To help myself live a consistent life and a life that is a good model for others I have established some guidelines in the form of rules and commitments. One my rules is never allow self-pity thoughts to stay in my mind, but to quickly replace them with thoughts of how blessed I am. We are by nature self centered so thoughts of “Oh Lord, why me, why now” come regularly and often. If those thoughts are allowed to stay in our mind they will suck the joy right out of us. Every morning when I pray my morning prayer of commitment to the Lord I say as part of my prayer, “today I will rejoice always and I will not allow myself to feel sorry for myself even for a second. Commitments that are remade every morning are very powerful in helping us become the kind of person we want to be. I want to be a happy person that enjoys life in spite of difficult circumstances. I also want to be the kind of person that others enjoy being around, and one that will attract people to my God and Savior Jesus Christ.
I have an app for my iPad called Scripture Memory. It is wonderful and has helped me to get the total number of Bible verses memorized well up to over 300. I started spending 30 minutes each day on scripture memory when I learned that many people with Parkinson’s become increasingly senile and that one of the best mind exercises to prevent senility is scripture memory. Besides the healthy mind benefit I experience all the blessings God promised to those who honor Him by honoring His word. I have selected 1,000 verses that I am going to memorize by the time I am 70. At my present rate of memorization I should make my goal. The App has a built in review system so that I learn new verses but also systematically review the ones I have already memorized. There is about 70,000 people who have this App and it ranks each person based on the number of points they have earned. You earn points by the total number of verses you have memorized and also by successfully reviewing verses you have learned. I am presently at 750th place and working to get up to 300th place by the end of the year. Nothing like a little competition to help motivate.
Our daughter Sherri took their little boy Courage to emergency today with an asthma attack. When Sherri was a baby we almost lost her with an asthma attack several different times. I remember walking around and around the hospital for hours praying that God would allow her to live. Over the years of praying for many different people with emergencies of various kinds I have gradually changed the way I pray, and I found myself praying that way today for little Courage. “Dear Lord, my will is that Courage would never get sick again, not even a little bit, but I know that isn’t the way life is. My will is that he would live to be a 120 years old, but I know that doesn’t happen, everyone dies sooner or later, and I tend to think later is better. Lord, I admit that I don’t know what your perfect will is most of the time, probabably all of the time. But I pray that Your will be done, and that You would be glorified in the outcome whether I like it or not. I pray that somehow many would be drawn to faith in You by the outcome of this crisis in our lives. I submit to Your will and declare my total trust in your love, and goodness, and wisdom. Please grant us Your joy, and peace, and strength in spite of circumstances. I love You.
Went out to Red Robin with Patty tonight. She is leaving tomorrow with all 6 of our girls plus our daughter in law to the coast where they have rented a house for three days to all hang out together celebrating Sarah’s (our oldest) 40th birthday. I have a goal to take Patty on a date at least twice each month and on the date to have significant conversation about our marriage, about our ministry, our kids and grandkids, and sometimes about future plans and finances. It was a nice date tonight. Over the last 46 years of raising 8 kids, pastoring a church, and doing all that we have done a major strength of ours has been our unity. Our unity has been the reason our marriage is such a source of strength and encouragement for both of us during all the ups and downs of life. The strength and encouragement that we receive from each other is a major reason that we both don’t grumble much and run with endurance the race God has set before us. Unity in a marriage is a result of commitment not to ever get angry, about learning how to solve problems together, learning how to really listen to the other person, a strong resolve to never hurt with our words, and proactively esteeming and honoring each other all the time. Our praying together for and about everything is the glue of our unity. Patty seems to understand this intuitively much more than I do. I pray to get things done. Patty believes in prayer but what is most important to her is that she prays with me. A truly blessed life has a unified marriage as the foundation.
I have a new addition to my morning prayer of commitment. After I say “Jesus, You are Lord of my life” I now say as well “I am like a dog on a leash”. I take my dog Russel for a walk on his leash and he pulls and tugs on me, and I think he thinks he is leading me to wherever he wants to go. He isn’t of course, but he is just a dumb dog. What I mean is that I picture that situation with Russel, but I know and confess and embrace the fact that God is leading me and I need to be smart enough and humble enough to follow without pulling and never thinking that I am in charge. God loves me and has a perfect plan for my life that includes tough times to make me like Himself in character. I won’t fuss or whine or feel sorry for myself. I will follow and serve Him. I will be reminded of this new commitment every time I take Russel out on his leash.
i hesitate to write this because I know that many will feel great pain as I reflect on our greatest of blessings, which is eight kids that have grown up strong and healthy, who all love the Lord, who all have married spouses who love the Lord, except Seth who is single, who all love their parents and who all love each other, and have had 21 soon to be 22 healthy children who I am sure will love the Lord as well. Our oldest daughter just had her 40th birthday so the girls, 6 of them plus our daughter in law are going to all go to the coast and stay for 4 days together and let the husbands keep the kids. A number of them have been to the house yesterday and today and I have had a wonderful time being with them and reflecting on this greatest of blessings. There are so many who have had their kids make very poor choices with alchohol and drugs, poor choices with who they married, and so many have had their kids turn their back on the Lord and become prodigals. So many parents that I know are estranged from their kids because one or the other or both carry a huge load of bitterness over a past offense. I am so thankful to the Lord for this greatest of blessings and I am committed to praying very faithfully and diligently for those I know who have great heart ache instead of a sense of blessing. It is the least I can do for the Lord and for others for His great blessing to Patty and I.
Took my wife, Patty on a date tonight and we went into Salem 1st Baptist and listened to one of my favorite missionaries talk about her work in China getting young ladies who have been sold as sex slaves released from the brothels they are held in and helping them get a real life free from bondage, with a good job, and faith in Jesus Christ. She is a young single lady who has devoted her life to helping the helpless. There were many other things that she shared that she is doing in China to help homeless people, mentally handicapped that have been rejected by their family, and others who were trapped in deadend lifestyles. As I sat and listened to her while eating a great Chineese food dinner I was amazed at all that she has accomplished in such a short amount of time. The question that came to my mind was why are there so few people that accomplish very much with their life that really matters. We are all “hard wired” by God to want to do something with our life that is significant, but most do not. Why? I think it is what Jesus said, “the way is easy and many choose it” “the way is hard and there are few who choose it”. How many would choose to go to China? How many would choose once there to give their life to going into brothels to rescue young girls who are trapped and enslaved. We like the idea of doing something Nobel with our lives but make it easy and comfortable.
i started this morning with a 6 am men’s accountability breakfast at Shari’s Resturant in Salem and then moved to another breakfast with a pastor and then to office stuff. At noon 8 pastors came for three hours of mutual accountability and me teaching. Then several meetings topped off with a Leadership Two class that I teach on Thursday night from 6:30 to 8 pm. Then at home reading and praying for the people in JBC for three hours. It is so rewarding to sit back in my chair and feel very tired knowing that I gave my life today to being a servant of Jesus. I will sleep well tonight and I am looking forward to this weekend when I preach on the Gospel of John.
i am taking my oldest grandson who is about 14 fishing with me to the Kenai River in Soldotna, Alaska this coming July for sockeye salmon. We usually limit out every day with 3 to 6 fish and then catch and release for hours. It is unbelievable fun. I bought him a medium weight 8’6″ spinning rod at the Sportsman’s Show for only $30.00 this last week. It must have had a defect or it got stepped on or something on the ride home in the back of the pickup because when Josiah took it out to the field next to the house to practice casting the end of the rod broke after a couple of casts. He felt really bad because I think he thought I spent hundreds of dollars on it. After calling the company up in Washington and finding out the hoops I was going to have to jump through to get a new one I decided to just buy another one. I got a nice Lamiglass medium/light 8’6″ steelhead spinning rod on eBay sitting in my chair tonight. I spent a little more than $30.00 on this one. I had so much fun shopping on line for the rod for him. After looking at dozens and dozens of different rods and then deciding on this one after reading dozens of reviews on the various rods and tapping the buy button on my IPad I felt a special joy knowing the fun he was going to have with this, and that he was going to have that fun with me.
my faith in the reality of Jesus Christ has grown steadily stronger over the years especially since my 40th birthday when I had a time where I could have gone either way in my relationship with the Lord, a sort of crisis of faith where I really doubted all that I had been taught and what I was teaching. It was a second go round for me in this, the first being when I was a Freshman in College. The first time I nearly turned my back on my faith in Jesus took several months to work my way through, in 1989 it took just a couple of days. Since then there has been no looking back or second thoughts or any inkling of doubts. Today my faith is rock solid, very strong and growing at an accelerated rate to the point that most of my thoughts during the day revolve around the Lord, my service for Him and my eternity with Him. The strength of my faith that Jesus is very real and that heaven is very real and very wonderful has fueled my passion to attract more and more people to Him. I grieve over the number of people who have little to no faith in Christ and seem totally unreachable. My main tool it seems that God has given to me to make a difference is preaching, and I have become increasingly obsessed with getting better at this skill, and receiving more supernatural anointing from God. I spend hours every day praying for those I preach to and for myself pleading with God to please speak through me with more power and clarity so that people encounter the living God and know it with out a doubt when I teach His Word. The number of people who visit JBC and then don’t come back, and the number who have attended for years and then drift away is so depressing to me. If I could just get better, if God would just empower more, everybody who heard the Word of God from me would believe and become fully devoted followers in Jesus Christ. Oh well, I guess not even Jesus was able to pull that one off. But I will keep working hard and praying long that more will happen.