Billy's Blog
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June 13, 2017, 9:59 AM

Simple Obedience

As a child you probably hated this phrase from your parents, "because I said so!" 

That trumped all arguments that you had or could come up with at the time. There was no rebuttal to that. You had to do what they said, because they were the parents and you were not. No amount of logical arguments could change that. It was obey, because they were the authority. 

There are a lot of commands in the Bible that people question. They ask why they should have to do this or that. They said this because they don't understand the value of what is being commanded. They might say this, because they don't agree or it simply doesn't make sense to them. As a parent you have to tell your children to do things that sometimes do not make sense to them, but their obedience is still commanded. 

In Acts chapter two we read about an event called, Pentecost. Pentecost was a Jewish celebration that happened 50 days after the Passover. Thousands of people are gathered in Jerusalem for this event. While these thousand are gathered a group of 12 men are gathered together in a room. Jesus has died, resurrected and ascended into heaven and now it's on them. Jesus did promise them his Spirit, but physically they were there all on their own. They were to start this thing called the church, but I'm not convinced they were convinced this would ever happen. 

As they sat in this room a violent wind came up and the Holy Spirit descended on them. Through this miracle these men were able to speak to all the people gathered in their own languages. What a great miracle! 

Peter got and spoke and the heart of his message was that this, Jesus of Nazareth who was a lowly carpenter, was actually the Messiah, the Christ. The prophets that they believed in told them about him, but they didn't see it. They killed him. I want to share with you what Peter says in Acts 2:36-38. 

“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."

There are three things that happen here. 

1. The message

The message is that this Jesus, who you guys killed, was that Messiah that the Old Testament prophets spoke about. You are guilty of killing the Son of God. 

2. The question

The people were heartbroken when they realized the magnitude of what they had done. They responded with a simple question, "What shall we do?" They wanted to know how to make this right. 

3. The answer

Repent...be baptized...have your sins forgiven...receive the Holy Spirit. 

So why do we have to be baptized? Why do we have to go into water to do this? Can't we just say a prayer, or sign an agreement form, or just repeat a few words? 

Simple answer...because this is God told us to do. 

God is our parent. We may not understand everything He commands us to do but our responsbility is to obey in faith. Our role is to trust Him to obey Him even if we are not fully convinced of the reason. 

Have you been obedient to God in this way? 

If the answer is, NO, it's something you really need to think about. 

 




May 31, 2017, 10:03 AM

Inside Out

Do you remember your first car? 

My first car is still my favorite car. It was a 1979 Chevy Monte Carlo with t-tops and a 305 engine with a 4-barrel carburetor. Man, I loved it. I washed it so much that my dad said I was going to wash off the paint. I loved to detail it. I loved to get the Armor All out and shine that dash up. I loved to vacuum it and get it looking good. I loved to make it look good. As a young guy that was my main goal...make it LOOK good. I wasn't so worried about oil changes, tranmission services, rusty brake lines, or anything like that. The inside working of the car was not that big deal to me. 

As you get older you realize that how the car runs is much more important than a shiny dash or good lookin chrome wheels. For the vehicle to truly be in good shape you need to make sure the oil is changed frequently, that the transmission is serviced in a timely manner, and that the tires and brakes are taken care of. 

The same is true of our lives. In Matthew 23:25-28 Jesus scolds the Pharisees for their hypocrisy. They could make their outside look good to everyone. They could appear to be righteous when they really were not. Jesus compares them to a couple of things. 

1. A cup that's clean on the outside but not the inside. 

If you've ever had little kids wash your dishes you've probably looked them over before you've used them. Kids are good at making the outside look good, but forgetting about the milk ring on the inside. We know that the inside is what's really important. The same is true of our righteousness. If we just clean up the outside to make people think we are righteous, but are dirty inside, that's not what God is after. 

2. Whitewashed tombs. 

Jesus said their lives were like whitewashed tombs. It doesn't matter how pretty a tomb may appear there are still dead bones inside of it. No matter how much the Pharisees worked at trying to make themselves look on the outside they were still dead spiritually. 

How much have you tried to make people think you were ok, but you knew you really weren't? 

So what is God after? 

The Bible calls David a "man after God's own heart." When you begin to read about the life of David you realize he was not perfect. He was far from it. He actually committed a heinous sin when, because of lust for another man's wife, he had an officer in his army sent to the front line where he would certainly be killed. When God saw all of this he sent a prophet named, Nathan, to address this issue. Nathan told him a story about a man who had a big flock of sheep but didn't want to pick from his flock for a big dinner. He wanted the one little lamb that another man had raised like his own child. The man with the huge flock took the man's one little lamb and took it for the dinner. David was furious at this story. He said that they should take that man and punish him severely for his selfishness. Then Nathan said, "You are the man." 

David was heartbroken at what he had done. He had been so caught up in his lust that he lost his mind. But when he was confronted with his sin he was truly sorry. 

This is what God is after. No...God is not wanting us to commit heinous sins. But God does want us to have soft hearts willing to be repentant and humble. He wants our hearts. He knows we are imperfect...in desperate need of the grace of God, but he wants ALL of us. 

He is not asking for anything we can't give. Just ourselves. 




May 16, 2017, 9:39 AM

The Big Picture

The devil is in the detail. I was never really sure what this meant so I Googled it. According to Wikipedia it's an old idiom that means that you're going to find something in the details that may complicate what you are trying to do. I don't like details. I struggle with details. You know things like; keeping receipts, making lists, keeping a calendar...I don't do these very well. If the devil is in the details then I think God is in the big picture. 

In Matthew 23:23-24 Jesus challenges the Pharisees to get the big picture right. They did a great job with details. They gave a tenth of EVERYTHING...down to the spices in their garden. But they missed some big picture stuff. They missed things like justice, mercy and faithfulness. 

One account in the Bible tells us about Jesus encountering a woman who is caught in adultery. The men had the details right. The law did allow them to stone this woman. Their knowledge of the law was impeccable. Jesus did not appeal to their knowledge he appealed to mercy. He simply told the men that whoever was without sin could go ahead and start stoning her. The older men started to walk away and the younger men, who saw this was going nowhere, walked away, too. The only two people left there were Jesus and this woman. Jesus simply asked her if there was anyone left to condemn her. The answer was obvious, and Jesus told her to go and sin no more. 

The men had the details right, but Jesus appealed to a bigger picture. Maybe if we show this woman mercy she will change her life. Maybe if we see a bigger picture we might do a better thing. 

You and I need to see a bigger picture in our lives each day. 

Let's say you are in a restaurant. You have sat down with some friends for lunch. Your waitress informs you that this is her first day on her own. She has been through training but she's finally on her own. This is not good news. Your service will not be fantastic. She will be nervous, slow, and not very knowledgable about the menu. You find yourself getting impatient and angry just thinking about it. But don't think about the details. Think about the big picture. This young lady is already very self-conscious about the fact that she's new. She really wants to do a good job. Regardless of whether she's doing a good job maybe you should tell her she is. You see the effort she's putting forth. How about you tip her nicely? How about you set up your table to make it easier to clean? How about you be very nice and patient when she struggles to get orders right and is slower than you like? 

The bigger picture is that this is a person. She's a person made by God. She might possibly need Jesus Christ, and if you and I treat her with rudeness and disrespect what chance do we have of making a positive impact on her life. 

Jesus was great about seeing the bigger picture. When Peter defended him in the garden with that sword and cut that soldier's ear off Jesus was all about the bigger picture. Jesus was the one who had told the disciples to carry a sword. It wasn't that the detail was wrong. Jesus had a bigger picture. He had a mission to complete. He had to save the world not to save himself. 

Look for the big picture in your life today. 

The devil is in the details. 

 




May 9, 2017, 9:12 AM

Do As I Do

I have learned a lot of lessons from parenting. I know that my school is not closed. If the Lord wills I have many more years of parenting left to learn lots of new lessons. One of the things I've learned is that kids pay way more attention to what you do than what you say. As a preacher this makes it very challenging. My kids pay attention to what I say. I know this is true, because when I don't practice what I preach they remind me of what I've preached. Having children helps keep me both humble and accountable. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about. 

When Jesus started his ministry he called 12 men to follow him and learn from him. They were called, disciples. The original Greek word for disciple means: a learner and a pupil. Jesus called these men so that he could teach them what he wanted to be continued through the church after he died and resurrected. Jesus didn't just sit them down and tell them what to do he lived right there with them and modeled what he wanted them to do. 

So who are we discipling? 

One of the challenges Jesus gave the Pharisees in Matthew 23 is that they were not very good at discipling. Well, you could say they could make disciples, but what they made people wasn't good. 

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.  “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are. Matthew 23:15-17

Jesus was pretty harsh with these guys. He said they made twice as much a child of hell as they were. Ouch. 

One of the most challenging things to me is to model what it means to follow Christ. The apostle Paul told the people to "follow me as I follow Christ." Wow...I'm just not real sure if I'm ready to make that statement. But maybe I don't understand what he meant. Here's a few things I've learned about discipleship. I wish I had learned more, but I can be hard to teach sometimes. 

1. You don't have to be perfect. 

When Paul told the people, "follow me as I follow Christ", he wasn't saying he was on par with Jesus. He too was following Jesus. He too was in desperate need of the grace of God. He was not telling the people to do everything he did all the time. He was challenging them to join him on this journey. 

2. You have to know Jesus. 

In Matthew 16 Jesus asks the disciples who the people are saying he is. They responded that some said he was one of the prophets or maybe even John the Baptist. Then Jesus makes it personal. He asks them who he is to them. Peter gives the famous response that he's the Christ, the son of the living God. 

If you are going to help people follow Christ you have to know him. You have to have a personal relationship with him already. You can't lead people to somewhere you've never been. 

3. You have to be willing to open up your life. 

One of the things I appreciate about my wife is that she's been willing to open up our lives to people. I am naturally much less of a private person than her. I am much more outgoing naturally, but she has been more than willing to open up our home and lives to people. She has created her own discipleship moments because of this. What you see in our lives may not be what we always want you to see, like imperfection, but it's real. We have opened up our home to a small group Bible study for probably the last 10-12 years and it's been great. Our current group in Lancaster is such a blessing to us. We want to help people understand what it means to follow Jesus. 

4. Keep nudging people to Jesus. 

When you open up your lives to people you will have some opportunities. Keep nudging people to Jesus. Take opportunities to pray with them. Encouraged them to attend church. Create opportunities to serve others. Keep helping people see Jesus in their everyday lives in the same way that you do. Help people see blessings rather than strange coincidence or luck. 

Discipleship might be the toughest job I have a pastor and follower of Christ. I have been heartbroken by people who have just flat-out fell on their face or just gave up. I have been disappointed by people who I thought had so much potential but just never realized it. I have been hurt by people who I thought I was influencing for good but were imposters. But despite all of this, I have looked back and seen people grow and become more than I thought they would ever be.  These people make you realize this is why you do this. You know that you've made an eternal difference in their life. 

Go out there and make a difference in someone's life today. 




May 2, 2017, 11:46 AM

The Need To Be LIked

One of my favorite characters on TV is Michael Scott from the sitcom, The Office. He is played by Steve Carell, one of the most popular comedy actors right now. Scott is the regional manager of, Dunder Mifflin, a Scranton, PA paper supply company. The problem with Michael is that he loves to be liked. He has trouble making difficult decisions for the company, because he doesn't want to make anyone mad. He has a desperate need to be liked by everyone and it causes him and his co-workers a lot of hilarious headaches and awkward moments. His need to be liked paralyzes himself so that he can't make good leadership decisions. 

In Matthew 23:5-7 Jesus addresses the Pharisees need to be liked and appreciated and noticed by people. They want people to see them as leaders and as holy people. They love the best seats at the banquets, and they loved to be called, Rabbi. They loved the respect and love of people...even if it was fake. They loved to feel important and in charge and to be in front of people and receive their praises. 

Jesus called this, hypocrisy, because when we are driven by the need to be liked and given attention publicly, our sincerity goes out the window. Our reasoning for serving God becomes empty and fake. 

Jesus tells us many times that if we go all in for him that some people will not like us. Here are some of his words. 

"If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first." John 15:18

"But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues." Mt. 10:17

"Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death." Mt. 10:21

"Remember the word that I said to you, 'A slave is not greater than his master ' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also." John 15:20

I think you get the point. If you are going to serve God and go all in for him some people won't like you. Some people might be out to destroy you. Some people may become your enemies. But through all of this here's a few things to remember. 

1. They hated Jesus first. 

Remember Jesus? He was the man who was healing the sick, raising the dead, feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, befriending the friendless...this great man was hated. So don't assume that you are doing anything wrong because some people don't like you or even rise up against you. Sometimes it is proof that you are doing what's right. 

2. We should not be surprised by this. 

We live under the false assumption that good things happen to good people. Have you read the book of Job? Job was singled out for suffering specifically because he was a righteous man. We should not be surprised when people don't like us because we are faithful followers of Jesus. 

3. This is not an excuse to be a jerk. 

Remember that Jesus was hated because of the good he did and the bold statements he made. He did not deserve this. If you are being disliked because you are a pious jerk...that's a different story. I am so tired of preachers I hear on local radio or on Youtube videos labeled "bad preachers", that sound angry and almost happy that some people are going to hell. Jesus said that he did not come to earth to condemn people and neither do we. 

4. Keep the big picture in mind. 

Jesus was willing to go through what he went through partially because he knew two things...it was temporary and it was part of the mission. We are on a journey. We are on the path to eternity with God. We might have to suffer a little bit while we are here, but the big picture is so much greater. I love what Paul writes to encourage us in 2 Corinthians 4:17:

 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

While being hated or pushed aside or ignored or slandered may not seem very like or momentary at the time of going through it, compared to what God has in store for us it is. We just have to keep that big picture in mind. We don't want to lose out on what God has for us, simply because we were unwilling to put with a little hiccup here on earth. 

I know the pain of not being liked for no fault of your own. It hurts. But remember that it's light and momentary compared to what God is going to give us for ALL eternity. 

 

 

 


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