On Monday I caught 2 steelhead and had a great time fishing with two other great fishermen and friends, and the weather was good to boot. It was a very good day until I got home and discovered that I had lost my wallet. I put it in the inside pocket of my coat so it would stay out of the rain and would remain dry. I didn’t need it all day and never once took it out, but when I got home and took my coat off to hang It up, my wallet was gone. I called both of the guys I fished with to check their pickups where I had sat and the boat that we fished in, nothing. I suspected that while I leaned against the side of the pickup putting on my chest waders that I inadvertently lifted up the bottom of my coat allowing my wallet to fall on the ground. It was either that or when I took the waders off in the parking lot where we finished fishing. I spent several hours today calling credit card companies to cancel the cards and get new ones, DMV to get a new drivers license, Oregon Marine Board to get a new boat operators license, health insurance cards, AAA card, and several other cards. It was surprising how much I had in that little wallet that was really important.
I remember the time I got lost in the woods while hunting. I didn’t realize at first that I was lost, I thought I knew where I was and how to get back to camp, but when I realized that I wasn’t where I thought I was and that I had no idea where I really was, and not a clue how to get back to camp I felt a bit panicky. I calmed myself down by reminding myself that I had matches and food and it wasn’t really very cold, and 4 or 5 hours walk in any direction would bring me to a major road. This was before the days of GPS’s but I had my handy Dandy compass so I could walk in a relatively straight line once I decided which direction I would walk. It was almost dark so I needed to decide if I was going to stop until daylight or keep walking in the dark with my flashlight, I decided to keep walking until my batteries wore out. Walking in the woods at night is spooky with all the noises that seem to come from everywhere. A black angus cow busted out of some brush as I walked by and it looked just like a big black bear. Now that was spooky!! At midnight I crossed a dim dirt road that I thought I recognized, but because of the darkness wasn’t sure, but decided to follow it in the direction that camp was supposed to be in case it was the right toad. It wasn’t long before I saw the propane lanterns and the campfire of our camp, and walked in as my hunting partners expressed thanks that I was back safe and sound. It felt really good to be safe and secure in camp, and not wandering around in the woods lost.
Losing my wallet was a bummer, being lost in the woods at night is very spooky, but I can’t imagine what it would be like to be spiritually lost, that is to have no answers for your life after death. People seem to deal with it by simply not thinking about it. That seems so naïve considering the consequences of ignoring God. If there is a God, He certainly would be powerful. A big, very powerful God could certainly communicate to us people, it seems totally crazy that He would just ignore us. Looking around and considering the options available to us as the most reasonable means of communication by a really big God to a very small people, the Bible is the obvious answer, especially after reading it repeatedly. The Bible tells us about God, His plan, His love, His gift of salvation to us so that we don’t have to be lost. If I had no clue what would happen to me after I died, I would be looking very hard for an answer, not just hoping blindly for the best.
I used to play golf with my sons, and when we played together, the three of us, they would give me 2 or 3 mulligans per game. That is I got to have a second chance hitting a ball that I had just hit for 2 feet off of the Tee or a missed put from 10 inches. I was always appreciative of this mercy and grace they showed to me in an attempt to keep me in the game, though I could have used a dozen or more mulligans. I have often wished that there were mulligans in life so when I did something dumb and stupid I would have a chance to fix it. But there are no mulligans in the game of life, when I do something stupid, there it is , big as life for all to see. When I say something totally off base, and it is hurtful to those who hear, I can’t order people to forget they heard it, I said it, they heard it, and the damage done. I can only hope that in time all those involved in and who heard what I said will forget it and forgive. Listen to this amazing verse, in James 1:19 “This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger”. Slow to speak, whoooeee I wish I would do this.
A healthy soul is a key to perseverance, to managing pressure and responsibility, it is the key to having grit. One of the ways to maintain or achieve a healthy soul is by periodically engaging in activities that bring a renewal in emotional energy. Probably the activity that renews me the most is fishing. It is a mystery to me why fishing is so powerful to lift my spirits and my mood when I am feeling down and drained. I was totally run out of gas last night, I was discouraged because of a number of events that happened this past week, I was struggling with frustration over past decisions that I had made, and I was fretting about possible future problems that I would have to face and fix, and not sure if I could. That is a typical Sunday night state of mind and emotion for me. Everything seems worse than it really is, and my ability to take my thoughts captive and turn them positive is pathetic. Today I got up at 4:00 am and went steelhead fishing with a friend from the church, and it is amazing how much better I feel tonight than last night. we fished on the Siletz River, and the three of us in the drift boat all caught fish, I landed 2 and fought and lost another 2. It was a great day, and I feel great and have a healthy soul.
Pastoring a church is a great privilege given to me by God. One of my goals is to pastor and lead with a healthy soul. Many do not and the consequences in the church of America is significant, which results in significant consequences in our country as well.
“1,500 pastors leave the ministry permanently each month in America. 80% of pastors and 85% of their spouses feel discouraged in their roles. 70% of pastors do not have a close friend, confidant, or mentor. Over 50% of pastors are so discouraged they would leave the ministry if they could but have no other way of making a living. Over 50% of pastors’ wives feel that their husband entering ministry was the most destructive thing to ever happen to their families. 30% of pastors said they had either been in an ongoing affair or had a one-time sexual encounter with a parishioner. 71% of pastors stated they were burned out, and they battle depression beyond fatigue on a weekly and even a daily basis. Only one out of every ten ministers will actually retire as a minister.” (Information from The Barna Group).
I want to get to the finish line still in love with Jesus, still in love with the church, still in love with being a pastor. With my head held high, with my dignity and honor still intact, I want to look back over my shoulder and say it was worth it. A healthy soul is not easy to achieve and it is even harder to maintain over the long haul.
The foundation of a healthy soul is right and pure motive. Why do we do what we do, what drives us, what gives us our fire and passion. Our motive is tricky, it slips sideways so easily and imperceptibly from the influence of the world, the pull of our flesh, and the temptation of the devil. It takes constant self-monitoring, but only those who are humble enough to receive input, instruction, and criticism from others close to them who see little warning signs of drift into the dark side will be able to maintain purity of motive that God will bless.
For me pure motive is doing everything I do to please the Lord. 2 Corinthians 5:9 Therefore we also have as our ambition (motive), whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.
It is so easy to slip a bit and begin to please people. We serve people, teach people, pray for people, counsel people and if we do a good job they will appreciate us and verbalize that appreciation, and it is so addicting.
It is so easy to be motivated by the pride of accomplishment, a sense of worth that come from influencing people towards faith in God. It seems strange that such a noble accomplishment could be driven by pride.
There are many other “false gods” lurking to seduce us away from the purity of devotion to Christ and the super strong desire to please Him in all that we do, such as power, money, and even comfort.
The strongest check in my spirit to scrutinize my motive is feelings of discouragement, hurt feelings, self-pity, feeling unappreciated, and finding myself getting irritated at people.
Dear Lord, my desire, my motive, my ambition is to please You with my life, work, and accomplishment. Test my heart, O Lord, and see if there is any wrong motive in me, show me what I need to change.
I remember the months I agonized over whether to stay on the farm or pastor. My prayer was a constant, “What do I do?” Since those days there have been many more sleepless nights as I pondered a decision that had to be made, and I had no clue what was right, what was best, or what was God’s will. Almost all of those really big ones had to do with JBC as I pastored over the years. The good and right decisions usually resulted in growth and unity, the not so good ones usually ended up in disunity that often lingered for years, and made life generally miserable. Over the last 42years JBC has been my life, almost every waking moment I was thinking about the church, the health of the church, the growth, the programs, what I could do better, different, what was good, what was bad. In my mind and heart, the church was the Body and Bride of Christ, He gave His life for the church, and I was determined to give mine as well, my love for Jesus was manifested in my love for His Bride, in my life that meant JBC. My total devotion to my church didn’t detract from my marriage, in fact I think it made it better, I don’t think it negatively affected my parenting, I think it made it better. Now at 70 years of age I often sit and reminisce about the good old days, or the not so good days, and my part in them.
Of all the decisions that I have ever made as the Pastor of JBC, the hardest, by far, was stepping back and giving the bulk of the weekend preaching to my associate pastor, Mike Dedera. I had been the “Preaching Pastor” for 40 years. It was my spiritual gift, it was who I was, it was the primary source of joy and fulfillment in my life, I never felt more alive than when I was preaching, I never sensed the pleasure of God in my life as strongly as when I was preaching, the most spiritual experiences of my life happened while I was preaching. But I am not going to live forever, somebody else is going to have to take that role sooner or later, either by my choice or by the fact that I have died or gotten so senile I don’t know Genesis from Revelation. On the bicycle trip that we took from San Diego to St Augustine, Florida, I had a very close call with a pickup nicking the side mirror on my bicycle. It was a bit nerve wracking thinking about what I would look and feel like if he had been half an inch closer. Because I do think about the church most of the time I began thinking what would happen to JBC if I had gotten killed. I know Jesus can build his church, but I also know what has happened to many churches at the end of a long pastorate, the next guy gets crucified, he can do nothing right no matter how hard he tries. Part of me thought, what happens after I am gone isn’t my problem, just enjoy life until that day, but another part of me thought, you have given to much not to care about what happens in the next 30 years. The first 10 years of pastoring I was a mediocre preacher at best, but I worked constantly on my gift and my passion, always being my own worst critic. It just took lots of pulpit time for me to grow and learn how to speak so that people learned, grew, and experienced God by hearing His word taught well. I knew it was going to take the same for Mike, time, practice, experience, agony over bombs, and hopefully being coached well. I went back and forth on it a thousand times, constantly asking God, “What do I do?” By the time we were home I had made up my mind, and later that week had the discussion with Mike before I changed my mind. I have seconded guessed that decision hundreds of times over the last 2 years, but tonight as I sat listening to Mike preach from the book of Proverbs on Wisdom I had a wonderful gift from God as He filled me with a great sense of peace and joy and anticipation for the days and years ahead. Many of my decisions and choices over the last 42 years were bad, but this one was a good one.
I picked a bad profession to get rich in. There are a few pastors with big churches and lots of books to their credit who have lots of money but most Pastors that I know are average if not below average in income. In the early years of pastoring JBC when it was small and struggling and we had eight kids who ate a lot we had to manage every penny, but it was a great life and our kids all learned the secret of being content with what we had, which is invaluable. Paul the Apostle talked about that secret that he found in Philippians 4:12-13,
I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
Hebrews 13:5-6 Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,” so that we confidently say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid.”
The secret is that our abundance almost guarantees that we will have a low trust in God, but when we have little we grow in our daily dependence on Him and our love grows toward Him and not toward the world. contentment doesn’t mean laziness, it doesn’t mean resignation, but it does mean that we recognize that God is the one who keeps an eye on the sparrow and I am worth much more to Him than a bird is. Life is unpredictable but I trust God with my life, and He will take care of me, He always has and he always will.
Those who have taught me and influenced me most in my life have said to me over and over, steward your money well and give away as much as you can to God’s work. The act of giving inoculates our heart against the love or dependence on money, and God is free to give generously to the person who is content either way, with or with out. Learning the secret of contentment is a special kind of freedom of the soul. That is why I say that living life in such a way that our kids grew up with the “Secret” of being content no matter what is invaluable.
Since January 1st I have not eaten any sugar that I am aware of, and also no wheat flour. So far with only that diet restriction I have lost 13 lbs, and I am feeling really good with lots more energy. It hasn’t been very hard to maintain the discipline because the results have been so quick and significant that I stay motivated not to cheat. The Bible has a lot to say about living healthy, but not much of what it says has anything to do with food. An example is in Proverbs 17:22 “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.” Most people with Parkinson’s are mildly to severally depressed, because the chemical that their body has stopped making is dopamine which besides being the chemical the brain uses to communicate to the muscles is also the “feel good” chemical. “A joyful heart is good medicine”. So is a joyful heart entirely an issue of good things happening in and around us. It is obvious that it is also the result of our body not producing certain chemicals. So, the burning question is, can I choose to be joyful as an act of my will or am I entirely at the mercy of unpredictable and uncontrollable events in my life? So I can choose to act happy even if I don’t feel happy. If I am only acting happy am I really happy? Not yet, but if I continue to act happy in spite of how I feel, my behavior will work on me in the inside, and soon I will feel happy. “Don’t act the way you feel, act the way you want to feel, and you soon will.” So, choosing to rejoice always, and to think of positive things most of the time will result in a mostly positive and happy person, which results in good health.
Philippians 4:4-8 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, think about these things.