Billy's Blog
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May 19, 2015, 11:48 AM

Two Roads To Hope

"I sure hope it doesn't rain today." 

You ever said this? Maybe you had to mow your grass or had a picnic planned or were set to attend a baseball game. You really hoped that it wouldn't rain. What did you really mean by hope? You meant that you weren't really sure whether you'd be lucky or not, but you wanted your wish to come true. 

This is not hope in the Biblical sense. Hope is real. Hope is definite. Hope is being convinced. It's not something you have in your hands yet, but you are as convinced of it as if it were. But how do we get this kind of hope? 

I was reading Romans chapter five this morning in preparation for my sermon and I was studying about hope. I don't read commentaries too often, but I really wanted to dig into a couple of things I read. One commentator said that we get hope from two places in our lives. 

First of all, we get hope when we are saved. When you are baptized into Christ you have instant hope. You have a hope and peace because through your faith in Jesus Christ you now have access to his grace. You now have real hope in eternal life. 

The second way we get hope is having our faith proven through difficult times. 

In the book of Malachi God condemns the people for robbing him. They were so puzzled. How in the world can you rob from a God who has everything? They were not giving their tithes and offerings. They were holding back from God what He had commanded them to give back. The issue was not a matter of finances, or a lack thereof, it was trust. So God told them to test him. Yes, test him. He told them to just give what they were supposed to do without question. He told them that if they would do this, trust him with their possessions and give, he would open up the floodgates of heaven and just pour out blessing on them. He wanted to help prove their faith. 

Life is a process. Maturity is a process. Hope is a process.  Your hope grows and becomes more real as it is tested and it passes. Your road to hope won't be without potholes or dangerous curves. As the old Ricky Van Shelton song says, "Just keep it between the lines." Don't give up. 

As Scripture reminds us in Romans 5, "hope does not disappoint." 




May 5, 2015, 9:48 AM

The Real Point Of Forgiveness

I have a lot of talks with people about forgiveness. Of all the things in life that are misunderstood I think that forgiveness is one of the top five. There are a lot of clear-cut things in the Bible about forgiveness. Matthew 6:15 clearly says that if you are unwilling to offer forgiveness to someone then God is unwilling to offer it to you. That's pretty powerful and straightforward. 

In Matthew 18 Jesus tells a parable about two men who owed money. The first man owed 10,000 bags of gold. This was an amount that he could have never in his wildest dreams paid off. The servant begged for mercy and the master forgave the debt. Immediately the servant found a person who owed him a hundred silver coins. This amount was so minimal compared to what he had owed, but he choked him and had him thrown into prison. People saw this incident and were so angry that they reported him to his master and he was arrested and tortured and demanded to pay back what he owed. 

In other words, God takes forgiveness really seriously. He has forgiven us so much we are in no position to hold back forgiveness from someone who has wronged us.

But here's what we really misunderstand about forgiveness...it's good for us!

We usually look at the other person and justify why we won't forgive them. They haven't asked, they don't deserve it, they won't appreciate it. What you don't understand is that it's going to change your life! 

When you forgive someone you aren't saying what they did is okay. You are not letting them off the hook. You are not even allowing them into your life. You are choosing to do the right thing and forgive and let it go. When you refuse to forgive usually the only person you are really hurting is YOU!

Forgiveness doesn't always feel right at the time. It doesn't always feel fair. It doesn't always seem justified. But forgiveness is ALWAYS the right thing to do. We know how good it feels to know and live under the free gift of forgiveness God gives us. Now feel the freedom of forgiving other people. 

Don't go another day with an unforgiving heart. It's just not worth it!




April 28, 2015, 9:12 AM

Lines of Separation

In our culture there are so many things that separate people, that make on person more important than another.

Money is a HUGE one. If you have money you can have more material things which sets you apart. If you have money you usually have power, which means you have influence. 

Good looks is another one. Good looks can get you ahead in life even when you don't really have anything else...including intelligence and talent. 

Intelligence and talent can set you apart from people. You can get scholarships...both athletic and academic. You can achieve higher levels of success in your career. You can have an office with a window and a nice title while others have a cubicle and don't even get a business card. 

Money, intelligence, looks, talent...all of these separate us and give different values to people in our culture...but sin is an equalizer. Sin puts us all on level ground. 

Romans 3:23 says that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." 

Notice that word, ALL. It doesn't matter if you are rich or poor, skinny or fat, the CEO or the janitor...everyone has sinned. Everyone is in the same boat outside of Jesus Christ and it is sinking. In Acts 10:34 Peter says that God shows no partiality. When God judges you he doesn't judge you on whether or not you have a lot of money or don't. He doesn't judge you on how beautiful you may appear. He doesn't judge you based upon what others have said about you. He judges you simply by what you've actually done. He treates everyone fairly. 

If we are all in the same boat then why would any of us think that we are better than someone else? 

Why would we think that our sin is BETTER than someone else's sin? Why would we think that our ugliness is somehow prettier than someone else's ugliness?

Let's just face it...all of us have messed up, do mess up, and will continue to mess up. So we can put down the masks of perfection and drop the act. We can get real about who we are. We can stop tearing others down to make ourselves feel better and put out a helping hand. 

We're all in this boat together...we might as well row together in the right direction. 




April 23, 2015, 9:23 AM

Uglier On Someone Else

It's super easy to point out the flaws in other people. Especially the flaws that we ourselves have. In the mid-80's, Jimmy Bakker was a well-known televangelist. He had a huge ministry, but he fell in a huge way. He was convicted of fraud and embezzelment and also had a much-publicized affair. Jimmy Swaggart, another well-known televangelist, came out and was very critical of Bakker. He called Bakker a cancer in the church. About three months later Swaggart came out on TV with tears in his eyes confessing that he'd visited several prostitutes. 

While Swaggart was calling out Bakker for his sin he was doing the same thing. 

One preacher put it this way...our sin looks a lot uglier on someone else. We might be doing the same thing we are dumping on others for doing, but it looks a lot worse on others. 

When we judge others and criticize others we deflect off of ourselves and put the attention and criticism on others. It's much easier to judge others than it is to deal with sin in our own lives. So how do we deal with the sin of others? I mean, we can't just pretend people don't have sin, can we?

Several years ago, I got involved in a program called, Celebrate Recovery. Celebrate Recovery is a Christ-centered recovery program that helps people with hurts, habits, and hang-ups. For years I had been very judgmental and critical of people with alcohol and drug issues. I just couldn't understand why people would fail in this way, because I'd never had any issues with this stuff. While spending time with the people in this program I learned a couple of things. 

First of all, I learned these people's stories. I learned that if I had gone through some of the things these people had gone through I myself would have likely turned to drugs and alcohol. I learned their stories and found compassion for them instead of judgment. I didn't excuse their behavior, but my heart softened toward them. 

Secondly, I learned that my sins were no better than theirs. I had my own issues and problems. I learned that I needed help as much as they did. I was no better than them...I was just different than them. I didn't excuse their sin, they didn't excuse mine...we worked together to help us recover from them. 

Our sin may look uglier on other people, but it's just as ugly on us. 

All of us have fallen short of God's standards, God's glory. None of us have done what is right. So instead of judgment and criticism let's work together to help each other recover and move on and live to our full potential. 




April 14, 2015, 8:31 AM

Most Bang For Your Buck

If you ever analyze advertising you'll notice that they understand how to get the most bang for their buck.

If you are watching ESPN, you'll see a lot of commercials about beer, hair replacement products, and sports fantasy websites. These advertisers know that primarily men from 25-55 years of age are watching this network. 

My family likes the show, Matlcock. We record it and don't really watch the commercials, but if you do see a commercial it's a lot of commercials about retirement, Medicare plans, and life insurance. The advertisors know that there is typically an older crowd who watches Matlock. 

These advertisors don't want to try to sell electric wheelchairs to 25 year olds or exercise equipment to 80 year olds. They know they must be smart to get the most bang for their buck. They want their advertising to work. 

When I ask people to hold up their hand if they are in church today because of some type of personal invite almost everyone raises their hands. Here's how it breaks down on average in America when it comes to invites to church.

2% by advertisement

6% by pastoral invitiation

6% by organized evangelistic campaign

86% by friends and relatives

This week at church we are talking about the power of the invite. Not only is the personal invitation the best strategy by a LONG shot, but something really cool happens when you do this. You are becoming a part of the mission of the church. Ephesians 3:9-10 tells us that the mystery, the truth about Jesus, would be revealed through the church. The church is us...the world is going to find out about the good news of Jesus through us...that's pretty cool. 

The church has tried lots of things throughout the years to reach people...it's why we have the statistics. But as you can see the real bang for our buck happens when people invite people. 

The first glimpse people have of Jesus is usually not in a movie or in the Bible or in church. Usually the first glimpse people have of Jesus is us...Christians. The first encounter they have with Jesus is us. Let's make it a great one this week!


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