Way back in February of 1989 the very first Pastor’s Prayer Summit was held at Cannon Beach, Oregon. It was initiated by Dr Joe Aldrich who was president of Multnomah Bible College, who said “Oregon is the least churched State of all 50 States, so we need to get the Pastors of the greater Salem area together and pray for four days with no speakers or agendas and ask God to do something in our State”. At that point I had been pastoring at Jefferson Baptist Church for 13 years, and I felt like a total failure. I was extreamly discouraged, depressed, burntout, and had begun looking for a job on a dairy. I went to that first Prayer Summit, and God did a major work in my life. I came away from that time with a firm resolve to be devoted to prayer in my life and ministry, and a commitment to continue pastoring at JBC until I died. The Prayer Summit became an annual event at Cannon Beach and I have not missed one since, and the one that started today is the 29th one that I have been at. Every year I come with the desire that I again would meet with God in a special way, be renewed in my spiritual walk with God, reenergized in my passion for ministry, and come away with clarity in regards to exactly what God wants me to do with my life for Him. Because I come with that desire, I always go home from these times with at least some of those desires realized, and never disappointed. This is a transition year for me in that the main focus of my ministry for the last 40 years has been preaching at Jbc. I recently gave that up, and now pastor Mike Dedera is doing most of the preaching. I am still working as many hours at the church, just different, more behind the scenes stuff. I still have my fire and passion as hot as ever, and my daily prayer is that God will allow me to bear more fruit for Him in the next 10 years than I have in the previous 40. The question rolling around in my mind is how? What? So I am looking for, and listening for God’s promptings that will give me some clear direction for this next stage of my life. I am expecting that this Prayer Summit will be equal to the very first one in what it does for me.
Today, at Jefferson Baptist Church, Pastor Mike Dedera preached on love. The main point was this “if you have not been loved you will not be able to love”. Put another way, “you will only be able to love others to the degree that you have been loved by others”. That principle left to people will result in a gradual decline of love between people until there is no love left, just hate.
But the good news is God has infused our world with His love. God so loved the world that He gave His only Son to leave heaven, to empty Himself of all that He was as God, become flesh like us, and then God reached into the past and the future and gathered up all the sins ever committed, put them on Jesus, looked at Jesus as if He actually committed those sins, and then Jesus died as punishment for my sins and yours. He did that for me because He loved me. I now am forgiven by God, adopted into His family, and I will live forever with Him because He loved me.
I know the facts of what Jesus did for me, I believe the words of the gospel to be true by faith, I accept the theology of Jesus taking my place, paying my debt, but today, gathered with others, worshiping God together, sensing His presence with us because we had gathered together in His Name, hearing the words preached by Mike I felt the emotion of God’s unconditional love for me in my heart. I experienced His love for me.
I can love others because He first loved me. I can love others unconditionally because He first loved me unconditionally. I can forgive others because He has forgiven me. But if God’s love for me remains an intellectual ascent to historical and theological facts my love for others will be rather Spock like. The emotion of love felt from God and felt for God is powerful, and transforms human relationships.
one of my regular stated concerns about myself is, “it is possible for me to do all the right things for all the wrong reasons’, and then a further alarming statement is, “it is possible for me to do all the right things for all the wrong reasons and not even know it”!! One of the wrong motives for doing good would be to please or impress people. Self-worth is a human need, and most people get their sense of worth and value from people. The people around us become a mirror of sorts, and we look into the mirror to see who we are. If we don’t like what we see then we perform for them trying to ratchet up their opinion of us so that we see a cool person in the mirror. That system of building our self-worth is a house of cards because of people’s fickleness, and we intuitively know that resulting in insecurity, unhealthy comparisons, criticalness of others, and a constant feeling of hurt because people aren’t appreciating our efforts to please them.
Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.
I recite these two verses throughout the day to remind myself who I am serving, and who I am trying to please with my life and activities. The cool thing about pleasing the Lord is that He is much more concerned about our motive then He is about perfection. He is incredibly, gracious, patient, and forgiving when our motives are right, and when He whispers to our heart, “well done, good and faithfull servant, enter into the joy of your master” our sense of worth and value is at the top.
When we receive our sense of worth and value from the Lord and not from people we are freed up to serve them and meet their needs with great confidence and freedom because we aren’t worrying about their opinion.
Going back over the years and seeing the number of “views” for each of my blog entries that I have written, and I have written 864 blogs over about 8 years, it is easy to see that the ones that get a lot of “views” are the ones with a catchy title. People are prompted to take the time to read if it appears interesting to them. I like people to read what I write, that is why I write, so I probably need to spend as much time thinking up the title as I do writing the blog. One of the temptations is to become “outlandish” in my attempts to attract attention. “Outlandish” is defined as bizarre, weird, grotesquely exaggerated, and on the list of synonyms goes, but you get the idea. What is required to be “grotesquely exaggerated” is a lack of integrity, the title promises more than it delivers. Two places this shows up today with increasing grotesqueness is advertising and the news. I don’t like being “duped”, tricked, being treated as stupid, and my list of sources of news is getting shorter and shorter.
As I think about that for myself I recognize that Integrity is a character trait that over time earns credibility with others, trust. I also recognize that God knows what is true and what is “outlandish” even a little bit, and He is the one who blesses, opens doors, and attracts people. One of my personal mission statements is, “I want to speak and write with God as the audience”.
If God would answer a question that I had, just one, I think I would ask Him, “what sin is committed more often in the world than any other?” I think I know the answer, Philippians 2:14, “do everything without any grumbling and complaining”. I think also that might be the sin that most bugs God, if He can be bugged by people. There is a dozen different reasons why He would give us such a commandment. One reason is that God knows that we dictate our own happiness level by how we talk. Most think our joy level is determined by our circumstances, but the truth is, our joy is determined by how talk about our circumstances. So many people live like victims because they think that the events around them, most of which they have no control over, determine their joy. Rough way to live life, as a victim. Think how this can lead to greater depths of despair. A person grumbles and complains because of an event that they don’t like or agree with, and the result is that they feel less joyful and happy, which leads to even more complaining and grumbling about the unfairness of life, which leads to more bitterness and down it goes like a big slide into misery that is self produced and caused.
Gravity was created by God. He created all the laws of nature and all the laws of life. If a person breaks the law of gravity to far off of the ground he will die. If a person breaks this law of how to have real joy or we could call it, “how to kill your own joy” they will be miserable and most often everyone around them will be as well, because they will blame everyone around them for their misery.
since 2002 I have flown to Sirra Leone, West Africa 22 times. We go with a group,from our church to do some kind of ministry work in the most destitute country in the world. We have started churches, schools, done medical trips, built buildings, drilled wells, and started an orphanage. When we go we want to take as much with us for the ministry work as we can so we tell everyone that goes on a trip that everything they will need for two weeks needs to be in their carry on so we can use all the checked bags for ministry stuff. As you pack that small bag you think fairly carefully what is essential and what isn’t.
When you die and if you have trusted Jesus you will go to be with God forever and ever. When you leave this earthly, physical body and move into your new, glorified body what do you get to take with you? No fishing boats, no money, no cars, no video games , no tv, no house, no position or title. So do we get to take? Our character, who we are on the inside. Life is designed by God to foster the growth of our character. All our trials are caused by God to promote spiritual growth and character.
The most powerful way to exercise our character and stimulate it to great growth, and make it complete like that of Jesus is to love other people, especially when we work hard to love our enemies and the hard to love, and those who have hurt or wronged us.
All of life now for me is like being at a big gym with lots of running, biking, swimming, lifting weighs. So love is a double edged sword, it blesses those we love and it blesses us as we love.
“What do you want?” That question was asked of me by a waitress that was obviously having a bad day, judging by the manner in which she asked me the question. She continued her rude manner of talking to us as she took our orders and brought the food, but in spite of her gruff personality the service was good, and the food was excellent so I gave her a nice tip. Later as I thought about the encounter, I sort of zeroed in on the question for some reason, “what do you want?” Jesus often asked people that question before He healed them, and God asked Solomon that question, and he answered wisdom, and God gave it to him.
What do I want? I would like it to be sunny tomorrow, I would like the Atlanta Falcons to win the Super Bowl, I would like to go fishing, I would like to catch fish when I do. How many “wants” do I actually have? If I identified every single want that is in me, and I ranked them from the strongest, most passionate want down to the ho-hum casual desire. A second question would be, “what are you willing to do to help bring the number one want into Reality?” The stronger the want the more I would be willing to do.
A motto of mine is, “the stronger my want the more I will do, the harder I will work, the more I will sacrifice, the longer I will pray, the more money I will give, the harder I will fight, and the more successful I will be.”
But the stronger my want the greater my disappointment will be if for some reason what I want, I don’t get. How will I respond to not getting what I wanted? How will I act? How will I treat people? The answer to that question clearly defines my character, and it also determines the level of blessing God will give me.