Billy's Blog
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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. 




October 24, 2017, 5:52 PM

Romans 8:28 In Plain English


When tragedy strikes, like it has in our community here in Schuyler County this week, there are many questions. Why did this happen? Why did this happen to this person? What is God's plan in all of this? Is there any good that can come out of this? 

Romans 8:28 is an oft-quoted verse and oft-misunderstood verse. Let's just read it and let it speak for itself. 

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

Let's just break it down and see very simply what it says. 

And we know...

Believers in Jesus have a different perspective...or we should. Our perspective is not just an earthly one. We also have an eternal perspective. We have a different timeline and a different point of reference. When this verse says "we know" it's referring to this perspective. Christians are to see more and understand more. So because we look at like differently we can see situations a little differently. 

In all things...

God is not limited to doing positive things with just positive circumstances. God can do positive things in all things. Now we must understand that God does not cause everything to happen. God does not have a cosmic plan for everything. There are things done by people, because they have free wil. Car accidents, gun violence, murder, and so forth are done, because people have free will to make poor or even deadly decisions. God does not control all things, because that would make us robots. If we have no free will we have no love. We are certainly capable of love, aren't we? This only happens when we have free will. 

But again, God can work in all circumstances and he does. It's just many times he works when people respond to circumstances with faith instead of unbelief. 

For the good of those who love him...

What an incredible and hopeful promise. God works for the good of those who love him...in all things. There are some horrific things that happen in this life. There are accidents that leave people paralyzed. There are women who lose children. There are soldiers killed in combat. But many people are who they are today, because of negative things that have happened to them or to their loved ones. 

God is working for your good, but it's not always in your timing. Just imagine yourself in a valley. You are in a dark spot in your life. You cannot see the good yet, because you are in the valley. But you don't give up, you keep climbing. You can't see any good yet, but you believe that at the top of that mountain is something good. When you get to the top you see the view you've been waiting on. It's beautiful and majestic, but there was no way of seeing it in the valley. 

This is a great metaphor for life. When you are in the dark valley you cannot see any good coming from this valley. There doesn't seem to be any pot of gold at the end of this rainbow...just more misery. Galatians 6:9 tells us to not give up, because at the PROPER time we will reap a harvest. We will see good come, but the condition is that we can't give up. If we give up we will never see the good. 

According to his purpose...

Not everything is for OUR purpose. The first words of the first chapter of The Purpose Drive LIfe are..."it's not about you." God has created us for his purpose. The things you endure in this life may not be about your purpose. Your purpose may be to have a life of ease and then die, God may have other ideas. God may be getting you ready for something greater in your life. 

Overall, God's purpose is eternal. God told Isaiah in Isaiah 59 that his thoughts aren't our thoughts, and his ways aren't our ways. We won't understand all that God does or all that God allows. I don't know why children suffer. I don't know why young people are allowed to die. I don't know why God doesn't just cure cancer. All I know is that God is the Father and I'm the child and I have to trust him. I have to trust that his purpose for my life is better than my own. I have to trust that he knows what he's doing. 

Lastly...it's okay to be sad, it's ok to be mad...even at God. 

When you read the Psalms you do not read a sterilized version of truth. David lets his sorrow and his anger toward the actions or inactions of God come through.

He asks God, "How long?" in Psalms 6:3. David is waiting on God to respond. 

He asks God, "Why do you hide in times of trouble?" in Psalms 10:1. 

Questions are good...as long as they bring us to searching and finding God. These questions are hard ones, but God is a big God, and he has the answers. 

Romans 8:28 is a simple verse with a lot of truth in it. As we read it and try to understand it for our lives today we must decide to trust God. We must decide to be obedient even when we don't have all the answer. This is called, faith. We must have it to get where we are trying to go. 

 

 

 




October 18, 2017, 2:27 PM

Unity in Action


In Acts 2:44 it says that the church had "everything in common." That sounds a little bit like a cult doesn't it? Did they wear all the same clothes, have all the same haircut, and live all together in a commune? Hardly...they were not defined by any of these outward things. Read this excerpt from The Epistle To Diognetes from the year 150 AD:“For the Christians are distinguished from the other men neither by country, no language,  nor the customs from which they observe. They do not lead a life which is marked by any singularity.”

In other words, they did not have uniformity. They were not known by a certain custom, or a language, or certain race. What set them apart was how they came together despite all their diversity. Just in the 12 man group called, the disciples, there were fisherman, a tax collector, a politician, and a doctor. They were not raised the same, did not have the same histories, did not do the same jobs, nor had the same level of education. What brought these guys together was the mission. 

What brings a professional basketball team together made up of guys from different countries, different backgrounds, and different skill sets...the pursuit of a championship! 

What brings a together men and women of different races, economic backgrounds, and parts of the country...a desire to fight for the same mission! 

What brings together a group of all different stripes to give up so much for a mission...the church! 

The early church was filled with different languages...read Acts 2 when the apostles were allowed to speak in the many different langugages of the people. Philip baptized an Ethiopian man...two different skin colors colliding. Peter had to realize that Jews and Gentiles could worship and do life together when he went to Cornelius' house in Acts 10. Peter realized that the only thing God cared about was the heart of the person. 

But what really brings people together is a cause. It might be a sports championship, a business venture, or a church mission, but we need a cause. We need a reason to rally around each other. 

I love the church for a lot of reasons, but one of the big reasons is that it brings people together. We all have our own stories, but we come together to tell the greatest story ever told...the Gospel. 

I love it! 

 




October 10, 2017, 9:58 AM

The Awe Factor


I will never forget the first time I walked into a major league baseball ballpark. I had grew up 30 miles from Portland, Oregon and had been to several minor league games, and I really loved those games. But it was the minor leagues in an old stadium with players that many had never heard of. I was a huge baseball fan. I only grew up less than three hours from Seattle, but we just never made it up there to a game. 

It was 1995 and I went to St. Louis with some high school and college kids and some adult sponsors. We walked into Busch Stadium and I could not get over it. It was huge. The minor league park I'd grew up going to was big by minor league standards, 20,000 capacity, but Busch stadium sat over 40,000 fans. The grass was incredible, the old Civic Stadium in Portland always had turf. And then the players. I look down there, quite a ways down there, and there was Ozzie Smith. Smith is probably the best defensive shortstop of all time. There's Brian Jordan who had also played football for the Atlanta Falcons. There's Todd Zeile a really good young hitter. Oh man...I was in awe. As other kids were more worried about getting a hot dog and a drink I just stood there soaking it all up. 

Do we still have the awe factor about God? 

I was reading an email I received this morning called, 4 Practices To Regain Your Passion For Ministry. Just like anyone who has been in a career or job for a while you lose your fire. You take for granted what you do, and you find yourself complaining and frustrated. The first practice listed in this email was, REMEMBER YOUR CONVERSION. 

I think the point is to remember what God has done for you. 

1. Remember where you've been

In 1 Corinthians 6 Paul is really letting people have it. He's going through a list of all the different sins and lifestyles that will prevent you from entering heaven. I can just imagine the people reading his letter and thinking, "Go get em Paul. That's right, those people won't make it!" Then in verse 11 he drops a bomb when he says, "and that is what some of you were." Paul was making them remember where they had been. 

They had come a long ways, but they needed to remember how they got there. God had done a lot of awesome stuff in their lives. God had saved them from a life of sin, and had empowered them to change and overcome a lot. It's so good for us to remember where we've been and God has done to get us where we are at now. 

2. See how good we have it

There are times I will be taking a shower and I will just thank God for hot water. I've been places in the world where hot water is not something that flows through the pipes. It's cold shower after cold shower. You almost get used to it after a few days, and then you go home. Oh man, that hot water feels so good. I do have it pretty good. 

Think about what God has provided for you. One time when I was teaching a youth class I had the kids go home and write down everything they owned. I wanted details. How many pairs of undewear, socks, shirts, pants. I wanted to know how many vehicles they had access to, how many TV's they could watch, how much food was in the fridge and the freezer. It was really cool to see them come back with this huge list. It helped them, and me too, to see that they were so blessed to have what they had. 

But it's not just the STUFF. 

You and I have HOPE through Jesus. No matter what happens to me or you our hope cannot be taken away. 

You and I have PURPOSE. Every day I wake up I have a purpose. I'm not aimlessly living my life just trying to survive and make it through the day...I have a reason to get up and go. 

You and I see MODERN DAY MIRACLES all around us. Let me tell you one that happened to our church and a family specifically in our church. So we put on a carnival to celebrate the end of the year for our children's program last spring. A family in our church runs a carnival. They offered to bring ups some rides for free for us. So cool. So they brought their generator that runs all the rides. They checked the generator before they got there and it was 7 gallons from being full. These generator ran for 6 hours. It takes 5-6 gallons an HOUR to run this generator. Do the math and it takes between 30-36 gallons to run the whole day. After the carnival is over they took the generator to the gas station and filled it up with fuel. It took 7 gallons to fill it. Remember that they started with 7 gallons under full...so they ran this generator for 6 hours and it didn't use any fuel. THAT'S A MODERN DAY MIRACLE. 

So if you are beginning to yawn at your relationship with God it's time to spice it up. There are a lot of opportunities to do this. The early church did not serve a different God then we do today. 

 




October 3, 2017, 8:24 AM

Devotion is a way of life


The dictionary definition of devotion is "earnest attachment to a cause, person, etc.". 

Devotion is a way of life. We see a lot of devotion with sports fans. They have bumper stickers on their vehicles. They have personalized license plates declaring their devotion. They get tattoos. They wear the jerseys and the gear. They decorate their homes with the logos of their team. I have a brother in law that has his favorite NASCAR racer's number tattooed on him. It's devotion...it's a way of life. There's no wavering. This is not for fair-weather people. Devotion is not for the faint of heart...just ask a Cleveland Browns fan! 

In Acts 2 the church begins with a flourish. We see 3,000 people get saved and there are more coming to Christ every day. It's quite the sight. But when we read the end of chapter two it's more than just a one-day flash in a pan. These are die-hard Christians. Here's what Acts 2:42 says about them, They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

This was not something they did when there was nothing else to do or it was just convenient to do this. So what does devotion look like as a follower of Christ. Devotion is devotion no matter what you are involved, but here's a few things I really believe devotion is:

1. Devotion is not for the faint hearted

Why aren't more people devoted to anything? It's because they are faint hearted. They are too easily distracted, discouraged and disengaged. If you are going to devote yourself to something you have to have some courage. You have to have a little bit of a backbone. You can't be one that gives up easily. You have to have some stubbornness in you. Devotion is simply not for people who are not ready to have a little hardship. This doesn't mean that you never feel like giving up it just means you don't give in to your feelings. 

2. Devotion is a daily commitment

Jesus said that if you want to be a follower of his you had to pick up your cross DAILY. Every day you must make a decision to either be devoted to God or not. You are tested every day. Your decisions to do what is right are tested moment by moment throughout a day. Are you going to do give in or do what is right? You can't decide to do this once a month or even once a week. Every day we wake up we take on the battle. Devotion recommits on a daily basis. 

3. Devotion is rising above how you feel

The basketball star, Larry Bird, was known as "The Hick From French Lick." Bird was from the little Indiana town of French Lick. He was raised in poverty. He suffered loss as a young man, his dad killed himself. He dropped out of Indiana University, because of the size of the school and a lack of funds and he became a garbageman in his hometown. He eventually went to the smaller Indiana State and the rest is history. Bird may not have had the natural athleticism that some basketball stars had, but his devotion and his work ethic were almost unmatched. Bird took 200 practice shots every day. Seven days a week all year long...200 shots. My arms would fall off if I took 200 shots, then you get back up the next day and do it again. Do you think there were days that he didn't FEEL like doing that? I imagine he felt like skipping it more than he felt like doing it, but it's called devotion. 

Devotion rises above how you feel and keeps the commitment, because you have a devotion to the cause. 

4. Devotion pays no attention to what others do

When Joshua was transitioning out of leadership for Israel he gave a speech. It's one of most inspiring and unforgettable words in the Bible. In chapter 24 Joshua gathers the people he'd been leading and gives them a challenge. He challenges them to serve God and not the idols of their forefathers. But finally he tells them that no matter what they are going to do he and his family were going to serve Almighty God. 

Devotion does not hold it's finger in the air and try to determine which way to go. Devotion does not take polls. Devotion does not gather focus groups to see what the best thing to do is. Devotion decides what is best and goes forward...despite what others may do. 

Social media has made it very evident that we are naturally interested in the opinions of others. On Facebook we actually have a LIKE button and now even a button with a heart on it...so that people can really LOVE what we are doing. It feels good to have someone like what I'm doing, but I cannot be controlled by this. 

My devotion to God and my church must be driven by God and my own decision to do it. Other people's opinions of what I do will come and go. They will be positive and negative depending on the day. My devotion cannot be swayed by this. I get up everyday committed to God who does not change. 

Devotion is a way of life. I pray that you will be choose to be devoted to the right thing for your life. 


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