When you say, “I don’t know how to do this,” your mind stops looking for answers. But if we simply add one word—“I don’t know how to do this yet”—your mind will stay active. Adding this one word will unleash the creative, solution-finding part of your mind.
“Our preaching ought to have a voice for all classes, and all should have an ear for it. To suit our word to the rich alone is wicked sycophancy, and to aim only at pleasing the poor is to act the part of a demagogue. Truth may be so spoken as to commend the ear of all, and wise teachers seek to learn that acceptable style.” —Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon And The Psalms
“How did Jesus live among us? He was different things to different people. See if you find yourself on this list.
A bonus quote from Charles Spurgeon: “‘No God’ means no law, no order, no restraint to lust, no limit to passion. Who but a fool would be of this mind? What a bedlam, or rather what a battleground, would the world become, if such lawless principles came to be universal!” —Charles Spurgeon, commenting on Psalm 53:1
There is a profound truth in a simple observation about how Jesus grew: “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). Jesus was healthy in all of these areas. That means He had the proper work-rest balance in each of these areas too.
We should learn from this example and find different ways to rest and recover mentally, physically, spiritually, and relationally, just as Jesus did.
I encourage you to take a listen to this part of our conversation.
How can you take a mental rest? Perhaps by reading or listening to something uplifting, or maybe simply taking time to think about what you’ve been thinking about.
For physical rest, you might take a nap, schedule a vacation, or contemplate changing something in your diet.
For spiritual rest, you could sing a worship song or quietly meditate on a passage of Scripture.
For relational rest, you could have breakfast with a good friend or go for a walk with your spouse.
And don’t forget to tap into the wisdom and expertise of others in these areas. Talk with a mental health professional about your mental health, see a doctor about your physical health, visit with a wise mentor to discuss your spiritual health, or see a counselor about your relational health. You don’t have to come up with all of the answers on your own.
The first mental health strategy we learned was asking the Holy Spirit to help us see a new path. Instead of thoughtlessly, automatically allowing our minds to go down the well-worn paths they have always gone down before, the Spirit of Truth can help us see a new path. Let me share our second strategy with you.
My wife and I had traveled to a neighboring community and when we got out of our car we saw an unusual sight. First of all, there was dirt and a few weeds where there used to be grass, and then there was this sign in the middle of that dirt field: Keep off the grass. That seemed like really wishful thinking to me! I may not have a green thumb—truthfully I probably have a “black thumb” when it comes to keeping plants alive—but I know enough to say that their grass wasn’t going to grow without a lot of effort.
Weeds grow by apathy, they are removed with continual effort. Fruit-bearing plants grow by careful attention, fertilization, and pruning. So if we don’t put in any effort at all, it’s the same thing as fertilizing the weeds.
Solomon made this observation: I went past the field of a sluggard, past the vineyard of someone who has no sense; thorns had come up everywhere, the ground was covered with weeds and the stone wall was in ruins (Proverbs 24:30-31).
Without effort on our part, weeds take over, sap the nutrients, and take up the space that could be used for fruit-bearing plants.
A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. (Matthew 13:3-8)
When Jesus says that the thorns grew up and choked the plants, He uses a Greek word that means overwhelmed or suffocated. It’s the same word that is translated as drowning (see Luke 8:33). What weeds do to our gardens, weed thoughts do to our minds.
We all know that when we see a weed pop up above the ground, there is a root below the ground that is supporting it. The sooner we pull that weed, the more likely we are to remove the troublesome root as well.
What about our minds? What are the roots? Jesus identified the roots this way: For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander (Matthew 15:19). Jesus taught that we murder, commit adultery, lust, and slander in our hearts long before it ever happens in our words or physical actions.
So when a “weed word” pops out, what do we do? If we do nothing, we fertilize that weed. If we ignore it, we allow that weed to strengthen its hold and begin to choke out the fruitful plants. If we simply say, “Oops, that was a slip of the tongue; I’ll do better to control it next time,” we haven’t pulled the weed, but we’ve fertilized it.
Remember that weeds flourish by apathy, but fruitfulness requires effort.
Back in the parable of the sower, what is the difference between the seed among weeds and the seed in fertile soil? It’s simply the presence of weeds or thorns! If we allow the Holy Spirit to help us pull the weeds, we’ve increased the amount of ground that can be fruitful and produce a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.
Jesus concludes by reminding us that our ears need to hear—we need to hear His words, and we need to hear our own weed words that don’t align with His words. Then we have a choice: apathetically let the weeds remain, or allow them to be pulled up.
Allow me to share my paraphrase of a passage in Hebrews 12—
My son, do not make light of the Lord’s pruning, and do not lose heart when He weeds your mind, because the Lord prunes the one He loves, and He weeds the garden of everyone He accepts as His son so they can be more fruitful. (my paraphrase of Hebrews 12:5-6)
Our mental health matures when we acknowledge the word weeds we are shown, and then quickly allow the Father to prune those. The Holy Spirit can continue to help us weed the soil of our minds so that it remains a fertile growing place for the seed of God’s Word. By doing this, we will grow in God-pleasing fruitfulness.
If you would like to download the graphic of this reminder for your phone, simply leave me a comment with the model of the phone, and I’ll get the right-sized graphic right out to you. And if you missed the first message in this series, you can review that lesson by clicking here.
Pastors, on Monday morning, as you debrief how things went on Sunday, if you are feeling a bit discouraged, I want you to consider something Jesus said. Your success in ministry is not exclusively seen in the harvest you reap, but in the seeds you are sowing. Keep sowing good seed faithfully and then let God help it grow.
“We ought above all things to desire a heavenly happiness; to be with God and dwell with Jesus Christ. Though surrounded with outward enjoyments, and settled in families with desirable friends and relations; though we have companions whose society is delightful, and children in whom we see many promising qualifications; though we live by good neighbors, and are generally beloved where known; we ought not to take our rest in these things as our portion. We should be so far from resting in them, that we should desire to leave them all, in God’s due time. We ought to possess, enjoy and use them, with no other view but readily to quit them, whenever we are called to it, and to change them willingly and cheerfully for heaven.” —Jonathan Edwards
“Jesus didn’t preach to tell you to turn over a new leaf, but to turn you to a new life.” —Reinhard Bonnnke
Steven Lee has an excellent post entitled Good leaders are easy to follow. I wholeheartedly concur! “A church’s willingness to obey and submit affects the joy and the care they receive from their leaders. But the reverse is true as well. Leaders can lead in a way that makes obedience and submission easy and happy, or difficult and frustrating. Shepherds shape the habits of the sheep.”
T.M. Moore has a series of posts on apologetics, which I encourage you to check out. In one post he writes, “God is not a capricious Deity. He does not act in ways that make it difficult to know Him or His will. His purposes are carefully considered and prudentially engaged, and in such a way that human beings can understand what He is about. … God shows us that He Himself is reasonable in that He makes known Himself and His will in a wide range of rational ways—through types and symbols and teachings and verbal exchanges of many different sorts. Anyone who takes the time to read the Bible can understand it. Its stories are stories about people like us. The teachings of Scripture are not shrouded in arcane or mystical language. What God has done and what God requires can be clearly discerned by any reasonable person, because God reveals Himself and His will in terms amenable and accessible to reason.”
I wrote Shepherd Leadership mainly with pastors and ministry leaders in mind, but I’ve heard from stay-at-home moms, nurses, coaches, and business leaders that they’ve benefitted from the concepts I unpack in this book.
I’m so honored that my book has nearly all 5-star ratings on Amazon. Here are two reviews from business leaders.
Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on Apple, Spotify, or Audible.
The disciples of Jesus heard His story and asked Him to explain to them what the parable meant. He said, “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable?” (Luke 8:9; Mark 4:13).
The parable in question was the one we refer to as the parable of the sower. According to Christ’s own words, this is the most basic and understandable of all of His parables. If this was a college class, this would be Parables 101.
The kingdom of heaven is so otherworldly, infinite, and utterly beyond a succinct description that even Jesus asked out loud, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it?” (Mark 4:30). Then time and time again, Jesus continued to reveal His kingdom with the phrase, “The kingdom of God is like….”
Before we move on to Parables 201 or Parables 301, let’s make sure we know this most basic parable intimately. According to Jesus, this parable is the key to unlocking the meaning of all of His other parables. Approach this one again as you ask the Holy Spirit to reveal something new to your heart.
For instance, as I read through this parable again this week I was captivated by those whom Jesus said had shallow roots. It reminded me that I need to temper my teaching with gentleness. If I’m too aggressive or too theologically deep, I may do damage these tender plants. On the other hand, if I’m too timid, I may leave these plants vulnerable to the ravages of disease or the scorching of the sun. Here again, I must rely on the Holy Spirit’s help. The message may be the same, but perhaps my delivery needs to be more appropriate to my audience.
Let me leave you with this challenge: When was the last time you saw something for the first time in this simplest of parables? If it’s been a while, it may be time for a quick refresher in Parables 101, then you will have the key to go deeper into the other parables. Try it and let me know how it works for you.
These co-hosts wanted to discuss two back-to-back chapters in my book Shepherd Leadership where I talk about the balance between leading confidently and leading humbly. Most of us are wired to lean toward one of these poles, but godly leaders are learning how to find the healthy tension between them.
In this part of our conversation, we talked about leaders who haven’t learned to add confidence to their humility.
I’ll be sharing more clips from this Leading From Alignment interview soon, so please stay tuned. Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter is available in print or ebook, and in audiobook through either Audible or Apple.
Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on Apple, Spotify, or Audible.
Our country has a policy of separation of church and state, and that appears to be a good thing. When the head of the government starts telling the church how to worship, or when the head of the church starts telling the government how to run its affairs, strife typically results.
There have been some notable examples of wise kings who were God-fearing rulers, and some examples of religious leaders who had the wisdom to make just laws. But history has most often shown us that when a king imposes on the church a mode of worship or a pastor imposes on the king religious ways of governing, clashes result. Some of them have been bloody civil wars and some have spread into international conflicts.
That being said, wouldn’t it be better for everyone if there was a way that one person could hold both of those offices simultaneously? If only there was some way to bring those different offices together. Very few people could ever accomplish this because it would require a perfect person with both absolute wisdom and complete God-honoring selflessness, someone so confident in both their wisdom and their relationship with God that they would never be swayed unfairly one way or the other.
Last week we saw the first bold claim from Jesus: “I am the I AM.” With this title and authority, Jesus claimed to be the Head of the Church. This is a title Paul uses several times in his letter to the church at Ephesus (Ephesians 1:22, 5:23). Paul goes on to remind us that our aim as the Church body is to grow into maturity under the Headship of Jesus (Ephesians 4:15).
Consider two other notable rulers during this same time period. As the high priest, Caiaphas would have laid claim to the title of “head of the church.” As the Roman governor, Pilate would have laid claim to the title of “head of the government in Judea.” Yet both of them clearly demonstrated that they had “become the symbol of those who make religious decisions based on political expediency rather than truth and justice,”as Dr. Donald Stamps noted.
Paul goes father than calling Jesus simply the Head of the Church—
And He [Jesus] is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have the supremacy. (Colossians 1:18)
Not just Headship over the Church, but Headship over “everything.”
Pilate “knew it was out of self-interest that they had handed Jesus over to him” (Matthew 27:18), but he still asked Jesus, “Are You the king of the Jews?” Just as Caiaphas was trying to save his position of power by keeping a delicate balance between the Jews and the Romans, Pilate was also trying to save his skin. Pilate was trying to appease both the Sanhedrin and Tiberius Caesar.
Jesus answers Pilate’s question in a way Pilate never expected. Twice Jesus says “My kingdom,” noting that His kingdom is other-worldly. His kingdom comes from outside this world and therefore supersedes any government of this world. Pilate clearly has never heard anything like this, so after hearing this statement he announces, “You are a king, then!”
Just as Jesus had answered the Sanhedrin with, “You are right in saying I am the Messiah,” now He answers Pilate, “You are right in saying I am a king.”
Combining those two bold claims—“I am God” and “I am a King”—Jesus is the only One who can perfectly hold both offices without any conflict. This is what the prophecy in Isaiah 9:1-7 foretold, and this is the fulfillment that John shows us at the end of time (Revelation 17:14, 19:11-16).
What does this mean for us? How are we now supposed to live knowing Jesus as our God and as our King? We should live confidently before our King and humbled before our God. We don’t fear earthly kings, but neither do we fight them. We don’t have to try to convince earthly kings to rule a certain way because they are God’s servants to accomplish God’s plan. We don’t have to get caught up in the politics of the day because this day will come to an end.
We are subjects of a kingdom not of this world, so the kings of this world don’t get to decide our final destiny!
(If you would like to explore this topic further, check out my series of messages from 1 Peter called Aliens and Strangers.)
T. M. Moore has been presenting an outstanding series of posts in the series To Stop The Lie. In his most recent post, he wrote, “Winds of false doctrine blow across the sails of the Church continuously, bringing lies against the ship of truth to drive it off its Kingdom course. Wafting in from worldly thinking, these false doctrines downplay the Word of God, make the needs of people rather than the glory of God the focal point of religion, introduce alien practices to worship and church life, and becalm the Body of Christ into complacency. Such lies must be exposed, deconstructed, and stopped.” Check out the post from which this quote came by clicking here, and then you can follow the thread to read the other posts in this series.
“We are more fulfilled when we are involved in something bigger than ourselves.” —John Glenn
NASA has a really cool interactive map that allows you to track the flight of asteroids and comets as they orbit around the sun. You can go forward or backward in time, zoom in or out, and angle the solar system to see the flights and orbits from a different perspective.
Too many people in leadership positions think that leadership means that others do things for them. In actuality, godly leaders view their elevated position as an opportunity to serve more—to do more things for more people. I dive deeper into this in my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter.