Billy's Blog
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September 21, 2016, 9:56 AM

Wait For The Wind

Do you ever feel as if the whole world is against you? 

Our minds are crazy and wonderful little gizmos. I know that calling the human brain a gizmo is a bit simplistic but you know what I mean. Here's how our brains work sometimes. Let's say that you are a customer service representative at a local business. You have just spent the morning helping ten customers. All ten were very satisfied with their service and very appreciative of your help. Then customer #11 comes along. They are grouchy, impossible to please, and leave angry with you even though you did everything you could to help them. Now remember, you just faced eleven customers and you made ten of them very happy...that's an over 90% success rate...any one would take that. But you find yourself frustrated and upset because all you can think about is that one unhappy customer. Welcome to the maddening operation of the human brain. 

Elijah was a prophet of God. He was a super-prophet. He was an amazing man. There was a showdown. This is like Wild West, OK Corral kind of stuff...on steroids! Elijah was called, "the biggest trouble-maker in Israel", by King Ahab because he preached and prophecied about Almighty God while Ahab and all of his people worshipped false gods. So Elijah comes up with a showdown. Let's just go ahead and see who is the real God. It's 450 prophets of Baal versus one prophet of God. It's 450-1...not really good odds here. 

So they set up an altar with meat on it. The prophets of Baal would pray to Baal and Elijah would pray to God. Whichever god or God would set the altar on fire would win. So the prophets of Baal began to cry out to Baal. They prayed, they cried out, they danced...and Elijah mocked them. He yelled at them to do it louder. He told them that they maybe he was busy, "maybe he's thinking, busy or traveling." (1 Kings 18:27) Elijah then says it's his turn. Elijah not only got his altar ready, but he had them soak it in water. They used so much water that it filled the ditch around the altar. Then Elijah called on God and God responded. He sent fire so hot and intense that it even burned up the stones and dried up all the water. The 450 prophets of Baal tried to run away but they tracked them down an killed them. What a victory! 

But soon after this great victory we find Elijah laying under a tree. He's fearful, he's depressed, the whole world is against him. The king and his wife want him dead and this is the thanks he gets. No one cares about him, no one is there to fight with him, his life is over in his mind. He is in a bad place. Then God shows up. Elijah stays the night in a cave and this huge wind comes up. Then an earthquake shakes everything. Then fire comes, and then a still small voice says, Elijah! Why are you here?" In other words, why are you so depressed? Why do you want to give up? Why do you think the whole world is against you? 

God tells him that there are 7,000 people ready to fight for him and with him. There are 7,000 people who have not bowed down to Baal and are ready to serve God and work with him. 

Sometimes we just need to sit and wait for the wind. Sometimes we feel like the world is against us, no one likes us, we aren't doing any body any good, and we just need to wait on the wind. We just need to see God show up and do something. In ministry I've felt like giving up so many times I can't count them. You just work and work and work and nothing seems to be working. Sometimes the harder you try the worse things get. Then you get someone who is upset with you and the downward spiral begins. We just need to hear the wind. We need to hear the voice of God saying, "You are doing some great stuff." 

The other day a good friend of mine was really struggling to decide what she was going to do about her career. She was feeling as if she just wanted to get out. Then someting really cool happend. She got a hand-written letter from a former student how lived halfway across the country from her. You heard me...a hand written letter...from a seventh-grade girl. She just old my friend how much her teaching meant to her and how much she appreciated her. This is that wind that we need to hear from. 

If you are feeling as if the world is against you and you can do nothing right there is a wind coming. There is a message coming to help you understand that your life does have purpose and you are doing some great things. Just remember to listen and respond when that wind comes. 

September 13, 2016, 4:03 PM

Truth and Love

This summer I had the privlege of teaching a class to  a few hundred 9-10 grade students at a Christian camp. It was a lot of fun. We talked about social media, and how little I know about. We talked about fads. We made fun of each other and just had a really good time. But we also got down to business. One of the classes I taught was about Stephen in Acts 6-7. Stephen stood up for what was right even though it cost him his life. He told the truth even when the crowd literally gnashed their teeth and became furious with him. It got so bad they dragged him out of the city and stoned him. 

Our youth are under assault. They are told if they tell their friends the truth that they are full of hate and phobias. The specific issue I dealt with was the LGBT and homosexual issue. I told the students that they did not have to choose between TRUTH  and LOVE. Actually, the two go hand in hand. I told them they could tell their homosexual or trangender friends the truth and still love them...actually this is what Jesus commands. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. Ephesians 4:15

What our media and culture has told us for many years now is that if we teach and preach the truth in the Bible that we are haters, homophobes, and bigots and racists. Can you preach the truth in the Bible and be these things? I guess you can, although you are missing the second greatest command which is to love your neighbor. People will point to Jesus and say how much he loved sinners. He certainly did. But he also told them the truth. When Jesus encountered the woman at the well he befriended her in a way that no Jewish man would dare. He also exposed the sin she was living in with her boyfriend, and the fact that she'd been married five times. When Jesus stepped in when the woman who was caught in adultery was about to stoned he showed her great mercy. He literally saved her life. But Jesus didn't stop there. He told her five simple words, "Go and sin no more."

One of the defining phrases of love found in 1 Corinthians 13 is, "love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth." If truly love someone you will tell the truth. Proverbs 27:6a says, "Wounds from a friend can be trusted..." In other words, a true friend that truly loves you will tell you the truth even when they know it's going to hurt your feelings. 

Don't buy into the nonsense that truth-telling is hating. Just remember that when you tell the truth have it wrapped tightly in love and compassion. One of the worst things that Jesus ever did in the eyes of the religious leaders of his day was eat with sinners and become their friend. Jesus didn't back down from their criticism he just simply explained himself. “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” One fifteen year old young lady asked me if she could be friends with a homosexual classmate. I told her, with a little explanation, that if Jesus ate with sinners and befriended them that I think you can, too. 

Jesus loved people and he told people the you go do the same. After all, we are all sinners saved by grace. 

September 6, 2016, 10:31 AM

Pursuing Peace

As a preacher who also does youth ministry sometimes I'm scrambling on a Sunday afternoon to find something to share with the youth group. A few years ago I found a series of videos called, I Am Second. They are testimonials by some famous people and not so famous people. They tell their stories about how they made God first in their lives. The latest one that I showed the youth group was about a guy who was a New Orleans cop, then a special forces soldier in Afghanistan and then he became a star MMA fighter. Through his story we learned that the only way he overcome so much in his life...PSTD, a marriage falling apart, depression, suicidal that he pursued peace. He wanted his life to be right so he went after it. He found the only thing that really brought him peace and healing in his life was aligning his life up with the will of God. 

Psalm 34:14 says, Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace and pursue it. 

This is a short verse, but I believe there's a lot of truth that we can learn in it. 

1. If you want peace, stop doing evil. 

Sometimes I get frustrated with myself over my lack of discipline. I take medicine for diabetes then I'll eat a piece of cake. That medicine is not going to do me any good if I'm taking action to counteract it. If you want peace in your life but you are still doing the evil that is causing turmoil you'll never have peace. You've got to acknowledge some behaviors in your life that are bringing the turmoil and the drama. When you acknowledge those behaviors stop doing them. It sounds pretty simplistic but it's true. 

2. Don't just stop doing bad, do good. 

Repentance means that we decide that we going to make a change in our lives. It's a mental decision to do what's right. But when we decide to follow Jesus we just don't stop doing bad things. We also begin to do the right things. One of the key key factors in long lasting change is that we get active in doing what's right. You've determined what's bring turmoil in your life, which are some of your negative behaviors, now you begin to go the opposite direction. You replace the sinful behaviors with behaviors that line up with the will of God. 

3. Seek peace and pursue it.

You've already decided you want peace in your life. You have stopped some negative behaviors in your life. You are starting to do some really good things with your life. You must keep on pursuing it. I can't afford to rest on my laurels and just feel good about what I've done. I must continue to be on a never-ending pursuit of peace. I can't allow myself to fall back into my old ways. I can't let my guard down. 

Jesus describes the devil's plans in John 10:10 when he says that the "thief" comes to steal, kill and destroy. Satan wants to destroy you, to annihalate you, to take away from you all that is good. You must be like a dog on a bone and be tenacious about not letting this happen to you. If you want peace and healing in your life you're going to have to go after it. If you pursue it you will get it. Then when you get it don't let it go!

August 30, 2016, 5:14 PM

Be An Adult

Have you heard of this new term, "adulting"? I never knew being an adult was a verb, but I guess it is now. The word is so popular among Millenials that the American Dialect Soceity, the organization that invented the "word of the year" award, nominated adulting as the winner. Adulting means that you start doing what adults are supposed to do. You know, things like...having a job, paying your own bills, getting your own apartment, cooking for yourself...things like this. 

The Apostle Paul referred to adulting in 1 Corinthians 13. "When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me." 1 Corinthians 13:11

Adulting might be a new term but it's not a new concept. As Paul says as we become adults we should childish ways behind us. But we still struggle with this. I had lunch with a friend today who is in management in a large health care facility. He told me that one of the biggest headaches he has is adults that won't be adults. They want to come into his office and tattle on everyone and complain about everything. I know sometimes he feels like a first grade teacher having to explain to adults how to get along in the workplace. 

Let's just act like adults. Let's deal with our stuff in the right way. Let's be like Paul and put childish things behind us and move on with our lives. Our bosses and manager should not feel like they are dealing with a kindergarten class. Our pastors and elders should not feel as if they are trying to be a hall monitor in a junior high. Let's all grow up.

The writer of Hebrews was frustrated because the people were not adulting as Christians. He writes this, We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Hebrews 5:11-12

The point was that these people were still kids. They might have been 30, 40, 50 years old but they were not maturing. The were still acting like kids and their wisdom and knowledge was not increasing. Is this a message that we need to hear? Are will still acting like kids although we've been in the church for years? Are you still in the same place in your spiritual life even though you've been warming a pew for 30 years? 

I didn't know much about the verb, adulting, but maybe we can learn something from the millenials. Maybe we need to take action to grow into the people that God desires us to be and cause this word to be a verb after all. 

August 26, 2016, 9:57 AM

Embracing Unity

Chaos is everywhere! 

During my first mission trip to the Dominican Republic I was just shocked at the chaos on the roads. There didn't seem to be any lanes, any rules, people just drove wherever and whenever they wanted. It seemed like the only thing that controlled the chaos was their horn. People let you know where they were with their horn and this way you didn't crash into each other. I was so glad to get back to America where I thought the roads were chaotic, but were much more peaceful!

Romans 12:16 says, Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. 

Harmony and unity are very much alike. They are all about taking things that are different and bringing them together. Why don't we just be people that embrace unity and harmony? How about we be people that brings people together? So how do we do this? 

Well, remember that when we are dealing with bringing people together that not all people want to be brought together. Some people will refuse to have peace and unity in their lives. But...before we get too negative, I believe most people want this. I believe most people would love to have this if they had the opportunity to have it. So let's go!

Romans 14 is all about a church in chaos. They are having a hard time agreeing and coming together. What you will notice is that it's ok to disagree. It's okay to have different opinions, it's just not okay to let those difference divide us. So here's some straight Biblical advice on how to bring people together. 

1. Accept people--Romans 14:1

Romans 15:7 tells us that we must accept others as Christ accepted us. When you came to Christ he loved you as you were...warts and all. He didn't make you change. He didn't make you do anything differently he just accepted you and loved you as is. The same is true of what we must do. We have a natural tendency to want people to be like us or we just don't like them or accept them. If we are to find unity among the chaos we must learn to accept people despite the differences we may have. 

2. Don't judge people--Romans 14:10

Paul helps us understand what judging is. Judging is NOT pointing out obvious sin. If a man is running out of a store with a TV he has not purchased and you yell out, "Put that down! You are stealing that TV!" He cannot respond, "How dare you judge me?!" If you will read Romans 14:10 you will see a word in there, contempt. When you judge someone sinfully you have a self-righteous attitude about them. You are putting yourself above them, because in your mind you would never do what they are doing. Or you may be trying to judge the motives of their heart which we are not qualified to do. Judging people from a distance widens that gap. We are pulled apart rather than brought together. 

3. Do what you can to bring peace and build people up--Romans 14:19

The word, edification, is a construction term. It means to build something up that was once torn down. Life tears people down. You can even see it physically in some people. They are slouched over, they won't lift their head, they won't make eye contact. They are so emotionally and spiritually beat down that their body looks beat down, too. What if we were people that helped people walk a little straighter? What if instead of tearing down we decided to lift up?

4. Don't hit SEND--Romans 14:22

In our world of social media we have such an opportunity to voice things that don't help anyone, and frankly hurts a lot of people. Behind a keyboard people get really brave. We've all probably typed things behind a computer or a phone that we would never say to someone's face. Paul is telling us to just quit hitting send. We don't have air every opinion, every thought, every disagreement. Some things are better left unsaid. 

If you practice these four things in your life you will be a peacemaker. You will be a unifier and a harmonizer. You will be a person that builds people up. We need a lot more people like this in a world full of chaos. 

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