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.

Ten Characteristics of a Healthy Marriage

As a relationship & life coach I work with couples and individuals daily. In my observations and studies there are certain characteristics of what a healthy relationship looks like. These are some of the important ones I have found in most healthy relationships.

Ten Characteristics of a Healthy Marriage:

  1. Commitment – They have a long-term perspective toward their relationship; tend to persevere when trouble comes up. View marriage as a covenant not a contract. Each one takes personal responsibility for their part in the relationship.
  2. Satisfaction – Both individuals are happy and satisfied with their relationship. This doesn’t mean there are no problems or challenges, or even periods of unhappiness. They work hard at meeting the other persons needs and speak their love language often.
  3. Communication – The way couples communicate is one of the most powerful indicators of marriage health. Being intentional about exchanging information and how they are feeling. Open and honest in their communication. Asking questions to clarify what was meant. Seeking to understand the other person and avoid misunderstandings. The words they use in communicating can bring life or death to a relationship.
  4. Effective Conflict Resolution – Ability to resolve conflict in healthy ways. Healthy couples are good at getting down to the real issues and facing them together. They view themselves as a team working together, not as the opposition. The ability to deal with conflict without criticism, contempt, or defensiveness.
  5. Lack of violence or abuse – Conflict is normal in healthy marriages, but abuse is not. Whether verbal, emotional or physical, abuse is destructive and unhealthy.
  6. Fidelity or Faithfulness – Spouses are sexually faithful to each other; keeping intimate physical and emotional relationships within the bonds of marriage. Even emotional connections to the opposite sex is considered being unfaithful & unhealthy.
  7. Intimacy & Emotional support – They are physically & emotionally intimate with each other. That means being sexually active with each other and connecting on a deeper emotional level through sharing every part of their life with each other. They feel safe with each other.
  8. Friendship – They are spending time together on a regular basis. They are intentional about doing things together and paying attention to each other. They respect each other and enjoy each others company. They like being together.
  9. Commitment to children – Not all married couples have children, or have children living with them anymore. But if children are a part of the family, the couple is committed to developing and parenting the children as a team. They regularly communicate with each other about the children and their development. They are in agreement on discipline and on helping older children. The children are not the top priority, the spouse is.
  10. Spiritual Intimacy – They share their spiritual beliefs with each other. Praying together and as a family and bringing God into the home. Healthy couples are active in church attendance, serving together and in community with other people. Couples that have Spiritual Intimacy together rarely get divorced (Less than 5%). Each one is working on their individual relationship with God on a regular basis.

There are more characteristics, but if these are missing in a marriage relationship, that marriage will struggle.

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.

Are You Happy?

I was having a discussion with some guys on Saturday morning and this idea of happiness came up. We were talking about what makes people happy. I asked the question, “is God’s will for me to be happy?” The discussion got pretty interesting.

What do you think? The more I think about that question and the more I read the Bible the more convinced I am that it is not God’s will for us to be happy.

Happiness is an emotion that makes us feel good. Happiness brings a smile to our face and warms our heart. When things go our way we are happy, when things go badly we are not happy. You see this a lot in relationships. In a marriage relationship I sometimes here people say, but doesn’t God want me to be happy? I am not happy, so I should get out of this marriage and find someone that can make me happy.

Here is what I believe God’s will is for our lives – “To become more like Jesus Christ”. You see, God is more concerned about our character and what is going on in our hearts than he is with our happiness. His desire is for all of us to grow closer to Him and to be set apart to make a difference in this world. He wants us to be holy not happy.

When we pursue holiness and character we experience something much better than happiness, we experience joy. Joy is one of the fruits of having the Holy Spirit living and active in us. Happiness is an emotion that comes and goes, joy is a character trait that comes from within us. It is a reflection of what is in our hearts.

If we want joy to grow inside us, we must join our lives to Jesus Christ. We must know Him, love Him, remember Him, and imitate Him. As a result, we will fulfill the purpose God has for our lives – to love God and our neighbors.

One of the purposes for marriage is to help us become more holy. This happens when we learn to submit to each other and serve each other unselfishly. When the individuals in a marriage have joy in their hearts and a closeness to Christ the marriage relationship is strengthen. A by-product is the emotion of happiness.

So if your looking for happiness, ask yourself how your heart is doing? Are you growing in your relationship with Jesus Christ? Are you looking for happiness in things or people? They will always let you down, going deeper with God never lets you down.

There is nothing wrong with being happy, it just shouldn’t be our focus. Our character and spiritual growth should be our focus.