How To Think book by Chris Field

In Malaysia in June I met Barb Reid, an Aussie living in KL, working as a Librarian. I credit Barb for prompting my latest book, just released this week, “How to Think”.

Barb asked about my books, being keen on that sort of thing as librarians are.  In our discussion I realised that I have not yet written a book for the general market, having focused my book writing for Christian readers so far.

That set me to thinking about what I would write if I was to offer a valuable book to today’s youth.  And I quickly lit on the idea of opening up our thinking processes.

Solomon gave us great insights into “wisdom” and those insights are keys to good thinking.  So I set my mind to unlocking some of the most basic truths in Solomon’s writings.  Having given a lot of attention to Solomon’s Book of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes over the years I quickly distilled some keys that I think are fantastic, even though quite basic, and which should be captured by all of us as we develop our adult mind.

A week later, in Singapore with a few quiet days, I sat down and threw my thoughts onto the page.  It was exhilarating to see these points take shape so quickly and to recognise that what I wrote was of universal value for young and old alike.

With the first draft wrapped up so quickly I sent it to my two teenage children, Sophia and Isaac, for their critical comment, since I aim to give value to high school youth.  They affirmed and criticised my work.

While they thought my insights were fantastic (which a dad always likes to hear) they could see I was presenting too much insight too quickly for those who were slow to capture such things.  It’s a perennial problem I faced since my earliest writing efforts.  I see things and thrill at the insights, but struggle to dumb things down so everyone can catch it.  Learning to simplify my thoughts has given me credit as a great educator and Bible teacher, able to make truths come alive, but I have not fully conquered my natural tendency to throw too much at people who can’t catch it.

Anyway, I took on board their comments and worked through successive drafts, adding explanations and examples, breaking up some sections into multiple steps and so on.  I even thought of calling the book a “for dummies” book.  But my children told me my idea of a “dummy” is too highly educated for real dummies.

I am part way through creating a version of this book in a much simpler form, but I decided I should also give this current gem to those looking for insight into thinking, rather than put it away until a simpler version can be created.

That’s not to say this book is too clever.  On the contrary, it presents some pretty simple truths.  I have every confidence that tens of thousands will find great help and insight in its pages.

So I finished off this “How to Think” version and released it for sale on Amazon, as a print-on-demand book.  It will soon also be on the Kindle store and it is also available in print from Createspace.

I commend it to you as a book you really should read and give away to your young friends.  It is ideal for school and community libraries, youth groups, counseling centres, and for parents and grandparents to have on hand to share with their extended families.

To get a copy of “How to Think – Teach Yourself to Think Clearly – by Dr Chris Field” go to

Amazon  http://www.amazon.com/How-Think-Teach-Yourself-Clearly/dp/1490440453/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1378632151&sr=1-1&keywords=how+to+think+by+chris+field

Or Createspace  https://www.createspace.com/4323965

Happy Reading. Chris

Throwing Your Life Away

How much are you worth? What price do you put on yourself? How cheaply would you sell yourself to someone?

The questions have a certain silliness about them, because we don’t imagine that we will ever sell ourselves. But in fact we have all done so already. We sell ourselves short all the time.

Compromise

Maybe the word ‘compromise’ will give you another notion of how you sell yourself or throw your life away. When you make a compromise, accepting less than you wanted or demanding less of yourself that you could, you have sold yourself short. You have accepted a lesser bid for your time, your personal authority and your life than you could have asked for. Some people sell themselves short, while others sell themselves out altogether.

What Am I Throwing Away?

Have you ever disposed of something only to realise later that is was valuable to you and you should have kept it. This happens often and can be by accident or by ignorance. Maybe you have thrown something away last week and then discovered that you need it this week. Maybe you thought it was broken but it turned out to be in perfect working order.

When you throw yourself away what is it that is at stake? What are you throwing away?

You can throw away your time, investing yourself in something or someone that is just eating you up for no real purpose. A mother might say to her daughter, “If you marry that man you are throwing your life away.” What the mother means is that the man is of no value and so spending a lifetime as his wife is a waste of the bride’s life.

You can throw away your talents and potential. A father might say, “Don’t study that easy course, because you have enough brains to be doing the hard course and getting a better outcome. If you do the easy course you are throwing your life away.”

You can throw away your personal, moral authority. God has given you the ability to stand on His side and do business with all of His authority behind you. But if you compromise with sin and evil you are throwing away that personal moral authority.

The Bidding Begins

Early in life we find ourselves being asked to sell ourselves cheaply. Bids are made for our attention, time, commitment and so on. Take for example a young man who is asked to compromise his morality by listening to a dirty story or looking at sordid pictures. This will cost him his innocence and make him a slave to immoral thoughts and motivations. Surely he would not want such a penalty.

However, most young men do not understand the cost of their compromise, so they are unlikely to hold back because of proper understanding of the consequences.

What will aid the young man is his conscience and the inner sense that this thing he is being asked to do is tainted. The attitudes and actions of those tempting him will signal that there is something a little shameful or illicit in what is being offered.

Another thing that can save this young man is the instruction of his parents never to allow such offensive things into his life. Wise parents will instruct their children to avoid things that enslave lives.

The Highest Bid

If the young man is reluctant to participate at first he will find that the bidding is raised quite quickly. At first it will simply be temptation to do something illicit. When he declines he will find that the stakes are being raised to include his reputation or acceptance in the group.

Those tempting him might suggest that he is weak by being afraid to participate or they may advise him that he is not fit to be included in their company if he is not a willing participant.

If he further declines, then someone might try to sell him on the excitement that is on offer, or assert their own superiority to the man because they have already participated without injury, and so on.

What is happening in such exchanges is that the bidding for the young man’s soul is rising, until the tempters cause him to yield.

Sold

When the young man gives in he is “sold” out. He has settled on a price at which he will trade off who and what he is for something. In the end he may do what he is being tempted to do, not for the thing itself, such as to view pornography, but to keep the friendships which are now at stake.

By this process people are selling themselves all the time.

Not For Sale

The only ones who are not sold out are those who do what God wants them to do in every situation all the time. Those ones will resist every temptation and threat. They will stand alone and stand for God no matter what the cost.

The book of Daniel records that Daniel and his three friends each did this in various ways. The challenge to ‘dare to be a Daniel’ represents the idea of resisting temptation and threats so that the right thing can be done all the time, without fear or favour.

Sold Cheaply

I can think of several school friends who sold themselves cheaply. They readily bought into sensuality, drugs, lying, cheating, irresponsibility and so on. They did it so cheaply that they received nothing in return. They did not hold out for respect, privilege or gain, but hastily jumped into the slime to slide into shame, addiction and worthlessness.

Many people do this, especially if they are without the protection of loving and wise parents who guide them to wise choices and a wise lifestyle.

The Israelites sold themselves cheaply in the days of Jeremiah. They abandoned God and built broken resources for themselves that did not work (Jeremiah 2:12). They were keen to throw away their true value for that which is worthless.

If people think they are worth nothing they see no problem in selling themselves cheaply. Yet every person is of inestimable worth and should never be sold out at all!

Bought Back

The wonderful news is that the sacrifice of Jesus allows us all to be bought back from the hand of those who have enslaved us or bought us cheaply. The Bible uses the word ‘redeem’ to describe this process of paying the price needed so the item is returned.

Jesus Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.

If you have abandoned your personal sovereignty in a vain attempt to get some gain for yourself, like Eve selling herself for nothing in the Garden of Eden, then you need to be redeemed by the blood of the lamb. That was the price paid for your freedom. Make sure you are bought back from the grimy slavery to sin and are given a fresh start to live as a sovereign child of God who can change the world with His grace and power.

God is the Substance

A world without God is an oxymoron. It is God who gives substance to all things. This is especially so in reference to things we readily recognise as moral in character.

Imagine a World Without God

John Lennon tried to conceive of a world without God. I suspect that he really wanted a world without consequences, such as heaven and hell. That was the focus of his Imagine song. So let’s take Johnny’s suggestion and do what he asks. Let’s ‘imagine’ a world where God does not exist. Then let’s see what happens to everything else.

Imagine Truth Without God

Let’s assume there is no God. Someone comes along and tells you something that they assert is the ‘truth’. What do they mean? Are they telling you the truth or not? By what empirical reference point can you test the validity and veracity of what they say?

They assert something to be true. Is it true in a universal sense, or only true in their perception? Is it a fact that has been tested or is it only assumed to be true? Are they lying?

To address those questions we need to answer the question, “Where does truth come from?” Is truth a matter of human perception? “I saw something so I know it to be true.” But did you see clearly? Many a witness has been shown to be unreliable in their assertion that “I saw it with my own eyes!”

If God does not exist then we only have human perception to rely on, and that’s unreliable! Human resourced truth can only be relative to the perceptions of the humans involved. It has not more reliable anchor point. Truth then ceases to be truth and becomes opinion or belief.

Imagine Justice Without God

In a world without God what is the measure of justice? Is it “the common good”? That could be terribly unjust to those who sit outside the social mean. Is it what some leader thinks is good? That is so open to abuse that it is frightening. Tyrants love to determine justice on that basis.

And just what is ‘justice’ in a world where there is no external reference point? If you believe you have been treated unjustly how do you appeal against it? You are reduced to popular public opinion. If you have more money or talent or skill than others they just might turn against you and decide it is ‘just’ for you to work, achieve and earn on behalf of all of them. But that would seem quite unjust, wouldn’t it?

If someone is seeking revenge for their loss are they likely to stop when exact justice has been achieved, or are they likely to act in spite, bitterness, retaliation or the like?

Justice falls apart unless there is an external moral reference point. And that’s what God provides for us, quite apart from His reality and power and love made available to us.

Imagine Morality Without God

If there is no God then who or what determines what is moral or not. There are millions of people ready to justify their immoral behaviour, even in a world where God and His Word are clearly presented. Imagine what a free-for-all it would be if God was not there at all!

What makes something moral? Is it because it doesn’t hurt someone? God tells us of secret attitudes and thoughts which He deems to be immoral (such as lust), even though no-one gets hurt. Is it because all those who participate do so of their own will? God shows that many actions are evil, even if the whole nation votes in favour of them. The inhabitants of Sodom all agreed on their behaviour, but God did not.

If God’s moral reference was removed people would do evil, justify their actions, promote evil among others and even aim to subvert the morals of others. There are many tools already in use today to subvert people’s morals, offending their sensibilities and arousing their lusts, so they will succumb to immoral behaviour. God is the only hope we have for maintaining morality.

My Old Mate (‘Buddy’ in US speak)

I once had connection to a chap who turned out to be a talented rip-off merchant. He often bragged about his various exploits and the way he took advantage of other people. True to character he did the same to me.

After several appeals for proper recompense my old mate was quite clearly intent on taking advantage of me and many others. Taking him to court would have been a vexing issue, as he was well acquainted with the courts and had many connections to assist him to use the courts to his advantage. The matter was not of sufficient consequence to warrant the dubious process of legal action. That’s what he hoped would be the case with each of his victims.

My wife, Susan, found herself quite aroused by this man’s actions. She made it a matter of prayer and then told me that she was concerned for the man. She wondered whether we should even call on him to warn him. She came to realise just how severe God’s judgement, justice and moral standards would be when applied to this clever rogue. His ability to play human instrumentalities would do him no good at all when God decided to look into his case.

Existence Without God

Many people, like my old mate, imagine a world without God. They make up their own truth, twist justice to suit themselves and work by their own morality. But God is not amused, nor is He required to sit back and watch.

Existence without God is a misnomer. There is no existence outside of God. And there is no morality apart from His. There is no truth outside of Jesus Christ, because He is truth. There is no justice outside of God’s judgements. We will all eventually face the judgement seat of Christ.

It is better to be judged in the here and now, so we can repent and attain God’s forgiveness, than to live this life as if God did not exist. Once we pass from this life without repenting we face an existence without God. That’s not some clever place of human freedom. It is an eternal torment of physical pain and mental regret.

I Wish You Judgement

Those who hate you may wish you every success in life, so you will pass into eternity with unresolved judgement resting on your head. Those who love you will warn you and pray that you face God’s dealings in this life, to alert you to what is to come. Once forewarned you are empowered to do something about it, through repentance and God’s forgiveness.

In the spirit of that observation, let me tell you that I wish you judgement. May it be the blessing of your eternal existence.

Youth Plants and Builds

Today’s pop culture acts as if youth is the time for indulgence, independence and unbridled pursuit of self-fulfilment. That idea is not only a deadly and useless one, it is a modern notion that defies the time-tested ideas of youth as a vital time to plant and build.

Let me take you back to some concepts of youth from yesteryear. Three thousand years ago King Solomon instructed youth to give special attention to God. The fear of God is something Solomon saw as vitally important for youth.

“Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth..” Ecclesiastes 12:1b

Solomon dedicated the book of Proverbs to his son, giving abundant sound advice about the pursuit of wisdom, avoiding fools, keeping away from immorality and so on. The best kind of youth is first established on the fear of God and a desire to go God’s ways and fulfil His plan for our life.

Another concept from yesteryear is that of ‘sowing and reaping’. What you sow is what you reap, according the both Biblical wisdom and human experience.

“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatever a man sows is what he will also reap. For he that sows to his flesh will reap corruption from the flesh; but he that sows to the Spirit will reap life everlasting from the Spirit.” Galatians 6:7,8 (Apostle Paul)

“For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorn bushes, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush.” Luke 6:44 (Jesus Christ)

Trees take time to grow. What starts out as a small plant becomes, in time, a huge tree or a dense bush. When young people plant things in their life they may not see the consequences for a decade or two. Initially there is no evidence that they will have any bad outcome. But if they have planted thorn bushes and brambles, they cannot expect to harvest figs and grapes. What they sow is what they are going to reap.

So take note of this quote from this important eighteenth century American writer, Thomas Paine. Paine wrote many things that were central to bolstering the revolutionary cause and maintaining commitment during the long and wearing struggle for independence.

“Youth is the seed-time of good habits”, Thomas Paine, ‘Common Sense’ 1791.

Youth is a time to plant. In fact, youth is the time when planting happens, whether the youth realise it or not. They are planting character and sowing seeds for harvests to be enjoyed throughout their lives. Time well spent and choice seeds sown in youth will provide much to draw from in later years.

Another historic reference point for the importance of youth is the idea of building things for the future. A notion which was popularised in Christian homes in recent centuries is that of our life being a house which we build when young and have to live in for the rest of our lives.

Just as a young man growing in frontier territory must learn the needed skills to build his own family home from raw materials, so too, he must learn to build his moral character to be strong and independent of outside influences.

This concept is given attention in Ralph Moody’s stories, “Little Britches” and “Man in the Family”. Moody explains, “My goal in writing is to leave a record of the rural way of life in this century, and to point up the values of that era which I feel that we, as a people, are letting slip away from us.” (Quoted in New York Times Book Review Aug 6, 1967). Consider the following quote from “Little Britches”.

“…you have injured your own character. A man’s character is like his house. If he tears boards off his house and burns them to keep himself warm and comfortable, his house soon becomes a ruin. If he tells lies to be able to do the things he shouldn’t do but wants to, his character will soon become a ruin. A man with a ruined character is a shame on the face of the earth.”

In Moody’s short story, “I Meet the Sheriff” a lad must act responsibly, or face his father’s accusation that he is “running away from the law and tearing boards off my character house”.

Youth is a time to plant and build, in the fear of God. Wise youth follow God’s instructions, are attentive to what they allow to take root in their hearts and minds, and they discipline themselves to learn the skills required to build strong character, even when the raw materials are hard to come by.

I exhort each young person to consider your creator and live in the light of His searching gaze. Plant wisely and guard against wild seed being sown in the soil of your life. Build wisely and learn the disciplines that empower you to build and re-build again and again.

God bless you as you do.

To My Useless Friends

What are you really able to do of yourself? If you were not useless you’d be dangerous. Praise God you are hopeless and useless. That way God is glorified.

If you could do things of yourself and make things happen the way you want them to, then you would be tempted to do evil things. If evil people have the power to get ahead by evil actions then everyone would be tempted to become evil. Your uselessness is a great protection for all of humanity.

Uh?

Solomon explains it like this. “A man will not be established by wickedness”. Wicked actions do not bring lasting benefits and perpetual profit. The root of the righteous, however, will not be moved, no matter what wickedness is thrown against him (see Proverbs 12:3).

The reason for this limitation is God. God gives favour to good people and He condemns a person of wicked devices (see Proverbs 12:2). So, what can you do of yourself? You are totally dependent on God for lasting benefits from your actions. If you honour and follow Him then you can expect His blessings. If you rebel against Him and do evil, there is nothing you can do to protect yourself against Him.

Now, that’s what is indicated in the ‘fear of God’. When we realise that the consequences of our actions are not what we produce by our actions, but what God does in response to them, then we are awakened to the fear of God. We can do nothing toward our personal success, but keenly follow God’s instructions, leading to great success. Or we can do everything in our power to gain success, while rejecting God and His wisdom, and find that we have no chance of success.

God is the true arbiter of the outcomes. God controls the events and rewards us for our heart toward Him. Unless the Lord protects our assets, we are wasting our time trying to do it ourselves. And unless the Lord is supportive of our attempts to make progress, we are wasting our efforts to get there by ourselves. For King David’s take on this check out Psalm 127:1.

“Except the LORD builds the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keeps the city, the watchman wakes but in vain.” Psalm 127:1

So, my useless friends, your greatest asset is not your personal assets, but your relationship with God’s incredible assets – which puts us all on a level-playing-field, all equally able to do the impossible and live in the miraculous, all equally useless and all equally open to the fullness of eternity operating in our lives.

It turns out I’m as useless as you, so we have plenty in common. Let’s be friends.