Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Power of Faith and our Created Mind

Book Review: In His Own Image: We Are Wonderfully Made

The light initiating germination[1] of my pondering the power of the mind combined with the Holy Spirit flashed on my six-year-old imagination while irrigating on the farm with my dad. Dad and my neighbor Richard Horning straddled the property line demarcating their cornfields a mile east and a mile south of Gaylord, Kansas in July 1973. They discussed crops, weather, and irrigation water supply.

Wearing green Sears Toughskin jeans, a tank top with blue horizontal stripes, a baseball cap pulled down over my eyes, and cowboy boots, I threw clods and chased frogs. Suddenly their conversation captured my attention—ultimately changing my life. Richard began sharing his experiences as a United States Marine serving in World War Two. He described a battle with the Japanese that left him as the only survivor among his group of U.S. troops—I do not recall the number of men in the group.

Japanese soldiers walked amongst the U.S. Marine causalities verifying their death by penetrating their heart with bayonets. One Japanese soldier approached Richard, kicking him in the ribs and poking him with a bayonet. Richard played dead! He avoided moving, breathing or screaming—he played dead. Just as the Japanese man prepared to pierce Richard’s heart, the enemy commander called for his soldier to leave Richard and move forward.[2]

This story, along with several others Richard told that day, permeated my mind, permanently prompting my curiosity. What forces enabled Richard to remain motionless, breathless, and speechless under these circumstances? What caused the Japanese commander to halt his soldier immediately before the bayonet pierced Richard’s heart? What prevented the Japanese soldier from quickly completing the motion of piercing before proceeding with his company? Do these forces and causes affect the lives—functionality, performance, and health—of typical, non-combat, individuals?


A plethora of scholars amidst the inclusive array of athletes, biologists, business men and women, metaphysics, motivational speakers and authors, neuroscientists, physicians, theologians, as well as other perpetually inquisitive people ponder and study the mind—spirit—body relationship. Does interdependence exist among the body-mind-spirit? If so, how do the interdependencies reveal themselves, and do they yield synergy or antagonism?

Who or what controls inputs and resulting yields? Should we believe the Holy Spirit guided prophets and apostles who discussed spiritual influence and our resulting words on our mind and body[3] (James 3:5-6)? Does Christ’s torturing, death and resurrection affect our health (Is. 53:4-5; Mt. 27:26; Mk. 16:17-18; Jn. 10:10; 1 Peter 2:24)?[4] Does the mind truly enable physical manifestation of any and everything one believes?[5] Does the Christian view accept views of Faith and Autosuggestion as discussed by Napoleon Hill?[6] Hippocrates (500 BC) accepted the correlation of behavior, attitudes, thoughts, emotions and disease. Galen (AD 131-201) concurred while adding passions.[7]

Dr. Art Mathias, Wellsprings Ministries of Alaska, thoroughly investigates the inquisitions body-soul-spirit interdependencies through scripture and human physiology, supplying detailed insights.[8] Dr. Mathias examines vocabulary definitions, thus correlating scriptural words with one’s health. For example, scripture uses ‘Salvation, soteria and the verb form sozo, are used over one-hundred-fifty times to mean “to save, cure, heal, preserve, keep safe and sound, rescue from danger, or destruction, deliver, to save from peril, injury or suffering, to make whole from physical death by healing, and from spiritual death by forgiving sin and its effects (Mt. 21-22; Mk. 6:56; Acts 4:9; James 5:15-16).’ Rapha means ‘to cure, heal, repair, mend and restore health’ (Gen. 20:17)”[9]

Doctor originates from Rophe, “the one who heals (Ex. 15:26) diseases and sins (Ps. 103:1-3; and broken hearts” (Lk. 4:18-20; Ps. 147:3). While healing of the body, and promoting a sound mind and character comes from Marpe (Prov. 4:22; 16:24). Hugiaina signifies a properly functioning body, and the English word, health.

In His Own Image: We Are Wonderfully Made

Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI)

Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) studies the interactions between “behaviorsstress, thoughts, attitudes, and emotionsbrain (central nervous system), the endocrine systemhormones—and the immune system.”[10] Adrienne Buffaloe, MD states, “Rarely does a physician investigate the spiritual and emotional contributions to an illness, so two-thirds of the cause of the illness remains unexplored.”[11] PNI asks how and why anxiety modifies the endocrine and immune systems, delving into the bi-directional relations. Mathias suggests our response to stressors or experiences determines our body’s physiological response.[12]

Negative emotions do suppress the immune system while positive emotions of laughter, peace and healthy family relationships enhance the immune system.[13] Fear serves as a powerful emotion that conditions our responses resulting in an alarm reaction, thus conditioning our immune system. “2 Timothy 1:7 calls this type of fear, an evil spirit.”[14] The book insightfully illustrates the effect of the alarm reaction as well as triggering events such as “unforgiveness, anger, guilt, regret and loneliness”[15] to name a few. The evidence of their negative effects on our health amplifies the physical significance of forgiveness and trusting God (Prov. 3:3-5).

I agree with Mathias’ assertions that God designed plasticity in our immune system, allowing it to be “educated, trained and specialized.”[16] We develop our specific immunity, as opposed to receiving an innate immunity. Growing-up and working on the farm amidst old dust, livestock and playing in the soil with microbes and pathogens along with much joy, laughter and healthy family relationships eventually enhanced my immune system.

Having accumulated a meager ten days of sickness since 1990, I believe these intentional interrelations exist. During this ongoing twenty-two year stretch beginning in 1990, the flu or other incapacitating illness struck for a few days each in December 1990, December 1998—I felt as if I were floating above the bed where I lie—February 2003, and February 11-13, 2007. Each of these occurrences resulted from my ignoring the warning signs of exhaustion.

Effectively, I muted the voice of the Holy Spirit. Yet, I experienced immense stress throughout these periods, ranging from working full-time while running fifty to 135 weekly miles between 1990 and the end of 1996. I avoided injuries between May 1994 through November 1996 while running 70–135 miles per week at an average door-step—to—door-step pace of 5:55 per mile.

I constantly prayed, studied scripture, listened to motivational tapes, and read motivational scriptural based books with my favorite, What You Say Is What You Get.[17] Which presents similar concepts to the book in this review, In His Own Image,[18] while lacking the scientific dialogue. Allergies to parathion caused my resignation as a Consulting Agronomist in 1994. Twice I moved to new communities in support of my wife at the time, who was in ministry.

Between September 2005 and August 2008, I endured a shocking divorce, along with the death of a grandmother, aunt, uncle, nephew and Dad. I then reentered the agricultural sector as an agronomy salesman. On August 14, 2009, my boss asked for my resignation because I am too honest. Previously, others in the company warned against choosing truth and biblical principles over profit. “Rick, if you continue choosing following principles of the Bible on the job, you will fail in this profession.” Two of these gentlemen served on local church councils.

Despite these stressors, I remain healthy. Consequently, I believe this book’s thesis of our thoughts, attitudes and responses may affect our health. While certainly falling short of adequacy, I read the Bible regularly. This includes cover-to-cover about twenty-five times between May 2006 and August 2008, in addition to devotional readings.

Yes, I have studied the content of this book where the rubber meets the road over decades and from numerous perspectives. When on the verge of physical and emotional collapse, only scripturally true inspiration activates the proper neurotransmitters and neuropeptides to keep my mind and body healthy. Yes, I agree with Mathias’ assertion regarding the effect of communication between the nervous system and neuroendocrine system, or between the brain and endocrine systems on the immune system.[19]

Why do some of us respond in a manner yielding good health, while others fail to respond similarly? I continue standing by my earlier argument of God’s sovereignty aimed to glorify Him. Yet, how much choice do we have? We could probably read and write volumes of books on this question alone. God brings intertwines people and opportunity in our lives, quite possibly to spark neuropeptides resulting in a hormone or endorphin to encourage us to say, Yes leading to another open door, leader to another neuron interaction.

Biochemical transmissions and interactions including the exchange and passage of hormones fire hundred, sometimes thousands of times per second. No wonder we get tired. Endocrine glands produce hormones, effecting growth, development and metabolism. Hormones, or “Messenger Molecules,” originate specifically from our hypothalamus, pituitary, adrenals, gonads, thyroid, parathyroid and pancreas.

The body mirrors the mind.[20] Each neuropeptide in the mind, exists on the surface of the human monocyte. Human monocytes have receptors for opiates, and other peptides such as PCP—angel dust. Monocytes represent one type of white blood cell. Immune cells create, store, and secrete peptides themselves, especially endorphins, making the same cells that we conceive of as controlling mood in the brain.

Therefore, immune cells control tissue integrity of the body, and manufacture information chemicals that regulate mood or emotion, resulting in the bidirectional communication between brain and body.[21] Dr. Mathias explains the physiological effects of sin, especially on the immune and nervous system. The sin of negativity carries profound impact on attainment and recovery of injuries and illness.

Conversely, cheerfulness enhances the immune system (Prov. 15:30, 17:22).[22] The Bible defines joy a component in the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22), and explains our remaining joyful in our every circumstance pleases God (James 1:2-4; 1 Thess. 5:16-18). Additionally, cheerful words also enhance our immune system formed in our bone marrow (Prov. 16:24). Therefore, one may correctly conclude that joy prevents unnecessary illness.

Joy produces good neuropeptides, these occupy opiate receptors which prevents the attachment of cancer cells’ neuropeptide receptors.[23] I prefer filling my opiate receptors with neuropeptides of joy, than those of angel dust. This displays the body’s need for joy, yet depraved humanity seeks destructive neuropeptides generated in and from sin. The Bible uses Job’s multitude of physical tortures (Job 2-38) and Lazarus’ illness and death (John 11:4) to illustrate that God may allow the failing of our physical health to glorify Him, and heal the souls of unbelievers.

Consequently, prudence mandates we cautiously address the Prosperity of Health Gospel, lest we practice the judgment errs of Job’s friends. Regardless of the volume of thoughts we originate or our allocation of positive or negative emotions, our physical bodies will die because of the Fall of Man in the Garden (Gen. 3:1-19; Rom. 3:23).

Brain and Nervous System

Dr. Mathias provides a brief overview of the brain along with the major functions of each component. Evidently, I experienced miss-firings in my brain while typing these last two sentences as evidenced by numerous errors. The brain’s “lower structures” involves “circuits of the brainstem deep within the skull that mediate the basic elements of energy flow, such as states of arousal and alertness and the physiological state of the body (temperature, respiration, heart rate).”

While the thalamus resides on the brain stem’s upper side, overseeing as gateway for inbound sensory information along with extensive connections to other portions of the brain, this includes the neocortex. The neocortex mediations encompass perception, thinking and reasoning. The limbic system’s central location, whose components include orbitofrontal cortex, anterior cingulate, and amygdala, optimally coordinates the higher and lower structure activity.

The latter regions facilitate “emotion, motivation, and goal-directed behavior,” while also integrating processes such as the appraisal of meaning, processing of social experience and regulating emotion. [24] When we consciously access our memory, we rely heavily on the limbic system’s hippocampus, which is part of the medial temporal lobe. This aids understanding why our temple region hurts when striving to remember….oh yeah, the bread at the store….remember the orange juice too.

Neural pathways serve as the highways by which information travels from the brain to the various destinations of organs, and muscles. One hundred billion neurons make up the nervous system. An average of ten thousand connections, directly link each neuron to other neurons. Scientists estimate one million billion connections.[25]

The body contains two “million miles of bioelectrical cables,” with some signals exceeding 100 meters per second while controlling things such as the eyes, toes and fingers. In laymen’s terms, “They’re boogying!!!” Every thought and deed ultimately originates from a bioelectrical signal,[26] on unfathomable electrical grid. How does one escape awe in the grid, yet exponentially incomprehensible that each of these biochemical-electrical synapses occur thousands of times per second every day of our life.

We rarely consider their existence when they misfire or “short.” This attribute alone cements the verifications of Romans 1:20. Even though we fail to see the interactions of the body, we observe its continual functioning, only crying to God when a few neurons are misdirected.

The book’s discussion on brain formation and function, fully correlate with other reputable books.[27] The author discusses how infants are born with excess neurons, and pruned as they develop. We learn that experience, beginning at our conception, affects our future relationships. This may explain why siblings may vary, or why children of the same age whose parents are friends develop relationally similar.

This principle also illustrates the effect of choices and consequences affect us from the immediate beginning. Additionally, Mathias discusses the plasticity of our genetics, changing throughout life. In fact, “positive responses to negative experiences can change genetics.”[28] Another explanation on the differences of siblings, relatives.


Negative emotions significantly impact over or under secretion of neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters, thus also negative emotions, control muscles, motivation, appetite, injury recovery, cardiovascular, and the immune system. Science displays how our relationship with God, striving to live in His image, and living joyful, grateful, prayerful lives benefits our health as we avoid, or at least hinder, negative emotions.

Negative emotions lead to stress (i.e. anxiety or depression) which causes the adrenal gland to release cortisol, long-term excess cortisol can destroy the immune system. However, like most molecules, poison exists in the dose. Cortisol’s benefits the body by assisting metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins and lipids Metabolism. Cortisol reduces muscle uptake of Glucose and Fat Tissue. Exercise mandates the proper muscle uptakes of glucose and lipids, lipid metabolism increases endurance.

Scientists have identified at least thirty molecules as neurotransmitters, divided into categories such as neuropeptides, amino acids—which comprise proteins—monoamines, and acetylcholine. Neurotransmitters control muscles, motivation, appetite, injury, recovery, cardiovascular, and the immune system.[29]

This section identifies numerous neurotransmitters, their primary and tertiary functions along with where in the body some are located. Two examples include Serotonin that “influences mood and behavior…and vasoconstrictor (reduces blood vessel size); reduces appetite…and aggression, and is responsible for normal sleep. Histamine: Found in mast cells and basophils;….results in increased blood flow to an injured part of the body,….”24  

The book continues discussing the various organs, systems and their interrelations, I will examine a few for the sake of illustration and insight.

Hypothalamus is the supervisory center of Brain.
Hypothalamic hormones are produced by nerve cells–neurons which control:
Ø  Hunger
Ø  Thirst
Ø  Sexual Functions and Behaviors
Ø  Blood Pressure
Ø  Heart Rate
Ø  Body Temperature Maintenance
Ø  Sleep-Wake Cycle
Factors indirectly influencing hypothalamic functions:

Ø  Light-Dark Cycle
Ø  Temperature
Ø  Communication from People
Ø  Our own Thoughts and Emotions
Ø  Sights
Ø  Sounds
Ø  Smells
Ø  Touch

We represent an amazing creation, in the image of the Creator. Each of the factors on the right, affect those on the left. Considering the Moon stage serves as an indicator of the physical environment as affect by the earth’s spatial positioning, we should easily acknowledge why strange things sometimes occur during full moons. Additionally, this strongly displays the effects of one’s physical and emotional environmental. Our thoughts and environment certainly influence our health, behavior and productivity. This reminds of our dependency on the Holy Spirit.

The Major Hypothalamic (releasing and inhibiting) hormones and what they regulate and/or control include, CRH (Corticotrophin) – carbohydrate, protein, fat metabolism, GnRH (Gonadotropin) – sexual and reproductive functions, TRH (Thyrotropin) – metabolic processes of all cells, contributes to hormonal regulation of lactation; GRF (Growth Hormone Factor) – promoting growth of our bodies, Somatostatin – Bone and Muscle Growth, Dopamine – Neurotransmitter (primarily) - sends messages of pleasure, alertness and motor control.

The Pineal Gland, located in the same area of brain as hypothalamus, produces Melatonin. When a neural pathway from hypothalamus to Pineal Gland is stimulated by the sympathetic nervous system. Depression lowers melatonin, which regulates daily body rhythms, inhibits some cancers by stimulating production of interleukin 2 and natural killer cells in the immune system. This acts as a powerful antioxidant that contains a complete map of the visual field of the eyes.29

Tremendous evidence supports that negative emotions (depression and anxiety) enhance production of proinflammatory cytokines. These cytokines create inflammation throughout the body – resulting in cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, arthritis, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers (multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, chronic lymphocytic leukemia), Alzheimer’s and periodontal disease. Once again, the physical manifestations of joy versus depression display the health benefits of scriptural truths of joy.[30]

We previously discussed the detrimental effects of fear on our immune system and our resulting health. Mathias discusses the continual spiritual warfare (2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 2:2), along with sin and the effects of sin. He also correctly acknowledges the presence of the Holy Spirit in believers. He concludes with approximately one hundred pages studying the specific diseases and the root spiritual cause and best practice for an opportunity of curing.

For example, Bone Cancer—“Osteosarcoma—the most common type of bone cancer in children. Very weak immune systems are the major factor in this disease.” He lists the spiritual and emotional strongholds as “Inherited broken heart, bitterness, abandonment, and fear. Parents, repent and renounce these strongholds, including unbelief, and break agreement with them in your generations (both sides of the family).”[31]

While much of what Mathias states holds truth, his presumption of sinful parents absent adequate questioning, lacks prudence. However, Mathias walks in the presumptuous company of the disciples (Jn. 9:2), as well as myself and others, occasionally. Moreover, using non-factual terms such as “broken heart” allows for error of understanding. How does one adequately define a broken heart? If we assume bitterness, abandonment or fear, only use those words.


Our thoughts and emotions affect our health, including our past fears and joys.[32] What alters thoughts and emotions? Spiritual forces easily influence our thoughts, neurotransmitters and neuropeptides. Choosing to rebuke Satan and all his demonic forces provides significant advantages as well as asking Jesus Christ through the Father by the power of the Holy Spirit to bless us with His presence and resulting fruit of the Spirit, along with protecting our body, mind and soul from the evil forces. I concur with Mathias’ assessment that faithful prudence responds with power, love and sound and that fear is a sin (2 Tim. 1:7).[33] Walking by the Spirit, and the resulting fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22) leads to enhanced opportunity for good physical health.

We can only speculate on Richard Horning’s survival, his ability to play dead, while the Japanese kicked him in the ribs and poked him with a bayonet. This speculation very likely could have resulted because God possessed additional plans for Richard. Because of these plans, perhaps altered by prayers from Richard’s home at that moment or cumulative, it appears God enabled Richard to have peace and joy in Him. This allowed Richard’s breathing and heart rate to reach undeterminable levels.

Why have I been blessed with good health virtually all of my life despite various stress triggering events? As Mathias declares in In His Own Image, an optimistic attitude, a forgiving heart, cheerfulness and joy certainly help.

            In His Own Image by Art Mathias sufficiently investigates and identifies the body-psyche-soul interrelationship. He discusses the Bible’s teachings of spiritual warfare, exceeding our conscience cognizance. This book serves well in evaluating the spiritual and emotional factors affecting physical health. However, as illustrated in the story and book of Job, God’s sovereignty rules above physical laws. Consequently, prudence demands caution before using the context to condemn an ill person. Conversely, the wise will carefully assess their physical ailments in light of the emotional and spiritual affects.

            Ultimately, this book emphasizes living in grace, love and forgiveness, walking in the Spirit, receiving the fruit of the Spirit. In so doing, we place our self in the best possible position to win with good health. Of course, I once heard a speaker quip, “I exercise every day, because I understand I will die healthier.” The body eventually dies, we seek to live as best possible while serving Christ on earth.


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—. "Light and Germination." Running on Faith. May 30, 2011. (accessed 12 05, 2012).

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