Almost every character trait needs to be in balance with another character trait and it is wisdom that holds the two in perfect tension with each other. Confidence is a great character trait that is essential for good leaders, but without humility it will move over the line to arrogance. Decisiveness is another character trait that all good leaders posses but without cautiousness it becomes recklessness. Growing to become a very good leader of people is difficult because of the balance needed in a number of areas, and that balance is tough to maintain. The balance and wisdom needed requires a lot of very accurate self-evaluation, self-examination. Positive self-evaluation is nearly impossible without some other people in our life giving us input on how we are doing. As a leader one of the greatest challenges I have is finding people who can give me the input into my life that I need. Some are just to nice and gentle to communicate hard information, others are to mean and judgmental, and some just aren’t observant enough to see beneath the surface of my actions and words to see character. I have discovered over the years those who are good counselors for me as I pursue maturity and leadership excellence. I value them and work at maintaining a relationship that allows me to gain wisdom from them in a relaxed and informal atmosphere rather than from an official evaluation. Writing is the key for me as I use what I hear from others together with my own conclusions concerning my behavior and leadership. Writing stirs my reflective thinking, and it also helps me make changes in myself that stick. The strong desire to grow, to get better is what drives it all, but again balance is required. Without a level of contentment in who I am there becomes an obsession that results in reactive judgments that are not accurate. A slow, steady growth in leadership excellence is my goal.
I did something to my neck today, I don’t what or when, but tonight it is hurting so bad. It is the kind of pain that makes you nauseous and dizzy. When I hold perfectly still it doesn’t hurt much, but the minute I move at all I feel like I am being stabbed in the neck. I am hoping that it is better after a nights sleep, but I am afraid every time I move that the pain will wake me up. I am hoping that the ibuprofen I took will help, help a lot. I am working very hard right now not to be a whiner and not to spiral down in my thinkingas this pain continues. I have always considered myself pretty tough when it comes to pain but tonight I am feeling like a wimp. So I am reading my Bible, praying for everybody in JBC, reading a good book, and memorizing Bible verses. I wonder how I would act and talk if this present pain level was God’s new normal for me. It could be, you never know. So as you pray for me, don’t pray that God takes away my pain and makes everything good as new, instead pray that God gives me His strength and that I think right and don’t ever let myself settle into any kind of self pity. The more pain we can bear up under the faster we will grow in character
As we consider what disciplines we can do to help in our pursuit of character maturity and the health of our soul, a very important one is giving a portion of our money to our church, to various ministries, and to people with genuine needs.
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.
The most important command to each of us is to love God, but if we love the world we can’t love God. Our intimacy and closeness with God is the foundation of a healthy and growing inner person, and nothing messes with our relationship with God as much as our money and our stuff. It is very subtle and most don’t see it happening in their life until they are totally apathetic in seeking God and growing spiritually, and then we don’t care. When we get to that state God will usually cause a crisis in our life that will suck away a bunch of our money and/or stuff, and our joy goes away as well. The story that Jesus tells of the prodigal son is a perfect illustration of this journey that many make away from our Father.
Giving away a portion of our income is God’s plan to inoculate us against the disease of worldliness. Most believers in Jesus don’t give much, if anything to God because they think they need it. When we don’t give to God He blows our money away.
Haggai 1:9 You look for much, but behold, it comes to little; when you bring it home, I blow it away.
But whenwe give systematically, by commitment, and sacrificially God blesses us, that is we will have enough for our needs, and He will give us great joy.
When Patty and I were first married and trying to make a go of it on the dairy, an older couple in our church counseled us to always give sacrificially to our church no matter how tight our finances were. They made a big impression on us and over the last 50 years of married life we have been faithful to give no matter what.
At this point in my life having turned 71 years old yesterday, I am very convinced that the high level of joy in my life and the blessings of God in every area of my life is because I have worked hard to keep Him first place in my life above anything else.
If I want to press on to maturity, to proactively choose to do what will result in a healthy soul and Christ like character, what do I do? If I were your coach I would say to you, “devote one hour every day without fail to feeding your soul”. Spend 15 minutes every day reading the Bible systematically, which means you have a plan. There are a number of good plans available. I highly recommend the “Bible Project” reading plan. Just Google “Bible Project” and sign up for the reading plan and the video presentations, they are super, the plan gets you through the Bible in one year.
Then spend 15 minutes memorizing key Bible verses, it is amazing how much you will be able to memorize well in just 15 minutes each day. Memorizing and meditating on God’s Word is the most powerful spiritual discipline there is. I highly recommend the App “Bible Memory”, I have memorized over 500 verses since I began using that great tool.
Then spend 15 minutes in focused prayer to God. Focused means you aren’t doing anything else, just talking to God. If you are going to stay focused for 15 minutes without your mind wandering you will need a prayer journal or notebook to write prayers in, and names of people you are praying for and answers to prayer. A prayer notebook is absolutely essential for those who are really serious about being a prayer warrior for God.
And then spend 15 minutes reading in a good book. There are so many really good books available today that will give you real wisdom in any area that you are seeking wisdom in.
One hour a day, every day, without fail, and you will grow steadily more a more like Christ in character. Most won’t do it, it is to hard, it takes to much effort and sacrifice from television or computer games.
When we are babies and young children our physical growth and health is a result of others in our life taking care of us, but when we become adults we choose more and more what we eat, how much we exercise, how much we rest, how overweight we are etc, our physical health is our responsibility. We use how we feel at any given time as a motivation to lose weight, exercise, or go to the doctor. We feel healthy, energized, alive, strong or we feel sick, and tired.
In the same way our growth in character, our inner person, and our spiritual life is a result of others in our life when we are children. I use the term “well parented” for young people who I see with good, godly character, and an obvious spiritual maturity. But as we become adults the responsibility for our character growth, the condition of our soul, and our relationship with God is more and more a result of the choices we make, and the discipline that we exert.
Hebrews 6:1 Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity,
Hebrews 5:12-14 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the Word of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.
So, how are you doing? How healthy is your soul? How intimate is your relationship with God? How do you feel, healthy or unhealthy? There are several key evaluators we can use to determine our health spiritually, one is our joy level. Psalms 16:11 says, “In the presence of God is fullness of joy”. The biggest misconception in the world today is that our joy comes from circumstances, if I can somehow have a trouble free, stress free, pain free life then I would be happy. Real joy comes only from God, and the absence of joy ought to be a strong motivation to change some things. Another key evaluator of our maturity is the health of our relationships with other people in our life. It is easy to blame others for relational conflicts, but spiritually healthy people whose character is growing have healthy relationships even with difficult, hard to love people.
So, the question again, “How are you doing?” And the most important question, “What are you going to do about it?”
I knew a person who had severe emphysema from smoking and pulled an oxygen bottle with them wherever they went wearing a mask, but they refused to quit smoking and would remove the mask a few minutes at a time in order to puff on a cigarette.
I see a lot of unhappy people running around in today’s world whose life is full of relational conflicts who just keep doing what they are doing, hoping that something will change, and somehow they will find joy and relational peace and love, but don’t do anything to help grow towards being a spiritually healthy person. It was sad to see the person with emphysema continuing to self-destruct their own health, but it is even sadder to see spiritually unhealthy people continue to self-destruct their own soul.
What we see and experience in life physically is a picture of the spiritual world which we most often don’t understand at all. One of the clear, obvious, and easy to understand illustrations of reallife is that from the moment of conception we all are in a constant state of growth. Our inner person , our heart began as we did, a single celled embryo, there was no character, butlife, its trials, and it’s pressures cause us, the real us on the inside to grow in character. The purpose of life is to grow up physically and spiritually.
The other night I watched the Portland Trailblazers play their first game of the NBA season and they lost, but they looked pretty good. Tonight I am watching the Golden State Warriors play the Clippers. So far the Clippers are stomping the Warriors, but it is still the first quarter. I played basketball in high school and in college for two years then lots of years of church league basketball. My boys played all through high school and college and did well. I didn’t miss very many games in the 8 years that they played, sitting in the stands, yelling, cheering, praying, and covering my eyes at times. I was never very good at basketball, to slow and to short, but I enjoyed playing, and I always played as hard as I could, pretty sure that the team I was on would win every game. I remember the last basketball game I played in, I was 50 years old and we were Dads playing the sons and when it was over I thought to myself, I am not doing that again, and I didn’t.
In the New Testament the Apostle Paul uses sports a number of times to illustrate living the Christian life. In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 he says that we as followers of Jesus should put forth the same effort in living our life as servants of Jesus that an athlete does to win. Also that we should exercise the same levelof self control to grow in our character that an athlete does to win. I worked as hard as I could in a game to win, and I practiced hard as well. I need to always be diligent, self controlled, and passionate about the days I have been given and make every day count.
What does that mean, “getting organized”? Why should I get organized, what happens if I don’t? If I choose to get organized, how do I do it? There all kinds of things that we can organize, I have a shop, and one of my goals is to organize it, which simply means I have my tools in places which makes it easy to find them when needed so that building projects can be accomplished without a lot of time being wasted looking for tools. I am not naturally an organized person, that is why my shop is a mess, and tends to be a mess a month after cleaning it all up and putting everything in its place.
Romans 1:18-20 says that we can know the attributes, the character of God by looking at creation, and for sure God is organized, everything is exactly where it is supposed to be
What I want to organize is my life. My use of time, my various responsibilities, my energy, my thoughts, my relationships with people, and my relationship with God. I don’t want those things to be driven by convenience, by whim or impulse, by circumstances, or by pressure or expectations of others. I don’t want my life to look like my shop, for sure! So how do I become more like God, how do I organize my life so that I am not feeling discombobulated, confused about where I am going and what needs to be done?
The key for me is to not operate out of my head, but from paper, IPad, or cell phone. My goals are the foundation of my organized life because they state my priorities. An unorganized life is one where way to much time is spent on the urgent instead of the important, the squeaky wheel syndrome. I read my goals daily to remind myself what the important things are in my life, and to focus on those. A daily todo list that is an expression of my goals is absolutely essential to being organized instead of hectic or confused. I read the list a dozen times a day and cross off completed items. It feels so good and so in control to cross something off of my list. Another indispensable tool to organizing our life is a calendar that we use faithfully. We write obligations, appointments, meetings, and goals down under appropriate dates and times and check regularly to see what is coming up. My iPhone and my iPad have alarms that go off an hour before, 2 hours before, a day before, and 2 days before things are due to remind me what needs done or gone to.
I know when I am living life in an organized way. I feel at peace and not frustrated by responsibilities and expectations looming ahead in my life. I feel competent and confident that I will be successful in accomplishing what is expected of me by others and myself. A great blessing of being organized is that pressure doesn’t turn into stress and anxiety. Pressure is a good thing because it motivates me to action, but stress and anxiety make life miserable and kills us.
Being organized as a person is one of my weakest areas, but I am working on it relentlessly, even my shop.
Some people have more influence with God then others, that is God hears and answers their prayers more than others. Why is that? God has set conditions or requirements for Him to answer our prayers, even to hear our prayers. Years ago I wondered about this as I read the biographies of great prayer warriors of the past. I studied it thoroughly and as a result I preached a series of sermons called “The Dirty Dozen-twelve reasons why God doesn’t answer our prayers”. One of the reasons is that we don’t read His Word much and we don’t memorize it.
John 15:7 says, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”
That verse is not hard to understand, but few really acknowledge it as truth. The word “if” is introducing a conditional statement, “if the first then the second”, and I might add “always”.
If we abide in Jesus and His Word abides in us, then and only then will He answer our prayers. So many people who claim to be Christians give Jesus token time, left over time, convenient time, comfortable time, time that cost nothing, and then get sick, have a problem with their marriage, with a kid, at work and then they pray. That is dishonoring to God, and you can’t treat God like that and expect that you will receive anything at all from Him.
“If you abide in Me and My Words abide in you”. Is that true of me? None of the “Dirty Dozen” is an on or off sort of condition. “My Words abide in you”, some read and memorize a little tiny bit, some a little more, and some a lot. I read 12 chapters in the Bible every day and I spend 30 minutes every day memorizing Bible verses, and a major reason is that I want God to listen to my prayers and to answer them,as I pray for you.
I will pray by myself for 1 hour every day using the App, “Prayer Mate”, and I will keep the prayer App up to date with names and pictures and prayer needs and answers.
I will read 80 pages every week in good books.
I will pray with Patty 3 times minimum each week.
I will write my blog every day, working hard to improve my writing skill, and praying and asking God to bless this ministry, so that the number of subscribers goes from 80 to 100, (it went from 58 to 80 last year) and the total number of views goes from 70,000 to 100,000 (it went from 57,000 to 70,000 last year).
I will ride my stationary bike, lift weights, punch the heavy bag, and run for a total 90 minutes every day.
I will restore my 1969 Mustang, Coupe with my grandson Isaac, and when it is done it will be his.
I will ride a 1,500 mile bicycle trip in 30 days in the month of June.
I will enter and finish the half marathon in Albany on Thanksgiving Day in 2.5 hours.
I will take my dory boat halibut and tuna fishing off the Oregon coast.
I will train and run a marathon under 4.5 hours which qualifies me to run the Boston marathon as an over 70 year old, and I will register for the Boston Marathon.
I will memorize the books of Philippians well.
I will teach through the book of Philippians during the Wednesday night service beginning the first Wednesday of November and finishing the last Wednesday of May.
I will pray for every person in JBC once each week, and maintain my prayer app keeping current with names, pictures and prayer needs.
I will study, write, and prepare 12 hours of teaching content and a syllabus for a seminar for church leaders on January 20th and 21st, 2020 called, “Leading for Change”.
I will start 3 new men’s accountability groups, and hand off 3 groups.
I will get involved in a group and shoot my bow competitively.
I will start a training and mentoring program for young men who want to go into ministry. It will be a 6 year program ending with a Master’s degree, and I will work to enlist one new guy each year.
I will work closely with and mentor, Brandon Morris in his ministry as the “Follow-up, Assimilation, and Evangelism” pastor.
I will work with Brandon Morris to improve, revamp, and organize our “Home Group” ministry.
I will practice, work hard, and exercise so that I can pull my PSE, “Full Throttle” bow back easily.
I will work with Brandon Morris to plan, organize, and hold 3 “New Comers” dinners.
I will be a faithful part of the pastor’s accountability group, and schedule and plan 3 lunches with them.
I will continue to meet with Mike Dedera at least weekly to talk to him about his preaching, leadership, and plans for JBC.
I will attempt to identify, and recruit from JBC a faithful, available, and teachable person, and to train them to be a volunteer staff/pastor.
I will save and plan for a muzzle loader hunting trip in December for a trophy whitetail buck in Chadron, Nebraska, and attempt to take a grandson and/or a son with me.
I will plan an archery elk hunting trip to the Catherine Creek unit the end of September and attempt to take a son, son-in-law and/or grandson with me.
I will save money for and go on the white water rafting trip down the Colorado River with the JBC team in August.
I will faithfully work on Scripture Typer for 30 minutes each day. When I am finished memorizing the book of Philippians I will go on to the book of Colossians.
I will increase the total number of verses that I have memorized well to 1,000.
I will plan and save so Patty and I can travel and see our kids and grandkids in Fairbanks, Alaska and Oahu, Hawaii.
I will go fishing in Soldotna, Alaska in July, and will attempt to take a son, or son-in-law, or grandson with me.
I will study and write 4 really good lessons on marriage, and have them finished by April 1st, to be taught at the marriage retreats planned at Odell Lake.
I will, without a doubt, organize my shop, super well, and keep it that way.
I will reroof my shop, and I will put new Hardy plank siding on my shop and paint it.
I will refinance our house at a lower interest rate, eliminate all debt other than our house, and save at least $500 each month.
I will begin the 2 year goal of taking out the 55 fruit trees on the front of our property and putting in a half acre fish pond.
I will diligently prepare to teach my “Men’s Leadership Class”, “Ladies Leadership Class”, “Leadership Class II”, and “Leadership Class III”, and I will work super hard to improve all aspects of all the classes.
I will take Patty on a date at least twice each month, and I will work hard at communicating well with her.
I will faithfully attempt to encourage those who have drifted away from faithful attendance at JBC to return through notes, emails, and invitations to special events.
I will watch the instructional DVD on taxidermy, and do a full body mount on the mountain lion I killed. If it turns out good, I will put it in the house, and if it turns out bad I will put it in my “Man Room”.
I will write 50 hand written notes each week to people in JBC.
I will work to make the Wednesday night service an effective time, and diligently recruit those who regularly miss the weekend services.
I will pray through the JBC church family prayer letter each week, and transfer serious prayer requests to my “Prayer Mate” prayer journal.
I will write in my personal journal at least twice each week, as part of my self-examination discipline to help myself to grow in character.
I will religiously keep track of my time and record it each day in my iPad.
I will pray at a minimum of 3 corporate prayer times at JBC each week.
I will pray at least 40 hours in each of the 4 “Five Day Prayer Events” that are held at JBC.
I will begin every day with a prayer of commitment presenting my life to Jesus, declaring Him Lord of my life, asking Him for guidance and strength for the day to please Him in all that I do.
I will attend a major “Church Growth” seminar and take at least one staff member with me.
I will give Patty and Sherri at least 2 hours of work on “Home Improvement” projects each week, and ask them to make a list at least one week in advance.
I will maintain my “no sugar, no wheat” diet, and keep my weight under 200 lbs.
I will start on the rebuild project of my 1986 Ford pickup.
I will learn how to fish for and catch Pike Minnow in the Colombia River and earn at least $100 in bounties.
I will pray for Patty, my Mom, my sister Laura, my kids and spouses, grandkids, jbc staff and families, Elders and families, and lost friends and family every day.
I will be in bed by 11:00 pm at least 5 nights a week.
I will subscribe to 6 blogs written by pastors and church health professionals, and read one of them each day.
I will re-start my aquaponics system in my green house.
I will use Facebook as a tool to connect with people in JBC and in the area, and I will write out complete prayers in response to problems or trials that I read about.
I will start a “Doctrine and Theology” class and teach it at 8:00 am on Sunday mornings.
I will look for a place that I can stake a claim on for a placer gold mine.
I will fast one day (36 hours) a month, and I will fast for 56 hours in each of the 4 “Five Days of Prayer” event.
I will drive up to Trout Lake to visit my Mom at least once each month.
I will start a satellite church.
I will plan a 4 day family camping and fishing trip in July or August.
I will fix my hot tub.
I will pray corporately for a total of 300 hours.
I will attempt to recruit 3 more pastors to mentor/train in their preaching.
I will listen to at least 100 sermons on “you tube” and pod cast.