Monday, March 21, 2016

THOUGHT CATCHERS


Captain Alan Bean was the fourth man to step onto the moon. As an astronaut he was trained in problem solving and how to stay cool-headed in challenging, unfamiliar situations. Here’s something he said about an experience he had on Apollo 12.




Test pilots have a litmus test for evaluating problems. When something goes wrong, they ask, "Is this thing still flying?" If the answer is yes, then there's no immediate danger, no need to overreact. When Apollo 12 took off, the spacecraft was hit by lightning. The entire console began to glow with orange and red trouble lights. There was a temptation to "Do Something!" But the pilots asked themselves, "Is this thing still flying in the right direction?" The answer was yes--it was headed for the moon.
They let the lights glow as they addressed the individual problems, and watched orange and red lights blink out, one by one. That's something to think about in any pressure situation. If your thing is still flying, think first, and then act.[1]  

So where do we start to address thinking problems?  Do we assume the worst and spiral into a crash?  Or do we check to see if we’re still airborne first?  With thinking problems, the Bible has much to say about maintaining ourselves.


2 Corinthians 10:
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.


What’s the problem with worry and anxiety? We all have it, but we may not realize the spiritual implications of what we imagine will happen. Imagination is a normal function of the mind.  It gives us the ability to understand concepts, create and plan ahead.  But imagination centred in false ideals can lead us to wrong conclusions. 

An acorn to the head convinced Chicken Little that the sky was falling.  And, so the idea spread and creatures ran with it.

When our minds are disconnected from the Creator, we lack God’s direction in our thoughts.  The faith journey re-connects us to the Mind of the Almighty.  Paul encouraged the followers of Jesus to evaluate their thoughts in light of the message of Jesus.

When God’s Law forbid people from worshipping false images, it embodied the idea that something from the world could be falsely ascribed the power that belongs to God.  Idol worshippers succumbed to false ideas, thus the image led way to imagination.

You can learn to direct your thoughts toward God instead of being controlled by your imagination or by mindsets that are contrary to the character of God.

Christ’s followers are to grow in their understanding of who they are.  The world may have given false identities and skewed understandings of what a man or woman is supposed to be.  Both significant and insignificant relationships suggest ways that you are better or less than others. Our journey is to get an accurate understanding of who we are in Christ and live in that reality, not the imagined vision of a lesser being.

Your mind is on a mission from God—let’s bring the Shalom home.





[1] Capt. Alan Bean, USN, Apollo Astronaut, in Reader's Digest.

Friday, March 18, 2016

BRINGING THE SHALOM HOME


The poet Rainer Rilke said, “Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart... live in the question.” [1] 



If your peace is dependent upon having every riddle solved, you will be mostly disturbed. It is in the conflicts of life that we need to learn how to live with a mindset of peace.

When people of the Middle East meet each other, they will say ‘Shalom’ if they are Hebrew or ‘Salaam Alaikum’ if Arab. Both greetings convey the meaning of ‘I want you to have peace’. Shalom conveys more than a simple notion of the word peace. Shalom embodies the ‘completeness, soundness, welfare and peace[2] that come from God’s benevolence.

In your life God wants to create a mindset that reflects the perfect peace that God lives in. He wants you to bring the Shalom home.

The German mystic Meister Eckhart spoke to the idea of finding God in your present circumstance rather than looking elsewhere. He said,

Spirituality is not to be learned by flight from the world, or by running away from things, or by turning solitary and going apart from the world. Rather, we must learn an inner solitude wherever or with whomsoever we may be. We must learn to penetrate things and find God there. [3]

Isn’t that good advice about practicing the presence of God’s peace? Penetrate your life circumstance and look for God there. Peace comes from choosing to trust God even when the circumstances are unfavourable.


Isaiah 26:
 3 You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.


God is active in responding to the trust you give. It is God who is at work to bring his peace to troubled minds.

With God’s help we want to separate what’s real and true from what we are imagining. You have the right to speak to your mind and challenge its weak assumptions and fears. By recognizing that Holy Spirit is with you to make you secure, you can chase down those troubling thoughts and tell them the truth.

God is with me… God is for me, not against me… God is able to see me through this…




[1] Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters To A Young Poet
[2] Strong’s Concordance
[3] Meister Eckhart

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

DON'T LISTEN TO CHICKEN LITTLE


Do you remember the childhood story ‘The Sky Is Falling’? The tale of Chicken Little reminds me of the way that fear can spread among friends.





Chicken Little likes to walk in the woods. She likes to look at the trees. She likes to smell the flowers. She likes to listen to the birds singing.
One day while she is walking an acorn falls from a tree, and hits the top of her little head.
‘My, oh, my, the sky is falling. I must run and tell the lion about it’ says Chicken Little and begins to run.
She runs and runs. By and by she meets the hen.
‘Where are you going?’ asks the hen.
‘Oh, Henny Penny, the sky is falling and I am going to the lion to tell him about it.’
‘How do you know it?’ asks Henny Penny.
‘It hit me on the head, so I know it must be so’ says Chicken Little.
‘Let me go with you!’ says Henny Penny. ‘Run, run.’
So the two run and run until they meet Ducky Lucky.
‘The sky is falling’ says Henny Penny. ‘We are going to the lion to tell him about it.’
‘How do you know that?’ asks Ducky Lucky.
‘It hit Chicken Little on the head’ says Henny Penny.
‘May I come with you?’ asks Ducky Lucky.
‘Come’ says Henny Penny.
So all three of them run on and on until they meet Foxey Loxey.
‘Where are you going?’ asks Foxey Loxey.
‘The sky is falling and we are going to the lion to tell him about it’ says Ducky Lucky.
‘Do you know where he lives?’ asks the fox.
‘I don't’ says Chicken Little.
‘I don't’ says Henny Penny.
‘I don't’ says Ducky Lucky.
‘I do’ says Foxey Loxey. ‘Come with me and I can show you the way.’
He walks on and on until he comes to his den.
‘Come right in’ says Foxey Loxey.
They all go in, but they never, never come out again.[1]


All that crazy running and it led to their demise!  Have you ever felt as if that were happening in your life? Chicken Little spread a false assumption, but the prudent Foxey Loxey had lunch. With God’s help we do not need to live our life in a panicked state. We can learn to be prudent—that quality of possessing careful reasoning. Jesus said to his troubled disciples,


John 14:
27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.


How can we learn to live a life centred in the peace that Jesus gives?


Saturday, March 12, 2016

BEWARE OF THE VALENTINE CRUSHER

Six years ago my wife and I were at ‘Real Canadian Super Store’ picking up a few groceries.  There was a huge Valentine display near the dairy section.  Alongside the heart-shaped boxes of chocolate there were big, romantic teddy bears.  A woman picked one up and looked at it with interest.  Her eyes lit up as she thought about giving it to her sweetheart. From twenty feet away her adult sister was heard to say, “The fuzz will probably fall off of it.”

Have you met the ‘Valentine-crusher’ in the grocery store? Have you run into the eye roller at the family gathering or the finger waver in traffic? These people do not have a peaceful mind, at least in that moment. There are some people who seem to only focus on the potential for failure and destruction.  They are contrarian and only focus on how bad things are or how bad they will become.


Proverbs 15:
The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.


If your name is Debbie Downer, people may not take you seriously. To do so would invite more defeat and misery when the need is for hope and affirmation. It’s good to be realistic about problems and be open to correction, but sometimes the people who try to fix you don’t have the whole picture to base their conclusions on.

Joyce Meyer said, ‘If you struggle with negative thinking, it's important for you to come to grips with the fact that your life won't change until your thinking does.’[1]


Proverbs 14:
15 The simple believe anything, but the prudent give thought to their steps.


Wednesday, March 9, 2016

THE QUESTION OF LOVE AND ITS EFFECT ON THE MIND


A great example of God at work directing someone to think in a new way is the disciple Peter. From his early Bieberesque blunders to the maturing leader giving leadership to the church, Peter had a great teacher who bent his mind into something great.




Following the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, Peter had to begin contemplating a new kind of reality in which God must be conceived of in new ways. His former upbringing and behaviour were such that his failures produced shame and a greatly diminished potential. Jesus encounters Peter at a stage when his life had lost purpose and significance. Instead of changing the world, he had proved himself to be an impulsive liar, coward and failure as a friend. At the time of Christ’s arrest, Peter said and did all the wrong things.

Watch how Jesus begins the work of forming new thought in Peter.


John 21:
15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” 
16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. 
18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.”19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”


The first thing Jesus does to change Peter’s mind is to repeat and reframe the challenge, “Do you love me?” As Peter is repeatedly asked, he repeatedly responds until the full weight of the question is felt.

Sometimes God is at work asking you questions that you need to answer. Sometimes repetition brings us to the place of discomfort. This is where real learning begins.

Second, Jesus gives varied responses. The consistent answer to the question is nuanced to reflect deeper understanding. Feed my lambs… take care of my sheep… feed my sheep…  From the repetition of God’s Word in our lives, we are given consistent ways to respond, though there are many nuances to what we must learn.

Like the taxi driver rewiring his brain to handle difficult traffic and navigate through many paths, we learn to be a disciple by staying in the relationship and listening to repeat instructions.

Finally, Jesus indicates to Peter that learning establishes new control. He may have been an independent man given to freely speaking his mind and choosing his own path. Now, Jesus is teaching Peter about the cost of learning new ways. He will eventually give his whole life to follow Jesus.

Knowing that this was the cost, Peter allowed his egocentric way of thinking to be changed in ways that would become his legacy. From this point, the story of Peter’s life is one of outstanding adaptability and significance.

What has God been repeatedly asking of you?


In answering God’s questions, our mind will be shaped and grow immeasurably. Take time to listen to God’s questions.



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