Walking in the New, Part 3: Spirit

“You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, and to be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”  (Ephesians 4:22-24)

If the human soul is the seat of our will and mind, then the final part of this month’s series – the spirit – is the real person, the core of who we are.  Borrowing from a book I once read, it’s who we are when no one else is looking.  Remove the layers of relationships, education, finances, and careers, and the spirit is what’s left.  And just like our hearts and minds, if this ain’t right, we’re in for some bad storms on the sea of life.  Perhaps this is why David asked God to renew the right spirit within him after petitioning for a clean heart.

Of course, the question must be asked: “What does walking in the new spirit mean?”  A closer look at what makes up our human spirit may provide the answer.  See, the components of this key part of our existence include intellect, emotions, fears, passions, creativity, awareness, insight, understanding and judgment.  Walking in the new spirit means all of these are in alignment with God.  It means putting off the old emotions, fears, and passions that we chased into a spiritual ditch, and putting on a new desire to chase after God’s good and perfect will manifested in His entire creation.  It means shedding the limiting view of “What’s in it for me?”, and developing a panoramic, Kingdom-building perspective.  It means opening our entire selves to God’s limitless possibilities. 

The things or people that would trigger us into a Yosemite Sam fit, or a classic Daffy Duck meltdown get at most a shrug with an “Ok, but God’s still in control and will have the final say.” 

Yosemite Sam (Looney Tunes)
Daffy Duck (Looney Tunes)

The other things that would leave us perplexed become crystal clear, as now we are better able to discern what is in or out of the Lord’s will.  Our insight and understanding dramatically improve as we learn to pause, take a step back, and pray to respond in a God-led, Holy Spirit-filled manner.

By walking in the new spirit, it is as the apostle Paul wrote: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”  (2 Corinthians 5:17)

And who doesn’t like something new?

As with the heart and mind, all of this is a continuous process, and the possibility of challenges exists.  It requires us to work at it and be intentional as we do, even when it seems more than we can handle.  But –and thank God for this interjection—the Lord assures us through His Word and proven record that all things work for the good of those who love Him and are called according to his purpose.  Any setback is only a set up for a comeback, and that’s some pretty good news to me.

So, let’s keep pressing, keep walking into this phase of our lives with a new spirit, mind, and heart to see all of the wonderful things that the Lord has in store for us.

Let’s keep walking in the new.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for this past month, for revealing Your will and way in our lives.  Please continue to lead and guide us in this new season to stay on course and keep You first in the process.  Also, Father, please be of a special comfort to the families of Kobe and Gianna Bryant, the other passengers, and the crew during their time of need.  Strengthen them, Lord, in the days to come.  Bless them directly and indirectly through family, friends, and others.  I ask this in Jesus’ perfect name.  Amen.

Walking in the New, Part 2: Mind

“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.” – Romans 12:2

I think Pat Benatar got it wrong in the 80’s.  Though it can feel like it at times, love is not the battlefield (side note- I do really like that song): the mind is.  Without question it is the control center for our attitudes, thoughts, feelings, and actions.  If this ain’t right along with the content and character of the heart, we are in for a world of trouble, Fam.  Perhaps this is why it’s referenced or alluded to in at least 150 different verses in God’s Holy Word.  I’m talking about:

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (Colossians 3:2)

And He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’” (Matthew 22:37)

You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” (Isaiah 26:3)

Or what about the lyrics to the following Gospel song?

“Woke up this mornin’ with my mind, my mind was stayed on Jesus…”

“Walkin’ and talkin’ with my mind, my mind was stayed on Jesus…”

“Singin’ and prayin’ with my mind, mind was stayed on Jesus…”

(Here is my favorite line because it is absolutely true):

“Ain’t no harm to keep your mind, stayed on Jesus…

And each verse ends with the highest praise we can ever give to our God: “Hallelu, Hallelu, Hallelujah.”

When our minds are fixed on something, heaven help anyone who stumbles across our path; we can be doggedly determined to get whatever it is we want.  Think about our childhood, and the cookies we wanted were contained and out of reach.  How creative (and daredevil) were we to push the chair into position and climb until we stretched on our tip-toes on the countertop?  Remember how our mother or father yelled with fear at seeing us in that dangerous position, and how we turned to look at them with a “What are you yelling for?” expression? 

In that state, everything seems to fade in the background- our physical environment, guidelines, morals, consequences and implications.  Other things that drift from our periphery while we seek a goal can be our fears, doubts, and perceived lack of capability.  Our minds are laser-beam focused on just that one thing, that one person, or that one situation that we absolutely have to have.  Depending on what it is and our motive for wanting it, our focus can be askew and leave us vulnerable to – you guessed it – mental and spiritual attacks.  The progress in our process (ie, relationship with the Lord) can slow down, and even make a U-turn back to the patterns of this world.  These patterns, or the chicken coops from the thought on “Get Free, Be Free”, put us at a disadvantage on the battlefield of our minds, in that we stop using the armor of God like we’re supposed to.  10,000 arrows fly at us and blot out the sun as in the movie “300”, and here we are standing with our shields down, helmets off, and swords on the ground, staring at a flower.

Crazy, right?  And yet this is what we sometimes do!

Our focus on the wrong thing or motive can cause selective memory issues, and we forget “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds” (2 Corinthians 10:4).  We temporarily don’t know how to fight the Enemy, or even worse that we are in a fight.  And that rascal is tricky enough to confuse us into fighting against ourselves, and even God.  Fam, every day and all day, our adversary prowls to see who he can kill, steal, or destroy.  He seeks to snatch us out of the protective, preventive, and provisional hands of the Lord.

The Enemy’s mind is fixed.  On.  Us.  And that’s why it’s crucial that we get and keep our minds fixed.  On.  Jesus.

“Well that’s all fine and good, Ms. Writer, but exactly how do we do that?  How do we achieve victory on the battlefield of our minds?  How are we to be transformed and renewed?” someone may ask.

We do this by understanding that transformation requires a radical and universal change through new habits.  And these aren’t truly new, but they can be to us.  Below are just a few:

  1.  Reading and studying the Word of God daily — To elaborate just a bit, this isn’t a task for speed-reading purposes, or half listening to while doing something else just to mark it complete.  To study is to meditate, to intentionally ask the Lord, “What is this supposed to say to me, Lord?  How do I take Your Word and apply it to my life now?”  It’s about actively waiting for His answer and putting it into continuous action.
  2. Surrounding ourselves with like-minded people who will hold us accountable — Having a “Hype Man” or “Hype Woman” ain’t a good thing, Fam.  They can hinder far more than they can help, even if that is not their intent.  We should not be afraid to be called to the carpet, per se, if our focus has shifted in a negative, harmful direction.  And we need people who are not afraid to check us (with love, of course) and help re-center our focus.
  3. Pray, pray, and pray: Scripture encourages and instructs us to pray in and out of season, when we’re walking on sunshine and when nobody knows the trouble we’ve seen.  It is the primary (not the only) form of communication and communion we have with God, and it is two-way.  It’s not about telling the Lord what we want.  It’s about Him telling us what He wants both from and for us.  It’s not always asking Him for the tangible.  At the right times, it’s about asking for the intangible, like peace of mind, and purpose.  And still there are times when praying to God has no request other than “I just want to hear what You have to say, Lord.”  We just need to be still and know that the Lord is God.

There are other new good habits to deploy that I haven’t mentioned.  But practicing these three until they become true second nature helps keep us on the higher ground mentally and daily transformed to battle the Enemy on the Lord’s terms.  God’s ways are guaranteed to work since He’s already won and as we are His children whom He loves, by default we are victorious, too.  Even if there seems to be a lull in the attacks to push us back to who and how we used to be, we are to practice, practice, and practice so that we don’t.

Hmm…looks like the Enemy is the one with the selective memory, because he keeps fighting a losing battle.  What do you think?

Prayer: Lord, we thank You and bless You for transforming and renewing our minds.  Please help us stay on track, on the high ground, so that when the Enemy comes with his usual tactics, we molly-wop him with Your Word, like-minded people, prayer, and other good habits that make him beat a hasty retreat.  We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Walking in the New, Part 1: Heart

“I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.” – Ezekiel 11:19

Welcome to a new year, fam!  Some of you may already be on Day 6 of your resolutions, not missing a beat.  Some may have reached Day 2, shrugged your shoulders and said, “Welp, I tried.”  If you’re like me, you haven’t even bothered with a new resolution list because you still are working on the stuff from the previous two or three years.  (My memory can be like a steel trap at times, so I know what I’ve still got to do.  😉)  With the annual push for seemingly new everything, I asked the Lord about what to share not just this week, but for the entire month.  And true to form, He led to me to the thought of “Walking in the New”.  Yeah, the English may not be 100% correct, but follow me on this journey anyway. 

Instead of focusing on the external per tradition – physical fitness, debt reduction, employing wise spending habits to save up for that trip to Belize, starting a new hobby, etc—for the month of January the perspective will be on the internal elements of heart, mind, and spirit.  With countless Scriptures speaking to them, it makes sense to begin 2020 with these on the right foot.  For if one of the three is off, it will not matter what external goals we set these next 12 months.  We would ultimately be living out of alignment and just like a car operating in that same condition for too long, something in our lives will break down.

So, the heart…yeah, lots of things issue from this life-pumping muscle (Proverbs 4:23).  One could look to my favorite Biblical figure (besides Jesus Christ) and his Psalm 51 to see a sample of one of these “things”.  Though he knowingly and willingly messed up in a big way, King David was man enough to acknowledge his guilt when the prophet Nathan called him out.  And instead of dwelling in the shame of his Michael Corleone setup to get another man’s wife and cover up the affair, the shepherd boy-turned warrior-turned king cried to God and said so perfectly in verse 10, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.”  Jesse’s youngest son had a change of heart, repented of his sin, and began “walking in the new”, the next phase of his relationship with God.  Even when the consequences of his sin were meted out, David did not backslide as our more seasoned saints would say.  He stuck with the Lord who made him king of a chosen people.

Interesting how nearly 400 years later, the Lord offered similar words to His chosen, exiled people through the prophet Ezekiel: “I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.”  Unlike David, both Israel and Judah didn’t really bother trying to cover up all the dirt they had done, the idolatry and outright rebellion against the God who brought their ancestors out of slavery.  Generation after generation, monarch after monarch, they weren’t even trying to get it right.  Yet just like God, He offered a way out which showed His commitment to the covenant He made with Abraham.  Instead of sending complete destruction, He preserved a remnant away from Zion and promised that they would return home.  And He kept that promise, too.

A heart that is clean and free of our mistakes, undivided in loyalty and truth, and flesh (i.e., alive) instead of stone (i.e., dead), one that is filled with the love of the Lord and from which life flows to the people around us – this I believe is one of the top three goals for every child of God.  Or rather, I believe it should be.  2019, 2018, 2017…1986, even, are done and over with.  The stuff that bound, conflicted, and hardened our hearts is done and over with.  It’s 2020, fam, and God has given us another chance to see that He is doing a new thing, and to join Him wholeheartedly.  Imagine all the wonderful things that can be accomplished, the amazing blessings that can shower upon us and those connected to us, when the Lord takes our imperfect hearts and fixes them right up.  Imagine the ease of experiencing His peace that surpasses all understanding, guarding our hearts in all situations.  Imagine people walking past us and wondering, “What is it about that person that is radiating such positivity, such joy?”

Imagine “Walking in the New” with a heart overflowing with unconditional love all year long. 

Wouldn’t that be something?

Prayer: Lord, thank You for a new start, a new chance to become closer with You.  Please protect the hearts of Your children as we go along life’s highway and show us the opportunities to invite others to walk in the New with You.  Give us the courage to speak the Good News so that they can come to know You as we do.  Amen.