Well-Worn Paths

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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

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.

Links & Quotes

God will give you everything you need to minister to others. But there’s one thing you have to do first…

“He who thinks half-heartedly will not believe in God; but he who really thinks has to believe in God.” —Isaac Newton

Back in 1929, Donald Gee shared three temptations that Pentecostals needed to be cautious of avoiding: (1) selfish satisfaction, (2) fanaticism, and (3) the temptation to forsake the pure worship of God in exchange for popularity. Check out the full article here.

I really appreciate the leadership insights from Dan Reiland. That’s why I was so honored to have him write such a nice endorsement of my book Shepherd Leadership! Here is an important post Dan wrote for leaders, warning us of 5 ways we can misuse our spiritual authority

Fight The New Drug is right on-target in warning about the dangers of pornography. Check out this insightful post that gives 8 reasons why not watching porn can improve your real human relationships as well as your physical and emotional health

Another display of God’s masterful creativity in the Archerfish. I absolutely love these video from The John 10:10 Project!

Links & Quotes

Immature people only want to do the bare minimum, but mature people want to do more than is expected of them. Jesus called these people those that went the second mile. That was a topic in my most recent Monday Motivation series.

I am a big fan of The Babylon Bee. If you haven’t checked out their satirical wit, please do so! One post that caught my eye this week is called What Your Favorite Book Of The Bible Says About You. Wow, did this one make me laugh! If you would like to check out some real Bible studies, I have some here and here.

Cold-case detective and Christian apologist J. Warner Wallace discusses how Jesus impacted other world religions—

The drought in north Texas has revealed some more dinosaur tracks, raising some new questions about these massive animals that roamed Earth.

The devil loves to try to pervert the conviction of the Holy Spirit into condemnation. Here is the freeing truth we can stand on: There is NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Sean McDowell elaborates on the dangers of pornography.

Links & Quotes

“This is one of the rewards of reading the Old Testament regularly. You keep on discovering more and more what a tissue of quotations from it the New Testament is; how constantly Our Lord repeated, reinforced, continued, refined, and sublimated the Judaic ethics, how very seldom He introduced a novelty.” —C.S. Lewis, Reflections On The Psalms 

I have shared quite often about the historicity of the Bible. Here is some additional evidence for that: Top 10 discoveries related to the Book of Daniel.

The folks at Fight The New Drug provide excellent research on the dangers of pornography as well as many helpful resources for folks to break free from a porn addiction. Pornography often attracts people when they are emotionally drained, but viewing porn actually increases feelings of loneliness and isolation.

If we ever start to think the Church is one or two ministers and a whole bunch of parishioners, it really won’t be a Church. According to Ephesians 4, all Christians should be ministers. 

You can check out the full message that this clip is from by clicking here.

Here is a word of encouragement for anyone in a time of spiritual warfare—

Check out my regular Monday Motivation series.

Wow, this post from T.M. Moore on how we respond to God’s “call” is a much-needed reminder. In the post, he wrote,

“Probably most Christians treat the calling of God as a kind of punctuated equilibrium. He breaks into their lives to ‘call’ them to some activity or task, but only from time to time, and only for that activity or task. He ‘calls’ us to believe the Gospel, and we do. He ‘calls’ us to this or that church, and we go. He ‘calls’ us to some ministry or other Christian activity, and so we participate. He ‘calls’ us to make a special gift, go on a mission trip, send a note of encouragement to a friend, and so forth. Our lives run on their own schedules, so whenever God ‘calls’ us to do something, we’ll try to get it done.

“But most of the time, other things have prior claims on our lives. We have jobs, families, friends, responsibilities, things we like to do or must do. We can’t respond to every calling from God because, well, there just isn’t enough time. We say, when friends press us to consider this or that Christian opportunity, ‘If God calls me to it, I will.’ But aren’t we just using the language of piety to relieve the discomfort of pressure to do something we’d rather not do?

“We are called of God. Of this there is no doubt. But for most Christians, the way they understand God’s calling is not the same as the way God issues it. And they have not yet learned to value His calling as He intends, as the defining and guiding value of our lives.”

Links & Quotes

John Stonestreet wrote, “The moment Roe v. Wade was overturned last month, desperate activists began to dust off the oldest and oddest arguments for abortion. These “gotcha” scenarios are supposed to prove that pro-lifers don’t really value human life or consider preborn babies from the earliest stages of development to be human. Instead, these pretend scenarios demonstrate that pro-lifers are simply hypocrites.” Check out the rest of his post 

“When the facts are not clear [in a relationship issue] it is better to consider someone innocent until proven guilty. That is the law of mercy, which we all want applied to us as well.” —Dr. John Townsend, Who’s Pushing Your Buttons

Pornography is contributing to the over-sexualization of young people, which is reaping some painful consequences…

I love when archeology confirms yet another facet of the historicity of the Bible! Check out this archeological biography of King Menahem.

Just a reminder that YOU were made on purpose …

A good friend of mine, Pastor Kristi Rhodes, is in a battle with cancer and I’m fighting alongside her! If you want to join Team Kristi, join the team by clicking here.

Giving Preference To Others

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

Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another” (Romans 12:10). 

What does it mean to give preference to a friend or loved one? Here are a few suggestions to get the ball rolling. 

Giving preference means I am…

  1. …speaking their “language.” I am a classic Doer, which means my style is, “Ready, Fire! aim.” I need to give grace to those who move a bit slower than me.
  1. …moving at their “speed.” My temperament is highly choleric, so I get fired up quickly and attack situations head-on. I need to give grace to those temperaments that are less emotional and want to handle things more strategically. 
  1. …sensitive to their “fears.” It’s insensitive for me to say, “It’s no big deal” about something that troubles them. Empathy is important so I can see and feel things like they see and feel them. 
  1. …helping them battle their “demons.” Perhaps viewing pornography isn’t a temptation for me, but it may be for someone else. So I need to seek out resources and accountability to help them fight this battle like I was fighting my own battle. 
  1. …avoiding their “stumbling blocks.” Perhaps I can watch certain genres of movies without compromising my Christian testimony, but it may cause my brother or sister a lot of grief. If I am going to prefer them in love, I will avoid talking about those movies in their presence, and I certainly won’t try to get them to “lighten up” to see things my way. 

Agape love is never selfish—it doesn’t want “my way” but it wants others to be edified. So, ultimately, what it means to give preference to another is to only promote those things that will build them up. Remember: saints is always plural in the New Testament, so we must build each other up to bring out the saintliness in all of us. 

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

Links & Quotes

Ken Blanchard shared a blog post based on one of the chapters in his book Simple Truths Of Leadership (which I highly recommend to leaders!). He wrote, “When you catch yourself doing things right, everything in your life will improve—especially your relationships. Why? Because it’s fun to be around people who like themselves. After all, if you’re not your own best friend, who will be? And as my dad used to say, ‘If you don’t toot your own horn, others might use it as a spittoon!’”

For all Christians, but especially for those in leadership positions, Jon Bloom shares How to Watch for Wolves: Three Signs of False Teachers.

Fight The New Drug shares the research behind 15 Basic Facts About Human Sex Trafficking.

This is a great lesson from church history on the power of importunate prayer: The Hundred-Year Prayer Meeting.

Mary Slessor set a high bar for missionaries. John Stonestreet reminds us of this amazing woman.

Links & Quotes

C.S. Lewis identifies one of the harmful effects of pornography. “For me the real evil of masturbation would be that it takes an appetite which, in lawful use, leads the individual out of himself to complete (and correct) his own personality in that of another (and finally in children and even grandchildren) and turns it back: sends the man back into the prison of himself, there to keep a harem of imaginary brides. And this harem, once admitted, works against his ever getting out and really uniting with a real woman. For the harem is always accessible, always subservient, calls for no sacrifices or adjustments, and can be endowed with erotic and psychological attractions which no woman can rival.” —C.S. Lewis

“Joy is not a requirement of Christian discipleship; it is a consequence.” —Eugene Peterson

Dan Reiland has an excellent post for leaders entitled 4 Layers To Gaining Wisdom.

In my personal devotional time, I came across a sobering idea in the book of Amos about God’s love. I am reading through the Bible in Halley’s Study Bible, where I also read this: “The basket of ripe fruit [Amos 8] is another symbol that the sinful kingdom was ripe for ruin. And Amos reiterates the causes: greed, dishonesty, and merciless brutality toward the poor. Over and over, through many images, the Bible makes it plain that there is no possible way to escape the consequences of persistent sin.” —Dr. Henry Halley

The Institute for Creation Research has a powerful post explaining how seafloor spreading matches Creation predictions.

J. Warner Wallace wrote, “The historic development of language and communication prepared the way for the birth of Jesus. God orchestrated this timing, along with the development of roads, postal services and a 200-year period peace within the Roman Empire (known as the Pax Romana) to prepare the world for the arrival of Jesus.”

Our church is taking time on Fridays to fast and pray. Here is a reminder of the expected results that I shared with our church family—

Links & Quotes

William Perkins defined theology as, “The science of living blessedly forever.” He also had this word for pastors as they teach theology: “The ‘demonstration of the Spirit’ becomes a reality when, in preaching, the minister of the Word conducts himself in such a way that everyone—even those who are ignorant of the gospel and are unbelievers—recognize that it is not so much the preacher who is speaking but the Spirit of God in him and by him…. This is what makes his ministry living and powerful.”

“Self-trust is the first secret of success.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

80 Years Ago: The Assemblies of God was a founding member of the National Association of Evangelicals, and remains the largest of the 40 denominations that are members of the NAE today.

John Piper identifies five digital dangers and gives us strategies for combating them. I especially thought these insights on pornography were powerful: “More insidious that X-rated videos, we can now not only watch but join the perversity in the privacy of our own den. Interactive porn will allow you to ‘do it’ or make them ‘do it’ virtually. I have never seen it. Nor do I ever intend to. It kills the spirit. It drives God away. It depersonalizes women. It quenches prayer. It blanks out the Bible. It cheapens the soul. It destroys spiritual power. It defiles everything. Resolution: I will never open any app or website for sexual stimulation, nor purchase or download anything pornographic.”

“I could well believe that it is God‘s intention, since we have refused milder remedies, to compel us into unity, by persecution even and hardship. satan is without doubt nothing else than a hammer in the hand of a benevolent and severe God. For all, either willingly or unwillingly, do the will of God: Judas and satan as tools or instruments, John and Peter as sons.” —C.S. Lewis

“The response of Jesus to those guilty of sexual sin is not to condemn nor condone the sin. I see in His example [John 8:10-12] a good pattern: (1) Love first—‘I don’t condemn you’; (2) Speak the truth—‘Sin no more.’” —Kevin Berry. The world has made “love” mean accepting whatever the other person is doing, and “truth” now means agreeing with the other person. With the Holy Spirit’s help, we can speak the truth in love without condemning nor condoning.

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