Rewiring the Brain for Greater Faith

shapeimage_2Can you physically change your brain with your thoughts? It would appear so.

Rick Hanson, a neuropsychologist and New York Times best-selling author, believes that we can use our minds to make gradual physical changes in our brains to transform the mind for the better.

Studies have shown that people who discipline themselves through meditation and prayer frequently have a measurably larger neocortex in the pre-frontal regions of the brain, the area responsible for concentration. As a result, these people are more able to concentrate and pay attention.

If you struggle with attention deficit disorder, should you really try praying more? Yes. While meditation and prayer may not solve all of your concentration problems, it will certainly help.

But that’s not all. There is more.

Dr. Hanson states that if one does not discipline their thinking for the better, outside negative forces such as fear, worry, stress, work pressure, and other people will master you. They will shape your mind, thus your life.

The human brain has a tendency to focus on the negative. Hanson calls it an “evolutionary design flaw” of humanity. This negativity bias allows negative experiences to stick to the brain like Velcro, while positive experiences pass through rather quickly. Bummer, huh?

To compensate against this, Hanson highlights the importance of taking in good thoughts and experiences, savoring them and allowing them to sink in.

Through this process he believes one can hardwire their brain for happiness. It’s even possible to use the mind and imagination for embracing possible positive outcomes and finding peace in the present.

So, you can change the brain with your thoughts after all.

Doesn’t that sound consistent with what Paul says:

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”  Romans 12:2 NLT

Mastery over your thoughts is critical to the life of faith.

And it’s worth pointing out that for Paul it’s not an “evolutionary design flaw” that has our minds in the gutter, instead it’s the curse of Adam and “the flesh” resulting from the fall (Rom 5:12; 8:1-17). We must intentionally repent of it.

Dr. Hanson is right, but Paul said it first.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”  Philippians 4:8 NIV

That’s from the Apostle Paul, the ancient neuropsychologist.

Greater Faith Via the Imagination

Is it any wonder that Jesus added “mind” in the greatest commandment to love God with our whole being (Mk 12:30)? Notice that it wasn’t mentioned in the original decree (Deut 6:5). What’s Jesus saying?

While Hebrews had a more holistic understanding of the head and heart than their Greek contemporaries, Jesus makes it a point to specify the mind. Why? Because the head is the control center of our lives.

Jesus knew that the mind is the way to great faith, or depleted faith.

I submit to you that our imagination (seeing things with our mind) is a powerful gift from God. It is most unfortunate that we’ve believed it to be something that we should leave behind with childhood.

In doing this, we deny the very practical use of our imagination that is clearly at work every day, whether we’re aware of it or not. But we’re not told to leave it behind, we’re called to let the Lord have it for the working out of greater faith.

Let’s be honest, often our “seeing” is of negative outcomes and fear-based worries about things that never come to pass, or that we’ve used to replay destructive images and hurtful conversations in our head, robbing us of peace.

That’s a misuse of the mind and imagination.

But the people of God are called to use the imagination to touch the divine, to rise above the primal instincts and embrace God’s gift of seeing Christ in the middle of all things—what it looks like when God gets his way.

This is what “faith” is all about.

Our success in the area of rewiring the brain, gaining control over our thoughts with the help of the Spirit, will lock or unlock the door to greater faith. For it’s bad thinking and a poor imagination that makes us unable to believe and trust the God who does the spectacular.

Therefore, let’s use our imagination for envisioning a better future.

Lord, let the Kingdom come in our relationships, in our disappointments and pain, and see where Christ stands victorious in the future, calling us forward into a life full of glorious possibilities.  Amen.

D.D. Flowers, 2015.


Evidence for God: The Fine-Tuning of the Universe

The folks at ReasonableFaith.org keep pumping out some really helpful videos. Check out this one on the fine-tuning of the universe.

Also, listen to Francis Collins, former director of the Human Genome Project and founder of BioLogos, talk about there only being two options to choose from after observing the fine-tuning of the universe.

And then why he believes faith and science can co-exist.

Keep your minds sharp and your hearts open.

D.D. Flowers, 2015.


It’s a Christian “Walk,” Not a Sprint

Walk-SandTo put it simply: The point of being a Christian is to become like Christ, the perfect human being.

If you’ve been a follower of Jesus for any length of time you know that this process isn’t easy, and it takes much longer than any of us like. We don’t call it the Christian “walk” for nothing.

So the Christian journey is a lifetime of inching closer to Jesus. Disciples know that this can be frustrating. As Paul said, we’re not what we want to be.

“So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it” (Rom 7:14-17 NLT).

We become acutely aware of this struggle during the season of Lent, which begins today with Ash Wednesday. We are sinners in the process of becoming saints. Self-help books and positive thinking aren’t the answer.

We need a living savior to give us power over our sinful selves!

“Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom 7:24-25).

In the meantime, our culture of hurried living makes this process all the more frustrating. We want results now. We fail to recognize the way of Christ is much slower than what we’ve been conditioned to find acceptable.

But folks, Jesus was and is seldom in a hurry.

In his book, An Unhurried Life: Following Jesus’ Rhythms of Work and Rest, Alan Fadling reminds us that Jesus was relaxed and lived life day-by-day, moment-by-moment. Jesus wasn’t in an ambitious hurry.

“After waiting thirty years to begin his ministry, his first ministry act was to follow the Spirit into forty days in the wilderness. His own brothers urged him to do some publicity if he wanted to be a public figure, but Jesus didn’t bite. He seemed frustratingly unhurried on his way to heal the synagogue official’s daughter and to visit his sick friend Lazarus, who died during Jesus’ two-day delay. His sense of timing often puzzled those around him.”

Fadling says, “The Spirit of God has been working in my heart to teach me how to move at the pace of grace rather than at my own hurried, self-driven pace.”

That’s tough to hear. I don’t know about you, but I’m a driven person. We just had about 8 inches of snow fall here in Virginia, and it has thrown off my schedule. I feel like I’m always on a race against time. I’ve got things to do! Last week it was bronchitis, now it’s winter weather slowing my roll.

It’s so easy to miss the Lord in our rush to get things done.

Believe me… I understand. Whether it is something hampering my hurry, or frustration that I’m not “walking” faster in my journey with the Lord, I too must surrender myself. While I do have control over my responses to life through my choices, there is much more that I don’t control.

But I was never meant to “control” anything outside of myself. Instead, I am meant to learn self-control through the power of a Person, Jesus Christ our Lord. It is a “fruit” of the Spirit, evidence of his life at work in us (Gal 5:22-23).

When it comes to our Christian walk, T. Austin-Sparks said:

“So it is that people find the Christian life burdensome; they long to know real victory, true deliverance and the joy of the Lord, whereas they experience the ups and downs of a constant struggle. The Christian life depicted in the New Testament seems so different from their actual experience that the Devil is never slow to pounce in with his suggestions that a life of constant victory is quite impossible, so that all their hopes are but unreal dreams. Satan wants God’s people to despair of knowing His power. But there is an altogether different life, different because it is based on the entering into something already completed in Christ; not something to be attained to but rather that which has already been accomplished. It is not a standard to be lived up to, but a Person to be lived with. It is impossible to measure the vast difference between these two kinds of life. The former is one of self effort and defeat, while the other consists in enjoying the reality of Christ the power of God” (Christ the Power of God).

I pray that we will resist our culture of hurried living that makes our souls restless, and learn to find rest in knowing that we already know the One who has the power to slow us down and enjoy the very presence of God.

We are complete in Christ. Live in his love today.

D.D. Flowers, 2015.


Morality: The Great Signpost

cs-lewis_originalDeep down human beings are aware of objective morality. It’s what ultimately convinced C.S. Lewis to leave atheism behind. It was the Moral Argument for the existence of God that led this intellectual giant of the 2oth century down the path of theism, and eventually to the divinity of Jesus.

Simply put, this classical argument states that humanity’s universal awareness of morals and values come from a moral Creator, therefore our innate sense of morality proves that God exists.

This short video from Reasonable Faith is a nice summary.

Lewis would admit that there are differences in moral codes. We can’t dispute these minor nuances. However, some differences in moral codes can be explained in terms of differences about the facts. So, he concluded from three separate logical arguments that objective morality comes from God.

In his classic work, Mere Christianity, Lewis wrote the following about his pre-conversion reasoning:

“My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?”

Not only did Lewis believe that morality was convincing enough to close the case on the existence of God, he said the very ability to question God’s existence was itself a signpost to the Creator, a transcendent moral lawgiver.

Lewis said, “When you argue against Him you are arguing against the very power that makes you able to argue at all: it is like cutting off the branch you are sitting on.”

In The Case for Christianity he elaborates on this point:

“Supposing there was no intelligence behind the universe, no creative mind. In that case, nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking. It is merely that when the atoms inside my skull happen, for physical or chemical reasons, to arrange themselves in a certain way, this gives me, as a by-product, the sensation I call thought. But, if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true? It’s like upsetting a milk jug and hoping that the way it splashes itself will give you a map of London. But if I can’t trust my own thinking, of course I can’t trust the arguments leading to Atheism, and therefore have no reason to be an Atheist, or anything else. Unless I believe in God, I cannot believe in thought: so I can never use thought to disbelieve in God.”

So when Richard Dawkins, and other skeptics today, belligerently scoff at the idea of God based on what they perceive to be “evil” deeds done by Yahweh in the OT, they actually prove God’s very existence in their condemnation.

Why does Dawkins get to decide what is good or evil? Isn’t morality simply a by-product of human evolution and the formation of culture? Notice that Dawkins uses a moral law code set forth in Scripture to make such a judgment.

Furthermore, by condemning any “evil” thing with morals and values explicitly set forth in the Scriptures as given by God, the skeptic affirms objective morality and a moral lawgiver. Without God, good and evil are only subjective—nothing more than personal opinions and cultural perspectives.

As I heard it put once, a skeptic trying to refute theism, and Christianity more specifically, by making moral judgments afforded to them via the Scriptures, is to hop in the “Christian car” in an attempt to run it into a tree.

If this proves anything, it merely points out that there is indeed such a thing as objective morality, and that it has been indelibly imprinted on our souls by our Creator. It is the signature of God on our lives.

I agree with Lewis that an atheist or an agnostic has to embrace all sorts of illogical contradictions in order to maintain their skepticism. A world without God is definitely a world without morality.

It’s no doubt a world in which none of us would want to live.

D.D. Flowers, 2015.

Check out these related posts:

Does God Exist?
Is God Good?
In Awe of the God of Science


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