How to Strengthen Your Mind

As you may well know, human beings are a three-part being; which means that every person is made up of body, soul and spirit.

  1. The body allows us to interact with the physical world.
  2. The soul allows us to respond to the intellectual and emotional world.
  3. The spirit allows us to relate to the spiritual world.

Each part of this system is extremely important!

  1. Without the body, we would have no contact with the world.
  2. Without the soul, we would have no ability to think or feel.
  3. Without the spirit, we would not have the ability to commune with God.

Of course, when we leave this world, the body ceases to be a part of who we are. Even when the body is raised at the end of time, it will be a different type of body than the one we have today, 1 Corinthians 15:42-44.

At death, if you are saved, your spirit will have already been made alive in Jesus and is sealed by Him until the “day of redemption,” Ephesians 4:30.

In other words, the body will drop away and be changed while the spirit has already been changed. What we have left is the soul.

The soul of a person is the seat of the mind, the will, and our emotions. It is where we think, feel and decide. It is also the place where all of the conflicts we face in this life begin!

The mind is the ultimate battlefield of this life. The Lord, our own flesh (that negative base side of who we are) and the enemy (the devil or Satan) are all battling for control of our mind. Why does the battle rage here in the mind? Because the Bible says, “For as a person thinks in his heart, so is he…” Proverbs 23:7, NASB.

We need to understand that the battle which is raging in the mind is a spiritual battle. Ultimately, it is a battle between good and evil for the control of our lives. Since this is a spiritual battle, we cannot fight in our own strength or use the common weapons of warfare, we must fight with spiritual resources, 2 Corinthians 10:3-5; Ephesians 6:10-18.

Today, I want you to know that…

  1. You do NOT have to lose this battle for your mind!
  2. You do NOT have to be defeated in your walk with the Lord.
  3. You do NOT have to be a slave to worry, anxiety, thoughts, feelings, and fear.
  4. You do NOT have to live a life controlled by the lusts and desires of the body!
  5. You can live your life under the control of the Spirit of God. You can win the battle!

How, you might ask? The first thing you need to know is that it doesn’t happen automatically! You have to take certain steps that will allow it to happen in your life, Romans 12:2; Ephesians 4:23; 1 Peter 1:13.

As we take the step in 1 Peter 1:13 to “think clearly and exercise self-control,” we put ourselves in a position where the Lord may renew the mind. The word “transform” in Romans 12:2 and the word “renewed” in Ephesians 4:23 are both in the passive voice. They are something done to and in the child of God.

Secondly, we need to know that we do NOT have to do this alone. We have the Lord’s promise in 2 Timothy 1:7, that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind, (or of discipline). So, today, I want to take these verses in Philippians 4 and show you Paul’s plan for victory in the battlefield of the mind.

I want to share with you five simple steps that teach us all How to Strengthen the Mind. If followed, these steps will help us to build a wall of protection around our minds. They will help us to achieve victory in the daily struggle we all face.

1. BUILD THE WALL OF PRAISE (Philippians 4:4)

A repeated refrain in Philippians is Paul’s command for believers to “rejoice.” He uses this word in the imperative form, and it is so important that he immediately repeats the command. This word means “to be glad.” I discovered that this word is in the present tense, active voice and imperative mood. All that means is, the believer is commanded to “keep on being glad in the Lord.”

Now, let’s face it, life is tough, and not much of it lends itself to our happiness! In fact, when Paul penned these words, he was bound by chains between two Romans soldiers while in a prison cell. Even in the midst of this hardship, Paul knew that regardless of the circumstances of life, God never changes, God never leaves, God never forsakes. That is why we are told to “rejoice in the Lord.” We don’t rejoice in the circumstances, he says to rejoice “in the Lord.” You see, people will change, circumstances will change and life constantly changes, but the Lord never changes! He is constant, he is faithful, and he will always walk through this life right beside us.

Since this is true, we can learn to rejoice in who He is, what He has done for us, and what He is doing in our lives. Even if the road is hard, remember that

  1. God has a detailed plan for your life, Psalm 37:23.
  2. God has promised to make all things work for good, Romans 8:28.
  3. God has promised to go with you through everything in life, Hebrews 13:5.
  4. God has promised you abiding victory, 1 Corinthians 15:57; Romans 8:37.
  5. God has promised you that the destination will be worth every step of the way, Romans 8:18; 2 Corinthians 4:17.

Therefore, even when you can’t be happy about your life, learn to be happy in the Lord! Build the wall of praise into your life!

2. BUILD THE WALL OF PATIENCE (Philippians 4:5)

The word “gentleness” literally means “considerate or gracious spirit.” It has been translated in a variety of ways:

  1. Wycliffe translates it patience,
  2. Tyndale uses the word softness,
  3. King James uses the word moderation.

It has the idea of being patient with other people; of yielding to the rights and wishes of others in this life. It does NOT mean we are to compromise in our doctrinal beliefs in the name of tolerance, but it does mean that you have a willingness to take the back seat in favor of other people. This is the same idea that Paul introduces back in Philippians 2:4. Thinking of others as more important than yourself.

Paul is saying that the reality of our faith should be demonstrated in how we treat other people. If the focus of our lives is on ourselves, then when people hurt us, slight us, cross us, there will be a desire to retaliate and get even.

Paul wants us to take the focus off of ourselves, and put it onto other people. When we are focused on people around us, we will be less likely to be hurt by what other people do. What they say won’t sting us so bad, because we are not focused on ourselves. How they act can be passed over more easily when we focus on THEIR hurts, their situation or their well-being. It has been said that “hurting people hurt people.” So when people hurt us, we ought to seek to discover what is happening in THEIR life to have behaved the way they did. I’m not saying it’s easy, but it is the right thing to do.

When we adopt the mentality of self-love which is all around us, we will always look at the things people do and say as a personal attack. It will cause us to wear our feelings on our sleeves and to be more easily hurt by the words and actions of others.

This will cause us problems in the mind because we dwell on what was done or what was said. If we can learn to accept other people just as they are and overlook how they act and what they do that hurt us, it will protect our mind from dwelling in negative areas. It will build a wall of protection around the mind that others cannot penetrate!

The bottom line is this, if we can learn to live in genuine contentment, Philippians 4:11, then it won’t matter what anyone says or does to us. The mind will be protected from the evil that it likes to find in others. The devil loves nothing better than to get your eyes off Jesus and onto the faults of others! The flesh loves nothing better than to go along with the devil in accusing others and judging others. When this happens, the mind is in danger!

3. BUILD THE WALL OF PRAYER (Philippians 4:5b-7)

Philippians 4:6 warns us against the dangers of worry. The word used for anxiety in the NASB, is translated in other places as “careful” or “be careful.” The idea of “anxiety” comes from the term, “to be troubled with cares.” It refers to a state of mind that is agitated over the events and circumstances of life. There is nothing wrong with having concerns, we all have them, but it is when your concerns have you that the problems begin to spring up!

Worry is so dangerous because it allows the mind to conceive false notions about God, others and the world around us. Worry says, “God is dead!” Or, “If there is a God, he obviously doesn’t care about me and my situation.” Both of those statements are false! God is certainly alive, Hebrews 7:25, and God does care, Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 5:7.

When the problems of life come our way, we are given some wonderful help in these verses.

  1. The Lord is near (Philippians 4:5) – This refers NOT only to his second coming, but that He is always near to His children – Hebrews 13:5-6.
  2. Exercise the tool of prayer (Philippians 4:6) – Paul speaks of prayer, supplication and requests. These might be thought of as general praying, specific praying and detailed praying. The main point of this verse is that instead of worrying, the believer is to demonstrate his faith in the power and the will of God by seeking the Lord in prayer!
  3. Develop a thankful heart (Philippians 4:6) – Regardless of the situations you face in life, learn to praise the Lord through all of them. Nothing brings Him nearer or drives the devil away any faster than a genuinely thankful heart!

The Lord’s promise to us is that He will replace our worries with HIS PEACE when we come before Him in trusting, humble prayer. The word “keep” or “guard” in Philippians 4:7 means “to garrison, or build a fort around, or to post a military guard.” The Lord promises to post a guard around the heart and mind of the person who trusts Him with the needs of life. Instead of worrying yourself sick about things you can’t change, learn to lean on the Lord in prayer! Build the wall of prayer!

4. BUILD THE WALL OF PURITY (Philippians 4:8)

All of these words Paul uses in this verse are a clear picture of the Word of God. God’s Word is true – John 17:17. Since the Bible is true, everything it says fits within these categories mentioned by Paul. It is honest (honorable), it is just (right), it is pure (holy, clean), it is lovely (beautiful), it is of a good report (good reputation), it is full of virtue (excellence) and worthy of praise (that which leans toward worship).

What we must do is fix our minds upon the things of God, things that are from above. The source for discovering these things worthy of filling our minds is the Word of God. In other words, if we will fill our minds with the Words of God, there will be no room left for evil, no room for worry, no room for fear, no room for vengeance, no room for immorality, no room for confusion or trouble. A mind filled with the Word of God and a mind led by the Word of God is a stable, fortified and strong mind!

So, if you want a stable, strong, and godly mind, the best place to develop it is with the Bible. We must take the initiative and force the mind to dwell on the Bible and what it says, instead of allowing the mind to run toward evil, or gossip, or slander, or sexuality, or immorality, or other people and what they are doing, or our problems. A mind saturated with Scripture and fixed upon the Word of God is a stable mind.

This is something that you must do for yourself!

  1. The church cannot fortify your mind.
  2. The church cannot keep you from dwelling on negative thoughts.
  3. A Sunday School class or a small group cannot build a wall of protection around you.
  4. No one is ever transformed when the motivation is external.

Just like running a marathon, I can surround myself with encouragers cheering me on toward the finish line, but if I am not inwardly motivated to finish, I will give up and will stop short.

The Christian life is very similar. If I am told what to do in order to grow spiritually yet fail to have the inward motivation of pleasing God in all that I do, or fail to walk in a manner worthy of being called a child of God, I WILL live a mediocre life.

How long will I be obedient to God if my motivation for Christianity is to avoid hell rather than loving and serving God out of a grateful heart and mind? Fortifying your mind is something that YOU do to yourself, it is not something done TO you or FOR you.

5. BUILD THE WALL OF PRACTICE (Philippians 4:9)

These things you have LEARNED and RECEIVED and HEARD and SEEN in me, PRACTICE these things; and the God of peace shall be with you.

Do you notice how relational this verse is? Sometimes we think it reads, “If you want the peace of God, do the things I taught you.” This is not like a class or a sermon where we take notes; it involves walking through this life with other people. The Christian faith is caught more than it is taught.

Paul tells the Philippians to practice the things you have seen and heard in his own life. For us, it’s NOT that we have it all together, like we’re perfect in this life. Perfection is a goal, but it will never happen this side of heaven.

You’ve heard the phrase, “Practice makes perfect?” Well, statement is wrong. If you practice it wrong, you will NOT get it right. Ask any musician. The real truth is in the phrase, “Practice makes permanent.” As you practice the rift on the guitar or the violin, you may start out slow, even at half speed, but you MUST get it right before you practice, practice and practice some more. If you learn it wrong, you will play it wrong.

If YOU want permanent change in your life, you may start out slowly, but the more you practice it under the accountability of a trusted mentor or friend, the more permanent the transformation will become.

NEXT STEPS:

  1. Which wall is needed most in your life right now?
  2. Name a person who is spiritually mature that you will seek out to help you grow in this area.
  3. How will you begin to make a change in your life to fortify your mind?
    1. Challenge: Who will you tell about this commitment?
    2. Covenant: When will you seek out this accountability person?
    3. Commandment: Love God with ALL your heart, soul, and MIND (Matthew 22:37)

Your mind is a precious gift from God. It can be used for good or for evil and all the forces of good and evil are battling for your mind all the time. Who wins the battle is always determined by you! No one can control your mind, but you. We are told in the Bible that we need to fortify the mind, it is our job, individually, and it cannot be passed off to another person.

This is a very critical matter, because how you THINK determines how you will LIVE your life, Proverbs 23:7 (As a person thinks within himself, so is he, NASB). Until the mind is settled, all of life is out of control – James 1:8. (a double-minded man is unstable in his ways), so I challenge you to strengthen your mind!

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10 Things About Discipleship

I don’t know about you, but I need to be reminded about certain things on a regular basis. As I think through discipleship, here’s my current list of things I need to know:

  1. It takes a disciple to make a disciple: While I sometimes argue that anyone can host a small group (even a non-Christian), only a disciple can make a disciple. Make sure that you are one of HIS before you attempt to disciple someone else.
  2. Real disciples make disciples: I think this is an important distinction. It means that if you’re not actively making disciples, you probably aren’t a disciple. How are you investing in other people?
  3. Disciples are rarely made in rows: From an environmental angle, a disciple is far more likely to made in a circle. After all, becoming a disciple has far less to do with digesting information (like in a class) and far more to do with spending time with those who are becoming like Him. One rule for relationship is that we become more like those with whom we spend time.
  4. You don’t have to arrive before you begin making disciples: (see Philippians 3:12-14 if you don’t believe me). We never arrive, we are always in process. If we feel that we have arrived, we neglect to see how far we still need to go.
  5. You don’t have to use printed curriculum to make disciples: The early disciples made it happen even before they had the New Testament, much less a curriculum.
  6. You don’t become a disciple by completing a course or curriculum: While some studies might be better at generating the kinds of conversations that open eyes and soften hearts, completing a study or a course isn’t like completing a degree program that qualifies you to use a title or certain letters after your name (like Reverend or Phd).
  7. Completing a course or curriculum also doesn’t make you disciple maker: You might earn a credential, but what makes you a disciple maker is that you’re actually making disciples, investing into others.
  8. Disciple-making takes time: You can’t microwave a disciple; it takes a crock pot. The process won’t be hurried. A real disciple is always becoming more like Jesus. It’s what gives the disciple-maker the opportunity to say, “here’s what the Lord is showing me right now.”
  9. Disciples invest in others: Like the servants in Matthew 25, every one of us is given opportunity to invest in others, “according to our ability.”
  10. “Make disciples” was Jesus’ final command: It was his marching orders to his disciples. It isn’t optional or reserved for those with the credential. It is a command for all of us.

By the way, these are the top 10 things I need to know about discipleship. Are they yours? Maybe. You may need to develop your own list.

[From Mark Howell through Pastors.com]

The Importance of Purity

God gave man and woman the joy and pleasure of sexual relations within the bounds of marriage, and the Bible is clear about the importance of maintaining sexual purity within the boundaries of that union between man and wife (Ephesians 5:31). We take this to extremes, outside of marriage and it causes all sorts of troubles. The secular world’s philosophy of “if it feels good, do it” permeates our culture to the point where sexual purity is seen as archaic and unnecessary.

Let’s look at what God says about sexual purity.

You should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5, 7).

This passage outlines God’s reasons for calling for sexual purity in the lives of His followers.

We are “sanctified” and for that reason, we are to avoid sexual immorality.

  1. The Greek word translated “sanctified” means literally “purified, made holy, consecrated [unto God].”
  2. As Christians, we are to live a purified life because we have been made holy by the exchange of our sin for the righteousness of Christ on the cross and have been made completely new creations in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17-21).
  3. Our old natures, with all their impurities, sexual and otherwise, have died and now the life we live, we live by faith in the One who died for us (Galatians 2:20).
  4. To continue in sexual impurity (fornication) is to deny that and doing so is, in fact, a legitimate reason to question whether we have ever truly been born again.
  5. Sanctification, the process by which we become more and more Christlike, is an essential evidence of the reality of our salvation.

We see the necessity of controlling our bodies.

  1. When we give in to sexual immorality, we give evidence that the Holy Spirit is not indwelling us because we do not possess one of the fruits of the Spirit—self-control.
  2. All believers display the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) to a greater or lesser degree depending on the length of time they have walked with God.
  3. Uncontrolled “passionate lust” is a work of the flesh (Galatians 5:19), not of the Spirit. So controlling our lusts and living sexually pure lives is essential to anyone who professes to know Christ. In doing so, we honor God with our bodies (1 Corinthians 6:18-20).

We know God’s rules and discipline reflect His love for us.

  1. Following what God says can only help us during our time on earth.
  2. By maintaining sexual purity before marriage, we avoid past emotional entanglements that may negatively affect present relationships and marriages.
  3. Further by keeping the marriage bed pure (Hebrews 13:4), we can experience unreserved love for our mates, which is surpassed only by God’s enormous love for us.

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Enhancing Your Health

I have a confession to make, I tend to work too much. I don’t separate my life into neat little compartments. I discovered this past weekend (at the Dave Ramsey EntreLeadership event) that we must pay attention to seven areas of our lives or we will become unbalanced. We must put these areas into balance: career, financial, spiritual, family, intellectual, physical and social. If we focus on one over the rest or neglect one in favor of the rest, we will get a “flat” in this “wheel of life.” This is a confessional; I need discipline in this area. The point is, it is for my health, not just for better time management.

Quotes:

While we may not be called to martyr our lives, we must martyr our way of life. We must put our selfish ways to death and march to a different beat. Then the world will see Jesus. — Michael Tait

We all live in a fallen world, are damaged, and need to be healed as we grow in our relationships with others and God. — Dan Allender

Top 10 Ways to Enhance Your Health:

  1. Tame workaholism and stress through spiritual disciplines.
  2. Protect your sleep as the gift of God.
  3. Eat when you are hungry; stop when you are full.
  4. Choose fresh, natural foods over processed ones.
  5. Integrate moderate exercise to sharpen mind and body.
  6. Seek balance between work and play, community and solitude.
  7. Use godly resources emotional and sexual health.
  8. Keep your conscience clear of sin and unforgiveness.
  9. Stimulate your mind through diverse reading and study.
  10. Learn to listen to the condition of your body, soul and spirit.