The Apple Of God's Eye

February 7, 2011

The Mark of A Great Mind

The Plain Truth, October 1983

Do you know what the mark of greatness is?

Who hasn’t been insulted at some time? Or threatened or falsely accused?

Perhaps we experience situations where individuals are rude or abusive to us, lacking tact or consideration in what they say or do. Perhaps on crowded roads or highways inconsiderate persons suddenly swerve in front of us.

How do we respond to such irritating situations?

Many respond with an impulsive burst of rage or anger: “He can’t do that to me! I’ll show him … !” Then suddenly, a nasty verbal exchange, or worse, a serious accident or injury is generated.

The news media are filled with accounts of human tragedy caused by lack of emotional control under unpleasant situations. Many family and personal problems, costly work mishaps and even senseless killings result.

Harmful Emotional Habits

All of us from time to time face the need to learn control of our emotions under difficult circumstances. Such control is the mark of a great mind.

The Bible repeatedly admonishes us to be slow to anger. “A man of quick temper acts foolishly, but a man of discretion is patient.” “He who is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.” “He who rules his spirit [is better] than he who takes a city” (Prov. 14:17, 29; 16:32, RSV).

Slow to anger? Patient and controlling thoughts and emotions under duress? How do we achieve these qualities of character? What values, understanding and attitudes produce them?

The Bible reveals there is a right time and place for anger (Eph. 4:26). But how do we control our temper when confronted with someone’s insults or rudeness or lack of consideration? How can we control emotions under trying personal difficulties so we don’t descend into the pit of resentment, bitterness or depression’?

What we need is the right spiritual perspective, attitude and power of mind! What we need is a positive and loving perspective about today’s confused world and the people in it. We need a right perspective about personal problems and difficulties that will enable us to cope with them in a beneficial way. (more…)

August 22, 2009

Christian Conduct: Good – But Good Enough?

Nobody’s perfect — but compared to the world around you, you must rate pretty high.

You don’t curse, you don’t smoke and you don’t drink too much. You are faithful to your mate and you are honest. You go to church regularly, you pray, you study the Bible and you try to put it into action. That has got to make you better than the average person. After all, many people today aren’t even trying to be good.

That shouldn’t be a surprise. The apostle Paul warned that the end-time society would be a place of falling standards and collapsing values. “Know this,” he wrote, “that in the last days perilous times will come” (II Timothy 3:1-5). Paul warned that people would become more greedy and selfish. He predicted the brutality and mindless violence of our age, when people would love pleasure more than God, and when even those who were “religious” would not understand God’s truth. “From such people turn away!” he thundered.

If you are serious about serving God today, you must indeed turn away from this world before it collapses. But that is hard, and it is all too easy to relax and slip back into your old ways. And so the Bible tells those who are real Christians to examine themselves from time to time (and particularly during the Passover season) to see if they are indeed “in the faith” (II Corinthians 13:5).

When you measure something, you compare it with an accepted standard — a weight, a ruler or perhaps a thermometer. Then you can know how heavy, how long or how hot it is. But how do you measure how good you are?

How good are you?

If you compare yourself with the standards of the world around you, you would probably pass with flying colors. But is that good enough? There is a serious flaw in such reasoning. Obviously this world’s standard of what is “good enough” is not reliable, but do you know why? It is not just because it is wrong. It is also variable — or, to be more specific, it is declining.

“Evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived,” Paul warned in II Timothy 3:13. He realized that the end-time world was not just going to be bad — it was going to get steadily worse.

Today crime is increasing, and violence and perversion are becoming commonplace. Young people are becoming ever more disillusioned and older people more frustrated. The world has its ways of hiding the truth from itself. Everyone wants to believe that things are getting better, and so more and more evil is tolerated. The unacceptable is made acceptable and the illegal becomes legal. What was once wrong is now accepted as “OK.”

But legislating away sin and squelching the penalty never solves problems. All it does is ensure that more people are going to be harmed.

Declining movie standards

The entertainment industry gives us a good example of how this society gradually tolerates more and more evil. Back in 1939, when Clark Gable used a rather mild (by today’s standards) expletive in the movie Gone With the Wind, audiences gasped. But that was only the beginning.

In 1968 the Motion Picture Association of America decided to regulate itself, adopting a set of standards by which new films could be rated. “G” meant the film was suitable for general audiences. “M” indicated that some of the material might not be suitable for children and that mature guidance was required. Then there was the “R” rating, signifying that children were restricted from seeing the movie unless accompanied by parents, while an “X” determined that no minors would be allowed to see the movie under any circumstances.

But did that action lead to more good films and less obscene rubbish? No — today half the films produced in the United States get an “R” rating, and many that now get a “PG” (which replaced “M”) would have been rated “R” back in 1968. A “PG-13” rating has now been added to indicate that a film is more violent or sexual in content than a “PG” movie, but not enough to earn an “R.”

Standards have dropped. What was unacceptable is now considered acceptable. Today you are probably allowing yourself to be entertained by movies with themes and language that would have appalled “good Christian folk” as little as 15 years ago. Explicit four-letter words and blasphemies glibly roll off the tongues of actors, even in “PG” movies. We barely notice them, and it takes a lot to make us gasp now.

So if you measure yourself by the rating standards of the world around you, you are kidding yourself. Even if your standard of righteousness is always better than the average, it doesn’t take a genius to see that soon “good people” are actually worse than the average had been only a little time before. Those who consider themselves “righteous” by society’s standards are kidding themselves.

A lesson from the Pharisees

That was exactly the situation into which Jesus Christ came nearly 2,000 years ago. The standards of “good behavior” in that society were set by the Pharisees, a sect of self-righteous religious leaders. By their standards, the Pharisees looked good. They prayed. They studied the Scriptures. They gave tithes and alms, and they fasted often. The average man in the street, seeing a Pharisee in action (and the Pharisees made sure they were seen) would have thought that they were indeed righteous people.

But Jesus saw right through them. He gave a parable that showed what He thought about these hypocrites:

“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men — extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be abased, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:10-14).

Jesus showed that the goodness of the Pharisees, although seemingly better than average, was just not good enough. “Unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven,” He explained (Matthew 5:20).

Measuring accurately

Is there, then, a standard by which Christians can measure themselves? There is indeed. God’s law is a standard you can trust, a standard that never varies. With God there is right and there is wrong, and He commands us to do what is right.

Sin is the transgression of God’s law (I John 3:4), and God doesn’t grade sin. There are no “X,” “R” or “PG” transgressions. The penalty of sin always has been and always will be the same — death (Romans 6:23).

Now that is too strong for some, and there have been many attempts to liberalize or even do away with God’s law across the centuries. But God does not move His standards up and down to conform with changing times, or to agree with what some liberal theologian chooses to define as sin. He doesn’t alter His values to accommodate “progress” in a “more enlightened” world. He never condones sin. (He does, of course, forgive it, if we repent.)

Jesus summed up God’s standard in Matthew 5:48: “You shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

In that case, perhaps we should just give up. Who can become perfect like the great God? But God is reasonable and understanding and does not hold out an impossible standard to thwart and frustrate us. He sets this standard to prevent His people, who are trying to stop sinning, from falling into the insidious trap of self-righteousness.

We must always remember that just reaching a better than average standard isn’t good enough.

By all means be encouraged if in your Christian life you are showing some progress. That progress should spur you on to keep going. But remember, you have not passed the test yet. God has a high standard.” He has promised to help you grow toward it — but not if you bog down into smug self-satisfaction. Don’t be fooled by the collapsing standards of a world that has lost sight of reality. You aren’t “good enough” yet.

The Good News, April 1986

July 9, 2009

You Are What You Think!

infinitygoods.wordpress.com

infinitygoods.wordpress.com

Did you ever hear someone speak out foolishly, sometimes instantly regretting what is said? Yes, that person may apologize, but the scriptures have a few words to say about what we so quickly let fly out of our mouths:

“A good person produces good from the good treasure of his heart, and an evil person produces evil from an evil treasure. For it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45)

Who thinks about their daily thoughts as evil – a sort of poison chalice? We should because thoughts, if left unguarded, will rule us with persistence. Why? Because we are what we think about. Thinking about things that are positive, just, honest and so on are completely foreign matters to most people. The mind loves to justify itself; gratify, satiate the ego. iIt does not like to think about others.

Let’s have a look at two competing scriptures – one with a godly mind:

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. (Php 4:8)

And one with the mind of carnal man:

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? (Jer. 17:9)

It is this second mindset which dominates most people on earth. We don’t generally think about what we think about – by that I mean our thought processes are generally involuntary – a freefloating smorgasbord formulated by what we see and touch. They may be many tiny thoughts we don’t remember thinking, but the result is either positive or negative.

Now think about this. All those tiny thoughts which are obviously formulated, but which we may not realize are there, could produce significant results. If we tend to think negatively, then we are generally so afflicted. If positive, then the other way around.

Thoughts on others

What about how we think about others? Prov. 23:7 tells us that “as we think in our heart, so we are.” If we harbor negative thoughts in our heart about people, then we cannot love them. It is hard to disguise what we think about and somewhere, sometime, our negative thoughts spill out to someone. We may feel remorseful, but that doesn’t make the situation any less real – we do not like that person. Apologizing at this point is wiping bug remains off the front of the car – a never ending job. We know, even if we get the car spotless, the bugs will continue to commit suicide on the grill.

So how do we get out of this vicious, negative cycle? Biblically, we are admonished to think “soberly (Rom. 12:3), which means to be of a sound mind, or moderate. (Strong’s # 4993, coming from # 4998). We are told not to think of ourselves more highly than we aught to think. In other words, drop the ego. Imperfect, negative thoughts can be stopped, with the power of the Spirit of God.Without that power, it becomes an exercise in futility.

Then, the next step is to meditate on things which are positive. This requires some effort and most people are lazy thinkers. They would rather do anything else than put some effort into thinking. but do so the true Christian must. Phil. 4:8 tells us how:

“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.”

What does this all mean? Let’s explain:

  1. True thoughts are generally something proven. We must make sure that our thoughts are not half-truths, or presumed truths.
  2. Honest thoughts can be trusted not to meditate predominately on the self, but to direct attention outwardly towards the care and consideration of others.
  3. Just thoughts are equitable in character, act, or innocent, holy, righteous. They reflect the mind of God and the way He thinks.
  4. Pure thoughts are considered innocent  (Strong’s # 53), meaning chaste, clean and pure. They are the opposite of our arch enemy Satan, who loves to make us break the spirit of the law.
  5. Lovely thoughts or of a good report are right thoughts flowing out of our mind, waiting to bloom for the benefit of the thinker.

Remember that Jer. 17:9 says all mankind has a desperately wicked heart (mind), where the self always thinks it is right. It takes effort and concentration to open the door of our mind to these Phil. 4:8 thoughts. They produce an orderly way of thinking, or better thoughts which produce the character of God.

If in doubt, go about your daily life and as you do so, remember what you thought about after doing something. Our thoughts are the father of our actions. All actions begin with a thought process. Examine your life and your surroundings, they are the reflection of your mind. Is it orderly, or untidy? Are your friends positive or do they have criminal tendencies? Do they curse God in their everyday speaking? Is this really just innocent banter, or the reflection of a passive resistance to God?

The Bible tells us to think as Christ thought, and even to take on the very mind of Christ (Phil. 2:5). We can’t so that if we open ourselves up to wrong thinking, producing weeds in the garden of our mind.

True Christians must examine their thoughts daily, and meditate on what is produced in their life, at work, in study, prayer and everywhere else. Is it the fruits of the spirit blossoming (Gal. 5:22-23), which produces “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance.” Once mastered, these become automatic reactions to our interaction with others. But weeds take time and effort to eliminate, as they take deep root and seldom like to relinquish their hold. Don’t allow them to find a home in the first place.

Learning to control our thinking teaches us to control our circumstances. Sift, sort and analyze  everything passing though the mind for value. Then our action, which are dictated by these thoughts, will have value. It is immeasurably important to build a future on right thoughts, which have produced right actions.

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