How to Break Cycles and Change Your Thinking

thinking

 

We use different filters in photography and post-processing to neutralize a bright scene or enhance blue skies, or draw the eye to a focal point.  I have created presets for bringing out the eyes, whitening teeth, and getting rid of pesky under-eye shadows. Presets or filters applied the right way enhance the photo.

 

While it’s fun to play around with filters in Lightroom or Photoshop, filters used to hide the truth compete with the authenticity and transparency God desires in relationship with him.

 

Hebrews 4:12-16 tells us that everything is exposed before God, even the things we don’t want him to see or acknowledge to ourselves that they exist in our heart.

 

The Psalms are filled with raw, unfiltered emotion before God and that’s okay. We must have a way to express the raw, unfiltered emotions that navigating this life stir in our heart.

 

But, when we’re in the renewal and transforming process, a filter is an absolute necessary in training our hearts and thoughts into new patterns.

 

When we use God’s word as a filter for our lives, we don’t filter God’s word through our opinion, but our opinion and point of view through God’s word. And if there’s anything within us contrary to God’s word, then we readjust our point of view to God’s, we don’t readjust God’s point of view to fit ours.

 

It’s a simple process to break cycles. Yet, it requires a heightened awareness, a capturing, and a flipping of the script in what is going on in our hearts and minds.

 

We find the steps woven throughout the Bible and while this series includes practical steps to take, there also needs to be a foundational understanding of God’s love for you and your identity in him.

 

Philippians 4:8 is one of the filters we can use to filter our thoughts so that we generate new thoughts for our regenerated heart.

 

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8

 

I run my thoughts through this filter like I would run my raspberries through a sieve in order to separate the sauce from the seeds. I ask myself if what I’m thinking is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellence, or praiseworthy. Using Philippians 4:8 keeps God’s word at the forefront of my mind and keep my mind pointed to Jesus’ ways.

 

True

 

When we consider true in the biblical sense we refer to true conduct, sincerity, uprightness, and honesty. We can be totally and completely true and honest with God about our hurts, anger, and frustration.

 

Honorable

 

Philippians 2:3-4 speaks of looking to others interests and not doing anything out of vain conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourself.Honorable thoughts are thoughts are are filled with consideration, deference, and fair.

 

Just

 

There’s a growing demand for justice in our world, but let’s strip it back to the Greek definition of just which is morally righteous, impartial, and upright. Are your thoughts moral? Impartial? Upright? Or are you finding your thoughts filled with revenge or showing favoritism? Jesus declared that even if we think hateful thoughts we commit murder.

 

Pure

 

Pure thoughts are innocent and blameless. Blameless. I can’t tell you how many times my thoughts are filled with blaming others for my problems. If you want to break free of the victim mentality that keeps you hostage, start by developing thoughts that don’t point the blame.

 

Lovely

 

Lovely thoughts are thoughts that are friendly toward something or someone. Lovely thoughts are pretty difficult when we’re harboring unforgiveness and resentment towards someone or something. By filtering our thoughts through loveliness, we are made aware of any lingering vestiges of bitterness.

 

Commendable

 

Do you speak well of your enemies or situations or are you full of grumbling and revenge? Commendable means to speak well of. The key to being able to thinking on things that are commendable is replacing a grumbly heart with a grateful heart by focusing on God’s character and presence during and despite the difficulties we face.

 

Excellent

 

The Greek word for excellent refers to goodness of actions and virtuous deeds. Our actions are born out of our thoughts. What you think is how you act. If your thoughts are vengeful, you might just find those words you don’t mean to say, but mean in your heart, to fly out of your mouth like a dagger to wound and maim.

 

Worthy of Praise

 

Praiseworthy. Are your thoughts worthy of praise? Eventually, as you filter your thoughts through the other commands in this verse, they will be worthy of praise. Anything that is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable and excellent are praiseworthy. But the previous descriptions give color and nuance to this passage.

 

The Takeaway

 

Paul is calling us to action in Philippians 4:8.  We don’t have to remain stuck in unhealthy patterns of thought, but can be set free as we progressively apply these principles to our minds.

 

Freedom comes by way of walking in the freedom that God made available with Jesus’ death and resurrection. So we practice. Every day. Every minute. Every second.

 

Then we rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to do his renewing work in our minds.

How to Flip the Script and Turn Your Thoughts Around

thoughts

 

If thoughts are good, it’s wonderful. Thoughts about the effervescent giggle of a child who found a lost lovey or the way the sunlight made you glow as you basked in it’s warmth bring comfort and encouragement.

 

But when those thoughts damage trust and hope, they’re like knives filleting hearts.

 

We cannot comprehend the power behind our thoughts until we put them into words, and we see the effect they have on us and those around us.

 

The smile that radiates from someone when they receive affirming words, fills our hearts as well.

 

And the ache that leaks out of the eyes of someone who has had words stabbed into their heart feels like shards of glass to our hearts as well.

 

To control our speech, we become stingy with our words, doling them out here and there, raising the bar of exception higher and higher until we’re impossible to please.

 

Or we become self-protectant, doubting the goodness of someone’s words or validating our self-protection when hurtful words come our way.

 

Not giving life to the ugly by being quiet is one step towards using our words for good. But even if we are  still thinking them, there will come a time when the pressure of life causes those words to spillover. And what a mess.

 

In the first week of college, I made a mess with my fellow college students. Let’s just say first impressions are vital and recovering from a bad first impression is nearly impossible. It takes heroic effort and deliberate repeated actions to prove that the bad first impression was the wrong first impression.

 

I made a terrible first impression. Embarrassingly so. A young man threw his fork, which had just been in his mouth, across the table and into my cottage cheese and yogurt. I delivered a sharp and stinging lecture on germs and cleanliness. In the process, I indicated that the person who threw the fork was just as disgusting as the germs in their mouth and I shamed them.

 

I shamed myself by my words.

 

Those words welled up like a volcano and I couldn’t stop them like I had in the past. “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” was my mantra growing up. But it failed me in this instance.

 

The combination of moving to a new town, adjusting to a new school, and dealing with shattering the illegal haircutting business of the Dorm Mother created pressure that built into the “Don’t Throw the Fork That’s Just Been in Your Mouth into My Food” scathing speech. I cringe at the memory.

 

I learn from it too. I understand that preventing thoughts from turning into words isn’t effective. It’s pretty much exhausting and induces a “try, fail, beat oneself up” cycle. That cycle does not lead to lasting, heartfelt, transformation that believers in Christ exhibit as a new creation.

 

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5

 

One of the steps of breaking negative cycles is capturing our thoughts. The next step is making our thoughts obedient to Christ.

 

Awareness of our thoughts leads to capturing our thoughts.

 

Then we bring them into obedience to Christ.

 

How? By flipping the script.

 

Flipping the script involves taking the negative thoughts and looking at it upside down.

 

God’s wisdom is not the world’s wisdom. God’s wisdom doesn’t turn to the latest “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” philosophy or turn to blaming other’s for your problems. God’s wisdom is pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. (James 3:17)

 

I rail against the injustice about the lack of healing in my friend’s body and I shake my clenched fist at the heavens. I tell God exactly what I feel, all the hurt and the anger, and then I declare to myself that God has been my hope and my confidence since my youth (Psalm 71:5).

 

At times I struggle in relationships and find my mind filled with imaginary conversations putting so-and-so in their place, I am completely honest with God with my frustrations and disappointments. But then I flip the script and remind myself that God is sovereign, and his ways are higher than mine.

 

When I feel surrounded by darkness and cannot find my way, I hurl my confusion at God and he hears me because he doesn’t turn me away. But then I turn that thought around by reminding myself that God’s light and truth will guide me. (Psalm 43:3)

 

Flipping the script takes guarding our mouth to a whole new level because we’re renewing our thoughts by making them obedient to Christ. Rather than being held hostage to a cycle of “try, fail, beat oneself up,” we’re set free because our thoughts are filled with the truths found in God’s word.

 

Know his word. Capture thoughts and flip the script.

 

The Takeaway

 

Be aware of your thoughts. Tune in.

 

Capture your thoughts. Even the slippery ones.

 

Make them obedient. Flip the script.

 

 

 

Capture Those Thoughts to Break Negative Cycles

thoughts

Do you remember those old Western movies with John Wayne? He rides easy in the saddle, holster slung low, and has an iconic drawl. But what I remember are the scenes of runaway horses and stage coaches. The horses move as one, faster and faster, dust billowing, the coach lurching, and the passengers tossed about like rag dolls.

 

The hero gallops close, at one with his horse as he leans toward rescue, and he grabs the team of horses and starts to pull back. Slowly, the horses come to a stop and we discover the passengers bruised and broken and the stagecoach off course.

 

So it is with our thoughts. We can take a feeling or sense about something and turn it into an assumption that leads to hasty decisions and divisive plans that leave those around us bruised and broken. Our thoughts run wild and steal our peace and good sense.

 

Last week I talked about developing an awareness of the thoughts. This week, we’re going to address what to do with them. Remember, if you don’t know what you’re thinking, you can’t address the negatives and keep the positives.

 

And that’s the key: we’re transformed by the renewing of our mind. And this transformation is evidenced on the outside of ourselves in how we live our lives and interact with people. Is it true transformation if you spend time praying for your loved one and then turn around and treat them with disdain?

 

Breaking cycles is not just thinking good thoughts, but it’s allowing action to flow from those good thoughts. We must remember that we don’t live this Christian life as islands or solo artists, but we are part of an intricate tapestry, a complete body that makes up the church. Each of us has a purpose in that body, and we find that as we walk and talk and grow in Christ. And our talk flows from our thoughts.

 

Webster’s Dictionary defines thought as an idea in the mind. The Greek word used in 2 Corinthians 10:5 is noema which means something that is thought out, planned, and devised. How many times have you planned out a conversation that puts someone in his or her place? Or orchestrated an elaborate series of actions to enact revenge on someone? Our thoughts can be as dangerous as a runaway stagecoach.

 

This same Greek word {noema} references the mind itself. It’s the word used for minds that are blinded to the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:4) as well as the warning in 2 Corinthians 11:3 to be on guard for the adversary’s cunning ways to lead our minds away from sincere and pure devotion to Christ.

 

So when Paul is instructing us to take every thought captive, he’s commanding us to apprehend those thoughts that set themselves up against God. In order to do this effectively and strategically, we must be aware of our thoughts.

 

As we are aware of our thoughts, we can then begin to capture them. But let me warn you, capturing them might be kind of like trying to capture a fish with your bare hands. Or trying to hang on tight to a wriggling baby covered in baby shampoo during bath time.

 

To capture means to catch and forcefully hold. Kids who grew up playing king of the mountain or capture the flag know exactly what capture means. It means to gain something and then not let it go. No. Matter. What. (We can use this capture for good things too: like hope and peace and trust and love)

 

Can you arrest that thought that tears down your neighbor, acquaintance, grocery store clerk, or loved one?

 

Will you gain control of the run-away thoughts of revenge?

 

Would you apprehend those thoughts of despair?

 

Can you conquer those thoughts that tell you you’re worth nothing to nobody?

 

And will you secure the thoughts that strip you of your security in Christ?

 

It seems impossible, I know. Certain thoughts become patterns that feel like ruts we can never escape and we follow them to the destination we don’t want to experience. Again. And again.

 

We’ll get to that. It’s in the second part of 2 Corinthians 10:5, but first, I want us to grow aware of our thoughts and practice capturing them. Pick one area of your life, whether it’s a spiritual or relational to work on this week. Next week, we’ll address flipping the script and how to make our thoughts obedient to Christ.

 

The Takeaway

 

Maybe you struggle with hopelessness. Monitor your thoughts. See how many thoughts are feeding you despair. Then capture them. Don’t let them go any further than a thought. Don’t plan out the next five events that may or may not happen based on the depths of hopelessness you feel.

 

Or maybe there’s a relationship that pokes and prods. Evaluate your thoughts towards the situation. See if you’re planning conversations and encounters and then capture them. Take note and capture.

 

Scripture to Ponder

 

“We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5

 

“In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:4

 

“But I am afraid as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 11:3

 

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7

 

 

 

 

 

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