How do you perceive God? Part One. What is your mind preoccupied with?

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The question of how people perceive God accumulates a lot of answers, due to people’s perception and knowledge. For some God is seen as a hateful being, who wants to condemn everyone to hell unless they follow the laws in which God commands. For others, God is seen as a loving being who blesses his people and is the creator of the beauty of the universe. There are people who would dismiss their being any God at all, that they are their own being. The list goes on and on. I wanted to look at how within our faith, we perceive God differently and how that is portrayed in our relationship with God. There are many factors to look at but the three I want to delve into are: what is your mind preoccupied with, what your relationship is like with God and how your faith is reflected in your daily living. This has all been inspired by Francis Chan’s ‘Crazy Love’. They are questions that I have been working on and I pray that these blogs will help anyone who is struggling or working on their faith.

Firstly, I want to start by asking you what your mind is focused upon daily? Is it focused on earthly matters or is it focused on eternal matters? Truthfully, I can say that a lot of the time my mind is focused upon earthly matters with a brief thought for eternal matters. To be honest, I saw nothing wrong with that, but I was incredibly ignorant. What I learned was that when my mind was focused on earthly matters, everything seemed a big deal. Peoples opinions, how I lived my life was orientated around what people thought of me. My mind was preoccupied with the past, the things I had done and how I should have done them better or things that I should not have done at all. It was also preoccupied with the future, what would people think of me if I made this decision and how people were going to accept me on a daily basis. My mind was constantly preoccupied with all these possible scenarios which were so far from the truth but for me they were real. There was little room for prayer and God’s truth. Instead I was gripped by fear and anxiety.

One Bible verse that was highlighted in Francis Chan’s book was Colossians 3:2 ‘Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things’. To me that sounded like a lovely idea but I did not consider it as the command that it was. It is not the easiest command to follow, we are constantly surrounded by all these messages and ‘truths’ found within society, that they so easily numb us and stop us from focusing on the truth of God’s word. I want to begin with us building up a shield in which to protect our minds from negativity and lies. I have listed some well-known verse and put an explanation of putting these into practise.

(John 14:27) ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.’This verse is found in a passage in which Jesus is saying how the disciples will receive the Holy Spirit when Jesus has left them. The Holy spirit will teach them all things and will also remind them of all the things that Jesus has taught them. This is still the same truth for us, we are not expected to remember everything and to be always focused on God’s word. The Holy Spirit will prompt and remind, we never have to fear that we are alone. The peace of God does remain with us.

 

(2 Corinthians 12:9) ‘But he said to me “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.’  It reminds us that we are not called to be perfect, that we should not be ashamed of our weakness; as they are a way in which God works through us. Do not fear, God’s grace is sufficient. What God has called you too, God will get you through. This was Paul who was writing about his weaknesses and he was instrumental for spreading the Gospel and for writing the majority of the New Testament.

(Philippians 4:6-7) ’Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.’ Do not battle life alone, God is aware that as humans we deal with worry, anxiety, etc; God is telling us to offer it up to him.  Through prayer but with a thankful heart. When you give something over to God it does not own you. That is where you will find your peace and rest.

Psalm 46:1-3) ‘Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change. And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; Though its waters roar and foam. Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride…’ So hard to keep up with all the ongoing change around the world, truthfully it is frightening and worrying. Even though life can look so uncontrollable, the truth is God is always in control and it is before God we should lay our hope and trust.

These are some of many verses which you can build up as a shield when your mind wanders down the paths of fear, anxiety, doubt, etc. We must be careful that we do not let our mind go on autopilot, where we are so focused on what we have to get done that all other thoughts switch off. It is that self-focus that leads to opportunities being missed to help people and missing the beauty of life around you. In truth it is not easy to have a God focused mind, when we are surrounded by all these earthly issues. It must begin by starting with prayer.

 

A prayerful attitude.

Lysa Terkeurst ‘The reality is, my prayers don’t change God. But, I am convinced prayer changes me. Praying boldly beats me out of that stale place of religious habit into authentic connection with God himself’

 Big prayers, small prayers, any sort of prayers have importance. They do not have to be eloquently formed, however, they should come from the heart. The battle with where your mind is focused has to begin with prayer. It has to be a surrender of self and a willingness for God to have control. It is not about asking God to change your mindset and then attempting to do it within your own will. Choose to be obedient and listen to what God is telling you. Truthfully it will not always be easy. However, doing life with God is much better than doing life alone. It will take time but through obedience and grace your mind will be transformed. You may remain doing the same things, but your perspective will shift. What used to seem hopeless will become hopeful. You attitude towards life will become something you probably will have not believed. Issues that use to irritate you, you will find an overwhelming peace. Jobs and issues that overwhelmed you with fear, you will find strength and courage to face it. That is the beautiful presence of God within you. When we surrender our self to God, he will use us in incredible ways. We are weak within ourselves, we may be able to accomplish many things but we all have our limitations. With God so much more is possible, we only have to look at the Gospels to see the fullness of life that God gives to people who surrender all.

The mind is a powerful instrument, we need to be careful what we allow to harbour there. It is an important question to ask yourself, what is my mind consistently focusing on? Before you know it, weeks are passing without a second thought to God and his love for you.

 

Flowers over weeds.

One more point I wanted to write on is, we get to choose what we let grow in our mind. There is a wonderful video that Emma Mae Jenkins does on this issue, ‘You have authority over what you think about’.  At the end of the day we are in control of what grows there. We can let weeds grow in our gardens, that will choke and kill all the flowers growing within. Until our mind becomes a dark place, so full of doubt and fear, that there is no room for goodness and light to permeate. On the other hand, we can allow our mind to become a lush and healthy meadow full of the most beautiful flowers. Those flowers being the truth of God’s word and the truth of God’s love, where there is no room for doubt or fear to have a place. The best gardener is God, God is creative in all that he does. If you are willing to surrender your mind, God certainly will transform it. It does not mean that you will not be afraid or anxious or any other emotion that is dominant in your life but with transformation of the mind it no longer has to control you.

The question I want to end with is the one I began with, are you going to allow your mind to be focused on earthly matters or focused on eternal matters? A mind that is tuned and obedient to the voice of God. I know that I am more and more willing each day for God to transform my mind, from the dark place it was in. Find your worth in who God calls you to be. Allow God’s word to be a sword and shield as you face each day. Know that you are not alone, that emotions cannot take away the truth and authority of God’s word. Allow prayer to dominate your life daily, it will transform your mind and your life.

 

God Bless. Know that you are in my prayers. Have a wonderful week.

Victoria xx

Living a life of love, looking out for those who are downcast.

One issue that has been on my heart over the past few months is, what we choose to focus upon and how that effects our daily living. I wanted to look at people who make the choice to be miserable, I do not mean people who struggle emotionally and who suffer with depression. What I want to look at is people who makes the choice to see the worst in everything. Who are normally found to be bitter, miserable and jealous. These are normally people who have been hurt in the past. They may never have had someone to help them through their troubles or who have manifested that hurt and have put up such a strong defence, that no one is allowed to love them.

It can be very easy in this present age to become a bitter and negative person. I want to go back to our roots, look at living a life of love. Although we cannot make people choose how they want to live their life. We can show love, grace and hope through our own lives. May we be an example of the life that is found through the salvation through Jesus. That regardless of what we may come up against, that the truth of who God is and what he says never fails.

Ephesians 5:1-2

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

 

How do we live a life of love?

You have to remember that you cannot do this in your own strength. As a human we are not perfect, I know for a fact I can get easily irritated with people. Sure, I can be loving and kind but if someone is testing me, I am not afraid to bite back. Which ends up making it a completely negative experience.

Whereas, with prayer and with guidance you can begin to control these emotions.

Eric Ludy ‘Don’t pray that God would teach you like he loves, pray that he would fill you with himself and that he would love through… If you try and imitate in your own strength, you will be a miserable replica.’

I would agree with Eric Ludy and I believe this truth drops a load of weight from us. How many times have you felt like you have failed because you did not love someone as you intend to? Have you lost your temper when all you wanted was to bring peace to a situation? We are messy and imperfect; how can we expect to have these characteristics of Christ in our won strength?

 

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

 

2 Corinthians 4:7

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that surpassing power belongs to God and not us.

 

Remembering that we are vessels and if we are willing the Spirit can work powerfully through us. There has to be this willingness. If you look at the fruit of the spirit, they are all characteristics that come from one fruit. It is so important to remember that you cannot do it in your own strength.

Some of the most miserable people you will meet can be found within the church. They will criticise and moan about anything that does not meet with their standards. I think sometimes people get so stuck in their ideas of how faith is meant to look. That they do not allow the spirit to move, that idleness leads to death. This is what the Pharisees were guilty of, their hardness of heart blinded them to the truth that was right in front of them. It also led them to become apathetic to the real need and struggle of those around them, which is something that can be easily found within the church.

 

Loving people who are miserable.

One important point to remember is it is not your responsibility to change that person. At the end of the day, that decision comes down to them. However, as Christ followers we know how blessed we are to be shown mercy and grace. As we have known grace, it is our responsibility to share it too.

A little bit of grace goes a long way. Throwing anger back in someone else’s face, really does fuel the fire. Sometimes it is just about being willing to spend time within their company, obviously in a way in which you feel comfortable to do so. Even listening to a few of their grievances, offering support where it is needed. Just because someone is mean and bitter, does not mean that they do not deserve love.

‘Those hardest to love, need it most.’ Lauren Aquilina

I am always amazed at the kindness that Bob Cratchit shows Scrooge, who is a horrible man in every sort of form. Even though Cratchit was criticised for it, he kept showing Scrooge kindness. There is a lot we can learn from this, that we may look odd in being kind. However, this is who we are called to be. We are called to bring light to people who have been in the dark for a long time.

It is may be harder to live a life of love, than it is to go about moaning and grumbling about someone who is miserable and unkind. Showing love and grace where you can, helps to bring light into people’s life who may have only known harshness. Jesus sacrificed his life so that we could all be saved, none of us are better than each other. Some of us may be able to deal with life a little better but none of us are perfect. Compassion is so greatly needed in our society today. Remember you are not doing this on your own, with the strength of Jesus you can accomplish so much.

 

May you have a blessed week. Look after yourself and keep growing in the faith. Victoria xx