A VISIT TO THE FAMILY THEATER
BY: SUNNY ORLY COFFMAN
A typical Saturday in an average American family might include:
Dad watching the re-run of business news: Which mutual fund is truly the diversified investment I should use to increase the family surplus? The cost of living just made another jump and I’m going to need as high a yield as possible with college coming up for Junior next year and Debbie will also be in college the following year. And where is the money coming from this week to pay everything due right now – with this added expense of repair again on the family car? Maybe the answer is to replace that car – after all, how far can you push a car with 100,000 miles already racked up on the odometer?
Mom deeply involved in the gourmet show: She’s wanting to create a new recipe for Saturday night’s supper. Now was it Worcestershire or A-1 he added to the marinade for that roast? I believe if I cook it 1 hour longer at 300F instead of 350F, it will stay more moist and not shrink so much…but I’ve really got to plan this extra hour of cooking because Junior has a date tonight and is going to want to eat and get out of here by 6:30 pm… I wish I knew more about this girl. The things I’ve heard don’t make me very comfortable. What does Junior see in her anyway? It’s not like him to want to spend time with someone that has her interests…
Junior replaying the events of yesterday when he had a major head-on collision after school with his best friend, John… Why did I have to open my big mouth and comment on his girlfriend? John and I have been buddies since the 6th grade and we’ve shared every detail of our lives. I knew this girl was getting to be a “big deal” in his life and I should have known he was not ready to hear what I had to say about her… now I face the possibility I’ve lost his friendship forever… if only I would have just kept my opinion to myself. Oh, well, I’ve got a date tonight with a real “doll” – guess I’d better focus in on what I’m going to wear and what we are going to do this evening…
Debbie trying to make a decision about her commitment to see Jeff again this evening even after the big argument they has last Tuesday at the library…. It seems like my time with this guy just isn’t the fun it was in the beginning, but I’ve already agreed to go to the bash 3 weeks from now with him and maybe after that will be the “right time” to end this relationship. I don’t like breaking up and I really want to stay friends, but I’m starting to feel smothered. I’ve got to have some room to breathe. This friendship started out so fun… our first date was perfect – he was so polite and thoughtful and witty, but it seems like lately he has really been taking me for granted – like I’ll always be there regardless of how thoughtless or inconsiderate he gets. Well, I’ll show him what I’m really made of in three weeks…
The “Living” Room of the Mind
All of this going on in one home and not a television engaged anywhere…everyone was involved in the activity we all turn to – our own thought life. Few of us ever fully realize that WE ARE WHAT WE THINK. The Bible says in Proverbs 23:7 “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.”
In our “typical family scene” Dad is totally consumed with the financial affairs of his own family – concerned about not only the weekly challenges, but about making wise investments to provide for the needs of the family’s future. He is assuming his role of husband and father and accepting his responsibility as the family provider. But in our brief peek into his thought life, does it appear that he is trusting God to open the doors of provision for him, or is he struggling with all that responsibility himself and trying to make ends meet in his own strength?
In fact, do we see an “attitude of prayer” in the thought life of any family member? What could turn around each situation they are dealing with? How could all of their paths be made sure and straight? God promises that the man that turns to Him and gives Him their full confidence [faith] will please Him and He will be their God and they will be His people and He will make a covenant with them and all that He has will be theirs and all that they have will be His. What a deal! For God has the whole world and all of its vast resources, both physical and financial, in His hands. That decision could certainly solve any thoughts of the financial challenges Dad has, don’t you THINK? Oooops, there’s that word again.
In my own life, I learned about God as a child and had a lot of confidence in Him. But I didn’t really understand that He wanted to live inside of me and do His work through me and provide all of my needs and guide my every move – including my thought life. I talked about God. I even thought about him before I got out of bed in the mornings, before each meal, before I closed my eyes every night, and thought about Him pretty intensely when I got into trouble or had some sort of major decision facing me. Otherwise, God was on a shelf along with some of the other things I held dear.
It wasn’t until I was 37 and nearly lost my life in a hospital during multiple surgeries that I came to more understanding. I began to realize that God desired not only for me to have a deep abiding friendship with Him, but He wanted me to give Him the total control of my life and allow Him to make those hard decisions for me and to bless me in every area. I came to believe that God didn’t want me struggling in any area of my life, but I also came to see that victory began in MY THOUGHT LIFE.
In our family scene at beginning this writing, we see a typical family “lost in their own thoughts”:
Dad is showing his concern for the family’s provision and struggling with the financial responsibilities.
Mom is wanting to please the family by providing a good meal – something new and yummy.
Junior is full of regret for an action yesterday with his best friend but in the end, he’s just trying to forget it by thinking of something pleasant – his upcoming date.
Debbie is planning a future breakup with the current boyfriend – admitting she has lost interest and deciding even when to cut the cord with him.
In our “peek” into each mind in this family, did we see any one of these four people giving any thought to God? Were any of them considering what God might do in their immediate situation? Did they even seem to care? Or were they going about their daily lives in their own strength and power and relying on their own minds to make their decisions? Most folks live just that way day after day and wonder why they have challenges in their lives.
I personally don’t want to face a minute of any day without the confidence that God is in control of my life – that He has placed my feet on the path He has chosen for me and that all things in my life are going to work together for good – regardless of what the present circumstances might try to speak. There is a peace and joy in my life today that has not always prevailed. Allow me to share a few details of things that have helped to produce that prevailing peace…
A few years ago, after God got my complete attention, He began to teach me about the importance of thought life and how it was the rudder that steered my ship to safe harbor. The first thing He showed me was: I have a choice of what I’m going to think about. That was a revelation to me. Then He took me into the King James version of the Bible in Philippians 4:8 and even showed me a guideline for things to think about. Here’s what it says: “…whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” In the Living Bible it reads: “Fix your thoughts on what is true and good and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely, and dwell on the fine, good things in others. Think about all you can praise God for and be glad about.” Paul wrote this verse of scripture and the Living Bible closes this verse with the promise: “Keep putting into practice all you learned from me and saw me doing, and the God of peace will be with you.” The act of choosing what you think about is a major step toward abiding peace.
To give me a practical application of how to apply this scripture, God gave me a vision. In the vision I could see the front door of my home. He showed me that when a person steps onto my front porch and rings my doorbell, I have the choice of identifying who is ringing the bell and then deciding whether I want to invite them in and entertain them. He said that the first step in taking control of your own thought life is IDENTITY. I had to identify the source of each thought and then decide if I would continue to think about that subject, or discard it. My first steps in learning this new teaching was to compare the thought I was having against the scripture in Philippians. If it was not truth, good, right, pure or lovely; if there was no virtue or praise in my present train of thought, then I knew I must “hit the delete command and send that thought to the rubbish bin.”
But a mind won’t stay empty long and before much time had passed, another thought would come along and I’d have the process to repeat again. I kept feeling that I needed to train my mind to dwell on something that would be within the guidelines of this scripture and something that I could choose to dwell on when interfering thoughts were trying to penetrate my mind.
I believe God helped me to decide on “Jesus at Calvary” as my focal point of thought. I began to practice this immediately. The exercise was: each time an unacceptable thought tried to invade my being, I would force my mind to focus on Jesus as He gave His life for me. I would penetrate His thought life and begin to think as I believed He must be thinking. He was concerned for each of the thieves being crucified on either side of Himself. He was concerned for the Roman soldiers that were in authority at His own crucifixion and he called out to His Father and implored Him not to hold this death to their account, realizing that they didn’t really know what they were doing. He was also concerned about his Mother, Mary, and called out a request to His friend, John, to be responsible for her care. Right up until his last breath, He was pouring out love to those around Him. I found myself getting so caught up in the scene of His crucifixion and His own thought life, that the “intruder thought” attacking me didn’t have a chance to influence me in any way.
Thus began a lifetime of practice in taking dominion over the area of my own thought life and becoming a victor in this area instead of continuing in the victim syndrome. It is still a daily, even hourly challenge to remain on guard – stay aware and continue to fight the good fight of faith in this area – to maintain total victory. When the Bible speaks of the devil being a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour [I Peter 5:8], I believe it is referring to these attacks on the mind of man – attempts to buy into lies that will lead to unrest and dis-ease.
God says that He wants us to have a good life – a peaceful life – and to have it more abundantly. [John 10:10] But we must fight for the control of our mind in order for this abundance to manifest. The mind is our battlefield and God would have us be victorious in this area, so that all of His other promises to us can come into reality. If we cannot dare to believe the promises of God, how can they ever become real to us?
I’m reminded of a story I heard many years ago. An elderly lady received a notice in the mail informing her of a sizeable inheritance left her by the passing of a distant relative. This lady had lived in poverty so long and her thoughts were so filled with her present lifestyle that it was impossible for her to believe the news she had received. So, even though she now had in excess of $3,000,000 in her own personal bank account, she never wrote the first check to “lay claim” to her fortune and finally died in the same state of poverty she had lived throughout all her life.
Most people are allowing themselves to be robbed in this same way by either not having knowledge about the many promises of God made to them, or failing to believe and accept those promises – failing to be in agreement with them. A promise from God is a “gift that is graciously bestowed” – not a pledge secured by negotiation. I want to take a minute and list only a very few of these promises for your consideration:
The greatest promise God ever made was Jesus. Paul refers to the promise God made to Israel that He would send a Messiah in Acts 26:6. Heb. 9:15 refers to Jesus being the promise of eternal life for all of us. This promise comes as an inheritance. For us to receive that inheritance – that testament – the testator had to die..
Jesus told the disciples to stay in Jerusalem a few more days because a promise the Father had made them concerning the receiving of His power was about to happen: they would all be baptized with the Holy Ghost in only a few days. [Acts 1:4-5 and Gal. 3:14]
Jesus’ sacrifice purchased not only our “salvation” – or our being reunited with the Creator – God, but it insured our opportunity to spend intimate time with Him and to actually be face-to-face with Him. The Bible says no man will see God and live – and we do not enter into His presence in this “peniel” [face-to-face] way until we have died to all of our own self desires and put ourselves trustingly into His hands for guidance and direction, love and nurturing, wisdom and understanding – things we have the promise to receive from our loving Heavenly Father.
A VISIT TO THE FAMILY THEATRE [Sunny Orly Coffman] January 2001 1