I leave on a 2,000 mile bicycle trip to Glacier National Park on June 3rd and get back July 3rd. Now as we come into April we have just 2 months until we leave. There are so many things that I need to get done that it is easy to get overwhelmed and to think, ” there is no way on God’s green earth I can get all that done before June 3rd”!! We all have those kinds of situations in our life. Some people will get every thing done but most will not even get close to completing the required list. The key difference between these two groups of people is how they think. The ones who will get everything done that is on the list think in a disciplined way, and those who won’t get everything done think in an undisciplined and reactive way. The undisciplined thinkers will dwell on the impossibility of the task, they will think thoughts on how tired they are, how busy they are, and how stressed they are. Our self talk is a fundamental key to success or failure in life.
In conversations with people who have little to no faith in Jesus as their savior, one of the reoccurring reasons that is given by them is that there is no real evidence that what I believe in, is really true. I respond by saying, that is super, now you can have faith because Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” “Not seen” means, no evidence for. If there is hard evidence faith is not required, and Hebrews 11:6 says,”without faith it is impossible to please a God”. When we choose to believe and trust in God because of the awareness of God that He has put in every person He will honor that faith by increasing it in us, and we will know and believe without a doubt. It isn’t our reasoning or intellect that brings us to God, it is faith, the conviction of things not seen. 1 Corinthians 1:21 says, ” in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God”.
The nation of Israel had as much evidence of God as a group of people can have when they were led out of Egypt by Moses witnessing miracle after miracle, and then in Exodus 19:9-11, it says, “The Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I will come to you in a thick cloud, so that the people may hear when I speak with you…for on the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people.”
So all the people saw the Red Sea opened up so they could cross on dry ground, they witnessed all the plaques of God against the Egyptians while they were spared, and then at Mt Sinai they heard God speak and saw Him or a symbol of Him like a fire or bright cloud. But even with all that evidence all of them failed to follow and believe in the promises of God except for Caleb and Joshua. Jesus tells a parable in which He says, “If people won’t believe because of what is written in God’s Word, they won’t believe even if someone were miraculously raised from the dead”.
Choose to believe what the Bible says, and God will cause that little faith to grow and then do something that requires faith and He will grow it some more, and before long you will be moving mountains.
Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote ” Some people are so heavenly minded they are no earthly good”. I am not sure what prompted that quote, but the real truth is that the more heavenly minded a person is the more earthly good they are.
Hebrews 11:13-16 and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth….. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.
That is an interesting statement, “God is not ashamed to be called their God”, another way of saying that would be “God is proud of us”. To be heavenly minded means we think often about heaven, contemplating what it is like, using our faith in heaven as a source of encouragement when hard times come, and being motivated to do good in this life anticipating the judgment we will experience by Jesus and the rewards we will potentially receive and take with us into eternity.
Some benefits of being heavenly minded:
(1) Thinking a lot about heaven and the judgment we go through right before we enter into eternity will motivate us to do good to those around us.
(2) Those who are heavenly minded are tough minded, they endure trials well because they have a hope for the future, a light at the end of the tunnel as it were.
(3) Those who have a strong faith in heaven don’t grieve the same way when a person they love dies, as someone who believes we just turn to dirt after we die.
(4) Those who have no hope of going to a heaven where joy reigns, where there is no politics, no war, no sin where we never get sick or tired, who have only this life than it is over, will become more and more focused on getting what can be gotten while they can in this life.
(5) For me personally, nothing energizes me like a few minutes of day dreaming about the glory of heaven.
I have been teaching through the book of Hebrews since October at 8:00 am on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings at 7:00 pm. I started studying it in depth about this time last year, reading through 6 different commentaries, memorizing the first 9 chapters well and the last 4 chapters sorta well, I read all 13 chapters every day for 6 months, and I did extensive writing on the content of the book, and wrote 30 sermons.
I don’t know if those who listened to the teaching I did on the book profited spiritually, but I know that I have never had a study impact me as much as this one has. Hebrews is most known for the 6 very serious warning passages in the book, and reflecting on them can’t help but make me think very seriously about my relationship with God. How real is my faith and how much is just fitting in with the culture I was brought up in.
The lesson this week is on Hebrews 11, which is referred to as the faith chapter, because every verse in the chapter has something to teach about faith. Verse 6 says without faith it is impossible to please God. Without faith you can’t get saved from Hell, without faith you can’t grow spiritually, without faith you won’t know God, without faith your prayers will have zero power, and without faith you can’t accomplish anything of significance with your life. Abraham grew strong in faith, but others grow weak in faith.
Faith grows strong by doing those things that require faith, and probably at the top of the list is prayer. When we pray we talk to a God we can’t see, that we believe is listening, and that He cares. We have no proof for any of that, we just believe, but as we give much time to prayer our faith in the power of prayer grows and as our faith grows God answers more and more of our prayers validating our faith, causing it to grow even more.
I am building another boat, I like building boats. I also have a couple of inflatable pontoon boats I am going to sell. This boat I am building is going to replace my pontoon boats. I like to be able to stand up when I fish, and in a pontoon boat I can’t. It is 10 feet long and I will be able to haul it in my pickup, and load and unload it all by myself. I started on it today, and got a good start. It is called a stitch and glue system , because you cut out the parts and drill holes in the edges and fasten it together with short pieces of baling wire. After it is all connected with wire all the seams are connected with fiberglass and epoxy resin.when Jesus met the disciples after He had risen from the dead and fixed them breakfast, He asked Peter, “Do you love Me more than these”? He was probably pointing at Peters boats and fishing nets when He said “these”. Love is a choice, and I want to be careful to choose to love the Lord more than any boat, or any other possession. Worldliness and getting entangled in life and all the stuff in life is a subtle trap. It happens gradual enough that we don’t see it coming until we are so spiritually dead that we don’t care if we are spiritually dead. I make sure to keep my spiritual disciplines the highest priority of my life, and not get so busy building boats that I forget to read my Bible and pray. I can’t wait to take it out and see how it works.
Tonight I went to “Buffalo Wild Wings” in Salem with three friends and we watched the Oregon vs UC Irvine NCAA basketball game on a super big screen, ate lots of spicy chicken, and drank Diet Pepsi. It was a super good game and the Oregon Ducks won 73 to 54. “March Madness”, the name for the NCAA basketball tournament is my favorite sporting event of the year. I really enjoy college sports and basketball is my favorite sport so March Madness is perfect. The camera man panned the losing bench numerous times during the last minutes of the game and there was a stark contrast in the countenances between the winning team and the losing team. Bottom line, losing is a major bummer, no fun at all.
I think often of what my first impressions at death will be, thinking about what I will feel, hear, and do. I think about what Jesus will look like, sound like, and what He will say to me. Because I love the Lord with all my heart, and serve Him with my whole life, I am confident that I will hear Him say, “well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your master”. But there will be many who hear these words that are quoted in Matthew 25:41, “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels”. That will be the ultimate loss, and the sad thing is it is so easily prevented.
I bought my sons Dodge pickup from him. I sent in the title to DMV with his signature and mine I thought in the right places. They sent it back with additional things I needed to do including a check for $93 that I failed to send the first time. I sent it back with everything done right this time, but I got it back again because I had mistakenly written a b instead of a 6 on the VIN number. OK, I got it sent off again, hopefully I got it all done right this time.
A question I ask people in conversations all the time is, “If you died tonight and stood before God and He says to you, “Why should I let you into My heaven”, what would you say? I have gotten so many different answers to that question. It seems that if there is a God, and if there is a heaven, and if there is a hell, and if some at death are accepted into heaven and others are rejected, that it would be a very good idea to know what the entrance requirements are. The consequences of getting it wrong are significant if we understand at all what hell is like, and understand even a little bit how long eternity is.
A common answer I get from people is that they believe in God. The New Testament says, “the demons believe in God, and they shudder, but they are going to be cast into the Lake of Fire and will stay there forever. Others say that they think they will be in heaven because they have been a pretty good person. The Lord makes it clear in the Bible that if you are trusting in righteousness to get you in then you must be perfect, that is you have never sinned, not even a little one.
Matthew 7 makes reference to people standing before Jesus at the end of their life, and Jesus saying to them, “depart from me, I have never know you”. I will be to late then to make any changes or adjustments, we need to get it right now.
When I was positive that Patty was the girl that I wanted to marry I decided it was time to take her up to Trout Lake, Washington to meet my folks. I really wanted their approval of Patty, but I was a little nervous about taking her to the farm because she was a city girl from California and I wasn’t sure how she was going to react to the cows, chickens, pigs, and the smell of the dairy.
When we got there I introduced her to all my family, then we ate some lunch and chit chatted about whatever. Dad and I went outside and we were standing next to the fence that held the heifers that were close to calving talking about which one was going to calve next and other dairy stuff. Patty came out to look around and came up to us, and started asking Dad questions about the farm. I was impressed with her ability to carry on a fairly decent conversation with him about cows, calves, and milking.
While they were talking Mom’s prize buff Orpington chickens started across the area in front of our milking parlor. There were 10 hens and a rooster, and the rooster was the meanest chicken God ever created. He would regularly sneak up behind me when I was walking to the barn and jump up and start flogging me with his wings and the spurs on his feet, and scare me to death.
Patty saw the rooster and exclaimed how beautiful his tail feathers were! My Dad never missed a beat and said ” He is really tame, why don’t you sneak up behind him and pluck out a couple of his tail feathers, they will look real nice pinned to your your wall in your room at college. So Patty began her “sneak” on Mom’s very big, very mean rooster. She got right up behind him, ready to pluck a tail feather when, the old rooster spun around, and there they were, eye ball to eye ball, or as my Dad said when he later told the story, “and there they were, beak to beak” (he used to make fun of the size of her nose😀). The rooster started flogging Patty, and she took off running as fast as she could, screaming bloody murder as she ran. Mom heard the commotion and came out and rescued Patty, and then came over and scolded Dad and I as we were doubled over in laughter.
A bit later Patty came outside, marched right over to my Dad and said, “You better watch out, because I am going to pay you back, and when Dad got kind of an alarmed look on his face, she started laughing, and said, ” you sure got the best of the city girl on that one”. As she was walking back to the house my Dad said to me, “If you lose her, I will never forgive you”. I think that meant that he approved of her!
I am 70 years old, and have done a lot of things wrong in those years, and spend every evening examining my life and confessing my sins to God, repenting, and experiencing His forgiveness. I don’t use that gift from God as a license to do whatever I want, my strongest desire in life is to please Him in all that I do.
One of the key principles from God in the Bible is to accept one-another, not to judge one-another, and not to be critical. We are all on a journey and some are farther along than others, so the way things work well is for those farther along to encourage, admonish, coach, and pray for those who are struggling.
I blogged about divorce yesterday. I have lots of very good friends who have been divorced, good friends that are thinking about it, and I am still their good friend. Because I am still good friends with them doesn’t mean I think their choice of divorce was wise. Because I believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God and His will and instruction on how to live life, my view of divorce is what the Bible teaches. Divorce has so many consequences down the road, especially if kids are involved. One of my strongest views and beliefs is that life is supposed to be hard, designed by God that way in order to develop our character so that we are mature, like Jesus when we enter heaven. Our natural tendency is to try to escape hard situations, and so we quit things as a way of escaping. We would be so much more mature and stronger if we would work at our marriage, learn, sacrifice, and pay whatever price it would take to preserve it.
Nothing makes me feel more like a failure as a pastor than people whom I have taught, counseled, and coached choosing to get a divorce. But when they do, I do all I can to encourage and help them continue on with Jesus and to grow stronger. I love them, accept them, go fishing with them, and continue to teach, encourage, admonish, nag all married couples to pursue an excellent marriage.
There are some legitimate reasons to get a divorce, but not very many, and I would guess about 90% of those getting divorced are doing so because of their inability to get along. I preached a sermon series years ago called “Get Alongers”, and each sermon in the series addressed a Biblical principle on how to get along with just about any person. When we violate those principles we will have conflict, and conflict in a marriage tends to increase over time as the principles continue to be violated. The continuing conflict results in bitterness, unhappiness, adultery, and divorce.
God has very strong statements in the Bible about marriage and divorce, but very few people have enough fear of the Lord to take seriously His commands and His will for their life.
A really good marriage is possible with just about any married couple, but it takes lots of work and diligence. There are many excellent books on marriage that couples could read, there are CD’s and DVD’s available that have great advice and counsel on how to have a great marriage, there are really good counselors available that can be a referee and teach the key principles on unity and love, and there are seminars and retreats available that make a huge difference in the quality of any couples marriage.
I guess it is just easier to get the divorce than to do the work to have a good marriage, it is just easier to blame your spouse than to be obedient to God and do whatever it takes to make your marriage work.
If anyone wants to work on their marriage and improve the quality of it I can recommend books, CD’s, DVD’s, couples who do marriage mentoring, great counselors, seminars, and retreats.