All posts by Brian Amerson

A Better Forman

A Better Foreman
by Chuck Swindoll

Philippians 4:8

A person is a product of his or her own thoughts. Thoughts form the thermostat which regulates what we accomplish in life. My body responds and reacts to the input from my mind. If I feed it with doubt, worry, and discouragement, that is precisely the kind of day I will experience. If I adjust my thermostat forward—to thoughts filled with vision, hope, and victory—I can count on that kind of day. You and I become what we think about.

Take a minute to give your imagination a workout. Consider your mind a factory—a busy, bustling workshop of action and production. That’s not far from the truth. Your mind is a thought factory. Every day on that internal assembly line it produces thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of thoughts. Production in your thought factory is under the charge of two foremen. The names on their hard hats are Mr. Gainground and Mr. Slideback. Mr. Gainground, as you’d imagine, oversees the production of positive thoughts. At the pull of a lever, wholesome, encouraging, reassuring plans and positive ideas roll down the belt and into the showroom.

That other foreman, Mr. Slideback, has responsibilities too. Over in a darker, damp wing of the plant, Gainground’s counterpart manufactures negative, depreciating, worrisome thoughts. Both foremen are well qualified for their respective duties. Gainground specializes in producing reasons why you can face life triumphantly, why you can handle whatever comes your way, why you’re more than a conqueror. Old Slideback earned his Master’s at Inadequate U. He’s full of reasons why you cannot succeed, why you’re pitifully unable, why you should cave in, bow down, and surrender to the tangled thicket of inferiority, failure, and discouragement.

Both foremen, however, are instantly obedient. They await your signal to snap to attention. Provide yourself with a positive signal and Mr. Gainground throws himself into action. Pulling all the right switches, Gainground so gears production that one encouraging, edifying thought after another floods your mind and fills your life. As long as production is under his firm control, not even the slightest mist of misgiving may be observed hovering under the factory ceiling.

Foreman Slideback, however, awaits a negative signal (which he would prefer to call “reality” or “common sense”) and he’s off and running. At peak production, Slideback’s assembly line cranks out discouraging, bad-news thoughts faster than the mind can process them. He will soon have you convinced that you can’t or won’t or shouldn’t. Given sufficient time, he will drain your energy, squelch your confidence, and transform you into a frowning tight-lipped fatalist.

Neither Dale Carnegie nor Norman Vincent Peale originated such a message as this—God did. Listen to three biblical counselors:

Solomon, referring to attitudes: “For as he thinks within himself, so he is” (Proverbs 23:7).

Paul, referring to thoughts: “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute . . . dwell on these things” (Philippians 4:8).

Peter, referring to the mind: “Therefore, prepare your minds for action” (1 Peter 1:13).

Thoughts, positive or negative, grow stronger when fertilized with constant repetition. That may explain why so many who are gloomy and gray stay in that mood, and why others who are cheery and enthusiastic continue to be so, even in the midst of difficult circumstances. Please do not misunderstand. Happiness (like winning) is a matter of right thinking, not intelligence, age, or position. Our performance is directly related to the thoughts we deposit in our memory bank. We can only draw on what we deposit.

What kind of performance would your car deliver if every morning before you left for work you scooped up a handful of dirt and put it in your crankcase? The fine-tuned engine would soon be coughing and sputtering. Ultimately, it would refuse to start. The same is true of your life. Thoughts about yourself and attitudes toward others that are narrow, destructive, and abrasive produce wear and tear on your mental motor. They send you off the road while others drive past.

You need only one foreman in your factory. The name is Mr. Gainground, and he’s anxious to assist you. In fact, he is immediately available to all the members of God’s family. His real name is the Holy Spirit—the Helper. If Mr. Slideback has been too busily engaged as foreman on your mental assembly line, then fire him! You’ll be astounded by how smoothly the plant will run under new leadership.

 

 


Are You a Thermostat or a Thermometer?


Are You a Thermostat or a Thermometer?

by  Greg Laurie

“Noah was a righteous man, the only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship with God.”—Genesis 6:9

Peter, in his second epistle, described the world’s effect on two believers. Both lived in a wicked culture, yet one thrived and the other shriveled.
First there’s Noah, who lived an uncompromised life. “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” and “walked with God” (Genesis 6:8, 9 NKJV). Times were so bad that wickedness was full to the brim (see Genesis 6:5), yet Noah faithfully served the Lord despite the criticism of his culture. He raised his family as believers as well, and preached to others.
On the other hand was Lot, who reluctantly left Sodom. “Yes, Lot was a righteous man who was tormented in his soul by the wickedness he saw and heard day after day.” (2 Peter 2:8 NLT). He ended up as a leader in the city who had no influence whatsoever.
When told by angels that judgment was coming, he told his sons-in-law. They “blew him off” because they thought he was joking. The angels had to take him by the hand to get him out. He did not want to leave. He lived a compromised life, and when judgment came, he left reluctantly. He could have sung (like Tony Bennett), “I left my heart, in Sodom and Gomorrah.”
No one is reached by compromise.
Which one of those men do you relate to? Are you changing culture, or is culture changing you? Are you a thermostat or are you a thermometer?
A thermometer is affected by its surroundings. Depending on the temperature, the mercury moves up or down. In contrast, a thermostat influences its surroundings. Unlike the thermometer, the thermostat controls the heat or coldness around it.
Noah was a thermostat and Lot was a thermometer.
So, what kind of a believer are you? It’s easy to blame our wicked culture for the way we are but the fact of that matter is that it’s our job as followers of Jesus is to permeate and affect it.
Do you influence your surroundings or do your surroundings influence you?
By Greg Laurie

Titus 3:1-8

CHAPTER 3
Godly Living
Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men. For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men.

How many of us ” live peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.”

This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men.


 

Insensitivity

Chuck Swindoll

1 Peter 4:8

We’ve been talking about the tragedy of insensitivity in relationships. Parental sensitivity rates desperately low these days. It’s part of the fall-out of our rapid pace. Solomon tells us that our children “make themselves known” by their deeds, their actions. He then reminds us that we have ears and eyes that ought to hear and see (Proverbs 20:11–12). But again, it takes time to do that. And again, we’re “too busy.”

Let’s think that over. A basic task you accepted when you became a parent was the building of self-esteem and confidence into your offspring. Without coming out and saying it, they look to you to help them know how to believe in themselves, feel worthwhile, valuable, secure in a threatening world. In dozens of ways they drop hints that ask for help. The sensitive parent spots the hint, deciphers the code, and wisely brings reinforcement.

In his fine book Hide or Seek, Dr. James Dobson lists the five most common barriers that cause our children to doubt their worth—even when they are deeply loved. The first barrier on the list is “parental insensitivity.” Our challenge is to counteract the world’s value system, which requires of our little ones either high intelligence or physical attractiveness. It’s impossible to shut out this value system entirely, but we must keep things in proper perspective—especially if our kiddos are neither smart nor beauties! Failure to do so can easily result in struggles with inferiority.

The key, I repeat, is sensitivity—tuning into the thoughts and feelings of our kids, listening to the clues they give us, and reacting appropriately. The sensitive heart rubs its fingers along the edges, feeling for the deep cracks . . . the snags . . . taking the time to hear . . . to care . . . to give . . . to share.

It’s worth clearing your schedule, I promise.

Fallibility, Part Two
by Chuck Swindoll

1 Peter 1:24-25

God’s Word is infallible; people are not. This point is particularly underscored in the realm of leadership. We naturally seek after ministers we can respect and follow. And then—glory!—we come across some whose lives are admirable, whose leadership seems to be blessed of God, and whose instruction is biblical, wise, and dynamic. Everything’s great until one such individual teaches something that is different from another minister who is equally admired. That never fails to leave groupies in a confused tailspin.

This is a good time to consider the sage counsel of Bernard Ramm:

How do we settle the truth when two people of equal piety and devotion have different opinions? Does the Holy Spirit tell one person the Rapture is pre-tribulation, and another that it is post-tribulation? The very fact that spiritually minded interpreters come to different conclusions about these matters distresses many people’s minds. They have presumed that if a man is yielded to the Holy Spirit, his interpretations must be correct.

But certain things must be kept in mind. First, the Holy Spirit gives nobody infallible interpretations. Second, piety is a help to interpretation, but it is not a substitute for knowledge or study or intelligence.

Third, all of us are still in the human body and subject to its limitations and frailties . . . we make mistakes of interpretation in Scripture as well as errors in judgment in the affairs of life.

It is the present temptation of at least American evangelicalism to substitute a class of devout Bible teachers for the Catholic Pope. To such people the meaning of Scripture is that which their favorite Bible teacher teaches. But the Protestant principle must always be this: The truest interpretations are those with the best justification.

I could just as easily have used an illustration regarding a physician’s diagnosis or a therapist’s counsel. The issue is identical, and it brings us back to where we started yesterday. If I could change a term and put it in the language of a famous historical document: all men are created fallible. Yes, all. If you remember that, you’ll have fewer surprises and disappointments, greater wisdom, and a whole lot better perspective in life. Rather than slumping into cynicism because your hero showed feet of clay, you’ll maintain a healthy and intelligent objectivity. You’ll be able to show respect without worshiping him or her. And when you really need to know the truth, you’ll turn to the Scriptures with firsthand confidence.

If you’re looking for infallibility, look no further than God’s Word.

The Oscar Outlook

Our kids were part of the Sesame Street generation. Maybe you can hear the theme song in the back of your mind. They grew up watching what was then the most creative, groundbreaking children’s program of its time. And Sesame Street always has had an interesting cast of Muppet characters to make learning more interesting. I mean, who could forget Bert and Ernie, and Mr. Snuffleupagus, and Big Bird (Who I guess he looks sort of like a canary on steroids)? And, of course, that epitome of poor hygiene, Oscar the Grouch. In case you’ve been culturally deprived, Oscar is this hairy creature with his big eyes and a bad attitude who lives in a garbage can. He even sings a song called, “I Love Trash.” Oscar doesn’t have to live in a garbage can. He chooses to. No wonder he’s got a bad attitude!

No one would choose to live in the garbage, would they? Well, in a way, a lot of people do just that, which leads us to what I consider the most curious question Jesus ever asked. He is at the pool of Bethesda, which many in that day believed had healing powers when it was stirred by an angel. Jesus sees a paralyzed man lying there who had been an invalid for 38 years. In our word for today from the Word of God, beginning in John 5:6, “Jesus asked him, ‘Do you want to get well?'” That is a curious question. “‘Sir,’ the invalid replied, ‘I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.’ At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.”

Now why would Jesus ask a paralyzed man if he wants to get well? The Bible doesn’t tell us, but I have a guess. He had been in his paralyzed condition so long that he might have been almost afraid to be well. Which is like a lot of us when it comes to the baggage – let’s call it the “garbage” of our lives. When you’ve experienced pain in your past, maybe abuse, betrayal, tragedy, it’s easy to begin to define your role in life as “victim.” You may very well have been the victim of some person or situation that hurt you very much and over which you had no control.

But continuing to dwell on the pain of your past; continuing to define yourself by the pain of your past is, in some ways, like following the Oscar approach to life – sort of living in the trash can, dwelling on – or dwelling in – the garbage of your life. You hate it, but you keep returning to it mentally and emotionally. And you start to get an Oscar outlook on life: negative, grouchy, thin-skinned, pitying yourself too much, and spilling garbage on other people.

And Jesus comes along and He asks the question, “Do you want to get well?” Living amidst the garbage of your past is a choice. Jesus has been setting people free from their emotional trash cans for 2,000 years! It will mean facing your issues instead of running from them, maybe working through them with a trained counselor, it may mean doing some forgiving, a lot of praying, and letting Jesus be Lord of the corners of your heart that have been off limits to Him before.

You see, when Jesus was born, the announcement was, “He will save His people from their sins.” That is all the garbage and junk of our past – the sins that we have done and the sins that have been done to us. And the Bible says that “Jesus came to rescue us from those” so that those don’t ever have to be a part of our life again.

Whatever you’ve done before today, doesn’t ever have to matter anymore because Jesus died; He took the rap – paid the penalty – to remove it and forgive it. This day would you say to Him, “Jesus, I’m yours. I want to start over with a clean heart and a new beginning.”

Sure the trash of your past is real, but you don’t have to live there any longer! Leave the past where it belongs and follow Jesus to a brand new beginning!

Trust- part 2

Trust, Part Two
by Chuck Swindoll

1 John 4:17-19

Each morning you awaken to an unpredictable set of hours filled with surprises and trials and anxieties. You know before your feet ever touch the floor you are in for another who-knows-what day. You could be in an accident on the freeway, fired from the job, the victim of a personal attack, mistreated, robbed, slandered, or threatened with a lawsuit. Sounds pretty bleak, but it’s true. Happens to hundreds like us daily.

Living in the fear of that brings trauma . . . internal stress prompted by worry. Many a soul starts priming the pump of worry even before they get the morning paper. All sorts of energy is burned up as the mind runs up and down the dark alleys of imaginary dread.

“We must get rid of Fear!” advised Thomas Carlyle. Sure . . . but how? How do you break the habit? The same way you stay in the dentist’s chair when you’re tempted to get antsy—you trust. You consciously and willfully abandon yourself to Someone who is trustworthy. It certainly worked for David. He wrote:

When I am afraid,
I will put my trust in You. (Psalm 56:3)

Meaning what? Meaning this: “I will lean on, rely on, rest in, surrender to, depend on, relax.” How can I do this? By being convinced that God is totally trustworthy. He cares. He’s reliable. He isn’t clumsy. Or unskilled. Or out to get me. Or only working part time. Or available just to adults. When He says, “This won’t hurt a bit, trust me,” He means it.

Trust

Trust, Part One
by Chuck Swindoll

Proverbs 3:5-6

Those folks who used to put together Campus Life magazine got my vote. With an incredible regularity they would put the cookies on the lower shelf so that any high schooler in America could thumb through the thing without getting turned off. One of their secrets was frequent humor, lots of jokes. You know, all kinds of stuff to laugh at . . . some a little gross, but all designed to scratch a teenager where he was itching. And most kids I know at that age are never very far from fun.

I’m sure they got as big a laugh out of Stephen Erickson’s article when it was published as I did. It’s called:

How to Choose a Dentist

Never trust a dentist . . .
. . . who wears dentures.
. . . who has hairy knuckles.
. . . whose drill is driven by a system of pulleys connected to three mice on a treadmill.
. . . who sends you a Christmas card and charges you for it.
. . . who chews tobacco and spits the juice into the sink.
. . . who uses the suction hose to empty your pockets.
. . . who is also a barber.
. . . who sprays his equipment with Lysol to sterilize it.
. . . who uses lead for fillings.

You can always trust a dentist . . .
. . . who has never chewed gum.
. . . who looks like Jack Nicholson.
. . . who doesn’t ask you questions when your mouth’s full.
. . . who puts you to sleep two weeks before your appointment.
. . . who uses a laser instead of a drill.
. . . who cancels your appointment to play tennis.
. . . who has mellow rock piped into his office instead of elevator music.
. . . who doesn’t strap you in the chair.

Anybody—high schooler or not—who has gone through the predental appointment shakes can identify with those crazy comments. How great it would be to find a member of the professional drill team who fits the latter rather than the former list!

As I smiled through the descriptions, I was struck with a sudden rush of insight hidden behind the humor. Basically, it’s the trauma of fear that makes us dread getting strapped into the hot seat. Fear of pain, fear of discomfort, brought on by seeing a grown man in a white outfit with a needle behind his back and that “I’m gonna gitcha” look in his eye. Such trauma calls for an antidote equally powerful. In a word, it is trust . . . reliance on character, skill, and competence. It’s having confidence. Being assured he knows what he’s doing. You don’t want some clown jabbing you in the jaw who has to consult a do-it-yourself-dentistry handbook while you’re getting numb. You also know you’re in for trouble if he comes at you as clumsy as a Sherman tank. The doc has to have class to put your mind at ease; otherwise, your trust is undermined. Trust calms trauma. It’s as simple as that.

What is true in the dentist’s waiting room and office is also true in everyday life. We must learn to consciously abandon ourselves to Someone who is trustworthy. More on that  in Part Two.

Keeping Confidences

by Chuck Swindoll

Psalm 141:3-4

Can you keep a secret?

Can you? Be honest, now. When privileged information passes through one of the gates of your senses, does it remain within the walls of your mind? Or is it only a matter of time before a leak occurs? When the grapevine requests your attention from time to time, do you refuse to help it climb higher, or do you encourage its rapid growth, fertilizing it by your wagging, unguarded tongue? When someone says, “Now this is confidential,” do you respect their trust or ignore it . . . either instantly or ultimately?

The longer I live, the more I realize the scarcity of people who can be fully trusted with confidential information. The longer I live, the more I value those rare souls who fall into that category! As a matter of fact, if I were asked to list the essential characteristics that should be found in any member of a church staff or officer on a church board . . . the ability to maintain confidences would rank very near the top. No leader deserves the respect of the people if he or she cannot restrain information that is shared in private.

Our minds might be compared to a cemetery, filled with graves that refuse to be opened. The information, no matter how juicy or dry, must rest in peace in its coffin, sealed in silence beneath the epitaph “Shared in confidence—Kept in confidence.”

You and I wouldn’t give a plugged nickel for a doctor who ran off at the mouth. The same applies to a minister or an attorney or a counselor or a judge or a teacher or a secretary . . . or a close, trusted friend for that matter. No business ever grows and remains strong unless those in leadership are people of confidence. No school maintains public respect without an administration and faculty committed to the mutual guarding of one another’s worlds. When leaks occur, it is often a sign of character weakness, and action is usually taken to discover the person who has allowed his or her mental coffin to be exhumed and examined.

Information is powerful. The person who receives it and dispenses it bit by bit often does it so that others might be impressed because he or she is “in the know.” Few things are more satisfying to the old ego than having others stare wide-eyed, drop open the jaw, and say, “My, I didn’t know that!” or “Why, that’s hard to believe!” or “How in the world did you find that out?”

Solomon writes strong and wise words concerning this subject in Proverbs. Listen to his counsel:

Wise men store up knowledge,
But with the mouth of the foolish, ruin is at hand. (10:14)

When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable,
But he who restrains his lips is wise. (10:19)

He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets,
But he who is trustworthy conceals a matter. (11:13)

The one who guards his mouth preserves his life;
The one who opens wide his lips comes to ruin. (13:3)

He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets,
Therefore do not associate with a gossip. (20:19)

Like a bad tooth and an unsteady foot
Is confidence in a faithless man in time of trouble.

Like a city that is broken into and without walls
Is a man who has no control over his spirit. (25:28)

From now on, let’s establish four practical ground rules:

Whatever you’re told in confidence, do not repeat.
Whenever you’re tempted to talk, do not yield.
Whenever you’re discussing people, do not gossip.
However you’re prone to disagree, do not slander.
Honestly now, can you keep a secret? Prove it.

Have Faith, Have a Plan

Read Exodus 2:1–10

Jochebed had faith. She also thought through a very creative plan. I’d like to pause to reflect on this tension between careful planning and full-hearted faith. Are they mutually exclusive? Not on your life! Yet to talk to some believers, you might be led to think otherwise.

I’ve talked with unemployed men and women who tell me, “I’m just waiting on the Lord to provide a job.”

“Fine,” I reply. “And where have you placed your resumé?”

“Well, I’m not going that route. I’m just waiting on God.”

“Oh really?” I say. “Then I hope you don’t mind remaining jobless for awhile.”

The old motto of soldiers during the Revolutionary War applies to many areas of life: “Trust in God, but keep your powder dry!” In other words, place your life in the Savior’s hands, but stay at the ready. Do all that you can to prepare yourself for battle, understanding that the ultimate outcome rests with the Lord God.

To walk by faith does not mean you stop thinking. To trust God does not imply becoming slovenly or lazy or apathetic. What a distortion of biblical faith! You and I need to trust God for our finances, but that is no license to spend foolishly. You and I ought to trust God for safety in the car, but we’re not wise to pass on a blind curve. We trust God for our health, but that doesn’t mean we can chain smoke, stay up half the night, and subsist on potato chips and Twinkies without consequences.

Acting foolishly or thoughtlessly, expecting God to bail you out if things go amiss, isn’t faith at all. It is presumption. Wisdom says to do all you can within your strength, then trust Him to do what you cannot do, to accomplish what you cannot accomplish. Faith and careful planning go hand-in-hand. They always have.