FBC Williams Arizona
Monday, September 24, 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. 
 
UNLESS THE LORD….(Sep 23rd)

THE “U” VERSE: Psalm 127:1—“Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain.”

    On November 25, 1895, a cornerstone of ice was laid in Leadville, Colorado -- the beginning of the largest ice palace ever built in America. In an effort to bolster the town's sagging economy, the citizens staged a winter carnival. On New Year's Day of 1896, the town turned out for the grand opening. The immense palace measured 450 x 320 feet. The towers that flanked the entrance were 90 feet high. Inside was a 16,000-square-foot skating rink. But by the end of March the palace was melting away, along with the hopes of Leadville. The thousands of visitors had spent very little.  
    What a powerful illustration of our “U” memory verse! Psalm 127 is one of two Psalms written by King Solomon. He was blessed with amazing wisdom, so much so that people came from all over to hear it. Yet, this man learned as many of us have, that life is futile and vain when we fail to consult and allow the Lord to construct things in our lives. Human pride and ingenuity abound everywhere. It is amazing what man can do. We can make mind blowing machines like space craft, space stations, and sky scrapers. Mankind has made life much more efficient in many aspects due to technological advances, yet can we live truly satisfying and significant lives apart from God’s help? I don’t believe so.
     Unless the Lord lives and reigns in our heart, fear and frustration will gnaw and tear it apart. One ancient Theologian Augustine hit it on the head when he said, “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.” Jesus Christ promised us in John 8:12-“Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Has God turned on the lights for you dear friend? Life will always be stumbling in the darkness until we surrender to the One whose powerful light gives significance, satisfaction and security to humble and hurting hearts. 
    Unless the Lord builds and protects our homes, they will experience gnawing pain and no lasting gain in our journey. On the contrary, God gives joy unspeakable and a peace that passes all understanding to the hearts and homes of those who know, love and trust the Lord. Can we be the husbands, fathers, wives, mothers & children we want to be in our own strength and wisdom? Are we allowing God to inspire and empower the construction of our lives? If not, why not? Jesus Christ made a refreshing promise in Matthew 11:28-30—“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn how to live freely and lightly.” (The Message)
 Pastor Joe      
 
LIFE IS ALL ABOUT LOVE (Sep 16th)
     Would you agree that we are living in very trying and troubling times?  I am deeply saddened when I hear or read about the horrible atrocities that people commit against one another. The daily news is shouting a message to all of us! Do you know what that message is? WE NEED TO GET BACK TO THE BASICS OF LIFE! Life is supposed to be all about love. Jesus Christ said that the greatest commandment of all is to love God supremely, with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. The second is similar to it—we are to love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves—See Matthew 22:37-39. According to these verses, the entire Old Testament could be summarized into one simple purpose--Life is all about love and relationships! Yet our society is becoming more isolated and insensitive to this grand purpose. There is a huge obsession among many for materialism, prosperity, power and pleasure at the awful expense of leaving behind a trail of wounded people along the way.
Are we loving things and using people or are we loving people and using things?
     The New Testament book of II Timothy predicts the troubling times that will precede the return of Jesus Christ to this earth to set up his eternal kingdom. Chapter 3:1-3 states—“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good.” I find it very ironic that although we have an abundance of technology, wealth and prosperity compared to other places in the world, yet our society is severely lacking in social skills. How often do people smile? How often do you say and hear kind and encouraging words? Why are so many ready to retaliate at the drop of a hat? These times are definitely difficult, but will we rise to the occasion by being a part of the solution, rather than part of the problem. The challenge before each of us every day is to overcome evil with good! The greatest healing force in the world is the power of love! Dr. Karl Menninger, a Christian Psychiatrist, once said—“Love cures people-those who give it and those who receive it.” 
     I Corinthians 13:3 challenges us—“No matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.” (The Message) 
Can I ask you a personal question? How is your love account? Where does living a life of love fall into your list of daily duties? Ask the Lord of love to show you how to love others. He is the Author and source of love. In fact, go a step further by asking Him to flood your heart with His perfect love that “never fails” and “drives out all fear.” (If you have time today, look up I Corinthians 13:1-8 & I John 4:7-18) It was the love of Christ that changed the greatest persecutor of the Christian faith into the greatest preacher of the Christian faith. I am talking about the Apostle Paul. His encounter with Jesus totally transformed his life. Christ can do the same for you and me if we will only trust and obey Him! Here is some spiritual food to fuel your love today:
  • “Let love be your greatest aim” I Corinthians 14:1 (Living Bible)
  • “Your strong love for each other will prove to the world that you are my disciples” John 13:35 (Living Bible)
  • “Do everything in love” I Corinthians 16:14
 Pastor Joe
 
HE IS BETTER THAN YOU THINK! (Sep 9th)
THE “T” VERSE:  Psalm 34:8—“Taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!”
    Have you ever struggled with trying something new because you didn’t know if you would enjoy it or not? I believe we have all been there and done that! I remember when I was around 17 years of age and went on a ski trip with our youth group. I am pretty athletic and usually not afraid to try new things, but this skiing thing had me a little spooked! I remember reading about some skiers dying because they ran into a tree and I definitely didn’t want that to be me! Long story short, after some encouragement from friends and my Youth Pastor, I took off down the hill and made it safely even after several falls. I was immediately hooked on this sport!
     I believe there is a spiritual parallel here. Many people, believers and non-believers, sometimes struggle with really tasting, trying and trusting God. Somewhere in the back of their minds they buy into Satan’s lie that God isn’t as good as He claims to be! Nothing could be farther from the truth. God encourages us to sample Him if you will. To take Him for a test drive so to speak! He invites to “taste and see” and to “trust and be blessed” as a result. Can I ask you a pointed question dear one? Do you really believe God is good? Or do you question His goodness? How do
we know that God is good? Can we really see His goodness? I wholeheartedly believe so because many people through the centuries have checked Him out and have never been disappointed with Him.
     First, God’s holy and awesome character reveals His goodness. Psalm 100:5 says, “The Lord is good and His love endures forever: His faithfulness continues through all generations.” Paraphrase of this short verse—GOD IS GOOD—ALL THE TIME!!! The apostle John wrote in I John 1:5 that “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” We all have a dark side but our gracious and intrinsically good God does not! Next, God’s creation reflects His glory and goodness. Psalm 33:5 declares “The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.” Just take a few minutes daily and truly soak in the goodness of God through all He has made. Christina Rossetti said, “Were there no God, we would be in this glorious world with grateful hearts and no one to thank.” A third way we see God’s goodness is in the way He marvelously knits and weaves all of life’s circumstances for the greater good. Romans 8:28 is true whether we can accept it for ourselves or not. It powerfully promises “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Several summers ago, the A/C went out in our church sanctuary and then in our home! What great timing I originally thought in sarcasm. But then I saw God’s goodness in it all because He gently reminded me it was better that week rather than the following one when we would be right in the middle of our biggest outreach—Vacation Bible School! Truly He does all things well. 
     Finally, we best see God’s goodness at the Cross of Christ. Titus 3:3-5 says, “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” Wow! When we were at our worst, God as always, was at His best. Praise His great, glorious and good Name! Why don’t we try and trust Him more? Let’s daily taste and see that the Lord is good and find out how blessed we can be when we fully trust Him.
    In closing I agree with King David when He wrote in Psalm 27:13-“I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”  Learning to taste and see.
Pastor Joe
 
ARE WE ALLOWING TECHNOLOGY TO BE A TOOL OR TRAP? (Sep 2nd)
I Corinthians 10:23-24—“Everything is permissible—but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible—but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but that of his neighbor.”
    We all have seen or experienced the following scenario; A family is at a restaurant. Dad is watching a game on the big screen, Mom is talking on her cell phone, and the children are absorbed in texting friends or playing handheld video games. The scene is what Professor Kenneth Gergen of Swarthmore College calls “absent presence.”
    I am not going to be bashing technology today, but challenging us all to consider carefully how we use it. Facebook has allowed me to reconnect with some old friends, reminds me of birthdays and gives me more insight into how to pray for others. Emails enable me to get information out to a lot of people in an efficient manner and texting can be a good way to communicate on occasion. However, my deep concern is-are we becoming more isolated as a result of all this technology? Is it becoming a trap instead of a tool? Is it helping our closest relationships or hindering them? Are we so tuned in to things that we are tuned out to those who matter most? The Bible declares that love is not rude- I Corinthians 13:5. That is why I either shut off my phone when meeting with another person or I don’t answer it until after the appointment. Do I think I am that important?
    Could we go one evening without television, the computer or video games? I am beginning to become a little cynical here. I am struggling with that hypnotic drug called the TV. It can mesmerize and desensitize me if I am not careful. I like to see what is going on in the world and enjoy a sporting event or movie occasionally and there is nothing wrong with that, but can I be brutally honest with you and myself? I am starting to be convicted about how it steals valuable time away from being able to really connect and communicate with my loved ones. Just like everything else in life, we need to have healthy boundaries in this matter or things could get out of control and become dangerous if we are not careful. When eating dinner, shouldn’t it be an unspoken rule that the TV be off and no texting allowed during that hallowed time together? Do we even eat meals together anymore? I realize some of our jobs require us to be away from family on occasion, but does it have to be a regular routine? How about this one for a revolution and complete renovation in our relationships—Try really looking at the
person talking and giving them your undivided attention for a change! Wow! I wonder what might happen if we all did this more.
    Do we really believe what God says in His Word about love and lasting relationships? I Corinthians 13:3 says, “No matter what I say, what I believe or what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.” (The Message) Life is a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Shouldn’t we all make the best use of the brief time God gives us here to develop healthy relationships with Him and with each other?
Pastor Joe
 
THE GOD WHO WANTS AND WAITS TO BE FOUND!
(Aug 26th)  The “S” Verse: Isaiah 55:6—“Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near.”
     Some things happen in your life that you often come back to. I remember around 12 years ago my wife Kelly and I were playing hide and seek with her dad and her niece and nephew. Kelly’s parents at that time managed a storage place. Her father was hiding first. No one could find him for a while until I happened to nearly step on his arm that was sticking out of an empty unit. After gathering my wits together, I too hid with him. (The game is called “Sardines”, and the object is not to be the last one finding the group of hiding people.) Back to the story—Kelly’s dad and I waited to be found by the others for around 15-20 minutes and no one came. We found them back inside the house
eating and watching a ball game!
    I wonder if that is how God feels about us? Our great and gracious Lord has a huge heart of love for all people. He wants and waits to be found! After Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden and were hiding among the trees, do you remember who went looking for whom? God came walking through the Garden in the cool of the day and asked, “Where are you?” He knew where they were, but asked the question I believe to get them to see the folly of running away from Him! 
    Romans 3:10-11 says, “There is no one righteous, not even one. There is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.” We learn from this passage that human beings do not naturally seek after God. It is He who seeks us! In Luke 19:10 Jesus Christ described His heart and ministry toward lost humanity—“The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” I am so glad for that—aren’t you? I was so lost as a young man. I tried this and that to find meaning and purpose in life. Everything left me with an achy breaky heart! God sought me out through my best friend’s prayers and a school teacher’s love and concern.  On December 7th, 1981, I surrendered my life to the loving hound of Heaven who calmly and consistently knocked on my heart’s door. Have you done that dear one? If not, why not?
    I want to leave you with one final Scripture passage to meditate on. Jeremiah 29:11-13 says, “I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” What a challenge and what a gracious promise! I’ve got some seeking to do, how about you? 
Pastor Joe
 
HE IS GOD AND I AM NOT! (Aug 19th)
Jeremiah 32:27- “I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?”
     Someone once said, “There are only two things we need to know;
1. There is a God. 2. It’s not you or me.” The Bible begins with these words—“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1)  Have we as human beings committed mutiny and treason? Have we usurped God’s rightful place and authority? Are we trying to take His job from Him? Isaiah 45:18 says—“I am the Lord and there is no other.” If God created and sustains everything, doesn’t He deserve all the glory and credit? Are we intentionally or unintentionally trying to steal the honor from the only truly worthy One? Scripture challenges us with many thought provoking questions that we all would do well to seriously consider. For example, in I Corinthians 4:7 it says—“What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it why do you boast as though you did not?” History always has been and always will be HIS-STORY. Why don’t we once and for all settle it in our hearts that He alone deserves all the glory?  Do you remember what the acrostic for Ego is? Edging God Out! Do we really want to do that?
     If God is God and I am not, then why do we so often try to seize the control? I truly believe that one of the most deep seated issues we have concerns this issue of control! When you experience great frustration, anxiety and anger, isn’t it usually because things don’t go according to your plan? James 3:16 says, “For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.” Humanity by nature wants to control people and the outcome of things, but if we are brutally honest—only God can rule and reign righteously! He alone has pure and perfect motives. He alone knows what is best for His creation—after all He created us, remember? Isaiah 48:17 says, “I am the Lord your God who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.” 
    Are you currently all bent out of shape? Are your insides all tied up in knots? Do you desire great peace and sweet release for your soul and spirit? Surrender! LET GO AND LET GOD. Someone once said, “You either surrender to Christ or to chaos!” Are you trying to be what only He can be? The Bible tells us in Isaiah 9:6 that “The government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Can you honestly handle the weight of the world? I am learning that I can’t, but He sure can. Psalm 55:22 gives us some very good counsel here—“Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous fall.” When I get out of the way and learn to work with Him and not against Him, things go much more smoothly for everyone involved.
    Right now dear friend, why don’t you join me in taking our rightful place—riding shot gun instead of the driver’s seat. If we give Jesus the wheel like Carrie Underwood sings about, we will enjoy the ride of our lives!!! After all He did say—“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10. I amstill learning that lifelong lesson, how about you? 

Pastor Joe

 
HE KEEPS ME SMILING AND SINGING! (Aug 12th)
Psalm 40:3—“He has put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.”
     Her skating was described by one expert as “one smooth, flowing thread of silk.” In 1971, Janet Lynn became the top figure skater in the United States. During her successful skating career she captured the US Figure Skating Championship five times. What really stood out about her was her warm, joyful smile. When asked about it, she didn’t take credit for it but humbly gave the glory to God. She said, “That joy comes from Jesus Christ. It was not something manufactured. I gave my skating to God.” Not too many people are smiling these days. I see more frowns and grim faces as I go about my daily duties, except among young children. If anyone should be smiling it is a Christian. The Bible declares, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10) Jesus said He came to give us life to the full and more abundantly (See John 10:10). In God’s presence is fullness of joy according to Psalm 16:11. That makes me wonder how many of us are truly walking with the Lord!
     How often do you smile in a typical day? Did you know that we use over 43 muscles when we frown, but not very many at all when we smile? The lesson is—if you don’t want a lot of wrinkles later on in life—learn to smile more! One of the healthiest things we can do is to smile. When we smile it sends a message to our whole body, setting the tone for our lives. Research tells us that when we smile, certain chemicals are released that travel throughout our bodies, relaxing us and helping us stay healthy. Proverbs 15:13 says, “A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.” Several verses later in the same chapter it says “A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones.”(Proverbs 15:30) I would have to say that the researchers are only confirming what our good Lord taught us in His good book!
      Have the joy stealers of fear, anxiety, worry and depression taken the smile off your face? Let the true joy giver—Jesus, put a smile on your face with His amazing grace! He offers us full forgiveness and a total pardon. The Word tells us “the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (I John 1:7) God’s divine detergent can wash away the toughest sin stains!                                                             Next, He offers us a great plan and purpose for our lives. Jeremiah 29:11 states, “I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Someone said, “When you go against the grain of the universe you will get splinters.” Are you tired of experiencing that? Let Christ have the control of your heart and life and see if you don’t start smiling more often. Finally, our Savior has gone to prepare a place for us that simply is out of this world. Can you imagine living forever where there is no more sin, suffering, sadness or death? Can you imagine seeing God face to face and living to tell about it? Can you imagine having a perfect body and living in fellowship with perfected people who never argue or snub you? I think it is safe to say that there will be a lot more smiling in heaven than here on earth!!! Philippians 3:20-21 says, “Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform these lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body.”
 Pastor Joe