Monthly Archives: April 2021

Good Friends

Today six Pastors joined me for lunch at JBC. They had to drive aways to get here. One was from Seattle, another from Tacoma, a third from Vancouver, Washinton, and another from Astoria, then one from the Eugene area. We all are in an accountability group together, and each one of us turns in a report via the internet to everyone else every week on how we are doing on our goals and disciplines. We get together for a three-hour lunch a couple of times each year.

Over the years, we have become close friends, and because of that, today was delightful. We have prayed for each other’s ministries, the problems we have had in our church’s, and our own lives. We have given counsel to each other in regards to struggles in our churches and ministries, and we have encouraged each other when anyone got discouraged because of COVID or any other problems. The friendship that we have I think is similar to what soldiers experience with other soldiers in battle. Ministry is a spiritual war that is very real and incredibly exhausting. When you realize that a significant reason for your winning the war is because of what you received from your friends, it makes the relationship much more special.

I have been blessed in my life with an awesome family, an incredible ministry, and very good friends. My life is like a life inside of a life. There is the politics, the COVID, the bills, the problems, the crisis, the rain, ice storms, and forest fires. But inside of that world is my own special heaven on earth. A place of unity, of love and acceptance, a place of great joy and refreshment. My good friends, my special family, and the ministry that God has blessed me with make living life a guaranteed victory, hard but easy.

Don’t Conform to the World

It is difficult for most people to be radically different from those around them. It makes them feel vulnerable, and like everyone is staring at them almost like they are walking around naked, like you are walking around without a face mask on. It is more comfortable to blend in and be like everyone else. It is one thing to dress the same, to drive the same kinds of cars, and to like the same foods, but it is an entirely different thing when our definitions for what is right and wrong and our values blend in with our cultures.

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.

1 Peter 1:14-16 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

It is the radical difference that gives Christianity it’s power to transform the world around us. When we attempt to be non-offensive to our world we become like our world, we conform.

God gives strength and power; He gives supernatural strength and power. He gives it to those who are living for Him, in obedience to Him. With that strength, He gives joy, confidence, healthy self-worth, and wisdom.

Jesus said that we are the salt of the earth, and if the salt loses it’s saltiness, it’s radical difference, it is good for nothing but to be cast out and trampled underfoot by men, by the world. Christians and the Church are quickly being marginalized and villainized by our culture. We can moan and groan about losing our rights to our liberal government, but everything is happening by the rules of God. If we the church act like a wimp we will be treated like a wimp.

1 Corinthians 16:13-14 Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.

Moral Purity

Each Summer, I and others go on a long-distance bicycle trip. We have pedaled to Fairbanks, Alaska. We also have ridden our bikes across the entire United States, going across the very Northern States ending up in Portland, Maine, and we also rode our bikes across the Southern States from San Diego to St Augustine, Florida. We average about 70 miles each day, and camp each night in a campground. When we come riding into camp the foremost thought in our mind is a shower. We sweat pretty much all day, and the dryed sweat causes a growing layer of salt to build up on our skin. A shower makes me feel so clean and refreshed again. It feels good to be clean.

When I was about 17 years old I was on the barn roof repairing some leaks. It was a metal roof and when I attempted to reach to far I slipped and slid down the roof right into the manure pit. I sunk in right up to my armpits, and I was stuck. After awhile Dad heard me yelling and came and pulled me out. I was what you would call stinky, filthy dirty. Dad hosed me off and I took my clothes off outside and took a shower. It felt good to get all that poop off of me. It feels good to be clean.

The world is a cesspool, a manure pit of immorality, and God’s will for our life is that we would maintain a cleanness from immoral behavior and thought. In the New Testsment I don’t think there is a sin that God makes a bigger deal out of then immorality. The consequences in life for living like the world does are huge, also the person who diligently pursues moral purity will be blessed by God in many different ways.

When a person genuinely trusts Christ as their personal Savior and is born again into God’s family, He puts in us a strong desire to be holy as He is holy. If a person chooses to live an immoral life their is reason to seriously doubt that they are really a child of God headed to heaven.

Ephesians 5:5
For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

Signs of the Times or Doctrines of Demons

1 Timothy 4:1 But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons,

A doctrine is an established belief or rule. A doctrine of demons is one that demons created and established in a culture through teachers, politicians, and media. A major sign that we are in the last days is the proliferation of these doctrines that many are living by that are obviously wrong from a wisdom perspective and especially from a Biblical perspective.

I am surprised at how many Christian leaders, pastors, and Christian schools are parroting these rules today as truth. I guess a better word than “suprised” would be “alarmed.” The only way that they can do this with any degree of personal integrity is to declare the Bible null and void.

I have been making a list of these “demon doctrines” that are becoming commonplace and even standard rules for living life. One very common demon doctrine gaining ground rapidly is “ignorance is better than knowledge, ” which results in “truth being fluid.” It is a repeat of every kingdom and culture in history that fell or was absorbed by a competing culture. When the Kingdom of Israel fell in the Old Testament it was said that “everyone did that which was right in their own eyes.” “Right or Justice” was then determined by those who yelled the loudest, threw the biggest fit, created the most mayhem, and were the most ignorant of what was the truth.

Isaiah 5:20-21 Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes And clever in their own sight!

Those who are following and serving Jesus as Lord of their life need to hold fast His Word, read it, study it, memorize it, and live it.

John 8:31-32 So Jesus was saying to those who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

The Lord’s truth will seem very bright and attractive when held in contrast to the blackness of “demon doctrines.” Though the world parrots these upside down and stupid doctrines, they produce nothing but choas and misery, and in the midst of the confusion and division many will look for truth and be attracted to your light if it hasn’t been dulled by the world.

Humility

As I have stated many times before, I have identified 26 character traits that I am constantly working on and evaluating myself on whether I am growing in each one of them in a balanced way.

I also do Bible studies on each one and buy books explicitly written about each character trait. I write about the individual character traits to better understand what they look like and how to personally grow stronger in them, and to teach others how to grow in them as well.

Even though all 26 are very important, a few are critically important, and one of those super important ones is humility.

Numbers 12:3 Now the man Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth.

Psalms 25:9 He leads the humble in justice,
And He teaches the humble His way.

Proverbs 11:2 When pride comes, then comes dishonor, But with the humble is wisdom.

James 4:6 God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

Here are some key principles of humility.

1. Humility is social. It is not a private act of self-deprecation—banishing proud thoughts, refusing to talk about our achievements and so on.

2. A truly humble person is confident, self-assured, strong, very competent, with a healthy self-worth. Humility is about the redirecting of our powers, whether physical, intellectual, financial or structural, for the sake of others.

3. Humility as a character trait is not so much how or what we think about ourselves, it is how we treat other people. Humility is the noble choice to forgo our status, use our resources and influence for the good of others before ourselves. A humble person automatically, without thinking about it, puts other people’s needs ahead of their own.

Philippians 2:3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;

4. We grow in the character trait of humility by choosing to act humble in obedience to God’s command in Philippians 2:3. We obey God’s Word by choosing to serve others whenever we are given an opportunity, whether we feel like it or not. We get opportunities to help people, to meet needs, to be kind all day long, but we usually are to busy meeting our own needs to take the time for others. When we make a determination to look for those opportunities we will grow in the inner character trait of humility. Like all of the character qualities, it begins with a choice, many choices, and then after time that is who we become as a person. It always starts as dry as dirt duty, then it grows to a habit, and then it becomes delight.

5. The cognitive choosing to obey God always brings His blessing of power and strength into our life.

6. The inner attitude of being arrogant in comparing ourselves with others automatically gets dialed down as we physically do things to meet needs for others. It is quite amazing how that works.

7. If you want to instill the character trait of humility in your kids as you train them plan times of need meeting activities for the elderly, the homeless, or other less fortunate people.

A Skilled Man

Proverbs 22:29 Do you see a man skilled in his work?
He will stand before kings;
He will not stand before obscure men.

Ezra 7:6 This Ezra went up from Babylon, and he was a scribe skilled in the law of Moses, which the Lord God of Israel had given.

Certain basketball players are exceptionally good and are a key reason why their team wins games. I played golf this last week and enjoy playing, but I am not a skilled player like those playing in the Masters.

I have a goal to learn a new skill each year. Some of those skills that I have learned are relatively easy to get good at, such as making soap, but with others, I am barely competent even after years of working at them, such as welding, painting a car, and golf.

All skills have a process for becoming good. First you get instruction in writing, in video, or in person from someone who is good at what you want to become skilled at. Then you practice and practice some more, and then you get some inspection of your work, and then more instruction. The harder the skill is to learn the longer this process takes.

The desire to become exceptional at a particular skill drives the practice and the seeking of the knowledge needed to become skilled beyond merely competent.

Some skills are much more important in life than others and those same skills are much more difficult to become good at. The skill of leadership is so important to the success of any multi-person endeavor, and good leaders are rare. Parenting a child so that they grow up to be a champion is a skill. Being the kind of husband that makes your wife feel like a queen is a skill. Getting along with just about any person is a skill. Teaching the Bible so that it comes alive is a skill.

All those who become increasingly more skilled at what they are presently competent in, and are constantly adding new skills to their already long list of abilities have a number of things in common. They have an insatiable desire to learn more, and it seems that the more they learn the more they want to learn. They also are never content with their present level of competency in any skill, they always want to get better and better at everything. And most importantly they are humble enough to seek out those who know more than they do and are more skilled than they are, and to learn from them eagerly.

There are so many unskilled, low-skilled, incompetent, and barely competent people in the world today and it seems the percentage is increasing. It isn’t an issue of intelligence, it is an issue of attitude. Learning begets learning; learning becomes addictive, learning is extremely powerful in building our sense of worth and value as a person, learning adds a sense of spice to life that increase enjoyment, so just make a goal to learn one new skill and see what happens.

Palm Springs with Grandkids

Our daughter Hanna, her husband Kyle and their three kids invited us to go with them this past week to Palm Springs. They were given a free week here so they rented a big van and we drove down with them, and are headed back home tomorrow. Kyle and I golfed, we all went to Sea World and got soaked at the dolphin show, road up this giant tram, and spent many hours in the swimming pool and hot tub. One of the golf courses was the most beautifully landscaped golf course I have ever seen. Lots of water with waterfalls, plants, flowers, trees, and sand, lots of sand. Many of the greens were islands with a bridge to it. Needless to say I lost a lot of balls in the water. It was a lot of fun to play, and because of the reduced tourist attendance there weren’t a lot of people.

I would have just as soon stayed home and painted my boat as to spend hours driving and all the time on the various activities that we did here, even with the gorgeous weather. But what made it special and very worthwhile was the time we got to spend with Kyle, Hanna and three awesome grandkids.

Healthy relationships that are abounding in love take work to establish and maintain, but they are the most significant source of joy in all of life. God is a Trinity of personalities and we are created in His image, we were created for loving community and family.

There are several key principles that get violated by so many families; first and most important is to forgive one another quickly of anything. That is absolutely the most critical of all principles. God blesses families and fills them with joy, but families with bitterness in them forfeit all of God’s blessings. The second principle is to always talk graciously to each other, always, always. The third principle is to always be thinking about how you could improve as a husband, a wife, a son, a sibling. We naturally think critically of our mate and others in the family on how they could improve, what they could do and ought to do. But instead, do what Jesus said to do, “take the log out of your own eye before attempting to take the splitter out of your husband’s eye.”

In our culture today “blaming and shaming” is what most do when relationships get strained. That is the guaranteed way to destroy your relationships with your own selfishness.

How Do You Seek God?

Jesus Christ says in the Bible, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to God except through me.” simply put Jesus is saying if you want to go to heaven instead of hell forever it will be by faith in Me, no other way. Two-thirds of the people in the United States don’t believe that, have never heard that, or just shrug their shoulders and ignore it.

Every one of those two-thirds will have a time in their life where they will wonder about God, heaven, life after death, and the possibility of hell. It might be during a severe trial in their life, or the opposite, a moment of joy and blessing, or a scare of death from sickness or a near accident. Whatever the reason, whenever there is even a moment of curiosity about God, Jesus, and life after death the wise person will seek answers and seek God.

Psalms 105:3-4 Let the heart of those who seek the Lord be glad. Seek the Lord and His strength; Seek His face continually.

James 4:8
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.

Jeremiah 29:13 You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.

We have a massive fear of death sweeping across our country and the world caused by media hype and government manipulation in order to control people. What people ought to be fearing is what happens after death. Death is an incredibly positive event as a follower of Jesus, but an incomprehensible terrible event if you are not in God’s family.

At a moment of curiosity choose to seek God. He promises that if you draw near Him He will draw near to you. Seeking God is simple; read the Bible, start with the gospel of John, attend a good church, talk to some Christians that you may know, and pray some simple prayers asking God to reveal Himself to you.

Don’t let Psalms 10:4 be a description of you, “the arrogant do not seek for God.”

The Death of a Dream

I listened to the NCAA basketball championship game between Baylor University and Gonzaga University while riding in the car Monday evening with my son-in-law Kyle. He grew up in Northeastern Washington and has been a Gonzaga fan for many years. I am not a strong fan of Gonzaga, but I am an admirer of good coaching, and Mark Few has established himself over 21 years at Gonzaga as one of the best coaches in NCAA division 1 annuls.

They went on to the championship game unbeaten this year, and if they had won the championship they would have done what no team has done since 1976 when Bobby Knight coached the Indiana Hoosiers to a perfect 32-0 season.

I played basketball for a very small High School and two years at a very small college, but I remember those days well. The hard hours of practice as if nothing else in life mattered except winning basketball games. The ecstasy of winning and the agony of losing were the ultimate in emotions.

Saturday Gonzaga won the quarter final game against UCLA with a 30 foot last second three-point shot. I imagine that the emotions Saturday night were off the chart for everyone on the team, especially the starting point guard Suggs who made the amazing game winning shot.

But Monday night after losing by an embarrassing 16 point margin to Baylor I can’t imagine the pain they must be feeling as their dream of a National Championship and a historic undefeated season came to a crashing end.

I have had some major dreams in my life that died. I remember that as I was mulling over in my mind the pain and disappointment of those unrealized dreams that I knew that I would recover and get over it. I also knew that I would not let the failure deter me from pressing on to some even bigger dreams in the days ahead.

Many people never recover from a crushing disappointment or failure in life. The pain was so intense that they choose never to put themselves in that kind of position again, and never aspire to do anything great with their life after that.

When we get to heaven we will see clearly and we will realize that the effort to win, the diligence to accomplish significant things with our life, and the sacrifices we made to change the world were what shaped and made the character that we took with us to heaven. The pursuit of dreams is what God uses to make us like Himself.