If I ask you to point to your heart, where are you be pointing? Probably right where you place your right hand when you sing the Star Spangled Banner.
Now read this verse from Proverbs 4:23: Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.
Now point to the part of your body that you are instructed to protect and guard.
It doesn’t make sense to point to this wonderful organ located behind and slightly left of your breastbone. This verse is not talking about taking care of your heart with a healthy diet, but about the place that is the center of your emotions and desires.
The heart described in the verse includes these parts:
- your heart of moral character
- the seat of your appetites, desires, and cravings
- the seat of your emotions and passions
- the seat of your courage
- your inner man
Where is this place?
In his book, The God Shaped Brain, Timothy Jennings describes where neurologists point to the “heart”, this place of passion, character, and courage.
Neurologically speaking the “heart” is the anterior congulate cortex (ACC), the part of your brain right between your eyes and slightly back from your forehead. It is in this brain region where we experience empathy, compassion and love, and where we choose the right from wrong.
Guard your heart
How do we guard our “heart”, the ACC, that thinking area of our minds that will bring health or damage to our entire being?
The picture in Proverbs is one of a guard watching and protecting the city from danger.
You are the guard and the city is your mind that will ultimately determine the course (health) of your life – body, soul, and spirit.
How are you watching and protecting your thinking?
I have 3 suggestions for guarding your “heart” – ACC. I have added notes from Timothy Jennings in italics:
1. Ask God to increase your understanding of LOVE.
I feel like I have a good sense of God’s love for me and mankind. But when I read about the dimensions of his love in Ephesians 3:14-21 and how it is too great to fully understand, I realize there is SO MUCH MORE. I will never stop learning about love.
The core, central, primary characteristic of God. . . is love. Not the silly, finite, flimsy, emotional, wax-fruit imposter we sometimes call love, but a boundless, eternal, bottomless, never-ending, reality of goodness on which the cosmos is built! A love that lasts, that creates, that is constant.
- Do I believe that God is love and that God is good – all the time for others, but not me?
- Do I ever believe God is punishing me because of a past sin?
- Do I feel like I must prove my worth to God so he will love and bless me?
If you said yes to any of the above it is distorted thinking and I want to see you set free from those destructive thoughts.
God. Is. Love. He designed and constructed your life and mind to operate in harmony with his character.
Who do you love with all of your heart? God loves you more. It’s true. In fact, he loves you and has good in mind for you more than you can even imagine or describe.
The abundant life is the life of love, which only occurs when we replace the twisted versions of God with truth, enabling God’s love to flow to us and through us.
What if you believed God is really GOOD and that he has YOUR BEST in his mind, heart and plans for you? Think of what could happen!
2. Don’t stay in fear-based thinking.
Many of you have heard my stories of how my fear-based thinking is being replaced with new faith-based thinking pathways. I feel like a new woman!
Toxic fear-based thinking will seep into your cells. Research shows that selfishness and fear-based actions damage the ACC (heart).
The more clearly we embrace love-based God concepts and act altruistically, the healthier our brains become. And on the other hand, the more fear-inducing our God concept is, the more selfish our actions and more damage occurs.
- What is my go-to-thinking pathway? What is the activator of your first initial thoughts? Some people’s thoughts immediately follow the pathway of fear (like I did), or anger, frustration, negativism, inadequacy, inferiority, hopelessness, and others through the history of daddy or mommy issues.
- When does fear rear its ugly head in my life?
Fear is an intruder, an unnatural invader, like a flesh-eating bacteria – ravaging and deforming all creation. As soon as Adam believed the lies about God in the Garden of Eden, the circle of love and trust was broken, and fear infected the human heart.
Today fear is constantly with us, stalking us, hiding in the shadows of our minds. We may beat it back for brief moments, but it lurks in the darkness of our hearts. It doesn’t wait for an invitation; it barges into our lives, trampling our world like cattle tromping daisies.
Here’s the bottom line: When fear increases, love, growth, development and healthy thinking decrease. When love increases, not only does fear decrease, but growth, development and healthy thinking all improve. Fear and love are inversely proportional.
When love increases, fear decreases.
3. Stay in Communion With God.
Don’t box God into 15 minutes of your day, but realize he is with you 24/7 – speaking, leading, comforting, and taking care of you.
Brain imaging studies have demonstrated that the more time a person spends in communion with the God of love, the more developed the ACC (heart) becomes. Not only that, the person experiences decreases in stress hormones, blood pressure, heart rate and risk of untimely death. Conversely, the more time spent contemplating a wrathful, fear-inducing deity, the more damage done to the brain and the more rapidly one’s health declines, leading to early death.
Out of Your Heart Flows the Wellspring of Life
It is necessary to guard your heart, your thoughts, because those thinking patterns determine your health.
- God is love and when you allow your thoughts to reflect how he really cares about you and his goodness toward you, your body, soul, and spirit respond in a positive manner.
- Fear is not from God and when you allow it to increase in your heart it will decrease healthy growth and development.
- Spend time in communion with God. Worship, prayer, meditate on the Word, and listen to his voice. Your health depends on it.