Forgiveness

1 John 1:9 in the New Tesament of the Bible says, “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and  to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”. To confess means that we admit that we sinned, broken God’s law, that we totally own the responsibility of what we did without blaming others, justifying, or excusing what we did. That is a hard thing for us to do because of our pride that we were born with, and seems to get stronger in us with each passing year. But the promise in this passage is quite amazing, God will forgive and He will cleanse. That means that God will forget our sin never to remember it against us, He will remove the guilt of that sin out of our heart, and He will weaken  the hold that particular sin has on us to continue to do it. All we have to do is say, “I did it”.

I know that because admitting we sinned is so hard for us to do, we will just forget to think about our life and confess our sins. If we have unforgiven sin in our life because we have failed to take advantage of this amazing gift of God, God will not answer our prayers, we will not understand the Bible, we will be tired, we will feel guilty, we will be sad and depressed, our relationships with other people will suffer, and we will drift away from God and our faith.

Because I want all the blessings from God of being totally forgiven washed, and cleansed of all my sins I have established a daily habit, ritual, and discipline of examining my life carefully each and every night before I go to bed and confessing all known sin to God. I journal  as a tool for helping me to remember what I did that day that was wrong, unloving, selfish, and hurtful to others.

It doesn’t take long to replay the day and examine my life and to confess to God where I blew it that day, but the rewards and benefits are amazing. I never forget to brush my teeth, and I never forget to take a spiritual bath every night.

Millenials

Each generation of people in the USA is given a title and studied and written about, mostly by those in other generations. Each generation is approximately 20 years in length. I am a “Boomer”, born after World War II to parents who lived through the “Great Depression”, and the War, who were given the title “Builders”. The “Millenials” are that segment of our population that were born from 1980 to the year 2000. There is a few years of variation depending on who you read, but that is pretty close to the average.

As I read about this generation and others in an attempt to understand people, and how to affectively reach them with the gospel the strengths and weaknesses of each generation are a major part of what is studied, surveyed, and written about. Of all the generations I don’t think any generation gets as much bad written about them then the “Millennials”.

6 of our 8 kids were born after 1980, and I think they are pretty good kids, or I guess now I should call them young adults. Today I went and spoke to a class of young people who are studying to go into ministry at Corban University, and they all fell into this generation. I enjoyed my time in the class very much, and was impressed with those in the class by their obvious desire to learn, their attentiveness, and their good manners, in regards to how they honored me.

A smaller percentage of “Millenials” attend church than any other generation, but the reason is because there are so few churches that offer more than superficial religion. They are coming back to churches where they can have a genuine encounter with God with people who are transparent and real in their pursuit of God.

Hearing God

God created us, and the best word to describe who we are in our relationship with God is His children. For Himself He desires our love, our honor, our fellowship, and our submission to Him. For us He desires our happiness, our success, or growth in character, and our growth in living for and serving Him. God, as God directs and leads us into His perfect plan and will for our life. He communicates to us His will. He has communicated to us through His Word, the Bible, but He also communicates to us in a personal way, He communicates to us individually. There are lots of ideas, beliefs, and opinions on how He does this, so let me share with you what I believe is a major way that God speaks to me.

Because of the principle that the church is called a “body”, and that each of us that are part of a church family are like a part of a physical body, such as  a foot, a hand, an eye, a tongue etc. Those who are part of a church family are part of a group of people who have chosen to meet together, to worship together, to pray together, to study the Bible together. God works in us as a whole much more than as an individual. That principle is mostly ignored by most Christians.  That would mean that my church family is very important to me, and I am very important to them. God has made the church in such a way that we very much need each other.

I believe that God’s primary way of communicating to me now, beyond the Bible is through other people, especially through those who are part of my church family. On their part it is mostly not on purpose, they just talk like we all do but God working in and through them prompts them to say something that is His words for me.  There are several requirements for this to work for me. First I must believe that God will speak to me through people. Second, I must pay attention to the conversations that I have with people, especially as we are gathered together as a church family, and listen carefully as I anticipate hearing from Him. The more I anticipate and listen the better I get at hearing statements that I believe are directed to me. I hear his praise for doing well, I hear his direction for my life, I hear his reproof and correction for sins, attitudes. and apathy, and I hear His love for me as His son.

Death

A good friend died yesterday totally unexpected. He had just gone to the doctor and they declared him in good health, but then he died of a heart attack.  It was quick, one of those heart attacks where the person probably goes almost instantly. I called him a good friend though I really didn’t know him very well.  He came to church faithfully with his wife and he almost always made a point of taking the time to talk to me after the service and tell me how good the service was and how much he loved Jesus and how much he  wanted to please Him. He regularly would write me a letter, and share all the changes that had taken place in his life over the last couple of years because of my influence. He was one of those guys who after you visited with him for ten minutes you felt like singing or whistling or dancing, whatever you feel like doing when you are feeling really happy. He was a happy guy and made those around him feel happy, at least he did me.

Probably nothing tests a person’s faith as much as death does. By test, I mean, what do we really believe without a hint of doubt. It seems that at the point of someone’s death is when all the questions pop into my head. When someone dies that you really like and love, and it is one day he is here on earth and the next he isn’t. Then the thoughts come; where is he? What is he feeling?  What is he seeing and hearing? What is his new body like?  Does he see and hear me?  Maybe when we die we just turn to dirt, and there are no memories, no awareness, nothing.  What if all this Christian, Bible, Church stuff is just so much pretending, fairy tales, brain washing as kids by our parents.   That doesn’t seem reasonable to me. I think that the sense of eternity that is in me is more than just having been programed as a kid growing up. Yep, it is all true. I know it. If it is I will live like it is.

How I live, that is probably the greater test of my faith. Do I believe what I believe with enough faith and passion that everything I do is impacted. How I talk to people. My pursuit of holiness. My values. What makes me happy. How quickly I forgive others. What I spend my money on. I believe that Jesus is God, that He became flesh, that He lived a perfect sinless life, that He was crucified on a cross and that while He hung on that cross all my sin was put on Him and He paid the price, He was punished in my place, I believe that He died, was buried and rose from the dead three days later and that I am going to live with Him forever. I do believe.

On being a leader

Leadership is influence.  Leadership is being a change agent. Hopefully as I lead I am influencing people for the good, and I am changing people to become more Christ like in their behavior and character.  Some leaders are powerful, that is they influence a lot and motivate people to change radically. How can I become a more powerful leader? I have asked that question of myself hundreds of times, and have sought wisdom everywhere on how to grow as a leader. I have written out 4 commitments that I will work at keeping in order to grow as a leader.

(1) I will be a positive person who sees all the good that people do, even the very small things. I will not fuss, complain or grumble about what people don’t do.  If I am critical in my thinking, I sooner or later will become critical in my words. When that happens my ability to change people to be like Jesus is  gone.

(2) I will pray every week for every person who I have any responsibility to. Everything that I see that needs changed I will ask God to work in their life, to convict them, to give them power, and help them see their character and behavior flaws and weaknesses.

(3) As I see character and behavior needs and flaws in people I will recognize and admit that I am responsible before God to influence, to train, to motivate, to encourage, and to correct them so that they will grow. As I see deficiencies in people I need to own the responsibility for their existence in people, and not blame them.  When I take responsibility I will be motivated to learn skills from others, read books, go to seminars, and become a powerful leader.

(4) I will love those who are my responsibility to influence and change for good. My love is not an emotion towards them, it is a commitment towards them. The ultimate act of love is to forgive those I love of anything that they do, no matter how bad or how often they do it.  Love is patient, love is kind, love forgives, love does not take offense, love looks for the good.

Humility II

Another definition of humility that I came up with for myself as I pursue this character trait is, “Humility is having  healthy self-worth without needing to be better than someone else. Feeling good about my accomplishments without needing to compare myself to others to determine how good my accomplishments are”.  I go over this definition whenever I am going to be in a situation where I am tempted to compare or compete in an unhealthy way. Whenever I am around Pastors I want to be able to encourage, teach, coach, and mentor from an attitude of humility. Any kind or amount of “I’m cool” attitude is picked up by others, and causes them to be resistant to any input from me into their lives, and God who knows my heart and motives will certainly withhold His blessings.

A test recently came into my life in this area. Mike Dedera my associate pastor at JBC recently took over doing most of the preaching.  Mike has been on staff for about 10 years, and has filled in for me periodically preaching, and done a host of other pastoral responsibilities around JBC that freed me up to spend a lot of time studying and preparing my sermons each week. Last March and April I was gone on a two month bicycle trip across the USA from San Diego, California to St Augustine, Florida. While on that trip while I was working on sermons in the evening I was impressed by God to have Mike take over the preaching. My initial reaction to that thought that had popped into my head was,”yeh, right!” , but the more I thought about it the more I knew it was God.

He has been doing that now for about 4 or 5 months. This last Sunday a lady visited from near Eugene. She had come to church specifically to hear me preach because she had listened to me preach on the radio every morning while she drove to work for years and she wanted to meet me. I was chatting with her after the service as I walked around greeting people who were visitors. She didn’t know who I was, and assumed I was just an usher/greeter because I had given her a bulletin when she came in before the service. As I greeted her after the service, I said I hope you enjoyed your visit, and she responded by saying she had come to hear Pastor Dee, and she was very disappointed when the service started and Pastor Mike was preaching, but that by the time he was done she was glad because he was a much better preacher! I have to admit that her statement made me blink and take a step backwards. I quickly walked away before someone came along and called me by name and embarrassed the lady.

As I walked away I thought, “well, I think I am doing alright with that. I truly am rejoicing over the fact that JBC is getting good preaching post Dee Duke, and I can feel good about what I have done in the past without comparing myself to others. “Dear Lord, bless Mike and anoint his preaching so everyone who hears will be stirred into accerated spiritual growth”.

Humility

Humility as a character trait has a number of definitions. As I have thought about humility, what it is and how to get it, I have come up with some definitions, descriptions, and best practices to accelerate my growth in becoming a humble man. A definition that I have developed for myself and for those I have some influence over in training is, “Humility is recognizing that I need others in my life to grow in wisdom, character, and skill. I need their example to imitate,  their counsel when I am stuck or confused, their teaching of the wisdom they have gained from experience, their coaching to fine tune the skills I need in order to succeed, their encouragement when I am discouraged, their admonition when I am unmotivated and lazy, their correction and scolding when I mess up, and their fervent prayers for God’s power, guidance, and protection.” A key part of this humility is recognizing and admitting that the more people I have helping me the faster I can grow. The number of people helping me is the direct result of my seeking and asking. The act of seeking and asking for help is where the rubber meets the road in the character trait of humility. The act of asking others for help is both the method of becoming more humble and the obvious act of being humble. It is embarrassing for me to remember and think of all the times I mucked through a project because I was to proud to ask for counsel or help. “I could figure it out myself”, “I could do it myself”.  Once while Patty and I were on a 100 mile canoe trip in a wilderness area in British Colombia on our one year anniversary of being married, we got caught in a huge rain storm. The result was everything got very wet including our matches. I tried and tried to get a fire going, but I just couldn’t get those wet matches to light,and when I finally got one to go the wood was so wet it refused to catch on fire. There was another camp about 100 yards through the woods. We could hear them talking and enjoying themselves because they had a big, warm fire. Patty suggested that I walk over to their camp and ask for some matches and dry wood, but I refused because I could do it without help. I probably didn’t impress my new wife that night as we slept in wet sleeping bags freezing to death because I refused to ask for help. I wonder quite often how much further ahead I would be in life had I learned more and grew faster because I asked for help way more often.