How’s Your Vision?

Vision.  For years and years I’ve heard about 20/20 vision.  I don’t know if it was most correctly referred to as normal, or perfect, but 20/20 vision meant you could see just as you were meant to.  I’m not sure when I last had 20/20 vision.  I started wearing glasses in 7th grade before I transitioned to contacts two years later.  But even before I finally got to be called “four-eyes” by those accepting and gracious middle schoolers, I had finagled my way out of wearing glasses for a couple years.  When it came time to take the eye test in health class, I sat in the front until it was my turn, memorizing the eye chart so I could fake my way through it.  But it all caught up with me at age thirteen.

Playing sports, I always had pretty good vision.  That just meant that I could see what was going on as a play unfolded on the field or court.  But if my contacts had popped out, I couldn’t have seen my shoes on my own feet.  The dictionary defines vision simply as being able to see.  Beyond that, though, we have to further describe just how well or how poorly someone can see.  They might have the 20/20 version, or be metaphorically blind as a bat or have eagle eyes.

Another meaning of vision is the ability to think about or plan the future with imagination or wisdom.  Having this kind of vision requires a completely different kind of eyes than the two that we each were born with.   The elders at our church have been working on and discussing over the past several months its vision as it pertains to the near and not so immediate future of the church.  That vision is being shared with the church body these last three weeks of January, highlighting the focus of discipleship and prayer, fellowship and hospitality, and praising our God.  Admittedly, it takes very little imagination or wisdom to realize that a church should be about these things.  Our vision comes from Acts 2:42 and the verses following, and there God shows us how He grew His early church.  The elders simply want our church to be a church the way God wants His church.

As you hear more about who we want to be as a family of followers of Christ, the challenge will be to use your imagination and wisdom, as God reveals it to you when you seek Him, to be a part of making God’s vision the one for our church.  We elders do not know the future, nor have we received special instructions directly from God.  But in seeking Him in how to direct His flock, our intentions are to rely on His Word and to grow the relationships we have with our Savior both corporately and individually.  And our prayer is that 2019 and beyond finds us closer to Him and closer to one another, for the glory of our great God.

Rich Holt

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For this I am thankful.

As we begin in 2019, I want to share two reasons I feel especially blessed. The first reason is that we just finished our giving season for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and gave $14,635.42!  This was the collective effort from all of our church from the young children in GEMS and R.A.’s to the oldest among us.  The Lottie Moon Christmas offering goes toward our members and other church’s members who go serve the Lord by proclaiming His gospel and plant churches around the world but especially to those people who have little to no access to the gospel.  A report from one of our members informs us that the money given to this offering can purchase:

$23 provides a set of speakers and a data card loaded with Bible stories, praise songs, and teachings in their language.
$8 provides a data card with the same content that can be inserted into a smartphone.
$40 buys a tank of gas that allows members to reach remote villages
$58 provides the electricity necessary to broadcast one episode of ‘Cool Mountain Radio.’ The shortwave tower that broadcasts this program is located in a more free country.

Consider how many of these items $14, 635.42 can purchase.

The second reason I am blessed is that I serve in a church that wants to read the Bible together.  The state convention just put out an article on how and why to read the Bible and you can find that article here.  If you have the You Version Bible app and would like to join in with some of us then click here.  You can find the pdf of the Bible plan and more information about it here.

I am looking forward to growing with you as we worship the Lord in 2019

Pastor Jarrod Scott

WHAT YOU NEVER KNOW YOU MISS BY SKIPPING SUNDAY MORNING

Today’s post is a guest post by Sarah Piercy from Carey Nieuwhof’s Blog

______________

I thought missing a Sunday morning service wasn’t a big deal.

I have worked at Connexus Church for 8 years and would only miss a Sunday because I was away on vacation.  Quite honestly, I didn’t think missing a Sunday was a big deal. It’s not a sin. It’s not earth-shattering. No one notices (or do they?).  Right? Then I had a baby and went on maternity leave.

And I started to participate in our church community like most people do.

And everything changed.

Because, when I miss a Sunday service, I miss way more than I ever thought.

From birthday parties to a sick baby, a variety of reasons had kept me from participating on Sunday mornings. I would watch online. And online is great to keep me connected when I can’t be there in person. Or to share with friends and neighbors who are curious about church but not ready to come. So easy!

But – given the choice – attending on Sunday morning trumps all else. Every time.

Why?

When I skip Sunday morning…

1. I MISS UNINTERRUPTED TIME TO LISTEN FOR GOD’S WISDOM 

Sunday’s practical teaching translates into godly wisdom that I can apply daily life – it is so valuable.

Sure, you can hear great teaching in a variety of ways. But listening online is different than listening in the service.

I don’t know about you, but when I listen at home I have a long to-do list. A child that loves attention. A phone that rings. Floors to sweep. Laundry to fold. Neighbors’ dogs barking. I almost never absorb the message in the same way as I do when physically present on Sunday.

When I’m in the service, I have uninterrupted time. Time to focus on what God is teaching me and reflect on how He wants me to grow. My child is being cared for, my phone is on silent, and there are no chores waiting for me.

I can focus. I can engage my heart and mind.

2. I MISS THE VALUE OF WORSHIPING GOD THROUGH MUSIC WITH OTHERS

This one is interesting.  And might even be surprising to you.

There’s something intangible that happens when we worship God – out loud – with hundreds of people who share faith in Jesus.

Sundays are an irreplaceable opportunity to take a step back from the busy day-to-day and directly praise the God that loves me and is incredibly worthy of my worship.

Music roots my heart and mind in the truth of who God is. It remembers and celebrates powerful scripture. It leads me to humble myself before God’s majesty in a way that doesn’t always happen when music playing in the car or in the background while I do the dishes.

Worshiping God through music on Sunday’s – with hundreds of people – grounds and fuels my faith.

It inspires me to keep worshiping, keep believing, keep serving, keep loving.

3. I MISS THE POWER AND MOVEMENT OF THE CHURCH

The Church has a mission and purpose.  And every believer is part of it.  We get to spread the amazing news that Jesus Christ loves you, died to forgive you, and he is alive, bringing new life to all who believe in him. What an incredible message to sit on.

We can be a Christian and not actively participate in the local Church.  Our salvation is not dependent on that. It’s dependent on Jesus.

But there’s more at stake than that…

Imagine this:

Your life is a babbling brook. It twists and turns and bubbles and splashes. It’s beautiful.  But has little strength.

But, what happens when you cross paths with another brook. And another. And another?

Something bigger starts to happen. Something one babbling brook can’t do on its own.

Momentum happens.

Then power happens.

Then Niagara falls happens! (Note: did you know Niagara falls generates enough energy to power almost 4 million homes? No babbling brook does that.)

In the same way, 100s (or 1000s) of people moving in the same God-given direction is POWERFUL.  And it doesn’t happen when we are disengaged.

When I miss Sunday mornings, I miss how God is moving our church community to action.

When I miss the host’s welcome, connecting opportunities and the stories of God at work, I miss getting to be part of it because I don’t know how.

I don’t want to miss being part of the power and movement of God’s Church.

Plus, if I’m not there, then how can I bring anyone with me?

So – I do everything I can to attend a Sunday morning service.

Because when I miss a Sunday, I miss way more than I ever thought.

Will you make a commitment to Sunday morning’s with me, too?

Advent

Celebrating-advent-graphic600

I want to take this opportunity to repost an article I wrote last year.  We have had new people added to our congregation who are not familiar with advent so this is a resource to help you know more and incorporate it into your personal/family worship time.

One of my former pastors, K. Allan Blume,  was influential in my life in regards to celebrating Christmas.  He has a great article of resources in his helpful paper the Biblical Recorder, in which he was the editor (congratulations on your retirement)!  You can access his article in this link or just scroll down and read below.  Jarrod Scott

 “Building Family Traditions”

by K. Allan Blume

Advent is the season traditionally reserved for preparing for the coming of Christ. The word “advent” means “coming,” so this is the season for remembering the first coming of Christ to this world as a baby, enjoying His coming to us day by day, and preparing for His second coming one day as reigning King. This is a time to make the most out of Christmas. It is a chance for godly fathers and mothers to lead their children in a healthy, Biblical emphasis on Jesus as we prepare for Christmas. What better way is there to take the focus of Christmas off material things and place proper emphasis on the birth of our Savior!? A family advent celebration can help your home eliminate much of the rapid pace of Christmas by taking less than 15 minutes each day to worship the Lord Jesus. Advent puts the joy, the celebration, the peace of God and deep awareness of God’s love into your family’s Christmas celebration. Isn’t that the way Christmas should be?

The celebration of Advent always begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day. This year, we begin on Sunday, December 3, 2017. It continues through Christmas Day, and many carry their family celebrations another week to New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day. Some celebrate using the advent wreath, while others use the advent log.

 

The advent wreath is decorated for the holidays with four candles in the circular pattern – one candle for each Lord’s Day. The candles have traditionally been purple, the color of royalty. However, most families use colors that fit their Christmas family traditions. One candle is lit the first Sunday, with the same candle being lit daily for a full week as the family meets for a 10 to 15 minute devotion. On the second Sunday, light one more candle and continue lighting the first two candles each night through the week while the family shares a devotion. Continue lighting one new candle each Sunday until all four are burning brightly on the fourth week. An additional white candle each Sunday until all four are burning brightly on the fourth week. An additional white candle should be placed in the center of the advent wreath and lit on Christmas Day.

The advent log expresses the same symbolism as the wreath. The difference is that the log provides a new candle to light for each day of advent. It dramatically symbolizes the coming of Light into the world, as each night the glow becomes brighter until finally the whole room is filled with light. Also, since the candles are lit alternately from one end to the next, with the center candle lit on Christmas Day, the effect of a mountain peak beautifully points to the heavens on Christmas Day. You can download a pdf file with a diagram of the advent log, including dimensions. (Scroll to bottom to see a list of resources.)

Several themes should remain dominant through your daily family celebrations:

  1. Coming — Remember, we celebrate His first coming, rejoice in the ways He comes to us daily, and prepare for His second coming.
  2. Waiting — Our studies will show us how God’s people waited patiently for the promised Messiah. We too, wait. We celebrate while we wait!
  3. Covenant — Advent devotions trace the path of God’s covenant with His people and reveals the fulfillment of God’s plan through the coming of Jesus to the world.

The family devotion time will probably be most appropriate at the close of each day, before going to bed. A suggested procedure is:

1. Get your Bible and devotional materials ready. Keep them in a central place through the season.

2. Light your advent candle(s). Children enjoy doing this each evening. If there are several children in the family, let them alternate lighting candles from day to day. Even adults may alternate in the daily lighting of the candles.

3. A family member should read the devotional for the day as others listen.

4. Another member of the family could read a few scripture verses that relate to the day’s theme.

5. Share prayer requests together and allow each family member to pray. Be sure you are not just asking God for something in your prayers. Rejoice! Praise Him for His goodness to you.

6. Blow out the candles. If you allow your candles to burn too long each night, they will not last the full 26 or more days. Ten to fifteen minutes is the maximum you should allow.

7. Share something fun together. This could be a time of having hot chocolate or cinnamon apple cider together. Some nights you may have some special cookies or other Christmas treats on hand. There may be a game the family can play together. The anticipation will be greater if a different type of activity is planned for each evening or if a special activity is planned for only one evening each week. Write a letter to a missionary, an old friend, or a grandparent one night if possible.

Be flexible and enjoy your family time. Do what is meaningful to your family. Don’t let the structure kill your worship experience, but remember that structured family traditions are cherished for the rest of life.

Resources for Advent:

Is Christmas really here….

If you’re anything like me you can’t believe Christmas has arrived so quickly. But, with our turkey barely settled, Black Friday & Cyber Monday took over and let us know Christmas is here so we better get to shopping. And isn’t that what it’s all about, the shopping and gifts? Well that certainly seems to be what the world wants us to believe and if we’re not careful we can get caught up in it ourselves. Now don’t get me wrong, I like a nice gift just like you do, so I’m always thankful for the things God puts in my days that help me remember what Christmas is really about. Recently for me it’s a combination of a song we’re working on in choir and our memory verses for the week in our churches Bible reading plan.

The song is called “Emmanuel Has Come” and it opens with these 3 lines….
Christmas is about His glory,
Christmas is about His grace.
Christmas is a Gift of love our Father gave us.

So the good news is, we get our gift in a gift of love which is never ending. And when you consider the following verses that came to us this week in our church’s Bible reading plan you’re going to see how God’s gift of love and grace through His only Son Jesus deserves All Glory at Christmas.

“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭4:14-16‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ”
‭‭Philippians‬ ‭3:7‬-8 ESV‬‬

So as Christmas rushes in I pray we enjoy every minute of it, and as we consider what scripture shows us God has done for us through the birth of His son Jesus Christ we should easily be able to sing with joy that……
Christmas is about His glory,
Christmas is about His grace,
Christmas is the Gift of love our Father gave us.

Merry Christmas!
Chris Best

 

Thanksgiving Song

My heart is filled with thankfulness
To Him who bore my pain;
Who plumbed the depths of my disgrace
And gave me life again;
Who crushed my curse of sinfulness
And clothed me in His light
And wrote His law of reghteousness
With pow’r upon my heart.

My heart is filled with thankfulness
To Him who walks beside;
Who floods my weaknesses with strength
And causes fears to fly;
Whose ev’ry promise is enough
For ev’ry step I take,
Sustaining me with arms of love
And crowning me with grace.

My heart is filled with thankfulness
To him who reigns above,
Whose wisdom is my perfect peace,
Whose ev’ry thought is love.
For ev’ry day I have on earth
Is given by the King;
So I will give my life, my all,
To love and follow him.”

— WORDS AND MUSIC BY KEITH GETTY & STUART TOWNEND COPYRIGHT © 2003 THANKYOU MUSIC

I am surrounded by those who are eager (maybe too much?) to dive in the Christmas music. I love Christmas music but as Soloman wrote, “Everything is beautiful in its time,” and I happen to think that best time is after Thanksgiving.  Part of my slight “Scrooge” like delay for Holiday music is that I want to appreciate the holiday that is Thanksgiving.  So in that vein, I would introduce you to a worshipful song about Thanksgiving.

For those who wish to hear this beautiful song then watch here.

My Heart is Filled with Thankfulness

 

Jarrod Scott

Biblical Christians in Post-Christian America

I am a news junky, something I am not proud of. As Biblical Christians, we are called to be citizens of Heaven not of this earth (Phil 3:20). We are told to, “set our minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Col. 3:2). But, I keep watching (the news), as our country falls farther and farther from its biblical underpinnings.

This trend in personal pleasure over group accountability and moral conformity is not new. All the way back in 1967, there was a book written by Anthony Harris titled “I’m OK, You’re OK.” It was on the NY Times Best Sellers list for almost two years and was an early step toward the acceptance of people for who they are, as long as their behavior is not hurting anyone else. This seemingly benign and reasonable view of humanity would conceivably fit well into Luke 10:27 or Matt. 22:37, loving your neighbor as yourself. However, over the succeeding years, the fallout from this new-found independence has been an ever-increasing attitude of “I can do anything I want as long as I am not hurting others in the process.” We now find ourselves at the extreme end of that rope where drugs (opioids and marijuana), the loss of the traditional family values and traditions, church attendance, the deterioration of our public schools, distrust of the news media, technological isolation (snapchat vs verbal conversations), government impotence, removal of prayer and Scripture from our institutions, and political polarization, to name a few, are rampant. We, as a nation of individuals, have become increasingly self-absorbed and detached from each other as we focus on our pet interests and projects, rather than group fellowship and activities. Even our workplaces have become more remote as local management has been replaced by off-site bosses and work-from-home career options.

These cultural shifts have impacted faith-based institutions in profound ways. A recent survey found 80% of SBC churches have either plateaued or are declining. Our Pastor Jarrod Scott mentioned from the pulpit in October that the definition of an active Baptist church member 15 years ago was being at church twice a week. Now “active” is defined as being in the Sanctuary twice a month. According to Barna, only four out of every 100 teens holds a Biblical Christian worldview.

There are at least three ironies in all this, in my viewpoint:

  1. Those who were the strongest proponents of individual freedoms (of speech and actions from the world of “I’m OK, You’re OK”) are now the most vocal in stifling opinions which differ from theirs. This, while groups like the Moral Majority of the 80’s and 90’s have all but disbanded and been silenced out of fear of being misinterpreted.
  2. In the midst of our lukewarm acceptance of being a post-Christian nation, Biblical Christianity is the fastest growing religion in the world. Similarly, as the early church was forming in the first century, it became clear that the genesis of our faith, through the Jewish race in Jerusalem and its surroundings, was rapidly replaced by a much broader geographic of gentiles, hungry for the truth (Acts 22:20-22).
  3. Through all this turmoil and bluster, two Supreme Court justices have been installed which will shift the court toward increased religious freedoms and protections for a generation. Further, and less obvious, there have already been another 82 lifetime appointments of District and Appellate justices installed across this nation in the last two years who hold similar views on preserving the constitution as it was originally written, rather than re-interpreting it based on conditional ethics and deteriorating societal norms.

God remains at work, through the hands and voices of His people. We, who have the Holy Spirit within our hearts, need to be in prayer for our nation, our faith, and our local body, that God will give us the courage and conviction to stand our ground (Eph. 6:13) as the prejudice and persecution becomes more intense.

Blessings,
Jeff Hilles

From A Husband

Our current sermon series at church brought us this week to the passage in 1 Peter 3 regarding the relationship between wives and husbands.  The particular passage begins with the noteworthy section involving the role of the wife to submit to her husband.  Seeing as I am not a wife, there is little I might say concerning God’s instruction to those women.  It seems self-evident that God has a design for everything and expressed it in His Word, both here and all throughout scripture.  It is just as incumbent upon the Christ follower to adhere to the command to be humble, patient, forgiving, and control his tongue as to keep his or her role in marriage.  To honor one calling and disregard the other, whatever it might be, is to miss the mark.

But as a husband, I am especially interested in God’s instruction as to my relationship with my wife.  In short, my previous 24+ years, not to mention the past seven days, are not a glowing reflection of the one, solitary, powerful verse from Peter.  I can hardly take note of all the instruction and direction He gives the wife for the conviction I feel in what He says directly to me.

You have probably been in charge of an event, function, or occasion at some point in your life.  Think back and recall how you felt afterwards.  If you had this gnawing feeling that it could have gone much better, if you can only remember all the things you should have done, or done differently, then you have some sense as to my thoughts of the past quarter century.  Like the event that was successful, where few probably even noticed what was missing or left undone, my marriage has been wonderful.  But like the event organizer, I know what I have not been and where I have fallen woefully short.

My challenge to all of us husbands is to read verse seven of 1 Peter 3.  And then read the first six verses of the chapter, considering what type of spouse you should be to have a wife such as the one described.  How else should we treat a daughter of the Lord but with understanding, honor, and as a co-heir of the grace of life?

Whether we do or not has no less impact than on the relationship we have with our Savior.  And, my relationship with the Savior has every impact on my relationship with my wife.  The two are inseparable, and if I separate them, then God says He will separate from me.  I don’t want that, and I don’t want how that would affect my wife.  If I’m given 24 more years, or only 24 more days, I’m asking God to help me live them well.  For His sake, for mine, and for hers.  I hope you do the same.

Rich Holt

Thank You

In light of it being Pastor’s Appreciation month, I wanted to express my gratitude on behalf of my family and myself.  Most any pastor will tell you that we are not here for the money or other financial rewards.  Yet when people pass on their expressions of thanks or encouragement it feels like water when thirsty.  So your gifts to me and my family, as well as to Brad, were very special to me.  You would have enjoyed watching my kids eagerly go home for lunch so they could read the cards and open the gifts.

There was no way for me to know that the plan to give appreciation gifts would have been the same Sunday that I was preaching from 1 Peter 2 about honoring the authority of human institutions.  However, it allowed me to use you as an example of how to have hope in a strange land by hoping in Christ through honoring authority.  I believe that was a divine appointment to say “Good Worship” Green Pines and keep turning to our cornerstone in Christ.  This was about loving our Savior and showing it in a community.

I also wanted to let you know that we consider Green Pines, not really just the place of my employment, but our family.  You have loved us for a long time now and seen the different seasons of our lives in the good and the hard.  I really can not express what that means to me but know that I love you and consider it a privilege to be your pastor.

Jarrod Scott

Singing in Arabia, Sing! How Worship Transforms your Life, Family, and Church

In the postlude of their book, Keith & Kristyn Getty ask, Will you sing?  Their written question echoes a spiritual question that I believe the Holy Spirit has asked me on numerous occasion.  Eight years ago I sensed this question during a trip to a closed, muslim country. We had been singing in the conference with Muslims and I discovered that several of our praise songs converted easily to Islamic songs with just the Arabic translation.  I realized that a “Christian” worship time is only Christian if it is centered in Jesus’ death and resurrection.  The next morning I was setting out on the hotel balcony in prayer and  Bible reading.  I was able to look up and marvel at the towering mountain that served the backdrop of the city.  As is often the case, nature can serve as an inspiration to worship my Savior, Jesus Christ.  I began to sing songs of my faith and love for Jesus Christ.  As I sang, I sensed the importance of singing praise to Christ in a city that has only a small portion of believers.  The worship was mixed with prayers for God’s saving presence would be powerful and effective among a people destined to be before the throne of God.

The first morning I came home from my trip, I was preparing for a worship with my Green Pines Church family.  It was dark and early in my home and I sensed a familiar question.  Would I sing?  Would I sing and pronounce gospel blessings on my family?  Would I lead the home with song and praise?  Our family needs the working of the Lord among us.  So perhaps against my children’s wishes, I woke them up with worship.

This week it is “the best of times, and it is the worst of times,” and so the need for believers to hold tightly and loyally to the true Christian faith and to share it with conviction, courage, and compassion has never been more critical.”   The songs we sing together are lifelines that draw each of us back to the heart of the King we serve and to the priorities of the kingdom we are members of.  So as the Getty’s declare: “May we sing truth ad sing it as though it is true.”

Pastor Jarrod Scott