Sunday, October 28, 2007

Common & Uncommon Thoughts

Genesis 6:5 And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

Genesis 20:11 And Abraham said, Because I thought, Surely the fear of God is not in this place; and they will slay me for my wife's sake.

Genesis 38:15 When Judah saw her, he thought her to be a harlot; because she had covered her face.

Judges 15:2 And her father said, I verily thought that thou hadst utterly hated her; therefore I gave her to thy companion: is not her younger sister fairer than she? take her, I pray thee, instead of her.

1 Samuel 1:13 Now Hannah, she spoke in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard: therefore Eli thought she had been drunken.

1 Samuel 18:25 And Saul said, Thus shall ye say to David, The king desireth not any dowry, but a hundred foreskins of the Philistines, to be avenged of the king's enemies. But Saul thought to make David fall by the hand of the Philistines.

1 Samuel 20:26 Nevertheless Saul spoke not any thing that day: for he thought, Something hath befallen him, he is not clean; surely he is not clean.

2 Samuel 4:10 When one told me, saying, Behold, Saul is dead, thinking to have brought good tidings, I took hold of him, and slew him in Ziklag, who thought that I would have given him a reward for his tidings:

2 Kings 5:11 But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the LORD his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper.

1 Chronicles 28:9 And thou, Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind: for the LORD searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts: if thou seek him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off forever.

1 Chronicles 29:18 O LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, our fathers, keep this forever in the imagination of the thoughts of the heart of thy people, and prepare their heart unto thee:

Esther 6:6 So Haman came in. And the king said unto him, What shall be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honor? Now Haman thought in his heart, To whom would the king delight to do honor more than to myself?

Psalms 10:4 The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts.

2 Corinthians 10:5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

The foolishness of our thoughts. . . How easily we are led astray by the foolish imaginations of our mind. As the list of verses above shows, our thoughts are often wrong. The mere fact that a thought is in our heads gives no clue as to whether it is an accurate thought or not.
We create castles and huge edifices in our minds that seem so very solid, but they are entirely, as the Bible says, vain imaginations.

Inside the jail are little intercom boxes with call buttons beside each door. As a rule the doors are not opened with keys, but electronically. You push the button and a staff member from one of the two 'control offices' answers over the intercom box. You tell them who you are and they push a button that buzzes the door open for you.

It seems like such a minor thing for them to hear my request and to buzz the door open, but sometimes it can take a number of minutes between your buzzing and the officer answering and opening the door for you. These two control officers have a large bank of video monitors in front of them, viewing into all areas of the jail. If there is a fight they must direct the response. They must watch for escape attempts. They have dozens of door buzzers to contend with. They have radio communication through walkie-talkies with all the staff and they answer and direct all incoming calls to the jail. To say they are often busy is an understatement.

Anyway, one night a couple of weeks ago, I buzzed an inside door at the jail. The staff doesn't like to be buzzed more than one time at the door. So you buzz and wait. I buzzed the door and waited. . . and I waited and I waited some more. Usually I am very very patient. I look forward to these little pauses in my day. It wasn't always so, but I have learned not to let these things upset me. I often use the time to pray, but this time my mind began building this dark castle in my mind. I began imagining that the officer was angry with me for some reason. Maybe they were intentionally trying to aggravate me. It just kept going. Before I really was aware of it I was really caught up in a totally imaginary verbal battle with the officer for keeping me waiting for so long.

I don't know why, but for some reason I leaned against the door. . . and it swung open. I had been standing there for maybe 10 minutes fuming about the awful guard. . .becoming more and more outraged at their rudeness. . . and the door was open all along. Ten years ago, I would have not waited for nearly as long as I did. I would have made a fool of myself and an enemy of the guard by my reaction to an imagined slight, but still I let my thoughts get the better of me for a short while.

Most of the scriptures that I listed above have to do with the vain imaginations of men. Our minds are good at finding patterns, much better than computers at this point of our technology. Do you ever have to look at a series of distorted letters and numbers and enter them before you register for entry into a website? This is to prevent little computer programs from automatically harvesting email addresses from websites. The human eye and mind can see patterns that baffle a computer. It is to our advantage to find patterns of danger and advantage in our daily life. The birds quieting in the woods can mean a hawk or some other predator approaching. The reactions of our co-workers or others at work can mean that we are on a layoff or promotion list. We are good at finding patterns.

But. . . but. . . but!!! We are also good at finding patterns where none exist. Everyone has at times seen faces or shapes in the white puffy clouds on a summer day. Do you really believe that those shapes are there? The person sitting right next to you, even after being shown them, often cannot see what you have seen in the clouds. Psychologists use cards with blobs of ink smeared over them to gain a glimpse of what is in our mind and thoughts. There are no actual pictures in the ink blots, just random blobs of ink, but our mind will create a scene and a story out of these random forms.

By the same way, we take little pieces of information from the people around us and construct scenarios or stories that often have no relationship to anything in reality. People sometimes accuse me of being arrogant. . . . 'That Dave Stokely, he didn't even acknowledge what I said to him'. . .'He is so stuck up'. . . that could be the reason, but I am also very hard of hearing. People cannot imagine it, but sometimes I just don't hear what they have said to me. They mistake my not hearing for arrogance or rudeness.

If you think about it, there are always several possible explanations of why people act the way they do around us. Do we always assume that people are reacting negatively toward us? That is really more telling about ourselves than it is about them.

The last verse that I quoted above:

2 Corinthians 10:5 . . .bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. . .

We cannot allow our thoughts to carry us away captive. It is put in terms of a war. We must make them captive and filter each thought through the love of God. The Psalmist said (Psalm 10:4) that the evil do not have God in all their thoughts. To flip that over, the reverse would be that in order not to be evil, God should be in all our thoughts.

I do not at this point in my walk have complete control of my thoughts. I don't know that I ever will. I'm not sure who came up with it, but I love the metaphor concerning our thoughts: I can't keep a bird from landing on my head, but I surely don't have to let him build a nest there. . . Thoughts often pop into our minds that we do not wish to have there. We need to do everything necessary to dispel them as quickly as we can. Trouble will come if we allow them to dwell unchallenged there.

I will close now. I love the passage:

Philippians 4:8-9

Finally, brethren,
whatsoever things are true,
whatsoever things are honest,
whatsoever things are just,
whatsoever things are pure,
whatsoever things are lovely,
whatsoever things are of good report;


if there be any virtue,
and
if there be any praise,
think on these things.


Those things,
which ye have both learned,
and received,
and heard,
and seen in me,
do:
and the God of peace shall be with you.


When troubling thoughts come into your mind. . . think on pleasant things, think on the goodness of God. . .

I love you Lord. . .

I love you my God. . .

Dave

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