winning

My driving desire is to win. It consumes me, and I think about it all the time. God created me to be a winner, and the Bible commands me to be a winner, you too.

1 Corinthians 9:24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.

Winning means I beat someone at something. My adversary is the devil, my own sinful nature, and the world around me. Seven times in the book of Revelation, it mentions the person who “overcomes, ” which means to be a conqueror, a winner, and after every reference to overcoming a reward is cited. One of those references is in Revelation 3:5;

He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.

1 Peter 5:8 Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

God created the devil to do precisely what he is doing. He knew we wouldn’t grow much in this life without an adversary so He created one for us. As we strive to win, to conquer, to overcome, as we go to war every day we get stronger, wiser, and we grow in character or we lose. Losing can be fatal and most of often is eternal in consequence.

Satan, the devil, our adversary, makes life hard, like he did with Job. Every day we get out of bed there is an additional roadblock, a problem, a crisis, a trial, and we can let it beat us, or we can conquer it, and stomp the devil under our feet.

COVID, I am sure, is a satan-caused and controlled phenomenon that he uses to defeat people, cause fear, cause strife and disunity, and turn people into losers. There will be something else as difficult if not more so coming up one of these days, and probably sooner than later.

A winner, an overcomer, doesn’t ask God to make life easier; he asks Him for strength and wisdom. Warfare is fun as long as you are winning.

The first sign that you are losing is when you complain and grumble and feel sorry for yourself.

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem

I listened to South Dakota’s Governor, Kristi Noem, give her speech at CPAC today. It was a memorable speech that highlighted her wisdom and common sense as a leader. South Dakota never shut their State down; they never closed their schools, they never issued a mask mandate. Listening to her define the role and responsibility of Government was so refreshing. The United States is supposed to be the Land of the Free, the Home of the Brave, but instead we have become the Land of the Mask mandated and the Home of the Fearful. One thing she said repeatedly is that what we have experienced this last year was not based on science, it was based on political agendas and lying media.

Some churches chose not to follow the Government rules on shutdowns, but things in the future are going to get way more complicated than that if the House Equality Act becomes law. Civil disobedience could become a way of life for those who truly believe that we ought to follow and obey God rather than man.

But I am not worried or anxious because I know that God is sovereign, He is in charge, and He has an agenda that includes me.

Be whatever you want to be, if you want it bad enough

The title to this blog is not true, it is a fairy tale that sounds cool, but won’t happen and will create a ton of frustration for the person who uses it as motivation in their life.

My motivating slogan is, “pursue the desires of my heart.” I believe if I stay close to God those desires that I have in me will be His desires for me. The tricky part is staying close to God, because if I don’t the desires of my heart can quickly become worldly, carnal, even demonic, and then they are evil desires.

Staying close to God is kind of like having a good marriage; you pursue intimacy in the relationship by following some basic principles. If you don’t follow the principles your emotions and feelings will be what fuels your efforts to grow closer in your relationship, and your emotions easily become focused on self needs and wants, and your efforts at a growing intimacy will become lazy and inconsistent.

The Biblical admonition is “seek the Lord, ” which doesn’t mean you are trying to find Him, He is right there with you all of the time, it means you are seeking to know Him more intimately. For much of my Christian life I thought that knowing God was to understand Him theologically, to know all about Him. To know God like I know Patty seemed illogical because I couldn’t see Him, touch Him, or hear Him.

My journey towards genuine intimacy with God has been gradual, but steady, and has come as a result of being faithful to the basic principles, the disciplines of the Christian life. I read my Bible devotionally almost every day, that is different than studying for a sermon, it is reading with an inner ear alert for a thought that could be from God. I spend time in prayer talking to God every day, often while I am reading His Word. I confess all known sin to God every day spending time reflecting on the day, examining my life, asking Him to show me what needs working on. I work very hard at worshipping well when I am at worship services with our church family, and I try to thank Him all day long for every blessing that comes into my life.

Deuteronomy 4:29 But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul.

1 Chronicles 16:10-11 Glory in His holy name;
Let the heart of those who seek the Lord be glad.
Seek the Lord and His strength;
Seek His face continually.

Psalms 9:10 And those who know Your name will put their trust in You, For You, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You.

Psalms 34:10 The young lions do lack and suffer hunger; But they who seek the Lord shall not be in want of any good thing.

Psalms 63:1 O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, In a dry and weary land where there is no water.

Psalms 105:4 Seek the Lord and His strength; Seek His face continually.

Strong Opinioned People

In the last year the number of times that I have had someone confront me about not wearing a mask, about my political opinions, or something I wrote or said has been as often as the previous 70 years in my life put together. It seems like that is what we do now, verbally bash people we disagree with, or disagree with us. People have always had differing views on things, different beliefs and values, but now it seems there is this powerful underlying force that pushes people to punish all those who disagree with them. It is difficult not to get caught up in this spirit of the day, and not insult the person who was rude to you.

I have compiled a list of Bible quotes that I am meditating on during the day to help me to act mature and loving all the time.

Don’t be conformed to this world.

Don’t return insult for insult, but instead give a blessing.

Sincerely pray for those who are rude, obnoxious, and mean.

So far as it depends on me be at peace with all men.

A soft answer turns away an angry person.

Rejoice always.

Jesus determines my worth and value as a person, no other person.

Don’t get uptight or anxious about anything, especially about what someone else says.

Act and talk like a free person, someone who isn’t controlled by the behavior of others.

Groaning

2 Corinthians 5:1-4 For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked. For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life.

I work pretty hard to keep my body in shape and to keep old age at bay. I am riding my stationary bike an hour every day, lifting weights for 30 minutes 3 times a week and continually dieting, and taking vitamins and various food supplements. But I still occasionally feel weary, tired, and aches and pains everywhere, and I just feel like sitting in my chair and groaning. The line in the above verses that I like the most is “so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life”. Sometimes the best way to describe how I feel is “mortal”, but it will be swallowed up by life soon enough. The thing that I am most grateful for tonight is the confidence that I am born again, in God’s family, headed for heaven, and that I have my new, glorified body waiting for me that is eternal, thank You Jesus, for dying for me.

Yep, in the morning I will get up, take a couple of ibuprofens, and get back at it, hoping that Jesus comes soon.

The Hardest of all Commandments

A great Bible study would be to read through the New Testament and write down every commandment, eliminate duplicates and combine similar ones. Once you have the list finalized, rank them in difficulty, the most challenging first, and the easiest last.

Now what would make it really fun would be to have a dozen people do this and then to compare their lists and then each person explaining the reason for their particular choices, especially the half dozen on the top and bottom of the list.

Another great discussion would be for each person to share what commandments they have never broken in their life and why they think that is.

A discussion question that might be a little too personal for some would be to discuss the commandment they have broken the most and how they have gotten the victory over it if they have or plan on conquering it if they haven’t yet.

Some of the most challenging commands for me are the ones that are difficult to measure, such as “don’t love the world or the things in the world”or “don’t become entangled in the affairs of everyday life”, or the hardest one of all to know how I am doing with, “don’t be prideful. “

The point of this discussion is to think about how we are doing living our life. Some overriding commands are “pursue righteousness, ” “be holy, ””cleanse yourself of all unrighteousness, ” and the main one for me is Jesus saying, “if you love me you will keep my commandments” or “you are my friends if you do what I command you.”

I am not morbid about self-examination and reflective thinking about my life, but I do look in the mirror and see where the dirt is and attempt to wash it off.

Becoming more holy is a lifelong pursuit, so no sense in wasting any time.

The Hardest of all Trials

A lot of things in life are tough, but I think the most difficult is when someone you love very much is suffering. Patty has been having very severe pain in her hip from her sciatic nerve, and has been in bed all day. She has been in great pain. I like to be able to fix things but there doesn’t seem to be anything I can do to fix it. I offer my sympathy as best I can but it doesn’t seem like it matters much. I would take all the pain on myself if I could but I can’t so I really do nothing to help, which is one of the hardest things, to be worthless as it were to help or make a difference in the life of the person who is most important to you. Just being a spectator with no value or importance in making things better or more bearable is tough.

I pray often that God will give her strength, joy, and peace in spite of the pain, but I haven’t seen any obvious answers to my prayer.

I acknowledge that part of life is pain and that the older we get the more that seems to become part of God’s plan for our life. So I guess one of the prayers that I need to pray is for me, that I would be strong and wise to say just the right words and do the right thing at right time in the midst of the trial.

One of the things I can’t do Jesus did, the Bible says that Jesus took our sins upon himself, He became our sins, and He died for our sins so that we could live with him forever in amazing joy. That is amazing to think about, I simply need to accept His free gift and follow Him and I am forgiven and I get to go to heaven when I die.

Why would anyone refuse to do that, and why would those who are born again fail to share that good news with others. Now that is a great mystery.

How to Really Get along with just about anybody

In the early years of my pastoring I used to take an older pastor out for lunch just about every month. I usually had a dozen questions written out on my yellow legal pad that I spent the hour asking, and then I took good notes of their answers. On one particular lunch I wrote a lot of notes that I kept and have reread dozens of times because of the wisdom that was obvious to me in what I was hearing. I have titled the notes, “How to Get Along With Anybody”

Whenever you have a conflict, a disagreement, or even just a little tension in a discussion assume that you are 100% the problem.

That is never true but you will be much closer to the truth than assuming your adversary is 100% the problem.

When you assume that you are 100% the problem, you will work at figuring out what you did wrong instead of being irritated mentally about the 10% that your friend did wrong.

When you assume that you are the culprit you become eligible for a great blessing from God, “If you humble yourself, I will exalt you, but if you exalt yourself I will humble you.” It is amazing how much better God does at creating unity in a relationship than we do.

Focus on the relationship rather than the accuracy of the material being discussed. When you make peace your number one objective, and are willing to eat dirt to achieve it, God will make your enemies to be at peace with you.

Memorize Philippians 2:3-9, meditate on it, and then live it.
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him.

The Commands of God

There are many commandments in the Bible. Those who are Christians, followers of Jesus Christ, believe that those commandments in the Bible are God’s Commandments to us, and that if we follow them we will be blessed by God. Jesus said in John 14:15 “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.

Here are a couple of truths that are like training wheels on a bicycle that run parallel to the command to obey the commands of God. These truths keep us upright and always moving on closer and closer to the character of Jesus Christ.

The first is that God gives us the power and the strength to live the Christian life successfully. This truth is so fundamental and foundational to our faith in Jesus. John 15 says that apart from Him we can do nothing, and in Philippians it says that we can do all things through Him who strengthens us. God gives His strength to those who ask for it and the more we ask the more we receive. The most often prayed prayer in the Bible is the prayer for strength. All day long I am continuously praying, “help me, Lord, please help me.”

The second fundamental truth is found in 1 John 1:9,
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

In my pursuit of being a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ I will sin, I will miss the mark. God says to own our mistakes, acknowledge that we blew it and God will forgive, cleanse, wash, and make us holy and pure. This gift from God is not designed to make us careless and casual about obeying Him, but it is designed to provide us with a safety net or harness that takes away the fear of falling.

How to Get Along with Just about Anybody

Anybody on the planet earth can get along with my wife, Patty because she is a very, very easy person to get along with. Philippians 2 says that we ought to work at having the attitude that Jesus had, who always put everyone ahead of himself. That is how Patty functions; she always puts everyone’s needs and interests above her own. Some would say that you can’t do that because people will take advantage of you and violate your rights. I have never known of anybody who took advantage of Patty. It could be that she is so nice that people can’t bring themselves to take advantage of her, or it could be that because of her character and genuine love for other people that God has placed around her His canopy of protection, people couldn’t violate her rights even if they wanted to.

I used to be in endless conflicts and skirmishes with people, not shouting matches or anything too rude, just tensions and hurt feelings. That is not a good thing if you are a church pastor, especially if you are the Pastor of the church that’s subtitle is “The I Love You Church.” I am not perfect now, but I am so much better than I used to be, and the main reason is because of Patty’s coaching. It took quite a few years, we have been married 51 years, but she has had a significant impact on my life, my character, my behavior, and my relationships.

I am a very fortunate and blessed person. I had very good parents who parented me well and taught me the basic disciplines of life, the value of hard work, faithfulness and being responsible. And then I married Patty and she has whittled away on all the rough edges.

There have been dozens of other people in my life who have influenced and shaped my character, pastors, teachers, coaches, counselors, and friends. When I stand before Jesus at the end of my life I am going to have to give away every reward I receive to someone else who is the reason that I get any reward.