Purifying our Thought Life (Part 1)

Last month, we started an intro discussion on how to purify our priorities and how we discover more of God’s desires as we love at all costs. Today I want to continue in the same vain, but switch gears slightly by exploring ways we can purify our thought life.

But before I dive in, let me just say…I may have gotten a little ahead of myself in writing that last post. ‘Cause while godly resolutions are certainly worth discussing, if we don’t have that foursquare foundation (i.e. mind, heart, soul, strength) set and surrendered, then we’ll likely find it difficult to live how we want to live/how we’re called to live when we reach the crossroads of life…

…which brings me to why I’m writing this…

…that no matter where we find ourselves, we’ll be reminded how the greatest battle is the one unseen1

With that said, here are three (of many) ways to purify your “thought life”.

1) Pay Attention

As obvious as this may sound, it bears mention at the #1 spot ‘cause…let’s face it: it’s hard to change something you’re not aware of.  Thankfully, when we pay close attention to our thought life, it’s not long before we’re able to identify those patterns and triggers that shape the framework of what we believe and how we behave.

For example, one of my guilty thought habits in recent years has been to focus on people who’ve hurt me whenever I work out.  More often than not, I’ll be running along rockin’ out to my jams only to hit a burst of energy as I indulge the idea of proving them wrong.

Now, as a runaholic, I can appreciate the extra bounce in my step; however, as I recently realized, whatever “benefit” is gained on behalf of vain fantasy is worth giving up for the sake of thinking like Jesus. After all, it was him who regularly taught how a person’s thoughts determine who that person is.

In my case, I was taking past pain and projecting it into fiction so I could somehow feel “un-rejected” and appreciated; however, if only I hadn’t engaged the pattern to the point it matured into habit, perhaps it’d be easier for me to trust God as far as who He says I am today.

Bottom line: Before we can take action on purifying a thought pattern, we first must be made aware of it. Only then can we begin to proactively renew our minds.

2) Pray Attention

While recognizing growth potential is certainly freeing, it’s not until we encounter that growth that we experience freedom. That’s why I submit the best way to boost awareness into action is through prayer. ‘Cause as it pertains to our thoughts, if we are willing to take our thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:5) and submit them to the authority of Christ, we’ll inevitably discover the joy in repentance…not to mention being transparent and vulnerable before the Lord.

Think of it like this: your mind is a spiritual battleground where evil forces combat agents of light every day. If you know your mind is being pursued, you wouldn’t want to leave it unprotected, right?

So how then must we defend it? 

By declaring the Word through prayer2! See…this is why knowing and meditating on the Word of God is so important…’cause if you’re fearless and faithful to cover yourself in prayer…then you can ultimately experience the wonder-working power of God’s truths transforming that foursquare foundation we mentioned earlier.

Bottom line: By purifying your thought life through prayer, you put yourself in position for His thoughts to become your thoughts.

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3) Stand at Attention

As great as prayer is, purifying your thought life doesn’t end there. Yes, catching bad thoughts and making them obedient to Christ is important, but it’s not until this exchange becomes a daily pattern that we begin to see heart + mind + soul-change.

Thus, if we want to seal the deal in purifying our thought life, we must be committed to stand at attention…at all times (Ephesians 6:14-17, 1 Corinthians 16:13). Only then can we truly pull our negative thinking out by the roots.

Bottom line: Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.” ~ Abraham Lincoln3

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In closing, I encourage you to put these three steps into motion the way God has you.

Just make sure that whatever route you choose, you…

Consider your goals…

Create a game-plan…

* …and close out by praying over it/submitting it to God so He can breathe over your good intentions with His intentions.

Remember: the world’s counsel will try to distract you from bad thoughts4, but through Christ, you can defeat and conquer them.

I don’t know about you, but I’ll take the permanent solution all day, every day.

Stay tuned next time when we’ll go one step further in troubleshooting some of the more stubborn, resilient thought patterns. In the meantime, if any of this resonates with you, feel free to shoot a comment below.

Peace…

~ Cameron

Footnotes

1) A notion completely contrarian to what we find embedded within our fragile, postmodern world

2) Seriously…if you were ever looking for a weapon that never fails…Word-fused prayer is it

3) Think of points #1 and #2 as getting your feet in the right place…and #3 as “stand firm”

4) Like yoga, journaling (which isn’t bad unless it’s an ends to a mean itself), Oprah’s “no-nonse strategies”, etc.

Photo creds: cutwatersolutions.com & fbccov.org

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.

Purifying our Priorities (Part 1)

Well, folks…it’s that time of year again.

  • HR Block is heating up its campaign…
  • Companies are sending out their W-2/1099’s…
  • TV’s are going on sale’
  • …and New Year resolutions are officially underway2.

After all, ’tis the season to be better, right? To start afresh and anew…and to grab change by the horns…

But perhaps you’re like me in the sense you wonder how many really know how to do this…or maybe you’re hesitant…afraid of prematurely falling off the resolution bandwagon.

Whatever the case, it’s important we get real about the type of world we live in. ‘Cause when we take a good, hard look into the deep, dark crevices of our culture, we find we’ve grown too content taking matters into our own hands…yet too passive in carrying them out…

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…a paradoxical attribute of a society that constantly suggests having a heartfelt desire is “good enough”.

Not that “heartfelt desires” are bad; by all means, we were created to have them.

I’m just saying if we truly want to reach the next level (in any phase of life), it doesn’t make sense to be self-reliant, given the human tendency to fall short and mishandle change. Conversely, if we want to see growth become a permanent reality in our life, we not only have to accept the existence of a higher alternative, but we must be willing to depend on it as a supreme solution that exists (and only exists) in God Himself.

All that said… How do we turn our heartfelt desires, the seeds God’s plants within us, into lasting realities? How do we change from the inside out in a way that takes deep root within?

Before we can answer these questions with a customized five-point self-improvement series3, I submit we must first be willing to purify our priorities…

…which can only happen when we become intentional in spending time with God.

But first..what exactly is a “priority”?

According to the Random House Websters Dictionary...

  • priority is “something that’s regarded as more important…a right to precede above in rank, privilege, etc. …
  • …and “to prioritize” is a process by which we arrange, particularly in order of importance, relevance, value, etc.

Thus, when we consider what a priority is…and apply it to morality…our faith, we ultimately discover the importance of recognizing God’s priorities for our life.

Take Philippians 1, for instance, where in verses 9-10, Paul prays for the Philippians’ love to abound all the more so they could better discern and approve the things that are excellent4.

Essentially, Paul is saying: if you’re feeling overcommitted, overloaded, overwhelmed…if you’re mired in apathy, confusion, striving…or simply trying to decide what is best, what’s best for your spiritual well-being…and those around you…the answer is simple: love at all costs!

when-we-start-spending-time-with-god-178
‘Cause at the end of the day, we all need Jesus in the middle of our everything…not only so we can conquer the burdens of life…but so we can love better in every circumstance (hence Paul’s use of the word “abound”).

My thought is: let’s be unified in seeking first the Kingdom (Matthew 6:33) together…in being fervent in loving one another (1 Peter 4:8; Colossians 3:14)…so we may…

  • Better identify what’s most important in our own life…
  • Better concentrate on the relationships God has called us to…
  • Be quicker in our humble obedience…
  • Be more available to God, our family, those God has called us to be around…
  • Use time more effectively, including family and ministry time (and not sacrificing one for the other)…

…all the while being Spirit-led everywhere in between.

Stay tuned next time for “part 2” of this series, where I’ll discuss a couple practical pointers on how we can better engage God in our midst and live transformationally in 2016.

Footnotes

1) In prep for the Super Bowl

2) Take a good, hard look at gym attendance…and you’ll see what I mean

3) Granted, this is a popular trend this time of year

4) I don’t know about you, but I love this association, specifically how Paul links “the greatest gift of all” (i.e. “love”) to our call to judge righteously.

Photo creds: lightwork.typepad.com, quotesgram.com, indy.shine.fm

Coping with the “Part-Time Perception”: Part 2

Last time, we laid some introductory groundwork as to how a bivocational minister can rightfully deal with the ‘part-time label’, whether it’s with the stigma itself or the actual process of juggling multiple responsibilities.

Today, we’re going to discuss the first way a part-time pastor can shatter this stereotype without compromise.

But just as a quick prelude before we dig deeper into the matter, granted I’m probably getting ahead of myself here…

…regardless of the strategies discussed, the one thing a bivocational minister must do is be intentional about loving people. Because without love, it’s impossible for any gameplan to succeed…for any agenda to be prioritized righteously, whether inside or outside the church.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Psh, c’mon, Cam! Easier said than done. Besides, in today’s world, it’s completely unrealistic to expect a part-time minister to be available and visible at all the right times.”

Granted, I’m not trying to be legalistic or unreasonable in my approach.

However, I am suggesting that in order to properly cope with the part-time label, a minister must be willing to die to what men think and expect. ‘Cause at the end of the day, what matters most is consistent obedience working in tandem with love. So if the bivocational minister pursues his assignments faithfully, then God will surely break through and bring to life the light and fruit necessary to impact the saints, as well as the lost.

Thus, the first way a part-time pastor can buck the ‘PT’ label is to die…and in doing so, establish a rhythm of healthy prioritizing by making time to love.

Internally (i.e. “reaching in”), this can be accomplished by keeping select hours open for counseling and staff mentoring, setting daily/weekly times to pray and serve members of the congregation (whether through hospital trips, random acts of kindness or simply engaging their interests) and celebrating notable milestones with staff.

Externally (i.e. “reaching out”), this can be accomplished by regularly participating in Isaiah 58-type ministries, serving in community outreaches outside the church, building community networks and knowing, praying…even teaming with key political leaders.

Of course, there’s much more we could tag on, as this list is only the tip of the ministerial iceberg.

At any rate, the opportunities for a minister to influence by love, whether it’s listening, caring, praying or simply being available, are endless. And yes, I know it can be difficult to find time…but at the end of the day, love needs to a transparent platform to be effective. So if you regularly find yourself lacking the time, ask the Lord to not only help you refine your priorities, but how much time should be devoted to each individual priority.

Speaking of refining priorities, next time, we’ll talk about how bivocational ministers can model efficient time management skills to church members and staff, using their part-time status as an efficient template.