Day 3 Don’t get used to the Dark

Through years of hunting or going to my deer stand in the dark, I’ve learned that if you get away from all sources of light, eventually your eyes will adjust. I’m still trying to get Sam to understand this truth. See, the problem with light is that it always outshines the darkness. So if you shine a light in the woods walking to your deer stand . . . deer aren’t stupid. They know that lights bouncing through the woods in the dark aren’t natural. They associate bouncing lights with danger, so they run away. However, they are used to hearing noises in the dark, so that doesn’t scare them. 

But for us, we have the opposite problem. We’ve gotten used to our dark way of thinking. We tend to believe the hopeless lie that the causes anxiety rather than the truth of God’s love and power. That’s how Satan works. He gets us used to the dark with his subtle lies and “half-truths” (really just lies).

Jesus said, “When he (Satan) lies, it is consistent with his character; for he (Satan) is the father of lies” John 8:44.

Satan’s goal is to steal our joy and peace and replace it with fear and anxiety. In the verse prior to Jesus saying Satan is the father of lies, Jesus says of himself, “I am the light of the world” John 8:12. Later in the account, Jesus says, “I am the truth” John 14:6.

Remember – truth always reveals the lie and light always outshines the darkness.

Put it into Practice

The greatest way to overcome the darkness is to stop buying the lie by embracing the truth. As a kid, I wasn’t afraid of the darkness, I was afraid of what was in the darkness. Too many of us live in that fear of “what if’s” instead of trusting “what is.” What if you lose your job, or what if that person leaves you and doesn’t want to be a part of your life? What if something bad happens to my kids?

Instead, let’s start living in the truth of what is – that God wants something for you and not from you. That walking in a relationship and trusting God brings peace and joy bigger than the “thing” of our circumstance.  Stop allowing fear to push you to the place of “hoping things don’t go bad” and lean into the truth of “having hope even when things do go bad.”

Once we start trusting God’s heart instead of “what if’s,” we can begin to understand and experience peace.

 

 

Day 2 Through the Lens of Hope

I remember when my oldest daughter started driving. It was scary, especially riding with her. But there came that moment when she was ready to spread her wings and drive to a friend’s house alone. Her mother and I reluctantly smiled as she grabbed her keys and headed for the door. As the door closed behind her, the wave of fear washed over us.

How many times this week have you been triggered by the fear of bad news? A meeting request. A text message from “that” person. Your kid is out driving, and you hear sirens. I don’t know what triggers you, but I do know that there are “things” that make you tighten up with fear. We all face the challenge of confronting negativity. But the difference for those of us who are believers is the hope we possess. Remember what the psalmist said – They do not fear bad news; they confidently trust the Lord to care for them. So how does that play out in real life?

What gave us peace as our daughter drove off or went out with friends was the confidence that God will take care of her. The peace of knowing that she belongs to God and his purpose and he is going with her. The hope we had in knowing that no matter what happened at any time, God was bigger. It is that lens of hope beyond understanding, that peace of God, knowing that God is faithful through all situations.

By the way, my daughter wrecked every car she had. And by “wrecked,” I mean “totaled.” Yet all is well.

Put into Practice:

As fear arises and darkness begins to suppress our hope, what are you trusting with your or your family’s life? If your boss calls you in to fire you because you messed up – is that your life ending or an opportunity for God to show his faithfulness? Are you facing financial struggles? Doesn’t God own everything, so you can trust him to provide?

To put this into practice you must take off the night vision and look at these “things” through the light of who God is and what you mean to him. Let hope be your new lens. Whatever is true, noble, of good report, praiseworthy – meditate on those things. Present your request to God, and the peace of God will guard your heart – even in the dark.

Week 3

Intro:

When I was a kid, one of my scariest memories was from when I would go deer hunting in the early morning with my dad. My dad would walk me to the stand (usually some boards nailed at the top of a tree) with no flashlight. Once we got to the stand, he’d make sure I was settled in and then would leave me all alone in the dark. I still remember how I would lean into his fading footsteps holding on to the security of him being near. Then as I sat there waiting for daylight to come, every silhouette, every noise, every shadow, in my mind was out to kill me in the most hideous ways.  It wasn’t so much the dark that frightened me as much as what I couldn’t see out there in the dark.

 

I don’t fear the dark anymore and I still don’t use a light to go to the deer stand. I guess over time, I have come to the realization that shadows are harmless, and dawn will always come. For the record, our Fort Worth campus pastor, Sam McKern, still can’t walk to the deer stand in the morning without a million-lumen light. Seriously, when he is walking to the deer stand, airplanes try to land on top of him because his light is so bright.  

 

So far, we have encouraged you to be anxious for no thing because no thing is bigger than the God who is always with you. Week Two we reminded you to interrogate your thoughts and stay focused on the truth to conquer your fears. This week we discover how to cast our anxiety and fears when dark times come into our lives.

 

Day One: A Good Report is Hard to Find

Last week we took a look at a section of Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi. I know you have it memorized but let me go ahead and include it here: Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” In another version of the text, the words “whatever is admirable” are stated as “whatever is of good report.” 

Isn’t it a shame that we live in a world full of bad reports? I personally don’t even watch the news anymore. There are several reasons behind this. One reason: I don’t have any confidence than any news source is telling me the truth as much as they are promoting an agenda. Secondly, very rarely is there anyone reporting on good things. I get it – good news doesn’t sell. But wouldn’t it be refreshing to see a newscast showing the good stuff? Imagine a camera panning across a neighborhood stating, “Today none of these houses burned down, and no one was robbed nor murdered here today.” Or how about, “Today our government worked together to pass a bill that is of great benefit to our whole society.” But that’s not how it works, is it?

Even for us personally, we tend to expect a bad report. If your boss, or your child’s teacher, or even your best friend asked to meet with you – what’s your first thought? “Uh oh!” I promise, my teacher never called my parents to tell them how I was well behaved or how I was making straight A’s or to say I was too quiet. Bad reports are one of the quickest ways to fall face first into a drowning pool of anxiety.

The Psalmist in chapter 112, verse 7 (talking about righteous people – people who obey and trust God) says, “They do not fear bad news.” What? It doesn’t say they like bad news, just that bad news doesn’t thrust them into panic and anxiety. Why is that? Keep reading, “because they confidently trust the Lord to care for them.”

Over time, as they have trusted God with small things, their confidence of his faithfulness grew. As confidence grew, faith grew, and they trusted Him with bigger things and his faithfulness was sustained. Their negative focus was replaced with positive focus and their faith increased.

 

Put It into Practice.

In Week One you made a list. Take a look at it. Hopefully you have been allowing yourself to believe more and more that God is bigger than that dark thing that was taunting you. If you’ve been believing, I know that you are beginning to recognize God’s faithfulness in those things. Guess what? Your faith is growing! Keep that in mind as we continue this week about how we cannot be afraid of the dark.

 

Day 5

Change is never easy. Like a pair of your favorite jeans we like things that we know and have grown accustomed to even living comfortable in. But as we have discovered this week our thought process and patterns although what we are used too may be the very thing that is causing our anxiety. Have you memorized your verse yet?

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. Philippians 4: 8

We need to retrain our brain to focus on what brings peace and joy to our hearts. It’s to easy to focus on the negative about others and ourselves only because that is what we have allowed to happen for whatever reason.

 

Put into Practice:  

So before we close out the week lets review.

  1. We have to take captive every thought.

  2. We have to compare that thought to what God says is true.

  3. If it is true, we cling to it because it is worth holding onto

  4. If it is not true, we let the truth destroy it and let it go.

Over time as we hold to truth more and more our thinking process will become more founded in the truth allowing us the ability to quickly discount any untruth. This help us walk in boldness and peace despite our circumstance knowing that we walk in the freedom of the truth.

 

See ya Sunday!

 

Day 4 Storming the Castle

You ever notice that the mythical Dracula didn’t live downtown in an apartment. Nope he lived in a casket in castle. His motive of operation was that he would hold up in the castle protected by his fortress until nightfall then sneak and claim his victims. Eventually some brave soul during in the daylight, would make his or her way to the castle armed with a stake and a mallet. Then proceeded to sneak into the castle, go down into the dreary basement find the casket.  Once the monster was found the protagonist would overcome their fear flip open the casket and drive the steak through Dracula’s evil heart destroying him forever! It wasn’t easy but by overcoming fear and being persistent our protagonist becomes our hero! 

Sadly, our minds are full of castles where evil destructive thoughts have taken refuge. Because we have chosen to believe them, we have allowed them too to fortify themselves into our lives. They suck the joy and peace from our us leaving us with a life of fear and anxiety.

I wish I could tell you with enough will power, positive thinking and good vibes you could be free. And to be fair that might hide those fears momentarily. If we are going to walk in the full life Jesus has promised and in the hope he gives, we need to knock down those castle so we can demolish those thoughts.  And that means we are going to need weapons bigger than what we can manufacture on our own.

Paul said this “We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. 2 Corinthians 10:4

What is God’s mighty weapon? Is there a secret verse? A Hebrew mantra we must recite? Nope. God’s mighty weapon consist simply of God’s truth. Remember we are the ones who complicate it. Jesus said “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” Whenever one of those lie have fortified themselves into your mind and heart, that tell say you are worthless or you should not do it because you are not capable or there is no way God can love you or use you, it is the truth that that destroys those lies and tears down those thoughts we have allowed to control our lives. The truth that Gods love in based on our behavior or past but on Jesus sacrifice. The truth is based on Gods capability not ours.2:29 PMhe truth that we are God’s kids and nothing can ever change that.  Those truths and many more allow us to find freedom and knockdown those debilitating castles that are tearing us down.

Put into Practice.

Are there thoughts that constantly taunt you? Have ever thought to ask yourself are they even in line with the truth of what God says about? You need to interrogate it to see the source. It’s time to tear down so lies that are stealing your joy and disrupting your peace causing you anxiety. It’s time for you to take them captive and destroy their hiding places with the great truth of God’s great love and purpose for you.

 

Day 3 Hold That Good Thought

Have you ever heard the story of The Little Engine that Could? You know the one about how the tiny engine by focusing his thoughts on his goals actually did and pulled the huge load up and over the hill.  This is a great story of the power of positive thinking. The only problem is I tend not to be a positive thinker. How about you? I often find myself defeated because I think I can’t. So yesterday Paul gave insight not just to think positively but how to demolish those negative thoughts that destroy our self-worth and fills us with fear and anxiety.  

It’s NOT the THING that Holds you BACK.  It’s HOW Your THINK about the THING that is Holding You Back. 

The picture Paul paints is that of a wrestling match.  

We demolish arguments and every pretension (false claim) that at sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5  

Step one: 

Take captive every thought. Place that thought in a strangle hold. I constantly have to do this myself. I have a thought. My first step is grab that thought and contain it so I can interrogate it.  

 

Step two: Make it obedient to the truth of Christ 

For example, you have a thought that say you are worthless, and nobody likes you. Is that true? No, it isn’t. God thought you worth enough to send his son to come to earth and die on a cross so that he could have a relationship with you. He paid the price because he knows you are worth it. And here is a shocker he likes you. Zephaniah 3:16 says and I paraphrase not only does God like you, but he delights in you so much he wants to sing to you to calm you fear and anxiety like a father holds and sings over his child. So I have this thought in a strangle hold as I interrogate it I discover that because it is a lie,  it isn’t obedient so we move on to step three.  

 

Step Three DEMOLISH!  

If you stop thinking about a thought, then it isn’t a thought anymore is it? And that’s how you kill or demolish a thought.  

The goal, or hill we have to overcome is to Demolish anything that is false. Makes sense, If you want to think about what is true, noble, just, pure and lovely you have to remove the obstacle that are not allowing you the ability to do so. The only way to demolish a lie is with the truth.  

 

Put into Practice: 

What thoughts lies are you allowing to run wild in your mind and destroying you. They are your thoughts! Tackle those thoughts! Test them! Let go of the truths and power slam the lies with the truth. Then you can be anxious for No thing! You can have a grateful attitude as you live in the peace of God and with the God of peace.  

 

Day 2: You Don’t Suck

Golf is the worst best sport ever. When it’s good it’s great! But when it’s bad it’s horrible. The difference between a great game and a horrible game, does not dependent on your skill but how you think. Here is how it usually plays out. You hit a bad shot and next thing you know you’re thinking about how awful that shot was. Then you get to the next shot still thinking about the last shot and, you guessed it, your next shot is just as horrible. Your brain kicks into overdrive and you start thinking I suck! I am selling my clubs and never playing again.

Max Homa is 28-year-old professional golfer that’s on the cover of the October Golf Digest. The headline beside his picture states “Max Homa Made the Big Fix and So Can You!” Below the headline is a quote about the big fix. “I Had to stop saying I suck!”. His Caddie Joe Greiner actually came up with it. Joe saw what Max thought process was doing in his game. Joe told Max “If you tell yourself you suck all the time, eventually you’re going to think you really do suck.

We tend to do the same thing. We hold on to our mistakes and failure and then they begin to undermine our joy and peace. We focus on our weakness not God’s strength. Next thing you know we think we suck.

The Apostle Paul had every right to tell himself he sucked! He spent most of his life fighting against Jesus. Constantly bucking this idea of a better way that Jesus was spreading. After Jesus death Paul began a crusade to eliminate this whole movement altogether. He hunted down these Christians, had them beaten, thrown in jail and even planned the murder of some of them. Guess he did kind of suck. Then Something happened he met Jesus. This one-time encounter changed his life and his thinking forever.

You can bet that Satan took every opportunity to remind Paul of all the things he had done. I am sure that he constantly lied to Paul by telling him that he wasn’t good enough. But this newfound grace provided Paul with the truth to combat these lies. The truth, that what Jesus did on the cross had provided forgiveness for all the bad Paul had done. And by the power of Jesus resurrection what Paul had done was nothing compared to what God was going to do through him.

In his second letter to the church at Corinth Paul wrote “We demolish arguments and every pretension (False claim like you suck) that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Paul discovered that the best way to defeat a lie was with the truth. When you take the truth and hold it up to a lie the truth reveals the lie. Kind of like how holding up a diamond to the light will determine if it is really or fake. Too often we buy the fake without ever holding it up to the light of truth.

Put into Practice:

As you have been working on focusing your thoughts, are you even asking if are those thoughts that dominate your mind are even true? Are they based on your past failures or what others have told you? Trust me you don’t suck. Hold with me and tomorrow we will take the next step in right thinking. Happy Tuesday.

 

 

Week 2 - Day One

Intro:

I’m not a big fan of horror movies – unfortunately, my youngest daughter is. No, I don’t let her watch the R-rated ones, so calm down. But when she does watch horror movies, we watch them together. We recently watched a borderline B movie called The Bye Bye Man. Here is the synopsis:

Three college students rent a house instead of living in the dorm because it’s cheaper – first red flag. In a flashback, a man who lived in the house kills people on his block. As he shoots his neighbors, he continually asks if anyone spoke about "the name" which cannot be said. He also repeats the same thing over and over: "Don't say it, don't think it; don't think it, don't say it.”

If you think about or say the name “Bye Bye Man,” you would give him complete access to your mind and thoughts. He would then fill your mind with hallucinations, leading you to do unthinkable things based on those illusions. The three college students stumble onto the name etched inside a nightstand drawer. Obviously, they say it as they read it out loud and begin to ponder what it means, thus thinking it. You guessed it, Bye Bye says hello and chaos ensues, ending tragically. All of this happens based on thoughts and words.

Like it or not, although The Bye Bye Man isn’t real, our thoughts are very powerful and can be either inspiring or very dangerous to our everyday life. They may not cause physical death, but they kill our joy and destroy our peace, resulting in an anxiety-filled life.

So how do we say bye bye (see what I did there?) to those thoughts that are bent on our destruction, and regain control to having a peaceful, joy-filled life? Recapturing our thoughts begins on the battlefield of the mind.

Paul continues in his letter the foundation for us to begin the battle to win back our thoughts and overcome our anxiety. This just so happens to be your memory verse this week.

Week 2 Memory verse:

Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

 Day 1: Focusing our Thoughts

Thoughts are a lot more powerful than we want to believe. Many mental disorders stem directly from how we think.  If you think you’re fat all the time and you obsess over it, that can lead to anorexia or even death. When you read about all the phobias, you’ll discover that irrational fears are consuming our society. Consider poor Monday, which is actually the start of a new week – a clean slate to begin afresh. Yet Monday is instead something we dread, programmed into our minds by negative thinking.

 Matshona Dhliwayo, author and philosopher says, “Never give a negative thought an inch or it will take a mile.”

 We cannot control our conditions. Neither can we control the thoughts that “randomly” pop into our minds. But we can control the thoughts we choose to focus on. It’s been said, “Whatever you focus on, you will achieve.” If you drive or walk, you have seen this play out in the physical realm. You get distracted and take your eyes off where you are going, and next thing you know you are off course, crashing or tripping into some direction you never intended to go.

 When we allow ourselves to be fooled into focusing on negative thoughts, they will soon begin to manifest themselves into our everyday life and our life ends up something totally different than we expected or wanted. So, we must learn to focus on the good thoughts.

Paul says it this way. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8

If we focus on wrong things, it produces fear and anxiety. When we focus on the right things, peace is produced. We must learn how to focus on the thoughts that lead us to peace. The problem is, most of us are in the habit of just letting our thoughts run wild, never recognizing that they are our thoughts and we have the right and the power to control them, not the opposite.

Put into Practice:

As we move through this week, I want you to begin to think about how you think. Yes, that is what I meant. Instead of allowing thoughts to just run wild in your mind, I want you to pause and ask the questions, “Does this thought make the list? Is it worthy of my precious time? Is this thought bringing me peace or causing me fear?”

 You will need some help to begin to reprogram how you process thoughts, so start by praying and asking God to help you focus your process. We will work more on that the rest of the week. Bye bye! Have a great Monday!