Holy Week at HCBC- Schedule and Resources.

holy_weekLast year we launched a new tradition at HCBC.  Pastor Steve and I both felt burdened about the lack of attention and focus on the Easter season.  Many churches place a huge emphasis on Christmastime and can spend up to a month, if not longer, centering corporate worship, sermons, and church activities around that season.  I’m not opposed to that in the least.  However, we have felt that in addition to whatever focus we put on Christmas,  it is very right and appropriate to increase our attention towards how HCBC worships during this season as well.

As significant as Christmas is, Christmas was not an end unto itself.  The reason Jesus was born in Bethlehem was to bleed on Golgotha.  He was laid in a manger for the purpose of, later on, having His body laid in a tomb.  He descended to earth as a lowly Man so He could later on rise triumphantly from the grave.  The whole purpose of Christmas is Easter.

For this reason, Pastor Steve and I are eager to continue our new tradition of expanding opportunities for corporate prayer and worship, preaching, teaching, and encouraging HCBC families to have times of personal and/or family worship in their homes which revolves specifically around the events we remember during Holy Week.

Here is the HCBC Holy Week schedule, followed by some resources you can use personally or with your family during Holy Week.  (Please note that due to the additional worship services we are adding during Holy Week, we will not be having our regular community groups during that time.)

Sunday imagesMorning, April 9th, – Palm Sunday Worship Celebration, 9:30am-12pm.  Sunday School at 9:30.  Corporate Worship at 10:45.  Pastor Steve and I decided that for Palm Sunday we will NOT break from our current sermon series, as the whole theme of Galatians is deeply connected and relevant to the meaning of Palm Sunday and all of Holy Week.

Sunday Evening, April 9th – Men’s Prayer, Holy Week Focus, 6:30pm-8:30pm.          Last imagesmonth’s men’s prayer gathering was one of our largest ever.  It was a beautiful time of unity and fellowship.  For this prayer time, we will be looking at and praying through Scriptures that are directly associated with Holy Week and Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection.

Thursday Evening, April 13th – Maundy Thursday Service w/Communion, 7pm-8pm.
imagesThe word “Maundy” comes from the Latin word where we get our English word “command” or “mandate” from.  Jesus gave a special mandate the evening before He was crucified, that we would love one another as Jesus loves us. (John 13:33-34).  In addition to a time of worship through singing, Pastor Demer will deliver a brief sermon followed by the Lord’s Supper.

imagesFriday Evening, April 14th – Good Friday Service, 7pm-8pm. We will spend time worshipping through song, followed by several of the HCBC men sharing brief moments of teaching based on Jesus’ seven final sayings from the cross.

Saturday Morning, April 15th – Easter Caroling, 2pm-2:30pm at Rose of Sharon Nursing Home in Dacula, 971 Harbins Rd, Dacula, GA. – Join us for a time of ministering to the residents and staff as we sing hymns, read Scripture, and share gifts in Jesus’ name.
imagesSunday Morning, April 16th – Easter Service, Resurrection Sunday, 9:30am-12pm – Join us as we celebrate Jesus Christ’s triumph over the grave and the powers of darkness!

And finally, here are some great Holy Week resources for you and your family from Desiring God Ministries.

Love to the Uttermost, Devotional Readings for Holy Week by John PiperThis free devotional begins on Palm Sunday, ends on Easter Sunday, and aims to focus our attention on Jesus as he displays his love to the uttermost (John 13:1). These meditations on the self-giving love of Christ are all excerpted from the preaching and writing ministry of John Piper.

Five Helps for Your Holy Week- This link features five of Desiring God’s best articles related to the Easter season.  Topics include a “Theology of Resurrection”, “Was Jesus Really Crucified?”, and 8 reasons why the Resurrection of Jesus is an historically reliable fact.

Your Sorrow Will Turn To Joy, Morning and Evening Meditations for Holy Week– For this free devotional, Desiring God has assembled a team of eleven pastors and scholars to walk us through Holy Week as we walk together with our Lord. This collection of short meditations includes readings for each morning and evening from Palm Sunday to the triumph of Easter.

A Theater Called Holy Week – Tony Reinke prepares us for Holy Week in his brief article highlighting John 12:27-33

Make Holy Week Holy to the Lord – The week between Palm Sunday and Easter is not intrinsically holy, except that all time is holy, since it belongs to God. But we can make it holy by setting it apart for sacred focus.  This link gives you the Scriptures from the 4 gospels that record Jesus’ final hours.  Consider using these Scriptures to supplement your daily time in the Scriptures this week.

It is my prayer that HCBC’s Holy Week focus will be a blessing as it helps you and your family turn your eyes all the more to the sufferings and triumph of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Demer

 

 

Weekend Resource Round Up 3/31/17

Here are a few of the better resources that have been floating around in cyberspace the past few days:

Every Morning There’s War in the Piper household– Are you tempted to treasure _______ over Jesus? Where your treasure is, there your heart will be. Let’s fight the fight of faith together this day!

Is The Pope the AntiChrist? – The always controversial Luther said, “I owe the Pope no other obedience than that I owe to antichrist”  How are Christians to regard the Pope?  This article is helpful.

How to Delight in God’s Word– Is this an area you struggle in?  John Piper offers help and encouragement.

Trust the Means of Grace – You will not grow in godliness without being committed to the Word, Prayer, and Christian Fellowship. To the degree these are earnestly incorporated into your life is the degree that you will grow in spiritual strength and holiness as a Christian.

‘One Anothers’ I Can’t Find in the New Testament – This is outstanding.  “The kind of God we really believe in is revealed in how we treat one another. The lovely gospel of Jesus positions us to treat one another like royalty, and every non-gospel positions us to treat one another like dirt…we will follow through horizontally on whatever we really believe vertically…Therefore, when we mistreat one another, our problem is not a lack of surface niceness but a lack of gospel depth. What we need is not only better manners but, far more, true faith.”

I hope one or more of these resources educates, blesses, and encourages you.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Demer

Reflections on Church Planting: Reflection #3

The Numbers Game

“What’cha runnin’?”

I hate that question! That’s almost invariably the follow-up question after I tell someone that our church is doing well. The question has a presupposition built into it. Namely, that if your church really is doing well it will be reflected by a large number of people attending it. I believe that assumption is false and dangerous, but unfortunately it dominates the thinking of many pastors and church planters.

While numbers of people coming to the Lord and gathering to worship Him are important, they are not ultimate. It is typical of churches in America to focus on numbers, but it’s not my intent in this blog post to disprove the assumption that numbers equals health. Plenty has been written to that end by much smarter people than I, and I highly doubt I would have much to add to the conversation. My goal in this post is to simply share the story of how God used the experience of planting Harbins to teach me a thing or two about numbers.

American church planters in particular are susceptible to the lure of the numbers game. After all, you are starting with nothing and you want the new church to become sustainable, so a misplaced focus on numbers can easily set in. One church planting book I read in 2006, as I was preparing to plant Harbins, said that if you don’t have 100 people for your initial launch service your church has no hope of survival. Ten years into the adventure of church planting I can sincerely say that the words printed on the pages of that little book are absolute nonsense. But, as a young church planter that type of thinking was everywhere and even if I resisted it in my spirit my flesh was too often found in agreement with it. God would do a work in my heart, however, and from the day we launched the church the heart-idol of numbers would begin to be torn down.

march-april-2007-106Our plan was to launch our new church on Easter Sunday, April 8th, 2007. The conventional wisdom is that launching on Easter draws a bigger crowd because a new church might attract some of the Easter and Christmas only folks. Now, why one would want to start off their church with a load of nominal Christians is another question all together, but regardless, we hoped to get a bigger draw by launching on Easter.

To attract people to the new church we decided to host an easter egg hunt. To be fair, the hunt was more than a pragmatic tool to attract people to the church, we also wanted the event to be a gift to the community which seemed to be lacking in activities and opportunities for social connections. But we were still hoping that the easter egg hunt itself would attract a crowd who might give a new church start-up a shot. So, we sent out 10,000 attractive, professionally designed mailers to promote the easter egg hunt and our launch service. We also left flyers in businesses and daycares. We even had the local newspaper do a story on our new church. Everything was set for a big launch!

The Friday before the big weekend my co-planter, Greg Teffertiller, and I talked about what we were praying for and what we expected from our first service. I can’t remember if I posed the idea or if Greg did, but we challenged each other to come up with a specific number of people we were asking God to bring on our launch Sunday, and then after Sunday we would share that number with each other. I wrote down my number on a piece of paper and stuffed it in my computer bag. The number was 100. After all, according to the aforementioned book, we were doomed if we didn’t at least hit that number on our first Sunday. By my calculations an Easter Sunday service with 100 people would be the perfect way to cap off a perfect weekend and thus ensure a perfect launch for our perfect little church. The problem with that scenario is that God works with those who acknowledge their weakness rather than those who strive for their own perfection.

march-april-2007-064So, as would happen many times in the ten year history of Harbins, we found out quickly that God had other plans. He had a different number in His mind. The wheels began to come off my perfect plan on Saturday, the day for the egg hunt. To our surprise the temperatures on that first Saturday of April never got above 30°F and the swirling winds made it feel as if it were in the teens. On top of that the local community house where we were meeting didn’t have adequate heatOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA. Shivering kids trying to pick up frozen eggs with numb hands, while entertaining to watch, wasn’t exactly what we were aiming for. Needless to say very few people showed up. But despite the underwhelming community event we still held out hope for a great launch Sunday. After all we had sent 10,000 mailers, we were launching on Easter, and surely there were hundreds of people just chomping at the bit to visit a cool new church called Milestone (see reflection #2).

picture-059Sunday arrived. Everything was carefully set up at Harbins Elementary School. The staging looked sharp, the custom designed welcome center looked welcoming, and a wondrous aroma was emanating from the coffee station. Our mother church, Anchor, had sent a bunch of people to help us handle the expected walk up crowd. They did this so that our core group could be freed up to mingle with the visitors and start making relational connections. Everything was in place and so we waited for the anticipated walk up crowd. We looked at that big clock in the school cafeteria. Twenty minutes ’til go time! Then, fifteen minutes. We glanced at milestonethe clock. Ten minutes. We kept nervously glancing at that clock. Five minutes. Nobody was coming. No bodies! And I felt like a nobody. My heart began to sink.

And then, right before we were to start, they came. One family. The young couple walked in with their three little girls. I enthusiastically greeted them and quickly discerned that they were not a churched family. It thrilled my heart that they were excited to be there and they expressed appreciation for the warm welcome. They had survived our frozen easter egg hunt the day prior. They had received our mailer. Most importantly they told me that they felt God was moving them to start going to church. I immediately saw that we had a gospel opportunity with this family. I praised God as I watched them find their seats. I got up and preached my heart out. As it turned out, those were our only visitors.

So at our first grand opening service we had, counting children, sixty-two people. Thirty were from our core group, two were a couple who were helping us with music, twenty-five were one-time helpers from Anchor who would not be back the next week, and the remaining five were that solitary family from the community. We fell far short of the number written on that little scrap of paper in my computer bag.

The next week when Greg and I met to assess the first worship service he was much more upbeat than I was. Then came the moment of truth. I sheepishly revealed that the number I was praying for was 100 and that we had obviously fallen well short. I ask Greg what number his number was. I will never forget his answer. He look at me and said, “One!”

“One?” I asked incredulously.

“Yes one,” he repeated.

He went on to explain that all he was asking God to do was to impact one person with the gospel and if the only reason our church start-up existed was for that one person, then it was all worth it. Of course, he was absolutely right. And God answered his prayer.

img024For just a few months after that first service I had the pleasure of baptizing that first visiting couple. The gospel had done its work in both their hearts and they came under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. They are still active and important members of our church to this day. I have since had the opportunity to baptize three of their now five children. God indeed transformed their lives and He use our pathetic efforts as a means to get His gospel into their hearts. So, in the end our launch was a huge success.

img020I didn’t quite learn my lesson though. The next year we had an absolutely gigantic easter egg hunt. Over six-hundred people were there. The weather was spectacular. We had the opportunity to present the gospel to a large crowd at the hunt itself. We personally invited a bunch of people to our service the next day, and many of those people said they were planning to come. I was, therefore, expecting a huge walk-up crowd on our second Easter Sunday. Well, Sunday arrived and how many families showed up? You got it. One! But again, God was at franciswork. I had the privilege of leading the husband to the Lord and later baptizing him and one of his children. They too remained vibrant members of our church until his job recently took him to the other side of Atlanta.

So that’s the way God has been at work at Harbins ever since. He’s been working in one family at a time. He’s been saving and sanctifying one heart at a time. After that second Easter I stopped playing the numbers game. From that point forward I can honestly say I have never really worried all that much about numbers. Not even financial numbers. Every now and then I’m tempted to measure success by numbers, but then God reminds me of the radically transformed lives that are represented at Harbins. I’d rather have 100 people whose hearts are day in and day out being transformed by the gospel than 1,000 nominal believers who can muster up the strength to go to a service once week. I’d rather shepherd 100 sheep I know than 1,000 sheep I merely see.

I’ve tried to keep Greg’s number, the number one, in my mind each Sunday since that very first Sunday. If one person is impacted by the gospel preached then it’s all worth it. We have learned to have great confidence in the truth that if God’s Word is being proclaimed accurately He will make sure it does not return to Him empty (Isaiah 55:11). But the Word must be preached, it must be preached carefully, it must be preached faithfully, and thus the priority of preaching will be reflection #4, stay tuned.

 

This post is part of a series of posts reflecting on ten years of church planting. Click the following links to see the introduction to the series as well as reflection 1 and reflection 2

Reflections on Church Planting: Reflection #2

Milestones

If ever there was a Bible verse that the Lord was going to teach me the meaning of during the first years of planting a new church it was this one: “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9).

Glancing in the rear-view mirror at the path we’ve traveled to this tenth anniversary of Harbins Community Baptist Church, I can certainly say that my plans have often, sometimes quite radically, been redirected by our good God. There are several key milestones in the history of our church that are nothing more than God taking our plans, tearing them up, and then re-writing them for our good and His glory.

Plan #1: Northwest Arkansas

Perhaps the most radical modification to our original church planting intentions was God changing the physical location of the church plant. Heather and I had lived in the Atlanta area for about a year and a half before we decided to plant a church. We had come to Georgia from Northwest Arkansas where, prior to coming to Georgia, we had put down some significant social and family roots. So when God began to stir our hearts toward church planting we immediately had a desire to head back to Northwest Arkansas to start a new kind of church in that rapidly growing region of the country. At first it seemed that our plans were coming together quite nicely.

We had friends from Georgia, the Teffertillers, who were going to go with us to help pastor the church. We had two other planters on board who already lived in Northwest Arkansas. We even had a core group of about 25 people ready to go. So far along were our plans that we had already packed up our houses and movers were scheduled. Then God stepped in. All four of us church planters gathered together for a planning meeting in Memphis, TN (the midway point between our two locations). In that meeting, which would not be helpful nor appropriate for me to blog about, the Northwest Arkansas plan collapsed. Deep differences emerged which made it clear that to move forward with the church plant would be foolish. Greg Teffertiller and I drove back to Georgia with our plan in tatters, but God’s plan was marching forward.

After some soul-searching and looking into church start-up options in other places, such as North Carolina, we met with the Gwinnett Metro Baptist Association (GMBA) who encouraged us to plant a new church in the Harbins area. The pieces began to fall into place. The association made us their key church plant for 2007. They connected us with Steve Hammack and Anchor Church who decided to be our sponsoring church. And a core group of families emerged who were ready to be a part of a new church. And so we launched out. We began meeting with our core group in November of 2006 and officially launched the church April 8th, 2007. But if we thought that God was done tinkering with our plans were fooling ourselves.

group-photo-1Plan #2: Cool Name

Before planting, Greg and I were looking for a unique name that would capture who we were as a church. Having come out of highly programmed, age-focused church structures (which we considered to be unhealthy) our new church was going to place a strong emphasis on integrating the whole family for worship, discipleship, and missions. We also embraced a soteriological framework that emphasized the absolute sovereignty of God in all things. These aspects of our DNA as a new church led us to choose the name “Milestone Community Church.” The idea behind the name was that God sovereignly puts milestones in our lives that we as parents should look back upon and thus use to teach our kids about the goodness and mercy of our great God. Plus we thought that the name was unique and cool.

The Scriptural impetus behind the name came from Joshua 4 where God told the Israelites, as they miraculously crossed the Jordan, to take twelves stones from the riverbed and make a memorial. The purpose of the memorial is explained in Joshua 4:21: “When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.’ For the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the LORD is mighty, that you may fear the LORD your God forever.”

Little did we know at the time that a big mega-church in the area was already in the planning stages of using that same Scripture text to rename their church, and I must say that the name they came up with was much better than ours. But I still maintain that we were the original “stoners.”

For the time being, however, we patted ourselves on the back for our clever name and started the church. Pretty soon it was clear that the name wasn’t having the effect we wanted it to have. First of all, the area in which we planted the church was not exploding with hip, young families like our association had anticipated it would be. In retrospect this was due in large part to the housing market collapse which was only in its initial stages in the Spring of 2007. For the next four years or so there would be at least a dozen subdivisions in the Harbins area filled with empty houses that were supposed to be holding young, middle-class families ripe for the harvest. So, the cool-factor of the name (I know that’s debatable), designed to connect with that demographic, was moot. Of course, as church-planting trends demanded, we didn’t have “Baptist” in our name either, and to our surprise it turned out that many of the people in the area who were used to traditional church norms were hesitant to visit a church that, at least on the surface, was a denominational crapshoot.

Perhaps even more jarring than all of that was the fact that so many people thought our name was Millstone. And the image of a millstone was not what we were going for: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6). So the name needed to change, and it would, for God had ordained another step that we never saw coming.

Plan #3: We don’t need a building

Everyone knows that the church is not a building, its God’s people. Because of that some church planters wear the fact that they don’t have a building as a badge of honor. That wasn’t necessarily us. I firmly believed that we didn’t need a building, but I wasn’t philosophically against them either. Frank Viola and George Barna had not convinced me that buildings OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwere pagan. But there weren’t many meeting places in the Harbins Community, so we had to have our Sunday gatherings at Harbins Elementary School. We figured that we would be there for several years at the very least. After months of doing church out of a trailer I began to dream of what it would be like someday to have our own building. The school administrators we very nice and accommodating but the rent was high, the flexibility was limited, and setting up and tearing down each Sunday was extremely tiring. So we began to put land and a building on our “Himpossible” prayer list.

No sooner had we begun to get serious about praying for these things did I get a call from Sid Hopkins, our association’s Director of Missions. He asked me to meet him at a 1522 Harbins Road, about a mile from the school. When I got there he informed me that someone had given that land to our church, all 17 acres of it! The only condition was that the donor wanted the name of the community, Harbins, to be in the name of the church. After gathering with our core group and praying about the possibilities we voted to accept the gift of the land and rename our church Harbins Community Baptist Church. The issues with the name Milestone were now gone, and our hope was that in the next several years we could save up enough money to build a building on our new land. We hoped to build within a decade.

God had other, and quite spectacular, plans. Shortly after giving us the land the donor also decided to give us 1.5 million dollars to build a church building. He was quite elderly and wanted to see the building built as soon as possible because he felt this was the last thing God was leading him to do with his money before the Lord would call him home. We were still only six families so the thought of building a new building so soon was not on our radar screen, but again God was constantly establishing our steps where we hadn’t expected them to be planted.

0417dad011After a couple a years of hard-work and planning, done largely by Dee Bryson who was instrumental in our church building ending up with the unique design it did, we moved into our building in April of 2010. The donor of the money and land passed away just few months after attending our dedication service.

Moving into a new building presented us with other challenges. The donor had only given enough money to build the building, and had clearly stated that he wanted us to furnish the building ourselves. We began to make plans and try to fundraise to that end. But the day we opened the building it was fully furnished without us spending hardly any money. God had once again gone before us through yet another one of our plans that He providentially redesigned.

Plan #4 – Merger

It seems that all major milestones in our church’s history have happened in April. April of 2009 was no different. That was the month that we voted to merge with Woodland Creek Church, a small Baptist congregation from the other side of Dacula.

The merger made complete sense, at least it did on paper. Woodland was a church about our size, they were theologically aligned with us, and if we combined forces we’d have a good-sized congregation with which to begin meeting in our soon-to-be-finished building. Well, as you can probably guess by now, things didn’t pan out quite the way we had hoped.

The merger was sweet…for about a month. Then a variety of different conflicts began to emerge that demonstrated a lack of foresight and blind naiveté on the part of both churches. To make another long story mercifully short, the merger didn’t take. Some families from Woodland did stick with Harbins, but most began to search for other church homes just a few months after the merger. It was a painful experience, to say the least, but God’s plans are always good, even when they come packaged with wrapping that is painful. As it turns out, God would bring much good from the failed merger.

First, he brought another elder to Harbins. Demetrius (a.k.a. Demer) Webb was one of the two elders from Woodland that became elders at Harbins after the merger. As the merger began to disintegrate, Demer would stick with Harbins and his ministry would be instrumental in helping our church heal from the wounds left over from the merger. In Demer I found a kindred spirit and like-minded brother who became, and still remains, a key part of our church and a close friend. I have always said that if God’s only purpose for the merger was to get Demer to Harbins then all the struggles that came packaged with the merger were well worth it.

img_0968The merger brought some other benefits as well. Namely, stuff! Stuff like chairs, tables, sound equipment, curriculum, and other resources. Shortly after the merger another church in Dacula closed its doors and gave us all their material resources as well. God had, in the blink of an eye, given us all that we needed to furnish our new building and we hadn’t spent a dime! Yet again God was moving despite, and sometimes in spite of, our plans.

Space prevents me from listing the many other plans God has altered and the hundreds of other steps He has orchestrated over these past ten years. I don’t have space to write about the broken souls he brought into our church all in one summer which He used to launch us into Biblical Counseling. I don’t have time to write about the challenges He used to refine our theology and ecclesiology. I’ll simply conclude by saying that all I am qualified to do at this point is write a book entitled, How to Screw Up a Church Plant, but God has worked all things together for our good and for His glory. He has providentially put all things in place to firmly establish our church in the Harbins Community and we praise Him alone for it.

This post is part of a series of reflections on ten years of church planting that I am doing leading up to HCBC’s tenth anniversary. To read the introduction to the series go here, and to read the first reflection click here.

Reflections on Church Planting: Reflection #1

The Priceless Value of a Godly Wife

There were several church planting books that I read before starting Harbins. Most of them had similar lists concerning what is most important to have in place before starting a new church. The lists included things like: sufficient funding, a parent church, a large core group, a compelling mission statement, etc. The one thing that was not on any lists in any of the books was this: a church planter needs a godly wife.

Now, let me say right of the bat that I am not saying that you must be married to start a church, or to pastor. What I can say is that God will use marriage to equip and strengthen a pastor for the ministry. I can also say that having a godly wife as a partner in the ups and downs of church planting is invaluable. I know that I would never have been able to plant Harbins and I would never have been able to survive the pastorate up to this point without Heather’s support, encouragement, and partnership.

After 20 years of pastoral ministry and 21 years of marriage, I can say that it took me a long time, too long, to understand how important my wife was and is to my ministry. In the early years of ministry, and of planting Harbins, I was brutish and ignorant and I took my wife and her faithful support for granted. It was during a season of challenge at Harbins that God graciously allowed me to see how important she was to the work He had called me to do. God opened my eyes to see that she was a gift to me to be my partner in life and in ministry. Her strengths made up for my weaknesses, and her support didn’t waver when it felt like everyone else’s was. To this day words are insufficient to express how absolutely vital she has been in my life, in my family, and in my church.

So here are some things I love about my wife which highlight how important she has been and continues to be to the work at Harbins.

  1. Her sacrificial generosity. My wife is the most generous person I’ve ever known. She exemplifies what it means to give of one’s time, treasure, and talent. I came home one day to find out that Heather had given away all of our living room furniture. She gave it to a young lady who was being forced to abruptly move out of her parents’ 10549263_10204234518048849_6494350707199033210_ohome because of her refusal to have the abortion that they were demanding she have. Many a person at Harbins can testify to Heather’s generosity and selflessness in countless other ways. She has rushed to help friends who are facing a crisis; she has stayed up all night in the hospital calming the nerves of an expectant mom; she has spent hours in God’s Word counseling and discipling younger women. Heather’s sacrificial heart led her to envision a series of well-baby clinics in Honduras called Health Matters Honduras. Although it’s just in its infant stages dozens of children in Honduras have already had their lives changed and perhaps even saved due to her compassion. God continues to use the selfless generosity of my wife to  challenge and stretch me in many ways!
  2. Her wisdom and discernment. My wife sees red flags before I do. I swear she has “spidey-senses” when it comes to trouble. The Lord uses her to see things I am sometimes unwilling or unable to see. Beyond that, she often has better ideas on what the next steps are whenever challenging situations arise. Early on I ignored her discernment to my own detriment and to the detriment of our church. She has a God-given instinct for knowing the right thing to do, the right time to do it, and the right words to say that befit the situation. Her sensitivity to the way God is at work, and her sturdy faith in His Word continually push and challenge me to grow.
  3. Her protection and discipleship of our children. Pastor’s children often have it rough as the pastor’s family lives in the proverbial glass house. A pastor’s home is often under a blinding light with every move being analyzed and scrutinized. Heather1909492_1079763439419_1006_n has provided godly counsel and discipleship to my children which has allowed them to grow and thrive amidst the unique pressures of a pastor’s home. She is momma bear when she needs to be, but she has also mastered the spiritual discipline of letting God be our first defender. The aroma of Christ fills our home and that is due to her steadfast and steady management of it.
  4. Her rest and trust in the Lord. Being a Doyle means a new adventure is always around the corner. Throughout the wild ride that is the Doyle household she has always exhibited a unique mixture of adaptability and advance planning. From the expected challenges of parenting five kids, to the unexpected challenges of church relationships, she has kept her eyes on the Lord and has clung to the promises found in our favorite family passage: Proverbs 3:5-6. It is not uncommon for the challenges of church and home to cause pastor’s wives to become bitter and disengaged, but by the mercy and grace of God my wife has prayerfully avoided those pitfalls. Her trust is truly in the Lord.
  5. Her ongoing, progressive sanctification. My wife is not perfect. She has her share of shortcoming and makes plenty of mistakes. And for that I am thankful. She would become an idol in my life if it were not so. She’d be the fist to tell you that she still has plenty of areas to grow in and plenty of sin to continue slaying. But she also knows “whose she is,” namely, that she is child of the King and that He is faithfully, continually, conforming her to the image of Christ Jesus our Lord. Some pastor’s wives feel like they have to be theological giants and fall into insecurity and fear, but913995_10201241532425470_2133027097_o Heather will be the first to tell you that she knows what she knows and she grows as she grows. She worries little about what people think and instead exhibits grace-enabled, faith-fueled effort to mature in Christ. Nothing stirs me to tears more than to sit back and think about how much my amazing wife has grown in the Lord over the past 10 years!

For these reasons and many more, the importance of a godly wife is my first reflection on ten years of church planting. I plan to share nine more leading up to the 10th anniversary of Harbins on April 8th. Harbins would not be Harbins without Heather Doyle, and I would be much less of a man!

An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.(Proverbs 31:10)

Spring 2017 Community Groups Coming Soon!

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One of the things I love about HCBC is how eager our folks are to study the Bible.  Many people have been coming up to me lately asking when our next round of Community Groups will be launching.  I’m happy to say we’ll be relaunching the week of February 5th.  As usual we’ve got a terrific lineup of studies.  Here’s what we’re offering this time around:

1 Peter: Maintaining Our Hope in a World That’s Not Our Home

imagesLed by Steve Doyle at Barbara Coleman’s home.  1830 Jessica Way, Winder.
Launch Date: Tuesday, February 7th, 7pm.

Do you ever feel like an alien and a stranger in a land that is increasingly distant and even hostile to Jesus Christ?  That’s normal.  The Apostle Peter begins his letter by saying he is writing to “To those who are elect exiles…” (1 Pe 1:1).  To be a believer is to be an exile longing for their true home in heaven.  But in the meantime, how now shall we live?  This Bible study will equip and encourage all pilgrims who are passing through this difficult world in route to their ultimate destination, the New Heavens and the New Earth.  No study guide necessary, just your Bible!  Sign up here!

Lessons from the Upper Room

 Led by Jeff Thomas at Karen Lindsey’s home.  2515 Harbins Mill Drive, Dacula.
Launch Date: Wednesday, February 8th, 7pm.

Knowing the time was fast approaching for Him to imagesdepart this world, Jesus spent His final hours with His closest friends. As the disciples sat with their master, unaware of what would soon take place, Jesus served them, taught them, and prayed for them.  In this 12-part teaching series, Dr. Sinclair Ferguson paints a vivid picture of the disciples’ final moments with their Savior. Carefully walking through John 13-17, Dr.
Ferguson reminds us of the centrality of Christ in all of life.   No study guide necessary, just your Bible!  Sign up here!  For more information, view the trailer below:

 

God in our midst: The Tabernacle and our relationship to God.  

Led by Mark Pierce at the Pritchett home, 2290 Marshland Ct, Suwanee.
Launch Date: Wednesday,  February 8th, 7pm.

How does an ancient tent in the wilderness of Sinai relate to our relationship with God? The description of the tabernacle, God’s Old Testament dwelling place, spans sixteen chapters of the Bible. Yet many of us pass over this extended description without understanding its significance. In this series, Daniel R. Hyde encourages us to consider this “tent of meeting” (Ex. 27:21). By studying the particulars of this first tabernacle, we will better understand Jesus, the One who dwelt, or “tabernacled,” among us (John 1:14).  No study guide necessary!  Just bring your Bible!  Sign up here!  For more information, view the trailer below:

 

What Did You Expect? Redeeming the Realities of Marriage

Led by Demer Webb at the Sims’ home, 3605 Wynter Frost Walk.
Launch Date: Wednesday,  February 8th, 7pm

imagesIt won’t take long for you to be disappointed in marriage. It won’t take long for your dreams to be dashed. The reality is that you can’t escape the brokenness of this
world. You won’t be able to avoid the sin of your spouse.

The Bible teaches that we all bring something destructive into our relationships – sin. But as Paul David Tripp explains, we buy into the delusion that our biggest problem is outside of us. We blame our spouse. We blame our circumstances. We rarely take seriously the nature of our own sin.

‘What Did You Expect?’ challenges you to look into the mirror of God’s Word and see yourself with clarity. Maybe it’s you. Maybe you love yourself more than your spouse. Maybe you love your little kingdom more than God’s big Kingdom. When you reach that level of honesty, you’re at the edge of real good things for your marriage.

Sign up here!  

After you sign up, get your FREE study guide here! (required)  

To go even deeper, click here and order the book! (optional but recommended)

For more information, view the trailer below:

 

Behold Your God

PLEASE NOTE: THIS IS A CONTINUATION OF THE STUDY THAT BEGAN LAST SEMESTER.  

Led by Todd Harrison at the Harrison home. 1480 Bradley Gin Road, Monroe.
Study resumes Thursday, February 9th,  7pm.  

Are we sure that the God we serve is the imagesGod described in Scripture? Is rethinking Him biblically really necessary? How do we do it? How would it affect our views of Christ, the gospel, holiness, worship, evangelism, service, and revival?

Behold Your God is a study that focuses on God’s self-revelation in the Bible, helping the believer to apply the descriptions of God to all of life. Each week features a short biographical sketch of the life of a significant figure from Christian history whose ministry illustrates the truths that you will be studying weekly.  They include A. W. TozerGeorge MullerRobert Murray M’CheyneCharles Spurgeon,  Jonathan Edwards, and more.

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In addition, each week’s lesson will reinforce what you have been studying in the Bible on your own time throughout that week.  Finally, you will be able to listen to highlights from interviews with contemporary ministers whose lives and labors reflect these same truths.

This study is written with the conviction that our fundamental need in Western Christianity is to repent of our low and unworthy views of God, to return to the biblical descriptions of the true God, and to risk it all in order to live upon Who He is. Nothing in this study is new truth.  Instead, everything is meant only to help you to take the biblical descriptions of God seriously and to see how they form the foundation of Christian living.

***Because this is a study that began in the Fall, you are encouraged to consider another one of our study options.  However, if you are still interested in joining this study midstream,  order the required daily devotional and then sign up here!***

For more information, view the trailer below:

To preserve strong group dynamics and intimacy, Pastor Steve and I are trying to keep the groups from becoming too large.  Therefore, our preference is to have a maximum of 12 participants per group.  (This does not of course, include babies and other children who won’t really be participating in the study!) With that said, we want to make sure everyone is in a group, so if there is only one that you desire to participate in due to day of the week, location, interest, etc, then we will of course increase the size of any group to make sure that everyone is included.  With that said, please let us know as early as you can which group you’d like to participate in.

I’m thrilled that HCBC is able to offer such amazing studies that will draw you closer to God, facilitate transformation in your life, and sink your roots deeper into the precious Word of God, through which we are able to more clearly see and savor our Lord Jesus Christ!

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Demer

 

Babel Revisted (post-sermon reflections)

One reason Pastor Steve and I have launched this joint venture in blogging is that we see it as a means to expand upon our teachimagesing ministry, supplementing and adding to things we are sharing through sermons and Bible studies.  It’s been great to receive affirmation through readers who have shared how various blog articles have blessed and encouraged them.

Before we are too distant from last Sunday, I’d like to share a few additional thoughts to the sermon I preached on the Tower of Babel.  If you missed it, you can listen online here.  While I hope I was able to capture the essence of Man’s problem and God’s solution in the rebellion at Babel, here are a few final reflections that I hope will further aid our understanding of this important Bible story.

The literary structure of Genesis 11:1-9

In the story of Babel, Moses uses a literary style known as antithetical parallelism.  Allen Ross gives a helpful definition of this type of writing and how it is used in Genesis 11.

“In the antithetical parallelism of the narrative, ideas are balanced against their counterparts.  The story begins with the report of the unified situation at the beginning (11:1) and ends with a reminder of that unity and its resultant confusion for the scattering (v.9).  This beginning and ending picture is reflected in the contrast of the dialogues and actions: verses 2-4 describe what humans proceeded to do; verses 5-8, beginning with the contrastive “But the Lord…,” describe how the Lord turned their work aside.”

Here is a helpful visual breakdown of how Moses contrasts Man and God in this story through his parallelism.  Notice how “top A” corresponds to “bottom A” and so on…

A The whole earth had one language (11:1)

     B …they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. (11:2)

          C  And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks…”(11:3)

               D  …a city and a tower… (11:4)

                        E  And the Lord came down to see (11:5)

               D …the city and the tower (11:5)

          C And the Lord said,”Come let us… confuse their language…” (11:6-7)

     B They were scattered from the plain of Shinar (11:8)

A The Lord confused the language of the whole world (11:9)

This type of antithetical parallelism further underscores the point that I made in the sermon, that what we have at Babel is Man and God completely at odds with one another.  The very structure of the passage demonstrates Man’s battle against God.  Notice also the center of this parallelism.  Letter E is in the middle and is meant to mark the turning point of the story.  The central focus is God.  Despite Man’s attempt to be at the center of all things, what matters most is the Lord’s response to all that is happening.

The literary theme of “journeying eastward.”

imagesIn Genesis, Moses employs reoccurring themes and motifs that will reappear throughout the book.  Such themes help to underscore and emphasize what he is teaching and the points he wants to make.  Themes such as blessing and curses, the expectation of the offspring of the woman, and salvation through judgment weave their way in and out of Genesis.  One such theme that makes a reappearance in the Tower of Babel story is “journeying eastward.”

The ESV translation is a bit unclear.  It says the people migrated “from the East.”  (11:2) However, consulting with a number of other translations such as the NLT, the NIV, and the NASB (the latter tending to be the most literal of our English translations), one finds agreement that what is being communicated here is that the people are going in an easterly direction.

This mention of moving to the east could be simply a mere geographical point of little significance, if not for the fact that there appears to be a pattern in Genesis of connecting the move eastward with something negative.images

Adam and Eve, exiled from God, are driven out of the garden, settling eastward from Eden (Gen 3:24)

As the murderer Cain goes out from the presence of God, he dwells in a land “east of Eden.” (Gen 4:16)

When Abram and Lot separate, selfish Lot journeys east, unable to resist the land there which appeared to be like the “garden of the Lord.” (Gen 13:11)  Of course the chief cities in that direction were Sodom and Gomorrah.

And in Genesis 11, of course, we see the people moving eastward, settling in what will become known as Babylon.

Moses appears to have a “theology of geography” in Genesis.

Movement to the east suggests a moving away from the enjoyment of the presence and blessing of God.  Old Testament scholar John Sailhamer suggests that such a literary device, “…contrasts God’s way of blessing (e.g., Eden and the Promised Land) with humanity’s own attempt to find the “good.”  In the Genesis narratives, when people go “east,” they leave the land of blessing (Eden and the Promised Land) and go to a land where their greatest hopes will turn to ruin (Babylon and Sodom).”

Therefore, the movement of the people eastward, in Genesis 11, already provides us with a clue to their spiritual condition even before they begin constructing Babel.

Comparison and Contrast

imagesRead in it’s context, it is helpful to recognize that the story of Babel in Genesis 11 immediately precedes the story of Abraham in Genesis 12.  (This may be one reason that Moses put the Table of Nations in chapter 10 before giving us the story of Babel.  Even though chronologically, Babel should come before the Table of Nations, thematically speaking, the story of Babel works as a great foil to the story of Abraham, and their positioning back to back makes it easier for the stories to be compared and contrasted.)

There are three particularly interesting and instructive points of contrast in these two stories.

First, the Babylonians start in the west and move in an easterly direction, which, if we are to accept the idea of Moses’ “Theology of Geography”, indicates a spiritual movement away from God.  On the other hand, Abraham starts out in the east, in the land of Ur as a pagan, but comes to know the One True God.  And he begins to journey into the West towards the Land of Promise.

Secondly, the Babylonians, out of fear of dispersion, want to settle and remain at Babel,  refusing God’s call to fill the earth.   Abraham, however, has faith in God, and “…went, as the LORD had told him.” (Gen 12:4)

Thirdly, the Babylonians are seeking to make a name for themselves but in the end are humiliated.  Abraham was seeking no such thing, but as a result of his obedience to God, the Lord promises to him, “I will make your name great.” (Gen 12:2)

The Rise and Fall of Babylon

Genesis 11 isn’t the last we see of Babylon in the Bible.  Like a reoccurring nightmare, Babylon, in all of it’s prideful anti-God “splendor” continues to rear it’s head throughout the Bible, and serves as a representation of Man in general, in his arrogant yet futile insurrection against God.  From the tower of Babel onward, we see man’s foolish attempts at exaltation overthrown by God.  Isaiah 14 addresses one of Babylon’s arrogant kings, saying,

“How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn!
How you are cut down to the ground,
you who laid the nations low!
You said in your heart,
‘I will ascend to heaven;
above the stars of God
I will set my throne on high;
I will sit on the mount of assembly
in the far reaches of the north;
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.’
But you are brought down to Sheol,
to the far reaches of the pit. (Isa 14:13-15)

Like the original Babylonians who would seek to build a tower to reach the heavens, this king arrogantly seeks to exalt himself to the heights of deity, but like the people of Babel, this king is humiliated. Indeed,he is “brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit.”images

Or consider King Nebuchadnezzar, who arrogantly boasted,  “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” (Dan 4:30).  And yet as with Babel, God responds, and humiliates Nebuchadnezzar, laying him low by afflicting him with insanity to the degree that he acted like a beast for a period of time.

And Babylon appears also in the book of Revelation, in Man’s final attempt at rebellion against God.  But again, Babylon, described as a “dwelling place for demons” (Rev 18:2) goes down in shame and defeat.

Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying,“So will Babylon the great city be thrown down with violence, and will be found no more… (Rev 18:21)

Seeking a true home

We all long for home.  A place where we can dwell in safety, security, peace, and prosperity.  In Genesis, we see people like Cain, those of Babel, and later on Lot, banking their hopes and dreams on the things of this world.  Since Genesis 11, people have, either literally or figuratively, sought to find their home in Babylon, “east of Eden”, hoping to find life in their own autonomy away from the presence and rule of God.

imagesIn Genesis 12, God calls Abraham out of his home and sets him on a journey to find a new home.  The Promised Land that God promises to give to Abraham and his descendants was a good land, a land flowing with “milk and honey”  (Lev 20:24).  But by the time Abraham dies, all he has in this land is a field and a cave which is a burial plot for him and his family.  (Gen 23:20)

But Abraham wasn’t disappointed.  He knew that the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promises was yet to come.

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. (Heb 11:8-10)

Eventually Abraham’s descendants conquer Canaan at long last, but life in the land ends up being a disappointment and falls far short of the paradise of Eden. That’s because Canaan was never meant to be the final destination for the People of God.  It was but a type, a shadow, a downpayment of something better to come.

The Patriarchs of Israel, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, knew this better perhaps than their  descendants.  We are told that,

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth…But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. (Heb 11:13-16)

For those of us who repent of our Babylonian ways, trusting in Jesus Christ to deliver us from our sinful pride and from a dying world, we, with Abraham, await with hopeful expectation for the city to come.

And at the end of the Bible, we see that the corrupt, failed city of Babylon is replaced by the glorious heavenly city in Revelation 21.  We don’t have to build a tower up to the heavens.  Instead, a day is coming when heaven will come down to earth.images

And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev 21:2-4)

And those who will inherit this city are not the proud and arrogant.  Instead the people of this city are a people who are forsaking the ways of Babel by humbling themselves and embracing their need for a savior and forgiveness of sins through the cross of Christ.  Those who will enter into this city will be a people not interested in making their own name great, but instead a people who will enjoy making His name great forever.

May that day come soon!

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Demer