Billy's Blog
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April 28, 2015, 9:12 AM

Lines of Separation


In our culture there are so many things that separate people, that make on person more important than another.

Money is a HUGE one. If you have money you can have more material things which sets you apart. If you have money you usually have power, which means you have influence. 

Good looks is another one. Good looks can get you ahead in life even when you don't really have anything else...including intelligence and talent. 

Intelligence and talent can set you apart from people. You can get scholarships...both athletic and academic. You can achieve higher levels of success in your career. You can have an office with a window and a nice title while others have a cubicle and don't even get a business card. 

Money, intelligence, looks, talent...all of these separate us and give different values to people in our culture...but sin is an equalizer. Sin puts us all on level ground. 

Romans 3:23 says that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." 

Notice that word, ALL. It doesn't matter if you are rich or poor, skinny or fat, the CEO or the janitor...everyone has sinned. Everyone is in the same boat outside of Jesus Christ and it is sinking. In Acts 10:34 Peter says that God shows no partiality. When God judges you he doesn't judge you on whether or not you have a lot of money or don't. He doesn't judge you on how beautiful you may appear. He doesn't judge you based upon what others have said about you. He judges you simply by what you've actually done. He treates everyone fairly. 

If we are all in the same boat then why would any of us think that we are better than someone else? 

Why would we think that our sin is BETTER than someone else's sin? Why would we think that our ugliness is somehow prettier than someone else's ugliness?

Let's just face it...all of us have messed up, do mess up, and will continue to mess up. So we can put down the masks of perfection and drop the act. We can get real about who we are. We can stop tearing others down to make ourselves feel better and put out a helping hand. 

We're all in this boat together...we might as well row together in the right direction. 




April 23, 2015, 9:23 AM

Uglier On Someone Else


It's super easy to point out the flaws in other people. Especially the flaws that we ourselves have. In the mid-80's, Jimmy Bakker was a well-known televangelist. He had a huge ministry, but he fell in a huge way. He was convicted of fraud and embezzelment and also had a much-publicized affair. Jimmy Swaggart, another well-known televangelist, came out and was very critical of Bakker. He called Bakker a cancer in the church. About three months later Swaggart came out on TV with tears in his eyes confessing that he'd visited several prostitutes. 

While Swaggart was calling out Bakker for his sin he was doing the same thing. 

One preacher put it this way...our sin looks a lot uglier on someone else. We might be doing the same thing we are dumping on others for doing, but it looks a lot worse on others. 

When we judge others and criticize others we deflect off of ourselves and put the attention and criticism on others. It's much easier to judge others than it is to deal with sin in our own lives. So how do we deal with the sin of others? I mean, we can't just pretend people don't have sin, can we?

Several years ago, I got involved in a program called, Celebrate Recovery. Celebrate Recovery is a Christ-centered recovery program that helps people with hurts, habits, and hang-ups. For years I had been very judgmental and critical of people with alcohol and drug issues. I just couldn't understand why people would fail in this way, because I'd never had any issues with this stuff. While spending time with the people in this program I learned a couple of things. 

First of all, I learned these people's stories. I learned that if I had gone through some of the things these people had gone through I myself would have likely turned to drugs and alcohol. I learned their stories and found compassion for them instead of judgment. I didn't excuse their behavior, but my heart softened toward them. 

Secondly, I learned that my sins were no better than theirs. I had my own issues and problems. I learned that I needed help as much as they did. I was no better than them...I was just different than them. I didn't excuse their sin, they didn't excuse mine...we worked together to help us recover from them. 

Our sin may look uglier on other people, but it's just as ugly on us. 

All of us have fallen short of God's standards, God's glory. None of us have done what is right. So instead of judgment and criticism let's work together to help each other recover and move on and live to our full potential. 




April 14, 2015, 8:31 AM

Most Bang For Your Buck


If you ever analyze advertising you'll notice that they understand how to get the most bang for their buck.

If you are watching ESPN, you'll see a lot of commercials about beer, hair replacement products, and sports fantasy websites. These advertisers know that primarily men from 25-55 years of age are watching this network. 

My family likes the show, Matlcock. We record it and don't really watch the commercials, but if you do see a commercial it's a lot of commercials about retirement, Medicare plans, and life insurance. The advertisors know that there is typically an older crowd who watches Matlock. 

These advertisors don't want to try to sell electric wheelchairs to 25 year olds or exercise equipment to 80 year olds. They know they must be smart to get the most bang for their buck. They want their advertising to work. 

When I ask people to hold up their hand if they are in church today because of some type of personal invite almost everyone raises their hands. Here's how it breaks down on average in America when it comes to invites to church.

2% by advertisement

6% by pastoral invitiation

6% by organized evangelistic campaign

86% by friends and relatives

This week at church we are talking about the power of the invite. Not only is the personal invitation the best strategy by a LONG shot, but something really cool happens when you do this. You are becoming a part of the mission of the church. Ephesians 3:9-10 tells us that the mystery, the truth about Jesus, would be revealed through the church. The church is us...the world is going to find out about the good news of Jesus through us...that's pretty cool. 

The church has tried lots of things throughout the years to reach people...it's why we have the statistics. But as you can see the real bang for our buck happens when people invite people. 

The first glimpse people have of Jesus is usually not in a movie or in the Bible or in church. Usually the first glimpse people have of Jesus is us...Christians. The first encounter they have with Jesus is us. Let's make it a great one this week!




April 9, 2015, 9:01 AM

The Choices We Make


There are choices that you and I make that dominate every other choice. Let me explain. 

If you decide to join the Army, for most of our history that has been a free choice. Once you have joined the Army and head off to boot camp your choices are now controlled. They tell you when to eat, what to eat, when to go to bed, when to go to the bathroom, where you going to live...you get the point. The initial choice was yours, but that initial choice dominates all your other choices. 

Several years ago country legend, George Jones, wrote a song called, Choices. He was talking about how his choices early in his life had influenced his life. One example was his choice to abuse alcohol. His choice to abuse alcohol controlled many other choices that he made. If you've ever struggled with alcohol you know how it is. That one bad choice leads to a lot of other bad choices. 

Serving God is a choice. Being a part of a church is a choice. God does not force himself on you, and the church doesn't either. (or shouldn't) You are free to choose to accept or reject God. But....when you choose God your choices are now dominated by His will...or should be. We really like to have it both ways. We want to choose God and all that he can do for us, but we don't want to submit to his will. 

In Galatians 2:20 Paul writes this, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."

Paul had a choice to whether he would serve God or not. But as a follower of Christ, he knew that he had given his life over to the lordship of Christ. He no longer called the shots...Christ did. His choices were directly influenced by God and his will. 

If you join the Army and think that you are going to call the shots you are going to have serious problems. It just doesn't work. There's a chain of command and you must follow it. There are no ifs ands or buts. 

There's a chain of command as a follower of Christ...He is God, you are not. It's really that simple. It's not easy, but it really is simple. 

I believe that serving God is the best choice you'll ever make. It really is Plan A...and there's really no Plan B. I know that many of you have tried Plans B, C, and/or D, and you've seen them fail miserably. I can tell you that my life has been incredibly blessed by serving God. I know that when I do things my way it just doesn't work out. 

No matter what I tell you about choosing God, it's still up to you. Just be warned. God takes over. He gets in your head and your heart and he rules. He doesn't like to share. He demands that your choices line up with his choices. He demands complete obedience. 

Choose God...but know what you are choosing. 

 

 




March 24, 2015, 5:32 PM

Bitter or Better?


There are very few things in life we can control. When you are young you think you can control most things. This is why we wonder why teens don't slow down after a classmate dies in a car wreck. They don't slow down, because they are in control of their lives...or so they think. It will never happen to them, because they are in control. As we get older we learn that we control very little. How can we control anything when we can't even control ourselves?

The one thing you can control is your attitude. The dictionary definition of attitude is: "Manner, disposition, feeling, position, etc, with regard to a person or a thing." In other words, attitude is how you view life. How you view life greatly influences how you behave and react. 

I think we all know now that you can't avoid suffering or difficult times. No matter how good we are, no matter how healthy we are, no matter how conscientious we are, we just can't avoid tough stuff. Most of our difficult times we just can't control or avoid. We don't choose these difficult times. What we can choose is our attitude. Will you allow difficult times to make you better or bitter?

Let me give you some advice. If you choose the bitter path you will be very lonely. Bitter and angry people are no fun to be around. Bitter and angry people push people away, because they are not happy. They are full of self-pity and self-absorption. If you choose bitterness you better be ready to be by yourself. It's how you'll end up. 

I really advice you to choose better. Better involves learning lessons from suffering, and becoming a better person. Better involves being a blessing to other people and being surrounded by people who love you. Better involves growing in your faith and having a deeper relationship with God. 

Two disciples of Jesus turned their back on him...Judas and Peter. Judas got bitter. He was so overwhelmed with sorrow for what he had done, he got so bitter that he decided to hang himself. His life never took a turn for a better. He died sad and lonely. 

Peter has a different story. He too was saddened to the point of bitter tears, but he didn't allow his heart to turn bitter. We read in John 21 where Jesus reinstates Peter and tells him to feed his sheep. He didn't allow this low point in his life, denying Jesus 3 times, to define the rest of his life. He used  it to become a better person. He used to inspire him to go all in for God. Church tradition tells us that Peter was martyred for his faith. He was hung upside down, because he did not consider himself worthy to be crucified as Jesus was. We might think this as a loss, but for Peter it was a great gain. He considered it an honor to suffer for the cause of Christ. 

He ended his life as better not bitter.

I hope that you will make the same choice. 


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