Losing the Battle in the Brain

Proverbs 22:13 – The sluggard says, “There is a lion outside! I shall be killed in the streets!”

I was having a discussion with my young son about math recently. He was trying to do his math, and I could see he really was struggling to keep going on it. He was working on multiplication problems, and he was just going downhill mentally and emotionally. He had gotten himself worked up to where he didn’t remember 3×7, which he had used over and over. This wasn’t a knowledge problem, it was a battle of the brain problem.

When I began to look at his work, overall he had done 90 percent of it right. But he was telling himself stories, like “I don’t like Math.” “This is too hard.” “I don’t want to do this.” “I need help.” “I can’t figure it out.” Yet he had done most of the work perfectly all by himself. But now he was at the brink of tears and unable to do a simply 3×7 because of the stories he was telling himself. He was shutting down.

So, I held him close to me and hugged him and told him that he wasn’t losing the battle in the math workbook, he was losing the battle in his mind. I had him look at all the right things he had done on that page, and I had him say positive things about himself when it came to those he did right. “I am smart. I can do math. Look at all I did right. I can figure this out.” By the way, brothers and sisters in Christ, do not disregard the power of meditating on the positive and telling yourselves hopeful things (Philippians 4:8). Paul says think about what is “true,” so God does not want us to tell lies to ourselves.

You see, with this son, if he is doing art or building Legos, there is nothing too hard for him. He is designing his own amazing and complex things out of Legos (good grief he is making his own Transformers out of Legos). His artwork for a young kid is just incredible. There is nothing too hard for him there. He certainly has a gift with art and designing things.

Maybe his “gift” will never be that he excels in Calculus or Nuclear Physics, and that is fine! We would not want to push him in a direction other than his natural talents and strengths. But what we do want for all of our kids is for them to learn to win the battle of the brain.

Don’t defeat yourself before you even begin something by telling yourself I can’t do this, or it’s just too hard, or I’m just not able to figure it out. Maybe it isn’t possible for you to do that task. That might be true. For example, the only way I’m ever going to dunk a basketball is if I use a step ladder or if the rim is adjusted to 7 feet! So there are limits to what we can do, no doubt. But that’s not what I’m talking about. My point here in this article is to discuss how we can defeat ourselves from the beginning just by how we think and what we say.

I know I’ve lost that battle repeatedly, and I can see in my kids when they begin to go down that road. Look at that above passage from Proverbs, a person can tell himself there is a lion in the streets when no such lion exists. There is no real lion! The man did not step out to work because he told himself a wrong story in his brain.

What stories are you telling yourself? Are you losing the battle of the brain because of what you are saying to yourself?

What Does God Say?

Throughout the Old Testament, we find cases where men inquired of the LORD. These men wanted to hear from God and know what it was He wanted them to do. Below are some examples.

Now the sons of Israel arose, went up to Bethel, and inquired of God and said, ‘Who shall go up first for us to battle against the sons of Benjamin?’ Then the LORD said, ‘Judah shall go up first’” Judges 20:18.

David inquired of the LORD, saying, ‘Shall I pursue this band? Shall I overtake them?’ And He said to him, ‘Pursue, for you will surely overtake them, and you will surely rescue all’” 1 Samuel 30:8.

“Then it came about afterwards that David inquired of the LORD, saying, ‘Shall I go up to one of the cities of Judah?’ And the LORD said to him, ‘Go up,’ So David said, ‘Where shall I go up?’ And He said, ‘To Hebron’” 2 Samuel 2:1.

“Then David inquired of the LORD, saying, ‘Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will you give them into my hand?’ And the LORD said to David, ‘Go up, for I will certainly give the Philistines into your hand’” 2 Samuel 5:19.

When these men inquired of God, trusted in His wisdom and not their own, they were successful. Men like David recognized that it was God who was in control. They believed His words to be authoritative in nature. When they listened to Him, they were blessed.

I think there is something we can learn from these examples when it comes to the authority of the scriptures.

As we think about Bible authority, we need to think about what God has to say. We need to listen to His words and not our own. God has given us His words in the Holy Scriptures. Therefore, in order to hear from Him, we need to open up the Bible.

We need to have the mindset that David and others had. A mindset that says, “Lord, what is it that you want us to do?”

We need to have this attitude when it comes to worship, when it comes to marriage, and when it comes to how we live our lives, and when we do we will be blessed. It is God who gets to decide what it is that we do.

Yet sadly, it can become very easy for people to say…

I don’t think it really matters to God whether we have instrumental music or not.”

“I don’t think it really matters if we have a fellowship hall or not.”

“It doesn’t really matter if it’s a man or a woman who is doing the preaching.” 

It doesn’t really matter  if  a  person is baptized for the forgiveness of sins.”

All of these things do matter to God. Our responsibility is to listen to what it is that God has revealed in His word for us.

Have this mind

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,
(Philippians 2:4-5)

Hey everyone, thanks to those who have been writing for me lately. I really appreciate it. Right now my family is pretty heavily involved in care-giving. Mom has Alzheimer’s. We ask for your continued prayers as we go through this journey with her. It certainly takes a big team to help with care-giving. Please pray for my dad, this is very hard to watch your wife of 50 years go through this. Please pray for my brother and me and our families as we work together to find the best solutions for mom.

I know there are many others reading this who have been through this or are going through it right now. You understand.

The above passage from Philippians hits home even more as we think about all working together as a team to care for someone. Mindset is everything.

If anyone spent two minutes with our mom, they would know right away that this mindset from Philippians 2 is what defines her life. May this mindset be in us, too as we care for her.

Getting a Brain Lock

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,
(2 Corinthians 10:5)

We’re told here by the apostle Paul that we are to bring every thought captive in order to obey Christ. But we know that our mind can really go downhill in a hurry. Someone just gets under our skin, and we just can’t let it go. It affects how we treat that person, just like Joseph’s brothers got to a point where they could not speak peaceably to him (Genesis 37:4). Then how we treat others is affected because we are really upset at someone else (Heb. 12:15). I’ve heard the expression, “I’m so mad I can’t see straight.” That’s exactly right.

So, what are we to do when our brain gets locked on something negative? What I mean is someone at work did something that bothers or irritates you and you just can’t seem to get your focus off it. Or you have perceived that your spouse was insensitive to your needs and you just can’t let it go. It ruins the whole day and puts everyone in a sour mood. Or maybe you are on a sports team and the referee makes a bad call. It just seems to overwhelm your thinking and you go into a mental downward spiral. I’m sure we’ve all been there at some point.

How do we resurrection ourselves when our brain gets focused on something that really bothers us?

Recognize the source. We have to recognize that this is one of Satan’s devices (2 Corinthians 2:11). The wrath of man doesn’t produce the righteousness of God (James 1:19-20); instead, we become instruments of the Devil to do his bidding. Sinful thoughts lead to more sin (Matthew 15:19).

No excuses. God has told man from the beginning that we have the power to control our thinking and we can harness and redirect our emotions (Genesis 4:6-7; Jeremiah 4:14). Cain hated his brother and was very angry, and God told Cain to “rule over” his anger. Again, no excuses, no blame-shifting.

Take a moment. Even Jesus went out to the mountain to pray. Jesus had time alone with God. You may have to take a minute to yourself, go out and cool down. There is a time to speak and a time to BE SILENT. You may have to tell those around you that you need a few minutes to yourself and think things through. It may be that the more you talk the more you make a mess of things, so it would be best to be silent and chill for a bit. This is not the silent treatment, this is taking a few minutes of silence so you can later give the right treatment.

Meditate on these things. Read Philippians 4:8. I’m not saying this is a quick fix, but when our brain is at DEFCON 1, you need a go-to-place for your mind. Passages like Philippians 4:8 are Holy Spirit-given guides to tell you WHAT to think about. Imagine if you took a few minutes to thank God for 50 amazing things about your wife instead of getting OCD about the one thing that ticks you off? And, what really upsets you may not have even been a good reason to be upset in the first place!

Talk it through. In the multitude of counselors there is safety (Proverbs 11:14). Walking through it with a wise, godly older person will help you see that you were really silly in being so upset about this. Or even if you do have a good reason to be upset, that wise person can give you the calm guidance to work through it.

Learn to see it coming next time. A wise man sees danger and hides himself (Proverbs 22:3). With wisdom and experience should come the ability to see the warning signs that your brain is going down the wrong road. God knows the inclination of our hearts and he wants us to warn ourselves of attitude problems that may come up (for example see Deuteronomy 15:9). Daniel knew what kinds of things he would be asked to do in Babylon, and he prepared his mind on what to do beforehand (Daniel 1:8).

“Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
(Isaiah 55:6-7)

The Curse of the Billy Goat

The curse of the Bambino for the Boston Red Sox. The curse of the Billy Goat for the Chicago Cubs. If you follow even remotely Major League Baseball, you have heard of these two curses. Of course, both curses are “broken” because both franchises have since won the World Series.

So, is this curse thing for real? Can someone have the power to place a “curse” on a ball team and it actually work? Only if the players, coaches and managers on the team believe the curse to be true.

I remember watching the game in 2003 when the Chicago Cubs were in the 8th inning, up 3-0, less than two innings away from the World Series. Then came Mr. Bartman, the fan that interfered with a foul ball, and the Cubs just fell apart. They surrendered 8 runs and lost 8-3.  After that game the Cubs did not recover and the Marlins went on to the World Series.

The curse of the Billy Goat

Lots of people played up both Bartman and the Billy Goat. Bartman was a villain and many people wanted him to die. The Cubs are cursed. It must be true. They will never win the World Series again.

What I saw that night in 2003 was a team that mentally fell apart. I remember using the Cubs as a sermon illustration soon after that game. The point I made was how the mindset of a team can completely unravel and destroy any progress toward a goal. You can have the best talent around, but if you have a collective bad attitude, then you’re going nowhere in a hurry.

Individuals and organizations defeat themselves before they ever start because of their mindset. “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7). If you believe you will fail, then you are right. You can live like there is a curse over you and the results will confirm your negative outlook. When a group unravels mentally, it has absolutely nothing to do with a “curse” but with stinkin’ thinkin’ as Zig Ziglar put it. You become your own curse. Some call it a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The 2016 Cubs chose not to believe the “curse.” They could have believed it a few days ago when they were down 3 games to 1, but they didn’t.

As Christian men, we have to understand the power of the mindset, both as individuals and as congregations. Are we truly blessed children of God? Then let’s act like it!

Where Christ Is

Let’s meditate for a moment today on where Christ is. Please read Colossians 3:1-4.

If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.

Jesus fills heaven and earth, and He is with us always, but His home and His throne is in heaven above. He is sitting. I find comfort in that. In heaven there is no turbulence, chaos or unrest. You find absolute certainty as to Who is in charge. Jesus is sitting at the right hand of God. He has all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18). Remember that today, men.

We were raised with Christ to walk in newness of life. That means Christ is with us now. That means we must change what we seek, men. We no longer seek the sinful things of this world. We fix our gaze upon Jesus in glory, and that will transform our attitudes, behavior and decisions.

Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.

As a dear sister said this week in a Bible study, “That doesn’t mean 24-7 I am sitting on a rock meditating.” Yes, we have to pay the bills, mow the lawn, change diapers and go to work. We are not just sitting in a holding pattern, enduring life’s misery because we know one day we will be in heaven. No, friends, God wants us to set our minds on things above when we are at work. Does God want us involved in our communities? Yes! Our whole character truly demonstrates to the world that this world is not our home. We are involved in the world, but our minds fixate on heaven. Our real home is where Christ is.

For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

You died? Yes, when we were buried with Christ in baptism (Colossians 2:11-13), we made the commitment to Christ to die to this world and our old man of sin. When that happened, God wrapped Christ around you and tucked you safely and hid you securely in the shelter of His wings. Hidden with Christ in God…just an awesome thought.

When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.

Do not make anyone or anything other than Christ your “life.” Christ is your life.

When He appears…think about that! He is already present, among us and within us (Colossians 3:11), but He will appear to all one day. When that happens, we will one day be living with Him in glory!

Let’s all focus on being where Christ is.