Billy's Blog
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January 22, 2016, 8:13 AM

A Beautiful Imperfection

For the next three weeks I'll be preaching on the family. This week is parenting, next week is marriage, and then the next week is divorce. I could have titled this series, a Beautiful Imperfection, because none of our families are perfect. I mean, mine isn't, not sure about yours. It was funny I was talking to a friend of mine who recently has stayed with his parents for a while. He said he really didn't rememember a lot of details about his childhood. He didn't remember his parents fighting much, but now as an adult he notices that his parents argue quite a bit. Their marriage isn't quite the perfect setup that he remembers. 

As I preach about family I think about the imperfections in my life. I want to be a great dad, sometimes I'm proud of myself and sometimes not so much. I was visiting with one friend about parenting this week and he said that it seems right after you have a breakthrough you have another setback. Both children and parents make mistakes. 

As I think about marriage I think that sometimes I'm a great husband and sometimes I fall short. We can have a long period of time where I think, "Man this is easy, and so simple. Why would anyone ever have a troubled marriage?" Then there are times when we just can't seem to get it together. It's just an imperfect life. 

There's a country song from 2014 called, Awful Beautiful Life, by Darryl Worley. He sings in the song about his imperfect life but how it has it's beauty. I remember my father in law telling me how much he hated tuna casserole. This was a man that would eat ANYTHING. But he hated tuna casserole. We would laugh about how Lori's mom made tuna casserole about every night when they were first married, because it was about all she knew how to make. You have just have embrace the imperfection and laugh about it. 

Your marriage isn't perfect and you aren't a perfect parent. Many of you have been through divorces and family may have brought you much pain. But in all of the imperfection there is beauty. We choose to love each other and support each other despite our flaws, our warts, and our shortcomings. 

Embrace the imperfection and find the beauty. 

January 7, 2016, 10:25 AM

When I Don't Like The Answer...What Then?

Being a kid is overall a pretty good gig. For the most part, someone else cooks, pays the light bill, puts gas in the vehicles, puts food on the table and does the laundry. As I look back on my childhood one of the not so great things about it was that someone else had to give me the answer. Can I go ride my bike? Can I spend the night at my friend's house? Can I watch this movie? As an adult you get the freedom to choose these things without asking anyone. Well, that is until you are married, then you have to consult someone all over again. But for the sake of time and avoiding controversy I won't get into that. 

I do enjoy the freedom I have as an adult to choose what I want to do without having to get permission. There are certainly some drawbacks to adulthood, responsiblity being one, but the freedom is nice.

But what about as an adult when we go to God with our questions and requests and we don't get what we want? I'll be honest with you, I struggle with this sometimes. I read verses like Matthew 7:7 when Jesus says, "Ask and it will given to you...". I read passages like Mark 11:23 which tells me that if I tell a mountain to move into the ocean that it will be done if I have enough faith. I read a verse like John 14:14 when Jesus says if I ask anything in his name he will do it for me. I read the story of Hezekiah when Hezekiah was given a death sentence by God because of a boil that he had. Hezekiah asked for 15 more years of health and God granted his request. 

But what about me? What about people that I see that ask God for really good things, things that make a lot of sense to me, but they don't get their answer. As a pastor, I'm faced with these situations. I'm asked these questions. I see people pray for their sick child and the child doesn't get better. I see people ask God to heal them and he doesn't. I see people plead with God for something to change, something that I feel needs to change, and it doesn't. How am I to deal with these situations when I read in the Bible that it seems that God will respond to me. You are facing these situations in your life too, just like me. 

God does respond to me, but it's not always what I want. Many times it's not what I ask for. So how do I deal with this? I don't like the what now?

It's wrapped up in a five-letter word called, faith. 

According to Hebrews 11:1 faith is... "confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see." 

Another way to look at is that I will trust God and have confidence in him when I do not see what He's doing. 

Isaiah 55:8 says this, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways", declares the Lord. 

In other words, God doesn't think like us, and he does not behave like us. There are some things that we cannot understand about God, and we never will until we know him fully in heaven. 

The Apostle Paul speaks of "knowing in part" in 1 Corinthians 13:9. Later on in the chapter in verse 12 he speaks of seeing in a mirror dimly. The mirrors they used in the time of Paul's life were not like the mirrors we have today. They were usually some kind of polished bronze and were blurry and dim at best. Paul is saying that until we meet God we just know a little bit, and we understand a little bit. We don't see the full picture. 

So until we see God, until our faith and hope is fully realized, we rely on faith. We CHOOSE to trust God when we don't have all the answers and the answers don't satisfy us. We CHOOSE to trust God when we think we have a way better solution or answer than what He's giving us. 

Just like a child struggles to answer the wisdom of a parent, we too struggle to understand the wisdom of God. But just as a child grows up and begins to understand their parents, we too one day will understand God. 

Until then we have something called, faith! 

December 16, 2015, 9:57 AM

Don't deny your experience

There are two basic ways to learn and understand. One is education. Education is so important. As a minister I am constantly seeking to gain more education. I try to read as much as I can. I go to conferences to help teach me more about what I do. I get together with other people who do what I do and try to learn from them. Education comes in many forms, and I believe we should always be seeking to learn. When we stop learning we stop growing. 

The other form of learning is experience. I probably learn more from this than anything. Through experience we learn what DOES work and we learn what DOES not work. When I lived in the Minneapolis area I listened to a local radio show as much as I possibly could. The show's host really focused on good, old-fashioned common sense. One of the things he would say all the time was, "Don't deny your experience." What he was saying is that some people would try to tell you something was true, but when your experience told you otherwise don't deny it. 

One of the lessons I've learned from experience is that if you don't get involved in a church you won't stick with it. I have watched so many families come to the church, stay around for a short time, and then kind of disappear. I would get asked by people in the church, "what happened to them?" Many times I did my best to follow up on them and connect, but after a while they just kind of faded away. I watched other people who came to church and stuck and came for years. The difference, probably 90% of the time, was they got involved. They attended a small group or they got involved in a ministry. They got involved and they got connected. 

I've tried to deny this experience at times and just thought if I could preach better sermons or be a nicer person or improve our church building or improve other facets of the church then people would stay. All of these are important, but people who stay long term with a church get involved...simple as that. 

First of all, I hope that you are going to church. If you are not I hope you start seeking one out. Secondly, if you are just beginning with a church find a way to get involved. They will love to have you. Thirdly, us church people have to be open to others getting involved. We must be inviting and welcoming to new people. The stakes here are high. We aren't just about gaining people to "our church", but we are about helping people meet Jesus and helping them have a relationship with him and then helping others do the same. 

I can't deny what my experience teaches me. The truth is the truth. I hope that we'll be courageous enough to embrace the truth and do something about it!

December 11, 2015, 9:57 AM

Just A Little Appreciation

There are things that we think that we should never utter from our mouth. I know that I think things sometimes that would probably get me arrested for hate speech. Don't say those things. You may think them, ask for forgiveness and move on!

But what about good things that you think about people that you never say or good things that you think about doing for people that you never do?

Encouragement is a huge theme in the New Testament. The Greek root word for encourage is, parakleo, which is used 105 times in the New Testament. The word doesn't always come across as encouragment, but it also means to strengthen, to console, to comfort, and even to teach or admonish. In othe words, encouragment, can be given in many forms. Sometimes we just need someone to comfort us and help us through something, and other times we need someone to teach us how to deal with situations that come up in our lives. 

There are many great purposes and strategies for the Bible but look at one of the main ones: For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. (Romans 15:4)

The main purpose of what was taught in the Scriptures, or the Bible, was written so that we might be encouraged and have hope. God knows that one of the reasons people lose hope is that they get discouraged. One of the reasons people get discouraged is they feel that what they are doing is not making a difference. They get to feeling this way, because no one really seems to notice or care what they do. 

A few years ago I sent a text to a group of people each Saturday night or early Sunday morning encouraging them to come to church. I did this for months and never, ever got a response from anyone. Some were irregular church attenders, so I saw them once in a while, but many never darkened the doors or even responsed to my text with a, "K", about the lamest response you can get. One week I was just discouraged about it and I didn't do it. I just said, "Forget it. No one even reads the stupid texts anyway." So that text. I finally got my first response that week, "Why didn't you text me?" 

My text messages were appreciated and noticed, but no one ever said anything until I stopped doing them. I really learned a couple of lessons on both sides of the story. 

1. I learned that more people are being impacted by my life than I thought.

This truth is also same for you. There are times when I think that what I do is just filler. It's just noise and doesn't mean any more to these people than an air conditioner does to an Eskimo.  But then...ONE person comments, ONE person thanks me, ONE person writes a nice note...that's usually all it takes. I realize that many are being blessed by my efforts but few will ever say anything. I must take the advice of the apostle Paul and not "become weary in doing good". I am being faithful to God and doing what I'm supposed to do and that's good enough. You may not receive much praise or thanks for what you do, but people would surely miss it if you stopped. 

2. I learned that I need to be more thankful for the people in my life...thankful enough to speak up.

I truly am thankful for so many people in my life that bless me, but sometimes just not enough to speak up and show it. I believe that so many people are discouraged, because people like me don't show them any appreciation. Who wants to do a ministry week after week, month after month, year after year, without so much as a pat on the back, a thank you, a nice card? There are some really tough people that just go on and never quit doing good, but that's not most of us. 

The other day I had a difficult situation with some people that to be honest just weren't very intelligent. For some reason, it really made me realize what terrific people I'm involved with here at Lancaster Christian Church. These people are smart, creative, committed, talented, sometimes ornery, but overall just a really awesome group of people to work with. I need to let them know this more. 

Sometimes the people that you take for granted the most are your family. There are so many times throughout my day that I think thankful thoughts about my wife or my kids...especially when I've dealt with a difficult family situation in someone else's life. I need to tell them this more. The old idea of, "I told you I love you once, if it changes I'll let you know", just doesn't fly with people...especially our families. 

So maybe today you just show a little appreciation for: your co-workers, your boss, your employees, your classmates, your students, your family, your church family members, your church leaders, the gal at the checkout line...just whoever you come in contact with that blesses your life. 

Believe me, a little appreciation goes a long way. 

December 3, 2015, 10:08 AM

Responding to Hate

Yesterday at a government building in San Bernadino, CA two people, Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, 27, killed 14 people and wounded 17 by opening fire with automatic weapons. Apparently, Farook was employed by the county and left the Christmas party in an apparent angry state. He came back a little while later and the story unfolds from there. 

We don't know much about these two, and I don't know how much we ever will. They were both killed by police yesterday. There is a third suspect in custody but who knows what we'll ever really know about this horrific incident. 

As I was driving in my truck listening to a news station's coverage of the shooting I just became angry. What a waste. Here are people just working, having a work Christmas party, just living their lives, and for no apparent reason are gunned down. Unfortunately I believe it's more than just "no apparent reason." There is hate in this world. We don't want to believe it, but it's true. We want to believe that if we are nice, Christian people who for the most part treat people well, then we will also be treated well. 

In Matthew 10:22 Jesus says, "You will be hated by everyone because of me..."

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

Christians are hated all over the world, why do you think America would be any different. There are people who kill Christians simply because they are you think America will be exempt from this for some reason?

There are many reactions and responses to this type of hate that we see in our country.

Some are eager to pass new laws in an attempt to stop criminals who hate. I don't know if you understand what a criminal is, but a criminal is someone who does NOT FOLLOW LAWS. More laws do not stop criminals. 

Some are eager to come up with a conspiracy theory to explain the hate away. There are conspiracy theories about the Sandy Hook shooting, saying that it never happened. Try explaining this hoax to the parents of the 20 first graders who were shot and killed. 

Some are eager to blame. Just a few days ago there was a shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Instead of blaming the crazed lunatic who did the shooting, people are blaming the videos that have come out exposing Planned Parenthood for selling baby parts. 

We see many reactions, but what are the right reactions. In other words, how did Jesus react?

How Jesus handled injustice and wrongs

In John chapter two Jesus enters the temple area, actually it was the area that the non-Jews could go to, and finds all these men cheating people. The people did have to buy their sacrificial animals there, but they were being gouged by the men and the temple was being turned into a marketplace. This infuriated Jesus and he got a whip and he turned over tables and made these people leave. Jesus had righteous anger over the mistreatment of both the people and the temple. There was a great injustice being done, and Jesus got directly involved in it. Sometimes Christians have to stand up and protect people whether they are policeman or just co-workers. 

In Mark chapter ten people were bringing their small children to Jesus. For whatever reason the disciples rebuked them and tried to send them away. Jesus became angry with the disciples and told them to bring the children to him. He saw an injustice being done by his own followers and he fixed it. 

So I believe that sometimes we have to get directly involved in helping fight an injustice and help protect people. Jesus himself told his disciples to buy a sword. (Luke 22:36) I read many different commentaries on this and many commentaries try to explain this away, because we cannot imagine Jesus allowing his disciples to have a sword. We read about Jesus in the Garden and Peter is rebuked for cutting off the soldier's ear. It wasn't that self-defense was wrong, but Jesus knew that this was not his mission. He had a clear mission to be arrested and die for our sins. I don't think Jesus allowed them to have sword so they could cut their meat at supper time. I believe it was clearly for self-defense. 

The main mission of Jesus is still our mission

As he did over and over again, Jesus reached out to the least of these. In Luke 19 this particular one was a tax collector named, Zaccheus. He was hated by most people because he was a cheat and he admitted as much to Jesus when offered to pay back four times the amount he'd stolen from people. Jesus tells Zaccheus that he want to go to his house and the religious leaders are just appaled. How dare he go to the house of a sinner? Jesus responded to them with these words, "For the Son of Man came to seek and the save the lost." Luke 19:10

Whenever Jesus was criticized for being with people the religious leaders thought he should not be with, he reminded them of his mission. He did it in Matthew chapter nine when he was criticized for having supper with Matthew and all of his "sinner" friends. 

Jesus did get angry about injustice. He did take action to help right wrongs against people. But his main mission was simply to seek and save the lost. He knew that this was the only thing that would really change lives. 

We are faced with a real hate epidemic in our country and in our world. While there may be room for war and fighting injustices and hate, this will only temporarily stop anything. What really changes lives is a conversion to follow Jesus Christ. This is what we must be after. No amount of laws will do it...the Bible teaches that the only thing law does is point out wrongdoing. Laws and legislation don't change lives. 

As we watch the horror of hate on our televisions, let's be driven to be more ambitious to share the love of Christ with our neighbors, friends, co-workers, family, and strangers. Let's be made aware of the reality that those who do not have Jesus our bound to a place that none of us really want to think about. Ultimately, lets be driven by our love for lost souls who desperately need the salvation that only comes through Jesus Christ. 

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