Monthly Archives: June 2017

Honoring Others

The character trait that I am focusing on this week is “Honoring Others, and Being Free of a Critical Spirit”. I added that second part 6 months ago when this was the character trait I was focused on because I found I could exercise the self-control needed  to talk nice and all the while being very judgmental and critical in my thinking. As we pursue maturity one of the upper level skills and disciplines is controlling our thoughts. Most never get there in their growth because there is no accountability, that is nobody knows what we are thinking, and so we relax and let our thoughts go wherever they want. There are at least 4 major problems with relaxed, uncontrolled thinking. 

1. Our mind seems to have a mind of its own as we are thinking thoughts all day long at a very rapid speed. Left to it’s own our mind will naturally move in a negative direction and will have increasingly more immoral thoughts, critical thoughts, prideful thoughts, bitter thoughts, covetous thoughts, selfish thoughts, and angry thoughts

2. The devil’s primary way of controlling us is through our thoughts. He and a bunch of demons talk to us constantly and we hear them in our thoughts. If we don’t take control over our thoughts he will have a growing control over our life as he captures our mind.

3. If we think certain kinds thoughts repeatedly we will act that way, “as a man thinks so he is”.

4. God knows what we are thinking, and He is the one who blesses me on the basis of my behavior, including my thoughts. He is the one who gives opportunities to do something significant with our lives.

5. Our emotions of joy and sadness are very much influenced by our thinking habits. 

Father’s Day

Patty and I raised 8 kids so I am a Father for sure. I enjoyed very much the emails, text messages and phone calls from our kids today, as they verbalized their appreciation and love for me as their Dad. Patty and I weren’t perfect parents, and I wasn’t a perfect father, nobody is, but I worked extremely hard to be one. I read book after book on parenting, and we went to many seminars on parenting as well. I prayed for every one of our kids by name every day, 365 days a year, and I don’t remember missing a single day. We kept all of the kids out of school on Mondays and had family work days, family projects, or a trip for the day someplace interesting. Over the years of their playing sports I think I could count on one hand the number of games I missed. As busy as I was as a pastor I didn’t ever put my family second to my job and ministry. Today Our kids all love Jesus, have good marriages except for Seth who isn’t married, are raising good kids, and love us. I have messed up in a lot of areas in my life, but I am so glad that I made our kids a main area of my life.

True Fervency 

I have had some dreams in the past that were scary, even to an old guy like me. The worst ones come when I am taking this particular brand of malaria medicine when I go to Sierra Leone, West Africa. Most of the times the dreams are exciting and fun, like getting an elk that is so big that it will easily qualify for the Boone and Crocket record book, but occasionally there is a spooky one that wakes me up. One of the spooky ones was where I was in a triathlon and part of the race had the contestants swimming through an underwater cave. In my dream I was swimming through it and I was running out of air so I swam as fast as I could with an increasingly sense of desperation that drove me to swim ever faster until I made it to the surface on the other side and I could breath. When I broke the surface of the water in my dream I woke up and took this big gulp of air, and then I laughed!!

In real life I want that same sense that I had as I was straining toward the top with every ounce of energy within me in two areas of my life. I want it as I pursue Christ like character in my everyday life, never being satisfied with my level of maturity and character development but consumed with getting better and better. Also I want that pressure in me to do more for Christ, and to bear more fruit for him.  Often in life I get so frustrated at myself that  things are going so slowly.  IT Is kind of funny to think that this nawing sense of of desperation to reach more people for Jesus is my greatest friend.

Home Again

We have been gone for a week of camping and fishing with a bunch of family, and we are driving home now. I am not sure what others do in similar situations, but I make “to do” lists in my head  of all that I need to get done in the next couple of days. I make a list of about 10 things that I can remember, and then in about 15 minutes I remake it as I remember something else that needs done and ought to be in the list of 10. Usually after about 6 revisions I am satisfied with my projected projects for the next couple of days. Then I start in on my strategy of how I am going to accomplish the list. Some things are fairly simple, “call so and so and set up a lunch meeting”, others are a bit more complicated like, “finish preparing my Revelation class lesson”, fix my pickup, and answer all my accumulated emails, and then there are a couple of challenges, like ” resolve conflict with so and so” which I will think about for some time to work out wording. Top on my list is to fix the financial situation that we are in caused by the unexpected $2000 expense of our boat trailer axle breaking on our fishing trip to Brownlee Resevoir East of Baker Cityand the huge fork lift required to get it off of the road and the flaggers required. For some that pressure is very unpleasant, but I enjoy the challenge of figuring this out and fixing it. I have already come up with several options and I am plotting the steps that I will take in the next couple of days to make it happen. In the process of making this list, and planning my life for the next couple of days I mix in conversations with God asking for His wisdom and strength and that He would bless however He would like as I work. At the top of my requests is that He helps me to live and talk about stuff in a way that would glorify Him, influence people’s lives by my example, and that His joy and peace would fill my life and that it would be obvious to all who are around me. Hey, we are just about there! I guess first thing on my list is to unpack all the stuff on the boat and put it away.

Trials

James 1:2 says ” consider it all joy when you go through various kinds of trials.” What does that mean to “consider it all joy”? Well for sure it would mean that we don’t complain or grumble. I think that it also would mean that we grow to the point,of not worrying or getting anxious about our trials.

 On our drive to the Brownlee Reservoir for our annual family fishing trip we were towing our 20 foot pontoon boat loaded down with camping gear, coolers, food, and fishing stuff for 15 people with a Suburban that we borrowed for this occasion.  One hour from our destination the axle broke on the trailer and one of the wheels fell off. We managed to get stopped without any damage to the boat or the car. There was no shoulder on the road so we were stopped in the road. I Called triple A, and after an initial visit by the towing company, and then bringing out a big truck with a huge fork lift that picked up the back end of the trailer and boat and backed down the road with it while someone backed the suburban up following it until they got it on a little spur road. This required flaggers  to be brought out, and then the rebuilding of the axel, and then we finally got the boat in the water after a couple of days. They told me when they went after the big fork lift that AAA probably wouldn’t cover that, or the flagger or most of what they did, so for 2 days I was a bit nervous about what the whole thing was going to cost. It was $2,187, but they knocked off the $187, yeh!!!  I made some phone calls to family and friends and borrowed enough to pay the bill.

When we finally got the boat in the water to start fishing, I thought,  fishing always helps.  We usually catch hundreds of crappie on these trips but there were  hardly any fish this year. Because of the high snow fall this year they had drained the reservoir down to just the Snake river running in the bottom to make room for all the spring snow melt.  They filled it but the water was much colder than normal and the fish evidently were not happy. The result being our normal hundreds of fish in years past was only  a few fish this year. 

To add to the great trip we were having it poured rain for the first two days, the wind blew really hard, and it was very cold. 

“Consider it all joy” , “Rejoice always”, and “don’t grumble about anything”, are a few of the Bible verses that I have memorized that popped into my head. 

But it was an excellent opportunity to be a good witness to my grandkids on how to act when a trial comes into our life, I think I did OK most of the time, except when I thought Patty had forgotten the coffee!!

Passion and Fire

I watched the NBA Championship playoff game tonight between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors had beaten the Cav’s the first 3 games easily and then tonight the Cav’s stomp the Warriors. The Cav’s set scoring records in both the first quarter and the half for the most points scored ever in an NBA playoff game. How does that happen? I see in the news that Draymond Green’s mother claims the refs were paid to swing the game. It is an interesting thing about people how we can be incredibly motivated one day and everything is easy, and the next day we can be in a blue funk and we don’t even want to get of bed. It would be nice if we had some kind of transmission in our heads and we could manually shift into high gear whenever we wanted. The reason for the white hot passion on the Cav’s part was obvious, they had to win tonight otherwise the season was over and they would have been swept by the Warriors. 

I would like to get myself to a place where I could choose to be highly motivated whenever I wanted, whenever I needed to be because the situation was important and I needed to rise to the occasion. At this point in my life the main thing I have learned to do is choose to act responsibly even though I don’t feel like it. I think as a husband, a father, a grandfather, a friend, and a pastor that probably will be enough to win in life in the things that matter. 

Desire and Motivation

The character trait of diligence is the inner desire to accomplish a lot for God as His servant, to bear much fruit, the desire to say what Jesus did at the end of His life,  “I accomplished the work the Father gave me to do”.  Accomplishing more that matters requires basically two things, first is that we choose to do things that matter as opposed to the things that do not matter, establishing priorities based on wisdom. If you work really hard it doesn’t really matter if everything you did had little lasting value. The second is that we don’t waste time, that we treat time as a constant shrinking commodity for what is needed to get to the end of our life and hear Jesus say “Well done”. 

“Desire” is what pushes us to choose and prioritize each day’s activities, instead of casually shrugging off the disciplines of “to do lists” and goals.  Inner desire that motivates us is the result of the character of diligence.  Character is like building our muscles, it goes slow but steady if we pursue it systematically. We can pursue various character traits and become stronger in them as we press on to maturity. The pursuit of any character trait is relatively simple to understand. You run faster by running, and you grow in the character trait of diligence by being diligent when you don’t have the desire, the motivation, but you want to have it. 

Here are some of my favorite personal quotes on diligence, desire, passion, and motivation.

1. Do what diligent people do and you will become a diligent person.  

2. When you have the character trait of diligence you will have strong desire, passion, and motivation.   

3. Everything in life is easier when you are highly motivated. 

4.  Self-motivated people aren’t born that way, they grow into that kind of person on purpose. 

Laziness vs Diligence

I am of the opinion that we all are born lazy, but we can pursue diligence and we can grow to be a very hard worker. One of the more severe scoldings that Jesus handed out was in a story he told about a steward who wasted the money he was given.  In the story the stewards who doubled what they were given were praised, but the steward who buried what he was given received these words in Matthew 25:26 “You wicked, lazy slave”. 

The problem we often have in pursuing the character trait of diligence is how it fits with God supplying and providing for those who trust Him.  Years ago when we started building on our present sanctuary at Jefferson Baptist Church we decided to build it all on a cash basis and took a “special offering” once a year and built until the money was gone and then took another “special offering”. It took 8 of those offerings to complete the building. In the last offering we took, a man in our congregation who had quite a lot of money said he would match whatever was given in that offering. People were much more motivated to give sacrificially because of that doubling offer. 

My personal theology of “Dee’s work and God’s Work” is stated in 2 Corinthians 6:1.” And working together with Him, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain”. I work hard, responsibly, wisely, as an act of obedience to God’s will, all the while asking for His strength, asking for His guidance, committing all my plans and goals to Him, and trusting Him totally with my life. It is a nice partnership, I do a little and He does a lot, and we bear much fruit. 

The main point is, if I don’t work hard, responsibly, wisely, and in obedience to His will for my life, God isn’t going to compensate for my laziness no matter how much I pray. The main objective of God for my life is that I grow in character to become like Jesus. One of the character traits is diligence.

Psalms 119:4. You have ordained Your precepts,  That we should keep them diligently.
Proverbs 4:23. Watch over your heart with all diligence,  For from it flow the springs of life.

Proverbs 10:4. Poor is he who works with a negligent hand,  But the hand of the diligent makes rich.

Proverbs 12:27. A lazy man does not roast his prey,  But the precious possession of a man is diligence.

Romans 12:11. not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;

2 Timothy 2:15. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

Diligence

Of the 26 character traits that I rotate through, diligence is next on the list,  you were probabily getting tired of reading about humility anyway. As I have said before I focus on a different character trait each week. I look up Bible verses on the character trait, look up sermons on the topic on line and listen to them, and I look through possible books on the topic on Amazon.  I just downloaded a Kindle book “Diligence:The Master Key To Achieving Your Life’s Goals With Focus, Determination, and Faith” And then I think about myself and examine my heart, my attitudes, and behavior in regards to the character trait of the week. Using the search part of my Bible program on my IPad I found 37 verses talking about diligence. I will go to each passage and read it a number of times writing down the simple observations I make about the character trait, in this case diligence, and then I write a summary of all the observations that I have made. I call that summary my theology of diligence or humility or whatever trait I am on. I don’t go back and read privious “theologies” written on the trait until I have finished the present study, but when I have got it written to my satisfaction I compare each one I have written. Sometimes there is quite a difference between them, and other times they are almost identical. I also write in my journal the observations and thoughts I come up with in regards to my present level of maturity in the character trait I am studying. Every 6 months when I come around to the same trait, I find I have gained some more insight and I am able to see some additional specific ways I can grow and improve and eliminate some flaws, or at least shrink them up a bit. Writing in this blog about my discoveries is a great way to cement what I am learning into my memory. So in the next number of days look forward to some information on diligence and the difference it will make in our life. 

Ultimate Humility

After  40+ years of pastoring I have seen many people grow steadily and never falter not even a little bit, and then there are others that take off with a bang, but then they back-slide, and then grow a little bit and then go backwards again , over and over again that happens, and then there are those who fall away and never return. It is a sad thing to see for me, people I have prayed over for hours, taught, counseled, and coached, who began well, but then boom, they are gone. 

What would it take to keep people from Drifting away from their faith in the Lord?  Why does it happen anyway? How I wish there was some kind of anti-backsliding pill that I could give out each Sunday as people left church. There is an activity that is as close to being a guarantee of steady, upward growth that there is. This activity is the ultimate act of humility, and there is the reason why few will become involved in it, their pride keeps them from it. This activity is to be in an accountability group, a small group of all men or all woman who meet regularly together. The most basic of the activities that they do together is to share honestly how they are doing in life. Choosing to be in a group is giving those in it permission to ask you specific questions about your life and to give you advice on how to improve. It is the exact opposite of being the person who says,”I don’t need you, I can do fine by myself”. 

At first, being part of an accountability group, doesn’t seem to make that much difference, but it is one of those spiritual disciplines that starts slow, but after a time of faithful participation there is an exponential growth of influence and impact in a person’s life. Because at the first the impact is low and the cost is high it is hard to get people to remain faithful in their involvement in a group, but those who stay together for some time become close friends and become increasingly effective at being a conduit of God’s grace, strength, encouragement, reproof, and correction in each other’s life. I wish I had the money to pay people to stay in a group long enough to begin to experience the life changing power of true communitee.