Billy's Blog
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November 28, 2017, 8:42 AM

What do you want from me?

If you've lived for very long you've probably had someone who you could not please. It might have been one of your parents who you could never satisfy. No matter what you did it was never good enough. Maybe it was a coach who demanded from you more than you could give. Maybe it was a boss at work that was critical of your work no matter how good it was or how committed you were to it. It might have been a husband or wife that you never do enough for and it broke your heart. You have probably uttered this question, "What do you want from me?" 

This is a question out of frustration, because we can't figure out what they are looking for from us. We are giving all we can give and it's never enough. You can easily get to the point where you just want to give up. Why should we continue to try to produce the impossible? 

When it comes to God what does he really want? The Bible is a huge book full of commands and laws and decrees. The Pharisees tried to keep and enforce over 600 laws. In the midst of all the complicated theology what does God really want from me? 

I want to share a passage of scripture with you that I've always found interesting and challenging. It's found in Amos 5. 

“I hate, I despise your religious festivals;
    your assemblies are a stench to me.
22 Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings,
    I will not accept them.
Though you bring choice fellowship offerings,
    I will have no regard for them.
23 Away with the noise of your songs!
    I will not listen to the music of your harps.
24 But let justice roll on like a river,
    righteousness like a never-failing stream!

25 “Did you bring me sacrifices and offerings
    forty years in the wilderness, people of Israel?
26 You have lifted up the shrine of your king,
    the pedestal of your idols,
    the star of your god[b]—
    which you made for yourselves. Amos 5:21-26

What is God getting at? What is he after with this rebuke? 

Remember that God was the one who had instituted all of these things...festivals, assemblies, offerings, songs, but he is telling the people to stop it. He doesn't want to hear their songs, he doesn't want their offerings, and their assemblies are making him sick to his stomach. Here's why...he didn't have their hearts anymore. 

He still had their actions, they were still doing the right STUFF, but their hearts were long gone. Their true allegiance was not to him. In verse 26 God says that they had "lifted up the shrine of their king, the pedestal of your idols". God was not only after their behavior and their STUFF he wanted their hearts. 

In the book of Revelation in chapters 2-3 we have letters written to seven different churches in Asia. John writes to the church in Ephesus in Revelation 2:4 that they had "lost their first love." They were doing a lot of the same STUFF, but God didn't have their heart. They had lost what they once had. 

Here's the deal...if God has your heart the rest of you will follow. Jesus said that where our treasure is there our heart will be, too. Our lives follow our hearts. If God has our hearts we will have no problem with our assemblies...our churches will be full. If God has our heart there will be no problem meeting budgets because our pocketbooks will follow. If God has our heart there will not be the division we see at times in the church, we will be working together to complete our mission. 

I'm not talking about perfection. David was described as a "man after God's own heart", but if you know anything about David you know he was far from perfect. God called a guy named Saul to lead his church. He had been one of the biggest enemies of the church, but God saw a good heart. If he could Saul to believe the truth he would have someone who would do great things. 

So does God have your heart? You are the only who knows. Does he have your allegiance or is there another god in control of your life? 

God will never ask anything of you that you can't give. He loves you the way that you are...he created you the way that you are for a reason. Just give what you have to him and watch what he does with it. 

November 20, 2017, 3:00 PM

Good find your purpose

It's Monday afternoon as I write this. Monday is a dreaded word for many people. They waste half of their weekend with dreaded anticipation just waiting to go back to a job they don't like. Mondays for me are a little different. My weekends are work weekends. Monday for me is usually a partial day of rest. It has a different purpose for me than it might for you. Whatever your Monday looks like we need to be looking for purpose in it. 

The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren was a huge hit, because it dealt directly with what many people struggle with...what's my purpose? We know we have obligations and responsibilities but is there a bigger picture to what we are doing? There is, but we have to search for it. If you have read the Purpose Driven Life you will see that everyone has purpose, but specifically you have to search it for you. 

So how do I find God's purpose in my life each day? 

Romans 12:2 has a lot of wisdom in it for finding God's purpose in our life. 

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2

1. To discover your purpose don't worry about what others' purpose might be.

God has uniquely made you to fulfill a unique purpose in your life...don't try to conform to what other people think you should be. Parents do this to their children sometimes. Dad was a doctor so the son has to be a doctor. What your parents do does not determine what you do. God wired you a certain way for a certain ok with that. The dreams and goals that you have in your life really have nothing to do with what others people have dreamt for you. You pursue God's dream for your life and don't worry about conforming to what others think you should do. 

2. Let God transform your thinking. 

If you really want to fulfill God's purpose for your life you are going to have to submit to him. A big part of this is having your mind transformed. There are several ways to do this. Read the Bible. Read other good books. Hang around godly people who can give you good direction. Surround yourself with people and with things that will help you be more like the person God wants you to be. When you do this God begins to show you your purpose. 

3. Be obedient

The great people of the Bible were not that great on their own. Moses had no concept of what God wanted to do in his life. He was striving to live a quiet, unassuming life as a shepherd when God appeared through the burning bush to call him to lead his people. Moses did not believe in himself, but he was obedient to his purpose. 

The people of Israel had been praying for deliverance from their enemies, and God called Gideon to help them. Gideon was in the tribe of Manasseh which he described as the lowly of the lowlies and he saw himself as the worst of the worst. Yet God called him to deliver his people from their enemies and Gideon was obedient. It's a fantastic story because God called him and he obeyed. 

You can discover your purpose, but if you aren't willing to be obedient to it then it's of no value. You have to have enough faith to follow through. I hope you do. 

God has a great purpose for everyone. He has a reason for creating you. I hope you wake up every day with a sense of purpose. You may not always know what it is, but I hope you are at least on a journey to discover it. 

November 15, 2017, 5:15 PM

Be the light

Last week at our youth group I talked to the kids about bullying. There were a lot of statistics about bullying. 45 of the 50 states have anti-bullying laws which is good. There are more anti-bullying efforts in schools than ever before. There are commercials against bullying and other forms of compaigns. But guess what...bullying still exists. 280,000 students are physically attacked in secondary schools each month. 160,000 students miss school each day for fear of being bullied. 43% of students fear harassment in the bathroom at school. 

So despite all of the efforts to stop bullying it's still an issue. It's the same with racism and other forms of matter how much we adverstise against it or try to legislate against it will always be there in some form. So what do we do? 

We rise above. 

Jesus calls believers the "light of the world." (Matthew 5:16) The reason we are called the light of the world is because we are a contrast to the darkness. Part of the darkness for believers ever since Jesus roamed the earth for three years has been persecution or bullying. Christians have been bullied, persecuted and mocked for centuries. When Jesus was arrested and eventually crucified he was spit on, stripped of his clothes, made fun of...he was bullied. There will always be mean and ignorant people who make others' lives miserable. Jesus tell us to rise above. Make a difference. Be a light. Be different. 

But how do we do this? 

1. Follow the Golden Rule

In Matthew 7:12 Jesus gives us what we now called, The Golden Rule..."do unto others as you would have them do unto you." This does not come natural. What comes natural is to get others for what they've done to you or to bully or persecute. Jesus tells us to rise above by treating people in the way you want to be treated. This does not have any qualifiers. People may not always do this for you, but we are called to do it for them. This is part of the the's a contrast to what normally happens. 

2. Practice the second greatest commandment

In Matthew 22 Jesus is questioned by an expert in the law, "Which is the greatest commandment?" The Pharisees tried to enforce 636 laws so this would seemingly be a tough question, but they forgot who they were dealing with. Jesus told them there was a greatest command, love God, but there was a second commandment that was also very important. It was to love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus had already defined who your neighbor was when he told the parable of the Good Samaritan. Your neighbor was anyone who needed you. So we are supposed to love our neighbors as we do ourselves. 

As we would take care of ourselves and treat ourselves we are to treat others. We are to rise above how others may act and act in this way. This is part of being the light. Being the light isn't easy, because it's about being different than the darkness around you. It's much easier to blend in, be like everyone else, and not have to rise above. But we are called to do more than this. 

No matter what is legislated, what campaigns are made there will always be bullies. There will always be mean and ignorant people who do not value people like they should. No matter how sophisticated and educated our society may seem to be there will always be racism, hate and violence. We must arise above it all. We must set the standard for how to treat people. We must show people the right way not just by campaigns or legislation but by actually doing it. 

When the church does we truly become the light of the world. 

November 7, 2017, 9:48 AM

A Church That Rises Above

The church shooting at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas has us all so sad. This is a just a little country church in a small community of 400 people. This is just like thousands of churches all over America gathering to worship, except on this Sunday a madman came in the doors and started killing. One of the victims was associate pastor Bryan Holcombe who was heading up to the pulpit lead the church in worship when he was gunned down. His wife of 40 years, Karla Holcombe, was also killed. Their son, Marc Daniel Holcome, was killed along with this one-year-old daughter. Three generations of a family an instant. 

There's a lot of talk that happens after a tragedy like this. Gun control. Mental health issues. Church security. All of these need to be discussed but the one thing I want to write about today is that the church will always be a target. 

I don't mean to say that churches all over America need to be dreading a possible shooting. I think we should take precaution and be prepared, but I don't think we need to worry about it any more than ever before. What we do need to be aware of is that because of what we stand for Bible-believing churches are targets. We always have been. It's not always shooters with automatic weapons. Sometimes it's the media with their anti-Christian viewpoints. Sometimes it's people who claim that we are full of hate because of our Biblical teaching. Here's how we can be a church that rises above all the accusations and persecution. 

1. Have teaching and preaching that is dripping with grace

In 2 Timothy 4:2 Paul instructed Timothy to boldly speak the truth, but to do so with "patience and gentle instruction." He was advising Timothy in not just WHAT to say but HOW to say it. We can still speak the truth, but we need to speak it with love and grace. We need to understand that not everyone was raised to hear what many Christians have heard their whole life. Although we may not understand how people could ever disagree with us there are people that do. Or there are certainly people who may not buy into what we are selling whether they blatantly disagree with us or not. When we preach the truth in love we are telling people that we believe the truth, but if you don't agree with us we still love you. 

2. Keep living it quietly despite opposition

In 1 Thessalonians 4:11 Paul instructs to lead a quiet life. I think he means that we just keep on doing the right things no matter what is going on around us. We are so tempted to lash out and overreact. Now with social media and blogs we have great opportunity to spread negative things and lash out. But I think this is great advice from Paul. It doesn't mean that we are whipping boys it simply means that sometimes we have to put our head down in the middle of opposition and just live the life. Sometimes we have to shut our mouths and SHOW the world what it means to be a follower of Christ. Sometimes people are not ready to listen, but they are always watching. So let's show them. 

3. Keep preaching the true Gospel

Sometimes when the church faces opposition it is tempted to change it's message. Politicians do this all the time. They will create focus groups to see what their message should be. This might work in politics or marketing, but this doesn't work in the church. We have given Good News. It's not just GOOD news it's the best news the world has ever heard. No, not everyone accepts this news. Not everyone sees it as good news, but it doesn't change the facts. We must continue to preach Jesus. There are a lot of answers that are discussed when we are faced with realities like the shooting in Texas, but one answer remains...JESUS. 

We can't ever quit preaching him. We can ever quit preaching that he is the only way. Jesus said in John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but through me." We must continue to tell the world this message. 

Not every one will follow. 

Not everyone will believe. 

Not everyone will respond in the way we desire. 

But we must rise above. When Jesus called Peter to start the church he said about the church, "and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it." Madman shooters, tyrants, czars, dictators, corrupt politicians, and crusading unbelievers have tried to take down the church. It's been over 2,000 years and the church continues to rise above. 

We pray for First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. They have a lot of healing to do, and it won't be easy or quick. But we believe just like the church worldwide they will rise above and be the church God has called them to be once again. Let's rally around them and be the church we should be where we are planted. 

October 31, 2017, 9:51 AM

Written in Pencil

It's been said that if you want to make God laugh tell him your plans. 

Life teaches us a lot of lessons, and one of the hardest ones to learn is that there is so little that we can control. It doesn't really matter how organized you are, how much you have written in your planner, it can all change in the blink of an eye. For some of us this is a paralyzing thought. With so little in our control how do we handle life? How do we handle all of this uncertainty? 

1. Be flexible

I love the story of Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch. Philip is going about his day and God tells him, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (Acts 8:26) So Philip goes and he runs into this man who is reading the Bible but doesn't understand what he's reading. Philip has this amazing encounter, baptizes him in roadside pond and moves on. When there's little that we can't control we have to be flexible. For some of us flexibility is not a problem, for others flexibility drives us crazy. 

You will miss out on some opportunities if you are not flexible. We all need to realize that our plans for the day may not match up with God's plans for us, and God's plans are always better. 

2. Let go of what you can't control

I've heard the phrase, "let go and let God", a million times but it doesn't get any easier. People throw that phrase around as if it were that easy. It's not. It's officially not. I can't control my children's decisions and it scares me. I can't control what decisions people in my church make and I worry for them and about them. I can't control everything with my health and that makes me a little nervous. But if I don't let go of what I can't control it will drive me crazy. 

Jesus gives some life-changing advice in Matthew 6:34 when he tells us not to worry about tomorrow, because today has "enough trouble of it's own." In other words, you and I have enough to deal with in the moment, it's a waste of time to worry about what we can't control. As you are reading this you might want to stop and write down all the things that you are worrying about that you can't control. You've got to let these things go. You might physically write this list and put it aside and just let God worry about these things. 

3. Be diligent with what you CAN do

You ever heard that old adage about how you eat an elephant? You eat it one bite at a time. 

No matter how big a thing you are facing in your life diligence is the key. If you have a lot of debt you can't pay it all off in one day or one week or one month, but you can start taking it down one day at a time. If your marriage is falling apart you can't fix it overnight. You can't fix years of dysfunction with one counseling session, but one kind word built upon another kind words starts building something positive. 

There are a lot of young pastors who want to start a church, because the idea of trying to turn around a dying church is not a very exciting notion. I've been told turning around a church is kind of like turning a ship in the ocean. It takes a lot of time and hard work and patience. You have to tackle it one bite a time just like that elephant. 

Paul gives some great wisdom in Galatians 6:9 that is amazing but also maddening. He tells us to not "grow weary in doing good." I know this is very easy to do. There's a lot of "doing good" that's really difficult. You talk to anyone that taught children, volunteered in the nursery, or been a part of a bus program and they know it's doing good, but it's not easy. Having a good marriage is "doing good", but it's hard work. Getting rid of debt is doing good, but it's really hard. Being healthy is doing good, but it sure hurts sometimes. 

Paul says that if we do not give up we will reap a harvest. That's the one condition...we can't give up. We have to keep taking those bites and eventually that elephant will be defeated. 

It's okay to have plans. Actually, it's not just okay we are instructed in Proverbs 16:3 to commit our plans to God so they will be successful. But we need to remember a few things about our plans...they must be written in pencil. We commit our plans to God, because many times he has better plans for our life than we do. We must be flexible, we must let go of what we can't control, and we must be diligent and not give up. 

This is a difficult recipe, but it's a great recipe for success in life. 

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