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Letter from Prison: Our mindset matters

Have you ever been in a conversation or a moment where a verse or phrase comes to mind from the Bible and you can't remember where it is found? Many of the verses we use for motivation and encouragement to press forward in those moments are found in the New Testament and written from a dark, lonely, desolate prison cell by the Apostle Paul. Here are a few that would be listed in his "Greatest Hits" album:

“He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ.” Philippians 1:6
“For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21
“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

Paul was in a prison cell facing death when he wrote Philippians. This book is often cited as one of Paul's most personal letters. It radiates joy, hope, and love for others. Major themes are humility, service, unity, and hope. If you or I were facing imminent death what would you write to your loved ones? How desperate would you be?

In all honesty, when a trial, hard situation, or relationship issue comes I often let my thoughts spiral. I get despondent, discouraged, and usually mad at something or someone. I think we all can relate that our thoughts drive our emotions and usually make things worse rather than better. It is mastering and learning to think how we think that changes what we do!

I want to learn to grasp this mindset of joy, the attitude of gratitude Paul exhibits and encourages the believers in Philippi to have. We don't have to look far into the letter to find instructions on how to better set our minds on Christ. Paul quickly gets to the point in Philippians Chapter 2:

"Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others."

Paul reminds us that right thinking is crucial to right living. Then in the next verse, he explains how we get to this "like-minded" unity: Have the same mindset as Christ Jesus. Paul, we are taking notes! Who doesn't want peace and unity in our homes, relationships, and workplaces?

"In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!"

Humble, obedient, servant.

My mind isn't often focused on those three things in the middle of a heated debate at the supper table over who left the milk jug empty in the fridge. The most important thing at that moment is often me, myself, and I proving I am right. Ouch.

Paul teaches and exemplifies that he doesn't always get it right but in the end, his goal is Christ, and the gospel going forward! He encourages us to "take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." (2 Cor 10:5) And when we do this our attitude, our relationships, and our actions change.

This is a daily rhythm to shift my mindset and attitude. It requires going against our own nature and societal norms to bring about such a change. In Romans 12:1-2, Paul urges us to resist conforming to the ways of the world and instead renew our minds. He recognized the significance of aligning our thoughts with the Truth. This has to be done every single day - that's what being a living sacrifice means.

In closing, I would like to share a thought from a Bible study by Jenny Allen that focuses on the book of Philippians:

"We often don't think about the way we think. We think about the way we feel almost every minute. But changing the way we think seems nearly impossible. And yet the apostle Paul clearly tells us again and again - conforming our minds to Christ is possible, and it is the goal of every follower of Christ. Paul is telling the believer that because of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we actually have the power to think Jesus-thoughts!" - Get out of Your Head, by Jenny Allen

Thank you, Paul. I need some Jesus thoughts today!

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