Keeping my thinking process under control so as not to think immoral thoughts, anxious thoughts, angry – bitter thoughts, covetous thoughts, poor me thoughts, critical – judgmental thoughts, and prideful thoughts takes full time attentiveness to what is going on in my head, and when a wrong kind of thought pops into my mind to replace it quickly with thinking that is good, pure, humble, and godly. Sometimes it is so easy to just give in and let my thinking dwell on an event that was hurtful, and wallow around in it like a pig in mud. I do it because no one will know what I think after all, because it takes energy to keep my thoughts herded up all day long and I am tired, and because there is a certain kind of pleasure that comes from my flesh in thinking bitter, angry, poor me thoughts over and over that revolve around an event in which I was not treated well. When I get some news about a possible bad event that might happen in a couple of days it is so easy to allow anxious thoughts to grow strong and to create fear. When my body starts acting or feeling different it is so easy to imagine the worst and to become paralyzed with worry. I create my own joy level by choosing what I set my mind on. I have memorized several hundred Bible verses, and my goal is to set my mind on one of them when I begin to think wrong thoughts, and to make that switch very quickly. When I get lazy and don’t take my thoughts captive quickly I kill my own joy and replace it with sadness, depression, self pity, and despair. After a bout of this negative thinking and corresponding melancholy feelings I wonder why I am so stupid.
Today was a good day at JBC, and in my life. It started with prayer in the kitchen at 7 am, there were about a dozen there this morning, and it was a good time of praying for our church, for Mike’s preaching during the two services that God would powerfully support him and speak through him, and that every word he spoke would be the very utterances of God, and that God would draw people to our church family so that they could know the truth and the truth would set them free. At 8 am I teach a class on the book of Ezekiel, Then I make announcements in the 9 am service and preach a 4 minute mini sermon on the importance of corporate prayer and then I go to the “upper room” and am joined with a half dozen other people and we pray during the service for the service that God will work very hard in every one”s heart. Next I teach a “Ladies Discipleship Class” that lasts for an hour, and then I again make announcements in the 11:30 am service and preach the same mini sermon, and then I pray during the service in the “Upper Room” for God to work powerfully in everyone’s life. At 1:00 pm I teach my “Men’s Leadership” class, and then at 2:30 pm I go through the prayer cards turned in after each of the services. At 4 pm I head home and take a short nap, and then I work on my boat until 9 pm and then head back home and ride my stationary bike for one hour and do my Bible reading while I ride. Then I sit in my recliner and read and write my blog and now it is midnight and I am going to sit in my hot tub and go to bed. Awesome day!!
Our physical bodies get sick, colds, the flu, and more serious things, much more serious that end up in death. Last week was a busy week with “Pastor’s Seminar” being held which I teach for 15 hours. The day afterwards Patty and I both got sick, her much worse than I did. It is a bummer getting sick, no strength, aching muscles, runny nose, sore throat. I slept in this morning until almost 10:00 am and felt pretty good after that, nothing like 10 hours of good sleep to cure what ails you. Patty is still feeling pretty wimpy, but I predict that in the morning she will be a ball of fire. Sickness is part of life, we all get sick, and there is a reason it, we all know that believers are going to live with God for all eternity. In this life we are growing in character, that is what this life is designed by God to do, grow our character, to be like Christ so that when we get to heaven we will be like Him so that we can enjoy Him and He can enjoy us. Sickness grows our character if we respond to it correctly, so when we get sick, think right, act right so we can grow. Don’t whine, complain, feel sorry for yourself, be grumpy, or blame God. Instead choose to be pleasant, gracious, patient, nice, and happy in spite of the way you feel, impossible you say, unreasonable, not really.
Yesterday Patty and I got away for a break and rest from the seminar we finished at the church on Wednesday, and we we went over to the coast. For dinner we went to a restaurant that had a great view of the ocean, and we watched these huge waves come in as a result of a storm out in the ocean. As we ate and watched the amazing view I was reminded of how powerful our God is, Psalms 89:8-9 says “O Lord God of hosts, who is like You, O mighty Lord? You rule the swelling of the sea; When its waves rise, You still them.” And again in Psalms 93:1-4. “The Lord reigns, He is clothed with majesty; The Lord has clothed and girded Himself with strength; The floods have lifted up their voice, The floods lift up their pounding waves. More than the sounds of many waters, Than the mighty breakers of the sea, The Lord on high is mighty.”Psalms 107:25-29 says “For He spoke and raised up a stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea. They rose up to the heavens, they went down to the depths; then He caused the storm to be still, so that the waves of the sea were hushed.” God is infinitely powerful and mighty, and it is enjoyable to watch a display of His power. Romans 1:18-20 says that we can know all about God’s attributes, His character, and His power because they are clearly seen through what has been made.
I have taught a seminar at our church, Jefferson Baptist Church, JBC, every year for 3 days in the middle of January for about the last 25 years. The content is generally about the power of prayer, and how leaders in churches can motivate those in their churches to pray more. It has been very rewarding over the years to see the change in many leaders and churches, and the blessing of God in their lives grow, as they have become more and more devoted to prayer. It has been enjoyable as it has become a whole church event for us where many people in JBC are involved in a variety of ways to help make the event very successful. I have wondered how long we could do it before it started to drop off in attendance because every year we have been pretty much maxed out on the number who have come that we can handle logistically. We finished yesterday at noon, the content that I taught was very well received, but the attendance this year was about half of our normal number of attenders. Someone suggested that it was probably all the people who were sick with the flu. I am not sure of the reason, but I had told the Lord that I would change the content if it looked like it was time. So I am going to take a couple of days in the next month, and go someplace by myself and think and pray about possible new subjects, and also in the next couple of months ask lots of people what they think and come up with the general outline and content of a new seminar by the end of March. I would like to have it clear what the new seminar will cover, and then when I bicycle to the Grand Canyon, then to Yellowstone, and then home, 3,300 miles I want to do lots of writing each evening in camp, and have a good start on the content, power point, and syllabus when I get home from the trip June 30th. I like new beginnings, new challenges, and new ministries. It is going to be fun to see what happens.
The average person thinks that the way to be popular, well liked, and appreciated by people is to please them with their behavior. Many would confess that they are people pleasers, and they know that being one is not healthy, but their belief that pleasing people is the key to being liked, accepted, and valued is so strong that they can’t help themselves. The Bible says the key to being liked, accepted, and valued by people is to be pleasing to God. Proverbs 16:7 says, “When a man’s ways are pleasing to the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.” This verse says “God makes”. Is God big enough, powerful enough, and wise enough to change people and their attitude towards others, towards me? I believe God can do whatever He wants, but our behavior and attitude, and motives often determine what God wants to do. This verse says that the way you become popular with people is to please God.
Years ago when I annually climbed Mt Adams, I was climbing up a very steep glacier, and just before getting to the top of the glacier which took me over an hour of climbing to do, I slipped and slid clear to the bottom in about 2 minutes. I then had the choice of climbing it again, going around it, which was much less steep but longer, or quitting and going back down the mountain to where the car was parked, taking a nap in the car until the rest of the climbers in our group got back. I chose going back, and taking a nap. That slide down that glacier, after all the effort to get almost to the top totally demoralized me, and I was totally unmotivated to do any more climbing that day.
That kind of experience happens in life a lot, in school, in sports, in business, in relationships, in our character growth, and in our spiritual growth. We faithfully do all that we need to do to move up, grow, and accomplish over a long time, and then we slip, and in just the blink of an eye we are back where we started. Those who have addictions will work hard to conquer it and then in a moment of weakness go on a binge and lose all that they gained. I lost 40 lbs once over a number of months and then gained it all back in a fourth of the time it took to lose it.
The same is true in our spiritual life and growth. We faithfully read the Bible every day, pray, attend church, and get involved in a ministry, and feel ourselves growing in real intimacy with God, and then we go on a vacation and do nothing spiritual because, after all we are on vacation, and we feel confident that we will easily pick up where we left off when we get back. But it is not as easy as we thought and we find ourselves struggling to be faithful and consistent in the basic spiritual disciplines, and because of the difficulty and struggle to regain what we seem to have lost we just quit, what the Bible calls “fall away”. Hebrews 4:1 says, “Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it.”
I am getting closer to the end of the race, and I don’t want to mess up now, I want to finish strong, in fact I want to accelerate and finish at a sprint the race that is my life.