FBC Williams Arizona
Saturday, June 24, 2017
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. 

 
HE KEEPS ME SMILING AND SINGING! (June 25th) 

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 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 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
 
HAVE YOU LOOKED INTO THE MIRROR LATELY? 
(June 18th)
     Every morning I have the same routine; I get out of bed and pray about the day. I then turn on the coffee pot and make my way into the bathroom. There, I look into the mirror and begin to make some much needed improvements. First, I deal with gooky eyes. No, I didn’t say goo goo eyes! I wash away the sleepy stuff that cakes in on the corner of my eyes. I put on deodorant and cologne,  brush my teeth,  and comb what little hair is up there! All of these home improvements help me to become non offensive to those who have to look at me. I thank God for my mirror. I am even more thankful to the Lord for the mirror of His Word!
      James 1:21-25- “Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like the man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.”
     In a world that is very much focused on outward appearance, we all need to be reminded of what God looks at. In I Samuel 16:7 the Bible declares “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” The reason for this is that our body is decaying and will eventually be turned into dust. I thank God that He has promised to give us a new body in Heaven one day. (For further study read Ecclesiastes 12:1-7 & I Corinthians 15) Our inward man, which constitutes our soul and spirit, will endure forever and can be renewed daily. II Corinthians 4:16 says “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”
     If this is the case, then why do we buy into the lie that our bodies need more care than our souls? The physical mirror will help us all maintain a presentable appearance, but only the life changing Word of God can help us become spiritually fit and attractive. We need to read the Word, reflect on what it is saying, remember it and respond to it with faith and obedience. Here is what God wants to see as we look into the spiritual mirror- II Corinthians 3:18 “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
 POINT TO PONDER: OUR GOAL IS TO BE LIKE THE MOON—TO REFLECT THE SUN. ONLY THE SON I AM TALKING ABOUT IS JESUS CHRIST! WHO ARE YOU REFLECTING?
  PASTOR JOE
  
BURY YOUR CAN’T AND BELIEVE IN HIS CAN! (June 4th)
     I remember reading about a teacher who made a profound impact on her students with the following exercise. She had them all make up a list of things that they felt they “can’t” do. She then led them outside the classroom where they took turns digging a hole in the ground. Finally, she asked them all to “bury” their cant’s in the ground forever.  How often do you use that word can’t? I challenge you to carefully consider the way you use it. “I just can’t seem to love my difficult neighbor. I can’t give up this addictive and annoying habit. I can’t seem to find the time to exercise and go to church.” A better word to use in those instances is won’t. It helps us own up to our responsibility for good behavior and it has the power to get us unstuck from our rut. In reality, what we are truly saying is “I just won’t love my difficult neighbor. I won’t exercise and go to church.”
     The Bible declares that without Jesus Christ we are not able to do certain things. He said in John 15:5- “Apart from me you can do nothing.” Any person who doesn’t have Christ living within them will struggle to consistently do what is right-especially for all the right reasons. That is why we need Him as Savior and Lord of our lives!  However, if you are a Christian, you have access to the almighty power of God to handle your problems. Carefully chew upon the following promises of God:
 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13
  • “What is impossible with men is possible with God.” Luke 18:27
  • “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father.” John 14:12
  • “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31
  • “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Galatians 2:20
     Hudson Taylor was a missionary to China during the 1800’s. He was an ordinary man who served an extraordinary God. By God’s strength and grace working through him he founded the China Inland Mission and when he retired, eight hundred missionaries from several denominations were serving there sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. His writings have greatly inspired believers to enjoy the “exchanged life” where it no longer I but Christ! He once said, “All God’s giants have been weak people who did great things because they believed that God would be with them.”  Can I encourage you to go and “bury” your cant’s and instead chose to believe that He can.
 Thankful that even though I can’t, I know that He can!
 Pastor Joe
  
 GRACE STILL WORKS WONDERS! (May 29th)

I Timothy 1:14-15—“The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.”

    We have a sign that has been in various places in our home. First it was over the entrance, then on a pot shelf, now it is in our living room on one of our built in book shelves. It was given to us by my wife’s Uncle Al and Aunt Cathi. It is carved and painted with one simple yet powerful word—GRACE.  It reminds all who come and go that God has amazing grace available to cover all our sins and failures. It reminds us that God is greatly pleased with us, not because of what we do, but all because of who He is and what He has done.

   The above passage is written by the incredible apostle Paul. God used this man to write half the New Testament, plant several churches, and mentor many people who were greatly used in the kingdom of God. He could have mentioned any of those things when describing his authority to instruct others in this pastoral epistle called I Timothy. It was written to a young man he mentored in Christ and who was given the difficult assignment of leading the world’s largest church at the time-the church at Ephesus. At the very beginning of this very practical and powerful letter he reminds all of us that it is solely by the grace and unmerited favor of God that we are saved from sin and are enabled to serve the King of Kings.

I Corinthians 15:9-10 gives us more of Paul’s personal testimony“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, and His grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” Paul never got over what Christ did for him and was doing through him. Have we? The longer I live in the flesh and observe my behavior and the actions of others- I am utterly amazed at the grace of God! Daily, even with the best of intentions, we all fall miserable short of bringing God the glory He so richly deserves.

    God did what we could never do on our own. He dealt with our sin once and for all on the cross. He bled and died for Adam’s helpless and hopeless race to shower upon us His unconditional and unbelievable grace. Someone defined grace as God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. What made the apostle Paul who he was? What will make you and me into the people God created and saved us to be? Our efforts and great discipline? Hardly! It seems to me that the more you strive, the more you barely survive. Our only hope of real growth comes when we grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ-see II Peter 3:18. Jesus encouraged us in Matthew 11:28-30 to “learn the unforced rhythms of grace and to walk with Him and work with Him.” (Read that passage in the Message translation if you have it.)

If I look at things outside of grace, I would give up for sure. I am continuing to learn to live in 

 
BE VERY, VERY CAREFUL! (May 21st)
Deuteronomy 8:11—“Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God…
Deuteronomy 11:16—“Be careful, or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them."

    When I was coaching children full time one of the things I enjoyed doing that brought laughter onto the field was when I would do my Elmer Fudd impersonation and say “We gotta be very, very careful…” That light hearted humor almost always enabled me to capture the attention of the children so I could then share something very important with them.  All throughout the book of Deuteronomy God warned His people about being careful not to forget Him and His teachings. Yet, that is what they often did! Isn’t it amazing that we can be so spiritually absent minded? How could we ever forget the Lord? I mean, He is the One who gives us everything! Acts 17:28 says “For in Him we live and move and have our being.” The Israelites witnessed many miraculous things in their lifetime—a mighty deliverance from Egypt’s bondage, water and food provided in the difficult journey through a dangerous desert wilderness. Their clothes didn’t wear out nor did their sandals during that forty year journey! Yet God knew our evil tendency to forget the amazing things He has done. That is why He lovingly gives us warnings. We need to be more careful in our relationship with God. I truly believe many times we are sleep walking with Him instead of being truly awake and alert! If you had an audience with an influential leader, famous actor or athlete, would you be fully there when you met with them? I think so. Yet we have the wonderful privilege of calling the King of Kings and Lord of Lords “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15).

    Deuteronomy 10:12 is a very powerful verse to really ponder today and every day for that matter. It says And now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” Is God really asking too much from us here? I respect my wife, children, grandchildren, parents, policeman etc… so why is it so difficult sometimes to honor, fear and revere my great God and King? Whenever most people see a policeman, what do they normally do? They slow down and drive more cautiously. Oh that we would do that when we remember that our God knows our thoughts before we think them and our words before we say them! Thinking about this makes me want to pray the words King David prayed in 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.”

    Think of the contrast between the two words careful and careless. If we break them down they speak very pointedly and powerfully to us. To be careful is to cautious, watchful, alert, living in a wise and attentive way. Ephesians 5:15-16 says Be very careful, then how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” In great contrast, to be careless means you really could care less about someone or something! This mindset leads a person to be negligent, unconcerned, thoughtless and inconsiderate in their actions. Have our hearts grown calloused? Are we spiritually sleepwalking? Have we forgotten the great price our Savior paid in buying us out of the slave market of sin?  I want to close with some thought provoking words from Charles Spurgeon, noted by many to be the Prince of Preachers. He said on this subject
“Consider whom we profess to worship, and we shall not hurry into His presence as men run into a fire. Moses, the man of God, was warned to put off his shoes from his feet when God only revealed Himself in a bush. How should we prepare ourselves when we come to Him who reveals Himself in Christ Jesus, His dear Son”

 Pastor Joe

  AM I A CRITIC OR CHEERLEADER? (MAY 14TH)

On a basketball court or football field, who inspires the team more—the critic in the stands complaining about what has gone wrong or the cheerleaders on the sideline rallying support through their cheers? The answer is obvious. I believe the answer is the same for our homes, places of employment as well as for our churches, communities and even our country! Is it easier for you to complain and criticize than it is for you to encourage and support others in this long distance race called life? Do you tend to dig up dirt and build a mountain of mess? Remember we will always lose ground if we throw dirt!! Do you like to expose the faults of others so as to take the focus off of your own shortcomings? Jesus Christ has some very penetrating words for us all to consider on this subject matter:
  • Matthew 7:1-5—“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye, when all the time there is a plank in your own eye’? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly enough to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
  Our job in life is not to play judge and jury. The Bible says “There is one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy.” James 4:12. I believe it is not referring to Judge Joe, Judge Judy, Simon Cowell, or Blake Skelton, but to Judge Jesus! Let’s leave the matter of judging to Him, because He alone is all knowing and Almighty. Our duty in life is to love others and to clap and cheer for them. The Scripture challenges us all to “Encourage one another and build each other up”---I Thessalonians 5:11. I have heard that for every negative put down we hear, we need nine positive affirmations to equal it out! No wonder so many hearts and homes are running on low. If someone paid you a dime for every positive thing you said and took a nickel from you for every negative thing you said, would you be rich or poor? Hmm…
 The next time we are tempted to judge someone let’s instead try to truly understand them. I remember hearing a preacher tell the story of a young father who was riding on a subway train with two young sons who were both crying incessantly. One nearby passenger became annoyed and scolded the man by saying, “Why don’t you calm your children down!” The man humbly responded, “I would if I knew how. You see, their mother recently died and they miss her terribly.” I don’t know how the critical and insensitive passenger responded, but hopefully she had a change of heart. How would you act in a similar situation? Mother Theresa said, When you judge others, you have no time to love them.” I like that! Let’s try to look beyond the annoying deed to the person’s real need. We all have a deep need for encouragement. Hebrews 3:13 says “Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” Real encouragement inspires others with courage to face the difficulties and demands of daily living.
Back to the title of this little devotional for one more minute. How would your family members, neighbors and work associates describe you--as an encouraging cheerleader or a cranky and complaining critic? Can you imagine what would happen if we cheered as much for our loved ones as we do for our favorite sports team, Dancing with the Stars couple or America’s Got Talent contestant?
 PASTOR   JOE
 
PRAYER KEYS FROM OLD CAMEL KNEES (May 7th)
  James was one of the earthly brothers of Jesus Christ. He became the Pastor of the church at Jerusalem and was considered to be one of the pillars of the church-see Galatians 2:8-9. History
and tradition tells us that he earned the nickname “Old Camel Knees” because of his passion for and posture in prayer!
   His New Testament book of James gives us some very practical and powerful keys to prayer.
1. First, we learn that GOD WANTS US TO COME TO HIM ABOUT ANYTHING!  James 4:2 states “You do not have because you do not ask God.” Jesus Himself said “Ask, and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7) The Apostle Paul under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit said “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6) NOTHING IS TOO BIG OR SMALL; GOD WANTS US TO COME TO HIM WITH IT ALL! Someone wisely said that prayer “delights God’s ear, melts His heart and opens His hand.” Dear One, God is more willing answer to our prayers than we are willing to pray!
 2. The next key we learn from the book of James about prayer is GOD WANTS US TO CAREFULLY CONSIDER OUR MOTIVES IN PRAYER. James 4:3 states “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” The “why” of prayer is more important than the “how” of prayer! This passage tells us why God sometimes says no to our prayers. Many times we are more concerned about building our own kingdom instead of seeking His kingdom first-see Matthew 6:33. Other times we are more concerned about our comfort rather than asking God to develop Christ like character in our lives. Several years ago a man named Ivan was in a Soviet prison camp when a fellow prisoner saw him praying, he mockingly said, “Prayer won’t get you out of here!” Ivan humbly responded “I do not pray to get out of prison, but to do the will of God.” Wow!
3. Last but not least, we learn from old camel knees that PRAYER IS A CHALLENGE, BUT EVERYTHING CHANGES WHEN WE PASSIONATELY PRAY!! James 5:16 says “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” I truly believe that nothing of eternal significance ever happens apart from prayer. Samuel Chadwick said “The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from prayer. He fears nothing from prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but trembles when we pray.” Billy Graham was once asked what the key to successful ministry was and he immediately replied “Prayer, prayer, and more prayer!” I truly believe God still is “able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the Church…” Ephesians 3:20-21. What might happen in our homes, churches, communities and our great country if we truly seek God’s face with all our hearts? Seeking to be more like “Old Camel Knees”,
Pastor Joe