Pastors’ Blog

Read weekly insights from all of our Pastors regarding the vision for First Baptist Athens.
 

Pastors’ Blog – A Recommendation for a Summer Devotional

John
We are entering into a different phase of the year. Many parents with children will have more time in their morning routine. Children will get to sleep in and have free time in the evenings as many sports and clubs wind down their year. There will be more front porch sittin’ and iced tea sippin’ (At least, if I had a front porch, and a pitcher of tea, that is what I would be doin’!).
 
If you don’t have a plan for your free time, you will never see it. It seems as though whenever our busy schedule begins to free up, we fill it up faster than an empty glass on a hot day. Why do we love to jam pack our schedules with so many things that will not last? We stare at screens far longer than we need to and at things less important than eternity.
 
This summer, resolve to intensely study one book of the Bible. For me, I have been working through the book of John. A very dear friend of mine, and a guide in the faith, has released a great commentary on the book of John. Many commentaries are written from a technical perspective, and oftentimes include terms that require the reader to have a background in Bible scholarship and languages to understand. For this commentary, it is written with a non-technical purpose, meaning that all Christians are able to grab their Bible, grab this book, and wade into the depths of this book of Scripture.
 
I highly recommend this as a companion to the book of John. It will help you gaze at Jesus through the eyes of two of His followers, John the Apostle and Bill Cook. As the New Testament scholar Leon Morris said about the Gospel of John “[it is] A pool in which a child may wade and an elephant can swim.”
 
Here is a link to the commentary on Amazon: <Click Here>. You probably won’t find a better way to spend $15.99 this summer.


Missions Commitment Sunday 2016 – Takeaways

Click on the link below to go to Pastor Jason’s personal blog on takeaway from MCS2016
 


Pastors’ Blog – Holiday Havoc

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I don’t know about you, but I’m glad the Holidays are over.  Don’t get me wrong, I love celebrating the birth of Christ, spending time with family, and ringing in a New Year.  But the Holidays wreak havoc on my personal time with the Lord.  I am a creature of habit, a person who functions best in a routine.  And the Holidays are anything but a routine for me.  Celebrating with family and friends often means late nights, which often cause a disruption in my early morning routine.  Prayer times are shortened, interrupted, or worse, they don’t even happen.

This is why I am thankful for the first week of the New Year.  It’s an opportunity to get back on track.  I am so thankful for our loving Heavenly Father, who is patient and forgiving, who desires to have relationship with me even more than I do, and who pursues me!  I’m also thankful for simple tools, like the “Million Minutes of Prayer” guide, which directs my daily Scripture reading and prayer times.  If the Holidays have wreaked havoc on your spiritual disciplines, then join with me in getting back on track.  This is a great time of year to establish some new habits or recover some old ones that we’ve neglected.  There’s nothing more important than spending time with our Heavenly Father.  Let’s do this, Church!  #MMOP

Pastor Jason 



Pastors’ Blog – Celebrate Christmas…

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Celebrate Christmas with Musical Worship!

No celebrated season on the planet has the voluminous music dedicated to it’s occurrence as Christmas.  So this seems like an appropriate time to share my perspective.  Though not forgotten by many, but overlooked by the majority, is the awesome power of melody, harmony, rhythm, and dynamics.  Music is ubiquitous and because of its prevalence and often not filtered or used for less noble things than glorifying God.  I know you are thinking, “Scrooge, get a life.”  But living for the Lord is about the small stuff we daily take in as well as the big things. So…

Several years ago there was a very popular game show that stayed on for 17 years with some variants and new hosts.  The point was to test contestant’s ability to recognize a song in the shortest amount of time.   In the most popular version in the 70’s players would bid on the number of notes for the chance to guess it.   So what?  Well what was proven over and over again is that many times just a few notes cued a memory of an entire lyric that lay buried in the mind.  I am confident that I could play a single octave descending scale in a specific rhythm and you would confess a biblical truth remembering just the title.  (Try me some time)

The great “Ah-ha” moment comes when truth is added to engaging music.  If you want to be able to name all the states in our country, learn the song.  You will accomplish the task in a fraction of the time it takes for rote memory without music.  Believers from the beginning utilized music to worship their God.  And as with just about everything  powerful and good, it can be corrupted and become powerfully evil.  You and I both know songs we don’t find edifying or reflective of a biblical world view, and yet we believe we can handle them and not let them hurt us.  Sunday morning our Pastor carefully and boldly explained how careful and humble we need to be with “gray areas,” and I would assert that secular music (music not written with the intent of glorifying the creator) is at least a “gray area” worthy of some caution.  Music is not innocuous, because somehow when the emotions are stirred by enchanting melodies and engaging rhythm, the spiritual filters we normally utilize, get bypassed and the content goes straight into our memories, often for a lifetime. 

One of the benefits of today’s technology and freedom is that you have available to you in almost every conceivable style and from so many sources, an overwhelming plethora of Godly music.  Some new, plenty from the past, and even the opportunity to contribute and broadly distribute your current testimony in a musical genre of your choice is easily within grasp. 

In conclusion, the cliché’ “the best defense is a good offense” can be applied to your use of music.  Seek that which brings Christ glory and His work among us enumerated, filling your musical needs with good, thus crowding out the evil which is so prevalent in the entertainment world. 

Pastor Tim



Pastors’ Blog – Advent

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Here is a picture I found on Twitter about Advent. I find this to be very helpful and am grateful for resources like this from sister churches that social media allows for us to share. You may have to zoom in on the picture, but it is worth the read. Blessings, Jason
 
https://mobile.twitter.com/zachyoung82/status/671009965872652288/photo/1


Pastors’ Blog – The Giving in Thanksgiving

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If there is one holiday tradition that I would change, it would be to eat pizza on Thanksgiving instead of turkey. Think about it with me for a moment. Cold pizza is much better as a leftover. It cooks a lot faster. It is easier to eat when watching a football game or a parade. And it is loaded with carbs for energy for Black Friday shopping!
 
All kidding aside, our thoughts often turn to thanks and thankfulness when we consider Thanksgiving. We are thankful for our families. We are thankful for the good things that have helped us through the more difficult times of the past year. We are thankful for a good God that has provided for us. Yet, sometimes we consider ourselves to be the recipient of the giving, rather than the participant of the giving of Thanksgiving.
 
Thanksgiving is a beautiful opportunity for Christians to inaugurate the Christmas season. I don’t just mean getting your shopping done or spending time with your family. It is a great holiday to begin considering the gift of Christ, to be thankful for Him, and to start planning how you can give Him away this Christmas. He is, of course, the greatest gift of all.
 
Here are a few ways to put the giving in Thanksgiving:
 
1. Invite a person with no family, or family out of town, over to your house for Thanksgiving dinner (even if you are serving pizza instead of turkey!). We have a number of international students at Tennessee Wesleyan College that I am sure would love to be invited to a home to share a meal with you. We want them to be in Christian homes for this holiday!
 
2. Find a way to get food (and the gospel) to the needy this year. One of the ways our church does this on a regular basis is by helping once a month at Grace and Mercy ministries. This is a great ministry because after you serve food, there is a speaker. After that there is time for you to mingle and talk about Jesus with people.
 
3. Reach out to one of your neighbors with small children and “adopt” that family this holiday season. For Thanksgiving, bake them a pumpkin pie (and introduce yourself if you have not already). Or offer to help rake their leaves. For Christmas, buy them an advent calendar or take them a family stocking or gift. At some point, make sure that you tell them about King Jesus and that the best part of Christmas is Easter morning!
 
Associate Pastor Daustin


Life on Life Discipleship

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Discipleship is one of the central focuses here at FBC Athens. The leadership at FBCA spends a lot of time each and every year meeting with people, reading discipleship material, and organizing small group studies. The majority of our discipleship process is intended to happen during our programming hours throughout the week – Sunday morning small groups, Sunday Morning Worship, Sunday Nights Together, and Wednesday Night Christian Growth. Just typing all of that out seems like a lot of discipleship…roughly 4 hours a week. 
 
But everyone knows that you will not be at church for every one of those discipleship opportunities. Does missing weekly programming affect the discipleship process in your life?
 
Probably. 
 
That’s why Jesus doesn’t tell us “Go therefore and make programs in all nations.” He says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” (Matthew 28:19)
 
The key to discipleship is not the programming…it’s the people. Programming is just a systematic way to introduce people to the process of discipleship.
 
But a lot of what happens in discipleship happens beyond the walls of our church…at least it certainly should. 
 
 
So let’s ask ourselves this question today…if I didn’t go to the church AT ALL in the month of November, how many spiritual conversations would I have with people? (Note: I am not telling you to stay home from church during the month of November)
 
I think a lot of the time, we can depend so much on Church programming to supply our needs for Spiritual Conversation that we don’t take matters into our own hands enough. That’s where I think life on life discipleship is so important. It’s making the intention to have spiritual conversations with people who you know (from church) about things that happen (outside of church). 
 
Let’s do just a little math to help us get our brains geared in the right direction. 
 
24 hours a day
x 7 days a week 
168 Hours a week (Siri helped me do this one..)
 
168 hours in a week, and the programming at the church allots for 4 hours of it being devoted to Discipleship through the programming at FBCA (That is if you make it to all 4 hours in a week, which a lot of people have a hard time doing because of their schedules.)
 
So you are being trained to be like Christ for 4 hours a week. What is training your mind for the other 164 hours of the week?
 
If you’re not careful…it will be the culture. And that is a scary thought. 
 
I get especially worried when I think about students – they spend 35 hours a week in School form Sunday to Sunday, and get 1 hour of teaching on Wednesday night, if they’re able to make it that week. 
 
My point with the numbers game is that it’s not enough to just come to church anymore. Cause you’re going to miss our church programming from time to time. 
 
I think the key is finding people in those other 164 hours of the week to have spiritual conversations with. Accountability. Someone who knows the things you’re struggling with throughout the week. 
 
To summarize, if you’re not talking about the gospel with saved people, how in the world do you expect to share the gospel with lost people? It’s not enough to come to church if you’re not willing to BE the Church. 
 
Life on life discipleship is not about programming, it’s about living life with people, intentionally seeking Christ with them. 
The greatest moments of discipleship and conviction in my life have not come through being in church services, (though I have been challenged there), but through coffee shops where hard questions were asked. Through late nights discussing God’s love for me in spite of my sinful nature. Around the breakfast table at Bojangles where we asked hard questions about theology.
 
The beauty of this model of discipleship is that it allows you to be connected to your church body throughout the week, even though you might have missed a church service or been out of town. 
 
At the end of the day, I hope you can make the most of that 164 hours you have that isn’t taken up with church programming, and find a way to share your life with someone, that Christ might be magnified. 
 
-Youth Pastor Drew
 
 


The people’s theology – Hymns

A mighty fortress is our God, A bulwark never failing;
Our shelter He, amid the flood Of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe Doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and pow’r are great, And, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal. – Martin Luther – 1529
 
Above is a well known text of a well known hymn. It’s by Martin Luther, the great theologian and champion of the Reformation. This man wrote this hymn in a time of persecution, a time when he risked his life and livelihood for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Word of God. This hymn spread like wildfire all over the reformed sections of Rome, as a sounding cry of our God’s sovereignty over their lives and wills. The beauty of this hymn is that it affirmed what the body of Christ believed, and it still affirms that truth today.
 
This is one small example of a hymn that has stood the test of time, to remain true from age to age, because its content is based wholly on scripture. What our churches in America sometimes forget is that our songs are our theology, explained in song. We sing these things in unity, because we believe them together. 
 
Let me make one thing clear. A hymn does not mean that a song is old, or from the 16th-18th century, speaking biblically. A hymn is simply rendered as a song of praise, sometimes involving instruments, in many places in the Bible. The reason why our Bibles often cite the words “hymn” is probably because during the time period of the first English Bibles being translated, hymns were sung in most churches, so in denotes a song of praise. However, a hymn can be old, or new, ages or minutes old, and still bear great significance to the church. 
 
I often look back to the first song ever recorded in scripture to see how God’s word instructs us to sing. You can find this “Song of Moses” as it is sometimes called, in Exodus 15. The funny thing is that this song has nothing to do with Moses whatsoever, but everything to do with God. The people of God are singing the wonders of God that he has worked before their very eyes, specifically his triumph over the Egyptians. It ends with a resounding cry in verse 18 “The LORD will reign forever and ever.”
 
This is huge for us to understand today. While this song was not written in iambic pentameter in a 3/4 time signature with an optional modulation on the last stanza, yet it recounts perfectly what our songs should be in worship. Throw the style out the window when it comes to your hymns and ask yourself, “does this direct glory to God for what He has done in my life?” If it does, sing it with your heart. If it doesn’t question why it is being sung.
 
For the church today, the work of God is most clearly seen in the cross of Christ. The greatest work God has done for us was accomplished in Christ rescuing us from the Kingdom of Darkness and ushering us into the Kingdom of Light. We should sing about that, and the Church has sung about that for thousands of years. Our songs, messages, prayers, and actions should all be cross centered, because of the great work God has done before our very eyes. 
 
My fear is that our songs are slowly drifting from the cross, from God’s supreme reign over sin, from Christ’s atoning works, to other things that don’t appropriately convey God’s glory. Rather, they look at God through a lens other than Scripture. 
 
This is dangerous for churches because of what hymns have historically been throughout the ages. Hymns have been a way for churches to sing what they believe together for 1) affirmation and 2) instruction. The hymns of ages past are exactly that because they are the people’s theology set to music. Let’s face it, if I walked up to you on the street and asked you to articulate your view on substitutionary atonement, you might not know how to respond. However, we all know this familiar hymn which I think articulates the atonement beautifully.
 
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the prince of glory died
My richest gain I count but loss
And pour contempt on all my pride.  (Isaac Watts 1770)
 
Do we believe this truth? Absolutely. Does it instruct us? Absolutely. I hope we never stop singing songs like this. 
 
I’ve given two examples of age old hymns that beautifully articulate theology. You might be asking yourself, “what about the new stuff, is there not anything new that’s good?”
 
There certainly is. But the thing about it is, a lot of the older hymns have stood the test of time because the church has found them to be entirely accurate, a more pure reflection of theology if you will. One thing that determines whether a song is great or not is time. The longer a song sticks around, the better the chances are that it articulates a very pure theological idea. However, there are gems that articulate the beauty of our God in modern music today. Take this example from Aaron Keyes’ “Sovereign over us”:
 
Your plans are still to prosper
You have not forgotten us
You’re with us in the fire and the flood
You’re faithful forever
Perfect in love
You are sovereign over us          (Aaron Keyes, 2011)
 
Scripture supports this song so vividly in this simple chorus, and the rest of the song truly proclaims His sovereignty. You can listen to it on here. I could list many examples of songs that I don’t think accomplish this which are sung all over our churches from Sunday to Sunday. But let’s evaluate what we sing with Scripture, and proclaim God. Let’s sing true and scriptural hymns to our God. 
 
The power of the hymn comes with the content of the text melded together with the melody of the tune. It’s so much more than a “style” of music, but rather melds theology and art together into one beautifully crafted work that brings joy to the singers heart through the melody, and joy to the Father’s ears through the unity of His Bride. I hope that you are challenged to think about the songs you know and love, that maybe you’ve grown up with. Do they convey the God of the Bible as He is revealed in the lens of Scripture? If not, we might need to check what we’re singing. Pretty instrumentation and worthless words make for a pretty sad worship experience in the house of God, for God is not honored in our skillful playing of instruments if our thoughts about Him are not in line with what the Bible reveals about Him. 
 
I pray that you’re encouraged as your sing hymns week to week at with the Church, that God reveals himself to you, and that your theology is strengthened through your singing. 
 
-Drew Byers
Youth Pastor
 


Pastors’ Blog – 9/11/2015 Singing With Understanding

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Singing With Understanding

Etched in marble inside the Sellers building at New Orleans Seminary is 1 Cor. 14:15b.  “I will sing with spirit, and I will sing with understanding also.” It can be read and understood fairly easily, yet difficult to comprehend exactly.  There is so much to look at and this is not even close to an exhaustive glance.  But here is some food for thought, or amusement. 

Paul said he sang.  We know he did in the jail at Philippi with the other prisoners listening in.  The singing was directed to God in prayer and yet when the doors opened the other prisoners waited for leadership from Paul.  They didn’t make any attempt to leave.  May I say that singing had an enormous impact on them.  Paul’s spirit must have been in agreement with the Lord and his prayers were demonstratively answered.  Singing to God where unbelievers can hear is biblical and effective.  But that is not the main point in this context.

Not to ignore the “singing in the spirit” that Paul is describing, but this is a blog not a book I want to focus on “with understanding.” This understanding we are to sing with has to do with our motivation, will, and purpose.  Singing with others or audibly is implied by the context and therefore singing with understanding must apply to both yours and theirs, so order and organization is involved. We must be able to comprehend the melody, the text, the rhythmic speed and execution of patterns with precision to the point of staying together, not for God to hear and understand our heart, but for us to also benefit and be edified through corporate worship.   

So when we sing as a gathered body we are addressing God as the primary audience, but we remain aware that others can benefit from our worship through song. Musical worship is much more a mental experience where the mind not the emotions rule the moment.   Rather than address which songs or styles or new or old or adolescent or mature more importantly it is presumed in this passage that believers will sing. So when we gather, sing!  Sing with the spirit and sing with understanding!  I am excited that our Pastor is preaching through this book and looking forward to what God will teach us when we get to this passage.
-Pastor Tim


Pastors’ Blog – The Christian and Football Season – August 31,2015

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The Christian and Football Season

Okay.  The title of this blog could easily read, “The Christian and Basketball Season,” “The Christian and Soccer Season,” or “The Christian and ‘insert your favorite sport/hobby here’ Season.”  I only choose football because the season is upon us; as we say around here, “It’s football time in Tennessee!”  Though there may be a lot to talk about with this year’s team, my concern is more about our hearts.  Football (again, insert your own sport) can be a consuming passion in our lives that ends up competing with our passion for God.  The Bible calls this idolatry.  So how can you know if football is coming before God in your life.  Kevin DeYoung offers, “Three Questions to Help Diagnose Possible Football Idolatry.”  First, Is ministry and worship on the Lord’s Day compromised by my allegiance to football on Saturday and Sunday?  There’s nothing wrong with attending a football game.  God has given us sports and hobbies for our enjoyment.  But if football season means you’re only going to be in church every other week for the next three months, or that you won’t be coming to your Sunday Small Group because you’re too tired from Saturday’s game, then let’s be honest and call it what it is, “Football in the place of worship is, well, worship.”

Another question we should ask is, Are my emotions all out of whack?  I don’t like it when my team loses, especially 25 times in a row to the same team!  But, the most revealing question is how do I respond?  I love DeYoung’s candor, “If the good news of Jesus’ resurrection can’t outweigh the bad news of your team’s minus 3 turnover differential you’ve got some heart work to do.”  If we are more excited over how well our team is doing then we are about worshipping the resurrected Lord on Sunday, then there’s something amiss in our hearts.

Finally, DeYoung challenges us to ask, Can my conversation go deeper than football?  This time of year there will be a lot of talk about the Vols filling the atrium and hallways of our Church-nothing wrong with that!  But if we never get around to talking about the goodness of God and love of Jesus Christ, then where does our true passion lie?  Don’t be the guy who knows all the stats of Saturday’s game, but can’t share a verse of Scripture that he read last week or the plan of salvation to a lost friend.  Football is fun, but there are simply more important (eternal) matters in life.  It’s great to be a Tennessee Vol, but even greater to be a child of the King!

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Would you skip church for football?  Trevin Wax, GC, Jan 7, 2015

I know pastors who are discouraged by diminishing attendance at worship services. As Thom Rainer recently pointed out, an active church member 15 years ago attended church three times a week. Now it’s three times a month.

Pastors and church leaders feel the encroachment of activities vying for church members’ time and attention. The cultural Christianity of yesteryear, which reserved Sundays for worship and rest, has disappeared. In its place are travel leagues that tie up families, sporting events that lure away men, and shopping sales that entice women. Carving out time for worship and rest takes intentionality these days, and churches are feeling the impact.

Even so, a recent study from LifeWay Research shows that a whopping 83% of churchgoers disagree with this statement:

“I would skip a weekly worship service in order to watch my favorite football team.”

Now, I can see some pastors shaking their heads, thinking, They must not have polled my church!