Firmly Planted

A couple weeks ago I got a call on Saturday from one of our church members, John.

“Hey man, do you want to go floating on Monday?”

John had a couple kayaks that he had bought several years ago, but never had gotten them out on the water.  He brought them to church one summer as props for VBS and after ogling over them for a while, he said that we would go one day.  Monday was finally going to be that day.

“Sure!  Let’s do it!!”

A couple days later John and I found ourselves on the Nolin river right by Gilead Baptist Church floating on one of the nicest mornings I had seen in quite a while. 

As we followed the river through many dips and turns, we saw some wildlife, marveled at rock formations and notice the many beautiful trees that hung over the river, providing us shade.

John said, “Isn’t it amazing how some of these trees can have some of the root structure washed out and yet they still grow and hold tight to the bank?”

“I think it is probably a testament to how strong their roots really are.”

As we continued our float, I began to ponder what the Bible says about trees like these and how they related to the life of a believer.

Psalm 1 says:

1How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.

The trees that we passed were a reminder that those cling to the Word of God will continue to grow no matter what the world may throw at them.

  1. These trees grow even in adversity.
    The very fact that we could see so much of these trees root structure reminded us that these trees had been through some stuff. They had seen drought and they had seen flood.  I have no doubt that pollution and liter had passed by their way.  They had seasons where they grew rapidly and times where they barely grew at all. 
    Yet they always grew and they always had to take the good with the bad.  Psalm 1 implies that the tree goes through seasons where a different tree might wither and die.  Living according to Scripture does not promise a life free from doubt, worry, stress, or hardship, but it does promise to give you all you need to endure these seasons and grow in spite of them.
  2. These trees are completely dependent on the source
    Right along with the previous point, it becomes very clear that the tree is completely dependent on the river for everything. No one had to tell the tree to dig down deep.  No one had to tell the tree that it would need a huge, complicated root structure in order to stand firm and take advantage of all the river had to offer.  It did it because it was designed to do so, and the more it grew up, the more it needed to grow down and dig deep in order to remain.
    It really is a shame that we are not as smart as trees.  We constantly need to be told that we have to dig deeper into our source of life.  We grow a little and we think we can put the Bible, prayer, and Christian community on the shelf.  We face adversity and we withdraw into ourselves instead of digging deeper into the Word of Life!  Can you imagine for a moment what would happen to a tree if it pulled its roots back into the trunk during a drought?  It would be dead in a week!!!  So why do we do it?
    We have to recognize that we NEED God, His Word, and a relationship with the Son in order to live in this life.   After that, we need to dig deep into his Word and our relationship with Him in order to get through it all.
  3. The tree uses this blessing to fulfill its purpose
    Now it may be a little self-centered on my part think that those trees’ purpose was to provide shade for me and John, but it sure was nice!!!!!
    Regardless that tree had a purpose. Perhaps the trees’ purpose was to hold the soil in place, or keep the water (and kayakers) cool & shaded, or maybe it was to provide food and shelter for animals that live near the water.  Regardless, it was not there just to suck up water and pull nutrients from the river!!!

We are the same way.  God is feeding you and growing you through His Word for a reason.  I can tell you what the reason is too!!!  You are here to make disciples.  Jesus said these words, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.” (Matt 28:19-20) Now, I cannot tell you how you’ll do that or what it will look like; you will have to discover that for yourself!  But I can tell you that it will not happen if you don’t stay rooted in God and His Word!

 

The trees on the river remind us of our need for God and our mission for God, but it also reminds us that with God we will endure until the end.  I am praying that you will “dig deep” into the Word with us at THBC!!!  God bless!


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Be Gracious

The other day I am home from the office and while I was changing clothes, I turned to charge my phone.  As I did so, I discovered that the plug for my charger was missing.   Well, anyone who has children understands that this meant that my daughter had stolen my plug in order to charge her IPod. 

No sooner had I made this discovery when I heard shouting from my kids.

“You stole it!!!” 

“No, I didn’t!”

“Yes, you did!  You knew I was using that!!!”

I rushed down the steps to intervene before this shouting match turned into a fight.  There in my home office were my two daughters shouting at each other as loud as they could.  My oldest daughter, the one with an IPod, was accusing her little sister of stealing something that wasn’t really hers to begin with.

“What is going on here?”

“SHE stole my…!!!”

“Just like you stole my charger?”

(silence)

It is never fun to be reminded that we are just as guilty of sin. 

In Jesus day, He told the story of a salve who owed his master a large sum of money.  He was unable to pay the large sum at the time in which it was due.  He knew that the normal consequence for failing to pay a debt was the selling of his family and property and possibly prison.  Therefore, he fell at the feet of his master and begged that he would be given more time.

His master felt compassion for the slave and did not just give him an extension, but forgave his debt completely!  The slave did not walk out of that court a man with more time, but a man who had been set free from his debt and the fear of all punishment!!!

However as he left the court that day, the salve saw another slave who owed him a much smaller sum of money.  He grabbed the man and began to choke him, demanding his money!  The other slave begged him for more time in order to pay back the debt, but he would not have it.  He had the other slave thrown into prison for failing to pay the debt.

The slaves deeds eventually made their way to the master’s ears.  When he heard of the incident, his face became twisted with anger and he called the slave back into his presence.  The master confronted him for his wickedness and his lack of mercy and then sent him away to be tortured for the debt that had been forgiven him!  (Matthew 18:23-35)

Through this parable, Jesus reminded Peter that those who have been shown mercy ought to be merciful as well.  On other words, be gracious for you have received grace yourself!

This is something that should be true of all Christians as well!!!  We need to be quick to show grace and quick to forgive.  Here a some quick reminders that may help you do so.

  1. You are not perfect
It always has to start with us.  We have to remember where we used to be.  The slave in Jesus’ parable failed to remember that he had been forgiven a huge sum of money.  My daughter failed to remember that she too had taken things without asking.  We also have sinned against God in many ways and yet He has forgiven us! 
Paul, after listing several sins, says, “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” (1 Cor 6:11) This passage should be our reminder that were are only different because God forgave us!

 

  1. They are not perfect
Once we come to the obvious truth that we are not perfect; it is much easier to remember that they cannot be perfect either!  We often place the burden of perfection on people.  We want people around us to just know exactly how to respond to every situation.  We want people to do right by us every time; even when that actually isn’t good for us!!!  We place that burden on people and it is a burden that they cannot bear.  When they fail us, we condemn them for being so selfish, mean, and cruel.  We judge them without mercy and often without a full understanding of the situation.
We have to remind ourselves that we are not perfect and we cannot expect others to be perfect either.  Rather, “everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger;” (James 1:19)

 

  1. Christ is perfect, and He forgave

“I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.” (John 8:11) These are the words of Jesus to the woman caught in sin.  He had every right to condemn her.  In fact, He was the only one with a right to condemn her.  Yet he chose to forgive her!

 

Go, and do likewise.


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Let us gather…

Summers are a blessed time full of fun and exciting events!

Many of us have taken advantage of this season with camps and trips, vacations and adventures.  But often this also means that our full schedules tend to pull us away from gathering with other believers for the purpose of worship.

It does not take much to notice that churches all over the nation see a drop in worship attendance over the summer months.  Unfortunately, for many this also means getting out of the habit of corporate worship; with some taking a very long break before they gather again with their church family.

It is during times like these that we need to be reminded of the importance and certainly the blessings that come when the saints gather together to worship God.  Here are a few things to consider as we head into the school year and try to get back into a routine.


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Reflections from Camp

As many of you know, I have the privilege of co-directing our local associational camp.  This year was one of the most challenging and most rewarding camps that I have been able to be a part of.

God did some tremendous things at camp this year.  We saw kids come to know Christ.  We got to hear from many who wanted to further their relationship with Christ through Baptism.  We even got to talk with several young people who felt a strong pull towards missions.  It was fantastic!

Now that I am home and I have had some time to reflect on all that happened at camp, I wanted to share with you my reflections from camp.


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Wanted: Christians who…

Imagine for a moment that you saw this ad in the paper:

WANTED:  Christians who would be the Church and not just go to church.

What would be your initial reaction?  What questions might you have for the person who posted the ad?

What would be the difference between a Christian who is the Church versus the Christian who merely goes to church?

I want to present to you a few qualities of Christians to strive to be the Church.

  1. They are present.

The first clear characteristic of Christians who are being the Church is that they show up.  Those who just go to church view church attendance and participation as something to do when they are available.  If the things of life (work, recreation, chores) demand their attention, being present is quickly sacrificed.
But to those who are the church, presence and participation are a priority.  They are there even when it is inconvenient.  They show up even when they don’t feel like it.  They serve when better offers come along.  This isn’t limited to Sunday morning either, they are always there to give a helping hand; whether it is encouraging a brother/sister over coffee or getting dirty on a project at the church building.  Those who are the church always show up!

  1. They are giving.

Paul writes, “For God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Cor 9:7) Therefore, it stands to reason that those who are the Church are eager to give and give sacrificially.

But there is more to this than giving, there is a mentality to the Church that this world is passing away and all the things that are in them. (1 Jn 2:17) This should mean that the Church does not desire to cling to the things of this world over the things of God.  The Church ought to be generous in their giving because they know that by giving the local church is able to do more as she meets needs and shares the Gospel with the nations.  Paul also wrote, “Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.”  When the Church gives, God will use those gifts to reach the nations with the Gospel!

  1. They are sharing.

Jesus clearly said, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” (Jn 20:21) This “sentness” means that every single person who claims Christ is supposed to be a witness for Christ in this world.  People who are the Church embrace this fact and seek to share the good news of salvation through Christ to the world.  They just don’t do it as part of a church program, nor do they delegate that responsibility to a pastor or someone “gifted with evangelism”.  The Church shares the Gospel with their family, friends, and coworkers.  When they aren’t sharing, they are praying for those who need to hear it.

  1. They are loving.

The last and probably the most important characteristic of the Church is love.  Jesus told his disciples, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Jn 13:35)  First, the Church has to love one another.  We love each other even when we disagree.  We love each other even though we are different.  No matter way, we love each other.  Secondly, we love those outside of the church.  We love them so much we speak the truth in love. (Eph 4:15)  We love them so much that we do everything we can to see them come to Christ.  People who know nothing about us or our faith should be able to see that we love others.

 

So how would you do?  Would you be able to answer the ad?  Imagine for a moment how different things would be if everyone sought to be the Church and not just go to church!  It would change the world!!!


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The Power of Prayer

Last night something fantastic happened.

Last night a small group of people gathered together, reached out into the heavens, and spoke with God.

In other words, last night a group of people gathered to pray.

It seems like the significance and the majesty of prayer has become somewhat lost in the church today.  We cannot help but view prayer as something passive; something you do when you can’t do anything else.  I often find myself saying, “What can I do for you… besides just pray?”  It is as if I am saying that prayer is insignificant or that it doesn’t really matter.

But this is clearly not the case; prayer is by far and away THE most powerful tool that the Christian has today.  It should be our “go to” weapon against the world and the evil one, and it should saturate every move the church makes.  Prayer should be central to the life of the Christian and the life of the Church.  We should above all else be a praying people.

So what happens when God’s people pray?

  1. God hears our prayers.
    Do not miss the significance of this statement! God, the Creator of the Heavens & the Earth, He who put the stars in the sky and keeps them burning, is listening to our prayers.  It does not matter how significant they may seem or how often we pray; God always hears our prayers.  The apostle John said it this way, “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” (1 John 5:14)  How wonderful it is to know that God is listening!
  2. God not only hears He also acts on our prayers.
    One of the most tragic developments of the modern age is a concept called “moralistic therapeutic deism”, which is the belief that God, generally speaking, leaves you alone unless He wants to reward you for being good. Under this mode of thinking, God does not really listen to our prayers, nor does he act unless it’s just to be nice to us, but the Bible paints a very different picture of God.  According to the Bible, God does act on our prayers and He can and will do amazing things if we cry out to Him and seek His will.  The Lord himself says, “And [if] My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”  The God of the Bible will certainly step in to deliver his people and do wonderful, miraculous things.  Believe it or not, this church has experienced it!!!  We have seen prayers answered in miraculous ways that moved us all to worship God!!
  3. God will also change us.
    I think the most unexpected thing about prayer is the effect that it has on the person praying. Last night I came to church overwhelmed, frustrated, and burdened with concerns.  However, as I gathered with the saints I was confronted with the reality that God is still working, answering prayers, and advancing His Kingdom.  I was reminded that God has not abandoned me or His people, and I realized that God already has the victory over Satan, sin, and the grave.  I don’t need to fret because God is in control.  When I walked in, I was a man feeling the pressures of defeat.  When I walked out, I was renewed and ready to fight the good fight.  In 2 Kings 6, Elisha had been surrounded by the Arameans.  His attendant thought they were doomed, but Elisha was not worried.  Elisha then prayed that his attendant would be able to see what was really happening.  Suddenly, the attendant could see a whole host of angels prepared to do battle with the Arameans.  Now, nothing actually changed about the situation; the Arameans were still there and the angelic army had always been there.  It was only his perspective that changed!  God still does this today.  Sometimes it is not the situation that needs to change, but our perspective of it.  Listen as God helps you see clearly!

If you are a member of my church (or any church) and you skip those prayer meetings because you have other more important things to do, please reconsider!!!  Every powerful movement of God throughout history began with a small group of people praying, and that is exactly what we want God to do now!  To Him be the glory, amen!


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Beware Hearty Approval

“and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.” – Romans 1:32

Believe it or not, I like to be liked.  It feels good when people agree with what I am saying, and I often crave that feeling of acceptance that comes with positive feedback, whether it be to my face or through social media.

There is just one problem:  sometimes I do not need approval; I need rebuke.  I do not always have the right heart or the right mindset when I speak and when I post on social media.  I have been surprised recently at how quickly people applaud opinions that can be hurtful or even destructive.  Paul reminds us in Romans chapter 1 that those who are perishing (i.e. the lost) are quick to commit sin and to give their approval to the sin of others; even Christians.  This verse should serve as a warning to Christ followers who crave approval.  Not all approval is good, and we must be cautious when we receive it!

If you are like me, I bet you like approval too.  But let’s take a few minutes and ask ourselves if the approval we are getting is actually the approval that we need.

Here are some questions to consider when people are giving us “hearty approval”.

  • From where is the approval coming?
    Jesus said that you can judge a tree by its fruit. (Matt 12:33) When you say something and/or post something to social media and the people cheering you are individuals who reject Christ or live in sin, then you should review what you have said.
  • Who is receiving the approval?
    Proverbs 26:28 says, “…a flattering mouth works ruin.” Often bad approval desires to puff up the person.  They want you to feel right and justified in your position.  They will remind you how smart you are, and how you are perfectly capable of forming your own opinions apart from Scripture and wise counsel.  Ultimately, they want you to glorify yourself over godly wisdom and even God himself.
  • What are they really approving?

This is undoubtedly the hardest part.  When we think or feel a certain way, it is very difficult to hold those ideas up to the light of Scripture.  However, we simply must do this in order to really understand why our opinions are being positively received.  Are they approving your right understanding of Scripture and how it applies to the times? (1 Chronicles 12:32) Or are they encouraging you to pursue sinful actions and thus rebel against God and his Word?  If you are not sure, seek wise counsel from godly people whom you respect!

Please understand that not all positive feedback is bad.  Jesus himself said that people will observe what we do and, “glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matt 5:16) Sometimes what you do and what you say will point lost people to Christ; that is a wonderful thing!!!

But be cautious and let all that we do point others to Christ!


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Rest Beyond the River

“In the cross, in the cross

Be my glory ever,

Till my ransomed soul shall find

Rest beyond the river.”

“Near the Cross” by Fanny Crosby

 

This last Sunday we sang a hymn with the chorus printed above.  I was brought to tears by these simple and yet powerful words.  In recent weeks I have had to say goodbye to people who have helped shape my spiritual life.  I have been confronted with discouragement.  I have had to engage in tough, confrontational conversations with people inside and outside of the church.  I have seen my character attacked and my family attacked.  All of this has led me to doubt my effectiveness as the pastor of THBC and my call to ministry in general.  I kept asking myself, “Should I be dealing with all this hardship?”

It was in the midst of this period of doubt and self-loathing that these words pierced my heart and reminded me of what the Lord has told me.

Christ said, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Paul told Timothy, “But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:5)

These words remind me of the truth of who I am.  I am an ambassador for Christ.  I am a traveler through this world.  This place is not my home.  I will endure hardship here.  I will suffer.  I pray that my suffering will be used to glorify God. 

But I should not seek my peace and my place here.  My soul was made for eternity.  I am destined to be with Christ in glory.  My ransomed soul will find “rest beyond the river”, so I don’t need to keep searching for it here.  If I do, and if you do, then we will be disappointed.

 

Our rest is when we will be with Christ.  If you have not received Christ in this life, then you will never be with Him in the next.  We want to share with you what that means, so join us this Sunday!


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A Wonderful, Powerful Gift from God

In Creation, God made the Heavens and the Earth and all that is in them.  In Genesis 1:29 God tells mankind, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you…”  God had given all the earth as a gift to man.  It was something they were supposed to treasure, maintain, and help to flourish, but before that God gave man an even more important gift. 

In Genesis 2, God explains the events by which God created man and placed him in creation.  During this time God notices something about man:  He is alone. (v. 18) For the very first time God is not satisfied with what He had created.  Man needed something, man needed someone.  God presents every creature that he had created before the man for him to name, but there is not one among them that can serve as a helper for man.

Therefore, God puts the man to sleep and from one of his ribs He makes a woman and gives her to the man.  The first gift that God would give humanity is the blessing of women.  God created man, but He could not say that he had created them in His image until there was woman there to compliment him and fill what was lacking (Genesis 1:27)

Even today God blesses this world and the church with wonderful, godly women.  As we take this weekend to celebrate our mothers, let us not forget to also celebrate our wives, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, daughters, nieces, and granddaughters who fill our hearts with such joy.  Like Creation, these women are to be treasured and encouraged.  For God himself said that they are “precious in the sight of God.” (1 Peter 3:4) They are a reminder that God loves us and He provides for us.  Praise be to God for such a wonderful gift!!!!


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Notes from the Hill

Welcome to the new pastor blog for Tunnel Hill Baptist Church!
 
We will be using this feature in the weeks to come in order to share with the congregation and the world what God is laying on my heart.  My hope and prayer is that this blog will serve as a devotional for you and maybe give you some encouragement as you go through your week
 
For right now it is my hope and prayer that you are blessed and that God uses you this week for His Kingdom and His glory!!!

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