Susie taught this Bible study 6/29/13. It was incredible and detail-filled. I asked her if she could email me a copy of what she wrote to teach from. This is her transcript. I hope it blesses you as much as it blessed the whole Friday Bible study class – Heather.
As a Man Thinketh in His Heart so is He – Prov 23:7
How many of us think that our thoughts are benign? After all, they are just “thoughts” aren’t they? It’s not like we are actually “doing” something, we’re just thinking about it. However, if we delve into the anatomy of thought, we might be surprised by what thoughts really are and how they can affect us, not only spiritually and psychologically, but physiologically as well.
Thoughts are basically electrical impulses, chemicals and neurons. Thoughts can be measured and they affect every area of our lives. They influence every decision, word, action and physical reaction we make. Thoughts can be positive or negative, and it matters a great deal which type we chose to entertain.
Phil 4:8 – Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things [are] honest, whatsoever things [are] just, whatsoever things [are] pure, whatsoever things [are] lovely, whatsoever things are] of good report; if [there be] any virtue, and if [there be] any praise, think on these things.
Why does God want us to think on positive, true, wholesome things? Maybe it’s because he understands our makeup better than we do. Maybe it’s because He knows that if we dwell on deceptions, lies and ugly, negative situations and circumstances, it will be unhealthy for us. Perhaps it’s because he knows that thoughts will develop into emotions, and emotions will develop into attitudes, and the combination of thoughts, emotions and resulting attitudes will impact our bodies in either a positive or negative way.
Up to 80 % of physical, emotional and mental health issues today could be a direct result of our thought lives. A thought can become physically, emotionally or spiritually dangerous. Our thoughts can become toxic, and toxic thoughts are like poison. Toxic thoughts are thoughts that trigger negative and anxious emotions, which produce biochemicals that cause the body stress. They are stored in your mind, as well as in the cells of your body.
Stress is a global term for the extreme strain on your body’s systems as a result of toxic thinking, like patchy memory, severe mental health issues, immune system problems, heart problems and digestive problems. Stress is the direct result of toxic thinking. When you are under extreme stress, chemicals flood your body and create physical effects caused by intense feelings. When you internalize wounded emotions, you allow a seething mix of anger, hostility and resentment to develop. For this reason, hostility and rage are at the top of the list of toxic emotions; they can produce real physiological reactions in the body and cause serious mental and physical illness.
For instance, your immune system kills most cancer cells. But if you are intensely worried, depressed, anxious or angry and constantly thinking of the event or person who caused you to be in that state, you can make stressors (or toxic thoughts) become stronger, causing the wrong quantities of chemicals to be released. These chemicals flow through the body and can distort the DNA of the immune cells, which make them less effective in killing cancer cells. Although this is an extreme example, it shows the relationship among your thought life, stress and your immune system.
There are 3 stages of stress: 1) Temporary Stress – sweaty palms, fast heart beat. 2) Prolonged Stress – when temporary stress isn’t released after the initial short burst and starts becoming harmful to your system. 3) Chronic Stress – exhaustion from the constant state of heightened alert.
Temporary stress is not problematic, but prolonged and chronic stress will affect your heart, immune and digestive systems. Neurologically, your heart is sensitive to what you think and feel. Your thoughts directly affect your heart. Stress is a major contributor to hypertension, angina, coronary artery disease, strokes and aneurysm.
Negative thoughts are fear driven. In fact, research shows that fear triggers more than 1400 known physical and chemical responses. This activates more than 30 different hormones and neurotransmitters combined, throwing the body into a frantic state. Is it any wonder the God constantly tells us not to fear, not be become anxious?
2Cor 10:5 – Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
So you can break the cycle of toxic thinking. You can reverse the affects of toxic thought. How? By doing what the Word says – casting down imaginations, casting down every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and capturing every thought and making it obedient to Christ.
What you choose to think about can foster joy, peace and happiness or the complete opposite. In fact, your thoughts create changes right down to genetic level, restructuring the cell’s makeup. You may have been told that you are bound to a fate predetermined by your genes, but in fact, you are not a victim of biology. The brain really can change.
God has given us a design of hope: we can switch on our brains, renew our minds, change and heal.
Let’s look at the heart for a minute. It is actually like a second brain. It has its own independent nervous system, which science refers to as the “brain in the heart.” There are more than 40,000 neurons (nerve cells) in the heart, which is as many as are found in various parts of the brain. In effect, the brain in your heart acts like a checking station for all the emotions generated by the flow of chemicals created by thoughts. Remember, thoughts create emotions. The heart checks the accuracy and integrity of your thought life, it considers and “thinks” about information received from the brain, and it has opinions of its own. It literally functions like a conscience. The signals your heart sends to your brain influence not just perception and emotional processing, but higher cognitive functions as well. The voice of your heart is a gentle nudge, or a sense of warning. Always listen.
When I read about this, it was a surprise to me – it may be a surprise to you too. But really, we shouldn’t be surprised at all. The Word of God often refers to the “thoughts of the heart”.
Isa 10:7 – Howbeit he meaneth not so, neither doth his heart think so;
Prov 23:7 – For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he;
Mat 9:4 – And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts?
Gen 6:5 – And GOD saw that the wickedness of man [was] great in the earth, and [that] every imagination of the thoughts of his heart [was] only evil continually.
Mat 15:19 – For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:
Heb 4:12 – For the word of God [is] quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and [is] a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
And that’s only a few scriptures that talk about the thoughts of the heart.
I get really excited when medical science confirms God’s word. Dr. Caroline Leaf wrote “Who Switched Off My Brain”. In it, she clearly illustrates how the latest breakthroughs in neuroscience support Scripture – that you can renew your mind, you can break the cycle of toxic thinking and you can break unhealthy patterns.
Toxic thoughts affect the immune system. Resentment, bitterness, lack of forgiveness and self-hatred are a few of the toxic thoughts and emotions that can neurologically trigger immune system disorders. Toxic thoughts/emotions generate cytokines, which are known to produce fatigue and depression and they interfere with the body’s natural healing process. Small amounts of day-to-day stress confuse your immune system, effectively setting in motion the autoimmune response that causes your body to turn on itself.
In the King James Version, the word forgive appears 56 times. Most of the scriptures in the Old Testament refer to God forgiving the sins of His people, but in the New Testament the scriptures not only refer to God forgiving us but also to our forgiving others. It is not only spiritually necessary for us to forgive, but also medically necessary because unforgiveness makes way for any number of diseases, especially autoimmune diseases such as arthritis.
Eph 4:31 (Amp) – Let all bitterness and indignation and wrath (passion, rage, bad temper) and resentment (anger, animosity) and quarreling (brawling, clamor, contention) and slander (evil-speaking, abusive or blasphemous language) be banished from you, with all malice (spite, ill will, or baseness of any kind).
Toxic thoughts affect the digestive system, which is why dietitians and nutritionists tell you never to eat when you are angry. Toxic thoughts/emotions create a poisonous cocktail that damages your health and can cause digestive problems such as constipation, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, cramping, ulcers, leaky gut syndrome, and irritable bowel syndrome. But the good news is that you can learn to manage your thoughts and emotions making your thoughts life-giving, not life-threatening, which means you will be far less likely to suffer sickness and disease.
Positive habits and negative habits are built through the exact same process in your brain. The only difference is that the thoughts release different quantities of chemicals. But negative thoughts need not control you. You can build new healthy thoughts over the old, toxic ones and remove the emotional sting at the same time. That’s because thoughts can be measured, they occupy space, they change and grow, shrink and adapt.
Your 5 senses, sight, sound, smell, touch and taste, connect your external and internal worlds. They are the doorway into your intellect, influencing your free will and emotions, which alerts and activates attitude. Attitude is a state of mind that influences our choices and what we say and do as a result of our choices. The good news is – you can choose to reject the presently-activated thoughts and incoming information. You can choose to say things like, “I choose NOT to think about this issue anymore,” and those temporary thoughts will fade away.
No thought should ever be allowed to control you. If you don’t get rid of the thought, you reinforce it. The same parts of the brain activated by action, are the same parts of the brain activated by simply thinking about an action. A healthy thought and a toxic thought can both be built with mental rehearsal. Meditation is on the positive (pleasant things, God’s Word, beauty, etc.) but rumination is on the negative (rehashing and rehearsing hurt). Meditate often – never ruminate. Mat 7:21 – For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders; Mat 5:28 – But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. He couldn’t be thinking about adultery in his heart if he had not already thought about it in his head.
But we can literally tear toxic strongholds down by choosing to bring the thought into conscious awareness for analysis, and then changing it through repentance and forgiveness, and replacing it with the correct information – especially the Word of God. Your heart is in constant communication with your brain and the rest of your body, checking the accuracy and integrity of your thought life.
When you think about a thought, each time the thought is dominating your conscious mind, you can do something with it. You can choose to keep it the same or change it. Although we cannot control our circumstances, we can control our reactions to those circumstances. We have been given a divine gift – an opportunity to break free from the chains of toxic events in our past or lies we have believed about ourselves and our potential. Positive reflection, based on God’s word – thinking deeply – thinking to understand – rehearsing – repetition – can create a lasting change.
Dr. Leaf shares this, “You can be presented with all the reason, logic, scientific evidence and just plain common sense in the world, but you won’t believe something is true unless your brain’s limbic system allows you to feel it is true. You can’t imagine and feel one way and speak something different without a lack of integrity operating in your brain. For instance, Rom 10:9-10 – Confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart.
Our perceptions of life shape our biology. Prov 23:7 – For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. Scientifically, a process called “retranscribing neuroplastically”, enables conscious thoughts to be modified right down to the level of genetic expression in your DNA. The spiritual aspect of this process is the “renewing of your mind” – Rom 12:2.
We have to remember that our behavior follows our thoughts, not the other way around. Luke 6:45 – …for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh. The thoughts we entertain are processed by our hearts and come out of our mouths. Analyzing and addressing our thoughts are key components of conquering the habits and behaviors that seem to hold us hostage. It is up to us to bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ – 2Cor 10:5. The best way to do this is to acknowledge toxic emotions, face them and deal with them in a positive way. The process of writing consolidates the memory and adds clarity. That’s why journaling is such a valuable tool. Seeing your thoughts on paper and evaluating the way you think can help detoxify your thought life.
Emotions and thoughts are intertwined and inseparable. Your feelings are the emotions attached to the thoughts. It is not just your brain that stores memory; your body also holds memories in its cells – this is called the mind-body link. There are only two types of emotions, love and fear. All other emotions are variations of these. Out of love comes joy, trust, caring, peace, contentment, patience, kindness, gentleness, etc. Out of fear comes bitterness, anger, hatred, rage, anxiety, guilt, shame, inadequacy, depression, confusion, etc. These emotions directly affect our bodies because of the amount of chemicals released depending on whether the emotion is love- based or fear-based. Our brains and bodies function better when we experience love- based emotions. The negative, fear-based emotions force the body into backup systems just to hold the fear in check. Science and the Bible teach us not to fear. “Fear not” appears in the KJV 144 times. I think we should take it seriously.
Words arise out of your thoughts. They are electromagnetic life forces that come from thoughts inside your brain. They are influenced by your five senses and result from choices you have made. They reflect your attitude. They contain power and work hand-in-hand with your thought life, influencing the world around you and the circumstances of your life. Framing your world with words is not just about positive speaking. Your words have to be backed up with honesty, what the science of thought calls integrity. What you do and say on the outside must reflect what you think on the inside. A lack of integrity causes stress.
Prov 18:21 – Death and life [are] in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof. Words kill or give life. Our words affect not only us, but those who hear us, and we are responsible for the impact we have on others. God’s Word and the science of thought make it clear that nothing good comes out of negative words. Negative words can be more harmful to you than the person you say them to, because your mind formed the toxic thought, meditated on the words and spoke them – reinforcing them in your mind. Because you created a negative stronghold, your body reacts with stress, and we all know that stress is a killer.
Choices can be toxic – like regret, doubt and unforgiveness. Each of the choices we make concerning our thoughts, emotions, words and behavior, has consequences. God gave us the gift of choice – He created us with free will. Therefore, we need to take responsibility for our choices including our words, actions and behavior. We can’t blame everyone else. The new science of epigenetics has changed the conventional understanding of genetic control – “It’s in the genes” – and teaches that we are not, nor have we ever been victims of our biology. You can switch your behavior and emotional genes on and off with the choices you make. Deut 30:19 – …I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live… God leaves the choice up to us. It is up to us to train ourselves to slow down and consider all the options when making choices – this is a matter of discipline.
For instance, forgiveness is a choice, an act of your free will, which enables you to release toxic thoughts (anger, resentment, shame, grief, regret, guilt, hate). There are over 100 scientific studies showing the healing power of forgiveness. When we don’t forgive, fear will raise levels of stress hormones and increase blood pressure and heart rate. When people hold onto their anger, the stress response stays active, making them sick mentally and physically. God’s Word and science show that changing how you think about past hurt can reduce its impact on you and the resulting likelihood of stress-related illness. We change how we think through repentance and forgiveness. We are not supposed to hang onto any negative emotions. 1Pet 5:7 – Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. The Lord is willing and able to help us – we must make the decision to let him.
There are 19 NT scriptures telling us to love one another. 1Cor 13:13 – And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these [is] charity. Most of the translations I read use the word love instead of charity. The Pulpit Commentary gives insight into why love is the greatest:
1. Love is the greatest, because it is the root of the other two; “we believe only in that which we love; we hope only for that which we love.
2. And love is the greatest because love is for our neighbours; faith and hope mainly for ourselves.
3. And love is the greatest because faith and hope are human, but God is love.
4. And love is the greatest because faith and hope can only work by love, and only show themselves by love. Thus love is as the undivided perfection of sevenfold light. Faith and hope are precious stones of one colour, as a ruby and a sapphire; but love, as he has been showing us throughout the chapter, is a diamond of many facets.
When you don’t give or experience love, there is a physical reaction in your brain expressed as stress in your body. We are wired for love; it is as fundamental as hunger or thirst. Love causes dopamine to be released which makes your thinking sharp and clear, it helps with focus and attention and promotes healthy thought growth. New brain research shows that love deactivates the brain regions associated with negative emotions, social judgment and judgment of other people’s intentions and emotions. Love helps us feel others’ pain and empathize with them. 1Cor 13 – Love is patient and kind, not jealous, proud, boastful or rude; it is not selfish, does not keep track of wrongs, is quick to believe the best, wants justice and never fails.
It is up to us to make a commitment to walk in love – to love others no matter what. This kind of commitment requires practice, but the payoff is huge. Give 100% without expecting anything back because that’s God’s way of doing love.
Prov 17:22 – A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones. Dr. Leaf says this, “ Having fun will detox your thought life, improve your health and make you clever to boot. It’s one of the most powerful antidotes to stress you will ever find, and it’s free.” Laughter releases feel-good chemicals that boost the immune system and almost instantly reduce levels of stress hormones. Laughter gets both sides of the brain working together, it improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow and energy levels. Humor shifts perspective. In “What God Does to Your Brain”, Dr. Newberg gives 8 ways to exercise the brain – smiling is one of them. He says that smiling interrupts mood disorders and enables the brain to maintain a positive outlook. And that’s just smiling. Laughter is smiling on steroids.
One last thing – we live rush, rush, hurry, hurry, busy, busy lives. We suffer from the “acceleration syndrome” – the ever increasing pace of life (and that’s a scientific label). This type of lifestyle creates toxic emotions, disrupts the autonomic nervous system, leads to erratic heart rhythms and a myriad of other health problems. For the brain to function like it should, it needs regroup/consolidation time. Relaxing is not just a luxury; it’s a necessity. We need 10-20 minutes of some sort of down time every 1 ½-2 hours. If we do not allow ourselves this recovery time, we will simply wear ourselves out. No wonder so many people are suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome.
Changing the busy, busy, hurry, hurry habit is going to take practice and time, but we owe it to ourselves to find ways to slow down our pace. There are over 1300 scriptures containing the word “rest”. Maybe God is trying to tell us something.
So how do those of us who have a stuck “go” button learn to relax? One way is to use our imagination. Remember: when you imagine something, it actually happens in your brain. When you think of an activity in your mind, it has the same physical effect in your brain as if you were actually doing the activity. So go fishing, make that hole-in-one, smell the flowers, do something restful and pleasant, meditate on the Word of God, pray.
Another one of Dr. Newberg’s brain exercises is “consciously relax”. He also suggests yawning (yes, I said yawning). Would you believe that yawning reduces anxiety and hypertension in the throat, relaxes you, stimulates alertness and concentration, optimizes brain activity and metabolism, improves cognitive function, increases memory recall, lowers stress, relaxes the body, improves voluntary muscle control, increases empathy and social awareness – among other things. Who knew? Yawn often.
God’s Word is our instruction manual. He has everything in there that we need to function well spiritually, emotionally and physically. Science is confirming the Bible, but the Bible isn’t the truth because science is showing evidence that it is. The Bible is the truth and science is finally coming into agreement with it. Praise the Lord!
We covered a lot of ground today and it’s almost impossible to boil it down to a to-do list, but I’ll try.
1) Practice thinking on positive, true and wholesome things.
2) Take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.
3) Forgiveness is spiritually and medically necessary – choose to forgive.
4) If you need an attitude adjustment (and who doesn’t) get one.
5) Don’t ruminate on negatives, meditate on positives.
6) Check how you’re reacting to circumstances – if you need an adjustment, consciously change your thinking.
7) Be real – if your thoughts and emotions are toxic, acknowledge them and determine to change.
8) Listen to your words, they reflect your attitude.
9) Take responsibility for your choices. Don’t blame everybody else.
10) Love often – do it God’s way, expecting nothing in return.
11) Relax – it’s not just a luxury, it’s a necessity.
12) Laugh – laugh – laugh.
“Who Switched Off My Brain?” By Dr. Caroline Leaf
“What God Does to Your Brain” by Andrew Newberg, MD