Devotional for Saturday and Sunday November 2-3

Good Morning Everyone,

 Our theme for this month: “Trusting God”

 Our Bible verse for today: “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together with labor pains until now.” Romans 8:22

 Our thought for today: “God can be trusted even when we’re groaning.”

 Years ago there was a humorous little book written for high schoolers entitled “If God Loves Me, Why Can’t I Get My Locker Open?” It’s a funny title that expresses an unfortunate truth – we tend to groan and gripe about the littlest and silliest things. And we often blame God.

 Come on admit it, how often do you get irritated and fussy because your own locker won’t open, or because you’re in a hurry and the traffic light is taking a long time to turn green, or you’re in dead zone for your cell phone coverage and you can’t make the call you wanted to make (and shouldn’t be making anyway because you’re driving, remember?) And how do you react during such times? You’re smiling and singing praises to God right? Not! You’re groaning right along with the rest of creation. You’re griping along with everyone else sitting at that long red light.

 God doesn’t like it when we moan and groan and get irritated and fussy over silly things. The Israelites did that, and in Psalm 78:21 the Psalmist reminded them that when they did, God got furious with them and the fire of the Lord raged through their camp devouring people, tents, animals, and provisions.

 Now I don’t mean to suggest that you will be struck with a lightening bolt because you’re sitting there grumbling about the red light, but surely God isn’t pleased with our muttering and grumbling either. The fact is that the light will change, and your cell phone coverage will return, and eventually your locker will open. If we can trust God for the big things like shelter and provisions and health, then surely we can also trust Him for the little things like red lights and cell phone coverage.

 I want to encourage all of us today to make it a point to trust God not only for the big deals in life, but for all those little things as well.

 God Bless,

Pastor Jim

Devotional for Friday November 1st

Good Morning Everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Trusting God”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “Look, I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go. I will bring you back to this land, for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you. Genesis 28:15 (HCSB)
 
Our thought for today: “You can trust God”
 
Jerry Bridges is the author of the best selling book “Trusting God Even When Life Hurts”. The same month he finished the manuscript for that book and sent it to his publisher (December 1987) he also learned that his wife Eleanor had an aggressive and advanced form of cancer. Over the next eleven months, as his book about trusting God was going through the final editing process, was published, and began to sell well, he sat by his wife’s side as she slowly died.
 
It’s been more than twenty-five years since “Trusting God Even When Life Hurts” was published and since Eleanor died. Recently Jerry wrote, “Eleanor’s death was only the first of many difficult and sometimes painful experiences I encountered in those years, and I can testify that the biblical truths I wrote about in 1987 are indeed true. We can trust God even when life hurts.”
 
Throughout this coming month we will explore the great Biblical truth God expressed to Jacob in Genesis 28:15 and which Jerry learned firsthand through his own times of pain and trials – we can indeed trust God. He is with us, He watches over us, and He will get us through whatever it is we are facing.
 
Here’s a great Biblical truth you can take with you into the day today: “You can trust God. There is nothing you will face today that you can’t deal with, because He will be right there helping you through it.”
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim

Devotional for Thursday October 31st

Good Morning Everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Peace”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” John 14:27 (NLT)
 
Our thought for today: “True peace is found only in Jesus.”
 
On the night before He was crucified, knowing that His time with His disciples was almost over, Jesus spent hours reviewing with them the most important lessons He had taught them. It’s all recorded for us in John chapters 13-17. In the middle of it He paused and told them about the wonderful gift He was leaving them – peace of mind and heart. His peace. It’s a deep, resilient, abiding peace that the world can’t give and which the world therefore cannot take away. So don’t be troubled, and don’t be afraid.
 
It was so important to Jesus that His followers get this point and embrace the truth of this lesson that He repeated it a little while later. In John 16:33 He told them (and us), “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (NLT)
 
It has been rightly observed that when a person knows they are close to death their final words are often very revealing and insightful. Those five chapters in the Gospel of John (13-17) give us great insight into the things that were most important to Jesus. If you want to hear His own concise summary of the teaching points He most wanted His followers to hang onto, carefully read those chapters.
 
Jesus concluded, just prior to going to the Garden of Gethsemane and just prior to His arrest, with His great prayer in John chapter 17. If you want to hear the heart of Jesus for you as He prayed to His Father:
 
“During My time here I protected them by the power of the name you gave me. I guarded them so that not one was lost …” (verse 12)
 
“I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one.’ (verse 15)
 
“I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message.” (verse 20)
 
“I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me. Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am.” (verses 22-24)
 
Jesus loves you. Jesus prays for you. Jesus gives you His peace. And so, don’t be troubled; don’t be afraid.
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim

Devotional for Wednesday October 30th

Good Morning Everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Peace”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: May those who love you prosper; may there be peace within your walls, prosperity within your fortresses.” Psalm 122:6-7
 
Our thought for today: “Pray for peace in America”
 
In Psalm 122:6-7 King David felt compelled to ask his readers to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. This morning I feel compelled to ask you to pray for the peace of America.
 
Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be much peace for our nation these days. The war in Afghanistan has now entered its 12th year and although we have largely withdrawn from Iraq, it is once again erupting into widespread violence and may be headed to civil war. I think we’ll probably end up involved in that again. Syria has us on edge, as do Iran, North Korea, and China. Security analysts are debating where the next US war is going to be. Not “if” we will be involved in another military action, only when and where.
 
Within our borders things don’t look any better, maybe worse. I read an article just this morning where the Department of Homeland Security has said that terrorist activity worldwide, including within the USA, continues to increase. In terms of planning, communicating, and actual violence, the threat is growing.
 
Then there is politics – especially our national politics. Our political discourse is looking more and more like a back alley fistfight. The American people are polarized like never before, the economy is struggling to pull out of recession, school and workplace shootings continue to plague us, and on and on it goes.
 
My intention here is not to bring you down but to illustrate the imperative need for all of us to be praying for our nation. Jerusalem needed it in David’s day and the USA needs it today. I’m a firm believer that when God’s people pray, things happen. The great prayer warrior and author Frank Laubach thought so too. In his wonderful little book “Prayer – The Mightiest Force in the World” he wrote,
 
“Most of us will never enter the White House and offer advice to the President. Probably he will never have time to read our letters. But we can give him what is far more important than advice. We can give him a lift into the presence of God, make him hungry for divine wisdom. We can visit the White House with prayer as many times a day as we think of it, and every such visit makes us a channel between God and the President.”
 
Laubach continued, “If ten million praying people in the United States stopped for a few seconds several times every day to flash a prayer at the President or our Senators, they would feel a gentle spiritual power almost lifting them out of their chairs.”
 
Please spend some extra time today praying for peace in America.
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim

Devotional for Tuesday October 29th

Good Morning Everyone,

Our theme for this month: “Peace”

Our Bible verse for today: “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he got up, went out, and made His way to a deserted place. And He was praying there.’ Mark 1:35

Our thought for today: “We have to cultivate the garden of the heart.”

I love the picture Mark paints in Mark 1:35. Here we see Jesus getting up very early, going off to a quiet place, and having time alone with the Father. Apparently this was a habit He had. All four of the Gospel writers make it a point of portraying Jesus at various times and in various places spending time cultivating His relationship with the Father.

Jesus’ times of private prayer that we read about in the Bible remind me of the old Baptist hymn “In the Garden”. “I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses; And the voice I hear, falling on my ear, The Son of God discloses. And He walks with me, and He talks with Me, And He tells me I am His own, And the joy we share as we tarry there, None other has ever known.”

The songwriter was describing what Jesus was experiencing – a special time alone with God that was rich and deep and renewing.

What’s pictured in both Mark 1:35 and in the hymn I just referred to is an actual garden, a physical place a person can go to be alone with God. However the heart itself has often been compared to that quiet garden in the early morning. It can be a place of solitude and peace, a place of refreshment and renewal. If the garden of the heart is properly cared for and frequently visited, not only does it become the place where the individual meets with God, but it can also become an inner place of calm and peace from which the rest of life can be lived. Brother Lawrence, the famous French monk from the 15th century wrote of this:

“It is not needful always to be in church to be with God. We make a chapel of our heart, to which we can from time to time withdraw to have gentle, humble, loving communion with Him.”

I encourage you to make the time early each morning to cultivate the garden of your heart by spending time with God. If Jesus needed to do it then how much more should we?

God Bless,

Pastor Jim

Devotional for Monday October 28th

Good Morning Everyone,

 Our theme for this month: “Peace”

 Our Bible verse for today: “The lowly will possess the land and will live in peace and prosperity.” Psalm 37:11 (NLT)

 Our thought for today: “Pride robs us of our peace”

 Pride is poison. I’m talking about pride in its most destructive form, like being prideful. While it’s true that there are forms of pride that are good and healthy and appropriate – such as taking pride in a job well done, or being proud of your child who made the honor roll – being “prideful” is bad. When a person is prideful they are filled with excessive pride and have an inflated sense of themselves.

 And here’s the thing, prideful people are never really at peace. They’re often in conflict with others because they’re too proud to admit that they are wrong and to offer apologies. Also, many times an excessive display of pride is a false front designed to conceal an inner sense of insecurity. In those cases pride usually manifests itself in a pushy and overbearing demeanor that is actually a defensive mechanism designed to prevent people from getting too close and perhaps discovering the truth that lies beneath the arrogance.

 Humility is the antithesis of pride and it is a virtue the Bible commends and calls for. Peter tells us we should be clothed in humility (1 Peter 5:5); Paul says we should show humility towards all people (Titus 3:2); Solomon writes that a humble spirit is a sure sign of godly wisdom (Proverbs 11:2); David says that God leads those with a humble heart (Psalm 25:9); and Jesus described Himself as being “gentle and humble in heart’ (Matthew 11:29).

 Biblically, having a humble spirit doesn’t mean the person is weak or is a doormat for others to step on. It simply means that the individual is modest and has developed a quiet sense of inner confidence that frees them from feeling as if they need to constantly be trying to build themselves up in the eyes of others. Rather than being a puffed up peacock always spouting-off and putting on a show, the person with a healthy sense of Biblical humility is comfortable with who they are and is usually relaxed and calm.

 In terms of our theme of peace, the person with a well-developed sense of Biblical humility is generally a likeable person whom others enjoy being around. Whereas the prideful person quickly becomes a bore, and then an irritant, the humble person is a joy to have around and therefore largely enjoys peace with most people. This is what David was referring to in Psalm 37:11 – the lowly (those with a healthy sense of Biblical humility) will live in peace.

 It’s true, excessive pride does rob us of our peace but humility is a virtue the Lord blesses.

 God Bless,

Pastor Jim

Devotional for Saturday and Sunday October 26-27

Good Morning Everyone,

 Our theme for this month: “Peace”

 Our Bible verse for today: “I love You Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my mountain where I seek refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” Psalm 18:1-2

 Our thought for today: “Let’s gather in the fort.”

 When I talk to the people of Oak Hill Baptist about the importance of our church being actively involved in the world outside the walls of the church buildings I will sometimes teasingly say, “We cannot just circle the wagons and huddle together inside our little Southern Baptist fort shutting out the rest of the world.”

 The truth is that the folks at Oak Hill are really not the types to do that to begin with but as it turns out, my teasing statement is only partially true anyway. On the one hand it is true that the Lord has called us to be “salt and light” out in the world and in order to do that we actually have to be out in the world – as individuals and as a church. But on the other hand there are also times when it is appropriate for us to come out of the world and to huddle together inside our church buildings. Those are the regularly scheduled gatherings of the church fellowship – the Sunday school, the worship service, and the mid-week prayer meetings.

 In Psalm 18 King David was writing about how he found a sense of safety, refuge, and peace through his relationship with the Lord. Although the world around him was in chaos at that time, and he was certainly feeling threatened and in danger, he found peace and shelter in the Lord.

 While it’s certainly true that we can and will find that sense of security, refuge and peace through our individual relationships with the Lord, it’s even truer in a corporate sense. One of the benefits of being gathered together with our brothers and sisters in our church family is that the presence of the Lord is even greater when the entire church is together. That sense of being safe, secure, and protected is greatly enhanced when we’re surrounded by the people of God.

 When the church is gathered the church facilities become holy ground. In reality the buildings are nothing more than bricks and drywall and carpet and furniture. But when God’s people are gathered in that place, in the Name of Jesus and in the power of the Holy Spirit, those facilities become holy ground and the presence of the Lord is real and powerful. 

 In some ways our church building is a little Baptist fort – but I mean that in a good way. It’s the physical location the Lord has provided for us we can come out of the world for a while and enjoy that great sense of refuge and peace. I encourage you to gather with your church family this Sunday.

 God bless,

Pastor Jim

Devotional For Friday October 25th

Good Morning Everyone,

Our theme for this month: “Peace”

Our Bible verse for today: “And the Lord God formed the man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living soul.” Genesis  2:7 (KJV)

Our thought for today: “To be at peace our soul must be contented.”

Although I love to read books, and I learn a lot from them, sometimes even a good title speaks volumes to me. That was the case with Lisa McMinn’s book “The Contented Soul”. I love the idea of a “contented” soul. It evokes images of peace, tranquility, serenity, calmness. But what exactly is the soul and what does it take in order for it to be contented?

Dallas Willard was one of the great Christian minds of our day. He recently went to heaven but for more than 50 years he was a professor of Religious Philosophy at USC. Through his numerous books, articles, lectures, and devotionals he contributed tremendous insight into the person of God and about the spiritual realm. With respect to the nature of the soul Dallas writes,

“The soul is that dimension of a person that inter-relates all other dimensions so that they form one life. The soul organizes our whole person: our mind and will, thoughts and feelings, body and social context, and through these reaches deeper into the person’s vast environment of God and his creation.”

The soul is the spiritual entity that ties all of our pieces and parts together and unites us into one being. The soul takes your physical body, your spirit, your mind, your will, and emotions, and brings them all together into a unified whole that ends up being “you”. In order for the soul to be contented there needs to be balance between the pieces and parts. Since all of it works together to make-up the thing that is “you”, if one or more of the parts are out of whack your life will be out of balance and you will not have real peace.

For instance, some of us work so much that it has a negative impact on us spiritually and physically. Some of us work so little that we become lazy and sedentary. That too is not good. Some of us have poor eating habits which have resulted in our physical bodies becoming out of shape and unhealthy. That then is a part of us that is not as it should be and it will therefore have a negative impact on the other parts as the soul works to draw them all together into that unified whole.

To really be at peace our soul must be contented. In order for the soul to be contented there must be a healthy balance between the pieces and parts that make up who we are. I encourage you to consider whether some area of your life may be out of balance and in need of adjustments. Better balance will lead to a greater sense of peace.

God Bless, Pastor Jim

Devotional for Thursday October 24th

Good Morning Everyone,

Our theme for this month: “Peace”

Our Bible verse for today: “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will hold on to you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 (HCSB)

Our thought for today: “The promises of God are true.”

One of the greatest thieves of peace is uncertainty about the future. The fear of the unknown and an underlying suspicion that the worst that can happen will happen, combine to rob people of their peace and joy. But God doesn’t want us to live in fear and uncertainty. Therefore He has packed the Bible with dozens of promises about His care and provision for us, Isaiah 41:10 is just one of many. I don’t have the time or space to cite even a fraction of them but how about:

“Even when I go through the darkest valley, I fear no danger, for You are with me; Your rod and your staff – they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4 (HCSB)

“The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom should I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom should I be afraid?” Psalm 27:1 (HCSB)

“Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the Lord.” Psalm 31:24 (KJV)

“Therefore, we may boldly say: The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” Hebrews 13:6 (HCSB)

I have included only a few of the dozens of Biblical promises God has given us which assure us of His watch care and provision. Now here’s the thing for us to remember, as Hannah Whit all Smith wisely observed, “Things are not true because they’re in the Bible, they’re in the Bible because they are true.”

Please don’t miss that: These statements aren’t true just because they are in the Bible, they are in the Bible because they are true. If they weren’t true God would not have put them in there. Because they are true God has included them in the Bible and therefore you can take these promises to the bank. God is there for you; He is watching over you; He is in the process of working out His great plan for you; and therefore you have nothing to be fearful about and you have no cause for anxiety.

Not only are the promises of God are true but they are true for you.

God Bless, Pastor Jim

Devotional for Wednesday October 23rd

Good Morning Everyone,

 Our theme for this month: “Peace”

 Our Bible verse for today: “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. Your heart must not be troubled or fearful.” John 14:27

 Our thought for today: “Jesus was at peace and we can be too.”

 One of the things that amazes me when I read the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ ministry is that He was never in a hurry. As important as His work was and as many demands as people placed upon Him, Jesus seems to have always been well-organized, on schedule, and calm. How did He do it? Of course we know that He was God in a human body but still, He was in a human body, He only had 24 hours in His day just like you and me, and since He was limited by the constraints of a human body and by the amount of time available to Him, there was only so much He could do. So how did He remain so calm and peaceful in the middle of it?

In his book “Ordering My Private World” Gordon MacDonald includes a chapter humorously entitled “Has Anyone Seen My Time? I’ve Misplaced It!” In that chapter he explores how Jesus approached His very busy life and yet maintained such calmness and peace. What MacDonald reveals is that it was because Jesus paid proper attention to keeping His inner world in order. We find that He had the habit of spending lots of quiet time alone with God the Father, sometimes in the early morning (Mark 1:35), sometimes all night (Luke 6:12), and once for forty days (Matthew 4:2).

 What did Jesus do during those times of prayer? He sought His Fathers will and then He organized His own activities based upon what He knew the Father wanted Him to do (John 5:17-20). The result? He clearly understood His mission, His priorities were in order, He knew He had the freedom to say “no” to anything that did not conform to what the Father wanted Him to do, and He could therefore go forward into His days with confidence and peace.

 Now here’s the thing: we can approach our lives in the same way. We can spend quiet time with the Father so that our inner self is in tune with Him. We can seek His will for our activities and invite Him to establish our priorities for us. And then, as Jesus said in John 14:27, we will not need not be fearful, troubled, frenzied, or anxious. Instead we can enjoy the same peace that Jesus had.

 Jesus wants us to have the peace He had. He has offered to give it to us.

 God Bless,

Pastor Jim