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disciplines are actually good for the brain

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“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

This past year, I read books in two main categories; neuroscience and spiritual disciplines. The exciting part for me was how the two genres come to similar conclusions about human thriving. Interestingly, even the latest neuroscience is claiming health and relational benefits from the same kinds of actions spiritual authors have been writing about for hundreds of years.

From all my reading, one idea has stuck with me. It’s from a book called The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. In this book, Duhigg talks about keystone habits. He explains that there are a set of habits — when practiced — inevitably effect other areas of life positively. By simply tracking food, some people loose weight, and by regularly taking time off, some people become much more productive. There are a set of spiritual disciplines that work the same way and these disciplines are actually good for the brain. For example, prayer and meditation on scripture have a similar result in the brain as mindfulness.

God designed our brains and when he gives us instructions to obey, they work all the way down to our neurons. So, as we enter a new year most of us make new year’s resolutions. I want to make sure my resolutions are keystone habits. The type of habit that positively effects all of my life and the habit that is effective because it taps into the behavior God designed me for.

One keystone habit I believe has the power to transform us. That’s abiding with Jesus through his scriptures. Notice I didn’t just say “reading the Bible.” Consistently trying to hear God’s voice each day is the goal and his scriptures are one of the best ways we have to do that. As a pastor who spends lots of time thinking about how to help myself and others grow spiritually, I can’t recommend spiritual scripture reading enough. Again, it’s not just a simple reading of scripture I recommend. I recommend a prayerful relationship pursuing and expectation filled kind of reading.

Today, read John 15 and meditate on what it means to abide in Jesus. When we approach God with a desire to hear and obey what we hear as our “keystone habit”, we might just find our entire lives transformed.[/vc_column_text][us_separator height=”25px” size=”custom”][vc_column_text]

By Aaron Bjorklund

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