Billy's Blog
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May 16, 2017, 9:39 AM

The Big Picture

The devil is in the detail. I was never really sure what this meant so I Googled it. According to Wikipedia it's an old idiom that means that you're going to find something in the details that may complicate what you are trying to do. I don't like details. I struggle with details. You know things like; keeping receipts, making lists, keeping a calendar...I don't do these very well. If the devil is in the details then I think God is in the big picture. 

In Matthew 23:23-24 Jesus challenges the Pharisees to get the big picture right. They did a great job with details. They gave a tenth of EVERYTHING...down to the spices in their garden. But they missed some big picture stuff. They missed things like justice, mercy and faithfulness. 

One account in the Bible tells us about Jesus encountering a woman who is caught in adultery. The men had the details right. The law did allow them to stone this woman. Their knowledge of the law was impeccable. Jesus did not appeal to their knowledge he appealed to mercy. He simply told the men that whoever was without sin could go ahead and start stoning her. The older men started to walk away and the younger men, who saw this was going nowhere, walked away, too. The only two people left there were Jesus and this woman. Jesus simply asked her if there was anyone left to condemn her. The answer was obvious, and Jesus told her to go and sin no more. 

The men had the details right, but Jesus appealed to a bigger picture. Maybe if we show this woman mercy she will change her life. Maybe if we see a bigger picture we might do a better thing. 

You and I need to see a bigger picture in our lives each day. 

Let's say you are in a restaurant. You have sat down with some friends for lunch. Your waitress informs you that this is her first day on her own. She has been through training but she's finally on her own. This is not good news. Your service will not be fantastic. She will be nervous, slow, and not very knowledgable about the menu. You find yourself getting impatient and angry just thinking about it. But don't think about the details. Think about the big picture. This young lady is already very self-conscious about the fact that she's new. She really wants to do a good job. Regardless of whether she's doing a good job maybe you should tell her she is. You see the effort she's putting forth. How about you tip her nicely? How about you set up your table to make it easier to clean? How about you be very nice and patient when she struggles to get orders right and is slower than you like? 

The bigger picture is that this is a person. She's a person made by God. She might possibly need Jesus Christ, and if you and I treat her with rudeness and disrespect what chance do we have of making a positive impact on her life. 

Jesus was great about seeing the bigger picture. When Peter defended him in the garden with that sword and cut that soldier's ear off Jesus was all about the bigger picture. Jesus was the one who had told the disciples to carry a sword. It wasn't that the detail was wrong. Jesus had a bigger picture. He had a mission to complete. He had to save the world not to save himself. 

Look for the big picture in your life today. 

The devil is in the details. 


May 9, 2017, 9:12 AM

Do As I Do

I have learned a lot of lessons from parenting. I know that my school is not closed. If the Lord wills I have many more years of parenting left to learn lots of new lessons. One of the things I've learned is that kids pay way more attention to what you do than what you say. As a preacher this makes it very challenging. My kids pay attention to what I say. I know this is true, because when I don't practice what I preach they remind me of what I've preached. Having children helps keep me both humble and accountable. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about. 

When Jesus started his ministry he called 12 men to follow him and learn from him. They were called, disciples. The original Greek word for disciple means: a learner and a pupil. Jesus called these men so that he could teach them what he wanted to be continued through the church after he died and resurrected. Jesus didn't just sit them down and tell them what to do he lived right there with them and modeled what he wanted them to do. 

So who are we discipling? 

One of the challenges Jesus gave the Pharisees in Matthew 23 is that they were not very good at discipling. Well, you could say they could make disciples, but what they made people wasn't good. 

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.  “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are. Matthew 23:15-17

Jesus was pretty harsh with these guys. He said they made twice as much a child of hell as they were. Ouch. 

One of the most challenging things to me is to model what it means to follow Christ. The apostle Paul told the people to "follow me as I follow Christ." Wow...I'm just not real sure if I'm ready to make that statement. But maybe I don't understand what he meant. Here's a few things I've learned about discipleship. I wish I had learned more, but I can be hard to teach sometimes. 

1. You don't have to be perfect. 

When Paul told the people, "follow me as I follow Christ", he wasn't saying he was on par with Jesus. He too was following Jesus. He too was in desperate need of the grace of God. He was not telling the people to do everything he did all the time. He was challenging them to join him on this journey. 

2. You have to know Jesus. 

In Matthew 16 Jesus asks the disciples who the people are saying he is. They responded that some said he was one of the prophets or maybe even John the Baptist. Then Jesus makes it personal. He asks them who he is to them. Peter gives the famous response that he's the Christ, the son of the living God. 

If you are going to help people follow Christ you have to know him. You have to have a personal relationship with him already. You can't lead people to somewhere you've never been. 

3. You have to be willing to open up your life. 

One of the things I appreciate about my wife is that she's been willing to open up our lives to people. I am naturally much less of a private person than her. I am much more outgoing naturally, but she has been more than willing to open up our home and lives to people. She has created her own discipleship moments because of this. What you see in our lives may not be what we always want you to see, like imperfection, but it's real. We have opened up our home to a small group Bible study for probably the last 10-12 years and it's been great. Our current group in Lancaster is such a blessing to us. We want to help people understand what it means to follow Jesus. 

4. Keep nudging people to Jesus. 

When you open up your lives to people you will have some opportunities. Keep nudging people to Jesus. Take opportunities to pray with them. Encouraged them to attend church. Create opportunities to serve others. Keep helping people see Jesus in their everyday lives in the same way that you do. Help people see blessings rather than strange coincidence or luck. 

Discipleship might be the toughest job I have a pastor and follower of Christ. I have been heartbroken by people who have just flat-out fell on their face or just gave up. I have been disappointed by people who I thought had so much potential but just never realized it. I have been hurt by people who I thought I was influencing for good but were imposters. But despite all of this, I have looked back and seen people grow and become more than I thought they would ever be.  These people make you realize this is why you do this. You know that you've made an eternal difference in their life. 

Go out there and make a difference in someone's life today. 

May 2, 2017, 11:46 AM

The Need To Be LIked

One of my favorite characters on TV is Michael Scott from the sitcom, The Office. He is played by Steve Carell, one of the most popular comedy actors right now. Scott is the regional manager of, Dunder Mifflin, a Scranton, PA paper supply company. The problem with Michael is that he loves to be liked. He has trouble making difficult decisions for the company, because he doesn't want to make anyone mad. He has a desperate need to be liked by everyone and it causes him and his co-workers a lot of hilarious headaches and awkward moments. His need to be liked paralyzes himself so that he can't make good leadership decisions. 

In Matthew 23:5-7 Jesus addresses the Pharisees need to be liked and appreciated and noticed by people. They want people to see them as leaders and as holy people. They love the best seats at the banquets, and they loved to be called, Rabbi. They loved the respect and love of people...even if it was fake. They loved to feel important and in charge and to be in front of people and receive their praises. 

Jesus called this, hypocrisy, because when we are driven by the need to be liked and given attention publicly, our sincerity goes out the window. Our reasoning for serving God becomes empty and fake. 

Jesus tells us many times that if we go all in for him that some people will not like us. Here are some of his words. 

"If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first." John 15:18

"But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues." Mt. 10:17

"Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death." Mt. 10:21

"Remember the word that I said to you, 'A slave is not greater than his master ' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also." John 15:20

I think you get the point. If you are going to serve God and go all in for him some people won't like you. Some people might be out to destroy you. Some people may become your enemies. But through all of this here's a few things to remember. 

1. They hated Jesus first. 

Remember Jesus? He was the man who was healing the sick, raising the dead, feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, befriending the friendless...this great man was hated. So don't assume that you are doing anything wrong because some people don't like you or even rise up against you. Sometimes it is proof that you are doing what's right. 

2. We should not be surprised by this. 

We live under the false assumption that good things happen to good people. Have you read the book of Job? Job was singled out for suffering specifically because he was a righteous man. We should not be surprised when people don't like us because we are faithful followers of Jesus. 

3. This is not an excuse to be a jerk. 

Remember that Jesus was hated because of the good he did and the bold statements he made. He did not deserve this. If you are being disliked because you are a pious jerk...that's a different story. I am so tired of preachers I hear on local radio or on Youtube videos labeled "bad preachers", that sound angry and almost happy that some people are going to hell. Jesus said that he did not come to earth to condemn people and neither do we. 

4. Keep the big picture in mind. 

Jesus was willing to go through what he went through partially because he knew two was temporary and it was part of the mission. We are on a journey. We are on the path to eternity with God. We might have to suffer a little bit while we are here, but the big picture is so much greater. I love what Paul writes to encourage us in 2 Corinthians 4:17:

 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

While being hated or pushed aside or ignored or slandered may not seem very like or momentary at the time of going through it, compared to what God has in store for us it is. We just have to keep that big picture in mind. We don't want to lose out on what God has for us, simply because we were unwilling to put with a little hiccup here on earth. 

I know the pain of not being liked for no fault of your own. It hurts. But remember that it's light and momentary compared to what God is going to give us for ALL eternity. 




April 25, 2017, 8:57 AM

Where Could I Go?

I grew up in a little church in Oregon that sang hymns out of a hymn book. While the song book was called, Sacred Selections, there's nothing sacred about the book. But the songs in that hymnal have made an impact on my life. When I hear some of the old hymns I have many good memories. One of the songs we used to sing was, "Where Could I Go?" The main theme of the song was the only place I have to turn is God. When life gets difficult, when it doesn't seem like anything is going right, I have to go to God, because I have no other place to turn. 

Is this true of you? 

I see so many turning to so many things to ease their pain or deal with life. I see people turning to drugs. I see people turning to alcohol. I see people turning to sex. I see people turning to food. I see people trying to stay busy so they don't think about their problems. I see hurting people just increasing their hurt, because they are disappointed by the incapability of these things to help them. Why is God the answer? Why would God help us when these other things can't? 

Look at this passage from the Psalms: 

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord,the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. Psalms 121:1-4

A man is looking up. He is wondering who is going to help him get through this. Who has the answers? Who has the power to change the situation? He discovers that it is God. 

1. God is your Maker. God knows how you are wired. God knows what makes you tick. God knows how you feel and why you feel the way you do. When Jesus tells his disciples he will send them the Holy Spirit in John 14 he calls the Spirit a Comforter, a Counselor...a person that knows what you need when you need it. If anyone knows what someone needs it would be the Creator. 

2. God is always there. God does not sleep. God does not slumber. He does not grow tired or weary. I want to help as many people as I can, but I get tired. I get weary. There are times when I am no good to anybody. I myself need counsel and help. God is always strong. God is always consistent. God is always there through the good and the bad. 

3. God has the power to help you. God will not let your foot slip. He's got you. People may have good intentions to help you, but they may let you down in the process. You may be grieving and someone will come over to your house and say something to you that sends you into a greater tailspin. They probably didn't intend to, but they are human. They may let your foot slip, because they are not God. They don't have the answer to every question. They are searching for the same answers you are. 

The fact that God is there for me gives me great comfort. There are times when I know there is no one on this planet that has words that will help me. I know that no amount of food or drugs or alcohol will really help me. It might give me a temporary reprieve, but it's worse when I'm done. I know God has all the answers. I know that he won't reveal all of them to me, because I won't understand it, but I know he is God. I know he's in control. I know that he loves me and he has my best interests in me. 

Ultimately, I know the truth found in Jeremiah 29:11:

For 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.

That is God's purpose for me and I know he will be faithful to see it through. 

Where can I go when I don't know where to go? To the Lord...always to God. 

April 18, 2017, 9:39 AM

ALL IN...why do it any other way?

I have a lot of good and fun stories about life. None of my good stories involve halfway doing something...even if it's bad. If you're going to do something do it all the way...even if it's wrong. 

Life is too short to not go all in...and it's not what God has planned for us. 

In Matthew 23, Jesus is really frustrated with a group of people called Pharisees. These were supposedly religious leaders of their day, but they failed to go all in. Jesus told the people that these men didn't practice what they preach. He told the people that they were all about appearances...not sincerity. They loved to appear to be righteous by wearing the right clothes and acting the right way in public, but they weren't really righteous. Jesus said that they cleaned the outside of the cup, but the inside was dirty. He even went further to say they were like "white-washed tombs." They looked alive on the outside, but inside they were spiritually dead because of their hypocrisy. 

Hypocrisy is a form of not going all in. It's like God has part of your heart, but not all of it. God is a jealous God. This means that He's not really excited about sharing you with other gods. You know, the god of money, the god of work, the god of busyness, the god of self. He's not real excited about having you give him part of our life. 

The fact is giving a part of your heart to something, especially God, is no fun, anyway. You'll never know what you could really accomplish until you go all in. 

I can really identify with Moses. Moses was a nobody. He was some fugitive shepherd taking care of his father in law's sheep when God called him. He felt totally incapable of doing what God wanted him to do. He didn't want to be a part of this. This was such a huge risk. God was asking him to go to the Pharoah, basically the king of the Egyptians, and try to convince him to release the Hebrews and give up all this free labor. Moses just felt like he wasn't the guy. But God said go so he went. You know the rest of the story. Moses went all in and Pharoah ended up releasing the Hebrews. Sure, he came after them with his army, but then Moses parted the Red another win. 

I know going all in is a risk. It's a risk to go all in and love someone. 

It's a risk to go all in and trust someone completely. 

It's a risk to go all in and go back to school. 

It's a risk to go all in and start a new career or make a move. 

But if you never just take the dive you'll never know what your life could be. 

Quit putting your toes in the water and go ahead and take the plunge! 

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