Billy's Blog
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October 18, 2017, 2:27 PM

Unity in Action


In Acts 2:44 it says that the church had "everything in common." That sounds a little bit like a cult doesn't it? Did they wear all the same clothes, have all the same haircut, and live all together in a commune? Hardly...they were not defined by any of these outward things. Read this excerpt from The Epistle To Diognetes from the year 150 AD:“For the Christians are distinguished from the other men neither by country, no language,  nor the customs from which they observe. They do not lead a life which is marked by any singularity.”

In other words, they did not have uniformity. They were not known by a certain custom, or a language, or certain race. What set them apart was how they came together despite all their diversity. Just in the 12 man group called, the disciples, there were fisherman, a tax collector, a politician, and a doctor. They were not raised the same, did not have the same histories, did not do the same jobs, nor had the same level of education. What brought these guys together was the mission. 

What brings a professional basketball team together made up of guys from different countries, different backgrounds, and different skill sets...the pursuit of a championship! 

What brings a together men and women of different races, economic backgrounds, and parts of the country...a desire to fight for the same mission! 

What brings together a group of all different stripes to give up so much for a mission...the church! 

The early church was filled with different languages...read Acts 2 when the apostles were allowed to speak in the many different langugages of the people. Philip baptized an Ethiopian man...two different skin colors colliding. Peter had to realize that Jews and Gentiles could worship and do life together when he went to Cornelius' house in Acts 10. Peter realized that the only thing God cared about was the heart of the person. 

But what really brings people together is a cause. It might be a sports championship, a business venture, or a church mission, but we need a cause. We need a reason to rally around each other. 

I love the church for a lot of reasons, but one of the big reasons is that it brings people together. We all have our own stories, but we come together to tell the greatest story ever told...the Gospel. 

I love it! 

 




October 10, 2017, 9:58 AM

The Awe Factor


I will never forget the first time I walked into a major league baseball ballpark. I had grew up 30 miles from Portland, Oregon and had been to several minor league games, and I really loved those games. But it was the minor leagues in an old stadium with players that many had never heard of. I was a huge baseball fan. I only grew up less than three hours from Seattle, but we just never made it up there to a game. 

It was 1995 and I went to St. Louis with some high school and college kids and some adult sponsors. We walked into Busch Stadium and I could not get over it. It was huge. The minor league park I'd grew up going to was big by minor league standards, 20,000 capacity, but Busch stadium sat over 40,000 fans. The grass was incredible, the old Civic Stadium in Portland always had turf. And then the players. I look down there, quite a ways down there, and there was Ozzie Smith. Smith is probably the best defensive shortstop of all time. There's Brian Jordan who had also played football for the Atlanta Falcons. There's Todd Zeile a really good young hitter. Oh man...I was in awe. As other kids were more worried about getting a hot dog and a drink I just stood there soaking it all up. 

Do we still have the awe factor about God? 

I was reading an email I received this morning called, 4 Practices To Regain Your Passion For Ministry. Just like anyone who has been in a career or job for a while you lose your fire. You take for granted what you do, and you find yourself complaining and frustrated. The first practice listed in this email was, REMEMBER YOUR CONVERSION. 

I think the point is to remember what God has done for you. 

1. Remember where you've been

In 1 Corinthians 6 Paul is really letting people have it. He's going through a list of all the different sins and lifestyles that will prevent you from entering heaven. I can just imagine the people reading his letter and thinking, "Go get em Paul. That's right, those people won't make it!" Then in verse 11 he drops a bomb when he says, "and that is what some of you were." Paul was making them remember where they had been. 

They had come a long ways, but they needed to remember how they got there. God had done a lot of awesome stuff in their lives. God had saved them from a life of sin, and had empowered them to change and overcome a lot. It's so good for us to remember where we've been and God has done to get us where we are at now. 

2. See how good we have it

There are times I will be taking a shower and I will just thank God for hot water. I've been places in the world where hot water is not something that flows through the pipes. It's cold shower after cold shower. You almost get used to it after a few days, and then you go home. Oh man, that hot water feels so good. I do have it pretty good. 

Think about what God has provided for you. One time when I was teaching a youth class I had the kids go home and write down everything they owned. I wanted details. How many pairs of undewear, socks, shirts, pants. I wanted to know how many vehicles they had access to, how many TV's they could watch, how much food was in the fridge and the freezer. It was really cool to see them come back with this huge list. It helped them, and me too, to see that they were so blessed to have what they had. 

But it's not just the STUFF. 

You and I have HOPE through Jesus. No matter what happens to me or you our hope cannot be taken away. 

You and I have PURPOSE. Every day I wake up I have a purpose. I'm not aimlessly living my life just trying to survive and make it through the day...I have a reason to get up and go. 

You and I see MODERN DAY MIRACLES all around us. Let me tell you one that happened to our church and a family specifically in our church. So we put on a carnival to celebrate the end of the year for our children's program last spring. A family in our church runs a carnival. They offered to bring ups some rides for free for us. So cool. So they brought their generator that runs all the rides. They checked the generator before they got there and it was 7 gallons from being full. These generator ran for 6 hours. It takes 5-6 gallons an HOUR to run this generator. Do the math and it takes between 30-36 gallons to run the whole day. After the carnival is over they took the generator to the gas station and filled it up with fuel. It took 7 gallons to fill it. Remember that they started with 7 gallons under full...so they ran this generator for 6 hours and it didn't use any fuel. THAT'S A MODERN DAY MIRACLE. 

So if you are beginning to yawn at your relationship with God it's time to spice it up. There are a lot of opportunities to do this. The early church did not serve a different God then we do today. 

 




October 3, 2017, 8:24 AM

Devotion is a way of life


The dictionary definition of devotion is "earnest attachment to a cause, person, etc.". 

Devotion is a way of life. We see a lot of devotion with sports fans. They have bumper stickers on their vehicles. They have personalized license plates declaring their devotion. They get tattoos. They wear the jerseys and the gear. They decorate their homes with the logos of their team. I have a brother in law that has his favorite NASCAR racer's number tattooed on him. It's devotion...it's a way of life. There's no wavering. This is not for fair-weather people. Devotion is not for the faint of heart...just ask a Cleveland Browns fan! 

In Acts 2 the church begins with a flourish. We see 3,000 people get saved and there are more coming to Christ every day. It's quite the sight. But when we read the end of chapter two it's more than just a one-day flash in a pan. These are die-hard Christians. Here's what Acts 2:42 says about them, They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

This was not something they did when there was nothing else to do or it was just convenient to do this. So what does devotion look like as a follower of Christ. Devotion is devotion no matter what you are involved, but here's a few things I really believe devotion is:

1. Devotion is not for the faint hearted

Why aren't more people devoted to anything? It's because they are faint hearted. They are too easily distracted, discouraged and disengaged. If you are going to devote yourself to something you have to have some courage. You have to have a little bit of a backbone. You can't be one that gives up easily. You have to have some stubbornness in you. Devotion is simply not for people who are not ready to have a little hardship. This doesn't mean that you never feel like giving up it just means you don't give in to your feelings. 

2. Devotion is a daily commitment

Jesus said that if you want to be a follower of his you had to pick up your cross DAILY. Every day you must make a decision to either be devoted to God or not. You are tested every day. Your decisions to do what is right are tested moment by moment throughout a day. Are you going to do give in or do what is right? You can't decide to do this once a month or even once a week. Every day we wake up we take on the battle. Devotion recommits on a daily basis. 

3. Devotion is rising above how you feel

The basketball star, Larry Bird, was known as "The Hick From French Lick." Bird was from the little Indiana town of French Lick. He was raised in poverty. He suffered loss as a young man, his dad killed himself. He dropped out of Indiana University, because of the size of the school and a lack of funds and he became a garbageman in his hometown. He eventually went to the smaller Indiana State and the rest is history. Bird may not have had the natural athleticism that some basketball stars had, but his devotion and his work ethic were almost unmatched. Bird took 200 practice shots every day. Seven days a week all year long...200 shots. My arms would fall off if I took 200 shots, then you get back up the next day and do it again. Do you think there were days that he didn't FEEL like doing that? I imagine he felt like skipping it more than he felt like doing it, but it's called devotion. 

Devotion rises above how you feel and keeps the commitment, because you have a devotion to the cause. 

4. Devotion pays no attention to what others do

When Joshua was transitioning out of leadership for Israel he gave a speech. It's one of most inspiring and unforgettable words in the Bible. In chapter 24 Joshua gathers the people he'd been leading and gives them a challenge. He challenges them to serve God and not the idols of their forefathers. But finally he tells them that no matter what they are going to do he and his family were going to serve Almighty God. 

Devotion does not hold it's finger in the air and try to determine which way to go. Devotion does not take polls. Devotion does not gather focus groups to see what the best thing to do is. Devotion decides what is best and goes forward...despite what others may do. 

Social media has made it very evident that we are naturally interested in the opinions of others. On Facebook we actually have a LIKE button and now even a button with a heart on it...so that people can really LOVE what we are doing. It feels good to have someone like what I'm doing, but I cannot be controlled by this. 

My devotion to God and my church must be driven by God and my own decision to do it. Other people's opinions of what I do will come and go. They will be positive and negative depending on the day. My devotion cannot be swayed by this. I get up everyday committed to God who does not change. 

Devotion is a way of life. I pray that you will be choose to be devoted to the right thing for your life. 




September 27, 2017, 9:51 AM

By Purpose or By Accident


Would you say that you live your life more by purpose or by accident? 

I know...it's a tough question, and maybe a tough question to be really honest about. Or maybe it's just a tough question to answer period. As I sit here and write this post I've having a hard time answering this question. 

I would say that some of my life is on purpose and some of my life happens on accident. As I get older I see the need to live life on purpose. I see the need to be intentional or nothing will ever really change in my life. I will not accidentally get healthier or more productive. It just doesn't work that way. 

When Jesus was leaving this earth he gave his disciples a very clear and concise purpose in something we call, The Great Commission, in Matthew 28. He told them there were three purposes he wanted them to fulfill..teach people the Gospel, baptize them, and disciple them. This was very clear and simple. This was very practical, and this was very measurable. So how do you and I stay on purpose in our lives?

1. Get simple. 

If you want to start living on purpose you have to keep it simple. You aren't going to make changes in your life if the changes are complex and overwhelming. To be more purposeful I've started to make a list every day I'm at work to get things done. The list is very simple and short. If I get those tasks done then I can add more, but if I write down 40 things I will get overwhelmed and will get nothing done. Get simple. 

2. Get practical

Jesus was very practical with the disciples. Teach them, baptize them, disciple them...now go do it. It wasn't necessarily easy, but it was clear. If you are going to get purposeful in your life you have to get practical. One of the things I want to get purposeful about is visitation and discipling. So I have made a practical goal of making five contacts a day with people that attend my church. It's not flashy, but it's something that if I do it good things will happen. I make more connections with people, I get to pray with people, I establish more meaningful relationships, but I only accomplish this if I get practical. Abstract ideas just don't move us to action. I need something I can easily understand and accomplish. 

3. Make it measurable

When the church was started on the day of Pentecost it was written that there 3,000 people baptized that day and more were coming to Christ every day. That's called measurable. Jesus told them to teach people, baptize them, and disciple them. All of these things are measurable. 

I wrote down my practical goal of making visits and contacts with people. I said I wanted to do 5 a day. That's very measurable. So what are some of your goals in being more purposeful in your life? Money goals? Relationship goals? Spiritual health goals? The only way that you will know you are making progress is to make them measurable. So if you want to get more spiritually healthy how about praying for five minutes every morning before you go to work or school? That's simple, practical, and measurable. If you want to do better with your money how about doing something measurable like trying to see how long you can make a $20 bill last? It's really kind of a fun challenge, and it's very measurable. If you want to improve your friendships make a measurable goal to make three phone calls a week to your friends and just check in on them. 

Life is short. It's too short to live it on accident. Being purpose-driven is a Biblical principle and concept. God used it with the people of Israel, Jesus used it with his disciples, Paul used it in his teaching to the churches, and you and I would be much better off if we used it. 

Now go live on purpose today! 

 




September 20, 2017, 9:06 AM

Pray without ceasing...c'mon, really?


There are verses in the Bible that make me really wonder just how true they are. I know that sounds terrible coming from a preacher, but I'm being honest. In Luke 17:6, Jesus says that if I have faith of a mustard seed I can uproot a tree. I mean that sounds good, but can I really? I think Jesus was using hyperbole there to help me understand that I don't need a whole lot of faith to do great things. The power is in God...not in my faith. 

Then there's 1 Thessalonians 5:17, "pray without ceasing." 

Ok, what about when I'm sleeping? It's hard to pray when I'm working. I can't really pray when I'm having dinner with my family. I mean, this seems a bit much. 

Again, it's hyperbole. Paul isn't talking about 24 hour prayer vigils he is talking about a lifestyle of prayer. So why don't you have a lifestyle of prayer? Why do we much more often have a lifestyle of worry, anxiety, fear, and stress? So you just don't pray much or ever...why? 

You believe God loves the world, but not so sure he likes you. 

Why would you bother to pray if you didn't believe God cared about you individually? If you believe that you are a nuisance and a bother to God you aren't going to pray. Psalms 149:4 says that "God delights in his people." God doesn't just love the world, as if it were company policy, God really does like you. He wants to hear from you. 

You've tried prayer...and it didn't work. 

I get this. I have prayed for many things that have never happened. I have prayed for people to do things that they've never done. I have prayed for things to change that never changed. But I'm reminded of a Bible story of a persistent widow. She asked some of a judge and he would not give it to her, but she would not stop asking. The evil judge finally relented just to get the woman to shut up. Then Jesus says how much more will God give us who actually loves and likes us. Sometimes we don't what we ask for or we don't get it in a very timely manner in our eyes. 

As I look on my life I've seen God move in ways that were so much better than what I prayed for. Be patient, keep praying, and watch God move. 

I got this. 

Self-reliance and self-responsibility are good to a point, but when we don't see a need for God in our lives and we don't pray its too much. Here's the problem...there's very little we can control. When we see no need for God, who is in control of everything, we take on God's role. We try to control everything. We are taking on an impossible task for we get overwhelmed by anxiety, stress, fear, and worry. Not only are we having all of these negative emotions going on, but we are not accomplishing what we could. 

Prayer is a powerful tool. It's not because we are good at prayer or know just the right words, but prayer is something that taps right into the power of God. It's right there at our fingertips. So just do it. The next time you feel stressed...pray. The next time you feel anxiety welling up in you...pray. The next time you feel fear creeping up on you...pray. 

We talk about just giving these things up to God. Now it's time to actually do it. 


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