Monthly Archives: December 2015

It Can Change Your Brain

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Brain bible prayer

I happened to be perusing Facebook one day and noticed that someone had posted a link to an article regarding how certain television shows can change a person’s thinking on certain social issues. The writer, an Indian man, supplied some of the psychological research that has gone into this theory and spoke of his own experience growing up watching Fresh Prince of Bel-Air in Mumbai, India. One of the working theories is that people will be less prejudiced against people who are different from them (in any way) when they are given the chance to interact with those people. Black and white. Gay and straight. Alien and earthling. Then they can all sit around the campfire and sing Kumbaya together.

It made me think of a comedian’s sketch I watched on Last Comic Standing as he joked about how he had no problems doing extreme sports with his white friends. It was his white friends who had trouble kickin’ it with him (to watch the sketch go here and slide to minute 4:45, ending around 5:56).

But I digress.

As I read the article, my first thought was, “oh I’ve watched that show and it was funny!” But I also remember that I stopped watching it because it walked over a few lines that I had drawn in the sand. I’m fairly particular about what I put into my mind, especially when it comes to television shows. [For instance, my husband and I used to watch Criminal Minds, but it got entirely too creepy and made me think a serial killer was going to kidnap me and cut me into tiny pieces. No peace of mind I tell ya. I didn’t need those nightmares!]

Another show we stopped watching early on was House. We liked how the writers showed the tension between opposing beliefs and made you seriously think about these moral issues in a different way than you usually do. However, it too crossed some defining lines of what we believe and on these issues we won’t compromise. Now I must pause and say that my beliefs don’t result in me hating the characters on Criminal Minds or on House. Nor do I look down on anyone who chooses to watch those shows (maybe they are braver than I am and don’t think serial killers are lurking around every corner). No, rather, it was just a choice of what I will not spend my time on. I won’t fill my mind with the opposing beliefs or the images that place fear in my heart. No harm done.  End of discussion.

To be blatantly honest, this article gave me pause. I don’t want TV shows to change my brain. Don’t get me wrong, this article and the research behind it is so fascinating to me. As a student of the psychology department at Oklahoma Baptist University, I remember reading about studies like this and even doing research related to issues of the same nature. I think that having empathy and sympathy for another person is a good thing. The problem I find with this is simply that I believe there is something better out there that can and has been changing my brain.

It’s called the Bible.

Within its pages you will find the Author who is utterly holy and completely full of love and compassion. You will see how Jesus loved the unlovely. How He met the needs of the outcast and sinner. How He reached out to the unclean and the hurting, and He restored them to life. He spoke out against the hypocrite and challenged the spiritual. He taught His closest followers like a father teaching his children. He gave dignity to women and championed their cause. What is more, He took twisted men and women, people full of evil and deceit, and He changed them from the inside out. THIS is what it looks like to have someone change your mind.

It is a bit of a mystery how God’s Word, being alive and active, could change a person, starting with the thoughts and intentions of the heart. When it is my habit to be harsh to my kids in their moment of disobedience, He changes me to be gentle yet firm. Truthful but loving. To look at a person with different beliefs from my own, resulting in different actions from my own, and to love that person with the love of God. It starts with His Word. That’s where TRUE change begins.

Many people will say that reading the Bible produces a bunch of bigoted religious nuts. However His true followers will find themselves anything but religious or bigoted. Because it is Him at work inside of those people, producing strong character and compassionate hearts that speak His truth in love.

It is not enough to have my mind changed by a television show, to produce friendly feelings toward a person of different color or religious background or sexual orientation. That is surface level. His Word sinks in deep and clears out the areas in my heart that might harbor hate or judgment. His Word produces a love that cannot be manufactured or faked.

Finally, in this article, the writer points out one research project showed that people who encountered or observed a less-liked person of a minority group (his example was Omarosa) were more likely to be prejudiced against that minority group. His point was that television doesn’t reinforce a positive view of a minority group unless the minority person portrayed in the show has a favorable personality. MY POINT is that how you live matters greatly!

If you are a believer, you represent Christ. Far too many people don’t take this seriously enough. This is why they laugh at us (see Ann Voskamp’s article on that here). Or rather they mock us. They label us all hypocrites. Religious nuts. Yet I know of thousands who are quietly living out their genuine faith each day, making an impact in people’s lives for the kingdom of God. I personally know many individuals who have chosen not to settle for surface level spirituality and work out their faith in fear and trembling, searching the Scriptures to find the picture of Jesus as they figure out ways to imitate the One they call Savior. No religiosity. Just relationship.

I don’t need a TV show to change my mind. I need Jesus. He informs my beliefs, my views on life. And where my beliefs aren’t in line with His, He changes them so that I more closely resemble my Savior.

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Relentless Pursuit

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scattered-seeds

One of the things I love most about the Spirit of God is how He weaves thoughts and words together in my mind (and in other’s minds) to make the largest impact, not only in my heart but in countless others. It is completely impressive to me that He can speak one message that lands thirty different ways in thirty women’s hearts.

What is even more thrilling to me is that He uses us at all to take part in His grand mission of reaching hearts. What a privilege it is to be able to teach the Word of God and then hear how it impacted someone’s life in that very moment. I spoke about the widow of Nain, clearly a story of loss and restoration, and heard from many women how they needed to hear that God is the God who sees them. He hears their cries. He bends down to bring them out of their affliction.

I am struck with awe and humility. There’s no other way to describe it. I had no idea that what I would say would make any impact. I worked on the lesson months ago. I thought that as I typed, they were just words on a page. Any clever connections or interesting insights were divinely directed so that His message would be cast out like seeds on the tilled field. His Word goes out and it gets in.

I learned that my Father will stop at nothing to draw His people to Himself, reminding them of His simple love for them. That He sees. That He knows. And that He desires to show them mercy. A mercy that reaches down and draws us out of the misery.

His is a relentless pursuit of the human heart for His own divine glory.

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A Great Light

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Why is it that darkness can seem so dark sometimes? I’m not talking about night darkness. I mean a darkness in the soul. The darkness of evil. The darkness that you can feel and yet can’t seem to escape. It’s the kind of darkness that makes you feel like it will never pass. That you’ll be stuck in the dark forever.

The darkness is so thick, that you can’t see past it. You just can’t see period.

The thing I love about God is that He is completely unaffected by the dark.

11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
    and the light about me be night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
    the night is bright as the day,
    for darkness is as light with you. Psalm 139:11-12

What is more, He is unaffected by your darkness. And at any moment in time, He can shine into your darkness, removing the feeling that it will last forever, and He brings hope. A deep, abiding hope.

Have you ever wondered why in 1 Corinthians 13, Paul writes,

13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

???

These three things are spiritual gifts. Just like someone receives the gift of teaching, so can you receive the gift of faith or hope. This is why I can pray for someone walking in soul darkness to experience God’s deep, abiding hope and know that it will happen. He’s given me the gift of faith which helps me to trust that He will bring hope where it is most needed.

Let me explain it this way. Have you ever been in a situation in which everything seemed completely hopeless or impossible to change for the better? And then suddenly or over time, your feeling changed to one of hope, despite the evidence of your “hopeless” circumstances? Your situation did not change. Your heart did. It was a gift from your Father who knows your needs and desires. He reaches down and helps you come out of your darkness.

This is easier said than done, I realize that. I too have walked in darkness at different points in my life and will likely encounter more. Thank God we don’t go through the hard times at the same exact moment. Some of us are in a pleasant season and can bring hope to those who are in a troublesome season. He gives us words to encourage one another. He gives us His truth to brighten up the dark places. Maybe He gives some of us faith and hope so that we can spread it to others who don’t feel an ounce of faith or hope.

Remember this with all your heart if you remember nothing else. He is the God who fights for His children and will not leave any of them alone in their darkness.

This may look like a sweet smile from your 3 year old. Or a call from a friend. Or a letter full of His truth. Or a memory of His faithfulness. Or any number of jewels that direct your heart to Him and away from the clutching darkness. Be on the look-out. He is there, and He is not silent.

Isaiah 9-2

Isaiah 9:2

john 1-4-5

In Him was life and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:4-5