Learn to be calm and stay tough

Good Morning Everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Stay strong”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “Consider it great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4 (CSB)
 
Our thought for today: “Learn to be calm and stay tough”
 
This morning I want to continue thinking about our example from yesterday regarding Prince Philip and the fact that everyone who knew him considered him to be a pillar of strength, fortitude, and calmness. How did he get that way? How did he achieve the ability to handle trials, troubles, and tough situations with a in a calm, cool, clear-headed way?
 
He learned it. It was a developed and nurtured character trait. Part of it was the old British “stiff upper lip” thing. Part of it also came from his training as a military officer. In the military, officers are trained in the technique of “command presence”. It’s the ability to project a calm and cool demeanor and a sense of being in control in the middle of difficult and even crisis situations. So as a young officer Philip would have been trained to think and act that way. But of course, the primary source of that calm, cool, clear-headed sense of confidence and control came from his faith in God. Prince Philip was a man of deep faith. He committed those situations to God in prayer and then he resolved to “stay calm and carry on”.
 
Another important insight comes from the Apostle James in James 1:2-4 (above). James teaches that we learn to be calm and tough by being calm and tough. In other words, when we’re faced with difficult situations and we handle them well, we will then handle such situations even better in the future. Those experiences make us stronger. That’s why James begins that lesson by telling us to “Consider it great joy … when you experience various trials …” It’s because the experience of that trial can and will make you stronger and tougher. That then will make you even more confident in handling similar situations in the future.
 
We learn to be calm and tough by being calm and tough when it matters most. That happens when you face your problems head-on, commit them to the Lord in prayer, and then just deal with it.
 
We can all learn to be calm and tough even in the most difficult of situations.
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim
Copyright © 2021 Oak Hill Baptist Church, All rights reserved.

Stay calm and carry on

Good Morning Everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Stay strong”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 (CSB)
 
Our thought for today: “Stay calm and carry on”
 
The other day they buried Prince Philip, the husband of the Queen of England. He was 99 years old and they were married for 73 years. I’ve never been a big fan of British royalty but I did have great admiration for Prince Philip. In addition to being a military man and a war hero, he was a pillar of strength and support for the Queen. He was also a kind and compassionate man of good humor and sharp wit.
 
But another thing he was known for was his calm and stoic demeanor in the face of great trials and struggles. When faced with tough times he was unfazed and unruffled. He didn’t scare easily; he was not intimidated or flustered; and he didn’t give-in to panic. Even if in his mind he was concerned and troubled, his outward demeanor was one of calmness and control. And, Philip was a man of deep faith. He would tell you that his faith in the Lord was the most important thing about him.
 
One of Philip’s favorite sayings, and one he offered to others as a bit of helpful advice was, “Stay calm and carry on.” That’s it. Just keep your head, don’t panic, don’t give-in to extreme thinking, and just keep doing what you’re supposed to be doing.
 
I’ve known other people like that. Military officers, Navy Seals, emergency medical personnel, and many average Christians who had that unique ability to keep their heads and to stay calm despite the difficult situations they found themselves in.
 
This is the lesson Paul teaches in Philippians 4:6-7 (above). Regardless of what you’re facing, commit it to the Lord in prayer, draw your strength and courage from Him, and then stay calm and carry on. Refuse to be ruffled or intimidated. Don’t give-in to fear or panic. Especially don’t allow extreme thoughts or doomsday thinking to take over in your head.
 
Whatever it is you find yourself faced with today, I encourage you to bring it to the Lord in prayer and then “stay calm and carry on”.
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim  
Copyright © 2021 Oak Hill Baptist Church, All rights reserved.

Leave happiness and blessings in your wake

Good Morning Everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Stay strong”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act. Don’t say to your neighbor, “Come back later; I’ll give it tomorrow” – when you now have it with you.” Proverbs 3:27-28 (NIV)
 
Our thought for today: “Leave happiness and blessings in your wake.”
 
I’ve mentioned in several other daily devotionals that a friend recently gave me a little book of prayers from the Puritans, all of which were written in the 1600s. I’ve been using it in my own quiet time each morning and I’ve discovered those prayers to be deep and rich. Very helpful.
 
In one of those prayers the writer was visualizing himself proceeding through his day. He asked the Lord to help him remain attentive to the people around him, and to focus on being a blessing, help, and encouragement to them. Here are a few lines from that prayer:
 
“O Lord … help me to live circumspectly, with skill to convert every care into prayer.
Halo my path with gentleness and love, smooth every asperity of temper; let me not forget how easy it is to occasion grief; may I strive to bind up every wound, and pour oil on all troubled waters.
May the world this day be happier and better because I live.”
 
“May the world this day be happier and better because I live.” Amen! May that be true of all of us as well. The world should be a happier and better place because the followers of Jesus are in it. In another of those prayers the writer reflectively questioned himself by asking, “As I pass through life do I leave happiness and blessings in my wake?”
 
This is what Solomon was getting at in Proverbs 3:27-28 (above). If you can bless somebody, then bless them. Why would you not? If you can smile, then smile. If you can help, then help. If you can offer a word of encouragement, then do it.
 
However, beyond just making someone else’s day better by doing that, we actually make our own day better too.  Psychologists tell us that one of the most effective things a depressed person can do in order to begin feeling better is to take their eyes off of themselves and their own problems, and find ways to help and bless other people. Taking our eyes off of ourselves and focusing on others instead actually makes us feel better, and our own problems become easier to handle. We end up stronger and happier because we focused on others instead of on ourselves.
 
Let’s take our eyes off of ourselves and stay focused on blessing others. May it be true of you today that as you pass through this day you leave happiness and blessings in your wake. Other people will be better off as a result, and so will you.
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim
Copyright © 2021 Oak Hill Baptist Church, All rights reserved.

Fellowship makes us stronger

Good Morning Everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Stay strong”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” Psalm 122:1 (CSB)
 
Our thought for today: “Fellowship makes us stronger”
 
When I think about how important it is for Christians to be part of a good church family and to faithfully attend the gatherings of the church, my thoughts often go to Psalm 122:1. There we read of King David expressing the joy he experienced at the thought of joining with his brothers and sisters as they gathered together in the house of the Lord.
 
Why did the thought of going to church elicit such feelings of joy and eager expectation in David? Because gathering with the faithful was such a renewing and uplifting experience for him. David was a man after God’s own heart. He certainly had lots of private worship times when it was just him and God, but gathering with others in corporate praise and worship was worship on another level. David was stronger and better for having been a part of it.
 
In the first church I was the Pastor of (Bancroft Baptist in Spring Valley, CA), there was a couple named Bob and Carol. By the time I got to know them Bob was already dying from emphysema. He was on oxygen 24/7, needed assistance with most basic life tasks, and went everywhere in a wheelchair. But Bob and Carol were there virtually every Sunday no matter what.
 
Once, Carol explained to me how labor-intensive it was to get Bob ready for church and to actually get him there at all. It was exhausting for him and for her. But they did it every Sunday anyway because it was such an important part of their week. They both told me that gathering with their church family on Sunday morning was the best part of the week for them because it was so encouraging and uplifting. That then prepared them for the rest of the week.
 
As Bob’s disease progressed it required more and more effort on both of their parts to be there on Sunday. But they were there, right up until a few weeks before Bob died. At that point he simply couldn’t get out of bed anymore and so, I brought church to them by going to visit in their home. We would talk about the songs we sang, the main points of the sermon, and about things going on in the life of the church. To his dying day church attendance was important to Bob. It made him better. It made him stronger.
 
That should be true for all of us as well. I encourage you not to miss the gatherings of your church family. Your church is a gift to you from God. We’re better together. We’re stronger together.
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim  
Copyright © 2021 Oak Hill Baptist Church, All rights reserved.

The Bible is transformational

Good Morning Everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Stay strong”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12 (NIV)
 
Our thought for today: “The Bible is transformational”
 
Many years ago, while still a seminary student, I was introduced to a book by Dr. Haddon W. Robinson that ultimately determined the course of my preaching ministry. The book was “Biblical Preaching: The Development and Delivery of Expository Messages.” In that book, Dr. Robinson put forth a method of writing and delivering sermons which made perfect sense to me, and from which I’ve never departed.
 
Robinson begins with what he calls “The Big Idea”. What is the main theme of the passage before us? That then becomes the focus of the sermon. Then the main theme is broken down into easily manageable sub-points, each of which supports and explains the big idea. Then, as you are researching and writing your sermon, you do so with three primary questions in mind which must be asked and answered in your sermon – What does the text say? What does it mean?” and How does it apply?
 
That last question, the application, is crucial. More than just being informational, the Bible is intended by God to be transformational. More than just telling us things about God and about ourselves, the intent of the Bible is to transform us. It’s a tool used by the Holy Spirit to mold us and shape us into the individuals God intends for us to be. Its lessons apply to our lives. We don’t study the Bible so we can know more, we study it so we can become more.  
 
This is exactly the point being made in Eugene Peterson’s great little book “Eat this book: A conversation in the art of spiritual reading.” We must internalize the Word of God into the very fiber of our being so that it determines not just what we know, but rather, who we become.
 
As disciples of Christ seeking transformation and spiritual growth, we should come to our time of Bible study or listening to a sermon with the question in mind, “How should this be shaping me?” understanding that God’s primary purpose in giving us the Bible was not just to inform us but to change us.
 
I encourage you to thoughtfully and prayerfully apply yourself as you study the Bible and listen to sermons. As Hebrews 4:12 teaches, seek to allow the Word of God to penetrate deeply into your heart, into the very marrow of your bones. The Bible should be, and is intended by God to be, transformational. Your study of it should make you better; it should make you stronger.
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim
Copyright © 2021 Oak Hill Baptist Church, All rights reserved.

Eat this book

Good Morning Everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Stay strong”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, ‘Take and eat it; it will be bitter in your stomach, but it will be as sweet as honey in your mouth. Then I took the little scroll from the angel’s hand and ate it.” Revelation 10:9-10 (CSB)
 
Our thought for today: “Eat this book”
 
In recent days we’ve considering the importance of staying spiritually strong so we will be ready to meet the trials and tribulations we all inevitably have to deal with in life. In a previous devotional I said that as important and helpful as good health and physical strength is, spiritual strength is actually our greatest asset. Therefore, doing the things necessary to get and stay spiritually strong is an essential factor in living the Christian life well.
 
I’m currently reading an interesting little book by one of my favorite authors, Pastor Eugene Peterson. The title is, “Eat this book: A conversation in the art of spiritual reading”. The idea is based on three instances in Scripture when a man of God was instructed to “eat” a holy scroll. Those would be Ezekiel in Ezekiel 2:8; Jeremiah in Jeremiah 15:16; and the Apostle John in Revelation 10:9. “Eat this” of course, was metaphor. They were not really chewing on parchment and swallowing the pulp. Instead, they were to take what was written on the divinely inspired holy document, internalize it, and then think and act accordingly. About this Peterson writes:
 
“Christians feed on Scripture. Holy Scripture nurtures the holy community as food nurtures the human body. Christians don’t simply learn or study or use Scripture; we assimilate it, take it into our lives in such a way that it gets metabolized into acts of love, cups of cold water, missions into all the world, healing and evangelism and justice in Jesus’ name, hands raised in adoration of the Father, feet washed in company with the Son.”
 
Just as the food our body consumes is internalized, metabolized, converted into energy, and produces physical activity, our study of the Bible should have the same spiritual impact on us. Peterson goes on, “Eating a book takes it all in, assimilating it into the tissues of our lives. Readers become what they read. If Holy Scripture is to be something other than mere gossip about God, it must be internalized.
 
Readers become what they read.” I love that statement. If we truly do consume and internalize the Word of God it will determine not just how we think and what we say and how we act, but it will determine who we become.
 
Yes, by all means, eat this book.
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim
Copyright © 2021 Oak Hill Baptist Church, All rights reserved.

Don’t be your own biggest problem

Good Morning Everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Stay strong”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “I am sure of this, that he who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6 (CSB)
 
Our thought for today: “Don’t be your own biggest problem”
 
Without question, I am my own biggest problem. I cause more trouble for myself than ten enemies combined ever could. Even Satan and all the demons are not as big a problem for me as I am for myself. They can’t force me to do anything. They can suggest, lie, mislead, and entice but ultimately, I’m the one who makes the decisions and takes the actions. And what dumb stuff I sometimes say and do! Yup, I’m my own biggest problem.  And you are yours.
 
I often provide pastoral counseling for people struggling with a wide variety of life issues. Many times (perhaps the majority) the individual is convinced that the source of their problems lies outside of themselves. Their spouse is cranky and difficult; their kids are disobedient and rebellious; their boss is a jerk, their friends have let them down, the price of gas is too high, and the universe is aligned against them. You’ve heard the story before. You’ve probably told it a time or two.
 
Usually, people in that frame of mind are convinced that the solution to their problems will be found in a change of behavior by other people; or with a change of jobs; or perhaps a change of geography. The problem with that thinking is revealed in the old adage, “Wherever you go, there you are.” In other words, you take yourself with you wherever you go, and you will be the same person in your new circumstances that you were in your old circumstances. So, if you were the problem in Detroit, you will still be the problem in Denver.
 
In Philippians 1:6 the Apostle Paul was making reference to the Biblical doctrine of progressive sanctification. It’s the understanding that over the course of our lives, the Holy Spirit works in us to slowly mold us and shape us into the person God wants us to be. It’s a lifelong process that should result in ever-increasing spiritual maturity, along with the associated improvement in our thinking and behaviors. It’s the work of the Holy Spirit.
 
However, we have a role to play in that process. We have to cooperate with Him by placing ourselves in a position whereby He can have unfettered access to our mind and heart. That’s when He can do the work He wants to do in our lives. You can resist Him or you can cooperate with Him, and which it is will go a long way towards determining how much spiritual maturity you experience, and how fast.
 
Circumstances and other people may in fact be part of your problem, but the most important and consequential part of every situation is how you choose to deal with it. It’s a matter of how you decide to think and act in that situation and your spiritual maturity, your strength in Christ, will determine that.
 
Don’t be your own biggest problem. Cooperate with the Spirit by practicing the basic disciplines of the Christian faith (prayer, Bible study, worship, etc.) so that the He can progressively transform you into an increasingly mature and strong person.
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim  
Copyright © 2021 Oak Hill Baptist Church, All rights reserved.

Stay spiritually strong

Good morning everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Stay strong”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 (CSB)
 
Our thought for today: “Stay spiritually strong”
 
Recently I had a serious health scare. During my annual physical, lab results came back with blood markers indicating I could have a treatable but incurable form of cancer. Further testing by my primary care physician seemed to confirm it. He said I needed to see an oncologist. Unfortunately, there was a three-week delay between the time I was referred to the oncologist until I actually got to see him. Three weeks is a long time to spend inside your head dealing with what-ifs and unknowns about a potentially life-threatening disease.
 
My entire adult life I have made it a point to stay healthy and physically fit, and I was glad that I did. At least I would be going into this healthy and strong. But as helpful as that might be, I knew it would be even more important to be spiritually strong. If the test results were accurate, spiritual strength was going to be my greatest asset. I was going to have to lean hard on God. And I did. During those three weeks I prayed more than usual, I recited a lot of Scripture, and I determined to trust the Lord. I was still concerned, but I also had a sense of peace about it. Regardless of how this went, God would be with me through it (Joshua 1:9).
 
As it turned out, more detailed testing by the oncologist revealed better news than I was expecting. He said that the majority of people who come to him with those markers in their blood do in fact have bone marrow cancer. But he also said that every once-in-a-while he gets a patient (like me), who has the markers but not the cancer. It’s a pre-cancerous condition in the bone marrow. He said that some of those people have ultimately progressed to the cancer itself, but many have not. He feels that the odds are in my favor. So now I simply have to repeat the labs every six months and be monitored for the condition.
 
I’m grateful to the Lord for the reprieve, but I’m also grateful for the lesson this reinforced for me. Spiritual strength is our greatest asset. That’s true at all times, but it’s especially true when we’re faced with an actual or potential crisis. It has been rightly said that the most debilitating form of weakness is not physical weakness but spiritual weakness, and the greatest form of strength is spiritual strength not physical strength. That is without question true.  
 
I encourage all of us to take good care of ourselves. Stay as physically strong as you can for as long as you can. But much more important than that is to do the things necessary to stay spiritually strong. We need to stay strong so we’re ready to face the trials that life will ultimately bring to all of us.  
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim
Copyright © 2021 Oak Hill Baptist Church, All rights reserved.

Don’t worry, trust God

Good Morning Everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Stay strong”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.” Matthew 6:33 (CSB)
 
Our thought for today: “Don’t worry, trust God”
 
Are you familiar with the “Do not worry” portion of the Sermon on the Mount? It’s my wife’s favorite passage. It’s found in Matthew 6:25-34. There Jesus teaches more about the subject we considered in yesterday’s devotional regarding the sovereignty of God. In that devotional we learned that not only does God rule and reign over all creation, and not only does He have power and full control over all things, but God is also good and merciful and compassionate. He loves us more than we know and He is always seeking the best for us.
 
So, in the “Do not worry” passage, Jesus tells us not to worry about our life, or about what we will eat or drink or wear. He points out that our sovereign, loving, compassionate Father in heaven even looks out for and provides for the birds of the air, and that we are much more important to Him than are birds and other lesser forms of His creation. Jesus assures us that God knows everything about all that is going on in our lives and that He is committed to caring for us and providing for us. Therefore, we don’t need to worry. Instead, as verse 33 tells us, “… seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.” The Old Testament prophet Isaiah said the same thing in a slightly different way. In Isaiah 26:3 he wrote, “He will keep in perfect peace the one whose mind is stayed on Him, because he trusts in you.”
 
Pastor and author Chuck Swindoll once observed, “God takes care of His own. He knows our needs. He anticipates our crises. He is moved by our weaknesses. He stands ready to come to our rescue. And at just the right moment, He steps in and proves Himself as our faithful heavenly Father.
 
My word of encouragement for you this morning is, “Don’t worry, trust God.” Keep your mind focused on Him. Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and then just trust Him. You will be stronger for doing so.
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim
Copyright © 2021 Oak Hill Baptist Church, All rights reserved.

Trusting in God’s sovereignty makes us strong

Good Morning Everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Stay strong”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 (CSB)
 
Our thought for today: “Trusting in God’s sovereignty makes us strong.”
 
The doctrine of the sovereignty of God is broad, sweeping, and all-encompassing. It means that God is supreme – He is the creator, sustainer, and ruler of all creation. But it’s also more than that. God is everywhere (omnipresent); He knows everything (omniscient); and He is all-powerful (omnipotent). That means that there is nothing in all creation that He is not aware of and which He does not have control over. That includes all the situations of your life and mine. There will never be anything going on in your life that God is not aware of, and which He doesn’t have full control over.
 
Beyond that, God is good and loving. He is also kind, compassionate, merciful, and He is always seeking the best for us. Combine those attributes with His sovereign rule over your life, and we begin to understand what Paul is telling us in Romans 8:28. Whatever is going on in your life at this moment God is there, He is at work in the middle of it, and He will use that situation to bring some good thing out of it. That doesn’t mean that the thing itself is good. It may not be. But it does mean that God is at work behind the scenes and in the middle of it to bring good things out of it.
 
When we come to the point that we understand the full scope of God’s sovereignty, along with His tremendous love for us and His infinite goodness, we realize that we can trust Him with our situations. Then, if we will release the situation to Him and trust Him with the outcome, we will find peace about it, and that will make us stronger.
 
Many years ago I was at a large international missions conference as a representative of the mission organization I was on staff at. It was a dark time in my personal life. There were complicated issues that were weighing heavily on me. At one point, as I was on a break from my duties at our booth in the resource/display area, I wandered into the host church and discovered they had set-up a prayer-walk (sort of a thematic maze that led you from station-to-station, each with a focal point of prayer). The entire thing was designed with people like me in mind, people who had a burden they needed to let go of. At one station there was a cross with medium-sized stones at the foot of it. A bin to the side of the cross contained more stones. The instructions at the station were to pray about the burden you were carrying, consider it in light of the sovereignty of God, and then, as an act of faith and trust, take one of the stones out of the bin and lay it at the cross as a symbol of releasing that burden (and the outcome) to God.
 
I did, and I was amazed at the sudden wave of relief I felt. So much so that I took another of those stones and brought it home with me to serve as a reminder to trust God for the outcome of this particular situation, and for all my situations. (To this day that stone sits on a shelf in my office. I’m looking at it now as I write this.)
 
Trusting in God’s sovereign goodness will bring peace and relief, and it also makes us strong. I encourage you to trust Him today with whatever difficult thing you are dealing with.
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim
Copyright © 2021 Oak Hill Baptist Church, All rights reserved.