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Over Thought

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I sometimes over-think.  I think too much about the wrong sorts of things.  And then I think too little about the best sorts of things.  Dr. Dave our 6AM Runners Therapist calls it, “excessive rumination”.  He would contend that Layton Ford would be our most “excessive ruminator”.  Now David would certainly not be opposed to “thinking”.  It’s just a matter of what occupies a person’s mind.  Layton spends his time on the following kinds of questions:

How do they get a deer to cross at that yellow road sign?

If it is tourist season, why can't we shoot them?

How did a fool and his money actually get together?

What's another word for Thesaurus?

Why do they sterilize the needles for lethal injections?

Why is there an expiration date on sour cream?

Why do kamikaze pilots wear helmets?

How do you know when it is time to tune your bagpipe?

When you choke a smurf, what colour does it turn?

Is it true that cannibals don't eat clowns because they taste funny?

What was the best thing before sliced bead?

I have the wonderful pleasure of friends who are able to laugh at themselves and at each other.  These are obviously silly questions.  But you know, we spend a fair amount of time and energy worrying about things that are only marginally more important from God’s perspective.  In the grand scheme of things there are significant things that we should consider and other things that pale by importance.

I would say for instance that any person who has time to read a newspaper has time to read the Word of God.  I would also say that and hour spent in the Word is likely to have a far greater impact on your life on your life than the hour spent in the paper.

As much as I like golf, I would say that a person who can find sufficient money for golf should be able to find money for the things that matter to God.

This past week there was a conference call that church leaders were invited to in order to help Sylvester Stallone promote his new, and we trust final, “Rocky” movie.  There are values promoted in the movie that we would espouse as a church.  Why does Sly Stallone want to talk to a group of pastors?  He maintains that there is something significantly spiritual that is taking place in his life.  I hope so.  I really do.  I just wish that he had called when there was no movie on the horizon.  There’s a part of me that suspects that he liked the way that Mel did it.

1.   Spirituality was meant to be “kid-friendly”.

In my mind, life was meant to be simpler, . . . from God’s perspective.  Spirituality and faith was meant to be kid-friendly.  And yet the idea of an All-Powerful, All-Loving God compels me to discover everything that I can about Him and about the way that He would have me to live my life.

I think that Solomon was an over-thinker.  God was pleased to grant wisdom to Solomon and yet he strayed from God’s primary desire for his life and became a skeptic of a life which to Him was meaningless and unexciting.  His conclusion after a life time of thought,

"The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails—given by one Shepherd. Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them. Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body. Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil." (Ecclesiastes 12:11-14, NIV) [1]

I have never met a child who hates Christmas.  Usually that is reserved for adults who have allowed something to change their minds.  The holiday that you enjoyed as a child is still the same.  Absolutely nothing different.  But somehow we have become different and the difference suddenly makes Christmas into a painful time of year.  Go figure.  Have you ever wondered how much of life changes simply because we change?  It could be that a child’s perspective on life is the best that we can have.

"The king went to Gibeon to offer sacrifices, for that was the most important high place, and Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” Solomon answered, “You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day. “Now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?” The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both riches and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. And if you walk in my ways and obey my statutes and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.” Then Solomon awoke—and he realized it had been a dream. He returned to Jerusalem, stood before the ark of the Lord’s covenant and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. Then he gave a feast for all his court." (1 Kings 3:4-15, NIV) [2]

I read another excerpt from the book “In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day”.  Mark Batterson, pastor of the National Community Church says that there are two kinds of people in this life, . . . complainers and worshippers and the difference between them is not circumstantial.  He speaks of Paul and Silas in jail in the middle of the night and they choose to have a worship service.  Others in the same prison were languishing in mental anguish.  They sang and expressed their love for God.  Batterson said that complainers always find something to complain about and worshippers always find something to worship about.  I’d ask you this morning what sort of person you wish to be.  I’d ask you what your thinking is likely to produce for you and your family this Christmas season.

Now if you think too much about this, you’re likely to conclude that I am insensitive and that you are justified in your distress.

It seems to me that over-thought ruins what could be a wonderful holiday in which the believer could find many reasons to rejoice in his or her faith.

It’s really about nothing more than the fulfillment of a promise that was centuries old, the coming of a Redeemer to all men regardless of color, creed, caste.  You see today you are recipients of that gift regardless of your spiritual status.  Jesus came as heaven’s greatest gift to you regardless of what you may be thinking.  

Christmas reminds us of our losses.  There are always the times when our minds go to those who have passed away, loved ones that have left great gaps in our lives.  It is so difficult when everyone else seems so happy, to not be driven to the pain of loss.

Regardless of the pain of loss, I would be wrong to not remind you that Christmas brings our greatest gain.  The most significant expression of the love of God.  

"“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16, NIV) [3]

I think that at Christmas time we spend too much time wishing we had things that we can’t afford.  I think that we are depressed when we watch those who seem to spend lavishly without restraint and we simply wish that we could do the same. 

In his introduction to the parable of the rich fool Jesus admonished his followers:

"Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”" (Luke 12:15, NIV) [4]

We know that Christmas has to be about something more significant than “getting”.  By the way, we are doing our Christmas dinner again this year.  We need turkeys and other food donations.  If you are willing to help us in any way, please let us know.  E-mail, Communication cards, let us know how you would be willing to help.  Set up, clean up, serving, picking people up, . . . hungry people, . . . lonely people.  I guarantee  you that you will bring more blessedness to your experience of this holiday if you decide to spend it thinking about others and actually giving your time and resources to the same end.

It’s not that God doesn’t want you to think, to question, to explore, to “reason” – the opposite is true.  One of the things that I love about Jesus was that he didn’t attempt to “dumb down” the gospel.  He seemed to indicate that desire was the greatest prerequisite for faith.  He who has ears to hear.

"And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him./" (Hebrews 11:6, NIV) [5]   /

Did you get that?  The kind of faith that is pleasing to God.  It’s really simple.

2.   You have to believe that he exists. 

You know, if you believe that then that naturally leads to some further considerations.  If He exists and He is God, then He most likely means what He says.  He most likely will not conform to your idea of what He should be like.  His ways are higher than yours.  His mind is infinitely superior to your own capacity to understand Him.  Whatever your grandest picture of Him might be, He is that much more over and over again.  He is not an insignificant presence in the world if indeed He is God.  Every breath that you take, every involuntary muscle that works without your consciousness is ordered by this God.  We live as though all this is by our own design, or by no particular design and we spend our days as though our priorities are the of greatest concern.

3.   You have to believe that He is a “rewarder”.

In other words, God’s desire is to add to our existence here on earth rather than to take away from it.  Many people have the opposite perception.  If I were to truly give my life over to God’s control then He would take something away from me.

We sing together that God is good but we live as though we are not quite sure.  Many people portray a begrudging service to God or the church as though we are coerced into faith rather than invited to an experience that we would never miss.

To our forefathers, faith was an experience.

To our fathers, faith was an inheritance.

To us, faith is a convenience.

To our children, faith is a nuisance.


4.   You have to seek Him diligently.

William James was right when he said, "That which holds our attention determines our action."

Don't you know some people who just have an excuse for everything? Why they could not, should not, did not, would not, have not, will not. If "ifs" and "buts" were candies and nuts, we would all have a Merry Christmas. It is impossible to turn excuses into possibilities.

Hope is the foundational principle for all change. People change because they have hope. If people do not have hope, they will not change. You are responsible for the changes that you make in your life, but the good news is, you can make the changes you need to make in your life.

I would ask you today – do you have an expectation of God today that reflects the intensity of your search for Him or are you sitting back and passively challenging God to prove Himself worthy of your attention.  In this posture, who is really God?  You see, it’s not that you don’t believe in God, it’s just that you think that you are God.  A case of mistaken identity.


[1]  The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[2]  The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[3]  The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[4]  The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[5]  The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

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