"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

Are we people who hope for the best or obsess on the worst? Do we fill our minds with goodness or do we pollute our souls with negativity? Some people seem to think there is a dark cloud behind every silver lining. I have a friend whose motto is "expect the worst and never be disappointed."

Yet, as followers of Jesus we are called to be people of hope. We serve a God who comforts us and tells us not to worry. He is with us and provides for our needs above anything we can understand. This is a certain formula for a life of joy and peace; talk with God, thank God, trust God, obey God.

Where we fix our thoughts, our actions will follow. Thoughts lead to words; words lead to actions; actions lead to habits; habits lead to addictions... or good habits lead to holiness. It all begins and depends on our thoughts.

Our thinking applies to every aspect of our lives. It influences our moral choices; how we relate to others. It guides how faithful we are to God's calling in our lives. There are always temptations; the Bible says that Jesus faced every temptation yet never sinned (Hebrews 4:15). We need to recognize those thoughts or actions that lead us either towards God or towards sin. Choose to respond to God who is actively pursuing you.

Holiness begins with accepting responsibility for our thoughts which ultimately result in behavior. Our behavior forms our habits and identity. Avoid that which pollutes your mind; whether it is media, music, or toxic people. Build healthy relationships with other Christians as a healthy support system. Set your mind on the things Jesus callings you to do. This is the path to wholeness and purpose. We cannot make ourselves holy through our efforts but we can become more like Jesus by following Him. Holiness is a journey of faithfulness in response to grace.

Help young people realize that they are not stuck in their sins. They are never disconnected from the pursuing goodness of God. Yet their choices matter. Help them know there is different way than the one the world tells them; a path of wholeness and goodness. It is the way of the cross and the empty tomb. It is the path that begins with a response to the Jesus who says, "Come, follow me."

Look for the best, expect the best, and believe in the best. Opening ourselves to living more holy lives does not mean we lose touch with those we reach out to. Jesus was God in the flesh yet shared life with sinners. But we are calling people out of sin and into newness of life. Authentic faith is transformational.

It all starts in our minds and hearts. It all begins with responding to a Holy God who wants only the best for His children. It begins with our thoughts and is expressed in our actions. May we dwell on the things of excellence and those worthy of praise. Our lives will reflect these choices. AMEN

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