Struggling With Your Thoughts? Think SPOT

You opened your eyes only to squint them a few seconds later as the sun kissed you good morning. You shifted your view outside your window and smiled as the blue sky and a small maya waved hello. “What a wonderful way to start my day,” you said. “Hey that rhymes! Wow, God thanks!” You sat up, folded your hands, and bowed your head and spent the first few minutes of your day with your Creator. After uttering an ‘Amen,’ you checked your cell phone. Without warning, out of nowhere, they entered your mind. The thoughts. Thoughts of your fight with a friend over the phone flooded your mind. You called her emotional. She called you insensitive. What once was a bright and good morning suddenly grew dim and dull. All because of thoughts that “came out of nowhere.”

Do you struggle with your thoughts? I know I do. It has been my struggle since last year. My thoughts vary from time to time: swear words (even if I don’t swear; I think they come from the movies and books), false views of God, selfish motives, and even hurtful words against others (even if I don’t actually say them). If you’re like me, you’ve probably read this command from God:

“We are destroying speculations and every  lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5)

You’ve probably surrendered all your evil thoughts to God, asked to be freed from the enemy’s bondage, and claimed God’s victory. (If you’re like me, all of these things took place in a Christian retreat where the enemy and his minions seemed to be on leave from duty) After your bondage breaker, you successfully counteracted almost all evil thoughts with God’s truth. For a week you succeeded.

Then came week two. The battle was on again. Satan and his mini monsters resumed their positions. The awful past, a lazy present, and an anxious future clouded your memory. Your heart followed suit. Then your hands and your feet. From a confident, joyful, and strong Christian, you turned cranky, depressed, worried, and critical. What went wrong?

One of three things usually led to the pervasion of evil thoughts in my mind:

  1. Rationalization. I entertained a half-truth, half-lie, conformed it to my lustful desire, and attached an “it’s-okay-it’s-not-that-bad” string to alleviate the pain from the bump of my conscience
  2. Complacency. Similar to exercise. Couldn’t I let my thoughts wander for just a moment every once in a while?After all, my mind is the only place where my crush comes up to me to tell me he shares my sentiments.
  3. Selfishness and Pride. Why should I apologize to her? Okay, fine, she’s authority, but she’s wrong too! Am I the only sinner here?
One word sums up these three evils: Misalignment with God. Pastor Peter Tan-chi, our senior pastor, warned us against misalignment with God: it is the root of our sin and at times, our problems. In a preaching on overcoming discouragement and depression, Pastor Peter wisely said:
“To overcome negative emotions, you need to address the root problem then align with God.”
I believe that the same principle applies to overcoming evil thoughts. Emotions, after all, are products of our thoughts.
This morning, God reminded me that I am His mirror and that He is the Source; I am to reflect His glory. Along with this wonderful truth is the harsh reality that I am utterly self-centered. He wants me to change and He wants to change me. I know that I can do nothing of myself. After addressing the root problem of self-centeredness, God revealed to me 4 steps with which I am to counteract temptation. I called it the SPOT technique.
the desire and intention to do things for myself and all my expectations. God can’t work out my problem if I won’t give it to Him, and the longer I hold on to a temptation, its pull on me will only grow stronger.
that God will replace my evil desire with His desire; that He will show me a way out of that temptation (He promised this! Check out 1 Corinthians 10:13); that He will tell me what to replace with sinning. It’s not enough to just run away from temptation. I need to do something that will actually glorify God.
The wonderful thing about God is that He speaks. Maybe not audibly, but definitely clearly. In high-definition. I just need to lend Him my ears and my heart. This step becomes easy because it is God Himself who empowers me to obey His will. And lastly…
give God the glory–He alone deserves it. I learned that I should not miss this last important step because if I did, I will trust in my own power instead of God’s. Also, I should thank God even if  I encounter disappointments because I trust Him. He is God, He knows better, and He loves me dearly. 🙂
God holds me responsible for my thought life. You, too, are responsible with your thoughts. We should not let our minds wander and underestimate our thoughts’s power to control us. Next time those nasty, demonic ideas penetrate your mind, think SPOT. 🙂 And remember: this is all by God’s amazing grace. You and I will still fail and make mistakes, but when we let Him, God promises to pick us up, take us by the hand, and lead us to Paradise. The journey with Him is a struggling adventure, but you’d rather choose that over a depressing, miserable life. Right? 😀

On Faith and Focus

About two weeks ago, a new show was introduced in the weekend schedule of Fox channel. The program showcased the world’s greatest magicians and tricks that could be mistaken for miracles. I enjoyed watching the pilot episode, albeit several minutes late, because it was a show that needed only my eyes and awe and not my head for analysis (unlike Criminal Minds which followed right after). Magic tricks relieve stress, but when it’s my mind who does the tricking, stress and sin are written all over it.

Most, if not all, of the reasons behind my struggle for the past three months rooted out of erroneous and sometimes utterly repulsive thoughts which turned into beliefs which translated into actions.  Instead of walking in the Spirit day after day, I boarded the roller coaster and braved the loops, plunges, and lifts on my own strength and wisdom. Living with me, you won’t realize all the nasty things going on inside my head because I often kept mum about. I shared a struggle or two to my closest Christian friends and family members, but that tidbit of information was only the cherry on top; layers of sin lay beneath it.

Last Sunday, God spoke to me in a most personal and convicting way. I wasn’t going anywhere in my walk with Him because of two things I lacked: focus and faith. I leaned more on disobeying God rather than doing His will because I did not foster a high view of Him. To me, God was always gracious and forgiving. He is always gracious and forgiving, but He is also righteous and just. He established a rule called “sowing and reaping” through which I shall bear the consequences of my wrong decisions. Through Pastor Peter’s message last Sunday and a rebuking but redemptive quiet time session earlier this morning, God brought me back to basics: faith.

“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”

– Hebrews 11:6

Faith is a requisite to pleasing God. I did not please God on a regular basis (somehow I was still good) because of my unbelief. Instead of believing God according to what His Word says He is, I formulated an image of God that suited my plans and desires. Dear reader, beware of thinking the same way I did! God simply requires you to believe in Him for Who He says He is–nothing more, nothing less.

The lack of a proper focus also contributed to my aimless living. Your life can really be simplified by sticking to one goal. “Lord, what is this goal? What do you want me to do?” This morning God made me realize that this prayer was an incorrect one. If David knew right on that his predecessor, Saul, would grow jealous of him and hunt him down, would he entrust his life into God’s hands? God sustained him day by day, moment by moment; He revealed His plan on a daily basis as David trusted Him on a daily basis. After realizing the error in my prayer, I asked God for forgiveness and His wisdom and understanding so I could make right decisions today.

Because of my gracious, just, and patient Father, my eyes are opened once again and I am breathing and living on a renewed focus:

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the Name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Colossians 3:17)

At some point in my tumultuous journey, I discarded setting goals because I thought goals would just add to my confusion. How foolish was my mindset! Why should I quit planning when Father Himself is a Planner? I would be inexistent and condemned if it not for His plan to send His one and only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to be the propitiation for my sins. 🙂

If you’re a Christian experiencing “theological confusion” right now, it’s time for you to go back to basics. Believe in the Name of the Lord Jesus. Humble yourself before your God and ask for His forgiveness, for “He is faithful and just and will forgive all your unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) Be completely honest with God; cry out your heart to Him.

“Lord, I’m sick of going through this sin cycle. Help me love You more than I love sin.”

Recommit your life to Him and watch Him work. I know I will. 🙂

To watch the inspiring message last Sunday (it was CCF’s 27th anniversary, by the way!), click this link!

images c/o Outlaw Army and my Tumblr page

Joy, Joy, Joy!

Hello dear readers! 🙂 Before I go on sharing insights, blessings, and failures I have received and experienced these past few days, I want to show you these photos which contain amazing truths YOU should claim!

by an unfailing God at that 😉

photos c/o Safe, Sound, Secure (tumblr)

Isn’t God so sweet and malambing (affectionate)? 🙂

Last July, God spoke to my heart and told me that He desired to fill my life with JOY–the indescribable, overflowing, divine, and wonderful kind. Who wouldn’t want that? I actually prayed to God about it, that He fill me with His joy, because one of my toughest struggles is depression which emanates from self-centeredness. God led me to the short but insightful book of Philippians written by the apostle Paul who was a very joyful man himself. I still can’t get to grips with the fact that an imprisoned man wrote this book to a people so dear to his heart with joy and rejoicing as its recurring theme (joy and similar words were mentioned 16 times in Philippians!) In clever and sly ways, the world influences us to worry and be anxious. In the world’s eyes, smiling at your problems is immature. God says otherwise. 🙂 Are you ready to be infected with outrageous joy?

Before you continue reading, please be reminded that reading my posts won’t make you any joyful just as staring at food won’t make your hunger go away. You have to decide for yourself to: 1) focus on Jesus and surrender to His leadership and to  2) choose joy over worry at any time of the day regardless of how you feel. Also, note that some insights are personal (but not too personal :D). Challenge my insights, add new ones in line with God’s truths, and most importantly, always go back to the Bible. When I studied the book of Philippians, I read an entire chapter first and let God speak to me before I read devotionals and other supplementary resources. God will speak to you. The question is: are you willing to listen?

Click the next entry to begin your study on JOY! ENJOY! 🙂 God bless you!

“I Don’t Need Easy; I Just Need Possible.”

Bethany Hamilton not only said that; she lived it.

Yesterday, my family and I watched Soul Surfer, an autobiography on the victorious and inspirational life of professional surfer and Christian Bethany Hamilton (played by Annasophia Robb). While surfing off Kauai’s North Shore back in October 31, 2003, Bethany encountered the beast that changed her life forever: a 14-foot tiger shark attacked her, leaving her left arm severed and causing her to lose 60% of her blood.*  In spite the near-death situation she faced (literally caught in the jaws of death), Bethany survived the shark attack and lived to proclaim the hope, love, mercy, provision, joy, and care she received from her Savior, Jesus Christ.

God couldn’t be anything but timely when He allowed me to watch the film (Malacanang suspended classes yesterday).  I have been very complacent with my physique, prayer life, studies, writing (especially that novel that is soon to be born), and serving others.  If my life were a game, I was living the life of an easy-goer, an amateur–not exactly the plan God had in mind. The Christian life is anything but mediocre; in fact, it is impossible. Nevertheless it is possible because of the God Who can make all things possible. Since I wasted a lot of time in the valley of complacency, my passion for all things Heavenly slowly eroded. God was not impatient, but He had to jolt me out of my lethally dangerous lifestyle. I am so thankful He did and did so without costing me anything. At least for now.

To say that  Bethany Hamilton is tough is an understatement. She is a living, breathing example of living by faith and not by sight. Like most, if not all, Christians who have encountered ferocious “shark attacks” that left an area of them severed, Bethany questioned God’s plan for her life. After all, how could God have made her for surfing then take away a part of her that enabled her to surf excellently? Any person in her shoes would conclude that way from a “zoomed in” perspective. As explained in the movie, you don’t appreciate a photo when you look at it too close; however, once you step back and see the picture as a whole, what you saw as unattractive or vague you now consider beautiful or at the very least, understand completely. The same principle applies to life. We tend to be disappointed with God because we don’t see life as He does. God’s eyes are “zoomed out;” He sees the picture as a whole. Sometimes we really won’t see the big picture, and for this reason, we are to trust God. Bethany Hamilton trusted the Lord to carry her day by day, and He kept true to His Word. Until today, Bethany inspires young men and women, handicapped and otherwise, all over the world that God “knows the plans He has for them, plans to prosper them, plans to give them a hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

I want to thank Bethany Hamilton for allowing herself to be used by God to inspire people with her testimony including me. 🙂 I quote God’s Words to me after watching Soul Surfer:

“Just like I used surfing and a shark attack in Bethany Hamilton’s life to help her know me better and inspire people to have faith in Me, so I will use your dexterity in writing, knowledge, dystonia, personality, temperament–YOU–to bring honor and glory to My Name as well as to bring people to My presence.” 

God can work with people who only has an arm, a leg, or none at all! Easy is a dangerous word; it kills the passion innate in every person. Don’t settle for easy. Plunge in the impossible that is possible only because of JESUS CHRIST. 🙂 

Check out photos of Bethany Hamilton in action! 🙂 (c/o of Google Images)

* taken from Bethany’s website

By the way, this is my 160th post! 🙂

 

 

What I’ve Been Learning Lately (WIBLL)

Hello blogworld! 🙂 I apologize for my lack of a decent post last week. I took my exam in accounting, business statistics, philosophy, and psychology last week and finance on Monday . I still have two exams left–Law on obligations and contracts and fundamentals in programming and database–so expect another week of inactivity after this post. That being said, let’s move on.

I am grateful for having a God and at the same time my Father, Best Friend, Teacher, and Lord Who is exceedingly good and patient with me. He never fails in fulfilling His promises to me when I obey His commands. Unlike Him, I fail in fulfilling my promises. When I told God and myself that I will commit to memorize and recite all the chapters of the book of Psalm this year, I failed to weigh the implications of my decision. I thought I can memorize another book of the Bible just like what I did in high school only to remember three months later that I was able to accomplish that feat because 1. I had all the time in the world (I can excuse schoolwork with memorizing) and 2. I managed my time well then. I made that promise three months ago and until today, I can’t go past Psalm 9. Last week, I asked myself, “Why do I want to memorize and recite the book of Psalm?”

I disliked what my conscience told me, but I had to accept it. I had to quit playing games with myself and start dealing with reality.

“You just want to add another seemingly wonderful accomplishment to your list of bragging rights. And if you believe memorizing 150 or 500 chapters from the Bible would make you more spiritual, then you’re on the wrong path.”

I confessed my sin before the Lord and asked Him if I could free myself of my commitment which, after three months, I resolved to nullify. He said yes, but He also told me that He was hurt by my decision.

“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’  But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black.” (Matthew 5:33-36)

This does not mean that a Christian must not promise anything to the Lord, but if he does, he must be committed to keep it. My dad gave me clear illustration of this instance once when we were talking in our car on the way to my school (then UA&P). I asked him if it is a sin to break your promises to God.

“I don’t think so, but God will surely be hurt. Like me, for example. If you promise to massage me tonight, then night comes and you don’t massage me, I still love you, but I am hurt.”

I apologized to the Lord for breaking my promise concerning His Word and He readily forgave me. The memory of my failure still haunts me, though. In spite of my unfaithfulness, God calmly assured me through Peter Furler’s song “Reach:”

“I fall again and again

but You whisper, 

‘You’re still Mine.’ “

Then God revealed to me why I haven’t been keeping my promises: I have been focusing on the wrong things. My priorities are out of joint.

Again, I asked for His forgiveness and again, God readily forgave me. The amazing thing about God is that He’s so good and faithful in keeping His promises to His children. He will never fail us–or you. 🙂

How about you? What have you been learning lately? 🙂