Whether you develop sinful or righteous behaviors and habits, it all begins in your thought life. Calibrate your thoughts to God's Word and your life will follow.
Photo is from Pixabay
On November 11th, we observed Remembrance Day (known as Veteran’s Day in the U.S.). Originally called Armistice Day, this day was set aside to commemorate members of the armed forces who died in WW1. With the passing of WW2 and other more recent wars, the purpose of Remembrance Day was broadened to honor those who have served and continue to serve in the armed forces, especially remembering those who gave their lives to protect our freedoms. Each year when Remembrance Day rolls around, I have cause to remember my relatives who served in a branch of the U.S. military, several for an entire career.
The first to come to mind each year is my own father. In early April, 1943, his senior year of high school, Dad enlisted in the U.S. Navy to fight in WW2. He served as a Seaman First Class for over two and a half years, his Honorable Discharge certificate being dated December 9, 1945. Dad’s designated combat role was as a Gunner’s Mate, serving his first tour of duty on a merchant marine cargo ship transporting military personnel and supplies for the Allied troops. He served his second tour of duty on the USS Clytie, a submarine tender, travelling both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
As a Gunner’s Mate, one of Dad’s main responsibilities was to maintain the large bore cannons mounted on each of these ships (The Clytie had 20 mm, 40 mm, 3”/50 cal, and 5”/38 cal – all deck mounted guns). Maintenance included disassembling the guns, cleaning them, and reassembling them. Dad did this so many times, he said that he could do it in his sleep. In times of engagement, Dad’s duties included munitions supply and loading shells, but he was also trained to aim and fire these mounted guns when required. Lacking proper hearing protection, the repeated percussive bangs of the cannons left Dad with irreparable hearing damage requiring him to wear hearing aids for much of his life.
Inset photo is Dad as a Seaman First Class. Photo of USS Clytie is from http://www.navsource.org/archives/09/36/3626.htm
Along with my Dad and other relatives, I had several cousins who served in some branch of the U.S military. My cousin Ed served in the U.S. Airforce for 30 years. For half that time, he served as a Precision Measurement Equipment Laboratory Supervisor (PMELS). As a young adult in my 20’s, I had the privilege of visiting Ed when he served on the Malmstrom Airforce base near Great Falls, Montana. When he showed me around his lab, I was captivated by the specialty gadgets he worked with and intrigued by the details involved in his job.
As a PMELS, one of my cousin’s main responsibilities was calibrating the various test and measurement instruments that were used by other mechanics and technicians to maintain military aircraft, missiles, vehicles, and more. Accuracy of these instruments was essential to guarantee that the specialized electrical, mechanical, and hydraulic systems used in fighter jets, military transportation, and various armaments were also accurately calibrated and functioned optimally.
In short, calibrating is the act of precisely measuring something against an established standard and then correcting any deviation to bring what you are measuring into alignment with that standard.
Perhaps a practical illustration from daily life will help explain. If you have a weight loss or fitness goal, you set your target weight or fitness goal based on a quantifiable objective standard such as the Body Mass Index, a doctor’s recommendation, or some strength or body measurement target. You then use various instruments such as a scale, a measuring tape, and tests of strength or fitness to assess your progress as you diet and exercise to bring your body into alignment with your goal. Your doctor may even conduct a variety of tests to assess your heart rate, your blood pressure, your lung capacity, and your blood chemistry to ascertain your health and fitness.
In order to “calibrate” your body and bring it into alignment with your goals, all of the instruments you use must also be properly calibrated or you will not know where you stand in relation to your goals. Imagine if your scale was improperly set to weigh 20 pounds too heavy or too light. Imagine if any of the instruments used by your doctor was off by a margin of even 10%. What would that mean for his medical advice? Imagine the heated debates in athletic competitions if time pieces and weights were not standardized. Significant margins of error in many fields such as engineering, architecture, and chemistry could be disastrous. Hence, the need in all these fields for accurately calibrated instruments.
My cousin calibrated a wide variety of measurement and test apparatus including oscilloscopes, thermometers, micrometers, pressure gauges, vacuum gauges, radiological instruments (both alpha and gamma), hygrothermographs, scales, torque wrenches, and various other instruments. These in turn were used by specialized mechanics and technicians to calibrate the instruments, systems, and engines used in vital military equipment. You can imagine how important it is to accurately calibrate the altimeter, attitude indicator, various gyros, and other specialized instruments in an F-16 to ensure they are working optimally so the pilot can rely on them for flight maneuvers, especially during combat.
Common Measuring Devices
Ed had to calibrate all testing and measuring instruments within set “plus or minus” tolerances of accuracy so that each instrument was reliable for measuring temperature, frequency, wavelength, weight, mass, pressure, length, humidity, and so on. The minimum standard he used to calibrate these instruments was ten times more accurate than what was needed. Because factors such as room temperature and humidity had significant impact when calibrating some instruments, the lab had special controls to keep these factors within acceptable boundaries and any variance had to be recorded.
Even the weights in the lab could not be touched with fingers because the skin’s oils could slowly dissolve the metal and change the accuracy of the weights over time. Gloves were required for handling some weights, special hooks were used to lift heavier weights, and tweezers were used for very small weights. These high standards and protocols ensured that every instrument was calibrated to be accurate and reliable when used by others for calibrating the military equipment they worked on. If higher levels of accuracy were needed, instruments might even be sent to another lab with still higher standards.
I learned from my cousin that each country has a set standard of weights and measures (There is even an international standard for weights and measures). For example, there is only one true pound in the United States. This pound is maintained by the Weights and Measures Division of the U.S. Government. Every other pound is measured from this pound or from one-pound weights that were calibrated from this pound. Even if someone used the official pound held by the U.S. Government to produce another one-pound weight and he ensured that the duplicated pound was calibrated to the thousandths decimal place, the copy would be either 0.999 or 1.001 of the official pound, and not exactly the same weight.
The instrument panel in a fighter jet cockpit. Photo from Pixabay
Because it is impossible for every manufacturer to use the official weights and measures maintained by the U.S. government, approved secondary and tertiary standards are used. Obviously, the further you get from the original standard and the looser the plus or minus tolerances are, the lower the accuracy. Conceivably, a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy could potentially become so inaccurate so as to make the standard virtually useless for specialized applications. Consequently, all scales and measuring devices within the U.S. are approved based on established plus or minus tolerances of accuracy that are suitable for their intended use.
As important as it is to calibrate measuring apparatus based on accurate standards to ensure the safe and effective function of military equipment, it is even more important to calibrate our lives based on God’s standard to ensure healthy and successful living. The underlying premise of all my blog posts is that God has a standard of measurement for our lives, a divine plumbline. God has given us His Son and His Word as divine standards to which we should align our lives and by which we should evaluate our thoughts, motives, words, and actions. (If you have not done so, I encourage you to read my first five posts that establish this foundation.)
True and lasting change always starts on the inside. This takes place as you surrender your life to Christ and continually yield to the life-changing work of His Spirit. Because your thoughts impact every area of your life, the Holy Spirit will focus significant attention on renewing your mind (Romans 12:2). If you are going to calibrate your life and bring it into alignment with Christ and His Word, then you will have to get a handle on your thought life, because you are what you think (Proverbs 23:7).
Just like the steering wheel controls the front tires and sets the direction for a car, and just like the helm controls the rudder and sets the direction for a ship, so the mind sets the direction for your life. If your mind is not surrendered to the Spirit and brought into alignment with God’s Word, then neither will your life be. Every horseman knows that the key to controlling a horse’s body is controlling the horse’s head. Where the head goes, the body goes. You are what you think.
This truth is clearly illustrated in Psalm 1. This insightful psalm contrasts two types of people: the righteous and the wicked. The righteous man is likened to a fruitful tree firmly rooted by streams of water and the wicked are likened to chaff which blow in the wind. The difference in their lives is determined by their thought life.
Psalm 1:1–2 (NASB) 1 How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! 2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.
The psalm begins by warning against the downward path of the wicked, and it describes the righteous as one who does not follow that path. Note the digression in verse one. The downward path of sin moves from walking, to standing, to sitting. It all begins with walking in the counsel of the wicked. This speaks of one’s thought life. The downward path of sin begins by giving mental access to ungodly counsel.
The warning is clear. Don’t feed your mind with ungodly counsel. Screen the books you read, the music you listen to, the shows you watch, the news you listen to, the education you receive, and the friends you allow to influence your life. This is important because walking in ungodly counsel will shape your thinking, and your thinking will lead to actions.
Note the next step in the digression. The downward path of the wicked moves from walking in ungodly counsel, to standing in the path of sinners. In other words, the man who continues to allow ungodly influences on his thoughts will end up committing sin. This is obvious even today. Many have been seduced by the ungodly values promoted by friends, media, and education. With their minds shaped by these values, even Christians who should know better have stepped onto the path of sinners.
Allowing sinful thoughts leads to sinful actions. In the same way that dandelion seeds lead to dandelion weeds, sinful thought seeds lead to sinful deeds. It all begins in the mind. What you feed your mind will shape your standards and values. What you embrace as your values will be walked out in the way you live. You are what you think. What your mind consumes controls your life.
Persisting on a sinful path leads to the third step in the digression, sitting in the seat of scoffers. The downward path of the wicked begins with allowing ungodly thoughts, which then lead to sinful actions. Sin continued in leads to a habituated lifestyle of sin. So walking leads to standing and standing leads to sitting. The more one stands in the path of sinners, the more habituated sin becomes. This person who began his downward path by listening to ungodly counsel now sits among scoffers.
Scoffers are those who openly do wrong and mock those who do right. In the Bible, scoffers are contrasted with the wise. Scoffers hate knowledge and wisdom (Proverbs 1:22, 14:6), and they reject discipline and reproof (Proverbs 9:7-8, 13:1, 21:11). Scoffers are proud and insolent (Proverbs 21:24), and they devise evil (Proverbs 24:9). So scoffers not only mock moral values and those who hold them, they become a source of evil ideas and are an evil influence on others.
Let's summarize this digression: ungodly thoughts lead to sinful actions, and sinful actions lead to entrenched sinful habits. This passage clearly illustrates that well-known and insightful quote …
Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny. Ralph Waldo Emerson
Psalm 1 not only illustrates the thoughts, actions, and habits of the wicked, it also illustrates the character and destiny of the wicked. In terms of character, the wicked have no spiritual or moral roots, and are likened to "chaff which the wind drives away." As for destiny, “the wicked will not stand in the judgment … but the way of the wicked will perish” (Psalm 1:4-6). So, Psalm 1 profoundly illustrates that the entire digression to a life of habituated sin, a corrupted character, and destructive destiny all begins in the thought life.
This Psalm also illustrates that the opposite is true. The same principle that works for evil, also works for good. Your thought life follows a spiritual and psychological law of sowing and reaping that determines the character and outcomes of your life. In the same way that bad thoughts lead to bad actions to bad habits to bad character and to a bad destiny, good thoughts lead to good behavior to good habits to good character, and to a good destiny.
The righteous man does not follow the downward path. Rather, he rejects ungodly counsel, and instead he fills his mind with God’s Word. “His delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:2). So, he protects his mind from wicked counsel that would lead him to sin and destruction, and instead, he continually subjects his mind to the influence of God’s word, so that his thoughts are dominated by the righteous standards and instruction of God’s law. This begins the positive cycle of this same psychological principle.
The purpose of mediating on God’s Word day and night is not just for more information, but for transformation. After the death of Moses, the Lord instructed Joshua . . .
Joshua 1:8 (NASB95)
8 “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.
The clear purpose of meditating on God’s word is that it will lead to carefully obeying God’s Word. Good thoughts lead to good actions. Persisted in, godly actions will result in godly habits, leading to a godly character and a godly destiny. Unlike the unstable character of the wicked that Psalm 1 describes as wind-driven chaff, the righteous are like a firmly rooted and well-watered tree that bears fruit and resists drought.
Psalm 1:3 (NASB95) 3 He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.
As for the destiny of the righteous, “And in whatever he does, he prospers” (Psalm 1:3). It's not difficult to see in Psalm 1:3 clear echoes of Joshua 1:8, “for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.” Thinking grounded in God's Word will lead to obedience, obedience will lead to godly habits, godly habits will lead to a stable character, and a stable character will lead to a fruitful and prosperous life. Obviously, success and prosperity need to be defined and measured by God's standard, not man's (a topic for another time). In addition to promised success, the righteous enjoy fellowship together, and the Lord knows (“watches over” – NIV, “guards” – NLT) their path (Psalm 1:3-6). In short, they have a thriving and flourishing destiny in contrast to the wicked who perish.
Whether you develop sinful or righteous actions and habits, it all begins in your thought life. You are what you think. What your mind consumes will shape your life for good or for bad. This is the recurring message in the book of Proverbs. While fools despise wisdom and instruction, the wise pursue righteous counsel and they do not consent to the enticements of sinners. They guard their heart against the seductions of sin and keep their feet from the path of evil that ends in ruin (Proverbs 1:1-19).
Time and again, Solomon graphically contrasts the ruin of the wicked with the blessings of the righteous, and he warns of being seduced by the influences of the wicked. Instead, he calls his readers to pursue wisdom from God, sound parental instruction, and godly knowledge from wise counselors and teachers (Proverbs 1:2-9, 2:1-7, 4:1-13). Wisdom will protect them from the ways of evil men and keep them in the paths of righteousness (Proverbs 2:8-22, 4:14-19).
Solomon drives home these truths in countless ways throughout the entire book. Nearly 100 times, he contrasts the paths, ways, and walk of the wicked and foolish with the paths, ways, and walk of the righteous and wise. He continually instructs his readers to incline their ears and hearts to wisdom, God's law, and godly instruction. He knows that what we allow to influence our hearts will determine the path we take and the destiny at the end of that path. Sadly, Solomon did not always practice what he preached. He disobeyed God’s word that prohibited the marriage of heathen women, and as a consequence his foreign wives turned his heart to worship other gods (1 Kings 11:1-4). Contrary to his own counsel, he allowed the intimate influence of ungodly counselors who turned his heart and led him onto the path of sin.
If you long to become more like Christ (1 John 3:2-3) and to become successful in His eyes, it requires calibrating your life by the plumbline of God’s Word rather than allowing the faulty standards of this world to align your values, behaviors, and relationships. This requires you to be vigilant in protecting your heart from the many seductive voices that seek to find a way into your mind through the various channels of wicked counsel that are so pervasive in our world. Moreover, it requires you to be feeding regularly on God's Word so that your thinking is dominated by it. Hiding God's Word in your heart and valuing it like a precious treasure will help keep you from sin (Psalm 119:9-11). As your mind is renewed and comes more and more into alignment with the godly instruction in God’s Word, your life will also come into alignment. You will be transformed by the renewing of your mind. You will become what you think.
 You can see from my reference to Remembrance Day (Veteran’s Day) and the military content in this blog that my intent was to post it in November, but other priorities delayed its completion. I hope you find the content valuable even though the Remembrance Day context is now several weeks old.