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John Bradshaw - The Physiology of Worship


John Bradshaw - The Physiology of Worship
John Bradshaw - The Physiology of Worship
TOPICS: Worship

John Bradshaw: This is It Is Written. I'm John Bradshaw. Thanks for joining me. Go to the Bible and you find that the Word of God says a lot about worship, unsurprisingly, as the Bible is God's book. But look in the book of Psalms and you find God appealing to us and saying some, some impressive things. Look with me at Psalm 96 and verse 9: "O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness: fear before Him, all the earth". And in Psalm 95 and verse 6, the Bible says, "O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our Maker". And so you might think, well, yes, of course, worship it's the underpinning of our relationship with God. It speaks of the way we relate to God as Sovereign, as Creator, as Majesty. But let's go a little bit further. Is worship good for you? How does the practice of worship actually affect your life? Here to discuss with me the physiology of worship is cardiologist Dr. James Marcum, who practices with the Chattanooga Heart Institute. Dr. Marcum, thanks for joining me.

Dr. James Marcum: My pleasure, John. And this excites me more than anything else, because when a patient comes in and has a lot of medical problems, sometimes they're on lots of pills. And these pills have side effects, and they cost money. But when you start talking about things that they can do to help improve their body, both short term and for eternity, and you bring up worship, they, they sort of shake their heads at first. They say, "No, how can that help me"?

John Bradshaw: So, so that's the question. How can worship, you're saying, actually benefit your health?

Dr. James Marcum: Yes, worship is actually a prescription. And I have to show the evidence behind it, and they have to start doing it. But now we have studies that others have done, even our ministries worked on studies that show how people that worship the true God have physiologic benefits on our own genetics.

John Bradshaw: So how does that work? What you're saying, this is a pretty big statement, that worship affects one's genes.

Dr. James Marcum: Yes. That's what we're saying.

John Bradshaw: You're saying that.

Dr. James Marcum: And if you go back a few years ago, we haven't always been able to say this. We didn't have the technology. But a few years ago, um, Francis Collins, who's now at the National Institute of Health, he sequenced our DNA.

John Bradshaw: Sure.

Dr. James Marcum: Now, what that means is he looked at the DNA. He wrote a book called "The Language of God". He thought that this DNA was the language of God, because this is how we express ourselves. Um, this is how we turn things on and off. And if you think of the DNA like a hardware of a computer, you know, this is what we're born with, and unfortunately, each one of us, me included, is born with bad genes.

John Bradshaw: Sure.

Dr. James Marcum: We have bad genes. And these have been passed down. And sooner or later, different things that we do to these genes causes them to malfunction or mutate. In fact, we have telomeres that sometimes get shorter, and they damage our DNA. When our DNA is damaged, guess what happens? A mutation happens. Then we have a malfunction. And sooner or later, if enough of these happen, we have a symptom. And modern medicine reaches to treat the symptoms, and we do that very effectively sometimes, but we don't get at the cause of our bad genes.

John Bradshaw: So explain to me, explain to us, what's in DNA? Deoxyribonucleic acid, we know that. But what is it, and how does your DNA express itself or affect one's day-to-day life?

Dr. James Marcum: Yeah.

John Bradshaw: I know many people are saying, "I know that already, John". But for those who don't...

Dr. James Marcum: Well, this is the core of who we are. It's our template. It decides everything. For instance, when we're talking here, the DNA is actually making proteins, messenger RNA, different things that is affecting enzyme systems, that's affecting the way you think, the way you move, what makes your heart beating. The DNA is at the core of everything. So when something malfunctions at the very core molecular basis, we look at DNA.

John Bradshaw: So tell me now. Somebody has a malfunction at the DNA level, how might that be expressed?

Dr. James Marcum: Well, it's according, some people are born with bad genes, and we have, um, genetic diseases. Um, and we see that quite a bit, you know, um, Tay-Sachs disease and different disease that's passed down from generation to generations. Those are genes that have been affected that we can't do anything about. Now, sometimes gene mutations are because of the different things we do. Let's say you smoke a lot, and you have a genetic defect that predisposes you to cancer, and you smoke. Well, that puts stress on those genes, and those genes might malfunction sooner.

John Bradshaw: And the result might be cancer, lung cancer?

Dr. James Marcum: That's correct. For instance, let's say everyone in the Bradshaw family became hard of hearing at age 60, okay?

John Bradshaw: What was that?

Dr. James Marcum: Oh yeah. Became hard of hearing at age 60, and I yelled in your ear every single day. I'm yelling and screaming in your ear every day. Well, that puts stress on those genes, which is the stress of the epigenetics, the things that influences your hardware, the software, and those genes might wear out sooner. So you might have problems at a younger age because we put stress on those genes. Well, that can happen anywhere in our body. If we have a genetic defect, we all do, and we put stress on those genes, whether it be from smoking or not sleeping well, or yelling, or whatever, those genes might malfunction earlier, and guess what? We have a mutation; it leads to aging and disease processes. Because these genes tell our bodies what to do. Everything that we do is influenced by these genes.

John Bradshaw: So we can understand the genetic code, our DNA, as a little bit like the program that makes your computer run, and we all know if you get a glitch in the program, then it's just not gonna work, and eventually things crash.

Dr. James Marcum: Exactly.

John Bradshaw: So it's like that.

Dr. James Marcum: That's exactly right.

John Bradshaw: So we can...what?

Dr. James Marcum: Influence...

John Bradshaw: We can influence, we can influence?

Dr. James Marcum: We can influence our hardware by these software, these things that we do.

John Bradshaw: Okay.

Dr. James Marcum: Um, for instance, if you, if you don't smoke, that helps those genes that might have cancer in them.

John Bradshaw: Okay.

Dr. James Marcum: Um, if we do other things that might keep the genes from getting older quicker, and that might be good nutrition or even drinking water or getting enough rest. Well, we're now understanding that worship affects epigenetics, what affects our genes, keeps us from getting older. There's now some data on this that shows that worship, when we worship God, when we worship the best that He's given us, that affects our genes. And when we don't worship, that tends, can put stress on our body. You know, we look for something to worship. If we worship the wrong things, it puts stress on us as well.

John Bradshaw: So, so we have a genetic makeup.

Dr. James Marcum: Um-hmm.

John Bradshaw: It might be that your genes are gonna flip out in this way, that way, malfunction, mutate. However, there are things that you can do to aid your genes, the genetic code, to prevent certain things from happening that are negative or to cause positive things to happen that are positive. So you can influence your own health at the very deepest level. And what you're saying is that worship actually has a measurable, material impact on one's genes.

Dr. James Marcum: That's correct. And we're just now beginning, in some of the science that's been done, to look at this. One of the original studies by Dr. Newberg at the University of Pennsylvania, he looked at people's brains, and he had people just worship for a short period of time, and he saw that their brain, the prefrontal cortex, the part that we have that separates us from animals, actually got bigger. The anterior cingulate cortex part of the brain grew and got bigger just from worship. And he also found out that when people worship for short periods of time, the stress part of the brain, the part we share with animals, the part that damages us, you know, we don't like these chronic stress, the part that just says, I want to stay alive and live, that turns on the chemicals like adrenaline, cortisol, inflammation that causes these epigenetic problems that causes us to age and the DNA to get worse, those were turned down in people that worship. So he did that study, but studies have been even done further says, well, that's, we see a structural change, but it's what's happening in the molecules, the very DNA. And now we have some studies, you know, back at Dusek, at Harvard, Benson's Lab, they looked at different things that people do to relax, and people that relax, repetitive prayer, they've looked at people with yoga, those type of things, including worship, those things turn on and off genes. And when those genes, the stress genes are turned off, people do better. They, if you think about it, when stresses turn off, every chronic disease will improve, slows down aging, slows down inflammation, lowers blood pressure, improves immune systems. So now, what I'm trying to, to do right now is, well, they've looked at different types of worship. You know, there's many different types of worship. There's yoga, there's meditation, there's repetitive prayer, there's different types of worship. Well, what would these genes look like if we do biblical worship, 10 minutes of biblical worship? Let's look at the genes. And wouldn’t it be great, we're working on publishing a study that says when someone participates in biblical worship, this lowers the risk of chronic disease, slows down aging, lowers the risk of heart attack, infections, diabetes, hypertension, all of these things. Well, we have the preliminary workup that says we know what the answer's gonna to be. Now we have to do the study.

John Bradshaw: Fascinating. Worship, good for you. Worship, good for your genes. Worship, able to influence your health in a measurable and material way. You want to know more about this. We'll be back with more in just a moment.

John Bradshaw: Thanks for joining me today on It Is Written, where my special guest is Dr. James Marcum, a cardiologist and the leader of Heartwise Ministries, committed to helping you and me both see the great connection there is between our physical and our mental health and how we can live life to the very fullest. In Revelation, chapter 14, you read about three angels flying in the midst of heaven, with messages for everybody on Planet Earth. And the first angel says, "Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment is come: and worship Him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters". There is a call to worship in the final gospel message that goes to the world. Now, Dr. Marcum, we're talking about how worship is actually good for a person. Here's my question for you: You might even mention relaxation and other things that researchers have found positively impact your health. So, is the worship of God just the Christian spin on this, or is there something different and unique about worshiping God over even these other things, you might say, relaxation, breathing exercises, and so forth? What's unique about the worship of God?

Dr. James Marcum: That is an excellent question. That's why we need more research on this specifically. You know, 'cause we know what the results are going to be. We know that as we worship the true God, biblical worship, um, we are going to have more positive changes than we would doing anything else, okay? The other studies have shown all sorts of things that imply this, but now we really have to have the biblical worship study looking at people's DNA directly. Um, we have some indirect studies by Newberg, so, as our brain gets larger when we worship God, but he decided what worship looked like. But that's a great question. What does worship look like in this end stage? You know, what does worship look like? Some people might worship by studying the Word, by praying. Some people might worship by serving others, by praising, by thanking. There's many ways of worship, including living a life of worship. So, but now we have the technology, John, to do these studies to show, you know, well, worship for you might look like this on your DNA. But worship like this might help your DNA even more. You know, when you serve, you get this type of benefit, health benefit. But when you serve, pray, and study the Word, you might get this type of benefit. We're now starting to have the technology to show those type of physiologic changes.

John Bradshaw: So worship is measurably good for a person, which means that those who do not live a life of worship, people who are choosing to live disconnected from God, are missing out not only spiritually, but physically, and therefore spiritually as well, as one impacts the other. So a patient comes to you, and you suggest to the patient, okay, we're going to walk down this road. How would that look in practice in a person's life? They come to your practice; they speak to you; you maybe, the conversation takes on this bent. How does that play out in someone's life?

Dr. James Marcum: Well, you know, I would, I would start by giving them evidence. I'd say, "Listen, you know, you don't feel so good. You had a bypass surgery, you know. Things were bad. But you've done all of these things". But they always say, "Well, you know, I have a hard time giving up this".

John Bradshaw: Sure.

Dr. James Marcum: "You know, I have a hard time walking every day. I have a hard time eating right. I have a hard time thinking right. All these stressors that are turning on these bad genes, I'm having problems with". I said, "Well, you know, I have problems with that myself, you know. Would you like to, to hear about a way, scientifically proven, that we can help our genes and help give us the power, one step at a time, to, to do better"? I said, "Well," I said, "ask Christ to come into your life. Ask Him to give you the power". And I point them back to Matthew 11:28, "Come unto me", worship me, "and I will give you rest". Would you like that gift today? Is there any reason you can't enter into a relationship, worship? Because that's how our genes were designed to be.

John Bradshaw: Um-hmm.

Dr. James Marcum: And as we get back to our original template, everything works better. Aging slows down. It also, but more importantly, it gives us the power to make these changes. And I give them examples of patients, and I said, "Listen, we're working on studies to prove this at higher levels. But why don't you just ask Christ into your life today, to give you the power to do one thing? What would that be? And come into a worshipful state". And I give them a short prayer and a short worship study. If they've never worshiped before, I said, "Here's 10 minutes of what worship looks like. Would you be willing to do that every day"? And so, "Oh, yeah, I'll give that a try". And I said, "In addition, let's pick one thing that's stressing your life out, that's hurting your genes, that we can make a change on". And it might be something simple like drinking water, or resting or not losing your temper, or it might be eating better or giving up cigarettes. Just one thing. And when they do this, when they actually have that power, God enters their life, so when they're in this state of worship, the Holy Spirit comes and is working on this, goes into the hippocampus part of the brain. So it's working all day long in them. So they have to decide what they want to do with this worship. So this worship starts in the morning, and it goes all day long, so it's sort of living in a state of worship. And then they start getting power, and they notice, "You know what? I did, I was able to do this". And then they feel God coming into their life, leading them more and more. And as they do this, they get very excited. And then we move to the next thing. "Well, would you like to do this? Would you like to do that"? And they start making these powerful changes. And as God influences their life, gives them the power to make changes, they're doing things out of love and not out of obligation. They're doing things for the right reasons.

John Bradshaw: You know, it's, I think it's important for us to point this out: we're not suggesting, if you're sick, just worship God and you'll get well. This isn't the new wonder drug, the wonder drug of worship. But what you're saying is when the heart, the mind, is focused on God and connected to God, this measurably benefits a person. Can people achieve the same physiological results without God? "I'll just relax. I shall take walks on the beach". Clearly those things are good for you.

Dr. James Marcum: Yes, yes.

John Bradshaw: But can you, can you say, "I like this thought. It sure makes sense. I get my mind in a good place. I prevent these stressors from really getting at me. So instead of worship, I'll do an end run around this by doing A, B, C and D"?

Dr. James Marcum: Yes.

John Bradshaw: Possible, or not possible?

Dr. James Marcum: To some degree, that might help you in the short term.

John Bradshaw: Sure.

Dr. James Marcum: Might help you in the short term. But remember, we all have bad genes. We all need a Savior, ultimately. So I explain to them, those things might help in the short term, but are they an ultimate solution to our chronic disease? No.

John Bradshaw: Worship, good for you, good for your body, good for your mind, worship affecting you on a genetic level. See, there's a reason Mom and Dad took you to church, encouraged you to pray, introduced you to God. Another reason, and that is that faith in God, worshiping God, a relationship with God, affects you in ways that you might not have even thought possible. Now, in just a moment, a case study of someone who put this to practice in his life, and the benefits were just fantastic. More in just a moment.

John Bradshaw: Thanks for joining me today on It Is Written. I'm John Bradshaw. My guest is cardiologist Dr. James Marcum, who practices in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and leads Heartwise Ministries. Dr. Marcum, we're talking about something fascinating. I think, I think, huge for people who've never contemplated this, and that is that worship measurably, materially affects somebody for the good on a genetic level. Now, here's my question: Grandma worshiped God all her life, fervently and faithfully, and died at 53 of cancer. Somebody's uncle worshiped God, served God, missionary, minister, whatever it might be, and loved God, died young from a lifestyle disease. So, put those two thoughts together. Worship's good for you, but people who worship die young. Why?

Dr. James Marcum: Yeah. And we alluded to this earlier. We all come to the plate with bad genes. We have bad genes. We have, from head to toe, we have bad genes. The way we think, the way we metabolize, is determined a lot by our ancestors. And we have no control over our hardware. It's there in us. And for people that have these, these issues, what I tell them is, you know, look, look at the New Testament. You know, Christ healed 24, 25 people. Sometimes people He raised from the dead. He healed them. And yet they all died.

John Bradshaw: Sure.

Dr. James Marcum: They all died. So, but, He, sometimes He walked by people that needed healing, because He wanted to preach the gospel. He wanted to come into their heart through worship. Because there was something even more that transcended our bad genetics when we do that. And I tell people, "It's not only about today. It's about forever".

John Bradshaw: So we wouldn't suggest anybody...

Dr. James Marcum: No.

John Bradshaw: I think we spoke about this earlier, but I do need to just... reiterate. No one is suggesting, if you're unwell, worship and you'll miraculously be well, though that may happen. But I believe what science is now telling us, Dr. Marcum, is no matter what your state, worship and you'll do better.

Dr. James Marcum: Yes.

John Bradshaw: And sometimes dramatically better. Now, can you share with me any case studies, somebody you know implemented this into his or her life, and now we've got something to demonstrate this really positively affects you?

Dr. James Marcum: I had a patient that came to me from Wall Street. He was in his 40s. He had significant coronary disease, already had a bypass surgery. All of the arteries were too small to do anything more. Every time he would walk, in his 40s, he would have chest tightness.

John Bradshaw: This is not good.

Dr. James Marcum: No, and he'd gone to all the specialists, and he was on all the right medicines, all the right pills. But he was still having symptoms. So he came, and we went through this discussion, and he says, "You know, I work on Wall Street. I don't think I can rest more. I don't think I can eat better. I don't think I can do any of this better". And I said, "Well, John", you know, I'm using a pseudo-name.

John Bradshaw: Sure.

Dr. James Marcum: I said, "Listen, have you heard of worship"? He goes, "No, I haven't heard of that". I said, "Do you believe in God"? He said, "I don't believe in God". I said, "Well, let me introduce a new concept to you. Let me give you some information. You know, go looking for Him, and see if, see if you can, can find Him. He'll hunt for you. There's science, evidence, that there is God. It's not". So I gave him some information. He started reading and studying. And he started worshiping. I said, "Well, listen, let's just pick one thing, and let's just worship for 10 minutes a day. Let's start there". And he started there. He wasn't with a denomination, but he came to God. He asked the Lord to be Lord of his life, Savior, to come into his heart, to teach him. He started reading the Bible text, and God started moving in him. And all of a sudden He gave him power to do things. And he was working to midnight every night. Well, he realized he couldn't do this every day. So he started quitting work earlier. God gave him the power to do that. All of a sudden, he was able to walk a little bit more. He learned about eating better, and guess what? He started eating more plants and less of some of the bad foods. He was able to give up cigarettes. And God kept changing his heart one step at a time as he worshiped with Him. So not only was the worship helping his, some of his epigenetics, slowing down the aging, those stress genes, but the worship was also helping him give power to overcome other things that was affecting his genes.

John Bradshaw: Sure.

Dr. James Marcum: And he knew that he had bad genes to begin with, and sooner or later he was going to wear out, but he didn't want to wear out so soon.

John Bradshaw: Right.

Dr. James Marcum: So by worship, not only he accomplished something short term, but he also was accomplishing stuff eternally. And when he realized that healing was more than just the life he lives now, it involved forever, a forever relationship with his Creator, when these doors started opening up, he saw the importance. Now he's doing very well. He was able, in the office not too long ago- he's now walking about a mile and a half a day.

John Bradshaw: Fantastic.

Dr. James Marcum: In fact, he has changed so much in his life now that he's giving up Wall Street, and he's going to buy a farm in Montana and live there. So God can change us when we look to Him. Our God is powerful. And even if we have genetic disease that sort of limits our lifespan, there's more to it, both in the short term and in the long term. God has a plan.

John Bradshaw: So there, we have this genetic makeup. There are things that we can do to start up bad processes in our genes, and things that we can do to stop bad processes and to start good processes in our genes. Our genes are affected strongly by our actions. And worship is one of those things that positively affects us at a genetic level.

John Bradshaw: Let's pray together now. Pray with me. Our Father in heaven, we are grateful that You are God. You demand nothing from us. You force nothing on us. But You offer us eternity. You invite us to know You through Your Son Jesus, to surrender our lives to You, and to worship You. And I invite You to take, take our hearts, take our hearts right now. Right now there is somebody who is saying, "I need to worship God. I must enter into that relationship. God, take my heart". Lord, would You do that? Take every heart on offer, and speak to each one considering You now. And urge every man, every woman, every young person, to know You as the great God of love who reigns eternally and wants us to reign with Him. We thank You. We love You. We worship You. We pray in Jesus' name, amen. Dr. Marcum, again, thanks, thanks so much.

Dr. James Marcum: My pleasure, John.

John Bradshaw: And thank you for joining me. I'm looking forward to seeing you again next time. Until then, remember: "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'"
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