You Have To Be Tuned In To Yourself

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.

From all of the podcasts and interviews they had done, Kyle shared with me how so many pastors find it difficult to take a Sabbath break. Kyle noted that a pastor’s day of rest seems to bump into everyone else’s day of work. 

I’ve found this to be true for anyone in leadership, even if they’re not a pastor. It seems that a leader’s work is never done, making it very easy to try to maintain a 24/7 availability. If you feel like rest is a difficult thing to maintain, you’re in good company because Jesus had the same struggle. 

That passage in Mark 6 that I mentioned is instructive for leaders in a couple of ways. First, Jesus was looking out for His teammates. He saw that they were tired and He called them to a place of rest. Good shepherds are always tuned in to the needs of the flock around them. As David said in Psalm 23, the Good Shepherd knows when to lead us to quiet pastures and still waters. 

Second, I see that Jesus was also tuned in to Himself. Even though He was trying to get to a quiet place, He took time to minister in teaching and food to a crowd that was described as “sheep without a shepherd.” When this time was finished, Jesus took time alone to pray (Mark 6:46). 

I think sometimes leaders have sabotaged their own health and effectiveness by saying things like, “This is quitting time” or “This is my day off.” Instead, we should listen to the Holy Spirit giving us insight like, “Take a break now. It’s time to go to a quiet pasture. It’s time to recharge in prayer.” 

Leaders, don’t stick rigidly to your schedule but stay tuned in to yourself. Listen for the unmistakable voice of the Holy Spirit giving you wisdom. I have a section of five chapters in my book Shepherd Leadership that deal with every aspect of a leader’s health. Please pick up a copy today.

I’ll be sharing more clips from this Thriving In Ministry 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.

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Optimal Spiritual 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 200churches podcast with Jeff Keady. 

Jeff and I spent a good chunk of our time talking about the health of pastors. I think it is very important for shepherd leaders to be wholly healthy because we cannot give to our flocks what we don’t possess ourselves. 

One of the things that is very interesting to me is the parallels between maintaining our physical health and maintaining our spiritual health. When it comes right down to it, our physical health can be optimized by getting a handle on four key elements: (1) proper diet, (2) regular exercise, (3) appropriate rest and recovery, and (4) regular times of evaluation and adjustment. 

Our spiritual health is optimized with these same four elements. 

As my friend Josh Schram reminded me, “Health is not just a big one-time choice. Health is small daily choices.” Jesus made these daily choices to eat well, exercise regularly, rest when needed, and make the adjustments His Father spoke to His heart. He set us an example for healthy spiritual growth that will keep us in a place to grow our shepherd leadership capacities. 

I have found that we are much more likely to make and stick to a plan to get physically healthy when we have a workout friend or someone who is holding us accountable. The same is true for our spiritual health. So pastor, don’t try to get and stay healthy on your own, but get a trusted friend or two working out alongside you. 

In my book Shepherd Leadership, I have five chapters that focus on a leader’s mental, physical, spiritual, and relational health. I hope you will pick up a copy to help you operate at peak healthiness. 

If you want to catch up on some of the other clips I’ve already shared from this interview, you can find them here, and 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. 

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The Best Laid Plans

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

Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” 

This is a line from a poem written by Robert Burns in 1785 called To A Mouse. The story behind the poem is Burns had been plowing his field and destroyed a nest that a mouse had been working all day to build. His poem was written as an apology. The famous line from the Scottish poet actually is written like this—

The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men
     Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
     For promis’d joy!

That phrase “gang aft agley” means often go awry. 

Do you ever feel this way? Like your perfectly planned agenda got derailed before you even finished breakfast? Or that your To Do list never quite gets “To Done” by the end of the day?  

I had a great time on the Thriving In Ministry podcast with Kyle Willis while his podcast partner Dace Clifton was on sabbatical. We had planned to discuss how to help pastors get some rest so they could be at their optimal health, but our best laid plans definitely “gang aft agley”! We had multiple technical issues before we could even start recording, and then just as we talked about how pastors could find a way to rest, well, this happened…

Ah yes! Plans gone awry, indeed! 

But here is an important principle for all of us to remember. The Bible says this: We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps (Proverbs 16:9). That means the thing that I call “an interruption” may be something or someone God has sent my way. 

I used to really struggle with this, saying things like, “My plans never work out.” Until one day I heard the distinct voice of the Holy Spirit ask me, “Whose plans?” 

Right—I plan, but God directs. 

And He directly perfectly. 

So now I write the initials I.T.L.W. on the top of my well-crafted daily To Do list. That is shorthand for “If the Lord wills” which I took from this passage—

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:13-15) 

Pastor, look at the life of Jesus. He often tried to get away for a time of rest, but people with needs showed up. His well-laid plans appeared to go awry. But He had compassion on them because He viewed them “like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36; Mark 6:34). Jesus then found time to sabbath later. 

Don’t view people with needs as an interruption or as something that derails your plans, but thank God for sending them your way. Then listen to the Holy Spirit showing you how and when you can get the rest you need to be energized to accomplish the rest of the items on your agenda.

I’ll be sharing more clips from this Thriving In Ministry 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. ◀︎◀︎

Sunday ≠ Sabbath

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. 

Kyle and I wanted to help pastors get a better understanding of the value of a sabbath rest, but also an understanding of the challenges that come with trying to sabbath. Throughout the Old Testament, we read of God taking the Israelites to task for their unwillingness to rest, which ultimately led to them having to take a forced rest.   

As I mentioned in this interview, just because the calendar says “Sunday” doesn’t automatically mean that it’s a sabbath day. This is especially true for pastors who are busily engaged in ministry activities on Sundays. But I take comfort in the example of Jesus who showed shepherd leaders how to make sabbathing an active and integral part of effective ministry. 

I have a chapter in my book Shepherd Leadership called “A Healthy Shepherd’s Sabbath,” and then I have a follow-up chapter called “Can’t, Won’t, or Don’t” which addresses some changes pastors can make to ensure they are getting the vital rest they need. If you are a church leader, I encourage you to pick up a copy of my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter. 

I’ll be sharing more clips from this Thriving In Ministry 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.

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Recovering Mentally

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. 

Kyle asked me a question about how I recharge myself mentally. A key verse in the Bible for me is 2 Corinthians 10:5 where the the apostle Paul counsels us to capture our thoughts. This is extremely hard to do when we are physically or mentally drained. 

In my younger years, I used to try to “do nothing” as my recovery time. As I matured, I realized that top athletes had a different way to help their body recover, and I began to adapt those practices to my time of mental recovery. Dace also shares a very helpful tip for his mental recovery time. 

In my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter I make the case that in order for the sheep to be healthy, the shepherd has to get healthy first. The principle is simple: You cannot give to others what you do not possess yourself. I hope you will pick up a copy of my book to learn how Jesus taught us to be wholly healthy leaders.

I’ll be sharing more clips from this Thriving In Ministry 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? ◀︎◀︎

 

A Healthy On-And-Off

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. 

The guys asked me a question about how I keep myself healthy, and I pointed them to a principle I observed in the life of Jesus. Check out this excerpt from the chapter “A Healthy Leader’s Sabbath” in my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter

     Jesus had a human body just like ours. The demands of ministry caused stress on His body just as it does on our bodies. This is totally natural—this is the way God designed us. Our body helps us meet the demands of each day by releasing a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol helps us by managing how our body uses carbohydrates, fats, and proteins; keeping inflammation down; regulating blood pressure; controlling the sleep-wake cycle; and boosting our energy. … 

     Cortisol is naturally flushed from our bodies by a healthy on-and-off rhythm. God built this into His Creation by giving us daily rhythms of day and night, work and rest, and by providing a weekly Sabbath to rest and reflect. But as most shepherd leaders know, setting aside a consistent Sabbath day is extremely rare. Again, let’s look to Jesus: Do you see Him doing anything—or not doing anything—on the Sabbath day that He didn’t do the other days? On any day of the week, we see Him speaking in a synagogue, healing the sick, teaching crowds of people, giving instructions to His followers, correcting religious leaders, walking with friends, or stopping to eat at someone’s home.  

     Jesus had a healthy on-off rhythm: work-rest, minister-celebrate, expend-refresh. Jesus demonstrated that the Sabbath is not so much a day as it is an attitude of the heart. It’s listening to the Holy Spirit say something like, “You’ve been very busy this afternoon, so it’s time to take a nap” and then obeying that divine prompting. Resting and being refreshed—“sabbathing”—is not a luxury; it’s a necessity! That’s why, after a busy day of ministry, we see Jesus spending time in prayer, or taking a nap while crossing the lake when He didn’t have anyone to teach or heal, or finding time for a retreat with His disciples so they could rest and recuperate. 

I have five chapters in Shepherd Leadership about a leader’s overall health, and two chapters in particular where I talk about practical ways that we can create the time to practice sabbathing.

I’ll be sharing more clips from this Thriving In Ministry 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.

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Poetry Saturday—How Firm A Foundation

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How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?

“Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God, and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.”

“When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow;
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And Sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.”

“When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.”

“E’en down to old age all My people shall prove
My sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love;
And then, when grey hairs shall their temples adorn,
Like lambs they shall still in My bosom be borne.”

“The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no, never, no, never forsake!” —Richard Keene

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Poetry Saturday—Why Art Thou Weary?

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Sad heart, why art thou weary
With anxious strivings drear?
Thou hast no cause for sadness,
No cause for restless fear.
Thou longest for thy Master,
Then cease and be at rest;
For shall not He who made thee
Know what for thee is best? —Oswald Chambers

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Heart Rate Recovery

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

A few years ago Mark Schultz wrote a song about someone living a go-go-go, overly-busy life and he entitled the song “Running just to catch myself.” Ever been there? 

There’s a Hebrew word that shows up 70 times in the Bible (mostly in the Psalms) that, sadly, many English translations of the Bible have relegated to a footnote. That’s too bad because Selah is such a powerful word. Unless we want to live our lives “running just to catch myself,” we all need a take time to Selah. Look how some have translated this word:

  • “Stop there and consider a little” (Matthew Henry) 
  • “the sacred pause” (Charles Spurgeon) 
  • “pause and calmly think of that” (AMP) 

Whether it’s a planned exercise time or just something that frightens or excites us, our heart rate is designed by God to increase—this is how we prepare for fight-or-flight. Doctors say that one of the most vital statistics they now look at to gauge overall cardio health is heart rate recovery (HRR). Doctors want to see a significant increase in HRR after exercise, fright, or excitement. 

A few of the factors that boost HRR:

  • Regular, planned exercise 
  • Getting the proper amount of quality sleep 
  • Reducing stress 

Respond-and-recover is part of a health-building cycle. But if we’re “running just to catch myself” all the time, this time of recovery isn’t happening. Not only are we not recovering well, but we are not properly prepared for the next time our heart needs to start beating faster.   

This HRR is just as vital for us emotionally and spiritually as it is physically: We cannot always be stressed or always be “on.” We need a Selah—a time to stop and consider, a time to take a sacred pause to calmly think. 

This is what David teaches us in Psalm 68. Check out the “bookend verses” where he reminds us that when God arises His enemies are scattered, and that God is awesome and He gives power and strength to His people (vv. 1, 35). And look a the middle verse where David says that when God ascends in victory He gives gifts (v. 18). 

This tells me two things: (1) God is sovereignly in charge (not me or anyone else), and (2) In His love, God delights to use His sovereign power to bless His children. 

The question is not IF I’m going to be confronted by difficult things or difficult people, but HOW will I recover from these confrontations? 

May I suggest a 3-step process to increase your spiritual HRR? 

  1. Acknowledge your situation—don’t try to cover it up or justify it 
  2. Selah—pause to take a deep breath  
  3. During that breath, redirect your thoughts from the difficulty to your awesome God (see 2 Corinthians 10:5; Philippians 4:4-8)

Look at David’s example in this psalm:

Reflect Worship
God defeats enemies (vv. 1-2) Be glad, rejoice, sing (vv. 3-4)
God is a Father and Deliverer (vv. 5-7) Selah (v. 7)
God is sovereignly in control (vv. 8-18) Praise and Selah (v. 19)
God defeated Death (vv. 20-23) Join the procession of worshippers (vv. 24-27) 
God uses His strength to care for His people (vv. 28-31) Sing praises and Selah (vv. 32-35)

As you breathe deeply in this worship of recovery, think on this: “Your sigh can move the heart of Jehovah; your whisper can incline His ear to you; your prayer can stay His hand; your faith can move His arm.” —Charles Spurgeon 

Our Selah pause leads to proper perspective, which allows us to recover more quickly. That, in turn, helps us to be better prepared for the next time we’re confronted by difficulties. 

To check out the other lessons we’ve learned in our ongoing series called Selah, please check out the list I’ve compiled here.

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