Where it Starts
by C.A. Phillips
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
Philippians 4:8 (NLT)
I was listening to the Sunday sermon, when the Lord gripped my heart. Of course, Mike Linch was the one talking, but it was God’s message – through Mike – the hit me between the eyes.
I’m paraphrasing, but Mike said something to this effect: “Many of you wake up in the morning, reach for your phones, and open up your social media accounts before you ever spend a moment with God. And, that sets the course for your day.”
I had never really even thought about that. In fact, at the time, my phone wasn’t even on my night stand when I slept. I kept it in the kitchen, so I wouldn’t be tempted to look at notifications or to scroll on social media when I was in bed. Nonetheless, Mike’s words penetrated my heart. Because, although I wasn’t immediately scrolling my social feeds, I also wasn’t deliberately setting aside time to begin my day with God on my mind and in my heart.
The very next day, I began to intentionally read God’s Word each and every morning – first thing when I got out of bed. At first, it began with some devotionals through the Bible app, and eventually I began to read through scripture a chapter at a time. I’ve been doing this now for close to 18 months. I’ve read nearly all of the New Testament, Proverbs, and Psalms. I believe this change of behavior has been life-altering and mind-changing for me (this is in addition to any scripture I have read as a part of a formal Bible study or small group).
I now also follow this time of reading and reflection with a time of prayer. It allows me to begin my day by handing over my cares to Him. In the process, I have created a new neural pathway. Essentially, this is establishing a pattern or habit that keeps me in tune with the Holy Spirit and seeking out God’s wisdom at the outset of my day. My brain and heart naturally desire this.
A website I found called LifeXchange says this about neural pathways:
“Neural pathways are the connections between neurons that light up when you think of something for the first time, and the connections form a pattern in your brain. Your brain has now attached meaning to that specific pattern.”
In a negative sense, neural pathways can create “ruts” for us. The way to get “out of the rut” is to do something new and different to establish a new pattern – ideally a healthier one.
Maybe you’re like I was – stuck in a Groundhog Day sort of living – feeling a bit cynical and anxious about life. You can change things. It’s not easy, but if you stick with it, your brain will soon crave the new activity – and your heart will soon follow!
C.A. Phillips is a lifelong sports enthusiast and youth baseball coach, and currently serves as the Communications Pastor and Director of Men’s Groups at NorthStar Church in Kennesaw, Ga. He lives in Kennesaw with his wife, Amy, and his two sons, Chaz and Chandler.
Imagine that you could sit down and pick the brains of some of the top leaders in the country! That’s the premise behind the Linch with a Leader podcast. Learn how these leaders – all among the best in their respective field – have risen to the top, while continuing to grow spiritually and chase after the Lord.