The apostle Paul wrote that we battle not against against flesh and blood but against dark, wicked, invisible forces in the heavenly places. (Eph 6:12) Indeed, Peter tells us that Satan, the great Enemy of our souls, is wandering like a lion, seeking those to devour. (1 Pe 5:8)
But the Devil is not just targeting you personally. Peter and Paul wrote those warnings not for disconnected individuals, but for the Church. Satan is not merely targeting you personally, he is targeting us collectively. He doesn’t just hate you. He hates Harbins. And he especially hates anything that will facilitate the church’s growth in love, unity, holiness, and community witness.
Ever since I returned to Harbins Church a few years ago, I’ve been interested in holding a pre-service prayer time. Worship is warfare. It is the battle cry of the people of God. And because worship glorifies God, builds up the Church, and serves as a witness to the lost, it is the last thing that the Satanic powers want us to do.
Being struggling sinners, it’s not just Satan and his demons that seek to undermine our worship, but our own flesh pulls us in another direction. As the old hymn goes, “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.” Our self-centered sinfulness wants to make Sunday (and every day) all about us.
With such things arrayed against us, how in the world can we have a time of successful, God-centered, edifying corporate worship? On critical but oft-neglected means is prayer.
In Ephesians 6, after describing the spiritual weapons and armor we are to use in our battle, Paul ends with a weapon many of us ignore. He urges us to be praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints… (Ephesians 6:1)
Charles Spurgeon was pastor of the London Metropolitan Tabernacle and the hand of God was upon him and his church mightily and through his ministry the Lord ignited revival. Thousands came to Christ through his preaching. There were times where worship services drew as many as 10,000 people. Spurgeon was known to take visitors to his church to a basement prayer-room where people were seen on their knees interceding. Here, Spurgeon declared, is the powerhouse of the church.
Steam was the major power source in Spurgeon’s Day, and he compared the prayer room to a boiler room and said, “If the engine room is out of action, then the whole mill will grind to a halt. We cannot expect blessing if we do not ask.”
Spurgeon recognized that the prayers of God’s people were essential in fueling his preaching and his church.
During the summer months, with no Sunday School or other programs before the main service, this is a great time to gather to seek God’s help and blessing for our service. We’ll meet in the counseling room in the basement. It will be a time to get our hearts right before the Lord, to pray that God will help us to worship Him in spirit and truth, to pray for every element of the service (singing, preaching, fellowship, etc.) We will also pray for our congregation. We will pray that we will abound in love, unity, charity, and kindness for one another. We will pray that believers will be blessed, encouraged, and impacted by the service, and that our passion for Jesus will be further ignited and will spill over and impact our families, our relationships, and our community. We will pray for our own wayward hearts, and we will pray for people who will come to our service that do not know the Lord. We will pray for these things and more.
So join us this Sunday this summer at 10am in the counseling room downstairs. If we’ve already started when you get here that’s fine. If you have to step out before we wrap it up, no problem. If you want to pray out loud, great. If you want to pray silently, fantastic. Men, women, and children of all ages are welcome to come. If you’ve got a noisy baby or jittery toddler, come anyway!
I’ve wanted to do something like this for awhile and I want to thank my brother Chike for his encouragement for us to move forward. I’m not sure what will happen in the fall once Sunday School relaunches, but for now, let’s meet together in this way and see what God does.
Jesus reminds us that He is the vine, we are the branches, and apart from Him we can do nothing. (John 15:5) We need Jesus’ help for our corporate worship to be everything He wants it to be. We need God’s help for our church to be powerful, effective, and a vehicle that God will use to impact lives in our fellowship and in our community. If we want to see further growth and powerful spiritual revival in our midst, why not simply ask?
Spurgeon himself said,
“Brethren, we shall never see much change for the better in our churches in general till the prayer meeting occupies a higher place in the esteem of Christians.”
More importantly, Jesus said,
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:7-11)
See you Sunday.
Grace and Peace,
Two years ago, due to an increasing burden the HCBC pastors had over the lack of attention and focus on the Easter season (especially compared to Christmas) we launched a new tradition. To help enhance your Easter worship, we deemed it right and good to formally observe Holy Week and encourage all of our members to do the same.
As significant as Christmas is, it is 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 having His body laid in a tomb. He descended to earth as a lowly Man so that He could later rise triumphantly from the grave. The whole purpose of Christmas is Easter.
For this reason, Pastor Jeff and I are eager to continue our Holy Week tradition by providing additional opportunities for corporate worship, as well as 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.
Holy week is March 25th-April 1st. Below 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 Morning, March 25th, – Palm Sunday. Sunday School at 9:30. Corporate Worship at 10:45. We all want to have a fruitful life, and the reason Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday was to die on Good Friday so that He might bear much fruit through you! On Palm Sunday we’ll continue our sermon series, “Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ” by considering Jesus’ metaphor of the Vine and the Branches in John 15. Following the service stick around for our fellowship meal and games!
Thursday night, March 29th – Maundy Thursday Service w/Communion, 7pm-8pm.
The 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.
Friday night, March 30th – Good Friday Service, 7pm-8pm.
John 3:16 is perhaps the most popular verse in the Bible. Certainly it captures the essence of what Good Friday is all about. In addition to a time of worship through song, Pastor Demer will share a gospel-centered message anchored in this beloved verse.
Resurrection Sunday, April 1st – Easter Service, Sunday School at 9:30am, Corporate Worship at 10:45am- Join us as we celebrate Jesus Christ’s triumph over the grave and the powers of darkness! Following the service come out to Harbins Park for a picnic. Bring lunch for your family and meet us at the pavilion closest to the playground (just up the little hill). This is located at the 2nd entrance to Harbins Park and it’s the same place that we met last year.
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 Piper–This 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,
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.
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.
View the trailer here:
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.
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 most 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.
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,
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 part 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.
While 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 pastors. 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 Redeemer’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 Conference. 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 Providence 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 email@example.com
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
Dear Harbins Family,
I know Sunday came as a difficult blow to many of you when Pastor Steve announced that the Lord is moving he and Heather into a new phase of life and ministry away from Harbins. There were many tears and broken hearts. That is to be expected. Pastor Steve and Heather have poured their lives into our lives for many years and our hearts have been knitted to theirs. Some may even wonder how can something so painful be from God? Isn’t it best for ministers to stay with their flocks forever?
Sometimes. But not always.
Sometimes God gifts a people with a special servant for a brief season to lay down important teachings and foundations before God moves him on to a new assignment. The departure of the minister makes way for God to raise up new leaders to carry the torch and for the congregation as a whole to build on the foundation that has been laid.
The Apostle Paul, whom we often regard as someone who was constantly roaming around and on the move, was actually led by God to minister in Ephesus and stay put there for three years. He had an incredible and fruitful ministry there. Yes, there were trials and difficulties along the way, but Paul remained faithful, pouring his life into the Ephesian believers. Paul unabashedly says,
…I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 20:20-21)
In fact, Paul wasn’t interested in just teaching certain aspects of God’s truth to people, focusing on his “hobby horses” or the “easier” portions of God’s revelation, instead, he says,
I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. (Acts 20:27)
…for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. (Acts 20:31)
Paul gave his all to the Ephesians for three years; he held nothing back. There is no doubt that the Ephesians absolutely loved and cherished having someone as godly, as loving, as kind, as gentle, as the Apostle Paul, minister to and shepherd and guard them. There is no doubt they became deeply attached to Paul and had deep affection for him.
And yet the time eventually came where God directed Paul to leave.
That’s when the tears and heartbreak came. Indeed we are given a powerfully emotional scene in Acts 20 where the Ephesian elders pray with Paul as they send him out. We are told that,
…there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again… (Acts 20:37-38)
It was a painful parting, yet it was all a part of God’s plan.
What do we do now?
The parting of a beloved pastor who has served and ministered to us in so many ways can cause a wide range of emotions: grief, confusion, anger, and even fear. Often churches are tempted during such times to become anxious for themselves and for their church. We feel as if the ground beneath us is giving way and we long for stability and security. Probably the church at Ephesus felt similar things. So how do we, at Harbins Church, respond to something that is very different from our own personal hopes and desires and plans?
You know the answer. But if you’re like me, it helps to hear someone else encourage us to embrace what we already know.
The way that we weather the storms of life is to take shelter in the only strong, reliable, safe refuge we have, which is a God who knows us, loves us, and is 100% for us and on our side. Are you feeling like the times are unstable? That you lack the strength and wisdom to move forward? That the best days are behind you? The Scriptures tell you that,
…he will be the stability of your times, abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge; the fear of the LORD is Zion’s treasure. (Isaiah 33:6)
Are you anxious and weighed down with many cares? The Psalmist tells you to,
Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved. (Psalm 55:22)
Do you feel the need for protection? The prophet Nahum reminds you that,
The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him. (Nahum 1:7)
Do you lack peace? Isaiah reminds us that the real battlefield is not in our circumstances but in our mind and thoughts. He says of God,
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. (Isaiah 26:3)
Do you feel that darkness surrounds you? Did you know that in reality, if you are a child of God, you are actually surrounded by God’s love and faithfulness? The Psalmist says,
He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. (Psalm 91:4)
Have you cried out to God in prayer, pouring out your heart to Him, and laying before Him all of your requests and desires? Even your requests and desires regarding the departure of a pastor you love so much? If so, Jesus has told you how your Father will respond.
Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:9-11)
Jesus promised that your Father would respond to your prayers, and that in exchange for your requests He would give you nothing but good things! God will always give you exactly what you ask for…..or something better!
And here is where we need to trust God when He says,
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9)
We have our own thoughts and ways. We have our own ideas of how the script of our lives should be written. But because God’s thoughts are higher than ours, and He sees reality more clearly than we do, often He will erase what we write on our scripts and put in something else, something He knows is better, even if we can’t understand it. That’s where faith comes in. That’s where our hope in His faithfulness comes in. That is where we must join the prophet Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, who saw and endured difficulties that most of us will never face. We must declare in faith, with Jeremiah,
But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” (Lamentations 3:21-24)
We hope in God because we know He is good, we know He is faithful, and we know that He knows what He is doing, even when He ordains something to happen that goes against our script and plans.
As painful as Paul’s departure from Ephesus was, only time would tell the good that God would work through it. The Ephesians, in releasing Paul, unknowingly would participate in the spread of the gospel in unlikely ways to unlikely places. The good news of Jesus Christ would reach the ears of Felix, the Roman governor (Acts 24), to the evil king Agrippa (Acts 26), and even to the very heart of Rome (Acts 28, Phil 4:22). Indeed it is during this post-Ephesian period where Paul experiences an incredibly fruitful period of writing Scripture, including what many say is his greatest theological treatise of all, the mighty book of Romans.
What’s more, after Paul left Ephesus, God would not leave the Ephesian church alone. He had good plans for them. Indeed, Paul’s departure would lead to God raising up others to lead the church in the days ahead, including a timid, inexperienced, but promising and godly young pastor named Timothy, to whom Paul would entrust some of the most important doctrines of the Church in the epistles of 1 & 2 Timothy. And to this church Paul would write the book of Ephesians, a masterpiece full of the truth about salvation, Christian identity, and spiritual warfare.
Of course, like every church, Ephesus was not without its problems and challenges, but we also know that God empowered this church to remain faithful to sound doctrine and the truth, to be bold in the face of dangerous false teachers, to be faithful during times of persecution and difficulty, not giving up, and to be steadfast in the labor of the Lord’s work.
But during that tearful departure, neither Paul nor the Ephesian church knew the good plans God had for them in this difficult situation.
God has good plans for Harbins Church too. We don’t know exactly what they are. We just know they are good plans and things we would never dream up on our own. Thank God that He is the author of the script.
So, as we process everything we heard Sunday from Pastor Steve, know that it is appropriate to weep, it is normal to feel pain and heartbreak, and it is good to grieve. But it would not be good if that were all we did. As the People of God, we must also put our hope in God. As ones who know God, we are to, with great expectation and trust, look forward to the good that our Father has in store both for Steve and for us. If the Bible is telling us the truth, then there is no question that what is happening is for the maximum good and benefit for everyone involved and for God’s maximum glory. Therefore, there is great reason for abundant, joyful hope.
If it seems odd to be sad and hopeful at the same time, remember that the Apostle Paul himself describes the Christian as “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.” (2 Cor 6:10). There are things that happen (like persecution or painful goodbyes) that remind us that we are not in heaven yet and so we are sorrowful. On the other hand, we know that our good God is actively working even in the most difficult of situations for our good, and therefore we always have cause to rejoice and be thankful.
For the LORD God is a sun and shield…No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. O LORD of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you! (Psalm 84:11-12)
Grace and Peace,
Scripture says, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17)
Are you a man who craves the following?
Such fruit is borne in the context of intentional, growing, spiritually grounded relationships between men. If the idea of fighting the fight of faith with a band of brothers sounds appealing to you, consider joining a Men’s Discipleship Group (MDG).
MDGs consists of 2-4 men, usually gathering bi-weekly. In addition to reading through a Bible or Christian book together, MDGs will also commit to Scripture memory, prayer for one another, spiritual accountability, and mutual encouragement.
If you are not presently part of a group, and would like to join one, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. There will also be a signup sheet in the back of the sanctuary on Sunday. Just let us know your availability and we’ll find a group to connect you with.
Grace and Peace,