I like to grill. For me, food plus fire equals fun! A while back I opened the refrigerator to find that my wife had bought some pork chops for me to toss on the grill for dinner. They were sitting in a plastic bag covered with some of her home-made marinade. Mmmmm! The longer the meat sits in the marinade, the more the meat takes on the flavor of the marinade. Then it hit me. We’re all sort of like those pork chops in several ways!

First, what you choose to marinade in makes a big difference. You have a choice. You are the biggest factor in your flavor. Sometimes we cannot help or control how we feel and think. After all, temptation comes naturally. But we can control what we choose to feed. Just like anything else, what you feed grows. James 1:14-15 says when we are tempted we are being lured by our desires. But if we linger there, feeding that desire, he notes we are on the fast-track to sin. Want to grow good thoughts? Feed them! Want to kill off bad thoughts? Starve them!

Second, your marinade quickly becomes your make-up. If you place an incredible cut of meat in a horrible marinade, before long you’ll discover the meat is ruined, or at least tastes bad. I’ve known wonderful people who have allowed themselves to sit and soak in anger, bitterness, negativity, judgment, or resentment for so long it changed their entire disposition. The result is an unattractive flavor and what’s sad is they often don’t realize it. Others, however, choose to soak in good thoughts, positivity, and the love and grace of God. In Philippians 4:8, Paul urges us to dwell on things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, and commendable.

Last, guard what you let in. Guard your heart and mind. 2 Corinthians 10:5 says we should “take every thought captive to obey Christ.” That means we should stop our thoughts at the door, look them over, and pat-them down before letting them come in, take up residence, and start manning the controls. Why? Because our actions flow from our attitudes. In Matthew 15:18, Jesus taught that our behavior comes from our hearts. In fact, all the issues of life flow from our hearts (Proverbs 4:23). Do you remember the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico a few years ago? An 87-day oil leak on the sea-floor led to 210 million gallons of oil being released into the water, causing extensive damage to the environment, economy, and people’s lives. If we don’t guard our hearts, which are “below the surface,” you can guarantee it won’t be long before it surfaces to cause extensive damage.

Here are a few tips for monitoring your marinade.

Be still. Take time to be aware of what you think about when you sit still, you are driving, going to sleep, or waiting somewhere.

Evaluate. What are you soaking in? What shapes your thought-life? What kind of choices are you making related to your relationships, finances, and entertainment? How are these influencing your thought life?

Replace. Swap out your own thoughts and interpretations of life with God’s thoughts and interpretations of life. Swap harmful thoughts with helpful thoughts. Start with reading and recalling Scripture. The Bible takes us out of ourselves and reveals God’s perspective to life. Proverbs and Ephesians are great places to start.

Dr. Chris Larmoyeux is the pastor at First Baptist Church Maumelle. He and his wife, Tonya, live in Maumelle with their three children. You can email Chris at chris@fbcmaumelle.org.