Monthly Archives: January 2021

God Gives Strength – To who?

Here is one of the most interesting Bible stories for me.

Ezekiel 24:15-18 And the word of the Lord came to me saying, “Son of man, behold, I am about to take from you the desire of your eyes with a blow; but you shall not mourn and you shall not weep, and your tears shall not come. Groan silently; make no mourning for the dead. Bind on your turban and put your shoes on your feet, and do not cover your mustache and do not eat the bread of men.” So I spoke to the people in the morning, and in the evening my wife died. And in the morning I did as I was commanded.

Ezekiel’s wife dies, God kills her, and commands him not to grieve over her death, and Ezekiel does as he is commanded by God. He must have loved her dearly because she is called the “desire of his eyes.” So how was he able to get up in the morning, discover his wife is dead and go out and talk to the people as if nothing has happened?

God gives strength, the Bible says that in dozens of verses, it is a major promise of God. But God’s gift of supernatural strength has some conditions attached which most people don’t meet.

Many people who claim to be Christ followers, who attend church regularly, have very little supernatural strength and power from God. They can quote the verse in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” but they don’t live their life with much power. The reason is that most don’t see obedience to the commands and principles in God’s Word as essential or important. We are saved by Grace, no good works required, therefore obedience to God’s commands is optional in their mind. Here is the principle I live by, “God gives His supernatural power and strength to those who with an attitude of submission choose to obey Him.”

Here are a few of the commands given to us in God’s Word; don’t grumble, don’t slander or gossip, forgive anybody of anything, be gentle and nice to everyone, help those around you who have a need, don’t get angry, not even a little bit irritated, and don’t think or do immoral things. That is the short list, but just those few of God’s commandments pro-actively pursued would result in God giving us great power and strength that would flow to every area of our life.

Going to Hawaii

Our daughter Shelly and her husband Phillip bought us tickets to fly to Fairbanks to spend Christmas with them. And now our daughter Sally and her husband Aaron have bought us tickets to fly to Hawaii! I think Aaron was worried about losing his status as favorite son-in-law if he didn’t keep up with Phillip😀 We drove up to Hannah and Kyle’s place in Washington for a couple of days last week so we have been having a good time with kids and grandkids of late. With all the stuff going on in the world a major source of joy for me is our family. I am an incredible happy man with such good kids, son-in-laws, and grandkids, they truly are a great gift from God in my life.

Controlling my Thoughts

I recently finished memorizing the book of Philippians. It is a really good book with lots of inspirational verses for hard times. Paul is in prison in Rome for his faith, and probably had to wear a face mask ( unless he was eating, of course), so his comments about “rejoicing always” are not written from a perspective of comfort. I think the verse that has impacted me the most in the book is Philippians 4:8.

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell (think about, meditate on) on these things.

It is so easy to think about current events most of the time, and make myself depressed, but choosing what I think about is one of the most important disciplines in life. Paul starts this verse with the word “finally”. It isn’t the last thing he writes in the book, but it is a summary statement of all that he has written. Verses like this are hard for me to memorize perfectly because of the long list of words, but Paul certainly gives some options besides the bad, the depressing, the disappointing, the stupid, and the confusing. His list include words like honorable, lovely, worthy of praise.

This verse is an admonition by Paul, something we can choose to do or ignore. I have identified all of the commandments given to us in Paul’s writings and made a list of them. I rearrange them periodically according to my perceived importance of them in my life at the time . Right now this verse is at the top of the list, “dwell on these things,” “think positive.”

It is easier to obey this command if I have identified some options of what to set my mind on when I wander into the negative. Here is a list of the lovely things in my life that make me a happy camper when I choose to think about them;

I love to fish so I enjoy thinking about upcoming fishing events and trips. Instead of the news I watch YouTube videos of how to catch various species of fish. It is so much fun and puts me in a really good mood.

I am restoring a 1969 Mustang with one of my grandsons, and I go out and work on it at all times of the day. I was working on it at 9:00 pm last night, and I enjoy visualizing what it is going to look like when we are finished, what is the next thing to do, and how are we going to do it. I spend time almost every night, at least for a few minutes, looking at online catalogs of parts, and watching YouTube videos of various restoration techniques. It isn’t hard for me to make a mental switch in my head to the Mustang project if I get off on the election or COVID, if you were watching me from a distance you would be able to tell when the switch happened, I would smile.

I teach or preach at our church seven times each week so I think about what I am going to say and how to make it clear, how to teach in a way that holds people’s attention, and reviewing the content for accuracy and truth. I can literally spend hours non-stop on this thinking topic. Spending time mentally preparing while I am doing other things gets me all excited about the ministry I have, and the influence I can have for God in other people’s lives. Not much else gives me more joy than teaching the Bible and thinking about teaching.

But the most positive thing that I think about is eternity. I visualize for long periods of time what it will look like, what I will be doing, what it will be like to have a body like that of Jesus, and on and on. My imagination is capable of creating almost any scenario, and the more I do it the wilder they become, and it is so much fun.

Well, as the song in the “Sound of Music” goes, “here is a list of my favorite things,” at least a few. There isn’t any excuse for me being down in the dumps over circumstances when I have so many positive things to dwell on.

Facebook, Twitter, the News

Almost everything in life requires some degree of balance, you have to eat but you can’t eat to much, you have to sleep, but you can’t sleep to much, and you need to work, but you don’t want to work to much. Maintaining balance in the various areas of life can be tricky, and certainly requires wisdom.

Probably one of the easiest ways to mess up your life today is to become unbalanced in almost any area of life, and it seems like that is getting easier and easier to do. I played solitaire on my phone on a recent airplane flight for 30 minutes, but thousands of people are getting counseling in order to get free from an addiction to computer games that consumes many hours of every day.

Some exposure to sources of information outside of my own immediate circle of face to face contacts seems wise in order to know what is happening in the world. In our world today there are literally hundreds if not thousands of sources of information on the internet that I can use to stay informed.

There are several problems with these sources of information, the first is knowing what is true and what is not. Almost all of the sources available to us today have become tremendously biased, and the term “balanced news” seems a thing of the past. With bias comes the proneness to report mostly, if not only the information that agrees or supports our bias, and then exaggerated reporting follows, and then outright lies. It is is all well written and spoken persuasively so as to appear true and essential, very essential.

The second problem is that reading and listening to the various sources of news and commentary becomes incredibly addicting, and checking on the “latest development” begins to consume more and more time.

The third problem is that as we increase the time of exposure to world news, current events, and the commentary that comes with it we will inevitably move in one direction or the other, and that movement will continue until we are as biased as our preferred sources. It is very much a mind-control game.

I have a strong bias myself, and it dictates who I listen to and who I read. I don’t read or listen to any source that is anti-God, anti-Christian, anti-Bible, or anti-church, even a little bit, and it appears that most are. I don’t spend time exposing myself to those who are pro-abortion, anti-traditional family, or have a bent toward Socialism. The list of acceptable sources of news is getting pretty small now.

My goal is to obey and follow Romans 12:2, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

So, that goal will require me to be very careful of what I read or watch, and how much time I spend viewing even the best of sources. It will also motivate me to spend time every day reading the Bible, studying it, memorizing it, and meditating on what I memorize, so as to know God, and what is truth.

My time on the internet today is spent mostly watching good preachers of the Word, fishing shows, and YouTube videos on restoring a 1969 Mustang. Good stuff.

Praying for Biden

The last month has been a huge, major, humongous disappointment for me. I have been praying very hard for President Trump’s re-election, but that didn’t happen. So now I need to make some adjustments in my thinking and heart, and pray diligently for President elect Joe Biden.

1 Timothy 2:1-4 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, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

I am going to pray for him and his staff that God fills them with a knowledge of His will, and fills him full of spiritual wisdom and understanding, that He delivers him from any influence of the devil and his demons, that God would keep him healthy and strong, and mentally alert, and that He would bring godly people into his life to influence him in his decisions.

My natural inclination is to be judgmental, to let my opinions and feelings control my behavior, and to pray that God would kill him or at least make his life a train wreck.

But I am committed to obeying God, and his Word says I am to honor my President and pray for his success. So here goes. . .

Justice

Proverbs 21:3 To do righteousness and justice
Is desired by the Lord more than sacrifice.

Proverbs 28:5 Evil men do not understand justice,
But those who seek the Lord understand all things.

Jeremiah 5:1 Roam to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, And look now and take note. And seek in her open squares, If you can find a man, If there is one who does justice, who seeks truth,

Proverbs 29:27 An unjust man is abominable to the righteous, And he who is upright in the way is abominable to the wicked.

Proverbs 29:26
Many seek the ruler’s favor,
But justice for man comes from the Lord.

Isaiah 30:18 God Is Gracious and Just, therefore the Lord longs to be gracious to you, and therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the Lord is a God of justice; how blessed are all those who long for Him.

Most people crave justice, and fairness between themselves and others, and a growing level of injustice in the world creates unrest, insecurity, and anxiety.

I can’t fix the world, but I can fix me. I can choose to long for Jesus, to seek Him with all my heart, and to love Him and then He will give me great peace, hope, confidence, and joy. I am praying that in the midst of the fear of COVID, the angst of political division and conflict, the anxiety of future financial upheaval, and the feeling of bondage that comes from an oppressive government that many people will seek Jesus. The Bible promises that if we sincerely seek Him we will find Him and if we draw near to Him he will draw near to us. He indeed does give us peace, hope, security, and joy.

Decisiveness and Goals

I was in an car accident once when I was the passenger. I could see the accident happening right before me, and I was helpless to do anything about it. The person driving could have easily avoided the accident, but they froze up and could not seem to make a decision on what to do. They later said that the fear of doing the wrong thing caused them to do nothing. My thought was that just about anything would have been better than what they did which was just hang onto the steering wheel and hope for the best. The accident didn’t end up causing any bodily damage to those in either vehicle , but the car I was in was totaled and it looked like the other one probably was as well.

There are a lot of people who do the same thing in life. They are so afraid in a crisis or difficult situation of making the wrong choice that they make no choice at all. One of the major reasons that there are so many people who go nowhere in life, spiritually, occupationally, relationally, financially, and physically is because of indecisiveness. A corollary of sorts is the reluctance to change or try new things because of the fear of failing. Continuing to do the same old stuff that hasn’t worked but at least it is predictable is where many people live their entire life. I call it chasing your tail or treading water. There is the opposite of that, which is impulsiveness. Impulsiveness results in being unfaithful, and irresponsible, being a person who doesn’t follow through on things, not because of a healthy pursuit of change for progress and growth, but again because of a fear of failing and discontentment.

Those who are wise, decisive, responsible, faithful decision makers are successful and almost always grow and make good progress in life in every area of life. A major tool that successful people use is goals. A goal is a decision to do something after careful thought, prayer, research, and investigation. It is a decision that is written down, reviewed often, thought about, planned, and based on on inner desire to succeed and accomplish something significant with our life.

Goal setters are decisive and responsible, they are neither indecisive or impulsive. Goal setters get good at anticipating the needs of the future and are prepared mentally, emotionally, physically, and financially to deal with whatever comes, they are confident, strong, and faithful.

It is quite amazing to me that the weak link in the goal setting discipline and skill in most people I attempt to help is the reluctance to write our goals down and then to read them. It is like the guy who never changed the oil in his car, he was always going to do it, just never got around to it.

88 goals for 2036 – Ministry

Jefferson Baptist Church has been my life for 44 years and I am writing these long range goals for the next 16 years which will make 60 years of Pastoring at JBC. For the last 44 years my job description has not changed much. I have done some adjusting as the numbers of people attending has increased and the number of staff has increased, but it has basically been the same emphasis. I have been the preacher of the Word, the vision caster, the main goal setter, the leader of the staff, the leader of the church, the senior Pastor, the spiritual Dad. I am now wanting to make some significant changes in what I do for two basic reasons; the first is because my energy level physically and my passion emotionally are beginning to decline gradually but noticeably. I am working at being faithful in stewarding my mind and body, but it is inevitable that I won’t be able to duplicate or keep up what I was able to do in years past. I want to keep doing ministry, but with some changes that will be easier to maintain quality performance in. The second reason is because I want the transition from my leadership of JBC to Pastor Mike Dedera’s leadership to be gradual and heathy. By healthy I mean that the church doesn’t suffer from disunity or lack of growth, or that I don’t feel depressed by moving to a bench player role after being the coach for all these years, or that Mike doesn’t feel frustrated by the slowness of the transition. My preference is that things go slow, but I recognize that I am getting to the age where health issues of heart, or cancer, or a dozen other faulty body parts would require me to quit all together or that I would just fall over dead, and I want things to be far enough along so everything will go super smooth as Mike is handed the entire responsibility of being the senior Pastor. All that to say that I need a plan and goals so that things happen when they are supposed to happen, and we don’t end up treading water and floundering in this process. JBC is a great church and it has potential to be even greater in the days ahead if I don’t mess things up.

88 goals for 2036 – Exercise and Health goals

I reached my peak in strength stamina, and athletism when I was 25 years old, plateaued the next 10 years, and then lost 5 to 8% of my strength every ten years after that; at least that is the average, what most people do. The word for the natural downhill slide into wimpiness is called sarcopenia. The natural journey of old guys into sarcopenia can be arrested and even reversed with regular, systematic, and strenuous exercise. There are a whole host of other health benefits that come from exercise as well as muscle strength that will be key to my feeling well and accomplishing a lot in ministry and life in general as I get older.

With all the benefits of exercise it seems like everyone would be highly motivated to make exercise a daily part of their life, but the fact is very few do. Establishing a daily exercise routine that is long enough and strenuous enough to reverse the average reduction in physical fitness requires a high level of self-control. Our flesh hates exercise and is addicted to recliners, television, snacks, comfort, and living the easy life. Maintaining an exercise routine probably takes more discipline than dieting does.

The key to daily, routine, and strenuous exercise for me is the goals that I set. I will read them every day and share them with others to hold me accountable to be faithful to them.

Goal #11 I will ride a stationary bicycle at least one hour three days every week. I will try and maintain a heart rate of 120 bpm while I am riding. There are circumstances where I will not have a stationary bicycle available and on those days I will walk fast. I will keep very accurate records of this discipline and will maintain a high degree of accountability to others to keep from getting lazy on this essential discipline.

Goal #12 – I will lift weights using the “Strong Lifts 5X5” program two times each week. I struggle to maintain faithfulness to this goal, so I will get others to lift with me.

Goal #13 – I will maintain my body weight at or below 200 lbs. This is such an important goal in achieving my desire to run the race with endurance until the end of my life that I will use every means possible to succeed.

Goal #14 – I have observed that the foods that I eat have a significant influence on my mood, my sense of well being, my energy, and my health in general. I will eliminate as much as possible all refined sugar, wheat products, and other foods that I learn of that contribute to my wimpiness. I will make exceptions occasionally for celebrations. I will take a collection of food supplements and vitamins as I become convinced of their importance for my health. I will read and maintain a learner’s attitude regarding eating for health, attempting to avoid the kooky stuff that is written.

88 goals for 2036 – Bicycle goals

In yesterday’s blog I wrote out six goals that were my main ministry goals in regards to my main activity for the next 16 years, prayer. It was a combination of goals and strategy. Today I will write about my main recreational goal, bicycling, though I do a lot of study, listening to sermons and writing sermons on the trip, so I call it a study break!

I am going to go on three BHAG bicycle trips, that is Big, Hairy, Audacious, Goal trips, one every four years, and then shorter ( around 2,000 miles) trips in the years in between each of the BHAG’s. So I will do 16 bicycle trips, three long ones and thirteen shorter ones.

Goal #7 – We (myself and whoever decides to go with me) will ride coast to coast on what is known as the “TransAmerica” route. It will begin in Yorktown, Virginia and end at Newport, Oregon, a total of about 4,000 miles. It will take approximated 80 days including rest days. It will probably be without a support vehicle because it is so much more expensive of a trip with a vehicle. At this point I am not exactly sure on the dates, but I am aiming for April through June of 2022.

Goal #8- We will ride from Portland, Maine to Portland, Oregon hitting all lower 48 States in route. This will be a 6,000 mile trip taking 100 days including rest days. I am aiming for 2026, April through July 10th as the dates for this monster trip. It will probably be a self-contained trip with no support vehicle.

Goal #9 – We will ride from the tip of Florida to Fairbanks, Alaska, another 6,000 miles trip also taking 100 days. I am putting it on the calendar for April through the middle July in 2030. I will be 82 years old so it should be a challenge. Goals 7, 8, and 9 can be in any order.

Goal #10 – We will go on thirteen bicycle trips that will be around 2,000 miles each. We will try to make these supported with a vehicle and possibly I will see if I can get Patty to go on some. These will be spaced out between the long trips and planned the winter before the trip.