FBC Williams Arizona
Thursday, March 30, 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.
THERE IS GRACE TO SEEK OUR FATHER’S FACE (March 19th)
Hebrews 4:16- “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
Where do you go when you have messed up miserably? What do you normally do? Run and hide? Do you try to find the land of denial? Do you ever play the blame game? It is that game where you make excuses or blame someone or something for your sin, instead of owning up to it. I remember several years ago I was doing the presidential fitness testing with the children I was teaching. This particular day we were testing on the shuttle run. Remember this one- where you sprint 30 feet as fast as you can and you pick up an eraser or cone and bring it back to the starting line. Then you sprint back to pick up the remaining object and sprint back across the line and hear your time. This little boy around the age of 6 ran his heart out. When I shouted out his time, he was very disappointed. It was a good time, but not quite good enough to get the presidential patch. He then came up with one of the most creative excuses I have ever heard to this day. He said, “My legs aren’t awake yet Coach!”
Where did we learn this tendency? From our great, great, great…grandparents—Adam and Eve. Genesis chapter three tells the story of how mankind plunged into the depths of depravity and disobedience. Our very distant relatives bought into the lie that sin really does satisfy. After tasting of the forbidden fruit, the Bible says “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made a covering for themselves. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.” (Genesis 3:7-8)
God then proceeded to ask “Where are you? Verse 9. This question was for their benefit not His. He wanted them to consider why they were hiding from their all-knowing and faithful Father. He was hoping for an honest confession. Is this what they did? Do most people openly and honestly admit their sin? Hardly! No, Adam and Eve proceeded to do what many still foolishly try to do today. They blamed each other, the Devil, and yes, incredibly they even blamed God! See Genesis 3:10-19. Because our Father in Heaven is gracious and merciful and because His Son Jesus Christ paid our sin debt in full on the cross of Calvary--we are now free to come clean. We don’t have to run from God, but instead we can run into His loving embrace.
Remember what the Father did in Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son? He ran to his disobedient son, hugged him, kissed him, put a ring on his finger, a robe on his back, and threw a big party. God’s throne is a throne of mercy and grace where we are encouraged to come boldly in our time of need. God is always at His best when we are at our worst! The Father’s door is always open. Is it time for you to come home? Our key verse in Hebrews 4:16 encourages us to come boldly or confidently to His throne of grace. We don’t have to come hanging our hands and head, we are His children that He is crazy about and would do anything for! Let Him clean up the mess you have made and give you a brand new start.
Yes dear one, God still has amazing grace available to save, strengthen and sustain you in this race called “life.” Eat and drink daily at His table of grace and you will learn to run freely and lightly until you reach the finish line that ends in eternal glory!
“Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved. How precious did that grace appear, the hour I first believed.” (Second verse of Amazing Grace by John Newton). Still amazed by His grace, Pastor Joe
RESIST HIM AND WATCH HIM RUN (March 12th)
I Peter 5:8-9—“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”
I remember when I was a little boy around the age of seven or so that one of my relatives said that they had seen the devil three times in their lifetime. He had a red suit and a pitchfork in his hand. I believed this person because they seemed very sincere in sharing it. Is the devil a real person whom we should take seriously? Or is he a make believe character that some people dress up as on Halloween? Two six year olds struggled with the existence of the devil. One boy said “Oh, there isn’t any devil.” The other, rather upset, said “What do you mean there isn’t any devil? It talks about him all the way through the Bible.” The first boy replied, “Oh that’s not true, you know. It’s just like Santa Clause, the devil turns out to be your dad.”
Satan isn’t mentioned in the first two chapters of the Bible or in the last two chapters, but he is referred to all throughout the rest of it! In Genesis 3, he enters the scene in the beautiful Garden of Eden and he tricked Adam and Eve into doubting God and disobeying His command. In Genesis 4 he crept into Cain’s heart when he refused to deal with his anger toward God and his brother Abel and it sadly leads to the first murder in human history. Later, he set his sights on a man named Job, who is described as an upright man who feared God and shunned evil. There was no one like him on the earth. So Satan attacked him and tried to take everything from him- Read Job chapters 1-2 when you have the time. Our Lord Jesus encountered him throughout His earthly ministry. The early church fought against him and people today face this foe that is crafty and armed with cruel hate.
The word devil means “one who repetitively throws accusations.” In Revelation 12:9 he is described the accuser of the brethren who accuses us day and night. Jesus called him a “liar and the father of lies” John 8:44. Satan loves to flood our thoughts with lies that God is not good, that He is holding out on us or that He is not pleased with us. If the enemy can drive a wedge between us and the Lord he is smiling in a sinister way! Who should we believe, the father of lies or the One who cannot lie? This helps me when I struggle with thoughts of doubt and despair on occasion. I look to the source of those thoughts, resist them and choose to believe the truth and then an amazing thing happens- joy and peace come in and kick old doubt and despair out the door! That is why reading, meditating on and memorizing Scripture is crucial in spiritual warfare-read John 8:31-32, II Timothy 3:15-16 & Hebrews 4:12.
The Apostle Peter described Satan as a roaring lion. Wow! He is a foe to be taken seriously. We must be alert and keep him at bay. He is seeking to devour people. Jesus said he is a thief who “comes to steal and kill and destroy” John 10:10. When we remember his true colors and his cruel intent it is much easier to resist him. The word resist means to “actively oppose.” Are we doing that? Or are we taking it easy on that vile dragon? If a rattlesnake came into your house would you gently pick it up and escort out of your house or would you look for something to chop its head off with? I truly believe many Christians are struggling because they are being more cooperative with the enemy Satan than they are with our loving Savior! Let’s learn to “shut the door and keep out the devil” as that little song says. Ephesians 6:10-11 says “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” When we stand in our Savior’s strength and resist the devil he will turn tail! Tyron Edwards said “The devil has a least one good quality, that he will flee if we resist him. Though cowardly in him, it is safety for us.” Pastor Joe
NO GREATER LOVE (March 5th)
John 3:16-17—“God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (New King James Version)
During the time Martin Luther was having the Bible printed in the German language, a printer’s daughter encountered God’s love in an amazing way. No one had taught or told her of His great love. Toward Him she felt no emotion, save only fear. One day she gathered pieces of fallen Scripture from the floor near her father’s printing press. On one piece were the words “For God so loved the world that He gave…” The rest of the verse had not yet been printed. Still, what she saw was enough to move her. The thought that God would give anything moved her from fear to joy. Her mother noted the change in her attitude and asked her the reason for it. The young girl produced the crumpled piece of partial Scripture. The mother read it and asked “What did He give?” The child was perplexed and then answered “I don’t know. But if He loved us enough to give us anything we should not be afraid of Him.”
I truly believe that God’s love is utterly amazing and life changing! I John 4:8 simply says “God is love.” His love is so different than ours. Ours is selfishly motivated—His is totally sacrificial and selfless. Ours is partial and prejudiced—His love includes every human being-no matter what race or creed. He so loved the world that He gave His very best—The Lord Jesus Christ who is the way, the truth and the life. He is the bright and morning star, the light of the world, the good shepherd and the greatest lover of our souls! His love alone is perfect and can cast away all our fears and can dry our stinging tears.
When we were at our worst, God was at His best! Scripture teaches us that we all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God—Romans 3:23. We all have horribly missed the mark of living for His glory and instead have lived for selfish gain. The penalty for this nonsense and insanity? Death! Romans 6:23 tells us “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The great Hymn of the faith titled “The Love of God” is worth noting here. Verse one says “The love of God is great far than tongue or pen can ever tell, it goes beyond the highest star and reaches to the lowest hell. The guilty pair, bowed down with care, God gave His Son to win; His erring child He reconciled and pardoned from his sin.”
The only hope for all of us in found in Jesus Christ. He loved us so passionately that He suffered more than tongue or pen could ever tell! He died in our place so we could receive His amazing grace and one day see His holy face! Many are wondering if God truly loves them and can forgive all the horrible things they have done? Is there hope for those who appear hopeless? Romans 5:6-8 says “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Have you received this great love? Are you relying on it and rejoicing in it? Are you sharing it with the many who don’t realize how good God really is? If not, what are you waiting for?
HOW IS YOUR LOVE TANK? (Feb 26)
John 15:9, 12—“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”
My wife and I have some dear friends who now live out of state. We have known them for several years. We have enjoyed hiking and biking together, going to ball games, eating together and even praying together. Whenever we get together we have a special thing we will always make the time to do. During some point in our conversation one of us will bring up a very important question that helps to strengthen our marriages “How is your love tank?” We then take turns and share on a scale of one to ten how much love is in our tank. It is both a convicting and comforting process.
Valentine’s Day has come and gone again and in my mind I am wondering-how many people out there are running low in their love tank? You may have received some kisses (chocolate or even the lip-smacking kind), but is your heart satisfied and content? You may have received cards, gifts, encouraging words and a dozen of roses, but is their real peace in your life? God created each of us with a deep need for love. The problem with human love is that it simply is not enough to fill that deep void in our soul. Only the perfect love of Jesus Christ can do that!
The Book of I John in the New Testament gives us some real insight into God’s unfailing love:
Only God has unconditional, unselfish and unending love. His love alone will never fail. (See I Corinthians 13:8) It is not fair to others when we expect them to meet our deepest needs emotionally and spiritually. That is God’s job. His love has no limits—it is inexhaustible. My love tank runs low on occasion. Sometimes I just don’t feel like loving! I am learning at those times to run to the well of God’s perfect love and drink deeply so that I can love others from a satisfied heart. How are you doing today my friend? Are you running low in your love tank? Take some time today in the presence of the greatest lover of your soul and let Him fill you up. Rest in His unconditional love and remember that He loves us blemishes and all! Meditate on these truths in I John and fuel the fire of your faith. Psalm 23:5-6 says “You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
ARE WE ALLOWING TECHNOLOGY TO BE A TOOL OR TRAP?
I Corinthians 10:23-24—“Everything is permissible—but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible—but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but that of his neighbor.”
We all have seen or experienced the following scenario; A family is at a restaurant. Dad is watching a game on the big screen, Mom is talking on her cell phone, and the children are absorbed in texting friends or playing handheld video games. The scene is what Professor Kenneth Gergen of Swarthmore College calls “absent presence.”
I am not going to be bashing technology today, but challenging us all to consider carefully how we use it. Face book has allowed me to reconnect with some old friends and reminds me of birthdays. Emails enable me to get information out to a lot of people in an efficient manner and texting can be a good way to communicate on occasion. However, my deep concern is-are we becoming more isolated as a result of all this technology? Is it becoming a trap instead of a tool? Is it helping our closest relationships or hindering them? Are we so tuned in to things that we are tuned out to those who matter most? The Bible declares that love is not rude- I Corinthians 13:5. That is why I either shut off my phone when meeting with another person or I don’t answer it until after the appointment. Do I think I am that important? I am appalled that we have to sometimes remind people to turn off their cell phones during our worship services!
Could we go one evening without Television, the computer or video games? I am beginning to become a little cynical here. I am struggling with that hypnotic drug called the TV. It can mesmerize and desensitize me if I am not careful. I like to see what is going on in the world and enjoy a sporting event or movie occasionally and there is nothing wrong with that, but can I brutally honest with you and myself? I am starting to be convicted about how it steals valuable time away from being able to really connect and communicate with my loved ones. Just like everything else in life, we need to have healthy boundaries in this matter or things could get out of control and become dangerous if we are not careful. When eating dinner, shouldn’t it be an unspoken rule that the TV be off and no texting allowed during that hallowed time together? Do we even eat meals together anymore? I realize some of our jobs require us to be away from family on occasion, but does it have to be a regular routine? How about this one for a revolution and complete renovation in our relationships—Try really looking at the person talking and giving them your undivided attention for a change! Wow! I wonder what might happen if we all did this more.
Do we really believe what God says in His word about love and lasting relationships? I Corinthians 13:3 says “No matter what I say, what I believe or what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.” (The Message) Life is a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Shouldn’t we all make the best use of the brief time God gives us here to develop healthy relationships with Him and with each other?
BEING WHO GOD SAYS I AM! (Feb 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 day, one of the tutors boldly challenged her “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! Letting my beliefs change my behavior,
A SHELTER IN THE TIME OF STORM (Jan 29th)
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.”
Storms come in all types—rainstorms, snowstorms, hurricanes, tornadoes, and even firestorms! The devastation they leave is often unbelievable. Many people still vividly remember the debilitating effect of hurricane Katrina and the tsunami that left Indonesia in shambles. Have you gone through a storm lately? Or are you currently weathering a storm? Maybe it is your home life? 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 at 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.
Who doesn’t want a place of security and safety in troubled times? Our God is just that! He is a sure foundation to rest upon and to build your life upon. Psalm 127:1 says “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain that build it.” When we let God build up our lives, He uses materials that can stand any storm. When you encounter a storm you may need a flashlight, extra clothes, food, water or even a storm cellar to hide out in for a while until the storm passes. When we face the varied storms in this life, God offers us salvation, wisdom and knowledge at such stressful times! David faced many hardships in his life. He often ran for his life from a paranoid and jealous King named Saul. During this time he wrote many of the Psalms. I want to call our attention to Psalm 61. “Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.” Psalm 61:1-4
I absolutely love the imagery that the Bible uses to describe things! God is that rock that no flood can overflow! He is that shelter that can withstand any wind of devastation, debt, division, depression or even death! He invites to come out of the cold and dampness of life and rest in the warm embrace of His unconditional love and faithfulness. Jeremiah the weeping prophet witnessed firsthand the discipline of God on His people Israel. God used Babylon to severely chastise His wayward children, and yet He still offered hope and help to His hurting people. Carefully consider the powerful promise packed in the following passage of Scripture: Lamentations 3:21-23—“This I call to mind and therefore I have hope. Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.”
Dear one, you may be going through the time of your life. Hang on and hold on to the hand of your faithful Father who will never let go of you. Cling to your spouse and loved ones and support each other. Remember marriage and family is all about doubling each other’s joys and dividing the sorrows! And one more final Scripture of hope-“I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)