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I’ve been working on decluttering. It started when I decided to tidy up my diet. It spilled over into activities and over-involvement, then finally my home. No matter how much attention I place in these areas, there is consistent work to ensure it’s maintained. We all know how easy it is to slowly add junk food back into our diets, to say yes one too many times, or let a small pile build up on the counter.

Our thought life is no different. Like the mess in our homes, it needs to be cleaned up by regular attention and care. It’s easy to get busy and not set aside the time needed to declutter. A little bit of junk food here, a bit of compromise there, a small pile of unattended ideas left to mount, and suddenly, things get messy.

Cleaning up sounds so simple, but it takes diligent work. It requires we stop other pursuits long enough to examine ourselves, to listen, and pray in order to regularly deal with the clutter of thoughts, false motives, and sin that builds up on a daily basis. Adding to the challenge, the clean-up effort can easily be compromised by the enemy’s efforts to distract, deceive, distort, and detract from our identity and purpose in an attempt to destroy us.

Distraction

The enemy of our soul wants to keep you preoccupied to ensure you don’t see your faults. He knows that once you recognise your failings, you have the opportunity to change. With that, comes healing and power and he wants none of that for you. He works diligently by enticing you to fill up on junk food so you fail to ingest the riches of the kingdom. If you don’t indulge in his offerings, he will go to great lengths to further distract you with busy work to try to ensure an unexamined life.

Deception

This is the attempt to ensure we overlook the mess or fail to see sin for what it is. If distraction failed, Satan tries to deceive us into thinking we’re perfectly fine. In this proud state, we disregard our own faults because we’re too busy finger-pointing with one hand and patting ourselves on the back with the other. Even if healing is offered, Satan tries to prevent it by veiling us from our faults and keeping us preoccupied with our good works.

Detraction

This is the attempt to beat us down, make us forget who we are and how much we are worth. This compromised state often comes amid Distraction, as the result of too much junk food and not enough time with the One who aides the clean-up effort. Self-esteem wanes as pieces of our identity are chipped off and added to the mounting mess.

Distortion

Satan bombards the believer with lies, truth-twisting, and accusations in an attempt to utterly destroy them and their faith. He wants us to believe we are beyond help, the mess too chaotic and ugly to be cleaned up.

Destruction

Satan will stop at nothing to ensure our ruin. We are warned to, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8). Destruction may come in the form of lost hope, crippling fear, disabling illness, shattered faith, poor choices, or relational breakdown to name a few. Though there may not appear a solution to the mess, there is still a way out.

Deliverer

God delivers us out of disastrous messes, even if we made them and even if we failed to do our part in the clean up. He responds to willing hearts turned to Him, and in His extraordinary mercy, sometimes He performs clean-ups even before the mess-maker fully notices Him.

We do well to be mindful of mounting messes, taking inventory on a daily basis and an active role in the areas God shows us require attention. But take heart, even if you have a mess on your hands, know that you have a Helper ready and willing to remove the clutter in order to free you from disarray and discouragement.

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  1. Set aside regular time for clutter control. You could pray this prayer: “Search me, 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.” (Psalm 139: 23-24)
  2. Are there things in your life creating unnecessary distraction from time with God? Is it possible they are filling a need that can only be filled by God?
  3. Bring any messes to God and watch how He makes beautiful spaces in your life.

 

 

 

 

 

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Our thought life is where the battle is won or lost. Not unlike food, each day, several times a day, we are offered a thought or idea we might be tempted to ingest. Some ideas are life-giving while others leave a bad taste in our mouth.

Here’s a little story. I’ll call it The Bitter Pill.

I’m having a conversation with a coworker and something she says hits me the wrong way. I could choose to ignore it, to not take it personally, and move on. I’ve done so in the past, but this time I’m caught off guard. She’s done this before, I think to myself, and no sooner have I thought it, I’ve ingested a chunk of bitterness.

Later that night, while I’m brushing my teeth, I feel something in my throat. I spit it up and realize it’s that piece of bitterness. It tastes worse now having been partially digested, and carrying the nasty residue of another bitter pill I’d swallowed a few days prior. I have an opportunity to spit it out, but I’ve taken offense, so I chew on it some more and swallow it all over again.

When I wake the next morning, I don’t feel so great. The bitterness has taken effect and now it’s in my bloodstream poisoning other areas. I take another dose by talking the situation over with a friend, thinking it will act as an antidote. It doesn’t. Instead, I feel worse. I read the side-effects on the back of the pill bottle. I don’t like what I see, but even so I commit to another dose, and another, and one more for good measure.

Eventually, my body can’t process the intake, and I get toxic. I stagger to the Doctor with my sickness. He asks me what I’ve been eating. A steady diet of bitter thoughts, I tell him. He suggests I need to detox my system. I assure Him I understand it would have been better if I hadn’t ingested the pills in the first place. He gently reminds me I have a choice, and offers me this prescription for next time:

“…demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 

How? I ask. He says the next time I’m tempted to swallow a bitter pill, I instead toss it away. If I hold onto it, even for a short time, let alone swallow it, well, you know what happens. Instead of accepting the offered thought or idea, He tells me, I have the choice to reject it. Once I do, I’ll feel healthier and will even thrive. As an added bonus, He tells me this will help too:

“Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”

It takes practice and discipline, he continues, it doesn’t happen all at once, but He assures me it’s a habit I can change with His help. I ask what happens if I mess up. He tells me, just say sorry and start over…as many times as needed.

I feel satisfied with that.

And maybe you do too, knowing that whether you’ve taken a bitter pill, an anger pill, a dishonest pill, a fear pill, a you-name-it pill, there is always the opportunity to not only say sorry and begin again, but lean on the Physician’s prescription for next time. His word, His strength, His love, and His forgiveness are readily available.

Know that you aren’t defeated. You CAN take every thought captive. You CAN forgive. You CAN overcome those habitual patterns of thinking or behaving! After all, we’ve been redeemed, given a Helper, and are dearly loved! It doesn’t get any better than that!

You’ve got this, because He’s got you!

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  1. Take a moment and make a list of habitual thoughts or actions that are harmful to yourself or others.
  2. Now ask God to help you focus on them one at a time until you begin to default into taking your thoughts captive. You might also find new life-giving habits to replace the old ones. My example was taking offense which lead to bitterness. Ideally, I choose to take my thoughts captive, and refuse to get angry or take offense. But if I fail to do that, I have a second opportunity to forgive quickly, pray for and bless the offender, and disallow any other bitter thoughts a parking place.

 

 

 

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