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By Allia Zobel Nolan
ZONDERVANCopyright © 2012 Allia Zobel Nolan
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Chapter OneYou and Your Thoughts
"You [God] will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!"
Isaiah 26:3 NLT
Devotion # 1
"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."
Whatever ... More Than Just "Yeah, Right"
Raise your hand if you don't use the word "whatever." Thought so.
Everyone uses it, a zillion times a day. Like when your BFF says, "Want to go to the movies?" And you say, "Sure." Then she asks, "What movie?" and you answer, "Whatever." Or while you're downloading music, your little sister says, "Can I paint the cat's nails?" And you answer, "Whatever." It's kind of like saying, "Who cares? Do what you want."
But bet you'd be surprised to know this: Jesus's friend Paul used the "W" word, too, way back when nobody texted and kids wore togas to school. In fact, he repeated it six times in a letter to the Philippians. Why? To emphasize a point—he wanted to teach people that all sin begins first in the mind, with a thought, and that thoughts were linked to actions. So if they thought good things, they'd be more likely to do good things. He also wanted them to realize they could control their thoughts. So he gave them a list to use as a test when they were deciding whether something was worth thinking about. Was the thought "true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy?" If not, Paul suggested they fuggetaboutit.
So what's this got to do with you today? Well, what Paul said to the Philippians way back then is just as important now. Our minds are one of the Lord's most awesome gifts. We can use it to glorify him, show him our love, and win ourselves eternal life. Or we can waste it, make the deceiver happy, and wind up where it's decidedly hotter.
The Bible says, "let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know what God's will is for you ... " (Romans 12:2 NLT).
So start now. Open up your mind and fill it with whatever—whatever is pleasing to God—and see how following the Lord and living the "Whatever Scripture Way," instead of any which way, can make a huge difference in your life.
Food for Thought
Next time a friend says, "Whatever" say, "Philippians 4:8." When she says "Huh?" tell her about the Whatever Scripture way. You might just start a movement.
Years before Paul, David also prayed to God for help in avoiding dumb stuff. "Turn my eyes from worthless things," he said, "and give me life through your word" (Psalm 119:37 NLT).
Lord, you've given me such a wonderful gift: my mind. Help me to put it to good use by focusing on you and your Word—especially the Whatever virtues. Amen.
Devotion # 2
"May all my thoughts be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the Lord."
Psalm 104:34 NLT
Researchers tell us we have anywhere from 12,000 to 50,000+ thoughts a day. Whodathunkit?
These thoughts center around friends, parents, schoolwork, money, texts, pets, parties, teachers, food, clothes, that cute boy in assembly, world events, and so much more.
Where does God fit in? We probably think about him during the day when we pray, or if we're reading the Bible, or if we ask for his help. But he's probably not on our minds all the time for basic things, like when we're picking out clothes or choosing a book to read.
Problem is he wants to be. He wants us to filter all our thoughts through him. Because when we do, we'll make better decisions—choices that'll be pleasing to him and better for us. Let's listen in on two girls' trains of thought, and see how that works:
Both Joan and A.J. are at the mall trying on dresses for Linda's party. Joan picks two, and decides the first is boring. She puts on the second, looks in the mirror, and thinks, Wow, this is, like, way awesome. The other girls will be green. It's a bit tight, but so what? I'm buying it anyway, end of story. In this scenario, God was totally shut out. Joan never even considered him in her decision.
Now let's see how A.J. handles the same situation. She's torn between two outfits. Her thoughts: Well, the black outfit would certainly get me noticed. It's a boy-magnet for sure. But would Jesus (or my parents) approve? Ah ... no. I look pretty in the blue dress, and it doesn't look like it was painted on me. So I'll go with that. A.J. clearly involved God in her considerations. So guess what happened later? Joan's mom took one look at her purchase and said, "Return it." A.J.'s mom loved her choice. So did everyone at the party.
Jesus as a fashion consultant, though? Isn't that a bit much? Nope. The Bible says, "Seek [God's] will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take" (Proverbs 3:6 NLT, emphasis added). So make sure to keep Jesus in the loop—whatever you're thinking.
Food for Thought
God can speak to us through our thoughts. Remember to listen for his voice.
Can't make a decision about what to buy? Consider: Is this skirt true to my personality? To the Whatever virtues? Is it lovely, pure, excellent? If not, reconsider.
Lord, help me put you up front, in the engineer's seat, in my thoughts so I can keep on the right track. Amen.
Devotion # 3
"Be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life." Proverbs 4:23 NCV
U R What You Think
"There's nothing wrong with just thinking," some people say. "You haven't done anything. What's the big deal?"
Depends on what you're thinking. Lots of sins begin in your thoughts—sins like pride, envy, covetousness, lust, despair, and dishonesty, which is why God wants you to pay special attention to what's going on in your head.
The Bible says "Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death" (James 1:14–15 NLT).
For example, if you think, Pam left her bracelet in the locker room again. It would sure look good on me. If you're not careful, your next thought might be, Pam's got a million bracelets. She won't miss this one. Maybe I'll pretend I didn't find it. And if you keep focusing on this I-want-it, she-won't-miss-it bracelet, you could wind up stealing it.
Yikes! So what's a girl to do?
Try this: When temptation creeps into your head, think "SLAM, LAMB, and SCRAM."
Shut the door (SLAM) on the thought immediately. Don't linger for even a millisecond.
Pray to Jesus, the (LAMB) of God, for grace to resist. Nothing fancy, "Help, Jesus. Quick!" will do.
Remove yourself (SCRAM) ... hop, skip, jump, or run as fast as your Nikes will carry you away from the temptation.
If you're stuck somewhere and can't get away, use God's other power tool: his Word. Try reciting a Bible verse from memory; or list the Ten Commandments, first one to ten, then backwards, ten to one. Think about your favorite Bible hero and what you would say if (that is, when) you meet her.
The Bible says, "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you" (James 4:7 NLT). Jesus did three times in the desert, and the devil disappeared faster than ice on a hot day.
The even better solution, though, is to watch what you think, and keep your thoughts on "Whatever is good" to begin with (Philippians 4:8).
Food for Thought
While people can't look into your mind, God can. What kinds of thoughts is he seeing right now?
Make "Beware of the Thoughts," or "U R What U Think," or "Whatever" signs and stick them everywhere to remind you to mind your mind.
Lord, give me your strength to slam the door on temptations and keep my thoughts on you. Amen.
Devotion # 4
"Get wisdom; develop good judgment. Don't forget my words or turn away from them."
Proverbs 4:5 NLT
Girl goes to heaven and hands St. Peter a bunch of awards, medals, scholarships, testimonials, diplomas, and degrees.
"I didn't twitter away my time on earth," she says. "I filled my mind with lots of good stuff: biology, geology, zoology. I even learned anthropology."
"And theology?" St. Peter asked. "Did you learn much about God? Did you study his Word? That's the thing that counts up here, I'm afraid."
"Ah, well," the girl stutters, "I didn't. But if you have a Bible handy, it'll just take me a minute. I can speed read."
Okay, maybe that's a bit farfetched. But the point is, God isn't interested in the wisdom we get from worldly books. To him that's all "foolishness" (1 Corinthians 3:19). What he is interested in is in the knowledge we get from his book, a godly wisdom that teaches us to respect and trust the Lord, to live intelligently, and to be honest, just, and fair, making the most of every opportunity for doing good (Proverbs 1:3; Ephesians 5:16).
The Lord gave Solomon this kind of wisdom, and he shares it with us in the 31 chapters of Proverbs. This book not only teaches us ways to act, but also shows us how to make (and keep) friends, the importance of kindness, how to respect our parents, what our responsibility is to the poor, how to handle money, and so much more.
And if we keep these precepts in our heart and let them color the way we think, act, and respond to the Lord, we'll make good decisions and be well on our way to becoming God-focused thinkers. Since many of the Proverbs' affirmations are short, one or two-liners, we could memorize them, or jot our favorites down at the beginning of our school notebooks as reminders of how a wise person responds to this world. Here are a couple (paraphrased) for starters:
A wise person trusts God. Proverbs 3:5
A wise person is cheerful. Proverbs 17:22
Food for Thought
Solomon didn't take his own advice. His downfall? Seven hundred wives and 300 concubines who drained his treasury and worshiped false gods.
Solomon says, "Follow the example of the ants and you'll never wind up in the poor house." Read more in Proverbs 6:6-8 NLT.
Heavenly Father, help me to think about things, like the Proverbs, that will make me wise in your eyes. Amen.
Excerpted from Faithgirlz! Whatever by Allia Zobel Nolan Copyright © 2012 by Allia Zobel Nolan. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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