Friday, February 18, 2011

A Real Change Of Mind: Fridays @ 8

I was thinking about moving on to Romans 8:6 today but I changed my mind. We can do that you know. We always hear that it’s a woman’s right to change her mind but we all really have that option. I believe I’ll get up early and exercise today. Nope. Changed my mind. I think I’ll pass on that second piece of pie. Nope. Changed my mind. I think I’ll send everyone who reads this blog $20. Nope, REALLY changed my mind,

Doris is a world class, A-1, blue ribbon mind changer. I have never bought her a birthday gift that she kept. We go out shopping a few days before her birthday. She tries on a ton of clothes. She finally settles on the perfect sweater. Fits her like a glove. Exact shade of blue to bring out the sparkle in her eyes. It looks like a million bucks on her. She wanders off through the store and I sneak back and buy the sweater. I have it gift wrapped but I’m careful to leave the tags in place. On her birthday she opens it up and looks so surprised. “I love it,” she says. “It is exactly what I wanted.” Then the next day she takes it back to the store and exchanges it for something else. What happened? She changed her mind.

Last week I wrote on Romans 8:5. “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live according to the Spirit have their mind set on what the Spirit desires.” If you have been following closely, (and I’m SURE you have) then you remember that I talked about focusing on the goal of an intimate relationship with Christ and not on the circumstances that surround us. (, shameless plug!) I said that we quit trying to compare us to others and just let Him set us free from our own desires.

Well, I’ve changed my mind about that. No, not really. But I have thought I need to say a little more about how that happens. I didn’t mean to imply that we just wake up one morning and say, “Hey, no more thinking about my troubles. I am only going to think about Jesus today.” I admit it’s not quite that easy. I try. I want to “set my desires” on the things of the Spirit but I’m not very good at it. The past due notice on my cell phone comes in the mail. My arthritis kicks in every morning. The guy at work with me never does his share. And Doris keeps taking my birthday presents back. That stuff clamors for my attention. So how do I get my mind to focus on something (or someone) else?

One of the guys in our Thursday morning group said a great thing yesterday. He said, “I used to think of this as kind of a gradient along a continuous line. On one end is this terrible, wicked, evil mind that is set on the very worst of life. On the other end is this wonderful, perfect, heavenly mind that only thinks about Jesus and puppy dogs and angels playing harps.” (Okay, I’m paraphrasing a little.) “But,” he went on to say, “I am thinking that it is not a long line and we just keep moving closer to the Jesus end. I’m thinking it is a whole new point of view, a different mindset. In fact, a different mind.” Now that is good!

Let me go all the way back to verse 3. “What the law was powerless to do,” namely keep my mind focused on God, “in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, GOD DID…” What? Wait a minute. Do you mean that God is the one who helps me focus on Him? Absolutely. God doesn’t change His own mind but He changes mine. You see the big question is verse 5 is who does the setting? “Those who have their mind set on the sinful nature” and “those who have their mind set on the Spirit” are not simply at two different places along this gradual heaven-looking slope. We have our mind set on the Spirit because WE LET THE SPIRIT SET OUR MIND. (Wow, that blows my mind!)

The point is, this incredible, amazing God that loves you so much says to you, “Hey, there is no guilt and shame in falling and failing. I am taking that away and all you have to do is focus on me. And, as a bonus, I’ll give you a new mind that is focused on me.” He changes my mind. I am learning that He, when I let Him, He does a brain transplant kind of thing and turns my mind and my thoughts to Him. I don’t do that. I’m not capable of it. He is and He does. I think it is what David had in mind in Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” It doesn’t mean He will hand me everything I want. It means He will change my wants so that they conform to His great will and plan.

I have a part. I have a role to play in this. But for now, I just need to know that He not only tells me to set my mind on Him, He will do the setting. This is getting way too long and I have to stop. So here’s a story…

When he was little Jacob would climb up in my lap and put his hands on each side of my face. He would turn my cheeks around so that I was looking right into his eyes, making sure he had my full attention. One day, after I had had a particularly trying day at work, I was downstairs in my chair and I heard Jacob and his mother whispering upstairs. In a minute he came down the stairs, crawled up in my lap, turned my face right into his and said, “Daddy, I love you.” I said, “Jacob that is the nicest things that anyone has said to me all day.” To which he replied, “Daddy, mom made me do it.”

All I am saying is relax. Sit down in your chair and feel the Father take your face in His hands. He turns you around until you can only see Him and with your nose almost touching His, He says, “I love you.” And that changes my mind!


Friday, February 11, 2011

Frdays at 8 Spirit Sledding

Romans 8:5 “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their mind set on what the Spirit desires.”

Baby, it’s cold outside. The Artic Jet Stream has lost its way and has been flowing through Middle Tennessee for about a week now. Last night it was single digits and that’s just what we did to the weather man. (I know I shouldn’t have said that but it is funny.) Anyway, it is bone chilling, breath-taking, toe numbing cold. I walk outside and I shiver.

I was driving home yesterday evening and I saw a bunch of kids sledding on a hill beside the road. It was obvious from the beaten down snow and broken make-shift sleds that they had been there for some time. How do they do that? How do kids ignore the cold and stay out so long oblivious to what seems obvious to me…..cold!

I guess they have their minds fixed on the goal, having fun, enjoying the experience, laughing with their friends, making memories. Me, I have my mind fixed on the circumstances, freezing weather, creaking bones, aching lungs. Isn’t getting old fun?

In Romans 8:5 Paul takes a little bit of a turn. The first 4 verses have been about God’s response to us. No condemnation. Freedom. Grace. Righteousness. Amazing, amazing stuff that He does for us through Christ. Now all the way through verse 17 he turns to address our response to the thing that God has done for us. We’ll read words like control, submit, obligation, and share. Things that we do, or at least participate in when it comes to this “life in the Spirit.”

In verse 5 Paul says that those who live according to the sinful nature, that is still trying to be right by the law, still thinking that they can somehow do good enough, be good enough, act good enough; those people set their minds on what the nature desires. But those that live in accordance with the Spirit, that is, they have released themselves and their “trying,” to the Spirit of Life that Christ gave us when He paid all of the price of the law for us (remember the last few weeks); those folks have their mind set on the things that the Spirit desires.

It’s kind of like those kids in the snow I think, when I am trying to live the old way, fulfilling every jot and tittle of the law, and just terrible at it, then all I can see is the stuff around me. I get frustrated by all of the temptations and trials of this world. I’m trying to live for Jesus, why are so many bad things happening to me? Or I get caught up in comparing me to the other guy. I’m doing better in this law thing than he is. Why is he driving a new Lexus and I’ve still got this Nissan with hail damage in the hood? I am so caught up in the circumstances that they are all I see. And we’ll see in verse 6 that there is only death in that kind of thinking.

But, when I decide to turn my thinking full time to the goal, a life of grace and peace, lost in an intimate relationship with the very One who set me free from all of this stuff in the first place; when I do that it’s not cold anymore, the circumstances don’t capture my attention anymore. I can stay at this thing with Jesus all day long. (Or at least until my mom calls me in for soup but that’s another metaphor.)

The Greek word for set is phronounsin. I have no idea what that means. I just wanted to impress you. I’m kidding. It means to turn or direct or focus. In other words, it’s something that I can do. He has set me free from the “law of sin and death.” He has said He will condemn me no more for my fumbling and failure at trying to keep the law. Now what I get to do is direct my attention, my thoughts, my focus to Him and to the wonderful life in the Spirit that He has for me. And when I do, well, I see His grace and His peace all over me. There is joy. There is hope. There is relationship. There is, well… “love, joy, peace, patience, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23) And that life is a blast.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful Face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.

So quit shivering and complaining about the chill. Get your eyes off of the circumstances. Grab a sled, focus on the fun, and hang on for the ride of your life. Mike

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Love Phases

Well what would a February newsletter be without a little love advice. Here's the advice about love, Do it! Okay, just kidding. There is more to it than that. Jimmy Evans wrote a great little book a few years ago on marriage called "Our Secret Paradise." In it he describes the ways to rekindle and retain true passion in your love life. In it he writes, "Many people think that 'chemistry' is the reason we fall in love with each other. It's true that chemistry may have been the reason we were initially attracted to each other, physically or emotionally. That kind of attraction is often how we match up with someone. But it is not the reason we fall in love."
That discussion of chemistry prompted me to think about the stages of love that I often see in any relationship. First there is the "I love you because" phase. Our eyes meet. She's hot. He's a hunk. He has a nice car. She has a nice boat. Whatever the reason, there is a "reason" for our love.
The next phase is "I love you if." This is the phase that is based on mutual benefit. There are some promises we made at the beginning; great sex, breakfast in bed, frequent oil changes, take out the trash. (And that was just Doris's part.) As long as those basic needs are met I love you.
Sometimes that stuff doesn't work out. Then comes the "I love you in spite of" phase. You've blown it. You aren't the Mister Perfect that I thought you would be. You've gained 20 pounds and snore like a freight train. But I love you anyway. we feel really good about ourselves when we reach this stage. It's kind of all about me in that sense. I love you in spite of the fact that you are bad and I am good. So, I feel even more good!
Finally comes the "I love you" stage. No conditions, reasons, or history. Just I love you. There is a total surrender to the other, a giving of myself completely. A real and genuine love. There is no comparison and no describing this kind of love. And sadly, far too few of us ever reach this point. But when we do... there is chemistry. So go love somebody today and better yet, remember that God loves you just this way. Mike