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.
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.