Patty and I got up early this morning and drove up to Trout Lake, Washington, to visit my Mom. When we got to Hood River, Patty who was driving, took the exit and went to Safeway because she wanted to get some special things for lunch for Mom. I stayed in the car reading as she went into the store to shop. She returned in 15 minutes, put everything in the car, pushed the cart into the stall where they were kept, hopped into the car, and off we went. When we drove into Mom’s driveway she asked if I would carry the cooler in and she would get the groceries she had bought. I dutifully did as I was asked, and as I was giving Mom a hug Patty began looking for her purse in the grocery bags, then she went out to the car to look, and then she came in and looked in the bags again, and then back to the car to look more carefully. When she came back in the house she said, “I did a dumb thing, I think I left my purse in the grocery cart”! She called Safeway, and they said no one had turned it in, and they sent someone out to look for it, but no purse! Oh great! But wait, what is that commitment I make every morning to the Lord, “Today, I will not get angry at anybody, not even a little bit irritated, no matter what they do”. MMM, I guess that is now😧! I called our bank, and they cancelled our account and said to come in tomorrow and we would open a new one. I called our gas credit card, and did the same. I was glad that she didn’t have any other credit cards. Well, that wasn’t that hard, and no damage was done. On our drive home Patty reached down to slide her seat forward, and felt her purse and pulled it out, and held it up with a look that said, whoops, I did another dumb thing! Let’s see, what is that commitment again, oh Yeh, I will not get angry, upset, not even a little, tiny bit irritated. I called everybody back, and said “false alarm” don’t cancel the accounts. No problem, they all said, glad you found it. Patty said, “I am so sorry” 😩 I said, “It is all good, I get a something to write about in my blog!” 😂😂😂
The character trait for this week is endurance. James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
“Let endurance have it’s perfect result, so you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” Endurance is stated here as a foundation character trait that if you have it you will have all of the other character traits as well. Romans 5:3-4 says the same thing using the word perseverance, “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character”.
Any great accomplishment takes time, and any great accomplishment takes great effort, and sacrifice over time. Most get weary before the required time is met and quit, which means nothing gained and everything lost. Hebrews 10:36 puts it plainly, “For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.” In year 7 as pastor of JBC I wanted to quit and go back to farming in the worst way. I called my Dad to ask his counsel, and he said, “never quit when things are going bad, fix it, turn it around, get it successful, and then you can quit, because then your motives are more apt to be right”. The problem was that when things got better I didn’t want to quit, so now I am in year 43 as Pastor of JBC.
Those who don’t have quitting as an option find a way to get it done, to fix the problem, to make things better. Endurance, perseverance, and determination stimulates creative thinking, and they create the need to seek for wisdom.
How can you, or I, or anybody be totally happy? The answer is simple, go to heaven. Heaven is the happy place! In heaven there is no death, there is no war, there is no conflict, we will have a body that won’t get sick, hurt, or get a Charlie horse. In heaven we will understand everything, there will be ultimate purpose and meaning, there will be no politics, there will be no mean people, wow.
On the other hand earth, this life, is not a happy place, it never will be, and it was never intended to be a happy place by God. The promise of the Bible is that in this life there will be pain, suffering, trials, taxes, politics, war, disease, divorce, weeds, earthquakes, and worse and worse. The Bible says, “set your mind on the things above, not on the things of this world”, look forward to the day you die and enter heaven.
The purpose of life is to grow in character and righteousness, not to be happy. So my purpose in life is to pursue righteousness, to grow mature in my character, and to do something with my life that makes a difference in other people, that is to influence them to become followers of Jesus so that they can live in heaven with me, and to help them grow more righteous and mature.
I expect trials and tribulations to come into my life, so I am not surprised when they come, I don’t get angry at God, and I don’t get grouchy at people. Trials are like a wrestling match, I will win or my opponent will win, and I am determined that I will win every match that comes into my life. I win when I don’t complain, feel sorry for myself, or get in a fight with other people when a major trial comes into my life. I win when I fix the problem, solve the problem, or help others to overcome the problem.
It won’t be that long until we cross the finish line, so focus on that finish line, and be determined to finish at a sprint.
I hear the statement made by people over and over again, “I was hurt by…” Sometimes it was a family member, sometimes it was a teacher, sometimes it is a church or someone in a church, sometimes it is a spouse. But the statement is made as an excuse why they no longer talk to certain people, go to family events, or go to church. The people I hear this from say it like their choice to boycott certain people, or groups of people is somehow a punishment they are giving out for being treated in such a way. JBC has had a radio program for years that is the preaching of myself and Mike Dedera, and I get feedback from people who listen faithfully almost every day to the program. Many times I find out in conversation with them that the program is their church. When I ask why they don’t attend a real church I hear it again, “I was hurt by the church …” What all those people are saying is that they have chosen not to forgive someone for an offense committed against them. When any individual chooses not to forgive another person for the wrongs done against them, the consequences that come into their life from God are enormous. In Matthew Matthew 6:14-15 Jesus says, “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” That is a pretty black and white statement made by the one who has the power to send anyone to hell forever. I have asked people regularly, “have you ever thought about the consequences of God not forgiving you of your sins”. We are in the Christmas season when we celebrate the birth of Jesus, God becoming man, so that we could be forgiven of our sins and live with God for all eternity. In Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus makes one of the saddest statements in the Bible, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter……then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me”. Can you imagine the shock of the person who hears that statement , “depart from Me” . We don’t forgive others because they deserve to be forgiven, we don’t forgive others because they have paid their penance to us, we forgive others for one legitimate reason, because God has forgiven us of everything we have ever done because we have asked Him to, and because He paid for our sins completely, on the cross.
Patty and I will have been married 50 years this coming August, and we have, I am quite sure, the best marriage in the history of mankind. The reason is that we have established some rules that we follow in our treatment of each other. They aren’t written down, and we have never formally declared these to be the 10 commandments of a great marriage, but they are very real and strong commitments that we both practice.
1. Anger is never acceptable in our communication, and in our problem solving and dealing with our frustrations with life and each other, not even a little bit.
2. We can communicate frustration and discontentment with each other, but never in a way that dishonors or tears down, never scolding or shaming.
3. We both have flaws and defects in our character and behavior, but we both are so much better than we were when we first got married, so let’s major on the positives, we appreciate each other’s strengths.
4. We do not restrict the others freedom to serve, to develop our giftedness, or to be involved in our church. We will not be overly dependent on our mate so that we become jealous and controlling of their time away from us.
5. We never deny sex to each other, even if we are tired.
6. We are always eager to serve each other, no matter how long the “honey do” list.,
7. We do not correct our spouse in public
8. We pray with each other, and for each other.
9. We will forgive each other quickly of any offense
10. We will laugh at each other’s dumb moves, but never humiliate.
A person who is a bright light is noticed by the people around them. They are noticed, not in a negative way, they are noticed because they are happy most of the time, they talk nice to others, they don’t get angry, they don’t complain, and they don’t gossip. If you didn’t know better you would guess that they just got some amazing news, but they are like this most of the time, and nobody has that many unexpected jackpots in their life.
I had a defining experience in my life some years ago. At a wedding Patty and I were invited to the couple who hosted the event hired someone to walk around and take candid videos of the activities all night long. A couple of weeks after the event we got a copy of the video. It had been edited so instead of 2 hours of boring video there was about 40 minutes. I don’t think I had ever watched myself on a screen for that long before. Because it was a small group in a relatively small house I could see myself on the video most of the time in the background. As I watched myself I couldn’t believe how bored I looked, to the point of even looking grumpy. I watched as people talked to me, and I appeared to be uninterested in what they were talking about, and I was embarrassed as I watched myself be rude to people simply by being unengaged in what was going on. I didn’t remember that anything bad had happened that day to cause me to act like this. I asked Patty if I seemed “out of it” at the reception and she said no, I acted pretty much the way I always do.
I am an introvert in temperament, and my default setting is to be uninvolved in conversation, and it looked like I had shifted myself into neutral and was just acting the way I am, making little to no effort to enjoy the people who were around me. As I got to thinking about it, the worst part was Patty saying that was how I usually acted. I occasionally will make a joke saying, “I will take anybody fishing once, and a few people twice”. As I watched the video I thought, I wouldn’t invite myself to go fishing a second time. I thought to myself, “I can choose to act differently than what is easy and natural”.
I bought and read the book “Relational Intelligence”, in fact I read it several times, and as a result of the deep conviction I felt I wrote out my “Personal Social Mission Statement”, which goes like this, ” I will honor people by choosing to enjoy my time with them, and I will act in such a way that they enjoy their time with me.” I knew that it wouldn’t be an overnight transformation, but I also knew that as I reviewed my “Mission Statement”, and continually made the effort to change I would become a bright light that would attract people to my Savior.
Yesterday a young man in High School killed himself. Since then I have had numerous conversations with different people about the tragedy. The conversations that follow the expressions of sorrow and grief usually centered on “Why?”, and what could have been done to have prevented it. Over the last 40 years of pastoring I have been in many such conversations with people about tragic events and decisions loved ones have made that have been very sad and have left a ton of questions. After most of the conversations I have often wished that I could have come up with some answers, at least some words that would have helped even a little bit with the confusion that people felt. Even though they are far from profound I have landed on several guidelines that I use for myself, and pass on to others when appropriate.
– It is impossible to understand other people’s motives for doing most of what they do, especially the really radical decisions, and most guesses at what the motive was are just that, guesses, so it would probably be good not even to make a guess, they will just add to the confusion, and tend to grow with conversation about them. It is enough for me to believe that at the time they probably thought they were making the best decision for themselves, even if it wasn’t. Often I don’t know what motivates me to do certain things, but I do believe that given the right set of circumstances I could do just about anything. It appears at times that not even God knows our motives Deuteronomy 8:2 …. “testing you, to know what was in your heart”.
-Because we don’t know what the motive was it is important that we don’t blame ourselves or others for not doing more, better, or different. Blaming ourselves or others for something that we don’t understand always makes our pain, sorrow, and confusion worse, never better, which makes our recovery and healing from the tragedy much longer, and increases substantially the probability that the tragedy is going to cause our relationship with others to suffer.
– Which brings me to my last guideline; don’t assume that your grief, sorrow, sense of loss, and hurt is worse or more intense than others around you. Instead of seeking comfort, give it; instead of wanting to be understood, that is wanting others to know how much you hurt, work at understanding others , and how much they hurt; instead of seeking sympathy, give it. Those who work hard at being a proactive healer of others become healed quickly.