FBC Williams Arizona
Friday, April 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 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 10:29Yes, 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 34:18tells 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
 
ARE YOU AWARE THAT HE IS THERE? (April 9th)
Psalm 139:1-4—“O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord.” 

     I remember several years ago being in my bedroom closet struggling over what to wear to a particular event. I previously thought only women had that problem. I began to give in to a grumbling spirit for a few minutes until I heard noise in the other room. I was unaware that someone else was there. It was amazing how quickly I changed my attitude and figured out what to wear because of my fresh awareness of the presence of another person.  A man named Jacob, the grandson of Abraham and Sarah, had a life changing experience when he realized he was not alone. Up to that point in his life, Jacob was a cunning and controlling person who tried to manipulate God and others for his own good. The Lord Almighty appeared to him in a dream and said, “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go…” Genesis 28:15. Jacob awoke from that dream with a new awareness. He said, “Surely the Lord is in this place and I was not aware of it.” Genesis 28:16. From that time on he learned to acknowledge and become more aware of God’s presence.

     How about you? As you go through your daily routine, how often are you aware of the Lord’s presence? Someone said, “God is always present, whether asked or not.” The Bible does declare that He “Looks down from heaven and sees the whole human race. From his throne He observes all who live on the earth. He made their hearts, so He understands everything they do.” (Psalm 33:13-15 New Living Translation) God is always there, but if we are honest, He is often ignored. He wants and waits to be invited into all that we do. Proverbs 3:6 says, “In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.” The word acknowledge in Hebrew means to “know intimately.” God desires to be intimately included in all of our activities.

     When you are at work, do you do it heartily as for the Lord and not for men? See Colossians 3:23. When you are driving, do you only slow down when you see a police officer or because God’s Spirit gently reminds you to ease off the gas? When we relate to others do we remember what Jesus said in Matthew 25:40? “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”   I truly believe that if we learn to “Practice the Presence of God” as that old Christian Classic suggests, we will face temptations and trials more triumphantly and we will learn to live more humbly and thankfully. King David said in Psalm 139:5-6 “You hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is to wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.” This knowledge of God’s ominipresent and omniscient nature should give us great comfort as well as great conviction. Comfort, because no matter where we are or what we are facing our mighty faithful Father is with us and “Since God is for us who can be against us?” Romans 8:31. This knowledge should convict us because we often grieve our Lord with our attitudes and actions. May David’s prayer become our prayer where he said “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24)

Pastor Joe
 
THERE IS GRACE TO SEEK OUR FATHER’S FACE
(April 2nd)  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 26th)
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 19)

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?
Pastor Joe