Daily devotionals


November 15, 2021

The High Cost of Comparing

 
We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.  II Corinthians. 10:12
 
 
One of the destructive habits that steals our joy and kills our contentment is comparing ourselves to others.  We spend lots of time and energy in life wishing we had some part of someone else’s life. We look at what others have and we over-value it.  We think about what we have and we under-estimate its worth.  We wish we had their house or their car or their spouse or their income. We want to go on their vacations, wear their clothes, work at their job and have as many friends as they have.
 
But the Bible tells us in II Cor. 10:12 that this kind of living is unwise - or put another way it’s just plain dumb. We don’t know their problems they have or the pain they may be experiencing.  We don’t understand the price they’ve paid (good or bad) to be where they are. And we also don’t realize how quickly comparison morphs into covetousness. “You shall not covet” is the tenth commandment. It’s a sin that’s right up their with lying, stealing and murder. The Hebrew word for covet means “to pant after” - to be out of breath pursuing something.
 
We need to learn the skill of admiring without acquiring. You don’t have to own something to appreciate or enjoy it. And we need to appreciate those God has given us - friends and family and people we can uniquely serve in our life.
 
You are a one of a kind creation. He made one of you and broke the mold. You are not just one in a million - you are one in 8 billion. And God has things set aside in your life that only you can do. (Eph. 2:10) And when we compare one of two things happens.  Either we think too highly of ourselves and we come to believe we are better than others which is the sin of pride.  Or we think of ourselves too little and we suffer from low self-esteem.
 
The key is to fill our minds and hearts with what is true about ourselves. So practice telling yourself, what God says is true about you!! And stop comparing yourself - you’re incomparable!
 
Blessings,
Pastor Jim






october 29, 2021

How to Make a Difference in a World That Opposes God

Daniel 1: 1-8

The first portion of the book of Daniel is of the utmost importance; there the historical and theological scene of what comes later is focused, thus revealing the purpose for which this book was written and how it can be of great use to us in these perverse and crooked times in which we are living.
 
With literary skill, the Word indicates that certain pagan and diabolical powers wanted to destroy and eradicate all evidence of the worship of the true God of the Hebrew people in the time of Daniel. To tell the truth, unfortunately something very similar is happening in our era of the 21st century.
 
The book of Daniel teaches us how convicted servants of God can shine in an ungodly culture. In order to impact and make a difference in this culture of censorship, it is necessary to know the diabolical strategy that can influence the servants of Jesus Christ. Daniel is testimony that it is possible.
 
To tell the truth...the world's system will seek to separate you from the family of God. (Daniel 1: 3-4a). Here we are told how some of the best young people of the Israelite people are taken captive to Babylon. Young people were selected for inherent qualities, with great importance given to birth qualities such as their ancestry and physical appearance. God, in His sovereignty, imparts physical and mental qualities to them for his glory and honor. But the world tries to banish them from their home and exploit them. Church, who do you think is the target of the enemy in our homes and the church?
 
The purpose and intention of the enemy was indoctrinating them. (Daniel 1: 4cd-5). For the Hebrew people, the use of the words of this text that speak of wisdom had more religious and spiritual meaning than intellectual because without a dedication of heart to the Lord Jehovah their God and obedience to His will, there could be no wisdom; everything would be in vain.
 
That is why it was not a question of training simple servants of the king but mainly training people versed in the occult sciences. They would be trained with qualities such as in the "letters and languages of the Chaldeans"; that is to say, the knowledge of literature, science, and their superstitions.
 
Church, here is wisdom; let's pay attention to the following...Throughout their history, the Hebrew people allowed themselves to accept “secular” education, as in the case of Joseph or Moses, without affecting their religious beliefs or spiritual convictions. Sadly, today it is hard to see that,
 
The Bible does not recommend ignorance, disconnecting from the "secular." Daniel and his companions could only seize every opportunity to better prepare themselves for the service of their God and Lord. But they had convictions rooted in their knowledge about their Lord and God, and thus, they were able to study objectively without allowing their faith to be undermined.
 
Obviously, the work of Daniel's parents in the Word would not be in vain. Here is a great truth, Church. I believe that we are failing God, allowing the system that the enemy uses to seduce us and captivate our young people, who are a generation that will be lost because of us. What is one of the ways the enemy uses to try to trap God's children today? By giving them seductive ideologies of diabolical debauchery to consume so that they will commit and be loyal to those evil customs and practices and have no modesty or fear of God.
 
The Evil One does not only let them use substances that make them dizzy or drowsy; they start to make and use things like them. The new idiom of language, music, tattoos, and more, and sadly even in the church they are practicing these things, forgetting what is written: (I Cor. 6:9-12; 19-20).
 
God save us and have mercy on us. My prayer, Church, is that we live with spiritual conviction and not just ecclesiastical emotion. Let's live as Missional Radicals! Brethren, the children of God are first removed from their family of faith before they are removed from their faith.
 
Roy Soto

october 28, 2021

october 27, 2021

Who’s Watching?

 “…they (everyone) may see your good deeds and glorify God…” 1 Peter 2:12c
 
How can you turn your daily ordinary routine into a daily walk with Jesus? 1 Peter 2:12 says, “they (all those you cross paths with) may see your good deeds and glorify God…”  
 
Do you remember the Sunday School six-point record system envelopes?  The six categories were present, on time, Bible, offering, lesson, and preaching.  Each category was a percentage which totaled to 100%. As a kid, I thought it was silly but it developed “good deeds” in me which spilled over into the lives of others. 
 
You turn your daily ordinary routine into a daily walk with Jesus through specific disciplines of prayer, Bible reading, worship, serving, and sharing.  We all know that but we let other habits (good and bad) squeeze out our best habits.
 
Peter is not saying, “manufacture good deeds and you will be seen by others.”  Peter is saying your daily fellowship with Christ should bubble over into your daily routines. Today let Jesus set your agenda then walk with Him and a watching world will see Jesus in you. 
 
Ron

october 25, 2021

The Strategy of Separation
 
3 Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring into the king’s service some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility— 4 young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace.  Daniel 1:3-4
 
Have you ever been watching a scary movie where a group of friends are walking through a haunted house looking for their lost friend? And one of the geniuses in the group comes up with this brilliant idea...“Let’s split up so we can cover more ground.” And you want to yell at the screen, “Don’t do it!  That’s what they want you to do. Stick together or this will not end well!”
 
One of the most effective strategies the Enemy uses to attack our faith is to find ways to separate us from other believers. Notice that the first thing they did to Daniel in an attempt to assimilate him into Babylonian culture was to separate him from his family and his spiritual family. They took him 700 miles away from his Hebrew parents and the spiritual influencers that had shaped his life.
 
The enemies’ strategy has always been to divide and conquer. Why did they separate Daniel from his family and his spiritual family? Because if you want to deconstruct a person’s  faith, you need to dismantle the family that transferred that faith to them, and separate them from the spiritual family that helped them grow in their faith.
 
Families in general and Christian families in particular are under such attack today. The world always changes, but the Bible never does and it clearly teaches that God made man and woman two genders, that marriage is between a man and a woman, and that the home is to be the primary place of spiritual instruction for the next generation.
 
Movements like Promise Keepers, which we attended this past summer, are pointing out that real men keep their promises to their wives and their kids.  Government can never take the place of a dad in a home. Too many men are neglecting their responsibility not just to provide and protect their family, but to be the spiritual leader of their home. We’re all broken people and the Gospel has the power to fix all of us including fathers. Christ’s love can reunite families and heal broken relationships.
 
Don’t forget the mission of the church. The church is God’s plan A to change the world and to encourage and strengthen believers and raise up the next generation of Christians. We need to be praying for each other--sharing each other’s burdens and encouraging each other’s faith. We can’t do that if we’re not together. Remember that people usually drift from the people of faith before they drift from their faith.
 
Pray for your family and your church family--that you can all stick together!
 
Blessings and see you Sunday!

Pastor Jim

october 22, 2021

Micah 3:1–4

Loving others is easier said than done. But loving our neighbors as ourselves is one of God’s central commands (Lev. 19:17–18). While loving others can be challenging, it’s crucial to our relationship with God. Micah addresses this problem in today’s passage.
 
Having just promised Israel a beautiful, hopeful future, the Lord turns His attention back to Israel’s leaders. He rebukes them for their oppressive treatment of His people, demonstrating that our relationship with God has a direct impact on our relationships with others. We can’t separate one from the other In fact, our treatment of other humans made in God’s image is a direct reflection of our relationship with God. No matter how strong our theology is, our actions toward others tell the truth about what we believe about God and where we stand in our relationship with Him. Israel’s leaders failed in that respect.
 
This passage provides hope in two areas. First, Micah’s rebuke comforts people who have experienced the evil he describes here. Perhaps you feel cannibalized by people who should have loved and protected you. You can take comfort that God sees and that He will hold the guilty accountable. Second, the Lord’s rebuke gives us a helpful diagnostic tool for our relationship with Him. In the New Testament, we see a clear discussion of this topic: “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen” (1 John 4:20). If we do not show love to others, it’s a sure sign that we do not love God. Rejoice, though, for recognizing our sinful behavior is the first step toward repentance and a restoration of our relationship with God (and others!).
 
Consider what your relationships with others reveal about your relationship with God.
 
Prayer: God, remind us of Your affection for those we despise; Your concern for those who oppress us; Your love for those we consider unremarkable. Teach us to worship You through our care for others.

from: https://www.todayintheword.org/issues/2021/our-god-reigns/daily-devotional/god-and-others/

october 21, 2021

october 20, 2021


october 19, 2021

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. 2 Timothy 3:16
 
My friend used to say, "Yelling at your kids is like yelling at your steering wheel and telling it which way to turn! You don’t yell at it, you just turn it!”
 
As a dad with 5 children, things were sometimes challenging to say the least. I would catch myself getting frustrated with my kids and using my words to correct them. One day I was reading 2 Timothy 3:16. Not only is Scripture God breathed, coming from God Himself, but it is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness! I realized it was not my words my kids needed to hear, but God’s! But in order for me to use His words, I needed to know them myself.
 
I'll never forget one of the first times I used God’s Word in a situation to teach my son. He was having issues with bragging and comparing others with himself. I told him, “God Word says, ‘whoever humbles himself will be exalted but he who exalts himself will be humbled.’” My son looked at me and said you’re right dad. I replied, “I am not right son, God is.”
 
It’s amazing how God’s Word has grown my son in humility over the years. He even uses that verse to this day with his friends! God’s word is useful and more powerful than our own words as we train our kids!

God, help us to use yours words more than our own because your word is powerful and can turn their hearts!

Chris Burton

october 15, 2021

Be Bold and Share the Gospel in a Cancel Culture

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.  Romans 1:16-17

In his letter to the church in Rome, Paul includes the clearest definition of subject found in any of his epistles. Verses 16 and 17 have an importance that is not related to their length. They give us the thesis of the epistle; they concisely express what God has done to achieve human salvation. In these two verses Paul affirms his commitment to the gospel, identifies it as the power of God to save, says it is the revelation of the justice of God, and quotes the book of Habakkuk to show that it is the way of salvation anticipated by the prophets from ancient times. In Paul’s time sharing the Gospel was paid with life itself and they did it. Why is it difficult for us to do this as servants of Jesus today?
 
The first sentence of verse 16 indicates the reason for this attitude: "I am not ashamed of the gospel." This statement may surprise us, but British Biblical scholar, F. F. Bruce, considers that the expression an example of a rhetorical figure that consists of saying less than what one wants to express. What he meant is that he gloried in the gospel and considered it a high privilege to proclaim it. That is why he was proud to express and share the gospel.
 
The apostle Paul had experienced the effect of the gospel in his own life and had also seen the effect of it in the lives of others. He could describe it in terms of power. How do you describe the gospel today?
 
Paul does not say that the gospel contains or offers power, but that it is the power of God. The transmission of the gospel is not the mere transmission of words. In the delivery of the message, a power that belongs to God is put into operation. Luther suggests that it is not the power by which God is powerful, but the power by which He makes servants mighty. Every time the gospel is proclaimed the power of God becomes effective. When the gospel is preached, it is not just a word that is spoken but something that happens. It saves!
 
"The gospel is the power of God" but it is not the power of God aimlessly. It has a specific purpose. It is "for salvation." The idea expressed by the word translated as “salvation” is the elimination of life-threatening dangers (going to hell) and the consequent creation of favorable conditions and benefits to all who believe—eternal life in the presence of God.
 
What is the gospel? That is a very good question that requires a very good answer. The gospel, according to the Scriptures, is that Jesus died, was buried, and on the third day He rose. The gospel is the good news that Jesus offers forgiveness and a new life to those who believe in Him by faith.
 
What is special about the Gospel

  • God (Jesus) became one of us and died to save us. Philippians 2: 6-8.
  • Unlike the pagan sects, it cost God everything, and was given it as a gift. Romans 6:23.
  • It is not about what we can do, but what has already been done for us. Ephesians 2: 8-9.
  • It is not just one of the ways to be saved, but it is the only way to be saved. Jesus said: John 14: 6. And it is written in Acts 4:12.

 
Church, my prayer is that we be bold and courageous to be able to say, like the apostle Paul, even if it leads us to death, "I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation."
 
Let's be Radical Missionals
 
Roy Soto

october 14, 2021

October 14, 2021


october 13, 2021

Proclaimers

“I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, Sovereign Lord; I will proclaim your righteous deeds, yours alone.”    Psalm 71:16

“Oyez, oyez, oyez!” This is the call or cry of the town crier, now usually only heard at ceremonials, fetes, and local events. It would have been a common cry on the streets of medieval England.

‘Oyez’ (pronounced ‘oh yay’) comes from the French ouïr (‘to listen’) and means “Hear ye.” The town crier would begin his cry with these words, accompanied by the ringing of a large hand bell to attract attention. It was the job of the crier or bellman to inform the townspeople of the latest news, proclamations, bylaws and any other important information, since at that time most folk were illiterate and could not read.  (source: Ellen Castelow)

In raising kids, every parent has been the “town crier.” Whether your child is down the street at a neighbor’s house, in the yard, or in another part of the house there are always times when you have to get their attention is a big way. 

Do you think the world “shouts” louder than believers? Do you think the ear of the general public is more attuned to the noise of our culture than to the words of Jesus?   

Psalm 71:16 says, “the Sovereign Lord does mighty acts and righteous deeds.”  What mighty acts of the Sovereign Lord have you experienced in the past 30 days? What righteous deeds of our Sovereign Lord have you seen and proclaimed? If our first response to the two questions above is “I really can’t think of anything” that ought to be an red flag warning in regards to the lack of fellowship we have with the Father. 

Look for ways this week to proclaim Jesus Christ. Proclaim your salvation story to others.

Ron

october 12, 2021

1 In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. 2 He had seven sons and three daughters, 3 and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East. 4 His sons used to hold feasts in their homes on their birthdays, and they would invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. 5 When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would make arrangements for them to be purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular custom.   Job 1:1-4

Over the years I have looked to the Bible for wisdom on how to lead myself, my family, and especial how to lead my kids. As parents it’s hard to divorce our feelings on how we lead from the decisions that our kids make. We feel great when they are making good choices and we feel bad when they are not. Ultimately, the decisions are theirs to make. We just instruct, train, and pray for them as well as we can through the leadership of the Holy Spirit and God’s Word.

Another thing that has helped me guide my kids through the years is the wisdom of other godly parents. Over the years I have met so many godly parents whose kids didn’t walk away from the Lord. The kids were not perfect, by any means, but never truly waivered in their faith. God has always prompted my heart to ask these parents questions.

One day the Lord prompted me to ask Ms. Ellen Daspit for wisdom. Ellen was a single mom who had raised three incredible kids. I asked her what advice she would give parents on raising their kids. What did she think was most important? Her answer shocked me. She said, “Chris, never give up on your kids.” I didn’t understand because she didn’t continue with an example. But as I watched her with her adult children, Ms. Ellen was still guiding and directing them. Even though they were grown up!

Ms. Ellen reminded me of Job. Even though Job's kids were grown and out of his home, Job continued to guide, direct, pray, and even sacrifice on their behalf. I am so challenged by that!

Don’t give up on your kids! I don’t care how old you are or how old they are. Don’t give up on guiding, directing, or praying on their behalf.

Remember that was Job's regular custom. What is yours?

Chris Burton

october 11, 2021

Unashamed of the Gospel
 
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.  Romans 1:16
 
There has never been any greater news than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The finished work of Christ on the cross is the fulfillment of hundreds of Old Testament prophecies of a Messiah who would come and establish a Kingdom that would last forever. For 2,000 years Christ has been building that Kingdom in the hearts of those who place their trust in Him. God so loved the world, He sent Jesus who died to pay a debt for our sin that He did not owe and that we could never pay. 
 
The Gospel--the simple message of a free gift offered unconditionally by God in flesh dying in our place--has changed billions of lives. Religion often leads to pride or fear. But the power of the Gospel brings forgiveness and freedom. It’s the hope of the world. It will change the world of whoever believes in Jesus. Sharing the Gospel is the mission of the church and the calling and privilege of every believer.
 
We show the Gospel by living a transformed life and we share the Gospel when we tell others what Christ has done for us and what He can do for them. Unfortunately, we sometimes act as if we are ashamed of the Gospel. In this cancel culture, we must never pull back from showing and sharing the Gospel with our world and through our culture. We must not be afraid to identify with Christ and His message of hope and redemption. We are His Plan A and there is no Plan B.
 
See you this Sunday for Week Three of SHINE: "Loving People Who Don’t  Like You.”
 
Pastor Jim

october 8, 2021

God Warns His Servants


1 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.   2 Timothy 3:1-5
 
The Word warns us, as servants were warned in times past, that difficult times would be lived, and the increase in wickedness would be witnessed more and more every day. And servants of Christ, we would still be persecuted and mistreated for the sake of doing good and living with principles and values  that keep families emotionally, physically, and spiritually healthy.
 
Verse 1a: "...that in the last days..." For the Israelites, the apocalyptic concept encompassed a long list of final woes: false prophets, apostasies, persecutions, wars, earthquakes, pestilences, etc. Jesus quoted these woes when He foretold the destruction of Jerusalem and the coming of the Son of Man. However, the apostle Paul does not refer to so many woes, but only to one, "the false prophets (usurpers) as hypocritical teachers and heretics." This warning to Timothy also serves as a warning to us.
 
Verse 1b: "...dangerous times will come..." In those days a dangerous environment was being presented in the church of Ephesus. It is as if Paul were saying to Timothy, “Watch out! You are surrounded by heretics who are resolutely deceiving the congregation with their erroneous doctrines."
 
If what was happening in the church at Ephesus seemed strange to Timothy, Paul wanted him to know that the difficult times are anticipated, and what is more, worse things would appear as the end draws near. Reuss says. "The false doctrine in Ephesus by means of these people, ‘servants,’ was already seen as the germ of general corruption that will manifest itself in the last days, thus in this overall picture the present experiences and the vision that is hidden in action are permeated.”
 
What Paul says is only the echo of the misfortune that occurred in the church then, as today, as well as in every age in the world. "The moral decline and manifestation of evil many times happens within the scope of the congregations and those who are corrupted are those who resist the truth and repudiate the gospel.”
 
Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paul elaborates some characteristics of the false "anointed" servants. The detailed list is a sordid description of sins that are seen as various degrees or levels and grouped without order. This is all with the purpose or idea of  pointing out that before God all sins have equal gravity--they are lethal, destroy, and revile the name of Christ.
 
In the present days things seem to be going from bad to worse. Bad is now called good, and the good bad, the courteous is ridiculous and old-fashioned, and the rude is now open-minded. I remember when the word den meant a place of debauchery--alcohol, drugs, and more. Now it refers to a place of relaxation and liberalism--fun, de-stress, and more. We are in an era where if you do not agree they can cancel you.
 
Through His Word God warns us to be prepared and live our convictions and hold the banner of the gospel high and move forward without fear. Read Matthew 24:4-13.
 
Church, my prayer is that we do not cower with all this evil that is advancing and progressing and seems to be winning the battle. Let us remember this… in Christ we are more than conquerors!
 
As the apostle Paul said: "I am not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God."
 
Roy Soto

october 7, 2021

This weekend our students and servant leaders will be at base camp learning more about God’s word and how to share it. Our goal is to encourage them to speak truth boldly, in love, which is why I was so excited about our new series Sunday morning called “Shine.”   

 

Pastor Jim brought up a very good point “Believers today often lack the confidence to shine for Jesus.” Personally, I believe there is a difference between just sharing and shining. Anyone can share about Jesus, but those who have been transformed like Pastor Jim talked about will inevitably shine for Him through actions and in speech. Sadly, the world doesn’t see God or His people the way we do as believers. John 15:18 says “if the world hates you, remember it hated me first.” I love being reminded that Jesus understands what we are walking through because He walked through it Himself. Isaiah 5:20 says, “What sorrow for those who say that evil is good and good is evil, that dark is light and light is dark, that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter.” 

 

It is very tempting to stay silent, sugar coat God’s truth, or to be selective when it comes to putting into practice certain things we preach, but I want to remind you of God’s faithfulness today. Know that God is bigger and greater than your fear of speaking up, of speaking the whole truth in love, or of surrendering the things you don’t want to give up. 

 

Cling to what is good, 

Elizabeth Jolley

october 6, 2021

Level Ground

Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God. May Your gracious Spirit lead me on level ground.  Psalm 143:10

How many of you have used the tool called a level? Let’s say you are hanging pictures in your home. You use a level to make sure the picture is straight and not leaning to the right or left. You use a level to determine whether the floor is “level” or not. The tool comes in very handy because it is so easy to look at things thinking they are level when they are not. 

When we were moving to Jackson, Mississippi, our realtor told us to take a golf ball with us as we walk through homes for sale that had a pier and beam foundation. I asked, “why carry a golf ball?” The realtor said it was the best way to determine whether the floor was level or not and whether there were foundation issues. Because you could stand at one end of a room, put the golf ball on the floor and watch it roll to the low spot in the room. Many of the homes in Jackson were built on Yazoo Clay which is notorious for shifting with the heat and cold, as well as the dry and wet conditions.  

Psalm 143:10 offers us the following biblical truths:

  • God is Personal –  Does He have your full attention?
  • God’s Will is teachable – Are you teachable today?
  • God’s Spirit is gracious – Are you soaking up His graciousness so you can be gracious to others?


Even though at times we feel like the ground beneath our feet is shifting, rolling, God offers level ground. 

It’s like the hymn says, “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.”

Ron

october 5, 2021

Creeping Compromise
 
Hosea 7:3-12  
 
How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him. 1 Kings 18:21
 
In the mid-1630s, thousands of Puritans migrated to New England. They built homes, established government, and founded churches. Quite quickly, though, they recognized the need to train the next generation of clergy. So, in September of 1636, classes were first held at New College in New Towne, Massachusetts. In 1639, the school was renamed Harvard College in honor of English minister, John Harvard. Their original motto? “Truth for Christ and the Church.” Current Harvard Professor Stephen Shoemaker wrote his dissertation on the religious history of the University that is no longer known as a training home for clergy.
 
Today’s passage from Hosea may, on the surface, seem to have nothing to do with Harvard. These verses are full of curious baking images, the details of which confuse even commentators. But what is clear is the main idea. Over time, Israel had formed alliances with other kings and assimilated the worldview of other nations (v. 8)—their thinking, their morality, their values, their worship. These foreigners had slowly sapped Israel’s strength, but the people were not even aware that it was happening (v. 9). Like the gradual process of getting gray hair, this creeping compromise occurred one small choice at a time, moving them further and further away from God and His purpose.
 
Hosea reveals the status of their hearts and their relationship to God: “All their kings fall, and none of them calls on me” (v. 7). What was once a people focused on God and following His command, had deteriorated into a people who turned to earthly leaders and even other Gods. Hosea describes Ephraim as “easily deceived and senseless” (v. 11). Each small compromise had led to a huge move away from the one true God.
 
In what way do you need to combat creeping compromise in your own life and family? Consider choices you’ve made that have moved you away from a godly focus.
 
from: https://www.todayintheword.org/issues/2021/healing-love/daily-devotional/creeping-compromise/
 

october 4, 2021

Science and a Biblical Worldview
 
Yesterday, I brought a message on the importance for believers to adopt a biblical world view for every area of their life. The Bible is the believer’s sole authority for faith and practice. It is a guide for decision making, a compass for living, and a roadmap laying out pitfalls to avoid. So every Christ follower needs to apply the truth of scripture to every area of life. They need to know the Word through personal and group study. But more importantly, they need to be able to apply the truth of scripture to every area of their life. This will allow them to discern false or deceptive worldviews that may look good at first, but that are ultimately opposed to the Kingdom that Christ came to build. Most of all a biblical worldview will go way beyond information or biblical Knowledge--it will result in our lives being transformed. We’ll daily repent of wrong ways of thinking and love people who seek to hurt us.  
 
So where does science fit into a biblical worldview? Science is the systematic study of nature and social interaction using an evidence based approach called the scientific method. Most of the ground breaking scientists in history were Christians. They accepted the biblical account of a creator God. In fact many were in awe of beauty in the order and design in nature. They were driven to better understand the systems God created that sustain the universe. 
 
The more we discover about the complexity and design in the world around us and within us--down to subatomic particles--the more I believe scientific discoveries lead us to the God of the Bible. Science does not prove God, but it does lead you to evidence for a Designer, archeology that affirms the facts in scripture, and psychology of man’s innate desire for something more than this life.
 
See you next week for part two of SHINE with the message, "The Uniqueness of the Gospel." Please invite a friend.
 
Blessings,
Pastor Jim

october 1, 2021

Time to Reproduce Ourselves
 
Isaiah 54:1-8
 
Isaiah, chapter 54 begins with an exclamation "REJOICE!" But how could someone rejoice in a situation of stagnation or decline? This Word is giving us encouragement, hope, and motivation from our great God, and Lord. Because when we believe that we cannot, He comes out to meet us just at the moment of crisis, on time and ready to turn misery into joy, misery into abundance. Israel began to dry up because they did not believe the word of God. They did not look at things from a spiritual point of view. They loved the things of the world and their attachments more than God. They did not want to remain in the will of God.
 
Verse 1, “Sing, barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,” says the Lord.” God is about to give what He never had before, but something that we had always yearned for. God is about to show His glory in a dimension that we have never seen. God is about to use us, even though it seems that we have stopped serving according to His purpose. But for that to happen, God says, “It is necessary that you get ready and prepare yourself for my plan.”
 
If we do not prepare by committing ourselves, God says: “what I have to give you does not fit where you are—I cannot do great things in your life if you stay small.” He's talking not so much about the physical place, since we have big places to congregate. He is talking about our spiritual life.
 
Verse 2a, “Enlarge the place of your tent…” Brothers, if they looked sterile, they will now reproduce. Look beyond what you are. If God asks us to expand it is because there is room to do it and He has something more. God will never ask us to do something if we didn't have what it takes to do it. If God asks us to prepare, it is because we have room to spread out. Do you believe that?
 
Verse 2b, “...stretch your tent curtains wide…” It is obvious that if God is going to extend us externally (multiply), we must first look internally. That is why the most important thing is the spiritual—our heart, our mind, our being. Do you know that this is the problem with many servants today? We long for God to bless us greatly. But we stay small and comfortable—inside we are conformists. We even say, “I am already saved, I am in Christ, and I expect a blessing. It is His obligation, it is His duty, He promises it.” At times we even demand privileges. But when He COMMANDS, we don't want to obey.
 
Verse 2c, “...do not hold back, lengthen your cords…” We cannot limit ourselves. God is a God of resource and abundance. Do you believe that? Many things do not go well for us, not because God does not want to or cannot, but because we limit Him. He wants to manifest His great wonders. We need to let Him act, as at the beginning of the Church.
 
Verse 2d, “…strengthen your stakes…” The stakes gave security and stability to the tents in which the people lived—how we see the columns of a building today. They are what give security to the entire building just as in the spiritual aspect faith and obedience are what give us security in our life. And as active servants in the church, it will grow bigger. We will reproduce (Acts 2: 46-47). Do we believe that? The ministry will expand and we will multiply leaders (Acts 6: 1-7). That is why we have to reinforce, not the place, but rather our spiritual life. We need to reinforce with prayer, Bible reading, fasting, attending services, and supporting ministries.
 
Finally it is written, For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will dispossess nations  and settle in their desolate cities. 4 Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood. 5 For your Maker is your husband—the Lord Almighty is his name—the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth.” (Isaiah 54:3-5)
 
That is what God expects for each of us! What do we want from God?
 
That's what God wants for His church! And what do we want for His church?
 
That's what God wants for His Kingdom! What do we want for His kingdom?
 
Roy Soto

september 30, 2021

5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 2 Peter 1:5-7
 
As we talked about spiritual fitness this week and how it relates to our physical fitness, I began to reflect on my own personal journey over the last few months in both areas. At the beginning of the year I got to a point where my physical health was keeping me from doing simple things (like walking upstairs) and it was also keeping me from being as effective as I could be with our students. So I made changes in my life. Yes, I ate better and began to exercise, but what I also did was avoid some of the things and places that would tempt me back to my old lifestyle. I think the same can apply to our spiritual health. Yes, praying more and getting in to the word are certainly required for your spiritual health, but we should also avoid places and things that might make us stumble. “Add to your faith goodness, knowledge, and self-control” we must have the self-control to avoid the things that takes us back to our old selves. Maybe that is social media, or a certain group of “friends”, or maybe a place that always seems to lead to bad decisions.

I love the support Oak View has given me in my physical health journey. Some might say it is easier to tell when we make physical improvements, but I have found that if you start to become spiritually fit it will become very obvious to anyone who interacts with you. When people see someone who looks healthier the first question they usually ask is, “how did you do it?” and I have found as we get closer to Christ a similar question is asked, “what changed you?” and this is our opportunity to share the Gospel. The best way to share the Gospel is to show the Gospel. Love you guys!
 
Make Good Decisions,
 
Jack

september 29, 2021

The Greatest Value


september 28, 2021

Spiritually Fit


september 27, 2021

My Spiritual Fitness Plan