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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Loving God and Obedience

The love of God is so strong that he pursues us in this love relationship, yet it is not supposed to be a one-sided relationship. God desires that we love him back. The verse for this week is one of love, obedience and trust:

He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him. (John 14:21)

When we obey Jesus, we show him that we love him. The reward for obedience is that he will show himself to us. It is not just keeping the letter of the LAW, but keeping the SPIRIT of the Law. Where there is an obedience problem, there is a love problem!

I like to pair two verses together:

For God so loved the world, that He gave His [a]only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 1 John 3:16)

There are three trustworthy statements regarding the attributes of God (This is a conditional statements):

  1. If God is love, then his ways are always best.
  2. If God is all-knowing, then his directions are always right.
  3. If God is all-powerful, then he can enable you to do his will.

When it comes to God’s commands, they are also an expression of his love. Sometimes we tend to think that God’s rules are there to keep us from having fun or enjoying life, but actually there are two great reasons to obey God’s Word:

  1. God wants to protect us.
  2. God wants to provide the best for us.

Read what God said at the very beginning of the nation of Israel:

He said to them, “Take to your heart all the words with which I am warning you today, which you shall command your sons to observe carefully, even all the words of this law. 47 For it is not an idle word for you; indeed it is your life. And by this word you will prolong your days in the land, which you are about to cross the Jordan to possess. (Deuteronomy 32:26-27)

When your son asks you in time to come, saying, ‘What do the testimonies and the statutes and the judgments mean which the Lord our God commanded you?’ 21 then you shall say to your son, ‘We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and the Lord brought us from Egypt with a mighty hand. 22 Moreover, the Lord showed great and distressing signs and wonders before our eyes against Egypt, Pharaoh and all his household; 23 He brought us out from there in order to bring us in, to give us the land which He had sworn to our fathers.’ 24 So the Lord commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God for our good always and for our survival, as it is today. 25 It will be righteousness for us if we are careful to observe all this commandment before the Lord our God, just as He commanded. (Deuteronomy 6:20-25)

Notice the progression:

  1. When you come to know God by experience, you will be convinced of his love.
  2. When you are convinced of his love, you will believe him.
  3. When you believe him, you will come to trust him.
  4. When you trust him, you will have confidence to obey him.

You would listen to the guy who has the information to avoid land mines in a war zone, so why will we not trust the God who created this world, loves us and wants to protect us and provide the best for us?

God is looking out for your very best, so if you will not obey him, it means you really don’t trust him or love him.

LifeShape 6 the Hexagon

This information is not original with me, but from a fascinating book I found entitled, “The Passionate Church: The Art of Life-Changing Discipleship.” Since I am a visual learner, I have included my personally designed diagrams along with my own notes to help in my disciple-making and teaching efforts.

Learning to pray according to the model Jesus gave us in the Lord’s Prayer will renew your church’s prayer life.

Once Jesus was in a certain place praying. As he finished, one of his disciples came to him and said, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” Jesus said, “This is how you should pray: “Father, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. Give us each day the food we need, 4 and forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation.” — Luke 11:1-4

The disciples were full-time students, learning practical faith by watching Jesus in action. We are not told to pray for everything we need for the rest of our lives, but only for today. Using the Model Prayer of Jesus found in the Sermon on the Mount, let us learn to pray as Jesus did.

Pray like this: Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us today the food we need, and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one. — Matthew 6:9-13

The Hexagon in the Lord’s Prayer:

Our Father in Heaven – Here is an important relational concept: Father. Jesus used the Aramaic word Abba, meaning Daddy. This implies the intimacy we have with God. Jesus is teaching us to have this right relationship that He enjoys with the Father, which transcends physical presence. (This is eternal life, that they know You, the one true God – John 17:3)

May Your Name Be Kept Holy – God is very close yet different. We offer reverence and respect to our God who is holy. We acknowledge that He is what we desire to be; we long for Christ-likeness.

May Your Kingdom Come Soon. May Your Will Be Done on Earth As it is in Heaven – Our Father is not just a King, He is the King. We want His kingdom to advance in this world. We desire what You desire. (Glorify Me in Your presence with the glory I had with You before the world began – John 17:5).

Give Us Today the Food We Need – Human beings are needy things, and we admit it; food, water, shelter, health, emotional and spiritual needs. Whatever the hunger, He provides. (Now they know that everything You have given Me comes from You – John 17:7).

Forgive Us Our Sins As We Have Forgiven Those Whose Sin is Against Us – God has given us some territory that is ours, and we often stray from the territory on to land that belongs to someone else and we incur a debt we cannot pay. When we transgress against another we are saying, “God, what You have given to me is not enough” and we must seek forgiveness. Lord, keep us from being indebted to You in withholding forgiveness from others. (I have brought You glory on earth by completing the work You gave Me to do – John 17:4).

Don’t Let Us Yield to Temptation – now the prayer is dealing with our relationship with the Father, and then those around us. Here it changes to where we go out into the world with God’s message. Take us into the world to do Your work, but give us the strength to be in the world but not of the world. (Sanctify them by the truth, Your word is truth – John 17:17).

Rescue Us From the Evil One – There is an enemy of our soul, who desires that we participate in what is evil. If we are led astray, we will actually end up in the hands of the evil one. The thief comes to kill and destroy, but Jesus came that we might have life. (My prayer is not that You take them out of the world but that You protect them from the evil one – John 17:15).

Run Away or Trust God?

Paul and Barnabas shared quite a lot together. Today I’ll write about two episodes on their journey with different outcomes.

When they arrived at Iconium, as usual, the two would first go to the local synagogue (Acts 14:1), where the norm is that the Jews would begin to poison the minds of the people to prevent the gospel message from entering the hearts of the people (Acts 14:2). But our missionaries were faithful and fearless, proclaiming the gospel boldly and even working miracles among the people (Acts 14:3). Then comes the real trouble.

In their boldness you would think they would make their stand and trust God to protect them, but they did the unexpected, they ran (Acts 14:5, 6). Could not God have done a miracle to protect His witnesses? They were already doing signs and wonders, what’s one more to keep the ministry going? They fled and preached elsewhere.

God made these two smart. They were not running out of fear but responding with wisdom (Proverbs 22:3). Even Jesus would elude people who meant Him harm (John 7:1), and slipped away when the crowd picked up stones to kill Him (John 8:59). No one would mistake what Jesus did for fear or cowardice. Jesus explains that His time had not yet come (John 7:30). There was a purpose for miracles back in the day:

  1. Miracles were more for authenticating the message of the gospel than for divine intervention.
  2. Miracles were often used when natural means were either not available or not conceivable.

When the disciples were hungry Jesus did not do a miracle but usually found something to eat. When they were thirsty they would go to a well and draw water. Today, whether God uses natural or supernatural means to deliver us from danger, both or divine provisions. If you have ever been attacked or injured and wonder why you were not delivered, there’s more to this story of Paul and Barnabas.

On to Lystra for the next episode. Sometimes we think that one good miracle would convince people of the truth and get right with God, but it can also have a negative effect (Acts 14:11). After one miracle the people declared Paul and Barnabas to be gods, which was not their desired outcome. Not only were these two men smart, they were also sincere. They immediately spoke up declaring themselves to be mere men (Acts 14:14, 15). They maintained their integrity and did not allow the crowd to elevate them. A big miracle about now might have been helpful, but the people decided to cast stones at them, leaving Paul for dead (Acts 14:19).

I can imagine that the face of Stephen came into Paul’s mind as he was being stoned to death (Acts 6:15). But Paul endured this hardship and so much more, crediting God for delivering him from them all (2 Timothy 3:10, 11). I would rather be delivered before the first stone rather than after the last one, but Paul describes both situations as God’s divine rescue.

Remember that God did not just want to get Paul out of difficulty or danger; He wanted Paul to draw closer to Himself. That is the point each time we are delivered from a difficult situation.

Application: How many times have you felt that God had abandoned you in your time of need or distress? Your prayers just hit the ceiling and God was so distant. Remember that He promises to walk with us through the valley of the shadow of death, not necessarily to deliver us from that danger (Psalm 23:4). Do you see the miraculous in everyday life? How lives and relationships can come back together? How believers can respond to evil with good? Do you see God’s direction and protection as you walk through this antagonistic world? God gives us His wisdom and His presence. Walking with God may not be easy, but it is definitely worth it.