Power of the Mind

Power of the Mind

Teh mnid si a poewrful thnig! As a writer and editor it bothers me to leave that sentence in an article (and it really bothered the automatic spelling correction feature in my computer). However, it demonstrates the point that our mind is able to discern a thought, even without reading actual words. The human mind possesses an incredible amount of power—much of which is often untapped or used in a negative fashion.


God has made you with a powerful mind! Use it for good, not evil.

God has made you with a powerful mind! Use it for good, not evil.

Imagine looking up into your doctor’s face and hearing him declare that you are going to live, but that there is no chance of saving your arm. It must be amputated. While those words would probably launch you on an emotional roller-coaster, consider your reaction if the doctor continued by stating: “Yes, and we are not going to use any anesthesia for the operation.” Most of us would rapidly get off the table and go find a second opinion—post haste! And yet, Dr. James Esdaille performed over 300 major surgical procedures without ever using anything except the power unleashed from his patient’s own minds. There are hundreds of examples similar to this one in which people have used the power of their mind to overcome what would often be considered insurmountable feats.

Does the mind really possess power to make physical changes in one’s life? Can the mind reduce pain or depression? Consider the case of a woman in her 30’s who was severely impaired from chronic fatigue syndrome. Most of her days were spent at home due to extreme lethargy. She was taken to the Laboratory of Clinical Investigation at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases where she was informed she was being enrolled in a new experimental treatment for individuals with her symptoms.

However, this young lady was not told that during the study she was only receiving a placebo—basically nothing more than a sugar pill. However, upon taking the pills she made a complete turnaround. Her symptoms disappeared and she was able to lead a normal life? Had the sugar pill actually cured her? No, she ate sugar all the time. The cure was initiated in her mind. She believed she was going to get better—and she did.

Often called the placebo-affect, there is a large body of research that has demonstrated the suggestive power of the mind is able to alleviate pain and cure various ailments. In 1955, scientist H.K. Beecher published a paper titled “The Powerful Placebo,” in which he demonstrated that in the 26 studies he conducted, an average of 32% of the trial patients responded to a placebo. Ten years later, it was shown that placebos could speed up the pulse rate, increase blood pressure, and improve reaction speeds of participants who were told their sugar pill was actually a stimulant. Likewise, the opposite physiological effect was observed when patients were told they were receiving a drug to induce sleep.

In the January 18th, 2007 issue of Time they featured a special issue on the mind. In one of the feature articles Jeffrey Kluger stated: “The 3-lb. lump of wrinkled tissue—with no moving parts, no joints or valves–not only serves as the motherboard for all the body’s other systems but also is the seat of your mind, your thoughts, your sense that you exist at all. You have a liver; you have your limbs. You are your brain.”

Four years earlier in another “Mind and Body” issue of Time (Jan. 20, 2003), staff writer Michael Lemonick noted: “More and more doctors—and patients—recognize that mental states and physical well-being are intimately connected. An unhealthy body can lead to an unhealthy mind, and an illness of the mind can trigger or worsen diseases in the body. Fixing a problem in one place, moreover, can often help the other.” This truth makes it vitally important to soberly consider what we are allowing into our minds.

It is no secret that the power of the mind can result in positive physiological affects. For instance, a study at UCLA focused on people recovering from melanoma surgery. Patients who were provided education on stress management and coping skills and who received an hour and a half of counseling each week for six weeks had almost half the rate of cancer recurrence and a third fewer deaths than other melanoma patients in the next five-year period that followed. It was not a matter of additional medication, but rather it was “mind therapy.”

In another study conducted at the Mount Zion Medical Center in San Francisco, 32 patients with heart disease were analyzed according to daily habits and diet. Thirteen of those patients also exhibited symptoms and signs anxiety or time urgency and they often experienced episodes of decreased supply of blood to the heart muscle. (These episodes are often a precursor to a heart attack.) Ten of 13 patients who presented symptoms of anxiety were given counseling for 14 months. They were encouraged to change elements of their lifestyle, and they did exercises intended to modify their anxiety. After counseling, their anxiety dropped 53% and the blood supply to the heart increased. Patients who did not undergo counseling and change their anxiety did not experience these changes, and they did not see a change in blood flow to the heart.

The power of the mind is real. In fact, a new branch of medicine known as biofeedback has emerged to take advantage of this power. Simply put, biofeedback uses the mind to control the body. Many responses in the body are considered involuntary—however, with proper training an individual can be trained to control responses such as heart rate, blood pressure, pain response, brain activity, muscle tension, anxiety, etc. Patients are given monitoring devices that allow them to recognize and control responses that are normally considered out of human control.

In order to clearly see the power of the mind, consider an example often given by motivational speaker Stephen Covey. He describes being on a subway train being surrounded by several unruly children. After several minutes he recognized his blood pressure was increasing and he was getting upset that the father was not doing anything to control the children. (I imagine most of us have witnessed similar situations.) So he decided to confront the father. It was then that he learned the family had just left the hospital—where the children’s mother had died earlier that day. His feelings toward this situation immediately changed. Instead of being mad or angry he suddenly wanted to reach out and help. Covey deems this change a paradigm shift. It’s a change in one’s mindset. Sometimes we can improve our own situation just by having a change in mindset.

Consider the mindset of a child (or spouse) who continually hears phrases such as:

You can’t.

You’re wasting your time.

You’ll never amount to anything.

You’ll fail.

You haven’t got a chance.

Why even bother?

You’ll never feel better.

What’s the use?

You’ll never win.

These negative suggestions plant powerful seeds in the hearts and minds of young and old alike. Every day you are consciously or subconsciously planting seeds in your mind that, if left undisturbed will germinate into external fruition. A mind constantly inundated with negative suggestions will eventually bear fruit and result in inactivity or an apathetic mindset.

Likewise, a person who constantly hears positive affirmations (e.g., You can do it. You will do great. I believe in you. You will get better) will approach challenges in life with a completely different frame of mind. Ask yourself: Are you constantly bathing your mind in negative thoughts or are you “thinking on these things?” (Philippians 4:8). Furthermore, what messages are your sending to others?

Spend a few minutes focusing on the life of Joseph. This young man was seventeen when we first read about him (Genesis 37:2). He went through all kinds of trials (e.g., sold into slavery by his own brothers, falsely accused of sexual misconduct, thrown into prison, etc.) and yet the Bible repeatedly reminds us that God was with Joseph. Yes, he was in miserable conditions, but he did not allow that to change who he was.

When you woke up this morning what was your approach to the beginning of a new day? Were you thankful to God and ready to tackle the tasks before you? Or did you desire to stay in bed, sorry that you had to get up and start yet another day? God has given each of us 24 hours in each day. We can spend it as happy, hard working servants for Him, or we can focus our mind on daily concerns and negative thoughts. What will you do with the power of your mind?

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You are Not Alone

You are Not Alone

Life is often so frustrating that we can easily forget the truth that the child of God is never alone. The last two chapters of the book of Acts so vividly illustrate this. Imagine that you are Paul on his way to Rome to be tried before Nero Caesar. Look at the contrast of the faith he had and how so many would view all that was happening if they had been Paul.

Even in the farthest, darkest, most dangerous places, God is there.

Even in the farthest, darkest, most dangerous places, God is there.

Paul was not alone on the ship. I am not referring to those Christians who were traveling with him (even though they provided so much of the comfort God provides for His children), but about God’s providential presence in these trying days of Paul’s life.

It would have been so easy for Paul to question God in what was happening. The mockery of the trials he had endured kept him a prisoner in Judah. As far as Roman laws were concerned, the Roman governor, Festus, admitted there were no charges to be brought against Paul (Acts 25:25-26), and King Agrippa said, “This man is doing nothing deserving of death or chains” (Acts 26:31). Yet, here he was headed to appear before vile Nero.

Look at what was happening on board the ship. Paul could have been put in the charge of any Roman centurion, but he was assigned to the care of Julius. It should not surprise us that Paul found favor in the eyes of the centurion. Paul was not alone on the ship! Though a prisoner, he was given “shore leave” to be with the brethren at Sidon. Luke said, “Julius treated Paul kindly and gave him liberty to go to his friends and receive care” (Acts 27:3).

Paul was not alone during the storm. On this voyage to Rome, a violent storm arose and “…all hope that we would be saved was finally given up” (Acts 27:20). Life is so distressing, but at such times, we must remember that Christians are never alone. In the darkness of night, an angel of the Lord appeared to Paul with the message of hope. What we may overlook is that the angel had been with Paul all the time he was on the ship (Heb. 1:13-14). We are never alone.

Paul was not alone when shipwrecked. It should not surprise us that “…the natives showed us unusual kindness…and made us all welcome” (Acts 28:2). It might be worth considering if the presence of God’s children might have something to do with this special treatment. Christians are never alone!

Now, step back from looking at this brief period of Paul’s life and think about God’s presence in your life. God does not keep us from being wronged by others or from “shipwrecks” in our lives. His providence works in another way. His plan involves this eternal truth—you are never alone!

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The Church and the Gates of Hades

The Church and the Gates of Hades

Matthew 16:18 – And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Such an encouraging verse with a powerful, uplifting promise!  And yet, due to translation error and false teachings this powerful passage is misunderstood by so many!

The Gates of Hades, Death, cannot hinder the Kingdom of God.

The Gates of Hades, Death, cannot hinder the Kingdom of God.

For example, “the gates of hell” should be more accurately translated from the Greek “the gates of Hades.”  Hades and hell are actually two different words in the Greek which describe two different places, but many think they’re the same thing due to many English translations translating Hades as hell, which in turn is due to the translators being influenced by the erroneous teaching that Hades and hell are the same.  Hell is gehenna in the Greek (Matt. 5:22, 29-30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15, 33; Mark 9:43, 45, 47; Luke 12:5; James 3:6).  The word originally referred to the city of Jerusalem’s garbage dump, and then was used to symbolically refer to the eternal lake of fire reserved for Satan and his followers after judgment.  Hades is where the dead wait for judgment.  The rich man was in torment in Hades, although several translations erroneously translate the word as “hell” (Luke 16:23).  However, Jesus and the thief whom he forgave were also in Hades after they died, in the part referred to as Paradise or Abraham’s bosom or side (Acts 2:27; cf. Luke 23:39-43; 16:22-24) which is separated from where the rich man is tormented by a gulf or chasm (Luke 16:26).  Thus, Hades is a place where both the righteous and unrighteous dead are, unlike hell which is reserved for the unrighteous for all eternity.  On the day of judgment, Death and Hades will deliver up the dead that are in them and then be cast into the lake of fire which is hell, after which all who are judged by God to be condemned will also be cast into hell, along with Satan (Rev. 20:10-15).  Thus, Hades and hell are two different places.  By telling Peter that “the gates of Hades” shall not prevail against the church, Jesus was in effect promising that the church would not die.

Another misunderstanding many have about this passage revolves around the mistaken notion that one church is just as good as another.  This ecumenical mindset ignores several biblical points about the church:

  1. When Jesus spoke of building his church in this passage, notice that he spoke of the church in a singular fashion, not as pluralistic.  In other words, he said, “…I will build my church.”  He didn’t say, “…I will build my churches.”
  2. This is because the New Testament reveals that there in fact is only one church.  Paul spoke of the body of Christ as being his church (Eph. 1:22-23), and then specifically said that there is only one body, as well as only one faith (Eph. 4:4-5).  If the body is the church, and there is one body, then there is one church.  One church, one body, one faith.  Compare that to the thousands of different denominations, sects, and cults which all believe different things while claiming to all follow Christ…even though Christ’s New Testament specifically commands Christians that “…all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:10; cf. John 17:20-23; Phil. 2:1-2).

Another misunderstanding many have about this passage revolves around the Roman Catholic doctrine of apostolic succession which teaches that Peter was the first Pope.  This verse is commonly cited by Catholicism to mean that Jesus was saying that the church was built on Peter.  However, this notion is mistaken for two reasons:

  1. Peter could not have been the first Pope, because Peter was married (Matt. 8:14-15; 1 Cor. 9:5) and Catholic doctrine teaches that the Pope and other bishops must be celibate, even though the New Testament specifically states that bishops must be married (1 Tim. 3:2; Tit. 1:6).  (With this in mind, compare Catholic doctrine to the prophecy of Paul in 1 Timothy 4:1-3.)
  2. It is well known that “Peter” means “rock,” and so the assumption is made that when Jesus said, “…you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church…”, he was saying that the church would be built on Peter.  However, a study of the Greek words used in Matthew 16:18 reveals that Jesus actually used two different words here.  When he said, “…you are Peter…”, he used the masculine Greek word Petros, which refers to a rock or stone.  However, when he then said, “…upon this rock…”, he used the feminine Greek word petra, which refers to a large rock or stone, or a cliff.  The two similar but different words show by definition that Jesus had two similar but different concepts in mind when he spoke this sentence.  The church would not be built upon the rock of the apostle Peter (Petros), but upon a large rock or cliff (petra).  Contextually, the only thing Jesus could have in mind in reference to the petra would be the confession Peter had just made that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God (Matt. 16:16), which of course we know is the foundation of faith upon which the church is built (cf. 1 Cor. 3:11).

Thus, today’s Scripture of the Day records a promise Jesus made to Peter, the other apostles, and us that gives me comfort every time I read it.  He promised to build his church, of which there is only one, upon the rock of the confession of faith in him as the Son of God, and that his church would never die and thus be overcome by the gates of Hades.

Are you a part of his church?  The Bible specifically states that he is the Savior of his church (Eph. 5:23).  Do you want Christ to be your Savior?  Be a part of his church, not some man-made denomination.  Make the same heart-felt confession of faith that Peter made (Matt. 16:16; Rom. 10:9-10), choose to repent of your sins (Luke 13:3; Acts 3:19), and wash your sins away via immersion into the body of Christ, his church (1 Cor. 12:13; cf. Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38).

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