We’re looking for a few good servants

Friends,

Jesus said, ” The greatest among you shall be your servant. (Matthew 23:11) images

If that’s true, then surely the deacons of our church are among the greatest in our midst.  The very name, “deacon”, carries the idea of selfless service.  The elders of HCBC want to express our ongoing gratefulness to the men that have served as deacons past and present.

Because the role of a deacon demands constant “above and beyond” service, it is important to make sure we are regularly providing opportunities for deacons to have seasons of rest, while replenishing the ranks with more servants who are ready to give themselves to ministering to the flock.

With that said, I want to remind you that the elders of HCBC are seeking your help as we pray about expanding our deacon team.  HCBC deacons play a crucial role in strengthening and furthering the ministry of our church, and they help Pastor Steve and myself shepherd and care for you better.  As you are involved in the day-to-day life in the church, you are in a great position to help let us know who you’ve noticed as someone who may particularly be effective in such a service role.

You can write down your deacon nomination and put it in the box hanging up in the back of the sanctuary.  For your convenience, you can also email your nominations to Jeff Thomas at jt301406@gmail.com

In addition, can you please add our deacon search to your daily prayers for the next few weeks?  Pray that God would guide our church to find that right people to serve in this important role.  We can do nothing without His help.

Knowing whatimages a deacon is and does, and what the qualifications for such a role is, will be very helpful to you as you prayerfully consider whom you might nominate.  If you are unsure about the role of deacon and the necessary qualifications, or if you just need  refresher, let me commend some the following thoughts from 9Marks Ministries to you.  Below I’ve provided a very helpful link detailing the biblical qualifications and responsibilities of deacons.  I’d advise reading that first if you can.  After that, beneath the link, I’ve shared some brief excerpts from a good article from Benjamin Merkle that reminds us that beyond raw administrative ability, we need deacons who will help promote peace and unity in the church.

The Biblical Qualifications and Responsibilities of Deacons

Deacons: Shock-Absorbers and Servants

WHAT IS A DEACON?

According to the New Testament, a deacon is two things: a shock-absorber and a servant.

Deacons are shock-absorbers: the seven men chosen by the church in Jerusalem to care for widows, who seem to be precursors to deacons, were chosen to preserve unity at a time when botched administration was creating fissures in the church (see Acts 6:1-7).

And deacons are servants: their very name means servant, and their precursors in Acts 6 were chosen to handle the practical needs of the church. That way, the apostles could devote themselves to leading the church through prayer and the ministry of the Word.

DEACONS AS SHOCK-ABSORBERS

God has always intended to display his glory to the nations, in part, through the unity of Jews and Gentiles within the church (Eph 3:10), and yet it was exactly at this juncture that disunity was erupting in the early Jerusalem church.

The Greek-speaking Jews began to complain “against” the Hebrew-speaking Jews concerning the distribution of food. The church therefore chose seven men to distribute food equitably, yes, but, more than that, to restore unity where there was division. Unity-building was their primary goal; good administration was the means.

It’s notable that, when laying out qualifications for deacons in 1 Timothy 3, Paul focuses on issues of character rather than administrative skills. Accordingly, our churches should select deacons primarily for their track record of peacemaking, and only secondarily for administrative expertise. 

DEACONS AS SERVANTS

The elders are called to “direct the affairs of the church” (1 Timothy 5:17), and deacons are called to support that direction. In our churches, then, elders should make directional decisions while deacons facilitate congregational involvement to make that vision a reality.

Elders lead ministry, deacons facilitate ministry, the congregation does ministry. That, I believe, is the New Testament model, and that biblical clarity in deacons’ role and function is invaluable for promoting peace and unity in our congregations.

I hope the above information can help you as you consider what individuals would be a great fit for the role of Deacon at HCBC.  Thank you in advance for your involvement in this process.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Demer

A Maundy Thursday Message (2016)

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The following is a transcript of Pastor Demer’s Maundy Thursday message at HCBC

It’s Maundy Thursday.  If you don’t know what Maundy Thursday means, Maundy comes from the Latin word that we get our English word “command” or “mandate” from.  Jesus gave a special mandate the evening before He was crucified. And the mandate was this,

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. (John 13:33-34, ESV)

Now, this is a bit unusual because when you look at this verse you might think, “New?  What does Jesus mean by a new commandment?”  Loving people is not new.  God has always wanted people to love other people.  Take for example Leviticus 19:18

You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord. (Leviticus 19:18, ESV)

Thousands of years before Jesus we have clear commands from God to love others.  It’s not like Jesus forgot about Leviticus 19:18.  He knows about that Scripture.  He’s not thinking, “Well, the Old Testament is all about hate so I better tell people to love because they’ve never been told to love before.”  No.  That’s not it at all.

When Jesus came into the world He didn’t come to change the commandments of God. But He did come to fulfill the law.  Typically when we think of Jesus fulfilling the Old Testament we tend to think of Bible prophecy, or we tend to think of Jesus fulfilling ceremonial law, such as Jesus’ death on the cross being a fulfillment of the Old Testament animal sacrificial system.

But just as messianic prophecies find their imagesultimate meaning, fulfillment, and expression in the person of Christ, and just as the ceremonial law finds it’s ultimate meaning, fulfillment, and expression in the person of Christ, so it is with God’s moral law. The laws of God and the commandments of God revealed in the Old Testament find their ultimate meaning, fulfillment, and expression in the person of Jesus Christ.

All things previously revealed in the Old Testament become clearer in light of Jesus, including God’s commandments.  In the Old Testament God speaks to us by His word,  but in Christ, God shows us His Word.  Indeed, John chapter 1 tells us that Jesus Christ is the Word of God.

God doesn’t just tell us to love God and love our neighbor, God sends Christ into the world to show us what that means and what that looks like.  Jesus knows that God has already told us to love, but through Jesus we see a fuller explanation and a fuller demonstration of love in a way and to a degree that had not yet been revealed.

Again, consider Leviticus 19:18:

You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord. (Leviticus 19:18, ESV)

What does that mean?  Does that mean, “Just don’t do bad things to people?”  That, by the way, is the direction that rabbinic Judaism went.  And shortly before the time of Jesus, you had Rabbi Hillel, one of the most famous of rabbis say, “Whatever is hateful to you, don’t do to others, this is the whole law.”

But when Jesus comes He gives us a fuller understanding of God’s law and He gives us a fuller understanding of love.  In the time of Jesus the conventional wisdom said, “Don’t do things to others that you don’t want them to do to you.”  Jesus turns that conventional understanding on its head and says that’s not the essence of love.

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 7:12, ESV)

You just don’t refrain from doing to people all the bad things you don’t want done for yourself, instead you proactively step forward and you do for others the same things you’d want done for you.  Jesus says that this is the essence of love and sums up the law of God.

So God in the Old Testament tells us to love,  and Jesus in the New gives us a clearer explanation through His teaching of what that means, and then Jesus does something amazing.  He actually gives us a demonstration of what that looks like in action.

He says, just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another”

Jesus is pointing us to Himself as the ultimate expression and definition and picture of love.  He says “You want to know what love is?  You want to know what it looks like?  Look at me.  Look at how I have loved you. That’s what it means to love others, go and do likewise”

And in this way Jesus’ command is a new commandment in the sense that Jesus holds up Himself and His actions towards others as the gold standard of what love looks like.

So then the next logical question is, how exactly did Jesus demonstrate love?

We see it earlier in John 13 don’t we?  What does Jesus do?  He takes the role of a servant. He wraps a towel around His waist, He gets on His knees and He washes the dirty, dusty, smelly, sweaty, disgusting feet of His disciples.  And then He says something very similar to what we’ve already read,

If I then, your Loimagesrd and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. (John 13:14-15, ESV)

 Jesus says we are to love one another by serving one another, by treating others as more important than ourselves, by setting aside our own comforts to meet the needs of others, thinking about what benefits them more than what’s good for me.

Jesus shows us that love is not just being nice to someone.  Rather, love is going to extreme lengths to bless and benefit someone else even at extreme personal cost.  The greater the cost, the greater the love.

This is why Jesus, two chapters later says, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends…” (John 15:12-14, ESV)

Jesus pushes us to the limit and says if you want to love, if you want to really love, you lay down your life for your friends.  That’s love.  Jesus sets the standard for love…. and then He exceeds that standard!

For while we wimagesere still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. (Romans 5:6-10, ESV) 

If greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends, how gloriously great then is the love of Christ that He lays down His life for His enemies?

Scripture teaches us that no one in and of themselves is a friend of God.  As Paul says in Romans 5 we were enemies of God.  In Romans 3 Paul says no one seeks after God.  In Genesis 6 Moses says that every inclination of man’s heart was evil continually.  It is not for good, God-loving, righteous people that Jesus laid down His life for but for rebels and insurrectionists.

Jesus died to pay the price for your wicked, self-centered, cold-hearted lovelessness.   Lovelessness is the essence of our sin.  A lack of love for God and a lack of love for our neighbor.

And why did Jesus do this incredible thing?  Because He loves you.  Because if He didn’t endure the wrath of God on the cross it would mean you’d have to endure it forever in Hell.  If He didn’t pay your price, you’d have to pay it.

And now, because of what Jesus has done, all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved not just from the punishment of sin, but saved from being slaves of self-centered lovelessness.  God’s not interested in merely rescuing you from wrath but He’s intensely interested in freeing you up to be someone you could never be apart from His salvation, namely, a person who loves others as Jesus loved you for the glory of God.

Jesus says,

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35, ESV)

Jesus is telling the disciples that their self-sacrificial, self-denying, radical, Jesus-imitating love will demonstrate to the world that they belong to Jesus.  Their love for one another is to point people to Jesus and exalt Him.

You see, ultimately the purpose of our love for one another as a church family is not so we can all just feel good and warm and fuzzy and sing kumbaya around the camp fire. The purpose of our love for one another has a strategic, missional, evangelistic, God-glorifying component to it. Jesus, just a few chapters later in chapter 17, is praying for all believers of all times and places. He is praying for Harbins Church, and He is praying that we would have a unity rooted in love.  He prays that the church,

may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me (John 17:23)

Jesus is saying that when the world sees the church loving one another, serving one another, treating one another as more important than themselves, laying down their lives for one another, it will be a testimony and a witness to a watching world that Jesus Christ has been sent from heaven to earth by God Himself.  It will not point to the church as much as it will point to, exalt, lift up, and glorify God.

So Jesus, in His love for us, dies to free us up to love one another, so that the world may see and know that Jesus was sent into the world by God so that they too may receive Christ and enter into that love.

imagesIn the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16, ESV)

Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. (1 Peter 2:12, ESV)

The work that God does in our hearts is not just for our benefit but for the benefit of an unbelieving world.  There are those that will come to repentance and faith in Christ and will glorify God through the witness of the church’s behavior and Jesus is telling us in John 13 and 17 that particularly they will come to recognize Jesus through our love.

And one outward expression of the loving unity we as Christians share is by taking communion together.

You’ll never see Harbins Church making the announcement that, “From now on we won’t be doing communion gathered together, instead you can do it at home, with your family…or you can just do it by yourself during your personal devotional time.”

imagesWe’ll never do communion that way. We will always gather together and do it as a community of faith.  In taking the communion elements…the bread and the cup at the same time, we are saying something significant.  We are announcing that we are all one.  We all have the same Lord, we have all been saved by the same broken body, we have all been saved by the same shed blood, we have all been adopted into the same family, by the same Father, and we await the same inheritance to be received at the end of the age.

This is why we discourage anyone who is not a believer from taking the bread and the cup, because an unbeliever taking the bread and the cup is announcing something that is not true.  He has yet to experience the benefits of the broken body and shed blood of Christ and remains outside the family of God.

But this is also why we discourage any believer living in a state of unrepentant sin from partaking of the cup.   Paul says in 1 Cor 11,

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. (1 Corinthians 11:27-28, ESV)

Paul is speaking to a congregation that is struggling with arrogance, with division, with lovelessness towards one another.  He’s telling these people to take communion seriously and to examine their own hearts with an attitude of humble repentance.  Why?  Because when the unrepentant believer who doesn’t love his brother takes of the bread and cup he too is announcing something that isn’t true.  And what he is announcing, whether he realizes it or not is that this shed blood and broken body of Jesus didn’t really reconcile me to my brother…. and that we can be a part of the same family and not be reconciled…and we can go on being unloving towards one another.

If you are in a state of unrepentant sin tonight, I urge you to do business with God right now. Pray, seek God’s help and forgiveness, confess your sin to Him. We all struggle with sin, we all stumble and fall down.  But do not stay down.  Repent and humble yourself before God.

And if you are here tonight and you are an unbeliever, you can, right now, enter into the family of God.  You don’t have to jump through hoops, sign a card, or raise your hand.  All you have to do is receive Jesus.

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, (John 1:12, ESV)

Receiving Jesus means trusting Him to save you from your sins.  It means asking Him to change your heart so that you want to go His way instead of your own way.  It means trusting in His payment on the cross for your sins instead of trusting in anything else.  Oh how I pray you’ll receive Him now, and if you do,  you too are welcome to enjoy communion for the very first time as a child of God.

Scripture tells us that after Jesus and the disciples took the bread and the cup they sang a hymn together and went to a place called Gethsemane. And the gospel of Luke says that,

images ….when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” 

 And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”

 While he was still speaking, there came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” And when those who were around him saw what would follow, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, “No more of this!” 

 And he touched his ear and healed him. Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders, who had come out against him, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.” (Luke 22:40-53 ESV)images

 Jesus says this is the hour of darkness.  The time when the power of darkness is at it’s
most terrible strength and might, all of the twisted and fearsome and terrifying malice of Hell is bearing down at this moment.  It is the hour of the forces of darkness. It is their hour.

But for those who were listening very carefully to Jesus and hanging on his every word, would have remembered that just a few days ago, Jesus also described this same moment as His hour!  Jesus says,

The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified…” (John 12)

imagesThe moment of Hell’s fiercest and most devastating attack is also the moment of Jesus’ greatest glory and triumph.   God predicted in Genesis 3:15, thousands of years prior to this dark night, that the serpent would strike the heel of the offspring of the woman, wounding Him terribly.

But in the process of such a wicked attack, the serpent’s own head would be crushed and shattered by the mighty foot of the Offspring.

Thursday night is a trying and painful trial and affliction for Jesus and His disciples. It is hard, it is difficult, and it is very dark, and it’s about to get darker.

And all the while things are going according to plan.  What the forces of darkness mean for evil, God means for great good and great glory, and we will celebrate that tomorrow night during our Good Friday service.  Don’t miss it. God bless you. Thank you for coming to worship.  Go in peace.

Grace and Peace

Pastor Demer

My Great Family and My Greater Family

14459_629587730405205_1864804963_nWe are in Arkansas this week for what we affectionately call, “Camping Cousins.” Every year my wife’s family on her mother’s side gathers in Northwest Arkansas for a family reunion where we go camping. Well “camping” may be bit of a stretch since, for the past few years, we’ve had the reunion at a very nice, well air-conditioned lodge, but we call it “camping” none-the-less.

One thing is for sure, we thoroughly enjoy this time in Arkansas. It really is an annual highlight for my family. Almost from the moment Camping Cousins is finished, we eagerly count down the days until the next one. The time is so precious to my children that my girls sob uncontrollably until we are about half-way back to Georgia (and that’s no exaggeration).

The reason we enjoy this time so very much is due to the fact that my wife has such a great family. I enjoy spending time with her side of the family as much as I enjoy spending time with mine. They sincerely care about what’s happening in each other’s lives, they are genuinely nice, and they a blast to be around. But on top of that, they are all passionate followers of Jesus Christ. I can honestly say that I am so very close to Heather’s side of the family that they become some of my dearest friends. All that to say that this year, once again, Camping Cousins reminds me of what a great family we have been blessed with.

But as great as our family is, we have a greater family, and that too has been demonstrated to me recently. The greater family that I possess is the Family of God, the Church. Particularly I am thinking about the one-another-love of God’s people as expressed in the local church, and that love has certainly been seen and experienced by my family at Harbins Community Baptist Church over the past few weeks and months.

IMG_0745I have, in recent days, seen the greater family of HCBC do things for one another that have left me speechless. I have myself been moved to tears as people in our church have, on more than one occasion, cared for my family in sacrificial ways that exceed what I could have imagined. I have seen simple acts of love being carried out for those who are hurting in our church. I have witnessed people giving up material goods to care for one another’s needs. I have seen people weep with those who weep, rejoice with those who rejoice. I have seen deep, impassioned prayers being lifted to the Almighty on one another’s behalf. I have seen non-essential differences set aside for the sake of unity. I have seen precious doctrines held tight for the sake of unity. I have seen brothers and sisters in Christ counseling one another with God’s all-sufficient Word. I have seen men and women and children and family units growing in the gospel. I have seen a one-ness, a true, organic unity on display. And thus, I have fallen in love with my greater family anew.

Blood family is important and good and sweet, but it will one day end. Family joined by the Blood of the Covenant is more important and better and sweeter, and it will never end. I preached not too long ago on this very truth. So as I write these words I am reminded of Jesus’ words in Matthew 12:49-50: “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

iStock_000004976965XSmallThe local church should be a demonstration of Jesus’ words. The local church should have a greater bond than kin. Sixty times we are given “one-another” imperatives in the New Testament. That truth alone reflects the great love-bond that should exist in the local church. We are genuinely united to one another through Christ. Yet, how rare it is to find such deep familial expressions in the local churches of our day. Today, the expectations many have for the church is not much different than the expectations they have for their local grocery store. Today, many look for a church to join like they are shopping for a hairstylist. Today, the moment a church fails to meet one’s consumeristic standards he swaps it for another as casually as he would switch internet providers. This shouldn’t be so, and if we know our Bibles it should grieve us!

If we truly grasp the Bible’s teaching reading the bond of unity that we are to have Christ, then we will repent of the consumerism that is in our hearts, and we will see and believe that the church is a greater family that we are called to give ourselves too even if we don’t get anything in return. We must let covenant replace consumerism, and if we do, then we will possess and experience a deeper love than any earthly family can offer.

To fuel these truths I challenge you look up some of the “one-another” passages in the New Testament. Start by reading Romans 12 and Ephesians 4-5, and Colossians 3. Let the Word of God root out consumerism. Let the Word of God show us what true unity looks like. Let the Word of God show us a greater family than kin.

So, as I sit here typing these words in beautiful Northwest Arkansas, I am profoundly thankful for this great family that I am with, but I am already missing and longing for my greater family. See you soon Harbins!