Feb 242015
 

For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.

Hebrews 10:36 (ESV)

What occurs every four years and is just as popular, if not more so, than the Olympics? You guessed it: the World Cup. The World Cup is an international soccer tournament with 32 countries participating. Nations compete over a long period of time to qualify for this soccer (football) tournament, years of work culminating in a 64-game tournament watched by the world. In 2010, it was estimated that 3.2 billion people watched at least one minute of the World Cup. Over 1 billion people watched the final match between Spain and the Netherlands in 2010. The event with the largest viewership in history was the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

The sport of soccer has been a big part of my life since the age of 8. I played in high school and college and have even played on teams as an adult. I have coached teams for many years and I am presently the new middle school girls coach for Union County.

The objective of a soccer game is really simple: score more goals than the other team! Playing it, however, takes years of practice, coordination, skill, touch, and yes, endurance and speed. A team will not finish very well if they lack endurance. During a soccer match, a player runs anywhere from 4-7 miles, depending on his/her position. A soccer player runs virtually non-stop for 90 minutes. When I played, I happened to have one of those positions that ran about the 7 mile mark. Why would anyone put themselves through that much torture, you might ask? Score one goal for your team and you’ll understand why! There is something amazingly addicting about putting the ball in the back of the net. You want to do it over and over again. The training becomes a joy and not drudgery. One wants to get better and better so that one can score more often.

In the text above, the writer to the Hebrews exhorted these believers to remember the days in their early Christian experience when they faced many trials. They endured hard struggles with suffering (v. 32), publicly humiliated and afflicted. Some were treated as criminals and were thrown in prison. Christian brothers and sisters risked the plundering of their property to provide for and care for those in prison. You must remember that the Romans didn’t provide 3 meals a day, showers, weight benches, TV’s, and air conditioning. Any meals these believers received came from caring brothers and sisters in Christ.

These early believers endured these hardships since they knew they had a better possession and an abiding one: They were looking to the real goal – heaven! This is why the writer to the Hebrews tells them in verse 35-36, “Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. You have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God (that is, lived your life of faithfulness to God until the end), you may receive what is promised (the completion of their salvation in heaven).

Do you need endurance today? I do. For one, I can’t run like I did 25 years ago in a soccer match; but secondly, I have many struggles that are difficult to fight. Sometimes I simply want to throw in the towel. So I need this word from Hebrews because I need endurance too. Holy Father, please help us to keep our eyes on the only goal that matters. Grant to us enduring grace. I am so thankful that your people are not of those that shrink back and are destroyed (v. 39). You preserve and keep your own in your mighty hand. Amen.

Watch a World Cup match, even if you care nothing about soccer, and notice the endurance of the players. It really is amazing how they run. Let us fix our eyes on the prize and run with endurance the race set before us.

Running for the GOOOAAAALLLLLLLL! (That’s how the announcers of a soccer match say “goal” – they just stretch it out a little more!)

Pastor Bill

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Feb 172015
 

“Our God our help in ages past, our hope for years to come. Our shelter from the stormy blast and our eternal home.”
“Under the shadow of your throne your saints have dwelt secure. Sufficient is your arm alone, and our defense is sure.”
Our God Our Help in Ages Past – from Isaac Watts’ setting of Psalm 90, 1719.

Back in the late 1990’s, a great Reformation began in the mountains of Georgia. In an area where Arminianism and Revivalistic teaching abounds, God began to unveil the eyes of many to the shallowness and man-centeredness of those doctrines and God was causing them to see the glories of the Doctrines of Grace. Who would have ever thought it? Can you believe that a church like Redeemer came into being in an area where virtually no one knew of the Doctrines of Grace (i.e. Calvinism)?

Under different circumstances, God was working in the hearts of many and a vision for a Reformed Baptist church in the mountains was born. God did this! My friend Jeff Robinson came to see the Doctrines of Grace through Tom Nettles’ book, By His Grace and for His Glory. God moved Daryl and Rachel Allison to Dahlonega where they attended a church that taught the Doctrines of Grace. Both Rachel and Daryl and Jeff Robinson helped lead me to solid biblical teachers that helped me understand Calvinism. My wife then soon followed. For several years then I began to teach the Doctrines of Grace in the context of an Arminian church.

There were others becoming reformed. They were: Doug and Rebecca Collins, Jeremy Smith, Jim and Melissa Smith, Jim and Ginny Smith. While I was away in seminary, the core group of RBC was being formed. Long story short, RBC has met every Lord’s Day since late August of 2009 (except for a few snow days!).

Early in 2010, the Lord brought Wally and Jeanne Roderick and Michael and Jen Roderick to us. God used Grace Redeemer Fellowship to connect many people to Redeemer Baptist. Michael was hired shortly thereafter to lead music for us. All along the way the Lord continued to grow us. Several began to come from Cherokee County, Towns County, and Fannin County. To date, we have 31 members and 8 regular attenders!

Planting a reformed Baptist church has not been an easy task but God has blessed us in so many ways. And God has done great things through us in five years. Let me just mention a few: God used us to build an addition to Jim and Melissa’s home for their son. We also were able to purchase a van for them. We have participated financially in many mission trips as well as contributed to the Lottie Moon fund. We are reaching many through WeCare, our caregiver ministry. Our connection with the Notla River Association has opened many doors for us to minister in the community. RBC is known as a faithful contributor and participant in our local association. We have consistently supported the Gideon ministry. We presently support Pastor Greg Matthei in South Africa. It has also been wonderful to see children being born to us, both physically and spiritually. God provided miraculously for us through Clifton Baptist Church in Louisville in July of 2012. Yes, God has been our help in ages past and I know He will be our help for years to come!

I am so thankful to witness our harmony and love one for another. I am so thankful for the hunger that RBC has for the Word of God. I love to see your hospitality in having people over to your homes and in preparing meals for those that need them. If I have neglected to mention anything or anyone from the early stages, please forgive me. You are all special to me. Let us continue in fervent prayer and let us not give up the fight for our desire to see a reformed Baptist church flourish in this area. God is not done with us yet!

Praising our faithful God,
Pastor Bill

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Feb 112014
 

You crown the year with your bounty; your wagon tracks overflow with abundance.

Psalm 65:11 (ESV)

Our God is sovereign, gracious and kind. He abounds in steadfast love. He tenderly forgives and graciously provides. He alone is worthy to be praised, and believers ought to live with a heart of thanksgiving to Him.

I love the stories of the Pilgrims and the Sovereign God who led them to Plymouth. They began as Separatists in England, fled to Holland during persecution, were sent back to England, then found a ship available called the Mayflower that would carry 102 of them to the New World. This was half of the congregation, pastored by William Bradford, which got on board with the desire to build a God-centered community.

Let me share with you quickly a few of God’s gracious dealings and His abundant provisions for the Pilgrims. First of all, ten of the men got on board a sailing shallop to explore the coast of Cape Cod. They were greeted not so warmly by Nauset Indians that began to fill their camp with arrows. Two men fired their muskets and scared the Indians away. They went their way up the coast and landed in Plymouth. The Mayflower could land there and this was where they would build their community. They built a common house where they all would live until they could build houses for each family.

That first winter was very hard. It was very cold. Fifty-one of the 102 died that first winter, mostly women and children. The men were very weak and could barely provide for those living. One day an Algonquin Indian named Samoset came to the house. The Pilgrims were at first suspicious, but found him to be a gracious man. He knew English! He had gone on fishing expeditions with the British in Maine. Samoset told them that if they would have arrived 3 years earlier, they probably would have all been killed by a vicious tribe called the Patuxets. They had hated the white man. But in 1617, a strange disease killed every one of them that lived there. But God spared one Patuxet Indian who would later greatly help the Pilgrims. In 1605, a Patuxet by the name of Squanto was captured by a Captain Hunt and taken to England. Squanto was later sold to Spanish monks who told him about Jesus. In 1619, Squanto was able to return to London, and then a Captain Dermer took him back to Plymouth! Squanto went to Chief Massasoit of the Algonquin tribe. The chief and sixty painted warriors, along with Squanto, came to the Pilgrim settlement. The Pilgrims were warmly greeted and as you probably know, Squanto stayed with them and taught them how to grow crops. The Pilgrims and Squanto were united in Christ!

Well, God provided in amazing ways. In the autumn of 1621, Bradford called for a day of Thanksgiving. It ended up being a three-day celebration. The Indians brought deer, turkey and fish. The Pilgrim women cooked vegetables and pies.

But during the Winter of 1621, more settlers came into Plymouth and supplies ran short quickly. In order to survive they each received a ration of five kernels of corn every day. They would trust in God to provide for them and He did. The captain of a ship headed back for England traded corn for their beaver skins! They then had food until the Spring!

In the summer of 1623, there was a drought. Their corn was wilting. The pilgrims called for prayer and fasting and God gave fourteen consecutive days of gentle rain! God had given them a bountiful harvest. But at Thanksgiving, at each plate there were five kernels of corn, so that each one would remember God’s gracious provisions!

RBC, look back at this year. God has once again crowned your year with bounty and His wagon tracks have overflowed with abundance. God is sovereign and good. See how He has fed you and clothed you and met your every need. Be thankful church! Let us all be thankful!

With a heart of thanksgiving to God for each of you,

Pastor Bill

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Feb 112014
 

Thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you.

Genesis 3:18 (ESV)

When Adam listened to his wife and ate of the tree of which God commanded him not eat, God said to Adam, “Cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you… By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground.” (Genesis 3:17-19) As I was working at the tree farm last week, these verses came to my mind. Why? Because there are several fields that have not been tended over the last two years, hence large thorns and brier bushes have grown in between the trees. I have had the pleasure (NOT!) of working in these fields to remove the thorns and briers so that these trees can be ready to be trimmed in March. Let me tell you, fighting thorns and briers is hard work. This task has reminded me again of the curse of Adam’s sin and my union with him by nature.

By grace, I am now united to Christ, and He is my new Lord and Master. Yet, I still fight sin in my heart, and let me tell you, it is a hard fight, especially if I do not tend or give care to my spiritual condition. To leave the trees unattended means thorns and thistles. By leaving my heart unattended means the same.

This quote from John Owen that I mentioned a few months ago, “Kill a sin or part of a sin every day… Be killing sin or sin will be killing you,” has been going through my mind as I chop through these fierce opponents to lovely Christmas trees. Justification, or the declaration of my right standing with the Father, occurs in a moment of time. Sanctification, however, is a process, beginning at regeneration and continuing on until I return “to the ground”. I am not passive in my sanctification, but I am actively called to mortify the flesh, to work out my salvation, to make my calling and election sure. Of course I know that God the Spirit is working, but true faith is evidenced by works, by a growing in holiness and Christ-likeness. For my heart to flourish, like the trees, I must be pulling weeds, or rooting out those things that hinder growth and productivity. Like the thorns in the fields, they are not hard to spot. Sometimes the sin in our hearts might be hard to spot, but I think we all know many of the things that cause us to struggle.

As I have been chopping down these thorns and briers, very often those long twigs stick to my clothes and I just can’t seem to shake them off. It takes great effort. But I have noticed, in the five hours I have dedicated so far to this task at the farm, I actually have made great progress. I have already finished two fields! This gives me hope in my fight against indwelling sin.

It causes me to look to Christ. When you read through the Scriptures, thorns and briers and thistles are always associated with God’s judgment. Nowhere is a thorn and thistle a good thing. What is the Christ connection? When our Savior was crucified, the soldiers weaved together a crown of thorns and placed it on His head and mocked His kingship. It was a symbol of God’s judgment upon sin and the great humiliation which our Savior endured for the sake of His people. On the ground of Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension, and by virtue of His intercessory ministry to His people, the power of sin is crushed and the grace to fight and remove the thorns is granted.

One last thought: I have learned that January is a great month to be removing the brier bushes. The weather is cool and the branches are brittle. They can get chopped up much quicker this time of year. You know, right now, as we are still in the first part of the year, it’s a great time to give careful attention to our hearts. Let us pray for each other and encourage one another as we press on in this fight. Our fight with sin will soon be over, but let us fight until we return to the dust or Jesus returns.

Blessings in Jesus,

Pastor Bill

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Feb 112014
 

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

Ephesians 4:30

God has once again shown Himself faithful to us. He has graciously given us another year and we look forward with hope for what lies ahead. The New Year often brings thoughts of personal change in the coming year. Have certain resolutions entered your mind, whether you intend to try them or not?

As we begin the New Year, I would ask that we consider the verse above: “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” Notice first that Paul is writing this admonition to Christians. Yes, Christians can grieve God’s Holy Spirit. We do this in many ways. In the immediate context, when believers speak in ungodly ways, it grieves the Spirit. When we speak insults and slander, and use our tongues to tear down rather than build up, we grieve the Spirit. When we harbor bitterness and anger and resentment, we grieve the Spirit. The closeness and intimacy of the Spirit begins to wane when our hearts are hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. This is why Paul tells us in verse 32 to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

Another way we grieve the Spirit is a lack of love and dependence upon Him. The things of this world grip our heart and we seek so little of the Spirit’s influence. We care not that we do not call upon Him or desire His power. Things of a heavenly nature do not consume our thoughts and longings. We are too comfortable and self-reliant. The Spirit is grieved by our lack-luster love.

God’s Spirit is also grieved by our unbelief. Unbelief shows itself in hearts that are not thankful. Complaining is another fruit of unbelief. Unbelief manifests itself in a lack of contentment. We grieve the Spirit when we do not grab a hold of God’s promises and when we do not fight the good fight of faith. Unbelief drives us to seek our joy in things that can never satisfy, and this grieves the Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is a Divine Person. He thinks, feels, loves, and in this text, grieves. God has made man His dwelling place by the Holy Spirit. Grief and love go together. You grieve over things you love or things that hurt. When a loved one passes away, we grieve. Why do we sorrow? We loved that person. When someone close to us is hurting, we hurt. Why? Because we love them and it grieves us that someone so close to us is hurting.

The sin of believers grieves the Spirit. You see, He loves God’s children. It is by Him that His children were sealed for the day of redemption. It’s no wonder that He grieves when our hearts are not right with him. He has sealed us forever, yet so often we want so little of his influence.

Individuals can grieve the Spirit, and churches can grieve the Spirit. I do not want this to be true of RBC. My prayer for 2014 is that RBC will seek the Spirit and desire His influence and power. We need the Spirit’s power and anointing. We need the Spirit’s blessing. I do not want our hearts to be hardened to his voice as God speaks through the Spirit-inspired Word. Let us pray for a great working of the Spirit in the coming year.

Praying for the Spirit’s peace and power,

Pastor Bill

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