Sunday, December 16, 2012

Hope from the Manger (Luke 2:1-7)

Hope from the Manger
A Biblical Reflection on the
Sandy Hook Elementary School Massacre

Pastor: Dr. Joe Alain
Hebron Baptist Church, Sunday, December 16, 2012

In light of the events this past week, I’m going in a little different direction this morning than I had originally planned. However, this has not been a typical December. Frankly, it’s been a little overwhelming lately with all of the sickness, suffering, and tragedy in our own fellowship and community and in our country as well.

After the massacre of 20 children this past Friday at a Connecticut Elementary School, people are asking a familiar question, "Where Is God?" Many will be looking for answers and in moments like this, there are no easy answers. What we do know is that God is with the suffering. He identifies with the hurting. The President quoted Psalm 34:18 Friday, a verse that reminds us where God is in times like this. "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." To the answer, "Where Is God?" He’s right where he’s always been, in the midst of those who hurt and who are suffering.

The Nativity story in Luke 2:1-7 is a reminder to us that God and the hope that He brings is often found in unexpected places. Of all places, God chose to manifest His presence in a manger, a feed trough. Years before, the prophet Micah prophesied, "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times" (Micah 5:2). Bethlehem, where Ruth gleaned in the fields of Boaz, where the tomb of Rachel lies, where David the shepherd was anointed as the king of Israel, Bethlehem – this is the place where Jesus was born. But unlike today, Bethlehem in the days of Jesus was not on anyone’s travel itinerary.

But that all changed when Christ was born in Bethlehem. God often appears in unexpected places. But more than God appearing in a small village near Jerusalem, "the Word became flesh" in a manger! What a place for God to make an appearance! Not the more accommodating lodgings that must have been there for the apparent influx of visitors (Joseph and Mary were not the only ones traveling to Bethlehem) for a tax census, but a shelter for livestock, a stable perhaps a simple cave with a feeding trough! Neville Callam stated that by God becoming flesh and dwelling in a manger, he invested the manger with the quality of magnificence. Wherever God dwells, there is his majesty. "We may discover that God is often found in unexpected places."

Jesus was born in the midst of hardship, of suffering, in a society that knew violence and that was well-acquainted with death, yet God’s presence, His glory, his light was there in the darkness. To the question, "Where is God?" He’s in the midst of the darkness bringing light, he’s in the midst of the suffering and the pain, bringing hope.

Max Lucado noted that there was an eerie irony for the Connecticut tragedy coming just before Christmas, noting that the Bible says that Jesus Christ’s birth was followed by an order from King Herod to slay boys under 2 years of age in the city of Bethlehem. Matthew records the incident and the words of Jeremiah describing the tragedy. In light of this week’s events, the pain expressed is palpable. "A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more" (Matt. 2:18). Jesus lived in a world familiar with violence and suffering. And lest we forget, death on a Roman cross was the supreme act of suffering and violence, a death Jesus endured for us.

The God who was manifested in poverty, in a world of injustice and suffering, in a world where violence was commonplace, this God in Christ who has fully identified with us, who has suffered for our sins, invites us to lay our suffering and pain before His throne of grace that we might receive help in time of need (Heb. 4:14-16). The Psalmist cried out to God in his pain, and we can too. "Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer, from the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I" (Ps. 61:1-2).

To the question, "Where Is God?" we say, God is right where He’s always been and right where you are in your time of need. Whether it be Connecticut or Denham Springs, God is Emmanuel, God is with us. All we can do in times of tragedy is pray, and that’s enough. Pray that God makes His presence known in the pain. We’ll never understand, and even if we did, as the song Homesick reminds us, it wouldn’t lessen the pain.

"Help me Lord cause I don’t understand your ways
The reason why I wonder if I’ll ever know
But, even if you showed me, the hurt would be the same
Cause I’m still here so far away from home."

We trust God not because we understand everything. We walk by faith and not by sight, and we know that ultimately God will write all the wrongs. This too is our hope because God has come to us.

But there’s another question that the media is not asking and won’t ask? It’s really a question only Christians can ask for it is Christians who also have the answer. And that question is not "Where Is God?" but "Where Is the Fear of God?" For it is the absence of the fear of God that gives permission for such violent acts to occur.

To have no fear of God is to open one’s life to innumerable hellish evils. To have no fear of God is to shut yourself off to the truth. It is to give in to your depravity. Without the fear of God, we are left adrift morally. Without the fear of God, we are our own moral compass, but the problem is our compass does not point true.

Lacking the fear of God, today we’re devolving to a state that is similar to the one described in the recurring refrain in the book of Judges. "In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes" (Judg. 17:6; 21:25). Prior to that anarchic assessment, we are given the real reason why it was occurring. It is said that after Joshua and his godly generation passed from the scene, "another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel" (Judges 2:10).

Is it any wonder that many people today have no system of morality? No conscience? Generations are growing up without God and without truth. They do not know the Lord. There is no fear of God because there is no knowledge of God. And it is the fear of God that leads to obedience to God. Solomon said it well in the conclusion of Ecclesiastes, the book chronicling his search for meaning in life. The final analysis? "Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man" (Eccl. 12:13). The order here is not insignificant. Obedience flows from the fear of God, not the other way around.

Listen to Isaiah’s words, "He [i.e., the Lord who "will fill Zion with justice and righteousness, v.13] will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure" (Isa. 33:6). Where does wisdom and knowledge come from? The key, Isaiah says is "the fear of the Lord." People perish for lack of knowledge, but this knowledge that we need comes from, and can only come from the fear of the Lord.

Where does respect for life come from? We realize that God is the creator of all men, we respect that all men are created in God’s image. We understand, we have knowledge of, God’s prohibition against taking the life of another human being. But where there is no fear of God and truth is suppressed, so is true knowledge and respect for life. And when respect for life ceases, men will do violence to one another without care or conscience. "The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death" (Prov. 14:27).

Aside from the loss of truth and morals, when there is no fear of God, men mock accountability before this God they do not fear. God’s judgement has become an inconvenient truth. There is no fear of the fact that we will give an account to God one day. If there is no God and no standard of truth, then men say, "what’s the difference?" We live in a culture of death where there is little respect for life, because there is so little fear of God.

Men’s consciences have become calloused through unbelief. We don’t fear God as we should. Because of that we live in the dark for we have refused to walk in the light of truth. As men sink deeper into their depravity, they mock God not realizing that they are destroying themselves. This is why all people stand in desperate need of Christ. We need the one who was born in Bethlehem, the one who came to save us from our sins and our selves. The only cure for our depravity is the cross of Jesus Christ!

When a tragedy like what has happened this week in Connecticut occurs, the first thought is that there must be some mental disturbance at work here. "Normal people don’t kill scores of children" we say. And actually, in all cases like this, there is a mentally disturbed person, although still a morally accountable one. Obviously, a person who could gun down children is suffering a disconnect from reality at some level. But I contend that at the core of this demonic disconnect is the fact that the person has chosen the path of darkness.

Now consider that when you refuse to fear God, when you do not live your life by truth, when you walk away from the light, where else could you end up, but in some state that is less than reality. People without God, without truth, without light, they are not in touch with true reality. It’s only a short step to complete delusion.

You may recall the story of the demon-possessed man that Jesus dealt with in Mark chapter 5. Here is a man who when Jesus found him was living in the graveyard, out-of-control, not in his right mind, he had no clothes on, he was completely out of touch with reality. But when Jesus healed him, the man was clothed and sitting in his right mind. I believe that story serves as a modern parable for our society. Without God, without truth, people are "Walking Dead." Without God, without morals, without purpose, life becomes chaotic and confusing.

Emptied of meaning in life, pretty soon people lose touch with reality. Add to this mix the fact that we live in a narcissistic age. It’s not hard to see how some people are callously cold to others. Remember the demon-possessed man wanted to die! Apart from God and truth, there’s no feeling, only death. When you lose touch with reality, people are not real, death is an illusion. Life becomes just like one endless video game where people die and are spawned again to life. But when Jesus heals us of our sinful condition, we are in our right mind, we have peace, we have purpose and meaning in life, the darkness turns to light, and the self-hatred and hatred for others is replaced with love.

What does all this mean for us? What are we to do in light of this culture of death that we live in? What can we do?

1. We can pray for those who are suffering today Whether they are in Connecticut, or Syria, or Baton Rouge, or Denham Springs, we who know the Lord, who fear Him, who trust Him, can press in and pray for God’s comfort and strength to be upon people who desperately need Him. We can pray, "God make yourself known as Emmanuel to these people who are grieving."

2. We can loveWe can hug our kids (that’s a good thing), but even more than that, we can and we must raise our kids with truth. We must as parents and grandparents stay close to the light of God, for the darkness is always seeking to encroach upon us. There are no guarantees that if you raise your child right that everything will work out fine. But, it’s pretty much a given that if you don’t raise your child with any sense of God and truth, they are going to have to figure it out themselves. And the human compass is defective. It doesn’t point true.

3. We can be messengers of hopeIn this tragedy, there is a call to the church to be the church, to be about our mission. If you haven’t noticed, our culture as we have known it is dying from within, dying on the doorsteps of the churches, churches that have lost the power of God, because we’ve lost the power of the Gospel. We can’t take for granted that people will grow up with the biblical values that we have. We must be messengers of hope, sharing Jesus for He alone is our only hope.

And this is where the manger offers abundant hope. For the Christ of the manger is the Lord! In the babe in the manger, we see the creator, we see the God who redeems us from our fallen condition and empty lives. We see the one who is the way, the truth, and the life to all who will follow Him. We see the one whom angels proclaimed: "Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord" (Lk. 2:11). And because of Bethlehem, we say "Joy to the world, the Lord is come!"

For His Glory!
Pastor Joe

Friday, December 7, 2012

Sunday, December 9, 2012 Sermon Text (Luke 1:26-38)

Join us this Christmas season as we celebrate the greatest gift of all, the gift of God's Son and our Savior Jesus Christ. This Sunday I will be sharing a message based on the Annunciation Story, the angel Gabriel's announcement to Mary that she will bring forth a son, the Lord Jesus. See you this Sunday as we worship the living Christ, the real joy giver and reason for this glorious season.

For His Glory!
Pastor Joe

Christmas – When the Inconceivable Became Believable

Scripture Reading: Luke 1:26-38

Here Are Some Questions for Thought:

* Why is the Christian’s belief in the supernatural actually a belief based on a rational decision?

* What does Luke’s perspective of Jesus tell us about the character of God? How is his perspective on the birth of Jesus different from Matthew’s view?

* How is Mary’s journey of faith instructive for how we hear and respond to God’s calling?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Sunday, November 4, 2012 Sermon Text (James 4:13-17)

"Things that Are Certain in an Uncertain Life"

We continue in our study of the book of James with this week's message, "Things that Are Certain in an Uncertain Life." Our text will be from James 4:13-17.As a part of our worship time this Sunday, I also will be making a 2013 Missions & Ministry Presentation and I will share some thoughts on the upcoming election. This section of the service will conclude with a special prayer time for our nation. Join us this Sunday!

James 4:13-17, Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)

13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will travel to such and such a city and spend a year there and do business and make a profit.”

14 You don’t even know what tomorrow will bring—what your life will be! For you are like smoke that appears for a little while, then vanishes.

15 Instead, you should say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”

16 But as it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.

17 So it is a sin for the person who knows to do what is good and doesn’t do it.

Wednesday Night, October 31st
Although some of our ministries will not take place this Wednesday, there will still be a prayer time for the adults at 6:00 p.m. in the sanctuary and our youth will be having a special evening of activities at 7:00 p.m.

For His Glory!
Pastor Joe

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sunday's Sermon Text, October 21, 2012

Join us this Sunday as we continue in our series from the book of James. This week's text is James 4:1-10. As you reflect on this passage, consider the following questions:

1. What is the source of strife in our relationships?  In our world?

2. What is the key to contentment and receiving from the Lord?

3. How do we as believers live in the world without becoming just like the world?

4. What is the nature of biblical repentance, the kind of repentance that James seems to be calling for in this passage?

See You Sunday!
For His Glory
Pastor Joe

James 4:1-10, Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)

1 What is the source of wars and fights among you? Don’t they come from the cravings that are at war within you?

2 You desire and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. You do not have because you do not ask.

3 You ask and don’t receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your evil desires.

4 Adulteresses! Don’t you know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? So whoever wants to be the world’s friend becomes God’s enemy.

5 Or do you think it’s without reason the Scripture says that the Spirit who lives in us yearns jealously?

6 But He gives greater grace. Therefore He says: God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

7 Therefore, submit to God. But resist the Devil, and he will flee from you.

8 Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, double-minded people!

9 Be miserable and mourn and weep. Your laughter must change to mourning and your joy to sorrow.

10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Sermon Text for Sunday, October 14, 2012

The sermon text for this Sunday, October 14, 2012 will be James 3:1-12. James gave more attention to the dangers of the tongue than any other New Testament writer. Here in this passage is a vivid description of the problems and the power of the tongue. James warns us, "Don't let your tongue be your undoing!"

While the tongue can certainly be used for evil purposes, the tongue controlled by the Spirit of God is life-giving. Join us this Sunday as we discover how to unleash the power of the tongue for godly purposes.

For His Glory!
Pastor Joe

James 3:1-12, Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)
1 Not many should become teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive a stricter judgment,

2 for we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a mature man who is also able to control his whole body.

3 Now when we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we also guide the whole animal.

4 And consider ships: Though very large and driven by fierce winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs.

5 So too, though the tongue is a small part of the body, it boasts great things. Consider how large a forest a small fire ignites.

6 And the tongue is a fire. The tongue, a world of unrighteousness, is placed among the parts of our bodies. It pollutes the whole body, sets the course of life on fire, and is set on fire by hell.

7 Every sea creature, reptile, bird, or animal is tamed and has been tamed by man,

8 but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

9 We praise our Lord and Father with it, and we curse men who are made in God’s likeness with it.

10 Praising and cursing come out of the same mouth. My brothers, these things should not be this way.

11 Does a spring pour out sweet and bitter water from the same opening?

12 Can a fig tree produce olives, my brothers, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a saltwater spring yield fresh water.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Sunday, October 1, 2012 Sermon Text (James 2:14-26)

We're still rejoicing over the many decisions that were made at the Seventh Day Slumber concert this past Saturday. What a blessing to see God move in the hearts and lives of so many people. The altar was full of people meeting with God!

This Sunday morning we will return to our study of the book of James. At the 10:30 a.m. service we will be conducting a baptism service and in both morning services we will be hearing about the good work of Kairos, a ministry to the woman at the Louisiana Correctional Institute.

James 2:14-26, Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)
14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can his faith save him?

15 If a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food

16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you don’t give them what the body needs, what good is it?

17 In the same way faith, if it doesn’t have works, is dead by itself.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without works, and I will show you faith from my works.

19 You believe that God is one; you do well. The demons also believe—and they shudder.

20 Foolish man! Are you willing to learn that faith without works is useless?

21 Wasn’t Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?

22 You see that faith was active together with his works, and by works, faith was perfected.

23 So the Scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness, and he was called God’s friend.

24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.

25 And in the same way, wasn’t Rahab the prostitute also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by a different route?

26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.

For His Glory!
Pastor Joe

Monday, September 24, 2012

Celebrate the Lord's Supper Sunday, September 30, 2012

 Join us for worship this Sunday, September 30th for a celebration of the Lord's Supper at 8:00 and 10:30 a.m. Following is the Scripture reading for this Sunday's message:

Luke 22:7-23, Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)

7 Then the Day of Unleavened Bread came when the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. 8 Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover meal for us, so we can eat it.”

9 “Where do You want us to prepare it?” they asked Him.

10 “Listen,” He said to them, “when you’ve entered the city, a man carrying a water jug will meet you. Follow him into the house he enters.

11 Tell the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks you, “Where is the guest room where I can eat the Passover with My disciples?”’

12 Then he will show you a large, furnished room upstairs. Make the preparations there.”

13 So they went and found it just as He had told them, and they prepared the Passover.
The First Lord’s Supper

14 When the hour came, He reclined at the table, and the apostles with Him.

15 Then He said to them, “I have fervently desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.

16 For I tell you, I will not eat it again[a] until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”

17 Then He took a cup, and after giving thanks, He said, “Take this and share it among yourselves.

18 For I tell you, from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”

19 And He took bread, gave thanks, broke it, gave it to them, and said, “This is My body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.”

20 In the same way He also took the cup after supper and said, “This cup is the new covenant established by My blood; it is shed for you.[b]

21 But look, the hand of the one betraying Me is at the table with Me!

22 For the Son of Man will go away as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!”

23 So they began to argue among themselves which of them it could be who was going to do this thing.

For His Glory!
Pastor Joe

Monday, September 17, 2012

Sunday, September 23, 2012 Sermon Text (James 2:1-13)

James 2:1-13
Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)

1 My brothers, do not show favoritism as you hold on to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.

2 For example, a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and a poor man dressed in dirty clothes also comes in.

3 If you look with favor on the man wearing the fine clothes and say, “Sit here in a good place,” and yet you say to the poor man, “Stand over there,” or, “Sit here on the floor by my footstool,”

4 haven’t you discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

5 Listen, my dear brothers: Didn’t God choose the poor in this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that He has promised to those who love Him?

6 Yet you dishonored that poor man. Don’t the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts?

7 Don’t they blaspheme the noble name that was pronounced over you at your baptism?

8 Indeed, if you keep the royal law prescribed in the Scripture, Love your neighbor as yourself, you are doing well.

9 But if you show favoritism, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.

10 For whoever keeps the entire law, yet fails in one point, is guilty of breaking it all.

11 For He who said, Do not commit adultery, also said, Do not murder. So if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you are a lawbreaker.

12 Speak and act as those who will be judged by the law of freedom.

13 For judgment is without mercy to the one who hasn’t shown mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

For His Glory!
Pastor Joe

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Man's Greatest Need -- The Gospel!

What follows are some thoughts that came to me in developing a sermon that I preached on Luke 24:44-49, “The Gospel #101.” Running around in my head were thoughts about the recent shooting in Aurora, Colorado and the criticisms directed toward  Dan Kathy and Chick-Fil-A’ for their stance on Christian values.

The main theme of the sermon was that “believers who are convinced of the transformative power of the Gospel will find ways to share Christ with others.” This truth is discovered in Luke 24:44-49 where we see the core content of the Gospel as well as the core conviction needed for sharing Christ with others.

Why We Need the Gospel
Every problem present in the world can be attributed to fallen sinful humanity, broken people. Why do angry people go on murderous rampages in movie theaters? The same reason angry people murder others with tongues of gossip and tongues of bitterness – sin. Why do marriages struggle and sometimes break down and fall apart? Because people don’t recognize their fallen condition and the need to repent and reconcile and be made complete in Christ. Why do we fail to love one another, to treat one another with kindness, to put the needs of others before ours? Because our sin nature has made us dysfunctional and we are motivated to look out for ourselves. Why do we sometimes walk in the sins of the flesh rather than the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5)? Because we give in to our fallen impulses.

The Delusion that We Are Gods
One writer said concerning the shooting in Aurora, Colorado that these events are increasing in their frequency because we have lost our sense of the fear of judgement, of accountability, of sin. In other words, everyone is right and no one is wrong – there is no unchangeable standard, no God to be accountable to. And when everything is right and nothing is wrong, everything is messed up. We might as well be honest. Our postmodern culture with its subjective view of truth has deified man. The only absolute truth in our secular humanistic society is that man is completely autonomous – he is god. The age-old lie perpetrated by Satan in Genesis chapter three is alive and well, “you will be like God.” The seeds of this godless weed in our culture continue to bring forth evil fruit.

Calling Good Evil and Evil Good
I stated that every problem present in the world can be attributed to fallen humanity, broken people. Consider this statement in light of all the current discussion on the subject of what’s sinful and what is not. Recently, Dan Cathy was terribly maligned for his comments on the traditional family. In today’s climate to be “for” something “good” is to be subject to harsh criticism. It’s a mystery how you can be hated for standing for something that is “good.” This too is evidence of a fallen world where Isaiah’s words ring true – people call good evil and evil good.

Beyond Toleration to Acceptance
The politically correct litmus test today for acceptance by the world seems to center on the issue of where one stands on the issue of homosexuality. If you believe it is a sin, that it’s part of our fallen nature, and that likewise, people can be transformed by the Gospel, you are classified as a bigot and a homophobic or at best a judgmental person.

What makes the issue of homosexuality confusing to the world and vexing for many believers is that some professing Christians say that they are homosexual and not by choice but by nature. In other words, God made me this way. But here’s what has happened that is different today than in times past. Some Christians have tried to normalize their sinful struggles in a way that justifies them not fighting the impulses of the flesh anymore. I get the struggling with sin part, but why doesn’t this logic apply with other sinful struggles? Could a heterosexual Christian not say, “I struggle with sexual purity and I just need to embrace the fact that I’m going to have multiple affairs?” Or, “I’m a Christian who struggles with lying and I’m just going to embrace that because that’s the way I am.”

You Are Born This Way
But here’s what I want you to hear and it’s very important. Just because a person has a leaning towards some sinful impulse (regardless of what it is) does not mean that they should give themselves over to it. It doesn’t mean that they should cease trying to overcome that sinful impulse. The truth is, we’re all born sinners that’s why we need a savior! Christians struggle with all kinds of sins including homosexuality (See 1 Cor. 6:9-11). But instead of seeking to justify them we confess that we have been washed by Jesus and we seek  to overcome them. We recognize them for what they are – remnants of our fallen nature and we repent (repeatedly) of them.

All sin keeps us from experiencing God’s best and that is why we call all people to repent. None are perfect, but we do not throw in the towel and give up and say “Oh well, Lady Ga Ga must be right, I’m just born that way.” No, God has come to transform us, to change us because we are born that way (2 Cor. 5:17). Repentance has been described as making a u-turn. You realize you’re heading in the wrong direction and you make a course correction and begin to go God’s way, the right way. Salvation is one big u-turn but because we are not yet made perfect, living as a saved person involves a lot of little u-turns. If you’re not going God’s way, it matters little what sin you bound by, it’s keeping you from experiencing life and it is to be repented of.

Reclaiming What Is Yours
The Bible describes the believer as one who is saved and who is being saved. The Christian life is a daily struggle, a daily fight. We repent and we keep on repenting. In Afghanistan our troops would often go into a city where there was a strong Taliban presence and root them out literally house by house. This was very successful but our troops found out we had to keep going back and reclaiming territory already won. That is what you and I must do on a daily basis. We fight sin daily to reclaim what is our’s.

We can never give up the fight against sin. Several years ago Ray Boltz did just that. The writer of such great songs as “Watch the Lamb,” and “The Anchor Holds,” Boltz came out openly as a homosexual. By his own testimony, he said that he got tired of fighting. How sad and tragic, he got tired of fighting sin and gave up, settling for less than God’s best.

Breaking Bad – “It Get’s Easier”
If we don’t fight the good fight of faith, we will slowly sink into sin, become dulled to God, and live a life less than God’s best. In the TV series, Breaking Bad, Walter White plays a chemistry teacher who makes meth. He’s a slow train wreck in action. Each step he takes he crosses another moral line and continues to slide out of control. His wife, Skyler has always been a little uncomfortable with the whole business. Walt notices that she’s particularly uncomfortable with their life and the way things are and he tries to build her up by telling her, “It gets easier.” Sad but true, it does gets easier to slide into the darkness until our conscience is completely suppressed and surrendered.

When we give in to sin, we slide into darkness and the truth becomes suppressed (See 1 Cor. 1:21; Rom. 1:18). This is why we have to resist sin with every thing we have, not give in to it.

Of All the Possible Worlds
Some will ask the question and it is a valid question, “Why did God make us in such a way that these scenarios are potential in us? Why did he make us this way? And why do we still struggle with sin?” Of all the possible worlds that God could have made and all of the possible ways that God could have made human beings, he chose to make us with a free will so that we could exercise freedom, so that we could grow, so that we could truly love. If God removed the possibilities of sin, we could not exercise freedom and there would be no possibility of growth. Likewise, there would be no real love.

Choices Do Matter
What this means is that choices do matter, sin is a reality that must be dealt with, but we are not left without hope for in Christ sins are forgiven and power is given by the Holy Spirit to overcome sin, to make the right choices. What brings about life transformation however, is not knowing about Jesus (the facts), but it is faith in Jesus, giving Jesus our sin, our very selves. That is repentance, going in God’s direction. The Gospel only transforms as it is applied. But when it is applied, when we do repent, the Gospel transforms (Rom. 1:16-18; 1 Cor. 1:18, 22-24; 2:1-5)!

For His Glory!
Pastor Joe






Wednesday, August 15, 2012

James: Faith Works!

Beginning this Sunday, August 19, 2012 I will be bringing a series of messages from the book of James. This immensely practical book has much to say to believers who are serious about living out the teachings of Jesus in everyday life. Perhaps Jame's theme may be summed up in his sharp demand: "Be doers of the word, and not hearers only" (1:22). Genuine faith works.

Invite a friend to join us for worship. This week's message, "Turning Your Trials into Triumphs," is based on James 1:1-18.

For His Glory!
Pastor Joe

James 1:1-18 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

James 1:1-18


James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ:
To the 12 tribes in the Dispersion.

Trials and Maturity

Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.
Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. An indecisive man is unstable in all his ways.
The brother of humble circumstances should boast in his exaltation, 10 but the one who is rich should boast in his humiliation because he will pass away like a flower of the field. 11 For the sun rises with its scorching heat and dries up the grass; its flower falls off, and its beautiful appearance is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will wither away while pursuing his activities.
12 A man who endures trials] is blessed, because when he passes the test he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.
13 No one undergoing a trial should say, “I am being tempted by God.” For God is not tempted by evil,  and He Himself doesn’t tempt anyone. 14 But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desires. 15 Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death.
16 Don’t be deceived, my dearly loved brothers. 17 Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights; with Him there is no variation or shadow cast by turning. 18 By His own choice, He gave us a new birth by the message of truth so that we would be the firstfruits of His creatures.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

This Sunday, The Gideons International!

This Sunday, July 22, 2012, we will have as our guest, Bob Brooks in both morning services, 8:00 and 10:30 a.m. Bob serves as a Gideon in The Gideons International, a ministry that seeks to win people to Christ through the distribution of God's Word. Here is their mission statement:

The Global Mission

The mission of The Gideons International is to win the lost for Christ, and our unique method is the distribution of Bibles and New Testaments in selected streams of life. Gideons have placed or distributed more than 1.7 billion complete Bibles and New Testaments in more than 190 countries around the world . . . so far.

We will receive a love offering for The Gideons International at the conclusion of each service. 

Please join us for an inspirational time of worship and to hear the stirring testimonies of God's grace at work in our world.

For His Glory!
Pastor Joe

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Sunday's Sermon Text (Daniel 6:1-28)

Sermon Series from Daniel chapters 1-6 Concludes This Sunday, July 15th. 

This Sunday I will conclude the current series from Daniel chapters 1-6.This Sunday’s sermon text will be Daniel 6:1-28. Let me encourage you to read and become familiar with this passage of Scripture.

For His Glory!
Pastor Joe

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Sunday's Sermon Text (Daniel 5:1-30)

This Sunday I will continue in the series from Daniel chapters 1-6.This Sunday’s sermon text will be Daniel 5:1-30. Let me encourage you to read and become familiar with this text.

Following are some initial observations to consider:
* When Belshazzar and his banquet guests drank from the sacred vessels, what magnified their offense in the sight of God (5:4)?

* When the fingers of a man’s hand appeared and began writing on the plaster wall of the king’s palace, what was his reaction (5:5-6)?

* Why do you think the king’s wise men could not read and interpret the handwriting on the wall?

* What does the queen say about the character of Daniel (5:11-12)?

* When before the king, why do you think Daniel immediately resist the idea of receiving the king’s rewards (5:17)? What do you think this might say about Daniel’s character?

* When Daniel spoke to the king, he spoke as a prophet rather than one of his wise men. What was it about the content of Daniel’s message that indicates that Daniel was speaking as a prophet (5:22-23)?

* Beyond the sin of drinking from the sacred vessels, what was Belshazzar’s great sin (5:23)? How does this sin relate to the sin that cannot be forgiven, or the unpardonable sin?

* In the inscription that Daniel interprets, God foreknows Belshazzar’s rule and determines its length (5:26). How do we reconcile God’s sovereignty and Belshazzar’s free will with what occurred in this story?

See you Sunday!

For God's Glory!
Pastor Joe

Monday, June 25, 2012

Sunday's Sermon Text (Daniel 4:1-37)

This Sunday I will continue in the series from Daniel chapters 1-6. This week's text is Daniel 4:1-37. Let me encourage you to read and become familiar with this text. Following are some initial observations to consider:

* King Nebuchadnezzar knew that there was something different about Daniel. Three times we are told that "the spirit of the holy gods" is in Daniel.What do you think this means?

* There's always a purpose in God's judgements. What was God doing here in this story (v.17)?

* There is a great biblical description of repentance in verse 17. Do you see it?  What is involved in biblical repentance?

* God gives us all of our abilities and they are to be used for God's glory. How did Nebuchadnezzar view his abilities and kingdom?

* Nebuchadnezzar in a sense lost his humanity when he refused to acknowledge God's authority. How are we truly human by knowing and relating properly to our creator?

For His Glory!
Pastor Joe
"Phil. 1:3"
Celebrate Freedom!
Sunday, July 1, 2012

Dress casual or bring a change of clothes and make plans to join us for a great time of worship and fun afterwards.

8:00 a.m. – Combined Worship Service
9:15 a.m. – Sunday School/Bible Study
10:30 a.m. – Games & Activities (Softball, Volleyball, etc.)
11:30 a.m. – Hamburgers and Hotdogs

Please help by bringing drinks on the day of the event. Also, you may want to bring your favorite dessert or salad.

See you this Sunday!

Pastor Joe
"Phil. 1:3"

Monday, May 14, 2012

Sunday, May 20, 2012 Sermon Text

John 17:6-19, Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)

Jesus Prays for His Disciples

6 I have revealed Your name to the men You gave Me from the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word.

7 Now they know that all things You have given to Me are from You,

 8 because the words that You gave Me, I have given them. They have received them and have known for certain that I came from You. They have believed that You sent Me.

9 I pray for them. I am not praying for the world but for those You have given Me, because they are Yours.

10 Everything I have is Yours, and everything You have is Mine, and I have been glorified in them.

11 I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to You. Holy Father, protect them by Your name that You have given Me, so that they may be one as We are one.

12 While I was with them, I was protecting them by Your name that You have given Me. I guarded them and not one of them is lost, except the son of destruction, so that the Scripture may be fulfilled.

13 Now I am coming to You, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have My joy completed in them.

 14 I have given them Your word. The world hated them because they are not of the world, as I am not of the world.

15 I am not praying that You take them out of the world but that You protect them from the evil one.

16 They are not of the world, as I am not of the world.

17 Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth.

 18 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.

 19 I sanctify Myself for them, so they also may be sanctified by the truth.

For His Glory!

Pastor Joe

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Join Us! Hebron's 175th Anniversary, May 4-5. Saturday, May 5th 11:00 a.m. -- One Way Singers 40th Reunion Former members and their immediate family in the Fellowship Hall 3:00 p.m. -- Anniversary Party Children's activities, reminiscences and memorabilia Under the Big Tent 6:00 p.m. -- Catered Dinner, $10.00 and One Way Singers Concert Optional: Pizza & Movie for children, $5.00 in the Christian Activity Center Sunday, May 6th No Sunday School 10:30 a.m. -- Morning Worship in the Sanctuary Dinner on the Grounds immediately following in the Christian Activity Center Nursery and childcare provided for all activities.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Sermon Text for Sunday, April 15, 2012 (John 21:15-19

Join us this Sunday for worship!
8:00 a.m. Classic Worship
10:30 a.m. Celebration Worship

Sermon Text: John 21:15-19, Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)

Jesus’ Threefold Restoration of Peter
15 When they had eaten breakfast, Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said to Him, “You know that I love You.” “Feed My lambs,” He told him.

16 A second time He asked him, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” “Yes, Lord,” he said to Him, “You know that I love You.” “Shepherd My sheep,” He told him.

17 He asked him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved that He asked him the third time, “Do you love Me?” He said, “Lord, You know everything! You know that I love You.” “Feed My sheep,” Jesus said.

18 “I assure you: When you were young, you would tie your belt and walk wherever you wanted. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will tie you and carry you where you don’t want to go.”

19 He said this to signify by what kind of death he would glorify God. After saying this, He told him, “Follow Me!”

For His Glory!
Pastor Joe

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Discover New Life! Join Us Easter Sunday at Hebron Baptist Church!

Join us this Easter Sunday as we worship the risen Lord!

Following Is Our Easter Sunday Schedule:
9:00 A.M. Breakfast in the CAC (Gym)
9:15 A.M. Sunday School/Bible Study for All Ages
10:30 A.M. Easter Celebration Service in the CAC (Gym)
No P.M. Activities or Service

Rejoice this Week that . . .
"Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again!"

This Easter Sunday's Scripture Reading is John 20:19-29, HCSB

19 In the evening of that first day of the week, the disciples were gathered together with the doors locked because of their fear of the Jews. Then Jesus came, stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!”

20 Having said this, He showed them His hands and His side. So the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.

21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”

22 After saying this, He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

24 But one of the Twelve, Thomas (called “Twin”), was not with them when Jesus came.

25 So the other disciples kept telling him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “If I don’t see the mark of the nails in His hands, put my finger into the mark of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will never believe!”

26 After eight days His disciples were indoors again, and Thomas was with them. Even though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them. He said, “Peace to you!”

27 Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and observe My hands. Reach out your hand and put it into My side. Don’t be an unbeliever, but a believer.”

28 Thomas responded to Him, “My Lord and my God!”

29 Jesus said, “Because you have seen Me, you have believed. Those who believe without seeing are blessed.”

For His Glory!
Pastor Joe

Monday, March 26, 2012

Sermon Text for Sunday, April 1, 2012 (John 19:28-37)

John 19:28-37, HCSB

28 After this, when Jesus knew that everything was now accomplished that the Scripture might be fulfilled, He said, “I’m thirsty!”

29 A jar full of sour wine was sitting there; so they fixed a sponge full of sour wine on hyssop and held it up to His mouth.

30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” Then bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.
Jesus’ Side Pierced

31 Since it was the preparation day, the Jews did not want the bodies to remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a special day). They requested that Pilate have the men’s legs broken and that their bodies be taken away.

32 So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first man and of the other one who had been crucified with Him.

33 When they came to Jesus, they did not break His legs since they saw that He was already dead.

34 But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out.

35 He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows he is telling the truth.

36 For these things happened so that the Scripture would be fulfilled: Not one of His bones will be broken.

37 Also, another Scripture says: They will look at the One they pierced.

For His Glory!
Pastor Joe

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Sermon Text for Sunday, March 11, 2012 (Ephesians 4:29-32)

This Sunday I will conclude a two-part sermon series on "Developing Healthy Relationships." This week's text is . . .

Ephesians 4:29-32, HCSB

29 No foul language is to come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear.

30 And don’t grieve God’s Holy Spirit. You were sealed by Him for the day of redemption.

31 All bitterness, anger and wrath, shouting and slander must be removed from you, along with all malice.

32 And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.

See you Sunday for life-changing worship.

For His Glory!
Pastor Joe

Monday, February 27, 2012

Sermon Text for Sunday, March 4, 2012 (Ephesians 4:1-3)

Ephesians 4:1-3, HCSB

1 Therefore I, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received,

2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, accepting one another in love,

3 diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds us.

For His Glory!
Pastor Joe

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sermon Text for February 26, 2012 (Deuteronomy 34:1-9)

Join us this Sunday as we continue in our series on the book of Deuteronomy. This week's text is . . .

Deuteronomy 34:1-9, HCSB
1 Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which faces Jericho, and the LORD showed him all the land: Gilead as far as Dan,

2 all of Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Mediterranean Sea,

3 the Negev, and the region from the Valley of Jericho, the City of Palms, as far as Zoar.

4 The LORD then said to him, “This is the land I promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your own eyes, but you will not cross into it.”

5 So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, as the LORD had said.

6 He buried him in the valley in the land of Moab facing Beth-peor, and no one to this day knows where his grave is.

7 Moses was 120 years old when he died; his eyes were not weak, and his vitality had not left him.

8 The Israelites wept for Moses in the plains of Moab 30 days. Then the days of weeping and mourning for Moses came to an end.

9 Joshua son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him. So the Israelites obeyed him and did as the LORD had commanded Moses.

For His Glory!
Pastor Joe

Monday, February 13, 2012

Sermon Text for February 19, 2012 (Deuteronomy 30:15-20)

Join us this Sunday for worship as we continue in our series on the book of Deuteronomy.

This week's text is . . .
Deuteronomy 30:15-20, HCSB

15 See, today I have set before you life and prosperity, death and adversity.

16 For I am commanding you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commands, statutes, and ordinances, so that you may live and multiply, and the LORD your God may bless you in the land you are entering to possess.

17 But if your heart turns away and you do not listen and you are led astray to bow down to other gods and worship them,

18 I tell you today that you will certainly perish and will not live long in the land you are entering to possess across the Jordan.

19 I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live,

20 love the LORD your God, obey Him, and remain faithful to Him. For He is your life, and He will prolong your life in the land the LORD swore to give to your fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”

For His Glory!
Pastor Joe

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Sermon Text for Sunday, February 12, 2012

Join us for worship this Sunday, February 12th as we continue in our study of the book of Deuteronomy. This week's text is . . .

Deuteronomy 16:18-20, HCSB

18 “Appoint judges and officials for your tribes in all your towns the LORD your God is giving you. They are to judge the people with righteous judgment.

19 Do not deny justice or show partiality to anyone. Do not accept a bribe, for it blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the righteous.

20 Pursue justice and justice alone, so that you will live and possess the land the LORD your God is giving you.

For His Glory!
Pastor Joe

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sunday's Sermon Text for February 4, 2012 (Deuteronomy 14:1-3, 9-11, 19-21)

Join us Sunday, February 4th as we continue in our series from the book of Deuteronomy. This week's text is . . .

Deuteronomy 14:1-3, 9-11, 19-21, HCSB

1 “You are sons of the LORD your God; do not cut yourselves or make a bald spot on your head on behalf of the dead,

2 for you are a holy people belonging to the LORD your God. The LORD has chosen you to be His own possession out of all the peoples on the face of the earth.

3 “You must not eat any detestable thing.

9 “You may eat everything from the water that has fins and scales,

10 but you may not eat anything that does not have fins and scales—it is unclean for you.

11 “You may eat every clean bird,

19 All winged insects are unclean for you; they may not be eaten.

20 But you may eat every clean flying creature.

21 “You are not to eat any carcass; you may give it to a temporary resident living within your gates, and he may eat it, or you may sell it to a foreigner. For you are a holy people belonging to the LORD your God. You must not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.

For His Glory!

Pastor Joe

Monday, January 23, 2012

Sermon Text for Sunday, January 29, 2012 (Deuteronomy 7:6-9)

Join us this Sunday for worship as we observe the Lord's Supper and continue in our series from the book of Deuteronomy.

Deuteronomy 7:6-9
Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)

6 For you are a holy people belonging to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be His own possession out of all the peoples on the face of the earth.

7 “The LORD was devoted to you and chose you, not because you were more numerous than all peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples.

8 But because the LORD loved you and kept the oath He swore to your fathers, He brought you out with a strong hand and redeemed you from the place of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

9 Know that Yahweh your God is God, the faithful God who keeps His gracious covenant loyalty for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commands.

For His Glory!
Pastor Joe

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Sermon Text for Sunday, January 22, 2012 (Deuteronomy 4:9-14)

This Sunday, January 22nd, we will continue in our study of the book of Deuteronomy, with a message based on Deuteronomy 4:9-14, entitled, "The Past That Empowers Our Present."

Deuteronomy 4:9-14
Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)

9 “Only be on your guard and diligently watch yourselves, so that you don’t forget the things your eyes have seen and so that they don’t slip from your mind as long as you live. Teach them to your children and your grandchildren.

10 The day you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, the LORD said to me, ‘Assemble the people before Me, and I will let them hear My words, so that they may learn to fear Me all the days they live on the earth and may instruct their children.’

11 You came near and stood at the base of the mountain, a mountain blazing with fire into the heavens and enveloped in a dense, black cloud.

12 Then the LORD spoke to you from the fire. You kept hearing the sound of the words, but didn’t see a form; there was only a voice.

13 He declared His covenant to you. He commanded you to follow the Ten Commandments, which He wrote on two stone tablets.

14 At that time the LORD commanded me to teach you statutes and ordinances for you to follow in the land you are about to cross into and possess.

See you Sunday!
For His Glory
Pastor Joe