Be Kind To Your Mind

Hi everyone. Rob here again.

A couple of days ago I wrote that I have given myself 3 simple guidelines to help me be kind to myself each day.

  1. Have I taken care of my body?
  2. Have I taken care of my mind?
  3. Have I taken care of my heart?

We covered the body last time and now it’s time to talk about the mind. We all know Romans 12:2,

Do not conform 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.

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We’re not just looking to be intellectually stimulated, but to have our minds renewed so that we may have the mind of Christ. Dallas Willard once told John Ortberg that in the ancient world the mind included both thoughts and feelings. He also defined thoughts as “all the ways a person is conscious of things.” We are aware of things at multiple levels. We not only know things but we also sense things. We have ‘gut feelings’ about things as well as learning from books. Sometimes we ‘just know’ and other times we learn very slowly. The mind is vast and powerful and if it’s not given over to God can get us in a whole heap of trouble.

So what is Jesus thinking about this pandemic? Have you asked him? Is he worried? Is he stressed? Or is he at peace? Is he filled with joy? Is he thinking thoughts of love, compassion and grace? Is he mourning with those who mourn? What’s his truth right now? How can we align our truth with his, the ultimate truth, the true truth? How can we think his thoughts, feel his feelings and be transformed?

Prayer is the obvious answer but how we pray is what matters most. If we just fire requests at God that come from our own best thinking then we are not going to have our minds transformed. To receive Christ’s mind we need to surrender ours. “Lord, I give you my mind. I give you my thoughts, my feelings and all the other ways that I perceive life. Jesus, I ask you for your mind, for your way of thinking, feeling, perceiving, so that I may walk in step with you.”

An obvious fruit of having the mind of Christ will be peace. The world is hurling un-peace at us right now. They’re dumping worry and stress at our door. We need to be very mindful of our media and social media intake at the moment. There is some excellent media out there but endless speculation, worst-case scenarios, constant images of loss and death can lead our mind away from peace and into panic. Jesus is not panicking! We need to die to the world’s answers and come alive to kingdom possibilities. We are going to be needed to help the world heal and so we must give Jesus our minds now! The best way to prepare our minds for the future is to focus our minds on what Jesus wants for us today.

So read Scripture and books/articles/posts infused with God’s Spirit. Control the media you take in. Be realistic. The world will not be the same afterwards. We need to walk with Christ closely so surrendering your own best thinking to him is vital. Give yourself permission to grieve, but don’t neglect worship – more on that next time as we talk about the heart. Take time to listen to his voice. It’s our character that he’s building through this and he’s asking for our co-operation. So pray and listen, pray and listen, pray and listen.

Remember this from 2 Timothy 1:7.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

Grace and peace everyone.

 

 

 

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Be Kind to Your Body

Hi everyone. Rob here,

I offer 3 John 2 to you as my prayer and my greeting.

Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.

What a strange time we are living in! We are now entering week 2 of our lockdown. Some of you may have been doing it for longer and others less, but we have all had our lives utterly disrupted by the spread of Covid-19. There is one message that our government has been sending that I’m particularly grateful for and it goes like this:

Be kind

Most people have been heeding this advice but there are always exceptions. Domestic violence is up by 25%. People have insulted and spat upon supermarket workers because they haven’t been able to buy everything they want. Police have been spat upon as they enforce the rules. Some have policed others with too much vigour and some have just been selfish as they break social distancing and lockdown guidelines. The person we are most likely to be unkind to though, is our-self. Self-care is enormously important at any time, but particularly so at a time like this. The reality is we have never done this before and so we need to release all the pressure that we have put on ourselves to get this right. There is no ‘getting it right’; there is only walking with God.

I have given myself 3 simple guidelines to help me be kind to myself each day.

  1. Have I taken care of my body?
  2. Have I taken care of my mind?
  3. Have I taken care of my heart?

Today, let’s talk about number 1, our body.  

Walk, Path, Walking, Feet, Trail, Shoes, Sport, Legs

Before the lockdown I was training for a 50 kilometre charity walk. It got called off but I got used to walking long distances by our beautiful river. That’s not happening now. I have to settle for shorter walks around our neighbourhood (grateful that local walks are encouraged), time on the rowing machine and press ups. It’s not my ideal but it’s still good. Learning to settle for the good is an act of kindness to ourselves. It’s good for my body to do those things. It’s also good to eat well, stretch and enjoy fresh air. Keep moving. Don’t settle for life in front of a screen. It’s not good for you and you know it. Take breaks, move, walk, run, dance. Take care of your body.

Romans 12:1 tells us this:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.

We live an embodied life, even in lockdown. Our bodies are also limited, decaying and dying. They also have potential that few of us have realised. True worship means offering up this body to God. In doing so we offer up ourselves; our limits and our potential; our goals and our shortcomings; our regrets and our hopes. It would be easy to give ourselves permission to eat too much and move too little in the next few weeks. While I advocate grace, I also advocate resistance.

For me it comes down to this question: Will I be a better human being if I honour my body in this time or neglect it? It pleases God when I become more human. Jesus was the True human and I follow him. I give my body to him. I ask for the Holy Spirit to help me be disciplined. I ask for grace as well as goals and I ask that my body would be a vessel for his love and his Spirit.

May you know God’s kindness to you this week and may you have the grace and capacity to extend his kindness to others. Grace and peace.

p.s We’ll talk about the mind in a few days and then the heart. I made a You Tube video this week talking about Jesus stories. Here’s the link.

 

 

 

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Fragility, Fallenness, Fear and Faith

Hi everyone. Rob here.

We are about to enter a time of lockdown here in New Zealand as we respond to the threat of Covid-19. As far as lockdowns go it’s fairly comfortable. Electricity continues to flow. Supermarkets are open and accessible. We can head out for fresh air and exercise. We are connected via social media to many. We have enough money to get by. We’ve been given wonderfully clear guidance by our Government. There’s a lot to be grateful for. But that is not the case for all.

The fragility and fallenness of human existence gets revealed clearly in times like this. Fragility is revealed in the suffering of the lonely, the homeless, the sick, the anxious and the jobless. Fallenness is revealed in panic buying and unnecessary stockpiling, groups of teens coughing on the elderly, people blatantly ignoring social distancing advice and the propagating of ridiculous conspiracy theories that only fuel hatred and divison. We are invited to respond to fragility with compassion and to fallenness with repentance and surrender.

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Fragility and fallenness come together when it comes to fear. Fear arises out of human fragility. We have a need for connection so we fear loneliness. We love being healthy so we fear sickness. Mostly we love being in control of our lives and so we fear anything that threatens that control. But fear comes from our fallen nature. Life with a new heart means accepting the invitation to die to fear and receive faith, hope and love. Jesus isn’t afraid and so fear is not clothing that fits us anymore.

In dying to fear I do not reject my human fragility. I accept that I don’t want to be lonely, sick or poverty stricken. The choice is to take my fragility to Jesus and receive the gift of his life. Jesus’ life was fragile. Born to an unwed mother, from a backwards town in a backwards province, without status or wealth, disciples also without status, taking on a religious establishment full of corruption and violence that was in league with a pagan empire. His life was so fragile it ended on a cross. He laid his fragility open at the Garden of Gethsemane where he asked for the cup to be taken from him.

Jesus responded to his fragility by completely surrendering himself to his Father.

Yet not what I will, but what you will (Mark 14:36).

Once he’d done that he could step into the suffering that he needed to undergo for our sake. While a few weeks in isolation hardly compares the point is that when we’re completely surrendered to God we become far more equipped to do what needs to be done. We don’t give in to our fragility by making an agreement with fear. We respond with faith, entrusting ourselves to God who holds life and history in his hands. We receive the life of Jesus who is not afraid, but hopeful, loving and joyful. He walked through this and he will walk with us through this.

May you find daily blessing, daily joy, daily peace and daily hope as Jesus fills your life with his. Grace and peace everyone.

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God is in This!

Hi everyone. Rob here.

If you’re anything like me your life is changing multiple times a day right now. In the last 24 hours I’ve had two speaking engagements cancelled and a job interview postponed indefinitely. The day before that saw my children’s sport called off for the season. There is no church to go to on Sunday. On top of that 3 of us have colds and I’ve never been as vigilant about where I go, what I touch and how clean my hands are. There are also questions like, when will school get called off? How long can my wife keep up her in-home child care? Do we have enough money to get through this if income totally dries up? I know that I’m not alone with those questions. But I am also convinced that God is in the midst of this and there is an invitation to turn our gaze towards him. He is our Master, Covid-19 is not. My newsfeed is not. Jesus, catch our hearts.

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What is happening right now is actually very good for many of us. Before Covid-19 the world was running at a frenetic pace. Most people were working too hard, spending too much time on their phones, running from one engagement to another and hustling their way through life. Now there’s hardly anywhere to go. It’s as if we’ve all been given the opportunity to have a Sabbath. Many are choosing to panic, but as people who belong to Christ we have been given different orders.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 4:4-7)

The invitation is to dwell closely with Christ. It is to commune with him so that his peace, his joy and his gentleness come upon us. It is to let go of fear and anxiety and exchange it for faith and hope. I love how the New Living Translation puts verses 6-7.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

We experience God when we give ourselves completely over to God, holding nothing back for ourselves. His resources are far greater than ours, his timing is better than ours and his entire nature is love so why wouldn’t we trust him in this hour? The invitation of Sabbath is to hand over the things of this world to Christ who has overcome the world. It is to join God in his rest and only take up what he gives us.

Here are some practical invitations that you may want to take up.

  • Do church the way the early church did. Invite a few healthy people to your home. Break bread together. Read Scripture together. Worship together.
  • Go outside as often as you can. Find quiet spots to soak in beauty, fresh air and sunlight. Those are all good weapons against viruses too.
  • Use the phone. Check up on friends and neighbours.
  • If you have the resources, share with those who don’t. Make meals, share your produce, give them a roll of toilet paper!
  • Start and finish the day with prayer, scripture and worship. Give God as much attention as you can. He deserves more attention than a virus does.

Grace and peace everyone.

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Anchored in Today

Greetings everyone. Rob here.

The headlines today are filled with countries and cities in lockdown, events being cancelled, sharemarkets in crisis and, seemingly, a lot of panic. Let’s not go into the rights and wrongs of it but ask the question; how do we stay centred in Christ when the world around us is in chaos? This isn’t theoretical. Our local supermarkets have shortages because of panic buying. Events we planned for are being cancelled. Our retirement investments are taking a strong hit. Where we put our anchor matters a lot right now.

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Uncertainty was the normal for the early church and the writers of Scripture. It has been the normal for most of history. It’s only in the modern era in the West where we persuaded ourselves that life could be comfortable and predictable. It was always a delusion. Life is uncertain but the panic around us suggests that people don’t want to believe that, including ourselves if we’re honest. We want our investments to grow steadily, our health to be consistently good, our income to be sure, the food we want to be in the supermarkets and so on. We get bugged when the internet is down, the car won’t start or the power goes off. And we panic in the face of a new virus attacking the globe. We don’t do well with uncertainty anymore.

The spiritual discipline we need to recover, I believe, is One Day At A Time. Anxiety is fuelled by a fear of the future, but the future hasn’t happened yet. It is not ours to worry about. As Jesus says in Matthew 6:34:

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

We will have to make adjustments as the virus spreads and the powers-that-be decide what the best responses are. My adjustment for today is being more vigilant with hand-washing and utilising the power of soap. I can do that. Tomorrow may require another adjustment but that is not today’s problem. My mind may wander there but if I don’t give my heart to the worry my mind will wander home. It’s even better, if I surrender both heart and mind to Jesus who holds today and tomorrow in his hands.

Today is a gift given by a good Father. Unwrap it and enjoy it. Celebrate it and know that there will be another gift tomorrow. This is, perhaps, the hardest discipline. As Jesus said, today also has trouble. The enemy is active, the world is fragile and crazy and busy and our old self wants to buy into all of the despair and drama that is out there. But we have an anchor for the soul according to Hebrews 6:19. It is hope. At the end of all the todays is the tomorrow that God has planned for us.

Let’s trust the One who has overcome the world. The One who said that the enemy has no hold over him. The One who conquered death by facing it and overcoming it. The One who said that there would be a renewal of all things. The One who calls us friends and said to remain in him. Christ in us is our glorious hope. We are one with Christ. What’s true for him is true for us. We can share in his hope. Jesus, give us your hope, your life, your joy, your peace, your direction today.

In Christ we can do Today. Grace and peace everyone.

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Faith not Fear

Hi everyone. Rob here.

One of the most radical things that God tells his people in Scripture is this:

Fear not.

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There are other variants. Do not be afraid, do not worry, do not be frightened. We live in a frightened and anxious world. Coronavirus, fundamentalism of all kinds, economic fragility, natural disasters, disastrous politicians and more leave us a lot to be fearful about. Fear is logical, but it is also folly.

Fear takes us away from the source of peace and the source of all comfort. Fear is the opposite of faith and faith is what we need right now. God is good and God cares for his people. The world is broken but we follow Jesus who said,

Take heart. I have overcome the world.

Fear is a posture of the heart and you can do something about your posture. The reality is that life is incredibly fragile; too fragile for us to hold onto ourselves. We need to give our lives over to the One who can hold them with the utmost tenderness, plant our roots deep and grow us into people who reflect the beautiful life of God.

If faith is the invitation then we need to question all of our fearful responses. We don’t replace fearfulness with carelessness. We replace it with faithfulness. What does being faithful to God and his kingdom look like in a fearful age? It looks like love. That may mean…

  • Sharing your food instead of hoarding it
  • Nursing a sick friend instead of avoiding them
  • Embracing hospitality
  • Listening to people you disagree with
  • Praying for all
  • Doing the most loving thing instead of the most convenient thing

Choosing fear is easy but it makes life all about you. Faith is harder but it puts us into the arms of the God who loves us so much. What would you rather have?

Grace and peace everyone.

 

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Surrendering the Pain

Hi everyone. Rob here.

You may have noticed that when it comes to the spiritual life, mind, body and heart are all connected. Unhealthy thinking can leave our hearts deflated and our bodies lacking energy. Our hearts can suffer when things happen to us that our minds can’t comprehend. The unnamed trauma or pain can lead to it being stored in our minds and bodies emerging in anger, stress and illness. At the moment in my life the pain is definitely originating in the body. I’ve been training for a fundraising walk and clearly I have overdone it! Ligament damage in my hip is disrupting sleep patterns, leaving me irritable in my mind and my heart feeling flat.

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But if the connection works negatively, then it also works positively. Healthy thinking can set the heart free and even release stress in the body. A heart that’s healed and whole sets the mind free and, again, the body tends to follow. This is because healthy hearts, minds and bodies honour each other. A healthy body, good sleep and freedom from pain refreshes mind and heart.

What’s interesting is that the hurting parts scream for attention. You’ve heard the phrase, “a cry for help.”, when someone has acted in a self-destructive way. Rage, addiction, anxiety, despair, self-indulgence, pornography and so much more are behaviours and mindsets that come from hurting minds and hearts. People may say, ‘why don’t you just call it sin?’ Sin is much more than our behaviour. Sin is doing it our own way and then trying to hide from God. In other words, God as our loving parent asks us to bring our pain to him and not to take it to the world. When we bring our pain to God we discover Jesus on a cross and we realise that God is love and God is the safest place for pained hearts and minds. He knows our pain, he heals our pain and he redeems our pain.

But my hip still hurts. I’m still not sleeping well. My body is screaming at me, if you like. So, I need to take care of it. Just like I take internal pain to Jesus, I also take bodily pain to Jesus. He may heal it, he may not, but I give him authority over it. I insist that Jesus’ voice is heard over my bodily pain. My body wants to affect my mind and my heart, but it all belongs to Jesus and I want his messages heard. I don’t ignore my body’s pain, I bring it into submission to the one who deals with pain. This sets my heart and mind free also. They no longer have to be dictated to by my body’s pain. My heart can remember that it’s new and good in Christ and my mind can pursue ‘the mind of Christ.’

We are a whole and interconnected person. We don’t do isolation and our minds, hearts and bodies don’t do isolation either. This is why when we surrender we surrender the whole person. When we worship we worship with the whole person. The whole person belongs to Jesus who used the suffering of his body to set us all free. Even in his pain he acted on our behalf. As a surrendered person he was able to step into the pain, knowing that there was life waiting on the other side. Pain is temporary. Life is eternal.

Grace and peace everyone.

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