FBC Williams Arizona
Sunday, March 24, 2019
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. 
II Peter 1:3,5-7—“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness….For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 
     I remember reading about an older woman in Ireland who lived during the time when we had no electricity. She used kerosene lamps to light her house and probably had a wood burning stove to heat the home. Then the wonderful time came when electricity was discovered and put to use in homes. She was in such a habit of lighting her kerosene lamp that she would turn on the light switch just long enough to light the lamp and then she turned off the electric lights! 
     I believe that story illustrates a powerful point for us as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ. We sometimes forget that God’s divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness! Yet, because we are creatures of habit and have a stubborn sinful nature still inside of us, we still try to do things in our own strength. Are you tired of trying to live in a way that you can’t? Come on and be honest with me and yourself for a minute now. Are you naturally filled with faith, goodness, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love? All the time? I don’t know about you, but I sometimes even struggle with wanting to do what is right, and I am a Pastor who is supposed to never struggle, right? 
      I am learning the longer I live to believe more in His power than my own personality, more in His can and less in my can’t! The above passage is a very personal and powerful promise from our loving Father who cannot lie. God asked the prophet Jeremiah a very interesting question that fits in with what we are discussing here. He said, “I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27) When we really think about that question, our monster struggles are little molehills for the Lord! Why don’t we take Him at His Word and watch Him work wonders! 
    Does that mean all we need to do is sit back and go with the flow? We can just float downstream with Jesus and put our hands behind our heads while we soak up all those spiritual rays, right? No way Jose! Sorry Charlie! Dear one, God wants our cooperation. Peter says we are to “make every effort” to add to our faith that wonderful list of Christ-like character traits.
     The picture that comes into my mind is riding a tandem bicycle. Have you ever done that? I did it once with my wife as we rode through a busy beach area in San Diego. My wife has never wanted to do that again because of my not so great driving! When I try to take the front seat instead of letting Jesus have it, things are a little scary. But when I let the King lead in everything, life is so much more fulfilling and fruitful. In John 15:5 Jesus Christ powerfully says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” The Lord provides the exhaustless energy and my job is simply to peddle with all my heart as we go up hills and through dry valleys in life. When I run out of energy and don’t feel like pedaling, He then says, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28).  Learning to enjoy riding with the King, 
Pastor Joe
THE “E” VERSE: Romans 10:13—“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

    Does everyone have access to the President of the United States? Can just any sports fan have free access to the most successful athletes of our day and age? Just think how exclusive we are as a society. We have clubs for only people of certain status and financial resources. Most athletic teams are for those who are a cut above the rest. We have the National Honor Society for those students that have the highest grade point averages. Our society is built mostly on how people perform.

    Is that how it works with gaining favor with God? I thank Him so much that the answer is an emphatic “No!” Our memory verse says God is available to anyone who sincerely calls upon Him. We are all on level ground when it comes to our need of Him. The same epistle of Romans states, “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:10-12, 23)
    No amount of achievement on our part will gain God’s attention. Our sin has forfeited that possibility. The greatest news of all is that when we were at our worst God was and is at His best. Romans 5:6, 8 says, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” What amazing grace! What marvelous mercy! What an outstanding
offer! To receive complete forgiveness for all our sins and entrance to eternal glory in Heaven, all that a person must do is simply call upon the Lord to do what only He can—SAVE US!
    Have you done that dear one? If not, why not do it right now. Ask the Lord Jesus to save you on the merits of His death and resurrection. Humbly trust and fully rely on Him and you will not be disappointed. Listen to what Romans 10:11-12 promises us: “Anyone who trusts in Him will not be put to shame. For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on Him.” Our God is so good! Why don’t we call upon Him more for all that we need in this earthly life? He will never fail or forsake us. Let’s be bolder in telling others about Him too. After all, Jesus is the way, the truth and the life!
Pastor Joe 
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
THE “D” MEMORY VERSE: I Corinthians 16:14—“Do everything in love.”
    What is the greatest need every human being has regardless of age, personality and race? What is our main purpose in life? If you were to summarize the entire Bible in a few words what would its main message be? Have we in our enlightened age with all our knowledge and technology and money missed the main purpose of life? Isn’t our relationship with God and others what is most important? Let’s let God’s word speak pointedly to our souls this morning:
  • I Corinthians 13:3b—“No matter what I say, believe, and what I do, I am bankrupt without love.” (The Message)
  • I Corinthians 13:13—“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
  • Colossians 3:13—“And over all these virtues put on love, which binds all of them together in perfect unity.”
    Do we want to waste our lives or invest them into something that will last forever? Do we want more peace, joy and harmony in our hearts and homes? We need to learn to live a life of love. Let love be your greatest aim and motivation for all you think, do and say! Someone said a person is what he or she thinks about all day long. Scripture backs that statement up. Proverbs 4:23 states “Above all else, guard your heart for it is the well spring of life.” Do you think more about yourself or others through the day? How about God? How often do you think of our great and gracious Lord and Savior? Do we have loving thoughts about God, others and ourselves? Don’t just answer this quickly. Ponder this for a little while. If love has not been the motivating factor behind all you have been doing lately, ask our powerful and loving Lord to flood your heart anew with His unfailing love.
    Mother Theresa said, “We are not called to do great things, but small things with great love!” I like that one. It really simplifies things doesn’t it? Have we made life more complicated than it is supposed to be? Are you tired of being miserable and bringing misery to others? The root word for these words is “miser.” When we selfishly hoard our time, talent and treasure on ourselves instead of freely giving them to God and others we will always live on Dead End Street so to speak. There is a better way dear friend. There is the “Most Excellent Way” according to Scripture. This love is patient and kind. It is not envious or proud. It is not selfish or rude. It doesn’t blow its cool and act like a fool. It buries the wrongs of others in God’s Sea of Grace and Forgiveness! It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things. God’s Agape love will never fail! Let’s spread it everywhere and to everyone.
Pastor Joe
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 will truly 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 omnipresent 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 also 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 
THE “C” VERSE: Psalm 50:15—“Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver you and you will honor Me.” 
    I remember very vividly in my first year of Bible College at what is now called Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. I was really discouraged and needed someone to talk to. It was a Friday evening and I walked all through our dorm to get some “counsel” but no one was available. If I remember correctly, I believe there was a basketball game going on. I called home to Indiana and again no luck. Finally it seemed as if God’s still small voice whispered to my soul, “Joe I am here and always will be! Why don’t you pour out your heart to Me?” I sheepishly asked the Lord’s forgiveness, thanked Him for being there and then poured out my heart’s concern and care.
    Do we realize what a blessing and privilege is ours as children of the Most High God? No matter where we are or what difficulties we are facing, we are never more than a prayer away from Divine Deliverance and Almighty Assistance! Take a few extra minutes to drink in these refreshing promises from our faithful Father in Heaven;
·         Psalm 46:1—“God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble.”
·         Isaiah 30:19—“How gracious He will be when you cry for help! As soon as He hears, He will answer you.”
·         Hebrews 4:16—“So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy and we will find grace to help us when we need it.” (NLT) 
   Do you remember when you were a child? Did you ever find yourself in a pickle so to speak and then you reached out to a loved one or a teacher for help? Do you remember how you felt afterward? You know doubt experienced genuine relief, comfort and new courage to face whatever was before you. I thank God for all the people who have helped me through the many times I have been between a rock and a hard place. Yet nothing compares with coming boldly to our Heavenly Father’s amazing throne of grace! John Newton the man who penned that timeless hymn “Amazing Grace” also said something very powerful about prayer. He said, “Thou art coming to a King; large petitions with thee bring. His grace and power are such, no one can ever ask too much.” That makes me want to use Heaven’s Hotline more often, how about you? 
Pastor Joe 
Romans 5:3-5—“We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” 
     When people think of you, do they see you as a character or as a person with character? I believe it is okay to be humorous and funny, but are we are more concerned about making an impression or leaving a lasting influence on others? I personally believe our American culture is more captivated by people with charisma and comic ability than with people who speak louder by their actions than with their words. Everything seems to be all about entertainment more than setting a good example.
     Our nation’s 30th President, Calvin Coolidge stated, “We do not need more knowledge, we need more character.” For several years I had the wonderful blessing of coaching children of all ages in Physical Education. I was privileged to work with public and charter school children as well as home schooled children. I took great care in teaching them conditioning and coordination, but most importantly in emphasizing character development. The six pillars of character I covered were from the Character Counts curriculum- trustworthiness, respect, caring, responsibility, fairness and citizenship. Character really does count! It is not just a curriculum that is taught in some school districts, it should be modeled in our homes and hearts on a daily basis! I sincerely believe that God is more concerned about the content of our character than our knowledge, strength and achievements. I Samuel 16:7 powerfully points out, “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
      John Wooden is undoubtedly the most successful college basketball coach in the history of the game. He led UCLA to four undefeated seasons and ten NCAA championships, including seven in a row. What made this man amazing was his emphasis on character. He said, “Be more concerned with your character than with your reputation. Your character is who you really are—while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” God’s great goal for us is character-Christ like character. The passage above reminds us that God will go to any measure to develop who we are. Who we are is more important than what we do! Yet how contrary that is to what we are taught in society. It is win at all costs, take steroids if that helps you succeed—just don’t get caught! Climb the corporate ladder of success and it doesn’t matter how many people you crush along the way as long ascharacter. Ask God to use whatever it takes to make you like His dear Son-see Romans 8:28-30. The Holy Spirit is willing and able to make us like Christ. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23) Our job is to live by the Spirit and to keep in step with the Spirit-see verses 16 & 25.
you make it to the top, right?
     Do we dare to be different? Do we really want to make a difference? Then we need to be a people of   
Billy Graham made a powerful statement about the value of character: “Integrity is the glue that holds our way of life together. We must constantly strive to keep our integrity in tact; when wealth is lost, little is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost.”
Pastor Joe