Billy's Blog
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March 7, 2017, 10:25 AM

I Belong

There are a lot of things I love about the church. It would be a pretty long list for me to tell you everything I love about the church. But I would say that top five would be it's a place where people can belong. 

There's a lot of places where people like you and I don't belong. When I go to a ballgames there are places for VIP's. I'm not sure I've ever been a VIP. I don't get to go in those doors. There are special clubs and memberships that I've never been able to have, because of the social status that I have. 

You might have been held back from certain status because of your last name, your neighborhood, or your family. 

When you are a part of the church you BELONG. 

Your life has meaning. 

You have a purpose. 

I love this short passage in Galatians 3:26-29:

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

1. I'm a child of God through Jesus

You can't take that away. No matter what you think of me you can't change this. It doesn't matter what my last name is or where I was raised or what I've done in my past...if I know Jesus I'm a child of God. 

2. I have a new identity

Our identity may not have always been a positive one. When you become a follower of Jesus your identity is found him him now...this is so freeing. I am not held back by my past. I am empowered to live for Jesus. It's amazing how I've seen people's lives get transformed and their identity totally changes as a believer. 

3. My life has value

In Christ there is no slave or free, Jew or Gentile, male or other words all lives matter. My life as a believer has value, because God says it does. In parts of our world they are certain races that have little value. In some parts of the world girls have little value. In some parts of the country women have little value. Christianity is a revolutionary movement in the world, because Christ says all people have value. 

Anywhere Christianity goes in the world people are treated better. The value of life goes up. 

The same is true of you. 

Your life is valuable. You have much to offer. You have a purpose to get up every day. Your life has meaning. It's important. 

I love this. Other world religions give more or less value to certain people depending on race, gender, age, or social status, Christianity does not do this. You are important and what you do is important. 

I love the church. 

I don't love the church because it's perfect. The church had no chance to be perfect, because it's made up of people. We are flawed in every way. But the church is the greatest organization in the world, because of our leader. Jesus Christ set the great example for what the church is supposed to be...inclusive, compassionate, impartial. 

I pray that we will continue to be the church that Jesus called us to be. A place where we can all BELONG. 

March 2, 2017, 10:05 PM

Do Not Judge...or option B...

I hear it a lot when I'm out talking to people about life issues. Some of these issues are light hearted and funny and some are downright controversial. At times as a believer in Christ and a pastor I'm put in situations where I must make a judgment on someone. Is this right? Aren't we to avoid all judging of other people? I mean Jesus didn't come to earth to judge the world but to save the world. Right?

Well, let's read Matthew 7:1. "Do not judge, or you too will be judged." 

You see, there it is. No more judging. 

Ok, so take judgment of others totally out of your existence. 

You are playing in a park with your children. Your nine year old daughter goes walking in a big grass field that has a little road that runs through it. Here comes this old Ford Conversion Van slowly down the little road. This 50 something man gets out of the van and walks slowly over to your little girl. He has some candy in one hand and a teddy bear in the other. If you are a dad or mom in this situation what will you do? You will make a judgment. You will look at the evidence that's in front of your face, and you will judge this man to not have pure motives. You run over as fast as you can, snatch your little girl, and call the police. Are you a hateful, bigoted person? No, you are making a fair assessment of the situation. 

Life is a series of judgments about people. When someone interviews for a job they are being judged. When someone wants to be your friend you must judge them to see if they are someone you want to be friends with. As you meet neighbors, get introduced to your daughter's boyfriend, or meet new are making judgments about people. 

So what was Jesus getting at in Matthew 7?

As always with the Bible you must keep reading. 

"For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." Matthew 7:2

Jesus is saying that the way you judge people is the same way you will be judged. So when you judge someone do it fairly. When you judge someone you must see their actions. You can't see into someone's heart so quit trying to judge their every motive. Judging someone is about making a fair assessment not attacking them or finding a reason to justify your prejudice or fear. 

Much unfair judgment is based on fear or prejudice. I may make a judgment on all people of a nationality, because I am simply ignorant of who they really are. So it's much easier to just judge them unfairly. It's much harder to take the time to get to know them and understand them and judge them based on reality not some pre-conceived notion. 

Judgment is something we all must do to protect ourselves and those around us. It's just a part of life. Jesus challenges us to give people a chance. He challenges us to go beyond the norms. He challenges us to rise above societal expectations. Jesus was a Jewish man who was willing to speak in public with Samaritan women. He didn't judge people on mere stereotypical ideals. He reached out and gave them a chance. 

Is it a sin to judge? No, not in the right context. 

But let's consider very closely how Jesus judged other people. Then let's just try to be more like him. 

That usually works. 


February 24, 2017, 12:47 PM

Living with the purpose of Jesus

How do you live every day? 

I know that there are things we must do. We get up and shower and take care of our bodies. We must get in our vehicles and try to safely drive to get where we are going. We must go to work to provide for ourselves and our families. Then there are workouts, kid's sports and activities, and other events that take up our time. I'm not necessarily asking you to change anything you are doing just maybe throw a little purpose in there. 

Just ask yourself this...if Jesus came to your job what purpose would he have?

First of all, I think he would do a good job. I think that would be important to him since the Bible says that we are to be good employees, not just when the boss is looking but when he's not. 

Secondly, I think he would look for ways to be kind of share his message to his co-workers. I heard a preacher recently say that we need to find ways to reach out to co-workers without getting called into HR. In other words, don't be weird. 

How would Jesus act at your kid's ballgame? Would he scream at the referees and criticize the coach? I doubt it. He would find ways to be kind. He would strike up conversations with others in the stands. He would seek to get to know them and find ways to minister to them. He might walk up to the coach and tell him how much he appreciated the coach's hard work. 

What purpose would Jesus have at your gym? What would Jesus' purpose be with your family? 

I tend to have a purpose when I go places, but many times it's merely selfish. I want to go this ballgame to see my kid, and only MY kid, do well. I want to go to this restaurant to get my meal in a timely fashion and just how I want it. I'm not that concerned with the waitress and whether or not she knows Christ or has had a tough day. 

I need to get more on the purpose of Jesus. 

As I left my hotel room this week I did something I'd never done. I always leave a tip. I try to clean out the change in my pants and leave a couple of dollar bills. I know the cleaners have a tough job. But this time I wrote a note. I told them how much I appreciated their hard work and I wrote down, "God bless you." It wasn't much, but it was something I'd never done. I'm not sure the tip really impressed them, but I'm hoping the combination of the two spoke into the cleaning lady's life at least a bit. I never met the person, and I probably never will. But maybe I planted a seed. Maybe someone else will have an opportunity with them, because I did just a little bit extra. 

How can you live today more with the purpose of Jesus in your mind? Actually, more than just in your mind, but in your actions and in your interactions with people?

Jesus' purpose with people and his interactions with them didn't just make them feel better about themselves, but it gave them hope. It gave them hope that maybe, just maybe, someone cares for them. Maybe, just maybe, their lives and their jobs mean just a little more than cleaning a room or delivering a meal. 

Go live on the purpose of Jesus today! 

February 15, 2017, 9:30 AM

Dear Younger Me

I was driving down the road with my oldest son and was flipping through the radio stations when he heard a song that he liked and asked me to listen to it. It was a song by MercyMe called, Dear Younger Me. It's been a couple of weeks so I don't remember any of the lyrics, but the message stuck with me. 

If you could tell the younger version of yourself anything what would it be? 

How far would you go back? Would you go back to your high school self, your twenty-something self, your 30-someting far would you go back? Remember, you have ONE thing you can tell them. You have one piece of advice that you can give them. I've thought a lot about this. Actually I've started this blog three times on this subject and just could not pull the trigger. Today I have it. 

I would day, "Dear younger me, don't give up, don't ever give up."

I stole this line from a speech by former North Carolina State men's basketball coach, Jim Valvano. This line was in a speech he gave at the ESPY's awards show just several weeks before he died of cancer. It's a great speech, but it rings true for my life. 

If you are going to try to make a difference in this world you will have opposition. You have things come at you that make you feel like quitting. I know we all have. I was sitting there working on my sermon this week at a local McDonalds. One of the men was talking about how he was tempted to quit his job many times. It was a difficult job that required being away from his family. He wanted to quit many times, but he didn't and he was glad he didn't. Today he has a nice retirement, he was able to provide well for his family, his perseverance paid off. 

You see when we give up and quit we miss out. 

Let's imagine that right now you are in a valley. A valley is a depression between two higher points. I lived in a valley when I was a kid, a literal one. It was called the Willamette Valley. It was in between the impressive Cascade Mountain Range...home to Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens, and Mount Hood, and the smaller Coastal Range. But just imagine that you are in a figurative valley. You are at the bottom, you are kind of struggling. The thing about a valley is you don't have to stay there. There's another mountain peak with spectacular views up ahead. But to get the peak you have to go through the valley. If you quit in the valley you will never see the spectacular views. 

If you quit when things are tough you'll never see the wonderful things that happen when you get through it. How many of us have squandered excellent opportunities, because we were unwilling to deal with the valleys? I'm sure many of you, including me. 

So dear younger me...don't give up. Keep going. One big factor in success is simply to keep going. Remain faithful. Perservere. When you do this you will experience some incredible things. You will achieve many of the things that you once felt were impossible. 

Oh, this blog is for all of you, too. So you don't give up, either! 

January 31, 2017, 11:32 AM

Laugh a Little

You've heard that laughter is good medicine...well, here's some backing for it. While Dr. Robert Provine, professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Maryland says, "The definitive research into the potential health benefits of laughter haven't been done yet", there is much evidence that it sure can't hurt. 

We change physiologically, our pulse and blood pressure goes up a little, we are stretching muscles throughout our face and body, and we breathe faster sending more oxygen into our bloodstream. Maceij Buchowski, a researcher from Vanderbilt University, actually found that 10-15 minutes of laughter burned about 50 calories. It's not exactly Pilates but it's something. 

Proverbs 17:22 says, "A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." 

In other words, laugh a little. I am not an expert on anything, but if there's anything I come close to being an expert on it's laughing. I love to laugh and I love to make others laugh. Here's some pointers if you want to laugh more, cry less, and burn calories while doing it. 

1. Don't take yourself too seriously

One of the biggest issues I have with Christians is that we are too uptight. We take ourselves way too seriously. We are too easily offended. We are too easily put off. We just need to chill a little. Learn to make fun of yourself. Learn to laugh when someone gives you a hard time and it's truly funny. When you forget that your zipper is down it's funny...let it go. I mean, you do need to zip it up, but right after you do have a laugh. 

2. Enjoy the funny things that happen around you all the time. 

There are funny things that happen every day. We need to be more aware of these events. Sometimes I do my writing and sermon work in public places. I hear some funny stuff. I was sitting a few tables down from a group of older men this morning talking about a guy who supposedly was a preacher but also was known as a shady salesman. One older man said, "During the week he preached BS and on Sunday he preached the Gospel!" That was funny. Our children do funny things, enjoy it. Our spouses do funny stuff...enjoy it. I love when I can make my wife laugh, and sometimes she's laughing at me. We had a little laugh last night about a mistake that she made. I was kind to her when she made the mistake but a few days later I made a little jab at her. We both laughed. 

3. Allow yourself to laugh

Maturity is NOT being a sour prude. Maturity is knowing when it's ok to laugh and when it's not. I debate this line in my head many times a day. Sometimes I cross a line, and I know it. I feel bad. But sometimes you need to let yourself laugh. I have used laughter to ease the tension in really tight spots. I have used it at funerals and people have commented on it. It really helped them relax and helped them remember happier times with their deceased loved one. I've used it when couples come in for counseling...just a little joke to ease the tension. I use it in sermons to get everyone relaxed and ready to listen. Allow yourself to laugh. It's ok to let your guard down sometimes and relax. 

4. Choose to laugh

Crying and laughing are both therapeutic at times, but it's much more fun to laugh. Choose this. Happiness is a choice. Choose to laugh. I know I can get really worked up when something goes wrong, but we can just choose to laugh. We have choices every day how we respond to things. We can go crazy. We can scream and rant and rave, but you know what that does to you? It does all kinds of negative things to you physically. Let it go and maybe have a little laugh. 

Find some time to laugh today. Maybe watch the Three Stooges or a Chris Farley scene. Laugh at yourself when something goes wrong. Laugh at a friend who says something dumb. Find ways to laugh with your kids. Sit at a table and have lunch and tell funny stories. 

You get one life. Enjoy it. Laugh more. The end. 


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