FBC Williams Arizona
Sunday, March 18, 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. 
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8
        We live in a world that is constantly changing. Fads come and fads go. Finances can be fine one day and then frustrating the next. Our buddies change and so do our bodies! People change jobs, churches and even the teams they root for. The only thing we can be sure of is that change will eventually come in some form or fashion. Researchers tell us that change is what often causes the most stress in a person’s life. Maybe something has happened in your life that will change things forever. Alvin Toffler said, “people look for islands of stability when change becomes overwhelming.” In the midst of all this change we have one immovable Rock of refuge to whom we can cling to—our forever faithful Jesus Christ.
      To change requires either one of two things-to go from bad to better or from better to worse. Our God doesn’t change because He doesn’t need to improve - He is our forever faithful God and Father. He is not affected by time and age. In Malachi 3:6 God promises us “I the Lord do not change.” Psalm 145:17 declares that “The Lord is righteous in all ways and loving toward all He has made.” Isn’t it comforting to know and trust One who will never fail or forsake us?
     Have you ever had a fickle or fair-weather friend? Ever had to walk on egg shells around another person because you never know what kind of mood he or she will be in? Is God ever moody? I think not. He will always be full of grace and truth. He will always love what is right and hate what is evil. While He passionately hates our sin, He will faithfully pursue us just like Hosea the prophet loved and pursued his unfaithful wife Gomer. Psalm 100:5 says we are to enter His gates with thanksgiving and praise because “The Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.”  
     Philippians 1:6 reminds us that we can be “confident of
this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” We can have unfailing hope every day because our forever faithful God will never fail or forsake us. He will finish what He started in us. Our future is as bright as the promises of God because it is impossible for Him to lie. One final thought—IT IS NOT OUR GRIP ON GOD THAT IS IMPORTANT, BUT HIS GRASP ON US!!!
Thankful I have Someone I can always count on,
Pastor Joe
THE “I” VERSE: 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 “I” 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?
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. No one is beyond the scope of God’s love! 
    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
(Feb 25th) THE “H” VERSE:  “Honor your father and mother-which is the first commandment with a promise—that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”
    God gave us the Ten Commandments, not the Ten Suggestions. He gave them to us not to burden us, but to bless us. The first four deal with our relationship with Him, the last five deal with our relationship with other people, but the fifth commandment has been called the center piece of God’s law. Parents are the greatest influence in our lives. Abraham Lincoln said, “no man is poor who has a godly mother” and I would add a “godly father.”
    Just think of what we owe to our parents—they gave us our lives, looks and love! Sure they made their many mistakes, but haven’t we all? I got my love for serving people and sports from my dad and my tender, sensitive side from my mom. I owe so much to them. My mom is still living and I thank God for her unconditional love and support. My dad passed away in 1993, but his memory challenges me even today. I have not always honored them or appreciated them like I should, but the older I get the more I learn to cherish them.
   The Greek word of Honor is “Timao” which means to “prize, cherish or value highly.” When you think of your parents, is that how you view them? We live in a day and age where it is socially acceptable to “dis” our parents. That’s teen lingo for disrespect. Parents are mocked and made light of on a regular basis. We need to get back to the basics of healthy living. Do you want it to go well with you and to live a long life here on earth? Who doesn’t right? God has made a wonderful promise to us—If we honor our parents it will go well with us and we will live long on the earth. Someone once stated that he believed that if we struggle with honoring our parents we will have a hard time honoring other people too!  Please carefully read the following Scriptures on this subject:
·         Leviticus 19:3 — “Every one of you shall reverence his father and mother.”
·         Deuteronomy 27:16 — “Cursed is he who dishonors his father and mother. And all the people shall answer ‘Amen’.” 
·         Proverbs 30:17 — “The eye that mocks a father and scorns a mother, the ravens of the valley will pick it out. And the young eagles will eat it.”
   Wow! I don’t know about you, but those are some very sobering verses. I am greatly concerned about our nation. Let’s make it a great nation again by starting to build healthy homes in this area of honor. Parents, are we living in an honorable way? Husbands and wives, are we relating to each other with love and respect? Are we treating our children as treasures and in a precious manner? Or are we allowing the devil’s dirty work of “dissing” to cause division and disruption in our homes and communities? Dear one, let’s take God more seriously than ever and watch Him do what He does best—OVERCOME EVIL WITH GOOD! 
Pastor Joe
The “G” verse: Psalm 46:1—“God is our refuge and strength, an ever- present help in trouble.”
    The early American Indians had a unique practice of training young braves. On the night of a boy's thirteenth birthday, after learning hunting, scouting, and fishing skills, he was put to one final test. He was placed in a dense forest to spend the entire night alone. Until then, he had never been away from the security of the family and the tribe. But on this night, he was blindfolded and taken several miles away. When he took off the blindfold, he was in the middle of a thick woods and he was terrified! Every time a twig snapped, he visualized a wild animal ready to pounce. After what seemed like an eternity, dawn broke and the first rays of sunlight entered the interior of the forest. Looking around, the boy saw flowers, trees, and the outline of the path. Then, to his utter astonishment, he beheld the figure of a man standing just a few feet away, armed with a bow and arrow. It was his father. He had been there all night long!
    In this life filled with dangerous threats like terrorism, violence, cancer, Aids, natural disasters like tsunamis, tornadoes, earthquakes, fires, floods, and fleeting finances, isn’t it wonderful to remember that our God and Father is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble? God is the best first responder in the world!  He is there before anyone else! And He doesn’t lack the wisdom and skill to pull us out of the messes we continually find ourselves in!
   I remember when 13 of us from our Church went on a mission trip to Galeana, Mexico. On our drive there, we came upon the scene of a horrible accident. The truck in front of our lead SUV was clipped by a vehicle coming from the opposite direction. It sent the older truck with two grandparents and their 3 year old grandson into a ravine down below. My brother in Christ, Corey Drury, immediately called 911. We all got out of our vehicles and were the hands and feet of Jesus to this family in need.
   One of our ladies immediately held and comforted the little boy who was ejected from vehicle, but amazingly was unhurt. We gave him a soccer ball to hold and then moved on to his grandparents who were pinned inside their truck which was turned upside down. By God’s grace we were able to pull them out, bandage their wounds and hydrate them in the over 100 degree heat. One hour later the emergency paramedics arrived on the scene and took over. We were not near a town so it took them longer than normal to get there. But God was already on the scene doing what He does best!  Looking back on that situation now 13 years ago, I thank God for His constantly available presence and help.
    The Hebrew word for refuge means a “shelter, fortress, and place of trust and hope.” The word for strength means “might, power and even boldness.” Isn’t that encouraging? We have a safe and secure place of strength and power to withstand any storm in life. A Mighty Fortress is our God! Why don’t we turn to Him first instead of as a last resort? Before we seek everyone else’s advice on our problems, let’s learn to turn to the Wonderful Counselor who has the best advice and His office hours are 24/7 and you don’t need a lot of money or great insurance to see Him. We have not because we ask not! Charles Spurgeon said on this subject, “Believer, you do not make use of Christ as you ought to. There is nothing Christ dislikes more than for His people to make a show of Him and not to use Him. He loves to be employed by us. The more burdens we put on His shoulders, the more precious he will be to us.”
Thankful for the One who is always there,
Pastor Joe
“For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” 
     W.E. Sangster in his book “The Craft of Sermon Illustrations” tells the true account of a frightened woman on the Titanic who was on a lifeboat that was about to be dropped into the raging North Atlantic. She thought suddenly of something she needed in light of death that was breathing down her neck. She asked for permission to go into her state room. She was granted just a few minutes or they would have to leave without her. She ran across the deck that was already slanted at a dangerous angle. She ran through the gambling room that had money pushed aside in one corner ankle deep. She came to her room and pushed aside her jewelry and reached above her bed and grabbed three small oranges and found her way back to the lifeboat and got in.
     Death had boarded the Titanic. One blast of its awful breath had transformed all values. Instantaneously, priceless things had become worthless. Worthless things had become priceless. Who or what is the most important thing to you dear one? For the apostle Paul, he had one pure and powerful passion—knowing, loving and serving Jesus Christ! Please take a moment to slowly and meditatively read our “F” memory verse.  If you were to fill in the blank FOR TO ME TO LIVE IS __________________.  What is your honest answer?
      What is your main priority in life? What do you give the majority of your time, talent or treasure to? Will it count for eternity? Will it enable you to face the ugly hideous monster called death? For the first seventeen years of my earthly life I lived for pleasure, sports, great food and family and friends. But after seeing some tragic things happen to some young people in my school and then seriously thinking about life beyond High School and not having any real clue of what to do, I reevaluated my life focus.
     God graciously allowed my government teacher Abe Hoogenboom to tell me about Jesus Christ- who truly is the way, the truth and the life! On December 7, 1981 I made the most significant decision of my life—to give my heart and soul to Jesus Christ! I have never been disappointed with Him even though I am sure there have been many times I have disappointed Him. 
     The Word of God clearly teaches us that Jesus Christ is the only source of our salvation, significance, satisfaction, strength and security.” He is the pearl of great price that is worth giving our all for! Jesus Christ made some pointed and powerful promises for us to believe and receive:  John 6:35—“I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” 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.”

     Jesus Christ will never let us down in life or even when facing death. Isn’t He worthy of your love, trust and obedience? Again I want you to evaluate the use of your time, talent and treasure. What do these things reveal about your main purpose and passion in life? If you have crowded Christ out, remember Revelation 3:20 says that He patiently and persistently knocks at our hearts door waiting to be invited into all we do! It is always a great thing to say “Yes” to Jesus!! 

Pastor Joe
ALPHABET MEMORY VERSE: The “E” Verse—“Encourage one another and build each other up.” I Thessalonians 5:11
    In a cartoon some years ago, a little guy was taking heat from his sister and friends for a newly found “calling”—patting little birds on the head. The distressed little birds would approach, lower their little feathered heads to be patted, sigh deeply, and walk away satisfied. It brought him no end of fulfillment—in spite of the teasing he took from others. “What’s wrong with patting birds on the head?” he wanted to know. “What’s wrong with it?” His embarrassed friends replied. “No one else is doing it!” How often do you receive genuine encouragement in life? More importantly, how often do you give it to others, especially to those nearest and dearest to you? Mark Twain said that he could go three weeks on a sincere compliment! Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said, “Correction does much, but encouragement does much more.” God’s word is filled with exhortations and examples of the need for this life giving exercise. Slowly meditate on a few for now:
·         Proverbs 12:18-“Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise
brings healing.”
·         Proverbs 12:25-“An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.”
·         Ephesians 4:29-“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
·         Hebrews 3:13-“Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”
  Wouldn’t you agree with me that now is the time to offer this healing to everyone we come across? I have heard somewhere that for every negative put down we receive, we need nine positive affirmations to equal it out! When our youngest daughter Sierra was in Kindergarten, she came home more than once a little discouraged because some of her classmates were making fun of her last name Oswald. I couldn’t figure out why. I mean, Lee Harvey Oswald lived and died way before their time! They must have been teasing her because she has the same name as a big blue cartoon guy named “Oswald” who has a dog named Weeny!
    But seriously, dear one, we have to be very careful with our words and actions! They have such an impacting affect. Let’s choose in this world where many people want to play judge and jury and often trash talk others, instead to be the greatest encouragers and cheerleaders! God will be greatly honored and you will see others filled with new courage to make a huge difference in this short journey here on earth. One final thought, God is our greatest encourager in life and aren’t we called to represent Him in all we do and say?
Pastor Joe