Check Your Inputs
Pastor Craig shared the next installment in our ongoing series on mental health. Please check out this short recap he shared on his blog, and scroll down to watch the video of his full sermon.
Jesus was the healthiest Person to ever walk planet Earth. When Luke, a physician, tells us about the growth of Jesus, he says first that “Jesus grew in wisdom.” (Luke 2:52). That is our indication that a healthy mind is at the foundation for every other aspect of health.
But mental health doesn’t stay in your mind—it affects every other part of your life. Likewise, all of the other parts of your life can enhance or drain your mental health. We are created as interconnected beings. For instance, it’s hard to think correctly when you’re physically tired, spiritually drained, or involved in an unhealthy relationship. It’s also true that it’s hard to make good decisions about your physical health, stay focused on God, or handle your relationships successfully if you aren’t thinking correctly.
We see the apostles writing about our wholly healthiness—
Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. (3 John 2)
Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. (1 Thessalonians 5:23 NLT)
When my laptop is disconnected from the monitors I use at our church building, the message on the screen tells me to “check your inputs.” That’s not just for inanimate technology, but for us too: To maintain good overall health, we need to check our physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional inputs.
Let’s start with the physical inputs. When we are active during the day our bodies release a stress hormone called cortisol. Stress is not a bad thing—it’s a normal thing. A body that isn’t stressed will atrophy and become susceptible to disease. Balanced, healthy stress is called eustress, and unbalanced, unhealthy stress is called distress.
Cortisol is naturally flushed from the body in two ways: exercise and sleep. Exercise is important to keep our bodies moving effectively, and sleep helps us recover and helps our brains catalogue our memories (see 1 Timothy 4:8; Psalm 3:5). To fuel our exercise and our sleep requires the energy which we get from a healthy diet.
So if you’re not thinking healthy thoughts, check your physical inputs: Am I getting the proper amount of sleep? Am I exercising regularly? Am I eating properly? Do I see a doctor for a checkup?
How about spiritual inputs? Somewhat surprisingly, our spirits are kept healthy very much along the same lines as our physical bodies—proper food, appropriate exercise, and a time of rest. Our spiritual food is God’s Word, our exercise is working out what we’ve studied in the Bible, and our rest is called sabbathing (Jeremiah 15:16; Matthew 7:24-27; James 2:17). Jesus demonstrated all of these in His life and we, too, should follow His example.
If you’re not thinking healthy thoughts, check your spiritual inputs: Am I reading the Bible regularly? Am I putting what I learn into practice? Am I sabbathing properly?
Then there our emotional inputs, or the relationships that build us and relationships that drain us. You are always going to encounter people in need, and ministering to those needs is draining (Luke 8:45-46). We also need to be alert to those antagonistic people who purposely drain us (2 Timothy 4:14-15). We can make decisions to place people in our lives who build us up and be cautious of those who drain us (Proverbs 27:3, 5-6, 9, 17).
Once again, if you’re not thinking healthy thoughts, check your emotional inputs: Do I have healthy people investing in my life? Am I sharpening the iron of others?
Finally, let’s not forget the mental inputs. Computer programmers are well aware of the acronym GIGO: garbage in, garbage out. If you don’t like the results that are coming out, check what is going in. The apostle Paul gives us an outstanding checklist in Philippians 4:8.
If your mental health isn’t as healthy as you would like it to be, perhaps you need to talk to your doctor about your physical health, or a mature spiritual friend about your spiritual health, or a Christian counselor about your emotional health. As you consult with these wise people, continue to pray for God’s help. As your Creator, He knows you better than anyone else could and He can give you the wisdom you need as you check your inputs.
This is part 5 in our series on a Christian’s mental health. If you’ve missed any of the other messages I’ve shared, you can find them all by clicking here.
Intimacy Expands Our Influence
For Pentecost Sunday, Pastor Craig took us back to our series called We Are: Pentecostal. This is the recap he shared on this blog, and you can scroll down to find the video of the full message.
Let’s say you are thinking about buying a particular book. Are you more likely to buy that book because the author says it’s good, because a book reviewer says it’s good, or because a close friend says it’s good? I think all of us give more weight to the suggestions from our friends, especially because they have nothing to gain from making that suggestion.
In the same way, when someone close to us says, “I know from personal experience that following Jesus is the best decision that I have ever made. Making Jesus my Lord and Savior has completely changed everything for me,” it’s easier for us to make that same decision for ourselves.
The deeper the level of our intimacy with someone usually means we have more influence with them.
The Holy Spirit is as much a Person as Jesus. As much as Jesus dominates the pages of the Gospels, the Holy Spirit dominates the pages of The Book of Acts.
Jesus told us all about the Holy Spirit when He was discussing His ascension. He wasn’t going to leave us as orphans, but told us of the intimate connection the Spirit would make for us. For instance, Jesus said, “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you for ever—the Spirit of Truth” (John 14:16-17).
Notice that Jesus considers the Holy Spirit an irreplaceable and coequal part of the Godhead—I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor (see also Matthew 3:16-17; Luke 10:21; Matthew 28:19).
The word Jesus uses for Counselor is parakletos. This means One who comes alongside to help us. I like all the words the Amplified Bible uses: “Comforter—Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, and Standby.” Indeed, Luke records numerous instances where the Holy Spirit is alongside Christians to strengthen and encourage them (for instance: Acts 4:8, 6:10, 9:31).
Notice as well that Jesus tells us that as a part of the Trinity the Holy Spirit is eternal: “to be with you for ever.” Because the Holy Spirit is fully God, He knows the end from before the beginning. His perspective is infinite, so He can guide us in ways that only One who can see everything could guide us. For example, He leads us to places we might not have chosen on our own (Luke 4:1; Acts 8:29), or stops us from going somewhere at the wrong time (Acts 16:7), or talking with people we might have overlooked (Acts 10:19, 11:12).
Jesus also calls the Him the Spirit of Truth. He reveals things that we could not have perceived with our natural minds (see Acts 5:1-9).
And Jesus calls the Holy Spirit a great Teacher, “The Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:26). So we see the Holy Spirit helping us apply Scripture to our prayers (Acts 4:25-26) and to incredibly complex and delicate situations (Acts 11:15-18, 15:1-21).
The Holy Spirit is not a force to fear but a Person to know ever more intimately.
When our lives are transformed and expanding because of an intimate, ongoing, vibrate relationship with the Holy Spirit, we are witness (Acts 1:8). You cannot exhaust all that the Spirit has for you, so keep abiding and growing in that intimate relationship. Let it be said of you as it was said of Peter and John: “We can tell you have been with Jesus!” (Acts 4:13).
I’ve said this before, but I’m going to keep on saying it—Don’t stop at salvation, but press on to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. Then allow Him to transform the way you think, love, and live!
If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series called We Are: Pentecostal, you can find them all by clicking here.
Jesus In The Seven Feasts
We had a special guest speaker on Sunday. Here is the recap Pastor Craig shared on his blog.
Douglas Carmel from Rock Of Israel ministries shared an amazing overview of the seven Jewish feasts that are listed in the Book of Leviticus, and how Jesus is the fulfillment of all of these feasts. Doug was born into a Jewish family and became a Christian in his late teens, so he has firsthand knowledge of both the traditional celebrations and the Christian understanding of these feasts.
One of the things I appreciated was Doug’s explanation that the feasts were merely a shadow of the reality—Jesus is the Reality!
Please check out the message he shared at Calvary Assembly of God. I encourage you to visit his website to get more information on all of the ministries Rock Of Israel.
Passover—celebrated on the 14th day of the first month
- Leviticus 23:4-5
- Matthew 26:17-29; Mark 14:12-26; Luke 22:7-20
- Jesus was crucified on the same day that the Passover lamb was being sacrificed
Unleavened Bread—celebrated on the 15th day of the first month
- Leviticus 23:6
- 1 Corinthians 5:6-9
Firstfruits—celebrated on the 16th day of the first month (or the day after the Sabbath)
- Leviticus 23:9-14
- 1 Corinthians 15:12-26
Seven Weeks—celebrated 50 days after Firstfruits
- Leviticus 23:15-21
- Also known as Pentecost
- Acts 2:1-41
Doug called our attention to the calendar on which these feasts appeared. Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, and Seven Weeks all happen in the spring. All four of these feasts have already been fulfilled in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
There are no feasts in the summer months, as these are the months of field work (Leviticus 23:22). This is where we are now, which is why Jesus told us, “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field” (Matthew 9:38). This is the time for us to tell others about Jesus the Messiah!
The final three feasts appear in the autumn—Trumpets, Atonement, and Tabernacles. These are feasts that are still to be fulfilled at Christ’s Second Advent.
Trumpets—celebrated on the 1st day of the seventh month
- Leviticus 23:23-25
- This is also known as Rosh Hashanah when the shofar is blown
- 1 Corinthians 15:51-53; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18
Atonement—celebrated on the 10th day of the seventh month
- Leviticus 23:26-32
- This is also known as Yom Kippur—the one day of the year the high priest goes into the Holy of Holies
- Romans 11:25-32; Matthew 23:39
Tabernacles—celebrated on the 15th through the 21st days of the seventh month
- Leviticus 23:33-43
- The “New Testament” reference actually occurs in Zechariah 14:1-16 because it is a prophetic word looking ahead to the Millennial reign of Jesus in the capital of Jerusalem
Jesus said of Himself, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty” (Revelation 1:8). Jesus is THE Reality and THE Fulfillment of all of these celebrations!
Faith Eternally Rewarded
Pastor Craig shared an encouraging word for all of our Moms on Mother’s Day. Here is the recap he shared on his blog, and you can also scroll down to watch the video of the full message.
One of the things I remember the most about my Mom is her fierce belief that God had a plan for my life. There were times I struggled in my belief, but she was tenacious in her faith on my behalf. I’m here today doing what I do—which I love doing!—because of my Mom’s faith-filled, persistent prayers. So if I could give two words of encouragement to godly mothers who are praying for their kids it would be this: Don’t quit!
In 2 Kings we meet a godly woman who very much wanted to be a mother. While she waited and prayed for an answer to this prayer, she kept ministering to others. One of the men who benefitted from her gracious hospitality was the prophet Elisha. Whenever the prophet would pass through Shunem, he would stay that this woman’s house, where she and her husband had prepared a room especially for him.
It appears this Shunammite woman is married to a man much older than her. They are without a male heir, so if her husband dies she will lose everything—no property, no voice, no source of income. Clearly this has to be a concern for her, but she doesn’t mention this to Elisha when he asks how he can bless her for their care for him. Perhaps she had resigned herself to the thought that her barrenness was a hopeless situation, but Elisha told her that in a year’s time she would become pregnant with a son. She must have been disappointed before because she says, “Don’t mislead your servant,” as if saying, “Don’t get my hopes up again!”
However, God does give this couple a son, and that little boy is dearly loved! At a very young age, this boy dies suddenly. This could have been a time that anger or depression could have been expected. But not with this woman!
Remember when we looked at Psalm 42 last week? The psalmist was grateful for the experience he had in God’s presence, but now that there is a setback of some kind he is struggling with the “Where is your God?” taunt from his enemies.
When God answers our prayer, the devil loves to whisper, “Lucky break. You didn’t really deserve this.” So if anything goes wrong he can lie again, “See, I told you so!”
This is where we must not merely listen to those thoughts but talk back to them. Perhaps the Shunammite said something like, “You’re right, I didn’t deserve this or earn this gift of my son. This is a gift from God’s grace. God promised this son to me and I believe God will preserve what He gives.”
Moms, you must cling to God tenaciously in faith-filled prayer!
This godly mother shows us what tenacious faith looks like. She took her son into Elisha’s room, placing him on the prophet’s bed, and she quickly sends word to her husband that she is going to find Elisha. When her husband asks what is wrong, her faith-filled answer is, “It’s all right.”
As she gets close to Elisha’s home, he sees her in the distance and sends his servant Gehazi to ask, “Is everything okay?” To which she gives the same faith-filled reply, “Everything is all right.”
When she finally gets to Elisha, she grabs onto him and says words that must have gotten Elisha’s attention immediately: “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” These are the exact same words Elisha said to Elijah three times on the day Elijah was taken to heaven. Just as Elisha clung to the promise of God’s blessing, so did this mother (see 2 Kings 2:2, 4, 6).
God did answer her prayer and raised her son back to life. But this wasn’t the end of the blessing.
Remember that a widow without a son has no standing in the community. To be saved from a famine in Israel, this woman and her family lived for seven years in Philistia. While they were there, her husband died and squatters took over her property.
But in God’s perfect foresight and timing, this woman and her miracle son walked into the king’s throne room just as Gehazi was telling the king about the miraculous resurrection Elisha prayed for. The king is so moved by this story that he doesn’t just restore her land, but he orders the squatters to pay back to her all of the income they earned from her land during the time she was away!
Not just restoration, but blessings beyond imagining (see 2 Kings 8:1-6).
We don’t know who wrote Psalm 116, but it very well could have been this boy who was raised to life. The opening verses talk about God’s deliverance from death, but then the psalm says, “I serve you just as my mother did” (v. 16).
This woman’s tenacious faith resulted in immediate provision for her, a legacy of faith in her son, and a testimony that is still encouraging us 3000 years later!
So let me repeat this to godly mothers who are praying for their families: Don’t quit! There are eternal testimonies and rewards coming that you cannot even perceive!
Talk Back To Your Thoughts
Pastor Craig continued our series on a Christian’s mental health on Sunday. Here is the recap he posted on his blog, and you can scroll down to find the video of the full message.
Do you talk to yourself?
Of course you do. We all talk to ourselves: it’s called “thinking.”
But do you talk out loud when you talk to yourself?
An unhealthy habit for most of us is that our thoughts are only a one-way monologue. That is, we are listening to our thoughts but we are not talking back to them. As a result, everything negative we’ve heard from our enemies is bouncing around in our heads. The more we hear it, the more likely we are to believe it.
In Psalm 42, we hear from a psalmist who is longing to experience God’s presence but at the same time there’s a nagging thought implanted by skeptics: “Where is your God?” The psalmist reminisces how it used to be, which means there is a nagging doubt in his mind that it may never be like that again.
But finally, the psalmist does the mentally healthy thing: he talks back to his thoughts. He asks himself a question and then he gives a new response—a response that is hope-filled instead of doubt-plagued.
Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God. My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember You. (Psalm 42:5-6)
When the nagging thought of “Where is your God?” comes up again just a couple of verses later, he doesn’t linger or brood over this doubt-inducing thought but immediately talks back to that negative voice with hope-filled words (vv. 10-11).
The devil has a singular agenda: to separate you from God. He does this through lies and doubts. Jesus told us the devil’s native language is lies: “He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).
The Bible tells us that the devil can also put thoughts and desires in our hearts, but they are all lies (see John 13:2; Acts 5:3).
We cannot let these lies go unchallenged, so here’s our battle strategy:
For the weapons of our warfare are not physical weapons of flesh and blood, but they are mighty before God for the overthrow and destruction of strongholds, inasmuch as we refute arguments and theories and reasonings and every proud and lofty thing that sets itself up against the true knowledge of God; and we lead every thought and purpose away captive into the obedience of Christ—the Messiah, the Anointed One. (2 Corinthians 10:4-5 AMP)
There are five questions we need to use to talk to ourselves about the thoughts we hear:
- Is this thought unbiblical? (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
- Does this thought rob God of the glory due His name (Psalm 29:1-11)?
- Does this thought stifle my love for God or others (Mark 12:28-31)?
- If I linger on this thought, does it rob me of peace (Isaiah 26:3-4)?
- Does this thought make me apathetic toward sin (Genesis 4:7)?
(Check out all of the above verses by clicking here.)
If we answer “yes” to any of these questions, we must capture that thought and put it to death, which requires the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17). Because of what Jesus has done for us on the Cross, every promise in God’s Word is “yes and amen” in Jesus, and therefore is an invincible weapon against lying thoughts (2 Corinthians 1:20).
Here’s how we use those promises:
For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb AND by the word of their testimony. (Revelation 12:10-11)
Listen to your thoughts, but don’t listen too long before you start to challenge them with these five questions. Then demolish those lies—triumph over them by the blood of the Lamb and your spoken testimony. Speak the truth out loud for all to hear.
This is part 4 in our series on a Christian’s mental health. If you’ve missed any of the other messages I’ve shared, you can find them all by clicking here.
Unity Enhances Our Witness
Pastor Craig continued our look at Pentecostal Christians on Sunday. Here is the recap he posted on his blog. You can also scroll down to find the video link to watch this full sermon.
Last week we mentioned that one of the things the Holy Spirit did after the Day of Pentecost was to unite individual Christians into the Church. In a world divided by religious and political factions, the unity of the Christians set them apart. Is our culture any different? Of course not! So the unity that the Holy Spirit brings is just as vital today.
In Psalm 133, David longs for this unity among believers. This psalm is in the collection of “Songs of Ascent.” That means that pilgrims to Jerusalem sang these songs as they literally went up the hill to Jerusalem. Psalm 133 opens with David singing, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters live together in unity” (v. 1).
Maybe David thought back to the time when people were joining him to give him support as king—David went out to meet them and said to them, “If you have come peaceably to me to help me, my heart shall be knit to you…” (1 Chronicles 12:17 AMP). In the next two verses of Psalm 133, David explains how this unity from being knit together is seen as a blessing.
Last week, we talked about the blessing of peace the priests pronounced on the people. That word for “peace” is shalomwhich could be defined as “nothing missing.” But couldn’t we also say that shalom is “no one missing”? Yes, because each and every part of the Body of Christ is vital and indispensable!
We see this same unity when the followers of Jesus were baptized in the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. Acts 2:1 says these Christians were “all together” (or some translations say “one accord”). This is one word in Greek (homothumadon) which describes the beauty of unity. One Greek dictionary defines this word, “The image is almost musical; a number of notes are sounded which, while different, harmonize in pitch and tone. As the instruments of a great concert under the direction of a concert master, so the Holy Spirit blends together the lives of members of Christ’s church.”
This picture of a majestic musical is further amplified in the next verses of Acts 2 where people from all over the world heard these Christians praising God in their own native tongues. Luke goes on to use homothumadon again and again throughout Acts to show what a powerful testimony their unity was to the watching world.
Paul emphasized the need for unity in the Church when he wrote—
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.(Ephesians 4:1-6)
How does the Holy Spirit help us handle our differences and keep this unity? We first need the Spirit’s help to distinguish whether it’s a biblical, unbiblical, or non-biblical issue.
- Biblical issues must send us back to the Bible to find the truth (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
- Unbiblical issues—where a brother or sister is living in a way contrary to Scripture—call on us to speak the truth in love and correct in love only after allowing the Holy Spirit to examine our own lives (Ephesians 4:15; Matthew 7:1-5; James 5:19-20). Notice that we are to do this with fellow brothers and sisters, not with those outside the Church.
- Non-biblical issues are the trickiest. These are issues over which we should immediately stop fighting as we defer to the weakest brother or sister (Romans 12:10, 14:19-21).
(I wrote much more about biblical, unbiblical, and non-biblical issues here, and how to correctly apply the principle of confrontation here.)
The Church needs this unity today. We need to be in “one accord.” In a world divided by religious and political factions, our unity enhances our witness.
If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series We Are: Pentecostal, you can check them all out by clicking here.
God’s Blessing Empowers Our Witness
Pastor Craig rejoined our series called We Are: Pentecostal. Here is the recap he shared on his blog. Scroll down to find the link to watch the video.
Last week we learned that we have a job to do. If we want to see Jesus come back to take us Home, we need to share the Good News with everyone. Jesus said that we didn’t have to obey Him in this Great Commission by ourselves, but we can go in His authority and with the empowerment of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 24:14; 28:18-20; Acts 1:8).
In Acts 1:8 notice that Jesus said we are “be My witnesses.” This isn’t an action first, but they are actions that spring out of who we are. So we need to ask: How are we to be His witnesses? Answer: By being blessed by God!
God has desired that we know the blessing of His presence since the very beginning. He instructed the priests to bless the people with these words:
The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace. (Number 6:24-26)
The Hebrew word for “peace” in this passage is shalom. One of the most basic definitions for shalom is “nothing missing.” In other words, we are blessed people when we realize there is nothing keeping us back from God’s presence.
If you asked someone in the Old Testament where they thought God’s presence was, they would probably point you to the Tent of Meeting or the Tabernacle in Jerusalem. But that was merely a foreshadowing of what God truly desired for His relationship with us. Jesus promised His followers, “On that day you will realize that I am in My Father, and you are in Me, and I am in you” (John 14:20). So if Jesus is in the Father, and we are in Him, that means we are also in the Father. In this position, we can experience the nearness to the Father that Jesus knows (see Ephesians 1:3-8).
This nearness is our source of peace: Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you (2 Thessalonians 3:16). In this verse, the Greek word for “peace” is eirene, which means a soul at utter peace with God because it is assured of its eternal Home in God’s presence.
Blessed people are abundance people. Blessed people have all their needs supplied so that they can be a conduit of blessing to others. Our increasing awareness of God’s blessing empowers us to be witnesses for Him.
Let me take you back to the Book of Psalms. In Psalm 67, the psalmist asks for God’s blessing on his life four times in just seven short verses. Why does he desire this blessing? It’s not for himself but for others. Look at just the first two verses of this psalm:
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make His face shine on us THAT Your ways may be known on earth, Your salvation among all nations.
Recall that Jesus commissioned us to go to all nations and that the Holy Spirit empowers our witness to all peoples. This psalmist is asking for God’s blessing so that he can be a witness to everyone. Nine times he says that he desires that all nations or all peoples will know and worship the Most High God.
God’s blessing on His people is really SO THAT all peoples and nations can see His blessing and turn to Him. One of the roles of the Holy Spirit in a believer’s life is to remind us that we are indeed blessed in Jesus, and that we have a mission to fulfill in taking that blessing to others.
The Holy Spirit positions us to be blessed in Christ. This blessing empowers us to be a witness to all peoples so that they can come to God through Jesus.
It is good for us to pray for the Spirit’s blessing on our lives so that we can BE a blessing to all nations and peoples.
If you would like to check out all of the other messages in our series called We Are: Pentecostal, please click here.
We Are: Pentecostal
Pentecost for over 1500 years was a celebration in Jerusalem that brought in Jews from all over the world. But on the Day of Pentecost which came just ten days after Jesus ascended back into heaven, the meaning of Pentecost was forever changed!
Followers of Jesus—now empowered by an infilling of the Holy Spirit—began to take the good news of Jesus all over the world. These Spirit-filled Christians preached the Gospel and won converts to Christ even among hostile crowds, performed miracles and wonders, stood up to pagan priests and persecuting governmental leaders, and established a whole new way of living as Christ-followers.
We, too, can be Pentecostal followers of Jesus Christ today. We can experience an anointing and an empowering in our lives that turns ordinary Christianity into extraordinary Christianity!
Please join us this Sunday at Calvary Assembly of God as we rejoin this series. You can check out what I taught in this series in 2019 by clicking here, the messages from 2020 are here, the messages from 2021 are here, and the messages from 2022 are here.
Pull The Weeds
Pastor Craig shared the second mental health strategy for us in our series A Christian’s Mental Health. Here is the recap he shared on his blog. You may also scroll down to watch the video of the full message.
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.
Pastor Craig shared the first message in our series that will continue once per month throughout 2023 about a Christian’s mental health. This is the short recap he shared on his blog. You can also scroll down to watch the video of the full message.
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.