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3 Ways to Shield Your Mind

Written By Debra Ayis, Nigeria

Every day, we are bombarded with information that’s readily available at our fingertips. From the TV, social media, and other fora, it is next to impossible to shield one’s self from the swirling voices surrounding us. To make matters worse, it can be difficult to adequately filter what information we allow ourselves to consume even when we make a mindful decision to do so.

However, I’ve learned that it’s vital to curate what I allow my mind to be exposed to, as the information I consume shapes my thought processes and perceptions in life.

For instance, when I worked on human trafficking issues at my job, I developed a network of friends, both professional and personal, who were experts in or passionate about these issues. I read articles, essays, attended conferences, and wrote research papers on the subject.

I also aligned myself with organizations such as A21 and participated in “walks for freedom”. I even wrote poetry on human trafficking. In summary, I was fully invested. This passion, which eventually led to me being an expert in my organization, would not have developed if I had not intentionally fostered its growth in all areas of my life.

As Christians, many of us long to be passionate about the things of God. Our desire is to not conform to the pattern of this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our mind (Romans 12:2). We want to think about whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, and anything that is excellent or praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8). If that’s what we desire, shouldn’t we be ready to make sacrifices to build a life that is conducive for our passion for God to grow uninhibited?

What does this look like? Personally, no matter how hard I try to customize the news topics I receive on Google or Apple news, the curated result always leaves me a bit disappointed—and I find myself being drawn to articles that leave me depressed or upset after reading them. This doesn’t even include the way social media has the propensity to suck us into a seemingly endless supply of information that we wouldn’t necessarily choose to engage with through its algorithms and auto-play functions.

So how do I keep my mind pure and free so I can stay focused on God? How do I make Philippians 4:8 a reality in my life?

I wish I could say that I have it all sorted out, but alas, I am still a work in progress. However, I have found three effective ways to be more mindful of what I am feeding my mind everyday:

1. Put on the right armor

I am a Christian, which means my body is the temple of God (1 Corinthians 6:19). Just as we eat healthy food for the sake of our physical bodies, we must also feed our minds the right food to keep it pure. The Bible reminds us what that food is—every word that comes from the mouth of God (Deuteronomy 8:3).

So, I try to start and spend my whole day with God—staying in constant communication and communion with Him. I read and study the Word daily. Sometimes I listen to Christian music while working. On social media, I follow a ton of inspirational speakers, Bible apps and devotions, so that’s what pops up on my feed. I pray while walking around from place to place, and I ask for God’s advice on issues I face as my day unfolds.

This fortifies me against invasive information more than any other measure I can think of. I find that when I seek to stay in communion with God, I spend my day thinking about Scripture—the things of God and how to apply them—leaving less room for other thoughts and information to take root in my mind.

2. Avoid the battles you can

I often consider the adage “garbage in, garbage out”, and choose to steer far away from gossip and slander on the news. I unfollow social media accounts and stay away from music, movies or TV shows that aren’t morally sound.

Instead, I find alternatives that serve as a respite from the mainstream. There is a huge library of Christian artists in every genre that produce high-quality, godly music that gives secular music a run for its money in terms of quality, creativity, and even “dance-ability”!

 

3. Find trusty comrades

Even though a lot of our interactions with others take place online these days, it’s important to develop strong friendships in person. After all, iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17). So, I am careful with the type of friends I keep and limit my inner circle to those whose value system aligns with Scripture.

Recently, the Spirit was leading me to pray about a certain issue in my life, but I wasn’t really sold out on it. Then the next morning, my friend sent me a verse on the same issue I had a prompting to pray about! It helped reinforce the need for me to stay mindful of the issue and pray about it. I was grateful to have a friend who was willing to obey God’s leading to share that verse with me, thus keeping me focused on what God required of me in that moment in time (Proverbs 18:24).

In the same way, I try to make sure that in all my interactions with others, my words are filled with grace, and build and encourage others (Colossians 4:5-6, Ephesians 4:29). For me, it’s all about meeting people where they are at and letting God’s light shine through me so that they are drawn to Christ (Matthew 5:16)!

 

These three methods have helped me become tremendously mindful in streamlining and curating the sort of information I consume from day to day. I hope you’ll find them helpful as well. Above all, the most important measure or guide on who or what we should allow to influence our lives can be found in the Bible, so I hope you continue to dig deeper into God’s Word, even as I endeavor to do same.

10 Steps To A Rejuvenated YOU

Title: 10 Steps To A Rejuvenated YOU
Artwork by: YMI
Description: 
We are often told we are what we eat. In a bid to rid our body of the excess burgers and fried noodles that we have been consuming, most of us would have tried a new diet or weight-loss fad to cleanse our bodies, often with little or no success. But just as important as it is to look after our physical bodies, we must also look at nourishing our soul, mind, and heart. With that in mind, we’ve put together 10 nourishing tips to rejuvenate our selves!

 

Breathe in the delicious scent of a favorite body scrub. Feel fresh skin emerging as we work the scrub all over our bodies. Like our skin, our mind needs a good cleanse every now and then. We scrub our bodies to cleanse it from the dirt and grime we have accumulated over the day. Likewise, our minds might have absorbed negative thoughts or ideas that are detrimental to us that we need to scrub out. 

Let us take the time to gently cleanse our minds and mouths, so our words and meditations will be acceptable to God (Psalm 19:14). Once done, fill our minds up with thoughts that are noble and right, pure and lovely, excellent and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8)

 

“I have been so busy,” is probably the most common expression we hear. Whether it is waking up early for a gym session, or working late into the night, most of us equate being busy with being productive. But soon, the stresses of frantically rushing from one appointment to another leave us perpetually tired and burned out. Fortunately, God knows how important rest is for us, and like a gentle shepherd, he invites us to lie down in green pastures, to rest beside the still waters, as he restores our soul (Psalm 23:1-4). Go on, it is time to put your feet up. 

 

Cold water, fresh juices, iced drinks. Water is essential to everyday living, and without it, we would shrivel up and become dehydrated. Likewise, staying hydrated in God’s word is just as important. Without His words, our spiritual lives will dry up. 

We are to soak in His words, drink deeply from the Bible, so that we will be like a tree that is firmly planted by the stream of water, which yields its fruit in its season, and whose leaf does not wither (Psalm 1:3). Doesn’t that sound simply refreshing?  

 

“I am not as good as her at sports”, “s/he is better looking than I am”, “I never have anything cool to say unlike him/her”. Whether we know it or not, we often find ourselves comparing our looks, gifts, or athleticism to our peers. Before we know it, we have spiraled into a pit of self-doubt and self-pity, thinking God has short changed us in every department. 

Instead of letting these thoughts rule our minds, let us “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (Corinthians 10:3-5)”. Let us also take the time to remind ourselves that we are Christ’s “workmanship, created to do the good works He has prepared for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10)

 

For some, opting for a plate of fried chicken instead of a bowl of salad is hands down the easiest option. But eating too many fried chickens could have an adverse effect on our health. Likewise, choosing to nourish our soul with God’s words may seem like a dull alternative when we can spend it on streaming videos. However, reading daily devotions and spending time in prayer allows us to taste and see how good He is (Psalm 34:8). 

Feasting on His promises allows us to be filled with joy and peace, abounding in all hope (Romans 15:13). This is important for when life gets hard, and when we cannot see an end to our troubles, we can rely on His promises to get us through the tough times. Start nourishing your soul now!

 

Leading an active lifestyle is more than just eating the right foods, or thinking positive thoughts. Hitting the gym to build strong muscles are also part of a healthy lifestyle. But don’t just stop at the gym. Let your spiritual life be a fitspo for the people around you. 

Actively seek God in your youth (Ecclesiastes 12:1). Seek Him with all your heart, not straying from His commands (Psalm 119:10). Keep in step with God each day, turning from evil (Psalm 34:14). As we earnestly seek God, we will find ourselves transformed more and more into Christ-likeness.

 

OK, just one more look,” you promise yourself. “I will turn away from my phone after this.” A good 30-minutes fly before you turn away from your phone. Next minute, your phone tells you that your screen time has gone up by 40%. Now is a good time to get off the grid, and instead tune into God.

Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed (Luke 5:16). While this doesn’t mean we have to move to remote places to pray, why not lock your phone away in a drawer for an hour, while you pray or read your Bible? He can be found when we seek Him with all our hearts (Jeremiah 29:13), so let us update our spiritual life by spending time with Him. The fulfilment we get from spending time with God will last longer than any social media status update.

 

Laying on your couch as you binge the latest Netflix obsession can be tempting. But why not trade your home slippers with your sneakers, grab a friend or two, and go for a refreshing wander to a nearby park? If you are hitting the great outdoors, take the time to admire the lush surrounds. Use the time to praise God for the wonder and the beauty of his creations. 

Scripture says let everything that has breath praise God (Psalm 150:6), and it is through God that all things were made (John 1:3). As you gaze at the skies, remember that the heavens declare the glory of God, and the skies proclaim the work of His hands (Psalm 19:1)

 

Ah, who does not love a good chatter? Sometimes when we’re feeling overwhelmed, one of the best things we can do is to talk through our emotions instead of bottling them up inside. Talking about our situation with a trusted friend allows us to see a situation clearer, or gives us a new perspective on things. 

We are not made to shoulder our burdens alone. Scripture says two are better than one because if either one of them falls down, one can help the other (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12). We are to carry each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), so let us take every opportunity to spur each other on toward love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24) 

 

The joys of throwing out our old pre-loved items can be a freeing experience. Decluttering your wardrobe or house to make way for new things can be super exciting. Similarly, now that we are in Christ, we should put off our old selves, so that we can put on “the clothes of righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:20-24). God’s grace allows us fresh starts in our lives. There is no time like today to start afresh!

 

If you like what you just saw, here’s some other related content for you!

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Soul-cial Media: Restoring Your Soul In God

Inception: What Are We Allowing Into Our Minds?

Screenshot taken from Official Trailer

Most people would remember Inception, the mind-bending dream-within-a-dream film written, directed and co-produced by Christopher Nolan. Released in 2010 to huge commercial success, it won four Academy Awards in 2011 and grossed over US $828 million in box offices worldwide.

Inception is essentially a film about corporate espionage. It tells the story of a thief called Dom Cobb (Leonardo diCaprio) who extracts corporate secrets through the use of dream-sharing technology. One day, he is offered a job by a Japanese businessman to do the reverse— plant an idea into the mind of a rival CEO to dissolve his dying father’s company and break up a long-standing monopoly.

Cobb assembles a team of six, including an architect to design the dream world, a chemist to administer sedatives for a stable dream state, and an impersonator to manipulate the victim. Apart from the brilliant visual effects and powerful music score, Inception’s storyline sends this important message to audiences—that the mind is powerful and is able to determine a person’s future.

 

It all begins with the mind

The word “inception” comes from the root word to incept, meaning to begin, to start or to establish something. In the film, Dom Cobb compares an idea to a virus—small, resilient and highly contagious. Once it takes hold in a person’s brain, it’s almost impossible to eradicate. And so the team hatch a four-level strategy to plant these ideas—level by level—into their victim, Robert Fischer Jr (Cillian Murphy)’s mind:

Level 1: “I will not follow in my father’s footsteps”

Level 2: “I will create something for myself”

Level 3: “My father doesn’t want me to be him”

Level 4: “I will dissolve my father’s empire”

The next 90 minutes of the film moves quickly in a complex maze of kidnaps, robberies and shootouts—all cleverly designed to manipulate Fischer, set the scene and provide context for the thoughts to be planted. The job is carried out en-route an 18-hour flight when all are put to sleep to carry out the task in the dream world. The mission is a success and over the coming days and weeks, the thoughts implanted in Fischer’s subconscious will start to take root, grow organically and translate into the desired outcomes.

Our minds determine our future

The inception process is complex, dangerous, and requires much strategy, engineering and physicality. The same way Cobb and his team go to great lengths to plant a seed into their victim’s mind, our enemy the devil uses a similar modus operandi. The Bible calls him a thief (John 10:10), a liar (John 8:44) and very crafty (Genesis 3:1). He “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). But far from being a physical lion waging a physical attack, the enemy assaults us first in the mind.

Before the mission begins, Cobb warns his client on the gravity of his request: “The seed that we plant in this man’s mind will grow into an idea. This idea will come to define him, and it may come to change everything about him.”

Why is this important for us to understand? The Bible also talks about how the enemy wages a spiritual war against us in the mind. To overcome this, we have to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2) and to bring “every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

Inception may be a science-fiction thriller, but the movie is based on the solid truth about how our thoughts can affect our actions and shape who we become. Cobb says in the film: “The smallest seed of an idea can grow, and it can grow to define or destroy you.” Towards the end of the film, we realize that it was the idea that “Your world isn’t real” that led his wife to her tragic suicide.

Our thoughts are so powerful that they are able to determine the course of our lives. May we always be alert and sober-minded, guarding our minds vigilantly against any seemingly random or negative thoughts that are not submitted to Christ.

For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” – Proverbs 23:7

Why We Must Engage Both Mind and Heart

When I was a much younger Christian, I was taught that feelings were unreliable. I learned that God still loves me even when I don’t feel like He does—just as a chair would still support my weight even when I don’t feel like it would.

My feelings did not determine reality, I was reminded, and neither should they be allowed to dictate my actions. I was told that I didn’t have to wait until I felt like praying before I started to pray; I was to pray because it was in line with God’s will.

I’ve tried to keep this in mind, but I’ve found that it can be challenging to act against my own emotions. There were times when I willed myself to go to church or cell group, but my heart remained unwilling or even grudging towards God. Although I was obedient outwardly, I felt no joy inwardly.

That is how I’ve come to realize this: it’s not healthy to always act according to my mind without engaging my emotions.

After all, Jesus calls us to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength (Luke 10:27). Both our heart and mind must be engaged in loving Him. Just as it isn’t wise to trust the heart without checking back with the mind, it isn’t healthy to always go with the mind without engaging the heart, either.

But how are we to do that when the heart and mind sometimes pull us in different directions? God has taught me a few things that helped me to see that this doesn’t always have to be an ongoing battle, but the heart and the mind can instead have an ongoing conversation.

 

Listen to our Emotions

God showed me that while my feelings aren’t always reliable, it doesn’t mean that I ignore them. Even though my emotions may not always tell the truth about reality, they do tell me something about myself.

So if I feel a sense of rejection even when I’m surrounded by loving family and friends, I won’t immediately think that they are actually rejecting me. But I would ask myself why I’m feeling this way. I would seek God’s help to reveal to me any deeper issue that’s causing me to feel like that. After I get some idea of what might have led to that feeling of rejection, I’d ask God to comfort and heal me, and to show me His truths about me and the situation. He might remind me, as He has in the past, that He has accepted me (Romans 15:7) as His beloved son (1 John 3:1). And He might show me how I’ve misunderstood the situation or misperceived the intents of others.

Processing my emotions with God can help me to apply His truths to myself. If I have been hurt by something, God can bind up my wounds (Psalm 147:3). If the underlying issue is a sinful attitude, He can show me where I’ve gone wrong, so that I can confess my sin to Him and repent of it.

By digging deeper into what our emotions may be trying to tell us, we can receive God’s comfort or cleansing from sin. Our minds can then use the truths revealed by God to align our emotions closer to Him and His truths.

 

Get our Treasure Right

That said, while emotions are important, it doesn’t mean that we need to be controlled by them. When I was younger, I thought that my emotions would always have a huge hold over my actions. If I felt like doing something, it’d take a lot for me to not do it. I believed that there was nothing I could do to change how I felt.

That is, until one day when God spoke to me through Matthew 6:21: “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” He brought to my attention that the verse didn’t say, “Where your heart is, there your treasure will be also”—which would mean what I love is dependent on how I feel—and if I don’t feel that way, then I can’t make myself love it.

However, what God was saying in the verse was this: what I intentionally choose to value will eventually become what my heart cherishes. This gives me a lot of encouragement because it means that I don’t have to helplessly succumb to the influence of my emotions!

For example, I didn’t use to like to pray or read the Word. But I asked the Lord to help me to want to treasure whatever was upon His heart. So, with God’s help, I began to pray and read the Word as my way of giving value to these things, regardless of whether I felt like doing so or not. Over time, my heart began to follow suit. Today, I love to pray and read the Word much more than I did in the past. Through this, I learned that what I choose to value with my actions can affect what I emotionally treasure in my heart.

There’s something my pastor used to say which I’ve come to experience personally: “When you see as God sees, you will do as God does. But sometimes, you have to do as God says before you can see as He sees.”

When my heart isn’t aligned with what is upon God’s heart, I’m very thankful that He has given me a mind that can lead my heart to prefer His ways. Instead of needing to first feel like I agree with or value what He says before I can obey Him, God showed me that—regardless of what I feel—when I choose to do what He says and lay my treasure where He wants me to, that would help me to see as He sees and so, treasure what He treasures in my heart.

 

Think Right Thoughts to Influence Emotions

And ultimately, we can also influence our emotions by thinking the right thoughts. I’ve heard a quote that goes, “You’re not what you think you are, but what you think, you are.” Another saying explained it this way:

“Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”

This, to me, underlies how our thoughts play a primary role in determining the kind of person we become and life we live. This must be why the Bible instructs us to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

This helped me to better appreciate why God’s Word exhorts us to think about whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8)—and nothing is more excellent and praiseworthy than God and His Word, will, and ways. If these are what we think about more, our brains will not only retain them, but these thoughts will also affect our heart, and ultimately, our life.

 

In my desire to love God, I want to love Him with both my heart and my mind. American pastor and theologian Timothy Keller said, “You have a circumcised heart when what you ought to do and what you want to do are the same—pleasure and duty are the same.”

On our journey of letting God circumcise our heart more and more, I’m glad that God has given us ways for our heart and mind to engage each other so that we can love God fully. He is totally worthy of us loving Him with our whole being—because He’s the One who first loved us with all His heart, mind, soul, and strength.