Fall Startup

Now that school is back in full swing, we’re eager to get going on our fall classes. We host these to help you become more and more of a disciple of Christ.

Financial Peace University is the best tool we have found to help you pay off debt, save money, and plan for your future!  It is all about being a good steward of what God has given you.
Get Info Here

Making Sense of God is our study of deeper theology, forming right ideas of who God is, and how he works in our lives. Susan Farnham is leading this 12-week deeper class.
Sign Up Here

I hope you will take one of these two classes this fall.

If you missed this week’s message, I will post it here so you can catch up.


Worship is for God… And for you.

Have you ever thought about worship as a discipline? Is that a valid idea?  Why, or why not?

Psalm 95:1-2 NLT
Come, let us sing to the LORD!
Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come to him with thanksgiving.
Let us sing psalms of praise to him.

When you read the above Psalm, does it feel more like a command, or an invitation? Does God force people to worship him?

When you think about worshiping God on your own, what specific acts come to mind? How does that compare with the things you associate with corporate worship?

What value is there in participating in different means of worship?

The psalmist described God as “the Lord,” a translation of the Hebrew name “Yahweh,” the covenant name of God. The covenant name of God stresses His loyal love and faithful care of those who trust and follow Him. By using this name, the psalmist not only praised God for who He is but also for what He had done for His people. God is further described as the rock of our salvation. God is the One in whom our deliverance is secure. Scriptures often use the term “salvation” to refer to God’s deliverance from the hands of enemies. The term also can describe spiritual salvation. Through His Son, Jesus Christ, the Lord has provided the one and only Rock to whom we can look for salvation.

How does the psalmist tell us to approach God?

Why is thanksgiving an important part of our worship? What does it communicate to God?

One would not come before a king empty-handed but with a gift that indicated respect. The psalm calls on us to approach the throne of God with thanksgiving. The word literally pictures an extension of the hand, a way of expressing a public commitment as well as adoration. This verse portrays not a solitary figure but a congregation of worshipers lifting their hands before the Lord in gratitude and praise.

Psalm 95:3-7 NLT
For the LORD is a great God,
a great King above all gods.
He holds in his hands the depths of the earth
and the mightiest mountains.
The sea belongs to him, for he made it.
His hands formed the dry land, too.

Come, let us worship and bow down.
Let us kneel before the LORD our maker,
for he is our God.
We are the people he watches over,
the flock under his care.
If only you would listen to his voice today!

Why is God worthy of our worship, according to this passage?

What response to these facts is invited? How does it help you to worship by recalling who our God is?

How does the psalmist’s invitation to worship challenge you today?

An important part of worship is focusing on God. What are some specific things you could do to help focus on God during your corporate worship times? your family worship times? Your times of private worship?

What attitudes or other distractions need to be eliminated so you can focus on God in your corporate or personal worship?

Hebrews 10:24-25 NLT
Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

How can we make our group gatherings a more intentional time of worship?

Why Are We Even Doing This?

Why Are We Doing This?

You might think this is sort of a redundant question.  We need to relocate, don’t we?  BUT, it is the question our staff has grappled with this week.  Our building campaign consultant, InJoy, has us building our case for “why build” as they help us put together a plan. InJoy is asking us questions like,  “what types of ministry will you be able to do in this new facility? How will this change who you are? How will this reposition you in relationship to your community?”

It turns out it was a great exercise.

Apparently, for many churches, these questions aren’t asked on a regular basis… So the “why build” question is met with blank stares of pastors in declining churches who somehow believe that “if you build it, they will come!”

For our staff, this is only galvanizing us around our mission.. We are realizing how LOCKED IN we are to the very specific focus that God has called us to right here.

We have very little interest in adding new ministry categories. We are just called to make the gospel relevant to our community, and we do that by loving God, loving others, and making disciples.  

All we are really after is a greater capacity to be used by God even more.

This past week alone, 187 individuals OUTSIDE our church were in some way impacted by our simple vision.  Backpacks were filled and distributed. Meals were served to teachers and administrators. People were prayed for and loved on.  That is ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY SEVEN people that this church reached out and touched in some way.

And it wasn’t that busy of a week.

What if we were an even larger group of torch bearers?  What if we had the capacity to grow our group beyond 500 to 600, 800, or even a thousand regular attenders?  What could that group of people do?  How many lives in Gilmer County and beyond could we begin to impact, and how many might just come to Christ as a result?

Introduction to Wonder

Can you believe it is August?  Most of our lifegroups aren’t getting back into the full swing until the next couple of weeks, but I thought I would try to get back into the pattern of producing lifegroup discussion questions with the beginning of this series, and get a little head start.  I’m running really late, though, but I doubt anyone will notice.

Financial Peace University

This is the single most life-changing course we have ever offered at The Orchard. Even if you’ve been through it before, it is worth going through again.  I did it a second time!
You will be amazed at the difference this small investment can make in your finances. Stop living in denial!  Turn your financial life around now!  Take the class!

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If you missed Sunday’s message, you can listen from our podcast feed here:

You can also always watch and listen to past episodes on our website’s “watch and listen” page.

On Sunday, I tried to make the case that most believers do not experience “wonder,” as Jesus defined it (experiencing “abundance,” having open doors, walking in authority, and unlimited “possibility.”)  Instead, we tend to spend our spiritual lives in “wander.” Do you agree, or disagree?

Jesus resorts to reposession?

It seems that Jesus takes this new life pretty seriously… In fact, he describes people who “see, but don’t really see…” who “hear, but don’t really listen or understand.” He says that there will be consequences for being only partially tuned into this new life;

Matthew 13:12 (NLT)
To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them.

Clearly, He doesn’t throw out the WONDER indiscriminately.  What do you think this means?

Why did Elisha respond that way?

Elisha could hear every move the king of Aram was planning to make, right? He reported their every move to his own king, so the Arameans were basically unable to attack… Until that one night…

2 Kings 6:11-14 NLT
The king of Aram became very upset over this. He called his officers together and demanded, “Which of you is the traitor? Who has been informing the king of Israel of my plans?”
“It’s not us, my lord the king,” one of the officers replied. “Elisha, the prophet in Israel, tells the king of Israel even the words you speak in the privacy of your bedroom!”
“Go and find out where he is,” the king commanded, “so I can send troops to seize him.”
And the report came back: “Elisha is at Dothan.” So one night the king of Aram sent a great army with many chariots and horses to surround the city.

Yet, the night they came to get Elisha, he was sleeping in his own bed.
Could he not hear those plans?
OR, did he know?

As far as we can tell, he was sleeping peacefully while his town was being invaded.

If I had been in his place, and if I had known they were coming, I would have run and hid. I would have made sure I was OUT OF THEIR WAY. AND, no matter where I ended up hiding, I would have been up all night, sick to my stomach, not getting a bit of sleep.
Yet, Elisha seems to have had a calm night.
Was Elisha just that confident in God? Was there that much wonder in Elisha’s life?

Contrast Elisha’s ability to sleep peacefully during the advance of the enemy with the way we all respond to the crises of our lives.

Why it’s our response to a crisis so different than Elisha’s?

What about the servant? Elisha is known as the prophet of miracles… God did amazing things through this man. And the servant was there all along, attending Elisha’s needs. Undoubtedly, the servant had heard Elisha’s teaching. He had witnessed miracle after miracle. He had seen first hand how God worked through the prophet.
Yet he did not expect wonder.

Is it possible for you and I to be so close, but miss out on it? Is it really that possible for us to see, and not see? To hear, and not hear?

The servant had the natural response… The wander response. He panicked.
Isn’t it true that the WONDER response makes no sense to wanderers? The spiritual response is incomprehensible to the natural man?

1 Corinthians 2:14 NLT
But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means.

So, when you respond in faith to one of life’s crises, by walking confidently into the midst of the enemy forces as Elisha did, it makes no sense to the non-spiritual wanderer.

What keeps us in wander, and keeps us from wonder?

God Wants Me To Be Happy?

The “Hot Seat” is coming!

Next month’s message series is going to be awkward!

I believe that church spends way too much time answering questions that nobody is asking, so I want to deal head-on with real questions from REAL PEOPLE.  This is a GREAT opportunity for YOU to give your skeptical, doubtful friend or co-worker the chance to ask their real questions, and to watch the pastor squirm!

So, have your friends go to, submit their anonymous question, and be present with you on Sundays in July to see how I handle the “Hot Seat!”

Sixteenth-century French philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal once said, “All men seek happiness. This is without exception.” Do you think that is true? Why or why not?

What do people in our culture think will bring them happiness?

Share about something you thought would bring you happiness, only to discover it did not. Did you learn anything from that experience?

Why do you think so many of the things we seek in life never truly satisfy us?

Psalm 16:1–6 (NLT)
Keep me safe, O God, for I have come to you for refuge.
I said to the LORD, “You are my Master! Every good thing I have comes from you.”
The godly people in the land are my true heroes! I take pleasure in them!
Troubles multiply for those who chase after other gods. I will not take part in their sacrifices of blood or even speak the names of their gods.
LORD, you alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing. You guard all that is mine.
The land you have given me is a pleasant land. What a wonderful inheritance!

What does the Psalmist David observe to be the difference between Godly people and people who “chase after other gods?”

How might desiring other gods cause our troubles to multiply?  (Hint: How did this happen to David in his life?)

Despite David’s desire to lead the nation of Israel to follow after and worship God, the nation of Israel was not exactly godly during his reign. Immorality and idolatry began to creep into the nation, and David bears some responsibility for this decline through his adultery with Bathsheba. After David stole Bathsheba from Uriah and then had him killed, we begin to see trouble multiply in David’s family. David’s daughter Tamar is raped by one of his sons by another wife. This leads to Absalom’s rebellion and civil war. The kings who come after David allow idolatry to take deeper and deeper root in Israel, and Israel finds itself more and more in debt to the nations around it.

How has seeking after “happy,” rather than “joy” caused YOU more trouble?

Psalm 16:7–11 (NLT)
I will bless the LORD who guides me; even at night my heart instructs me.
I know the LORD is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.
No wonder my heart is glad, and I rejoice. My body rests in safety.
For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your holy one to rot in the grave.
You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.

Why was David so confident that he would not be “shaken?” What did trusting in the Lord (joy) produce in David’s heart?

What did David find in the presence of the Lord?

Philippians 4:4 (NLT)
Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!

Why do you think God’s Word tells us to “be full of joy in the Lord?”

When David says “you will not leave my soul among the dead,” what is he referring to?

Both Peter and Paul saw this passage in Psalms as a reference to the resurrection from the dead. David is looking forward to the messiah who would make us rise again to be with Him forever!  How should our joy IN CHRIST be better than David’s joy in Psalms?

What good things in your life tend to be more important to you than Christ?  How do your troubles multiply when you prioritize these things over Him?

What keeps you from delighting in the Lord?

Do you serve God more often out of duty, or out of delight? How might meditating on God’s Word help you to delight in Him?

Boring, Preacher

What and where can we build on our new property?

That question will largely be answered in a VERY BORING way.

This week, we had our first “boring” tests done… That means that a couple of guys from CCL & Associates came out to bore several holes in strategic places on our new site, looking for depth of bedrock.  See, we definitely want to build on THE ROCK! (Didn’t Jesus tell a story about this?)  BUT, we don’t want that bedrock to be too shallow under our surface, or else we will have to blast!  (blasting is expensive!!)

So, the guys were planning to bore 8′ deep holes looking for bedrock depth.  It turns out none of their holes went more than 6′ deep.  That rock is shallower than we thought.  Some of the holes only made it to 1′ deep!

So, exactly what will that mean for us?  Well, the boring guys (lol) will have to get their report to the geo guy, who will write up a recommendation for the architect, who will then make a proposal to us.  Sometime.

So we wait!

“It Doesn’t Matter What I Believe”

Many of our groups are taking some time off in June and July, but I am providing discussion questions for those of you that are continuing on!

Why don’t you join my 4-week crash course on “Knowing God?” Tap the picture above to get to the course info and registration.



What are we even here for?  What is our purpose here?

Your group probably got really quiet right there, didn’t they?

It seems like too deep a question to really answer, but God answers it for us.

Isaiah 43:7 NLT
“I have made them for my glory. It was I who created them.”

The Westminster Catechism begins with sort of a “purpose statement” for us. You probably recognize it:

Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.
-Westminster Catechism

Do you agree with that statement?

If my purpose is to glorify God, how do I do that in my life?  How well am I doing with that?

On Sunday morning, I talked about “leaning in,” and “pointing your chin” in his direction in order to know Him more, and to fulfill your purpose… Here is how Paul talks about it:

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 NLT
Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize.  So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing.  I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should.

Paul talks about being disciplines, and running with purpose.  How often do we find ourselves running, but without purpose?  What is the difference between being busy and being productive in your purpose?

How often do we find ourselves too busy to fulfill our purpose?

What kinds of things should we do to “discipline” ourselves to live out his purpose more?

(hint: sign up for my 4-week crash course!)

What did that look like for Paul? (see the following verses)

1 Corinthians 9:19-23 NLT
Even though I am a free man with no master, I have become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ. 20 When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ. When I was with those who follow the Jewish law, I too lived under that law. Even though I am not subject to the law, I did this so I could bring to Christ those who are under the law. 21 When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ.
22 When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. 23 I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings.

What kept Paul from running aimlessly?


What are some practical discipline measures for us to KNOW GOD?


The things of value: RUBBISH!

Phil 3:7-11





Gender Roles For Men

Our society seems to have moved from “Father Knows Best,” to “Dad doesn’t know anything,” to “Who needs dad?” How have we bought into this denial, and what has God called men to be?

Read More

We Got The Property. Now What?

Chris Freyer, of CCL Associates met with our elder team this morning to begin our strategic planning process for where we are heading with the new property.  Our goal here is to establish a long-term strategic plan for where we’re heading.  MY natural instinct is to “ready, fire, aim…” but this process will allow us to know exactly what we are aiming at.

“Planning is more important than a set of plans.”

We will be meeting with Chris some more in the near future… We’ll also be getting together with our teams and figuring out exactly what our needs look like for our main worship, KidZone, Vine Youth, Celebrate Recovery, and more.