Your Thought Life

Posted: April 1st, 2015 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

 Your Thought Life

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What is the state of your mind today? What thoughts keep running through your head?

Do you feel anxious? Worried? Fearful? Insecure? Inferior? Jealous? Guilty? Shameful? Discouraged?

Are you telling yourself a good story about your life? Or are most of your thoughts negative and self-critical?

Do you say things to yourself you’d never even think of saying to someone else? Do you mentally berate yourself for mistakes? Do you hold yourself to a standard you’d never hold others to? Are you beating yourself up over past sins?

What are your thoughts about God toward you? Is He disappointed in you? Or angry even? Is He looking for you to step out of line, so He can give you a good whack?

In Romans 8, Paul says…

5 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. 7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.

If your mind is governed by the flesh, then you are experiencing a thought life of death. As a result, your emotions are negative. And they’re overflowing into your relationship with your spouse, with your children and with others.

On the other hand, if your mind is governed by the Spirit then you are experiencing a mind full of life and peace. It doesn’t mean you have no problems or that life is easy, but it does mean your mind is not in turmoil. It means you are bringing your thoughts and circumstances and concerns under Christ’s authority.

Doing this doesn’t happen by accident though. It requires intentional effort. In 2 Corinthians 10:5, Paul said, “…we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

Think of a negative thought as an unwanted intruder in your home. If you let him in and do nothing to make him leave, then he will be content to make himself at home and eventually begin destroying everything he touches. You’d become a prisoner in your own home.

If you’ve let wrong thoughts about God, about yourself or about life enter your mind, then it’s time to take them captive and throw them out. That’s not enough though, they must be replaced with the truth.

An even better way to deal with unwanted intruding thoughts is to not even allow them into your mind in the first place. It’s like setting up a fence and an alarm system around your home.

Where are the negative thoughts in your life coming from? Here are some possible places:

  • Old thought patterns from when we were kids. Those negative things our parents, teachers or friends said about us.
  • The media. It could be the television news, your Facebook feed, Twitter or a website. Maybe it’s talk radio.
  • Your family, friends or co-workers. This isn’t to suggest you’re hanging around with evil people, but unless someone is walking in the power of God’s Spirit, they have the potential to speak negative thoughts into your life.
  • Satan and his demonic forces. They can whisper lies to us if we let them.

If you find yourself feeling negative emotions today, pause for a moment and trace your thoughts back to where the emotion started. The feeling of hopelessness or despair or worry didn’t just appear out of thin air. It began with a thought you allowed to come into your mind and take up residence.

It’s time to kick out the unwanted “guests” and replace them with Jesus, who said, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” And His promise is to give us life and peace.


What Are Your Emotions Telling You?

Posted: November 2nd, 2011 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Fitness, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Last month, my son and I went to a NASCAR race in Kansas City. On our way back home, we stopped to get some dinner. After leaving the restaurant, I was accelerating to get back onto the highway, when I felt my car hesitate. It had been doing that for a couple of weeks, but it was worse this time. And that’s when the “Service Engine Soon” light came on.

Something was going on underneath the hood that needed to be checked out. Something was wrong and the light was warning me about it.

I’m glad cars come with warning lights. They save us from ignoring or even being unaware of problems that could become very expensive to fix.

I think you and I have some warning lights as well. And when they illuminate, they’re letting us know that something’s wrong, that something needs to be checked out “underneath the hood.”

Those warning lights are our emotions.

I think I’ve had one lit up for a week or two now.

There was a day last week when I just felt annoyed. A bunch of little things were piling up and really starting to bother me. And I was starting to voice my frustrations.

Today, I’ve had trouble identifying just what it is I’m feeling. At first, I thought it was boredom. Then I wondered if I was just feeling stale. Although, I’m not really sure what “stale” should feel like. As I’ve thought about it some more, I think what I’m feeling is depleted. One dictionary defines “depleted” this way:

To decrease the fullness of; use up or empty out.

I don’t feel like I’m on empty, but my fullness has definitely been decreased.

Years ago, I read a book about a pastor who was very diligent in tracking two areas of his life: his workouts and his time with the Lord. He reasoned that if he was taking care of himself spiritually and physically then he would be okay. So he was completely caught off guard one day when he broke down in tears while sitting in his office.

He checked his spiritual and emotional “gauges” and they were both telling him everything was fine. So what was wrong?

There was another area of his life he’d failed to take care of and the breakdown in his office was the warning light. That area was his emotional health.

As he looked back at his schedule, he saw that he was involved in some very intensive activities that were depleting his emotional reserves. His activities were good ones, but they were running down his emotional battery and leaving him with little in reserve. Reading the Bible and exercising were not enough. He needed time to emotionally recharge as well.

How about you? What are your emotions telling you today? Is there a warning light that’s lit up?

Maybe it’s just a little annoyance or frustration like I was feeling last week. Or maybe it’s bigger like anger or discouragement or fear or anxiety.

If you’re not spending time in God’s word and taking care of yourself physically (exercise, eating well and getting enough sleep), then I’d start there. But let’s not ignore the need to also recharge emotionally.

For some of us, that might mean getting together with friends or taking a walk after work. Maybe it’s taking time to paint or go to a movie or read a book.

It’s tempting to think we should just maintain our hectic pace. Just keep going. Keep putting out. The problem comes when we’re depleted. When there’s nothing left to give.

When we get to that place, we’re not helping anyone, including ourselves, if we just keep pushing.

Is there a warning light on in your life?

If there is, what do you need to do about it?


Do You Make Logical or Emotional Decisions?

Posted: May 19th, 2010 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Would you say that most of your decisions are based on emotion or logic?

My guess is that most women will be honest and say emotion. And most men will deceive themselves and say logic.

I think the correct answer is that almost all of our decisions are based on our emotions. For men and women. In fact, I’d say that practically none of our decisions are logical. I suppose we could try and assign some kind of weight to our decision-making and say a particular decision was 60% emotion and 40% logic, but it wouldn’t matter. In the end, we do what we feel like doing.

Here are some examples of what I’m talking about:

You know you should exercise, but you tell yourself you’ll do it tomorrow. Why? You don’t feel like going.

A piece of fruit would be healthier, but you choose the chocolate silk pie instead.

The 37″ HDTV is on sale and has a great picture, but you by the 50″ because you want it.

You said you put your child in a certain school because they have a better program, but really it’s because you were afraid of the other school.

You know pornography is pulling you in deeper and is harming your marriage, but you look anyway because you like how it feels.

There’s nothing wrong with the ten pairs of jeans you already have, but you buy another pair because they’re cute.

Millions and millions of children are starving, but you increase your 401k contribution anyway. You tell yourself it’s the wise thing to do, but it’s really because you’re afraid God won’t meet your needs if you give more away.

Even when we do make the “right” decision, I tend to think there’s a high degree of emotion lurking beneath the surface. For example, someone may choose to not look at pornography because they’re afraid of getting caught again, not because it’s wrong to look at. Or people may volunteer at a soup kitchen to feel better about themselves, not to truly serve the poor.

I started thinking about this after I read a story in Jeremiah 42-44. It’s definitely worth reading.

What happens is some Army officials come to the prophet Jeremiah and ask him to inquire of God on their behalf. They want to know “where we should go and what we should do.”

There’s a problem though. A big problem. Apparently, they’d already made up their minds. They just figured God was going to give approval to what they wanted to do.

Have you ever noticed God isn’t very interested in giving approval to what we want to do?

God has a plan. And He’s the center of it. You and I are not.

Anyway, Jeremiah takes their request to God. Ten days later he comes back to them with God’s reply. What God tells them is really good news. That is if you haven’t already made up your mind. If you don’t already have your heart set on what you want to do.

After Jeremiah finishes telling them what God has said, they answer him by saying, “You are lying!” What else are you supposed to do when you’ve already decided to do what you want–you attack the messenger. Sometimes that means we question the motives of a friend or mentor. Sometimes we just twist the Bible to say what we want it to say.

One of the things I’ve noticed over the years is that once someone’s emotions are engaged, it’s very, very difficult to reason with them. I once had a man, who was cheating on his wife, tell me that God had brought he and the other woman together. He wanted to do what he wanted to do and was looking for a way to justify it.

A few concluding thoughts:

1. Guard your heart. Be very careful in what you allow your emotions to engage in. You may know the right or logical thing to do, but our emotions conspire with our heart and overwhelm our reason.

2. If you’re going to ask God what He wants you to do, be as sure as you can that you haven’t already decided to do what you want to do. God isn’t going to bless your plan. And deliberately disobeying Him is never a good course.

3. A good, loving, gracious, compassionate, all-knowing, all-powerful God always, always, always knows what is best for us. To ignore His will or commands, is evidence that we’re not making the best choice, but the emotional one.

4. I’m not saying emotions are bad or wrong. God is an emotional being and made us in His image. Good emotions (love, joy, kindness, etc.) can motivate us to do the right things, even things we’d rather not do, like clean the kitchen when we’re tired.

I’d love to hear what you think.


New Year’s Resolutions DO OVER

Posted: January 20th, 2010 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , | No Comments »

It’s January 20th, so it’s highly likely that many of us have already failed at keeping our New Year’s Resolutions. That’s okay. We’re going to start over today. It’s allowed.

Let’s start with one big goal: get healthy in 2010.

Now let’s break it down into body, mind, spirit and emotions. Here’s why…

Several years ago, I allowed myself to become stressed to the point that I was experiencing physical symptoms. My blood pressure was high and my mouth was breaking out in ulcers. I’ll spare you the details, but my mouth and tongue were covered with them. It was very, very uncomfortable for about three weeks.

Because I was believing wrong thoughts, I was worrying. Worry snowballed into anxiety, which led to physical symptoms.

My blood pressure is now under control and I haven’t had another outbreak of ulcers, but I still occasionally experience physical symptoms related to stress. Shortness of breath and migraines are two of them. Fortunately, neither are frequent.

There’s no escaping the fact that our thoughts effect our emotions, which in turn effect us physically and even spiritually. It’s the reason I so often talk about the need to believe the truth about God, ourselves and this life. What we believe, effects everything else, so it’s not possible to get healthy, really healthy, if we ignore our mind and emotions.

It also works the other way. If I’m not taking care of myself physically, it will effect how I think and feel and how well I’m able to handle what’s going on in my life. For example, if I don’t exercise or eat a healthy diet and that leads to gaining 30 lbs., then I will not feel good about myself, I won’t have much energy and will very likely lack discipline in other areas of my life.

In the spirit of keeping things simple, let me suggest just two activities to strengthen each part of you: body, mind, spirit and emotions. We could look at a much longer list, but it would get overwhelming, at least for me. It’s better to decide on just a few key activities and stick with them than to have good intentions, but not follow through.

If you can implement just one activity in each area, then you’ll make good progress. If you can do both, then even better. So for a healthier, happier you in 2010, try the following:

Body

  • Exercise 30 minutes a day, five days a week. If you’re currently not doing anything, then just do something. Start walking. Let that turn into jogging, then running. If you don’t like running, then ride a bike, climb a hill, go for a swim or take the stairs instead of the elevator. Just do something to get your heart rate up. (I’d suggest adding in weight training, but we’ll save that for another time.)
  • For two weeks, try to eat only from the following list: lean meat, fish, vegetables, salad, eggs, nuts and fruit. If it’s not on the list, then try to avoid it. Also eliminate any drink with sugar in it. Read labels. See how you feel after two weeks. If you feel better, then keep going.

Spirit

  • Set aside some time to read God’s word and pray everyday. It helps me to also write in my journal during this time. The amount of time is up to you. Could be 15 minutes. Maybe 30. If you’ll do it consistently, I’ll bet you’ll soon find 30 minutes isn’t enough.
  • Don’t try to grow spiritually by yourself. You need community. Spend time with a friend, a small group or a mentor.

Mind

  • Choose to believe God, not your circumstances. It won’t be easy, but nothing will have a greater impact than this.
  • Re-read the two activities under “Spirit.”

Emotions

  • Get in the habit of evaluating your emotions. If you feel worried–ask yourself, “Why?” The same goes for fear, discouragement, anxiety, anger, loneliness, etc. Your emotions are a result of your thoughts. Trace the emotion back to the thought that caused it. Change the thought and eventually the emotion will change.
  • Get more rest and quiet time. Turn off the news. Go to bed earlier. Take walks. Leave work earlier if you can. Don’t feel like you must answer your phone or email 24/7. They can wait.

Marriage Bonus

If you’re married, the Bible teaches that God sees a husband and wife as one. So in a very real sense, your spouse is a part of you now. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 7:4, “The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife.” He also wrote in Ephesians 5:28, “In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies.”

That being said, here are a couple key activities to implement as husbands and wives:

  • Set aside 30 minutes every day to talk. You can do it while driving, walking, cooking, cleaning or exercising. You can do it sitting at the breakfast table over a cup of coffee. You can do it after the kids are in bed. Find whatever works for you. Just make an emotional connection by talking.
  • Make sex a priority. You’ll have to decide as a couple what that means for you. Every couple is different. Kids, work schedules and other factors all play into this, but I encourage you to make your sex life a high priority. Try this for the next two weeks: enjoy sex with each other everyday. Yes, everyday. For some of you, this will be very different than what you’re experiencing now. That’s okay. Do it anyway. For any of you who are already doing it everyday, well…carry on…

Yup, it’s January 20th, but it’s not too late to get healthy in 2010. If you’ve already blown your resolutions, then forgive yourself, forget the past and start over. You can make a lot of progress by the end of the month if you start now.