Most of the promises and blessings of God are conditional, not automatic or a birthright of every person who says they believe in God. One of the really great blessings of God is supernatural strength to live life successfully. Many believers think that they have access to God’s strength in their lives simply because they are a Christian, but there are a lot of very wimpy Christians who walk around claiming Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me,” as their life verse. I used to watch Pop Eye the Sailer Man when I was a kid, it was one of my favorites. Usually Pop Eye’s girl friend Olive Oil would get in a jam caused by Pluto, Pop Eye’s enemy, and he would be beating the stuffings out of Pop Eye when he would pop out a can of spinach and eat the whole can in a single gulp, and become amazingly strong and whip Pluto and save the day. I still like spinach today, but my love for spinach came as a result of my worship of Pop Eye the Sailer Man as a 8 year old kid. Pop Eye’s strength was conditional, it required spinach. An example of of a conditional statement in scripture is found in 1 Timothy 1:12. “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful”. The “because” is the link between the blessing and the condition. God looked at the life of the Apostle Paul and considered him faithful, therefore he strengthened him. A major condition to be strengthened by God supernaturally is obedience. Just a tiny step in the direction of proactively obeying God results in a massive outpouring of God’s strength into our lives. When I was in High School growing up on our family dairy, one of the nasty jobs was to bury any cows that died. We didn’t have a lot of extra money so any digging to be done was with a hand shovel, and it seemed like I got most of the assignments. When I would dig a hole by hand with a shovel to bury a dead cow, I dug it just barely deep enough to cover the big, bloated bag of guts. One such cow rotted away leaving a bunch of very stinky “soup” in the bottom of the hole. When I walked over the grave of this decomposed cow I fell through the thin crust of dirt into this very stinky “soup”. I was so overwhelmed by the smell that I was sure I had fallen into hell!!! I managed to climb out of the hole, but I was covered with the remains of this dead cow, and the smell hung onto my skin for days. I remember the first time I dug a hole with a backhoe, the power was amazing. But I still had to operate this powerful machine. I made the decision and moved the levers and the result was a massive hydraulically powered shovel scooping dirt a hundred times faster than if I did it with a hand shovel, and a thousand times easier. Let me say it again, “a simple step in the direction of obeying God results in Him giving us His strength”.
When I get home in the evening, the first thing I do is ride my stationary bike for an hour or more, and I read while I am doing it though tonight I watched part of the Trail Blazer game instead. After I get done on the bike I go into our bedroom and sit in my recliner and read, pray, and write for a couple hours before going to bed. Occasionally I have a little snack while I am sitting there, and I have to admit there isn’t much that I enjoy more than a snack while sitting in my recliner at 11:00 pm. I know it isn’t healthy to eat that late at night, and that it goes right to fat, but I enjoy it anyway. Patty today bought me some of that really good licorice in the bulk food section at WinCo, and when I sat down in my chair there was five pieces sitting on the bookshelf next to my chair, wow, what a wonderful wife!!! I ate them really slow, one little nibble at a time, dragging out the pleasure as long as I could, and with every little nibble saying, “thank you Lord” for small pleasures in life. Then after thinking about it for awhile, I said, “Thank You Lord that such simple things give me such great pleasure”! That in itself is a great gift to have.
We started one of JBC’s “Five Days of Prayer” events this morning. We pray from 5 to 10 am and 5 to 10 pm, Monday through Friday. People from the church come and go during the 5 hours in the morning and in the evening as well, but there is usually always about 25 people together in the prayer room each hour. One person prays at a time, loud enough for everybody in the room to hear clearly, and everyone else prays along with him silently, agreeing together with the person praying in their heart.
I usually pray about 40 of the 50 hours during the five days. I don’t do it because I am super spiritual, but because it is always such a special time that is incredibly enjoyable because of the special sense I have of God’s presence. There are certain activities that increase my faith tremendously, my faith in the existence of God, my faith that he loves me and has a plan for my life, my faith that He hears and answers my prayers, and my faith that I can do anything that is His will for me, and my time spent praying during these five days is the most powerful of all the activities that I do that increases my faith.
Yesterday I wrote about how I often use the illustration of a dairy farmer always milking the cows and never even considering missing at doing that chore twice every day, it never enters his mind, as an illustration of serious Christians faithfully practicing the basic disciplines of the Christian life, such as Bible reading and prayer, every day, every day, every day.
I was in Whittier, California this last week doing a seminar for pastors and Christian workers, and I used that illustration. I could tell by the expressions on the listeners faces that it wasn’t really a great illustration for people who lived in a large city in Southern California, so I quickly changed it to a person with a serious disease faithfully taking medication for that disease as my illustration. The second one seemed to make more more sense to them.
I was reminded of a personal law of life that I have, and remind myself of regularly. That law is, “The burden of clear communication taking place between two people lies squarely on the speaker, and a teacher is 100% responsible for the understanding and retention of the material taught in the mind of the student.”
In Colossians 4:3–4 Paul says, “pray for us that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned; that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak. ”
I teach various size classes 8 times each week at Jefferson Baptist Church, and some in other churches and places as well. Each week I study, write, and pray diligently that I will be able to make the Word of God clear and understandable, and that those I teach would be highly motivated to put into practice the truth and principles that I teach. Often those I am teaching don’t get it, drift off from listening, and don’t seem very interested or excited about the material I am teaching. My first impulse is to get irritated at them, but then I remind myself of my personal law that I am responsible. Some might think that the responsibility ought to be shared, but the moment I give any of it away I am less motivated than I could be to study hard, write with focus, and to agonize in my prayers for those I will teach.
I love this guarantee given by the Apostle Paul to Timothy, his pastor in training in 1 Timothy 4:16 “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure spiritual growth both for yourself and for those who hear you.”
Now that is a guarantee worth taking responsibility for.
I use the little phrase, “you always milk the cows”!! as an expression to illustrate the importance of faithfully practicing certain spiritual duties everyday. On the dairy growing up nobody ever, not even once in all the years that I was on the farm, ever said, “what do you think, shall we milk the cows today”, I don’t think anybody even thought it, you always milked the cows! The spiritual disciplines of reading our Bible, working on memorizing portions of the Bible, spending time with God in prayer, examining our life and confessing all know sin to God, reading some in good books, reviewing the day and thanking God for all that we were able to do, making a “todo list for the next day, and writing a little in a journal, ought to be daily duties. It is so easy to get lazy and undisciplined in the daily discipline of doing these basics every day, every day, every day, and once a single day is missed it is easier to miss another day and another, and pretty soon you have backslid way away from God and your joy is gone, your peace is gone, your strength is gone, your relationships struggle, and you just chase your tail all day with no purpose. You always milk the cows and you always do the basic disciplines. There are always those who respond to me with the word “legalism”, that making the basic disciplines a daily duty is legalistic. If a dairy farmer was haphazard in milking his cows we would label him lazy, irresponsible, stupid, and soon we would call him bankrupt. A Christian who is faithful to do the basics daily is a disciple, wise, faithful, committed, and very blessed by God. I take Parkinson’s medicine every eight hours, because my bladder no longer works I use a catheter every eight hours as well, and because it is so effective at keeping my Parkinson’s from progressing I ride a stationary bike every night for 60 to 90 minutes. Those are routines that I never miss, and no one calls me legalistic for being rigid, inflexible, and routine in these essentials in my life now, it is just being wise. So why is it that when we jump from the physical and health disciplines, to the spiritual disciplines that being faithful, regimented, dutiful, and diligent is called legalistic. Those followers of Jesus who love Him with all of their heart don’t ever want to backslide away from Him, and they know how easy it is to do just that so they are very disciplined to do the basics every day, every day, every day, they milk the cows.
I just finished teaching a seminar in California for about 7 hours a day for two days. Teaching about leadership, prayer, goal setting, motivation, etc is about as good as it gets for me. I am always fulfilled, and feel great satisfaction when I teach people that will teach others also. But in spite of the great time that the last two days have been I am sitting in my room tonight feeling very tired. One of the things that I teach is that when you get to the end of a day, and are dead dog tired, rejoice because it means you were blessed by God with something to do that mattered that took energy and effort. When I feel as tired as I do tonight it takes extra caution and self-control to keep my mind from getting negative and thinking “poor me” thoughts. Once started down that path of thinking it is hard to rein in my thoughts, so having been there and done that I am choosing to replay in my thinking the positive and affirming comments from those in attendance today about how the seminar content was going to positively impact their ministries, and thank the Lord for blessing me with this opportunity to serve Him. I am also thinking about tomorrow when I get home and how nice that will be, and going out to dinner with Patty after she picks me up from the airport, and sleeping in my own bed, and working on my boat on Friday, and playing poker Friday night. Whooooeeeeeee life is good.
I enjoy hearing of a need that someone has and being able to do something that meets it. I especially enjoy it when it is one of the kids or grandkids, but also others, and sometimes the most rewarding are total strangers. When I travel there is almost always an opportunity to do a small act of kindness if I keep my eyes open, especially in airports and while on the plane. It is sort of like a personal challenge that I make with myself to look attentively for something to do to help.
It is also very enjoyable to be on the receiving end of a kind deed, especially from strangers while on a trip. I am in Whittier, California doing a seminar, and the host for the seminar had a stationary bicycle here for me to use in the evening, because he knew how helpful riding it each night was for my Parkinson’s. Someone else asked me this morning how my bicycling went last night, and I laughed and said, “I only rode for a little bit because I forgot my tennis shoes so I rode in my cowboy boots, and those boots weren’t made for riding a stationary bicycle.” He laughed also and commented on how funny that must have looked. Today after I was finished teaching for the day and everyone was leaving, the same fellow came up and handed me a bag and a brand new pair of tennis shoes, and they were the right size. Wow, that was a kind and thoughtful thing to do! Makes a person feel good not just because of getting a brand new pair of shoes for free, but the positiveness and goodness that was expressed. There is so much negative stuff in the news and in our world today that is very uplifting to experience the opposite.