In my leadership classes that I teach I talk about 7 basic disciplines that we all need to practice. They are called disciplines because our flesh hates to do them, so the only way we will do them successfully is with self-discipline and self-control. Without these 7 disciplines we will not grow in character and maturity, we won’t be successful in life, in relationships, we will not accomplish anything with our life that really matters, and we won’t know God with any level of intimacy.
One of the disciplines is to “Seek wisdom diligently like gold, silver, or valuable treasure”. My Dad used to say, “just because you get old doesn’t mean you get wise, there are a lot of old fools running around”. Only those who diligently seek wisdom will become wise. In Proverbs 8:17 wisdom speaks like a person saying, “I love those who love me; and those who diligently seek me will find me.” How and where do you seek for wisdom diligently?
(1) Get counsel from wise people. Most have to much pride to do this, but it is the most effective and the fastest way to acquire wisdom. God is the ultimate source of wisdom, and He loves a humble person, and blesses them with wisdom, when they humble themselves and ask for counsel or advise.
(2) Read good books written by wise people. Ask wise people what they read. Check out the author from his bio or people that know him personally. There are so many good books available today. God wrote The “Ten Commandments” with his finger on a stone, He has ordained writing as His idea. We were created by God to think in words, to speak words, to write words, and to read words. The Bible is preserved for us in written words.
(3) Learn from life, from trials, and from mistakes. When we make poor choices life will reveal that, and if we are a diligent seeker of wisdom we will learn the lessons to be learned and become wiser. Write what you learn or you will forget it, be a wisdom collector. Part of the diligence required to be wise is to write, fools are to busy to write.
Fools don’t ask for counsel from others, they think they already know everything. Fools don’t read good books, they are to busy doing foolish things and then doing them again, fools don’t learn anything from their mistakes, they just blame others.
Because most people do at my age, I get asked all the time if I am retired, and my answer is, “No, I am not finished yet, I still have lots of dreams in me left to accomplish”. One of my favorite passages in the Bible, which is one of my life memory verses, is
Psalms 92:14-15, “They will still yield fruit in old age; They shall be full of sap and very green,To declare that the Lord is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.”
“Yield fruit in old age”, yep, that is what I want to do, in fact my daily prayer is that I will bear more fruit in the next 10 years than I have in the previous 42 years of ministry. I also like that statement, “full of sap and very green”. I am thinking that means that the writer was saying that he had lots of energy and lots of great ideas. Another of my favorite Bible verses and part of my every morning prayer of commitment is
Psalms 71:9 “Do not cast me off in the time of old age; Do not forsake me when my strength fails.”
My prayer every morning is, ” Here I am Lord, please use me, please give me more to do that really matters, today give me great strength and wisdom to glorify your name by bearing much fruit.”
In Psalms 36 David writes a prayer that says, “Don’t let the foot of pride come upon me “, I changed the wording just a bit to ” Don’t let the foot of pride step on my neck.” I pray that prayer every morning as part of my morning commitments and prayer to God before I start the day. Pride is such a tricky sin it can sneak into our life and get a major foothold in our life before we are aware of it. Very few sins have as many consequences listed against it in the Bible as pride does, and very few positive character traits have as many blessings attached to them as humility does. I get on the scale every morning and weigh as I work on the goal of becoming a a slim, trim, buff, 188 lbs. I wish I had a scale that weighed the amount of pride in my heart. It would be so much easier to conquer this pride in me if I new just exactly how much I had and if I was making any headway in conquering pride and acquiring humility. Humility as a character trait has a number of facets to it. We want to be humble in our relationship to God as we give Him glory and praise for every good thing that we would be able to pull off in our life. We want to be humble and teachable in the company of successful people who have accomplished something of significance with their lives. We want to be humble with people who have learning disabilities and whom we are very much smarter than. We want to walk humbly with our God when we accomplish something great, and work hard to give him all the glory.
Some of you may remember on January 23rd I went steelhead fishing and caught a limit of very nice steelhead, and on the same trip I lost my wallet. That was the first time in my life I remember losing my wallet. I didn’t know where or how, but assumed it was while I was either putting on my waders or taking them off. I called all the credit card places and canceled the cards and ordered new ones, went to DMV and got a new drivers license, I got a new boat operators license, I got a new Medicare card, AAA card, health insurance card, and a couple of other things that I have forgotten about. In short, it was a major pain, and took hours, and then I had to buy a new wallet as well.
The last 3 days I have been gone to Cannon Beach on the annual “Pastor’s Prayer Summit”, when I got home today I was unpacking my duffel bag, and Patty sitting in a recliner watching me said, “look up on top of the bookshelf”. From across our bedroom I could look up and see the top of the bookshelf, and there laying in plain sight was my wallet. I exclaimed, ” where did you find it?” And she said, “Right there”, and I said sounding very confused, “who put it up there?”Patty smiled and said, “It must have been you”. “You have got to be kidding me!” “I don’t remember putting it up there!” “Oh great, I am cured of Parkinson’s one day, and lose my mind the next!”
“Oh Lord, have mercy on me, and take me to heaven soon before I forget who I am!”
That title sounds way worse than it was, in some respects. I decided to do some surf fishing while we were here in Cannon Beach for the “Pastor’s Prayer Summit”. I didn’t skip any prayer sessions, I got up early this morning and fished before breakfast, and then we had a break this afternoon and I went fishing again. The method we use surf fishing is to follow the surf out, and right before the waves start back in cast it as far as possible, and then walk really fast back with the bail on your real open, before a big wave knocks you down. Well on one of the casts I didn’t walk fast enough and a big wave knocked me down. I didn’t get very much water down my waders but I did get a bunch in my jacket pockets where my cell phone was. It doesn’t work now. It is supposed to be water proof but I dropped it and cracked the glass a week after I got it, so I suppose that is where the water got in. I am so disgusted with myself, this is the fifth phone that I have messed up falling in the water while fishing. I fully intend to put the phone in a safe, dry place when I get in the water where there is a potential for a fall in the water, but I get so engrossed in fishing I forget. Oooooooh, I wonder how much money this is going to cost me. I just got this phone about 6 months ago as an upgrade. I am trying to think of some spiritual application that I can make with this story, but the only one that I can think of is, ” don’t be stupid”! Oh well, I am going to bed, and I am hoping that when I get up in the morning it is working.
I am at Cannon Beach Conference Center with about 65 pastors from the Corvallis, Albany, Lebanon, Jefferson area for our annual “Prayer Summit” that goes from Monday noon until Wednesday noon. I went to the very first “Pastor’s Prayer Summit” 30 years ago in 1989, and haven’t missed a year since. I started Pastoring at Jefferson in 1976 when I was 28 years old, and in the next 13 years I made every mistake and bad decision that a Pastor can make, and I made them 2 and 3 times each. Because of my poor leadership JBC was not very healthy with lots of conflict and disunity, and after 13 years I was absolutely fried emotionally. I was very discouraged, burnt out, depressed, thinking that I was the absolute worst failure at being a pastor in the history of the church, and I was ready to quit and go back to farming.
It was then that I went to the first “Prayer Summit”, and it turned my life totally around, upside down, inside out, and every which way! It was at that Summit that I made Prayer the highest priority of my life. I made a goal to pray an hour every day, another goal to pray for every person in my church by name every week, a goal to pray with my wife, Patty at least 3 times every week, and to start dozens of corporate prayer times at JBC. As a result of the dramatically increased prayer time everything started to change in our church, but especially in my life. God started giving me wisdom because I asked for it every morning, strength and stamina, I asked for that also, my preaching got increasingly better, unity and love began to grow rapidly.
The last 30 years of ministry have been wonderful, and every year that I come back I am reminded why.
I watched the super bowl today with a number of friends from our church. It was pretty much a yawner, breaking the record for the fewest points scored in a game. Neither team was one that I root for during the regular season, being a Seahawk fan, but the punter for the Patriots, Ryan Allan attended our church when he was a kid, and his Dad and I are good friends, so I was definitely rooting for the Patriots to win their 6th Super Bowl. The best thing about the game was the fellowship with friends and the barbecued ribs!
There are a lot of Patriot haters around because people get tired of the same team winning, and with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady winning 6 Super Bowls, they have won a lot. I like rooting for teams that win consistently, not just because of winning, though it certainly is fun to root for a winner, but because I believe so strongly that there are principles of success that God created and that very few people have discovered them and follow them consistently. When I was a kid growing up on the dairy every month a DHIA report came out that had most of the dairies in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho ranked based on milk production for the previous month. When we got it in the mail my Dad would say, “It isn’t luck that got the first place dairy there, it is that someone at the dairy is following systems and rules that work.” “Find out what they do, and do it as well , and you will also be successful.”
When our kids were young I would read books written on the subject of parenting, but I would only read those written by authors who were parents of large families and who had good kids. I would also read books on marriage, and again only by those who had been married longer than 30 years with a good marriage to show that they knew what they were writing about. Now I read a lot of books written by Pastors who have been exceedingly successful as a Pastor, and try to discover what systems, principles, and rules they follow.
Successful people are successful consistently because they consistently follow the principles of success.