I still remember my world as a pre-school boy. It seems, in my memories, that the sun was always shining and life was wonderful in the springtime of my life. Happily living in a small shack with my parents and sisters, by a quiet dirt road in the country, surrounded by forest, I had no responsibilities, nothing to worry about, and was blissfully oblivious to what we might call the real world.
As I grew up, I became increasingly aware of the ugliness in this world.
In my 20’s and 30’s I wrote letters to newspapers and governments, but they never seemed to accomplish anything, and I eventually gave up. I found myself growing increasingly cynical about the world, governments, the media, academia, and even people all around me. During that time, I led projects in other countries and I saw things that haunt me to this day. Slowly and steadily, my world grew darker, and darker, and darker.
Slowly and steadily, my world grew darker, and darker, and darker.
There is a song called Field of Innocence, by Evanescence, that describes my own childhood and what has happened since then. A portion of the lyrics go like this:
I still remember the world from the eyes of a child Slowly those feelings were clouded by what I know now Where has my heart gone, an uneven trade for the real world I want to go back to believing in everything and knowing nothing at all I still remember the sun always warm on my back Somehow it seems colder now, where has my heart gone
I was in my early 40s when something happened on one particular day. I had just heard yet another piece of bad news about the world, and the darkness of my world increased yet another notch. I stood there, with an ache in my heart as I remembered my childhood, and it occurred to me that this cannot possibly be what God desires for a person who belongs to him.
Right there, I prayed to God and asked him to give me a beautiful mind. I had spent half a lifetime being slowly changed by the ugliness of this world; but now, for the remainder of my life, I wanted God to make the sun shine again in my heart and give me a beautiful mind, untainted by the darkness of this world.
I had no idea how God was going to do it but I did know one thing. I certainly could not make that happen.
Since that day, he has brought about some major discoveries and milestones in my spiritual life. God’s answer to my prayer for a beautiful mind was to start me walking up a road that continues to go higher up and further in, leading me to discover life-changing stepping stones along the way. I now see that the day I asked my Lord for a beautiful mind, it was a major turning point in a living relationship with God that is more fulfilling that anything this world has to offer.
In the book of 2 Peter, it says this, “According to his promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by him in peace, spotless and blameless” (2 Peter 3:13,14).
The first major principle I came face to face with was the need to totally surrender myself into the hands of God on a daily basis.
It occurred to me one day that my life was fleeing by, faster and faster, but there seemed to be so much more that needed to happen in my life that the remainder of my life just seems drastically too short to accomplish it. In desperation, I saw that if the pace of spiritual growth was going to quicken, I needed divine intervention each day for the remainder of my life. It was time for a whole new understanding and practice of what total, daily surrender to God means.
Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake, he is the one who will save it” (Luke 9:23,24).
Jesus describes total surrender as denying yourself, taking up your cross daily, and following him. What he is saying here is that your surrender to the King of Kings must be with no terms, no conditions, absolutely nothing held back — “all in”. If there is a part of you that you are withholding, I ask him to invade that area of your life and take it. You do not have time left in your life to withhold even the smallest part of yourself. Take everything. Nothing compares to giving yourself completely to the one who created the galaxies,who is the King of Kings, and the Ancient of Days, and from whom comes every good thing given and every perfect gift.
The second milestone is to know that you are loved by God
I have heard it said that it can make all the difference in the world to a person who is struggling, or going through difficult times, if they know that they are loved. I have discovered that a major step forward in acquiring a beautiful mind, is to know that you are loved by God with a love that is so powerful that you could not function if you were to fully feel and experience it while still in your mortal body. He wants you to know he loves you as he has loved the son.
Here is a verse with enormous implications regarding the love of God. . .
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before him” (Ephesians 1:3,4).
Before he even created the universe, he knew everything about you, including all the bad things you have ever done and still will do to the end of your life, and knowing all that, he chose you and has loved you before the foundation of the world.
A third milestone in the quest for a beautiful mind is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind.
One of the most powerful, life-changing events I experienced after asking God for a beautiful mind occurred one morning when a question popped into my mind. Here was the question, “How confident are you that you grasp the full depth and scope of what Christ meant when he said to love God with all our strength, soul, mind, and heart? What does that really mean?”
Right there, I knew I needed to ask for divine intervention. I began to pray daily that God would bring me closer and closer to the place where I actually did love him the way he meant when he said that.
If you want to love God in the way he meant, and want what happens as a result, start asking for it in your daily prayers.
Within a few weeks of starting that prayer, I began to notice that something was happening within me, like I had walked through a door in a wall and on the other side was something I might describe as a surge forward toward a beautiful mind and a pure heart. I say “toward”, not “arrived”. Living Christianity is a road that always goes higher up and further in.
If you want to love God in the way he meant, and want what happens as a result, start asking for it in your daily prayers.
A fourth key milestone is to dwell on the good
When I was dating the young woman who is now my wife of over forty years, there were all sorts of small things about her that I cherished. It might be a letter she wrote, or even her handwriting, or the fragrance of her hair, or the sound of her voice, all of which helped me feel closer to her.
Here’s my point: even though there is all sorts of darkness in this world and wickedness is increasing, there is also the fragrance of God all over this world.
Recall that every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Lights with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. This puts the following command in the book of Philippians into a wonderful perspective. It says this,
“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).
Each one of these good things are the aroma of God in this world, and the secret to a beautiful mind is to look for and fill your mind with these things. Build a vast library in your mind filled with examples and memories of these good things that you have experienced or observed throughout the years. It should be a beautiful library, where the light slowly dispels the darkness and beauty slowly displaces the bad.
In recent months, I’ve been subjected to an avalanche of conspiracy theories sent my way, none of which is uplifting or beautiful or good. I love what God said to Isaiah about conspiracies, real or imagined. He said,
“You are not to say, ‘It is a conspiracy!’ In regard to all that this people call a conspiracy, And you are not to fear what they fear or be in dread of it. It is the Lord of hosts whom you should regard as holy. And he shall be your fear, And He shall be your dread” (Isaiah 8:12,13).
If you want a beautiful mind, let the Lord of Hosts deal with the conspiracies, real or imagined. As for you, fill your mind with whatever is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good reputation, excellent, and worthy of praise. These things are the aroma of the Father of Lights in this world, a foretaste of eternity.
This is one of the reasons that I love landscape and nature photography where his invisible attributes, eternal power, and divine nature are clearly seen.
The fifth essential key is to practice thanksgiving
As you encounter the aroma of God swirling around you day by day, you will experience moments of happiness, perhaps even extreme joy for which there seems to be no sufficiently rational explanation. When this happens, there is nothing in this life that I have found to be more powerful in actually sensing and feeling the presence of God than when I respond in thanksgiving to the little gifts he sets on our paths each day. Last night I went out for a walk in the moonlit night. I cannot describe how beautiful it was! I thanked God, and his presence surrounded me as I did so.
C.S. Lewis often mentioned these experiences. They point to the one who is the origin of beauty, love, honor, music, and every good thing given and every perfect gift, and they are just a tiny taste of what awaits us in eternity.
Do not just enjoy the little gifts God sets before you; enter into a heartfelt thanksgiving to him and he will draw near to you, and you will find your mind growing more beautiful in the sight of God over the years.
A sixth milestone is to daily soak up and meditate upon the Scriptures
One of my favorite times of the day occurs each morning when I make a cup of coffee, sit down in a comfortable chair, and read and soak up the Bible. I often ask God to weave his Word into every fabric of my being. The Word of God is essential for a beautiful mind, a pure heart, and the experience of peace and joy in a world that is, itself, growing darker.
The psalmist writes,
“The Law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart” (Psalm 19:7,8).
In another place he writes,
“How sweet are your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth” (Psalm 119:103)!
A seventh stepping stone on the road to a beautiful mind is to look for the return of our King
The slowly crumbling civilization in which we live can be very discouraging in many different ways every day, BUT you need to know that you have a King, and he is the King of kings, and he is coming back. He will put a complete and permanent end to lawlessness. He is preparing a new heaven and earth in which there will not even be the memory of evil. THAT world is our home and in THAT world, the beauty and goodness for which you long will be unleashed and flourish forever and ever. God has said, “behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former things will not be remembered or come to mind” Isaiah 65:17.
Now, whenever I hear of increasing lawlessness in this world, I turn to God and ask him for the return of the King.
An eighth major stepping stone is to see yourself as a servant to others
The central question in our culture today is, “How can I express my identity, find happiness and fulfillment and exercise my personal rights?” It is self-focused. The question for one who belongs to God, however, is different. It is, “What are my obligations in loving and serving God and others?”
The highest title in this world might be “Royal Highness” or “President” or “Prime Minister,” but in the New Testament, it was often “bond-slave of the Lord” (Mt 23:11–12).
There is enormous freedom in seeing oneself as a servant, serving God’s people in whatever way he has gifted you, no longer worrying about what rank you may have in the church, the community, or this world. God is your vindicator, your provider, and your joy. There were many times over the years when I was in an auditorium filled with many hundreds of people prior to representing God in a formal debate with a professor who was defending atheism. Sometimes, before the formal debate began, I would just feel sick to my stomach, but then I would remember. I am just a servant, and the people in this room tonight are the people I have been sent to serve. Each time, a quiet peace would fill me, the darkness would flee away, and light would take its place.
A ninth essential component on the road to a beautiful mind and a living Christianity is Christian fellowship.
A beautiful mind and a living Christianity thrives on encouragement, and God has designed us to receive that encouragement from other fellow travellers on the road to eternity, brothers and sisters in Christ. The Holy Spirit spoke through the writer of the book of Hebrews, saying,
“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:23-25).
I want to draw your attention to the phrase, “and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” He is speaking of the day of his return. The closer we get to it, the more lawlessness will increase and the more essential it will be to come together as believers.
It was a major turning point in my life.
That day when I first asked God for a beautiful mind, I had no idea what that road would look like, or what discoveries I would make along the way.
But it was a major turning point in my life.
We live in a world where there is plenty of darkness, but the sun can shine again in your heart. Of course, there are still parts in the road God has chosen for each one of us that are hard.But even though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you will fear no evil. He will make you lie down in green pastures, lead you beside quiet waters, and restore your soul.
I would like to close with what might be the most powerful prayer a human being can pray. It is a prayer, that if done sincerely and without reserve, will result in a beautiful mind and a living, Christ-centered Christianity. It goes like this,
My God, here I am. I place myself completely and totally in your hands to do with as you wish — no terms, no conditions, nothing held back. If there is an area in my life that I may be withholding from you, even without realizing it, I want you to invade it right now and fill it with your light. I ask that you would give me a beautiful mind and bring me to that place where I truly do love you in the way you actually meant when you said to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. I ask this in the name of my Lord, my King, my Redeemer and Savior, Jesus Christ, Emmanuel. Amen.