Renewing your mind

In yesterdays post I talked briefly about the process of renewing your mind from Romans 12:2. In today’s post I thought I would share some of the things we can do to transform our thinking patterns from worldly to God’s way of thinking.

1. Read your Bible regularly and reflectively

2. Pray and spend time alone with God regularly

3. Allow the Holy Spirit to work in your heart and life

4. Spend time with positive Christian friends discussing spiritual things

5. Listen to good quality sermons and take notes

6. Read positive Christian books

7. Read missionary magazines and articles that tell of reaching people for Christ

8. Read and interact with positive Christians online

9. Read a daily devotional like “our Daily Bread” or “Every Day with Jesus”

These are just some of the things that will help renew your mind and change your thinking patterns. Romans 12:2 says that if we renew our minds we “will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will”.

Living sacrifices

I have been reading and reflecting on Romans chapter 12 verses 1 and 2 the last few days. I have done this many times over the years as this passage was one of my first memory verses in the discipleship program I did.

For those not familiar with this passage it says…

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (NIV).

At the heart of this passage is offering our lives to God for His service in response to His mercy towards us. When I came to Christ back in 1989 this was the last thing on my mind. Yes I was a Christian, but I still wanted to live life on my terms and do what I wanted to do.

Over the years though, my mind has slowly (very slowly at times!) been renewed as verse two talks about. This has happened as I have prayed, read the Bible and allowed the Holy Spirit to move in my life. Now living my life for God just seems to be the natural option for me. It just makes sense and to be honest I couldn’t imagine not living this way.

Just as a matter of interest. The above text was taken from the New International Version of the Bible. The text below is from The Message version. I like the simple way it explains it…

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you”.

Living to please God

I was reading the New Testament book of 1 Thessalonians this morning. The heading for chapter four is “Living to please God”. It grabbed my attention.

It is interesting that when you read through this chapter it naturally breaks into four paragraphs that tell us how to please God in the way we live. Here are the four headings that I gave it.

1. Live in purity – Verses 3-8 tell us that we should live a sanctified life (set apart for God). It says we should avoid sexual immorality, be controlled and not take advantage of our neighbours. Verse 7 tells us why. “For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life”.

2. Show brotherly love – Verses 9-10 tell us the importance of brotherly love. It says that we should try to love each other more and more. At the heart of brotherly love is caring for others, helping them when in need and showing respect.

3. Be a good testimony – Verses 11-12 talks about living a quiet life and minding your own business. It also says that we should work with our hands so we are not dependent of anyone. If we do these things we will earn the respect of others and have a good reputation in our community.

4. Have hope – Verses 13-18 talks about Jesus return and those who have already died in Christ. It says we should look forward to the future with hope and expectation that we will be with the Lord forever. Verse 18 reminds us that we should encourage each other with these words.

If you want to live a life that pleases God, this passage gives us four things you can do. Live in purity, show brotherly love, be a good testimony and look forward to Christ’s return with hope.

If you don’t have a Bible, you can read this passage on BibleGateway.com by clicking here

A call to persevere

This morning I came across a passage in Hebrews 10 that is titled “A call to persevere” (Hebrews 10:22-25). This talks about continuing on in your faith and doing the things that will help you to do this.

In this passage it uses the term “Let us” five times. I found that these give us some tips to stay on track in our faith.

1. Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith (v22)

2. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful (v23)

3. Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds (v24)

4. Let us not give up meeting together (V25)

5. Let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day [of Jesus’ return] approaching (v25)

In this passage we see that the call to persevere involves us holding on to God and our faith. It also involves meeting with others and encouraging them to love, do good deeds and to look forward to Jesus’ return.

PS. I shared this with my family as a part of a Sunday afternoon worship and sharing time. The kids called it my “lettuce message”. Because they thought I was saying lettuce draw near to God etc. Kids are awesome sometimes 🙂

Audio – The audio of this message is available here

Tips for effective Bible reading

Over the years I have learned a few things that have helped me in my Bible reading. Today I thought I would share a few of them.

  1. Pray first – I always ask God to help me understand what I am reading and that He will speak to me through it. I also ask to help me put what I learn in to practice.

  2. Read in context – I try to make sure I don’t just read one verse in isolation. I try to read a few verses either side to get the full picture. In some cases I read the whole chapter to understand the flow of it.

  3. Discuss it with others – I try to talk with other people about passages I have read. Some times God can give you different perspectives on a text through other peoples eyes.

  4. Write it in a journal – I try to write down anything that I get from a particular passage or verse. That was I can refer back to it and learn from it again. Some of the things I learn I write about on this blog too!

  5. Try a different translation – Sometimes reading a passage in a different translation might give a new perspective on the text. Sometimes a paraphrase version might say it in a different way.

  6. Use Bible tools – I have several Bible dictionaries and Bible commentaries that help me with difficult passages. These help me to call on the wisdom of Bible scholars who have studied the Bible in great depth.

  7. Ask questions – Questions can help understand the text. What the writer was saying to the people at the time? Was there a problem or an issue? What was the solution? What does it mean to us today?

  8. Don’t rush it – Sometimes I just don’t understand the passage first time I read it or I miss something. I read it through several times and then spend some time just thinking about it.

I hope these tips you you to be more effective in your Bible reading. Happy reading!

If you don’t have access to a Bible you can read one online at BibleGateway.com by clicking here.

When is my church my church?

A question that I have been reflecting on lately is “When is my church, my church?” By this I mean when can we call the church we go to “my church”. And how often do we have to go to qualify it as our church?

Do we have to go to every service? Is a few times per month enough to call it my church? Is Christmas and Easter enough? Do we have to go to the Sunday service to call it our church? Can we just go to a home group or a craft group to call it my church? Do we have to be a member?

It is funny that over the years I have met people with very different views on the subject. One Pastor told me I wasn’t committed and that I shouldn’t call it “my church” as he hadn’t seen me for three weeks. It didn’t matter that I was on long service leave from work and had been sick! He still questioned my commitment.

Compare this to a friend of mine. We were driving past this old church and he said that is my church. I had never heard him mention that he went to church before. When I asked him about it he said he was baptised there, was married there, he went to the occasional Christmas and Easter service and he knew the Priest.

I just find this subject interesting that we all seem to have different ideas on when a church can be called my church. What do you think? Do you have to go each week or does Christmas, Easter and the ocassional home group count?

Psalm 23 for busy people

I came across this “alternate” version of the 23rd Psalm the other day. I think it is the one for people who are too busy. The real version is below it. Have a read of them both and see which one you relate to.

Psalm 23 (busy version)

The Lord is my Foreman, I shall not rest
He makes me mow down green pastures
He leads me to generators besides rapid waters
He wears out my soul
Even though I walk through the valley of relaxation,
I fear no chance of rest…
Surely busyness and pressure shall follow me all the days of my life
And I will run to and fro in the house of the Lord forever

Psalm 23 (from NIV)

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

The Pharisees

I was doing some background reading for an assignment recently and I had to look at the groups of people that were around in Jesus’ time. It was interesting reading about one of the main groups at the time – the Pharisees.

I found it interesting to read about what was important to them and why. Here are a few things…

  • they were a strict religious group of Jews that numbered 6000 at the time of Christ
  • they were lay people with many were middle class business owners or merchants
  • they devoted themselves to the Law – which included the Law of Moses (first five books of Old Testament) and a number of other teachings that interpreted the law for everyday living (613 in total)
  • they paid special attention to being ritually pure and had a number of very strict rules for washing themselves and eating the right foods
  • they also had very strict rules on tithing, the Sabbath, divorce, taking oaths and their clothing and strived very hard to make they kept them all
  • they distanced themselves from others who did not follow their strict rules especially in regard to ritual purity
  • for the Pharisee their religion was not a profession, it was a way of life. They were deeply committed to following all the rules so they could be “right” with God.
  • they wanted to be a holy nation and they believed that if Israel could be pure for a time, then the Messiah would come.

It was interesting that they saw Jesus as a threat. This was because He taught that it was not so much as what we did on the outside that made us right with God, but our heart attitudes towards God and others.

We see in Matthew 23 that Jesus reserved some of His harshest criticism for the Pharisees. They got so caught up in keeping the Law that they forgot the things that are more important to God like being just, showing mercy and being faithful (Matthew 23:23-24).

Come to Me

One of my favourite passages of Scripture comes from Matthew 11:28-30. It says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

At the heart of these few simple verses is an invitation. An invitation to come to Jesus and an invitation to live differently. Here are three things I love about this passage.

1. Jesus invites us to Himself – Jesus says, “Come to Me”. He invites everyone to come and get to know Him and spend time with Him. It is a personal invitation, but it is also to everyone. We see this in the “all who are weary”. In the preceding verse Jesus talks about the Father and the Son knowing each other intimately. Jesus is inviting us to that same kind of intimacy. The type He has with His heavenly Father.

2. Jesus Invites us to take on His yoke – In old style farming a yoke was used to join two animals together. Usually an older more experienced animal with a younger one. Together they partnered in the work. Side by side they would work, until the work was done. In this passage Jesus invites us to partner in the work He is already doing in the world. It is easy to get caught up in doing all kinds of “good” things, but Jesus invites us to be involved in His work. To put our hand to His plough. To put on His yoke.

3. Jesus invites us to learn from Him – Jesus wants to teach us a different way to live. He wants to show us the Father’s plan and how we can live it out. Jesus wants us to follow Him just He asked the first disciples to follow Him. He promises that He will be gentle and teach us from a humble heart. I don’t know about you, but that is my kind of teacher.

And what is th great promise from this invitation? Rest. Jesus promises us that we WILL find rest for our weary souls. Rest from trying to work it all out ourselves. Rest from all the striving and stress that this world throws at us. Jesus wants to give us the rest and peace that only comes from knowing Him.

If you would like to find this rest and peace that comes from knowing Jesus, please visit my “Peace with God” page here