Billy's Blog
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March 29, 2017, 10:02 AM

Hope Is Our Greatest Gift

Despite all of the positive thinking gurus, and self-help books, and smiling preachers on television promising God's favor, sometimes life just stinks. It just does. Sometimes people make bad choices that make a lot of people suffer. People get cancer. Families split up. Children suffer with disease and sickness. There are wars and battles and casualties. There are financial, emotional, and mental breakdowns. It's just difficult. 

Paul describes some of his troubles in 2 Corinthians 11. Here's a glimpse of what he went through...beaten almost to death, stoned, shipwrecked three times, spent a night in the open sea, been in danger from rivers, bandits, Jews, Gentiles, in the city and country. He'd suffered from hunger and thirst, gone without sleep, he had been cold and naked, and suffered from the stress of working with churches. 

Why would Paul share all of this? Paul goes on in 2 Corinthians 12 to talk about some suffering he had gone through. God did not change all of it or fix all of it, but here's what God said to him. "My grace is sufficient for you." 

In other words, no matter what you go through you've got hope because of my grace. 

Through the grace of God we have hope through Jesus. Life is not perfect yet, we are still on planet Earth. This is an imperfect place with imperfect results. Romans 8:24 says that we don't hope for what we already have. We hope for something that is coming. 

If anyone has ever told you that when you become a follower of Christ your life will be an easy road with one success after another they were a recruiter and a liar not a true disciple of Jesus. Life is life. The Bible says it rains on the just and the unjust. There is no Christian bubble where anything bad or tragic avoids all believers. 

Here's the difference...we have hope in the middle of the mess. I have been given promises by God that are not conditional based upon how life goes. God is on my side no matter what goes on each day. I know that I have a home in heaven and no one can take that from me. Romans 8 reminds me that NOTHING can separate me from God's love. I cling to these promises. 

Hope is our greatest gift. It sustains us when we want to give up and give in. It keeps us going when the circumstances of life threaten our belief in it. Don't give up people...you have hope...even when it doesn't feel like it. 

 

 

 




March 23, 2017, 9:51 AM

You're Not Destined To Be A Caterpillar

My daughter loves to catch caterpillars. Although the caterpillars are kind of cute in their own right it's really not the caterpillar that she's after. She finds a jar, makes sure there is adequate ventilation and food and waits. She's waiting for something called, metamorphosis. The caterpillar is cute but she's more interested in what this little furry thing will become. She's waiting for the two weeks it takes for this thing to become a butterfly. I'm about as interested as she is..actually our whole family kind of gets into it. As I walk by this jar every day in my kitchen I'm anticipating this cocoon to pop open and for this butterfly to pop out ready to fly. It's one of life's little miracles. 

All of us start out as caterpillars, but we are destined for much more. 

I love the hope and anticipation that is found in Ephesians 2:10. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works,which God prepared in advance for us to do.

You see that...these good works are prepared in advance for us to do. God anticipates that we will have this transformation and be ready to do good works that He has planned for us. God is acting in faith in us. He expects us to no longer be caterpillars just furry little things slithering in the grass. He expects us to be butterflies majestically flying around doing something much better. 

God believes this, but what about you? 

Sometimes we struggle to believe that we are anything but caterpillars. We can agree that others might be butterflies. We can believe that something great could happen for someone else, but not for us. Where does this skepticism, this lack of faith come from? It comes directly from Satan. 

Satan has no hope and he doesn't want you to have any, either. 

Today I learned that one of the boys I coached a few years ago in junior high basketball in Louisiana took his own life. It was a gut punch as I heard this news. This was a happy 8th grade boy at one time, full of life, a seemingly good and supportive family. But something happened. I have no idea what it was. I don't know any details yet, but I do know that he stopped believing his life was valuable. He believed he was destined to stay a caterpillar. Satan convinced him he had no hope and he gave up. 

Satan is a liar. The Bible says that lying is his native tongue. It's all he knows. Don't buy into the lies of Satan. 

God has a great life ahead of you. He's got some really cool stuff for you to do. He's got this metamorphosis planned for you. You are not destined to be a caterpillar. God wants you to be a majestic butterfly ready to take on whatever God has in store you. Believe the promises of God and live your life like you believe them. 




March 14, 2017, 10:18 AM

The Windshield Is Your Friend

I got a lot of driving advice from my dad. Most of it was unwanted. When you are 16 yiou don't want some old man telling you how to drive every inch as you go down the road. He made me so nervous at times that it probably was almost counter productive to have him with me. But he did give me some great advice. He taught me to anticipate what people would do. This is great advice for avoiding accidents. The other thing he told me all the time was "check your mirrors." He wanted to teach me to have a good awareness of my surroundings so I could adjust and adapt to situations that can change in a heartbeat. 

You have to check your mirrors, but your best friend is your windshield. If you are going to be a good driver you have to be looking ahead. If you look behind you too much you will crash into what is coming up. Your mirrors are good, but your best friend in a car is your windshield. 

Everyone has things that are in their rear view mirror. 

Alcoholism, drug addiction, abuse, anger, bankruptcy, divorce...the list goes on and on and on. You have your own stuff in your rear view mirror. There is some benefit to looking back and remembering where you've been, but the most advantageous things you can do is look forward. 

The Apostle Paul had a lot in his rear view mirror. His job before Jesus got a hold of him was to stop this crazy out of control thing called, Christianity. He imprisoned Christians, killed them, and did everything he could to stop it. Then he gets saved in this incredible story that included literally seeing the light. He immediately starts preaching, but he has some major baggage. The Jews, his old friends, despise him for betraying them. The Christians, his new friends, are very skeptical and really don't want anything to do with him. He had a great friend named, Barnabas, who stood up for him with the Christians so that got better, but he was a man with a lot of baggage. 

Listen to his attitude about the past: 

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,  I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14

Paul was not where he wanted to be in his life as none of us are. But he knew that he if he was ever going to grow he had to do two things: 1. Forget what was in his past 2. Strain toward the future. 

It's no different for us. 

1. We must get past our past. 

Our past is exactly that...past us. We can't change it, we can't alter it, we can't make it any better. So why would we waste any energy on it? Life is too short to let our future be held back by our past. 

2. We must strain into the future. 

Paul says  that strains into the future. He puts forward some exertion to make the future the best it can be. It's not easy to have a great future. There are a lot of adversaries. There are a lot of obstacles. Satan wants us to be drug down by our past and to be so busy looking in the rear view mirror that we crash our futures. 

In John 10:10 there are two clear objectives stated by Jesus. Satan's objective and Jesus' objective. 

Satan's objective is to destroy your life in any way that he can. One of the ways he does this is by getting you to believe who you've been is who you'll always be. In other words...NO HOPE. Hope is Satan's biggest enemy. 

Jesus' objective is to give you life...a full life. His goal is to give you hope. Hope for a future. Hope that your past is in your past...enough said. Your future is bright because Jesus is in it. Also...enough said. 

Your rear view mirror are helpful for a moment, but your best friend is your windshield. Keep looking forward and enjoy what God has coming your way. 




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 female...in 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 co-workers...you 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. 


 


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