You don’t have to give-in to sin

Good morning everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Great thoughts from great Christians”
 
Our Bible verse for today, “No temptation has ceased you except that which is common to man. And God is faithful, he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV)
 
Our thought for today: “You don’t have to give-in to sin”
 
This morning I want to continue our thinking from yesterday about the nature of sin, and I will do so by returning to Billy Graham for another great thought. Here’s one of the many great insights Billy shared over the years about the nature of sin, and about the fact that we do not have to give-in to it:
 
“Satan is not all-powerful, nor does he directly cause every bad thing that happens to us. Sometimes we don’t know the cause – but often we are responsible, because we have turned our backs on God and deliberately followed our own sinful desires instead of His will. When we do, we pay the consequences; as the Bible warns, ‘God is not mocked. A man reaps what he sows.’ Galatians 6:7”
 
Billy was right, Satan is not all-powerful. He can’t make us do anything. All he can do is attempt to influence the Christian. And he does! Satan is brilliant. He is an expert fisher of men and he baits the hook according to the appetite of the fish. He knows what it will take to get you to sin. That’s why it’s so important for us to be wise to his ways, so we won’t be fooled. And we have to also know ourselves well enough to understand what our weaknesses are, and then take steps to avoid the situations where we’re likely to be exposed to those temptations. That’s what 1 Corinthians 10:13 is all about. We have to see the sin lurking, and then ask God to help us avoid it.
 
Also, we are often our own worst enemies. We allow ourselves to fall into sin when it didn’t have to happen. We are responsible for many of the bad things that happen to us. “The devil made me do it!” was a funny line when the comedian Flip Wilson used it in his stand-up comedy routines, but it’s theologically incorrect. The devil can’t “make” you do anything. And if you do it anyway, it’s entirely your own fault and you are fully responsible for the consequences.
 
The truth is that we don’t have to give-in to sin. Not ever. God will never allow us to be tempted in any way that is more than we can resist with His help.
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim 
Copyright © 2021 Oak Hill Baptist Church, All rights reserved.

Sin is expensive

Good morning everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Great thoughts from great Christians”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (NIV)
 
Our thought for today: “Sin is expensive”
 
The great evangelist Charles Finny (1792-1875) once made a statement about the cost of sin that helped me to gain a better understanding about the complexity of sin and the extent to which God has gone to deal with our sins. Finny wrote,
 
“Sin is the most expensive thing in the universe. Are you well aware, O sinner, what a price has been paid for you that you may be redeemed and made an heir of God and of heaven? O what an expensive business for you to indulge in sin! Think how much machinery is kept in motion to save sinners! The Son of God was sent down; angels are sent as ministering spirits to the heirs of salvation; missionaries are sent; Christians labor and pray and weep in deep and anxious solicitude; all to seek and save the lost … What an array of toil and cost, from angels, Jesus Christ, the Divine Spirit, and living men!”
 
Jesus paid a great price for our sins. God then goes to tremendous effort to deal with our sins and to get us to repent of them. What an outrage it must be to Him for us to find entertainment in and to take pleasure from the very things that nailed Jesus to the cross! Sin is too expensive for us to toy with it like that. The effort made and the price paid to compensate for those sins is too great.
 
And beyond that, God’s real problem with our sins is not what the sins do to Him, but what they do to us. Seriously, God can handle our sins. Although our sins are an offense to Him, they do no damage to Him. After all, He is God. The damage from our sin is the damage we do to ourselves and to others by committing those sins. God loves us so much, and He cares so much about us, that He is grieved when we hurt ourselves and others like that by indulging in sin.  
 
There is great truth in what Finny wrote more than 150 years ago, “O what an expensive business for you to indulge in sin!”
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim
Copyright © 2021 Oak Hill Baptist Church, All rights reserved.

Just love each other

Good morning everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Great thoughts from great Christians”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “Above all, maintain constant love for one another, since love covers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8 (CSB)
 
Our thought for today: “Just love each other”
 
All this month we’ve been considering “Great thoughts from great Christians” and we’ve based it upon the practice encouraged by Leighton Ford, “I surround myself with the thoughts of those who have thought much about God.” The fact is that we can learn much from those who have spent years thinking about God; people who have grown deep in their faith, and then who live their faith in practical ways that make a real difference in their own lives and in the lives of others.
 
Not all great Christians are famous. Some are just regular everyday people. My pastor, Oren Teel, was one of those. He was the one who discipled me and taught me how to be a pastor. Oren spent over fifty years as the pastor of small churches. He never wrote a book; he was never the featured speaker at a big conference; and he was not well-known outside of his small circle of influence. But he was a great Christian, and he did have some profound insights.
 
One of the best lessons he ever taught me, one which I have tried to practice for more than twenty-five years as a pastor, was advice he gave to me shortly before I went off to be the pastor of my first church. He said, “Jim, just love your people. A congregation will forgive a lot if they know you love them. They will tolerate a poor sermon; they will forgive your bad decisions; they will even put up with your ugly ties – if they know that you love them.”
 
And he was right. As I think back over two and a half decades as a pastor, in three different churches, I have to admit that I did preach a few bad sermons; and I did make some dumb decisions; and I’ve certainly worn my share of ugly ties; not to mention lots of other failures. But the people have always been kind, gracious, and forgiving, and I believe it has been because they know I love them. Despite my flaws and numerous shortcomings, they know I love them, and that seems to have made the difference.
 
This is what Peter was teaching us in 1 Peter 4:8 and it’s a lesson that applies not just to pastors and congregations, but to all of us, and in all of life. Your family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and your church family, will forgive a lot if they just know that you love them. As Peter said, “Love covers over a multitude of sins”.
 
I encourage you to concentrate on just loving people. Loving people doesn’t excuse us from trying hard and doing our best (my love for our congregation doesn’t excuse me from doing my best to preach a good sermon, or to make smart decisions, or to use better fashion-sense when selecting ties), but love is the most important thing we can do for each other, and doing so will make-up for a lot.
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim  
Copyright © 2021 Oak Hill Baptist Church, All rights reserved.

We are united in Christ

Good morning everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Great thoughts from great Christians”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28 (NIV)
 
Our thought for today: “We are united in Christ”
 
Have you ever stopped to consider how much division and hate there is between people-groups in the world? In the Mideast Muslims hate Jews. In Ireland Catholics fight Protestants. In America Democrats despise Republicans (and visa-versa). There is tremendous conflict between people based on ethnic differences, religious preferences, geographic boundaries, sports team loyalties, and an endless list of other things. I read a story once about two high school students who beat-up another student because he was wearing the wrong brand of shoes. It’s as if we humans look for reasons to be in conflict with each other because of perceived differences between us.
 
But that should not be the case among Christians. As Paul taught in Galatians 3:28 (above), we are all one in Christ Jesus. When we come to faith in Christ and join the family of God all the artificial manmade distinctions that separate us fall away, and now the only thing that matters is that we are brothers and sisters in Christ. This is what Jesus was teaching in Matthew 12:48-50 where we read, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ Pointing to his disciples he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
 
The great pastor and author A.W. Tozer once wrote that, “The people of the Lord are a people apart, belonging to each other in a sense in which they don’t belong to anyone else.” What he meant was that the spiritual tie that binds us together as Christians is stronger and runs deeper than even the biological ties that bind us to our mortal families. This is true because the biological bond ends at death but the spiritual bond lasts for eternity.
 
This Sunday (September 26, 2021) at Oak Hill Baptist Church we will celebrate our annual “Homecoming Day”. This is the day each year at the beginning of the new church year when we gather our church family and friends together for a special day of worship, feasting, and fun. We will meet for Sunday school at 9:00; there will be a special Homecoming worship celebration at 10:00; followed by a catered banquet and an afternoon of fun and games. If you’re anywhere close to Cumberland County, TN we invite you to join us in-person. If you’re not geographically close, then join us online live on the Oak Hill Baptist Church Facebook page beginning at 10:00, or on our website at www.oakhillbaptist.net.
 
As Christians we share a bond in Christ that runs deep and which lasts forever. Join us as we celebrate our unity in Christ.
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim
Copyright © 2021 Oak Hill Baptist Church, All rights reserved.

Love is often a decision not a feeling

Good morning everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Great thoughts from great Christians”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “This is my command: Love one another as I have loved you.” John 15:12 (CSB)
 
Our thought for today: “Love is often a decision not a feeling ”
 
All this month we’ve been considering great thoughts from great Christians and in every case so far, I’ve been able to attribute that great thought to an identifiable great Christian. Not so this morning. This morning I want to share with you what I consider to be a great thought about the nature of love, but I cannot identify exactly who said it or where I got it from. I’ve been holding onto this thought – preaching it, teaching it, and trying to live by it, for probably close to thirty years, but I cannot remember where I got it from. Perhaps it’s a fusion of thoughts from different authors, teachers and preachers on the subject. In any case, here it is:
 
“Love is often a decision to act rather than an emotion you feel. It is an action, based on a decision, born of obedience.”
 
In other words, you can act in love towards someone even if you don’t actually feel love for that person. That’s essentially what Jesus was teaching in John 15:12. In that verse He “commanded” that we love one another. But if love is just a feeling or an emotion, how can it be commanded? Can the feeling be manufactured on demand? Can it be generated by simply flipping an emotional switch like turning on a light? The answer, of course, is “no”. Either you feel love or you don’t. You can’t force a feeling.
 
But you can force an action. You can decide to do something, and then go and do it whether you want to or not and whether you feel like it or not. You can act in love even if you don’t feel love.
 
I read a story once about a woman who had been brutally raped. The man who did it to her was caught, convicted, and sentenced to a long term in prison. But the memory of that traumatic event haunted the woman for years. It colored her personality in dark ways, it caused her to distrust other people, and it made her depressed and angry. Finally, she came to faith in Christ and discovered healing and peace in Jesus. Eventually, as a final act of recovery, she went to the prison and faced the man who had raped her. She said to him, “I forgive you. What you did to me was wrong; you caused me terrible pain, and I’m glad you are being punished for it; but in the name of my Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you.”
 
Later, as she was describing that encounter, she said, “It was the last thing in the world I wanted to do. I was physically sick at the thought of seeing him again. On an emotional level, I was afraid of him; I was repulsed by him, and – I have to be honest, I hated him. But my feelings were not the issue. I knew that what God wanted was my obedience. He wanted me to love that man with my will and with my words, even though in my emotions I couldn’t stand the sight of him.”
 
Jesus calls us to act in love towards others even if we don’t feel love for them in that moment. Love is often a decision to act rather than an emotion you feel.  
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim
Copyright © 2021 Oak Hill Baptist Church, All rights reserved.

Be intentional about how you live

Good morning everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Great thoughts from great Christians”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “Pay careful attention, then, to how you live – not as unwise people but as wise – making the most of the time, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:15 (CSB)
 
Our thought for today: “Be intentional about how you live”
 
Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) was a brilliant man. He entered Yale University at only thirteen, already having a firm grasp on Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. At the age of twenty-one he was appointed pastor of a church in Northampton, Massachusetts, where God used him to ignite the Great Awakening of 1734-35. That was a spiritual revival that spread across the Colonies and resulted in tens of thousands of salvations.
 
Throughout his life Edwards was a big proponent of making resolutions and living by them. He had long-term life goals, which were intended to establish basic principles to live by; and he also kept a list of short-term goals he was working on. One of his most important and helpful life principles was, “Resolved, never to lose one moment of time, but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.”
 
Edwards was serious about using his time well. He understood that time is a precious commodity that is not renewable. We only get so much of it in life and the Lord expects us to use it well. That’s why he kept lists of resolutions and goals. Benjamin Franklin expressed the same thought in slightly different words, “Do you value your life? Then value your time; because time is the stuff life is made of.” This is what the Apostle Paul was trying to teach us in Ephesians 5:15, we must be intentional about using our time well – we must be intentional about how we live.
 
Jonathan Edward’s personal practice of writing out his lists of resolutions is similar to the common practice in our day of a personal mission statement. It’s simply a written declaration of principles and practices that become a sort of north star. It is big-picture guidance designed to keep us on track in life. Beyond that, the practice of having short-term goals is essential as well. Short-term goals ensure that we’re always in the process of learning, growing, and moving forward in life, never becoming ambivalent, lazy, or unproductive.
 
A big part of the reason Jonathan Edwards made such a powerful impact with his life is because he was so intentional about how he lived and how he used his time. His written resolutions and goals were helpful tools that kept him focused and motivated. That can be true in our lives as well.
 
Resolved, never to lose one moment of time, but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.”
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim
Copyright © 2021 Oak Hill Baptist Church, All rights reserved.

God is watching over you

Good morning everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Great thoughts from great Christians”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.” Isaiah 30:21 (NIV)
 
Our thought for today: “God is guiding you and protecting you, even when you don’t realize He is.”
 
Jean-Pierre De Caussade was a French writer and preacher in the early 1700s. He was well-known and much-admired for his deep spiritual insights. Once, when commenting on Isaiah 30:21 and considering how it is that God quietly and subtly guides and protects those who are His, De Caussade wrote:
 
The unique and infallible power of divine action always influences the simple in the right way, inwardly directing them to react wisely … Sometimes this happens consciously; but sometimes simple souls are moved by mysterious impulses to do or ignore things in which they see no mystery; things which seem like pure chance, necessity, or convenience, and seem even to have no significance either to themselves or to others. And yet divine action, in the form of intelligence, and wisdom and advice from friends, uses them all for the benefit of these souls, ingeniously foiling the plans of those who scheme to harm them.”
 
What he meant was that as we walk day-by-day on this great adventure of living the Christian life, our Sovereign God is watching over us, guiding and protecting us, and orchestrating events in our favor and for our benefit, in a thousand ways we’re not even aware of.
 
De Caussade believed that someday in heaven we will have the opportunity to look back and review all the details of our lives, as if we were reading a history book. You will see everything (all you were aware of and thousands upon thousands of other things you knew nothing about). Then you will understand all the ways in which God guided you and protected you when you weren’t even aware of it. You will see the bad guy lying in wait around the corner to the left as the Spirit of God whispered in your ear “Go to the right”. In that day you will see how fortunate you were that the Holy Spirit gave you a little nudge at just the right time to get you to do one thing rather than the other. You will be reminded of every word of wise advice that came from a friend at just the right moment. And all of it will have been your Father in heaven watching over you, guiding you, and protecting you.
 
Take a few moments this morning to sit before God thinking about His loving watch-care over you, and how it is that you are never out of His sight. Remember the truth that He is constantly intervening on your behalf and for your good. Then thank Him for taking such good care of you.
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim
Copyright © 2021 Oak Hill Baptist Church, All rights reserved.

Great in God’s eyes

Good morning everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Great thoughts from great Christians”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.” 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 (NIV)
 
Our thought for today: “Great in God’s eyes”
 
All this month we’re considering what I’ve been calling, “Great thoughts from great Christians”. Unfortunately, often when we think of Christians we consider to be or have been “great” we only think of well-known high-profile figures like the Apostle Paul, or Saint Augustine, or C.S. Lewis, or Billy Graham. And without question, those people were great. But greatness in God’s eyes isn’t limited just to those who are well-known and who have big ministries. In fact, I would argue there are and have been millions upon millions of ordinary men and women who are considered “great” by God simply because they lived simple lives of faithfulness in ordinary circumstances.
 
I’ve told you the story before about my old friend Dick DeGrow. When I knew him, Dick was in his 70s. He was a retired pastor who was a member of the first church I was the pastor of. At that time Dick served as a deacon, an adult Sunday school teacher, and as the church custodian.
 
One day, while I was in my office writing a sermon, Dick arrived to begin his custodial duties. He knocked on my door, stuck his head in, and with a warm friendly smile he asked, “How’s my pastor this morning. Is there anything I can do for you?” I looked at him for a short moment and then I asked, “Dick, you’re a retired pastor. Why do you serve as the church custodian? You’re in your 70s, you don’t need the money, and there are other people who could do this.” He smiled at me again and then he said, “Pastor, I would rather clean toilets in the house of the Lord than to be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company.” “Then with another smile he said, “You have a good day.” And then he shuffled off to go clean those toilets.
 
Many of you will recognize Dick’s words to me that day as a paraphrase of Psalm 84:10, “I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.” I’ve never forgotten that encounter with Dick, nor have I ever forgotten the great example he set for me and for everyone else with his simple quiet life of service to the Lord.
 
There’s no doubt in my mind that Dick was great in the eyes of the Lord. And his comment about cleaning the toilets in the church? It was a great thought by a great Christian.
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim 
Copyright © 2021 Oak Hill Baptist Church, All rights reserved.

See them through God’s eyes

Good morning everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Great thoughts from great Christians”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view.” 2 Corinthians 5:16 (NIV)
 
Our thought for today: “See them through God’s eyes”
 
I once heard Billy Graham make a comment about people which caused me to rethink how I see other people – especially other people whom I don’t like, or people who are engaged in sinful behavior. Billy said, “We have to learn to see people through God’s eyes.” What he meant is that God sees people not just as they are, but as they could be and as He wants them to be. When we start seeing people the way God sees them, it changes our perspective of them dramatically.
 
He was basing that comment on the Apostle Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 5:16 (above). Paul learned to stop looking at people just from a worldly point of view but to see them with spiritual eyes – not just as they are, but as they could be. Billy went on to note that Paul himself was an excellent example of that. When he was an unsaved Pharisee, Paul (then known as Saul), hated Christians – to the point that he hunted them down, had them imprisoned, and presided over their murders. But after Paul had his encounter with Jesus Christ and became a Christian himself, that same man now began seeing people through God’s eyes and he found that he had great love and compassion for all people.  
 
That lesson holds true about people who are easy to love, but it is especially true about those who are difficult to love. It was Jesus Himself who told us in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:44 to “Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you.” By that Jesus didn’t mean that we were to approve of or accept the evil things our enemies do. Instead, He meant that we are to see them as people created by God and loved by God; people who, like Saul, can be converted and transformed if they would only come to faith in Christ. They are people Jesus died for, and we are to see them in that light.
 
The great Christian writer C.S. Lewis once had something to say about this. In His book, “The Weight of Glory”, when writing about the fact that every individual is a spirit-being who will exist eternally, Lewis wrote, “It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations … There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.”
 
Let’s make an effort to see people through God’s eyes – to see them as He seems them, as the person they could be, as a person He loves deeply and for whom Jesus died.
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim
 
Copyright © 2021 Oak Hill Baptist Church, All rights reserved.

Live a life worthy of your calling

Good morning everyone,

Our theme for this month: “Great thoughts from great Christians”

Our Bible verse for today: “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” Ephesians 4:1 (CSB)

Our thought for today: “Live a life worthy of your calling”

Yesterday we read a great challenge issued by the pastor and author John Wesley in the 1700s to do all the good we can, to all the people we can, in all the ways that we can, for as long as we can. More than 250 years later another Christian author said essentially the same thing in a slightly different way. In his book “The Jesus Touch” Dr. Lynn Anderson wrote,

“God, who is in the people business, has also called us to people-centered living. Thus, the most godlike thing we can do is to treat people like Jesus did.”

That’s what Paul was calling us to in Ephesians 4:1 (above), people-centered living – a life that honors God and blesses others. This was so important to Paul that he repeated it numerous times in different letters. In Philippians 1:27 he said, “You must live in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ, as citizens of heaven.” In Colossians 1:10 he said it like this, “And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way …” And in 1 Thessalonians 2:12 he reminded the Thessalonian Christians (and us), “We pleaded with you, encouraged you, and urged you to live your lives in a way that God would consider worthy …”

Often, when we read a statement like “Live a life worthy of your calling”, we think about things like prayer and Bible reading, faithful attendance at church, minding our p’s and q’s and being careful not to sin. All of that certainly is part of our calling but as Lynn Anderson so aptly reminds us, being like Jesus means being people-centered. Jesus called us to be on-mission with Him in the world blessing people in His name, ministering to their needs, and sharing the Good News of the Gospel with them. We are to be Acts 1:8 people. That’s the life we have been called to – being on-mission with Jesus out in the world interacting with people, blessing them, and leading them to faith in Christ. People-centered living. Christlike living.

The most godlike thing you will do today is when you treat others the way Jesus would treat them. What a different world this would be if all the Christians were more Christlike. I encourage you to be more Christlike today. It’s the life you were called to.

God Bless,

Pastor Jim