"I always wish tomorrow was Sunday!"

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When Daniel is not saying or doing something hilariously absurd (like the picture above!), he is using encouraging us to keep our eyes on Jesus.

Last Sunday, as he shared his testimony, he did just that—helping us to see how graciously, persistently, compassionately, & completely God pursues us! Read along & worship with us.

“True doctrine is not a matter of the tongue but of life.” This quote from John Calvin has been on my thoughts since the members class. I grew up in the church. I grew up learning a lot about doctrine.

For me, that was a problem. It was only doctrine to me. Only knowledge. I learned the right things to say and the right things to do SO THAT I could would be liked and respected. Then in my private life, I was a wreck and without hope. I poured myself into many ungodly, hidden habits. Though I had a form of knowledge of the light, I was living in the domain of darkness.

This went on and worsened through the high school years and even into my freshman year of college. I remember distinctly one day in high school wanting to be done with religion. I thought, “God, I have prayed that you help me with these sins but nothing changes.” So, I stopped praying. At this time, God was at work behind the scenes. God, through the Spirit, gave someone in my life discernment and he saw through all my fake walls of self-made righteousness. This man as many of you know was Stephen Larson, my brother-in-law. When I stopped praying, he started praying for me. He gently pursued me and graciously helped me see my need for grace and Christ's righteousness.

In my senior year of high school I went with him and many other men from Cornerstone Church of Knoxville to a Men's Conference called Rescuing Ambition. This was a defining moment for me. I began to understand grace more. I was captured by seeing 500 men passionately and joyfully worship God. I never had seen this before. I thought, "This is not religion, there is something more powerful at work." At one point, we sang Be Thou My Vision—a song I had sung my whole life but this time was different. Men were singing with full conviction of heart and joy. "Riches I heed not, nor man's empty praises, thou mine inheritance, now and always, thou and thou only FIRST in my heart, high king of heaven, MY TREASURE THOU ART.” Yet, after the conference was over, my heart was still in darkness BUT God was on the move.

Then in the Spring semester of 2011, I was dating Anna who now is my lovely wife. God brought my sin to light. God exposed my lies and hidden sins. God revealed to me the wickedness and ugliness of my sin. More than that, He showed me that the wickedness of my sin is not the act of the sin but WHOM my sin is against. It is against a holy, righteous, just God. With this realization of who God is, I felt the weight and burden of my sin and realized I could not carry the load. I had tried my whole life and it never worked. BUT, God being rich in mercy, showed me there is forgiveness in Christ and that I do not have to earn righteousness. Rather, I receive Jesus' righteousness freely through faith in Christ.

I cannot thank God enough for the faithful prayers of Stephen, for the patience of Anna, and the consistent preaching of the gospel from CCK and here at TGC. We have to keep the main thing, the main thing. The gospel!

The gospel is the truth that keeps us. At the end of the day, when the troubles of life come, it will not matter if you believe pre- or post-millennial view or infant or believers baptism. Our only hope is Jesus! What if the same spirit that rose Jesus from the dead, actually lives inside you and me? Can you imagine how this can change our days and lives if we preach these truths to ourselves?

I too always wish tomorrow was Sunday! I need to be refreshed in the joy of the Gospel and be encouraged by fellowship.

I want to thank all of you for the deep impact you have made on me, Anna, and my kids. I am thankful for this church. But above all, I am thankful for God’s continued grace!

How to pray for & serve the Bahamas.

As you know, Hurricane Dorian landed on the Bahamas on September 1 & did great damage. There are 43 confirmed deaths, as well as thousands of folks missing. Damage on the islands of Abaco & Grand Bahama is estimated to be hundreds of millions of dollars.

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We have a sister church called Kingdom Life Church in Nassau. Their pastor Cedric Moss is seeking to demonstrate genuine love & practical care to the people of the Bahamas during this time of great need.

It is a privilege for us to partner with them. And I would you to do so in the following ways:

Pray for them.

  • Pray for missing people to be found.

  • Pray for food & shelter to be provided for folks now homeless.

  • Pray for God to comfort the grieving, confused, & angry people there.

  • Pray for Cedric, Kingdom Life Church, & other Christians ministering there.

  • Pray for the gospel to spread with power.

Consider giving financially to help.

Sovereign Grace Churches has established a “Bahamas Hurricane Relief Fund.” All the money will go to meeting the needs of folks in the Bahamas. You can give here.

Consider going to serve Cedric & his church.

Cedric & his church are organizing work teams to help in the restoration and reconstruction efforts, once that phase begins in the next 2 or 3 months. If you are interested & able to help, fill out this form & Kingdom Life Church will contact you.

Calling all of Cherokee Nation!

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Next Friday, September 20, we are serving dinner to the McMinn football team before they play William Blount High School that evening.

We need your help!

We plan to serve Italian food & help the team carb-load before the game. We will provide the following items:

  • Lasagna or Spaghetti Casserole

  • Salad

  • Dessert

If you are interested & able to help, please text Vanessa Ball (423 - five 0 six - 5 eight six 3).

One-Last-Taste-of-Summer POOL PARTY!

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School is back…and we’re already looking forward to summer!

So, while it is still (very!) hot & before summer gets chased away by fall, we are gathering for a One-Last-Taste-of-Summer Pool Party this Sunday night.

Mark your calendars & bring your best cannonball!

  • WHEN: Sunday, August 25 at 6:15pm

  • WHERE: Ingleside Pool

  • WHAT TO BRING: swimming trunks, towel, & water

  • SPECIAL SPECIAL: Rumor has it, our very own Ralph “Drop-the-Hammer-No-Fear” Rambo is coming to demonstrate the proper “can opener”! You won’t want to miss that!

Thanks be to God who gives us the victory!

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No comes to Jesus because they have it together. All of us come broken and badly in need. Several weeks ago, Cindy Pritchett humbly and honestly shared her story and how God had mercy on her. Read and rejoice with us!

On August 21, 1982 I was born into a loving home that consisted of my mother, father, and a big sister. I never doubted that I was loved, I never went without needs, and only occasionally went without wants. From stories I've heard over the years, it sounds like I came out of the womb ready to run the world my way.

Thinking back to my childhood, I remember being highly emotional and quick to speak whatever was on my mind. My parents would often remind me that words can't be taken back, and warned me to bite my tongue. Rarely did I obey their instructions. I also remember battling severe anxiety and depressive thoughts as a child.

My preteen years were years of total rebellion. Ironically, I attended this exact school. I have many memories of being in this very room. But, those years were full of heartache and poor decisions. I was searching for anything and everything that the world had to offer in an attempt to numb my anxious and depressive feelings. I committed nearly ALL the big sins. From human perspective, it seemed as if I was on a mission to completely destroy my body, my soul, and my hope for a normal adult life...but by God's grace, the Lord had different plans for me.

I now clearly see that at the age of nineteen, the Lord began drawing me to himself. A Christian couple welcomed my boyfriend at the time and me into their lives. They had us over for dinner, the wife took me shopping, and they invited us to church. They showed us Christ. I longed to have the joy and peace they had.

About a year later, I found out that I was expecting a baby. All of you know that baby as Chase Blankenbaker. Chase’s father and I were married at that time. A little less than two years later, Gavin was born. 

Before long, it became clear to me that my marriage to their dad was not going to last.  During this tough season, I met a lady named Cindy Boler. She was older and wiser than me, yet she became my close friend. She invested in me and mentored me. She spoke God's truth to me. She loved me and cared for me, even challenging me at times. I remember realizing how much of a mess I had made with my life and the heartbreak of my boys enduring my poor choices. One night in the fall of 2005, after a phone call with Cindy, the Lord saved me!!

Soon thereafter, I began to fervently pray for my children’s future. I asked God to provide a godly husband for me and a father for my boys. I specifically prayed that I didn't care if the man already had three kids, I would be willing to be a mother to them as well. 

As most of you know from Chase’s testimony a few weeks ago, the Lord answered my prayer. I met Chris Pritchett, and his three children Desi, Donivan, and Devin a couple of weeks after that. On May 12, 2007 Chris and I were married! We became a family of seven overnight! 

The Lord continued to work in our lives. Although Chris claimed to be a Christian when we met, he was not. I am so incredibly thankful that God saved him several years ago. And I am so thankful God blessed us with another child, Annaleigh. 

Throughout the years, all of our kids have seen us stumble many times, but by God's loving kindness they have seen us trust God and get up. I hope and believe our children see God’s redeeming work in our lives. 

God has been merciful to me by saving me and He is making me new. Although I no longer struggle with many of the more obvious sins of my past, I am aware that I still have lots of sin left in me. I do not like these things about myself. I am reminded of Paul’s words in Romans. “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” But I also rejoice with Paul’s word in 1 Corinthians. “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

I am encouraged to know that God is sanctifying me and that one day I will be face to face in front of the Lord without blemish. Praise the Lord!

Marriage Conference at Cornerstone.

Our friends at Cornerstone Church of Knoxville have invited us to a marriage conference with pastor & author Christopher Ash in a few weeks.

It is entitled…

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Their website reads:

What is the purpose of my marriage? What is the point of sex?

How we answer these foundational questions will impact our marriages & their direction, maybe even more than we realize. Where we look to find these answers is just as important. Therefore, we must look & begin where the Bible begins, with God & His good design. It is exciting for us as a church to welcome Christopher Ash to help us answer these questions. Christopher and Carolyn live in Cambridge, across the pond, where Christopher is a writer-in-residence at Tyndale House.

So, mark your calendars & plan to join us this September 6-7:

  • Conference sessions are Friday night from 7-10pm & Saturday from 9am-noon.

  • Childcare available on Saturday for $10.

YOU are invited to our Baptism Celebration!

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Baptism is a seminal moment in the life of a believer—when they confess publicly their trust in Jesus and desire to live for him all the days of their life!

This Sunday, August 18, we are going to celebrate the baptisms of 3 individuals: Ralph, Eliana, & Melanie. We hope can join us in celebrating God’s salvation, especially in the lives of these 3 individuals.

Here are the details:

  • WHEN: Sunday, August 18 at 5:00pm

  • WHERE: Simpson/Bohannon land (162 CR 218, Niota, TN 37826)

  • WHAT: We’ll sing a few songs, celebrate, & eat together

  • SO…: Bring some food to share with everyone & a lawn chair.

Sovereign Grace goes gospel!

If you were to describe Sovereign Grace Music—who write many of the songs we sing—gospel (in the music genre sense) is not a word you would use.

Yet, in their most recent album our friends at Sovereign Grace Music teamed up with Joe Pace & the Shiloh Church Choir. (Shiloh Church happens to be pastored by one of my favorite preachers H.B. Charles.)

It is called Behold Our God! And it is really good. Seriously.

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Bob Kauflin & Joe Pace said this about the album: When God sent his Son to save a people for his glory, he didn’t specify what kind of music they should use to praise him. He just said his redeemed choir would be made up of people from every tribe, people, language, and nation (Rev. 5:9). In fact, the Bible contains a surprising variety of ways we can praise God with music: alone and with others, structured and spontaneous, simple and complex, accompanied and a cappella. No one style can express the vastness of God’s attributes and deeds or the multitude of appropriate ways we can respond to him. With that in mind, this album brings together different musical and cultural backgrounds united in the same purpose: to sing to the Lamb, to sing loud, and to sing together (Rev. 5:9-13; Ps. 47:1; Ps. 34:3).

Here is a short clip:

You can listen to it through Spotify or Apple Music. And you can download it here at Bandcamp.

And who knows? With enough pestering maybe Ben and Gil will try out some of these songs?

Our first Membership Class begins THIS Sunday!

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The kids are going back to school next week & so too are we!

This Sunday, our first-ever Membership Class will begin. And we are pumped about it!

All the details are below:

  • WHEN: 9:00am on August 4/11/18/25

  • WHERE: ACMS Auditorium

  • WHAT DO I NEED TO DO: Please sign up here

  • BREAKFAST & CHILDCARE are provided

But . . . who is this class for?

It is for you . . . if you are wondering:

  • What it looks like to follow Christ at Trinity Grace

  • What Trinity Grace believes

  • What the purpose of church & church membership is

  • How to join Trinity Grace

  • The nuts & bolts of Trinity Grace (e.g., How do things work? How are decisions made? How do you start serving?)

"It was the hardest thing I have ever experienced, but God's hand was behind it all."

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If you have known Chase for any length of time, you have undoubtedly seen him carrying along his guitar nearly everywhere he goes. Chase loves to sing & worship!

But, you may not know that this young man has faced many hard things. HIs joy is not the result of a happy personality. HIs joy is the result of experiencing grace. As he says: “It was the hardest thing I have ever experienced, but God’s hand was behind it all.”

Several weeks ago, Chase shared his testimony at church. Read along to hear more of how God has been at work in his life.

When I was almost three years old, I experienced something that no child should have to go through.  My mom and my biological dad got a divorce.  It was the hardest thing I have ever experienced, but God’s hand was behind it all.  

Not too long after the divorce my mom met Chris Pritchett.  Before long, mom and Chris got married.  As I got to know more and more about Chris, I found him to be one of the godliest men that I know.  I wouldn’t want any other man in my life to call father.  I still get sad sometimes when I think of my biological dad, but I have a heavenly father above and a father here on earth that show me unconditional love.

When I was in elementary school I struggled with the sin of anger and feared the future.  When I was in the sixth grade I went on a youth retreat to the beach.  The theme verse for the retreat was 1st Timothy 1:7.  In this verse Paul was telling Timothy that God hasn’t given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self-control.  This verse affected me in ways that I didn’t even know were possible.  Along with being affected by this verse, I came to trust in Christ and sensed the Holy Spirit’s presence in my life for the very first time.  Throughout these first five years of my new found life in Christ my anger issues have disappeared, and my fear of the future is starting to go away.

I am so grateful for the numerous Christian friends that God has given me.  And I feel extremely blessed to be a part of this church plant with all of you in our little town of Athens, Tennessee.  Thank you all so much for being there when I need prayer and encouragement.  God saved me from my anger and I know he can save you if you just ask Him.  

God led us to others whose lives "were sold out to Christ."

Sometimes its hard to tell what people really want.

This is not the case with Buddy & Judy Luster. Their lives are sold out to Christ.

Last Sunday, they shared their testimony with us & it was a treat. Read along & rejoice at God’s work with us.

Judy

Hello, my name is Judy and I was born in Memphis, TN into a loving, Christian home. Our life was centered around our local Southern Baptist Church, local school and my father’s business all within walking distance. I learned to be a good Christian meant that I didn’t smoke or drink or go with boys who did. I walked the church aisle early in life asking Jesus to save me and was baptized. The problems came when I went away to college. When I looked inside for a reason to continue being a good moral person, I was left with, “If my mother ever found out I did that, she would kill me!” There was no belief, faith or personal relationship there, just legalistic religion.

Despair set in as I laid aside the religion of my childhood and began to search for God. In returning home to attend Memphis State University (now the University of Memphis), I ran into an old high school friend who invited me to an evening talk by a woman from California. She shared that in her doubt she had prayed, “God, if you are there, please make yourself known to me.” That night I prayed this same prayer and the next morning I woke up with a peace and freedom from the heaviness that I had not had before. From there God began to lead me to other born again Christians who desired to live lives that were sold out to Christ.

This took place during the Jesus Movement. As the hippie movement for end to war and free love was spreading, the Holy Spirit was also moving bringing many to Christ. As a result new churches and gatherings began to form for these new believers. I was attending a Sunday night meeting for college students in a home and hearing stories of radical Christian living. I began to see a picture of what the New Testament church might have looked like. There I met a young man…

Buddy

I too was raised in Memphis, born into a Methodist family. I was baptized as an infant, joined the church at the age of 8, and taught about early Methodist history. However, there was little emphasis on God’s word, and I have no memory of anyone sharing the gospel or speaking of the reality of knowing God personally.

I always believed there was a God and that he was the One with whom everyone would have to give an account. My teen years were characterized by smoking, drinking and partying. During high school, I attended Young Life camp where I was moved by the gospel. I truly wanted to change and resolved to live life differently but, unfortunately, my resolve apart from God’s power was not enough.

At the University of Tennessee Martin, I became an engineering student and pledged a fraternity. I studied hard during the week and partied even harder on the weekends. I was satisfied with my sinful life, was definitely not seeking God, and at one point I just wanted God to leave me alone.

Back in Memphis a friend took me to a Sunday night meeting of students and ex-hippies. These were regular, ordinary folks like me; but unlike me they were excited about knowing Christ and were not ashamed to identify with him. They spoke boldly and naturally about Jesus and acted as if they actually knew him. God opened my heart that night as the leader shared about Christ. He shared that there was no “middle ground” when it came to Jesus. I realized that I was trying to live with one foot on each side of the fence. In that living room, I said “YES” to Him and began a life changing journey. I began to understand the grace of God and his unconditional love for me. No longer trying to “clean up” in order to be accepted by God, I began to experience his forgiveness and power at work in my life. He began to transform me; old desires and sinful habits started to fall away.

Looking back, I am amazed by His love for me. I am amazed that He would come after one who was not seeking him but was in actuality running as hard as he could in the opposite direction. And I am convinced that I would not love Him now were it not for the fact that he loved me first.

Together

We were just two singles loving the Lord when He brought us together miraculously, but that’s another story for another day. We believed that God had called each of us to serve Him and found that we had a common passion for Him and for His people. In marrying we desired to see the advance of his Kingdom and to demonstrate the love that He has for his bride, the church. Our commitment to His church has always been a focal point of our life. We have sought to be involved in and to nurture Christ centered, gospel preaching churches.

God led us from Tennessee to Ohio where Buddy attended seminary to prepare for ministry. We were involved in ministry and in helping plant a church there. Later Buddy took an engineering job and served as a lay elder. This was an excellent place to raise our four children surrounded by other Christian families working together to live gospel centered lives. Life moved on.

Over our 46 years of marriage, we have lived in Tennessee, Ohio, Texas, Ohio, China, Ohio, Tennessee, which is why this testimony could be much longer!

Some years ago, we were first introduced to Sovereign Grace Churches when our oldest daughter join a church in Maryland. We visited. We were amazed at the worship, commitment to keeping the gospel as the main thing and we were intrigued with the church life.

In 2005, Buddy’s job transferred him from Ohio to Chattanooga. At that time three of our children lived in Knoxville and attended Cornerstone Church. So for 6 years we drove to Knoxville to be part of that church. Sundays were great but we weren’t not about share life with other believers during the week.

Now with Trinity Grace Church here in Athens, we have loved worshipping with you! Thank you for welcoming us so warmly!

To God be the glory in His Church….

Baptism class—this Sunday, July 21!

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Baptism is a wonderful moment in the life of a believer & in the life of the church. Simply put, baptism is one of the first steps of obedience a new believer should take in following Christ.

Usually the problem is not understanding what baptism is. The problem is understanding whether we should be baptized.

Have you ever asked questions like these?

What does it mean to believe the gospel?

How much do we need to understand before being baptized?

Is baptism necessary for salvation?

How old do you need to be to be baptized?

How do I know whether my child is ready to be baptized?

Do we have to be immersed or just sprinkled?

What about being re-baptized? What if I didn’t understand what I was doing the first time? What if I’m not sure I was a Christian when I baptized the first time?

This Sunday, we are having a Baptism Class to answer these specific questions.

If you’ve ever asked these questions, join us this Sunday!

Sunday, July 21

9:15am in the Library

JONAH!

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Jonah is one of the most well-known & well-loved stories of the Bible.

After all, what’s not to love? It is a story packed with suspense & intrigue. It includes surprising twists & turns—could anything be more surprising than finding yourself in the belly of a big fish? It is about a man on the run who seems to learn his lesson. But, in the end, we’re left wondering if he learned anything at all.

It is incredibly well-written & well-crafted. As Desmond Alexander has said, “The book of Jonah is undoubtably one of the masterpieces of biblical literature.”

It is a story for young & old, the learned & the not-so-learned, the Sunday school teachers & the top-rate theologians. And all the while, it is a little book about a big God of great mercy.

We are excited about taking a closer look at Jonah this summer—beginning July 14 & continuing for 4 more weeks.

If you want to read ahead, below is the preaching schedule.

July 14—Jonah 1:1–6

July 21—Jonah 1:7–16

July 28—Jonah 1:17–2:10

August 5—Jonah 3:1–10

August 12—Jonah 4:1–11

If you want to read further, below are some helpful resources about Jonah.

Running From Mercy by Tony Carter

Man Overboard! by Sinclair Ferguson

The Prodigal Prophet by Tim Keller

Jonah by Hugh Martin

Backyard Bible School details, July 14-17

BACKYARD BIBLE SCHOOL is next week!

We are excited about this opportunity to invest in & serve the kids of our community. We hope you are as well.

Here are all the details:

WHEN: Sunday (July 14th)–Wednesday (July 17th) from 6:00–8:00pm.

WHERE: Cherokee Point Subdvision

Turn on Sullins Road off Decatur Pike across from Athens Regional. At the top of the hill turn Left into Cherokee Point subdivision. A few hundred yards after passing the first subdivision entrance on your left, you will see our tents on the left.

SCHEDULE:

  • SUNDAY—Invite folks & get them registered, play games, & eat hotdogs.

  • MONDAY-TUESDAY—Bible School which includes a rotation between bible lessons, singing, crafts, recreation, & snacks.

  • WEDNESDAY—Same thing as Monday & Tuesday, but will conclude with a presentation for parents.

  • Please eat before you come each night. We will not serve dinner on Monday—Wednesday. On Sunday, we will serve hot dogs, but since we don't know how many folks will come, it would be better for us to eat ahead of time.

WHAT ARE YOU DOING: You should know by now! Everyone who signed up is assigned a spot below.

  • Music—Gil & Thomases

  • Recreation—Taylor, Bo, & Luke

  • Snacks—Hills & Kampmeyers

  • Crafts—Elisabeth & Balches

  • Meerkats (3-4)—Mandy & Tinsmans

  • Giraffes (5-6)—Mindy & Vanessa

  • Zebras (7-8)—Alexanders & Trews

  • Pandas (10+)—Finches & Olsens

  • Food—Michael & Mike

NOT THERE?: If your name is not listed above & you’d like to help, please join us on any of the nights!

Backyard Bible School, July 14–17

One of the questions we have been asking & pondering is: How can we make the challenges & problems of Athens our own?

Biblical mercy is not all talk. It always moves out & is active. Several weeks ago, we studied the Parable of the Good Samaritan & sought to unpack a vision for doing mercy as a church. (If you haven’t already, you can listen to that message here.)

That said, we have a wonderful, uncoming opportunity for us to do mercy together. We are going to host a BACKYARD BIBLE SCHOOL!

Here are the details:

  • DATES: July 14–17

  • TIMES: 6:30–8:00pm

  • WHERE: Cherokee Point mobile home community

  • NEEDS: Your help! We have all sorts of opportunities for families & individuals to serve.

  • WHAT DO DO: Sign up below & we will send you all the details.


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