Denison Forum – Why is this library loaning neckties?

The Riverside branch of the New York Public Library has more than books to loan. You can also check out a necktie, bow tie, handbag, or briefcase. They are intended for people with limited resources who are heading for job interviews, auditions, school performances, proms, or other events for which they need to dress up.

In other news, a Chicago schoolteacher on a plane talked about her low-income students. Passengers overheard her and gave her more than $500 in cash to help.

Here’s a similar story: an Alabama man had to walk nearly twenty miles to his new job. When his CEO found out, he gave the man his personal car.

When you read these stories, how did they make you feel?

A surprising survey

There’s something in us that is attracted to that which is selfless, gracious, and joyful. The darker the room, the more we are drawn to the light.

However, it’s a sign of the times that so many of the shows that received Emmys on Monday are so dark and ominous. As I noted yesterday, the world is more unhappy than it has been in a decade. Gallup’s Negative Experience Index found that markers for worry, stress, sadness, and physical pain are all at record highs.

The Index stood at 24 in 2008, as the Great Recession was beginning, and stayed at that level for the next three years. Remarkably, unhappiness began to rise in 2012, a time when many economies were recovering.

Since that time, most global markets have risen dramatically. But so has unhappiness, to an unprecedented level of 30 in 2017.

Why is this?

“Keep your heart with all vigilance”

Marcus Aurelius noted: “The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.” Wise King Solomon advised us: “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23). He also noted, “As he thinks within himself, so he is” (Proverbs 23:7 NASB).

This is why we should ask the Holy Spirit to help us “take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). When our minds are controlled by God’s Spirit, our lives reflect the light of Jesus to our dark culture.

But there’s a problem.

I know people can hear my words and see my actions, so I am constrained by this fact and feel responsible for what I say and do. Since no one can read my mind, however, I feel no such accountability for my thoughts.

You’re probably the same way. How often have you had thoughts about people that you did not put into words? How often have you imagined doing things you did not do? If your thoughts over the last twenty-four hours were made into a YouTube video for the world to see, would that be a good thing?

“You discern my thoughts from afar”

The Bible consistently states that God reads our minds and knows our thoughts. He told the Jewish people, “I know the things that come into your mind” (Ezekiel 11:5). The psalmist said to the Lord, “You discern my thoughts from afar” (Psalm 139:2).

Why, then, do we feel less accountable to God for our thoughts than for our words and actions?

Consider that we filter the world through our experience. I believe the sun exists because I can see it. I believe the Queen of England exists because my experience teaches me to trust those who claim that she does.

However, I have no such experience with reading minds. No one can read mine, just as I cannot read theirs. While I believe God’s word and therefore believe that he can “discern my thoughts,” it is easier to evade the truth of this statement since it has no corollary in my experience.

Just as it’s hard for many to believe that God still works physical miracles if they don’t witness such miracles personally, it’s hard to repent of sinful thoughts we’re not sure have consequences.

“Think about these things”

So, let’s be sure. Paul predicted a day when “God judges the secrets of men” (Romans 2:16). Jesus warned us: “Nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light” (Luke 8:17).

What, then, should we do about our thoughts?

We should confess sinful thoughts the moment we have them. If we do not, they will inevitably produce sinful words and actions (Matthew 15:18-20). And we will suffer a loss of rewards in judgment one day (1 Corinthians 3:13-15).

And we should measure our thoughts by Philippians 4:8: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Imagine a culture in which everyone thought only about “these things,” a world in which each of us sought to honor God with our thoughts and the words and actions they produce. How would such praiseworthy thinking change the political climate of our day? How would it change Hollywood? The media? Your community? Your family? Your church?

We should seek to be what we want others to become: “It is time for judgment to begin at the household of God” (1 Peter 4:17). Will you love the Lord your God “with all your mind” today?

 

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