FBC Williams Arizona
Wednesday, June 20, 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. 
     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, read my Bible or 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, read my Bible or 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 (Now called Overseas Missionary Fellowship) 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 is 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
 John 16:33- “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
     Do you find life very challenging? Do you occasionally struggle with doubt and despair? Do you ever wonder how you will make it in the daily fight against our sinful nature, this world that doesn’t encourage us to live for God, and finally against an incredibly powerful unseen army described in Scripture as “spiritual forces of evil”?
     Lack of courage can cripple us and makes cowards of us all if we allow it to. It led the Apostle Peter to deny Jesus three times. He wasn’t the only one who cowered in fear that evening. When Jesus was arrested in the garden of Gethsemane, the Bible tells us that “Everyone deserted him and fled.” (Mark 14:50)
     Has fear or lack of courage kept you from really living for God? Have you ever denied the Lord when you really wanted to take a stand for Him? Where do we find the courage to face the difficulties and demands of every day life? We can’t go to the wizard of Oz like the Lion did, but we can go to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords—Jesus Christ! The same disciples, who shook with fear when their leader was captured, stood in brave faith and faced all kinds of pressure and persecution after he was raised from the dead. (Read the book of Acts sometime to see how God did extraordinary things through ordinary people). Acts 4:13 says—“When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.”
     Keeping company with Christ is the best way to live every day! David was a King that needed courage to lead an entire nation. In Psalm 16:8 he shared his secret to finding courage to face his many challenges. “I have set the Lord always before me. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” Who did David see before him? The almighty and ever present Lord of all creation! Who do you see before you this day? Who are you focusing your attention on? The book of Hebrews gives us some great advice. Chapter 12 verse two states—“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…”
      Today more than ever we need people of courage! I Corinthians 16:13 says, “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.” There are many fearful things happening all around us, but let us remember that true courage is not the absence of fear, it is refusing to allow fear to control us. II Timothy 1:7 says, “God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind.” What more do we need to live courageously for our Commander in Chief—Jesus Christ?
THE “N” VERSE: Matthew 6:24—“No man can serve two masters. You cannot serve both God and Money.”  (May 27th)
      Dr. Karl Menninger once asked a very wealthy patient, “What on earth are you going to do with all that money?” The patient replied, “Just worry about it I suppose.” Dr. Menninger went on to say, “Do you get that much pleasure out of worrying about it?” “No” replied the patient, “but I get such terror when I think of giving some of it to somebody else.”
    We here in North America have much of the world’s wealth and yet look at its results—depression, anxiety, greed, broken families and horrible violence. Christina Onassis said very somberly, “Happiness is not based on money. And the best proof of that is my family.” Jesus Christ spoke more about money and materialism than anything else. Here are just a few thoughts He shared in the Scriptures:
·        Luke 12:15—“Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed: a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
·        Mark 8:36—“What good is it for a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul.”
·        Matthew 6:19,21—“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
     Can I ask you a few pointed questions dear one? How do you view money? Is it a tool that God gives you to take care of your family, bless others with and to further His kingdom or is it mastering your time and talent? Are you content with what you have or are you constantly looking for ways to increase your nest egg? How do you respond when you lose some valuable earthly possession? Is it easy or hard to give your tithes and offerings to the Lord?
    Someone wisely said, “Money can buy a bed but not sleep. Books but not brains. Food but not an appetite. A house but not a home. Medicine but not health. Pleasures but not peace. Amusements but not joy. A crucifix but not a Savior. A church building but not heaven.”
    Lord, help us all hold onto to things loosely, but to hang onto You with all our heart, soul and strength. Help us to realize that we have been blessed to be a blessing and that You own it all and our role is to be faithful stewards of all Your manifold blessings!
Pastor Joe
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 miserably 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 grace and look at myself and others through His grace. It is so freeing when I do! God’s grace provides refreshment, restoration of relationship with God and others, and a renewed zeal to serve the only Worthy One.
   A great book worth reading on this subject is TRUE FACED by Bill Thrall, Bruce McNicol & John Lynch. Chapter three is simply entitled “Grace Works.” There are five powerful one liners mentioned in it that are worth slowly chewing upon—
1. Humility attracts grace.
2. Grace changes my life focus.
3. Grace lets God handle sin.
4. Grace melts masks.
5. Grace changes how we treat each other and our sin issues.
    I think it is time for all of us to let God change our pace in life with His abundant, amazing and attractive grace. Instead of hobbling along, we can hurdle any obstacle in our way when we remember to “Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” (II Timothy 2:1) Let’s seek His throne of grace regularly to obtain mercy and grace to help us and others in our times of need—and if we are honest, when aren’t we in need?
Learning to live and look at life through God’s amazing grace,

Pastor Joe

John 8:12—“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” 
     A middle aged couple was relaxing on the couch reading and relaxing together. The wife then took off her husband’s glasses and said, “You know honey, without your glasses on you look like the same handsome man I married years ago.” He responded by saying, “Without my glasses on you look pretty good too!” How do you see your spouse? How about your children and grandchildren if you have any? Those you live near and work with? Often our vision is clouded by our sinful nature and we don’t see things the way the Lord does! We desperately need His eyes as we view one another and life itself. Author Gary Thomas in his book “The Beautiful Fight” said, “Without God’s eyes, people become invisible to me. When I realized that I was married to God’s daughter, everything changed about the way I viewed marriage.”
    Dear Ones, do we realize what a precious prize God has given us in our husband or wife? Proverbs 18:22 says, “He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord.” Hebrews 13:4 says, “Marriage should be honored by all…” The Greek word for honored means to prize, value or cherish. Do we view our spouse that way and do we see Marriage as a great honor and blessing rather than an Ideal that became an ordeal? It depends on whose eyes we are looking through! We by nature are either too far-sighted or near-sighted or just plain blind most of the time!! Martin Luther the great German reformation theologian of the sixteenth century married Katherine von Bora. He was seventeen years her elder, yet he knew he was a much better man because of her. He called her “Kitty, my rib” and “Selbander”, which is German for “better half.” I truly know I married my better half, how about you? Just imagine what your life would be like without your precious treasure from our loving Father!
  How about those children? Do they know that they are a “heritage from the Lord and a reward from Him?” (See Psalm 127 and ponder their great worth) Moses’ parents “hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw that he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict” (Hebrews 11:23). God says our children are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) and that they were created in Christ Jesus to do good works that He prepared in advance for them to do-Ephesians 2:10. How often do we view them as that old song says-“I am a promise. I am a possibility. I am a promise; with a capital ‘P.’ I am a great big bundle of potentiality.” When was the last time we consciously looked at their future through God’s hopeful and helpful eyes?   
    Finally, do we see our loved ones as partners in this gracious gift of life? I Peter 3:7 says, “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” Your loved ones are on your team! Do they know that? Are they treated as very valuable to the progress of your family? The acrostic for Team is Together Everybody Achieves More! What would happen in our home life if we all played on the same team called WE and US more than on the pitiful losing team called ME, MYSELF AND I?    
Pastor Joe
Take advantage of god’s open doors! (May 6th)
THE “M”VERSE: Ephesians 5:16—“Making the most of every opportunity because the days are evil.”
     Someone said, “Temptation comes knocking every day, but opportunity sometimes only knocks once.” There is a lot of truth in that statement. I do believe temptation never tires of knocking at our door, but God given opportunities are special treasures we need to look for and be open to. I remember when I was a young Christian around 33 years ago and being burdened to share my faith with a fellow co-worker over lunch. I wrestled to find the courage to tell this older gentleman of the One who gave His all to forgive and free him. But fear of rejection and thinking that another opportunity would eventually present itself kept me silent that day. Oh how my heart aches as I think about this because this older man died that night when he fell asleep with a cigarette in hand which burned his apartment and snatched his life!
     There is a powerful quote that often challenges me to live more boldly for the Lord. It simply says, “Only one life to live and it will soon be past, only what is done for Christ will last!” Our memory verse is very challenging and is worth looking at in its context: Ephesians 5:15-17—“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understanding what the Lord’s will is. 
   Are we living in a careless or careful manner? Do we normally think before we speak and act? How often do we make decisions in the light of God’s presence and our accountability to Him? Daniel Webster said, “My greatest thought is my accountability to God.” Seriously dear one, I think we often are sleepwalking through this life. 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.” God’s wants every one of us to live proactive lives rather than reactive ones. He wants us to be wise and not foolish. Maybe if we didn’t try so hard to be cool we would live less like a fool!
    May I suggest something we all should do when we first wake up and all through the day for that matter? Let’s learn to ask the Lord, “What do you want me to do right now? Show me open doors to serve You and others. Close the doors that lead to distraction and destruction and instead open doors that help me know You better and make You known more clearly! As we approach the end of our lives do we want more regrets or more rejoicing over how we responded to the many gracious opportunities God gave us?
Pastor Joe