essential in gaining ground on the battlefield of your mind.  Warren explains that without doing this, we are "going into battle with no bullets in our gun."  We must equip ourselves.

We fall into temptation by entertaining the lies the enemy is trying to plant every time we replay worry/doubt in our minds and lose our focus.  Inattentiveness on the battlefield always leads to defeat.  Yet, we succumb to this.   When we repeatedly chant to ourselves, "I'm not going to worry about this, I refuse to worry about this..." or when we roll around a worry/fear in our heads and play the "what if" game, we are allowing this banter to continue, and we are falling into temptation.  Our focus remains on the "worry," on the "trying not to worry,"on the "void" or on the "lacking"...instead of on the Filling and on the Answer we've already been given through Christ.  Warren provides a good analogy to all of this.  He says, "When temptation calls you on the phone, don't argue with it.  Just hang up!"  This is precisely what Jesus did in the wilderness.  And we can do it too.

When life seems out of your control, when circumstances are lined up against you or taking you down the road of unexpected or unknown, when you feel yourself teetering between the ups and the downs and you're clamoring to remain on steady ground, when you feel you are trying to do everything right but everything around you seems all wrong, when you can't hear His voice and you are wondering what next to do to remain part of His great adventure without falling off the deep end...perhaps you should start simple and take up your Sword.  Don't just read scripture, get active in it, and use it to defend your heart and guard your mind.  Speak it over your circumstance and your life.

I recently ran to the dollar store and bought a spiral bound packet of notecards and began writing down scripture that spoke to my struggle.  I filled the whole thing up.  Through this simple act, I can't begin to tell you the peace and joy that He has flooded into my heart.  A river of blessing, though circumstance has not changed or shifted.

Winning a battle requires intention and preparation.  Is there an area of your life that you are struggling in?  An area you are lacking answers, clarity or direction?  Is there a void you have waiting to be filled? Instead of searching for solution, begin by taking a look at your thought life in regards to this area.  Does it match up to God's Word?  Is it in alignment with His Truth?  Start here by developing the mind of Christ.  In your waiting or worry, saturate, soak, and weight your mind in the Word.  Be heavy in Him.  I'm committed to go through this life as a warrior armored up.  Will you please join me?


Father God, my key to victory begins and ends with You.  Help me to diligently seek You and engrave Your word upon my heart so that it becomes my default to use against the schemes of the enemy.  I praise You for making me a conqueror in Christ.  In times of leanness or lacking, whether in faith or circumstance, LORD Jesus, be thick in my thoughts.  You are my great adventure!




To get you started, here are a few bullets you can place in your spiritual gun:

Inadequate? Incapable? Lacking? 
-2 Peter 1:3 says "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness."
-Philippians 4:13 says, "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength."
-Philippians 4:19 says, "And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ."

Useless? Purposeless?
-Ephesians 2:10"For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."
-Colossians 1:15: "For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible...everything got started in Him an finds its purpose in Him." (The MSG)

Unvalued? Unimportant?  Unloved?
-John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life."
-Psalm 139: you are "fearfully and wonderfully made...how precious to me are Your thoughts, O God, how vast is the sum of them.  Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand."
-1 John 3:1: "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!"

Alone? Lonely? Feeling Abandoned?
-Romans 8:39: "...nothing can separate us from the love of God."
-Hebrews 13:5: "Never will I leave you.  Never will I forsake you."

Fearful? Anxious? Worrisome?
-Philippians 1:6: "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, and with thanksgiving, present your requests to God and the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
-Isaiah 41:10: "Fear not, for I am with you; do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand."
-2 Timothy 1:7: "For God gave us a spirit not of fear, but of power and love and self-control."
-1 John 4:18: "There is no fear in love,  but perfect love casts out all fear."
-Psalm 56:3: "When I am afraid, I put my trust in You."
-Joshua 1:9: "Have I not commanded you, be strong and courageous.  Do not be frightened or dismayed for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."
-Matthew Chapter 6

Without Hope?
-Romans 15:13:  "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope."

8 comments:

  1. oh j,
    I just caught up on my "imstillclay" reading, and I sit simply blown away. i don't usually lack for words, but I struggle to even express how beautiful the last few posts are: rich in truth, eloquently penned, shining with Spirit. I am so overwhelmed by the good work He is doing in your lives, and I am excited to see the wonders He continues to work. Thank you for sharing these with us...they are a treasure and a gift overflowing from the beauty He has breathed in you. His faithfulness and goodness blows me away, and your faith inspires me so.
    Tonight I am encouraged, challanged, and inspired anew. Thank you for be a vessel full of Him.
    i love you!
    e

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  2. Please never stop writing!!! :) This post is so powerful in so many ways. Even after teaching on renewing our minds many times, God still needs to remind me of this often.

    Awhile back I started writing Scripture that ministered to me during my study time on a sticky note pad and would keep it in my key drawer. Every time I'd open the drawer on my way out or in, I'd speak that Word out loud confessing it as mine. I can't tell you how much joy and peace that gave me. I haven't been doing that lately and I've noticed a big difference in my attitude. God reminded me through your message how important it is to continue thinking on and speaking His Word.

    Psalm 103:20 says "Bless the LORD, ye his angels, that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word" (kjv). Just as the angels came and ministered to Jesus after He drove Satan away with God's Word, I believe they do the same for us. I love how it says they hearken to the "voice" of His Word. There's so much power is "speaking" God's Word!

    Thanks so much for allowing the Lord to minister through you during your hardships. God is doing a wonderful work in you!

    Blessings to you,
    Amanda

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  3. Found your blog through a link from Amanda Beth. I am glad I did! You clearly have a love of the lord that is infectious. I look forward to reading through your posts in reverse :)

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  4. e- thank you for your encouragement. i, too, am blown away at His goodness...at all He is uncovering in the stripping and peeling away. at times painful, but so worth each moment spent in the Refiner's fire. there is so much He has been revealing and transforming in this heart of mine that i am having trouble putting it all into words. yet without that cathartic release of writing, i find myself restless. surely, it is an innate wiring to purge and untangle in this way. and, if this shall bring hope and encouragement to even one...i will continue to seek sharing Him and my story along the way. bless you sweet friend. your faith inspires me always, a kindred spirit indeed.

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  5. Amanda Beth- thank you for your encouragement. God has used you as a tool to inspire and teach me. Your words have strengthened my resolve and allowed me to untangle much of the work the LORD has been doing within my heart. So I thank YOU for allowing Him to use you as a vessel.

    One of the verses the LORD recently led me to is 1 Peter 2:9, "You were chosen to tell about the excellent qualities of God, who called you." I believe He has called me to do this through writing. I don't yet know the shape or the form this will become, but I am certain that part of my purpose here is to share Him through my words and my personal faith journey.

    This life is difficult at times and I want others to know that they are not alone. That even through the disappointments, hardships, despair turmoil, unexpected and the unknown, we have a God who is always faithful, that never changes, that offers us Hope and abundant life throughout each step of our journeys.

    He is SO worth sharing! I'll continue to do so in the ways I'm able.

    God bless you!
    Amanda
    P.S. Thanks for sharing that verse. And your post-it note tip. That's a great idea for me to do...as well as my children. I have scripture on notecards all over my house, cupboards, mirrors, tabletops, etc...but i like the idea of post-it notes intentionally placed around the home to use to literally speak His Word aloud.

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  6. Languish-
    Thanks for visiting my blog. Clearly any good that comes out of me is ALL God. All glory to Him. He is the infectious One! I appreciate your visit! Come back again!

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  7. Oh my sweet friend ... I wanted to say what all these sweet people said .... So, ya know, WHAT THEY SAID!

    You heart is SO beautiful and He is just simply STUNNING at work in your life. I admire you SO much and am so proud to call you friend!

    LOVE YOU!

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  8. i love you becky jo. your relentless, trusting, pure faith has been an inspiration to me too. you have the gift of faith that others strive after. you are an overcomer and i love the joy that radiates from you. it's clearly of Him.

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