Don’t be a people-pleaser

Good morning everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “The end of anxiety and despair”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “My eager expectation and hope is that I will not be ashamed about anything, but that now as always, with all courage, Christ will be highly honored in my body whether by life or by death.” Philippians 1:20 (CSB)
 
Our thought for today: “Don’t be a people-pleaser”
 
In his great little book, “The Ragamuffin Gospel”, author Brennan Manning offers helpful insight regarding finding release and freedom from the tyranny of people-pleasing. “Freedom in Christ produces a healthy independence from peer pressure, people-pleasing, and the bondage of human respect. The tyranny of public opinion can manipulate our lives. What will the neighbors think? What will my friends think? What will people think? The expectations of others can exert a subtle but controlling pressure on our behavior.”
 
A big source of anxiety and despair for a lot of people is their preoccupation with what they believe others think about them. So much of our lives end up being driven by our desire to be thought well of by others, and we therefore end up striving to do or say things likely to gain their approval. People-pleasing is an insidious trap because we’ll never be able to please everyone. There will always be critics, naysayers, gossip mongers, and slanderers.
 
Another reason that people-pleasing is a fruitless pursuit is because much of what we believe other people do or don’t think about is wrong. Our imagination takes over and convinces us their thoughts about us are worse than they are, or that they matter more than they really do, and that they are more frequent than they are. The truth is other people don’t think about us anywhere near as often as we believe they do.
 
But the most important reason that people-pleasing is wrong is because other people aren’t the standard that our conduct should be measured by, and therefore their approval isn’t what matters most. Our conduct should be measured by Biblical standards and our goal should be to please the Lord. This is what Paul was explaining in Philippians 1:20 (above). His goal was to honor God. People could like that or not and approve of it or not, but as long as the Lord was pleased, that’s all that mattered to Paul.
 
I encourage you to focus on living your life in a manner that is consistent with Biblical principles, and therefore pleasing to the Lord. That’s the standard that matters. When you are doing your best to live like that, you can then walk-through life with a quiet sense of confidence and peace. Anxiety and despair find little room in the life of a person who is committed to pleasing God rather than people.
 
God bless,
Pastor Jim
Copyright © 2022 Oak Hill Baptist Church, All rights reserved.

Did you really give it to Jesus?

Good morning everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “The end of anxiety and despair”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 (CSB)
 
Our thought for today: “Did you really give it to Jesus?
 
In her book, “The Christian’s Secret to a Happy Life” author Hannah Whitall Smith says that “Even more incompatible than oil and water is trust and worry.” She then goes on to ask us to consider the following scenario: If you entrust something to a friend for safekeeping, but then you stay up all night worrying about whether or not your friend is really safeguarding the thing you entrusted to them, are you really trusting your friend? Would you call that trust? Likewise, if you entrust something to God but then you continue worrying about it, do you really trust God?
 
In our sanctuary at Oak Hill Baptist, we keep a large wooden cross on the stage. The cross is mounted on a raised, 3×4 foot platform. Next to the cross is a bin of good-sized stones. Each stone is intended to be a symbol of a burden a person has been carrying and which is weighing them down. We encourage people to come to the cross, pray about the burden, and surrender it to Jesus. Then they take a stone from the bin and place it at the foot of the cross, symbolically giving that burden to the Lord and leaving it at the foot of the cross. But the caveat is that once they’ve done that, they have to leave the stone and the burden at the cross. They can’t have it back.  
 
This is what Paul is teaching in Philippians 4:6-7. There he instructs us to bring our burdens to the Lord, surrender them to Him, and in complete trust and with full assurance leave them with Him. If we will do that, Paul says, we will experience the peace of God flooding our mind and heart. And if you don’t experience that peace, you need to ask yourself whether or not you are really trusting the issue to God, or if perhaps you are doing what Hannah Whitall Smith described above, saying that you trust Him but then still worrying about the thing.
 
God is fully trustworthy. He gave us those instructions and the associated promise in Philippians 4:6-7 for a reason. The instructions are reliable and the promise is certain. Surrender it to the Lord and then enjoy the peace of God.
 
God bless,
Pastor Jim
Copyright © 2022 Oak Hill Baptist Church, All rights reserved.

Remember the past but don’t dwell on it

Good morning everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “The end of anxiety and despair”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ. Therefore, let all of us who are mature think this way.” Philippians 3:13-15 (CSB)
 
Our thought for today: “Remember the past but don’t dwell on it”
 
I’m sure at some point someone has probably counseled you to “forget the past and move on from it.” That sounds so wise, but actually it’s impossible to do. We can’t really, truly, “forget” the past, in the sense of not remembering it. Unless you have amnesia, the past is firmly planted in your memory bank and it will remain there forever. You couldn’t forget it if you wanted to. And, you shouldn’t. The past is part of you. All the things from your past have contributed to bring you to this place and time in your life. Together they add up to who you are.
 
But with that said, your past doesn’t have to define you, nor does it have to determine your present or your future. We need to learn from the past, understand its role in forming us and bringing us to this time and place in life, but then we need to move on from it. We can’t change the past. We can’t undo the things that we did do, nor can we go back and insert things we should have done but didn’t. All we can do is learn from the past, live well now in this moment, and then move forward into the future.
 
That’s what the Apostle Paul was describing in Philippians 3:13-15. He did not mean that he didn’t remember his past. He did. Paul had a deep dark past, and he even wrote about it several times in the Bible. He was complicit in mass murder. As a Pharisee he had been appointed to serve as an inquisitor and persecutor of Christians. In that capacity he had instigated and overseen the persecution and murders of many Christians. There was nothing Paul could do to change his past. All he could do was remember it, remain conscious of the hard lessons he had learned from it, and use those lessons to live well now and on into the future.
 
Paul remembered his past but he didn’t dwell on it (and neither should you). Don’t beat yourself up about it. Like Paul, repent of it, repair what damage from it that can be repaired, remember the hard lessons you have learned, and then move on with life. And don’t forget the important truth of Philippians 1:6 that you are a work in progress. Realize that you are not yet the man or woman that God wants you to be, but thank God you are no longer the person you used to be.
 
I encourage you to remember the past but don’t dwell on it. Learn the lessons, live well now, and move forward into the future God has planned for you.
 
God bless,
Pastor Jim
Copyright © 2022 Oak Hill Baptist Church, All rights reserved.

Jesus isn’t cold in the attic

Good morning everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “The end of anxiety and despair”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you, always praying with joy for all of you in my every prayer, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. I am sure of this, that he who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:3-6 (CSB)
 
Our thought for today: “Jesus isn’t cold in the attic”
 
There was a grandfather who was a good godly man, kind and compassionate. He had a grandson who was also a professing Christian, but the young man was one of those Christians who was a stickler for religious detail and for piously going through the motions of faith. But there was a hard edge to him, especially with respect to people in need. He just didn’t seem to have much empathy or compassion, and that bothered the grandfather very much.
 
One day, the young man was helping the grandfather go through some of the things he had in storage up in the attic when he came across a framed picture of Jesus in a corner behind some boxes. The grandson commented on what a shame it was that Jesus was confined to a cold dark attic. To that the grandfather softly replied, “Son, Jesus isn’t cold in the attic. But He is cold in the body of a poorly clothed child.” The grandfather was referring to Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:40 “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
 
That reminded me of another story that happened right here in Cumberland County, TN just the other day. Our partner church in the coal-mining region of eastern Kentucky contacted us to say that they were in desperate need of winter clothes for children, and they asked if we could help. We then put the word out to our church and to the Christian community in our county. A men’s Bible study group known as “The Cake Club” responded. They took $1000 out of their ministry funds, added another $1900 out of their own pockets, went to Walmart, and purchased almost $3000 worth of new winter clothes for those cold and poorly clothed children in need.
 
The men of “The Cake Club” are all Christian men who have walked through some deep and dark valleys in their own lives. Now, as a band of brothers, they walk the Christian life together, supporting one another and working together to bless others in the name of Jesus. Those men have been radically saved by Christ (from their sins and from their former lives), and now they are being transformed as the Holy Spirit continues His work in their lives (Philippians 1:3-6). Out of a deep sense of thanksgiving for what the Lord has done for them, they are joyfully and generously being a conduit for the blessings of God to flow to others. That’s simply what they do. It’s how they live.
 
One of the best and most effective ways we can deal with deep dark stuff in our own lives is to take our eyes off of ourselves and our own issues, and focus instead on being a blessing to others in need. It’s what the Lord has called us to do (Matthew 25:35-40).
 
This morning my family and I want to wish you and yours a happy and blessed Thanksgiving. I also want to encourage you to intentionally demonstrate your gratefulness to the Lord by being a blessing to someone in need. Remember, Jesus isn’t cold in the attic, but He is cold in the body of a poorly clothed child. In other words (to quote the Bible writer James), “Faith without works is dead”.
 
God bless,
Pastor Jim
Copyright © 2022 Oak Hill Baptist Church, All rights reserved.

Laugh again

Good morning everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “The end of anxiety and despair”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:2 (CSB)
 
Our thought for today: “Laugh again”
 
I love the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians. It might be my favorite book of the Bible. I say that with some hesitation because, seriously, how do you pick a favorite book of the Bible? It’s like trying to pick your favorite Beatles song. They’re all good. But just as for various reasons one song might be more meaningful to you than all the others, one book of the Bible can be special for the same reason.
 
Philippians is known as “The epistle (letter) of joy”. It’s a letter just bursting with joy and gratefulness and positive thinking. It’s chock-full of faith and hope. I love it. The message of Philippians is so needed in our lives today, and it’s such a great “pick me up” when we’re struggling with anxiety or despair.
 
My favorite commentary on the book of Philippians was written decades ago by Pastor Chuck Swindoll. The title of the commentary is “Laugh Again”, and that’s the approach Chuck takes as he helps us to digest the lessons found in this helpful little letter of Paul’s. You can tell what’s coming in Chuck’s book simply by looking at the picture on the back of the dust jacket. There you see Chuck and his wife Cynthia sitting on Chuck’s Harley Davidson motorcycle, dressed in black leather, and both with huge grins on their faces. The personalized license plate reads, “The Sermonator!” The commentary takes off from there and it’s a lot of fun.
 
You can also tell what’s coming in Paul’s letter. In his case the clue is found in the word of greeting he begins with in 1:2, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” That was Paul’s purpose in writing this letter. He wanted to communicate to his readers a sense of grace and peace coming to them from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ – and he succeeded!
 
Philippians is such a joyful and helpful study that we’re going to spend a few days exploring its important lessons. I encourage you to consider using this little letter as your go-to remedy whenever you’re feeling down, anxious, or despairing. Along with the Apostle Paul, Pastor Chuck, and millions upon millions of other readers of Philippians, we can come to the point where we can indeed “laugh again”.
 
God bless,
Pastor Jim
Copyright © 2022 Oak Hill Baptist Church, All rights reserved.

Train yourself to be strong

Good morning everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “The end of anxiety and despair”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “When Daniel learned that the document had been signed, he went into the house. The windows in its upstairs room were opened toward Jerusalem, and three times a day he got down on his knees, prayed, and gave thanks to his God, just as he had done before.” Daniel 6:10 (CSB)
 
Our thought for today: “Train yourself to be strong”
 
This morning I want to continue our discussion from yesterday regarding how it is that God uses our difficulties to make us stronger. Let’s consider the Old Testament example of Daniel. Daniel was one of the young Jewish men taken into captivity by the Babylonians. He was taken from his home in Judah to a life as a slave in Babylon. But Daniel was a strong man of faith and even though he was immersed in a hostile pagan culture which sometimes demanded he surrender his own beliefs and engage in practices contrary to his faith, Daniel refused – multiple times. Instead, he resolved to stay faithful to God no matter what.
 
In Daniel 6:10 we read of one of those times. In this case the advisors to the king had convinced him to issue an order declaring that anyone caught praying to a god other than the king himself, would be thrown into the lion’s den. They did this specifically to set a trap for Daniel. They were jealous of him because of the influence he had with the king, and they knew he wouldn’t comply with the king’s edict.  
 
Long story short, Daniel once again refused to compromise his faithfulness to God, and once again God honored Daniel’s faithfulness by making him strong and delivering him from danger. The point of the lesson though, is that throughout his life Daniel was faced with repeated difficulties and dangerous situations which challenged the practice of his faith and in each case, he resolved to remain faithful to God. As a result, Daniel continued to grow stronger and stronger in character and integrity. He was fearless. And the older he got, the more that was true of him.
 
It’s simply a fact that God uses our tough times to make us stronger, but we have to cooperate with Him in this. We have to resolve, as Daniel did, to face our trials and difficult situations with rock-solid faith in God and with a firm resolve to use the current difficulty as an opportunity to bring honor and glory to Him through the way that we handle it. When we do that over and over again, God continues to make us stronger and stronger – just as He did for Daniel. But Daniel’s focus was always on God’s strength and on God’s faithfulness. Daniel didn’t rely on himself, he relied on God. He knew that if he was just faithful and if he trusted God, God would enable him to be strong. 
 
One of the primary causes of anxiety and despair in our lives is weak faith and wrong focus. We face our difficulties by thinking about whether or not we are able to handle it, not whether or not God is able to handle it for us. But our strength comes from God. Our resolve and fortitude are a product of, and is determined by, our faith in God not our faith in ourselves.
 
I encourage you to train yourself to be strong by training yourself to rely on God.
 
God bless,
Pastor Jim
Copyright © 2022 Oak Hill Baptist Church, All rights reserved.

God is making you stronger

Good morning everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “The end of anxiety and despair”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “He has made his people strong …” Psalm 148:14 (NLT)
 
Our thought for today: “God is making you stronger”
 
For most of my adult life I have included weight training as part of my overall workout routine. Once upon a time it was five days a week using heavy weights. These days I’m down to two days a week using much lighter weights. The other days I do mostly cardio.
 
Weight training is also known as resistance training. The idea behind it is to intentionally create a significant amount of resistance that you have to push back against. Doing so forces your muscles to stretch and strain, and that then leads to muscle growth- the muscles grow larger and stronger as a result of pushing back against the resistance.
 
Problems in life often serve the same purpose. They create a resistance that we have to push back against and when we do, it makes us stronger. Our problem is that today we live in what author John Eldredge refers to as “the comfort culture”. Everything is so much easier for us than it used to be. We don’t have to hunt for our food – we just go to the store to buy it. We don’t have to fix our own cars – mechanics do that for us. We don’t have to actually do math in our head – the calculator on our smart phone does the math for us. And on and on it goes. We have gidgets and gadgets and experts to take care of almost everything for us.
 
As a result, we can become soft – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually soft. One college administrator, commenting on the maturity and resilience of the average college student these days was quoted as saying, “Eighteen is the new twelve. Our students are emotionally underdeveloped. They’re much less resilient than any we’ve ever encountered …”
 
In Psalm 148:14 we learn that God makes us strong. That usually doesn’t happen magically. Sometimes He might simply infuse us with instant strength we didn’t have a moment before, but usually the strengthening is a process that occurs over an extended period of time. He either has to initiate actions in the lives of His people specifically designed to challenge us and to make us strong, or He allows tough situations to exist that will challenge us and stretch us. The concept is the same as that of weight resistance training. We need to grunt and groan; we need to face challenges, exert extra effort, and push through the difficulties in order to become strong.
 
The fact is that God uses the difficult times in our lives as a way of strengthening us. The key is for us to recognize our struggles for what they are (opportunities to grow) and then learn our lessons, gain the strength, and come out of it stronger and better. This is an important understanding and so we’ll explore it a little further tomorrow.
 
God bless,
Pastor Jim
Copyright © 2022 Oak Hill Baptist Church, All rights reserved.

Get that sparkle back

Good morning everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “The end of anxiety and despair”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “Turn and answer me, O Lord my God! Restore the sparkle to my eye …” Psalm 13:3 (NLT)
 
Our thought for today: “Get that sparkle back”
 
I love the time of fellowship during our morning worship service at Oak Hill Baptist. It happens early in the service, right after the greeting and announcements. I encourage people to take a few moments to move around the sanctuary greeting people, shaking hands, hugging, and just enjoying one another. It’s always a time of happy chaos with people making their way up and down the aisles. There’s a lot of talking, laughing, back-patting, hugging, and, generally, well … chaos. But happy chaos.
 
And yes, it is an element of worship. It’s a beautiful example of God’s people enjoying being together. It captures the spirit of what King David joyfully expressed in Psalm 122:3, “I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go up to the house of the Lord.’” I once overheard a visitor remark, as he gazed upon our fellowship time, “This is such a happy place!” And it is. People often jokingly complain to me that the fellowship time of the worship service is too short – that they need more time to greet everyone they want to say hello to, or hug, or laugh with.
 
I like the way the New Living Translation translates Psalm 13:3. There the writer pleads with the Lord to “Restore the sparkle to my eye …” Having an eye that “sparkles” is an expression that indicates joy, cheerfulness, amusement, and even playfulness. The person is in good spirits and you can see it in his or her face. You can see it by the sparkle in their eye.
 
Now, go back to the scene of our happy chaos on Sunday mornings. There are always a lot of sparkling eyes in that place – happy people sharing joy, cheerfulness, amusement, and even playfulness. And again, yes, that is part of our worship. Our Father in heaven loves to see His children gathered together and truly enjoying it. I’ll bet He has a smile on His face and sparkle in His own eyes are He watches us.
 
Are you struggling with anxiety and despair, maybe you’re even a little depressed? Well, come to church! Like the Psalmist you need God to restore the sparkle to your eye. Immerse yourself in a crowd of happy, cheerful, amused and playful fellow Christians who will greet you, hug you, love you, and include you. Soon your own eyes will be sparkling again.
 
If you need the sparkle returned to your eye there’s no better place for that to happen than in the fellowship of a good church gathering. Join us!
 
God bless,
Pastor Jim
 
Copyright © 2022 Oak Hill Baptist Church, All rights reserved.

Reject that which drains you

Good morning everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “The end of anxiety and despair”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable – if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy – dwell on these things.” Philippians 4:8 (CSB)
 
Our thought for today: “Reject that which drains you”
 
I once read a statement which really resonated with me at the time, and which I’ve hung onto ever since. It said, “Reject that which drains you; embrace that which renews you.”
 
That sounds like good advice. I’m going to do it.
 
Anxiety and despair drain me. So, I reject it. Negative people drain me. So, I reject their negativity, and if it persists, I reject them by allowing them little or no room in my life. Endless political debates drain me. So, I choose not to engage in them. Negative thinking drains me. So, I try to stay positive.
 
What renews me? The Lord. He renews me. So, I engage in what Eugene Peterson once called, “A long obedience in the same direction.” That means intentionally filling my life with lots of prayer, Bible study, worship, Christian music, reading good Christian books, and enjoyable fellowship with other positive Christians. The Bible tells me I need to do those things, every day, just in order to stay spiritually healthy. And so, I make it a point to do them, every day, even if I don’t feel like it. It’s a long obedience in the same direction. It’s a discipline and a habit. I do it because the Lord tells me I need to.
 
By sharing that with you I’m not trying to portray myself as some sort of super-saint, because I most certainly am not. I’m simply sharing with you what has been taught to me, and which I’ve found to be helpful in my own life. There’s a lot of negative in our world, and it will drain you if you let it. But there’s also a lot of positive too, and it will renew you if you will embrace it.
 
Each of us can exercise control over our own environment and we can choose the influences we allow into our lives. What Paul described in Philippians 4:8 is a choice that is made by the individual about what we will allow into our mind and heart and what we will not. To a very large great extent we can control our personal environment.
 
I encourage you to reject that which drains you and embrace that which renews you. Doing so will go a long way towards bringing an end to anxiety and despair in your life.
 
God bless,
Pastor Jim
Copyright © 2022 Oak Hill Baptist Church, All rights reserved.

Be strong in the Lord

Good morning everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “The end of anxiety and despair”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “But be alert at all times, praying that you may have strength …” Luke 21:36 (CSB)
 
Our thought for today: “Be strong in the Lord”
 
In recent days we’ve been considering the example of the camel. We’ve learned that the camel is an amazingly resilient animal that has deep reserves to draw upon which enable it to persevere in the worst of conditions for long periods of time. We’ve also learned that we need to be like the camel in that we need to have deep reserves we can draw on, and we need to keep those reserves adequately replenished.
 
But how do we do that? This is important. Simply stating that we should do something is helpful to a degree, but we need to know how to do it if it’s really going to make any difference in our lives.
 
The answer is that we must have a deeper strength to draw on than our own. Our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual reserves have to be regularly replenished by the Lord. In Luke 21:36 Jesus instructed us to pray for strength. The Greek word used there means “to be strong to another’s detriment; to prevail against; to be superior in strength; to overcome; to prevail.”
 
That’s the kind of strength Jesus tells us we need and should want and should ask for. It’s a combative strength that implies a battle must be fought and we will need help to win it. So, we are instructed to pray for such strength. In other words, we don’t have it and therefore it’s necessary that we ask for it, and then it will be given to us.
 
The fact is that life is combat. It’s spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6:10-18). We have a spiritual enemy (Satan), and he brings the battle to us every day. This is where much of our anxiety and despair comes from. Jesus instructs us to pray for combative strength and then to fight the enemy. This is you being proactive. This is you refusing to be defined by or defeated by anxiety and despair. This is you praying for strength and then fighting for yourself.  
 
How does God impart that strength to us? Go back to our example from yesterday from Psalm 42. God’s blessings of renewal are like the mighty waters of a great waterfall just washing over us. But we have to place ourselves in the flow. We have to place ourselves in a position before God every day whereby He can renew us, replenish us, and impart His strength to us. We must have a deeper source of strength than just our own.
 
This is important and we’re not done considering it, so we’ll come back to this again tomorrow.
 
God bless,
Pastor Jim
Copyright © 2022 Oak Hill Baptist Church, All rights reserved.