We live in a time when insulting others and calling them rude names is what we do in an attempt to win and look better than someone else. It used to be name calling and silly sounding insults is what little kids did, but now it is an adult activity as well. Ephesians 4:29 says, “let no unwholesome word come out of your month, but only words that edify, build up, and give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 5:3 says, “there must be no silly talk or course jesting which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks”. God hears the words we speak, and when we speak words that give grace He rewards us and blesses us. 1 Peter 3:10-11 says that if we speak good words not evil words to people that God will hear us and reward us, and will hear and answer our prayers. In our conversations with people God again hears, and if we gossip, insult, and tear down others in our conversation we will not enjoy life, God will see to that. Romans 12 says, “don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed”. Very few things more accurately distinguish between grown up mature people and immature children than the way we talk.
I like everyone on the planet earth have an energy gas tank in my physical body, and I have to monitor it and work wisely at refilling it. As God’s servants we are stewards of all that He gives us, our time, our money, our gifts and abilities, our children, the opportunities that He gives us to do something special, and our energy. I work very hard at stewarding my energy which is greatly impacted by Parkinson’s, because when my energy tank is full I have way more enthusiasm, passion, and desire to bear much fruit for God. When my energy tank gets low I struggle with maintaining the qualities and attitude of a good leader. To steward my energy is to choose what I do and to be careful and wise not to choose to much. My desire to do and accomplish a lot is super high, way beyond my energy level to accomplish it. I know that, and it is a major struggle for me to live in reality, and to wisely limit my goals and activity so that I can accomplish what is most important. I pray a lot, but for whatever reason God has chosen to give me this thorn in the flesh. So I pray everyday that God will give me strength, and the wisdom to use it well, and also joy and peace even when I don’t have enough to accomplish all that I want.
My favorite thing to do in all of life is to teach. I love teaching the Bible, but I also like to teach on how to have a good marriage, how to raise good kids, how to manage your money, how to manage your time and get a lot done, how to set and use goals to change your life, how to build a boat, and anything else I have learned and done. My second favorite thing is learning. I love learning new skills and information on just about anything. One of my goals is to learn how to do taxidermy, another is to learn how to weld, and I am going to take sailing lessons. In the past I have learned how to make soap, how to keep bees, how to paint a car, and how to operate an aquaponics system. When I put in my new goals that one of my goals was to learn to weld several skilled welders said they would teach me, I made a goal to learn how to fish for Halibut in Alaska and someone who has done a lot of it in the past volunteered to teach me. There are very knowledgeable people all around us who would love to teach someone what they have learned how to do well, but there aren’t very many people anxious to learn new things and new skills. Many people stop learning very early in life because they know enough to get by, and being a learner takes a degree of humility to say “I don’t know how, would you teach me”, that makes it hard for many to learn. Our thinking that we do all day long determines who we are, “ As a man thinks in his heart, so he is” says Proverbs. Our bent toward learning or not, has a major influence on our character development and on out thinking ability. As you write your goals for this next year, put in there some goals to learn a new skill or skills. If you don’t make a commitment to learn, and make it very specific you will not learn or grow.
Hebrews 2:1. For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it.
2 Corinthians 11:3. But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.
Hebrews 3:12. Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God.
In our day and age many who have turned to God through faith in Jesus Christ get lukewarm, drift away from Him, and turn their backs on Him. Going along with that growing trend is the growing belief that to drift away from following the Lord and loving Him is really not that big of a deal. In the Bible it is a very big deal and many verses in the Bible issue serious warnings to guard your heart, and take every precaution to not drift away from devotion to Christ. Nobody plans on becoming a lukewarm Christian and everybody thinks that it won’t happen to them but the number who do is alarming. As a Pastor my prediction of those who will fall away is close to 100% accurate. There are several things that people do or don’t do that almost always guarantees that they will lose their love and devotion for Jesus. The easiest to observe and see happen is when people who are walking close to the Lord start getting casual and complacent about attending church each week. Business, vacations, sports, events, activities, work, and on the list goes and we miss a week and then later 2 and then we go a month and there we are. We all miss church, but it ought to be with great reluctance. The church is not a human idea, the church is the Body and Bride of Jesus. I see many marriages that started well end in divorce because they failed to do those basic things that keeps their love hot. It is a serious thing to fall away from the living God, don’t let it happen to you, be faithful to the basics.
I thought of a new goal that I am quite excited about. I am going to put my sailboat building plans on hold for about 6 months and I am going to build a 23 ft ocean dory with a motor well and a cabin on it, along with a trailer. I have the blueprints ordered and they should be here any day now. It will be a wood boat covered with fiberglass. This summer I will tow it up to Alaska and go halibut fishing with it. I am rebuilding a Johnson 130 hp outboard to put on it. I have been watching people fish for Halibut in the gulf of Alaska who launched dory’s off of the beach at Ninilchik on the Kenai peninsula and it looks like something I can do. I have 3 sturgeon rods that should work for Halibut fishing, and a fish finder. I go up to Alaska every year to fish for Sockeye salmon and always want to go Halibut fishing, but the charters are so expensive and usually full. I always enjoy learning new skills so this should be a blast because I know nothing about fishing for Halibut. I do know that they taste really good and are very expensive in the grocery stores. It is funny how a new goal like this that has lots of unknowns and will be a challenge energizes me so much. When I go out fishing for the first time in my new boat I will take lots of pictures.
I was reading today on Facebook responses of people to the wildfires in Northern California that have burned close to 2,000 homes and businesses, and killed 15 people, and injured many more. Many of the responses were like this one “I can’t handle this”. I wondered exactly what that meant, “I am choosing not to think about it”, “I am pretending it didn’t happen”, “I am going crazy”, “I am going to take a bunch of drugs”. Exactly what does a person do who finds themselves in a very hard situation that they didn’t cause or choose. Well for sure, not handling it is not really an option, you have to handle it. Life is real, not an acted out drama, the events that happen to us each day are real, not a dream, and not something we can choose to delete. Handling it is the only choice, there is no other. Some people go through life facing each crisis that comes into their life like a champion fighter, they will conquer and win, crisis is conquered, fixed, solved, endured, but it never crushes them. Others, like the person who wrote, “I can’t handle this”, live in a constant state of despair, being fearful and anxious, having little joy, and constantly feeling like a victim.
I want to be an “overcomer” that is described in the book of Revelations in the Bible. An overcomer has 5 characteristics that make them an overcomer.
1. They recognize that life is hard and going to get harder, but it is also short, then we will be in heaven, so they focus on the good life in eternity.
2. The best way to handle crisis is to focus on the needs and problems of those around us, and work at meeting their needs, not our own needs. God gives great grace to those people.
3. They manage and control the conversations they have and are careful not to be a jabber Box. We can talk about life and solutions but we can easily just talk about it and go over and over the details until we overwhelm ourselves .
4. Those who are the strongest are those who don’t blame others for the situation they are in, they just deal with the situation they are in. Blaming is a child’s reaction to crisis and it drains us of strength and short circuits creative thinking in our own brain.
5. The strongest are always those who truly trust God, and use crisis as a motivation to seek Him, His strength, and wisdom even more.
Last night a number of fires started burning in and around Santa Rosa, California. Because of 70 mph winds the fires spread rapidly and at this point 1,500 houses and a number of businesses have been destroyed, and 10 people have been killed. Patty’s sister and husband who live in Santa Rosa, were evacuated, and their house was one of those that burned. It was just a week ago that we were down there for the funeral of Patty’s other brother in law, and now this. It is amazing to me how quickly things change, and how little we can do to prevent the change. Life often seems like a roller coaster ride and about all we can do is hang on. Patty and I are driving home from my Mom’s, and while Patty drove, we prayed together (eyes open) for all of our family and a number of other church family people as well. Sometimes that is all you can do! In saying that I am not implying that praying is the least effective thing we could do, because in fact I believe it is the most powerful thing we can do. Events like this almost instantly put us in a praying mode.
Patty and I left after church for Trout Lake, Washington to visit my Mom for a day. We moved to the dairy in Trout Lake in 1965 the summer between my Sophomore and Junior year in High School, and Patty and I left Trout Lake in 1976 when I became the Pastor in Jefferson, Oregon. As we were driving up here this afternoon I was reminiscing about those 10 years I lived here. Those years in my life were when I grew rapidly in my relationship with Christ and made most of the significant decisions of my life that brought me to be a pastor at Jefferson Baptist Church. I know many young men in those same years 16 to 26 years of age who drift away from the Lord and make a lot of very poor decisions that messes up their life for years after that. I did just the opposite, but it wasn’t anything that I can claim any credit for. There were a number of very significant people in my life who had such great influence in my life that I grew in character and maturity in spite of myself. I started thinking about each of them and how blessed I am to have had those kinds of mentors, friends, parents, pastors in my life at just the right time. Most of them are gone to heaven already. If they were still around I would be faithful to tell them how important they were in my life.
I decided to Bicycle a different route this summer than the Virginia to Jefferson route, mainly because the price of the airplane ticket and shipping my bike back there was going to be about $600. Instead I am going to head South to the Grand Canyon and bike the trails in Bryce Canyon, Zion Canyon and some of the others and then head north to Yellowstone and then back home. That triangle route will be 3,000 miles long with about 100,000 feet of total climbing for the trip which is a bit under about 3,000 feet of climbing per day which is about what we did on our Oregon trip. If I average 70 miles each day that will be about 42 bicycle days with 8 rest days making it 50 days. I will plan on leaving on May 1st and get back June 21st. I am now planning every mile of the trip using 5 different mapping programs figuring out the route, the camp sites, and the places I will have Patty mail boxes of freeze dried food and clean underwear. It is funny but when it is all over and I look back on the whole thing this planning stage is the most enjoyable part because of the excitement and anticipation it builds in me. Life is like that as well, the goals that I set for my life to pursue for the next year, the next 5 years, and the next 10 get me all jazzed up. I am preaching tonight and tomorrow in the regular worship services and I will be talking about goals for ourselves, our families, and for JBC. Goals are powerful, fun, and a great tool to keep everyone striving together.
I went fishing today on the Alsea River with some friends from JBC, and we all caught a chinook salmon like this one. We got 4 in the boat and lost another 4. The sun was shining, the fellowship was awesome, I had a 2 quart thermos full of coffee, a bag full of snacks, yep it was a good day! But tomorrow might be the worst day of my life, you just never know. A guy does the best he can to plan and prepare so that life goes good, but what we can actually control is pretty small. But I have already decided how I am going to talk and how I am going act if it is the worst day of my life, I can control that, I can decide that. There are a number of words that I can think of that would describe right thinking and acting in spite of life. I have been using the words strong and weak up to this point to describe those who rise above events by choice and those who let life control their attitude, words and behavior, but I am going to change that to a “wise person” or a “fool”. A wise person knows how to talk, act, respond and treat people when life around them becomes the worst day of their life, a fool simple responds as a victim. A wise person gives strength, peace and confidence to those around them, but a fool feeds confusion and despair. The most important thing is that a person filled with wisdom attracts people to their savior, Jesus Christ, but a fool doesn’t attract people to anything. A wise person is admired and becomes a model, but a fool is just laughable and pitied. The interesting thing about these two words is that they have nothing to do with intelligence, with I.Q. , but they have everything to do with trusting God and knowing His Word, and having His Power.