Salvation ... comes from the Lord ... because they take refuge in him. (Psalm 37:39-40)

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Knowing Is Not Enough

Some things we know we should stop doing, we do.  And some things we know we should start doing, we do not do.  Having knowledge, for example, that eating processed foods and consuming sugar is bad for our health, doesn’t automatically translate into nutritious cooking and refraining from too many desserts.   Knowing the value of physical exercise doesn’t make it an intentional regular practice.  Knowing it’s wrong to slander another person doesn’t guarantee an offended person will not speak unkind words to others about their offender.   Knowing that bitterness and resentment cause destruction of body and soul, doesn’t mean we will choose to surrender condemning  judgment  and extend forgiveness for the path to freedom.  Having knowledge of right, doesn’t keep us out of wrong. 

Without going into a deep discussion of the brain science behind this truth, let’s look at a brief explanation.  Psychiatrist Timothy Jennings has some great explanations in his books,  “The God-Shaped Brain,” and “The God-Shaped Heart.”  Dr. Jennings uses computer function to  illustrate how the mind, heart, and brain operate in the human being.   As a former IT professional myself, and now as a counselor, I see the value of making these terms clear in our understanding.  Let me say too that no illustration is a perfect match to reality.  God created people.  Man created computers.  In no way am I suggesting that computer engineering comes anywhere close to God’s ways and workings.  

The human brain and the physical aspects of the nervous system are like the hardware components of the computer.  The human mind (cognitive functioning) can be likened to the software programs that run the various applications that process the data. The human heart is likened to the core operating system (OS) of the computer.   The OS is a form of software also, but it must interface with both the hardware and the application software running on top of it.  The heart (operating system) of a person is essential to the integrity of function of the whole person.  Without the operating system between the hardware and the applications, each could not function. 

To illustrate a bit further,  the mind can be thought of as our willpower, intellect, consciousness, senses, and sensory feelings.   The heart can be thought of as the personal spirit, deeper feelings and emotions,  creativity, curiosity, imagination, intuition, masculinity or femininity, spontaneity, gifts, and talents.   Our heart is our core identity.  Our heart defines who we are as a person.  Our heart performs the operations connecting the physical bodily systems with the mind’s cognitive interpretations of the external world. The external world environment is the data. The data spring from environmental conditions, flow through the mind into the heart, and on to memory storage in the brain.  The data stored in memory also flow the other direction out of the brain, through the heart and mind and become forms of interactions with the external environment.  These exchanges create the reality of our world.  Our speech and actions are a direct result of our thinking and memory processing. 

One of the reasons the teachings of Jesus focused on the heart is to help people understand that their internal condition determines their speech and behavior.  In fact, he pointed out on many occasions. how mere knowledge of the law (rules), without a compassionate heart, actually keeps people in physical and spiritual poverty.  An example of this is when he healed people on the Sabbath (see Luke 13:10-17).  

Mark’s gospel records the words of Jesus, “Are you so lacking in understanding also? Do you not understand that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him,  because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and []is eliminated?” (Thus He declared all foods clean)  And He was saying, “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man.  For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, []fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries,  deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, [envy, slander, []pride and foolishness.  All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man” (Mark 7:18-23).   Luke’s gospel also makes the point good things also originate in the heart.  The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart”  (Luke 6:45).

The writer of Proverbs says, “As in water face reflects face, so a man’s heart reveals the man’ (Proverbs 27:19).  The data coming out of a computer merely reveals what was put in and how it was processed.  So to the speech and actions of a person reveals their background, core beliefs, and world view.  A person’s life experiences from day one are the data going in.   How the person responds to his world in the present is determined by the sum total of past experiences (ie. previous processing by the mind and heart).  Hence, the processing we do in our heart, both determines who we are, and who we are becoming.    That’s why the Proverb says, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23).  For more on guarding the heart see my article .  

A person may be super intelligent, or be trained in the best schools and practices, and still engage in behaviors that destroy his life.  I see this pattern in my counseling many times.  A person cannot kick a bad habit or addiction with mere  knowledge of its destructive power. 

God created man with a heart that reflected his Creator to perfection.  The Creator’s image has a unique stamp in every individual’s heart since the beginning of time.  That is the good part of a person’s heart.  But with the first man, Adam and Eve, the virus of sin introduced a bad part into the heart.  The virus implanted a stamp that also broke the heart of every individual since the beginning of time.  Our fractured hearts must reckon not only with the good, but also the bad parts as well.  All sorts of data processing failures make us vulnerable to bad data going in (believing lies), and bad data coming out (false assumptions, corrupted opinions, bad decisions, and condemning judgments).  This brokenness is automatic and only has one reliable solution.  

The solution is Jesus Christ.   Jesus is the only way to fix the inherently broken parts of  our hearts.    He came to earth about 2,000 years ago to reveal God in the form of a human.   Believing in Jesus begins a re-programming of our operating system. Our hearts are made new (2 Corinthians 5:17).  As we surrender and assimilate to the re-coding in our heart, our mind is renewed (see Romans 12:1-2) to respond to life more in keeping with our original design.  In our original whole condition, we live in the Truth (God’s reality).   The more we can operate in truth (in sync with original design), the more free we are to become the person we were created to be.  

However, merely knowing about the virus, and knowing that Jesus removes it, remains as data in a memory bank unless further action is taken.  Question--Why is knowing the truth not enough?  Answer--Because knowing doesn’t automatically translate into obedience.  Faith in Christ is demonstrated by practicing Christ’s teaching (truth), not merely understanding the concepts. 

God is a personal God, not a concept.  Truth is found through relationship (with God), not religion (about God).   Jesus makes this clear in the following two verses.  Jesus told the people who had faith in him, “If you keep on obeying what I have said, you truly are my disciples.  You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free“ (John 8:31-32; CSV).   Many people quote the second verse without the conditional first verse, and their interpretation becomes the exact opposite of the truth.  Increasing knowledge of concepts of Christ’s teaching, without fully engaging the practice of the concepts, is a little like trying to run an app designed for an Android device, on an Apple device.   The software may be designed to perfection, but if it isn’t run on the OS it’s designed for, it is practically worthless. 

            I could share many examples from my own life and the lives of those I’ve ministered to, where not following God’s instructions (not applying Christ’s teaching) has caused great loss.  A miracle by definition, is a supernatural intervention.  If we choose to rely on our strength and willpower (natural realm), we can miss the everyday miracles (supernatural realm) God desires for us to participate in. 

In my own life, I have been forced to reckon with this through limited physical eye sight.  Due to an injury at birth, both optic nerves were damaged to the extent of legal blindness.  A major limitation is not seeing well enough to obtain a driver’s license.  This puts me in situations of need for transportation.  Print material, signage, videos, and other visual content are often inaccessible, so alternative formats are necessary to obtain information.  I have learned that God’s provision may come in an unexpected means of travel or in computer software that enlarges the screen for readability.  Sometimes too, by allowing drivers to give me a ride, they share in God’s blessing for helping someone in need.  If I were to demand from God 20/20 (normal) eyesight, I would miss opportunities for God to meet my needs in unconventional, and often miraculous ways.  The loss created by damaged vision is overcome by believing and applying the truth that “my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19; NASB).     

Jesus performed many physical healings when he was on earth, and still does today as well.  The ones recorded in the Bible almost always have a spiritual application associated with them.  One of my personal favorites is in John 9 where Jesus restored a blind man’s sight and then exclaimed, “For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind”  (John 9:39; NASB).  Again, God’s reality is not born out of what we know and see, but through becoming “blind” to what we know and see, so that we can see into a spiritual reality.  Knowing is not enough.  In fact, knowing may create “blindness” to knowing more. of what we should be seeing.

The miracle of forgiveness is another example of applying Christ’s teaching to know the truth that sets one free.   True forgiveness occurs in the heart as defined by Jesus (see  Matthew 18:35).  Also see the article Big Debt Forgiven at:

As noted above, sin implanted a virus in the heart that can only be removed through the salvation power of Jesus.  Our natural tendency to hold bitterness, resentment, and blame causes sin at the heart level, not just with our actions.  This is evidenced by the verses quoted above from Mark 7:18-23.  Since sin is at the heart level, repentance must be at the heart level.  Repenting of the ill-gotten attitudes, assumptions, decisions, conclusions, and condemning judgments that caused our sinful reactions, releases the miracle to be possible.   Surrendering to God the right to be Judge puts the heart in position to once again operate as originally designed.  Forgiving from the heart is not a decision based on mental faculties (knowledge) alone, but includes decision to cooperate with God’s decisions for justice in the offensive situation. 

Applying Christ’s teaching to everything we experience in life keeps us in the truth.  Seeing God in truth, seeing ourselves in truth, and seeing other people in truth keeps our immune system strong.  A healthy immune system is the best way to stay free of the virus of sin that would aim to keep us sick.  Again, building and guarding our spiritual immune system is vital. Time alone in God’s presence is similar to running a good anti-virus software protection for the computer’s core functions.   Keeping to regular times of rest and soul downtime also serve like an intentional “reboot,” to clear the clogs and unnecessary background processing. 

When things are not going well, instead of trying to figure out what is going wrong, it is far better to focus on applying God’s instructions and ways of operation more closely.  The Bible is the best source.  Also see other articles on this blog site on transformation from the inside out.  


by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Heart Re-creation

The house re-construction illustration in the previous article shows how transformation from the inside out is the only way to a firm foundation for meaning and purpose in life, and being productive as a person (see Matthew 7:15-27).  All through Christ’s teaching he also illustrated heart re-creation.   I also discussed the importance of protecting your inner life (see Guard Your Heart )   Now on to re-creation. 

To follow Jesus, we must examine, and respond to him, with our heart.   He uses the illustration of fruit (thoughts, affections, and behaviors) growing on a tree.  “You’ll never find choice fruit hanging on a bad, unhealthy tree. And rotten fruit doesn’t hang on a good, healthy tree.  Every tree will be revealed by the quality of fruit that it produces. Figs or grapes will never be picked off thorn trees.  People are known in this same way. Out of the virtue stored in their hearts, good and upright people will produce good fruit. But out of the evil hidden in their hearts, evil ones will produce what is evil. For the overflow of what has been stored in your heart will be seen by your fruit and will be heard in your words” (Luke 6:43-46; TPT).

Although the word “soul” may have many different connotations in readers’ minds, I use the word “heart” almost synonymously with soul.  The soul is the intersection of the physical and spiritual realities in a human body,  In viewing the human makeup as a house (from the external view), we have a heart (inner habitation of the dwelling) that determines the house’s identity.  In viewing out heart from inside the house (internal view), we are the heart that no one else sees.  We have a house (physical body), and are a house (spiritual inhabitant).  We have a heart (physical organ), and are the heart (living soul).  Both the house and the heart are a physical structure and a spiritual application of reality. 

            There is an external surface to the house that the outside world can see, but the real house is what’s inside.  The heart represents the internal  atmosphere of what really goes on in the house.  The house is not a house if it has no inhabitant(s) to house.  The inhabitants cannot be sheltered (housed) by a house, if they have no house to house them.  The human being is both the house and  inhabitant  together.  The body is dead without the heart, and the heart cannot exist without a body. 

Besides the shelter that the house provides, the physical body has another basic need for existence.  The body needs water and food to sustain life.  The picture of a water pump helps us see how a physical house (entire property) needs a water source to thrive.  Not only humans, but also the animals living on a property need water.  The plant life also needs water.  Animals and plants supply the food source.  Even the most well-equipped house cannot function without a connection to, and dependence on, outside source for water.  

Our physical heart is a pump.  When the pump stops, life stops.  The body needs a constant stream of blood flow for existence.  Spiritually speaking, the heart maintains the flow that sustains life (see Job 32:8). 

Another connection that most houses have to the outside world, is an electrical panel box.  In the last century electricity has become the means by which we provide light in the darkness, run our power tools for (re)construction, preserve our foods with refrigeration, recharge our batteries that run our phones and appliances, and so on. 

As a living soul our house is in need of a power source to run electricity throughout the house to power all that needs powered up.  Our heart is like a panel box for the house.  As the container for the spiritual part of our being, it is the center for transforming the outside power from the power grid.

The community where I live is home to the original Amish settlement in the USA.  The Amish are known for their simple ways of living and doing without electricity.  The Amish do not connect to the power grid fed by the utility company.  They choose instead to generate their own power. In order to remain self-sufficient.  I see this as a picture of what our life is like before converting to Christ.  Whatever “power” we have to function, isn’t coming from connection with God. When we believe in Jesus and start relying on God’s power, it is like connecting our house to the power grid.

Connecting to God in this way is an ever deepening commitment to his re-creation process.  Our heart is being transformed so that he can bring Light to the dark spots (see 1 Peter 2:9).  Our broken world creates dark spots in the form of burdens, brokenness, hurts, wounds, traumas, and injustices.  They may be hidden in dark closets, fixtures that need to be replaced, entire rooms that haven’t yet been renovated, or even basement foundational issues never discovered before.     

Our houses (containing our hearts) are vulnerable to many issues that could shape the condition we are in at any given time.  Environmental and construction influences (eg. Foundation flaws), damage caused by storms or pests (eg. Tornado or termites), system breakdowns (eg. heating or A/C), abuse (eg. Misusing equipment), clutter, and normal wear and tear.  In our personal lives, these may translate into family of origin issues, generational sins, other background turbulence, abuses, health issues, financial concerns, relational difficulties, and other negative influencers.  Before we realize it, loss conditions create hard, “stoney” hearts hiding in denial and numb emotions.

A prophetic word spoken through Ezekiel in ancient Israel gives us a picture of what it is like for God to call a people (both individually and corporately) out of ungodliness to godliness.  

For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands and bring you into your own land.  Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.   Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:24-26).    Jesus is the one who revives and re-creates our hearts.  He washes us clean, empowers us with his Spirit, and makes us pliable and receptive to the ongoing process of transformation.     

            Although we are bound to a natural body (house) for life, we also have access to a supernatural realm with God providing an oasis of love and faithfulness unmatched in the universe.  We are reminded of some verses in the book of Romans that give us great hope, "You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.  But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness.  And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you" (Romans 8:9-11).

            We can all take hope today.  There is no condition too hard, no heart too stoney, no sin too dreadful, and no deeds too bad for God to redeem and re-create.  We can simply pray and ask him to do for us what he promised, and what he’s done so many times before.  Communing with God keeps us connected to the power source that never runs out.  May God grant each reader the grace for tapping in to his transformational power source today. 

 by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry