Devotional for Thursday December 26th

Good Morning Everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Celebration”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “Don’t work only while being watched, in order to please men, but work wholeheartedly, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men.” Colossians 3:22-23 (HCSB)
 
Our thought for today: “A job well done is reason to celebrate”
 
God expects us to live productive lives that make a meaningful contribution to society. A job well done provides a sense of fulfillment and it is a good reason to celebrate. Some of the happiest people I know are those who are fortunate enough to work in a profession they truly love and which provides them with a great sense of fulfillment and accomplishment. It’s a wonderful thing to spend your days doing something you love and getting paid for it as well!
 
However, many others aren’t as fortunate. Many people have to simply take whatever job they can get just so they can put bread on the table for their family. Still, the Lord expects us to work hard and well, as if we are performing that task for Him. We’ve all had the misfortunate of having to work with slackers who don’t enjoy their work and therefore don’t do it well. It’s an especially bad testimony if they profess to be followers of Christ but they perform poorly at work.
 
Those folks seem to always be scheming to find ways to get out of work and they’re always making excuses. Nobody is fooled by their excuses, it’s hard to have respect for someone who acts that way, and such behavior certainly does not honor God. But for those who approach a disagreeable task with a good attitude and therefore do it well, we do respect them, we do enjoy working with them, and their conduct honors the God whom they profess to follow.
 
Whether you love your job or not, the Lord wants you to do it well. A job well done honors Him, gives you a sense of accomplishment, and it is a good reason to celebrate. For an expanded teaching on this subject refer to chapter thirteen of my book “Walking with Paul”. You can get a copy at http://www.JimMersereauBooks.com.
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim

Devotional for Tuesday December 24th

Good Morning Everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Celebration”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David.” Luke 2:10-11
 
Our thought for today: “Christmas is a celebration of Christ.”
 
This morning, on this Christmas Eve morning, I want to share with you some thoughts from Billy Graham about Christmas:
 
“Christmas is a time of joy, but we must make sure that it is not pagan joy generated by the expectation of receiving gifts or engaging in revelry. The real happiness of Christmas is in the fact of the Incarnation, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself.”
 
Even as Christians we can easily get caught-up in the secular aspects of this season that have little if anything to do with Christ. Santa Claus, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, eggnog, Christmas cookies, frenzied Christmas Eve price-slashing at the local WalMart … you know what I mean. It’s busy, loud, obnoxious, and Christ-less.
 
Tonight at 5:30 at Oak Hill Baptist Church we will celebrate our annual Christmas Eve Candlelight service. Frosty the Snowman won’t be there – but Jesus will be. It will all be about Him. I want to invite you to join us if you’re close by. If you’re not, then I encourage you to attend a similar service in your own town.
 
Here’s another thought from Billy:
 
“Christmas is not a myth, not a tradition, not a dream – it is a glorious reality. For from that manager came a Man who not only taught us a new way of life, but brought us into a new relationship with our Creator.”
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim

Devotional for Monday December 23rd

Good Morning Everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Celebration”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “Come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.” Psalm 95:6 (HCSB)
 
Our thought for today: “Reverent worship is a form of celebration:
 
Psalm 95:6 is actually part of the lyrics from one of my favorite contemporary worship songs “Come let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord our God our Maker …” In this verse the psalmist does a good job of combining the ideas of worship as both celebration and reverence. This balance helps us to guard against becoming too restrained and subdued, or too superficial and cavalier.
 
As I write this we are deep into the Christmas season. Tomorrow night at Oak Hill Baptist we will have a Christmas Eve candlelight service. It will be a time of both celebration and reverence. We will recall that on the night Jesus was born a multitude of angels sang glorious hallelujahs – it was a great celebration, while the shepherds came to bow before the newborn King and to worship Him. Then there was more rejoicing and praising as the shepherds went on their way to spread the good news about all they had seen and heard.
 
I realize that many of you reading this are scattered around the country, but many others are right here in Crossville, TN. For those of you who are close, I invite you to join us for the Christmas Eve candlelight service at Oak Hill Baptist at 5:30 PM. For those of you who aren’t close enough to join us, I encourage you to find a similar service in your own town.
Celebration can include both reverent worship and joyful praising. Come, let us worship and bow down …
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim

Devotional for Saturday and Sunday December 21-22

Good Morning Everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Celebration”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “Shout joyfully to God, all the earth! Sing about the glory of His name; make His praise glorious.” Psalm 66:1-2 (HCSB)
 
Our thought for today: “Celebration is often noisy.”
 
When God’s people celebrate together it can get noisy, and that’s a good thing. When the time of group worship truly assumes a spirit of celebration the singing is louder and more robust, hands are raised in the air, faces light up with smiles, and frequently there are hearty “amen’s!”. When the people of God are enjoying good fellowship there is commonly lots of laughing, animated conversations, plenty of good-natured kidding, and it can get pretty loud. All of that is a joyful noise unto the Lord.
 
Although I’m personally fairly quiet and a bit reserved in my own times of worship, I love being surrounded by a group of people who are animated and expressive. While you probably won’t see me dancing in the aisle with a tambourine, I don’t mind if others do. And as a Pastor I love it when our Fellowship Hall is packed with people enjoying a good meal, and each others company. I’ll often just stand back and survey the noisy scene and enjoy the sight.
 
This Sunday at Oak Hill Baptist we’ll be holding our annual Christmas worship service. It will include congregational singing of some of our old time favorite Christmas hymns; along with some special music from the choir; and a couple of numbers from our children as well. That will be followed by our annual Christmas dinner. And yup, it will be noisy. But it will be that joyful noise made unto the Lord. We would love to have you join us!
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim

Devotional for Friday December 20th

Good Morning Everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Celebration”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.” Proverbs 17:22 (HCSB)
 
Our thought for today: “Celebration is good for you.”
 
I love what Richard Foster wrote about the value of celebration. In his book “Celebration of Discipline” he wrote, “Far and away the most important benefit of celebration is that it saves us from taking ourselves too seriously … It is an occupational hazard of devout folk to become stuffy bores. This should not be. Of all people, we should be the most free, alive, interesting. Celebration adds a note of gaiety, festivity, hilarity to our lives. After all, Jesus rejoiced so fully in life that he was accused of being a wine-bibber and a glutton. Many of us lead such sour lives that we cannot possibly be accused of such things.”
 
If we allow it to, life can become heavy, a burden. Even the practice of our faith can become a strain if it isn’t clothed in joy. Just as the physical body can become strained from overwork, so too the spirit can become strained from a sense of religious obligation and duty. Celebration helps us to lighten up, relax, and enjoy the good things in life. Participating in festive events and intentionally cultivating a spirit of joy and celebration is also an excellent antidote for depression.
 
Here’s another quote from Foster’s book: “Another benefit of celebration is its ability to give us perspective. We can laugh at ourselves. We come to see that the causes we champion are not nearly so monumental as we would like to believe.” “Finally, an interesting characteristic of celebration is that it tends toward more celebration. Joy begets joy. Laughter begets laughter. It is one of the few things in life we multiply by giving.”
 
This Sunday at Oak Hill Baptist Church we will celebrate Christmas with a joy-filled worship service followed by a fun Christmas banquet. We invite you to come worship, sing, laugh and eat with us.
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim

Devotional for Thursday December 19th

Good Morning Everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Celebration”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 (HCSB)
 
Our thought for today: “Trusting all things to God in prayer frees us to live with joy.”
 
Richard Foster once wrote, “The decision to set the mind on the higher things of life is an act of the will. That is why celebration is a discipline.” That’s the point Paul was making in Philipppians 4:6-7. When we trust all things to God in prayer we are affirming that we are relying entirely on Him for all our needs – especially for the most pressing ones. That then frees us from excessive worry and despair and paves the way for a spirit of carefree celebration.
 
Now realistically, that doesn’t mean that our problems will magically disappear just because we prayed about them or that we’re no longer concerned about the outcome. Paul wasn’t advocating an “ignorance is bliss” approach to life and he wasn’t calling for us to pretend that problems don’t exist. His point was that the more we learn to commit all things to the Lord and to rely on Him – really trusting Him – the more we will experience the settled peace of God deep within our hearts, even as we continue to navigate the current difficult circumstances.
 
Foster offers some practical advice along these lines: “But if we fill our lives with simple good things and constantly thank God for them, we will be joyful, that is, full of joy. And what about our problems? When we determine to dwell on the good and excellent things in life, we will be so full of those things that they will tend to swallow our problems.”
 
Paul went on in the passage above and in verse eight he said, “Finally brothers, 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 any praise – dwell on these things.”
 
Maintaining a sense of joy and a spirit of celebration is largely a matter of what we choose to allow our mind to dwell on. Fill your life with simple good things – godly things – and dwell on them. Then trust the rest to God.
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim

Devotional for Wednesday December 11th

Good Morning Everyone,

 Our theme for this month: “Celebration”

 Our Bible verse for today: “Therefore, as we have opportunity, we must work for the good of all, especially for those who belong to the household of faith.” Galatians 6:10 (HCSB)

 Our thought for today: “Good deeds are a cause for celebration”

 The other morning at church I was approached by one of our members who is going through a pretty rough season of life right now. Physically, emotionally, and financially this person is fighting through a tough time. Although this person has their hands full with their own issues, they handed me an envelope with some cash in it and asked me to give it as an anonymous gift to another church member who is also struggling.

 My first impulse was to give it back and tell them that they needed to keep it for their own needs. But of course, I caught myself. Who was I to deny this person the right to be a blessing to someone else? So I passed the gift along and as you would expect, the recipient of the gift was touched and blessed. That person had tears in their eyes as they humbly accepted this very kind and very generous gift that they really did need.

What does all of this have to do with our theme of “celebration”? A lot actually. There were no trumpets sounding in the hallway of our church buildings that morning. No balloons or ticker tape falling from the ceiling. But there was lots of quiet celebrating going on. The person who received the gift was grateful, blessed, and probably a little relieved that a pressing financial need had been met. The person who gave the gift surely walked away with a warm sense of having done something good (see Galatians 6:10 above). And as a Pastor my heart was touched to see my people taking care of each other like that.

 Oh, and I’ll bet there was some high-fiving going on in heaven too.

 In his book “Celebration of Discipline” Richard Foster wrote, “When the members of a (church) family are filled with love and compassion and a spirit of service to one another, that family has reason to celebrate.”

 Yes they do.

God Bless,

Pastor Jim

Devotional for Tuesday December 10th

Good Morning Everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Celebration”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “For there has already been enough times spent doing what the pagans choose to do: carrying on in unrestrained behavior, evil desires, drunkenness, orgies, carousing, and lawless idolatry.” 1 Peter 4:3 (HCSB)
Our thought for today: “Celebrating is good, as long as it is God-honoring.”
 
As I think back to my years as a young sailor on liberty in exotic ports around the world I realize that so many of those memories are clouded and hazy – and it’s not just because so much time has passed since then. I wasn’t a Christian in those years and my behavior was often something much less than “God-honoring”.
 
For many of us 1 Peter 4:3 is a great understatement. Yes there has been more than enough of that kind of behavior. The truth is that celebration that is self-indulgent and which involves sinful acts is wrong. But when we come to faith in Christ, the Holy Spirit immediately goes to work in our hearts to remove the desire to be involved in those kinds of activities. Soon the very thought of participating in that kind of life becomes abhorrent and we discover that there are plenty of better, healthier ways to celebrate that don’t involve drunkenness and carousing, evil desires and unrestrained behavior.
 
An important element of church life revolves around group celebrations that honor God and are in keeping with Biblical standards. While those pagan celebrations described by Peter usually result the next day in hangovers and hazy memories, God-honoring and church-oriented celebrations produce a sweet fragrance of fellowship which lingers and is savored long after the event is over.
 
As I write this we are in the Christmas season. For most of us there will be parties at work, school plays, family gatherings, and much more. Those kinds of Christmas celebrations are fine as long as they don’t include the kinds of pagan activities Peter wrote about. It’s much better to be involved in celebrations that are intentionally and specifically Christian and God-honoring. I hope your plans for celebrating this season also include the OHBC Christmas party for the girls of the Tennessee Baptist Children’s Home this Saturday; and the OHBC family Christmas dinner on Sunday the 22nd; and our Christmas Eve candlelight service. 
 
I’m looking forward to seeing you there!
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim

Devotional for Monday November 9th

Good Morning Everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Celebration”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “This day in early spring … you have been set free … You must celebrate this event … You must explain to your children, “I am celebrating what the Lord did for me.” Exodus 13:4-5, 8 (NLT)
 
Our thought for today: “A good church family helps us celebrate what the Lord has done for us.”
Celebrations help us to mark and remember important milestones in our lives. That’s what birthdays and anniversaries are for. Celebrations also serve to honor and call attention to significant events such as winning a championship, or getting a promotion at work, or making the honor roll. I once baptized a young woman whose family then threw a “baptism party” for her. They brought a baptism cake and some drinks to church and asked everyone to stay after the morning service and to celebrate with them in the fellowship hall.
 
The Lord’s Supper is a form of celebration as God’s people gather together to “celebrate” what Jesus did for us and the fellowship we now have with Him, and with each other, as a result.
 
Another reason for celebration, especially within the context of church life, is as Moses explained in Exodus 13:8, to teach our children. Celebrations as part of church life – be it the Lord’s Supper, a baby dedication, a baptism party, or whatever, help to teach important spiritual truths and to mark the spiritual progressions people go through as life unfolds.
 
This then is one of the important benefits of church life. Not just being active in “a” church, but remaining committed “to the same church” for years on end – generations even. The Lord has assembled us into church families so we can walk through the seasons of life together. As we do that, year after year and generation after generation, together we celebrate all the passages of life – the births, baby dedications, birthdays, baptisms, graduations, marriages, promotions, retirements, and eventually the funerals which are the ultimate and final celebration of a life lived well.
 
Active participation in the life of a good church family – sustained over many years, is good for us. One of the things it does is it provides us with brothers and sisters who walk through all the seasons of life with us, celebrating along the way.
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim
 

Devotional for Saturday and Sunday December 7-8

Good Morning Everyone,

 Our theme for this month: “Celebration”

 Our Bible verse for today: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy: You are to labor six days and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. You must not do any work – you, your son or daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the foreigner who is within your gates. For the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and everything in them in six days; then He rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and declared it holy.” Exodus 20:8-11 (HCSB)

 Our thought for today: “The Sabbath is a day for holy celebration.”

 Not only did God intentionally set aside one day each week for rest, worship, and fellowship, but He did so by making it one of the Ten Commandments. As far as God is concerned, it is so important for His people to come together at least once a week that He made it a requirement – the fourth of His Ten Commandments.

 Why is this such a big deal to God? Because we need it. We need to rest, we need to decompress from the burdens and cares of life, and we need to be gathered with our brothers and sisters. This is so important, and there is so much to be gained from it, that the writer of the letter to the Hebrews reminded his readers that they were not to neglect these gatherings (Hebrews 10:24-25). Just in case there was any doubt in anybody’s mind, he made a clear connection in that passage between the fourth commandment and the gathering together of God’s people.

 When we decide to skip church, for any reason, we have made an intentional decision to disobey the fourth commandment. Sometimes Christians try to rationalize such disobedience with silly reasoning like, “I don’t need to be in church to worship God. I can observe the Sabbath and worship God on the golf course!” Or, “I’m worshiping God from the comfort of my living room while I watch Charles Stanley on TV.”

 Do you think God really buys that? No, me neither. The Lord probably rolls His eyes and mutters something about what a lame excuse it is.

 In both the Old and New Testaments the keeping of the Sabbath was clearly and distinctly associated with the gathering together of God’s people in their designated places of worship. There was singing and praising, teaching and fellowship, and a spirit of celebration before the Lord. That’s what the Sabbath day is for. It was true back then and it’s still true today.

 Jesus summed it up in Mark 2:27 when He said, “The Sabbath was made for man.” We need this. God instituted the Sabbath for our benefit. I encourage you to gather with your church family this Sunday.

 God Bless,

Pastor Jim