Billy's Blog
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October 19, 2016, 3:55 PM

How Do We Know It's A Win?

Last night I got the pleasure of opening my home up to a Cubs fan so they could watch the game and the Cubs lost. Good times, good times. A win is very easy to define in baseball. There's something called a final score. Last night the final score was 6-0 in favor of the Los Angeles Dodgers. The scoring in baseball is called, runs, and whoever has the most wins the game. The same is true in basketball and football with points and in hockey with goals. In golf it's a little different, because the lowest score wins. When you play Monopoly you count up your and properties...and you know you've won if you have the most. In, horse,'s whoever gets to the finish line first that wins. It's all pretty clear-cut. 

But how do you know you are winning at life? 

Maybe it's the one with the most toys. Maybe it's the person who has the larger number in their bank account. Maybe it's the person who owns the most land. Maybe it's the best looking person or the most famous. Maybe it's the person with the most power or the highest political office. 

At youth group we've gone through a series of videos called, I Am Second. These are video testimonials by many famous people. Some are Olympic athletes, professional athletes, coaches, actors and actresses, musicians, fighters, models, and other more common people. There seems to be a pattern in most every video I've watched and I've watched several. First of all, there's the attempt at winning. They want to be successful, they want to be happy, so they pursue what they think will make them happy. Many of these people on these videos have acheived amazing levels of sucess. There are gold medals, big record deals, championships, TONS of money and fame...these people became a big deal. Secondly, they found out that they were unhappy. The lure of all the earthly stuff, both clearly sinful and not, was too much. The promise of happiness was too much and they fell for it. They were miserable. They were discontent. They were depressed and sad. Thirdly, they found that when they gave their lives to God they were truly happy. Their relationship with God brought them peace. They felt a sense of joy that they never had. 

A win in life is a little more mysterious. We have so many voices coming our way telling us what a win looks like. In baseball it's so simple, score more runs, in life it's just not this clear-cut. Well, it's not until you open up the Bible. 

In Ecclesiastes 2 Solomon goes on a journey to discover what a win is. This is what he writes in Ecclesiasts 2:1, "I said to myself, 'Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good." What Solomon was saying was, "Let's discover what a win in life really looks like." So he attained everything you could imagine...women, alcohol, money, servants, bands...if you can think of it he got it. Then when he looked at his life he described his pursuit as a "chasing after the wind." (Eccl. 2:11)

Here is what he discovered a win really was. A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? (Eccl. 2:24-25)

Here is Billy's translation of what he discovered was a win. 

1. Enjoy the simple things in life. Be happy you have food and drink...enjoy it. Enjoy your work. Enjoy the people you are around. Enjoy your family, your friends, your neighbors. It's all about people anyway. 

2. Love and serve God. A relationship with God gives meaning and purpose to everything. You won't really enjoy anything in life for any amount of time if you don't have your relationship with God right. 

A win in life may appear to be a whole lot harder to define than a win in baseball. But when we stop to consider the wisdom of Solomon it's really not that tough. 

Go get a "W" today! 

October 11, 2016, 2:23 PM

Who's To Blame? (move on)

When something bad happens and the finger is pointed at us we go into defensive blame mode. I don't know if this is what it is really called, but it's what I call it. We immediately get defensive whether we are guilty or not. If we are guilty we almost immediately look for someone to blame. I did it, can fill in the blanks. They were driving too fast. My dad wasn't good to me. We were raised so poor. I have this condition. You don't understand these people. It isn't my job. Oh, the blame game can be quite extensive and complicated. 

I have an idea. Stay with me because it's a really complicated, drawn out proposition that may just cause you to have a migraine headache as you ask Siri for answers. Here it is. Are you ready? Let's take responsiblity for our actions. 

Wow...that was intense, wasn't it? 

Here are three definitons for responsiblity:

1. the state of being the person who caused something to happen

2. a duty or task that you are required or expected to do. 

3. something that you should do because it is morally right, legally required, etc. 

Blame is a lot different than responsbility. Blame is actually the exact opposite of it. When you start blaming you are looking to shift responsbility. It might be called in a more crude sense, "throwing someone under the bus." You are looking to find someone, anyone to take the blame and be responsible. Anyone, that is, except for you. I can see a trend in our culture of doing this. 

I know that not all homes were like my home, but in my home my parents made me take responsbiility. When a teacher or principal would have an issue with me my parents did not defend me. They listened and then came and talked to me. My dad always said, "Who am I going to believe, you or an adult?" So I was taught that I have to take responsibility for my actions. You talk to any teacher or administrator in the school system today and this is not the case. Most parents are taking the side of their child and dismissing anything that either a teacher or principal has to say. It's a really discouraging state of affairs. So what do we do about it? 

*Realize that it's never too late to teach responsibility. I had a mother one time come up to me and was really discouraged over one of her children. She had bailed her child out way too much in the child's life and he very little sense of responsbility. The problem was this "child" was now 35 years old. I told the mom that this was her chance. She realized her mistakes and she could stop them now. Don't bail your child out anymore, but make them pay the piper. You still have a chance to teach a lesson. 

*Demand it from other people. If you are a boss don't let people cast blame around, you make them take responsibility for their actions. If you are a teacher don't settle for excuses. If you are a coach make your players step up and do the right thing. Hold them to their commitments. Don't settle for the blame game. 

*Take responsbility yourself. I looked up the idea of responsbility in the Bible. While the actual word may not be present I found 68 verses that can relate to personal responsibility. When you appear before God you will be held accountable for YOUR life not anyone else's. Set the example in front of your children, your players, your employees, your spouse, your classmates, and your co-workers. Be willing to admit when you are wrong. Be willing to step up and say it was your fault and your fault alone. Be willing to take on a task and complete. Be willing to fix your mistakes. 

I've done my share of running away and blaming others. All it got me in life was deeper in trouble. Move on past the blame game. Step up and take responsibility. Like any new change it may be painful in the beginning, but you will have a much more prosperous life if you do this. Obedience to God always brings healing to your life...ALWAYS. 

October 4, 2016, 3:34 PM

Do What You Can

I love basketball. I love to watch it and I love to play it. The older I get and the stiffer my joints get playing it isn't quite as easy as it used to be but I still enjoy it. Basketball is traditionally a game for taller people. I am not tall. I never was tall and I certainly never will be. I never experienced any growth spurts I grew slowly and not even much of that. I am 5-9 and shrinking. I actually think I measured at just under 5-9 when I was measured last at a doctor's appointment. 

I really wish that I could dunk a basketball. There can be no better feeling in basketball than to break away from the rest of the crowd and dunk a ball with authority. Unless it's a NERF hoop I will never be able to do this. But what if became obsessed with this at an early age. I'm going to run. I'm going to lift weights. I'm going to do specific exercises that will help me jump higher. I'm going to practice how to jump just right with the correct technique. I would be wasting my time. My body is not built to dunk. Spud Webb, who won the 1986 NBA Slam Dunk Contest, was 5-7. While I'm sure he worked on it his body was made to jump that high. His vertical leap was 42 inches, that's three and a half feet. My vertical leap is about 6 inches. It's just not going to happen. So I decided to work on shooting. I was never destined for an NBA career, I mean I barely had a high school career. But I was probably about the best three-point shooter on my team. I decided that I would focus on what I could do not what I can't. 

When Joshua stood up in front of the nation of Israel in Joshua chapter 24 he knew there were things he couldn't do. He knew that he couldn't control the whole nation. He knew he couldn't completely stop the idol worship. He couldn't make every family do what he wanted them to do...serve God. This was the heart of his message to his people near the end of his life,  "But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15

Instead of focusing on the things you CAN'T do why not focus on some things you CAN do. You can't change the world but you might be able to make a difference in your home, your school, your workplace. 

You might not be able to change your whole family, but maybe you can influence your children to serve the Lord. 

Maybe you think this whole country is going down in flames and there's nothing you can do about it. If you live in Ogallala, Nebraska there's probably not much you can do with what might be going on in Miami, Florida, but you can make a difference in Ogallala. You may not be able to do a lot of things, but there's a lot you can do. Focus on that. 

Nick Vujicic can't shake your hand. There's no way he could ever run a 5K. He can't comb his own hair. He can't kick a soccer ball. Nick doesn't have any arms or legs. But Nick is also a Christian motivational speaker and and evangelist. There are a LOT of things that Nick can't do that even the most underacheiving and lazy person can easily do, but he doesn't focus on this. He focuses on what he can do. What he can do is graduate from Griffith University with a Bachelor of Commerce degree with a double major in accounting and financial planning. What he can do is found a motivational speaking company called, Attitude is Altitude. What he can do is get married and have two sons. What he can do is write five books and speak to thousands of youth and adults each year. 

When I think about Nick I think about my life. There are many things I can't do but focusing on this is a total waste of energy and time. I need to focus on what I can do through the grace of God.  You and I might just be surprised how long that list really is. 

September 21, 2016, 9:56 AM

Wait For The Wind

Do you ever feel as if the whole world is against you? 

Our minds are crazy and wonderful little gizmos. I know that calling the human brain a gizmo is a bit simplistic but you know what I mean. Here's how our brains work sometimes. Let's say that you are a customer service representative at a local business. You have just spent the morning helping ten customers. All ten were very satisfied with their service and very appreciative of your help. Then customer #11 comes along. They are grouchy, impossible to please, and leave angry with you even though you did everything you could to help them. Now remember, you just faced eleven customers and you made ten of them very happy...that's an over 90% success rate...any one would take that. But you find yourself frustrated and upset because all you can think about is that one unhappy customer. Welcome to the maddening operation of the human brain. 

Elijah was a prophet of God. He was a super-prophet. He was an amazing man. There was a showdown. This is like Wild West, OK Corral kind of stuff...on steroids! Elijah was called, "the biggest trouble-maker in Israel", by King Ahab because he preached and prophecied about Almighty God while Ahab and all of his people worshipped false gods. So Elijah comes up with a showdown. Let's just go ahead and see who is the real God. It's 450 prophets of Baal versus one prophet of God. It's 450-1...not really good odds here. 

So they set up an altar with meat on it. The prophets of Baal would pray to Baal and Elijah would pray to God. Whichever god or God would set the altar on fire would win. So the prophets of Baal began to cry out to Baal. They prayed, they cried out, they danced...and Elijah mocked them. He yelled at them to do it louder. He told them that they maybe he was busy, "maybe he's thinking, busy or traveling." (1 Kings 18:27) Elijah then says it's his turn. Elijah not only got his altar ready, but he had them soak it in water. They used so much water that it filled the ditch around the altar. Then Elijah called on God and God responded. He sent fire so hot and intense that it even burned up the stones and dried up all the water. The 450 prophets of Baal tried to run away but they tracked them down an killed them. What a victory! 

But soon after this great victory we find Elijah laying under a tree. He's fearful, he's depressed, the whole world is against him. The king and his wife want him dead and this is the thanks he gets. No one cares about him, no one is there to fight with him, his life is over in his mind. He is in a bad place. Then God shows up. Elijah stays the night in a cave and this huge wind comes up. Then an earthquake shakes everything. Then fire comes, and then a still small voice says, Elijah! Why are you here?" In other words, why are you so depressed? Why do you want to give up? Why do you think the whole world is against you? 

God tells him that there are 7,000 people ready to fight for him and with him. There are 7,000 people who have not bowed down to Baal and are ready to serve God and work with him. 

Sometimes we just need to sit and wait for the wind. Sometimes we feel like the world is against us, no one likes us, we aren't doing any body any good, and we just need to wait on the wind. We just need to see God show up and do something. In ministry I've felt like giving up so many times I can't count them. You just work and work and work and nothing seems to be working. Sometimes the harder you try the worse things get. Then you get someone who is upset with you and the downward spiral begins. We just need to hear the wind. We need to hear the voice of God saying, "You are doing some great stuff." 

The other day a good friend of mine was really struggling to decide what she was going to do about her career. She was feeling as if she just wanted to get out. Then someting really cool happend. She got a hand-written letter from a former student how lived halfway across the country from her. You heard me...a hand written letter...from a seventh-grade girl. She just old my friend how much her teaching meant to her and how much she appreciated her. This is that wind that we need to hear from. 

If you are feeling as if the world is against you and you can do nothing right there is a wind coming. There is a message coming to help you understand that your life does have purpose and you are doing some great things. Just remember to listen and respond when that wind comes. 

September 13, 2016, 4:03 PM

Truth and Love

This summer I had the privlege of teaching a class to  a few hundred 9-10 grade students at a Christian camp. It was a lot of fun. We talked about social media, and how little I know about. We talked about fads. We made fun of each other and just had a really good time. But we also got down to business. One of the classes I taught was about Stephen in Acts 6-7. Stephen stood up for what was right even though it cost him his life. He told the truth even when the crowd literally gnashed their teeth and became furious with him. It got so bad they dragged him out of the city and stoned him. 

Our youth are under assault. They are told if they tell their friends the truth that they are full of hate and phobias. The specific issue I dealt with was the LGBT and homosexual issue. I told the students that they did not have to choose between TRUTH  and LOVE. Actually, the two go hand in hand. I told them they could tell their homosexual or trangender friends the truth and still love them...actually this is what Jesus commands. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. Ephesians 4:15

What our media and culture has told us for many years now is that if we teach and preach the truth in the Bible that we are haters, homophobes, and bigots and racists. Can you preach the truth in the Bible and be these things? I guess you can, although you are missing the second greatest command which is to love your neighbor. People will point to Jesus and say how much he loved sinners. He certainly did. But he also told them the truth. When Jesus encountered the woman at the well he befriended her in a way that no Jewish man would dare. He also exposed the sin she was living in with her boyfriend, and the fact that she'd been married five times. When Jesus stepped in when the woman who was caught in adultery was about to stoned he showed her great mercy. He literally saved her life. But Jesus didn't stop there. He told her five simple words, "Go and sin no more."

One of the defining phrases of love found in 1 Corinthians 13 is, "love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth." If truly love someone you will tell the truth. Proverbs 27:6a says, "Wounds from a friend can be trusted..." In other words, a true friend that truly loves you will tell you the truth even when they know it's going to hurt your feelings. 

Don't buy into the nonsense that truth-telling is hating. Just remember that when you tell the truth have it wrapped tightly in love and compassion. One of the worst things that Jesus ever did in the eyes of the religious leaders of his day was eat with sinners and become their friend. Jesus didn't back down from their criticism he just simply explained himself. “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” One fifteen year old young lady asked me if she could be friends with a homosexual classmate. I told her, with a little explanation, that if Jesus ate with sinners and befriended them that I think you can, too. 

Jesus loved people and he told people the you go do the same. After all, we are all sinners saved by grace. 

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