FBC Williams Arizona
Thursday, May 25, 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. 

 

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
 
 HOW GREAT IS OUR GOD!  (April 30th)
 Jeremiah 10:6-7—“No one is like You, O LORD; You are great, and Your name is mighty in power. Who should not revere You, O King of the nations?” 
  I remember when I was a little boy my friends and I would argue and debate over whose dad was the greatest. We would take turns giving our reasons and feeling smug with confidence until someone else got up on their soap box and made huge boasts about their dad. I am not going to brag about my earthly father today, but I am going to speak great things about my Father in Heaven. 
 1.   First of all, He created everything we see and don’t see simply by speaking and breathing it into existence! Psalm 33:8-9 says—“Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the people of the earth revere him. For He spoke, and it came to be, He commanded and it stood firm.” The next time you look at a star, the moon, the sun or a majestic mountain, remember our Heavenly Father simply spoke those things into existence—and He didn’t even break into a sweat doing it!
 2.   Next, my Heavenly Father is awesome beyond description because He not only created everything, but He sustains and upholds it all by His mighty power. Did God create this universe and then leave it to chance and happenstance? Some people may think so. I believe history and the Bible give us many reasons to trust in our Father who provides and guides for His creation. Benjamin Franklin said, “The longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth, that God governs in the affairs of men.”  Do you think it is by accident that the nation of Israel is still around after 3,700 years despite the many attempts by the Egyptians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Greeks, Romans and even Hitler and Nazi Germany to get rid of them?  God promised Abraham, “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and curse those who curse you.” Genesis 12:2-3.   
Even though our planet spins on its axis and orbits the sun at speeds of around 67,000 miles per hour, we somehow manage to stay intact and avoid collisions with other planets and stars. Could there be an unseen hand behind all of this?  Hebrew 1:3 reminds us that Jesus Christ “upholds all things by his powerful Word.” He said that not even a sparrow falls to the ground without His knowledge—see Matthew 10:29.  Yes, dear friends, our God is not a distant Father, He is one who is closely connected with His creation!  Isaiah 40:10-11 states—“See the Sovereign Lord comes with power and His arm rules for Him. He tends his flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those who have young.”  If God cares so much about the stars and the birds of air, won’t He care much more about us? Is your life in His hands? Are you willing to trust your heart to His? He wants you! He waits for you. He went all the way for you by dying on the cross to forgive your sin and then He rose from the dead to conquer all fear of death. He offers an abundant life here on earth and an awesome and amazing future in Heaven one day. How great is our God!!!!  Yes, I will never stop boasting about my Heavenly Father. I pray that you won’t either.
Pastor Joe
 
HIS LOVE IS LIKE AN OCEAN! (April 23rd)
Psalm 36:7—“How priceless is your unfailing love!”
     A poor woman had never been to the ocean before. She had never viewed its vastness and beauty. When some kind wealthy friends brought her on a vacation to the beach, she cried at her first sight of it. They asked her the reason for her tears and she responded, “This is the only thing I have seen that there is enough of.” As vast and abundant as the ocean is, the love of God is more immense and incredible. The apostle Paul prayed for believers to be able to “grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” Ephesians 3:17-18.
     First, God’s love is wide. It reaches out to all people—the poor, middle class and wealthy, Democrats and Republicans, Jews and Gentiles, Americans and every other ethnic group on earth. John 3:16 says “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.” Human love tends to be exclusive, while Divine love is all inclusive.
     Second, God’s love is long. It will never cease. Human love may start out strong, but finish weak. Many relationships that began in love end in hurt and even hate. In Jeremiah 31:3 God promised us “I have loved you with an everlasting love…God loves me passionately today at age 53, but I am really grateful that He will love me just as much if I live to be 100! Isaiah 46:4 says, “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you.”
     Third, His love is high. There is no love that compares to it! I John 4:18 reminds us that God’s love is perfect and because of that truth, it has the power to cast out all our fear. His love also can tower above all our failures. And if we are honest, we know that we have a mountain size pile of mistakes in our lifetime. Psalm 57:10 states“For great is your love, reaching to the heavens, your faithfulness reaches to the skies.” His love can satisfy us more than any earthly high or thing that money can buy!  
     Finally, His love is deep. His love alone can dive deep into our pit of pain and heal the scars sin has left in our souls. Psalm 147 tells us that our God, who determines the number of the stars and calls them by name, also “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3. When we have been battered, bruised and burned by others, the Lord alone is willing and able to heal and help us if we will cry out to Him.

    Can I encourage you to take a refreshing dip into the crystal clear healing waters of God’s lavish and limitless love? You will never be the same. You will never need to go looking again for love in all the wrong places. Your heart will find a permanent resting place—in God’s amazing love and grace! I pray that you will begin to understand that no matter where you go, His perfect love will pursue you and never cease to chase you. Psalm 23:6 says, “Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

 Pastor Joe
 
THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST (April 16th)
Isaiah 53:5-“But he was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.”
   Do you remember when that blockbuster film “The Passion of the Christ” hit the theaters?  I remember the intrigue and excitement that stirred around the world. Mel Gibson’s film focusing on the last twelve hours of Christ was nominated for 3 Academy awards and won 17 awards from various places around the world. I believe it will go down in history as one of the finest Christian films ever!
     This week is called “Holy Week” by Christians. The word “holy” means “that which is sacred, special or unique, set apart from all that is common.” What Jesus accomplished in His last week nearly 2000 years ago is nothing short of amazing and incredible! Many people struggle with believing in a God who allows so much evil and suffering in this world. Does God really care and is He there when a person’s world falls apart? Psalm 34:18 tells us“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” The Lord does care about the suffering and evil in this world. He did not ignore it; He chose to dive right into it Himself. He sent His perfect Son Jesus Christ into a very imperfect world. Christ took on human flesh and experienced everything that we face in this life—everything with one exception—He never gave in to sin!
     Jesus faced trials and temptations of all sorts! Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.” Yes, dear friends, the Lord knows what you are going through. He understands better than anyone! He faced ridicule and rejection. His closest friends and followers all forsook him when He needed them the most! He was seriously misunderstood by the politicians and religious leaders of His day. In fact, the religious leaders were the ones who spear headed the campaign to get Jesus crucified. John 1:10-11 says, “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize Him. He came to that which was his own, but His own did not receive Him.”
     The climax of His passion happened just before and while on the cross. He was “scourged” or brutally whipped by very strong soldiers. Isaiah 52:14 predicted the Messiah would be “disfigured beyond that of any man and His form marred beyond human likeness.” Scourging was so severe that sometimes it caused its victims to go unconscious, insane or even to die. I believe that is why our Lord needed Simon of Cyrene to help Him carry the cross. Then Jesus endured six long hours of inhumane torture on the cross. Experiencing shooting pains through all of His body and struggling for every breath, He hung suspended between earth and heaven with His arms wide open! The greatest pain however was the spiritual agony our Lord went through. Isaiah 53:6 says “We all like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”
    Charles Spurgeon commented on this by saying “If God was to lay His finger on any one of us, we should be struck with sickness, paralysis, and even death. Then think of God smiting! So when He saw our sin laid on His Son, He smote with the blows of the cruel One, until Christ said ‘My God, My God why have your forsaken me.”
    In the movie the Passion of the Christ, during the part where the Roman soldier was to drive the spikes into Jesus’ hands, Mel Gibson asked the actor to step aside so his hand would be the one nailing Jesus to the cross. He then explained “It was me who put Him on the cross. It was my sins.” It was not only Mel Gibson that put Christ on the cross; it was you and me as well! I Peter 2:24 says “He carried our sins in His own body on the tree so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness.” Why did our God hang on a Cross? What kept Him there? The message is clear and concise—He would rather give up His own Son before He would ever give up on you and me! OH HOW HE LOVES YOU AND ME! I John 4:10 says “This is what real love is: it is not our love for God; It is God’s love for us in sending His Son to be the way to take away our sins.” (New Century Version) His passion brings us peace with God, others and even with our own troubled souls! By His wounds we are healed! We have great reason to be thankful and truly humble.
 Pastor Joe