Mind Renewal

bible-85815_1280You may heard it quoted that we only retain 10% of what we read, 20% of what we see, 30% of what we hear.  I don’t think I come anywhere close to that. I can’t remember what pastor said a month ago. So was it a waste of time? No, hearing his teaching is part of my mind renewal. What am I filling my mind with? 1Corinthians 10:5 commands me to “take every thought captive.” What does that really mean? What does that look like in everyday life? I compare it to sorting a deck of cards. Heart-Out. Diamond-Out. Spade-Keep. Diamond-Out. In my thoughts it’s: Bitterness-Out. Lust-Out. Kindness-Keep. Hope-Keep. Fear-Out.

If I want to take thoughts captive, I need to examine the books I read, the TV programs I watch, and the music I listen to. Each of those is planting thoughts in the soil of my mind. What I sow I will reap. (Galatians 6:7-8) The more I consistently sow the right thoughts, the faster I will experience change in my thinking. I remember cramming for history tests. I could cram all sorts of facts into short term memory for the purposes of the test, but it had little long term impact.  One summer I took a Western Civilization class. I can only remember one question from that entire semester: What was the name of Alexander the Great’s horse? The answer: I have no idea! It is what I focus on consistently every day over a long period that will make a lasting change.

Mind renewal happens through diligence. I tried to learn Spanish but I didn’t have the diligence needed.  I tried to learn cha-cha but I lacked diligence. Lasting change only happens when I am fully committed to do whatever it takes.

In college, a group of guys and I decided it would be fun to go up the down escalator. I could make some progress for a while but as soon as I stopped I quickly lost everything I had gained. Mind renewal takes continuous effort. Just like salmon swimming upstream, if I let up on my efforts I will tend to slide right back into old patterns of thinking and reacting. Laziness doesn’t hack it. Renewal is a continuous effort. Whatever family environment I grew up in becomes my “normal”. Even if intellectually I now see that it was dysfunctional, I will gravitate back to that familiar way of living unless I make a concerted effort to reprogram my thinking.

There is a constant battle going on for who will control my mind. Satan is not a gentleman. He will use every trick and deceit he can to win the fight. There is more to this battle than just sin. There is depression, fear, insecurity and false beliefs.

Romans 12:2 warns don’t be conformed to the world. That deals with thoughts. The more I fill my mind with Scripture, the more I listen to Godly music and conversation the more likely I am to react in a Godly way when the pressure is applied. My actions when I encounter hard times show what I truly believe.  My attitudes and behavior are just a reflection of what goes into my mind! My goal is to no longer being conformed to the world but to be conformed to the Word. Transformation as a Christian is not about how I dress or how I comb my hair. Transformation must be about what is on the inside. Without the inner transformation I cannot be a light to a dark world because I am spiritually still just like the world. If I am conformed I have nothing different to offer.

Psalms 1:1-3 (NKJV) – “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.” This describes the one who has decided to control his thoughts, to meditate on the Word of God and break from the patterns of the world.

If I am going to put on a new way of thinking, I must first put off the old (Ephesians 4:22-24). I must let go of old ways of acting – “Everything . . . connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it!” (Ephesians 4:22 MSG)  What is the old way? Hurt, lust, fear, pride, doubt, bitterness, or any barrier that would keep the fruit of the Sprit from shining forth in my life. It includes the victim mentality that wants to blame others for the crummy life I find myself in. I can’t change the old man, I must get rid of him. I spent years developing the worldly life style. Now, with God’s help, I must work to put that off so that putting on the new man is possible.

“For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.” (1Corinthians 2:16 (NIV)) What does it mean to have the mind of Christ?  I am choosing to exchange my thoughts for God’s thoughts. It does not happen without surrender to God’s will and His truth, without the constant decision to let go of those old thought patterns and instead make the choice to think differently.

The Israelites left the bondage of Egypt but they still had a slave mindset, a grasshopper mentality that prevented them from entering the Promised Land. I can get buried in my own hurts, and the result is broken relationships, rejection, betrayal, and addiction. Sure it is easier to just let my thoughts rule, to let them take me captive, but freedom comes when I take my thoughts captive. When I allow negative thoughts to rule, I have given in to the principalities and powers of the kingdom of darkness.

When I was reborn as a Christian, my spirit experienced a transformation. Some day at the last trumpet my body will experience a transformation.  Today in this day to day life it is my mind that is undergoing transformation. It is a process that will last a lifetime. Mind renewal empowers me to live as He intended my life to be, to experience His power in my life and to be the light He has called me to be. “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1 (NIV)). I am free not because I have to follow a bunch of rules but because I experience His love and I can respond to that love by loving others.

Education was a god in my family growing up.  Both my parents were educators.  My sister has a doctorate in microbiology and a career in teaching as did my brother.  I was under a lot of pressure to complete a doctorate (although I never did). Our problem is not that we do not have enough education, our mind is fallen. It is hostile to the lordship of God.  Pride wants to elevate my thinking above God’s truth.

When driving my VW bug as a teenager, I turned too soon and hit the curb pretty hard.  After that the car pulled to the right to the point that it was tiring to drive until I got an alignment. If I “just let go” of the wheel in my life, where will my mind and my heart take me? What forces are tugging on me trying to take my attention off Christ, and His love for me, His plan for my life, His forgiveness, mercy, and grace? Relationship troubles, health concerns, finances, a sin I refuse to acknowledge as sin, something from my past that won’t let me rest?

Ultimately I am the one who must decide if I am willing to do the hard work of mind renewal. Sorry to break the news but it is hard work. I have built ruts in my thinking that, even though contrary to truth, I accept those habits of thought as truth and they lead me to wrong choices.

When my family traveled in a motor home, the furnace and air conditioner allowed us to keep the same temperature regardless of the outside. The oven, stove and microwave enabled us to cook the same meals we cooked at home. The beds were comfortable and the bathroom convenient.  We could watch the scenery outside change but it really didn’t need to affect us. I don’t want to live my Christian life from the motor home of isolation but rather I choose to allow transformation of my heart and mind take place that will allow me to be truly free. “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32 (NLT)) Truth in my thoughts results in freedom in my life.

Upside Down

Upside Down
Lots of things can be upside down. There is the Kamikaze carnival ride, a kid on the monkey bars, a pineapple upside-down cake (one of my favorites) or a home mortgage. How about the world?  In Acts 17:6 (NKJV), Paul and those with him were described as those “who have turned the world upside down.” That was really quite a compliment that a small band of men bringing the truth of God’s Good News was in fact impacting the whole world.

We live in an upside down world. Drugs and violence are celebrated. Purity and honesty are ridiculed. In truth, the Gospel turns the world’s thinking upside down. Jesus taught “The last shall be first and the first shall be last” (Matthew 20:16), “Whoever wants to be great must be the servant of all” (Mark 10:43), “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Jesus loved to rattle the religious cage of the leaders of His day. His teachings such as the Good Samaritan or the widow’s mite were contrary to accepted thought. He healed on the Sabbath. He was the king who comes riding humbly on a donkey instead as triumphant on a horse. And the biggest upside down of all: the cross. It was “a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.” (1Corinthians 1:23)

1Corinthians 1:27-29 (WEB) says, “God chose the foolish things of the world that He might put to shame those who are wise. God chose the weak things of the world, that He might put to shame the things that are strong, and God chose the lowly things of the world, and the things that are despised, and the things that are not, that He might bring to nothing the things that are: that no flesh should boast before God.” We are living examples of that. When God called us to start Your Personalized Bible, our reaction was “What do we know about publishing? What do we know about binding? What do we know about marketing?” I guess we kind of sounded like Moses arguing with God at the burning bush (Exodus 3). Am I willing to align my thinking with God’s Word even when it seems upside down, that is, contrary to the world’s way?

The beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-9 (NKJV) are a good example of how Jesus turned the religious thinking of His day upside down. He changes the very framework of how we look at life. Before we look at each beatitude, let’s see how the Amplified Bible defines “blessed”: happy, enviably fortunate, and spiritually prosperous—possessing the happiness produced by the experience of God’s favor and especially conditioned by the revelation of His grace, regardless of their outward conditions.” In other words, a joy that is not shaken by circumstances, that goes beyond surface emotions. With that as a background, we will look at the beatitudes:

–“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”–

The world looks for happiness in the next new thing: a shiny car, a new romance. Those things bring momentary bits of happiness but they lose their shine and we have to look for the next fix of some kind. Jesus teaches that happiness comes from humility. We must recognize our absolute need for Him. Our culture teaches self-reliance; God demands a poverty of spirit.

–“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”–

Blessed and mourn: isn’t that an oxymoron? We mourn the separation from God caused by sin. We mourn the direct connection to Daddy God that was lost through disobedience. Nothing can fill that void except a loving God and the eternal Comforter, the Holy Spirit.

–“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”–

The world views meekness as synonymous with weakness. The Biblical meaning is quite different. Meekness brings the picture of a powerful horse trained to a bridle, in other words, power under control. In Numbers 12:3, Moses was called the meekest man on earth, yet he stood up to Pharaoh demanding his people be released and then he dealt with the rebellious nation during 40 years of leadership. Jesus faced the cross without lashing out at His tormentors. That was power under control. A.W. Tozer said, “The rest Christ offers is the rest of meekness, the blessed relief which comes when we accept ourselves for what we are and cease to pretend.”

–“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”–

The Pharisees taught that righteousness was a matter of externals: ritual washings, following a set of legalistic rules, fasting, etc. Jesus brought righteousness to a question of relationship with the Father and accepting the gift of right standing by faith. 2Corinthians 5:21 brings the truth home: “For Him (Jesus) who knew no sin He (the Father) made to be sin on Gill’s behalf; so that in Him Gill might become the righteousness of God.”

–“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”–

From Genesis to Revelations, God reveals His mercy culminating in the greatest act of mercy in human history – the cross. We are called to show that same mercy to others. Ephesians 4:32 says, “Gill is to be kind to others, tenderhearted, forgiving others, just as God also in Christ forgave Gill.”

–“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”–

The Pharisees were all about the externals. God is interested in right motives. Acceptance of Jesus as Lord means I became a new creation (2Corinthians 5:17). The stains of the past were wiped away. To maintain that purity I need single minded devotion. A pure heart begins with Jesus.

–“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”–

The world celebrates the warrior: Alexander the Great, Napoleon, Patton. As Christians we celebrate the Prince of Peace. Man has no ability to achieve peace of himself. There can be no peace until we are at peace with the One who created us. Philippians 4:7 promises, “The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard Gill’s heart and thoughts in Christ Jesus.” With that peace in our being we can become ambassadors of peace, thereby peacemakers.

A Boy Scout is taught to find the North Star to navigate at night. It is the only one that is not going to move. Orion may be easy to spot with its bright stars and distinctive pattern, but it will be in the east at one time, in the west later. We need the solid rock of God’s Word to navigate this life. The world wants heroes. They look to sports stars, movie stars, even politicians.  Jesus says, “Follow Me.”

Jesus was willing to reach out and touch the leper (Matthew 8:3). As ministers of the Gospel (that’s every Christian) we are challenged to see the person, not a label. Today’s leper, the outcast of today’s society, is the sex offender. A few years ago, I was invited to minister in a group home that was transitional housing for men coming out of jail. As a jail chaplain that seemed an easy transition until I was told many of them were sex offenders. I wanted to pull back but I felt God calling me to meet that need. In the ensuing years that I have worked with that home I have come to know those men not as a label but as good-willed men searching for God.

Take something that is upside down and turn it upside down what do you get? Right side up! That I think is the key of the Gospel. To the one who has lived upside down long enough the one who is right side up looks upside down. Several years ago the U.S. military conducted an experiment. They gave each participant special glasses that inverted what they saw. At first they were disoriented and nauseous, but remarkably quickly their brains adjusted and they were able to function normally with the ground up and the sky down. It became the norm for them.

We face a choice: to live like the world upside down or to stand on the rock of the Word and live upright before God. Do you have the courage to go against the world’s way? James 4:4 warns to be friends with the world is to be an enemy of God. To paraphrase Romans 12:2, “Don’t be conformed to the upside down world but be turned right side up by the renewal of your mind.”

What Voice Are You Listening To?

I had a ring tone on my phone, whenever my wife called I would hear, “Corinne’s calling. Better answer the phone. It’s Corinne!” I knew what voice was important for me to respond to. What voices are important in your life?

I read an anonymous quote, “Your future is determined by the voice you trust.”  How true. We must choose what voice we will listen to or the world will choose for us.

Psalm 1:1-3 says, “Gill is blessed because he doesn’t walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor does he stand in the way of sinners, nor does he sit in the seat of scoffers; but Gill’s delight is in the Lord’s law. On His law Gill meditates day and night. Gill will be like a tree planted by the streams of water that brings forth fruit in its season, whose leaf also does not wither. Whatever Gill does shall prosper.”  The wicked, the sinner, the scoffer: those are all influences of the world trying to direct our thoughts and actions. But thoughts directed by the Word of God lead to stability, prosperity and freedom.

Galatians 6:7 warns us whatever we sow, we will reap. The law of cause and effect, action and reaction cannot be altered or bypassed. To change my harvest I must change the seed. My world is being created by what I plant.  I must recognize that every thought is a seed. What are TV commercials but a voice trying to influence my thoughts? Buy this beer and you will be popular. Buy this perfume and you will be attractive.

If I want to change my life, I first must change my thoughts. Proverbs 23:7 says, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” 1Peter 1:13 tells us to gird up our minds. That is roll up our sleeves and get to work. John Wooden, legendary basketball coach at UCLA said: “The choices you make, make you.”

Romans 12:2 commands us to renew our mind. I can direct my destiny by controlling my thoughts. Most people just let their thoughts go wherever they want. Where is that? Generally to negativity, self-pity, condemnation. God has a different plan.

Matthew 1 lists the genealogy of Jesus. In it are listed 42 generations from Abraham, 42 fathers. How many mothers? Five. In addition to Mary, there is Tamar (She gave birth to Perez after incest with Judah in Genesis 38.), Rahab (She was a Philistine prostitute from Jericho in Joshua 6), Ruth (She was from Moab, a foreigner in Ruth 1) and Bathsheba (She was also a foreigner, a Hittite in 2Samuel 11-12). All outsiders, rejected, second class, bottom of the food chain. Why are they specifically listed? I think it is so we can realize that God can take our mess and make greatness, regardless of the rejection by man.

2Corinthians 10:5 commands us to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. I must take responsibility for my thoughts. Will I control my thoughts or let my thoughts control me? By controlling my thoughts, I control my emotions, my attitudes, my actions and my destiny. What I continually think about will eventually manifest in my life.

We must choose between victor or victim. When our son was killed by a drunk driver, we were encouraged to join MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving. That organization does some great work but we could not stay in an atmosphere that taught us we are victims. Deuteronomy 28:13 tells me I am the head and not the tail, above only not beneath.

Joshua 1:8 commands “This book of the law shall not depart out of Gill’s mouth, but he shall meditate on it day and night, that Gill may observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then Gill shall make his way prosperous, and then Gill shall have good success.” The way I will change core values and thoughts is by repetition. When I first learned to drive, it was difficult to coordinate all the actions necessary plus stay aware of everything going on around me. Today it is second nature. When I learned to type, I had to be extremely focused. After years of practice, my fingers go automatically to the right keys. Repetition. Meditating on God’s Word, repetition will change our thoughts.

Circumstances have no control over my happiness. It is the attitude I assign to the circumstance that does. Several months ago, my wife came into the house crying and agitated. I asked, “What’s wrong?” She replied, “I wrecked my car.” “You seem to be all right. Just tell me what happened.” “I ran into your car!” Well, let me tell you, that changed my perspective. We cannot allow problems to dictate our mood. I think of the story of Paul and Silas in Acts 16. Here they were, beaten and bloody, in the darkest, smelliest depth of the prison. At midnight, what are they doing? Moaning and feeling sorry for themselves? No! They are singing and praising God. Sure an earthquake came and broke their bonds but that was after they had been singing. They didn’t know that was coming. They praised because they knew God and circumstances weren’t going to change that.

Casey Treat, pastor of Christian Faith Center in the Seattle area, said, “Your life will move in the direction of your dominant thoughts.” How I see myself determines the life I will experience. My life will never go too far beyond the picture of myself I hold inside. If I want a better life, I have to start with ME.

What has been tapping on the keyboard to my hard drive? Poor self image is like a virus in the operating system that leads to failure. I would never have started Bible publishing, I would never have gone into jail ministry, I would never have started writing, if I had let self-image rule.

What voice are you listening to?


“I’m so discouraged and hopeless.” or Jeremiah 29:11 “God has given me a future full of hope.”
“I’m such a failure.” or Phil 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ.”
“I’m broke busted and disgusted. I guess God wants me poor.” or Psalm 23:1 “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”
“I’m an addict; I’ll always be an addict.” or John 8:36 “Whom the Son sets free is free indeed.”
“My family has left me. I feel so alone.” or Hebrews 13:5 “God will never leave me nor forsake me.”
“I’ll come to God when I get my act together.” or 2Cor. 5:21 “I  am the righteousness of God in Christ.”
“With my past, I’ll never be anything.” or Phil 3:13-14 “Forgetting what is behind, I press toward the goal.”
“Everyone’s against me.” or Romans 8:31 “If God be for me who can be against me.”
“I’m such a loser” or Romans 8:37 “I am more than a conqueror through Him who loved me.”


Events happen in our lives. It might be physical, emotional or sexual abuse. It might be abandonment or betrayal. It might be ridicule by peers or rejection. And we create a story to explain those events, usually a destructive story placing blame on ourselves. It is time to rewrite the story. It is time to get God’s perspective, God’s thoughts.

Ephesians 4:24 commands us to put on the new man, that like God has been created in true righteousness and holiness. In Christ, I am new on the inside. 2Corinthians 5:17 promises we are new creations in Christ.

To succeed takes two things: discipline and perseverance:

  • Discipline: 2Timothy 2:3 tells us to be a good soldier of Christ. We must be willing to do the hard thing.
  • Perseverance: Hebrews 6:12 says that through faith and perseverance we will inherit the promise. Change doesn’t come easy but the end result is worth it.

Goliath mocked David in a battle of thoughts. What giant is calling out to you? What voice will you listen to?