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
 

Devotional for Friday April 4th

Good Morning Everyone,

Our theme for this month: “Mistakes”

Our Bible verse for today: “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” John 20:21 (HCSB)

Our thought for today: “Many Christians mistakenly forget that we are to be on-mission with Jesus.”

As I write this a group from our church is preparing to go on a short mission trip to eastern Kentucky. We partner with a small church in a remote region of coal mining country as they work to serve some of the most impoverished people in that region. New Beginnings is a small church, even smaller than ours, but they have a great heart for serving the people of their community and it is a joy for us to be able to work alongside of them when we go up there three times per year. We do that in addition to our other regular ministry activities in our own community, and in also in the state of Tennessee as well. 

On this trip we will bring a trailer full of food and clothes. Our folks have prepared fifty-two food boxes, each one containing enough food to provide six meals for a family of four. Together with our friends from New Beginnings, our group will meet with fifty-two of the neediest families in the community – some at the church and others in their homes. We will pray with them, share Christ, and distribute the food and clothes.

A mistake that many, many Christians make is they forget that we are called to be on-mission with Jesus out in the world. For the vast majority of churches in the USA probably more than 90% of their time, energy, focus and resources, are directed inward rather than outward. We tend to circle the wagons, hunker down in our little Baptist forts, and focus almost entirely on our worship services, our Sunday school classes, our fellowship events, our building maintenance projects, our ice cream socials, etc. In the average church today very little of the focus is outward. But that’s exactly opposite of the example Jesus set for us. Jesus was constantly out among the people. He was all about ministering to the sick, feeding the hungry, comforting the hurting, and preaching to the crowds in the highways and byways of the world. Yes He did spend some time circled-up around the campfire teaching His closets followers. But that was so He could prepare them so they could join Him in the external ministry out in the world.

I know that pride is a sin and so I hope I’m not being “prideful”, but I am proud of our folks at Oak Hill Baptist. They are a wonderful group of Christ followers who have a great heart for serving others. It’s a privilege to be their pastor. I’m also grateful to the Lord for allowing us to develop a partnership with like-minded Christians up in eastern Kentucky. This is the kind of thing Jesus called all of us to do. It’s the example He set for us.

It’s a great mistake for individual Christians, and for churches, to miss the fact that we are called to be on-mission with Jesus out in the world. He said, “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”

God Bless,

Pastor Jim

Devotional for Thursday April 3rd

Good Morning Everyone,

Our theme for this month: “Mistakes”

Our Bible verse for today: “Finally, Samson shared his secret with her. So the Philistines captured him and gouged out his eyes. Then Samson prayed to the Lord, “Sovereign Lord, remember me again.” Judges 16:17, 21, 28 (NLT)

Our thought for today: “Our mistakes can be costly”

Have you ever had your eyes gouged out by a ruthless Philistine jailer? No, me neither. But I have suffered other consequences from my mistakes that while not quite that harsh, they have carried with them a big cost. I’ll bet you have experienced that too.

Samson was a man who had been called by God to play a special role in the history of the nation of Israel. He was set aside from birth as a Nazirite and his life was intended to be a holy one that brought honor and glory to the One True God. Boy did he stray from his calling! If you know the story than you know that Samson was bull-headed, self-absorbed, impetuous, and he was a hedonist (he lived to satisfy his pleasures). That wasn’t even close to the life God wanted him to lead.

As a result, Samson suffered. His was an unstable life that caused pain and anguish for himself and for others. At the end he found himself in a Philistine prison, eyes gouged out, being led around by a young man, and on display in the city arena for the amusement of the citizens – kind of like a dancing bear. What a wasted life! But the story ends with Samson finally calling out to God and much to his amazement God was still there for him. In fact, God had always been there for him and He would have gladly accepted Samson back, if only he had gone to Him. Once Samson did return to God, God used him to accomplish one final great act.

Samson’s story is also the story of many of our own lives. Most of us don’t fail in as spectacular a fashion as Samson did, and most of us don’t suffer consequences quite that severe, but we do have plenty of failures of our own, and they each do carry a cost. What are the lessons we can learn from Samson’s sad story? There are at least three:

1. Just as God had a good plan for Samson’s life, so too He has a good plan for yours and mine. However unlike Samson, we just need to pursue God’s plan instead of our own.

2. Just as God had always been there for Samson and would gladly have accepted him back and blessed his life again if Samson had only returned to Him, the same is true for you and me. God will take us back any time we’re ready and willing to return to Him.

3. Just as God was prepared to use Samson once again once he did repent and return, so too He will use each of us again if we will just come back to him.

There is no mistake in life that God won’t forgive and which we cannot recover from. But how much we suffer, for how long, and how much recovery there will ultimately be, depends entirely on how far we drift from God, and how long we stay away from Him. The sooner we stop drifting and come back to Him, the less distance we will have to travel to get back on the path He has chosen for us. That then will minimize how much recovery will be needed, and it will mean more time left for us to enjoy life right in the center of God’s will (which is the best life any of us will ever have). Unfortunately for Samson, he waited until the end of his life before he corrected his mistake and came back to God. Therefore there was no time left to enjoy a life blessed by God. Let us not make that same sad mistake.

Our mistakes can be costly, but we can recover from them. But don’t be like Samson and wait too long. Return to God today.

God Bless,

Pastor Jim

Devotional for Wednesday April 2nd

Good Morning Everyone,

Our theme for this month: “Mistakes”

Our Bible verse for today: “Did you eat from the tree I commanded you not to eat from? Then the man replied, “The woman You gave to be with me – she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate.” So the Lord God asked the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “It was the serpent. He deceived me and I ate.” Genesis 3:11-13 (HCSB)

Our thought for today: “It is essential for us to take personal responsibility for our mistakes.”

This scene in Genesis chapter three would be comical if it wasn’t so sad and pathetic. Adam and Eve sinned. Period. They were told by God not to eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but they did it anyway. It was nobody’s fault but their own. But when questioned about it by God, Adam claimed it was Eve’s fault because she gave him the fruit. He even suggested that God was complicit in the offense because He was the one who gave the woman to him to begin with. Never mind that Eve was a wonderful gift to him from a loving and gracious God. And never mind that Adam could easily have said “No thanks” when Eve offered the fruit to him. And never mind that Adam was the one who had actually received the command from God about not eating from that particular tree (at that point Eve hadn’t even been created yet). So Adam was the one with the greater responsibility for remaining obedient and for ensuring that Eve did too. But, he shucked and jived and did a little tap dance as he tried to shift the blame to Eve – and maybe even onto God Himself.

Then there was Eve. Her excuse was, “The devil made me do it.” But God wasn’t buying that either. Yes it was true that Satan, in the form of the serpent, did trick her into sinning – but he didn’t force her into sinning. Genesis 3:3 makes it clear that Eve knew full well that God said she was not to eat the fruit from that particular tree. Then in 3:6 we read that Eve allowed herself to gaze longingly at the very thing God had forbidden, and then she made a decision to give in and take it anyway. Nope, no excuse here either.

We live in a culture today where people commonly assume a victim mentality and they are unwilling to accept personal responsibility for their actions. There’s always an excuse and it’s always somebody else’s fault. That’s a loser’s mind set and it’s a guaranteed recipe for failure.

When we admit our mistakes and simply accept personal responsibility for them – no excuses, no rationalizing, and no whining – then we can learn from them and grow wiser and stronger. But when we refuse to simply accept responsibility for our actions and we begin rationalizing and attempting to shift the blame, we reinforce in our own minds the notion of being a helpless victim, and essentially surrender control of our fate to the actions of others.

Also, when we do that we may be fooling ourselves, but we’re not fooling anyone else who is close enough to the situation to know the truth. When it’s obvious that we have brought this situation on ourselves by our own bad choices, but we then do the “Adam shuffle” by tap dancing around the truth and attempting to shift the blame, we’re not fooling anybody. We just make ourselves look silly and weak. Other people know the truth, even if they don’t actually say it to you.

Both Adam and Eve responded to their mistakes by trying to shift the blame rather than taking responsibility for their own actions, and they suffered for it. We always do.  It is essential to take personal responsibility for our mistakes.

God Bless,

Pastor Jim