Thursdays With Oswald—Difficult Times Reveal Our Habits

Oswald ChambersThis is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

Difficult Times Reveal Our Habits 

     Practice means continually doing that which no one sees or knows but ourselves. Habit is the result of practice, by continually doing a thing it becomes second nature. The difference between men is not a difference of personal power, but that some men are disciplined and others are not. The difference is not the degree of mental power but the degree of mental discipline. If we have taught ourselves how to think, we will have mental power plus the discipline of having it under control. Beware of impulse. Impulsiveness is the characteristic of a child, but it ought not to be the characteristic of a man, it means he has not disciplined himself. Undeterred impulse is undisciplined power.

     Every habit is purely mechanical, and whenever we form a habit it makes a material difference in the brain. The material of the brain alters very slowly, but it does alter, and by repeatedly doing a thing a groove is formed in the material of the brain so that it becomes easier to do it again, until at last we become unconscious of doing it. When we are regenerated we can reform by the power and presence of God every habit that is not in accordance with His life. … We have to learn to form habits according to the dictates of the Spirit of God. The power and the practice must go together. … If we keep practicing, what we practice becomes our second nature, and in a crisis we will find that not only does God’s grace stand by us, but our own nature also. The practicing is ours not God’s and the crisis reveals whether or not we have been practicing. [See Matthew 5:31-37.]

From Studies In The Sermon On The Mount

All of us have blind spots. These are typically habits that we have left in place, unchallenged and unchanged. That “groove” in our brain is operating on auto-pilot, but those blind-spot habits aren’t serving us well. 

The role of the Holy Spirit in the life of a Christian is to help us notice these habits in which we are unconsciously incompetent. But once the Spirit of God points these out, then we must practice, and practice, and practice until the new healthy habit has overwritten the old groove of the unhealthy habit. 

Then we will find, as Chambers points out, that in a time of crisis “not only does God’s grace stand by us, but our own nature also.” 

Times of difficulty will reveal habits—both the unhealthy and the healthy. The question then becomes: what are you going to do about the unhealthy habits? 

Right-Brain Leadership

Right-Brain LeadershipI read a fascinating article in Influence, written by Mark Batterson, called “Right-Brain Leadership.” If you are involved in any type of speaking or teaching role, you should check out what he has to say about the power of creativity.

Here are some quotes I especially liked…

“Creativity is the natural, supernatural by-product of a Spirit-filled life.”

“Loving God with half your mind doesn’t cut it. Half-minded is no better than half-hearted. God wants to sanctify your right brain imagination so you can see visions and dream dreams.”

“Neuroimaging has shown that as we age the center of cognitive gravity tends to shift from the imaginative right brain to the logical left brain. That neurological tendency presents grave spiritual problems for leaders: At some point, most of us stop living out of imagination and start living out of memory. Instead of creating the future, we start repeating the past. Instead of living by faith, we start living by logic. Instead of going after our dreams, we do it the way it’s always been done.”

“Uniqueness if God’s gift to you. Creativity is your your gift back to God.”

“What to say is content. How to say it is creativity. Part of my calling as a writer and as a preacher is to say old things in new ways. I think that’s precisely what Jesus did with the parables. Most of them are no more than 250 words, but hear them once and you’ll remember them for ever. Jesus was the master of metaphors.”

“The brain processes print on a page at 100 bits per second, but it processes pictures at a billion bits per seconds. That means that a picture isn’t worth a thousand words; it’s worth 10 million.”

Problems With Pornography

Porn liesPornography is so terribly destructive! It destroys relationships, it destroys intimacy, and it even negatively effects the human brain.

Frank Powell has a short, but important, article listing 8 lies we believe about porn. Please check this out.

And then see what Bobby Conway has to say about the destructive power of porn in this video—

7 Quotes On Brain Health From “Brain-Savvy Leaders”

Brain-Savvy LeadersCharles Stone gave us a very practical book in Brain-Savvy Leaders (you can read my full review by clicking here). Obviously out brain works best when we’re healthy, so check out some quotes from this book on brain health.

“Gratefulness is actually good for brain and body health.”

“At the end of our chromosomes lie protective caps called telomeres that are linked to longevity. Apparently, the longer your telomeres, all else being equal, the longer you live. Long-term stress shortens them, and mindfulness apparently helps lengthen them. For a Christian, mindfulness practices, such as meditation on Scripture and reflective prayer, which we often do in our devotional time, may possibly help us live longer.”

“The hypothalamus acts as a controller to the master hormone gland, the pituitary gland. … Chronic stress can damage our body and even kill neurons in the hippocampus. However, since the hippocampus is one of the few structures that can grow neurons, called neurogenesis, when stress decreases and cortisol levels out, the brain can regrow neurons here.”

“When we feel bored we don’t get as much oxygen and blood flow. When the brain lacks engagement over long periods of time (we are bored), dendrites can atrophy. When that happens, we can lose brain real estate.”

“Neuroscientists have found that stuffing, denying, or a ignoring our emotions reinforces them, affects short-term memory, increases blood pressure, and robs our brain’s prefrontal cortex of the mental energy it needs.”

“Chronic anxiety and stress cause what scientists call allostatic load…. When our body secretes too much cortisol over long periods of time, these problems can affect us: impaired immunity, weight gain, greater emotional reactivity, heart problems, decreased memory, and diminished brain functioning.”

“Exercise increases a key protein necessary for a healthy brain.”

I shared some quotes about how we learn from Brain-Savvy Leaders earlier, and you can read them here.

10 Quotes On Learning From “Brain-Savvy Leaders”

Brain-Savvy LeadersCharles Stone has given us a great resource to understand how our brain works, which gives us tremendous insight into increasing the depth of interpersonal interactions. You can read my review of Brain-Savvy Leaders by clicking here. Below are some quotes from this book about learning. Unless otherwise noted, the quotes are from Charles Stone.

“Science and theology have things to say to each other, since both are concerned with the search for truth attained through motivated belief.” —Dr. John Polkinghorne

“If what we claim about Jesus Christ is true, then evangelical should be among the most active, most serious, and most open minded advocates of general human learning. Evangelical hesitation about scholarship in general or about pursuing learning wholeheartedly is, in other words, antithetical to the Christ-centered basis of evangelical faith.” —Mark Noll

“I want to know how God created this world, I am not interested in this for that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know His thoughts, the rest are details.” —Albert Einstein 

“God gave us a brain not just because our body and needed a command and control center to direct it but because God enjoys seeing us steward our brains for His glory.”

“Only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light.” —Pope Paul VI 

“The light of Christ illuminates the laboratory, His speech is the fountain of communication, He makes possible the study of humans in all their interactions, He is the source of all life, by the wherewithal for every achievement of human civilization, He is the telos of all that is beautiful. He is, among other titles, the Christ of the Academic Road.” —Mark Noll

“What we pay attention to can actually change our brain’s neural pathways—their plasticity. If you regularly read, study, and apply God’s Word, you will create connections in your brain that reinforce a biblical worldview.” 

“We can’t separate how our brains work from how the Holy Spirit works in us to create change in our hearts and in our character. Emotional control is not a passive process. It requires our intentional effort to work with the Holy Spirit. … God has wired our brains to support His promises.”

“Coffee, caffeinated drinks (but not too many), exercise, and novelty can increase the amount of these neurotransmitters and get us into a more productive and focused state.” 

“Scientists will never fully unpack the brain’s mysteries, because it’s so interwoven with our soul that it transcends complete understanding. Nevertheless, I believe that a thirst for learning points to a healthy leader.”

A Brilliant Mind (book review)

A Brilliant MindDr. Frank Minrith opens his book—A Brilliant Mind—with a bold statement. “Whether you are five or ninety-five, you can develop a more brilliant mind. Whether your IQ is 85 or 165, brilliance can be increased. Whether you are a child, a housewife, a blue-collar worker, or a business executive, brilliance is yours for the taking through the exercises contained in this book.”

Quite simply the premise comes down to this: the brain’s neuroplasticity (it’s ability to continue to learn and retain new things) can be increased by simply expanding your vocabulary. Dr. Minrith points out that only 3500 words separate the culturally literate from others, but this expanded vocabulary holds the key.

Dr. Minrith points out that your brain’s synapses can be increased by memorizing new words, and applying them to your daily life. So the bulk of the book contains list after list after list of vocabulary words, arranged in very specific groups. Taking time to learn these words and their meaning is the key to brilliance. Not only that, but it’s a lot of fun developing a burgeoning vocabulary!

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