FBC Williams Arizona
Sunday, August 20, 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. 

 

HIS ENERGY AND MY EFFORT (Aug 20th)

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

 

 

ONLY GOD IS “AWE”SOME (Aug 13th)

Hebrews 12:28-29—“Since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”

    We throw that word “awesome” around these days with too little thought, I am afraid. That was an awesome game! Did you see the sunset the other night? It was awesome. Sky diving is an awesome experience, or so they say—I wouldn’t know because I am too afraid of heights to find out! I believe many things in life are amazing, but only God is truly “awesome.” Ponder the following passages of Scripture for a few minutes and consider how awesome our God really is!

        Psalm 33:8-9—“Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the people of the world revere Him. For He spoke and it came to be; He commanded and it stood firm.”

        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? This is your due. Among all the wise men of the nations and in all their kingdoms, there is no one like you.”

     I remember hearing a preacher speak about a great king of the past who died and there was an elaborate memorial service to honor this “mighty one.” Candles were dimly light everywhere in the sanctuary.  The coffin was overlaid with much fine gold and on top of it was one large candle. The Pastor stepped up to the pulpit to speak, but before he did, he went over to the casket and blew out the candle and said “Only God is great!”  Psalm 146:3-6 says “Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing. Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them—the Lord, who remains faithful forever.”  I truly believe, we here in America have paid too much homage to musicians, movie stars, athletes and politicians and not enough to the Only One who is truly awe inspiring! Who do you know that can speak everything into existence and then uphold it by His powerful word? Who do know that could conquer sin, death and hell and make a way for eternal life, when there was no hope in sight?

    The amazing thing about this awesome and great God is that He desires to be our good and gentle shepherd. We being people who often lose our direction in life and need a mighty defender to protect us from the many foes we face in life have everything we could ever want in Him. He wants to carry us through this challenging journey called “life.” In Isaiah 46:4 God promises us “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; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”  Yes, dear friends, Kings and kingdoms will all pass away, but there is just something about that name-JESUS! Philippians 2:9-11 states “Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him a name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus Christ every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” His name often is often dishonored and overlooked here on earth, but One Day, He will have the final say! Dear ones, when you fear and stand in awe of the Lord there is nothing else you have to fear!      

Pastor Joe

 

I AM STILL A MAN IN NEED OF A SAVIOR (Aug 6th)

“What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? - Romans 7:24

     One of my favorite all time contemporary Christian songs is “IN THE LIGHT” by DC Talk. It is probably because it so accurately describes the battle we face every day as believers—the battle with our sinful, selfish nature.  One phrase really hits home with me “What’s going on inside of me? I despise my own behavior; this only serves to confirm my suspicions that I am still a man in need of a Savior.”

    The great apostle Paul, whom God used to write half of the New Testament and to plant churches around much of the known world at that time, still said at the end of his life “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.” (I Timothy 1:15)  Notice Paul in both the above passage in Romans and here in his first epistle to Timothy, used the present tense “I am” not the past tense “I was.” I find great encouragement in that how about you? Are you still a work in progress? I sure am! I don’t sin like I used to before coming to Christ, but daily my flesh fusses and fights for control of my life. Listen to Paul’s words in Romans 7:15,18I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate I do. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” I sincerely desire to love and obey Jesus with all my heart, but the honest truth is that every day I fall short of my intentions! Does this mean I am not a true Christian? Absolutely not! It simply means God is still working on me.

    We have three tenses to our salvation. First, we have been saved from the penalty of sin through the death of Christ. Romans 5:9 states “Since we have now been justified (declared righteous) by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him.” Next,we are being saved from the power of the sin as we learn to yield more every day to the Holy Spirit’s power. Romans 8:13 goes on to say “If you live according to the sinful nature you will die. But if by Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.” Finally, one day yet future when we see Christ, we will be saved forever from the presence of sin.  I John 3:2 promises us Dear friends, now we are the children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we will be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” Just think dear friend, one day we will never struggle with sin, but will always love and obey the Lord as He so richly deserves! I can’t wait for this!!!!

    Are you struggling with discouragement and doubt about your failures and human frailties? Don’t give up! This only confirms that you are still a man or woman in need of a Savior! Let Jesus do what He specializes in-saving and setting people free. Remember, we have not because we ask not- see James 4:2. I truly believe God wants us free more than we do ourselves!!

    Dear one, it is time for you to start walking in the freedom Christ offers you. He said If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36) He also wonderfully promised “I have come that you may life and have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10) The enemy of our souls is called the accuser of the brethren (see Revelation 12:10). He wants to degrade and discourage us, but let us never forget that Jesus called him the father of all lies-see John 8:44. I am learning it is much better listening to the One who said “I am the way the truth and the life” (John14:6), rather than that old serpent!!

Still a man in need of a Savior, and grateful I have one in Jesus,

Pastor Joe

 

THE BLESSING IN BEING BROKEN (July 30)

Psalm 34:18—“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”Psalm 51:17—“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

   Do you like things that are broken? Does this world? No, we are usually quick to get rid of such things. I thank and praise God that He is so different from us. He is drawn to the broken, battered and bruised in life. He has a huge heart for those hurt. Isaiah 57:15 says “This is what the high and lofty One says—he who lives forever, whose name is holy. ‘I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.”

    Who is God drawn to? He loves all people to be sure, but His great heart skips a beat for those who are truly broken over their sins and sorrows. The above passages in Psalm 34 and Isaiah 57 teach just us this grand truth-God is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed and contrite in spirit!  The Hebrew word for broken means to be burst open, broken in pieces, even to the point of being destroyed, while the word for contrite in Isaiah means to be crushed like powder. Isn’t that interesting? My mind goes back to that classic childhood movie “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.” Remember the Island of the misfit toys that Rudolph and his buddies stumbled upon? Later they told Santa about them and they were taken in and given to boys and girls on Christmas Eve.

    That is just fiction, but the factual truth of Scripture solidly reminds us that God is very close to and will comfort the broken and crushed in life! In a day and age where many are asking -“Where is God when it hurts?” God replies “Closer than you think!!!” Jesus Christ taught us in the beatitudes “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4) Do you want to experience closeness with the One who made you? Then come to Him with all the pain and scars in your life and let Him bring hope and healing to you! He gives us a grand invitation 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 heave or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (The Message)

      I don’t know about you, but I feel more drawn to show and share my many weaknesses with my incredible Savior! God has tailor made grace for everything we will ever face. Let another passage of Scripture fill your hurting heart with great hope—Hebrews 4:15-16—“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are, yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need.”

Thankful that He doesn’t crush us when we have been crushed in life,
Pastor Joe 
 
IS MY SPOUSE MY BEST FRIEND? (July 22nd) 

Proverbs 17:17—“A friend loves at all times and a brother is born for adversity.”

    My wife and I Kelly will celebrate our 19th wedding anniversary this coming January 2nd. We first got acquainted in the singles department at North Phoenix Baptist Church. We met at a barbecue and greeted each other and thought nothing further. As time went on we happened to be in a small group Bible study on finances, then known as Crown Ministries. We started hanging out with others in a group setting where we ate together, talked, studied, went to the movies and even played tennis. Kelly became my friend. Soon she became a close friend after hanging out for almost a year. Then, cupid hit our hearts and the rest is history!

    Dr. Les and Leslie Parrot have written and taught on marriage from a Biblical perspective. In their premarital study book titled “Before I Say I Do” they share that a healthy marriage relationship is like a triangle with three key ingredients—“Romance, Intimacy and Commitment.” Most people in society overemphasize the importance of romance, and often ignore intimacy and commitment. I believe all three are vital, but I want to camp today on being your spouse’s best friend.

    God originally designed marriage because of the need for friendship and companionship. Genesis 2:18 says “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Does your spouse know that they are your best friend? Am I helping to divide the sorrows of life and double the joys? Am I their greatest cheerleader in life? Romans 12:15 says “Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.” Can I share my deepest feelings, hopes, fears and dreams with my spouse? Do I allow them to do the same? Or are we crossing an unhealthy boundary and sharing those special things with someone else instead?

    Don’t get me wrong here! I am convinced God has an important place for mentoring friendships between men and men and women with the female friends, but isn’t marriage supposed to be the most important earthly relationship? I am so thankful to share my life with my wife. I so enjoy praying with her, walking with her, eating with her, loving our growing family with her, and especially serving our Savior together! Ecclesiastes 9:9 says “Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love…”

    Friendships take time. Am I allowing enough time to cultivate and nourish my friendship with my spouse? Guys, if you had a choice to go watch a game with your buddies or go on a date with your wife what would you choose? Gals, if you had a chance to go on a shopping trip to the mall or a date with your husband, which would you choose? I guess it depends on how close and intimate you are with your spouse! Maybe you are not where you would like to be in your relationship with your spouse. The wonderful thing with our gracious God is every day His mercies are new. You can change the course of your life by simply asking the Lord to do a new thing in and through you! Isaiah 43:18-19 says “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” God wants to take your surviving marriage and make it a thriving one! Will you cooperate with Him by seeking to be your spouse’s best friend in life?

Pastor Joe
 
 
HE KEEPS ME SMILING AND SINGING! (June 25th) 

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
 
 
HAVE YOU LOOKED INTO THE MIRROR LATELY? 
(June 18th)
     Every morning I have the same routine; I get out of bed and pray about the day. I then turn on the coffee pot and make my way into the bathroom. There, I look into the mirror and begin to make some much needed improvements. First, I deal with gooky eyes. No, I didn’t say goo goo eyes! I wash away the sleepy stuff that cakes in on the corner of my eyes. I put on deodorant and cologne,  brush my teeth,  and comb what little hair is up there! All of these home improvements help me to become non offensive to those who have to look at me. I thank God for my mirror. I am even more thankful to the Lord for the mirror of His Word!
      James 1:21-25- “Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like the man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.”
     In a world that is very much focused on outward appearance, we all need to be reminded of what God looks at. In I Samuel 16:7 the Bible declares “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” The reason for this is that our body is decaying and will eventually be turned into dust. I thank God that He has promised to give us a new body in Heaven one day. (For further study read Ecclesiastes 12:1-7 & I Corinthians 15) Our inward man, which constitutes our soul and spirit, will endure forever and can be renewed daily. II Corinthians 4:16 says “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”
     If this is the case, then why do we buy into the lie that our bodies need more care than our souls? The physical mirror will help us all maintain a presentable appearance, but only the life changing Word of God can help us become spiritually fit and attractive. We need to read the Word, reflect on what it is saying, remember it and respond to it with faith and obedience. Here is what God wants to see as we look into the spiritual mirror- II Corinthians 3:18 “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
 POINT TO PONDER: OUR GOAL IS TO BE LIKE THE MOON—TO REFLECT THE SUN. ONLY THE SON I AM TALKING ABOUT IS JESUS CHRIST! WHO ARE YOU REFLECTING?
  PASTOR JOE