Saturday, November 28, 2009

A Right Direction

A couple of months ago, I talked to a man who attended our Wed. evening study. He had on a Harley Davidson jacket and it was pretty cool outside. I jokingly asked him if he had put his Harley away for the season. He said he didn't have one right now. When I asked him why, he said something that I can't get off of my mind. He said, "I got rid of it -- it was taking me in a direction I didn't want to go."

I have thought about that statement often since then. I wondered how many people are going in a direction that they shouldn't be going in their lives and maybe don't even know it or don't care about the consequences. Such truth in that man's statement. The Bible says that there is a way that seems right to a man but in the end there is death. (Proverbs 14:12) Pretty powerful scripture.

Society gives us direction all the time. And because it seems so accepted, many just move in that direction. A man may persuade himself that his easily besetting sin, his evil dealings, his false religion and his selfish way are right, but whatever is not God's way will end in death and hell. Our society packages up lifestyles that are totally contrary to the Word of God and makes them sound so attractive. Like the line from a nauseating (my opinion) song said, "It can't be wrong, when it feels so right." Ah, yes it can.

A person wonders why certain cults and "isms" grow quickly. I think it is because they appeal to the old nature of man. It appeals to the flesh. Don't worry about what God's Word says. He really doesn't care what you are doing. Go with the crowd. Don't be a religious fanatic.

Jesus said that He was the only way. Either we are moving His way or we are not. When we listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit in our lives, He will always give us wisdom to make good decisions that will draw us towards God. Will you listen to God? Will you listen to the voices that God is speaking to you through? Are you willing to go His way? Are you willing to make changes that you know God is dealing with you about? Is God dealing with you about compromises that you are making in your life?

Friend, Up North Wisdom asks if your life is taking you in a direction that you shouldn't be going. A direction that you don't want to go. If so, repent, ask God's forgiveness (1John 1:9) and with the help of the Holy Spirit, start moving in the right direction. There is such a freedom is going God's way. And there is peace and joy. It can be yours also. We can do all things through Christ who gives us strength. Believe it, friend. Blessings.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Blessed Are The Peacemakers

I've learned some things in my 28+ years of being a pastor (40+ years of being a husband, 36+ years of being a dad). I can assure you that the process of learning never stops. I'm sure you agree.

Number 3: Let me just give you a scripture. Proverbs 15:1 and often used by Living Hope Church founding pastor Jim Erickson: "A soft answer turns away anger". Do you believe that (live that)? We live in an angry world. The volume of anger has really been turned up, so to speak, in our society. Unchecked anger, undealt-with anger -- the Bible is so clear about how destructive that is.

Frederick Buechner, in a writing called "Wishful Thinking" said this: "Of the seven deadly sins, anger is possibly the most fun and the most tasty. To smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you were given and the pain you are giving back, in many ways is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself; the skeleton at the feast is you."

Wow! Pretty powerful words. Undealt-with anger and bitterness (close cousins) will eat us up from the inside out. It will eat away at our spirit and our soul. A soft answer, a Godly answer turns away anger. Do I always practice it? No. Do I know it to be true? Yes.

James 1:19 says this: "Everyone (except me, of course) must be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry because our anger does not achieve God's righteous purpose."

What an awesome scripture. If you want to get mad at someone, get mad at the devil and his devices and ask God to give you the strength and courage to do things His way. Listen, friends. There is no time in God's Kingdom work for any of us to let the past control us -- to let unchecked and undealt-with anger and bitterness hurt us and those around us, because it does.

Up North Wisdom says anger and bitterness can be passed down through families and relationships. Don't let that happen. Start a new cycle with the help of the Holy Spirit to implement the truth of "a soft answer turns away anger." Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God." One of the marks of a child of God is one who makes peace and brings peace into life's circumstances by their very presence. With God's help, let the spirit of peace rule and reign in your heart and life. Blessings!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Opposite Of Stupid

Lessons from almost 28 plus years of being a pastor: part 2. Another thing that I have learned over these many years is that is important to seek wise counsel. A couple of verses from Proverbs and I can't remember the version but I like both of them. Prov.11:14 says "Where no counsel is, people fail and fall, but there is safety in multitude of good counsel."

That is good but let me read another from Prov. 15:21-22. "Stupid people are happy with their foolishness, but the wise do what is right and get all the counsel they can." Wow! I'm glad that I didn't say that.

We know, don't we, that it's easier to give advice than it is to take it. We love to be in those "advisory" roles. Do you know why so many people don't seek good counsel? I believe it's because they already know the answer many times to the situations they find themselves in. I used to tell Pastor Jim Erickson that I hated asking him advice about money matters because he always gave me the advice that I knew he would. And of course, it was the right advice.

Sometimes it is as simple as asking what you would advise someone else in the same circumstances as you are in. I think you could give some really good advice when you think about it. And often good advice is simply a matter of common sense. Knowledge without common sense can be troubling, if you know what I mean.

Who are the people that you know love and care about you? Make a practice of asking them for counsel and good advice. God will always speak wisdom to us but the problem is that we aren't always wanting to hear the voices that He chooses. How about you? You know what? I ask for more counsel now than when I was much younger and thought I really knew a lot. I have found out that I didn't know as much as I thought I did. Up North Wisdom says that I should seek out wise counsel more often than I want to or really do. I don't want to be stupid and God doesn't want me to be that either. So He provides if I choose to receive. "Lord, help me to be wise and seek good counsel." Are you with me, friend? Blessings.

Friday, November 6, 2009

A "Degree" Of Patience

I have been a pastor here at Living Hope Church for a little more than 28 years. Wow! That is hard to believe. In many ways, it seems like just a few years ago that I started as a somewhat unaware 35-year-old youth pastor. A lot has happened in those 28 years, some good things and some not-so-good things. But I can assure you that God has been faithful to His Word and that all things have worked together for our good and for His glory. I also know that what the enemy has meant for evil, God has meant for good - for the salvation of many.

Have I learned a few things in those 28 years? I believe so. I want to share some of that in the next few blogs. As I reflect back on those years, I believe I have learned some patience. Certainly not in all of its fullness, but I have learned a degree of patience. I think the opposite of patience is impulsiveness. We want things done now. I'd like things to take place immediately: how I want and certainly when I want. That's the American way, isn't it? We don't want to wait for anything.

When Mr. Steinway, the creator of the Steinway piano, was asked by a salesman to try out a new aluminum pin, which he felt was superior to the old one, Mr. Steinway said he would put one in a piano and give it a trial. The salesman asked how long the trial would be, the elder Steinway said thoughtfully, "Oh, I'd say about 50 years."

Patience is a process of learning through life's experiences. Living Hope Church founding pastor, Jim Erickson, used to say often that if a decision is a correct one at the moment, it will be correct in a week from now as well. Good advice. Sometimes we make decisions on the spur of the moment based on feelings, hurts, trials, obstacles, or in the midst of a discouraging situation. I have found that waiting has never hurt me, but a hurried reaction or decision many times has. Can you say Amen to that?

Isaiah 40:31 says: "They that wait upon the Lord, shall renew their strength". How that flies in the face of American Christians. The Bible teaches the value of waiting. And in the waiting time and in the waiting rooms that many of you may be in right now, there is a learning process and God is teaching you valuable things. He hasn't just put you in the back room. Up North Wisdom says that battle, that sickness, that struggle in your family and that hardship you're going through: that's a waiting time and you're praying and waiting to see what God will do. Friend, He'll be with you and teach you and talk to you and reveal amazing things to you. And really, you will ultimately say, "Thank you, Lord, for giving me a waiting room to grow.

Oh, and by the way, patience is the first definition of love. Blessings!!