Don’t be lukewarm

Good morning everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Great thoughts from great Christians”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” Revelation 3:15-16 (NIV)
 
Our thought for today: “Don’t be a lukewarm Christian”
 
Soren Kierkegaard was a Danish philosopher and theologian who lived in the 1800s. Although he wrote extensively on a wide variety of Christian topics, one he was especially passionate about and vexed by was lukewarm Christianity. He even questioned whether lukewarm faith in Christ was real faith, or perhaps if it indicated that the person’s initial profession of faith in Jesus wasn’t sincere. Kierkegaard said, “Spiritually understood, there are always two victories: a first victory, and then the second by which the first victory is preserved.”
 
The first victory Kierkegaard was referring to is salvation itself. The second is the Christian life lived well – in a manner worthy of that salvation. One should lead to the other and if it doesn’t, we should wonder if the first was genuine or not.
 
The great British preacher of the same day, Charles Spurgeon, believed that too. He was especially bothered by the gushing reports about the large numbers of people who professed faith in Jesus at emotionally-charged evangelistic rallies, and how few of them sometimes followed through on those professions. Spurgeon remarked, “It is foolish to declare in a moment what would take a whole lifetime to fully determine. Yes, Christ saves us in a moment, as we genuinely repent, but it’s in the process of life, through failure and faithfulness, that victory shows it’s colors.”
 
Likewise, in Romans 8:37 the Apostle Paul taught that we are “more than conquerors” as a result of our faith in Christ. What could he have meant that we are “more” than conquerors? He meant that beyond the fact that Jesus has saved us from the eternal punishment due for our sins – more than the fact that we have that victory, we also are empowered to live victoriously now. We are more than just one-time victors – we are ongoing champions when we live faithfully in a way that honors the Lord who saved us.
 
As Revelation 3:15-16 so vividly and graphically teaches, lukewarm and casual Christianity is an insult to Jesus. Considering what He did for us, He deserves better from us. If we truly understand and appreciate our salvation, how could we not be passionate about serving and pleasing and worshiping the Lord who saved us?
 
A lukewarm Christian is an oxymoron. It’s a contradiction in terms. Or, at least, it should be. How could a person who has been saved from eternal damnation – who knows and it and truly believes it, be indifferent about it? Let’s not be lukewarm Christians. Being so calls the sincerity and genuineness of our faith into question.
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim  
Copyright © 2021 Oak Hill Baptist Church, All rights reserved.

Learn to be content

Good morning everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Great thoughts from great Christians”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” 1 Timothy 6:6 (NIV)
 
Our thought for today: “Learn to be content”
 
This morning I want to return us to the story of J.C. Penny, which we considered in yesterday’s devotional. He once confessed about himself, I had permitted the idea of the power of money to possess me.” And as we read yesterday, it nearly killed him – his compulsive preoccupation with money and things almost moved him to take his own life. Fortunately for J.C. Penny, he went on to learn the important truth that Paul taught in 1 Timothy 6:6 that regardless of how much wealth and how many possessions we do or don’t have, godliness and contentment are the keys to a good life, not money and possessions.
 
Paul went on in 1 Timothy 6:10 to say, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” Please note that he did not say that money is evil. It isn’t. Money is neutral. It’s just a tool that can be used in good ways or in bad ways. It’s the love of money, the compulsive preoccupation with money and possessions, that’s the root of much evil. And this is the challenge we Christians face in our consumer-oriented culture that is so fixated on conspicuous consumption.
 
The truth is that contentment isn’t good for the economy. It just isn’t. Content people are satisfied with what they have and therefore they don’t buy more. Discontented consumers tend to spend, spend, spend even when they don’t need to. The entire point of advertising is to make us discontent. Its purpose is to convince us that we need this new product or service and that our lives will be incomplete if we don’t get it. So, on the one hand, as Christians we need to resist the temptation to always want more, more, more, never being satisfied with what we have.
 
On the other hand, we want and need the economy to be healthy, and therefore we do need to spend. We all enjoy the standard of living we have here in the USA and we want to maintain it. Therefore, there’s a balance that needs to be achieved between being satisfied with what we have, or acquiring more, and that balance has to be learned. The Apostle Paul wrote of this learning process in Philippians 4:11-13 when he wrote,
 
“…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”
 
Don’t miss the fact that Paul wasn’t advocating for either wealth or poverty. Over the course of his life, he had them both. He had times when he was well off and in need of nothing, and he had times when he was dependent on the charity of others. In this verse he wasn’t lauding or promoting either condition. What he was teaching was that he had learned to be content and satisfied, relying on the Lord at all times, regardless of what his circumstances were.
 
That needs to be true for us too. Our faith and trust must be in Jesus. Godliness and contentment are the keys to a good life, not money and possessions.
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim
Copyright © 2021 Oak Hill Baptist Church, All rights reserved.

Trust God and be content

Good morning everyone,
 
Our theme for this month; “Great thoughts from great Christians”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “And my God will supply all of your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19 (CSB)
 
Our thought for today: “Trust God and be content”
 
Linda and I were once Amway distributors. Don’t judge, you have skeletons in your closet too. Yes, we once sold Amway. We never got rich from it but it did pay for our youngest child’s braces. We were associated with a group of Christian Amway distributors who were very much into prosperity theology. They were convinced we were all supposed to become fabulously wealthy for Jesus. We had a leader who did become wealthy from it. He lived in a big lakefront home, drove a Rolls Royce, and wore expensive suits and a Rolex watch. He loved the phrase “conspicuous consumption”. He used it frequently and with relish. He said it slow and drew out the syllables, sometimes practically salivating. In his world, conspicuous consumption was a good thing, something to be sought after and indulged in. The more the better.
 
Linda and I didn’t last long in that setting. We did make a little money and we did pay for the braces, but then we got out. One of the reasons we got out is because we realized how unbiblical that all-consuming preoccupation with money and possessions was. It’s the exact opposite of the attitude displayed by another wealthy Christian man, but one who had it right. His name was J.C. Penny.
 
We all know J.C. Penny’s is a major U.S. department store. And most of us probably know that J.C. Penny was the founder of that chain and that he was one of the richest men in his day in the early 1920s. What you may not know is that during the Great Depression most of his business ventures failed and he lost almost everything. His wife had died, his businesses failed, and he was depressed to the point of suicide. But one night, sitting in the back row of a chapel at a rescue mission in the Bowery in New York City, Penny heard the hymn “God Will Take Care of You”. The words resonated deep in his heart and he realized that if he would simply cast all his cares on Jesus, strive to honor Him with His life, and then accept with gratitude whatever the Lord chose to give him, he would be okay. Penny wrote, “I had permitted the idea of the power of money to possess me.” And it had nearly killed him – it almost moved him to take his own life.
 
J.C. Penny got right with Jesus, he rebuilt his business, and he spent the rest of his life using his wealth to bless others and to finance many Christian rescue missions, orphanages, hospitals, schools, and a wide variety of other ministry efforts. But despite the great wealth he had regained he lived modestly, and he was happy and content doing so.  
 
Trusting God and learning to be content is an important factor when it comes to living the Christian life well, so we’ll return to this thought tomorrow. In the meantime, know that God loves you, He is aware of your circumstances, and you can trust Him to take care of you.  
 
God bless,
Pastor Jim
Copyright © 2021 Oak Hill Baptist Church, All rights reserved.

Keep it simple

Good morning everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Great thoughts from great Christians”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and all the Prophets depend on these two commands.” Matthew 22:37-40 (CSB)
 
Our thought for today: “Simple is better”
 
Jesus was the great simplifier. It was one of the things people found so compelling about Him. Ancient Judaism under the Pharisees was a very complex system of rules, regulations, traditions, and expectations. Entire volumes had been written to describe it, and religious professionals spent their lives trying to understand, explain, and enforce it. But Jesus boiled it all down to two things, love God and love people. Do that, and everything else will be covered.
 
Modern Christianity has become pretty complicated too. Especially church life. Churches get competitive, and Pastors feel great pressure to match the programs and results of competing churches. That often results in churches attempting to offer long menus of programs and activities just because other churches do, and church members feel pressure to show themselves to be good church members by participating in all of it. It can become complicated, labor intensive, and exhausting for everyone.
 
Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger are leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention. Some years ago, they led a revolution. It was a simple revolution. More precisely, it was a revolution in favor of simplicity, and therefore against complexity in church life. They encouraged pastors and churches to resist the competitive nature of church life; pay less attention to what others are or are not doing; and instead, do only the things and have only the programs that are right and good for your unique congregation. In their book “Simple Church” they wrote:
 
“In the midst of all the noise, all the rush, all the change, all the busyness, and all the uncertainty (of life), people long for simplicity. Precisely because things are so hectic and out of control people respond to simple. The busyness and complexity of life makes simple a great commodity, something desired.” They continue: “Simple is in. Complexity is out – out of style at least … people are hungry for simple because the world has become much more complex … Simple is in. Simple works. People respond to simple. The simple revolution has begun.”
 
What’s true in church life is also true for life in general. Simple is better than complex. Life is hard enough, let’s not make it more complicated than it needs to be. If we can do it simpler and easier, then let’s. Jesus was the Great Simplifier and we should strive for simple too. Yes, simple is better.
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim   
Copyright © 2021 Oak Hill Baptist Church, All rights reserved.

It doesn’t have to be so complicated

Good morning everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Great thoughts from great Christians”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8 (NIV)
 
Our thought for today: “Life doesn’t have to be so complicated”
 
In 1988 Robert Fulghum wrote a great little book which, although it’s not an explicitly Christian book, it does teach an essential Biblical principle for living life well, and it is consistent with what the Old Testament prophet Micah was expressing in Micah 6:8 (above). The principle is simplicity and the name of the book is “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.”
 
“All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom is not (found) at the top of the graduate-school mountain, but there in the sandpile at Sunday School. These are the things I learned: Share everything. Play fair. Don’t hit people. Put things back where you found them. Clean up your own mess. Don’t take things that aren’t yours. Say you’re sorry when you hurt someone. Wash your hands before you eat. Flush. Warm cookies and milk are good for you.”
 
“Think what a better world it would be if we all – the whole world – had cookies and milk about three o’clock every afternoon and then lay down with our blankets for a nap. Or if all governments had a basic policy to always put things back where they found them and to clean up their own mess. And it is still true, no matter how old you are – when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.
 
This is what Micah was getting at. Living well, in a manner that honors God, blesses others, and achieves a good life for us, really boils down to a few basic rules of honesty, integrity, and good character. But in many cases, we’ve lost sight of what we already knew. We’ve allowed life to get so busy and involved and complicated, that we make it much harder than it should be. Solomon once said, “God made us plain and simple, but we have made ourselves very complicated.” Ecclesiastes 7:29 (TEV)
 
Simplicity in life is an important concept which we all need to relearn. As we will see tomorrow, Jesus Himself was the Great Simplifier. But for now, let’s remember that life doesn’t have to be so complicated. Just be nice, enjoy some cookies and milk, hold hands and stick together.
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim  
              
Copyright © 2021 Oak Hill Baptist Church, All rights reserved.

Take care of your body

Good morning everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Great thoughts from great Christians”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “Here I am today, eighty-five years old. I am still as strong today as I was the day Moses sent me out. My strength for battle and for daily tasks is now as it was then.” Joshua 14:10-11 (CSB)
 
Our thought for today: “Take care of your body”
 
In this series about great thoughts from great Christians I’ve already written about my pastor, Oren Teel. In that case I was sharing his thoughts about how important it is for a pastor to truly love his people. However, Oren taught me many other lessons as well (mostly by his example), all of which helped to make me not only a better pastor, but a better man than I would otherwise have been had it not been for his influence in my life.
 
In addition to being a kind and gentle man, as well as a good preacher and teacher, and a sharp dresser (he thought it was important for the pastor to dress nicely), Oren also took good care of himself physically. He loved a good meal followed by delicious desserts, but he disciplined himself to eat moderately. He enjoyed watching sports and television shows, but he made sure to exercise every day too. He was a hard worker who put in long hours, but he was careful to get adequate sleep. He cared deeply about people and situations, but not to the point of allowing himself to be overwhelmed by the stress of it all.
 
He once told me, “Jim, my body is a gift from God and I have a responsibility to take good care of it. I need to stay healthy for myself, but also for my family, my church, and my Lord.”
 
And he has. Today Oren is in his early nineties but he is still slim and trim and spry. He looks a good ten years younger than he is. He not only lives independently in his own home, but he still drives, and he goes to the gym multiple times each week for both cardiovascular and strength training.
 
None of us will live forever. Not even Oren Teel. But we can do the things necessary to stay as healthy as we can for as long as we can. The better we take care of ourselves the healthier we will be, and the better our overall quality of life will be.
 
I encourage all of us to do the things necessary to take good care of our body.
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim
Copyright © 2021 Oak Hill Baptist Church, All rights reserved.

We need three key relationships

Good morning everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Great thoughts from great Christians”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17 (NIV)
 
Our thought for today: “We need three key relationships”
 
Building on Leighton Ford’s personal practice which he described as “I surround myself with the thoughts of those who have thought much about God.”, in this series we’re exploring great thoughts from great Christians.
 
Early in my life as a new Christian I heard a statement made in a sermon which profoundly impacted me, and which became something of a guiding principle for me in the practice of my faith. The sermon was preached at a Promise Keepers event in Los Angeles by Professor Howard Hendricks. Howard was a longtime professor at Dallas Theological Seminary. He was also the author of numerous books, and he was a popular speaker on the Promise Keepers circuit. Here’s the statement he made that day which so impacted me:
 
“Every man needs three relationships in his life: he needs a Paul, he needs a Barnabas, and he needs a Timothy.”
 
In the rest of the sermon Professor Hendricks explained that every man needs to have a Paul in his life – someone who is older and wiser than him and who will serve as a mentor. Every man also needs a Barnabas – a close and trusted friend who is on the same level spiritually with him. This is someone who loves him but who is not overly impressed by him, and who will speak plain truth to him. And then every man needs a Timothy – a younger man into whose life he is building and for whom he is being Paul.
 
It was a brilliant sermon, and powerfully true. We all (men and women) need a trusted mentor we can turn to for good counsel and who we are willing to learn from. We all also need at least one Barnabas in our life. This is the close friend with whom it is safe to be completely honest and transparent, and who will tell us what we need to hear – not just what we want to hear. And then, we should all be in the process of building into the life of a younger person. Not only do we need to have a Paul in our own life, but we need to be someone else’s Paul.
 
Do you have those three key relationships in your life? If you don’t, I encourage you to pray about it and ask God to open your eyes to who could fill those three roles in your life. Chances are you already know individuals, maybe in your church family, who would be happy to have such a relationship with you.
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim
Copyright © 2021 Oak Hill Baptist Church, All rights reserved.

Celebration is at the heart of the way of Christ

Good morning everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Great thoughts from great Christians”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “But may the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful.” Psalm 68:3 (NIV)
 
Our thought for today: “Celebration is at the heart of the way of Christ”
 
In 1978 Richard Foster published a book which has since become a classic in modern Christian literature and which is commonly referred to as one of the most important Christian books written in the last 100 years. The title is “Celebration of Discipline”. Which, if you think about it, is a rather strange title because we don’t normally associate celebration with discipline.
 
However, the disciplines Foster writes about are the basic disciplines associated with practicing the Christian faith. There are thirteen chapters, each of which is dedicated to a different essential basic discipline of practicing the faith. The first twelve chapters cover such things as prayer, study, simplicity, service, confession of sins, worship, etc. But the last chapter is all about celebration.
 
Foster insists that celebration is an important means of practicing the faith and it is the foundation which underlies all the others. If we’re not experiencing great joy in our relationship with the Lord, and if it isn’t showing itself in celebratory ways, something is wrong at a deep level. He writes: “Celebration is at the heart of the way of Christ … Celebration brings joy into life, and joy makes us strong. Scripture tells us that the joy of the Lord is our strength.”
 
However, there’s a problem: “The carefree spirit of joyous festivity is absent in contemporary society. Apathy, even melancholy, dominates the times. Harvey Cox says that modern man has been ‘pressed so hard toward useful work and rational calculation he has all but forgotten the joy of ecstatic celebration.”
 
I love the thought, “Celebration is at the heart of the way of Christ.”, and I completely agree. As Saint Augustine once famously said, The Christian should be one big alleluia from head to toe!”
 
Today is Thursday, the weekend is coming. Do you have some healthy and holy celebrating planned? I hope you do. A robust and enthusiastic worship service certainly fits that description. We’ll be doing that kind of celebrating at Oak Hill Baptist Church. Our worship service begins at 10:00. Join us in-person, or for the online live-stream on the Oak Hill Baptist Church Facebook page. You can also participate in the celebration later by viewing the recorded version on our website at www.oakhillbaptist.net.
 
 Celebration is at the heart of the way of Christ. Therefore, we should be intentional about finding lots of reasons and ways to celebrate.
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim
Copyright © 2021 Oak Hill Baptist Church, All rights reserved.

Mix a little blood in your paint

Good morning everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Great thoughts from great Christians”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “Whatever you do, do it from the heart, as something done for the Lord and not for people.” Colossians 3:23 (CSB)
 
Our thought for today: “Mix a little blood in with your paint”
 
Rufus Jones was a well-known leader in the Quaker movement in the late 1800s and early 1900s. He spent most of his life working as a writer, philosopher, and college professor. Jones believed we need to achieve a healthy balance in the Christian life between devotion and service. On the one hand, he was committed to pursuing the deeper spiritual life. He spent long hours in prayer, fasting, contemplation of the Scriptures, and seeking God at a deep level.
 
But he also believed that deep devotion should show itself in passionate service. Jones did not believe Christians should withdraw from the world, not even for a lifetime of quiet devotion. Instead, a deep relationship with the Lord should be the motive force behind a life of activism and service in his name. According to Jones, it’s only then that a Christian is fully alive and truly living with purpose and meaning. Here is one example of his teaching on the subject:
 
“There are stories of painters who have mixed their own blood with their paint. They are probably fanciful tales, but the idea is worth something at any rate. Until the very life stuff of the man goes into his task, until he grinds himself into his paint, his work will be ordinary and will lack the mark of inspiration. What a splendid sight it is to see a man who has been drifting along with the flow of the current, and who has put no blood into his work, suddenly wake up and throw himself with passion into his daily task as though his life depended on doing it. Everybody sees that something has happened. A new spirit has awakened. There is some power behind him.”
 
What Jones was describing is also what Paul was writing about in Colossians 3:23. As Christians we are to live life with purpose and passion by committing everything we do to the Lord. We are to do it all for Him.
 
We do need to cultivate that deep personal relationship with the Lord, and we need to nurture that relationship every day. But then out of that relationship should come zeal and passion and purpose as we live for Him, and as we serve others in this broken, lost, and confused world that we live in.
 
Christians must live and work with purpose and passion. Mix a little blood in with your paint.
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim
Copyright © 2021 Oak Hill Baptist Church, All rights reserved.

Make it safe to drop the mask

Good morning everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Great thoughts from great Christians”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “Be kind and compassionate to one another …” Ephesians 4:32 (NIV)
 
Our thought for today: “Make it safe to drop the mask”
 
There’s an old poem I like very much which teaches a powerful truth. The name of the poem is “We Wear the Mask”. It was written by Paul Dunbar around 1900. Dunbar was the son of former slaves and he lived in a time when, although blacks were no longer slaves, there was still a lot of deep systemic racism in our society. It was simply a daily reality for blacks, and they had to find ways to live with it. In fact, for the most part, it wasn’t safe for them to publicly give voice to their true feelings about it because doing so would invite reprisals. Therefore, they wore emotional masks to conceal their real feelings.
 
Although the poem was originally and specifically about how black people in that day felt that it wasn’t safe for them to show their true feelings, I think it also describes the experience of all of us, to varying degrees. Even in church life, how often do we put on a happy face to disguise our true feelings because we feel it isn’t safe to be open and transparent with people? I encourage you to see yourself and those around you in this poem. We all wear masks.
 
We wear the mask that grins and lies, it hides our cheeks and shades our eyes, –
This debt we pay to human guile; with torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth myriad subtleties.
 
Why should the world be over-wise, in counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while we wear the mask.
 
We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries to thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile, beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!
 
C.S. Lewis once wrote, “There is always one thing more going on in every person’s life of which you know absolutely nothing.” That is very true, and usually it is true because people feel it’s not safe to drop the mask and to be real with those around them.
 
Today you will encounter many people wearing masks to conceal things in their lives which are tormenting them, but of which you know nothing. That being the case, be kind. And, see if perhaps you can help to create an environment where it is safe for them to drop the mask and talk about what’s really going on in their lives.
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim
Copyright © 2021 Oak Hill Baptist Church, All rights reserved.