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5 Ways to Refocus Your Thought Life

Do you find it hard to take control of your thought life? Are you often besieged with negative thoughts, or find yourself constantly battling fears?

Paul wrote to the Philippians church, saying, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8-9). Sounds great, doesn’t it? But where do we even start?

Here are five quick pointers that can help us refocus our thought lives:


 

1. Purge the Bad Stuff

First things first. Is there anything we need to purge? Are there any TV shows, movies, songs, or novels that are drawing us into sinful thinking? While there is nothing inherently wrong with enjoying these things, let’s heed Paul’s warning, “‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial” (1 Corinthians 10:23).

We are easily tempted into envy, lust, comparison or even addiction. Is there something in your life right now that takes advantage of that weakness? If so, take a break from it. Not watching the next episode or missing the season finale of a TV show will not kill you. Instead, we can give that time to God and ask Him to work in our hearts.


 

2. Fill Up on What Is Beautiful

Once we’ve purged the bad stuff, it’s time to find something else to fill our time and our thoughts. We can look for things which are beautiful, which speak to our emotions and imaginations in meaningful ways. The very act of wonder and inspiration is a gift from God. He is the first creator of beauty (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

Because of that, we can find things that portray what is true, noble, right, pure all around us. Let’s look for stories, songs, and art that inspire us and point our hearts to God!


 

3. Fill Up on What Is True

Just as our imaginations and emotions need to be filled with good art, our intellect needs to engage with knowledge and truth. We can do this by learning more about the world around us, as well as the One who created it all.

Have you ever wondered how heavy a cloud might be? Did you know that the moon completes a full rotation on its axis at exactly the same speed that it completes a rotation around the earth? That means we only ever see the same side of the moon from earth. Did you ever realize that peanut flowers blossom above ground, but the nuts grow in the dirt? There are so many tiny, unthinkable details God has put into place!

This world reveals God’s splendid handiwork (Psalm 19), and exercising our intellect and learning more about our world can lead us to a deepening awe of the Creator.


 

4. Fill Up on What Is Good

More important than feeding our imaginations and our intellect, we need to focus on our spiritual needs. In refocusing our thought life, what can be more important than turning our focus back to our relationship with God?

The best place to start is by simply reading the Bible, and seeking to understand it. That will really help us focus on who God is. Can you write out a list of His attributes? God is loving (1 John 4:8), always present (Hebrews 13:5-6), knows all things (Psalm 139:2), always in control (Matthew 10:29-31) . . . What else can you think of?

Now take a good look at that list, and ask yourself, how has God’s nature been apparent in your life recently? How has He shown His presence in your circumstances? In what ways has He reminded you of His love? Once we really start looking, we will be sure to find God’s fingerprints all over our lives.

Selectively digging into books and articles written by well-respected Christians may also challenge us to a deeper understanding of foundational truths.


 

5. Fill up on good conversations

Finally, one great way to refocus our thought life is to get in some great conversations with brothers and sisters in Christ. To jumpstart conversations, try asking questions such as, “What has God been doing in your life lately?” or, “What have you been learning in your Bible reading recently?” It’s exciting seeing how other people are connecting with God, and often, this inspires us in our own relationship with God as well.

Surely, hearing about God has been at work in the life of our friends is more interesting than debating over the fate of fictional characters or indulging in idle talk? So, even in the small details of our days, let’s make a point to dwell on things which are excellent!

My Close Shaves with Earthquakes

Written By Joey Choo, Malaysia, originally in Simplified Chinese

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Before and After the earthquake in 2011, ChristChurch Cathedral Left photo taken by: Joey Choo

Recently, the news has been abuzz with reports of earthquakes. Just this morning, I stumbled on news about two earthquakes—one striking New Zealand and the other Japan. Already, my heart was gripped by news of the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Christchurch, New Zealand one week ago.

Although Malaysia (where I’m from) is a disaster-free country, I’ve had the fortune (or misfortune) of experiencing several strong earthquakes during my time in other countries. Hence, hearing earthquake-related news always evokes many memories.

The first time I experienced an earthquake was when I was attending university in Taiwan in 1999. I had just arrived for a week when 921 Earthquake—as it was locally known—struck. The tragedy in Nantou County resulted in 2,415 deaths, more than 11,000 people injured, and 29 others missing. More than 50,000 houses collapsed and another 53,000 were damaged. Although I was situated in Taipei, far from the epicenter, I had a taste of the destructive nature of the earthquake. I was in my school dormitory at the time when the power supply was suddenly cut off. All the doors, windows and chairs started rattling and I almost got thrown off my seat.

When I watched the news the next day, I saw images of the devastation: buildings had collapsed and bodies had been buried under the rumble. As a result of the quake, many people lost their homes and loved ones. How helpless and small we human beings are when faced with the force of nature! It made me realize how fragile life is, regardless of who we are and what we’ve achieved. All that we have accumulated can be easily wiped out in one swift disaster. The Bible is spot on when it says, “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” (Matthew 16:26) Indeed, it’s not worth exchanging our precious lives with the temporal things of this world.

That was just one episode. During my five years in Taiwan, disasters happened almost every year. In addition to earthquakes, there were also typhoons and the outbreak of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (also known as SARS) epidemic. One of my most harrowing experiences was when a 6.8 magnitude earthquake struck Hualien on 31 March, 2002. The effects of the quake were even felt at one of its most iconic landmarks in Taipei—where the skyscraper Taipei 101 is situated.

Then, the skyscraper was still under construction and the strong tremors sent a large crane on the 56th floor crashing down to ground level, crushing many cars and killing people in the process. Standing a few hundred meters away, I saw the surrounding buildings swaying and witnessed that horrific episode with my own eyes; it was a scene I would never forget.

Years later, I had another close shave with an earthquake. It was 4 September 2010 and I was on a working holiday in New Zealand’s South Island. Then, I was living in a small town close to Christchurch and planned to move downtown to look for a job.  A friend of mine from Nelson (more than 400km north of Christchurch) came to visit me out of the blue and invited me to look for a job in the north where she lived. I was clueless as to what to do. As I prayed, God impressed on me to leave Christchurch and follow my friend. That’s how I got away unscathed once again—this time from a devastating earthquake that hit Christchurch two weeks later.

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ChristChurch Cathedral the day after the February 2011 earthquake collapsed its spire. Photo taken from: Wikipedia

 

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After the earthquake in Christ Church City Center. Photo By: Joey Choo

 

It was truly God’s miraculous protection and guidance that saved me each time and I can say confidently that our God is true and trustworthy. Just as Psalm 46:1-3 says, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” These close brushes have deeply impressed on me the need to trust and depend on God, because He alone is the true creator and holds our lives in His hands.

Whenever earthquakes or natural disasters occur, I am also reminded that the end times are near. “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains” (Mark 13:8). As such, I need to be watchful, pray, and to preach the gospel because the Lord’s return is near. I pray that every child of God will learn to worship Him reverently, and give all glory and honor to the Lord Almighty.