Devotional for Thursday December 5th

Good Morning Everyone,

 Our theme for this month: “Celebration”

 Our Bible verse for today: “If anyone claims, “I am living in the light,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is still living in darkness. Anyone who loves another brother or sister is living in the light and does not cause others to stumble.” 1 John 2:9-10 (NLT)

 Our thought for today: “Christian gatherings are cause for celebration when everyone gets along.”

 Yesterday I wrote about how sharing meals together is a form of Christian fellowship and celebration. Today I want to focus on Christian gatherings in general as celebration. Again I have in my mind a picture of what it’s like when the folks of Oak Hill Baptist come together at different times throughout the week. There are smiles and words of greeting, handshakes and hugs, laughing and joking. There is joy and warmth and love. It’s a reunion of people who genuinely care about each other and who enjoy being together. That’s a celebration and it happens on a regular basis three or more times every week.

 But how is that kind of rich fellowship and Christian love maintained over time? The editors of the Daily Walk Bible offered some helpful guidance in their commentary on the little book of 1 John. In that editorial the editors stressed the importance of every individual intentionally protecting and nurturing both their one-on-one fellowship with God, and their fellowship with their Christian brothers and sisters. Let me just quote for you what they wrote:

 “Fellowship with God is not a vague, nebulous experience; it can be an objective, daily reality as believers forsake sin, obey God, and love one another. John offers three tests that serve as a “fellowship barometer” for his spiritual children in their walk with God; (1) Have I confessed my sins to God? (1:9) (2) Am I walking in obedience to the light of God’s Word? (2:4-5) (3) Am I demonstrating a love for other Christians? (2:9-10)”

 My point, for the purposes of this devotional, is that if we as individuals first must bring with us to our gatherings a deep and mature personal relationship with God and second, a genuine love for our brothers and sisters. Then our gatherings will always be times of joyful celebration.

 God Bless,

Pastor Jim

Devotional for Wednesday December 4th

Good Morning Everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Celebration”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “Then he said to them, ‘Go and eat what is rich, drink what is sweet, and send portions to those who have nothing prepared, since today is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, because the joy of the Lord is your stronghold.” Nehemiah 8:10 (HCSB)
 
Our thought for today: “It is good for God’s people to celebrate.”
 
One of the things I love about being a Southern Baptist is that we seldom go hungry. Food is a big part of our gatherings. We’re sometimes referred to as “The Church of the Covered Dish” because potlucks and casseroles are such an important part of our church life. Not to mention ice cream socials. And banana pudding.
 
While it’s true that every worship service should be a time of celebration, it’s also true that it’s good for God’s people to have regularly scheduled times of fellowship and partying together. That’s what Nehemiah was writing about in Nehemiah 8:10. He was encouraging the people to have a banquet and to enjoy themselves – as part of church life.
 
This is something we’re pretty good at, at Oak Hill Baptist Church. We have breakfast together in the fellowship hall every Sunday morning. In recent months we’ve had a Homecoming Day banquet, a Matthew Party in celebration of Billy Graham’s 95th birthday, an evening meal together at our local Rescue Mission in town, as well as an assortment of birthday parties and other events that involved eating. In two weeks we’ll host our annual Christmas party for the girls of the Tennessee Baptist Children’s Home and again, we’ll eat together.
 
The point is that it’s good for God’s people to celebrate. Worship is a form of celebrating before the Lord, but so is eating. Someday as the people of God we’ll all enjoy the wedding feast of the Lamb. Until then we can and should enjoy our smaller feasts of fried chicken, blueberry pie, Linda’s lasagna and Tom Herring’s chocolate cake.  Eating together is Biblical. Aren’t you glad it is?
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim

Devotional for Tuesday December 3rd

Good Morning Everyone,

 

Our theme for this month: “Celebration”

 

Our Bible verse for today: “… casting all your care on Him, because He cares about you.” 1 Peter 5:7 (HCSB)

 

Our thought for today: “We can celebrate because Jesus carries our cares and burdens for us.”

 

I love the picture Peter paints in 1 Peter 5:7. More than just handing our cares and worries to Jesus, Peter encourages us to “cast them on Him.” That’s right, just toss them over to Him. Grab that sack of troubles on both ends, swing back and forth a couple of times to gain some momentum, and then give them the ole heave ho. Flinging that burden in His direction like a sack of potatoes. He’ll catch that sack, probably cradling it in both arms as He does, and then as He walks off to throw it on the big pile of other people’s sacks of cares and woes, He’ll probably look back over His should with a grin and give you a thumbs up.

 

Cast those cares on Jesus! He’s happy to take them. And then celebrate. Carefree and joyful, celebrate.

 

Paul wrote about this too. In Philippians 4:6-7 he wrote, “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.” (HCSB)

 

Now let me be quick to point out that I’m not advocating some kind of “Pollyanna” naivete. This isn’t the “ignorance is bliss” approach to life. Problems are real. Worries and concerns are legitimate. But the spiritual reality – the Biblical truth – is that God is Sovereign over every issue we are faced with and Jesus wants to assume the care and worry for us so we can enjoy some peace and comfort instead (I have spoken these things to you so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. John 15:11 (HCSB)”

 

The truth is that most of us don’t need to worry more, we need to worry less. We’re already naturally inclined to fret and brood. But Jesus invites us to hand our cares and concerns over to Him. In exchange, He gives us His joy and peace. Not a bad trade. I encourage you to cast your cares on Him today.

 

God Bless,

Pastor Jim

 

Devotional for Monday December 2nd

Good Morning Everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Celebration”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “Shout triumphantly to the Lord, all the earth. Serve the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful songs … Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him and praise His name.” Psalm 100:1-2;4 (HCSB)
 
Our thought for today: “The Christian should be one big hallelujah from head to toe!”
 
I don’t remember who first made that statement but I do know that I agree with it. Nobody on the face of the planet has more to be joyful about or more to celebrate than those who have been redeemed and who therefore have the promise of eternity in heaven. Yup, the Christian should be one big hallelujah from head to toe.
 
In his book “Celebration of Discipline” Richard Foster writes that celebration is at the heart of the Christian experience. All the spiritual disciplines – prayer, Bible study, worship, fasting, meditation, service, etc – all of them, should lead us into a spirit of celebration because all of them draw us into a deeper relationship with God. A deeper relationship with God enhances our understanding and appreciation of who we are as children of God and what a rich inheritance is ours. That is something to celebrate!
 
In Psalm 100 King David painted a word picture of joyful people gathered together celebrating their kinship as children of God. There was singing and dancing, feasting and laughter, shouts of praise and tears of joy. It was a holy and joy filled celebration of God’s people. And I’m sure it was punctuated with lots of “hallelujahs”!
 
All this month we will explore the theme of celebration. As the people of God we should indeed be one big hallelujah from head to toe. Does that describe you? Would you like it to? I believe we have to be intentional about celebrating the fact that we have been adopted into God’s family, we have inherited all the spiritual riches that belong to those in God’s family, and our eternity it going to be great. That is something to celebrate.
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim

Devotional for Saturday November 30th

Good Morning Everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Trusting God”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will leave this life. The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Praise the name of Yahweh. Throughout all this Job did not sin or blame God for anything.” Job 1:21-22 (HCSB)
 
Our thought for today: “We can trust God even in the worst of times.”
 
If you’re familiar with the story of Job then you know that he is a case study in trusting God during the worst of times. Like a line of dominoes falling one after the other, into Job’s life came a steady stream of cascading disasters. First an army of enemies swept in and stole his herds of oxen and donkeys. Then a lightening storm destroyed all his sheep and killed his servants as well. Then another group of invaders swept in and stole all his camels. Then a tornado struck and destroyed the house where his sons and daughters were holding a feast – and they all died. One after another the reports came. He barely had time to absorb one disastrous event before the next one happened.
 
And how did Job respond to this incredible series of tragedies that came crashing into his life? Did he shake his fist in God’s face and lash out in anger? Did he accuse God of abandoning or forsaking him? No. Job did none of those things. Instead he fell down and worshiped. He affirmed that God is sovereign over all things in his life – the good and the bad – and he placed his full trust in God for a fair and just outcome.
 
In the midst of tragedy far beyond what any of us are likely to ever experience, Job trusted God. He didn’t understand what was happening or why, but he did believe that God is fair and just and that in the end, it would all work out according to God’s good and perfect plan. That’s true for us too.
 
Often life isn’t fair, and sometimes it’s downright tragic. But God is sovereign over it all; He will get us through it and He will bless us as a result of it. Like Job we can trust God even during the worst of times.
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim

Devotional for Friday November 29th

Good Morning Everyone,

Our theme for this month: “Trusting God”

Our Bible verse for today: “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.” Psalm 16:6 (HCSB)

Our thought for today: “Be sure to put your trust in God during the good times as well as in the bad times.”

As I write this it is the day after Thanksgiving 2013. As you probably did too, yesterday I spent some quiet time with the Lord thinking about how much He has blessed me. I have a wonderful wife, four great kids, a comfortable home, reliable vehicles, and I live in the greatest country in the world enjoying the highest standard of living that any middle class of people have ever had. Additionally, I love my job. I get to spend my days as the Pastor of a great church and as the Vice-President of a humanitarian relief agency. Both of those professions are richly rewarding and deeply satisfying. You can probably make similar statements about your own life.

In Psalm 16:6 King David was musing about such things and he concluded that the boundaries lines of his life, as established by God, had fallen in pleasant places. In other words God has blessed him, he knew it, and he was grateful for it. I can relate to what David was feeling. I feel the same way about my life and you probably do about yours too.

However, as author Jerry Bridges observed in his book “Trusting God Even When Life Hurts”, “As hard as it is to trust God in times of adversity, there are other times when it may be even harder, and that is when our circumstances are going well … At such times, we’re prone to put our trust in our blessings or, even worse, in ourselves as the providers of those blessings.”

When times are tough it’s typical for us to cry out to God for help and to affirm our trust in Him for relief. But when times are good we often forget that it’s God who blesses us with all those good things. It’s a sad truth that we focus more on trusting God during the bad times than during the good times.

By all means place your trust in Him for help in the times of adversity, but don’t forget to trust Him when times are good too.

God Bless, Pastor Jim

Devotional for Thursday November 28th

Good Morning Everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Trusting God”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving; play the lyre to our God, who covers the sky with clouds, prepares rain for the earth, and causes grass to grow on the hills. He provides the animals with their food, and the young ravens what they cry for.” Psalm 147:7-9 (HCSB)
 
Our thought for today: “All blessings come from the hand of God.”
 
In his book “Trusting God Even When Life Hurts” Jerry Bridges writes, “Every breath we breathe is a gift from God; every bite of food we eat is given to us from His hand; every day we live is determined by Him. He has not left us to our own devices or the whims of nature or the malevolent acts of other people. No! He constantly sustains, provides for, and cares for us every moment of every day.”
 
As the Bible tells us, God owns the cattle on a thousand hills. He has all the resources required to meet our every need and He has committed in advance to take care of us. Consider the words of Jesus:
 
“This is why I tell you: Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they? Can any of you add a single cubit to his height by worrying? And why do you worry about clothes? Learn how the wildflowers of the field grow: they don’t labor or spin thread. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these! If that’s how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, won’t He do much more for you – you of little faith? So don’t worry, saying ‘What will we eat’, or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the idolaters eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.” Matthew 6:25-33 (HCSB)
 
Spend some extra time today thanking God for taking such good care of you.
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim

Devotional for Wednesday November 26th

Good Morning Everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Trusting God”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Psalm 91:2 (HCSB)
 
Our thought for day: “We can trust God for the big stuff and for the little stuff.”
Writer Jerry Bridges accurately observes that we tend to call out to God for His protection, provision, and help when we’re faced with some major obstacle or a big crisis, but we tend to try to work through all the minor stuff by ourselves. Predisposed as we are to trust in ourselves and to rely on our own abilities, it often takes a major problem to turn us to the Lord. However God wants us to invite Him in all the issues of our lives, the big ones and the little ones.
 
I’m very grateful to the Lord that my own life usually doesn’t consist of a lot of big problems. Oh sure, every once in a while there’s a big issue, but not often. However just like in your life, mine is also filled with lots of minor stuff which, while they may not be big issues, they are problems none-the-less and taken together they can add up to a lot of stress and pressure.
 
Psalm 50:15 says, “Call on Me in a day of trouble; I will rescue you and you will honor Me.” (HCSB). Please note that in this verse the Lord doesn’t say “Call on Me if you’re faced with a crisis …” Nope. He said I can call on Him if I have trouble – any trouble. I can call on Him if I’ve been diagnosed with cancer, but I can also call on Him if my car won’t start. I can seek his help to find a job, and to find my cell phone. He’ll assist me with my hard-headed relative, and with my hard-headed self. God is interested in all of it. If I only call on the Lord when I’m faced with something big then I won’t be calling on Him very often at all because fortunately, the big stuff is rare.
 
Trust Him to be your refuge and your fortress. Invite Him into your big problems and into the little ones. We can trust Him with all of it.
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim
 

Devotional for Tuesday November 26th

Good Morning Everyone,

Our theme for this month: “Trusting God”

Our Bible verse for today: “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5 (NIV)

Our thought for today: “Trust God to always be with you.”

Loneliness is one of the saddest of all human emotions. To be alone, to feel forsaken and forgotten, creates a sense of despair and depression that often leaves a person without hope. However the Bible makes it clear that we are never really alone. Even if every person in your life has walked away from you, God is still with you.

One of the most frequently repeated promises in the Bible is that God is with you and He will never leave you nor forsake you. In the original Greek, Hebrews 13:5 contains five grammatical negatives which give it a force that is difficult to express in normal English. The Amplified Bible is an English translation of the Bible which uses all the English words and phrases necessary to capture the full meaning of the original Biblical language. That sometimes makes for cumbersome and wordy sentences in English but it does help us to better understand the original intent. In that translation Hebrews 13:5 reads:

“For He (God) Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give up or leave you without support. I will not, I will not, I will not in any degree leave you helpless, nor forsake, nor let you down, nor relax my hold on you. Assuredly not!” 

That’s a powerful promise – and a great reassurance. God is with you and He will never leave you. Even if everyone else does, He won’t.

The next time you’re feeling alone and lonely claim the promise of Hebrews 13:5. Think about it, meditate on it, and ask God to give you a great sense of His peace and His presence with you. You can trust Him to always be with you.

God Bless,

Pastor Jim

Devotional for Monday November 25th

Good Morning Everyone,

Our theme for this month: “Trusting God”

Our Bible verse for today: “When I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” Psalm 56:3-4 (HCSB)

Our thought for today: “Trust in God when you’re afraid.”

It has been rightly said, “Anyone who claims to never be afraid is either lying or stupid.” Fear is a natural human emotion and the fact is that there are lots of things in life that should rightly cause us some fear. People sometimes think that fear equates to cowardice – a lack of courage, but that’s just not true. Courage isn’t a matter of never being afraid, courage simply means that we choose to do the right thing regardless of our fears.

King David was a mighty warrior. By the time he wrote Psalm 56 he was the veteran of many battles, including with the giant Goliath. Over the years David had faced innumerable enemies and repeatedly had had to fight for his life – ultimately killing many men. So at this point in his life he was a seasoned fighter and well able to take care of himself. And yet, he admitted to times of being afraid.

David never claimed to have been free from fears, only that he had learned how to deal with fear – He trusted God. In Psalm 56:3 David didn’t write “If I ever experience fear I will then trust in God.” No. He wrote “When” I am afraid, I will trust in God. He was writing from experience and he had learned that God empowered him to face his fears, stand tall, and to have the courage to push through his fears.

In Psalm 23:4 when David wrote “I will fear no evil,” it is the equivalent to “I will trust in God in the face of evil.” Evil times and evil people will come – to all of us. When they do, like David, we must choose to trust God.

Choosing to trust in God is a matter of both knowledge and experience. It requires the knowledge that God is sovereign, all – knowing, and all-powerful. It also requires the experience of having relied on Him in the past and of having found Him trustworthy and reliable. The more of that experience we have, the more we trust in Him.

Please don’t let anyone tell you that you should be fearless, or that being afraid indicates a lack of faith. It doesn’t. Fear is a natural human emotion. Trusting in the Lord is the spiritual remedy for it.

God Bless,
Pastor Jim