For Those with No Voice

“The one who states her case first seems right,
until another comes and examines her.” 
– Proverbs 18:17

There have been many voices this week on social media who have expressed opposition to Alabama’s tightening of abortion restrictions, seeing it as a direct attack on women. It’s an emotion-packed discussion and one where no one should be shamed.

Compassion, love and understanding should reign. However, I’ve seen angry posts where men are chastised for not having a uterus, targeted and verbally abused as though this is a war between the sexes, which it isn’t. People are on both sides, but there’s someone else involved who should get to be heard, but who has no voice. Will someone speak for the babies? If someone is going to kill a child, shouldn’t someone else offer a defense? Will someone explain what the baby did to deserve a death sentence?

As the parents of twelve children, we can tell you that life brings many challenges. There’s no perfect time to raise children. There’s no good time to start a family. It’s a jump in the deep end plunge. There’s no perfect number of children. Children are not convenient. They’re not accessories to life.

They’re real, red-blooded people who are created in God’s image: just like you and just like me. Abortion is not a reset button. Shouldn’t someone speak up for the ones whose voices have been silenced? Shouldn’t they get the same chance at life that we get?


What is Vulnerability?

Jesus didn’t die on the cross as a superstar. He was humiliated. He had everything taken from Him — then He was trussed up and pounded to a post in absolute vulnerability.

We forget this.

In church, we cheerily sing songs about the cross and the blood as a full band cranking out a toe-tapping beat. That’s fine, yet, it can also make us forget. I don’t even like to smash my toe in the dark or cut my finger accidentally in the garage. Those tiny offenses hurt!  Does anyone really enjoy bleeding or senseless pain?

Here’s Jesus, the Innocent One — stripped bare and impaled; held by the tendons in His wrists to a dirty, splinter-filled plank. Every breath He takes, it digs the splinters into His back and the spikes rub against His bones and open wounds. He can’t scratch an itch or wipe sweat from his face. And what about His eyes? Imagine seeing a raven’s black, sharp beak heading towards your face and there’s nothing–except wait–that you can do.

Do we know this Jesus?

vittorio carvelli - crucifixion
Vittorio Carvelli – Crucifixion

On the first of January, I was walking with a friend and she told me that while she’d grown up in a Christian church, she wasn’t interested in being a part of a “singular religion” any more–that her horizons had broadened to the idea that the universe is all the god we need and should recognize. Basically, the idea is that we don’t need Jesus anymore.

She told me about how she’d been part of a spiritualist church that, unlike the Christian churches she’d grown up in, made her feel a tangible sense of welcome, warmth, love, and quite importantly, safety.

She felt like this group allowed her the ability to be safe in vulnerability.

The words stopped me in my tracks. That’s exactly how the New Testament presents the real church of Jesus! But I knew she was identifying truth. Today’s church is known, not for its safety, but for its hostility, for its pride and for its unconfessed sins and secret wickedness.

Do you ever have a moment when you hear yourself give an answer to a question and realize just how vitally important an issue it is?


It hit me in the heart as I replied, that this is not the Jesus nor the church that the Bible reveals. The exact welcome that my friend received from the non-Christian group was what all of us should actually be getting in the Church belonging to Jesus Himself — the One who took on humanity and all of its flaws to actually step in and save His people from death and separation from God.

Perhaps we have become too proud.

The charge is that we, the church, refuse to be vulnerable; we refuse to be open to injury… we refuse to put our hands down because we assume we’ll get a beat down. Our soul knuckles feel like they’re already skinned from the last time.

Can we be vulnerable and still have exclusive beliefs? Do we have to accept a free-for-all, do-what-you-want kumbaya or can we find a place where we believe God’s Word, yet still provide a safety net for growth? Can we preach Jesus as the only way and maintain relevance in a culture with lots of options?

What a sad state we are in. And how sadly right-on does this accusation hit the mark. We don’t walk in victory. We let too much darkness creep in. Complacency offered us a culture of looks instead of the humility of Christ and we decided it was wiser to keep our heads down and hope not to draw too much attention to ourselves.

This easy-to-fall-into Perfection Culture causes us to conform to the marketable “first impression” self… the more-perfect self than is actual.

We build walls. We construct fictions. We cover ourselves, literally and figuratively, in carefully-placed white lies and find that eventually, we can’t even let people we love know the real people we are — because we are afraid. We are afraid of being hurt, of being lost, of being accused, of being cast away for the crime of being imperfect. And so many times, the fear is worse than the reality.

Scriptures that were written to instruct and protect get turned into weapons that beat down and belittle. Leaders fall into the “perfect” trap, believing the falsity that those who lead must walk in the facade of never having the “appearance of evil,” nor “causing a brother to stumble.” *

We have no idea how to be “in the world, but not of it.” Christianity should attract because of His Love, not because we’re either the best fun in town or the best critics.

Perhaps it’s time to return to the humiliation of the Cross. Maybe we should realize that baring ourselves for all the world to see may feel like shame for a moment, but is paradoxically exactly what Jesus did. He said “If I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself.”

He was talking about getting low. If it’s good enough for the King of Kings, it’s good enough for me. I think it’s time to wear our hearts on our sleeves and be ok with the possibility of getting hurt for what we believe, do, or think.

I think it’s time to be more vulnerable.

*Verses quoted above:
1 Thess 5:22
Rom 14:13-23
John 12:23
1 John 2:15-17

**I knew as soon as I heard the word vulnerability come out of my mouth that day that it was to be my Word for the year 2019.

What did it mean to Breathe?

Looking back on my last year on January first, I decided to take out a blank page and write down all of the good things that happened last year–all of the trips we enjoyed as a family, as well as things I did solo; people I met, events attended, etc. and found I had a long list.

I didn’t write much last year, but when I reflect on my word from last year, I can definitely see how it played out.  I was to enjoy new adventures and go places I’ve never been.

The beginning of the year began bittersweet as we sold our home in the foothills and moved to a rental house in town to be closer to everything and to turn our equity (in a hot real estate market) into a path to debt-free living.

In February, Jamin and I flew to Chicago and bought a vehicle and drove it home and then Andrea and I took our first real vacation in years, driving the Oregon Coastal Highway from Portland all the way down to see the giant Redwoods in northern California.


they look small, but that’s about 20 feet wide!

I’ve always wanted to see the redwoods and they did not disappoint. There’s something surreal about these massive, towering trees that reminds you of how short our lives are and what a blessing it is to be alive on this earth.


View from the verandah

We stayed at an AirBNB that sat on a cliff above the Pacific Ocean and listened to the waves crash from our bedroom verandah or from the hot tub outside. It was great! We ate crab, enjoyed the antics of sea lions and hiked to a remote Oregon hot spring on the way home — and that was just one adventure.

Later in the spring, we returned to the northern coast of Oregon with the children to visit the seaside and watch the kids run on the beach, eat seafood, try (unsuccessfully) to catch crabs and generally enjoy another part of the country we hadn’t yet seen.

In addition to getting to our trips, our school continued to rock along as Elayna graduated highschool and entered her first semester of college. She also got her driver’s license and Jamin got his first part time job and did driver’s ed.

We camped at Craters of the Moon National Monument in the summer, pitching our tents on crushed granite and climbing down into icy lava tube caves or hiking across the desolate lava fields and noticing the silence and stillness of a ruined landscape.


I visited many of our remarkable Idaho/Oregon hot springs by myself, with family, or with friends and got to head to one that I’ve wanted to visit for a good five years: Gold Bug. It’s a long drive and so, when a friend asked me to accompany him in the fall, I jumped at the chance. The views were worth the long, steep hike (see pic at top)!

We took the children camping in Stanley, Idaho with friends in the summer and again in Atlanta, Idaho for a hot spring/camping adventure in the fall. Atlanta is a remote multi-hour drive around dirt switchbacks and washboard roads that wanted to tear the van apart. It’s the kind of place that is definitely worth going, but maybe only every few years.


The water here is just amazing!

Really, there are too many to recount in detail. I do feel like it was a year to breathe. The first five years in Idaho were kind of like holding our breath, sometimes wondering what we were doing here, and trying to re-establish our roots.

I can’t say that we’ve figured all of that out, but I know God’s hand is on us. He continues to provide and teach us. Not everything was fun or rosy last year, but I felt like the thing to do was consider the blessings of 2018 and remember to breathe.

And before we could blink, here comes 2019.

What did God show you last year?

Psalm 103:22 – Bless the LORD, all his works, in all places of his dominion. Bless the LORD, O my soul!

And there it was…

A few years ago I started a sort of prayerful, meditative practice during the slow week between Christmas and New Year’s. It’s a time for reflection and preparation for the new year and I like to find a detailed coloring page and get out a special set of colored pencils that I purchased and use just for this exercise.*

This is also the time when I like to consider and choose a word for the next year.  I’ve done this for a few years now. It’s always interesting to see how it pops up in my life and sometimes influences my thinking. Last year’s word was Hope. In fact, I really wasn’t sure I would find a word for 2018. Usually something drops into my spirit by now, but until last night… nothing.

And then there it was. I had just opened a Google search to look for a coloring page and my word was staring at me: Breathe.

Today starts our 6th calendar year in Idaho. And tomorrow, we get the keys to the house we’ll be moving into next. We’ve sold our beautiful home on the hill in Star. The sale won’t be official until near the end of January, but we’ve already begun boxing up our lives.

It’s definitely bittersweet. We’ve made many memories and have seen three children born in this home. When we moved here Elayna was 12. Now she’s about to be 18. Time sure does fly… Yet this home was a godsend and has been a great asset. We’re moving down from the foothills and into town, to the bustling metropolis that is Meridian, Idaho.  We’ll be closer to everything and everyone will be much closer to us.  Our new place is smack-dab in the middle of a neighborhood block. That’s going to be an adjustment!

Thankfully the Lord has provided that the rental home has the same square footage as our current residence, as it’s not an easy task to find living quarters for 14 people and 2 little dogs.

It occurred to me last month that I hadn’t written much in 2017.  It seems like the year just flew by! There were new adventures and new friends and deepened relationships.

And as I saw that word pop up on the screen in front of me I instantly knew it was time to accept it and act on it. I’ve been sort of holding my breath… wondering what’s coming next for a few years now… and now I believe the Lord is saying: Breathe.


“Then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” – Genesis 2:7

“Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.” – Ezekiel 37:5

*Researchers at Johns Hopkins University actually suggest coloring as an alternative to meditation and I do find it therapeutic.

I Don’t Accommodate Uncontrolled Men

I wrote about this last year, but here’s an update from a woman’s perspective!



It’s summer! Time for all the the ladies to start posting articles about why it’s not a woman’s responsibility to prevent a man from lusting and all the gentlemen to start posting comments about why it’s not a woman’s responsibility, but she sure can help.

I’ve been encouraged to see the pushback, by women, even women in more conservative circles, against the toxic idea that a woman’s clothing choices can cause men to stumble.

But this pushback gets halted when a guy stands up and comfortably announces that while this personal responsibility thing all sounds great, the reality is that normal, healthy guys like him struggle, so women should still cover up. And the ladies go a little silent, unable to argue with this universal battle against sexual temptation that women never face.

The pushback against purity culture dies right then and there, because no woman wants to challenge…

View original post 724 more words

Hope is the Anthem of my Soul

Hope.  Hope is my word for 2017.

Every year I find a new word as part of the #oneword365 project and last year, my word was “harvest.” I’m still ruminating on why I had that word but didn’t really harvest much. It’s a question I’m leaving out there for the Lord… but… for whatever reason today I have hope. I feel hopeful.

I don’t know why. Nothing has changed much. Things look about as they have, but last night in prayer, I found myself praying words of hope and it sparked in me that I was to hope in Christ, to hope in Him, to HOPE!

Hope is something you have to actively do. It’s not a passive “thing.” It’s a substance similar to faith, but different. Hope is a starting place. It’s not somewhere you end. Perhaps when you’re at your end, you start over with hope? If the choices are despair and hope, I choose hope.

I wonder if maybe I was being pushy last year with my “harvest” desire and that it was me who was so set on a good harvest that I wanted it before it was time.

The last 4 years have been tough. I keep waiting on God to bring a harvest for the all the tough plowing we’ve been doing. And it didn’t show up last year.

I’m so ready for harvest: financially, ministry-wise, relationship-wise. I want to bear good fruit and have something to show for it. I want to know the answer to questions. I want to be so full that we pour out blessings on all those around us.

Jon Foreman, who is singing in an after-concert in the above video I made, wrote a new ballad this year that obviously inspires my word. Here are some of the lyrics:

Hope’s a seed you have to sow
When you let it go it comes to life
So you stretch your arrows on the bow
And you pull them back and watch them fly

My lungs and I were born to fight
Sometimes I’m not sure what I’m fighting for
But death ain’t the only end in sight
‘Cause this ain’t a battle it’s a lifelong war

My heart is beating like a blown speaker
The spirit is willing but the flesh is weaker
A distortion pedal and a pair of wings
And an anthem played on broken strings

My heartbeat, my oxygen
My banner, my home
My future, my song
Your hope is the anthem

Your hope is the anthem of my soul
Your hope is the anthem of my soul
Your hope is the anthem of my soul
Your hope is the anthem of my soul
Your hope is the anthem of my soul

Hope is an Anthem – Switchfoot

Now faith is the evidence of things hoped for…

Facebook’s Nanny State Hurts the World

TechCrunch Conference - San Francisco, CA

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook Founder [Image by TechCrunch CCBY 2.0]

Facebook, the world’s largest social media website is censoring art, while allowing graphic violence and all manner of foul language. Why censor one but not the others? Why censor at all?


Pinterest, Twitter, Tumblr, Vimeo, YouTube, etc. allow their audiences to self-censor. Why can’t Facebook do that?

Most social media sites let each user determine what types of content they want to see on their own page.  Facebook, on the other hand, is censoring what it thinks you shouldn’t be allowed to view. And its censorship is incredibly arbitrary.

Up until just recently they were removing pictures of nursing mothers and breast cancer survivors. They stopped that because of a public outcry, but they’re still censoring art. I think most people know the difference between art and pornography and would be fine with seeing the former in their timelines (or being able to self-censor it if not).

I believe that the only way they will change is by a massive amount of pushback such as that from the Norwegian Prime Minister and others with clout, and perhaps from regular folks sharing articles like this and talking about it.

Prime Minister Erna Soldberg said, “It is highly regrettable that Facebook has removed a post from my Facebook page. What they achieve by removing such images, good as the intentions may be, is to edit our common history. I wish today’s children will also have the opportunity to see and learn from historical mistakes and events. This is important.”

Professor Philippa Levine, Ph.D, the Mary Helen Thompson Centennial Professor in the Humanities at the University of Texas at Austin, writes in the Dallas Morning News:

“In 2015, after altering its community standards, Facebook classified nudity alongside hate speech, self-harm, bullying and violence. That is an interesting combination. Why should the naked body be classified as disgusting, hateful and harmful?”

Why is this such a big deal?

Basically it boils down to this: Facebook is an American company (and it owns the most popular photography sharing app, Instagram). Whether we like it or not, America exports its culture all over the globe.  When we allow deplorable practices like this (the shaming of the body itself) we only sow seeds that will harm future generations.

Do we really want to, as a people, export the idea that these simple human bodies, made in God’s Image (the imago dei) are “disgusting, hateful and harmful?” 

I don’t. This international issue is affecting people all over the world.  They are being forced into a very narrow viewpoint by a private company that serves up web pages for millions every second.  It’s time for Facebook to grow up.

What do you think?

All is Well


The promised son was dead.

She had longed for a child, but accepted that she would never bear. Yet the prophet told her that God had seen her faithful offerings and would reward her.

Even still, the boy was dead.

“All is well,” said the woman to her husband, as she saddled a donkey to find the man of God.

“All is well,” she said again, as the prophet asked her why she had come.

“And when she came to the mountain to the man of God, she caught hold of his feet. And Gehazi came to push her away. But the man of God said, “Leave her alone, for she is in bitter distress, and the LORD has hidden it from me and has not told me.” Then she said, “Did I ask my lord for a son? Did I not say, ‘Do not deceive me?’”

…Elisha returned with them and saw the boy lying dead on his bed. He prayed to the Lord and followed His commands, acting in the authority he’d been given. The child awoke and was returned to his mother. (See 2 Kings 4)

In my life and in yours, remember this: Trust in God. All is Well.

If You’re Guarding Your Heart You’re Probably Doing it Wrong


“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” – Proverbs 4:23 NIV / Photo: (c) Jason Stern

Guarding the heart seems to be pretty important since we’re directed to guard it “above all else.”

What if I told you we’ve been doing it wrong?


About 12 years ago I was in a leadership bible study and our pastor said something that made me stop short.  My internal alarms went off.  He was teaching on salvation and I thought I heard something really odd.

He said that a person’s spirit, body and soul had to be saved individually…and that this was up to the believer to accomplish. Hmmm…  I’d never heard such a thing and it didn’t sit right with me. Maybe that is what you believe, but to me, this falls outside of a scriptural understanding of salvation.

checklistHe went on to say that the heart was the equivalent to a person’s spirit and that the spirit controlled a person’s emotions. This created a tidy checklist for getting our emotions under control (heart/spirit), our thinking under control (soul) and our bodies physically fit (body).  I found I was the only person in our leadership group who objected to this teaching and, to make a long and painful story short, we ultimately parted company with that church. Before leaving, however, the Lord prompted me to dig into the Scriptures as well as into ancient cultural word usage in order to understand why what I perceived instinctively as incorrect theology was actually so. The result of that study is shared here below.

*Note, if you want the TL;DR [too long; didn’t read] summary, click here, otherwise continue:

Heart and Soul

The human soul and spirit are so intertwined that Hebrews 4:12 tells us that it can be separated by only one thing: the Word of God, which is “living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit … able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

What is the difference between human soul and spirit?  Is the “heart” the human spirit, or is it part of the human soul? Can we find out?

This study seeks to provide that the word “heart” in the Bible refers to an identity bound in the soul; specifically to the “mind,” rather than the spirit.  While not widely understood by the public, this definition of heart is supported by Strong’s Lexicon, Young’s Analytical Concordance, Vine’s Expositional Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, and many others.

Our problem is that we are far away from the original words.  The bible was not written in English, but was given to us originally in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, with a few lesser-known languages, too.  We “know” that, but we still “think” that what we read in English is exactly what it “seems” to say. The issue is that we are interpreting it through a cultural lens that has been provided us by history, rather than than Scripture.

Allow me this: Let’s take a few minutes to look at the original meanings of words for authority over the words’ evolved English common roots. I realize this can get a bit tedious, but stick with me. It’s important that we know why:

  1. The spirit is not the heart.
  2. The heart is not just the emotions.
  3. The heart contains the mind, will and emotions, and
  4. the spirit drives it.

Bible English vs. Common English

Michael Marlowe, editor of, suggests that the “heart” of the problem (haha) concerns “Bible English” vs. “Common English.”  For example, he submits the phrase “a man after [God’s] own heart,” spoken of King David in 1 Samuel 13:14, and alluded to in Acts 13:22.

This phrase is often thought to mean that David was emotionally attached to God, that he longed for God’s affection, or did things to win his love, etc., but in reality, the phrase means something quite different. Marlowe writes that in today’s common thinking:

“The word ‘heart’ refers [just] to emotions, especially love; but in Hebrew and in Biblical Greek, the words for “heart” (leb and kardia, respectively) are used in reference to the mind in general, in much the same way that we use the word “brain.” So when the Bible speaks of God’s “heart” it means his thoughts or his plan, not his emotions. When the Biblical authors wanted to refer to the emotions, they used words corresponding to our words for lower organs—the intestines and kidneys—not the heart. For example, [in the original text] the Apostle Paul exhorts us to “put on bowels of mercies” in Colossians 3:12, [which has now been replaced in modern parlance, asking that we have] “compassionate hearts.”[1]

David, then, was a “man after God’s thoughts.”  This study will look at the Old Covenant and New Covenant renderings of the word “heart” “spirit,” “soul,” and “mind” to determine their meanings.  We will rely on trusted commentaries, lexicons, and concordances readily available to researchers.

And while the subject matter is complex, scholars tend to agree that “heart” can be used interchangeably with “soul,” but not with “spirit.”  [For a comparison of the words used in this study, see the chart at the end of the article.]

Old Covenant Heart

Throughout the Old Testament the Hebrew word leb is translated to the English word “heart.”  Strong’s Concordance assigns this word the number 3820.  Leb is translated as “heart” 508 times in the King James Version (KJV) and over three hundred times in the New American Standard Version (NASB).

As an example, in Ezekiel 36:26-27, God prophesies that He will give His people a “new heart and a new spirit:”

“Moreover, I will give you a new heart3820 and put a new spirit7307 within you; and I will remove the heart3820 of stone from your flesh and give you a heart3820 of flesh.  I will put My Spirit7307 within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.                               – Ez. 36:26-27 [Emphasis mine]

In Hebrew, the scripture looks like this (not much like English, huh?):


Then if leb means “heart,” then what does that actually mean? We learn that it means the “will, emotions, and intellect.”[2]  Further, the Lexicon outlines the biblical usage of leb/heart:

  1. inner man, mind, will, heart, understanding; inner part, midst
  2. midst (of things)
  3. heart (of man)
  4. soul, heart (of man)
  5. mind, knowledge, thinking, reflection, memory
  6. inclination, resolution, determination (of will)
  7. conscience
  8. heart (of moral character)
  9. as seat of appetites
  10. as seat of emotions and passions
  11. as seat of courage[3]

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia defines heart [leb/kardia]:

“As the central organ in the body, forming a focus for its vital action, it has come to stand for the center of its moral, spiritual, intellectual life.  “In particular the heart is the place in which the process of self-consciousness is carried out, in which the soul is at home with itself, and is conscious of all its doing and suffering as its own.” (Oehler).”

And notes that:

“The heart in Scripture [and unlike in secular context] is variously used, sometimes for the mind and understanding, sometimes for the will, sometimes for the affections, sometimes for the conscience, sometimes for the whole soul. Generally, it denotes the whole soul of man and all the faculties of it, not absolutely, but as they are all one principle of moral operations, as they all concur in our doing of good and evil.”[4]

In the triune makeup of a human being, (spirit, soul, body) leb fits squarely into the “soul” region, rather than the “spirit” region.  (The impact of this point is considered more in detail in the New Testament section.)

Matthew Henry writes concerning the heart passage in Ezekiel 36:26, “Renewing grace works as great a change in the soul, as the turning of a dead stone into living flesh[5]” [Emphasis mine], and the editor of Easton’s Bible Dictionary admits that:

“According to the Bible, the heart is the centre not only of spiritual activity, but of all the operations of human life.  “Heart” and “soul” are often used interchangeably (Deuteronomy 6:5; 26:16; Compare Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:30,33)…. The heart is also the seat of the conscience (Romans 2:15). It is naturally [fallen and] wicked (Genesis 8:21), and hence it contaminates the whole life and character (Matthew 12:34; 15:18; Compare Eccl. 8:11; Psalms 73:7). The heart must be changed, regenerated (Ezek. 36:26; 11:19; Psalms 51:10-14), before a man can willingly obey God.

At this point, it should be helpful to take a glimpse at the Hebrew word for “spirit,” or ruwach, to draw a distinction:


  • spirit (of the living, breathing being in man and animals) – a gift, preserved by God, God’s spirit, departing at death, disembodied being.
  • spirit – as seat or organ of mental acts, rarely of the will, as seat especially of moral character. [7]

With this knowledge, Ezekiel 36:26 rendered in a transliterated manner would read like this:

“Moreover, I will give you a new leb [will, emotions, and intellect] and put a new ruwach [gift of God; seat of moral character] within you; and I will remove the leb of stone from your flesh and give you a leb of flesh.  I will put My Ruwach within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.
– Ez. 36:26-27 [Emphasis mine]

The Word of God through Ezekiel was that God would put His Spirit into His people in addition to giving them a new heart.  He would give us a heart of flesh, instead of a hard, cold stony heart. He would do a new thing!

But what about inn Proverbs 2:10? The Word says: “For wisdom will enter your heart3820 And knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.”5315

This is an example of Hebrew repetition.

In Ezekiel, leb [heart/soul] and ruwach [spirit] are used in the two statements.  In Proverbs, leb [heart/soul] is used again, but a new word is introduced: nephesh.[8]  Nephesh is defined by Strong’s #5315 as “that which breathes, the soul, the inner being of man; seat of emotions and passions.”  Recall that heart [leb – 3820] means “the inner part; the soul.”  Therefore, the Scripture from Proverbs shows that heart is used synonymously with soul [nephesh – 5315].

The Old Testament utilizes leb3820 and nephesh5315 synonymously and sometimes interchangeably, but ruwach7309 [spirit] is never used as a synonym for soul.7

New Testament Heart

In the New Testament, the word most translated “heart” is kardia [Strong’s 2588] and is defined below. The definition should sound familiar to that of leb, above:

Kardia denotes the centre of all physical and spiritual life;

  1. the soul or mind, as it is the fountain and seat of the thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, affections, purposes, endeavours
  2. of the understanding, the faculty and seat of the intelligence
  3. of the will and character
  4. of the soul so far as it is affected and stirred in a bad way or good, or of the soul as the seat of the sensibilities, affections, emotions, desires, appetites, passions.[9]

As with nephesh in the Old Testament, on a few occasions in the Greek the word psuche5590 is used for heart.  It is translated: the soul; the seat of the feelings, desires, affections, aversions (our heart, soul etc.)[10]

Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words presents this passage:

The heart.  Chief organ of physical life (“for the life of the flesh is in the blood,” Lev. 17:11), occupies the most important place in the human system. By an easy transition, the word came to stand for man’s entire mental and moral activity, both the rational and the emotional elements. …

As to its usage in the NT it denotes (a) the seat of physical life, Acts 14:17; Jas. 5:5; (b) the seat of moral nature and spiritual life, the seat of grief, John 14:1; Rom. 9:2; 2 Cor. 2:4; joy, John 16:22; Eph. 5:19; the desires, Matt. 5:28; 2 Pet. 2:14; the affections, Luke 24:32; Acts 21:13; the perceptions, John 12:40; Eph. 4:18; the thoughts, Matt. 9:4; Heb. 4:12; the understanding, Matt. 13:15; Rom. 1:21; the reasoning powers, Mark 2:6; Luke 24:38; the imagination, Luke 1:51; conscience, Acts 2:37; 1 John 3:20; the intentions, Heb. 4:12, cp. 1 Pet. 4:1; purpose, Acts 11:23; 2 Cor. 9:7; the will, Rom. 6:17; Col. 3:15; faith, Mark 11:23; Rom. 10:10; Heb. 3:12.

The heart, in its moral significance in the OT, includes the emotions, the reason and the will.[11] [Emphasis mine.]

As with almost all NT scriptures, Romans 10:9-10 use kardia [mind/soul] for heart.

“If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your kardia2588 that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the kardia2588 a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.” – Romans 10:9-10 [Emphasis mine]

Here’s the original Koine Greek (looks pretty different from English, huh?):


In Romans 10:9, the Apostle Paul is actually pulling from Deuteronomy 30:14.  The word “heart” in Deut. 30:14 is lebab3824 a variation[12], of leb3820 and is translated: soul.

In simple terms, kardia = leb/lebab = soul. 

With this view, the passage lends to the idea that in preparation for a ‘renewed spirit’ from the Lord, both our body (mouth, v. 9) and soul (kardia/lebab, vv. 9, 10) must be prepared and act together in unison and harmony.  Thus, in the kardia, man believes, and with the body (mouth), man confesses.  God breathes a brand new pneuma5414 [the Greek word for spirit] into the person, resulting in a new creation and a public recognition of salvation.

2 Cor. 5:17: Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

Where there once was a dead spirit, lost through sin, God miraculously breathes new life! 


Our Stony Hearts Conquered by Love (c) Jason Stern

The Bible tells us that unregenerate man is spiritually dead. If the heart was the spirit, how could an unregenerate person believe in Jesus as Lord with something that is dead?  How could he believe with a dead spirit?  He could not.


But if his heart is actually his soul, the Scripture fits. Spiritually dead people still have souls.

In Romans 10:9-10 the man is responding to the Lord’s command by activating the new heart that he has been granted. In return for this act of obedience, the Lord Jesus demonstrates grace and mercy that only the Ruler of the Universe and the Son of Man could—He gives the man the greatest gift: an eternal spirit! [Consider John 3 in this light.]

The reason we have problems now with our understanding of heart is that the Bible uses it differently than the rest of the world did (and still does).

In the Holman Bible Dictionary,[13] scholar Gerald Cowen writes that: “The New Testament … gives kardia a wider range of meaning than it was generally accustomed to have.” 

Outside of Scripture, other Greek writers did not tend to use kardia as a synonym for the soul.  But to Hebrew Christians:

  • The heart became the focus for the…intellectual and spiritual life.
    • The heart and the intellect are closely connected, the heart being the seat of intelligence.
  • The heart is connected with thinking and desire and will:
    • As a person “thinks in his leb, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7). To ponder something in one’s heart means to consider it carefully (Luke 1:66; Luke 2:19). All of these are functions of the mind, but are connected with the heart in biblical language. [Emphasis mine.]
    • Thus, 2 Corinthians 9:7: “Every man according as he purposes in his kardia, so let him give.” The conscious decision is made in the heart (Romans 6:17).
  • On the negative side, depravity is said to issue from the unredeemed heart:
    • “The [unredeemed] leb is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).
    • Romans 1:24 describes how God gave them up “through the lusts of their own kardia, to dishonor their own bodies.”
    • Jesus said that out of the unredeemed kardia comes evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander (Matthew 15:19). In other words, defilement comes from within rather than from without. [13]

The heart [kardia] is the:

  • field where seed (the Word of God) is sown (Matthew 13:19; Luke 8:15)
  • place where the natural laws of God are written
  • place of renewal.[14]

Therefore, the New Testament tells us that the Greek word, kardia, is synonymous for soul, just as leb is in Hebrew.

What about these “Compound” Passages?

In some cases, the ancient languages had better words to use than our present-day English.  For example, in English we have the word “love.”  Greek has at least three words to express love: agape (perfect, unconditional love), phileo (brotherly love), and eros (sexual love – this version is not used in the NT).

To show you how we run right by this without stopping, consider John 21:15-17.  In it, Jesus asks Peter, “Do you agape me?”  Peter answers, “I phileo you.”  Big difference!  This is followed by the same question and answer in 21:16.  Finally, Jesus changes the question and asks Peter in verse 17, “Peter, do you phileo me?” To which Peter exclaims, “Lord, you know all things. You know that I phileo you!”  We miss much in that passage by only having our English “love.”

Mark 12:30 says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind and with all your strength.”

In this verse, remember that heart is kardia (2285) [will, intellect, emotions], soul is psuche (5590) [seat of the feelings, desires, affections, aversions] and a new word is introduced for mind: dianoia (1271) [understanding, feeling, desiring].

Some scholars tell us that the New Testament writers inserted this additional Greek word for “mind” here in order to explain to their Greek/Roman readers that when the Hebrew refers to “heart,” he means the mind-soul.

How It Might Sound to Us

In Mark 12:30, Jesus is answering the question regarding the “greatest commandment” by quoting Deuteronomy 6:5: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your leb and with all your nephesh and with all your might.”

These verses are called `The Shema’ from the Hebrew word, ‘Hear,’ and are regarded as the essence of Hebrew religion. They are always quoted in every synagogue service, and are repeated twice daily by the orthodox. These words are the opening statement in Jewish services.[15]

In ‘The Shema,’ God “covers all the bases” with this command and starting with the heart, He goes deeper by saying, to effect: You shall love the Lord with all of your heart (with all of your will, your emotions, your intellect, your understanding, your desire) and finally even with your physical body.

I imagine that if we heard this in our language, it would be in the form of repetition with modern punctuation:

“You shall love the Lord Your God with all your soul, all your soul, ALL YOUR SOUL!”*


The heart/soul includes the mind, the will, the emotions and while it is the place where the spirit dwells, the heart is not the spirit.

If we are going to resolve the complications between “Biblical English” and “Common English” in these verses we just have to dig in and study.

In Conclusion

Have we been guarding the wrong thing?  A broken heart is not a broken spirit, but it is a broken mind.

Perhaps we have spent too much time telling dwelling on the intellect or, conversely, the spirit!  If we teach people to focus on the learning the rules alone and not enough time allowing the Spirit of God to influence us, they will become “hard-hearted.” If we teach them to focus too much on the spirit, they will lack understanding of the deeper lessons from Scripture.

I believe the former was the sad fate of the Pharisees, who started out as the “good guys,” but who spent so much time trying to cross all the “T”s and dot all the “I”s that they ended up missing God. And I believe the latter in more recent times, have thought that as long as they “feel” good and try to “be” good, that God will be pleased.

The heart, to paraphrase Marvin Vincent, is “the driver of the soul and the seat of the spirit.”[21]The heart is the place in which God continually shapes and molds the Christian.  This is why a Christian can be both righteous and wicked with his heart.  His renewed spirit does not have this fault.  While evil hearts are plenteous, the only “evil spirits” mentioned in the Bible are demons, not people.  If a Christian is faithful and is walking in the Spirit of Christ, Jesus will be faithful to “renew his mind” and bring balance to his whole being.

That’s why He gave us new spirits, too, to continually point us to Him and away from the ways of sin and death.  The mind being renewed is your heart. It is the place where Jesus will be faithful to complete his good work in you. The spirit is a gift from Him and it constantly draws His followers to Him.

May your heart, the fountain and seat of your thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, affections, purposes, and endeavors be blessed and renewed in Christ Jesus.  And may we all submit the direction of our understanding, will and character to his rulership.


Comparison Chart

Word Language Origin Simple Definition Detailed Definition Scripture References Strong’s Number
Leb Hebrew heart, will, emotions, and intellect Midst of things, heart of man, soul, heart of man, mind, knowledge, thinking, reflection, memory, inclination, resolution, determination of will, conscience, etc. Ezek. 36:26-27, Ps. 4:7

Jer. 17:9, etc. throughout

Ruwach Hebrew spirit spirit (of the living, breathing being in man and animals) – a gift, preserved by God, God’s spirit, departing at death, disembodied being.

seat or organ of mental acts, rarely of the will, as seat especially of moral character.

Ezek. 36:26-27, Ps. 51:11, etc. H7307
Nephesh Hebrew soul that which breathes, the breathing substance or being, soul, the inner being of man; seat of emotions and passions Gen. 2:7, Job 2:6, Prov. 2:10, etc. H5315
Kardia Greek heart, soul or mind Centre of all physical and spiritual life;

the soul or mind, fountain and seat of the thoughts, passions, desires, understanding, faculty and seat of intelligence, will and character


Rom. 10:9-10,

Phil. 4:7,

Rom. 1:24,

Matt. 15:19, etc. throughout


Psuche Greek soul, breath the soul; the seat of the feelings, desires, affections, aversions (our heart, soul etc.) Heb. 4:12, 1 Thess. 5:23, etc. G5590
Pneuma Greek spirit the disposition or influence which fills and governs the soul Acts 11:15, Eph. 1:17, etc. G4151
Dianoia Greek understanding the mind as a faculty of understanding, feeling, desiring Eph. 1:18,

1 Pet. 1:13

Phronema Greek thoughts/


what one has in the mind, the thoughts and purposes Rom. 8:6-7,

Rom. 8:27

Noema Greek thought Mental perception; thoughts or purposes 2 Cor. 10:5

Phil. 4:7



TL:DR = Common English usage of the word “heart” is not the same as biblical usage. In the Bible, the word heart is equivalent to soul. It contains your mind, will and emotions, not just your emotions. The Bible never uses the word heart to refer to a person’s spirit. That’s the short version, but the long one is much more interesting!

End Notes

For those who want to dig deeper:
In Heb. 10:16, the Holy Spirit writes that He will “put My laws upon their heart2588, and upon their mind1271, I will write them.”  Note that when studied using the Greek lexicon, heart is kardia [soul] and mind here is dianoia [understanding][16]. Let’s translate that: “He will put his laws in your soul and give you understanding.” Romans 8:27 utilizes several of these words again:  “He who searches the hearts2588 knows what the mind5427 [phronema: inclination/purpose] [17] of the Spirit4151 [Pneuma/Spirit/Breath] is….”[18]

Again: “He who searches the soul knows what the purpose of the Spirit of God is…” First Thessalonians 5:23 concludes, “May the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit4151 [pneuma: life breath] and soul5590 [psuche: seat of feelings, desires] and body be preserved complete….” It is a totality.

[1] Marlowe, Michael, MA. Study on New Living Translation. Subparagraph “After God’s own Heart.”

[2]Strong’s Lexicon: heart –


[4]The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Heart:

[5] Matthew Henry’s Commentaries on Ezekiel 36:

[6] Heart. Easton’s Bible Dictionary.

[7] Ruwach.

[8] Nephesh.

[9] Kardia. Strong’s Lexicon.

[10] Psuche. Strong’s Lexicon.

[11] Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words: Heart.¯t0001335

[12] Lebab. Soul.

[13] Holman Bible Dictionary. “The Heart” by Gerald Cowen.

[14] Holman Bible Dictionary. Heart.

[15] Coffman Commentaries on the Old Testament. Deuteronomy 6.

[16] Dianoia.

[17] Phronema.

[18] Pneuma.

[19] Hebrews 6:1-3.

[20] MacArthur. Ephesians. Page 44. Chicago: Moody Press.

[21] Martin Vincent. Word Studies in the New Testament. Excerpt on kardia among study of Precept Study of Romans 6.

[22] Noema.


You Can’t Be My Friend Because Why?

Why is it that men and women are taught to be enemies instead of friends?


Sure, lots of books have been written to determine the answer to this question. The cynic in me says that it is for political reward and fiduciary gain. As long as there is war between the sexes, books can be written, policies can be enacted, money can be raised, candidates can be put forth, etc.

Perhaps it’s more basic than that: we’ve been taught to be possessive and jealously guard the things we think are “ours.” We’re told to share, but the underlying current is” don’t share too much.  Really, we learn to be selfish.

Oddly enough, I must have missed the day when I was supposed to learn that girls were stinky and gave you cooties.

As far back as I can remember, I have enjoyed the conversation and company of the fairer sex. Perhaps it’s silly to remember, but I recall that as a little boy I had 5 “girlfriends” (at one time) in kindergarten and 3 in first grade! This trend did not continue afterwards, but I recognize looking back that during my stint in elementary, middle and high school, I had lots of “friends who were girls.”  There was no romance involved. We just did not make a big deal out of the fact that our biologies differed.

In high school, I played an active role as a member of the marching band and represented our school in drama, debate and other clubs. In the community, I spent my teenage years as a police cadet and served on the drama and puppet teams at church.  All of these experiences were mixed-gender and I developed lots of friendly and beneficial relationships.

It never occurred to me that I should consider these women friends as targets for conquest or equally that I should be afraid of them. Yet I have noticed as a married adult, not everyone approves of innocent friendship between the sexes.  It’s as though optimism is taught while pessimism is practiced. In fact, there’s a strong undercurrent against mixed-gender friendships that has erupted in American culture–especially Christian culture.

So it’s with interest that I received a request from Pastor Joshua D. Jones to review his upcoming book, “Forbidden Friendships: Retaking the Biblical Gift of Male-Female Friendship.”


One fall day during my freshman year of college I walked into a huge lecture room for Anthropology class.  As I sat down, I noticed a pretty girl reading a magazine article about Christian pop music.  Class had not started yet, so I tapped her on the shoulder and asked, “What are you reading about?”

That’s how I met Andrea. We were married a little less than two years later during the summer break between our sophomore and junior years and this July, we will celebrate 19 years of marriage.

Ah, some might say, now you’re done! You’ve found “the one” so you don’t need to be friends with women any more.

Except, remember, I was absent that day in culture school.  Yes, that conversation I began 21 years ago resulted in marriage, but even if it hadn’t, I may have gained a friend. Had I been taught to distrust women, I probably would not have ventured to introduce myself that day.

But where did this idea come from that once you’re married, you have to ignore half of the population? I still benefit from friendships with ladies I met when we were children.

Pastor Jones writes that this disparity of true friendship has created a plastic situation where “men and women are friendly towards one another but rarely “friends” in the historical, robust sense of the word. We say “hi”, talk and perhaps give a polite mini-hug – but there is rarely any deep engagement or sharing of lives.”

In my study of history, I have learned that it was not always the case that married people stopped being friends across gender lines. Some of our most beloved American founding fathers shared this viewpoint. Thomas Jefferson and Abigail Adams were close friends for decades. Benjamin Franklin’s best friend in Europe was a Duchess.

The famed evangelist Billy  Graham made a rule for himself that he would never be alone with a woman, whether in a vehicle, an elevator, a room, etc.  I understand the pragmatism of such a rule, yet I’ll add that Mr. Graham’s rule comes not from the Bible, but from his own heart.  Before we adopt such thinking, recall that leaders of the same caliber and impact such as St. Patrick, St. Francis, John Wesley, John Knox and others never had such a “rule,” and that these men each had good friends who were ladies. One could not even say that Jesus himself adhered to the “Rule.” While I would not be critical of Billy Graham’s personal decision, I would also point out that we need to pray and get our own convictions from the Bible and our unique situations.

What about people who mess up?

Will people occasionally fall into improper behaviors by allowing themselves to be friends? Sure. But the truth is that this can happen no matter what boundaries are created and what hard lines are established. I can think of three or four famous hard-line anti-mixed-gender Christian leaders who have fallen from the public spotlight just in the last couple of years.  Apparently establishing such boundaries failed to keep them from failing. Pastor Jones writes:

For thirty years now broad gender boundaries have been preached and practiced but we do not have less immorality than before. Not only have these rules failed to deliver us from lust, but one of the devastating side effects has been that it is now hard to see many local churches as an expression the Family of God. Instead we seem to be a collection of tightly defined “couples with children” of God.

These leaders thought that if we just separated the sexes that we would have less sin.  The truth is, when the family of God was separated artificially, we ended up with more sin… and less family.

Truth is hard. It’s often hard to learn. It rubs us the wrong way. To be changed by it, there are layers to be shed, wrinkles to be smoothed, edges to be washed away. And that takes time and abrasion.

What can we do?

We can either harden our hearts or soften them.  Think of yourself as a rock in a stream. The softness of your material determines how quickly the rounding process takes place.

Perhaps what we all need is more brothers and sisters and less “couples with children.” Jones again:

“When a legitimate need goes unmet, we can become so desperate to have it filled that we often grasp at false solutions which make the problem worse. A man turning to porn, when he is really hungry for meaningful relationships with women, is like turning to salt water when one is thirsty.”

In his book Pastor Jones touches on what got us to this odd 21st century segmentation of the sexes and how cultural, extra-biblical ideas shape us more than biblical ones do. The latter is a topic near and dear to my heart and one I write extensively about in my own upcoming book.

So, without giving away too much, I recommend Pastor Jones’ book to you.  I could continue quoting my favorite parts, but I want you to discover them for yourselves.

Forbidden FriendshipsThis world we live in is saturated with sex, suspicion and sin. It is polluted with porn, but starved of intimacy.” – Joshua D. Jones in Forbidden Friendships