What Comes Out Is Determined By What Goes In

“Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.”

Psalm 119:11

One of the simplest but most effective principles that every follower of Christ needs to learn is that “What comes out of our lives is determined by what goes in.”  Let me illustrate what I mean with an example from my childhood. When I was a kid my dad and I used to fish in the Ohio River near my hometown of Steubenville, OH.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with that area, the Ohio River is formed by the confluence of the Allegheny and the Monogahela river at Pittsburgh, PA, initially flowing north until it takes a sharp left turn, reversing it’s direction and flowing south.  This change in the course of the river forms the northern panhandle of the state of West Virginia.  Back in the 1960’s and 70’s the banks of this river from Pittsburgh to Wheeling, WV was dotted with giant steel mills.  Some of my fondest memories of childhood involve floating down the Ohio River in my dad’s boat catching large mouth bass, catfish, carp, and even the occasional walleye.  In spite, of what you might think the fishing was actually pretty good back then but there was one key rule that we always observed.  We never ate any of the fish that came out of that river!  The reason was that many of those steel mills and the other industrial plants that lined the banks of that river dumped polluted waste into the waters of the river.  Due to that fact, the fish that came out of the river were dangerous, perhaps even deadly to eat.  What went into the river determined what was coming out of it.  The same principle holds true in our spiritual lives.  Let me flesh that out a little bit for you.

If there is nothing coming into your life, nothing is going to be able to flow out. 

The Ohio river is a massive river but it depends on the flow from the Monogahela, the Allegheny, and hundreds of other smaller streams and creeks for its water supply.  If we were to suddenly cut off the waters from these sources from flowing into the Ohio, the river would quickly dry up and cease to flow.  That is the way it is with your life.  If you don’t maintain a constant inflow of spiritual resources into your life you will quickly dry up.   It would be shocking to most Christians to realize  how quickly this process can occur if the inflow was immediately cut off.  But what usually happens is that problems and concerns of life simply mount up and slowly cut off the inflow from our lives.  Like cholesterol slowly and imperceptibly building up in our arteries over the course of years, so to will the problem of ministry clog up the spiritual arteries of our hearts if we are not careful.  

If we are going to fix this fundamental problem we must focus on the inflow of our lives.  A couple of months ago the doctor told me that I have high cholesterol, in addition to putting me on Lipitor, he also told me to go on a low fat, high fiber diet that will help to reduce the inflow of bad cholesterol into my blood stream.  The same basic principle holds true in our spiritual lives.  If we want to have a healthy spiritual life we need to cut down on the fat and increase the healthy spiritual food that we take in.  That means that we need to her serious about maintaining our Bible reading and study.  It means that we need to cut down on the time we invest in entertainment and start digging deeper into the things of God.  

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Preview of “Cultivating A Gospel-Shaped Attitude.” Part 1

Screen Shot 2013-03-26 at 4.21.03 PMTo celebrate the official launch of my new book  “Cultivating a Gospel-Shaped Attitude” (May  5th ) throughout the course of this week,  I am going to be sharing the entire first chapter.  I hope that you will enjoy this free preview of the book and that you will help me by doing three things:

1 .) Purchase a copy for yourself– if you live in near Metropolis, IL just stop by First Baptist Church this Sunday and buy a copy.  If you live outside of my local area you can order the book by clicking here or through Amazon.com.  Please remember that during the month of May all the profits from the sale of the book are going to be donated to the Haiti Missions Fund at First Baptist Church to help feed orphans.  

CLICK HERE TO ORDER YOUR COPY

2.) Spread the word– share the links to this blog on your Facebook and Twitter accounts.  This is the single best way to help me get the word out about the book.  So please take a moment to share it right now.

3.) Pray for the release of the book– that may might sound strange but I earnestly believe that the ideas for this book was given to me by God and that the Spiritual truth that you will find in it can be life changing.  Pray for God to use this book in countless numbers of lives.

BELOW IS THE FIRST PORTION OF CHAPTER 1.  BE SURE TO COME BACK TOMORROW FOR THE SECOND INSTALLMENT:

Introduction

Attitudes, Actions, and Character

When I was growing up, one of my favorite television shows was The A-Team. There was a character on that show whose name was B. A. Baracus. We learned in the show that the initials B. A. stood for “bad attitude.” No matter what was going on around him, B. A. always had a scowl on his face and appeared to be angry. Whenever he had the chance to offer his opinions, they were always negative. He never gave anyone a compliment nor did he ever think a plan would actually work. He never saw the bright side of any situation; in short, he epitomized what it means to have a bad attitude.

We all know someone like B. A. Baracus: someone who exhibits a bad attitude no matter what the situation. Hopefully, however, we also know people who are just the opposite: someone who always seems to have a smile on his or her face and who exhibits a pleasant attitude.

Several years ago, I had the privilege of working with a man a named David, who served as my associate pastor when I was pastoring a church in Richmond, Virginia. David is the kind of person who always has an encouraging and uplifting word to say, and every time I gave him a task to complete, he took it on without grumbling or complaining. It seemed that no matter what the situation was around him, David always had a pleasant attitude. Anyone who worked with or encountered David would agree that it was a joy to be around and serve with him. Do you know that kind of person? If you do, then you already know the importance of having a positive attitude. But my goal in this book is to go a step further, to go beyond merely having a good attitude.

What I want to show you is how to develop an attitude shaped by the gospel, which, when cultivated over time, will result in a Christlike character. What makes my friend David such a blessing to be around is that he exhibits the character of Jesus in so many ways. But he did not develop this kind of character overnight. Developing a Christlike character is the result of consistently allowing the gospel to shape the way you look at the world and conduct your life. In David’s life, years of cultivating a gospel-shaped attitude have resulted in other people recognizing the character of Christ in his life. In this book, I want to show you how to develop an attitude shaped by the gospel so that, over time, other people will come to recognize the character of Christ in your life.

Simply put, our character is the sum of our attitudes and actions over time. In mathematical terms we could say, Attitude + Actions + Time = Character. The key to developing a Christlike character is to first cultivate a gospel-shaped attitude. Attempting to exhibit a Christlike character without first adjusting our attitudes would be like trying climb Mt. Everest without learning to tie ropes, use snow shoes, or climb smaller mountains. The trouble is that most of our efforts in discipleship have focused on producing Christlike character without first dealing with the more fundamental issue of our attitudes. There are no shortcuts in the process; there are no quick paths that will get us to Christlikeness. Character is the product of displaying the right attitudes and making the right decisions over a period of time. With this in mind, I would like to submit that our formula for developing a Christlike character should look like this:

 A Gospel-Shaped          + Christ-Honoring          = Christlike
Attitude Actions Character
Cultivated over time Exhibited over time 

Our pathway for developing a gospel-shaped attitude is found in Matthew 5:1–11, or as this passage is more commonly called, the Beatitudes. These eight attitudes form the opening section of Jesus’ most famous sermon: the Sermon on the Mount. In the subsequent chapters, we will break down the individual beatitudes to discover how each of them is grounded in the character of Christ and the gospel, but for now I want to call your attention to the way in which these attitudes, when cultivated over time, will lead us to a Christlike character.

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This is Nate, one of my preacher boys who bought the very first copy of the book.