FBC Williams Arizona
Saturday, December 16, 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. 
Acts 20:35- “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
    Christmas pageants, zoo lights, dinner theatres, caroling, pictures with Santa, company Christmas parties, decorating, shopping etc… Hmm. Is this why it is the most wonderful time of the year? Don’t get me wrong, I love doing special things at this most blessed season of the year, but are we giving the best thing we can give to our loved ones? The gift of ourselves?

    Our culture really tries with all that is in its power to convince us that buying that right gift is what is most needed! What if you can’t afford it? What if you buy it and they don’t really like it? Carefully chew on the following Scriptures and really digest them for a little while.

·  I Corinthians 13:3-“No matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I am bankrupt without love.” (The Message Bible)
·  I Corinthians 14:1- “Let love be your greatest aim.” (The Living Bible)
·  I Peter 4:8- “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”
   I am convinced that the greatest gift we can give to each other at this season and any season of the year for that matter is love. I believe love also can be spelled T-I-M-E. Are we giving that to our loved ones who need it most? Is there any white on your schedule this holy season? Why not try cuddling together and watching “It’s A Wonderful Life” or even “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.”

      We have a tradition in our home at this blessed season where we regularly either walk around our neighborhood or even drive through different ones to look at lights as we sip hot chocolate and sing Christmas Carols. I know some friends in the valley who all sleep near the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve.  I haven’t been able to talk my family into that one! God has made us all in His image; therefore, we have inbred creativity. Are we using it? Our loved ones deserve our best! Ask the Lord for wisdom in how to make this Christmas season one that has lasting memories. Best of all, this doesn’t cost money, only time. Are you willing to make an eternal investment?

Pastor Joe 

     I believe it is pretty to safe to say that we live in a world where we read and hear about more bad news than good news. We constantly hear about wars around the world, the lack of integrity in all fields, the violence in the streets and in our schools, and most disturbing-politics as usual.  Is it any wonder many have called our age the “Age of Anxiety” and the “Age of Cynicism”? I know it would be very easy for me to be that way if I never listened to what God has to say in His Holy Word. Proverbs 15:30 says, “A cheerful look brings joy to the heart and good news gives health to the bones.” This verse tells us that to be happy and healthy human beings, we need a daily dose of good news to chew upon. Where do you go to find a consistent source of encouragement for your soul? First and foremost, we need to listen to the God who delights in sharing good news. His messengers are called Angels. When His Son entered this world in human form, an Angel announced this great news to some sincere and simple shepherds“I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you—He is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11 
  • This good news is not limited to a few elite people; it is available for all who will welcome the message in faith.
  • The good news is that we have a sufficient Savior who is able and willing to offer us pardon for all our sins, power to live an abundant life, a peace that passes all human understanding, and a permanent residence in a perfect place where there will be no more pain, sorrow, sin, sickness or death. (I John 1:7, Philippians 4:4-13, & Revelation 21:1-5)
  • The good news is that though many may be against us, yet God is for us and right now Jesus is at the right hand of God the Father praying and pleading for us. (Romans 8:31-34)
  • The good news is that God has promised a way out or through every trial and temptation and will give us grace and strength to face the challenges of each day. (I Corinthians 10:13 & Deuteronomy 33:25-27)
  • The good news is that God still has the amazing ability to work all things together for the good of those who are called by God and love Him. All things work in the Potter’s hands to make us more and more like His dear Son-Romans 8:28-30.
  Dear friend, where are you getting your daily dose of good news that provides health to both your body and soul? Are you looking to God? Are you reading and listening to His Word that will never pass away? Are you a bearer of good news or a sharer of sad news?   What humanity desperately needs to have is hope.  The Greek word for hope means  “confident expectation.” It is not a “hope so” it is a “know so.” Romans 15:13 is a good prayer the apostle Paul prayed for the believers in Rome. I believe we all would do well to pray this for others and ourselves as well—“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Our God is a God of hope and His people should be spreading His hope wherever we go. Romans 10:15 says, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.” 
Seeking to be a bearer of Good News, 

Pastor Joe

Colossians 3:16—“Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.”
    William Congreve, an 18th century English dramatist said “Music has charms to sooth the savage
beast, to soften rocks, to bend a knotted oak.”  I heartily agree with him! I remember vividly when I was around 7 or 8 years old. I was sitting down in our family room all by myself listening to Christmas carols on the radio with just the Christmas tree lights on as my only source of light. Normally, I am Joe on the go, but back then and still to this day; music has a way of stopping me in my tracks and softening my hurried and harried heart! Even though I didn’t know the Lord personally at that time in my life, I remember Him speaking powerfully to my heart that night many years ago!
    Have you ever wondered what life would be like if there were no music? James 1:17 says “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights…” God loves music and because of that He graciously gave this gift to us. But like all the things He has given, they can be used or abused. God gave us music to soothe and stir us to glorify Him and to motivate people to do good things. How many songs have brought wayward people home to God and to family? How about that song AMAZING GRACE? Even though it has been musically arranged differently through the years, the message in that song has saved many and has brought great peace and hope to people all around the world!
    I am a huge sports fan. There was an interesting article in a Sports Illustrated magazine that was talking about the various leisure activities of professional athletes. Over half of them spend their leisure time listening to music. So do a lot of us. I remember being a teenager and having a common routine after school. Once sports practice was over and when homework was completed, I would shut myself up in my room and literally listen to music for hours at a time. Music has motivated me to work out harder and even inspires some creativity on occasion, but even more powerfully, it often slows me down enough so that I can hear the still small voice of God.
   There is an interesting account in the Scriptures about the incredible power of music. King Saul was a man who allowed jealousy and envy to ruin his life. The Scripture says that an evil spirit would torment him, but when a young man named David played his harp, the evil spirit would leave him. (Take some time today and read I Samuel 16:14-2. Martin Luther, the great reformation theologian of old said “The devil takes flight at the sound of music, just as he does at the words of theology, and for this reason the prophets always combined theology and music, the teaching of truth and the chanting of Psalms and hymns. After theology, I would give the highest place and greatest honor to music.” Yes dear one, music is a powerful tool for good or evil! What kind of music are you listening to? Philippians 4:8 gives us some good counsel over what kind of stuff our minds should chew on as we listen to music: “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” 
Pastor Joe
TIME TO GO SLOW (Nov 26th)
Psalm 37:7, 34 - “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him…Wait for the Lord and keep His way.” 
    I had hernia surgery around 8 years ago. The post op directives were to take it easy, no lifting anything over 10 pounds for six to eight weeks, no running or biking; only walking! That was one of the most difficult times in my life! I did take it somewhat easy at first, but I remember the wound took longer to heal because I would lift things and do things I wasn’t supposed to out of habit!
    I don’t know about you, but I struggle with the gear called neutral! I love forward and reverse sometimes can be a little interesting, but neutral and what is even worse- park, can cause my engine to run a little warm. Friends and family that know me well will often kid and call me “Joe on the go!” I used to think that meant I was really strong and spiritual. Now, I am not so sure! Micah 6:8 tells us what God wants and requires from us- “To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” What is very interesting to note is that the text doesn’t say run with God, but walk with Him. Adam and Eve before the fall walked with God in the Garden in the cool of the day-see Genesis 3:8. Because of sin we tend to either drag our feet when we could walk with Him or far too often run way ahead of Him!
    Phillips Brooks was a wonderful Pastor in the New England area who is most well-known for writing the touching Christmas Carol “O Little Town of Bethlehem”. One day he was obviously a little irritated and frustrated, and it was clearly seen on his face. A close friend noticed and remarked, “What is wrong Phillips?” His reply is very insightful into our tendency as humans- “The trouble is, I am in a hurry and God isn’t!”  Interesting and a little convicting wouldn’t you say?
    My dear wife, Kelly Linn, faithfully reminds me as God’s little prophet, “Remember Joe, we are human beings, not human doings.” The Word of God exhorts us in Psalm 46:10 to “Be still and know that I am God.” Are we going slow enough to enjoy the Lord’s presence with us? Are we enjoying life or running through it so fast we don’t even enjoy the scenery? Let’s all take more time to stop and smell His roses so to speak, literally and figuratively! 

   Lord, help us not to be wild mustangs running ahead of you, teach us how to prance at your pace! Help us all to “Be still and know that YOU are God.” Thank You Father, for never being late or too early, but always right on time. Today and every day help us to walk with You and work with You and walk how You do it. Help us to learn the unforced rhythms of grace of walking at Your perfect pace. I truly believe many marriages and homes are under the tyranny of Satan. Someone said the acrostic for busy meansBEING UNDER SATAN’S YOKE!” Yikes!!! I think “Joe on the go” needs this little reminder again that it is okay to “Go slow!” We might arrive where we need to be a little happier and holier. 

Pastor Joe
 I Thessalonians 5:18—“In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
    Matthew Henry was a gifted minister and writer who lived over 300 years ago. He was ordained into the ministry in 1687 by the Presbyterian Church. He is most known for his beloved commentary on the Bible. His writings have influenced many people through the years. One day he had the horrible experience of being robbed. In his diary that evening he still found reasons to thank God. First, because he had never been robbed before this terrible experience. Second, because although the thief took his wallet, he didn’t take his life. Third, because although the robber took all he had with him at the time, it was not very much. Finally, Matthew Henry was thankful because it was he who was robbed, not him doing the robbing!
    In our key verse, God commands us to be thankful in the midst of all of life’s challenging circumstances. This isn’t easy to do, but it is vital if we want to be healthy and holy people. Thanksgiving honors our great God, King and Savior. Psalm 50:23 says “He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him my salvation.” What do we have that we didn’t receive from our gracious God? Our life, breath, family, friends, talents and countless blessings we so often take for granted, all come from our Father’s gracious hand. Daily He blesses us with His tender mercies. Many people complain that they don’t get what they deserve in life. I am so glad that God doesn’t treat us according to our manifold sins and transgressions! The apostle Paul wrote in II Corinthians 9:15 “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.” When we were lost and dead in our sins deserving eternal punishment in Hell, God sent His Son to save us from our sins and to give us the opportunity to live an abundant life here on earth and to have an unbelievable eternal home in Heaven!  God desires and deserves our thanks and praise. Remember the account in Luke 17 where Jesus healed ten lepers. Only one came back to thank Him. Jesus then asked “Were not all cleansed? Where are the other nine?” Luke 17:17. It touches His kind heart when we thank Him, but it clearly troubles His heart when we don’t.
    Not only does thankfulness honor God, but it also very helpful and healthy for us as people. Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough did a very interesting study. In their project titled “Highlights from the Research Project on Gratitude and Thankfulness” they found that there are many benefits for those who are thankful people. Do you want to sleep better and enjoy better health? Do you want your social relationships enhanced? Do you want to have a deeper walk with God? Then we need to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. They found that “Gratitude not only makes people feel good in the present, but it also increases the likelihood that people will function optimally and feel good in the future.”  In a day and age where we have all kinds of therapy available to us—speech therapy, physical therapy, massage therapy and even play therapy for children, why don’t we try taking some “THANK YOU THERAPY” daily and see what happens in our relationships with God and others?

Philippians 4:12-13—“I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”

      Is your cup half empty or half full? Do you thank God for what you have or complain about what you don’t have? Do you tend to focus on what isn’t right rather than what is? A fictitious tale that teaches a transforming truth if we will learn it.  A man was wandering through the woods when he noticed an abandoned barn. Curiosity got the best of him, so he decided to enter the barn and check things out. This barn belonged to Satan and inside it were all types of seeds-seeds of DOUBT,          DISCOURAGEMENT, DESPAIR & DISCONTENT. The Devil explained that these were his tools of the trade for trashing people’s lives. He said he could get these seeds to grow almost anywhere. The man then asked, “Is there some place where they cannot grow?” Satan hesitantly replied, “Yes, in the heart of a thankful person.”
     Are you focusing more on who your spouse is not rather than on who God made them to be? Does God make junk? Is He finished with us yet? Are you unhappy with your current job or role in life? Discontent leads to a huge disconnect! We are unable to be really close to God and others when we have the mumbles and grumbles! Thank You Therapy is a class we should all take daily to deal with the bummers and burdens of life. Did God ever say it would be easy? Quite the contrary! Slowly chew on the following verses;

·  Job 14:1—“Man born of woman is of few days and full of trouble.”

·  Psalm 34:19—“A righteous man may have many troubles…”

·  John 16:33—“In this world you will have trouble…”

      Aren’t those encouraging verses? Maybe not, but they are true and explain reality. Dr. Randy Carlson often says “EXPECTATION PLUS REALITY EQUALS DISAPPOINTMENT.” Do you have unrealistic expectations for your life? God did promise a rose garden so to speak, but roses have thorns don’t they? The key is our focus; the choice of our attitude toward life. Abe Lincoln said “Most people are about as happy as they choose to be!”   Instead of grumbling about your difficulties and asking God to deliver you from them, why not instead ask Him “Lord, what do you want me to get out of these struggles?
       Philippians 2:14 challenges us to “Do all things without complaining and arguing.” Wow! Is that really possible? Yes, but only by the grace of God and a teachable spirit. Paul said he learned to be content in any and every situation. Remember where he was writing from? He was under house arrest for preaching the good news about Jesus Christ. Yet this wonderful book is all about a joyful and positive outlook in life. OUR OUTLOOK DETERMINES OUR OUTCOME! Paul said the secret was this “I CAN DO ALL THINGS THROUGH CHRIST WHO STRENGTHENS ME.” (Philippians 4:13 New King James Version)
      I want to leave us all with a closing quote to chew on and a challenge to take: I believe it was Robert Louis Stevenson who said “Those who have stopped being thankful have fallen asleep in life.” Ask God to shake your spiritual slumber and make you wide awake to His countless blessings in your life! Write a thank you note to your loved ones or friends and list several things you love and appreciate about them.  We all if we are honest people have much more than we realize in life. God’s mercies are new every day and His faithfulness never fails!
Pastor Joe
Proverbs 19:11—“A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.”
   In every marriage and even in friendship with others, each day produces many offenses. A great secret to a successful marriage is learning to let the little ones go. Wives, if your husband forgets to put down the toilet seat and sometimes make a smacking sound when he eats, is that a good  reason to allow a rift to develop between you and him? Husbands, if your wife starts to put on a little weight, is that a reason to not sit as close to her in public?
    I am truly convinced that the enemy of our souls- Satan is a master at trying to get us irritated with each others’ little quirks. Human beings are odd creatures. We all can be weird ducks on occasion. We all have many weaknesses and blemishes if you will that our spouses did not see in the early days of our relationship. Even the great man of God, James, known to be a pillar in the early church, said in his epistle “We all stumble in many ways”- James 3:2. Benjamin Franklin had some very wise counsel on this subject matter. He said “Before you marry, keep your eyes wide open. After you are married, keep them half closed.”  The above passage in the book of Proverbs tells us that if we are truly a wise people, we will learn to be patient with one another.  In the great love chapter of the Bible, I Corinthians 13 we have a wonderful description from our heavenly Father about what His love looks like.
 ·         Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”
I Corinthians 13:4-5 (New International Version)
·         “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” I Corinthians 13:7-8 (New King James Version)
    If we are maturing in God’s ways we will learn to let go of the little irritations in life and see others the way the LORD does- a person with great potential, but who is still a work in progress. Don’t you like it when others are patient with you? Someone said “Grace is a place where our weaknesses and mistakes aren’t rubbed in,but rubbed out!” This patience thing could literally bring about a righteous revolution in society for great good if we really started practicing it with one another. The driver in front of you, your neighbor’s loud music, waiting in a long line at the grocery store etc… Are these little irritants worth rubbing us the wrong way so that our vision becomes blurred and clouded? I think not! Patience is the ability to keep you motor idling when you feel like stripping the gears!
    Aren’t you glad that God is slow to anger and that He is very patient with us? Let’s extend that daily mercy to one another and see what the Lord does around us, especially with our loved ones. I have a feeling we won’t sweat the small stuff so much and there will be less man made mountains to climb. I like climbing God’s mountains much more than my own man made ones, how about you?
 Pastor Joe