It was nice having a break today, compliments of the snow that fell last night. But tomorrow it is back at it, running the race that is ours to run with endurance and faithfulness. A break is a very good thing if the rest results in renewed effort as we go back to the old grind of life. But with some the break creates a break in momentum, and they get in the race with less enthusiasm and even a bit of resentment to their particular lot in life. At this point it is important to coach ourselves with good self-talk to be grateful for all that God has blessed us with, especially our job, our responsibilities, our family, and our disciplines.
A key part of my self-coaching and self-talk is reciting in my mind verses I have memorized, and one of my key ones is Colossians 3:23-24 Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.
I turn that verse into a prayer to God for strength and a commitment to God to be faithful. “Dear Lord, today I will do everything heartily as I work to please You in all that I do, please help me to do that. I am looking forward with great anticipation to the day I see You for the first time, I will work and live today as if it is the last one I have before I stand before You, and I want with all my heart for Your words to me to be “well done, good and faithful servant”. Please grant me Your strength today to serve You with great passion and success. I love You!
This is the view off of my back porch of my back yard. It has been awhile since we have had this much snow. We cancelled everything at church today so I am doing something I haven’t done for awhile, I am staying in bed all day long. I have a bed that is like those in hospitals that lifts up in the back and my feet lift up as well, so I have it adjusted just right with my heating blanket on high, and I am going to read, write, pray, and work on my Scripture Memory. I will get up occasionally for a snack and a cup of coffee. It is kind of nice being a sluggard, a sloth, and a lazy poop for a day.
If you want to do an interesting Bible study, use your Bible search program on your computer, I-pad, or smart phone, and do a word search on sluggard and sloth. There are about 20 verses, mostly in the book of Proverbs that describe these very lazy people.
Proverbs 6:9-11 How long will you lie down, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest”— your poverty will come in like a vagabond and your need like an armed man.
Whooooeeeeeeeee, that sounds like me today 😀 We all are born lazy, and diligence is a character trait that God greatly admires, and one that we have to work hard at developing. The problem is that Sloths and Sluggards don’t like to work hard so they stay Sloths and Slugs unless they get some counsel and accountability in their life long enough to get them over the hump. Blessed is the person who had good parents who instilled the character trait of diligence in them as they grew up. Even though I had great parents who taught me well to love working hard, a day like today can entice me into another one, and then another, and before I realize it I am a lazy pig.
I have been doing a little fix up work on our church parsonage as Brandon and his wife Emma are going to be moving into it. Brandon is on staff part-time at JBC as the pastor of Evangelism and Outreach, he also does the follow-up with visitors, and is in charge of the Small group ministry. I left a bunch of my tools, all my Rigid Cordless tools, in the house and someone broke in a stole them all. I don’t think there are many things that tic me off as much as when someone steals from me. I work hard at not getting upset about anything and not allowing myself to think circular thoughts that are negative, angry, bitter, or vengeful, and to stop praying for those who stole my tools to be infected with chicken pox, shingles, and gout all at the same time, but it took me most of last evening to get a grip on my self-talk. What I do to control my wrong thinking and self-talk is memorize Bible verses and set my mind on those verses and meditate on them whenever I go back to “stinkin thinkin”. I thought these verses were appropriate.
2 Peter 3:10-13 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.
One of two things will happen to end our life here on this planet as we now know it, either we will die or Jesus will return, and we have no clue on either one, but
Hebrews 9:27 says, “And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment,”
So, though we don’t know when, it is so important that we are ready, eternally important.
Strong people can carry a heavy load of responsibility. Strong people don’t grumble, whine, complain, or feel sorry for themselves. Strong people accomplish a lot with their life. Strong people can help, support and encourage those who are weaker than themselves. Strong people can take all kinds of verbal abuse, and have their rights violated, and not get to uptight or upset about it. The command in the Bible to be strong is given almost 50 times so it is important to God.
Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.”
How does a person become weak? No one decides to become a weak person, it just happens over time.
Matthew 7:13-14 Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.
Our desire for comfort prompts us to take the easy way when choices come into our life, and after awhile those seemingly unimportant little choices have chipped away at our strength, resolve, discipline, and self-control. We skip a work out and then another. We sleep in a little later. We eat what we shouldn’t, just once and then one more time. And then, without realizing it we wake up and you have become something you really never wanted to become. Instead of being a strong person you are weak. Instead of being disciplined you are lost and confused. Instead of moving forward you are moving backwards. And what is sad is that it all happened without you even recognizing that it was happening. How? Insignificant little things that shouldn’t matter, but that do.
Of the 26 character traits that I rotate through focusing on 1 each week, patience is one that I recognize how very important it is in my life in pursuit of healthy, growing relationships. As my patience with people goes up, my proneness to irritation and anger will go down. As my patience with people goes up, my influence in their lives will go up. As my patience goes up, my enjoyment in the time I spend with people goes up, and their enjoyment in fellowshipping with me goes up as well. Patience is built on the awareness that there are no perfect people including me, and imperfect people do dumb things. Imperfect people will do things that are hurtful, rude, and inconsiderate, all people do them, including me. Patience is understanding that everybody starts at zero and and that most of us are growing from zero to 100, we all are on a journey towards full maturity, being perfect in character as Jesus is. Patience is knowing that I am ahead of a lot of people in my growth, and a lot of people are ahead of me. We all are on a journey towards Christ like behavior and character, and we all are in a different place. I have memorized this verse, and I meditate on it often so that God’s power will work in me, and make me a patient person in reality.
Matthew 7:12 In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
I go back and re-read my blogs periodically, and occasionally I like one so much that I think it is worth re-posting, here is one of my favorites.
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.
As I wrote in a previous blog a couple days ago, I went to College wife hunting, and I went with a list of 7 characteristics of a girl who would make a wonderful wife. The first one was, look for a girl that is nice and kind to those that most others shun, Patty passed that one with flying colors. The second one was, look for a girl who isn’t overly concerned about how she looks to others, not a big spender on nice cloths or overboard on makeup. Well, the story goes like this:
I played on the basketball team at the college we attended, and we practiced during dinner time so our team ate in the cafeteria after everyone else was gone. Patty worked in the cafeteria as part of her financial aid package from the college, and she was the one who usually dished out our food for us each evening. One evening our coach came in and announced loudly that we were given free tickets to the “Far West Classic” basketball tournament at the Memorial Coliseum where some of the best colleges in the country were going to be playing, and the seats were close to the court. We all got super excited, and in the midst of our excitement Patty yelled from behind the food counter, “Hey! I feed you guys every night, I should get to go!” The coach laughed and said, “No! Guys only”! Well, on the night we were going to the tournament we all gathered outside the Student Union Building where we were going to board our school’s bus to take us to the Coliseum. While we were standing there, up walked Patty dressed up in a guys suit, that was way to big for her, with her hair stuffed up inside this man’s hat that was also way to big for her head. She really did look like a homeless guy, and we all thought that was who she was until she got close, and recognized her. She intended to show up at the bus for a joke and then go back to her dorm, but our coach told a couple of guys to grab her and haul her on the bus with us. When we got to the Coliseum 16 College men got off of the bus with Patty who looked ridiculous! Everyone was teasing her through the whole evening, telling her how to walk like a man, clap like a man, and eat hot dogs like a man, they all were basically flirting with her, except me, and I thought, “What a dumb thing for anyone to do”! At half-time everyone had left to go and get refreshments except Patty and I, she was about 8 seats away from me, I turned and looked at her at the same time she turned and looked at me, our eyes met and she smiled at me. I thought to myself, “Well, she certainly isn’t overly concerned about how she looks, that’s for sure! But in spite of that ridiculous suit she has on she is really beautiful”! Thinking back on it, it reminds me of when I am fishing and I set the hook on a big steelhead, she set the hook good.
This August Patty and I are celebrating our 50th Wedding Anniversary. It is hard to remember every year, but I can confidently declare that the intimacy, the love, and the unity in our marriage has grown steadily every year. Our marriage has gotten better and better the older we get. It takes a lot of conscientious work to grow a marriage, it doesn’t just happen because you live together in the same house and sleep together in the same bed. It seems logical that it would get easier and easier as you get more experience to have a growing marriage, but that isn’t true, it gets harder and harder. It is like climbing a mountain, the higher you get the harder the climb becomes. A principle of intimacy is that if a marriage stops growing and plateaus, after being plateaued for awhile it will go backwards. Therefore it is essential that a couple works very hard to keep their marriage growing in the quality of their relationship or it will plateau and it will go backwards. A lot of married couples who have been married for many years are just going through the motions. There are a number of great tools to help jump start our marriages into a new season of growth. Reading a good book on marriage together and discussing what you read is a great way to foster communication especially if efforts to talk candidly about your relationship tends to create conflict. If you are going on a long driving trip you can get an audio version of the book, or you could purchase a marriage seminar on CD’s and listen to it together as you drive. Another awesome tool that very few people take advantage of is Marriage Counseling for the purpose of fine tuning a good marriage so that it keeps growing. Good marriages become stale marriages if you keep doing what you have always done even if it has worked. In order for growth to continue and even accelerate it is important for new things, new methods, new experiences, new challenges, new learning to happen. Boring marriages aren’t necessarily bad, but boring isn’t fun even when you are old. Another powerful tool is to go on a marriage retreat with other couples where there is good teaching on marriage and a good time is experienced because of the surroundings, the environment, the fellowship and the food. The accelerated growth that often takes place as a result of the retreat makes the cost of going a bargain. Jefferson Baptist Church is having a Marriage Retreat at Odell Lake Lodge On three separate weekends, April 5 – 7, 12 – 14, and 26 – 28. Patty and I will be the speakers during the 3 sessions. If you would like to go or get information go to our church website at http://www.jbc.church and you will see the retreat logo which you can click on or touch and register on line or get information. Don’t settle for mediocrity or boring, and certainly not plateaued.
When I graduated from High School I really didn’t want to go to college, I wanted to stay on the farm, but the Vietnam war was in full swing and if I didn’t go to college I for sure would get drafted and end up over there for 3 years. I also wanted to get married, and my pastor told me that if I wanted to find a good Christian wife go to a good Christian school. I decided on a small Christian Liberal Arts College in north Portland because a friend who had graduated a year ahead of me was going there and highly recommended it, he even had a couple of girls lined up for me to date. So I went to College wife hunting, and I knew what kind of girl I was looking for, because I had gotten some counsel on how to find a good wife, and they said look for a girl with good, strong character, and they gave me 7 things to look for. The first piece of counsel was to keep my eye out for a girl that was nice to people that no one else or at least very few others were nice to. There was a guy on campus who had a stroke at a young age, and as a result he acted strange, had very poor relational skills, he dressed shabbily, and he rarely took a shower. As a result he had no friends, and very few people would spend much time talking to him. One day I saw him walking toward me, and he had a very nice haircut, was wearing nice cloths that were clean, he was walking with a bounce to his step, and he was smiling. I stopped and commented on his new look and complimented him his haircut. He said, “Yeh, Patty Burtner gave it to me, she is really nice!” I asked why, what was the reason, had he asked her to give him a haircut, did she charge him? He responded with a smile and said, “Nope, she just said that she bet that I would look really handsome with a haircut, and that she would give me one if I liked, so I said, ‘sure!’ ” I asked about the clean cloths and he said, “I thought it would be a shame to waste this nice haircut so I just decided to dress up and look nice,” and off he went. As I walked away I thought of my number one criteria for a girl with character, “Look for a girl that is nice to people that most others are not nice to”. Patty Burtner, I think I will see if I can get to know her.
A few people accomplish a lot with their life that really matters, that changes other people for the better, that blesses other people, that lasts many years past their own life. There are many reasons that the few are able to make it happen, but there is one reason that is most common amount those who seem always to be getting it done. These few people have a strength of character that never casts blame at other people when they fail at something, and they never make excuses when they fail. Instead of complaining about challenges or setbacks, or failures, they develop solutions and solve problems. They figure it out with determination, persistence and patience. Failures are not seen as failures, but as a source of information on what to change, failures don’t discourage, they do just the opposite, they motivate and give resolve to conquer and to win.
I have often pondered on the questions, “What happens in life that shapes a person into a champion, can any person be trained to become an overcomer or are some people stuck in mediocrity, and if a person can be trained, taught, encouraged, and coached into being a bearer of much fruit, how, what’s the strategy and the content of the training materials?
One of my main ministry’s now as a pastor is to teach my leadership classes. I teach a men’s Leadership I and a Ladies Leadership I, I also teach a Leadership Class II, and a Leadership III. The goal that I have as I teach these 8 month long classes is to train champions, winners, high producers, and overcomes. I am always thinking about how to make the content more relevant and more effective in accomplishing my goals, how to improve my methods, and my teaching. One of the most rewarding things in life for me is to train a person in such a way that they become very strong in their inner person, and become a person with character of a champion.