Apricots blossoming in the Safe Haven Farm orchard, Haven, KS

Old thoughts don’t belong in a new life

The brain is a miracle. Have you ever stopped to marvel at it? It’s the most complex computer ever created, and even though we use it every day (some of us less than others), we still don’t understand why it does what it does most of the time. My brain thinks all the time, and mostly I can keep my mouth shut, though when I’m tired who knows what I’ll say.

Most of the time, my thoughts are positive, constructive, helpful, but on rare occasions, they’re the opposite. Sometimes I just wake up and I’m in a bad mood. Sometimes I crawl out of bed and have to face the world when all I want to do is hide from it. And it’s on those days when it’s important to have some kind of rein on your thoughts, because you live what you think. Your life is a reflection of your thoughts, maybe not immediately. You can have bad thoughts and still keep up the appearance of a good life, but if you have lived a life infused with bad thinking, your actions will reveal it.

Apricots blossoming in the Safe Haven Farm orchard, Haven, KS

Apricots blossoming in the Safe Haven Farm orchard, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Colossians 3:1.

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand.

Our busy, crazy, out-of-control lives make it really easy to focus our thoughts on everything that’s going wrong. Even our life circumstances seem to conspire to get us to think about the unfairness or the injustice we face daily. But as followers of Christ, what should we think about? That’s an important question to ask yourself.

The Bible is the ultimate how-to book. It has everything you need to live a life that’s pleasing to God and satisfying for you. It’s not an easy read. It’s painful most of the time, but if you really take it in and build your life on it, not only will you have peace with God, you’ll have peace with yourself.

One of the topics the Bible tackles frequently is our thought life. I love that phrase: thought life. We all have one. We have our life that we live where everyone can see us, and then we have our thought life that we live in silence, in shadow, in secret from everyone but God. Some people’s thoughts would shock you. What people think in the anonymity of their own minds would rock your world. And sometimes I forget that God can hear me, and honestly that’s embarrassing. It’s worse than cussing at a bad driver when I have a guest in my car.

When we choose to follow Christ, He gives us a new life, and part of that new life is having power to make choices like He does. As a follower of Christ, you can choose not to sin. You can know what sin is and choose not to do it. Part of that comes down to what you’re thinking about. You have power over your thoughts. Just because a random spark of an idea pops into your mind, that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. That doesn’t mean it’s something you should spend a lot of time focusing on. Just because you thought it doesn’t make it true or real or good, and you can choose whether to keep thinking about it or discard it.

As Christ-followers, our thoughts should reflect Christ. What we focus on should be the things that last forever. We have new life; why should we nurse old thoughts?

So the next time a thought pops into your brain, examine it. Don’t just cling to it because it’s your thought. Don’t mull over it like it’s something precious inherently. Identify it. Compare it to Scripture. Is it something God would think about? Is it something you would be ashamed to tell Jesus you were thinking about (even though He already knows)? Is it helpful? Is it encouraging? Does it make you better for thinking it?

If it’s a thought that tears you down, get rid of it. If it’s a thought that belittles someone’s existence, get rid of it. If it’s a thought that demonstrates rebellion toward God or other authorities, get rid of it. If it’s a thought that in any way contradicts what God says is right in the Bible, don’t think it. You don’t have to. You have power over your thoughts, so exercise it and think about things that will help you.

It starts with your thinking. Letting your thoughts rot with hurtful, hateful, selfish things will make you a hurtful, hateful, selfish person, and no Christ follower should live like that. Set your sights–focus your thoughts–on the things that are real, the things that matter, the things that will last forever. Before you know it, your life will be focused on the things that are real, the things that matter, the things that will last forever.

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Sunset at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Some choices are better than others

Are you ever torn between two good options? Do you ever not know how to make a decision, especially when the two choices facing you are both good? That’s one of the troubles of choosing to follow Christ. You have so many good choices you can make, it’s difficult to choose which one. But even in following Christ, there are good choices and there are great choices. It just depends on what your motivation is for making that choice.

Both choices can lead to real happiness as long as both choices are about Christ and not about us. But the truth of the matter is that God isn’t going to bring us home until He’s done with us down here. If we really are following Christ and making a difference for Him in other people’s lives, it’s better for us to keep doing what we’re doing.

Sunset at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Sunset at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Philippians 1:20-26.

For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live. Knowing this, I am convinced that I will remain alive so I can continue to help all of you grow and experience the joy of your faith. And when I come to you again, you will have even more reason to take pride in Christ Jesus because of what he is doing through me.

Paul wasn’t afraid to die. He was confident that he wasn’t going to, but even if he did die, he wasn’t afraid of it because he knew where he was going. He had confidence in Christ, and that’s what mattered. Actually, that’s what he wanted. He wanted to go home because if he died he would get to go be with Christ. But if he died, he would be gone from here. And there was still work to do. There were still people to help. And Paul recognized that God had put him in place for a reason. God still had a plan for him, and even though dying for his faith would be a good option, living for others was a better one.

Sometimes I think I get so focused on going home that I forget why I’m here in the first place. God doesn’t make mistakes. He puts us where He wants us, and He moves us when He wants us to move, and we can choose to grow where we’re planted (or transplanted) or not. Many people have been killed for their faith in Christ, not in America but all over the world. And there is always a purpose in that. God always uses that. But you don’t have to die for your faith for God to use you.

Do you know other believers in your church? Get to know them. Are you part of a church? Get involved and make a difference. You never know how God can use you until you decide to allow Him to do something with you.

I go through seasons of involvement at my church. I used to be involved in every ministry that was available, but that was back when I was younger. Looking back on that time, I don’t know how I did it. Six years of non-stop craziness, plus school, plus working practically full time. It makes me tired just thinking about it. And I burned out. I ran myself ragged and painted myself into a corner and came crashing down. And that’s not what we’re supposed to do.

If you work yourself to death, maybe that brings glory to God too. I don’t know. But once you’re dead, He can’t use you down here anymore. And burn-out is about the same.

So, yes, I had to step back and recover, but I never stopped investing in people one at a time. And that’s the difference. God puts people in our path for a reason, and if you know Him and you know others who are searching for Him or who need encouragement, why would you refuse to offer it if you have it? You don’t have to be involved in every ministry under the sun. You can just help one person at a time.

And I’m not talking about non-believers right now. Yes, we have a responsibility to reach out to people who don’t believe, but we are also here to build each other up. We’re also here to support each other and hold each other accountable and pray for each other. It’s uncomfortable at times. And it’s usually inconvenient. Satan will make it even more so because the last thing he wants is for believers to show love to each other, because that’s how we show everyone else that we’re different.

It’s one of our purposes for being here. And there’s nothing that brings joy in my life more than when I can fulfill a purpose that was intended for my life. So if you have the opportunity to encourage another believer, if you have the chance to help another believer, do it. Most likely, God brought that person in your path for that specific reason. Maybe the happiness won’t come right away as a result of helping another believer, but it will come.

You want to make a difference for Christ? Yeah. Dying for your faith is a good choice. But living for your brothers and sisters in Christ, showing Jesus’ love to those who believe the same way you do? That’s a better choice.

What really matters

Sometimes it is difficult for me to distinguish the difference between my life and my actions. It’s very easy to get caught up in thinking that you are what you do, and it’s even easier to label people (yourself and others) by your job description or by your talents or by your accomplishments. Tony is a lawyer. Sarah is a dancer. Jake is the winner of the race.

I think we label people because we can’t see inside them. So it’s easier to identify people by putting labels on them, either to help us distinguish them from the crowd or to keep them safe in a box where they won’t threaten us. Either way, people are far more than how their labels describe them. We usually just can’t see it.

Every individual’s life is precious. There’s no denying or disputing that. Every person is unique and special and God sacrificed His most precious blood to save us.

Conversely, our actions are repeatable. Our accomplishments can be bested. Our job descriptions change, sometimes like the wind. And our talents aren’t really that unique, if you think about. Any “new” talent anyone has probably isn’t truly new; it just hasn’t been seen before.

I got to thinking about this when I read today’s verse of the day.

Acts 20:24

24 But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.

I find this interesting because Paul (who is speaking) was a pretty important guy. He was educated. He was intelligent. He was a Jew among Jews, which at the time meant he was pretty special. But none of those things mattered to him after he started following Jesus. I’m sure Paul accomplished a lot in his life, but the only thing that mattered to him after he started following Jesus was telling other people about Him.

This really made me wonder about the worth of my own actions.

My life, as in who I am inside, is precious to God. I get that. But what about my actions? What about the things I have done that haven’t been for Him?

Anything I have done only for myself really has no bearing on God. The things I do for myself are small and insignificant because they only benefit me — and most of the time I don’t know if it’s an actual benefit or not.

But the things I have done for God, not matter how small they start out, they usually end up ballooning until hundreds of people are blessed or encouraged. And most of the time, I never intended to accomplish anything like that. I just knew I needed to do what God had called me to do, and I did it. I had no idea how He would use it.

There’s an old hymn (I think it’s a hymn) called “Little is Much When God Is in It” and I think that’s very true.

We only have a limited time on Earth. Compared to eternity, it’s not even substantial enough to classify. The Bible just calls it a vapor, a puff of smoke. One moment here, the next moment gone. So in that limited time, what are we going to accomplish? What talent are we going to pursue? What job are we going to do? And what is the point?

Paul felt like his accomplished life would be worth nothing if it weren’t directed at doing God’s work, at finishing the task that had been appointed to him by God. I agree with that. And I agree with it in the perspective of my own life. The things that I have done for myself won’t last. But the things I’ve done for others in God’s name? That’s a whole different ball game.

I know many Newtonian Laws passed out of vogue with the advent of Einstien’s Theory of Relativity and the craziness of Quantum Physics but as far as I can tell, every action still has an opposite and equal reaction. What we do on Earth effects what our lives will be like in eternity. Our choices on Earth directly effect our lives in eternity. I don’t want to say that Earth is the proving grounds of Heaven, but it kind of is. If you can choose to live your life for Christ while you are mired in the darkness of this world, if you can see past the temporariness that is life on Earth and realize that what is coming after Earth is so much better, if you can live for eternity now while you’re dying with every breath — heaven will be a rewarding place.

I know my life is precious. But my actions are useless, futile, and small until I do them for God.

C.T. Studd wrote a poem that I think pretty much sums up what Paul was saying:

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

In the grand scheme of life, our actions will either make us greater on earth or bring us greater reward in heaven (which usually means we are made more humble on earth). The next promotion won’t last. The next “new” talent will fade into obscurity. The next accomplishment will pass as soon as someone does something better or greater. But the things you do for Christ remain and will be remembered forever, if not by people then by God Himself. And that is what really matters.