Different Types Of Healthy Rest

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

I had a great time on the Thriving In Ministry podcast with Kyle Willis while his podcast partner Dace Clifton was on sabbatical. 

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. 

In my book Shepherd Leadership, I take five chapters to unpack how we can improve our health in all four of these areas. I encourage you to check it out by clicking here. 

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Pull The Weeds

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

When looking at the growth of Jesus, Luke says first that “Jesus grew in wisdom” (Luke 2:52), which is our indication that a healthy mind is the foundation for every other aspect of health. 

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. 

Jesus talked about this in His parable of the sower

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. 

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Well-Worn Paths

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

I don’t think there’s any arguing that Jesus must have been the healthiest Person to ever live. Dr. Luke records His growth in just one succinct verse: “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). Every word of Scripture is inspired, right down to the order the words are penned. So when Luke says first that “Jesus grew in wisdom,” that is our indication that a healthy mind is the foundation for every other aspect of health. 

I recently received an email from a Christian brother asking for prayer and counseling in overcoming lust and pornography. I naturally agreed to pray with him, but I also said, “Before I offer you any strategies to try, let me ask you a quick question: What have you already tried to get victory over this?” 

He replied, “I’ve tried praying, watching videos on it, and basically saying no to the devil. But the temptation comes when I am weak and I think, ‘I can just try again tomorrow!’ And then I fall into it. I am just tempted at times throughout the day, and sometimes I fight it with prayer, but other times I just fall right into it basically without even trying.” 

What my friend is dealing with here is a natural, unconscious response. Our brains like well-worn paths because it’s very easy and comfortable for our minds to automatically respond as they have responded before. As in the case of my friend, it may be heading down a path of lust that leads to pornography. For others, it may be unhealthy choices made in response to certain triggers, or it may be the anger that flares up into biting words when a certain someone pushes your buttons. 

We head down that well-worn path unconsciously and automatically. Our immediate response might bring some temporary relief, but usually, we’re not very happy with where we’ve ended up once again. 

If we are going to make a new path—or a new, healthier response—we first need to become aware of the well-worn path we automatically go to. So my counsel to my friend who emailed me for help was to start keeping a journal. I wrote back:

Your willpower alone isn’t going to cut it (as you’ve probably realized). Here’s the first step I would suggest: keep a journal of every time you are tempted to lust or porn. Write down what you were feeling, was it day or evening, what was happening just before that, did you have time in prayer and Bible reading that day or not, how did you fight the temptation, were you successful or not? I think as you keep track of these things you will begin to see some triggers and some patterns. Maybe you were physically tired, or lonely, or hungry. Maybe it was a certain person you talked with or a show you watched. Maybe it was after checking your social medias or after a super-hard day at work. When you start to see patterns of what is causing you to go to porn for relief, you can recognize them earlier and head them off before they grip your mind so strongly. 

Psychologists call it metacognition when we think about what we’re thinking about—when we think about why we are taking a certain well-worn path again. 

We don’t think about our thinking very frequently. We keep thinking along those well-worn paths out of habit, not because we want to go down those paths. This is where the Holy Spirit is invaluable: He helps us see those well-worn paths, identify which paths are unhealthy or unproductive, and then help us begin to carve out a new path. 

It’s not just thinking about right things, but thinking rightly about all things—even the painful things or the triggering things. 

In Ephesians 4:22-25, Paul counsels us to take off the “old self” and “put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore” (and this is an important conclusion) “each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor.” 

Do you remember that Jesus taught us to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:28-31)? Paul says we are to speak truthfully to our neighbor, so doesn’t that mean that we have to first speak truthfully to ourselves? Yes, we do! If we are going to make new paths for our mind, we are going to have to talk to ourselves differently. 

My cousin Dick Brogden wrote, “A primary theater of spiritual warfare is in our heads and thoughts. The primary weapon of the enemy is deceit. He starts with attractive little lies and half-truths, and works his way up to blatant, ridiculous, perverted nonsense. Winning the battle for truth in the mind is critical to winning the war. If we lose enough of the little skirmishes, we can believe and do any wicked thing. If we daily combat lies with light and truth, we will stand firm.” 

The “little lies and half-truths” will keep us trapped on our old, well-worn paths. But identifying those lies, and speaking the truth to them, will help us travel down new paths that lead to health and freedom. 

Let the Holy Spirit be your Counselor. Let the Holy Spirit help you think about what you’re thinking about when you’re triggered to unconsciously head down the unhealthy well-worn path. Let the Holy Spirit help you see a new path. And then let the Holy Spirit empower you to stick with it—to keep doing the hard work of blazing a new path. 

I am going to build on this series of messages about a Christian’s mental health, but let’s start with this simple prayer: 

Holy Spirit, help me make new paths. 

As you pray this, listen to how the Holy Spirit will guide you away from the unhealthy, unconscious, well-worn paths, and will then lead you into the new, healthy path that brings you freedom. 

If you would like to download the graphic of this prayer 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 you can also follow along with all of the messages in this series by clicking here. 

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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.

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:

Helping Our Teammates Destress

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

An interesting comment that Jesus made that should catch the attention of every leader is this: “I know My sheep and My sheep know Me” (John 10:14). Jesus is telling us that He knows the uniqueness of every person. 

Combine this with David’s encouraging words about Jesus as our Good Shepherd in the opening words of Psalm 23, “The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need” (Psalm 23:1 NLT). 

This tells me that quality shepherd leaders…

  1. …are around their teammates enough to know them personally. 
  2. …can quickly ascertain when their teammates are feeling stress or anxiety. 
  3. …know how to give their teammates what they need to destress in a healthy way. 

My friend Greg and I discussed how leaders can use playtime as an effective tool to keep their teammates at their healthiest. Check out this short clip—

If you would like to watch this full episode from The Craig And Greg Show, please click here. 

I also talk about how wise leaders take care of those under their care in my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter. It’s 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. ◀︎◀︎

Practical Health Questions

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

I had a great time on the 200churches podcast with Jeff Keady. 

Jeff wanted to know if I had a favorite chapter in my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter. That’s an easy question to answer because it is the chapter I didn’t write—the Preface of the book was written by Dick Brogden and sums up my book better than I could have on my own. 

But there is a chunk of five chapters in Shepherd Leadership that I keep going back to quite frequently. This section is also one that has resonated with other leaders who coach and counsel pastors. 

Dr. Luke summarized the wholly healthy development of Jesus in just one verse: And Jesus grew in wisdom, in stature, in favor with God, and in favor with men (Luke 2:52). I think this gives us the perfect pyramid for our healthy growth—

  • It starts with our mental health (wisdom) 
  • Which helps us make good decisions for our physical health (stature)
  • Which creates an ideal environment for our spiritual health to flourish (favor with God)
  • Which is ultimately realized in our relational health (favor with men) 

This is why, when I am coaching other pastors that are struggling with relationships with their board or parishioners, I start with…

Oftentimes the answers to these questions reveal a deficit in mental, physical, or spiritual health that is preventing a breakthrough in strong, healthy relationships. As soon as health is being restored at the lower levels of this pyramid, positive changes in spiritual and relational health begin to blossom as well. 

Pastor, please pick up a copy of my book to help you get into the healthiest place you can be. You cannot give health to the flock under your care if you are not at optimal health yourself. 

If you want to catch up on some of the other clips I’ve already shared from this interview, you can find them here. I’ll be sharing more clips from this 200churches 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.

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

Sabbathing For Pastors

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

During a Bible study I was recently leading, I was asked how a pastor finds a day to set aside as a Sabbath day. This is tricky for pastors because Sunday is usually considered a “workday” for us. And even if we can take a “day off” there are still people who need to speak with us.  

Being able to Sabbath is vital for all leaders, but especially for pastors. I spend five chapters in my book Shepherd Leadership talking about the mental, physical, spiritual, and relational health of pastors. If you are a pastor, I encourage you to pick up a copy of my book. If you love your pastor, please get a copy for him or her. 

I was recently interviewed on the Thriving In Ministry podcast specifically on the topic of sabbathing, you can listen to that interview here. You can also check out some other blog posts I’ve written about sabbathing by clicking here.

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

Sabbathing For Health

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

I had a great time on the Ailbe Podcast with Rusty Rabon. 

Rusty wanted to dig a little deeper into the five chapters I wrote about a shepherd’s health. Quite simply, we cannot give to others what we do not possess ourselves, so if the shepherd isn’t mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally healthy, he cannot give health to the sheep under his care. 

Rusty and I specifically chatted about what Jesus did to remain at optimal physical health, because as I point out, without physical health it’s hard to be healthy in any of the other areas.  

As I mentioned, in Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter I take five chapters to unpack all of the various aspects of a leader’s health, along with some practical steps anyone can take. I’d also encourage you to check out this post on how Jesus practiced sabbathing during His earthly ministry. 

I’ll be sharing more clips from this interview soon, so please stay tuned. If you would like to check out the other clips I have already shared, they are located here, here, here, and here. 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. ◀︎◀︎

Heathy Sheep Need A Healthy Shepherd

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

I had a great time on the Thriving In Ministry podcast with Kyle Willis and Dace Clifton. 

Their podcast is all about helping pastors avoid burnout. That’s definitely a message that resonates with my heart too! Long before I stepped into the pastorate, I was actively involved in encouraging pastors and helping protect them from the many slings and arrows that get thrown at them. 

Pastors, we need to remain healthy. Only healthy shepherds can create a healthy environment for the sheep under their care. Jesus not only gave us the example for mental, physical, spiritual, and relational health, but the Holy Spirit wants to help us today to be that kind of wholly healthy leader. 

If you’re a pastor, I believe you will be energized by reading or listening to my book. Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter is available in print or ebook, and in audiobook through either Audible or Apple. 

If you love your pastor, get a copy to give as a gift. If you believe that your pastor would benefit from reading my book, but you don’t have the funds available to purchase it at this time, please leave me a comment below and I’ll make sure I get a copy to you. 

It takes everyone in the Body of Christ being actively involved for both the shepherd and sheep to remain healthy! 

If you’ve missed any of the other clips I’ve shared from this interview, please check them out here:

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

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