Hannah’s Vow, Spurgeon & Self-Denial

It is a great privilege to walk with my church through the book of 1 Samuel on Wednesday evenings.  Last night we spent some time considering Hannah, whom we meet in chapter 1.  This godly woman was barren, unable to conceive a child.  In the midst of her great longing to be a mother, she prays one of the most shocking prayers in the Bible:

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She was deeply distressed and prayed to the LORD and wept bitterly. And she vowed a vow and said, “O LORD of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.” (1 Samuel 1:10–11)

It is shocking, because the thing that she desperately wants is the thing she offers to give away.  She vows that her son will be under a lifelong Nazarite vow and that this son will grow up not with her, but in God’s sanctuary/temple in Shiloh.  As a Nazarite, her son would be set apart not for her exclusive enjoyment and pleasure, but for special service to God and His priorities and pleasure.  Hannah’s desire for a child, strong as it is, has become eclipsed by her desire for God’s greater glory and purposes.  Charles Spurgeon notes that:

“Hannah had learned self-denial. This is clear, since the very prayer by which she hoped to escape out of her great grief was a self-denying one. She desired a son, so that her reproach might be removed; but if her eyes might be blessed with such a sight she would cheerfully resign her darling to be the Lord’s as long as he lived. Mothers wish to keep their children around them. It is natural that they should wish to see them often. But Hannah, when most eager for a son, asking, for only one, and that one as the special gift of God, yet does not seek him for herself, but for her God…

Her heart does not long to see her boy at home, his father’s daily pride, and her own hourly solace, but to see him serving as a Levite in the house of the Lord. By this she proved that she had learned self-denial. Brothers and sisters, this is one of our hardest lessons: to learn to give up what we most prize at the command of God, and to do so cheerfully. This is real self-denial, when we ourselves make the proposition, and offer the sacrifice freely, as she did. To desire a blessing so that we may have the opportunity of parting with it, this is self-conquest: have we reached it? Oh you of a sorrowful spirit, if you have learned to crucify the flesh, if you have learned to subdue the body, if you have learned to cast all your desires and wills at his feet, you have gained what a thousand times repays you for all the losses and crosses you have suffered.”

Hannah is truly an inspiration in this sense.  True life is not found in holding on tightly to the things we treasure, but in being willing to release any other treasure in order that we can better lay hold of God, His glory, and His purposes above all else, because He is our true and highest treasure.  Oh may the Lord help me to live in this way!

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Demer

HCBC Community Groups Coming Soon!

Dear Harbins Family,

I hope you had a wonderful and worshipful holiday season.  As the dust settles from all of the hustle and bustle of the past month, it’s never too long before I start getting questions about our Community Groups, when we will launch them, what they will be, etc.

Community Groups launch the week of February 5th.  Please let us know as soon as possible which group you’d like to be in as this helps our teachers and hosts. Sign up sheets will be in the back of the Sanctuary this Sunday!

I am pleased to let you know about the three great study options you have this semester.

#1. James: A 12 Week Study

Led by Jeff Thomas at the Thomas home.  2700 Angel Oak Circle, Dacula. Launch Date: Tuesday, February 6th, 7pm.

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The book of James has a well-deserved reputation for providing practical advice, yet it also contains challenging teachings on wealth, anointing with oil, prayer, healing, and the relationship between faith and works.

Through clear exposition of the biblical text and thoughtful application questions, Greg Gilbert helps us rightly understand James as a stirring exhortation to fruitfulness—ultimately reminding us of the necessary connection between genuine faith and heartfelt obedience.

Order The Study Guide Here!  

View the trailer here:

 #2. Faith – What Are You Hoping For?images

Led by Mark Pierce, Warren Goldsmith, and Matt Pritchett.  Location will rotate between the Pierce home (624 Clarke Trail, Dacula) and the Goldsmith home (150 Sweet Auburn Lane, Dacula)  Launch Date: Wednesday, February 7th, 7pm.

What is faith?

We all know that the Bible defines faith as “the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen” – but do we know how to live by faith in the street-level situations and relationships of our daily Christianity?  Join pastor and best-selling author Paul David Tripp on a powerful 9 session journey through Hebrews 11 to discover how to live a hope-filled life of faith in Jesus Christ.

Order Study Guide Here!  

View the trailer here:

#3. The Holiness of God. 

Led by Demer Webb at the Siso home.  2523 Fair Hill Pointe
Bethlehem, Georgia.  Launch Date: Wednesday, February 7th, 7pm.

In the wake of the recent passing of Dr. R.C. Sproul, we will visit what many say is his Christ_teaching_in_the_Templemost powerful and life-changing study ever. In this video and book study, The Holiness of God examines the meaning of holiness and why people are both fascinated and terrified by a holy God. This series closely explores God’s character, leading to new insights on sin, justice, and grace. The result is a new awareness of our dependence upon God’s mercy and a discovery of the awesomeness of His majestic holiness. Dr. R.C. Sproul said, “The holiness of God affects every aspect of our lives—economics, politics, athletics, romance—everything with which we are involved.”

John Macarthur said, “When I first heard R.C. Sproul teaching on the holiness of God, it brought me face-to-face with the awful splendor of God’s majestic holiness in a new and fresh way.”

John Piper says, “The holiness of God is my favorite of his books because it most central.  It is who God is.”

Join us for this powerful 14 week study!  Study guide is mandatory.  To go deeper, purchase the book and participate in the readings you will be assigned.

Order The Study Guide Here!  Order the book (optional) here!  

Get a taste an appetizer of Dr. Sproul’s teaching on this topic:

Please let us know as early as you can which group you’d like to participate in.  Sign up  sheets will be in the back of the sanctuary this Sunday.

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 and gospel of God, through which we are able to more clearly see and savor our Lord Jesus Christ!

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Demer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Upcoming Discipleship Opportunities!

Brothers and Sisters,

In 2018 there will be many discipleship opportunities available to you at HCBC including Community Groups, Men & Women’s Discipleship, and more. You’ll hear more about those soon, but for now, I’d just like to focus on some very significant opportunities for you that are right around the corner!

For several years at HCBC, Biblical Counseling has been an increasingly significant partimages of our emphasis and ministry.  At its core, Biblical Counseling is simply a form of discipleship as it aims to bring the all-sufficient Scriptures to bear (2 Tim 3:16) on our personal and corporate growth as Christians as well as letting the Scriptures inform how we navigate the common challenges of life.  Biblical Counseling impacts marriage, fear, anxiety, friendships, spiritual disciplines, parenting, anger, practical theology, depression, evangelism, addictions/besetting sins, church unity, and much more.

imagesWhile recognizing that not everyone in the church is called to be a full-time, formal biblical counselor, and that some will be more trained in Biblical Counseling than others, we believe that everyone at HCBC is called to have a basic, fundamental understanding and responsibility to know how to use the truths of Scripture in such a way that it will facilitate spiritual growth, maturity, and strength in our congregation.  The apostle Paul looked back on the growth of the church in Rome with grateful thanksgiving and satisfaction because they themselves were “filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another.” (Romans 15:14)

Here we see that the instruction isn’t just limited to a handful of formally trained imagespastors.  Instead, Paul rejoices that the whole church is able to instruct one another in the Scriptures.  We see elsewhere in the Scriptures that the church membership is expected to be an instrument in the Redeemer’s hands through loving discipleship, through the bearing of one another’s burdens, and through speaking loving truth to one another that builds up the Body. (Gal 6:1-2, Eph 4:29)  As your pastors, our heart’s desire is for Harbins Church to be like the church in Rome, “filled with all knowledge and able to instruct (counsel) one another.”

With that said, we are excited to bring to your attention a few ways that you can begin to receive basic training in Biblical Counseling.  I would love to see all of our members involved in one (or more) of these opportunities.

#1. Adult Bible Study.  We just recently launched a great study called Instruments in the imagesRedeemer’s Hands and it’s not too late to join in.  After our holiday break, Pastor Jeff will resume this study on Sunday, January 7th, at 9:30am in the sanctuary.  This is an outstanding study designed to release HCBC from the popular notion in our culture that the church’s sanctification and growth is in the hands of a small group of trained pastoral professionals.  Instead, every one of us at Harbins is called to minister to the Body and and become an effective tool of change in the lives of others.  We’ve gotten excellent feedback on this study so far and we are hoping to see more of our members there every week, resuming on the 7th.

#2. Faith Community Church 2018 Biblical Counseling and Discipleship Training imagesConference.  For the past several years members of HCBC have gone to this conference and it has been nothing short of outstanding.  This will certainly be a time of personal growth and excellent training in God’s Word for all who attend.  Myself, Pastor Jeff, and our wives, along with others from our church, have been among those who have greatly benefited from this time.  The training will be broken up over the course of four Saturdays at Northside Church in Roswell on January 27, February 24, March 24, and April 21st.  Jeff and I would really love to see more of our members make it an annual tradition to attend.  The registration deadline is January 12th.  For more information visit here.  If you need financial assistance to help pay for the conference let us know and we’ll see if we can help.  Also, groups can carpool to help with travel expenses.

#3. Biblical Counseling Training at Providence Church in Duluth.  Our friends at imagesProvidence Church will be providing FREE training in Biblical Counseling as they launch a 10 week course starting Tuesday evening, January 9th.  If you are interested in deeper and more intensive training, or if you are interested in going through the certification process with the ACBC (Association of Certified Biblical Counselors), this is for you!  Led by Pastor Jess Arnds, who is an ACBC certified counselor from the Master’s Seminary, you will go deep through weekly reading assignments, observing counseling sessions through video, group discussions, and more.  There will be dinner provided at 5:30pm for a small fee, and the training begins at 6pm.  You’ll wrap up by 9pm.  There will be FREE CHILDCARE!  Sign up here! For more information, contact Pastor Jess at jarnds@providenceduluth.org

Please prayerfully consider taking advantage of one or more of these terrific opportunities that will help you in your own personal growth as a Christian, and help you to powerfully minister to others in our church, building up the Body at HCBC.  We pray that 2018 will be an incredible year of growth in the Lord for you and for our church.

Grace and Peace,

Pastors Demer and Jeff

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fall 2016 Community Groups Coming Soon!

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It’s hard to believe, but summer is winding down.  But while summer winds down, activities and opportunities for further fellowship, growth, and discipleship at Harbins Church begin winding up!  We are just weeks away from relaunching our weeknight Community Groups.  Pastor Steve and I believe these groups play a vital role in our spiritual health and we urge everyone to select one and plug in.  In these groups you’ll find fellowship, encouragement, ministry for your soul, a means for you to bless others, and a means to better see and savor Jesus Christ.  As always, we have some outstanding study options.  Some we’ve offered before, and some are brand new.  Your five study choices are:

1) Battling Unbelief- Launches Tuesday, Sept 6th, at two locations:  Location #1 Demer and Dana Webb’s home, 7pm.  514 Bentley Circle, Bethlehem.  Led by Demer Webb.  Location #2 Barbara Coleman’s home, 1830 Jessica Way, Winder.  Led by Steve Doyle

images“When faith flickers, stoke the fire!  No one sins out of duty.  We sin because it offers some promise of happiness.  That promise enslaves us-until we believe that God is more desirable than life itself (Psalm 63:3).  Only the power of God’s superior promises in the gospel can emancipate our hearts from servitude to the shallow promises and fleeting pleasures of sin.”

Battling Unbelief, one of the most powerful and popular studies ever done at Harbins Church, is being offered for a 4th time for believers who seek greater growth in godliness and greater power to kill sin in their lives.  Pastor Demer, with help from John Piper, will help you battle the destructive, joy-killing sins of anxiety, pride, impatience, covetousness, lust, and more.  Many have experienced a revolution in their spiritual lives through this study.  Will you be the next to be transformed?

Click here to sign up for this study!

Click here to purchase the study guide!

 

images2) What Did You Expect? Redeeming the Realities of Marriage- Launches Wednesday, Sept 7th, at Matt and Marietta Pritchett’s home, 7pm.  2290 Marshland Court, Suwannee.  Led by Mark Pierce.

“It 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.

Start working on a marriage of unity, understanding, and love.”

Here is the trailer for the book:

So what are you waiting for?  The next step in strengthening your marriage can be signing up now!

Click here to sign up for this study!

Click here to download your FREE study guide! (required)

Click here to go deeper and order the book! (optional but recommended)

 

3) Praying with Paul- Launches Wednesday, Sept 7th, at Gabe and Aida Bruzzi’s home, 7pm. 2850 Crystal Ridge Drive, Dacula.  Led by Jeff Thomas

imagesIt’s doubtful that there is any Christian who has not sometimes found it difficult to pray. In itself this is neither surprising nor depressing: it is not surprising, because we are still pilgrims with many lessons to learn; it is not depressing, because struggling with such matters is part of the way we learn. God doesn’t demand hectic church programs and frenetic schedules; he only wants his people to know him more intimately. The apostle Paul found the kind of spiritual closeness in his own fellowship with the Father that is available to all of us.

“Praying with Paul” leads group members into the Epistles to see what Paul taught in his “school of prayer.” Group members will be exposed to the priorities of prayer, a God-centered framework for prayer, and practices for a more meaningful and dynamic prayer life. Christians today can still achieve the confidence Paul enjoyed by following his life-shaping principles and searching for a deeper devotional experience.

Here’s author and teacher DA Carson sharing a bit about this great study.

We have heard from more than one person how this study has resulted in a strengthened and more vibrant prayer life.  Who wouldn’t want that?  If you are ready to deepen your prayer life, you’ve just found your study, so……….

Click here to sign up for this study!

Click here to order the required study guide!

4) Behold Your God- Launches Thursday, Sept 8th, at Todd and Carol Harrison’s home, 7pm. 1480 Bradley Gin Road, Monroe.  Led by Todd Harrison.

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 12-week 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. These include Paul Washer, Andrew Davies, Conrad Mbewe, and more. Comments from men whose gospel labors range from Peru, Ethiopia, Virginia, and Memphis to New Zealand, England, Wales, Ireland, and Zambia help to show that these are eternal truths about an eternal God who is not altered by any temporal or geographical context.

Many in our day are tired and disillusioned because they have consistently hoped in the next new idea. It is just this kind of day that makes Christians stop running on their religious hamster-wheels and ask “Why are we doing these programs?” and “Why doesn’t God ever really seem to show up and effectively work in our churches?” Hard questions often lead to right answers. 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.

Whet your appetite with the trailer here:

Ok, I’m ready to sign up now!  But I can’t, because I’m teaching my own study.  But the good news is that YOU can be a part of this incredible group by signing up today!

Click here to sign up for this study!

Click here to order the required daily devotional!

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 are able to participate in due to day of the week, location, 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 excited as I’ve ever been about our lineup of studies available to you.  You can’t go wrong with any of the five options available, and I am excited to see and hear how God will use the Harbins Community Group ministry in your life in the months to come.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Demer

You’re not the main character (Identity Matters)

This article continues an ongoing blog series, called “Identity Matters” which is takiimagesng us expositionally through the book of Ephesians.

Back in my younger years, I used to view life as a story and guess who the star of the show was?  Me!  That’s right.   And you would have been supporting cast. It was all about me.

I fear that sometimes I can still slip into that mindset even though I may not articulte it quite that way. We all have a tendency to become self-focused and everyone around us becomes merely supporting cast, including God.  For some, God may be a background character that occasionally makes a cameo. For others, God may be a very important character, just not the central role.  God may be the co-pilot, but we’re flying the plane and charting the course.

In our ongoing, expositional journey through the book of Ephesians, we are learning a lot about our identity and who we really are.  In my last post, we reveled in the glorious truth that as redeemed children of God we are not guilty.  That is a truth to be celebrated.  However, what we are discovering in Ephesians chapter 1 is another truth that isn’t as fervently celebrated, but should be.  Namely, that you are not the main character of the story.

imagesNow, we are right in viewing life as a story, but the apostle Paul is going to remind us of something very important. Paul is going to put us in our proper place and show us that Jesus Christ is at center stage.  What’s more, He’s not just at the center of your story.  Instead, the destiny of the entire Cosmos revolves around and is summed up in Jesus Christ.  God is,

making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. (Ephesians 1:9-10)

In the New Testament, Paul likes to use the word “mystery” to describe a secret that was once hidden or vaguely understood, but now has been fully disclosed and revealed in light of what Christ has done through the gospel.

And what is this mystery? What is this secret that God has graciously allowed us in on? Paul says God has a purpose.  A plan for the fullness of time.  God is sovereignly moving history in a specific direction towards a specific goal.  And what is that goal?  Paul says in verse 10 that the goal is to unite all things in Jesus Christ, things in heaven and things on earth.

The Greek word translated as “unite” is anakephalaiosis.   It’s basic meaning is “to bring something to a main point” or “to sum up.” The word connotes the idea of a re-unification or a re-establishing of harmony where discord and division once existed.

That describes beautifully where history is headed.

Ages ago, when God created the heavens and the earth, everything was in harmony and united under Jesus Christ. All of the angelic powers obeyed God. Man was perfect and holy and at peace with God in submission to His will, dwelling in a garden paradise where there was no pain or sorrow or death.  The earth was totally perfect.

imagesBut at some point in the distant past things went terribly wrong. One of the angelic powers launched a cosmic conspiracy against God and he led Adam, the first man, to commit treason and join the revolt. The reverberations of Adam’s sin were nothing short of cataclysmic. Man became alienated from God and banished from paradise, and all of Adam’s descendants have continued in that sinful rebellion against Him.   Man also became alienated from man. From the discord we see between Adam and Eve in Genesis 3, to Cain’s murder of Abel in Genesis 4, to all of the racism and wars and conflicts and division we see everywhere among people today, no matter where we look, we see the cataclysmic effects of the fall of man.

The Bible says that sin also ruptured the fabric of the universe. Creation itself was spoiled. The earth that yielded its produce for Adam before sin, now resists him, producing thorns and thistles.   A world that used to be at peace now produces earthquakes and tornadoes and floods.  When Adam fell, all of creation fell with him. We have a Cosmos in revolt against its original design. Man shakes his fist at God and fellow-man,  Satan is described in the Scriptures as the god of this world, and death reigns.

When we think of salvation and redemption we tend to personalize it.  We tend to make it about us, as if we’re the main character in the story.   But the mystery that God has revealed to us is showing us that the stakes are much bigger than we think.  God’s redemptive plan includes more than we realize.  It’s not ultimately about you.   It’s instead about God taking a universe that is being torn apart and fractured by sin and bringing all things back into their proper place again.  He has set in motion a plan where he is now gathering all things together in Jesus.  Though things are now out of alignment due to sin, God is realigning the universe towards a proper relationship to Jesus.

How?  Through the gospel of Christ.  Paul writes,

For in himimages all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,  and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1:19-20)

Through the blood of Jesus man can be reconciled to God.  We’ve already seen this truth earlier in Ephesians 1.  But Paul, going into chapter 2, will remind his Jewish and Gentile readers that while their races have been marked with discord and division, the two sides have been brought near to one another “by the blood of Christ.”

Jesus is recreating the harmony between humans that once existed in the garden.

In addition, redemption includes a restructuring and recreation of the entire universe. The entire planet, which Paul describes in Romans as “groaning” under the weight of sin’s curse will groan no more when Jesus comes and restructures the Cosmos into the paradise it once was, ushering His people back into the paradise that was lost.

But what about the enemies of God? What about humans that persist in their rebellion, refusing to bend the knee to Jesus Christ and acknowledge His Lordship? What about Satan and his wicked angels who instigated the revolt in the first place?

There are two ways that Christ will create peace and harmony according to the Scriptures. One, is through the removal of hostility and corruption through redemption and the gracious forgiveness of sins.

The other way is through conquest.

The reconciliation that happens through the blood of His cross is expressed in salvation for those who believe, but for the Satanic powers it is expressed through their shameful defeat and disarmament as Christ triumphs over them. (Col 2:15)  What’s more, the triumph that began at the cross will be fully consumated at the end of history.

The Bible is clear that the Lord Jesus Christ will return, and as in ancient times you would have the conquered publicly acknowledge before everyone the lordship of the conqueror and begrudgingly pay homage to Him, you have the Bible giving us this same kind of picture of what’s to come at the end of the age in Philippians 2, where Paul declares that God has highly exalted Jesus and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,  so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)

There is a time of reckoning coming. Jesus Christ is Lord. All will acknowledge it sooner or later. You will acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord now, with joy and gladness, or you will be forced to your knees when the King returns and rounds up all the traitors and rebels.  In the end, even the most powerful of the rebels, Satan himself, will drop to his knee as a conquered foe, bowing low in homage, and will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.images

When you and I live like we are the main character in the story, we’re not just being naively self-centered, we are being Satanic.  Self-centeredness is a form of idolatry as it makes life all about me.  I am putting me and my efforts and my glory at the center of all things and that is a the heart of Satanism.

The Scriptures are telling us a different story.  A better story.   Jesus Christ is the star of the movie. He’s the main character.  He’s the hero.  He’s the King.  He’s the center of all things, and from eternity past the plan of God has always been the enthronement and exaltation of His Son.

If the core of your identity is bound up in yourself.  If you are moving through life with tunnel vision as if it’s all about you, that’s going to have dramatic consequences in your life and in the lives of those around you.

But if we see ourselves rightly, and put our lives in context, then the story of our lives must always be viewed within the greater context of God’s amazing and beautiful and eternal story of Redemption, which is His plan to unite and reconcile all things to Jesus in heaven and on earth.  Knowing that changes everything.

Are you grieved over broken relationships? Are you mourning injustice? Are you weary of the heartbreak in this world? Are you broken by sickness and living in the shadow of death?  Take heart that we are moving towards a time where all things will be made right and new.

So we do not lose heart… For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 )

Oh how we must have an eternal perspective and remember that the things that grieve our hearts so much are not the end of the story!  Instead, the Scriptures tell us,

For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.  Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.  For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death… (1 Cor 15:21-25)

imagesAll of history is marching forward to a specific destination determined by God, and God is orchestrating everything in a way that is getting us closer and closer to that end. History has a destination, and that destination is Jesus, with the entire Cosmos submitted to His Lordship.  A Cosmos that will be remade, renewed, and restored.  Paradise lost in the garden will be regained in the New Heavens and New Earth where there will be no more pain or sorrow or sickness or death.  (Rev 21:4)

None of that can happen if God is only your co-pilot.  Thank God that He is calling the shots and not us!

Your identity, your story, your very life, is bound up in the bigger and grander and more glorious story of Jesus, our King and Savior and Hero. He has graciously chosen to let you in on this beautiful mystery that assures us that something much better is coming for all who believe.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Demer