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Getting to the ROOT – part 1

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Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.(Proverbs 4:23, NLT)

We have the funniest dog. Let me introduce you to “Sweet Pea”. Sweet Pea is a little, brown, Teacup Chihuahua and weighs all of 3 ½ pounds on a good day. Yet, I have been amazed at how Sweet Pea responds to both people and dogs far bigger than she is.  We’ll be out on a walk, and we see two HUGE dogs walking on the other side of the street.  They are eyeing her like she’s their next lunch, and rather than running scared, Sweet Pea starts growling, barking and yanking at her leash trying to get to them!  It’s as if she thinks she’s going to tear them apart.  I mean, I have shoes that weigh more than she does! I think she really believes “I can take ‘em; just give me the chance!”  It really is so funny. 

While dogs are not able to think like humans, Sweet Pea reminds me of us. Have you ever heard statements such as “you are what you think”? Or, maybe growing up your mom or dad said to you “can’t never could!” And now you hear yourself saying this to your kids! These statements and many like them, reflect the observation that our thoughts are powerful. What we think about makes a difference. The role of our thought-life is unmistakable in its impact on a person’s life and wellbeing. But are thoughts the root of our problems as people? If we could simply think differently, would our stress, emotional state and problems in life resolve?

For thousands of years, mankind has been trying to answer mankind’s problems. Many a well-intentioned theorist has pointed to a person’s thought life as the root of psychological health. Aaron T. Beck, often called the “father of cognitive therapy,” determined that to improve our mental health we simply must change our thinking. And, he is not alone! While he represents many in the field of psychology, we live in a culture that adopts this approach as well. 

“You need to think more positively!”

“Replace your negative thoughts with positive ones.”

“You’ve got to change your stinkin’ thinkin’!”

“What are you putting into your head? Garbage in, garbage out.”

While there is truth to some of these quotes, we must not fall into the trap of looking to our thoughts as the main culprit of our problem.  If we believe our thoughts are the answer to what’s wrong with us, we are going to find ourselves frustrated when we just can’t seem to turn things around.  Our bad habits just aren’t changing.

I was talking about this concept with a good friend of mine.  At first she was perplexed that our thoughts were not the root of our problems. But as we talked about it, she began to share a perfect example of how this plays out in her life!

She shared how she hates when she yells at her kids!  She knows this is not God’s design for her no matter how much her little youngster’s antics might tempt her to that frustrated place.  She prays about it and tries to work at it really hard.  But she’s so sad when that stressed moment strikes and she fails again. 

She said she tries to examine her thoughts such as: “these kids are making me furious!” or “what is wrong with these children?  They are driving me crazy!” and replace them with scriptures like “children are a gift from the Lord….” (Psalm 127:3, NLT)

And here’s how it might play out in any parent’s life…

The kids just flooded the bathroom and it’s leaking through the ceiling! “Children are a gift from the Lord”

You did what to your sister’s hair?  “Children are a gift from the Lord!!”

Why is there permanent black marker all over my kitchen table?  “Children are a gift from the Lord!!!!”

And then we BLOW! “COME HERE YOU LITTLE GIFT, I’LL TELL YOU WHAT I THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU JUST DID!”

We’ve all been there! We can all identify with this cycle in some way. But as she looked deeper and considered her heart issue, she said, “Honestly, I find selfishness.  I want my comfort.  I don’t want to be inconvenienced.  And, parenting is full of inconveniences.  But, instead of loving them and disciplining them God’s way for their good, I yell and fight to get back my comfort.”

The battle for our thoughts is no doubt a reality and crucial to the victorious life of every individual.  Taking our thoughts captive and making them obedient to God is a vital practice in the life of every Christ follower.  But, if we start there, I believe we have missed THE ROOT of our struggle.

So what’s the ROOT of our PROBLEM?

But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. (Matthew 15:18-19, NLT)

Out of our hearts, come the thoughts that we think! Out of our hearts, come the choices we make. Our hearts are full of all kinds of desires, and our desires are often expressed via our thoughts. While intricately connected, we must understand that. . .

The condition of our heart directly impacts the nature of our thought life.

If we are dominated by our sinful nature and heart, then our thoughts will set out to destroy us and all God loves.  If the Holy Spirit of God controls us our thoughts will bring life and peace to our existence and even to the lives of those around us!

We need a new heart.  We need a new spirit.

I believe if we misunderstand the root of our problem, we will miss TRUE and COMPLETE healing! We must run to our Creator, the Cardiologist of our souls, and bring him our sick and wandering hearts. We must be willing to honestly examine and ask Him to show us the root behind the thoughts we think and the behaviors we choose. We must run to the One who loves us more than we can fathom and He promises to be faithful to heal us.

And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. (Ezekiel 36:26, NLT)

 


Posted on November 13, 2013