Pastors’ Blog

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

Pastors’ Blog – The beauty of the schedule: How an organized week focuses the family on church Aug 24, 2015

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The beauty of the schedule: How an organized week focuses the family on Jesus

Growing up, I hated the schedule. I still am not a big fan of a schedule. Some would say, “ah man, your dad being in the military is why you don’t like schedules, I bet he was rigid about time.” Not true. In fact, not many things could be farther from the truth. If anything, I am not very different from my Father at all. I am about on time and on schedule as often as he is, and often here is a poor choice of words! So why in the world am I the pastor at church writing a blog entry about schedules if I am so terrible about keeping one?
 
The reason I am writing this article is probably a combination of God’s sense of humour allowing the topic to fall to me and His process of growing me as a man as I try to lead my family to follow Him. As I thought about writing this article, I realized a few things. I realized that there is something healthy about time, schedules, and punctuality. I see the need for my little children to have a routine because they crave and desire a routine. I recognize that my wife has a desire for something to be the same week in and week out amidst the craziness of raising three small children. I understand that there are more important things going on around me that need my attention than what I personally see as important.
 
We live in a world where parents leave work and have this practice, then that recital, then this meeting, then that appointment, and oh yeah we have to eat at some point. Parents find themselves trying to remember what day it is even though they have asked the middle child five times in the last hour while waiting to pick up the other two from their practices and checking their phones twice during that time as well. Some parents struggle to connect with their teens that have driving privileges because they are always headed in different directions. And yet, other parents have trouble staying awake in the evenings with infants and toddlers that refuse to have a “normal” sleep schedule.
 
Here is my grand conclusion–and it probably is not that grand: An organized week focuses the family on church. Amidst the world of disorganized lives centered around a full calendar, we need to have priorities. We have to have non-negotiables. Whether you want to believe it or not, you have non-negotiables when it comes to your calendar. As for me and my household, our non-negotiable will be Jesus. Rather than this being relegated to being at church every time the doors are open (as the old Southern Baptist phrase goes), what I mean by this is that my house will be organized around Jesus. Our evenings will have purpose, despite the crazy that some days may be filled with throughout the week.
 
So what does this look like? It looks like this–every week has to be planned and communicated. You can ask my wife. I am the guy that has this phenomenal long term memory and compare to Dory from Finding Nemo when it comes to short term memory. I can remember the outfit she wore on New Year’s Eve 2004 (White turtleneck sweater and faded flare blue jeans), but forget to tell her about the meeting I have this afternoon that I arranged yesterday. It drives her crazy, and not in the good way. If we want to have organized weeks that focus our family on Jesus, we have to be better communicators. This means taking time on Saturday or Sunday to plan out the week ahead. This means using that time to talk about when we are going to visit family out of town in the future and using the time to plan vacations. It means that we have to talk about planned opportunities to have family Bible time and to prepare for AWANA. It means that we have to think in advance about sharing the person and good news of Jesus with our children.
 
Ok, so the first point is we have to communicate. Then how do we get started? Start small. If you try to go too big, you will burn out. You want this to be a long-term plan, not just a flash in the pan. Start small and build from there. For my family, we are starting small by having an AWANA night in our house on Saturdays. Every Saturday night, I work on the kids AWANA work with them. I tell them the story from their handbooks. We work on learning the verses from their handbooks. We prepare outfits/costumes for the upcoming AWANA night. The kids are laughing as we repeat verses over and over and my wife is smiling in the background as she sees me interacting with our children. But this is not the best part. My kids are learning about Jesus and who He is and what He has done for them. 
 
Maybe you don’t have a young family like me and don’t have a schedule that is mostly clear. Maybe you do have that jam packed full schedule. Sit down with your children and get real with them. You might–gasp–have to tell them that daddy and mommy need forgiveness because they let other things besides Jesus be their non-negotiables (it’s okay, I have to ask my children for forgiveness often). Take them out to a nice dinner on a free night and get away from distractions. Tell them that you want to reorganize the family plans around Jesus. Tell them that you want to start praying with them and any other players that want to before soccer practice. Tell them that you want to spend a night at dinner discussing what they learned in their children/Youth Bible study at church. Take initiative to make things about Jesus. Make it clear that your plans are to be consistently at church meeting times. Don’t let the busyness of the week control your relationship with Jesus, let your relationship with Jesus control the organization of your week.


One Million Minutes of Prayer

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This past Sunday, our pastor announced that a challenge for our church to pray 1,000,000 minutes over the next year. In his sermon, Pastor Jason clarified what these minutes of prayer is to be for, “Extraordinary prayer is such that is radically God-centered, not ‘me’ centered… not ‘you’ centered, but God-centered. Full of praise, full of Scripture, full of power. Where it’s not about you, but about Him; about His glory, His Kingdom, His Mission, and His Church!” He went on to explain that two requests often mark prayers of revival. First, a yearning to know God, to see His face, to glimpse His glory. Second, a compassion and zeal for the flourishing of the Church and salvation for the lost. If we have 250 people commit to pray at least 10 minutes a day, every day, for the next year and then if we add in some corporate prayer times in our worship services, where we take few minutes with 300-400 of us praying and if we create some special opportunities throughout the year (i.e. a prayer retreat, or half day prayer event), and have 250 people praying 10 minutes a day, we can do it! We can pray a million minutes over the next year.
 
In two weeks, on Sunday morning August 30th, we’ll have a time of commitment and then we’ll kick this off the second Sunday in September (the 13th).
 
God is calling us all to extraordinary prayer. How exactly is He calling you? Be in prayer now for yourself and for our church as we prepare for these Million Minutes of Prayer!


Pastors’ Blog – Memories Are Valuable, Sometimes

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A friend from a former place of service reminisced this week on facebook regarding a particular song we used there (and here) in our worship times together.  They said the song was powerful and they held fond memories of using it to worship.  It reminded me that worship is always about Him –  God, Jesus, the Great I Am, the Holy Spirit, and on and on.  The many names all remind us of Who He is and what He has done, and is doing in us and around us.  Time spent remembering our moments of decision while humbled with fellow believers in worship is so valuable to all believers.  It gives us courage and a deep desire to experience more times together.  

While great times of worship are not exactly the same as “hungering and thirsting after righteousness”, they must certainly be akin to it.   How might worship in our church and other churches be different if we got on the “same page” of humility, confessing our utter dependence, and devotion to the object of our worship?  Great participation in worship is like the oil in an internal combustion engine.  It helps to negate the damaging effects of friction.  It is not however the fuel, the starter, or the operator of that engine.  If we are the machine of worship, then the fuel is our desire to be in His presence for whatever purposes He designs.   God is the operator and we in essence run to please Him.  Our fuel is the blessings He pours out to those who seek Him.  

Remembering what God has done is essential, but no formulas or attempts to recreate the past will improve life in the present.  That doesn’t even make sense, though all of us love some former memories of “the way we were”.  If we are walking with God, should we picture a treadmill that is only good for ending up where you began?  No!  Our walk with God has many destinations – all new and all worth the effort.  I finish with this question:  Are you at roughly the same place every time you worship or have you noticed He is transforming you and His mercies are indeed new? Come and seek Him together, basking in the refreshment of His presence.

Pastor Tim
#sundayiscoming


Christian, are you committed?

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Here we are again….

The sunrise of the summer is quickly setting. There have been so many fond memories of camps, mission trips, family vacations, church get togethers, and many other things (also probably the Dairy Barn deserves a shout out in there)

Now you and I stare into the face of something daunting: another semester. Whether you are a student or not, you feel this pressure. Maybe you aren’t attending another semester of school, but when fall commitments roll in, you must pay them attention.

Very soon we find ourselves grasping at straws to find time to relax like we did during the summer. The week of Fall Break looks like some sort of fulfillment of biblical prophecy because the world actually seems to slow down for us long enough to breathe, to relax. 

Our commitments run us ragged until we are spent. 

No matter what stage of life you’re in, I’m sure you’re familiar with the expression, “there aren’t enough hours in the day,” and it’s true. There aren’t.

Can I be honest with you?

Maybe there aren’t enough hours in the day and we go to bed feeling unfulfilled because we spend too much time committed to the wrong things. 

A. W. Tozer once said, “What you think about God is the most important thing about you.” I think that’s a great statement, and one that bears a lot of truth. 

So look at your week. Would your schedule reflect that this statement is true in your life? Would your schedule affirm that you think Jesus Christ is the Lord of your life?

Christian, are you committed?

We live in a generation with commitment issues. However, the Christian life will not make room for that excuse. One of the ways we help each other with commitment issues is in the local body of the church. 

We gather together to sing, encourage, study, and do so much more as the body of Christ. Together, we are committed. 

Christian, are you committed?

We offer 4 hours of programming per week to help our Church grow in their relationship with Christ

-Sunday Small Groups

-Sunday Morning Worship

-Sunday Nights Together

-Wednesday Night Christian Growth.

If you commit to these for programs each week, you’ll spend 208 hours (approximately) in Bible study or prayer or small group discussion a year. That’s 5 full 40 hour work weeks investing spiritually (and a little bit of spiritual overtime). 

However, Christian, if your commitment wanes, and you miss each one of those hours once a month, you can easily drop a full 40 hours of Christian fellowship without even meaning to. 

Christian, are you committed?

Hopefully, your time spent at FBCA will only be fuel to the flames of your daily Christian life, and you will feel more encouraged to walk with Christ as He has called us. 

Christian, stop making excuses this fall. Commit. Commit to what matters most in your life, and let everything else fall in line around it. Commit to growing as a Christian this fall. Yes, scheduling will still be impossibly difficult to manage. Yes, sometimes your students will have to miss to play a soccer game. 

But don’t let the fellowship of the Church become a secondary priority for you or your family. 

Hebrews 10:19-25 says,

19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (emphasis mine).” 
 
We have been given the right, by the blood of Jesus Christ, to come before the throne of God and worship Him. Why would we neglect that incredible privilege?
 
Don’t neglect Christian. Commit, and let’s watch Christ change our hearts and lives
 
– Drew Byers

Minister to Youth



Pastors’ Blog – 7/22/2015 – Mission Teams Send Off

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Later this week two teams from our membership will leave the comforts of home in obedience for the cause of “making disciples of all nations.”

One team is heading back to Honduras to work in an area of great poverty.  The work is done on a “ranch” established as a place to offer relief from the abject poverty and the sharing of the “Good News,” to those in the surrounding region.  Our folks will be doing manual labor, teaching the Bible, working with children in Bible classes and fun events especially for the little ones.  To be sure the conditions are difficult compared to our normal life situations here in Tennessee.  All those going have paid a great deal to go and be both their own and our voice to the Hondurans, and those working to bring them the Gospel and humanitarian relief.  They need our prayers to be the best and clearest voice of God possible to this region.  Remember them for safety, but even more for effectiveness in evangelism.

We have another team going to Victoria Island, Canada to work directly with the Bond family, who are Southern Baptist church planters there.  Matthew was on staff here as our youth minister before leaving us for seminary.  Upon his graduation he and Heather felt led to be planters and God has greatly blessed them in that work.  Our team will assist with activities like a kid’s camp, and their part in Sunday’s worship, and in general sharing the load of planting a church with the Bond family.  They need our prayers for opportunities to share their faith and that they would be a refreshing help with the day to day struggles of church planting.

We can’t all go.  All of these folks going have made a substantial personal investment both financially and in terms of time in preparation and the time spent away.  We can all support them with our prayers and encouragement expressed by gratitude for the sacrifice they are willing to make to be obedient to the call for help.
 
-Pastor Tim
#SundayIsComing


A Response to Thursday in Chattanooga – Special Pastors’ Blog Entry

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You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven, for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collector do the same? Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Now when they heard this, they were cut to the quick, and they began gnashing their teeth at him. But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice, and covered their ears and rushed at him with one impulse. When they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him; and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul. They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” Having said this, he fell asleep. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.

These are passages from Matthew 5, Romans 12, Acts 7, and Luke 23. These are not my words. These are the words of Jesus and from His Spirit. As things happened on Thursday, many of us felt the same rush of emotions, thoughts, and feelings as we had on September 11, 2001. We jump to conclusions about the person that committed these heinous crimes and his motivations for doing such. But let me ask you this—even if we are correct in our assumptions, does that change what happened? Do these thoughts, feelings, and emotions produce in us Christlikeness as we read about in the above Scriptures? What about those people that say, “Nuke them all and let’s be done with this problem”? Is that the attitude we see of Jesus? Then what does Peter mean in 1 Peter 3.18, “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit;” and John mean in John 3.16? Our love is to match His love because He first loved us.

So how do you hate the sin yet love those that are sinful? How do we respond to what has happened in our sister city of Chattanooga? I think we have to do 3 things as Christians:

  1. We have to be praying for people that want to do harm. Jesus says in Matthew 5 that we are to pray for those who persecute you. As Jesus was being crucified, and as Stephen was being stoned, we see our example and then our example repeated. We have to be praying for them. Why? Notice the results of Jesus’ death. People are able to be saved now. Now flash forward to Stephen’s death. Who was a witness to that? Saul. Later called Paul when God saved him from his sin. Paul was God’s instrument to reach the Gentile world. As Gentiles, we should be thankful for their prayers for Paul. Who will be thankful in the future for our prayers for terrorists?
  2. Make friends with those of races and ethnicities that are profiled for being “terrorists”. If you only make friends of White Anglo-Saxon Protestants, don’t even people that work at the IRS do that? I promise you that there will NOT be a “white” section of Heaven. Every tribe, every tongue, every language will be represented there. Let’s get ready for eternity by starting to make friends with people that don’t look like us and don’t act like us. Why? Because Jesus commands us to overcome evil with good. There should be no other segment of the population as loving, caring, kind, and outreaching as Christians. We should be the first to welcome new neighbors down the street and to help the new guy or girl at work or school. No matter what they look like. Because God gave them the parents He gave them and we should love them the way He made them.
  3. Be bold in sharing the good news of Jesus with everyone. Who will you lead to life in Jesus that will be God’s instrument to the Iranians? Who will be the “Paul” to the Afghan peoples? What’s the worst that can happen? Will they kill you because of your faith or because someone you share with believes? Don’t fear those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul; rather, fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.
 
-Associate Pastor Daustin
#Sundayiscoming


Growing Through Marital Conflict

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I read one time that, “In the first year of marriage the mans speaks and the woman listens. In the second year of marriage the woman speaks and the man listens. But in the third year of marriage they both speak and the neighbors listen!” Because marriage brings two sinners into the closest possible relationship with one another, it’s only natural that sparks will occasionally fly. But these conflicts provide opportunities for us to put into practice God’s Word and thus grow in our faith. For example, though James 1:19 is written for relationships within the church, it contains great application for marriage relationships. James 1:19 says “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger…” In your next marital spat, try applying these lessons. First, Be quick to hear. Listen to what is upsetting your spouse. Try to understand the real issue that is causing the conflict. Listen carefully and humbly, not planning and rehearsing your next response. Second, Be slow to speak. Don’t let pride or selfishness lead you to say something you will regret later. The goal of the conversation is not to hurt one another, defend your position, or win the argument, but to work towards a resolution. Third, Be slow to anger. Psalm 4:4 says, “Be angry and do not sin.” Anger is an emotion that left unchecked can lead to unhealthy responses. Guard your heart! A great analogy to marital conflict is a “Tug of War.” When conflict arises, there is a knot that develops in the rope that connects a husband and a wife. If both spouses continue to pull, the knot gets tighter and tighter. However, if both spouses humble themselves and quit pulling against one another, they can sit down and work on the knot together. And as they do, the beauty of Christ’ love and forgiveness is displayed and each spouse becomes more like Him. Keep pressing on!

Pastor Jason



Pastors’ Blog – July 6, 2015 – Why reach out to the community?

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Why do churches want to reach out to their community?

For some this may seem like a simple question, but for others this might be a head-scratcher. The main issue is not whether or not we want to be a part of our community, but more of why do we want to show the love of Jesus in a practical way. Some people will look at Matthew 28 and claim that our goal is to baptize and teach people, not just to reach out to them. Others will look at Mark 9 and say that if we are “giving cold cups of water away” then we are doing what Jesus told us to do. Still others will say that people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care. So as Christians, what are we to do about reaching out to the community? Should we just stay inside our walls and hope that people come to us that we can minister to?

Let me ask you this question. If you had the cure for cancer, what would you do with it? Would you keep it to yourself? Or would you take it and share it with others in whatever way possible? Of course you would choose the latter. As Christians, we have something much better than the cure for cancer. We know the remedy for sin and eternal separation from God. We know Jesus and His salvation! So in the same way and with the same energy as we would share the cure for cancer with others, we ought to be reaching out to our community with the good news of Jesus Christ.

This brings us back to the issue that some people have. If we are just reaching out to our community by “sharing the love of Jesus in a practical way”, aren’t we leaving out the most important part of the message of Jesus? I like to think of community outreach in the way Jesus lived in John 4 and Luke 17. With the Samaritan woman and the Leper, Jesus used a non-spiritual interaction as part of an eternal-purposed encounter. That is what we are to be doing when we have events like serving at Grace and Mercy Ministries, or handing out snacks at the Soapbox Derby, or through a Blood Drive that we are hosting in August. When we reach out to the community, we are putting ourselves in situations where we have the opportunity to share the good news of Jesus with people that we may not have come in contact with otherwise. We are modeling Jesus’ actions of loving people where they are and taking those opportunities to tell them about the greatest Love in the world.

So let me ask you this Christian…do you want to reach out to your community? Do you want to be like Jesus?

#sundayiscoming

-Associate Pastor Daustin



Celebrate Freedom.

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Happy 4th of July!

2015 is over halfway over, and there has been so much that has happened in the life of our country.

Unfortunately, many of us are not necessarily excited about the things that are happening.

A few weeks ago, a white man walked into a black church and killed several individuals who were worshipping Jesus.

Last week, there was much controversy about the Confederate flag, and whether or not it should be allowed to fly today, based on the supposed racism and other issues it represents.

And how can we forget that the Supreme Court made a decision to recognize gay marriage as a formal part of our society.

I’m sad about the world we live in. I’m sad about the state America is in, economically and socially. I’m sad that my children will grow up in very different society than what any of us knew throughout our adolescent years. I’m sad that Christians are facing persecution.

So should we even celebrate the 4th of July? I mean, look at our country? Is it worth celebrating?

Despite these things, another part of me is very happy.

James writes in James 1:2-4,  “2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

What trials were the Christians in James’ day facing?

I don’t know that they were much different from the trials we face today.

Actually I do know that they were much different. They were much WORSE.

Here’s what I want us to see, Church. Christianity was never dependent on America to get to the point where it is today. In fact, the message of Christianity and the message of America cannot entirely coexist.

God has called us to be Christians long before he has ever called us to be Americans.

God does not need America to advance the gospel. God desires Christians, not Americans.

The message of Christ and the message of America cannot coexist. One message will drive out the other.

So on the Fourth of July, what should we do?

We need to stop saying things like “Commit to God and Country” and start saying things like “10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matt 5:10)”

You see, America is not the Kingdom of heaven.

And part of me is happy, even Joyful for the trials that we shall endure.

While the church is persecuted in America today, some will fall away from the faith.

And while that happens, those who do not fall away will be strengthened by their trials.

Paul writes to Timothy in II Tim 3:12, “ Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted …”

And here’s where the good news comes in. James 1 teaches us, that while we are persecuted in our own way, that our persecution leads to steadfastness, and that steadfastness leads to perfection because of the work of Christ.

Let’s seek steadfastness, not in our political agendas, but in our biblical agendas.

So while we live in this country that still allows religious freedom, let’s take every advantage of it that we can. Let’s love our brothers and sisters in Christ unashamedly, and love our community with all the fervor and grace that Christ loved us while we were still in our sin.

America will fade from the earth, but the Kingdom of God will be forever.

On the fourth of July, while I will eat a burger and watch fireworks, I will celebrate the freedom I have here in America.

But more than that I will cling to the hope of the freedom that I have in the Kingdom of heaven where God’s perfect peace will govern all things. In the Kingdom, we will know perfect freedom.

John 16:33

“33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

 
Sunday is Coming
Jesus is Coming
The Kingdom is Coming
-Drew Byers


Pastors’ Blog – 6/25/2015 – Live from Kids Camp!

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As I write this from camp our “older” and younger children are doing things that can never be done at home. The event at Kid’s Camp known as Organized Mass Chaos (OMC) is all about water being thrown, shaving cream smeared, and all-out craziness.  To the untrained eye much of camp might appear to be continually in this state.  But the reality is that for many of the children this is the longest stretch of continuous structure they have ever experienced. It is not a week of pampering, but there are lots of hugs, smiles, belly laughs, full bellies, and tears for just about everyone. God uses camp to mold all of us more into His image.

Over the years of children and youth camp one observation I can share is:  Church camp is like a fast motion video. Some campers experience a relationship just budding on Monday that turns into a life-long friend, or memory by Friday.  Relationships grow deeper faster, hurts heal more quickly, God’s Word is given a prominent part of every day and what a difference that makes by Thursday. In just 3 and 1/2 days these guys are different. We won’t finish here, ever, but after another day we will be heading back into a world that will either encourage us in the direction God has nudged (pushed, shoved) us, or we will let ourselves be enticed to think those changes we promised God about at camp are not all that important.  Much of the world thinks childhood is about “self discovery”– I am pretty sure God intended it for training for a lifetime of service and fulfillment. These kids have served, and trained, and grown this week. “To God be the glory, Great things He has done.”
 
-Pastor Tim Ellis
Minister of Music