Basic disciplines

One of the foundational aspects of my teaching and training over the last 40’years of my ministry as a pastor has been what I have called learning how to “Faithfully practice the basic disciplines of the Christian Life”. I have taught the importance of these 7 basic disciplines over and over again. I have nagged people to do them to the point I am pretty sure that they just want me to shut up and go away. The seven basic disciplines are (1) Bible reading, study, and memorization, (2) prayer, (3) self examination and confession of sin, (4) worship, (4) gathering with other believers, (5) giving proportionally of our money to God’s work, (6) worship, and (7) seeking wisdom. There are more but these are the basic ones, they are the foundation of our life.  I teach that if a person faithfully, systematically, routinely practices these disciplines they will never go backwards away from God, but that they will grow closer to Him,  more like Him, and more useful to Him every day of their lives.

Very few people do these basic disciplines faithfully which is the reason that the number of people that are growing consistently are few.

Of the 7, “seeking wisdom” is the most complicated and multifaceted.  Wisdom is so essential to living life successfully. Wisdom is knowing what to do and say in any and every situation. God sovereignly puts wisdom in us. God gives us His wisdom, only if we seek it like gold, silver and precious treasure. A major requirement for us to be genuine, passionate seekers of wisdom  is humility, that is that we believe that we need it and we don’t have it.

How are you doing being a wisdom seeker?


This afternoon we had a celebration at JBC for Patty and I for being the pastor here for 40 years. It was a great time, and we both felt very honored,  by all who were there.  Over the past 40 years of pastoring, teaching, training, and counseling I have come to the conclusion that the most important word in positive, strong human relationships is the word honor. Love is the word that is used most often today,  but it has lost it’s meaning, and used most often as an expression of affection, an emotion based on the other person’s performance and behavior. If I say to you as a husband, “love your wife” as a command, what will you do? But if I say honor your wife, very few will take that as a command to feel something. Honoring someone is clearly an action word. The command in the Bible to honor is everywhere. Very few things feel as good as being honored by others, especially by those we care about. Life is “cause and effect”, “sowing and reaping”. Jesus said, “however you want to be treated by others, so treat them.” In another passage He says, “what you give is what you get, pressed down, shaken together, running over”.  Honor God, children honor your father and mother, husbands honor your wives, honor the king, honor your boss, honor the aged, honor one another. We honor people because God created them in His image and likeness, it is the right thing to do, and we know it intuitively. Every time I honor another person I treat them with respect, I thank them, I value and esteem them, and I speak well of them, to their face and to others. The more I choose to honor others the more they will honor me, it is a law of God as sure and powerful as the law of gravity. I felt very honored this afternoon by many people and it felt so good. I am committed to honoring others, often.


A lot of people don’t set goals, because they did once and didn’t accomplish all of them and even maybe didn’t accomplish most of them, and they felt so much like a loser they quit. I set a goal to kill a Moose in Alaska last month when I went hunting with my son-in-law Philip, but I didn’t even see one. I made a goal to kill an elk during my hunt  in the Steens with my son Seth, and I didn’t even see one, except the one Seth got, but only the skinned out quarters in meat bags.

Neither one of those failures will make me quit, or feel like a loser. If I hadn’t made the goal to kill a moose I wouldn’t have budgeted our money so that we could have done it financially, and then we wouldn’t have experienced the beauty of the Alaskan wilderness on the Yukon River, and we wouldn’t have had the absolute delight of spending a week camping with our 5 wonderful grandkids. If I hadn’t made the goal to kill an elk I wouldn’t have made arrangements for my normal obligations at home and JBC, and I wouldn’t have had the cool adventure and excitement of camping in a foot of snow, or spending 4 days with my son Seth.

The benefit of goals is not just the object of the goal itself, but the growth we experience in making the effort to accomplish them and all the  other experiences on the journey of trying to accomplish the goal. A lot of the goals we will set and pursue have a lot of factors we can’t control and as a result our percentage of wins goes down. Many don’t set a goal unless they can control every detail of their goal. That is boring.

Goals move us out of our comfort zone, and cause us to learn, to grow, and have some fun and cool adventures that we wouldn’t otherwise have sitting in our recliner. Write some goals for 2017, and if you don’t accomplish all them try again next year. I am going hunting next year.

10 tough miles

After the first day hunting for elk in the Steens Mountains I was ready to declare my hunting days over. That night my legs ached so bad and the next day, Wednesday I could hardly walk without tipping over, but I used my walking stick and put in a pretty good day of 5 miles. Today I walked 10 miles and it was all up and down walking on uneven ground, and tonight I feel great.  My muscles adapted quickly. So I think I will hunt for another year. I ride my stationary bike an hour every night, but I am going to change that to 40 minutes and run/walk on my treadmill for 20 minutes at 6 % grade. Physical exercise is a discipline because it is not fun or easy, but at my stage in life at 68 with Parkinson’s it is super important if I am really serious about the next 10 years bearing more fruit than the previous 40 years of ministry. The importance of it doesn’t make it any the less a discipline of life.

Even more important to my life is my Bible reading/study/memorizing, and my prayer disciplines. Physical exercise helps my physical body function better and longer, spiritual exercise benifits my spirit and my relationship with God. Bible and prayer are a discipline because our flesh hates it, the devil fears it, and the world we live in sees no value in it.

Some see discipline in a negative way as contrary to grace and the Holy Spirit working in us. But discipline and self control was a major emphasis of Jesus, Paul, John, Peter, and James.

For self discipline to work with physical exercise, and spiritual exercise there must be an established routine of place and time, and there must be goals, and clearly established purposes, that is, “Why am I doing this, anyway”, and the purpose must be reviewed often , I do it daily to maintain my motivation to do the most important, but the most difficult, daily.

The witness of creation

the Steens Mountains are incredibly beautiful, and with a foot of snow covering everything they ate even more amazing. Hiking around in the snow this afternoon looking for an elk I was contually reminded of some Bible verses.

Psalms 8:3-5When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained; What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him? Yet You have made him a little lower than God, And You crown him with glory and majesty!

Psalms 19:1-2. The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, And night to night reveals knowledge.

Romans 1:19-20  because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.

all day long as I walked it was like I was getting a great sermon on the person of God. The result was that my desire to know Him more intimately, to serve Him more effectively, and love Jim more passionately grew . A good day hunting even if I didn’t see an elk.

Elk Hunting

I am leaving at midnight with my son Seth for a 5 day elk hunting trip in the Steens Mountains in Southeast Oregon. We will be using ours muzzleloaders to hunt with. I am using a 460 grain 50 caliber bullet with 150 grains of black powder, and it kicks like a mule and is good out to about 150 yards. We will be camping at 8,000 feet elevation with temperatures around 10 degrees with snow. We have a good tent with a big propane heater and lots of food so we should be comfortable. I won’t have any cell service so this will be the last blog for 6 days. Hopefully the next one will include a picture of a nice elk. The tag is good for any elk, cow or bull. I would like to shoot a nice bull, but I am going for the first one I get close enough to shoot.

I have been hunting all of my life and killed my first buck when I was 12 with my Dad, and a high light of my life has been hunting trips with my kids and now grandkids. I am not sure of the reason, but hunting is one of the most enjoyable activities in my life. When I want to get renewed and refreshed from the grind of life and ministry nothing is quite as effective as a trip to the Steens with a Son, or Alaska, or Wyoming.

On most trips we don’t kill anything, but we try hard. We get up in the dark and cold in the morning, and hike for miles up and down canyons, and look for the elusive buck or bull and then do it again, and then on the way home we are planning the next hunt. I think the challenge is a key part of the enjoyment of hunting.

Challenge! That is what all of life is supposed to be. Now days people are inclined to call challenges trials, or problems, and avoid them if at all possible and feel sorry for themselves if they can’t. Challenges make us grow and make life exciting rather than boring.

Big Storm?

the big news last night and this morning was the super big storm coming our way.  As big or bigger than the Colombus Day storm! Yeh, right! I kept waiting but no super big storm ever made it to our house. I know most of the media is super exaggerating information surrounding the presidential race, but I didn’t think the same was happening with the weather. I guess that is the new norm because hyperbole sells. Oh well, no tree blew over on my house, The plastic that I had over my pickup didn’t blow away, and we were only without electricity for about an hour. Nice. I guess I will have to wait for the next big storm for my great adventure.