Devotional for Saturday and Sunday February 1-2

Good Morning Everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Patience”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23 (HCSB)
 
Our thought for today: “Developing patience takes time.”
 
“God, give me patience – and hurry up!” Have you ever felt that way? I have. I know I need to have more patience and I’m tired of always being in a hurry and impatient, so I want God to help me to be more patient and I want Him to do it now. I’m impatient with being impatient.
 
In our world today most of us live at a ridiculously frantic pace. We fill our lives right to the outer edges with activities, responsibilities, and unreasonable expectations of ourselves and others. And then we rush. We rush from one appointment to another and from one activity to another. We never seem to have enough time to accomplish it all. Ten pounds of stuff crammed into a five pound bag.
 
And so, we get impatient. Fast food isn’t fast enough. Our time saving devices don’t save us enough time. We stand in front of the microwave drumming our fingers on the counter and wishing it would hurry up (I know because I’ve done this).
 
A few years ago I wrote an article entitled “Room for the Singing of Angels”. It’s all about establishing boundaries in our lives, what I called “buffer zones of quiet inactivity”, so we can relax and hear the singing of the angels. I wrote it mostly for myself because I needed to learn to practice the things I was writing about. Of all the articles I’ve written, it’s one of my favorites. I just wish I was a little better at doing the things I wrote about. If you would like a free copy of it you can get one at my website http://www.JimMersereauBooks.com. Just click on the tab “Free Articles”.
 
Developing patience takes time. Patience is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. It’s something He develops in us as we place ourselves in a position before Him each day whereby He can mold and transform us into the people He wants us to be. All this month we will explore the theme of patience – what it is, what it looks like, and how we get it. But doing so will take time, a full month, so be patient.
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim
 

Devotional for Friday January 31st

Good Morning Everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Change”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “The Lord your God will change your heart and the hearts of all your descendants, so that you will love Him with all your heart and soul and so you may live!” Deuteronomy 30:6 (NLT)
 
Our thought for today: “God Himself changes our hearts so we will love and obey Him.”
 
When a person experiences a change of heart that results in new or renewed faith, which is then followed by a new lifestyle that honors God, it is God Himself who brought about the change not the individual. It is the Holy Spirit of God how draws us to God, it is the Holy Spirit who convicts us of our need for Jesus, and it is the Holy Spirit who slowly and progressively transforms us into the person God wants us to be.
 
So does that mean that as individuals we have no role in brining about that change? No, it doesn’t mean that at all. We do have a role in it. It’s up to us to place ourselves in a position before God whereby He can bring about the change. It’s up to us to choose to go to that church service, or the evangelistic crusade, or to some other place where the Gospel will be presented, so that the Holy Spirit can get a hold on our heart and draw us to Jesus. It’s up to us to read the Bible and to pray every day so that the Holy Spirit can begin teaching us and transforming us. It’s up to us to attend and actively participate in Sunday school or a small group Bible study so we can interact with and learn from other Christians who are also in the process of changing and growing in Christ. It’s up to us to volunteer for ministry activities so the Holy Spirit can work through us and use us to be a blessing to others, thereby accelerating our spiritual growth as we are in the process.
 
Yes, it is God Himself who changes our hearts so we will love and obey Him and so we will be progressively change into the people He wants us to be. But it’s up to us to consistently and faithfully place ourselves in a position before God whereby He can change us.
 
As we conclude this month of thinking about “change”, I encourage you to be intentional about allowing God to change you. Pray it through, do your part, and then stick with it.
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim

Devotional for Thursday January 30th

Good Morning Everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Change”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “The Lord will turn the rain of your land into falling dust; it will descend on you from the sky until you are destroyed.” Deuteronomy 28:24 (HCSB)
 
Our thought for today: “Sometimes God has to change our circumstances to teach us a lesson.”
 
Moses wrote the book of Deuteronomy very near the end of his life. The nation of Israel was about to cross over into the Promised Land and God had already told Moses that he was about to die and the nation would therefore have to go ahead without him. So before that happened, Moses gave them some final instructions and in Deuteronomy 28:24, he warned them of what would happen if they disobeyed the Lord and strayed from His commands – they would suffer. And they did. They strayed from Godly behavior and sure enough, God changed their good circumstances into bad ones; He turned their dancing into mourning; He changed their joy into tears; He gave them poverty instead of prosperity.
 
The other day I saw a post on Facebook that read “Be thankful for what you have before it becomes what you had.” Yes. We need to remain intentionally aware of the ways in which God has blessed us; we need to give serious thought to the patterns of behavior which created the circumstances under which God was able and willing to bless us; and then we need to do more of the same.
 
Make no mistake, God can and will change His blessings into spankings if that’s what’s needed in order to correct our behavior.  The Israelites could have made better choices and remained in that happy state of enjoying God’s blessings. Instead they chased after the gods of the nations around them – and after their women. They consistently pursued their own desires instead of God’s, and they ignored the repeated warnings delivered to them by God’s prophets. And so, they got spanked.
 
Sometimes God has to change our circumstances in order to teach us a lesson. However it doesn’t have to be that way. When it does happen it’s always our own faults. If we would just remain obedient, faithful, and thankful, then we wouldn’t be wayward children in need of discipline from our Heavenly Father.
 
Be thankful for what you have before it becomes what you had. Obey God and live in a way that honors and pleases Him. Otherwise, eventually, you will get spanked.
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim

Devotional for Wednesday January 29th

Good Morning Everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Change”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “How happy is the man who has put his trust in the Lord and has not turned to the proud or to those who run after lies!” Psalm 40:4 (HCSB)
 
Our thought for today: “Some of us need to change who we’re accepting counsel from.”
 
Who or what do you allow to have the greatest influence on you? The truth is that we are all influenced to varying degrees by the people we associate with, by the things we read and watch, and by the values of the culture we live in. And, the things we allow to have the greatest influence over us will determine the kind of person we are. So, who or what is having the greatest influence on you?
 
How much influence do you allow cultural trends to have on you? Are you swayed in your thinking by the politically correct crowd? Do you base your beliefs about right and wrong on the views and values being promoted by Hollywood? Exactly how much influence do you allow the culture to have on your thinking and in forming your most deeply held values?
 
What about your friends, associates, co-workers, and family members? Whose advice are you taking? Is your twice divorced friend giving you advice about your marriage? Is your broke cousin telling you how you should spend your money? Is your co-worker who is on the verge of being fired coaching you on how to relate to the boss?
 
When it comes to accepting advice and allowing ourselves to be influenced by the words and examples of other people, we should look closely to see who is leading a life filled with attributes and achievements which we admire and would like to emulate. Those are the folks you want to listen to.
 
In Psalm 40 verse 4 King David reminds us that ultimately it is only the counsel of the Lord that can really be trusted. The happy person is the one who has learned to trust in the Lord rather than in other people who are chasing after every new idea, cultural trend, and satanic deception that comes along.
 
Some of us need to change who we’re accepting counsel from and ultimately, the only sure and true counsel, is that which is found in the Word of God.
God Bless,
Pastor Jim

Deovtional for Tuesday January 28th

Good Morning Everyone,

Our theme for this month: “Change”

Our Bible verse for today: “I waited patiently for the Lord, and He turned to me and heard my cry for help. He brought me up from a desolate pit, out of the muddy clay, and set my feet on a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.” Psalm 40:1-3 (HCSB)

Our thought for today: “One of the best changes we can make is to spend more time with God.”

Recently I’ve been going through a season of life that is busier, more demanding, and more stressful than my life normally is – and certainly more so than I would prefer. Unfortunately I have to admit that I’ve allowed the pressures and demands of life to cut into my quiet time with the Lord. Oh, I still have a time of prayer and Bible reading first thing in the morning, but the amount of time spent seems to be getting shorter and my focus isn’t what it should be.

Also, I realize that I’m preaching to the choir here. I know many of you who are reading this. I’m your Pastor and I have a pretty good sense of what your lives are like. You’re just as busy as I am, maybe even busier, and some of you are under much more pressure and stress than I am. So you’re probably rolling your eyes right now and thinking, “Just suck it up Pastor and stop whining.” Ok, you’re right. I’m done.

The truth is that I know better than to let life intrude on my time with God. When things get a little tougher than normal and the pressure builds, that’s when we need to spend even more time with God, not less. This is the lesson David was teaching in Psalm 40. Evidently he had something going on in his life that left him crying out to the Lord. How did he handle it? Well, we read in verse one that David “waited patiently for the Lord”. In prayer, in meditation, perhaps reading Scripture, he waited for the Lord. And in time, God responded. He lifted David out of that muddy and desolate emotional pit, set him back on solid footing, gave him a renewed sense of security and well-being, and put a new song in his heart and on his lips.

As life closes in and presses down upon us, we can begin to feel as if we need to devote even more time and attention to the issues of life. That then can cause us to make excuses for skipping our quiet time with the Lord, or rushing through it. Instead, we need to push back against that tendency and actually spend more time with God, not less.

One of the best changes we can make is to spend more time with God.

God Bless, Pastor Jim

 

Devotional for Monday January 27th

Good Morning Everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Change”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “Lord, Your word is forever; it is firmly fixed in heaven.” Psalm 119:89 (HCSB)
 
Our thought for today: “The Bible provides us with eternal truth that never changes.”
 
One thing a study of history teaches us is that the world is an ever-changing place. Nations rise and nations fall; leaders and celebrities are celebrated for a short time, and then they die and are gone; cultural trends and societal norms change; and technology – my goodness it seems to change almost daily.
 
Everything about life and the world we live in is in a constant state of change. Nothing stays the same – ever. That includes our concepts of right and wrong. Things that used to be taboo in generations past, are now commonly accepted as being normal. Also, we are now frequently told that there really is no objective standard of truth. More and more the truth of any situation is in the eye of the beholder, and so what is true for you may not be true for me. Therefore keep your opinions to yourself.
 
The problem with that kind of thinking of course, is that it leads to chaos. It leads to everyone doing what is right in their own eyes. It also opens the door for all sorts of aberrations of behavior. When there is no unchanging standard of truth upon which everything else is measured, progressive thinking runs amuck and there’s almost no end to the social carnage.
 
Back in the 70’s there was a cult movie entitled “Soylent Green”. It was about a futuristic world where most of the people on the planet substituted on a food source known as “Soylent Green”, which was distributed to the masses of people by the One World Government.  The other curiosity about this futuristic society was that at a certain age all citizens were required to turn themselves in to a government euthanasia clinic. You see, in an effort at population control, the government found it necessary to limit the allowable life span to 70 years old. At that point, for the good of the rest of society, you were to turn yourself in and your life would be humanely ended. At the end of the movie we discovered that Soylent Green, the food source for the masses, was being made out of the bodies of those who had obediently turned themselves in to the euthanasia centers for the good of society. It was a gross and disgusting movie but it sort of makes my point. Left to ourselves, with no objective standard of truth to govern us, there is no end to the twisted thinking we are capable of and the immoral aberrations society will embrace.
 
To have a “Biblical world view” means that we accept the Bible as God’s acceptable standard for all human conduct. It applies to all people, in all places, at all times. And it never changes. As “people of the Book” we evaluate all the rest of life, and everything in the world around us, through the lens of what the Bible teaches. We consider everyone and everything based upon how it compares to what God says in the Bible.
 
In the Bible not only does God reveal to us the truth He wants us to have about Himself, eternity, the spiritual realm, etc, but He also provides us the guidance we need in order to be protected from ourselves. As the movie Soylent Green so effectively illustrated, left to ourselves, our thinking and our conduct will degenerate to an ugly and unimaginable degree.
 
The Bible provides us with truth that never changes. All we need to do is read it, obey it, and then use it as the lens through which we see and evaluate all the rest of life.
God Bless,
Pastor Jim
 
 

Devotional for Saturday and Sunday January 25-26

Good Morning Everyone,
Our theme for this month: “Change”
Our Bible verse for today: “Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” James 1:27 (HCSB)
Our thought for today: “We should spend more time helping others.”
 
I read the results of a survey the other day published in a Christian magazine which reported that when asked what kind of career people would want if money didn’t matter, 42 percent of Americans answered that they would want to do something that helps others. Specific professions mentioned were nurse, social worker, human rights worker, philanthropist, and teacher.
 
The survey was directed at Americans in general, not specifically at Christians, but I suspect that if it were just Christians who were included then the percentage of those desiring to spend more time helping others would be much higher.
 
I find those results encouraging and to be consistent with what I believe to be true of most Christians. There’s something about helping others that we find personally satisfying and deeply rewarding. It’s also Biblical. James 1:27 is just one of the numerous passages in both the Old and New Testaments where God calls His people to intentionally and frequently help others in need.
 
However, although many people do have a deep desire to do more of those kinds of things, for a variety of reasons they don’t. I think the primary reason is that they just get so caught-up in the busyness of life that their good intentions never seem to translate into actions. Also, for many Christians, their churches are so internally focused on their worship services, Sunday school classes, fellowship events, and other internal activities, that there is little or no large-group humanitarian ministry taking place outside the physical walls of the church buildings.
 
In order to push back against that trend, at Oak Hill Baptist our model of ministry revolves around humanitarian ministry activities – most of which take place outside the church facilities. There’s never a time in our church life when we are not in the middle of preparing for the next act of helping some person or some group. By providing that structure and creating those opportunities, we have made it easy for our folks to be involved in a very active and meaningful expression of their faith by means of helping others. And in the process, they’re doing things that deep in their heart they want to be doing anyway.
 
If you live here in Crossville, TN and your church is not currently involved in those kinds of activities, then we invite you to participate in some of what we are doing. We’re not going to try to steal you away from your own church, we don’t do that. But we are happy to include people from other churches in our humanitarian relief projects. Here’s a few that are coming up:
 
On Saturday February 15th we will take the teenage girls who live in the Tennessee Baptist Children’s Home to see a performance of the musical “Grease” at the Cumberland County Playhouse. Afterwards we will treat them to dinner at Ryan’s restaurant. These are at-risk girls who have been removed from dangerous and highly dysfunctional homes. We have found that fun fellowship with a loving church family in a relaxed social setting makes a profound impact in their lives and is good ministry.
 
On Sunday March 2nd we will prepare and serve the evening meal at the Bread of Life Rescue mission. We will also conduct an evangelistic service before dinner.
 
And on April 4-5 we will go on a short mission trip to eastern Kentucky to bring food and clothes to some of the poorest who live in a remote region of coal mining country. We work in partnership with a small church in the region which has a heart for helping meet the needs of some of the most impoverished people in their community.
 
These are the kinds of things most Christians really want to be involved in anyway, and it is what God calls for in the Bible. Many well-intentioned Christians simply need to have a structured opportunity made available for them. That being the case, we would be happy for you to join with us – no strings attached.
God Bless,
Pastor Jim
 

Devotional for Friday January 24th

Good Morning Everyone,
Our theme for this month: “Change”
Our Bible verse for today: “Yet Lord, You are our Father, we are the clay, and You are our potter; we are all the work of Your hands.” Isaiah 64:8 (HCSB)
Our thought for today: “Sometimes we don’t need to change.”
 
Most of what we’ve considered so far this month involves bringing about some kind of change in our lives. While it’s true of all of us that there are plenty of things in each of our lives that do need to change, some things don’t.
The other day I read a magazine article written by Thom Rainer, the President of LifeWay Christian Resources. I’ve met Thom several times. He’s a nice man, warm and friendly, easy to be with. What surprised me about the article was the topic of it and what Thom confessed to in it. He wrote:
 
“Some people are surprised when, as CEO of a large company, I confess to being an introvert. Admittedly, it’s an odd combination. I’m required to be out front leading and speaking every week when, honestly, I’d rather be alone.”
Thom went on to explain that it’s not that he doesn’t like people – he does, it’s just that being with people, especially for an extended period of time, is emotionally and physically draining and he needs to therefore withdraw from time to time to recharge his emotional batteries. He also went on to explain that there’s nothing wrong with being an introvert, just as there’s nothing wrong with being an extrovert – it’s just how God has wired us. But it is important for us to recognize which type we are, and to realize that there are strengths and weaknesses associated with each personality type. (By the way, the population tends to be divided almost equally between introverts and extroverts).
 
Extroverts thrive on being with people, it energizes them. Introverts draw strength and energy in quiet solitude. Extroverts tend to be balls of fire and good at casual conversation, but they sometimes have way too much going on and they often don’t stick with a task long enough to see it through to completion. Introverts are thoughtful and tend to be good planners, but they can also sometimes seem distant and hard to connect with.
 
I can relate to Thom because I too am an introvert – very much so. Given the choice between attending a social event or spending the night at home with a good book, the book wins probably seven out of ten times. It’s not that I don’t like people – I do, I love them, but they wear me out too. Being with people for long periods of time is draining; and the longer the encounter goes on the harder it gets.
 
So there it is – I’m out of the closet. My name is Jim and I’m an introvert. Not only that, but I’m an introvert in what is commonly assumed to be an extrovert’s profession. In our culture it’s assumed that a pastor needs to be an extrovert but, many of us aren’t. There are more introverted pastors than you might think.
 
Being an introvert isn’t a bad thing, it’s just how God wired me. And I don’t have to change, but I do have to understand my personality type and make necessary adjustments when the occasion calls for it. Sometimes an introvert has to venture out of his comfort zone and be an extrovert for a while because that’s what the situation calls for. Likewise, sometimes the extrovert needs to back it down a couple of notches and spend some time thinking and listening instead of talking.
 
My point in all this is that it’s ok to simply be who God created you to be. Don’t let the expectations of others force you into a mold you weren’t meant to fit. Sometimes it’s not necessary to change.
God Bless,
Pastor Jim

Devotional for Thursday January 23rd

Good Morning Everyone,
Our theme for this month: “Change”
Our Bible verse for today: “Luke, the dearly loved physician, and Demas greet you.” Colossians 4:14 (HCSB)
Our thought for today: “We need to change how we think about mental illness.”
There’s little debate about the fact that Luke, the Apostle Paul’s traveling companion and partner in ministry, the author of the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts, was a medical doctor. The Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible says that there are around 400 medical references found in the books of Luke and Acts. Paul himself referred to Luke as “the dearly loved physician.” So that means that Paul had is own personal physician as part of his traveling ministry team.
But why? Few people in the history of Christianity have ever been endowed with more miracle-working power from the Holy Spirit than the Apostle Paul. If he was sick he could just heal himself, right? And surely he would be able to simply lay hands on any of his traveling companions who were sick and they too would have been healed simply by prayer. So why did God give Paul a medical doctor to travel with him?
The answer is because medical science, medical treatments, and medicine itself is a gift from God and such things are frequently used by God to minister to the physical needs of His people. Dr. Luke was an instrument of ministry in the hands of God, and his medical skills were used by God to provide treatment for Paul and others on his team.
Yesterday I read an article in the Southern Baptist magazine “Facts and Trends”. The LifeWay Research group (an entity of the Southern Baptist Convention) recently conducted a study about Christian attitudes regarding mental illness. The study revealed that 48% of Christians believe serious mental illness can be overcome entirely by means of prayer and Bible study.
Ed Stetzer, the President of LifeWay Research, worries that Christians fail to see mental illness as an illness. There seems to be a belief that mental illness is nothing more than a problem of thinking and perception, and that it can therefore be dealt with by means of a simple attitude adjustment. Pray enough, recite enough Bible verses, have a strong enough faith, and that ought to do the trick.
Well yes, sometimes mental illness can be cured in that way. Likewise, sometimes cancer is miraculously cured by God too – but usually not. Usually if there is going to be a cure, God sends it in some way other than a miracle. If you break your leg the correct thing to do is to go to the Emergency Room for treatment and when you do, nobody will accuse you have having weak faith in God. Likewise if you have cancer and choose to accept chemo therapy to treat it, few people will criticize you for doing so. Why then the stigma about using medical treatment and therapy to deal with a mental illness?
It’s true that in the Bible there are no examples of mental illness being treated with medicines and therapy. But there are also no Biblical examples of liver transplants, or of heart by-pass surgery, or dental implants. The reason is that such procedures didn’t exist in those days. But they do exist in our day, and we should thank God that they do. We’re fortunate to live in an age of history when medical science can provide us with treatments like that. Those treatments and procedures are a gift from God – His healing miracles in our day, and we should rejoice and be glad for it!
That’s also the case when it comes to treating mental illness. We should pray about mental illness every bit as much as we pray about cancer, and recovery from a stroke, and heart surgeries. But we should also accept the medical treatments that are available for such things.
Mental illness is an illness. And like any other illness, there are treatments for it. The fact is that we need to change how we think about mental illness.
God Bless,
Pastor Jim

Devotional for Wednesday January 22nd

Good Morning Everyone,
Our theme for this month: “Change”
Our Bible verse for today: “Your name will no longer be Abram, but your name will be Abraham, for I will make you the father of many nations.” Genesis 17:5 (HCSB)
Our thought for today: “Sometimes change is a symbol of something even greater.”
Have you ever known someone who changed their name? I’ve known several. I know a man whose life pretty much fell apart in his late 50’s. Once he got through it and entered into a new season of life, he started going by his middle name instead of by his first name – symbolizing to himself that he was a new man with a fresh vision for the rest of his life.
Sometimes the name change is ridiculous. A few years ago there was a professional athlete who legally changed his name to “Meta-World Peace.” At other times the change goes in the other direction from ridiculous to reasonable, such as when a young person matures and stops going by a silly nickname.
There are many other kinds of change that also symbolize something greater, something deeper than the obvious outward appearance. Take for example the young man who wears saggy pants, a backwards ball cap, and who has an intentionally sloppy appearance but who then suddenly starts dressing nicely. What does that change signify? It shows that he grew up, that he matured, that he became a man.
In Genesis 17:5 God changed Abram’s name to Abraham to signify the beginning of a God-given mission that would encompass the rest of Abraham’s life. The name change was highly symbolic of something much greater.
The truth is that God is in the business of changing people, and when a big God-directed change occurs, it will be symbolized by other changes that in themselves are less significant, but which point to the bigger and more significant change.
What changes is God bringing about in your life and in what manner will those changes show up, how will they be symbolized? You probably don’t need to change your name, but do you need to change your style of dress? Are you a Christian man who walks around with his pants below his butt? Or maybe you’re a young Christian woman whose clothes are too tight and too revealing. How about your lifestyle or the people you associate with, do they need to change?
Is there some obvious outward change that needs to occur in your life which will symbolize a deeper, more significant inward change that has occurred? Sometimes the observable outward change is a symbol of something greater, deeper and more significant.
God Bless,
Pastor Jim