Sometimes you can see New Year's resolutions: you pull into the parking lot at the gym and it is difficult to find a parking place; upon entering, all of the stationary bikes are taken. But I submit to you the desires we have for more in our inner lives are far more important than the ones that others can see. When we get intentional about growing our private lives with God, this is the stuff that changes destinies, legacies, mental well-being and sometimes the very eternities of people.
In the last Morning Briefing, [ https://conta.cc/3VKfLuX] I challenged you to consider your personal growth in 2023 through a life lived more closely aligned with Christ, just as Paul said for himself, "living means living for Christ."1
With regard to growing as individuals, I suggested two areas: spiritual and physical.
Consider this take of Paul's with me, making notes to self:
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things.
They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.
So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.
But I discipline my body and keep it under control,
lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.2
What words speak to you from this written to the Corinthians? Observe.
In a world that oft seems out of control, as individuals we control far more than we stop and consider--things of the highest importance, such as disciplines that would grow our knowledge of and trust in Christ.
Let us then, by intention, set each day to grow spiritually by:
>Reading God's Word. for it contains the very words of life
>Praying to the Lord each morning. for he alone is our strength and guide
>Keeping the Sabbath, worshipping God, alongside others who want to grow in their relationships with God. God commands it and we are better for it
>Serving others. Look, be aware, humble yourself to care for another
You could serve someone in your own home, the grocery store parking lot, the airport, a restaurant, your job, by making a phonecall of encouragement, writing a letter that another may hold in her hands... honestly, there are ways to serve others all around us if we but open our eyes and determine to make the effort.
Second, physical growth happens as we take care of the gift of life we have been given through proper rest, nutrition and exercise. [Come on--take the last parking spot at my gym. It's okay, I will park on the street!]
Besides spiritual and physical growth, let us turn our attention to growing our minds; after all, these were the first and most important personal computers ever made. If it is true that we become what we think about, then our thoughts are very critical to our well being. My vote for the start of this new year is to determine to pay careful attention to our minds, as well as our bodies and souls.
How to grow our minds, better our thinking? Desire to ‘be transformed by the renewing of your mind’.3 That means choose to radically change for the better by refreshed thinking patterns. Yes, choose to think about that which is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable….4 Do not be a victim of your thinking; get a hold of it.
1) make wise choices in what you let into your brain--limit your time on the 24-7 news cycle, on social media--all of it, and Netflix. So much of this content is deleterious to your thinking and well-being; at best, some of it just wastes time.
2) memorize scripture - in reading an old book5 at the gym the other day, a familiar verse was quoted from a different translation than most of us know: I am ready for anything through the strength of the one who lives within me.5 You could make that verse your wallpaper on your phone or device, write it on a card, carry it with you. As you work to memorize scripture, it renews and transforms your mind, it opens new neural pathways in your brain...it is always there for your recall.
3) read good literature. When is the last time you went to the library? What a brilliant concept is the local FREE library!
4) listen to inspiring podcasts like this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qHWCMj-T4go
This is from Summit Ministries, Dr. Jeff Myers, who also has a killer new book called Truth Changes Everything. I highly recommend clicking this link to listen/watch this interview with Dr. John Lennox from the UK, a brilliant mind and winsome communicator. Friends, there is no conflict with science and the Bible or science and God. Think rightly! Inform your thinking. Be ready to give a defense for the hope that lies within you.7
Come, let us reason and purpose together to grow in this new year of life we have been given!
'Want to smile? Click this link, flash mob set in Birmingham, Alabama: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UuuZMg6NVeA. Powerful.
1 - Philippians 1.21
2 - 1 Corinthians 9.24-27, ESV
3 - Romans 12.3
4 - Philippians 4.8
5 - Victorious Christian Faith by Alan Redpath
6 - Philippians 4.13, J.B. Phillips translation
7 - 1 Peter 3.15