Hah, you thought maybe I was talking about modeling with my body! That is a scary thought😄. Actually what I am talking about is modeling with my life. Spiritual leaders are commanded by God to be an example to others on how to live life successfully. I want to do that, but it is tricky to be a good model for others, and do that with humility that doesn’t cause God to take away oprtunities or turn people off. To choose to hold myself up as a model takes a level of confidence and belief that how I live my life would benifit others if they would copy what I do. Choosing to be an example for others to copy is really the ultimate form of teaching. People learn so much quicker if they see the principle lived out as opposed to just hearing it taught. Finding the balance between humility and confidence in the process of leading and teaching others by example is essential. Several factors are important as I work at being a good example for others. The first is remembering that perfection is not required of models and perfection isn’t the the goal for those being modeled to. Personal growth in character and growth in relational skills is the requirement and the goal. I am growing and at the same time make mistakes and blow it, but I work at managing the mess ups so they turn into a reason for more growth in character. Choosing to be an example for others to follow has been one of the great motivators in my life to never be content with who I have become but to press on for greater growth and improvement so others can grow right along with me.
It is 10 pm and I am sitting in a motel in Portland with my beautiful wife, Patty. We are getting on an airplane in the morning, 6 am for Missouri where I am going to teach on how to have a great marriage and how to raise champions for Jesus. I am hoping that I sleep well on the airplane because I am feeling especially weary tonight. Not sure why. I enjoy these special assignments from God to go to other places and talk and teach about something that I am so passionate about in my own life. While we were raising our 8 kids I read every book written on the subject of raising kids, some two or three times and we both went to many seminars on raising good kids and having a good marriage. We were hungry for wisdom in an area we did not want to fail at. Now we are all done with the kid raising and our marriage has entered what some writers call the “afterglow”, that time when we are very comfortable with who we are and how we relate to and treat each other. I can’t remember the last time we had a tiff even a minor one. It is nice to be able to pass on the knowledge learned from books, seminars, and our own experience. Someone asked us about the difference between now and “then” in regards to raising kids and having a super marriage. My answer is that when we started there was an understanding that there was a definite right way and wrong way to do it, and if you wanted to know the right way look around and find someone who had done well and get their counsel. We did that. We drove 90 minutes once a week into Portland in the evening to get 30 minutes of counsel from a Dad who had 12 of the best behaved kids I had ever seen. He taught us the right way. Now most are of the opinion that there is no right or wrong or best way, whatever you think is right is OK, so we are seldom asked for advice or counsel, even from those who obviously need it badly. Just be sincere and do your best and somehow it will all turn out OK. If I went to a doctor for complicated surgery I would really like him to be more than sincere, I would like him to be incredibly skilled and knowledgeable. How important is a wonderful marriage and kids that are champions?
When the kids were little naps were part of their life and ours. Our day was scheduled around the kids need for naps. When they all outgrew their need for naps we had so much more flexibility in our schedules. Now I have reverted to childish ways, I need a nap everyday in order to function well. I don’t always get one but when I do there is a noticeable increase in energy, creativity, and positive attitude. Part of the problem is with my Parkinson’s disease I can’t sleep more than 5 hours without getting super stiff and immobile, so I get up after 5 hours and then take 1 hour nap later in the day. Works pretty good, and I feel soooooo good after my nap. I usually take my nap in my recliner next to the wood stove after I have done some reading in my Bible. Wasn’t that long ago that if I took a nap I would feel like a lazy sluggard, now I feel like a blessed man! Interesting how things change as life progresses. I can’t wait until I get to heaven.
Some things are a puzzle. They are difficult to understand. Prayer is one of those things. It is supernaturally fulfilling for me. I feel so close to God, and so in tune with His will for my life after spending 8 hours praying with other believers as I did today. As I sit in my chair tonight thinking about today, I have this euphoric sense of peace, joy, and spirituality that is so amazing. On the other hand prayer as I experienced it today is very hard work. I don’t move much or think that hard so I wonder why a day like today is so absolutely exhausting to me. That is the puzzle part for me. On one hand I would love to have another great day like today with God, but I am also thinking as I sit here, boy it would be so nice to sleep in tomorrow and rest up from today. The Apostle Paul referred to a man named Epaphras “always laboring earnestly for you in His prayers” in Colosians 4:12. I think I understand that verse now. “Laboring earnestly in Prayer”, wow what a statement. I have done that today and I believe it will make a huge difference in lives for all eternity.
Super nice comments and notes from many who read my blog yesterday and responded to me by giving me encouragement. Thank you so very much. Reminded me of a number of verses in the Bible concerning the power of words to give strength and also to make weak, to build up but also to tear down, to give hope and to cause despair, to heal and also to wound. As I read the various notes I thought, Wow, how a few words written can make a person feel so good. Words are indeed powerful. I can think not that far back to words that were directed at me that made me feel like a loser and good for nothing. I remember when I was a little kid hearing the little ditty that we would say to someone that had just said a mean thing to us, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me”. That is a totally untrue statement. Even the toughest, most confident person can be deeply hurt by words. Every morning in my personal prayer of commitment to the Lord one of the things I commit to is Ephesians 4:29, “Let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth, but only such a word that is good for building someone up”.
Fairly regularly I am in a blue funk on Sunday night. I come into the weekend wanting with every fiber of my being for the services to be an amazing experience of the power and presence of God, for every person to be powerfully moved to draw near to God and for every person to be supernaturally impacted by all that was taught and all that happened in the name of the Lord. I pray for God to bring a thousand people, and I pray until my heart hurts for every person in our church family. Our services are always good and many people are blessed and impacted but it is never to the measure that I wanted or hoped for. I work hard at being thankful, but I can’t help being disappointed because of those who weren’t there and because of what didn’t happen. There is always the temptation to quit wanting so much and to just relax and accept whatever happens. It sounds nice but I know that my obsession with more people, and better sermons, and more growth in the lives of people is what drives me to bear more and more fruit for God. I don’t have that many years left to do ministry and I want them to count. I am in a blue funk tonight but I will be back in high gear tomorrow pressing on for “more” and “more”, pleading for God to please bless me and give me increase.
I preached tonight on how to grow your own faith to be super strong with a simple spiritual exercise that is supernaturally powerful to cause us to grow and never go backwards. It is amazing to me how I will believe something to be true and then when I think about it and how to say it so it is understood and then teach it, how it becomes so much clearer in my own mind and heart. Also my confidence in the truth of it and the practicality of the exercise to produce life change in myself and others goes up dramatically. The spiritual exercise is very simple. Each morning to read and affirm the gospel.
“I believe that You, Jesus are God, that You left heaven, emptied Yourself of all that You were as God, became flesh, dwelt among us, and we’re tempted in every area as I am, but that You never sinned. I believe that You took all of my sin upon Yourself, that God the Father punished You, His beloved Son in my place, and that You paid the price of my sin. I believe that You died for me, were buried, and that You rose from the dead three days later. I believe that You delivered me from the domain of darkness and transferred me to Your family and in You I have redemption , the forgiveness of all my sins. I am no longer going to hell, but I am going to live forever in heaven with You.
Try reading this statement of faith every morning for 30 days and see what happens to you.
Had a poker tournament tonight. $20 buy in and we played until one person was left and they won a Green Mountain grill. I have played poker twice in my life but last week I down loaded a poker game on my IPad and practiced. I was doing pretty good until it got to be 10 pm and then I bet all my chips on nothing. My big bluff didn’t work, and now I am home. I will find out tomorrow who won the grill. Maybe I can borrow it. The evening was a lot of fun with great fellowship and lots of good snacks. One of the great blessings in life for me is good friends who I enjoy being around, and who are “energy givers” to me. I have gotten good at reading my emotional gas tank, and when it feels like I am down to a quarter full I have have also gotten good at knowing how to fill it up, and an enjoyable evening like tonight is very effective. Tomorrow is Saturday and I will speak at a men’s event at another church, then I will teach my “Men’s Leadership” class, and then our Saturday evening service. Sunday I will preach at the 9 and 11 am services so it is great to go to bed tonight knowing that I am fully energized and ready for a great weekend. Who would have thought that a poker tournament would help me preach better.😄
I just finished a book entitled “The Power of Habits”. The book says that about 40% of everything that we do is not really a decision because we do it automatically as a learned habit. The basic premis of the book is that habits can be changed if we know how. I really like understanding better how I can successfully change and grow in my character. Knowing how habits work and how to successfully change them is great self management.
At the annual NW annual meetings for our denomination there were several hundred pastors most whom I know, and enjoy visiting with about pastoring and other things that are hobbies, and interests. In conversations with a number of them they were asking about my bicycle trip across the nation to Portland, Maine this past summer. In the course of conversation I usually mentioned that I was probably going on another trip in a year across the Southern part of the US instead of the Northern part. A number of the guys said they would really like to do something like that before they died. I encouraged them to consider it, that it was a great adventure. The ones who are most serious are the ones who are retiring this next year. That would be fun going with a number of old Baptist preachers. We would probably do a lot of moaning and groaning to each other at night as we set up our tents and cook dinner. One pastor asked what we would do if he gave out and couldn’t go any more. I said that we could either shoot him and put him out of his misery or put he and his bike on a bus back to home, his choice. Everyone wants to do something wild and reckless that is a major challenge for them at least once in their life.