FBC Williams Arizona
Saturday, December 15, 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. 
 
MY CHRISTMAS WISH (PRAYER) LIST (Dec 16th)
     When I was a young child, I distinctly remember one Christmas when it began to snow hard and I asked the Lord to let it snow for a whole month so I could enjoy a longer break from school in order to have more time to play with my new toys! As I grew a little older I remember asking God to make this one particular girl in school to fall in love with me. Not much later than that I asked the Lord to enable my favorite football team to never lose a game all year. In case you are wondering what God said to those selfish requests, He definitely denied each one!
    Christmas is a time when it is pretty natural for children and even grownups to ask for things. Is God against that? No! James 1:17 states “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights…”  In the same book a little later on it says, “You do not have because you do not ask.” (James 4:2) In Matthew 7:11 Jesus Christ powerfully challenged us with these words— “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!” We learn from these verses that God does encourage us to ask and He often says “yes.” But does God always answer prayer? The answer is again “Yes.” His response to us, however, is sometimes “no.” If He were to say “yes” to our every request, it would be very harmful to us and others. 
    There are other times when the Lord responds to our prayers by saying “you need to grow” before I give you that request. When our youngest daughter Sierra was almost one she often wanted to eat what we were eating. There was nothing wrong with the food, but her little body was not quite ready for it. God our loving heavenly Father knows when we are ready for certain things and when we are not! He makes everything beautiful in its time-see Ecclesiastes 3:11.
    Most importantly, our God wants us to learn to “know” Him through prayer. Jesus Christ defined eternal life in John 17:3 as follows, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” Dear friends, life is all about knowing and loving God. The greatest commandment of all is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37) How often do we pray in order to know the Lord and to enjoy His presence? I am learning to do that more in my prayer life. I am also learning that when I pray according to His will and not mine He delights in saying “yes” to those more mature requests! After all, it’s all about seeking and building His kingdom right?
     This year at Christmas time, I am praying that my family and friends will grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (II Peter 3:18) I am praying for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6) and for our government to make wise and discerning decisions that will enable us all to live “peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” (I Timothy 2:2) 
I am asking the Lord, not so much to bless me, as to make me a blessing! I know I have a long way to go, but I thank God that He is faithful to help us really grow, even though the process is often painful and slow. May you and your loved ones experience the peace that passes all understanding which comes from the Prince of Peace—Jesus Christ! And as we soon face this coming year, may you be full of good cheer because our God “Immanuel” is with us and is always near!!!
Pastor Joe
                  
TIS THE SEASON TO INVEST IN YOUR family (Dec 9th) 
Acts 20:35- “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” 
    Christmas pageants, zoo lights, dinner theatres, caroling, pictures with Santa, company Christmas party, decorating, shopping etc… Hmm. Is this why it is the most wonderful time of the year? Don’t get me wrong, I love doing special things at this most blessed season of the year, but are we giving the best thing we can give to our loved ones? The gift of ourselves?
     Our culture really tries with all that is in its power to convince us that buying that right gift is what is most needed! What if you can’t afford it? What if you buy it and they don’t really like it? Carefully chew on the following Scriptures and really digest them for a little while.
 ·         I Corinthians 13:3-“No matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I am bankrupt without love.” (The Message Bible)
·         I Corinthians 14:1- “Let love be your greatest aim.” (The Living Bible)
·         I Peter 4:8- “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”
    I am convinced that the greatest gift we can give to each other at this season and any season of the year for that matter is love. I believe love also can be spelled T-I-M-E. Are we giving that to our loved ones who need it most? Is there any white on your schedule this holy season? Why not try cuddling together and watching “It’s A Wonderful Life” or even “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.”
     We have a tradition in our home at this blessed season where we regularly either walk around our neighborhood or even drive through different ones to look at lights as we sip hot chocolate and sing Christmas Carols. We have some friends who all sleep near the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve. I haven’t been able to talk my family into that one! God has made us all in His image; therefore, we have inbred creativity. Are we using it?
     Our loved ones deserve our best! Ask the Lord for wisdom in how to make this Christmas season one that has lasting memories. Best of all, this doesn’t cost money, only time. Are you willing to make an eternal investment?
Pastor Joe
                  
DO YOU GOT TO OR DO YOU GET TO? (Dec 2nd)
THE “Z” VERSE: Psalm 69:9—“Zeal  for your  house  consumes  me.”
    What do you have a passion for? Popularity? Pop music? Power? Possessions? Politics? Pleasure? How about for God’s presence? King David was a very passionate man. As a young teenager he killed a bear and a lion out of his passion to protect his father’s sheep. Around that same time his passion for God’s glory and good name led him to fight and kill a nearly 10 foot giant named Goliath. The Scriptures describe him as a man after God’s own heart-see Acts 13:22.
    In our memory verse David described his passion for God and His house as something that zealously consumed him. In Psalm 27:4 he said, “One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple.” Friend, do you have that kind of passion for God, prayer, reading His word, and meeting with God’s people? Do you gotta do those things or do you get to do them? The Pew Research Forum recently found out that 1 in 5 Americans have no religious affiliation at all. Yet among these people, 68% of them said they believed in God!
   Someone anonymously said, “The great task of the Church is not only to get sinners into heaven, but to get saints out of bed!” Why is it that so many people today do not believe attending church is relevant and important? Is it because our hearts would rather worship created things rather than our awesome Creator? Is it because we often do not live up to our beliefs and our hypocrisy turns others away? Or is it because we forget to pray for God’s heart for people? When Jesus saw the crowds of people “He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Matthew 9:36 
    Do we truly care about others? Someone said that people don’t care how much we know until they know how much we care! Can I challenge us all to ask God for His loving compassion for our family, friends and neighbors? Love is a magnet that draws people to Christ and His church! That kind of love was what got hold of my rebel heart as a lost and wandering 17 year old back in 1981. Jesus Christ said, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35
    Are we allowing the unfailing love of Christ to overflow back to Him and others? He passionately desires us. He takes great delight in us and even rejoices over us with singing according to Zephaniah 3:17. He desperately wants the lost to know and trust in Him. That kind of passion should be contagious! Ask God to put His zeal in your heart so that it is a “get to” not a “got to.”
Pastor Joe
 
TIME TO GO SLOW (Nov 25th)
Psalm 37:7, 34-“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him…Wait for the Lord and keep His way.” 
     I had hernia surgery around 9 years ago. The post op directives were to take it easy, no lifting anything over 10 pounds for six to eight weeks, no running or biking; only walking! That was one of the most difficult times in my life! I did take it somewhat easy at first, but I remember the wound took longer to heal because I would lift things and do things I wasn’t supposed to out of habit!
     I don’t know about you, but I struggle with the gear called neutral! I love forward and reverse sometimes can be a little interesting, but neutral and what is even worse- park, can cause my engine to run a little warm. Friends and family that know me well will often kid and call me “Joe on the go!” I used to think that meant I was really strong and spiritual. Now, I am not so sure! Micah 6:8 tells us what God wants and requires from us- “To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” What is very interesting to note is that the text doesn’t say run with God, but walk with Him. Adam and Eve before the fall walked with God in the Garden in the cool of the day-see Genesis 3:8. Because of sin we tend to either drag our feet when we could walk with Him or far too often run way ahead of Him!
     Phillips Brooks was a wonderful Pastor in the New England area who is most well-known for writing the touching Christmas Carol “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” One day he was obviously a little irritated and frustrated, and it was clearly seen on his face. A close friend noticed and remarked, “What is wrong Phillips?” His reply is very insightful into our tendency as humans- “The trouble is, I am in a hurry and God isn’t!” Interesting and a little convicting wouldn’t you say?
     My dear wife Kelly Linn faithfully reminds me as God’s little prophet, “Remember Joe, we are human beings, not human doings.” The Word of God exhorts us in Psalm 46:10 to “Be still and know that I am God.” Are we going slow enough to enjoy the Lord’s presence with us? Are we enjoying life or running through it so fast we don’t even enjoy the scenery? Let’s all take more time to stop and smell His roses so to speak, literally and figuratively. Lord, help us not to be wild mustangs running ahead of you, teach us how to prance at your pace! Help us all to “Be still and know that
YOU are God.” Thank You Father, for never being late or too early, but always right on time.
    Today and every day help us to walk with You and work with You and walk how You do it. Help us to learn the unforced rhythms of grace of walking at Your perfect pace. I truly believe many marriages and homes are under the tyranny of Satan. Someone said the acrostic for busy means “BEING UNDER SATAN’S YOKE!” Yikes!!! I think “Joe on the go” needs this little reminder again that it is okay to “Go slow!” We might arrive where we need to be a little happier and holier. 

Pastor Joe                     

AM I ALLOWING THE LORD TO REFLECT HIS GLORY THROUGH ME?  THE “Y” VERSE: Matthew 5:14—“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.” (Nov 18th)
    I was rudely reminded around 5-6 years ago of how important light is! I was checking on our above ground pool that had little lights around the canopy. We even had some flood lights that shed a little light near the pool from our patio, yet it was still dark enough for me to accidentally step into a Steeler landmine. For those who don’t know what I am talking about, it was our black lab named “Steeler.” I was having a pretty good evening until that happened!
    Have you ever wondered what our world would be like without light? Think of how vital photosynthesis is to our planet? Think of what electricity does for us? Think of what a blessing a flashlight and camp fire are when you go camping? How about headlights when driving down a dark, narrow and winding road at night? You get the picture don’t you? Jesus Christ powerfully proclaimed in 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.” If we will follow Him we will experience faith instead of fear, fruitfulness instead of frustration and a fantastic future that is beyond our wildest hopes and dreams!
    As followers of Jesus we have a huge impact on others for either good or bad. We are stepping stones or stumbling blocks, blessings or burdens, encouragers or discouragers. What kind of examples are we? After we leave another person’s presence do they have a little more light or do we leave a cloud of darkness for them to muddle through?  Philippians 2:14-15 is a very thought provoking passage of Scripture. It says “Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved
generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe.” Wow! What a challenge to us as believers.
    It is so easy to complain about all the darkness around us, but what if instead all of us who name the name of Christ, allow Him to shine His glorious light through us as we live lives of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control? This little light of mine, I am going to let it shine! I challenge you to do the same and as a result may many people praise His glorious and mighty name!! 
Pastor Joe
                       
AM I A CRITIC OR CHEELEADER? (Nov 11th)
    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, Jennifer Hudson, or Blake Shelton, 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
 
THE MOST IMPORTANT TEST TO PASS (Nov 4th)
THE “X” VERSE: II Corinthians 13:5—“Examine yourselves to see whether
you are in the faith.
   Life is full of exams. When we were children we had spelling tests, math tests, and physical fitness tests. When we were teens we needed to do well on our SAT TESTING if we hoped to further our education in college. There is that all important driving test and many more in life, but I believe the most important one is—Am I a genuine believer in Christ or not?
    Can we know this for certain? Many people believe to have this knowledge is arrogance, but God’s Word is very clear on this subject. Read very slowly the following verses:
  • I John 5:13- “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know you have eternal life.”
  • Romans 10:13- “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
  • John 3:16- “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.”
    God is very clear in His Word that He wants us to know with certainty that we are truly His children and where we will spend eternity! The Greek word for “know” in I John 5:13 means to “see, understand, be aware and sure of.” Jesus Christ came from Heaven with one primary purpose—to seek and to save that which was lost-see Luke 19:10. All of humanity falls into that category.  Latinos are lost, Caucasians are lost, Asians are lost and so are Africans etc… It doesn’t matter if you are strong, super intelligent and extremely wealthy, there is nothing we can do to earn or deserve salvation, forgiveness and eternal life. It is absolutely unearned. It is a precious gift from God that was purchased by the holy blood of Jesus Christ on the cruel cross. Ephesians 2:8-9 says “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works so that no one can boast.”
    Have you received this gift? Or are you hopelessly trying to be good enough to earn God’s favor? I’m reminded of hearing about a woman who had been a nun for 29 years; she had taught in a Christian school and was even a corrections officer. It was not until she was in her seventies that she believed and received God’s amazing grace. She said, “I finally know that I am not good enough for Jesus, but He is good enough for me!” Amen Sister!!! God doesn’t grade on the curve, but only on the Cross of Christ. Jesus received an A in His matchless life and He shares His grade with all who will humbly receive Him. Dear one, do you pass the test?
Pastor Joe