I was doing a book tour a few years ago all over the nation and I happened to be in Portland, Oregon, and the book was called Making Love Last Forever, and I did all the television and radio stuff that you do in a city when you go in. And my best friend in high school and college was there, Dr. Gary Lovejoy, so he said ‘hey do you want to go see my dad.’ He was like 95 in the retirement home and I said ‘yes, I’d love to see him.’ I grew up in their home and had so much fun with them. So we go to the home and he said, ‘well let me go check with the doctors and see if my dad can take visitors.’ And so I sat in the lobby and I was just going to rest and read the paper or something, just relax. And there was a woman in there, seated, and I sat close to her. And so she strikes up this conversation with me.
So I find out that she’s like 95 herself and a resident there, but just so alert and clever and engaging. I thought wow, this is amazing. That’s the way we’re all going to be when we get to be 95. And so anyway, I enjoyed my talk, my friend came out and said his dad couldn’t take visitors and so stood up and I shook this woman’s hand, I said, “I really enjoyed talking with you.” And I said, “By the way, do you know who I am?” And she said, “No, but if you go down to the front office, they’ll tell you who you are.” No, I was asking that for a different reason. So anyway, you always get humbled in one way or another.
So today what I want to talk to you about is something I discovered accidentally when my kids were young, I have three kids, and I want to show them to you in a few seconds. But I didn’t come from a healthy home. My father was very angry, a lot of arguments, and I remember him decking my older brother and I remember at the dinner table sometimes he’d throw the napkin down and say, ‘I’m getting out of here. There’s no respect in this house.’ And we’d all say, ‘yeah, get out of here,’ and so you know it was just kind of a chaotic dysfunctional home.
So when I had kids, and started having kids, I had no clue of how to raise them. I was repeating some of the same things he did and I didn’t want that so I asked a really godly pediatrician that was taking care of my kids, I said, “What do you advise; I mean I haven’t had no training as a father. What would you advise?”
He said, “Well, I’ve raised these five kids,” and he said, “they’re doing pretty well.” He said, “I always had a rule.” He said, “I did three things and I did them almost every day. And so I would encourage you to do something like this because I see what’s happened in my home and I trust it could happen in yours.”
So what he told me to do was tell your kids there’s three great things in life and remind them of it all the time. If you can do it daily, creatively, do it. And so I said, “Okay, what are they.”
He said, “Tell your kids that the three greatest things they’ll ever learn are to first honor God, second honor others, which really the word honor; I had this with me, but this is a ten million dollar diamond ring and so this is an example of honor. I probably paid ten bucks for, but I told it afterwards that it was worth ten million. And so honor is basically when we drop our jaw and sort of gasp when something’s very important in life. And so what I wanted to teach my kids right from the very beginning that honor is attaching high value to something.
So I said the three greatest things in life are honoring God, honoring others and honoring God’s creation. So almost daily, I mean it was so often, I would say okay, we’d be in the car or I used to be a runner in the good old days, and I would be running and I’d try to time it on their way to school, and I’d try to get in their way like they were going to run me over. And then they’d roll the window down and I’d say three of the most valuable people on earth, and I’d say, “What’s the greatest thing in life?”
They’d say, “Dad, we’re late for school, we know what it is.” Tell me what it is. “Its honor God, honor others, honor His creation.”
“Yes! Have a great day, okay?”
Now here’s what was happening but I didn’t realize it at the time. My kids were growing, along with me, because I was reminding them, we were all growing three large trees, memory trees in our brain, but I didn’t know that. I didn’t know the neurology behind this, but today what I’m learning in neurology is that every thought you and I have, every thought forms its own electrical and chemical formation, takes about 30 seconds or longer, and then it seeps into our heart, which I think is the subconscious mind. It seeps into our heart and it starts growing a tree because every thought is like a branch, a branch with some leaves on it. And so the more passion and excitement and dedication and emotion we put into a thought, the bigger the branch is and the more leaves are on it, so when it seeps into our heart, it starts growing a tree, similar tree, similar thoughts grow similar trees.
And so here’s what’s really fascinating. Every tree you and I grow in our brain, it has fruit and when the fruit ripens and drops to the ground, it goes to the conscious brain as a new thought. So just think of all the thoughts you’ve had over your lifetime and all the trees you’ve grown, planted and grown, your own thought. I had no clue for 65 years of my life that thoughts even mattered. And now I realize it, every thought matters, no wonder Paul said let’s take every thought captive under the obedience of Christ.
Let me show my kids, because I want to show what happened. There’s Greg, and Greg’s kids, he got Annie but his oldest is Taylor, she’s 17 years old. She wants to be a pediatrician but she’s been memorizing first, second and third John. So recently I asked her what that done for you. She says, “Grandpa what it’s really done for me is I want to be a doctor but money is not really an attraction to me. What’s really attracting me is being able to serve kids.” That’s the theme of first, second and third John is loving people, getting the love from God, actually. And so she’s had thousands of thoughts because she’s memorizing those verses but thinking them, reminding herself of them during the day, and that’s what meditation is. So it’s memorizing and meditate. I call it M and M today. Anyway, that’s the impact.
The next one I have up here is my daughter Kari. She’s in Uganda right now with Taylor, Greg’s daughter, 17-year-old daughter, and they’re visiting orphans in prisons over there, because if you’re an orphan, you get put in prison even if you didn’t do anything. And so anyway, they’re ministering to them right now, but my daughter, her dream is to save all the orphans in the world, about a hundred and eighty million, whatever it is, and that’s her heart and her prayer every day.
So all of those people right there, my kids, are still memorizing bible verses and they’re growing bible verse trees in their brain. Those trees are growing daily cause they meditate on those verses, and the fruit of those trees are bringing new thoughts to their mind, which is the same verse, and so it just reminds them during the day, and so all of us are growing these trees.
And the last one is my son Michael, who married his sweetheart cheerleader at Baylor University. He actually was the quarterback in high school but he prayed a whole year that he could meet her, so he went and practiced cheerleading so he could make the team. He finally did and then when he made the team, he found out she was engaged. So he was a little disappointed, but she broke up eventually and fell into his arms and the rest is history. But anyway, so his dream, like my son’s dream, is to end divorce in America. So they all honor God, they all honor others and they all honor God’s creation, because there’s huge trees in their brains about those three things that I helped them think on, never had a clue what I was doing. And that’s the value of what Jesus said.
Let me give you Solomon first. In Proverbs it says this: Every day when you and I wake up, the greatest thing we can do, first thing above all else, guard your heart because out of your heart flows the wellspring of who you are. It’s like as a man or a woman thinks into her heart, so are they. Our thoughts determine who we become. And that’s why Jesus said in John 8:32, he said if you really want to be My disciple, a follower of Me, you claim to be a follower of Christ, you can’t be a follower of Mine, you won’t be My disciple unless My words abide within you. In other words, we memorize them, and we think on them during the day like David did in Psalm 1, and we meditate on them, and we grow these trees in our brain, these bible verse trees in our brain. And he said when you do this, “you will know the truth,” it’ll be inside of you, “and the truth will set you free.” Free. Free from what? Free from discouragement, from worry. How many have worried at least one time over the last month? Let’s see. Okay, how many have complained at least one time over the last month, okay? It’s amazing!
I’m memorizing four verses now, four words of Christ. Several other verses that I’m memorizing, go in and read to those four, but four powerful; the word of God is powerful, alive and sharper than a two edged sword. I can testify of that today. At my age, never really understood why we memorize scripture, finally its getting clearer and clearer and clearer in my own brain that as I memorize them and meditate on them during the day, I’m growing trees in my brain. And the fruit of those trees are changing my life. It’s the truth and its setting me free.
I can’t remember the last time I worried. I’m going through some of the same junk that you guys are going through. I got my trials, I got my thorns, you know you were sharing the thorns that the church is going through here. I got those same kind of thorns. And I’m doing something today that I never dreamed I’d live long enough to do. I actually am rejoicing in my difficulties, and my hardships. I can actually do that today. Where is it coming from? Not from me. It’s coming from the power of God, the scriptures of Jesus’ words, His commands, His teachings, and we get them in our heart, we have them in common, people are going to see the love we have for one another and so then they’re going to know that He’s real. So it’s just living out what He gave us while He was on this earth.
So anyway, one of the first ones is my grandson Michael, you saw him a minute ago. When he was ten years old, he came to my home crying. He said that his life was miserable, he didn’t know how he was going to keep going, and I thought what in the world. I put my arms around him, give him a big hug and I said, “Tell me what’s going on.”
“It’s my mom,” he said. “She’s driving me crazy. There are so many rules in my home. I got to do this at that time, and chores and I got homework and I got this.” He said, “It’s like living at a concentration camp.”
So I asked him to come to my office, give him a big hug and I said, “Do you want to live like this the rest of your life?” He said, “No!”
I said, “You want to do what I’m doing? If you notice me changing,” he said, “I have.”
I said, “Do you want to do what I’m doing right now? It’ll bring you to a place where your mom won’t be bothering you anymore and you’ll have victory and freedom to live wherever you want and you don’t have to complain.”
He said, “Grandpa, I would love that. Is that really possible?” I said, “Yes.” And I was thinking now should I call his parents and ask them permission, you know, whether I should give him this. Oh, they’re excited about God’s word, so I said, “Let me tell you what. I’m going to give you five verses to memorize. Five verses.” I didn’t know at that time; that was seven years ago, how important it is to make sure that it’s under the banner of Christ’ words, and then the other scriptures. I love all that.
But anyway, so I gave him five verses. The first verse I gave him was James 1:19 and 20. It is be quick to listen, slow to speak, you got to therefore be slow to anger because anger never brings you love and the righteousness of God. So he memorized that verse, he also memorized Philippians 4:8 and 9 about only think on these eight things, and one of them is honor and one of them is praising God. And so I had him memorize these. He did it with me. I memorized them too, the five verses, and then I would call him every day and say, ‘what are the verses?’
He’d go ‘Grandpa, here they are.’ He had them pasted on his mom’s dash of her car, he had them on the mirror in his bedroom, he had them on his bed, he had them in the refrigerator, he had them all over the place. And he put five stones in his pocket, and every time he felt those stones, he went over these five verses, he thought about these verses, the meaning of the verse, not just the words but the meaning.
And so one year goes by. And his mom’s picking up at school and he’s kind of complaining, griping, winey kid, some of you’ve had those kinds of kids in your home. And so she’s picking him up at school, one year goes by, so now he’s 11, and she says, “Do you have your homework?”
“Yeah, yeah, I have it.” So they get about two miles away from school and he says, “Oh mom, wait a minute, I did forget my spelling list. I got a test tomorrow. I’m not doing well in that class. Can you turn around and go back?”
And she said, “No!” She said, “I’m going to do tough love with you today.” And she started lecturing him about how he’s irresponsible, and he’s a lot like his grandpa, you know somebody should have helped him a long time ago and so on and so forth in school.
But anyway, he said, “I started to defend myself, but then I stopped because James 1:19 and 20 jumped into my brain. And it said be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger.” And he says, “I calmed right down. And I started listening and then I thought of the other verse about you want to think about what’s honorable, what’s right, what’s pure, lovely and so on, and worthy of praise.” And so he said, “Those things came to my brain and I listened to my mom.” And eventually he said “I sort of stopped her” cause she can go on and on. And he said, “Mom I have something to say, I have something to say.”
And she finally says, “What!”
He says, “Mom,” eleven year old, “I just want to thank you for what you’re saying to me right now.” So that stunned her right off. And then he said, “Mom, I love you so much,” he didn’t say to her I know you’re not the concentration camp guard, you know he could have, but he didn’t. He said, “Mom I love you, thank you for what you’re saying, you’re right, I’m not the student I need to be. And I want to ask you if you could forgive me and I want you to know that I’m really going to work on this in my life.”
What do you think mom did? Started crying. Jaw dropped. In fact she started crying so hard she told me that she had to pull off the road and she said the first emotions I had was to hand him my purse and say ‘here, buy whatever you want.’ She didn’t do that, but here’s the point. That kid today and has been doing for the last four years, he raises money. He’s like the chairman of his own little committee in school. He raises money to dig wells in Ethiopia where his sister was born. And it’s amazing to watch him. He can recruit major movie stars to his committee and his speaking things he does, and his age. But I see that God’s word; I don’t even know if he’s memorized more than five verses. But he thinks about them every day and when you think about them, you grow a tree. And he’s growing these bible verse trees in his brain that are getting so large.
Another story: A person who got out of prison in LA, one of the head Latino gang, he was the president of a Latino gang; he was in prison for life for murder. And he got out, and one day when I was talking to him, I was in the process of trying to mentor him, but he wasn’t getting any of it. And so he finally said to me one day in total discouragement, “I’ve had it. Nothing’s going right. I’m miserable.”
And I said, “I want to give you a four day challenge, if you’ll take it.”
And he said, “What’s that?”
I said, “If you’ll take four of Christ’ teachings, because I can fit all of His teachings in these four, if you take four of them, you take four days to memorize and think about them all day long, every day, a lot of emotion, get the meaning of the words behind what’s in those words, and you meditate on those just like David does in Psalm 1, if you do that, call me in four days and tell me what happened.”
Four days go by, he calls me on the phone, he says, “You won’t believe this.” He said, “I got a job in a television ministry.” He said, “What I learned in those four days is that God wanted me to be a servant, His servant, to serve people.” And he said, “When I came there, I was last on the totem pole, but it was like within the first week they all raised me up like to the head of the company because I was just serving everybody.” And he’s still there, the whole ministry is thriving, he’s basically one of the encouraging people there, but he’s still meditating on those four verses because they change our life.
I can tell you what it’s done to me. It’s dropped my worries I mentioned, my stress level is down to as low as it’s ever been. I don’t care where I’m driving, whatever traffic I’m in, you know even when I’m out here, it doesn’t matter anymore. I see my life changing because those four trees are my main trees that I grow. And incidentally, they’re the exact opposite of the trees that Satan wants us to be thinking about every day and that’s pride, seeking more things in the world, pleasure and complaining about our trials.
And so here they are. I want to give them to you and then I’m done: four verses from Christ; four teachings from Christ. Four commands and when you start growing those trees by memorizing them and then meditating on them. The first one is Matthew 5:3, its how blessed you’re going to be, when you stay poor in spirit, which is humble, because God only gives His grace to the humble. But you get to inherit the very kingdom of heaven, which is His love, joy, peace, patience, righteousness, everything, okay?
Second verse: write these down if you want them because I give you a four day challenge, watch what happens in your life. Second verse: Mark 12:30, that’s loving God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.
Third one is Mark 12:31, loving others in the same way you want to be loved. When you meditate on that day and night, and you start growing that tree, watch the changes that come to your life. And you can do it for the rest of your life, doesn’t matter what your age is.
And the fourth one is, Matthew 5:10 and 11, and its Jesus talking about how you and I can learn to rejoice, give thanks in all of our circumstances, good and bad, especially in our trials, in our heartaches, in our thorns in our life that hit us.
That’s where I’m coming today. I’m getting to the place where I can start thanking God even before I feel it. I do it because the fruit’s there. And so it’s absolutely amazing, I can give you story after story after story of lives that are changing, my life is changing, the thoughts in my brain, the immoral thoughts that are basically gone from my brain that were a part of my life for 65 years. They’re gone because Christ’ words in me are dwelling inside of me and setting me free. And so that’s what I’m doing, and I give you that challenge, and that’s really.. even though this says Guarding Your Child’s Heart, it’s guarding all of our hearts no matter what our age, grandparents or not, and so, anyway, let’s pray together.
Father, I love You, I thank You for life, I thank You that You are my Lord, my boss, You become more of my boss as I learn Your words and they are a part of me. And that it’s easy to put Your yoke on me cause Your yoke is light and You’re meek and I just thank You Lord for that. I pray for each person here, Lord that they get excited from Your spirit empowering them to be able to memorize Your words and then meditate on them day and night for the rest of their life. And Lord thank You ahead of time for setting them free. I pray this in Your matchless name, amen. Amen? Amen.