Billy's Blog
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February 9, 2016, 9:21 AM

The Gift of Letting Go

Forgiveness is a weird concept. We struggle with forgiveness because we have some warped views on it. Our mind does really strange thing with forgiveness. I've had a LOT of discussions with people who are struggling to forgive. The specific situations have been numerous, but the struggle has been common. Here's how the human mind struggles with forgiveness. 

We believe that people must pay for what they've done. We certainly believe in grace, mercy and kindness, but we are also strong believers in justice. We don't want to see people get away with things that they are guilty of doing. We've been wronged. We've been lied to, we've been cheated, we've been abused, we've been mistreated...fill in the blanks of how you've been wronged. We struggle to forgive these people who have wronged us, because forgiving them takes them off the hook. In our minds we conjure up the idea that if we forgive then we excuse their behavior. We are saying what they did is ok. This could not be further from the truth. 

In Ephesians chapter two Paul lays out very clearly how salvation works. In verse four through nine he lays out how God was merciful to us. He explains how grace works and how the incomparable love of God created a way for us to be forgiven. Through all of the mercy, grace and love our guilt is not simply ignored. In verse one through three Paul clearly states our guilt. 

Paul writes that we are, "dead in our trangessions and sins", "by nature objects of wrath", "disobedient"...our guilt is real. God doesn't forgive us because are "let off the hook", he forgives us because we are in desperate need of it. He forgives us because he desires a relationship with us. 

When you forgive you are moving on, letting go, and setting yourself free. When you hold onto hate, loathing, and revenge you are the one that is suffering. Your unwillingness to forgive is hurting the person you won't forgive way less than it's hurting you. Sometimes the object of your unforgiveness may not even be aware of how you feel. They may go to bed and sleep like a baby every night while you toss and turn with hate in your heart. 

I know that one little blog post won't heal your heart. I know that some of the wrongs that have been done against you are vile and hateful and have been a huge burden on your heart. But the sooner you are able to forgive and move on the quicker your healing will begin. Let God handle that other person. He knows what he's doing. 

January 27, 2016, 3:51 PM

Obedience = Healing

I try not to say I hate doctors because I don't hate doctors. I mean they have gone to years of medical school and racked up enormous amounts of student debt to try to help other people. I don't hate doctors, but I really hate what they tell me sometimes. I have a hard time with obedience, because I really don't want to do what they tell me. The problem is that if I'm not obedient to their instruction then I'm not going to be healed. I may not be healed any way, but I have no shot if I don't do the things they prescribe me to do. 

We struggle in this area with God, too. We want to be healed. We want our lives to get better. We want to get past the dysfunction in our lives, but many times we are unwilling to be obedient. 

This morning I led a Bible study at our church through the first eleven verses of Hebrews chapter four. The whole point of this passage is that disobedience to God, a rejection of the truth, doesn't lead us to where we need to go. It specifically refers back to Numbers 13-14 where the 12 spies are sent into the land of Canaan to check it out. This is the promised land that God told the Israelites go take. This was their land given to them by God. So Moses sent 12 men in their, a representative from each tribe. Ten of them came back scared and disobedient. There were too many giants, too many fortified cities, and they would have no prayer of taking this land. Two of them, Joshua and Caleb, came back with a different report. They had seen the same land, but their attitudes were different. They acted in obedience and faith and said they needed to go in and take the land, because God has given it to them. 

So what was the result of obedience versus disobedience?

The ten tribes that rejected the idea were not allowed into the promised land. Those that were 19 years old and younger were allowed in later, but those 20 years old and older never got to go in. 

The two tribes that followed Joshua and Caleb got to enter the promised land and enjoy what God had given them. 

If you want healing, if you want your life to work, you must be obedient to God. Sorry there are just no shortcuts or magic pills. It's about obedience to God. He knows what works. So just follow him. 

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!

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