Thinking

Four Worldview Questions

What is your take on the world around you? The way in which we see the world around us and the people in it, determine our belief system. It shapes the way we interpret life events, from the simple every day things (No milk for my cereal) to the terrible (a child killed in a car wreck). This take on life shapes our view of ourselves and others and what it means to have a meaningful life. Our take on the world shapes our beliefs, emotions and every day decisions. Each one of us is in a story that we live, moment by moment. We try to find meaning in things and try to find purpose in life.

We sometimes feel helpless and hopeless. We suffer because of the decisions of others. We hurt because of broken relationships. We hurt and suffer because of our own bad decisions. We have moments of happiness and great joy and moments of sadness and despair.

Everything that happens around us and too us goes through a filter or lens that shapes our perspective. The big question then is what lens will we use?

These four questions are a starting point to contemplate our worldview. Brian Walsh and J. Richard Middleton propose four basic worldview questions:

  1. Where are we? That is, what is the nature of the world in which we live?
  2. Who are we? Or, what is the essential nature of human beings?
  3. What’s wrong? That is, why is the world (and my life) in such a mess?
  4. What’s the remedy? Or, how can these problems be solved?

These questions, and how we answer them, form the backbone of how we interpret our personal stories. It determines how we view our relationships, our work, our families, our struggles, our circumstances and God.

I try to live with a Biblical lens. As a Christian this can be difficult at times because we are so influenced by the world around us. Many Christians do not have a Biblical Worldview, but one that takes several worldviews and meshes it into one that fits our lifestyle. That is why so many Christians get divorced, sue each other, act unethically at work, have affairs, have sex outside marriage, live together before marriage, judge others, look out for ourselves, spend more than they make, file bankruptcy, drink too much alcohol, explode in anger and I could go on and on.

Don’t get me wrong, just because you have a Biblical worldview does not mean you will not struggle and go through hardships. What it does mean is that you will respond in a different way when those things happen. It means you will make different decisions when facing tough circumstances. It means you look to what God has to say before you make decisions. It means you stay close to God and dig into Scripture for answers instead of the world around you. It means you see yourself as a saint, set apart as a child of God. A saint that may suffer hardships and illness and must fight against the temptations to sin.

We are in a bigger story, one being written by God and we get to play a part in that story. So what is your worldview or take on life?

The Happiness Sucker

“Worry is to joy, what a vacuum cleaner is to dirt; you might as well attach your heart to a happiness sucker and flip the switch.” Max Lucado said that, and it makes sense. Worry is focused negative thinking and it can get the best of us. Before we know it we are consumed with a certain problem or issue. It’s all we can think about and it sucks up our time, our thoughts, our energy and our joy.

Jesus tells us “give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”

We don’t know what the future holds, but we do know the One who holds the future.

Have you discovered the difference between problems and facts? Problems are things we can do something about; we can solve problems. Facts are things we can do nothing about; therefore we do well not to worry about them. We should apply energy only to those things we can change. We can feel peace and act with poise, because we no longer beat our heads against an unbreakable wall, when we stop worrying and start trusting. When we stop worrying and focus on how we can change through this hardship.

Whatever you are facing today, know that God has promised to walk with you, to give you strength when you need it, courage and wisdom at just the right time. But that can only happen if we are giving our entire attention to what God is doing. So don’t allow worry to suck all the joy out of your life. Try some focused positive thinking for a change and see what happens.

Choices Part 4 – The Big Eight

This is part 4 about Choices. The idea is that we get to choose what we think about and how we respond to everything that happens to us.

One of the greatest truth in life is this: It’s not what happens to us (our past, present or future circumstances) or what people do or say to us that determine our emotions. Our emotions, words and actions come from what we think about after things happen to us. We control all of our emotions, words and actions by what we think. Emotions, words and actions are data telling us what we have been thinking.

I have been sharing some of my favorite Scriptures that have helped me over the years to transform my mind and heart. Today I want to focus on Philippians 4:8-9. this verse gives us eight big things for our minds to dwell on.

“Finally, brothers, 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. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me, put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

Did you catch the 8 powerful, life changing words? I guess you could call them the Big Eight: true, noble/honorable, right, pure, lovely/beautiful, admirable/adorable, excellent and praiseworthy.

If we can get control over our thoughts and think about such things, it can lead to controlling our emotions, words, actions and we can avoid all kinds of pain and hurt in our relationships. It starts by making the choice to monitor what we are putting into our minds. There is so much available to us through technology that it becomes difficult to filter out the things that do not make that list.

Take a quick inventory of what you have been watching on TV or the Internet. What movies have you been watching? What books or magazines have you been reading? Who have you been listening to? What has captured your attention?

The things we feed our mind affect what we think about. No one controls how we think therefore, no one has the power to control how you feel, speak or act. When we get into unhealthy conflict with someone it almost always is because our thinking has been influenced by our emotions. Conflict is a good thing, because it helps us grow, but it is our unhealthy responses that lead to the destruction of the relationship. Fear is usually the culprit. I will be leading a Marriage workshop in a couple of weeks called Refocus Your Marriage. We will be looking at this idea of fear influencing how we handle conflict. If you are married, I would encourage you to sign up for the work shop at NewPointe.

If we can make the Big Eight a part of our thought process it will spur on the transformation of our minds. Using those eight words as a filter for what we allow into our minds and what gets our attention will bring new levels of peace, love, joy, kindness, gentleness, patience, faithfulness and self-control.


Choices Part 3

I have been writing about how our thoughts affect our emotions and then our behavior. To bring about lasting long-term change in our lives we need to transform our minds. I started sharing some Scriptures that have helped me to transform my thinking. The first two are Ephesians 3:16-20 and 2 Corinthians 10:3-5.

Today I want to share a powerful truth that has transformed my life. I first heard this truth on a business tape someone gave me. It wasn’t until later that I realized this comes from God’s word. Here it is: You become what you think!

Proverbs 23:7 says “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” and in Galatians 6:7 it says “A man reaps what he sows.”

Whatever thoughts we sow into our mind, we will reap the consequences. We become what we think. Everything about us is the result of what we have been thinking about. Daydreaming is thinking, planning is thinking, doubt is thinking, reacting to circumstances is thinking, imagining is thinking, guilt is thinking, jealousy is thinking and on and on.

Years of self talk or thinking have shaped us into the person we are today. Our personality, the way we see ourselves, other people and God is shaped by what we think about. If we have been thinking things like “bad things are always happening to me, I just can’t do anything right, I am not good at anything, everyone takes advantage of me” that shapes the person we are today. Any continual practice of negative thinking will bring on negative emotions, actions and words.

This truth became real for me when God was calling me to full-time ministry. I felt God was asking me to step out into ministry, but I was very confused and unsure of the future. I had a great job with a solid company. While I was their I kept thinking and acting like I was already in full-time ministry at this company. I remember telling myself over and over again that I am a pastor that happens to be working at this company. That impacted the way I treated my fellow employees and clients. The way I viewed my role in the company and the way I responded to circumstances was shaped by my thoughts.

After about two years of that line of thinking, I actually was given the opportunity to go on staff at my local church. I remember telling God that I was willing to stay where I was at as long as he wanted me there. I was not in control of anything except my thinking. When I left no one in the company was surprised, they knew that was a great fit for me and celebrated with me when I left.

The same thing can happen when we think in a negative way. When something bad happens to us, we are in control of what we think about this bad thing. Those thoughts determine your future emotions, words and actions. The range of emotions from joy to sadness come from our thoughts. When you think a certain way long enough it becomes a belief and when we believe something long enough we become what we believe.

If we are thinking the worst about our spouse, we tend to treat them in a negative way. It causes our emotions to be negative toward him or her and therefore our actions and words follow. That brings about a slow death to the relationship.

That is why it is so critical to think about what is true. When we feed our mind truth and we focus our thinking on the things of God it shapes who we are and how we respond to everything.

So what are you thinking about? What gets most of your attention? What do you think about yourself? Where do you see yourself next year? What do you think about God? What do you think about your spouse? Your boss? Your parents? Your job? Your church?

Who are you becoming? What you are sowing today, will eventually become a reality. The more we seek God the more we start to think like He thinks and the more we transform who we are.

Choices Part Two

In my last post I talked about how we think impacts our emotions and our behavior. We all have the ability to control our thoughts and therefore manage our emotions. Today I want to talk about how to impact our thinking and transform our minds, so that we can control those negative destructive thoughts that hurt our relationships.

Much of this I learned from studying the writings of Gary Smalley and the Scriptures. I will be sharing Six Scriptures over the course of this week that we can focus on and transform the way we think. I will talk about two today:

  1. Ephesians 3:16-20 – “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.

We have the capacity of having unlimited power, love, fulfillment and life when Christ’s Holy Spirit lives inside us. Notice how the Paul the author mentions both power and love three times. Christ’s power within us is evidenced by our love toward others, our ability to live His will for us, our sense of peace and fulfillment on a daily basis and our overall Christ-like character.

With God’s power in us we can do amazing things. We can take control of our thoughts and include God in everything we are trying to do. Whether I am thinking about about talking with my spouse or friend, working on an important project, exercising for 30 minutes, or reading a blog, I’m continually aware of this unlimited power within me. Jesus told us that we would be able to do greater things than He did, can you imagine that? Think for a moment about the incredible power that is available to us every day at every moment. All we need to do is plug into the power source. That power can help us love and serve the way God wants us to.

2. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 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.”

Because of the great power within us, we can take every one of our thoughts (beliefs, dreams, ideas) captive to the obedience of Christ. That means we can think like Jesus would think, and therefore do what Jesus did. Since all of our emotions, words and actions start in our heart and mind, we can wake up every day with the assurance that we have the power to control how we feel, what we say and how we act all day long. With God’s weapons we can demolish the things that keep us in bondage and hold us back from a fulfilling life.

No one is a victim. If I am on the beach and I notice a beautiful woman with a great shape, I can think that God did a great job in designing her, but if my mind starts to go in a lustful direction, I have the power to say to my mind, NO! That thought does not line up with God’s word. I can tell myself, “Sorry thoughts, I will not allow lustful thinking about this person.” God’s word tells us in Philippians 4:8 “Finally brothers, 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.”

Those lustful thoughts do not fit any of those words. So if our thoughts don’t fit with any of those words, we should not allow those thoughts to continue. Any thoughts that lead to the death or destruction of a relationship is not from God. Thoughts that lead me to commit sin or to do something selfish are not from God either. It may sound impossible, but with the supernatural power of Christ it is possible. On our own we will struggle and fail, but everything is possible with Christ who strengthens us. We need to take small steps in that direction and with each victory our thinking will be transformed. We have the power to control our thoughts.

Choices

I have been studying and learning about relationships for over 20 years. I have read lots of books, gone to seminars, listened to hundreds of messages and talks and have even done some writing of my own on this topic of relationships and marriage. Of all the resources I have found the Bible to be the absolute best at teaching us how to have healthy relationships.

As I have studied the Bible and other resources I have picked up some keys to healthy relationships. One of the overriding themes I have gotten is that we all have choices in life and relationships. We can’t always choose our relationships, but we can choose how we will think and act in those relationships. The relationships that we do get to choose, we continue to choose how healthy they become. We can choose who we spend our time with and we also choose actions that either damage or repair our relationships on a daily basis. We have three main choices:

  1. We choose each day whether we will work at improving or destroying our relationships.
  2. Every day we pick our priorities – who we spend time with, how we spend our money, where we put our energy and who gets our attention. Getting out of balance is so easy when we lives busy lives.
  3. The biggest choice we make every day is what we think about when something happens in our life. You see, it’s not what happens to you that determines your response, it’s what you think that determines your emotional response to what happened or what was said.

Here are some questions for you to ponder from author Gary Smalley:

  • Have you ever identified a pattern in your relationships where the problem is always the other person’s fault? Have you ever felt helpless when the other person refuses to change?
  • What type of choices do you make with others? Are you willing to repair any of your relationships? Make a list of the relationships that are in need of repair.
  • Would you say it is time to start making some changes? List a few of the changes you would like to make.

Did you know that we were designed with the ability to control all of our thoughts and therefore all of your emotions? Wow, that’s a knew thought.

Proverbs 23:7 says “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” and Galatians 6:7 says “Whatever a man sows in his heart, that is what he will reap.”

So, what we choose to think about and focus on will determine all of our emotions. After each experience we have, our mind starts going into high gear. We analyze what just happened. We fill in the gaps with assumptions and we draw our thinking from previous experience to determine what the future results will be. All of those thoughts start to stir up our emotions, which causes our stress level to slowly or quickly rise. When our stress level is elevated our body begins to react chemically in order to physically respond to the stress. That often causes us to respond or react in ways that are not healthy. Soon we are in a vicious cycle that deteriorates the relationships we value the most.

I hope you get the picture. In my next post I will talk about some Scriptures that we can focus on to transform our thinking and therefore our emotions and then our behavior. That then leads us to more power, love, fulfillment and life.

Irrational Beliefs

Do you have any irrational beliefs? Did you know that irrational beliefs, cause us to make irrational decisions, which lead to bad consequences and often much pain. When we come to the choices of life, our beliefs really direct what choice we make. If your beliefs are off or irrational, you will go with what you believe, which often leads to bondage.

If you believe you are worthless, unworthy, dumb or ugly, your decisions will line up with that belief. Many of these irrational beliefs have been planted in us from an early age. As we grow up these lies have been ingrained into us to the point that we really believe them. Things about ourselves, the world, relationships, money, sex, and even God.

Rational emotional behavior is vital to a healthy person. When you are faced with an event that is causing you to make a decision, your beliefs guide that decision. Consequences follow that decision. An emotionally healthy person will dispute irrational beliefs, with truth, which leads to effective beliefs that lead to better decisions.

We need to dispute our irrational negative thinking, by seeking truth. We need to doubt the doubts that we often have. We need to take thoughts captive and let truth set us free from irrational beliefs and behavior. The only way to do that is to fill our mind with truth. The Bible is filled with truth, about how to live life. Truth about money, sex, work, relationships, marriage, serving, loving, giving.

We have been looking at lies that Satan wants us to believe over the past several weeks at NewPointe. Things like, God can’t be trusted, I can’t change who I am, Sure it’s sin, but I can get away with it. Or this one – God can’t use me.

God uses imperfect people, messed up people. Doubt the irrational beliefs that come into your mind. Those thoughts and beliefs are not from God. Start seeking truth with all your heart today.

Planning

I have been spending a good bit of time planning lately. I try to spend time every week planning out what I want to accomplish that week. I lay out the main areas I oversee and then spend time thinking about each of those areas. It helps me to decide where I need to focus and who I need to meet with. It is kind of like sharpening the axe before cutting down the tree.

I also have been working on the strategic plan for my department for 2009. This involves developing a budget, laying out some goals and formulating the systems that will help me accomplish those goals. I love to think ahead and make plans. I also know that the best laid plans can change in an instant. I always try to stay flexible and ready to make changes if needed. Especially working in a church environment, things can change quickly. Sometimes even priorities can shift for a period of time.

The other thing I have been working on is my personal growth plan for 2009. I spent some time thinking about the things I can do to grow physically, emotionally and spiritually. I also tried to think of some systems that could help me achieve those personal goals.

You might say, what good does it do to make all those plans and spend all that time thinking ahead. For me, it helps me to lead people better. It also helps me lead myself better, which is even more important. The best leaders out there spend a good bit of time leading themselves. Working on their areas of strength and managing their areas of weakness. If it has been a while since you made plans, I suggest you start today.

If you want to have a better marriage, you better make some plans on how you will make that happen. If you want to lose weight or get in shape, you better decide how you are going to go about doing that. If you want to grow your business or stay in business, you better start making some strategic plans. This is what some people call working on it instead of in it.

It is so easy to get caught up in the day to day stuff of work and family and never step back and look at the future. If you don’t do that, you can’t see the changes you need to make, the adjustments you need to be successful and the mistakes you are heading for. So take an afternoon, get away from the office or the house and do some planning. I highly recommend you include your personal with your business planning. That way you are looking at your whole life and not just the work portion. If you include your personal planning with business, it helps to keep your priorities in place.

Make sure you write it all down and then review it and make adjustments. Then take it one step further and start putting those plans on your calendar at work and at home. Schedule the things that are important to get done both personal and professional.

Plan on!

Ownership

I met with a friend for breakfast this week and we talked a lot about work and business. I love hearing about what is happening in different work places and how people are leading in the business world.

As we talked, the topic came up of employees not thinking like the owner thinks. Their views and opinions are different from the person that writes the checks and pays the bills. At times it can be frustrating for the owner, because he is trying to run a business and make a profit and the employee is more concerned about his paycheck and how many hours he has to work.

The employee does not typically make decisions based on what is best for the company. They usually don’t see the bigger picture, especially when difficult decisions need to be made. Many employees think about what is in it for me. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but those employees are not usually on the same page as the owner. That makes it more difficult to get things done in a way that leads to growth and profitability.

As I thought about this, I started to relate this ownership thinking idea to the church and God. Many people do not think like owners when it comes to church. The mentality is what is in it for me, how can the church help me? Is the church meeting my needs and making me comfortable. That may be OK for someone that is seeking God, hurting or needing recovery of some sorts. However, after awhile that should begin to change. The thinking needs to switch to that of an owner. Seeing the bigger picture of why the church exists, and that is to help all people grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ, no matter where they are at on that journey.

That means sacrificing some of my own wants for the betterment of the church. Embracing changes that will help to reach more people and help people get connected. An owner thinks how can we be more efficient, more effective, and do things with excellence. An owner is willing to make hard choices, because it will further the vision of the church or business.

I have to ask myself, am I thinking like an owner or an employee or member? My friend said that employees that think like owners are rare and very valuable. They make better decisions, give better service, make more sacrifices and are more loyal than those who do not.

The Bible talks about our thoughts not being Gods thoughts. Most people don’t think the way God thinks. This is reflected in how we pray, how we spend our money, how we treat our spouse, kids and co-workers. As we begin to think like Jesus, we begin to change our behaviors, see people in a different way, we see the world in a different way. With this different perspective God can use us in a broader way. When we think like He thinks we begin to do what He would do.

Do you think like an owner in your workplace? In your Church? In your conversations with God?