Small positive steps are one way you can make a big difference in 2018. But there’s another way small things can make a big difference and I’m afraid its not positive at all. Take a look at the picture that I uploaded with this blog. Do you know what that is? That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, it’s termites. I know because I have lots of wood just like it at my house.

You see last October I went to Haiti and I came home to a list of little projects to do around my house and when I went to clean the pool I noticed some dust on my pool pump.  I knew in a moment what it was.  I looked up and an entire section under my eaves was rotting away because of termites. So I did what any normal, middle-aged man would do.  I ignored it and went inside and watched the game.  After several months I decided to tackle my termite damage so I got out my ladder and tools and set out to remove the damage.  Let me give you a rock solid rule of termites: the damage is always more than you think.  It was in the eaves and the facia and the rafter tails.  Actually it’s still in the rafter tails because I have to figure out a way to cut them down and replace them.  I’m thinking about making it a Canyon Springs men’s event.  Who’s with me?

Termites are proof that small things can make a big difference. I would love to stay positive with you in this series and just focus on the great new steps you can take in your life in 2018, but this is a reality of life.  Sometimes you can make changes by stepping forward but sometimes you have to cut something out or it will keep deteriorating your life.

The Power of Not-So-Positive Thinking

It is believed that the average person has “70,000 thoughts per day.”   You may or may not agree with that. I happen to believe that 86.5% of statistics are made up, but the reality is, our lives are made up of thoughts.  Look at it like this.  If just 5% of your thoughts are negative, self defeating, ugly thoughts, that’s 3,500 negative thoughts a day racing through your head.  What will we become if 3,500 times a day we are thinking negative thoughts?

  • If 3500 times a day we hear, “Your hair is thinning”
  • 3500 times a day “You’re pear shaped.”
  • 3500 times a day “You just added a new sleep line to your face.”
  • 3500 times a day “You’ll always be single”
  • 3500 times a day “You can’t do it,” “No one believes in you,” “You’re mom likes your brother more than you.”

Those words can be hurtful, unless your the brother like me and mom does like me best of course.

What thoughts we have racing through our brain are important.  They determine who we are. They can change our self image. They can push us to do greater things or defeat us so we don’t want to do anything.  Have your thoughts ever brought you to a place like this?  You aren’t alone; I found these words in Psalm 55:

1 Listen to my prayer, O God, do not ignore my plea; hear me and answer me. My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught.–Psalm 55:1,2

My thoughts trouble me.  Have you been there?  Are you there today?

  • My thoughts about my work trouble me
  • My thoughts about my own value trouble me
  • My thoughts about my physical health trouble me
  • My thoughts about my marriage trouble me

Matter of Perspective

Our thoughts can make all the difference in our lives.  Two people can go through the exact same situation and one can come out stronger and better and joyful and the other can come out bitter and angry.  It all comes down to our thoughts about life.  Let me see if I can illustrate that for you:

The Dog’s Diary

8:00 am – Dog food! My favorite thing!

9:40 am – A walk in the park! My favorite thing!

10:30 am – Got rubbed and petted! My favorite thing!

12:00 pm – Milk bones! My favorite thing!

5:00 pm – Dinner! My favorite thing!

8:00 pm – Wow! Watched TV with the people! My favorite thing!

11:00 pm – Sleeping on the bed! My favorite thing!

The Cat’s Diary
Day 983 of My Captivity

My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects.

Our thoughts about life can make all the difference.  As we get started I want to take a moment to focus on the termites in your mind, on the little thoughts that you have racing through your mind thousands of times a day that are eating away at you.

There are three types of thoughts that eat away at our confidence just like termites eat old wood.

Old Tapes

We all have old tapes running through our heads from long ago.  Let me give you an example of one.  When I was in junior high some people called me “beak.”  I’m guessing I don’t have to explain why that is; even if you’ve never met me before you can probably figure it out.  I think that I have a nose that fits my face, or at least that’s what I tell myself, but it looked a little different when I was six feet tall and 140 pounds.  Ever since that time, I have been self conscious about my nose.  I don’t like profile pictures of myself.  I do not appreciate comparisons to Larry Bird.  Old tapes like that run through all of our brains and they can go way back. Often to junior  high.  Comedian John Mulaney put it like this.

13 year-olds are the meanest people in the world. They terrify me to this day.  If I’m on the street on like a Friday at 3:00 PM and I see a group of 8th graders on one side of the street, I will cross to the other side of the street because 8th graders will make fun of you but in an accurate way.  They will get to the thing that you don’t like about you.  They don’t even need to look at you for long.  They’ll just be like, ha, ha, ha.  Hey look at that high-waisted man.  He’s got feminine hips, and I’m like “No, that’s the thing I’m sensitive about.”

Here’s the crazy thing about those comments. Maybe they were said in 8th grade, but those tapes still run in our brains.  We still remember them.  Those words can come from childhood friends or teachers way back when or coaches.  Those tapes are most likely to come from parents.  Simple comments like “You’ll never amount to anything” or “Why can’t you be more like your brother” can stick in our heads and echo through our minds.

Here’s how you break those old tapes:  Give your life to God.  Start following him.  Start listening to what he wants to tell you. He wants you to know:

  • You’re valuable.
  • You’re important.
  • You’re forgiven.
  • You’re loved.
  • You have purpose.

Some of us still think of ourselves in junior- high terms.  Maybe today is the day you stop listening to old tapes and start hearing the voice of God in your life.

Other’s opinions

We care what other people think.  Their opinions matter to us.  We don’t want to admit it, but it’s true. People’s opinions effect what we wear, how we style our hair, what car we drive, how our house is decorated, how clean our house is, what shoes we buy, and how we dress to church on Sundays.  For example, I can’t wear shorts.  My wife won’t let me. This is who we are.  It’s always been who we are.  Let me give you a couple examples from the Bible of how we are effected by the opinions of others.

Last week we talked about the apostle Paul and I mentioned that he wrote over half of the new testament.  If you look at his resume it’s amazing.  He traveled the world telling people about Jesus despite getting beaten and stoned and shipwrecked.  After all of the miracles he saw and all the the people he influenced it still bugged him when people didn’t like him.  Look with me at 2 Corinthians 10

9 I do not want to seem to be trying to frighten you with my letters. 10 For some say, “His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing.” 11 Such people should realize that what we are in our letters when we are absent, we will be in our actions when we are present.– 2 Corinthians 10:10

Here’s the truth you need to know from these verses: there is no one more sensitive than a pastor getting criticism about his preaching.  “He is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing.”  Sounds like Paul just got an email from someone who left his church.

In case your wondering, here’s the best way to encourage a speaker at church.  Say this.  “All of your messages are fantastic but this one was especially dynamic.”  Got that?  Okay, repeat it after me: “All of your messages are fantastic but this one was especially dynamic.” As much as we don’t like to admit it, we care what other people think.  We care what they say about our speaking, our appearance, our success, our personality, our jokes.  We care.  People have always cared.  Let me show you an example from the old testament.

23 From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some boys came out of the town and jeered at him. “Get out of here, baldy!” they said. “Get out of here, baldy!” 24 He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the Lord. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys. 25 And he went on to Mount Carmel and from there returned to Samaria.--2 Kings 2:23-25

Let me just say, I would love that super power. You think my nose is too big?  You think I’m not funny?  You think my message wasn’t very Biblical.  Bears, go get ‘em.

If you are overly concerned with the words of others, I have some verses you need to hear.  Let me set the stage for these verses: God chose Jeremiah to be his voice to a group of people who did not want to listen to him.

17  “Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them. 18 Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land—against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land.19 They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord. —Jeremiah 1:17-19

Yes, people will criticize you.  Yes, people will take a shot at you.  Yes, people will try to drag you down. Especially if you are successful.  My rule of leadership is this:  If you try to make a difference in the world and love people, then someone, somewhere will think that you’re doing it wrong.

As a pastor I’ve had to come to this conclusion.  It is my job to speak the Word of God to people in the way He has gifted me to speak.  I can’t be like other guys; I can’t make everyone happy.  I just have to do what God has called me to do.

The same goes for you in your life.  Get yourself ready. Do what God has called you to do.  Don’t be terrified by the people around you.  People will fight against you, but if you are doing your best to follow God he will make you a fortified city an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand up against the whole land.

Ugly and Unhealthy Thoughts

I’ll admit that this one is kind of a catch all for everything else we missed.  Paul gives us a challenge in Colossians 3:

1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. —Colossians 3:1-2,5-10

Each of those things on that list could be it’s own sermon.  We don’t have time for that, so here’s where we are going to take this. What’s your one?  What’s the ugly thought that drags you down?

  • Do you have an anger issue?
  • Do you struggle with lust?
  • Do you battle with greed?

You probably don’t think of yourself as greedy, but if you’re honest you never quite have enough.  There is something inside of you that always wants more. There are other ugly thoughts that can sneak in as well:

  • Are you easily discouraged?
  • Do you get depressed?
  • Do you struggle with your self image?

What is the thought that is tearing you down?  What are the termites that are deteriorating your confidence?  It could be some old tapes that are playing.  It could be the opinions of haters around you.  What is it?  Here’s a better question, what do you do with it?

Silence the Negative Voices Once and For All

These verses that we just read give us a clue.  Not only does it give us a list, it tells us what to do.  Verse 5 puts it clearly: “Put to death whatever belongs to your earthly nature.” In other words, if you have a thought that is dragging you down, we’re not talking about making a slight mid-course correction.  We are talking about taking radical action.  In 2 Corinthians 10 Paul challenges us to take every thought captive.  That line means to make an arrest.  This word gives you the picture of cops busting into a crack house.

A change in your thought life doesn’t come from saying to yourself, “Ahh, maybe I’ll make a change sometime later this year.”  It takes serious, radical, put to death, take it captive action.

If you need some help I made a list of radical behaviors you can follow to get rid of ugly thoughts:

  • Speak to a counselor.  Just book an appointment and go.
  • Confess your issue to a friend.  Shame lives in the secrets but when we come clean it loses its’ power.
  • Join a group of people who struggle with the same problem.  AA, NA, PA, SA

Look folks, if we are going to overcome these thought patterns in our life we have to take them seriously.

Let me wrap this up by telling you about my dog. She’s all bark and no bite, but when someone comes to the house she can be downright terrifying and when she acts like that, all that I can do to stop her is to take her and pin her to the ground. I show dominance.  It looks so weird. But I have to take her captive.  I have to show her who’s boss.

There is a possibility that the negative thought that is controlling your mind is still running free because you have been too passive with it.  It’s time to put it to death.  Arrest it.  Throw it in jail.  Wrestle it to the ground. Do you want to know how do that? How to fight that battle? Just say this little prayer with me: God give me the power to fight this thought pattern that I’m fighting with. God I can’t do it on my own.  I’ve tried and I’ve failed.  I need your strength to do it.

If you said that little prayer, you just might find it makes a big difference in your thoughts and in your life.