Devotional for Thursday April 17th

Good Morning Everyone,

Our theme for this month: “Mistakes”

Our Bible verse for today: “Your way of life and your actions have brought this on you. This is your punishment. It is very bitter because it has reached your heart.” Jeremiah 4:18 (HCSB)

Our thought for today: “Much of our suffering is our own fault.”

The southern kingdom of Judah had strayed far from the commands of the Lord. God had repeatedly sent prophets to correct them, to convict them, and to call them back to righteous living. But the people rejected the messages and continued in their evil ways. Finally God had had enough. Through the prophet Jeremiah he pronounced judgment and punishment, and in Jeremiah 4:18 He made it clear that the people had brought it all upon themselves by the way they had chosen to live. In 5:21 He even said that the people have been foolish and senseless – that they have eyes but have refused to see, they have ears but they have refused to hear. And so, they suffered.

For the most part the life each of us has today is a result of the choices we have made in the weeks, months, and years past. The choices we make on a day-by-day, moment-by-moment basis all combine and add up to the situation we find ourselves in today. Oh sure, sometimes there are circumstances beyond our control, and sometimes we are impacted by the poor choices of others, but for the most part our current situation is largely the result of our own past choices, good and bad.

Likewise, our future will be determined largely by the choices we make today, and tomorrow, and the next day. Make good choices and you’ll probably have a good future. Make bad choices and, well, you know.

God’s purpose for sending His messengers to the people was to alert them to the bad choices they were making and to get them back on the right path so they could then live lives that were blessed by Him. As they repeatedly disobeyed Him things continued to get worse and worse for them. But that didn’t seem to make a difference. They continued in their destructive ways anyway. So finally God sent Jeremiah to announce that severe punishment was about to come upon them. But again, God’s purpose was just to move them back into the center of His will. Once that happened the punishment would stop, the blessings would once again commence, and their lives would be so much better, so much happier.

Can I get an “Amen!”? Isn’t this our own story and the story of so many we know and love? How many people do we all know whose lives are a train wreck and will continue to be unless they change their ways? And how many of those people know it and hate it, and yet refuse to change? Just like the people Jeremiah was preaching too, their situation was entirely of their own making, they hated what was happening to them, and yet they persisted in their disobedience to God. So, they continued to suffer.

Much of what we suffer from in life we bring on ourselves through our own poor choices. The good news is that God will continue to send messengers into our lives to correct us, to convict us, and to help us – if we will only have eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart that is willing and ready to repent. The future can be better than the past, but it will require change on our parts.

God Bless,

Pastor Jim

Devotional for Tuesday April 15th

Good Morning Everyone,

Our theme for this month: “Mistakes”

Our Bible verse for today: “This is what the Lord says: ‘When people fall down don’t they get up again? When they discover they’re on the wrong road, don’t they turn back? Then why do these people stay on their self-destructive path?” Jeremiah 8:4-5 (NLT)

Our thought for today: “To avoid repeating our mistakes we must change our ways.”

In the last couple of years I’ve been doing some work in the jails. It’s mostly been with young men who have fallen into the drug culture and have spent some number of years using drugs, selling drugs, and committing crimes in order to get money to buy drugs. As you would expect, they all have criminal records and have been in and out of jail numerous times. The ones I work with have come to the point that they hate the life they’ve been living and they want their future to be different from their past, but they know they need help to accomplish the change. That’s the opening the Lord has given me. I visit with them, talk to them about the life God wants them to have, and then working with defense lawyers, district attorneys, judges, and probation offices, I help them to enter a Christian recovery and transition program in South Carolina where my brother is on staff.

The key to success for these young men is to change their ways. If you want your future to be different from your past then you need to stop doing what you’ve been doing and start doing something better. It’s like the old adage says, “If you keep doing what you’ve always done you will keep getting what you’ve always gotten.”

For those guys the change involves first of all, turning their lives over to the Lord. Second, they need to accept help. And third, they need an entirely new circle of friends, because if you hang around with drug users you too are going to do drugs. So if you want to be drug free, spend all of your time with other people who are also drug free. That principle applies to anything in life also by the way. If you hang around with a bunch of bank robbers then sooner or later you too will be robbing banks. If you surround yourself with people who use profanity, it won’t be long before those words are coming out of your mouth too. So surround yourself with the kinds of people you want to be like. Spend your time with the people who already have the kind of life that you would like to have.

How does this apply to our theme of “mistakes”? It was summed up in our thought for the day: “To avoid repeating our mistakes we must change our ways.” Whatever your mistake is, especially if it is repetitive and has become a pattern in your life, the only way to avoid repeating it is to do things differently from this point forward. If you want to lose weight then you need to employ new patterns of living which help you to not overeat. If you want to quit smoking then you need to stop buying cigarettes. If you’ve been divorced four times but would like your fifth marriage to be successful, then you need to figure out what mistakes were made in the first four marriages and make sure you don’t repeat them in the fifth.

The point is that if we want the future to be different from the past then we have to change the way we do things. To avoid repeating our mistakes we must change our ways.

God Bless,

Pastor Jim

Devotional for Monday April 14th

Good Morning Everyone,

Our theme for this month: “Mistakes”

Our Bible verse for today: “Make sure that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no root of bitterness springs up, causing trouble and by it, defiling many.” Hebrews 12:15 (HCSB)

Our thought for today: “It is a mistake to refuse to forgive and to allow bitterness to take root in your heart.”

One of the greatest mistakes people often make is to allow a lack of forgiveness to dominate their thinking and for bitterness to take root in their heart. A lack of forgiveness serves only to perpetuate a bad situation and make it worse. Bitterness becomes an acid in the gut that churns and percolates and ultimately poisons the one harboring it.

In one short sentence the writer of the letter to the Hebrews noted three problems stemming from a lack of forgiveness and the resulting bitterness which comes from it. First, it is in opposition to God’s grace. Resentment, hostility, bitterness and refusing to forgive are all the exact opposite of grace. Second, a lack of forgiveness and the resulting bitterness causes trouble. Rather than peace and harmony prevailing, there is dissension, discord, and disunity. Third, there is always collateral damage. Unresolved conflict and feelings of bitterness are almost never confined to only the parties in conflict. Almost always there are innocent bystanders and loved ones close to the situation who also get hurt by it.

It’s also true that very often the person who has offended us and towards whom we are nursing our grudge forgot the incident ten minutes after it happened and hasn’t given it two thoughts since then. While you’ve been quietly nursing the grudge and marinating in the acid of bitterness, the other person has merrily gone on their way and couldn’t care less. So they hurt you then, and they continue to hurt you now (weeks, months, or even years later). So while you’ve been stewing in resentment, that other person has long since forgotten the incident altogether!

Someone once wisely observed, “Forgiveness is setting a prisoner free and then discovering the prisoner was you.” Most of the time our lack of forgiveness and the resulting bitterness ends up hurting us much more than it does anyone else.

Likewise, “Nursing a grudge is like drinking a cup of poison and hoping the other person gets sick.” Isn’t it silly? The one we hurt the most from our lack of forgiveness and our nursing of a grudge is our self.

Of course, conflict resolution has to be a two way street. Both parties have to be willing. And like Paul explained in Romans 12:18, sometimes it’s not possible to live in peace with others because others won’t allow you to – they reject your overtures of peace and reconciliation. Towards that end you can only do so much. But still, in your own mind and in your own heart, you can release them and refuse to bear a grudge. You don’t have to do it for their sake, you do it for your sake because very often the prisoner who gets set free is you.

God Bless,

Pastor Jim




Devotional for Saturday and Sunday April 12-13

Good Morning Everyone,

Our theme for this month: “Mistakes”

Our Bible verse for today: “A second time He asked him, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love Me?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ he said to Him, ‘You know that I love You.’ “Shepherd My sheep,’ He told him.” John 21:16 (HCSB)

Our thought for today: “Our God is a God of second chances.”

So, have you made any mistakes lately? Yeah, me too. I starting counting them up and quickly discovered I don’t have enough fingers and toes. And that was just this morning – before breakfast. We all make mistakes, lots of them, every day.

For that reason I love this scene in John’s gospel when Jesus forgives Peter and restores him to ministry. Peter had failed in a big way when he denied three times that he even knew Jesus. But to his credit he was genuinely sorry for it. We read in Luke’s Gospel that after it happened, Peter went out and wept bitterly. The picture we get of Peter in the days and weeks afterwards is of a man who was humbled, chastened, and convicted.

That was exactly the right response for Peter. He did wrong, he knew it, and he repented of it. He didn’t make excuses, he didn’t attempt to rationalize or explain away his actions, and he made no attempt to shift the blame to others. And since in his case his mistake impacted another person, as soon as he had the opportunity he went to Jesus and made things right.

The mistake many of us make is that we refuse to acknowledge when we are wrong and we allow situations to remain unresolved. But our God is a good of second chances, and third chances, and fourth, and tenth and…

I sure am glad that He is because Peter’s story has so often been my story. I can’t count the number of times in my life (and would prefer not to have to) that I have been impetuous like Peter, failed miserably, and been in deep need of correction, forgiveness and restoration. You too? Well fortunately our God is always ready and willing to forgive us and to restore us. 

The first and most obvious lesson we learn here is that when we make a mistake we need to admit it and we need to do whatever is needed to correct it. God is a God of forgiveness and second chances, but it begins by us admitting our mistake.

God Bless,

Pastor Jim

Devotional for Friday April 11th

Good Morning Everyone,

Our theme for this month: “Mistakes”

Our Bible verse for today: “And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25 (HCSB)

Our thought for today: “It is a mistake to be out of church fellowship.”

Yesterday I was reading David Platt’s book “Follow Me”. The book is a sequel to his best selling “Radical”. In the chapter I read yesterday, David addressed an issue of church life that is becoming more and more common, and more and more of a problem, in the USA today. It’s the problem of people being out of fellowship. In other words, they’re not actively and deeply involved in the life of a good church family.

In this respect technology has become a curse rather than a blessing. Many people simply stay home and watch a popular preacher on TV. They evidently count that as “going to church”. On-line church services are becoming increasingly popular too. Many other Christians have simply drifted away from the church for a variety of reasons and have fallen into a new habit of doing other things rather than being involved in the life of a church. This is a huge mistake. Let me share with you some of David’s very astute and convicting observations about this:

“To identify your life with the person of Christ is to join your life with the people of Christ. To surrender your life to his commands is to commit your life to the church. It is biblically, spiritually, and practically impossible to be a disciple of Christ (and much less make disciples of Christ) apart from total devotion to a family of Christians.”

David points out that it has even become somewhat trendy for Christians to say something like, “I’m in love with Jesus, but I just can’t stand the church.” To that David asks, “Isn’t the church the bride of Christ? What if I said to you, ‘Man, I love you, but have I ever told you how much I can’t stand your wife”? That’s essentially what we’re saying to Jesus when we claim to love him but not the church.

“Similarly, isn’t the church the body of Christ? What if my wife said to me, “David I love you, but I can’t stand your body”?

“It’s impossible to follow Jesus fully without loving his bride selflessly, and it’s impossible to think that we can enjoy Christ apart from his body. Jesus goes so far as to identify the church with himself when he asks Saul on the road to Damascus, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Saul hadn’t persecuted Christ himself, but he had persecuted Christians, so in essence Jesus was saying, ‘When you mess with them, you mess with me.”

My friends, we cannot be in fellowship with God if we are out of fellowship with God’s people. The church is the body of Christ on earth. If we are out of fellowship with the church, we are out of fellowship with Christ. It is absolutely essential for the health of our relationship with the Lord for us to be actively and deeply involved in the life of a good church family. If we are not, we are suffering for it.

As we approach the weekend I encourage you to plan to gather with your church family this Sunday. If you don’t have one, you need to find one. If you’re anywhere near Crossville, TN we invite you to join us at Oak Hill Baptist, 3036 Genesis Road. Sunday school is at 10:00, Worship service at 11:00. It’s a mistake for any Christian to not be actively involved in a good local church.

God Bless,

Pastor Jim

Devotional for Thursday April 10th

Good Morning Everyone,

Our theme for this month: “Mistakes”

Our Bible verse for today: “Come, let us discuss this, says the Lord. Though your sins are like scarlet, they will be white as snow; though they are as red as crimson, they will be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land.” Isaiah 1:18-19 (HCSB)

Our thought for today: “God will forgive our mistakes and bless us once again.”

Back in Isaiah’s day the majority of the Hebrews were living lives far removed from what God expected of them. As a nation, when they had a good king such as Uzziah and Hezekiah, they were a little more faithful. But when the leadership was bad, such as under king Ahaz, they largely abandoned God. As individuals and as a nation they were chasing after material possessions, and foreign women, and the gods of the nations around them. Throughout the course of Isaiah’s long ministry there were good times and bad, but disobedience to the Lord was rampant and therefore the people and the nation suffered.

So God had Isaiah call the people to repentance and spiritual purification. In 1:16 he wrote, “Wash yourselves. Cleanse yourselves. Remove your evil deeds from My sight. Stop doing evil.” In verse 17 God said, “Learn to do what is good. Seek justice. Correct the oppressor. Defend the rights of the fatherless. Plead the widow’s cause.”

Then in verse 18 God actually invited the people to be reasonable and to discuss their sad situation with Him. He even promised that although their mistakes were significant, and although their sins were like a scarlet stain on a pure white cloth, He would cleanse them, remove the stain, and make them white as snow. If only they would willingly repent and be obedient to His commands once again, then He would be able to bless their lives: “… you will eat the good things of the land.”

The same is true for us. There is no mistake we have made, no sin we have committed, which God won’t forgive and restore us from. All it takes is a willing and repentant heart, followed by a sincere desire to go and sin no more. That then returns us to a place where God can once again bless our lives. The great truth is that God will forgive our mistakes and He will bless us once again. We just need to return to Him.

God Bless,

Pastor Jim

Devotional for Wednesday April 9th

Good Morning Everyone,

Our theme for this month: “Mistakes”

Our Bible verse for today: “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping your word. I have sought You will all my heart; don’t let me wander from Your commands. I have treasured Your word in my heart so that I may not sin against You.” Psalm 119:9-11 (HCSB)

Our thought for today: “Trust the Lord to guide you.”

As a Pastor I frequently have discussions with well-meaning Christians who are faced with tough decisions and they’re not sure what to do. They love the Lord and they have a genuine desire to understand His will and to be obedient to it, but with respect to the decision they’re faced with, they’re not sure what to do and they’re afraid of making a mistake.

Such times are often confusing, frustrating, and sometimes even a little scary – especially if we’ve come to the point that a decision has to be made and we’re still not sure what to do. They last thing we want to do is to mistakenly make the wrong choice and end up far from where God wanted us to be. So what do we do? Although there are no pat answers or Biblical formulas, there are some general rules of thumb that apply.

First of all, if you’re not sure what God wants you to do next, then just keep doing the last thing you are sure He told you to do.

Second, invest the time needed to discern His will. Be patient and give Him lots of time to speak to you about it. Although God can speak to us in an infinite number of ways, the ways He most commonly speaks to us in this day is through prayer, through the Bible, through the circumstances of our lives, through the counsel of close and trusted Christian friends, and through the testimony of the church. But seeking God in that manner takes time. Just keep doing that, and keep being patient, until you have clear direction from Him.

However, and finally, if the circumstances are such that you have done due diligence in patiently seeking the Lord but you have now arrived at the point when a decision has to be made and a path has to be chosen, and yet you are still uncertain but you simply cannot delay any longer, then what? Well, you make the best decision you can and you trust the Lord to guide you step-by-step and moment-by-moment.

This is what the Psalmist was referring to in Psalm 119:9-11. He explained that he loves the Lord and His word, and to the best of his ability he is trying to be obedient (verses 9 and 11). But in the middle of that (verse 10), he is trusting in the Lord to guide his steps (I have sought you with all my heart; (so) don’t let me wander from Your commands.)

Proverbs 3:5-6 speaks of this also, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths.”

If you’ve done everything you can do to place yourself in a position before Him whereby He can speak to you and make His will clear to you; and you have patiently waited on Him; but circumstances now mandate that you do something; then you can trust the Lord to guide. Remember, He wants to be understood by you and He wants to be obeyed. It is in His own interest and in accordance with His own plan for you that you be enabled to understand and that you walk the path He has established for you. So after having done all that you can do to discern and obey, then in faith you simply make the best decision you can. You can trust Him to guide you.

God Bless,

Pastor Jim
 

Devotional for Tuesday April 8th

Good Morning Everyone,

Our theme for this month: “Mistakes”

Our Bible verse for today: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness, who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” Isaiah 5:20 (HCSB)

Our thought for today: “It’s a serious mistake to call evil good.”

The other day I read an article in the newspaper which quoted a representative from a well know national organization regarding a sex education program being used by one school district in Texas. It seems the offending school district was actually teaching the students that the best and safest approach to sexual activity is abstinence until marriage. The quoted representative of this national organization was appalled at the narrow-minded irresponsibility being demonstrated by the school board for teaching students such nonsense. In her opinion it is unreasonable and unfair to expect teenagers to abstain from sexual activity and therefore the only responsible course of action is to teach them how to have sex safely.

Despite the fact that the standards being promoted by the school board in question were time honored, proven to be successful, and Biblical, this spokesperson and her organization claim that such policies are deeply wrong and harmful. They’ve done exactly what Isaiah was warning against in Isaiah 5:20, they have labeled good as evil and evil as good. They have substituted the darkness of satanically inspired thinking for the light that comes from the Word of God; they have substituted the sweetness of sexual morality for the bitterness of a sexual lie.

We live in a culture today that is upside down and backwards in its thinking and perceptions. Good is evil, evil is good, black is white, up is down, and don’t you dare claim otherwise or you will be ostracized, criticized, and perhaps even persecuted.

As Christians we have to be careful we don’t make the mistake of going with the cultural flow. It’s so easy (and seemingly safe) to simply fit in and go along. It’s much harder to take your stand on Biblical truth and then weather the storm that may come upon you as a result. But that is what we must do. It is imperative that the people of God know the Word of God, and then stand on it with boldness, courage, and conviction.

My friends, it’s a serious mistake to call evil good and good evil. If you haven’t yet seen the movie “God’s Not Dead” I encourage you to do so. It teaches this very point in a dramatic and extremely effective way. It’s a great movie.

God Bless,

Pastor Jim

Devotional for Monday April 7th

Good Morning Everyone,

Our theme for this month: “Mistakes”

Our Bible verse for today: “Looking all around and seeing no one, he struck the Egyptian dead and hid him in the sand.” Exodus 2:12 (HCSB)

Our thought for today: “Our mistakes are not hidden from God.”

Moses thought he was being clever. Maybe he thought he had committed the perfect crime. He killed a man who he thought deserved to be killed, buried the body in the sand, and thought nobody knew about it. He was wrong. God knew. And as it turned out, so did others. He discovered that the next day when, apparently emboldened by his act of the previous day, Sheriff Moses attempts to bring a little law and order into the lives of the Hebrews – but they were having none of it. They let Moses know that they were fully aware of the crime he had committed the day before and that they had no intention of submitting to his authority. Scared now, Moses fled.

What we learn from Moses’ example is that our sins are never really committed in secret. Even if we think nobody else is aware of them, God is. And usually the sins will eventually become known to others as well.

But the good news is that God can and will forgive us. Again we see this in the life of Moses. If we follow his story through Exodus, we find that his big mistake chapter two was followed by forty years of isolation in the desert. It was during that time that God engaged in a little character formation with Moses. He had lots of time to think about the mistakes he had made and what he needed to do differently in the future. God used this time to mature him, and to sand off some of the rough spots of his personality, as well as bringing him to the point where he could eventually be used by God in a major way.

The same is true for us. Our mistakes are seldom fatal. As bad as they may seem at the moment of commission (and in the immediate aftermath), there is little in life that cannot be recovered from. Repent, submit to God, remain faithful over the long-term, let the weeks turn into months and the months turn into years, and watch how God uses your mistakes to correct you, change you, and mold you into a better person – the person He wants you to be.

It’s true that our mistakes are never hidden from God and that they will usually, eventually, become obvious to others as well. But the good news is that God can and will use those mistakes to transform us into a better person if we allow Him to.

God Bless,

Pastor Jim
 

Devotional for Saturday and Sunday April 5-6

Good Morning Everyone,

Our theme for this month: “Mistakes”

Our Bible verse for today: “Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the Lord.” Jonah 1:3 (NLT)

Our thought for today: “The worst mistake we can make is to run away from God.”

I know from personal experience (and you probably do too), that the best and safest place to be is right in the center of God’s will. Any place other than that takes us outside the boundaries within which God can and will bless us. This has often been a hard lesson for me. I can’t count the number of times in my life I made a choice that was clearly unbiblical and then lived to regret it.

Jonah of course, is an extreme case in point. God called Jonah to go to the evil city of Nineveh and to call the people to repent of their wicked ways. But Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh, so he ran away from God and from the calling. Instead of going to Nineveh like God said, he got on a ship and headed for Tarshish – about as far from Nineveh as he could get. And, well, you know the rest of the story. Jonah ended up with three days of time-out in the belly of a big fish followed by being washed up on the beach covered in whale puke. It was a fitting end to a brazen act of rebellion.

Fast forward to our day. How many people do we all know who have walked (or run) away from the Lord, lived well outside of His will, and essentially ended up washed up on some beach covered in whale puke (or drunk in the gutter, or in a homeless shelter, or in jail …). The point is that when we wander outside of God’s will it takes us outside the boundaries within which He can and will bless us. When that happens we have essentially made a choice to live without His blessings.

This life can be hard enough as it is even when we are obeying God. Jesus told us that even the most faithful of His followers will have trouble in this world. But how much worse is it when we intentionally decide to walk away from God and therefore live without His blessings? That’s right – we end up covered in whale puke.

The worst mistake any of us can ever make is to run away from God. The good news is that just like Jonah, God will be happy to take us back, clean us up, and get us moving in the right direction again. We just need to return to Him. I encourage you to do it today.

God Bless,

Pastor Jim