August tends to bring with it a sense of routine. Vacations are usually behind us. Students and teachers go back to school. New programs start at the church. However, as we enter August this year there are many unknowns. As I sit and type this letter, schools from the elementary to college level are still working out their plans. Everyone is watching and waiting to see if the number of infections with the coronavirus will increase or decrease in our city.
Some of you have had your lives dramatically restricted since March. You are also waiting to see if the number increases or decreases. As a church, we have restarted our Sunday gatherings but out times together look different than they did back in March. We too are watching and waiting to see if the number increases or decreases.
While we’re all watching the numbers I want to encourage you to keep your eyes on Jesus. Read this encounter between Jesus and Peter in Matthew 14:28-33.
28 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you
on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked
on the water and came to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was
afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31 Jesus
immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O
you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the
boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him,
saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Peter was a man of faith but when he stepped out onto the water his eyes shifted from Jesus to the wind. When he focused on the circumstance rather than the Lord he began to sink. I want to encourage you to keep your eyes on Jesus whether the numbers go up or down. If we focus too much on our circumstances we will sink into a place where we’re no longer living by faith. If you find yourself sinking then call out to Jesus to help you trust him with your circumstances.
The wind is blowing and there are many waves that are rocking the boat of our lives but we serve the One who has the power over the wind and the waves. Let us remember what well-known hymn says:
Summer is officially here but many of our summer activities look different this year. Vacation Bible School has been postponed. Many of the youth trips have been canceled. Several of the adult activities at the church had to be taken off the calendar. Family vacations have been changed.
However, slowly but surely we have been able to restore some of the activities that were once part of our weekly routine. Gathering for Sunday school in person at 9:45am was recently restarted on Sunday, June 28th. Our weekly in person Sunday Worship Service at 11am was restarted at the beginning of June. Although everything hasn’t been restored, I’m confident that God can restore what has been lost, canceled, postponed, and held back. God tells His people in Joel 2:25, “I will restore to you the years that the the swarming locusts has eaten.” This doesn’t mean that we will forget the pain, inconvenience, and discomfort of what we experienced. But it does mean that we can be confident that God was and is at work in our lives during this time. We can also be confident that God has the ability to restore our lives.
Our lives may not look the same as they did in March but do we really want them to look the same? I hope you will allow this interruption in your life to turn your faith and focus even more so on God. I hope you will become more sensitive to His leading in your life. I hope that you will become more committed to gathering with your brothers and sisters in Christ when you become able to do so. I hope you will become more available for how God wants to work in and through your life to help others become growing followers of Jesus. Yes, we want our lives restored but we also want our lives changed. We don’t want to be the same people we were back in March. Let’s trust God together to make us into the people He wants us to be!
I hope this letter finds you well! It’s hard to believe that it’s been two months since we last gathered together in our church building. During this time we’ve become more familiar with Facebook, YouTube, Zoom, and worshipping the Lord together online. I’m thankful for the technology that we have available to us. At the same time, I recognize that nothing can take the place of physically gathering together.
This is an interesting time for the church. We long to gather together but we also want to guard against spreading the virus that threatens those most vulnerable among us. Thankfully we have seen the number of cases of those infected with virus decrease in our city and state. With the decrease in cases, the governor has lifted many of the restrictions on businesses and other activities. In view of this trend, the deacons and I believe that we can begin to safely reopen our church facility. This reopening will be gradual. We will seek to adhere to the guidelines for gathering suggested by the Center for Disease Control and the executive orders by the governor of the state of Georgia. We are continuing to monitor the virus situation locally and will modify our decision if necessary.
On Sunday, June 7th our church will have a worship service at 11am in the Sanctuary. Here are some things you need to know if you plan on attending the worship service.
There will be no Sunday School, Children’s Church, or nursery.
We ask that you refrain from shaking hands or touching anyone. Greet each other with a wave.
We ask that everyone enter through the front of the Sanctuary. If you need to enter through an entrance that is handicap accessible please let me, one of the deacons, or one of the ushers know prior to the service.
We will have the ushers open the doors for you or the doors will be propped open. We ask that you try to refrain from touching the doors.
There will be hand sanitizer in the vestibule. Children under the age of 2 should not use hand sanitizer.
The ushers will escort you to your seat in the Sanctuary. We will follow social distancing guidelines which require us to be six feet apart. People living in the same household may sit together. At the end of the service we ask that you remain seated until the ushers dismiss your row. This will help us maintain the social distancing guideline throughout our service from beginning to end.
Wearing masks is optional. We will have masks available for you to use if you need one. Masks should not be used on children under the age of 2.
We will have offering plates set up in the vestibule. If you would like to give your offering you can place it in the offering plate before or after the service. We will not be passing the offering plate during the service.
The bathrooms located directly behind the Sanctuary will be open. We ask that only one person enter the bathroom at one time unless you are escorting a child. We ask that children be escorted to the bathroom by their parent or guardian to ensure these guidelines are followed.
We ask that you do not go into other parts of the church facility at this time.
We ask that if you’re sick that you do not attend. We ask that if you’ve been around someone who has shown symptoms of COVID-19 in the past 14 days that you do not attend. We will record the service and make it available online.
We ask that if you’re in the vulnerable category that you continue to shelter-in-place until the governor’s executive order is lifted on June 12th.
Following these guidelines will allow us to begin to safely gather in our building. As time goes on we will gradually restart our other activities. Please continue to pray for me and the deacons as we seek to make plans that are wise. I’m looking forward to seeing you all soon. In the meantime, let us continue to trust the Lord who is our refuge and strength and let us continue to represent Christ well to our city!
Truellen Baker has put together a wonderful prayer guide for us for the National Day of Prayer. I encourage you to take some time today and pray through this guide as we lift up our nation together!
National Day of Prayer
May 7, 2020
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” II Chronicles 7:14
Introduction: Never has our Nation needed our prayers as much as now. If you will, use this guide just as if you were in the service. There is a topic and a prayer to introduce and then if you will, spend time on each topic after the printed prayer, praying your own prayers for that topic.
COVID 19 in our Nation
Lord, grant us all the strength we need today during this crisis to serve one another in love. We especially pray your extra measure of protection on those doctors, nurses, and medical personnel of all kind on the front line.
Also, Lord there are those who are essential workers that provide good nutrition, clean water, sanitation, electricity, access to one another by communication and technology. For each and every person, we ask Your blessing and protection. Remind us of our responsibility to encourage them by expressing our gratitude as we have the opportunity.
In this crisis we praise you for Jesus, the high and safe Rock, the ultimate trustworthy foundation for any and every storm of life.
COVID 19 Recovery and Protection
Asking You, Merciful and Able Father, to give those scientists working on COVID the knowledge needed to develop the safest and most effective medicines and therapies to help the ill recover and protect the well from contracting the virus. Give those physicians and agencies delegated with such authority the wisdom to approve the release and apply the use of those treatments to patients in Your perfect timing. We pray for this, Lord Jesus, to minimize the suffering and loss of life this contagion is leaving in its wake.
COVID 19 and our Elderly, Nursing Home Residents, and Those Hospitalized
Lord, 2 Corinthians 12:9 tells us “My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” Those at home sheltering in place for a very long time, Nursing Home Residents that can’t have visitors and those hospitalized that are there with no visitors feel so isolated. I pray they feel Your Loving Arms around them and Your UNLIMITED Love for them.
President and His Advisors
Lord, You have said that “if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5 On behalf of the President of the United States, I pray for him to have wisdom, discernment, and knowledge for every decision he needs to make. I pray that the president and his advisors will not just do what seems right, but will seek Your counsel so they will do that which they know is right in Your eyes.
Lord, help those in charge of our National Security to make decisions according to Your will and Your ways. Show our leaders of National Security wise things to do and the precautions to take in order to insure our safety. Guide them in installing the most effective measures for protecting the people of our country.
Justices of Supreme Court
Lord, I pray that each of our Supreme Court Justices would meditate on Your laws before they interpret the laws of the land. Give every judge the wisdom and integrity to judge righteously so they will never violate Your laws, and may Your will be done in each decision they make.
Lord, give godly wisdom to those in high office in our military to make the right decisions in defending our country.
I pray for protection of all the men and women of our armed forces. When they must go into battle, put a hedge of protection around them. Give them strength to endure.
Spiritual Life of the Nation
Lord, how I thank you that even with this terrible Pandemic the good that has come is that your Gospel is being put out there in all kind of media more than ever before. I pray for every person sharing the gospel from Sermons, Sunday School Lessons, and Bible Studies to be led by Your Holy Spirit to give just what is needed from You to bring Spiritual Healing to our nation.
Economy of the Nation
Lord, we are facing a crisis in the economy of our nation due to the pandemic. I pray that You would give those in positions of making decisions regarding our economy Your wisdom in these decisions. Especially protect people living in poverty, or on the edge of it, who are most painfully affected by our slipping economy.
Educators, Teachers, and Students
Father, all three of the above are being challenged in different ways because of the pandemic. Help them to feel Your presence and seek Your guidance in decisions that are so different from any they have had to make before.
Please continue to help the technology to stay up and running so our students can finish the year strong.
Lord, I pray you would give our local officials Your wisdom in decisions they are needing to make that are so new to them.
Local Policemen and Firemen
Protect our local police and firemen as they continue to do their job in these challenging days.
As we close our prayer time Lord, help us always to be reminded that our weapons of warfare are always Prayer and God’s Word.
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
I hope this letter finds you well. I am writing you for four reasons. The first reason is to encourage you that God is our refuge and strength (Psalm 46). He is with us and He is working all things for the good of those that love Him (Romans 8:28). We also know that even in the midst of trials of various kinds that God is at work in us to make us more like Jesus (James 1). In the midst of the uncertainty, let us cling to God and walk by faith and not by fear.
The second reason I am writing you is to provide you with ways that you can communicate with me and our church family if you have prayer requests or needs that we can help meet. The deacons and I want to ensure that you have what you need spiritually, physically, and financially during this unique time. Please do not hesitate to contact us and let us know if you are in need of prayer or have another need that we can help meet. We are the body of Christ and we have the privilege of being connected to one another through Him. We are here to serve you! Here are some ways you can communicate:
The church office is open Monday-Thursday from 8:30am-3pm. During these office hours, you can call our administrative assistant, Jocelyn Owens, and share your prayer requests or needs. She will then relay the information to the appropriate person. If no one answers the phone or if you are calling outside of office hours, you can leave a message and someone will get back in touch with you as soon as possible. The church office number is 706.736.8446.
You can also communicate through social media. You can send a direct message through our Facebook page or Instagram page.
Finally, you can communicate by calling my cell phone. My cell phone number is 706.945.7619.
The third reason I am writing you is to share how you can stay updated regarding our church worship services. The deacons and I are closely monitoring the state of our city regarding the spread of the virus. We have canceled all Wednesday evening activities until further notice. If possible, we desire to preserve our Sunday morning worship service at 11 am. We will monitor the situation throughout the week and we will make an official announcement each Saturday at noon. The announcement will be made through email, our website, and social media. If you do not have access to these methods of communication then please contact me, your deacon, or another church member on Saturday to receive the announcement.
The fourth reason I am writing you is to give you some direction about what to do when you attend the worship service during the spread of the coronavirus. First, if you or your child is sick, please stay home. Our mission is to love people and you are not loving people when you spread your sickness. If you are sick and would like to receive an audio of the worship service, please contact the church office, and we will be glad to provide one for you. Second, the doors will be propped open as you enter and leave the service. Please try to refrain from touching the doors. Third, sit at least three feet from the closest non-family member during the service. Fourth, the offering plates will be placed at the front of the Sanctuary and in the vestibule. You will have an opportunity to give your offering as you leave the service. I want to encourage you to continue your giving to the mission of the church. If you’re unable to attend the worship service, I encourage you to mail your offering to the church office. Fifth, when greeting those around you, please wave but do not shake hands. Sixth, we will have hand sanitizer available for you to use as you enter the Sanctuary. However, our supply is low. If you have hand sanitizer that you would like to give to the church, please bring it by the church office this week or you can bring it with you on Sunday. Seventh, if you are in the high-risk category with regard to this virus, it would be wise for you to remain quarantined in your home. Even with the precautions that we are implementing, there is no way to completely eliminate the possibility of coming in contact with the virus. Again, we can make an audio CD of the worship service available to you. If you would like one, please let the church office know and we will send you one.
This is truly a unique time for our country, our city, and our church. Although many things are canceled, the mission of God has not been canceled or postponed. As we navigate this season together, let us keep our focus on loving God, loving people, and making disciples of Jesus Christ.
I was sharing with my Sunday school class this past Sunday the similarities between the wilderness journey of the Israelites and the Christian life. Like Israel was delivered out of slavery from Egypt, we are delivered out of slavery to sin through faith in Jesus. However, Israel had to go on a journey before they reached the Promised Land. That journey was filled with blessings and great tragedy. As Christians, we must go on a journey as well before we reach the ultimate Promised Land that Jesus will usher in at His return. This journey of life between conversion and consummation is one that is filled with blessings and tragedy.
We’re only a month into 2020 and we’ve seen wildfires ravage Australia, an impeachment trial for the president of our country, a helicopter crash that has killed one of the greatest and well-known basketball players of all time, and a strand of the coronavirus that is making its way from China into the rest of the world. At the same time, we’ve experienced moments of happiness over a child making the soccer team, going to the movie with friends, spending time with family, a promotion at work, answered prayer, spending more time in God’s Word, and ministering to those around us. Life is a journey and one that is filled with blessings and tragedy. But life with Christ is one that is also filled with hope. It’s filled with hope because we know that there is more to life than this life. Romans 8:18 says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” The hope that is found in Christ is that we are on a journey that is full of meaning and purpose. It is a journey that leads to an eternal destination where we will be all that we were meant to be and enjoy life with God forever. It is this hope that helps us navigate the blessings and tragedies in the journey of life. As we journey together let us consider how we can encourage and challenge one another to keep our minds set on the things above and the glory that is to be revealed to us.
When you think of 20/20 you probably think of vision. If you have 20/20 vision then you’re able to see something clearly that is normally seen from a distance of 20 feet. If you have 20/100 vision then what you see clearly from 20 feet a normal person can see from 100 feet. So if you have 20/20 vision then you are seeing things normally and clearly.
We are leaving behind 2019 and entering the year 2020. As we move into this new year I wonder what your vision will be? What are you hoping to become? What are you wanting God to do in your life? What are you trusting God to do in the life of The Hill Baptist Church? These are questions that you and I need to consider as we move into this new year. We know God wants us to change and we know that He has given us all that we need to change. We know God wants us to help others change by sharing the gospel and discipling them in their faith. What will that look like for you in 2020? What will that look like for our church?
Let us enter this new year with 20/20 vision. Let us enter this new year with our eyes clearly fixed on Christ and His mission. Let us trust God to give our church a renewed vision for what He wants us to be and what He wants us to accomplish. I’m looking forward to what God is going to do in and through us in 2020!
I was reading this morning in a devotional I’ve been working through on the book of Proverbs. The passage was about what the “bottom line” should be in business. Should it be profit or the common good? The author explained that the “bottom line” shouldn’t be how much money we can make but what is best for the community. This is true in business but it’s also true in the church. Our church’s “bottom line” is to love God, love people, and make disciples. That’s why we exist and if you are trying to get the church to deviate from that “bottom line” then you are steering her away from God’s plan.
There are many ways we can attempt to steer the church away. We can begin to focus too much on methods and tools that we use to accomplish our mission rather than the mission itself. When this happens we become resistant to change and resistant to try new ways of doing things. It’s so much easier to keep doing what we’ve been doing. I know it is for me. However, we must take inventory and ask ourselves, “What is our “bottom line”? Is what I’m doing disconnected from the mission that God has given us? Is the way we’re doing it helping our “bottom line”? If the mission is the main thing then how would that influence how we would answer the following questions?
How do I use my time, talents, and treasure? Is my “bottom line” what will profit me the most or am I looking for ways to invest in the mission so that others will benefit?
How do I respond when someone mentions changing the way we do something? Do I get defensive or am I able to consider the suggestion in light of the mission?
How do I view the church’s building and budget? Do I see them as the mission or do I see them as tools to accomplish the mission?
There’s nothing wrong with a business that wants to be profitable. But when profit becomes the mission rather than the common good then power and greed begin to drive the business. In a similar way, the church should be a good steward of the tools and resources in her possession and seek do things well. But the methods and tools must not become the mission. If they do, then the church will become a museum instead of an active outpost for the gospel. I want to challenge you to evaluate how you view the church and your involvement in the mission. What is your “bottom line”?
The Joneses are in full swing with all our kids in school! Can you remember walking into your new classroom for the first time? For some of you, you were full of excitement. For others of you, you were full of anxiety. Whether you were excited or anxious, if you saw a friend in that class it made the experience better. On Sunday mornings, some people walk into our church building for the first time. Some may be excited and others may be anxious. But what will make their experience better is if they encounter a friendly face. What will make their experience even better than that is to get know some of the people that are members of our church family. The two best ways for you to get to know those who worship at The Hill is to join a Community Group and join a Sunday School Class.
The purpose of a Community Group is to help you get to know people and to help people get to know you. The Community Groups will meet on the 4th Sunday of the month and will gather for a meal or some activity. The main purpose is to get together and build relationships. Throughout the month of August you have had the opportunity to sign up to be in a Community Group. It’s not too late to sign up but I would encourage to do it in the next week or so. You can fill out a Community Group Card or you can sign up on our website. We will be publishing the Community Group list soon. Then the groups will begin to plan their first gathering for Sunday, September 22nd. This is a great opportunity for you to meet new people as well as invite others to meet those who worship at The Hill.
If you haven’t joined a Sunday School Class then I want to encourage you to join one this Sunday. I’m starting a new study beginning on Sunday, September 8th. We will be going through a study called The Reason for God. It’s a six week video based study that will address six questions people tend to ask about Christianity. The six questions are:
1. Isn’t the Bible a Myth?
2. How Can You Say There Is Only One Way to God?
3. What Gives You the Right to Tell Me How to Live My Life?
4. Why Does God Allow Suffering?
5. Why Is the Church Responsible for So Much Injustice?
6. How Can God Be Full of Love and Wrath at the Same Time?
I’m looking forward to diving into this study with you all! If you’re not in a Sunday School class or if this topic interests you then join us on Sunday, September 8th at 9:45am in Room 216.
I want to challenge you to participate in these two ways of connecting to those who worship here at The Hill!
As a parent of children that are still in school, August marks the beginning of a new school year. August begins a new season for our children for learning, making friends, and playing sports. Although most of us are not in school anymore, August can mark the beginning of a new season for us as well. It can be a new season for learning, making friends, and being active in God’s mission. We can continue to learn as we gather in small groups to study the Bible. If you haven’t joined a Sunday School class then I strongly encourage you to do so. That small group gathering at 9:45am on Sundays is one of the best ways to learn. I also encourage you to join us on Wednesday evenings. We gather in the Social Hall for a meal at 5:30pm and then for prayer and Bible study at 6:15pm. Starting August 7th we will resume our study in Systematic Theology. August can mark the beginning for a new season of learning for all of us.
August can also mark the beginning for a new season of making friends. Over the past few weeks I’ve been challenging you to make friends with those around you who don’t follow Jesus. Look for ways to show them the love of God. Pray for an opportunity to tell them about Jesus. This can also be a new season for developing Christian friendships. Joining a Sunday School class is one of the best ways to build friendships with other Christians. In addition to Sunday School, we are going to be launching what we call Community Groups in the next few months. A Community Group is group of people that commit to gather together on the fourth Sunday of every month. The purpose of the Community Group is to help our church members and guests deepen their relationships with one another. The Community Group get-togethers will range from gathering for dinner at someone’s house or restaurant to attending a Green Jackets’ baseball game to meeting somewhere for dessert. The options are limitless but the purpose is to get to know one another better. If you would like to be in a Community Group, you will have the opportunity to fill out a Community Group card in the next several weeks. After a few weeks of making the cards available we will create the groups and begin meeting together. I encourage you to join one of these groups and allow August to mark the beginning of a new season of making friends!
Lastly, August can mark a season of renewed zeal for being active in God’s mission. We can become more intentional in sharing our faith. We can become more involved in one of the many ministries of our church. We can take a step of faith and try something we haven’t tried before. Whatever that may look like for you, I challenge you to allow August to mark a season of renewed zeal for being active in God’s mission.