there are a number of people I know whose birthdays are the same day as mine. One them is the wife of a couple that are good friends of Patty and I. We established the tradition a number of years ago that we would eat dinner together close to October 27th if not on the day, to celebrate our birthdays and lives. We went out to a Resturant for a couple of years and then we started having dinner in one of our homes alternating between us. Tonight we went to their house for this cool annual event, and had a very relaxing and enjoyable time with barbecued steak, potatoes, mushrooms, and other stuff that was delicious and we finished it off with ice cream, what else! As a person assesses their life and tries to determine the valuable things that God has blessed them with I think good friends would rank right behind family. The Lord has blessed us with a number of very close, strong friends who have been invaluable to us as we face the pressures of ministry over the years, in keeping us “up”, encouraged, and enduring. We had our 40th anniversary of being the pastor here at JBC a week ago yesterday, and a question asked often was how did we manage that. I didn’t think of the answer then but now I would say with out a doubt the reason was easily the friends that we have had that provided so much support and encouragement. To have friends you must be a friend which requires effort, sacrifice of time to do things socially with them. I thank God for our great friends
there are a number of exercise/games, as I call them, that you can do with the list of 26 character traits. One is that you can put a number beside each one, 1 beside your strongest character trait, the you are almost perfect in, and then ranked all the way down to the weakest area of your life which has the number 26 in front of it. Once you have done that you can spend a month on your weakest character trait. You can look up Bible verses that relate to it, set specific activities that will strengthen this character trait as goals or part of a daily to do list. The daily self evaluation of progress made is probably the most effective and powerful way to improve, grow, and become like Christ in your character. A coralory to this exercise is having someone that knows you well, like your spouse, parent, son or daughter, or friend rank you on the character traits. The continuous use of this list will increase our awareness of who we really are, and increase our desire to grow and change. The cool thing about this list is that we aren’t talking about sin or being bad, just a non- strengths that can become a strength if we work at it. I recently ranked myself and I determined that my weakest area was “orderliness”. So for the month of November I have 4 goals, (1) clean my office, (2) clean my shop, (3) finish my goal of inventorying all my tools and materials and putting them in an app on my phone, (4) and working at putting tools away when I am finished with them instead of just setting them down. Now that will be a miracle if I can pull that off😀.
I have identified 26 different character traits that I want to work on and improve in.My goal is to take one character trait each week and to meditate on what it looks like to be perfect in it, and to examine my life daily in regards to this one character trait and how I am doing in it. With 26 character traits I can focus on each of them for a week and then each of them a second time each year. This week the character trait is honesty, truthfulness, being transparent, and being real and not a phony. In Hebrews it says that it is impossible for God to lie. The reason it is imapossible is because God can’t act differently than who He is, what His character is. Isaiah calls God by the title “God of truth” several times. God is truth, that is who He is and He can’t act differently than His nature, His character. I want that same character. Each evening I think, reflect, examine my day and life, write and journal in an attempt to discover all that is contrary in me to truth.
October 27th, 1948 is the day I was born. I came into existence as a human being with a soul, a mind , a heart, and a spirit. I think, reflect, and ponder, within myself about myself trying to figure myself out. I am eternal and have the capacity to know God. I have the potential to grow inside, my inner person to become more and more like God. My character can grow so that I can fellowship with, converse with, and enjoy a real relationship with the God who created everything. I am self aware, carry on conversations with myself, I dream about and plan the future. God planned, and designed me and loves me. Because of my faith in Christ I will get a new body someday. It will be me, with my character, my way of doing things, my memories, my personality, but no sin nature, no bad habits. I am unique, a spiritual snowflake, and I began my personal journey 68 years ago, and it will never end. Amazing, mind boggling, incomprehensible.
Tonight was the start of the NBA season and the Portland Trailblazers won their game against the Utah Jazz. Tonight was also the start of the World Series between the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago Cubs, and though the Cubs are a sentimental favorite with many baseball fans because the Cubs haven’t been to the World Series since 1945, 3 years before I was born, but they lost the first game tonight. Winning and losing is what sports are about. In just 2 weeks we will have a winner and a loser in the presidential race. In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 Paul says if you are in a race, run it to win. What does it mean to win in life? I want to win in life, how do I do that? How do I know if I have? Paul declared himself a winner a few days before he is martyred by the Roman Emorer Nero when he said”I have finished the race” and I will receive “the crown of life”, I will be declared a winner by God Himself. Most Christian’s will not win because they won’t finish well because they will become entangled with the world and the stuff in it. They will back slide because of the lure of the world, because of the tempting of the evil one, and because our flesh is weak in doing good and strong in doing bad.
my Dad used to say often, ” just because a person gets older doesn’t mean they get wiser”. It was usually prompted by a decision someone we knew had made, and that statement was his way of saying that he didn’t think it was a very wise decision. I am often in a place where I wished I was much wiser than I am, while raising our eight children I often would plead with God to give me more wisdom, as a husband, and almost daily as I try and give people advice, counsel and the Word of God as a Pastor in such a way that they raise good kids, have super marriages and so they can live a life pleasing to the Lord resulting in much blessing to them. I almost continuously am reminded that many people make decions and choices based on information that they have gotten from me. What if it is wrong? What kind of consequences will come into their life, and into the lives of those that they would pass this counsel onto believing it was good. The book of James in the New Testament says, “let not many of you become teachers, knowing that as such you will incur a stricter judgment from God”.
The book of Proverbs says, “If you seek for wisdom like gold, silver, precious jewelry” you will find it. The Bible also says that if you ask for it God who is all wise will give you wisdom, but only if you are seeking for it diligently. The first requirement would be that you have a deep,sense of lacking the wisdom you need. God doesn’t give much wisdom to “know it all’s”. I am constantly on the look out for wise people in various areas of life and I take them out for lunch, think of really good questions that I can ask, write them down, take good notes, and I pay for lunch. That is the number one recommendation in the book of Proverds as seeking wisdom is encouraged, get counsel from wise people. We can do that by reading good books written by wise people. My reading goal is 100 pages,each week faithfully, that is only 20 pages 5 days a week. I also listen to good teaching by downloading sermons and lectures onto my IPhone. I have a goal of listening to three good sermons each week. My motto is, “If I am moving, I listen, and if I am sitting I read”. Writing is another one of my wisdom seeking disciplines. Writing this blog, writing prayers, and writing sermons and lessons that I am going to give help me think clearer and more logically. If I have a problem I have much more success solving it by writing than just thinking.
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.
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.