i don’t like movies that don’t have a happy ending. That is exactly why I did like the new Ben Hur movie. There are all kinds of sad and bad things that happen to everyone involved but in the end all the good people are happy. Pilate isn’t happy, but I am OK with that. In the Bible the end of the story of my life is written, and I believe with total faith that is true. One of two endings are possible for my happy ending. The first is that I die from a yet unknown reason with the grace of God surrounding it meaning that it is no big deal, and I step into the presence of the Lord and all the beauty and joy of heaven. The second is that I am still alive when Jesus comes to get me and I get a new body and off I go to live with Him forever. That event will be quite a bit more exciting than sky diving I am sure, as I fly through the sky with my Christ like body. Positive anticipation of a future event gives energy, joy, enthusiasm, and has a way of covering the sadness of bad events. I never worry any more about anything. I don’t fret about health, money, weather, elections, nothing. The reason is that I have set my mind on the things above rather than on the things of this life and this place. It really does work. I like happy endings, and mine is about as good and happy as it gets so I think I will spend my thinking time on the ending of my life not today.
Jesus said He was the good shepherd and that He laid his life down for the sheep. He also said that Pastors are shepherds to and that they need to work hard at being good and wise shepherds. Most of my shepherding role as a pastor is spent in working at rounding up drifting sheep. It is not a particularly enjoyable job, rounding up drifting sheep, primarily because drifting sheep don’t want to be rounded up, and many don’t really think that they have drifted.
1 Thessalonians 2:11-12 just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.
These verses written by the Apostle Paul as a pastor are life defining verses for me., when I phone someone and ask how they are doing and that I have missed seeing them, I often get a response that is hinting at “I am a big boy, and I don’t need you bugging me”.
I write many hand written notes, type emails, and thumb type text messages in the hundreds, to people in our church “exhorting, encouraging, and imploring” them to live godly lives. As I do this I pray diligently that God will work in their heart while I am “bugging”, I try to come across as humble, not as someone who has arrived and has it all together and I constantly remind myself that I am battling the devil, not people.
life is made up of chapters like a book, and each chapter is a set of new experiences, responsibilities, and adjustments. Probably the biggest chapter change was when I got married, almost everything changed. Most of the time you can see it coming and anticipate the changes. Sometimes you don’t like the new chapter and it takes awhile to adjust to it and accept it. Today is a major chapter change in my life. Pastor Mike Dedera, my associate pastor at JBC is going to take over the preaching responsibilities on Saturday night at 7 pm and Sunday morning at 9 am and 11:30’am. The main worship service preaching has been my baby for 40 years, and I am pretty sure it is going to be a major adjustment for me. I am going to start a teaching class at 8 am on Sunday morning, and will go through Revelation, Daniel, and other prophetic books during that time. I will also start a teaching time on Wednesday night during AWANA. I will teach three “Men’s Leadership” classes and one for High School kids during the week. I will also be in charge of the “Small Group” ministry and will start and lead a number of them. There is a bunch of other things that I will be doing, and I will probably work harder than I have been. The main reason I am making this adjustment is because my voice is wearing out, and the small classroom settings will be much easier on my voice and my energy level. Also it is time for Mike to step into this role. He has been very faithful, has studied hard, gone to seminary and gotten his Masters degree, and he has been a super teachable student with me. It is time, and he will do awesome.
when my Dad had liver cancer and dying I went up and stayed with him and Mom as much as I could in the last 2 months of his life. From his bed you could see down their quarter mile long driveway, and see when someone was driving up their driveway. When he saw someone coming he would get out of bed, get dressed, and go sit in the living room and chat with his visitor until they left and then go back to bed. The whole process was very tiring and I and Mom both tried to talk him into staying in bed while people visited him, but he refused. I wrote in my journal, “it seems that the last thing to die in a person is their dignity”. It seems like their desire to be treated with dignity goes up exponentially with age and frailness, but our tendency is to treat them as a child as they become more needy of help. Patty and I went up to stay with my Mom and help take care of her while she recuperates from her hip surgery. She tends to violate the rules set for her on what she can do and not do in her stage of recovery, and my observation is that she does not like getting bossed around or talked down to by medical people or by family, not even a little bit. My conclusion for myself in my treatment of her is that her sense of dignity is worth more than her phisical health, and that she will not be around much longer so I need to be very careful how I talk to and treat her no matter how much she might try my patience. Mom is a bit of a burden right now, and has caused some strain in family relationships as we figure out how to take care of her, but if anybody has earned the right to be treated with utmost respect at this stage in her life, my Mom has.
Yesterday was our 47th year being married. We raised 8 kids and have 22 grandkids and have been 40 years pastoring at JBC. I can’t think of two people that were more different in every area of life than we were when we got married, and there were some rough years at the beginning, but now I can’t Imagine anybody having a better marriage than ours. As I think about where we are and what is it that has been a factor in the unity and love that presently exists I can think of at least 47 but I will mention just a couple for now. One biggie is our ability to laugh at the things that we say and do to each other that are not, we’ll let me put it this way, are not very sensitive, instead of getting hurt or mad. Most of the things that couples say and do that create conflict are really funny if you take the time to think and look for the humor. It is amazing the power of a little laugh or giggle to diffuse a hurtful, irritating situation. Then instead of being grumpy and mad you are happy, that is what laughter does, and it often is no more than a choice of how you are going to react. Another major key for us is that we love each other and enjoy one another very much, but we aren’t over board on being dependent on our spouse so that we can’t function without them. Patty has the freedom to go visit family, help my Mom, develope her own ministry without me being upset about her not taking care of all my needs, and I can go to Africa on a mission trip for several weeks, go on a bicycle trip, and go fishing in Alaska without Patty feeling neglected. A third thing is that we understand and meet key needs in each other. One of the major needs of a woman is security, and I work hard at being a man who operates on the basis of commitments made and convictions of what is right and wrong rather than feelings or circumstances. A man’ s greatest need is to be respected, and Patty treats me as a man who is strong, smart, has everything under control, and is the worlds greatest fisherman even if I am not.
we drove up to my Mom’s today and I was looking at some pictures that recently were put in an album and I saw this picture of my Dad when he was 19 years old just before the start of World War II. I don’t remember ever seeing this picture of him so I took a picture for my personal album. Dad died of liver cancer 25 years ago, and I have nothing but good memories of him, our relationship, lessons I learned from him, and character, skills, and attitudes that I presently have because of him. He had a huge impact on my life and still does, and I probably don’t know the half of it. I look forward to seeing him when I go to heaven, and I also am looking forward to the discussions we will have about his opinion of how I lived my life as he observed me from heaven. I still don’t wear gloves when I work because Dad tended to make fun of guys who did, nor do I put cream or sugar in my coffee for the same reason. One of my major desires in life has been to be a good Dad that lives, teaches, and models in such a way that my kids have godly character and will be champions for Christ. Though they are all adults now I still want to influence positively, and be a source of wisdom and an example of godly character to them as well as to my grandkids.
i was talking with some people today about slow pitch softball and how much I used to enjoy playing when I was younger, and how good our JBC team was. Then the conversation moved a bit and we started talking for some reason about Christians who yelled at the umpire, yelled and got angry at the players on the other team and even at the players on their own team. As Christians we are supposed to attract people to our faith by our behavior, and the most powerful area of our example is how we talk to other people, and sadly it is also the most powerful tool of the devil to bring dishonor to the name of Jesus and the gospel. With our mouth we both tear down and build up people. The Bible talks about mature people and immature, calling them infants and babies in character. Nothing is a clearer indicator of our level of maturity than how we talk to others. It takes great self-control to always speak words that give grace, that are kind, that encourage, and honor others so that they feel good about themselves because of our words that were carefully chosen. Self-control is the result of godly character. In raising our kid’s we had clear goals and objectives, and a major one was that they would always talk nice to others. It was easy to know how we were doing, all we had to do was listen to them talk to each other. In our world and culture today getting angry, telling people off, slandering, gossiping, rudeness, and dishonoring people is the norm. As I examine my life for sin each evening before going to sleep, and confessing them to the Lord, it seems most of my sins are committed with my mouth. I desperately want to grow in this area because each weekend I speak, teach and preach the Word of God to people so they can grow close to God and grow in character. The Bible says that a spring of water doesn’t have both fresh and salty water coming out of it so how can I expect to speak God’s Word and out of the same mouth speak slander. So I will press on to grow in self control so that every word that I speak out of my mouth would be as it were the very utterances of God.
one of my goals for this year was to go skydiving, and I did it today. My good friend Lloyd Smith and my son-in-law Luke Doughton and I drove to Molalla where “Sky Dive Oregon” is located and we jumped out of a really nice airplane at about 15,000 feet elevation and free fell for about a minute and then glided to the ground and landed like a bird, an albatross. This was my third time since the first about six years ago, and it is still just as exhilarating as the first, probably more so, because on the first jump the fear drowned out the exhilaration. I was still a bit of a chicken though because when the guy I was strapped to going down tandem with asked if I wanted to fly the chute I deferred to him getting us down safely in the field where we took off instead of in the highway. It really is a lot of fun from the perspective of excitement and adventure as well as the beauty of the scenery from that elevation. The first time I went it fell under the goal of doing something I had never done before as well as the goal to do something each year that moved me outside my comfort zone. Sky diving met those two criteria easily. Someone asked me Sunday if I wanted to go bungy jumping off one of the bridges in Portland. Now that certainly will be something I have never done before, and just thinking about it was way outside my comfort zone, so I guess I will probably give it a go, unless it doesn’t fit my schedule, I can always pray!
Occasionally I will emotionally feel very flat. Most of the time I can lift myself out of it by thinking about certain things, reading certain things, doing certain things and being around certain people. Over the years I have accurately figured out what those certain things are in each of those categories. But occasionally a blue funk I am in will defy my usual fixes, and I stay in an emotionally flat place for awhile. During these times the only thing that seems to work is time. It would be nice if during these times if I could go away to a secluded place where there were no people or responsibilities, and occasionally it works for me to do just that, but usually I have to keep doing what my responsibilities call me to. During these times I have to guard myself and put forth extra discipline so I don’t make a dumb decision often involving money I shouldn’t have spent, or say something to a person that is hurtful, usually a person I love. During these depressed times I exercise more, read my Bible more, and pray more. When I am feeling totally unmotivated it is very hard to read more, pray more, and especially exercise more. The accountability groups that I am in each week are the key to me being faithful and disciplined. Let me know if you want in one.
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.
These two verses in the Bible are a couple of my favorites. I remind myself daily that this could be the day that Jesus returns. I am going to preach on these verses this weekend at JBC, 7 pm Saturday, tonight, 9 am and 10:30 am on Sunday morning, tomorrow. Our building has a great air conditioning system in it and it is going to be hot. Why not come and be blessed by the teaching of God”s Word and be cool.