Patty left today to go to Mexico to one of those resort places with a couple of other families from JBC. Sitting in our bedroom by myself tonight I got to reminiscing about our 50 years of marriage. They have been good years filled with adventure, love, and accomplishment. In the early years when I was trying to be successful as a dairy farmer she worked right along beside me putting in the long grueling hours with me. We couldn’t afford a tractor so we cleaned the barn with a snow shovel, and Patty did that while I milked. She would open up the drain on our big water trough, and the water would run down the concrete alley between the cow stalls and she would push the cow manure with the water out the back of the barn into the manure pit. She had to go pretty fast or the water would run out and leave all the cow manure behind still in the barn, so she would be in cow manure over her ankles (she had on rubber boots) pushing as hard as she could sloshing down the ally with a big wave of cow poop and water going in front of her. A number of times as she was pushing hard and going as fast as she could she fell down, and would come into the milking parlor where I was, to have me squirt off the manure with the hose. She was so beautiful🤪! When our cows got sick we had to give them these sulfur pills that were the size of my thumb. They would go into this thing we called a balling gun which was a couple feet long. We would lock a cow into this chute and I would grab ahold of the cows head and lift it up in the air holding her mouth open, and Patty would shove the balling gun down the cows throat and push the plunger which pushed out the big pill into the cows throat. If it wasn’t down far enough the cow would cough it back up. The cow didn’t particularly like any part of this deal so they would buck and shake their head and blow cow snot all over everything and everybody, and because Patty was at mouth of the cow she got most of the snot on her. Patty was a bit timid about pushing this long metal thing down the throat of this bucking cow that I am straining every muscle to hold, so I got to yelling at her to hurry up! That didn’t go over very well with her, and a couple,of times I thought she was going to push that balling gun down my throat😖! Over the years there isn’t much she hasn’t done, and she has done it with toughness, enthusiasm, and joy, making her a very fun person to live with.
Once walking on the beach I came upon a fellow painting a picture of the ocean and the beach that was in front of him. I stopped and asked if I could watch him paint, and he said, ” I would be honored”, so I stood behind him and watched for 20 to 30 minutes. He was very good at painting, and I was reminded again of a life principle of mine, “God has created us with the amazing ability to learn and to acquire great skill in whatever we set our mind on and practice diligently”. We are easily drawn to those things that we have some natural and God given talent or giftedness in, but in order to be highly skilled much practice and learning is still required. Very few people are willing to give the time and effort in practice and learning to become one of those really skilled people. There are key parts of our inner person, our soul, and our character that are developed as we pay the price to become very, very good at something. I have a goal of learning a new skill every year, and I think about what the new skill will be that I will learn, all year long as read about people, and meet people who have extraordinary skills that have obviously been developed to a very high level. Most of the new skills I learn I don’t pursue much more than a year or two as I move on to new things to learn, but a few things I stick with, working at becoming excellent at. One of those is, “speaking to people in such a way that they understand the message clearly, are powerfully motivated to put it into practice, and that it changes their behavior and character”. This Bible verse expresses my desire in this area,
Proverbs 16:23-24 “The heart of the wise instructs his mouth and adds persuasiveness to his lips. Pleasant words are a honeycomb sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”
I have a list of disciplines that I faithfully practice over and over to inch my way to greater mastery in this skill. I am always reading a good book on speaking, teaching, communication, and preaching, taking notes of those things that I need to work on. I listen almost daily to the best preachers and public speakers there are, and think and evaluate about what makes them good, and I write those things down, I listen to myself and become my own worst critic of my weaknesses and things I need to improve on, and I write this blog almost daily, recognizing that the better I get at writing the better I will get at speaking. I want to learn to write in a way that is captivating, that is the reader can’t quit reading until finished, I want to learn to paint pictures with words so the message or idea can be seen clearly in the reader’ minds eye, and I want to stir the soul of the person reading so that they are compelled to grow, pursue, and change.
Here I sit at home in my recliner trying figure out what I am going to write in my blog tonight, and how to make it clear and understandable. It is 12:00, midnight, and my brain is starting to go into deep sleep.
That was last night, obviously I didn’t get any farther than that before I fell asleep.
My schedule is always full, but “doable”, but lately my schedule has been such that I am not getting some thing done each day, and I have been giving into the urgent instead of doing the important. I have been for the last couple of days not getting all the basics disciplines done such as spending time at memorizing Bible verses, or reading in a good Christian book each day, and I even missed praying through the “prayer letter” last week. When I miss one of the disciplines I feel really guilty for a couple of days, and resolve to do better at managing my schedule, but haven’t done very well the last couple of days. It is frustrating how susceptible I am to losing my momentum by a little hiccup in my schedule. I can go for months cruzin along with great faithfulness reading the Bible, praying, memorizing, writing and then out of the blue I get entangled in a project or event and then a little compromise, and then a little bigger one, and then …. you know how the story goes. One of the bad things is that my energy comes from God, and when I begin to neglect the spiritual disciplines I have less power from God, and therefore can do only part of what I once was doing, thus beginning this downward spiral, sort of like a duck getting shot.
Our family was given a Holstein cow that wasn’t much good for producing milk anymore. We butchered it on the farm and brought it home in the back of my pick-up in quarters. We put a piece of plywood covered with a sheet on the dining room table, and brought the cow in a quarter at a time and plopped it on the table. Everyone, grandkids included, gathered around the table and cut all the meat off of the bones in fairly small pieces. Then we ran it through a small meat grinder twice and made it all into hamburger. The hamburger tasted delicious, but the highlight of the butchering was the liver and onions that a Patty fixed me, whooooeeeee that was good. That cows liver must have weighed close to 20 lbs, and nobody in my family likes it except for me. People don’t like liver because of the texture but if you soak it for 2 hours in lemon juice the texture changes and it tastes just like a really good steak, really, and with the onions and mushrooms it is better than a really good steak. I know, I know, you don’t believe me. That’s alright, it just means more liver for me.
I like and I dislike are words we all say a lot. I like liver and onions, you don’t. I like Fords and you like Chevy’s. I like the rain and you hate the rain. Those likes and dislikes don’t matter much, but if I said, I like him but I don’t like you, that is a bit more serious, especially if it affects the way I treat and honor you. Is it possible for me to purposely reduce the fervency of my likes and dislikes to the point that I have a high level of tolerance for just about everything, and a high level of acceptance for just about any person. If the purpose is unity, peace, and wanting to positively influence someone toward faith in Christ, I can do that. Some would say, that is pretending, no, pretending is when we are trying to hide who we really are from others in order to look good. Tolerance and acceptance are all about the other person, wanting them to feel accepted and loved.
Nothing grieves my heart as much as someone apparently having a genuine salvation experience with Jesus becoming their savior and Lord, and then falling away from that faith.
Hebrews 6:1-6 Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, …and this we will do, if God permits. For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.
The reason I believe for so many believers turning their back on their faith is that they don’t love Jesus. 1 Corinthians 16:22 says “If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed.” The reason people don’t love Jesus is because they have used up their love on stuff, material things, and money.
1 John 2:15 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
James 4:4 You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
The only way to keep our love for Jesus strong, very strong, and growing stronger every day, is to be a faithful and sacrificial giver of our money to our own church. Giving is God’s solution to the awful disease of worldliness which destroys our faith in Jesus and our love for Him. He has made it easy for us to give sacrificially and generously by making major promises to us if we give to His work.
Proverbs 3:9-10 Honor the Lord from your wealth and from the first of all your produce; so your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will overflow with new wine. The key question now is, do we really believe that the Lord will do what He has promised or do I just take care of myself.
In a service at JBC several years ago I was preaching, and in the sermon I said that God loves some people more than others. After the service a young lady around 20 to 30 years of age who was visiting came up, and got very angry with me about that statement. She asked me where it said that in the Bible, and I responded that I had given numerous verses in the sermon and said they were in the notes that were in the bulletin, and if she didn’t get one I would get one for her. She really wasn’t interested in getting the verses, she just wanted to vent a bit on me for some reason. I asked her if she felt God loved her where she was at, right now in her life. That question put the brakes on her outpouring of angry words toward me, and she got teary eyed, and said, ” He probably hates me because I hate Him! I said, “You know, I have 8 kids, 6 son-in-laws, a daughter-in-law, and about a dozen grandkids (I said it was a few years ago, I think we have around 22 now), and I love them more than anybody else’s kids, is that wrong of me? She hesitated for a second and said, “no, I guess not”. I went on and said, ” I am in God’s family, I am His son, by adoption, and He loves me as His son, do you think He loves those not in His family as much as those who are?” She didn’t answer, so I continued, “God the Father and Jesus loved the world so much that He and Jesus who had total and incomprehensible oneness and unity with each, tore that unity and oneness apart. While Jesus was hanging on the cross all of your sins and mine were put on Him along with those of every person in the past, present and future. God the Father looked at Jesus as if He had actually committed those sins, poured out His wrath on Him, and Jesus on the cross cried out, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” “Jesus paid the penalty of my sins”. “Jesus died, was buried, and rose from the dead, and is alive today.” “That is a pretty special love, right?” “But He loves me more than that, because I believed that all that He did, He did it for me, I loved Him back for what He did for me, and I now follow Him and serve Him. I am in His family.” I wish I could say that she became part of God’s family right then, but she turned around and walked out of the building and I have never heard from her since. I like to believe that a seed was planted, and some day she will come back and say, “remember me”.
I like most people, and genuinely enjoy their company. There are a some people that I don’t enjoy being around for long periods of time mostly because we have nothing in common so conversation is always a struggle. And then there are a few people that I don’t like at all because they are rude, obnoxious, and incredibly egotistical. I work at not being rude back, exercising tolerance and graciousness. Proverbs 3:3-4 is one of the verses that I use to help me be nice and kind to people I would rather ignore at best, it says, “Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good repute in the sight of God and man.” Every morning I pray a “prayer of commitment” to the Lord, and a key phrase is “You are Lord, master, and king of my life, today I will obey you no matter how hard or difficult it might be”. So I have a paraphrase of Proverbs 3:3-4 that I take as a direct command to me from Jesus so I obey it! The command is this, “Be kind and nice to people you don’t like”. There is something very powerful in saying,”I will obey You Jesus because You created me, because You died for me on the cross and paid the penalty for all my sins, You purchased me with Your blood, I don’t belong to me, I belong to You, You are my Lord, Master, and King.” So the command to me, “Be kind and nice to people you don’t like”, is very achievable not because it is easy, but because choosing to disobey God is not something I do. I believe that making the commitment every morning to obey Him results in His power and strength giving me what I need to pull it off successfully. Choosing to be kind and nice to people who are rude, insulting, and self-centered gives me a sense of freedom and power knowing that how I am acting is not natural, or easy, but I am doing it as an act of obedience and submission to my savior and Lord, and He is pleased with me and will give me His power to go even deeper with this commandment.
In my leadership classes that I teach I talk about 7 basic disciplines that we all need to practice. They are called disciplines because our flesh hates to do them, so the only way we will do them successfully is with self-discipline and self-control. Without these 7 disciplines we will not grow in character and maturity, we won’t be successful in life, in relationships, we will not accomplish anything with our life that really matters, and we won’t know God with any level of intimacy.
One of the disciplines is to “Seek wisdom diligently like gold, silver, or valuable treasure”. My Dad used to say, “just because you get old doesn’t mean you get wise, there are a lot of old fools running around”. Only those who diligently seek wisdom will become wise. In Proverbs 8:17 wisdom speaks like a person saying, “I love those who love me; and those who diligently seek me will find me.” How and where do you seek for wisdom diligently?
(1) Get counsel from wise people. Most have to much pride to do this, but it is the most effective and the fastest way to acquire wisdom. God is the ultimate source of wisdom, and He loves a humble person, and blesses them with wisdom, when they humble themselves and ask for counsel or advise.
(2) Read good books written by wise people. Ask wise people what they read. Check out the author from his bio or people that know him personally. There are so many good books available today. God wrote The “Ten Commandments” with his finger on a stone, He has ordained writing as His idea. We were created by God to think in words, to speak words, to write words, and to read words. The Bible is preserved for us in written words.
(3) Learn from life, from trials, and from mistakes. When we make poor choices life will reveal that, and if we are a diligent seeker of wisdom we will learn the lessons to be learned and become wiser. Write what you learn or you will forget it, be a wisdom collector. Part of the diligence required to be wise is to write, fools are to busy to write.
Fools don’t ask for counsel from others, they think they already know everything. Fools don’t read good books, they are to busy doing foolish things and then doing them again, fools don’t learn anything from their mistakes, they just blame others.
Because most people do at my age, I get asked all the time if I am retired, and my answer is, “No, I am not finished yet, I still have lots of dreams in me left to accomplish”. One of my favorite passages in the Bible, which is one of my life memory verses, is
Psalms 92:14-15, “They will still yield fruit in old age; They shall be full of sap and very green,To declare that the Lord is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.”
“Yield fruit in old age”, yep, that is what I want to do, in fact my daily prayer is that I will bear more fruit in the next 10 years than I have in the previous 42 years of ministry. I also like that statement, “full of sap and very green”. I am thinking that means that the writer was saying that he had lots of energy and lots of great ideas. Another of my favorite Bible verses and part of my every morning prayer of commitment is
Psalms 71:9 “Do not cast me off in the time of old age; Do not forsake me when my strength fails.”
My prayer every morning is, ” Here I am Lord, please use me, please give me more to do that really matters, today give me great strength and wisdom to glorify your name by bearing much fruit.”
In Psalms 36 David writes a prayer that says, “Don’t let the foot of pride come upon me “, I changed the wording just a bit to ” Don’t let the foot of pride step on my neck.” I pray that prayer every morning as part of my morning commitments and prayer to God before I start the day. Pride is such a tricky sin it can sneak into our life and get a major foothold in our life before we are aware of it. Very few sins have as many consequences listed against it in the Bible as pride does, and very few positive character traits have as many blessings attached to them as humility does. I get on the scale every morning and weigh as I work on the goal of becoming a a slim, trim, buff, 188 lbs. I wish I had a scale that weighed the amount of pride in my heart. It would be so much easier to conquer this pride in me if I new just exactly how much I had and if I was making any headway in conquering pride and acquiring humility. Humility as a character trait has a number of facets to it. We want to be humble in our relationship to God as we give Him glory and praise for every good thing that we would be able to pull off in our life. We want to be humble and teachable in the company of successful people who have accomplished something of significance with their lives. We want to be humble with people who have learning disabilities and whom we are very much smarter than. We want to walk humbly with our God when we accomplish something great, and work hard to give him all the glory.