FBC Williams Arizona
Tuesday, February 28, 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. 

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:

  • I  John 3:1, 16—“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.”
  • I  John 4:18-19—“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out all fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us.” 

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

unexhaustible. 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. 

Pastor Joe

 

ARE WE ALLOWING TECHNOLOGY TO BE A TOOL OR TRAP?

(Feb 19th)

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?

 Pastor Joe

 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,

Pastor Joe

 

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)  

 Pastor Joe
 
DO YOU HAVE VISION? (Jan 22nd) 

Proverbs 29:18— “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Jeremiah 29:11—“For 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.” 

    Helen Keller was once asked what would be worse than being born blind. She quickly replied, “To have sight and no vision.” You may have 20/20 physical vision, but what kind of vision do you have for your life’s purpose? The above verse in Proverbs warns us that when people lack vision for their life, they cease to thrive and barely survive. People without hope and vision for the future lack power in the present! Jesus Christ came to give us life more abundantly (See John 10:10). Do you have a vision for your marriage? Your family? Your job? Your health? Your finances? If not, why not? 

    Do you realize God has a great plan and vision for your life? In Jeremiah 33:3 God gives us a challenge. He declares, “Call unto me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things which you do not know.” William Carey was an ordinary man who took hold of God’s plan for his life and shared the good news of Jesus Christ in the land of India. He is considered by many to be the father of modern missions. His motto for living was based upon that challenge in the book of Jeremiah. He was often quoted as saying “Attempt great things for God and expect great things from God.” Vision is looking at life through the lens of God’s eyes. You and I by nature are shortsighted in this department. We all too often sell ourselves short. We tend to leap molehills instead of mountains. When was the last time you asked the Lord to give you his vision for your life? The rest of your life could be the best of your life! Do you have God-sized dreams and goals or are you allowing your past and other people to diminish your dreams? Do you see only problems or do you see endless possibilities for Him to be glorified and others to be impacted? It all depends if you have His vision or not! 

    Research shows that 95 percent of people do not write down their goals, but those who do complete over 90 percent of them! Proverbs 16:3 says “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” When David had vision he could take on a nine foot giant, when he lost sight of his vision, he couldn’t conquer his own lust. When Elijah the prophet had vision, he took on 450 false prophets, when he lost his vision he ran for his life and wanted to die. Research also shows that what enables people to live longer and healthier lives is not so much diet and exercise as it is having a vision and purpose for your life. Eleanor Roosevelt said, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” Billy Graham’s parents logically thought that he would take over the family farm when he was older. Little did they realize that God’s dream and vision for Billy was much larger! Hundreds of thousands of people around the world have come to know Jesus Christ in a personal way thanks to his obedience to God’s plan. 

     Some people look at things as they are and ask “Why?” There are others, however, who look at what could be and ask “Why not?” What camp are you in? Can I encourage you to put on God’s glasses and begin to see what He dreams for you to be! God’s kaleidoscope of promises is found in his Holy Word the Bible. Adoniram Judson a missionary to then the country of Burma said “The future is as bright as the promises of God.” Why don’t you begin to read it regularly and develop His vision for your life. 

Pastor Joe
 
TRUTH THAT TRANSFORMS (Jan 15th)

    Someone said, “Many books will inform, but only the Bible can truly transform.” I don’t know if you personally believe that statement, but I do. Listen to what a few very influential people in history have said about the Bible:

  • Abe Lincoln said, “This great Book is the best gift that God has given to man.”
  • Patrick Henry said, “There is a Book worth all other books which were ever printed.”
  • Thomas Jefferson said, “I have always said that the studious perusal of the Sacred Volume will make us better citizens, better fathers, and better husbands.”

    Do you want to succeed in life? Do you want to accomplish great things that will benefit your family, friends and even influence your foes? How about considering seriously the challenge that God gave to Joshua? He had the very difficult job of succeeding perhaps the greatest leader in Israel’s history—Moses! He no doubt had many feelings of fear and frustration at that time, but God comforted him with some great instruction—“Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” Joshua 1:8 

    I believe most people want to succeed in life, but unfortunately we do not consult our Maker’s Manual. If we want to build and operate anything successfully in life, it is a good thing to read the instruction manual.  I read a bumper sticker that says “WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS, READ THE INSTRUCTIONS IN THE BIBLE.”  I believe another good one would be “BEFORE ALL ELSE FAILS, READ THE INSTRUCTIONS IN THE BIBLE.” Either way, if we want to succeed in life, we would be wise to consult the One who made everything in the first place, right?  The Bible continues to be a best seller year after year. It has survived for over 3,500 years and has been carefully preserved throughout history despite various attacks to destroy it altogether. Jesus Christ said “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words will never pass away.” Matthew 24:35. He said that nearly 2,000 years ago and they still stand today! 

    How should we approach this blessed book? First, we should study it with a sense of anticipation. This book is living and active and sharper than any two edged sword. It can grow our faith and seriously affect our attitudes and actions if we approach it humbly with a genuine sense of expectancy. Second, we should study it leaning on the Holy Spirit, the Divine Author guiding the human writers of the sacred volume. Jesus said the Counselor would guide us into all truth-John 16:13-14. Pray the prayer of the Psalmist in Psalm 119:18 where he said “Open my eyes that I may behold wonderful things in your law.” Next, we need to approach this blessed book with an observant and attentive heart. Ask good questions like—who wrote this book? Why was it written? What was going on at the time? What are the repeated ideas or themes in the section of study? There are many excellent Study Bibles available- buy one and dig deep into the gold mine of God’s precious promises! Last, but not least, we need to study with the goal of being a doer of the word and not just a hearer! Jesus Christ said “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” Luke 11:28

Blessed by His Book, Pastor Joe 
 
YOUR ATTITUDE DETERMINES YOUR ALTITUDE
 (Jan 8th)

    I read about a man who entered an elevator that was quite full with people. The man began humming a tune with a smile on his face. Someone near him was irritated by his response and asked “What are you so happy about?” The joyful man replied, “I haven’t lived this day before.” The Bible declares “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24. Can I ask you a question? Are you a merry person or a miserable person by nature? How would those who know you best describe you? I truly believe that those who fly high in life are those who possess a great attitude, not necessarily great ability. Proverbs 15:15 states “All the days of the oppressed are wretched, but the cheerful heart has a continual feast.” Someone said that life is about 10 percent what happens to us and 90 percent how we respond. I tend to believe that to be true. The most important decision we can make daily is the attitude we are going to have. It is more important than my education, marital status, how I look, what others think about me or what is in my bank account. My attitude will always determine my altitude in life. It determines if I will thrive or barely survive in life.

    I remember hearing about a man who was driving to a speaking engagement in North Carolina. As he neared the town where he was scheduled to speak there was a sign posted at the city limits which read “We hear there’s a recession coming and we’ve decided not to participate!” We need to have that attitude here in America today!!! How do you view yourself? As a victim or a victor? Do you tend to complain about what has happened to you and throw a pity party on occasion, or do you view the challenges that come your way as opportunities? It all depends on our attitude doesn’t it? How do we develop a good attitude? The Bible tells us that the truth in it can literally transform us.

  • John 8:31-32- “Jesus said, if you hold to my teaching you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”
  • Romans 12:2- “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

    When we change the way we think we can alter our lives dramatically for the glory of God and the good of others. Joy is an inside job. It comes when nothing is between us and our Lord. It continues to grow when we are more concerned about others than we are about ourselves. Someone wisely stated “The heart is happiest when it beats for others.” Your outlook determines your outcome.   Did you know that most of the things worth doing in the world were declared impossible before they were done? Aren’t you glad that people like Christopher Columbus, Edmund Hillary and John Glenn were “can do” people? Remember the words the Angel Gabriel said to Mary “For with God nothing shall be impossible.” Luke 1:37. This New Year has incredible opportunities for us to make a huge impact.  Let’s live His dream in 2017!!!  Pastor Joe