Hello dear friends! Welcome to Christians Living in the Real World, Episode 3.
As I am recording this, it is just a couple of days past Christmas, and as the beautiful hymn, Silent Night says, ‘All is calm… All is bright…” I know that may not resonate with some of you that are still trying to travel after the countrywide storm over Christmas, or even with those of you that stayed home, but your littles have still not wound down from all of the excitement.
I live alone in the Chicago area, so that is ‘the all is calm’ part…..and it has been so dreary for the past couple of weeks, that today’s sunshine is the ‘all is bright’. So thankful for sunshine, even though it is a balmy 10 degrees outside!
As promised in Episode 2, we are going to do a series on what you think about…. What you think about God… What you think about Satan… What you think about others, yourself and then I am going to dare to wrap it up with what you think about our culture!
The podcast schedule going forward will be once a week, but for this series, I am going to drop them as much as I can, back to back, because I really want you to experience observing your own thoughts on these topics because if you are really honest with yourself, you will find that your thoughts are driving the results in your life, and just a reminder from Episode 2… YOUR THOUGHTS ARE OPTIONAL. ALWAYS.
Today, we begin with what we think about God. I will tell you up front, I have written and rewritten this podcast a number of times, because yikes, where do you begin to discuss God within the confines of a podcast? So I am not….
Instead, I want you to understand that my only goal is to help you look at your own thoughts about God. I am in no way going to tell you what you SHOULD think about God, but rather, help you discover areas where your thoughts and beliefs may be in conflict.
Today is going to be all about asking questions, because the answers are going to be all over the map for different listeners. That’s okay. That is actually the point! What I think is irrelevant… I want you to observe your thoughts about God to see where there might be a disconnect, even if ever so slight, that is keeping you from the abundant life that He desires most for you!
First let’s talk about the difference between our beliefs and our thoughts.
If you are a Christ follower, then I am assuming it is safe to say that you believe that the Bible is true.
You believe that God is who He says He is, that He is 3 in 1, while beyond our comprehension, He is God the Father who reigns over all things, Jesus, the Son of God, who came to this earth as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins, and the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, so that we are never without Him.
Fair statement in terms of what you believe?
One might logically say that since this is what you believe, then it is your thoughts that have led you to believe that. And I agree with that in large measure.
Yet, remember from our previous episodes that we have between 30k – 60k thoughts per day, so I think it is safe to say that not all of our thoughts lead us back to our core beliefs.
And THAT is what we are going to focus on today!
In Episode 2, we talked about how our thoughts define our feelings, how our feelings determine our actions, and our actions create the results of our lives.
This is where the rubber hits the road, if you will, in understanding the difference between beliefs and thoughts!
James 2:19 says, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder!”
Even the demons believe that!! Take that in for a minute…. The demons know better than anyone, the reality…. and power of God… And they SHUDDER!
Topic for another day, but I will say that THIS IS WHY our actions matter…. They are a reflection of what we think. So while there is nothing we can DO to cause God to love us any more or any less….. we also know that our thoughts eventually lead to the results…. or the ‘FRUIT’ in our life. THIS is where we can begin to recognize the difference between our beliefs and our thoughts. Quite honestly, it just shows up in the results of our lives!
Let’s first look at God the Father…. We BELIEVE that He is:
OMNIPOTENT – He is all powerful
OMNISCIENT – He is all knowing
OMNIPRESENT – He is everywhere at all times
Okay… So if that is what you BELIEVE, what are your thoughts about that??
My friend Marilyn grew up in a home where her father was indeed all powerful. He was in control of that household by sheer fear of his reactions. If you asked Marilyn what her most prominent memory of her dad was growing up, she would say while he was never physically abusive in the truest sense, her memory was him threatening bodily harm to her over and over, laced with foul words at the top of his lungs. Oh he was all powerful alright. To a little girl, he also seemed omnipresent, so she did her best to hide from him when he was home. Yet as much as she tried to avoid him, he would always call her out and she didn’t dare disobey…He even seemed all knowing, so when she did something he did not like, she knew she was in for a verbal lashing.
The only exception was when, in her young mind, she could find a way to ‘make him happy’. Let’s remember that no one gets to make anyone anything… happy, sad… Only the other person can be happy…. by their own choice. That aside, Marilyn grew up as a people pleaser… Afraid of how others would react… Especially men, but the worst result was her
very distorted view of God the Father. The idea of being saved by grace was honestly too good to be true, so while she believed what Scripture had to say about grace, her thoughts were constantly taking her into an unhealthy cycle of trying to ‘make God happy’ so that He would love her.
Marylin’s view of God the Father was that He is unpredictable….. Her thoughts about her own father led to her thoughts about God, no matter how hard she tried to believe that He is a loving and patient father, there was constant cognitive dissonance between her beliefs and her thoughts.
In an opposite example, Judy was raised in a very wealthy family. While her dad was super successful, he was never home. Judy knew her dad loved her by all of the expensive things he lavished on her to … probably unconsciously to make up for his absence. When he was home, he was distant. He lived his work life at work and lived his work life at home. He was physically present, but never emotionally present. He justified his behavior as being a good provider, yet we know that there is nothing that is more likely to lead young woman to find a healthy male relationship in the future, than a father who is involved, loving…. and present when she is a child, regardless of income level. As Judy matured into her early 20’s, she found herself in one failed relationship after another because she did not get what she wanted, and then blamed God for being aloof for not giving her what she wanted.. A stable loving relationship. She could not find it in a human, and concluded that God must be disinterested as well. She would try to manipulate God by ‘doing the things’, but truth be told, it was really only with the motive of getting Him to do what she wanted.
And finally, Sandy grew up in a loving Christian home where she attended church a couple of times a week, went to Christian camp in the summer… Life could not be better and she knew it!
By the time Sandy was 28, she was living her dream life… A mom of two little ones, married to Tyler, who had a great job and loved the Lord. Life couldn’t possibly get better…. Until the day when Tyler was killed instantly in a freak car accident.
Sandy’s world crashed in around her.
She believed in God her entire life, but her thoughts were, “What kind of loving father allows this to happen??”…. Sandy spiraled for a while… to the point of blaming God. She said she still believed in God, but she no longer trusted Him. Trust comes from what we think about the actions of others. She thought God caused the accident, therefore she chose to not trust Him.
The examples are endless of how our thoughts can distort and challenge our beliefs.
Here’s the thing….
God knows that!
He knows it better than any of us!!
So what did He do?
He sent His Son.
Have you ever wondered why Jesus came in the way He did?
To the extent that we humans can comprehend, we recognize that Jesus was the perfect sacrifice…. and His conquering death on the cross was the only way to reconcile us to the Father. We get that. Let’s just accept that for what it is.
What I struggled with for a very long time, was…
Why did he come as a baby?
Why did he have to learn how to walk… talk…. Help with chores around the house…
When do you think He fully understood who He was and why He was here? Can a 5 year old handle that much information? I’m gonna go with, ‘No’ because while He was fully God, He was also fully human, which meant at 5, he was probably still asking Mary & Joseph… “Why?” about everything under the sun!
He was FULLY HUMAN!
When He went into the desert for 40 days, Scripture tells us that He was tempted. When my thoughts want to lead me to think, ‘Yeah… But not REALLY… He is GOD!’ Then I have to go back to the core question of, “Jani… Do you really believe what the Bible says or don’t you?
If you believe that God’s Word is true, then you do not get to create your own version of how the story went down by adding your own thoughts… or opinion about it!’
Honestly…. He could have lit up the sky…. He could have come in a blaze of Glory…. Announced His arrival and straightened the entire messed up world right then and there!
Why didn’t He?
Well, first and foremost, that was clearly not God the Father’s plan, as foretold throughout the entire Old Testament. Got that….
But WHY wasn’t it God’s plan? (Now I sound like the 5 year old!)
One can only guess….. and I imagine the answer is far more complex than anything we will understand on this side of Heaven….. One strong belief among Biblical scholars was that He came to demonstrate HOW to live and love others, but I think there was more to it than that…. I REALLY THINK He wanted us to get to KNOW HIM.
Not know ABOUT Him… But KNOW HIM!
He wanted us to MEET HIM…. Spend time with Him…
He wanted us to interact with His personality!
He was about to offer adoption into His family….
What is the best thing an adoptive family can do for the incoming child?
Spend time with the child….. Allow the child time to interact and get to know them.
What are your thoughts about Jesus? If you know Him, you are grateful for what He DID… But what are your thoughts about Him NOW?? Have you ever given thought to His personality, which of course, is the personality of His Father, as they are One?
Do you think that given all He went through, He is back on the throne with the Father, saying,”She better get her act together… Sheesh, doesn’t she know what I went through for her??”
Or do you think when you come to Him, asking for forgiveness… ONCE AGAIN, for that same thing, Jesus looks at the Father with a wink and smile, and says, “Oh… How I love that girl! She and I talk about this all of the time…. She’s gonna get it right, yet!”
If you struggle to think that Jesus loves you in that way, no worries… You are in good company. The disciples were often a little slow in grasping exactly who He was, and the nuances of His multi-faceted personality. There are several times in Scripture where Jesus says to His disciples, who by the way, were living with Jesus daily, something like what we find in John 14:9, “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been with you such a long time?”
Here’s the thing…
I think every time I have heard this passage taught, it has been in the context of rebuking Philip. There are other examples where similar conversations happened with the disciples, and our thoughts are that somehow, Jesus was always in ‘correction mode’.
If we think that Jesus was impatient and always correcting, we might miss the possibility that while Jesus absolutely had the right to grow impatient with their questions, and sometimes it was more than justified, perhaps… just perhaps… sometimes, maybe even this time… It was not impatience at all… Maybe it was lighthearted and rhetorical… “Come on, Philip, you goofball…. After all this time, You know who I am!”
Or maybe the tone of precious friend, who shakes His head and tries to explain it…. ONE…. MORE… TIME…. to make sure Philip gets it.
We don’t know the tone…. But we do know how much Jesus loved these men, and we do know that Jesus had a personality WAY BEYOND the one dimensional, formal and flat image that is displayed in so much of the traditional ‘Jesus artwork’.
What thoughts do you have about Jesus when YOU read this kind of passage?
Is it possible your thoughts that are leading you down the wrong path?
I would suggest that we see a very strategic communicator in Jesus when He is talking with the Pharisees… He is always one step ahead of them in their traps…. and He is very skillful at putting them in their place.
But the disciples were His friends… These are the guys He is doing life with! He LOVES these men and knows that the future of His Church will be left in their hands.
I am not suggesting that there were not times when He did absolutely correct them, just as I know He does with me, but I think if you read many of His interactions with the disciples, you will find a playfulness in His interactions with the disciples. I mean… The whole walking on water thing… So unlike the Jesus that is portrayed by so many as dry, staunch and formal. Yes, it was an incredible miracle, but playful nonetheless!
I will sometimes make book recommendations in this podcast, and yet there will be few that will receive a higher recommendation that the one I am about to tell you about.
I read this book or listen to it on tape at least once, if not more, per year because it reminds me of WHO Jesus is… Not who He WAS, but who He is, because He does not change! Who He was with the disciples is EXACTLY who He is today with you and I.
It leads me to sit in my recliner with a cup of coffee and have a very real conversation with Him…. Not, “Oh, Jesus…. Son of God… Oh Holy One… I am not worthy to approach You… Yada yada yada….” No, it is, “Good morning Jesus! Thanks for another day… As you are well aware, I had a rough time sleeping last night. Can we talk about it? I am doing my very best to trust You with this, but I am struggling with these thoughts…. I really need Your input.”
It is a conversation with my best friend. No thees and thous…. Just He and me!
And why is that so important? Because as much as I want to get to know Jesus better, He went to extreme measures so that we could have that relationship! He spared nothing! He longs to spend time in communication with me… With you… There is nothing more important to Him than His love for you.
That said, I know periods in my life when life felt overwhelming… Constant worry… Full on anxiety… And what did I do? One of two things:
- I would do everything in my strength… Everything in my power… to remedy the situation. In doing so, I ignored Jesus… I never even talked to Him.
- Or…. I would toss up a prayer and then go on with my day, barely acknowledging His presence, His power, His mercy and love… And I certainly didn’t ask for His input or opinion… Just ‘fix it’… and I was gone again.
Imagine if that was your pattern with your spouse or your close friend?
You never have a real conversation…. you either ignore their perspective and do it your way, or you hand them a mess you are dealing with and walk away, expecting them to fix it.
What if they did that to you?
I might be going out on a limb here, but I am going to guess that is not going to go well.
Jesus doesn’t just want us to know about Him… What He has done… What He can do…
He wants us to KNOW HIM…. Intimately.
This book has opened my mind to WHO Jesus is…
I will tell you the title in a moment, but just take in these concepts.. They are chapter titles, all referring to Jesus…
Cunning…. Remember my previous reference to how He dealt with the Pharisees?
Letting Jesus Be Himself…
Clearing The Religious Fog
Are you intrigued?
The Book is called The Beautiful Outlaw, by John Eldredge
At the time of publishing this podcast, and I have NO IDEA WHY, but it is showing up in short supply on Amazon… For $68!! They must have an algorithm that jacks up the price when stock is low. That said, they do have the audio version at a normal price. I personally have both versions because I often listen to the audio book when I cannot sleep. If you want the paper copy, ChristianBook.com has it for $12.99.
I endorse this book solely because of the impact it has had on my thoughts about Jesus.. And therefore, the results in my life.
My expanded view of Jesus has affected how I feel about Him and my relationship with Him, just as when we fall in love with someone and as time passes and we get to know them more, we realize the depth and breadth of their personality and character… Our love changes. It grows deeper, bringing joy and peace, even when life is hard. If that is possible in a human relationship, how much more do we have to discover in our relationship with Jesus?
This my friends, IS the abundant life He speaks of.
It is wonderful to know all about Jesus.
It is great to be in fellowship with other believers and serve others in our churches and community….
Yet I will suggest all of that will still come up empty if you do not KNOW Jesus.
We did not discuss the Holy Spirit at length, but I will encourage you that as you get to know Jesus, the Spirit of God within will rise up in ways that will surprise and delight you, as they are One.
People who know me, know how I just laugh at the way the Spirit directs my steps… whispers to my heart… leads me to the unexpected. I am like a little kid, waiting for the next surprise.
What are your thoughts about God?
Do you keep Him at a distance, fearing that His nearness will reveal your weaknesses?
Do believe in His Word, but not really trust that He loves you just as you are?
If you struggle to grasp that God is not one dimensional… not only in the sense of the Trinity, but in His extraordinary personality that shows up as love, comfort, gentle correction, even humor, are you willing to ‘try on new thoughts’ about Him and ask Him to reveal these things to you?
I would encourage you to find a time alone, where you can observe your own thoughts about God… The ones that you are a little embarrassed by… the ones you wish you did not have but there they are….
Put them down on paper… Once you have done that, sit back and ask yourself…
Are these thoughts true? Or are they true to me because of my circumstances?
Remind yourself that no matter what the circumstance, God does not change with circumstances.
Challenge those thoughts against what Scripture has to say about God.
Ask yourself… Do I believe that the Bible is true? Do I REALLY BELIEVE that it is true?
If you find yourself saying yes, and both what you are thinking and what Scripture says cannot both be true….. you will be placed in a position of having to choose which one to hang onto. I think can guess my suggestion on that one!
Write down what you see in Scripture that is in conflict with your thoughts. For each thought that is in conflict, write down what you WANT to think.
There is a very good possibility that those new thoughts may very well be leading you right around the corner to the abundant life He has designed for you.
In the next episode, we will be taking a look at, “What do you think about Satan?”
I would greatly appreciate your prayers of protection as I work on that message.
Until then, grace and peace to you, my friends!