Be Prepared: Why You Should Know God’s Word Well | alyssajhoward.com

Be Prepared: Why You Should Know God’s Word Well

What would you do if you were wrongly accused of a crime? You’re on trial and about to appear before a judge and jury with your testimony of events. How would you respond? What steps would you take to be prepared to testify?

I’m an organized, to-do-list kind of girl. So I would probably have a binder full of documents, pieces of evidence, and whatever else I needed to present my case fully to the jury. I would be as prepared as a person possibly could be.

 

Peter actually addressed this very issue:

Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. – 1 Peter 3:13-16 (NIV)

 

To say that the early church was greatly persecuted is a vast understatement. Paul was put on trial, persecuted, and imprisoned throughout his ministry. He was even stoned at one point and dragged outside the city assumed to be dead. (Acts 14:19-20) The church was “eager to do good” but often suffered for their choice to follow Christ and spread His message. In the midst of being threatened, Peter tells them to be prepared to share their reason for hope. And not with anger or force, but with gentleness and respect.

I’m not sure what I would need to be prepared for most –  having an answer to give or speaking that answer in truth and love. Continue Reading

Sober-minded: Keeping Your Mind Alert | alyssajhoward.com

Sober-minded: Keeping Your Mind Alert

What does the Bible mean when it tells us to be sober-minded? Obviously the first thought to come to mind in terms of the word “sober” is abstaining from alcohol. But is that what the Bible is telling us? Is it telling us not to drink? I personally believe that the biblical definition of being sober-minded goes beyond abstaining from drunkenness. We are called to keep our minds alert and prepared for action. In fact, the Bible speaks of our “sober” mind most often in the case of warfare.

 

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. – 1 Peter 5:8 (ESV)

 

We’re called to be alert because we have a very real enemy. And even though Jesus already defeated him on the cross, he is constantly trying to sabotage God’s plans and our call to advance the Kingdom. Keep in mind, the enemy cannot hurt you. He cannot steal your salvation or “pluck you out of the Father’s hand.” But he can try to inhibit your growth. He can try to deceive you and render you useless in the Kingdom. And he can certainly try to keep you from spreading the Good News to the world.

 

We are told to be sober-minded and alert because when we are constantly on guard, the enemy doesn’t stand a chance.

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Guard Your Mind: How to Be Proactive in Your Thought Life

How often do you think about your thought life? For most of my life, I just let my mind do its thing. Thoughts were thoughts. I couldn’t control them – right? Wrong. Not only is it possible to change your thinking, we are commanded to do so as believers. But it doesn’t happen overnight. Renewing your mind towards Christ is a daily (sometimes minute to minute) process. And it starts by learning how to guard your mind.

 

Is it easier to break a long-term habit or to prevent that habit from taking root in the first place?  You see, your mind often operates out of habit or routine, and dwelling on negative thoughts becomes a habit rather quickly. Wouldn’t it be easier to guard your mind and prevent the pattern of negative thinking in the first place?

So I must ask, what are you doing to be proactive? How are you guarding your mind? Continue Reading

What It Means to Be Double-Minded

What does it mean to be double-minded? As we’ve discussed throughout this series, your mind and your thought life are crucial. We are called to have the mind of Christ, to meditate on Him and His promises, and to allow the Holy Spirit to transform us from the inside out by the renewing of our minds.

Certainly there’s no room for double-mindedness.

 

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. – James 1:5-8 (NIV)

 

In this passage from the book of James, we  see a double-minded man. Part of his mind believes that God will give him what he asks for (wisdom), and the other part of his mind doubts that God will keep His promise. In this case, his “double mind” consists of both faith and doubt.

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The Art of Biblical Meditation | alyssajhoward.com

The Art of Biblical Meditation

Meditation is nothing new. It’s a part of many traditions and religions, and studies have shown it to have great benefits in terms of health and stress levels. Setting aside the fact that it may actually be good for us, many Christians consider it to be sinful. Have you ever wondered why that is?

The answer lies in the simple fact that it is practiced heavily by other religions. Many of these religions use meditation to focus on the mind. They train themselves to control their thoughts, which in turn changes their perception of the world. They are better able to cope with stress, become more compassionate and peaceful people, manage their emotions, and become diligent in their thought life.  Sounds all good right?

 

Now before you write me off, let me explain what’s wrong with worldly meditation. Something is missing – and that something is actually a Someone. You see, worldly meditation is all about you. It takes everything that’s right with meditating (and there is a right way to meditate, but more on that later), and it removes God from the picture entirely. Worldly meditation places the power, the control, the ability to transform, and the ability to experience peace in the hands of the one who is meditating.

 

So is there such a thing as biblical meditation? If so, what does it look like in practice? Continue Reading

Our Minds and the Law: Understanding Your Conscience | alyssajhoward.com

Our Minds and the Law: Understanding Your Conscience

My young daughters are constantly bombarded with messages telling them to do the right thing. Even secular books and television teach them to live by an “inner moral code.” The world calls this your conscience. But as believers, are we supposed to listen to our conscience? Is this biblical?

 

The Ten Commandments were written on stone tablets. The Jewish people had a written Law, a written visual reminder to obey God. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough. The people lived in rebellion towards God for much of the Old Testament (with a few exceptions of course). By the time Jesus came in the first century, the religious teachers of the Law had been corrupted by their own pride. They followed the Law to the letter, but they did so with selfish motives and a heart that longed to show the world (rather than God) how well they could obey.

They not only had pride issues, but many of the Jewish people hid behind the Law. In other words, they felt that God would always be on their side because of their covenant – that their Law would bring them salvation. But Paul made it clear in Romans 2, being a Jew by birth wouldn’t save them.

 

A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God. – Romans 2:28-29 (NIV)

 

So why bring up the Law and the old covenant? Aren’t we supposed to be discussing how to renew your mind? Continue Reading

Positive Thinking Was God's Design | alyssajhoward.com

Positive Thinking Was God’s Design

The world knows that positive thinking is good for us. Nearly every self-help book on the market will tell you that your mind plays a crucial role in shaping not only your life, but also your health.

I used to believe that positive thinking belonged to the world. I would see “positive” encouragements online (with the absence of God of course) and think to myself how wrong the whole positive thinking movement is. The problem with that, however, is that positive thinking was God’s idea first. The world simply took a spiritual truth, removed God, and packaged it up for everyone who needed it.

It caught on, because it works. And it works, because it’s a God-given spiritual truth.

 

Paul describes the mind of the believer in his letter to the Philippians:

 

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things. – Philippians 4:4-8 (HCSB)

 

We are called to think about what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, and commendable – and not just think about them but dwell on them. Speaking from experience, it’s not easy to keep my mind positive all day, every day. In fact, it’s downright hard sometimes – especially during difficult circumstances. But I truly believe that God’s desire for our minds is that we learn to replace our negative thoughts with positive thoughts – that we fill our mind with His truth, His love, and His peace. Continue Reading

Is It Biblical to Have an Open Mind?

Is it biblical to have an open mind? Most in the church today would probably say no. Open-mindedness is often associated with worldly thinking and culture. It’s an acceptance of all faiths and lifestyles in a way that says, “There are many paths to God.” But the truth is that open-mindedness was actually God’s idea. Not in the way that it’s preached today, but in a way that says, “My mind is open to things of God, and I want to fill it with nothing but Him.” Continue Reading

3 Ways to Actively Pursue a Renewed Mind in Christ | alyssajhoward.com

3 Ways to Actively Pursue a Renewed Mind in Christ

When the Bible talks about having a renewed mind in Christ, it leaves most of the responsibility to us. We are called to change our thinking, guard our minds in Christ, and actively pursue filling our minds with the things of God. Now that doesn’t mean God leaves us empty-handed. It is through the power of the Holy Spirit that we are given the strength we need to accomplish the task. God has certainly equipped us with some powerful tools to help us live out our faith. Continue Reading

3 God-Given Tools We Can Use to Renew Our Minds

Does renewing your mind ever seem like an impossible task? For me personally, changing the way my mind thinks and processes information seems like a daunting task. But there is hope! (Thank goodness – right?) When the Bible discusses the idea of renewing your mind, it places most of the emphasis on us. We have to be the ones to make the choice to think differently, but that doesn’t mean God left us empty-handed. In fact, He never calls us to do something He hasn’t already equipped us to do.

 

Imagine you are wearing a tool belt… Continue Reading

True Repentance: The Art of Changing Your Mind

Christians hear the word repentance quite often. It’s an essential part of our faith to say the least. As a child, I was taught that it meant being sorry for your sins. But as I grew older, I began to see that true repentance extends far beyond a simple, “I’m sorry.” Rather, it’s a complete transformation.

 

The Greek word most commonly translated as “repent” in the New Testament is metanoeo (or metanoia in its noun form). It means “to change one’s mind or purpose.”

So when Jesus told us to repent, He wasn’t simply telling us to be sorry for our sins. Rather, He was asking us to change our minds – to turn our thoughts away from sin and towards God instead. Continue Reading

Renewing Your Mind: Where to Begin? | alyssajhoward.com

Renewing Your Mind: Where to Begin?

We know that renewing your mind is important, and we’ve studied the benefits. But where do we begin exactly? If renewing your mind is a process, then what does that process entail? Fortunately, the Bible gives us quite a bit of insight into where to start.

 

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. – Ephesians 4:22-24 (NIV)

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The Importance of Renewing Your Mind | alyssajhoward.com

The Importance of Renewing Your Mind

Today marks the first day of my 31-day writing challenge – 31 days of renewing your mind. Every October, bloggers come together and take on the challenge of writing for 31 days straight on one topic. (You can find out more about #write31days here.) Since I started blogging, I’ve watched Octobers come and go wishing I had the time to take on such a feat. Well, I’m not sure I have more time this year, but I certainly feel like God has placed a specific topic on my heart. And for that reason, I will take the challenge!

 

So why write for 31 days on renewing your mind? Well for one thing, the Bible speaks often about the importance of our thoughts. Everything we do and say stems from our thought life. Even the term repentance means “to change your mind.” Continue Reading