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Brain Reign

• Greg Boyd, Sue Krautkramer

In our second week of Heart Smart we look at the New Testament teaching on reigning over the relational brain. Understanding how God wired our brains can help us to learn how to take our thoughts captive to Christ.

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In our second week of the Heart Smart series, we look at the New Testament teaching on reigning over the relational brain. Last week, we talked about the Apostle Paul teaching believers to do everything in love. This means that all our relationships should reflect cross-like love. In order for us to allow God to funnel his cross-like love through us and into the world, we must learn to align our thoughts and feelings on things that are noble, gracious, beautiful, good, and praiseworthy. If we do not learn to align our thoughts and feelings with the good, then we will cork this funnel of God’s love from going out into the world through us. Understanding how God wired our brains will help us to learn how to take our thoughts captive to Christ. We are given a thinking brain and a feeling brain. Our thinking brain is the part responsible for rational thought and logic. Our feeling brain does many things, but the specific area we are discussing today is the amygdala—the area of the brain that signals the fight or flight response triggered when we are in danger. The amygdala sends out chemicals that decrease the thinking brains ability to respond. While the fight or flight response is important in the event of true physical danger, the amygdala isn’t able to discern the difference between physical and emotional danger very well. This means that there are times we react to people, situations, or events in a way that is incongruent to our Jesus-like selves even if our intentions are good.

There is another problem we face if we allow our fight or flight response to take over in social or emotional attacks. While the amygdala is incapable of thinking rationally; it is capable of learning. This means that each time you recall an event in your mind or retell an event to another person, the amygdala is triggered once more, believing it is happening to you again. After a while you will start to feel as though this type of event happens to you all the time. To train ourselves not to let the amygdala dictate our behaviors, we can take steps to prevent the social and emotional reactions from affecting our thoughts. Since our feeling brain is trained by our life experiences and choices, we first must choose what we pay attention to and remember we receive our life from Christ alone. It is also important to learn to slow down when we feel ourselves triggered—the simple act of removing ourselves to relax and breath is helpful. As we stay connected to Jesus and practice gratefulness, we will become more able to take our thoughts captive to Christ and meditating on things above.

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Topics: Conflict, Love, Relationships

Sermon Series: Heart Smart

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Focus Scripture:

  • Philippians 4:8-9

    8 Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

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4 thoughts on “Brain Reign

  1. Dave Pritchard says:

    This message was wonderful and wholly significant on so many levels. One of the determining (and often controversial) aspects of brain chemistry is the relationship that “Serotonin” plays in the inducement of mood. Serotonin works as a neurotransmitter and is manufactured both in the brain and in the gastrointestinal tract. Serotonin levels in the body have been linked to social behavior, depression, sexual desire, sleep, memory and even empathy. (SSRI’s) – Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors such as Fluoxetine and Paroxetine (antidepressants) are often prescribed by doctors to counter the effects of severe depression by inhibiting the re-absorption of Serotonin, thus increasing the levels in the body and improving one’s overall mood by helping the brain cells to send and receive messages more clearly. However, if levels accumulate too much, “Serotonin syndrome” can develop causing a whole host of problems.

    But here’s the thing, “if” one postulates that brain chemistry alone dictates or controls to a greater degree our morality as individuals, then some (and I’m not saying Sue or Greg are doing this!) jump to the conclusion that the moral and ethical judgments that we make are essentially beyond our control and more or less physiologically pre-determined by that particular chemistry. But when Paul writes in Romans 2:15 –

    “in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them”

    Scripture shows us that it is not only brain chemistry that can modulate and modify empathetic behavior, but the Holy Spirit as well. Studies using the compound “Citalopram” have shown that individuals can have their aggressive impulses curbed significantly, but it is the awareness and acknowledgement of the presence of God in our lives that truly ameliorates those impulsive Amygdala responses. When individuals are exposed to long term levels of stress and abuse, amounts of adrenal hormones, such as epinephrine, also known as adrenaline, norepinephrine and cortisol are increased by Amygdala activation. This can lead to a dysfunction and even permanent damage to the limbic system.

    I am convinced though, that it is only through the power of “Cross-Like Love” that a real and lasting healing can take place in the minds of those who have been psychologically wounded by life.

  2. Teresa Riley says:


  3. Denny Irwin says:

    This is the essences of the Adverse Childhood Experience Study, better known as the ACE Study.An overdose and/or long term exposure to norepinephrine and cortisol in the developing brain can and will cause brain cell damage! Those interested in brain research and the effects of brain chemistry on early childhood and adolescent brain development, I highly recommend Googling “ACE Study”. It is deeply rooted in building healthy/therapeutic communities based on love. You know…”Love others as I have loved you.”

    The ACE Study is being re-cognized by many state and local governments and is causing quite a stir…a stir that the church should be a part of if not leading the way.

    Ask not what is wrong with you? But, rather, ask what happened to you?

  4. Roger Perkins says:

    Yes…at Higher Ground we teach four spiritual/psychological practices that dramatically bring brain healing over time. They are: Centering prayer leading to the contemplative state; meditation on truth; confession of sin at five levels–down to the root causes; correction of whatever was confessed. This leads to Identification Atonement.

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