Billy's Blog
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September 20, 2017, 9:06 AM

Pray without ceasing...c'mon, really?

There are verses in the Bible that make me really wonder just how true they are. I know that sounds terrible coming from a preacher, but I'm being honest. In Luke 17:6, Jesus says that if I have faith of a mustard seed I can uproot a tree. I mean that sounds good, but can I really? I think Jesus was using hyperbole there to help me understand that I don't need a whole lot of faith to do great things. The power is in God...not in my faith. 

Then there's 1 Thessalonians 5:17, "pray without ceasing." 

Ok, what about when I'm sleeping? It's hard to pray when I'm working. I can't really pray when I'm having dinner with my family. I mean, this seems a bit much. 

Again, it's hyperbole. Paul isn't talking about 24 hour prayer vigils he is talking about a lifestyle of prayer. So why don't you have a lifestyle of prayer? Why do we much more often have a lifestyle of worry, anxiety, fear, and stress? So you just don't pray much or ever...why? 

You believe God loves the world, but not so sure he likes you. 

Why would you bother to pray if you didn't believe God cared about you individually? If you believe that you are a nuisance and a bother to God you aren't going to pray. Psalms 149:4 says that "God delights in his people." God doesn't just love the world, as if it were company policy, God really does like you. He wants to hear from you. 

You've tried prayer...and it didn't work. 

I get this. I have prayed for many things that have never happened. I have prayed for people to do things that they've never done. I have prayed for things to change that never changed. But I'm reminded of a Bible story of a persistent widow. She asked some of a judge and he would not give it to her, but she would not stop asking. The evil judge finally relented just to get the woman to shut up. Then Jesus says how much more will God give us who actually loves and likes us. Sometimes we don't what we ask for or we don't get it in a very timely manner in our eyes. 

As I look on my life I've seen God move in ways that were so much better than what I prayed for. Be patient, keep praying, and watch God move. 

I got this. 

Self-reliance and self-responsibility are good to a point, but when we don't see a need for God in our lives and we don't pray its too much. Here's the problem...there's very little we can control. When we see no need for God, who is in control of everything, we take on God's role. We try to control everything. We are taking on an impossible task for we get overwhelmed by anxiety, stress, fear, and worry. Not only are we having all of these negative emotions going on, but we are not accomplishing what we could. 

Prayer is a powerful tool. It's not because we are good at prayer or know just the right words, but prayer is something that taps right into the power of God. It's right there at our fingertips. So just do it. The next time you feel stressed...pray. The next time you feel anxiety welling up in you...pray. The next time you feel fear creeping up on you...pray. 

We talk about just giving these things up to God. Now it's time to actually do it. 




August 22, 2017, 7:36 AM

40 Days Of Prayer Week One Devotionals

 

Tuesday

Verse of the Day

Sing to the LORD, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day.

Psalm 96:2

 

Have you ever been saved by anyone? Maybe you were in line at the convenience store and you went to pay and had no money on you. How do you feel about that person that stepped up and paid your bill?

Our salvation in Jesus Christ is our greatest gift. We should be praising God every day for our salvation. We don’t deserve it, we did nothing to earn it, but through Jesus and his death, burial and resurrection we have it. It’s certainly something to at least spend 4 minutes praising God about.

 

Wednesday

Verse of the Day

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.

James 1:2

We can praise God even in the storms of life. We can actually praise God that he not allows these difficult times to exist, but that he makes them happen. Why would we ever praise God for this?

If you keep reading in James chapter one you’ll see that we need these difficult times. If we are going to ever have perseverance or character in our lives we have to endure some suffering. As you suffer praise God. Praise him that he can teach us something life-changing through this storm.

 

Thursday

Verse of the Day

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.

Colossians 3:23

 

You and I have both had jobs that we didn’t feel like praising God for, but we should anyway. Our work provides a lot for us. Our work provides a way to obtain the things we need for life…water, food, shelter…and of course much, much more. Our jobs provide a way for us to live out our purpose. Many people find much reward in what they do. Our jobs provide us a way to glorify God. God created you and gave you skills and intellect to do the things you must do to live on earth. When we work hard and work towards excellence God is glorified. You might be tempted to complain about your work, but I encourage you praise God for your work today.

 

Friday

Verse of the Day

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

2 Peter 3:9

 

Do you ever think about the patience of God? God is seeing all of the wickedness in the world. He is seeing all of the hate, racism, murder, rape, and abuse and still waits for people to find him. He is patient with us. Have you ever been struck down by lightning? Have you ever deserved it? God continues to be patient with us. As much as God hates our sin he loves us so much more. So as you go about your day consider the patience of God. Consider how God has shown you patience when you struggle with the same thing over and over again.

 

Saturday

Verse of the Day

“We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

1 Thessalonians 1:2-3

 

There’s not much we can depend on. We think we can depend on that brand new car then something gets recalled. We think we can depend on that new job then the offer gets rescinded. We think we can depend on our friend but they fail us. The one person in life who will never fail us is God. The hope we have in God through Jesus will always be there. It is our anchor in this life. So today take a few moments and praise God for his steadfastness. Praise him for being the rock in our lives, the anchor that never gives way when the storms come. 




August 15, 2017, 11:03 AM

You Don't Have Because You Don't Ask

As a minister there are many deep theological questions I get asked. Things like, "will my dog be in heaven", "will we eat in heaven", or "do I need a copy of my baptismal certificate to get into heaven." Seriously, I do get asked some whoppers. I get asked why God would allow bad things to happen to good people. I get asked about the end times and what exactly it will look like. I get asked about how we know the Bible is true. These are some really good questions and take some study and some careful thought. 

But I really love simple theology. I love when the Bible just comes out and says something with such clarity and simplicity that you just can't miss it. I love this verse in the book of James. 

You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. James 4:2

The key line I wanted to focus on is..."You do not have because you do not ask God." 

Huh...wouldn't it be in our nature to ask God first before we did anything else? I can only speak for myself but the answer is many times, NO. I tend to struggle, fight, worry, stress, get anxious, and then when I've exhausted all of my resources I ask God. Isn't this so backwards? 

In the next 40 days we are asking people in our congregation to pray. We are asking them to pray for 4 minutes a day for the church...leaders, staff, goals, dreams, unity...whatever comes to their minds. The reason we are praying is that we realize that we can do nothing without God. We believe the words of Jesus in John chapter 15. 

"I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5

We have the power of the Almighty God at our fingertips so why would you not want to tap into that? 

I challenge you today to set aside four minutes every day. We are challenging our congregation to pray for our local church, but the challenge to you is simply to pray. Before you stress and get anxious and make yourself sick...PRAY. The simple theology found in James is so true...you do not have because you have not asked God. 

Go do a grand prayer experiment just four minutes a day and see what happens. 

 




August 3, 2017, 9:29 AM

The rest of the story...

Years ago radio commentator Paul Harvey would finish a story he had previously told a part of and he would introduce the second half of the story by saying, "and here is the rest of the story." He said it in a way only Harvey could. The rest of the story would tell the complete truth of what he was saying. 

It is very true that Jesus was kind and compassionate to sinners. He was willing to spend time with people that other religious would not. He was willing to befriend people and was actually "criticized" as being a friend of sinners. He showed mercy when others showed judgment. But I want you to understand the rest of the story. 

In John chapter eight Jesus is encountered by a group of men. They want to know if the Law will allow them to stone this woman caught in adultery. Jesus doesn't even argue this fact, but he appeals to mercy. He asks these men to consider if they are without sin and if they should continue to stone this woman. Remember that this woman was caught in adultery...meaning that her appearance must have been less than appropriate. I heard one preacher say that it was very likely that she was naked. I mean she was CAUGHT. Jesus appeals to these men to have mercy on her, because they are in need of mercy from God, too. After a few moments the older ones drop their stones first and then the younger ones walk away. 

Jesus looks at the woman and asks her if anyone is left to condemn her. She looks around and to her surprise all the men are gone. I can see her huddled down just trying to brace for the imminent death that is coming her way. She looks up and they are gone. They are all gone. Only Jesus is left standing there. She answers Jesus that no one is left to condemn her and Jesus says, "Then neither do I condemn you." 

We tend to stop there a lot. We focus on the mercy and grace that Jesus shows this woman. We should spend a lot of time on this. The mercy and grace part of this story is very important. The comparison of condemnation versus mercy is a huge point here. But we need to hear the REST OF THE STORY. 

After Jesus tells this woman that no one is there to condemn her he tells her, "Go now and leave your life of sin." 

Jesus gave her a second chance, but if life was really going to change for this woman she needed to live differently. Jesus never excused or accepted her sin...Jesus accepted this woman. She was created by God and was loved by Jesus, but her life needed to change. The purpose of grace to enable to live a different life. Grace is not meant to simply let you know that God loves you, but it's intended to move you into action. 

In 1 Corinthians 3:10 Paul speaks of building churches and says, "By the grace given me I laid a foundation..."

Paul is saying that he was given grace by God to do the mission he was created to do. Part of the grace of God is to release us to live the life God has called us to live. He has given us the opportunity to follow Jesus. 

The rest of the story is go follow Jesus. So have you taken the opportunity of grace? Have you received the mercy of God that allows you to go live for Jesus? 

To accept the grace of God and do nothing is a wasted opportunity. The cost of grace was too high for us to do nothing with it. 




July 18, 2017, 9:46 AM

Pick Up Your Cross

 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me."--Matthew 16:24

How do you define what it means to pick up your cross in our culture? When Jesus told the people in the first century to pick up their cross and follow him they knew what it meant. They watched people pick up their cross. They witnessed people carrying their cross down the street to have their life taken from them. 

Does this really mean we have to be willing to die to follow Jesus? Yes and no. 

I think when Jesus said this it was both literal and figurative. If you were a Christian in the first century there was a strong likelihood you may have to give your life for your faith. History tells us that all of the apostles were martyred except for John and he was boiled in hot oil. You can read books that detail the ways Christians died because of their faith. People are still being persecuted and put to death because they are believers. 

But it's more than a physical death. 

We may never face this kind of death in America and I hope we never do, but it doesn't mean that we can't pick up your cross. 

WE NEED TO DIE TO OURSELVES. 

Picking up your cross also means that we are going all in. There is nothing we are holding back. There is no other option for our lives. It's Jesus or nothing. So what does this mean? What does it really mean to go all for Jesus? 

I love this illustration I was shown a few years ago. I can't really show it to you but I can describe it and I hope you can picture it in your head. 

Picture a pie chart. There are percentages that cut up the pie into pieces. Let's say you are doing a pie chart of your life. One piece of the pie is your work. One piece of your pie is your family. One piece of your pie is your money. One piece of your pie is God. You have this pie all split up and each piece is independent of each other. God gets a piece of your life. He gets Sunday morning, he might get a few moments of prayer every once in a while, but he has nothing to do with your family or your work or your money. This is how many people serve God. God does not have their whole lives just a piece. This is not picking up your cross. 

Now picture a solar system. The sun is in the middle and all of the planets orbit around it. The planets are what they are because of their relationship to the sun. Picture your life like this. God is in the middle of everything you do. God influences how you spend your money, how you raise your money, how you do your job and everything else in your life. This is picking up your cross. 

James tells us in James 4:15 that instead of making plans on our own we should say, "if the Lord wills", we will do this or that. He says it's boastful to think we can control our lives. Not only is it boastful it's silly. How many of you have realized that all of our plans should be written in pencil, because life can change in the blink of an eye. How many plans get changed everyday in your life, because life is unpredictable? 

So the idea of picking up a cross might not speak as loudly and clearly as it did in first century world. But we can still understand the concept and GO ALL IN. 


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