I have a number of really good friends. I enjoy being with them whether we are having coffee and talking, fishing, hunting, building, or in church together. Good friends give encouragement and they seem to know when to do that. They also give you a hard time and they seem to know when to do that as well. Good friends help you when you need help whether it is a word or some work, and they usually volunteer to help before you ask. Some friends sort of just drift out of your life, but the really good ones stick close no matter what. Good friends forgive you when you do something stupid or unthoughtful, they get hurt, upset, and sometimes angry, but they don’t hold a grudge. Good friends are open and transparent, and there aren’t to many secrets between you. It is because your friendship isn’t based on performance, but on, well, because you are friends.
One of my really, really good friends died today. It was very sudden and very unexpected. He was a strong disciple of Jesus so he is in heaven having a great time now so I can’t be sad for him. I am very sad for me, because he was such a close friend and I will miss him very much. I am sad for his family who will miss him even more than I will. Death is a tough part of life, but it is a definite part of life for sure and as I get older it will be more and more of a regular event. Most of my friends and family are believers in Jesus, have been adopted into the family of God and have been given the gift of eternal life in heaven. I can’t imagine not having that faith and confidence that I have as an anchor of my soul. Sad would be really sad then, painfully sad, with despair and fear thrown in. I have quite a few friends and family with the Lord now, and some day we will be together again and that will be one great reunion.
I teach leadership classes almost every week and almost year round. It is my favorite topic to teach about. I have taught these classes for so long there are phrases that I use in the class repeatedly that have become known by most in our church, and have been given the title “deeisms”. One of them is “everything rises and falls on leadership”, meaning the success of any organization is dependent on the quality of leadership it has. Which is why I teach leadership classes so much, the more trained, qualified leaders our church has the healthier we will be. Another “deeism” is you can’t lead others until you can lead yourself. Self leadership is basically self-control. Most think self-control is simply gritting your teeth and clenching your fists and just doing it. Self-control is much more a learned skill than it is effort, it is learning how to effectively lead yourself to do the things you want to do and become the person you want to become. When you have honed the skill of leading yourself you will do a good job of leading others.
A major part of the skill of self leadership is self discovery. Who are you? What are your strengths and weaknesses? What is your temperament and your spiritual gifts? What are the signs that your emotional gas tank is getting to empty? How do you fill your emotional gas tank? Good leaders of others and themselves have spent a lot of time reflecting about life, principles, themselves, and God.
Probably the most ignored principle or the one most are ignorant of in self-leadership is “self-control or self-leadership is impossible by yourself”. So the term self-control and self-leadership are misleading terms, because “self” can’t do anything successfully or well. Self-leadership is a team sport, that is you need help to lead you. God created us interdependent. That is the way we are by design, which simply means we can’t succeed without help. Proud, independent people will not accomplish anything of significance and will not grow. The most successful people, the best leaders, and those with great self-control are those who have learned well the line, “could you help me, please.”
I am teaching a class on Sunday mornings at 8 am on the book of Revelation. I have been reading the book of Revelation over and over again trying to get every little bit of truth there is to get in that book about the end times. As you read through the book that describes mostly a period of 7 years you discover that there are a number of really bad dudes that are attempting to control the world . The word that pops up over and over that describes the method used to gain control is the word deceive. These evil men are able to deceive people by their skillful and charismatic speech, they are incredibly persuasive. They have leadership and organizational skills to bring about a one world government, one dominant religion, and a singular economic system, all by the power of deception. The Bible says the devil masquerades as an angel of light, and in the book of Revelation he masquerades as God.
I can think of so many times that I have been fooled by people, deceived into believing something to be true that was false. Afterwards I was embarrassed and disgusted with myself for being such a fool. A number of years ago we had a man put a pledge in the offering plate for one million dollars, and as absurd as that was, he convinced me that it was ligament, or could be if we took certain steps. It was sort of fun to believe it was true for awhile, wow what we could do with that amount of money. Another time we actually wrote a check for $100,000 to a ponzi scheme , with the promise that we would double our money. We actually did get it doubled, but had to give it back after the scheme was uncovered. Whoooeee that was a disappointment.
Knowing what is really the truth is going to get harder and harder in the coming days. People all around us will be declaring what is truth, and it will turn out to be false. The book in the Bible called Hebrews says that those who are accustomed to the word of righteousness, the word of God, the Bible will know the truth. They will have a supernatural discernment because they faithfully read, study, and memorize the Bible. I don’t like being deceived, and I want to be able to help others know what is true so I intend to be devoted to the Word of God.
My goal is, when someone says or does something that irritates me even a little bit, that I would dismiss it, that is I would choose not to let my mind dwell on it and get all tied in a knot over it. I do that by pro-actively praying for God to bless them as soon as I have the irritated thought, or I say in my mind to myself, “Lord, thank You for forgiving me of so many things 10X that bad, I choose to forgive them now, please help me” or I simply start meditating on a verse or verses that teach patience, forgiveness,and kindness, such as Ephesians 4:25-32. These work well 95% of the time, but occasionally I struggle and let myself get in a grumpy mood. I had a wonderful evening with Patty and friends at a nice restaurant tonight, and then when I got home I let someone I hardly know get under my skin, and I spent the evening at home being grumpy and sullen. Now as I think about it I feel foolish, wimpy, and childish. The only good thing is that I don’t think I acted the way I felt to much, because nobody asked me what was wrong. I often confuse myself in that these out of the blue lapses in maturity make me wonder what I am really made of. About the only thing that comes to mind is Paul’s words, “Oh wretched man that I am” , someday I will be free of this body and this world.
I turned over the main preaching at JBC to Pastor Mike Dedera almost one year ago. There were numerous reasons, and I had mulled those over in my head for some time before I pulled the trigger on this decision. It was a very difficult one for me because I had been the pastor and preacher for JBC for the last 40 years. It was my life, my identity, my passion, my giftedness, and the activity that most caused me to feel the pleasure of God with my life. Now I teach a number of classes, follow up on new people, organize small groups, train leaders, lead the staff, and pray.
It is definitely a new chapter in my life with being in the background much more than before. I have entered into my new role with enthusiasm writing goals and establishing vision for all that I do. I am also increasing my writing ministry and attempting to expand the influence of it to many pastors around Oregon and ultimately the world if God allows and blesses. I am pressing on to do more and influence more, but I acknowledge that I do only as much as the Lord allows and gives. He is the one who opens and shuts. I pray every day begging for more, but I trust Him and commit my plans and work to Him.
Pastor Mike is leading a team from JBC on a short term mission trip to India, and I get to preach for the next 4 weeks in the main services again. I was working on my sermon today, and I couldn’t believe how nervous I was getting as a I studied and thought about this weekend. As I pray about this next 4 weeks I am asking God over and over again to help me not make this about me in my mind. Wow, it is so easy for me to slip into subtly thinking about these next 4 weeks as a performance to impress people. I don’t want to mess up what God can do through the sermons in the lives of those who attend and listen by losing His blessing and anointing because of my pride.
Hebrews 12:6. For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, And He scourges every son whom He receives.”
1 Corinthians 11:30-32. For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world.
1 Peter 3:9-15. for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. For the one who desires life, to love and see good days, must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit. “He must turn away from evil and do good; He must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous,And His ears attend to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
God’s main goal with us after we become believers and followers of Him is our character. He wants to make us like Himself in character so when we get to heaven we will be like Him so that we can enjoy Him and He can enjoy us forever because we are like Him. The primary tool God uses for shaping us is trials. So many people don’t understand this, and so they fuss and complain when trials come into their life.
The key way we reduce trials is grow in character so that we don’t need them anymore. Learn what God is teaching the first time that He disciplines so He doesn’t have to take us through harder times to get our attention.
Trials come into everyone’s life as part of life to grow us stronger and more like Christ, but we bring extra trials into our life when we don’t obey the Lord and follow His will for our life. It is what any good Dad does, he trains his children to be good.
We had our first of 3 services at JBC for Easter tonight. It was an amazing time of listening to music and singing that genuinely touched my heart and soul. I am so thankful for gifted musicians and singers who communicate the truth of the gospel, the death and resurrection of Jesus in such an emotionally moving way. I tend to be a stoic, cerebral kind of person that thinks about everything, but doesn’t feel much emotion about anything. I don’t listen to music very much on the radio or CD player, because I like listening to sermons more, so my anticipation for our Easter service was “it will be nice, and visitors will probably enjoy it”, but I wasn’t particularly excited about it. As the service was coming to a close, and I was feeling very moved by the evening, I simply said in my heart, “thank You Jesus for Your amazing gift of eternal life to me, I love You”. I am going to listen to it 2 more times tomorrow, and I am anticipating that each one will get better in its impact on me personally.