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.
As we attempt to achieve, accomplish, and succeed in life, one of the questions is, “what is my role and what is God’s”. As a pastor I am obsessed with reaching people with gospel, and I am always pushing, setting goals, evaluating, and generally working hard. I have heard many pastors say, “Jesus said He would build His Church, so I don’t need to do all of that goal setting, evaluating, and working like a dog, I am just going along for the ride. I have said on numerous occasions that “ex farmers make the best pastors” because they know some things as a result of their farming experience that really helps in this arena of balance and perspective on what In the world am I supposed to be doing anyway! In 1 Corinthians 3 Paul says “I planted and Apollo’s watered, but God was causing the growth.” Every farmer knows that, I plow and disc the ground, God won’t do that for me, I plant the seed, God won’t do that for me, I water the seed, God won’t do that for me, I keep the weeds out, God won’t do that for me, and I pick the corn, God won’t do that either, but He will make the corn grow, I don’t have a clue how to do that. In our marriages, raising our kids, in our jobs, in our church, even in my hobbies there is God’s part and there is our part. It really isn’t that hard to figure out. We make it complicated because we want to slide out of our responsibility and give it to God. God loves to bless responsible, faithful, diligent people with success.
Today in Hawaii there was a warning that came over people’s cell phones that there was an incoming ballistic missile and that this was not a test. Later there was a correction made that it was a test. Evidently someone pushed the wrong button. As I heard the reaction from our daughter and son-in-law when they heard the warning, I was very proud of their faith and strength, and thought, “now that was a great test to see if someone is really trusting in Jesus or just going through the motions”. Aaron responded that he felt a great peace, and Sally a similar response, but in the general population there was panic not peace. Pastor Mike Dedera is preaching a series of sermons at JBC on the different fears we have, fear of death is one of them, and how our faith in God will take away those fears. “Great peace” is God’s gift to us when we follow Him totally, a peace that is incomprehensible, a peace that guards our hearts and minds. If you had been on Hawaii today and heard that warning on your cell phone what would you have felt and thought. Most don’t know until it happens.
Reproof is an old fashioned word, in fact the spell checker kept changing it as I used it in the title. It basically means to correct someone, but to correct them with some fervency. A synonym might be to scold strongly or severally. How many of us like to be scolded, or corrected even in a nice way, but one of the repeated messages in the book of Proverbs is that “reproof” is good for us.
Proverbs 13:18. Poverty and shame will come to him who neglects discipline, but he who regards reproof will be honored.
Proverbs 1:22-26 How long, O naive ones, will you love being simple-minded? And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing and fools hate knowledge? Turn to my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you. Because I called and you refused, I stretched out my hand and no one paid attention; and you neglected all my counsel and did not want my reproof; I will also laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your dread comes.
Proverbs 5:12-14 How I have hated instruction! And my heart spurned reproof! I have not listened to the voice of my teachers, Nor inclined my ear to my instructors! I was almost in utter ruin.
Proverbs 12:1 Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.
Proverbs 15:10. Grievous punishment is for him who forsakes the way; He who hates reproof will die.
There are about a dozen consequences listed in the book of Proverbs for being a fool who will not listen to reproof, and there are about a dozen blessings that comes into the life of one who listens and heeds reproof when it comes into their life, and a major blessing is wisdom. Probably the reason there are so many dumb people in our world today is that there are so few people who are humble enough to listen and receive reproof without getting defensive or upset.
Being unteachable, and resistant to reproof is a pride issue. If we would work at learning to listen to ourselves when we talk we would hear ourselves being defensive, and generally acting like a fool when someone corrects us.
One of the main challenges for me in living with Parkinson’s is dealing with the fatigue that plagues me all day long. A Michael J Fox Parkinson’s internet sight has this to say about Parkinson’s and fatigue. “One of Parkinson’s more insidious symptoms is fatigue. This is not your garden variety bone-tired. This is fatigue on a cellular level. Your body is working overtime to accomplish the simplest of tasks: Taking a shower, answering the phone, pouring orange juice. In addition, you may be coping with the combination of possible cognitive problems knows as “Parkinson’s apathy”. These problems include difficulty initiating projects, inability to follow complex instructions, short-term memory loss and difficulty in switching gears midstream.”
I cope with this with 70 minutes of stationary bicycle riding every day, and staying super busy so I am forced to push through the weariness issue. It is very much a mental issue so staying positive is very important and not allowing myself to think “boy I am tired”, or “poor me”. I do this by memorizing Bible verses and meditating on them until they have shaped my thinking and attitude. Philippians 4:4-9 is such a set of verses that I use much of the day to keep me up, positive, and happy. “Rejoice always, again I say rejoice, let your gentle spirit be know to all men, the Lord is near… whatever things are lovely, whatever things are wholesome, …think on these things”.
I can choose how I think, so I will think as a champion, and as a winner for God.
Our daughter Shelly, her husband Philip, and their 5 kids, who are visiting from Fairbanks, Alaska, along with Patty and I drove up to Trout Lake, Washington today to see my Mom. We had a good time riding the 3 hours together, and a super time with Mom. I am sure she enjoyed seeing her great grandkids and us as well. Because they live so far away there is considerable time between visits and I don’t think any of Philip and Shelly’s kids remembered their great grandmother so it was a good time of getting reacquainted especially in light of the fact that because of Mom’s age it might be the last time they see her this side of heaven.
I wondered as I mostly sat and watched and listened as everyone was talking, what Mom was thinking and feeling, and then I started wondering what I would be thinking and feeling if that was me. In relationships we tend to do what we do because of immediate reward and fulfillment, and often their isn’t much with an old Mom, or grand Mom, or great grand Mom. Emotions and feelings of closeness and love get weaker as memories fade, and time between get togethers like today get farther and farther apart. It really doesn’t take much time apart for relationships, even really close ones to grow apart. As I thought about that I realized that the only thing that will keep relationships from drifting is for there to be a few very responsible people who do things because it is the right thing to do, even if it isn’t easy or natural. We drove 6 hours for 3 hours of visiting because it was a good thing to do. There were so many other pressing things begging for our time it would have been very easy to have not taken the time to do what we did.
I have a goal to call my Mom on the phone once each week, but I don’t do it much because I am so busy. I realized today that I am being very selfish and irresponsible, and making decisions on the basis of expediency and convenience, rather than what is good and right. I remade my goal with resolve thinking about all that I owe my Mom for who I am today. The command in the Bible to honor our Mother and Father is most important when they get old, but it is also when it is most difficult so it must be done with a strong sense of “this is good, right, and pleasing to God”.
In the Bible the Apostle Paul regularly uses athletics as an illustration of life, and through out the Bible many of the stories revolve around conflict, struggle, and war. The devil is called our “adversary”, the one who is fighting against us, trying to destroy us. Tonight was the National College Football Championship Game between Alabama and Georgia, and there were all kinds of plots, shifts, crazy events, the predictable and the unpredictable, it was a suspenseful game that wasn’t decided until the very end. Both teams fought, struggled, adjusted, and gave it their all. Life is a huge struggle most days, with an intelligent adversary who wants to win, and devour us. God made life to be a contest, a struggle, a fight because it is the conflict that we are struggling to win that develops our character, that makes us strong. A football player who was in the game tonight would seem strange at best if during an interview at the end of the game he kept complaining about the fact that other players were bullying him, running into him, jumping on him, and trying to take his ball away from him. As you listened you probably would be thinking that he was joking, and when you realized he was serious your next thought would probably be, “what a wimp”!! Every day for us is a literal war, a fight with very serious consequences if we loose, so we shouldn’t be surprised when the devil smacks us, like some strange thing is taking place. There are a lot of Christian wimps today.