How Beliefs Shape Our Thoughts, Emotions, and Actions.
“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and Spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”Hebrews 4:12 (NIV)
A big part of dodging the flaming arrows of the enemy is learning and living out of who we are in Christ. It’s also about learning to track our emotions. Revealing emotions is so tough for guys that it’s going to mean that we first have to admit we have them, and then we have to be willing to decipher what they are telling us. I know that talking about feelings is pretty much the last thing that guys want to do. We are tough, we like to go unshaven, we lift weights, we blow things up, we go to the bathroom outside and mark our territory, but discussing emotions is like getting too close to kryptonite; we’re afraid it makes us weak. Little boys look at their penis as a weapon, a sword, a part of their “maleness” and use their sword in healthy or unhealthy ways in their pursuit of manhood. Little boys even pee outside standing side by side crossing the streams in a mock sword fight. Or maybe they are seeing who can pee farther or higher. As boys grow into men, not much changes as they try to “put ‘em on the table” (figuratively) to see whose is bigger when it comes to sports or business. Men love competition and can get in touch with their anger pretty easy, but connecting with other “less masculine” emotions can be nearly impossible. It’s time to lay Rambo aside and get real.
It’s much easier to just keep quiet when we have a thought that isn’t so great or an emotional outburst that results in some sort of negative action like punching or kicking, beating our heads up against the wall, or other guys heads, breaking everything that we can get our hands on, and don’t forget, slamming every door, cabinet or thing that has the ability to open and close. In fact, I’m certain that a woman somewhere in the world is sitting back and laughing because she invented those things that close drawers quietly specifically for times that men don’t want to talk about their emotions.
Dealing with your emotions is like having a life ring when you’re drowning. If you refuse to look at your emotions, they can become like an anchor tied around your neck pulling you into a deep, dark, cold sea of isolation and resentment where you will most certainly slip into spiritual hypothermia.
Having healthy (T) thoughts, (E) emotions and (A) actions plays a pivotal role in survival situations. Losing your cool can spell disaster in a single heartbeat and leave you terrified and terrorized. You may not think about having tea in the jungle, but the following analogy can really help you out if you are in a place where you feel like you might start to get over-emotional.
If there’s one thing I like it’s a great cup of coffee first thing in the morning. Years ago a man named Dale who worked in our building, would come into my office every day, open up his thermos of freshly ground coffee, offer me a hot cup and then he’d share some current event. That’s how our conversations usually got started.
One particular morning I’d had someone bring me in a hot cup of flavored tea before Dale got to my office. When he came in and was about to pour me a cup of his special brew, I said, “Thanks Dale, but I already have a cup of flavored tea.”
Dale looked at me and replied, “Flavored tea! Real men don’t drink flavored tea!” I thought for a moment.
“Dale, real men drink anything they want!”
Making a pot of hot coffee over a glowing campfire is one of my favorite things to do. One evening a buddy and I were camping south of the Oliphant’s River at Balule and his skills as a chef kicked in. As our ironwood fire lowered to a flicker, he placed a pot of hot water above the flames, opened up a Ziploc baggie he’d brought along, and several minutes later poured the ingredients into the boiling water. This was his special adventure tea, made only for a time like this. I laughed and told the “real men don’t drink flavored tea” story. I guess the truth is that it matters more what a man thinks than what he drinks. I named this fireside beverage “MAN T-E-A.” This Man Tea (T-E-A) would later become an acronym for Thoughts, Emotions and Actions, a discipleship and counseling tool my mentor had taught me several years earlier used in helping me to renew my mind. T-E-A is a key weapon in the offensive battle we wage against Satan.
So, what’s in Man Tea? I can tell you this much; it’s not really what’s in the Man Tea that counts, but rather what’s in the man. One of the biggest problems men face is that we have been taught the opposite. We are taught that what we put out, whether it’s money, great thoughts, super-talented children, or some sort of successful business venture, defines our successes both in life and as a Christian. It’s unrealistic to put so much pressure on ourselves. We are not going to hit a hole-in-one every time we swing. It’s just not going to happen. Our thinking has been corrupted. We’ve bought into the lie that what people see on the outside is who we are. Jesus focuses on something very different. He is more concerned with what is inside a man than with his outward actions.
In Mark 7, Jesus confronted some Pharisees, who were the most numerous and influential of the religious Jews of Jesus’ day. They were legalists and they always wanted the limelight. His “naughty” disciples had just eaten without washing their hands. The hand washing was a tradition passed down by Jewish elders and one of the manmade 614 Jewish laws.
The Pharisees criticized his disciples for not keeping their traditions. Jesus got in their faces and called them hypocrites. He told them they were more concerned about eating etiquette than with what came out of their mouth. Then he added, what comes out of your mouth is the real problem, not what you’re putting in it.
“You don’t get wormy apples off a healthy tree, nor good apples off a diseased tree. The health of the apple tells the health of the tree. You must begin with your own life-giving lives. It’s who you are, not what you say and do, that counts. Your true being brims over into true words and deeds.
Luke 6:43-45 (MSG)
The “who you are” is the focus here; Christ in you. If your roots (beliefs) are secure in your true identity, you will bear “healthy” fruit…because your true being, God’s Spirit in you, will brim over into true words and deeds. In other words, when our beliefs are secure in our identity, our thoughts, emotions, and actions will be healthy. When we forget and are deceived into believing our identity comes from our performance or other’s opinions of us, we will produce wormy, “unhealthy” fruit. When we learn to put God’s thoughts into our minds, healthy emotions and actions will come out.
Romans 12:2 tells us that are transformed by the renewing of our mind. 2 Corinthians 10:5 instructs us to “take every thought captive.” The problem is that most men have never been discipled to know how to do this. So then, how do we take every thought captive so that we can be transformed by the renewing of our mind? In the following post, we will learn how God’s Truth turns fear to focus and removes the enemy’s claws from us.
Read next: Declawing the Enemy