Billy's Blog
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April 20, 2016, 9:42 AM

Fighting Through Discouragement


Have you ever really fought for something? 

I'm not talking about literally fighting, like a physical fist fight, but the kind of fight that takes every ounce of your mental, physical, spiritual and emotional strength. Maybe you have fought for your kids to get a fair shake in life. Maybe you fought for your marriage or a friendship. Maybe you fought for yourself to get ahead and succeed despite obstacles against you. 

Near the end of this life the Apostle Paul described his journey in life this way: I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:7

One of the fights that many believers fight is discouragement. I'm not talking about depression, that's a whole different ballgame. I'm talking about discouragement. In the Merriam-Webster Dictionary discouragement is defined as: a feeling of having lost hope or confidence. I want you to notice something...it's a feeling. It's not reality. You still have hope. You still have a reason to be confident. 

Feelings betray us. We feel like no one cares. We feel like we aren't making a difference. We feel like we are in a no-win situation with no way out. We feel as if we are the only one in the world trying to do right. 

Remember the prophet, Elijah? He had just had this great victory in 1 Kings 18. It was 450 prophets of Baal versus one prophet of God, Elijah, and he won. It was another David vs. Goliath kind of victory. Ahab is the evil king who is a Baal worshiper and he is very angry. He sends people after Elijah. We find Elijah hiding in a cave feeling as if he's the only one that's trying to serve God. He has a FEELING of loneliness and betrayal. A wind comes by and the voice of God comes out of it. God tells Elijah that there are 7,000 people who have not bowed down to Baal who are ready to fight for him and with him. 

Discouragment is usually not based in reality. Oh, there are difficult times for sure. But in my experience the feelings of doom that we have are exaggerated. We must fight through them. But we don't have to fight through them alone. 

First of all, you have God. You have his Word. You have his Spirit. You need to lean on him and be encouraged by truth that will never betray you. God will never leave or forsake you. 

Secondly, we have other people we can lean on. There are people in my life who will straighten me out of my discouragement. It might be a kind, supportive word or it might be a kick in the rear end. My friends usually give me what I need. 

Do not allow discouragement to win. Fight it. Fight it with God on your side. Fight it with the truth that if God is for you then it doesn't matter what's against you. 

Fight with your team. You are not alone. You may not have 7,000 people ready to help you, but you have enough. 

Discouragement is an enemy, but it's an enemy that can be defeated. Keep fighting the good fight!




April 13, 2016, 9:09 AM

Do I really have to go to church to be a Christian?


This question of, "do I have to go to church to be a Christian?" has been asked to myself many times and I'm sure many of you have been posed this question, also. To me, this is one of those "yes and no" questions. 

First of all, can you become a Christian without the church? I supposed that technically you can. You can be reading your Bible, discover what you need to do to be saved, find some random person to baptize you and you can become a Christian. The question I always pose to people is how healthy will you be if you don't have a family?

Consider this...a baby can be a human without a family, correct? A baby can be born to a woman who does not want her. The baby can be dropped off on a doorstep, forgotten in an alley and lay there. This baby is most definitely a human, but how healthy is this baby going to be without a family to raise her, nurture her, feed her and protect her? The obvious answer is that unless this baby gets some kind of family this baby will not survive very long at all. The same is true of a babe in Christ. Without the church you will not survive spiritually. 

If you really desire to be a healthy, growing Christian you need the church. I'm not just talking about attending a Sunday morning service, punching your clock, throwing $20 in the plate and heading home. I'm talking about being with like-minded people, with others who are on the same mission in life you're on, serving together, loving together, even crying together. 

In Acts chapter 2 the Day of Pentecost had just happened. Over 3,000 people were saved that day. It had to have been quite a sight. New believers baptizing new believers, people everywhere, so much excitement, so much joy, so much happening. But as we all know the excitement of something new wears off. Commitment is where we struggle. So here's how the early church stayed growing and healthy.  

Read Acts 2:46-47: Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. 

For them to keep their commitment to Christ they needed to gather with each other. They needed to get together and study the Word. They needed to get together and just eat with each other and encourage each other. They needed this consistently, not just when they had nothing else to do. 

Do you need to go to church to be a Christian? Absolutely. Church is a lot of different things. It can be Sunday morning at the church building. It can a Bible study in a home. It can be serving together at a soup kitchen. It can be traveling together to an event. It can be working together on a widow's home. Church is much more than an hour-long service on Sunday morning. It's much more than many think it is and it's needed more than many think it is. 

I don't want to live this life alone. I love having a family. I love coming home to my wife and kids. I love eating meals together. I love watching TV together. I love asking them how their day was. I love traveling together. I love getting texts and calls from my wife. My life is enriched because of my family.

The church is a family. You can go try to live this life all by yourself, but how much fun is that? Don't run from the church, embrace it. It's the greatest organization that man has an opportunity to be a part of. Try it out. I think you'll be happy you did!

 




April 5, 2016, 10:41 AM

Real expectations


Why are we so surprised when life has troubles? We seemed to be shocked every time life doesn't go our way. I'm not sure what we are expecting. Are we really expecting that God will remove every ounce of difficulty so that life is easy for us? 
There are two passages on Scripture that stick out to me that deal with the idea of troubles or suffering. These two passages, Romans 5:3-4 and James1:2-4, deal with the purpose of suffering and the fact that we should expect it. 
Romans 5:3 says that "because you know", speaking of both the inevitability of suffering and the purpose, and James 1:3 uses the same phrase. 
I think that what both Paul and James is trying to say is that we should not be caught off guard by suffering. We don't have to enjoy them, but an expectation of them sure helps us to deal with them. 
1 Peter 4:12 puts it this way: “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.”
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Many modern preachers want to preach sermons and write books about how God will make your life better and how He will remove all pain. That sounds really good but it sets up a false expectation. 
You CAN expect: God will not leave you, there is a bigger purpose, and there is hope. Even if the hope is in eternity and not this life there is still hope. 
Hang in there. Life has peaks and valleys, good times and bad, failures and successes. Stay faithful in the tough times so you can enjoy the good times. 

 




March 29, 2016, 1:34 PM

Broken For Good?


Why try if there's no chance of change? I can remember years ago we were doing track bad field in PE. For some reason the PE teacher wanted me to try the hurdles. I don't know if you are familiar with me or if you are familiar with hurdles but we are not a good match. I am short with short legs. Hurdles are about waist high and meant to be leapt over by people with long legs and long bodies who can leap like a puma. I might have been called a few things in my high school days but "puma-like" is not one of them. I'm built more like a hedgehog. When I ran up to the hurdle I had a decision to make. If there is any hope of me actually surviving this I'll try it. As I approached the hurdle at a dead sprint reality hit me and I ran around it instead of over it. Why try something you know you'll fail at? 

Isn't this how many people feel about their brokenness? They are broken by abuse, addiction, divorce, and the harsh realities of imperfect life on earth. They don't know that there is any hope of change so they don't even try. They would love for things to be better but for generations they haven't seen any better options. 

One of my favorite accounts in the Bible is when Jesus meets a woman caught in adultery. She is caught red-handed. She is lined up to be stoned to death. She has braced herself for the inevitable. But Jesus asks her a question after challenging the people there to stone her. Jesus asks, "Who is left to condemn you?" She lifts her head and everyone is gone. "No one, sir." Jesus responds, "Neither do I. Now go and sin no more."

She had no dreams of any hope of survival or anything changing and then she looks up and her executioners are gone. There's hope. There's a second chance. Maybe life can be better. 

This is what Jesus does. He brings hope to the hopeless. He beings rest for the weary. He even brings life to the dead. Are you broken and hurting? You can find healing in Jesus. Without God many things are impossible, but with God all things are possible! 




March 23, 2016, 9:55 AM

What's the big deal about Easter?


Why make such a fuss over Easter? 

I know that many churches will not make a fuss. I know of one church that actually moves their worship service to another location to avoid visitors. I know that some very conservative churches avoid the word, Easter, at all because of the secular celebrations...eggs, bunnies, pastel colors, fertility...you know what I'm talking about. 

I guess the fuss isn't so much over the official secular holiday of Easter, but the fuss is over what it means to the church. 

Easter Sunday, also referred to as Resurrection Sunday, is a special day where we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is Super Bowl Sunday for the church. This is the biggest event in the history of Christianity. You could say the biggest event in the history of the world. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15 that if Jesus didn't rise from the dead that our preaching is futile and our faith is useless. So this is a huge thing to specifically celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. 

Another big reason we make a fuss over Easter is that people are thinking about coming to church. This may be the first time they've thought about coming to church in a LONG time. Maybe it's someone's first time to church EVER. I met a guy who's in his mid-30's a few weeks ago who had been to church for the first time ever. He'd been to weddings and funerals in church buildings, but he'd never been to a church service. That's a huge step for someone to take. 

At church on Sunday we talked about being good hosts...giving up our favorite seat, parking a little further away, being kind of guests...just practicing good hospitality. A person that comes to church for the first time ever or the first time in a long time might judge God by how we treat them. Do we appear to expect them and want them to be there, or do we appear to be annoyed by their presence? This is a big deal. 

I hope that Easter is a big deal for you. Of course, there is nothing wrong with Easter baskets, egg hunts, and pretty dresses, but I hope it's more than that to you. I hope that it's a time to set aside to really think about what the resurrection of Jesus really means. Maybe it's time for a reconnection to what's really important. Maybe it's a good excuse to get back to church. Maybe it's a great excuse to invite someone to come with you to church. Whatever it might be I hope it centers around Christ. 

Solomon said it best about God, "for without him who can eat or find enjoyment?" Ecclesiastes 2:25

It's so true! 

 


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