Thinking Out Loud

December 30, 2017

The Mind is a Battlefield

The Mind is a Battlefield. It truly is. I’m surprised there’s never been a successful Christian book with that title. Here’s a summary of some things that have appeared here at Thinking Out Loud with the blog tag “thought life.”  Each one of the titles below is a link to a larger article.

Over-Consumption of Internet Media

5 General Principles to Guide Potential Online Addiction

(this ran in March of this year; you need to click the title to see these spelled out)

  • Self Control
  • Mind, Thoughts and Heart
  • Shifting Values
  • The Stewardship of Our Time
  • Misdirected Worship

Media to Fill Your Home

(you need to click the title to see these spelled out)

  • Bible teaching
  • Christian books
  • Christian movies
  • Christian music
  • Hearing God’s voice

Phillips – Col. 3: 16-17 Let Christ’s teaching live in your hearts, making you rich in the true wisdom. Teach and help one another along the right road with your psalms and hymns and Christian songs, singing God’s praises with joyful hearts.

What will control your thought life this week?

A Day Lived Entirely for God

Several years back, a phrase from Charles Sheldon’s In His Steps became part of popular Christian culture through the acronym WWJD?. It appeared on wristbands, bumper stickers and a host of novelties and trinkets and in the crush of popularity, a few people actually bought and read the book.

Facing everyday challenges with the question ‘What Would Jesus Do?’ is a great idea, but I wonder if it’s too focused on doing; in other words, I’m concerned that it only measures action.

I’ve written much here about temptation here with respect to our thought life. For myself, a person who doesn’t commit great transgressions of moral or spiritual law, a better question might be WWJT? or What Would Jesus Think? In a review of David Murray’s The Happy Christian, I noted the following chapter outline based on Phil. 4:8… 

[the link takes you to an overview of David’s media diet and ministry diet.]

The Fruit of Your Thoughts

…If your mind is saturated with unhealthy thoughts and ideas, it will manifest itself in several ways:

In your conversation: We all have heard the Biblical principle that out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks. Even the most guarded, careful, filtered person will let something slip that betrays where their heart is wandering. Or they may lose interest in topics that would normally engage them.

Stresses: For the Christian, having made poor choices in the area of inputs and influences will result in an inner conflict that may come to the surface in being short or snappy with the people we love or people we’re close to. The inner turmoil may simply result from a feeling of personal failure.

Distractions: A mind focused on things below instead of things above will inevitably be un-ordered, resulting in forgetting to return a phone call, missing a payment deadline, forgetting the directions to an appointment. Time allocation to responsibilities may slip noticeably.

Acting Out: Experts say that people dealing with online addictions often end up taking some action as a result of the content they have been viewing, but we tend to think of that as more overt. In fact, acting out often takes places in subtle ways that are more tangential to the addiction than direct. It’s possible that only the person themselves knows that the behavior trigger.

Reticence: Other people whose mind is otherwise preoccupied will simply become withdrawn. An unhealthy mind condition will manifest itself similar to worry and anxiety. For the Christian who senses that they are moving away from The Cross instead of moving toward The Cross, they may opt to retreat from their fellowship group or simply be less animated than is typical.

What Goes into a Mind Comes Out in a Life

We are all fighting a battle within ourselves… The illustration goes like this: There is a old Indian chief telling a story about how each of us have two rival dogs, a good dog and a bad dog. Both are always fighting each other. Sometimes it seems like the good dog is winning other times it appears like the bad dog is winning.

One of the tribal members asks, “So, how do you know which one will win?”

To which the chief replies, “It depends which dog you feed.”

click image to orderRelationships and the Internet’s Dark Side

(the article contains two stories of the manifestation of over-consumption of the worst the net has to offer)

…Someone once compared the things that enter our thought life to what happens when farmers sow seeds and later reap the harvest. The little verse goes:

Sow a thought, reap an action;

Sow an action, reap a habit;

Sow a habit; reap a lifestyle.

One thing is certain, whether there’s aversion or attraction, interpersonal dynamics are changed. Someone has said, “You are what you eat.” You certainly are what you read or view on television or your computer screen…

March 20, 2017

Over-Consumption of Internet Media

Whether it’s Facebook or internet pørn, it’s really easy to spend sections of your day staring at your device, be it phone, tablet, laptop or desktop. There are general principles from scripture I think we do well to remember; these can give us guidance regardless of which type of addiction you’re dealing with.

5 General Principles to Guide Potential Online Addiction

click image to orderSelf-Control

It’s one of the fruit of the Spirit so it deserved to be listed first. We each have this in varying degrees, though some have noticeably less than others, and all of us have times when we wish we’d exercised more. At the slightest impulse that you’ve spent to long on Facebook (or whatever) you need to close the browser and walk away from the screen. (Translations use either temperance or self-control when listing these fruit in Galatians 5, but the Wycliffe uses continence, the opposite of which is…well you know.) (See what I mean? Better self control would have left that alone!)

Mind, Thoughts and Heart

As we’ve written a number of posts here concerning out thought life, let’s just say that it is so important to guard our minds, guard our thoughts and thereby guard and protect our hearts. (See especially this post and the section dealing with our media diet.) We’re told in scripture to take captive the stray thoughts which can do damage. Previous generations contended with this in terms of television and theater. We have such a greater barrage of ideas and philosophies being thrown at us online.

The Stewardship of Our Time

In an increasingly hectic world, time is a precious commodity. We’re given 24 hours each day, no more, no less; and what we do with those is a large measure of our character. (For my article on “redeeming the time,” read this post at C201.) A good measure of this is to realize the things that you might have done, could have done, or should have done in the time you spent on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter… or worse.

Shifting Values

Without getting into specific social issues that face us currently, all of us have felt the pressure to capitulate to the larger culture, or even to the values shift happening in the capital-C Church. Isaiah 5:20 (NLT) reads, “What sorrow for those who say that evil is good and good is evil, that dark is light and light is dark, that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter.” I can honestly say I have felt the pressure to change my mind on some issues because of internet exposure. On some of the issues, I think readers here would be comfortable, but on others I have realized the need for a reset and re-calibration. Be careful to know why if you sense your worldview shifting.

Misdirected Worship

This may seem a little strong for some readers here, but the things that occupy our time online are really the things we ascribe worth to, and that’s the heart of the word worship. I mentioned internet pørn at the outset, and it’s easy to think terms of people spending hours staring at photographic images, but even those cute cat videos could amount to a case as described in Romans 1:25 (NLT): “…So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself who is worthy of eternal praise!”

David Murray’s outline on media consumption from the book The Happy Christian.

April 8, 2016

You Have This Moment

The Set Free Summit taking place in North Carolina wrapped up last night. For an overview of what you/we missed, check out the hashtag #SetFree2016. We’ve devoted three of the five weekday posts here to this one topic, but when I started scrolling through old posts here and discovered the one I re-posted yesterday, I was also reminded of this one.

– = – = – = – = – = – = – = – = –

With the kids now older and facing high-school homework after supper instead of the early bedtimes of former years, Patricia donned an light jacket before heading out for her weekly Wednesday night coffee shop ritual with Julie and Deanne. Well, almost weekly; there were frequent cancellations in the past three years, but they tried to meet as frequently as possible.

“So when are we leaving?” her husband Rick asked.

“What do you mean we?” she responded.

“I thought it might be fun to crash your little group; as an observer or like those war reporters who are embedded with a platoon. Unless, of course it’s me you talk about every week.”

“No, we tend to talk about church, and politics, and raising kids.”

“So is there room for an extra body?”

“You’re serious?”


Patricia texted the other two, “What do u feel about Rick joining us 2night?”

Julie didn’t answer, but Deanne texted, “Sure Y not?”

And so for an hour, Rick sat with the women and talked about church, and politics and raising kids.

On the way home, Patricia said, “You’re not going to want to do this every week are you?”

“No; it was a one-off thing.”

“So Rick, I know you, what was this about really?”



“Honestly? I didn’t want to be home for a full hour with the computer. When you go out, it never ends well.”

– = – = – = – = – = – = – = – = –

Isn’t it ironic that the very technology that offers you the option of reading Christian blogs like this one, downloading sermons, looking up Bible verses online, etc., also offers both men and women the ease and convenience of experiencing sexual temptation like we’ve never known before.

Knowing as I do the various search terms that will find you all manner of websites, I can honestly say that every time I approach the machine — and I do business online all day long, plus prepare three blogs — I am reminded that each visit represents a choice: Choose things that will strengthen spiritually, or choose things that will do spiritual harm.

Like the goaltender in a hockey game, we can’t always block every “thought shot” that is fired toward us, but I believe we can exercise self control on a minute-by-minute or even second-by-second basis. I am always reminded that:

You have this moment.

You may not have won an hour ago, and you might slip an hour from now, but you have this moment to make the individual choice that affects this moment.

Right now, it’s a rainy day as I type this. It was a weather cancellation nearly a decade ago that found me with idle time typing a random phrase into a search engine that led to a random chapter in the middle of an online erotic novel. That’s right, it was text, not pictures. It wasn’t pictures for quite some time.

Idle hands. The entire universe-wide-web at my disposal.

Even today, I admit that search engines permit all manner of random thoughts to be explored online with varying results. I often find myself like the guy who loves to join his buddies on fishing expeditions, but actually hates the taste of fish. It’s about finding the fish, but not necessarily enjoying or consuming the fish.

I suppose it’s different for everyone.

– = – = – = – = – = – = – = – = –

I think it’s interesting that Genesis 2:9 tells us that the original source of temptation — the fruit of a tree in Eden — was found in the middle of the garden. Not off to one side. Not hidden behind other trees.

In the middle.

For men men — and women — reading this, your tree is right in the middle of the family room or living room; or it’s a laptop that is in the middle of wherever you find yourself.

Maybe your tree and my tree are different, but the result is the same: Temptation never disappears.

I looked at this a different way in a devotional at Christianity 201. There’s a link to a song, and a specific point (about 70 seconds) in the song you can fast-forward to.

I’ve found it to be helpful.

Feel free to share what works for you.

You have this moment.

September 1, 2012

How Game Addiction is Ruining Boys

Created by:

July 3, 2012

You Control This Moment

We were returning home from a short trip Monday morning when I suddenly was aware of my mind wandering down a path that was not entirely productive. These things do happen, but one hopes and aims for higher things, right? So I quickly riveted my thoughts back to something more honorable.

As someone who has experienced the darker side of what the internet has to offer, I am fully aware of the paths our thoughts can take. One minute we’re mentally processing some very practical matter, and the next minute a movie is playing in our heads that we would not want to be projected on the worship lyric screen on Sunday morning.

However, as someone who has also experienced seasons of the liberating freedom of not being a slave to online addiction, I know that even in those much healthier periods my mind is capable of conjuring up some equally “where did that come from?” images and narratives. I don’t believe that this is the product of a dirty or perverted mind, but more the product of the dual nature that all of us — male and female — wrestle with.

So as I confronted my own thoughts, I was suddenly aware of the argument that the mind uses to try to derail any attempt at mental cleanup:  You can change your thought pattern now, but you know that a minute later it will be right back where it was.

Of course, this is not entirely true. You can change your thought pattern immediately and that can be the beginning of an entirely new period of focus on something else.

But the response I’ve been formulating more recently goes more like this:

Yes, 60-seconds from now my thoughts may go right back where they were, but right now, I control this minute. I control where the next 60-seconds are going and I don’t have to be slave to unhealthy thoughts for that minute.

Some of you reading this may already be in the middle of an online battle that you’re currently not winning. But again, as you sit at that computer and consider the possibility of clicking on those all-too-familiar web addresses, may I suggest that, with God’s help, you stand strong and say, “No, I control this minute; and while I may weaken and while I may waver, this is one 60-second block that’s not going to be spent in places I should not be.”

In a world where we are constantly being stimulated by a variety of media and those media’s after-effects, perhaps the popular AA line, ‘One Day at a Time,’ ought to be rewritten as ‘One Minute at a Time.’

In a fast-paced world, we succeed and triumph or we crash and burn on a minute-by-minute basis.

You control this moment.

August 22, 2011

Acting Out on Pornography More Prevalent That We Realize

Filed under: addiction, family, internet, marriage, pornography — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:43 am

We have a pastor friend who has at least two more academic degrees than I do — that we know of — who once paid me a huge compliment when we were discussing modern church movements.  He told me, “I don’t know of anyone who is thinking about these things like you are.”

What can I say? I have an analytical mind, and when I came through a many-week period of obvious addiction to the internet’s dark side, I used those same analytical skills to try to classify and document the various aspects of online pornography, which included a willingness to step out and say things that I didn’t believer were being said in other books on the subject, and still feel are not being said strongly enough, if at all.

This weekend we were reminded of the severe consequences that can take place when viewing pornography leads people to act out on impulses generated by what they see. In the online draft version of my unpublished book, The Pornography Effect which you can read online for free — there are a few references to people “acting out” what they see on-screen.

  • In the Relationships section at the beginning, there’s the suggestion that a change in relationship between spouses constitutes a form of acting out, even if the apparent manifestation is an improved sexual intimacy.
  • In the Animation chapter there’s a concern about young people imitating what they see.
  • In the Interactivity chapter there’s a mention of chat rooms and how a progression can take place from chatting to wanting to meet in person.
  • In the Faith chapter, there’s a reference to how the eventual consequence of acting out contributes to national divorce rates and ruined families.

Changed views or attitudes.  Imitating the online subjects.  Progressing into deeper degrees of online involvement with strangers or new acquaintances.  Unfaithfulness leading to divorce. 

Not a lot of good there.  Yet, despite this, I get the general sense that people think that only a very few act out what they view on-screen for one simple reason: Only a very few get caught

So today, I want to toss another audacious comment into the mix which, if the book were ever published, would now form the basis of its own chapter:

I believe that, to some degree, everyone who views internet pornography acts out on what they have seen.

There.  I said it.  We may be dealing with infinitesimal actions or attitudes or thoughts, but I firmly believe that the stimulus always produces a quantifiable response, and that some of those responses are serious but under-reported.  Or, to badly abuse some Biblical language — but in the process make the point in a way that some readers here will better identify with — pornography doesn’t  return void.  It doesn’t just bounce off the eyeballs, or sit in some static manner on the monitor.  The eyes are the doorway to the heart.

  • Sow a thought, reap an action
  • Sow an action, reap a habit
  • Sow a habit, reap a lifestyle

Just as The Pornography Effect makes it clear that your worldview can’t help but be changed in some way by what you see, I believe you can’t help but have some decision, direction or detail in your life changed as well. There will be some action consequence — big or small — even if the initial one is just the decision to return to the internet’s dark side the next day, and continue the long, downward spiral.

Luke 11:34
Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are healthy, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are unhealthy, your body also is full of darkness.

Need help?  Visit

June 5, 2010

Blessed Are The Broken: Our Hope for the Future

I want to say that this picture was contrived.   I really do.  But even it is, is it that far from the truth?

I also want to believe that the various meetings advertised here are outreach events the church itself is presenting, but in all likelihood they are simply room rentals.  Does it matter, if the need is real?

I want to believe that the sermon advertised for Sunday morning will address this dichotomy, but  in all likelihood, it will consist of “heads in the clouds” platitudes.  Did anyone at the church see the contrast?

I want to wish for things to be different, but deep down, I know that the people who attend Monday to Saturday are often the same people who are seated in the pews on Sunday morning.   Or their proxies.  These are the people for whom Christ died.

Jesus can do more with broken people than he can with people who have it all together.   The addicted, the abused, the abusers, the impoverished, the homeless, the users, the people with no self image, the people dealing with temptation, the people on the brink of despair; these are all the people who can be America’s hope for the future.

The future never looked as bright as when you know you’ve reached bottom and there’s nowhere lower down you can go.    I hope it was a great sermon!

Picture is from Friends of Irony, a Cheezburger Network website.

July 5, 2009

Our Day (15 minutes) at the Casino

Filed under: addiction — Tags: , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:49 pm

Today we dropped by one of our local casinos, mostly to see what the restaurant was like.   No money changed hands.    I’m always struck by the blinking lights that lure in the customers, but it was something on the auditory side of things that struck my wife.   I’ll let her describe it:

The room was huge, I don’t know how many square feet, but we figured that it contained 6 or 7 hundred machines.  Just a few green baize tables in the centre, surrounded by slanted rows of blinking, shining machines.  Each one a variation on slots, with different colour schemes, different images, but the same configuration.

The volume of sound, the pleasant sounds generated by the machines – of dinging and pinging and chirping and ringing – in the casino seemed almost deliberately modulated.  Just loud enough to be engaging, but not loud enough to distract or interfere with conversation.

But the further we went into the room, the more it became apparent that every one of those 6 or 7 hundred machines was pinging and dinging in the same key.  The same musical key.  No discord, no clash, no change as you walked through.  Exactly the same.  It surrounded us like a warm pool.  You could hum along with it.

And the more you listened – the more you swam through it – the more you became aware that most of the pinging and ringing and chiming was the same note.  An octave or two apart, but the same sound, the same tone over and over and over, following you through, or propelling you.  At just the right volume, with no irritating edges.  Soft, round, mellow.

Hypnotic?  Maybe.  Deliberate?  No doubt.

November 7, 2008

Tough Love Gone Wrong: Video Game Addiction

Filed under: addiction, parenting — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:25 pm

brandon-crispWhen 15-year old Brandon Crisp’s father, Steve, took away Brandon’s XBox, on the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend in October,  it was simply the frustration of a parent exasperated with his son’s video game addiction.   Now, the family prepares to bury Brandon’s body.   Read the Toronto Star story here.

In other media, John Oakley responds to those who will criticize the parent’s use of what is sometimes called “tough love” writing an opinion article in The Globe and Mail:

Anyone in a position to criticize a parent for resorting to this form of suasion must be leading a charmed existence, or not have kids of their own.

Elsewhere, a technology magazine provides more details about the game Brandon was playing, noting:

The Center for Online Addiction estimates that between 5% and 10% of the population suffers from some form of Internet addiction. It defines the condition as “any online-related, compulsive behavior which interferes with normal living and causes severe stress on family, friends, loved ones, and one’s work environment.”

And the largest consumer electronics chain in Canada, Future Shop, has curtailed the promotion of a new video game releasing this week out of respect for the family.

Update: Saturday November 8th:  Listen to a 22 minute interview with Brandon’s father recorded LAST Saturday, while Brandon was still hoped to be alive; recorded from The Drew Marshall Show.

If you took the time to read the Toronto Star article, what is your reaction?  The question goes beyond, “Did the parents do the right or wrong thing?”  The issue is the larger issue of video game addiction among youth.

November 6, 2008

When Sin Is Sin: Interview with an Addict

Filed under: addiction, Christian, Christianity, Faith, pornography — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:44 pm

mousetrapThe culture of Christian self-respectability is never at its most dangerous than it is when we refuse to admit that sin is sin.   So, many months ago, when the webpage I referred to a few days ago, Wrecked for the Ordinary, contacted me about an interview about the things that had led up to my writing The Pornography Effect, I never dreamed that the piece would appear under the rather terse title, “Pornography: An Interview with An Addict.”   Okay, maybe former addict.   For a brief time.   Briefly addicted.   Empathizing with those who are addicted.   Writer on the nature of addictive behavior.   But addict?  C’mon guys; isn’t that language rather strong; it was just a month or two;  I mean, what if someone I know, or someone who reads my blog page sees that?

But you know what?   If I hadn’t experienced the incredible, magnetic pull that internet porn can have on people, I probably would have been somewhat unqualified to write what I wrote in the way that I wrote it.   This stuff is dangerous.   If you’re looking at it, you’re playing with fire.   Sin is sin.   If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves; the truth is not in us.   Our Sunday morning righteousness is as filthy rags.   So if this week I need to be “An Addict,” then so be it.   I hope readers of their website will identify with what I’ve written knowing that I’ve been there.

If you haven’t read my take on this subject, then once again, we want to tag this post again in the hope that it will direct people — male or female — to the book.   It will continue to be a FREE online read through the end of the year.   It takes only 50-70 minutes to read.   When you get to the end of chapter six, click on “previous entries” to get to chapters seven and following. To read the interview, “Pornography: An Interview With An Addict,”  go to Wrecked for the Ordinary: Culture.

Blog at