Little Tony gave a good tribute to his father on his 70th birthday. He talked about the influence his dad has on him. So I am turning 64 today. Happy Birthday to me, right. Let me share some things that I have learned from the founding pastor of Living Hope Church: Jim Erickson. Another way to put this is: what are some things I have learned in 64 years of life? By the way, Tony, Jim loved to preach on the balanced life which you said your dad was a good example of.
A couple of verses from Proverbs about anger were often quoted by Jim. One was "A soft answer turns away anger." Another was like that: "A fool is quick-tempered, but a wise person stays calm when hurt." Wow! Those two keep resonating in my mind often. Anger can be a killer of relationships and a killer of testimonies. I want to keep growing in the truth of these wise scriptures. I don't want to be controlled by anger, do you? We are told by the Apostle James to be quick to listen, slow to speak and SLOW to become angry because anger brings the opposite of righteousness. Where are you in these verses, friend?
Jim used to say to me that if a lesson only costs me money, it is a cheap lesson. And I used to think, "Ya, that's easy for you to say." But how right he was and how true that is. I needed to take ownership of my mistakes. I have made some decisions in the past that were costly in dollars but how I responded to the results were the real test. Sometimes anger, sometimes discouragement, sometimes putting myself down. But I have and still continue to learn that God will use those times to teach me things that will save me in the long run, both in dollars and in the things that really count.
Another Jimism: Just because I call myself a pastor/leader doesn't mean that it is true. If no one follows my leadership than I am a leader/pastor in name only. Every morning when I get into my car and drive to the office, I wonder what I am doing. I feel often that I am not qualified to be a pastor. I think that I am in way over my head and my abilities fall so far short. And it is then God reminds that I am right. I don't have it in me but God does and since He has called me, He equips me and empowers me to do the ministry of a pastor. His strength is made perfect in my weakness. He just calls for my availability and faithfulness. So it is always "To God Be The Glory, Great Things He Hath Done". Amen.
Another (and I could probably write a short book) one of the biggest and best is this: "Circumstances will make me a bitter or better person; it's my choice." Not much of a choice, right? And yet so many chose bitterness and thereby bring hurt and defilement upon themselves and others around them. I have to chose often not to let even a tiny root of bitterness get a foothold in my life. Those tiny roots can grow quickly into something very ugly. And it will ruin my witness and testimony. How can we do this? As the scripture says, it is not by might or by power but by God's Spirit. We (I) are without excuse. We must let the past things go and look forward to what God has for us. Truly the best is yet to come if we do it God's way.
Finally, how about this truth: If I fail at home and in my relationships with my family and others, then I fail no matter how much "success" I seem to enjoy in my work or other pursuits. I am not going to elaborate on this too much except to say this: Can the people around you (me) really be honest with you? Are you (am I) really open to honest criticism? If you are, then ask them to be honest with you in how you are doing in your relationship with them. If I don't let those who know me and love me be honest with me without getting defensive, then I will never grow in many critical areas that God wants me to grow in. How's that for meddling?
So Up North Wisdom says, Thank you, Pastor Jim for your wise counsel over the years. You are now enjoying your Heavenly reward and we will see each other again. I will by the Grace of God continue to try to stay true to your great legacy. Your example is the best birthday gift a person could receive.
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