Devotional for Saturday and Sunday July 20-21

Good Morning Everyone,

Our theme for this month: “The Gift of Being Yourself”

Our Bible verse for today: “Be careful that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition, based on the elements of the world, rather than Christ.” Colossians 2:8 (CSB)

Our thought for today: “Don’t be fooled.”

One of the greatest dangers faced by Christians today is the danger of counterfeit Christianity. There’s a lot of false teaching in our society today, a lot of dangerous philosophies and unbiblical worldviews which lead people into all sorts of ungodly behaviors. And, worse, such things are promoted and celebrated as being normal and even good.

But the problem isn’t just in society at-large, the problem is also in the church. Christians in large numbers are buying into the unbiblical worldviews, incorporating them into their Christian worldview, and ending up with a form of counterfeit Christianity. In 2 Corinthians 11:14-15 the Apostle Paul warned us: “For Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no great surprise if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness.” 

Yes, false teachers and preachers disguise themselves as Christians so they can infiltrate the ranks of Christianity and spread false teaching. They try to convince the faithful to give-in to the cultural pressures, and to combine popular worldly beliefs with traditional Christian doctrine. That creates a counterfeit Christianity and leads Christians astray. I preached two sermons on this subject recently at our church. You can listen to them on our website at www.oakhillbaptist.net. Just click on “listen”, then select the sermons and PowerPoint for July 7, and 14, 2019. I encourage you to do that.

What does that have to do with “The Gift of Being Yourself”? Just that when you accept the lies of Satan you are being led away from being the person God intends for you to be. This is why it’s so important for Christians to be active in a good Bible-believing church, and it is why we must be diligent students of the Bible. We have to develop a solid Biblical worldview, and then we must be strong enough to stand against the lies of the age.

If you are out of church, and if you are not a diligent student of Scripture, you are in an extremely vulnerable position and you are a ripe target for Satan. You can easily be led astray. I encourage you not to let that happen. You will only be your true self, and your best self, when you are in a strong and healthy relationship with God, based upon sound Biblical doctrine. Don’t let yourself be fooled into believing the lies of Satan.

God Bless,
Pastor Jim

Copyright © 2019 Oak Hill Baptist Church, All rights reserved.
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Devotional for Friday July 19th

Good Morning Everyone,

Our theme for this month: “The Gift of Being Yourself”

Our Bible verse for today: “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.” 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 (NIV)

Our thought for today: “It doesn’t have to be a job.”

Over the last several days I’ve told you a little about my personal story and how it was that I finally came to embrace my identity as the unique individual God created me to be. It turned out well for me. I get to spend my days doing something I truly love (being a pastor), and since our church is mission oriented, I still get to do some mission work too. It’s the best of both worlds for me. I sometimes joke when I’m handed my paycheck each month: “All this fun and they pay me too!” That’s why at 65 I chose to continue working rather than retiring. Someone once told me “Find something you love to do and then figure out how you can get paid for doing it.” Well, I have.

But the whole idea of discovering how God has wired you and then applying yourself to those activities doesn’t necessarily have to take the form of a job. Sometimes that’s not even possible. I’m in a pretty sweet situation now, but for many years of my life I simply had to earn a living so I could support my family. That’s true for many of you right now. Therefore for right now you might need to work at a job that’s not really what you want to be doing, and pursue your passion in your off hours. Or perhaps you’re retired and you don’t need to have a job at all. You can still search your heart, discover the things you truly love and for which God has especially designed you, and then apply yourself to those things.

After President George W. Bush left his job as President of the United States and went into retirement he looked deep, did some soul searching, and realized that he had always wanted to be an artist, creating art by painting pictures. So he took some lessons and discovered that he was actually pretty good at it. Since then his art has been featured in art galleries and on television shows, and he often gives away his paintings as special gifts to wounded warriors.

My wife Linda is in the retirement years too. She has a love for working with children and for arts and crafts. She has combined those two passions and now she spends much of her time designing and creating Christian-themed arts and crafts for children. She also plans and leads our Children’s Church and she orders, organizes, and sends large supplies of children’s crafts with me on my mission trips. Beginning in September she will also once again be serving as a Children’s Sunday school teacher.

In 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 the Apostle Paul describes for us a simple and quiet life that is spent engaged in worthwhile activities that make a meaningful difference. Discovering how God has wired you, and then pursuing those activities, doesn’t necessarily need to take the form of a job. It simply means that you have discovered the activities that really bring you joy and a sense of fulfillment, and you are applying yourself to them for the glory of God and for the benefit of others.

God Bless,
Pastor Jim

Copyright © 2019 Oak Hill Baptist Church, All rights reserved.
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Devotional for Thursday July 18th

Good Morning Everyone,

Our theme for this month: “The Gift of Being Yourself”

Our Bible verse for today: “But his message becomes like a fire burning in my heart, shut up in my bones. I become tired of holding it in …” Jeremiah 20:9 (CSB)

Our thought for today: “If it’s in you, it’s got to come out.”

Yesterday I told you the story of how it was that I finally came to terms with the truth that God did not create me to be a singer, songwriter, or guitar player. And He certainly did not give me the ability to dance. Instead He wired me to preach, teach, and write. Once I embraced that identity, once I developed the gifts and put them to use, I found fulfillment and great satisfaction.

So, you would think I would have learned my lesson. But I didn’t. At one time I took a break from being a pastor and I went to work as the Vice-President of an international humanitarian relief agency. My job consisted primarily of planning relief missions to remote locations around the world, recruiting a team of medical and dental professionals to go on the mission, assembling the supplies and resources, coordinating with in-country partners, making travel and lodging arrangements, and then leading the team to the location.

Sounds exotic and exciting, right? And it was, to an extent. I loved the time actually spent on the mission field but unfortunately, that amounted to probably 5% of my time. The other 95% was spent in the office doing administrative work. To me all the planning, organizing, emails, phone calls, and so on was administrative grunt work, and spiritually for me it was dry as dust. I felt unfulfilled, unsatisfied, and dried-up. I missed being a pastor. I longed for the time in my study praying, thinking, researching, and writing. I missed preaching and teaching every week. I missed all of the counseling and coaching and helping people work through the issues of life. To me all of that is spiritually rich and deeply satisfying.

And so, I was wilting. I felt like the prophet Jeremiah who was supposed to be speaking the words of God but was instead keeping them bottled up inside – soon it became like a burning in my bones. I had to let it out. I found myself mentally, emotionally, and especially spiritually, unfulfilled and it was because I wasn’t using my primary gifts from God. I’m a pretty good administrator and organizer if I need to be, but that’s not where my heart is – that’s not the most important thing God has wired me for.
That’s true for some of you too. You’re spending your life doing the wrong things, things that God has not primarily created you for. Consequently, you’re not really happy, not feeling fulfilled and satisfied.

I encourage you to give serious thought to how God has wired you. Look deep into your heart and explore what’s in there. Don’t keep it bottled up. Sooner or later what’s in there needs to be let out and when you do, you will flourish and experience great joy. You will be doing the thing that God created you for. Listen to your heart.

God Bless,
Pastor Jim

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Devotional for Wednesday July 17th

Good Morning Everyone,

Our theme for this month: “The Gift of Being Yourself”

Our Bible verse for today: “And he himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, equipping the saints for the work of ministry, to buildup the body of Christ.” Ephesians 4:11-12 (CSB)

Our thought for today: “Be who you are, not who you aren’t”

I’m not particularly good at receiving compliments. I like them as much as anyone (maybe I like them too much), but they make me uncomfortable. I get awkward and bumbling rather than receiving the compliment graciously. Sometimes when people compliment me on my preaching, teaching, or writing I jokingly dismiss it by saying “Yeah, but I can’t sing, dance, or play the tuba.”

Actually, I never wanted to play the tuba, but I did want to sing, dance, play the guitar, and write songs, and I spent many years trying. I took guitar lessons, I wrote songs, I sang songs, and yes, I tried to dance.  Unfortunately, I can’t dance two steps without tripping myself, and when I sing, I sound like a sick frog; my songs are silly and my guitar playing is mechanical and stiff (the boy’s got no rhythm).

I spent many years of my life trying hard to be someone I wasn’t (and feeling diminished because of it). Finally, I got it through my thick head that although God didn’t bless me with music ability and rhythm deep down in my soul, he did give me other talents and abilities which He wants me to focus on and use – He gave me the gifts of preaching, teaching, and writing. As one of my mentors (Pastor Eugene Peterson) used to say, “My artistic medium is words, written, and prayed, and preached.”

God has enabled me to write, preach, and teach. So rather than lament the fact that I can’t sing, dance, or play the tuba (and embarrassing myself in the process of trying), I focus instead on the things God has equipped me for, and I get great joy from doing so.

How about you? Are you spending a lot of time and energy trying to be someone you aren’t, someone God never intended you to be? Deep down in your heart what are the activities that bring you the most joy, the things you are passionate about and good at? As was noted yesterday, that’s a pretty good clue as to how God has wired you.

Don’t waste your time trying to be someone you’re not. Just be you. More about this tomorrow.

God Bless,
Pastor Jim

Copyright © 2019 Oak Hill Baptist Church, All rights reserved.
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Devotional for Tuesday July 17th

Good Morning Everyone,

 

Our theme for this month: “The Gift of Being Yourself”

 

Our Bible verse for today: “Now there are different gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different ministries, but the same Lord. And there are different activities, but the same God produces each gift in each person. A manifestation of the Spirit is given to each person for the common good.” 1 Corinthians 12:4-7 (CSB)

 

Our thought for today: “Pay attention to how God has created you.”

 

What do you truly love to do? What activities or tasks bring you fulfillment and satisfaction at a deep level? Pay attention to those feelings because that’s a pretty good indication of how God created you, and of what kind of things will bring you the most satisfaction and joy in life.

 

I know a young man who has been interested in dance since as far back in his life as he can remember. There was something deep inside of him that caused him to want to move with smooth fluid movements in time to music. As he was growing up and pursing his passion, he received a lot of ridicule for it from other kids and from some of his siblings. To his credit, he pursed it anyway and today he runs his own dance studio. I know another Christian young man who is a barber and a musician. He loves to cut hair and he loves to play his guitar, sing, and write songs. So that’s what he does for a living, he cuts hair and performs music. He followed his heart and he is thoroughly enjoying using the skills and talents the Lord has given him. Perhaps you remember the story of the Olympic runner Eric Liddell. He said that God created him to be fast. He loved to run and when he did, he believed he could sense the pleasure of God. Eric used his God-given athletic gift of speed to bring glory to God and to set an example for others.

 

I also know a man who is a skilled craftsman – he is a general handyman but he is especially gifted at carpentry. He is very good at those crafts and he enjoys doing them. But that’s not how he makes his living. Instead he does something he doesn’t really like very much and which he would prefer to not be doing. How sad. Far too many people go to work every day to a job they hate and meanwhile they have skills and abilities, given to them by God, things which they truly enjoy doing, but which they have failed to pursue and develop.

 

I encourage you to pay attention to how God has made you. Listen to your heart. God has given you passions, skills, and abilities and He wants you to use them. This is an important clue about what it means for you to just be you. We’ll think more about this tomorrow.

 

God Bless,

Pastor Jim

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Devotional for Saturday and Sunday June 13-14

Good Morning Everyone,

 

Our theme for this month: “The Gift of Being Yourself”

 

Our Bible verse for today: “Better one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.” Psalm 84:10 (NIV)

 

Our thought for today: “Humility and humor are wonderful virtues.”

 

Yesterday I told you about my old friends Dick and Jean DeGrow. Dick and Jean were two of the most relaxed, settled, and serene Christians I have ever had the pleasure to know. They were truly comfortable with themselves and with each other. Part of the winsomeness of their personalities came from the fact that they were both humble and they each had a wonderful sense of humor. But it was self-deprecating humor – they directed it mostly at themselves and at each other. They told jokes on themselves and they teased each other in a good natured way.

 

In terms of humility, Dick was an especially good example. He was a former Pastor but at 74 years old he served as a deacon, Sunday school teacher, and custodian in our church. One day I was in my office writing a sermon and Dick was at the church cleaning and emptying trash. At one point he stuck his head in the door and asked, “How’s my Pastor today, is there anything I can do for you?” I looked at him, smiled, and asked, “Dick, why do you serve as the custodian here? You’re a retired Pastor. You don’t need the money, and I could easily get someone else to do this. Why do you do it?” He looked at me and said, “Pastor, I would rather clean toilets in the house of the Lord than be the CEO of a big company.” Then he smiled and said, “You have a nice day” and he shuffled away to do the cleaning.

 

In terms of humor, Dick and Jean were hilarious – always cutting-up and always teasing each other. I mentioned yesterday that Dick loved his ice cream. Eating ice cream was a nightly ritual that he never missed. Once Linda and I were visiting with them, just shooting the breeze and enjoying each others company. At one point Dick mentioned to Jean (as he was eating ice cream) that he needed to buy some new pants because his old ones were getting a little tight. Jean told him that if he would lay-off the ice cream his old pants would fit just fine. Dick responded that eating ice cream was a spiritual discipline and it was helping him to get ready for heaven. Skeptical, Jean asked how eating ice cream could be a spiritual discipline and how it was getting him ready for heaven. Dick then informed her that in heaven ice cream is good for you and it’s broccoli that has all the calories! (I’m not sure how Dick knew that but he was a very spiritually mature man so I trust his insight!)

 

Humility and humor are endearing qualities in a person’s personality. When we’re able to be humble and when we easily engage in good-natured humor it’s a clear sign that we don’t take ourselves too seriously and we have learned to relax and lighten-up.

 

May you be humble and humorous today.

 

God Bless,

Pastor Jim

 

Copyright © 2019 Oak Hill Baptist Church, All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:

Oak Hill Baptist Church

3036 Genesis Road

Crossville, Tn 38571

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Devotional for Friday July 12th

Good Morning Everyone,

Our theme for this month: “The Gift of Being Yourself”

Our Bible verse for today: “I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows). John 10:10 (Amplified Bible)

Our thought for today: “Jesus offers you the gift of being your best self”

I’ve told the story before about a couple who were members of the first church I was the Pastor of in Spring Valley, CA back in the 1990s, Dick and Jean DeGrow. They were both in their 70s at the time and they had been married a very long time. Each of them individually was relaxed and calm, a person who was extremely comfortable in their own skin. Together as a couple they were a hoot. They fit together like hand in glove. They were completely at ease with each other, always teasing and cutting up, always smiling at each other, and often holding hands. They were lots of fun to be with.

Dick was a retired Pastor who served as a Sunday school teacher and deacon in our church, as well as the church custodian. He was my closest adviser in the church and he was also a mentor to me. After he died Jean and I became especially close. We used to have lunch together at her house every Thursday. Sometimes she would provide the food and sometimes I would stop at a deli on the way and get some sandwiches for us. She used to call me “her third son” and to me she was like a mother.

When I think of Christians who have matured nicely and who have truly learned how to be comfortable just being the person God has molded them into, I often think of Dick and Jean. They were both old and a little chunky (Dick loved his ice cream), and they didn’t have very much in terms of worldly wealth or possessions, but they sure were happy and content. They were comfortable and settled, serene and peaceful, content to just be themselves in Christ.

In John 10:10 Jesus told us that one of the reasons He came was so that we, His followers, could have true life and have it in abundance. There’s a double meaning there. In one sense He was talking about eternal life. But He was also talking about this life too. Jesus meant that He wants us to find peace and contentment, a full and enjoyable life now, through our relationship with Him.

The deep, settled, serene, and joyful life that Jesus was describing simply isn’t achieved through worldly achievements and possessions. Achievements and possessions have their place, they come to us as gifts from God, but that’s not where the real joy and abundance comes from. My friends Dick and Jean modeled that truth beautifully. Jesus offers us the gift of being our best selves, through our relationship with Him. We’ll think some more about this tomorrow.

God Bless,
Pastor Jim

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