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Our Mind Will Respond as It Has Been Trained

Do you want to change? Do you want to let go of that habit, sin, or burden that keeps holding you back? Do you want to have abiding peace and a heart filled with love?

I do. After years of trying, failing, trying, failing, and trying yet again, I found myself leading a Christian life of complacency because nothing I tried worked to break the cycle of sin, negative thinking, and discouragement.

Many people face the same dilemma. They long to change and try to change but slip right back into old sin patterns which leave them resigned to a fate of mediocre faith.

During my summer sabbatical, I read and reread a couple of books that have helped me chart a new course. I’m moving from pleading with God and begging Him to change me to the realization that He is already guiding me to a path of transformation through training my soul by training my mind.

In John Ortberg’s book, Soul Keeping, and James Bryan Smith’s book, The Good and Beautiful God, I’m learning that transformation from stagnation to health does not come through willpower alone. The will is merely our human capacity to choose. What informs our will are three elements: the mind, the body and our social context. All three are powerful resources that lead us back into our ruts of past behavior or forward into new trajectories of freedom and growth.

In Jesus’ first recorded sermon, he begins by saying, “Repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). Repent, metanoia, means to change one’s mind. Jesus knew that transformation begins with the way we think. The Apostle Paul builds on this concept when he writes, “…but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). We are to “set our minds on things above” (Colossians 3:2). We are to have the same mind in us “that was in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5).

If my body is sending impulses to my brain (hunger, thirst, fatigue, lust), or if my social context (peer pressure) is tempting me to fall back into old sin patterns, my mind will respond—and here’s the key—as it has been trained. My mind guides my will which determines my choices, and I either move toward greater oppression or greater deliverance.

You might remember how Peyton Manning led the Colts in their win over the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI. The game was played on a rain-soaked field with slippery footballs and mud-saturated cleats and jerseys. Rex Grossman, quarterback for the Bears, fumbled several times, but Peyton Manning never did. A few weeks after the Super Bowl an inquisitive reporter discovered that every few weeks Manning would practice with water-soaked footballs. What he did in practice enabled him to be ready for what he did in the game.

Training the mind to guide the will which determines our choices takes time, discipline, and consistency. This is why some church traditions call spiritual disciplines spiritual exercises. Just as we exercise physically to transform the body, we need to exercise the mind to transform the soul and finally find . . . freedom.

“For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith . . . for if you practice these qualities you will never fail” (2 Peter 1:5, 10 ESV).

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

God Will Not Be Manipulated Into An Agenda

Have you ever prayed that God would speak to you in an audible voice?  I have. 

I’m always amazed and impressed when people tell me God spoke to them audibly.  Not through a dream.  Not through circumstances.  Not through someone else.  Not through a warm sensation in the middle of the gut.  But audibly, as in “burning-bush-God-speaking-to-Moses audibly.”

When people tell me of their audible experience from God, I think that’s wonderful, and I don’t question or doubt their claim.  All I know is that it hasn’t happened to me . . . yet.  And, quite honestly, it might never happen.  The question I ask myself is, Am I okay with that?  Am I less of a Christian if I never physically hear the voice of God?

When I journeyed across Spain on the Camino de Santiago, I prayed every day—EVERY day—that God would speak to me.  I had several hours of alone time with God each day as I hiked the Pyrenes Mountains and crossed the arid plains of the Meseta.  I prayed, “Lord, reveal yourself to me.  Speak to me.  I want a vision of you.  I’m not asking for a vision for ministry but a vision of you and your presence in my life.”

Chirp-chirp, chirp-chirp. Silence.  Nothing.

I can’t say my prayers bounced off the ceiling, as the sky was my ceiling.  I believe God heard my prayers.  And I believe God cared about my simple request.

So, what was it then? 

Over the next month, as I prayed that daily prayer, I began to notice something happening to me.  I began to sense that I was changing and that God was speaking through the still, small voice of his Spirit.  I just didn’t hear it audibly.

Here’s what I discovered: I needed to slow down and be in a position to receive rather than always be on the run and expect God to speak to me on my terms and in my time.  God will not be manipulated or squeezed into my agenda and timeline.  If I am still before the Lord, over a long enough period of time, the distractions of this world begin to fall away, and I begin to “hear” his still, small voice. Not physically but spiritually.

As I prayed, and as I walked, God was shaping me more than speaking to me.  Erwin McManus says, “God shapes his will in us far more than he speaks his will in us” (The Last Arrow, 178).

When God spoke to Elijah, it wasn’t in the strong wind.  It wasn’t in the earthquake.  It wasn’t in the fire.  It was in the sound of a low whisper, which, in order to hear, one must be completely still (1 Kings 19:11-12).  The Psalmist wrote, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

I encourage you this week to practice the spiritual discipline of quietude.  Turn the volume down on your stereo.  Step away from the noise.  Do your best to find time daily to pause, be still and listen.  And maybe, just maybe, you’ll hear the sound of a low whisper, not with the ears of the flesh but with the ears of your spirit.

The Trappist monks practice this Latin phrase, “Fuge tace et quiesce.”  Live in solitude, silence and inner peace. 

Don’t fret about hearing God speak his will in you.  Simply let him shape his will in you for his glory and purposes.  Amen.

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

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