I think legalism is my least favorite word that there is. The reason is that I hear so many people use it as an excuse for lukewarmness and apathy in living the Christian life. Legalism means trying to earn your salvation by good works, we can’t earn our salvation we receive it as a gift by faith. Now, that I am presently saved by faith, a child of God, and one who has their name written in the Lamb’s book of life, legalism is no longer a word that applies to me. Now the issue is my growth to become like Christ in character, and that takes diligence, self-control, discipline, faithfulness, sacrifice, commitment, and obedience. But whenever I talk about diligence, and self-control someone will inevitably wave the legalism flag. Every time it happens I think to myself, “no wonder there are so few champions for Christ!”
2 Peter 1:4-11 that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, . . .Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. . . . Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.
Notice the use of the word diligence, twice in these verses. Also notice the progression of building character into your life by diligence. At the end of this passage is the very interesting phrase, “for in this way the entrance into His eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.” What does that mean? “Abundantly supplied to you”. For sure it would mean that those who are less than diligent in pursuing character will not have their entrance into the kingdomabundantlysupplied to them.
I spend a significant amount of time sitting and thinking about what that means, mulling over in my mind the difference there will be in eternity between being a person whose “entrance into the kingdom is abundantly supplied to them” as apposed to a person whose entrance into the kingdom is not abundantly supplied because of laziness, apathy, and lukewarmness.
One of the things my Dad used to say when we got hurt on the farm was, “Just rub some dirt on it”. He really didn’t mean it literally, at least I never saw him rub any dirt on his “owies”, it just meant don’t whine about it. So when I get hurt that is what I say, though I have never rubbed any dirt on any of my “owies” either. But sometimes those who hear me say it think I am being literal, and therefore think that I am some kind of nut. A couple of days ago I was working on the roof of my shop with a son and a couple of grandsons. We were taking off the old rusted metal roofing and putting on some 3 tab roofing, and in the process of throwing the metal roofing off of the roof of the shop a piece fell across the back of my hand and cut it pretty good. The tricky part was trying to climb down the ladder with one hand bleeding all over the place, and the other hand holding my coat against the cut tokeep it from bleeding any more than it was. Patty and our daughter Sherri got all excited and insisted that I go in and get some stitches in it, but that didn’t sound like much fun to me so I said, “I will just rub some dirt on it!” They both rolled their eyes, so I said. “Lets just pour some hydrogenperoxide on it and tape it up good, and I can go back to work, hydrogen peroxideworks almost as good as dirt”. They again rolled their eyes, but taped it up good, and today it had healed up enough so that I preached 2 services and a leadership class with no covering on it. It still looks pretty ugly, but it is much better than it was, so I declared myself healed.
Our bodies are fairly fragile, and get bruised, cut, broken, and infected easily. Some of the accidents we have only results in a bruise and minor soreness, but others can result in casts, crutches, and wheel chairs. The Apostle Paul using the word house for our physical body says that we groan as a result of the pain we experience in life.
2 Corinthians 5:2 For indeed in this house we groan,
Now at the age of 71 I have a lot of pain in a variety of places, in a variety of levels, for a variety of reasons, but it all hurts, and I groan. I also take ibuprofen and other pain killers, which helps a lot, but I still groan. But because of my upbringing I never whine or complain. I have memorized Romans 8:18, and I meditate on it when I get to hurting a lot.
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
Suffering produces character, the character of Christ in me, and I want that so I choose to say “thank You Jesus” when I am tempted to complain about my “owies”.
I sat down at 10:00 pm to write this blog and I didn’t feel very energetic so I sat in my chair doing nothing for an hour, and then decided to do something that almost always gives me a shot of energy, make a bowl of popcorn and put a half of a cube of butter on it! I really couldn’t write while I was eating popcorn so I watched replays of great plays in both of the semi-championship games in college football that were played this afternoon and evening. I fell asleep while watching and woke up at midnight. I was so groggy from sleeping that I couldn’t think of anything to write about. One of my motto’s when I get stuck and nothing profound comes to me is “Just write something, anything, but just write ,something”, so I wrote this and fell asleep again and it is now 1:30 am so this is all there is
I have some very strong beliefs that control much of my life. One is that I believe that we are eternal beings, and that when we die we will spend our eternity either with God or away from God. With God will be amazing joy and apart from a Him will be a total lack of joy. Psalms 16:12 says, “in Your presence is fullness of joy”. Attached to that belief is the conviction that we get to spend our eternity with God because we love Jesus, and for no other reason.
John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.
John 1:12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name,
Many believe that there are many ways to God, I do not, I believe there is only one way, and that those who do not choose that one way are eternally separated from God. If I truly care for people I will attempt to convince them that they need to follow Jesus as their savior. That I believe is a major assignment given to me by God. That is a very tough assignment, and I have had limited success in accomplishing it, so I am always pondering how to be more persuasive, influence more, attract people to my faith, and to convince them that it is truth.
I know that success in this area will be based more on the strength of my relationship with people than on my persuasive words. People won’t be drawn to my faith if I offend them in my attempt to convince them. That is what makes this assignment so difficult, the gospel according to Jesus is offensive to people. The Apostle Paul wrote much of the New Testament, started many churches, went about trying to persuade people to follow Jesus, and was martyred for his faith in Jesus. I attempt to follow Paul’s example, though most of the time not very successfully, as expressed in 1 Corinthians 9:19 and 9:23-24;
For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. . . . To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel,
The great challenge for me and others is, “If I am going to win people, I have to be winsome”, “if I am going to convince people that Jesus loves them, I have to be lovable“. The sad truth for me as a witness for Jesus is that often people don’t reject Jesus, they reject me, His ambassador.
In our church we have people who are avid University of Oregon Duck fans, and also totally, over the top, crazy, frothing at the mouth Oregon State Beaver fans. Personally, I am both depending on who I am with. Because we are less than an hours drive from both schools, we have a lot of both Ducks and Beavers in our church. Sometimes from the pulpit I will say half joking, that we have grief counseling available for those die hard Duck or Beaver fans, which ever lost to the other. We have people in our church who believe you can lose your salvation and those who believe that once saved you are always saved. We have those who believe that all of the sign gifts such as healing, speaking in tongues, and others are past, no longer part of the spiritual gifts in the church, and others who passionately believe in them. We have those who believe that Christians will go through the tribulation as described in the book of Revelation, and those who are very sure we will not. And we have those who are very supportive of President Trump, and those who don’t like him at all, to put it mildly. The list of topics that people in our church are on opposite sides of the fence on, is almost endless.
Psalms 133:1 Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!
Philippians 2:2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.
Ephesians 4:2-3 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
I regularly and often will say to our church family, God blesses unity in churches, and God’s blessing is everything. The big question is, “can we have unity if we disagree on different things, and my answer is, “yes we can” if we practice certain disciplines, let me suggest 3 basic ones.
(1) Don’t attack people’s character, motives, or intelligence who don’t agree with you. I like to discuss theology, sports, and politics with people who are gracious, and don’t attack me or insult me because I disagree with them. I once said that even though much of his behavior makes me cringe, I still support, defend, and pray for President Trump. I couldn’t hardly believe the volume and the meanness of the attacks I received. I didn’t respond to any of those, but I did have some great conversations with a couple of people who were disciplined in how they talked or wrote to me and others.
(2) Give people the freedom to hold their own opinions without feeling compelled to change their views. A Duck fan is never going to convert to a Beaver fan so I won’t discuss sports with them with the goal of changing their minds. I will enjoy them and I will enjoy the discussion. I know which doctrines are essential for a person to be adopted into God’s family, and I will persuade graciously with those, but with most differences I try to practice gracious tolerance.
(3) If you truly want to change a person’s mind on a view you hold passionately it should be fairly obvious that you won’t do that by calling them names and insulting their character and motives. In order for me to change another persons opinion or belief I must believe that it is in their best interests to do so, and recognize that for me to have success “converting” them I have to maintain our friendship, our relationship in the midst of the differences, and the best way to do that is to honor them.
My family is a major joy of my life. We had 8 children, they all love Jesus, each other and Patty and I. They areall married now to wonderful spouses who also love Jesus, the rest of the family and us. They all have children, our grandchildren, 27 of them, the oldest being 19 and the youngest about 2. 5 of the 8 of our kids and their families were at our house today for Christmas and it was a wonderful time.After we ate a wonderful dinner a number of them played games together, I sat here and watched, and inwardly marveled over the love and unity that we have in our family. It is truly a gift from God that I thank Him for everyday. One of my favorite Bible passages is Psalms 127:3-5
Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, The fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them;
I took some of our kids and grandkids to see the new Star Wars movie last night. We had a good time together and I always enjoy being with my family. The movie itself was alright, but I much preferred “The Battle of Midway”, but I wouldn’t have taken my young grandkids to see that movie. Actually the highlight of the movie night was the big barrel of popcorn with lots of extra butter on it, but it cost as much as the movie ticket😩😢. The main problem I had with the movie is it has been years since I have seen a Star Wars movie, and I didn’t see the last two that came out so I couldn’t figure out the plot. It seemed like everybody was related to everybody somehow and some liked each other and some didn’t. Everybody in the movie seemed to be living their lives reacting to the past, and because I was ignorant of the their past not having witnessed it on the big screen I was mostly lost. Our daughter Sherri watched the last two Star War movies on DVD so she was up on the plot, and knew what the underlying motives were that created the tensions, reactions, and decisions in the movie.
Kind of reminded me of a lot of people in general in the present. We all have a life history which includes good things and bad things, events that are positive and give joy and events that are very painful and create sadness and depression. Most people do things, make choices, react, have emotions and treat others in ways that are influenced by their past. And often they are unaware of the programming that has taken place in their minds and souls from the past that prompts present behaviors.
One of the blessings of being a follower of Jesus is that we have the potential of experiencing His healing of the wounds of our past. There are many passages in the Bible with that promise such as,
Psalms 147:3 He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
I said the “potential” because many don’t experience His supernatural healing even though it is available. Very few people will be able to experience healing of past hurts and wounds on their own, by themselves, without help from others. So it is our prideful self-sufficiency and independence that often keeps us in the state of being controlled by our past. We have been created by God as interdependent people. God gives grace but He gives it to us through others. People with really good friends, relationships, families, marriages, and who are part of a healthy church family practice the “0ne-anothering” commands given in the New Testament on an ongoing basis and are always in a state of being healed and causing healing in others. Some of the “one-anothering” commands are “encourage one-another”, “forgive one-another”, “admonish one-another”, “comfort one-another”, “love one-another”, “pray for one-another”, and others.
I am a big believer in counseling and the power it has to help people have healthy souls. I am a preacher and teacher of the Bible primarily in my life and in my role and relationship with others because God has given me that gift and ability. Some people have an ability to listen and discern, and speak words that comfort, encourage, and heal. And some with that special ability have discovered it, developed it, and use it as part of the “Body of Christ” as a ministry, and some make their living doing this.
In the early years of my ministry I experienced some major failures, hurts, and criticisms that resulted in significant health issues, impacted my relationship with God, with other people, and would paralyze my ability to do anything for fear of failing. I spent time with and talked to other Pastors who were older and wiser, with good friends in the church, with my family and wife, and on a number of occasions sought out counseling from professionals.
At this point in my life at 71 years of age I have a healthy soul, I am free from fears, bitternesses, and moods caused by the past. I am enjoying life, ministry, family, friends, and cope well with disappointments and trials as they come. My present state of being free from the past is not an accomplishment of self effort, it is a result of choosing to get help and receiving God’s Grace from others.
1 Timothy 2:1-3 First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior,
God is more than capable to guide my president and to change his heart, and I believe if enough people do that God will work, guide, and bless.
Proverbs 21:1 The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes.
God turned Nebuchadnezzar’s heart towards Himself;
Daniel 4:37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride.”
I pray for President Donald Trump that You will fill his heart with the knowledge of Your will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding so that he will please You in all that He does. I pray that he will make decisions as President that will bring Your blessing on the United States of America and that we might become a godly nation once again. I pray that You will bring godly and wise men into his life to counsel him, and teach him Your truth and way. I pray that You will give him great strength to bear up under the huge pressure that surely must be upon him. I pray that You will deliver him from his enemies, and bring their own ways upon their own heads. Lord God, I choose to honor my president with my words because it is Your command, so please hear me now and answer my prayer as I pray according to Your will as a disciple and fully devoted follower of Yours. I pray this in Jesus name. Amen
This weekend we had a Christmas Concert, and I was so blessed by the music. It is so incredible to see and hear people who have been given gifts, talents, and abilities from God who have been good stewards of those gifts and developed them well for the glory of God and the edification of people. According to the Bible the Church is the Bride of Christ, the eternal companion of Jesus, the Body of Christ, His method of accomplishing His will in the world, today, His only method. When a church is functioning well, with good unity, and abounding love, it is a wonder to behold. I love my church, JBC and I am working hard to do my part to make her full of unity, love and without defect.
Christ is in the process of making His Church beautiful, so those who help and serve that goal are blessed by God, but those who are causing the church to be ugly, divided, and stunted will be disciplined by God. I don’t believe that there is any activity that God blesses more than working and serving in such a way that the church grows and becomes more healthy.
People often are critical of the Church as a whole, which is a very unwise thing to do unless it is part of a plan and commitment to be part of the solution to the church’s blemishes. I hear people say often that they don’t need to be a fully functioning part of a church body, but they don’t get to make the rules God does, and He says that apart from being involved, serving, sacrificing, and giving and receiving grace in a church family, we won’t grow spiritually.
Ephesians 5:25-27 . . . Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.
Ephesians 1:22-23 And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
Matthew 16:18 I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.
Colossians 1:24 ? . . in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking. . .
As I wrote in yesterday’s blog, I may live 1 more day, I don’t know what God’s plan is for my life, but I will plan my life out as if I will live at least 20 more years, and that I have my wits about me. When I write “plans”, I am zeroing in on ministry, what I will do that will impact others in their relationship to Jesus Christ, their following Him and growing to be like Him in character. I mentioned my writing as an area that I am going to pursue and develop, and yesterday I wrote about training and mentoring others to be Pastors and how I would that as an additional ministry emphasis.
The last area that I will pursue diligently is a continuation of the ministry emphasis that I have had for the last 43 years, preaching and teaching the Bible. Counting classes, seminars, worship services at JBC, and traveling to other churches and countries to teach, I have probably spoken publicly close to 10,000 times. The cool part of that is that much of what I have taught has been recorded and replays on the radio daily and is available on the internet, and like my writing, will be around a long time after I die. A key life verse for me is 1 Timothy 4:16
Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.
So nothing guarantees that my teaching accomplishes anything worthwhile in anyone else’s life unless God works through it, and He will if I meet certain conditions. My goal is to learn and grow so that God speaks through me more and more, and the influence that I have in the lives of others continues to grow. This next year I am teaching 4 “Leadership Classes”, a class on “Theology and Doctrines” at 10:15 on Sunday morning, and I am teaching through the New Testament book of Philippians during our Wednesday night service. I am also teaching a 2 day seminar at our church for Pastors in January, and I am traveling to Ecuador in July to teach a group of missionaries.
The key to bearing much fruit in my teaching is to grow in my skill of teaching, it doesn’t make much sense to teach truth but to do it in a way that doesn’t hold people’s attention. Also I will study diligently the Bible and the content of my teaching so I know what I am talking about and I will organize the content so that it is clear and understandable. And the most important thing is I believe without a doubt that God’s anointing on my teaching is paramount and that prayer is the key, so I will pray much for myself and those I will be teaching asking God to anoint me and to lead those hearing me into all truth.
I don’t expect that I will come close to the pace I have kept in the last 40 years, so I will try and make every teaching event twice as impactful as before.