Monday, October 31, 2011

31 Days :: Day 31 ~ Are you ready for some action?

As we wrap up our 31 day journey, I want to leave you with the words of my favorite disciple.

I Peter 1:13 ~ Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (ESV)

What the ESV translates as "preparing your minds for action" is translated "gird up the loins of your mind" in quite a few other translations. They both mean the same thing, but I have to tell you, I rather like the imagery of "girding up the loins of your mind." In Biblical times people wore long robes and "girding up your loins" meant to tuck garments up and away from the legs so you'd be free to work, serve, run, or fight.

As we move forward into Thanksgiving and Christmas and a New Year, let's prepare our minds for whatever action God has for us. As we exercise daily renewing, our minds won't be so quick to wander off into hopelessness, won't be consumed by fear, won't be overwhelmed by a to-do list that never ends.

Instead, we will choose to remember, choose to renew, choose to be still and know, and choose to set our hope on the plentiful grace that is ours - now and for all eternity.


When I started this series a month ago, I was worried that I might run out of topics. To my surprise, I have a list of verses and themes that I didn't have time to touch. So this topic may reappear from time to time in various "Mindful Mondays" posts. After all, renewing isn't just a 31 day's the journey of a lifetime.

If you've enjoyed this series, I hope you'll continue to follow along as I switch gears and resume my regular blogging schedule. I'll be focusing on giving thanks in November. Please join me!

Grace and peace,

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Saturday, October 29, 2011

31 Days :: Day 29 ~ Does it do any good?

Mark 12:29-31 ~ Jesus answered, The most important is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these. (ESV)

Have you ever heard this said about anyone? "He's so heavenly minded he's no earthly good."

Yeah. Me neither.

For most of us, that saying would be better reversed . . . She's so earthly minded she's no heavenly good.


Renewing our minds is not just an exercise in logic or reasoning or discipline. A mind that is truly renewed will start giving you some radical assignments.
  • Maybe you should go on that short-term mission trip.
  • Maybe you should help out at the homeless shelter.
  • Maybe you should give more of that money (that you now realize isn't actually yours) to further God's Kingdom.
  • Maybe you should ask your - friend, parent, sibling, spouse, coworker - for forgiveness.
  • Maybe you should invite your neighbors over for dinner and get to know them.
As we discussed several weeks ago, this isn't about adding to your to-do list. This is about re-purposing your to-do list.

On the heels of telling us to love God with everything we have, Jesus follows with "and love your neighbor as yourself" and tells us there are no commandments greater.

If I can look across the cul-de-sac and not be moved by the faces I see - faces of people who need Jesus - then I'm not fulfilling this most important command.

Only a mind, continually renewed, will be able to look past the yapping dogs, crowing roosters, too high grass, and annoyingly parked cars, and see a soul beloved of God. A soul Jesus died for. A soul the Holy Spirit may, right now, be softening to the Truth that you have. And you have it ready because you've been dwelling on it. And when the Holy Spirit opens the door, you can walk right through it.

As we move forward, we have lots of head knowledge. Maybe you've learned something new this month. Maybe you've been reminded of things you used to know but had forgotten.

My prayer is that as I (and you!) focus on daily renewing my mind, that it will spill out. That I will splash grace everywhere I go. That I'll see what God is up to and that I'll be a willing participant in His plan.

Please, Abba, may it do some good.

Friday, October 28, 2011

31 Days :: Day 28 ~ Does it matter?

Mark 12:30 ~ And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. (ESV)

We've come to our final weekend of focusing on renewing. It's been a fun journey for me. I hope it has been for you as well.

As we wrap up our time on this topic, let's take a look at what Jesus had to say about our minds.

The religious rulers of that time had taken the laws provided in the Old Testament and expanded upon them. Their "Do and Don't" list was around 600 items long!

In a few brief words, Jesus took their list and annihilated it. He reminded them of ancient commands found in Deuteronomy and said, "Listen, it's easy. Love the Lord your God with all you've got." (Lynn's paraphrase!)

I checked...the word for mind here includes your intellect, imagination, and intent. So we know what we're talking about.

Or do we?

How on earth do you love God with your mind? Love Him with your heart and soul? Check. We get that. Most of us can play that song on the piano. Love Him with your strength? Well, it's a little less obvious, but at an intuitive level, we grasp the idea of loving fiercely and with everything that is in us.

But love God with your mind? Minds - brains - intellect - not usually something you think of as loving.

The love commanded here is agape. The kind of love only fully exhibited by God. The kind of love we are called to as believers. The kind of love we are incapable of expressing without the power of the Holy Spirit.

And I found this definition in Strong's . . . true agapáō ("loving") is always defined by God – a "discriminating affection which involves choice and selection". Another definition I found says that it denotes the love of reason.

Loving God is a choice you make with your mind.

I can't love God with all of my mind if my framework is skewed.

I can't love God with all of my mind if I'm deceived about what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise.

I can't love God with all of my mind if I've forgotten who I am, how much it cost to redeem me, and why I'm still here.

When they asked Jesus for the most important commandment, He said love the Lord your God . . . with all your mind.

Renewing matters.

You can read past entries in the 31 Days of Renewing series here.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

31 Days :: Day 27 ~ Does your imagination need a reality check?

Isaiah 26:3 ~ You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. (ESV)

Yesterday we unpacked some tough stuff.

It won't be much easier today.


Please understand that there is nothing I've written about in the past month that I feel I have a handle on. And that includes - maybe I should say that is especially true - of today's subject.

As I pulled this verse apart, looking at the Hebrew meanings of each word, I found another word that I thought I knew the meaning of.


Seems straightforward enough, right? After all, that's what we've been studying all month. But the Hebrew word that is translated here as mind has a very interesting definition. Strong's concordance gives the short definition as "intent" but then further defines the word as . . .
frame, thing framed, imagination, mind, work
I spent a while confused about this, trying to get from frame to imagination. But then an idea started to form. Hebrew scholars might scoff, but this is what I came up with.

All of us have a framework we think from. A world view. Our thoughts and imagination are built on this frame.

And in most cases, our frame is skewed.

Here's an example...those of us who lived in the United States tend to assume that we have been blessed by God. We are thankful we live where we live, with freedoms, opportunities, clean air, clean water, warm houses, and an ample food supply. We might not say it out loud, but we think these things reveal that God has blessed us. That we are, somehow, favored.

But Christians who have ministered to believers in some of the poorest parts of the world have reported that those believers feel sorry for us. They have nothing. They live in poverty. They live in filth. They suffer daily pain that we wouldn't tolerate for more than five minutes before we'd popped some Tylenol.

Yet their lives are characterized by joy and they pity us. Why? Because we have so much stuff our minds and hearts are too cluttered to revel in the miracle of Christ in us.

They have nothing. But they have Jesus. And He is everything.

Can you say that? Honestly? Maybe you're like me. I believe it.

But I don't live it.

And it made me wonder...

What if the truth is that in the spiritual realm, they are the favored ones?

With less distraction, less stuff, do their frames square more with God? Maybe.

I know that within my twisted framework, my imagination runs wild and I think others have more, are happier, are healthier, are blessed more than I am. And then I sulk because God isn't giving me what I want.

And I wonder why I have no peace.

There is no hope for skewed frames and unruly imaginations, other than to surrender them to God. In our materialistic and me-centered society, daily renewing of our minds is crucial to bringing our view of the world and our place in it in line with God's.

How's your frame today?

Got an imagination that needs a reality check?

Yeah. Me, too.

Isaiah 26:3 ~ You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. (ESV)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

31 Days :: Day 26 ~ Do you long for peace?

Isaiah 26:3 ~ You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. (ESV)

Today, we are diving into the Old Testament for a look at one of my favorite verses. And one that makes a tantalizing promise . . . one I sometimes feel is virtually unattainable.

Perfect peace.

Shalom, a name of God (Hebrew characters). &qu...The Hebrew for "Shalom" (thanks Wikipedia!)Can you even imagine what a life characterized by perfect peace would look like? Does every part of your being long for such an ideal? Mine does.

And it should. Because we were made for perfect peace. Adam and Eve experienced it in the garden and there is a longing, deep within our souls, for what was lost.

The Hebrew word we  translate as "peace" is "shalom." It looks like this - שָׁלֹ֑ום - and it turns out that in the literal Hebrew, the word "perfect" does not appear in this verse. It actually says "שָׁלֹ֑ום שָׁלֹ֑ום" or "shalom, shalom." I'm no more a Hebrew scholar than I am a Greek scholar, but according to the commentaries I read, when a word is doubled it is done so for emphasis and to denote the certainty of the word.

Peace upon peace. Double peace. Absolute peace. Oh, yeah. That's what I want.

I think...

The ESV Study Bible says that shalom...
"had a much richer connotation than the English word does since in conveyed not merely the absence of conflict but also the notion of positive blessing, especially in terms of a right relationship with God, and also, as a result, the idea that "all is well" in one's life. This may be manifested most clearly amid persecution and tribulation."
Insert screeching tire sounds here!

Wait just a minute. Shalom is manifested most clearly amid persecution and tribulation? That's not what I think of when I think of peace.

Which brings us back to our minds. As we've been studying, we need to constantly be in the process of renewing our minds. One way to do that is to think about truth. To focus on the Truth even what is true in our lives stinks.

We believe the Bible is true and this verse promises "perfect peace" to the one who can keep his mind "stayed" on God.

Sounds like a lot of hard work, doesn't it?

I thought so, until I looked up the word for "stayed". Guess what it means in Hebrew?
To lean, lay, rest
Resting, leaning - those things don't require more work.

They require surrender.

The mind resting in full surrender on God - His truth, His will, His love, His plan - will know that all is well in their world, despite tribulation and suffering.

I don't know about you, but this is a lot for me to get my mind around. Let's talk about it more tomorrow.


Today's post made me think of the hymn Like a River Glorious by Frances Ridley Havergal. I've included Verse 3 and the chorus for you to ponder.

Verse 3

Ev'ry joy or trial
Falleth from above,
Traced upon our dial

By the Sun of Love;
We may trust Him fully
All for us to do
They who trust Him wholly
Find Him wholly true.


Stayed upon Jehovah,
Hearts are fully blest
Finding, as He promised,
Perfect peace and rest.
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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

31 Days :: Day 25 ~ Is there anything worthy of praise?

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. ~ Philippians 4:8 (ESV)

We've spent the past several weeks taking this verse apart, almost word for word. Have you noticed how the ideas build on each other? If you don't know what's true, then how will you know what's honorable? If you aren't thinking of things that are pure, will you notice the things that are excellent?

While we've taken the time to focus on each word, I don't think Paul ever intended for this to be an exhaustive list. He pointed out the biggies, and then threw in a catch all . . . if there's anything worthy of praise, think about that stuff, too. (Lynn's paraphrase!)

I don't think he wanted to constrain our thinking. I think he wanted to encourage us to open our minds to all that is wonderful and good in this world.

We don't need help seeing the bad stuff.

But somehow, especially in our comfortable American culture, we struggle to see the good.
Our minds are so busy, so hectic, so anxious - so oblivious.

There is a whole world of wonder out there. Children see it. They ooh and aah over spider webs, flowers, rocks, dirt, and chipmunks.

But grownups are too busy for that nonsense.

The Greek for "anything worthy of praise" is "Epainos" and it means "approbation, commendation, praise" and carries the idea of "applause." It can be used to describe praise of men to God, praise of men to men, praise of God to men (think about that for a minute and try not to get goosebumps) and is used to describe things that deserve to be praised.

Could he have left it any more wide-open?

Cheer for your favorite team. Clap after your favorite little person's recital. Go crazy when your tiny martial artist earns a new belt.

Marvel at the intricate network of purple-blue veins running beneath the clear skin of a newborn. Relish the softness of your favorite blanket. Inhale the French roast or the Earl Grey.

Open your mind.

Pay attention.

And as you start to think about all the things that are worthy of praise, don't be surprised when your thoughts turn to praising the One who is Worthy.

Monday, October 24, 2011

31 Days :: Day 24 ~ Need a little tweaking?

If there is any excellence . . . think about these things. Phil. 4:8 (ESV)

The Greek word for excellence is "arete" and it is most often defined as "virtuous thoughts feelings, actions; moral excellence and purity."

My first reaction, when I hear "excellence" is to think of the best of something. The people and things that have achieved the highest levels of success.

And while that is true, there is another definition. One I found far more interesting.

It turns out the the word "arete" could also be used to describe anything in nature that was fulfilling its purpose. A field ripe with grain was excellent. A tree heavy with fruit was excellent. A tool doing its job was excellent.

As I pondered this definition, I realized I need to tweak my idea of excellence.

Ephesians 2:10 tells us that "We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." (ESV)

If you are fulfilling God's purposes for your life, then you are living in excellence.

You'll note I didn't say if you are "successful" or "famous" or "rich" or "popular."

It seems to me that the vast majority of people who are fulfilling the call God has on their lives are doing so in virtual obscurity.

Do you remember the photos from yesterday's post? That red leaf was probably blooming on the trees in my backyard when we moved here several months ago. It spent it's lifetime shading my home. Maybe it was one of the chorus that waved and sang to me as I found my way to my ugly chair again and again. Then, the chlorophyll faded, the leaf turned loose from the branch, and it floated to rest, nestled against the ferns under my kitchen window, where it once again drew my heart to praise the Creator for His marvelous works.

That leaf is excellent.

The fragile flower didn't question it's location when it was time to grow and bloom. It didn't point out that growing up in the crack of my driveway was a surefire way to a shortened existence. It didn't argue that if it had only landed a few feet away it probably would have been allowed to live a much longer life. No. It grew. It fulfilled its purpose. And, as the leaf, called out to me, "Lynn, I'm doing my part? Are you doing yours?"

The flower is excellent.

How about you? Have you fallen into the trap of thinking that you aren't living a life of excellence because you aren't meeting the world's definition of 'success'?

Spend some time today thinking about true excellence . . . and be renewed.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

31 Days :: Day 23 ~ What do they represent?

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8 (ESV)

On this beautiful Sunday, take a moment to look at these photos as you reflect on the words of Philippians 4:8.

What do you think they represent? I think they could be considered lovely, maybe pure, or even honorable.

But for me, they represent excellence.

I'll explain tomorrow.

Grace and peace to each of you.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

31 Days :: Day 22 ~ Need a break?

Yesterday, I gave you a challenge to make an effort this weekend to focus on the things that are commendable in the people who populate your world.

So I thought we'd take a little break today. I've collected a handful of some of my favorite "thinking" quotes that I've run across as I've researched this topic.

They are both thought provoking and disturbing. The last one in particular.


Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think. ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it. ~ Henry Ford

Reading furnishes the mind only with materials of knowledge; it is thinking that makes what we read ours. ~ John Locke

A bookstore is one of the only pieces of evidence we have that people are still thinking. ~ Jerry Seinfeld

The secret of living a life of excellence is merely a matter of thinking thoughts of excellence. Really, it's a matter of programming our minds with the kind of information that will set us free. ~ Charles R. Swindoll

Clear thinking requires courage rather than intelligence. ~ Thomas Szasz

She that fails to command her thoughts will soon lose command of her actions. ~ Unknown

Reading without reflecting is like eating without digesting. ~ Edmund Burke

Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become character. Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny. ~ Unknown

Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought. ~ John F. Kennedy

What luck for rulers, that men do not think. ~ Adolph Hitler

We're spending the month of October focused on renewing our minds. You can find a list of previous posts here.

Friday, October 21, 2011

31 Days :: Day 21 ~ You mean I have to practice?

Whatever is commendable . . . think on these things.

We've been talking for the past several weeks about renewing our minds by choosing to think the way God wants us to think. Philippians 4:8 gives us a list of things we are to think about - things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise.

Ever wonder why God inspired Paul to include things that are commendable?

Ever noticed how much easier it is to focus on peoples faults than on their good points?

That's why.

Let's do an experiment. Think about someone who annoys the snot out of you.

That didn't take long, did it? Because all of us have "those" people in our lives. The people who you'd rather clean bathrooms than hang out with. The people who manage to bring out the worst in you, every time you interact with them.

Still thinking about that annoying person?

Good. Now let's practice thinking about things that are commendable about that person.

Oh, come on. You can think of something.

It may take a little effort, but if you try, you'll be able to come up with several things about that person that are commendable. Things you could - if, say, you had an interest in renewing your mind - choose to focus on.

Our natural tendency is to focus on all the things that frustrate us about these people. Their habitual tardiness. Their hyena laugh. Their ability to point out that while your entire house is clean, you failed to wipe out your microwave or dust your computer.

The complaints may be valid.

But Paul exhorts us to think about things that are commendable.

All that stuff that's driving me crazy? According to the preceding verses, I need to take it to God in prayer and leave it there. Have you ever noticed how hard it is to stay angry at someone when you start to pray for them? It's also hard to stay angry at someone when you focus on the things that they do right.

Try this with your family this weekend. Whenever they start to drive you insane, CHOOSE to think about something that is commendable. If you have a spouse, I suggest you start there. You can focus on the socks in the floor or choose to be thankful for a husband who works his tail off to provide for his family.

No one ever said renewing was easy.

In the next verse, Paul tells the Philippians to "practice these things and the God of peace will be with you."

Something tells me that our homes and relationships would be so much more peaceful if we chose to think about the commendable things.

Will you join me this weekend and practice renewing your mind?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

31 Days :: Day 20 ~ Who's the loveliest of them all?

Whatever is lovely . . . think on these things.

The Greek word translated as lovely is "prosphiles" and it means "acceptable, pleasing" and has the idea of being "winsome, sweet, gracious, attractive." In classical Greek it means "dear or beloved" when used to describe people and "pleasing or agreeable" when used to describe things.

And here's a little fun-fact. This word "prosphiles" is only used one time in the New Testament.


Now, I happen to believe that God is an excellent writer. As such, He chooses His words with precision.

So what's unique about this word? Why choose "lovely" for us to dwell on?

Jump back to the Old Testament with me for a moment. In Proverbs, we read that "as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he." The more we choose to think about things that are lovely, the more lovely we ourselves will become.

Why does it matter if choose to think about lovely things and in turn, become lovely ourselves?

Because we live in an unlovely world. A world that is searching for something, they just don't know what it is.

But we know.

We know the One who is loveliest of all.

The Bible tells us that Jesus was not attractive in appearance, but people were drawn to Him. He spoke the Truth about sin and evil, but sinners and evildoers still found Him irresistible.

Our church has a mission statement that goes something like this...We are a community of grace, living out the purpose and personality of Jesus in our world.

Jesus had the best personality ever.

As a Christ follower, I have no business running around looking like I was weaned on dill pickles. When I speak, the words that come from my mouth should be pleasant and agreeable, not laced with venom toward anyone or anything.

I'd love for the people I come into contact with as I go through my day to find me attractive - not physically - but in the "there's just something about that girl - I like hanging out with her" kind of way. And maybe as they hang out with me, they'll discover the "something" they are looking for.

Not in me.

But in Jesus.


If you've just joined us today, we are taking 31 days to focus on renewing our minds. You can read previous posts here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

31 Days :: Day 19 ~ Is it stainless?

Whatever is pure . . . think on these things.

The Greek word for pure is "hagnos" and it means "exciting reverence, sacred" and "pure - free from carnality, chaste, modest; free from fault, immaculate; clean."

The word is used to describe both sexual purity as well as ceremonial purity.

One commentator referred to it as thinking of things that are "stainless" because some thoughts leave permanent stains on our mind.

It's easy to think of this in regards to hormonal teenagers, but the application is for all of us. In our society, where even the commercials on TV are full of sexual innuendo and violence, keeping our thoughts pure - stainless - is a lifelong battle.

What we listen to on the radio, watch on TV or at the movies, surf to on the Internet, and read in books has a profound impact on the way we think. I had to ask myself, "Am I renewing my mind with things that are pure?"

The answer? Not always.

The idea of ceremonial purity particularly intrigued me. Sacrificial offerings had to be without blemish to be acceptable.

Is what I'm thinking about appropriate to offer up as a sacrifice?

God refused to accept any offering that wasn't pure.

And He wants me to dwell on nothing less.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

31 Days :: Day 18 ~ How hungry are you?

Whatever is just . . . think on these things.

The word translated here as "just" (it's also frequently translated "right") is "dikaios" and the short definition is "just, righteous, impartial." The implication is that in every interaction and every relationship, our thoughts should come in line with God's thoughts.

I'm loving the way Paul is layering his words. It's impossible to think about things that are "just" without knowing Truth. The more you think about true and honorable things, the more your thoughts will begin to line up with God's thoughts, and the more you'll be able to think about things that are just and righteous.

In Matthew, Jesus says, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied."

How hungry are you?

Monday, October 17, 2011

31 Days :: Day 17 ~ No books required?

Happy Monday! If your weekend was as crazy as mine and you need to catch up, you can find links to the sixteen previous posts here.

Phil. 4:8 ~ Whatever is honorable . . . think about these things. (ESV)

Yesterday, we talked about reading non-fiction as a way to renew our minds.

But what if you don't consider yourself to be a reader?

What if the idea of picking up a 100 page book is overwhelming, much less a 500 page biography? Or what if you don't have time for a lot of reading?

Well . . . welcome to 2011. If you're serious about renewing your mind, you have options.


1. This one is obvious, but you can read blogs. Most authors and speakers have blogs these days. A quick web search will get you started and most blogs (including this one!) have an option to subscribe by email. This means you never have to hunt for the blog again - anytime there's a new post, you'll get an email about it.

One blog I highly recommend is Deeper in Rhode Island with Jesus written by Lori Roeleveld. Lori updates her blog several times a week and never fails to make me think deeper about my faith.

2. Do you have a Twitter account? You can "follow" all sorts of people and churches and receive frequent words of encouragement and exhortation. I follow @PaulTripp, @DailyKeller (quotes from Tim Keller), @SouthsideChurch (my church), @CSLewisDaily (a daily quote from C.S. Lewis) to name a few. You could also follow me ... @LynnHBlackburn. :-)

3. You can sign up to receive daily devotions. I suggest you pick one or two and leave it at that, or you'll find yourself deleting more than reading. I like Christian Devotions for a couple of reasons. One, I know quite a few of the authors who contribute and two, the devotions are only 300-400 words. Long enough to make a point, short enough to be a quick read. (For reference, most of my blog posts are between 400-500 words).

4. If you really hate to read, then you probably haven't made it this far. And I realize that reading isn't always the best way for some people to receive information. If you're more of an auditory learner, or if you spend a lot of time in your car, podcasts and audiobooks are available from local churches, radio broadcasts, and nationally televised speakers.

For example, right now our church is going through II Corinthians. Powerful stuff. No matter where you live, you can download the sermons and listen along. Miss a Focus on the Family broadcast? You can download those, too. Love a particular speaker? A few clicks of the mouse and you'll find ways to hear their teaching.

All of these things are free and effective ways to renew your mind.

Regardless of the method you prefer, finding honorable things to think about isn't really hard.

But no one is going to do your renewing for you. 

So what are you waiting for?

Got some other suggestions for renewing your mind by thinking about honorable things, with or without books? I'd love to hear about them in the comments!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

31 Days :: Day 16 ~ What is honorable?

Philippians 4:8 ~ Whatever is honorable . . . think about these things.  (ESV)

As we continue our 31 day journey into renewing our mind, today we're going to talk about what it means to think about things that are honorable.

The Greek word that is translated here as honorable is "semnos" and it means "August, venerable, reverend. To be venerated for character, honorable."

I'll be honest, this one had me a little stumped. Because the other three times it's used in the New Testament, it's referring to dignified, sober-minded, honorable men and women in the church.

So what's Paul telling us here? Think about the honorable people in the church?

Well . . . kinda.

We rely on the authority of the Scriptures as our final judge of truth, but many men and women of God have taken the time to write down their insights and experiences and we would do well to spend some time thinking about those things.

How do we do that? We read their books. And I'm not talking about fiction.

I write fiction. I love fiction. I read fiction in just about every genre. I believe good fiction can and does impact lives.

But fiction cannot and should not take the place of time spent first in the Word and second in the pages of works written by honorable men and women of the faith.

If you haven't read any non-fiction lately, you're missing out on a treasure of mind renewing wisdom.

Don't know where to start? Well . . . for the past several months I've been posting reviews of non-fiction books that have had an impact on my walk. You could start with A Praying Life, Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World, I Used to Be So Organized, or Grace for the Good Girl.

Another idea is to find out what books have been studied in the past few years in Bible studies (both for the men and women) at your church. Or pay attention in services when your pastor mentions an author.That's why a book by Tim Keller and the biography of Deitrich Bonhoeffer are next up on my TBR (to-be-read) stack.

Tomorrow we're going to take a different approach to this subject, but for today, leave me a comment and tell me what works of non-fiction you're reading, or have read in the past, and how they impacted you.

I'm so glad you've joined us. We're in the middle of a 31 day exploration of what renewing our minds looks like. If this is your first time visiting, you can find links to previous 31 Days of Renewing posts here.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

31 Days :: Day 15 ~ Blessings?

I've always loved music.

One of my favorite ways to worship is to be completely alone (which these days, is beyond rare), sit down at the piano, and play hymns while I warble out some dreadful alto and let the ancient words echo to the heavens in adoration.

But since I've started writing, I have a whole new appreciation for song writers - both the hymn writers and the modern poets who speak truth and then set it to music. It so often touches a place in our souls that I am convinced longs to join with angels in heavenly praise.

As we wrap up our focus on renewing our minds with truth, I give you this video. Laura Story has taken a hard truth, wrapped it in a haunting melody, and re-wired our thinking about how we define blessing.

Is it possible that even in hardship, God is pouring blessings into our lives . . . if only we could see the truth?

Listen, and be renewed.

Friday, October 14, 2011

31 Days :: Day 14 ~ Even when the truth hurts?

Do not be anxious about anything . . . whatever is true . . . think on these things. (Philippians 4:6 and 8)

According to the Internet (and let's not even get started as to whether or not the Internet can be considered true) there are many studies that have revealed that approximately 90% of the stuff people worry about never happens.

And while I can't point to the actual study (I tried to find an actual study - as opposed to someone saying "there are studies" - but I didn't have any luck), I think we know they are right.

On a practical, real-life level, we know that the vast majority of what we worry about isn't true.

But what about the 10% that is?

The diagnosis is grim.
The job is gone.
The marriage is over.

What do we do when what is true . . . is awful?

I've been there. I've listened to the nurse practitioner tell me things I did not want to hear. I've sat in the graveyard as my oldest and dearest friend buried her child. I've told people I love goodbye and watched as they slipped through the veil.

Paul knew a thing or thirty about suffering. He was beaten, whipped, stoned, and shipwrecked. And if that wasn't enough, the people he ministered to lied about him, turned on him, humiliated him, and tried to destroy his credibility.

But he wrote these words . . .

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Phil. 4:7 (ESV)

Sandwiched between verses that tell us not to be anxious and to think on truth, is a nugget of hope. Did you catch it?

God's peace will guard your mind.

When the diagnosis is grim, the Truth is that nothing is impossible with God.
When the job is gone, the Truth is that God is the great provider.
When the marriage is over, the Truth is that God works all things together for our good.

There is another Truth. One that we don't like.

The Truth is, God uses our suffering as part of His plan to redeem a lost and dying world.

It's not an entirely satisfying answer, is it? It doesn't take away the pain. It doesn't fix it.

But if we will take everything to Him (v. 6) God's peace will guard our minds (v.7), and a mind guarded by the God of the Universe has the supernatural ability to stay focused on the Truth (v.8).

Even when the truth hurts.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

31 Days :: Day 13 ~ How do we know what's true?

Whatever is true . . . think on these things. Phil. 4:8 (ESV)

Yesterday, we asked this question . . . How do we know what's true?

Well, if God is true (John 3:33) then He is our ultimate standard for truth. And the only way we can know what is true is to know Him first and then to make His Word a part of us. Because His Word is truth (John 17:17).

Are you following me? Because I'm about to get all up in our business. (Trust me, I'm stomping my own toes here).

Here goes.

If you don't know your Bible, you'll never know what is true.

When your life falls apart and Satan tells you God has forsaken you, will you be able to stand on God's promise to never leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5)?

When jealousy rears its ugly head and you start fretting over how other people have what you want, will you stay there and wallow in misery, or will you remember that the Lord will fulfill His purposes for you (Psalm 138:8)?

When you screw up - big - and feel like a failure, will you allow Satan to crush you with replays of your mistakes or will you run to the One who is your shield, your glory, and the lifter of your head (Psalm 3:3)?

I found an interesting scientific study while I was researching truth. Did you know that scientists have discovered that deciding whether a statement is true involves memory?

You can't think (dwell, ponder, meditate) about something that isn't stored away in your memory banks. Sure, you can grab your Bible and hunt for it - and that's a great idea - but it's not going to help you when you're sitting on the bleachers at the soccer game and you overhear someone make a snide remark about your car.

You can shoot daggers at that snooty woman who seriously needs to have her roots touched up . . . (see how my mind needs to be renewed)!

OR, you can choose to see the truth. Your car gets you where you need to go. It's paid for. And if she needs a new car to have value, then she needs Jesus. And maybe you overheard that, not so you can spend the entire game wondering if she knows there's a price tag sticking out of her sweater, but so you can pour some grace into her world.

A key part of renewing . . . memorizing truth.

We need to choose to make God's Word a part of us so that we can access what is true no matter where we are.

So let's get memorizing Scripture something you do on a regular basis? How do you incorporate it (or would like to incorporate it) into your life? Please tell us in the comments.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

31 Days :: Day 12 ~ What is true?

Whatever is true . . . think about these things. (Phil 4:8 ESV)

What is true?

The dictionary defines true as "Truth, Reality. The quality or state of being accurate."

The Greek word used here is "alethes" and it means "true, loving the truth, speaking the truth, truthful."

From what I could gather, the word "alethes" is a combination of words that mean "not" and "hidden, concealed" - so "alethes" refers to "things out in the open, unconcealed."

I find that very interesting.

Because we know that Satan is the father of lies. He is called the deceiver. He specializes in keeping things hidden and concealed.

So it should come as no surprise that Paul exhorts us to think about what is true. In a world filled with lies, our minds must be daily renewed with truth.

So what is true?


John 3:33b - God is true. (ESV)

Does that seem overly simplistic? Maybe it is. But remember, simple doesn't mean easy.

Every thought must be held up to the light of His Word. If it's true, then we dwell on it, we ponder it, we allow it to change us.

But not every thought that flits through our mind will be true. Satan will send doubt and shame. He'll flat out lie, or he'll take truth and distort it. Sometimes he'll help us justify our sin until it doesn't seem all that bad.

How will we know what's true and what isn't?

Come back tomorrow...


If you've just popped in today, we're spending the month of October studying renewing. You can read previous posts here.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

31 Days :: Day 11 ~ You mean I have to think for myself?

If you've been following along in our series, you may have been wondering when I was going to get to Philippians 4:8.

And the answer is . . . today!

Philippians 4:8 ~ Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (ESV)

We will be spending some time on each part of the list in the days ahead, but today I want to talk about one word.


Because if you're serious about renewing your mind, you're going to have to think.

That may sound painfully obvious, but the sad fact is that many Christians don't want to think. They want someone else to do all the thinking for them and then tell them what to think. And that's just not going to cut it.

I did a little digging and discovered that the word translated "think" in this verse comes from the Greek word "logizomai" and when I saw that . . . well, my heart did a little leap.

What do you see when you read that word? I see a word that has to have something to do with logic. And I have to tell you, I'm not that much into random, so this word makes me happy!

Sure enough, "logizomai" implies careful reasoning and studying which leads to drawing a conclusion.

It's not describing a fleeting thought. It's the way you would apply reason to an algebra problem. Or to bring it down to real life, it's the way you consider your child's symptoms to determine whether or not they need to take a trip to the doctor. You think about it, add them up, consider the ramifications, and draw a conclusion.

But there's a little bit more.

The verb tense and voice imply a continuous action that you undertake. No one is going to do this for you or to you. You must choose to continually dwell on what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, and commendable.

The implication is that as you think on these things you will draw conclusions that will cause you to be changed for the better.

As you think on these things, you will be continuously renewing your mind.

Don't you just love it when a plan comes together :-).

Tomorrow, we'll be talking about what is true. Join us!

Monday, October 10, 2011

31 Days :: Day 10 ~ So what's in it for me?

We are ten days into our 31 Days of Renewing. We've laid a lot of groundwork and it's time to start digging into the specifics.

But I wonder if maybe...well...not that you'd ever say it out loud. But do you ever wonder why bother? Ever wonder what's in it for me?

Or maybe you're worried that your renewed mind will make you as interesting as a coaster at your next work party or family gathering. Or . . . maybe that's just me.

Well, I've got good news.

Check out what Paul had to say earlier in Romans ~ For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. (Romans 8:6 ESV)

I learned something very interesting when I started studying this verse.

It turns out that in the Greek, there are no verbs which makes the statement even more emphatic. Read literally, it's more like this: For the thinking of the flesh - death; the thinking of the Spirit - life and peace.

This verse is a statement of fact. If your mind is set on the Spirit - life and peace are yours.

And while we probably assume that this is talking about eternal life, and that is true, this particular usage implies an absolute fullness of life. The kind of life originally intended for us. A fully satisfied existence.

Here. On earth.

And that peace? It's the inward tranquility which accompanies that kind of fully satisfied existence.

Life . . . and peace . . . now.

Yeah. I'd say it's worth it.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Day 9 ~ Where is your mind set?

Colossians 3:2 ~ Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. (ESV)

Several years ago, my husband and I attended a Weekend to Remember marriage conference. Have you ever been to one? They are excellent and I highly recommend them!

I used to think  marriage conferences were for people whose marriages were in shambles. But after spending a weekend focused on my marriage, I had a change of heart. I now think marriage conferences are best for people whose marriages are just fine.

Because just fine marriages have a nasty habit of falling apart.


Because we stop putting any effort into them. Everything is okay.

Until one day, it isn't.

Did the problems happen overnight? Of course not.

So what happened?

As I learned at our first conference, there are no static relationships. You are either moving toward oneness or moving away from it. There is no middle ground. Either you put the effort into continuously improving your marriage, or it will erode and without intervention, collapse.

The same is true of our minds.

There is no such thing as a happy medium. Left alone, our minds will return to their default settings. Which, in my case, means I'll be focused on the most important person in my world.


My attitude, mood, and general outlook on life will be based on how I'm being treated. If I'm being overlooked or overworked then my life is terrible. If I'm being cherished and adored then my life is fabulous.

Your default setting might not look quite as selfish and self-absorbed as mine, but everyone's mind will default to earthly settings.

You are either renewing your mind and setting it on things above, or it is set on things of the earth. There is no middle ground. Either we make a conscious and continuous effort to change our mindset or our minds become deeper entrenched in the things of earth.

This whole renewing thing? It's just like a marriage. It requires regular maintenance.
Every day.
For as long as we live.

As we dive into a new week, we're going to look at specific passages that talk about what we are to set our minds on. I hope you'll join us!

If this is your first visit, we're deep into 31 Days of Renewing. You can see previous posts here.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Day 8 ~ You want me to do more?

Can you believe we are on Day 8?

If you've missed any of the previous posts, you can find a list of all of them here.

Today's post wasn't in my original plan. I intended to dive into some of the many Scriptures that talk about our minds and what we should think about.

But I kept getting hung up on the word "should."

The Bible is quite clear. There are things we are commanded to think about. And there are things we are commanded to put aside.

But I have to tell you, to me, that last sentence smacks of legalism. More items on the "Do" list. More items on the "Don't" list.

Part of me wants to throw up my hands and say, "You want me to do more?" Because I just don't have much "more" available. I'm running on fumes most of the time and the idea of doing "more" - well, to be honest, it kinda freaks me out.

So before we go any further, let's get this clear, settled, and renewed in our minds.

In the days ahead, when we talk about setting our minds on things above, having the mind of Christ, dwelling on what is pure, and all that God is going to show us, we must remember one more thing.

Renewing our minds doesn't require us to do more. It requires us to think more.

Or, as I heard it put a few weeks ago, we aren't talking about adding to the to-do list.

We're talking about re-purposing the to-do list. (Don't you love that!)

When we read that we are to think about things above, that doesn't mean we don't think about earthly things like getting our oil changed (note to self...get oil changed this week). It means that we choose to think about earthly things in light of eternity.

What if we chose to splash some grace into the service station? To bring Jesus into the waiting area?

I know. It's a whole new way of thinking, isn't it?!

If you're anything like me, you don't usually think that way. You think about how long it's going to take, how much it's going to cost, how many things you would rather be doing, and whether or not the kids will make it through the hour without tearing anything apart. (OK, maybe you don't think that way, but I do).

But what if my oil change is about so much more than car maintenance? What if there's someone there who needs to see Jesus, lived out, right in front of them? But what if I miss it because I go through my day without giving a second (or even a first) thought to the redemptive dance God is choreographing all around me?

So as we move forward and we talk about filling our minds with the Word, thinking about things that are true, taking thoughts captive, and having minds that are stayed on Jesus, let's remember this . . . it's not about doing more in order to be good and stay on God's good side so we don't get in big trouble.

It's about thinking more about Him. About His Kingdom. About the redemptive plan He is - at this very moment - implementing, and about our part in it.

Later this month, we'll be talking about how "doing" is often a by-product of "thinking". It's impossible to focus on what God is up to and not want to be an active participant in the fun!

But we're also going to talk about how God never intended for us lead the hectic lives most of us are experiencing. Could it be that as we focus on things above, the items on our to-do list change?

Could it be that there will be fewer items on the to-do list than we started with?

Maybe when we say, "God, do you want me to do more?"

He smiles and says, "No. I want to do more. Care to join me?"

It all starts with renewing...

Friday, October 7, 2011

Day 7 ~ Why am I here?

Over the past couple of days, we've been focusing on the things we forget to remember.

On Day 5 we remembered who we were.

Day 6 was hard for me. Was it for you? Did you watch the video? Because as hard as it is, it's crucial that we remember that our Jesus died for us - a brutal, gory death. All so we could be redeemed.

Which brings us to today's topic.

As I seek to renew my mind, I must remember . . . why I am here.

But it's hard.

There are days when all I do is focus on my to-do list. I make beds, change diapers, prepare meals, sign school papers, clean toilets, brush my teeth, go to bed and wake to do it all over again. It's mundane. Sometimes, it feels pointless.

When I forget why I'm here, I get so caught up in my daily life that I miss the opportunities God designed for me.

I live and breathe right now because God is still using me and my life to touch the lives of those around me with the message of His love and grace.

The only reason I'm still here is because God's redemptive plan includes me.

And there is nothing mundane about that!

Sure, I still have to do the laundry. But what if instead of griping about it, I saw it as a necessary step in fulfilling my calling? Clothing is not optional. My husband really does need clean socks and underwear so he can bring the redemptive work of Christ into his office.

My house doesn't need to be spotless, but would I tackle the toilets differently if I remembered that I'm a lot more willing to invite my lost neighbor over for a playdate and coffee if I'm not embarrassed by what she'll see when she steps in the door?

Would being the room mom be such a challenge if I remembered that God's redemptive plan for the world includes the uniquely created daughter He entrusted to my care?

It's still laundry, toilets and field trips, but with a renewed mind, instead of drudgery . . . it's worship.

So what about the "boring" parts of your life? Can you think of a chore that takes on new meaning as you renew your mind and remember why you are here? Please share it with us in the comments!

And take a moment to watch this video...let the words sink are telling the story of grace with every move that you make!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Day 6 ~ At what cost?

It's so easy to forget.

But so important to remember . . . Who saved me . . . and at what cost.

Jesus - the Word made flesh - left the heavens and became man.

He died a horrible death.

And He did it for me.

There is no such thing as cheap grace.

Remembering this today.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Day 5 ~ What do I forget to remember?

From yesterday - Remembering . . . the first step to renewing.

I need to remember who I was.

And this was - and often still is - a tricky spot for me.

Because by human standards, I wasn't that bad.

I accepted Christ as my Savior at the age of four. What's the worst I had done? Refuse to share my crayons?

Other people have testimonies of amazing life transformation, overcoming addictions, turning from a life of crime or promiscuity.

My testimony is B-O-R-I-N-G.
  • I got saved. 
  • I never got in trouble.
  • I love Jesus.
  • The end.
I thank God for my Godly heritage. For parents who taught me, early and often, about the God of the Universe and His redemptive plan. I'm thankful that my spirit is not scarred by sins that - while eternally forgiven - have lasting consequences on earth.

But please note that earlier I said "by human standards." Because if I only think about how I measure up to those around me, I'll totally miss the point.

I am a sinner.

My list of offenses is long and it grieves the Holy heart of God. My transgressions, while not "flashy" are, in their own way, darker and more insidious than the ones that get shared and shouted about on testimony night at the camp meeting.

It's not often you hear someone share about how God has forgiven them for their pride. For their lust. For their greed. For their anger. For their self-sufficiency.

Some sins just aren't popular to talk about.

Because some sins are just way too popular.

How is it possible? How are some sins tolerated? Overlooked? Ignored? My guess is because we aren't allowing the Holy Spirit to renew our minds. We think we're okay and we don't need to change.

I heard this statement in a sermon recently and it has been branded on my soul.
Some of us are unable to appreciate God's grace because deep down . . . we think we deserve it. (Jason Malone, Southside Fellowship, 9/25/11)
Before you brush that off, dwell on it for a few minutes. Let it sink in. Because you know it's true.

Have you forgotten who you were?

Are you living your life under the notion that you deserve God's grace?

How would your life be different . . . if you remembered?

Father, help us remember who we were. Give us hearts that beat with the deep recognition of our hopelessness and helplessness and desperate need for your grace.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Day 4 ~ Why is this so hard?

Thanks for stopping by today. If you've landed here for the first time, we are on Day 4 of a series I'm calling 31 Days of Renewing.

Yesterday, we talked about how we do not, in ourselves, have the power to renew our minds, but that change is possible through the power of the Holy Spirit.

It sounds simple enough.

But we all know it isn't.

We know what we should do.

But we don't do it.

We're in good company. The Apostle Paul (the very same guy who has exhorted us to renew our minds) had the same problem. In Romans 7, he tells us that he doesn't understand his own actions - he doesn't do what he wants to do, and does the very things he hates (verse 17).

Why? Why is this so hard?

There are a lot of reasons. But here's one that I've found to be true in my own life.


In her book, Grace for the Good Girl, Emily Freeman makes this statement.

Satan's biggest, most effective weapon against good girls may not be lust or slander or adultery or addiction. It is forgetfulness (p. 170).
What do I forget?
  • I forget what I was.
  • I forget Who saved me and at what price.
  • I forget why I'm here.
But remembering is the first step to renewing.

What about you? What do you think is your biggest obstacle to a renewed mind? Tell us about it in the comments and come back tomorrow as we wade deeper into what renewing our minds looks like.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Day 3 ~ How do we make the new stick?

Romans 12:2 ~ Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (ESV)

Yesterday we talked about what renewing means.

And we asked this question - after you've been renewed, how do you make it stick?

The answer: You don't.

You don't do anything.

You don't have the power to renew your mind at all.

But if you've accepted the work of Christ on the cross, you do have the power inside you.

It's very interesting to me to note that this verse (Romans 12:2) was not written to unbelievers. An unbeliever doesn't have a chance. They haven't been made new in the first place. The Spirit has not come to dwell inside them, so the renewing of their mind is not an option.

But once we are have been made new in Christ, renewing our minds is the key to avoid being conformed to this world.

And this renewing will be an ongoing process.

If I live to be 112, I'll still need to take an active role in the renewing of my mind. I'll never finish the job. My renovations will only be complete when I leave this body behind and open my eyes to see His face.

This is hard for me, because I'm a task oriented kind of girl. I like to start - and finish - projects. That's what makes laundry such an ordeal for me. It is NEVER done.



And neither is this. I can focus on renewing my mind for 31 days, but if I don't make it a priority - every day - for the rest of my life, the new won't stick.

I'll be just like those makeover participants we talked about yesterday. I'll be wandering around, remembering what it felt like to be all refreshed and reinvigorated and renewed. But I'll still be the same old me.

So why bother?

Because renewing our minds is possible.

We have the ultimate mind-makeover specialist at work in us. The Holy Spirit has the power and the desire to transform our thinking.

The key is to let Him do it. To get out of His way and allow Him to work.

And not to clutter up His work area with junk.

Uh-oh. Now I've messed around and gone to meddling. We'll talk about the junk later.

The Holy Spirit dwells within us. But He doesn't take control of our minds and force us to sing hymns all day. He doesn't turn us into scripture spouting robots. (In case you're worried - hymn singing, scripture spouting automatons isn't what He's after - hang in there with me).

He is God. And He has the power to do whatever He wants.

But He waits for us to turn Him loose.

To give Him the keys to the house. To sit down in His holy chair and allow Him to start snipping away all the things that drag us down, to shave off the beards of worry, deception and fear that we have allowed to grow for far too long.

When we relinquish control to Him, He colors our lives with His truth.

And when we repeat the process, day after day, the new starts to stick.

Tomorrow, we'll be talking about why this daily relinquishing of control is so stinking hard. Please join us!