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Intentional Thinking

By Brother John Seeley

Taken from a message and edited for publication.

Psalm 73:1-3, “Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart. But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped. For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” 

Verse 17, “Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end.”

There is something about coming into the sanctuary of God. Coming to church helps our thinking. David here was not thinking right. His steps had well-nigh slipped. He was envying the foolish. It was not until David came to the house of God that he realized he was not thinking right. 

Coming to church helps our thinking. It readjusts or recalibrates our minds and gets us back on track. 

Our minds are amazing. The human brain weighs approximately 2 pounds. It does so many things for us. The mind is constantly processing an endless stream of thoughts and information every moment of the day. It controls body movements and stores memories for later recall. The human mind has been called one of the last frontiers. The brain is a complicated marvel of divine engineering. 

The human brain is far superior when compared to the animal kingdom. There is no animal that is even remotely close to man in intelligence or development. An animal may be able to stand and walk shortly after birth, while a human baby must grow and develop before it learns to crawl and then walk and run. It takes time for a child to grow to adulthood. But the human mind is capable of far more. A child is capable of learning and gaining skills and knowledge throughout their entire life. 

We can acquire skills that eventually become second nature to us, and we can do things without thinking. We do not have to stop to think and remember to breathe. We just do it automatically. The brain tells the heart to beat. We do not have to consciously think about it. Then there are other things we must think about before we do them, like learning to drive a car. When approaching a stop sign, we realized we needed to press the brake pedal to stop. At first, we had to think about it: “Where’s the brake pedal?” It took time and effort to master those skills. Now we do not even think about it. It just comes naturally to us. A deer runs out in front of us, and we automatically hit the brakes. There was no thought process involved. Our minds did it for us. 

Another example is if I had a cup of coffee here. My brain is busy doing all kinds of tasks. Through the information given by my eyes, my brain is guiding my arm and fingers around the handle to pick it up. As my hand comes into contact with the cup, it is relaying information about the temperature of the cup back to my brain. It measures how heavy the cup is and how much force is needed to easily lift it and bring it up to my mouth. All this goes on without any real effort on my part. I could be carrying on a conversation at the same time. 

A small child kept in seclusion will not develop as they should. Children need social interaction to develop and learn. Likewise, we need each other to develop and mature spiritually. Avoiding people to avoid problems will do you a great disservice. You will miss out on opportunities to develop skill sets necessary to be a success. We need each other. It is crucial to good spiritual development. 

Philippians 4:7-8, “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” 

This is a good scripture to help our thinking. We can look at this and see if we are thinking the way we ought to think. Things that are not of a good report—well, perhaps I should not be thinking about them. Neither should we be thinking impure thoughts. This gives us guidelines for how we ought to think. It is important for us to keep our thinking in check. 

Our minds are busy. I have read that the brain burns 40% of our calories. It is important to be disciplined in how we think. We cannot allow our minds to just wander free. 

Job 2:9-10, “Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die. But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips.”

Job’s wife was not thinking right. She was not controlling her thinking. On the other hand, Job kept a reign on his thoughts. He did not allow his mind to run away or follow his wife’s thoughts. Job thought it foolish to think that way. He was not going to give in. We must do the same thing when foolish thoughts come to our minds. We must recognize them and kick them out. 

Our minds can wander around so easily. We must be very intentional with our thinking. We can learn to control our thoughts and bring them into subjection. Instead of thinking negatively, we can choose to think about blessings. We need to recognize the source of bad thoughts. It is the enemy’s job to interject crazy thoughts into our consciousness. 

We want to look at various types of thinking. The first type we wish to consider is…

BIG PICTURE THINKING

We need to have big picture thinking. In 100 years, will this thing you are facing matter? Big picture thinking is taking a step back and looking at the whole instead of zooming in on the trivial things of today. Big picture thinking will allow you to examine your attitude through a different lens. We can think more objectively. We can realize that some things just are not all that important in the grand scheme of things. We can avoid a lot of frustrations by looking at the big picture. It will keep us on target and help us realize what is truly important. Bad attitudes, getting our eyes on someone else and what they are doing, and our opinions sidetrack us from the big picture. 

Big picture thinking helps us understand what is important. Big picture thinking is taking a 30,000-foot view. Do you know what a 30,000-foot view is? It is what we see from our seat in a passenger jet as we pass over a mountain range. It allows us to keep things in perspective. Little things will stay little, and big things will appear big. On ground level we may look at a hill and think, “Wow, that is really big.” But from a 30,000-foot view, we can see how small that hill really is in comparison to everything around it. 

Big picture thinking will help us see what others see. Sometimes we can become so focused on one thing while others around us look at us and think, “Don’t you see all of this other stuff?” As an example, think of a wedding. If you are involved in the wedding, or perhaps it is your wedding, you know all the planning that goes into it. But usually not everything goes according to plan. It does not matter how careful you were to make contingency plans for every possibility. There will be something you did not foresee. You can let yourself get all worked up and allow a small thing to spoil the day. But in the grand scheme of things, it was really a small annoyance at best. What did everyone else see? Most people do not even realize a mistake was made. In the big picture, it was still a good day and a lot of what you did went according to plan. 

Big picture thinking helps with teamwork. When everyone sees the big picture, events like campmeeting goes much smoother. Campmeeting is a big event. It is one of the biggest events of the year. We may have a small job to do, but we see it as important. We want campmeeting to be a success. We will not worry over fairness. We will be happy and eager to do our small part. 

Big picture thinking helps us to not get caught up in the mundane. Repetitive tasks such as our devotions can become mundane. Why? We have our devotions every day. Our church attendance can be much the same. We come to church for every service. It needs to be more than just a habit. Seeing the big picture will help us to keep those everyday things that are so necessary from becoming mundane and boring. Everyday tasks really mean something. They are important. Big picture thinking is looking beyond me and my little world. 

BOTTOM LINE THINKING

Bottom line thinking is another type of thinking we want to consider. It has in it the connotations of accounting. 

2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” This is exactly what we want when we reach the end of our lives. We want this testimony to be our bottom line. We want to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we have fought a good fight of faith and that we have finished our course. That is our goal. But if your goal is that you have a nice big house and a model wife, you have chosen the wrong bottom line. Chasing after other bottom lines will not help you in the end. Bottom line thinking will help us navigate day to day life. We will not want to endanger our bottom line by doing something foolish. It will bring clarity to our desires and purposes. 

Bottom line thinking will answer questions like, “What is my purpose in life?” The bottom line is that we are put here to serve God and fight the good fight of faith. This is what we need to focus on. It is what really matters at any given time. It helps you correctly assess every situation. We will look at a situation we are faced with and ask ourselves, “How is this going to affect me spiritually?” My bottom line is that I want to fight the good fight of faith, I want to live right, please God, and go to Heaven. So how are my decisions affecting my bottom line? 

Bottom Line thinking can shrink temptations. Temptations have some power behind them. Otherwise, they would not be a temptation. Bottom line thinking can help us evaluate things. Bottom line thinking will not allow you to see how close you can get to sin. You know what God saved you from, and to protect your bottom line, you do not want that thing to be your downfall. It does not matter what it is. 

The one thing about your bottom line is you can look at it from time to time and see progress. You should be able to see how far God has brought you, and it should encourage you. You know you can finish your course well. 

To be successful, each of us needs to be able to identify our bottom line. Too many go through life with no clear idea of what their bottom line is. Their pursuit consists of vain things. Just as a business keeps a watchful eye on its bottom line, we need to know ours clearly, stay with the plan, and monitor our progress. That is why we come to church and get into the Word of God. A wise businessman keeps an eye on the numbers. He does not want to unwittingly come up short. Likewise, we do not want to be surprised on judgment day and come up short. We must maintain our experience with God. 

FOCUSED THINKING

Philippians 3:14, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” 

Focused thinking is not distracted thinking. Focused thinking has a mark or a target to aim for. We see the mark, and we must focus on it. We must press towards it. We cannot let ourselves get distracted and allow our attention to wander. Our attention cannot be sidetracked by what someone else is doing or not doing. Do we have a clear target? It helps so much to have a target to aim for—a  target that we can lock our eyes on and block out everything else. This is true in sports and the games we play. We do a lot better with a target. 

To have a target, we must focus. It helps to have but one target. We may have multiple goals in life—things we want to achieve. Often, we must outline the steps to achieve that target or goal. A young person has goals. They may want to graduate, get a job, get married, buy a home, and start a family. Those are all worthy goals or targets we can focus on. In all those things, we have the ultimate goal of staying saved. We do not leave God out of life’s goals. 

We should have spiritual goals as well. You may have goals of having a more fervent prayer life or better Bible study. You may have a goal for the new year of praying out during prayer meetings or singing a special. It takes courage and determination to achieve those things. 

A target is the subject of our focus. It needs to be clear and singular. We may have several goals we want to achieve, but if we have too many, we can become distracted in our thinking and not singularly focused on what we are trying to accomplish. 

James 1:8, “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” You cannot please God and try to please all your friends at school or your boss at work who wants you to lie. It does not work. If you are being pulled in two different directions, you will not be able to truly focus on the things of God. You cannot focus on God and the world at the same time. That is a double-minded person. 

Focusing can generate the needed energy to meet the goal. We must identify what is important and focus on that thing. If you eliminate distractions, you will have much better success. Seeing progress towards a goal will only add to your desire to see things through to completion. 

This is good for us regardless of the goal. It may be simply to lose weight or achieve some personal goal. But think how much more this can be applied to us spiritually. Someone who is distracted in serving God will lack spiritual energy. On the other hand, one who is focused on their salvation will have joy. Everyone will notice their spiritual intensity. 

Focused thinking will help bring you up to the next level. An athlete must be laser focused if they ever want to graduate to the next level. Likewise, we must be focused on living for God to grow spiritually. 

How do we stay focused? First, remove all distractions. A distraction can get inside your head and intimidate you. You must be able to see or envision yourself doing the steps and successfully accomplishing your goal. To get to C, you must first do A and B. To have good devotions you must eliminate distractions. Your phone can be a distraction. It may be gaming or negative news. They can be a distraction and come between you and your goal. You may have to remove some ideas that can hinder you from being more for God. 

Another hinderance to focused thinking is clutter. Our minds can get full of mental clutter. We may take on a project to clean clutter out of our house, but what about our minds? It is good to turn our focus on things that bring great rewards. You could count your blessings, or you could count all the things that are going wrong. Which one will bring the greatest blessing to you? What may seem an easy task, or an urgent need may only be a distraction to keep you from getting to those things that are truly important. 

We need to give time to focused thinking. It takes time to focus on God. Our devotions are not the only time we think about God. God is in our thoughts as we go through our day. If you are holding on to a promise for a healing, you keep those promises before you. They are close at hand. You keep your focus on them. When the enemy brings in doubts, fears, and what-ifs, you pay them no mind. You are focused on what God has already promised you. 

Does everything in life deserve focused thinking? No. Things that bring anxiety are not worthy of time or attention. Salvation should top our list of worthy things to be focused on. However, there will be other things important to us, depending on our age or where we are in life. 

REFLECTIVE THINKING

Reflective thinking should be a positive thing. We cannot afford to look back at mistakes and failures where they are a drag on us. Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Paul gives us some guidelines for reflective thinking. Reflection should encourage us. 

George Washington once said, “We should not look back unless it is to derive useful lessons from past errors, and for the purpose of profiting by dearly bought experience.”

Reflection is about looking back to learn a lesson and grow from it. If reflection is bringing temptations or oppression, it is the wrong kind of reflection. Good reflection can help our perspective. Experience can be put into perspective. It can keep us from carrying around negative emotional baggage. 

It can be a good practice to take a few minutes at the close of our day to reflect on the day. What can we learn from it? What went right for us? What went wrong? Where can we improve? What did not get accomplished today? What can I work on tomorrow?

Even in correction, there is reflection. Correction is not meant to crush you, but to slow you down so you can learn from the experience. This is true with our children. We correct them out of love. A true parent does not punish their child and leave them wondering about what they did wrong or doubting their parent’s love. The parent takes time with them and makes them understand exactly why they are being punished, giving them time to reflect on their actions and what they will do differently the next time. Our heavenly Father is the same way. When chastisement is given, we know why, and we know we will never do that again.  

Psalm 119:67, “Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word.” Afflictions can cause us to pause and reflect. It may bring us to the realization that we are not where we need to be. But when we see where we need to improve, we can benefit. After David reflected on his affliction he said, “but now have I kept thy word.” 

Reflection takes an experience and gives it value. It is not wringing our hands and stewing over it with regrets, but reflecting on where we can gain insight and valuable experience. We can learn to move and grow from it. 

So, what if at the end of the day you were to ask yourself these questions in reflection? What have I learned today that can help me to grow? How can I apply it to my life? Is someone better off today because of my impact on their life? Did I represent God well today? Did I practice the Golden Rule? Did I encourage or uplift another? Did I have a bountiful eye and heart? Did I show patience? Did I make this way attractive? Did I communicate love to my children and my companion? What did I encounter today to which I need to give more thought? Are there lessons to be learned? How much time did I spend worrying or fretting? How much time did I waste on trivial meaningless things? How much time did I spend doing something useful? What things need to be accomplished? 

Questions like these make us think. None of them are intended to tear us down, but to reflect and spur us to improve. Reflection is usually followed up with action. It is a learning process. First there is an event, then a reflection where we see the significance of what took place, followed by action. For example, we may, in the moment, say something we should not have. But then we step back and reflect. We realize we should not have spoken those words. Next comes the action: we go back to that person and apologize. “I am so sorry. I should not have said what I did.” 

We come to church, hear the message, and take notes. But do we reflect on the message? Did God speak to us? We do not want to be forgetful hearers but doers of the Word. 

POPULAR THINKING

Popular thinking is not good thinking. Popular thinking is going along with the crowd. Really, it does not involve much effort in thinking at all. If you are not careful, you can have popular thinking when you come to church. You can raise your hand during a song and not even think about what you are doing. It can become automatic. Popular thinking is disconnected thinking. It is just going with the flow. “Everyone else is doing it, I guess I need to do it too.” 

When we come to church, we need to put some focused thinking into our worship. Popular thinking can give a false hope. False religion is full of popular thinking. It just follows the crowd without any thought or effort. Popular thinking says, “Millions are going this way. It must be right.” The majority does not mean they are right. Popular thinking accepts all kinds of perversion today. They may call it fairness or equality, but it is obviously very wicked. Some things are just fads. They seem like the thing to do. Popular thinking loves the status quo. Popular thinking will not bring good results. God is not accepting it. 

To avoid popular thinking, we think before we follow. Yes, we are sheep, but we think first before we follow. We do not blindly follow. We dig into the Word of God for ourselves. We want to understand it. We do not just tag along because we were raised in the truth, and this is where our parents go. No, we want to understand it for ourselves. 

To avoid popular thinking, we must get used to feeling uncomfortable. You are going to face things that will not be comfortable for you. Popular thinking loves to stay in its comfort zone. God wants to get us out of our comfort zone. He wants to use us. Can you get out of your comfort zone and testify, sing a special, or pray out on a Wednesday night? Popular thinking will have us not putting any effort into our worship. 

Have you ever noticed how much the world wants to shove us into their mold? They may claim to be open-minded, but the whole time they are wanting to conform you to what they want you to be and to think the way they think. 

As children of God, our thinking is in direct opposition to the world. We need to be in complete control of our thoughts and not let the world dictate to us how we should think or act. We can be intentional in our thinking. We can have a purpose. A wandering mind is the wrong type of thinking. We do not want our minds to be like a haunted house: full of scary thoughts. Our minds can be a place of peace and clarity. You can control your mind and its direction. Your thoughts can be positive and full of purpose. 

The news cycle feeds on negativity. It is constant. We can replace negativity with thoughts about the goodness of God. If we want to reap good things, let us sow a good thought life. 

Isaiah 26:3, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” 

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