Devotional for Monday November 30th

Good Morning Everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Be thankful”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” Acts 14:17 (NIV)
 
Our thought for today: “Practice being thankful.”
 
I believe most of us are pretty good about thanking God for the big things in life. We thank Him for our family and for our home, for our income and for our health, etc. But we’re probably not as good at remembering to thank Him for the smaller things like each new day; or for the flowers and for eyesight to see them with; or for the song of the birds and the sense of hearing so we can hear them; or for a thousand other smaller things that we routinely take for granted.
 
Billy Graham once suggested that we cultivate a spirit of thankfulness by establishing contrasts in our mind about the things that we should be thankful for but which we commonly take for granted. When you sit down for a meal, remember that half the people in the world will go to bed hungry tonight. When you enjoy the comfort of your home, remember that millions are homeless. When you ride in your car, think about all those who can’t even afford a bicycle. When you gather in your church for worship, remember your Christian brothers and sisters in other places around the world who must meet in secret and who place their lives at risk for even owning a Bible.
 
Likewise, when you pause to admire a beautiful sunset, think of those who are blind and thank God that you can see. When you take that walk around the block today, remember those who can’t walk and be grateful that you can. When you pour that second cup of coffee this morning, think about those who would love to have a first cup but can’t because they don’t own a coffee pot, because they don’t have a home to put a coffee pot in, and thank God for your home, and for the coffee pot, and for the coffee.
 
My prayer is that this month of devotional thinking about the spiritual discipline of being thankful has helped us to develop more of a thankful disposition. God has blessed us beyond measure. We have so much to be thankful for! I encourage you to spend some extra time in prayer today just thanking God for all He has blessed you with.
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim
Copyright © 2020 Oak Hill Baptist Church, All rights reserved.

Devotional for Saturday and Sunday November 28-29

Good Morning Everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Be thankful”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and bless his name.” Psalm 100:4 (CSB)
 
Our thought for today: “Be thankful for your church”
 
I once heard a church derisively referred to as “Six Flags over Jesus”. It was a reference to the amusement park chain known as “Six Flags over New Jersey” or “Six Flags over Georgia” or “Six Flags over Texas”. In this case the reference was to a mega-church that had a huge multi-million-dollar church campus that happened to sit on a hill and did in fact have numerous flags flying on very high flag poles. In this person’s estimation it was “Six Flags over Jesus”, a religious amusement park.
 
In my mind I contrast that with a worship service where I had been invited to preach in Haiti a few years ago. It was a congregation of about 3000 people. Their church building had been partially destroyed by an earthquake a few years earlier and they didn’t have the funds to repair it. Part of the roof was missing and was covered in tarps. Some of the concrete walls had been reduced to rubble. Much of the “sanctuary” was open to the elements, wind and rain could easily enter. But it didn’t seem to matter. The people gathered with joy and enthusiasm. There were smiles and animated conversations, there was loud singing, lots of amens! and halleluiahs, and there was enthusiastic worship all around.
 
That scene helped to remind me that church isn’t about the building it’s about the people. It doesn’t matter where you gather, just as long as you gather with a joyful spirit and a heart that is ready to praise God. Many people read David’s statement in Psalm 100:4 and assume he was writing about entering the gates of the Temple complex, and praising your way into the inner courts of the Temple. That could be one application of the verse, but I think the larger reference is about God’s people entering into His presence with praise and thanksgiving. The “gates” and the “courts” being referred to in that verse are spiritual not physical.
 
I suspect that when you gather with your church family tomorrow it won’t be at Six Flags over Jesus, or in a partially demolished building like the one in Haiti, but probably something in-between those two extremes. However, it shouldn’t matter. If the spirit of the people is right then you are going to participate in a wonderful worship experience regardless of the physical location.
 
Regardless of the kind of facility you meet in, if you have a church family that truly enters into the presence of the Lord with joy and thanksgiving, you have much to be grateful for and I encourage you to be thankful for your church.
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim
Copyright © 2020 Oak Hill Baptist Church, All rights reserved.

Devotional for Friday November 27th

Good Morning Everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Be thankful”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “I know both how to make do with little, and I know how to make do with a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content – whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need.” Philippians 4:12 (CSB)
 
Our thought for today: “Learn to be content”
 
Yesterday we celebrated Thanksgiving. Presumably we all paused to consider how blessed we are and we gave thanks to God for it. That’s good. Periodically we should pause to give thanks. It’s a healthy exercise because it requires us to focus on what we do have rather than on what we don’t have, and it indicates at least some level of contentment and thanksgiving for it.
 
We should do this more often. The Apostle Paul did. He had the habit of devotionally considering the many ways God had blessed him, and then he gave thanks for those blessings. As a result, he remained focused on what he had rather than on what he didn’t have, and that then developed within him a great sense of contentment. That’s what he was writing about in Philippians 4:12.
 
But the attribute of contentment didn’t develop automatically in Paul. As he explained in that verse, he had “learned” the secret of being content. It was an attribute he wanted to have and so he studied it, prayed about it, practiced it, and slowly over time developed it. He “learned” how to be content. We need to learn this too, and the practice of giving thanks for what we have is a great way to learn it. It is perhaps the only way to learn it.
 
What’s especially intriguing about Paul’s declaration of contentment is that the letter to the Philippians was written from a prison cell near the end of his life. Paul had suffered greatly for the cause of Christ over many decades of faithful service and now he was a sick old man, in prison, and probably close to being executed. And he knew it. Yet in the middle of that, he wrote this joyful letter which God included in the New Testament and which has come to be known as “The Epistle of Joy”.
 
Paul’s secret? He learned to be content. He trained himself to be content and he did it by routinely pausing to give thanks to God for everything. He made it a habit to always focus on what he had rather than on what he didn’t have and he gave thanks for it. May we learn to do the same. Let’s train ourselves to be content.
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim
Copyright © 2020 Oak Hill Baptist Church, All rights reserved.

Devotional for Thursday November 26th

Good Morning Everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Be thankful”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16 (CSB)
 
Our thought for today: “Give thanks”
 
One of the first thanksgiving celebrations in America was celebrated by the Pilgrims in Plymouth Massachusetts in the autumn of 1621. At that time the small group of settlers were still struggling to survive in the new world and their future was uncertain. Many had perished already; they had little in terms of provisions or security; and they were facing what promised to be a harsh winter. But still, they gave thanks to God.
 
Thanksgiving Day became an official national holiday in the USA in November 1863. It was at that time, in the midst of a bloody Civil War, that President Abraham Lincoln called the nation together for a day of thanksgiving and he declared that from that year forward the fourth Thursday in November would be an annual national day of Thanksgiving. Once again, thanksgiving was offered to God in the middle of great suffering and uncertainty.
 
In 1 Thessalonians 5:16 the Apostle Paul urged his readers to give thanks in everything. Interestingly, Paul wrote that letter to Christians who were faced with opposition and persecution for their faith. Life in Thessalonica wasn’t easy for Christians at that time and yet, Paul urged them to rejoice and give thanks anyway.
 
Gratitude is one of the greatest Christian virtues. Being thankful in the midst of adversity, and focusing on what you have rather than what you don’t have, is a sign of spiritual maturity.
 
On this Thanksgiving Day 2020 our nation is struggling. We’re still dealing with the COVID pandemic; many of our cities are seething with social unrest; we just came through a bitterly fought Presidential election whose outcome is still being contested; the economy is weak and many are out of work; in many ways our nation is divided – there’s a lot of anger and bitterness between groups; and, worse, there doesn’t seem to be an end to it all in sight right now. So, most of us are weary of it all and are longing for relief.
 
So, perhaps on this Thanksgiving it’s more important than ever for us to be intentionally thankful. It’s true that things are tough, but God is sovereign; Jesus is still on the throne; you are still saved; and we are all still very blessed. As difficult as things may seem right now, we still have much to be thankful for.
 
Personally, I’m thankful for you. You are friends and church family and faithful readers of these daily devotionals, and I thank God that you are part of my life. My family and I wish you and yours a blessed and joyful Thanksgiving celebration today.
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim  
Copyright © 2020 Oak Hill Baptist Church, All rights reserved.

Devotional for Wednesday November 25th

Good Morning Everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Be thankful”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “The one who walks with the wise will become wise …” Proverbs 13:20 (CSB)
 
Our thought for today: “Thank God for the wise people He has put into your life”
 
There’s a man in our church who is fond of telling stories about his grandfather. His grandfather was a faithful man of God who was very wise and who invested a lot of time into his relationship with his grandson. The grandfather was a quiet man of strong faith and as he spent time with his grandson, he taught and modeled lessons about how a Christian man conducts himself.
 
As the man remembers and tells those stories, you can hear the love and admiration he has for his grandpa to this day. The grandfather obviously had a profound influence on the grandson, and important values were imparted in the process.
 
There’s a basic truth about human nature that over time we become like those we associate with. In Proverbs 13:20 wise King Solomon tells us that if you want to become wise, spend time with those who are wise. But that’s just one half of the verse. The entire thing reads, “The one who walks with the wise will become wise, but a companion of fools will suffer harm.” This is similar to what the Apostle Paul would write almost 1000 years later in 1 Corinthians 15:33 where he cautions us, “Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character.”
 
The truth is that we become like those we associate with and therefore we have to choose our friends and associates carefully. Find people you admire and who you would like to be more like, and spend time with them. The man in the example I cited above admired his grandfather and wanted to be like him. So, he made it a point to spend a lot of time with him and in many ways, he did become like him. The attributes he so lovingly remembers about his grandfather can also be seen in his own life.
 
I encourage you to spend some time today thinking about the wise men and women God has put into your life in the past, and those who are still there today. Thank Him for them; consider how you might be able to become more like them; and, if they are still in your life today, consider spending more time with them.
 
Those who walk with the wise become wise.
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim
Copyright © 2020 Oak Hill Baptist Church, All rights reserved.

Devotional for Tuesday November 24th

Good Morning Everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Be thankful”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a difficult time.” Proverbs 17:17 (CSB)
 
Our thought for today: “Be thankful for friends”
 
Do you have friends? I’m not talking about acquaintances. I’m not asking if you know a lot of people. I’m not even asking if you have friendly relationships with people. I’m asking if you have real friends. People you are comfortable with, who you enjoy being with, and with whom you know it’s safe to be completely open, honest, and transparent. And beyond that, people you know with certainly will be there for you in a time of need. Do you have real friends like that?
 
Most of the people we know don’t fall into that category. Many people have nobody like that in their lives at all. That’s especially true for men. Most men have guy-friends that they sometimes do things with, but few men have real friends at the level I’m talking about. Sadly, there are also people who don’t even have friends of the lesser-degree either with whom they socialize and do things. 
 
I believe there are several important prerequisites when it comes to establishing, nurturing, and keeping friendships. First, you need to try to be the kind of person that other people can be friendly with. Some people make it hard for others to get close to them. They’re cold, withdrawn, and aloof. Sometimes they have a sandpaper personality that includes being snarky, sarcastic, and critical. If that describes you, you will probably find that people don’t enjoy being around you. Coming to faith in Christ and allowing the Holy Spirit to begin transforming you into the person God wants you to be will go a long way towards making you more approachable for other people. Also, the old classic “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie has helped millions of people to improve their basic interpersonal communication skills.
 
Second, go to places where people are friendly and prone to be welcoming and inclusive. A warm and friendly church would certainly fit that description. Third, there’s an old saying that goes “In order to have a friend you have to be a friend.” In other words, rather than waiting for other people to reach out to you, you need to reach out to other people. Instead of waiting for someone to be your friend, go make an effort to be someone else’s friend.
 
Good friendships add depth and richness to life. The more real friendships you have the more blessed you will be. Thank God for the friendships you have and be sure you don’t take them for granted. Do the hard work to develop them, and then do what it takes to keep them strong.
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim
Copyright © 2020 Oak Hill Baptist Church, All rights reserved.

Devotional for Monday November 23rd

Good Morning Everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Be thankful”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. He comforts us in our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (CSB)
 
Our thought for today: “Thank God for His help and comfort.”
 
Almost fourteen years ago, when my wife had a major stroke that almost killed her, we learned an important lesson about the ways in which God ministers to us in times of trouble. Once we learned that Linda would in fact survive her stroke but with major disabilities, our thoughts then turned to what the weeks, months, and years ahead were going to look like and how we would be able to handle all the many challenges we would be faced with.
 
One of the best pieces of advice we received during that time was, “The primary way God brings His help to us in times of crisis is through other Christians. People will step-up and offer to help. Let them. Accept the help that is offered”. We quickly discovered the wisdom in that.
 
But doing so isn’t easy. We Americans are fiercely independent – sometimes to our own disadvantage. We live in the land of John Wayne and Rambo. We pride ourselves on being strong, brave, capable, and self-reliant. After all, Rambo could live off the land and eat things that would make a Billy Goat puke. And so, we get thick-headed, stubborn, prideful. We don’t want to appear weak or in need of anyone’s help.
 
But God doesn’t want us to be prideful, stubborn, and thick-headed. He doesn’t want us to eat things that would make a Billy Goat puke. Instead of being self-reliant He wants us to be God-reliant. He wants us to be humble and to rely on Him. And so, when life is hard and we are struggling and calling out to Him in our secret prayers, He will answer. He will help. But usually He will help in a not-so-secret, often somewhat public way. He will bring us the help we need, but it will usually come to us from the hands of other people. Then the question becomes, “Are you humble enough to let other people help you?” God will help, but He will probably do it through people.
 
I encourage all of us to spend some time this morning thanking God for His peace, comfort, and help during the times in the past when life has been hard. Thank Him specifically for the people He used and for their willingness to be of service in that way. Then, trust Him for the future.
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim
Copyright © 2020 Oak Hill Baptist Church, All rights reserved.

Devotional for Saturday and Sunday November 21-22

Good Morning Everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Be thankful”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “Why, O Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” Job 10:1
 
Our thought for today: “Thank God that you can be honest with Him.”
 
One of the things I have always appreciated about Billy Graham’s approach to ministry is that in his preaching, teaching, and writing he spoke to the issues of life that all of us deal with. His messages were always very contemporary and applicable to real life. So, this morning I’m going to borrow, in its entirety, a devotional message from Billy regarding the freedom we have to simply be honest with God during those times when we’re struggling in life. Referring to Job’s complaint to God in Job 10:1 (cited above), Billy wrote:
 
You can understand Job’s bitterness; he had lost everything – family, possessions, health, even his friends. But the hardest blow of all was that he couldn’t understand why the God he had worshiped and served so faithfully had done this to him.
Have you ever felt this way toward God? Life can be hard, and sometimes it leaves us confused, or even angry and bitter. And like Job, you may have told God exactly how you felt. And why not? He already knew your mind and heart, and he doesn’t want us to pretend that everything is all right when it isn’t. He didn’t chastise Job for his honesty; He understood his heartache, just as He understands ours – and He still loved Job, just as He still loves us.
But Job didn’t just keep complaining (as we’re prone to do). Instead, he turned toward God in faith, and in time, God gave him comfort and peace. Not all his questions were answered – but he realized that God can be trusted, even when we don’t understand. May this be true of you.”
 
Thank God that you can be honest with Him. Tell Him how you feel and then trust Him to help you deal with it.
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim
Copyright © 2020 Oak Hill Baptist Church, All rights reserved.

Devotional for Friday November 20th

Good Morning Everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Be thankful”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.” Matthew 6:31-33 (CSB)
 
Our thought for today: “Thank God for meeting your needs”
 
As prosperous as America is, there’s poverty in our nation too. Not everyone is doing well. We have a homeless crisis. We have families living below the poverty level. Most schools provide free breakfast and lunches because so many children are not well-fed at home. There are regions in our nation, such as Appalachia and Native American communities, where poverty is deep and systemic. Despite our abundance of provisions overall, there are great needs as well.
 
But fortunately, most of us do have our basic needs adequately met. Most of us do have decent housing, sufficient food to eat, and at least a modest income. That right there puts us at a level substantially above many millions of others around the world and we should be thankful to God for it. Even if you don’t live in a posh neighborhood in a home filled with expensive furniture and large pantries overflowing with food, if your basic needs are adequately met then you are blessed.
 
Beyond that, for those who are struggling, we’re fortunate to live in a nation with a substantial safety-net and lots of helping resources. Beginning with homeless shelters and food banks; extending to food stamps, government subsidized housing, and income assistance; to unemployment benefits, job training programs, tuition assistance, and so much more, ours is a society that places a heavy emphasis on helping those who are struggling.
 
In a previous devotional I mentioned that the USA is the most generous nation in the world. That’s true. But what you may not know is that approximately 80% of our charitable dollars are directed to helping our own population. We’re already the most affluent nation in the world, and we are the most charitable, but the overwhelming majority of our charity is spent on ourselves. I’m not being critical of that, I’m only making the point that even for those who are on the margins of society and who are struggling, we’re blessed to live in a land that has a substantial system of helping resources.
 
If you’re struggling to make ends meet, I encourage you to first thank God for what you already have. Then, ask Him to open your eyes to the ways you might be able to improve your situation. Then consider some of the many helping resources that are available to you. As Jesus taught in Matthew 6:25-34, God is aware of your needs and He is able to help you.
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim
Copyright © 2020 Oak Hill Baptist Church, All rights reserved.

Devotional for Thursday November 19th

Good Morning Everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Be thankful”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “And God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work.” 2 Corinthians 9:8 (CSB)
 
Our thought for today: “You have been blessed so you can be a blessing”
 
God has blessed you so that you can in-turn be a blessing to others. It’s a Biblical truth. Yesterday we considered the fact that God has blessed we Christians in the USA with an abundance of money and provisions. We have higher incomes, a better quality of life, and more access to helping resources than any other group of Christians anywhere in the world. And although we are free to enjoy the blessings God has showered upon us, we are not free to horde it or to simply use it all on ourselves. Ultimately it all belongs to God. He has placed what is His in our hands so we can then use some of it to further His efforts to bless needy people and to further His kingdom-building work.
 
Although the basic truth and general principle taught in 2 Corinthians 9:8 (cited above) can be applied to a wide variety of life and spiritual applications, it certainly applies to the issue of stewardship and of using our abundance to bless others in need. As I briefly alluded to in yesterday’s devotional, I don’t believe we need to apologize for or to feel guilty about the abundance of material provisions God has blessed us with, but we do need to recognize that with the blessing comes responsibility. We are to use some of what we have to bless others.
 
One of the reasons I so love being the pastor of Oak Hill Baptist Church is because our people are so generous and so eager to use their resources to help others. That’s the only reason our little church is able to be involved in so many humanitarian relief efforts here in our own town as well as in the state of Tennessee. We also support a partner church in the coal-mining region of eastern Kentucky as well as a children’s home in the Amazon Jungle of Peru. We provide monthly support to a church in Liberia, Africa, and we also periodically help an orphanage in Haiti. We support a family of missionaries in Southeast Asia, and another family of YWAM missionaries (Youth with A Mission) here in the USA.  This is what Paul was referring to in 2 Corinthians 9:8 when he taught that God has provided the resources so that we can then use them to help with His work.
 
What a blessing it is to be a conduit through which the resources and blessings of God can flow to others in need! I encourage you to spend some time this morning thanking God for that privilege.
 
But what if you’re struggling yourself just to make ends meet? What do you have to be thankful for then? We’ll think about that tomorrow.
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim
Copyright © 2020 Oak Hill Baptist Church, All rights reserved.