FBC Williams Arizona
Friday, June 05, 2020
Changing Hearts, Changing Lives, One Soul at a Time

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 devotions, questions to consider and more.  Go to:  Pastor's Corner / Pastor's books - for ordering information. 
 
ARE YOU A CHARACTER OR DO YOU HAVE CHARACTER? (June 7th)
Romans 5:3-5—“We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”
     When people think of you, do they see you as a character or as a person with character? I believe it is okay to be humorous and funny, but are we are more concerned about making an impression or leaving a lasting influence on others? I personally believe our American culture is more captivated by people with charisma and comic ability than with people who speak louder by their actions than with their words. Everything seems to be all about entertainment more than setting a good example.
   Our nation’s 30th President, Calvin Coolidge stated, “We do not need more knowledge, we need more character.” Amen to that!! For several years I had the wonderful blessing of coaching children of all ages in Physical Education with Athletes In Training. I was privileged to work with public and charter school children as well as home schooled children. I took great care in teaching them conditioning and coordination, but most importantly in emphasizing character development. The six pillars of character I covered were from the Character Counts curriculum- trustworthiness, respect, caring, responsibility, fairness and citizenship.  Character really does count! It is not just a curriculum that is taught in some school districts, it should be modeled in our homes and hearts on a daily basis!  I sincerely believe that God is more concerned about the content of our character than our knowledge, strength and achievements. I Samuel 16:7 powerfully points out, “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
    John Wooden is undoubtedly the most successful college basketball coach in the history of the game. He led UCLA to four undefeated seasons and ten NCAA championships, including seven in a row. What made this man amazing was his emphasis on character. He said, “Be more concerned with your character than with your reputation. Your character is who you really are—while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” God’s great goal for us is character-Christ like character. The passage above reminds us that God will go to any measure to develop who we are. Who we are is more important than what we do! Yet how contrary that is to what we are taught in society. It is win at all costs, take steroids if that helps you succeed—just don’t get caught! Climb the corporate ladder of success and it doesn’t matter how many people you crush along the way as long as you make it to the top, right?
    Do we dare to be different? Do we really want to make a difference? Then we need to be a people of character. Ask God to use whatever it takes to make you like His dear Son-see Romans 8:28-30. The Holy Spirit is willing and able to make us like Christ. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23) Our job is to live by the Spirit and to keep in step with the Spirit-see verse 16 & 25.
 Billy Graham made a powerful statement about the value of character: “Integrity is the glue that holds our way of life together. We must constantly strive to keep our integrity in tact; when wealth is lost, little is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost.”
Pastor Joe
    
THE KINDEST THING I COULD EVER DO FOR YOU!
(May 31st) 
    I remember reading somewhere about a study that was done at a particular college campus that revealed that our students today are more self-centered than previous generations. They may have more confidence and self-esteem but are less likely to help someone in need. God warned us in His Word that in the latter days just prior to His return, many people would be lovers of themselves more than lovers of God (See II Timothy 3:1-5) and Jesus Himself stated that “because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.” (Matthew 24:12) We don’t have to be real observant to notice the ever-increasing sway of society toward selfish living! As Christians, we are called to live in the world, but not to buy into that lie. We are called to be conformed to Christ and not the culture around us. (For more study look up Romans 12:1-2, John 17:14-17 & Romans 8:28-29)
     God encourages us in the Bible to “Do everything in love.” I Corinthians 16:14. It is through His love that others come to know and experience the Lord. We are simply His channels! What is the best thing that we can do for others? During this pandemic it has allowed families the priceless treasure of more time together. In our day and age people are fighting loneliness more than ever. Making a phone call, writing a card are still invaluable ways to touch others in love.  But is there one thing we can do that will really make a huge eternal difference in the lives of others? It may not be the most exciting thing on earth. It may be downright difficult to do at times. In fact, some people might say it is a waste of time and it really doesn’t work. However, our Father in Heaven promises that “If my people, who are called by name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my  face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (II Chronicles 7:14)
     Do we want to see others experience physical, emotional, and spiritual healing? Do we want others to come to know the Lord? Do we want to see our culture changed? Do we really want to see our marriage and family life revitalized? It is not going to happen by criticizing and complaining. I believe if we consistently call upon that matchless name—the name of Jesus Christ, we will see God do amazing things in our midst. Our Lord promised us in John 14:12-13- “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may glory to the Father.” 
    Oh, that we more often had the attitude of the Prophet Samuel when he said, “As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you.” I Samuel 12:23
There is a chorus of a song that says, “Got any rivers you can’t cross? Got any mountains you can’t tunnel through? God specializes in things thought impossible. He does what others cannot do!” Do we dare to be a mountain mover? Do we dare to help set people free? Do we want to make a difference to those truly in need? Then, will you join me at the throne of grace where we can always intercede? Let us be a people who daily PUSH-Pray Until Something Happens! 
Pastor Joe
 
HE KEEPS ME SMILING AND SINGING! (May 24th)
Psalm 40:3—“He has put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.” 
    Her skating was described by one expert as “one smooth, flowing thread of silk.” In 1971, Janet Lynn became the top figure skater in the United States. During her successful skating career she captured the US Figure Skating Championship five times. What really stood out about her was her warm, joyful smile. When asked about it, she didn’t take credit for it but humbly gave the glory to God. She said, “That joy comes from Jesus Christ. It was not something manufactured. I gave my skating to God.” Not too many people are smiling these days. I see more frowns and grim faces as I go about my daily duties, except among really young children. If anyone should be smiling it is a Christian. The Bible declares “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)  Jesus said He came to give us life to the full and more abundantly (See John 10:10). In God’s presence is fullness of joy according to Psalm 16:11. That makes me wonder how many of us are truly walking with the Lord!
    How often do you smile in a typical day? Did you know that we use over 43 muscles when we frown, but not very many at all when we smile? The lesson is—if you don’t want a lot of wrinkles later on in life—learn to smile more! One of the healthiest things we can do is to smile. When we smile it sends a message to our whole body, setting the tone for our lives. Research tells us that when we smile, certain chemicals are released that travel throughout our bodies, relaxing us and helping us stay healthy. Proverbs 15:13 says “A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.” Several verses later in the same chapter it says “A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones.”(Proverbs 15:30)  I would have to say that the researchers are only confirming what our good Lord taught us in His good book!
     Have the joy stealers of fear, anxiety, worry and depression taken the smile off your face? Let the true joy giver—Jesus, put a smile on your face with His amazing grace! He offers us full forgiveness and a total pardon. The Word tells us “the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (I John 1:7) God’s divine detergent can wash away the toughest sin stains! Next, He offers us a great plan and purpose for our lives. Jeremiah 29:11 states “I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Someone said “When you go against the grain of the universe you will get splinters.” Are you tired of experiencing that? Let Christ have the control of your heart and life and see if you don’t start smiling more often. Finally, our Savior has gone to prepare a place for us that simply is out of this world. Can you imagine living forever where there is no more sin, suffering, sadness or death? Can you imagine seeing God face to face and living to tell about it? Can you imagine having a perfect body and living in fellowship with perfected people who never argue with, discourage or snub you? I think it is safe to say that there will be a lot more smiling in Heaven than here on earth!!! Philippians 3:20-21 says “Our citizenship is in Heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform these lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body.” 
Pastor Joe 
 
DO I WANT A FRUITFUL OR FRUSTRATING MARRIAGE? (May 17)
Galatians 5:19-23—“The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies and the like. I warn you , as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
     I remember hearing about a man who bought a power chain saw when they first came out. He was told it could cut down a tree in several minutes. He tried it out at home and came back the next day utterly frustrated. It had taken him several hours to cut it down. He asked the store owner what was wrong with the saw. The man pulled the cord and started it up and the roar of the motor startled the man who bought the saw. He said, what is that? Apparently he had used the saw without using its power. No wonder he was frustrated! Are we doing that in our marriages? Psalm 127:1 boldly and bluntly reminds us “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders build in vain.  Are you experiencing fruitfulness and fulfillment in your marriage or disappointing frustration? It all depends on whether we are living in the Spirit or under the control of our sinful nature. Jesus Christ said “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing”—John 6:63. The apostle Paul wrote—“I know that nothing good lives in me, that is in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.”—Romans 7:18
    The above passage in Galatians 5 gives us an even uglier portrait of what our selfish sinful nature can produce! I see why life can be so frustrating. But notice what the Holy Spirit wants and waits to produce in you and me—Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Which list do you like better? Our flesh is like a leech—it seeks to suck and drain the life out of us! God’s Spirit in contrast gives us dynamic life-giving fruit that leads to a satisfying and strong life. It was around 9 ago in August when we still lived in Surprise Arizona, that some men from a nursery came around 5:30 to plant a dwarf Arizona sweet orange tree in our backyard. It was so cute!!! It took a few years and the right amount of watering before we were be able to enjoy the tasty oranges from that fully matured tree.  I am grateful that the fruit of the Spirit doesn’t take that long to develop. Today at this very moment we can be filled with the fruit of the Holy Spirit if we yield to His control and ask for His help! Galatians 5:16,25 says “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. Since we live, by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”
    Again, I want to come back to that question—do you want a fruitful marriage or a frustrating one? What would happen in our marriages if we regularly surrendered the control of our lives totally to the Holy Spirit’s life transforming power? Why do we hold on to our selfish ways? It is time to say with the apostle Paul in Galatians 2:20—“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Are we willing to die daily that we may experience the resurrection power of Christ in our lives? Who truly is the architect of your home? Is it you? Your spouse? Why not let the Master Marriage Maker do what He specializes in doing—provide the power to live a fruitful and fulfilling life for His glory! Where do I need to be more in step with His Spirit? Where am I grieving Him? Am I allowing the poison of a bitter spirit to grow in God’s beautiful garden of my heart? Ask the Lord to remove it from your life and replace it with a patient and forgiving spirit that Christ exhibited while on the cross. Ask the Lord to do an “Extreme Home Makeover” in your marriage.
Pastor Joe
 
 ARE YOU AWARE THAT HE IS THERE? (May 3rd) 
Psalm 139:1-4—“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.”  
    I remember several years ago being in my bedroom closet struggling over what to wear to a particular event. I previously thought only women had that problem. I began to give in to a grumbling spirit for a few minutes until I heard noise in the other room. I was unaware that someone else was there. It was amazing how quickly I changed my attitude and figured out what to wear because of my fresh awareness of the presence of another person. A man named Jacob, the grandson of Abraham and Sarah, had a life changing experience when he realized he was not alone. Up to that point in his life, Jacob was a cunning and controlling person who tried to manipulate God and others for his own good. The Lord Almighty appeared to him in a dream and said, “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go…” Genesis 28:15. Jacob awoke from that dream with a new awareness. He said, “Surely the Lord is in this place and I was not aware of it.” Genesis 28:16. From that time on he learned to acknowledge and become more aware of God’s presence.
    How about you? As you go through your daily routine, how often are you aware of the Lord’s presence? Someone said, “God is always present, whether asked or not.” The Bible does declare that He “Looks down from heaven and sees the whole human race. From his throne He observes all who live on the earth. He made their hearts, so He understands everything they do.” (Psalm 33:13-15 New Living Translation) God is always there, but if we are honest, He is often ignored. He wants and waits to be invited into all that we do. Proverbs 3:6 says, “In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.” The word acknowledge in Hebrew means to “know intimately.” God desires to be intimately included in all of our activities. What would happen in our hearts and homes if we did this more often every day?
    When you are at work, do you do it heartily as for the Lord and not for men? See Colossians 3:23. When you are driving, do you only slow down when you see a police officer or because God’s Spirit gently reminds you to ease off the gas? When we relate to others do we remember what Jesus said in Matthew 25:40? “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”   I truly believe that if we will truly learn to “Practice the Presence of God” as that old Christian Classic suggests, we will face temptations and trials more triumphantly and we will learn to live more humbly and thankfully. King David said in Psalm 139:5-6 “You hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is to wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.”
     This knowledge of God’s omnipresent and omniscient nature should give us great comfort as well as great conviction. We can experience comfort because no matter where we are or what we are facing our mighty and faithful Father is with us and “Since God is for us who can be against us?” Romans 8:31. This knowledge should also convict us because we often grieve our Lord with our attitudes and actions. May David’s prayer become our daily prayer where he said “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24)
Pastor Joe
  
READY OR NOT, DEATH WILL COME! (April 26) 
    Do you remember playing hide and seek as a child? Do you remember hiding and hoping that the seeker would not find you? I am sure that sometimes you were found and sometimes you were safe. I believe that many people are playing a game with death. They are trying hopelessly to hide or run from it! Deep inside our hearts, we all know that we will die one day, but how many of us actually think about it or better yet, prepare for it? Here is what God says about this subject:
  • Hebrews 9:27—“It is appointed to men to die once, but after this the judgment.”
  • Psalm 89:48—“What man can live and not see death?”
  • Ecclesiastes 7:2- “Death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart.” 
   Life is at best brief and death is certain! We all have an appointment with death whether we like it or not. However, unlike other appointments, we cannot cancel this one if we don’t feel like going! The actor Woody Allen once said, “It is not that I am afraid to die, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” Are you afraid of death? Are you ready to face this big bad bully that picks on people of all races, ages and sizes? I used to be fearful of dying as a young boy and teenager. That fear gripped me until I surrendered my heart to the One who slapped death in the face and stripped him of all his power. I am talking about Jesus Christ.  Hebrews 2:9 states that Jesus Christ tasted death for everyone because of God’s love and grace for us! Verses 14-15 go on to say—“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is the devil--and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” These verses here teach us some powerful things regarding death.
    First, all humans naturally fear death whether they admit it or not. Second, Satan is the real bully behind the fear of death. Third and finally, having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ built upon faith enables us live and die with confidence! He died and rose again for that very reason. In John 11:25-26, Jesus made a statement that only He could back up—“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even if he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” I believe His promise with all my heart. It is my anchor for living and dying. My hope and prayer is that you do too! 
     There is a beautiful old hymn called “He Lives.” The chorus of the song goes—“Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He lives, all fear is gone. Because I know He holds the future! And life is worth the living, just because He lives!” In I Corinthians 15:55-58 the Apostle Paul stated “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is never in vain. 
Pastor Joe
  
PRAYER-DON’T LIVE LIFE WITHOUT IT! (April 18)
THE “P” VERSE: I Thessalonians 5:17—“Pray without ceasing.”
     Charles Spurgeon, who has been described by many as the “Prince of Preachers” once said “I always feel that there is something wrong if I go without prayer for even a half an hour in the day. I could as soon think of living without eating or living without breathing, as living without prayer.” His ministry touched throngs of people in his day and even now though he has long been in Heaven, his writings deeply impact many people. Spurgeon was a man who made prayer a priority for his life and ministry. Hundreds of people gathered in the lower level of his church and prayed persistently for lives to be touched during the services that were attended in the sanctuary above.
      Do you remember that old commercial about the American Express Card? It simply said “American Express, don’t leave home without it!” I would like to make a spiritual spin off of that one. How about if we would daily say and obey the motto “PRAYER, DON’T LIVE LIFE WITHOUT IT!” Where is prayer on your priority list? Is it your first or last resort? Jesus Christ taught us in Luke 18:1-“Men always ought to pray and not lose heart.” The early Church was described in the book of Acts as people who “devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer”—Acts 2:42. Because of this commitment to prayer they turned the known world upside down with the good news of Jesus Christ!
     What can we do to really make an impact on others? How can we navigate these turbulent times and inspire hope and courage in ourselves and others? We have a wonderful place called the throne of grace that we can come boldly to anytime we want. God who promised us in II Chronicles 7:14 “If my people who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and heal their land.” What is the best agent of change and blessing for our America? PRAY CONTINUALLY! Do you want to see your home become more of a haven of rest and renewal? PRAY CONTINUALLY! Do you want to see the church revived? Do you want better leaders? PRAY CONTINUALLY! Do you want to experience lasting change in your own life? PRAY CONTINUALLY! Alfred Lord Tennyson was a famous poet who had a wonderful quote on the power of prayer. He said, “MORE THINGS ARE WROUGHT BY PRAYER THAN THIS WORLD EVER DREAMS OF.” Will you from this day forward make prayer your passion, practice and purpose? Will you consistently seek God’s face and grace? Remember, a day hemmed in prayer is less likely to unravel! Victor Hugo said, “Those who always pray are necessary to those who never pray.”
Pastor Joe