Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Joy To The World?

1st Peter 1:6 -7 6 You rejoice in this, though now for a short time you have had to struggle in various trials 7 so that the genuineness of your faith — more valuable than gold, which perishes though refined by fire — may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

We sometimes get the wrong view of childlike faith.  Take Christmas for example.  We look back longingly for the simple time when we were kids and we knew that our gifts would be under the tree, our Christmas dinner would be on the table and we would have plenty of time for rejoicing and celebrating and playing.  Now as adults we know the worry of the budget to buy those gifts and the food.  We feel the press of the schedule that squeezes our hearts and minds back to work even while we are sitting with family and friends.

It is not that when we were younger we did not understand those pressures, it’s just that we trusted our parents to handle it for us.  Likewise, our faith today is not a blind one where we ignore the pressures and the problems we face, rather it is a childlike one that endures the difficulties while trusting our Heavenly Father to provide for us in His way and in His time. Christianity is not a religion of fake happiness until the real thing comes.  Christian joy is not a phony smile covering a crying heart.  It is the joy of a genuine faith in a genuine God who has made a genuine promise to you.

It is interesting in verse six how we have both joys - “rejoice” - and struggles at the same time.  The Christian life is not one of perfection or lack of troubles.

Do not beat yourself up if you do not feel joyful all the time.  Do not think you have failed as a Christian if you are not always bursting with joy.  Often, how we feel does not measure up to what we know.  If you have accepted Christ you know He is in your life and what He has done for you, but sometimes in the daily grind of life you take your eyes off of Him.  Sometimes you simply do not feel joyful.  That is okay, perfect joy will be realized when we are home with Him.  In the meantime, it takes keeping your eyes on Jesus to remain in His joy.

Far too often when we feel like we have no joy it is because we are looking for it anywhere and everywhere except the one place we can find it.  We seek out distractions instead of discipline.  We look to entertainment instead of enlightenment.  When you look to the world for joy instead of to Jesus you will find only a poor imitation, you will find only fools gold.

Fools gold is the fake yellowish crystal that tricked many miners into thinking they had struck it rich and had found what they were looking for.  However, this abundant rock was worthless.  It glittered and promised but it did not deliver.  Such is the promise of much this world has to offer.  But if you can keep your eyes on Jesus and actively seek out your joy in Him even in the midst of the trials and struggles of this world then you will find, as verse seven tells us, something more valuable than even real gold.  Something refined and pure that will last forever.

We realize that joy is not a burden for us when we realize that our joy is not found in this world and is not tied to our present circumstances.  We discover true joy when we realize that God is actively laying the foundation for our joy, not in passing but for eternity.

To discover more, visit Oak Grove Baptist Church.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Persistent Love

Psalm 46:6-7  6 Nations rage, kingdoms topple; the earth melts when He lifts His voice. 7 The Lord of Hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah

An unusual survey was done a few years ago, Participants in the survey were asked this question.......what 3-word sentence would you most like to hear or have said to you? The top three answers were 1. I love you.....2. I forgive you.......3. Supper is ready. (1)

We live in an ever changing world and we should not be surprised by that. God created a universe that is always in motion. We live on a planet that is spinning around its axis while flying around a sun that is itself soaring through a galaxy that is rapidly streaming through the expanse of the universe. Nothing stays the same for any length of time. Nothing, that is, except God.

Look at how the world is described in verse 6 - nations rage and kingdoms topple. Just when we think we are adjusted to what is going on this crazy world up and changes on us. We look at life on a global scale and we see how it is utter chaos and therefore we begin to doubt that God is still paying attention or that He even cares anymore.

But the Psalmist reminds us that even when it feels like the world is in chaos, God is with us and is our refuge. While the world and even all of creation may be in constant change, God is not a part of creation - He is the creator. God’s plan is the same today as it was before He made the first atom. Nothing has derailed it or thwarted it and nothing ever will. God’s character is the same today as it was when He came to Bethlehem, and His love is the same as it was when He went to the cross for you. God’s love is unchanging.

If you look up unchanging you will find many definitions, including eternal and permanent, but my favorite definition is persistent. God's love for us is persistent. It does not let us go. In the three word survey I mentioned everyone wanted to hear I love you, love is something we desire, and everyone needed to hear I forgive you, forgiveness is not something we desire unless we have done something that needs forgiving.

Here’s the kicker, we often fear that our need to hear I forgive you means we will never again hear I love you. The things I have done that require me to need forgiveness must cancel out the love you were willing to show me. But it doesn’t. You see God’s love is persistent even through our failings. Why is it important that His love is unchanging and persistent?

Because it is by His love that we live, it is by His love that we survive, it by His love that we have hope, peace and joy. We vastly underestimate the power of God’s love.

His love can transform your life. His love can open the doors for you to make it through trials. His love can save you and show you what this life is all about. His love is not a Christmas present you will ever outgrow or get bored of. It is not something you can get your fill of or run out of.

This Christmas realize that God’s love is more than seasonal. It is active, unchanging and it is eternal.

To discover more, visit Oak Grove Baptist Church

(1)Illustration given in a sermon by Matt Parker

Monday, December 3, 2018

Great Expectations

Psalm 5:3 At daybreak, Lord, You hear my voice; at daybreak I plead my case to You and watch expectantly.

There are many things to look at around Christmas time.  The lights, the trees, the plethora of movies and the over abundance of decorated cookies.  Of course, as Christians we want to focus on the nativity, on the very true story of the birth of Jesus to the virgin Mary so many years ago.  However, when we are looking at Christmas it is a good idea to look at more than just the manger scene, more than just the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes but to try to see the whole picture from every angle.

We have a tradition in the Christian faith that for centuries has sought to focus our eyes not just on Christmas but on the whole meaning behind it. It is called advent and it is a way at looking at Christmas with a sense of great expectation.

The verse above is from Psalm five.  In this psalm, David talks about how the unrighteous can not even enter into God’s presence yet by God’s faithful love David can cry out to Him and eagerly await God’s appearing. He knows there is no hope, no love, no joy, and no peace apart from God. He knows God is going to work great and mighty things and he watches for Him expectantly.

That is advent. Advent is the season leading up to Christmas where we stop and refocus on more than the trappings of Christmas but on the larger story that it is a part of. The story of our awesome God, His amazing grace, and His redeeming love. This isn't a program or a structured bible study. It isn’t a devotional or a to-do list. It is simply a chance to encourage within each of us a frame of mind that allows the Holy Spirit to refresh us. An opportunity to realize that we can lay aside our business and our stress and let Jesus Christ revive us this season.

If you go back and read the Old Testament you see time and time again examples of individuals crying out to God or watching expectantly, like David, for what God is going to do. They may not have known the specifics or the details but they believed firmly that God was going to make things right. They had faith that God was going to come and fix what we had broken.

The Old Testament Saints were saved by grace through the faith that they had in God’s future act of mercy. As we approach this advent season, remember that they had faith in someone who was coming, we have faith in that same someone who has already come and will come again.

God the Father, through Jesus His Son, gives us grace that goes beyond your current circumstance or this world’s current crazy situation but instead carries us into eternity. You see the miracle of Christmas is not just hope for now, it is hope forever more. It is a hope not just in our future but in His future.

In Advent, we put ourselves in the shoes of those people awaiting the coming of Christ so many years ago. But truthfully we should always be doing the same thing today. Whereas the people long ago were awaiting their Messiah to come and walk among them, we are awaiting our King to come and take us home.  We celebrate the hope that this Christmas brings, hope that we can experience today, and every day, but let us also keep our eyes forward to the hope that is to come when He returns for us.

Like a child waiting for his gift on Christmas day, let us wait for our coming King with great expectation.

To discover more, visit Oak Grove Baptist Church

Thursday, November 29, 2018

The Distraction Of The Season

Luke 10:41-42 41 The Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has made the right choice, and it will not be taken away from her.”

In this well known encounter told in Luke, chapter ten, Jesus and His disciples have dropped in on Mary and Martha, two sisters who were friends and followers of Jesus. Martha is busying herself being the perfect hostess. In her day the women were expected to wait on the guests and they were judged by how well they did so. For a respected, important guest they were not not only expected to wait on them but to wow them with hospitality. Meanwhile, her sister Mary was sitting along with the disciples, at Jesus’ feet, listening intently to what He had to say. Because of this Martha is frustrated. Why should she be doing all the work! She asks Jesus to tell Mary to get up and give her a hand!

The response of Jesus went past the superficial and the cultural expectations of the day, past that present situation and straight to the heart of Martha. In verse 41, He says: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things ...” We know that in this passage Martha is aggravated by what she sees as her sister’s distraction, but Jesus seems to go deeper here. He says that Martha worries about many things. The scripture doesn’t tell us exactly what Martha was worried about, but you get the sense that she worried a lot and not always about the things that mattered.

What gets you worried and upset? Very often we get worried, upset and distracted by the wrong things in this life. I love decorating for Christmas and seeing the tree all lit up. I love even more watching the children’s face light up when they see the decorations all in place. But it is possible to take it too far. I’m not talking about putting up so many lights that Watts Bar has to start up another nuclear reactor! I’m talking about when decorating becomes a competition, either with your neighbors or against an unreachable standard you see on Instagram. Very often people mistake photo-shopped pictures of perfect decorations, meals or outfits as reality and then stress when they look in the mirror and don't see the same thing or they look around their house and see a tree with moldy handmade Christmas ornaments from their kid's kindergarten instead of a professionally dressed tree.

Wrong distractions take our eyes off of Jesus and onto things that are either sins, problems, or simply worthless. When you get distracted by these things you are elevating them in your life and giving them a place of honor. You are saying they are more important to you than God.

It easy to get distracted and stressed during the silly season. Sometimes it is worry over problems - many of which you won’t even remember having next year, a few of which are serious but none are bigger or more important than God. Even worse is when you look at your problems and say, God, I can’t worship you now, I have too many problems. That’s like saying you can’t go to the doctor because you are sick or you can’t go to the dentist because you have a toothache! You are denying yourself the cure and the relief when you focus on the problem more than on God!

Jesus gives us the answer in verse 42 when He says Mary has made the right choice. What was her choice? Sitting at the feet of Jesus and focusing on Him.

Let me ask you; do you want to stand before God one day and say decorations are more important than you? Do you want to stand before your creator and say my image is more important than you? Do you want to stand before your Savior and see those nail-scarred hands and say my sin was more important than you? When you let these things distract you from God then that is what you are doing. What have you given a place of honor in your life that is distracting you from God?

To discover more, visit Oak Grove Baptist Church

Monday, November 19, 2018

More To Thanksgiving Than Food

John 6:24-26  24 When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor His disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus. 25 When they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, “ Rabbi, when did You get here?” 26 Jesus answered, “ I assure you: You are looking for Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate the loaves and were filled.

This incident takes place right after Jesus had fed the 5,000. Afterward, Jesus sneaks away from the crowd and crosses the Sea of Galilee, on foot by the way, but the people find Him and follow Him across the water by boat the next day. The crowd is all like Teacher we’re so glad we found you! We’ve been looking everywhere for you! And Jesus, who knows their hearts and our hearts perfectly, stops them cold and tells them; You didn’t come here for the teaching. You didn’t come here for Me. The only reason you sought me out was to get some more of the free food!

The people that followed Jesus across the lake weren't really looking for what He was teaching – they were there for the food! Imagine having the opportunity to sit at the foot of Christ and hear the secrets of eternal life being spoken by the Word Himself and instead just asking for a meal! They took a blessed opportunity and made it all about food!

Happy Thanksgiving. Folks! I can imagine what y’all are thinking. Oh, no this isn't what I wanted to
read on Thanksgiving! You’ve moved beyond stepping on my toes, now you’re stepping on my full belly!  Years ago worked for LifeWay Christian Resources I came in for my first day of training and was greeted with a delicious barbecue dinner and a time of fellowship with my new coworkers. Before we even began working we had food - I knew I was working for a Baptist organization!

We Baptist's do love to eat. Now do not get me wrong. I love food, food is important, we need it to live and I always look especially forward to the delicious meals on Thanksgiving day, but there is more to Thanksgiving than food, football, and parades. We should give thanks for everything we are blessed with but there must be a priority to our thanksgiving.

We should be more thankful for the people gathered around our table than the food sitting on our table.

In the Lord’s prayer, Jesus teaches us to ask that God will Give us this day our daily bread. He is talking about our daily needs, those things we need to make it through the day. Those things we too often take for granted. When it is there we never think of it. When it is gone we worry about it without end. Why are we more thankful for it when it is returned than before it is lost in the first place?

Have you noticed that here in John six after the crowd is miraculously fed, there is no mention of a thank you? Jesus gives thanks to the Father, of course, but does the crowd thank Jesus after the meal? If they did it was not recorded and so we have this image of the crowd eating their full and waking up the next morning looking for their free breakfast and only realize they need to seek out Jesus when their stomachs are hungry.

What can you learn from this crowd? Here are two lessons I see for us:

1. Don’t wait for something to be lost before you are thankful for it. One of the fastest ways to lose God’s providence in our life is to treat it as something we deserve rather than as a gracious gift.

2. Seek out God for God. The blessings are not the reason we seek out a relationship with God. It is not let’s get the blessings of heaven and oh yeah God is thrown in as a bonus. Love the giver of gifts more than the gifts themselves. That will help you to see that Thanksgiving is more than food.

Enjoy this day with your family, eat a lot, watch the parades and the games, have some fun!  Just make sure you also take some time to reflect and be truly thankful to God for that which can not be measured and doesn't have a price tag.  Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

To discover more, visit Oak Grove Baptist Church

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Be Generous With Your Prayers

Ephesians 6:18 Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert in this with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints.

Hopefully, if you’ve been reading these devotions, you are becoming aware of the necessity and power of prayer in our lives and how that power is not limited to only those who are close to us. We pray to an infinite God with an infinite reach and when we join our prayers with those of Christians around the world God answers in places and within people we will not see or know until we are home in heaven. We know and are thankful that the effectiveness of our prayers do not lie in our ability to pray but in the power of the One we pray too, but we must be willing to offer up those prayers.

In Ephesians, chapter six, Paul tells us to put on the armor of God so we can be ready for the spiritual battle we all face in a world full of hate, temptation and brokenness. He closes this passage with a plea for us to pray at all times for all the saints (believers in Christ). Paul understood full well that none of us can make it through this world without prayer and that the most helpful attitude we can have is to be generous with our prayers.

My five year old daughter Katie went through a time where she wanted to give away everything, all of her toys and clothes. At first, I was happy to see such a generous spirit but when I asked her why she was doing it she said: “I know if I give away what I have you will buy me something new!” I had to explain to her the limits of her father’s wallet! However, for our Father in Heaven, this is exactly true. He blesses us with great things so we can use them wisely to help others. If we are good stewards and give according to His will then He will ensure our needs are met.

That is why it strikes me as odd that the one blessed gift we never have to worry about running out of
is the one we sometimes are so stingy with - Prayer. We often treat prayer as if it is something that is limited, something we have to save for. “I’d pray for this small need but what if I have a bigger need later on?”

What is worse is when we treat our prayer for others the same way. I once had a man tell me that his neighbor had asked him to pray for his children who were not living in God’s will. The man refused, saying he would not pray for them until they were living in God's will. I asked him, how could they live in God’s will without someone praying for them? The truth is we all need prayer, that is why Paul encourages us here to be generous in our prayers for others. Not just for him, but for all the saints.

Maybe you have a list of people you pray for regularly. It might have people from you church, your children, maybe your neighbors - depending on how well you know them and, let’s be honest, whether or not you like them. It is wonderful to have a list to remind you of those you know are in need of prayer, but don’t be afraid to go beyond your list. Pray for our leaders, whether you voted for them or not, pray for those who annoy you, pray for the girl who handed you lunch out the drive-thru window, the guy who took your favorite parking spot. When you are trying to figure out who needs prayer, it may be better to ask who doesn’t need prayer!

This week, try to think beyond your prayer list. Who are the people you encounter in your life that you can take a moment to pray for? Who are the “forgotten saints” in your life that you can spend more time praying for? This week, be generous in your prayers.

To discover more, visit Oak Grove Baptist Church

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

You Can't Always Get What You Want...

Luke 18:1-8
1 He then told them a parable on the need for them to pray always and not become discouraged: 2 “There was a judge in a certain town who didn’t fear God or respect man. 3 And a widow in that town kept coming to him, saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’4 “For a while he was unwilling, but later he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or respect man, 5 yet because this widow keeps pestering me, I will give her justice, so she doesn’t wear me out by her persistent coming.’”6 Then the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 Will not God grant justice to His elect who cry out to Him day and night?Will He delay to help them? 8 I tell you that He will swiftly grant them justice. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He find that faith on earth?”

Prayer is a blessed gift, it is the way we make it through the good times and the bad times in our life. As we’ve talked about before, prayer is more than a wish list. It is not the same as your shopping cart on Amazon, it is a conversation with the all mighty, sovereign, God of the universe. It is a time where we get to know Him better and where He helps us to grow to be more like His Son.

Here, Jesus is telling a parable, or using a story to illustrate a deeper truth. In this parable we have two characters; a judge and a widow. Normally you would expect the judge to represent God in this story since that was literally the job description given for a judge in the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy, however this was not a good judge. He did not respect man or God. Instead he serves as a contrast to God, a reminder of how good our God is, and how He hears our petitions.

The main point here is not the character of the uncaring judge it is the character of the widow, it is her persistence. In this story she had nowhere else to turn, no other resort, her only choice was to cry out to this uncaring judge. She knew he would not respond quickly, she knew she had no guarantee of being heard, and yet she did not give up, she did not lose hope. She continued to cry out believing her persistence would be rewarded.

Thankfully our hope does not rest in an uncaring judge but in our loving God.  Still, we must be persistent in our prayers. I was once asked by a lady if her constant prayers showed a lack of faith. She said “If I pray once and leave it then that shows I have a true faith but if I keep praying then it shows I don't trust God to answer my first prayer.” I led her to this parable and explained to her that it is by asking repeatedly and hopefully that we show we have true faith. That we are willing to not give up on a need.  Of course her response was “Why? Why must I pray persistently, why won't God just give me what I want now?”

Maybe He wants us to think through what we are asking first, maybe we are asking for something that He knows will not be good for us or will be better for us at a later time. Maybe He knows that we need to be prepared for whatever we are asking by spending more time with Him first.

You see even though God does want us to come to Him with our needs, and yes He is gracious and generous to supply them, our needs are not the mot important part of prayer. Prayer is first and foremost about God changing us rather than getting God to change His mind. Prayer is where we learn who God truly is and how He created us to be.  It is the time spent with Him that we truly need.

To discover more, visit Oak Grove Baptist Church

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

I Surrender All

Luke 22:39-42 39 He went out and made His way as usual to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed Him. 40 When He reached the place, He told them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” 41 Then He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and began to pray, 42 “Father, if You are willing, take this cup away from Me —nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done.”

A few weeks back we looked at a verse in 1st John. 1st John 5:14 Now this is the confidence we have before Him: Whenever we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.  I wrote about how amazing it is that the wonderful, all powerful God of the universe hears us when we pray and how we can approach Him with confidence. However, there is a caveat John includes here: “Whenever we ask anything according to His will.
“Prayer presents us with a conundrum. I come to God with what I want, but at the same time, I must submit my will to what God wants. What if my desires and God’s plans don’t fit with each other? ~ Chris Talton
How do I respond when my desires are not met by my Heavenly Father?  Do I grumble, complain, become disobedient?  My five year old knows it is better for her to eat her veggies before she can have dessert but that doesn't mean she is very willing when I tell her that!  Her response to not having her desire met reflects her lack of maturity.  Does my response to My Heavenly Father show the same? 

Here in Luke 22, we find Jesus on the night He was arrested before the crucifixion.  He is in the Garden of Gethsemane and He knows full well what is coming.  He loves humanity He wants humanity to be saved but the fully man part of the Man God knows what that will take, and He understandably desires to not go through it. So He expresses His desire.  God the Son asks God the Father if there is any way He doesn't have to go through this.  Still He prays ... nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done.”  It is a striking prayer of submission that serves as a model for our walk with God. How can I develop the discipline to truly surrender my desires, my all, to God's will. 

Notice what it says before this in verse 39, He went out and made His way as usual ... This time of prayer is not described as something unusual for Jesus, yes the content is unique to this situation, but the fact that He regularly prayed is not.  The Gospels often tell us time and time again that Jesus spent time alone praying. He submitted to God the Father daily in the small things which equipped Him to surrender in the big things. 

Too often we are like Peter and say, don’t worry Lord, when the chips are down you can count on me. I will do exactly what you say when it counts. Then when we face the big decision to follow or not, we fail. When we face big temptation, we crumble. We do not realize that it is every second and every decision that counts. It is easier to submit to God on the big decisions in life when you have already built up the practice of submitting to Him on the small choices we make every day.

When I was looking up definitions of surrender I came across two interesting ones: Surrender: (1) Having no resistance, and (2) accepting reality. Think about that for a moment, when we surrender our desires to God we are not only saying I will stop resisting your Holy Spirit in my life but we are also admitting that what God desires is far better than what we desire. That is the reality of all creation.

Have you ever seen the Christian flag? Many churches have them in their sanctuary or flying outside the building. This is a non-political flag that is intended to represent all Christians around the world, regardless of denomination. It is a cross on a white flag of surrender. Are you surrendering to the cross today, more importantly, are you surrendering to the Man who hung on the cross today?

Jesus was always in full submission and surrender to the Father, we, on the other hand, are sinful people. We sing the great old hymn "I Surrender All" when we mean I surrender some. We hold onto our selfish desires, pray for those desires to be met, and then complain to God when He in His wisdom says He’s not giving us that.

When you bring your desires to God or come to a crossroads of decision, are you honestly praying “Father, Your will be done.”

To discover more, visit Oak Grove Baptist Church

Thursday, October 25, 2018

What Is Praise?

Psalm 111: 1 & 9
1 Hallelujah! I will praise the Lord with all my heart in the assembly of the upright and in the congregation.
9 He has sent redemption to His people. He has ordained His covenant forever. His name is holy and awe-inspiring.

What is praise?  Why do we do it?  What do we even have to praise God for?  Praise isn’t something that is limited to just the good times when we like what God is doing. It is even more powerful when we praise Him in the dark times. Those times when we may not understand what is going on but we trust Him fully and believe in His will.

That is why we praise Him not just at Christmas or at Easter for the biggest miracles of all but everyday, even during the smallest intervention or darkest moments. Every day we should be thankful for what God has done and we should praise Him not only for what He has done but for who He is.

We hear the phrase Praise the Lord so many times that it has become common, a throw away. So common in fact we abbreviate it to just PTL because, you know “Praise The Lord” is just too long to say in our busy schedule. We throw the term around so much without any actual praise attached to it that I wonder if we really understand why we praise God or even what praise is.

The Christians author CS Lewis described praise this way: “I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed.”

In other words, we do not praise God because he needs to hear the praise, we praise God because doing so completes the love, the desire that we have for him. According to the Holman Bible Dictionary, our word praise comes from a Latin word meaning “value” or “price.” Thus, to give praise to God is to proclaim His merit or worth. It is one of humanity’s many responses to God’s revelation of Himself.

Many of the Old Testament praises we are familiar with were written by David and many of them were written in dark times when he was on the run, betrayed or had made a foolish choice. Yet David still praised God.  David praises God for many things he had - protection, blessings, etc, but he also praised God for things he had not yet received but trusted God for.  In verse nine he praises Him for His redemption.  We too live in a world that is often harsh and unforgiving and we too have received many gifts from God.  There is one gift that He has freely given to all if we will only accept it, redemption through His Son Jesus Christ.  The very redemption David and the other Old Testament writers were praising God in anticipation of we can praise Him for receiving today.

What more reason do we need to praise God! God sent his son to die for us! Jesus chose to come to earth and take upon himself the punishment that we deserved so that we could have a close, personal relationship with God yet again.

Whenever you read all of the beautiful praise of the Old Testament, all of David's glorious Psalms just remember we have what they were longing for! We have what that knew God would provide and were shouting in anticipation of – we have Jesus Christ!  That is why we praise.

To discover more, visit Oak Grove Baptist Church

Monday, October 15, 2018

Who Are You Talking To?

1st John 5:14 Now this is the confidence we have before Him: Whenever we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.

Prayer is something we talk about, something we tell others to do and something that we know we need to do and for some reason it is something we assume everyone knows how to do. We lead someone to Christ and we ask them if they are ready to pray to accept Him as if they should just know what praying is. When new Christians face challenges we tell them to pray about it but do we stop to tell them how to pray?

The truth is there is a lot going on when we pray, not the least of which is that we are entering into the presence of our almighty God. I want you to notice what the Bible says in 1st John 5:14:  ... Whenever we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.

Whoa! Stop the press - God hears us! Let that sink in for a moment. The amazing, wonderful God of the universe hears us when we pray!

Now I have never been asked to speak to a president or a ruler or anyone in authority anywhere but if I were, I would imagine that I would ponder what I was going to say and approach it in light of the weight my words would carry. That is if I am talking to a human leader. So why do I rush through my prayers with my heavenly Father? Why do I approach them haphazardly or, dare I say it, irresponsibly? Is it perhaps because I do not understand Who I am talking to?

Now don’t get me wrong, your prayers do not have to be planned out and God does not grade our prayers by our eloquence or formality. However that does not mean we should take these divine conversations lightly.

Prayer, so simple that a small child can do it beautifully, is so profound as to at times boggle our mind. It is when we join in prayer that the Holy Trinity allow us to join Him in intimate conversation. God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all involved in our prayer. We pray to God the Father through God the Son with the help of God the Holy Spirit. It is through our prayers that we Hear Him and He transforms us.

Why would the sovereign God of the universe listen to you or to me? We can not possibly tell Him anything He doesn't already know or point out a solution He did not see. It’s simple. He listens because He wants to; because He loves us. There is nothing we can add to or take away from God and yet He has decided in his sovereignty to use our prayers as the tool by which He works.

He not only listens to us but God gives more weight and respect to our prayers than we often do! Think about that for a moment - God who does not need our prayers considers them more important than we who could not do anything without them!

Do we truly understand who we are praying to?

To discover more, visit Oak Grove Baptist Church

Monday, October 8, 2018

Choosing To Rejoice

James 1:2 Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials,
Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

We have all had moments in life where we thought we could not make it another second. Times where it seemed that God was so far away from us. You have heard me say before that when you don’t feel like praying to start off by praising and soon you will be praying like never before but we also know that is not always an easy thing for us to do. Is it even possible?

The Bible tells us to consider trials a joy, to praise God even when we are facing the darkest times of our life.  Is that really fair? Is it fair for God to expect us to praise Him when things are not easy, are not going well, or even going horribly, terribly wrong?

Yes, no matter what our current situation is, God is worthy of praise. Denying that fact will not make your situation easier, in fact when you deny that truth you are only making things harder on yourself. You are denying the One who can help you.

Part of the problem is we sometimes look at the Bible and think it is a perfect book about perfect people doing perfect things. Yes, it is a perfect book and the hero of the story is our perfect God and His perfect Son but the people in the Bible are not perfect. I’m talking about the ordinary, everyday people like Gideon, Peter, and Paul. God accomplished amazing things through them but they themselves were not perfect and did not always have everything go right or easy in their lives.

In other words, they knew problems, they knew the trap of worrying, and they knew the power of praise.

Hudson Taylor, a missionary to China once gave this excellent advice: "Let us give up our work, our plans, ourselves, our lives, our loved ones, our influence, our all, right into [God's] hand; and then, when we have given all over to Him, there will be nothing left for us to be troubled about."
Imagine that, if we give our all to God then we give him our worries and troubles as well.

Now no one is saying life is easy. No one is saying that we should ignore what is happening in our lives and wish it away. When the going gets tough the world tells us to bury our problems with distractions – like drugs, alcohol, work, etc. Despite what the world tells you, you still have to face the problems in your life but as a Christian, we can face them with faith.

I live in a real world, and I want a faith that deals with reality. Don’t you? I don’t want a faith that plays, "let’s pretend." I want a faith that can stand up to whatever the world has to give and still come out on top. The first thing we must realize is that whenever we face adversity we also face a choice. Do I respond with faith or do I wallow in despair? Do I put my trust in almighty God or do I put my trust in my own broken abilities? If you choose faith in God over faith in yourself then you will be able to choose to rejoice over despair.

To discover more, visit Oak Grove Baptist Church

Monday, October 1, 2018

Faith In Light Of The Facts

John 14:6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

As Christians we speak often of taking things on faith. It’s true that faith is a cornerstone of what we believe. There is a difference between faith and facts. For example it is a fact you are all staring at your devices, your eyeballs flickering across these words. It is also a fact that I have written this devotion, but it is only by faith that I believe that any of you are actually paying attention to these words I have typed!

Far too many times, though, we think that we must ignore facts to have faith. However, the truth is the facts of our world are explained and enhanced by our faith.  For example, look at what Jesus says in the gospel of John, chapter four verse six. John 14:6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

It is a fact upheld by both the Biblical & historical records, that Jesus Christ lived and died in first century Palestine. However it is by faith that I accept His statement that He is the way – the only way – the only truth and the only life. But here is where the crazy thing happens; I accept this statement by faith and then it is made a fact in my life through my relationship with Him.

Accepting Jesus Christ through faith, truly accepting Him, is not something you do and just walk away from it is a relationship that grows and develops. The faith that you have in Him is proven by the love He shows to you, and the work He does within you. Your faith becomes a fact in your life that changes your life.

The world around us asks “Does God Exist?” We know the answer to this question but we often shy away from proclaiming it or even addressing it. The world around us says there is no proof that God exists but by accepting Jesus through faith we become living proof that our living God is real.

When faith becomes a fact in your life, you begin to see how God is working around you, in you, and through you.  You know He is real not because someone has made a logical argument but because you have experienced Him, His wonderful love, and His amazing grace.

To discover more, visit Oak Grove Baptist Church

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Do I Reflect God's Love?

John 13:34 “I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Have you ever heard the story of David Hampton? It's a true story, David Hampton was a con artist back in the eighties who scammed money out of the Manhattan elite by claiming to be the son of the actor Sidney Poitier. He had no real connection to Sidney Poitier, had no right to claim the title of his son but he did so anyway and several people believed him. When people fell for his scam it had the unfortunate side effect of reflecting on Mister Poitier. Everything he did reflected on the man he had no true connection with.

Likewise today there are many people who claim to be Christians, who say they are a Christian because they went to church once or they live in a”Christian” town or maybe they do go to church from time to time and sleep through the sermons! They are what we call “Cultural Christians”  - they know enough to talk the language of our faith, but they truly do not know Jesus Christ as their personal Savior.  Yet, for most of the country, they are what people think of when they think of Christian. Everything they say or do reflects back on someone they have no true connection with.

Each of us is a witness for Jesus Christ. We have no say so in this, each one who claims to follow Christ is His witness. We can either be a good witness or a bad witness but we are His witness.

That is why the world is shocked when they meet someone who is truly a follower of Christ, who truly has been saved and is truly trying to live by His commands, especially this one in verse 34. The world is shocked by love: so we should go shock the world. Go out and show love to others.

Often we dismiss this idea by convincing ourselves that we already love others.  I mean we don't hate them, we're not actively trying to harm them, so then we must love them, right?  The opposite of love is not hate, it is apathy. It's not that we hate others it is simply that most often we do not care about them at all.  When our relationships are filled with apathy then we do not care what effect our actions or our preferences will have on others. But when we replace apathy with love, when we love as God loves we are willing to sacrifice for those we love. We make compromises on our preferences without ever compromising the truth and we seek to do everything in a way that draws us closer together and closer to God.

If we want the world to see how much God loves them then we must love them. If we want the world to come to God's saving grace then when we must show them grace. The short answer to the question “Why should I love like God loves” is simply because Jesus told us to and He is our Lord, He is King, He is God and that should be enough reason for any of us!  However, God never tells us to do something without a reason behind it. God never tells us to do something that will not glorify Him or benefit our holiness. And notice in verse 34 Jesus said this is a command not a request.

It is by reflecting Him in our life, by reflecting His love in our actions, that others see Him and His love. Doing that glorifies God. Doing that leads to living holy lives, and doing that points people to salvation through His sacrifice and His grace.

Even through simple acts and changes of perspective we can show show God’s love. By intentionally choosing love over apathy, by deciding to be more welcoming to others even if that means making changes, not to what we teach, but to how we live out those teachings. By showing hospitality to our neighbors and kindness to our enemy.

Think about it for a moment. What would happen? Don’t think what would I get out of it, don’t think what would it cost me, but instead think what would God do through this? What happens when we truly reflect God's Love?  How could God work through you and me if we were intentional about showing His love to others this week?

To discover more, visit Oak Grove Baptist Church

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The Holiness Of Hospitality

Hebrews 13:2 Don’t neglect to show hospitality, for by doing this some have welcomed angels as guests without knowing it.

The book of Hebrews is a master class in learning how the Old Testament was fulfilled by Jesus Christ and what this New Testament, this New Covenant, is all about. Here, in Hebrews 13, the author calls upon us to not neglect hospitality and reminds us, most likely, of the Old Testament encounter of Abraham entertaining angels without knowing it. Through this encounter we realize that hospitality is a reflection of our hearts. So what does that mean for us today?

There is a difference between showing hospitality to someone because you want to be known as a nice person and showing hospitality because you believe by doing so you are being obedient to God’s command and showing His love. It’s a subtle difference but it is key.   It is quite likely that being friendly and welcoming strangers will boost your reputation  and may lead to future rewards or "paybacks" but if that is your goal then you are not showing true hospitality.  Hospitality is focused on our love of others because of our love of God, it is not motivated out of personal gain.

Our Hospitality reflects our understanding of the gospel.  It is a good yardstick of where we are at in our walk with Christ. It should be fundamental to our identity.
As Pastor Mike Leake says; If we’ve messed up hospitality it is because in some way we have missed the gospel. We see this in the story of Simon the Pharisee. He was a terrible host and Jesus tells us why, “...he who is forgiven little, loves little” (Luke 7:36-50). Our hospitality reflects our grasp of the gospel. This is why Hebrews 13:2 appears where it does. Everything we are commanded to do in chapter 13 flows out of the work Christ has already done in chapters 1-12. Including this command to show hospitality.
The early Christian's faced intense persecution, first from their surrounding culture and then from the state.  It was always a temptation for us to not show kindness to others when we are not being shown kindness ourselves, but that is when it is often most necessary. That is why the author of Hebrews took this time to stress the importance of hospitality.

He is reminding us again of the fact that throughout the Bible, God’s people are portrayed as sojourners.  We are just temporary residents of this world, people who are passing through on our way home. He knew his listeners would be more likely to give up the faith if they forgot they were not alone.  If they forgot that even the people who were making their lives miserable were loved by God.  If they forgot that God could use their suffering, and the love they show in the midst of it, to help others discover Him and His amazing grace.

When we have grown too comfortable in our pews we forget the discomfort people feel when they take their first step into church. When we have become so self-sufficient in our homes, we forget that our neighbors are real people with real needs and made in God’s image.  When we stop practicing hospitality, then we stop practicing the gospel itself.

Ask yourself: How have you shown hospitality to others in the past week and why did you do so? Maybe hospitality doesn't come easy to you but the same power of the Holy Spirit that is driving you towards holiness will also enable you to show hospitality. In fact the two are deeply connected because hospitality is a matter of holiness.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

What Makes Us stick Together?

Colossians 3:14 Above all, put on love —the perfect bond of unity.

What is it that should make the church stick together?  What is it that binds us with one another?   Are we held together only by tradition, or familiarity or is there something greater we can depend on?

What does bond mean? Webster’s defines the word bond as a thing used to tie something or to fasten things together. Have you ever watched kids try to stick things together. First they just hold them next to each other and push hard. They expect that when they let go it will just stick together, but what happens when they let go? It just falls apart, right? Then begins the great kid adventure of trying to find the stuff to make them stick, to bond them. If you look around a child’s room, you will find things held together by play-doh, silly string, spit! All of these will hold for a little while but none of them will hold forever.

In the same way we see many attempts of bringing people together and bonding throughout culture. 
Around the world we find many approaches to peace, harmony and unity.  The new age movement says we can chant our way there, politicians say we can force our way there, and Madison Avenue says we can just buy everyone a Coke and teach the world to sing. We try many ways to accomplish this peace and unity and they all fail because we leave out the only thing, the only One who can actually do it. God.

God is the One who has made each of us a unique individual. He created us with our own personalities and backgrounds and He is the one who has brought us together into one body, the church. We should not throw away this diversity that God has created but embrace it. It is through Him that all these different people, with their weird edges and designs fit together like a jigsaw puzzle to make the beautiful picture that He is painting.

It would be a mistake to think that we can just put a bunch of different people together in a room, throw a worship song up on the screen and BAM! We would have an instant bond. As a church we must be held together by something stronger. A tighter bond - the bond of love. This is the bond of God the Father to God the Son, From God the Son to His bride the church. This is the bond that must hold each of us together in unity.

A bond that is willing to look past petty differences.  A bond that is willing to forgive even when we don’t feel like it.   A bond of love that reflects our unity with and in Jesus Christ.

To discover more, visit Oak Grove Baptist Church

Monday, September 3, 2018

Love Limits Liberty

Love Limits Liberty
1st Corinthians 10:23-24 “Everything is permissible,” but not everything is helpful. “Everything is permissible,” but not everything builds up. No one should seek his own good, but the good of the other person. [HCSB]

What is Christian Liberty. We talk about having liberty in Christ, about how where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty. These are all very true statements but what do they mean?

In essence, liberty is freedom from oppression. Throughout the New testament we see that through Christ we are free from the law, free from the frustration of our fallen nature’s inability to keep God’s law, but we are not free from God’s standards.

In other words I can not punch you in the face and then say “I am free in Christ!” Liberty is not saying I can continue to do things that harm myself or my marriage or my children or my community and excuse it with the name of Christ.

"Contrary to popular opinion, freedom is not the ability to do whatever one desires. This inevitably leads to enslavement to our own passions. Rather, the Bible defines freedom as the ability to deny one’s self, to deny one’s desires in the interest of pleasing and glorifying God." ~ Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary

If you look at our liberty as being free to glorify God then all of sudden you see we are honestly being held to an even higher standard. That’s what Paul is getting to here in his letter to the church at Corinth, when he says “Everything is permissible,” but not everything is helpful. “Everything is permissible,” but not everything builds up. No one should seek his own good, but the good of the other person. All of a sudden we realize our liberty is not just about not doing wrong, it is about building up our brothers.

A good example of this in our culture today would be alcohol. No where in the Bible does it say that merely drinking alcohol is a sin, but there are many places in the Bible where it warns us against drinking too much. The Bible paints a picture where not only is drunkenness a sin but letting alcohol get in the way of your relationship with others and with God is a sin, however, having a drink with dinner or a beer with friends and keeping your consumption moderate and within boundaries is not a sin.

BUT still I choose not to drink alcohol at all. Period. I do not drink at home, I do not drink away from home. I do not drink in Cleveland, in Charleston or in Timbuktu no matter where I am at or the situation, I do not consume alcohol. Why? I just explained that it is not sinful to drink in moderation so why do I abstain? Liberty.

If I am ministering to a recovering alcoholic and they see me drinking, even in moderation, then I have given the devil a weapon they can use against them. They may think “Hey the Pastor drinks so I can too and before you know it they are back in the chains of addiction. What if one of our children or youth hear me talk about having a drink and then decide it’s okay for them to follow my example, but they don't realize how dangerous it is to drink and get behind the wheel? Who would be responsible for their actions? Of course they are held accountable for their own choices but I would share the blame.

In my liberty I choose to deny myself so that I will not lead others astray, even accidentally. It is not always about being right or wrong it is about not being a stumbling block. In the sixties the band the Monkees had a hit song “I’m Not Your Stepping Stone”, but as Christians perhaps we should think more like “I’m Not Your Tripping Stone."  I am more than happy to be a stepping stone for you on your walk of faith that leads you closer to Christ. I do not want to be the stone you trip over on that walk.

What preferences or activities do you have in your personal life that may trip up someone else? What does this liberty to restrain ourselves look like when it comes to our church life? Well one thing that should become obvious within the church is that our liberty should not get in the way of our mission.

To discover more, visit Oak Grove Baptist Church

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Truly Alive

Truly Alive

John 11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live. [HCSB]

Jesus spoke these words to Martha after her brother, Lazarus had been dead and buried for four days. She was questioning why this had to happen. Why did her brother have to die? What didn’t you do anything to stop it, Lord?

Those are questions that we all ask at some point in our life. Death was never part of God’s plan for us. Death is the result of sin entering into His perfect creation. Separation from Him was never part of His plan for us. That separation is only a result of the sin we have in our heart.

God did not intend for us to suffer and mourn and die and feel alone. God would have been perfectly justified, since we are the ones who caused this mess, to leave us to deal with it on our own. But He didn’t. God could run from situation to situation putting temporary band-aids on each problem, knowing full well the source of our troubles would still be left undealt with in our heart. But He didn’t. Instead, in a master stroke, He sent the one who could deal with the heart of the matter. The only one who could deal with our sin as well as the death and despair that it leads to.

With His words, Jesus was not only giving Martha promise for a future hope, but comfort in a present reality. When you trust in Jesus you have already moved from death to life. When you trust in Him, no matter what else may happen, you are truly alive now and forevermore. Shortly after speaking these words, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. Not longer after, He Himself would be raised from the dead and all of our questions, all of our doubts, all of our worries would find their ultimate answer in Christ and in Christ alone.

To discover more, visit Oak Grove Baptist Church

Friday, March 2, 2018

A Life Of Fellowship

A Life Of Fellowship

John 10:10 A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance. [HCSB]

An abundant life is not a life spent in isolation. It is not a life of loneliness it is a life of friendship and fellowship. Of undertaking this journey together. Fellowship, the relationships we form within the church and how we spend time with one another, is yet another tool God uses to transform us and reach the world. In order to have a strong fellowship with one another within the church we must be willing to let go of a few preferences, be willing to focus on Jesus, and be willing to work with one another.

This doesn’t mean we have to do everything the same or enjoy the same things. In fact it means that, within the boundaries of Christ’s love and the scriptures truth, we have room for a diverse group of individuals and fellowships within the church. All of which are united by their desire to know Christ more each and every day.

So what is this fellowship Christ was wanting for us?
FELLOWSHIP: Bond of common purpose and devotion that binds Christians to one another and to Christ. ~ Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary
It is that last phrase, to Christ, that is key to understanding fellowship and is what separates fellowship from simple friendship. Yes, you should be friends with your fellow believers as well and yes it is fine to have friendships, within reason, outside the church. But fellowship goes even deeper than friendship.

Fellowship, even more than mere friendship, goes beyond Good times. Look at how the word fellowship is used in the New Testament and you see it more likely to describe shared suffering as shared blessings. Fellowship is there both to celebrate the good and help shoulder the bad.

You can go to the ball game and have a hot dog with both your friend and your brother in Christ but you can confess your weaknesses, receive counsel, accountability and prayer from only your brother.

An old story is told about a preacher and a deacon went on a hiking trip together and after a long day of walking they made camp, ate a good meal and crawled into their tent to get some sleep. In the middle of the night the deacon wakes the preacher, points up to the sky and asks “What do you see?”

The preacher looks up and says “I see billions of beautiful stars, each placed perfectly in the sky.”

The deacon then asks “and what does that tell you?”

The preacher responds “It tells me that we serve a mighty God who has, in this vast universe, lovingly placed us at the perfect place to enjoy His wonderful creation.” Then he turned to the deacon and asked, what does it tell you?

The deacon responded “That someone has stolen our tent!”

It is good to have friends who are focused on the right things! We need that balance between the practical and the theological. Unfortunately we often let our fellowship focus first on the practical - the fun, the food, the physical needs - and throw in the theological as an afterthought or not at all. What a wasted opportunity!
"I have given them the glory You have given Me. May they be one as We are one." ~ John 17:22
In John 17:22, Jesus prays that we will be one, but let's not stop there, we must finish reading the sentence! He says that we be one as He and the Father are one. Our fellowship must be focused on Him first, each other second. That does not mean that every fellowship must be a worship service or a bible study. It does mean that every action we take together must be done in a way that encourages and strengthens one another. It is through our fellowship that we help one another with our burdens, celebrate with one another in our triumphs and gently but constantly point one another closer to Christ. That is the focus of our fellowship - no matter what activities our fellowship takes - to bring one another closer to Christ. In that way it is an active form of discipleship in our daily life.

We spoke last week about how our journey has a destination - heaven and that in many ways this life is a preparation for that homeland. Likewise our fellowship here is preparation for our eternal fellowship there. Both our fellowship with God and with each other.

We are going to spend eternity serving, praising and having fellowship together. Why not prepare for that now?

To discover more, visit Oak Grove Baptist Church

Monday, February 19, 2018

Life As A Journey

Life As A journey

1st Peter 1:17 And if you address as Father the One who judges impartially based on each one’s work, you are to conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your temporary residence. 18 For you know that you were redeemed from your empty way of life inherited from the fathers, not with perishable things like silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. [HCSB]

The Apostle Peter wrote this first letter that bears his name to the Christians living in what is now Turkey. They were not living in the Holy Land. They were not living within easy reach of the church of Jerusalem or the large contingent of Christians in Rome. Many may have been refugees driven out by the hostility that was beginning to grow around them. They were isolated, scattered and as such would face the blunt of the coming persecution on their own.

In many ways they were a reflection of the Christian life we live today.

We too are temporary residents of this world, simply passing through on our journey home. However that does not mean that this journey is pointless or merely something to get through before we get home.  It is in fact a journey that is designed to draw you closer to God, closer to each other and prepare you for an eternity spent with Christ. It is sometimes tough, just as it was for the early Christians Peter was writing to, but it is also important and even vital to our growth as Christians.

One thing to remember is that it is a journey and not a wandering. We may not know where the next day will lead us but God does. In fact He has already given us a map (scripture), a compass (Holy Spirit) and a guide (Jesus Christ) to lead us and direct us. It is up to us, though, to persevere and see this journey through.
“Follow boldly in your Master’s steps, for He has made this rough journey before you. Better a brief warfare and eternal rest than false peace and everlasting torment.” ~ Alistair Begg
When I was in the Marines they emphasized that Marine is a title that must be earned. It is earned through the journey of boot camp and all of the grueling physical and mental challenges it entails. There are many times when that journey seems not worth it or even impossible but for those who persevere the title of Marine - and all the responsibility that goes with it - is waiting.

Our title - Christian - is one that is earned not by us but by Jesus Christ, by His perfect sacrifice and completed work on the Cross. It is one we are graciously given at the moment when we accept Christ’s wonderful free gift of Himself. However that doesn’t make our challenging journey meaningless. While our journey does not earn us our salvation or make us “more Christian” it does transform us. The journey is the method that God uses, through the Holy Spirit working within us, to transform us more into the image of Jesus and prepare us for our eternal home.

It is sometimes tough, and often we make it tougher than it needs to be, but by faithfully walking it we will not only be able to grow ourselves but be able to help others on their journey as well.

To discover more, visit www.http://oakgrovebaptistchurchtn.com/ 

Monday, February 12, 2018

A Life Of Influence

A Life Of Influence

1st Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my dear brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, knowing that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

I grew up in the buckle of the Bible belt in a Christian family with Christian friends. It was understood that church was where we would be on Sundays and Wednesdays. If I stayed over at a friends house on Saturday night I knew I would be going with their family to church on Sunday morning and vice versa. Once I grew up and began to travel to different places I not only met people with different views and backgrounds than mine, I at times also became a minority.

There’s a book written several years back about the history of Saturday Night Live. Back in the eighties there was a female comedian on the show named Victoria Jackson. You may remember her, she was blonde with a high pitched voice and played the ukulele. In this book they ask the cast members to share their thoughts about their fellow performers. When they asked about Victoria Jackson the quote they picked to describe her was “She’s a born again Christian, she’s like from Mars, [we] never really got her.” (1)

She was a minority among her peers. I’ve been there. I have been the lone Christian in a group before and I've had the quizzical looks, the questions, and occasionally the self-conscious shyness, that go with it. I’ve been asked before “Why are you Christians so weird?” but I would much rather hear that question than hear “You Christians act no different than the rest of us.”

You see it is when we are “weird” or “different” that we have influence. That is when people notice that we’re following something that is opposite from what the world is following and maybe it is something worth following. When the world sees wholehearted commitment from the church to be different from the world then the world notices and wants to learn more. That is influence.

Here Paul tells the church to be steadfast and immovable. In the world today there is always a pull away from our faith. The world wants to desperately change us to look more like them but at the same time they are intrigued by why we do not look like them. If we hold to Paul’s advice and trust God for the outcome then we have the opportunity to influence the world and show them that following God is in fact different, and at times difficult, but it is also so worth it!

Be different!  Be weird!  Live a life of influence!

To discover more, visit www.http://oakgrovebaptistchurchtn.com/ 

References: (1) Live From New York! Location 6031, Tom Shales and James Miller

Monday, February 5, 2018

The Purpose Of Life

The Purpose Of Life

Philippians 3:14 I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus. [HCSB]

What is your purpose in life?  Is it merely to survive? Is it to gather things or build a reputation?  What if our life is meant to be more than that?  What if our purpose goes beyond our occupation or family or place?  What if those are merely tools God has given us to accomplish our purpose in life?

Our purpose in life is to glorify God.  To praise and recognize His importance in everything.  No matter what else we may be doing we are to glorify God.  Not because He needs it - we can't add to His glory it is already infinite - but because glorifying God completes us.  It is, after all, what we were created to do.  Every moment of our life is meant to be a living breathing devotion to God and His glory.

Webster’s defines devotion as an act of love, loyalty or enthusiasm. The Apostle Paul was fully devoted to his purpose in life. In his letter to the church at Philippi, Paul described his devotion as running for a goal he knew he could not reach in this life - to be more like Christ.  Jesus always glorified His Father through every action He took and every word He spoke.  The goal of Paul's devotion then, and ours today, is to follow Jesus' perfect example in glorifying God.

How we do that is going to be different because God has created each of us to be different. He has given us various gifts and talents, put us in positions to learn various skills so obviously He does not intend all of us to glorify Him the same way. You may have a secular job that you love that is fulfilling - great use it to glorify God. Be a witness, start a bible study or a prayer time. You may stay at home - great check on your neighbors, love your neighborhood, encourage those on your street. Look for any opportunity God gives you to point others to Him and for you to grow closer to Him.

You see, the Christian life is not spent sitting idly waiting for something to happen, it is an active, chasing, running faith - a pursuit! When your mindset becomes one of devotion to Him then you begin to see Him in parts of your life you didn’t realize before.

I love how Warren Wiersbe describes this passage in his commentary: "Many Christians are self-satisfied because they compare their “running” with that of other Christians, usually those who are not making much progress. Had Paul compared himself with others, he would have been tempted to be proud and perhaps to let up a bit. After all, there were not too many believers in Paul’s day who had experienced all that he had or accomplished all that he had! But Paul did not compare himself with others; he compared himself with himself and with Jesus Christ." (1)

One thing I can promise you is that our purpose in life is not to build a name for ourselves. Our purpose has to be more than that because the things we strive for are more than the things of this world. More than money or fame or even respect.  Our purpose goes beyond this life.

How are you doing in your devotion to God in your daily life?  If you are like me you are far from perfect at it.  Remember these wise words from Jeff Iorg:
“Ask yourself: Am I changing to be more like Jesus? Progress, not perfection, is the goal”. - Jeff Iorg
To discover more, visit www.http://oakgrovebaptistchurchtn.com/ 

References: (1) Be Joyful by Warren Wiersbe

Monday, January 29, 2018

The Value of Life

The Value Of Life

Matthew 6:26 Look at the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they? [HCSB]

It is amazing, and confounding, how our modern society on one hand says we are our own masters, no one and certainly no god can tell us what to do. While on the other hand saying we are nothing more than animals, a hapless cosmic accident wandering among other accidents. No wonder so many people are anxious and confused!

A recent report on our local NBC affiliate WRCB stated that suicides in the state of Tennessee are at their highest point in 35 years. (1) On average 3 people commit suicide in our state every single day and the suicide rates are increasing in every age bracket and demographic. It doesn't matter if you are rich or poor - money doesn’t prevent it. Doesn’t matter if you are white or black or young or old, or healthy or sick. Race, age and health doesn’t prevent it.

When we lower the value of human life we lower the value of living. Why put up with the hassles of life - the worry, the stress, the anxiety, if our life is not worth more than the lowest animal.

In the past weeks we have seen a mass shooting at a school in Kentucky, numerous murders and assaults - and that's just the stuff that make the news. How many babies were aborted this week? How many young girls sold into sex trafficking? How many children abused and neglected? How many people mistreated because of their skin color or their age? We must realize that being pro life is more than being anti abortion, because our view of life and our understanding of the value of life has consequences far beyond birth. If my life is of no consequence in this world than neither are my actions. If I think my life and your life have no value then what difference does it make how I act or treat others. What does it matter who I hurt, if all of this is meaningless.

We live in a world full of violence and self hatred and all of the worry and stress that comes with it because we deny our role in creation and God’s role in our life.

In Matthew 6 Jesus explains that with God showing such intricate care for even the smallest of creation that we, who are created in God's image, truly have nothing to worry about. His point is not that this world will be easy but that in this world we will not be alone, and our existence is more than this world. But this anxiety He warns against is exactly what happens when we deny God’s providential care for all of Creation and specifically his care for humanity. If we deny the value of human life then this idea will have consequences.

One of these consequences will be taking from us a faith which fights against worry and anxiety. We have everything to worry about and nothing to hope for if we are just a random, cosmic accident, with no worth and no providential care.

But what if Jesus is right? What if we stop and look at Jesus’ words and make the radical leap that He is telling us the truth. That there is a Fatherly God who is not far off and distant but present and active in creation. That this Heavenly Father actually knows you, not just in passing, but in intimate detail, and that He cares for you personally.

Would that mean something to you? What if this same God created you not just to take up space but to have a purpose and that He wants you to succeed in that purpose? Would that give you peace in the midst of a crazy and chaotic world? What if this same God loved you so much that He sent His Son to die for you to pay an infinite price so that you could have life? What value would your life have then?

In verse 33, Jesus tells us to seek first the kingdom of God, why? To keep us busy and blinded and beat down? No! Because that is where we find value, we find meaning, we find purpose - it is in the kingdom of God where we find life itself and life in abundance! The kingdom of God is our home and that is where our life has true value.

To discover more, visit www.http://oakgrovebaptistchurchtn.com/ 

References: (1) http://www.wrcbtv.com/story/37234357/suicides-in-tennessee-reach-record-breaking-high