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Dangerous Prayer – Test My Thoughts | Sermon from 7/29/2018

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Last week we began a look at four dangerous prayers.  These prayers are dangerous because if we are sincere in praying them and take the time to listen for God’s answers and direction, they can change our lives.  The 4 prayers come from King David and are found in Psalm 139:23-24.  Search me, O God, and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.   And the four prayers are: Search my heart.  Test my thoughts.   Seek out my sin.  Lead my life.Today our focus is going to be on the prayer, test my thoughts.  As we heard last week, we aren’t asking God to test our thoughts so that God can learn what is there, God already knows what is there.  Psalm 139 says, you perceive my thoughts from afar…  Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely.  So God already know our thoughts.  When we ask God to test our thoughts it is not so He can learn what is there but so we can.  It is important for us to know what we believe and think, because what we think about the world and about our faith and about ourselves shapes everything in our lives.To understand just how important our thinking is in shaping our lives, all we have to do is look at the political divide we see in our country.  People on the right and left, conservatives and progressives, see the world very differently and they think very differently about how to solve some of our world’s problems.  Some people think government intervention and social guidelines are necessary in order to ensure equality and justice while others are clear that less government and more personal freedom is the only way to move forward.  There is also a huge divide in what we think about our elected officials – from the president all the way down to state and local leaders.  Those from one party think their people and their ways are not only right but also the only way to move forward, while people on the other side think the same about their ways and their leaders.  So how we think shapes what we believe and how we live.So when we ask God to test our thoughts, we are asking God to help us think through what it is we believe about an issue, this can be dangerous because we might find that our thoughts and beliefs will be challenged by the wisdom of God.  What I love about God’s wisdom and truth is that it doesn’t always fit into the neat little boxes we have created in our thinking.  For example, we can look at the values of God’s kingdom and see the value of capitalism.  We are to take the gifts God has given us and use them to make more.  God has always wanted us to be creative and produce things in this world that are of value and we have been called to increase what we have.

So we can see the principle of capitalism in God’s thinking but the early followers of Jesus also held everything in common.  They sold all they had and gave to the community so that no one would have any need.  So in God’s wisdom and thinking there is a real sense that socialism is the way to go.  The politics and social structures of God’s kingdom don’t fit nicely into the political boxes we have created, so when we ask God to test our thoughts we are opening ourselves up to God’s wisdom challenging and shaping our worldviews and our deeply held beliefs.  Because God’s wisdom is so much greater than ours, we need to always ask God to test our thoughts so that we don’t get mired down in one way of thinking when God might want us to explore other thoughts and different ideas.

It’s not just our worldviews and intellectual thoughts that are going to be tested in this prayer, because David’s prayer says specifically, test my anxious thoughts. This prayer asks God to reveal to us our fears and anxiety, and the reason this is so important is because what we fear the most is where we trust God the least.  What we worry about the most is where we trust God the least.  When we worry, we are showing our lack of faith and trust in God, which means that what we worry about is often those things we try to control.

When we worry that we are not good enough or smart enough, then we work harder to try and make up for our insecurities.  We try to take control, which often just leads to more problems and insecurities because we can’t do it all.  When we worry about the wellbeing of our children, we try to control their lives, push them to succeed and hover over them every moment of the day to keep them safe, which often just makes things worse.  When we worry about our finances we try and control them and either work harder to make more money or become selfish and try to keep more money.  Both paths will destroy our physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing.  So worry leads to control, which eats away at our minds, and leads to thoughts that are not accurate or true and fears that lead us away from God.

But asking God to test our thoughts doesn’t just point out what it is we fear and worry about, it can also help us overcome those fears.  Look at Matthew 6:25-34.

So we worry about our lives and what we will eat and drink and wear.  We ask ourselves, how will I provide for myself and my family?  Now, we can worry about this and fear not having what we need or we can trust God.  But our faith and trust in God is built on sound thoughts and reason.  Jesus said we can trust God, because if God cares for the birds and the flowers, then surely God will care for us.  Jesus uses logic here to remind us that since we are God’s children, who are made in God’s image, then we are more valuable than birds and flowers.  So if God cares for the birds and flowers, than certainly God will care for and provide for us.  How we think about God and ourselves can help us trust God more and worry less.

God won’t expose our fears and anxiety without giving us the knowledge and wisdom needed to overcome them.  Much of God’s truth and wisdom that will help us overcome anxiety is this:  God is God and God loves us which means God will care for us – so we do not need to be afraid.  In every situation, it is God’s love for us that will cast out our fear and calm our worries.
While asking God to test our thoughts and reveal our fears is important, we also need to learn how to improve our thoughts and minds.  Here are 4 positive steps that can help.

1. Don’t believe everything you think.  Just because we think something about ourselves, doesn’t mean we have to believe it, and just because we think something is true about the world, doesn’t mean it is.  It is important to question what it is we think and believe so we can get to the truth.

When I was in seminary many of my views on the Bible and my faith were challenged.  I could disregard what I was hearing in class or reading in books, but I realized that I had to actually understand what I was learning, and if I disagreed on some issue, then I needed to search my heart and mind and find out why I believed what I did in the light of this new idea.  I wish more people would do this with their beliefs and worldview.  I wish people wouldn’t just put down the views of others because they are different, but search to discover why they believe what they do in light of someone else’s views.  Why do we follow a particular political or social view?  Have we taken the time to learn about the other side so we have made an informed decision?  Too often we are quick to judge our view as right, and other views as wrong, instead of asking questions and seeking God’s direction and wisdom.

We are also too quick to believe whatever we might think about ourselves.  We think we have been offended, so we must be right and others wrong.  We think we are not good enough, or smart enough, so we must be a failure in life.  We feel like things are out of control, therefore our lives are a mess.  Just because we think something doesn’t mean it is true.  As we heard last week, the heart is deceitful above all things, but our mind is not far behind, so we need to question our thoughts and truly ask God to help us test them to see what is right and true.  We need to honestly look at our lives, and with humility, ask God to help, and use God’s wisdom and perspective to see and believe what is true.
2. Guard our minds from garbage.  There is an awful lot of garbage in the world that is competing for our thoughts and minds.  Advertisers are telling us we aren’t good enough so we need to buy their products.  We compare our lives to others by looking at what people post on social media and so we often feel like we don’t measure up.  The world of entertainment is trying to define what it means to love, what it means to be a success, and what it means to be beautiful, but Hollywood’s values aren’t the values of God.  We need to guard our minds and we can do this two ways:  Pray and stay focused. Philippians 4:6-8.

When we are anxious we need to pray.  When we are afraid, uncertain, insecure and not sure of what is true – we need to pray and ask God to test our thoughts and show us what is true and how we can trust Him more.  We need to pray, but we also need to be intentional about what we allow into our minds.  Only things that are noble, right, true and admirable should be allowed into our minds.  This is hard to do in our society were so many negative messages are fighting to get in, so it takes discipline and focus, but we can do this.  We not only need to test our thoughts, but we need to test the thoughts and ideas that we allow into our minds as well.

3. Stretch your imagination.  When we ask God to test our thoughts, we are also asking God to test the limitations of our thoughts.  Too often we limit what we think we can do and what we think is possible.  Those self-imposed limits define our lives and keep us from all that God wants for us.  Watch this powerful video about the power of limitations. 

So we need to dream big, and we need to envision the kind of life God wants for us.  What I love about Jesus is that he helped people dream big dreams and see Godly visions.  When Jesus healed people and forgave people and welcomed sinners and outcasts, he was giving people a glimpse of what God’s kingdom looks like.  It is a big kingdom filled with love and grace and power.  We need these kinds of dreams and visions to shape our thoughts.

If you want a couple of books that help spark the imagination, I would recommend Dangerous Wonder by Mike Yaconnelli and Love Does by Bob Goff.  You can check these out in the church library.

4. Keep Learning.  The fourth thing we can do to improve our minds is to keep learning and keep reading.  Yesterday we celebrated the life of Cal Woodring and one of the things I learned about Cal, is that later in his life, he started to read encyclopedias.  He was naturally interested in many things and he loved learning so he kept reading.  We need to keep learning about the world and we need to keep learning about God.  One way we can test our thoughts about God, and learn more about God, is to read God’s word because it is a living word that helps us find God’s wisdom.

We can learn from books certainly but there are other ways to learn.  We can learn through podcasts and videos, we can learn through conferences and training events like the Global Leadership Summit.  We can also learn by serving.  When we serve, we learn something about ourselves, we learn something about our community and those we are serving, and we might even learn a new skill in the process.  When I went on my first mission trip, I learned the right way to tear out flooring and how to disinfect walls and framing after a flood.  I want to invite you to learn something about our community and our church and yourself and sign up to serve at the Blessing of the Backpacks.  You will learn something new.

Now I want you to use your imagination and see how all these ideas can be put into one word.  THINK
Test.  Question your thoughts, don’t believe everything you think.
Helmet.  Guard your mind and what you put in it.
Imagine.  Think big and dream Godly dreams.
Nourish.  Put into your mind only what is good and healthy.
Keep Learning.   Keep reading, and keep reading God’s word.

Praying, Test me and know my anxious thoughts is dangerous.  It will point out what we worry about, and what we fear, and where we don’t trust God, and it will show us our need to keep improving our minds and thoughts.  It’s a dangerous prayer, but if prayed diligently and honestly, it will lead us to a place of deeper truth and greater trust, which will lead us to a better life, and a better life with God.

Next Steps
Dangerous Prayers – Test My Thoughts

Pray: Search me, O God, and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.

1.  In times of silence and solitude, what worries and fears does God reveal to you?  How do these show a lack of trust?

2. What beliefs and worldviews do you hold that might need to be refined or even redefined by God’s wisdom?

3.  Follow these four steps to improve your thoughts.

  • Don’t believe everything you think: about yourself and about the world.  Question what you think and ask God to show you the truth.
  • Guard your mind from garbage. Philippians 4:6-8.  Pray to overcome worry.  Focus and keep only good thoughts coming into your mind.
  • Stretch your imagination.  Dream big dreams.  See God’s vision for your life, your work and the world.
  • Keep Learning.  Read the Bible.  Read books and blogs and articles.  Listen to Podcasts.  Attend the Global Leadership Summit.  Serve at the Blessing of the Backpacks.

Allow this word to shape your mind.  THINK
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