Have you ever been told you need an attitude adjustment? I have. In the old days, it often took the form of a paddle to the rear end. One of the definitions of attitude on dictionary.com is tendency or orientation, especially of the mind. We all have an attitude and some even have attitude. Not all attitudes are good even though a lot of people think anything goes. But every now and then we can all use an adjustment.
Here is the Bible definition: “You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had” (Philippians 2:5, NLT). Many verses, especially in Paul’s letters, expand on his attitude and how he thought of himself and treated people. He no doubt never needed an attitude adjustment, but we sure do, and not just once, but many times over the course of our lives. “Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t mean we will never need to repent, clean up our attitudes or address the brokenness within. We may be covered by the redemptive work of Christ, but God’s work is an ongoing deep work” (emphasis mine; from a YouVersion devotional plan called Make Room).
God is invested in the inner transformation of each of his children and has given us his Holy Spirit to affect our change in heart to help us grow in grace. We have the responsibility to participate in the transformation through the spiritual disciplines. We also need to pay attention to those times we let outside influences and our own desires pull us away from the same orientation as Jesus – not thinking too highly of ourselves and living in humble obedience to the cross, the crucified life.
A couple of weeks ago, I shared one of my favorite passages from the Psalms and how I am working on memorizing it. Another one I like and have committed to memory is Psalm 36:5-9 from the New Living Translation. It often comes to mind in the middle of the night when sleep is elusive. It’s comforting to remind myself through these verses of the greatness of God and his unfailing love.
For us humans, it’s all too easy to anthropomorphize God. (I love that word – not many fifteen letter words can be used in everyday conversations!) Having verses like these in the front of our minds bring us back to the magnificence of God and how much greater he is than us – truly “other” as some like to describe him.
We tend to think of his love as comparable to human love when verse five tells us it’s as vast as the heavens. His faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds, as opposed to ours, which changes with the wind. We don’t understand his righteousness, probably because we have none of our own, but his is like the mighty mountains. Perhaps his justice is even more difficult to comprehend, but we see here that it’s like the ocean depths: deep, mysterious and unfathomable to our petty minds.
Even if you aren’t a fan of poetry, after thousands of years, the psalmist’s poetic descriptions of the greatness of God are truly moving, revealing and awe-inspiring.
When I first started reading books by Dallas Willard, I came across his statement that he believed memorizing scripture is more important than quiet time. I remember being a bit surprised, as I had been led to believe (through my reading and attending conferences/retreats) quiet time is the most important part of nurturing a relationship with God. I was also resistant to do this, as I wasn’t sure it could be done, especially as he suggested memorizing not just single verses, but whole passages, such as Romans 5:1-8 and 8:1-15, 1 Corinthians 13 and Colossians 3:1-17. But he said our minds are made for it, God wants us to do it and he will help us. I guess that removes the “I’m too old (or too whatever) to do that” excuse.
I must admit I haven’t put as much effort into memorizing scripture as I would like, but I have given it a shot. I started with Colossians 3:1-17 and have found it encouraging and edifying. It also helps me focus on my word for the year (crucified). The passage begins by telling us to set our hearts on things above, where Christ is. Then we are told to set our minds on things above as well.
In our world where so many things vie for our attention and affection, reminding ourselves through this passage of Colossians to set our hearts and minds on God seems to be the best way to hold our treasure in the right place. Through memorization, our minds will always be brought back to the right focus, which will enable our hearts to follow.
I’ve been rediscovering the Psalms in The Passion Translation. It’s interesting how reading familiar parts of the Bible in different translations can make it seem so different – even new and exciting. The psalm I’ve been kind of fixated on lately is Psalm 18:1-3. I won’t cite it here but will let you read it* for yourself. I’m in the process of memorizing it for those times I either want to praise God or need to find my “mountain of hiding” and my “pathway of escape.”
David wrote this after being delivered from his enemies, including Saul, who wanted to kill him. I’m sure most of us aren’t being chased by people with swords, but we do have enemies and we sometimes need deliverance and a way out of our troubles. But the escape we make into the arms of God is not the same as most people today think of escaping. We are all familiar with those ways – things we turn to, hoping to dull the pain. All of these are temporary escapes and do nothing but give momentary relief and then plunge the person right back into reality, possibly even making it worse.
When God gives us his version of escape, we are often still in the midst of our troubles. The problem doesn’t go away. The pain doesn’t stop. The worry and anxiety are often still there. But God is also there. He is in the midst of it with us. He promises he will never let us go and will never let us go through our trials alone. As David said in verse three: “All I need to do is call to you, singing to you, the praiseworthy God. When I do, I’m safe and sound in you.” Even in the most difficult times of our lives, we can trust him to reach down into our darkness to rescue us, take us from the depths of despair (v. 16), hold on to us (v. 18) and bring us into a beautiful broad place (v. 19). He truly is the champion of our cause (v. 2).
*This is a slightly different version from the one in The Psalms, Poetry on Fire, 2014.