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Faithfulness

Jesus said “You we’re faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things”. God gives us opportunities to accomplish something significant with our life if we are faithful.

In 1 Timothy 1:12 Paul says, ” I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service.

We live in the day and age of, “if doesn’t work out just quit, no big deal” I have been married to the same wife for 50 years, I have been pastoring the same church for 44 years. Sounds a bit on the boring side, but that is exactly the opposite of what it is. A faithful man or woman is is one whom God can trust to do what they said they would do.

Proverbs 28:20 A faithful man will abound with blessings,

Bitterness poisons

It amazes me how quickly someone will totally sever relationship with another person who they have been very close with for years over a hurt or offense. It is as if they have this “delete” button in their brain that they choose to push that erases all the good times, meaningful conversations, and sacrifices the other person has made for them over the years. All they remember now are all the bad things. As I observe this phenomenon in relationship after relationship over the years I have become very convinced that bitterness is a very toxic poison and it doesn’t take very much of it in the heart of a person to destroy huge amounts of good memories. One of my “sayings” that I repeat as often as people will listen is, “forgive anybody of anything no matter how bad it is, and do it quickly otherwise you will severely damage your own soul”. For some odd reason people think that choosing to hold a grudge is somehow paying a person back for what they have done, it is totally nonsensical. It is like shooting yourself in the foot with a gun, and saying to the person who accidentally stepped on your foot, “so there, take that”. It would be very humorous if the consequences weren’t so serious and severe. Bitterness seems to destroy the ability to think rationally, with wisdom, and insight. Some of my greatest disappointments and hurts in ministry have been from people who I have met and counseled with for months, even years, prayer for, prayed with, gone out to dinner with, taught for hours, made huge sacrifices for, and got very close to, and then have them totally walk out of my life because of something that I said or did that hurt or offended them. Sometimes I can predict who will do that, but most of the time it is a major shocker that bewilders me, hurts and grieves me terribly, and leaves me hesitant to move beyond professional in my relationships with people. Then I remind myself, “don’t get bitter at bitter people”, think and act with love like Jesus. Help me Lord to lead, serve, and love like You.

Forgiveness or Bitterness

As a pastor I regularly meet people who are not speaking to a parent or a child or other relative or friend (used to be friend) because of a hurtful experience. As I talk to them about forgiving others, seeking peace, reconciliation, and the consequences of bitterness they explain to me why their situation is an exception, and that God wouldn’t really want them to forgive this person. Often they will say that they really have forgiven them they just don’t want to talk to them or have anything to do with them. Often some of the circumstances surrounding the bitterness and broken relationships are amazingly trivial, but once an offense has been taken up, no matter how small, unless forgiveness happens quickly the offense grows bigger and bigger until there is a huge blindness to reality.

The warnings in the Bible about bitterness are everywhere. Simply put there probably isn’t anything we can do that has more consequence to it than being bitter. The opposite is to forgive anybody of anything quickly no matter how bad what they did to us is and no matter how many times they have done what they have done. It seems a bit overboard to say it like that but Jesus is quite clear on this. We have been forgiven of everything by Him because of His death on a cross, and He commands that we forgive quickly anybody of anything. The consequences of failing to do this is Jesus not forgiving our sins, which means He will not hear our prayers, we will not have peace or joy, we won’t be able to understand the bible, we won’t have any power, and He will turn us over to demons and allow them to torment us.

Over the years a number of people have gotten upset at me because of something I did or said. I try hard to reconcile with anybody who is upset at me and it usually works out, but there a few people who refuse to forgive me. One fellow has been holding a grudge for over 40 years. About once each year I send a letter, an email, or a message on Facebook attempting to reconcile with him, but so far no success.

I love to read stories of people who have forgiven others of incredible wrongs of cruelty. Many of the wrongs are committed during war and those who were tortured, mutilated, and have friends and family killed later make great efforts to find their tormentor and communicate personally that they forgive them.

I wonder why it is that some can forgive great offenses and others struggle with bitterness over the smallest of slights. I think it has to do with how aware we are of how much we have been forgiven, the price Jesus paid for our forgiveness, and the great gift we receive of eternal life because of what He did. So many take their salvation for granted and have little wonder, awe or gratefulness for the amazing gift of heaven.

Trunk or Treat

Tonight at the Trunk or Treat event at JBC I sat next to a friends new mustang convertible and handed out candy to a hoard of kids as one of the many “Trunks” who were here tonight. It was a lot of fun to talk to all the parents with the kids as well as older kids. There was free hot dogs and hot chocolate in the gym with games and entertainment in the various classrooms and a big bouncy House set up in the gym. We had generators with big lights set up all over so the whole place was all lit up. The Fire Department had a big truck here and the police had a Swat vehicle as well and the kids got tours of them. The whole evening was a great success, and I had a very enjoyable time being part of it.

As a church we believe the words of Jesus when He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no ones comes to the Father except through me.” And also Acts 4:12 “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” Those verses are saying that there is only one way to enter into heaven for all eternity and that is through faith in Jesus Christ. That faith is not a mere acknowledgment of His existence but following Him, living for Him, and loving Him. We have a mission given to us by Jesus, and that is to attract and influence people to become followers of Jesus.

So tonight wasn’t an “Evangelism Crusade”, it was just a fun evening, but we are hoping that many of those who came tonight who are not followers of Jesus had a fun evening, and will come back to a regular weekend service sometime and hear the gospel.

Balance in Leadership

Almost every character trait needs to be in balance with another character trait and it is wisdom that holds the two in perfect tension with each other. Confidence is a great character trait that is essential for good leaders, but without humility it will move over the line to arrogance. Decisiveness is another character trait that all good leaders posses but without cautiousness it becomes recklessness. Growing to become a very good leader of people is difficult because of the balance needed in a number of areas, and that balance is tough to maintain. The balance and wisdom needed requires a lot of very accurate self-evaluation, self-examination. Positive self-evaluation is nearly impossible without some other people in our life giving us input on how we are doing. As a leader one of the greatest challenges I have is finding people who can give me the input into my life that I need. Some are just to nice and gentle to communicate hard information, others are to mean and judgmental, and some just aren’t observant enough to see beneath the surface of my actions and words to see character. I have discovered over the years those who are good counselors for me as I pursue maturity and leadership excellence. I value them and work at maintaining a relationship that allows me to gain wisdom from them in a relaxed and informal atmosphere rather than from an official evaluation. Writing is the key for me as I use what I hear from others together with my own conclusions concerning my behavior and leadership. Writing stirs my reflective thinking, and it also helps me make changes in myself that stick. The strong desire to grow, to get better is what drives it all, but again balance is required. Without a level of contentment in who I am there becomes an obsession that results in reactive judgments that are not accurate. A slow, steady growth in leadership excellence is my goal.

Pain

I did something to my neck today, I don’t what or when, but tonight it is hurting so bad. It is the kind of pain that makes you nauseous and dizzy. When I hold perfectly still it doesn’t hurt much, but the minute I move at all I feel like I am being stabbed in the neck. I am hoping that it is better after a nights sleep, but I am afraid every time I move that the pain will wake me up. I am hoping that the ibuprofen I took will help, help a lot. I am working very hard right now not to be a whiner and not to spiral down in my thinking as this pain continues. I have always considered myself pretty tough when it comes to pain but tonight I am feeling like a wimp. So I am reading my Bible, praying for everybody in JBC, reading a good book, and memorizing Bible verses. I wonder how I would act and talk if this present pain level was God’s new normal for me. It could be, you never know. So as you pray for me, don’t pray that God takes away my pain and makes everything good as new, instead pray that God gives me His strength and that I think right and don’t ever let myself settle into any kind of self pity. The more pain we can bear up under the faster we will grow in character

Giving

As we consider what disciplines we can do to help in our pursuit of character maturity and the health of our soul, a very important one is giving a portion of our money to our church, to various ministries, and to people with genuine needs.

1 John 2:15 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

The most important command to each of us is to love God, but if we love the world we can’t love God. Our intimacy and closeness with God is the foundation of a healthy and growing inner person, and nothing messes with our relationship with God as much as our money and our stuff. It is very subtle and most don’t see it happening in their life until they are totally apathetic in seeking God and growing spiritually, and then we don’t care. When we get to that state God will usually cause a crisis in our life that will suck away a bunch of our money and/or stuff, and our joy goes away as well. The story that Jesus tells of the prodigal son is a perfect illustration of this journey that many make away from our Father.

Giving away a portion of our income is God’s plan to inoculate us against the disease of worldliness. Most believers in Jesus don’t give much, if anything to God because they think they need it. When we don’t give to God He blows our money away.

Haggai 1:9 You look for much, but behold, it comes to little; when you bring it home, I blow it away.

But when we give systematically, by commitment, and sacrificially God blesses us, that is we will have enough for our needs, and He will give us great joy.

When Patty and I were first married and trying to make a go of it on the dairy, an older couple in our church counseled us to always give sacrificially to our church no matter how tight our finances were. They made a big impression on us and over the last 50 years of married life we have been faithful to give no matter what.

At this point in my life having turned 71 years old yesterday, I am very convinced that the high level of joy in my life and the blessings of God in every area of my life is because I have worked hard to keep Him first place in my life above anything else.