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.
When you are offended or disappointed by others and allow the hurt to germinate in your heart, bitterness and resentment will take root. Characterized by an unforgiving spirit and generally negative, critical attitudes, bitterness and resentment are sinful and self-defeating. They will color your conscious and unconscious thoughts and actions. Allowed to fester, they will destroy and kill relationships.
Just by chance I bumped into someone this evening that hurt me deeply years ago. I had basically forgotten about the event but when I saw them it all came back in a second. I thought to myself, wow, a memory can be a terrible thing. At that point I knew my self-talk was very important. I prayed quickly in my heart and said, “Lord, I know what Your will is here, that I forgive completely, quickly and with no strings attached, and that I love this person right now by being gracious, accepting, kind, and attentive to their words as I show worth and value”. “You are Lord of my life and I choose to do Your will this moment and I trust You will give me the strength to please You”.
As I walked away after a few minutes of pleasant conversation I thought, “It feels good not to be controlled by events, circumstances, and other people’s choices. It feels good to be free of negative feelings and thoughts, it feels good to be a follower of Jesus and to choose to do what is right because that is His will and what makes Him pleased with me. I hear people say all the time how hard it is to forgive their ex or their parents or a neighbor because what they did was so hurtful. It is hard when You don’t obey Jesus and do what He says. The moment I submit to His will and say, “You are Lord,of my life and I will obey You, no matter what”. The power of God flows to commitment and our choosing to obey.
Proverbs 1:5. A wise man will hear and increase in learning, And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel,
Proverbs 2:2-7. Make your ear attentive to wisdom, Incline your heart to understanding; For if you cry for discernment, Lift your voice for understanding; If you seek her as silver. And search for her as for hidden treasures; Then you will discern the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding. He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity,
Wisdom is the main thing. Wisdom is knowing what to do, and what to say in any and every situation God sovereignly puts you in. One of my Dad’s frequent statements was “just because you get old, doesn’t mean you get smart, there are a lot of old fools”. The older I get the more true I realize my Dad’s proverb is. One of my life mission statements is to be a lifelong learner, and one of my yearly goals in pursuing being a lifelong learner is to “learn something I never knew before”. One year I learned bee keeping. I bought all the stuff and had a couple of hives for two years and then gave it all to my grandson. Another year I learned how to make soap. I learned all about aqua ponics and built a system complete with Tilapia. This year I am learning taxidermy.
Lifelong learners do new things. Lifelong learners go to new places. Lifelong learners read a lot. Lifelong learners are always looking for wise people to talk to and ask good questions of and take good notes.
I am a teacher. I teach the Bible, and how to know God. A law of God in regards to those who would dare take on the challenge of teaching the Word of God is that the student will become like the teacher. If I am a learner those I teach will be as well.
One of Eeyore’s classic lines is “nobody wants to be my friend”. It is tough being friends with an Eeyore person. They are just no fun to be around. There are a lot of Eeyore people around today and their numbers are growing rapidly. People don’t know how to manage all that the world and our culture is pumping out today. All the changes, the upheaval, the continual war with words between everybody. Once this sad sack, blue funk, poor me, nobody loves me thinking and attitude starts it is very hard to get out of it, and things just keeping getting worse. If you came to me and asked my advice I would give you 5 things to do everyday that I guarantee would steadily move you in the direction of being positive, joyful, and fun to be with.
1. Spend 15 minutes everyday memorizing Bible verses. The main reason people become an Eeyore is because of the way they think for long periods of time. Any time you find yourself thinking bitter, poor me, negative, critical thoughts choose as an act of your will to set your mind on some of the verses you have memorized, and meditate on them. This discipline is amazingly effective. This is a hard discipline and very few will make the effort, but those who do will become very blessed and happy people. God’s Word is living, active, supernatural, the Mind of Christ, and the sword of the Spirit.
2. Colossians 3:2 ought to be one of the first verses you memorize, and then you can do what it says, “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things of this earth,” That means think about eternity a lot. Think about a time and place with zero problems and trials, incredible beauty, a new and healthy body that will never get sick, hurt, and that can fly.
3. Stop watching the news. People are news junkies today and that will make an Eeyore out of anybody. I have a couple of internet sights that give me a short condensed summary of the top news items of the day without a lot of opinions.
4. Spend time faithfully everyday with God in devotional Bible reading and prayer. 15 minutes of Bible reading followed up immediately with 15 minutes of focused prayer will bring great measures of God’s joy, peace, and strength into our life, absolutely guaranteed.
5. Read a Patrick McManus short story at least 3 times a week. Read them out loud to your spouse and kids if you can. When I did that I got to laughing so hard I couldn’t read with any level of clarity for them so I had to read it just to myself.
Jefferson Baptist’s prayer letter came out today. It is the compilation of all the prayer requests that get turned in each week from many different people. There are about 500 people signed up to receive the prayer letter when it comes out on Tuesdays. I hope every person who gets it via email or regular mail actually prays through it. I pray for each request on it diligently each week. My praying for that list is a high calling and a serious responsibility. There are a lot of very serious needs, trials, and guidance needed expressed in the Prayer Letter each week. For me to choose not to pray for the the requests shared would be to say one of several things, if not all three. One-I don’t believe that the time that I would take to pray for 10 pages of people’s pain and concerns would make any difference, what is going to happen, is going to happen, and my praying isn’t going to make a hill of beans difference. Two- I really don’t care enough about your trials and problems to take the time to pray. Three- I am way too busy. I have so many things that I have to get done, I just don’t have enough time to pray for your marriage, or job, or kids, or salvation, or your cancer, sorry.
Easter is just 6 days away! One of the things I do the 10 days before Easter is to think deeply and reflectively about the price Jesus paid for my sins so that I could be totally forgiven and adopted into God’s family as his son. It is very easy to take what He did lightly and for granted, and I don’t want to be guilty of either. There are 5 aspects or parts of Jesus suffering, but the average Christian only thinks of 1, the physical pain and suffering part. The Mel Gibson movie, “The Passion of the Christ” did a graphic job of showing us the full extent of the physical suffering that Jesus experienced for us. Another aspect of His suffering is the fact that “He became our sin”, which means it is like Jesus actually committed every sin I have committed and will in the future, and when God the Father put my sins on Him as He hung on the cross Jesus felt the guilt, the shame, and the humiliation of my sin. He felt it much more than I did when I actually committed the sins because I have developed a hard and calloused heart towards my sin, but Jesus was sinless and holy, and His heart was not the least bit hard. My guilt, shame, and humiliation has drug out over 60 plus years, but Jesus felt the totality of it in a few minutes, and not just my sin, but the sins of every person who has lived or will live. The depth of that feeling and emotional pain He went through is mind boggling and incomprehensible to me. As I was pondering about how much I hate the feeling of shame and humiliation, and that I will do anything and everything I can to avoid it, I still can’t come close to grasping what Jesus went through for me. The fact that it is impossible for me to come close to understanding this part of what He did so that I can live with Him forever increases in my mind the total price He paid for me. It is amazing to think that I am worth enough to Him that He would do all of that. He must really want me to live with Him forever.
We were driving home from the marriage retreat our church JBC, had this weekend at Odell Lake Lodge driving down highway 58, and because of the steepness of the grade there were a number of those run away truck ramps where a truck driver can turn on if his truck gets out of control from a loss of brakes, and the ramp has deep sand and it is steep uphill so a truck will slow quickly even with no brakes. As Patty was driving, I was thinking about the retreat, how good it was, and then I started thinking about my life in the next 6 months, and all that I had planned to do. My life has a feel to it right now like a truck heading down a 6% downgrade with no brakes. I thought maybe I should turn into one of these emergency truck stops, figuratively speaking. Then I thought it isn’t the speed that is scary, it is the thought that because of the speed I could crash. If crashing was not going to happen, and I was sure of it, the ride would be an exilerating adventure. So, the goal is to go fast and not wreck, which means I have to be able to steer my life with wisdom and decisiveness, and not get distracted by the stuff around me that I see going by. I can do this If I keep my eyes straight ahead, watch the road and focus.
As I get closer and closer to the end of my life I want to go faster, accomplish more, experience more, and grow more. In order for me to keep my foot on the gas pedal all the way to the floor board I need to stay focused. I have some key principles, guide lines, basic tools, and disciplines that will help me to stay focused. A key principle for going fast is always spend time everyday without fail reading and memorizing the Bible, and spending time in prayer communicating with God. The faster I want to go the more time I need to devote to My devotional time with the Lord. The more time I spend praying for others, and for myself, and reading the Bible the more strength I will have, the clearer my vision is, and the more passion I have for my goals. I also write a clear “to do” list several times each week as an act of focusing on what is important and choosing to set aside what is not important. I also read my goals for the year 2 or 3 times each week, again so I stay focused. If I don’t keep my focus on what I absolutely want to accomplish I get easily distracted.
The key principle to going fast and not wrecking is always enjoy the ride. Those who get uptight about the speed will wreck, guaranteed. I like going fast and in fact I think I can go faster. It is going to be fun.