Weekend Resource Roundup 12/3/16

Here are a few of the better resources I’ve seen floating around cyberspace the past few days:

Husband, Learn Your Wives.  A good word for husbands. I for one have much room for growth here. Hope this pushes other men as well…

Ingratitude, Ethics, and Porn.  “It could be that much of your spiritual striving is taking place in an unhealthy atmosphere of ingratitude and entitlement…Being thankful is not abstract, pie-in-the-sky spirituality, it is the daily battle to see the world correctly in light of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

When am I Ready to Become a Christian.  A good resource to share with someone considering Christ.

Does God Promise To Feed And Clothe Christians?   Jesus tells us that God will give us everything we need, but how are we to think about Christians who even now are starving in other parts of the world?

I pray one or more of these resources will be helpful to you as you seek Christ.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Demer

My Personal Fight With Fear…

Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who greatly delights in his commandments!…He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD. (Psalm 112:1,7)

 True confession. Though by the grace of God I have made some progress in this imagesarea, I still have an “on again” “off again” struggle with fear.

Fear. It’s such a troubling companion that has a habit of showing up in my life uninvited, kicking it’s shoes off, and making itself at home.  Fear seeks to snuff out my candle of faith.

I am tempted regularly to fear many things. I fear what other people think of me. I fear disappointing people in my own church through one of my many flaws and imperfections. I fear the breakdown of relationships because of something I’ve done or didn’t do. I fear not being able to adequately help people as a pastor, I fear being an inadequate husband and father. I fear you’ll think less of me after reading this article.  I’m sure I could make this list quite long but I’ll stop there.

There are lots of things wrong with my tendency towards fear and anxiety. One of the worse things about it is that whatever I fear becomes the center of my life. Whatever I fear becomes the thing that I live for. When I fear the lack of approval from others, what happens? I throw my life and my energies into trying to impress others and my joy rises and falls based on what I think others think of me. If we fear election results, what happens? Our whole sense of peace and security and wellbeing collapses when we don’t get our way and we may even grow hostile towards those who are advancing alternative agendas. When we fear economic instability, our lives will revolve around the shoring up of material resources and that fear will drive our decisions, control our lives, and even impact our relationships. What outside of God do you fear? How is it dominating and controlling your life? It’s worth pondering.

What is the antidote to our debilitating fears? The solution is somewhat surprising.

I am learning that I can’t fight fear by simply trying to “will” myself to not to be afraid. Instead, I have to fight fear with fear, because my problem is not simply that I fear, but that I fear the wrong things.   Psalm 112:1 tells us,

Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who greatly delights in his commandments!…

imagesBlessed, or “happy” is the man who fears the LORD. Who knew that there was a kind of fear that results in happiness and peace?  Sometimes the phrase “fear of the Lord” confuses people. Martin Luther provides a helpful explanation of this fear when he distinguishes between a “servile” fear and a “filial” fear.

RC Sproul, explaining the difference, writes,

The servile fear is a kind of fear that a prisoner in a torture chamber has for his tormentor, the jailer, or the executioner. It’s that kind of dreadful anxiety in which someone is frightened by the clear and present danger that is represented by another person. Or it’s the kind of fear that a slave would have at the hands of a malicious master who would come with the whip and torment the slave. Servile refers to a posture of servitude toward a malevolent owner.

 …filial fear…from the Latin concept from which we get the idea of family…refers to the fear that a child has for his father. In this regard, Luther is thinking of a child who has tremendous respect and love for his father or mother and who dearly wants to please them. He has a fear or an anxiety of offending the one he loves, not because he’s afraid of torture or even of punishment, but rather because he’s afraid of displeasing the one who is, in that child’s world, the source of security and love.

The fear of the Lord has to do with a humble reverence and awe of God. It means regarding Him higher than everything else. It’s not a craven fear that repels (that would be more like the wicked on judgment day), it’s instead a fear that compels one to come, to heed, to cherish, and to obey

Again, the Psalmist says of the man who fears the Lord,

he is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD. His heart is steady; he will not be afraid…(Psalm 112:1, 7-8)

Notice that the man who fears is not afraid!

The center of his universe and the foundation that his hope is built on is the Lord. When such a man reaches that place, “he is not afraid of bad news.”

That is very convicting to me. I am often anxious about bad news, typically bad news in my personal relationships with people. I am worried that this person might be upset with me, or that person might be disappointed, and so on. My fear of “bad news” is a red flag. I’m not fearing the Lord enough. What’s more, the Psalmist says the righteous man whose heart is firm is also “trusting in the Lord.”

imagesI suppose at the heart of my sinful fears is a lack of trust in God. When I fear other things, I act like the “center of gravity” in my life are those other things. When I fear other things I am acting like my source of peace, satisfaction, identity, and well-being is ultimately bound up in those other things. In a sense, those become the things that I live for. In short, the things I fear become rival gods.   Lord help me tear down those idols!

So how do I increase my fear of the Lord and decrease my fear of other things? How do I increase my trust and faith in God?  Romans 10:17 says that “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ.” And while that verse specifically talks about saving faith, I believe that hearing God’s word also increases the faith of the “already saved.” And that takes us right back up to the beginning of Psalm 112.

The Psalmist says the man who fears the Lord is a man who “greatly delights in his commandments!”

imagesThere is this reciprocal connection between fearing God and delighting in His commands. The person who fears God naturally regards His word as superior to other words and wants to hear what He says. Then, as he studies, examines, and meditates on God’s word, delighting in it, his faith increases, and the increase of faith fuels his fear of God, and his fear of God drives him back to the word to further delight in it which results in the increase of the fear of the Lord.

Tim Challies, writing about Albert Martin’s book, “The Forgotten Fear” says that, “…The overall effect of every truth of Scripture is to feed the fear of God. In one way or another, the individual who absorbs the most Scripture, spiritually assimilating it into his heart, life, and very being, is the one who will know most of the fear of God.”

I think that’s right. The more our minds are saturated with the promises, the assurances, the comforts, and the warnings of God found in His word, the more it will crowd out the fear of other things. The more I am hearing the “word of Christ”, the more then I am reminded of God’s character, faithfulness, love, and His superiority over all other things I am tempted to place my hope in. In time, therefore, we become more and more like the righteous man of Psalm 112 who is not afraid of bad news…trusting in the LORD….

Truly the fear of the Lord is the cure for all other fears.

 While fear in other things brings massive instability and insecurity into my life, I am told that,

“Whoever fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.” (Proverbs 14:26) 

While fear in other things brings me discontent and restlessness, God says thaimagest,

The fear of the LORD leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied; (Proverbs 19:23)

While fear of things outside of God lead to anxious dreading of the future, the man who fears God,

is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD. (Psalm 112:7)

Oh Lord, may you increase the fear of you in me, so that I will be fearless!

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Demer

HCBC Halloween Outreach

Friends,

imagesIt’s that time of year again! The leaves are turning, the air is brisker, the sun is setting earlier, and neighbors are decorating their houses with skeletons and cobwebs. Front yards are turned into graveyards, and eerie lights on the sides of homes cast a strange glow in the neighborhood. Soon, you’ll get knocks on the door from 4 feet tall Jedi Knights, Superheroes, and Princesses, eagerly looking up at you with big smiles and large bags. What will you do?

imagesDon’t be like those stingy people who tossed rocks into Charlie Brown’s Halloween bag! Instead, be generous with candy and goodies. What’s more, the scariest time of the year is one of the best opportunities we have to share an even greater treasure. HCBC is encouraging you to consider using Halloween as a fun and strategic way of getting the good news of the gospel into the hands of your neighbors, and we’ll even help you to do it! Here’s how:

Make HCBC gospel packs!

  1. Make goodie bags (you could use zip lock bags) to hand out to all the costumed kids that come to your door.
  2. Make sure those bags have great treats!
  3. Slip a gospel tract in each bag. Soon, HCBC will have a whole bunch of fun, kid-friendly, Halloween-themed tracts to use.  We’ll make these available to you for free!  You can get a sneak peak of the tract here!
  4. Include some information about Harbins Church in the bag. We’ll make that available for you as well.
  5. Have fun, and silently pray for the families and kids as you see them come and go!

It’s that easy!  Of course, you don’t have to do it exactly that way. If you’d rather not make individual goodie bags, you can just toss candy, a tract, and church information into the kids’ bags.  Surely there are many other creative ways you can reach out to your neighbors too.

What’s more, if you’d like to provide more “treats” for neighborhood families, here’s a couple of additional ideas.

The Biggest Question DVD

imagesOne way to extend your reach to neighborhood parents is by passing out “The Biggest Question.” This is the same DVD that our church distributes whenever we deliver gift bags to new residents just moving into the community.   It provides a clear, strong, precise gospel presentation featuring Voddie Baucham, Ray Comfort, and more.  Each DVD contains an English and Spanish version and you can purchase a pack of 100 cheaply here.

imagesThe New Testament!

While a tract and a DVD will contain some Scripture, you can take it up a notch and just give them the Scriptures!  You can find great deals on pocket Bibles all over the internet.  For example, purchase a case of 100 New Testaments for less than a dollar apiece!

How will they hear without a preacher…

 People don’t give saved in a vacuum. They get saved through the Holy Spirit working through the witness of believers.

For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Romans 10:13-15)

On October 31st, your beautiful little feet don’t even have to go anywhere. Lots of little feet will be coming right to your door! Consider participating in HCBC’s community-wide, gospel outreach, and be on mission without even leaving your house.

Or, if you’re taking one of your own little ones house to house, you can satisfy your sweet tooth AND give your kids some basic evangelism experience.  Just make some HCBC gospel packs, take them with you, and when someone gives you those little fun size snickers, or, my personal favorite, Reece’s peanut butter cups, thank them by giving them something even better, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

imagesIf your conscience forbids you from participating in anything related to Halloween, you can still make the night holy by gathering your family together and praying for your neighbors while discussing other creative ways you might reach them.  God has put us in our neighborhoods and on our blocks to be tiny little Kingdom outposts, shining a light for Christ and His gospel!  So beyond Halloween, let’s pray for and encourage one another’s efforts in spreading the gospel the other 364 days of the year!

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Demer

The Sabbath rest of God

At HCBC we just kicked off a sermon series in the book of Genesis called, “Foundations.” imagesGenesis lays the foundations for so many of the most important doctrines in the Bible.  However, there was one important foundational thing that I did not have time to get to in my message, hence this blog post.

This past Sunday in my sermon, “Echoes of Eden”, our text was Genesis 1:26-2:17.  In my message I broke down the essence of the Kingdom of God as “God’s People, in God’s place, under God’s rule.”  We see the foundational seed bed of this concept in the very first two chapters of Genesis, where Adam and Eve, (the people of God) live in God’s special place, (Eden) under God’s benevolent rule.

imagesEden, which means “delight”, is the perfect land for Adam and Eve.  In my sermon I described why.  Eden is delightful because of it’s beauty, it’s abundant provision, it’s bountiful food, but most significantly, Eden is delightful because God dwells there with Adam and Eve.  Adam is to “work” and “keep” the garden.  “Work” and “Keep” isn’t simply about gardening (as honorable of a job that is), instead, these words in the Bible are associated with worship.  The garden becomes a proto-temple, where man and God meet, commune, and have fellowship.  The most delightful thing about Eden was that man could commune with, and enjoy, and worship God, who is superior to all of the other treasures and pleasures of Eden.

However, there is another aspect to man’s delightful enjoyment of God hinted at in the text that I did not have an opportunity to mention in my sermon, and that is the dimension of rest.  After describing creation week in Genesis 1, Genesis chapter 2 opens with the following statement:

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. (Genesis 2:1-3)

What does it mean, that God “rested?”  Surely it does not mean that after a hard week of creating the universe God needed to wipe the sweat from his brow, take a deep breath, and recline in the easy chair for a breather!  God does not get tired, as Isaiah later tells us,

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary… (Isaiah 40:28)

Commentator Allen Ross provides some helpful thoughts on God’s “rest.”

The key word here is the well-known “rest” [sabat, “to rest”‘ sabbat, “the Sabbath”]…It is not a word that refers to remedying exhaustion after a tiring week of work. Rather, it describes the enjoyment of accomplishment, the celebration of completion. 

imagesWhat you have in Genesis 1-2 is God spending six days fashioning the heavens, the earth,
and everything in it, and then, on the 7th day, God stands back, as it were, surveying His completed creation, enjoying and delighting in the work of His hands.  This is a rest of achievement as opposed to a rest of inactivity.  God celebrates and takes pleasure in what He has done. The glory of creation redounds back to God, and God exults in that glory.  Along with enjoyment and refreshment in the work God has done, the state of “rest” in the cosmos suggests peace, order, and stability.

It is noteworthy that the 7th day is the only day in Creation Week that does not conclude with “and there was evening and there was morning.”  This may well suggest that the land of Eden, unspoiled by sin, was in a perpetual, ongoing state of blessed, holy rest.  This was, after all, the goal of the original creation.  Adam and Eve, in entering into Eden, enter into the “rest” of God.  This does not mean that they do not work.  It means that they are constantly enjoying God’s rest with God.  They are in a constant state of worship, enjoying and celebrating what God has done.  Yes, I know, that sounds a lot like heaven.  Let’s remember, Genesis is taking us back to the past to give us glimpses of the glorious future He has planned for His people.

This state of paradisiacal bliss in the garden is rudely interrupted by the fall of man and sin in Genesis chapter 3.  Whereas perfect holiness yields a state of restful contentment, sinfulness results in a state of restlessness.  In Genesis 3:17-19, part of God’s curse on sinful humanity is a curse on creation itself.  The land is no longer at rest but resists man’s attempts to yield sustenance from it.

In Genesis 4 part of Cain’s punishment for his sin is to be a restless wanderer.  In the New Testament, Jesus describes Hell as a place of torment  ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ (Mark 9:48)  Elsewhere Hell is described as an eternal restlessness where there is a constant “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Luke 13:28)

If this is what damnation looks like, then we should expect salvation to include a return to the “rest” of God.  In my last sermon, I had mentioned how the Bible is full of “Echoes of Eden”, things that remind us of the Edenic state while pointing us forward to a future return to paradise.  Likewise, throughout the Bible there are “Echoes of Rest” that are reminders of what was lost while also being indications of something better to come.

When Moses delivers Israel out of the perpetual restless toil of slavery in Egypt, he gives them the law, which includes a command to observe the Sabbath Day.

Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work…your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day. (Deuteronomy 5:13-15)

Here God grounds the command to rest based on their prior slavery and redemption from it.  The time that they would normally labor should be spent celebrating and enjoying their redemption.  In Exodus God says,

Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God…For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day…(Exodus 20:9-11)

Here God grounds Sabbath rest in creation.  God commands these Israelites to, every week, image God.  They work and labor for six days and then on the seventh they celebrate what God has done.

What’s more, the Old Testament promises not just personal rest, but a collective rest of the people of God in a land that God gives to them.  The Old Testament Promised Land is seen as a place whereby God’s people can settle and enjoy God, having rest and safety from their enemies.  Refusal to trust God results in a “barring” from the land and God’s rest.  This is why the first generation of Israelites, after being delivered from Egypt, end up wandering in the wilderness for 40 years and die without entering the land.  They constantly rebelled against God, Therefore I swore in my wrath, “They shall not enter my rest.” (Psalm 95:11)

Once that rebellious generation died out, and the new generation of Israelites were about to enter into the Promised Land, Moses says,

images…when you go over the Jordan and live in the land that the LORD your God is giving you to inherit, and when he gives you rest from all your enemies around, so that you live in safety, then to the place that the LORD your God will choose, to make his name dwell there, there you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution that you present…And you shall rejoice before the LORD your God, you and your sons and your daughters, your male servants and your female servants…(Deuteronomy 12:10-12)

“Rest” here is associated with dwelling in God’s place in peace and safety, with worship and rejoicing.  In the book of Joshua, God’s people, under Joshua’s leadership, finally enter into the land and conquer Canaan.  Joshua ends by saying,

the LORD had given rest to Israel from all their surrounding enemies… (Joshua 23:1) 

But that rest is short lived.  The book of Judges throws the grim reality of sin back in our faces, and this sin would interrupt God’s people from fully enjoying the “rest” of God.  Even in the best of times, the people experience nothing like the rest that was enjoyed in Eden.  Later on God raises up kings to rule God’s people in Israel.  Through the rule of godly men like David, the people occasionally have glimpses of God’s rest, but would never experience it in it’s fullness.  Still, the Old Testament holds out hopes of a future, perfect, eschatological rest for the people of God.  David himself wrote,

But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace. (Psalm 37:11)

Once again, however, sin threatens to obscure any hope of rest and peace in the land as God expels the Jews from the Promised Land because of their sin, and when they finally return, hopes are nearly crushed through Roman oppression.  Will the faithful ever enjoy God’s rest?

thomas_std_tAnd it is at this point where Jesus Christ comes on the scene.  He reaches back to Psalm 37 and not only reiterates the promise, but expands it!  It’s not that the meek will simply inherit the “land” (as in Canaan), instead, he says the meek shall inherit the entire earth! (Matthew 5:5)  What’s more, Jesus Christ comes not only promising a land full of delightful rest in the future, but He comes offering personal rest now.  Jesus came preaching to a people not in slavery to Pharoah in Egypt, but to a people bound in worse chains… slaves to sin and death.  He preached to a guilt-burdened people who labored and toiled to free themselves from sin.  And Jesus turns to them and says,

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Jesus reveals Himself to be the ultimate place of rest for His people.  He is our Sabbath rest.  The book of Hebrews says,

Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said, “As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest,’” although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” And again in this passage he said, “They shall not enter my rest.” Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. (Hebrews 4:1-11)

The author of Hebrews is saying that ultimately what keeps people from experiencing the rest of God is hardness of heart and unbelief in His promises.  Of course, it was unbelief that also got Adam and Eve expelled from God’s “rest” in Eden in the first place.  But Hebrews encourages us in that “there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God.”  The opportunity to enjoy His rest is not over.  This rest is found ultimately in Christ.  It is belief in God’s promises to us in the gospel that bring us into that state of rest.  In Christ, the believer can experience peace and joy.  In Christ the believer can celebrate and enjoy God’s works.  In fact, that’s what believers do weekly when they gather corporately for worship.  images

As Old Testament Israel observed the 7th day of the week remembering the completion of the old creation and their redemption from slavery, New Covenant believers observe the 1st day of the week marking the beginning of the New Creation which began when Jesus emerged from the tomb on Sunday, which is a sign of the certainty of His redemption of us from slavery to sin.

Finally, in Christ, the restful “appetizers” we enjoy now through God’s grace, will give way to the main course,  a full and complete rest at the end of the age when you and I inherit the earth, just like Jesus promised.  When we are fully made perfect, sinless, and raised from the dead, creation itself will be restored and redeemed as well.  The Bible says,

that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies…. (Romans 8:21-24)

When man fell, creation fell with him. Not only was man outside of God’s rest, but so was imagesthe earth itself.  But when man is fully redeemed and restored, so will creation be.

In the New Heavens and the New Earth, the restful enjoyment and bliss that Adam experienced in the garden will never again be interrupted and spoiled by sin.  In this New World the Bible says that,

No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. (Revelation 22:3-5)

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Demer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who knew you could get so much out of 2 Chronicles?

When folks pick up the Bible looking for hope, encouragementBook of 2 Chronicles, and strength, people often go to the Psalms, or to the Gospels, or maybe an epistle.

They don’t go to 2 Chronicles.

2 Chronicles is not typically the “go-to” book for folks who are desperate to hear a word from God.  That’s too bad, because “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)  When we skip over large sections of the Bible we are depriving ourselves of rich nourishment and help for our spiritual lives.

I’d like to draw your attention to a rather short but powerful story in the Bible which is recorded in 2 Chronicles 33:1-20.  It is about an evil king named Manasseh.  This guy was awful, and he went from bad to worse.

imagesHe forsook God and instituted idol worship throughout the land (v. 3-4).  He built pagan altars in the temple itself (v. 4-5, 7).  He was deeply involved in the occult, sorcery, and necromancy, and he even he even sacrificed his own sons to his gods, offering them up as burnt offerings (v.6).

What’s more, he did not keep his evil to himself, but he led the people of Judah astray, enticing them into a level of evil worse than pagan nations (v.9).

So you’re probably thinking, “Ok Demer, this is a real downer…so why are we here?”  Hang with me.

In verse 10 we are told that, “The LORD spoke to Manasseh and to his people, but they paid no attention.”  

Ok.  That should get our attention and signal something to us about God.  How amazing is it that even after all of the wickedness of Manasseh and after all of the wickedness of the people, God is calling out to them and urging them to repent through His prophets and through His Holy Scriptures?  This speaks to the incredible love and patience of God and His desire to show mercy.  But this verse also speaks to the hard heartedness of man.  As God, through His prophets and through His Word is speaking, the people “paid no attention.”  (v.10)

And yet in 2 Chronicles 33 we learn that God is relentless in His pursuit of those He is determined to save.  God continues to speak, with the intent of saving, but this time He speaks in another way…

Therefore the LORD brought upon them the commanders of the army of the king of Assyria, who captured Manasseh with hooks and bound him with chains of bronze and brought him to Babylon. (2 Chronicles 33:11)

imagesNow, I suppose our instinct here would be to cheer!  And surely we should cheer when the wicked are defeated.  Manasseh is beginning to get what he deserves, and if he continues to get what he deserves he will be totally humiliated, suffer more, die, and then face an even worse fate in Hell forever.  That’s exactly what Manasseh deserves and God would be just to exact such vengeance upon him.  Now,  how do you think evil Manasseh responds to this affliction?  Often we see the wicked respond to affliction by using it as an excuse to further rage against God.  They intuitively know that God is sovereign over their suffering and so they use that to justify further rebellion against Him, as Elihu once wisely said,

“The godless in heart cherish anger; they do not cry for help when he binds them. (Job 36:13)

Now here is Manasseh, who is literally bound!  What will he do?  And it is here where the story takes a surprising turn.And when he was in distress, he entreated the favor of the LORD his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers.  He prayed to him… (2 Chronicles 33:12-13)

What????

And how does God respond?…and God was moved by his entreaty and heard his plea and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD was God. (2 Chronicles 33:13)

What????

Here are just a few observations, and then I’ll leave you to ponder and meditate on this passage on your own.

1. Affliction can be a blessing

God employs many means to save His own.  Sometimes God deems it necessary that suffering be one of those means.  We, being hard-hearted sinners, thick-skulled and spiritually deaf, have a hard time hearing God.  We need to hear the Word of God, but the noise of our own sin and rebellion tries to drown out that word.  Sinners by nature suppress the truth of God (Read Romans 1), sticking our fingers in our ears, so to speak, shouting “I can’t hear you!”  When God wants to get through to us, affliction is one way He turns up the volume.

And if they are bound in chains and caught in the cords of affliction, then he declares to them their work and their transgressions, that they are behaving arrogantly.  He opens their ears to instruction and commands that they return from iniquity. (Job 36:8-10)

C.S. Lewis famously said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

imagesSometimes it is not until God graciously brings us to the very bottom that we will actually and finally look up.  If that’s what it takes, then God is loving us in that affliction.  The Scripture says of Manasseh, “And when he was in distress, he entreated the favor of the LORD.”  It was the distress that broke him and led him to humbly cry out to God.

He delivers the afflicted by their affliction and opens their ear by adversity. (Job 36:15)

It is the affliction itself that leads to God’s deliverance.  That’s exactly what happened to Manasseh.

2. God loves to save really bad people

How different the Bible’s message is from the false religions of this world.  The world will tell you, “God saves good people, so you better be good or else.”  The Bible says, “There is no one good, not one.”  So if you’re counting on being good to go to heaven, you’re doomed.  What man needs is not to try harder and do better, but to be saved by God’s grace.  Justice means getting what you deserve.  Grace means getting better than you deserve.  Manasseh deserved death.  As he burned up his sons in pagan sacrifice, Manasseh deserved to burn eternally in Hell.  The message of the Bible is that we deserve the same.  We may not have sinned like Manasseh, but our treason against God is manifest in a whole host of other ways, just as abominable and disgusting to God.

Maybe you are well aware of your sin.  Maybe you look back at the deeds you have done and you feel like you’ve been too awful to be saved by God. But the good news of 2 Chronicles 33 is that God loves to save abominable people like you and like me.  Manasseh, even in his evil, could be saved if he would but repent and call on the Lord.  That’s true for all today.

…for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:12-13)

3. God only saves the humble

We are saved by grace through faith, but it takes humility to receive that grace.  Manasseh arrogantly disregarded the Lord and it almost cost him his soul.  It was only when he was humbled by his suffering that he called out to God, recognizing his need.  It takes humility to realize you were wrong, to repent, and acknowledge your need.

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6)

4. God is compassionate and answers prayer

He prayed to him, and God was moved by his entreaty and heard his plea and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD was God. (2 Chronicles 33:13)

How different God is from the pagan gods.  God is not like the ancient false gods, like Baal imagesor Zeus.  Such gods are capricious, unfeeling towards humanity, cold.  In the mythological realm, if you cross the gods you’re a goner.  The lightning bolts will be hurled at you and you’ll be zapped.  Not so with the one true God.  After patiently enduring Manasseh’s rebellion for many years, after Manasseh shook his fist in God’s face over and over and over again, notice God’s response when Manasseh genuinely humbles himself and calls on God.  The text says that “God was moved” by Manasseh’s prayer.  Wow.  How beautiful is the heart of God?  And not only is God moved, and not only does God hear, but God responds.  Manasseh learned what his forefather King David learned many years before.  David, who also committed heinous and abominable sins before the Lord, humbled himself before God in repentance, and discovered that,

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (Psalm 51:17)

5. Genuine saving faith in God is evidenced by repentance 

Perhaps you’ve heard of “fox hole” conversions?  Sometimes people use that phrase to describe people who get into a real bad situation and out of desperation they call on God to get them out of this mess, but in their hearts they aren’t really repentant and they don’t really want God.  They just want relief.  That’s not the kind of faith that saves.  It’s not the kind of faith that receives God’s grace.

James, the brother of the Lord Jesus Christ, said,

You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! (James 2:19)

In other words, mere lip service means nothing.  A superficial acknowledgement of God does nothing.  Even demons do that and they certainly aren’t saved!  Instead, genuine faith is manifested in repentance, which is an acknowledgement of the sinfulness of doing life your way, combined with a desire to turn around and go God’s way.  If you don’t want to go God’s way, you don’t really trust God.  You lack faith.  That’s why James says,

For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. (James 2:26)

As you keep reading through 2 Chronicles 33, you see that Manasseh wasn’t just experiencing a “fox-hole” conversion to get out of a tight spot.  He wasn’t like the demons who merely say they believe in God while remaining in their rebellion.  Manasseh was serious.  He began to reverse his evil deeds.  He cleared the temple of God of idols and threw them away (v. 15).  He restored the altar of God, he reinstated proper sacrifices to God, and he even became an evangelist, urging the people to return to the one true God. (v.16)

6. Christ must finally come for Manasseh, and us, to be saved

2 Chronicles 33 does not mention Jesus explicitly, but, like so much of the Old Testament, this story leaves us longing for something more.  The Kings of Judah were meant to be “Messiahs.” Messiah means “Anointed One.”  The King was to be God’s representative to the people and simultaneously be the people’s representative to God.  In the Old Testament, David was the greatest of these kings.  And yet the hope of Israel was that one even greater than David would come, bringing righteousness and justice, along with global blessing and worldwide rule.

Not only did Manasseh not live up to these expectations, but even David, the best of these kings, failed to be the perfect Messiah.  All of these “Messiahs” fell short.  It would take another to fulfill such Messianic expectations.  No mere man could do this.  It would take a God-Man. Years later Jesus, God in the flesh, would come into the world, and many believed that He was indeed the long promised Messiah and thus they believed the time for world-wide rule was at hand.  Jesus would bring justice to the evildoers and establish his global reign at long last.

imagesBut the shocking part of the story is that Jesus’ first step in bringing justice to the world was by dying on a cross for the sins of Manasseh, and for all of His people.  Surely you did not think that Manasseh’s sins of idolatry, sorcery, and child-sacrifice would go unpunished did you?  Surely you did not think that Manasseh or anyone else would be able to enjoy the blessings and joys of Jesus’ future, world-wide reign, while still being dirty and stained with sin?  Surely you did not think that the guilty would go free with God pretending that sin never happened?

No, our God is not like that.  The loving, compassionate, kind God who was moved by Manasseh’s prayer hates and despises sin.  He is a God of justice that must punish evil.  When God forgave Manasseh, he wasn’t sweeping all of his evil deeds under the rug.  The only reason He could forgive Manasseh for sacrificing his son is because God the Father was about to sacrifice His own Son.

On the cross we see the justice of God.  Jesus became a substitute for Manasseh and for millions of other sinners.  On the cross, the sin of His people was put on Himself, and those sins…all of them… were fully punished in Jesus.  Jesu
s experienced the Hell that Manasseh, and you, and me deserve, so that all who believe in Him don’t have to go there and pay for their sins themselves.

When Manasseh repented, one of the ways he would have shown that repentance would be by offering up a sacrifice in the temple.  As he offered up that sacrificial lamb, he, in essence, acknowledged that the wages of in is death and imagesit should be his throat slit and his body consumed by the flames, and that the only way he can live is if a substitute dies in his place.  He trusted that God would provide atonement for his sins and so when Jesus, the Lamb of God, came into the world and his blood was shed on the cross… and his body and soul endured the Hellish wrath of God… that payment was officially applied to Manasseh’s account.  God knew it would happen and so through Manasseh’s faith in that provision, God could count him as “not guilty.”

Manasseh looked forward to God’s provision.  Today we look back.  As you and I look back to Christ on the cross and trust in His provision, we too are acknowledging that the wages of sin is death and it should be us and not Jesus, enduring the wrath of God, but we recognize that the only way we can live and be at peace with God is because of the substitute that dies in our place.  And when we place our trust in that work on the cross, that payment is officially applied to our account.  We become “debt free” and therefore God can count us as not guilty.

And now you, me, and Manasseh, look forward to the day when the resurrected Jesus, the true and better Messiah, will come a second time and establish His kingdom fully and finally.  We look forward to the fulfillment of that great Messianic Psalm, Psalm 72, which declares,

May he have dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth! …May all kings fall down before him, all nations serve him! For he delivers the needy when he calls, the poor and him who has no helper. He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy. From oppression and violence he redeems their life, and precious is their blood in his sight…May his name endure forever, his fame continue as long as the sun! May people be blessed in him, all nations call him blessed! Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things. Blessed be his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory! Amen and Amen! (Psalm 72:8-19)

Who knew you could get so much out of 2 Chronicles 33?

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Demer

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coming soon: Men’s Discipleship Groups!

Scripture says, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” (Prov 27:17)

Pastor Steve and I are looking for some men in our church that would be interested in receiving some “sharpening.”images

By sharpening I mean spiritual mentoring, discipleship, accountability, and mutual encouragement and edification.  We really believe these are some of the main means that God uses to facilitate stronger and healthier spiritual lives.

At the beginning of 2016, we launched our Men’s Discipleship Groups (MDGs)  Several men got involved and I believe it was an encouraging and profitable experience.  In September we’ll be relaunching these groups.

Whether you’ve been a Christian for a little while or you’ve been journeying for a long time, it would be our privilege to journey with you on a more personal basis.

MDGs consists of very small groups of men meeting weekly or bi-weekly.  Each group would include one of the pastors, (Steve or me).  We know that different people have different times that work best for them, and Steve and I want to be flexible and we’ll try to form groups that meet at times that are convenient for everyone who is interested.

While I envision some common denominators between these groups that would include prayer, Bible, and general spiritual accountability and support, what each group will specifically do will be largely dependent on who is in these groups, and what the specific needs and interests are of the men who want to be a part of a group.

For example, if there are men who are interested in more theological training, Steve or myself might take a couple of guys through a study using Wayne Grudem’s book, “Systematic Theology.”

If there are men in the church who want help being a better husband, Steve and I would make sure when meeting with those men that there would be some sort of focus or study on marriage that would be included in at least a part of our meetings.

Maybe there are guys who want to be stronger in the area of sexual purity.  We want to help men grow in that area.

imagesPerhaps you don’t have specific preferences or ideas of what you want to focus on.  That’s fine.  some of these groups may simply go through a book of the Bible together.  Steve and I love doing that.

Regardless, Steve and I are eager to connect with the men of the church and shepherd you in a more direct and personal way.  We want to encourage you in the Lord and help you grow in Christ in any way we can, and we count it as a privilege to invest in your lives.

Some of you are already part of a Men’s Discipleship Group and those groups will continue until you finish your current study.

However, if you are not presently part of a group, and would like to join one, please email me at demerwebb@gmail.com.  There will also be a signup sheet in the back of the sanctuary on Sunday.  Just let us know your availability, and if you’d like to be in a group with a specific topical focus such as theological training, marriage, or anything else.  If you just want to get with some guys and you don’t care about the specific focus, that’s great.  We’ll find a group to connect you with.

Steve and I are looking forward to connecting with more of our men and be a source of encouragement and edification for you.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Demer

HCBC set to Visit the Most Diverse Square Mile in the World.

The HCBC College and Career Group will be visiting the town of Clarkston, on Saturday the 20th, but everyone from Harbins Church is invited to participate in this “vision trip.”

Here are a few thoughts from Todd Harrison, one of our College and Career group leaders, regarding the mission significance of Clarkston, why HCBC is going, and what we will be doing there.

imagesClarkston has been called by New York Times Magazine, the “most diverse square mile
in the world.”  Why?  Every year over 2500 refugees from around the globe are resettled there by the US Government due to affordable housing, ease of walking, and close employment.  These refugees come from war torn regions and they are here because their lives are in danger back in their home countries. Many of them have spent years in refugee camps before coming to Clarkston from Iraq, Burma, Nepal, Syria, Africa and many other places.

Why should we care about Clarkston?  Well, for everyone that has ever desired to go to the mission field you now don’t need a passport!  Foreign missions can happen right here – 30 miles from our church.  Many churches, individuals, businesses and organizations work and minister in Clarkston.  But the need for more help – specifically help that makes a long term commitment – is vitally necessary.  The ways to minister are as diverse as the people groups of Clarkston – teaching English, helping with homework, helping with shopping and getting acclimated, helping with jobs, providing loving relationships, and more.

Harbins Church is exploring how we might get involved in Clarkston-taking the love of Jesus to the world, right here in our city.

The date for HCBC’s vision trip to Clarkston is Saturday, August 20th.  We will have a 2 hour tour with the Executive Director of Friends of Refugees and learn about the plight of refugees in Clarkston, what others are doing to help, and how Harbins might be involved in this gospel opportunity.

Join us at the church at 8am.  We will carpool to Clarkston.  Our tour will be from 9-11am and we will end with lunch at Merhaba Shwarma- a local restaurant run by Manna, a Christian refugee from Eritrea.  It’s the best food you will ever eat.  We plan on being back to the church by or before 2pm.

If you are interested in going, please call or text Todd at 404-660-1673.  The sooner we can get a count on how many people will participate, the better.  All are invited, so come join us!

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Demer and Todd H.