Another definition of humility that I came up with for myself as I pursue this character trait is, “Humility is having healthy self-worth without needing to be better than someone else. Feeling good about my accomplishments without needing to compare myself to others to determine how good my accomplishments are”. I go over this definition whenever I am going to be in a situation where I am tempted to compare or compete in an unhealthy way. Whenever I am around Pastors I want to be able to encourage, teach, coach, and mentor from an attitude of humility. Any kind or amount of “I’m cool” attitude is picked up by others, and causes them to be resistant to any input from me into their lives, and God who knows my heart and motives will certainly withhold His blessings.
A test recently came into my life in this area. Mike Dedera my associate pastor at JBC recently took over doing most of the preaching. Mike has been on staff for about 10 years, and has filled in for me periodically preaching, and done a host of other pastoral responsibilities around JBC that freed me up to spend a lot of time studying and preparing my sermons each week. Last March and April I was gone on a two month bicycle trip across the USA from San Diego, California to St Augustine, Florida. While on that trip while I was working on sermons in the evening I was impressed by God to have Mike take over the preaching. My initial reaction to that thought that had popped into my head was,”yeh, right!” , but the more I thought about it the more I knew it was God.
He has been doing that now for about 4 or 5 months. This last Sunday a lady visited from near Eugene. She had come to church specifically to hear me preach because she had listened to me preach on the radio every morning while she drove to work for years and she wanted to meet me. I was chatting with her after the service as I walked around greeting people who were visitors. She didn’t know who I was, and assumed I was just an usher/greeter because I had given her a bulletin when she came in before the service. As I greeted her after the service, I said I hope you enjoyed your visit, and she responded by saying she had come to hear Pastor Dee, and she was very disappointed when the service started and Pastor Mike was preaching, but that by the time he was done she was glad because he was a much better preacher! I have to admit that her statement made me blink and take a step backwards. I quickly walked away before someone came along and called me by name and embarrassed the lady.
As I walked away I thought, “well, I think I am doing alright with that. I truly am rejoicing over the fact that JBC is getting good preaching post Dee Duke, and I can feel good about what I have done in the past without comparing myself to others. “Dear Lord, bless Mike and anoint his preaching so everyone who hears will be stirred into accerated spiritual growth”.
Humility as a character trait has a number of definitions. As I have thought about humility, what it is and how to get it, I have come up with some definitions, descriptions, and best practices to accelerate my growth in becoming a humble man. A definition that I have developed for myself and for those I have some influence over in training is, “Humility is recognizing that I need others in my life to grow in wisdom, character, and skill. I need their example to imitate, their counsel when I am stuck or confused, their teaching of the wisdom they have gained from experience, their coaching to fine tune the skills I need in order to succeed, their encouragement when I am discouraged, their admonition when I am unmotivated and lazy, their correction and scolding when I mess up, and their fervent prayers for God’s power, guidance, and protection.” A key part of this humility is recognizing and admitting that the more people I have helping me the faster I can grow. The number of people helping me is the direct result of my seeking and asking. The act of seeking and asking for help is where the rubber meets the road in the character trait of humility. The act of asking others for help is both the method of becoming more humble and the obvious act of being humble. It is embarrassing for me to remember and think of all the times I mucked through a project because I was to proud to ask for counsel or help. “I could figure it out myself”, “I could do it myself”. Once while Patty and I were on a 100 mile canoe trip in a wilderness area in British Colombia on our one year anniversary of being married, we got caught in a huge rain storm. The result was everything got very wet including our matches. I tried and tried to get a fire going, but I just couldn’t get those wet matches to light,and when I finally got one to go the wood was so wet it refused to catch on fire. There was another camp about 100 yards through the woods. We could hear them talking and enjoying themselves because they had a big, warm fire. Patty suggested that I walk over to their camp and ask for some matches and dry wood, but I refused because I could do it without help. I probably didn’t impress my new wife that night as we slept in wet sleeping bags freezing to death because I refused to ask for help. I wonder quite often how much further ahead I would be in life had I learned more and grew faster because I asked for help way more often.
We create cultures in our families and homes, work places, churches, in geographical areas, and in our country by our values that are repeated over and over. Values are those beliefs and opinions of things that we feel strongly about because we think our happiness and security is dependent upon them existing. Leaders understand this and lead by establishing values in the realm of their leadership influence that they believe in strongly. As a Dad I repeated certain things over and over in order to create a culture in our home. Once those cultures are entrenched instilling the values in the minds of our kids was easy. One such value was, “hard work is fun, not difficult or boring, but fun and exciting.” I repeated that value early in their lives and often, and as a result we had a distinctive culture in our family of hard work. Once the culture is established everyone who comes into the realm of that culture is influenced by it.
As a Pastor I lead by creating cultures or attitudes in our church family that will influence everyone that is part of our church sooner or later. I repeat certain phrases that are an expression of a value over and over again until that value becomes part of more and more people’s thinking. As this growing number of people act on this value a culture is formed. One such phrase or motto that I have repeated hundreds if not thousands of times over the years at JBC is “God blesses unity not methods”. As a result our church has a culture of unity and peace that controls and influences everyone. Years ago I established a dozen values in my mind that I wanted JBC to have as their culture. I repeated them often, preached on them, and modeled them, and now those cultural values are strong and shape and influence everyone in our church sooner or later.
I have been the Pastor of JBC for 40 years, and we had our first ever Singles Ministry meeting tonight. I had no clue how many would come, and had decided that if at least 6 people came I would persevere and see if we could grow it. Well, we had 25, and it seemed all were interested and some quite excited about the potential for this ministry. The youngest person was about 25 and the oldest around 70 years old. Some had never been married, some married and divorced,and some married and widowed. Probably about two thirds had kids of various ages. Next week we are going to have a pot luck dinner to start, sing a bit, then I am going to have a short lesson on “How to get along with just about anybody”. In the weeks ahead we will play table games, have picnics outside, go on hikes, go rafting on the Descuttes, go bowling, and do some other activities, but I don’t think I talked anybody into skydiving. I had a very good time tonight as we got starred on this new ministry because I really like doing things that meet needs. Fellowship and camaraderie is one of the most basic of needs for people, God created us that way, and I think this is going to be an incredible group of people who are going to experience a great deal of joy together.
If you know someone who is single tell them about our group. We meet on Wednesday nights from 6:30 to 8:00 pm at Jefferson Baptist Church in the Discipleship Building, upstairs in the middle classroom.
I took Patty out to dinner tonight for Valentine’s, and when I went to pay the bill someone that was in the restaurant while we were there had already paid it, how nice was that! As we sat across from each other eating I thanked the Lord for such a wonderful wife, an amazing marriage, and an exciting history for the last 48 years. How did this happen? I remember! I was on the basketball team of a small Christian College in Portland, Oregon. We usually practiced when everyone else was eating in the cafeteria, and then we would eat as a team. Patty worked in the kitchen as part of her financial aid package so I noticed her most evenings as we ate. One evening while we were eating the coach came in and announced that he had gotten us really good seats at the “Far West Classic” at the Memorial Collosium with some of the best teams in the nation playing. Patty heard us all getting excited about this news and announced that she should get to go since she fed us every night, and washed our dishes. The coach said only boys could go. Patty being a bit of a rebellious spirit back in those days borrowed some cloths from a guy on campus and showed up at the bus, and the coach insisted that she go with us to the game. At first my thoughts were “crazy dame”, but as the evening went along my thoughts began changing, and by the time the bus pulled back into the campus parking lot I was head over heals in love. That evening was December 15th, 1968 and on August 24th 1969 we were married.
It was about 8 years ago that I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, and it has progressed very slowly being more of a nuisance than a major disability. Nobody knows for sure why but my guess is that I have so many people praying for me, and also the extensive exercise routine that I maintain as my main therapy. I ride a stationary bike an hour every day and often up to 90 minutes, I also maintain a weight lifting routine. I read and pray while I ride so it really isn’t hard to do time wise. One of the issues with Parkinson’s is fatigue, and it seems to be accerating lately. Here is a quote from Michael J Fox about fatigue.
“One of Parkinson’s more insidious symptoms is fatigue. This is not your garden variety tiredness. This is fatigue on a cellular level. Your body is working overtime to accomplish the simplest of tasks, like pouring orange juice, and the result is a state of being bone-tired most of the day.”
My strategy in dealing with this is (1) control my behavior. I can feel tired without acting tired, that is I don’t have to act grumpy, melancholy, or distracted. I can smile, be pleasant, be polite, and even be attentive in conversations if I choose to. (2) I work hard at controlling my thinking. I don’t ever let myself think “poor me” thoughts, I am an incredibly blessed man in regards to my marriage, my family, my ministry, my friends, my experiences, and my relationship with God. Everybody has problems, and I am choosing to ignore mine and focus on the blessings. (3) And probably the most important thing is I control my speech. The words that come out of our mouth have a huge impact on our own joy level and fatigue level. If I verbalize to others how tired I am it will get significantly worse. I occasionally will say something to Patty, but rarely to anybody else. The main point of this is I can choose. I don’t have to be controlled by my circumstances.
There are so many things being said and written now that are obviously not true. It is like truth is no big deal any more. I personally believe that there is an absolute truth, and that God is the source of that truth. I believe that He gave us that truth in the Bible. Many say they don’t believe in God, but what they are really saying is they won’t submit to God, so they declare Him non-existent. Many say they don’t believe the Bible. So what is left as the source of absolute truth? The Bible has passed the test of time. For thousands of years it has endured though people have tried their best to prove it isn’t Truth, God’s Word. As I read it for an hour every day, and study it, and memorize it there is a resonating with my soul that these Words are supernatural, powerful, and true. I have built my life on the foundation of the principles in the Bible. Principles that tell me how to live, how to love,how to have a good marriage, how to have joy, how to have peace, how to get along with almost anybody, how to be totally free from anger. The Bible gives me simple directions and guidelines in every area of life so that I can be a blessed person. A blessed person is overflowing with joy that no trial can take away, he has a peace that eliminates all anxiety and worry, all, he has a love that allows him to forgive anybody of anything, and help them grow and overcome. And best of all the Bible gives clear directions on how to be forgiven by God of every sin I have ever committed and be adopted by God into His family, and live forever with Him with incompressible joy. I have a security and hope for the future, forever. The kind of joy I have, the peace, the security is impossible to manufacture by our own will.