Links & Quotes

I am really looking forward to a new series of sermons that I am launching this Sunday. This will be a once-per-month series for the remainder of the year and it’s simply called A Christian’s Mental Health. If you don’t have a home church in the west Michigan area, I would love for you to join me in person, but the sermons will also be posted on my YouTube channel.

T.M. Moore has an outstanding post called The Essence of the Lie. In one part, Moore writes, “Thus the lie claims to be the truth, but, at the same time, it insists that truth is personal, relative, pragmatic, and utilitarian. Truth, from this perspective, is not absolute, but dynamic, changeable rather than fixed. It is conditioned by circumstances of time and place. At the end of the day, people are the final arbiters of truth, and truth is whatever they find to be useful for their purposes. Ultimate truth is that which people impose on others by one or another kind of force, whether intellectual, political, or physical.” Check this one out!

Harvard University has been studying a group of individuals since 1938 to try to determine the main factors that contribute to a long and healthy life. The director and assistant director of this study just published an article that sums up what they have learned over all these years—“[If] we had to take all 85 years of the Harvard Study and boil it down to a single principle for living, one life investment that is supported by similar findings across a variety of other studies, it would be this: Good relationships keep us healthier and happier. Period. If you want to make one decision to ensure your own health and happiness, it should be to cultivate warm relationships of all kinds.”

“The battle for control and leadership of the world has always been waged most effectively at the idea level. An idea, whether right or wrong, that captures the minds of a nation’s youth will soon work its way into every area of society, especially in our multimedia age. Ideas determine consequences.” — The American Covenant 

“The storms of life are no longer our point of reference when [Jesus] is our focal point.” —Dutch Sheets

John Stonestreet was intrigued by a street reporter asking, “What are men good for?” There were a lot of soft, ambiguous answers given, but John quipped, “Men are good for fathering, protecting, loving, providing, leading, fighting for what’s right with their lives if need be, and obeying, in a masculine way, the creation mandate of the God who made us male and female and declared both ‘very good.’ Was that so hard?” Amen!

Dan Reiland identifies four common mistakes that will cause your church to struggle.

When leaders quit growing, they in essence have “quiet quit” on their team. If the leader’s not growing, what is the incentive for anyone else in the organization to improve themselves or work hard? Leaders quiet quit long before their teammates do! Check out the full conversation Greg Heeres and I had on avoiding quiet quitting by clicking here.

Immediately!

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Mark the Gospel writer loves the action! He uses the word immediately eleven times, and the phrase at once seven times.

Jesus loves to respond this way too! Just as soon as we cry to Him for help, His help is on the way. 

Peter’s mother-in-law was sick with a fever. “They immediately told Jesus about her. So He went to her…” (Mark 1:30-31). 

They didn’t call a doctor first, or try a home remedy first, or consult a friend about how they treated a fever first. They immediately went to Jesus. And as soon as they did, Jesus went to the sick woman and healed her.

The old hymn What A Friend We Have In Jesus has a powerful reminder: “Oh, what peace we often forfeit—Oh, what needless pain we bear—all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.” 

What are we waiting for? Why do we try to help ourselves first when Jesus is standing right there waiting to help us? 

Let’s respond differently. Let’s make going to Jesus our first—our immediate—response so that Jesus can come to our aid right away. 

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Don’t Dwell On The “What Ifs”

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Romans 8:28 has a small but extremely powerful word in it: ALL. 

“And we know that ALL things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” 

The verb tense here would probably be more accurate to say “are working.” God never wastes an experience, but He is using ALL those things to prepare you for the next assignment He has for you. 

Check out this brief clip from a training time I was able to share with some young ministry interns. 

Don’t dwell on the “what ifs” but let’s remind ourselves that God is sovereignly in control. Let’s learn to take God at His word—He IS WORKING ALL OF THOSE EXPERIENCES together for your good and for His glory.

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A Christian’s Mental Health

I don’t think there is any arguing that Jesus was the healthiest individual who ever walked planet Earth. Some may want to push back with, “Of course He was because He didn’t have any problems to deal with!” 

But the writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus experienced everything you and I will ever experience (Hebrews 2:17), so His deity didn’t exclude Him from the stressors that His humanity would have to face. And yet, He handled all of these things successfully. 

Luke the physician observed the growth of Jesus and tells us that it all began with Jesus having a robust mental health. From that foundation, everything else—physical, spiritual, relational—all could develop properly. We must learn from this example and pay careful attention to our own mental health. 

This Sunday we will begin a series that we will be returning to once each month throughout this whole year called A Christian’s Mental Health. I would love to have you join us in person, but if you are unable to do that, we will make all of the messages available on Facebook and YouTube. If you’ve missed any of the messages, or simply want to review what we’ve already learned, you can find them all here.

Don’t Try To Get Even

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

When I work with students I frequently find that conflicts between them are really one-upmanship. Here’s what I mean: one student intentionally or unintentionally tweaks another student, that student then responds with a decidedly intentional verbal or physical shove, which is responded to by the initial student with a louder and more intentional reprisal. And on and on it escalates until someone steps in to stop it.

I often ask these students who are upset with each other, “What did you think was going to happen when you treated the other person that way?” The quick response is almost always, “I don’t know.” And I believe that because most of us don’t think through the counter-reaction to our reaction. 

So I will ask a follow-up question: “Did you think that by shoving him in response to his insult that he was going to say, ‘Oops, my bad. I’m sorry for that and I won’t do it again’?” 

Usually, the student answers quite honestly, “No, I didn’t think that would happen.” They were just so upset that they wanted to let the other person know that they had been hurt.

This idea of getting even is the longing of so many of the psalms: How long until we see victory? (see Psalms 6, 13, 35, and 94 as examples). It’s the cry of the martyrs before God’s throne: How long until we see justice? It’s the desire of every Christian wrongly accused and condemned: God, how long until Your truth prevails? 

Matthew quotes a passage from Isaiah 42:1-4 that is fulfilled in the ministry of Jesus. Part of that description says, “A bruised read He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out, till He leads justice to victory. In His name the nations will put their hope” (Matthew 12:20-21). Notice this key word: till HE leads justice to victory

Jesus is Justice and Truth, and He does ultimately triumph. But notice how Jesus accomplishes this because it is to be our model too: 

  • No quarreling 
  • No shoving back on those who have hurt us
  • No attacking those who have attacked me

Victory comes only through Jesus. I have to relent trying to balance the scales of justice—this is never my place. If I try to make things right on my own, my so-called justice only sets off a one-upmanship shoving match that continues to escalate in very ungodly ways. 

Vengeance is God’s. Justice is God’s. My hope—my immovable hope—is only in what Jesus has accomplished. Remember what Matthew quoted: “In His name the nations” [and all those who have been persecuted, wronged, and martyrd] “will put their hope”! 

Let’s all ask the Holy Spirit to remind us of this the next time we want to shove back the person who just shoved us. 

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Come To God And Keep Walking With Him

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

I have been so grateful for the insights of Dr. Gary Chapman in his book The Five Love Languages. I have found this book to be of immense value in helping couple prepares for marriage, and in helping married couples get beyond a place where intimacy has become stuck. 

In short, the five love languages are words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. The goal of learning the other person’s love language—and learning to speak it consistently and fluently—is an increased level of intimacy. In the book of Amos, God asks, “Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction?” (Amos 3:3 NLT), and speaking the right love language definitely helps people agree! 

The whole reason we come to God in prayer as a Father, as a Brother, and as a Counselor is so that we can hear Him speaking our love language and we can continue to walk in deeper intimacy with Him. 

When my then-girlfriend Betsy and I first met, we spent hours and hours getting to know each other. We would ask questions, share stories, and tell things we did and didn’t enjoy. This is the epitome of intimate conversation: getting to know the other person’s heart as you open up your heart to them as well.

I’ve shared this analogy before, but intimacy grows stale and can eventually disappear altogether if those in a relationship are no longer walking together. It doesn’t work if I say, “Betsy, I’m looking forward to spending an hour with you each week,” or even if I say, “I’ll give you 15 minutes each morning.” Instead, our relationship needs to be one of continual walking. 

It’s the same thing for us as Christians: we cannot only give God an hour at a church service on Sunday mornings, nor is intimacy going to increase if I only walk and talk with my Savior for a few minutes in my morning devotions. 

Walking closely with Him is what God has desired right from the beginning. He walked with Adam and Eve each evening. This phrase “walking with God” is used consistently throughout the Bible of those who had an intimate relationship with their Father, Brother, and Counselor—Noah, Abraham, Isaac, the people of Israel (Genesis 3:8, 6:9, 17:1, 48:15; Leviticus 26:12). And even as the New Testament era dawns, we read, “And they [Zechariah and Elizabeth] were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless” (Luke 1:6 NKJV). 

But I’m especially intrigued by the story of Enoch in Genesis 5:21-24. Twice in four short verses, we read “Enoch walked with God.” Remember that verse in Amos—“Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction?”—so Enoch and God had to be in agreement. In fact, that’s exactly what we read about Enoch in the Book of Hebrews: 

By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. (Hebrews 11:5-6)

If you’ve taken Dr. Chapman’s love language assessment, you probably found that you were pretty lopsided: maybe you scored very highly in one love language and then barely registered in another. We may be lopsided in our love language skill, but God speaks every language perfectly! 

  • Words of affirmation—Hosea 2:14; Isaiah 40:2 
  • Quality time—Deuteronomy 31:6; Psalm 23:3-4
  • Gifts—James 1:17; 2 Peter 1:3
  • Acts of service—Philippians 2:13; Romans 8:28
  • Physical touch—Psalm 139:13-15; Luke 24:39 

(Click here to check out all of those verses.) 

Dr. Chapman noted that when our love language is being spoken to us sincerely and consistently, our love tank is filled, and all of the love languages begin to become more meaningful. 

Just as God walked with Enoch until the day He brought him Home, so He wants to walk with us. 

  • Walk in obedience to all that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper. (Deuteronomy 5:33) 
  • The Lord will establish you as His holy people, as He promised you on oath, if you keep the commands of the Lord your God and walk in obedience to Him. (Deuteronomy 28:9) 
  • May He turn our hearts to Him, to walk in obedience to Him and keep the commands. (1 Kings 8:58) 
  • Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to Him. (Psalm 128:1) 
  • And this is love: that we walk in obedience to His commands. As you have heard from the beginning, His command is that you walk in love. (2 John 6) 

When we walk in loving intimacy with Him, our intimacy grows deeper and more mature. Sometimes they will say of couples who have been married for a long time and walk in increasingly deeper intimacy with each other, “They seem to know each other’s thoughts.” That’s because they know each other’s hearts—and that’s what God wants to do with us. He did it with Enoch, and He will do that with us too (Jude 14; Jeremiah 33:3; Habakkuk 3:19). 

Enoch walked intimately with God for 365 years. Let us walk intimately with God for 365 days a year, for as many years as He gives us until God takes us away with Him forever! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our prayer series called Intimate Conversation, you can find all of the messages by clicking here. 

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Links & Quotes

There has never been anyone as perfectly healthy as Jesus. He was wise, physically healthy, spiritually strong, and emotionally resilient. My co-host Greg and I talked about this on a recent episode of our leadership podcast The Craig And Greg Show. Check out this snippet. I dive deeper into this topic in five chapters in my book Shepherd Leadership.

Fight The New Drug reports how easily sex trafficking happens in the porn industry. They also share a recent survey of how many teens are watching pornography while at school.

Podcast: Personal Development Grows Leadership

Listen to the audio-only version of this podcast by clicking on the player below, or scroll down to watch the video.

As leaders, it’s our responsibility to help our organization grow. As Greg and I discuss in this episode of The Craig And Greg Show, one of the best ways to do that is by focusing on your own personal development. It might seem counterintuitive, but by focusing inward we make ourselves more flexible, robust, and prepared leaders. This, in turn, enables us to better influence and encourage others in our leadership roles.

  • [0:20] Why should leaders set goals?
  • [0:45] What do we mean by “personal development”?
  • [2:15] I discuss healthy personal development in Shepherd Leadership.
  • [3:38] Greg wonders why personal development takes us so far.
  • [6:19] Why do people procrastinate on their own personal development? 
  • [8:29] Where does delayed gratification come in when we are growing and learning?
  • [10:50] Personal development is not about fixing something in ourselves.
  • [12:54] The book Strengths Finder can help leaders know where they should develop themselves .
  • [13:21] How can we identify and lift lids in our lives?
  • [16:04] Watch your self-talk!
  • [17:21] Check out some of the benefits of personal development.
  • [19:15] It’s important to self-reflect on the areas where we’ve already grown.
  • [20:34] More benefits that come with personal development.
  • [23:10] Personal development is the best resume.
  • [25:07] I have seen that as I develop myself I am able to be a greater help for my team’s development.
  • [26:14] Comparing is a personal development killer.
  • [27:24] Progress is exciting!
  • [29:22] Greg and I would love to help coach you in your personal development.

Check out this episode and subscribe on YouTube so you can watch all of the upcoming episodes. You can also listen to our podcast on Spotify and Apple.

“So That…”

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

There are so many things a leader can do to develop themselves and develop the people around them. In fact, at times there may be too many things from which we could choose! 

So how do we narrow it down? How do we know which things to guard in our schedule, which things to drop, and which things to add? 

One thing that has been immensely helpful for me is asking the question, “Why do I want to do this, or learn this, or make a commitment to this?” And then answer the question with these two words, “So that…. 

What is the “so that” I am aiming for? How will that thing enhance my leadership or develop me personally? I need to keep asking that question again and again until I hit upon the key factor that needs to be added to my schedule and then guarded in my schedule. 

I co-host a leadership podcast called The Craig And Greg Show with my lifelong friend Greg Heeres. On a recent episode, we were discussing the value of personal development and we got into this “so that” topic. {{Take a listen…}}

A mark of a godly leader is one who is regularly asking the question, “Why am I doing this?” and then continually drilling down to a solid “so that” reason. 

If I can help coach you through this process in your leadership journey, please reach out to me. 

This is part 68 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

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CEO Or Pastor?

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

CEO stands for “chief executive officer” and usually designates the person who is at the top of the organization’s flowchart. Those who occupy that office frequently exhibit a top-down mindset, where everyone below them is only in that position to serve the CEO. 

This may work well in the corporate world, but this is not at all the heart Jesus demonstrates toward us. Therefore, it shouldn’t be the mindset or practice of Christ’s under-shepherds—those whom He has called to pastor His sheep. The sheep aren’t in the pasture to serve the shepherd, but the shepherd is in the pasture to serve the sheep and to provide what they need to be healthy. 

Check out this conversation I had when I joined a pastoral staff that is using my book Shepherd Leadership as a study guide. 

Jesus was confident in who He was and what His Father’s plan was: “Jesus knew that the Father had given Him authority over everything and that He had come from God and would return to God” (John 13:3 NLT). 

Yet Jesus also said, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45 NLT). 

If you are a pastor, you have been charged with caring for the sheep under your care, and not the other way around—

Tend (nurture, guard, guide, and fold) the flock of God that is your responsibility, not by coercion or constraint, but willingly; not dishonorably motivated by the advantages and profits belonging to the office, but eagerly and cheerfully; not domineering—as arrogant, dictatorial, and overbearing persons—over those in your charge, but being examples (patterns and models of Christian living) to the flock (the congregation). (1 Peter 5:2-3 AMP)

If I can serve your staff by meeting with you, please contact me. I also have a special offer for pastors (and for those who love their pastor) which you can check out by clicking here.

My book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter is available in print or ebook, and in audiobook through either Audible or Apple.

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

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