Home Field Advantage

Day 19 p. 211-226

 “make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.” Philippians 2:2

Did you know that in the National Football League the home team wins 57 out of 100 games? This is sometimes referred to as the “home field advantage.” The fans have gathered with the same mind, a united spirit, and one purpose. The fan noise in some stadiums has been known to be so disruptive, the opposing team has to modify their communication, in order to effectively communicate on the field. This can be extremely disruptive and often causes a team to make errors. The home field advantage is a significant factor for sports teams. Do we as followers of Jesus Christ have a home field advantage? When our team gathers on Sunday morning, should we gather with the same mind, united in spirit, and intent on one purpose? The answer of course is yes. Our opposition is evil, and when we come together with the same mind, united in spirit, and intent on one purpose, not only will we win 57 out of 100 times, we will win 100 out of 100 times. You see, as followers of Jesus we have the ultimate “home field” advantage. Our faith in Christ unites us as believers. Paul frequently taught this principal, and we, as followers tend to underestimate the power of unity. What intentional steps will you take this week to be united with the same mind, united in spirit, and united and intent on one purpose?

Prayer: Father help me to be united with the same mind, united in the same spirit, and united and intent on one purpose.


 

About The Author

 

Kevin Linthicum is the minister of evangelism/missions for Oakland Heights Baptist Church. He enjoys spending time with his family, and outdoor recreation with Sudan.  He is thankful for the opportunity to serve on the team at OHBC.

Contentment

Day 18 p. 197-210

This fall I reached a new milestone in my life, my 10 year high school reunion. It is hard to believe that so much time has passed since I graduated and began studying art photography at University of New Mexico. Throughout the past few months, my social media feeds have been flooded with memories and photos from those days that helped to shape my world view.

In art school I was taught to question everything. Always asking, “What could make this better? What needs to change? How can I convey my message clearly?” These questions caused me to embrace a mindset of discontentment. As an art student, it’s easy to fall into the trap that being discontent with your work also means you are discontent with who you are. After all, for most of us, we pour our whole selves into our work.

There is an impossible balance between contentment and a desire to improve. In order to create something great, there needs to be a certain amount of discontentment. It’s important to understand that this discontentment cannot be focused on ourselves. It has to be focused externally.

Today we have the opportunity to read through the one of Paul’s letter to the early church, and in it he shares with the church that he “learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.” Paul is talking about contentment as a way of relying on God. We have the opportunity to put our trust in Him. Whether we are rich or poor, God uses those moments to strengthen our trust in Him.

It is important to realize that God has placed each of us in our current situation for a reason, and that we must be content where He has us. That does not mean that we cannot strive to improve, and do the best we can where we are with what we have.

To be a healthy creator, you have to constantly evaluate your level of personal contentment and artistic discontentment. We should strive to live a life of abandon to change the world. But we must live a life of contentment with God.


 

About The Author

 

Stewart Linthicum, Communications and Creative Media Director at Oakland Heights Baptist Church, was born and raised in Longview, Texas, and moved to the Land of Enchantment (New Mexico) when he was 18 years old. From the time he was young, he had an innate desire to create. As he grew up through school and in the workforce, he continued to find ways to use his creative and artistic gifts to share the message of the Gospel with those around him. 

Love Letters

Day 17 p. 189-195

In February of this year, as Mike and I accepted the call from God to move back to East Texas, I cringed at the thought of packing up a house after 11 years! But in that process, one of the most precious things that I was reminded of were the letters I had stored away from the years that Mike and I had dated. Sitting down in a house alone and reading them from 35 years past, brought me joy, tears and laughter as I remembered how our sweet love developed. Looking at the handwriting, the words on the page and even sometimes the funny pictures drawn reminded me that we did “life” together through those letters. He knew what I needed to hear as I walked my journey each day! They meant the world to me because he had taken the time from his day to pen the letter. Years later, they still have meaning and bring me joy!

As Epaphras clued Paul in on what was happening in Colossae, Paul immediately used his gift of writing to communicate with the people. People he didn’t even know. Through his letter writing, he was choosing to “do life” with them long distance. I loved how the invitation to this passage of Plunge reading gives us the basic message of his letter, which was: When you've got Messiah Jesus, you've got it all. What a great bumper sticker that could be. I could stop there and enough would be said, but the following three thoughts struck my heart and encouraged my faith in this reading.

1) “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” We live in a world that gives up and sometimes assumes failure before something even has a chance. I claim this promise in scripture. God is the designer that sees the big picture! We don’t have to keep it together, let HIM!

2) “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” We live in a world that is daily bombarded with evil distractors. When we saturate our thoughts with God’s promises, we live as overcomers against those evil distractors.

3) “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” As a middle school math teacher, I walk into a classroom as a mere servant of God! I need to work hard, but beyond that I need to see it as a job that God has given me to not only “stamp our ignorance,” but to plant seeds of faith and spiritually guide the minds of students who are seeking truth.

On a closing note, I challenge all you readers to do “life” (like Paul) with someone this week and take the time to drop a “hand-written” note to encourage believers around you! I received one last week out of the clear blue at school. It was sent at the perfect time to lift my spirits during the week. 


 

About The Author

 

Becky Cook is the wife of Pastor Mike Cook. She has been teaching in public schools for 22 years. Becky enjoys teaching, playing the piano and encouraging and equipping women within the church.  

God's Calling

Day 16 p. 177-188

“And we know…” (Romans 8:28) I’ve read this passage many times, but the older I get, the more profound it is in my life. The first three words in this passage assume we have a certain knowledge of something. Where did we get that knowledge? In James 1:5, we are to ask Him for wisdom (deep knowledge) and He will give it to us. So when we ask Him for understanding of these verses, He first reminds us of our “love relationship with Him.” As a small child, I cannot remember a time when I did not absolutely LOVE Jesus! I wanted to serve Him forever even then. At the time, I was in a little country Methodist church, 3 years before I realized I needed Him as my Savior. How is that possible? I only had knowledge of Him, yet I already wanted to be in His service. My thought process was – to be a missionary, I had to be a Baptist, or to be a nun, I must be a Catholic! I was neither, so I didn’t feel I could ever fulfill that deep desire in my heart to serve Him fully.

After I was saved and even when I failed Him badly, I always felt close to Him. That knowledge of His love and continued care for me saw me through many hardships in my life. I never asked, “God why did you let that happen?” Instead, I would ask, “God, what will this change mean in my life?” Leaning into what God is doing is the easy part, following His footsteps is the hard part, looking back after a few years experiences is the “knowledge” part!

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) The worst thing that ever happened in my life, led me straight to God’s fulfilling His purpose in my life - that longing in a young girl’s heart to serve Him in a “called vocation.” My calling was to Oakland Heights Baptist Church in May of 1984 as a childcare worker/receptionist. I became the Pastor’s Secretary in July and the rest, as they say, is history! I know this is God’s calling on my life, because after almost 34 years, I still get excited about coming to work! Each day I get to love on His people, serve Him through serving others, learn patience in the mundane paperwork, and see where He is at work in the life of my church and join Him! “And we know…” His work is not done at OHBC yet–so “Let’s Go to Work!”      


 

About The Author

 

Marine Moore grew up in Kentucky, but has lived in Texas for nearly 41 years, 40 of those years as a member of Oakland Heights Baptist Church. Her son, Eddie is still a member, and works with Wycliffe Bible Translators. Her daughter, Maryah, is an active member in the choir, orchestra, and is a Ministry Assistant at Hiway 80 Rescue Mission. Her husband, DJ heads up the Safety Team at OHBC.    

Set Apart

Day 15 p. 165-177

In reading through the pages regarding the book of Romans, several themes that Paul relates to just seem to jump off the pages and will stick with me forever. In his usual writing style, Paul first defines who he is in Christ Jesus and then provides teaching and practical sections for the letter recipients in Rome that still apply for our daily use today. As Christians, we are servants of Christ Jesus and are called to be set apart for the gospel of God. Paul reminds us that we should be thankful and have a longing to share the gospel with all kinds of people. Not just to the Jews, but Gentiles as well. Not just those under the law, but those not under the law. Not just the rich, but also to the poor. Not just the wise, but also to the foolish. Not just the popular crowd, but to those sitting alone as well. The good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ is FOR ALL! “This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe." It is our duty as believers to carry that message to the people God places in our path each and every day.

Paul uses the theme of slavery and rescue to point to the saving grace offered in Jesus. He relates back to Abraham’s descendants falling into slavery and getting rescued by God. God gave them His law and guided them out of the wilderness. We are all born as slaves to sin and death, but God gave us His only son, Jesus Christ, so that we may be redeemed through His life, death and resurrection. God wants and desires to rescue us ALL and have a relationship with ALL OF US!

Paul also reminds us that just because we have accepted Christ as our savior and have been forgiven for our sins that we are not to continue to sin. Christ paid the price for our sins. Is it okay to sin since we are covered by his grace? As Paul would often answer, “Not at all!” or “By no means!” So then why do we continue to sin? Why do we continue to desire the things of the flesh? Why do I do what I hate and not what I want to do? I believe in those weak moments we sometimes forget that Christ died for all of our sins. He cannot die again. Death no longer has a hold over him or us as believers. If we believe that Christ died for our sins shouldn’t we also remember that he is alive and living with God interceding for us? We are no longer slaves to sin and should live that way in this crazy world. As Paul stated, “For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering." Let’s start living as if we have been completely forgiven and really are free from sin. Rejoice in that burden being lifted once and for all. We chose not to sin in obedience for God’s undeserved gift. This is the good stuff!

I can’t make my own words illustrate the point any better than Paul did when he wrote, “If God is for us, then who can be against us?” What else are we waiting for?


 

About The Author

 

Chuck White has been married to Terri for nearly 35 years and they have two daughters, Katelyn, 19, and Madison, 16, all of which were saved and baptized at Oakland Heights Baptist Church.  Chuck accepted Christ and was later baptized at Sagemont Baptist Church in Houston at the age of 18 on a High School Senior recognition day. He is the proud son of OHBC members Kathryn and Charles White. Their family moved to Longview from Houston in January, 2000, in order to raise their children in a more Christ centered environment that included OHBC and their immediate family members living in the area. They are so glad to be a part of a wonderful journey and look forward to the many great things happening at OHBC.

In Christ Alone

Day 14 p. 155-163

Have you ever inadvertently turned onto a one-way street going the wrong direction? If you have, you know there is no time to waste in getting yourself headed in the right direction!  Paul’s letter to the Galatians starts with a jolt! They are headed in the wrong direction, and he has got to come right to the point of his letter. There are no flowery words of praise or commendation; he jumps right in with, “What do you think you are doing?”

Paul is disturbed because the Galatians are listening to those who have come in to agitate and disturb the spirit of the church. They are leading the believers to revert to keeping the Law, specifically circumcision, and saying that it was needed for salvation. This must have caught the Galatians off-guard, but Paul’s warning was so needed then and now!

It made me think how we look for tangible proofs rather than trusting God with what we can’t see. Our salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Christ has done for us what we can never, ever do for ourselves. As Paul states, the believer is crucified with Christ and no longer lives. Christ lives in the believer, and the believer’s life belongs to Him. I am saved by God’s grace and have no righteousness of my own. I can never pay for my own sins, nor can I repay God for all He has done for me. If I do something to try to justify myself before God, I always fall flat. God has accomplished through Christ’s cross what we can never do on our own. God in His grace has given us His righteousness – this blows me away! My response is gratitude and a deep desire to let Him use my life however He chooses.

Paul admonishes the Galatians (and us) to run the race and not get tripped up by someone who doesn’t want us to win. He reminds us that in Christ we are free! God has put His Spirit within each believer, and He will lead us in the way we should go.

The best way to go in the right direction in life is to trust Christ and live by the Spirit --- to keep in step with the Spirit. God has given Him to us to help us walk in newness of life, in the grace and peace He offers.


 

About The Author

 

Mary Morris has been a member of Oakland Heights Baptist Church since 1981, and she grew up in Pittsburg, Texas. She is married to Mark Morris, and they have twin daughters, Emily and Amy, who both grew up at OHBC. The family now includes two sons-in-law and 5 grandchildren. Mary and Mark work with Home Builders and serve on various committees. Mary is the Teaching Leader for the Longview Day Women’s Bible Study Fellowship Class.

Perspective

Day 13 p. 139-153

Perspective is defined as a “point of view” or the “capacity to view things in their proper importance." Paul’s perspective in II Corinthians is amazing. He saw many parts of his ministry from the viewpoint of a mature follower of Christ. He was experiencing criticism, misunderstanding, persecutions, disappointments in friends and the nearness of his death. So many of the verses in this book have helped me view some of the challenges of life from a heavenly perspective as Paul did. 

My life has needed the comfort that Paul wrote of in the early verses. He said sharing in abundant sufferings brought abundant comfort. The hope he had found in Christ made him see his sufferings as something we could share with others who suffer. My heart has known the comfort of our Lord and in turn I believe God has used it to help others.

Paul also viewed his physical wasting away as only part of life. I am reminded that every day my spirit can be renewed even though I grow older as my physical strength fades. Then he penned one of my most favorite verses, “Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” His perspective saw beyond the moments that troubled him to the goal of eternal life where these troubles would be insignificant. His confidence in the future led him to say, ”as long as we are at home in the body, we are away from the Lord…I would prefer to be away from the body and at home with Lord."

Finally, Paul viewed his personal weaknesses from God’s point of view. After praying for the removal of his “thorn in the flesh,” Paul came to realize that his own weakness made him strong because it showed him God’s awesome power. He said, “when I am weak, then I am strong.”

If I can learn from Paul how to see my life from God’s perspective, my days will take on a heavenly viewpoint. My daily love and service to my Lord will grow and my outlook on life will be full of joy and peace, knowing the God of love and peace is with me.


 

About The Author

 

Nita Rogers is the wife of Dr. Ben Rogers, mother of 4 with another in heaven, grandmother of 8 and great-grandmother of 8.  She was saved when she was 8 years old and surrendered for Christian service at the age of 14.  Nita has taught Bible classes for all ages and has spoken at various women's events. She has also made 4 trips to Malawi, Africa for village evangelism and is the author of one book. 

Gifts

Day 12 p. 127-138

As we begin to look at the last half of the book of I Corinthians, Paul wrote to the church at Corinth about several topics that effect the culture of that day. One of the topics was food sacrificed to idols and how it could be a stumbling block for the weaker Christians of that day. This is not a problem for us today as modern day Christians, but are there physical things present today which can cause a weaker Christian to stumble into sinning? I can’t help but wonder what some of the things are that fall into this category.

Paul penned in this book a warning to Christians of his day, which I believe still hold true for us. We need to be careful in exercising our freedom that it does not become a stumbling block for others. Some people want to say their actions do not affect others, Paul addresses that by writing “everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible, but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others."

Another topic Paul addressed in this portion of I Corinthians was spiritual gifts. He wrote about many different kinds of them, but each is given and directed by the same spirit, the Holy Spirit. I’m sure they wondered why one person had a spiritual gift, and someone else had another, so Paul wrote that each spiritual gift was given for the common good of the body. Paul went on to tell the readers that the Holy Spirit gives each gift as He determines. So let each one of us determine our spiritual gift(s) and use them for the common good of the body.

As you go on reading these passages for today, Paul discusses how the gift of love should be used in the body. We must think about what we do for the body of Christ, we do it out of love. Paul wrote if I gave everything he owned, but did not do it out of love, “I have gained nothing.” Paul then listed several qualifications of love. He wrote that it is patient, kind, does not envy, and it is not proud. How often do we stop to think about the things we are doing for the body of Christ. If I’m not doing them out of love, I’ve gained nothing.

In conclusion of this devotional. I can’t stop thinking about another book Paul penned to the church at Philipppi. “Each of you should not only look to your own interest, but also the interest of others.” I hope as you read through these passages today you will think about this.


 

About The Author

 

Rickey Rush came to know the Lord as a small boy about 9 years old, but it wasn’t until he was a young man in his twenties that his faith and knowledge of God’s word really began to grow. He is married to Kim and they have been members at Oakland Heights Baptist Church for about 4 years. Originally brought to Longview because of their daughter's job and to help care for their first granddaughter. God then gave Rickey the opportunity to serve as one of the leaders of a Sunday School class. Rickey has always rejoiced in the opportunity to lead others in studying God’s word. They are now privileged to care for 2 granddaughters.