Billy's Blog
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February 15, 2017, 9:30 AM

Dear Younger Me

I was driving down the road with my oldest son and was flipping through the radio stations when he heard a song that he liked and asked me to listen to it. It was a song by MercyMe called, Dear Younger Me. It's been a couple of weeks so I don't remember any of the lyrics, but the message stuck with me. 

If you could tell the younger version of yourself anything what would it be? 

How far would you go back? Would you go back to your high school self, your twenty-something self, your 30-someting far would you go back? Remember, you have ONE thing you can tell them. You have one piece of advice that you can give them. I've thought a lot about this. Actually I've started this blog three times on this subject and just could not pull the trigger. Today I have it. 

I would day, "Dear younger me, don't give up, don't ever give up."

I stole this line from a speech by former North Carolina State men's basketball coach, Jim Valvano. This line was in a speech he gave at the ESPY's awards show just several weeks before he died of cancer. It's a great speech, but it rings true for my life. 

If you are going to try to make a difference in this world you will have opposition. You have things come at you that make you feel like quitting. I know we all have. I was sitting there working on my sermon this week at a local McDonalds. One of the men was talking about how he was tempted to quit his job many times. It was a difficult job that required being away from his family. He wanted to quit many times, but he didn't and he was glad he didn't. Today he has a nice retirement, he was able to provide well for his family, his perseverance paid off. 

You see when we give up and quit we miss out. 

Let's imagine that right now you are in a valley. A valley is a depression between two higher points. I lived in a valley when I was a kid, a literal one. It was called the Willamette Valley. It was in between the impressive Cascade Mountain Range...home to Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens, and Mount Hood, and the smaller Coastal Range. But just imagine that you are in a figurative valley. You are at the bottom, you are kind of struggling. The thing about a valley is you don't have to stay there. There's another mountain peak with spectacular views up ahead. But to get the peak you have to go through the valley. If you quit in the valley you will never see the spectacular views. 

If you quit when things are tough you'll never see the wonderful things that happen when you get through it. How many of us have squandered excellent opportunities, because we were unwilling to deal with the valleys? I'm sure many of you, including me. 

So dear younger me...don't give up. Keep going. One big factor in success is simply to keep going. Remain faithful. Perservere. When you do this you will experience some incredible things. You will achieve many of the things that you once felt were impossible. 

Oh, this blog is for all of you, too. So you don't give up, either! 

January 31, 2017, 11:32 AM

Laugh a Little

You've heard that laughter is good medicine...well, here's some backing for it. While Dr. Robert Provine, professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Maryland says, "The definitive research into the potential health benefits of laughter haven't been done yet", there is much evidence that it sure can't hurt. 

We change physiologically, our pulse and blood pressure goes up a little, we are stretching muscles throughout our face and body, and we breathe faster sending more oxygen into our bloodstream. Maceij Buchowski, a researcher from Vanderbilt University, actually found that 10-15 minutes of laughter burned about 50 calories. It's not exactly Pilates but it's something. 

Proverbs 17:22 says, "A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." 

In other words, laugh a little. I am not an expert on anything, but if there's anything I come close to being an expert on it's laughing. I love to laugh and I love to make others laugh. Here's some pointers if you want to laugh more, cry less, and burn calories while doing it. 

1. Don't take yourself too seriously

One of the biggest issues I have with Christians is that we are too uptight. We take ourselves way too seriously. We are too easily offended. We are too easily put off. We just need to chill a little. Learn to make fun of yourself. Learn to laugh when someone gives you a hard time and it's truly funny. When you forget that your zipper is down it's funny...let it go. I mean, you do need to zip it up, but right after you do have a laugh. 

2. Enjoy the funny things that happen around you all the time. 

There are funny things that happen every day. We need to be more aware of these events. Sometimes I do my writing and sermon work in public places. I hear some funny stuff. I was sitting a few tables down from a group of older men this morning talking about a guy who supposedly was a preacher but also was known as a shady salesman. One older man said, "During the week he preached BS and on Sunday he preached the Gospel!" That was funny. Our children do funny things, enjoy it. Our spouses do funny stuff...enjoy it. I love when I can make my wife laugh, and sometimes she's laughing at me. We had a little laugh last night about a mistake that she made. I was kind to her when she made the mistake but a few days later I made a little jab at her. We both laughed. 

3. Allow yourself to laugh

Maturity is NOT being a sour prude. Maturity is knowing when it's ok to laugh and when it's not. I debate this line in my head many times a day. Sometimes I cross a line, and I know it. I feel bad. But sometimes you need to let yourself laugh. I have used laughter to ease the tension in really tight spots. I have used it at funerals and people have commented on it. It really helped them relax and helped them remember happier times with their deceased loved one. I've used it when couples come in for counseling...just a little joke to ease the tension. I use it in sermons to get everyone relaxed and ready to listen. Allow yourself to laugh. It's ok to let your guard down sometimes and relax. 

4. Choose to laugh

Crying and laughing are both therapeutic at times, but it's much more fun to laugh. Choose this. Happiness is a choice. Choose to laugh. I know I can get really worked up when something goes wrong, but we can just choose to laugh. We have choices every day how we respond to things. We can go crazy. We can scream and rant and rave, but you know what that does to you? It does all kinds of negative things to you physically. Let it go and maybe have a little laugh. 

Find some time to laugh today. Maybe watch the Three Stooges or a Chris Farley scene. Laugh at yourself when something goes wrong. Laugh at a friend who says something dumb. Find ways to laugh with your kids. Sit at a table and have lunch and tell funny stories. 

You get one life. Enjoy it. Laugh more. The end. 


January 25, 2017, 9:31 AM

Godly Optimism

A lot of people have asked me where I get my sermons. Well, there are a lot of sources. Some of my sermons are inspired by what is going on around us...preaching on cultural hot topics. Some just simply come out of my Bible reading. Something that I'm reading may just really get to me and I want to share it with the congregation. Another place of inspiration for sermons is other preachers. I don't do it often enough, but I try to listen to other preachers either through podcasts, the radio, or by watching Youtube. The other day I watched a sermon by an older preacher named, Ben Merold. 

Ben was talking about the difference between growing churches and stagnant churches is optimism. He was not talking about optimism based upon ourselves...kind of a positive thinking idea. He was talking about optismism based on God. He said that leaders of growing churches have high expectations in their church, because they are praying to God and expect Him to do something. 

I wonder if we struggle to be optimistic in our lives because we are depending upon ourselves. We are solely looking for answers and hope within ourselves, and so when we run out of options we get discouraged and depressed. One of the most well-known quotes of Jesus is found in Matthew 11:28. Jesus says, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." In other words, when you follow Christ the whole world does not rest on your shoulders. We can have optimism and hope, because we serve a God who created the whole world in six days. We serve a God who parted a sea. We serve a God who has raised the dead, healed the sick and the lame, and even caused time to stand still. 

If you find yourself pessimistic with a "glass is half full" attitude maybe you need to think about who you are depending on. Do you have low expectations of life, because you are totally depending on yourself and looking only at your circumstances? 

You can have true optimism, because of the God we serve. I don't always have the answer. I don't always know how to fix something. I don't always know how things are going to work out or get better. But I have a God that does. 

I want to leave you with the words of God spoken directly to Joshua as he was taking on the incredible job of leading the Israelites following the death of Moses. 

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

January 20, 2017, 10:35 AM

This Little Light Of Mine

One of the highlights of my week is when we have our small group meet in our home. I just really enjoy the food, the conversations, the study, and just being around these people. This past week we talked about ONE thing you could do to be a positive influence wherever lifes takes you. This may be in your office, your factory, your classroom, and even your home. We talked about how in Matthew 5:14-16 Jesus tells the people in the Sermon on the Mount that they are the LIGHT of the world. So I just asked our group how each of us could do one thing to be a light. The answers were really encouraging. 

Some said they could just have a positive attitude when they come to work. One mom said that she could speak gentler to her children. One guy said that he could go out of his way to do something kind for someone. It was just really encouraging to hear people talk about real things they could do to be the light of the world. 

Then the next day I was teaching my 4th and 5th grade boys class that I co-teach with a guy that's in our small group. Our boys went to games and we had 15 minutes to just shoot the bull. He shared how he had a rather stressful interaction with a co-worker but he kept reminding himself that he needed to be nice and be a light. Another co-worker even commented on how well he had handled the interaction. He was challenged to be a light on Tuesday and on Wednesday he did it. 

This is why we come to church. This is why we attend small groups. This is why we purposefully put ourselves in places where we can be positively influenced by other people. We really do want our lights to shine. We want to be a positive influence where we live and work. One of the ways we keep our light bright is that we get recharged. We get around people who will not only encourage us but will challenge us to do the right thing. 

So what is going to be your ONE thing? How are you going to let your shine before people? 

There's so much darkness, so much negativity, in our world. Our world needs a few lights to help lead them to Jesus. 

Will you commit to being one little light? 

January 3, 2017, 4:38 PM

Plans Coming Together

Were you a fan of the A-Team TV show of the 1980's? As I write this post I can hear the theme song in my head. Do you hear it, too? The leader of this rag-tag bunch of Vietnam Veterans was John "Hannibal" Smith played by George Peppard. At the end of their crazy adventures he'd get his cigar out, light it and say, "I love it when a plan comes together." Their plans didn't always seem very wise or and were pretty far-fetched but their plans always came together. 

The problem with our lives is they aren't scripted and can't be neatly fixed in a 30-minute or one hour time slot. So how do we ever get to celebrate plans coming together? We've all seen plans go completely up in flames. How do we see some plans come together as we get started with 2017? 

1. Make plans

"if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail." Benjamin Franklin

The Bible says in Proverbs, "Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed." Proverbs 16:3

Have you made any plans? Have you written them down? I joked as I was preaching up in Minnesota that I don't write down my plans, because then no one can hold me to them. Although I was joking there is some truth to this. If I make plans then I must get busy to do them. You've go to start with making a plan. So let's think about what it means to commit what I do to God. Why would God even bother to make my plans succeed.

2. Make plans that are in submission to God

James 4:15 reminds us that instead of just going ahead and making plans we should say, "if it is the Lord's will." This little statement submits our plans to the will of God. We should make plans, but we should always preface them with this statement. This give us flexibility for God to move. You may have a good plan, but God may have a much better one. 

3. Make plans that bring glory to God. 

Our main objective on this planet according to Jesus in Matthew five is to be "the light of the world." This means that we are to bring glory to God. If we are making plans that are only there to benefit us then our plans are not good enough. Our plans must ultimately be to glorify God. If are making plans for more education or a better job how are these plans going to bring glory to God? How are your plans going to make God look good in your life to others? These are questions you need to answer when it comes to your plans. 

4. Share your plans with other people. 

I know that if I keep my plans to myself I will not follow through. I need support and I need accountability. I need someone in my life who will ask how I'm doing. If I plan to lose weight, pay off some debt, or exercise daily I need someone and maybe many someones to ask me how I'm doing and challenge me in my plans. 

The words "one-another" in the Bible are actually one Greek word, allelon. It's pronounced, ah-LAY-loan. It's used 100 times in 94 verses in the Bible. It's all about our relationships with other believers. We need to share our lives, including our plans, with other believers. 

Tonight I'll gather with other friends in a small group we host in our home. We are going over this tonight and one of the things I'm going to stress is sharing our plans with other people. If you keep this to yourself chances are you'll never accomplish them. Make plans, submit them to God, glorify God with these plans, and share them with others. This is a good formula for having some plans come together in 2017. 


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