What is the Most Effective Tool for Rewiring Your Brain?

wiring_05, a photo by m4rlonj on Flickr.

There’s something important I’ve learned about scripture memory that’s often overlooked. It’s really been driven home to me over the last two years especially:

It isn’t the quantity of scripture memory that rewires the brain. It’s the depth of thinking and feeling invested in the verses. It’s the application of the verses into the day-to-day and moment-to-moment of my life.

The first five verses I memorized as a new Christ-follower serve as the foundation of every verse I’ve learned since then. I have broken them down repeatedly into their component parts, searched the scriptures for insight and clarity into the meaning of their words and phrases. I have prayed them into my life and into the lives of my friends (and sometimes enemies). I have mentally hyperlinked them to additional verses I’ve learned and explored. I have held the teaching of preachers and artists up to their lights. I have judged my actions and attitudes by them.

And I have clung to them in the darkness.

I am in the midst of transitions more radical than any I’ve experienced in almost 40 years. These five verses and the ones that followed them over the decades are the roots of change that are now bearing fruit.

Healthy Thinking and The Owner’s Manual App

One of the most helpful encouragements in the Christian scriptures toward healthy thinking is Philippians 4:8.

Here is something about Philippians 4:8 that’s easy to miss but very powerful:

It’s the order of priority given to deciding what to dwell on. The verse is a series of filters and the order in which they’re applied is important. Let’s list them and then I’ll tell you why.

  1. Whatever is true.
  2. Whatever is honorable.
  3. Whatever is right.
  4. Whatever is pure.
  5. Whatever is lovely.
  6. Whatever is of good repute.
  7. Anything of excellence.
  8. Anything worthy of praise.

Notice number 5.

Can you imagine what would happen to your imagination if you let your mind dwell on lovely things without first applying the other filters, especially the purity filter? (Actually, I guess most of us don’t have to imagine; we know full well from our own experience.) Filters 1-4 define what is genuinely lovely as opposed to what is merely attractive to the senses.

Then there’s number 6.

Without filters 1-5, thinking of things of good repute simply has you thinking along with the herd. Group think. There are times when group think can be really, really ugly.

How well has thinking like everyone else worked out for you so far?

Here’s one of my favorite things about the Bible.

It has some really cool functions. Almost like apps. There’s a Love Letter app. There’s a History app. And a Biography app. There’s even an Everyone’s Picking On Me How Will I Ever Survive app. Lots of apps.

Philippians 4:8 is part of my (currently) favorite app: The Owner’s Manual app.

The God Who Created All Things put together a special app to explain to the human part of his creation how to care for and maintain itself. Philippians 4:8 is part of that app.

If you read the Bible merely as a list of requirements and prohibitions, you’re missing what is really cool about it. If you read it as the surest way to function well and be happy? Then you’re off to a good start.

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. —Philippians 4:8

The Road Map

Psalm 119:9-19 (MSG)

9-16 How can a young person live a clean life?
By carefully reading the map of your Word.
I’m single-minded in pursuit of you;
don’t let me miss the road signs you’ve posted.
I’ve banked your promises in the vault of my heart
so I won’t sin myself bankrupt.
Be blessed, God;
train me in your ways of wise living.
I’ll transfer to my lips
all the counsel that comes from your mouth;
I delight far more in what you tell me about living
than in gathering a pile of riches.
I ponder every morsel of wisdom from you,
I attentively watch how you’ve done it.
I relish everything you’ve told me of life,
I won’t forget a word of it.

17-19 Be generous with me and I’ll live a full life;
not for a minute will I take my eyes off your road.
Open my eyes so I can see
what you show me of your miracle-wonders.
I’m a stranger in these parts;
give me clear directions.

My daughter Amy is about to go into 6th Grade. Our church has a wonderful program for kids called Konnect, where the kids practice small group community and discipleship while being mentored by caring and creative leaders.

Last night was the the last night for her 5th Grade group. Now Amy will transition into the Middle School youth group, called MidSwitch. It’s scary and exciting.

The teaching last night was all about packing for the journey—the rest of her life. Psalm 119 is in my quiet time reading this morning and these verses, and this translation, struck me as an affirmation of that word picture from last night.

We are on a journey into the rest of our lives. In one way, the Word is a road map for that journey—if we’ll consult it, rather than improvising on our own (only learning things the hard way). Or emulating others who are improvising on their own (the blind leading the blind).

I have a burden and a vision:

The burden is a worry that this youngest generation will not escape the confusion of voices that permeate our culture. That they will face the multitude of choices before them without the discernment and knowledge they need to navigate their lives. One of the prevailing elements in the Millennial world view is a scary moral equivalence that stands in stark contrast to the revelation of scripture. To many in this generation, there is no such thing as absolute moral truth. There is only understanding and misunderstanding, tolerance and intolerance. (This is, after all, a generation raised on the Sesame Street idea that there are no real monsters, only puppets who are…different.)

The vision is that wise shepherd-teachers—like the men and women in Konnect who’ve nurtured Amy to this point, and those in Switch (the youth ministry) who’ll take the baton now—will powerfully model what a Christ-follower looks like and how they behave and how they’re equipped.

I am praying for those young leaders now, that they will have roots in the scriptures and wings in the Spirit and that they will be overtaken by a passion to inspire Amy and her generation to seek God’s best—his truth, his love, and his power—using the scriptures as their personal road map to the rest of their lives.

YouVersion Reading Plans: One-2-One

Came across a new Bible reading plan called  One-2-One.

It appealed to me because it’s tuned to new believers. First of all, I am passionate about helping people who don’t know Christ come to know him and then helping them get established, growing, and sharing their faith. Second, throughout my walk with Christ I have needed to re-establish focus by kind of starting over—pretending I’m a new believer and going through “new believer” things. And here’s a Bible reading plan for new believers, all of 25 days long.

I like the plan’s overview:

One-2-One was written as a simple tool to aid in personal follow-up and discipleship. It’s a guide. It cannot make a disciple, but it can help you make one. Most importantly, it helps a new disciple get the right start.

Day 1 has two readings, both of them foundation verses for getting established in Christ and becoming a Christ-sharer, 2 Timothy 2:2 and Mark 1:17.

Okay, but here’s what blew me away. There’s an “Additional Content” button. So I click on it and a personal story from the plan’s author pops up and promptly blows me away. It’s a vivid accounting of how the author got imprinted, first with the good news of Jesus, and then with a life purpose of making disciples.

Even if you don’t do the 25 days, I heartily recommend looking up the plan and reading the story. For some of you, it will be a life-changer. For others, maybe an affirmation of something you’ve been pursuing for a long time.

I’m gonna continue with the plan for the whole 25 days, and I’ll let you know my impressions. If it’s as good as I suspect it is, I’ll be buttonholing everyone I know to go through it and consider what it has to teach them.

Meanwhile, I think this is going to be fun!

Question:

Is reading the Bible every day part of your routine? If so, how’s it going? If not, how about reading along with me on the One-2-One Plan? Come back here and let me know what you think!