Acceptance and Forgiveness

I am 70 years old, and have done a lot of things wrong in those years, and spend every evening examining my life and confessing my sins to God, repenting, and experiencing His forgiveness. I don’t use that gift from God as a license to do whatever I want, my strongest desire in life is to please Him in all that I do.

One of the key principles from God in the Bible is to accept one-another, not to judge one-another, and not to be critical. We are all on a journey and some are farther along than others, so the way things work well is for those farther along to encourage, admonish, coach, and pray for those who are struggling.

I blogged about divorce yesterday. I have lots of very good friends who have been divorced, good friends that are thinking about it, and I am still their good friend. Because I am still good friends with them doesn’t mean I think their choice of divorce was wise. Because I believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God and His will and instruction on how to live life, my view of divorce is what the Bible teaches. Divorce has so many consequences down the road, especially if kids are involved. One of my strongest views and beliefs is that life is supposed to be hard, designed by God that way in order to develop our character so that we are mature, like Jesus when we enter heaven. Our natural tendency is to try to escape hard situations, and so we quit things as a way of escaping. We would be so much more mature and stronger if we would work at our marriage, learn, sacrifice, and pay whatever price it would take to preserve it.

Nothing makes me feel more like a failure as a pastor than people whom I have taught, counseled, and coached choosing to get a divorce. But when they do, I do all I can to encourage and help them continue on with Jesus and to grow stronger. I love them, accept them, go fishing with them, and continue to teach, encourage, admonish, nag all married couples to pursue an excellent marriage.

Divorce

There are some legitimate reasons to get a divorce, but not very many, and I would guess about 90% of those getting divorced are doing so because of their inability to get along. I preached a sermon series years ago called “Get Alongers”, and each sermon in the series addressed a Biblical principle on how to get along with just about any person. When we violate those principles we will have conflict, and conflict in a marriage tends to increase over time as the principles continue to be violated. The continuing conflict results in bitterness, unhappiness, adultery, and divorce.

God has very strong statements in the Bible about marriage and divorce, but very few people have enough fear of the Lord to take seriously His commands and His will for their life.

A really good marriage is possible with just about any married couple, but it takes lots of work and diligence. There are many excellent books on marriage that couples could read, there are CD’s and DVD’s available that have great advice and counsel on how to have a great marriage, there are really good counselors available that can be a referee and teach the key principles on unity and love, and there are seminars and retreats available that make a huge difference in the quality of any couples marriage.

I guess it is just easier to get the divorce than to do the work to have a good marriage, it is just easier to blame your spouse than to be obedient to God and do whatever it takes to make your marriage work.

If anyone wants to work on their marriage and improve the quality of it I can recommend books, CD’s, DVD’s, couples who do marriage mentoring, great counselors, seminars, and retreats.

Success

What does it take to be a successful person? What is success? Who decides if we are successful or a failure? How much will it cost us to be a success? Not how much money will it cost, but what do we have to give up in the way of time? How much effort and work will it take?

We really can’t be declared a successful person until we cross the finish line, until the end of our life, and God is the only one who can declare us a successful person. Every believer in Jesus, every follower of Jesus, every disciple of Jesus will stand before Him at the end of our life and give an account of our life, what did we do for Him that mattered, that made a difference in some other persons life.

“Mismanaged successes in life are the major causes of a failed life, and well managed failures in life are the main causes of a successful life. ” I read that quote, and it made me blink, that is I stopped and read it again real slow knowing that it was profound, but not sure what it meant, but wanting to. There is no truly great person who hasn’t conquered something. David conquered Goliath, Joshua conquered the promised land, Noah conquered a world wide flood, and Jesus conquered death.

I can conquer bad habits, character flaws, fears, events that come into my life for no apparent reason and those events that I caused. Truly successful people are always looking for something to conquer, and the bigger and badder the better.

Romans 8:37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.

Fishing

I decided to go fishing today. I planned on taking my 9 foot pontoon boat in the back of my pickup to Freeway Lakes and fishing for Crappie. When I got there I was pumping up the two pontoons when my pump broke. I sorta fixed it, but normally it takes just 5 minutes to blow up both pontoons, but after my “sorta fix” it took me 30 minutes on each one, and I was sweating profusely when I finally finished. I got the boat all put together, and discovered that I had forgotten my electric trolling motor, but no problem I had remembered the oars, but then I discovered I had brought the wrong oar locks, the small ones, so the oars wouldn’t fit in them, but again no problem, I had some light rope and I tied the oars on with a short section of the rope that I cut off of the long length of rope. I started rowing out into the lake and discovered that the short pedestal that I put my seat on wouldn’t work if I was rowing instead of using the motor. So I took the boat apart and took the pedestal off, put the seat down on the frame and put everything back together again. Finally after 2 full hours I got the boat in the water and caught a bunch of really big trout, but because I had forgotten my short handled net I couldn’t get them into my boat without losing them, I did manage to get two in. I will give it another shot next week and I will have everything fixed and ready to go.

Body

A major principle of life is that a group of unified people working together will tremendously out perform the same number of people who are working independently of each other, no matter how educated, talented, and determined they might be. The biggest barrier and obstacle to this principle working in businesses, schools, and even churches is pride, our egos constantly work against and sabotage the power of a unified group.

The Bible uses the “Body” as the perfect illustration of this principle. My body has hands, feet, eyes, a heart, lungs and many other parts, none which can survive outside of my body. I was watching Duke University and North Carolina play basketball tonight, and they have some amazingly athletic and coordinated players. The term ” coordinated” means that their body parts are all in synch with each other.

When we had our first child of eight we went and got counseling from a father of twelve every Wednesday night for three months. His first piece of advice to us was to have as many kids as possible. He said it with such passion, I asked why he said that, and he said, “when you have a lot of kids you are forced to teach them to get along, to live together in unity, and to work towards common goals as a family, kids that learn that are almost always champions in every area of life.” So we had eight.

Seasons of Life

One of my regular statements that I make is, “People who grew up on a farm, are farmers or were farmers, have a huge advantage over non-farmers in life”. Some would think that I say this simply because from the age of 12 to 28 I was a farmer. I say this because I can recognize in my own life character traits and attitudes that serve me well that were formed in me during those 16 formative years of my life.

One of the things that I got as a farmer that I see many people struggle with is an understanding that life comes in seasons and requires us to be flexible as we make adjustments to our schedules, routines, and priorities, and that we do that with a positive, “life is great attitude”. The hours we worked on the farm went up dramatically during haying season. Growing and harvesting our own hay as apposed to buying it was a key to our success on the dairy. There were so many factors working against us on getting a lot of hay in the barn for winter, and the main solution to the problems was hours and hours of hard work. We understood that the intensity of our work week would be over when October rolled around. The advantage we had dealing with the seasons of life was that it was somewhat predictable which made it much easier to deal with mentally. We all have these seasons of life where we have to work very hard to get everything done and we still don’t finish it all, and these seasons spring on us out of nowhere. These seasons can be very powerful times of character growth, learning how to depend on the strength and guidance of the Lord, being positive and gracious to those around us in spite of weariness, and gaining skills in time management and self-leadership. Most don’t grow during these intense times because they don’t control their self-talk. They think “self-pity” thoughts, “I am so tired” thoughts, “life isn’t fair” thoughts, and on the list goes. Obedience to the command from God in scripture to “Rejoice always”, and “grumble about nothing” are crucial. We can do it if we constantly ask God for strength as we praise Him for our blessed life. Being aware of His presence, working at pleasing Him with our behavior and attitude, continually asking for strength and wisdom as we struggle is called walking with God. Choose to be an overcomer.

Nothing like Good Friends

Monday through Wednesday was the “Annual meetings” for our denomination at Seaside. Mostly pastors, senior pastors, youth pastors, worship leaders, associate pastors, fat pastors, skinny pastors, and a few smart pastors. The meetings tend to be boring but the fellowship with the other pastors was super good. A lot of the pastors I only see once a year at this event so it is always fun to chat for a few minutes catching up on “news”. I really enjoyed my time with Mike Dedera my associate pastor here at JBC. We see each other all the time here at JBC, but driving over together, staying in a motel room together and eating together we had lots of time for good conversations about our vision for the future. Also my son-in-law, Mike Hatfield roomed with us and I had a wonderful time with him talking church and family.

One of my favorite verses is in Proverbs 27:17 “Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another.” This verse is so true for me, the more time I spend with guys who are faithful, hard workers, devoted to the Lord, and in love with Jesus, the more passion I have for ministry. It is such a great gift from the Lord to have really good friends who give me grace as they spend time with me.