Monthly Archives: November 2021

My Mom Died Two Years Ago, Today

I had forgotten that November 29th was the day Mom died. Still, I think I remembered subconsciously because I was sad all day today and couldn’t figure out why until I read our daughter Sarah’s Facebook entry about Mom and was reminded. When I read it, I thought, “Oh yeh, that is why I am feeling like this; it is exactly how I felt two years ago.

I have a very strong sense of and belief in eternity, and I know Mom is in heaven with Jesus experiencing incomprehensible joy, so my sadness is not close to grief or grieving. It is a feeling of loss, but it isn’t painful. As I sit and reminisce about the experiences, the lectures, and conversations with Mom over the years I smile because they were so impactful on my life.

Now, as I think and write about this second anniversary, I am sad because many of the experiences, lectures, and conversations are fading in my memory, and it has only been two years. I wish I could hang on to them, and every memory would stay clear in my mind.

Life is often a puzzle to me as I try and figure out why God made things a certain way and does what He does. But in the end it is easy and very comforting to simply say in my mind, “I trust You Lord, I look forward to seeing You, and Mom, and Dad.”

Poor Me, Nobody Loves Me, I Think I Will Go Eat Worms

Several days ago I listed eight kinds of harmful thinking, and that we need to take control of our thoughts and self-talk because they control our actions and our emotions. Most people don’t make much of an effort to control their self-talk, but those who do are much more successful in living a life pleasing to the Lord and bearing much fruit with their life for the Lord.

One of the eight areas of “stinkin thinkin” is self-pity. It is the kind of thinking where you feel sorry for yourself; you feel like you are a victim, that no one loves you, and that God is picking on you. A thought that goes round and round in our head is, “I don’t deserve this; I deserve better than this; why is God doing this to me?”

Self-pity, poor me thinking will end up including another of the eight lousy thinking patterns, “bitter thinking,” and they will lead a person to depression, sadness, and extreme self-absorption.

I have struggled with self-pity in the past when I have felt unappreciated. When I recognize the thinking pattern I am in I set my mind on Philippians 2:5-9 and meditate on it. “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name”

The goal is to thank and praise the Lord for my life, and look for all the good things I have in my life, and the good that I have experienced from Him.

A problem with self-pity thinking is that it is very addicting, and will pull us into this black hole that we get some kind of morbid enjoyment from. It is important that we catch this kind of thinking early and slap ourselves in the head, and don’t let it trap us. I have found that writing about the many blessings that I have experienced is an excellent exercise to put the brakes on this destructive thinking.

You Have Turkey Between Your Teeth or Your Zippers Down

All day long on most days we are in a constant state of relationship with other people. We see people we know and like, we see people we know and don’t like, we see people we barely know, and we see people we’ve never laid eyes on before. Some of the people who move into our line of sight we ignore, others we greet politely, with others we enter into a friendly discussion, and then some we hug. But with all of them our eyes do a check-up or more like a checkout, we do a mental evaluation of the person and come to a conclusion very quickly about their character, their appearance, their chance for success, whether they are going to heaven or hell, whether they are a Duck or Beaver fan, and at least a dozen other criteria. We will notice what we believe are flaws and defects quickly, and in a matter of seconds they will be ranked amongst all the other people we know. Most of this “checkout” will be subconscious with a few details floating up into the realm of our conscious thinking.

Each of us will have an emphasis in our mental checkouts that we do all day long, with every person we see, it will be either primarily positive, primarily negative and critical, or a mixture of both somewhere on a scale, of let’s say from one up to one-hundred, with one being super critical and judgmental. Our personal pride level will be a huge factor in our number being high or low, as well as our self-worth and fear of rejection. Our relationship with God and the level of true intimacy we have with our Creator and Savior will also play a key role in how we see people.

The higher we are on the scale, the more positive we are, that is, we tend to see the good things in others before or more than the bad, the healthier our relationships will be, whether we know them well or are just an acquaintance, people pick up on our mental opinion of them and it then influences their opinion and mental check out of us. We all are somewhat locked into our positive/negative scale, but very few things would increase the quality of our relationships including our marriage and with other family members as much as if we could raise where we are on the positive/negative scale in our judgment of others.

When I started Pastoring my biggest problem was I didn’t like most people. I was pretty low on the “judgments scale” and saw way more negative things in most people than positive. I was greatly influenced by my very strong introvert temperament that bordered on being anti-social. I went into ministry not because I liked people and wanted to help them, but because I felt strongly that God had called me into ministry and I was simply obeying Him.

I started a discipline a number of year’s ago that made a huge difference in my attitude towards others, I started praying for them. I made a goal to pray for everyone in our church by name once each week. I developed a very sophisticated system of keeping track of needs, problems, and blessings in their lives to pray for. Another discipline that I started was to say a quick prayer in my head for anyone I talked to, while I was talking to them. It took some time and work to get that second one down, but I now do it almost automatically.

It is so much more enjoyable living life seeing mostly good stuff in people.

Noise and Self-Talk

Patty and I are driving home from Naselle, Washington, where our daughter Hanna and her family live. Three of our other daughters and their families also were there with us for Thanksgiving; it was a great time. As we are driving home, a four-hour drive, we have the radio playing in the background with nice music.

We live in a time when the sounds around us are like a train wreck, a lot of anger, criticism, slander, propaganda, lies, and news designed to create fear. The best way to describe what we hear much of the day is noise.

A fundamental way to maintain peace and joy in our hearts is to learn how to talk to ourselves in a positive, affirming way, totally divorced from the noise around us. Most people’s self-talk is in reaction to the noise, it would be like a dozen people yelling at you telling you what a rotten person you are and you are yelling back at them.

There are so many good, pleasant, and positive things to set our mind on and to choose to think about. I enjoy thinking about our family and experiences with them. I enjoy thinking about our church family, different people, and upcoming events that I am looking forward to. I enjoy crafting sermons and blogs in my mind. I enjoy thinking about the gifts I am going to buy for our grandkids, and visualizing their reaction to them. I enjoy thinking about fishing. I spend a lot of time thinking about heaven and what it is going to look like.

It is so easy to get all uptight, bitter, angry, anxious, and critical because of the noise around us. We can choose what we mentally dwell on, but we have to choose, be in charge of our self-talk or we will be unhappy people constantly mumbling to ourselves and others that we wish things would go back to normal again. Things will get worse and worse, but we can still be happy people, bright lights in the midst of a dark and noisy world.

Governments and others can do a lot of bossing and try to control everything, but nobody can control what I think about, my self-talk, I am in charge there so I will not give up that freedom because of apathy, lazy thinking, and poor self-control.

Anxiety, Worry, Fretting

Initial, momentary thoughts are uncontrollable, but letting those thoughts stay in our head to go round and round is controllable, but many have not learned how to control those thoughts or they don’t much of an effort to squelch them quickly. Many people are stressed out because of COVID, masks, vaccines, jobs, government, and on the list goes.

Many things, events, and situations that are in the future I have some control over. Those things I think about, strategize about, I try and figure out how to fix it, make it better, or eliminate it. Thinking about those things is a challenge, and I do research, get counsel, make plans and contingency plans, and I learn from the outcome. Goal setting is thinking about the future in a positive way. Repetitively thinking about my plans and goals for the future that I have some control over results in determination.

There are also a lot of things that I anticipate will happen tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year, that I have no control over. I don’t know what to do about them, and I usually don’t even know whether it will happen or not. Allowing those things to take up time in my brain is foolishness and will result in negative emotions, adverse health, and harmful decisions and behavior. The Bible commands us not to worry, but many do anyway thinking they have no choice.

Philippians 4:6 Be anxious for nothing,

Matthew 6:25 For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on.

Matthew 6:31 Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’

Matthew 6:34 “So do not worry about tomorrow;

John 14:1 Do not let your heart be troubled;

Psalms 37:8 Do not fret; it leads only to evildoing.

The key to living a worry-free life, full of peace no matter how bad the future looks is to turn every anxious thought into a prayer to God. I don’t ask God to change circumstances or events. I declare to Him that I trust Him totally as He controls the events in my life, that I love Him regardless of how hard life might become, and then I ask for strength to manage and bear up under anything that happens, I ask for His joy and peace to fill me, and I ask for wisdom to make right choices in the midst of tough times, and that I would glorify Him by living life like a winner not a wimp.

Wrong Kinds of Thinking

I have identified eight kinds of wrong thinking that I find myself doing periodically. I am working hard to listen to my own self-talk, my thinking that I do all day long that is prompted by an event or something that I see or hear. When I realize that I am mulling over in my mind a wrong thought way beyond momentary casual thinking, I immediately start thinking about a Bible verse or verses that I have memorized that counters the unhealthy meditation that I have been doing.

1. Immoral thinking is a constant struggle for most guys. Jesus addresses the seriousness of this kind of thinking in Matthew 5:28,
“but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Besides Bible verses, another place I set my thinking when an immoral thought pops into my head is on my personal “I love you vows” to Patty. I have written seven vows to her and every time I say “I love you” I reaffirm these vows to her in my mind. The first one is, “You are the only woman in my life, mentally, emotionally, and physically.” I can easily let myself go and think some pretty sinful thoughts if I don’t exercise control over what I let stay in my head. I can easily do that because no one knows what is happening in my mind, even while they are talking to me. But I remind myself that God knows what I am thinking, and He is the one who increases or shrinks the size and effectiveness of my ministry as a reward for moral purity.

I have discovered that what I dwell on mentally has a powerful effect on my mood and emotions. When I let my thoughts go unchecked like a rebellious child Psalms 32:4 describes my feelings, “For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer.” But when I “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” I feel strong, pleasing to the Lord, and useful to Him.

The other seven areas of unhealthy thinking are (1) prideful/arrogant thinking, (2) negative/critical/judgmental thinking, (3) self-pity/victim mentality/selfish thinking, (4) covetous/discontent/ greedy thinking, (5) worry/anxious/fretting thinking, (6) bitter/resentful thinking, and (7) angry/vindictive thinking.

More about those tomorrow.

Think Right – Act Right. Think Right – Speak Right.

Proverbs 23:7 For as he thinks within himself, so he is.

Matthew 12:34 For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.

Matthew 15:18 But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man.

A basic Biblical principle is that what we think about is going to influence how we act and talk. If you want to change how you act and how you talk, you must first change how you think. Let me give you seven steps to being a righteous thinker.

1. Remember, God knows what we think, and He rewards and blesses correct thinking, and He disciplines wrong thinking. The primary discipline from God is He will put us on the bench and keep us out of the game; that is, we won’t be allowed to do something significant with our lives for Him. Another major blessing from God for controlling our thoughts is that He will fill us with joy.

1 Chronicles 28:9 for the Lord searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts.

Jeremiah 17:10 I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways,

Revelation 2:23 and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds.

2. Work hard at listening to your thoughts so you know when you start thinking sinful thoughts. Our brains are like a rebellious kid, they think pretty much what they want, when they want unless we take charge.

3. Memorize a bunch of Bible verses word perfect, and then whenever you catch yourself thinking the wrong thoughts then “set your mind” on the things of the Spirit, His Word. Learn to quickly replace wrong thinking with some Bible verses that you have memorized.

Some more tomorrow

Am I Prideful, and Arrogant or Humbly Confident that I have a Mission from God

Proverbs 22:20-22 Have I not written to you excellent things of wisdom and knowledge, to make you know with certainty the words of truth.

I have been writing my blog for about eight years now. It takes me about two hours each day to think through various topics and then to write 300 to 500 words about that topic. Why do I do that? I don’t make any money from doing it. I will never see most of the people who read it each day, so popularity isn’t much of a pull. I guess another related question might be, “why do I preach sermons?” I have been Pastoring for 45 years now, and for most of those years, I have averaged about 6 hours each week of preaching and teaching the Bible; why?

I believe that I have the knowledge, understanding, and wisdom gleaned from the Bible with God’s strength and guidance that will significantly bless others if they understood it and lived it. I believe that I can help a person know God better, serve God more effectively, I believe that I can help married couples have a better marriage, parents to raise better kids, and Christians to bear more fruit.

Because I believe strongly that the messages that I teach and write about will make a significant difference in people’s lives if lived out, bringing joy into their lives, success in every area of their life, spiritual growth, and ultimately a great experience at the “judgment seat of Christ,” I study, read, write, think, and generally work hard to communicate truth in an interesting way that will hold people’s attention and motivate them to action and faithfulness.

I pray every day asking God for wisdom to write well and to speak with clarity and passion. I pray and ask Him to stir people up, and prompt them to read my blog, listen to the radio program, and to come to church.

I believe that I have a calling from God, a mission that He has given to me, and I need to be faithful to that call. I have vowed that I will not be lazy, or irresponsible as I obsess about constantly getting better, more skilled, and effective in writing and teaching.

I believe every Christian has been given a mission from God. If we can discover what it is and pursue it diligently our life takes on a whole new level of meaning, significance and joy.

Shut Up

Proverbs 21:23
He who guards his mouth and his tongue,
Guards his soul from troubles.

On Wednesday night at Jefferson Baptist Church We have a service at 6:30 pm and I am preaching a series of sermons on how to be holy and righteous. It is a “nuts and bolts” series on practical things we can do to grow into people who love righteousness and live righteously. One of the principles that I talked about is identifying the sins we commit most repeatedly and focus on conquoring them. 90% of the sins that I commit in my life now are with my tongue. I say things to people that are unkind, mean, judgmental, critical, and that hurt their feelings. I also say things that are self-seeking, prideful, boastful, and designed to make me look better than I really am.

When I get to the end of the day and examine my life and confess all the sins that I can remember, I confess these sins that I have committed with my mouth and I grieve over the fact that I think this is the 10,000th time I have confessed this and asked God to forgive me. I pray, “here I am again Lord, I hope You aren’t getting tired of me coming one more time with this same sin, I hope You don’t have a quota on the number of times I can commit this and still be forgiven.

Even though I keep messing up in the area of my speech, I am pretty sure I am getting better, even though much slower than I would like. I will persevere asking God for strength and wisdom to conquer this weakness in my life.

Figure Yourself Out

Proverbs 20:5 A plan in the heart of a man is like deep water,
But a man of understanding draws it out.

One of the things that most adults realize at some point in their life is that we are complicated beings, and that there is a whole lot about ourselves that we don’t really understand. There is like a deep well inside of us and the things at the bottom influence us, but we don’t know what they are, how they got there, and how to fix them or get rid of them if they are bad, or how to draw them out if they are good and noble.

We all have likes and dislikes, ways of reacting to various events and circumstances that our life experiences, positive and negative, have shaped in us. When I walk into a hospital I usually faint within 15 minutes. Why? I don’t know, but I bet I wasn’t born that way. Some past events impacted my inner being in such a way so that is now what I do.

One of the things at the bottom of the well are our most core desires, wants, and dreams. Sometimes kids are asked what they want to be when they grow up, and they will usually answer a firefighter or something glamorous or adventurous like that. But I do believe that beginning at a very early age; we all start formulating an image of ourselves, who we want to be, including our accomplishments. The reason they are at the bottom of the well is that at a very early age we start to experience disappointments. What we wanted for Christmas didn’t happen, and many other hopes and desires aren’t realized. We discover that disappointment is painful and the greater the desire the greater the pain if it doesn’t happen. So because we are wired for self-preservation, we bury the strongest, most heartfelt desires and dreams so we aren’t disappointed when they don’t happen. Much of what is in our deep well was put in us by God, and got shoved down to the bottom because of our fear of disappointment.

Psalms 139:13-16 For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.

I, for one, want to draw out of that deep water in me what my desires, longings, and dreams are, and accomplish them. Nothing pulls out of me stuff that I didn’t know was in me like reflective writing does. I interrogate myself with written questions and I answer them in writing. Questions about why I did or said something, or opted out of doing or saying something.

What I aim for in that self-examination is a purpose statement that shapes my goals. I have been doing this long enough now that my “Life Purpose Statements” are pretty much made and complete, and that further reflective thinking and writing refines them but doesn’t change them much.

One of my “Life Purpose Statements” is to experience as much as possible in my years of living. So one of my goals that shapes my goals is “Every year I will learn a new skill, I will go someplace I have never been before, I will do something I have never done before, and I will do something that I am afraid of doing, I will take a risk.”

Writing new goals every year is a great way to grow yourself in character. 2022 is close, write some goals, not just simple “to-do list” kind of goals, but ones that challenge, motivate, scare the heck out of you, will take some work, ones that will impress your grandkids, ones that will change other people as well as yourself. Don’t forget to share them with me.