Message: “THE PREMISE OF THE PROMISE” – Austin Parkhurst
Sunday, June 9th, 2019
Twenty-five years ago, when Pew Research asked people for their opinion on any given subject, the sentence would generally begin with, "Well, I think…" Today, when asked for their opinion, people say, "Well, I feel…" Somewhere over the years there's been a paradigm shift, and instead basing our opinions on fact, we're basing them on our feelings.
In The Feeling Brain: The Biology and Psychology of Emotions, Elizabeth Johnston and Leah Olson examine our emotions and their neuroanatomy in relationship to our thoughts, our memories and the ways our body and brain interact. They explain that when a Pew researcher asks you a question and you respond with "Well I feel…" your response is filtered through a complicated neural process that integrates information from your memories, your mood, and your physical health. If you're having a great day, chances are your response will be positive, but if you're tired, having a rough day, or it triggers an unpleasant memory, even if it's not specifically related to the issue at hand, your response will be negative.
Our brains are continually changing themselves based on our experiences, behavior, and genetics – this is the science of neuroplasticity – it's how we learn to use our Smartphones, memorize our Netflix password, or play guitar. And just as your day to day habits impact your physical health, your day-to-day behaviors can have a measurable effect on your brain's structure and function.
In their book, Johnson and Olson present the case study of a woman named Hannah, who battled anxiety, depression, and panic attacks for years. She responded well to medicine and psychotherapy, but at the same time, Hannah started doing yoga and practicing meditation. After several months, she felt a sustained sense of calm and wellbeing for the first time in her life. Hannah retrained her brain, and the resulting peace and calm decreased the activity of her brain's fear center, the amygdala. It's significant that she changed the physical structure of her brain, at least in part, by meditating. Significant, but not surprising.
Psalm 1 begins with the words, "Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither - whatever they do prospers.” God, our creator, knew from the moment He breathed life into Adam that the way we think and what we choose to meditate on shapes who we are on a biological as well as spiritual level. Meditating on the Word of God feeds your soul and trains your mind to focus on truth, not circumstances so when hard times come, instead of being battered by our emotions, we're like a tree, planted by the water. Our faith, like the roots of the tree, run deep. We're strong.
Stop and think. What kind of neural pathways have you created based on your day to day practices? Is the path to your amygdala busier than the Beltway during rush hour? Is fear, doubt, or other negative emotions your first response, no matter the circumstance, or have you trained your brain to focus on what you know to be true and constant?
Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies. Philippians 4:8-9 The Message
How would you define faith?
What’s the difference between being spiritual and being religious?
What misconceptions are there about faith?
What story of faith from Scripture resonates with you?
Can you have faith in God if you’ve never heard the gospel? For example, could Native Americans who believed in a deity before Christian missionaries came to America, be saved even if they had never heard the name of Jesus?