Billy's Blog
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August 15, 2017, 11:03 AM

You Don't Have Because You Don't Ask

As a minister there are many deep theological questions I get asked. Things like, "will my dog be in heaven", "will we eat in heaven", or "do I need a copy of my baptismal certificate to get into heaven." Seriously, I do get asked some whoppers. I get asked why God would allow bad things to happen to good people. I get asked about the end times and what exactly it will look like. I get asked about how we know the Bible is true. These are some really good questions and take some study and some careful thought. 

But I really love simple theology. I love when the Bible just comes out and says something with such clarity and simplicity that you just can't miss it. I love this verse in the book of James. 

You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. James 4:2

The key line I wanted to focus on is..."You do not have because you do not ask God." 

Huh...wouldn't it be in our nature to ask God first before we did anything else? I can only speak for myself but the answer is many times, NO. I tend to struggle, fight, worry, stress, get anxious, and then when I've exhausted all of my resources I ask God. Isn't this so backwards? 

In the next 40 days we are asking people in our congregation to pray. We are asking them to pray for 4 minutes a day for the church...leaders, staff, goals, dreams, unity...whatever comes to their minds. The reason we are praying is that we realize that we can do nothing without God. We believe the words of Jesus in John chapter 15. 

"I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5

We have the power of the Almighty God at our fingertips so why would you not want to tap into that? 

I challenge you today to set aside four minutes every day. We are challenging our congregation to pray for our local church, but the challenge to you is simply to pray. Before you stress and get anxious and make yourself sick...PRAY. The simple theology found in James is so true...you do not have because you have not asked God. 

Go do a grand prayer experiment just four minutes a day and see what happens. 

 




August 3, 2017, 9:29 AM

The rest of the story...

Years ago radio commentator Paul Harvey would finish a story he had previously told a part of and he would introduce the second half of the story by saying, "and here is the rest of the story." He said it in a way only Harvey could. The rest of the story would tell the complete truth of what he was saying. 

It is very true that Jesus was kind and compassionate to sinners. He was willing to spend time with people that other religious would not. He was willing to befriend people and was actually "criticized" as being a friend of sinners. He showed mercy when others showed judgment. But I want you to understand the rest of the story. 

In John chapter eight Jesus is encountered by a group of men. They want to know if the Law will allow them to stone this woman caught in adultery. Jesus doesn't even argue this fact, but he appeals to mercy. He asks these men to consider if they are without sin and if they should continue to stone this woman. Remember that this woman was caught in adultery...meaning that her appearance must have been less than appropriate. I heard one preacher say that it was very likely that she was naked. I mean she was CAUGHT. Jesus appeals to these men to have mercy on her, because they are in need of mercy from God, too. After a few moments the older ones drop their stones first and then the younger ones walk away. 

Jesus looks at the woman and asks her if anyone is left to condemn her. She looks around and to her surprise all the men are gone. I can see her huddled down just trying to brace for the imminent death that is coming her way. She looks up and they are gone. They are all gone. Only Jesus is left standing there. She answers Jesus that no one is left to condemn her and Jesus says, "Then neither do I condemn you." 

We tend to stop there a lot. We focus on the mercy and grace that Jesus shows this woman. We should spend a lot of time on this. The mercy and grace part of this story is very important. The comparison of condemnation versus mercy is a huge point here. But we need to hear the REST OF THE STORY. 

After Jesus tells this woman that no one is there to condemn her he tells her, "Go now and leave your life of sin." 

Jesus gave her a second chance, but if life was really going to change for this woman she needed to live differently. Jesus never excused or accepted her sin...Jesus accepted this woman. She was created by God and was loved by Jesus, but her life needed to change. The purpose of grace to enable to live a different life. Grace is not meant to simply let you know that God loves you, but it's intended to move you into action. 

In 1 Corinthians 3:10 Paul speaks of building churches and says, "By the grace given me I laid a foundation..."

Paul is saying that he was given grace by God to do the mission he was created to do. Part of the grace of God is to release us to live the life God has called us to live. He has given us the opportunity to follow Jesus. 

The rest of the story is go follow Jesus. So have you taken the opportunity of grace? Have you received the mercy of God that allows you to go live for Jesus? 

To accept the grace of God and do nothing is a wasted opportunity. The cost of grace was too high for us to do nothing with it. 




July 18, 2017, 9:46 AM

Pick Up Your Cross

 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me."--Matthew 16:24

How do you define what it means to pick up your cross in our culture? When Jesus told the people in the first century to pick up their cross and follow him they knew what it meant. They watched people pick up their cross. They witnessed people carrying their cross down the street to have their life taken from them. 

Does this really mean we have to be willing to die to follow Jesus? Yes and no. 

I think when Jesus said this it was both literal and figurative. If you were a Christian in the first century there was a strong likelihood you may have to give your life for your faith. History tells us that all of the apostles were martyred except for John and he was boiled in hot oil. You can read books that detail the ways Christians died because of their faith. People are still being persecuted and put to death because they are believers. 

But it's more than a physical death. 

We may never face this kind of death in America and I hope we never do, but it doesn't mean that we can't pick up your cross. 

WE NEED TO DIE TO OURSELVES. 

Picking up your cross also means that we are going all in. There is nothing we are holding back. There is no other option for our lives. It's Jesus or nothing. So what does this mean? What does it really mean to go all for Jesus? 

I love this illustration I was shown a few years ago. I can't really show it to you but I can describe it and I hope you can picture it in your head. 

Picture a pie chart. There are percentages that cut up the pie into pieces. Let's say you are doing a pie chart of your life. One piece of the pie is your work. One piece of your pie is your family. One piece of your pie is your money. One piece of your pie is God. You have this pie all split up and each piece is independent of each other. God gets a piece of your life. He gets Sunday morning, he might get a few moments of prayer every once in a while, but he has nothing to do with your family or your work or your money. This is how many people serve God. God does not have their whole lives just a piece. This is not picking up your cross. 

Now picture a solar system. The sun is in the middle and all of the planets orbit around it. The planets are what they are because of their relationship to the sun. Picture your life like this. God is in the middle of everything you do. God influences how you spend your money, how you raise your money, how you do your job and everything else in your life. This is picking up your cross. 

James tells us in James 4:15 that instead of making plans on our own we should say, "if the Lord wills", we will do this or that. He says it's boastful to think we can control our lives. Not only is it boastful it's silly. How many of you have realized that all of our plans should be written in pencil, because life can change in the blink of an eye. How many plans get changed everyday in your life, because life is unpredictable? 

So the idea of picking up a cross might not speak as loudly and clearly as it did in first century world. But we can still understand the concept and GO ALL IN. 




July 11, 2017, 4:10 PM

Just Say No...if it just were that easy

Are you old enough to remember Nancy Reagan's famous anti-drug intiative...Just Say No? 

It was a good idea to simply train people, mainly young people, to say no to drugs. As you can see by the drug abuse in our country it didn't work. I'm not sure anything really has worked. 

Why is Just Say No a flawed idea? Why can't we just say no to ourselves? Why do we struggle to deny ourselves? 

1. Our lives are a struggle

So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. Romans 7:21-23

You wake up every day with a battle. You battle between the sinful nature and the Spirit. If you are a baptized believer you have the Holy Spirit. This Spirit is battling the sinful nature that you and I have. This is our struggle. This struggle will not end until we see Jesus face to face. It's just a part of our existence. This is why it's so hard to say no to ourselves when we want something that is not good for us. We have a part of us that desperate wants the things that aren't good for us, and we have a part of us that wants what's good. So when you struggle and fight against yourself it's not a unique situation. 

2. We need each other

Take a second and Google the "one another" passages in the Bible. I looked it up and found that these phrase is used 1-- times in 94 different verses in the New Testament. The idea that we need other people to do this thing called, Christianity, is all throughout the Bible. We've got this figured out. If you want to stop drinking...you go to AA. If you want to lose weight you go to Weight Watchers. If you want to exercise regularly you join a workout group. Why would this be any different if you wanted to follow Jesus. If you find yourself not doing so well in the following Jesus department of your life, which is your whole life, you might not be around other believers enough. 

I know it's hard to imagine a preacher railing on church attendance, but here I go. I've never visited someone who has willfully been missing church a lot that is doing good spiritually. They are always struggling. If you find a person who is a member of AA but hasn't been going I bet you'll find the same thing. We need each other to overcome the battles in our lives. You were not meant to be a Lone Ranger. 

3. We need God

I was studying the passage where Jesus says to ask and it will be given, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened. Do you notice something about knocking? Someone has to open up the door. You can't and shouldn't do it yourself. We need God. 

Look at the chaos in our country caused by fatherless homes. It's crazy. Now you go try to live your life without the support, help and love of your heavenly Father. Life will continue to be disastrous. 

You can't do this on your own so stop trying. 

*Get into His Word. Seek out the guidance and wisdom that God has put there for us to read and reread, and read again. 

 

*Talk to him. Imagine that...a relationship built on communication. You have to have it. Talk to God. Let him know how you feel. Tell him what's bothering you. Take the time to ask, seek and knock. 

*Listen. Isn't it really annoying when you are trying to have a conversation with someone who won't shut up? Think about how annoyed God gets when we won't listen. Stop and listen to him. He still talks. He still is a verbal God. His voice may not come out of a burning bush, but he still wants to speak to you. 

Just say no sounds pretty good, but we need some help. 

God designed us this way so we might as well go along with it. 




July 6, 2017, 10:22 AM

Deny Yourself

I've had to say no to my kids a LOT through the years. Many times I don't like saying no to them, but I have to. The person I really don't like saying no to is me. I struggle to say no to me. One of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control, and I really struggle in this area. I don't like to control myself. I like to say yes to me. I like to let myself do whatever I want to do. 

The problem with this is if I want be a Christ follower, a disciple of Jesus, I must deny myself. 

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. Matthew 16:24

The first step to following Jesus is denying myself. Why must this happen? What does this mean? 

1. Why this must happen. 

If you are going to follow Jesus you can't be in charge anymore. I know, you don't like this, either, but it's part of the deal. Jesus has to be in charge. Just think about this. You have decided to follow Jesus. Why? One of the reasons you decide to follow Jesus is that you are disatisfied with your life. You are actually disatisfied with the direction of your life and you have been in charge of that. You have been the captain of your ship. If you don't like where you are heading why keep driving? You have to let someone else take over the wheel. If you are going to follow Jesus you can't be the one driving anymore. This is the first step to being a disciple...giving up control. 

2. What does this mean? 

Denying yourself means creating a practice of saying NO to you. Ephesians 2:1-3 is very clear that the reason we got in the mess that we got into was our own behavior. We did whatever we wanted to. We followed our own sinful desires and did whatever felt good. Doing whatever we wanted to is the reason we need Jesus. 

A lot of people like the idea of Jesus being the Savior. We like the idea that he saves us, and because of him we have salvation and we get to go to heaven not hell. This is great news. BUT...we're not so sure of this idea of Jesus being Lord. We're not real sure of someone else being in control. We like to be in control. 

The key word in all of this is TRUST. To follow Jesus we must trust him that he knows what he's doing and that he has our best interests in mind. When we go all in and let him be Lord of our lives we have finally agreed to trust him. 

When my kids get in the car they have total trust in me. We've driven through snow storms, severe thunderstorms, hail, extreme wind, and heavy rain. I've never seen my children freak out about it. They have trust in me that I can drive this vehicle and get us safely to wherever we are planning to go. 

Do you have this kind of trust in God? Are you ready to deny yourself and let Jesus be Lord of your life? 


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