Meadowbrook Congregational Church
“Think on These Things”
July 21, 2019
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.
I am going to start this morning by referencing how I used God’s word to write today’s message. Art, professional minister, and seminary trained, tells me that I find scripture to support what I want to say. I suppose that is true. I love the word of God and I read it and apply it to how it makes sense for me in today’s day and age. Art shared with me over the years that it is important to take into consideration who wrote those words and what the history was behind the author’s account of the facts. I did not write about Paul speaking to the people of Philippi. Instead, I share personally, Philippians Chapter 4:4-9. It is powerful scripture that I committed to memory many years ago because it gives me peace of mind and self-assurance.
Vs. 8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.
As a registered dietitian, I am of the belief that you are what you eat…or you become what you eat. Likewise, you are what you think…or your thoughts, attitudes, and actions become the byproduct of what you think. And that what you think is what expands. Consider how much better you feel around people that are open, positive, uplifting, seeing the bright side of things. These people energize you, build you up and leave you better than what you were before they entered your space. Now think of an individual that is usually negative, glass is always ½ empty, the worst case scenario is always anticipated, they complain and their presence leaves you drained and exhausted! That which you spend your time thinking and internalizing is what you become.
Throughout my life as a young adult and up until now, I have had jobs requiring a lot of driving. I mean, I have covered some miles! My job in UT was most of UT and ID up to Boise. I would use the drive time to listen to self-help books, motivational books, and the like. Some of those books were: Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman, Failing Forward by John Maxwell, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman…just to name a few. It kept me positive and always forward thinking. It was enjoyable because I would have never allowed myself the time to read all those books or listen to the tapes if I had not been driving. Some of the books or excerpts I read were from my very favorite motivational speaker, Zig Ziglar! Some of his famous quotes:” Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude. You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great. Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem… Dreams don’t work unless you do. Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you are right. People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing…that’s why we recommend it daily.” Zig Ziglar became one of the most renowned figures in the science of human potential. His works and the works of many were like life mentors for me. And the information was good, wholesome, and strong value based.
Several years ago, Lisa Barry shared a book with me that changed my life. It is called The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. It is another book that falls into the Personal Growth/Self Help category. This author was a medical doctor who later dedicated his life to the spiritual knowledge and practice of Toltec Wisdom… a culture of ancient southern Mexico.
The Four Agreements are a guide to practicing mindfulness and experiencing personal growth and self-awareness.
The First Agreement is: Be Impeccable With Your Word
Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love. This agreement reminds me that we should not beat ourselves up! Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or others. Trying not to gossip of speak ill of others is good common sense. However, think about how many times you may have made a mistake or did something goofy and you self-criticize. Don’t let that negative communication about yourself get planted in your brain. A mistake, wrong decision, failure is an event…not a person. Remember, whatever is true, whatever is right, whatever is honorable, whatever is pure…think on these things.
The Second Agreement is: Don’t Take Anything Personally
Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own thoughts. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering. This one is hard! You have to put on your tough exterior. In other words, don’t let people live rent-free in your head. When I experience someone challenging my self-worth and whole being, I think of the words of author, Wayne Dyer. “Let them take your moment. Don’t let them take your day!” And definitely don’t let their negative comments define you in any way. Wise words from Eleanor Roosevelt, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Remember in Philippians, if anything is worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.
The Third Agreement is: Don’t Make Assumptions
Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life. This is HUGE! Think about how easily we jump to conclusions, form quick opinions, judge by first impressions. Wayne Dyer shared a story about a man on a bus or subway. The man was in a daze, staring off and clearly not engaged in the immediate surroundings. Another passenger breaks the concentration and says, “Excuse me sir, could you control your kids. They are running the aisles and disrupting so many other passengers.” The man looked up and appeared to enter the moment, after mentally being elsewhere. The man replied, “Oh, I am so sorry. You see, their mother just died and I don’t know how I am going to tell them.” Whoa. Without that clarification, the passenger could only assume this man was irresponsible and ignoring his wild acting kids. Now that the situation is better understood, the passenger can offer empathy and condolence. We don’t know what others are going through. What if we had to walk in their shoes? Have you even been quick to judge and your first impression had it all wrong?
The Fourth Agreement is: Always Do Your Best
Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.
This reminds me of a recent event that Joe Mutone, our previous organist experienced. Joe had a very important and challenging organ competition in Grand Rapids in April. He was, of course, representing U of M and told me that a student had not secured First Place in this competition in a very, very long time. He wanted to win first place for his own accomplishment but also for the University. When I finally spoke with Joe, he was disappointed that he took second place, but his comment was, “I did my very best and that is all I could do!” I am sure this is true; I am certain he performed excellently. I recall my own mother saying the exact words to me. “Just do the best you can. That’s all you can do!”
Paul reminds the people of Philippi, they will have to “practice” the things they have learned in his preaching. In practicing and learning, they would receive the peace of God which surpasses all comprehension.
Perhaps you will recall that I said the Four Agreements are a guide to practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness is the practice of non-judgment, attention and awareness of your thoughts, actions, and your environment. Sometimes described as “being present”, mindfulness combines focus on what is happening in the moment. Tools such as compassion, empathy, and gratitude are elements of mindfulness cultivated through the practice. Doesn’t this sound like the Four Agreements? Reflect on these things each day. Doing it at the same time each day, such as on your way home from work, or before you eat dinner or before bed will help you create new habits or agreements with yourself. In that mindfulness remember we can do all things through God who strengthens us.
Go now and that which is worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.