Beating my Body

The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians says, “I beat my body and make it my slave.” Paul wasn’t physically whipping himself, but he was doing things to help himself exercise self-control over the natural tendencies of his flesh. Our flesh is prone to laziness, overeating, and addiction to a whole host of things. Our flesh hates to read the Bible, to pray, to worship God, and to give our money to serve God

The way I exercise self-control over my flesh is to set goals, make commitments, establish routines, and establish accountability in my life.

My flesh hates to pray but prayer is very important in my relationship with God and is the most important discipline in my life to experience the blessings of God in my life. So to overcome my flesh and make it submissive to me I set goals, I read the goals everyday and share them with other guys to hold me accountable. People often ask me for suggestions on goals they can set for themselves. A prayer package I often give is “one hour of corporate prayer each week preferably with others in our church, 15 minutes of devoted private prayer every day using a prayer notebook, and three times each week praying with your spouse.” It isn’t a magical amount, but it is an amount that makes a difference in those around you and in your own life. Without the commitments and goals in our life we naturally drift away from the spiritual disciplines to increased television viewing and other things that have no real benefit in our life.

Nobody is naturally self-controlled; you have to train yourself to be self-controlled like an athlete trains himself. The best tool there is to help us in this training process is goals. What is your Bible reading goal? What is your prayer goal? You don’t have any, you say, well, my guess is you don’t pray much and you don’t read the Bible much.

9/11

I can remember specific dates and experiences in my past quite well. I remember when Dad retired from the Navy and we moved to the farm, I remember my first deer killed, I remember where I was and what I was doing when President Kennedy was assassinated, I remember my High School graduation, I remember the first time I kissed Patty, I remember our wedding, I remember my first sermon at Jefferson Baptist Church as the Pastor, and I remember watching the events of 9/11 on the news.

A group of us from JBC had gone on a short-term mission trip to China. We had been there about ten days, and we were in a motel the night before we were scheduled to fly home. The television was on in the room for no apparent reason because everything was in Chinese. On the television, the image of a skyscraper being hit by a plane and lots of smoke was being shown repeatedly. At first I thought it was a movie, but as it kept being repeatedly shown I thought it must be something else. I called the rooms of the others and asked them to watch it and see what they thought. The missionary that we were there to help finally gave us a very limited explanation of what had just happened back home. We wondered all night long about the details, imagining the worst possible scenario, and in the morning received a printout of a computer news summary of what had actually happened.

One piece of news was that we could fly to Hong Kong, but we would be stuck there indefinitely because all airports in the USA were closed until further notice. The big problem for us was how we could manage a long-term layover in Hong Kong financially. We found a YMCA that had room for us to stay fairly cheap as well as meals. We spent much of our time prayer walking around the city and also going to the airport to find out the latest news about being able to get back home. I don’t remember how many days we were there but I think it was less than a week.

One of the most memorable experiences was the discussions among people who were also stuck at the airport that I witnessed as we waited there for news. Many of the discussions were very heated, and several almost came to a physical fight; the airport police even arrested one guy.

The content of the discussions was all over the place, but one thing that regularly was said was very critical remarks about the United States, and some even said that they were glad that the event happened. I never entered into any of the discussions but I often had the strong urge to punch someone in the face.

It is now twenty years later and the number of critical statements made about the United States that I now hear are many times more and almost daily. Probably because of the volume of those statements or maybe because of my age I don’t have the urge to punch anyone in the face anymore.

But I am still a very strong patriot and supporter of my country. Often in the Bible God urges Israelites to be loyal to their country, and though the USA is not Israel and we are not Jews, I think the principle of loyalty and patriotism is applicable to us as well.

Psalms 122:6-9 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
“May they prosper who love you.
“May peace be within your walls,
And prosperity within your palaces.”
For the sake of my brothers and my friends,
I will now say, “May peace be within you.”
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek your good.

I am committed to praying for my country and her leaders, and doing what I can to support her as a loyal, patriotic citizen.

Risk vs Freedom

One of the key elements of wisdom is clearly understanding and living our life with a balance between the Sovereignty of God and man’s responsibility.

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.

When a society and culture moves towards trusting God their freedom increases but so does the risk level in living life. God does things in such a way that faith is required to follow Him meaning that from our perspective risk increases.

People don’t like risk; it makes them afraid and anxious so they move away from trusting God to technology, controlling as much as possible in their life, and following those in leadership who promise security. The rule of life is that when risk supposedly decreases so does freedom, the greater the security and safety in life the less freedom we have. But one of the characteristics of many today is they would rather have security than freedom, they will willingly trade personal freedom to live life according to their own values for security, protection and freedom from risk and fear.

Governments purposely create fear so people will submit to them in order to gain security.

In Ezekiel 28:12-16, the fall of Satan is described, and he is called the King of Tyre. There was an actual country called Tyre, and there was a King that ruled the land. The devil was called the King of Tyre by Ezekiel because, during this time, the King of Tyre was filled with satan and controlled by him. In the book of Daniel, a powerful demon is called the Prince of Persia. All that to say, Satan and his demons target government officials to influence and control people and the world.

Those who are genuine servants of God trust Him to take care of them. They are courageous and fear nothing.

Those who spend much time in prayer have a growing trust level in God, they live life without fear, and they accomplish a lot with their life.

God has Favorites

I have a t-shirt that says on the front, “God Loves Everybody, but I am His Favorite.” I get a lot of comments when I wear it, which I enjoy. The question comes up, “does God have favorites?” And the answer is yes; many verses demonstrate that.

James 2:23 Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God.

Not many people have the title, “friend of God.”

Today, God’s favorites are His servants, those who are in the elite group who God works through and who He calls His friends. Check out these verses and see if those who are His servants aren’t His favorites.

Psalms 143:12 And in Your lovingkindness, cut off my enemies and destroy all those who afflict my soul,
for I am Your servant.

Psalms 19:13 Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins; Let them not rule over me.

Psalms 31:14-17 But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord,
I say, “You are my God.” My times are in Your hand;
Make Your face to shine upon Your servant.

Psalms 34:22 The Lord redeems the soul of His servants, and none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned.

Psalms 69:16-17 Answer me, O Lord, for Your lovingkindness is good; According to the greatness of Your compassion, turn to me, and do not hide Your face from Your servant.

Psalms 86:4 Make glad the soul of Your servant,
for to You, O Lord, I lift up my soul.

Psalms 119:65 You have dealt well with Your servant,
O Lord, according to Your word.

Psalms 119:124-125 Deal with Your servant according to Your lovingkindness and teach me Your statutes.
I am Your servant; give me understanding, that I may know Your testimonies.

Psalms 119:135 Make Your face shine upon Your servant, and teach me Your statutes.

Psalms 135:14 For the Lord will judge His people
and will have compassion on His servants.

Psalms 143:12 And in Your lovingkindness, cut off my enemies and destroy all those who afflict my soul,
for I am Your servant.

Are you the servant of God? Jesus chose His disciples and He chooses His servants today. There was a reason that He chose the twelve to be with Him and to be trained by Him; his choosing wasn’t arbitrary or haphazard.

Many choose not to be a servant of Jesus because it appears the cost is to high, but check out the blessings mentioned in these verses again.

If you want to be a servant of Jesus go back and read my last ten blogs.

Judgment of God

An easy thing to observe from reading the Bible is that God punishes nations , especially those that were once godly and have fallen away from Him. Israel fell under the judgment of God many times as you read the Old Testament books of Judges, 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Daniel.

The consequences that He sovereignly brings about are natural disasters, pestilence, a lousy economy, bad and crazy leadership, and having other nations humiliate us. It seems like the United States of America is under the judgment of God, and if so things will get rapidly worse until things change.

Some observations that can be made from history are;

1 – It is during these times of judgment when God will do significant things through strong servants. It was during times of Judgment that God raised up Daniel, Gideon, Samson, and many others.

2. God loves to do great things through small numbers of people. God doesn’t need a lot of people but he does require commitment from those He uses.

3. Those who are totally committed to following and serving Him receive great strength. God doesn’t give big assignments without giving all that is needed to accomplish the assignment successfully.

4. The purpose of God’s judgments are not primarily to punish, but to convince. To stir people to seek Him as the solution to fear and anxiety over the future instead of the world.

5. A requirement of God in order to be used by Him as one of His servants is a compassion for the lost, those with no answers and no hope. Those who will spend all eternity suffering in the Lake of Fire if they don’t repent and turn to God.

Matthew 9:12-13 But when Jesus heard this, He said, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Philippians 2:19-22 But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you. . . For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare. For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus. But you know of his proven worth, that he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel.

Every day I pray and ask God to raise up champions in JBC and that he will use us to bring many, many lost people to salvation; now is the time.

Wimps Can’t be Servants for Jesus

2 Timothy 2:3 Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.

Those who serve Jesus well and bear much fruit often have a hard life; it is part of the price that God asks those who follow and serve Him to pay.

2 Corinthians 11:24-26 Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren;

Several years ago a young man I knew joined the Navy and said that he had his sights set on becoming a Navy Seal. I had been on a hunting/camping trip with him and I thought, “I don’t think he has what it will take to become a Seal,” he is a wimp.

In order to be given the opportunities, the power, and the authority that God gives to those who are His soldiers we must be completely committed to following Jesus. Many get right up to the “fully devoted” part and back off because they are afraid of the cost.

Wimps have a lot of fears; soldiers for Jesus have none. Wimps complain about problems, strong followers of Jesus grumble about nothing. Wimps bad mouth and criticize champions for Jesus because they live life on the edge.

Servants of Jesus have all the fun! They get thrown into fiery furnaces, they get thrown into lion’s dens, they kill giants and bears and lions, and sometimes they die, but Jesus welcomes them to sit at His right hand. When Jesus comes and sets up His kingdom on earth wimps will live in Fargo, North Dakota.

A Worthy Servant of Jesus

The first requirement to be on Jesus’s team is to have a “want to,” you have to want to do something with your life that matters, to make a difference. Those who bear much fruit for God have a longing in their heart to do more. They are not lukewarm, lazy, apathetic, indifferent, or easily satisfied.

The second requirement is that of all the things we do in life, serving Jesus is number one. We work at keeping our life simple and unintangled from the world. The number one reason so many Christians do so little for God is that they have no time, they have used it all up on other things.

The third requirement to be a person that Jesus appoints or chooses to serve Him is that you love people, you are kind to them, you have learned the skill of getting along with most anyone, and people like you. You are constantly working at being a relational genius.

The fourth requirement is that you are a seeker of wisdom, you are a learner, you are constantly acquiring new skills to be more productive. You don’t get locked into doing things the easy, natural way, the way you have always done it. You look around and see who is bearing much fruit and you don’t let pride keep you from learning new skills from them, you ask good questions, you ask for counsel, for coaching, you are not a “know it all.”

The fifth requirement to be a champion is to have the character trait of diligence.

Proverbs 10:4 Poor is he who works with a negligent hand, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.

Proverbs 12:27 A lazy man does not roast his prey,
but the precious possession of a man is diligence.

Romans 12:11 not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;

Proverbs 14:23 In all labor there is profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.

Proverbs 21:5The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage, but everyone who is hasty comes surely to poverty.

2 Timothy 2:5-7 Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules. The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops. Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.

As you observe those, who are very productive in any area of life, nothing is more evident than that they are all very hard workers.

The Lord’s Bond Servants Should Bear Much Fruit

I shared yesterday how I went from being a cold, stoic introvert to a warm, outgoing, cuddly teddy bear. OK that is a bit of a hyperbole, but I changed a lot because I knew I had to if I was going to succeed as a servant of Jesus. I had to relate to people if I was going to influence them, teach them, and lead them as their pastor. I strengthened my strengths, compensated for my non-strengths, and learned new skills. I didn’t have to be locked into a particular way of acting even though I was most comfortable in that role.

My strengths are that I am very goal-oriented, highly motivated to accomplish my goals, very focused, obsessed, and driven to achieve my goals. I manage my time well and achieve a lot in a short amount of time compared to many. I lead well and motivate and inspire people to work together to achieve important goals. This is who I am by God’s design, it is my temperament and giftedness.

What I do easily and naturally I have tried to teach to many people so that they can acquire it as a skill. My strengths, abilities, and gifts are very beneficial in ministry and those who learn the skills that I have enhance their ministry effectiveness a lot.

But I have experienced a lot of resistance and pushback from people-oriented extroverts, who are intuitive, free-flowing, gracious, and relaxed in temperament and personality. Their argument is that is who God made them so they are just going to be and act the way they are, and not learn to act more like me, even if it does improve significantly what they are able to accomplish with their life.

I made a concerted effort to change, grow and learn the skill of being a relational genius; well at least I moved up from being an idiot, if not a genius. I did that though I was not comfortable in that role because I knew it was necessary to be a successful servant of Jesus.

It bugs the heck out of me that there are so many who refuse to make an effort to improve their skill set in order to be more effective as a leader and servant of Jesus, and they remain mediocre in the results of their life. And then they excuse and justify their lack of fruit-bearing by saying “I yam who I yam, and that’s all I yam.”

I Yam who I Yam, and that’s all I Yam

Those of you my age know that was one of Popeye the Sailor Man’s main sayings. “I yam who I yam, and that’s all I yam!” We all are born with temperaments, bents, personality types, gifts, and abilities. Patty and I had eight children, and they were all very different from day one. Six and seven were twins, so their differences were even more apparent. There are a lot of different tests available today to tell us what kind of person we are. They are very helpful in understanding ourselves, but I often hear people using their temperament or personality type or even their spiritual gift to excuse irresponsible or lazy living. “I yam who I yam,” implying that I can’t change, or grow or learn skills, because that is just the way “I yam.”

One of the reasons that I was so reluctant to leave the dairy to become a pastor is because I knew what I was like, and it didn’t seem compatible with pastoring people. I was painfully uncomfortable around people I didn’t know, and being in a situation where I had to enter into conversations and make small talk would literally cause me to break out in a sweat. For year’s I justified being a relational idiot as a pastor because “I yam who I yam.” Then I started meeting with Dr. Joe. At one of our lunch encounters, he said, “You are standing before Jesus at the end of your life at the ‘Judgment seat of Christ’ and He asks you how many people you influenced to follow Him, and you say none because You made me shy.” “How do you think that will go over with Jesus?” And then he gave me one of his classic sayings, “Strengthen your strengths, compensate for your non-strengths, and learn and practice skills.” You can learn to play the piano even if you aren’t gifted in music, you can learn how to sell cars for a living even if you are an introvert, and you can learn how to carry on a meaningful conversation with anybody, anywhere though you would rather be fishing by yourself. He suggested that I read the books, “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie and “Relational Intelligence” by Steve Saccone. I read both and have read dozens of similar books in the 30 years since that impactful meeting.

Popular

When I was Freshman in College the school that I attended had a popularity contest. It wasn’t really a contest; it was just a class survey that everyone filled out. There were several categories that each student was supposed to put a name behind, “Most likely to succeed, ” Smartest, ” “Most liked, ” and several other categories. I remember two things about the survey, I wasn’t in the top ten in any of the categories, and Patty Burtner, now Patty Duke, was voted “Most liked or Most Popular.” How we got together and ended up marrying is a mystery to everyone who knew us both.

So if you wanted to win the “Most Popular” category and had six months to impress, influence, and win people over to voting for you, what would you do, how would you act?

2 Timothy 2:24-25 has a description of what to do. “The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition,”

There are two reasons to work hard at being liked; one is because of your ego, the second is because you want to increase your ability to influence people toward faith in Christ. The fact is the more people genuinely like you, the more influence you have in their life.

When I started Pastoring, I had several mentors that I met regularly with, experienced Pastors and leaders who taught me how to succeed in ministry. One of them was Dr. Joe Aldrich who was President of Multnomah Bible College. I learned a lot from him, and I remember a lot of what he taught me because he had these “sayings” that he would repeat regularly. One of them was, “We are supposed to love everybody but some are easier to love than others, if you are going to Pastor people you have to be loveable, people won’t learn from or follow someone who is not.”

The first time he said that I thought, “I am in trouble; I probably ought to go back to dairy farming.” Over the years I have made being a person that people like a major pursuit of my life. It really helps being married to Patty and learning from her because she really is very lovable. I have read many books on the subject and observe those who I enjoy being with and try to learn from them.

I often hear people say, “I don’t care if people like me or not, ” or, “that is just the way I am, take me or leave me.” I used to say that because I am an introvert, not very outgoing or personable but as Dr. Joe often said, “we have the ability to grow and change, especially if our motive is pure. We are not changing who and what we are, we are changing how we act.”

Back to 2 Timothy 2:24, “ The Lord’s bond-servant must. . .” That means it is required and that we can.