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What does it mean to think like a Christian, or not?

Who should I listen to?

Before becoming a Christian, our thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors were ruled by our personal desires. The aim of such desires is to fulfill thoughts centered on self, not God. Such thoughts and desires are heavily influenced by society. And if we allow today’s society to define what is good (instead of God’s word) then we enter a world darkened by the absence of God’s truth. As a result, our self-centered thinking sets the course of our lives, not God’s truth. So, if God’s truth is not our ‘go to’ authority on what is good for us, then what is?

The authority of inner feelings is now hailed as the authority of the day.(Back in the 60’s when the ideology of the day was “if it feels good do it” is nothing more than an update but with a wider following today on that same ideology) Better yet, if society endorses our feelings then we can feel free to express those feelings. And guess what, those thoughts will reinforce the idea that this is truly who we are! Back in the day, we called it rebellion. Today we call it expressive individualism.

The problem with this is that if an unchanging absolute authority does not define truth for us, then truth becomes something that is in a state of flux. What we determine as truth and what we reject as not being truth today, cannot be counted on to be the same tomorrow!

In contrast, upon becoming a Christian, our desire to please only ourselves, is put aside for the desire to please God. That voice inside our head telling us what is right and what is wrong, finds its source in the word of God. A Word that is absolute and unchanging.

Yet, as Christian we know that as long as we are alive, we now have two voices that compete for control of our thoughts. (Keep in mind that thoughts determines attitudes, and attitudes forms behavior.). Additionally, we know that the voice that speaks the loudest is the one we focus upon. Therefore, in order for God’s truths to speak the loudest we must be able to readily recognize it. If we do not consistently absorbs His truths, by spending time daily in God’s word and with God in prayer, then the voice of our flesh will take advantage of this lack of knowledge and drown out the Voice of truth.

Remember, to think like a Christian we need to have a sense of how God would want us to think. We aren’t going to know that unless we become familiar with what God thinks, right? And, the main place to find that out is in His Word. Otherwise, we will be allowing what we think to be determined by our self-centered nature.

What does it mean to show Christlike love to others who have rejected God and/or His ways?

Even as we lived a life of disobedience, even as we rebelled against God’s standards of living, even as we rejected the existence of God, even as we refused to take God and Christ’s death seriously, God allowed Christ to be sacrificed for us. He didn’t wait for His ways to make sense to us before He offered us a solution.

Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.  But God proves His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:7-8

Admittedly, it’s hard to have loving feelings toward those who boldly reject God and His ways. Our world is upside down these days. Right is wrong and wrong is right! And what is more alarming is this deception has seeped into some of our churches! We Christians struggle to figure out how to stand strong in our faith without alienating those who have rejected God’s ways.

This is a prime dilemma that Satan eagerly takes advantage of. Ever hear the silent voice that says, “If you are kind and accepting of this person who lives in a way that mocks God and His ways, then that’s the same as condoning their sin.” You see, Satan has us focus on this fiery dart in order to deter us from verses like Romans 5:7-8.

What we fail to understand is that we can be kind and forgiving towards those who have fallen prey to the enemy’s deception, without compromising our faith values. How can we be kind and forgiving? By understanding the complex truth of separating the person we have issues with from the sins they have embraced!

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,… Matthew 5:43-44

It’s a slippery path to find ways to separate the sinner from the sin, of course. And our upside down world has made it even harder. But acknowledging that God loved us while we were still living in our sin, should empower us to do the same for others living outside of God’s will. This will provide us with the motivation to care enough about that person to deliver God’s truth to them with kindness and compassion. (Perhaps, we have been guilty of delivering the truth without the compassion?)

While we may be rejected and even persecuted by those we have attempted, with loving kindness, to be honest with, we must be prepared for this. Courageous love demands that we be truthful, whether they reject us or not or whether they reject God’s truth or not.

Personally, I don’t think there’s ever been a time when God’s truth has been so distasteful to so many. And these days we must count the cost before delivering His truth, for we could be made to suffer for it. We must keep in mind this world is not permanent; eternity is. And where we spend eternity is determined by what we do about God’s truths while we live here on earth.

What does it mean to live like a Christian? Learn to tell the difference between what freedom is and what it is not…

By leaning upon God’s will, we are granted new and remarkable freedoms. The outside world sees us as chained. We go where they choose not, we see what they prefer to ignore, we dress in a manner they call severe. They hold up to us the so-called freedoms of this world and declare themselves happier for it. They live in blindness, both to the pains of others and the remorse and strife within their own souls.”

Quote by William Wilberforce, 1759-1833, A British politician and leader of the movement to abolish the slave trade

A venus flytrap (picture left)is like a spring-loaded trap that transforms into a ‘cage’ after responding to stimuli, such as when an unsuspecting insect contacts the surface.

Now you may be wondering what a carnivorous plant has to do with this post? Read on to discover the answer!

That fly was enticed by a sticky sweet juice emitted by the venus plant. This juice smells like a bouquet of fruit and plant flowers to the fly. Something quite familiar to the fly. Not realizing the danger it was in, it decided to check into what looked familiar to it. Thus it got mired down into the sticky substance and the teeth of the venus snapped shut and became a cage. Eventually the venus consumes the fly.

Christians who are not familiar with how the Bible defines truth are much like this fly. Their confusion about what is freedom and what is bondage leads to their entrapment.

A Christian whose search for freedom lies outside the boundaries of biblical truth, are venturing into a wilderness of deception. A wilderness where lies are disguised as truth and truth is disguised as lies. The side effects of living in this wilderness is blindness. A blindness that prevents them from seeing that the freedom and happiness they think they are experiencing is nothing more than license. And that happiness is nothing more than the thrill of getting their own way and getting pats on the back for it from others who wander about in the same wilderness.

But for a Christian, this fake freedom will eventually deteriorate. The Bible puts it rather succinctly.

 There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death. Proverbs 14:12 NIV

Christians who adopt the freedoms that run contrary to God’s word are entrapped just like the fly in a venus plant. Yet, unlike the fly there is a way to break free from such bondage before being consumed. By returning to God’s word, we will grow in wisdom and understanding as to the difference between true freedom and bondage. God’s light will illuminate the path of their escape. As the disciplining love of God turns them around and brings them to their senses, they will be restored to the fresh and cleansing winds of true freedom.

The Hay Cutting Dance; just what I needed…

Being closed in for several days, has given me pause to consider ways to ward off the temptation (fiery dart) of a depressed spirit. I was reading in Psalm 34 the other day. Verses about praising God and being delivered from all my fears touched a cord. The key to my deliverance required praising God.

Yet, being shut up in my house for days on end, left me feeling like anything but praiseful . But just as I was struggling with all of this, a scene outside my window began to unfold. It’s hay cutting time here on the farm where I live. As a matter of fact, my home is tucked way back into the far corner of a big ole hayfield. Much to my delight. For the cutting of hay is one of my favorite enjoyments. 

Over a period of several days, I watched what I have come to call a ‘hay dance’, performed outside my window. And as I watched, praises to God began surging through my thoughts. Yep, as you might guess, those praises foiled the enemy’s attack. My spirits lifted with every step of the dance. Therefore, I thought, “Why not share this with my readers!” 

Hay cutting is like a good ole fashioned square dance between the tractors and their chosen partners!

(Disclaimer: I had to research the details for this article. I am familiar with the bigger picture b/c I live on the farm, but those details, not so much)

Just like any dance, timing is the first consideration. This is reflected by making sure the equipment is prepared and ready. Then I’ve learned that haymaking needs to coincide with the right stage of plant growth and weather conditions. My brothers and nephews have been cutting hay for so long, they just seem to have a second sense about this timing thing. 

Whether they begin early in the morning or later in the day seems to be a matter of preference. Nevertheless, the determining factor for when to start the dance depends upon the maturity of the grass.

Next step, choose your partner. The dance begins with the tractor choosing a mower implement for its partner. My family uses a rotary disk mower. This type of mower cuts quickly through thick hay pretty well. They have three huge hayfields to cut so the quicker the better.

Again change partners by swapping out the mower for a tedding implement. This implement fluffs up the hay. That allows the air and sun to reach the undersurfaces to promote drying.

This unique dance requires a lot of partner changing. Therefore, the tedding implement must be exchanged for the rake. Raking turns the hay one more time to dry the bottom and forms it into what is referred to as a windrow. Then it’s ready to be baled.

Around here they opt for large circular bales, I remember the day when small rectangular shaped bales were scattered all over the field. But as acreage increased and technology advanced the circular bales became the modus operandi. And the bailer is called to the floor turning out bale after bale of hay.

Now comes the tricky step. So, one of those big ole tractors attaches what is called a bale spear to the front and rear of the tractor. In the photo below, you’ll see a round bale on the front and the back of the tractor. A maneuver that requires expert skill.

If a dancer gets in a hurry and find themselves in the habit of moving forward before raising the loader; they’ll be scraping that bale on the ground. This misstep can tear the bale wrap or bale twine, loosening the bale and lowering the quality of the hay.

 We are almost to the time to bow. One final turn requires the bales to be loaded onto a trailer and carried to the barn. Those gigantic bales can’t be just left lying on the dance floor. (The bales suffer matter loss if left in the fields) 

Now that I have described the hay dance, allow me to describe the setting. Hay cutting is a much looked forward to event, not for just us humans but for the birds and insects as well. Actually, the calls of the kites, swallows, and locusts blend with the hum of the tractor engines to provide the music for this dance. Taking the movements, music, and the fresh aroma of new mown hay, praising God became as natural as breathing. Just proving God supplies what we need, at the moment of our need. 

God’s Way vs Man’s Way

In light of the trauma cast throughout our country in recent days, we grasp at words wherever we can find them to help us find sanity in this insane crises. And it seems to me it comes down to finding Truth. For without Truth, we will search in vain for words to bring peace in the midst of our chaos.

But how can our country expect to find Truth, when we reject the one true source of Truth? Nevertheless, we continue plunging forward under the false impression that we are doing so in the name of personal freedom. We have thrown off the restraints that have restricted what we became convinced would make us happy.

Here is a brief sampling of the restraints we have discarded:

Wisdom to discern what is good and what is not.

“Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.” Proverbs 28:26 ESV

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!”Psalm 111:10 ESV

Peace in the midst of life’s storms.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, 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. Philippians 4:6-7

Soundness of mind/freedom from fear.

I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Psalm 34:4

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7 ESV

So, when we throw off the ability to recognize what is good and what is not, where does that lead?

So, when we reject God’s peace, what’s the outcome when the storms of life face plant us to the ground?

So, when we cast off God’s offer of soundness of mind and to be free of fear, how will we know what to do when we are threatened?

Replacing lies with Truth thoughts…

We have Recognized. We have Rejected. Now it’s time to replace!

Replacing fiery dart thoughts with Truth thoughts

Something that often gets overlooked, is the necessity of replacing the lies of a fiery dart. For the empty space left when the lie was rejected, needs to be filled. Otherwise when the lie returns, and it will return, the lie gains reentry. This is when Truth thoughts come into play. For thoughts about what is true are required to fill the void left by the rejected lie. And to know what Truth thoughts to call upon, we must be familiar with the source of where they are contained. That, of course, is God’s word, the Bible. Therefore, we must be prepared and stand ready to wield this Sword of Truth, if these lies are to be extinguished.

Doubt and confusion, resided in the background of my thoughts. Every ready to spring into action when given the opportunity. Even though I had been a Christian for many years, I had allowed too much of the world’s concepts of truth to influence my attitudes, perspectives, and actions. It was easier to listen to the world rather than take time to delve into the Bible for answers. Needless to say, doubt and confusion were given many opportunities to inject their poison. Plain and simple – I didn’t know enough of what the Bible had to say, in regard to my doubts and confusion. As a result, my skill in the use of my Sword of Truth was sorely lacking.

My only hope to gain strength and successfully fight off the lies of the enemy, was to daily expose my thoughts to the Truths of Scripture. It is the main food for any soldier in God’s army. In my weakened state, God nourished me with a simple but powerful Truth to rebuff the enemy. By applying the Truth of Isaiah 54:17a, “No weapon that is formed against you will succeed;” to refer to the weapon of fiery darts, the lies were thwarted.

This verse has become the first swipe of my Sword of Truth in my attack. This affords me the opportunity to search for a specific word from God to extinguish a specific lie. Thereafter, I could wield my sword with tailor made precision to attack and extinguish the lie.

The benefit of searching for specific scriptures to add to our weapon cache, is obvious. The more our weapon supply is increased, the greater our victories over the enemy. That translates into our becoming more knowledgeable of the Truths of God’s Word. Knowledge that empowers us to be equipped with the weapons needed to counter Satan’s attacks.

This taste of victory over the manipulation and deception of the lies is sweet. It is the one thing that guarantees our release from the bondage we have been tricked into believing is freedom. This Truth sets us free from the lies that have created our bondage.

The Season of Caretaking…

Advancing to the season of caring for elderly parents has the potential to create a major shift in how we live and even view life. Suddenly, long anticipated plans must be reconsidered. Adjustments in the ebb and flow of daily routines must be rearranged. Physical accommodations of living space need to be appraised. Financial aspects of this arrangement require careful planning. It’s a load that at times can be overwhelming. Our enemy is ever present wielding his weapon of choice in taking advantage of the negatives of this shift to darken our outlook.

But though our focus might be tempted to see only what seems to be an ever lingering uphill climb, we can take measures that will foster a new balance. There are many helpful resources that we can draw upon to provide what is needed to care for our elderly parents. Yet, the main resource, the one true extinguisher of such darkness, is located in the Bible. It’s the map that will guide us in the choices we need to make and how to deal with the problems that arise. For instance:

When we reach the point where we don’t know where to turn, it’s the lamp that will light our way.

When the sacrifices arise that we willingly or unwillingly have to make, we need ‘how to’ advice on what that looks like.

When the logistics and the daily in’s and out’s of caretaking, begin to weigh us down we need a place to cast those burdens.

When we feel we just don’t have what it takes to handle this upheaval in our lives successfully, we need a place to turn to to regain our strength and footing.

And sometimes we just need to be reminded of who we are truly serving.

Yes, sometimes God calls us to a season of caretaking that requires a great deal of self-denial, And even in that there is a source of joy to be discovered.

Setting my mind on:

Pulling against each other.

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. 7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. Romans 8:5-8

In church circles the word flesh is tossed about nonchalantly due to our familiarity with its definition. But I bet it sounds pretty weird to those without a church background! Therefore, I will attempt to decode its meaning.

We all understand that we possess what is called a human nature. That is what separates us from the animals. It’s how we think, feel, and act.

When a person believes in Christ, the Holy Spirit of God takes up residence within that person which in essence make God her Boss. An unbeliever, on the other hand, is her own boss . Still, both the believer and unbeliever possess a human nature. We now call this our flesh. Simply put:

The flesh is the part of a believer that disagrees with the Spirit. The makeup of a believer is different from that of an unbeliever, in that an unbeliever does not have the Spirit of God indwelling them. In the case of an unbeliever, the flesh is in agreement with the spirit of that unbeliever.

This state of being reveals why fiery darts wield so much power. An unbeliever has no resource to determine truth other that their own experience, coupled with the world’s mind set of truth. Without the absolute truth of God’s word, for them truth is ever changing.

Yet, a believer has the Holy Spirit of God dwelling within. If a believer maintains a daily communication with God through prayer and the study of Scripture, then what they think, feel, and act is based on the never changing truths therein. A believer gets in trouble when they drift away from that two-fold communication. The less we know of God’s truths, the more vulnerable we become to fiery darts.

For you see, the flesh (in others word the human spirit) is always opposed to the Holy Spirit. But one leads to death (an eternity without God) , the other leads to life (on earth and in eternity with God)

Stop now and ask yourself this question,

“Have I set my mind on what my flesh desires?”

or

“Have I set my mind on what the Holy Spirit desires?”

STORMS! They have a purpose.

Storms are unavoidable. Why on earth do we try to avoid them. It’s a loosing battle.

Storms are no respecter of persons. No one can escape them. Since avoiding them is impossible, where do we find the source that will subdue the storm?

There is no better perspective to embrace concerning storms than what is prescribed in Scripture. Let’s take a look at Luke 8:22-25, only one of the many go to verses during life’s storms.

22 One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and set out. 23 As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger.

24 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!”

He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. 25 “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples.

In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.”

This verse tells us that Jesus said, “Let us go to the other side of the lake.” Now Jesus, being who He was knew there was a storm coming. (Just like he knows about our storms) Storms on the Sea of Galilee come up rather quickly. But Jesus had lessons his disciples needed to learn. The storm was to be their tutor.

The disciples, though seasoned fishermen, panicked at the severity of the storm. Maybe because they saw that Jesus was asleep they assumed he was not paying attention. Well, of course, this was an assumption fueled by fear. Jesus was right there with them. He hadn’t gone anywhere.

The disciples woke Jesus and in response to their pleas, he rebuked the storm. The lesson? Well, they lacked faith and the storm exposed this. I imagine that whenever they experienced fear like that again, they arrested such fear by recalling that day when Jesus calmed the storm.

Let’s not be too hard on those disciples though. Aren’t we much like them when we encounter storms? The fiery darts of fear and even doubt are first at the scene it seems in our storms. So like the disciples we cry out to God.

If we are willing to cooperate with God when we are being buffeted by storms, he will expose the fiery darts that feed our fears and doubts. We will be empowered to extinguish those weapons of the enemy. In their place, depending on our cooperation, He will supply a stronger faith, less self-centeredness, or resolve to focus on the needs of others. He may call us to change our course. Maybe there are others who need a visual example of how they need to turn to God in their storm.

Recently, it seems my storms have come in waves. I find that I am tempted to center my thoughts on myself. I overly focus on how hard things are. I mourn over the things I’ve lost out on. It’s not natural for me to place my focus on God. So I need to cry out to God just as those disciples did and ask for help. God in His faithfulness will supply me with what I need to overcome the fiery darts attacking me. My situation may not ease up any, but my perspective fashioned by God’s truths will calm my storm.

Storms aren’t random oversights of God. They have a purpose. God’s desire is to reveal that purpose so our lives will be characterized by His peace.

$/Loaves and Fishes

Loaves in Tabgha Church in Israel, Mosaic: four loaves and two fish,

Recently, my LORD gave me a prompting when I was praying about some personal financial matters. A big bill is coming due, and I do not have enough in my account to pay it. Though I resist the thought to dip into my meager savings, I really have no other recourse.

This choice was disturbing to me. For I would prefer to manage my money without having to depend on my dwindling savings. Yet as scanty as it is, I feel the reassurance of its existence is threatened when I have to use it. The fiery dart of fear edged closer. Attempting to catch me in its trap as it has so often done before. And fear typically brings with it its cohorts of anxiety, and doubting God’s provision, right!

Now that’s the backstory for the prompting I received this morning during my prayer time.

So often during my prayer time, God will remind me of truths that apply to the situations I bring to Him. This morning, He brought to me the story of the loaves and fishes.

When evening came, the disciples approached Him and said, “this place is a wilderness, and it is already late. Send the crowds away so they can go into the villages and buy food for themselves.”

“They don’t need to go away,” Jesus told them. “You give them something to eat.”

“But we only have five loaves and two fish here,” they said to Him.

“Bring them here to Me,” He said.

Then He commanded the crowds to sit down on the grass. He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed them. He broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. Everyone ate and was filled. Then they picked up 12 baskets full of leftover pieces! Now those who ate were about 5,000 men, besides women and children. Matthew 14:15-21 HCSB

It was as if God was having a conversation with me. He directed my thoughts to the 5 loaves and 2 fish. And pointed out to me where I fit in this biblical reference. Like the disciples, I felt my skimpy savings was insufficient. I felt this way, having ruled out God’s provision.

God reinforced my trust level with a couple of truths from His word:

Philippines 4:19, And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. 

Philippines 4:6-7, Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, 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.

(Allow me to interject this tidbit of interesting truth, “there were more than 5,000 people fed that day. Notice the wording “besides women and children!” There is no limit when it comes to what God can provide.)

In addition, thoughts of God’s provision and the peace that would guard my heart and mind was much preferable to the disturbing thoughts of fear, anxiety, and doubt my fleshly sin nature was promoting.

So, this is just an example of the effect of becoming familiar with what God has to say to us in His word, the Bible. By becoming familiar with His truths, in times of need, God will prompt us with what we have stored in our hearts. And my caution to us all, if God’s truths are not stored there, then our fleshly sin nature will get the upper hand. And instead of allowing a difficult situation to teach us more about how to trust God, Satan will use it to steal God’s work in our lives. We do have a choice, you know.