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Inward: Take Time to Think About What You Think About

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“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

-- The Apostle Paul (emphasis added)

“If you correct your mind, the rest of you will fall into place.” -- Lao Tzu

If we really want to change our lives and experience the fullness that God invites us into through Jesus, we have to change the way we think.

The inward everyday steps—meditation, prayer, fasting, and Bible study—are designed to retrain our minds around the truth of who God is. He is present. He is good. He is love. He is at work. These are just a few of the things of who God is that can reshape our thinking in powerful ways.

How do we engage with the inward everyday steps?

The first thing to know is that there is no right or wrong way to do these things. They will look slightly different for each of us based on personality type, life experience, and learning styles. Don’t be afraid to experiment, trying different things in order to find the methods that work best for you.

One thing that may help, though, is to learn from other followers of Jesus. We can gain insight from their experience which will usually help us along the path of crafting our own personal inward steps.

For hundreds of years, for example, followers of Jesus have engaged in a practice called Lectio Divina (which means “holy reading”). This practice incorporates Bible reading, meditation, and prayer. Here’s how it works.

  • Start by choosing a passage of the Bible (we’d suggest usually starting with something in the New Testament—from the book of John or the book of Ephesians), no more than 10-12 verses in length.
  • Read the passage out loud.
  • After you’ve read through the passage, close your eyes and think about what you just read, looking for a word or phrase from the passage that stood out to you or touched your heart in a unique way. Think about that word or phrase for a few moments in the context of what you just read. What does it mean?
  • Read through the passage again, keeping the word or phrase from the previous step at the forefront of your mind as you read the whole passage. How does it shape or change your understanding of the passage?
  • Pause again after the second reading, continuing to think about the word or phrase that stood out to you, turning it over in your mind. How does this idea shape your understanding of who God is? Of what He is like (or not like)?
  • Spend a few minutes in prayer, asking God, by His Holy Spirit, to reshape your heart and your thinking around this word or phrase. Is there something you feel God is asking you to do in response to what you’ve learned? Ask God to give you the strength to do it.

There are plenty of great online resources to help in this area, whether a simple Bible reading plan that gives you a passage to read each day or even online blogs that are based on a passage of scripture that give insight and direction for your prayer/meditation time.

Whatever tools you use, the most important thing is to be consistent. Spend a few minutes reading, praying, and thinking about scripture each day … expecting that God will use it to reshape your thinking, to renew your mind. When you are faithful to take those everyday steps, God will be faithful to meet you there.

Here are a few resources that may help.

Bible Reading Plans: Check out biblegateway.com or the YouVersion Bible app.

Devotional Blogs: shereadstruth.com and hereadstruth.com, specifically written for either women or men.

Everyday Steps

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Jesus has invited each of us into an experience of life every day that is rich and full through a real and deepening relationship with Him—our Creator and Father. Jesus told us plainly, “I have come that you may have life … and have it to the full.”

But how, exactly, do we go about accessing the full life Jesus offers? What are the habits or practices that we can engage in that will open our hearts?

We call them Everyday Steps—simple, tangible things we can do on a consistent basis to create space for God’s Spirit to work in our hearts.

Richard Foster developed a widely accepted framework for understanding these things we call everyday steps, putting them into three categories: inward, outward, and corporate.

The inward steps (meditation, prayer, fasting, Bible study) have to do with habits or practices we do primarily by ourselves and have to do with our thoughts, understanding, and time set aside to interact with God (usually through some form of prayer).

The outward steps (simplicity, solitude, submission, service) are things we each do on our own … and they are shown in our decisions and actions. While the inward steps may be relatively unseen to an outside observer, the outward steps are clearly visible in our behavior.

The corporate steps (confession, worship, guidance, celebration) are steps we generally take together, with other followers of Jesus. While they certainly can be done individually, there is power in taking these steps as a community of those who have placed their trust in Jesus.

Together, the inward, outward, and corporate steps are tangible things we can do on a consistent basis to intentionally create space in our lives for God’s Spirit to work in us—to change us and to help us grow deeper in our experience of the life offered in Jesus.

Over the next few days, we’ll explore each of these categories—inward, outward, and corporate—in a bit more depth so that we can more fully benefit from these powerful everyday steps.

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