Ephesians 4:29 is one of my life verses, “ Let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth, but only words that build up and give grace to those who hear”. When I say “life verse” I mean a verse that I would really like to live 24/7. Sometimes I blow it and say something that does not give grace to those who hear. It is usually said without thinking, impulsively, trying to look cool, but said. Later as I think about it, I grieve over my stupidity, and pray like crazy that no one who heard me will quote me or repeat what I said. Later as I journal about it, I pray and ask God to please forgive me, and to give me the strength and wisdom to never sin with my mouth again. I know I will, but I am going to press on to the goal of Ephesians 4:29 more and more, little bit by little bit.
Today was my birthday and it was wonderful, in that so many people connected with me and expressed appreciation and acknowledged my birthday. I like to think that I am a tough guy and that I do fine without people’s encouragement or praise, but today sure was fun. I think we truly are relational by God’s design and that we are happiest and most productive when we have healthy relationships where there is a genuine give and receive of grace and we have a strong sense of being loved appreciated, and accepted, which I have in super abundance from my family and friends. A day like today ends with a very strong feeling of being incredibly filled with joy .
As I think about today about the blessing I have as a person I ask myself the question I always ask about everything, “Why”? In the midst of a host of sins, character flaws, and major mess ups I have for most of my adult life sought the Lotd with all of my heart. Seeking His will for my life, seeking His His strength, seeking his face, and seeking to please Him in all that I do. I seek the Lord by faithfully reading His Word and spending time with Him in prayer every day. When we seek Him He promises that He will abundantly bless us.
It is now October 27th and I am 69 years old. This whole getting older thing is a mystery. It happens so gradually that you don’t notice anything changing from day to day but then all of a sudden there you are, an old man, full of aches and pains, and all that you used to be able to do a fading memory. I think a lot now about eternity, my glorified body, my first impression and thoughts when I see God, what He will say to me, what He will think of me, what the Judgment Seat of Christ experience will be like, whether I will have any regrets, and a whole long list of similar and crazy thoughts. I also find myself regularly in this sort of frenzied state where I want to do so much more, and I am afraid I am going to run out of time, but then I get tired and run out of gas , and decide I can do it tomorrow. I am working hard at making myself focus more and more on spending time in reading the Bible, memorizing it, studying it, and writing about it. In spending more time talking to God, seeking Him, and trying to learn better how to hear His voice and know His will. The older I get the more questions I have, and the more I realize that I don’t really know very much, but I wish I did, and I try and resist the urge to pretend I do.
Probably my greatest struggle in life is in knowing my own heart and knowing what motivates me to do what I do. I want to walk humbly with the Lord, and I also want to teach, encourage, and motivate those who God has put into my life to live for the Lord and to successfully live life as husbands and wives, as parents, as followers of Jesus, and to attract people to faith in Christ. A key way that I can do that is by being a model and example of how to live life Biblically so that those I influence and teach would be motivated to live in the same way. 1 Peter 5 gives instructions to Pastors saying, “be an example to the flock that God has given you”. The Apostle Paul said, “do what I do, and live the way I live, as I model the Christian life for you”. I understand that models and examples are very important for us to have as we pursue the character of Christ. I have had some wonderful examples and mentors in my own life that made a huge difference in my life. I have some areas in my life that I have grown in and can be a good model for others in, but there are a bunch of areas that I struggle with and hope that others don’t notice them. My big struggle is when I share my successes and strengths in counseling, sermons, lectures and blogs, am I doing that motivated only by the desire to help others grow and succeed, or is there a desire for glory from others creeping into my motives. I think about it often, and it really bothers me that I as I examine my motives, I am often unsure. I know that the Lord is apposed to the proud, and blesses and uses the humble. The prayer of David in Psalms 139 has become my daily plea to God, “ Oh Lord, show me if there be any wrong in me”!
Time management is budgeting your minutes like you do with your money. As I do our financial budget Patty and I decide what we want to spend our money on. This month we talked about the need to set some aside for Christmas so we can buy gifts for all 23 grandkids. There is a fixed amount each month so we plan for things up to 6 months away so we don’t end up short. There is 168 hours in every week so I decide how I am going to spend it. Sunday afternoon is when I usually do my minute budget. I sit down in my office and break the week down into 15 minute blocks of time with a line beside it where I write what I will do with that 15 minute block. I write in all of the fixed obligations first such as teach my class on prophecy at 8 to 8:45 am on Sunday mornings, all accountability meetings, corporate prayer meetings, and other teaching duties. I then write in all meetings and appointments that were scheduled this week for next week; I usually have around 6 counseling appointments each week. I write down my study time when I write sermons, lessons, and blogs. I write down when I will do all of my letter writing, emails, and text messages to those who attend JBC for birthdays, anniversaries, new attenders, those who have missed a bunch of weekends, congratulations, condolences, and administration. I always make sure I budget my time for Bible reading, scripture memorization, and private prayer. I write down the various social events for the week including a date with Patty. This Friday is my birthday so we are going to some friends house and celebrate because the wife’s birthday is the same as mine so we get together each year for our birthdays. I schedule in working on home projects, working on my boat, fishing trips, and of course sleeping time and eating as well. When I get every block of 15 minutes filled in I offer it to God as my pursuit of being a good steward of my life, gifts and abilities. I ask Him for wisdom to make this schedule happen, and to know when to be flexible. Every evening I write a “to do” list for the next day and include all that was on my major list for that day. I then work hard to get everything done and I usually come pretty close. Living my life with a plan gives me a great sense of being in control and being a good steward for God with what He has given me.
Pastor Mike Dedera preached tonight at Jefferson Baptist Church and he will tomorrow as well in both services. It was so good I thought I might write out the short version for you.
We all want to be righteous, that is to do the right thing. If we are parents we would like our kids to be righteous, if we are married we would love it if our spouse was righteous, and we all recognize that if we all were more righteous that the world would be such a much better place to live in.
The problem is that we all have failed at being righteous and we aren’t sure how to make it happen, so we feel guilty, we get upset at those we feel are flaunting their righteousness, or judging us, so the bottom line ends up being that we just ignore the pursuit of righteousness altogether, and just declare ourselves OK.
Nobody becomes righteous by “trying harder”. When we try harder because we have messed, we mess up again and usually worse. Nobody becomes righteous by following laws or rules, it ends up just like “trying harder”, and we usually use our rules to judge others so that we look a little better in our own eyes.
A key word in the pursuit of righteousness is “training” instead of “trying”. Training suggests that we are on a journey that will take awhile, but we are in progress. Training suggests a training routine or disciplines that we practice to get gradually better. Training allows for good days and bad days, but trending up. Training is always more fun when we do it together with others who are training with the same goal in mind. When we train together we are motivated to encourage each other and build each other up as we pursue righteousness together instead of judge or criticize.
What energizes our pursuit of righteousness is our relationship with Jesus. As we pursue Him and grow closer to Him He energizes and motivates us through the Holy Spirit. He has given us the means to grow close to Him by giving us His Word the Bible, the gift of prayer, and the freedom that comes from confessing all of our sins to Him and experiencing His forgiveness and cleansing. Reading the Bible is not a rule to be kept it is seeking Him by listening to Him through His written Word, prayer is not a duty that good Christians are supposed to do, it is talking to Jesus about our needs, problems, and frustrations, and confessing all our known sins to the Lord is acknowledging that He saw us do them anyway, and we aren’t going to hide, pretend, or blame, but seek Him for the help to grow.
We had a poker tournament at our church tonight along with lots of good food. There is an initial “buy in” of $20 which goes into the “Men’s Ministry” account, and then everyone is playing for half a dozen prizes. You play until you run out of chips which you received when you paid your $20. The playing started at 7 pm and I lasted until 10 pm, so I am getting better. There obviously is a lot of luck involved, but I have noticed that the same guys end up winning or in the top finishers every time we have a poker night so there must be some strategy that I haven’t quite figured out yet. I do enjoy very much the fellowship of the evening with those I end up playing with. I always meet some new people and make some new friends during the completion .
As we were playing tonight I got to thinking how playing poker is a lot like life. In poker you don’t get to choose your cards, you just accept what you are dealt, and try to make the most of them. The good players have guidelines or rules that they follow on when to bet and how high they will go. The good players are patient knowing that sooner or later they will get some good cards, and in the meantime they are conservative. An easy observation is that the more you gamble the quicker you leave the game with your chips all gone.
Before the next poker night I am going to do some reading, and learn some of the guidelines that winners use. Yep, poker is a lot like real life.
At this point in my life “Time Management” is not near as big of a deal as “energy management”. I usually run out of energy most days before I run out of time. As I have worked on this area of my life I have discovered some very helpful principles. Part of the solution is training myself so that I become an energy efficient engine instead of a gas guzzler. The other part of the solution is refueling myself systematically so that I don’t run out of gas. I have discovered even though I am an introvert, that certain people have an amazing ability to fill my gas tank full. So I have an ongoing detective project as it were to discover who those people in my life are who are energy givers. Once identified than the goal is to become their friend and spend time with them.
Often men have this male ego that won’t admit that they need anybody, and so they are slow and even reluctant to make close friends. It is hard for a man to have an attitude of dependency on others. I have this belief that God made us in such a way that we can’t function with any degree of success on our own, we need other people to encourage us, to motivate us, to coach us, and to give us energy. Because I have discovered how much better I do in every area of life when I am full of energy, and that the energy that I need comes from God but He gives it to me through other people, I look for those people like I would a service station if I was driving my car on empty.
At first I thought that I had to be careful in being an energy giver to others because I would give away what I needed, but then I realized that when we give to others God supplies us with His energy to be able to give to others even more. He gives me His energy not for myself, but to give to those around me, and He gives to others to give to me. The key is to be a good friend and give energy to others by encouragement and positive words, and then to be humble enough to seek energy, encouragement, and motivation from others. It is really pretty cool how God put that all together.
I have $34 in our savings account, and it is getting close to the end of the month so the checking account is down to near zero, but on the wall next to my recliner are a collection of pictures. Each of our 8 kids with their spouses, Seth is still single, and their kids, 22 in all with another on the way, and a picture of Patty and I in our wedding 48 years ago. The kids and their spouses and grandkids all love Jesus, they love each other and they all love us. It is nice to sit here and look at the wall of pictures and feel like a rich man.