Renewal

“Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.  Put on your new nature, created to be like God — truly righteous and holy.”  Ephesians 4:23-24 (NLT)

I was in yoga the other day, and I noticed how much my self-talk has shifted since I first started doing yoga.  How much kinder and encouraging and understanding I was … instead of criticizing and judging myself so much.  The owner of the studio tells me she sees that all the time.  She says when people start yoga, they often can’t use the mirror to look themselves in the eye, but after a time they begin to reflect their own gaze.

There is a power to our thoughts and inner mental talk.

ABC News published an article earlier this month entitled 10 Rules Fit People Live By.  The essence of the article was that fit people focus on positive thinking — they have trained their minds and attitudes toward the positive — they have learned to control their thinking instead of letting their thinking control them.  (See http://abcnews.go.com/Health/10-rules-fit-people-live/story?id=31053726).  I don’t know if that’s true, but it’s interesting how the wisdom of the world sometimes echoes the wisdom of God, isn’t it?

God has told us all along that there is great power in our minds.  He tells us that in Ephesians, in Romans, and elsewhere.  He tells us that our minds and thoughts and attitudes need to be renewed … but instead of using worldly wisdom, God teaches that it’s His Spirit and Scripture that needs to renew us.  God’s Spirit and the “cleaning of God’s Word” are the optimal tools to renew our thoughts and attitudes.  (See Romans 12:1-2, Ephesians 4:23-24, Ephesians 5:25-26).

So the next time you are working out, check your self-talk.  Arm yourself with a verse or two to allow God’s Spirit and Word to renew and refocus your mind. Consider praising Him because you ARE fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14), or remember that you CAN do all things through Christ who strengthens you (Philippians 4:13), or claim the truth that you too are being made new (Revelation 21:5) and want to join in to the process.

And may God renew your mind … and your body and soul for His glory!

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War

“If any of you wants to be My follower, you must … shoulder your cross daily and follow Me.” Luke 9:23 (NLT)

I met yesterday with a friend who lives with chronic pain. It’s a world I don’t live in, and one that I want to better understand. I get injured and sore and occasionally have odd aches and pains, but I don’t live with chronic pain.

Jesus encountered many people with chronic, debilitating conditions. He healed many of them. (Oh, to have the faith and the power to do that for my friend!). But whether He healed them or not, Jesus loved and understood and encouraged all of them. He saw them, heard them, empathized with them and encouraged them.

The truth is, we live in a fallen world. And the fallenness of that world and the sin that pervades it affects all of our lives. Some of us are affected mentally, others emotionally … and people like my friend are affected physically. And those “wounds” so-to-speak become part of the “cross” we each must carry. We all have different burdens to carry and consider as we run our race towards Jesus. (See Hebrews 12:1.) They are some of the defining characteristics that make each of our “races” unique and our own.

My friend tells me that living with chronic pain leaves her feeling “at war” with her body much of the time. And as she was describing this to me, I felt great compassion for her. Much of the time, she experiences her body as the enemy. Now, as I write this, I pray that the Spirit might turn my compassion for her into personal compassion for herself. (And, I am convicted that we all have areas of our lives for which we also need greater self-compassion.)

We are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). Even if we live with debilitating conditions, our bodies remain awesome creations of God. Our “races” just look different. Harder? Perhaps. Definitely different. And stewardship looks different too.

So I am praying for my friend today and for everyone who is living with chronic pain or other debilitating physical conditions. And while I pray for healing and relief, I also pray for encouragement and self-compassion … and for endurance to run the race set before them …

As we all run with our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.

Cherish Life

“God, the Lord, created the heavens and stretched them out.  He created the earth and everything in it.  He gives breath and life to everyone in all the world.”  Isaiah 42:5 (NLT)

God is the creator of life.  He brought living creatures into the world and breathed His life into dead soil to make the first man.  Life is personal to God.  It precious to Him.

And so it should be precious to us.

That’s why I love organizations like Feed My Starving Children (www.fmsc.org) — an organization that seeks to feed both body and soul of the millions of children around the world who are starving.  Literally starving.  These are kids who would love to grow and develop and play and celebrate life.  They would love to use the body that God has given to them and discover its potential … but the lack of food resources has stunted their ability to do so.

Those of us in the “developed” world have more than an abundance of opportunities to care for the bodies God has given to us.  We have an abundance of food resources … and yet many of our bodies remain neglected of what they really need.  Most of us have the ability to care for our bodies well, but choose not to (by action or inaction).  Oh, how the children of the underdeveloped world would love to have the ability to care for their bodies as we do.

So here’s my plea: cherish the life that God has given you and don’t squander the opportunity you have to care for it.  And while you do, seek opportunities to help those who can’t.  Life is precious.  Cherishing it is a choice.