What Do You Feed Your Mind?

Pastor Paul Witkop

Click to read more about Paul Witkop

By Paul Witkop –

I am reading a very informative and convincing book by Dr. Mark Hyman, a nutritional expert. He has reminded me that anyone who wants to be an Olympic athlete would probably not adopt a diet of donuts and Twinkies. If you wanted to create a gourmet meal, would you start with inferior ingredients?

Most of us understand that what we put into our bodies is vital in determining our daily performance as well as our ongoing health. Even though we know this, eating intelligently is a battle.

The same principle applies to the most important part of our lives, our minds. Like our bodies, what we allow into our minds is a constant battle. I have learned these three truths:

  • You are what you think.
  • Your mind will think about what you put in it.
  • Your actions result from your thoughts.

How do we win the battle for our minds? The Apostle Paul wrote these words: And fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable —Philippians 4:8

Long before the age of computers and smart phones, Paul knew the input-output principle of “garbage in-garbage out.”

  • Where are your thoughts these days?
  • What food are you feeding your mind?

Think with me about some healthy alternatives on which our minds could feed.

  1. Respect true heroes — Instead of revering the opinions of overpaid Hollywood actors and sports players and misleading politicians, make it a point to notice authentic heroes who are making a real difference in the world…devoted teachers, principled businessmen and women, diligent people working to feed the hungry, tireless behind the scenes volunteers, self-sacrificing community leaders etc.
  2. Replace screen time — Television and smart phones all reinforce passivity and seduce us to adopt values which are not ours. Don’t just automatically revert to your smart phone during idle time. How about a good book? How about some time to talk with God?
  3. Substitute face to face conversations for social media — Conversation is becoming a lost art. Yet, we have so much to learn from each other.
  4. Spend time with older people — Schedule time with a few older people whose lives, wisdom and attitudes are refreshing and inspiring.
  5. Listen to Jesus — The greatest source of positive input is Jesus. We can get to know Jesus by reading about him in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. We can discover Jesus’ plan for our lives, one that is full of joy and purpose. He wants us to know his plan and to know him personally.

… let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. —Romans 12:2

Join me in asking God to transform you, your family, your workplace and the world, one mind at a time, starting with you.

Photo by x-ray delta one on Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Envy Will Make You Miserable

Pastor Paul Witkop

Click to read more about Paul Witkop

By Paul Witkop –

When I was about 12, my close friend Jeff had a gold colored Schwinn Stingray bicycle with a banana seat and 3-speed stick shift. I wanted one too…very badly. It is called envy and it starts young.

Experience has shown me that envy is a very destructive force. It is a relationship killer. It is impossible to envy someone and love them at the same time. King Solomon wrote in Proverbs 14:30, “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” James, Jesus’ brother, also wrote, “For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.” (James 3:16)

Comparison is at the root of all envy. Nothing good ever comes from comparing. Comparing leads to either pride or envy. If I compare my looks, my accomplishments, my possessions to yours, two things can happen. I might think, “I am doing better than you,” and that will lead to pride. I could also think, “You are doing better than I am,” and that will lead to envy. Neither are helpful. Both are very destructive. Many times, when we compare ourselves with others, we don’t know the whole story behind their success or their hardship. If we knew the whole story, the sacrifices they have made and the hurts they have suffered, then we might not want it.

Envy is resenting God’s goodness to others and ignoring God’s goodness to me. The remedy is to start enjoying God’s gifts to others and his gifts to us. Somehow in our minds we think the world is some big giant raspberry pie and it’s all divided up into slices. If somebody’s slice gets a little bit bigger, then that must mean my slice is going to get smaller. That kind of thinking is wrong. God’s got all the pie filling in the world. God doesn’t run out of blessings. He doesn’t run out of grace. There’s more than enough to go around. When God blesses somebody else, it does not mean there is not enough blessings for you. He blesses all of us in different ways.

Instead of asking, “Why them and not me?” God teaches us to appreciate his undeserved blessings. Instead we ask, “Why me?”

Photo by Nels_P_Olsen on Foter.com / CC BY-SA

This is the Day

Pastor Paul Witkop

Click to read more about Paul Witkop

By Paul Witkop –

You and I have been given one life. We do not know how many years will be given to us on this earth. That is why I try to live with the mindset that “every day is a gift.” In Psalm 118:24, the psalmist writes, “This is the day that the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.” How are you going to live this day? Really, today is the only day that is yours to effect. You cannot change the past and you do not know what will happen the future. CS Lewis said, “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” Today is your day…so make it count.

There is nothing wrong with planning for the future. Most of us work hard to plan our careers, our relationships, our finances and our pursuits in the next chapter of life. God cares about them too. God loves you very much and wants to help you to be prepared for the future. But God is also very concerned about what you are doing with today. Every choice you make today is important…and it’s in the little choices that the bigger ones take shape. Rather than dwelling on trying to know the future, God calls us to focus on what we know to be true today.

  • Live thankfully: I Thessalonians 5:16–18
  • Live to serve: Matthew 20:25-29
  • Do the right thing, not the easy thing: Micah 6:8
  • Stop worrying: Philippians 4:6–7
  • Be yourself: Ephesians 2:8–10

When we remember to focus each day on these basic truths and pursue them, God will reveal his plans for the future, in his time. Everything you have in your life today is a gift from God. The next breath you take, the next meal you eat, the next sunset you enjoy, the next hug you treasure — all of them are gifts. He is very generous with his provision. As we trust him, he will help us to best use each day. Today is your day…it is a gift…so make it count.

Photo by Jay Hsu - Chen Chieh on Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Full of Faith or Full of Fluff

Pastor Paul Witkop

Click to read more about Paul Witkop

By Paul Witkop –

Author Ken Davis tells this story… A woman happened to be looking out of the window of her home one day. She was horrified to see her German shepherd shaking the life out of the neighbor’s pet rabbit. Her family had been quarreling with these neighbors; this was certainly going to make matters worse. She grabbed a broom and ran outside, pummeling the pooch until he dropped a rabbit now covered with dog spit — and extremely dead.

After a moment’s consideration, the woman lifted the rabbit with the end of the broom and brought it into the house. She dumped its lifeless body into the bathtub and turned on the shower. When the water running off the rabbit was clean, she rolled him over and rinsed the other side.

Now she had a plan. She found her hairdryer and blew the rabbit dry. Using an old comb, she groomed the rabbit until he looked pretty good. Then, when the neighbor wasn’t looking, she hopped over the fence, snuck across the backyard, and propped him up in his cage. There was no way that she was taking the blame for this.

About an hour later, she heard screams coming from the neighbor’s yard. She ran outside, pretending she didn’t know what was going on.

What’s happened? She asked innocently. Her neighbor came running to the fence. All the blood had drained from her face. Our rabbit, our rabbit! She blubbered. He died two weeks ago, we buried him — and now he’s back!

There are so many people in our world who really want to believe that God loves them, but they have had their hope for the future taken away because of a huge disappointment. They are a lot like that rabbit. They fluff themselves up to look okay on the outside, but inside their hope and their confidence that God cares has really died. God wants us to know his guiding hand every day, not just once in a while or not just about the big stuff of life. God wants you to know his presence and power every day. He wants to restore our hope for the rest of our life so that we can be fully alive.

In this Easter month, I invite you to reaffirm God’s love and care for you. Here are two promises from God that make me very optimistic about the future…

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace… Philippians 4:6-7. God instructs us to pray when we feel anxious. We can pray about anything and everything and God will bring us peace.

There is a hope that does not disappoint… Romans 5:5. People, governments and things will disappoint us. But we need something or someone who we can always trust. Who do you trust when all your other hopes don’t pan out? Well, of course, it is risen Jesus Christ! He conquered death, the greatest challenge there is…so we do not have to live in fear of anything.

We don’t have to be like that rabbit — all clean and fluffed up on the outside but dead on the inside. We can live each day full of faith and confidence. May this Easter season remind us that Jesus is the one we can always trust.

Photo by vpickering on Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

God is Greater Than Any Challenge I Have

Pastor Paul Witkop

Click to read more about Paul Witkop

By Paul Witkop –

What is your challenge today? We all have them. The older we grow, the wiser we become if we realize that despite all our education, expertise and experience, we don’t have the answers to every problem we encounter. Sooner or later, there comes a challenge that will bring us to the humbling conclusion that we are not invincible.

One of my favorite accounts from the Bible is David and Goliath in I Samuel 17. All the odds were against David. He was young and inexperienced. Goliath was gigantic, bigger than anyone had ever seen before. I have been to the place where the battle took place. Even the geography was against David. Goliath seemed invincible.

It could be that the Goliath in your life is a medical problem, yours or someone close. Maybe you need a job or wisdom to decide your college major and life’s direction. It might be a relationship challenge with your spouse, your child or a friend. Maybe it is more personal, a struggle with unhealthy habits with drugs, alcohol, food or even sexuality.

Whatever our challenge, we have two choices. We can move away from it, avoid it or deny it. Or we can run toward it. Always begin with prayer and confessing our need for God’s guidance. Then we invest the time, do the hard work and go after it. God, with your help, we are going to conquer that giant.

David told Goliath, I Samuel 17:45 You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord Almighty.

David’s strength did not come overnight. He had spent lots of alone time with God. His heart had been strengthened so that he knew that his strength was not in his own weaponry. His strength and boldness came because he knew he was never alone. He attacked every challenge, armed with the Lord Almighty.

God calls each of us to grow in our strength, which is, in fact, not our strength at all. Our strength is the presence of the Lord. Whatever your Goliath is today, there is no challenge on earth against which the power of God and your willing open heart cannot prevail.

Photo by Ian Sane on Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

God Directs Our Paths

Pastor Paul Witkop

Click to read more about Paul Witkop

By Paul Witkop –

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your path straight.” —Proverbs 3:5-6

This verse is one of my favorites. At first glance, it seems like a logical formula for getting God to do what I want him to do. It works like this:

Trust in the Lord

+With all your heart

+Lean not on your own understanding

+In all your ways acknowledge him

= and the Result will be straight paths

A+B+C+D= a straight path

When I think of a straight path, I think of the one that is the most direct, downhill and no effort or sweat. We say, “God, I did my part, now you do yours. Make it easy.”

However, as I listen to God through the Bible, what I learn is the straight path that he promised is a straight path where we go on a journey with Jesus. It’s not about the destination. It’s all about the journey. On this journey we will climb mountains and we will trudge through valleys. The valleys are the place where God builds our faith and character. It seems like we are more receptive in the valleys. Every problem has a purpose. God does not cause evil, but he can and does use even the evil done to us by others and turn it around to accomplish good.

Our natural reaction to problems is fear and discouragement. You probably have several items on your list right now.

Jesus promised us that there will be valleys. In John 16:33 he said, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

He has never been closer than when I have been in a valley. His promise is to walk with us and lead us straight to God. I have learned that trying to control and manipulate God is not a great idea. God is very uncooperative. Instead, I want to do the journey with him. Every day, I need a reminder that Jesus is the light of the world. When we are in dark valleys, remember that his light never stops shining.

Photo on Foter.com

What Brings Happiness?

Pastor Paul Witkop

Click to read more about Paul Witkop

By Paul Witkop –

Actor Jim Carrey said, “I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of, so they can see that it’s not the answer.”

Jesus told us a rather sobering and direct story to help us with this question. He said, “There was a wealthy man whose business was very successful. He asked himself, ‘What should I do for I don’t have enough space to store my goods?’” In other words, God is blessing him with a business that made him a lot of money, so much he doesn’t know what to do with all of it. Then he says, “Here’s what I’ll do. I’ll tear down my storage units and I’ll build larger ones. Then I’ll say to myself, ‘I have so many good things stored up for me. Now rest, eat, drink and be merry.’” But God said to him, “You fool. This night your life will be demanded of you and then to whom will all your things belong?” This is the way it will be for anyone who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.

That illustration is a sobering one, isn’t it? Is Jesus really right? Is there really more to life than accumulating toys? Is there more than simply being comfortable, popular or powerful? Jesus seems to be challenging us to order our lives around what God believes is most important.

From the very beginning, we discover that God created us for a close relationship with him. He wants us to know his goodness and discover just how generous he is. In Psalm 34:8 he invites us Taste and see that the Lord is good. He wants to bless us and then teach us that there really is something much better than living to satisfy myself. God loves us and then sends us into the world to inspire and love others to realize their God-given potential. When we love someone with the love that God has first given us that person will likely be inspired to love someone too. This is his plan for transforming the world, one person at a time. Jesus challenges us, saying that living any other way is foolish and self-deceiving and will ultimately end in emptiness.

Make it first goal as you establish your fall routine to spend some time listening to God and investigate his love, through the bible and by being part of a church community. You will discover that self-satisfaction is not the goal. Your life of connecting with God and blessing others is what matters to God and will result in your greatest fulfillment. That’s how we were created to live.

Photo on Foter.com

Operation Soul Restoration

Pastor Paul Witkop

Click to read more about Paul Witkop

By Pastor Paul Witkop –

The 23rd Psalm is, perhaps, the most well-known scripture passage. My second-grade teacher in a public school had us memorize it as classical poetry. I have been with people who have dementia. Their condition is so advanced that they do not know even their own adult kids — and yet, when I begin reading Psalm 23, they join with me. There is something very personal about the shepherd psalm. It really is a picture of God: The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside still waters, He restores my soul. —Psalm 23:1–3a

Shepherds were everywhere in King David’s day and Jesus’ day. Herding sheep was very common. The sheep do not have to fear when they put their trust in the shepherd.

I dare say that many of us would answer with our lips that we believe that the Lord is our shepherd.   But when tough times hit us hard — we are filled with worry.   When the bills pile up, the 401k becomes a 201k, health issues invade us, when we have problems finding work — or challenges at work, when our closest relationships are full of trouble…we worry.  So, we ask, “Is the Lord really our shepherd or it is just a cute idea for a painting or a poem?”

A few years ago, I went with a group down to Havasupai Canyon, a beautiful tributary of the Grand Canyon. The highlight of the trip was the incredible 200-foot waterfalls at the bottom. We camped, so we had to carry our food, our tents, sleeping bags and our other personal gear down to the canyon.  As we approached the day of departure, the greatest news was that our leader had contacted a mule skinner he knew, and we were able to employ several of the canyon’s finest mules to carry our gear down and most importantly, back out.   The trip was amazing…but what a different trip it would have been if we had to carry the considerable pile of gear…all by ourselves.

Maybe that’s how God sees us…all these people, carrying around burdens that are much too big for them and God is saying, “Why don’t you take it off, set it down?  Don’t you know that it will only crush you?”

Jesus, who called himself the good shepherd, said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  He calls us to give him our burdens.  Jesus wants to restore your soul…to give you hope, to rejuvenate your spirit; to revive your God given potential.

For the stresses of each day, take some time to read Psalm 23 — one verse a day.  As you do, you will be drawn closer to the Lord who wants to be your shepherd and restore your soul.

Photo by glendon27 on Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Easter and April Fools’ Day

Pastor Paul Witkop

Click to read more about Paul Witkop

By Paul Witkop –

In 2018, Easter was on April Fools’ Day. The last time these two notable days fell on the same day was 1956. After 2018, the next time is 2029 and then again in 2040. After that, we have to wait until 2108. (Some Gregorian calendar trivia.)

April Fools’ Day is an occasion where people play jokes on each other, sometimes harmless and sometimes very mean. Though the day has no connection to Christianity, it occurred to me that the first people who found Jesus’ empty tomb must have felt like they were the victims of a bad joke. They had hoped that Jesus was the going to be their hope for the future by becoming king. Jesus had been pronounced dead and his body placed in a tomb. His death shattered their hope. They were holding on to life by a thread. History records that hundreds of people saw the resurrected Jesus. They ate with him. They touched him and spoke with him. Their lives changed forever because of Jesus. It was no joke when they traveled all around the Mediterranean to tell people about what had happened.

Many people today think that life is a little like a bad joke. We live in the most educated, and the most economically and technologically advanced culture ever, yet there are so many people seemingly holding on by a thread. I spoke with a man whose wife had just left him to file for divorce and to go live with another man. He told me that he was holding onto life with a “white knuckle” grip. Another person confessed hopelessness because his company was going out of business. Still another mom and dad are struggling with a son who is taking drugs. A recent high school graduate is discouraged because she is having a difficult time finding a job and direction. Our whole country feels helpless in the wake of shootings at schools.

Challenging times have a way of making us stand back and truthfully ask the question “What/Who am I counting on?” Is the foundation of my life so solid that in circumstances beyond my control I can still navigate life?

Easter celebrates that there is someone we can count on, someone who is the rock-solid foundation on whom we can build our lives. Jesus Christ was born, lived on this earth with a group of followers, predicted that he would die and rise from the dead, and then actually be put to death and rise from the dead after three days. He claimed to be the Son of God and his invitation to all of us is to place our faith in him so that we can have confidence now and forever.

You might be going through a very difficult time right now and feel like everything you used to count on has eroded away. God wants to turn your heart from discouragement to hope. He wants us to take a step of faith, put our trust in the resurrected Jesus and listen to him by reading the Bible.

Philippians 4:13 — “I can do all things through Christ who gives me the strength.”

The truth is, your circumstances may or may not change. But what we do know is that he will give you power for living, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead, to help you through whatever seems to be defeating you today. May you receive his gift of strength and be encouraged that with Christ, all things are possible.

Photo on Foter.com

Take The Step & Conquer Your Fear

Pastor Paul Witkop

Click to read more about Paul Witkop

By Paul Witkop –

It took me a long time to learn how to swim. My parents, not good swimmers themselves, faithfully drove me to swimming lessons every week for many years. They were determined that I would learn to swim. I might be the only person in history to flunk the YMCA swimming classes of tadpole and minnow twice each. The problem was fear. I was absolutely terrified to go under the water and hold my breath. However, something happened to me as I watched a trusted friend swim so effortlessly. That friend dared me to swim, to take a chance. His encouraging invitation made all the difference. Now I swim like a fish.

In the desert, a healthy fear of poisonous snakes or scorpions is good. However, there is a destructive fear that paralyzes us from stepping out and experiencing life in all its fullness. A little part of us dies when we allow fear to win. God knew that fear is a common problem. So, “Do not fear, I will be with you” is the most repeated promise in the Bible.

Are there some places in life where an unhealthy fear might be holding you back?

  • Are you holding a grudge? Is it fear of rejection or fear of admitting you are wrong that is holding you back? Ask God to give you the courage to go to that person to forgive them, and to move on.
  • Are you stuck in the wrong job but are afraid to look for a job that more fits you? Ask God to help and then prepare a resume and send it out.
  • Are you mired in the quicksand of a bad habit or bad finances? Are you afraid to ask someone for help before it further wrecks your life?

The key to conquering our fears is to tell the truth — to admit our fears. Then ask for God’s help. As we face our fears with God’s help, God has promised to renew our strength and our minds, to build our confidence and courage.

             The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. Psalm 118:6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him. He will direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6

Pray that God will give you one action step that will move you toward overcoming your fear. Then take that step in faith!

Photo by J. Star on Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

%d bloggers like this: