Sunday, March 11, 2012

Renewing Your Mind, Day 7

Guest blog by Jill Scifres of @odditblue on twitter.
Ever had a thought you wish you could forget? Of course, we all have. We’ve all been plagued with thoughts we wish would leave our heads and never return. It seems the more we try to forget them and despise those thoughts, the more they come back over and over. Vicious circle.
 But how to get rid of these unwanted thoughts? What if we could somehow fill our mind with other things until the unwanted thoughts had no room to fly around in there and distract us? Is there a way to make our minds new again? Romans 12:2 says, “And do not imitate this world, but be transformed by the renovation of your minds, and you shall distinguish what is the good, acceptable and perfect will of God.” Renovation of our minds… that sounds wonderful to me! Now, how to renew our minds… how to change our thinking?

To change or renew our minds, we don’t need to try to just not think the thoughts we don’t want in our heads. This only makes them all the more prominent. We need to find new thoughts instead. Let’s look at our minds in simple terms. Our mind is very much like a sponge. Sponges soak up things inside and hold them there. If I take a sponge that is dry and pour dish soap over it, the sponge will become saturated with dish soap. Afterward, I can hold the sponge under running water and squeeze it, and suds will come out of it. In fact, I can hold it there a long time running water, squeezing and repeating over and over and it takes a very long time before I can squeeze it and have no more suds coming out of that sponge. It is saturated in what I poured into it the first time. The thoughts we introduce to our minds are like that dish soap. Whatever goes in our minds is going to come out in our lives and linger in our thoughts, and it will take a whole lot of water to wash away what we don’t want in there.

In Ephesians 5 the Bible speaks of cleansing by the washing with water through the word. This tells us the word of God can be cleansing to our lives like water. The best way to immerse ourselves in the word of God is to do more than just read through it lightly. We need to really dive right in, begin to seriously study and soak up the words and ideas getting these deep into our minds and thoughts. We should keep on thinking about each scripture, mulling over what we’ve read again and again. We must learn how to meditate on what we’ve read. Joshua 1:8 says to us “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it…” Meditation is also mentioned again in Psalm 1:2 “But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.”

Our minds are also a lot like the soil. In Mark chapter four, Jesus spoke in a parable of one who planted the word like seeds into different kinds of ground. Some ground was soft and receptive, some was hard and stony and some was full of weeds. Each type of ground made a difference in how the seeds, or the words, were received. Ground that is full of weeds will choke out new seeds and keep them from growing. Stony ground is either too hard to let the seeds sink in, or it is too rocky to let the seeds mature enough to produce anything. Only soft soil that is good will allow the seeds to bear fruit from what was planted. I heard a pastor talking about how to change our hearts and minds to be more receptive, he said, "You just plow on into the Word and it will change you." He means, you begin reading and studying and really getting into the Bible, and it will change your thoughts. Plow into God's Word. Let the words you read "seed your mind." Let what you read sink in and take hold in your thoughts.
Next, you let what you've read and studied begin to grow in your thoughts. It will happen. Keep reading and you'll see God's word will begin to pop into mind when you experience little things in your day. When it is planted in you, His word will begin to grow inside and bring about change. You'll notice your thoughts begin to change and all the old thoughts will begin to come to mind less and less the more you keep reading and digging into the Bible every day.
So come on! Are you ready for a mind that has been renovated? I know I am. Let's go!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Now I Have a Stick

We have probably all heard the phrase: your attitude determines your altitude.
Great truth for life lies in those simple words. And the following story from my family life is a great illustration.

When my son was about 5 years old and we were playing in a park, he was having a blast with a balloon attached to a stick. Young children can get great joy out of the simplest little things. He had a wide grin on his young face and was galloping about the park waving the stick/balloon.

Unfortunately, there was an evil little bush in the park which had grown some thorns on it. You can probably guess what happened next. My son Trevor swung the balloon into the thorns and a loud ‘Pop!” was heard. Bye bye fun stick balloon.
A tear slowly made its way down Trevor’s cheek, and a sad look enveloped his little face. But you could see him struggling with it, and after a minute or two, a wide grin broke out, and he said, “Now I have a stick!” And he continued playing joyfully running all over the park pretending the stick was a sword (typical little boy).

My wife and I have never forgotten this (when he is President one day, we will title his biography “Now I Have a Stick”) story. It reminds us the importance of our attitude over our circumstances. Truly our attitude does determine our attitude. Below I quote a well-known statement by Chuck Swindoll:

The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do…The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past... The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it... we are in charge of our Attitudes.      –Chuck Swindoll

Now, you too can have a stick!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Renewing Your Mind, Day 6

This guest blog is by Brian of @BassmanBrian on twitter.

What do we let occupy our minds? How do we decide what to spend time on? How do these decisions impact our physical, emotional, and spiritual lives? How is the mind of a Christian different from that of a non-believer? These are just a few of the many questions I will review from the perspective of the Christian.

When we think of what we let occupy our minds, there are really at least two key questions. One is intentional; what do we think about? This is easier to examine. We simply need to evaluate what we voluntarily expose ourselves to; what do we deliberately think about, things of the world or things of God? The other is unintentional; what are we mentally scarred by? In this case the chances of our lives, the temptations introduced by others and the things we see and hear that we don’t really go looking for impact us. People we surround ourselves with contribute in a large way in this case.

We all have a different level of worldliness we can expose ourselves to and have it not be a problem. How do we spend our time also has a consequence here, as part of the larger stewardship question regarding the valuable gifts of time, talent, and treasure that He gives to us. If we choose to spend time on watching a sporting event as opposed to worshipping God in some way, there will be at the minimum a mental impact difference.

      I believe the results of these decisions are immense . Let us view prayer as an example. When we pray, there is the obvious benefit of asking for His intercession in our lives. However, there are more benefits, chief among them being our increased attention on God as a result of prayer. We will be thinking about our Lord more; it is hard to imagine that not having a positive impact on us. This may seem more important to you if you are of the Catholic, Arminian, or Wesleyan persuasion, since in those faith systems there is more of a focus on good works, holiness and sanctification. These things don’t save us, but they can contribute strongly to our discipleship, rewards or treasures in heaven, and well as how others see us as we hopefully walk with Him in a faithful Biblical way.

The mind of a Christian is different in a vital and substantial way. The message of The Cross is foolishness to the nonbeliever. If we are saved we are promised the Holy Spirit will dwell within us. In 2 Cor:16 we are told we have the mind of Christ. This can be fairly shocking to people. What does it mean? We could have a book length discussion on this, but I believe this really entails having an eternal kingdom oriented mindset, in a humble, obedient, compassionate and loving way.

What about the Romans verse on renewing our minds? What does this really say to us? I believe this is about making changes in our thoughts, which come about because of our circumcised hearts, to not be those who fast in a self centered way as shown in
Zech 7:4-6, but rather be those whose lives are as committed to Christ as possible, in a genuine loving way towards Him, in full appreciation and thankfulness of what He, our triune God, has done for us. It is not enough to be opposed to the ways of the world. Rather we should be looking to Him, as only a believer can. In a nutshell, our minds will be having thoughts that an unsaved person would be incapable of having. These thoughts are a gift from Him.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Flying Upside Down

A guest blog by Cheri Douglas...

About those folks who just won’t listen to IT…

Won’t accept IT …

Or just can’t seem to hear IT…

And the folks who live or work with them and need them to get IT!

What is the Flying Upside Down metaphor all about, and how does it relate to life and our relationships with the people in our lives and the Lord? Well, it is a flying metaphor…OBVIOUSLY!! And, before I go any further, let me apologize in advance to the flyers or pilots among you. I have found through research and picking brains of friends and my husband, Jeff, that flying offers us a powerful metaphor for some of the most important things in life. However, I am not a pilot. So, my metaphoric connections to some of the points here could lack some academics for those among you who know more than I do about aeronautics. And that’s probably anyone who knows anything about aeronautics.

So, please forgive my loose academic connections to your field. But, I hope you will gain value and enjoyment from my insights into human relations. That’s my field!

As you may or may not know, the history of flight is sprinkled with numerous accounts of tragic endings to flights by pilots who placed themselves on a collision course with disaster by flying upside. This happens when a pilot becomes disoriented from physical reality and believes that he or she is flying right-side-up, when they were, in fact, flying upside-down. Deluded by their own disorientation with reality, and no apparent means of getting a reality check, they intended to pull the nose of their plane up and instead, dive tragically into the Earth below.

This is a sad and grim scenario, to be sure. So what is a metaphor and what is the lesson here? A metaphor is something that symbolizes and parallels another situation to which we can relate. The metaphor increases our clarity about our situation and teaches us something profound as we relate our reality to the metaphor. Our lesson here, in a nutshell, is that we can be flying our lives upside down too. We can be on a collision course with disaster and feel just great about it….even proud. But, we are flying blindly, and just like pilots, if we do not take in information to give us a reality check we are very likely to make the wrong move and meet with some kind of life disaster.

For the most part, I am not talking about physical disasters, which threaten physical life like those that face pilots. I am talking about disasters of the human spirit, which kill relationships and human God given potential. People get themselves onto this collision course with disaster by protecting themselves from input that might suggest needed change.

In the pilot’s situation, there are gauges and/or the horizon and stars to give them input for continuous course-corrections. But they become disoriented in the dark or dense clouds without gauges giving them feedback.

In life we sometimes protect ourselves from feedback that might serve as a reality check for self-corrections. Some people develop self-concepts of perfection that become like armor against any incoming information to the contrary. They seemingly will choose the collision course with disaster over hearing that they might need to change. The individuals go on the immediate defense at the first sign of even gentle criticism. Essentially, their personality becomes a closed system, with little or nothing of value given or received.

Whether in families, among friends, or in the workplace this defensive protection of the ego is one of the most toxic of all relationship problems. And, it is a common problem, driven by continuous self-talk that creates anxiety, which maintains the lies and resists the truth.

Most all of our behaviors were thoughts first. So keeping good healthy thoughts going throughout internal computers is just as important to our personalities and clean healthy food is to our bodies. We live in a fallen world where that is difficult and we are inundated with negatives and fears. So how do we get unstuck if the wrong thoughts have been running too long?

Our Father in Heaven is our creator, lifter, and perfecter of our souls. He sent Jesus and the Holy Spirit to transform our lives. Jesus told us He came to testify to the truth, and demonstrated He loved us more than life itself. Our faith in Him is transforming and lifts even the most insecure person into the glow of His acceptance. Accepting and seeking after Jesus is the pathway to personal growth and truth. Pray! Read his Word! Memorize transforming scriptures. And Praise His Holy Name!!

2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

Romans 12:2
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Philippians 4:8
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. And the God of all grace will be with you.

You can connect with Cheri on Twitter: @CheriDouglas or on her blog: 

Monday, March 5, 2012

Renewing Your Mind, Day 4

This post is by guest blogger Sara Lowe of @SaraLowe927 on twitter. see her websites below.     

Many Christians struggle with anger, impure thoughts, unbelief and other conflicts in their minds. Conflicting thoughts will come as long as we are on this earth, but what do we do with them? How may we change so that they become less and less of a problem?

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2 (NASB)

Transfigure, transform, and change are the powerful meanings of the original Greek word for transformed in the verse above.

It is the same word used for Christ’s transformation on the Mount of Transfiguration when he shone with the brightness of his divinity.

So, this is not a weak word! This is a powerful word. We may be assured that this power can and will work in our lives.

We will be transformed how? By the renewing of our mind. For what purpose? To know the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

We are not going to shine like our Lord and Savor on that glory-filled mountain. But we are going to participate in the wisdom, the kingdom and the purpose of the Lord. What a promise!

Look at the next key word in the verse from Romans: renewal. It means a renovation, a complete change for the better. Imagine that old shack in the neighborhood torn down and replaced with a lovely new home. That’s renovation.

Notice that the Romans verse says ‘be transformed.’ Uh-oh. That means the responsibility falls on me to be involved. God does His part but I must do mine. You must do yours.

Loving the Lord, following His commands, and leaning on the Holy Spirit as counselor and guide will result in a mental renaissance. What specific disciplines will aid us?

  • Reading the Bible in a thoughtful, quiet way, safe from the busyness of the world. Talk to the Lord and listen for Him to speak to your heart.
  • Memorizing Scripture so that your mind has tools.
  • Learning Scriptures specific to your problem.

The Bible is going to be one of the most powerful tools you have.

Wise Christians encourage us that ‘garbage in, garbage out’ holds true when it comes to some entertainment choices today. Our culture has become death-obsessed (all the vampire stories) vulgar and choked with sex and violence. Consider if some of your choices need to change.

Choices in whether we make our minds a garden or a patch of weeds are key also. Do we linger on pessimistic, negative or sinful thoughts or do we follow the admonition here:

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me-put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you." Philippians 4:8-9 (NIV)