FBC Williams Arizona
Wednesday, May 22, 2019
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. 
 
LET’S SPREAD THE GREATEST NEWS OF ALL! (May 19th)
THE “I” VERSE: Romans 1:16—“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.”
    I believe it is pretty safe to say that we live in a world where we read and hear more bad news than good news. There is unrest all around our world. We hear more about people hurting others than helping them. The trillions of dollars that our nation is in debt is not very encouraging right? Is it any wonder that many have called our age the “Age of Anxiety” and the “Age of Cynicism”? The apostle Paul lived in a day and age where there were horrible abuses of power, persecution of believers, slavery, vile immorality and so on. Yet, he starts his letter to the believers in Rome with our memory verse for today. He was not ashamed of the gospel! Remember the word gospel means “good news.” What good news is he talking about? God has incredible power to save and deliver people from the penalty and power of sin! And to put the icing on the cake so to speak, this good news is available to everyone who chooses to believe.
     To fully appreciate the good news we need to truly understand the bad news first. Romans 3:10-12 says, “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” We all are inbred with something far worse than Aids, Cancer or Leprosy. It is simply called sin. This little word sin is easy to spell, but its corrupting nature can actually send people to an awful place called Hell! 17th century Preacher Thomas Brooks said, “Sin the only thing God truly hates. It brought Christ to the cross, it damns souls, it shuts heaven, it laid the very foundations of Hell.”
    The greatest news of all is just this—when mankind was at our worst, God was at His best! When there was no hope, the God of hope threw us a rope to pull us out of the angry sea of sin. Romans 5:6, 8 says, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” In chapter 10 and verse 13 we then read, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Can it get any better than this? The lost can be found. The blind can now see. Charles Spurgeon said, “That one word saved is enough to make the heart dance as long as life remains. “Saved!” Let us hang out our banners and set the bells ringing. Saved! What a sweet sound it is to the man who is wrecked and sees the vessel going down, but at that moment discovers the lifeboat is near and will rescue him from the sinking ship. But to be rescued from sin and Hell is a greater salvation still, and demands a louder joy. We will sing it in life and whisper it in death and chant it throughout eternity—saved by the Lord!”
    Dear one, does that describe you? Have you seen your great need of a Savior and trusted Jesus alone to rescue you from sin’s awful penalty and power? If not, cry out to Him right now and receive the gift of eternal life. Romans 10:11 promises us “Anyone who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.” If you have already received Christ I have an important question for you as well. How often do you share this good news with others? Paul said he was not ashamed of the gospel. Are we? Let’s ask the Lord who said the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few to fill us with His great love and boldness in order to share the gospel with our lips as well as our lives.
Seeking to be a bearer of good news,
Pastor Joe
 
BEING WHO GOD SAYS I AM! (May 12th)
“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 transforming encounter occurred when one of the tutors boldly challenged her with these words- “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
 
DON’T MAKE MOUNTAINS OUT OF MOLEHILLS! (May 5th) 
Proverbs 19:11—“A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.” 
   In every marriage and even in friendship with others, each day produces many offenses. A great secret to a successful marriage is learning to let the little ones go. Wives, if your husband forgets to put down the toilet seat and sometimes make a smacking sound when he eats, is that a good reason to allow a rift to develop between you and him? Husbands, if your wife starts to put on a little weight, is that a reason to not sit as close to her in public?
    I am truly convinced that the enemy of our souls – Satan - is a master at trying to get us irritated with each other’s little quirks. Human beings are odd creatures. We all can be weird ducks on occasion. We all have many weaknesses and blemishes, if you will, that our spouses did not see in the early days of our relationship. Even the great man of God, James, known to be a pillar in the early church, said in his epistle, “We all stumble in many ways”- James 3:2. Benjamin Franklin had some very wise counsel on this subject matter. He said, “Before you marry, keep your eyes wide open. After you are married, keep them half closed.” The above passage in the book of Proverbs tells us that if we are truly a wise people, we will learn to be patient with one another. In the great love chapter of the Bible, I Corinthians 13 we have a wonderful description from our heavenly Father about what His love looks like.
·   Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” I Corinthians 13:4-5 (New International Version)
·  “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” I Corinthians 13:7-8 (New King James Version) 
   If we are maturing in God’s ways we will learn to let go of the little irritations in life and see others the way the LORD does - a person with great potential, but who is still a work in progress. Don’t you
like it when others are patient with you? Someone said, “Grace is a place where our weaknesses and mistakes aren’t rubbed in, but rubbed out!” This patience thing could literally bring about a righteous revolution in society for great good if we really started practicing it with one another. The driver in front of you, your neighbor’s loud music, waiting in a long line at the grocery store etc… Are these little irritants worth rubbing us the wrong way so that our vision becomes blurred and clouded? I think not! Patience is the ability to keep your motor idling when you feel like stripping the gears!
     Aren’t you glad that God is slow to anger and that He is very patient with us? Let’s extend that daily mercy to one another and see what the Lord does around us, especially with our loved ones.
I have a feeling we won’t sweat the small stuff so much and there will be less man made mountains to climb. I like climbing God’s mountains much more than my own man made ones, how about you?
Pastor Joe

A SHELTER IN THE TIME OF STORM (April 28th)
THE “H” VERSE: Isaiah 33:6— “He will be the sure foundation for your times…”
    Storms come in all types—rainstorms, snowstorms, hurricanes, tornadoes, and even firestorms! The devastation they leave is often unbelievable. Many of us still vividly remember the debilitating effect of hurricane Katrina and the tsunami that left Indonesia in shambles. How about in your home life? Have you gone through a storm lately? Or are you currently weathering a storm? 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 as these? Is there a 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.
    I remember hearing about a sole survivor of a ship wreck several years ago. This young boy was swept by the waves upon a rock to which he clung to all through the night. The following morning the rescue workers found him to his great relief. One of them asked him if he shook with fear during the night. He replied, “I shook all night but the rock didn’t!” Isn’t that what the Lord is to us in the storms of life? I want to share the rest of our memory verse with you.
* 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.”    
     Do you need a better perspective and depth of insight into life? God wants to give you His wisdom. Remember God’s thoughts and ways are so much higher than ours. He doesn’t have tunnel vision like we so often do. Daily ask Him to guide you in all your ways and He will straighten out your crooked paths! Do you desire deliverance from your destructive habits? Our God is mighty to save! He is a specialist in every area of human need. You don’t have to pay a certain amount or even have insurance, all you need do is humbly ask! He always will be a refuge and strength and a very present help in times of trouble and despair.
    One final thought here. Just as you need a key to start your vehicle, God gave us a wonderful key to use if we truly want to soar in life like an eagle rather than just trotting through life like a turkey. That key is called the “fear of the Lord.” God desires and deserves to be admired, respected and stood in awe of. He alone truly is “awesome!” Do we treat Him that way in our daily lives? If not, why not? WITH GOD’S STRENGTH BEHIND YOU AND HIS ARMS BENEATH YOU, YOU CAN FACE WHATEVER LIE AHEAD OF YOU.
Pastor Joe 
 
How Firm a Foundation! (April 21st)
Acts 1:3—“After His suffering He showed Himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that He was alive.” 
      Henry Morris said, “The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the crowning proof of Christianity.” John Singleton Copley, recognized as one of the greatest legal minds in British history said this about the resurrection of Christ: “I know pretty well what evidence is; and I tell you, such evidence as that for the resurrection has never been broken down yet.” Christianity begins where Religion ends—with the Resurrection!
     We are not following myths or made up stories, but the eyewitness testimonies of over 500 people who actually saw Christ after He rose from the dead! Jesus appeared to His disciples for forty days in many different ways. He ate with them, talked with them and even allowed them to touch Him. Even his own brother James became a believer after seeing the risen Christ. God turned the greatest persecutor of the Church into the greatest preacher of Christianity- Saul of Tarsus became Paul the Apostle by the grace of God! Listen to His words in:
I Corinthians 15:8-10—“And last of all He appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am…” 
    The empty tomb, the eyewitness testimony of hundreds of people and the drastic transformation in the lives of His followers then and even now all give solid proof to the validity of Christ and Christianity. Any opponents who have honestly tried to disprove it have failed miserably and many even have become followers themselves! What does this mean to you and me? Everything! Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He lives, all fear is gone as that old beloved Hymn says. A Newsweek poll said that 68% of Americans believe religion is losing influence in our great country. I tend to agree. Religion doesn’t truly transform people, but Jesus Christ does! 
    Because He lives dear friend, we can have total and complete forgiveness. When He died on the cross for our sins He shouted just before taking His last breath “It is finished.” (John 19:30) He paid our sin debt in full because we could never do that!! The Resurrection also teaches us that we can be bold and firm in this life as we face all kinds of challenges because Christ will never fail or forsake us. We don’t need to fear the future, failure or any other foe because through Christ “We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37) The Resurrection teaches us that God can turn any tragedy into a triumph.
    The Greek Orthodox Church has a cool tradition. The day after Easter is devoted to telling jokes. They do this because they believe they are imitating the cosmic joke God pulled on Satan in the Resurrection. Satan thought he had won and was smug in his victory, smiling to himself, having the last word or so he thought. Then God raised Jesus from the dead and He had the last word!!! 
    Dear one, we can live, love and even laugh because He lives! Life definitely is worth the living and even sharing with those who need to know that Jesus Christ is the Resurrection and the Life. Oh, how He loves you and me!
Pastor Joe
 
GODLY OR GREEDY? (April 13th) 
The G Verse: “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” I Timothy 6:6 
     John D. Rockefeller was quoted as saying, “I have made millions, but they have brought me no happiness.” Another extremely wealthy man Andrew Carnegie said in a similar vain, “Millionaires seldom smile.” Jesus Christ the Son of God spoke much about money and possessions in the gospel accounts because He knew we as human beings struggle with these issues. Listen to His loving warning in Luke 12:15-“Watch out! Be on guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of all his possessions.”
    We all can be tempted to buy into the lie that does not truly satisfy—that life is all about amassing wealth and worldly possessions. There is a bumper sticker that says, “He who dies with the most toys wins!” Many who bought into that lie are now driving with a new bumper sticker—“I owe, I owe so off to work I go!” Romans 1:25 warns us of the most deadly lie—“They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator.” This is called idolatry in Scripture. The very first of the Ten Commandments is “You shall have no other gods before me.” Money and material possessions are great servants but cruel masters! Only Christ is truly worth serving.
    Money isn’t evil, the love of it is! When people are on their death bed, are they concerned about how much money is in the bank? Do they want to look at their favorite car one more time? Some may do this but many I have been with at that sobering time want to have their loved ones nearby and to make their peace with God.  I Corinthians 13:3 says, “No matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.”(Message)  
     I’ve attended and officiated many funerals and I have never yet seen a hearse pulling a U-haul! Jesus Christ said in Mark 8:36-“What good is it for a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” Those who have loving God as the main goal and being godly as the natural result are much more at peace and content no matter the circumstances. Money can leave you. Moth and rust can destroy our material things. Robbers and thieves may break in and steal them. Only our relationship with God is eternally secure! Hebrews 13:5 gives us a promise and challenge to seriously consider: “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; Never will I forsake you.’”
    Contentment is the key to truly enjoying life. In our G verse, the word contentment has the idea of sufficiency. The Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want! One little boy was trying to memorize Psalm 23. He only got as far as verse one. He then wisely said, “The Lord is my Shepherd and that is all I need to know!” Is that what we believe? When we have Him we have everything we truly need for time and eternity! II Peter 1:3 says, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and
goodness.”        
         When we compare and complain we have taken our eyes off of the goodness of God. Remember the first sin in the Garden of Eden started when Adam and Eve allowed a seed of discontent to grow in their hearts! If we take the bait of many of the commercials out there, we will start focusing on what we don’t have rather than on all of the many blessings of God in our lives! Have we forgotten that God promised us that His goodness and mercy would surely follow us all the days of our lives? True contentment is found in knowing, loving and serving Jesus Christ! 
Pastor Joe
 
THIS KIND OF FIGHT IS RIGHT! (March 31st)
THE “F” VERSE:   I Timothy 6:12—“Fight the good fight of faith.”
    Life is not a breeze but a battle. It is not a quick sprint but a long marathon. It is not a bike ride coasting down a hill; it is a rugged and difficult climb up a spiritual Mount Everest so to speak! Job declared in chapter 14:1-“Man born of woman is of few days and full of trouble.” Jesus Christ promised in John 16:33—“In this world you shall have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
   Dear one, it is always too soon to quit! Can I encourage you to keep your chin up and your knees down? In this life we daily have to fight against our fears, failures, frustration, futility and a cruel and clever foe-called Satan. The apostle Paul knew what battling daily was all about. He described his challenges in II Corinthians 4:7-9—“We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” The Christian life is definitely no cake walk. It is a difficult but good and necessary fight. The pain will lead to eternal gain one day in Heaven. Our present suffering is not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in us.
    Are you tempted to quit your job? Your marriage? Your church? Following Christ? Don’t do it dear one—it is always too soon to quit! Instead of asking God “How can I get out of this hot mess? Why not try instead asking Him “What do you want me to get out of all of this? Remember, “A faith that cannot be tested cannot be trusted.” James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
   Did you get what that passage is really saying? Do we realize that one day we are going to be like Christ? Do we really think that process happens over night? No way. God uses all of the ups and downs in life to mold our character. He wants us to be mature and complete. I don’t know about you, but it is usually the hard times that help me grow more than the easy times. Bring it on! Let’s fight the good fight. Let’s keep running the race even if we have a spiritual side ache! Let’s keep the faith even though so many turn and walk away from the Lord and His Church when trial and tragedy come their way. Stay put. Don’t jump ship. Stay the course. Let’s keep our eyes on our Captain and Commander and He will bring us safely to the shore of endless glory one day!!
Keeping my chin up and my knees down,
Pastor Joe