FBC Williams Arizona
Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Changing Hearts, Changing Lives, One Soul at a Time

Pastor's Heart & Hand

 This is just a sampling of some of the Devotions that Pastor Joe has written.  Check out his book "From A Pastor's Heart and Hand" for more devotions, questions to consider and more.  Go to:  Pastor's Corner / Pastor's books - for ordering information. 
THE “L” VERSE: Psalm 19:14—“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.”
    Someone said, “The why of what we do is more important than the how of our actions.” I like that! Good intentions and motives lead to great motivation. Why do you do what you do? What gets your motor going? Are you living to make an impression on others or are you living to make an eternal impact on them? Do selfish desires dictate what you do? Do others manipulate your actions and attitudes? Or does the desire to honor and glorify God guide you throughout each and every day?
    The above verse is such a good one to apply to our lives and it is a great daily prayer as well. King David, a man after God’s own heart, penned it under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. God complimented David because he had one consuming purpose and passion- to honor, exalt and please His Creator and Savior. David played for the audience of One! Do we? He knew that God was always present whether asked or not! Do we really believe that? Or do we sometimes have spiritual amnesia? Psalm 139:1-4 says, “O Lord, You have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; You are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord.”
    When we realize we are always in God’s amazing and almighty presence we find the courage and conviction to make good choices that honor Him and are helpful to others. When we forget the Lord it is so easy to grieve Him and bring pain and embarrassment to others and ourselves! David probably daily prayed that his thinking and words would be pleasing to the Lord. We would do well to follow his godly example. Whatever helps us to remember and acknowledge God’s presence and power is worth doing.
     Gary Thomas wrote a wonderful book called “The Beautiful Fight.” In it he says, “When we allow God to mark our manner, alter our attitudes, and burnish our behavior, people will naturally ask ‘What is it about him? What is it about her?’ This gives glory to God as we become walking billboards that proclaim His reality and redeeming purpose.” (p. 177)
    Dear one, let’s live in a holy awareness and awe of God and His presence, power and purpose for our lives so that others will see His glory and want to be a part of His unending story!!
 Pastor Joe
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Colossians 3:12 
    When Queen Victoria was a young girl she was rather difficult and rebellious. Her mentors were concerned about this future Queen and whether she would be up for the task one day. One day, one of the tutors boldly challenged her “Victoria, don’t you realize that one day you will be Queen of all England?” After a moment of real thought, young Victoria humbly said, “I then will be good.” I am utterly convinced that our beliefs affect our behavior more than we know!
    Many marriage and family issues stem from not fully realizing who we are. If we struggle with having a healthy and holy self -image we will find it difficult to love others as we love ourselves. Instead of complimenting each other in marriage, we will compete with one another. Instead of encouraging each other we will be more prone to criticize each other.
    Do we realize who we really are? The above passage of Scripture gives us a good starting place to build a healthy self -image. First and foremost, we are God’s chosen people! Others may not have wanted you but God sure does. You may have been the last one picked at recess for kickball, but God chose you to be His son or daughter. Peter further explains this point—“You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (I Peter 2:9) I believe it is safe to say that our God is crazy about us! He would rather die than live without us.
    Next, the text says we are holy and dearly loved. God set us apart with a special place in His family. There never has been and never will be another you! Be all God created and saved you to be. Don’t be jealous of other people’s strengths and talents or try to be like someone else. Ephesians 2:10 says, “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Do what God calls you to do and be who he made you to be—YOU! You have a key part to play in His Story. Play it well for the glory of our amazing director in the drama of life! 
   Let these wonderful truths transform your belief system so that your behavior becomes more beautiful. I know when I remember
that I am chosen, called and dearly loved by God it is easier for me to be compassionate, kind, humble, gentle and patient with my loved ones! A pastor of a large church in Phoenix, once said, “When our identity is based on anything else but Christ, we can easily end up thinking too much or too little of ourselves. Either way, we become someone other than the person the Lord has called us to be. When we look to Christ, for our identity, we will not compare ourselves with others, nor put others down, nor look to others for our sense of worth or value.” I say a big Amen to that!
Learning to let my beliefs change my behavior,
Pastor Joe
Isaiah 33:6—“He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.”
     Storms come in all types—rainstorms, snowstorms, hurricanes, tornadoes, and even firestorms! The devastation they leave is often unbelievable. Many people still vividly remember the debilitating effect of hurricane Katrina and the tsunami that left Indonesia in shambles. Have you gone through a storm lately? Or are you currently weathering a storm? Maybe it is your home life? Maybe it is your financial situation, a job loss, an upcoming surgery or possibly a shattered relationship with someone close to you. Perhaps you may have even lost a loved one recently or you are facing the death of someone close to you at this present moment. What do you do and where do you go at such times at these? Is there rock higher than us that we can cling to or stand upon so that the shifting quick sands of life don’t drown us? Read again the above promise from our God.
    Who doesn’t want a place of security and safety in troubled times? Our God is just that! He is a sure foundation to rest upon and to build your life upon. Psalm 127:1 says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain that build it.” When we let God build up our lives, He uses materials that can stand any storm. When you encounter a storm you may need a flashlight, extra clothes, food, water or even a storm cellar to hide out in for a while until the storm passes. When we face the varied storms in this life, God offers us salvation, wisdom and knowledge at such stressful times! David faced many hardships in his life. He often ran for his life from a paranoid and jealous King named Saul. During this time he wrote many of the Psalms. I want to call our attention to Psalm 61. “Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.” Psalm 61:1-4
    I absolutely love the imagery that the Bible uses to describe things! God is that rock that no flood can overflow! He is that shelter that can withstand any wind of devastation, debt, division, depression or even death! He invites to come out of the cold and dampness of life and rest in the warm embrace of His unconditional love and faithfulness. Jeremiah the weeping prophet witnessed firsthand the discipline of God on His people Israel. God used Babylon to severely chastise His wayward children, and yet He still offered hope and help to His hurting people. Carefully consider the powerful promise packed in the following passage of Scripture: Lamentations 3:21-23—“This I call to mind and therefore I have hope. Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.”
       Dear one, you may be going through the time of your life. Hang on and hold on to the hand of your faithful Father who will never let go of you. Cling to your spouse and loved ones and support each other. Remember marriage and family is all about doubling each other’s joys and dividing the sorrows! And one more final Scripture of hope-“I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)  
 Pastor Joe
 THE “K” VERSE: Psalm 34:13—“Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies.”
       None were better at insults than Winston Churchill, who had a love affair with Lady Astor. Actually, the feeling was mutual. On one occasion she found the great statesman rather obviously inebriated in a hotel elevator. With cutting disgust she snipped, “Sir Winston, you are drunk!” to which he replied, “M’lady, you are ugly. Tomorrow I will be sober.” On another occasion they were engaged in verbal sparring when Lady Astor said, “If I were your wife, I’d put arsenic in your tea.” Churchill responded, “If I were your husband, I’d drink it.” (The Little, Brown Book of Anecdotes)
    Isn’t it amazing that we can send people into space, build amazing things with technology, tame all kinds of animals, including a 11,000 pound Killer Whale, yet no one has ever been able to tame that little tyrant called the tongue. James 3:2,8 says, “We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check. No man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” We all are affected by this “Foot in the Mouth Disease.” It stems from a problem with our hearts. Jesus Christ gives us some very interesting things to think about on this sticky subject. Matthew 12:34-35 says, “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good things stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.”
    Our tongues are a good thermometer gauge of the condition of our hearts. Just as when we have a fever it reveals something is not right in the body, even so when we say harmful and hurtful things, they reveal we need the Great Physician’s help in this important matter. Our words have more power than we tend to think! Proverbs 18:21 pointedly reminds us that “the tongue has the power of life and death.” When we speak we can either bless or curse, offer hope and healing or hurt and heartache.
    How are we doing here dear ones? How are we talking to those nearest and dearest to us? How about even the difficult people in our lives? Even while Jesus Christ was suffering more than we can fully imagine on the cross, He still chose to bless those who were cursing Him. In Luke 23:34 He prayed while hanging in horrible physical, emotional and spiritual pain—“Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Lord, tame our tongues! Help us to treasure others rather than tear them down. And one more thing, dear Lord, teach us how to hold our tongues so that we will not have to eat humble pie so much! Someone wisely said, “My diet is balanced. My food is the best. But it’s the words I have eaten that I cannot digest.” 
Pastor Joe
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8
        We live in a world that is constantly changing. Fads come and fads go. Finances can be fine one day and then frustrating the next. Our buddies change and so do our bodies! People change jobs, churches and even the teams they root for. The only thing we can be sure of is that change will eventually come in some form or fashion. Researchers tell us that change is what often causes the most stress in a person’s life. Maybe something has happened in your life that will change things forever. Alvin Toffler said, “people look for islands of stability when change becomes overwhelming.” In the midst of all this change we have one immovable Rock of refuge to whom we can cling to—our forever faithful Jesus Christ.
      To change requires either one of two things-to go from bad to better or from better to worse. Our God doesn’t change because He doesn’t need to improve - He is our forever faithful God and Father. He is not affected by time and age. In Malachi 3:6 God promises us “I the Lord do not change.” Psalm 145:17 declares that “The Lord is righteous in all ways and loving toward all He has made.” Isn’t it comforting to know and trust One who will never fail or forsake us?
     Have you ever had a fickle or fair-weather friend? Ever had to walk on egg shells around another person because you never know what kind of mood he or she will be in? Is God ever moody? I think not. He will always be full of grace and truth. He will always love what is right and hate what is evil. While He passionately hates our sin, He will faithfully pursue us just like Hosea the prophet loved and pursued his unfaithful wife Gomer. Psalm 100:5 says we are to enter His gates with thanksgiving and praise because “The Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.”  
     Philippians 1:6 reminds us that we can be “confident of
this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” We can have unfailing hope every day because our forever faithful God will never fail or forsake us. He will finish what He started in us. Our future is as bright as the promises of God because it is impossible for Him to lie. One final thought—IT IS NOT OUR GRIP ON GOD THAT IS IMPORTANT, BUT HIS GRASP ON US!!!
Thankful I have Someone I can always count on,
Pastor Joe
THE “I” VERSE: I Thessalonians 5:18—“In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
    Matthew Henry was a gifted minister and writer who lived over 300 years ago. He was ordained into the ministry in 1687 by the Presbyterian Church. He is most known for his beloved commentary on the Bible. His writings have influenced many people through the years. One day he had the horrible experience of being robbed. In his diary that evening he still found reasons to thank God. First, because he had never been robbed before this terrible experience. Second, because although the thief took his wallet, he didn’t take his life. Third, because although the robber took all he had with him at the time, it was not very much. Finally, Matthew Henry was thankful because it was he who was robbed, not him doing the robbing!
    In our “I” verse God commands us to be thankful in the midst of all of life’s challenging circumstances. This isn’t easy to do, but it is vital if we want to be healthy and holy people. Thanksgiving honors our great God, King and Savior. Psalm 50:23 says, “He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him my salvation.” What do we have that we didn’t receive from our gracious God? Our life, breath, family, friends, talents and countless blessings we so often take for granted, all come from our Father’s gracious hand. Daily He blesses us with His tender mercies. Many people complain that they don’t get what they deserve in life. I am so glad that God doesn’t treat us according to our manifold sins and transgressions! The apostle Paul wrote in II Corinthians 9:15 “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.”
    When we were lost and dead in our sins deserving eternal punishment in Hell, God sent His Son to save us from our sins and to give us the opportunity to live an abundant life here on earth and to have an unbelievable eternal home in Heaven! God desires and deserves our thanks and praise. Remember the account in Luke 17 where Jesus healed ten lepers. Only one came back to thank Him. Jesus then asked, “Were not all cleansed? Where are the other nine?” Luke 17:17. It touches His kind heart when we thank Him, but it clearly troubles His heart when we don’t.
   Not only does thankfulness honor God, but it also very helpful and healthy for us as people. Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough did a very interesting study. In their project titled “Highlights from the Research Project on Gratitude and Thankfulness” they found that there are many benefits for those who are thankful people. Do you want to sleep better and enjoy better health? Do you want your social relationships enhanced? Do you want to have a deeper walk with God? Then we need to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. They found that “Gratitude not only makes people feel good in the present, but it also increases the likelihood that people will function optimally and feel good in the future.” In a day and age where we have all kinds of therapy available to us—speech therapy, physical therapy, massage therapy and even play therapy for children, why don’t we try taking some “THANK YOU THERAPY” daily and see what happens in our relationships with God and others?
Psalm 36:7—“How priceless is your unfailing love!” 
    A poor woman had never been to the ocean before. She had never viewed its vastness and beauty. When some kind wealthy friends brought her on a vacation to the beach, she cried at her first sight of it. They asked her the reason for her tears and she responded, “This is the only thing I have seen that there is enough of . ”As vast and abundant as the ocean is, the love of God is more immense and incredible. The apostle Paul prayed for believers to be able to “grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” Ephesians 3:17-18.
    First, God’s love is wide. It reaches out to all people—the poor, middle class and wealthy, Democrats and Republicans, Jews and Gentiles, Americans and every other ethnic group on earth. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Human love tends to be exclusive, while Divine love is all inclusive. No one is beyond the scope of God’s love! 
    Second, God’s love is long. It will never cease. Human love may start out strong, but finish weak. Many relationships that began in love end in hurt and even hate. In Jeremiah 31:3 God promised us, “I have loved you with an everlasting love…” God loves me passionately today at age 53, but I am really grateful that He will love me just as much if I live to be 100! Isaiah 46:4 says, “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you.”
    Third, His love is high. There is no love that compares to it! I John 4:18 reminds us that God’s love is perfect and because of that truth, it has the power to cast out all our fear. His love also can tower above all our failures. And if we are honest, we know that we have a mountain size pile of mistakes in our lifetime. Psalm 57:10 states—“For great is your love, reaching to the heavens, your faithfulness reaches to the skies.” His love can satisfy us more than any earthly high or thing that money can buy!  
    Finally, His love is deep. His love alone can dive deep into our pit of pain and heal the scars sin has left in our souls. Psalm 147 tells us that our God, who determines the number of the stars and calls them by name, also “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3. When we have been battered, bruised and burned by others, the Lord alone is willing and able to heal and help us if we will cry out to Him.
    Can I encourage you to take a refreshing dip into the crystal clear healing waters of God’s lavish and limitless love? You will never be the same. You will never need to go looking again for love in all the wrong places. Your heart will find a permanent resting place—in God’s amazing love and grace! I pray that you will begin to understand that no matter where you go, His perfect love will pursue you and never cease to chase you. Psalm 23:6 says, “Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” 
Pastor Joe