OK. so below is a preview of the first chapter of my forthcoming book. I am sitting by the pool on the 24th floor of a Las Vegas hotel as I write and only yesterday I made the big bold statement live on Facebook that the book will be out in print before the end of next year: although I demand of myself that the e-version will be ready long before then. So I will expect your feedback, and please, pull no punches. I am still teachable, recognise that I am not travelling alone and I will make amendments before committing to ink on paper.
The introduction gave an overall view, the big picture if you like, in which I state that if we want different results to those we have been getting then we are going to have to do some different things and do some things differently to what we have previously done. This will be the first of 3 chapters that will form section One of Three that will make up the whole book. Readers are not just going to be told we have to change this that or the other thing, they already know that. Together we are going to discover exactly what needs to change and more importantly, HOW to make the changes and sustain them for the long haul.
I USE ANCIENT WISDOM A LOT, ESPECIALLY THE BIBLE. I won’t be changing that but don’t let that stop you from being totally honest in your critique
In Psalm 37:1,2 King David wrote Don’t worry about the wicked or envy those who do wrong. For like grass, they soon fade away. Like spring flowers, they soon wither.
His son King Solomon wrote Do not eat the bread of a miser, nor desire his delicacies; For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. “Eat and drink!” he says to you, But his heart is not with you. The morsel you have eaten, you will vomit up, and waste your pleasant words. Proverbs 23:6,7
So the message is don’t envy a wicked man or eat with a miserly avaricious person. To sit down and eat with someone really meant much more in ancient cultures than we understand in our fast, modern fill ’em up and move ’em out society. In some cultures today, hopefully more and more in our church life, it means fellowship, not just sharing food but sharing our lives.
So when Solomon says don’t eat with that kind of person he is thinking on the same lines as Paul, who wrote to the Corinthians “Don’t be misled, bad company corrupts good character.” 1Cor 15:33.
So they both agree, these wise men living 1000 years apart, they give good advice, don’t hang about with ungodly people, don’t wish to be like them or envy their possessions.
Not everything is as it seems… his smiling face might be hiding his true character from some people, but God is not fooled, and the Spirit of God will give you discernment too, if you are careful to read and meditate on the Word of God.
The wicked may appear to have more material things than you have right now but it is better to be content with however little you have than to be rich and still not satisfied.
David has much more to say about it in Psalm 37…just one example in verse 10 he says Soon the wicked will disappear. Though you look for them, they will be gone. The lowly will possess the land and will live in peace and prosperity.
You see money can be a good servant but it is a harsh master. However much the men described have they can never be satisfied, they will always want more and they will never be filled… and worse they can never properly enjoy even what they do have.
Now that doesn’t mean its wrong to have money…Solomon said in another place
A good person leaves an inheritance to his grandchildren, but the wealth of the wicked is reserved for the righteous. Proverbs 13.22
Most people have heard the saying, ‘As a man thinks in his heart, so is he’, but without always realising it goes all the way back to wise King Solomon.
Back in 1903 James Allen’s wrote his seminal book which he called “As a Man Thinketh.” John Maxwell in his own book ‘The 15 invaluable laws of Growth’ says he read it in 7th grade and almost a dozen times more before the penny dropped with him that he was responsible for his own growth .
We are all responsible for our own growth.
Solomon’s statement… As a man thinks in his heart so is he…embraces the whole of a man’s being, and reaches every condition and circumstance of his life.
God created Adam in His own image and God provided all that Adam needed for himself and his beautiful bride to enjoy a perfect life. Sadly they chose their own way rather than walk the path that had God planned for them and so man’s character was forever flawed.
A division came between Adam and God…the relationship was broken…and all of Adams offspring were to be born slaves of a principle within themselves, which the bible calls sin.
Many people in our modern society would like that word removed from our language…but there is no other word for it…mans inbuilt desire to serve himself before pleasing God is called sin…it is not the selfish acts themselves, if it was we could just stop doing wrong things and we could save ourselves…it is the force within a man that drives him to act in ways that are contrary to God’s will for us.
King David said “Teach me your ways Oh God”…and he was sincere, he wanted to keep God’s ways…but he couldn’t…and before anyone points the finger at David…no-one else has ever managed it either…except for Jesus.
God never gave up on man and has made a way for him to be completely restored, a way which begins with receiving forgiveness of sins.
Paul wrote in Romans 2:4 Do you have contempt for God, who is very kind to you, puts up with you, and deals patiently with you? Don’t you realise that it is God’s kindness that is trying to lead you to Him and change the way you think and act? (God’s Word Translation)
God in His kindness draws us to the cross on which the Prince of Glory died.
There is no other way, there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved,… but at the Name of Jesus Christ every knee must bow and every tongue must confess that He is Lord of all.
It is not complicated, confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead. Yes, it is a big decision, one some people are not willing to make. They think more highly of what this world has to offer. But Jesus Himself tells us, “If a man found a very valuable pearl in a field he would sell everything he had so he could go and buy that field.”
It may well be the start a hard road, a narrow path, but you are not called to walk it alone, the very Spirit that raised Jesus from death will be with you all the way and and for that alone it is worth it. Jesus is the way, the only way to God and to heaven. No amount of work will do it, no religious ritual will earn it, no money can buy it…believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.
Now having said that…and knowing we cannot deviate from that at any time our purpose here today is to discover how a man’s character is literally built out of the complete sum of all his thoughts, and that holds true whatever his religious or belief system, or even if he has no religion at all.
If you don’t believe in Christ you are the sum of all your thoughts…and if you do believe in Christ, you are the sum of all your thoughts, but when you commit your life to Christ He sends the Holy Spirit to lead you in to all truth…and if you will cooperate with Him you will be renewed in the spirit of your mind. You thoughts will change and your life will change.
That’s why Paul writes to the Romans in chapter 12:2 Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.
Just like a plant springs from, and couldn’t exist without the seed, so every act of man springs from the hidden seeds of thought, and could not have appeared without them.
Actions are the blossom of thought, and joy and suffering are its fruit; so whether for good or ill we have all made our own circumstances and our own environment.
Our family moved into a vicarage a few years ago, the garden reminded me of the children’s story Sleeping Beauty. Remember she had been asleep inside the castle for so long the trees and bushes around it had grown so thick, the woodcutter had to take his axe and hack his way through it so rescue her… with a kiss.
Well our garden was like that and I had to take a machete to it and it was a long old job.
It had been neglected for years. Thick bushes had been planted around the edges, maybe on purpose, maybe they had seeded themselves, I don’t really know, but over the years thick roots had travelled under the ground sending up this wall of dense scrubby bush maybe 15 or even 20 feet thick in places. Nothing of any value or use was growing anywhere in that garden.
There was what had probably once been a vegetable patch alongside the house, you could only tell because it was laid out with paths of flagstones: but the soil was as hard as the flags, we broke it up, dug it over, planted vegetables but the first year nothing grew, not even potatoes. The second year there was a very small improvement, the third year it was a bit better…as I write we are in the fourth summer…a couple of time this week we have eaten our own potatoes and some broad beans, and raspberries, gooseberries and strawberries.
We have tended and cared for it and now we have dominion over it. I say we, but I really mean My wife Stephanie.
Why am I telling you about our garden?
Because your mind is very much like a garden. Any persons mind is.
A garden can be intelligently cultivated, and it will, in time bring forth good fruit and beautiful flowers.
It can be allowed to run wild and eventually it will come to ruin and no good thing will grow there.
But one thing is certain, whether cultivated or neglected, it will bring forth.
If no useful seeds are purposely planted there then an abundance of useless weeds will take root and quickly begin to take over, the birds will bring some, the wind will carry others, some, like our scrubby bush will travel secretly in the darkness underground and believe me, the only goal that bush had was world domination.
We reap what we sow.… and that applies to every area of our lives.
Cause and effect are as certain in the realm of thought as they are in the visible and material world. A sincere prayer to God uttered in faith and according to His will is guaranteed to be heard in heaven. Guaranteed…we know that He hears us and that we already have the answer. We may not be able to see the answer with our eyes yet but if we see it clearly with the eye of faith, and if our words are congruent with that faith it is on the way. No need to trouble ourselves with how, we must only believe and not doubt.
I did say whatever we ask must be in agreement with the will of God. Sometimes we do not have because we have simply not asked and at other times it is because we ask selfishly. If we are sincerely trying to develop godliness and a noble character we will ask according to His will. A noble character is not given as a gift neither does it come by chance. It is the natural result of continued effort in right thinking, the effect of sustained, God-like thoughts.
By the same process a disreputable character is shaped by continual, habitual thoughts of a negative nature.
For good or ill the character of man is made by his own thoughts: he can forge the weapons by which he destroys himself or the tools with which he builds for himself a castle of joy and strength and peace.
With a majority of good choices (we all make some poor ones) and the application of right thought, man may rise to great heights and will look back upon a life blessed with many splendid accomplishments. It is important for him to know there is no limit to what a man can do except the limits he places upon himself.
It is wonderful to me that God created man in His own image but did not make him a puppet. God did not preordain what a man should do or put any limits on what a man could do if he so desired.
God made man the master of his own thought, the moulder of his own character, and the maker of his condition, his environment and his destiny.
As people of power, intelligence, and love, and as the master of our own thoughts, we hold the key to every situation, and we have within ourselves the power and the knowledge that we can be whatever we will to be.
Want to be is not enough, will to be is more than that. It involves deep, concentrated thought.
God has endowed mankind with great power, if we search for understanding of certain laws, which work for the righteous and the unrighteousness alike, we will become wise stewards directing our energies and thoughts with intelligence and passion into only fruitful enterprises.
Good fruit will be brought forth by diligent application, continual self-analysis and the accumulation of all our life experience. As a Christian I have found that God can use even small, seemingly trivial, everyday occurrences to teach us more about himself and about ourselves and how much He loves us.
We must co-operate with the omnipresent, omnipotent Spirit by cultivating positive, godly thoughts and so we will gain understanding, wisdom and power for living godly, fruitful lives, highly successful lives.
But whatever we build in the inner man, what the mind conceives and believes, what it constructs in the world of thought the mind will then find a way to build it in the physical world and the forces of heaven will cooperate in the work.
But we must understand it works both ways…prolonged negative thinking will bring its own reward…
A man does not become destitute or find himself in prison by accident, fate or circumstance.
I led a prison study group for a number of years. To meet a man who would admit he was the only one responsible for his being there was rare. The stories were many and varied and sometimes very creative but they had been repeated so often to themselves in their inner thoughts and to others in spoken words that they genuinely believed them to be true.
But this is the real the truth. They all got there by a well trodden pathway of unworthy thoughts and base desires. And if they would take responsibility they could learn to replace them with better thoughts and more wholesome desires and they would certainly rise up from whatever depths to which they had fallen.
Pure-minded people don’t fall suddenly into criminal acts, or immoral circumstances because of pressures placed upon them from outside themselves; thoughts of greed or avarice or envy or lust have for a long time been secretly fostered in the heart, nurtured and meditated upon….and when the day of opportunity comes to reveal its gathered power. The trap is finally sprung.
In the book of Genesis 4:7. we read that the bloodless offering of Cain was not acceptable. He was jealous of his brother and angry at God because of this and it showed on his face. The thoughts of our inner man show on the outside, and if not checked they result in actions which manifest the fruit of suffering. You may know the way the story of Cain plays out but do you realise that had he only listened to loving correction and been obedient to the words of God it could have been a very different story.
God said to Cain In Genesis 4: 6 “Why are you so angry?” … “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”
Sin is crouching at the door in all our lives. It begins with sinful thoughts and if they are dwelt upon and not substituted with good thoughts, sin can bring about the fall of even the best of us. In the case of Cain and many men since, the fall has been great and still they wake up and ask “How have I come to this?”.
Circumstances did not make the man this way…they revealed his inner man. The man he has created by his own habitual thoughts.
No one descends into vice or criminality and the sufferings it brings upon themselves and their loved ones except by vicious, avaricious, or lustful inclinations,
And no one becomes virtuous and attains the happiness which is the fruit of it without the continual cultivation of good and virtuous aspirations. Man is the master of his own thoughts, and the author of his prayers should he choose to share his thoughts with God. By those thoughts he is the designer and manufacturer of his own character and ultimately the architect and builder of all his circumstances and his physical environment.
You might ask where is God in this?
The fallen man has no hope and seemingly no power to overcome. Even if he can obtain release from the prison bars, he cannot break free from the prison of his mind.
In truth some unbelievers do very well in life and many Christians do badly and to me this is ample proof that God is fair to everyone. He has given all of us powerful tools within ourselves and is available to help and advise all those who choose to seek Him and commit their lives to Him.
Sadly not all people who profess religion are positive people, some have no idea of the freedoms and abilities they have locked away in their religious boxes.
But what does the Bible say about those who are in Christ
1 Corinthians 2:16 For, “Who can know the LORD’s thoughts? Who knows enough to teach him?” But we understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ.
Ephesians 4:22-24 …throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception.
(Notice that lust and deception are thoughts and they can be replaced by better, purer thoughts.)
23 Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.
In Philippians 2:5 Paul says…Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
and then in Philippians 4 he gives us a lesson in how to…
how to have the mind of Christ…
how to let the Spirit renew my thoughts and attitudes….
how to let God transform me into a new person by changing the way I think.
Paul knows the law of substitution…we can only think of one thing at once…don’t try to resist the bad thoughts, that only makes them stronger…substitute them with good thoughts.
Jesus knew about the law of dual thought…that means there are two ways to look at every situation…when we are abused or persecuted we can sometimes adopt a victim mentality but Jesus said
“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven.
the Monty Python team wrote a song about that…”always look on the bright side of life” some Christians were up in arms at the time, they said it was blasphemous, I am sure Jesus saw the funny side…He is not as stuffy as some of us…there’s always two ways to look at everything.
Lets finish with a look at Paul’s how to in Philippians 4
4 Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!
So what is Paul telling the Philippians to do here? Think…think joyful thoughts. Choose to be joyful. And it really is your choice.
5 Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.
But you might not feel like being considerate and here is Paul telling you to let everyone see how considerate you are…how are you going to do it?…Paul tells you how…He says remember the Lord is coming soon. Think about Jesus, direct your thoughts towards Jesus…focus on Him…and His soon coming…and then you will find it easy to be considerate to others.
6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.
There are good thoughts and bad thoughts…He says ‘don’t worry’ why? because that’s a bad thought…it is not trusting…it is not faithful… it is positively harmful spiritually, mentally and physically…worry leads to stress and stress is responsible for many serious illnesses. My doctor told me… stress is a killer.
So try the good thoughts instead…pray about everything…tell God what you need and give thanks for what He has done.
You might say I only just prayed…He hasn’t done it yet.
Gratitude is the cause, God knows what you need before you tell Him and His provision will be the effect, the reward of a grateful heart.
7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
What is peace…it’s thought isn’t it…tranquil thoughts…your heart will beat slower… your blood pressure will come into line…you will experience a greater feeling of well being.
That’s why Solomon says “Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life. Proverbs 4:23
But back to Philippians 4 verse 8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing.
Fix your thoughts…Paul is clear that you can choose whatever you think about…and He is aware that you can only think on one thing at a time. He knows you can’t pray with gratitude and worry at the same time. Which is why he says…Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honourable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
9 Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.
Putting into practice means action and keep putting into practice means continual action… remember action is the blossom of thought, and peace will be the fruit of it.
Then the God of peace will be with you.
so finally…from Numbers 6:24
‘May the Lord bless you and protect you.
25 May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.
26 May the Lord show you his favour and give you his peace.’
God told Aaron to bless the people in that way and He promised that whenever he or the priests that come after him did so then God Himself would indeed bless them. The way I understand it everyone who believes is a priest…but even if you don’t believe right now I want to leave you with this thought…. God has promised to bless you and He always keeps His promises…just meet Him half way…use the law of substitution, get your thoughts right and your words congruent with them (we will talk more about words in the next chapter) and watch how quickly your fortunes change.