Billy's Blog
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April 13, 2016, 9:09 AM

Do I really have to go to church to be a Christian?

This question of, "do I have to go to church to be a Christian?" has been asked to myself many times and I'm sure many of you have been posed this question, also. To me, this is one of those "yes and no" questions. 

First of all, can you become a Christian without the church? I supposed that technically you can. You can be reading your Bible, discover what you need to do to be saved, find some random person to baptize you and you can become a Christian. The question I always pose to people is how healthy will you be if you don't have a family?

Consider this...a baby can be a human without a family, correct? A baby can be born to a woman who does not want her. The baby can be dropped off on a doorstep, forgotten in an alley and lay there. This baby is most definitely a human, but how healthy is this baby going to be without a family to raise her, nurture her, feed her and protect her? The obvious answer is that unless this baby gets some kind of family this baby will not survive very long at all. The same is true of a babe in Christ. Without the church you will not survive spiritually. 

If you really desire to be a healthy, growing Christian you need the church. I'm not just talking about attending a Sunday morning service, punching your clock, throwing $20 in the plate and heading home. I'm talking about being with like-minded people, with others who are on the same mission in life you're on, serving together, loving together, even crying together. 

In Acts chapter 2 the Day of Pentecost had just happened. Over 3,000 people were saved that day. It had to have been quite a sight. New believers baptizing new believers, people everywhere, so much excitement, so much joy, so much happening. But as we all know the excitement of something new wears off. Commitment is where we struggle. So here's how the early church stayed growing and healthy.  

Read Acts 2:46-47: Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. 

For them to keep their commitment to Christ they needed to gather with each other. They needed to get together and study the Word. They needed to get together and just eat with each other and encourage each other. They needed this consistently, not just when they had nothing else to do. 

Do you need to go to church to be a Christian? Absolutely. Church is a lot of different things. It can be Sunday morning at the church building. It can a Bible study in a home. It can be serving together at a soup kitchen. It can be traveling together to an event. It can be working together on a widow's home. Church is much more than an hour-long service on Sunday morning. It's much more than many think it is and it's needed more than many think it is. 

I don't want to live this life alone. I love having a family. I love coming home to my wife and kids. I love eating meals together. I love watching TV together. I love asking them how their day was. I love traveling together. I love getting texts and calls from my wife. My life is enriched because of my family.

The church is a family. You can go try to live this life all by yourself, but how much fun is that? Don't run from the church, embrace it. It's the greatest organization that man has an opportunity to be a part of. Try it out. I think you'll be happy you did!

 




April 5, 2016, 10:41 AM

Real expectations

Why are we so surprised when life has troubles? We seemed to be shocked every time life doesn't go our way. I'm not sure what we are expecting. Are we really expecting that God will remove every ounce of difficulty so that life is easy for us? 
There are two passages on Scripture that stick out to me that deal with the idea of troubles or suffering. These two passages, Romans 5:3-4 and James1:2-4, deal with the purpose of suffering and the fact that we should expect it. 
Romans 5:3 says that "because you know", speaking of both the inevitability of suffering and the purpose, and James 1:3 uses the same phrase. 
I think that what both Paul and James is trying to say is that we should not be caught off guard by suffering. We don't have to enjoy them, but an expectation of them sure helps us to deal with them. 
1 Peter 4:12 puts it this way: “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.”
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Many modern preachers want to preach sermons and write books about how God will make your life better and how He will remove all pain. That sounds really good but it sets up a false expectation. 
You CAN expect: God will not leave you, there is a bigger purpose, and there is hope. Even if the hope is in eternity and not this life there is still hope. 
Hang in there. Life has peaks and valleys, good times and bad, failures and successes. Stay faithful in the tough times so you can enjoy the good times. 

 




March 29, 2016, 1:34 PM

Broken For Good?

Why try if there's no chance of change? I can remember years ago we were doing track bad field in PE. For some reason the PE teacher wanted me to try the hurdles. I don't know if you are familiar with me or if you are familiar with hurdles but we are not a good match. I am short with short legs. Hurdles are about waist high and meant to be leapt over by people with long legs and long bodies who can leap like a puma. I might have been called a few things in my high school days but "puma-like" is not one of them. I'm built more like a hedgehog. When I ran up to the hurdle I had a decision to make. If there is any hope of me actually surviving this I'll try it. As I approached the hurdle at a dead sprint reality hit me and I ran around it instead of over it. Why try something you know you'll fail at? 

Isn't this how many people feel about their brokenness? They are broken by abuse, addiction, divorce, and the harsh realities of imperfect life on earth. They don't know that there is any hope of change so they don't even try. They would love for things to be better but for generations they haven't seen any better options. 

One of my favorite accounts in the Bible is when Jesus meets a woman caught in adultery. She is caught red-handed. She is lined up to be stoned to death. She has braced herself for the inevitable. But Jesus asks her a question after challenging the people there to stone her. Jesus asks, "Who is left to condemn you?" She lifts her head and everyone is gone. "No one, sir." Jesus responds, "Neither do I. Now go and sin no more."

She had no dreams of any hope of survival or anything changing and then she looks up and her executioners are gone. There's hope. There's a second chance. Maybe life can be better. 

This is what Jesus does. He brings hope to the hopeless. He beings rest for the weary. He even brings life to the dead. Are you broken and hurting? You can find healing in Jesus. Without God many things are impossible, but with God all things are possible! 




March 23, 2016, 9:55 AM

What's the big deal about Easter?

Why make such a fuss over Easter? 

I know that many churches will not make a fuss. I know of one church that actually moves their worship service to another location to avoid visitors. I know that some very conservative churches avoid the word, Easter, at all because of the secular celebrations...eggs, bunnies, pastel colors, fertility...you know what I'm talking about. 

I guess the fuss isn't so much over the official secular holiday of Easter, but the fuss is over what it means to the church. 

Easter Sunday, also referred to as Resurrection Sunday, is a special day where we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is Super Bowl Sunday for the church. This is the biggest event in the history of Christianity. You could say the biggest event in the history of the world. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15 that if Jesus didn't rise from the dead that our preaching is futile and our faith is useless. So this is a huge thing to specifically celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. 

Another big reason we make a fuss over Easter is that people are thinking about coming to church. This may be the first time they've thought about coming to church in a LONG time. Maybe it's someone's first time to church EVER. I met a guy who's in his mid-30's a few weeks ago who had been to church for the first time ever. He'd been to weddings and funerals in church buildings, but he'd never been to a church service. That's a huge step for someone to take. 

At church on Sunday we talked about being good hosts...giving up our favorite seat, parking a little further away, being kind of guests...just practicing good hospitality. A person that comes to church for the first time ever or the first time in a long time might judge God by how we treat them. Do we appear to expect them and want them to be there, or do we appear to be annoyed by their presence? This is a big deal. 

I hope that Easter is a big deal for you. Of course, there is nothing wrong with Easter baskets, egg hunts, and pretty dresses, but I hope it's more than that to you. I hope that it's a time to set aside to really think about what the resurrection of Jesus really means. Maybe it's time for a reconnection to what's really important. Maybe it's a good excuse to get back to church. Maybe it's a great excuse to invite someone to come with you to church. Whatever it might be I hope it centers around Christ. 

Solomon said it best about God, "for without him who can eat or find enjoyment?" Ecclesiastes 2:25

It's so true! 

 




March 17, 2016, 9:25 AM

Enemy #1--Defeated!

Growing up in St. Helens, Oregon our biggest enemy was the Scappoose Indians. That was our rival. They dubbed our annual football game, The Seven-Mile War, because it was seven miles in between towns. The rivalry was pretty intense. We burned a tractor tire on their football field. They put a dead skunk on our bus. It was pretty crazy. When we would meet in football or basketball  either facility would be filled to capacity. At one league championship football game there were over 5,000 people there. At the time our towns had a combined population of about 11,000.  The stakes were high!

What if I told you that our greatest enemy has been conquered and you have nothing to fear? You might think it would ISIS or Al-Queda or maybe that a cure for cancer had been discovered. Our greatest enemy is death and there is a cure. Well, sort of. Unless Jesus comes back first we are all going to die. These bodies that we've been given have an expiration date. They are not meant to be around forever. But what if I told you that even when we die we don't lose if we have faith in Jesus. 

When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.  “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:54-57

What's the message here? 

The message is that if you are a believer when you die you STILL WIN. Death doesn't win. When Jesus arose out of the grave he defeated enemy #1. I love that phrase in this passage...death has been swallowed up in victory. That word, victory, can be translated, conquest. A conquest is a victory over a massive enemy. I mean, this is David and Goliath kind of stuff. Our biggest fear, our biggest worry, our greatest source of anxiety and pain, has been defeated. So what now?

Well, read verse 58...the rest of the story. 

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58

Since this is settled, even in death we win, now go live your life. We are given four encouragements and commandments here in this verse:

1. Stand firm

2. Let nothing move you

3. Always give yourself fully to the work of God. 

4. Your labor is not in vain

In other words, now that your biggest enemy is defeated and that's settled, GO LIVE YOUR LIFE!

Give yourself fully to your life's work in service to God. 

Go be a great husband or wife. Go be a great parent. Go be a great boss. Go be a great employee. Go be a great neighbor. Serve God and others will all your heart. Live life without regrets and without reservations. Go all in. 

You've been set free from your greatest enemy. You don't have this worry hanging over your head. You aren't dealing with instability and insecurity about deaty anymore. So now you are free to live your life to the fullest right here. 

I believe Jesus said it best in John 10:10--The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. 

Jesus has given you the opportunity to live life to the fullest. Now go do it!

 


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