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Bill Coates: You are what you think about

The great Ralph Waldo Emerson, whose speeches and philosophizing enthralled America in the 1800s, used to say, “A man is what he thinks about all day long.” (The same is true for a woman, too.)

Actually, Jesus said the same thing long before: “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.”

The bottom line is, it matters what you think. Thoughts become words which become actions which have consequences. 

At the beginning of this year, now barely a week old, what are you thinking? Are you thinking what the news outlets tell you think?

I’d be living in fear and trembling if my thoughts were fed mostly by CNN or Fox or almost any of the commentators on any form of media today. And, to stay as informed as possible, I listen to the news religiously. But I listen to something else far more.

I begin every morning with devotional readings and prayer, always before I read the papers or turn on the news. This establishes my thinking before the day even gets going. My thoughts have begun with God before I hear any other voices, before I listen to any other authority or expert or opinion.

So, because I know first-hand the great value of this daily practice, I make the following proposal to you.

Read a psalm and a chapter of the gospel every morning. Read it slowly, even if that means rising a little earlier to allow time.

You will not find answers to all of your questions; that’s not why they are written in the first place. You will find many who have gone before you have had the same questions, struggled with the same problems, experienced the same longings.

Is gratitude really that important? Read Psalm 100. Do you long to be fully known and loved? Psalm 139. What makes getting along with others a priority? Psalm 133. How do you handle your enemies? Psalm 27. Where do you find real wisdom for living? Psalm 90. What is God like? Read any account of Jesus in any of the gospels.

These words are insightful, inspiring and life-giving, and they do have a profound affect on your thinking and therefore your living.

Whenever I encounter a negative, critical, attacking, dispiriting person, I know right away what they have not been reading!

Years ago, a man in my congregation then in South Carolina, came to me unable to sleep well. I asked him what was so troubling. He finally admitted another man had done him wrong in a business matter. He described his feelings toward the man.

I said, “You hate him. You wish him ill.”

He reluctantly agreed.

I asked him to read a number of psalms, one every morning and one every evening, for the next 30 days and come back to see me. I also asked him to say the Lord’s prayer each day with special emphasis on “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

A few weeks later, he was truly amazed at the difference this had begun to make in his life. Several months later, he even reconciled with his offender and told me was sleeping “like a baby” again.

You really are what you think about most.

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