Freeing the Mind of Negative Thoughts

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Even though I am a die-hard optimist, I had a rude awakening about the power of positive thinking – as a committed Christian, my positive thoughts don’t hold any inherent supernatural power to force God’s will into existence.

My positive thoughts, affirmations and visualization aren’t a substitute for discerning God’s will.  Nor can my positive thoughts and visualisation substitute the “hard work” of patient trusting and faith that declares “Thy will be done.”

Sounds obvious, doesn’t it?  God, not my positive thoughts, is the Almighty and only real power in the Universe.  Yet many of us have seen and heard testimonials of the benefits and outcomes of positive thinking.

Jesus implores us to “Ask believing to receive.” (Matthew 21:22)

Asking and believing imply the expectation of a positive outcome.  Belief requires holding positive thoughts in faith.  Our faith influences the outcome of our prayers.

Paul admonishes the believers in the Church at Rome to “be transformed by the renewing of their minds,” to not think and act like non-believers who are influenced by the things in this world.  Our thoughts coming from our renewed minds influence our behaviour. (Romans 12:2)

Disappointing outcome of positive thinking

Following the teachings of the Bible and influenced by an endless list of spirituality teachers, I recently spent quite some time and effort convincing myself, through positive thinking and visualization, that a new career opportunity was mine.  I saw a series of coincidental events as further proof that I was headed in the right direction and that I could expect to get the job offer.  Many people were praying with me and for me.  Many people made positive affirmations and said that they could clearly see me in that new role.  So did I.  When the job offer did not materialize, I was disappointed.  What the heck went wrong?

On reflection, I realized that I had spent an inordinate amount of time convincing myself – fighting against recurring negative thoughts and doubts that I wouldn’t get the job offer. Negative thoughts stirred up feelings of fear and anxiety, which I tried to eliminate by using positive thinking to predict a positive outcome.  The positive thoughts not only calmed my fear and anxiety, but made me falsely believe that I correctly discerned God’s will.  That’s wishful thinking!

Nothing is wrong with replacing negative thoughts with positive thoughts that are based on the teachings of the Bible.  Our thoughts do determine our attitude and influence outcomes of things that are generally within our control.

The big lesson I learned from this experience is that affirming a positive thought, or visualizing a desired outcome is not to be mistaken for the voice of God or the revelation of His will.

Faith to receive God’s best

Faith in the uncompromising love and goodness of God is at the core of the declaration “Thy will be done.”  The believing that Jesus implores us to do when we ask in prayer is about having faith that His answer will always be for our highest good.  Rather than fearing an outcome that I don’t want, I have resolved that I will ask in faith for what I desire but leave myself open to receive God’s highest and best.

In my struggle to rid my mind of negative thoughts, I have learned that residual fear can co-exist with faith.  This is where the struggle between intention and action occurs.  Paul tells his fellow Christians in Rome that he knows in faith what he is to do, but he is prevented by his fear of letting go and trusting God completely to help him do what he ought to do. (Romans 7:24).  The truth is that even in the face of fear it is possible to step out in faith to do what I ought to do.  This is courage.  Courage comes from trusting in the power of the Holy Spirit, who is also my Comforter and support in times of struggle with fear which can weaken my will to surrender to God’s will.

3 steps to increase faith

In my ongoing journey to live a life free from fear and anxiety, it is possible to root out negative thoughts, which is essential if I am to get to the place of increased faith and unbridled trust in God’s infinite goodness and love.

Three steps that I take every time I have a negative, fear-filled, anxious thought are–

  1. I have a conversation with myself –
    • Is the thought factual?
    • Is the thought supporting me?
    • What’s the worst and best that could happen?
  2. I surrender to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, by aligning body (physical reactions), soul (ego, emotions) and spirit (thoughts)
    • Stop struggling to know the outcome
    • Breathe deeply and relax in silence
    • Pray – ask God to prevail, to be present, to powerfully control my emotions and give me more faith
  3. I affirm the Word of God, speak positively and courageously, even if I feel scared –
    • “God has a good plan for my life” – Jeremiah 29:11
    • “All things are working together for good.” – Romans 8:28
    • “Every thought that God has not planted in my mind and heart will be uprooted.” – Matthew 15:13

Expanding faith

Finally, the Bible teaches us that faith is counted as righteousness. Abraham’s faith was counted as righteousness, which put him in a right, loving, guiding relationship with God. (Romans 4:3) 

I am reassured that by Christ’s death, God sees me as having Christ’s righteousness.  I can run to Him as my loving “Abba Father” when I feel afraid and my faith is weak (Galatians 4:6).  God doesn’t hold my lack of faith against me, as long as I ask for more of it.  I know for sure that I am being transformed as I grow in faith.  Growth and transformation take time.  Negative thoughts will die, as I nourish my mind with the Word of God.  That’s how my faith will expand as I leave myself open to accept God’s faithfulness and goodness in the answers to my prayers.

Christ in me, the hope of glory!  That’s why glory matters.

@Glorymatters

www.camilleisaacsmorell.com 

3 Lessons from Learning to Listen to God

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Feeling vulnerable, confused and anxious come with the territory of personal uncertainty, particularly in relation to life’s big questions – Who should I marry?  Should I take this job?  Where should I live?  Why am I here?  What’s my life’s purpose?   

We only find the answers when we find our truth.  Our truth is what’s right for us in our particular situation.

While the good advice of others cannot always be discounted, it is really up to each person to find their own truth.

Finding one’s truth can be very tricky.  This is because no one but you really knows what impassions you or what your life’s purpose really is.  Intuitionthe ability to know without conscious reasoning – for most of us, is generally the source of our truth.  Whenever I have come to a crossroads in my life’s journey, I have had to rely on my intuition to take the next step.  Admittedly, this is not easy, but I have learned a few lessons, which I share below –

Lesson #1 – Claim your own power

It takes faith to own your truth, which only you intuitively know.  Intuitively knowing doesn’t always come easily to most of us as we’ve been taught and conditioned to rely on our intellect, logic and reasoning to solve our problems and find the right answers tough questions.  It’s very easy to buy into the good advice of others, without really knowing that what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for us. To follow someone else’s dream is to surrender your own power and deprive yourself of the pleasure and fulfilment of your life’s mission.

As a Christian, I consider intuition to be the quiet voice of God speaking specifically to me and my situation.  In fact the apostle Paul, in his first letter to the church at Corinth speaks about the capacity of the Christian mind to discern and understand spiritual truths.  When we personalize these truths, we gain personal insight and direction.

What I know now is that following my intuition is the best way to claim my power and find true fulfillment in life. 

In my experience, silent meditation opens the mental space for inspiration and the voice of intuition to be heard.  Positive affirmations and mantras support alignment of purpose and intention.  The inner knowing that comes from intuition empowers me to take action in the face of risk and uncertainty.  This requires faith and surrendering the outcome.

On the face of it, it seems ironic to say that claiming one’s power requires faith and the ability to surrender. This is because we often equate power with control.  Faith and surrender require that we relinquish the power to control outcomes.  My experience has taught me that there is power in faith and in surrendering the outcome.

Lesson #2 – The power of faith

Whenever I tried to control the outcome of situations beyond my control, I realized how powerless I made myself become.  I ended up being sick with worry and the effects of anxiety attacks over things like other people’s decision to hire me, extreme weather conditions, election results, etc.

What I know now is that the only power I really have is faith.  

Faith is the courage to say “Thy will be done.” For me, faith lets me know that regardless of the outcome, I’ll be okay.  I’ve come to understand that the Universe is God’s orchestra and that understanding the interplay of events with the benefit of hindsight has reaffirmed my mantra that “All things are working together for good.”

Lesson #3 – The power of surrendering

Having faith for a specific outcome can be very limiting.  In fact, I have been fortunate to learn this lesson the easy way.  The hard way would have been to get what I thought I really wanted only to find out later that I had missed out on enriching opportunities.  With the benefits of initial disappointment and hindsight, I have come to understand that very often, what seems to be the best really isn’t.  Several declined applications to advanced degree programs, made me feel crushed and caused me to question my faith.  Taking a partly paid leave of absence from a job in which I saw no future, opened the door to a scholarship to study abroad for 2 years, a promotion on my return and I eventually had the opportunity to migrate to a country where there was greater scope for professional growth and expansion.

What I know now is that if all things are working together for good, then I leave myself open to limitless possibilities.  

I don’t have to have all the answers, but I do have to know my truth.  Guided by my intuition, if I am clear on my life’s purpose, affirm my intention and have faith, I know that the final outcome will lead me to my highest good.

 

Christ in me, the hope of glory…That’s why glory matters!

www.camilleisaacsmorell.com

 

When turning the other cheek doesn’t work

It took me a really long time to understand Jesus’ teaching about turning the other cheek. But on the day that I did, I gained a whole new perspective on how Christians should respond to oppressive laws, acts of injustice and also when violent, physical retaliation in the form of war, is appropriate.

In His sermon on the mount, Jesus made the case for heartfelt motivations being of a higher order of righteousness than compliance with religious laws.  Jesus declared the blessed outcomes of resulting from right attitudes – in the ‘beatitudes.’ By calling into question the motivations for using religious laws as the standard for righteousness, He equated intention with action – the person who secretly lusts in his heart is just as unrighteous as the person who acts on lust and commits adultery.

Jesus gave some pointed advice on how to directly respond to unjust, oppressive laws.

Under Roman law at the time of Jesus’ ministry, persons of higher social rank had the right to slap the face of a person of lower social rank – but the slap had to be given with the left hand as the right hand was reserved for religious actions and could not be defiled.  So if someone wanted to slap another person in the face with their left hand, they would have to deliver the blow to the right cheek of the other person, who had no right to retaliate. Clearly an unjust, oppressive law. If the person receiving the slap were to turn his left cheek, the slapper would have to use their right ‘holy’ hand.  By following Jesus’ suggestion to turn the left cheek to be slapped, it would mean that the oppressor would have to stop and think before striking again.  He would have to consider firstly, if he should defile his right hand, an unrighteous act in the way of thinking in that era. Secondly, he would hopefully question himself as to whether or not his action was right and fair to the other person.

Using a radical form of non-violent action as the line of defense is the principle I believe that Jesus was advocating. This principle is not unlike our modern day principle of moral suasion where an appeal is made to the conscience to consider what is fair and what serves the common good.   Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and Mahatma Ghandi are two examples of persons who followed through on the principle of non-violent protest and moral suasion.  Similarly, the United Nations, as an institution, seeks to avert war and its underlying causes of injustice, poverty and oppression, through diplomacy and dialogue.

But does there come a point when violent, physical retaliation is appropriate? I believe that there is.

We know that Jesus taught in the synagogue.  Some heard and accepted His teachings and others didn’t.  Many of those who didn’t, continued to oppress and extort their fellow citizens.  On one occasion, Jesus had a violent response to the heart-hardened money-changers, when he overturned their tables, smashed up their ill-gotten material gains and drove them out of the synagogue.

In today’s world, we have terrorists wreaking havoc wherever and whenever they can.  For all the diplomatic interventions, economic sanctions and other non-violent initiatives, these terrorists continue to torture and murder innocent people of various religious, ethnic and political persuasions.  The principle of moral suasion and non-violent intervention has not pierced through the hearts of these perpetrators of violence and terrorism.  In these circumstances, as difficult as it may be, war can be justified.

Christians must join together in prayer for right outcomes in the current war on terror. We must pray that the weapons of war will be broken and that the sources of funding for terrorist activities will be eliminated once and for all.  We ought to pray for the terrorists and be hopeful that transformation is possible. As was the case with the apostle Paul, many in the terrorists’ ranks can be radically converted.  We must also to pray for the victims of war – regardless of their religious affiliation.  Above all, we need to be involved, when the time comes, to contribute to rebuilding all that was lost in war and to promote the principle of moral suasion and non-violence as the best route to a peaceful world.

I don’t believe in work/life balance

Work Life Balance

Although I tried it for many years, I no longer believe in work/life balance, and here’s why –

The term work/life balance implies that there is work and then there are other things in life.  According to this way of thinking, finding the balance means that there has to be a trade-off.  In the end, one or the other suffers.

As someone who enjoys working hard, I do cherish time spent with my family and people I love, as well as volunteering and having my ‘down time.’   For many years, I tried unsuccessfully to find a balance between my work and all the other things I wanted to do in life.  Trying to fit in one hour of long distance running, preparing supper, spending quality time with my husband and family, working on communications plans for the two social activities I was involved in, working on my latest art project and then factoring in two hours commuting to an 8-hour day job… all left me tired, frazzled, overweight and unfulfilled.  Then I tried to cut down some of my social activities in pursuit of the ideal balance between work and the other things in my life.  I got the same result – not enough sleep, weight gain and frustration instead of fulfillment.

Then, one Saturday morning a few years ago, I woke up feeling tired.  I was overwhelmed when I read the uncompleted items on the previous week’s “to do” list that was running and ruining my life.  The reality check came when I tried to add another set of commitments for the coming week to the list of “to do’s.”

Realizing the impossibility of accomplishing all of the tasks, I had an honest dialogue with myself about what mattered most to me in my life at the time.   Instead of identifying specific actions, I considered what my priorities ought to be.  Here’s what I came up with –

  1. My spiritual well-being,
  2. My family and the people I love,
  3. Developing my talents and career and
  4. Serving other people.

Overarching all of these priorities was my health and well-being and the need for a holistic, balanced way of life.

What I realized was that if I stayed true to my priorities, I wasn’t making a choice between work and life.  My priorities covered every aspect of my life, of which work is only one component.

Since then, I have reframed my thinking about how I manage my time and energy.  Treating my priorities as assets and the hours in a day as a portfolio, I invest my time and efforts in activities that matter most while ensuring that my health and well-being are not compromised.  Since I’m most alert and productive in the early morning, I spend my first waking hours in meditation and getting ready to start my work day early, allowing for more time in the evening to spend time with my family and with people while being involved in social activities.  Then there are boundaries I set on the commitment and number of volunteering opportunities that I’m involved in.

It’s simple, but then again it’s not that simple.  Having it all is eventually possible.  It’s all about setting priorities and making choices that are appropriate at a given time in life.  As King Solomon stated, “For everything in life there is a time and a season.”  These are wise words to live by.

Christ in you, the hope of glory!  That’s why glory matters.

Visit my website www.camilleisaacsmorell.com

Stay committed to God’s call. You will be shocked at what God can do through you.

In an earlier post, I provided some practical suggestions on how to discover your gifts and talents. Now, once you’ve discovered your gifts and you understand how God wants you to serve, it’s important to stay committed to God’s call. Don’t be discouraged by setbacks and obstacles. God offers great victory when you stay the course.

Let’s look at the example of Deborah. Deborah was a prophetess and Judge in Israel. She had a well-respected position and was the first woman Judge in Israel. She was judging Israel at a time when the people would do evil and fall away from serving the Lord, then God would judge them and deliver them into the hands of their enemies, then they would cry out and return to God and finally He would deliver them. Unfortunately, the lesson was never permanently learned and there was a cycle of evil, judgement, oppression, repentance and deliverance that was going on, over and over again for the people of Israel.

Within this cycle, Deborah ruled while Israel was under God’s judgment. Israel was under severe oppression for twenty years. She would sit under the palm tree between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim and the sons of Israel came up to her for judgment. She was very well respected. The sons of Israel – men – lined up to receive her judgement. When she was told by God to fight the enemy, the Israelite warrior leader Barak said he wouldn’t go to war unless she, Deborah, a woman, went with him.

Now isn’t that funny! A man not wanting to fight unless a woman is with him! And just in case you think that Barak was a wimp, he was not! In Hebrews 11: 32 Barak is listed in the Hall of Fame of men of great faith. Well Deborah agreed to go to battle, but insists that all credit for winning the war should go to God and not to Barak.
What strikes me most about Deborah is that she was committed to do God’s will in the context of a sinful and oppressive situation. She was confident about God’s call and she was unwavering. She was very plain spoken and direct, honest, decisive and courageous. No waffling here and no shirking from God’s direction to go to war. She was not intimidated by men and she made it very clear that God, not man, was to be glorified when the battle was won!
The result of Deborah’s firm commitment to God’s call to be a judge was that the cycle of evil, judgement, oppression, repentance and deliverance was broken and that peace reigned in Israel for forty years!

If God calls you to lead – then you must lead, like Deborah, without compromise. It really doesn’t matter if you are soft-spoken and have a more gentle way of communicating than Deborah. What really matters is your willingness to have a firm, uncompromising commitment to God and like Deborah, be very decisive when judging between good and evil, relying fully and completely on God’s guidance, direction and resilient strength, giving Him full credit for the work that He accomplishes through you.  In this way, you will bring glory to God and accomplish His will on earth through you.

First things first … know who you are before you know what you are to do!

Women are doers. We’re always doing things. We feel good about ourselves when we do for other people. We do things without questioning why and what we’ll get in return. We have a heavy schedule and routine that affects other people. If we don’t cook, the family doesn’t get fed. If we don’t go to the grocery store, the fridge is empty. Sounds familiar?  Speaking for myself, I love to tell people how many things I can do in a day – and how good it makes me feel when I get through everything.

Yes, I will have written several blog posts on the topics of uncovering our gifts and using the gifts in service to God.  I love to exhort you and encourage others, particularly women, to do great and mighty things for God. BUT, and this is a big but, before we think about what God wants us to do, we need to understand clearly who God wants us to be.

Without knowing ourselves and who God wants us to be, we live aimlessly, following traditions and social rules that really separate us from the blessings and enriched life experiences that God wants for us. It’s easy to follow a crowd that’s following God. People who follow a crowd that’s following God are probably doing the all the right things. They’re going to church, singing on the choir, helping out at the church dinner, going to Bible study. These are all good and right things to do. But what I want to do in my first session is to really help us all understand who God wants us to be, as women of faith.

Understanding who God wants us to be comes first before we understand what God wants us to do.

In his letter to the Colossians 1:9 – 10, Paul says:  For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, SO THAT you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, (NIV)

Paul made two points in these verses (i) each person needs to know God’s will for his/her life, so that (ii) he/she will live a life that is pleasing to God, a life that is fruitful and filled with good work.

Throughout Paul’s letter to the Colossian Christians, he emphasised that Jesus Christ is supreme and sufficient. He pointed out that knowing God – having a personal relationship with Him, leads to doing good work for the Lord. I want to drive home the point that before we think about what we want to do for God, we firstly need to understand who God wants us to be.

Understanding who God wants us to be requires us to:

  • Get rid of some false beliefs and ideas about women and their ‘place’ in the church and in the world.
    • God created women equal to men, capable of understanding His will, of developing their talents and serving effectively in all areas of ministry.
    • Women are not in the back row, we are to come forward to do God’s work, as we are directed by God to serve Him and the world.
  •  Understand what the Bible teaches about women.
    • The Bible exalts women. The Bible applauds and honours women as they take part in the home and in the society.
    • We are all beautiful – fearfully and wonderfully made by God
  • Accept ourselves as being created by God to do good things. Our strengths can become weaknesses and our weaknesses can become strengths.
    • Let no one downplay who you are or make you believe that something is radically wrong with your personality.
    • Your personality traits make you who you are so that you can do the good work that God intended you to do. On the other hand, your personality traits can become destructive and offend God and people.
    • Know the difference between personality traits and talents. Personality traits make you who God created you to be. Talents are the gifts that God has given you so you can serve Him.

I will expand on these points in subsequent posts.

Part 3 : Overcoming obstacles – The limitless potential of the child of God

This is the third in a series of blog posts on The Limitless Potential of the Child of God. In Part 2  I wrote about finding your purpose.   In this, the third and final part of the series, I speak about overcoming obstacles to the fulfilment of your purpose.

A SPIRITUAL PERSPECTIVE ON FAILURE & SHORTCOMINGS

From my own life experience, there have been times when I have failed tests, made mistakes in my job and I have “fallen short of the glory of God.”  Nonetheless, I can safely say that whatever pain I may have experienced is miniscule in comparison to the spiritual growth, the material prosperity and the new, relevant skills and talents that I have either gained or developed in each situation.  All of this consistently paves th way for me to achieve consecutively higher levels of spiritual consciousness and to live more abundantly.  God has never and will never put me in a situation to make me feel like a failure of feel that I am anything other than who he created me to be.  Everything that happens to me heightens my awareness of God’s purpose for my life and propels me to achieve my highest good.  Paul states that “He (God) who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion” (Philippians 1:6)  So this clearly means that there is always room for improvement and the need for more lessons to be learned, and it also means that there is no limit to my God-given potential.

I want to encourage you to grow in the awareness that every life experience – success or failure, adversity or prosperity – is worth having as long as we can understand that through it we are being propelled to a higher level of spiritual awareness and achievement.  Nothing can be more precious than the knowledge of Christ and the limitless power which is available to those of us who abide in Him.  This truth led Paul to affirm that “I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord.” (Philippians 3:8).

MAKING IT HAPPEN

Do not be daunted by apparent failure.  Take what you have learnt from each experience and move on to bigger and better things.  Abandon right now any doubt or disbelief in yourself.  Reject every suspicion that you will always have doubts or that you have limited abilities that prevent you from fulfilling God’s purpose for you here on earth.  You are one with God and endowed with the power of the Holy Spirit.  You are never separate from God.  In Him, you live, move and have your being (Acts 17:28).  Through God’s grace and power, you have access to His limitless supply of power, prosperity and success that God wills for you to have.  As Peter puts it, “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” (2 Peter 1:3).

Erase every negative thought of lack and limitation and integrate Paul’s words in your thoughts and speech “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).  This means that you can do all that God assigns you to do, not what you want to do that is not in God’s will.  So the statement that there is no limit to your God-given potential, is based on your understanding of God’s specific will and purpose for your life.

DILIGENCE

It is essential for us to realize that we have a duty to put our faith into action through diligent effort.  The diligent application of our talents, skills and abilities results in glory being given to God, and His blessings of spiritual and material prosperity.  In Proverbs 13:4,  we are told that ” He becomes poor who works with a slack and idle hand, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.”  Diligent and ambitious thoughts and actions lead to prosperity.  Again in Proverbs 21: 5, we are told that “The thoughts of the [steadily] diligent tend only to plenteousness,…”  We must apply as much diligent effort to the pursuit of material things as we do to gaining spiritual understanding and building up our faith as “But without faith it is impossible to please and be satisfactory to Him. For whoever would come near to God must [necessarily] believe that God exists and that He is the rewarder of those who earnestly and diligently seek Him [out].” (Hebrews 11:6).

It is a fact that those who work hard, achieve success, earn the respect of man and bring glory to God.

“Do you see a man diligent and skillful in his business? He will stand before kings;…”  (Proverbs 22:29)

“Let your light so shine before men that they may see your moral excellence and your praiseworthy, noble, and good deeds and recognize and honor and praise and glorify your Father Who is in heaven.”  (Matthew 5:16)

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