|With Jesus as Lord, we share His Love|
Gaining Control of the Ball
This summer, several of our grandchildren are playing team sports so we've attended a lot of t-ball and softball games. During last night's 10-12 year-old girls' softball game, the girl at first base was having a bad night. She may have caught one throw all evening, poor kid. All of the other hits or throws got past her, which meant that, time after time, the other team's hitter rounded first base and kept on going. The score ran amok and it was a lopsided 13 - 3 at one point. It was hard to watch. Gaining control of the ball, taking that ball captive at first base would have prevented all of that.
". . . we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." II Corinthians 10: 5 b
So too, taking our wrong thoughts captive before they reach "first base" can prevent a lot of running amok. Taking thoughts captive early in the game, not allowing them to round all the bases, so to speak, will prevent the enemy of our souls from scoring against us. Wrong thoughts will enter our minds, but temptation itself isn't sin. Even Jesus was tempted, but without sin. But allowing wrong thoughts to dig in their cleats and round all the bases? Well, that's a different story.
What does it mean to "take captive every thought" and how do we make each thought "obedient to Christ"? Christian neurobiologist Dr. Caroline Leaf describes the process this way in her book, Switch on Your Brain Every Day.
By standing outside yourself and observing your own thinking, you can take your thoughts captive and renew your mind. Your frontal lobe will fire up in response to your decision to observe your thinking--I call this the multiple perspective advantage (MPA), which enables you to stop yourself before you say those words, do that thing, or react in that way.
Standing outside ourselves and observing our own thinking is a great start. Policing our thoughts and words and actions is the "taking captive" part of the equation. What's the "making them obedient to Christ" part?
In order to do that, we have to know the mind of Christ. We learn by reading the Bible. The One Year Bible is a great way to do that and to hold yourself accountable to daily reading practice. I've been at this for several years now and it's really helped me to develop the habit of reading scripture. I mean, after all, am I going to lie to myself and skip days?
"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life." (Psalm 139: 23 & 24)
Another practical daily practice I've added this year to help me develop the mind of Christ is praying through a stack of scripture cards. Making those cards was a way to "up my defense" during the disruption, disrespect, and discouragement I experienced on campus in the spring semester. My anxious thoughts were running amok. They had become so toxic they were making me physically ill and stealing my joy in life. The enemy of my soul was rounding the bases, and scoring big time.
So, on 3 x 5 cards, I penned verses that were and are meaningful and encouraging to me. Reading and praying through these promises in the mornings helped me slow the downward spiral of negative thoughts and begin to form more positive patterns that were obedient to Christ. It wasn't easy. It's still not easy, but it's worth the effort.
Filling my car with Christian music is another practical thing that helps me practice positive thought patterns. Songs like Lauren Daigle's "Look Up, Child" and Crowder's "Red Letters" help me be mindful of the eternal in the midst of the here and now. I keep my car radio tuned to K-LOVE (88.9 FM in the Lafayette area). K-LOVE has a 30-day challenge: Listen to Christian music only for 30 days and see how your life changes. Maybe you'll take this challenge?
The thing is, we have to be intentional and vigilant about taking our thoughts captive and making them obedient to Christ. A softball doesn't catch itself. A wrong thought will keep on running the bases as long as we let it. Gaining control of the ball is paramount to winning the game. Taking negative thoughts captive is the only way we can ever "be transformed by the renewing of [our] mind," the only way we "will be able to test and approve what God's will is. His good, pleasing and perfect will" (Romans 12:12).