Time to Roar

lion-343387_1920Do I believe everything I read in the paper or see on TV? Do I believe what I read in the Bible? So why do I spend more time reading what I don’t believe than what I do believe? “But the one who peers into the perfect law of liberty and fixes his attention there, and does not become a forgetful listener but one who lives it out – he will be blessed in what he does.” (James 1:25 NET) I want to fill my mind with the word of God.

When negative thoughts outweigh positive thoughts it’s called depression. Where do negative thoughts come from? Most of them come from within my mind: “I’m no good. I’m a failure. I’ll never change.” I talk to myself all the time. I am my own biggest critic.  In addition, I have all of the negative from the world. TV: bad news. Radio: bad news. Talk to your buddies: bad news. Where is the scale tipping? “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32 NIV) Freedom does not come from my own thoughts or from the world. The truth of God’s Word brings freedom.

A thought is an electrical impulse flowing through my brain.  If I think a thought often enough and it forms a rut in my brain. It is called being stuck in a rut. Romans 12:2 NKJV tells us not to get stuck in the world’s rut but “be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” Psalm 40:2 NLT promises, “He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.” The Lord is with me. God is on my side. He is my rock and my salvation. Right thinking tips the scales from depression to blah and ultimately to joy.

Our life is determined by what is called the Law of Dominant Image. Whatever I focus on attracts and pulls me toward it. When I entered college, I had the image of becoming an engineer, so I took courses in basket weaving. No, engineering! I had the image of being married to this one girl. That image dominated my thinking, my dreams, my actions until I could see that image become a reality. I took her to the movies. I bought her flowers. I wrote letters. (That was before email.) All in pursuit of that dominant image. 49 years later she is still the dominant image in my life.

Race car drivers are trained when approaching a wreck to not focus on the wreck but on where they want their car to go. Why? Where I focus will draw me toward it. I need to change my focus from bad things to good things. I might be trying to resist looking at a pornographic magazine. “I’m not going to pick up that magazine; I’m not going to pick up that magazine. Oooh, isn’t she somethin’.” When I am on a diet I focus on food more than usual and the result is I want to eat.

I am not already as God wants me to be. Who is? Paul puts it this way in Phillipians 3:12 (NLT): “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.” I choose not focus on what has happened but rather on what I want to see happen. No matter how long I focus on the past it will not change. To change my thinking I must focus on the future.

“I wish I hadn’t…” That focus keeps me in a rut and stuck in the past. If I am imprisoned by my past, my future is the victim. I must focus my mind on my goal, what I want to achieve. Change doesn’t happen by accident, it is my choice. If I wait around for God to change me, I will just stay the same: the same habits, the same failings, the same consequences. I must cooperate with God in that change.

This is not positive thinking or simple optimism. That can be a denial of reality. Hope acknowledges my situation is bad but still I trust in God. David exemplified this in the 23rd Psalm, verse 4: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” (NKJV)

My desire to change must become stronger than my desire to stay where I am. Two things are needed: vision and action. I must see where I want to go and then consciously move toward it. Vision without action is wishful thinking. Action without vision is chaos, going in every direction without purpose or progress.

First let’s look at vision. My life will be pulled not in the direction of my desires or intentions but in the direction of the dominant image I allow in my thoughts. Is the dominant image in my mind one that pulls me back to the past or one that takes me forward into my future? Vision is needed before change. God gave Abraham images of stars of the sky and sand of the seashore show he could visualize his children rather than focusing on his being old and childless.

For many years an island just a half mile from Nassau, Bahamas was called Hog Island, an area limited to wild hogs and a garbage dump for the city. In 1959, investors purchased the island and renamed it Paradise Island. Today it is some of the most expensive real estate in the world with the Atlantis Hotel and other high end resorts. Bottom line: I treat something as I see it. An elephant is 80 times bigger than a lion but what does a lion see when he looks at an elephant – Lunch. Dominant image!

I formed the rut in my thinking by repetition, I will break out of that rut by repetition. If I repeatedly hear negative I will go in that direction. The Israelite army had listened to Goliath for 40 days. David came in and focused on the rewards. If I look at a problem too long it looks insurmountable. I won’t focus on debt but where I want to go. I won’t focus on cigarettes or addiction or pornography or dieting. I can change the image before me.

Our son and his fiancé were driving from North Dakota to Washington State. At 3:00 in the morning on the interstate in Montana he approached a curve and went to past a slow moving truck. He was hit head on by a drunk driver going eastbound in the westbound lanes. No one survived. For many weeks after Paul’s death I battled a stronghold every time I got behind the wheel of a car. I found myself looking way ahead to spot the car coming on the wrong side. If I had to pass a truck, my knuckles went white from the tight grip on the wheel. Driving at night was an ordeal. I had to make the decision to change the thinking, change the vision. I went to Psalm 91: 1-4 (NKJV) to renew my thoughts:

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High

Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress;

My God, in Him I will trust.”

Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler

And from the perilous pestilence.

He shall cover you with His feathers,

And under His wings you shall take refuge;

His truth shall be your shield and buckler.

If I bring the old thinking into the new opportunity, that stronghold will dominate the conditions, stifle the progress that is possible and ultimately pull me back to the old life. I need to examine the thoughts. Does this help me at my new level or does it pull me back? “I’m a failure.” Get rid of it! “I’m not good enough.” That doesn’t belong to me. “God is on my side.” That’s more like it. “I am victorious.” That’s what I’m takin’ about!

The lion is called the king of the jungle. We go to see him in the zoo. To us it is entertainment. To him it is forced captivity. What does he do? He paces back and forth, back and forth. He senses that he was meant for something greater. Even if he was born in captivity that sense is not squelched. It is time I rise up to the person God has called me to be. Everything in that lion’s life may contradict his kingship but it doesn’t change his true identity. Am I locked in a cage the devil has trapped me in, built bar by bar from the poor choices and sins of my past? Am I going to just make do in the cage? Not me! I am going to rise up with a mighty roar. I will no longer settle for the way my life has been. “Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” (1John 4:4 KJV)

I can decide to break out of the cage where the enemy has entrapped me. Blind Bartimaeus threw aside his beggar’s coat (Mark 10:46-52) because he had a new vision. That coat was his license to beg, but he threw it aside because he had a new vision. He did not yet have sight but he had vision. I must throw off that which makes up the bars for the cage of old vision and move toward the freedom of the new vision. Philippians 3:13-14 (NKJV) says, “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

The devil goes about like a roaring lion to bring fear and intimidation, but there is another lion described in the Bible: the Lion of the tribe of Judah, Jesus who comes to bring life and peace. What is our response to the devil? Submit to God, to the truth and power of His Word. Then we are empowered to resist the enemy, to roar right back even louder. It is time to roar!

Get Ahold of Hope

There really is something worse than being poor, sick or in jail. It is living without hope. We need to get ahold of hope. The Israelite nation was delivered out of slavery in Egypt. They saw God perform great miracles, even parting the Red Sea. Yet, when they came up to the border of the Promised Land, they faltered. They had not grasped the vision of their possessing the land.

I am not going to spend my life talking about the Promised Land; I am going to go in and possess it. I have decided that I am going to have everything Jesus died for me to have. Sure, that is a big goal but Ephesians 3:20 says that God “is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that Gill can ask or think, ACCORDING to the power that works in Gill (emphasis added).” What is the source of energy in my life? I had better not be looking for energy from Starbucks or Red Bull or meth. My energy does not come from what I smoke, snort or shoot. I seek to be plugged into the power of Holy Spirit.

Our Christian walk cannot be just a Sunday morning ritual, fulfilling our “obligation” for an hour once a week. If we want constant victory, we need to take God out of our “emergency only” box and invite Him into our everyday lives on a minute by minute basis.

If we believe the right thing, we can live the way. God transferred all of my sin onto Jesus’s record. It was put on the MasterCard of heaven. Romans 4:8 promises, “Blessed is Gill because the Lord will by no means charge him with sin.” The more I focus on past sin the more I am drawn back to that behavior. Does a butterfly consider himself a recovering caterpillar? If I stay focused on my righteousness in Christ, victory is inevitable. The devil can’t stop me.

Have you ever had your cell phone battery go dead? When that happened to me, my wife complained, “I’ve been calling and calling but you didn’t answer.” Well, God is calling but if I am not plugged into the power of the Holy Spirit, I’m not getting the call. Is your battery down to 10% in the red and dropping? Better get to the power source. God is working in me energizing me.

I remember an incident when my wife and I were dating. I was driving a 1961 VW Bug. It had no gas gauge but it had a reserve tank so that when the main tank went dry, you flipped a lever by the accelerator to reserve and you had another 30 miles you could drive before empty. We were driving across the Bay Bridge in San Francisco when the car started to cough and stop. I told her, “We’re out of gas. I need you to flip to reserve.” Well, all she heard was “Out of gas” and she pictured traffic jams, tow trucks and huge fines. I flipped to reserve myself and on we went, but it is a reminder that we need power to keep going. Without it, the fun of serving God becomes labor.

It is not something out there that will make life better but it is what is going on inside. When I need to recharge, where am I going to go? Red Bull? Philippians 2:13 in the Message says, “Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God. That energy is God’s energy, an energy deep within you.” 1Cor 13:8 reminds us, “Love never fails.”

Guilt is tiring. Trying to live with religious guilt and condemnation instead of grace will wear you out. There is not enough power in guilt to get me to live right. But grace brings energy and drive. The world is trying to find the right drink, the right pill to energize. The reality is that power, energy and grace come only from God. Acts 1:8 promises God’s dunamus, His dynamite power to the believer. Embrace the Word of God and receive it.

On a recent trip we were on a number of airplanes. An airplane flies only when it has enough energy (speed) and the right attitude (flaps, wing position, etc.). God’s Word will lift you above the circumstances. Allow His Word to energize you and correct your attitude so you won’t crash and burn.

Isaiah 43:18-19 declares, “Gill must not remember the former things, and he must not consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing. It springs forth now. Doesn’t Gill know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.” Get your mind off the past. Think about God’s blessing. He is doing a new thing. Thinking about the past pulls us right back there. The Israelites had a bad attitude when they faced the Promised Land. It wasn’t the Cananites or the Hivites or the Jebusites. It wasn’t something “out there”. Their attitude stunk. You will never live in the Promised Land with a bad attitude. Nelson Mandella said, “If I am thinking small, I cannot do big things.”

Who do I blame for where I am today? An abusive father? Over stressed mother? Corrupt politicians? As long as I blame others I have no power to fix it. According to Bishop TD Jakes, “If you are disciplined in your perspective you will be victorious in your outcome.”

I cannot erase failures from my past. There is no rewind button. So how do I start over? It begins by admitting my mistake and experiencing God’s forgiveness. “If only…” Yea, I know. We all have regrets. Romans 3:23 tells us we have all sinned. Through one man, Adam, sin entered the world. We were all born prone to mess up. And sometimes it seems like I will pay the consequences  for messing up for the rest of my life. We need to remember we are justified children of God. Psalm 103:12 promises, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed Gill’s transgressions from him.” Think of sin like a stain that keeps coming back, but Jesus’s blood is the eternal stain cleaner.

I love Psalm 118:6: “God is on my side.” When I get discouraged or frustrated I go back to that verse. The Israelites let their future be determined by their past. They had a slave mentality, a poor self-image, a grasshopper mentality. They wanted to go back to Egypt, because they had no positive vision for their life. They knew where they had been and they knew where they were and they didn’t like either one. But they had no vision of where they were going.

We talk about our problems way too much. We need to glance at our circumstances but stare at God. How can I overcome any bondage, addiction, or broken past? Get ahold of hope; get ahold of vision. Hebrews 11:1 tells us that faith gives substance to things hoped for. Faith is important, but it first must have hope to work with. Without hope, faith is aimless. With hope, faith can produce our future. In Romans 4:18 we are told the story of Abraham and how he continued to hope for the fulfillment of God’s promise even when his situation looked hopeless. Hebrews 12:2 tells us how Jesus faced crucifixion: for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame.

If you have no reason to hope, still hope. If you don’t have a positive vision for your future, go to the book of hope, the Bible. Look at the Word and say, “That can happen to me.” And if you get ahold of hope it can.