Hidden Cameras

Proverbs 5:21
For the ways of a man are before the eyes of the Lord,
And He watches all his paths.

We have a couple of wireless surveillance cameras on our front porch that are activated by motion. Every time the UPS truck comes up our driveway we get a video of the driver delivering our package. There are a lot of videos taken all the time now with cell phones of just about everything. You never know when someone is taking your picture. Sometimes when I see someone taking a video of me I smile just for fun.

God sees everything that I do, He hears everything that I say, He knows everything that I think, and He is aware of my motives better than I am. If I truly believed that, it would impact my behavior, my words, and even my thoughts. Growing in my awareness of the presence of God around me all of the time is important in the growth of my intimacy with God and my character growth.

Nothing causes my sensitivity to the presence of God in my life to grow as much as corporate prayer does.

Matthew 18:19-20 “Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”

Where two or three have gathered together in the name of Jesus for the purpose of prayer He is there in a special way. We direct our words to Him as we pray as an act of faith, and He rewards that faith with a growing sense of His presence. We will have thoughts pop into our heads that are from Him prompting us to pray for certain things that He wants to give to us. As we become more and more aware of that we listen to our thoughts more attentively, and as we do we hear other people in the room praying what we were thinking, authenticating the fact that God is in the room speaking.

Jefferson Baptist Church’s five days of prayer starts tomorrow and we will be praying 10 hours each day, Monday through Friday. I will be there most of the time, and it is a powerful time of growing spiritually for me as I experience the presence of God.

You should come and experience God’s presence with me, it is an amazing time of being energized and renewed by the Holy Spirit.

Big Hairy Audacious Goal – B-HAG

I write several goals every year that I don’t show anybody, not even my wife, especially not my wife. The reason is that they are too crazy, too audacious, too big. I don’t plan on accomplishing these goals, just pretend and dream that I do. I especially dream about the process, the strategy, and the steps that I take to achieve the goal. I do more than simply write the goal, I write a story about the process of accomplishing the goal, with the struggles, the victories, the innovation and creativity that it took to do it. The cool thing is that I can do anything I want in my dreams, imagination, and fantasies. I can’t fail, I can’t get hurt, and it doesn’t cost any real money.

The obvious question then is, “why set a goal that you aren’t going to accomplish?” The first answer is easy, because it is fun! The second answer is because it trains my mind not to be so practical in my goal setting in general. The third answer is to train my mind not to be afraid of hard or risky goals that scare the bejeebers out of me. And the fourth answer is to stir up the creative part of my brain to imagine accomplishments that I haven’t thought of before.

Occasionally I will set a goal that is a downsized version of one of my crazy goals. Several years ago I wrote a goal to build a sailboat and sail to Hawaii by myself. Some of you may remember that goal. I bought the plans and actually started building the boat. I watched 20 to 30 hours of YouTube videos of people sailing the size boat I was building to Hawaii and even around the world. The more I watched the videos the more confidant I became that I could do this. I signed up for sail boating lessons in Portland, and I started checking into going on a month-long sailboat trip as a deckhand.

One day I was watching a video of a guy telling about building his boat that was the exact boat I was building. In the story he mentioned that it took him five years to build it working on it pretty much full time. I thought to myself, the only way I am going to be able to pull this off before I die is to give up fishing, my summer bicycle trips, hunting, and working on old cars. I decided that the price to accomplish this goal was to high so I changed it to building a 26-foot dory instead.

I Love Goals

I love tools, and I am always looking for a new tool to buy. I bought a flaring tool so that I could put in the brake lines on the 1969 mustang I am working on with my grandson. I didn’t know how to do brake lines, having bought brake line kits for all my previous projects which were pre-flared and pre-bent for me. I watched a half dozen YouTube videos on how to do it, and went at it. When I got all done I had a couple of leaks I had to fix, and a couple of my bends looked ugly, but I fixed them, and now I can cross off the goal “I will learn a new skill this year.”

I also love goals and the concept of goal setting. God is a goal setter. Everything He does He decides ahead of time, He plans every detail of the future. When you read prophecy in the Bible you are reading God’s goals. We function most effectively and efficiently when we function like God, because He created us like Himself.

My goals help me to focus and not be a scatterbrain. Focused thinking and focused living is being free from distractions. Distractions cause us to live our life chasing our tail, going in circles, accomplishing very little that really matters.

My goals are the best time management tool there is. People who waste a lot of time get very little done with their life that matters. They get distracted with the urgent and spend little time on the important. Our well thought out, and well-written goals are our declaration of what is important, and if we read them often we will stay focused on what is important.

Many people struggle with motivation, they can’t seem to find the key that turns on the engine of their life. When I feel flat, lukewarm, and lazy I read my goals an extra time, and off to the races I go. My goals fill my gas tank, they are the wings of my life, they work better than a can of spinach or an energy drink.

My goals give me passion. With passion, I am so much happier as a person. With passion I am much more enjoyable to be around. With passion my aches and pains don’t seem near as bad. With passion my brain is alive and works better, much better.

So many people refuse to write goals. When a person chooses not to write goals for themselves they are choosing a life of medicrity. Not a bad life, just a normal life, not a losers life, but certainly not a winner’s life either.

I Told You I Was Right

Christians believe the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, Word of God which is our sole source of truth and authority.

That statement sounds rather austere, whatever that means. One of the things that many sincere, Bible believing Christians do is use the Bible like a club, using a form of interpretation called “wooden literalism” to do what is called proof-texting. They will use a verse usually out of context to defend a particular view or opinion and also bash the views of others with the pious-sounding statement, “give me a verse.”

Three words used in tandem in the book of Proverbs are knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. All three words are important, but we know what to do, what to say, how to act, how to fix problems and what truth is with wisdom. Wisdom comes from reading, memorizing, meditating, and studying the Bible. Wisdom also comes from observing life, creation, personal experiences, and counsel from others understood through our broad and complete understanding of scripture or theology. Proverbs says that wisdom shouts from the household, it also says that only those who seek for wisdom like gold, silver and diamonds will find it.

Over the years, I have found “Temperament Tests.” to be very helpful in counseling people on decisions they need to make, improving their marriages, and managing their lives. “Temperament Tests” are secular, that is you won’t find them in the Bible, there is not even a hint of them in the Bible, and no suggestion is given to use such a thing. So, does that mean that I am wrong to use them? Many would say that “Temperament Tests” are the wisdom of man, not the wisdom of God, and ought to be avoided.

I appreciate those who have a sincere love of God’s Word, who follow it, and live by it.

I am by personal commitment a “Wisdom Seeker.” Many of the benefits and blessings of having wisdom are found in the Old Testament book of Proverbs. The first requirement to gain wisdom is humility, as soon as any person thinks they have it, they stop growing in wisdom. The more real wisdom that you gain the more you realize how much more their is to gain.

Wisdom seekers read the Bible, they pray and ask God for wisdom like a broken record, they learn from their mistakes, they learn and acquire wisdom from trials in their life, they are always asking for advice and counsel from others, they read good books, they listen to sermons, lectures, and podcasts, and they write down their experiences and trials so that they don’t forget them.

Wisdom seekers will know what to do and say in any situation that God sovereignly puts them in. They will understand the Bible and how to live it. They will think like God thinks. They will have healthy brains. They will have great and positive influence in the lives of others.

Fear the Lord

Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;

Psalms 25:12-13 Who is the man who fears the Lord?
He will instruct him in the way he should choose.
His soul will abide in prosperity,
And his descendants will inherit the land.

Psalms 33:18 Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him,
On those who hope for His lovingkindness,

Psalms 34:7 The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, And rescues them.

There are seven major blessings that come into the life of a person who fears the Lord in these four passages alone, and if you look up all the references to fearing the Lord you will discover at least another 30 significant blessings.

Not many people fear the Lord today, and therefore they forfiet all the blessings that God would love to give to them.

People ask me all the time what the Bible means when it says, “fear God,” and I say, “fear God.” Jesus said this about fearing God,

Luke 12:5 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!

Hebrews 10:30-31 The Lord will judge His people. It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

2 Corinthians 5:10-11 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord,

Revelation 14:7 and the angel said with a loud voice, “Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come;

To fear God is to know that we will be judged by God. Those who are not followers of Jesus will be judged at the “Great White Throne Judgment” and if their name is not written in the book of life they will be cast into hell, the lake of fire, forever. Those of us who love Jesus will be judged at the “judgment Seat of Christ” and we will be rewarded by Jesus for all that we have done for Him in this life. Many will have few to no rewards. There will be a big difference between those with no rewards and those with great rewards in eternity forever.

Old Friends

I mentioned yesterday that I had Pastored JBC for 45 years which got me to thinking about those still in the church who have been here as long or close to as long as me. The terms that I would use for them are enduring pillars and faithful friends. I seriously doubt whether I would still be here as the Pastor of JBC had it not been for their leadership, personal sacrifice, and hard work.

Jim and Janet Lee started attending while we were still meeting in the Jefferson Elementary School gym. Janet has led our children’s ministry for most of those years and has built it into a very successful ministry that has influenced hundreds if not thousands of kids who will be in heaven someday because of that influence. She is retiring from being the “Children’s Director” at the end of this year. I wonder how many hugs she is going to get in heaven as person after person enters glory because of her.

Jean Krause was one of the founding members way back in 1973 when Jefferson Baptist Church had their very first service in the “Conser House” with 20 people. Jean volunteered to do just about everything that needed doing in the early years, and it wasn’t very long before she became the church secretary. When we grew enough to have the finances, she became the first full-time staff member besides me, and worked with me typing and running off bulletins, typing my sermons, answering the phone, keeping my calender, and keeping everything organized and running smoothly. Jean is still serving as “Church Administator,” and my secretary helping me not forget what day of the week it is.

Cliff Duke, my younger brother, was also one of the founding members that met in the “Conser House.” He was the interim Pastor after the founding pastor left in 1975 until I came in 1976. Shortly after that he became the principal of our Christian School that ran for 30 plus years. He is now doing counseling at the church for whoever would like to meet with him for free.

Other key Saints are Raymond and Jennie Freitag, Gordon and Barbara Hilton, Stan and Betty Hilton, Bill and Carolyn Schutzmann, Dick and Lou Ellen Pearson, and Lloyd and Pat Smith. These guys have been the Church Elders over the last 40 plus years giving leadership, making decisions, managing the finances, holding me accountable, praying for many hours, and showing up to serve in so many different ways week after week after week.

Those 16 including Patty and I are the 40 plus year veterans. There are also a whole bunch of 30 plus year veterans, 20 plus, 10 plus, and 5 plus year servants of Jesus building His Body, His Church into a beautiful, eternal, Bride of Christ.

The last 45 years have been fun, challenging, and amazing. The best part has been building His Church together with other faithful people. It is amazing all that God can do through people who love each other and work together in humility and unity. It is sad to think about the fact that the core group of 16 is going to start shrinking in number until we are all gone. But what we have done will be remembered and built upon for many more years to come until Jesus comes.

The most disgusting thing about the present attitudes and philosophies of our country is that the memories that many people have of the past are of the bad and the ugly instead of the victories, the accomplishments, the beauty, and the amazing that can be built upon. So many are choosing to ignore and forget the accomplishments of all those that lived before them, it is an incomprehensible waste of so many people’s work and sacrifice.

My Mom Died Two Years Ago, Today

I had forgotten that November 29th was the day Mom died. Still, I think I remembered subconsciously because I was sad all day today and couldn’t figure out why until I read our daughter Sarah’s Facebook entry about Mom and was reminded. When I read it, I thought, “Oh yeh, that is why I am feeling like this; it is exactly how I felt two years ago.

I have a very strong sense of and belief in eternity, and I know Mom is in heaven with Jesus experiencing incomprehensible joy, so my sadness is not close to grief or grieving. It is a feeling of loss, but it isn’t painful. As I sit and reminisce about the experiences, the lectures, and conversations with Mom over the years I smile because they were so impactful on my life.

Now, as I think and write about this second anniversary, I am sad because many of the experiences, lectures, and conversations are fading in my memory, and it has only been two years. I wish I could hang on to them, and every memory would stay clear in my mind.

Life is often a puzzle to me as I try and figure out why God made things a certain way and does what He does. But in the end it is easy and very comforting to simply say in my mind, “I trust You Lord, I look forward to seeing You, and Mom, and Dad.”

Poor Me, Nobody Loves Me, I Think I Will Go Eat Worms

Several days ago I listed eight kinds of harmful thinking, and that we need to take control of our thoughts and self-talk because they control our actions and our emotions. Most people don’t make much of an effort to control their self-talk, but those who do are much more successful in living a life pleasing to the Lord and bearing much fruit with their life for the Lord.

One of the eight areas of “stinkin thinkin” is self-pity. It is the kind of thinking where you feel sorry for yourself; you feel like you are a victim, that no one loves you, and that God is picking on you. A thought that goes round and round in our head is, “I don’t deserve this; I deserve better than this; why is God doing this to me?”

Self-pity, poor me thinking will end up including another of the eight lousy thinking patterns, “bitter thinking,” and they will lead a person to depression, sadness, and extreme self-absorption.

I have struggled with self-pity in the past when I have felt unappreciated. When I recognize the thinking pattern I am in I set my mind on Philippians 2:5-9 and meditate on it. “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, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name”

The goal is to thank and praise the Lord for my life, and look for all the good things I have in my life, and the good that I have experienced from Him.

A problem with self-pity thinking is that it is very addicting, and will pull us into this black hole that we get some kind of morbid enjoyment from. It is important that we catch this kind of thinking early and slap ourselves in the head, and don’t let it trap us. I have found that writing about the many blessings that I have experienced is an excellent exercise to put the brakes on this destructive thinking.

You Have Turkey Between Your Teeth or Your Zippers Down

All day long on most days we are in a constant state of relationship with other people. We see people we know and like, we see people we know and don’t like, we see people we barely know, and we see people we’ve never laid eyes on before. Some of the people who move into our line of sight we ignore, others we greet politely, with others we enter into a friendly discussion, and then some we hug. But with all of them our eyes do a check-up or more like a checkout, we do a mental evaluation of the person and come to a conclusion very quickly about their character, their appearance, their chance for success, whether they are going to heaven or hell, whether they are a Duck or Beaver fan, and at least a dozen other criteria. We will notice what we believe are flaws and defects quickly, and in a matter of seconds they will be ranked amongst all the other people we know. Most of this “checkout” will be subconscious with a few details floating up into the realm of our conscious thinking.

Each of us will have an emphasis in our mental checkouts that we do all day long, with every person we see, it will be either primarily positive, primarily negative and critical, or a mixture of both somewhere on a scale, of let’s say from one up to one-hundred, with one being super critical and judgmental. Our personal pride level will be a huge factor in our number being high or low, as well as our self-worth and fear of rejection. Our relationship with God and the level of true intimacy we have with our Creator and Savior will also play a key role in how we see people.

The higher we are on the scale, the more positive we are, that is, we tend to see the good things in others before or more than the bad, the healthier our relationships will be, whether we know them well or are just an acquaintance, people pick up on our mental opinion of them and it then influences their opinion and mental check out of us. We all are somewhat locked into our positive/negative scale, but very few things would increase the quality of our relationships including our marriage and with other family members as much as if we could raise where we are on the positive/negative scale in our judgment of others.

When I started Pastoring my biggest problem was I didn’t like most people. I was pretty low on the “judgments scale” and saw way more negative things in most people than positive. I was greatly influenced by my very strong introvert temperament that bordered on being anti-social. I went into ministry not because I liked people and wanted to help them, but because I felt strongly that God had called me into ministry and I was simply obeying Him.

I started a discipline a number of year’s ago that made a huge difference in my attitude towards others, I started praying for them. I made a goal to pray for everyone in our church by name once each week. I developed a very sophisticated system of keeping track of needs, problems, and blessings in their lives to pray for. Another discipline that I started was to say a quick prayer in my head for anyone I talked to, while I was talking to them. It took some time and work to get that second one down, but I now do it almost automatically.

It is so much more enjoyable living life seeing mostly good stuff in people.

Noise and Self-Talk

Patty and I are driving home from Naselle, Washington, where our daughter Hanna and her family live. Three of our other daughters and their families also were there with us for Thanksgiving; it was a great time. As we are driving home, a four-hour drive, we have the radio playing in the background with nice music.

We live in a time when the sounds around us are like a train wreck, a lot of anger, criticism, slander, propaganda, lies, and news designed to create fear. The best way to describe what we hear much of the day is noise.

A fundamental way to maintain peace and joy in our hearts is to learn how to talk to ourselves in a positive, affirming way, totally divorced from the noise around us. Most people’s self-talk is in reaction to the noise, it would be like a dozen people yelling at you telling you what a rotten person you are and you are yelling back at them.

There are so many good, pleasant, and positive things to set our mind on and to choose to think about. I enjoy thinking about our family and experiences with them. I enjoy thinking about our church family, different people, and upcoming events that I am looking forward to. I enjoy crafting sermons and blogs in my mind. I enjoy thinking about the gifts I am going to buy for our grandkids, and visualizing their reaction to them. I enjoy thinking about fishing. I spend a lot of time thinking about heaven and what it is going to look like.

It is so easy to get all uptight, bitter, angry, anxious, and critical because of the noise around us. We can choose what we mentally dwell on, but we have to choose, be in charge of our self-talk or we will be unhappy people constantly mumbling to ourselves and others that we wish things would go back to normal again. Things will get worse and worse, but we can still be happy people, bright lights in the midst of a dark and noisy world.

Governments and others can do a lot of bossing and try to control everything, but nobody can control what I think about, my self-talk, I am in charge there so I will not give up that freedom because of apathy, lazy thinking, and poor self-control.