FBC Williams Arizona
Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Changing Hearts, Changing Lives, One Soul at a Time

Pastor's Heart & Hand

 This is just a sampling of some of the Devotions that Pastor Joe has written.  Check out his book "From A Pastor's Heart and Hand" for more devotions, questions to consider and more.  Go to:  Pastor's Corner / Pastor's books - for ordering information. 
 
GRACE STILL WORKS WONDERS! (May 20th)
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 miserably 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 grace and look at myself and others through His grace. It is so freeing when I do! God’s grace provides refreshment, restoration of relationship with God and others, and a renewed zeal to serve the only Worthy One.
   A great book worth reading on this subject is TRUE FACED by Bill Thrall, Bruce McNicol & John Lynch. Chapter three is simply entitled “Grace Works.” There are five powerful one liners mentioned in it that are worth slowly chewing upon—
1. Humility attracts grace.
2. Grace changes my life focus.
3. Grace lets God handle sin.
4. Grace melts masks.
5. Grace changes how we treat each other and our sin issues.
    I think it is time for all of us to let God change our pace in life with His abundant, amazing and attractive grace. Instead of hobbling along, we can hurdle any obstacle in our way when we remember to “Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” (II Timothy 2:1) Let’s seek His throne of grace regularly to obtain mercy and grace to help us and others in our times of need—and if we are honest, when aren’t we in need?
Learning to live and look at life through God’s amazing grace,

Pastor Joe

                    
HOW DO I SEE MY LOVED ONES? (May 13th)
John 8:12—“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” 
     A middle aged couple was relaxing on the couch reading and relaxing together. The wife then took off her husband’s glasses and said, “You know honey, without your glasses on you look like the same handsome man I married years ago.” He responded by saying, “Without my glasses on you look pretty good too!” How do you see your spouse? How about your children and grandchildren if you have any? Those you live near and work with? Often our vision is clouded by our sinful nature and we don’t see things the way the Lord does! We desperately need His eyes as we view one another and life itself. Author Gary Thomas in his book “The Beautiful Fight” said, “Without God’s eyes, people become invisible to me. When I realized that I was married to God’s daughter, everything changed about the way I viewed marriage.”
    Dear Ones, do we realize what a precious prize God has given us in our husband or wife? Proverbs 18:22 says, “He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord.” Hebrews 13:4 says, “Marriage should be honored by all…” The Greek word for honored means to prize, value or cherish. Do we view our spouse that way and do we see Marriage as a great honor and blessing rather than an Ideal that became an ordeal? It depends on whose eyes we are looking through! We by nature are either too far-sighted or near-sighted or just plain blind most of the time!! Martin Luther the great German reformation theologian of the sixteenth century married Katherine von Bora. He was seventeen years her elder, yet he knew he was a much better man because of her. He called her “Kitty, my rib” and “Selbander”, which is German for “better half.” I truly know I married my better half, how about you? Just imagine what your life would be like without your precious treasure from our loving Father!
  How about those children? Do they know that they are a “heritage from the Lord and a reward from Him?” (See Psalm 127 and ponder their great worth) Moses’ parents “hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw that he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict” (Hebrews 11:23). God says our children are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) and that they were created in Christ Jesus to do good works that He prepared in advance for them to do-Ephesians 2:10. How often do we view them as that old song says-“I am a promise. I am a possibility. I am a promise; with a capital ‘P.’ I am a great big bundle of potentiality.” When was the last time we consciously looked at their future through God’s hopeful and helpful eyes?   
    Finally, do we see our loved ones as partners in this gracious gift of life? I Peter 3:7 says, “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” Your loved ones are on your team! Do they know that? Are they treated as very valuable to the progress of your family? The acrostic for Team is Together Everybody Achieves More! What would happen in our home life if we all played on the same team called WE and US more than on the pitiful losing team called ME, MYSELF AND I?    
Pastor Joe
                                     
Take advantage of god’s open doors! (May 6th)
THE “M”VERSE: Ephesians 5:16—“Making the most of every opportunity because the days are evil.”
     Someone said, “Temptation comes knocking every day, but opportunity sometimes only knocks once.” There is a lot of truth in that statement. I do believe temptation never tires of knocking at our door, but God given opportunities are special treasures we need to look for and be open to. I remember when I was a young Christian around 33 years ago and being burdened to share my faith with a fellow co-worker over lunch. I wrestled to find the courage to tell this older gentleman of the One who gave His all to forgive and free him. But fear of rejection and thinking that another opportunity would eventually present itself kept me silent that day. Oh how my heart aches as I think about this because this older man died that night when he fell asleep with a cigarette in hand which burned his apartment and snatched his life!
     There is a powerful quote that often challenges me to live more boldly for the Lord. It simply says, “Only one life to live and it will soon be past, only what is done for Christ will last!” Our memory verse is very challenging and is worth looking at in its context: Ephesians 5:15-17—“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understanding what the Lord’s will is. 
   Are we living in a careless or careful manner? Do we normally think before we speak and act? How often do we make decisions in the light of God’s presence and our accountability to Him? Daniel Webster said, “My greatest thought is my accountability to God.” Seriously dear one, I think we often are sleepwalking through this life. 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.” God’s wants every one of us to live proactive lives rather than reactive ones. He wants us to be wise and not foolish. Maybe if we didn’t try so hard to be cool we would live less like a fool!
    May I suggest something we all should do when we first wake up and all through the day for that matter? Let’s learn to ask the Lord, “What do you want me to do right now? Show me open doors to serve You and others. Close the doors that lead to distraction and destruction and instead open doors that help me know You better and make You known more clearly! As we approach the end of our lives do we want more regrets or more rejoicing over how we responded to the many gracious opportunities God gave us?
Pastor Joe
 
HOW GREAT IS OUR GOD! (April 29th)
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.
     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!
    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
 
IN HIS SIGHT AND IN HIS MIGHT! (April 22nd)
THE “L” VERSE: 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.”
    Someone said, “The why of what we do is more important than the how of our actions.” I like that! Good intentions and motives lead to great motivation. Why do you do what you do? What gets your motor going? Are you living to make an impression on others or are you living to make an eternal impact on them? Do selfish desires dictate what you do? Do others manipulate your actions and attitudes? Or does the desire to honor and glorify God guide you throughout each and every day?
    The above verse is such a good one to apply to our lives and it is a great daily prayer as well. King David, a man after God’s own heart, penned it under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. God complimented David because he had one consuming purpose and passion- to honor, exalt and please His Creator and Savior. David played for the audience of One! Do we? He knew that God was always present whether asked or not! Do we really believe that? Or do we sometimes have spiritual amnesia? Psalm 139:1-4 says, “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.”
    When we realize we are always in God’s amazing and almighty presence we find the courage and conviction to make good choices that honor Him and are helpful to others. When we forget the Lord it is so easy to grieve Him and bring pain and embarrassment to others and ourselves! David probably daily prayed that his thinking and words would be pleasing to the Lord. We would do well to follow his godly example. Whatever helps us to remember and acknowledge God’s presence and power is worth doing.
     Gary Thomas wrote a wonderful book called “The Beautiful Fight.” In it he says, “When we allow God to mark our manner, alter our attitudes, and burnish our behavior, people will naturally ask ‘What is it about him? What is it about her?’ This gives glory to God as we become walking billboards that proclaim His reality and redeeming purpose.” (p. 177)
    Dear one, let’s live in a holy awareness and awe of God and His presence, power and purpose for our lives so that others will see His glory and want to be a part of His unending story!!
 Pastor Joe
 
BEING WHO GOD SAYS I AM! (April 15)
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!
Learning to let my beliefs change my behavior,
Pastor Joe
 
A SHELTER IN THE TIME OF STORM - (April 8th)
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 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