It feels good to relax, and take it easy, and there is a time to do that regularly and systematically. In order to grow, accomplish, bear fruit, and be successful as a disciple of Jesus a person must keep constant pressure upon himself. It is that pressure to do more, work harder, and not get lazy that pushes a person to do what most others don’t do. The most effective way to create and regulate the pressure of wanting more people to be followers of Jesus at JBC, and to see more people grow in character is to set goals. Good goals are very powerful and effective in leading and motivating ourselves to accomplish more.
This past week Pastor Mike and I went to a conference down in Colorado Springs. It was basically a “Church Growth Conference”, and the speakers were the pastors of the ten fastest growing churches in the U.S. When each one was introduced to speak there was an introduction given that included all the information about their churches growth in terms of numbers and percentages and accomplishments. In me as I listened to the introduction and then to each pastor speak a fire was being built and stoked, and it got hotter with each speaker. The temperature of the fire is a key part of that self-imposed pressure that is a key part of self-leadership. As I listened I wrote goals so I wouldn’t lose the drive that was growing in me.
Many can’t live with the pressure, the desire, the passion, and want that goals create, especially if a goal is set and not accomplished. The ability to dream big, want more, plan and organize for growth, and to stay happy, motivated, and on fire after a goal has failed is tough and takes a disciplined mind.
I have been in Colorado Springs the past 4 days with pastor Mike at a seminar that had the pastors of the 10 fastest growing churches in the U.S. as the speakers. My, oh my, those guys were motivational. Listening to guys with that much passion and vision gets my creative juices going, and I start writing all kinds of crazy ministry goals.
When we got to the Portland airport last Tuesday, we did the usual security stuff. When my carry on bag went through the x-ray machine I could see that they were running it back and forth looking at something they didn’t like. One of the security guys pulled it out and asked me to go through it with him. He began by asking me if there was anything in the bag that was explosive, and I assured him there wasn’t. He took everything out and squeezed my socks, shirts, and underwear trying to feel for something. He took the empty bag and ran it through the x-ray machine again, came back and lifted up the piece of rigid plastic that was the floor of the bag and under it in the corner was a bullet. I had used the bag on a hunting trip and had several boxes of bullets in it, and one had gotten out of a box and lodged under that bottom piece. The guy looked at me with this scowl that suggested that I was a terrorist. All I could think to say was, “Oops, my bad”. I don’t ever use that expression so I am not sure why it popped out then, but the guy lightened up a bit and asked if I wanted the bullet, and I replied that it was all his.
I don’t like getting into trouble, especially when I really had no intention of doing anything wrong. It was nice that my little expression prompted him to forgive me. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, God will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness”. To confess our sins means we say, “My Bad” to God, we own what we did, we don’t blame anybody else, ” I did it, no excuses”. Every night, without fail, I review the day and confess all known sin to God so that I can experience His forgiveness and cleansing. It is a nice way to end the day, a spiritual shower.
I am supposed to have 70 goals this year if I follow my tradition of having a goal for each year of my life, but I think I am going to declare that 70 is to many for a 70 year old, in fact 69 was to much for a 69 year old last year. I think I will go with 50 goals in honor of our 50th wedding anniversary coming up in August, or I could go with 42 because this Sunday is our 42nd year as pastor of jbc. I think I will go with 50, nice round number.
I am trying to come up with a really cool BHAG, a “Big Hairy Audacious Goal”. My goal of a 2000 mile Bicycle Trip doesn’t really count as one, because I have done 2,000 or more for the last 5 years so it is getting to be an ordinary goal. I think I will do the “Pacific Crest 72.3 mile BeastMan Duathlon” with a 58 mile bicycle ride followed by a 13.1 mile half marathon run which starts at about 4,500 foot elevation and has almost 3,000 feet of climbing in it. Whoooeeee, I might think about that one for a couple of weeks before I write it down.
One of the observable laws of life is that as a man gets older, especially 70 and above, he slows down exponentially, meaning he has less energy, he can’t remember where he put things, it is against the rules to climb a ladder, he can’t see well enough to tie a hook on his leader, and he might have to wear Depends. I think it is called the second law of thermometers, or thermos, or therapy, I can’t remember.
So I have to make some crazy effort to slow this law down.
God did not design life to be easy and comfortable, He designed it to be hard, to be a challenge so that we will become like Jesus in character. Trials, tribulations, and hard times happen to all of us for various reasons, but the bottom line is our holiness and His glory.
Trials come into our life because We are reaping the consequences of bad choices. “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked, whatever you sow you will reap”. Our best response is to acknowledge our sin with no justification or blaming, and repent.
Trials also come into our life, not because of anything that We have done, but because God in His wisdom knows what challenges will grow our character and make us like Jesus. He sovereignly decides what is best and good and causes or allows it to happen. Our best response is to trust Him, and rejoice so we can grow to the max.
A third reason for bad things happening to us is so God can fix it, heal it, change it, and do a miracle so that He is glorified and people are brought to the point that they become followers of Jesus, and live in heaven forever.
John 9:1-3. As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
Bad things are going to happen to me, guaranteed, that’s life. So I am deciding ahead of time how I will act, think, and talk when those trials come. I am choosing and deciding now that I will not complain, whine or feel sorry for myself as if I were above such experiences. I am choosing and deciding that I will trust God, that I will call on Him for strength to bear up well under the weight, and that I will look for opportunities to be His witness. I am choosing and deciding ahead of time that when I am miserable because of life I will set my mind on heaven, and remind myself, “life is about holiness and heaven is about happiness”.
Yesterday I made the point from Galatians 6:7 that many of the trials that we experience in life are a result of our own poor choices, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap”, so when bad things happen we shouldn’t blame God.
But there are a number of perspectives on why bad things happen to us. The first reason is that we are reaping the consequences of poor choices. This is pretty straightforward and not hard to understand, especially if we are honest with ourselves and get over blaming God and others for our problems.
A second reason for our tough times is much more of a mystery, and perplexing to us as we attempt to understand the “Why”. Most are familiar with the book of Job in the Old Testament. Job went through a series of trials that were terrible, none of which were a result of poor choices on his part, they just dropped into his life for no apparent reason. He did scream “Why?” in the book repeatedly. What is interesting is that the “Why”question was never answered, but the fact that God caused or allowed the trials is obvious in the story.
Romans 8:28. And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
“God causes”, He is in control, He makes it happen, or allows it to happen. “For good” does not mean good like a bowl of ice cream, but “good”in the sense of our growth in character so that we become like Him. Verse 29 goes on to say, “so that we would be conformed to the image of His Son”. Life and the world were not created to make us happy, but to make us holy, heaven is the happy place. A key point of personal application on this reason is that those who trust God most will grow the most from the school of hard knocks that He is putting them through. Another point of application is that He gives His grace and strength to bear up under the trials if we ask for it.
There are a couple of other answers to the question, “Why?”, but we will look at those tomorrow.
I was visiting with a person some years ago, who was going through a number of significant trials in their life, and during a 15 minute conversation they repeated the statement, “I don’t know why God is doing this to me” at least 6 times. Often, in events like this, I want to teach people some key principles, but I know they would not be responsive to them, no matter how true they might be. In this situation I wanted to ask, “why are you blaming God for these things? Why do you think God is doing it to you”? If you never changed the oil in your car and it eventually broke down, would you say that God broke your car? If you never brushed your teeth, and you had to have them pulled and get false teeth, was it God who ruined your teeth? If you get drunk at a party, drive home, on the way have an accident, the driver in the other car is killed, and you end up in prison, was it God that put you there? Here is a story Jesus told about 2 men, both who had storms come into their life.
Matthew 7:24-27, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.”
Galatians 6:7, says, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.”
“Do not be deceived”, so many people are deceived, they are self-deceived, they believe things to be true that are a lie. To be deceived is to be blind. People who are deceived, and blind make bad choices in life, and then bad things happen, and they can’t figure out why, so they blame God.
I went fishing on the Willamette River today with my friend Andy Keesecker, and we caught over a hundred crappie, a few small mouth bass, and some perch. The weather was comfortable, the coffee was super, the lunch was awesome, the fellowship was sweet, and the fishing was a blast, can’t get much better than that. It took me a couple of hours to fillet all of them, but it probably wouldn’t have taken so long had I not kept running into the house to watch a few minutes of Monday Night Football.
Now I am sitting in my new recliner, it really isn’t new, it is one my Mom had that she didn’t like. It is very comfortable and it is an electric power chair, in that it has a control that I can use to put the chair in about any position. It has a zillion different combinations of positions with the back and the foot stool. After a nice day like today I am feeling motivated to pray a bunch tonight for everybody in JBC, and my nice, new recliner is a great place to pray. I have had nights where I pray for an hour and then fall asleep, and then I wake up in a couple of hours and pray for another hour, and then fall asleep again, and go through the night doing that. After a night like that, I have a great sense of having done something that really matters and will probably matter for all eternity.