Billy's Blog
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November 15, 2017, 5:15 PM

Be the light

Last week at our youth group I talked to the kids about bullying. There were a lot of statistics about bullying. 45 of the 50 states have anti-bullying laws which is good. There are more anti-bullying efforts in schools than ever before. There are commercials against bullying and other forms of compaigns. But guess what...bullying still exists. 280,000 students are physically attacked in secondary schools each month. 160,000 students miss school each day for fear of being bullied. 43% of students fear harassment in the bathroom at school. 

So despite all of the efforts to stop bullying it's still an issue. It's the same with racism and other forms of hate...no matter how much we adverstise against it or try to legislate against it will always be there in some form. So what do we do? 

We rise above. 

Jesus calls believers the "light of the world." (Matthew 5:16) The reason we are called the light of the world is because we are a contrast to the darkness. Part of the darkness for believers ever since Jesus roamed the earth for three years has been persecution or bullying. Christians have been bullied, persecuted and mocked for centuries. When Jesus was arrested and eventually crucified he was spit on, stripped of his clothes, made fun of...he was bullied. There will always be mean and ignorant people who make others' lives miserable. Jesus tell us to rise above. Make a difference. Be a light. Be different. 

But how do we do this? 

1. Follow the Golden Rule

In Matthew 7:12 Jesus gives us what we now called, The Golden Rule..."do unto others as you would have them do unto you." This does not come natural. What comes natural is to get others for what they've done to you or to bully or persecute. Jesus tells us to rise above by treating people in the way you want to be treated. This does not have any qualifiers. People may not always do this for you, but we are called to do it for them. This is part of the the light...it's a contrast to what normally happens. 

2. Practice the second greatest commandment

In Matthew 22 Jesus is questioned by an expert in the law, "Which is the greatest commandment?" The Pharisees tried to enforce 636 laws so this would seemingly be a tough question, but they forgot who they were dealing with. Jesus told them there was a greatest command, love God, but there was a second commandment that was also very important. It was to love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus had already defined who your neighbor was when he told the parable of the Good Samaritan. Your neighbor was anyone who needed you. So we are supposed to love our neighbors as we do ourselves. 

As we would take care of ourselves and treat ourselves we are to treat others. We are to rise above how others may act and act in this way. This is part of being the light. Being the light isn't easy, because it's about being different than the darkness around you. It's much easier to blend in, be like everyone else, and not have to rise above. But we are called to do more than this. 

No matter what is legislated, what campaigns are made there will always be bullies. There will always be mean and ignorant people who do not value people like they should. No matter how sophisticated and educated our society may seem to be there will always be racism, hate and violence. We must arise above it all. We must set the standard for how to treat people. We must show people the right way not just by campaigns or legislation but by actually doing it. 

When the church does we truly become the light of the world. 




November 7, 2017, 9:48 AM

A Church That Rises Above

The church shooting at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas has us all so sad. This is a just a little country church in a small community of 400 people. This is just like thousands of churches all over America gathering to worship, except on this Sunday a madman came in the doors and started killing. One of the victims was associate pastor Bryan Holcombe who was heading up to the pulpit lead the church in worship when he was gunned down. His wife of 40 years, Karla Holcombe, was also killed. Their son, Marc Daniel Holcome, was killed along with this one-year-old daughter. Three generations of a family gone...in an instant. 

There's a lot of talk that happens after a tragedy like this. Gun control. Mental health issues. Church security. All of these need to be discussed but the one thing I want to write about today is that the church will always be a target. 

I don't mean to say that churches all over America need to be dreading a possible shooting. I think we should take precaution and be prepared, but I don't think we need to worry about it any more than ever before. What we do need to be aware of is that because of what we stand for Bible-believing churches are targets. We always have been. It's not always shooters with automatic weapons. Sometimes it's the media with their anti-Christian viewpoints. Sometimes it's people who claim that we are full of hate because of our Biblical teaching. Here's how we can be a church that rises above all the accusations and persecution. 

1. Have teaching and preaching that is dripping with grace

In 2 Timothy 4:2 Paul instructed Timothy to boldly speak the truth, but to do so with "patience and gentle instruction." He was advising Timothy in not just WHAT to say but HOW to say it. We can still speak the truth, but we need to speak it with love and grace. We need to understand that not everyone was raised to hear what many Christians have heard their whole life. Although we may not understand how people could ever disagree with us there are people that do. Or there are certainly people who may not buy into what we are selling whether they blatantly disagree with us or not. When we preach the truth in love we are telling people that we believe the truth, but if you don't agree with us we still love you. 

2. Keep living it quietly despite opposition

In 1 Thessalonians 4:11 Paul instructs to lead a quiet life. I think he means that we just keep on doing the right things no matter what is going on around us. We are so tempted to lash out and overreact. Now with social media and blogs we have great opportunity to spread negative things and lash out. But I think this is great advice from Paul. It doesn't mean that we are whipping boys it simply means that sometimes we have to put our head down in the middle of opposition and just live the life. Sometimes we have to shut our mouths and SHOW the world what it means to be a follower of Christ. Sometimes people are not ready to listen, but they are always watching. So let's show them. 

3. Keep preaching the true Gospel

Sometimes when the church faces opposition it is tempted to change it's message. Politicians do this all the time. They will create focus groups to see what their message should be. This might work in politics or marketing, but this doesn't work in the church. We have given Good News. It's not just GOOD news it's the best news the world has ever heard. No, not everyone accepts this news. Not everyone sees it as good news, but it doesn't change the facts. We must continue to preach Jesus. There are a lot of answers that are discussed when we are faced with realities like the shooting in Texas, but one answer remains...JESUS. 

We can't ever quit preaching him. We can ever quit preaching that he is the only way. Jesus said in John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but through me." We must continue to tell the world this message. 

Not every one will follow. 

Not everyone will believe. 

Not everyone will respond in the way we desire. 

But we must rise above. When Jesus called Peter to start the church he said about the church, "and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it." Madman shooters, tyrants, czars, dictators, corrupt politicians, and crusading unbelievers have tried to take down the church. It's been over 2,000 years and the church continues to rise above. 

We pray for First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. They have a lot of healing to do, and it won't be easy or quick. But we believe just like the church worldwide they will rise above and be the church God has called them to be once again. Let's rally around them and be the church we should be where we are planted. 




October 31, 2017, 9:51 AM

Written in Pencil

It's been said that if you want to make God laugh tell him your plans. 

Life teaches us a lot of lessons, and one of the hardest ones to learn is that there is so little that we can control. It doesn't really matter how organized you are, how much you have written in your planner, it can all change in the blink of an eye. For some of us this is a paralyzing thought. With so little in our control how do we handle life? How do we handle all of this uncertainty? 

1. Be flexible

I love the story of Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch. Philip is going about his day and God tells him, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (Acts 8:26) So Philip goes and he runs into this man who is reading the Bible but doesn't understand what he's reading. Philip has this amazing encounter, baptizes him in roadside pond and moves on. When there's little that we can't control we have to be flexible. For some of us flexibility is not a problem, for others flexibility drives us crazy. 

You will miss out on some opportunities if you are not flexible. We all need to realize that our plans for the day may not match up with God's plans for us, and God's plans are always better. 

2. Let go of what you can't control

I've heard the phrase, "let go and let God", a million times but it doesn't get any easier. People throw that phrase around as if it were that easy. It's not. It's officially not. I can't control my children's decisions and it scares me. I can't control what decisions people in my church make and I worry for them and about them. I can't control everything with my health and that makes me a little nervous. But if I don't let go of what I can't control it will drive me crazy. 

Jesus gives some life-changing advice in Matthew 6:34 when he tells us not to worry about tomorrow, because today has "enough trouble of it's own." In other words, you and I have enough to deal with in the moment, it's a waste of time to worry about what we can't control. As you are reading this you might want to stop and write down all the things that you are worrying about that you can't control. You've got to let these things go. You might physically write this list and put it aside and just let God worry about these things. 

3. Be diligent with what you CAN do

You ever heard that old adage about how you eat an elephant? You eat it one bite at a time. 

No matter how big a thing you are facing in your life diligence is the key. If you have a lot of debt you can't pay it all off in one day or one week or one month, but you can start taking it down one day at a time. If your marriage is falling apart you can't fix it overnight. You can't fix years of dysfunction with one counseling session, but one kind word built upon another kind words starts building something positive. 

There are a lot of young pastors who want to start a church, because the idea of trying to turn around a dying church is not a very exciting notion. I've been told turning around a church is kind of like turning a ship in the ocean. It takes a lot of time and hard work and patience. You have to tackle it one bite a time just like that elephant. 

Paul gives some great wisdom in Galatians 6:9 that is amazing but also maddening. He tells us to not "grow weary in doing good." I know this is very easy to do. There's a lot of "doing good" that's really difficult. You talk to anyone that taught children, volunteered in the nursery, or been a part of a bus program and they know it's doing good, but it's not easy. Having a good marriage is "doing good", but it's hard work. Getting rid of debt is doing good, but it's really hard. Being healthy is doing good, but it sure hurts sometimes. 

Paul says that if we do not give up we will reap a harvest. That's the one condition...we can't give up. We have to keep taking those bites and eventually that elephant will be defeated. 

It's okay to have plans. Actually, it's not just okay we are instructed in Proverbs 16:3 to commit our plans to God so they will be successful. But we need to remember a few things about our plans...they must be written in pencil. We commit our plans to God, because many times he has better plans for our life than we do. We must be flexible, we must let go of what we can't control, and we must be diligent and not give up. 

This is a difficult recipe, but it's a great recipe for success in life. 




October 24, 2017, 5:52 PM

Romans 8:28 In Plain English

When tragedy strikes, like it has in our community here in Schuyler County this week, there are many questions. Why did this happen? Why did this happen to this person? What is God's plan in all of this? Is there any good that can come out of this? 

Romans 8:28 is an oft-quoted verse and oft-misunderstood verse. Let's just read it and let it speak for itself. 

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

Let's just break it down and see very simply what it says. 

And we know...

Believers in Jesus have a different perspective...or we should. Our perspective is not just an earthly one. We also have an eternal perspective. We have a different timeline and a different point of reference. When this verse says "we know" it's referring to this perspective. Christians are to see more and understand more. So because we look at like differently we can see situations a little differently. 

In all things...

God is not limited to doing positive things with just positive circumstances. God can do positive things in all things. Now we must understand that God does not cause everything to happen. God does not have a cosmic plan for everything. There are things done by people, because they have free wil. Car accidents, gun violence, murder, and so forth are done, because people have free will to make poor or even deadly decisions. God does not control all things, because that would make us robots. If we have no free will we have no love. We are certainly capable of love, aren't we? This only happens when we have free will. 

But again, God can work in all circumstances and he does. It's just many times he works when people respond to circumstances with faith instead of unbelief. 

For the good of those who love him...

What an incredible and hopeful promise. God works for the good of those who love him...in all things. There are some horrific things that happen in this life. There are accidents that leave people paralyzed. There are women who lose children. There are soldiers killed in combat. But many people are who they are today, because of negative things that have happened to them or to their loved ones. 

God is working for your good, but it's not always in your timing. Just imagine yourself in a valley. You are in a dark spot in your life. You cannot see the good yet, because you are in the valley. But you don't give up, you keep climbing. You can't see any good yet, but you believe that at the top of that mountain is something good. When you get to the top you see the view you've been waiting on. It's beautiful and majestic, but there was no way of seeing it in the valley. 

This is a great metaphor for life. When you are in the dark valley you cannot see any good coming from this valley. There doesn't seem to be any pot of gold at the end of this rainbow...just more misery. Galatians 6:9 tells us to not give up, because at the PROPER time we will reap a harvest. We will see good come, but the condition is that we can't give up. If we give up we will never see the good. 

According to his purpose...

Not everything is for OUR purpose. The first words of the first chapter of The Purpose Drive LIfe are..."it's not about you." God has created us for his purpose. The things you endure in this life may not be about your purpose. Your purpose may be to have a life of ease and then die, God may have other ideas. God may be getting you ready for something greater in your life. 

Overall, God's purpose is eternal. God told Isaiah in Isaiah 59 that his thoughts aren't our thoughts, and his ways aren't our ways. We won't understand all that God does or all that God allows. I don't know why children suffer. I don't know why young people are allowed to die. I don't know why God doesn't just cure cancer. All I know is that God is the Father and I'm the child and I have to trust him. I have to trust that his purpose for my life is better than my own. I have to trust that he knows what he's doing. 

Lastly...it's okay to be sad, it's ok to be mad...even at God. 

When you read the Psalms you do not read a sterilized version of truth. David lets his sorrow and his anger toward the actions or inactions of God come through.

He asks God, "How long?" in Psalms 6:3. David is waiting on God to respond. 

He asks God, "Why do you hide in times of trouble?" in Psalms 10:1. 

Questions are good...as long as they bring us to searching and finding God. These questions are hard ones, but God is a big God, and he has the answers. 

Romans 8:28 is a simple verse with a lot of truth in it. As we read it and try to understand it for our lives today we must decide to trust God. We must decide to be obedient even when we don't have all the answer. This is called, faith. We must have it to get where we are trying to go. 

 

 

 




October 18, 2017, 2:27 PM

Unity in Action

In Acts 2:44 it says that the church had "everything in common." That sounds a little bit like a cult doesn't it? Did they wear all the same clothes, have all the same haircut, and live all together in a commune? Hardly...they were not defined by any of these outward things. Read this excerpt from The Epistle To Diognetes from the year 150 AD:“For the Christians are distinguished from the other men neither by country, no language,  nor the customs from which they observe. They do not lead a life which is marked by any singularity.”

In other words, they did not have uniformity. They were not known by a certain custom, or a language, or certain race. What set them apart was how they came together despite all their diversity. Just in the 12 man group called, the disciples, there were fisherman, a tax collector, a politician, and a doctor. They were not raised the same, did not have the same histories, did not do the same jobs, nor had the same level of education. What brought these guys together was the mission. 

What brings a professional basketball team together made up of guys from different countries, different backgrounds, and different skill sets...the pursuit of a championship! 

What brings a together men and women of different races, economic backgrounds, and parts of the country...a desire to fight for the same mission! 

What brings together a group of all different stripes to give up so much for a mission...the church! 

The early church was filled with different languages...read Acts 2 when the apostles were allowed to speak in the many different langugages of the people. Philip baptized an Ethiopian man...two different skin colors colliding. Peter had to realize that Jews and Gentiles could worship and do life together when he went to Cornelius' house in Acts 10. Peter realized that the only thing God cared about was the heart of the person. 

But what really brings people together is a cause. It might be a sports championship, a business venture, or a church mission, but we need a cause. We need a reason to rally around each other. 

I love the church for a lot of reasons, but one of the big reasons is that it brings people together. We all have our own stories, but we come together to tell the greatest story ever told...the Gospel. 

I love it! 

 


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