Good Morning Everyone,

 Our theme for this month: “Peace”

 Our Bible verse for today: “Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength. Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil.” Ephesians 6:10-11

 Our thought for today: “We achieve and maintain peace by being strong.”

 Those of you who know me know that I’m a retired Naval Officer. I served in the Navy for twenty-one years and even though I’ve been retired from the military for twenty years, I still have a military mind set and I apply military type thinking to most areas of my life. It’s something that will stay with me for the rest of my life I’m sure.

 A basic premise which undergirds military thinking is that strength deters aggression. When a nation, military unit, or individual is obviously strong and well prepared to defend themselves, a potential adversary will think twice before starting something. Conversely, weakness invites aggression. When a nation, military unit, or individual is perceived as being weak, bad guys are emboldened. And so, we maintain the peace by being strong.

 That same truth applies in the spiritual realm. In Ephesians 6:10-19 the Apostle Paul used a military metaphor to help us understand that we are engaged in spiritual warfare. It’s a battle and we have to be strong if we’re going to be victorious. The Lord Himself provides us with the strength and the resources to not only fight the battle, but to win it. However, we need to do our part of if we’re going to “be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength.” In that passage Paul then goes on to provide detailed instructions about the steps we need to take to be strong in the Lord. For an expanded teaching on this subject see chapter fourteen of my book “Walking with Paul”. You can get a copy at http://www.JimMersereauBooks.com or visit us at OakHillBaptistChurch and I will be happy to give you one.

 Strength deters aggression. That’s true for nations on the world stage; it’s true for military units keeping the enemy at bay; it’s true for individuals who are determined to deter the bad guys who live in every community; and it’s true in the spiritual realm. If Satan detects weakness in you, he will pounce. If he sees that you are spiritually strong, fully clothed in the armor of God, he will probably look for an easier victim.

 We achieve and maintain the peace by being strong.

 God Bless,

Pastor Jim

 

 

DEVOTIONAL FOR MONDAY OCTOBER 7TH
 
Good Morning Everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Peace”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you.” Isaiah 26:3 (NLT)
 
Our thought for today: “Focus on God, not on circumstances.”
 
I love the promise God gives us in Isaiah 26:3. If we will keep our thoughts focused on Him, He will help us achieve and maintain a peacefulness deep within. Why? Because our trust is in Him and that pleases Him. So, He grants us peace in return.
 
What’s the best way to keep your thoughts focused on God? By meditating on Scripture verses. Now, when I say “meditate” I’m not talking about sitting cross-legged on the floor in the lotus position, eyes closed, palms turned upward, and softly saying “Ohmmm ….”. That’s eastern mysticism. To meditate on Bible verses and therefore maintain a focus on God means simply that you have a verse of Scripture in your mind and you recite it to yourself, think about it, chew on it, let it settle deeply into your heart. You can do that as you’re driving in your car, sitting at your desk, walking down the street, or virtually any other time.
 
Most of us have favorite Bible verses that are especially comforting to us personally and therefore we rely on them frequently. I’ll share a few of my favorites with you:
 
“Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
 
“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
 
“For I know the plans I have for you – this is the Lord’s declaration – plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11
 
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.” Matthew 6:33
 
“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful, and he will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape so that you are able to bear it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13
 
“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
 
Those are just a few I rely on frequently. There are many others but the point is that in the Bible God has provided us lots and lots of reassuring promises which help us to stay focused on Him and His power, rather than on our problems and circumstances . It really is true that He will keep in perfect peace the one whose mind is focused on Him.
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim
 
DEVOTIONAL FOR SATURDAY AND SUNDAY OCTOBER 5-6
 
Good Morning Everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Peace”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony (peace)! It is like fine oil on the head, running down the beard, running down Aaron’s beard onto his robes. It is like the dew of Hermon falling on the mountains of Zion. For there the Lord has appointed the blessing – life forevermore.” Psalm 133:1-3
 
Our thought for today: “Protect the peace!”
 
After decades of pastoring churches I’m a firm believer in the value and importance of the regular gatherings of the church family. The overwhelming majority of the time when God’s people gather together it is a thing of beauty, peace, compassion, and blessing. Yes, most of the time. But not always.
 
Whenever we bring together a large group of people, each with their own unique personalities, each with different preferences and desires, and all of them bringing with them a wide variety of personal issues, the potential for conflict exists. All it takes is one or two irritable and fussy people having a bad day to get the sparks flying. A short temper here, some hurt feelings over there, and pretty soon the squabbling begins. As the people of God we have to guard against that. The fellowship of a church is a potentially fragile thing that can easily be damaged if we don’t protect it.
 
Some people are more likely to be the source of those disruptions than others. I believe that how easily a person is offended – and reacts to that offense, is a measure of the depth of their spirituality. The more spiritually mature a person is the less easily that individual is offended; the more immature they are the more offense they will take and the more likely they are to react to the perceived offense.
 
As David expressed in Psalm 133, peace and harmony among brothers and sisters in a church family is a beautiful thing. It is a blessing to all who are gathered and it is pleasing to God. I’m so grateful for the peace and harmony we enjoy at Oak Hill Baptist. Our church family is filled with spiritually mature individuals who love and care for each other and who are not easily offended.
 
When you gather with your church family this weekend I encourage you to protect and nurture the harmony and peace that should exist whenever God’s people are together.
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim

DEVOTIONAL FOR FRIDAY OCTOBER 4TH

Good Morning Everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Peace”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 1:3
 
Our thought for today: “Bless someone today with Biblical words of grace and peace.”
 
One of the unique characteristics of the Apostle Paul’s writings is that he always opened his letters with a salutation that communicated a word of blessing in the Name of the Lord. You just read one of them in 1 Corinthians 1:3 above. He used the exact same statement to open his letters to the Romans (Romans 1:7), the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 1:3 and 2 Corinthians 1:2), the Galatians (Galatians 1:3), the Ephesians (Ephesians 1:2), the Philippians (Philippians 1:2), the Thessalonians (2 Thessalonians 1:2), and in his letters to his friends Titus and Philemon.
 
In some of his other letters he changed the wording a bit but the greeting was essentially the same:
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father.” Colossians 1:2
“Grace and peace to you.” 1 Thessalonians 1:1
“Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” 1 Timothy 1:2 and 2 Timothy 1:2
 
In the USA we American Christians are not in the habit of opening our communications with each other using words of Biblical blessing, but in other places around the world it’s common and even expected. Many times when I receive an email or facebook message from a friend in Romania or Peru it will begin or end with one of the verses I listed above. That’s also true for cards and letters and sometimes even in phone calls. That habit is also common among Christians in places like Africa and Asia.
 
Greeting each other with Biblical words of grace and peace is … well, it’s Biblical. In Ephesians 5:19 Paul calls us to speak to one another in “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs …” That doesn’t mean we have to walk around all day quoting scripture to each other or serenading one another with songs from the Baptist Hymnal, but greeting each other with words of grace and peace, even quoting verses right out of the Bible, has been the practice of Christians down through the ages and continues to be done today by Christians in many places around the world.
 
So, may you enjoy “grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord”, and have a nice day.
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim

DEVOTIONAL FOR THURSDAY OCTOBER 3RD

Good Morning Everyone,

Our theme for this month: “Peace”

Our Bible verse for today: “If you follow My statutes and faithfully observe My commands, I will give you rain at the right time, and the land will yield its produce, and the trees of the field will bear their fruit … I will give peace to the land, and you will lie down with nothing to frighten you. I will remove dangerous animals from the land, and no sword will pass through your land.” Leviticus 26:3; 6

 Our thought for today: “God blesses the nation that obeys Him.”

 As I write this the government of the USA has been partially shut down. Our leaders can’t agree with each other on a variety of issues; they have also been unable to work out a compromise budget, and so the government has shut down. I wish I could write that this is an isolated incident and that surely common sense will soon prevail, but we all know that’s not true. Our federal government has become increasingly dysfunctional to the point of inertia. It is mired in partisanship, self-interest, corruption, and small-minded pettiness.

 It’s an old political truism that politics is the art of compromise. The way public policy gets done is that well-intentioned and reasonably intelligent people with differing opinions come together and work things out. So how did our federal government get so messed up? How did we end up with so many elected officials – in all three branches of the government, who are so incapable of playing nice with those of differing perspectives?

 In Leviticus 26:3-6 Moses describes the kind of nation that enjoys the blessings of God and therefore prospers in all areas of national life. It is the nation that faithfully obeys God. That used to describe the USA but it doesn’t anymore. We have drifted far from our Biblical roots and the further we have drifted, the more dysfunctional our life as a nation has become. Let me share with you a few quotes regarding our Christian heritage which may help us to better understand what we’re experiencing today:

 “It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded not by religionists but by Christians, not on religions but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” Patrick Henry, 1776

 “Our laws and our institutions must necessarily be based upon and embody the teaching of the Redeemer of Mankind. It is impossible that it should be otherwise; and in this sense and to this extent our civilization and our institutions are emphatically Christian.” Supreme Court of the United States, 1892 (After citing 87 precedents)

 “If God and His word are not known and received, the devil and his works will be. If the power of the Gospel is not felt throughout the length and breadth of the land, anarchy and misrule, degradation and misery, corruption and darkness will reign.” Daniel Webster, 1787

 “Anarchy and misrule, degradation and misery, corruption and darkness …”

 Pray for our nation. We have lost our moral compass because we have drifted far from our Christian roots. We no longer honor God in our national life and so we are now experiencing life without His blessings. Without the Prince of Peace a nation will not have peace … or prosperity … or true security … or a functional government. Pray for our nation.

 God Bless,

Pastor Jim

DEVOTIONAL FOR WEDNESDAY OCTOBER 2ND

Good Morning Everyone,

 Our theme for this month: “Peace”

 Our Bible verse for today: “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without favoritism and hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who cultivate peace.” James 3:17-18

 Our thought for today: “Let it begin with me (and with you!)”

 I like the definition of peace offered by the editors of “The Christian Arts Daily Planner”: “At the heart of peace is harmony. To be at peace with someone – whether a neighbor, a family member, or God – is to be in a harmonious relationship with them.”

 Doesn’t that sound nice, to be in a harmonious relationship with God and with others? Wouldn’t this world be a better place if more of us worked at being peacemakers and therefore there was more harmony?

 That’s what James was writing about in the verses cited above. In the context of the entire passage, he was contrasting the difference between those who function out of a worldly mind set and those who are guided by the Spirit of God. Worldly wisdom produces envy, selfish ambition, bragging, and dissension. Godly virtues result in love, gentleness, mercy, good fruits, and peace. More than that, those who are functioning under the influence of the Holy Spirit will actually go the extra mile and “cultivate” a spirit of peace. They will sow seeds of peace in their relationships with others and then carefully tend those seeds to grow and maintain a spirit of peace.

 In Galatians 5:22-23 the Apostle Paul reminds us that one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, one of the virtues He brings out in the lives of those submitted to Him, is peace. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control.”

 Experiencing peace; exuding peace; cultivating peace; that’s what the Spirit does in and through us.

 I’ve used this quote before and I’m sure I will use it again because it communicates such a powerful and important truth. It comes from Saint Francis of Assisi, “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.” I encourage you today to be a source of peace in the world. Be intentional about it. Sow it. Cultivate it. Let it begin with you.

 God Bless,

Pastor Jim

DEVOTIONAL FOR TUESDAY OCTOBER 1ST
 
Good Morning Everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Peace”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:1
 
Our thought for today: “There can be no true and lasting peace until we are at peace with God.”
 
Peace. Isn’t that what we all really want? Forty-two years ago as a young wannabe hippie I actually had a red white and blue peace sign tattooed on my left arm. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Those were the days when everyone in my generation was singing John Lennon’s song “Give peace a chance”. “All we are saying … is give peace a chance ….” It was fashionable and my new tattoo was thought to be very cool.
 
We really do want peace though, don’t we? We desire peace on earth – we wish the wars would stop. We want peace in our workplaces – it’s an unpleasant experience to spend 40 hours a week with people we don’t like and can’t get along with. We want peace in our homes – we really don’t want to fight and quarrel with our spouses and children. But more than that, we long for peace in our own hearts – we’re so tired of the internal conflict and the sleepless nights.
 
But there will be no real peace, no lasting peace, until we have peace with God. We have to have peace within ourselves before we’re really going to be at peace with anyone else. That internal peace has to come from God, that’s where it starts and that’s what Paul was writing about in Romans 5:1 “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
 
My favorite evangelistic tract of all time is Billy Graham’s “Steps to peace with God”. The pamphlet is really just a standard presentation of the plan of salvation but the title is so great that it captures the attention: “Steps to peace with God.” That’s what we all need and that’s what we all want. Once we’re at peace with God, and once the peace of God is at work within us, then we’re ready to start being at peace with others, and with the world.
 
Throughout this month we’re going to explore the theme of “peace”. We’ll approach it from many different angles and consider numerous applications and implications of it. I look forward to exploring it with you.
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim
DEVOTIONAL FOR MONDAY SEPTEMBER 30TH
 
Good Morning Everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Life in the kingdom”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace! Together with Christ Jesus He also raised us up and seated us in the heavens, so that in the coming ages He might display the immeasurable riches of His grace through His kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:4-7
 
Our thought for today: “We already live in the kingdom”
 
God’s kingdom already exists, right now, and if you have placed your faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, you are a part of it. It is an accomplished fact. Please note in the passage above that Paul writes that God “made us alive”; “You are saved”; “He raised us up”; He “seated us in the heavens.”
 
Yup, it’s all in the past tense. It has already happened. You are already in the kingdom.
 
For now you and I are enjoying life in God’s kingdom on earth, and we’re helping to build and spread it throughout the earth. But we’re headed toward the eternal kingdom – essentially a new Eden. I want to leave you with some thoughts from Randy Alcorn as written in his book “Heaven”:
 
“I’ve never been to Heaven, yet I miss it. Eden’s in my blood. The best things of life are souvenirs from Eden, appetizers of the New Earth. There’s just enough of them to keep us going, but never enough to make us satisfied with the world as it is, or ourselves as we are. We live between Eden and the New Earth, pulled toward what we once were and what we yet will be.”
 
“Desire is a signpost pointing to Heaven. Every longing for better health is a longing for the New Earth. Every longing for romance is a longing for the ultimate romance with Christ. Every desire for intimacy is a desire for Christ. Every thirst for beauty is a thirst for Christ. Every taste of joy is but a foretaste of a greater and more vibrant joy than can be found on Earth as it is now.”
 
“Informed by the doctrines of creation, redemption, resurrection, and the New Earth, our present lives take on greater importance, infusing us with purpose. Understanding Heaven doesn’t just tell us what to do, but why. What God tells us about our future lives enables us to interpret our past and serve him in our present.”
 
“Eternal life doesn’t begin when we die – it has already begun.”
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim
DEVOTIONAL FOR SATURDAY AND SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 27-28:
 
Good Morning Everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Life in the kingdom”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “He will transform the body of our humble condition into the likeness of His glorious body, by the power that enables Him to subject everything to Himself.” Philippians 3:21
 
Our thought for today: “In the eternal kingdom your body will be the perfect age – forever.”
 
Ok, so once the Lord establishes His eternal kingdom we will all get glorious new resurrection bodies in which we will spend eternity. So how old will I be? More precisely, how old will my resurrection body be? What if I die at 90? Will my resurrection body be the spiritual equivalent of my 90 year old mortal body? Or how about the child who died at 2 years old? Will he or she be a toddler for eternity?
 
The fact is that the Bible doesn’t give us a clear answer to that question. Through the ages there has been a lot of speculation and debate about it, and some pretty good educated guesses. Let me share a few with you here. Alister McGrath is one of the most respected theologians of our day. Here’s his take on it:
 
“As each person reaches their peak of perfection around the age of 30, they will be resurrected, as they would have appeared at that time – even if they never lived to reach that age … The New Jerusalem will thus be populated by men and women as they would appear at the age of 30 … but with every blemish removed.”
 
Hank Hanegraaff (The Bible Answer Man on Christian Radio) is another respected voice in our day. He writes: Our DNA is programmed in such a way that, at a particular point, we reach optimal development from a functional perspective. For the most part, it appears that we reach this stage somewhere in our twenties or thirties .. If the blueprints for our glorified bodies are in the DNA, then it would stand to reason that our bodies will be resurrected at the optimal stage of development determined by our DNA.”
 
The medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas wrote: “… human nature will be brought back by the resurrection of the state of its ultimate perfection, which is in the state of youth, toward which the movement of growth is terminated, and from which the movement of degeneration begins.” (In other words, at your highest point of perfection, but just before the long downward slide of deterioration begins.)
 
The consensus down through the ages seems to have been that our resurrection bodies will probably resemble a healthy 30 year old. However, others have maintained that there seems to be evidence in the Bible of children being in heaven and therefore maybe some people actually get to grow-up in the eternal kingdom. Still others argue that those passages simply refer to the “child-like” qualities that Jesus so values and which we will all have in abundance in our resurrection bodies.
 
Whatever the truth turns out to be, the fact remains that we will have resurrection bodies to spend eternity in, and they will be glorious. I’ll leave you today with some insight from Joni Eareckson Tada. She writes,
 
“One day no more bulging middles or balding tops. No varicose veins or crow’s feet. No more cellulite or support hose. Forget the thunder thighs and highway hips. Just a quick leapfrog over the tombstone and it’s the body you’ve always dreamed of. Fit and trim, smooth and sleek!”
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim
Good Morning Everyone,
 
We’re almost finished with our theme for this month, “Life in the kingdom” and one question a lot of people have regarding eternity is whether or not there are animals in heaven. So, in order to squeeze that subject in as well, I’m sending out this “devotional extra”:
 
Our theme for this month: “Life in the kingdom”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “The wolf will live with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the goat. The calf, the young lion, and the fatling will be together, and a child will lead them. The cow and the bear will graze, their young ones will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox.” Isaiah 11:6-7
 
Our thought for today: “There will be animals in the eternal kingdom”
 
Here’s good news for all you animal lovers out there – there will be animals in heaven. In Isaiah chapter 11, and again in Isaiah chapters 65 and 66, we are reading about the eternal kingdom of God. In those places Isaiah writes about the coming of a glorious new era on the New Earth when there is peace and unity throughout all of creation. So much so, that breeds of animals that were adversaries on the old earth, now cuddle up to each other and feed together.
 
It makes sense, really. Animals are important to God. He created them (as we see in the early chapters of Genesis), and He preserved them (That was the reason Noah had an ark instead of just a raft). In other places throughout Scripture humans are assigned to care for animals and we are cautioned against mistreating them. So since animals are obviously important to God, it makes sense that He would include them in His eternal kingdom. Personally I’m convinced He’s at least a dog-lover. I mean who doesn’t love dogs?
 
The question of course is will “my” animal be in the eternal kingdom? Will my beloved Fluffy be waiting for me in heaven? I don’t think we can answer that conclusively but in his book “Heaven” Randy Alcorn has some interesting research and insights to share on the subject:
 
“Like humans, animals were formed from the ground. “Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air” (Genesis 2:19). When God breathed a spirit into Adam’s body, made from the earth, Adam became “nephesh”, a living being or soul (Genesis 2:7). Remarkably, the same Hebrew word “nephesh” is used for animals and for people. We are specifically told that not only people, but animals have the breath of life in them (Genesis 1:30; 2:7; 6:17; 7:15,22)”
 
He goes on, “Am I suggesting animals have souls? Certainly they do not have human souls. Animals aren’t created in God’s image, and they aren’t equal to humans in any sense. Nonetheless, there’s a strong biblical case for animals having non-human souls. I didn’t take this seriously until I studied the usage of the Hebrew and Greek words “nephesh” and “psyche”, often translated “soul” when referring to humans. The fact that these words are often used of animals is compelling evidence that they have non-human souls. That’s what most Christians in the past believed. In their book “Beyond Death”, Gary Habermas and J.P. Moreland point out, “It wasn’t until the advent of the seventeenth-century Enlightenment … that the existence of animal souls was even questioned in Western civilization. Throughout the history of the church, the classic understanding of living things has included the doctrine that animals as well as humans, have souls.”
 
So, does your “Fido” go to heaven? Will he be there in eternity with you? I don’t know. I hope so. But I do know there will be animals in the eternal kingdom and I’m equally certain we won’t need pooper-scoopers. It will be a perfect world, remember?
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim