Posted in Spiritual

Taking my thoughts captive.

Your thought life is where the rubber meets the road. All of life. Your goals, plans, dreams, wishes, desires — all of it is up in your head.

That’s just the way it goes.

And, let me tell you… the Bible has a LOT to say about the mind, temptation, our thoughts, and so on! Today, though, I’m focusing on one small passage of Scripture that is packed with power. This has confronted, convicted, and challenged me — leaving me desiring correction and change.

2 Corinthians 10:4-5 ~

(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.

Me. Myself. I. Taking EVERY thought I have and bringing it under the Lordship, Authority, and correction of Jesus Christ.

Depending on what version you read, it will either say “we take captive every thought” or we “we bring every thought into captivity.”

I love the idea of both. So, let’s focus on those two words right here. Take and Bring.

A little grammar always comes in handy. So, here’s the part where I indulge my inner English buff and tell you that these two words are verbs. And, no – they are not “linking” or “being” verbs – they are “ACTION” verbs. Do you follow me so far?

Take and Bring — those are two things that I can do. They are actions. They don’t happen by themselves. Someone has to DO them.

According to the dictionary…

Take. (1) Lay hold of (something) with one’s hands; reach for and hold. (2) Remove (someone or something) from a particular place.

Bring. (1) Cause (someone or something) to come to a place. (2) Make (someone or something) move in a particular direction or way.

This Scripture is saying that I must TAKE my thoughts. Me. Myself. I. I must actually TAKE my thoughts. I must lay hold of them. I must take ownership of them.

And then I must BRING them. Me. Myself. I. I must actually BRING my thoughts. Cause my thoughts. Move my thoughts. To obey Christ. To dwell on Christlike ideas, etc.

Me. I have to do this. No one else can do it for me.

I have to take ownership of my thought life.

I strongly feel as if, in my own life and Spiritual walk with Christ, this is an area of immaturity. And, somehow, I don’t feel as if I am alone in this battle.

Rick Thomas puts it this way:

Plan A for the devil is to keep all people from believing in Christ.

Plan B for the devil is to keep all Christians from maturing in Christ.

If the devil can’t get me to NOT be a Christian, he’s going to try to get me to be a shallow one.

And, I am NOT ok with that! I refuse to be a mediocre, mundane, and moderate Christian.

This – the area of my thoughts – is a place where God is putting his finger on & saying, “I’ve commanded you to be better. I’ve given you my Spirit. I have promised ‘everything you need for life and godliness’ (2 Peter 1:3).”

 

So, what exactly does it look like to bring my thoughts and move them under the authority of Jesus Christ? What exactly does it look like to captivate my thoughts?

That’s what we are going to delve into now.

First of all. . .

We must be aware that this – taking our thoughts captive – is a BATTLE. It is a war. The Bible is clear that we fight not against flesh and blood but against spiritual forces of evil (paraphrased from Ephesians 6:12). You need to accept the fact that, as a child of God, you are in a war. Taking EVERY single thought captive to the obedience of Jesus Christ is a huge undertaking. The devil wants your soul, and the easiest place for him to enter is in the mind. The devil won’t make this easy.

Secondly. . . 

You must suit up. You must put on your armor: Salvation, the Spirit, Truth, Faith, the Gospel, Righteousness, and Peace. You can’t leave off any part. This is a battle that you can’t fight on your own. Take it seriously. Get your priorities straight. Jesus first. Everything else behind Him. Prepare yourself. Spiritually, emotionally, and physically.

Next. . .

Take anything in your life that diverts your thoughts towards things that are not Christlike, deal with it, and get rid of its hold on you. This might look like confessing sin. This might look like getting an accountability partner. This might look like creating a healthy and needed balance in your life, realizing that just because something is good doesn’t mean it is best. This might look like cutting out some Netflix shows that you’d be better off without. This might look like waging a war on materialism in your life and budgeting your money more carefully. This might look like fighting worry and anxiety, instead of succumbing to it. This might look like ending a relationship. This might look like getting rid of some friends whose influence are toxic to your relationship with God.

It will look different for each one of us. We know ourselves and our struggles and our areas of temptation. We KNOW what we need to REMOVE from our lives to enable us to take our thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ.

If you are unsure of what you need to do, I guarantee if you pray and simply say, “God, I’m serious about this. About taking my thoughts captive to obey you. About bringing my thought life under your authority. What do I need to cut out and remove from my life in order to purify my relationship with you?” If you pray something like that with sincerity of heart, God is going to use His Spirit to speak to you, to show you what eliminations you need to undertake.

Lastly. . . 

In order to take control of your thought life, you must implement good habits. Dig deeper in the Word of God. Don’t read because you have to; read because you need to. We can NOT live without God’s truth, people. We have to be people of the Word if we are going to be over-comers! Establish friendships with people who not only encourage your walk with Christ, but they speak truth into it, even if it hurts and you don’t want to hear it. Think and focus on what’s pure, what’s true, what’s right, what’s lovely, what’s admirable, what’s excellent, and what’s worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8). Create new habits that are good for you physically, mentally, and emotionally – nature walks/hikes, photography, writing, reading, coloring, relaxing. Self-care is vital. And, don’t forget that impure, ungodly, or inferior thoughts will try to creep in – they’ll try, trust me. And when they do, make a CHOICE right then and there – before they implant and take over – to throw them out and set your mind on things ABOVE (Colossians 3:2). Be on guard. The devil is sneaky.

Remember. . .

EVERY thought captive to obey Jesus. Not just part of our thoughts or a few of them. This is an “all or nothing” thing. And, yes. It seems like a ginormous task. It is. However, God wouldn’t tell us to do something that wasn’t possible. If God says, “Take your thoughts captive,” it means He is going to give us the grace to do it. If we just ask. Proverbs 23:7 says, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” I don’t know about you, but I know that my heart is God’s – – – so I commit my thought life to being under His authority as well. It just makes perfect sense. 

 

Pursuing Christ – Abandoning Self.

 

Photo by Victoria Bilsborough on Unsplash

Posted in Reflection

Something I’m glad I learned at an early age.

Perhaps it’s because I’m in a new stage of life now. I’m newly married. I’m turning older this week. Etc. But, when I was confronted with this topic idea for a blog post, I knew exactly what I wanted to write about. What I mean is this, now that Hub and I have our own home, our own life, and our own plans and dreams for future children, we find ourselves (rather often) talking about things our parents taught us, things we appreciate about them, things our parents represent, and things from our childhoods we don’t want to take for granted.

So, here goes.

The prompt: Something you are glad you learned at an early age.

(There’s so many things I could talk about, I know. This, however, came to my mind first.)

 

I’m glad I learned at an early age that going to church isn’t optional.

 

Now, don’t sign me off right away. I’m not judging. I’m not trying to come across as “holier than thou,” either. And, I’m certainly not preaching.

Yes, I was a preacher’s daughter. I didn’t really have a choice. We attended church every time the doors were open. Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night. Three times a week. Case closed. No questions asked.

But, it was much more than that. My parents taught me that it wasn’t all about what the church or the Sunday School lessons or the services could give to you; it was also what you were going to give back. How you were going to tap in. It was (and still is) a lifestyle.

This goes beyond being a preacher’s family, though. I firmly believe that if my Dad wouldn’t have been the pastor, we still would have been attending. Every service. Sunday and Wednesday. In fact, my parents both had parents who were laymen of the church – and they believed that same way.

I know what you’re thinking. “My church doesn’t even have Sunday night service.” “I work until 6 p.m. on Wednesday; there’s no way I can make prayer meeting or even stay awake during it.” “Sometimes I just need a Sunday night to regroup before the coming week.”

I get it. I really do. I’ve even skipped a service or two myself. And, I’ve gone a stretch or two not attending Sunday school. But, that’s not my point.

My point is this: I’m glad I had parents that didn’t. I’m glad I had parents that set the bar high. I’m glad I had parents who chose to attend church, even on vacation. I’m glad my parents made it exciting to go to church and encouraged me to use my talent of singing in a church setting. I’m glad my parents loved me enough to make me do what I didn’t always want to do.

We all have our reasons. We sometimes even have excuses.  Yes, the trend now is to NOT have Sunday evening or Wednesday evening services. Have break-out and discipleship groups, instead. That’s AWESOME! I even love the idea. And, sometimes we just don’t feel good. We’re sick. We’re stretched emotionally. We need a break.

I get it. I really do.

Here’s what I’m saying, though. In a world where people are looking for an excuse to miss church, be one of the faithful few. Teach that Sunday School class, be a mentor, choose a pew to sit in and be there. Faithfully. If you have to miss, miss. Just don’t make a habit of it. Support your pastor and his family. Your pastor prays and works tirelessly to get the mind of God for the message on Sunday. And, guess what… He does the SAME for the Sunday night and Wednesday night services, too! When did we start placing Sunday morning service as “THE” service that matters and the other two services as the “ones that don’t really count.”

And… Furthermore… If you are there, be ALL there. Put your phone away. Stop paying more attention to those around you than the One you’re supposed to be at church for. Focus on God. Focus on worship.

Focus on being there.

Focus on making church THE option, not optional.

 

Photo by Jon Flobrant on Unsplash

Posted in Introspection

He rejoices over you.

Perhaps it is because I am a “performance-based” individual. I thrive on accomplishing my goals, doing my best, receiving compliments, excelling in presentation, and so on.

I care. I care about what I do, how I present myself, what to say, how to live. That’s not all bad, if I keep it in check and maintain a healthy balance.

But, you know just as well as I do that success isn’t continual. I don’t always succeed. I don’t always say the right thing. I don’t always receive compliments for the good and helpful things I do. I sometimes fall short of doing my best. And, furthermore, some of my dreams and goals still seem so far off.

Why can’t I get there? Why can’t I just live in a state of success?

I know, I know. Life doesn’t work that way.

Life instead looks like this: Trying, living, failing, questioning, and getting back up.

Oftentimes, we get discouraged. We get weary. We get frustrated. When we don’t measure up to our own requirements, we somehow love ourselves a little less. That’s not right, nor is it OK.

My Daddy, my hero, has always said this: “It’s not about where you are — it’s about where you are going.”

Right now might not look exactly like you want. Your job might not be perfect. Your family might be falling apart. Your laundry might need folded. Your heart might be broken.

Life, though, is SO MUCH more than just RIGHT NOW.

Don’t make the “snapshot” of what is today the cover for the “album” of what your life has been, is, and is going to become.

Don’t lose heart. Don’t quit trying. Don’t love yourself less. 

In these moments – the less than perfect ones – hold on tightly to the only thing that ALWAYS succeeds and NEVER fails – God.

The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.

~ Zephaniah 3:17 ESV

When you can’t stand where you are in life, when you can’t handle failing again, when you can’t imagine another hurt coming your way. . . Think on this.

Our crazy, awesome Heavenly Father is sitting up in His Heaven. He is delighting over you. He is celebrating you. He is right beside you. He won’t let you go. He never loves you less. He longs to quiet your spirit. He desires to calm your anxious spirit. He is singing about you. You’re his favorite.

You might not be happy with yourself. You might not have much to rejoice about right now.

No worries. . .

God is rejoicing just because you are, and He made you that way.

 

Photo by Leon Biss on Unsplash

Posted in Growth

Chocolate Speaks.

As I devoured a couple pieces of Dove chocolate last night (Confession: Before Dinner), I took a second to read the famous sayings on the inside of the wrappers. One, in particular, hit me in the face.

Don’t talk about it,

just be about it.

Does this not describe our generation?

We love to talk about problems. Our problems, your problems, our friend’s problems, our family’s problems, our boss’ problems, and so on.

We love to give our opinion. However harsh, rude, or unwelcome it may be sometimes.

We love to talk about getting together with our friends and acquaintances. We like to make it seem as if we have made an effort not to be anti-social, at least.

We love to talk about starting that new hobby. Playing a new instrument, developing our hidden skill of knitting, redecorating the guest bedroom,  or cleaning out the junk in the closet.

We love to say we are going to change. We are going to eat healthier or be happier. We are going to be there for our friends. We are going to work on not reacting so quickly.

We say we are going to call our Grandparents more. . . or take that vacation.

We say a LOT of things, people. Do we ever really accomplish anything before it’s too late, though?

Quite frankly, it’s hard to hear over all the babbling.

Instead of talking — debating ideas, complaining about our problems, chattering about a new thing to try, gossiping about everybody’s business, and posting every detail of your life on social media — Let’s start doing.

Live. Your. Life. Don’t just talk about it.

Set goals. Meet goals. Analyze. Change. Forget. Focus. End things. Begin others. Stop wallowing. Start working.

P.S. You don’t have to tell everyone all about it, either.

P.P.S. Eat that Dove chocolate; it might have something to say to you.

Photo creds: Yours truly.

Posted in Introspection

No happiness leaks.

Happiness is a fleeting state, or so it seems.

One minute incandescently happy – the next annoyed at everyone around. I mean, really. . . Who hasn’t been there at least a time or two?

Sometimes it’s the tiniest detail that can ruin a good day. Other times it’s worrying about minor issues that pop up out of nowhere. Perhaps it’s a self-made to-do list of optional or wishful thinking items that’s become too much to handle.

Whatever the triggers are — I’m plain fed up with them. Done. Over.

I’m tired of letting small things or unmet, wishful expectations or random, dumpy situations get in the way and – frankly – create opportunities for my happiness to leak out.

Sometimes it’s our perspective that is just whacked — for lack of a better term. We overthink, We overreact. . . We get in our own heads.

We react wrongly – for the most part. I firmly believe that the way we react to situations determines the rate of happiness leakage in our lives. Do we CHOOSE focus on the positives? Do we downplay the negatives? Do we deal with things and just move on? Do we expect too much from those around us? Do we ever stop thinking about OURSELVES?

Seriously, friends. We are selfish. Every. Single. One. Of. Us. We want more than we need, we ask for more than we should, we complain more than we compliment, and we sigh more than we smile.

In fact – (personal confession) – two days ago, I had a “lightbulb” moment. God let me see that sometimes I’m the one who creates holes for happiness to seep out of my own life.

Don’t get me wrong here – I’m newly married to the man of my dreams, working an incredible job, and now involved in a new ministry alongside my husband. Life is good, and I’m blessed abundantly. I have no complaints that are substantial. However, instead of enjoying and cherishing the moments, more often than not I feel that I need to meet the next goal, check the next item off my list, compare my wardrobe with the newest fashion, or plan my next vacation. When did I get so self-absorbed without realizing it? My focus is out of balance.

Instead of creating an environment for unhappiness or discontentment to sneak in and happiness to leak out. . . I want to establish a new trend that focuses on thankfulness, positive self-talk, and proper balance.

Yes, I can be disappointed the day didn’t go as planned, but that gives me no excuse to treat those around me worse or project my feelings of frustration on to them.

Yes, I can listen to the problems of friends and family and offer advice, but I shouldn’t make those problems my own and let them zap my emotional energy. (And – P.S. – I definitely shouldn’t gossip about those problems and build myself up off of another person’s insecurities or baggage.)

Yes, I can expect those around me to treat me with respect, but I shouldn’t expect those people to be perfect – because they are human, too, and are in need of as much grace as I am.

Yes, I can be frustrated that minor problems or miscommunications come about, but I shouldn’t blow my minor problems out of proportion and discredit those friends and family members who are facing much bigger troubles.

And the list could go on and on. . .

 

I challenge you! Take a moment or two and look at your own life. . . are there happiness leaks that need fixed? Is there a focus that needs balanced? Is there a grateful attitude that needs cultivated?

 

A Practical Application: In order to work on this new, balanced focus. . . One of my friends suggested that us Bible Study ladies keep each other accountable for a gratefulness check EVERY DAY. For the next week or so, my two friends and I are texting each other just one thing we are thankful for each day, and there can be no repeats. We do this in the morning – before work. I have personally noticed a change in my attitude going into the work day. I’m spending time praying and thanking God for so many things on my (long) drive to work, and I notice the day starting a little bit brighter. What practical applications can you start that will help your focus start to balance? (Comment or message to let me know!)

 

Side note: I’m not trying to be harsh. I’m not downplaying the struggles we all face. We have frustrations, problems, and disappointments. We have sick family members and friends. I’m not saying you’ll always be “happy.” I’m simply saying – don’t let happiness sneak out because of a dumpy outlook on life.

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