Devotional for Wednesday November 6th

Good Morning Everyone,

Our theme for this month: “Trusting God”

Our Bible verse for today: “Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s consent. But even the hairs of your head have all been counted. So don’t be afraid therefore; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Matthew 10:29-31 (HCSB)

Our thought for today: “God is sovereign over it all and you can trust Him.”

When we say that God is “sovereign” over all things we mean that He is in absolute and total control over everything. He is aware, in advance, of everything that happens and He has power over it all. There is no event that is too big for Him to control, and there is no issue too little to escape His attention. Also, He directs it all according to His perfect will.

Sometimes God exercises His will directly by intervening in situations and bringing them to His desired end. This is His “direct will”. At other times He simply allows things to occur as a result of the exercise of individual free will, or because of the natural progression of things that happen in a broken and sin-filled world. In those cases God hasn’t intervened directly but has simply chosen to allow things to occur. This is known as his “permissive will”. In other words for His own purposes and in His divine wisdom He “permitted” it to happen. But still, He knew about it and it was within His control the entire time.

What does all this have to do with you and me and our trust in God? Jesus answered that for us in Matthew 10:29-31 and again in Matthew 6:25-33. God is aware of everything about you and about your life, including those two sparrows you can hear chirping in the tree outside your window and the number of hairs on your head. Jesus says that if God cares for the sparrows then He will surely care for you too because as much as He does love those sparrows, He loves you even more.

Life is often confusing and painful. Many times things are happening to us that we don’t understand and we find ourselves fretting and anxious about an uncertain future. At such times we can draw a great sense of reassurance from the truth the God who loves us is also sovereign over the circumstances of our lives. Although we don’t understand, He does. And although much of what’s happening to us is beyond our control, it’s not beyond His.

Because God is sovereign and because He loves us completely and unconditionally, we can trust Him.

God Bless, Pastor Jim

 

Devotional for Tuesday November 5th

Good Morning Everyone,

Our theme for this month: “Trusting God”

Our Bible verse for today: “He is before all things, and by Him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:17

Our thought for today: “Trust God to hold it all together”

Do you ever feel as if your life is coming apart at the seams? Yeah, me too. Some days it just seems as if everything that can go wrong does go wrong and if one more thing goes wrong, my whole life is going to unravel and somebody is going to have to raise bail money for me. Well fortunately, Jesus is in control even when it seems that I am out of control.

In Colossians 1:15-20 Paul takes us into some pretty deep theological waters. In that passage he gives us a peak behind the veil that separates the physical and spiritual realms and he tells us some things about Jesus that are truly mind boggling. First we learn that the Jesus we see on the pages of the Gospels is an image of the invisible God who we cannot see (vs 15). Then we are told that everything that exists was actually created by Jesus (vs 16); He existed before anything was created (vs 17); the entire fullness of God dwells within Jesus (vs 19); and that through Him all things can be reconciled to God (vs 20).

But look at verse 17 again, “and by Him all things hold together.” Not only did Jesus create it all, but He holds it all together too.

How does that apply to our chaotic lives and to our theme of trusting God? Just that if Jesus is able to hold the stars and the planets in their places; and if He is able to hold together all the atoms and all particles in all the substances that make up this world; and if He holds together the very heavens themselves; surely He can hold together the pieces and parts of my life and of yours too.

The things that seem so vexing and confounding to me are small potatoes to Him. In fact while I’m flailing around frantically trying to hold it all together, Jesus already has it under control for me (if He didn’t it would have all flown apart long ago). All of life is lived under His sovereign control. As Paul explained in the book of Acts, “For in Him we live and move and exist …” Acts 17:28 (HCSB)

Jesus governs and sustains all creation, including our lives. He holds it all together, He guides and directs, and He brings all things to their appointed end. Therefore we can put our trust in Him.

 God Bless,

Pastor Jim

 

Devotional for Monday November 4th

Good Morning Everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Trusting God”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “Don’t boast about tomorrow, for you don’t know what a day might bring.” Proverbs 27:1 (HCSB)
 
Our thought for today: “We have to trust God for all our days.”
 
It has been rightly said that the only things certain in life are death and taxes. You can bet the government will find a way to get their share of your paycheck, and you can also be sure that one day your life will end in death. And, the truth is that none of us knows when our time will come. God is the One who has numbered our days. He is the One who knows the day, the hour, the minute our lives will end. As Solomon said, we simply don’t know what a day will bring. And so, we have to trust God.
 
Probably one of the best pieces of advice I ever received with regard to keeping our lives in proper perspective went something like this, “Plan as if you will live another eighty years, but live as if today will be your last day.” That’s actually pretty wise advice. We need to plan and prepare as if God intends to leave us on this earth for a long time to come. By doing that we will on the one hand, be prepared to make good use of all the resources, skills, talents, and time He has entrusted us with and to take advantage of our opportunities. But on the other hand, we also live each day with a sense of urgency that leads us to live each moment to the fullest.
 
When we approach life in that way we’re prepared for whatever it is the Lord has determined for us. If He is granting me yet another day of life, I prepared for it yesterday and I’m ready to make the best use of it today. If today is to be the last day of my life, I will live it to the fullest and squeeze from it every bit of joy and happiness I can get before it’s over. Then, trust God. For He alone knows what the day will bring.
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim

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