I’ll Fly Away

In the early days of our church we decided to do a concert so we could have an event that we could all invite people to attend who didn’t go to church any place else. We were running about 100 people on Sunday mornings and we had a goal of growing up to 200 people in attendance in the next ten years.The problem was that with 100 people there aren’t a lot of singers available with the kind of voices that you feel comfortable inviting your friends too. We were so hard up for quality voices that I sang with three other guys in a male quartet. We sang “I’ll Fly Away”. That experience was so traumatic for me that I still remember it clearly and think about it often.

Last night I bought some airline tickets to fly to Fairbanks, Alaska where our daughter Shelley lives with her husband Philip and six grandkids. I bought a ticket for Patty, two of our local grandkids who are going with us, and myself. All the time I am navigating around on Alaska Airlines website I am singing, “I’ll Fly Away.”

“I’ll Fly Away“ that means I am headed for heaven, “ Soon and very Soon,” is when I am going.

Philippians 3:18-21. For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.

1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.

That sounds to me like, “I’ll Fly Away.”

Self-Examination

I was reading back entries in my journal, in fact, way back, and I noticed something that I know to be true, but I forgot. The things that I used to write down as sins and weaknesses that I was struggling with, I no longer write them down, they are a thing of the past. Now I write about new struggles. They were a problem in the past, I just didn’t notice them much because I was dealing with bigger and badder flaws and sins. When I started getting those under control a whole new crop of problems, character flaws, weaknesses, and sins popped into view. Now I write about these new issues, groaning to myself and God over my lack of self-control, wondering why I am growing so slow. One of the characteristics of growing in spiritual maturity is that our sensitivity to sin increases so I notice things now that I used to be blind to. It is like peeling an onion, one layer at a time. Maybe before I die I will get down to the bottom layer. The hard thing to think about is, I don’t know how many more layers there are, I could just be getting started, oh my, I better keep at this pressing on to maturity thing, and I better keep examining my life and confessing all known sin to God.

Dumping on God

People often justify gossip and slander, saying they need to get their feelings out rather than “stuff them.” So they dump on different people in their lives concerning their hurts. I tell people that I don’t share any negative information about people who may have hurt me, with anybody, not even my wife. The response that I often get is that it isn’t healthy to keep things bottled up inside of me. I hear of people counseling their friends and encouraging them to gossip and slander others in the name of catharsis. I don’t dump on people about others, I dump on God. I use the “Imprecatory Psalms” and there are many of them, to vent my anger and hurt against people.

Psalms 69:7-24
Those who hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of my head. . .Those who would destroy me are powerful, being wrongfully my enemies. . .Dishonor has covered my face. . .May I be delivered from my foes and from the deep waters. . .For I am in distress; answer me quickly. Oh draw near to my soul and redeem it; Ransom me because of my enemies! You know my reproach and my shame and my dishonor;
All my adversaries are before You. Reproach has broken my heart and I am so sick. . .May their table before them become a snare; And when they are in peace, may it become a trap. May their eyes grow dim so that they cannot see, And make their loins shake continually. Pour out Your indignation on them, And may Your burning anger overtake them.

Included in my daily Bible reading is five chapters of Psalms. There are 150 chapters in Psalms so I read through it each month. When I read the five chapters for the day I pray them back to God, personalizing the words so they become my prayer. It is amazing how many times the words in a Psalms for a particular day perfectly fit what I have experienced and what I am feeling.

After I have prayed curses upon those who I am angry at, I then change course and pray that God would open their eyes and convict them helping them to see their own sin, and bring them to repentance, and deliver them from the control of the evil one. I then really change course and pray that God will bless them, and that I might be able to help them.

It doesn’t happen very often, probably only once or twice a year, but I like to eliminate all negative feelings toward anybody. Life is so much more comfortable then.

I Like Goals, but so does the Devil and his demons

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.

2 Corinthians 11:3 But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.

Ephesians 6:11-13 so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness

One of the goals of the domain of darkness is to fill us with fear. If they can do that they effectively paralyze us and keep us from doing anything with our life that matters. If we include the commands to not be anxious there are over 100 commandments in the Bible to not fear, or be anxious.

Deuteronomy 31:8 The Lord is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”

The cure for fear is prayer. Once the church got rolling in the book of Acts the leaders were thinking that the people would be to afraid to witness, so they called for a prayer meeting to pray for courage and boldness. It says in Acts 4:31 that when they had prayed they spoke the Word of God with boldness.

In our present day fear and anxiety are at a very high level. The devil is keeping that fear as hot as he can. Jefferson Baptist Church is having a “five-day prayer event” beginning this Monday. We pray from 5:00 to 10:00 am and pm. We will pray Monday through Friday. If you come and pray for one hour a day or more this next week, you will notice very rapid growth in boldness. Give it a try and see what happens. There isn’t much worse than a chicken heart.

God Knows Me, He Thinks About Me, All the Time

Psalms 139:17-18 How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand.
When I awake, I am still with You.

When Patty and I were dating in College I was very afraid that I would lose her. She was the most popular girl on campus, and all the guys were wanting to go with her. I was the least known person on campus because I was such an introvert and recluse. I didn’t think that I had much of a chance of attracting her with my unassuming and bland personality. One day we had a conversation that changed everything, and catapulted our relationship into high gear. I said to her, “I am struggling with my grades because all I can think about is you,” and she responded by saying, “ I am having the same problem.” I thought, “wow! I can’t hardly believe this is true! But she said it! Wow, I am all she can think about! Whoooooeeeeeeee, thank You Lord!

As good as that was to hear from Patty to my love sick ears, it is even better news to hear that God’s thoughts about me are more numerous than the sand of the sea. That is a lot of thoughts! He must care for me a lot. That is a thought worth meditating on.

I wonder if I would have impressed Patty more by saying to her, “ The thoughts that I have about you are more numerous than all the sand on the sea shores in the whole world!” I will never know the answer to that question, but I do know that what I did say worked.

Routine

The more routine in my life the more I get done. If I write everything that I do in a month down on a list, it is a pretty long list. Some of the things that I do, I do once a month, others once a week, then daily, and then multiple times a day. If I do the list of daily things at the same time every day I am becoming organized routine and then I pick up even more speed. Some of the things on my list are locked in like church services, leadership classes, and accountability groups, so those get written down first, and then everything else gets written in around it. There is 168 hours in a week and I want to stuff as much in that time as I can. Some people like slow and easy, not me, I get super bored with slow and easy, I want fast and hard with periodic rest times plugged in. I like my rest times to be productive but sitting, like reading and writing. So I try to mix up “on my feet” activities with “sitting activities.” My list of daily activities get a number, 1, 2, or 3. Activities with a 1 are very important and can’t be missed like my Bible reading. Activities with a 3 have more flex in them and if things happen that I wasn’t expecting the 3’s can be sacrificed, such as writing in my journal or working on some of my projects. My journal writing is important, but my goal is three times a week, so it can move. If you play a game on your smartphone while flying on an airplane, you try and win. I have a game of trying to accomplish as much as possible in a week so I am always thinking about how I can improve my organization. Back in the days when I ran I had a wrist GPS that had a virtual running partner on the screen. I could program him to run at a certain speed so there would be him running on the screen and another runner that represented me. I could look and see if I was winning or losing the race as I ran, and it motivated me to pick up the pace if I was behind Gunner, the name I gave to my GPS running partner. My pages of daily activities scheduled throughout the day is my running partner, as it were. At the end of every day I can declare myself the winner or the loser. I have established some value statements so that I can maintain a fast pace, but not frantic. One of those is “interruptions in my schedule that are conversations with people get extra points, and if they are conversations with “vfp’s in my life they get even more points.” A vfp is a “very filling person.” Some people in my life fill up my gas tank, they encourage me, motivate me, make me smile, so I consider time with them in a week very important. Those times are seldom on my list, they happen accidently, but very easily, because I am always on the lookout for them, and will readily sacrifice several 3’s and even some 2’s to allow them to happen.

Self-Control Aaaaaaaah

I work really hard to control my eating with good days and bad. I exercise all the self-control I can muster to speak only words that edify and give grace to those who hear. I struggle big time with not allowing reading, listening to, and watching the news, and current event experts eat up a bunch of my time, it is so addictive. Speaking of addictive, it is so easy to let NFL and NBA games and all the Sports Talk stations eat up huge amounts of time, and then justify it under the guise of relaxing and recovering from the stresses in life. I set goals and set stopwatches with alarms, and establish consequences and rewards for success and failure. And then the real challenge is taking every thought captive so that all that I think about is pure, right, true, and honorable. Every morning I make commitments to the Lord to exercise self-control in every area of my life and I pray and ask God to give me the strength to keep my commitments. I sincerely hunger and thirst for righteousness, I press on toward the goal of becoming like Jesus in every area of my life and character, I examine my life and my motives every night and confess all known sins and bad attitudes to the Lord.

I am growing in self-control in all these areas, but it is so stinking slow! If I live to be a thousand years old I may be able to say that I have finally acquired the character trait of self-control, maybe! Oh well, maybe it will get easier when I get older 😂🤣

Seven for Heaven

Seven for Heaven is the name that we give to the list of “lost people” that we are praying for to get saved. The list can be one or one hundred; what they have in common is that we know them, and they are spiritually lost and headed for hell when they die. They can be neighbors, work associates, family, or friends. I have an even dozen on my list, and it only takes a few minutes to pray for them, so there is no good excuse for not praying for them every day.

Romans 10:1 Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation.

1 Timothy 2:1&4 “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men. . . .This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Lost people are spiritually blind; they can’t understand the truth of the gospel, it makes no sense to them.

2 Corinthians 4:4 in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

We can pray for our seven for heaven list and ask God to restore their spiritual eyesight, and He will do that.

Ephesians 1:18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,

He will also give us opportunity and the wisdom to share with them the gospel. The words of the gospel are powerful to give sight to those who are spiritually blind.

Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

Acts 26:17-18 rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.’

Acts 16:14 A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.

It looks like I could give five minutes every day to pray for a dozen lost people asking God to open their spiritual eyes so that they could understand the gospel, asking Him to set them free from the control of satan over their will, asking Him to provide an open door, a divine appointment with them to talk spiritual things with them, asking Him to give me the wisdom to know what to say and when to say it, and asking Him to convict them of their sin and draw them to Himself.

It doesn’t take much time, and that simple discipline would make a huge difference in the lives of a lot of people throughout our life if we would do it, but very few do.

Rejoice in Trials

Today I found out it is going to cost me $2,000 to get my outboard motor for my dory fixed, it is going to cost $500 for a brake job on Patty’s car, I have a hernia that needs surgery, the arthritis that I have in my neck has been killing me lately with this rainy – cold weather we have been having, I have developed a very painful sciatic nerve problem in my left leg, and my Parkinson’s disease seems to be getting worse. The admonition in the book of James is to consider it all joy when you have various trials, the Apostle Paul said to consider it all joy and to rejoice always in the midst of hard times.

The key for me is to start by thinking about the good things in life, now and in the past, and to praise the Lord for His blessings to me. Between my family and my ministry I have experienced so many blessings, it is impossible to remember all of them, but as I start thanking the Lord for a particular ministry or event I remember some more, and then some more. It seems as I am faithful and obedient to thank the Lord and not take any good gift from Him for granted my memory improves or He brings things to my mind that I had forgotten about.

Then it seems it is so much easier to be positive and thankful for present trials and I say “thank you to the Lord for every detail of my life, the good and the bad. I can say thank you for the trials because I know that they are producing character growth in me. I remind myself that the more trials I experience and manage the better I will do at the “Judgment Seat of Christ.” This life is going to be over soon, but the next life is for all eternity.

Supernatural Power of the Word

I was asked why I memorized so much of the Bible. I responded by saying that I believe the Bible is the inspired word of God, that the very words are supernatural, they are living, they give life, they give wisdom and knowledge, they give guidance and direction, they are the very mind and thoughts of Jesus Christ the second person of the Trinity, the son of God. If I sincerely believe all that to be absolutely true how could I do any less. If I did any less it would be doubtful whether I really believed all that about the word of God to be true.

1 Peter 1:25 But the word of the Lord endures forever.”

Isaiah 40:8 The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.

Isaiah 55:11 So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth;
It will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire,
and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.

Matthew 24:35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My word will not pass away.

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword.

Jeremiah 23:29 Is not My word like fire?” declares the Lord, “and like a hammer which shatters a rock?